National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse

child abuse trauma prevention, intervention & recovery


NAASCA Highlights

EDITOR'S NOTE: Every day we bring you articles from local newspapers, web sites and other sources that constitute but a small percentage of the information available to those who are interested in the issues of child abuse and recovery from it.

We present articles such as this simply as a convenience to our readership ...
why we started this site
together we can heal
help stop child abuse
a little about us
join us, get involved
Here are a few recent stories related to the kinds of issues we cover on the web site. They'll represent a small percentage of the information available to us, the public, as we fight to provide meaningful recovery services and help for those who've suffered child abuse. We'll add to and update this page regularly.

We'll also present stories about the criminals and criminal acts that impact our communities all across the nation. The few we place on this page are the tip of the iceberg, and we ask you to check your local newspapers and law enforcement sites. Stay aware. Every extra set of "eyes and ears" makes a big difference.
Recent News - News from other times

December, 2014 - Week 3
MJ Goyings
Many, many thanks to our very own "MJ" for
providing us the majority of the daily research
that appears on the LACP and NAASCA web sites.
Ms. Goyings is a Registered Nurse and lives in Ohio.

From ICE

HSI, Colombian authorities arrest predator suspected of victimizing 50 children

CUCUTA, Colombia — A 23-year-old Colombian predator who allegedly coerced 50 children to videotape and photograph themselves performing sexual acts was arrested here Thursday by an international team of officers and special agents.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Attaché Office in Colombia and the Colombian National Police's Transnational Criminal Investigative Unit (TCIU) conducted the investigation that led to the arrest of Javier Orlando Palencia-Murillo.

Palencia-Murillo allegedly used social media to recruit and coerce his victims into sending him pornographic images. His victims were all males between the ages of 10 and 16.

"Predators who think they can hide behind the anonymity of cyberspace are sorely mistaken," said HSI Bogota Attaché Luis Sierra. "The law enforcement community in Colombia and the U.S. is committed to identifying the monsters who prey on our innocent children."

The Colombian Attorney General's Office is handling the prosecution of the case. Palencia-Murillo is charged with the production, possession and distribution of child pornography. If convicted, he faces up to 40 years in prison.

This investigation was launched following a tip from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) and was conducted under HSI's Operation Predator, an international initiative to protect children from sexual predators.

Since the launch of Operation Predator in 2003, HSI has arrested more than 10,000 individuals for crimes against children, including the production and distribution of online child pornography, traveling overseas for sex with minors, and sex trafficking of children. In fiscal year 2013, more than 2,000 individuals were arrested by HSI special agents under this initiative.

HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST.

For additional information about wanted suspected child predators, download HSI's Operation Predator smartphone or visit the online suspect alerts page .

HSI is a founding member and current chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies and private industry sector partners working together to prevent and deter online child sexual abuse.

Through ICE's Office of International Operations and the U.S. Department of State, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) has 67 attaché offices in 48 countries around the world. HSI special agents work closely with foreign law enforcement agencies and through a robust network of specialized, vetted units known as Transnational Criminal Investigative Units.


United Kingdom

Scots orphans used in ‘military experiments'

HOLYROOD'S child abuse inquiry will hear claims that British military scientists conducted drug tests on orphans in Scottish mental hospitals.

by Ben Borland

The allegations centre on at least four institutions where thousands of children are said to have been experimented upon in conditions described as “like something out of Auschwitz”.

It is alleged that Porton Down, the top secret military facility in Wiltshire, was involved in trialling drugs for use in the Cold War on youngsters who were regarded as “feeble-minded”.

One survivor told this newspaper he has obtained written and video evidence that he will pass to the public inquiry into historical abuse of children in care when it begins next year.

The man, now in his 50s, has been advised by lawyers to conceal his identity for his own safety until his full submission can be lodged at the inquiry announced by Scottish Education Secretary Angela Constance.

However, he was willing to divulge some of his intended testimony about the treatment he and others suffered.

He said: “Six and seven year olds were tied to racks and given electric shocks.

"I was incarcerated with orderlies armed with rubber coshes.

"We were imprisoned, experimented upon, lobotomies, you name it, they did it.

“I was there, I saw it with my own eyes.

"I was classed as a misfit, a mental oddity, made a ward of court.

"My mother was killed and I became an orphan, so they took it upon themselves to have me experimented upon.”

Lennox Castle Hospital, near Lennoxtown, East Dunbartonshire, is one of four Scottish institutions alleged to have been involved.

The witness believes there may have been as many as 3,500 children who were involved in the Porton Down testing programme over the years.

He said: “They were using orphans to experiment with drugs for the Cold War.

"The drug programme ran from 1948 to 1982.

"I believe this happened throughout the UK but I'm referring to Scotland.

“I have this evidence, on paper and on film, and I will hand it to the public inquiry.

"It was like something out of Auschwitz and people will be full of revulsion when they learn the state allowed this to happen.”

Lennox Castle Hospital, which closed in 2002 and is now the site of Celtic FC's training ground, was home to children and adults with learning difficulties or conditions such as Down's syndrome, as well as truants, unmarried mothers and wayward teenagers.

Some patients were sent there as children, often for the most trivial reasons, and ended up spending decades locked up.

Conditions improved after a series of damning reports and investigations, including a 1986 World in Action TV documentary which led to questions in the House of Commons.

Last night, Professor Ulf Schmidt of the University of Kent, Britain's leading expert on human experimentation at Porton Down, said he had never heard of a drug trial programme involving orphans.

He added: “That is not to say these experiments didn't happen, but I would be very cautious in dealing with these allegations.

"Some stories have appeared and reappeared over the past 50 years, including a similar one about drug testing and euthanasia involving elderly people that was eventually shown to be false.”

Six years ago hundreds of veterans who ‘volunteered' to take part in tests at Porton Down were offered £3million in compensation.

They were exposed to nerve agents, such as sarin gas, and hallucinogens, such as LSD.

In the most infamous case, from 1953, Ronald Maddison took part in a trial of what he believed was a cold remedy, but died within an hour of having sarin dabbed on his arm.

Other Porton Down experiments included spraying bacteria over the south coast of England and dropping cancer-causing particles from planes.

And Gruinard Island in Wester Ross had to be sealed off for almost 50 years after it was contaminated with anthrax during the Second World War.

Porton Down is the home of the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, an agency of the Ministry of Defence.

A spokeswoman said: “We are not aware of any tests involving children at Portown Down and have seen absolutely no evidence to back up these claims.”


New Hampshire

From abuse victim to survivor

by Dr. David Schopick

Those who have experienced abuse often see themselves as victims, and indeed they have been victims of horrible experiences. However, in order for healing to take place, it is important for those who have suffered abuse to take back control of their lives and see themselves as survivors.

People who have suffered sexual abuse, whether as a child, teen or adult, often partially blame themselves for the abuse. They may see themselves as flawed, guilty or even dirty. If they at times accepted the abuse or even initiated sexual contact in order to avoid further punishment, then the burden they place on themselves is even greater. What they need to realize, and what therapy can help them understand, is this: You are examples of the very bravest human beings. Rising up from despair and dealing with painful memories and disclosure are true acts of courage. You may not have been able to refuse the act of abuse when it occurred but you are now able to refuse to accept the guilt, shame and responsibility for what happened.

Transitioning from victim to survivor is an important part of the healing process. That said, recovery does not happen overnight. You must be patient with yourself. Expect setbacks when they come and forgive yourself for not being perfect. Your courage and hard work will be rewarded with a better understanding of yourself and increased self-respect and self-love.

Ways to Cope

In the first article, we talked about monster therapy and how, in my experience, people often found it helpful to see their abuse as a monster that must be brought into the light, examined and then vanquished. Monster therapy is all about learning to identify ways to heal on your own.

Some who have experienced abuse want to confront the perpetrator, seeking an apology or some sort of redress. Believing that an apology or a confrontation is key to being healed is a mistake. The apology or confrontation puts the power back in the perpetrator's hands. No apology may be forthcoming; the abuser may try to put part of the blame on the victim; the abuser may be dead, moved away or otherwise unavailable. Thus it is important not to allow the abuser to have any more control over your life. The time when he or she controlled you is past, and now you take control. True healing cannot be achieved at the whim of someone else. True healing comes from within. You are in control of your thoughts and feelings, and coming to realize this will put you on the road to achieving inner strength and self-respect.

This does not mean you cannot express outrage and pain over what was done to you. In fact, it is essential that you do so. But the way to express this is to yourself, through therapy, and not necessarily to your abuser. Take back your own power. Focus on what you can change — which is yourself and your inner world — and not on what you can't which is the abuser and the past. Once you can do this, you can move on without the extreme anger, powerlessness, guilt and shame that may have crippled you in the past.

Some who have experienced abuse find it therapeutic to write a letter to the abuser, even though that letter is not sent. Others create journals or express their feelings through art. Some draw the abuser or pictures epitomizing their suffering. Others may move on from this and draw pictures of how they see their future--giving themselves a goal to strive for.

All of these methods can be very therapeutic in helping people cope with abuse and move forward into better lives.

De-Stress and Relax

We all need to manage stress, but survivors have a special challenge. It can be difficult to overcome bad memories and truly relax. I usually recommend that my patients learn therapeutic breathing techniques, meditation, mindfulness or self-hypnosis. These therapies can be very useful in helping people on their quest to find serenity and wholeness. I call them “monster antidotes” to be used when the pain and terror of the past seem overwhelming.

The essence of life is breath so when you are able to master your breathing, the more you are apt to feel that you control your own body — not the abuser. Controlled breathing is a wonderful way to relax your body and it is easy to learn. Open your mouth slightly, this will relax your jaw, and help your whole body to relax. Breathe slowly in through your nose, then out through your nose. Inhale. Exhale. Slowly. As you repeat this for several minutes, your blood pressure will lower and levels of carbon dioxide in the blood will lower as well. Slow, steady breathing is the opposite of your body's response to panic, so as you breathe in this way your body will become calm.

Meditation can begin with controlled breathing but works best if you can spend 15 to 30 minutes by yourself. Once your breathing is calmed, begin repeating a positive thought or word over and over until nothing exists but the word and your breathing. This should be a word that evokes feelings of calm such as “serenity” or “peace.” Gradually, your body will relax.

Your therapist can teach you effective self-hypnosis techniques that can also be useful in reducing stress.

Remember, you are brave, you are courageous, you are a survivor. And now you are on your way to learning a new healthy way to live.

Dr. David Schopick is a psychiatrist in private practice in Portsmouth, NH. He is Board Certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology in adult, adolescent and child psychiatry and has been serving patients in the Greater Seacoast area and beyond for more than 22 years. For more information, call (603) 431-5411 or visit

In addition to more than 25 years of experience in private practice, Dr. David Schopick is also the author of “Safe at Last: A Handbook for Recovery from Abuse” which highlights the use of “monster therapy.”



No Longer Suffering in Silence

by Chiquitta

My name is Chiquitta. I was born in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. My parents came from Guyana, South America to Canada for a better life; acid attacks were occurring in their homeland.

My father is 13 years older than my mother. My mother was a housewife and later worked at a bank. My father was a high school teacher. I have two brothers and one sister; I am the eldest daughter in the family. This was a curse for me. My parents were extremely strict with me and rules had to be followed. My brothers and my little sister were given the rights and freedom to do whatever they pleased.

The teachers would call me “a pleasure to teach,” for I was a quiet student. In reality, I was shy and scared to speak up due to an abusive home life. My father was an alcoholic. He put liqueurs in his morning coffee and drank a case of beer during the week and a bottle of rum on the weekend. It got to be a routine, with my father's binge drinking on Fridays. My mother packed her bags to leave us kids behind, so she could go to my grandmother's house to seek refuge. She would return to my father's false promises and the same scenario would play out every weekend.

The police regularly visited our house, and there was talk of divorce. My father would take the boys and my mother would take the girls. When my father drank alcohol, he became a monster; Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Hence, I grew up with fear and insecurity.

All family members mentally, emotionally, and physically abused me. My father would take off his leather belt to threaten to beat me, or my mother would take a wooden-handled paddle in her handbag when we went out of the house just in case she needed to use it on me. Why me? Not the other siblings?

My mother had no choice but to put up with my father's abuse, so she had told me later. Where was she to go, with no job, no money of her own, and four children to look after? In retrospect, she had my grandmother, but people would talk. My father demanded perfection everywhere.

Outside looking in, we looked like a perfect family. Little did the public world know what really went on. School was the only stability in my life. I had no friends and was petrified to make any; I never knew what was waiting home for me.

I then ventured outside of my house in search of a peaceful, happy, normal life. Instead, I was further abused. I was molested by my family doctor, my cousin on my father's side of the family, and my cousin on my mother's side of the family.

The cousin on my mother's side of the family molested me when I was 11 and 12 years of age. When I was 12 years old, he had raped me and vaginally penetrated me. I still remember the sight of blood running down my thighs. I fought so hard, but it wasn't enough. What was an innocent game of hide and seek was his opportunity to touch and hurt me.

After he had his turn with me, his friends would have their turn. I had nowhere to go for help. I wanted to call the police and put my cousin in jail, but with the abuse going on inside my own house, my father would be the one behind bars. No matter how bad my situation was, it would have been worse for my mother, my siblings, and me. All the abuse took place in the dark, which still scares me.

By the time I became a teenager, I developed eating disorders. First I would starve myself, then pig out, then relieve myself with extreme exercise or laxatives. I never threw up. This vicious cycle started at the same time that I was being molested by my cousin on my mother's side.

During my senior year of high school, I was bullied and physically threatened by a girl who did not like me on sight because I was not white skinned. She was mixed race, of African and English descent. She was being bullied herself by others, so she took out her anger and hatred on me. It so happened that her mother was an associate of my uncle's in the real estate business. My uncle intervened, the girl apologized to me, and later she was transferred to another school.

In my adult years, I started associating with the “wrong crowds” of people. I became promiscuous and started drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana in order to escape reality and cope with all the abuse. I also had been diagnosed with anxiety and depression. The depression led to several suicide attempts.

When I was in my 20s, I was still dealing with the abuse at home. I got pregnant, had an abortion and later ran away from home. I was hoping never to return. I was gone from home for about a week, when I realized that I had an orthodontic appointment. That is when I saw my parents. They started chasing after me. I went home with them, only to hear false promises, just like my mom heard from my dad every time he drank alcohol and raised hell. The “we are sorry” and “we will change” was just talk. Nothing did change.

Later that week, I came home from a party to find my parents waiting up for me. My father choked me and nearly strangled me to death. If not for my brothers rescuing me like they used to rescue my mother, I would be dead.

I then moved out of my house to my own apartment in Edmonton, where I felt free. I started binge drinking and I would invite men over to have sex with me and get drunk. On occasion, I would drink so much that I blacked out. The next morning I realized that something sexual had occurred, with used condoms around my bed and ropes tied to the bed posts and to my wrists. I had been gang-raped vaginally and anally. The condoms, excruciating pain, blood and soreness was the proof.

I then moved from Edmonton to Toronto, for there was little work for me in Alberta, and jobs aplenty in Toronto for secretaries. My parents went to British Columbia to be near my older brother. I had no choice but to leave Alberta and my past there. I was not going to British Columbia with my parents; I had endured enough abuse as it was. My sister moved with my parents. My remaining younger brother stayed in Alberta.

Not only did I find a job and a place of my own, I found my future spouse. I got married, and a couple of years later, unfortunately I had a miscarriage. I never wanted to have children when I got married, but never knew why. Three years after the miscarriage I had a daughter, then two years later, I had a son. My children are the lights of my life that give me the will to live when at times it feels like there is none.

I then cheated on my husband and had several affairs, both in person and on the Internet. Enough was enough. My husband and kids were on the verge of leaving me and my abusive behaviors behind for good.

Thanks to therapy, over the years, I have managed to almost completely heal from all the abuse that I had suffered. The best decision that I made was to move away from Edmonton and start life over again in Toronto. As far as my male cousin is concerned, he got married, became abusive to his family, and is currently in a drug/rehab center in a wheelchair in Alberta. Karma says “what goes around comes around”; for all that has happened to him he truly deserves.

My father never apologized for his abusive behavior to any of us. He is an old man now. Chances are that he never sought help and he never will.

I will never have the precious gift of virginity to give my spouse, for it was taken from me. Thanks to therapy and support of other incest survivors, there is hope, joy and life. The only good lesson that I have learned about my past is what not to do what was wrong to me and do right with family and friends. Yes, I have had my ups and downs, but for the most part, it is positive.

I thank God for giving me such a normal life now, that I do pinch myself from time to time and wonder is this real? Just know that if I can go from being a victim to a survivor, anyone can.



Infant death shines light on child abuse, neglect

by Jessica Shumaker

In the week following the arrest of a St. Joseph woman on the charge of allowing her 7-month-old to starve to death, the community has gathered to mourn, expressed anger and asked how it could happen.

The woman, 22-year-old Macayla Armstrong, faces a felony charge of abuse or neglect of a child. She's accused of knowingly failing to provide reasonable and necessary care to maintain the health of her son, Anthony Armstrong, resulting in his death.

Court records list malnutrition as the child's cause of death.

Ms. Armstrong's family members told the News-Press that Missouri's Department of Social Services had been aware of the family's situation. Officials from the department declined to comment on the case.

“We cannot comment on any case involving a child's death until any and all records are closed, gathered and reviewed for release in the manner prescribed by law,” said Rebecca Woelfel, spokeswoman for the department.

Data not complete picture

The case has shone a light on the environment in which many children are being raised in Buchanan County.

According to data available through KIDS COUNT, a project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation that tracks child well-being in the U.S., in the most recent year available, 2012, the county received a high rank for its high number of child abuse and neglect cases.

The county ranked 107th out of Missouri's 114 counties, with the highest prevalence of cases compared to other Northwest Missouri counties. When looking at the rate of cases per 1,000 children, Buchanan County ranks 99 of 114 counties. Other data available show that in that same year, 14 children aged 1 through 14 died and 1,191 child abuse and neglect cases were reported.

While the numbers are sobering, Buchanan County Prosecuting Attorney Dwight Scroggins said they're not the whole picture. He said they point to a larger system in place to aggressively pursue and prosecute child abuse and neglect cases.

“If all you're looking at is per capita numbers, that makes it look like you have a bigger problem, when in reality, what you have is a better response,” he said.

He said the scope of the problem goes beyond this community.

“I would say that there are a large number of children in every community in this state and in every community in this country who are being raised in very, very difficult environments and I think the challenge of the 21st century is to try and figure a way in which to address the needs of those children,” he said. “ ... In my mind, clearly it's not a St. Joseph problem or Buchanan County problem or even a Missouri problem, it's a national crisis of doing something for these kids to give them an opportunity to be successful.”

Organization reports ‘complete devastation'

Anthony's death has sent shockwaves through St. Joseph social welfare agencies, including the Noyes Home for Children.

Stephanie Ray, executive director for the home, said there “was a feeling of complete devastation throughout the building.”

“(It was devastating) to think that there was a family in such need and children in such despair, that we couldn't reach them,” she said. “That is so very sad to me because this is such a caring community, such a proactive community in many, many ways.”

Ms. Ray said employees there felt the pull to issue a statement the day after Ms. Armstrong's charge was filed. A short status posted to the home's Facebook page Tuesday implores readers to call them if they or others they know are incapable of caring for their children.

“We will not judge you, we keep everything confidential,” the note said. “We will provide your child with everything he or she needs and we will not charge any family a dime for doing it ... We can't have stories like this happen in our town anymore.”

The message, shared more than 480 times as of Saturday, instantly received a response, Ms. Ray said.

Ms. Ray said the home is equipped to step in and care for children from infants to 18-year-olds. The home doesn't take custody of children, but instead offers a safe place for at-risk children.

She said case managers also can help families with job placements and getting connected with other services.

Ms. Ray emphasized that they will not judge families for coming to them.

“To come to our front door and say, ‘Hey, I need some help' and ‘I need to get back on my feet, will you care for my children?,' that is an incredible act of courage, that is an incredible act of faith for us and what we do as a home.”

In addition to high numbers for child abuse and neglect, Ms. Ray noted that infant mortality rates in Buchanan County are also high.

According to state data, between 2002 and 2012, the latest year available, there were 105 deaths of babies born alive who died before their first birthday.

The rate of that category was 7.8 per 1,000 live births, which is greater than the state average of 7.27 per 1,000. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the national infant mortality rate is 6.15 deaths per 1,000 live births.

By each measure of infant mortality rates tracked by the state, including neonatal, perinatal and post-neonatal deaths, the county rates higher than the state rate.

Ms. Ray said awareness and acting on that awareness is key to turning things around locally. She added that there are several issues that feed into the larger issue of child abuse and neglect.

“I think homelessness is a huge issue, and I think lack of employment, lack of stability, stable housing or affordable housing for these folks, which is not to say we don't have that in our community, but I don't think it's enough,” she said.

Needs at the state level

Local leaders also pointed to needs beyond the local level.

InterServ Executive Director Dave Howery said part of his organization's mission is to respond to families in a number of crisis situations. He added that while some organizations provide assistance for meeting basic needs, there is a growing need for overall case management.

“There needs to be more resources from the state, because if that case management doesn't get carried out by the state, then it falls on the community,” he said.

He listed the faith community and other organizations in the community.

“For the most part, there's more resources that's needed than the (private) sector can provide,” he said.

He said cuts to state budgets have reduced resources that allow for tying services together and providing monitoring of services.

“If that sort of piece coordination isn't happening, we see families continuing in crisis,” Mr. Howery said.



Get ready for new child protection laws

by Cheryl Gahring and Angela Trout

Beginning Dec. 31, sweeping new requirements under the Pennsylvania's Child Protective Services Law, or CPSL, will go into effect.

The law will greatly impact all organizations that are responsible for children's welfare, provide care for, or come in contact with minor children.

We believe strengthening the law, last amended in 2007, will allow children to live in safe and protected environments, free from harm and neglect.

The need for increased protection can be seen in the 2013 Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare (now Department of Human Services or DHS) Child Abuse Report.

According to the report, Pennsylvania's child abuse hotline — ChildLine — registered 26,944 reports of suspected abuse or neglect in 2013. That represented an increase of 280 reports over the previous year and more reports than any other year on record.

Pennsylvania substantiated 13 percent, or 3,425 reports of child abuse in 2013, the same rate as the previous year. There were 38 substantiated child fatalities in 2013, five more than the year before.

The most notable provisions of the new law include an expanded definitions of child abuse and perpetrators, and an expanded list of mandated reporters, including additional adults responsible for the care and safety of children.

These amendments also change the process of reporting within institutions. Each mandated reporter is responsible for directly reporting suspected abuse. ChildLine (1-800-932-0313) must be called directly. There is no longer a requirement to inform a “point person” or job supervisor.

Another change is that follow-up information can be submitted online. If mandated reporters submit information online, they will be able to get information regarding the outcome of the report they made. In the past, this was simply not possible.

Another huge change is in the area of background checks. Clearances (child abuse, criminal history and FBI) are required for all persons having contact with children. Also new: These background checks must be updated every 36 months for all employees. Oftentimes, staff members were required to provide background checks only at the time of hire.

Child care sites, schools and other agencies will need to review their child abuse policies to reflect the changes in the CPSL.

Lisa Cameron, director of Counseling Services for YWCA Lancaster's Sexual Assault Prevention and Counseling Center, said organizations should protect themselves by understanding that the new mandates now include new categories of abuse.

A mandatory reporter must now report:

— Bodily injury; fabricating, exaggerating or inducing a medical symptom or disease; serious mental injury; and sexual abuse or exploitation.

— The likelihood that any of the above categories of abuse are happening to a child.

— Statutory rape. It is illegal for an adult (someone 18 or older) to have sex with a minor (someone younger than 16), even if the sex is consensual. Now it must be reported.

These amendments result from the work of the bipartisan Task Force on Child Protection created by the General Assembly in 2012 in response to the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse case. Many child welfare advocates had been calling for improvements to the law for decades previously.

What does it all mean?

It means that proper training and a firm understanding of these new amendments to the law are critical to following the letter of the law and for protecting children.

Operators of institutions, facilities or agencies that care for children and are subject to supervision by the DHS must document that mandated reporters have been trained to recognize and report child abuse.

Understanding the law doesn't have to be difficult or daunting. Training is available through YWCA Lancaster. Its own highly trained facilitators present a comprehensive training program developed by the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape and Network of Victim Assistance through a Vision of Hope grant.

For more information about the training that YWCA Lancaster provides, please contact Lisa Cameron at 393-1735, ext. 259.

Cheryl Gahring is chief program officer and Angela Trout is communications and advocacy coordinator at YWCA Lancaster.


United Kingdom

Theresa May scraps panel for inquiry into child sex abuse, report says

Panel members have angrily accused home secretary of ignoring the majority of abuse survivors with latest move, according to Exaro News

by Nadia Khomami

Theresa May is to scrap the panel for the independent inquiry into child sex abuse, it has been reported.

The home secretary wrote to each member of the panel to tell them she is considering turning it into a statutory inquiry, or setting up a fresh statutory inquiry or a Royal Commission, according to the Exaro News website.

The letter, which followed a meeting between May and panel members on Monday to discuss the future of the inquiry, added that any statutory inquiry panel would be newly appointed, and that existing panel members can apply for positions on the new panel.

She put this decision down to concerns raised about the panel by abuse survivors. May wrote: “As I said on Monday, I am currently considering these three options and I appreciate this has implications for the members of the panel.

“I should like to make clear that I appointed each and every one of you for your experience, your professionalism and your undoubted commitment.

“I know that it has not been easy, that you are working in an incredibly sensitive and difficult subject area and that some of you have faced significant personal criticism.”

Current panel members have accused May of listening to a vocal minority instead of the majority of abuse survivors, and urged the home secretary to convert the inquiry to statutory status and keep the current panel.

One panel member, Sharon Evans, chief executive of Dot Com Children's Foundation, which promotes child safeguarding, and herself an abuse survivor, wrote in a response to May that she felt “devastated at the prospect of the independent inquiry being halted”. She said that it had been made clear to the panel “off the record” that the panel will be stood down in the New Year.

“As a person who suffered sexual abuse between the ages of three and seven, it was important that the experiences of victims and survivors were integral to the inquiry,” Evans wrote. “It was agreed by the panel that these experiences would form our line of questioning of institutions and ‘the experiences of victims and survivors would be at the heart of the inquiry'.”

The independent panel inquiry into child sexual abuse was set up to consider whether public bodies and other non-state institutions failed in their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse in England and Wales.

Previously, the inquiry lost two chairs over accusations of conflicts of interest and survivors told May that they had also lost confidence in the rest of the panel.

Earlier this month it was revealed that two members of the panel had been accused of sending threatening or insulting emails to victims who had criticised the inquiry. Lawyers for one abuse survivor wrote to the home secretary to complain of a string of unsolicited communications, including an allegedly threatening email sent two days before an official meeting in November that both panellists and an abuse survivor were due to attend. The victim, who is on medication for post-traumatic stress disorder, was left too anxious to attend.

Evans noted, however, that the panel met with more than 70 representatives of victims and survivors of abuse, 90% of whom supported the independent panel. “There has been a small number of individuals and survivor groups engaging in personal attacks on panel members though social media and the press,” she wrote. “In the face of hostility by certain individuals, my concern is that the independent panel has been controlled to such a degree that it was unable to rebut or refute allegations.

“My second concern is that halting the inquiry at this point would send a very negative message to so many people we have already met and who have promised they can have confidence in us to do the right thing.”

It was also reported on Saturday that a former local newspaper executive who claimed that he was issued with an official warning against reporting on an exclusive paedophile ring, was interviewed by an officer working for Operation Fernbridge, the criminal investigation examining claims of sexual abuse and grooming of children by a VIP ring of paedophiles that included MPs, police officers and people with links to the royal family.

Hilton Tims, 81, had claimed that his paper, the Surrey Comet, was issued with a D notice – an official warning not to publish intelligence that might damage national security – when he sought to report on a police investigation into Elm Guest House in 1984.



Stephen Collins Claims to Have Been Victim of Sexual Abuse as a Boy

by Jennifer Pfalz

While being interviewed by Katie Couric of Yahoo! Global News on Friday, Stephen Collins claimed to have been a victim of sexual abuse himself, saying that when he was a boy, an older woman exposed herself repeatedly to him. The Seventh Heaven actor believes the improper sexual behavior might be partially responsible for his own inappropriate sexual conduct towards children as an adult.

Collins had previously confessed to People Magazine that the rumors of child sexual molestation surrounding him were true and that he was guilty of inappropriately touching three girls over 20 years ago. Collins said his victims, to whom he offered apologies, were 10, 13 and 14 years of age and that he had committed the sexual misconduct due to a critical “need for attention.”

Collins told Couric that the sexual advances by the woman occurred from the time he was 10 until he turned 15. He made it clear that he was not attempting to excuse his own inappropriate sexual behavior by bringing up the abuse he suffered as a boy. In his mind, because he trusted the woman who was exposing herself to him, he never considered that he was being molested or abused. Describing the experience as “intense,” he believes that his childhood brain did not register it as being bad, because the “person who I trust [was] doing it.”

The woman, who Collins did not name, allowed the young boy to see her nude or partially nude “quite a few times.” The actor, who played Eric Camden on the popular TV series, made it clear that he is not “blaming” the woman for the inappropriate sexual conduct he had with young girls as an adult, but allowed that it had an effect by distorting his thoughts when he was young.

In addition to offering apologies to his victims, Collins also told the fans of the show Seventh Heaven that he was sorry for disappointing them by his actions and reminded them that the incidents of molestation happened before his involvement with the show. He appealed to the fans to look to his time on the show as an entirely distinct section of his life, apart from the inappropriate sexual conduct.

Couric asked Collins if he believed himself to be a pedophile. The disgraced actor strongly denied the allegation, saying that, “I do not fit either the clinical or dictionary definition of it.” He also declared that he was not now nor had he ever been sexually or physically attracted to young girls, and explained his actions as giving in to “exhibitionist urges” due to “boundary issues” he had when he was younger.

The actor also said that he had spoken with a therapist, who had told him that if were truly attracted to young children, there would have been more frequent instances of sexual misconduct with them. Collins says the three cases of abuse occurred in 1973, 1982 and 1994. He claims that since the 1994 incident, he has felt no other urge towards young children.

Allegations involving Collins sexually abusing young girls surfaced in 2012, resulting in New York and Los Angeles police investigations. Earlier this year, a recording of a man said to be Collins in which he confesses to sexually molesting three young girls was released, causing the police investigations to become public as well. Police in New York say that the statute of limitations for the allegations they were investigating has passed. The LAPD reviewed the case again after the recording became public, but has turned over its investigation to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.



Cosby Won't Be Charged In Molestation Claim

by The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Los Angeles prosecutors on Tuesday declined to file charges against comedian Bill Cosby after a woman recently claimed he molested her around 1974.

The rejection of a child sexual abuse charge by prosecutors came roughly 10 days after the woman, Judy Huth, met with Los Angeles police detectives for 90 minutes.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office rejected filing a misdemeanor charge of annoying or molesting a child under the age of 18 because the statute of limitations had passed.

Days before Huth spoke to police, she accused Cosby in a civil lawsuit of forcing her to perform a sex act on him in a bedroom of the Playboy Mansion when she was 15. Cosby's attorney said that Huth attempted to extort $250,000 from the comedian before she sued and that she'd attempted to sell her story to a tabloid a decade ago.

Cosby is seeking a dismissal of Huth's lawsuit, arguing it is blocked by the statute of limitations.

Huth told police that Cosby molested her and that she had no further contact with him after the encounter, according to a summary of her allegations included with the prosecutor's decision.

In rejecting the case, prosecutors evaluated the charge Cosby would have faced in 1974. Prosecutors took into account legislative changes that extend the statute of limitations for certain crimes but found no way that Cosby could be legally prosecuted.

The statute of limitations for filing a misdemeanor case is one year; the statute of limitations for a felony sex crime committed in 1974 was three years, according to the prosecutors' analysis.

“It is our understanding that the decision not to prosecute was based on the statute of limitations and not on the merits of Ms. Huth's claims,” Huth's attorney, Gloria Allred, wrote in a statement.

Cosby's attorney, Marty Singer, did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Huth is one of at least 15 women who have come forward since early November with claims that Cosby sexually assaulted them decades ago. Most of the women say the comedian drugged them before he assaulted them. She is one of two women suing Cosby; a second woman is suing for defamation.

Cosby has never been charged in connection with any of the allegations. A 2005 lawsuit by a Pennsylvania woman was settled before it went to trial.

Since the allegations emerged, Cosby's career has unraveled, with nearly a dozen performances canceled in his ongoing standup comedy tour. NBC has said it will not move forward with a Cosby sitcom that was under development, and Netflix indefinitely postponed a special that was set to premiere last month.

Cosby's attorneys have denied some allegations and dismissed others as decades old and “discredited.”



One Of Only Two Safe Houses For Sex Trafficking Victims Closes In New England

(Video on site)

Amirah is one of the only non-profit organizations in the country that houses victims of sex trafficking. Though one of only two homes in New England that allows sex trafficking victims to live rent-free for up to twelve months has been forced to shut its doors, Amirah members haven't given up hope. Amirah officials say that the cost to keep the remaining home functioning is about $25,000-$300,000 a year, according to WHDH News in Boston. Amirah representatives say that they are concerned that they will not have enough funding to keep providing refuge for the victims of sex trafficking, because of a lack of awareness.

“There is still insufficient awareness of the problem of human trafficking in this area, in Boston, here on the North Shore, around New England itself,” Nancy Mering, director of Amirah Boston. “It's pretty cost intensive because the work is intensive, the work of dealing with women who are so traumatized.”

Peter DiMarzio of Homeland Security Investigations said that most people tend to think the victims of sex trafficking are only from foreign nations.

“It's actually the girl next door, someone's daughter, someone's sister that is caught up in this as well,” DiMarzio explained also stating that breaking free from the sex slave trade can be more dangerous without help. “The fear factor is tremendous and it doesn't stop even after the perpetrator is arrested because that perpetrator has friends, that perpetrator still has associates that are still probably on street.”

Amirah officials feel the lack of funds being donated isn't because no one cares, it's because Americans do not realize this sex trafficking is actually going on in their cities, nor how a victim gets trapped into sex slavery in the first place.

Amirah officials put together a GoFundMe page. Their plan is to purchase the house they are currently renting to reduce overall operating costs. They estimate that by purchasing the home, they will save over one thousand dollars a month. Anita Coco, a board member, said in addition to saving money on rent, owning the house will also open up grant opportunities. The organization's website explains.

“We are encouraged, because if the campaign succeeds, we will be saving expenses (lower mortgage vs. current rent), preserving our investment, and providing opportunities to qualify for specific grants. We believe the location of this safe house is ideal, and after investing so much in renovations, this seems the best way to steward this beautiful resource.”

Homeland Security Investigations encourages people report suspected human traffickers by calling its toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by filling out its online tip form. Sex trafficking reports can remain anonymous.



Virginia's top lawmaker maps out plan to combat human sex trafficking

by Jon Burkett

RICHMOND, Va. — Police in Virginia are cracking down on prostitution. One local county's campaign to cut down on the crime has yielded some positive results.

Henrico County has been praised in their efforts to fight human sex trafficking and prostitution with operations like Project Innkeeper–a heavy patrol of hotels and motels in the county. Over the past three months in Henrico County, 44 people have been arrested and charged with prostitution and other indecent crimes.

As one former prostitute explains, it's a lifestyle that they're lured into. Young women are promised riches and fame if they just come along for the ride.

“He said things to make me feel good about myself,” said Midlothian's Holly Smith, author of the book, “Walking Prey.” “Things like I was too mature for high school and I should leave to make money.”

Smith opens up about 36 hours of her life in the early 90's–when she was forced to have sex at just 14-years-old.

“I made the decision to run away but within hours I was forced into prostitution in Atlantic City, N.J.,” Smith said.

Smith was a victim of human sex trafficking–but there's other forms too. Smith says labor trafficking runs rampant–all of it falling under what the Attorney General Mark Herring calls the bigger picture and bigger problem of human trafficking.

“This year, Virginia has the fifth highest calls to the human trafficking hotline,” Herring explained.

The state's response to the issue is rolling out an awareness campaign to combat it. Heavily traveled interstates, motels and hotels close to an international airport–all of which are a part of the raunchy recipe known as human trafficking–will be targeted by the campaign.

Herring says human sex trafficking is a modern form of slavery. Virginia's top prosecutor hopes billboards in heavily traveled areas and stickers on mirrors at rest stop bathrooms will raise awareness.

“It's quite possible a victim will see this and make a decision to reach out for help,” says Herring.

And help is something Smith got pretty quickly–she's doing her part to help parents identify a potential problem.

“I published a book called “Walking Prey,” and the book addresses child exploitation and gives parents prevention tips and things to look out for,” Smith said.



Truck drivers, nuns unite against human trafficking

Workshop set for Monday in Cedar Rapids

by Allison Gowans

CEDAR RAPIDS — Nuns and truck drivers may not seem the most obvious of partners. But in Cedar Rapids, they're working together to fight human trafficking.

Human trafficking is a real issue both across the nation and in Iowa, advocates say, and truck drivers, as the “eyes and ears of the road,” are in a unique position to help stop it.

“The trucking industry always has been a good partner when we've needed more eyes and ears out there,” said Iowa Department of Transportation chief of motor vehicle enforcement Dave Lorenzen. “The more eyes we can put on this the better.”

Sister Emily Devine, a retired nun with the Sisters of Mercy, agreed. She and another retired Sister of Mercy, Mary Doughan, formed Cedar Rapids-based group Sisters and Brothers Collaborating Against Human Trafficking just more than a year ago.

“In this area, people are surprised to hear this is taking place,” Devine said. “But when you see all the information about human trafficking, it makes you concerned.”

The committee partnered with Truckers Against Trafficking , a national coalition of truck drivers, to hold a workshop in Cedar Rapids on Monday. Thirty-four trucking companies from around Iowa have been invited to attend the event, which is open to the public.

A national and local problem

Human trafficking in the United States is overwhelmingly centered on the sex trade. Victims, as defined by federal law, include anyone under the age of 18 induced into commercial sex, or an adult coerced into commercial sex through force, fraud or coercion. Underage victims are often runaways or other vulnerable youth, and they often are moved away from their hometowns to increase reliance on their traffickers.

“If you look at Iowa, we're in the middle of the country, with two of the biggest interstates in the country crossing in Des Moines,” Lorenzen said. “Folks in this activity are very mobile, and they don't move long distances without trying to generate income. They're traversing through our state and conducting business in our state.”

Drivers may encounter victims in the state's restaurants, gas stations, motels, rest stops and truck stops. If they know what to look for and see something suspicious — such as a teenage girl in a truck stop in the middle of the night, for example — they can call a hotline run by the National Human Trafficking Resource Center. Truckers Against Trafficking passes out wallet cards printed with the hotline number for drivers to carry with them.

The organization has taken 379 tips that refer to Iowa since 2007, which have led to 82 cases being opened by law enforcement. As of Sept. 30, 17 cases had been opened this year.

“Anyone who sees something that's out of place, you should make a call,” said Greg Stewart, director of Transportation at Kirkwood Community College's Continuing Education program. “If you see a young person and it seems odd, it might be odd.”

A broad coalition

About 25 instructors from his department will participate in Monday's event. They then can take what they learn to more than 1,000 students who go through the school's truck driver training programs each year.

Devine gave Stewart, Lorenzen and others involved with Truckers Against Trafficking credit for the work they're doing.

“Truckers really need to be praised for what they're doing,” she said. “They've really taken the lead in this.”

Sisters and Brothers Collaborating Against Trafficking also partners with Mount Mercy's Master of Business Administration program, where students research human trafficking issues and help the committee form strategy.

The committee also includes Marion Police Sgt. Lance Miller, St. Luke's Child Protection Center forensic nurse Kristen Kasner and others. The chairwoman of the committee, Teresa Davidson, is a nurse practitioner.

Having both law enforcement and medical staff involved is key, Devine said. Nurses, doctors and police might overlook a victim if they're not aware of the warning signs, she noted.

In fact, advocates said, anyone can look out for potential victims, usually children and women, who may be in distress.

“If you see something, say something,” Lorenzen said. “If we get one victim out of this life, it's absolutely worth all of the effort.”

More about the program:

What: Truckers Against Trafficking and Sisters and Brothers Collaborating Against Trafficking workshop

Where: Kirkwood Continuing Education and Training Center, 101 50th Ave. SW, Cedar Rapids

When: 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., Monday


• National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1 (888) 373-7888 or text 233733

• Sisters and Brothers Collaborating Against Human Trafficking: (319) 361-2806 or email



Brownback Proclaims January as Human Trafficking Awareness Month

KANSAS CITY, KAN. ---- Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, along with Attorney General Derek Schmidt, Secretary Phyllis Gilmore, Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF), Secretary Lana Gordon, Kansas Department of Labor (KDOL), Secretary Ray Roberts, Kansas Department of Corrections (KDOC) and Interim Secretary Susan Mosier, Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) have proclaimed January as Human Trafficking Awareness Month in Kansas.

“I take seriously the fight against human trafficking,” Governor Sam Brownback said. “We have trained more than 500 child welfare professionals about human trafficking rings making Kansas a national model for preventing this horrendous crime.”

Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery in which victims are lured, forced, or coerced for the purpose of commercial sex, debt bondage or forced labor. Kansas' location and interstate system make it a major transportation area for victims of human trafficking.

“It's up to each person in the community to identify and report suspected commercial sexual exploitation of a child,” DCF Secretary Phyllis Gilmore said. “These children do not choose to be exploited; they are children who deserve our protection.”

The number of human trafficking victims served by victim service agencies through the state that received grants from the Attorney General's office was 338 in fiscal year 2014; this is up from 218 in 2013.

“Kansas has adopted new laws that seek to protect and rescue human trafficking victims – especially children,” Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said. “Kansas now has increased penalties and put in place other measures to enhance the prosecution of traffickers and buyers in a comprehensive effort to reduce sexual exploitation and other trafficking statewide.”

The bill defines commercial exploitation of children, which does not require a showing of force, fraud, threat or coercion and references the existing statutory definition of human trafficking and aggravated human trafficking.

“House Bill 2034 strengthened our ability to prosecute labor traffickers, but it is still a big problem,” KDOL Secretary Lana Gordon said. “While we have made immense strides with the bill, we cannot stop there and need to continue fighting. If you or someone you know is working under unfair conditions, report it.”

Labor trafficking is the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud or coercion.

“The Kansas Department of Health and Environment works to protect the health and ensure the safety of all Kansans. Victims of human trafficking are especially vulnerable,” said Acting Secretary Susan Mosier, M.D. “We work to protect these victims by educating schools and other partners on the signs of human trafficking in addition to regulating the facilities in which they are placed.”

The Governor along with the Attorney General's office, DCF, KDHE, KDOC and KDOL are working together to educate Kansans about the presence of human trafficking, what to look for and how to report suspected human trafficking. Educational information is provided on the agencies' websites.

“The Kansas Department of Corrections is pleased to be an active participant in the human trafficking task force,” KDOC Deputy Secretary Terri Williams said. “The task force has given us the opportunity to work with juveniles, many of whom are both offenders and victims, through a cooperative, unified interagency forum that involves trauma-informed care.”

For more information on Human Trafficking go to



Human Trafficking Guidebook Aims To Educate Healthcare Providers

by Jim Levulis

The Massachusetts Medical Society has published a guidebook for healthcare providers on how to identify, assess and respond to victims of human trafficking.

The 44-page guidebook is the result of a three-year research collaboration between Massachusetts General Hospital and the state's medical society. The senior author is Dr. Wendy Macias-Konstantopoulos, medical director of Mass General's Human Trafficking Initiative and chair of the medical society's Committee on Violence Intervention and Prevention. She says healthcare providers are some of the only people who come in contact with and are able to provide help for victims.

“Studies that we have, albeit limited, do show that they're accessing healthcare through emergency departments, community clinics and other venues,” Macias-Konstantopoulos said. “We believe that they're accessing care when they sustain an injury that is severe enough that they can no longer work.”

Dr. Elaine Alpert is the founding chair of the violence intervention committee and the guidebook's first author, which focuses on labor, sex and organ trafficking.

“These young victims of sex trafficking not only suffer from terrible physical injuries, sometimes they have unintended pregnancies and forced abortions,” Alpert said. “They can have sexually transmitted diseases. Because they are so young some of them may have physical injuries from repeated sex acts. They often bear tremendous emotional scars from the victimization that they've undergone. Particularly because the people who got them into the trafficking situation started out as people who they thought loved them. People who they trusted, looked up to, gave them gifts, took care of them and promised to be kind and protective of them. This breach of trust can have tremendous emotional implications that are very, very hard to see and may be lifelong.”

Aside from physical indicators, the guidebook provides what's called a human rights focused and trauma informed approach for identifying trafficking victims. Alpert says it puts patients in the driver's seat, allowing them to answer the questions they want to without fear.

“Specifically for sex trafficking we ask, ‘Has anyone persuaded or forced you to have sex when you didn't want to?'” Alpert explained. We ask, ‘Have you ever exchanged sex for food, shelter, drugs or money?' We ask if they're a runaway or if they are safe of if they feel they're afraid of anybody? So these are general questions. We don't say, ‘Are you a victim of human trafficking?' because most people will never identify themselves as victims even when they know in their hearts that they are.”

The guidebook also offers legal and treatment resources healthcare providers can pursue for suspected victims. According to the U.S. State Department's Trafficking in Persons Report there were nearly 45,000 trafficking victims identified globally in 2013. Meanwhile, the International Labor Organization estimates there are nearly 21 million forced labor victims worldwide. Noting it's difficult to get hard numbers because of the very nature of the crime, Alpert expects trafficking reports to increase as healthcare providers become more informed and comfortable asking patients about the sensitive topic.

“So it may look like the problem is getting worse, when in fact it's something we are hoping to see is that reports are increasing and therefore our ability to get help to those people in need is increasing,” said Alpert.

Access the guidebook by clicking here.



Reminder to teach children about stranger danger

A recent incident in Chanhassen serves as a reminder for parents to talk to their children about personal safety.

The Carver County Sheriff's Office responded to Orchard Lane in Chanhassen regarding a suspicious incident. A 12-year-old boy was walking home from the bus stop when a man driving a light blue suburban style vehicle stopped, rolled down his window, and asked the boy if he needed a ride home. The boy said he did not and the man drove away. He was a white man between the ages of 50-60 with black hair.

No crime was committed, but deputies searched the area. They were unable to locate a vehicle matching the description. No similar incidents have been reported.

Safety reminders for parents

Help your children establish good personal safety habits. In frequent intervals, teach your children safety skills.

•  Decision making: Teach your children to trust their own feelings, and assure them they have the right to say “no” to what they sense is wrong.

•  Use role playing: Rehearse safety situations with your child. Give them power through knowledge. Play the “what if” game.

•  Use the buddy system: Teach your child that it is safer to play, bike, or walk with friends. Because there is safety in numbers, always use the “buddy system”.

•  Adults seeking help: Tell your child that an adult should not come to a child for help. Adults should ask adults for help.

•  Ask first: Instruct your child to always ask you for your permission before going with anyone, even when it is someone that they know, like a neighbor or friend of the family.

•  Strangers: Teach your child to run to a safe place if they are ever frightened by a stranger. Safe places would be a neighbor's house, any open business, school, church, any place there are people. When your child has found a safe place, he or she should immediately tell a trusted adult what happened.

•  Choose substitute caregivers carefully: Interview and monitor baby-sitters, youth leaders, etc. Be alert to a teenager or adult who is paying an unusual amount of attention to your children, or giving them inappropriate or expensive gifts.

•  Talk with children: Teach your children that no one should approach them or touch them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable. If someone does, they should tell a trusted adult immediately.

•  Be sensitive: Watch for changes in a child's behavior, they may be signals that you should sit down and talk to your child about what caused the changes.



Sexual assault reports on the rise

by Kyle Spurr

More people are feeling comfortable reporting sex crimes, and more resources are being dedicated to investigating the crimes.

The first time she meets with sexual assault survivors, they are often in tears feeling vulnerable with misguided guilt and shame.

Sharon Moore, a specialist at the SA (sexual assault) Peer Center, part of The Harbor in downtown Astoria, uses her experience as a survivor of rape two decades ago to guide other people through similar circumstances.

“I don't want any other survivors to have to do this alone,” Moore said.

Inside the SA Peer Center — opened nearly three years ago in an old vacuum cleaner shop — are three large couches, artwork made by survivors and calming indoor fountains. The aquatic theme is meant to mirror the peaceful effect of the ocean.

“It's a safe place where they can be in their Zen and share their stories,” Moore said.

In recent months, the number of sexual assault survivors sitting in the couches has increased. Some come straight from the hospital after an assault. Others open up about an assault from their childhood. Some are men. Some are transgender.

The number of females seeking sexual assault services at The Harbor increased from 101 in the 2012-13 fiscal year (July 1 to June 30) to 108 in the 2013-14 fiscal year.

In the same time period, men reporting sexual assaults increased from six to eight, teens (15 and older) went from 45 to 32 and adults molested as children went from 87 to 84.

Snapshot of abuse

The steady figures at The Harbor are a snapshot of a larger trend throughout Clatsop County.

Local law enforcement agencies say they are buried in sexual-abuse-related crimes.

Of the 150 cases being investigated by Astoria Police detectives this year, 53 are sex crimes.

Astoria Police Sgt. Eric Halverson said the inflated figures do not necessarily mean more sex crimes are happening, but rather more people are reporting them.

More people are feeling comfortable reporting the crimes, and more resources are being dedicated to investigating the crimes, Halverson said.

“The number of sex crimes is really staggering in relation to the other stuff we do,” Halverson said. “I think the fact that people are talking about it in public and you have celebrities talking about it has caused people to be more comfortable. Years ago, if it was in the family, it was a dark secret.”

Astoria Police recently deployed one of its patrol officers Nicole Riley as a detective, who can help investigate the mounting reported sex crimes.

About three months on the job, Riley said, she is busy catching up on older cases, which has yielded some charges. In October, her work helped the police arrest a 29-year-old transient for allegedly raping and abusing a 14-year-old girl.

“We would not have been able to bring this case to the point a prosecution was possible if it had not been for the recent decision to deploy a second officer as detective,” Police Chief Brad Johnston said at the time.

Astoria Police is a part of the Clatsop County Major Crime Team and the Multidisciplinary Child Abuse Crime Team. The department works closely with other local law enforcement, the Oregon Department of Human Services and resource centers such as The Harbor and The Lighthouse, which focus on child abuse.

With more reporting and more law enforcement resources, more cases are being prosecuted by the Clatsop County District Attorney's Office.

Just this fall, the District Attorney's Office prosecuted dozens of cases involving attempted rape, sex abuse, harassment, encouraging child sex abuse (child pornography) and other sexual-assault-related charges.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Ron Brown said the office rarely sees stranger-on-stranger sexual abuse. Mostly, cases involve acquaintances.

Child abuse is a large portion of cases being prosecuted.

Statewide, child sexual abuse cases increased 10 percent with 782 reported in 2012 and 860 reported in 2013, according to the Department of Human Services.

“Generally, society has wanted not to believe this stuff happens,” Brown said. “They want to think it's the bushy-haired stranger doing this stuff.”

The road to healing

Back at the SA Peer Center, Moore takes survivors through her three-step process. The first step is meeting one-on-one at the center. Moore always sits at eye-level and listens to the survivor, much like a Women's Resource Center volunteer did for her years ago.

“I loved the whole process. I loved that there was somebody there holding my hand, telling me how it was going to turn out,” Moore said.

If the survivor feels comfortable, Moore invites them to the second step, an 11-week support group that meets in the back of the center. The support group room is painted yellow and encourages people to move into the light, Moore said.

The third step is having the survivor spend time in the center's kitchen area, where they learn how to go home.

After their time at The Harbor, Moore said, the same people who come in distressed and vulnerable leave with confidence knowing the abuse was not their fault.

“I watch people who felt broken become whole again,” Moore said.



Rep. Katie Edwards Files Bill to Protect Domestic Violence Victims

by Nancy Smith

Rep. Katie Edwards, D-Plantation, filed legislation Thursday that would include domestic violence advocacy organizations and domestic violence referral service organizations in public records exemptions.

HB 125 would create a registry and certification process under the Department of Children and Families for organizations that provide services, but not shelter to victims of domestic violence.

"This bill promotes protection of domestic violence victims and their children as well as domestic violence advocacy organizations, while encouraging full and forthright communications between victims and their advocates," said Edwards.

There were roughly 6,000 reported cases of domestic violence in Broward County last year, Edwards said in a press statement. Women in Distress was able to provide services and shelter to 3,164 adults and children last year. Broward 2-1-1 referred 981 calls to domestic violence advocacy organizations and shelters. The No More Tears Project helped 89 victims of domestic violence in 2013.

More and more domestic violence advocacy groups are supplementing the work of traditional shelters by providing housing and services referrals as well as direct assistance to victims and their children, she said. This bill would create uniform standards for organizations providing services for victims of domestic violence that do not currently have a facility. Currently, such organizations do not have the same public records exemptions that domestic violence shelters carry. HB 127 would give these service and referral organizations the same confidentiality protections that domestic violence centers currently possess. Any information released would require the written consent from the client.

Said Dr. Laura Finley, chairwoman of Broward-based No More Tears,"All domestic violence advocates, regardless of the type of service agency in which they operate, must be allowed privileged communications with survivors of abuse. Without this critical protection, advocates may be forced to disclose information about a survivor that will jeopardize his or her safety or that of children in the family.

"Further," said Finley, "failure to include service providers not employed or volunteering for actual shelters has needlessly tied up these advocates in frivolous court proceedings at the expense of the provision of the assistance to survivors. This bill corrects the situation and is essential to helping survivors of domestic violence in Florida."

If signed into law the bill would go into effect July 1, 2015.



Dixon child abuse case moving forward as 10 children get therapy for 'abuse/neglect'

Wonda Dixon charged with withholding food, medical care to adopted daughter, remains in custody

by Gabriel Monte

The case of a Lubbock woman accused of abusing her adopted daughter is set to go to trial in February, according to court records.

And the 10 children she and her husband were responsible for raising remain in foster care and are receiving therapy to “move past the abuse/neglect they've experienced,” a children's advocate said.

Wonda Dixon, 59, is accused of withholding food, water and medical care from her 12-year-old adopted daughter.

A Lubbock County grand jury indicted Dixon on Oct. 1, 2013, on a charge of injuring a child knowingly or intentionally, resulting in severe bodily injury.

Her husband, 63-year-old Dave Dixon, faces the same charge.

They were arrested the next day and were booked into the Lubbock County Detention Center where they remain incarcerated.

The couple have denied any wrongdoing.

Their bond is set at $150,000 each, according to jail records.

They are being represented by different attorneys and their request for a bond reduction last year was denied, according to court records.

Affidavits filed with the 137th District Court state the Dixons ignored their adopted daughter's disturbing behavior and punished her by withholding food and water and ordering her siblings to hit her.

Charges were filed against the Dixons after officials found the 12-year-old weighing 58 pounds.

School personnel had concerns about the girl and contacted the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.

Teachers found the girl stealing food and eating out of trash cans, according to the affidavit.

The girl was pulled from public school and home-schooled after the report.

“If she would not throw her food over the fence and feed the dogs when she is angry she would not lose weight,” Wonda Dixon is quoted as saying by a child abuse investigator.

Dave Dixon said the 12-year-old girl would urinate and defecate on herself as the family ate, court documents said. As a result, she would be sent outside to eat.

The girl was taken to University Medical Center at the request of a Child Protective Services investigator because of her emaciated condition, according to the affidavit.

Child Protective Services specialist Rosa Garcia described the girl as being “unsteady, and appears to walk like she is about to break.” The girl's spine and ribs were visible through her shirt, according to Garcia.

She weighed 58 pounds and a UMC doctor said her condition could have been fatal if it went untreated.

“The department feels that any child left in the care of the Dixons would be unsafe,” Garcia wrote in an affidavit. “The department believes there is a lot more going on in the home, but we will not get a clear picture of what that is until the children are removed.”

The children

The Dixons had 10 children ages 5 to 14 living in their home on County Road 7240.

CPS media specialist Paul Zimmerman said the children were removed from the Dixon home six weeks prior to the arrests because of concerns about severe physical and medical neglect, according to A-J archives.

“All of the Dixon children are in foster care at this time and receiving (trauma-informed) therapy to meet their individual needs and help them move past the abuse/neglect they've experienced,” Zimmerman said in an email. “We'll continue to monitor their safety and welfare while working toward permanent placements for each child such as adoption, family reunification, permanent managing conservatorship to a relative/suitable individual or another planned living arrangement (i.e. independent living, community care or foster family DFPS conservatorship.)”

Zimmerman said CPS is not assisting in the Dixons' prosecution, but CPS workers will share the findings of their investigation and may be called as witnesses.

Court records do not show when the case against Dave Dixon will go to trial. However, he has elected for a jury to determine his punishment if he is convicted, court records show.

At present, the couple is asking the court to reconsider their request for reduced bonds.



Police: Child sex abuse involved bestiality, kids as young as 3

by Pashtana Usufzy

Authorities have released new details about a Las Vegas trio accused of sexually assaulting at least eight children in their own family.

In police records released this week, several victims told Metro detectives that 48-year-old Christopher Sena, who faces 58 felony charges including sexual assault and incest, would often force them to have sex with him or watch as they had sex with his current wife, 50-year-old Deborah Sena, or ex-wife, 43-year-old Terrie Sena.

Metro served a search warrant in September and took Christopher Sena into custody after Deborah Sena and one of the alleged victims provided statements detailing what they say was years of abuse, according to the arrest report.

A male interviewed by Metro said that when he was about 13 or 14, he was forced to have sex with Deborah Sena as Christopher Sena videotaped the interactions.

The victim also said he was forced to have intercourse with Terrie Sena.

A female interviewed by police said she was forced to have sex with Christopher Sena beginning when she was about 11 or 12 years old. She told police she would hit herself in the stomach with a two-by-four because she was afraid of getting pregnant with his child.

The female told police the abuse lasted 12 years and that she was forced to have intercourse with him two to three times a week.

Christopher Sena initially attempted to hide the interactions from Deborah Sena and Terrie Sena, but when she was 17, the female was forced to have sex with both women, according to the arrest report.

She also told police Christopher Sena had her invite female friends over to swim, and he would take those friends into his office, according to the arrest report.

She said many of the encounters occurred in the office at their trailer home in the 6000 block of Yellowstone Avenue.

To keep the acts hidden, victims said Christopher Sena told them he would "break their legs" or even kill them if they told anyone, according to police records.

Deborah Sena told police that Christopher Sena forced her to engage in the acts, telling her that if she loved him, she would do it. She said she began to perform oral sex acts on a male victim when he was 3 years old, according to the arrest report.

Terrie Sena told detectives that she enjoyed engaging in the acts at first, but later felt "ashamed" and "dirty."

Police said they discovered a large collection of evidence at the Sena home and officials have been reviewing the footage.

Metro said evidence collected included numerous photographs and countless hours of videotape showing the three suspects engaged in various sexual acts with minors. Evidence of bestiality with the family dog was also located, police said in a declaration of warrant.

As a result of the investigation, Deborah and Terrie were arrested Dec. 11 and together face 27 felony counts.

Christopher Sena appeared in court Thursday, during which bail was set at $1.3 million plus house arrest. He is scheduled to reappear in court Jan. 23.

All three are currently being held at the Clark County Detention Center.


United Kingdom

Twisted Love Triangle Uncovers Child Sexual Abuse Plot

by Kim Blakeley

Kevin and Susan Barnett, both 28, of Cumbria, England, were estranged yet continued to exchange child and animal pornography and to talk about abusing children. Kevin reportedly described wanting to drug children to molest them, and Susan reportedly wrote that she thought about sexually molesting children "all of the time."

She also reportedly said that she would be willing to comfort a child as she was raped and tell her "it was okay."

While Kevin apparently had no intention of getting back with his wife, he continued to goad her into participating in his text fantasies, and at one point he even managed to get her to agree to a real-life threesome with his mistress, Nikita Moore, 22.

The text messages were discovered when cops were called to a domestic violence incident involving Kevin and another woman, and a tip off told them to look through his phone. That's where they discovered the twisted scheme.

All three claimed the exchanges were just "fantasy" with no real intent to act on them, but they were convicted of conspiracy anyway.

While New York City's "Cannibal Cop," police officer Roberto Valle, was initially convicted of plotting to cook and eat women, a judge eventually decided that he was just kidding around and let him go. Let's hope that doesn't happen here -- but it's a good thing they had the child and animal porn images along with their texts, or some judge might have bought into the "just fantasy" defense.

The silver lining here is that the couple never got around to abusing any children -- and that the man and mistress never actually conceived a baby for the purpose of molesting it. As we know from the twisted case of Jonathan and Sarah Adleta, that can actually happen!

It's scary that this guy managed to not only find a woman to marry him, but one to have an affair with too!

The three will be sentenced in February.



Mother of seven of eight slain children in Australia is arrested in their killings

by Abby Phillip, Elahe Izadi and Fred Barbash

Hours after eight children were found stabbed to death in a home in northeastern Australia, police officials said that the mother of seven of the children had been arrested in the killings.

Queensland Police Detective Inspector Bruno Asnicar said at a Saturday morning news conference that the 37-year-old woman was under guard at a hospital in Cairns. The woman was the aunt of the eighth stabbing victim, Asnicar said.

Police said they will not be releasing the name of the woman at this time She has been arrested for murder but has not been charged. Asnicar described the woman as “lucid.”

Several knives found in the home will be examined as potential weapons, and the mother was found in the home with stab wounds, the Associated Press reported. The children ranged in age from 18 months to 14 years, AP reported.

The causes of death will be determined after the completion of autopsies, which will begin Saturday, Asnicar said. “At this stage, we're not looking for anybody else,” Asnicar said, adding that more persons of interest may develop as the investigation continues.

While the neighborhood does frequently get calls for police service, officials said the home where the incident occurred was not a problem house. “This is just an ordinary neighborhood,” Asnicar said Saturday. “A lot of good people, a lot of kids in the area, and this is just something that's caught everybody by surprise. It's just an absolutely tragic event.”

The children were found Friday in the home about 11:20 a.m. local time, officials said. Detectives were waiting for forensics technicians to complete their work inside the house before entering.

Shocked residents of the town kept vigil during the night as a steady stream of people brought flowers to the scene.

Bessie Mareko, a neighbor, told Australian Broadcasting that she saw the woman and a number of children at 2 a.m. cleaning the home and putting unwanted items on the street. “I'm really shocked. I just saw her this morning on the veranda with her kids,” she told the network.

The deaths were called one of the worst single-family killings in Australia. The news stunned the nation, which is still mourning two people killed this week in a hostage siege in Sydney carried out by Iranian-born gunman Man Haron Monis.

Asnicar told reporters late Friday that “as it stands at the moment, there's no need for the public to be concerned about this other than the fact that it's a tragic, tragic event. … The situation is well controlled at the moment.”

Cairns, once a mining town, is a popular destination for tourists exploring the Great Barrier Reef. Its population is about 200,000.

According to the Australian, the woman's cousin Lisa Thaiday said that a 20-year-old relative discovered the bodies in the house. The tragedy came as a shock to the big, tight-knit family, the paper reported.

“We're a big family and most of us are from the (Torres) Strait,” she told the Australian. “I just can't believe it … those poor babies.”

ABC interviewed a man named Larry Woosup, who said he was a relative of the home's occupants. “I'm desperate like everyone else to hear” what happened, he said, according to the ABC report. “We just had that thing down in Sydney there, and it's the end of the year, and it's a family thing, Christmas and New Year, and you get this sort of thing happening.”

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said in a statement that the events are “heartbreaking and all parents would feel a gut-wrench sadness at what has happened.”

“These are trying days for our country,” he added.


Study: At least 786 child abuse victims died despite being on protective services' radar

by The Associated Press

At least 786 children died of abuse or neglect in the United States in a six-year span in plain view of child protection authorities — many of them beaten, starved or left alone to drown while agencies had good reason to know they were in danger, The Associated Press has found.

To determine that number, the AP canvassed the 50 states, the District of Columbia and branches of the military — circumventing a system that does a terrible job of accounting for child deaths. Many states struggled to provide numbers. Secrecy often prevailed.

Most of the 786 children whose cases were compiled by the AP were younger than 4. They lost their lives even as authorities were investigating their families or providing some form of protective services because of previous instances of neglect or violence or other troubles in the home.

Take Mattisyn Blaz, a 2-month-old Montana girl who died when her father spiked her “like a football,” in the words of a prosecutor.

Matthew Blaz was well-known to child services personnel and police. Just two weeks after Mattisyn was born on June 25, 2013, he got home drunk, grabbed his wife by her hair and threw her to the kitchen floor while she clung to the newborn.

Jennifer Blaz said a child protective services worker visited the next day, spoke with her briefly and left. Her husband pleaded guilty to assault and was ordered by a judge to take anger management classes and stay away from his wife. Convinced he had changed, his wife allowed him to return to the home.

She said the next official contact between the family and Montana child services was more than six weeks later — the day of Mattisyn's funeral.

The system failed Ethan Henderson, who was only 10 weeks old but had been treated for a broken arm when his father hurled him into a recliner so hard that it caused a fatal brain injury.

Maine hotline workers had received at least 13 calls warning that Ethan or his siblings were suffering abuse. The caseworker who inspected the family's cramped trailer six days before Ethan died on May 8, 2012, wrote that the baby appeared “well cared for and safe in the care of his parents.”

Many factors can contribute to the abuse dilemma nationwide: The child protective services system is plagued with worker shortages and a serious overload of cases. Budgets are tight, and nearly 40 percent of the 3 million child abuse and neglect complaints made annually to child protective services hotlines are “screened out” and never investigated.

Insufficient training for those who answer child abuse hotlines leads to reports being misclassified, sometimes with deadly consequences; a lack of a comprehensive national child welfare database allows some abusers to avoid detection by moving to different states; and a policy that promotes keeping families intact can play a major role in the number of deaths.

Because no single, complete set of data exists for the deaths of children who were being overseen by child welfare caseworkers, the information compiled during the course of AP's eight-month investigation represents the most comprehensive statistics publicly available.

But the number of abuse and neglect fatalities where a prior open case existed at the time of death is expected to be much higher than the tally of 760.


State-by-state breakdown of child abuse deaths


The Associated Press asked all 50 states, the District of Columbia and military services to provide information on children who died of abuse or neglect over a six-year span, even as authorities were investigating them or their families or providing some form of protective services.

The overall tally for children who died under such circumstances was 786.

Here is a list:

Alabama: 10 deaths, from fiscal year 2009 through 2013 (missing 2008)

Alaska: 4, from 2008 through 2013

Arkansas: 18, from 2008 through 2013 (missing 2009)

Colorado: 18, from 2008 through 2013

Connecticut: 13, from 2008 through 2013

District of Columbia: 4, from 2008 through 2013

Florida: 117, from 2009 through 2013 (missing 2008)

Hawaii: 1, from fiscal year 2008 through 2013

Idaho: 0, from fiscal year 2008 through 2013

Illinois: 33, from fiscal year 2008 through 2013

Indiana: 7, from fiscal year 2008 through 2013

Iowa: 2, from fiscal year 2008 through 2013

Kansas: 10, from fiscal year 2008 through 2013

Kentucky: 7, from fiscal year 2008 through 2013

Louisiana: 30, from 2008 through 2013

Maine: 1, from 2008 through 2013

Maryland: 26, from 2008 through 2013

Massachusetts: 21, from 2008 through 2010 (missing 2011-2013)

Michigan: 22, from fiscal year 2009 through 2013 (missing 2008)

Minnesota: 6, from 2008 through 2013

Mississippi: 13, from fiscal year 2008 through 2013

Missouri: 25, from 2008 through 2013

Montana: Did not provide data. AP learned of one case from a public criminal court file.

Nebraska: 2, from fiscal year 2008 through 2012 (missing 2013)

New Hampshire: 1, from 2008 through 2013

New Jersey: 24, from 2008 through 2013

New Mexico: 0, from 2008 through 2013

New York state: Did not provide data.

New York City (five counties): 49, from 2008 through 2013

New York (Erie County): 16, from 2008 through 2013

New York (Monroe County): 2, from 2008 through 2013

New York (Nassau County): Did not provide data.

New York (Suffolk County): Did not provide data.

New York (Westchester County): 11, from 2008 through 2013

North Carolina: 12, from fiscal year 2008 through 2012 (missing 2013)

North Dakota: 0, from fiscal year 2008 through 2013

Ohio: 37, from 2008 through 2012 (missing 2013)

Oklahoma: 25, from fiscal year 2008 through 2011 (missing 2012-2013)

Oregon: 1, from fiscal year 2008 through 2013

Pennsylvania: 26, from 2008 through 2013

Rhode Island: 0, from 2008 through 2013

South Carolina: 12, from 2008 through 2013

South Dakota: 0, from 2008 through 2013

Texas: 76, from fiscal year 2008 through 2013

Utah: 6, from 2008 through 2013

Vermont: 1, from 2008 through 2013

Virginia: 15, from fiscal year 2008 through 2013

Washington: 36, from 2008 through 2013

Wisconsin: 20, from 2008 through 2012 (missing 2013)

Wyoming: 0, from 2008 through 2013

U.S. Army: 25, from fiscal year 2008 through 2011, missing 2012-2013

U.S. Navy: 1, in fiscal year 2013, missing 2008-2012

U.S. Marine Corps: Did not provide data.

U.S. Air Force: Did not provide data.

Seven states reported a total of 230 open-case child deaths over the six-year period, but those were not included in the AP count because the states could not make a distinction between investigations started due to the incident that ultimately led to a child's death and case files that already were open from incident(s) prior to when the child received the fatal injury. This is a breakdown of those cases by state:

Arizona: 51, from fiscal year 2008 through 2013

California: 38, from 2008 through 2011, missing 2012-2013

Delaware: 1, from fiscal year 2008 through 2013

Georgia: 83, from 2010 through 2013, missing 2008-2009

Nevada: 18, from 2008 through 2013

Tennessee: 31, from 2008 through 2012, missing 2013

West Virginia: 8, from fiscal year 2008 through 2013



Words weild a lot of power

by Nicole Schiener

CAMBRIDGE - Many of us may not have considered our childhood or relationships to be abusive, but we can still recall with clarity and pain the hurtful words of a parent, teacher, partner or friend.

Verbal statements have the power to influence how we feel about ourselves; to limit the choices we make in life; and to even contribute to the development of anxiety and depressive symptoms.

So you can only imagine how devastating enduring bullying, domestic violence or sexual assault can be. Long after physical wounds have healed, many survivors of bullying and abuse continue to be plagued by the damage of another's cruel words.

But it is not just the perpetrator's words that haunt and do damage. It is what is said and not said by those around a survivor.

When a society turns a blind eye to abuse, we send a message to survivors that you are alone and your needs don't matter. Is that really what we want these innocent and courageous people to hear?

In addition, out of ignorance and perhaps to reduce one's own sense of vulnerability, the abuse experiences of children and adults are often minimized and they are blamed for daring to speak up.

With recent high-profile allegations against Ray Rice, Jian Ghomeshi and Bill Cosby, as well as countless examples of bullying filling news headlines, I am amazed and saddened by how quickly so many people are to speak up in judgment against the victims.

What many might not realize is that our friends and followers are internalizing this judgement, as they too have been victimized and, like the majority of survivors, did not feel supported or safe enough to come forward and press charges or seek help. And we wonder why so many people suffer in silence.

I feel compelled, as someone working with survivors, to provide some education.

Abuse can happen to anyone and is in no way a reflection of a person's value or worth. No one asks to be violated or hurt in any way. Furthermore, when you learn about the neurobiology of trauma, you will come to understand that many of the contradictory or confusing behaviours that make people question the validity of a survivor's story such as going back to an abuser or not remembering all the details of the event are actually a result of the impact of trauma on the brain.

We are grateful to our local Sexual Assault Support Centre and Dr. Rebecca Campbell for sharing her expertise on this subject recently.

Healing can only happen in a context of safety and compassion. Be a part of the solution by never condoning abuse and bullying and thinking about the impact of your words before you speak. If you are a survivor, please know you are never to blame and you are not alone.

Family Counselling Centre offers a weekly walk-in counselling clinic.

Nicole Schiener is a therapist at the Family Counselling Centre of Cambridge and North Dumfries.


United Kingdom

No means no, it happened should mean it happened

by Kate Taylor

It is a year this week since I was sexually assaulted at a Christmas party. I re-read the blog I wrote at the time, it went like this:

One evening I endured a demeaning three hours of sexual innuendos, harassment and I fear if I hadn't left, assault. (Though I think pretending to air kiss my cheek then pushing my head down to imitate oral sex perhaps counts towards the latter).

With comments made with a hungry glint in their eye, I take a guess they thought of it as a great sport, knowing in any other circumstance their behaviour would not only not be tolerated, it would've probably earned them a slap if not a police call.

They knew I was in a position whereby it would cause massive upset to both hosts and guests if anything were said, and enjoyed this to their advantage.

I came home so outraged and disgusted, somehow I felt like it was my fault, like I could've warded them off better. The plain black shift dress, thick black tights and cardigan – with only forearms and head hinting my pale skin that should have been further covered up… I felt sullied.

A long, hot shower that burned as it poured over my skin, the scrubbing with a sponge that left my body even more hurt than I was, and the tears that stung my eyes and caught in my throat as I tried to catch for air, it left me no cleaner than when I stepped in the cubicle.

As it happens I was assaulted that evening, but even on a little read blog, I couldn't manage to say it aloud. Over the past few days I have thought long and hard about what, as a survivor, I have felt over the past 12 months. Consciously, not that much. But when I choose what to wear on an evening out, the first night I kissed my partner, it was there. What if it happens again? And it had. I have suffered three accounts already in my lifetime, and a barrage of sexual harassment from adolescence onwards.

This week I have spoken to several people about their stories. One incredible woman, whom I happen to adore, was raped and sexually abused as a young adult by a much older man she called her boyfriend. She didn't say no again, what would be the point? A year later, on holiday with friends, a fellow camper she quite liked crawled into her sleeping bag. She protested, vehemently, did she shout and kick? No, for fear of disturbing others and making a scene. Does that mean there was consent, because a terrified woman didn't shout out her unwillingness from the roof tops? No, it doesn't.

Another friend of mine was assaulted by a stranger at a party, whilst also being in an abusive relationship. On that occasion she did call the police, after taking evidence, they got back to her a month later, there was no trace of him. Her girlfriend at the time paid no sympathy, and became increasingly verbally abusive. This lead to a second abusive relationship that finished some months ago, after it turned into physical abuse and an affair with a married man.

In all instances, these women are left wondering, “why me”? “What do I do, what have I done that promotes behaviour?” Because in our society, it is far too easy for a victim to feel like it was somehow their fault. It was their stupidity. Why did it happen again, why go back, why not shout out?

The past few weeks have seen dozens of opinion pieces on the subject of Shia LaBeouf, who was raped during his recent performance art exhibition #IAMSORRY. The crux of the incident is that Shia would sit in an empty room whilst one of his co-artists would stand outside and offer a ‘prop' relating to the actor for people to take inside. This included a bottle of Jack Daniels, a Transformers toy and indeed, a whip. The perpetrator took in the prop and proceeded to whip him for ten minutes then rape him. Upon realising something was wrong several people entered the room and pulled the woman off, leaving a victim. Many people, including Piers Morgan, have accused LaBeouf of detracting attention from ‘real victims'. Why didn't he push her off? Why didn't they cry out?

Rape, sexual abuse, assault and harassment are rarely clear cut. They are a violation of the physical self, but the internal scars last a life time. Men CAN be victims as much as women. They are ALL survivors. Various agencies have advocated anti-rape campaigns, but most of these are centred around women.

Not only in terms of being the victim, along with directing advice on how said women can protect themselves (try an internet search for ‘ways to discourage rapists'). For support after a crime, methods for recovery rarely feature re-introducing others of the same gender of the perpetrator in a safe environment, thus helping to re-build trust for future relationships of any kind.

One that has bucked the trend, and should be greatly appreciated, is Greater Manchester Police. Their recent campaign has the tag line of ‘Drinking is not a crime, rape is.' along with what has become a popular Twitter trend #noconsentmeansnosex. Our society desperately needs to wake up to this line of thinking, and develop it further across sub-cultures everywhere.

We need to be teaching not only our children, but all men, that not only does no mean no, but anything other than an enthusiastic yes is no too. A year ago I could've been wearing a thigh splitting flesh coloured dress and platform heels, or dressed as a nun, neither one makes me more or less deserving of such behaviour.

I asked those I spoke to if there was one thing they could say to a fellow survivor, and with a sad but brave smile, each and every one said; ‘It's not your fault. You are not stupid, you did what you could. You CAN and WILL get through this.' You are a survivor. You will have dark days, we all do, but the light shines again, it always does.

Next time you hear of someone, whether celebrity, next door neighbour or loved one, who has suffered some form of sexual violence, take a minute. Our default setting, for the sake of humanity, should be to comfort, to listen and most importantly, to believe. We cannot know whether they are telling the truth, but we should always err on the side of kindness until proven otherwise.


New Hampshire

New Hampshire Man Indicted On Sex, Kidnap Charges

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A man used death threats, a stun gun, zip ties and a shock collar to control a teenage girl he's accused of kidnapping at gunpoint, imprisoning and sexually assaulting over nine months, according to indictments released Wednesday.

Nathaniel Kibby was arrested in July and initially charged with kidnapping the girl Oct. 9, 2013, in the White Mountains town of Conway. Despite a massive search and widespread public outreach, there was no trace of her except for a letter she wrote to her mother that November.

The girl, who turned 15 a week after she disappeared, returned just as mysteriously in July, a week before Kibby was arrested.

Media outlets, including The Associated Press, repeatedly published the girl's name and picture after she disappeared and when she returned home. The girl's family and prosecutors have asked that her name and image no longer be published because they fear the publicity and association with sexual abuse will slow her recovery.

Kibby, 34, was indicted in two counties this week on charges including kidnapping, sexual assault, robbery, criminal threatening, illegal use of a gun and illegal use of an electronic restraint device. More than 150 of the indictments were heavily blacked-out. The charges carry penalties that could effectively send Kibby to prison for life if convicted.

Public defender Jesse Friedman said Kibby maintains his innocence. Friedman notes the charges are only allegations.

According to the indictments, Kibby threatened to kill the girl, her family and her pets and used a “taser-like” device to punish her when she “carved” information about his identity in a letter to her mother. Prosecutors say he forced her to lie in that letter and made her rewrite it. As he began to fear an investigation, Kibby put a gun in her hand and told her it would be better to shoot him than give authorities any information, according to the indictments. He also forced her to wipe down the surfaces of a shipping container outside his trailer to remove her fingerprints and to pour cleaning fluid into plumbing drains to remove hair or DNA evidence, the indictments say.

Kibby also is accused of falsifying evidence by destroying or removing gags, anti-barking dog collars, a fake surveillance camera and an aquarium pump with tubing that had been used to provide the girl with water when she was restrained on a bed.

The charges say Kibby gagged the girl, put a shirt over her head and face, then put a motorcycle helmet over that. During her confinement, he used the stun gun to control her, made her wear a shock collar, bound her wrists with zip ties and taped her eyes shut, the indictment said.

Kibby told the girl he would only release her if she lied to police about what had happened and what he looked like, the indictments say.

Kibby has been held on $1 million bail since his arrest at his home in Gorham, about 30 miles from the girl's home. He has a criminal history dating to 1998, including convictions on simple assault, criminal trespass and breach of bail conditions.

At an afternoon press conference, Attorney General Joseph Foster said his office doesn't usually address the media after indictments but added, “There are unique aspects about this particular case and the victim that warrant it.”

Lyn Schollett, the executive director of the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, said the girl “continues to heal and to thrive now that she is reunited with her family.”

Kibby is to be arraigned Jan. 8-9 in each of the counties where he was charged.

Police said the girl, now 16, was last seen after leaving Kennett High School in Conway. She walked her normal route down a busy road toward home and sent several texts to a friend. But when her mother returned from work, the girl wasn't home. Prosecutors said she “went dark” and could not be traced through social media for the duration of her absence.

Kibby grew up and attended school in Conway, a tourist-dependent town of about 1,800 people in the southeast corner of the White Mountain National Forest. He worked as a machinist at two gun makers.


Stephen Collins opens up about child abuse: “I did something terribly wrong”

The former "7th Heaven" star admitted to sexually molesting three underage girls over several decades

by Jenny Kutner

After several months of reclusion following allegations of child abuse, embattled actor Stephen Collins has come forward to admit that he sexually molested three young girls in separate incidents that spanned two decades. In a statement to People, the former “7th Heaven” star describes abuses that took place between 1973 and 1994, maintaing that he has “not had an impulse to act out in such a way” since then.

“Forty years ago, I did something terribly wrong that I deeply regret,” Collins writes. “I have been working to atone for it ever since. I've decided to address these issues publicly because two months ago, various news organizations published a recording made by my then-wife, Faye Grant, during a confidential marriage therapy session in January, 2012. This session was recorded without the therapist's or my knowledge or consent.”

Collins goes on to explain that the recording has led to “assumptions and innuendos” that do not match up with what he says actually happened decades ago, and that he hopes to clarify what took place by speaking out. The actor also explained why he does not have plans to apologize personally to two of the women he abused.

“I did have an opportunity to do so with one of the women, 15 years later,” Collins writes. “I apologized and she was extraordinarily gracious … But after I learned in the course of my treatment that my being direct about such matters could actually make things worse for them by opening old wounds, I have not approached the other two women, one of whom is now in her 50s and the other in her 30s.”


United Kingdom

Police rebuked over handling of interviews with child sex abuse victims

Inspectorate report calls for improved training and additional guidance for police over sensitive interviews with children

by Owen Bowcott

Recorded interviews of child sex abuse victims have revealed inappropriate questioning by police and poor compliance with guidelines on gathering evidence, according to a highly critical inspectorate report.

Rooms for interviewing vulnerable toddlers are rarely child-friendly, DVD recordings are at risk of being lost because they are inadequately labelled, and the needs of the child were considered in only a small proportion of cases reviewed, a combined criminal justice inquiry has warned.

The study by Her Majesty's Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSI) and Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) has recommended improved training and additional guidance for sensitive interviews with children, many of whom are often as young as four- or five-years-old.

The inspection came in the wake of the scandal over Jimmy Savile, and amid a sharp increase in the number of child sexual abuse and rape cases being investigated.

The criminal justice system is currently piloting the pre-recorded cross-examination of child witnesses in an effort to prevent them from going through a lengthy courtroom ordeal.

“Inappropriate praise or congratulations were communicated to the witness in several cases,” the report found. In one case an “interviewer encouraged the witness to touch the officer on the bottom to demonstrate the alleged offence”; in others the child was occasionally left alone.

“Too often interviewers focused on concepts which present difficulties for children, such as dates and times, length and frequency of events, and weight, height and age estimates. This was evident even in cases involving very young children,” the report, Achieving Best Evidence in Child Sexual Abuse Cases, noted.

Around 70 interviews were examined by the inspectorates, which found there was often insufficient preparation before children were questioned. The audio and visual quality of the recordings was not always satisfactory, the report found.

Interview rooms in which young victims give evidence appeared “sterile with little thought for putting children at ease, and not child-friendly”, the study added.

“Child sexual abuse witnesses and victims are being short-changed by the criminal justice system,” said Michael Fuller, the chief inspector of the CPS. “Police and [prosecutors] need to offer children more support for these delicate and often difficult interviews.

“We owe it to them to ensure that these pre-recorded interviews are carried out in a rigorous manner, to ensure fairness and to achieve the best evidence possible.”

Dru Sharpling, one of HM's Inspectors of Constabulary, said: “We were very concerned to find that children in cases of sexual exploitation and rape are being let down. They aren't being provided with the support they need to give their ‘best' evidence to the court.

“Inspectors found poor compliance with best practice guidance, poor planning and quality assurance, and insufficient consideration of the needs of vulnerable children. The gap between best practice and actual practice is widening.”


United Kingdom

Jimmy Savile and Peter Jaconelli sex abuse: Police admit chances were missed

Opportunities to prosecute Jimmy Savile and a former mayor of Scarborough over claims of historical sex abuse of children in the resort were missed, North Yorkshire Police has said.

A 10-month inquiry found ex-mayor Peter Jaconelli and Savile would have been likely to face prosecution if they were alive today.

Savile had a home in the seaside resort and Jaconelli ran an ice cream firm.

The force's internal inquiry found "no evidence of misconduct" by officers.

North Yorkshire Police began its Operation Hibiscus investigation into historical abuse allegations after a BBC Inside Out report earlier this year which prompted 35 people to come forward.

'Sufficient evidence'

Police said 32 of the cases related to allegations against Jaconelli between 1958 and 1998 and five related to behaviour by Savile between 1979 and 1988, with two people claiming they were abused by both men.

Savile, a Radio 1 DJ who also presented the BBC's Top of the Pops and Jim'll Fix It, died aged 84 in October 2011 - a year before allegations that he had sexually abused children were broadcast in an ITV documentary.

Jaconelli was mayor of Scarborough in the 1970s and died in 1999. He was stripped of his civic honours by the town council in May after the child sex abuse allegations came to light.

North Yorkshire Police say they are sorry they missed opportunities to arrest the men

North Yorkshire Police Assistant Chief Constable Paul Kennedy said: "The findings of Operation Hibiscus clearly suggest that there would have been sufficient evidence from 35 individual victims for the Crown Prosecution Service to consider criminal charges against Peter Jaconelli and Jimmy Savile, had they been alive today.

"The available information indicates that, historically, the police missed opportunities to look into allegations against these men whilst they were still alive.

"North Yorkshire Police apologises to the victims who made the brave decision to come forward during the past 18 months."

But the force said it had not been possible to pursue lines of inquiry that would have involved interviews with Savile and Jaconelli, during which they may have disputed allegations against them.

The allegations against Jaconelli included indecent assault, inciting a child to engage in sexual activity, gross indecency and rape.

Accusations against Savile ranged from sexual assault (or indecent assault under current law) to rape, police said.

Relatives of the former mayor have said they were not aware of any evidence that he committed any sexual crimes.

'Organisational failure'

The police watchdog, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), conducted an investigation into North Yorkshire Police's handling of the historical allegations against Savile and Jaconelli after the force made a voluntary referral in April 2014.

It related to how the force responded in 2012 to information about alleged offences committed by Savile in the 1970s, and to allegations made against Jaconelli nine years after his death.

Mr Kennedy said: "A comprehensive investigation into these matters has now been completed by the Professional Standards Department.

"It concluded that there was no evidence of misconduct but there was evidence of organisational failure, with a number of lessons to be learned which have now been rectified for the future.

"This included actions such as clearly defining search parameters when checking historical records and ensuring that the appropriate department conducts such searches.

"Furthermore all operational meetings must be recorded, ensuring a full audit trail of decision-making throughout the process for openness and transparency."


The Vatican

Pope names new members of child protection commission

(Vatican Radio) As anticipated, the Holy Father Pope Francis has named new members of the Commission for the Protection of Minors. The new members have been chosen from different parts of the world in order to have a full representation of diverse situations and cultures.

The next plenary session of the Commission will take place in the Vatican from 6-8 February 2015.

Below, please find the complete list of members of the Commission for the Protection of Minors, with brief biographical information provided by the Holy See Press Office:

Cardinal Seán O'Malley, OFM Cap. (United States) as the Archbishop of Boston and serves as the President of the Commission and a member of the Council of Cardinals which advises His Holiness, Pope Francis.

Mons. Robert Oliver (United States) serves as the Secretary of the Commission, following many years in child protection work for the Archdiocese of Boston, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith as the Promoter of Justice.

Rev. Luis Manuel Ali Herrera (Colombia) is the Director of the Department of Psychology, professor of pastoral psychology in the Conciliar Seminary of the Archdiocese of Bogotá, and as a parish priest.

Dr. Catherine Bonnet (France) is a child psychiatrist, psychotherapist, researcher, and author on child sexual abuse and perinatal violence and neglect.

Marie Collins (Ireland) is a survivor of child sexual abuse. A founder Trustee of the Marie Collins Foundation she served on the committee which drafted the Catholic Church's all-Ireland child protection policy, “Our Children Our Church.”

Dr. Gabriel Dy-Liacco (Philippines) is an adult and adolescent psychotherapist and pastoral counselor for various mental health concerns including of individuals, couples, families and groups, including victims and perpetrators of abuse.

Prof. Sheila the Baroness Hollins (England) has worked as a psychiatrist and psychotherapist with children and adults with intellectual disabilities including those who have been sexually abused, and is a life peer in the House of Lords.

Bill Kilgallon (New Zealand) is Director of the National Office for Professional Standards of the Catholic Church in New Zealand where he has lived for the last four years. Prior to that he had a long career in social work and health services in the UK.

Sr. Kayula Gertrude Lesa, RSC (Zambia) is a Development Professional, trainer and author on child protection, human trafficking, refugee rights and the right to information. She served as a member of the African Forum for Church Social Teaching (AFCAST).

Sr. Hermenegild Makoro, CPS (South Africa) is a member of the Missionary Sisters of the Precious Blood in the Diocese of Mathatha in South Africa. She works as a high school teacher and for several years in the diocese as a trainer in pastoral work. After serving as an Associate Secretary General of the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference for six years, Sr. Hermenegild was appointed as the Secretary General of the SACBC in 2012.

Kathleen McCormack am (Australia) is a social welfare worker who served as Director of Welfare of CatholicCare in the Diocese of Wollongong for 29 years and held leadership roles in Family Services, Child Protection, Out Of Home Care and Ageing and Disability Services.

Dr. Claudio Papale (Italy) is a canon lawyer and a civil lawyer, professor of canon law at the Pontifical Urban University, and an official of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Peter Saunders (England) was abused throughout his childhood in Wimbledon, South West London. Later in life, after earning a Business Studies degree, Peter discovered that he was one of millions who had suffered such abuse and who could not find any appropriate support. So he set up NAPAC, the National Association for People Abused in Childhood, for supporting all survivors and for developing greater resources for responding to child abuse.

Hon. Hanna Suchocka (Poland) is a professor of constitutional law and specialist in human rights at the University of Poznan, and was formerly Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland and Ambassador of Poland to the Holy See.

Dr. Krysten Winter-Green (United States) is a New Zealander with post-graduate degrees in Theology, Human Development, Social Work, Religion and Pastoral Psychology. She has served in dioceses around the world with homeless persons and those living with AIDS. Krysten's concentration in the areas of child abuse include forensics, assessment and treatment of priest/clergy offenders.

Rev. Dr. Humberto Miguel Yáñez, SJ (Argentina) is Director of the Department of Moral Theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University, professor of moral theology at the Gregorian and the Pontifical Urban University, and former Director of the Center of Research and Social Action in Argentina.

Rev. Dr. Hans Zollner, SJ (Germany) is President of the Centre for Child Protection of the Pontifical Gregorian University and Director and Professor of the Institute of Psychology. He was Chair of the organizing committee for the Symposium "Towards Healing and Renewal" on sexual abuse of minors (February 2012).


New Mexico

NM diocese releases 'credibly accused clergy' list

by Russell Contreras

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Gallup has released a list of clergy members it considers to have been credibly accused of sexually abusing children in cases that stretch back decades in New Mexico and Arizona.

The list made public Monday includes 30 priests and one lay teacher assigned to parishes from the 1950s to last year.

In a statement, Bishop James Wall said he released the names of accused clergy online to be transparent and protect children. “The survivors who have come forward should be commended for their bravery and courage,” Wall said.

He said he sent letters to each parish, mission, and school within the diocese territory — which stretches from northwest New Mexico to northeast Arizona and encompasses a large portion of the Navajo Nation — where Church officials have determined there was a legitimate accusation of sex abuse against a minor.

Previously, the diocese released the names of 11 priests linked to such cases. The new list adds 20 other names, but does not include other details.

The Associated Press has not published the names because the allegations have not been independently verified, and it's not clear whether any of those accused have been charged.

In his statement, Wall said victims should contact police if they recognized their abusers on the list. He also said the diocese's investigation into molestation claims wasn't finished.

Diocese spokeswoman Suzanne Hammons said no one on the list is working in the Gallup territory. “If they were transferred somewhere else, it's because no one knew of the allegations, and we are looking into that,” Hammons said.

She said it will be up to religious orders to conduct their own investigations. Seven of the priests on the list have died, according to the diocese.

After the release, the Chicago-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests said Wall needed to go further.

“Wall must reveal their photos, current whereabouts and detailed work histories, too,” SNAP director David Clohessy said in a statement. “He should put all this information in every parish bulletin, along with an emphatic plea for anyone who saw, suspected or suffered clergy sex crimes or cover ups in New Mexico to call police.”

The diocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in November 2013 in the face of mounting lawsuits, claiming clergy sex abuse.



Holiday Stress May Increase Risk Of Child Abuse

by Robbie Owens

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) Along with images of mistletoe, holly and non-stop cheer, comes a sober warning from local child advocates: the holidays can be harsh—especially for children in already fragile households.

“Parenting is difficult,” admits Jessica Trudeau, Executive Director of Family Compass, a local non-profit. “I try to imagine maintaining my composure when my bank account is negative, there's no food in the house, and my partner is abusing me. When you're stressed, it's much easier to snap in that moment.”

But, rather than waiting for stressed out parents to ‘snap', Family Compass works proactively in at risk neighborhoods to help parents learn better coping skills — parents like mother of three, Claudia Garcia. It's not that she was a bad Mom. But… “I'm trying to do better,” says Garcia. So she enrolled in an 8-week parenting class and eventually led a parent support group. She says the group helps relieve the isolation of being at home alone with small children and taking care of everyone's needs—except your own.

Family Compass believes that it is better to prevent child abuse—than attempt to repair it.

“I would love to go back and never have experienced abuse,” says Trudeau. “I would love to know what a real child hood is like.” As you might have now guessed, for the non-profit's executive director, the monumental task of protecting children is not only professional. It is very personal.

She's raising an alarm now because far from Madison Avenue's carefully crafted messages, the reality is that reports of abuse rise during the holidays.

According to Child Protective Services, in December of last year, there were 56,000 reports of abuse in Texas. In January, that figure jumped to 65,000 reports—a 16 percent increase in just one month.

“We anticipate that it was abuse that occurred during the holidays; but, was reported a week or two later,” says Trudeau, “after they go back to school.”

Although abuse crosses the socio-economic spectrum, experts say poverty, homelessness, limited education and domestic violence put children at increased risk.

“But, they're not bad families,” insists Trudeau, “ they're just like the rest of us: families that are struggling with one thing or another. “They need resources… they need people to believe in them.”

To learn more about spotting and reporting suspected abuse click here for the Family Compass website.



State urged to rethink handling of child abuse

by Doug Belden

ST. PAUL -- Minnesota's leans too heavily on family engagement and support in response to reports of child abuse and not enough on investigation and child safety, a state task force said Friday.

The task force, which was created after the death of a Minnesota boy who had been subject of repeated maltreatment reports, issued preliminary recommendations to improve the state's child-protection system.

Their proposals include eliminating a preference in state law for “family assessment” and repealing a law that prevents county officials from considering prior “screened-out” reports when deciding what to do about a new allegation.

“Family assessment was originally aimed for kids who are in low or maybe moderate risk. And it's being used more and more for kids that are in high-risk situations and that, I think, is giving a lot of task force members — including me — a lot of pause,” said Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson, who co-chairs the group.

Gov. Mark Dayton announced the formation of the task force in September.

It was charged with making initial recommendations by the end of December on a variety of issues including the appropriateness of screening decisions, the effectiveness of current laws and policies, accountability measures, and resources.

Friday's preliminary recommendations were approved unanimously. Final recommendations are due by the end of March.

Minnesota's child-protection system is supervised by state officials but administered at the county level. Jesson said some fixes would require legislative action but that some could be implemented by the department and by counties.

The task force didn't provide any estimates on how much their recommendations might cost.

State Sen. Kathy Sheran, DFL-Mankato, a task force member and chair of the Senate Health, Human Services and Housing committee, said family assessment, which was implemented in Minnesota in the early 2000s, was designed for situations where neglect might be occurring because of family poverty that could be addressed through social services. But it's grown, and counties now are applying it in cases that statute says are inappropriate.

“Negligence due to poverty is something very different than difficulties that are occurring in a family because there is an abusive person either in control of that child or living in that family,” she said.

State law says family assessment is the preferred route in cases that don't involve allegations of “substantial child endangerment.” It does not include a determination as to whether maltreatment occurred.

According to Kathleen Blatz, a task force member and former state Supreme Court chief justice, a crucial piece missing in the current system is the collection of basic facts after a report is filed about what happened and who did it.

“Most of these cases are going through a process where there is no fact-finding on the allegations. Seventy percent of the cases are screened out — do not come in to the child-protection system. Seventy percent of the cases that come in are sent to family assessment, and they are told not to do any facts on what happened. This is a fundamental flaw I believe in the child protection system,” Blatz said.

The “screened-out” reports, the task force says, shouldn't be excluded when considering a new case.

“I do think that the Legislature and the public in general see the value of looking at patterns of reports as a part of making a determination,” Sheran said.

Dayton created the task force in response to reports in the Minneapolis-based Star Tribune about the death of a 4-year-old Pope County boy who had been the subject of 15 maltreatment reports, only one of which was investigated.

Seventeen children in Minnesota's child-protection system died in 2013, according to the Department of Human Services.

Friday's meeting came on the heels of the death of a toddler this week in Brooklyn Park, allegedly at the hands of his father.

Jesson called the death “absolutely tragic. We have too many children that are dying of maltreatment. We need to take strong steps to reduce that however we can. We can't direct the actions of every adult, and so we're not going to be able to promise absolute safety, but we can do more than we're doing today, and I think these (recommendations) are good first steps to doing that.”



Court charges Las Vegas man and wives with 42 charges for S** acts with own children

by Charles Omedo

A 48-year old Las Vegas man, including his former and present wives, have been slammed with charges of indecency for using their children for porn acts as well as sexually molesting them.

The man, Christopher Sena, with his wife, Deborah, as well as ex-wife, Terrie, have been charged with incest and making porn with their minor kids; and while Christopher Sena will be appearing in court on Thursday on a 42-count charge of incest, sexual assault, and producing pornography with minors, Deborah and Terrie will be due in court on Tuesday on a combined 27 charges that border on same.

Sena was initially confronted with 18 charges, but prosecutors raised his offences to 42 following more investigations into his dastardly activities as a leader of a family porn that included his own wives and children.

Although Sena had been charged with child abuse and neglect among others, he is also charged with preventing a victim to report the abuse – after threatening to break the legs of any male or female victims that attempted to report his activities to the authorities. Eight victims have been identified so far by the police and other investigators, including a boy who started to be sexually abused from age 3.

Terrie, Sena's 43-years ex-wife, worked as a substitute teacher at the Clark County School District, but following investigations that she had been raping her own children, had been removed from the substitute call list on the heel of her arrest. She had been teaching at Clark County schools since 2012 and spokeswoman Melinda Malone confirmed the development at the schools.


Filmmaker Polanski's lawyers want sex crime case closed

by Eric Kelsey

(Reuters) - Lawyers for filmmaker Roman Polanski have launched a new bid to have the Oscar winner's 37-year-old child sex case closed, which would allow "The Pianist" director to travel freely without the threat of extradition.

Polanski's attorneys filed a motion on Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court seeking a hearing next month where they would ask to submit evidence in the hopes of proving that the 81-year-old director has been subjected to "false" extradition requests by U.S. authorities.

"The true facts and circumstances surrounding Polanski's term of incarceration and his decision to leave the country in 1978 resulted directly from judicial and prosecutorial misconduct and should no longer be covered up," Polanski's attorney Bart Dalton wrote in the motion.

High-profile lawyer Alan Dershowitz has also asked the court for permission to represent Polanski.

The filmmaker was charged in 1977 with raping a 13-year-old girl in Los Angeles after plying her with champagne and drugs. He later pleaded guilty to having unlawful sex with a minor.

But the director of films "Rosemary's Baby" and "Chinatown" fled the United States to France before sentencing, fearing the judge would impose more prison time than the 42 days he had spent behind bars for a psychiatric evaluation.

Lawyers for Polanski, who has a warrant in the United States for his arrest, believe he has served his sentence and that he must not be physically present in court for the case to officially close.

The director's lawyers have fought for years to have the case thrown out on claims that Polanski was a victim of judicial and prosecutorial misconduct, issues the courts have ruled they cannot address unless he returns to California.

A spokeswoman for the Los Angeles District Attorney said the office had no comment on the motion.

Polanski was questioned by Polish prosecutors in October after U.S. authorities requested his extradition.

The motion says prosecutors "deliberately omitted" the time Polanski served in prison in an extradition request as a way to meet the criteria of a U.S.-Poland treaty.

In 2009, he was held for 290 days under house arrest in Switzerland as authorities considered whether to extradite him to the United States.

Polanski, who spent much of his young life in Poland, has said that he plans to shoot a film about Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish French military officer falsely convicted of treason, in Poland.



Mom charged with murder, dad with child abuse in House of Horrors case

by Rebecca Turco

WORCESTER, Mass. - The parents who lived in the squalid Blackstone home where three babies were found dead are facing new charges.

District Attorney Joseph Early announced the charges Tuesday against Erika Murray, from a secret indictment from the grand jury. Murray faces two counts of murder, two counts of assault and battery on a child causing serious bodily injury, two counts of reckless endangerment of a child, two counts of cruelty to animals and one count of concealing a fetal death.

“The murder charges stem from the two sets of the children's remains that were found wearing diapers and onesies,” Early explained.

Murray has been held on $1 million bail after pleading not guilty to earlier charges including fetal death concealment. She is scheduled to be arraigned December 29.

Murray's four children ranging from 5 months to 13 years-old were removed from the trash-filled house in August and placed in state custody.

A visibly shaking Raymond Rivera, Murray's boyfriend and the father of all seven children, was arraigned Tuesday and pleaded not guilty. He is charged with two counts of assault and battery on a child causing serious bodily injury, two counts of reckless endangerment of a child, two counts of cruelty to animals and one count of cultivating marijuana.

“It was troubling to stand next to him knowing this man and I'm sure it was just as difficult for a lot of people watching,” explained his attorney, Nicole Longton. “He is despondent at this point.”

Evidence indicates a 3 year-old and a 6 month-old had been confined and hidden in the house their whole lives, while neighbors only knew of the family's two children ages 10 and 13. Rivera is arguing he had no idea what was going on in the rest of the house.

“There was simply no way that Mr. Rivera could have lived in that house and slept seven or eight feet away from the rooms where these two children were confined without knowing their existence,” said Assistant District Attorney John Bradley.

Rivera is being held on $100,000 cash bond. His next court appearance is scheduled for January 14.


Bill Cosby accused of sexual assault in first claim outside the statute of limitations

by Ella Alexander

Bill Cosby has been accused of sexual assault by an aspiring model.

The claim is thought to be the first to be within the statute of limitations.

The comedian has denied all previous allegations made against him. The Independent has sought comment on this most recent claim.

Chloe Goins alleges the incident took place in 2008 at a Playboy party, also attended by Cosby. She claims that the comedian gave her and a friend a drink, at which point she began to feel unwell.

“Everything kind of went a little foggy, I started feeling sick to my stomach, and just dizzy,” she told the Daily Mail.

She alleges that Hugh Hefner offered a spare room for her to lie down in and Cosby showed her the way. “'He had his arm around me to show me the way and I did notice he had been paying me a little more attention than my friend, but never thought anything of it,” she said.

Goins claims she doesn't remember entering the room and alleges she awoke naked on a bed, with Cosby nearby.

“I came to and remember seeing this big man crouched over me,” she said. “It was Bill Cosby and he was at my feet, kind of licking and kissing them and I think he bit my toe as that's what woke me up.

“I kind of thank God for that because that's what woke me up and I came to.”

Cosby is said to have left the room abruptly, and Goins left the party with her friend not long after.

“We were young, we wanted to be Playboy models,” she said. “I was scared about saying anything about what happened, especially as it was at the Playboy mansion because it's known for naughty stuff.

“I didn't want to get in trouble and maybe ruin my modelling career. Bill Cosby was on TV and had a family man image.”

She was encouraged to come forward by the number of other women who claim they were drugged and sexually assaulted by Cosby in a series of allegations made in recent months.

Goins' lawyer has since made contact with LAPD.

“I never really thought about it before, but I definitely want to give a statement to the police,” she said.

“This isn't something I really wanted out there about myself, but I saw all the women who had come forward, over 20 women and it grossed me out. I feel he needs to pay for it, he deserves to pay for it.

“I don't think he raped me so I am one of the lucky ones, but at the same time it was a f***ed up situation.”

Cosby has defended himself against previous claims, saying that “people need to fact check”. His lawyer has described the allegations as “decades old” and “discredited”.

In 2006, Andrea Constand claimed that Cosby had drugged and assaulted her in his Philadelphia mansion in 2004 - allegations firmly denied by his lawyers. Over 13 alleged victims were proposing to testify but the civil case with Constand settled in 2006. The terms of the settlement remain undisclosed.

Earlier this month, it was reported that Cosby had filed a lawsuit against Judy Huth, who claimed that she was sexually assaulted by the actor aged 15.


Attorney for woman who claimed Bill Cosby abused her when she was 15 says he has two sworn witnesses who back her story

by Associated Press and Snejana Farberov

A lawyer representing a woman who has accused Bill Cosby of sexually assaulting when she was 15 has stated in a court filing that he has interviewed two witnesses who corroborate her story.

Attorney Marc Strecker wrote in a sworn declaration filed in Los Angeles Superior Court Friday that he has reviewed photographs of his client, Judy Huth, with Cosby at the Playboy Mansion in the mid-1970s, the place and time she says the abuse happened.

Huth's sexual battery lawsuit against Cosby comes amid an avalanche of allegations that he drugged and sexually assaulted more than two dozen women.

He has never been charged in connection with any of the accusations, and his lawyers deny many of the allegations.

He reached a settlement with a Pennsylvania woman who in a 2005 lawsuit said Cosby drugged and molested her in 2004.

Cosby's attorney Martin Singer is seeking to dismiss Huth's suit and has called it an extortion attempt.

He says Huth, now 55 years old, tried to sell her story to a tabloid a decade ago and contends that undercuts her claim of recently discovered psychological damage.

Strecker's declaration does not provide details about how the witnesses corroborate Huth's story, but her lawsuit states she and a 16-year-old female friend were taken to the Playboy Mansion by Cosby sometime around 1974.

The lawsuit alleges that they met him at a film shoot, and he later gave them alcohol while they played pool, before he took them to the mansion.

Strecker's filing also includes a declaration from Dr. Anthony E. Reading, a clinical psychologist who interviewed Huth and stated there is 'a reasonable basis to believe that Ms. Huth has been subject to childhood sexual abuse.' Reading's statement does not mention Cosby.

Many of the allegations against Cosby are blocked from court by statutes of limitations, but Los Angeles police are investigating Huth's claims.

She appeared at a news conference December 5 with attorney Gloria Allred, who held up decades-old photographs of Huth with Cosby. Allred wrote in an email Monday that the photos were taken at the Playboy Mansion.

Judy Huth is among two dozen women who have come forward in recent weeks accusing the 77-year-old married comedian of drugging and raping them over the course of five decades.

Cosby has not commented on the accusations, but his wife and the mother of his five children, Camille Cosby, released a statement Monday staunchly defending her husband and proclaiming him the real victim of the scandal.

‘He is a kind man, a generous man, a funny man, and a wonderful husband, father and friend,' Camille Cosby said in the 210-word statement released by Cosby's publicist. ‘He is the man you thought you knew.'

Mrs Cosby, who married the trailblazing comic in 1964, called her husband ‘the man you all knew through his work' and excoriated the news media for not vetting her husband's accusers.

‘None of us will ever want to be in the position of attacking a victim,' Camille Cosby continued. ‘But the question should be asked - who is the victim?'

The previous day, Cosby gave a brief interview with the New York Post, disparaging the media and praising his wife for giving him 'strength and love.'

The most high profile of Cosby's accusers is model Janice Dickinson, who alleges Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted her in 1982. Model Beverly Johnson alleges Cosby drugged her in the mid-1980s.

On Monday, Las Vegas adult entertainer Chloe Goins, 24, became the latest woman to accuse Cosby of sexual misconduct.

Speaking exclusively to MailOnline, Goins recounted how the legendary comedian allegedly spiked her drink during a party at the Playboy Mansion in 2008 and then attacked her.


Andrea Constand - A Temple University employee, she claimed in 2006 that Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted her in his Philadelphia-area mansion two years earlier. Cosby eventually settled this suit out of court as the prosecution said they had 13 Jane Does who would testify Cosby had done the same to them.

Barbara Bowman - Bowman told MailOnline that Cosby raped and drugged her in 1985 when she was a 17-year-old aspiring actress. Bowman was one of Constand's 13 Jane Does.

Joan Tarshis - Tarshis claimed that she was just 19-years-old when Cosby drugged and raped her twice in Hollywood back in 1969 while she was working as a writer for him.

Janice Dickinson - The supermodel said in an interview that Cosby invited her to Lake Tahoe to talk about a television role in 1982, but ended up drugging and raping her.

Tamara Green - Green, who first came forward in 2005 told MailOnline that she was an aspiring actress in the 1970s when Cosby gave her pills and pretended to care for her while she had the flu, but instead sexually assaulted her.

Therese Serignese - Another of the 13 Jane Does, she says she was 19 when Cosby drugged and raped her in Las Vegas after one of his shows.

Louisa Moritz - She accused Cosby of sexual assault, saying he forced her into oral sex backstage at The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in 1971, and implied he would further her career if she complied.

Linda Joy Traitz - She said she was just 19 when Cosby drove her out to a beach and tried to get her to take pills to relax, before becoming 'sexually aggressive'. Traitz has been charged in the past with trafficking pills. Cosby's attorney, Marty Singer, is trying to use Traitz's past to discredit her claims.

Beth Ferrier - Ferrier claims she had a relationship with Cosby in the mid-1980s. She claims that she awoke in her car with her clothes in disarray and not remembering what had happened. Ferrier has claimed that he drugged her coffee.

Carla Ferrigno - The wife of Incredible Hulk star Lou Ferrigno, claims Cosby tried to sexually assault her during a gathering at his house in 1967. What's more, Cosby allegedly tried to use a friend to help court Ferrigno, and allegedly made his move on the former Playboy Bunny just moments after his own wife, Camille, left the room.

Angela Leslie - The former model-actress claims that Cosby forced her to masturbate him in his Vegas hotel suite after giving her a strong drink in 1992.

Renita Chainey Hill - The 47-year-old mother-of-three who met Cosby when she was offered a role on Picture Pages in Pittsburgh claimed he would fly her to cities around the United States and drug her during a four-year relationship.

Kristina Ruehli - A New Hampshire grandmother-of-eight, now 71, claims Cosby invited her back to his house for a 'party'. She arrived and no one was there. Ruehli alleges that he drugged two bourbons he poured her and she came to when he was on top of her, shirtless.

Victoria Valentino - The former Playboy playmate claims Cosby drugged her and a friend, tried to rape her friend then violated her instead in a Hollywood apartment after dinner.

Jewel Allison - The former model accused Cosby of drugging her wine and making her feel his genitals before kissing her during a dinner at his home in the late Eighties.

Michelle Hurd: The 47-year-old actress, known for her roles on Law & Order: SVU and Gossip Girl, revealed she was a stand-in on the set of The Cosby Show when Cosby started acting inappropriately around her. She says he asked her to go to his house to take a shower so he could blow dry her hair straight, but she decided not to go.

P.J. Masten - The former Playboy bunny claims Cosby invited her out to dinner in Chicago. Before they left he gave her a drink and the next thing she remembers is waking up naked and bruised in his bed. Masten claims she knows of 12 other former bunnies who were attacked by Cosby but have not yet come forward.

Joyce Emmons -The former comedy club manager claims she woke up naked next to a friend of Bill Cosby after the comedian gave her a sedative when she complained of a migraine. Emmons told TMZ that the comedian slipped her a Quaalude when she was in his Las Vegas hotel suite in the 1970s. She claims Cosby drugged her but has not accused him of sexual assault.

Lachele Covington - The 20-year-old actress, who'd been an extra on the TV show Cosby, filed a police report in March 2000 against the star, accusing him of making an unwelcome sexual advance. According to The New York Post, after dinner and drinks at his home, he massaged her then 'guided her hand towards his sweatpants'. Cosby denied the claim and no charges were filed.

Renita Chainey Hill - The 47-year-old mother-of-three who met Cosby when she was offered a role on Picture Pages in Pittsburgh claimed he would fly her to cities around the United States and drug her during a four-year relationship.

Kristina Ruehli - A New Hampshire grandmother-of-eight, now 71, claims Cosby invited her back to his house for a 'party'. She arrived and no one was there. Ruehli alleges that he drugged two bourbons he poured her and she came to when he was on top of her, shirtless.

Victoria Valentino - The former Playboy playmate claims Cosby drugged her and a friend, tried to rape her friend then violated her instead in a Hollywood apartment after dinner.

Jewel Allison - The former model accused Cosby of drugging her wine and making her feel his genitals before kissing her during a dinner at his home in the late Eighties.

Michelle Hurd: The 47-year-old actress, known for her roles on Law & Order: SVU and Gossip Girl, revealed she was a stand-in on the set of The Cosby Show when Cosby started acting inappropriately around her. She says he asked her to go to his house to take a shower so he could blow dry her hair straight, but she decided not to go.

P.J. Masten - The former Playboy bunny claims Cosby invited her out to dinner in Chicago. Before they left he gave her a drink and the next thing she remembers is waking up naked and bruised in his bed. Masten claims she knows of 12 other former bunnies who were attacked by Cosby but have not yet come forward.

Joyce Emmons -The former comedy club manager claims she woke up naked next to a friend of Bill Cosby after the comedian gave her a sedative when she complained of a migraine. Emmons told TMZ that the comedian slipped her a Quaalude when she was in his Las Vegas hotel suite in the 1970s. She claims Cosby drugged her but has not accused him of sexual assault.

Lachele Covington - The 20-year-old actress, who'd been an extra on the TV show Cosby, filed a police report in March 2000 against the star, accusing him of making an unwelcome sexual advance. According to The New York Post, after dinner and drinks at his home, he massaged her then 'guided her hand towards his sweatpants'. Cosby denied the claim and no charges were filed.

Shawn Brown - The only woman that Cosby admits cheating with claims that after a two-month relationship, Cosby drugged a drink and urged her to down it. He then raped her while she was unconscious and got her pregnant, she says.

Paige Young - Young shot herself dead in 1974 aged 30. She had had an affair with Cosby shortly before her death. In a suicide note she said that many Hollywood stars had used her and spat her out.

Judy Huth - Huth claims Cosby raped her at the Playboy Mansion in 1974 when she was just 15. Cosby has sued her, but Huth's is the only case that is being actively investigated by police.

Chelan Lasha - Lasha was an aspiring model in 1986 when she says Cosby gave her two shots of Amaretto and a pill and then attacked her as she lay on his bed in the Elvis Presley suite at the Hilton Las Vegas.

Beverley Johnson - The first black woman to be on the cover of American Vogue said Cosby made a drugged cappuccino for her when she visited his New York brownstone to read through lines for a small part in the Cosby Show. As she felt her body go limp she shouted at Cosby: 'You are a motherf***** aren't you?' Angry, Cosby dragged her downstairs and dumped her in a taxi.



‘A lost tribe': Child welfare system accused of repeating residential school history

by Adrian Humphreys

Elders from the Wabaseemoong First Nation in north-western Ontario remember the bus that drove around their reserve picking up children and shuttling them to a waiting plane for a 345 kilometre flight north to Sandy Lake, a remote community with no outside road link, except for ice roads built on frozen lakes and rivers during the winter.

“When the planes landed at the dock, families there were told they could come down and pick out a kid,” said Theresa Stevens, executive director of Anishinaabe Abinoojii Family Services, the current child protection provider for Wabaseemoong.

Such mass apprehension of children from troubled Wabaseemoong, including those flights in the 1970s, have been draining the reserve of its youth for decades, until, in 1990, the community had had enough.

A band council resolution was passed: the Children's Aid Society was forbidden from entering the reserve.

“They stood at the reserve line on tractors with shotguns saying ‘You aren't coming into our community and taking any more of our children,' ” said Ms. Stevens.

The situation was desperate: a third of the reserve's kids were in foster care; the dip in school-age children made teachers redundant.

“From that day forward they've assumed more and more control over their children,” said Ms. Stevens.

In that community near the Ontario-Manitoba border, known in English as Whitedog, standoffs and feuds preceded a new sense of stability. Ms. Steven's agency has been handling child welfare since 2001, and doing it with the province's approval since 2006.

“We went from having almost 300 children in care to where we are down to just slightly over 100 for that community. And that is huge,” she said.

A Wabaseemoong elder, Eli Carpenter, poignantly told her the difference it has made. One day he was struck by the uplifting sound of children playing; so many kids had been taken it had been years since he had heard that.

“That's when we finally started to know we were making inroads and changing the tide of what had happened,” said Ms. Stevens.

Wabaseemoong is not yet a place to be pointed to as a universal model of success in tackling the problems of aboriginal child welfare, but it stands as a marker of hope and a portrait of the hard journey native child welfare reform takes.

Today, after the public apologies and restitution over the government's residential school system, disproportionately high rates of aboriginal child apprehensions continue across Canada.

“There are more First Nation children in care today than during the height of residential schools,” said Shawn Atleo, former National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations. “We cannot lose another generation to the mistakes of the past. First Nations are the youngest and fastest growing segment of the population. We are the future. This is about Canada's future.”

Goyce Kakegamic, a residential school survivor who is now deputy grand chief for the Nishnawbe Aski Nation — covering two-thirds of Ontario in an arc from Quebec to Manitoba — said it is the missing children of today, not just of the past, sapping vitality from native communities.

“So many of our children have been taken away they are like a lost tribe,” Mr. Kakegamic said.

While all child welfare systems in Canada face challenges, the added complexities of aboriginal child welfare bring a seemingly unbearable quandary.

About 15% of kids in care in Canada are aboriginal, despite natives comprising only 3% of the population; children on reserves are close to eight times more likely than other children to be taken into care.

These statistics alone suggest a problem worthy of attention, but they are coupled with studies saying a majority of native child apprehensions are not over allegations of abuse but, rather, concerns of neglect — with serious questions of what role culture and poverty plays in defining neglect.

“The child protection system for aboriginal children and youth is broken,” said John Beaucage, who was the first Aboriginal Advisor to Ontario's Minister of Children and Youth Services.

“We see the same type of things repeating: aboriginal children taken away from their community, taken away from their culture and usually … these children find themselves, as adults, trying to figure out who they are, where they belong and are somewhat lost.

“We, as a country, have been repeating the same mistakes over and over again.”

Among those mistakes: not doing enough to tackle root causes that lead to legitimate child apprehension; not finding ways of keeping more native children out of state care by ending unnecessary apprehensions; and finding a balance between meeting demands for aboriginal cultural integrity while maintaining critical standards of care.

“If we keep on doing the same old stupid things, we're not going to see it stop,” said Mr. Beaucage. “We're going to see it continue to rise without real benefit and without real change.”

In 1955, the federal Indian Act was changed to allow provincial laws to apply on native reserves and the provinces then went into the business of providing aboriginal child welfare services, although funded by Ottawa.

“We had social workers untrained in the experience of First Nations people; they'd walk onto these reserves, see all this poverty and devastation and children from the residential school system — who are now parents — in a lot of trauma and, instead of seeing that for what it was, they removed the kids all over again,” said Cindy Blackstock, the Executive Director of the and an associate professor at the University of Alberta.

The federal policy ushered in what is referred to now as the “60s Scoop,” when an estimated 20,000 native children were taken for foster care and adoption, primarily into non-aboriginal families in Canada, United States and Europe.

In 1973, the Siksika First Nation, east of Calgary, became the first band to kick provincial child protection workers off their territory and start their own agency. Manitoba bands soon followed.

There are now 108 aboriginal agencies in Canada mandated to handle child welfare services; at least one in every province except Prince Edward Island and with none in the northern territories.

More are on the horizon. In Ontario, for instance, the seven mandated aboriginal children's aid societies will almost double if six “pre-mandated” agencies gain full authority; two are on the verge of full mandate status.

Meanwhile, the demands to recognize native culture in child welfare are becoming codified.

In Ontario, the Child and Family Services Act was amended in 2006, requiring child protection workers to ask whether a child has Indian status so that it can be taken into account in care decisions.

In Manitoba, where 80% of children in care are aboriginal, the Authorities Act now states that values, customs and traditional communities must be respected in cases involving aboriginal people.

And last year in Nunavut, where the population is mostly Inuit, the Child and Family Services Act was revised to allow interpretation according to Inuit societal values.

Along the way, the federal government has tinkered with funding in a patchwork approach with provinces: Ontario struck the Indian Welfare Agreement in 1965, allowing the province to bill Ottawa for services it provided for First Nations, although at about 93-cents on the dollar. A funding directive covered the rest of Canada from 1991 until 2007 when Ottawa unveiled an Enhanced Funding formula that brought new money to Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia.

All child protection agencies across Canada start their cases based on a range of suspected maltreatment, including physical, sexual or emotional abuse. Increasingly, children are apprehended without evidence of actual maltreatment but, rather, for concern over neglect, substance abuse, lifestyle or living conditions.

That can hit native families particularly hard.

“It is quite heartbreaking,” said Katherine Hensel, a lawyer who has represented First Nations and aboriginal organizations across Canada.

“First Nation families are still experiencing the wrongful taking of their children on spurious grounds. There is still widespread, unnecessary and unwarranted removal of children.

“Many, many loving and perfectly good aboriginal homes don't meet a province's standard of requirements for being foster homes. There are different cultural norms on how children should be raised,” said Ms. Hensel.

Practices by many aboriginal people — such as parent-child co-sleeping, shared housing and multi-generational responsibility for childrearing — are often seen in social work as signs of dysfunction.

“If we deem a home to be a good home and a safe place for a child — but it might not meet all the provincial standards — we try to be as flexible and creative as we can,” said Ms. Stevens, from Anishinaabe Abinoojii Family Services.

While such flexibility and creativity may solve short-term problems, Ms. Blackstock wants long-term solutions. Her organization, along with the Assembly of First Nations, filed a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission in 2007 with the aim of prying more money from Ottawa. The complaint says the government discriminates against aboriginal children living on reserves by providing less funding than is available for non-native children.

Ottawa funds child welfare for on-reserve First Nations while the provinces fund child welfare for non-native children. The gap between the two funding models is estimated to be 22%, the hearing heard.

Ottawa fought to quash the case but the tribunal pressed ahead, holding 72 hearing days in Ottawa ending in October. A decision is expected by the spring.

Answers may come from other directions, too.

Mr. Kakegamic was born in Keewaywin First Nation in Northern Ontario and has experienced a spectrum of native life, raised on the land in a traditional lifestyle by his extended family and also placed in a residential school. He is university educated and now responsible for social services for member bands across northern Ontario — most remote, fly-in only reserves with poor infrastructure.

“We don't need someone with a PhD to come and tell us what the problems are. We know what the problems are. Because they end up in child care, they end up in drugs and alcohol,” he said; feelings of “futurelessness” lead to high youth suicide rates. “It wounded us to our core and sometimes it is hard to move forward when you are wounded.

“But the answers do not all come from Ottawa.

“We need to look at ourselves. We can do more as a community. We can do more as parents… it's not only more money and more resources.”

He wants to strengthen and expand aboriginal child welfare agencies in his territory and push more resources into prevention and early intervention.

“We have the skill, we have the capacity, we have the experience — now give us the way to help our own people.”

Moving toward aboriginal jurisdiction over child welfare is not a quick fix.

Last year, a joint Edmonton Journal - Calgary Herald investigation found that, proportionately, more children died in the care of an on-reserve Delegated First Nations Agency than in Alberta's Children and Family Services Agency.

The continuing problems of aboriginals in the child welfare system also became a focus in Manitoba with the inquiry into the death of Phoenix Sinclair, a 5-year-old native girl who died in 2005 after abuse in her mother's home on Fisher River reserve, north of Winnipeg, three months after returning to her mother's care.

Even after the intense public attention of the inquiry, gaps in native child welfare still invite tragedy, including 15-year-old Tina Fontaine of Sagkeeng First Nation who was in the care of a Child and Family Services agency in Winnipeg and, within a month, her body found sexually abused and wrapped in plastic in the city's Red River.

Galvanized by another tragedy, the government has announced another round of changes.

Ms. Stevens, from Anishinaabe Abinoojii, said aboriginal agencies have two concurrent goals: “We have a mandate that is both from the government but also from our First Nations. We're not just in the business of child welfare, we are also in the business of rebuilding our nation by rebuilding our families.”

A year ago, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, B.C.'s Representative for Children and Youth, released a scathing report on the province's aboriginal child welfare, calling it a “colossal failure of public policy.” She said the province spent at least $66 million on “talking” about problems “without a single child being actually served.”

Moving toward new aboriginal agencies is part of the adjustment agencies need to make, said Mary Ballantyne, Executive Director of the Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies, where the boardroom is decorated by a quotation from Sitting Bull, the Indian chief who led the native resistance at Little Big Horn.

“More and more, there is recognition that we need to find unique solutions in unique community circumstances.

“But we also need to make sure that the kids are OK. Aboriginal parents don't want their kids in appalling conditions anymore than anybody else wants their kids in appalling conditions.”

Nico Trocmé, director of the McGill Centre for Research on Children and Families in Montreal, said he supports First Nations control over child welfare services—“with one enormous caveat: Simply dumping those services on First Nations communities and not providing the funding and resources needed is not going to change much of anything.”

“It is not going to be a quick and dirty solution,” said Mr. Beaucage, the former Ontario aboriginal advisor. “A lot of governments, they want a solution before the next election. You have to gauge your success by a different timeframe.

“The solution is not measured in months or years but maybe in ten years, or tens of years.”



Child Abuse Cases & Severity Increasing

Doctors say they're just seeing the tip of the iceberg.

"For me the scarier thing is what we aren't seeing," said Dr. Darwin Koller, the Medical Director of Children's Hospital at Erlanger's Emergency Department.

"We've been seeing an increase in the amount of abuse - physical abuse in particular and in particular the severity of the injuries associated with that abuse," said Dr. Darwin Koller, the Medical Director of the Children's Hospital at Erlanger.

Doctors say abuse causes tend to rise this time of year. Their theory is that the holiday season adds more stress.

"When in other situations you might have the impulse control not to injure those children that you essentially don't have that control because there are too many stressers on your life right now and you basically end up taking it out on the child," said Dr. Annamaria Church, a pediatrician and the Medical Director of the Child Protection Team.

Doctor Church says they hope these already high levels now won't peak even higher over the holidays.

"Two to four cases a week from this area, then imagine what is at the lower end of this iceberg. There are lots of kids who we aren't going to see and we can't protect them all."

The chart shows the number of child abuse cases coming through the doors of the Children's Hospital at Erlanger. For the fiscal year 2012 to 2013, there were 230 total cases; from 2013 to 2014, there were 265 total cases; and from 2014 to 2015, they are trending to 300. They say at least 75 percent of the time the perpetrator is the parent or someone in a parental role.

Dr. Koller says the most common ages of the children they see are 4-years-old or younger. The child protection team says it's the community's duty to report anything suspicious. Doctors say to look not only for physical signs, but also behavioral or emotional changes.

"Make sure you ask the question and if the story isn't really fitting or their body language isn't really fitting with what's being asked then that should be a red flag," said Dr. Darwin Koller.

The number to report abuse in Tennessee is 877-54-ABUSE and callers can always remain anonymous.



Wolf must follow through to prevent child abuse in Pa.

by Gene J. Puskar

The Issue: In the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal, experts spent months figuring out how to overhaul Pennsylvania's child protection laws. State lawmakers passed a package of changes, including one requiring background checks for volunteers who have contact with children. But now there is confusion about some key aspects of the legislation.

Our state lawmakers — including our local delegation and Gov. Tom Corbett — deserve kudos for strengthening protections for Pennsylvania's children.

The changes, based on lessons learned from the Sandusky nightmare, were long overdue.

There is still, however, work to be done.

Leadership is needed to dispel the confusion over the new law's requirement of background checks for volunteers.

As LNP found out last week, local school superintendents and nonprofit leaders are not quite sure to whom the new background law applies.

The law says background checks are required of volunteers who are responsible for the welfare of children, or have direct contact or routine interaction with children.

We share the view of Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children that background checks should be required for anyone who has unsupervised contact with kids, even if that contact occurs just once.

But there also are other major issues.

A set of new child-protection laws will be implemented beginning Jan. 1, and there is no coordinated, consistent message about the practical details of those laws.

The background check law, in particular, will have a huge impact, not just on schools but on houses of worship, youth organizations and other nonprofits that rely on volunteers.

Beginning in July, volunteers will be required to get a Pennsylvania State Police criminal history record check (cost: $10) and a child abuse history check ($10) conducted by the state Department of Human Services.

Those who have resided outside of Pennsylvania any time in the past 10 years also will need to get an FBI clearance (cost: $27.50).

The background checks will need to be updated every three years.

While the checks are essential to child safety, they may have unintended consequences: Good people who can't afford the background checks won't volunteer, and nonprofits that bear the costs are going to be strapped.

Private companies conduct cheaper background checks, but their reliability varies, so relying on state agencies strikes us as a good idea.

There are solutions. The state could waive state fees for some applicants as it does for Big Brothers Big Sisters volunteers. And state Rep. Dan Moul, primary sponsor of the new child protection law, says he'll go to the Department of Human Services if he hears complaints about the cost of background checks.

Moul, from Adams County, also told LNP that a clarification about who is covered by the background check law might be warranted.

The Center for Children's Justice has called on Gov.-elect Tom Wolf to give some indication that his transition team is aware of the magnitude of the changes to the child protection laws.

They'd like the Wolf administration to appoint a team to come up with consistent messaging on the new laws, and cultivate child protection strategies across state government. They also want to see support for staff in agencies such as DHS that are already stretched thin.

The center sent a letter to Wolf on Nov. 20 asking that his transition team provide him with “actionable steps” toward these ends.

It was co-signed by more than 110 advocates, including the director of Penn State Children's Hospital's Center for the Protection of Children.

So far, there has been no response.

We know the governor-elect is busy. But he shouldn't be too busy to send some signal — beyond a boilerplate press release — that protecting Pennsylvania's children will be one of his administration's priorities.

As Cathleen Palm of the Center for Children's Justice rightfully says, “Laws are just words on paper. It's really about the practice, and it's really about the leadership.”



Florida legislators vow to get payment to abused child

by Mary Ellen Klas

TALLAHASSEE — Several influential South Florida legislators said Monday they will not let a legal technicality stand in the way of getting payments to the victim of one of the most horrific child abuse cases in state history.

Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, said she "won't rest" until Victor Barahona and his new parents get the $3.75 million they are owed after he was found near death alongside his twin sister's decomposing body after years of abuse warnings to the state went unheeded.

The payment is part of a $5 million settlement agreed to by the Department of Children and Families in 2013, but Flores, and a bipartisan group of lawmakers, face an uphill battle getting the money to the family.

Senate President Andy Gardiner told the Times/Herald on Monday that he stands by the recommendation of his general counsel George Levesque who, along with DCF, wants the settlement payments put on indefinite hold. Even though the state agreed to not interfere with the legislation as part of the settlement, the lawyers now argue that passage of legislation could hurt the state's attempt to fight two other child abuse lawsuits by two other Barahona children.

Nubia Barahona was 10 years old when she was found dead and smothered in chemicals in the flatbed of her father's pick-up truck on Valentine's Day 2011. Her brother, Victor, was barely alive. They had spent all of their lives in Florida's child welfare system.

A 2011 DCF report concluded that the state's safety net for the twins was a "systemic failure." Testimony showed that the children were sexually abused, starved and forced to sleep in a bathtub for years by their adoptive parents, Jorge and Carmen Barahona. They were ordered to eat cockroaches and consume food that contained feces and, despite numerous complaints to the child abuse hotline, the state stood silent as their adopted parents routinely beat and bound them inside their West Miami-Dade home.

DCF did not admit liability but paid $1.25 million immediately and then agreed it would not oppose a claim bill in the Legislature for the remaining $3.75 million in settlement funds.

Lawsuits brought by two other children adopted by the Barahonas, known in court records as J.K. and J.B., are still pending and Levesque argues that Senate rules require them to postpone payment of the settlement until those lawsuits are resolved.

Gardiner, R-Orlando, called the decision "a sound legal recommendation'' but, he said, Flores could try to persuade the Senate to "waive the rules" and pass the bill anyway.

"It's an injustice of incredible proportions and we have to do whatever we can to make this poor victim as whole as possible," said Flores, a member of the Senate leadership team. "I won't rest until there is something we can do to help him and his new family."

Her remarks were echoed by Miami Republican Reps. Jose Felix Diaz and Erik Fresen as well as Hollywood Democrat Sen. Eleanor Sobel.

"Aren't we supposed to honor our word?'' asked Sobel, chairwoman of the Senate Children and Families Committee. "We have a moral obligation to right this wrong."

Diaz, who sponsored reform legislation in 2011 after Nubia Barahona's death, said "it's in the Legislature's best interest to get that child whole.''

Fresen said he believes the Legislature "can probably draft a bill that won't run the risk of adversely affecting the other cases but I don't think we should add one more delay to the otherwise dramatic situation of the Barahona case."

The House, however, does not require that all pending lawsuits be resolved to pay victims in a case but because of the Senate's decision to halt progress on the bill it cannot move forward alone.

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, told the Times/Herald he was optimistic that something could be worked out.

"The case involving Victor Barahona and his sister Nubia is horrific and troubling,'' he said. "We respect the Senate's decision to not move forward at this time. This does not mean that the case will never come before the Legislature, it just will not come forward now."

Meanwhile, lawyers for the victim are filing a motion to ask the court to order DCF to honor its settlement agreement and back off its opposition to Flores' claim bill.

"DCF is trying to go back on that now,'' Flores said, "and, as far as I'm concerned, there is no word that describes how major this injustice is."



Is This German Scouting Ritual Child Abuse?

Though the country's major scouting associations say the practice of "Pflocken," in which children are tied down, isn't acceptable, the timeworn practice continues.

by Markus C. Schulte von Drach

MUNICH — It's spring 2014 at a boy scout camp in southern Germany. Younger boys and adolescents are cavorting about, practicing, learning and generally having fun. Then word spreads that a boy named Mark is about to be targeted for "Pflocken," so the boys gather to watch what's about to happen. Mark, who's about 11, has done something wrong, "something bad," and he's going to be punished.

Group leaders set him down on a table and bind his arms and legs, which are spread out. Gummy snake candy is then stuffed into his mouth. "Almost everybody thought it was funny," say some of the kids who were there. But some boys didn't find it funny at all. They may have worried they would face similar treatment one day.

The practice of so-called "Pflocken" usually happens outdoors. Online descriptions and photos confirm that. Four tent pegs are hammered into the ground, and the boy is tied to them with rope. The bound child doesn't know what awaits him, so uncertainty and fear are part of the equation. He's then tickled, body-marked with felt-tip pens and sometimes doused with water. There are stories on the Internet of kids being smeared with honey or leftover food.

How often this goes on is unclear. The Cologne-based Zartbitter association, whose mission is to protect boys and girls from abuse, reported in 2011 that groups used Pflocken either as punishment or as part of an induction ritual.

Can this really be? Do parents have any idea that their children will be tied down when they join the scouts?

The three largest scout associations in Germany tell us that the practice is very well-known. In fact, according to Kerstin Fuchs, federal chair of the Catholic Saint George German Scout Association (DPSG), it used to be a timeworn tradition. But the associations all express surprise that the ritual is still happening.

"We haven't heard anything about that for a long time," says DPSG spokesman Daniel Seiler. "We were assuming it didn't happen anymore."

Put an end to a cruel ordeal

Officials for the Union of Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts and the Association of Christian Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts also say they were unaware of recent cases. All three associations say the practice contradicts their educational principles.

The practice fulfills the criteria for the deprivation of liberty and is a violent offense, says scout official Carolin Harms. The associations reject anything "that disregards or hurts the bodily and spiritual well-being of members," she says.

Another official, Diane Tempel-Bornett, is equally adamant. "For the person who has to go through it, it's a massive humiliation," she says.

Beyond that, experts say there are dangers of lasting damage. "If it really takes place the way it's described by eyewitnesses, then it matches all the main characteristics of child abuse, more specifically abuse of wards," says Klaus Neumann, the officer in charge of the well-being and rights of children at the Professional Association of German Psychologists.

Harms says that group leaders who allowed Pflocken would have to count on losing their position and probably also their scout memberships.

"For many years, we've been making efforts to shine the light on every kind of violence aimed at children," says Seiler, who is also expressing surprise that the practice continues. "Violence and violation of borders have for many years been subjects that are dealt with in the education the leaders receive." That applies to all three associations.

Some may not perceive Pflocken as violence, and one of the scouts who witnessed Mark being tied down last spring says Mark wasn't traumatized. "He just laughed," his peer says.

But the associations believe that's far from proof that the ritual is harmless. "One of the goals of the training we give leaders is understanding just how far they can go," says Seiler. "That also applies to rituals that on the surface are just supposed to be fun." Even when those being tied down appear to be participating voluntarily, that can be a false representation. In any case, things should never go that far. "There are individual borders, and crossing them constitutes a violation of privacy," Seiler says. "Leaders have to be able to recognize the borders and not cross them."

Which is why group leaders during training are sensitized to what can seem harmless to some emotionally traumatic for others, says Tempel-Bornett. "Some kids find spin the bottle fun, but for others it's torture. Nobody should have to participate in any activity they don't like."

But why do rituals such as this one still exist if there's all this commitment to end abuse? "As a federal association, we are responsible for training leaders, but we aren't present at the numerous local activities," Seiler says. "That's why I hope that both girl scouts and boy scouts in the groups concerned will deal with what they've experienced by giving it serious reflection."

The troops are also regularly sent information and guidelines about avoiding violence. "We are proactive as far as violence is concerned," Seiler says. "Pflocken simply should not happen."



Texas sex offenders not freed under state program

HOUSTON (AP) — None of the more than 300 convicted sex offenders ordered into Texas halfway houses under a little-known program since 1999 have ever successfully completed treatment and been freed, a newspaper reported Sunday.

Texas is among 20 states with civil commitment programs, which keeps some convicted sex offenders off the streets after their release from prison. The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld civil commitments on grounds that the involuntary confinements are used to administer treatment, not punishment.

But a Houston Chronicle investigation published Sunday found that dozens of offenders have severe mental illnesses or developmental delays that leave them unable to succeed in the programs. Critics say offenders with mental disabilities are more vulnerable to criminal penalties because they can't comply with rules or court orders.

Nearly half of the 350 men ordered into the program since it was created by the Texas Legislature in 1999 have been sent back to prison or jail for violations of program rules, some as simple as being late to treatment, court records show.

"For years, offenders with a variety of disabilities have been assigned to this program with no programs to address their needs," said Marsha McLane, executive director of the state's Office of Violent Sex Offender Management. "Keeping a lot of these people in halfway houses, where they are now, is not a solution. This is a problem we have to fix."

Two sexually violent crime convictions are required to be placed in civil commitment. Once they have completed their prison sentences, the sex offenders are committed to the program in civil court trials, where legal safeguards to ensure they are competent to understand their rights and the proceedings do not apply as in criminal cases.

McLane, who in May took over the agency responsible for overseeing the program, said she no long enforces a rule that offenders can be discharged if they exhibit medical or mental problems that prevent them from participating.

In other words, a person who has completed his criminal sentence could end up back in prison because his physical or mental disability leaves him unable to complete the treatment program.

"The very reason that they pick them is then the very reason they can't stay," said Barbara Corley, who retired last summer from the State Counsel for Offenders, Texas' public defender's office. "They aren't just setting them up for failure; they are criminalizing disability."

Legislative leaders have called for a top-to-bottom review of the program. Critics say the review critics should include why the mentally ill, the severely developmentally delayed, and the physically disabled are assigned to a program where they are almost certain to fail.



Connect helpline sees 22% increase in calls

Service for people abused as children finds family is most common abuse setting reported

by Patsy McGarry

Connect, the telephone counselling service for people abused as children, has had a 22 per cent increase in callers to date this year. Up to 54 per cent of callers described an experience of sexual abuse this year, a 3 per cent increase on the same period last year.

The overall number of calls received by the free out- of-hours support service for adults who suffered abuse, trauma or neglect in childhood this year to date (inside and outside opening hours) is in line with previous years. It is expected to reach more than 10,000 by the end of this month.

Connect's telephone- based counselling service is open from 6pm to 10pm from Wednesday to Sunday. This year it supported 470 individual callers between January and November through its 20-hours-a-week service.

It was set up in 2006, as the National Counselling Helpline Service following demands from survivors of institutional abuse for an independent and professional out-of-hours telephone- based counselling and support service. In 2008, it was renamed Connect.

Independent board

Part-funded by the Health Service Executive,

it has an independent board that includes members of support groups such as Aislinn, Right of Place and Soca UK, as well as HSE representatives.

Its counsellors are concerned that 31 per cent of calls come into the service when it is closed, and remain unanswered.

Connect manager Theresa Merrigan said the 2014 figures reflect a continuing year-on-year growth in demand as well as a growing pressure to meet such demand within the 20 hours a week for which it is funded.

“There is a concern around Connect's ability to provide intensive ongoing support to such a high number of individual callers,” she said.

Multiple instances

of abuse A growing number of callers talk of multiple experiences of abuse and neglect, she said:

“Many report emotional and physical abuse in familial contexts where they were abused by multiple family members. Such experiences in childhood lead to emotional difficulties in adult life which vary from depression to self-harm and suicidal thoughts.”

The most common setting for abuse reported by callers this year was the family at 45.5 per cent, followed by the community at 27.5 per cent.

“Institutional abuse accounted for 16 per cent of calls, though this figure rose at times of public focus on institutional abuse, accounting for 23 per cent of calls at the announcement of the mother-and-baby-home inquiry in June and July last,” she said.

Of the 2014 callers to date, 61 per cent were female and 39 per cent male, a 4 per cent increase on 2013 in men seeking support.


New Mexico

Better child-care options can help combat fatal child abuse

New Mexico children die of abuse often at hands of boyfriends or stepparents

by Lindsey Anderson

LAS CRUCES -- The remnants of 15-month-old Uriah Vasquez Ordoñez's body arrived at the Office of the Medical Investigator in 19 brown paper bags and a Tupperware container in August 2004.

Sixty-five pieces of the toddler's skull. Nine tooth fragments. Fifteen pieces of vertebral bones. Forty-six rib fragments. Twenty-nine pieces of bones from his arms and legs.

That's all investigators could recover from the site where Freddy Ordoñez burned his son's lifeless body in the desert near Oñate High School on July 30, 2004.

The next morning, Ordoñez, whom police had already arrested for killing his son, led investigators to the site where he cremated the boy's body off Pecan Lane and Porter Drive. Once there, Ordoñez dropped to his knees, made the sign of the cross and prayed.

Ordoñez told investigators he spent hours fanning the fire to cremate his son "for the body to be free," one detective's report states. He described throwing his son's ashes in the air.

Investigators combed through the mixed dirt and ash with screens and shovels, recovering the 164 bone fragments.

Expanding aid

Ordoñez said nothing when LCPD detectives asked how Uriah died. They asked again. "It was stupid," he replied.

Detectives learned Ordoñez was watching Uriah earlier in the week while his girlfriend Cecilia Vasquez, the boy's mother, worked at Subway.

Uriah refused to eat. Ordoñez cuffed Uriah on the head, picked him up by his ears and threw him onto a couch, according to police reports. Vasquez told police Ordoñez had tossed Uriah into a bathtub.

Ordoñez was often rough with Uriah and never believed the boy was his, Vasquez told police.

Being under the care of men who lack emotional attachment or caregivers of either gender who don't understand child development increase the risk of fatal child abuse, according to the National Center for Child Death Review.

Uriah is not the only child to die from abuse or neglect in Southern New Mexico in recent years and whose case mirrored those factors.

There was Isaiah Lawrence Jimenez. Armando Wood. Daniel Medina. Alizandra Jasso. Brianna Lopez.

Their mothers were at work, in jail, asleep or running errands while boyfriends, stepparents or other relatives killed them.

New Mexico has consistently had one of the highest rates of fatal child abuse and neglect in the country in recent years. For four of the past five years, New Mexico has been among the eight states with the highest number of per-capita child abuse and neglect deaths.

In 2010 and 2008, New Mexico had the second and third highest rate of deaths in the country, respectively, with 19 children dying from abuse and neglect in each of those years.

The state is also at the bottom of the pack in child well-being, ranking 49th or 50th on a national Kids County study the past three years.

There's no cure-all for addressing the complex factors that lead to fatal child abuse, but experts say making quality child care more affordable for families would give them better options than leaving children with unreliable caregivers, like Ordoñez.

Yet full-time care for a child age 4 or younger averages $6,000 to $6,800 each year in New Mexico, or about what it costs for a year's undergraduate tuition at New Mexico State University.

For many families struggling financially, the cost often puts such care out of reach, said Veronica C. Garcia, director of the nonprofit advocacy group New Mexico Voices for Children. Advocates like Garcia want the state to make child care affordable by expanding subsidies for low-income families.

Few studies focus on the risk factors for fatal abuse, but the National Center for Child Death Review, which trains state agencies to review child deaths, lists a lack of suitable child care as one of the major factors putting children at risk of dying from abuse or neglect. Reliable child care ensures a trained caregiver is looking after a child while allowing parents to work or run errands, relieving the burden of social isolation.

Many states with consistently low rates of fatal child abuse and neglect and positive rankings in child well-being offer at least some child-care assistance to families earning double the poverty level. The federal poverty level is currently $15,730 for a family of two, or $23,850 for a family of four.

New Hampshire offers child-care assistance for families making up to 250 percent of the federal poverty level. That state ranked fourth in child well-being this year and had a fatal child abuse rate of 0.36 deaths per 1,000 children in 2012. New Mexico's rate was nearly 10 times higher: 3.11 deaths per 1,000 children.

North Dakota, which also ranks low in fatal child abuse and high in child well-being, offers assistance for families making up to nearly three times the federal poverty level.

New Mexico used to offer assistance to families making up to twice the poverty level before state budget cuts in 2010.

Currently, new families can sign up for the program if they earn below 150 percent of the poverty level. If a family receives the subsidy and then their income rises to above 150 percent, they can stay in the program as long as they earn below 200 percent, Children, Youth and Families Department spokesman Henry Varela said.

About 750 families are on a waiting list to receive subsidies, Varela said.

Dangerous caregivers

New Mexico In Depth and the Sun-News examined hundreds of pages of police reports, prison records, autopsy findings and news articles on 15 fatal child abuse and neglect cases in Doña, Luna and Grant counties from 2001 to 2013.

The investigation found many children were fatally injured under the watch of a stepparent, mother's boyfriend, distant relative or a father who doubted whether the child was truly his. Other male caregivers appeared to not understand a child's development, violently punishing young children who wet their pants or shaking babies who wouldn't stop crying.

Two-thirds of the 20 people convicted of killing the children were men. That portion rises even higher if you discount the three women who were convicted of doing nothing to stop others' abuse rather than directly harming their children themselves. Of the adults whose actions directly killed the children, three-quarters were men.

Half of the men in the 15 cases were not related to the children they killed. Two who were fathers, Ordoñez and Andrew Walters, believed the children they killed weren't biologically theirs, according to police reports and then-District Attorney Susana Martinez, whose office prosecuted both cases.

Ordoñez and Vasquez declined requests to speak with NMID and the Sun-News. The details of their and Uriah's story have been gathered from police reports, autopsy findings, prison records and news articles.

After Uriah's death, Vasquez told police Ordoñez never loved the boy. Because she got pregnant with Uriah so quickly — the day Ordoñez was let out of prison — Ordoñez always questioned whether Uriah was his, Vasquez said, according to LCPD reports. Unlike their daughter, the boy didn't look like Ordoñez, she said.

Ordoñez was rough and impatient with Uriah, Vasquez said. She once sent the boy to his grandmother's for a few days, hoping time apart would ease tension. Ordoñez continued to watch Uriah while Vasquez worked.

Garcia, of Voices for Children, wants the state to restore subsidies for all families earning up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level so more parents can have reliable, certified caregivers watch their children. Even that would fall short of what states like North Dakota and New Hampshire offer families.

CYFD will consider seeking "incremental increases" to income eligibility as the budget allows, Varela said.

'Already gone'

There's no way to know if reliable childcare would have saved Uriah, but being under Ordoñez's watch proved fatal for the toddler.

Vasquez, then 21, went to her job at Subway that Tuesday in July 2004, leaving Uriah and their 2-year-old daughter with Ordoñez.

Ordoñez called Vasquez at work. Something was wrong with Uriah, he said. Come home.

Vasquez planned to head right back to work, but she found Uriah "limp." "His eyes were not focusing on anything," she later told investigators, according to police reports. Bruises covered his ears and his neck. A scrape ran up one of his legs. A bump rose from the back of his head. Uriah couldn't hold himself up. He threw up all night.

Vasquez wanted to take Uriah to the doctor, but Ordoñez refused. He reminded Vasquez of another time doctors said Uriah's vomiting was a symptom of a virus that needed to run its course.

By Thursday, Vasquez thought Uriah seemed better. She returned to work. Ordoñez called again, saying the boy was twitching. Vasquez returned home to find Ordoñez giving Uriah CPR.

She urged him to call 911 but he refused, saying they would get in trouble if they took the baby to the hospital with bruises. She tried to call several times but Ordoñez hid the phone.

"He kept telling her that he was already gone, there was nothing that could be done and they couldn't call the cops," the LCPD report says. "She said he told her Uriah was their son and they could bury him the way they wanted to, they didn't need anyone to tell them what to do."

Vasquez's boss later told investigators Ordoñez had previously physically abused Vasquez, according to a police report.

Vasquez lay with Uriah and tried to comfort him as he struggled to breathe. His breaths grew further and further apart, then stopped.

Children at risk

Other deaths of southern New Mexico children illustrate the dangers of leaving kids with unreliable caregivers.

George Trujillo apparently shook his cousin's son, 21-month-old Armando Wood, and lifted him by his chin while watching the boy in 2008, according to news reports. The autopsy found blunt force injuries to the child's head and scrapes on his neck and face. Trujillo was sentenced to three years in prison and has since been released.

Isaiah Lawrence Jimenez wouldn't stop crying one night in 2009, according to sheriff's reports. His aunt's boyfriend, Daniel Holguin, tossed him in the air, caught him by a leg, spanked him and suffocated him, Holguin's daughter later told investigators. Holguin was watching the 4-month-old while his girlfriend worked. Isaiah's mother was in jail. Holguin was sentenced to nine years in prison.

Six-month-old Daniel Medina died in 2009 while under the watch of his 22-year-old step-grandfather, Alfredo Luis Davila, who had married the baby's 38-year-old grandmother. Davila said the baby fell, but medical investigators found head injuries inconsistent with a fall and ruled his death a homicide, according to sheriff's and autopsy reports. Though charged in Daniel's death, Davila fled while out on bond and is still a fugitive.

Several studies have found children living with unrelated adults are more likely to die from child abuse injuries than children living with two biological parents. One study found that risk to be 50 times higher for children living with unrelated adults. Children living only with their mother faced no increased risk, study co-author Patricia Schnitzer, said.

Evolutionary biologists call it the "Cinderella effect," a controversial theory that care-giving animals focus their time and effort on their biological children rather than the offspring of "reproductive rivals," ensuring the parents' own survival and successful reproduction, according to one study on the topic.

Schnitzer hasn't researched why children living with non-biological adults are at greater risk than others, but she expects it's more complicated than the Cinderella effect.

Children killed from abuse and neglect are often under a year old, said Schnitzer, a registered nurse and University of Missouri professor who researches child abuse and neglect. The mother is not with the biological father and maybe has another man as her boyfriend, Schnitzer said.

"The way I think about them is households in chaos, that have a lot of social and financial stressors " she said. "And that puts them at risk of a lot of things, including child abuse."

Not all male caregivers who killed children in southern New Mexico in recent years were unrelated to the children or doubted their paternity. Half were the children's fathers.

They include Michael Cuhen, then 21, who put his son to sleep on a bed without rails and awoke to find the child burned to death against a nearby space heater. And Robert Flores, then 23, who left his 4-month-old daughter Kalynne in a laundry basket with unfolded clothes while he went to the store to buy beer. She suffocated to death. Flores is out of prison pending appeal.

Not the end

Then there is Ordoñez.

After Uriah took his last breaths, the boy's parents laid the baby in his crib and covered him with a blanket. Then they got into their car with their young daughter, drove to the store and bought Smirnoff vodka, drinking and driving around town. They stopped at two other stores to buy beer. Vasquez "just started chugging them, not knowing what else to do," a police report states. They also smoked marijuana.

Vasquez later went to sleep on the couch in their living room. Uriah's body lay in his crib in the bedroom. She didn't want to see it.

She awoke at 6 a.m. to find Ordoñez and Uriah gone.

Ordoñez returned later, smelling of smoke. He told Vasquez to pack clothes; they were leaving for Mexico. Police officers stopped by the house. Vasquez's boss had called to report a domestic dispute after Vasquez had called her, worried. Ordoñez threatened to kill Vasquez and their daughter if she responded to the officers, according to the police report. The police left without making contact with the family.

Ordoñez and Vasquez tossed belongings into dumpsters around the city before stopping at a motel on Picacho Avenue. There, Ordoñez saw police officers and ran. They caught and arrested him, though the reason for his arrest isn't clear in police reports.

No one would know of Uriah's death until Vasquez went to her boss' home after Ordoñez's arrest. Vasquez arrived at the house trembling and crying, saying she thought her baby was dead or injured. Her boss called police to report the child missing.

Medical investigators couldn't determine the cause of Uriah's death because so few pieces of his body remained. They ruled it a homicide based on Ordoñez's and Vasquez's statements and their decision to not seek medical help for the boy.

A judge in 2006 sentenced Ordoñez to 22 years in prison for child abuse resulting in death and Vasquez to 18 years for the same charge. He's scheduled to be released in 2024 with credit for good time served. She's scheduled to be released in 2019.

Despite New Mexico increasing penalties for child killers more than a decade ago in response to deaths like Uriah's, the tide of children dying from abuse and neglect hasn't ended. After Uriah's death in 2004, four more children died under the watch of abusive caregivers over the next five years in Doña Ana County alone.

This article was produced in partnership with New Mexico In Depth. Find NMID online at Lindsey Anderson can be reached at 915-546-6345.



New law will finally require training teachers to report child abuse

Contra Costa Times

The era of ignorance will soon end.

While state law requires school personnel to immediately notify police or child protective services when they know or suspect a student has been abused, it merely suggests school districts train their workers about the mandate.

Consequently, school employees — from janitors and teachers to principals and district superintendents — were woefully uninformed about the law.

That should change under bills Gov. Jerry Brown signed this year. Starting Jan. 1, school districts must train workers annually about their legal obligations. The significant new law was authored by Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Burbank.

A second law, carried by Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, requires teachers when they initially apply for their credentials, and when they renew every five years, to sign a statement acknowledging their reporting responsibilities.

We hope education of workers will end delays reporting and, in some cases, outright cover-ups of physical and sexual abuse cases.

Too often teachers informed supervisors rather than directly alerting police as the law requires. Too often school administrators decided to conduct their own inquiries rather than complying with the mandate to turn cases over to law enforcement officials trained to investigate.

In 2013, then-Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, introduced legislation requiring each school district to develop a policy for reporting suspected abuse, and to review it with employees annually. It was a start, but, as we said then, weak: District officials who had previously failed to follow the reporting law would have been responsible for developing the training.

The bill stalled in the Assembly Appropriations Committee, chaired by Gatto, who feared the state cost to reimburse districts. We challenged him to come up with something better. And he did.

Under his new law, which takes effect Jan. 1, the state departments of Social Services and Education must develop a uniform online training program, and every school district must ensure all workers complete it within the first six weeks of each school year.

To be sure, the new law has some problems: First, school districts and workers face no penalties for failure to comply. Second, school districts can opt to provide their own training instead, even though their past attempts have often been inadequate. Third, because of ambiguities in the new law, districts that do provide their own training might be able to evade doing so annually.

Nevertheless, Gatto's bill is a significant improvement.



Children's Advocacy Group Brings Class-Action Lawsuit Against CPS

by Lana Shadwick

Crystal Bentley, age twenty-three, spent sixteen years in the Texas foster care system. Her testimony in a federal civil trial being held in Corpus Christi casts even more shadows on the embattled Texas Children's Protective Services agency (CPS). The agency, formally known as the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (TDFPS), is the subject of a civil rights class-action lawsuit.

Bentley testified earlier this week that she was shuffled from home to home from the time she was two years of age, until she “aged-out” at the age of eighteen. She claimed she was repeatedly beaten and sexually assaulted while she was under the watch of CPS case workers who frequently didn't show up for monthly visits. Bentley claims that the assaults came from adults who were supposed to be caring for her, the children of foster parents and other foster children, and even her own relatives according to an article in the Houston Chronicle. When case workers did show up for monthly visits, her abuse would go unreported because they failed to speak with her privately.

The class-action lawsuit was filed by a New York advocacy group called Children's Rights. About 12,000 children are included in the class-action suit. These children are in long-term care in Texas.

The group seeks to have U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack order the State of Texas to enact reforms for its children's services.

The group has been successful in fifteen of its nineteen previously filed lawsuits.

Another former foster child, Jordan Arce, age 19, told his story about how he was placed in a facility with children who exhibited behavioral or emotional problems. Despite multiple placements and even a group home, Arce was able to maintain his straight-A record in schools. "I would lock myself in the closet, just so I could study, read, talk to myself," he said. "After I left, I struggled a lot with just connecting to other people."

Frequent turnover of caseworkers and management problems are to be blamed according to a series of articles in a San Antonio Express-News investigation.

Representatives for TDFPS tell a different side to the story. In testimony this week, Jane Burstain, the current director for TDFPS, cited statistics that show the department has made vast improvements in caring for foster children. She said Texas has made more placements in homes of relatives, and had more adoptions, fewer children in long-term care, and better training and retention of workers. “Texas, vis-à-vis other states in the nation, is in the norm with turnover, not significantly better or worse,” Burstain said in an article written by Stoeltje for the Express-News. “All child welfare agencies struggle with turnover.”

Burstain says that large caseloads are not necessarily tied to high worker turnover, or to bad outcomes for children. She said the plaintiffs were confusing “correlation with causation.”

The attorney for the Plaintiff Children's Rights organization disagreed. “You've heard over and over again about high caseloads leading to high turnover and bad outcomes, including in countless documents the (DFPS) has put out about it,” said Paul Yetter, a Houston attorney hired to help represent the organization.

Burstain suggested in several emails that “reasonable minds” could differ as to whether caregivers were at fault in some cases involving deaths in foster care during 2013.

“I didn't say [the findings] needed to be changed, I said they needed to be reviewed,” Burstain said.

Judge Jack, who is hearing the case without a jury, asked, “Why review them if it's not to change them?”

The class action lawsuit is focused on children in long-term care in Texas who have been harmed by a system that has overloaded caseworkers and other problems.

A psychologist who testified on behalf of the state, addressed questions about an 8-year old boy who had been sexually assaulted by two 16-year-old boys while in a foster home. He said the boy had substantially improved while in the state's care. This witness received tough questioning by the state's lawyer, and the judge.

A ruling from the judge is not expected for several weeks.

Lana Shadwick is a contributing writer and legal analyst for Breitbart Texas. She has served the state as a family court judge and a CPS lawyer.



Ontario's most vulnerable children kept in the shadows

Child welfare system lacks accountability and transparency, with services for vulnerable children described as “fragmented, confused.”

by Sandro Contenta, Laurie Monsebraaten and Jim Rankin

There is a child in the Ontario government's care who has changed homes 88 times. He or she is between 10 and 15 years old.

Senior government officials describe The Case of the Incredible Number of Moves as a “totally unacceptable outlier.”

Yet they don't know what is being done to ensure the 88th move is the child's last. The local children's aid society is required to have a “plan of care” for each child. Whatever it is, it's clearly not working.

The case was noted in government-mandated surveys obtained by the Star. The reports show three other teens changing homes more than 60 times.

Getting more details on how many times children change homes while in care is a murky business. A child welfare commission appointed by the government noted in 2012 that Ontario's 46 children's aid societies don't agree on how to count or record such moves.

The commission looked at two groups of children who had spent at least 36 months in care. About 20 per cent of them changed homes more than three times. The Star obtained the commission's numbers through a freedom-of-information request.

The government, while expressing concern, has done little to ensure more stable environments for children who experience multiple moves once taken from their parents. And it has not publicized data that would flag the issue.

A Star investigation has found Ontario's most vulnerable children in the care of an unaccountable and non-transparent protection system. It keeps them in the shadows, far beyond what is needed to protect their identities.

“When people are invisible, bad things happen,” says Irwin Elman, the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth.

Child protection through children's aid societies costs taxpayers almost $1.5 billion a year — a 300-per-cent increase since 1999.

Two years ago, the government-appointed child welfare commission concluded the system doesn't provide value for money. It described services for vulnerable children as “fragmented, confused and siloed.”

CAS officials say responsibility for improving the lives of children in care can't be theirs alone. The children tend to come from homes where poverty, mental-health issues or substance abuse are part of the problem. They insist government needs to do a far better job of co-ordinating services like housing, health care, education and police.

“How do we get the community to understand these are their kids, not CAS kids?” asks Rav Bains, executive director of Peel Children's Aid, noting that the main reporting sources for suspected abuse are police and schools.

The failures are shrouded by a government that collects little standardized data on the experience of Ontario's 23,300 children and youth in care, and largely keeps what it has secret.

The evidence pried from the child-protection system by the Star indicates there are reasons for concern.

A significant number of children and youth in care repeatedly change foster homes, group homes and schools. Almost half aged 5 or more are on “psychotropic or behaviour-altering drugs.” More than half end up dropping out of high school. And black or aboriginal children and youth are far more likely to be taken from their parents than white children, raising concerns about cultural bias and systemic racism.

It's not known how many end up in the juvenile justice system, but Wendy Thomson, co-chair of the 2012 child welfare commission, says it is a common occurrence.

“They put kids in care,” says Natasha James, a former Crown ward, “and leave them to the wolves.”

James was placed in a Hamilton foster home when she was 13, then moved to a Brampton group home before ending up in a Toronto foster home. She changed high schools nine times during four years in care.

“When I went into care I was exposed to mental-health issues, prostitution, drug abuse, suicide — everything,” she says, referring to other wards with whom she lived. “You have your roommates slitting their wrists and you're like, ‘What are you doing?'

“When you go into care, they should tell you it's going to take 50 years to recover,” adds James, 26, now working as an advocate for youth in care.

In a brief last month to a legislative committee, Elman noted a case uncovered by his office of a 10-year-old boy who was physically restrained 108 times by staff in a group home during a 13-month period. The high number of restraints “did not generate any concern at either the ministry level or the Children's Aid Society and appears to have gone unnoticed until it was brought to the attention of both by the Advocate's Office,” Elman's brief says.

Elman was before the committee to insist that a proposed bill giving him limited powers to investigate children's aid societies doesn't go far enough.

Senior government officials say the welfare commission's recommendations are the focus of their efforts. The government has moved to make child protection more accountable. Children's aid societies must sign agreements to stay within budget and set goals for the quality of care they should deliver.

And $122 million has so far been spent on a centralized computer system, known as CPIN, to track what happens to children in care. Implementation is technically challenging and behind schedule. Only three children's aid societies have so far been patched into the central database.

The government also promises to set benchmarks that establish standards of care and assess the performance of children's aid societies. But there is no time frame for the full implementation of these or the database. They won't happen anytime soon.

“There could have been more provincial leadership decades ago,” says Nico Trocmé, director of the Centre for Research on Children and Families at McGill University and an expert on Ontario's child-protection system.

“These are not middle-class kids with parents up in arms saying, ‘Why isn't this being done,'” he says of the inaction. “These are the kids of disenfranchised people who, quite frankly, don't have a very strong voice in government or anywhere else.”

Ontario's 46 children's aid societies are private, non-profit corporations. They are regulated by the government and have the legal power to take children from their parents for reasons ranging from physical abuse to neglect. Most children are returned to their parents within a year, after some form of help is provided.

Those in continued need of protection are made “Crown wards” after a court decision. In 2013-14, about 7,000 children and youth in Ontario were wards of the government and another 1,000 were on the path to joining them.

They're placed in foster homes, group homes or with relatives, and are monitored by children's aid societies, which are responsible for their care. The government remains their parent until they're adopted or turn 18. However, youth can decide to leave care at age 16.

The century-old child-protection system received a major overhaul in 2000. Until then, the Child and Family Services Act made supporting troubled families a priority and required a “substantial risk of harm” before children's aid societies could remove children from their homes.

Tragic examples of children dying while in contact with a CAS — including a case where a child-protection worker was charged with criminal negligence — triggered province-wide alarm in the late 1990s, fuelled by coroners' inquests and media stories.

Mike Harris's Tory government responded by lowering the level of risk needed for intervention. Children could be taken from their parents if a “pattern of neglect” was found, or if domestic violence caused a child emotional harm.

The notion of maltreatment by “omission” was introduced, including almost no food in the home, unchanged diapers, peeling lead-based paint and a lack of clothes for the season, according to a detailed analysis of the changes by two Toronto university professors, York's Karen Swift and Ryerson's Henry Parada. And the duty of teachers, police and members of the public to report suspected abuse or neglect was expanded.

Swift and Parada note the changes came after the Harris government slashed welfare payments and social service funding. The result was more financial hardship for poor families as thresholds for apprehending children were lowered.

Between 1998 and 2003, family investigations conducted by children's aid societies doubled, from about 64,000 to 130,000. The number of children in care spiked, and a funding formula based on volume did nothing to rein in the trend.

Cases of physical or sexual abuse account for fewer than 25 per cent of children and youth taken into care. Seventy per cent are apprehended because of violence between parents or neglect, which includes risk of physical harm due to a lack of supervision.

The reforms in 2000 also piled on government regulations. Children's aid societies must account for a long list of prescribed actions, such as response times. Some front-line workers complain that 70 per cent of their time is spent filling out forms.

Not much in those forms accounts for what happens to children.

“The reporting system is not a child-based reporting system,” says Thomson, director of McGill's School of Social Work.

In the mid-2000s, the Liberal government introduced changes to strike a better balance between protecting children and preserving families.

Agencies can respond to cases differently, depending on risk levels to children and the needs of families. Where the risk of abuse is low, families should be spared a “forensic” grilling and helped to access supports and community services.

Research hasn't been conducted on the impact of this “differential response.” What's clear is that children's aid societies continue to massively intervene.

Agencies in Ontario investigate at a rate of 54 children per 1,000. Fully 53 per cent of these investigations find no evidence of abuse or risk of maltreatment, according to the most recent Ontario Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect, a report that samples CAS cases every five years.

Quebec, by comparison, investigates at a rate of 18 children per 1,000, and 29 per cent turn out to be unfounded.

Senior government officials, who gave the Star a “technical briefing” about reform plans, said the statistics raise questions — “Are we doing too many investigations? Are too many kids coming into care?” But they don't have the answers.

Also unanswered are the “unexplained variations of service levels” among children's aid societies discovered by the child welfare commission. Why does one CAS, for example, place a lot of children and youth in group homes when another avoids doing so as much as possible? Which is the best practice?

Trocmé, lead investigator for the abuse incidence studies, describes a child-protection system “flying blind.”

“We don't know whether we're doing more harm than good,” he says.

“To use a health (care) analogy, if some physician thinks he's got a great idea and starts to inject a bunch of kids with some new drug that's never been tested, people would be up in arms no matter how good his intentions were. We're not very far from that in child welfare.

“For the last 50 years, when there has been a big shift toward more evidence-based practice in many other fields, the idea that we continue to know so little about the impact of these (child-care) interventions is, frankly, unethical,” Trocmé adds.

Child-welfare work looks nothing like a science. Little is black and white when trying to balance child protection with keeping families together, particularly when poverty, mental health or substance abuse is usually part of the challenge. Often, front-line workers feel damned if they do and damned if they don't.

The many saved by children's aid societies tend to go unnoticed, as do those who do well while in care. Van was 12 when she called police, fearing violence between her parents would harm her two younger siblings. All three children were placed in a foster home.

Now 20, Van attends university and lives with her partner. She's helped financially by scholarships and a government program that supports youth transitioning out of care. She also became the legal guardian of her 13-year-old brother and 16-year-old sister — the first arrangement of its kind at Peel Children's Aid.

“I would never take back the decision that brought us into care,” says Van, who preferred not to give her family name.

But what many would consider a minimum requirement for success eludes a large number of children and youth in care: 54 per cent do not graduate high school.

Part of the problem is that the government is a parent without formal expectations for its children. It has allowed children's aid societies to operate without benchmarks or standards that would judge their performance based on how children in their care are doing.

Are children expected to graduate high school? What extra help should be available when they don't function at age-appropriate grade levels? When do home moves become unacceptable? How many changes in case workers can occur before trust breaks and frustration overflows? Is safety compromised when a child is returned to biological parents only to bounce back into care? How much control should a child or youth have over his or her care?

Many societies collect their own “performance” data but publicly reveal little more than head counts. They each have their own way of collecting and recording it. The result is a statistical mess. The child welfare commission couldn't even figure out how many adhere to mandated response times when a call comes in about possible abuse.

The government's record-keeping also frustrated the commission. Children's aid societies must file reports to the government on incidents considered serious — when a child is physically restrained, for example. The government was unable to give the commission aggregate, province-wide statistics about the incidents.

Children's aid societies, for their part, complain it has been years since they have seen provincial totals for information collected in annual government audits known as Crown Ward Reviews. Each CAS has a sample of their cases audited for data such as the number of times a child changes homes while in care.

The government insists its central database and promised benchmarks will eventually make things better. In the meantime, close observers see a nonchalant attitude about evidence that already exists, such as the number of times children in care change homes.

“The problem is there is no tradition in Ontario child welfare of looking at the evidence, looking at the data and saying, ‘OK, what does this mean for practice?'” says Raymond Lemay, the highly respected executive director of the Prescott-Russell children's aid society until his retirement this summer.

The Children's Aid Society of Toronto has been tracking the ethnic and racial makeup of children and youth in its care for several years. Blacks are significantly overrepresented, a fact that has angered parents and led to talks dating back at least eight years between community leaders and senior government officials, including the youth minister. Yet the ministry says it has never asked the Toronto CAS for the racial data.

Of children in care in Toronto, 31 per cent were born to black parents. A further 9.8 per cent of children in care had one parent who is black.

Educational challenges for children in care suggest a similarly sluggish response. Data on this and other issues has been captured province-wide since at least 2008 in annual, government-mandated “Looking After Children” surveys known as OnLAC. They revealed the troubling high-school dropout rate and the fact that 63 per cent of 6-year-olds in care are more than a year behind the grade level they should be at.

The surveys also track barriers to academic success. They note that children and youth in care, due to changes in residence, live through several unplanned school changes: 32 per cent change schools three or four times, and 25 per cent more than five times.

There is no obligation for the new school to enrol them during the term, says Thomson, the former child welfare commissioner. “They're sometimes out of school for weeks,” she adds.

Former Crown ward Dakota Hegler, 22, recalls being stigmatized when she tried to attend a new school in Brantford.

“I wasn't allowed to start until I signed papers promising to be a good kid,” she says.

“You don't make all the other kids sign papers saying they're going to be good kids so why are you making me?” she asks, noting the demand delayed her entry into the school for a week.

Missing school is another barrier. OnLAC surveys reveal a significant number of absentee days are due to CAS-related work: 15 per cent for meetings with child-care workers, 6 per cent for access visits from biological parents and 4 per cent due to completing the OnLAC survey. Appointments with mental-health workers were responsible for another 15 per cent of days off school.

The figures suggest an attitude in child protection that “it doesn't matter if a kid misses a day of school,” says Lemay. Absenteeism could be reduced “tomorrow,” he adds, by simply having front-line workers and others meet children and youth when school is out.

Reducing the number of school changes with busing, or insisting on quick entry into new schools, also seem like easy fixes. The government promises “joint protocols” between the education and youth ministries on a range of measures to boost academic achievement. They're at the “development” phase.

The government and CASs are moving slowly. And years of inaction have left much to do.

“Frankly, children will sometimes get what they need, sometimes not,” says Aron Shlonsky, a University of Toronto social work professor involved in the reform process. “Sometime this year or next there will be a child who dies. And the system is doing what it can to fix what it knows it can fix. But it's a long road.”

Reforming the system

A 2012 provincial commission into Ontario's child-welfare system recommended the following reforms:

* Children's aid societies must be “reconfigured” to improve service and provide value for money. (Amalgamation has reduced the number of societies by eight since 2011.)

* The volume-based funding formula encourages children's aid societies to take children into care and should be changed. (The government responded by deeming that 50 per cent of the funding be allocated based on the socio-demographic makeup of CAS catchment areas.)

* Children's aid societies must be more accountable and transparent. (Children's aid societies now have to sign “accountability agreements.”)

* The government should set province-wide benchmarks that test how well children's aid societies serve children. (The government promises to do so but won't say when. A central computer database that connects all societies is also being set up to track what happens to children in care. Only three children's aid societies have been patched into the database so far.)

* Children's aid societies can't do their jobs properly if services for children, including health and education, remain fragmented. Stronger integration across all services for children is needed.

* The government should define the services that must be provided by every CAS in Ontario.

* The government should set targets that encourage caring for children within their own families.

* The government should reduce the administrative burden on children's aid societies so that workers can spend more time serving children. (The government set up an advisory committee for this.)

* A province-wide strategy is needed to improve the lives of aboriginal children in care. (The government says it is working on one.)

* Children's aid societies should be required to “collect accurate data about children's

A map of CASs across Ontario (Map on site)

There are currently 46 Children's Aid Societies (CAS) in Ontario. While each region differs, the Star identified general trends between the number of children in care, the number of reports received, and cases before courts with demographics such as education, single parents, and the aboriginal and visible minority populations. The CAS data shown is for the year 2011-2012. To use the map, turn layers on and off using the “Visible layers” drop down toggle menu. Zoom in and out using the zoom tools. Click and drag to explore areas of the map. Mouse over the shaded areas and click on the green circles for underlying data. Sources: Ministry of Children and Youth Services, Statistics Canada, Environics Analytics. Map and analysis by Hidy Ng and Andrew Bailey.


New Mexico

Better educating parents can save children's lives

by Lindsey Anderson

SANTA CLARA -- Grief clogs Michael Cuhen's words, turning sentences into broken rambles.

It is an anguish that's felt more than heard, the grief of a parent whose child is dead.

Cuhen stumbles through his story on a ride to downtown Silver City with a reporter in March, the first time he's been home since he got out of prison and one of the few times since his son Marco died in December 2003.

It's more difficult than he expected. The grief is overwhelming now that he's back where it happened.

"All it boils down to is, I miss my son," he says.

Marco was one of at least 15 children in Doña Ana, Luna and Grant counties who died of abuse or neglect from 2001 to 2013.

A review of hundreds of pages of police reports, prison records, autopsy findings and news reports by New Mexico In Depth and the Sun-News suggests many of those child abuse and neglect cases followed a similar storyline: Children did not meet their caregivers' expectations because the caregivers did not understand their behavior.

Marco's death is an example of what experts say can happen when caretakers don't understand child behavior and development.

Cuhen is small and thin. A black cap hangs low over his face, nearly obscuring his sad, dark brown eyes. They are largely expressionless as he recounts, his voice wavering, how he found 5-month-old Marco dead on a cold morning in December 2003. Cuhen put Marco to sleep 10 hours earlier on a bed without rails, near a space heater for warmth. He surrounded the boy with pillows.

Cuhen and Marco's mother, Kimberly Chavez, smoked marijuana and fell asleep on the couch. Sometime during the night, Marco came into contact with the space heater and burned to death.

Marco's short-sleeved white and blue onesie and long-sleeved light yellow jumper were charred and melted in places, according to his autopsy report. Severe burns streaked parts of his face, head, chest and abdomen, blackening the skin. The burn on his right pinkie finger was so deep it exposed the bone.

But Cuhen doesn't say any of that. He just spreads his arms wide and says, choking on his words: "I wanted to kill myself."

Home visiting

New Mexico has been among the eight states with the highest number of per-capita child abuse and neglect deaths for four of the past five years, according to the U.S. Children's Bureau. In 2010 and 2008, New Mexico recorded the second and third highest rate of deaths in the country, respectively, with 19 children dying from abuse and neglect in each of those years.

The state also performs poorly on a national, comprehensive evaluation of child well-being, called Kids Count, ranking 49th or 50th for the past three years.

There's no simple solution for addressing the complex factors that lead to child abuse. But every expert interviewed for this article supported expanding home visiting programs to better educate parents and help prevent child abuse and neglect.

Several home visiting programs funded by a patchwork of public and private funding exist in New Mexico, but experts say they fall far short of the need.

How New Mexico should allot dollars for early childhood programs such as home visiting has divided policymakers in recent years. The debate will likely continue when state lawmakers meet in January for the 2015 legislative session.

Home visiting works like this: Parents learn of the free, voluntary programs through doctors' offices, hospitals, schools or word of mouth. Once enrolled, a nurse or early childhood education specialist visits the home of a pregnant mom or parent of a newborn for an hour each week, usually through the child's third birthday.

Home visitors work from a set curriculum. They urge pregnant women to stop smoking, drinking and doing drugs. They remind parents to take deep breaths or walk away when they're frustrated with their children. They help families enroll in Medicaid or food stamps. They teach parents about the dangers of shaking a baby. They explain child development, helping parents understand, for example, that children who wet their pants or cry inconsolably don't mean to be aggravating.

"It's in a way like having a very friendly interpreter that helps you understand the behavior of the child," said Adriana Bowen, manager of First Born Program's Grant County home visiting site. "That behavior is often a cause of anger and frustration for adults, and that can escalate to a situation of abuse."

Falling short

Alizandra Jasso was 3 when she wet her pants in her family's Mimbres home in 2013. Her mother's boyfriend, Nicolas Grijalva, slapped her, according to news reports. He slammed her body against the toilet, into the shower door and onto the floor, knocking her unconscious. Her last words were "No, daddy, no."

In Anthony, Jessica Barron abused her 5-year-old daughter, Angel Lorraine Jimenez, over a period of four days in 2010, according to sheriff's reports. After the girl's death, a younger sibling told investigators Barron beat Angel with a stick until "she fell asleep," apparently because the kindergartner soiled her pants.

Elisa Bravo dressed her young children in fancy clothes. She expected them to sit quietly and stay clean, like dolls. If they disobeyed, she spanked them harshly. One day in July 2001, Bravo slammed her 4-year-old son Rodrigo's head against the wall in their home on Las Cruces' East Mesa, according to case records. He died five days later.

Fatal child abuse is linked to family income, stress, mental and behavioral health, substance abuse and child-care availability. There is no cure-all, but experts say home visiting could help prevent violence against a child when a caregiver is stressed or doesn't understand the child's behavior.

"You educate the parent and you hopefully lower the chance that that baby's going to be abused," said Allen Sánchez, president and CEO of nonprofit Catholic Health Initiatives St. Joseph's Children, which offers home visiting.

St. Joseph's free home visiting program serves 500 families in Sandoval, Valencia and Bernalillo counties. It operates on donations and interest from the sale of the former St. Joseph Healthcare System in Albuquerque.

Los Alamos National Laboratory Foundation's free First Born Program serves more than 1,000 families in 15 counties. It's launching a program in Doña Ana County. State and private dollars fund the initiatives.

The New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department also runs some home visiting sites. And CYFD allocates about $10 million in state and federal funds to programs in 22 of the state's 33 counties, including Doña Ana, Grant and Luna.

Experts, however, say those programs fall far short of meeting the need.

Legislators appropriated $2.5 million more for home visiting in the current fiscal year, a 30 percent increase in state funding, according to a Legislative Finance Committee report. But that's a drop in the ocean of what experts say is necessary to change the fate of New Mexico's children.

"If every single family who had a baby could do home visits, it would change the face of the state," First Born Program officer Anna Marie Garcia said.

LFC estimates serving all eligible families statewide would require an additional $30.5 million annually.

In part to help combat abuse, many advocates want to direct 1.5 percent of the state's $14 billion Land Grant Permanent Fund toward early childhood education, including expanding home visiting programs. The proposal has gone nowhere in the Legislature in recent years despite a concerted lobbying effort and an Albuquerque Journal poll showing two-thirds of New Mexico voters support such a move.

No U.S. state offers universal home visiting, said Jennifer Stapleton of Pew Charitable Trusts' home visiting campaign. However, many states are implementing research-based programs and seeking financing outside of their general funds, which is New Mexico's main source of state money for home visiting.

Colorado, for example, spent $270 per low-income child on home visiting in fiscal year 2010, compared to New Mexico's $64 per child. Much of Colorado's $14.8 million in funding that year came from annual state tobacco settlement funds allocated to home visiting and a federal Medicaid match.

Gov. Susana Martinez recently vetoed a $500,000 appropriation through Medicaid that would have leveraged an additional $1.1 million in federal matching funds for home visiting, according to LFC.

CYFD has emphasized the need to dedicate stable funding streams to pay for the programs year-in, year out, rather than one-time tobacco funds or federal grants. That would best help New Mexico's families and lower their risk of abusing or neglecting children, experts say.

Children at risk

Child abuse can occur in any household — rich or poor, rural or urban, educated or uneducated. But the National Center for Child Death Review, which trains state teams that review child deaths, has identified several factors that put children at greater risk for dying from abuse and neglect:

• Younger children, especially under the age of 5.

• Parents or caregivers who are under the age of 30.

• Low-income, single-parent families experiencing major stresses.

• Children left with male caregivers who lack emotional attachment to the child.

• Children with emotional and health problems.

• Lack of suitable childcare.

• Substance abuse among caregivers

• Parents and caregivers with unrealistic expectations of child development and behavior.

Every case NMID and the Sun-News examined had at least two of the risk factors. Most had three or more.

Every child killed was 5 years old or younger. Half were younger than 6 months old.

Police reports indicate many families struggled financially — sharing or going without a car, lacking reliable child care, living with parents or sharing a crowded mobile home with many people — possibly contributing to greater stress in the household.

Many of the 20 convicted perpetrators had limited education. At least nine people convicted of killing their children never graduated from high school, though five eventually earned their General Educational Development equivalent in prison. One father, Freddy Ordoñez, who killed his son and incinerated his body in 2004, only made it to eighth grade.

Two-thirds of the people convicted in the children's deaths were men. Half of the men were not the fathers of the children they killed — they were boyfriends or relatives. At least two biological fathers, Ordoñez and Andrew Walters, who was convicted of killing his 5-month-old daughter Brianna in 2002, questioned whether the children they killed were theirs.

Marco Cuhen's case has five of the eight risk factors: a young child, parents under 30, a low-income family, substance abuse and unrealistic expectations of child development.

In other words, experts say the problem is complex, which means efforts to reduce deaths must be comprehensive, from tackling poverty, substance abuse, domestic violence and isolation to improving education and services for children with health and behavioral problems.

"There's no silver bullet for this, but there are longer-term type of investments that we want to make sure are in place," said Martinez, who prosecuted several fatal child abuse and neglect deaths while Doña Ana County district attorney.

Fatal decisions

Details from some of the cases of parents who killed their children illustrate the need for better parental education.

Cuhen says he thought he was keeping Marco safe and warm when he left him on a bed without rails instead of in the bassinet. But babies begin to sit up and roll over around 4 months old, and pillows don't always protect them.

Cuhen was coming down from a meth high, he says. Unable to buy more, he and Chavez smoked marijuana after putting Marco to bed and watched "The Count of Monte Cristo," his favorite movie. They fell asleep on the couch.

He and Chavez left the baby boy alone for hours.

"I woke up the next morning, and it was just like, it was too quiet …" Cuhen recalls. "I don't know what it was, but I woke up and right away … I noticed, 'Is something burning?' And panic set in and I went to the back room."

There he found Marco's body.

"I was freaking out. I didn't know what to do," Cuhen says. "I just picked him up, I picked him up and held him. I couldn't let him go. But he was already dead. He was lifeless, and I just laid him down on a blanket and Kim covered him and held him until they came to get him."

Cuhen questions what happened the night Marco died. Maybe Chavez's toddler son moved Marco closer to the space heater, thinking the baby was cold, Cuhen suggests. Or maybe Marco rolled over a pillow and into the heater.

"That's gonna keep me from becoming anything I thought I could be: Not knowing," Cuhen says. "Not knowing what killed my son. Being there and not knowing. Thinking that I did everything in my power to think he was gonna be safe. Because I thought of how I put him, you know what I mean? I thought of how I put the pillows. … I put pillows on both sides of him."

He and Chavez were each sentenced to 10 years in prison for Marco's death. Chavez did not return a request for comment made through her family.

Among the 15 deaths in southern New Mexico from 2001-2013, other parents' choices were equally lethal, and in many cases more intentional.

Martinez, in a recent phone interview, rattled off the names of convicted child killers from Doña Ana County who apparently shook a baby to quiet him or her: Eliasar Urrutia Quiñones, Michail Browning, Omar Valverde.

Quiñones, now 44, confessed to squeezing his 5-week-old daughter Diana's head and said he once heard a pop when lifting up her legs to change her diaper. He was convicted in her death and sentenced to 27 years in prison.

Quiñones later said his admission was a lie, and he and his wife maintain his innocence. But Diana's autopsy found fractured ribs, leg fractures and bleeding in her brain. Medical investigators ruled her death a homicide, and a jury agreed.

In an interview at Western New Mexico Correctional Facility in Grants earlier this year, Quiñones recalled his wife's difficult pregnancy. Diana was born prematurely. She was often fussy and needed oxygen and repeat trips to the hospital after her birth, he said.

Children with health problems like Diana's are often at greater risk of dying from abuse because they demand constant care from sometimes exhausted caregivers.

In many of the cases NMID and the Sun-News reviewed, caregivers dropped or threw babies who wouldn't stop crying.

Growing funding

Prosecutors like Martinez can put child killers in jail, but advocates are looking to prevent abuse and neglect before they occur.

Many areas in New Mexico lack home visiting programs, and many existing programs only accept first-time parents. Additional funding could make home visiting universal, advocates say.

Martinez does not support taking money from the permanent fund. Her office called the fund "our children's saving account" and said "robbing" it isn't the answer.

The governor said she wants to use existing money in the state budget to fund early childhood programs. She did not say what she would cut or how much additional funding she would seek.

Other officials support taking 1.5 percent from the $14 billion permanent fund for early childhood education. Doing so would require approval from the New Mexico Legislature to allow a statewide, public vote on a proposed constitutional amendment. The governor's signature is not required.

Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, D-Belen, sponsored such a resolution earlier this year, but the proposal died without reaching the full Senate for a vote. Sen. Michael Padilla, D-Bernalillo, announced in September he would sponsor another attempt when the Legislature convenes in January.

Whether the next attempt to fund such programs is successful, it's too late for Rodrigo Bravo, Ameil Valverde, Brianna Lopez, Devon Boothe, Alondra Zizumbo, Sierra Browning, Uriah Vasquez Ordoñez, Diana Urrutia Quiñones, Kalynne Flores, Armando Wood, Daniel Medina, Isaiah Lawrence Jimenez, Angel Lorraine Jimenez and Alizandra Jasso.

And it's too late for Marco Cuhen.

Michael Cuhen says he couldn't sleep for months after Marco died. Earlier this year, fresh out of prison for causing his son's death, he said he learned prison was the easy part.

"I used to think about him all the time. I used to cry about him all the time," Cuhen says. "But when I got out in August, it was like a floodgate. I thought I was gonna feel better, but the day I got out and the day I got here, it was like the saddest feeling. It took over me, and I didn't see no joy in being free."

Cuhen visits his son's grave regularly, making sure rain and wind don't mess up the statuettes of angels and a rattlesnake placed there for protection, or the crosses and bunches of colorful, fake flowers. Tiny toy ponies with teddy bear riders sit on the small dirt mound, surrounded by more dirt and dry desert grass.

Cuhen straightens a small statue but mostly stands silently by the grave, his hands in his pockets, staring at the dirt.

This article was produced in partnership with New Mexico In Depth. Find NMID online at Lindsey Anderson can be reached at 915-546-6345.

Effective home visiting programs

Experts agree home visiting programs are crucial to educate parents and reduce fatal child abuse and neglect. Some programs are more effective than others.

In New Mexico, only two of the home visiting programs the Children, Youth and Families Department funds are so-called "evidence based," relying on "rigorous" research that demonstrates positive outcomes, the New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee found in 2013.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has endorsed nurse home visiting programs as an effective way to prevent child abuse. One such evidence-based program is the Nurse-Family Partnership. Started more than 30 years ago, the program has served more than 18,500 families in Colorado since 1999 and has spread across the country. It operates one site in New Mexico, in Albuquerque.

The LFC estimates implementing the Nurse-Family Partnership program in New Mexico could result in $9.70 in benefits — such as decreased costs of remediation in schools, decreased criminal activity and welfare assistance and improved educational outcomes for children — for every $1 the state spends.

Other home visiting programs, such as Head Start or Parents as Teachers, could also produce financial benefits for the state, LFC found.

One thing in New Mexico's favor is the Home Visiting Accountability Act, said Kelly Klundt, a senior fiscal analyst with the LFC. The law, enacted last year, requires CYFD to establish a system of home visiting services across the state and evaluate it annually. New Mexico is one of a handful of states to pass such laws.

New Mexico's new law, however, does not establish a guaranteed funding stream for home visiting.

The cases

New Mexico In Depth and the Sun-News reviewed the abuse and neglect deaths of 15 children in Doña Ana, Grant and Luna counties.

-- Rodrigo Bravo , 4, died in Las Cruces in 2001 after his mother, Elisa Bravo, slammed his head against a wall. Bravo was sentenced to 16 years in prison.

-- Ameil Valverde , 13 months, died in Hatch in 2002 after his father, Omar Valverde, threw him into a wall. Valverde was sentenced to 18 years.

-- Brianna Lopez , 5 months, died after her father, Andrew Walters, and uncle, Steven Lopez, threw, dropped, raped and bit her in Las Cruces in 2002. The two men and Brianna's mother, Stephanie Lopez, were sentenced to 27 to 51 years in prison for her death.

-- Devon Booth , 4, died in 2002 in Las Cruces after his sister beat him on his stepfather's orders. His stepfather and mother, Louie and Natasha Guerrero, were sentenced to 36 and 24 years, respectively.

-- Marco Cuhen , 5 months, was fatally burned in 2003 in Santa Clara. His parents, Marco Cuhen and Kimberly Chavez, were each sentenced to 10 years and are now out of prison.

-- Sierra Browning , 5 months, died in 2004 in Las Cruces after her father, Michail Browning, apparently shook her. He was sentenced to 18 years.

-- Uriah Vasquez Ordoñez , 15 months, died in Las Cruces in 2004 after his father, Freddy Ordoñez, hit and threw him. Ordoñez and Uriah's mother, Cecilia Vasquez, were convicted in the boy's death.

-- Alondra Zizumbo , 2, was fatally beaten in Deming in 2004. Her mother, Angelica Armijo, was sentenced to 10 years in her death.

-- Diana Urrutia Quiñones , 5 weeks, died in 2005 in Las Cruces after her father, Eliasar Urrutia Quiñones, apparently shook or squeezed her. He was sentenced to 27 years in prison.

-- Kalynne Flores , 4 months, suffocated to death in a laundry basket in Las Cruces in 2007. Her father, Robert Flores, is appealing his conviction in her death.

-- Armando Wood , 21 months, died in 2008 in Las Cruces. His mother's cousin, George Trujillo, apparently shook or squashed the baby. Trujillo was convicted in his death and is now out of prison after serving a 3-year sentence.

-- Daniel Medina , 6 months, died in Anthony in 2009. His step-grandfather, Alfredo Luis Davila, was charged in Daniel's death but fled before he could be tried. He remains a wanted fugitive.

-- Isaiah Lawrence Jimenez , 4 months, died in 2009 in Tortugas after his aunt's boyfriend, Reynaldo Daniel Holguin, tossed, spanked and suffocated him. Holguin was sentenced to nine years in prison.

-- Angel Lorraine Jimenez , 5, was fatally beaten in Anthony in 2010. Her mother, Jessica Barron, was sentenced to 23 years in her death.

-- Alizandra Jasso , 3, died after her mother's boyfriend, Nicolas Grijalva, slammed her into the toilet, shower and floor in Mimbres in 2013. Grijalva was sentenced to life in prison.


Meet the New Face of Homelessness: Children and Teens

Homelessness is a growing problem for children and teens, and it is having long-lasting effects on their mental and physical health.

by Shawn Radcliffe

Each year millions of kids and teens wake up in a place they can't call home. For some, their bed is in a shelter. For others, it's in a car or on the street. Homelessness can have lasting effects on the physical and mental health of young people for many years to come.

“Homelessness is a traumatic experience for people because they lose everything. They lose their routines, privacy, friends, and pets,” said Dr. Ellen Bassuk, associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and founder of The National Center on Family Homelessness. “They're in situations where they don't know where the next meal is going to come from, or where they're going to be tomorrow,” she said.

In a report card on the state of youth homelessness in the United States, the Department of Education estimated that 2.5 million children lacked a permanent home at some point during 2013. This represents an increase from 1.5 million in 2006.

“If you walk into a public school classroom,” said Bassuk, “one kid is going to have been homeless or is currently homeless. That's very high.”

The full extent of the problem, though, may be much larger. Homelessness makes it difficult to track youth. They may be living on the street, couch surfing, or moving from one city to the next as the seasons change.

“It's such a hidden population,” said Dr. Niranjan S. Karnik, associate professor of psychiatry at Rush University Medical Center and the medical director of its Road Home Program for veterans and their families. “People walk past homeless all the time in their lives. A lot of homeless youth are visible, but invisible.”

Homeless youth don't always look like what some people have in mind when they think of a “classic” homeless person. They may go to school. They may be relatively well-dressed. In many ways, they're doing their best to hold onto the small routines that people with stable housing may take for granted.

One Size Does Not Fit All

When researchers talk about homeless youth, they are quick to point out that this is not a uniform population. Some kids end up living on the street by themselves. This can result from financial problems in their family, alcohol or drug use by a parent or guardian, or physical or sexual abuse in the family or community. This group of homeless, though, does share one thing in common.

“They're young,” said Bassuk. “Some are younger than 10, but they're on the streets alone.”

Children who live as part of a homeless family may have more emotional and financial support, but homelessness is still a hard life.

“Families are relatively more of a protective situation,” said Karnik. “But trying to have some degree of normalcy, in the face of going back to your car or going back to wherever the family is sleeping, can be very difficult.”

Homelessness Hits LGBT Community Hard

In addition, a large number of unaccompanied homeless youths are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered. According to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, this group makes up 20 to 40 percent of homeless youth, compared to 3 to 5 percent in the general population.

Karnik said this group is at greater risk of engaging in high-risk behaviors, such as sex with multiple partners. This behavior also increases their risk for HIV, other sexually transmitted diseases, and violence.

“In and of itself, homelessness is a very stressful event, both physically and psychologically,” said Karnik.

In one study published in Child Psychiatry & Human Development, 70 percent of homeless children said they had had unprotected sex in the past three months. Homeless youth also start having sex at age 12 or 13. This is two to three years earlier than adolescents living in stable housing.

As a result, “They can be at much higher risk for HIV and other sexually-transmitted infections,” said Karnik, “largely because they are often engaging in sex work or sex trade to survive.”

Other common health problems homeless youth experience are skin and respiratory diseases, such as asthma and pneumonia. They get these diseases while living in crowded shelters or on the street. They may also have dental problems from lack of access to a dentist.

Homelessness Takes a Heavy Toll on Brain Development

Homelessness also affects children's nutrition and brain function. These kids depend on meals served in shelters and soup kitchens, as well as subsidized school meals.

“Young children who are homeless, or families that are homeless, but also kids who are in the developmentally sensitive period during their teenage years who are homeless, probably suffer from poor nutrition and access to food on a regular basis,” said Karnik. “That will most likely affect their cognitive development.”

Because the brain develops rapidly during childhood and adolescence, factors that shift this process can lead to long-lasting negative effects. Drugs, alcohol, and stress can also change young people's brains.

Research from Harvard University suggests there's a tipping point where everyday stressors become “toxic” and change how the brain develops. These stressors include emotional abuse, substance abuse, or mental illness in a parent or guardian, chronic neglect, and financial hardship in the family.

“If you're living in poverty and you've been exposed to homelessness,” said Bassuk, “it's easy to reach the threshold.”

Homelessness and Substance Abuse: Parallel Problems

One of the largest problems for homeless youth is mental health issues. This includes substance abuse, which affects between 70 and 90 percent of homeless kids and teens. While alcohol and drugs, including marijuana, may contribute to homelessness, youth may also turn to these substances to help them deal with living on the street.

“The common belief among these youth is that these things help them with their anxiety and sleep," explained Karnik.

Homeless youth also commonly experience mental health issues such as suicidal thoughts, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. The roots of these problems, though, may have been planted well before the children and teens became homeless.

“A lot of these things, like the post-traumatic stress, can be connected to violence they've experienced while they have been homeless,” said Karnik. “But a lot is more complex trauma, like trauma they had early in their lives, either in their homes or their communities.”

Long-Term Health Effects of Homelessness

When you look at the mental and physical health problems faced by homeless youth, it's clear the short-term effects are significant, but even those pale in comparison to what will happen decades from now.

“When you reach a certain threshold of traumatic exposure in childhood,” said Bassuk, “your long-term outcomes, such as your mental health and medical outcomes as an adult, are terrible. You reach this threshold and, in a way, you're sort of doomed.”

Bassuk believes that with the right support and resources, the problem of youth homelessness can be solved.

“You need to stabilize the housing. From there you have to start dealing with some of these other issues, such as the health and behavioral health issues, which are very present,” said Bassuk.

There is debate among advocates about whether the federal government has done enough to fund programs to address youth homelessness, but the issue cannot be ignored forever.

“The country cannot be healthy when you have this many kids whose lives are fragile and living on the edge. Even more than that, these are innocent young children and they deserve to have a life,” Bassuk said.