Ruben Rosario: He hopes the public will soon notice the children he can't ignore
by Ruben Rosario
Mike Tikkanen of Hopkins wants you to sign a petition he supports. It reads like the Constitution:
"In the spirit of a) enlightened self-interest and b) in order to form a more perfect union, we the people of Minnesota declare that all children have an equal right to preventative health care (the right to see a doctor before they are sick) including prenatal care and to quality early learning (pre-K) programs," the petition states.
"Through the implementation of this policy, access to health care and early learning will cease to be a privilege and Minnesota will lead the nation in restoring access to equal opportunity, the American Dream," it ends.
As of this writing, 16 folks have signed it, and nine of them are not even from the state. If it doesn't garner at least 50 signatures, it may be dropped from the Moveon.org petition site.
Please sign the petition at: tinyurl.com/lcpxy4t
The lack of interest or awareness pretty much underlines the title of the book Tikkanen penned a few years ago: "The Invisible Children."
Abused and neglected children often "have no voice in their homes, the courts or at the Legislature," Tikkanen, founder of a merger and acquisitions company, told me last week. "These children don't have a lobby, like the prison lobby or others."
Brokering the buying and selling of companies is Tikkanen's day job, how he puts food on the table.
But advocating for such kids has been his passion for nearly 20 years and led to Kids At Risk Action (KARA), a nonprofit he established with the help of others a decade ago.
'WHEN WILL I BE NORMAL?'
At the urging of a Toastmaster buddy, Tikkanen raised his hand to become a court-appointed guardian ad litem. Guardians at litem are regular folks from various walks of life who represent the child's interests in child-protection and family court proceedings.
The stories he tells stir the soul and raise the hair on the back of one's head.
His first case involved a 4-year old he met in the suicide-watch wing of a Fairview medical facility in 1996.
Then there was a pair of sisters, age 7 and 4. The older one was being prostituted by her single parent. Police went to the home 49 times because of calls. Yet the two kids remained.
They were finally removed after the last call after the older girl threatened to kill the younger one in the presence of the cops, Tikkanen recalled.
Then there was the 8-year old boy tied to a bed, sexually abused, beaten and starved for nearly four years by a custodial father who, despite having spent two-thirds of his life in prison, was given full custody of the child because his incarcerated mother apparently was less fit to raise the kid.
The boy had been living in a foster home without incident until he was sent to live with his dad. He was prescribed Prozac, Ritalin and other psychotropic drugs to prevent him from hurting himself or others. The child would spend a turbulent life -- he was kicked out of 29 homes before he aged out of the foster care system.
"I took him to play miniature golf when he was about 11," Tikkanen recalled. "I remember that he tugged at my sleeve, looked up at me and said 'When will I be normal?' "
That kid, Tikkanen estimates, cost the county where his case presides and the state more than $3 million.
EARLY-CHILDHOOD EDUCATION PAYS
Tikkanen believes the plight of such kids falls well under the public radar and, year in and year out, is overshadowed by other legislative funding or policy priorities.
He notes that 90 percent of kids who come into the juvenile justice system hail from child-protection cases.
He spent 12 years as a guardian ad litem before burnout set in and he diverted his energies to the nonprofit and speaking engagements touching on the topic. He is encouraged by the gradual acceptance of former Minneapolis Federal Reserve director of research Art Rolnick's study along with a colleague that concluded quality early-childhood programs return $16 in benefits to society for every dollar invested in such efforts after nearly five years.
This legislative session is weighing a slew of proposed bills to fund such programs and establish a work group to implement a statewide uniform method to screen child-protection assessments.
Although a proposed bill plans to create early-childhood education scholarships, the program will reach only 2 percent of the estimated 42,910 children ages 3 to 5 from low-income families, according to a 2012 study by the Minnesota Department of Education.
"The national average is 25 percent, and Minnesota has the lowest rate among the 38 states that offer the programs," Tikkanen wrote in a recent blog post on his group's site.
Overall, an estimated 6 million children come in contact with child-protection services annually in the nation. In 2010, 84 county and two tribal child-protection agencies screened more than 56,500 allegations of child maltreatment in Minnesota, according to the state legislative auditor's office.
"There's still work to be done," Tikkanen said.
He understands the petition is mostly symbolic. He has great respect for folks in the child-protection system and legislators who daily try to do the right thing by these kids. But he believes there is still a public awareness gap.
"I just don't see the public outrage and concern as there should be for these kids," he said.
I don't sign petitions for personal and journalistic reasons. But I might consider making an exception for this one.
Ruben Rosario can be reached at 651-228-5454 or Rosario@pioneerpress.com. Follow him at: twitter.com/nycrican
To learn more about the Kids At Risk Action group, go to: www.invisiblechildren.org.
To learn more about the petition, go to tinyurl.com/lcpxy4t
Kids At Risk Action (KARA) 501c3 nonprofit
Building Awareness For Abused & Neglected Children
Nigeria: Police Uncover Baby Factory
Ogun State Police Command Friday uncovered a baby-making factory located at No. 9 Sebanjo Crescent, off Fabolude bus-stop in Akute area of the state where a baby sold for N300,000.
During a raid conducted by the Police, proprietor of the factory, Mrs. Angela Chigoeze, and her brother-in-law, Obinna Ndunaga were arrested while the Command rescued eight pregnant women and a 16-year-old girl.
Three of the rescued pregnant women were teenagers, including 16-year-old Precious Steven as well as Miracle Eze and Blessing Saviour who are both 17 years old. Others were Jeremiah Gift, 25; Joy Okoro, 20; Stella Samuel, 19; Agnes Igbo, 22 and Vivian Princewill, 20. However, State Commissioner for Police, Mr. Ikemefuna Okoye attributed the discovery to robust community policing and discreet intelligence gathering by men of the state police command.
While narrating how the baby factory was uncovered, he explained that men of the Ajuwon Divisional Police Station stormed the scene following a tip-off, saying the young girls were usually offered pittance after delivery.
Fighting the horrors of human trafficking
by KATHERINE CALOS
The crime was prostitution, but as more of the woman's story came out, so did the sense that she was a victim more than a perpetrator.
In high school, she'd met a guy who seemed fun. For two years they were friends on Facebook, and when she started to fail at college, he was ready with a way out.
Work as an escort, he suggested, and you'll earn $500 a day by going out on dates. She went away with him and soon he had full control, taking away her cellphone and her identification.
At age 18, she ended up in a hotel room in Henrico County, where she was arrested by police for prostitution.
Her experience is one of the “horror stories” that Michael Y. Feinmel, Henrico assistant commonwealth's attorney, encounters regularly as part of a new local collaboration to stop human trafficking, defined as the selling of human beings for profit.
He's part of an unofficial coalition that includes treatment, advocacy and education as well as arrest and incarceration. Henrico has assigned five officers to target the sex trade in the Broad Street corridor.
After an arrest, one of the first calls that Henrico officers make is often to Gray Haven, a Richmond-based program for victims of human trafficking. At least 10 times in the past six months, someone from the Gray Haven team has responded to talk with the victim about opportunities for a different future, said Joshua Bailey, CEO.
“The issue has been here for a while,” said Kathleen Demro, executive director of Safe Harbor, which provides counseling and shelter for victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse. “The collaboration is new. (We're) only in the first year of doing it together in an intentional, thoughtful way.”
Gray Haven steps in with case managers to address short- and long-term needs of victims, not just prostitutes but also people trapped in slave labor situations.
Commonwealth Catholic Charities has sponsored “John School” classes to educate men who buy sex about the consequences of what they are doing.
The Richmond Justice Initiative has worked on legislation and education to address human trafficking. Since 2011, the organization has lobbied for 16 bills that were adopted by the General Assembly. Founder Sara Pomeroy has also worked to establish the Prevention Project to educate youth on the false promises and the horrors of trafficking.
Lily Goodman, a 13-year-old model from Richmond, has become involved in fighting human trafficking on a national scale.
Lily posed for a poster created for the Department of Homeland Security's Blue Campaign against human trafficking. She gave some of her fee to the Nomi Network, which creates an alternative economic future for victims of sex trafficking in Cambodia and India. Working with the Model Alliance, Lily testified in New York for successful legislation to require chaperones and tutors for child models there, to prevent sexual exploitation and foster success in school.
Holly Austin Smith of Chesterfield County, a former sex trafficking victim in New Jersey, has offered insight into the problem in a new book, “Walking Prey: How America's Youth Are Vulnerable to Sex Slavery” ($27, Palgrave Macmillan). It was published Tuesday.
Smith researched the subject in light of her own experience to explain factors that make middle-class kids susceptible to traffickers and to offer perspectives on effective aftercare.
Though services for victims remain inadequate, they're far better than in 1992 when Smith was arrested for prostitution in Atlantic City. She was only 14 years old. The day before, she'd run away from home to meet a man named Greg, who promised a life of fancy clubs and famous people.
Instead, he took her to a motel in Atlantic City where he told a woman named Nicki to “get her ready.”
“Something didn't feel right,” Smith recalled in her book. “I began to wonder if we were really going to a club. I thought back to my phone conversations with Greg. One night he mentioned knowing prostitutes who worked at casinos and made a lot of money. . . .
“Somehow I knew this was my one chance to object to whatever was happening, but I said nothing. I couldn't go back home. It wasn't even an option.”
Smith knows now that several risk factors made her especially vulnerable to traffickers.
Like many victims of sex trafficking, she had been sexually abused as a child. When her parents found out, they made the abuser stop. But, instead of getting treatment for her, they just told her to be quiet about it. She became depressed.
Her family life was chaotic. Her parents got drunk and argued. Her temperament was quiet and nonassertive, but she dressed to attract boys.
“The trafficker was really looking for someone like me,” she said.
“He was scanning crowds of people in the mall. If you were looking for someone that was more vulnerable than anyone else, you would have seen it in me. I was straggling behind my friends, not looking around me, dressed in a way that suggested I was looking for attention from guys. The way girls are oversexualized, if they're dressed that way, you knew their self-value was dependent on drawing attention from boys.”
The man beckoned her to come over and wrote his phone number on her hand. When she got home, she called him. He was there to listen, and he offered the things she was looking for. He told her she was pretty enough to be a model. He said he could introduce her to famous people.
Pomeroy told Smith's story in February to public and private high school students at the “Global Issues Forum: Youth Action” at Collegiate School to illustrate how victims may be manipulated.
“Now she travels the world telling her story in hopes of others not having to tell theirs,” Pomeroy said. “We can't rewrite her story. We can stop more stories from being written. You have the power to write a very different story. . . .
“Anyone who has big dreams is at risk. We all are at risk.”
Education about the issue helps reduce the risk, Pomeroy said. Students from Hermitage High School talked about their work with the Prevention Project, which included writing letters to the editor and making short videos about the issue for the school's video network. On a school movie night, they showed a documentary about trafficking.
People may be contributing to human trafficking problems without realizing it, Pomeroy said. Pornography fuels demand for the sex trade, so people who watch porn may be implicated. People buying low-priced clothing may be unwittingly supporting factories with slave labor. Musical choices may have an impact if lyrics glorify the life of a pimp or the exploitation of women.
Being rescued from a trafficking situation isn't the end of the story. Smith said she struggled with recovery.
“The people who scarred me the most from my trafficking situation were the people who were trying to help me after I was recovered by police,” she said. “It was everyone in society. There is so much stigma attached to prostitution. Children involved in prostitution are often immediately labeled as criminals. They are cast aside and looked at differently.
“My scars came from society that looked at me as ‘that' person. When I was on the street, walking through the hotels, I came in contact with a few adults who clearly looked down on me. Nobody offered to help. The officer who arrested me called me all sorts of bad names. The process of being interviewed was very hostile. Then I was sent home with no services, nothing at all.
“I didn't feel like my traffickers abandoned me. I felt like society did.”
Smith struggled for years. She attempted suicide. She was hospitalized twice. Nothing seemed right.
“In my senior year of high school, I realized that if I didn't pull myself together that no one was going to save me,” she said. “I decided to put it in my past and tried never to think about it again.” She majored in biology and works now in microbiology. She's married to a yoga instructor. She's thinking about starting a family.
She shares her story now, because she remembers how she was helped by hearing Elizabeth Smart talk about being abducted at age 14.
“She went along with what this man was telling her to do even when there were opportunities to speak out,” Smith said. When reporters asked why, Smart replied, “You can't judge me on what I did and didn't do. I was just a child, and I was intimidated by this person.”
At Safe Harbor, Demro said the organization sees about 1,100 survivors of domestic violence a year. About 10 referrals have come so far from Gray Haven, she said.
Domestic violence victims and sex trafficking victims have many similarities, Demro said.
“With domestic violence, you always talk about power and control, those elements that keep a person in a bad situation. It's not just physical and sexual violence. It's other elements in what's going on between those two people. It's financial abuse, not allowing access to money. It's emotional abuse, threats and intimidation. It's reinforced or punctuated by acts of violence.”
People may be surprised by the extent of the trafficking problem.
The U.S. State Department's 2013 Trafficking in Persons Report estimates as many as 27 million trafficking victims around the world, based on research by social scientists. Information provided by governments for the report identified only 40,000 victims within the past year.
“I'm shocked that until a year ago I had no idea,” said Joan Davis, mother of child model Lily Goodman. Davis was on the set while Lily got background information from Homeland Security officials during the photography session for the anti-trafficking poster. “I was mixing up human trafficking with illegal immigration. I don't think people understand.”
In Henrico County, when police Chief Douglas Middleton began to focus on prostitution in the Broad Street corridor two years ago, “a lot of people didn't expect it to be as large a problem as it is,” Feinmel said.
If he could design an ideal program to deal with the problem, Feinmel said, he would create a regional task force, because success in one place may simply push the problem into a neighboring jurisdiction. A step-by-step protocol would be developed so officers know whom to call and where to get services. Prosecutors would have a common strategy. A residence for trafficking victims would be created to include drug treatment and psychological care. More volunteers would be available to help victims.
“I don't think anybody is against the women who are victimized,” Feinmel said. “We need to give them opportunities, as well as the means to get out of the situation.”
Innovative counseling provides help to male victims of domestic abuse
by Anthony Winchatz, Resource Center of Somerset
From the early stages of the domestic violence movement over 35 years ago, victim programs and services have been primarily directed toward women. While the majority of domestic violence victims are women, abuse of men happens far more often than you'd probably expect.
Data collected from national statistics suggest that as many as one in three victims of domestic violence are male. However, men are often reluctant to report abuse by women because they feel embarrassed, or they fear they won't be believed, or worse, that police will assume that since they're male they are the perpetrator of the violence and not the victim. In New Jersey, women are the victims in 76% of police reported cases (one in four male victims.)
The Resource Center of Somerset has welcomed male victims of domestic abuse for counseling for years. Recently, the number of men attending individual counseling began to grow. Knowing the benefits of peer support through group interaction, our clinical staff created a men's group.
The group's focus is about the needs of a male victim going through a system in society which is mostly female-focused when defining victims of domestic abuse. The group shares their feelings through discussion on topics such as understanding domestic violence, assertiveness, appropriate boundary setting, positive and healthy coping strategies and defining healthy relationships. As the group continues, they will further examine how their roles as men, fathers and/or husbands/partners is affected by being a victim of domestic violence and life after divorce should that become part of their reality.
About the Resource Center of Somerset
The Resource Center of Somerset is a private, nonprofit agency which has been serving people affected by domestic abuse in Somerset County for over 35 years. Founded by a small group of volunteers who provided emergency shelter for women escaping abusive relationships, the Resource Center of Somerset provides services to survivors of domestic abuse, adults and children, free of charge, and has expanded services to include not only emergency shelter but legal advocacy, outreach counseling, community education, volunteer Domestic Violence Response Teams working with local police departments, transitional housing and more.
Community support is so important to our continued success. If you would like to learn more about making a contribution to the Resource Center of Somerset, visit our donation page.
Event to spotlight prevention of child abuse
HICKORY, N.C. — The public is invited to attend a ceremony recognizing Child Abuse Prevention Month at noon April 9 at Zahra Baker All Children's Playground at Kiwanis Park in Hickory.
The ceremony will include the placing of blue and silver pinwheels, the national symbol of child abuse prevention. Members of the public, businesses or other organizations may purchase the pinwheels for $2 each.
Half the cost will be donated to the Children's Advocacy & Protection Center for its mission of education, prevention and response to child sexual abuse and severe physical abuse.
Following the ceremony, individuals are encouraged to take their pinwheels back to their home or business for public display. Individuals or groups purchasing 150 or more pinwheels will be recognized during the ceremony.
Pinwheels may be purchased by contacting Kate Landry at 828-465-8162 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. To be recognized in the ceremony, donations must be received by March 31. Last year, 1,500 pinwheels were planted. The goal is to plant 2,000 this year.
This year's proclamation event includes the dedication of a sculpture commissioned by Hickory's Public Art Commission. The sculpture is by artist Mike Roig. He has created a pinwheel sculpture, named “Zahra Whirled,” that will be in place at the park for the April 9 proclamation. Roig lives and works in Carrboro, where he maintains Heartworks Studio. To learn more about Roig and his art, visit www.mikeroig.com
The Children's Advocacy & Protection Center would like to remind the public of some key facts concerning child abuse:
» Child abuse prevention is a community effort, and finding solutions depends on the involvement of people throughout the community.
» Child abuse and neglect is an ongoing tragedy.
» The effects of child abuse are felt by whole communities and need to be addressed by the entire community.
Effective child abuse prevention programs succeed because of partnerships created between the courts, social service agencies, schools, religious organizations, law enforcement agencies and the business community.
Child abuse prevention advocate lobbies for passage of ‘Erin's Law'
by Hugh McQuaid
A group of state lawmakers and a national advocate spoke Friday in favor of passage of a bill known as “Erin's Law,” which requires that school children be taught to report sexual abuse by adults.
The law, which has been passed in 11 states and is being considered in 26 others, gets its name from Erin Merryn, a child abuse prevention advocate, who was sexually abused as a child. Merryn joined lawmakers Friday at a Hartford press conference in support of the bill, which she said is designed to empower kids, who may not know they can report abuse.
“The same way we teach kids in school ‘stranger-danger,' ‘don't go look for the lost puppy,' we teach kids bully intervention . . . we do tornado drills, bus drills, fire drills. How about the eight ways to say no to drugs through DARE? We give kids all this important information but the one message we fail to teach kids is how to speak up and tell if they're being abused,” she said.
Merryn said she was sexually abused by a neighbor when she was between the ages of six and eight. She was abused again by a family member when she was between 11 and 13.
“The only message I got as a child was, ‘This is our little secret. No one will believe you. If you tell anybody, I'll come get you.' Well my goal is to give kids that voice I didn't have as a child so that we can put these perpetrators out of business,” she said.
Adopted Girl: I Was 'Re-homed' After Reporting Dad's Alleged Sex Abuse
by Megan Twohey
On an Internet forum where parents sought takers for adopted children they no longer wanted, a teenager from Haiti was offered more frequently than any other girl.
Starting at age 14, Nita Dittenber was passed among four families over two years through a practice called “private re-homing.”
In September, Reuters exposed an underground market in which desperate parents use online bulletin boards to offer adoptees to strangers, often illegally and with no government oversight. The Internet forums, including the Yahoo group where Nita was advertised, can enable abusers to acquire children easily; in one case, an Illinois man who's now in prison on child pornography charges took home a 10-year-old boy hours after an ad for the child was posted online.
In the last home where Nita was sent, re-homing served a different purpose, Ohio prosecutors contend. They say it was used to silence Nita and another girl in an effort to conceal the repeated sexual abuse of children.
For 17 months – from early 2011 until July 2012 – Nita lived in the Ohio city of Marysville with Jean Paul and Emily Kruse. Jean Paul was an information-technology specialist with the Ohio National Guard. Emily was a stay-at-home mother. The Kruses, who already had multiple biological and adoptive children in their home, were the fourth family to take custody of Nita in America.
Not long after she was sent there, Nita says, the younger Kruse children told her they were being molested by Jean Paul. Nita says she struggled for months over whether to speak up about the allegations, fearing she'd be thrown out of the house and sent to yet another set of strangers if she did.
“I didn't want to get passed around anymore,” Nita, now 18, says in an interview.
Months later, according to criminal charges filed in Union County Court, Emily Kruse abruptly put Nita on a flight back to her original adoptive parents in Idaho – alone and “with only the clothes on her back.”
The reason: Kruse discovered that Nita had told relatives of the Kruses about the abuse accusations. Prosecutors say Emily sent Nita away to ensure the teen “would not be around to answer questions or participate in the resulting investigation.” They say another girl – an alleged victim of the abuse – was also threatened by Emily with re-homing unless she wrote a letter saying her accusations against Jean Paul were “not true.”
Jean Paul Kruse, 41, has pleaded not guilty to 17 felony criminal counts, including raping two of his daughters and sexually abusing another daughter. He and his attorney didn't respond to interview requests. Emily Kruse, 36, has pleaded not guilty to felony charges of obstructing justice and intimidating a witness. She declined to comment; her attorney did not respond to questions.
Editor's Note: Today's story is part of a series of online and broadcast reports on adoption by Reuters and NBC News. Click here to read the Reuters version of this story. Click here to read the first five stories on re-homing from Reuters.
RE-HOMED LIKE A PET
Since the late 1990s, Americans have adopted about 243,000 children from other countries. If the failure rate of international adoptions is similar to the rate at which domestic adoptions fail – estimates by the federal government range from about 10 percent to 25 percent – then more than 24,000 foreign adoptees may no longer be with the parents who brought them to America.
No government agency tracks what happens to these children after they reach America, and none monitors how frequently children are transferred to strangers via the Internet. But on a single online message board examined by Reuters—a Yahoo group called Adopting-from-Disruption — a child was offered for re-homing about once a week during a five-year period. Most of the children were adopted from overseas. One was Nita.
After Reuters published messages from the Yahoo group, Nita's original adoptive aunt began reading the posts. Reporters had removed names and other identifying information. But Tammy Dittenber says she quickly recognized that some of the messages were about Nita, based on details about her age, nationality and state of residence.
Tammy says she knew that Nita's adoptive parents – her in-laws, Tony and Michelle Dittenber – had sent Nita to other families. But Tammy says she had no idea how until she read the posts.
“I said, ‘Oh my God! All the puzzle pieces are coming into focus,'” Tammy Dittenber recalls. “…I realized she had been re-homed the way you re-home a pet.”
‘HOW CAN PEOPLE DO THIS?'
Born Nita Durand and raised in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Nita still speaks with a trace of a Haitian accent. She says her birth parents were poor and sent her to an orphanage when she was 9, hoping she would have a better life than they had.
In 2009, Tony and Michelle Dittenber adopted her and brought her to their home in Nampa, Idaho, just outside Boise. Tony helps operate a food warehouse. Michelle books flights for an airline.
Nita was 13 at the time. She became one of nine Dittenber children, four biological and five adopted, including Nita's younger biological sister. Each of the adoptees is Haitian.
The Dittenbers and Nita clashed from the start. Nita had “behavioral issues,” Tony Dittenber says. Nita says she thought the Dittenbers were harsh and treated her unfairly.
After the family tried without success to get help from social service agencies, Michelle says she turned to the Internet. She had read offers for children in the online forums. “My first thought was, ‘How can people do this?'” Dittenber says. “Then as I read through it and read people's stories and what they'd been through, I understood.”
In August 2010, Michelle posted a message on the Yahoo group Adopting-from-Disruption. Her profile name: idmomofmany.
“I have a 14 year old daughter I adopted from Haiti,” she wrote. “Unfortunately we are needing to find a new family for her. Where do we start?”
It was the first of several times Michelle offered Nita on the Yahoo group. In her posts, Michelle portrayed Nita as a “bully” with an “attitude of entitlement.” The girl “lies” and is “manipulative,” she wrote, but “does love little kids very much” and has “a soft spot for elderly people as well.”
Each time they transferred custody of Nita, the Dittenbers used a notarized power of attorney document stating that Nita was now in the care of the new family, Tony says. No social workers or attorneys were involved, he says, and there was no official vetting of the parents taking in Nita.
Nita says she did not know that she had been advertised on the sites until her aunt read the Reuters report and told her about it. “I didn't really know what was going on,” Nita says. “I had no clue about where I was going to live and for how long.”
The first two families to take Nita — one in Ohio, another in Idaho — sent her back to the Dittenbers.
Then, Nita was sent to the Kruse home in Marysville. It was her third move in less than a year. She was 15.
‘NINE IS ENOUGH?'
It seemed like a good option. Michelle says that the first Ohio family who'd taken in Nita knew and vouched for the Kruses.
In 2008, the couple also had been profiled in a heartwarming story distributed by the Ohio National Guard, headlined “Nine is enough?” The article described how the Kruses happily scrambled to care for their large family.
At the time, the story said, the Kruses had five biological children – four from previous marriages — and four adopted overseas. A photo showed a grinning Jean Paul tickling one of the adopted children, a girl born in Liberia.
“We wanted a girl because they have it so hard there,” the story quotes him as saying. “They are often raped and molested from a very young age.”
Within weeks of her arrival at the Kruse place, Nita alleges, several young girls in the home told her they were being sexually abused by Jean Paul. She says she wasn't abused herself but was terrified to come forward. It took her about nine months to share the allegations with Emily, she says. When she finally did, Nita says, Emily accused her of lying and promised to put her on a plane back to Idaho if she told anyone else.
Nita kept silent for another eight months. “I was like, ‘I'm not about to ruin this one,' ” Nita says. The stress of being sent from family to family was overwhelming, she says, leading her to suffer from an eating disorder and contemplate suicide.
Then, in July 2012, Nita and two of the girls were visiting with a Kruse family relative. Nita says she recalls feeling glum that day, burdened by what the young girls were continuing to tell her. The relative asked her why she looked so down. Nita told her of the alleged abuse, and then the other girls told their stories.
The relative took Nita and the girls to see other family members, Nita says, and they went over the allegations again.
In court documents, authorities describe what happened next: After learning that the abuse allegations had come to light, Emily picked up Nita at a local hospital where the teen was working as a volunteer. Emily then took Nita directly to the nearby airport in Columbus.
Emily “did not tell the child where she was going and did not permit her to pack her clothing or other belongings,” prosecutors allege in court documents. At the airport, they say, she ordered Nita to get on a flight to Boise so that the girl couldn't be questioned in any investigation of Jean Paul. The move was so abrupt, they allege, that Emily didn't give the Dittenbers advance notice that Nita was heading back to Idaho.
The Dittenbers were away on vacation at the time, so they asked Tony's brother and sister-in-law, Michael and Tammy Dittenber, to pick up Nita. When Nita walked off the plane, she “looked lost and really confused,” Tammy wrote in a police statement as part of the Kruse criminal cases. “…She said she had nothing. No suitcase, duffle bag, carry on, nothing.”
Almost immediately, Michelle Dittenber again began offering Nita for re-homing.
In a July 24, 2012, post on the Yahoo group, Michelle blamed Nita for the rupture with the Kruses.
“The last straw with the last family was her making allegations that the dad in the family was sexually molesting all the kids but her,” Michelle wrote. “…I would love to be done with her permanently.”
Soon, however, child welfare workers and police began to investigate the Kruses. In August 2012, 10 children were removed from their home.
Later that summer, police in Nampa, Idaho, interviewed Nita as part of the investigation. Sgt. Don Peck says he never looked into how Nita came to live with the Kruses. He says he had no reason to believe her custody transfer was improper, despite an Idaho state law that prohibits anyone without a state license from advertising children for adoptions.
Jean Paul Kruse is scheduled for trial in May; Emily Kruse is scheduled for trial in July. The two no longer live together, and some of the couple's children have been returned to Emily's care.
‘HEART TO HEART'
Eventually, the Dittenbers sent Nita to Mercy Ministries, a Nashville residential treatment center for troubled girls.
In December, Nita received a certificate for completing the program. In her eight months at Mercy Ministries, she says, she recovered from her eating disorder and regained a sense of self-worth, making friends and bonding with staff.
Michelle and Tony now say they regret their decisions to re-home Nita. Michelle traveled to Nashville for Nita's graduation ceremony. For the first time, Michelle discussed with Nita how she had used the Internet to seek new families for her.
“I was like, I do understand that you needed help…but there could have been murderers or killers,” Nita says. “You don't know those people. I could have been dead.”
Michelle says she told Nita that “she always has the option to come back home” to Idaho.
Nita has no such plans. Today, she is living outside Nashville with Sandra Booker, a nurse she met through church. With Booker's help, Nita intends to finish her education and “focus on the future.” Her ambition, she says, is to return to Haiti and work with orphans.
A LEGAL VACUUM
Re-homing a child is easy. No state or federal laws specifically prohibit it, and state laws that restrict the advertising and custody transfers of children are often confusing and rarely spell out criminal sanctions.
An agreement among the 50 U.S. states called the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children, or ICPC, is meant to ensure that child welfare authorities oversee custody transfers, review prospective parents and account for what happens to children sent from one state to another. Many law-enforcement officials – including police who investigated the Kruse case – have never heard of the compact.
Even so, Ohio state officials say prosecuting the Kruses for breaching the pact would be futile. “There are no sanctions or criminal penalties in Ohio for violating the ICPC,” said Benjamin Johnson, a deputy director of the state's Department of Job and Family Services.
Authorities handling the Kruse cases are now calling for state measures to address re-homing, and other states have already taken action in response to the Reuters investigation.
In Illinois, lawmakers held a hearing on the practice, and Colorado, Florida and Wisconsin are moving forward with bills aimed at stopping re-homing. “We need to protect kids who are literally being traded between homes,” said Republican state Rep. Joel Kleefisch, who sponsored the Wisconsin bill. The state senate passed the measure this week, and it now awaits the governor's signature. “This legislation puts Wisconsin on the national forefront of addressing re-homing and attacking it head on,” Kleefisch said.
At the federal level, a group of 18 Republican and Democratic members of Congress is seeking hearings to “identify ways to prevent these dangerous practices.” Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, called for broad action in a letter to Obama administration officials, writing that it was “stunning” that “this practice of advertising children, usually over state borders, does not seem to violate any federal laws.”
Yahoo shut down the re-homing groups that Reuters brought to its attention, saying the groups had violated its terms of service, and the Illinois attorney general is pressing Facebook to explain how the social network polices itself. Reuters found that adoptive parents also were offering unwanted children there on a private page called Way Stations of Love. In a Jan. 21 letter responding to the attorney general's inquiries, Facebook said it had found “no evidence of the type of Pages you described” but that “if people were discussing the activity in closed Groups or in private messages, we do not know about those communications unless they are reported to us.”
Amber Alert issued for southwest Va. boy
by Associated Press
LEBANON, Va. — State police say an Amber Alert has been issued for an abducted 11-year-old southwest Virginia boy who is “in extreme danger.”
The alert was issued Thursday for Lucas Ezra Silas Guinn, who was last seen at Lebanon Middle School. Police said they are seeking his father, 67-year-old Jimmy Donald Guinn.
The Amber Alert said the two might be traveling in a 2004 purple Freightliner truck or a pickup truck. Investigators believe Guinn might have been heading toward West Virginia or Ohio.
Lucas is described at 4-foot-8, 84 pounds, with brown eyes and brown hair. He was wearing a red-and-black shirt and blue jeans.
The elder Guinn is described as 5-foot-11 and 235 pounds.
Anyone seeing the two are asked to call the Virginia State Police at 1-800-822-4453.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Hartsville to host a Million March Against Child Abuse
by Nicole Boone
HARTSVILLE, SC - The Million March Against Child Abuse (MACA) of the Pee Dee will be at Centennial Park in Hartsville, on Saturday, April 5, from 11:00am-3:00pm.
The goal is to unite all Americans and Child Advocates in solidarity to raise awareness of the need for tougher sentencing in crimes against children and CAN and march in the streets until our voices our heard.
Million March Against Child Abuse (MACA) is a non-partisan, grass roots, nationwide effort to UNITE ALL Child Advocates in SOLIDARITY; the public, organizations, associations and agencies who have a vested interest in children to engage in peaceful demonstrations against crimes against children in the U.S on April 5, 2014. We are not asking for money, only your endorsement and support for the event. We have outlined details below on how you may support this effort. We need nationwide support to give our nation's children a voice. Please join us!
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. We seek to raise awareness of the plight of America's children and ask for tougher sentencing for violent crimes against children. This effort is open to all, and does not seek to exclude any or all agencies or organizations who are against crimes that effect our greatest natural resource on earth, children.
Statistics on crimes against children each year in the U.S. are staggering, sobering and should compel all of us to want to get involved with this effort. According to child abuse testimony at a Washington Congressional hearing in June, 2011, experts testified they believe nearly 10 children die each day in the U.S. as a result of child abuse and neglect. NCANDS, the national database for crimes against children, didn't receive data from 3 states in their latest report. States are NOT mandated to report child fatalities as a result of CAN or any type of abuse whether fatal or not.
Unlike many diseases, child abuse is a willful act and 100% preventable through TOUGHER law enforcement and education. We MUST let our nation and lawmakers know that Americans will NO LONGER tolerate inadequate laws and light sentencing. Now is the time and we need YOUR HELP on April 5, 2014.
1. According to studies, 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually molested by the age of 18, by a close trusted adult or older peer.
2. Nearly 3 million child abuse cases are reported each year but experts believe an estimated 6 million go UNREPORTED.
3. Those who commit crimes against children typically get 25% of the sentencing they would have received had they committed the same crime against an adult.
4. The 3rd leading cause of death among kids 10-24 is suicide!
5. An estimated 244,000 American children and youth estimated to be at risk of child sexual exploitation.
6. Americans donate over 100 million dollars each year to save abused animals. Yet, the largest prevent child abuse organization in the world gets less than 5 million.
7. Less than 4% of federal funding goes toward our nation's children.
MACA is not seeking to create more bureaucracy, but simply, giving our nation's children a voice by raising awareness on April 5, 2014. By supporting this event, you will help us create greater awareness to the plight of children in our nation and perhaps globally. With your support, we will and CAN make a difference in making our children's safety a national priority during National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
MACA Movement History
For several years now, a passionate and committed private citizen and child abuse survivor, Lin Seahorn, who had been working privately on behalf of children around the globe had been watching and "taking the temperature" of the nation's hundreds of thousands of growing individual social media pages dedicated to children who had become victims of violent crime. These "keyboard warriors" inspired her and gave her hope that one day; the silent epidemic of child abuse in America would be exposed. She believed that the opportunity could present itself one day when many of these "rogue" advocates, some with little information, guidance, know how, but all with one common goal, would be prepared to transform their pain, loss or anger into action - to stop the growing and monumental violent crimes against our nation's children. Many of the page owners had personally experienced the loss of a loved child, but many more were also survivors of childhood rape or abuse. What was truly interesting during this time was watching these social pages grow tremendously with followers who wanted to just reach out and support these pages with words of comfort and encouragement.
Maybe these hundreds of thousands of page owners had never volunteered their time with a child advocacy organization, maybe there were none nearby in their local area, or they just didn't know where to begin, but one thing was certain, many would soon learn the magnitude of child abuse in this country. There was in fact, seeds being planted for what could become a turning point for the cause.
Silence is generally the outcome when information is lacking, or because it seems unlikely to affect one, or they cannot imagine the horror. How can it be that Americans are donating over $100 million each year to an organization to save abused animals but less than $5 million dollars to a child abuse organization? Why do we still turn our backs to child abuse or crimes against our nation's children? Lack of awareness, because lack of national media advertising, Lack of federal/state mandated reporting? Children have little political value? Yes to all and more. They may not be willing to hear us, but they will soon see us! Perhaps then, dialogue will start, the truth will prevail on real issues and we can talk about prevention!
This is why we need every single person to join this cause and to march for our kids. The MACA DC page was created to see if it would attract a groundswell of public support as well as the attention of many of these individuals who created a page in remembrance of a fallen child. We are well on our way today thanks to all of you who are with our hearts and share our cause.
On April 22, 2013 MACA held the first ever nationwide walk in the US. Over 100 cities participated and we made the news in over 65 markets. Ovation Hair was our national sponsor and the band Linkin Park did a radio PSA that was broadcast around the nation. Currently, there is a National Planning Committee in place with a dozen people and approximately 6-8 other committees are being established. MACA invites all persons with proven leadership and commitment to the cause to serve on a committee with us for the 2014 event and beyond. The Steering Committee will comprise of CAN experts from some of the largest organizations and foundations and acts as an advisory board to the National Planning Committee (NPC). The NPC makes all final decisions and oversees MACA's national efforts.
Child abuse is 100% preventable through tougher law enforcement and education. We need all your help and hope to see many of you unite in solidarity for this grass roots effort. Nothing is more important in life.
Show Your True Support for the Cause by Supporting this National Effort in April 2014 in a town near you.
Chuck Smith- MACA Chairperson
Official Website: www.MMACA.us
Facebook page at: www.Facebook.com/MMACAmarches
Lin Seahorn is the Founder of MACA, CWAV and the Ambassadors 4 Kids (A4K) anti-bullying program.
Children Without A Voice USA (CWAV)
CWAV is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness and preventing crimes against children, child abuse and neglect through advocacy and education. They teach classes on Shaken Baby Syndrome prevention, Good Touch/Bad Touch and Anti-Bullying as well as ship free educational materials nationwide. For more information, please visit www.cwavusa.org
Ambassadors 4 Kids (A4K)
LOCAL PEE DEE MARCH FACEBOOK LINK:
MACA of the Pee Dee will be at Centennial Park in Hartsville, SC April 5, 2014 from 11:00am-3:00pm!
Join us and unite the Pee Dee Area with our nation as one voice against crimes against our children!
KELLIANN C. ST.ARMOUR,
MACA LEAD- SOUTHEASTERN REGIONAL COORDINATOR
Hartsville/Darlington (MACA of the Pee Dee)
Murder, hate crime charges in death of man who died protecting daughter
by Meredith Rodriguez
Michael Tingling and his daughter Masharah were inseparable. He liked to pick his 15-year-old daughter from school and take her out to eat, family members said.
“He could've gave birth to her instead of me; that's how close they were,” said Masharah's mother, Yolanda Simmons. “They hung out like they were best buddies.”
On Wednesday, during one of their afternoons together, Masharah's 58-year-old father died after he fought a man to protect her, she said. Authorities have charged his alleged attacker with first-degree murder and a hate crime, the Chicago Police Department announced early this morning.
Michael Tingling had picked up his daughter early from school at Chicago Math and Science Academy, Simmons said. The pair detoured to buy a doughnut before they headed to a doctor's appointment.
Around 1 p.m., Chicago police said, Michael Tingling and Joseph Firek, 59, got into a fight that led to Michael Tingling's death, which has been ruled a homicide.
Yolanda Simmons said Tingling was intervening because the man had approached and brushed up against their daughter.
“(The other man) stared at them, looked at her up and down, and her dad grabbed her, put her behind him, and he told him, 'You need to walk away,'” Simmons said. “The guy was just standing there grinning.”
A fight ensued, police said, and Tingling, who family members said had a pacemaker, fell to the ground and died.
Tingling was pronounced dead at 2:46 p.m. Wednesday at St. Francis Hospital in Evanston, officials said. He died of heart disease and from stress due to an altercation, according to the Cook County medical examiner's office.
“When I got to the hospital,… (my daughter) just grabbed me …,” Simmons said. “She's trying to be very brave, and I am very proud of her.”
In an announcement of the charges released early this morning, CPD provided a narrative consistent with that of Simmons. A verbal dispute started after Firek, who lives in the 7100 block of North Clark Street, made "inappropriate gestures" toward Tingling's daughter, police said.
The dispute turned physical, with Firek shoving and punching Tingling in the chest, police said. Firek made repeated racial comments during the assault, according to police.
Tingling moved from Belize when he was about Masharah's age, after boxing in his country, family members said. But the United States is where he considered home, Simmons said.
Here he worked factory jobs and retail and was popular in the Rogers Park neighborhood, where he lived. He was always good with children, Simmons said, often baby-sitting for others.
“I'm glad I chose a good man to be her dad, and I told her that,” Simmons said.
Tingling hadn't worked recently because he was sick with diabetes and heart disease, she said. She has been encouraging her daughter to stay out and with friends during the day, to keep her mind off of what happened.
“When she comes here, it's going to hurt,” Simmons said. “Because she is so used to her dad being here.”
Firek is scheduled to appear in bond court Friday.
Should victims of domestic violence be offered witness protection services?
Survivors usually bear the financial and emotional costs of creating a new identity; and if they have children and need to flee, then the task can be particularly difficult
by Lou8ise Tickle
"She's put a letter on file with us. It says: 'If you find me dead, this is who it is,'" says Dianne Whitfield, a Rape Crisis representative for the West Midlands.
The domestic abuse survivor she's speaking of – we'll call her Emma – lives in fear of her former partner being released from jail without her knowledge. He recently applied for early parole, but because Emma was a bad character witness at his murder trial – he has never been charged with the violent rapes he inflicted on her – she is not automatically informed, as a victim would be, of his release date.
When a violent perpetrator is arrested, charged and tried, the state is seen as having done its duty. The victim has been believed, a case has been built and the evidence is tested in court. But when a perpetrator of domestic abuse becomes subject to criminal proceedings, the risk to his victim does not disappear. As the case of Jane Clough - a pregnant A&E nurse murdered by her abusive ex on bail for rape - demonstrates, women and children can be attacked and are sometimes killed even when police and courts are aware of the danger.
The day of the verdict and the day of sentencing are both moments of acute potential risk, explains Alan Gibson, a former police officer now working as an independent domestic violence adviser (IDVA). "How can a victim be considered safe if the accused is acquitted?" he asks. Even after a guilty verdict, , there are two things any IDVA has to consider, he says: "Is it going to be a community punishment or is it going to be a custodial sentence?"
A community sentence means an abuser can, if he is determined, still stalk, terrorise and attack his victim either in her home or as she goes about her daily life, notwithstanding a non-molestation order imposed by the court. Nor is a custodial sentence always a solution. If the prison term handed down is equivalent to time served on remand, then again, the abuser walks. And when an abuser is released, who protects a victim?
"My view is it's not over just because we've prosecuted someone," says Louisa Rolfe, assistant chief constable of Avon and Somerset Police and the Association of Chief Police Officers lead on domestic abuse. "We've had perpetrators who've continued their abuse from prison. We should never disengage."
Parole and licence review are high-risk times, she adds, "and we should be alive to that". In terms of statutory duties the police and probation service do have duties, she says, though she qualifies it by saying "the extent of that might depend on the gravity of the offence".
This, points out Laura Richards, founder of Paladin, the national stalking advocacy service, may well not be the same as the risk assessment of the victim. The worst charges may be dropped, for instance, or "someone pleads guilty to two weeks of domestic abuse, not a year's worth of attacks".
Are there ways of helping a woman to disappear if she believes she will be hunted down and killed? "There is no reason why someone who has been subject to domestic violence shouldn't be in witness protection," says Rolfe. "We've done it with domestic violence victims in the past, and we haven't done it enough, because too many women die at the hands of their partner."
Witness protection is expensive, however, and currently it's victims who usually bear the financial and emotional costs of removing themselves and their children from their lives as they seek new identities and security in new areas. "I'm not a fan of moving victims from refuge to refuge because they're terrified of being killed," Richards says. The criminal justice system is, she adds, "much more rigorous with sex offenders", when it comes to the restrictions placed on them when they are released from jail. "I think we need to be doing that with domestic violence perpetrators."
Until that change in emphasis happens, however, victims will sometimes need to flee. And women face a particular problem if they have children and need to become invisible to an abuser who will seek meticulously to discover their whereabouts, says Gemma Kelsey, an expert in family and children law at Brethertons solicitors. An adult victim can easily change her own name, but if a father has parental responsibility, it's extremely hard to convince a court to change his child's name without his consent.
"The difficulty in these cases is having the father informed," says Kelsey. "I think he would have to be made aware [at least] that the application had been made."
In Emma's case, there has been a delicate negotiation with the probation service. Whitfield says the local rape and sex abuse centre has now been assured that its client will be informed of her former partner's release date in time for her to leave the area where she lives and create a new identity. But this kind of arrangement "is too dependent on goodwill rather than procedures", she says.
Gibson is concerned that the trauma already suffered by the victims he works with is exacerbated by their battle for the legal aid that ensures every protective measure possible is put in place. Without expert representation, it's harder to make compelling applications for injunctions that go some way to safeguard victims from violent attacks that threaten their futures, and sometimes their lives.
"A perpetrator will rarely stop," he says. "It's frequent that they do their time, do their punishment, and then they'll start again. So victims can be victims for a very long time."
• Some names and identifying details have been changed.
Jaw-Dropping Short Film Shines Light On Child Abuse, Foster Care System
The Huffington Post
"Sometimes someone hurts you so bad, it stops hurting at all. Until something makes you feel again, and then it all comes back: every word, every hurt, every moment."
Those are the first words spoken in "ReMoved" -- a powerful short film, directed by Nathanael Matanick, which exposes both the bleakness and the potential hope that exists within the foster care system.
The story begins with Zoe, a young girl played by actress Abby White, narrating her life with an abusive father and a powerless mother. After authorities remove Zoe from the household, she is passed from home to home, often separated from her younger brother. The story captures the pain and hopelessness foster care children face every day, burdened with the idea that they are unwanted.
"We made 'ReMoved' with the desire that it would be used to serve in bringing awareness, encourage, and be useful in foster parent training, and raising up foster parents," Matanick wrote on Agnostica.com.
On a given day, about 397,000 children are in out-of-home care in the U.S., according to Children's Rights, an advocacy group that works to reform child welfare systems. A study from the American Academy of Pediatrics found that children under age 5 in foster care are disproportionally affected by developmental delays, while close to 50 percent of all children in foster care have chronic medical issues and up to 80 percent have serious emotional problems.
Recently, attention has been brought to the inefficacy of foster care in the U.S. Last month, a bill that would give homeless teenagers an alternative to foster care and juvenile detention -- specialized youth shelters where they'd be taught independent living skills -- was proposed in California.
"I am lovable. I am worthy of care," Zoe says in the final scene of "ReMoved." "And that glimmer of light -- it makes all the difference."
To purchase "ReMoved" and watch featured extra content, visit the film's Vimeo page.
Child-Abuse Deaths Prompt Lawmakers to Weigh Overhauls
by Arian Campo-Flores
One 3-year-old boy died after his caregivers allegedly straitjacketed him in a blanket and put him face-down in bed until he stopped breathing. A 2-year-old girl perished after her mother shook her violently and slammed her against a wall.
They were among 78 children who died in Florida last year as a result of abuse or neglect—36 of whom had prior involvement with the state Department of Children and Families, the agency said. In some cases, DCF documents show the agency left kids with caregivers about whom it had logged multiple warning signs. The string of deaths triggered public outcry, plunged the state's child-welfare system into crisis and led to the resignation of the DCF secretary in July.
Now, the Florida Legislature has made overhauling the system one of its top priorities in the session that began earlier this month. Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican seeking re-election this year, has called for nearly $40 million in additional funding for the child-welfare agency after backing several years of budget cuts.
Other states and localities are embroiled in similar controversies. In Massachusetts, the September disappearance of a 5-year-old boy, who is feared dead, went unnoticed by the state's child-welfare agency for three months, prompting the governor to order an independent review of its practices. The findings are expected in May. In California, the brutal death of an 8-year-old boy allegedly abused by his caregivers led Los Angeles County supervisors to create a commission on child protection that is due to issue recommendations next month.
The federal government is tackling the issue as well. A law enacted last year created a commission charged with developing a national strategy to reduce deaths from child abuse and neglect. The commission held its first meeting last month.
Several factors drove Congress to act, said David Sanders, chairman of the commission and an executive vice president at Casey Family Programs, a foundation focused on child-welfare issues.
"There was a lot of concern expressed by advocates and others that this was a kind of national emergency," but treated as a local one, he said. Meanwhile, a 2011 Government Accountability Office report found that estimates of child-maltreatment fatalities compiled by the Department of Health and Human Services were likely too low because of inconsistency in the way states gather data.
According to those figures, the number of kids dying annually as a result of maltreatment has fluctuated in recent years, from 1,720 in 2008 to 1,560 in 2010 to 1,640 in 2012.
In Florida, the number of child deaths verified to have resulted from abuse or neglect has declined in recent years, to 78 in 2013 from 164 in 2010, according to DCF figures. But a Miami Herald investigation concluded that the tally of deaths during the past six years is scores more than what the agency reported. And the state's child-fatality rate is one of the highest in the country, according to the most recent Health and Human Services data.
A review of 40 of the child deaths, conducted by Casey Family Programs last year at the request of DCF, cited numerous examples of agency lapses. In one case involving a 3-year-old who died of abuse, the agency didn't seek to remove the child despite a history of prior injuries, including a recent one that required stitches, and a caregiver's criminal history, including assaults and domestic violence.
The review concluded that investigators tended to focus solely on the specific allegation they were responding to instead of looking for other indicators of potential harm, such as evidence a parent had a substance-abuse problem. It also noted that "safety plans"—essentially promises by parents to take corrective actions—were often inadequately enforced.
Other child-welfare experts say the agency placed too much emphasis on keeping families together, rather than removing kids, yet failed to ensure those troubled households received counseling and other support services.
In some cases, investigators "thought they were leaving a kid at home with the right interventions, and they were wrong," said Esther Jacobo, the interim DCF secretary. She said the agency has already implemented numerous changes, including making safety plans more rigorous and training investigators in new methods to assess families.
In the Tampa Bay area, Eckerd Community Alternatives, a private organization under contract with DCF to manage child-welfare services, has developed a system to identify kids more vulnerable to harm, based on certain risk factors—for instance, if they are under the age of 3 or live with a parent and an unmarried partner. Those cases receive more frequent and intensive scrutiny. The program is now being adapted for use statewide.
In the state House and Senate, lawmakers are weighing a long list of overhauls, from requiring most case workers to have social-work degrees to creating a policy institute to research child-welfare practices.
"What's been done in the past hasn't worked," said Sen. Eleanor Sobel, a Democrat who heads the Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee. "We're trying to prevent future deaths of these innocent children."
Black Fathers Unite For Child Abuse & Sex Trafficking Prevention
Who: Street Positive, Concerned Black Men of Los Angeles, Fathers Time, Black Star Project, Kool As Nerdz, First Fathers, DangerMan, DMTL, H.O.O.P Foundation, Cease Fire L.A., PPCC, City Lites Network Inc, Brother II Brother Mentoring and other community organizations.
What: Fathers Against Child Abuse & Neglect + Preventing Sex Trafficking: Daddy's Home.
When: April 19, 2014 @ 1pm PDT.
Where: Kipp Academy of Opportunity. 7019 Vaness Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90047.
Why: Child abuse and neglect in America has hit epidemic proportions. The total lifetime cost of dealing with child maltreatment is a staggering $124 billion annually. Additionally, 30% of abused children will abuse their own; child abuse occurs at every socioeconomic-economic level, across all ethnic and cultural lines, within all religions and education levels. When considering African Americans, although 14.2% of the U.S. population, they account for more than 40% of youth in foster care; black children are 4 times more likely than whites to be in foster care.
Sex trafficking currently generates $32 billion annually and has a direct connection of impact on those physically, emotionally or sexually abused; average age of child becoming victim of sex trafficking is 13 yrs old.
The need for significantly increased prevention and early intervention has caught the attention of a number of active and distinct fatherhood engagement groups moving to take an active and progressive role in child safety.
Award-winning Street Positive CEO, Terry Boykins, has been tapped to spear-head “Fathers Against Child Abuse & Neglect” campaign ahead of April's National Child Abuse Prevention Month. He will work alongside Mr. Jason McCuller, President of Concerned Black Men of Los Angeles, to execute the event. The campaign is looking to engage 1000 fathers and supporters throughout the Greater Los Angeles area. However, organizers are reaching out to all fathers nationwide to join the effort.
Complimenting the campaign is a concerted effort by fathers to build impressionable relationships with their daughters in the fight against sex trafficking, low self-esteem and paternal abandonment.
On Jan. 20, 2014, Street Positive added to its numerous commendations when awarded the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr “Community Service Award” by the Inland Empire Concerned African American Churches (IECAAC). Street Positive has participated in numerous education conferences, community forums, radio shows, youth summits and mental health symposiums to address the emotional and economic impact of child abuse and neglect in America. In 2013, Street Positive was selected by Native Challenge to address key educational, cultural and emotional needs of Native American youth through mentoring; Boykins recently presented on parent and community engagement at the California African American Administrators and Superintendents (CAAASA) Professional Development Education Summit in Sacramento, CA.
On April 19 “Fathers Against Child Abuse & Neglect”, hosted by Concerned Black Men of Los Angeles (CBMLA), will feature live entertainment, panel discussions, resources, refreshments and a special book signing of “A Fragile Child's Cry” by H. L. Stampley. Mr. Stampley, an adoptive father of two severely disabled and neglected boys affected by child abuse, resides in Memphis, TN.
Those wishing to pledge support for ”Fathers Against Child Abuse & Neglect” , by requesting a copy of “A Fragile Child's Cry” can do so by visiting: www.streetpositive.com
Request to have Street Positive and Mr. Boykins present on youth related topics can be made by contacting: (909) 880-9427. Or, by visiting: www.streetpositive.com
California Third Grader Accused in Repeated Sexual Assault of Classmate
by Jennifer Pfalz
A third-grader has been accused of repeated sexual assault of another boy starting last year and continuing until the accusations surfaced on Monday, when both boys were in the third grade. The accused, who is also a boy, and the alleged victim both attend Adams Elementary School in Riverside, California. It is not clear what the relationship between the two classmates was at the time of the alleged abuse. Officials were investigating the case on Wednesday.
The spokeswoman for the Riverside Unified School District, Jacquie Paul, states that the alleged assaults occurred five to seven times, beginning when both students were in the second grade. Some incidents of the alleged sexual assault happened in the school bathroom. Other instances occurred in the classroom itself while students watching videos witnessed the acts. The teachers who had not been aware of the behavior during class were described as “extremely distraught,” and have been placed on paid administrative leave until the criminal investigation is completed. Paul also said that the nature of the abuse was that the accused boy repeatedly coerced the alleged victim into performing sexual acts. Due to the children's young ages as well as the continuing investigation, Paul was not able to offer any more details. She did say that Child Protective Services is also launching an investigation into the alleged instances of sexual assault.
Paul said that school officials learned of the sexual assaults on Monday evening during an after-school program, HEARTS, when two children reported to a school employee that they “wanted to report something they knew.” Both boys also attended the same after-school program and the school principal was able to question both of them the same day.
The school district notified the Riverside police on Monday, at which time, says Lt. Val Graham, the police began their investigation into the sexual assault allegations. The second-grader accused of sexual abuse has been suspended and faces expulsion depending upon the result of the investigations.
The principal of the elementary school, Paul DeFoe, stated that the incidents are a good reminder for parents to talk with their children about reporting anything that makes them feel uneasy or afraid. He went on to assure parents that “Your children's safety and comfort at school are our top priority.”
Adams Elementary School parents were notified of the alleged incidents via a letter, but have also been invited to a special school meeting Thursday evening at which they can ask questions. The school district is also planning to offer counseling to teachers, parents, and students who are affected by the allegations of sexual abuse at Adams Elementary, which at only 555 students is considered small.
While some parents have used the investigation as a teaching tool for their children, other parents expressed anger that such abuse went undetected while teachers were allegedly in the same room. One Adams Elementary parent of a kindergartner at the school, Jennifer Gomez, expressed her anger saying, “Were they not watching them? They're supposed to be taking care of them.” Police do not believe that any other children are involved in the alleged sexual assaults.
Wanted Sexual Predator in Child Porn Ring Arrested: Feds
by Ben Russell
A suspect, identified only as 'John Doe' and wanted in connection to the sexual abuse of an infant in North Texas, has been identified, located and captured, according to federal agents.
The suspect is a minor, so no further identifying information will be released, including where the suspect was arrested, according to Carl Rusnok, Director of Communications, Central Region, for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
But according to the Ottumwa police department in Iowa, 17-year-old Kraigen A. Grooms has been arrested and is being held on $100,000 cash-only bond. Grooms faces felony sex abuse charges and could face up to 25 years behind bars if convicted. Police in Ottumwa said he has been charged as an adult.
ICE and Department of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) officials detailed the alleged sexual abuse committed by this suspect during a news conference in Irving on Tuesday.
"We urgently ask for the public's help to find this predator and his helpless, toddler victim," HSI Special Agent David Marwell said Tuesday. "It's possible this abuse is still continuing."
It took approximately 30 hours from the time the suspect's photograph was shared during that news conference to the time law enforcement was able to bring the suspect into custody, Rusnok told NBC 5.
Tips from the public were instrumental in helping to identify and arrest the suspect, Rusnok said.
Photographs posted to an underground, child pornography website reportedly showed 'John Doe' sexually abusing a baby, believed to be between 12-18 months old at the time of the abuse, according to a news release from HSI.
Investigators were able to place the suspect in the Dallas-Fort Worth area around the time of the abuse, believed to be in April 2013, because of a hat he was seen wearing in the photographs. The hat featured a logo that reads, "Shut Up N Play," which was new at the time and had only been released with a very limited distribution within North Texas, according to investigators.
Brigadier general accused of sex assault must pay over $20,000; no jail time
By Greg Botelho and Marlena Baldacci , CNN updated 6:10 PM EDT, Thu March 20, 2014
(CNN) -- A former top U.S. commander in Afghanistan was ordered Thursday to pay thousands of dollars but avoided prison time in a case that put a spotlight on the military's handling of sexual misconduct among troops.
Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair was told he'd get a reprimand, and he must forfeit $20,000 and pay restitution of $4,157 related to travel fraud charges, his lawyer, Richard Scheff, said.
Sinclair's court-martial came at a time when many have accused the military of not doing enough to address sex crimes and harassment targeting women.
The sentence was handed down days after Sinclair pleaded guilty to adultery and mistreating one of his accusers in a deal that saw the sexual assault and sodomy charges against him dropped, according to Sinclair's defense team.
He had previously pleaded guilty to other charges in the court-martial, including committing adultery, engaging in inappropriate relationships with three women, conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman, and obstruction of justice.
Prosecutors said Sinclair broke military law through sexual relationships -- including threats to some women involved who held lower ranks -- between 2009 and 2012 in Iraq, Afghanistan and Germany, as well as Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and Fort Hood, Texas.
Once the deputy commander of the Army's 82nd Airborne Division, Sinclair was moved to the North Carolina post from Afghanistan in 2012, the same year the last alleged incidents occurred and when he was originally charged.
Opinion: Military justice bungles sex cases
After he left Thursday's hearing at Fort Bragg, Sinclair said he was glad "the system worked."
"All I want to do now is go up north and hug my kids and see my wife," he said.
Scheff said that he, too, was "very, very grateful" for how everything played out. He added that Sinclair plans to file his retirement papers with the Army.
"It restores our faith in the system," Scheff said of the outcome, repeating his assertion that "we would not be here at all" if the same allegations were leveled in the civilian justice system. "Somebody who is neutral and objective looked at the evidence (and) did the right thing."
Retired Rear Adm. Jamie Barnett, a partner with a law firm that represented one of Sinclair's accusers, called Thursday's sentencing a "slap on the wrist" that is "beyond disappointing. It is a travesty and a serious misstep for the Army." He said the ordeal shows remaining "challenges" in the military when it comes to sexual abuse and assault.
"She had her day in court to speak the truth about the horrible things he did, and based on Judge (James) Pohl's sentence, that will have to be enough," Barnett said of his client. "But it shouldn't be."
The testimony of his client, an Army captain, was never fully aired. She testified for several hours on March 7, telling the court that an affair started with intimate exchanges and evolved into groping and demands for sex and oral sex, CNN affiliate WTVD reported. She also said the general threatened to kill her and her family, the station reported.
The woman was scheduled to continue her testimony on March 10, but Pohl dismissed the jury after 22 pages of e-mails emerged that appear to point to alleged Pentagon interference in the case. At least one of the e-mails also seemed to indicate that a senior Army official felt the accuser had a credibility issue.
A recent Pentagon report showed that there were estimated to be 26,000 incidents of sexual assault and unwanted sexual contact in 2012, and just over 10% of those were reported.
These concerns fueled a push championed by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Democrat, for legislation to remove military commanders from deciding whether most serious allegations of wrongdoing by their subordinates should be prosecuted. The responsibility would have been shifted to prosecutors outside the chain of command.
Opponents said that such a measure would undermine the critical military principle of command authority.
Earlier this month, Gillibrand's bill failed to get the needed 60 votes to pass the Senate. However, a separate measure to largely disallow the "good soldier" defense -- which permits defendants to enter evidence of their good military character at trial to mitigate the charges against them -- did make it through the chamber.
University's partner in fighting child abuse reports solid results
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Over the past year, more than 30,000 people affiliated with Penn State have received training to identify and report suspected child abuse. Seven counties in southwestern Pennsylvania instituted a prevention program for parents and caregivers, and prevention efforts were bolstered statewide — all through the University's partnership with an agency that is focused on fighting sexual abuse.
Penn State's affiliation with the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR), as well as the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), has resulted in a number of initiatives that are reaching communities across the commonwealth with new programs, support groups, and renewed investments in the prevention of child sexual abuse and maltreatment.
Now in its third year of a partnership with the University, PCAR has used a portion of the $1.5 million provided by Penn State to fund several initiatives. The funds came from Penn State's 2011 share of the Big Ten bowl revenues. The partnership and pledge by Penn State to fight the crime of child abuse came about in December 2011, following the allegations of child sexual abuse against former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.
“We are so pleased to work with Penn State to address the issue of sexual abuse,” said Delilah Rumburg, CEO of PCAR and NSVRC. “Sexual abuse is traumatic for victims, those close to them and even entire communities. Through our 40 years of working on this issue in Pennsylvania, we know these devastating events can also inspire people to grow, learn and become active agents of change to support survivors and promote prevention. We've seen this first hand with our many Penn State affiliated partners.”
PCAR and University officials expect 2014 to be even more effective in educating others about sexual abuse and in assisting agencies with the daunting task of child protection in the Commonwealth and across the nation.
According to a year-end review from PCAR officials, in the past year connections were created among the 50 rape crisis centers in Pennsylvania and Penn State's established network of Extension and Continuing Education offices in every county. Because rape crisis centers have expert knowledge and resources on child sexual abuse and prevention, the pairing with Penn State Outreach and Extension gave them an easy delivery method for providing education to adults in all 67 counties of the state. The information that blanketed the commonwealth included how to recognize warning signs of grooming and sexual abuse; how to respond responsibly to protect children; warning signs of potential perpetrators; and how the networks supported by PCAR and Penn State can make a significant and lasting positive change in communities.
PCAR also designated $50,000 of the bowl revenues to support collaboration between community based rape crisis centers and campus-based prevention activities. Information gained through these efforts was used to revise a manual to guide community mobilization to prevent sexual assault.
In addition, a pilot project that began in Allegheny County spread to six other counties in southwestern Pennsylvania to involve parents in promoting safety for all children and preventing child sexual abuse.
"Where We Live: A Manual for Engaging Parents in Child Sexual Abuse Prevention" recognizes that parent engagement is key to creating safer communities for children and preventing child sexual abuse. The program was developed with input from parents in the Pittsburgh area. Parents indicated by survey that they needed more critical knowledge about how to discuss healthy sexuality and sexual abuse prevention. The project, created by Pittsburgh Action Against Rape with the help of PCAR, increases adult awareness of child sexual abuse and teaches proactive behaviors that can reduce the risk of inappropriate adult-child interactions. It also promotes the belief that it is every adult's responsibility to protect and intervene for children in their community.
"Where We Live” is now set to become a national model for child sexual abuse prevention programs. After participating in the program, adults were more likely to take direct action with an adult about whom they were concerned and less likely to put responsibility on children to avoid suspicious adults.
Raising awareness beyond parents also was a priority for PCAR and NSVRC. In an effort to enhance the abilities of members of the media to report on child sexual abuse, the NSVRC leveraged an existing relationship with the Poynter Institute, a leading source of education for journalists. Through the Institute, the NSVRC was able to collaborate to create a two-day seminar for the media that covered child sexual abuse and violence.
PCAR also is one of 18 sponsors of Penn State's upcoming third annual Conference on Child Protection and Well-Being to be held on the University Park campus on May 5 and 6 at the Nittany Lion Inn. The two-day conference will focus on “Parenting, Family Processes and Intervention” and feature presentations and panel discussions from top researchers in the field.
For information on how to register, visit: http://www.protectchildren.psu.edu/content/penn-states-third-annual-conference-child-protection-and-well-being
"It's imperative that everyone combine resources and expertise to combat this devastating crime," said Melinda Stearns, senior director of strategic partnerships in University Outreach and liaison to PCAR. "PCAR and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center bring rich resources to the mix. Our partnership is strong and continues to grow for the benefit of our communities. We look forward to another year of accomplishments."
Senate Public Safety Committee Tough On Crime
by Associated Press
Despite Oklahoma's high incarceration rates, a Senate committee has approved a half-dozen bills to increase the criminal penalties for various crimes, including the distribution of child pornography, and drug and human trafficking.
With little discussion and no debate, the Senate Public Safety Committee on Wednesday unanimously approved several bills that dramatically increase fines, penalties or prison time for people convicted of certain crimes.
One bill would double the fine for distributing "obscene materials" from $1,000 to $2,000, and make the punishment for a second offense related to child pornography a mandatory 10 years in prison.
A recent study shows Oklahoma locks up more women per capita than any other state and has the fourth highest overall incarceration rate in the country.
April will be Prevent Child Abuse Month
by Terry Brubaker
The Opening Celebration for Prevent Child Abuse Month will take place at the Craven County Courthouse on Broad Street in New Bern on Tuesday, April 1, at 8:30 a.m.
County Commissioner Chairman Thomas Mark will be there to read the governor's proclamation for Prevent Child Abuse Month and introductions will be made by Judicial Court District 3B Chief Judge Walter Mills. The keynote speaker will be Brian Cardoza, an adult survivor of child abuse.
Many individuals, businesses, churches, nonprofits and government agencies work together through the Community Coalition for Craven County Children to address prevention efforts in Craven County. The Coalition represents our hope that all of the children in our community have the stable, loving relationships that they need to become successful adults who contribute to our community. The Excel VII Child Care children will provide entertainment, and they will plant a Pinwheel Garden to represent the bright shining futures of all our children.
There will be a second Opening Ceremony in Walter B. Jones Park in Havelock on Friday, April, 4, at 9 a.m. Havelock Mayor Will Lewis will be there to read the proclamation and there will be comments from Cherry Point Air Station in addition to Brian Cardoza and Dawn Gibson, the community response program coordinator for UCP Easter Seals. The children from Child Care Network No. 74 will sing and plant a Pinwheel Garden. Dunkin Donuts is providing doughnuts with blue frosting to help celebrate as we increase awareness and education to strengthen families in our area.
These opening ceremonies are open to the public and the Community Coalition for Craven County Children asks everyone to come out and help in some way to support families and children and eliminate child abuse and neglect.
For more information go to: www.coalition4children.com
Terry Brubaker is the program manager for the Child & Family Services Division of Craven County Department of Social Services.
Children in care need protection of society
by Nicola Ross
IN recent days reports have emerged about organised sexual abuse of teenagers in residential care in Victoria. We have also witnessed the devastating stories of adult survivors of child sexual and other abuse by the authorities into whose care they were entrusted when they were vulnerable children.
We hope that the royal commission's investigations will lead to some outcomes to prevent similar stories being told in 20 years' time. But is this likely?
At the very same time that the royal commission is in progress, we are hearing stories that must cast doubt on the question of whether we are really ready for change. The most recent story to emerge is related to paedophile gangs targeting children in residential state care in Victoria for sexual favours.
Most people would agree that where it is possible, children are better off in family settings and, thankfully, there are relatively few children and younger people in residential care. Yet there are now approximately 40,000 children in out-of-home care in Australia – with foster carers or in kinship placements (with grandparents or other family members) – and this number is growing. But this does not resolve the issue either, as abuse can or does occur in these settings.
A recent story illustrates the importance of listening to children who are in out-of-home care. In January this year, the Newcastle Herald reported a story about three young children aged 5, 6 and 7, who were allegedly abused by their foster carer. Their mother told ABC News that she had tried to tell the Department of Family and Community Services about this abuse, but their investigations had not revealed concerns.
Later, when police investigated, they found all three children had bruises, with doctors unable to count all of the bruises on one child. Police documents alleged the foster mother had hit the children with a stick, egg flip and belt, and put socks in their mouths while she hit them.
She was charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm, possessing a prohibited drug, common assault and possessing an unauthorised firearm. The children were promptly removed and put with another foster carer.
Although these children had been removed from their mother's care due to domestic violence issues, her actions showed her desire to act to protect them. There are few other ways in which these children could make themselves heard – but apparently we weren't listening.
In the past, vulnerable children went into the care of large institutions. Today, children who can't live with their parents or carers due to protective concerns are mainly in private homes – either the homes of their family such as grandparents, or in the homes of non- family members, commonly known as foster carers, who are accredited to do this important caring work.
The majority of foster carers are providing much-needed love and care, often in difficult circumstances, to children whose past lives may make such care challenging.
Foster carers receive limited financial and service support in these roles.
We know there is a significant under supply of people willing and able to do this caring work.
We know from past experience that some carers may abuse their young charges.
A society who cares about vulnerable children and young people should be mindful of these possibilities and have good processes to identify and limit such harm. Such harm has ongoing repercussions for these children and our community, both socially and economically.
The protection of vulnerable children is a complex and difficult task. In NSW the Department of Family and Community Services have the responsibility for some of this protection – but child protection is a responsibility that belongs to us all.
The accreditation processes for foster carers in this instance did not work properly. The role of foster carer accreditation is being transferred to private non-government agencies in NSW (with oversight of the Office of the Children's Guardian, who reports direct to the Minister for Family and Community Services) and the department is on track to fully transfer this responsibility during the next 18 months.
We need to ensure the processes for protection of children in care are right now.
We need to think carefully about how we listen to children or their advocates when they complain of abuse.
Then we need to take these concerns seriously and implement systems that ensure accountability for children for their safety and well-being. If we don't, then arguably we are complicit in their ongoing abuse.
Children need to be seen and heard.
Nicola Ross is a senior lecturer in law at the University of Newcastle.
Feds Bust Online Child Exploitation Network; 14 Men Arrested
WASHINGTON (AP) — Fourteen men were charged with operating an online child exploitation network that investigators said preyed upon hundreds of boys across the United States and overseas, authorities announced Tuesday.
Law enforcement officials said the arrests were part of a worrisome trend in which children are being enticed by adults to post sexually explicit images of themselves that are then shared online. In this case, authorities said, users of an underground network posed online as girls to coerce boys into sharing with them child pornography images.
"These alleged perpetrators preyed upon the most innocent, most vulnerable members of our society with no regard to the immediate or lasting harm they caused to their victims and their families," Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said at a news conference.
The investigation, called "Operation Round Table," was led by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Postal Inspection Service and federal authorities in Louisiana, where the alleged leader of the operation lives.
The roughly 250 victims were spread across 39 states and five other countries — Australia, Belgium, Britain, Canada and New Zealand. Most were boys between 13 and 15. Two victims were 3 or younger, authorities said.
The pornographic images were shared on an underground website on the Tor network, an online anonymity network that masks the location of servers and conceals an Internet user's location. The subscription-based website operated from about June 2012 until June 2013, had more than 27,000 members and shared more than 2,000 webcam-captured videos, mostly of young boys, authorities said.
Eleven of the 14 men, including the man authorities say was the administrator of the network, are being prosecuted in Louisiana. The other three are being charged in New York, Colorado and Wisconsin.
Authorities accuse Jonathan Johnson, of Abita Springs, La., of being the leader of the operation. They say he admitted creating multiple fake female personas from his home and encouraged others to do the same in an effort to entice boys to produce sexually explicit images of themselves. The 27-year-old also instructed members and uploaders on how to avoid getting caught by law enforcement, prosecutors say.
Online court records show Johnson was charged last month through a criminal information, a document that typically signals a guilty plea is near. A change of plea hearing is scheduled for March 27, according to the records. Johnson has been in custody since his arrest last June and faces from 20 years to life in prison.
A lawyer for Johnson did not immediately return a call seeking comment on Tuesday.
Toronto's trauma survivors - and their kids – aren't getting help they need
Social workers are limited in what they can do for children and families if parents can't access quality trauma counselling, says a Toronto youth counsellor.
by Peter Trainor
I work as a youth and family counsellor at Central Toronto Youth Services, and my colleagues and I have started to notice a trend: The most common root cause of the struggles faced by the kids referred to us is their parents' unresolved trauma – abuse, neglect, domestic violence, sexual violence, tragic accidents, or trauma related to systemic discrimination and prejudice. Unfortunately, I've learned that the mental health care system in Toronto does not have the resources to provide these parents with the help that they need. That's not fair to them, or to their kids.
Trauma is hugely damaging to the mental health of those who survive it. Chronic anxiety and depression, flashbacks, addictions, and suicide are all common in post-traumatic stress. Left unmanaged, the effects of trauma often spread beyond the survivors themselves to their children.
These kids typically receive mental health diagnoses of their own. As adults, they frequently end up with the same diagnoses as their parents. They're also more likely to become involved in the justice system. One need look no further than aboriginal communities to see how trauma can start an intergenerational cycle of mental health and addictions crises.
Children need their parents to be emotionally healthy in order to be emotionally healthy themselves. That being the case, my colleagues and I are limited in what we can do for the children and families that we see if parents can't access quality trauma counselling. Few resources exist in Toronto, and those that do are full.
I recently put in a call to the Trauma Therapy Program at Women's College Hospital in the hopes of making a referral for a mom. An automated message told me that the program is so overwhelmed with referrals that they no longer even have a waiting list.
Despite the high demand, the Women's Health Centre at St. Joseph's Health Centre, which did almost exclusively trauma-focused counselling work, was closed in 2012. Some of its services were moved to a nearby community health centre, but the capacity of the program was significantly reduced. Some community agencies offer trauma counselling, but not enough to meet demand.
Despite our expanding knowledge of trauma as a major root cause of mental health and addictions problems for both adults and their children, this massive gap in resources is not being addressed by the provincial government. In fact, trauma receives only cursory mention in the current provincial mental health and addictions strategy document, “Open Minds, Healthy Minds” and no mention at all in the children's mental health strategy document, “Moving On Mental Health.” These documents are supposed to be guiding the transformation of our system into one that is “comprehensive.” How can they do that without addressing such a fundamental issue?
Mental health and social services systems should always be working hard to try to put themselves out of business. That is, they should be devoted to reducing to an absolute minimum the number of people who require their services in the first place.
Moving beyond a system focused on managing symptoms to one that addresses root causes, such as trauma, is the only way to do that. Until it's done, the families that I work with will continue to struggle for generations to come.
Peter Trainor is a clinical social worker and a former CIHR Fellow in Public Health Policy at the University of Toronto. @pwtrainor
The Solitary Confinement of Children: Child Abuse by Any Other Name
by Marsha Levick -- Dep Director and Chief Counsel Juvenile Law Center; Adjunct Faculty, Univ of Penn and Temple Law Schools, Juvenile Law Center
As a lawyer, I have advocated for the rights of children for nearly 40 years. I have successfully challenged policies and practices that harm children across the United States and written briefs in cases before the United States Supreme Court that helped to upend prevailing notions about children, crime and punishment. I helped lead the legal fight to redress the grievous wrongs suffered by 2,500 youth in the notorious kids-for-cash scandal in Pennsylvania.
I am also the parent of two young women who are now adults in their twenties, who thankfully avoided any contact with the justice system as they were growing up. Invariably, I find myself looking at the battles I fight on behalf of children through a lens that includes them -- something we should all do. What if this was happening to our children?
Nowhere does this question provoke more anguish for me than in my work challenging the solitary confinement of children.
In 2009, I and my colleagues at Juvenile Law Center were asked to take on the case of 15-year-old T. D., who was placed in solitary confinement for 178 days while committed to the New Jersey juvenile justice system. He was initially placed in solitary out of concern for his mental health. Yes -- ironic, using solitary confinement to "help" a child with mental health and emotional issues. Troy spent the majority of this seven month period locked alone in a 7x7-foot cell that is about the size of a large closet -- a thought that makes me shudder when I think of my own children being held in such a space. He had no access to television, radio, computer or any other visual or audio stimuli. He was only permitted out of the "closet" to shower -- if he wanted to. He received no education, was provided no reading materials, drawing or writing materials, was offered no recreational opportunities, and had virtually no interaction with his peers -- except to the extent that he could yell to similarly isolated juveniles through vents in their cells.
He was also often required to wear a "Ferguson gown" -- a Velcro-strapped suicide prevention garment to protect him from self-harming behavior. Desperate for attention, he smeared feces in his cell, and threw medication. This behavior was viewed as manipulative and grounds for his continued seclusion. He was fed only finger foods. Some days, he was denied a mattress or bed coverings in the name of protecting him. He was denied visits with family members, as a sanction for failing to turn his behavior around. He was denied individual or group therapy because he was in solitary, a particularly cruel irony given the purported rationale for his seclusion.
He turned 16 in solitary confinement.
Sadly, T.D.'s story is not an anomaly. The pervasive use of solitary confinement in America is a recurring story. Recently, Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois held his second Congressional hearing on this topic, calling for a ban on the use of solitary confinement in our federal and state prison systems for all prisoners, but especially for the most vulnerable -- the mentally ill, the persecuted, the old and the young.
In addition to testimony from prison officials, experts, victims and survivors of solitary confinement, written testimony was also submitted from Juvenile Law Center. The facts are mind-numbingly repetitive: Approximately 80,000 individuals are currently held in solitary confinement, often under horrific conditions that can only be described as medieval or barbaric, especially for children. Our hypocrisy is glaring. How can we call ourselves a humane, civilized society and yet subject individuals to what most countries readily call torture, and what Human Rights Watch and The American Civil Liberties Union aptly declared a human rights violation?
The result of the hearings? For now, incremental and limited recommendations -- tackling only the most vulnerable populations, which number in the hundreds in the federal system, leaving thousands nationwide to wait even longer for relief.
While we ultimately obtained a financial settlement for Troy, nothing can repair the harm done to this young man. The very thought of a 15-year-old child locked in a closet, or "box" as they call it on the inside, continues to haunt me -- as both a lawyer and a parent. I cannot bear the thought of any child being locked alone in a closet for even for 24 hours, much less seven months. And if a parent would do such a thing, they would be subject to a charge of child abuse. Neighbors would rightfully ask, "Who does that to a child?"
The answer to this question is simply: we all do. Either by our action or our inaction. Each and every day that we tolerate the solitary confinement of children anywhere in America, we must share the responsibility for locking children in the 'box.' Whether we call it torture, or understand how it exacerbates -- rather than helps -- stress and mental health issues, or even know that national and international standards condemn the practice, we surely must know enough that it is wrong. Take a moment and imagine someone locking your child, or your neighbor's child, in a closet.
Use of solitary confinement on a child is nothing short of government-sanctioned child abuse. We need to end the practice now.
South Mississippi has the highest child abuse rates in the state
by Michelle Lady
The numbers are appalling. In Harrison County, 742 children were abused last year, Jackson County 551 and Hancock County 275 according to the Department of Human Services.
Luckily there are several organizations in the community that are working to try and combat the problem. The South Mississippi Child Abuse Prevention Center (CAP) is one of those.
Everyday children come to the center. They color pictures or play with cars, then comes the tough part. The children are asked to open up about abuse they have suffered.
"It is very tough at times," Forensic Interviewer Tiffany Lizana said. "We always keep a box of Kleenex in the room, and I find I have to pull from it quite frequently."
Lizana admits it is difficult to hear what these children have been through.
"We see mostly sexual abuse. Almost every case, the child knows the perpetrator," said Lizana.
It is important the children have someone to talk to for healing so those responsible can be brought to justice in hopes they can't hurt another child.
"The CAP center gets referrals from law enforcement or DHS," Programs Director Keiana Lock said. "They get those from a caregiver or sometimes an outside source. We do forensic interviews, and then the process is turned over to law enforcement so that they can finish the investigation."
The non-profit organization also takes a proactive approach to child abuse. One way is by educating people on abuse, especially parents.
"There are age appropriate methods that can be taught to the children so they aren't scared. They do not know things they should not know at their age," Lock said.
Counseling is also offered for at risk families. Lock believes that is vital because she thinks stress is part of the reason the numbers are so high in South Mississippi.
"A lot of the economic troubles have started from Hurricane Katrina, the oil spill. So, a lot of the families have deficits in those types of situations within their family," Lock said.
Last year, the Child Abuse Prevention Center conducted 270 interviews.
To learn more about the center and the services they provide click on the link: http://mscpca.com/
If you suspect a child is being abused, you should call police right away or you can call 1-800-222-800, you can remain anonymous if you choose.
Lebanon County Children's Resource Center will help child abuse victims and aid in prosecuting their abusers
by John Latimer
Child victims of sexual and physical abuse in Lebanon County will soon have a more convenient and less traumatic way to assist prosecutors in developing cases against their tormentors.
Lebanon County Children and Youth Services has received a $40,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare's Office of Children, Youth, and Families to open a Children's Resource Center in Lebanon, Executive Director Jim Holtry recently told the Lebanon County commissioners.
The local match from the county will be $10,000, and the grant will help pay for staffing and supplying the facility, which will open in July at an office being donated by Good Samaritan Hospital at 618 Cornwall Road.
The Children's Resource Center will be a place were abused children will receive medical examinations and undergo a taped interview with trained forensic investigators to gather evidence about their abusers, Holtry explained.
"The interviews are taped, and are witnessed by a case worker from Children and Youth Services and a law enforcement official," Holtry said. "Those tapes then eliminate the need for children going through the traumatic experience of multiple repeated interviews. The tapes can also be used in court proceedings in the prosecution of the offenders through the district attorney's office. We would also anticipate using the forensic interviews to assist with children who have witnessed serious crimes, such as homicide, attempted homicide, and serious domestic violence."
Child abuse victims currently receive those services from the Children Resource Center in Harrisburg, said Megan Ryland-Tanner, who handles most of the county's child abuse prosecutions. The medical exams are critical for ensuring the health of the child and the taped interviews are especially useful to show to a jury, she said.
"If the child is 12 or under, the jury, nine times out of 10, gets to see it," she said. "That is a big deal, because it is when the child is initially disclosing it."
The Children's Resource Center in Harrisburg is run in conjunction with Pinnacle Health Systems, said the center's managing director Lynn Carson. Staff from there will initially work at the Lebanon facility, which at the outset will be open only one or two days a week.
"We do see a fair number of children from Lebanon County," she said. "When we spoke about the opportunity of having a satellite office here it just seemed to make sense rather than starting a whole entirely new center. We are able to use our expertise and reputation to work with the community."
Establishing a Children's Resource Center in Lebanon County has been a long-time goal of Jenny Murphy-Shifflet, executive director of the Sexual Assault Resource and Counseling Center.
"One of SARCC's goal as an agency for 10 or more years has been opening a Children's Resource Center," she said. "Initially we thought we would have room in our building that we share with the Lebanon Family Health Services. But there was not enough funding available for this program to become part of our building."
SARCC spearheaded a survey conducted by Lebanon Valley College students that helped establish a need in the county for a Children's Resource Center in Lebanon, Murphy-Shifflet added.
"SARCC also worked with the students at LVC putting together a survey from people in human service agencies, law enforcement and hospital personnel to support the case for a Children's Resource Center," she said.
It took a collaborative effort with representatives from the District Attorney's Office, Children and Youth Services, Good Samaritan Health System, and Pinnacle Health Systems to bring it about Murphy-Shifflet said.
"This has been a very deliberate move to build our team and build our resources so that we could bring this to our community," she said.
While case workers from the Harrisburg office will initially staff Lebanon's facility, Murphy-Shifflet hopes for more local leadership in the future.
"Part of our goal is to increase interest in the project from the medical community, so ideally we can identify some local champions to help us out," she said. "This has been on my bucket list. In the 26 years I've been here, it has always been our goal to see that there are services in this community which better serve the children and their families."
Judge: Changing law may not fix child abuse issues
MONTPELIER — A month after a Rutland County toddler died from severe head trauma due to alleged abuse, Vermont senators heard testimony Wednesday that changing the laws might not address the problem.
At a second meeting of a special Senate panel reviewing state laws protecting children from abuse, Chief Administrative Judge Amy Davenport said some judges don't think custody issues in child abuse cases can be solved by legislation.
She described for the committee how judges decide temporary care issues and use kinship in making decisions.
Davenport said one judge told her that the current legal standards haven't impeded him in deciding custody cases, but “the concept of making sense when faced with only a choice of troubling alternatives is a problem that cannot be solved by different legislation.”
Davenport reported that 83 percent of Vermont's judges have attended out-of-state educational programs on topics related to juvenile cases, including child custody, and that 29 percent, mostly new judges, have attended an intensive child abuse and neglect institute.
Committee co-chairman Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, and Sen. Kevin Mullin, R-Rutland, said that anecdotally they have become aware of possible regional differences in such cases.
Davenport said most child protection cases are driven by parental substance abuse. She said each case can be affected by district offices of the Department for Children and Families and what a prosecutor decides.
Drug abuse issues also vary from county to county.
Essex County State's Attorney Vince Illuzzi said DCF is the driving force behind decisions and that behind the “cloak of confidentiality” in child abuse cases, tensions among department staff, the child's guardians, and attorneys can be high.
But he said he's never heard a complaint about state's attorneys not bringing a case to court.
Illuzzi, who's been a state's attorney for 16 years and served in the Senate for more than three decades, said he hopes changes to the department's procedure and oversight will come from the external investigations. He called the Senate panel a “welcome review” of a process often closed off to public inquiry.
In February, 2-year-old Dezirae Sheldon of Poultney died after arriving at a hospital with severe head trauma. Her stepfather, Dennis Duby, 31, has pleaded innocent to second-degree murder.
Court records show Dezirae had a history of child abuse injuries, and her mother was convicted last year of cruelty to a child.
Senators hope to hear testimony from social workers and prosecutors next week.
Child abuse conference to cover exploitation, secondary trauma
by ALAN LEVINE
Pinal County's sixth annual Child Abuse Conference will get underway at 8 a.m. on Friday, March 28, with registration taking place at 7:30 a.m., at The Property Conference Center on West Gila Bend Highway in Casa Grande.
The conference, scheduled to conclude at 4:30 p.m., will involve discussions on two timely topics, “Commercial Sexual Exploitation” and “Secondary Trauma.”
The conference is hosted by the Pinal County Attorney's Office Family Advocacy Center Inter-Agency Council, consisting of members from the Arizona Department of Corrections, Arizona Child Protective Services, Pinal County Attorney's Office, Pinal County Sheriff's Office, Cenpatico, Eloy Police Department and Against Abuse Inc.
The morning session will explore current and effective ways to empower girls and young women who are victims of domestic trafficking and educate on ways in which practitioners can help encourage them to leave the commercial sex industry. The topic will be presented by Girls Educational and Mentoring Services, a nationally recognized, New York-based non-profit organization.
Karin Kline of the Center for Applied Behavioral Health Policy at Arizona State University will take to the podium during the afternoon session with a discussion on secondary trauma, which is derived from exposure to another person's trauma. She will speak to the attendees on how to handle and recover from the effects of vicarious trauma-related distress experienced through work.
Other speakers include Pinal Presiding Superior Court Judge Stephen McCarville, County Attorney Lando Voyles and U.S. Reps. Ann Kirkpatrick and Paul Gosar.
In his news release regarding the conference, Voyles said: “Each year, this conference sheds light on vital issues and trends occurring within child abuse cases in Arizona and throughout the county. Regardless of the type of abuse, whether mental, physical or sexual or otherwise neglectful, we must, as communities, be ever vigilant and prepared to effectively and immediately respond to child abuse. This conference brings community leaders and organizations, law enforcement and child service providers together resulting in further education and cooperation that benefits our youth every single day.”
The cost for attending the conference is $50 per person and includes breakfast, lunch and snacks. Anyone wishing to attend can do so by sending a check or money order payable to Against Abuse Inc., P.O. Box 10733, Casa Grande, AZ 85130, or go to the Website at www.against-abuse.org .
April: Child Abuse Prevention Monthb
by Kary Fernandez
April is national Child Abuse Prevention Month and the Children's Action Committee of Mendocino County encourages everyone to help spread the word about the importance of children's wellbeing in our community. In 2008, pinwheels became the national symbol of child abuse prevention. The Children's Action Committee (CAC), advocates for Mendocino County's community to raise awareness and increase education.
Pinwheels are increasingly being used to help educate communities about the importance of supporting children and families. Nearly 2.3 million pinwheels have been displayed nationwide. The Children's Action Committee would like to bring this great movement that is sweeping the nation to Mendocino County.
The pinwheel campaign is bringing awareness and educating the communities about child abuse and neglect. During the pinwheel campaign, CAC will participate in activities and public policies that prioritize prevention from the start to make sure child abuse and neglect never occur. We want to support the idea that healthy child development serves as a foundation for both community and economic development.
(CAC) is a subcommittee of the countywide Policy Council on Children and Youth (PCCY) a state-mandated collaborative group of agencies and community representatives working together to improve the quality of services provided to children, youth, and their families in Mendocino County. Although connected to a mandated collaborative (PCCY), CAC has grassroots representation that is strong, committed, and broad-based. So far we have the support of the Sheriff Department, Willits Police Department, Fire Departments and California Highway Patrol throughout Mendocino County for Child Abuse Prevention Month.
In honor of this special month, we are asking community members to join in child abuse prevention month, by planting a pinwheel garden. The Children's Action Committee will provide pinwheels and blue ribbon pins so you may show your support for child abuse prevention. 224 substantiated cases of child abuse have been reported in Mendocino County since February of last year. Plant a pinwheel for every case reported since February 2013. It is a reflection of hope, health, and safety. Many children in our own community face some type of child abuse and neglect every day. For more information about child abuse and neglect in our county please visit: http://www.healthymendocino.org/
In 2012 there were 19.4 cases of alleged abuses per 1,000 children in Mendocino County. The rate for child abuse in Mendocino County is almost twice as California child abuse rate as a whole. Please check out the following link for more information about the pinwheel campaign http://www.pinwheelsforprevention.org/index.php
Please contact Kary at 467-2010 or e-mail email@example.com if you have any questions.
Kary Fernandez is a Children's Action Committee coordinator, VISTA
In honor of this special month, the Mendocino County police departments, fire departments and sheriff's department are participating in Child Abuse Prevention month by placing a blue ribbon, national symbol of child abuse prevention, on the department vehicles. The CAC is providing law enforcement with blue ribbon magnets and pins so they may declare their support for child abuse prevention in Mendocino County.
CAC Conducts Outreach Day
In honor of Child Abuse Prevention Month in April, the Children's Action Committee (CAC) of Mendocino County will hold its annual Outreach Day in Ukiah. The Ukiah Outreach Day will be held on Wednesday, April 2 starting at 10 a.m., at The SPACE Theater on 508 W. Perkins Street. CAC will provide free lunch and t-shirts to volunteers.
City seeks to bring child abuse awareness in April
by Laura Thoren
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. —It's been nearly three months since 9-year-old Omaree Varela was killed and his mother was charged with his death.
Target 7 has uncovered his troubled past, including several previous reports of alleged abuse.
Omaree's story and many other cases of child abuse and neglect have the city of Albuquerque doing something it's never done before.
Because child abuse has been a topic of conversation around Albuquerque, it will get an entire month in the spotlight.
April is National Child Abuse Prevention month. On April 4, Mayor Richard Berry is asking the entire city to gather for an event on Civic Plaza. He wants everyone to wear blue and tweet #ABQKidsMatter.
According to a spokesperson, April will not only be in remembrance of Omaree, but also the "hundreds of cases throughout our city and state of abuse, poverty, and children in the foster care system."
An advocate for New Mexico's children hopes this month is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to prevention.
"From a system's perspective, people in control of the system have to own where their system failed and can work better with others," New Mexico CAN Director Ezra Spitzer said.
Spitzer works daily with child abuse cases. He said most of those calls are about neglect, not physical or sexual abuse.
He hopes this month will raise awareness about all kinds of mistreatment suffered by New Mexico's kids and maybe save a life.
"There are certainly more Omarees out there, and it's on us to figure out how do we prevent them," Spitzer said.
April was first proclaimed National Child Abuse Prevention Month in 1983 by President Ronald Regan.
Abuse prevention program offered
Stewards of Children, a child sexual abuse prevention program, will offer free community training in Blount County. The first will be held at 6 p.m. on April 7 at Maryville College's Lawson Auditorium. Others are scheduled for April 15 at Pellissippi State Community College, April 23 at the Blount County Public Library and April 28 at Louisville Community Center.
For more information, contact Nicole Wicker at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Touchdowns For Ty! Looking To Create Awareness On Child Abuse
by Leland Steva
SIOUX FALLS, SD -- Two-year-old Tyrese Ruffin died from injuries he received while being allegedly abused by his mother's boyfriend in October. Now the son of Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson is inspiring others in the football community to help child abuse victims.
While the Sioux Falls Storm battles their opponents inside the arena, a booth in the lobby battles the issue of child abuse.
Storm Wide Receiver James Terry knew going into the season he wanted to do something for charity. When he heard the news about the death of two-year-old Tyrese, he knew who he was playing for.
"I got a son that age, so I imagine what she was going through and how she was feeling and how her family was going through it. I just felt like it was a sign, just I couldn't do it for nothing else but that," Terry said.
As part of the Touchdowns For Ty! Campaign, people pledge money for every time Terry scores during home games this season. The booth also has shirts, bracelets and a free will donation box to raise money. 100 percent of the sales go towards supporting abuse and neglect victims at the Children's Home Society in Sioux Falls in Ty's name.
Terry says the campaign took a while to get going, but he was happy with the response when his team stepped on their home turf.
"The first game, it just took off. It was bigger than I think anyone of us expected. So, that's good that people are coming together to support what we are doing," Terry said.
The wide receiver says they raised $1,700 that first home game. He is getting a lot of help from the community, so he thinks the amount of money raised will continue to grow.
"It's coming along a lot. We got a lot of people helping out with donations, helping out with their time. I mean anything you can do is a positive step," Terry said.
The former Kansas State Wildcat says while he has thousands of people cheering his name every game day, he still feels privileged to be playing a role in changing lives for those that might not be able to cheer.
"Just being a part of it, it feels like you're making a difference. It's sad something like that had to happen for you to do something like that, but we're just doing our part to make sure it doesn't happen again," Terry said.
For anyone that is interested in helping out, you can email: email@example.com
Louisiana Lawmaker Says Lack Of Sex Education Is 'Really A Form Of Child Abuse'
by Shadee Ashtari
Louisiana Rep. Patricia Smith (D), a longtime champion of public school sex education, said during an interview with The Advocate published Monday that the lack of mandated state instruction on the issue is "really a form of child abuse."
After several previously failed efforts, Smith introduced HB 369 on March 10. The measure seeks to combat the state's high rates of teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases by implementing "age appropriate" sex education standards in public elementary and secondary schools.
"It is important that we give our children medically factual information so that they can make the right decision," the Baton Rouge lawmaker told the Advocate.
Although present state law authorizes any secondary school to offer abstinence-focused sex education for students above the sixth grade, Louisiana lacks standardized sex education curricula. Sex education is currently banned in Louisiana elementary schools.
As of 2012, Louisiana's teen birth rate -- 43.1 births per 1,000 teen girls aged 15-19 -- has ranked as one of the highest in the nation. The state has also consistently experienced some of the country's highest STD rates, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2012 Surveillance Report.
Under Smith's proposal, Louisiana schools are to stress that "abstinence is the most reliable way to prevent pregnancy" and STD transmission, in addition to providing information on human sexuality and open communication with parents, according to the bill text.
"Sex ed does promote abstinence," Smith said. "It's a major piece. It is not the only piece."
The measure also stated that "no part of sex education instruction shall in any way advocate or support abortion."
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) and social conservative groups, including the Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Louisiana Family Forum, have expressed opposition to the measure on the grounds that parents should maintain exclusive control of their children's exposure to sex education.
"These are decisions that are best made by parents and local communities, not state government," Jindal said in a prepared statement, according to The Advocate.
Smith's legislation would permit students to be excused from proposed sex education classes on the written request of a parent or guardian without academic or disciplinary penalties.
Similar proposals advanced by Smith were opposed by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education in 2010 and blocked by the House Education Committee in 2012, falling one vote shy of the majority needed.
Child Abuse Prevention workshops available
by Warren Reporter
The month of April has been designated as National Child Abuse Prevention Month by the United States Department of Health & Human Services, announced local organizers of the Enough Abuse Campaign, a cooperative effort of Prevent Child Abuse New Jersey, Project Self-Sufficiency and the Sussex Warren Partnership to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse.
Prevent Child Abuse New Jersey will be hosting several events throughout the month to help raise awareness of the importance of preventing child abuse in all of its forms. Northern New Jersey residents can learn how to help prevent child sexual assault by joining the Enough Abuse Campaign. The community-wide education initiative aims to mobilize adults and communities to prevent child sexual assault by increasing awareness of the warning signs displayed by predators and as well as victims.
“The goal of the Enough Abuse campaign is to educate every adult in the community about the true nature and scope of child sexual assault, and give them the tools and knowledge they need to better protect children,” commented Deborah Berry-Toon, Executive Director of Project Self-Sufficiency, “Project Self-Sufficiency is proud to be partnering with the Sussex Warren Partnership to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse and Prevent Child Abuse New Jersey in this important effort to eliminate child sexual abuse in our area. This educational outreach program will build on Project Self-Sufficiency's legacy of assisting families with their goals of becoming stable and economically self-sufficient. We are confident that the Enough Abuse Campaign will help to prevent child sexual abuse and result in safer, more stable families in our community.”
Studies continue to show that many parents believe the major risk of child sexual abuse involves strangers, which in reality, up to 90 percent of cases are committed by someone known and trusted by the victim and family. Educators with the Enough Abuse campaign are particularly interested in training middle and high school youth, their parents, teachers, administrators, coaches and other youth-serving professionals on how to recognize and prevent child sexual abuse.
Training sessions will be held at Project Self-Sufficiency on Wednesdays, April 9, 10 a.m. to noon, and April 23, 6-8 p.m. Project Self-Sufficiency is located at 127 Mill St. in Newton.
Participation is free and open to anyone interested in stemming the tide of child sexual assault, but advance registration is required.
To register, or to find out more about the Enough Abuse campaign, call Project Self-Sufficiency, 973-940-3500.
Groups fight human trafficking through awareness
by Kelsey Davis
BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) -- Human trafficking is a $32 billion criminal industry in the US and abroad, but one group in south Louisiana is hoping to stamp it out.
Statistics show it is a crime that sucks one child into its cycle every 30 seconds.
"As the mother of two small little girls, there's no issue that's more important than protecting children from a life of sex trafficking," said Melissa Landry.
Trafficking Hope started in 2007 to raise awareness and provide ways to rescue victims of human sex trafficking in the Baton Rouge area. The group partnered with another organization for an event this week aimed at shedding more light on this growing problem.
"When a girl's being trafficked, they're not getting the finances for that; that's going to their trafficker," said Tiffany Dupree with Trafficking Hope. "Yes, girls are in prostitution and that's their choice. But really, the majority of them are in it by force and manipulation. It really is so cruel to what these girls have to experience."
Trafficking Hope and the Junior League of Baton Rouge are hosting a screening of the documentary Nefarious: Merchant of Souls . It takes viewers on a journey around the globe and around the US, opening people's eyes to the world of human sex trafficking.
Dupree added Louisiana is on the cutting edge when it comes to laws against trafficking. Gov. Bobby Jindal recently asked for legislation for tougher punishment for traffickers and johns and making it easier for victims to get help. Dupree said the changes have helped the state's rating go from a C, as far as anti-trafficking laws are concerned, to an A-minus.
Sex Traffickers Find Victims on Facebook
by Maria Keena
ST. LOUIS (KMOX) - Sex trafficking is a growing problem, right here at home. St. Louis-based Crisis Aid Safe Home serves as an emergency shelter and holistic rehabilitation service to American victims of sex trafficking.
They also provide food for malnourished families and refugees globally.
Crisis Aid's founder Pat Bradley told KMOX that his funding comes from the general public, individuals and a few churches. Last year, 31 American sex trafficking victims were helped between the ages of 14 to 23. Most of them were from St. Louis.
“Most of the girls have come from the St. Louis area, but we've also gotten girls from Oklahoma City, Indianapolis, Dallas, Tx., Nashville, Tn., but most of them have been St. Louis girls,” Bradley says.
Bradley says traffickers find many of their victims through Facebook by posing as rap stars looking for girls to star in music videos and are invited to attend a big party. This is where the sex trafficking begins.
“The girls will come to the party, they will slip them a drug, they'll rape them…and then they tell the girl we will show this on Facebook, we will show this to your parents,” Bradley says.
He adds that they usually will threaten the victim with bodily harm if they tell.
Crisis Aid has developed an extensive human trafficking educational curriculum for schools, churches and communities to implement in an attempt to stop the growing problem.
“In fact, a couple of the girls that we have rescued, made a comment and said, ‘You know, Pat, if people in St. Louis had any idea how widespread it is, just in St. Louis, people in St. Louis would freak out over it,'” says Bradley.
Senate panel adopts sex trafficking, child death bills
Committee also advances measure to close jurisdictional loophole
by Tim Carpenter
The Senate Judiciary Committee approved bills Monday to crack down on people entering diversion agreements in sex trafficking cases and to expand access for researchers of information compiled by the state on the death of people under 18.
The human trafficking legislation in House Bill 2501 requires imposition of a $2,500 fine against persons entering diversion agreements to charges of buying or selling sexual relations. Current penalties paid by individuals convicted of these and other crimes are earmarked for law enforcement training and services to victims of sexual trafficking, but the high volume of diversions granted in Kansas was draining the revenue stream.
The committee accepted key provisions of the House-passed bill limiting to one the number of sex-crime diversions available to a person and to mandate municipal and district courts report these offenses to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.
"Hopefully," said Pat Colloton, assistant attorney general, "we will decrease demand. It's demand that creates the market."
The Republican-led committee agreed to send the full Senate a bill to permit the State Child Death Review Board to make available more detailed information about circumstances of child deaths in Kansas.
The board produces an annual summary of deaths as well as recommendations for reforms designed to save lives. However, aggregate data relied upon by the board hasn't been open to scrutiny by academics, nonprofit groups and agencies.
Under Senate Bill 259, this material could be released as long as it didn't contain personally identifiable information about children or families.
An amendment placed in the bill by Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, R-Shawnee, requires the state board to document in an annual report to the Legislature and governor proposals for the information that were granted and denied.
"This is going to give not only the Legislature but the public more transparent information," she said.
In 2011, there were 391 child deaths in the state. That is the fewest since the Child Death Review Board was created in 1992. However, the mortality rate in Kansas of children up to age 14, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was 22 for every 100,000 children in 2010. The national rate of mortality was 17 deaths per 100,000 children.
Meanwhile, the judiciary committee adopted House Bill 2478 to close a loophole in state criminal law created by advent of technology that outpaced traditional notions of territorial jurisdiction.
"If not addressed," said Kristafer Ailslieger, deputy solicitor general for Kansas, "this loophole can potentially allow cyber criminals to go unpunished due to lack of a jurisdictional venue within the state."
Impetus for the bill was a Kansas Court of Appeals decision in 2013 in a case brought against a cyber criminal apprehended in Sedgwick County. The person used a credit card belonging to Fort Hays State University to make online purchases. The Ellis County attorney initiated prosecution in Hays, but a district court judge dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction and the Court of Appeals agreed with the lower-court judge.
"Because the crimes occurred online there was no evidence that the defendant had ever entered Ellis County and the state could not determine what county the defendant was in when she made the online purchases, the district court held that there was no jurisdiction in Ellis County," Ailslieger said.
He said the bill, as previously approved by the House, would add Kansas to the list of states that enacted statutes to say location of a criminal's computer shouldn't be the determining factor for jurisdiction to prosecute.
Charlottesville charity to open human trafficking shelter
Police spokesperson Roberts says no reports of human trafficking in area
by Simone McDonnell
A new Charlottesville charity plans to build the first long-term shelter for human trafficking survivors in the city by next January.
The Arbor, a faith-based organization formed last fall, will serve women over the age of 18 who have been victimized by sex trafficking in the United States. The non-profit organization aims to create a welcoming community for survivors regardless of their religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, criminal background and financial or immigration status.
Human trafficking is on the rise in Virginia, according to a recent Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services report. Adult women make up the majority of victims.
The Arbor conducted an additional assessment in which they interviewed 36 professionals throughout Virginia, North Carolina and Washington, D.C., finding 26 out of the 36 police officers, nurses, hospital social workers and crisis center advocates reported human trafficking was present in their geographic region.
According to Charlottesville police spokesperson Ronnie Roberts, there has been no reported evidence of human trafficking in the Charlottesville area.
Arbor Board Member Joanna Jennings said the organization intends to provide a number of services to victims, local and otherwise.
“In addition to providing free room and board, we will work with the clients to establish their independent living plan, which will include job skills training and language skills training, because we are anticipating that a number of our clients are going to be foreign born,” she said. “We believe trafficking survivors need long-term care, so that's what we are trying to do.”
Other services for residents will include health care, legal counseling and education and community support, which will take the form of optional workshops and mentorship and faith resources.
“It's a little different from the current shelter that's in place right now in Charlottesville,” Jennings said. “[There], if a woman is found to have been trafficked — which is a very difficult thing to [determine], because law enforcement are not trained in how to identify and screen properly for women who have been trafficked — she is limited to short-term transitional housing.”
The Arbor still has a few more steps to take before it will be able to open its doors.
“We need to find a housing location, and obviously that location is going to have to be confidential, but we think that Charlottesville is an ideal location because it is located in central Virginia,” Jennings said.
The Arbor plans to collaborate with other organizations in Virginia currently working toward providing aid for human trafficking victims. These organizations include the Gray Haven in the Richmond, the Polaris Project in Washington D.C. and the International Justice Mission.
The Arbor will have a student information event this Saturday at 7 p.m. at Eunoia, near Nau-Gibson Hall on Jefferson Park Avenue, where they will discuss human trafficking in Virginia and The Arbor's plans to start the first long-term shelter in Virginia for survivors of trafficking.
San Mateo County: Speier, police unveil anti-human-trafficking program
by Aaron Kinney
SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO -- Backed by a throng of law enforcement officials, Rep. Jackie Speier on Monday announced a new system for combating the crime of human trafficking, including sex slavery, in San Mateo County.
The Human Trafficking Protocol for Law Enforcement in San Mateo County is designed to help police officers and others detect instances of human trafficking, spur more prosecutions and provide better support for victims.
"Today we're sending a very strong message," said Speier, D-Hillsborough. "This county is not a place that welcomes sex traffickers. In fact, it is going to be the most inhospitable place to come if you are sex trafficking."
The protocol is the result of more than two years of planning initiated by Speier and led by South San Francisco police and fire Chief Mike Massoni. It lays out the guidelines for a new countywide task force dedicated to human trafficking investigations and includes specialized training for both first-responders, such as police officers and 911 dispatchers, and civilians.
Numerous law enforcement agencies are collaborating on the protocol, including local police departments, the county sheriff and district attorney's offices, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Many aspects of the protocol are already in effect. Police have told hotel clerks in Burlingame, San Mateo and South San Francisco, for instance, to look out for and report certain types of behavior from guests. A tip from a clerk last year enabled police to arrest three people and rescue five victims.
The protocol targets criminals who force young women and boys into prostitution, but it is also meant to crack down on other types of modern-day slavery, such as people who are lured to America with the promise of a housekeeping job and then forced to work without wages.
Missing the red flags of child neglect
Roman Barreras is the latest child who appears to have been failed in every way a child can be — by the people who were supposed to love him, by the system that was supposed to be his safety net.
There is no use in asking why Roman Barreras died. No response can ever solve the incomprehensible puzzle of how a mother could, as police contend, starve her baby boy to death.
The best we can do now is to find out what happened to Roman, how clear warning signs of neglect were missed, and do whatever is necessary to keep it from happening to another child.
His bones were found in a toy chest by a landlord clearing out property the Barreras family left behind when they moved. Roman was probably 3 years old.
Raquel Marcella Barreras, 39, has been charged with first-degree murder and child abuse.
Martin Barreras, the pair's older children told investigators, knew that Roman was being starved. He's charged with child abuse. Both parents are in the Pima County Jail.
The facts are stark. Child welfare agency workers removed Roman from Raquel Barreras as a newborn after she tested positive for methadone.
All five of her children had been put into foster care by what was then Child Protective Services but were returned to the care of Martin Barreras. Raquel was ordered to stay away but didn't.
The Barreras family was on the radar. Relatives were worried about the kids, particularly Roman. They called child welfare officials to report that the boy hadn't been seen in awhile, and that the family had withdrawn.
Child welfare workers were involved with the family at times. Police visited because the older kids missed so much school. A Tucson Police Department officer was sent to check on the boy's welfare in November 2012.
The officer sent to investigate allegations of neglect and concerns about Roman's welfare reported that the boy was “very small and thin for his age” and that the father said he'd never been diagnosed with failure to thrive — yet the case was closed.
It's not clear from what we know at this point why the officer did not see Roman's frailness, combined with the obvious disconnect between the boy's physical condition and his father's statement, as a huge red flag.
If police had called child welfare workers to evaluate Roman, perhaps the signs of severe neglect would have been seen.
Better training, better communication, better collaboration — it's clear that gaps between law enforcement and child-welfare services exist.
CPS has been renamed the Division of Child and Family Services and now reports directly to the governor.
It's one change made in recent months, after the discovery of more than 6,500 reports of child neglect or abuse that had gone uninvestigated.
An agency spokeswoman says that child-welfare hotline workers can now access other state records to help locate families if the person making the initial report doesn't know where the child in possible danger lives, as happened with Roman.
Making children more safe and helping families in crisis is expensive. It's hard work. And it is necessary work.
Roman Barreras deserved a life.
He deserved to be more than a symbol of our failure.
College Student is Sentenced for ‘Sextortion'
The California computer hack that threatened women, including Miss Teen USA, will get jail time for his sneaky sexploits.
It's more pernicious than revenge porn—and it only takes one malware-infected email, instant message, or download to ruin lives.
Twenty-year-old Jared James Abrahams of Temecula, California was sentenced on Monday to 18 months in prison for “sextortion”—hacking into the computers of dozens of women, furtively snapping nude photos of them and threatening to leak the images if they didn't send him more naked pics or strip down during Skype sessions.
Abrahams, a computer science major Temecula College, managed to obtain photos of teens from Southern California to Russia—including current Miss Teen USA Cassidy Wolf—and had access to as many as 150 computers before he was arrested last September. Two months later, he pleaded guilty to one count of computer hacking and three counts of extortion.
The “sextortion case” made international headlines when Wolf, who attended the same high school as Abrahams, was revealed as one of his targets. Abrahams told Wolf that her “dream of being a model will be transformed into a porn star” and posted a naked photo when she didn't respond to his threats.
But the most disturbing details of this particular case involve two teenage victims from Ireland and Canada who relented to five minute Skype sessions with Abrahams, in which they “undressed for him...while he recorded their video chat sessions,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Vibhav Mittal said during Abrahams' sentencing.
Abrahams was menacing and pugnacious on Skype. According to FBI affidavits, he demanded one 14-year-old girl show “every part of you!” and warned a distraught 17-year-old victim, “I do NOT have a heart!”
Abrahams' sentencing is the latest in a slew of California “sextortion” cases prosecuted by the U.S. District Attorney's Office. In December, 27-year-old Karen “Gary” Kazaryan was sentenced to five years in prison for hacking and identity theft and declared a “sexual cyberterrorist” by prosecutors. And in 2011, 32-year-old Luis Mijangos was given six years for remotely accessing teenage girls' webcams and playing “psychological games” with them for his own sexual gratification (the FBI estimated he was monitoring some 230 people, at least 44 of whom were underage, when he was arrested in 2010).
It's unclear why Abrahams got a significantly shorter prison sentence than his “sextortionate” predecessors. His attorney noted that Abrahams suffered from “social anxiety and autism spectrum disorder,” but underscored that these were not grounds for mitigating his crimes.
ICE Texas field offices remove more than 800 sex offenders so far this year
More than 2,000 removed every year in past three years
DALLAS – The four Texas field offices within U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) have deported more than 860 sex offenders so far this fiscal year.
Of the 862 alien sex offenders deported by the Texas-based offices, about 27 percent were convicted of sex offenses against children.
ICE's four Texas field offices are located in Dallas, El Paso, Houston and San Antonio. The Dallas area of responsibility includes 128 counties in north Texas, and the state of Oklahoma. Dallas ERO deported 171 sex offenders so far in fiscal year 2014; 47 were convicted of sex offenses against a minor. In all of fiscal year 2013, the office deported 463 sex offenders; 154 were convicted of sex offenses against a minor. In 2013, all four Texas offices deported 2,124 sex offenders; 508 were convicted of sex offenses against a minor. In fiscal year 2012, Texas ERO offices deported 2,007 sex offenders, and 2,127 in 2011.
ICE officers routinely apprehend removable convicted sex offenders during targeted enforcement operations, or they are turned over to ICE custody when local/state jails or prisons release them after they serve their prison sentences. Additionally, ICE and the Texas Department of Public Safety have begun to regularly share information on sex offenders. This partnership allows ICE to cross-reference the list of sex offenders provided from the state to determine if they are removable aliens.
"Identifying and locating aliens convicted of sex offenses and other serious crimes are a high priority for our fugitive operations teams," said Thomas P. Giles, field office director for ERO Dallas. "Ultimately, our efforts to remove these criminals from our streets, our communities and our country have a positive impact on public safety."
Some of the more egregious offenses of the criminal alien sex offenders deported throughout Texas include: sexual assault, kidnapping, and aggravated sexual assault of a child.
Following are some of the sex offenders deported by officers with the ERO Dallas office: (In accordance with Department of Homeland Security privacy policies, ICE cannot include the names of those deported.)
A 34-year-old man from Mexico was arrested by ERO officers in Dallas. In November 2013, he was convicted in Moore County, Texas, of indecency with a child by contact. He was deported Dec. 20, 2013.
A 29-year-old man from Guatemala was arrested by ERO officers Nov. 7 in Mesquite. In March 2000, he was convicted in Dallas County, Texas, of aggravated sexual assault of a child, and evading arrest. He was deported Dec. 11, 2013.
A 55-year-old man from Mexico was arrested by ERO officers Oct. 31 in Fort Worth. In October 2013, he was convicted of indecency with a child in Tarrant County, Texas. He was deported Dec. 5, 2013.
A 20-year-old man from Mexico was arrested by ERO officers Oct. 1 in Lubbock. In September 2013, he was convicted of aggravated sexual assault in Gaines County, Texas. He was deported Oct. 2, 2013.
Nationwide, ICE has removed more than 72,000 aliens with criminal convictions so far this fiscal year. These removals represent the agency's ongoing commitment to prioritizing the removal of criminal aliens and egregious immigration law violators.
ICE is focused on smart, effective immigration enforcement that prioritizes the removal of criminal aliens, recent border crossers and egregious immigration law violators, such as those who have been previously removed from the United States.
Shining a light on ugliness: Talking with N.J. authorities who track child pornographers
by Everett Merrill
In a small windowless room at the New Jersey State Police's Digital Technology Investigations Unit in Hamilton, detectives sit in front of computer screens monitoring the darkest and most vile part of the Internet — child pornography.
The graphic images being viewed are of children being sexually abused, not only BY strangers, but by parents, relatives and neighbors. There is no exact profile of these predators, but law-enforcement officials involved in this grueling and stress-filled work, say the perpetrators are mostly men. Some are married with children. They are white- and blue-collar workers, community and religious leaders, educators and even members of law enforcement.
According to statistics provided by Darkness to Light, a nonprofit organization working to eradicate child sexual abuse, there are an estimated 42 million adult survivors of child sexual abuse in the Unites States. Child sexual abuse ranks second to murder as the most expensive victim crime in the U.S.; immediate and long-term costs exceed $35 billion annually.
“What the Internet offers in child exploitation cases is the anonymity of not being identified,” said Cy Bleistine, a detective with the State Police, who oversees New Jersey's Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task force, “and the instant gratification. They don't have to go out in public where they risk being seen and being reported. Behind the computer, they think they won't get caught.
“The range and methodology that people are using to exchange files has risen exponentially,” Bleistine added.
Last year, more suspects were arrested for child exploitation crimes — 7,386 — than at any time in the past five years, according to U.S. Justice Department records.
“Overall, the agencies are busier today than they were years ago,” Bleistine said. “You can attribute any of the higher numbers to the fact that more people are more connected and that social media is more active.
“We have many skilled detectives and investigators that are out there both proactively and reactively looking for criminals while keeping children safe,” he added.
The technology used by law enforcement authorities features software that allows them to virtually map the locations of suspects through their Internet Service Provider. The ISP is a web address unique to an individual's computer.
The ICAC unit is a federal- and state-funded program that licenses detectives to track Internet users who are accessing child pornography. Bleistine said the unit, which includes detectives from county prosecutor's offices, receives information from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. In addition, undercover detectives from county prosecutor offices and special agents with the FBI surf through chat rooms and scour Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites, looking for signs of abhorrent behavior that could lead to a child being sexually abused.
Like a new car that loses its value as soon as you drive it off the lot, certain social media sites become obsolete in favor of more popular ones with kids and predators. That forces the detectives and special agents who investigate crimes against children to sometimes play catch-up with the technology.
“The predators didn't have these tools years ago,” said Detective Michael Vanover with the Somerset County Sheriff's Office, “so they would have to find kids out in the street. Now you've opened up a whole new world. You have given a child access to everything under the sun through a computer or a portal.
“The technology changes every day,” he added. “When you think you're on the hottest thing, the next day you're onto something else. Your investigative techniques fall behind because the Internet is always changing. It's a numbers game.”
Smartphone applications like Kick or Chat Roulette, where kids have the ability to come across random people, are now on the radar screen of law enforcement.
“There's always a new app coming out every week that can cause problems,” said Jeanne Trillhaase, a detective with the Somerset County Prosecutor's Office criminal investigation division. “They can be used safely, but they have a lot of dangers in them.”
Not all individuals engage in viewing child pornography in the privacy and anonymity of their homes. In 2012 a 77-year-old South Jersey man was viewing, downloading and printing child pornography at the North Plainfield Public Library, police said.
In 2010, former Assemblyman Neil Cohen was sentenced to five years in prison for viewing and printing child pornography at his legislative office in Union Township. His crime was discovered when he printed photographs of underage girls using his state computer and placed them in the desk of a female receptionist in his legislative office.
There is no general profile of individuals who view and distribute child pornography, said Brian Stack, an assistant prosecutor with the Somerset County Prosecutor's Office. He noted that most people who are arrested for these crimes are not sex offenders registered under Megan's Law. Stack added that the offenders often have children of their own.
In one Central Jersey case involving child pornography, the criminal was a retired police captain with 25 years on the job and two children.
Michael Grennier, 51, twice honored as South Plainfield's Officer of the Year, pleaded guilty in December to production of child pornography. Federal authorities, citing documents and evidence in the case and court statements, said that on Feb. 14, 2013, Grennier enticed a girl to perform sexually explicit acts and live-stream images of herself over the Internet as he watched remotely from his home.
During the webcam session, authorities added, Grennier exchanged text messages with the girl while directing her actions. He admitted during his guilty plea hearing that he promised to buy the girl clothing in exchange for the sexual performance.
Grennier faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and a $250,000 fine when he is sentenced on March 27. The mandatory minimum sentence for this offense is 15 years in prison.
Joshua Wilson, a special agent with the FBI who works out of their satellite office in the Somerset section of Franklin, worked on the case against Grennier. Wilson, a six-year veteran with the agency's Innocent Images unit, an undercover operation, said the stress level can be high in a job where you are looking at images of infants and children being sexually assaulted.
"Doing the image and video reviews from the subject's computer is the most stressful part of our job,” said the personable Wilson. “We're looking at thousands of images which are actually crime scene images of children being sexually abused. It does take a toll, looking at images like that sometimes for days on end.”
Once a year Wilson and his Innocent Images colleagues travel to an undisclosed location to meet with an undercover psychologist and counselor to ensure the job of investigating sex crimes against children isn't getting the best of them.
“It's nice to have the box checked and have somebody else look at my test scores and say I'm doing OK with this,” Wilson said. “It's nice to hear that I'm the same person I was a year ago.”
“They kind of give you the thumbs up and say you seem like you're doing well and coping well,” he added.
After about a year into working in the Innocent Images unit, Wilson recruited Special Agent Kevin Matthews to join him. The two estimate they have investigated hundreds of child pornography cases and viewed millions of graphic images.
“There's some (images) that you will never forget,” Matthews said. “I'm not sure people understand what this is. It's really child exploitation and sex abuse.”
Inside Track: She escaped from working the street on South Division
Leslie F. King, a victim of human trafficking/sexual exploitation, is now helping other women and girls escape to a better life.
by Pete Daly
It has been cynically called “the oldest profession” but, in reality, it is one of the most brutal and dehumanizing forms of slavery ever practiced.
“If the streets don't kill us, we kill ourselves,” said Leslie F. King, who was prostituted on the streets of Grand Rapids for 20 years, beginning at age 15. She was an angry runaway, and the individual who prostituted her was an older man she thought was her boyfriend.
“I have been shot, I have been stabbed, I have been thrown out of a car on the expressway. I have been raped many, many times,” said King.
Her street smarts and determination to fight human trafficking caused her to start Sacred Beginnings Women's Transitional Program eight years ago, which now has helped about 400 prostituted women, she said.
That led to her selection as one of Grand Rapids Business Journal's 50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan, honored at a luncheon at the Amway Grand Plaza March 4.
Andy Soper, coordinator of the Manasseh Project at Wedgwood Christian Services, said King is “an amazing survivor.” He noted some people now use the term “prostituted” in place of “prostitute” because “it removes that question of choice.”
The Manasseh Project provides a safe house for victims of sex-trafficking and other forms of abuse. Soper said 85 percent of the women who end up prostituted have a history of being sexually abused as children. Early, repeated abuse often leads a child to identify their personal value in sexual terms.
King's father was a violent alcoholic who routinely beat her mother, King said, leaving her and her siblings terrorized. There were no loving hugs, no one saying ‘I love you,' she said. When she was 8, a male relative about 20 years older came to live at their house. She would escape the misery downstairs by playing with her doll house in the attic; the relative began playing dolls with her and then began sexually abusing her. He warned her never to tell anyone, or her father would kill her mother.
The molestation went on for years. “That destroys a child,” she said.
At church she would hear that God protects little children, but she knew that wasn't true.
“My spirituality went right out the window,” she said. She watched television shows that only depressed her, wondering why her family couldn't be like “The Partridge Family” or “The Brady Bunch.”
As a young teen, King became rebellious at home and at school. By 15, she had had a child, who ended up in the care of her mother. One day she took off, a runaway from her life at home. A man saw her walking and stopped; he told her she was beautiful, and she went with him. The new “boyfriend” began spending money on her, and when she was picked up by the police for curfew violations, he sent someone to the police station to get her.
“The honeymoon lasted a month and a half,” said King. One day she was with a friend at his house, drinking until she passed out. King believes she was drugged. When she woke up, a strange man was on top of her, and her “boyfriend” was watching. King said later he asked her, “Did you think all of that was free?” He took her to a house where other girls were staying. They provided her with provocative clothes for working the street and showed her how to put on make-up. He threatened her not to tell anyone, or her family would be killed. She believed him.
“I was trained like a soldier,” she said, with the traffickers putting her on a South Division corner and telling her, “This is what you do.” King said too many people who see a prostituted girl or woman on a street corner don't have any understanding of how she ended up there.
Before she escaped from the streets, King did, in fact, try to kill herself. “For some reason, God wouldn't let me die,” she said.
It was July 4, 2000, when she consumed a lethal amount of drugs and alcohol to end it all. She said she felt herself dying and was compelled to scream out for God to help her. Then, she said, she felt something “so powerful, I knew I was going to be alright. That's when the fight for my redemption was on. I've been doing God's work ever since,” she said.
King got into Turning Point, a drug rehab program of the Salvation Army. Then she began staying at Rose Haven, a shelter for the prostituted run by the Dominican Sisters of the Good Shepherd Ministry in Grand Rapids. After a year, she said, she became a member of the Rose Haven staff, the first time a client had done that.
“I came out a fighter. No one was going to put me in a box. No one would be allowed to call me names anymore. I was going to stand” to help other women, said King.
While a client at Rose Haven, she faced the daunting challenge of finding a job; she had no résumé, just a police record. Her big break was being hired by AngelCare Home Health Care as a home health aide.
“AngelCare gave me my start,” she said. “They believed in me.”
After three years she landed a full-time job with the Grand Rapids Police Department's Social Work and Police Partnership program and worked there for five years, helping prostituted women turn their lives around.
And somehow, in 2005, she started the nonprofit Sacred Beginnings and managed to buy a home she could share with other women she helped to escape from the street.
“My credit was so bad, you couldn't staple nothing to it,” she said, but a kind real estate agent helped her. Now she has a couple of people and some volunteers working with her, and an “awesome board of directors.” Right now, Sacred Beginnings is looking for a second safe house, and four people are on the waiting list to live there. The next house should be located farther away from the center of the city, she said.
Does she fear revenge from the pimps who have lost their girls to Sacred Beginnings?
“If God brought me this far, I don't need to worry about it,” she said, adding that the pimps “won't mess with me. I still have family out there. My family is very proud of me.”
King said she is finishing her bachelor's degree in social work and will start on a master's degree in either social work or psychology.
Determining how many prostituted women are working the streets in Grand Rapids isn't easy. Soper has heard from the Kent County Sheriff's Department that there were more than 100 arrests last year, although Lt. William Nowicki, commander of the GRPD vice unit, said the arrest number was about half that.
Traditionally, most of the activity is in the warmer months of the year, but Nowicki said that is changing due to the Internet.
When asked how many women were involved locally in prostitution, Nowicki said, “because of the Internet, I would say it's hundreds,” although he added probably only a handful actually walk the streets to find johns. “They can do it all by cell phone and computer,” he said.
Most of those arrested are adults, said Nowicki, but when it is a juvenile, “Somebody's usually putting them out there to do that.”
King's goal is to put that somebody out of business for good.
Franklin County report shows child abuse referrals continue to rise
But fewer recent cases end up requiring county adjudication
by Becky Metrick
Chambersburg -- Child abuse referrals continued to increase over the last five years, despite a small decrease between 2012 and 2013, according to the Franklin County Children and Youth Annual Report for 2013.
However, even with the increased number of referrals, fewer cases were founded or substantiated — meaning that there was evidence and some type of adjudication action taken.
According to the report, there were 1,406 referrals to Children and Youth in 2013, down from 1,463 in 2012. But 2013 still had more referrals than 2011, at 1,353, which had increased by nearly 200 referrals from both 2009 and 2010.
According to Doug Amsley, Director of Children and Youth Services, the small decrease in referrals was offset by vacancies within the organization and the severity of the cases. In 2013, the organization had six vacancies, with five of those being caseworker vacancies, according to the report. Amsley said that as of mid-February, they are down to two vacancies in the organization.
After investigations into the referrals, 1,337 cases were looked into by Children and Youth Intake Units for assessments and investigations. It's these cases that are investigated for the most severe types of abuse of abuse, while another 71 cases were assigned to have General Protective Services.
GPS are listed as cases that include inappropriate discipline, general neglect, inadequate supervision, environmental and medical neglect, child behavior problems, school problems including truancy and drug related issues like newborns with drug and alcohol dependencies.
Some 274 of the cases assessed by Intake Units became completed child abuse investigations and were considered Child Protective Service cases, according to the report.
Some 191 of the 274 completed investigations were physical abuse investigations, while 65 were sexual abuse investigations. None of these investigations were founded, but nine physical abuse investigations and 25 of the sexual abuse investigations were substantiated. There was also one mental abuse investigation which was unfounded, three imminent risk investigations of which two were unfounded, and eight of 14 physical neglect investigations which were substantiated.
The report also lists the types of treatment applied, and states that on average there were 60 kids in "traditional" foster care each month. Other services like Kinship care, where family members of the children assume care, and adoption either to family members or foster families, provide the most stable environments to children who do need to be taken out of their homes.
The areas with the most referrals both of child protective service and general protective services cases are Chambersburg with 567 total referrals, and Waynesboro with 279 referrals. Amsley said that their evaluation of the areas may be imperfect because they have to compile the list by zip codes, but he has done his best to define the areas.
There were six cases of physical abuse, seven sexual abuse and six physical neglect cases substantiated in Chambersburg in 2013, out of 125 Child Protective Service referrals. Waynesboro saw one substantiated physical abuse and seven sexual abuse cases substantiated out of 47 Child Protective Service referrals.
Children and Youth lists its overall goals to be to protect children until adulthood and "to strengthen and sustain the family," as stated in the report, and the number of families that work with the organization show they do it in a variety of ways.
"Most families have problems from time to time," Amsley said, discussing the wide variety of cases they work with and misconceptions about a Children and Youth presence. "Just because you're in (Children and Youth) doesn't mean you abuse your kids."
Wave of Sexual Abuse Allegations for Private Boys' Schools in Britain
by STEPHEN CASTLE
LONDON — Prompted by publicity surrounding recent child abuse scandals involving well-known figures, dozens of British men are breaking decades of silence about molestation they say they suffered as boys at expensive private schools, forcing the schools to confront allegations that in the past might have been hushed up, ignored or treated derisively.
In one instance involving Aldwickbury School, which educates boys ages 4 to 13, a former student, who requested anonymity because of the intimate details of the case, said he suffered profound feelings of confusion and guilt after being abused by a teacher in the 1970s. He said the teacher molested him regularly during English lessons over a period of two years.
With the teacher dead, and in the absence of an apology from the school, the former student brought a civil case against Aldwickbury, which was settled with a payment.
Getting the school to face up to what happened more than three decades ago was, the former student said, like “knocking my head against a brick wall.”
Vernon Hales, the current headmaster at Aldwickbury — in Harpenden, about 30 miles north of London — said in a statement that the school had reported the allegations, which do not relate to any current staff members or pupils, to the relevant authorities and been told that no further action would be taken.
“All child abuse is horrendous and to be deplored,” Mr. Hales said. “We extend our deepest sympathy to the victims of abuse, and even when the cases are historic, this does not lessen the anguish that they feel.” He added that the school “takes child protection extremely seriously.”
The former Aldwickbury student is one of dozens of people who have come forward, driven in part by the public scandal surrounding Jimmy Savile, a television presenter who, after his death, was revealed to have been a serial sex abuser. The Savile case prompted a wide-ranging criminal inquiry that led to charges against other prominent people, adding to the attention being paid to abuse cases from years or decades ago.
Last month, a former headmaster of Caldicott, a school in Buckinghamshire attended by Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, was jailed for past child abuse offenses. The former headmaster, Roland Peter Wright, now 83, was convicted of abusing students 8 to 13 from 1959 to 1970.
“Boys craved your attention and strove for your praise,” Judge Johannah Cutts said as she sentenced Mr. Wright to eight years in jail. “From those, you picked out boys for your individual sexual attentions.”
Mr. Clegg said last year that he had been unaware of the abuse but was appalled.
Other schools facing compensation claims include Ashdown House, which has educated, among others, the queen's nephew, Viscount Linley, and the mayor of London, Boris Johnson.
Most of these claims are directed at Britain's preparatory schools, which typically admit children 4 to 13, with students living at the school starting at 7 or 8. Fees can be substantial, but in a country where private schooling is often seen as a key to success, many parents pay up in an effort to prepare pupils for entry to famous establishments for older children, like Eton College, Harrow School and Winchester College (known in Britain as public schools despite being private and expensive).
Britain's fee-paying schools have a track record of brutality. These days, most have shed the strictness and austerity of previous eras, but many upper-class Britons remember childhoods of cold showers, inedible food and relentless corporal punishment.
The very nature of boarding schools — closed environments in which teachers can wield enormous power — can make them attractive to child abusers. But in previous decades, parents were often reluctant to challenge teachers' authority, said Alan Collins, principal lawyer at Slater & Gordon, which represented the former Aldwickbury student. He has 30 to 40 more cases pending against schools across the country.
“You had deference and the attitude that ‘this sort of thing happens,' ” Mr. Collins said, adding that when teachers were discovered abusing pupils, they tended to be moved on quietly to avoid public embarrassment and damage to the school's reputation.
“Sexual abuse is a taboo subject,” Mr. Collins said. “People do not want to talk about it for the obvious reason that it's really gruesome, and in this country there has been a tendency or a temptation to sweep it under the carpet.”
The cases he is pursuing took place all over the country and ranged “from inappropriate touching to very intrusive penetration and everything in between,” he said.
Mr. Collins added that the victims had suffered significantly. “Child abuse has the potential to affect a person's functioning, the ability to form and sustain relationships; it can affect the ability to hold down a job,” he said, noting that some of his clients in their 40s had held 30 positions because “they just can't settle in a job.”
Because of constraints set by their insurers, schools are often reluctant to issue apologies that could expose them to further legal action.
But the victim in the Aldwickbury case believes it is time for his old school to confront the past. “They need, for their own sakes, to come out about this,” he said.
Bucks, Montco average 830 child abuse reports per year
by James McGinnis
One out of every 166 kids in Bucks County was subjected to a report of alleged child abuse in 2012, according to figures released Tuesday by the organization Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children.
An analysis by the Harrisburg-based nonprofit finds little change in the number of neglect, physical and sexual abuse complaints involving local children and teens, although the number of repeat abuse cases appears to be falling.
The number of foster children in Bucks was also reported to be on the decline slightly, from 609 in 2009 to just 583 children and teens in 2012.
Bucks generally receives about 830 child abuse complaints per year. In 2012, the PPC reported 858 complaints. Of those, 83 cases were “substantiated” through investigation, and four cases involved kids with a history of abuse, according to PPC.
Neighboring Montgomery County averages about 836 abuse complaints per year, officials said. In 2012, PPC reported 897 reports of abuse. One in 10 cases was found to be legitimate and four of those cases involved kids with a record of abuse.
Figures cited in PCC's report were drawn from Pennsylvania's Child Line and Abuse Registry, yet experts urged skepticism of the data.
“The numbers of children who are abused are not entirely accurate and reliable in Pennsylvania,” said Cathleen Palm, founder of the Center for Children's Justice, based in Berks County. “We've set a really high bar in Pennsylvania for what constitutes abuse.”
Changes to Pennsylvania's child protection and abuse laws are due to take effect in 2015, redefining the standards to physical abuse and neglect.
Currently, state law defines neglect as a “prolonged or repeated lack of supervision or the failure to provide essentials of life.” Under the new definition, neglect would be expanded to include an “egregious failure to supervise a child in a manner that is appropriate...”
Pennsylvania defines child abuse as a “serious physical injury” which caused “severe pain” or “significantly impairs a child's physical functioning, either temporarily or permanently.”
Under the future definition, serious bodily injury would be defined as causing “a substantial risk of death or which causes serious, permanent disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.”
Changes to state laws will help in ongoing efforts to combat child abuse in Bucks, said Lynne Rainey, director of children and youth services for the county.
“Public awareness concerning the importance of keeping our kids safe may be the strongest it has ever been,” Rainey said. “Now we all need to do our part to ensure these laws are properly implemented and followed, so suspected child abuse is appropriately reported and addressed.”
On reviewing the report, Bucks County Commissioner Diane Marseglia noted the rise of “in-home services” designed to help kids remain safely at home with their parents.
As many as 7,433 children received such services in 2013, according to the report. The number enrolled in such programs was up 14 percent from 2009.
“I have always believed in-home services work far better than removing kids or foster care,” said Marseglia, a licensed social worker. “The key is providing the in-home services as early as possible.”
What can be done about sex trafficking, a $9.5 billion business
by Beverly Taylor
MILWAUKEE (WITI) — The reality is frightening. 90% of runaways become part of the sex trade business — and most are coerced within 72 hours of running away. If that isn't concerning, the average age is between 12 and 14. According to the U.S. State Department, human trafficking is a $9.5 billion business.
A support group of women sat in a circle at Convergence Resource Center in Milwaukee reflecting on where they have been and where they are now.
“I still find myself stuck in some areas as far as trusting people and that's really hard for me,” Laura Johnson said.
Johnson and the other five women are survivors of sex trafficking. Each of them became victims of the sex trade as children.
These women are now adults, but they still have painful memories of how they got caught up in sex trafficking.
Delisha Moore says her boyfriend threatened to leave her if she did not sell her body.
“So that was hard for me but I did it. And it just kept getting worse and worse and worse, and for nine months I went through it,” Moore said.
April Bentley was 14 years old when she was lured into the sex trade. With a home life in shambles, she spent time with a woman she looked up to — a woman who became a surrogate mother or sister. That friend betrayed her trust, getting Bentley to agree to help a man down the street.
“‘That's all he wants you to do is make him some breakfast. He's going to give you $200,'” Bentley remembers her saying. “I even said to her, ‘he's a grown man.' You know, I didn't want to be down there by myself but she went on to say, ‘do you trust me?' And I did trust her,” Bentley said.
There are many other stories of betrayal, and some girls have even been kidnapped. In Plymouth, a teenage girl was found wandering the streets in the middle of the night after she was allegedly taken to a home there to have sex with a man. The man accused of being her trafficker has been charged.
In Milwaukee, two people were charged for allegedly kidnapping a 13-year-old girl. She was able to get away — but not before being sexually assaulted and harassed to “work the streets.”
There have been multiple cases of human trafficking in every single county in Wisconsin.
“So a typical youth who walks out of their house for whatever reason has a big target on their back. They might be at the mall and they might be solicited at the mall. They could be just walking down the street and be asked if they need a ride,” Arney said.
So what can be done about it?
Helping young people get out of the trade takes resources. Pathfinders Milwaukee offers temporary emergency shelter to young people trying to escape the sex trade, as well as other programs.
“It's incredible how much these youth need. We help them make that adjustment. We teach them some skills that will help them get employment. That will help them get into a housing program, get back into school so that they can finish and have a high school diploma or a GED and go on to college,” Cathy Arney, Pathfinders Vice President of Community Programs said.
Arney says Pathfinders needs additional housing.
State Representative LaTonya Johnson (D-Milwaukee) came up with a caregivers bill for sex trafficking that including housing — but she says it sits dormant after the agency expected to implement the housing portion of the plan came up with a price tag of $7 million to provide housing for approximately 77 young victims from Milwaukee alone.
“Unless you can find the resources or the money basically to cover the cost, it will continue to sit,” Johnson said.
The Human Trafficking Task Force of Greater Milwaukee and its many volunteer agencies are trying coordinate several initiatives to address human trafficking. But there's a desperate need for funding, and the need for housing goes beyond children. It includes housing for children who are now adults coming out of the trade, many with children of their own.
Arney says in about six months, the task force hopes to put together a comprehensive list of resources citywide for victims of sex trafficking who need help, to be accessed through the 211 phone line and electronically.
To reported suspected human trafficking activity call 888-373-7888.
Helping women escape 'the life'
by Kathleen Toner
St. Paul, Minnesota (CNN) -- As darkness falls, Joy Friedman hits the streets -- the same ones she used to troll for customers while working as a prostitute.
"My last trick was turned behind that storefront," she said, gesturing to a nearby building.
Now the survivor of sex trafficking cruises these neighborhoods with a different purpose. She's looking for women and girls who are caught up in this lifestyle so she can offer them free condoms and hygiene products.
She is also delivering a message: There is help for them if they want it.
Friedman works for Breaking Free, a nonprofit that helps women escape prostitution. It's where she got help 13 years ago.
"(Prostitution) has been happening forever. And forever, women have just been the victims of it," said Vednita Carter, the organization's founder. "They deserve better."
95% of the women Vednita Carter helps struggle with addiction, abuse, trauma, financial instability and shame.
Since 1996, Carter says she has helped more than 6,000 women get the support they need. In the process, she's built an army of survivors who have joined her crusade to end sex trafficking.
Lured into 'the life'
Carter personally knows about this world. At 18, she was hoping to make money for college when she responded to an advertisement for "dancers." At first, she danced fully clothed, but her bosses and then-boyfriend soon pressured her into stripping and, eventually, prostitution.
It was more than a year before Carter called a friend who helped her get back on her feet. Later, she realized how lucky she had been.
"The majority of women don't have anyone to call. There is nowhere for them to turn," said Carter, now 60. "That's why I do this work."
For many of the women Carter helps, "the life" is all they've known. Studies show that the average age of entry into child prostitution is 12 to 14, and many of the girls have been sexually abused or were runaways.
Carter works to educate the public and law enforcement to see these women as victims of sex trafficking rather than as criminals.
"Prostitution and sex trafficking really are the same thing. It's about buying and selling a human being," she said.
Leaving 'the life' behind
Carter says 95% of the women she helps struggle with addiction as well as physical abuse, mental trauma, financial instability and shame.
"It's a process. If (they've) been in it forever, it's all they know," she said. "They think it's their destiny."
Prostitution and sex trafficking really are the same thing. It's about buying and selling a human being.
Carter's drop-in center provides food, clothing and emotional support to any woman coming off the street, no strings attached.
For many women, the first significant step is to participate in a 14-week class called Sisters of Survival. Graduates are honored in a ceremony, marking the start of their new lives.
"They learn that they do have other choices that (they) can make," Carter said.
The group also provides permanent and temporary housing, addiction counseling, job skills training and legal assistance.
Most of the staffers who work at Breaking Free are survivors of prostitution, making it one of just a few organizations like it in the United States.
"I have a purpose now," Friedman said. "I'm a fighter, and I'm going to fight 'til I die for each and every person involved in sexual exploitation."
Fighting the demand
Carter believes that sex trafficking won't end until men stop purchasing sexual favors. She established one of the country's first "John Schools" that educates men arrested for solicitation about the impact of their actions.
"I'm not here to make you feel like a piece of sh*t, but you've got to feel something," Doris Johnson, a survivor, told a group back in 2012. "That's somebody's daughter."
According to Carter's group, only 2% of the men who complete the course reoffend.
Carter is considered by many to be a pioneer in the anti-sex trafficking movement, and she is determined to keep fighting as long as she can.
"We are really raising an army here. And this is a battle," she said. "It's not OK to buy and sell us. We are not for sale."
Want to get involved? Check out the Breaking Free website at www.breakingfree.net and see how to help.