Many are in fight against child abuse
by Dyann Daley and Nancy E. Jones
We agree with the Dec. 6 Star-Telegram editorial (“Texas should focus sooner on preventing child abuse”) and its challenge to our state. Resources must focus on evidence-based intervention strategies and aggregating sound data.
But the buck doesn't stop there. Enhancing safety and resilience for at-risk children crosses many disciplines, including medicine, public health, education, childcare, law enforcement, child protection and foster and adoptive families.
The best prevention starts with aligning resources, coordinating efforts and engineering a safe and healthy environment to strengthen families and communities at risk.
Vulnerable children require a deep investment, and police, hospitals, schools, foundations and social service agencies are already at work:
Early learning alliance — Fifty nonprofit, educational, health, municipal and foundation partners joined forces to invest in evidence-based, high-quality early learning programs and transformational family engagement strategies. This spring, Community Foundation of North Texas and Children at Risk will issue a report highlighting the health, safety, economic and educational status of our children.
Center for Prevention of Child Maltreatment — The center, led by Cook Children's, educates first responders and medical providers to identify abused children before serious or fatal abuse takes place. In order to reach those families most at risk, Buxton & Co. is helping Cook Children's gather and analyze community data to help design and deliver child abuse prevention messages and services. The data will also be used to recruit foster and adoptive families.
Foster Care Redesign — ACH Child and Family Services is implementing an ambitious redesign of foster care in a seven-county region to improve the safety of our most vulnerable children. ACH is standardizing data across 44 providers, as well as conducting risk assessments, tailoring development plans and providing respite care.
Safe Babies Tarrant County — ACH and First Three Years are developing the first Safe Babies Court in Texas, where foster and at-risk families will work together to reunite children with their mothers.
Education and counseling — Lena Pope's counseling services provide a continuum of care from prevention to early intervention, with the goal of preserving the family. The Parenting Center offers two evidence-based parenting programs, Nurturing Parenting and Triple P Parenting. Catholic Charities' Families First provides free assessment, education and support. TCU's Child Development Center provides trauma-informed services for foster and adoptive parents. Mental Health Connection works to build mental health services across the county.
Domestic violence — One Safe Place offers a wide range of services to families experiencing domestic violence. The Women's Center provides rape crisis, victim services and violence prevention education. Homeless shelters act as temporary homes to families displaced by violence and abuse, including Presbyterian Night Shelter, Union Gospel Mission and Safe Haven.
Training and Assistance — Alliance for Children and Cook Children's offer Stewards of Children, which teaches adults to prevent sexual abuse and improve response if a child tells someone they have been abused. Tarrant Area Food Bank provides food to hungry children and families. The Center for Transforming Lives offers housing services, childcare and financial empowerment programs to families in poverty.
Each of these organizations and coalitions gives vital support to children and families at risk. Bottom line: Invest in our children today, and we'll all reap the benefits for years to come.
Dyann Daley, M.D., is executive director of the Center for Prevention of Child Maltreatment at Cook Children's. Nancy E. Jones is president of the Community Foundation of North Texas.
Taylor Co. woman sentenced to 190 years in child abuse case
A Taylor County woman was sentenced Tuesday to 190 years in prison for abusing her adopted daughter.
She's the Taylor County woman found guilty of putting her adopted daughter in a chicken coop as punishment.
A jury found her guilty on 28 counts including cruelty to children, aggravated assault, and false imprisonment.
"We're talking about torture were talking about abuse were talking about that this county that this state has not seen where the child didnt die," Prosecutor Wayne Jernigan said.
The child, now 18, was in court when her mother, Diana Franklin was sentenced.
"I will never treat my children the way you treated me. I forgive you for everything you've done. You have to pay for what you did to me," the teen said before her mother was sentenced.
Judge Bobby Peters felt troubled by Franklin's demeanor.
"You've actually shown no remorse at the beginning of this trial during the trial or after the trial even when you testified," Peters said.
Franklin and her husband Samuel Franklin were arrested in May 2012 and charged with beating and starving the teenage girl and making her sleep in a chicken coop.
During the trial jurors heard about the abuse Franklin's adopted daughter suffered for years.
They convicted her for using a shock collar on the girl, locking her in a chicken coop naked and giving her lashes.
It's abuse the GBI investigator Leigh Brooks said the daughter still remembers.
"She continues to have nightmares as a result of the abuse she suffered from Diana Franklin," Brooks said.
She said, "This is the worst case I've ever seen where the child survived a child abuse case."
Peters didn't hold back how he felt about Franklin before reading his sentence.
"You've shown no remorse," he said. "You're just an evil woman who hides behind the Bible. "You'll get better treatment in prison than you gave your daughter."
Franklin said she never imagined herself being there defending herself. "In a pair of handcuffs for doing nothing more than loving someone who needed love," Franklin said.
But in the eyes of the law what she called love was viewed as abuse.
The trial for Franklin's husband Samuel, will be held at a later date. He faces similar charges to his wife, as well as child molestation charges.
Some Kids With Birth Defects at Increased Risk for Abuse
by Traci Pedersen
Children born with spina bifida or a cleft lip and/or palate are at an increased risk for abuse before the age of two, according to a new study at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth).
The findings show that, compared to healthy children, the risk of maltreatment in children with cleft lip and/or palate was increased by 40 percent and for children with spina bifida, the risk was increased by 58 percent. These rates were particularly high during the first year of life.
Cleft lip and cleft palate are birth defects that occur when a baby's lip or mouth do not form properly in the womb. Spina bifida is a neural tube defect that affects the spine and is usually apparent at birth. Babies with spina bifida have physical impairments ranging from mild to severe depending where on the spine the opening is located.
The researchers also looked at the risk for abuse among children with Down syndrome, and found no increase in risk compared to children with no birth defects.
“A baby with Down syndrome develops just like any other baby unless they have another congenital defect,” said Bethanie Van Horne, Dr.P.H., assistant director of state initiatives at UTHealth's Children's Learning Institute.
“When they start missing developmental milestones is when the intellectual impairments associated with Down syndrome become more apparent. Additionally, they typically do not have the same level of medical complexity as babies with cleft lip with or without cleft palate and spina bifida, who likely have a lot of medical needs and complications. If you've just given birth and have to deal with a lot more complexity and care, it's hard.”
Van Horne conducted the study as part of her dissertation at UTHealth School of Public Health.
For the study, the researchers drew data from several sources from 2002 to 2011: birth and death records from the Texas Department of State Health Services Vital Statistics Unit, surveillance of children born with birth defects from the Texas Birth Defects Registry and child maltreatment information from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.
In Texas, maltreatment is defined as neglectful supervision, physical abuse, physical neglect, medical neglect, sexual abuse, abandonment, emotional abuse, or refusal to assume parental responsibility.
Among children with verified abuse, the risk of medical neglect was three to six times higher among all three birth defect groups than in the unaffected group. The complexity of their medical conditions may be a contributing factor for the increased risk of medical neglect versus other forms of neglect, according to Van Horne.
Other factors played a role as well. For example, children were more likely to be abused or neglected if their mothers had less than a high school education, had more children and used Medicaid. This was true even if a child did not have a birth defect. Van Horne said that poverty was likely the main factor in this finding.
“Physicians and medical personnel have to understand that the risk for abuse varies by specific disability. In general, when children are born with medical complexities like a birth defect, we need to be really supportive of those families. If we can identify them early and start services, we can help them understand what's to come. A lot of providers do this, but we can do more,” said Van Horne.
The findings are published in the journal Pediatrics.
The tragic impact of a drug-addicted parent
by Amy Rothermel
Parents are instrumental in their children's emotional development. When a parent is addicted to drugs, the entire family — including the children — must pay the price. Sadly, this is a situation we see all too often at our prescription drug rehab clinic.
While most drug-addicted parents do not intentionally abuse their children, it is impossible to shield a child from your or your spouse's drug abuse. A drug-addicted parent — often the father — will mistreat children in the form of abuse or neglect, or may be absent from the child's life altogether as a result of his or her addiction.
Mistreatment of children
According to Narconon, abuse or neglect resulting from a parent that's addicted to drugs can manifest in the following ways:
Neglect (for example, leaving the child at home alone or ignoring the child's needs)
Forcing a child to hide the parent's drug abuse
Whether their physical safety is threatened, or they are subject to emotional distress, children too often bear the brunt of a parent's drug abuse.
As an immediate effect of this mistreatment, the authorities may remove the child from the home. According to the National Association for Children of Alcoholics (NACOA), most child welfare professionals cite parental substance abuse as the top reason children are put in foster care.
For example, see this site:
The long-term emotional consequences from a parent's substance abuse can be devastating. According to the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress (AAETS), children of addicts are more likely to experience psychiatric disorders, including depression, anxiety and eating disorders, compared to their peers. Children with an addicted parent are also more likely to attempt suicide than their peers, and they are three to four times more likely to become addicted to drugs themselves, according to AAETS.
Research from NACOA supports that these children are also more likely to do poorly in school and have behavioral disorders, such as ADHD.
Protecting kids from a parent's drug abuse
The most important way to protect children in these circumstances is removing them from a situation that is abusive or neglectful. If there is no abuse involved, the parent might agree to go to inpatient rehab treatment so the family can start to heal.
Some rehab centers offer family therapy, where the parents, and if possible, the children work together with a trained therapist to nurture and foster the broken relationships caused by addiction, and often abuse, helping the family members better understand the effects of addiction on behavior.
You can help a child with an addicted parent by simply being a supportive presence in his or her life. Children of addicts benefit greatly from the presence of supportive adults, such as an unaddicted parent, grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers, stepparents, etc. According to NACOA, children of addicts with positive adults in their lives have better coping skills, independence and self-esteem, compared to those children who have no other parent or responsible person to rely on.
If you don't personally know any children affected by this issue but would still like to help, Narconon suggests supporting local children and family centers, as these programs provide valuable services, such as support groups, for children of addicts. Supporting drug education in schools additionally helps prevent children of addicts from turning to drugs during adolescence, Narconon says.
Get help now
For help with addiction recovery, you can call the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-422-4453, or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.
What are treatment options?
In some situations, outpatient therapy usually isn't sufficient. With outpatient therapy, the patient continues to live at home, and goes to group therapy sessions and meets one-on-one with a trained mental health professional.
Inpatient therapy involves having the patient admitted to a treatment facility for typically 30, 60 or 90 days to get his or her life back on track, and to help him or her overcome the physical addiction and get emotionally healthy.
Supporting your loved one with an addiction
The most important thing you can do for your loved one with with an addiction is to be understanding and supportive. This of course doesn't mean that you must accept the behavior, but being able to separate the behavior from the person with addiction is important.
Continue to love him, while encouraging change, and let him know that you are there for him.
Yes, these things are easier said than done, and it isn't always possible or ideal to stand by somebody suffering from addiction, but understand that she is crying for help, even if she doesn't admit it.
Share this article on Facebook and other social media channels to help spread awareness about this important issue. You never know who might be affected by drug abuse in the home.
Unique 'Glow Kid' program helps raise healthy children
Bullying, violence and substance abuse are just a few issues that today's youth experience in an interconnected web of crises. Alcohol use, self-inflicted injuries, depression and suicide are issues facing young people, their families and others in their care.
After working with youth for many years in diverse clinical settings, Elisa DiChristina, MSW, LCSW, utilizes her expertise to take a bold approach to address the multifaceted issues that negatively affect child development.
A New Jersey native, mother of two and the chief executive officer of GlowHouse Kids LLC, DiChristina established the company in 2011 to provide unique, positive, glow-in-the-dark events for children and families. Having created a preventive, proactive program, she has expanded her outreach into an empowering, groundbreaking storybook and educational program called "Are You A Glow Kid?" The compassionate story takes readers on a journey in which they learn about becoming a leader, making friends and empowering themselves and others: Glow Kids know that "glowing" is being comfortable with who they are, not as other kids want them to be.
DiChristina is available for author appearances, speaking engagements, workshops and seminars. In addition, GlowHouse Kids, located at 1510 Route 23 North in Butler, has internships available. Candidates may apply online at: Info@GlowHouseKids.com
"We need to start teaching our children solutions earlier," DiChristina said about her motivation for building her company, as well as spreading her book and program's message.
The problems facing the nation's youth are serious, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which notes:
"Alcohol use by persons under 21 years is a major public health problem."
"Each year, approximately 157,000 youth between the ages of 10 and 24 receive medical care for self-inflicted injuries at emergency departments across the U.S."
In addition, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) recently recommended that adolescents ages 12 to 18 should be routinely screened for depression by their primary care physician. The Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide, founded in New Jersey in 2005, notes the high suicide rate among youth state- and nationwide.
Seeking to reverse such trends, the comprehensive "Are You A Glow Kid?" Storybook Educational Program provides a wealth of guidance to teach children leadership and life skills; build social, emotional and character development; increase common courtesy; develop coping, problem-solving and conflict-resolution skills; heighten tolerance for differences in others; and lessen bullying.
"Utilizing the conceptual framework of our picture storybook, the program demonstrates a reality identifiable to children," DiChristina said. Children relate to the picture book's characters and interconnected issues they face, while the educational guide assists the adult in delving deeper and building skills. The program aids adults in preparing children to navigate successfully through childhood, to develop a healthy life perspective and to handle adversity and, at times, rejection.
DiChristina specifically designed this first-of-its-kind program to not only strengthen the individual child, peer relation and family structure, but also to fortify the diverse disciplines involved in raising youth.
From a macrosystem perspective, the program has positive implications for the educational, health care and law enforcement communities. DiChristina, who also writes a glow segment in the McGruff Safe Kids and Garden State Safe Kids newsletters, believes in collaborating with experts in various disciplines to create multi-perspective, positive changes.
To learn more about the "Are You A Glow Kid?" program, visit GlowHouseKids.com or call (973) 850-6366. The picture storybook and the educational version can be purchased on the websites of GlowHouseKids and Amazon.
Could adopted son be helped? Parents' steps considered criminal
by Tony Piohetski
When Andy and Jenifer Thyssen first brought their newly adopted 12-year-old son from Kazakhstan to the United States in 2004, they felt they had honored the call of God. The way they saw it, they had saved the boy from a grim future of spending his youth in an orphanage.
It soon became clear that their path would not be easy. The slender, blue-eyed and brown-haired boy named Koystya struggled not only with language but with basic skills such as taking out the trash or making himself a sandwich. A test showed he had an IQ of 74 — considered borderline intellectually disabled.
Within months of bringing him into their family, his new parents' concerns deepened. Koystya began fondling himself in public. When they overheard him muttering English words such as “rape,” they began to wonder if he had been molested — or even was molesting children himself.
Soon, he confessed to it.
Over the next decade, Koystya claimed to have sexually molested nine children, according to his parents and police records. The Thyssens say they tried to get help for the son they love while protecting potential victims. Each time he confessed to a possible sex crime, the couple reported it to police.
The Thyssens tried counseling. Eventually, they put their adopted son in foster care, hoping the state would help get him the special therapy he needed. They asked their friends and preacher to pray for his healing.
Over time, the Thyssens told friends, they felt increasingly powerless. Koystya told his parents he still was molesting children — even in foster care — and fantasized about hurting more. But each time he described another incident, investigators were never able to corroborate the events, and Koystya was never charged.
As Koystya grew and entered adulthood, the Thyssens worried about the damage their now 23-year-old son might inflict on society. Out of ideas, they resorted to a final option they thought would protect their family.
They furnished a single-room apartment with a concrete floor on their suburban Hays County property with a microwave and cot. They moved Koystya inside. The couple told him they would visit regularly and deliver food and would take him on supervised trips out several times a week.
Then they pulled the door closed behind them and locked their son inside. It seemed an imperfect but protective and humane solution.
So the Thyssens were baffled when, a year later, a Hays County sheriff's department patrol car pulled up in front of their Dripping Springs home and they were led away in handcuffs. The May 2014 news reports, broadcast around the world with their mugshots, seemed like they were about a family they didn't recognize: A local churchgoing couple charged with kidnapping their adopted son? Abusing a boy by sealing him inside an isolated and locked garage?
Did they really deserve 10 years in prison?
Many families unprepared
When the Thyssens had their first son 15 years ago, they dreamed of growing a large family. But after several years passed without Jenifer Thyssen becoming pregnant, the couple began considering adoption.
Through a church program in the summer of 2003, they had learned about a group of children from a Kazakhstani orphanage who were coming to the United States with the hope of finding a home — and an escape from the grim orphanage conditions that they'd heard included abuse and malnutrition.
Experts say that such conditions can leave children scarred for life and that prospective parents often are unprepared for the intensity of behavioral and mental issues with which their new children arrive.
“We see a lot of families who don't avail themselves of professional guidance before the adoption and end up in situations that exceed their abilities both financially or relationshipwise,” said Dana Johnson, professor of pediatrics and founder of the International Adoption Clinic at the University of Minnesota, which helps parents evaluate their ability to handle a troubled child.
Another family initially was supposed to adopt Koystya, but those plans collapsed when that set of prospective parents backed out. The Thyssens decided to meet him for a trial period together and fell in love.
“They were determined to lift that child out of the horrible conditions he had been in,” said Wendy Brockett, a pediatric nurse and family friend who met Jenifer Thyssen through a music group. “They prayed about it, and they felt very strongly that God was calling them to take this child.”
The yearlong adoption process was grueling and an emotional roller coaster. The couple frequently enlisted the help of a church friend, Dastan Aitzhanov, who also was from Kazakhstan, to serve as an interpreter when they called the orphanage to speak to Koystya.
“They were totally excited,” Aitzhanov said. “I still just remember thinking, I can't believe there are people out there like that, who have such a big heart.”
Frustrated by how long it was taking to complete the adoption and determined to see it through, Jenifer, a singer who frequently is invited to perform with church groups, and her younger biological son moved to Kazakhstan for six months while bureaucrats in the former Soviet bloc country finalized the process. Andy Thyssen, a software engineer, stayed behind to help pay for their temporary residency and prepare for Koystya's arrival.
The Thyssens at last finalized the adoption paperwork on May 18, 2004, and moved their second son into his new home. It wasn't long, however, before the couple started noticing troubling signs.
“At first they didn't think much of it,” Aitzhanov said. “Then it became more serious.”
The initial signals were subtle. Aitzhanov said Koystya was unusually “touchy-feely” for his age. But he and the Thyssens first dismissed those behaviors as needing love and physical affection.
Before long, though, the parents discovered other concerning clues in their home — that their son was stealing and using their underwear for his sexual gratification.
As his misbehavior continued, the Thyssens began feeling overwhelmed — documented by an adoption caseworker who visited their home within his first year. The caseworker wrote in a report that the Thyssens had begun consulting with counselors “to help manage their son's needs and behaviors.”
Then, in the fall of 2005, a year and a half into his new life, their son made a series of alarming confessions — that he had molested children while visiting the homes of family friends.
They alerted Austin police. According to reports made in October and November 2005, detectives interviewed alleged victims and their parents. But they could never confirm the details of Koystya's confessions.
There were indications Koystya may have been only describing images from a vivid and disturbed imagination. Parents of alleged victims insisted that he had never been alone with their children, and the alleged victims were too young to provide viable statements. Yet there always seemed to be just enough details to make his claims plausible.
The parents turned to the state for help. For the next three years, Child Protective Services caseworkers, with the Thyssens' blessing, placed Koystya in a series of foster homes through a joint conservatorship arrangement. Throughout the separation, during which their son received numerous treatments and therapies for both child victims of sexual abuse and for adolescent sexual predators, the Thyssens' friends said they never considered permanently giving Koystya up.
“They stayed the course,” Brockett said. “This was their family, and they gave them everything they could possibly give them. They just tried harder and harder to find help for him.”
In the meantime, the Thyssens continued growing their family. Despite the couple's earlier fertility problems, Jenifer Thyssen had had five children, now ranging in age from 1 to 15 years old. The family also adopted another teenage son, whom Jenifer met while visiting Koystya before the adoption. Today, he is an adult living in Montana.
Koystya's behavior continued to deteriorate. Records show that at one point, he told a therapist that he fantasized about an array of disturbing sexual behavior.
“They had turned to so many people and agencies for help, but it was a problem they had to deal with every single day, and the problem got worse as Koystya became older,” said John Nagle, an Austin software company owner who worked with Andy Thyssen.
State records show the Thyssens repeatedly warned CPS officials that they thought their son was still molesting children in foster homes, based on his own confessions. He moved in and out of a half-dozen homes, according to Perry Minton, the Thyssens' attorney.
By 2009, the couple decided Koystya was better off back in their home.
Even after returning, he remained in treatment. At one point, Jenifer Thyssen, hoping to give therapists a complete picture of her son's history, recorded an interview with him. During it, according to a transcript, Koystya recounted detailed stories of sexual violence. Because of the limited information, however, police were never able to fully investigate the claims.
Over the next several years, the Thyssens remained on edge, fearful to leave Koystya alone. The parents particularly worried about their other children.
By 2011, the family had outgrown their Cedar Park home, where they had lived since 2008, and bought a new house near Dripping Springs. The two-story brick home sits along Meadow Ridge Drive, a quiet rural road where houses have sprung up in open fields in the past two decades. The stand-alone garage sits about 50 feet from the main house.
Early on in the new home, the Thyssens, following what friends said was a therapist's advice, set up an alarm system in which lights would activate if Koystya left his room.
“The frequency of Koystya's acting in sexually charged ways toward the family continued to grow, and their need to maintain physical safety required them to make daily decisions on how to handle the situation,” said Minton, who represents the Thyssens.
In a last-ditch, tough-love solution, they decided to set him up in the makeshift apartment. With its isolation and locked doors, the arrangement allowed the Thyssens to relax for the first time in years. They also hoped it would give Koystya an opportunity to learn to care for himself by preparing his own meals and living independently.
The arrangement lasted a year. On April 29, 2014, a Tuesday afternoon, records show Koystya used a screwdriver to pry open the windows, climb out and break into a neighbor's house. According to police reports, he stole two pairs of women's underwear.
‘Koystya … believes it's wrong'
When Hays County deputies learned of the break-in, they called Koystya in for questioning. Before long, he revealed that he had escaped from his locked apartment, and the focus of the investigation turned to the Thyssens.
In police interviews, Koystya described a lonely existence shut off from the world and having to survive on food rations from his family. “Koystya stated if he runs out of food, then he has to wait until they bring him food again, which is usually Saturdays,” an affidavit said.
He said he was permitted to leave only once a week to visit a counselor and could “shower in the main residence prior to the visit.” But he added he never got to have dinner with his family, only “sometimes” received gifts during holidays and rarely spent time in their home.
“Koystya stated he believes it's wrong how he is treated but doesn't say anything,” the affidavit said.
Koystya , who admitted breaking into the neighbor's home, was charged with burglary. Yet within days, investigators also charged the Thyssens with kidnapping, a crime for which they face up to a decade in prison. A judge first set their bails at $300,000, though later lowered them to $70,000 each. While their son remains in jail, the Thyssens are out on bond.
Hays County District Attorney Wes Mau won't discuss specifics of the case but defended his decision to criminally charge the Thyssens. “There are legal procedures in place for dealing with people, whether they are your own children or not, who have particular issues that might make them a danger to themselves or others,” he said. “You have to limit yourselves to those ways; otherwise, we are letting individuals decide how other individuals are treated.”
Friends and associates of the Thyssens have rushed to their defense. They said the duration Koystya stayed locked up and reports of prisonlike conditions he lived in have been overstated. They said that the family routinely allowed him out of the apartment to socialize with them and that Andy Thyssen sometimes took his son to work with him.
No trial date has been set for the Thyssens. But if prosecutors move forward with a trial, Aitzhanov said he hopes he is called to address the jury.
“They have done an incredible job of handling this difficult circumstance,” he said.
The Rev. Jack Smith, associate pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian Church, where the family attends weekly services, said he hopes it never gets to that point and that the case will be dropped.
“I think if everyone heard the whole story they would say, ‘Wow, this isn't what I thought it was,'” he said.
County analyst to target sex trafficking on smartphones, computers
by William Loeffler
The world's oldest profession is increasingly being transacted on some of the latest technology.
Smartphones and the internet have streamlined the business of sex trafficking, according to the head of a new Washington County major crime unit tasked with striking at the burgeoning local flesh trade.
“At your fingertips, you can access a female or male anytime,” Assistant County Attorney Imran Ali said. “And that makes it a huge problem.”
Underage prostitution is a significant part of the business, he said.
Technology is a double-edged sword, of course. Computers, smartphones and other mobile devices also store potentially incriminating data.
“You can prove a case solely on forensic evidence through a phone,” Ali said. “But sometimes the data is so overwhelming that people don't focus on it.”
That's about to change. The major crime unit has used a $125,000 state grant to create the position of criminal analyst. Brooke Throngard, a legal assistant with the county, officially begins her role as criminal analyst Jan. 1, but she's already mining data provided by law enforcement.
“They do all the ‘NCIS' stuff,” Ali said. “She gets the CD. She puts the CD in her computer and spends hours and hours going through photos, texts and call logs.”
When it comes to a digital gumshoeing, the devil is in the details, Throngard said. Or rather, in their sheer volume.
One case for example, involves a single 128-gigabyte iPhone that yielded 57,000 pages of data.
Her task is to find the needles in this haystack. In addition to photos, she's looking for text messages, GPS data, call logs and contact lists.
“Law enforcement does not have the time or resources to go through tens of thousands of pictures,” she said.
Ali stressed that the harvesting of evidence from smartphones and computers is a joint effort between local police and the county.
“Law enforcement plays a vital role in the collection and interpretation of evidence,” he said. “Brooke would filter through all the relevant information and provide the relevant information we would need for a successful prosecution.”
Sex trafficking can be hard to spot. According to a 2009 report by the FBI, child prostitutes often look older than they are and carry false identification. Their pimps move them frequently across state lines to avoid detection.
“They could be in Woodbury today, they could be in South Dakota next week and Michigan the next,” Throngard said. “They're moved to where the demand is.”
She will also monitor sites such as Craigslist and Backpage, where pimps and predators often place ads to buy or sell sex.
Law enforcement agencies around the country have used these and other sites to conduct stings by posing as underage prostitutes.
The major crime unit is part of a coalition against sex trafficking that was announced last month by County Attorney Pete Orput. By working with multiple law enforcement agencies, they plan to streamline the process by which police arrest and courts convict perpetrators who take advantage of children for prostitution.
Business, unfortunately, is brisk.
More than a dozen men were charged in September in Washington County District Court with hiring or engagement in the prostitution of a minor. The felony charges came from a series of sting operations at the Red Roof Inn in Woodbury.
In October, Cottage Grove police arrested a man who allegedly arranged to meet an underage Cottage Grove girl for sex. The girl, 16, had posted an ad on Backpage soliciting sex in August because she said she was in desperate need of money. When the man was arrested, police found the trunk of the car he was driving lined with a tarp. There also was a large empty suitcase and rubber gloves, according to court records.
Weeks later, police arrested a California woman who traveled by bus to have sex with a 15-year-old St. Paul Park girl who had run away from home. The woman allegedly sent the girl sexually graphic videos, photos and text messages.
Throngard said she isn't repulsed by the things she encounters.
“I don't take it home with me,” she said.
Another member of the major crime unit is Christine VonDeLinde. As victim/witness coordinator, it's her job to provide victims with the services they need. Some may be runaways with nowhere to go. She helps to arrange counseling, temporary housing or help with out-of-pocket expenses.
Law enforcement has flipped the script on sex trafficking, she said. Prostitutes used to be treated as criminals and jailed, while their pimps remained at large.
But in 2011, the Minnesota Legislature passed the Safe Harbors for Sexually Exploited Youth law. It increases penalties for buyers and recognizes sexually exploited children as victims rather than criminals.
“You want to save the victims,” VonDeLinde said. “Sex trafficking can have long-term consequences” on the psyche of victims.
In addition to the Washington County Attorney's Office, the anti-sex trafficking coalition members include the Washington County Sheriff's Office; police departments from Bayport, Cottage Grove, Forest Lake, Newport, Oak Park Heights, Oakdale, St. Paul Park, Stillwater and Woodbury; the Minnesota State Patrol; the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension; Washington County's Community Services and Community Corrections departments; Tubman (family crisis and support services); and other health care and social service providers.
Abuse / Survivors of Abuse
Abuse —physical, verbal, or emotional maltreatment—can leave psychological wounds that are harder to heal than bodily injuries. Intense, often negative feelings may plague the survivor, and he or she may struggle to cope and lead a happy, peaceful life. Distressing memories, anxiety, blocks to intimacy, and trust issues are common, although many people are able to overcome or minimize challenges like these.
Types of Abuse
All types of abuse are painful and can cause psychological distress, and it is not uncommon for a victim of abuse to experience more than one type of abuse. For example, someone who was sexually abused may have been emotionally abused concurrently. Abuse can occur within any relationship construct, whether familial, professional, or social, and it can also occur between strangers.
Many forms of abuse are in fact abuses of power, in which a person repeatedly attempts to control or manipulate the behavior of another person. Emotional or psychological abuse can include a chronic pattern of criticism, coercion, humiliation, accusation, or threats to one's physical safety, and childhood neglect is also a form of psychological abuse.
Any form of abuse in an intimate relationship, from physical to psychological, constitutes intimate partner violence. In fact, psychological abuse appears in almost every case of physical aggression between intimate partners, and it is often a precursor to physical violence.
The Psychological Repercussions of Abuse
While abuse in any form can have a negative impact on an individual's life, significant emotional or psychological problems do not necessarily result from every case of abuse. The severity of psychological repercussions can vary depending on many factors, such as how well the victim was associated with the abuser and whether the abuse was recognized or dismissed by the friends and family of the abused.
Children who have been sexually, psychologically, or physically abused often experience emotional problems that can affect their academic performance and social skills. As adults, survivors of abuse may experience difficulty maintaining healthy relationships and productivity at work. Survivors of abuse, who are at heightened risk for developing mental health issues like depression, are likely to encounter one or more of the following psychological issues:
Anxiety: People who have experienced abuse may be afraid of people or situations that remind them of their abuse experiences. They may be scared to be alone, frightened of strangers, or fearful of sexual intimacy, depending on the nature of the abuse they experienced. Disrupted sleep, compulsive behaviors, panic attacks, and other indications of anxiety are somewhat common in survivors of abuse.
Anger: Survivors of abuse may feel intense anger at their abusers, at those who knew of the abuse and failed to intervene, and even at themselves for being abused, particularly when they believe they could or should have stopped it. Anger is a natural and normal response to being abused, and survivors can learn to manage their anger in a constructive manner that will facilitate healing.
Dissociation: A lack of feeling, numbness, confusion, and out-of-body experiences may occur during or after abuse to help the victim avoid the pain and fear associated with abuse. In rare cases, memories of abuse may be repressed, so that the victim does not have any conscious memory of the abuse.
Mood Issues: Depression, irritability, and mood swings affect many survivors of abuse.
Posttraumatic Stress (PTSD): Nightmares, hypervigilance, flashbacks and other symptoms of PTSD may occur. Survivors are likely to avoid certain settings and situations that remind them of the abuse.
Shame: Guilt and shame are often experienced when a survivor believes that he or she deserved the abuse, was responsible for it, or failed to stop it. Challenging these beliefs in therapy can help a person transform these feelings.
Self-Destructive Behavior: Sometimes survivors will self-medicate, with drugs or alcohol for example, or engage in self-harm, such as burning or cutting themselves. Other times, people may seek out scenarios in which the abuse is repeated, neglect their personal health and hygiene, or sabotage any potential for success. These behaviors are often representative of low self-esteem, which is a common symptom of abuse.
Trust Issues: Learning to trust others after abuse has occurred can be challenging, particularly with regards to intimacy.
Psychotherapy for Abuse Survivors
Therapy can help a person express and process difficult emotions associated with the abuse, develop self-compassion and self-care strategies for managing moments when he or she feels emotionally overwhelmed, and learn to trust again.
Many therapeutic approaches are suitable for treating a person who has experienced abuse, from narrative therapy to eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). In addition, therapy may employ mindfulness techniques, such as meditation, or experiential techniques that incorporate art, journaling, or equine-assisted activities.
Group therapy has demonstrated effectiveness in providing social support to help abuse survivors cope with and transform their feelings of shame, guilt, and alienation from others as they interact and bond with other people who have lived through similar experiences. For those who fear the vulnerability and exposure they may experience in a group setting, working one-on-one with a therapist can be a more intimate and personalized experience.
Case Examples of Abuse
Recovering from sexual abuse: Milika, 45, seeks therapy because she is in her first sexual relationship after more than two decades of avoiding intimacy. As a teenager, she was sexually abused by a male relative and feels great anxiety and anger whenever a man displays sexual desire for her. She has recently met a man who seems safe and compatible, but she does not trust her judgment. She is also triggered, almost to the point of having panic attacks, anytime he initiates physical intimacy. Learning relaxation skills, exploring ways to take care of herself to stay physically and emotionally safe, and acknowledging her grief and anxiety allows her to move forward in the relationship in the presence of such triggers. Eventually, Milika develops a deeper level of trust not just with her partner, but with human beings in general. Anxiety remains as an issue for her for many years, diminishing slowly in stops and starts.
Patterns of abusive romantic relationships: Julie, 32, has been in and out of several abusive romantic relationships with women over the last decade. She recognizes the pattern but continues to forgive abusive behaviors by her partners and blame herself for their actions. Therapy helps her see how her abusers are like her mother, and this insight alone improves her ability to set boundaries. The support of her therapist, over about a year, helps Julie to accept her own needs as legitimate and begin advocating for herself with her partners.
Physical abuse in childhood: Devon, 12, was severely beaten by caretakers and has little ability to form healthy attachment to adults. He picks on other children at school and has been shuffled around the foster-care system. His current caretakers want to adopt him, but only if they can find a way to manage his behaviors and win his trust. Family systems therapy with an experienced family therapist begins to alter the dynamics of the family's interactions, and after many years of intense and difficult sessions, Devon is able to feel that he is safe.
It's time we get strategic in how we battle child neglect
by Madeline McClure
Texans read the headlines — yet again —– about a child suffering a horrible death. But the toddler's death wasn't because of foreign terrorists, nor from a domestic lone wolf who too easily obtained a gun. Nineteen-month-old J'Zyra Thompson's assassin was from her own family: She was placed in an oven and burned to death by her 3-year-old siblings while her parents left her 5-year-old sister in charge of three babies. Mom's boyfriend, who was “supervising,” reportedly left the children for a pizza run.
Understandably, we feel horror and sadness when hearing about children dying from abusive head trauma or other intentional acts directly inflicted by an adult. But as the allegations in J'Zyra's death show, neglect can be just as deadly as any form of child abuse. Neglectful supervision continues to be the leading type of abuse in Texas, accounting for 77 percent of the confirmed victims in Texas in 2014. In 2013, 88 kids (56.4 percent) of the 156 child abuse and neglect fatalities involved neglectful supervision.
But child abuse fatalities are not inevitable. Horrible episodes such as those alleged in the circumstances of J'Zyra's death are entirely preventable through education. Educating Mom about appropriate caregivers, on a child's developmental stages and the age at which one can leave a child to supervise younger children is critical. Moreover, providing Mom with a “respite care” or daycare resource could have prevented this ghastly tragedy.
Family support home-visiting programs — where trained professionals such as nurses and social workers provide parenting education in the home at a parent's invitation — have shown in multiple clinical trials to consistently reduce child neglect, physical abuse and fatalities. This support is especially needed by first-time parents who may lack the financial, familial and social supports that other new parents might take for granted.
In 2013, the Texas Legislature created the Protect Our Kids (POK) Commission, composed of a variety of child protection experts and advocates. The POK mission is to identify promising practices and evidence-based strategies to reduce abuse and neglect fatalities, develop recommendations and identify resources necessary for implementation, and develop guidelines for the types of information to be tracked to improve interventions.
On Dec. 2, the commission released its final report to the Legislature, and I am hopeful and confident that the recommendations will be turned into consequential legislation in the 2017 session — including further development of family-support programs and other child-abuse fatality prevention initiatives.
The solutions are within our reach and we can't afford not to pursue them. In addition to saving lives, evidence-based home-visiting programs show monetary returns as well. Estimates from the federal Centers for Disease Control show that, over its victims' lifetimes, a year's worth of child abuse and neglect costs the state a staggering $14.1 billion.
These costs are borne by our medical, special education, legal and welfare systems and by society generally in the lost productivity of both survivors and fatal victims. Family-support home-visiting returns $3-$6 for every $1 invested — especially in saved Medicaid costs.
The organization that I founded — TexProtects, the Texas Association for the Protection of Children — and I have been advocating for funding and expansion of such practices and strategies for over 12 years now. Thanks to our friends in the Legislature, we have been successful in doing so, but as J'Zyra's death shows, there are many more families that we still must reach.
J'Zyra's death is, sadly, something that can never be undone. The potential that J'Zyra might have reached as a human being will never be realized.
We can and we must reduce these preventable deaths from child abuse and neglect. With your help in reaching out to your legislators, we will — by making every child's homeland security start in the home.
Madeline McClure is the founding CEO of TexProtects, the Texas Association for the Protection of Children, based in Dallas. She is a member of Leadership Texas. For more information, visit: www.texprotects.org
Bill co-authored by Kaine will fund K-12 education on safe relationships
by Chris Suarez
Provisions of U.S. Sen. Timothy M. Kaine's Teach Safe Relationships Act were signed into law this week as a rider on the Every Student Succeeds Act, making public funds available for elementary and secondary school instruction about sexual assault and safe relationships.
Packaged within the bill that replaces the No Child Left Behind Act, the provisions open Title IV funds for grants that encourage instruction and training on safe relationship behavior among teenagers and young adults. The former Virginia governor's bill was first introduced in February with Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.
“I believe it will help prevent sexual assault, not just on college campuses, but for anybody in the 16 to 24 age range, who are most vulnerable,” Kaine said.
Kaine said he met with University of Virginia students after Rolling Stone published a 9,000-word article about sexual assaults at universities across the country, primarily using UVa as an example of “rape culture” that exists on college campuses.
Although the story was later discredited by authorities and a Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism report, Kaine said Wednesday that many of the story's “statistics were correct.”
Earlier this year, Kaine said the Justice Department estimated 290,000 Americans each year are victims of rape or sexual assault. Advocates suggest the number of victimizations is higher because many incidents go unreported.
According to the FBI, 116,645 rapes were reported to police in 2014. The Bureau of Justice Statistics in August said the rate of intimate partner violence — which includes crimes committed by current or former spouses, boyfriends or girlfriends — was 2.4 per 1,000 people in 2014.
Last December, Kaine met with about 30 members of One Less, an all-female UVa student group dedicated to sexual assault prevention, shortly after Rolling Stone published its story. Kaine said the meeting was private and excluded media and university administrators and faculty.
“These students didn't all agree with each other about various points, but the goal was to get a sense from them about what we in Congress could do that would be helpful and what were things we might want to do that would make us feel good but wouldn't be helpful,” Kaine said.
“Many great ideas came out of that discussion, but there was one in particular that grabbed my attention,” he said, alluding to what became the basis for the bill.
Even though brief announcements regarding public safety — including sexual assault and harassment — are given to first-year students during orientation, advocates who met with Kaine last year said those lessons often get buried in the excitement and overwhelming amount of information that's disseminated at the start of the academic year to newly arrived students.
This past semester, all UVa students were required to complete two new online training modules about sexual assault and alcohol abuse. According to UVa, the two-part “Not on Our Grounds: Sexual Assault Education Module” fulfills federal requirements for colleges and universities. The module includes “key definitions, statistics and suggested strategies for bystander intervention.”
“It is important to provide education early on because these are issues that can affect students before they even enter college,” said Clare Driggs, a member of One Less.
“Hearing the message before college will help students be prepared when they enter the new environment and might give them an opportunity to intervene or offer support to survivors even before college,” Driggs said. “We are excited to see the issue being addressed on a national level, and we feel honored to have gotten the opportunity to talk to Sen. Kaine about it.”
Driggs said that both One Less and One in Four, an all-male sexual assault prevention student organization, have been meeting with first-year students in their dorms to create a “comfortable peer-to-peer environment to foster discussion on the difficult topics and establish norms” about appropriate relationship behavior.
Earlier this year, the Teach Safe Relationships Act received endorsements from a number of advocacy groups, including the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance.
The Sexual Assault Resource Agency, a Charlottesville-based education and advocacy group that is accredited by the alliance, applauded the passage of the provisions from Kaine's bill.
“A lot of work is being done on college campuses to lessen the amount of sexual violence. Unfortunately, by that time in a young adult's life, their values and beliefs related to sexual violence may already be solidified,” said Rebecca Weybright, executive director for SARA.
Serving Charlottesville and the counties of Albemarle, Nelson, Louisa, Fluvanna and Greene, SARA says it reaches approximately 550 survivors and 1,100 students each year through its advocacy programs and support services.
“Expanding this work to students in K-12 provides the opportunity to talk with children — with age-appropriate topics and language — about protective factors, consent, identifying trusted people, the impact of gender norms and more,” Weybright said. “This education gives us a chance to send young people forward with better skills for identifying inappropriate behavior and knowing what to do when they see this.”
Other provisions that Kaine authored in the Every Student Succeeds Act are expected to strengthen career and technical education and preschool programs in schools nationwide.
According to Kaine's press office, the bill adds career and technical education as a core academic subject and allows states to apply for a grant to develop such education with academic studies and support professional development for teachers of such programs.
The bill also authorizes the Preschool Development Grant, which states can use to bolster early childhood programs. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will administer the program in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Education.
Child abuse reporting laws variable
Privilege is a state matter
by Mackenzie McCreary
ONTARIO — Federal funding, in conjunction with a new law passed by the Oregon Legislature, prohibits Project DOVE from reporting suspected child abuse to the Department of Human Services.
Sue Johnson, executive director of Project DOVE, said the nonprofit receives funding from the federal Violence Against Women Act, which is supported by the Office on Violence Against Women. According to the office's website, grants are discretionary based on how the organization follows parameters set forth by the office. One of these parameters is the restriction on reporting suspected child abuse.
The Violence Against Women Act parallels Oregon House Bill 3476, which established laws of privilege surrounding victims of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking. The bill, which went into effect Oct. 1, essentially protects the information shared between the victim and a service provider at the same level as doctor-patient privilege. This means even if courts attempt to subpoena records from a victim service provider, they will not be allowed access unless the victim grants it.
Project DOVE is a victim services provider that offers shelter and support to survivors of domestic and sexual violence. The organization serves men, women and children who are victims of physical, sexual and emotional abuse, as well as human trafficking.
Johnson said although the organization was not mandated before, their policy was to report abuse when they saw it. She said the new law helps protect victims by ensuring another layer of privacy and confidentiality that is needed in delicate situations.
“The reason they've done that is they want to make the women feel safe here so they don't have to worry about being reported to DHS and everything that comes with that,” Johnson said.
The bill builds upon existing federal laws regarding privacy and confidentiality. The Confidentiality Institute, a group that provides state-specific training and resources to help agencies handle privacy challenges, says a victim is entitled to decide whether to disclose information about abuse or an abuser.
That means victim service providers have a responsibility to protect the information that a victim has shared.
Confidentiality is a federal law effective in all states, but because privilege is a state matter, it is only effective in states that have adopted it as law. Even though privilege is not law in Idaho, victims from Idaho who seek services from Project DOVE still retain privilege rights, Johnson said.
Because of the new restrictions, Project DOVE and DHS have reinforced their contract about what to do in these situations. Part of this partnership includes having a special advocate who works with both Project DOVE and DHS to help each organization offer the most comprehensive help to victims.
“It's been a bit of a struggle because they have things they have to do, and we have things we have to do, so merging that was difficult, but now it is working well,” Johnson said.
“We've had a really good working relationship with Project DOVE,” said Michelle Glenn, child welfare supervisor with DHS. “We want to really ensure that people are getting all the help, support and services they need.”
Johnson said because her organization can't report abuse, if someone comes in with a child who has been abused, Project DOVE outlines the options and encourages victims to go to DHS.
Rose Advocates is a victim service provider in Idaho that serves the same types of victims and provides similar services to Project DOVE. Executive director Dolores Larsen said she can't believe Project DOVE is not a mandated reporter.
“How do you not report a child being abused?” Larsen said. “We have to be able to give them support, and sometimes the only way to do that is to report that abuse. I don't think I could not report that.”
Rose Advocates is a mandated reporter, and Larsen said her group is upfront with clients by telling them Rose Advocates must report if there is any mention of child abuse. Larsen said they have fought to get privilege laws in Idaho, but she hopes they are always mandated to report child abuse.
“Often children in abusive situations end up being abusers or victims. It's a cycle,” Larsen said. “We're wanting to end that cycle, and sometimes you have to have drastic measures to do that. But we will do everything in our power to reunite that family in a safe and healthy way.”
Policy shift improves outcomes for addressing cases of child neglect
by Bert Gambini
BUFFALO, N.Y. – Child protection services personnel respond to some 3 million reports of maltreatment per year, including child neglect and physical or sexual abuse. Although families are dealing with a variety of issues, and pose different levels of risk to children and youth, many states respond identically to all incidents, regardless of their nature.
But instead of inevitably launching highly forensic investigations in response to all reports of child endangerment, many states now use differential response, an alternative approach that is giving social service agencies greater latitude when approaching low-risk cases.
Differential response is strength-based and often more comprehensive than a one-size-fits-all approach applied across the entire continuum of risk.
The goal of differential response is to better engage families to keep children safe in their homes when possible. Agencies that are able to integrate family-engaging, safety-focused strategies early may prevent repeated involvement with child protective services, according to a new study from the University at Buffalo School of Social Work.
Differential response is, in fact, a significant policy shift in how child welfare systems approach families, says Annette Semanchin Jones, an assistant professor of social work at UB whose study was published online Dec. 8 in a special issue of the Journal of Public Child Welfare.
Instead of one standard investigation, it permits multiple responses to reported maltreatment, providing flexibility along multiple pathways rather than laying out a set of interventions or strategies defined by a standardized model.
“The practitioners who developed differential response call it an approach, not an intervention,” Semanchin Jones says.
The comparative case study used focus groups and interviews with child welfare workers and supervisors in a county-administered child welfare system in Minnesota.
Minnesota has a county-administered system, and so the implementation of differential response varies across jurisdictions. There were different structures, organizational capacities, training techniques, supervision and on-going coaching.
The study compared the implementation of differential response across a sample of nine counties. Counties were grouped according to child safety and racial equity outcomes, with three counties in each of these categories: positive, mixed or poor outcomes.
Those counties with the best outcomes successfully integrated family-engaging, child-safety approaches, including family/group decision making, active support and follow-up, and a strong focus on identifying and engaging enduring support.
“One of the things this study helped indicate is that it takes a highly qualified and well-trained CPS staff to manage this effectively,” Semanchin Jones says. “It involves comprehensive assessment and good social work skills.
“If implemented well, differential response can be an effective child-protection strategy that keeps children safer.”
Previous research has suggested that intense and punitive investigations for lower-risk child welfare cases rarely meet the needs of all families and fail to address unique challenges present in specific situations.
These shortcomings have driven states to adopt differential response, which searches for strengths, not fault, constructively engaging families and connecting them to resources.
Semanchin Jones says in the right hands, differential response has a lot of promise.
“It's a growing approach in child welfare that's still under-researched,” she says. “Because it's not a specific model, the more information we have on which strategies can lead to better outcomes, the better informed we'll be about implementing differential response.”
Judges: More Info, Training, Caseworkers Needed To Decide Child Neglect Cases
by Chris Hickey
Members of the Arkansas Judiciary say inefficiencies, lack of information and inadequate staffing are the main hurdles to deciding where to place neglected and abused children in the state.
A round of hearings on child welfare reform was held Tuesday. The meeting was conducted jointly by the state Senate Committee on Children and Youth and the House Committee on Aging, Children and Youth, Legislative and Military Affairs.
In testimony, Associate State Supreme Court Justice Rhonda Wood said Arkansas judges often cannot determine whether it's best to place children who face parental neglect or abuse with extended family or in foster care. Wood, who served 6 years in juvenile court, said background checks could be part of a solution.
“They come in and present a child to you and you have a foster care and you know the foster care family has been through checks, a system of checks, background checks and family home studies and all of that. And then they say, oh and here's grandmother. And I have nothing on grandmother,” she said.
A report analyzing Arkansas's foster care system, issued earlier this year by Paul Vincent of the Child Welfare Policy and Practice Group, recommended that more foster kids be placed with relatives. It spurred a comprehensive review of the state's child welfare system, which lacks sufficient bed space for children in need of foster care placement. The recommendations of the Vincent report were accepted by Governor Asa Hutchinson this summer.
In legislative testimony Tuesday, Saline County Circuit Judge Gary Arnold echoed another recommendation of that report saying more Department of Human Services caseworkers are needed. He said judges should also help train caseworkers and called the DHS Central Office “unresponsive” and “insensitive” to the needs of caseworkers. Both Wood and Arnold agreed that more funding would be needed to increase the number of staff positions and lessen the burden on caseworkers, a plea voiced by DHS Division of Children and Family Services head Cecile Blucker in a past legislative hearing.
“By and large the people who work in the system that are case workers do not lack empathy or sympathy. They're there because they have a genuine concern and heart for what they do. They have an incredibly hard job, at times literally impossible. Nevertheless, they lack support,” Arnold said.
The Director of Juvenile Courts in Arkansas, Connie Hickman-Tanner said judges around the state do not get the same level of information when deciding where to place abused or neglected children. Hickman-Turner also spoke before the committee Tuesday. She said courts sometimes know very little about the relatives children are placed with.
“I had one judge just tell me the other day they placed one with somebody and they're a convicted murderer on parole. And he [the judge] was concerned that nobody did the background check before they did the placement. And they had to come and then remove the child again. And that caused more disruption in the child's life to be removed again,” she said.
Hickman-Tanner said standards for assessing new homes vary by judicial district, and that DHS caseworkers in some districts do a better job than others in providing information to judges. She said placement preference normally goes to extended family over foster homes, a preference prescribed by state law, but foster homes tend to be checked out more extensively.
Russell Taylor, Associate of Ex-Subway Pitchman Jared Fogle, Gets 27 Years for Child Porn
by Elizabeth Chuck
The former head of a foundation started by ex-Subway pitchman Jared Fogle was sentenced Thursday to 27 years in prison by a federal judge on child exploitation and child pornography charges.
Russell Taylor, 44, was the executive director of the Jared Foundation, a charity that worked to prevent childhood obesity.
Taylor pleaded guilty Thursday to 12 counts of producing child pornography and one count of distributing it, and then begged for leniency, holding back tears. He apologized to his victims and asked the judge to "not allow me to rot in the landfill of lost souls" with a lengthy prison term.
But Judge Tanya Walton Pratt gave Taylor more than the 15 to 23 years that his attorneys had asked for as part of the plea agreement. He got 27 years for producing child pornography and 20 years for distributing child pornography, and the sentences will be served concurrently.
The Indianapolis man said he has been "falling asleep in a puddle of tears every night" since he was arrested, and told Pratt that she's "never had a prisoner stand in your court more remorseful than I am today," reported the Indianapolis Star.
Fogle was sentenced to more than 15 years in prison last month on child pornography and sex crime charges, including paying to have sex with minors. Investigators say Taylor secretly recorded images of 12 children, ages 9 to 15, in his home, and then shared the images with Fogle.
Prosecutors last week recommended 35 years, saying Taylor's actions "greatly impacted the lives of 12 children and their families." The minimum sentence under federal law is 15 years.
In court documents, Taylor admitted to using hidden cameras to produce child porn.
He said it started by accident when a security camera captured a sexual encounter in his home office, The Associated Press reported. After telling Fogle about the accidental tape, he said the Subway spokesman encouraged him to hide cameras in other areas where "minors would be when either changing clothes or undressing to shower or bathe," according to the court documents.
According to Taylor, Fogle, 38, was psychologically abusive, referring to himself as Taylor's "daddy."
"There would be discussions of how much Mr. Taylor loved 'daddy' and reminding him that 'daddy' was paying for his things," court documents said.
Taylor was the head of Fogle's foundation from 2009 until his arrest in April. Revelations of their illicit actions brought to a shocking end the lucrative career that Fogle had enjoyed as the face of Subway, which started when he was featured in a 2000 commercial touting his weight loss.
As a 425-pound student at Indiana University, Fogle said eating at Subway helped him shed 245 pounds. At his sentencing, a forensic psychiatrist testifying for the defense said Fogle suffered from a compulsive eating disorder and that after losing weight, he substituted food with hypersexuality, including pedophilia.
Working together for the Jared Foundation, Fogle and Taylor visited schools around the country, promoting healthy eating. They met when Taylor was doing work as a youth program manager for the American Heart Association, according to the Indianapolis Star.
Prosecutors had asked for a 12-1/2-year sentence for Fogle, but Judge Pratt slapped a 15-year, 8-month prison term on him.
Child trafficking happening here and pediatricians need to be alert, experts say
How to get help or report child trafficking
by Carolyn Kimmel
Pediatricians who say they have never seen a victim of child trafficking probably haven't been looking.
"If it's never on your radar screen, you're never going to see it," said Dr. Lori Frasier, chief of the Division of Child Abuse Pediatrics at Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital, who is also board certified in child abuse pediatrics. "Especially in central Pennsylvania, we feel insulated."
We're not. Just last month, a Lower Paxton Township man was sentenced to 10 years in prison for running a "suburban brothel" that included child sex trafficking.
While the words "human trafficking" were little heard or understood even five years ago, the issue has come to the forefront with awareness campaigns and news stories, most notably the 300 Nigerian girls who were kidnapped from their boarding school in 2014.
We're like a thoroughfare. Washington, D.C. and New York both have a high incidence of trafficking. Lots of these kids are passing through our state,'' said Dr. Pat Bruno
Still, in the average pediatrician's office in the average American town, trafficking isn't on the list of things to check for next to height, weight and BMI.
Healthcare workers need to raise their awareness of clues that a child may be sexually exploited said Dr. Pat Bruno, medical director of the Child Advocacy Center of Central Susquehanna Valley, a part of the Geisinger Health System. Bruno is one of the state's few pediatricians who is board certified in child abuse pediatrics.
"We lack the tools to identify victims of child trafficking and we don't know what to do when we encounter a victim,'' Bruno said. "We don't ask the right questions and we don't look below the surface."
"We're like a thoroughfare. Washington, D.C. and New York both have a high incidence of trafficking and we're the state in between. Lots of these kids are passing through our state," said Bruno, who gives presentations on the topic to area medical groups.
Frasier said people tend to think of sex rings or girls smuggled across borders when they hear "child trafficking," but it more commonly happens anytime a girl is forced to exchange sex for something, such as food or a place to stay. In fact, when the victim is under age 18, force or deception don't need to be present; their age is enough to label it as sexual exploitation.
"In the past, teenagers were seen not as much as victims but as prostitutes," she said.
Bruno agreed, saying it's important to remember that these are "just kids who are being manipulated and deluded by adults who are far savvier than they are."
A recent study by the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, published in the journal "Pediatrics," found that only half of medical providers could correctly identify possible victims in scenarios containing clues to potential child sex trafficking.
Of those surveyed, 63 percent said they had never received training on child trafficking awareness.
While some child victims may be seen for regular well-child visits, they are more often seen in emergency departments, urgent care centers or regional health clinics, Frasier said.
Regardless of where doctors or nursing staff are working, there are clues they should be looking for that might flag children who are being trafficked, Bruno and Frasier said.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recently published its first guidelines for clinicians to help identify victims of sexual exploitation, a clear message to pediatricians that they need to become more aware of the issue, Frasier said.
"Multiple runaway attempts, signs of substance abuse, frequently asking for emergency contraception – these are red flags," Frasier said. "But even subtle things like a child who is with a domineering adult who won't let the child answer for herself or a child who is not with their parents or who is wearing expensive jewelry or clothing – these are also clues that the medical community is not used to picking up on."
Doctors should make sure that they talk to the children alone, apart from the parent or adult who accompanied them.
"Talking about sexual safety in the pediatrician's office has been a bit forbidden; it's a dicey topic but a necessary one," Frasier said.
Bruno said questions should include "Is anyone forcing you to do anything you don't want to do?" and "Has anyone ever touched you or hurt you in any way?"
Pediatricians should look for obvious clues like bruising in the genital area or sexually-transmitted infections but also things that a pediatrician might not automatically connect to sexual exploitation, such as lack of attention to personal appearance, rib fractures and even tattoos that a perpetrator may have branded onto the child's skin, he said.
Large web of deception
Parents also need to be aware of clues that their child is being trafficked. Believe it or not, peer trafficking happens, the doctors said.
"New friends, losing interest in age-appropriate activities, multiple cell phones, inordinate time online, a change in physical appearance, a disconnect from the family – these can all be clues," Bruno said.
Some 200,000 to 300,000 children in the U.S. are trafficked and the average age is 12 to 14, Bruno said. It's a $32 billion industry nationwide, he said.
The traffickers lure these children with tangible things – like a food or place to stay – and with emotional lures like affection and statements of love, Bruno said.
How do they make contact? Social media is a major connector. Twitter, Facebook and – in news that should run a chill down any parent's back – apps that show who is tweeting within a neighborhood and their address.
Once perpetrators make contact, they shower the victims with affection and gifts and eventually condition them into sexual exploitation.
People may wonder why an exploited girl doesn't just run away or tell someone.
"Fear, that's why. Fear of arrest, fear of losing the only home they have, fear of placement in social services," Bruno said.
It's very hard to break free, Bruno said. Statistics show it takes an average of 18 months to two years and only 1 to 2 percent of victims ever get out – statistics that he hopes will change as more medical professionals become aware of the clues that could lead to help.
"It involves individuals from all walks of life," he said. "Who are the perpetrators? Some are family members, friends or strangers; 75 percent are pimps – traffickers – who intentionally recruit vulnerable children with low self-esteem, difficulties at home, family conflict, a history of drug and alcohol abuse, children who are runaways or in foster care."
Those in need of help can call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text "Help" to 233733 (BeFree).
Protect Your Child from Sexual Predators by Breaking through Stereotypes
Child sexual predators are not just the "creepy guys in the trench coats"; 90 percent of children know their abusers.
by Joelie Casteix
Nobody loves a stereotype better than a child sex predator. Whether the stereotype is about the "creepy guy in the trench coat," the "hot for teacher" fallacy, our collective denial of incest, or our emphasis on "stranger danger," predators know that the more parents rely on stereotypes, the easier it is for those predators to gain easy access to vulnerable children.
Stereotype No. 1: Most abuse happens as a result of stranger abduction or by use of force.
This stereotype is one of the most widely believed and the most damaging. It has kept victims silent and children at risk for decades.
And it all boils down to our over-reliance on "stranger danger."
Even now, when it comes to educating and empower our children about abuse, parents and educators continue to focus on abduction. The media is quick to follow along, continually covering stories about child kidnappings and attacks. And that's exactly what the vast majority of child predators want us to focus on.
According to the California Attorney General's office, approximately 90 percent of children who are sexually abused in the United States know their abuser.
While it is important to talk to your child about stranger danger, it is even more important to empower your child against the other 90 percent of predators—the ones you willingly invite into your home.
Stereotype No. 2: Incest only happens to other people.
That is simply not true. Incest happens everywhere. No matter who you are, where you come from, your socio-economic background, or your pedigree, you can have a family wracked by incest.
In fact, half of the 90 percent of abusers cited above by the California Attorney General are family members, including parents, grandparents, siblings, cousins, aunts or uncles. The recent sexual abuse scandal that rocked the Duggar family of reality TV fame is not unique. Incest does happen—even in the best of families. Often, the victims never come forward to report the abuse out of fear of hurting the sibling or other family member that the child still loves.
Stereotype No. 3: The abuser is the "creepy guy in the trench coat."
You know who he is: he's scary, dirty, and often frightens kids. And he is a figment of our collective imagination.
Child sexual predators love children. They love to be around children. They want children to love them in return. How do they accomplish this? By being charismatic, outgoing, loving, and caring. They do this by having jobs—paying and volunteer—that get them close to children and put the predator in a position of trust and power. Predators ingratiate themselves with adults and become important family and community members. This grants them everything that they want: access to children, trust from the community, and love from both the victim and the community.
They are often married with children. All of them lead double lives. They are charismatic and use their personality, power, charm, and position to find children who are easy targets for abuse.
Stereotype No. 4: Women can't sexually abuse.
In the 1980s, VanHalen's hit song "Hot for Teacher" capitalized on one of the most pernicious stereotypes about sexual offenders: that women can't abuse.
Yes, women can and do abuse. They abuse both boys and girls. And while the numbers of female predators do not match those of men, female predators are being arrested and convicted at record rates. Why? Because we finally understand that women who abuse inflict as much damage on their victims as their male counterparts.
Our society has also come to recognize that when a boy is sexually abused by a woman, it is not a rite of passage. It is not "cool" and does not help turn a boy into a man. Instead, is it a gross abuse of power and a sexual violation that leaves victims isolated, ashamed, hurt, lost, and injured. Girls sexually abused by women suffer the same after-effects.
Stereotype No. 5: There is nothing we can do to stop abusers.
The power to stop abuse is in our hands. So what do we do? It's all about communication and empowering our children about their bodies.
Child sexual predators want the "easy" victim. Grooming a child is hard work that can take months, so predators are far less likely to target the child who knows 1) that secrets between adults and children are wrong, 2) the proper biological names of their body parts and 3) no one is to touch or take pictures of their genitals (and they are not to touch other people's).
A predator is not going to target the child who has a strong relationship with his or her parents, good communication skills, and who knows that it's never okay for an adult to be sexual with a child or teen.
And a predator certainly won't target the child whose parents openly talk about why sex abuse is wrong, the importance of reporting to law enforcement, and that the crime is never the fault of the child.
Joelle Casteix is a former journalist, educator, and public relations professional that has taken her own experience as a victim of child sex crimes and devoted her career to exposing abuse, advocating on behalf of survivors, and spreading abuse prevention strategies for parents and communities. She is a regular speaker for the National Center for Victims of Crime, the Institute on Violence, Abuse and Trauma and The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. Her blog, The Worthy Adversary, is one of the leading sources for information and commentary on child sexual abuse prevention and exposure. She is the author of "The Well-Armored Child: A Parents Guile to Preventing Sexual Abuse."
Ending Domestic Violence: Childhood Domestic Abuse
by Raetha Stoddard
There are hundreds of quotes about raising children. Some are trite, others are poignant. The two I like the best are: “It takes a village to raise a child” and, “It is easier to raise strong children than to fix broken adults.” Action of these adages is particularly significant for the long-term well being of the more than 3 million children in the United States who have witnessed domestic violence.
As an advocate, it is especially difficult to witness the adverse effects domestic violence has on children. Many are misdiagnosed as having personality disorders, such as attention deficit disorder (A.D.D.) or bipolar disorder, or they are labeled as defiant or otherwise defective. When a child is misdiagnosed, with the root cause of exposure to domestic violence overlooked, more victimization can be inadvertently placed on the child in the form of treatment for the misdiagnosis.
Children experiencing domestic violence acquire a varying and wide range of tactics to protect themselves, their siblings and their non-offending parent in order to keep their families intact. Many of these tactics may be viewed as anti-social, such as isolating and emotionally shutting down — or they can be hypervigilant or overly attention getting. These strategies although harmful in the long run are instinctual for their survival.
Some other signs to watch out for in young children include: anxiety or increased fear; loss of interest in school, friends or other things they enjoyed in the past; increased aggression; spending more time alone; bullying or being bullied and changes in appetite. Some signs to watch out for in adolescents include: drug or alcohol abuse; skipping school; changes in peer groups; social withdrawal; depression or anxiety; and a loss of interest in school, friends or other things they enjoyed in the past.
Parents are a child's first and often their most significant models. The child who models after the abuser is actually making a choice to not be victimized, which in itself is a good choice. Unfortunately, those children are at greater risk of becoming abusive later in life. A child who models the victim's behavior may not develop crucial skills necessary for self-care and may be at greater risk of engaging in high risk behaviors. Not everyone who witnesses domestic violence as a child suffers later in life but for every adult who succeeds in spite of adverse childhood experiences many more struggle and grow up to be plagued by poor health, impaired emotional abilities and an overall inability to achieve a stable lifestyle.
Resilience is a term we over-apply to children. Studies show that even infants exposed to domestic violence may have adverse effects. Children may not understand the content of the crisis but they do absorb the overall negative impact. When a child does display resilience it is not usually an inherent ability but more often related to some positive support system in the form of a trusted adult or from an outside system that provides some measure of stability in the child's life. This is the “village” effect.
The involvement of a positive adult role model or a stable support system has been determined to be the greatest determining factor for that child to acquire resilience and as a result achieve a healthy lifestyle in adulthood. If a child has no positive interactions to draw from, he or she may be more likely to lean toward less healthy lifestyles. This is related to the adage that it is easier to raise healthy children than to fix broken adults. (Our next article will discuss the effects of childhood domestic violence in adults.)
There are multiple opportunities in Carroll County, especially in this season of giving, to support children who are victims of childhood domestic violence or otherwise underserved, such as: Angels and Elves, local food pantries and the Revolving Closet. However, when possible, the greatest gift you can give a child, any child, is your time. Time spent with children today will have a positive effect not only on their futures, but for all of us. After all, the children of today are the ones who will decide our health care and other essential care later in life.
Starting Point offers ongoing support groups for victims of domestic and sexual violence, including support groups for adults who experienced childhood domestic or sexual violence. Call (603) 447-2494 for more information. Applications for volunteers interested in providing parental support and child advocacy to families of domestic violence and children exposed to sexual exploitation are now being accepted for the January training. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Raetha Stoddard is the direct service and outreach coordinator and an advocate for Starting Point. She has a degree in Child and Family Studies, with a background in teaching, event planning and public relations. She has been a volunteer for Starting Point for several years as an advocate and board member. For "self-care" she spends as much time as possible outdoors hiking, kayaking and breathing and an equal amount of time with family and friends sharing a meal and laughing.
KTUL Investigates Child Abuse: The state of Oklahoma's children
by Maureen Wurtz
TULSA — Every Oklahoman is a parent.
If you pay taxes in Oklahoma, you are a parent to the 10,500 children in state custody.
The number of children in state custody has been increasing steadily over the last few years, resulting in a chilling diagnosis for the state of Oklahoma's children.
"Oklahoma families are still abusing and neglecting children at a very high rate," said Sheree Powell, with the Department of Human Services.
Over the last few months, KTUL has covered several child abuse cases. Some cases ended in the death of babies and others resulting in extreme child abuse.
"After this happens, and you wonder every day, every baby you see, every person you see, you wonder oh would my child have blonde hair when she grows up? Would her eyes have changed colors? Would she have looked more like me?" said Kaci Loud.
In July, Loud left 11-month old Emmy with her boyfriend of 10 months when she went to work.
She would never see her beautiful baby smile again.
"He knew I was coming home, he knew he was going to get caught. He called the non-emergency number," said Loud.
Owasso police issued a warrant in August for Brandon Nordstedt, on what would have been Emmy's first birthday.
Police found Nordstedt in Kansas, and now he is going to trial for Emmy's murder, according to Owasso officials.
"I just wish I could just go in another room and check on her and see her sleeping and realize that this was just a nightmare," said Loud.
A nightmare also took place for Trish Storms on December 1st, 2015.
"That baby did not have a voice, these babies do not have voices," said Storms.
There are only a couple of steps between Storm's apartment and the one where 1-year-old Nevaeh lived.
On December 1st, Storms said the man accused of killing Nevaeh knocked on her door and asked for help.
"I don't know how long that baby was not breathing, it had to be some time," said Storms.
Storms and her neighbor rushed into Nevaeh's apartment and found her laying on the floor. The two women immediately called 911 and started performing CPR.
"You just gave her back to God really," said Storms.
As horrific and heartbreaking as these two cases are, detectives with the child crisis unit in Tulsa told KTUL, they are just a small fraction of what they see every day.
"Number of cases that are reported on the news pales in comparison to the number of reports we get on a daily basis," said Sgt. Michael Brown.
Brown said the recent cases in Oklahoma aren't unusual, but he has seen a steady increase over the last 10 to 15 years.
"You can't get used to seeing the level of violence that some people have towards children," said Brown.
Many children caught in the violence are put into state custody, according to Powell.
"For a child to be removed from their home, the situation has to be so bad and so unsafe that we can't even work with that family to keep that family safe," said Powell.
According to the latest numbers provided by DHS, there were 14,159 confirmed child abuse cases in Oklahoma from July 2013-June 2014. The largest form of child abuse is neglect. The three counties with the highest confirmed cases of child abuse are Oklahoma County, Tulsa County, and Muskogee county, according to DHS.
Currently, there are around 10,500-11,000 children in state custody. Powell said that's not the largest amount of children in state custody over the last decade, but there are some major concerns.
"What is alarming to us is the steady increase over the past year, past three years, it should be coming down, but it's going up," said Powell.
Powell said, in spite of the daunting number of children that come in through the door, there is hope and help needed.
"We have the greatest need, right now, for foster parents that we have ever had in this agency," said Powell.
When you see the stories on the news and online, Powell said it's your turn to do something.
"Make it so that you are so angry about what you're seeing on television that you will do something," said Powell.
It starts with learning that there are no boundaries to child abuse.
"It's not based on socioeconomics," said Brown.
Brown said it's important for people to question and report what they see, even if it turns out to be nothing.
"Don't be afraid to ask for help-asking for help is not a sign of weakness, that's a sign of strength," said Powell.
The most important lesson that needs to be learned is that of all things, children need love.
"It's been five months and I'm still in July. I didn't realize it was December," said Loud.
Report alleges abuse of children under tenure of new Minneapolis superintendent
The report comes just after Sergio Paez was named Minneapolis superintendent.
by Alejandra Matos
Special needs children in a school under the supervision of Minneapolis' newly named superintendent were slapped by staff and improperly restrained, according to an investigation made public this week by the Massachusetts Disability Law Center, a private nonprofit advocacy group.
The report, made public Wednesday, said students in a special education program at the Peck School in Holyoke, Mass., were restrained more than 50 times. There were other situations in which students were “thrown to the floor and slapped.” Others were pulled out of chairs for refusing to get up.
The report concerns incidents during the tenure of Sergio Paez, who was named Monday as the next superintendent of Minneapolis Public Schools.
Paez said he was aware of the allegations. He said the investigation is the result “of an allegation that someone is making. The state was on top of it. I was on top of it, and that's the end.”
The report came just 48 hours after the Minneapolis school board picked Paez from three finalists to lead the district. Before a contract is signed board members Tracine Asberry and Josh Reimnitz are going to visit the Holyoke district. They are expected to be there at the end of next week.
“I am just thankful that we are doing our due diligence and doing a site visit,” said Carla Bates, a Minneapolis board member who did not vote for Paez. She said she was “sick to my stomach.”
Amy Moore, the attorney for the Minneapolis district, said the district takes the allegations seriously and is in contact with Massachusetts department of education.
“These are allegations by an advocacy group,” Moore said. “We are still going to do our due diligence.”
The Disability Law Center began investigating in April, after a Peck teacher said her complaints to the district were not addressed. Peck is a K-8 public school that includes a program for students with emotional behavior disability.
Stanley J. Eichner, the litigation director of the Disability Law Center in Massachusetts, said the findings were some of the worse abuses they have seen of students. “It was a really an out of control situation,” he said.
‘No evidence of neglect'
Paez said about a year ago, a parent snapped photos of a child's bruised and marked arm and complained to the principal and Paez that the student had been abused. Paez said he launched an internal investigation, using the district's attorneys, and found there was no abuse.
“There was no evidence of neglect,” he said.
Paez said the bruises and marks were the result of a physical restraint on the student.
The use of physical restraints on special education students is controversial, with some advocates saying they are often used incorrectly and can cause great harm. Under Massachusetts law, physical restraint can be used as a last resort and only when a student's behavior poses a serious threat to the student or someone else. The law also states restraint cannot be used as punishment.
The school did not report the restraints or their related injuries to the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, as required by law, the investigation alleges.
The Disability Law Center cites a report by the state's department of education that found evidence of improper restrains and seclusion of students at the same school. The department issued a finding of non-compliance in July after finding evidence that restraints were not used properly, the Law Center states.
The Star Tribune has requested a copy of the department of education's findings.
The investigation uncovered a systemic culture of abuse, not just a few incidents, said Eichner.
“It's widespread enough to ask, if you knew, why didn't you do anything, and if you didn't, why didn't you know,” Eichner said.
Paez became the superintendent in Holyoke, Mass., the most underperforming district in the state, in 2013. In one year, the district saw increases in graduation rates and test scores. But at the end of Paez's second year, the state took over the district and put the schools under the control of a receiver. The takeover occurred just a week after the Disability Law Center launched its investigation.
After the law center released its report, Mitchell Chester, Massachusetts' education commissioner said the department has already begun restructuring the schools, including replacing the school leadership and reducing the number of separate classes for students with disabilities.
In a statement, Stephen Zrike, the receiver in Holyoke, called the report “troubling” and said the findings outlined “some of the same concerns that people repeatedly shared with me in the meetings I held with families, students and staff across Holyoke this summer and fall.”
Child abuse image investigation leads to 682 arrests
More than 680 people have been arrested in the past nine months for downloading indecent images of children, the National Crime Agency has said.
More than 90% of the suspects were not known to police for similar offences, while 104 were in "positions of trust", including 32 with links to education.
Some 399 children were identified as being at risk following the arrests.
Forty of the UK's 45 police forces were involved in arrests across the country. To date 147 people have been charged.
A total of 600 premises were searched and 682 suspects have been questioned in the NCA-led operation.
Those arrested included:
23 in medical or care work
15 in law enforcement, criminal justice, armed forces or government roles
24 in voluntary positions
46 registered sex offenders
Police are using a new database of images to help trace victims.
Simon Bailey, Chief Constable of Norfolk Constabulary and the lead on Child Protection for the National Police Chiefs' Council, said officers were targeting those who they believed posed the greatest threat to children.
Analysis by Angus Crawford, BBC News
It doesn't look like much - just a computer screen in a crowded office. But according to one senior police officer, the Child Abuse Image Database (CAID) is a potential "game changer".
It contains the records of every obscene image of a child seized during investigations.
Why is that so important? The figures tell the story. In 1990 there were thought to be 7,000 such images in circulation. In one recent operation, detectives seized 2.5 million from one computer.
Any one of those images could contain a new victim unknown to police.
In the past, detectives had to painstakingly examine each one. That could take weeks and be highly traumatic. Now the process is becoming increasingly automated - known images are sifted out, leaving only ones never seen before.
The hope is that it will speed up investigations and help identify more victims, making it easier for investigators to find what one told me was that vital "needle in a haystack". A child in need of protection.
Chief Constable Bailey added: "There's a commitment from the police service to do more… more undercover officers targeting those people using chat rooms to groom children, more effort targeting people viewing indecent images of children online".
He said the NCA operation was delivering a clear message - "Don't think you can operate with anonymity in cyberspace. We will come and identify you."
Police say children are increasingly being tricked into taking images themselves by predators online.
The children's charity the NSPCC has been counselling a girl targeted online when she was 15.
"Charlotte" thought she was talking to someone her own age instead of an adult paedophile, who persuaded her to send a photograph.
"It made me feel really low and upset, at times I didn't want to be alive," she said.
"When I meet new people I always think that people have seen it or the pictures might still be out there and they may know about it."
The charity Barnardo's said it had carried out research into online grooming and suggested parents should ask their children about who they are in contact with online.
Child abuse is neither acceptable nor inevitable
Because parenting can be overwhelming, a little kindness and support goes a long way
Child abuse has been around probably since the first human beings became parents. But that doesn't make it normal, inevitable or acceptable. It was, is and will forever be among the most egregious of crimes.
On the Lower Shore, it seems there are new reports of child abuse of one variety or another on a weekly, sometimes daily basis – both recent cases that come to trial and new cases of abuse. In just the past couple of months, we've seen a Sharptown man charged with abuse in connection with the shaken baby death of his girlfriend's 16-month-old daughter, an Onancock man who was convicted of sexually abusing his niece and faces similar charges for allegedly sexually abusing his stepdaughter, a Pocomoke City man and his wife charged in the death of his 3-year-old nephew, a Crisfield man who was convicted in the December 2014 death of his infant daughter and another Pocomoke City man who is being charged with sexual assault of a female juvenile.
In every case, the assault involved a child or infant who being assaulted – in some cases, fatally – by a trusted someone who was supposed to be taking care of the child. This is not the kind of crime you fear when you are walking down a dark street somewhere, the kind of assault children can easily be protected from.
In addition to sexual assaults, which are especially heinous, child abuse takes many forms. Sometimes it's a young parent or caretaker who becomes overwhelmed and doesn't know what to do, lashing out in frustration. There's no intent to kill, but the outcome is devastating.
Parenting or being charged with responsibility for a young child or infant is difficult. Babies can't tell us what is wrong, and we can't always calm them down by reassuring them everything will be OK. They don't understand, but neither does an overwhelmed or frustrated parent or caretaker. Some parents are also dealing with addiction, financial struggles and other serious issues.
There's no formal training required for parenthood and even if there were, it couldn't possibly prepare new parents for everything to come.
The best we can do is try to support each other. New parents need respite, working parents get stressed out easily and stay-at-home moms get isolated from the rest of society. They all need reassurance and occasional help.
Such support cannot prevent all abuse, but involved friends and family may be able to intervene or seek professional assistance before a situation spirals out of control.
Beyond silence: Confronting child sexual abuse in Jewish community
by Drew Himmelstein
A few years ago, Congregation Beth Jacob faced a situation without precedent in the Redwood City synagogue: a teenage student working as an aide in a religious school classroom was accused of inappropriately touching two young girls.
“My community was rocked,” said Rabbi Nathaniel Ezray. “I'm sometimes amazed about how we're ill-prepared for things we need to be prepared for.”
The experience provided a quick education for the congregation, which reported the situation to authorities and consulted with an outside expert for guidance in handling it. The synagogue now has explicit guidelines for those who work with children. Still, several years later, the pain hasn't gone away.
“I think that trauma takes a long time to resolve,” Ezray said. “I think people think it was dealt with thoughtfully.”
Handling the delicate, troubling and painful issue of child sexual abuse is challenging for any synagogue, where staff members typically are not experts on such matters. Clergy and administrators may suddenly find themselves in the unexpected position of making reports to legal authorities, counseling the families of victims, protecting the rights and privacy of the accused and rethinking safety and hiring policies.
“I know when I called around to tell people what happened in our school, many people confided that they don't have policies in place,” Ezray said.
The Jewish community operates a range of programs for children, including preschools, synagogue Hebrew schools, day schools, summer camps and youth programs. Yet across the Bay Area, those institutions have a wide variety of policies, from robust to minimal, when it comes to preventing, reporting and responding to allegations of child sexual abuse.
“We heard from people that [they're] seeing complex situations but don't know how to handle it,” said Naomi Tucker, longtime executive director of Shalom Bayit, a Bay Area Jewish organization dedicated to combating domestic violence in Jewish homes.
Concerned that the topic is insufficiently addressed within the Jewish community, a coalition of local Jewish organizations, including Shalom Bayit, the Board of Rabbis of Northern California, Jewish LearningWorks and the Bay Area Jewish Healing Center, organized a conference last month at Peninsula Temple Sholom. The Nov. 18 gathering in Burlingame, called “Beyond Silence,” brought together more than 150 Bay Area rabbis, cantors, temple administrators, educators and Jewish agency executives for a day of educational workshops about how to recognize and prevent childhood sexual abuse.
“Every one of you here are agents for change and light,” Ezray told the group during the opening plenary session. “Every one of you here has courage and strength to be the difference.”
Underlining the importance of the dialogue, Santa Clara District Attorney Jeff Rosen and San Mateo Police Chief Susan Manheimer, both Jewish, attended and spoke at the conference.
“We read in Deuteronomy, ‘Justice, justice shall you pursue,'” said Rosen, who spent five years exclusively prosecuting child sexual abuse and rape cases as an assistant DA. “Child sexual abuse doesn't get taken care of unless it's pursued by a community.”
The conference was the first time the local Jewish community had come together to talk openly about child sexual abuse, said Tucker, who sees parallels to attitudes she encountered when she began organizing around the topic of domestic abuse in the Jewish community 23 years ago. One of her major obstacles then was convincing people that domestic violence was a Jewish problem.
“Congregations and clergy said, ‘Abuse? That doesn't happen here,' ” Tucker said. Now, the Jewish community is undergoing a similar evolution in its understanding of child sexual abuse, she said. “I'm so thrilled to see this tremendous leadership move in our community today.”
In the United States, about one in every three to four girls and one in every six to eight boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18, the majority of them — 90 percent — by someone their family knows and trusts, according to Miriam Wolf, a licensed clinical social worker and director of forensic interviewing for San Mateo County, who gave the day's keynote address. The rates are similar in the Jewish community, experts agree.
The Beyond Silence coalition came together two years ago following a cover story in J. that revealed a terrible secret about a much-loved figure in the Bay Area Jewish community (“Former Bay Area Jewish leader accused of molesting boys in '60s and '70s,” Oct. 24, 2013).
As detailed in the article, Sheldon Mitchell, who died in 1980, was the founder of Camp Arazim, a Northern California Conservative summer camp (now closed). He also co-founded the regional arm of the United Synagogue Youth program. In 2013, his son, Tom Mitchell, posted on a Facebook page for Camp Arazim alumni that the elder Mitchell had molested him and other boys repeatedly over the years, using his position as a trusted youth leader to gain access into their lives. Several other victims came forward and confirmed the allegations anonymously to J.
Tom Mitchell, now 57, addressed last month's conference by video, saying, “No kids or adults spoke out” about the abuse. He claims that camp officials learned of the abuse at the time, which led to his father abruptly leaving his position as administrative director in the summer of 1976. But they didn't report it to authorities or to the children's parents, according to Mitchell.
“I assume that the adults who knew didn't know what to say or who to tell and that they swept it under the rug,” he told J. shortly after the conference.
It's that culture of silence that Mitchell hoped to change by telling his story. He told J. that he believes the most important ways adults in the Jewish community can help fight child sexual abuse are by reporting it immediately when they learn of the abuse and focusing on bringing help to the victims.
“It's my belief that childhood sexual abuse will never stop. I'd like to see more people learn how to provide help and support to the child victim as soon as possible,” said Mitchell in the video, adding that he never got help for the years of abuse he suffered starting at age 11 or 12. That contributed to ongoing problems in his life, he said, including using drugs, dropping out of school, developing an eating disorder and falling into bankruptcy.
“I was objectified and dehumanized. I didn't receive the support or tools needed. I learned to disassociate and lost my identity,” he said.
The Beyond Silence campaign initiated by Mitchell's story was an attempt to respond to the incident and bring the attention of the Jewish community and Jewish leaders to the issue of childhood sexual abuse. It started with an ad campaign in J. meant to convey that the Jewish community was paying attention to and cared about the issue.
Ezray, who knew the Mitchell family when he was growing up in Sacramento, was shocked by the disclosure and felt firmly that a strong response was necessary from the clergy. He took a leading role in organizing the Beyond Silence conference and wrote a February 2014 op-ed in J. to accompany the first Beyond Silence ad, signed by 130 local rabbis.
“I think that [clergy] are the voices of Jewish values, especially when it comes to issues where people are afraid to talk,” Ezray said. “When I read of Tom's story, when I heard of his pain and had that terrible awareness that I probably know many who suffered at the hands of his pedophile father, I knew I had to do whatever I could do.”
To the Jewish professionals who convened at the November conference, the message was clear. Because they interact frequently with children, they have the opportunity to play a crucial role in combating child sexual abuse at every level: by preventing it within their institutions, by recognizing it and reporting it when they see warning signs, and by helping children, families and communities to heal when it has occurred. Yet, due in part to a lack of communication about the issue, consistent protections are not in place across Jewish institutions, and at some the existing policies are insufficient, according to Tucker.
No comprehensive survey has been done about how Bay Area Jewish institutions handle child sexual abuse, and it's rare to find a Jewish leader who would admit their community's policies don't measure up.
Still, said Tucker, “you have many, many synagogues that are connected to children's programs, religious schools and preschools that don't have a clear protocol in place.”
Most Jewish organizations do a good job with one aspect of the issue, which is reporting signs of child sexual abuse to child welfare officials. People who work professionally with children, such as teachers and day care providers, are legally required to report abuse when they suspect it, and generally, Bay Area Jewish organizations that serve children and families train their staff well on that point, Tucker said.
But for some organizations, that's as far as it goes. And it's not enough, Tucker said. A good child sexual abuse policy “has to flow through every aspect of the organization.”
On the prevention side, that means careful screening during the hiring process and having guidelines in place regarding appropriate interactions between staff and children. Those guidelines should be thoughtful and tailored to the mission of the organization, according to Jenny Pearlman, the San Francisco Child Abuse Prevention Center's senior program manager for community education.
For instance, Pearlman doesn't recommend that organizations implement blanket “no-touch” policies between staff and children. “If you're a mentoring organization, a Boys & Girls Club, that doesn't work,” Pearlman said in a Beyond Silence workshop about prevention. “That was the old policy.”
Instead, Pearlman recommends defining appropriate and inappropriate touch: nurturing touch or touching while playing sports is appropriate; punishing or sexual touch is not.
Some Jewish camps and schools engage children in dialogue about staying safe and establishing healthy relationships. Because their work is focused directly on children, they have often given more thought to these issues than synagogues, which serve many different populations, experts say.
Camp Tawonga, a Jewish summer camp near Yosemite National Park, has robust abuse protection policies in place meant to help staff understand how to interact with campers in a healthy way and to raise red flags when something doesn't seem right. Jamie Simon-Harris, Tawonga's camp director, said at the Beyond Silence conference that the camp's hiring process is meant to carefully screen applicants through the interview and training process. Campers are taught the mantra, “If you see something, say something.” Every year, Simon-Harris said, she receives multiple reports of familial abuse from campers who have heard something from a friend.
“It's kind of the anti-narc,” she said.
Though it may not be possible to end child sexual abuse, it is possible to help children by intervening quickly and helping them heal emotionally, said Wolf. Research shows that the kind of response children get when they tell trusted adults that they have been abused affects how they understand the abuse, as well as how quickly and effectively they can overcome its effects.
When they feel believed and are made to understand the abuse was not their fault, children show more positive outcomes, even when they have endured terrible trauma. In this way, Jewish traditions and teachings and the support of trusted mentors and relatives can offer a framework for helping abused children, according to Tucker.
“When a leader of your synagogue or your school acknowledges to a survivor or to their family that they believe you, that carries a lot of weight,” Tucker said.
“It's a Jewish responsibility to provide a safe and nurturing space for kids. We also have millennia of spiritual tools to help people recover from trauma,” said Rabbi Mike Rothbaum, director of education for Berkeley's Congregation Beth El, who attended the conference with four other staff members. “[This conference] encouraged me to talk to my other colleagues at Beth El and make sure we had a clear and consistent set of policies about this.”
In this way, synagogues arguably have a unique role to play in helping victims and, more controversially, helping perpetrators of abuse to heal. Many participants at the Beyond Silence conference spoke of teshuvah, or repentance.
“At the end of the day, what this community may understand, more than others that I speak to, is that the issue of child sexual abuse is one in which hurt people hurt people,” said Manheimer, the San Mateo police chief, referring to the fact that many abusers were victims themselves as children.
“This is an area where clergy can also be of huge impact dealing with perpetrators and really talking about concepts of teshuvah and accountability and knowing what it takes to change behavior, knowing that that's a really hard thing to do,” Ezray said.
Last month's conference was just the beginning, organizers said. Participants suggested a number of further ideas, including creating a central resource to help Bay Area Jewish agencies share their policies with others and formulating best practices for different types of institutions. Tucker said the Beyond Silence coalition will meet again within the next two months to discuss next steps.
“What is clear is there's already more awareness than there was” before the conference, Tucker said. “We also know it's happening, and staffers are talking about it and they're hungry for information.”
For information, see: http://www.norcalrabbis.org/beyond-silence
Husband of Parkman day care owner faces seven counts of child sex abuse charges
PARKMAN, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- A Parkman man has been arrested on charges he lured children with candy and gum and then asked them to expose themselves to him, according to Piscataquis County District Attorney Chris Almy.
Officials charged 69-year-old David Russell with seven counts of visual sexual aggression. Russell is the husband of Pamela Russell, listed owner of the Just Us Daycare in Parkman.
The Maine Department of Health and Human Services said they received a complaint of alleged sexual abuse of children on October 10 of this year. Pamela Russell agreed to temporarily close her day care pending the investigation and has not had any children in her care since October 12, officials report. She surrendered her certificate voluntarily, on October 20, 2015.
According to a DHHS press statement, Pamela Russell was certified by the Department of Health and Human Services in 1997 as a Family Child Care provider, approved to care for a maximum of 12 children, at the location of 172 Dairy Lane in Parkman.
NEWS CENTER spoke with Piscataquis District Attorney Christopher Almy on Thursday. He said "We became aware of it recently when parents of some of the kids complained to both state police and the Sheriff's office that the children at the daycare center had been enticed in to exposing their privates to the owners husband."
Piscataquis District Attorney Almy also said "The only thing that is alleged here is he enticed these children with gum or candy to expose their privates to him while they were in a pickup truck that he has on the property of the Day Care Center".
Officials said after obtaining sufficient evidence to support findings which would support Child Care Licensing initiating formal negative licensing action against Russell, she voluntarily surrendered her certificate on October 20.
Officials say the Department investigated one unfounded complaint back in 1999.
Almy said David Russell was taken to the Piscataquis County Jail and subsequently released on $2,500 cash bail.
Survivors of child sex abuse need more help
by Sarah Nelson
Today a Scottish Parliament Members' debate led by Johann Lamont will pay 10th anniversary tribute to the pioneering SurvivorScotland Strategy. Also to be heard during the debate will be the serious concerns of some MSPs, the cross-party group for adult survivors of child sexual abuse, many survivors and their agencies about the direction, awareness, commitment and future of this government strategy and team.
Following the launch of Scotland's historical, in-care abuse inquiry in December 2014, SurvivorScotland now relates all but two of its 10 listed priorities to in-care and institutional abuse. That work is very important, but about 80 per cent of Scottish survivors of child sexual abuse were abused in their families or communities. There is great concern about the future of funding and support for the majority of abuse survivors.
SurvivorScotland used to support a range of partnership projects through its service development fund while staff and advisers did wide-ranging work with a survivor-informed ethos. The key principle of mutual support and confidence-building among survivors was seen as important to recovery for abused women and men.
The original strategy called for public awareness-raising, staff training and prevention work to combat ignorance, stigma and discrimination. But such work has almost disappeared, while SurvivorScotland's “innovation and development” funding has narrowed to a medical model of assessment, interventions and psychological therapies aimed at “brokering” health and wellbeing services for individuals' care and recovery.
But few NHS trauma services even exist in Scotland to meet the needs of those survivors who do have mental health issues after abuse in institutions or the community. These have long waiting lists. Besides, survivors widely distrust most psychiatric and psychological services through long experience of medical models that ignore abuse issues.
There is growing concern that the skills and experience of voluntary sector support agencies, in health and wellbeing work they have developed with survivors, are being disparaged and downgraded.
SurvivorScotland's website is the government strategy's public face. This includes textual errors and broken web links; two contradictory sets of texts about abuse, its effects and approaches to recovery; and some sections have not been updated for years, though updated materials have been offered.
It's unthinkable that politicians or civil servants would tell support organisations funded by Scotland's Violence against Women and Girls strategy that their main task was to facilitate individual recovery and “improved personal outcomes”, with therapies approved under National Institute for Clinical Excellence (in England) or Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network guidelines. If they did, they would be told they neither understood nor addressed an unacceptable crime.
Scottish governments have instead had a longstanding, three-fold strategy of prevention, protection and provision against domestic abuse.
Yet SurvivorScotland's client group overlaps considerably with service users of Women's Aid and Rape Crisis centres. It has only about £0.8 million to spend in 2015-16, while there is, justifiably, about £12m for the Violence against Women fund). Unlike SurvivorScotland, this also core-funds hard-pressed support agencies.
Could equalities funding help support victims of abuse? The only significant difference is that SurvivorScotland supports both female and male survivors. But increasing numbers of women's and children's support projects work with men and boys too, while work with both genders can be accommodated within a broad feminist framework of understanding, planning and commitment. Even if this issue proves a sticking point, other funding streams than Violence against Women can be drawn upon within equalities. Its total for 2015-16 is given as £20.3m.
As a former professional adviser to the strategy team, my view is that Scottish Government ministers should:
• Move most of SurvivorScotland's work from its base in health into the equality, human rights and third sector division, where progressive, well-funded initiatives for people facing social exclusion, stigma and injustice are encouraged. All organisations working against sexual violence would be asked to collaborate on funding applications that brought mutual benefit, while on other applications they would still need to protect particular priorities of their client groups.
• Declare that a narrow medical model is neither appropriate nor respectful to survivors. Abuse is not a disease; it is a crime. The health division could instead valuably host a genuine collaboration and mutual learning process among professionals, voluntary sector support agencies and survivors to develop excellence in meeting mental and physical health needs. Survivors themselves could help define what those excellent services should be.
• Reinstate, and demonstrate, policy and funding commitment to the majority of Scottish survivors who were not abused in care as well as those who were.
Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency Approves $3.4 Million in Grants from the NCAA/PSU Endowment Act Fund
by PR Newswire
HARRISBURG, Pa., Dec. 9, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Today, the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) approved $3.4 million in grant funding from the Endowment Act Fund, which will be awarded to 44 entities throughout the Commonwealth that assist victims of child sexual abuse.
"This first round of awards under the Endowment Act focuses on programs that assist child victims and adult survivors of sexual abuse, children's advocacy centers, victim service organizations that provide direct services, and training to treat victims of child sexual abuse," Chairman Josh Shapiro said. "These grants are another step in our continuous efforts at PCCD to make certain that we are doing everything we can for victims of child abuse in Pennsylvania."
"After traveling a long road, I am thrilled to see this money being distributed locally to organizations that provide valuable services in our communities," said Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-34), who filed the lawsuit that led to the settlement agreement. "The effects of child abuse are devastating to the children, their families and our communities. The Endowment Act ensures that Pennsylvania money stays local to help our neighbors in need."
Per the settlement agreement reached in January 2015, $48 million in monetary penalties imposed on the Pennsylvania State University (PSU) by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) were deposited into a separate account in the State Treasury. PCCD is charged by the Endowment Act, or Act 1 of 2013, to distribute those funds for the benefit of the residents of Pennsylvania and for the specific purpose of assisting child sexual abuse victims.
PCCD relied on the expertise of the Children's Advocacy Center Advisory Committee (CACAC) to develop the initial funding announcements and provide advice to the Commission on the grants to be funded. The CACAC, which is chaired by Bucks County District Attorney David Heckler, was statutorily created by Act 28 of 2014 to expand access to children's advocacy centers and increase their availability to serve child victims of sexual and physical abuse.
"Every child victim of sexual abuse should have access to a children's advocacy center," District Attorney David Heckler said. "CACs are essential to building cases that hold perpetrators accountable in court with the least possible further harm to the victim and they help children to heal. The Endowment Act funds will be key to strengthening CACs where they exist and creating them where they do not."
"Pennsylvania's prosecutors have long advocated that the Endowment Act funding must be used to help Pennsylvania emerge as a leader in child victim services," said Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association President and Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman. "The programs supported by the Endowment Act funds announced today will have a long and incredibly positive impact on child protection in Pennsylvania, particularly in its support for Children's Advocacy Centers."
"Sometimes from evil, comes an opportunity to do good work," Jennifer Storm, Victim Advocate, said. "We stand here today with that opportunity, announcing grants that will ensure that victims of sexual violence will not be left in the shadows to suffer in silence."
"These funds have their roots in the heinous acts committed by Jerry Sandusky but today is a day to be hopeful," Chairman Shapiro said. "Today we took another step in our collective efforts to help the most vulnerable among us, our children."
Our Mission is to enhance the quality, coordination and planning within the criminal and juvenile justice systems, to facilitate the delivery of services to victims of crime, and to increase the safety of our communities.
Child abuse increases with declining economy, holiday season
by Erin Stone
The holidays, coupled with a declining economy, brings stress to all, but it also brings a more disturbing trend: a rise in child abuse. Local agencies that provide counseling and crisis services to abuse victims say that both physical and sexual abuse cases are on the rise, but suspected child sexual abuse cases remain in the majority.
“(Child abuse) is a huge problem here and it has been for years,” said Kristi Edwards, Clinical/Operations director and counselor for Centers for Children and Families. “When times are really bad, people's stress levels go up, their frustration goes through the roof. Kids are kids no matter what, they don't understand that dad's job or mom's job is cutting hours or employees.”
Not only does an increase occur during downturns, but the advent of the holidays regardless of the economy is unfortunately a reliable predictor of spikes in child abuse, said Elisha McPeek, program director and lead forensic interviewer at the Midland Rape Crisis and Children's Advocacy Center.
“The boom starts to bust, things become tight, families become stressed, and physical and sexual abuse tends to go up,” McPeek said. “When Christmas comes, kids are out of school, these things go up as well.”
Child sexual abuse is suspected to be vastly underreported for the most part. So far this year, MRCCAC has performed forensic interviews with 504 children for alleged physical and sexual abuse, observing homicides and other court cases.
Of that number, 319 have been suspected sexual abuse cases. In 2014, there were 542 children interviewed total, with 352 for suspected sexual abuse.
“Child sexual abuse exists in Midland as much as people don't want to admit it does,” said Paula Cox, MRCCAC education director. “We're not any different from the rest of the country. Horrible things happen in this area, too.”
Cox hasn't seen noticeable progress when it comes to lowering child sexual abuse rates here over the past few years.
“It's a bigger issue absolutely than people realize,” McPeek said. “And if kiddos are not receiving support and therapy and intervention it will cause issues for them later in life.”
Permian Basin Community Centers psychiatrist Mark Luley said a large number of the patients he sees in the Bridges Behavioral Health Clinic are coming in with mental health issues related to childhood sexual abuse.
“In our clinics we see a lot of PTSD,” Luley said. “There's a huge trend here. If you suffer from PTSD or depression as a child, you're more likely to use alcohol. My clinic certainly has a lot of alcohol dependence, a lot of cocaine dependence, and what's really concerning is the synthetic canniboids. Generally a lot of (the PTSD and substance abuse) is related to childhood sexual abuse and mental abuse during childhood.”
Texas law defines sexual abuse of a child “any sexual conduct harmful to a child's mental, emotional or physical welfare as well as failure to make a reasonable effort to prevent sexual conduct with a child. A person who compels or encourages a child to engage in sexual conduct commits abuse, and it is against the law to make or possess child pornography or to display such material to a child.”
No matter the severity of the abuse, the consequences on the victim's mental and physical well-being can be detrimental. The fact that 98 percent of sexual abuse perpetrators are family friends, relatives or otherwise known and trusted by the child, only adds to the devastation that the abuse can inflict and the effort made to keep it secret.
“Childhood sexual abuse can be an underlying issue in many later problems in adulthood,” wrote Bridges Behavioral Health Clinician Amber Hoelscher in an email. “I have seen it manifested through depression, anxiety and addiction, just to name a few. Many adults may not make the connection that the abuse from their past is still bothering them in their current daily lives.”
Centers for Family and Children serves clients age 3 and up. Of their clientele, more than 50 percent report some kind of sexual abuse, and 25 percent will report some type of childhood sexual abuse, Edwards said.
“Whenever you've had severe childhood sexual trauma, just like PTSD in veterans, it colors everything you do,” Edwards said.
However, many adults don't see the issues they're struggling with as PTSD, identifying it as depression, anxiety or an inability to sleep due to nightmares, Hoelscher said. But the symptoms often manifest in full-blown PTSD or varying degrees of a stress disorder.
“The people we work with say they can't go anywhere without knowing where the exits are,” Edwards said. “It affects your relationships, your ability to pay attention. A lot of people will say they're afraid they'll lose their job because sometimes when they're in the middle of something they'll have some kind of anxiety and they don't want to tell people why --that it's because they were raped or molested as a child.”
With any kind of abuse, victims often report feeling shame. But with sexual abuse, that level of shame has a different tone.
“That's happening before you even know what sex is about,” Edwards said. “Somebody that's touching you, either hurting you or saying you love me so trust me, or don't tell or I'll hurt you or your family. That messes you up. But there's also pleasure associated with sexual stimulation. So that can also cause the shame. Yes, it did feel good, or yes, I had an orgasm. But you know it's wrong because it was with a brother or an uncle or dad or a trusted baby sitter or whatever. Almost everybody who's experienced some type of sexual abuse says it's difficult to be emotionally connected with other people.”
Victims of sexual abuse are often “groomed” to not tell, or to feel that the abuse is their fault. This can keep a child from making an outcry, and thus, reporting by outsiders becomes essential.
“Whether you're a parent, teacher, coach, youth pastor, it's really about getting to know your kids and allowing them to talk to you,” Cox said. “If they once were very happy child, an extrovert, and then all of a sudden they go into their shell, or they don't want to go to school or go home or have unexplained bruises or injuries. All of these signs don't necessarily mean they're being abused, but something's going on, so whether or not it's abuse, it's something you need to have a conversation about.”
If there's any suspicion at all, it's worth it to report it, Cox said.
“A lot of people say, what if I'm wrong? What if nothing is going on? OK, but what if there is? That's what you need to focus on. Not whether the kid or the mom is gonna be mad at you because I would much rather deal with somebody hating me than to know I didn't do something when a child is being abused.”
One in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys is sexually abused before their 18th birthday, according to Children's Advocacy Centers of Texas. Conversations about what inappropriate touching is has to happen earlier, Edwards and Hoelscher said.
“The schools teach stranger danger, good touch bad touch, etc., but some of those classes don't start until you're in junior high,” Edwards said. “We've gotta start younger. I'm gonna say 2 and 3 is probably an age in which we need to start giving voice to these kids. They start knowing what their private parts are, so we start saying we don't show those in public, we don't touch those in public. So to me a natural extension of that is, no one else looks at those, no one else touches those.”
The healing process from sexual abuse can be long and difficult, but there is a way to find peace in a healthy way, local professionals said. Truly healing from sexual abuse often requires the help of a professional.
“We build on successive experiences,” Edwards said. “If your early childhood is successive experiences of physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, that's all you've got in your head and every memory that's connected to takes you back to something like that. There's no foundation of safety and control.”
Many who have experienced childhood abuse fall into reckless and dangerous behavior when they get older, such as self-harming behaviors, substance abuse and sexual promiscuity.
“It can be that they think they don't deserve any better,” Edwards said. “Who's gonna ever want me? Is this ever gonna be an act of love for me because it's never been an act of love? It's always been an act of ‘they're more powerful than I am, I'm helpless.' It makes you feel powerless, dirty, ruined, shamed. It affects you in your job, your relationship with your children, your friends, the way you feel about yourself. It affects your spirituality because people say how could God love me?”
A foundation of self-love, security and trust takes time to build.
“A large percentage of the population we see has a hard time coming to grips with some of the things that have happened to them before, and I think they try to block off those thoughts, and, as a result, don't seek treatment,” Luley said. “A large percentage of our population (in Bridges Behavioral) has childhood PTSD and they've never received treatment for the things they encountered when they were young, be it mental, physical, or sexual abuse. And those are things that really require treatment.”
Centers for Children and Families
Location: 1004 N. Big Spring St., Ste 325
Midland Rape Crisis and Children's Advocacy Center
Services: Forensic interviews and crisis intervention services, free counseling for victims of all ages and their families, and group therapy.
Location: 1700 N. Big Spring St.
Contact: 432.682.7273 answered 24 hours a day
Permian Basin Community Centers
Services: Mental health services, intellectual and development disability services, substance abuse/chemical dependency, early childhood intervention, HIV services, Veteran's services.
Location 401 E. Illinois Ave.
Rock County opposes changes to child abuse and neglect reporting laws
by Catherine W. Idzerda
JANESVILLE—Informing law enforcement about every child abuse and neglect call could improve outcomes.
It also could add needless paperwork, violate state standards and create another unfunded mandate, Rock County officials said.
On Monday, the Rock County Board Public Safety and Justice Committee voted to oppose Senate Bill 326 and Assembly Bill 429.
Both bills would require social workers to report to law enforcement all cases of reported child abuse or neglect.
That's all cases—including those determined to be without merit.
“I think these bills are really well-intentioned,” said Phil Boutwell, deputy director of Rock County Human Services.
They're designed to keep police informed about what's going on, but the Rock County Human Services Department has a good working relationship with law enforcement. In addition, the county has developed “memorandums of understanding” that outline how human services agencies and the police respond to and coordinate investigations.
HOW IT WORKS NOW
Health care providers, school employees and other professionals who suspect child abuse or neglect are required to report to the county department of human services or to police.
Rock County receives about 3,500 reports of suspected child abuse or neglect each year, said Boutwell.
Each of those cases is either “screened in” for investigation or “screened out,” Boutwell said.
“Typically, we're screening out about 60 percent of the calls,” Boutwell said.
In the case of suspected or threatened sexual abuse, social workers must refer the report to the police within 12 hours. Human services and police then coordinate their response.
For other serious suspected or threatened abuse or neglect cases, social workers respond to the scene within 24 hours. Less serious cases are investigated within 24 to 48 hours. The maximum response time is five days.
Under changes proposed in the bills, all cases, including those screened out, would be reported to the police. Reporting times would vary from 12 to 48 hours, depending on the severity of the cases.
The legislation was introduced by Sen. Robert Cowles, R-Green Bay, as part of a four-bill legislative package introduced by his office and developed with advice from the state Department of Justice, said Jason Mugnaini, legislative aide for the senator.
Mugnaini stressed that the bill's authors never “intended to make things more difficult.”
“We want law enforcement to be involved in cases sooner,” Mugnaini said.
In Rock County, the law would mean an average of 14 additional reports to police every working day. That's based on approximately 250 workdays and 3,500 reports of suspected or threaten abuse and neglect.
That couldn't be done without more staff or overtime, Boutwell said.
No new money would be available for either.
Mugnaini said the bill wouldn't require complete reports. For cases that were not screened in, only a line or two would be needed.
In his office's research for the bill, it found cases in which complaints were screened in or out as many as 40 times before anything was done to help the child in question, Mugnaini said.
“We found cases that were repeatedly screened out and a prosecutor got a conviction,” Mugnaini said. “There are tools that law enforcement can offer that CPS (child protective services) can't.”
Examples of those tools include subpoenas and search warrants, Mugnaini said.
The Rock County Board resolution opposing Senate Bill 326 and Assembly Bill 429 outlines the board's objections to the bill. They include:
-- Law enforcement involvement in all child welfare cases might make families less willing to accept services for fear of criminal charges. Human services tries to help keep families together, and sometimes that involves intensive in-home programming.
-- The investigation of all reports, including those that were screened out, would violate the state Department of Children and Families standards.
According to the Government Accountability Board, the bills are supported by the Association of State Prosecutors, the Wisconsin Chiefs of Police Association and the Wisconsin Professional Police Association. Opposed are the Wisconsin Association of Family and Children's Agencies, Wisconsin Council on Children and Families and The Wisconsin Counties Association.
Sexual contact, poor supervision among complaints facing child care provider
by Denis C. Theriault
Two state agencies released letters Wednesday detailing serious complaints — repeated sexual contact among clients and poor supervision of a suicidal child — that have officials on the brink of pulling a Clackamas County care provider's license.
The letters by the Oregon Health Authority and the Oregon Department of Human Services list incidents from June through late November and say Youth Villages Oregon, formerly known as ChristieCare, could lose its residential care license unless it makes immediate fixes.
The "intent to revoke" letters accuse Youth Villages officials of failing to promptly report abuse. But they primarily point to lackluster supervision. A review found staffers sometimes ignoring nighttime checks, struggling to stay awake on the job and failing to keep children from getting onto the facility's roof.
The provider's practices "constitute a danger to the health and safety of its residents," the letter from the Human Services Department says, noting "multiple substantiated findings of neglect."
Human Services officials announced last week that they had stopped placing foster children at Youth Villages, which cares for about 24 children and had its license renewed in spring, in light of unspecified complaints. They also said they planned to remove children from the facility.
But on Wednesday, spokesman Gene Evans clarified that "those moves had not been completed" amid difficulties in transferring children receiving mental health care for serious behavioral and emotional issues.
The department said the sanctions stemmed from a review of providers who lingered on its "radar list." The review was prompted by accusations this year that the department did little to stop neglect by a Portland provider.
The letters show that the state's Health Authority was the first to suggest pulling Youth Villages' license, weeks before the Human Services Department went public with its own actions.
Health Authority officials issued a letter Nov. 16 listing several concerns while ordering the facility to stop accepting placements. That letter came after officials from both state agencies visited Youth Villages on Nov. 10, 12 and 13.
Human Services officials stopped short of immediately threatening Youth Villages' license. The department instead issued a less formal "number of corrective actions."
But days later, Youth Villages reported another incident of sexual contact between patients, prompting another visit and inspection, and a more serious letter from the Human Services Department.
Reported complaints about sexual contact among patients at Youth Villages date to the summer. On June 23, a staffer who saw two clients "engaged in sexualized behavior" failed to call for help because his phone battery had run out.
On July 4, a staffer sat on a nearby sofa while two clients had sex in the doorway of a female resident's room. Sexual contact was again reported in August, October and Nov. 1 — with the latter involving the same male resident in the July 4 case. The boy's service plan wasn't updated.
"And he was not placed on a special treatment plan related to his behavior," the Health Authority wrote.
The most recent incident, on Nov. 17, came after two residents were left alone for 35 minutes. The state says Lake Oswego police are investigating. Youth Villages also faces accusations that it failed to properly separate bedrooms for girls and boys.
Other supervision, oversight and neglect concerns were widespread in the two reports:
• Both agencies noted that some workers were allowed to supervise children before completing criminal background checks.
• Both letters noted that one girl was able to attempt suicide twice while under what was supposed to be continuous supervision. The girl's treatment plan, the Health Authority wrote, "was not updated to reflect further intervention as indicated or warranted given the severity of the attempt."
• Though staffers are supposed to scan bar codes on clients' beds to show they visited rooms every 10 minutes every night, some reports from November show those scans never happened some nights. Scores are supposed to stay above 90 percent, according to Youth Villages' policy. But in one week in November, the daily average was 12 percent.
• Children were spotted on the facility's roof several times in recent months, with the incidents never reported to the state despite a call to police. In fact, state officials were surprised to learn about several calls to police for help dealing with residents.
• One girl was found with a hair tie around her neck, a potential strangulation incident — something state officials said they didn't learn until they visited the facility.
• A resident was punched in the back of the head twice after biting a staff member's knuckles Nov. 6. Human Services officials say they never received a critical-incident report detailing the encounter.
A spokeswoman with Youth Villages' national office in Tennessee said she was working on a statement. Previously, the provider said it disagreed with the state's findings but acknowledged that it was making changes related to training and supervision.
Emotional Testimony Targets Plan to License Detention Centers
by Jordan Rudner
Walking earlier this year into the South Texas Family Residential Center, a detention center for undocumented women and children, Satsuki Ina was reminded of her own early childhood — which she spent in internment camps for Japanese Americans.
Testifying in front of officials from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services on Wednesday, Ina, a psychotherapist, said she was horrified by the conditions she saw at the Dilley, Texas, facility during her tour. Ina was born in an internment camp in California during World War II, and was later transferred to a different camp in Crystal City, Texas, where she lived until she was 3.
“As a Japanese American, and as a former victim of the trauma of unjust and indeterminate incarceration, I am appalled by the possibility that the state of Texas would consider exempting the two facilities that currently house thousands of children from basic regulations deemed essential for care and welfare,” Ina said at the hearing. "I was deeply disturbed by what I witnessed and heard from the children and their mothers during my visit."
Ina was one of several people who provided emotional testimony to agency officials during a four-hour hearing Wednesday in Austin. Witnesses said that children were expected to sleep in rooms with other families and left alone with guards for hours at a time, for example. The hearing was part of the administrative process the agency is going through as it considers approving two private detention facilities, run in cooperation with the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement, as licensed residential centers for undocumented children.
Although the centers currently house roughly 2,000 women and children, who arrived during a surge of unauthorized migration last summer in the Rio Grande Valley, a federal district judge ruled this year that the children are being held in "deplorable" conditions, violating provisions established by a 1997 agreement called Flores v. Meese. While that case works its way through the federal court system, Family and Protective Services officials announced in September that they wanted to license the two detention centers, in Karnes City and Dilley, under the agency's purview. According to state officials, this would allow more oversight of the conditions of the children in detention.
The department originally moved to issue the licenses under emergency procedures, bypassing typical requirements that members of the public be given the opportunity to weigh in. Last month, state District Judge Karin Crump of Travis County ruled that the emergency procedures weren't justified, and said the state would have to go through normal procedures for licensing the facilities — including opening the floor to public comment, which they did Wednesday in Austin.
Although Family and Protective Services officials are charged with making sure children are in conditions where they can thrive, the children in the detention centers are actually regressing, according to Greg Hansch, public policy director at the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Texas. Several of the the people who testified Wednesday focused on the adverse impact of the detention centers on children's psychology and said the children were also losing weight and shedding hair at alarming rates.
“Both mothers and children in these facilities commonly show symptoms of anxiety, depression, and feelings of despair,” Hansch said. “It is not child care when children are not only being blocked from achieving normal milestones, but are also experiencing regression in their developmental pathway.”
Placing the detention centers under Family and Protective Services regulation would “close a gap” in the oversight of children being detained — potentially resolving some of the concerns mentioned in testimony, according to Paul Morris, the agency's assistant commissioner for child care licensing. If the two facilities were regulated by the agency, they would be required to meet standards “designed to ensure the safety and welfare of children,” he said.
“My staff would make periodic inspections of the facilities,” Morris told the crowd. “They would investigate any allegations of abuse and neglect and any other alleged violations of minimum standards.”
Virginia Raymond, an Austin-based immigration attorney, said she was skeptical of Morris' assertion that minimum standards could be met — the detention centers just don't come close to anything resembling child-care facilities, she said.
“It's an insult to child-care workers, and it's an insult to the common sense of the people of Texas, to call detention centers child care,” she said.
Ina, the internment camp survivor, added that she was perturbed by what she called "euphemistic language" that the agnecy uses when talking about the detention centers. Like those centers, internment camps were also “named relocation centers and family camps in order to mask the truth of our circumstances,” she said.
Police: Why did stranger from Indiana kill kindergartner?
by The Associated Press
VERSAILLES, Ky. - The stabbing death of a kindergartner asleep in his home has plunged this Kentucky town into mourning, and shaken neighbors are rallying around the family even as they worry about their security. A man from Indiana described by authorities as having no apparent ties to the town or family has been charged with murder.
The death of the 6-year-old boy has police, neighbors and family in this small community of Versailles puzzled after the man from 200 miles away in Indiana was arrested and accused in police documents of repeatedly stabbing the boy in the head with a large kitchen knife. No motivation in the killing has been reported by authorities.
“It kind of hits close to home when it's a couple houses down from you,” said neighbor Tiffany Crow, who is now thinking of buying more locks for her home.
Logan Tipton was killed before dawn Monday when the intruder broke into his home, grabbed a large kitchen knife and stabbed the boy, police said.
“Babies aren't supposed to have anything like this happen to them,” said the boy's aunt, Melissa Pujol. “You can't make sense of it. You just have to try to get through it. We're just trying to get through it.”
Logan was a happy child, always smiling, she said. He loved to play football.
Police said Ronald Exantus, 32, of Indianapolis is accused of breaking into the house where the boy lived with his parents and siblings in Versailles, near Lexington in Kentucky's thoroughbred and bourbon country. The police citation alleges Exantus wandered around after gaining entry, then headed to an upstairs bedroom where the boy was asleep, stabbing him several times in the head.
Exantus has been charged with murder and first-degree burglary. He appeared in a Woodford County courtroom and entered a plea of not guilty Monday with bond set at $1 million by District Court Judge Vanessa Dickson.
“We're all kind of bumping our heads again a wall; it's mind-boggling,” said Versailles police Lt. Michael Fortney. “It's a child who had no opportunity to defend himself.”
Christmas lights and decorations, including a Snoopy wearing a Santa hat, adorned the small frame house where Logan had lived with his family. Two bikes and a basketball were strewn in the front yard. Neighbors said Logan and his siblings would be outside playing whenever weather permitted. Nearby are a couple of churches, one with a front yard sign reading: “Jesus is the reason for the season.”
The town has rallied around Logan's family.
Laura Burton Lacy, a family friend, set up an online fundraising account to raise money for his funeral, counseling for his siblings and other expenses. Community members collected $15,000 in just a few hours alone.
The family plans to move out of their house in the neighborhood.
Two of the boy's sisters suffered non-life-threatening cuts in the attack, and the suspect was held by the boy's father until police arrived, the arrest citation said. The boy's family told police they have never seen Exantus before.
“The family did all that they could,” Pujol said.
Fortney said police have found nothing to connect Extanus to the family or to the town.
Hours after the killing, an attorney appointed to represent Exantus questioned his mental competency. Bridget Hofler said at her client's arraignment that he was unresponsive when she asked him about his background and family. He didn't know his mother's phone number nor could he tell her his occupation or what he was doing in town, she said.
“I have discussed various things with him on two separate occasions this morning and he's not able to really discuss anything; he's not here,” Hofler told reporters afterward.
She told the judge she has heard her client is a registered nurse, but has been unable to confirm that. The Indiana Professional Licensing Agency lists a Ronald Exantus of Indianapolis as having an active nursing license.
Logan was a kindergartner at Simmons Elementary in Versailles. His classmates were told he had died, but not about the circumstances of his death, said county schools Superintendent Scott Hawkins.
“He was extremely well liked,” Hawkins said of the boy. “He had a lot of friends at the school. Just a great, great little boy, and one that you certainly loved having in your building.”
Counselors say more families should talk about sexual child abuse to prevent future harm
by Franque Thompson
TULSA — One in five girls under the age of 18 are victims of sexual child abuse. Directors at Family and Children's Services in Tulsa offer programs for abused children.
One of the programs offered includes the Child Abuse and Trauma Services. Program director, Christine Marsh, said parents should act now to save their child's future.
"Hopefully offer some education for how to stay safe in the future, as well as understanding how they can overcome all of the feelings and experiences that they had so they can move forward in a healthy way," said Marsh.
The Adult Survivors of Sexual Abuse is a local support group for women. The group meets twice a month to try to and heal from painful childhood memories.
Mecca Grandle is one of the group members. She said she was 11 when a family member started attacking her.
"I kept my secret for 26 years. And it was when this person was arrested for attempting to do it again that my world kind of started to shatters," said Grandle.
Grandle kept her secret private, but news spread quickly about a one-year-old girl who died of sexual abuse. Her mother's boyfriend, 30-year-old Cody Johnson, is accused. He is being held at the Tulsa County Jail on a $200,000 bond. Johnson could face several charges, including sexual abuse to a minor and first-degree murder.
Counselors said many predators aren't caught because families aren't speaking about the abuse, which leaves several effects on the victims when they become adults.
"They can suffer from depression, anxiety, panic, post-traumatic stress or disorders. So the goal of the support group would be for them to recover from the trauma and be able to live their life fully," said K Renee Marlow, counselor of the women's support group.
Marsh said her program often sees children and families of sexual abuse. She said it's important to start the conversation early to prevent future abuse.
"There's really progress being made that families and children often grow in their relationships with one another, they're strengthened even more than when they originally came in because they're able to recover from the situation together," said Marsh.
Though Grandle waited 26 years to tell her truth about the abuse she has one message for victims of all ages across Green Country.
"Absolutely tell somebody. And if the person that you're telling is not the right person tell somebody else because you know these things that happen they don't just affect you at that age, they affect you for many, many years," said Marsh.
Families looking to recover from abuse can find more information on Family and Children's Services website.
Just how common is child sex abuse in Tompkins County?
by Michael Smith
ITHACA, NY - As one Tompkins County child sexual abuse case reached its end, another suspect was charged for a similar crime. It begged the question: just how common are these sorts of crimes in Tompkins County?
The unsatisfying answer is that it's really difficult to know.
"It's hard to get a clear picture," says Tiffany Greco in Ithaca. "It's one of the most under reported crimes, so the numbers we have don't actually reflect the reality. The real numbers are probably much higher."
Greco reported that in 2014, the Advocacy Center served over 400 Tompkins County clients - adults and children of both genders - who experienced some form of sexual abuse. The exact breakdown isn't available, but the number includes a substantial amount of child sexual abuse victims and adult survivors of child sexual abuse.
Additionally, there were over 2,000 calls to the Advocacy Center's hotline. Advocacy Center representatives personally accompanied eight victims of child sexual assault to the hospital.
Pulling back to the national level, a 2011 CDC report provides some similarly disturbing statistics:
- 18 percent of women and 1.5 percent of men report being raped at least once in their lives
- 13 percent of women and 6 percent of men report experiencing sexual coercion at least once in their lives
- 42 percent of female rape victims report being raped before age 18
- 30 percent of female rape victims were first raped between the ages of 11-17
- 12 percent of female and 28 percent of male rape victims were first raped at age 10 or younger
Reporting and repercussions
As noted, however, these figures don't account for the many instances that go unreported. Greco elaborated on some of the reasons that a child might not report abuse: "They may have been threatened by their abuser, they may be afraid that they won't be believed, and often the abuser might be someone that they know and trust," she said.
Assuming that all those barriers are crossed and a child does report sexual abuse, what happens then? The answer, again, is somewhat unsatisfying.
"Every case is different, so it's hard to say," Greco explained. Many cases end in a plea deal and never see trial. In those situations, the alleged perpetrator may or may not end up on a sex offender registry. With the circumstances of each case being different, there's simply no straight answer.
What can be done?
Greco stressed that, first and foremost, it's the job of adults to keep children safe from abuse. Expecting a child in a vulnerable position to take action against their abuser is unrealistic. Adults should be paying attention and be aware of the signs that a child might be being abused.
To that end, the Advocacy Center has been taking part in the nation-wide "Enough Abuse" campaign. This campaign focuses on "providing adults and communities with the knowledge and skills they need to put an end to the silence. And eventually, the epidemic [of child sex abuse]."
Tompkins, along with Broome and Suffolk Counties, are the three pilot locations for this initiative in New York.
Since the inception of the program in Tompkins, over 300 community members have undergone training to help identify signs of child sexual abuse. Additionally, the program developed 15 trainers to help further educate the community, some of whom have gone on to become "Master Trainers" working with organizations statewide.
The Advocacy Center also aids victims of domestic violence. Greco encouraged anyone who is experiencing abuse or is aware of abuse occurring in their family to call the Advocacy Center's free, 24/7 hotline at (607) 277-5000.
What Sex Abuse Cases at Horace Mann and Y.U. Should Teach Us
by Amos Kamil
As a former student at Horace Mann School in the Bronx's Riverdale neighborhood, I was instrumental in breaking the silence around the prestigious prep school's decades-long history of child sexual abuse.
Although I myself am not an abuse survivor, I saw many of my fellow alumni's stories come to light when The New York Times Magazine published my article, "Prep School Predators,” in June 2012. The article caused a firestorm, and the tale of its aftermath — which includes scores more alumni coming forward and ultimately naming 22 predators — is recounted in my new book, “Great Is the Truth: Secrecy, Scandal, and the Quest for Justice at the Horace Mann School,” co-written by Sean Elder.
Though the two cases are different, I believe that it is worth drawing out the similarities between how Horace Mann handled its scandal and how another institution — Yeshiva University High School for Boys — dealt with its sexual abuse controversy. Both of these cases should spur New York to overhaul its abysmal statute of limitations laws as they relate to child sex abuse.
In the cases of both Horace Mann and Y.U. high school some students came forward to speak of their abuse. But New York's current statute of limitations law prevents a victim of child sexual abuse from filing suit after he or she turns 23. In essence, the law makes it possible for schools and other institutions to escape legal accountability simply by remaining silent long enough.
Contrary to popular belief, most victims do not come forward to sue but rather to have the abuse acknowledged and to have someone from the institution where the abuse occurred say “Sorry.” In both the Horace Mann and Y.U. high school cases, the schools begrudgingly acknowledged their former students' suffering but took little if any responsibility.
And when opposing sides, survivors and administrators finally did come to the table to discuss compensation, attorneys from both institutions approached the negotiations as if they were facing a hostile takeover rather than engaging in an opportunity to right an old wrong. “They made me feel like I was asking for a handout,” one Horace Mann abuse survivor told me of the mediation process. After telling their stories in excruciating detail, some survivors were offered as little as $5,000 for their suffering. Horace Mann paid $2.6 million to its own attorneys the same fiscal year.
“We'll take care of you,” Horace Mann's headmaster, Tom Kelly, repeatedly told survivors during the mediation process. Similar language was used in the Y.U. high school case when, in January 2013, that school's counsel promised to engage in a settlement dialogue with the survivors. Kevin Mulhearn, representing the 34 Y.U. victims (he also represented six Horace Mann survivors) took Y.U.'s good-faith offer at face value and refrained from filing suit for six months to see if the matter could be settled amicably. “Y.U.'s counsel had told us for months that the school wanted to do the right thing by my clients,” Mulhearn said. Instead, according to Mulhearn, Y.U. attorneys used the time to line up their legal arguments, and when they finally came to the table, the counteroffer was zero. Not one thin dime.
When Mulhearn conveyed the school's non-offer to his clients, they were devastated. Many felt as if they had been violated again, this time by the institution where the original abuse had taken place. This bait-and-switch tactic seemed even more callous in light of the fact that one of Y.U. high school's insurance carriers told Mulhearn it was willing to make contributions toward settlement payments. Like Horace Mann, Y.U. high school made a conscious choice to pay millions to its attorneys — not to mention to the international law firm that the university hired to conduct an independent investigation — and nothing to its alumni, who alleged they had been grievously wounded as children.
Both Horace Mann and Y.U. high school trade on their reputations to entice parents to pay large tuitions. It seems the past is convenient only when it can be marshaled to highlight a glorious tradition in the service of fundraising.
Many Catholic diocese and administrators at private schools like Horace Mann and Y.U. high school have used the current statute of limitations laws (which vary from state to state) as an excuse to shirk responsibility. The laws enable institutions to protect their brand while placing children at risk. By using the narrow constraints of the law, they avoid not only legal consequences, but also any kind of moral reckoning. It's not just that these institutions are effectively evading legal and financial consequences; they are creating more victims by allowing abusers who could have been stopped years ago to continue their abusive behavior.
What's more, survivors and their families are left to bear the high cost of abuse as manifested in addiction, post-traumatic stress disorder and the need for therapy, while predators, institutions and their insurers remain untouched. No monetary award could undo the damage, but being told by predators, institutions and states alike that there is no legal recourse only deepens and prolongs the suffering.
Across the nation, adult victims of childhood sexual abuse are gaining increasing access to justice with major strides in many states, but not all. New York has one of the worst child sex abuse statute of limitations laws in the country. It shares this distinction with Alabama, Mississippi and Michigan.
The Child Victims Act (aka the Markey Bill, after state assemblywoman Margaret Markey) was first introduced in the 2006-2007 legislative session and has been passed four times by the New York State Assembly. But, met with intense opposition from Catholic and ultra-Orthodox groups, it has never made it to the floor of the state Senate. The Markey Bill is an attempt to change the law to allow victims of abuse (occurring from the present day onwards) five extra years, till the age of 28, to come forward. It also offers a one-year window for survivors to make a retroactive claim against their abuser (for abuse that occurred in the past).
It is time that New York State residents and lawmakers gave millions of adult survivors a fighting chance to reclaim some dignity and gain justice in the remaining years of what are, for many, already shattered lives.
Amos Kamil is the co-author of “Great Is the Truth: Secrecy, Scandal, and the Quest for Justice at the Horace Mann School.”
2015: 'An awful year for child abuse and child-abuse murder cases'
by Samantha Vincent
The two child-abuse murder cases involving girls younger than 2 years old this month bring Tulsa County's total such cases this year to nine, the highest number a local prosecutor has seen in recent memory.
“I think it's safe to say that 2015 has been an awful year for child abuse and child-abuse murder cases,” Assistant District Attorney Sarah McAmis said Monday.
“This year is ending with one of the worst cases that has been presented,” she said. “There's no way to explain how a person could hurt a baby in that way.”
On Saturday, 16-month-old Sawyer Paige Jefferson was admitted to a Tulsa hospital for extensive internal trauma consistent with “extensive forcible penetration” and facial bruising. She died at the hospital after going into cardiac arrest.
On Dec. 1, Nevaeh Estellita Brookens-Roldan died on her first birthday after police said she suffered brain and retinal hemorrhages and multiple bruises, apparently when being severely shaken.
While the type of abuse in those two deaths differed, Tulsa Police Child Crisis Unit Cpl. Greg Smith said both deaths are in line with a “high percentage” of such cases that are perpetrated by someone the child knows but who isn't a blood relative.
“It doesn't always happen that way, but it seems like a high percentage of our cases are caused by mom's boyfriend who isn't the dad of the child,” he said.
“The common thread is usually some type of trigger, some type of frustration. Often, there's an unemployed boyfriend who moves in with a single mom who is working.”
Nathaniel Watkins, 25, and Nevaeh's mother, Hallelujah Brookens, 21, were charged Monday in connection with the girl's death.
Brookens reportedly left Nevaeh with Watkins while she was at a Jobs Corps class, and she faces charges of permitting child abuse by injury. Watkins is charged with child-abuse murder and child neglect, records show.
“The person not working can sit at home all day and watch the kid, but they're not used to it because it's not their kid, and they get frustrated when the children cry and do normal things they do,” Smith said.
An arrest report for Watkins says he shook Nevaeh for one to two minutes because she wouldn't stop crying. He noticed that her eyes became unresponsive and she was limp, and he reportedly told police he put her in a cold bath to revive her because he thought she was “gone.”
On Sunday, 30-year-old Cody Alan Johnson was arrested on complaints of first-degree murder, child abuse and child sexual abuse after hospital staff saw bruising and bleeding from Sawyer's vagina and rectum.
Johnson and the baby's mother told investigators Sawyer was injured by slipping on her pajamas and falling on a toy, according to an arrest report.
Sawyer's mother was at work Saturday evening and left the baby with Johnson, who she told police called her and told her Sawyer was unresponsive after falling on the toy.
Smith said his detectives have seen three child-abuse homicide cases this year — the other six in Tulsa County have been outside the Tulsa city limits — and he said multiple deaths involving young children in one month is unusual. Most deaths of small children in Tulsa occur when sleeping with adults, and those are rarely prosecuted, he said.
The Child Crisis Unit worked two child-abuse homicides in 2014 and four in 2013, he said.
“Most of our homicides have been shaking or beating,” Smith said. “Our sex-crime cases usually don't have significant injuries. But in the (Sawyer Jefferson) case, you had all of that. There was actually all sorts of medical evidence of shaking. It's one of the worst cases that we've had for a long time for that very reason.”
McAmis said behavior leading to the death of a child is “very unpredictable” and “situational,” and she said she wants to get the children involved “the justice that they deserve.”
“They range from parents who have lost their temper on a single occasion to parents who have been in domestic situations … all the way to sheer rage,” she said.
“When you have so many cases that are so heinous, particularly two in one week, it takes a toll on everybody involved. It is very emotional.”
Research highlights “gray cases” in child abuse
by Thomas Liao
Each year, more children in the U.S. die from child abuse and neglect than pediatric cancer. Last month, Yale-New Haven Hospital pediatrician Barbara Chaiyachati published the paper “Gray Cases of Child Abuse: Investigating factors associated with uncertainty” with the aim of identifying just these cases, based on the nature and context of children's injuries as well as their family's social and medical history.
Chaiyachati's paper describes several indicators — both injuries and family's social and medical history — that help physicians better identify patients who may be suffering from abuse. Certain injuries, including rib fractures or bruising on the ears, torso or neck, are immediately associated with abuse, but others are more difficult to classify and leave the child classified as a “gray case,” one in which it is not clear whether the child is the victim of abuse, according to the paper. When treating a gray case, a pediatrician may express concern for the accidental nature of an injury, but also may not be confident in classifying the injury as abusive. While her study found no significant correlations between abuse and a specific individual element of the incident, history or injury, Chaiyachati said that based on the study's sample size, the project never intended to revolutionize how child abuse is treated in pediatric care. Instead, she intended to publish her work as an observational and exploratory study on gray cases, which are generally not very well-researched.
“There's uncertainty in studying uncertainty,” Chaiyachati said. “Gray cases are a clinical conundrum.”
Chaiyachati's study used a seven-point scale that indicated the likelihood of abusive, gray and accidental injuries based on medical and social context. She evaluated 154 studies from YNHH, searching for similarities in the nature of injury, context of injury and families' social and medical histories between gray cases and more absolute accidental or abusive cases.
The study examined, among other patients, a seven-month-old girl with Beckwith-Weidmann Syndrome —a congenital overgrowth disorder that leads to a heightened risk of cancer — who showed signs of delayed development. The child, an example of a gray case, arrived at the hospital with a left femur fracture, an injury her mother was unable to explain. The mother claimed that she had placed the patient down to sleep with her two-year-old sister and had returned to find her lying in a different position. While the family left before receiving care, a pediatrician diagnosed the injury the following day. The family in question had a history of Child Protective Services involvement two years earlier.
Solving gray cases is crucial for preventing child abuse, said Gary Kleeblatt, communications director of the Connecticut Department of Children and Families. Child abuse pediatricians are primary consultants on abuse cases, and the Department of Children and Families relies heavily on their expertise and judgment, he added.
Gray cases and their uncertain nature create a predicament for pediatricians in which neither true negatives — abusive injuries classified as accidental — nor false positives — accidental injuries classified as abuse — are acceptable, Chaiyachati said. Misclassifying an injury as abusive may lead to negative repercussions for the accused parents and children, and potentially breed a mistrust of the health care system, Chaiyachati added. On the other hand, a gray case classified as accidental allows the risk of letting the victim of abuse return to the environment where the abuse originated. Beyond the physical pain it creates, abuse also affects a child's development and the interpretation of the world they build as they become adults, according to Child Help, an international organization focused on the prevention and treatment of child abuse.
Within the U.S. prison community, 14 percent of men and 36 percent of women were abused as children, twice the rate seen in the general population, according to Child Help.
Mother Who Abandoned Infant in Compton Charged With Attempted Murder, Child Abuse: DA
by Tracy Bloom, Courtney Friel and Melissa Pamer
A mother who was arrested after her newborn girl was found "buried alive" along a bike path in Compton was identified, charged and pleaded not guilty on Monday.
Porche Laronda Washington, 33, was identified as the mother taken into custody in the city of Compton on Thursday, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department stated in a news release.
She was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder and child endangerment and booked into jail Friday, according to the release and inmate records.
She hid her pregnancy, was under stress, and was unaware of the state's Safely Surrendered Baby Law, which in L.A. County would have allowed her to drop her child at any hospital or fire station within the first 72 hours after birth, no questions asked, sheriff's officials said at a news conference Monday.
"She did not want to deliver the baby at first. She was afraid," sheriff's Sgt. Richard Ruiz said.
Washington was charged Monday with attempted murder and child abuse, the county District Attorney's Office said.
She entered a not guilty plea in a Compton courtroom where family members were present. News cameras were not allowed.
A booking photo was not being released "due to the ongoing nature of the case," Monday's news release said.
Washington's arrest came nearly a week after the infant was discovered buried beneath a pile of debris in the area of West 136 Street and North Slater Avenue, sheriff's officials said.
Two women were taking a walk on the bike path around 4 p.m. on Nov. 27 when they heard the baby's "muffled" cries, Sheriff Jim McDonnell said three days after the newborn was found.
Two deputies responded to the scene after the women called 911. After determining the sound was coming from a 2-foot-wide hole in the path's pavement, they removed some vegetation and two large pieces of asphalt, and discovered the baby.
“She was wrapped in what appears to be a hospital blanket, and her face was covered with loose dirt,” McDonnell said.
She likely would not have survived the cold night had she not been discovered that day, according to medical personnel.
The girl appeared to be 24 to 36 hours old at the time, sheriff's officials initially said.
Detectives from the department's Special Victims Bureau determined that Washington was admitted into an unnamed hospital on Nov. 23 and was released with the baby on Nov. 26, which was Thanksgiving Day.
The baby remained in a hospital under medical care, but was reported to be in good condition. Once released from the hospital, the infant will be placed by the Department of Children and Family Services.
Washington was being held at Century Regional Detention Facility in Lynwood. She was identified through tips from the public, the DA's office said.
She was due back in court Jan. 7, sheriff's Cmdr. Keith Swensson said.
Washington, whose bail was set at $1 million, faces up to life in state prison if convicted as charged.
Police arrest woman accused of failing to report sexual abuse of child
by Odessa American
Odessa police arrested a 33-year-old Odessa woman on a charge of endangering a child on accusations that she knew about years of sexual abuse of a 16-year-old child that resulted in a separate arrest last week.
Police arrested Ivy Mendez on Friday in the 3100 block of North Muskingum Avenue. The arrest came just days after the Dec. 1 arrest of 35-year-old Pete Perez Jr., who police say had sexually abused the girl since she was six years old or younger, according to a news release from the police department.
The abuse continued for years, with the most recent an assault on Oct. 28, according to police.
Police reported Mendez knew of the abuse and “failed to protect the victim by not reporting it,” according to the release.
Perez, 2612 Santa Monica Ave., remained Monday at the Ector County Detention Center on a sexual assault of a child charge and a $50,000 bond.
Mendez, who jail records list as living at the same address, was released Saturday on a $50,000 bond. Jail records also showed she had two misdemeanor warrants when she was arrested.
Yeshivah launches redress scheme for sex abuse victims
by Benjamin Preiss
An Orthodox Jewish centre where children were sexually abused while in its care is offering victims counselling, payments and personal apologies in a new redress scheme.
Melbourne's Yeshivah Centre has established an independent panel to determine appropriate responses for each victim who comes forward.
The centre has written to its community members about the scheme and will host an event on Wednesday to discuss sexual abuse, including a panel with outspoken abuse victim advocate and former Yeshivah College student Manny Waks.
In the letter, Yeshivah committee of management spokesman Yechiel Belfer says the scheme, being launched on Monday , was introduced so "wrongs committed against children" involved in the centre and its schools would not go unnoticed or unacknowledged.
"The Yeshivah Centre deeply regrets its failure to protect those who were victims of sexual abuse perpetrated by people in a position of trust within the Yeshivah Centre and its schools," he writes.
In a statement, the centre said the scheme's design was guided by the Redress and Civil Litigation Report from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
Mr Waks said the latest developments were "groundbreaking" and a "positive reflection" on Yeshivah's new leadership.
He said the scheme demonstrated sensitivity and compassions towards victims, "something that has been completely lacking in the past".
"This shift in approach by the Yeshivah Centre, which is now in both word and deed, is an indication that they are now finally taking this issue seriously," he said.
But Mr Waks said not all matters would be resolved quickly and change would require commitment to a long and challenging process.
The leadership of the Yeshivah Centre has been overhauled since allegations of sexual abuse emerged publicly.
The redress scheme covers anybody who was a victim of sexual abuse at the centre's schools or through its activities and who was under 18 when the abuse occurred.
It will include payments for three categories of abuse ranging from significant to extremely severe.
Payments will range from $10,000 to $80,000.
The Yeshivah Centre has advised police of the scheme. The panel will encourage victims to report sexual abuse allegations to police but will allow individuals to decide.
Mr Belfer said the welfare of anyone who experienced abuse was the primary concern in establishing the scheme.
"We are offering to victims financial redress, access to specialist counselling, case management and support," he said. "And most importantly, we offer our sincere apology."
Mr Belfer said payments under the scheme would not prejudice an individual's right to pursue legal action against the Yeshivah Centre.
Yeshivah was at the centre of multiple high-profile sex abuse cases, which included those of convicted offenders David Samuel Cyprys and David Kramer. Both pleaded guilty and were jailed in 2013.
Jewish Care Victoria president Michael Debinski will oversee the scheme and will be one of its case managers. Mr Debinski recently administered an abuse redress scheme at Jewish Care.
Former Department of Human Services executive John Leatherland will also conduct reviews for the scheme. There will also be a female reviewer.
Former Department of Human Services executive John Leatherland will also conduct reviews for the scheme. There will also be a female reviewer.
For individuals to be eligible for the scheme the panel will have to be satisfied it is reasonably likely that sexual abuse occurred.
Anyone who experienced sexual abuse at Yeshivah and is seeking redress can call 1800 059 064 or email: email@example.com
More dropped calls at child abuse hotline, as auditor investigates
HARRISBURG - The state's top elected watchdog is turning his attention to customer service at the state's child abuse hotline.
Advocates say it's worth taking a look.
Human Services Secretary Ted Dallas acknowledged during an interview Friday that 1 in 4 people who call the hotline get a busy signal or are put on hold so long, they hang up.
It's a symptom of the budget impasse that has left the department unable to fill vacancies at the call center, Dallas said.
He didn't know offhand how many openings the center has, he said.
But the spike comes after the state had mostly straightened out problems with the hotline, he said.
The number - also used for requests for background checks - was so overwhelmed earlier this year by new laws on background checks that 4 in 10 calls were dropped or lost.
By this summer, the department had tamped that down to fewer than 1 in 10 calls, he said. That's largely due to a website, keepkidssafepa.gov, that now handles background clearances.
Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said the time seems right to review the hotline.
DePasquale took office in 2013, just as the Department of Human Services was undergoing dramatic change and facing new demands for help in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky case, which had come to light in late 2011.
Those reforms are now in place.
“We want to see if they've fixed the problems,” DePasquale said.
Dallas said auditors should be able to discern that the state's handling of abuse calls was improving dramatically before the budget impasse and a related hiring freeze.
“It's one example of why we are having this protracted budget negotiation,” he said. “It's why we need a fair budget that fairly funds social services.”
The hotline is used by professionals who are required to report suspected abuse. But it can also be used by anyone who suspects abuse to disclose their concerns, even anonymously. Reports are forwarded to child welfare staff or local prosecutors.
This won't be the first rock in state government that DePasquale has overturned.
He rode into office pledging a wholesale review of oversight of the natural gas industry. Auditors found the state slow to respond to complaints about drillers, and record-keeping systems that made it hard to verify what the state's inspectors were doing.
Another audit found the Department of Education doing nothing extra to help 561 struggling schools.
Then, in April, DePasquale announced that his office had found the Department of Labor and Industry dallying for years without coming up with regulations to enforce a 2008 law barring mandatory overtime for health care workers.
Almost 1 in 10 complaints filed as a result of the new law were closed by state regulators without any explanation, he said.
Advocates hope that Depasquale's latest effort, focusing on the child abuse hotline, will be just as revealing.
Last year operators took 158,000 calls, according to data compiled by the Center for Children's Justice based in Berks County.
That's 30 percent more calls than in 2010. Sandusky, the former Penn State assistant football coach, was arrested for being a serial child molester the following year.
Before Sandusky's arrest, almost 1 in 10 calls to the hotline went unanswered, or callers were placed on hold for so long they hung up, said Cathleen Palm, executive director of the Center for Children's Justice.
Increased scrutiny of the state's handling of child abuse cases -- and more staff in the call center -- reduced the percentage of lost calls. The state gained ground even as the overall number of calls surged.
But its data on dropped calls don't show how things go once operators answer the phone.
And all of the data comes from the Department of Human Service's own analysis.
That's the biggest reason that advocates who've fought to change how Pennsylvania responds to child abuse are eager to see what DePasquale finds.
His will be the first independent analysis to determine how those reforms are working, Palm said.
“Now is a good time to do the audit,” she said. “We'll find it if we have seen hiccups” in overhauling the hotline.
Priest warned police officer to drop investigation or lose job, child abuse hearing told
Father Peter Taffe ‘told officer Denis Ryan he would be out of a job' if he pursued an investigation into the Mildura parish priest Monsignor John Day
by The Australian Associated Press
A Victorian priest warned a police officer to drop his investigation into a colleague over child abuse allegations, an inquiry has heard.
Father Peter Taffe told the police officer he would be out of a job if he pursued an investigation into the Mildura parish priest Monsignor John Day, the child abuse royal commission was told.
Senior counsel assisting the commission, Gail Furness SC, said 140 people had made child sex abuse claims against priests and others in religious orders in the diocese of Ballarat since 1980. Ninety per cent of the claims were against seven priests, including 78 against Gerald Francis Ridsdale and 15 against Day.
Furness said a man had told Mildura assistant priest Taffe in January 1972 his son had been abused by Day. She said Taffe's first words had been: “I thought he was over all this.”
A former Mildura police officer, Denis Ryan, had already been investigating complaints against Day, she said, and would tell the commission Taffe had warned him in December 1971: “Drop the inquiry into Monsignor Day or you'll be out of a job.”
Ryan wrote to then Ballarat bishop Ronald Mulkearns setting out allegations from seven complainants. The inquiry was told Mulkearns had said he had been assured police were satisfied there was no substance to the charges, and it was impossible to move Day out of Mildura.
“Any such move would be tantamount to a public declaration that I consider him guilty,” he said.
Furness said a couple had met Mulkearns in 1982 to complain about their son being abused by Ridsdale in the Mortlake church and presbytery. Furness said the victim's mother, Mrs BAI, had told Mulkearns: “These are our kids' immortal souls being played with by this person and there won't be any more conversation. Next time we will be going straight to the police.”
Furness said Mulkearns had told another Mortlake victim's mother: “How am I to take the word of a child over one of my priests?”
DA to file child abuse charge in case of 8-year-old who shot himself
by Wesley Juhl
The Clark County district attorney's office will pursue felony child abuse charges in connection with an 8-year-old boy who shot and killed himself in October.
Jeffrey Hamilton, who is the boyfriend of Clayton's mother, has been charged with one felony count of child abuse, neglect or endangerment.
Las Vegas police have said Clayton Singleton was home alone with his 5-year-old sister when he shot himself on the night of Oct. 10 at his home in the 9100 block of Wine Cellar Avenue, near the intersection of Pebble and South Fort Apache roads.
And the district attorney's office said the day the boy died wasn't the first time he got his hands on the 9 mm handgun that killed him. Two years ago, Clayton accidentally fired the same gun.
Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson there is no clear legal standard for negligence for cases of child deaths from unsecured firearms. There are a number of cases that are black-and-white, but this isn't one of them.
"A lot of times charges are not brought," he said. "In this case there were circumstances that were really troublesome."
Investigators determined that the 9 mm wasn't the only firearm in the home. There were multiple guns loaded and readily accessible to Clayton, Wolfson said. Hamilton failed to secure the weapons and provide adequate supervision to the children by leaving Clayton and his 5-year old sister home alone.
Wolfson told the Review-Journal that formal charges were filed Friday. Hamilton will now be served with a summons to appear in court for arraignment, likely in two or three weeks.
Hamilton, who had been notified of the charge, will not be arrested before arraignment and is not considered a flight risk, Wolfson said. The district attorney's office doesn't believe Hamilton has any kind of serious criminal record.
Few details were released about the tragedy in October. Neighbors told the Review-Journal that Clayton's sister screamed about blood as she was rushed from the scene. She was removed from the house by Department of Family Services a few days after the shooting.
The Clark County Coroner's Office declared Clayton's death a suicide in November — a ruling his mother didn't agree with.
Over the past decade, cases where children were killed or injured with unsecured guns but ruled accidental have sometimes been followed by neglect charges against the parents. But it's rare for parents to be charged in cases involving youth suicide, even when guns are unsecured.
"A young boy is dead, a family is grieving and nobody wins in a situation like this," Wolfson said.
Nonetheless, Wolfson said he has a moral and legal obligation.
"This was a case that we reviewed for a couple of months. We looked at this very carefully," he said.
"The bottom line is this is my decision, and I made the decision ... A person that's a gun owner needs to act responsibly. Especially if you have young children at home."
Horrific child abuse cases in Japan trigger soul searching about the destruction of traditional family values
by Julian Ryall in Tokyo
One man was arrested for allegedly killing his girlfriend's baby with stimulants at a love hotel
A series of horrific cases of child abuse in recent days have shocked Japan and are, according to commentators, symptomatic of the collapse of the sense of family and society in a country that not long ago prided itself on the care it lavished on its children.
Police in Kumamoto Prefecture, southern Japan, on Sunday arrested 24-year-old Tensho Yoshimura on suspicion of killing his girlfriend's infant son with an overdose of stimulant drugs.
The 3-month-old baby died in a love hotel after Yoshimura checked in with the baby's mother. Paramedics called to the hotel when the baby started frothing at the mouth were unable to revive him.
The same day, police in Wakayama Prefecture took a woman aged 22 into custody after she tried to strangle her 6-month-old son with the cord from an electrical appliance.
Naomi Misu told police that the baby would not stop crying and that caring for him was “stressful.” The baby remains in a coma.
A week previously, a man aged 23 and his 17-year-old wife were arrested after placing their daughter, just 16 days old, inside a plastic bag and then into a rubbish bin in the bedroom of their apartment.
The baby, named Misora, died of suffocation. Interviewed by police, Yoshimi Suzuki and his wife, who cannot be identified because she is a minor, said they put the baby in a plastic bag because she was making too much noise while they were playing computer games.
“There is not one reason why we are hearing about cases like this at the moment, but it's true that there is a sense of shock at this recent wave of cases,” Makoto Watanabe, a lecturer in communications and media at Hokkaido Bunkyo University, said.
“At the heart of the problem, I feel, is the destruction of many of the traditional values and institutions that made up Japanese society in the past,” he said. “Primarily, that would be the extended family unit and the local community around where people live.
“Since Japan's economic bubble burst in the early 1990s and, more recently, the global financial crisis, the employment situation has become less stable for most people and the sense of community - where everyone looked after everyone else's kids as if they were there own - has evaporated.”
The loss of those sources of support, particularly for young couples with families and single mothers, is having a devastating effect on parents, Watanabe said.
“On top of that, when you look at the ages of these parents, it is clear that they were all born around the end of the bubble, so it is likely that they grew up in families that felt the full force of an economy that was in a very bad state for many years,” he added.
Unemployment, stagnant salaries and all the additional pressures associated with such economic uncertainties - as well as rising rates of divorce and the erosion of the nuclear family - will have forged this generation of parents, Watanabe said.
“This is learned behaviour, or, more accurately, these parents never learned how it felt to be loved and now do not know how to love their own children,” he said. “They are simply not ready to have children of their own.”
Children are the forgotten victims of family violence
by Jeremy Sammut
The National Children's Commissioner's Children's Rights Report has rightly called for a national focus on the violence and abuse of the most vulnerable Australians. According to the report, one in 12 children are physically abused by a family member, while almost a quarter of children have witnessed violence against their mother.
The report is welcome because in recent times the impact of abuse within families on children has slipped off the radar. This is despite the year-long national debate about family violence sparked by Rosie Batty's appointment as the Australian of the Year in January.
Family violence is all kinds of abuse within the home, including the physical, sexual and emotional abuse and neglect of children. Yet when the great and good around the land observed White Ribbon Day last month, they specifically pledged their determination to stamp out domestic violence. This term refers specifically to intimate violence and other forms of abuse perpetrated by men against adult female partners.
No one questions how vital it is to protect women from abusive men. However, it is clear some people are comfortable talking about only some types of the abuse that occurs within families.
The feminists behind White Ribbon Day frequently talk about how gender inequalities and men's discriminatory attitudes causes domestic violence. The Greens reckon it is caused by Ken and Barbie and want a Senate inquiry into how children's toys create gender stereotypes.
But the feminist lobby is uncomfortable talking about the factors that lead to the worst cases of child abuse and neglect. A range of social problems from welfare dependence to drug and alcohol abuse to family breakdown creates the dysfunctional homes in which vulnerable children suffer maltreatment.
Discomfort with this topic is largely due to the correlation between single-mother families and the prevalence of child abuse. This goes against feminist belief in family diversity: the idea that all families — whether married, defacto or sole parent — are equally good for children. It also contradicts the cherished belief that the real problems in society are caused by male-dominated, “patriarchal” institutions such as marriage and the traditional family.
Take the tragic case of the 10-month-old Penrith boy allegedly left under the shower by his mother's boyfriend. The only white ribbons worn for this boy have been the bandages dressing the burns to 40 per cent of his body.
Quite rightly, governments must do more to support victims of domestic violence and provide women with real opportunities to escape abusive relationships.
But many children also need rescuing, and aren't, because child protection authorities are committed to the keeping all families together, no matter how dysfunctional, because they too have been infected by the feminist ideology.
Taking a stricter approach to child protection would inevitably mean removing more children from dysfunctional single mother families, and thereby exposing the gap between the ideology and the reality.
Political correctness means the elites who dominate the discussion of abuse in Australian homes are only comfortable talking about the social problems that reinforce their own views.
Abuse Cases In Kansas Put Homeschooling Regulations Under Scrutiny
by Kyle Palmer
Public schools often go to great lengths to account for their students. For RosaLinda Aviles, an attendance and dropout specialist for the Kansas City Public Schools, it's her primary duty.
Based at Northeast High School, she helps oversee a nine-school zone. If a student has been absent for several days, teachers will notify her. She and a district social worker will then try to intervene.
"Often the teachers will know a lot more about what's going, so that's helpful. We then can call, send a letter, or do a home visit."
In the first three months of this school year, they've been busy. They've done 594 face-to-face meetings with students, mailed 248 letters, made 365 phone calls, and visited 72 homes. Missing school, she says, is often a sign of trouble at home, making her job more urgent.
"Yes, I would say it's like a safety net," Aviles says. Otherwise, she says, more students may fall through the cracks.
Some suggest a similar ‘safety net' was needed in two recent child abuse cases in Kansas.
‘Safety net' needed?
Last month, a Wyandotte County man was arrested and human remains of a still-unidentified juvenile were found on his property. In another case, a Topeka couple with 16 kids, 10 of them adopted and two of them in foster care, were arrested for child abuse. In both instances, the parents had registered as homeschoolers.
Would tighter homeschooling regulations have made a difference? Mark Tallman with the Kansas Association of School Boards says it's a question at least worth asking.
“If [parents] want to homeschool their child, they have every ability to do that and it is extremely difficult to have any kind of oversight unless there is some compelling legal cause,” he says.
Tallman makes clear, most homeschooling families don't need oversight because they are being responsible about their children's education. But he also suggests the state needs to keep better track of what Kansas calls non-accredited private schools.
“Who are the children enrolled? How many children are enrolled? That alone, would be a start.”
Right now, neither Kansas nor Missouri can answer those questions with any accuracy because their homeschooling systems are so loosely regulated. Here is a quick rundown of current law in both states.
In Kansas, all it takes to register a homeschool is a simple online form that takes about five minutes to fill out. After that, homeschoolers have no requirement to check in with the state. (Currently, the state has about 30,000 registered non-accredited private schools, a number that is almost certainly too high.)
In Missouri, homeschoolers are not required to register. It's suggested they tell local school districts but many do not.
Kansas tells homeschools to do at least 186 days with at least six hours of education per day. Missouri requires homeschools to do at least 1,000 hours of schooling a year, with 600 of that coming in the core subjects of reading, language arts, math, social studies, and science.
There is no legal authority in either state to check whether homeschools are meeting these requirements.
Missouri says homeschool parents must maintain student records (which can take the form of “a plan book, diary, daily log, or other written record”), and also must keep a portfolio of student work.
Kansas has no requirements for homeschooling parents to keep records of any kind.
A teacher license is not required in either state to teach homeschool. Kansas says homeschool courses “must be taught by a competent instructor”. In Missouri, no similar language exists in state statute.
'Regulation isn't the answer'
Pat Kangas and her husband Todd of Lenexa have spent the last 35 years homeschooling their eight children, primarily for religious reasons. By any measure, it's been a success. The youngest remains in high school and the other seven have graduated and gone on to college and careers.
Pat Kangas says don't blame responsible homeschoolers like them for the recent cases of child abuse.
“These are just unbelievably tragic stories, and regulation isn't the answer,” she says. “The people who abuse the home-education method: do they reflect on us? No more than in a government-funded school where you graduate illiterate students and you graduate students who go on to the Ivy League.”
But for every Pat Kangas, say many school officials, there are also homeschool families shirking their kids' education.
“I have been informed several times of homeschools that are not really doing what they're supposed to be doing but we have no authority to do anything about that,” says Janet Waugh, a member of the Kansas State Board of Education from Kansas City, KS.
She suggests the families doing it right can take the lead on more stringent oversight.
“I know a lot of them are doing wonderful things, and maybe they can even have some oversight. That's a possibility. Because I know there are some homeschool groups and the groups can police themselves.”
Support Already Exists
Cheryl Westra, though says moves like what Waugh suggests would be mere ‘window-dressing'.
Westra helps lead the LEARN Home Education Network, a secular homeschool group of more than 200 families in Kansas City. She admits homeschooling is not for everyone. Plenty of families start, find themselves unprepared, and go back to formal schooling. But Westra's group helps homeschoolers pool resources, hire tutors, and give emotional supports.
“LEARN is there to help and support families in their homeschooling journeys. To give them the information they need to legally homeschool, to give them information to find the resources they want.”
Westra herself has homeschooled her four children and calls the experience a "great joy". Westra dismisses connections being made between the two abuse cases and other homeschoolers.
“The vast majority of homeschool parents are in it to do the very best that they can for their kids.”
New regulations of any kind are unlikely to be implemented any time soon. Mark Tallman with the Kansas Association of School Boards says, at least in Topeka, there is no political will behind such a move.
“The homeschool community has traditionally been very well organized and emphatic in their belief that they don't want any kind of government oversight whatsoever.”
Homeschoolers will likely cheer that idea. At the same time, educators in Kansas and Missouri are left to wonder what other cases of abuse in homeschool families may still be out there that their states don't know about.
Providence Provides 24-Hour Resources to Sexual Abuse Victims
by Thurston Talk Editor
No one should ever have to suffer from physical or sexual abuse, but if a child becomes the victim of sexual assault, it's comforting to know that Providence St. Peter's Sexual Assault Clinic in Lacey is just a short drive or phone call away.
Committed to ensuring the health, safety and wellness of the communities it serves, Providence offers a variety of resources and services to victims of sexual violence. And early response is key to helping victims and their families on the path to healing.
Sexual assault can occur at any age, but children are 70 percent more likely to be victims of sexual violence than adults. Because of this, Providence's Sexual Assault Clinic is backed by a team of trained professionals who know how to work with victims of all ages.
As part of the Monarch Children's Justice & Advocacy Center, the Providence's Sexual Assault Clinic in Lacey includes:
Medical social workers
Board-certified pediatrician and the clinic's new medical director, Joyce Gilbert, M.D.
These professionals work with victims at a personalized pace.
With 24-hour help on hand, no victim of sexual assault ever needs to feel alone. Help is just a phone call away, and Providence's trained team of professionals is here to help victims work through the pain so they can start on the path to healing.
Providence Medical Group's Sexual Assault Clinic and the Monarch Children's Justice & Advocacy Center in Lacey are the only of its kind in all of southwest Washington. Serving 350 victims and families annually, the Sexual Assault Clinic provides resources, intervention and medical assessments free of charge to victims and their families.
Whether you need medical assistance, emotional support or both, Providence's Sexual Assault Clinic in Lacey is a local choice for quality compassionate care.
To learn more about Providence St. Peter Sexual Assault Clinic, and view videos about the clinic, visit their website. If you need immediate assistance, call the Sexual Assault Clinic in Lacey at 360-493-7469.