Dentists and housing workers to be trained to spot child sexual abuse
Charity could eventually offer course across social care industry amid concerns key workers are failing to address root cause of survivors' issues
by Josh Halliday
Dentists and housing professionals are to be offered training in how to spot signs of child sexual abuse amid concerns that key workers are failing to address the “elephant in the room” of childhood trauma.
Workers will be taught how to ask someone whether they were sexually abused as children, and given advice on how to handle their clients' traumatic experiences, under new training by the National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC).
For many survivors of child sexual abuse, visiting the dentist can be an incredibly distressing experience, experts say, triggering flashbacks from their childhood – yet dental nurses are not routinely taught how to cope with such a situation.
Similarly, housing professionals do not commonly ask homeless people if they were abused in childhood despite some studies showing a link between the two.
“Many survivors find it very difficult to raise or discuss their own history of abuse. This does not mean that survivors do not want to be asked, or to be offered an encouraging atmosphere for disclosure,” said Sarah Parnell, the NAPAC training manager.
The training, which begins with a one-day course for housing professionals in January, could be offered to social care workers across the industry if they prove a success.
As well as advice on how to broach the topic of childhood abuse, professionals will be taught how to cope with vicarious trauma after listening to survivors' harrowing ordeals.
They will also be taught how abusers often transfer blame and responsibility on to their victims, and how adult survivors cope with this burden.
It comes after one of the biggest surveys of child sexual abuse survivors in the UK found that the recovery of victims was being hampered by the reluctance of professionals to address the topic.
More than 80% of survivors had to proactively disclose what had happened to them, an experience many found as traumatic as the abuse itself, the survey found. Many said they wish they could have disclosed their abuse earlier – and received help earlier – if they had been asked whether they were abused as children.
Parnell said many survivors receiving help for homelessness, alcoholism or drug use were not getting the right kind of treatment because they were not being asked to address the root cause of their trauma.
Many survivors have been “sending out signals since their childhood in the sometimes desperate hope that these will be picked up and acted on,” Parnell said. She added: “If professionals keep waiting for clients to be ready, they may wait forever.
“My personal view is that everybody should have this training. One of the things we ought to be thinking about is making survivors' issues everybody's business, so people can receive the help they really need.”
One survivor of child sexual abuse, who gave his name only as Ian, said he was homeless for two years as a direct result of what happened to him as a boy. The 49-year-old said: “Survivors worry about being judged. If a housing worker had asked me about childhood trauma, at that time I probably wouldn't have told them.
“But it might have made me think it was acceptable to speak about. So having a professional who will listen and not judge will help a lot.”
School volunteers would be mandated reporters of child abuse under bill
by Molly Beck
Parents who volunteer in schools would be legally required to report signs of child abuse and neglect under a Republican-backed bill.
The list of mandated reporters of child abuse or neglect would expand to include any adult who volunteers in a school for at least 40 hours in a school year, under the bill authored by Rep. Janel Brandtjen, R-Menomonee Falls, and poverty would no longer be a reason not to report signs of a child not having proper food, clothing or shelter. Investigations into neglect or abuse would not be triggered solely because a child was living in poverty.
Current law requires all school employees to report such signs and says if the signs are a result of poverty, then abuse and neglect have not occurred and therefore the signs don't have to be reported.
Bill Savage, a spokesman for Brandtjen, said the bill seeks to identify all children who don't have all of their needs met in order to put social services representatives in touch with parents.
“You're not abusing your child if you're just so poor you can't afford food,” said Savage. “We make that distinction so that we don't throw people in jail because you're poor.”
Savage said if a sign of neglect for any reason “goes unreported, then social services will never know and then people won't get the help that they need.”
But opponents of the bill say asking casual volunteers to take on the responsibility of being a mandated reporter could result in fewer volunteers, and put strain on government agencies tasked with investigating child abuse and neglect.
Dan Rossmiller, lobbyist for the Wisconsin Association of School Boards, said in a blog post the bill “could impose costly requirements on school districts without directly contributing to ensuring the safety of children and that it could have a serious ‘chilling' effect on the willingness of people to volunteer in schools.”
The bill requires the volunteers and contractors to receive training on what must be reported.
“The change in reporting requirements would require schools to keep track of how many hours volunteers and contractors spend in direct contact with children each school year or risk liability. Schools would also have to track these hours to know who must receive required training,” Rossmiller said.
He said criminal penalties facing mandated reporters who fail to report suspected child abuse or neglect could deter volunteers.
The state Department of Public Instruction also opposes the bill, citing similar reasons to Rossmiller.
DPI lobbyist Dee Pettack also testified at a recent hearing on the bill that because the bill removes the words “severe or frequent” from the phrase “severe and frequent bruising” in the state's definition of “physical injury,” students who are bruised from “normal child activity” would be suspected of being abused under the bill.
Pettack also pointed out that changing the definition of abuse and neglect to exclude the exception of poverty for reasons of reporting, but not for investigations, would result in many more cases of suspected situations of abuse that Child Protective Services would not be looking into.
Jill Duggar Dillard Sparks Outrage and Accusations of Child Abuse After Bruised Photos of Israel Surface
by Tiffany Bailey
Jill Duggar Dillard was the first Duggar daughter to get married, although she is not the eldest girl. Jim Bob Duggar hand-picked Derick Dillard for Jill, and it was just love at first sight from there. The couple also gave the Duggars a grandson in 2015, naming him Israel. Because of the high profile lives they lead, the Duggar family is always in the news. Most recently it has been about Josh Duggar, but this time, there are serious allegations happening against Jill Duggar Dillard and her husband, Derick Dillard.
Since moving to Central America, Jill Duggar Dillard's parenting choices have been talked about a lot. The Dillards relocated when Israel was just a few months old, which many believed was a risky move. Duggar had a lot of training raising children, as she did a lot to help take care of the other children in her family. Jill Duggar Dillard often shares photos of her adventures and of Israel, but the latest ones have sparked outrage across social media.
According to Starpulse, it appears that the Dillards are blanket training their son. This is a technique used to teach young children and toddlers self-control. In fact, Michelle Duggar admitted to blanket training her children. This is a cause of concern among many fans, and social media hasn't stopped buzzing since the pictures surfaced just two days ago.
Young moms are taught that swaddling a child is okay, and that is likely what Jill Duggar Dillard was attempting to do. The photos showed Israel crying while wrapped completely in a blanket. The issue here is that the baby is just 9-months-old, too old for a typical swaddling session. Fans are outraged that Duggar would post photos like that of her child, and then the black eye was noticed. It appears that Israel received a black eye. Immediately, people were crying out that Dillard is abusing her son but the truth is, most children will have a black eye at one point or another.
Because Jill Duggar Dillard is a stay-at-home mom, she is the one receiving most of the criticism. Derick Dillard is getting some feedback, but not anywhere near as harsh as Jill has received. According to Fashion & Style, fans are accusing Jill Duggar Dillard of binding her son. Some of the comments are incredibly crass and graphic. There has been no comment from the Dillard family about the accusations or how they have chosen to raise the baby. Israel generally is photographed as a happy and healthy baby, so these photos came as a shock.
The last year has been hard for Jill Duggar Dillard and her entire family. She was forced to relive everything that happened to her during her childhood. Police reports were released that announced Jill Duggar and her sisters had become victims of groping at the hands of their eldest brother, Josh Duggar. All of this was happening as Jill was post-partum. Not only was she a brand new mom, but she was also dealing with the trauma she experienced a decade ago and had already dealt with. Many fans assumed she left to be a missionary in Central America because of all of the chaos that was happening within the Duggar family in Arkansas.
With so much experience with children, these accusations of child abuse against Jill Duggar Dillard are astounding. Fans and critics are still outraged over the blanket photos, especially because Israel is crying in them. It is unclear if the Dillards believe in the “crying it out loud” method, but if they do, it would explain the photos. No matter how well the Dillards parent Israel, they are always going have critics. Something will always be wrong, and people will talk.
Pastor in sex ‘counseling' goes on trial for child abuse
by The Associated Press
LAS VEGAS, United States — After years of delays, a former storefront church pastor and international fugitive is due for trial Monday in Las Vegas on allegations that he sexually assaulted girls in his congregation under the guise of counseling.
Otis Holland, 59, faces life in prison on charges he abused girls as young as 7. He has been in jail since his arrest in January 2012 in Tijuana, Mexico. Known to his United Faith Church congregation as “Reverend Otis,” he was featured before his arrest on the television show “America's Most Wanted.”
“He told my mother that he was going to take me for counseling,” a 21-year-old woman testified during a preliminary hearing in February 2013. She said she was 14 when Holland first took her after Sunday church services to a limousine fitted with a back seat that reclined into a bed and used a sex toy on her.
The Associated Press typically does not identify people who say they have been hurt in sexual assault cases.
Holland's defense attorney, Carmine James Colucci, didn't respond to messages this week from AP.
The woman who testified in 2013 said that as Holland started to take off her pants in the limo, he told her he wanted to show her something that would relieve tension and frustration. Another time, she said, she saw a red flashing light and the lens of a video camera amid pillows on a futon in a bedroom at Holland's home.
Under questioning by Holland's defense attorney at the time, the girl conceded that she didn't tell anyone about the alleged sexual acts, including her mother who would drop her off every Sunday at Holland's house. The encounters stopped, and she finally told her biological father a year later, when he asked her why her school grades had fallen.
Holland also had sexual relationships with adult women in his congregation, according to police reports and pretrial testimony. Church members at first publicly supported him, but turned against him as other girls began making similar allegations.
Holland has pleaded not guilty to 17 felony charges, including child sexual assault, lewdness, and bribing a witness. Holland also faces two misdemeanor evidence tampering charges. He could face life in prison with or without the possibility of parole if he's convicted of the sex assault charges.
Jury selection could take days, due to the attention the case received.
Prosecutor Robert Langford said this week he expects that Holland will testify during trial, which is expected to take about a week in Clark County District Court in Las Vegas.
“The state is going to present overwhelming evidence,” said Langford, a veteran Nevada attorney who is serving as special prosecutor because Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson was Holland's defense lawyer after Holland was first arrested by Henderson police. Wolfson became district attorney in February 2012.
Holland also is accused of felony witness intimidation and misdemeanor evidence tampering. Authorities say he instructed a girl's mother and her ex-husband to destroy computer hard drives, sex toys and church counseling session paperwork.
What To Do When It's Time to Break Up With a Family Member
by Tamekia Reece
As the song goes, breaking up is hard to do. Especially when the person you're kicking to the curb isn't a love interest or pal, but a family member (more on breaking up with a friend here). Sure, we all have daydreams about finally telling off our overbearing mother-in-law or blocking an annoying aunt's phone number, but actually working up the nerve to do so? Not easy at all. “Growing up, we all hear ‘blood is thicker than water,' and 'when all else fails, you'll always have your family,' which instills the message that family ties aren't supposed to be broken,” says Jamye Waxman, MEd, author of How to Break Up With Anyone: Letting Go of Friends, Family, and Everyone In-Between. Add to that, she says, women tend to get put into roles of martyr and savior, the one who is supposed to sacrifice and make peace, which makes it even more challenging to break up with a relative. (Make YOUR well-being a priority this year! Join Prevention and other leading minds in health & wellness for our annual R3 Summit.)
Still, sometimes saying goodbye is for the best. Stressful relationships, including those with relatives, can increase the risk of high blood pressure, weaken your immune system, cause headaches and stomachaches, lead to sleep problems, lower self-esteem, and cause depression and anxiety. So ditching that toxic family member can be good for your health (if you need another excuse). Here's what to do when you're thinking about unraveling the ties that bind.
Generally, when a family relationship ends, it's on the heels of a huge blow up—a heated argument, one too many critical remarks, or a tiff over an unpaid loan. Before you write off a relative, cool down. Don't make impulsive, hasty decisions about family members you've had conflicts with because you may say or do something you'll regret, says Steven J. Hanley, PhD, a clinical psychologist in Southfield, MI. A better choice, he says, is to take a breather, let it all sink in, and then decide how you want to proceed.
Evaluate the relationship.
Take some time and really think about why you're considering ending it. Is whatever that has pushed you to the limit something new? Or has the behavior been ongoing for a while? In addition to the downsides, are there any positives to the relationship? If so, do they outweigh the bad? Will ending the relationship with this person affect the ones you have with other family members?
Deciding if a relationship is worth keeping or not can be tough, but here are some signs that it's time to call it quits.
There's abuse. Any physical, verbal, or emotional abuse is reason to terminate the relationship immediately. Don't worry about any possible fallout from others in the family. Your safety and wellbeing are what's most important. (Learn 5 signs you're in an abusive relationship.)
It's affecting other areas of your life. If the situation has you so stressed or angry that it's having a negative effect on other parts of your life, like your job performance or sleep habits, it may be time to walk away.
Your interactions are mostly negative. All relationships have ups and downs, but, if your dealings are negative more often than not—your sister criticizes you, nitpicks, or starts an argument every time you're in each other's presence—it's time to check out. And the negativity doesn't have to be directed at you necessarily. It could be your mother calling with a daily laundry list of complaints about her life, which causes your own mood to plummet.
The person makes you sick. If just the mention of the relative's name, or a text message, email, or a voicemail from the person puts a huge knot in your stomach, that's a clue the relationship has become unhealthy, says Mark Goulston, MD, a clinical psychiatrist and author of Talking to Crazy: How to Deal with the Irrational and Impossible People in Your Life.
The relationship is one-sided. Healthy relationships are a balance of give and take. If your cousin only calls to borrow money or vent about her problems, but never reciprocates, she may be using you (or at the very least, not being a good friend).
It's affecting your immediate family. Hanley says if maintaining the relationship is harmful to your spouse or children—for instance, your mom clearly favors one of your children while neglecting the others—you may need to take a step back for your family's sake.
There's substance abuse or criminal behavior. Yes, family support is important when someone is battling addiction; however, that doesn't mean that you have to allow the substance abuse to have a negative impact on your own life. The same goes for any criminal behavior. Don't let a relative's misdeeds put you or your family at risk.
Know your role.
“Even though you may think the other person is the problem, it takes two to tango,” Waxman says. Step back and look at some of your own actions. For instance, do you always assume your dad is going to say something negative, which causes you to go in on the defensive (and he in turn to do the same)? Or is it possible that your younger sister goes against everything you say because she feels you treat her like a child? Once you have clarity and see things you could possibly do differently, you may realize it's possible to salvage the relationship.
Talk it out.
If you think there's a chance to repair the connection, arrange to have a conversation (in person or by phone) with your relative. Discuss the biggest issues, take ownership of any part you played in the situation, and then discuss the future. For example, if you and your younger sister always butt heads after you give her advice, you could say, “We've been arguing a lot lately, and I've realized part of that is because I often tell you what to do, like I know what's best for you. However, I also get angry when you ask for advice and then get mad when I give it. I think if we could both be more conscious of those things, we would have a better relationship. What do you think?” Then, listen. Your sister may disagree, have her own ideas about what can help mend things, or she may not want to bother at all. If the two of you do decide to go forward, set a deadline. “You don't necessarily have to tell the other person, 'I'm giving this three months,' but in your head, at least, you need to give yourself a certain amount of time to allow both of you to work on your parts,” Waxman says. Then, if there's still no improvement, you can revisit how you're going to deal with the relationship.
You may realize that you're not quite at the point of being done completely, but you do want to enforce some distance. It's perfectly fine to keep interactions short, not accept calls at times (like when you're in a good mood and your mom is calling with another one of her energy-sapping whinefests); agree not to discuss hot-button topics, or establish boundaries, like telling your father-in-law you won't tolerate his negative remarks about your weight.
Make the cut.
Sometimes, despite our best efforts, a relationship is unsalvageable or we don't want to repair it. Unless there's abuse (or you're ending things with a second cousin you only see once a year at the family reunion), you should have a conversation when giving someone the boot. Yes, it's easier to fade away but that doesn't allow closure for either of you. Also, if you try the route where you keep saying you're busy until the person gets the hint, that can cause even more resentment to build because you may feel as though you're being forced to lie, Goulston says.
Fortunately, the “it's over” conversation doesn't have to be long or dramatic. It can be a 5-minute conversation in which you say, “I've realized our actions together have not been healthy. I don't want to do this anymore,” says Waxman. Answer any questions but don't get reeled back in. If the person gets overly accusatory or starts acting crazy, don't let the situation escalate. Goulston advises saying, “Why don't we stop the conversation here.” Then end it.
Deal with the family.
Unfortunately, cutting off one relative doesn't only affect that person. “When you make the decision to sever ties, there's oftentimes some collateral damage,” Hanley says. Some family members will try to make you feel guilty; others may accuse you of breaking up the family; and some relationships might even dissolve. Shut down any guilt tripping or accusatory conversations. Waxman suggests saying something like, “I'm sorry you feel I'm ruining the family. I love this family! I'm doing what I think is best to take care of myself.” Setting those boundaries will be difficult at first, but stick to your guns and remind yourself that you're doing this for your self-care.
Keep it cordial.
As much as you'd like to be done with the relative completely, you're likely to run into each other at future family gatherings. To avoid sticky situations, let your family members know it's okay to invite both of you to events. It's not fair to make them choose. If you don't think you can handle being in the other person's presence, it should be you who doesn't attend since you were the one to do the breaking up, says Waxman. When you do see each other, be cordial. You don't have to get into a full-fledged conversation; simply greet him or her and then move on, Waxman says. Breaking the ice but keeping contact to a minimum will make the event less awkward for everyone, she explains. (It also makes it easier to reconnect with that family member.)
Another time to take the high road is when you face questions about what happened. Yes, people will be curious, but it's better to keep the details between the person you cut off and yourself. Don't talk about how “wrong” the other person did you; don't gossip about her, share secrets she once told you, or try to get others to “be on your side.” Your goal is peace, not to ignite a family feud.
Have a good support system.
Breaking up with a family member can be freeing, but it also causes a lot of emotional upheaval. It's normal to feel anger, guilt, resentment, and loneliness. “You're sort of mourning the loss of someone that, presumably, you loved or felt loved by, or wanted to feel loved by, which can be very tough,” Hanley says. Look for sources of support. Talk to your spouse or a trusted friend (not family members, to keep down drama) about what you're feeling, or join a support group. If you're having difficulty working through the harm the relationship caused or coping with the dissolution of the relationship, Hanley recommends seeking professional help.
The Good Men Project
The Difference Between Being a Father and Being a Dad
by Kathy Shimmield
Many years ago, I realized the difference between a father and a dad.
They both may get up and go to work to provide for their family even if they hate their job. Not just to put a roof over their family and food on the table, but also to give them the ability to afford extras like flute lessons or a family vacation.
They both may be physically “present” at their kids' sports games or events.
However, the “difference'” I'm speaking of is deeper, more under-the-surface and more vital to each and every kid. It's a difference, that for me, truly encapsulates what “Dad” means.
Here is a list of these attributes in no significant order. If your dad has these count yourself lucky, if you have them then you have earned, in my mind, the title of Dad.
They think before they comment. Sounds simple right? But how many times have you caught your own tongue when about to answer your kid's question what do you really think about this Dad? There's a big difference between being brutally honest and being thoughtfully honest. Consider the child's real reason for asking, perhaps it's more out of seeking your approval or in the hopes of making you proud instead of really wanting to hear your philosophical understanding of the issue.
They interact and play on the child's level. This reminds me of the saying “Real men have tea parties with their daughters.” It's true, a real dad plays on his kids' level; he doesn't just interact with his child when it's something he's interested in doing himself. He reads that same annoying and boring book three times until he becomes the voices of Mr. Teddy and Mr. Unicorn, and he lets his nails or hair suffer styling to the point that even his best friend won't recognize him. These may be minor moments in the day for a dad, but they are lasting memories for his child and they help to form a level of trust and comfort in his son or daughter that will solidify their loving view of him.
They are a good example. A dad shows love, compassion and patience not only with his family, but with people as a whole. He doesn't participate in road rage when someone flips him off. He doesn't verbally or physically abuse people, or belittle them when they disagree with him. A dad doesn't insult his kids' Mom or use his kids as pawns to get revenge on his ex. You may think some of these examples are obvious, but many times when emotions are running high people don't stop and take a minute to think how their actions might be physically endangering or emotionally harming to their child. This doesn't mean you're expected to be perfect and untouched by the stresses of life. We are all affected by these tensions. What I'm saying is take five seconds to refocus and think before you act. Five seconds to bring yourself back to the reality of what is really important.
They protect their children. If your child ever comes to you and tells you someone has acted inappropriately towards them, your first comment shouldn't be to tell them they are probably misunderstanding the person's actions. Dads don't assume the kid has gotten it wrong; they listen. They ask questions and then they act. Real dads immediately reassure the child they did nothing wrong and tell them they did the right thing by confiding what happened to them. They let their kids know they'll do everything to make sure nothing bad happens again. It's hard to believe that in this day and age, some people still assume a child is mistaken if they report that a family friend or relative has touched them, that the child somehow misunderstood the intention of the action. A real dad first and foremost, sees and understands something has occurred to make their child uncomfortable enough to seek comfort and protection.
A real dad immediately lets this person know that the too-long hug or overly-pushy kiss on the cheek is not going to be allowed. If it makes your child uncomfortable, respect their physical boundaries and personal space. This differs from teaching your child to show people respect. Yes, they should be polite and say hello, but they should never be made to hug or kiss someone with whom they are not comfortable. Obviously it goes without saying, if your child reports something much more serious in nature than an uncomfortable hug you need to take things to a more serious and official level to ensure their safety.
Being a father is easy and requires little emotional investment. Being a dad, to me, is a dedicated, difficult and lifelong responsibility.
You automatically become a father when your child is born, but you earn the title of dad.
Bullying During Childhood Leads to Health Problems in Later Life
by Benjamin Teh
Even though the short-term effects of bullying are already commonly known by many, the fact that bullying during childhood leads to health problems in later life is rather disconcerting. The study that came to this conclusion was carried out in Canada and it encompassed over 660 teenagers and children. But, it is important to note that this study is limited to an extent because all of the subjects were white.
The tests consisted of questionnaires regarding the kids' self-esteem and their general health in relation to headaches, insomnia, and dizziness. Bullying was also split into two types, physical, getting shoved by other classmates for example, and psychological, for instance, rumor mongering and verbal abuse.
Physical bullying was reported in greater amounts by boys than by girls, with roughly 45% out of the total study group while the latter only 29%. Psychological abuse was roughly at the same levels for both girls and boys, at 39%. Only 1.5% of subjects were subjected to daily bullying, with the others suffering from this once in a while.
Long-term effects of bullying range from depression to somatic symptoms. If the child is bullied at the age of 8, more severe outcomes will be probable, with an increased risk of developing psychological disorders. Teenagers are also extremely vulnerable. This is because they are in their period when a higher degree of low self-esteem is present. This time in their life also suffers from an increased susceptibility for influences coming from their social groups and peers.
Almost 45% of the subjects will become a bully themselves at one point in their life while the others will suffer from a decrease in performance at school or work and even in relationships. This is rather grim if one would take into consideration the fact that in the US, over 77% children and teens are subjected to both psychological and physical bullying during school and high school.
Bullying has been around since ancient times, with some researchers and psychologists describing the act itself as more of an animalistic behavior used by bullies to establish themselves as an alpha in the group. The general idea that in some cases, bullying is used as a form of releasing built up tension, or simply venting anger, should also be taken into account.
The fact that bullying affects everyone, including the bullies themselves, not just the bullied, urges school faculties to take steps in order to stem every instance of this occurring. If just one bully is allowed to continue his activities, the chain of bullying propagates itself, spreading more and more over the years. One may even think of bullying as a type of social disease in some specific cases.
Because bullying during childhood leads to health problems in later life, peer victimization should become less and less accepted in the next few years if we hope to stop this ongoing trend of bullying. One of the ways through which children can be helped to overcome this situation is a development of better-coping mechanisms and providing emotional support in a more extensive manner.
McHenry County could get home for human sex trafficking survivors
by Katie Dahlstrom
A Kentucky-based organization plans to open a home for survivors of human sex trafficking by spring in rural McHenry County.
Refuge for Women would house up to eight women who would go through a yearlong program aimed at sobriety, healing and regaining independence, said Karen Schultz, the organization's Chicago director. She said plans to secure a home in McHenry County have been in the works since June 2014.
Schultz said the group wanted to open a Chicago home because there are between 16,000 and 25,000 women and children who have been trafficked and sexually exploited in Illinois.
“It's far enough from the city, imagining that some of the women will come from there, and it's very peaceful,” Schultz said of McHenry County. “There's lots of resources to support this type of program without actually being in the city.”
Schultz and others involved in the project refused to disclose where the home is in the county. She said organization leaders are finalizing plans with a donor to transfer a home for the program, but if that plan falls through, there is another location in the county that also would work.
McHenry County Planning and Zoning Director Dennis Sandquist said a group home likely would require the county to review plans to make sure it meets building codes. He said the only group home being reviewed is a $5 million mansion on Dunham Road in rural Woodstock. However, owner Yaakov Spinard said he is not working with Refuge for Women and had never heard of the group.
When the McHenry County home opens, it will be among a handful of others Refuge for Women runs. Founded in 2009, the organization has three homes in Kentucky and just opened one in Las Vegas. They also plan to open others in Texas and Florida.
The donation-funded homes operate on a three-step program that helps women develop basic skills, such as cooking or keeping a budget, and then progresses to being able to regain custody of their children and obtain a job, Schultz said. In the beginning, the McHenry County home will house four women, with eight being the maximum, she said. It will cost about $300,000 annually to operate.
Willow Creek Community Church in Crystal Lake will offer some financial and volunteer support, member Donna Gauthier said.
The project also has garnered the support of Republican State Rep. Barb Wheeler of Crystal Lake. Wheeler plans to host a series of meetings for the group Jan. 19 at the Loyola University Retreat and Ecology Campus, 2710 S. Country Club Road, Woodstock.
Human trafficking hotline signs going up in Florida
by Shelby Danielsen
ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. -- If you look at Florida statutes for human trafficking, the first sentence describes it as "a form of modern-day slavery," and Florida ranks third in the nation for human trafficking.
That's why new signs with a human trafficking hotline are now going up starting Jan. 1.
The signs will be posted at the most common breeding grounds for human trafficking: strip clubs, massage studios, train stations, airports, and rest stops.
"If something just don't look right, we're going to contact law enforcement," said Dan Bemis, an attendant at the rest stop in St. Johns County.
A dark stereotype is associated with rest stop parking lots, but one that has been proven true all too often, especially in Florida.
"I've seen cars following trucks in. It could be a family member visiting them, it could be sex trafficking, it could be anything," Bemis said.
But that "could be" isn't worth the risk. That's the point of the new sign -- it's a direct line for this specific brand of crime.
"If I did see something suspicious, I wouldn't know who to call unless something was posted," says Denis Richie, who stopped at the rest stop Friday morning.
According to the Florida Dream Center, 9-12 is the average age range for victims and $32 billion is the average yearly profit for traffickers. It's currently the fastest growing criminal activity
"Anyone that would want to accost them could. We've always told our daughters and granddaughters, 'Run, just run, get away from them,'" says Fred Norman, who often stays back where the truck drivers sleep because he travels in his RV.
According to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, at least 2,791 victims have been reported in Florida since 2007. In 2015 alone, 310 cases were reported in Florida.
Hotels and motels were the most common venues for sex trafficking. The most common way a caller found a hotline was online, but if you don't the luxury of accessing the web, that's where the signs come in handy.
So the next time you are at a rest stop or anywhere remote, make sure to jot down this number: 1-888-373-7888 or you can send a text message to 233733.
Dane County Board opposes child neglect legislation
by Jennifer Fetterly
The Dane County Board is pushing back against the Wisconsin attorney general's “Justice for Children” child neglect bills, saying they will target low-income families, increase racial disparities in the county and won't improve kids' safety.
A package of bills introduced this past October by Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel and Republican lawmakers would expand the definition of neglect and increase penalties. It would also require social services to report suspected child abuse and neglect cases to law enforcement, and refer investigations to the AG's office for prosecution. Schimel said the proposed legislation would provide needed tools to protect Wisconsin's kids.
The Dane County Board voted 27-5 to oppose the legislation. Why? An African-American parent is at least seven times more likely to be referred to Child Protective Services (CPS) than a white parent, and Hispanic parents are twice as likely, according to Dane County Human Services. DCHS said the highest number of referrals come from poor neighborhoods.
The legislation would also expand the definition of neglect to include necessary care - such as food, clothing, medical and dental care, shelter, supervision, an opportunity for education, and protection from exposure to drugs.
Supervisors who oppose the bills say this specifically targets low-income families.
Some supervisors said they believe “fast tracking” child abuse and neglect cases in the criminal justice system would discourage people from reporting cases in some instances, would criminalize poverty, and violate confidentiality because reporting information would be made public.
Supervisor Jenni Dye said the county wants to protect children but abuse and neglect
cases are very complex. She said the model being used by county social services works by discovering the root and cause of the neglect and abuse, and preventing it in the future.
“Law enforcement is not always the most appropriate choice in every case,” Dye said. “We need to strike a balance.”
Lynn Green, director of Dane County Department of Human Services, said she is glad to see the county board oppose the bill.
“I think that these bills are naive in understanding the causes of child neglect and abuse cases,” Green said. “These are not parents who don't care about their kids. They are not deliberately neglecting their kids but are the results of general stressors in their lives: mental illness, poverty, unemployment and medical issues.”
Green said CPS and county law enforcement have a good working relationship with a protocol of when cases need to be reported to the criminal justice system. Green said currently about 40 percent of all cases are reported to police.
If the bills are passed, Green said there might be a chilling effect on reports of child abuse and neglect to CPS.
“People who report these cases want to get help for these families, if they know that they will be reporting their families, friends and neighborhoods to police, they may not come forward,” Green said.
She also said the bills do not address adding more funding for law enforcement to handle the increased workload, which could be detrimental to cases moving forward in a timely manner.
County supervisors also called on the AG to address other issues in his “Justice for Children” initiative including increasing access to education and health care, and positive family support.
Supervisor Paul Rusk said it's another case of the state telling the county what to do and it was the county board's role to work with the AG and CPS to bring the two differing views together.He said national research has shown that law enforcement doesn't always have the most effective role in early stages of child neglect and abuse cases.
“If you err and go too far in one direction you can have very dire consequences,” Rusk told supervisors before the vote.
Schimel, who handled child abuse and neglect cases before becoming AG, said in October that the legislation is a push that prosecutors have sought for some time. He said under current law, prosecutors have difficulty charging repeated acts of physical abuse and neglect.
The proposed legislation would also create different levels of penalties depending on the severity of the child neglect. Schmiel said now prosecutors only have the option for felony charges if the child dies, or a misdemeanor if the child survives the neglect.
“It is long overdue for Wisconsin to give prosecutors the ability to charge long-term physical abuse and neglect as on ongoing course of conduct so that we can achieve justice for these child victims and prevent offenders from committing future crimes against children,” Schimel said in a statement in October.
Homeless lockers approved
Supervisors approved up to 20 personal storage lockers in downtown parking ramps or county property for the homeless.
The State Street Family, a volunteer advocacy group helping the homeless, will manage the storage facility and provide 24/7 access. Supervisors approved $25,000 to pay for the project.
Advocates said it would allow the homeless to “get the street off their backs” when they go to their jobs, apply for work and access other services.
A temporary homeless day shelter that used to provide storage closed down in March 2013. The City of Madison also shut down a temporary storage shelter earlier this year outside the Madison Municipal building because of health and safety issues.
Some supervisors believe that the State Street Family management of the new lockers will be more successful because they currently have a similar “Keys to Dignity” locker program that is well run.
5 children, ages 1-5, found clad in dirty diapers trying to cross US 19 alone
by WFLA Web Staff
SPRING HILL, Fla. (WFLA) —- Five young children, ages 1 to 5, were only wearing soiled diapers when a motorist stopped them as they tried to cross U.S. 19 by themselves on Tuesday morning.
The children were attempting to cross the busy highway to get to Weeki Wachee Springs State Park in Spring Hill, according to the Hernando County Sheriff's Office.
At 9 a.m. on Tuesday, deputies were dispatched to U.S. 19 in front of a Motel 6 located at 6172 Commercial Way.
Dispatchers received a call from a concerned motorist who had observed five very small children attempting to cross the highway to get to Weeki Wachee Springs State Park. The motorist was able to stop the children before they entered into the lanes of traffic.
The children were too young to tell deputies their names or who their parents were. All of the children were wearing only diapers, which were heavily soiled, according to the sheriff's office.
Deputies say the youngest child, a female, had a severe rash on various parts of her body.
Hernando County Fire Rescue units were called to the scene to examine the child. Paramedics said the rash appeared to be several weeks old.
After being on scene for over 30 minutes, deputies say they were approached by Samantha McCarthy. McCarthy went to the lobby of the Motel 6 because the children she was caring for were missing. McCarthy told deputies that she had been sleeping and did not realize the children had left the room. She said the door was locked and she had no idea how they could have gotten out.
Deputies learned that the ages of the children were 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1.
Deputies asked McCarthy about the skin infection-rash on the youngest child. She said it had been there for two-to-three days and had not been treated, but she planned to seek treatment later that day.
Deputies confirmed that McCarthy had no mode of transportation and had made no appointment to have the child seen by a physician.
Deputies contacted the Department of Children and Families (DCF) who conducted a check of the motel room and found there was not any food for the children and only minimal clothing.
Due to the severity of the skin infection-rash, the 1-year-old child was transported to a local hospital for immediate treatment.
DCF took custody of the children.
Samantha Lynn McCarthy, 24, was arrested and charged with Child Neglect. Her bond was set at $5,000.
Sheriff: 270-pound father suffocates young son to death
by Allison Shirk
ENGLEWOOD — A 270-pound Englewood man pinned his young son on the couch and smothered him to death on Christmas Eve — all without breaking stride on the video game he and his girlfriend were playing at the time, authorities said Thursday.
James “Rick” Dearman, 31, of 920 Lord St., is being held on $1 million bond at the Sarasota County Jail for his role in the death of his 6-year-old son, also named James Dearman, according to Sarasota County Sheriff's spokeswoman Kaitlyn Johnson. Dearman originally was charged on Wednesday with aggravated child abuse, but the state amended the charge to aggravated manslaughter of a child — a first-degree felony — at Dearman's first court appearance on Thursday.
An SCSO report states deputies arrived around 10:10 p.m. Dec. 24 and found paramedics performing CPR on the 6-year-old boy on the living room couch of the Lord Street residence. Deputies said the child later was pronounced dead at Englewood Community Hospital. Authorities reported seeing bruising on the victim's back.
Ashley Cole told deputies that at around 7:30 p.m. that night, she and her boyfriend Dearman were playing video games in the living room, and Dearman told the victim and his 7-year-old sibling to go to sleep in a separate bedroom on some blankets that had been placed on the floor.
According to the report, the children were running around the bedroom and would not go to bed, so Dearman forced them to stand in the living room facing the wall as punishment.
Cole said the 6-year-old boy turned around and was caught watching Dearman and Cole playing video games. Dearman allegedly became angry and made the boy lie on the couch sideways, with his face against the rear couch cushions. Then Dearman, who is 6-foot-1 and 270 pounds, sat on top of him.
Cole told deputies the young boy was screaming that he could not breathe under Dearman's body weight and was attempting to free himself. After approximately five minutes, Cole said the child became motionless under Dearman's body.
The victim's sibling told law enforcement: “When Dad squished him, he got dead.”
The sibling also said that during the struggle, the 6-year-old was crying and said he needed to use the bathroom, but when Dearman denied him, the victim urinated on himself and Dearman.
Cole's Facebook page shows photos of Dearman, Cole and two young children — a boy and a girl — in 2014.
The report states after the victim's body stopped moving, Dearman and Cole went to the garage to smoke a cigarette, and when they returned to the living room, they found the child's lips were blue and he was not breathing.
Cole told authorities she ran into the garage “to pray,” and Dearman called 911 and attempted to perform CPR on the child until paramedics arrived.
Cole has not been charged in the incident as of Thursday evening.
Dearman remained quiet and emotionless in the SCSO video of his first appearance. A representative with the state attorney's office said the mother of the two children has been searching for Dearman for the past three years.
According to Dearman's assistant public defender, a Georgia warrant that Dearman was arrested on on Monday has been dismissed by the Georgia courts. Dearman had an outstanding warrant in that state for three counts of animal cruelty and one count of criminal damage to property.
SCSO deputies also planned to return to Dearman's home Thursday, serving another search warrant to the residence. The Sarasota County Property Appraiser's website states the home Dearman and Cole were living in is owned by a Ruth M. and Herman J. Klingenberger Jr., of Ontario, New York. At one point, a James A. and Ruth M. Dearman owned the home, and it is not clear how, or if, they are related to Dearman.
Neighbors on Lord Street described themselves as shocked and heartbroken on Thursday to learn of the death of the 6-year-old boy they often would see playing outdoors with his sibling.
While the neighbors said they did not know the parents, they called the children the cutest little kids, and described the boy as an especially friendly child.
The victim's 7-year-old sibling was placed in the custody of the state Department of Children and Families. DCF officials said Thursday they have had no prior contact with the Dearman family.
Dearman's prior arrest history also includes a 2008 arrest for desertion from the U.S. Navy.
At-risk girls prone to social withdrawal before acting out through crime
Why the most vulnerable aren't getting help they need, according to recent research
by Virginia Pelley
When asked if she remembers feeling safe in her home while growing up, Laurie replied, “Never.”
Raised in rural Washington state, her father cut her off from contact with any adults who might have been able to intervene to stop the sexual, physical and emotional abuse she and her siblings suffered.
“He would go into rages over really small things and scream at us, call us names, hit us, psychologically torture us,” said Laurie, who is being identified only by her first name in order to protect her identity.
After running away when she was 17, Laurie said she stole to survive, shoplifting haircutting scissors so she could trim her own bangs and pilfering soup packets easily concealed in coat pockets.
But anyone who met her during her troubled childhood would not have guessed the traumas she was suffering. She said she was shy and withdrawn in her teens. She is not alone. Recent research suggests that such quiet and calm behavior, which often slips under the radar of teachers and counselors, might be a red flag that a girl could become self-destructive as an adult. Researchers are only just beginning to grasp the differences in how girls and boys react to similar traumas.
A recent study published in The Journal of Interpersonal Violence found that girls who experience physical abuse as children tend to internalize their feelings and are often quiet and withdrawn, whereas abused boys more often tend to act out aggressively, getting into fights and trouble at school. Perhaps surprisingly, it was the girls who were withdrawn as children who were most likely later to exhibit antisocial behavior — reporting a pattern of abusive relationships and engaging in criminal activity — as adults.
What's more, the researchers found that contrary to previous research, troublesome or criminal behavior during girls' teen years didn't show the same correlation. Young girls might act out temporarily during adolescence, but it won't necessarily lead to illegal behavior in adulthood, said study lead author Hyunzee Jung, a scientist in the Social Development Research Group at the University of Washington. Childhood internalization appears to be the better predictor.
Put another way, the behaviors most indicative of later problems and the girls most in need of intervention are the most likely to be ignored, she said. Now some advocates for vulnerable girls say that some of the strategies being used to help them are ineffective and might even make matters worse.
Consequences of abuse
The results of Jung's study didn't surprise Laura Brown, a Seattle therapist who specializes in treating adult survivors of childhood trauma.
“It's not unusual for girls who have been abused to dissociate. It's a disconnection between themselves and the experience,” she said. “If you can dissociate and focus extra hard on school, then you look like a kid who's achieving. But you're not going to be doing well in relationships and don't have emotional bandwidth that correlates with your peers.”
Female gender roles invite internalizing and conformist behaviors, Brown said, adding, “It's not normative or supported for girls to be aggressive.” Therefore attracting professional attention is less likely for the close to 5 percent of girls 14 to 17 who said they have been sexually abused or for the 15 percent of girls who reported maltreatment (physical, sexual or emotional) by a caregiver in the previous year, according to statistics published in JAMA Pediatrics earlier this year.
Thus some advocates believe that better intervention strategies could help keep a lot of girls from getting sucked into the justice system, as the connection between girls' childhood abuse and later incarceration is well documented. Forty-five percent of girls in the juvenile justice system have experienced five or more adverse childhood experiences — serious traumas that can provoke toxic stress — according to a 2015 report by the Human Rights Project for Girls. Farther along in the pipeline, more than half the women serving time in state prisons reported they experienced sexual or physical abuse, according to Bureau of Justice statistics.
Advocates for girls say they're learning better what works and what doesn't to keep vulnerable girls out of the system. It starts with recognizing the long-term impact of abuse.
“Girls might look compliant and shy, but it's often because they've been traumatized,” said Katherine Peatross, the clinical program director at Youth Villages, a nonprofit based in Memphis, Tennessee, serving at-risk youths. Chronically stressed kids often can't tolerate face-to-face therapy sessions, she said, so sessions might occur while a girl is drawing, playing basketball or crocheting, in the case of a recent client.
Breaking the cycle
Treatment strategies have evolved, said Tim Goldsmith, the chief clinical officer of Youth Villages. This is part of “trauma-informed care,” he said, “where you recognize that having environments that support healing and nurturing are more impactful than punitive environments that try to make kids do things.”
Building resiliency and self-esteem can be tough for abused girls. It takes patience in addition to compassion, said Patricia Lee, an advocate for girls and the managing attorney in the San Francisco Public Defender's Office. She recalled meeting a young client several years ago who started screaming when Lee tried to tell her that returning to her abusive home situation might not be her best option.
“I waved the counselor away and just let her scream, which went on for like a minute, although it seemed like five,” Lee said. “Then I put my hand on hers and said, ‘Are you done? Are you OK?'”
“I said, ‘You know what I do instead of screaming when I'm really upset? I do 10 jumping jacks,' and made her get up and do them with me. She started laughing when she saw me doing my jumping jacks in my suit,” she said.
Lee said that in the 1990s there were no dedicated trauma-informed resources for gender-specific interventions for girls but that's changing. Along with Lee, Lawanda Ravoira, a longtime advocate for girls and the president and CEO of the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center, based in Jacksonville, Florida, is involved in girls-only youth courts, which can help avoid potentially triggering situations like waiting to appear in courthouse hallways packed with men.
“Trauma is not something that's healed. It's managed,” Ravoira said.
Now an educated, successful, married mother of two, Laurie credits her foster mother and some of her teachers as role models who taught her what caring, healthy relationships looked like. But it is an ongoing effort.
“I used to deny that anything that happened to me before I was 12 had anything to do with the kind of person I am now,” Laurie said. “I used to think I had overcome it. But it will always be part of me.”
The Sad Lessons of the “Affluenza” Teen
by Rebecca Mead
In considering the lamentable chronicle of the “affluenza” teen Ethan Couch—which was positioned to be this year's final tabloid preoccupation until Bill Cosby was charged with sexual assault—it's been hard to know where to let one's sense of appalled fascination come to rest. Should it be with Ethan himself, who, in the late spring of 2013, two months past his sixteenth birthday, plowed the truck he was drunkenly driving off a residential road in Burleston, a suburb of Fort Worth, Texas, and into a knot of people, killing four and injuring nine? Or with Fred Couch, Ethan's father, a sheet-metal millionaire who raised his son to believe that only little people are required to obey rules, and who reportedly responded to a dispute with the administration at Ethan's private school by suggesting that he would resolve matters by buying the institution?
Or should it be with Couch's defense team, who, at his trial, two years ago, invoked the memorable if specious disorder of “affluenza” to characterize Couch's lack of culpability for his own actions, arguing that his moral compass had been catastrophically deranged by his parents' permissiveness? Or perhaps it should lie with Judge Jean Boyd, who, upon Ethan's conviction for a crime that carried a possible sentence of twenty years, sent him not to prison, as the survivors of the carnage he caused had hoped, but to what struck many as an offensively light punishment of a stint at a residential rehab facility, and ten years' probation?
Or, wait—should it once again fall to Ethan, whose attendance at a beer pong gathering, in apparent violation of the terms of his probation, was captured on video and posted to Twitter earlier this month, prompting him to flee the country? Or should the preponderance of disapprobation be reserved for Tonya Couch, Ethan's mother, with whom he was apparently living in recent months, and who, after hosting a farewell gathering for Ethan and friends, spirited him off to the Mexican resort town of Puerto Vallarta, where, despite cunning efforts at disguise—Ethan's fair hair and scrappy beard were dyed dark brown—both were arrested after an ill-conceived pizza-delivery order tipped off the police to their whereabouts?
One needn't be a mother to find oneself unable to look away from Tonya Couch and to wonder about her actions on Ethan's behalf. Tonya's behavior is a delusional distortion of a tendency toward self-sacrifice, a tendency that is usually socially celebrated and culturally approved: that of the mother who would do anything, go to any lengths for her child. Meanwhile, the notion of mother and man-child together on the lam is a grotesque exaggeration of maternal solicitude. (What were the conversations in those rented condominium rooms? What kind of future did this misbegotten pair imagine for themselves, separately or apart?) At a moment when the term “helicopter parenting” has become a familiar critique of those who are reluctant to allow their children to play on the monkey bars without support or fill out their college applications without surveillance, Tonya's behavior is not so much a watchful hovering but a full-on Black Hawk rescue mission, the Special Forces of maternal instinct fast-roping down to whisk her errant offspring out of the reach of justice.
Couch's original “affluenza” defense certainly provided an opportunity for outrage: as Time magazine noted in debunking it as pseudo-science, “This is perhaps the first time having too easy a life has been considered a mitigating circumstance.” But a closer look at the history of the Couch family—which the reporter Michael J. Mooney provided earlier this year in his excellent, densely reported cover article for D magazine—reveals its insufficiency even as a way of characterizing the conditions of Ethan's upbringing. As Mooney shows, Ethan Couch was far from indulged or pampered as a child, despite living in a four-thousand-square-foot house equipped with a pool and playground. Rather, he experienced a combination of neglect and abuse from parents so inadequate to the task of raising him—so unable to set boundaries, or instill morals—that even Roald Dahl might have had a hard time imagining their failings.
A social worker assigned to evaluate Ethan during his parents' divorce, which occurred when he was nine, noted that “both parents have ‘adultified' Ethan and have allowed him to become overly involved in adult issues and decisions.” Fred told the social worker that Tonya was addicted to pain medication, and had given Ethan Vicodin. Tonya told the social worker that Fred was verbally and physically abusive to her. The police were called to the home on multiple occasions. Ethan missed fifty days of school in kindergarten, and forty in second grade. After their divorce, Fred and Tonya sometimes screamed at each other in the parking lot of Ethan's school; on one occasion, the altercation was sufficiently inflamed for the police to be called.
Fred permitted Ethan to drive himself to school at the age of thirteen. Both turned a blind eye to their child's drinking, and to his driving while drinking. By the time Ethan was sixteen, Tonya and Fred had reunited and moved in together to a newer, larger home, leaving Ethan to spend many nights alone at his childhood home, with only a couch, a bed, an X-Box, and a large-screen TV for company. Police found Ethan urinating in a parking lot late one night; in the truck he was driving, his mom's, they discovered open containers of beer and vodka, and a naked fourteen-year-old girl. Tonya picked him up, paid the fines he received—for possessing and consuming alcohol—and explained away his failure to complete the community service that was required of him by saying she had misread the instructions. Four months later, Ethan crashed his father's truck fatally into the lives of Breanna Mitchell, twenty-four, Brian Jennings, forty-one, Hollie Boyles, fifty-two, and Boyles's daughter Shelby, twenty-one.
G. Dick Miller, the psychologist who used the term “affluenza” in court, has said that he regrets the expression, and has instead resorted to the vernacular: “We used to call these people spoiled brats,” he told Anderson Cooper. The outrageousness of the phrase has had another unhelpful effect, which was to detract from the defense's more reasonable argument: that Ethan, at sixteen, was not irremediably damaged by his parents, and was still young enough to benefit from therapy. His rehabilitation into a functional, even productive, member of society might be set in motion by his removal from their supervision, rather than by locking him up. Such, at least, seems to have been the motivation of the judge in issuing a sentence that saw Ethan's ruinous behavior through the prism of his parents' delinquency.
Having been convicted as a juvenile, Ethan's punishment for violating the terms of his parole can only be a relatively mild one: he may be imprisoned in a juvenile facility until his nineteenth birthday, in April. But it looks likely that Ethan's flight to Mexico will have the effect of bringing about the separation from his mother, at least, which was sought at his sentencing, although not in the way the court anticipated. Having attempted to place her son beyond the reach of the law, Tonya Couch is to be charged with “hindering apprehension,” for which she faces up to ten years in prison. “There's just no chance that she will ever think he needs to be punished or held accountable,” Dee Anderson, the sheriff of Tarrant County, told the Times after the Couches were picked up in Mexico. With her blinkered effort to shield her son from responsibility, Tonya may have performed the ultimate maternal sacrifice, that of taking her child's burden as her own. It is an outcome that has a strange and sad kind of justice, a terrible termination to the compounded tragedy of Ethan's pathetic life and his devastating deeds.
Youth home ends psychiatric program after abuse revealed
by Gordon Friedman
Residential treatment agency Youth Villages has decided to close the psychiatric treatment program at one of its Oregon campuses. The Lake Oswego location was the subject of a longstanding DHS investigation, and state officials found inadequate staffing, repeated sexual contact between minor-aged residents, reports of a staffer hitting a child and inattentiveness to a suicidal child.
The Lake Oswego Review reported Wednesday that Latonya Pendleton, director of human resources for Youth Villages, said the Lake Oswego location is closing and 74 people will be laid off. Some employees will be transferred to other Youth Villages locations in and out of state, the Review said.Youth Villages is a nationwide non-profit organization, and also has locations in Oregon City and Redmond. The Lake Oswego facility houses children with "serious emotional and behavioral problems," according to its website.
As part of an investigation earlier this year, state officials found Youth Villages staff put a child in "seclusion" after she attempted suicide. Although staff was instructed to continuously supervise her, the child was able to attempt suicide again, and required medical attention.
Youth Villages spokesman Connie Mills said the organization is "finalizing an agreement with the state" regarding the future of its programs.
DHS spokesman Gene Evans said the state is transitioning kids out of Youth Villages because it still intends to revoke the facility's license.
The state is also trying to revoke the license for Scotts Valley School, a boarding school in Douglas County. Investigators found kids living at the school complained of a lack of food. They also found a questionable discipline technique called "The Wall" where students are made to sit and stare at a wall for 12 hours. One student with mental health issues was made to be "on the Wall" for two weeks straight.
Texas should not condone detention of immigrant children
by Joyce Elizabeth Mauk
Texas is seeing another influx of unaccompanied and accompanied minors crossing our southern border.
These children and their families experience extreme trauma as they make the dangerous journey away from the violence in their home countries in Central America.
Unfortunately, once they reach the United States these refugee children are being re-traumatized by their detention at facilities in Karnes City and Dilley.
And now, in a misguided effort to appease a federal court ruling that states refugee children cannot be detained in a secure facility, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services is attempting to license these facilities as “family residential centers.”
This licensing category is a step down from the standards required of child care facilities by exempting them from key provisions such as standards on maximum number of room occupants, proscription of children sharing a room with adults and of children sharing a room with members of the opposite gender.
All of these exemptions increase the risk for potential child abuse and maltreatment and are in conflict the mission of the DFPS.
There is already ample authority for the agency to investigate and inspect the facilities for instances of child abuse, neglect and exploitation in accordance with the department's charge.
I recently toured the Karnes City center with several colleagues.
Outside of the classroom, children and their mothers were clearly being treated as incarcerated detainees rather than residents.
There were many requirements and activities most often found in prison settings, such as badge checks three times a day, passage through electronically locked doors for access to basic areas such as the library, limited and monitored access to telephones and email — all of which were provided at a cost to detainees — and severe consequences for children's misbehavior.
The culture of the facility was one of control and detention rather than residential housing. The staff is employed by private prison corporations, and it is unlikely they have training in child development, child advocacy or behavior management techniques.
In addition, there were several noted discrepancies between the educational, medical and mental health services as represented by staff and the reality of available services as reported by detained mothers with whom we spoke.
Universal nonverbal signs of depression and anxiety were evident among the detainees: heads bowed, crying and hand wringing.
This is especially worrisome due to the frequency and intensity of trauma faced during the journeys of these refugee families.
All mothers interviewed reported their children experiencing behavioral changes and typical symptoms of acute stress and trauma, including clinging, startling, irritability and disrupted eating and sleeping patterns.
Many mothers showed symptoms of depression such as sadness, feelings of hopelessness, trouble sleeping and suicidal ideation.
It was by no means clear that the facility was prepared or willing to address or recognize acute stress symptoms.
A large body of scientific literature addresses the long-term consequences of stress on health. The children will likely have a significantly higher incidence of developmental, behavioral, emotional and medical conditions into adulthood.
Licensing of the facility most likely would not alleviate reported symptoms, as the culture of detention is inherently traumatic, especially for children.
The intrinsic nature of these facilities as detention centers is not conducive to the emotional and developmental needs of these highly traumatized children.
Licensing them with lessened standards will only convey de facto state approval of the conditions within the centers, endorsing the concept that small children who have committed no crime can be detained in what are essentially correctional facilities under prison-like conditions.
Joyce Elizabeth Mauk M.D. is CEO and medical director at the Child Study Center in Fort Worth.
Lawsuit: Toddlers sexually assaulted in DHS custody
by Margaret Baker and Wesley Muller
A Hancock County woman says her two children, ages 1 and 2, were sexually assaulted and contracted gonorrhea while they were in the custody of the Hancock County Department of Human Services, according to a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court.
Alexandria Faye filed suit against the state Department of Human Services; Hancock County DHS; county DHS employees Tequila Hall and Harmony Raffeo; the children's foster parent, Erica Weary; Watch Me Grow Learning Center, a day care the state has a contract with to provide care to foster children; and other unknown individuals.
Faye wants a jury trial and is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages for pain and suffering, emotional distress, attorney's fees and any other damages allowed by law for constitutional and civil rights violations. She is seeking compensation for herself and her children.
According to the lawsuit, a Hancock County Youth Court judge placed Faye's two children in DHS custody after her arrest Feb. 19, 2014.
The suit alleges the two children were sexually abused between Feb. 20, 2014, and June 11, 2014, while they were in the care of DHS.
On June 11, 2014, Faye accompanied Raffeo, a DHS investigator in Hancock County, when he took the children to Garden Park Medical Center because of sexual abuse allegations. One of the children tested positive for gonorrhea, and the other suffered from leucorrhea, a vaginal discharge. The only way to contract gonorrhea, which has an incubation period of two to five days, is through sexual contact.
Faye's attorney, Edward Gibson, said the incubation period is the time it takes to develop symptoms after a person is infected.
"The child was in custody longer than the scientifically recognized incubation period," Gibson said. "In other words, we know it happened while the child was in custody."
The lawsuit says MDHS determined from the exam that the children had been sexually abused but could not identify who was responsible.
The suit claims Hancock County DHS and MDHS failed to follow agency protocol by not doing background checks on those serving as foster parents. The suit also says DHS failed to "fully and diligently investigate and screen the foster home" where the children lived.
The suit says DHS also failed to properly monitor, direct and supervise the foster parent's home and failed to properly screen its employees and investigate current and former employees. In addition, the suit says, Weary failed to properly monitor, direct and supervise her home while the children were there.
Faye alleges negligence on the part of Hancock County DHS, MDHS and Watch Me Grow Learning Center.
In addition to treatment at Garden Park Medical Center, the children underwent exams and other treatment at Coastal Family Health in Gulfport and Children's Hospital in New Orleans.
One defendant named in the suit, Tequila Hall, is a defendant in a separate lawsuit involving Hancock County DHS filed Sept. 9. In that suit, plaintiff Marie Gill alleges Hall and other DHS workers falsified documents in an attempt to take her children into state custody.
Both lawsuits come amid increasing scrutiny of the state's child protective services system and specifically Hancock County's Division of Family and Children Services office.
State and local officials began investigating the office in early 2015 when the county was found to have the highest per-capita foster-care rate in Mississippi with more than 450 children in custody. It was 10 times higher than the state average, prompting MDHS to send more employees and resources to the county.
Though the foster-care rate has since improved, some current and former DHS employees remain under investigation by the Hancock County Sheriff's Department, the state attorney general's office and MDHS internal affairs. In March, Sheriff Ricky Adam announced his office had launched a probe after receiving complaints of DHS workers forging or falsifying documents in child-custody cases. A Hancock DHS worker was later fired, but no arrests have been made.
Faye's lawsuit represents only one side of the story. The defendants have not yet filed a response.
Task force confronts growing human trafficking problem
by Denise Ellen Rizzo
STOCKTON — Teenage girls in San Joaquin County are being recruited into the seedy world of human trafficking for sex, and efforts are underway to combat the growing problem.
“It is happening right here,” said Suzanne Schultz, family crimes coordinator for the county district attorney's office.
Schultz is the chair of a county human trafficking task force workgroup that focuses on education and outreach.
“I've been around this business for 30 years, and I've watched the limelight shine first on DUIs, then it was child abuse, then it was domestic violence, and then it was elder abuse. Now the light has been shining on human trafficking,” she said.
“All of us in the criminal justice field and service agency are seeing more and more kids in this, and I think we all recognized it's time.”
Identifying the signs
According to Schultz, community awareness is the first step to battling trafficking. The task force that began about a year and a half ago is pushing to get the word out in communities, schools and local government.
“We want to make sure our community is aware of this,” she said.
Later this month, task force members hope to host an informational meeting in Tracy for city employees and local property managers to help them identify human trafficking activity. There are also plans to meet with Tracy's public safety personnel in early February, Schultz said.
There was a time when a lot of people coming and going at a rental house was assumed to mean illegal narcotics activity, but now officials say it could be sex trafficking. Schultz said another sign is numerous young women staying at a house who are obviously not related.
“If it's cheaper than a hotel, where you're going to have a heightened awareness — maybe hotel owners are going to be trained — then go somewhere where there isn't a front desk manager,” she said. “We want to make sure that there is a heightened awareness about it. We want to make sure city employees know what to look for, and we want to let property managers know.”
Recruiting the innocent
Schultz said there are basically four types of recruiting techniques used to trap teenage girls in the world of human trafficking — Romeo pimping, gorilla pimping, friend pimping and blackmail.
In Romeo pimping, an older man in a nice-looking car may follow a girl walking home from school and tell her she's good looking and ask if she wants to go to a party. Schultz said that in the girl's mind, the guy is a potential boyfriend, but he sees her as a recruit for his human trafficking ring.
“We have a lot of girls who are being trafficked, but in their perspective, they are in a relationship,” she said.
After a while, the man will ask the girl to perform a sex act with someone to help him financially, to pay his rent or get his car out of impound, she said. He will advertise on social media and tell her it will only be this once, or a couple of times.
“She looks at it as, I'm contributing to our relationship,” Schultz said. “Some people make money by working in an office, and this is how I make money. I'm not being trafficked.”
The reality is different, she said.
“If someone is asking you to perform sexual acts for money and they're setting up the Craigslist ad or getting the hotel room or driving you to the location, you've got to recognize it for what it is,” Schultz said. “You're getting trafficked.”
Gorilla pimping is the name for when a girl is kidnapped and held as a sex slave, which is a crime reportedly on the rise in Stanislaus County, she said.
In the process of friend pimping, another trafficking victim will be convinced to recruit more girls.
Schultz said the women will circulate a mall to identify girls and try to befriend them, complimenting the girls on their beauty and style.
“They say, Wow, your hair is gorgeous — where do you get your hair done? I love your nails — where do you get your nails done at?” Schultz said.
Eventually, the recruiter will tell the girl a friend of hers is having a party and there will be dancing and good-looking guys. If the girl takes the bait, the recruiter will exchange phone numbers, and the trap is set.
Schultz said that because the recruiters are themselves in survival mode, their motivation is to keep the trafficker happy so he won't beat them up for not meeting his demands.
In cases of blackmail, a trafficker may threaten the victim with explicit pictures she sent him innocently while they were dating. Schultz said he may threaten to post a photo on social media or send it to her parents and family if she doesn't perform more sex acts and make him money.
Breaking down victims
Schultz said the process the victims go through to get them to comply is like being brainwashed into a cult. The girls are deprived of sleep and food and kept isolated. In one case Schultz related, a victim said she was tied down, and when she tried to sleep, her captors sprayed cold water on her.
“When you are in that state, you can't think clearly to defend yourself or to get out,” she said. “They break them down mentally. Once the kids are in this, it's so hard to undo the emotional and mental damage.”
To keep the girls as their property, the trafficker will often tattoo them for ownership or to keep them from pocketing extra money by identifying the cost of various sexual acts with tattoos on certain body parts.
“They mark them like cattle,” she said. “We've seen tattoos across the neck, along the back, torso, down the legs. Sometimes like mantras — ‘All Hustle, No Love' — or the name of the trafficker on their neck or chest.”
The law is now differentiating between underage and adult prostitutes. California Penal Code 236.1 — which was enhanced by Proposition 35, approved by state voters in 2012 — stipulates that girls under the age of 18 engaged in prostitution should be considered victims and not criminals. The law reads that even if the girl participated willingly, that is not a defense for the trafficker.
As victims try to escape the clutches of their traffickers, often they must visit several agencies and the process proves too difficult. Many of the victims return to their captors.
Efforts are underway to create a San Joaquin County Family Justice Center in the old Stockton courthouse. The center will occupy the space at 222 E. Weber Ave. after the courts move to the adjacent new building.
The center will be designed to provide one-stop help for victims, Schultz said.
“What we want to do is bring all our resources, all of the service agencies that victims of domestic violence, child abuse, sexual assault, human trafficking, elder abuse … we want to bring them here, into one building,” she said. “We can start serving victims more efficiently. We anticipate the first family justice center (in San Joaquin) will open at the end of 2016.”
The goal is to allow service agencies to occupy the space at no cost to them and little cost for the district attorney's office, she said.
A fundraiser has been scheduled from 4 to 6 p.m. Jan. 9 to benefit the center project. The red-carpet mixer will be held at CellarDoor, 21 N. School St., in Lodi and will include a showing of the film “Concussion.” Film director Peter Landesman and forensic pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu, whose story is depicted in the film, will attend. Tickets are $100 each. More details can be found here.
“I'm so excited about this (center),” Schultz said. “This is probably the most important work I've been asked to do for my community.”
“There is something about human trafficking that is so dark, because it mentally breaks a person down,” she added. “Not only do they do that whole mind stuff to you, and then they force you to sell your own body. It's just so heartless.”
Number of missing children at risk of child sexual exploitation has tripled
by L. Churchill
The number of reported missing children deemed at risk of child sexual exploitation has tripled in three years.
Authorities are keeping tight-lipped on exactly how many youngsters in the city could be in danger of becoming a victim of the horrific crime.
But a Freedom of Information Act request revealed the increase in those going missing in Avon and Somerset.
The statistics show that in 2012, just four children at risk of child sexual exploitation who were all aged under 16, went missing.
But last year around 12 of the vulnerable youngsters - including nine who were under 16 - were reported missing to authorities.
Bristol's problems around child sexual exploitation were highlighted last year after a major police operation saw 13 men sentenced to more than 100 years in prison for raping and paying young girls for sex.
The gang of Somali men were found to have committed more than 30 sex crimes against seven vulnerable girls, aged 13 to 17, in the city.
Operation Brooke has led to police, children's services, charities and other authorities trying to work together to identify and combat the heinous crime.
Detective Chief Inspector Simon Crisp said: "Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is an abhorrent crime and we all have a role to play in tackling it in all its forms.
"We're continually working to ensure all our officers and staff are trained to spot the tell-tale signs of CSE, so those at risk are quickly identified and safeguarded.
"If a child goes missing and is flagged as being at risk of CSE it ensures the resulting inquiry receives an enhanced response. We often have pre-prepared action plans in place to make sure we're doing everything possible to locate them.
"The small increase in the number of cases of missing children identified as being at risk of CSE is a direct result of our increasing awareness of the issue, rather than more children being at risk.
"The real concern continues to be that the majority of victims don't recognise themselves as victims because of the effective grooming processes used by their abusers.
"We work closely with all our partner agencies and draw on the expertise of charities such as Barnardo's to share information on those at risk and to identify potential."
Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens, said eliminating child sexual exploitation was one of her priorities.
She helped gain access to a £1.1m fund that helped identify victims of CSE and provide support for the next two years in Bristol, as well as the rest of Avon, Somerset and Wiltshire.
"Child sexual exploitation is a horrific crime which affects young victims and can ruin their childhood," she said.
"The impact of this crime on a young person can affect their mental health, physical health as well as having long-term emotional consequences and leave the individual feeling lonely if the perpetrator has tried to distance them from their family and friends.
This home security system stopped a crime spree
"I spent 35 years as a cop and I love this security system."
"Spotting the signs of CSE is vital in helping a young person, many of whom do not see themselves as a victim of crime.
"We can all play a part in reducing the number of children affected by exploitation if we are aware of and can identify the warning signs of grooming. I would encourage everyone to be vigilant and to speak out against abuse."
The Bristol Safeguarding Children Board introduced a strategy in July this year in order to deal with CSE.
"At the heart of our approach is the principle that under no circumstance is a child or young person to blame for being sexually exploited," said Sally Lewis chairman of the board.
"Safeguarding children is everybody's business. Greater public awareness of CSE, allied with a willingness to respond to concerns they may see or hear, means that working together we are better equipped to prevent victims suffering in silence."
Spotting the signs of Child Sexual Exploitation:
Going missing for periods of time or regularly returning home late
Regularly missing school or not taking part in education
Acquiring expensive gifts such as mobile phones, jewellery – even drugs – and not being able to explain how they came by them.
Having older boyfriends or girlfriends
Associating with other young people involved in exploitation
Mood swings or changes in emotional well-being, becoming secretive, defensive or aggressive when asked about their personal life
Displaying inappropriate sexualised behaviour
Being secretive about where they are going or what they are doing.
A lack of interest in activities and hobbies
Bill Cosby charges: What happens next?
by Ben Brumfield
Suddenly, Bill Cosby can no longer escape prosecution.
The number of his accusers had grown to the size of a choir. And the refrain of the 50-plus women has been virtually the same: He drugged me; he sexually assaulted me - or he tried to.
Cosby has vehemently denied any wrongdoing. And his supporters pointed out he never faced criminal charges.
That changed Wednesday, when Cosby was arraigned in a Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, court on felony charges. The charges stem from accusations by Andrea Constand, the first of the dozens of women to go public against Cosby.
If convicted, the comedic icon could go to jail. Here are some of the legal and other messes he faces.
When is the trial?
No date has been set yet, but CNN legal analyst Paul Callan predicts it could start in nine to 12 months.
Cosby's next court appearance is January 14 for a preliminary hearing. He is now out on $1 million bail.
What has he been charged with exactly?
Cosby faces three felony counts of aggravated indecent assault. In Pennsylvania law, that means he is accused of penetrating someone with part of his body without that person's consent.
That can include taking away that person's ability to refuse the penetration by holding them down or drugging them or carrying out the sex act when the person is unconscious.
What can his sentence be?
Officially up to 10 years max.
But that's not likely, a former Pennsylvania assistant district attorney told Time.com.
Two to three years behind bars is more customary for aggravated indecent assault, said Michael Skinner.
But given the circumstances, the judge could hand Cosby, who is 78, a higher sentence than that.
What are the chances Cosby will be convicted?
That's up to the jury. But a lawyer representing seven of the women who have spoken out against Cosby has wagered a damning prediction.
Joseph Cammarata told CNN's John Vause that District Attorney Steele has a 98% conviction rate.
"This is a prosecutor that clearly has identified cases and only brings cases in which he can win," he said. "If you're on the side of being charged by this prosecutor, that's going to be some cause for concern."
After Cosby was charged, his attorneys released a statement saying, "Make no mistake, we intend to mount a vigorous defense against this unjustified charge and we expect that Mr. Cosby will be exonerated by a court of law."
Will other accusers testify?
Attorney Gloria Allred, who represents 29 of the women, said some may be called as witnesses.
"It appears that the prosecutor has indicated that if there are other alleged victims of Mr. Cosby that they should contact law enforcement in Montgomery County," she told CNN's John Vause.
Steele will have to decide who he wants to call to the stand, and the judge will have to decide if the testimony is relevant and admissible.
But Cosby's defense will likely fight having them testify, Allred said.
Is this case likely to open the floodgates for other cases?
It's hard to say for sure, but most of the accusations against Cosby date back a few decades, which means they fall under statutes of limitations and can no longer be tried.
Constand's case just barely squeaked by the same fate. The statute in Pennsylvania applies after 12 years, which would have nixed her case early next year.
What about the civil suits against Cosby?
Some of his accusers are suing Cosby, and he is counter-suing some of them.
One of them is Judith Huth, one of Allred's clients, who said Cosby got her drunk then attacked her sexually after taking her to the Playboy Mansion in 1974.
She was 16 at the time.
Cosby faces at least three defamation lawsuits.
Seven women say Cosby's lawyers or representatives hurt their reputations by saying their accusations were untrue.
He recently countersued them, saying their accusations, which he alleges are false, have damaged his reputation.
What impact will the charges have on his reputation?
Cosby's fall has been deep.
There was a time he the embodiment of family wholesomeness for decades. Bill Cosby was Dr. Cliff Huxtable, the quintessential moral American family man.
But as rape allegations have piled up, NBC and Netflix canceled projects they had planned with him.
And television channels have nixed episodes of "The Cosby Show" from their lineups.
It will continue to stream online. Hulu, which bought the rights to the show in 2011, still offer ways to watch it, as do Amazon and Netflix.
How will Cosby pay for his legal defense?
BloombergBusiness has put 78-year-old Cosby's net worth at about $400 million.
Despite the accusations and cancellation of TV deals, Cosby has continued touring live as a stand-up comedian to rave reviews by fans. Bbut some venues have canceled his appearances.
After all this time, why criminal charges now?
A recent election may have had a lot to do with it. But first, let's have a look at the original complaint.
Andrea Constand's accusations go back to 2004. She was a former basketball coach at Temple University, and Cosby was an alumnus. Constand visited Cosby in his home in a Philadelphia suburb that year, and she said he gave her pills and wine left her hardly able to remain conscious, let alone consent to sex.
She went to the authorities. But in 2005, prosecutors declined to prosecute Cosby, citing a lack of evidence.
During his campaign this year, the newly elected prosecutor, Kevin Steele, turned the Cosby case into an election issue and upon taking office promptly reopened it.
In the meantime, new evidence turned up to bolster a prosecution.
What was the new evidence?
Back when prosecutors declined to go after Cosby, Constand turned around and filed a civil suit. Cosby settled with her in 2006.
But as the chorus of accusers grew louder, the media demanded to see the court documents, and a judge unsealed them.
Their contents were scandalous.
Cosby admitted he had extramarital sex with at least five women outside his marriage, and gave prescription sedatives to women he wanted to have sex with.
That fit the pattern of what dozens of women had said about their encounters with Cosby.
"(When) we learned about allegations from other victims under similar circumstances, reopening this case was not a question," Steele said.
High-profile abuse cases inspire some victims to report
by Jessica Schladebeck
Many victims of sexual violence do not report the abuse for fear they will not be believed, and that fear is only exacerbated when the abuser is a well-known individual or authority figure.
Approximately 60 percent of adult rapes are not reported to the police and 90 percent of child rape goes unreported, said Kristen Houser, spokeswoman for Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape.
"The No. 1 reason people don't report sexual abuse is that they don't trust the people around them to respond appropriately," she said. "They're afraid of being blamed, afraid that people will think they somehow participated, that they're lying — there all these different variation of the same thing."
Houser said the perpetuation of misinformation in regards to sexual assault is one of the reasons for society's inadequate responses.
Cosby: Actor and comedian Bill Cosby was charged Wednesday with sexually assaulting former Temple University employee Andrea Constand at his Pennsylvania home 12 years ago. While there have been many accusations against Cosby, these are the first criminal charge — a felony charge of aggravated indecent assault — brought against the entertainer.
Cosby during his arraignment Wednesday afternoon did not enter a plea, and bail was set at $1 million. A preliminary hearing has been set for January 14.
Houser said that in the midst of high-profile cases like Cosby's, there is small but noticeable increase in the number of those coming forward with their own stories of abuse.
"I think that we often see a little bit of a jump happen when there's public cases," Houser said. "There are some survivors living in silence with their secrets, and they do feel emboldened to come forward."
Those scenarios — which include an authority figure or someone well-known, like Cosby, who had previously been revered for his family-friendly body of work — can be especially difficult for the victims, she said.
"More than 50 women have come forward" in connection with Cosby, Houser said. "That number has enabled the public in large to be supportive, and created a general tendency to believe the survivors."
Constand waited nearly a year before reporting the abuse and many of Cosby's alleged victims waited decades before coming forward.
That's not uncommon, Houser said, in fact, it's the opposite.
"Delayed disclosure is the norm," she said. "I think with these high profile cases people are really starting to see that."
Changing tone: Houser said within the last several years, there has been a noticeable change in how people view sexual violence.
"In the past five years there has been a groundswell of people coming forward," she said. "We've been addressing it in the military with congressional hearings, and there have been a number of college students who have gone public and are holding schools accountable when they don't take the appropriate action.
"There have been so many high-profile cases, so many high-profile pieces of this issue, I do think the public's understanding is starting to shift. Sexual violence is a serious and widespread problem, we're really talking about 20 percent of the population — that's absolutely widespread."
This shift in view has led to educating the public on prevention and is fostering a more supportive environment for the survivors of sexual abuse.
In York: There are several local organizations that help victims through the process of reporting abuse and get them help they need.
Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape partners with 50 crisis center across the state, one of which is in York County.
The YWCA of York's Victim Assistance Center provides crisis intervention, information, counseling and support to victims of sexual violence or other violent crimes. The center helps victims of all ages.
"Navigating these systems can be very overwhelming," Houser said, adding there is also help and information available for family and friends of victims.
The victim assistance center has a 24-hour hotline which can be reached at (717) 854-3131 or 1-800-422-3204. More information and a list of resources is also available on the YWCA's website.
The York County Children's Advocacy Center and the York County Office of Children Youth & Families also provide assistance to abused children.
Indo-Canadian Child Abuse Survivor Says Without Sophie's Place, He Would Never Have Told His Story
Andy Bhatti was first abused when he was nine and it continued until he was 14 but it took him 20 years to tell his story with help from child advocacy centre Sophie's Place.
VANCOUVER – Indo-Canadian victim of child abuse Andy Bhatti says if there was a child advocacy centre like Sophie's Place in Metro Vancouver when he was younger, he likely wouldn't have waited 20 years to tell someone that he had been sexually abused.
Bhatti was first abused when he was nine and it continued until he was 14. By the time he reached his early teens, Bhatti was committing crimes to support a drug addiction, reported CBC News.
“I know if I did speak up, I wouldn't have spent eight years in jail and I probably would have graduated from high school,” he says.
“Unfortunately, given the circumstances of my life at the time, I went from Grade 6 to a psychiatric assessment centre to a juvenile facility to an adult facility to a longer facility. Eventually, I was out on Hastings Street stuck on heroin.”
Sophie's Place, which opened in Surrey in 2012, was created to help young people who suffer from physical, mental, emotional or sexual abuse.
“It's a facility for them so they don't have to go to three or four places to give their testimony,” says Centre for Child Development CEO Gerard Bremault, whose organization oversees Sophie's Place.
“They can give [their testimony] once, they can have that interview with professionals that are specially trained in this area and we can reduce the trauma to the children.”
About 500 children have come through Sophie's Place since it opened, 180 of which visited this year.
Bhatti, who is now clean and advocates for sex abuse survivors through his organization Survivors Supporting Survivors, says that kind of environment would have helped him when he was a boy.
“If I had social workers, probation officers, family support workers, psychologists and police officers all in the same building to tell me that it was ok, I probably would have spoken up,” he says.
“Instead, I had to go repeat my story to 15 different places. Kids now are very fortunate that they only have to say their story one time.”
Part of the funding for Sophie's Place comes from the B.C. government's Civil Forfeiture program, which confiscates assets from convicted criminals.
“Bad guys we have running around our communities shooting things up and selling drugs to vulnerable people… When we get them and throw them in jail, we take any of the assets they have accumulated and we sell it,” says B.C. Solicitor General Mike Morris.
“We turn that money into a lot of projects that we have here in the province to support our vision for a violence-free B.C.”
The provincial funding helps, but Bremault says more money is needed so the facility can expand.
Fairfield Grandmother Confesses To Drowning Grandson, 4, In Bathtub
by Kelly Ryan
FAIRFIELD (CBS13) — A grandmother is in police custody after allegedly drowning her grandson on Tuesday.
Fairfield Police said the grandmother has confessed to the drowning.
Neighbors say they never saw the children playing outside the Fairfield home. They also were suspicious of the grandmother's initial story that the boy accidentally drowned in the bathtub.
It was mid-morning on Tuesday when some residents in the 1400 block of Jefferson Street in Fairfield heard someone cry out.
Neighbors described what they thought was a “death scream” and say they saw the woman rush out of the home.
Fairfield Police and firefighters were called out to the home at around 11 a.m. to a report of a drowning and found the boy unconscious and not breathing. Attempts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful and he died at a local trauma center.
Dawn Diana Raines-Hewes, 51, was arrested on suspicion of murder, as police say she intentionally drowned her grandson in the bathtub.
Detectives say the boy was in the custody and being cared for by Raines-Hewes along with two other grandchildren—two girls, a 1-year-old and 6-year-old. Both girls were unharmed.
Raines-Hewes was booked into Solano County jail on suspicion of murder and held without bail.
Police tell CBS13 Raines-Hewes is being held in a safety cell designed to hold inmates who might harm themselves or others.
In the meantime, these neighbors who say they don't really know Raines-Hewes found it hard to believe initial reports the 4 year old accidentally drown while under the grandmother's supervision are still rattled by the cries she made from her front yard.
Investigators aren't releasing a motive yet. Raines-Hewes is expected be arraigned Thursday.
This child's death is Fairfield's 10th homicide this year and comes less than 2 weeks after the death of an 18 month old allegedly shaken and dropped on the floor by his babysitter.
State logs 205,000 child abuse, neglect calls in 2015
by Ryan Haarer
DENVER - The State of Colorado says more than 204,983 calls regarding child abuse or neglect were made in 2015. 88,441 of those calls resulted in further action or referrals. Of those referrals, 32,709 triggered an assessment by Child Protective Services. The state logged 84,568 referrals in 2014.
On January 1, 2015 the state launched a child abuse and neglect hotline, 1-844-CO-4-KIDS, to try and streamline the reporting process. Prior to the hotline number being implemented the state did not have a formal system for tracking how many calls came in.
"A lot of the counties use human services numbers. So it could be a human service number that provides services for all human services in their county and that was confusing. There wasn't anything that was directly a child abuse or neglect line," Laura Solomon with the state's division of child welfare said.
And it appears people are still, for the most part, calling the counties directly. The hotline received 26,461 calls over the last year meaning the remaining 178,522 came in directly to the 64 counties and two tribal nations across the state. The Colorado Department of Human Services is trying to spread the word about the hotline, where they prefer people to call.
"This hotline can be used by all community members and make sure that if anybody in the community has a concern about a child, no matter what it is, however small, whatever they're worried about, they can call us," Solomon said.
The call center is staffed by trained social workers who can direct the caller to the proper resource. A vast majority of the calls are not actual neglect or abuse but can often be resolved with other community resources.
Now that the state is logging the calls counties receive it can begin painting a better picture of what the state is dealing with. It's tracking call times, call volume, call duration, speed of answer and other factors ensuring calls are handled quickly and appropriately.
After calls are received to the hotline they are transferred to the proper county which then has a response time frame that must be met. If there is a significant safety concern the response must be immediate. Moderate safety concerns give up to three days to respond and low risk calls allow for five days.
Speaking up for Special Needs: Lawmakers taking action on child abuse and neglect reports
by Meghan Dwyer
MADISON -- In November, the FOX6 Investigators began speaking up for kids with special needs. Now, FOX6's series on child abuse and neglect is getting the attention of lawmakers.
In 2015, 66 kids in Wisconsin died or were seriously injured because they were abused or neglected. With one day left in the year, state lawmakers were finally asking how and why.
"Before I start though I`ve gotta say I`m very disappointed in what happened at the last hearing," Rep. Jessie Rodriguez (R-Oak Creek) said.
At the last hearing of the Assembly Committee on Children and Families, some lawmakers charged with protecting Wisconsin's children hadn't done their homework.
"It`s become very clear to me that there`s been a lack of communication, a lack of compliance to Act 78," Rep. Rodriguez said.
In Wisconsin, when a child dies or is injured because of abuse or neglect, the Department of Children and Families has to file a special report explaining what happened and how it happened.
State law requires committee members read those reports. The law also requires that lawmakers hold a public hearing to talk about the reports.
"Aside from 2014, there was never a hearing held on these reports even though this act passed in 2009. Not one hearing until last year," Rep. Rodriguez said.
At the hearing Wednesday, December 30th, squeezed in before the end of the year, officials with the Department of Children and Families fielded tough questions from lawmakers about kids who have died this year.
"These are vulnerable children in Wisconsin, so part of our job is to look at these individual cases as kind of a second check and say what happened here?" Rep. Jill Billings (D-La Crosse) said.
"The primary concern always when the CPS workers go out is is this child safe? Is this child safe today?" Randy Keys, chief legal counsel with the Department of Children and Families said.
This year, kids were starved, locked in basements and murdered -- and in most cases, the families had previously been reported to Child Protective Services.
"Somebody dropped the ball," Rep. Robert Brooks (R-Saukville) said.
"These repeat cases are really troubling for a lot of people," Rep. Adam Neylon (R-Pewaukee) said.
In a particularly troubling report, a teenage girl in Waukesha County was locked in her basement for seven years -- even though child abuse and neglect had been reported time and time again.
"24 screened out reports. 24! Those are calls that were not investigated. There`s an issues with that, and there`s no recommendations," Rep. LaTonya Johnson (D-Milwaukee) said.
Rep. Robert Brooks (R-Saukville) asked the Department of Children and Families what can be changed to improve cases like that one, but department representatives had no recommendations.
"How can you literally have a case like this and not have one recommendation for what needs to be changed?" Rep. Johnson said.
The child who was locked in the basement has autism.
She's just one of dozens of children across the state who are being abused and neglected who also have disabilities.
Over the last five years, 15 children with disabilities have died from abuse or neglect after cases were closed or not fully investigated.
''15 kids losing their lives over five years. If that was a result of a toy, we would be talking about a major recall," Rep. Johnson said.
At Wednesday's hearing, lawmakers asked DCF officials whether charges need to be made when cases involve kids with special needs.
"What we`re doing is we`re following up with disability rights. We`re meeting with them next week to look and see how we can collaborate and make the system work better," Randy Keys said.
On Wednesday, state lawmakers spent a lot of time talking about these issues, but we`re told next week they`ll start to take some action - as legislation is expected to be introduced that specifically concerns children with disabilities.
CLICK HERE for a list of members of the Assembly Committee on Children and Families.
CLICK HERE for a link to the 90-day reports.
Flawed Alaska child abuse study suggests 'solutions' likely to worsen problem
by Richard Wexler
The problem of child abuse is serious and real -- in Alaska and everywhere else in America. But a recent study by researchers at the University of Alaska Anchorage about the rate at which children known to the Office of Children's Services are re-abused is built on a foundation of faulty assumptions and questionable data. As a result, it points toward “solutions” likely to make things even worse.
The report, compiled by UAA's Institute of Social and Economic Research, implies that OCS errs only in one direction, screening out cases that should be investigated and failing to substantiate maltreatment.
In fact, child welfare systems are arbitrary, capricious and cruel -- they err in all directions. It is because Alaska investigates too many families, substantiates too many cases and takes away far too many children that the system is overwhelmed. And because the system is overwhelmed, workers don't have time to give any case the attention it deserves. So they leave some children in dangerous homes even as many more are taken from homes that are safe or could be made safe with the right kinds of help.
Even when rates of child poverty are factored in, Alaska takes away children at a rate well over double the national average. How extreme an outlier is Alaska? In 2014, nationwide, 264,000 children were taken from their homes. Were every state like Alaska, it would have been 625,000.
The rate of removal in Alaska is nearly quadruple the rate in states such as Alabama and Illinois, where independent, court-appointed monitors have found that reforms built around keeping more children in their own homes improved child safety.
Of course, after reading the UAA study, some might think Alaska is a cesspool of depravity, with vastly more child abuse than the rest of America. It isn't. Rather, the Alaska data reflect the subjectivity that goes into deciding what constitutes abuse and, especially, neglect.
Alaska defines “neglect” as “the failure of the person responsible for the child's welfare to provide the child necessary food, care, clothing, shelter or medical attention.” By that definition, there is hardly an impoverished child in Alaska who couldn't be declared “neglected” at some point.
Any call to OCS, even an anonymous call by someone with an ax to grind, must be investigated if the allegations meet this incredibly broad definition. Yet the UAA researchers claim even calls that are screened out may well be child abuse.
On the contrary, with a definition this broad it's no wonder that 76 percent of the reports that are screened in wind up unsubstantiated. The researchers argue that's because caseworkers wrongly label some cases unfounded. Undoubtedly that's true -- sometimes. But in Alaska, as in most states, to “substantiate” a case a worker need only believe, in her own mind, that it is slightly more likely than not that the child was maltreated. So it's no wonder that the only national study to second-guess these decisions found that workers are two to six times more likely to wrongly substantiate a case than to wrongly label it unfounded.
All of this created a system that does enormous damage to children it is supposed to help.
• It traumatizes children taken needlessly from everyone loving and familiar. Many will be moved from home to home, emerging years later unable to love or trust anyone. Two studies comparing more than 15,000 typical cases found that children left in their own homes typically did better later in life even than comparably maltreated children placed in foster care.
• Many children are taken from safe homes only to be placed at enormous risk in foster care. Several studies have found abuse in one-quarter to one-third of foster homes.
• And, as noted above, all the time, money and effort wasted on all that needless investigating and needless foster care is, in effect, stolen from children in real danger. That may explain the high rate of re-abuse in Alaska.
Another possible explanation: A state that is quick to label anything and everything child abuse will be quick to label anything and everything re-abuse. If you confuse a family's poverty with “neglect” and six months later the family is still poor, you are likely to label that family neglectful again.
There's no reliable way to compare rates of re-abuse among the states. But if the UAA researchers insist on doing it anyway, I'll point out that rates of re-abuse in Illinois and Alabama are lower than in Alaska.
So the real lesson of this study is the lesson Alaska has been ignoring for decades. The take-the-child-and-run approach makes all children less safe. Alaska needs to learn from states that have rebuilt their systems to emphasize safe, proven programs to keep families together.
Richard Wexler is executive director of the Virginia-based National Coalition for Child Protection Reform, www.nccpr.org
Letter to the Editor
As a student studying early childhood education, the idea of anyone ever harming a child breaks my heart. Sadly the reality is, it happens and it's happening often. But people tend to say it doesn't always matter because they're young and they won't remember. That's incredibly false.
Every year, 6 million children are abused, and the effect this abuse has is unbelievable. Children can develop anxiety, depression or even eating disorders. They can develop these from physical abuse, or even mental abuse. Any form of abuse is likely going to end up affecting the child in one form or another.
When you call a child stupid, or an idiot, they will remember. Even if you think they won't, a child retains most of their information when they're young. They remember everything and anything about what you say.
Children are not only affected when you abuse them personally, but when you abuse those around them. Kids who see others get abused can end up with the same issues that kids who actually are abused receive.
The abuse matters. Whether you're calling them names, or hitting them, it's all abuse and it all matters. The next time someone calls a child stupid, or hits them across the face, is another child affected by this horrible issue. Child abuse is something that's easily preventable by simply walking away, and everyone should be doing their best to prevent it.
Court documents sealed in child abuse, murder case
by Chelcey Adami
Search warrants have been sealed in the case involving two former Salinas residents accused of torture, abuse and murder after two small children were found dead in a Redding storage unit.
Tami Joy Huntsman, 39, and Gonzalo Curiel, 17, have been charged with eight felonies including first-degree murder, torture, conspiracy and child abuse in regards to the deaths of a 3-year-old girl and 6-year-old boy as well as a surviving 9-year-old girl.
An order sealing search warrant documents related to the case was filed in Monterey County Superior Court on Dec. 22.
The order notes that making all the documents related to this search warrant open to the public “could jeopardize the lives and well-being of witnesses who have cooperated with the police in providing information” about the homicides that occurred between Nov. 27 and Nov. 28 in Salinas, according to the court order.
It also contends that making the documents available to the public could also jeopardize the investigation and make it more likely that suspects or their associates will flee, try to destroy evidence or intimidate witnesses.
The documents can be sealed for up to 90 days to protect the investigation's integrity unless an extension is approved by the court.
Huntsman and Curiel have remained in custody in Plumas County where they were initially arrested. The Monterey County District Attorney's Office has been in communication with the Plumas County District Attorney's Office regarding extradition to Monterey County, but no definitive date has been set for transportation.
Child Abuse Deaths Rise
Department of Child Safety remains in disarra
by Pete Aleshire
The number of Arizona children killed as a result of abuse and neglect has climbed 24 percent since 2009, as the effort to reform the agency charged with protecting children from abuse flounders.
About half of the children who died had recent or active cases open with Child Protective Services, which two years ago was rocked by a scandal after whistleblowers revealed the agency had dismissed some 16,000 reports the initial intake worker considered worth investigating.
Abuse and neglect account for 9 percent of the child deaths in the state.
Then-Gov. Jan Brewer reorganized the agency and the Legislature increased funding, but after initially cutting the backlog — the numbers have grown again.
In the meantime, the annual Child Fatality Review Report issued each year by the state has documented a rise in child deaths due to abuse and neglect.
The mortality rate from abuse rose 30 percent in 2013, but dropped 18 percent in 2014, according to the report. Trends show a rise again in 2015. In 2014, 75 children died from abuse and neglect. Physical abuse accounted for 59 percent of those deaths and neglect for 36 percent. Children younger than 5 accounted for 79 percent of the deaths. Mothers were responsible for half of the deaths, fathers for 19 percent and mothers' partners for 9 percent. Non-relatives accounted for 16 percent.
Of the 75 deaths, Child Protective Services had open cases on 11 and closed cases on 25 — suggesting the agency failed to effectively protect children in half of all deaths.
Drug or alcohol abuse played a role in 73 percent of the deaths.
The report did not provide a breakdown by county.
The tragic statistics come as efforts to reform the system for protecting children falter.
Earlier this month, the Joint Legislative Budget Committee took the unusual step of voting to rebuke the Department of Child Safety, after reviewing a report on the agency's failure to reduce the backlog of uninvestigated reports.
Two years ago, the agency underwent a complete re-organization in the wake of the report that it had classified 16,000 cases as “uninvestigated” because didn't have enough Child Protective Service investigators to look into reports intake workers considered potentially well-founded.
The agency hastily reviewed those “uninvestigated” cases and opened formal cases on about a third of them. However, in the meantime the number of cases awaiting investigation continued to grow — with about 50,000 reports pouring into the agency each year. The backlog has now risen to 14,500, although they're labeled differently now.
The agency went through another upheaval several months ago when Gov. Doug Ducey abruptly fired the director, after reviewing a confidential file of cases provided to him by the assistant director, Greg McKay, a former police investigator. Gov. Ducey then made McKay the director. The fired director noted that the provision of the confidential, unredacted cases to the governor likely violated the law protecting the confidentially of children and people involved in CPS reports.
The agency this year got an extra $23 million in state funds and $6 million in federal funds, specifically to close the backlog — which then stood at 13,000. Instead, the backlog grew to 14,500 in the course the year.
However, McKay said the agency needs an extra $60 million just to keep pace with the rise in reports of abuse and neglect. The number of children in out-of-home care like foster homes and group homes is growing at a rate of 10 percent annually.
McKay has said the agency needs to effectively double its administrative staff to keep up with the reports of abuse and neglect — roughly 84 positions on top of the 103 it has now. Overall, he asked for a $105 million budget increase for fiscal 2016-17, a roughly 21 percent increase.
Reports of child neglect and abuse have risen from 33,455 in 2010 to 46,597 in 2014 and about 52,000 in 2015.
The agency has a workforce of about 1,200. However, the agency also suffers a 33 percent caseworker turnover rate annually due to low salaries and high stress. The agency currently has only 930 of its 1,200 caseworker slots filled, but has 274 workers in training. The Legislature has provided funding for 1,400 caseworkers, but the agency can't recruit and train new workers fast enough to replace the ones who quit — roughly 300 or 400 annually.
The average salary of a Department of Child Safety investigator is about $40,000, but starting salaries are lower, according to the job search website Indeed. Arizona pays child safety workers about 30 percent less than the national average, according to the website.
Texas County gets tough with medical child abusers
by Deanna Boyd
FORT WORTH, TEXAS -- Sitting and squirming on the witness stand, the little girl clutched a stuffed frog as a Tarrant County, Texas, prosecutor coaxed her back in time.
Back when she still lived with “Mama Brittany.” Back when she had a tube in her tummy. Back when she visited doctors all the time.
“Were you sick?” prosecutor Dawn Ferguson asked the girl, now 7.
“No, I don't think I was sick. I don't really know,” said the little girl, dressed in polka dots.
“If you don't think you were sick, why did your mommy take you to the doctors?” Ferguson asked.
“I think she liked to,” the girl replied.
Her mother, Brittany Phillips, stood accused of injuring her child through medical child abuse, better known as Munchausen syndrome by proxy, and hers was the first such case in recent years in Tarrant County to go to trial.
Prosecutors say Phillips, 31, liked the attention she received from having a sick child so much that she lied about her daughter's medical history and symptoms, withheld food from the girl and ultimately put feces into her IV line or feeding tube.
The case not only illustrates the bizarre nature of Munchausen syndrome by proxy, but also demonstrates the lengths that Tarrant County will go to treat the accused caregiver as a criminal, as opposed to someone who is claiming to be an overprotective parent or to suffer from a mental illness.
“Except maybe in Tarrant County, these cases are rarely prosecuted criminally, even when they're identified,” said Dr. Marc Feldman, an Alabama psychiatrist who is a national expert and author on the topic. “They tend to get handled in family court. The mother will have a termination of parental rights and that's as far as it goes.”
Behind the efforts of Tarrant County investigator Michael Weber and others, from social workers to pediatricians, more caregivers — mostly mothers — are getting caught and punished for the pain they inflicted upon their children.
Tarrant County prosecutors have filed criminal charges in six cases since 2009.
In comparison, Harris County, the largest in Texas, has prosecuted one case in the past three years. Though a San Antonio mother was prosecuted federally in 1999, long-time prosecutors in the child abuse division of the Bexar County district attorney's office can't recall a single such case.
Weber calls such abusers “grifters” and “con men and women” who know that their child is not really sick.
“Attention is a huge motivating factor,” Weber said. “They want the attention that comes with being the parent of a sick child. They want to be reinforced of what good parents they are, and they basically use the child as a means to an end.”
Such children are left with physical and emotional scars. They can suffer developmental delays and miss great amounts of school and are sometimes put at risk of death.
“We've had children come in who really thought they were dying and their siblings thought they were dying because that's what the mom presented them as,” said Dr. Jamye Coffman, medical director at the Center for Prevention of Child Maltreatment at Cook Children's Medical Center.
“I can't even imagine the emotional abuse that those children and their siblings and family members have suffered from in thinking that they were sick, thinking they needed these hospitalizations.”
Weber said, “While they may not be trying to kill the child, they are not doctors and they make mistakes.”
Weber was a new investigator with the Tarrant County district attorney's crimes against children unit when he got his first medical child abuse case in 2008.
“I didn't know what I was doing,” Weber readily admits today. “I was really flying blind.”
He scoured the Internet for information on Munchausen's syndrome by proxy. He picked the brains of experts and a Houston prosecutor who had tried such a case.
Although the Tarrant County case was ultimately referred to another state because of jurisdictional issues, the few months he spent learning about the syndrome led Weber to pay a visit to Alana Minton, then supervisor of the crimes against children unit.
“I went to her after that and told her if we get any more of these, why don't you give them to me because there's no way detectives with 30 cases on their caseload are going to be able to do this amount of work,” Weber said. “She's like, ‘Mike, that's fine, but we haven't had another one in the eight years I've been here.' ”
Two months later, a second case came in.
Six years later, Weber has investigated 16 such cases.
Research on medical child abuse is limited. Studies estimate the number of new cases per year in the United States to be anywhere from 200 to 1,200.
Feldman, the psychiatrist, suspects that far more cases go undetected.
“We identify the ones that are really florid, where there's actual induction of illness into a child. The child is injected with bacteria or suffocated to induce arrest,” Feldman said. “We don't identify the case where there's just false reporting or exaggerating false symptoms. Those milder forms, I think, occur much more frequently.”
Because such reports are relatively rare, most law enforcement and social service agencies receive little or no training in investigating and identifying medical child abuse.
“CPS, in particular, they seem not to know enough about medical child abuse,” Feldman said. “They may know that the investigations are extraordinarily time-consuming and the records they have to accumulate may fill many banker boxes. I think consciously, or unconsciously, they turn a blind eye to what needs to be done.”
In Tarrant County, law enforcement, Child Protective Services and Cook Children's often work together on investigations because of the complexity and multitude of medical records involved.
CPS investigator Ashley Rader acknowledges that she had received no training in medical child abuse when she was handed her first case a few years ago. She now has five such investigations under her belt and has become the agency's unofficial go-to investigator for medical child abuse.
Last year, she and Weber taught a half-day class on the subject to CPS and law enforcement investigators.
She said she hopes such training will become routine for CPS investigators statewide.
“When we do get them, you really have to be aware of how to handle the case,” Rader said. “It is very sensitive. You have to take different steps than you would on a normal investigation.”
Coffman is one of two child abuse pediatricians at Cook Children's who review medical records when medical child abuse suspicions arise in Tarrant County.
“Not in all the records that we review do we say it's medical child abuse,” Coffman said. “There has to be harm to the child first and then discrepancy to where we think it may warrant a full investigation.”
‘When does it become criminal?'
Phillips' attorney, Micheal Schneider, applauds Tarrant County for having investigators and doctors who specialize in medical child abuse, but also notes that the special focus brings with it concern.
“It's like the old saying, if you're a hammer, everything is a nail. If you're a detective who specializes in this, you're going to start seeing it even when it may or may not be there,” Schneider said. “That is a real problem.”
He worries that overly vigilant caregivers could be falsely accused.
“How do we balance the right of a parent to seek different treatments or second opinions or third opinions versus this idea that if you switch doctors, you're doctor shopping?” Schneider asks.
“There are mothers out there who traditionally we've all just kind of snickered at and say, ‘Boy she just overreacts on every little thing.' Well, when does that become just an overprotective mother and when does it become criminal?”
In the case against his client, he called the state's “smoking gun” a two-minute website view.
“It's a little scary that the government can prove up a criminal case based on what you read on the Internet,” Schneider said.
Weber said that before going forward with a case, investigators and the doctors who provided the unnecessary and potentially harmful treatment must agree that medical child abuse was at play.
“It isn't just CPS, myself and Dr. Coffman,” Weber said. “None of these other doctors are experts in medical child abuse. And none of them are going to be easily influenced to see something that isn't there.”
And doctors aren't the only ones filing reports.
In Tarrant County, speech pathologists, school employees, family members and friends have filed reports about suspicions that eventually led to criminal charges.
Bridget Sexton did not know that investigations were already underway when she emailed CPS, using the fake name Sarah Jonesy, about concerns involving her best friend, Cecilia Ransbottom.
Sexton said she decided to alert CPS after visiting Ransbottom in May 2014, shortly after Ransbottom's 3-year-old daughter underwent surgery for the insertion of a feeding tube.
During that visit of several days, Sexton said, she rarely saw her friend feed her daughter. Even during a trip to McDonald's, Sexton said, she watched as the little girl sat down with a stranger and began eating his fries after her own parents didn't buy her food.
The girl “was supposed to be on a strict feeding schedule,” Sexton said. “The only time I actually saw them feed [her] was the one time they cooked like enchiladas, and I was there a week.”
Sexton said Ransbottom called and confronted her a few days after she made the report. Their friendship ended, but Sexton says she has no regrets.
“It's not really about me. It's about the kids,” Sexton told the Star-Telegram. “I've known these kids since they were babies. For me to turn my head, I would have been just as much at fault as she.”
‘A badge of honor'
In the Tarrant County cases, mothers were accused of exposing their children needlessly to brain surgeries and painful biopsies and other procedures.
In what is true with the majority of medical child abuse cases, all six of the children underwent surgery to be fitted with a feeding tube, also known as a gastronomy tube or G-tube.
“To some degree, a mother getting a G-tube for her child seems to be kind of a badge of honor,” Feldman said. “It convinces everyone else that something must be seriously wrong if the doctor inserted it.”
Coffman said feeding issues can be the easiest to fake to a physician.
“We're not watching the child eat in our clinic. We're not watching if they're having vomiting issues because we only have a limited amount of time,” Coffman said. “So a parent can fabricate these symptoms and then, say, just not feed their child, so they lose weight.
“Because we trust the parent to give us the accurate information, they end up with a procedure.”
And it's not only young, nonverbal children, experts say. In the Tarrant County cases, victims ranged in age from 1 to 11.
“Medical child abuse can happen at any age in a child's life and it's oftentimes sequential,” Coffman said. “It may be one child and then maybe that child gets old enough to where either [the caregivers] can't do it or they don't get the same benefits, so they'll move to the next child.”
Mary Welch's son was 11 when she was indicted in Tarrant County in December 2014 on accusations that she obtained and gave medications to the boy by misrepresenting his medical history. She was also accused of trying to persuade doctors at Cook Children's to perform invasive surgery on the boy.
Mike Heiskell, Welch's defense attorney, said she is simply an overprotective mother and points out that her son was old enough to verbalize issues to doctors in Texas and Minnesota, where the brain surgeries took place.
“He was talking about his aches and pains and the other matters that manifested his illness,” Heiskell said. “It did not come strictly from the mother.”
Coffman said victims of medical child abuse may be brainwashed into believing they're sick.
“It's usually been a process that's been going on their whole lives,” she said. “Many times these children are convinced they're sick because their moms have always told them they're sick or whomever the caregiver is that is causing the problem.
“Also, these children are dependent on that parent for attention. Maybe their whole relationship is they have to play the sick child in order to get that attention from their parent.”
‘It's a type of abuse'
Only two years ago did the American Psychiatric Association officially recognize Munchausen syndrome by proxy as a mental diagnosis, albeit by a new name, factitious disorder imposed on another.
Feldman, for one, opposed its inclusion, saying it allows abusive parents to claim a mental illness when they're actually committing a crime.
“These women have planned what they're going to do. It's willful. It's deliberate,” Feldman said.
Dr. Mark Blotcky, a Dallas psychiatrist who has dealt with medical child abusers, said that though such abusers may be mentally ill, most are mentally capable “and therefore they should have to answer to the criminal justice system.”
“Most of the people know what they're doing and are doing it on purpose,” Blotcky said. “They may not understand all that goes into why they're doing it but I think because they're so secretively deceitful, that indicates that they realize what they're doing is wrong.”
In Tarrant County, investigators and prosecutors have quit using the term “Munchausen syndrome by proxy” to further distance the crime from being blamed on mental illness.
“You don't have to have a mental illness to sexually assault a kid, or beat a kid, or shake a baby or any of those,” Ferguson said. “It's just like that. We don't know why you do it, but you do it, and it's a type of abuse just like anything else.”
But getting police to recognize it as abuse — and then seek criminal charges against these caregivers — can be an uphill challenge, said Minton, formerly with the Tarrant County DA's office.
“Some other jurisdictions that haven't encountered these types of cases have difficulty comprehending the nature of the crime or even that a crime had been committed,” Minton said.
In her years leading the crimes against children unit, Minton recalls some other agencies declining to take a case after an investigation revealed that the surgeries in question occurred in their jurisdiction.
“Some states outside of Texas may not have laws that allow for prosecution of this type of crime at a level of offense that makes prosecution worthwhile based upon the amount of work involved,” Minton said.
Texas has no laws aimed at medical child abuse, but prosecutors can usually apply the offense of injury to a child.
In Welch's case in Tarrant County, the charge was dismissed last month after the state filed a motion indicating that prosecution would be more appropriately sought in Ramsey County, Minn., where Welch's son underwent repeated surgeries.
A spokesman for the Ramsey County attorney's office said they are in discussions with Tarrant County to determine whether charges will be filed there.
“I don't think, quite frankly, that Minnesota is going to pick this up and run with it,” said Heiskell, Welch's attorney. “I think it's a dead issue. I would be shocked and surprised if they did so.”
Four of the other Tarrant County cases ended in plea deals.
In one, the mother, Hope Ybarra, pleaded guilty to injuring her youngest daughter in exchange for a 10-year prison sentence.
In the three others, the mothers received deferred adjudication probation sentences, ranging from five to 10 years.
Under such a sentence, if the mother completes the terms of her probation, a conviction will not appear on her record. If she cannot, she could be sentenced by the judge to the full range of punishment.
“If the kid has already been removed and placed in a good home, I'm more OK with probation,” Ferguson said. “If the kid is still up in the air and has access to the mother, then probation is going to really hurt. You don't want the kid to get in more danger.”
Shopping for doctors
Detecting medical child abuse cases can take years.
Doctors are trained to build relationships with their patients and can be reluctant to report suspicions.
“The first step is doubting what the parent is telling you before you can even entertain the notion that this is child abuse going on, and that's a big leap,” Coffman said.
To avoid suspicion, the abuser often “doctor shops,” crossing city, county or even state lines to seek treatment for the child.
Convincing doctors that a child is sick is not hard, experts say.
“We are dependent on the parent to give us the history of what's going on with their child, and we count on them to be honest,” Coffman said.
If the history is made up, doctors are led down the wrong path.
“Anything we do in medicine starts with the history, and that is key to our diagnosis and treatment plan,” Coffman said. “So if we get a false history, you're going to get a false diagnosis.”
In many of the Tarrant County cases, mothers took their children to different doctors, and the same tests and procedures were performed within days of each other at different clinics or hospitals.
But Coffman said different institutions, even hospitals in the same city, can't share records because of federal privacy laws established in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
“I don't have access to that information, so unless the caregiver chooses to tell us that they're getting care at another institution, we're not even going to know that,” Coffman said.
The caregivers who are committing medical child abuse are overwhelmingly mothers, and they sometimes have familiarity with the medical field, working as secretaries in a hospital or as lab techs.
Other times, they glean their medical knowledge from the Internet.
“The Internet is the bane of doctors' existence. ‘Dr. Google,' ” Coffman said.
She said that though well-intentioned parents can be led astray with inaccurate medical information online, “it's also enabled parents who want to do bad things to their children to find all kinds of sources and news events and things where they can see what other people have done and they can replicate it.”
During the hospitalization of Phillips' daughter, investigators later discovered, Phillips pulled up a news article on her laptop about an Austin woman caught on camera placing feces in her daughter's IV line.
Phillips also did several suspicious searches on her computer, including one for “poop in feeding tube” two minutes after reading about the Austin case, according to testimony at her trial.
Within 24 to 48 hours of Phillips' online search, three blood cultures taken from her daughter — at the mother's insistence — tested positive for a multiple-organism blood infection, including E. coli.
Phillips' defense attorneys, Schneider and Emily LaChance, suggested to jurors that the blood infection could have resulted from contamination by medical staffers.
“There's really no direct evidence she did it,” Schneider said in an interview after Phillips' trial. “There's a lot of circumstantial evidence.”
Social media networks and blogs also give abusers an avenue for attention by allowing them to post updates on their child's maladies. Seeking sympathy through online comments has become so prevalent that Feldman referred to it as “Munchausen by Internet.”
In another Tarrant County case, Elisabeth Hunnicutt used the couple's home computer to post updates on a support group page about her 1-year-old son's potentially fatal brain diseases.
In truth, court documents say, doctors had already ruled out those diseases after the boy underwent various procedures, including having a hole drilled in his skull and a monitor placed on his brain.
“You have so much more going on though, and you handle it so gracefully. … I really do look up to you!” one woman told Hunnicutt in an exchange later obtained by investigators.
Hunnicutt then joked that margaritas have helped see her through.
“But they are great boys i wouldn't have it any other way, but we are having no more kids haha,” Hunnicutt responded. “I couldn't do all this again most days im at the verge of tears. I am positive because I have to be.”
The Fort Worth mother was arrested in 2012, charged with causing bodily injury to a child and eventually sentenced to 10 years' deferred adjudication probation. This year, she agreed to terminate her parental rights to her two sons.
Trial in Tarrant County
The Phillips case is the only one of the six cases to make it to trial in Tarrant County.
Over two weeks in August and September, prosecutors Ferguson and Paige McCormick presented evidence of the countless doctor visits and medical procedures Phillips' daughter was subjected to within the first three years of her life.
In the Cook Children's system alone, the girl visited the emergency room or urgent care clinics 30 times, saw specialists 23 times, and underwent 17 radiography exams, including MRIs and X-rays.
Doctors testified they they were duped into conducting tests and procedures on the girl after Phillips continually reported that the child struggled to eat and gain weight — even after a feeding tube had been placed.
A Dallas doctor and a speech pathologist who treated the girl testified that they contacted CPS in 2010 over concerns that Phillips might be subjecting the girl to medical child abuse.
Their reports, and those made by two others, were investigated by CPS and initially closed out as “unable to determine.”
The allegation resurfaced again — this time leading to a criminal investigation — after Phillips' daughter contracted a potentially deadly blood infection while hospitalized at Cook Children's for dehydration in August 2011.
“Dr. [Peter] Lazarus describes this as highly unusual and a ‘hallmark of Muchausen by Proxy,' ” Weber wrote in a search warrant affidavit.
Defense attorneys told jurors that the case sent a frightening message that parents could be prosecuted for what they post on Facebook about their kids or for seeking second or third opinions regarding their child's health.
“Apparently that's enough to land you in criminal court,” LaChance told jurors. “… We should all be terrified of that.”
After 18 hours of deliberation, the trial ended with a hung jury. A male dentist was the only juror who declined to find Phillips guilty.
On Nov. 13, in lieu of going to trial again, Phillips accepted a plea deal and pleaded guilty to injury to a child with serious bodily injury in exchange for a five-year prison sentence.
On Dec. 2, she pleaded guilty to the same charge in Dallas County for causing her daughter, then 17 months old, to undergo surgery for a feeding tube. She received a five-year prison sentence, which will run concurrently with the Tarrant County sentence.
Ferguson said that while she and investigators were prepared to take the case back to trial, knowing that Phillips would receive at least a minimum prison sentence won out.
“You could have gone again and gotten 12 jurors that are better,” Ferguson said. “You could get 12 jurors that are worse and question it even more. She still would have been probation-eligible if she would have gone through a trial. So they could have convicted her and then felt sorry for her and thought she was crazy and felt pity for her.”
Phillips, who terminated her parental rights before the trial, declined a jail interview.
Schneider said that he and his client also had mixed feelings about taking the plea agreement.
“Up until the time she stood before the judge and actually said ‘Guilty,' she still professed her innocence,” Schneider said. “I just think the pressure of the entire situation bearing down upon her and the risk that she could get up to 99 years or life just finally came to a head and she cut her losses, honestly.”
Childhood Bullying Can Have Lasting Effects On Mental Health
Bullying behavior needs to be taken seriously.
by Carl Nierenberg
Bullying can have a lasting effect on a person's mental health: A new study finds that children who were bullied frequently when they were 8 years old were more likely to develop a psychiatric disorder that needed treatment as an adult, compared with kids who were not bullied.
The scientists also found strong evidence that being bullied as a child puts kids at high risk for depression as a young adult, according to the study, published online today (Dec. 9) in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.
The findings suggest that being victimized by bullying in early childhood increases the risk of depressive disorders that need psychiatric treatment later in life, said study author Dr. Andre Sourander, a professor of child psychiatry at the University of Turku in Finland.
Previous studies have found a link between bullying and a higher risk of mental health problems during childhood, such as low self-esteem, poor school performance, depression and an increased risk for suicide. But less is known about the long-term psychological health of adults who, as children, were bullies or victims of bullying.
Studies of childhood bullying with long-term follow-ups from the early school years through adulthood are lacking, Sourander said. This new study is the largest to date to look at bullying among young children, and it also had the longest follow-up period, tracking children from age 8 until age 29, he said.
In the study, the researchers analyzed data collected from about 5,000 children in Finland. When the children reached age 8, they filled out questionnaires that asked whether they were victims of bullying or had bullied other children, and how frequently this behavior occurred.
Similar questions about bullying were also asked of the children's parents as well as the children's second-grade teachers.
Using the information gathered from children, parents and teachers, the researchers divided the kids into four groups: kids who were uninvolved in bullying (they were neither bullies nor bullied); kids who were frequent victims of bullying but did not bully others; kids who were frequent bullies but were not the targets of it; and kids who were oftenbullies and were also often victims of bullying.
Then, the researchers looked at the mental health outcomes of the children from ages 16 to 29 by examining data from a nationwide hospital register that includes all inpatient and outpatient mental health visits in Finland.
They found that the vast majority of the children, or 90 percent of them, were not involved in bullying, and among this group, about 12 percent had been diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder before age 30.
But about 20 percent of those who were bullies as children had a mental health problem that needed medical treatment as a teen or young adult, and 23 percent of the kids who were victims of frequent bullying had sought help for a psychiatric problem before age 30.
The group that fared the worst in terms of adult mental health were the 8-year-olds who were frequently bullies and were also bullied themselves. About 31 percent of these children had psychiatric problems that required treatment, and these kids also had the highest rates of depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia and substance abuse of all four groups analyzed in the study.
When a child is both a bully and bullied by their peers, this is a red flag, Sourander told Live Science. It can indicate that the youngster has other serious psychiatric problems, and often, these children are at high risk for later adversities in adulthood, including a wide range of mental health problems, he said.
Being bullied frequently by other children is a traumatic experience, and researchers need to gain a better understanding of how important a child's early peer and school experiences are for their development, Sourander said. When kids are frequently the targets of bullying, it affects their social, emotional and psychological development, he said.
Bullying behavior should be taken seriously by teachers, parents and their peers because early intervention in childhood bullying can help prevent its long-term mental health consequences, Sourander said.
Stings shine light on sex trafficking
by Chelsey Perkins
In May, a law enforcement operation resulting in charges against eight men for soliciting commercial sex at a Baxter hotel sent shock waves through the Brainerd lakes area.
The sting operation, which involved a fictional online advertisement offering the services of a female escort, was the first of its kind in Crow Wing County. It was followed by four other operations in 2015, leading to charges against 12 other men.
The actions of area law enforcement have sparked a community conversation about sex trafficking, a conversation victim advocates have had among themselves for years.
"I don't think anybody can debate any longer that human and sex trafficking is an issue in our area," said Jim Exsted, Baxter police chief, in a September interview. "Just because you don't believe it's happening ... that's not a reason to believe it's not there."
While there's the impression sex trafficking is a new phenomenon locally, those who work with survivors of the illegal trade say the problem is finally getting the recognition they've long sought to attain.
"This is going on in our towns," said Heidi Fairchild, a victims advocate with Sexual Assault Services in Brainerd, this summer. "The more we tuned in and listened, the more we realized, this is trafficking."
Information learned from an arrest earlier this year led a coalition of area law enforcement to go ahead with planning the operations, Exsted said.
In February, the Rochester Police Department arrested a 42-year-old Brainerd man for soliciting an undercover officer to work as a prostitute in Brainerd.
Local law enforcement show no signs of stopping in the quest to eliminate demand and assist survivors of the trade. In December, Exsted announced his department was awarded a $46,000 state grant to support its efforts.
DCFS Asks For Public Help In Stopping Child Sex Trafficking
by Lisa Fielding
Child sex trafficking has become an epidemic in Illinois. Now, the Department of Children and Family Services wants your help to stamp out the practice.
In just the last four years, the DCFS has investigated more than 600 allegations of child sex trafficking.
DCFS spokeswoman Veronica Resa says sex trafficking is a multi-billion dollar industry.
“Illinois does seem to be a hub for human trafficking, a highway so to speak, because of its airports, its highways the leisure activities that seem to draw this type of illicit activity,” she said.
Resa says there are several signs that a child may be victimized. They might be running away from home, have expensive clothing or jewelry, new tattoos or new older friends.
She says anyone who suspects a case of child human trafficking should call 911 or the DCFS abuse and neglect hotline at 800-252-2873.
Arizona Police Fight Sex Trafficking As It Moves From The Streets To The Web
by Lauren Gilger
Commercial sex trafficking is a problem worldwide and here in the Valley.
But, the issue has only become a law enforcement priority in recent decades, and it's just beginning to emerge as an area of responsibility for local police departments. It wasn't until 2013 that the FBI incorporated human trafficking as an offense in the uniform crime reporting system.
A recent study by Arizona State University's Center for Violence Prevention and Community Solutions looked at how pervasive the problem is and how local police agencies are dealing with it.
“Most research in human trafficking in this country relies on federal statistics and federal activity,” said Vincent Webb, professor of practice with Arizona State University's School of Criminology and Criminal Justice with the Center for Violence Prevention and Community Safety. “There's very little research that has looked at human trafficking from the perspective of local police agencies.”
At the same time, statistics about trafficking worldwide are inconsistent in estimating the true magnitude of the problem.
The study surveyed 72 of the nation's largest police departments and found prostitution is moving from the streets to online.
Of those departments, 80 percent reported that online sex advertising is up, but, street prostitution is down, Webb said, while 40 percent of respondents indicated a decrease in street prostitution.
Sargent Kathie Click with the Tempe Police Department's special victims unit said law enforcement's perception of the problem has changed in recent decades.
“We always thought of it like prostitution,” she said, “a victimless crime.”
But, more recently, the education and the training that law enforcement officers are getting is that the average age of entry into this lifestyle is 13 to 14 years old.
"That's not a victimless crime at all,” Click said.
Teenage girls can be particularly susceptible to being reeled in by traffickers, Click said.
They'll often contact them on social media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, she said. “And then they start meeting those basic needs that aren't being met in other areas, whether that's shelter, food, clothing or if it's just that emotional needs aren't being filled,” Click said.
In one case, she said one of the girls who had been trafficked said, “I don't know what they're complaining about. They were giving us cheeseburgers.”
“She wasn't getting food at home, so that was the need that was being met for her,” Click said.
When it comes to combating trafficking, she said it's essential that they stay up on current technology in order to stay in the mix and be able to track crimes through social media.
The ASU study also found that departments reported a lack of resources to address sex trafficking, a problem Click said is difficult for smaller departments like hers to tackle.
Tempe police doesn't have a vice unit that's focused on fighting trafficking. “If resources were unlimited, of course I would love five, 10 more people to just have somebody to focus on that,” Click said.
But, as it stands, inter-departmental coordination is essential.
She said it's just one street that separates Phoenix, Tempe and Mesa. “So it doesn't really matter to me what side of 48th Street a victim is on, I want to be able to provide them with whatever they need."
Webb said he is working on developing a vulnerability index that will show how likely a community is to have a trafficking problem.
Sex-trafficking victims find safe haven
by Matthew Glowicki
It was another busy day for Angela Renfro one day last month, preparing for the arrival of a new “sister.”
A bed for the new girl from a local foster home was neatly made upstairs in a small room she'd share with three others. The California neighborhood house was already full with 13 women, but Renfro didn't want to turn anyone away. She knows what it feels like to have the door slammed in her face.
Mid-day is fairly quiet at the house, she explains, sitting on the donated living room couch. Nearly all the women are either at their jobs or getting mental health or substance abuse counseling.
They are united by a common past, having been sexually exploited for months, even years.
Nearly four years ago, Renfro founded the Kristy Love Foundation – the only transitional housing in Louisville expressly working to help human-trafficking victims.
And while she no longer is known as Kristy Love, a name her pimp forced on her, Renfro draws on her past when looking to change others' futures.
She's not shy about sharing all she's seen. Trafficked for more than a decade, she knows the ins and outs of the struggles and trauma the women face.
Their walls come down much easier when they realize she already understands. Her clients – she stops herself.
"Oooh, I hate that word," she says. "They're like kids and friends. We become family."
She tries to avoid clinical talk. They're family as far as she's concerned.
Many are local women referred to her by word of mouth, the courts or a social service agency. Some are fresh off the street and need to be detoxed before Renfro will let them in her doors. Stays are as short as a few days and as long as a year.
“I know their darkest secrets they can't even tell their parents or their preachers or a judge or a lawyer,” she said. “They're so scared of being judged or someone might not even pray for them or break bread with them.”
Tears come to her eyes. The pain, at times, feels fresh.
“It makes me feel honored,” she said. “It takes me way back. Way back.”
She pauses, closing her eyes.
New domestic abuse law comes into force
Domestic abusers who control victims via social media or spy on them online could face up to five years in prison under a new law which is now in force.
The legislation will target those who subject spouses, partners and family members to psychological and emotional torment but stop short of violence.
It paves the way for charges in cases where there is evidence of repeated "controlling or coercive behaviour".
The Women's Aid charity said it was a "landmark moment" in tackling abuse.
The new law, brought into force in England and Wales, follows a Home Office consultation in which 85% of participants said the existing law did not provide sufficient protection.
It comes as Citizens Advice published figures showing a 24% rise in those seeking advice for domestic abuse.
'Limit human rights'
The Crown Prosecution Service said the type of abuse covered by the new offence could include a pattern of threats, humiliation and intimidation.
It could also involve stopping someone from socialising, controlling their social media accounts, surveillance through apps and dictating what they wear.
Alison Saunders, the director of public prosecutions, said: "Controlling or coercive behaviour can limit victims' basic human rights, such as their freedom of movement and their independence.
"This behaviour can be incredibly harmful in an abusive relationship where one person holds more power than the other, even if on the face of it this behaviour might seem playful, innocuous or loving.
"Victims can be frightened of the repercussions of not abiding by someone else's rules. Often they fear that violence will be used against them, or suffer from extreme psychological and emotional abuse.
"These new powers mean this behaviour, which is particularly relevant to cases of domestic abuse, can now be prosecuted in its own right."
from BBC legal correspondent Clive Coleman:
Where do the normal power dynamics of a relationship end and "coercive or controlling" behaviour begin?
The new offence criminalises patterns of such behaviour against an intimate partner or family member.
Critical to the offence is the repeated or continuous nature of the conduct and the ability of a reasonable person to appreciate that the behaviour will have a serious effect on its victim.
A defence is also included to provide a further safeguard against inappropriate use of the new offence.
It will apply where the defendant can show that they believed they were acting in the victim's best interests and that their behaviour was objectively reasonable.
An example might be someone caring for a mentally ill spouse, who has to keep them in the home and make them take medication for their own protection or in their own best interests.
Here, the spouse's behaviour might be considered controlling, but would be reasonable in the circumstances.
Cases will be heard in magistrates' or crown courts and evidence could potentially include emails and bank records.
In order for the offence to apply, the pattern of behaviour alleged must have a "serious effect" on the victim, Home Office guidance says.
This means they must have either feared violence will be used against them on at least two occasions or they have been caused serious alarm or distress which has a "substantial adverse effect" on their usual day-to-day activities.
David Tucker, from the College of Policing, said the new offence of coercive control presented "challenges" but provided an opportunity to make victims and potential victims of serious assaults safer.
Fascination with Japanese schoolgirl culture hiding a darker side
by Will Ripley
(Video on site)
Tokyo (CNN)On a cold, rainy night in Tokyo -- Japanese schoolgirls line the streets.
Shivering in short skirts they pass out fliers for "JK" or "joshi-kosei," cafes in which adult males pay for the company of girls as young as 16.
"Most are in their 30s, 40s and 50s," says 18-year-old Honoka.
The girls, all dressed in their actual high school uniforms, earn about $8 dollars an hour to socialize and serve food and drink to men often more than twice their age.
Sometimes however, the men want more than talk.
16-year-old Eli says that customers ask the girls out on dates "all the time."
While some cafes, like the one in which Eli and Honoka work, strictly prohibit dating or interacting with customers outside the business, there is a much seedier and disturbing side of JK.
CNN found businesses selling school girl massages, uniforms and even supposedly "used" underwear.
Other girls are made available for dates, which the authorities and advocates for victims of sexual exploitation warn are often a barely concealed front for child rape.
"Once you're out of the shop, even by a step, you can do whatever you want," one victims' advocate told CNN.
In its most recent report on human trafficking, the U.S. State Department warned that "sophisticated and organized prostitution networks target vulnerable Japanese women and girls."
"Enjo Kosai," or "compensated dating," the report said, "continues to facilitate the prostitution of Japanese children."
An abiding sense of shame and victim-blaming within Japanese culture prevents many girls from coming forward, says Shihoko Fujiwara, director of the Lighthouse Center for Human Trafficking Victims.
Japan has long had an uneasy relationship with the sexualization of children. It was only in June 2014 that the government finally outlawed the ownership of child pornography.
Activists criticized the bill for excluding anime and manga -- Japanese styled animations and comic books -- that feature child sex abuse, which industry representatives justified on the grounds of freedom of expression.
"Rich, deep culture is born from something that might not be accepted by all. We need to allow the gray zone to exist as a necessary evil," said Hiroshi Chiba, manager of manga production house Chiba Tetsuya Production. With that, he admitted that some products of the industry leave him and his colleagues "disgusted."
In one Tokyo manga store, in an area marked "adults only," CNN observed content which depicted female characters wearing school uniforms, hair clips and innocent expressions as they engaged in sometimes violent sex acts with dominant characters.
While no link has been made between anime, manga and child abuse, a 2014 White Paper issued by the Japanese National Police Agency said that the number of child abuse victims jumped 20% between 2011 and 2012.
In 2013, more than 6,400 children were the victims of sex crimes, including 1,644 cases of child pornography and 709 cases of child prostitution, according to the NPA.
Most -- 85% of the child pornography cases were Internet related, according to the National Police. CNN found videos on sale in Tokyo adult stores whose covers depicted schoolgirls in uniform, smiling for the camera. Some videos even purported to feature elementary school aged children.
In October, organizations and activists fighting child pornography called on the government to do more to protect young victims and crack down on the producers and consumers of child porn.
"There is no denying that Japan remains a country tolerant of child pornography," they said in a petition signed by a number of leading NGOs, including Lighthouse.
The petition calls for the law to be revised to outlaw much of the "JK" trade, including underage massages and "walking dates."
The age of consent in Japan is 13, though individual prefectures and cities often have their own legislation governing this area, meaning it varies between 13 and 17.
Customers see no problem
Male customers at the Tokyo "JK" cafe said they didn't see anything inappropriate about the business.
One man, a married university professor in his 40s, told CNN he was doing "research on the younger generation."
He was unsure whether he'd feel comfortable having his now 12-year-old daughter work in a "JK" cafe, though he insisted that nothing inappropriate happened there.
"If (my daughter) was here, I could at least supervise her," he said.
Another man, in his 30s, said he managed a similar "JK" business and comes to the cafe CNN visited every week "because it's fun."
He acknowledged that there was a level of sexual "stigma" around the practice, but said that critics should "come just once and try it."
Recognizing Signs of Child Abuse or Neglect
by Matt Vaughn
RENO, NV - In the wake of a deadly child abuse case in northern California where the bodies of two young children were found in a storage unit in Redding, some people might be asking themselves, would I recognize abuse or neglect if I saw it? In this particular case, social services reported getting several calls from people who were concerned that the children were being neglected. Amber Howell, Director of the Washoe County Department of Social Services, says most social workers will tell you that if you see something suspicious or out of the ordinary you shouldn't hesitate to report it.
"If you have some concern about a child's well-being, call us and let us talk through the situation and the circumstances, and we can decide whether we need to do a formal investigation. On a national average, there are about 2 million children a year that are abused and neglected," she says.
That's a startling statistic to try and wrap your head around; the young and innocent being harmed by people who are supposed to protect them. In Washoe County, the Department of Social Services gets around 5,600 calls a year for possible child abuse or neglect. Howell says her agency is able to confirm abuse or neglect in about a third of the investigations her agency conducts every year.
So how you can you tell whether a child is being abused or neglected? Besides the obvious physical signs, like cuts or bruises, it's also important to pay attention to a child's behavior. Are they anti-social? Do they have poor hygiene? Do they miss school a lot? Howell says a change in routine can also be a strong indicator that something isn't right.
"Any gaps in seeing children either walking to the bus or playing out in the yard, and then having delays in the time you see them again, that's definitely something to pay attention to," she says.
If you do suspect abuse or neglect, social services will want to know the child's name, age, gender, address and information about their behavior. It's also important to pay attention to how the parents act around the children.
"Is there any substance abuse or mental health issues that may be going on? What's their schedule like and daily routine? Also, information or reports that a child may have disclosed to them or something that they observed. All of that is very important information," says Howell.
If you think a child may be in danger, don't wait to report it, because it could mean the difference between life and death.
"It takes a community to keep children safe, and children really do need adults to advocate for them," says Howell.
You can remain anonymous when calling to make a report. If you think a child you know is being abused or neglected, call 785-8600.
When teens harm themselves and what parents can do
by Greg Hardesty
Regan (not her real name) felt out of control. She also felt depressed. She said she didn't know what to do. So, beginning when she was 13, she began to cut herself and use cigarettes to burn the inside of her left forearm.
“Self-harm is a coping mechanism,” said Regan, now 21, who grew up in Orange County.
“When I would hurt myself physically, that emotional and mental strain was released through physical pain, and I felt in control of it.”
As parents, the last thing we want is for our children to be in pain or get injured – or worse. We devote our lives to sheltering our children and trying to keep them from harm, so knowing they are hurting themselves cuts especially deep.
Intentional self-inflicted injury most commonly occurs among teens and young adults, according to a 2015 study on teen self-inflicted injury and suicide conducted by the Orange County Health Care Agency and the O.C. Sheriff's Department coroner's office.
Each year in Orange County, about 700 preteens and teens (ages 10-19) require medical treatment because of self-inflicted injuries. That works out to nearly two kids per day in Orange County who cut themselves. Two percent die from their injuries. Females are 2.5 times more likely than males to cut themselves, the study found.
Looking closer at the variety of self-inflicted injuries, cutting and piercing were the second most common types, behind poisoning by a solid or liquid substance, the study found. Together, these two categories – cutting and poisoning – accounted for nearly 90 percent of all cases of self-inflicted injuries and suicide (hanging, jumping and shooting were among the other methods).
A whopping 87 percent of teens admitted to hospitals because of their self-inflicted injuries were diagnosed with a mental illness, the study found. The most common were episodic mood disorders, such as bipolar disorder and depression, substance-use or substance-induced disorders, and anxiety disorders.
Spotting the signs
Is your teen suddenly wearing long-sleeved shirts, even when it's warm or hot outside? Are “accidental” burns appearing on her arms or other parts of her body? These are clear signs your child may be cutting, says psychologist Julie Orris, whose private practice in Newport Beach specializes in the treatment of adolescents and adults with problems related to “dysregulation.” The term refers to a metabolic, physiological or psychological impairment or abnormality. Many of Orris' patients struggle with eating disorders, substance abuse, suicidal self-harm, mood disorders and post-traumatic stress.
In an article published on WebMD.com, Dr. David Rosen, director of the Section for Teenage and Young Adult Health at the University of Michigan Health Systems, describes what to look for: “The most typical cuts are very linear, straight line, often parallel like railroad ties carved into the forearm, the upper arm, sometimes the legs,” Rosen wrote.
“Some people cut words into themselves. If they're having body image issues, they may cut the word ‘fat.' If they're having trouble at school, it may be ‘stupid,' ‘loser,' ‘failure,' or a big ‘L.' Those are the things we see pretty regularly.”
Orris also advises parents that marked fluctuation of mood and impulsive self-destructive behavior could be signs that their teen is vulnerable to self-harming behavior. She said cutting is common in teens who have trouble with “self-soothing,” or the ability to regulate emotions.
Also, try to determine if your child is researching self-harming online or showing an interest in it on social media, Orris suggests.
Other behaviors serving the function of emotion regulation such as substance use, binging and/or purging, and high-risk sexual behavior may also be signs that an adolescent is possibly at risk, she said.
What to do?
If you know your child is cutting or you are pretty confident he or she is, don't take it lightly, Orris says.
“Treatment is essential,” she said. “It's a pathology. And not just any type of therapy will work.”
Self-harm commonly co-occurs with suicidal behavior, and many researchers have suggested it is a predictive factor for suicide attempts, according to Orris. This is a compelling reason to act immediately if you think your teen may be engaging in self-harm behavior. Have a conversation with your child, Orris says. “Don't avoid it, and don't be indirect,” she said. “Tell your kid, ‘I notice this (cuts). This is a problem. We need to get help.' These are kids who are suffering.”
One popular therapy
While regular talk therapy can sometimes provide help, Orris specializes in dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), which may be more successful for teens who are cutting.
DBT is an evidence-based treatment originally developed for adults with borderline personality disorder that has been shown to be effective in treating people with suicidal ideation, self-injury, eating disorders, addictions and/or serious relational problems.
A skills-based approach that falls under the umbrella of cognitive behavior therapy, DBT is an intensive research- and data-driven therapy that involves group and individual therapy as well as phone coaching and therapist consultation, Orris says.
The goal, Orris says, is to help a client “build a life worth living” by emphasizing balance, mindfulness and living according to one's values and targeting behaviors that impede progress toward one's goals.
A typical DBT counseling program will last from six months to a year, says Orris, who is clinical director in the Orange County office of CBT California, where she oversees the adolescent and adult DBT programs.
Orris says teens who cut themselves typically tell her things like, “I want to feel physical pain instead of emotional pain.”
DBT teaches patients to regulate emotions and communicate distress to others in more adaptive ways, she says.
Orris notes that adolescents are in a pivotal stage in life, when the demands of the social and academic environment are perhaps beginning to outstrip their emotional capabilities.
Among her patients, she says, are several teens who have experienced their first break up, been ridiculed on social media or failed to keep up with a challenging course load. If they are not equipped to manage these circumstances, she suggests, they may attempt to cope in ways that provide relief in the short term but have harmful long-term effects.
Much better now
Regan is one of the lucky ones. She no longer engages in cutting or other self-destructive behavior. She never told her parents about her cutting habit. She was seeing a counselor, however, and confided in her.
With professional help, Regan was able to stop her self-destructive behavior. She ceased her self-harming activity early in high school.
“Cutting was a very short-term, addictive fix to a much bigger problem,” Regan recalled. “I got over it by learning how to not bottle myself up and by opening up to others and communicating how I felt.
“When you're in that depressed mindset,” Regan added, “it's really hard to see that people who care about you and love you are right in front of you. When you learn to open up, dealing with negative feelings becomes a lot easier and a lot less destructive.”
Mother charged after infant found dead on Christmas Eve
by The Associated Press
DALLAS — A Dallas, North Carolina, woman has been charged with child neglect and child abuse after her infant son was found dead while she was apparently high on prescription drugs.
Stephanie Tillman, 30, is charged in connection with the baby's Christmas Eve death, according to reports by local media outlets.
According to a news release from the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office, Jerry Allen, Tillman's husband and the infant's father, called 911 saying that he came home to find his 6-month-old son unresponsive, naked and alone on the living room sofa on Christmas Eve.
Tillman and the couple's other two children were found elsewhere in the house, authorities said. The children have been taken into custody by social services.
According to the release, Tillman was treated on-scene for "what appeared to be extreme intoxication from prescribed medication."
It was unclear if Tillman has an attorney. She was expected in court on Monday.
Child abuse evaluation doctor retiring after 40 years with Akron Children's Hospital
by Nick Glunt
Dr. Daryl Steiner's colleagues at Akron Children's Hospital have called him a pioneer and a visionary in the field of child abuse evaluation and treatment.
Steiner's more humble than that, though.
“As I look back over my career, I can see we've done a good job,” Steiner said in a conference room in the hospital's Locust Building, where he heads the Children at Risk Evaluation (CARE) Center. “The best thing I did was hire good people.”
Steiner has announced plans to retire Thursday after 40 years with the hospital. When he began his career in 1975, the CARE Center didn't even exist — and now the hospital has a space the size of a small private practice dedicated to its work.
From closet to CARE
The CARE Center was established three decades ago as a means to afford families privacy and consistency in cases of physical and sexual child abuse.
“Originally when I started, physicians treated abused children in the Emergency Department,” he said. “That didn't lend well to privacy or consistency.
“EDs are chaotic. They're hardly the place to evaluate a child subjected to abuse — especially sexual abuse.”
The hospital in 1987 afforded a small space as a private area to evaluate victims of abuse. The only problem was the space was no more than a closet: an office area in front and an evaluation room behind, all fit into a 12-by-14-foot space.
“It's been quite a change from our closet to this space,” Steiner said in the Locust Building, which houses several rooms and offices for the CARE Center.
Steiner said it's good the department expanded so much because the work the center does is important to the lifelong health of the children it serves.
“Child abuse — whether it's physical or sexual abuse — is one of the problems that affects a child's well-being through a lifetime,” Steiner said. “It doesn't go away. It affects them as they mature into adolescents and then into adulthood.”
The doctor, who was named director of the CARE Center in 1991, said adults who were abused as children have an estimated life expectancy that's 20 years shorter than the general population. That's because abused children are more likely as they grow into adults to engage in high-risk behavior like substance abuse, violence and unprepared pregnancy. As a result, they're more likely to suffer health complications like disease of the lungs, heart, kidney and liver, as well as mental health issues like depression and suicidal thoughts.
“They carry their abuse with them through their lives,” he said. “But if these adverse childhood events are recognized and treated while they're still children, then the effects are lessened as they go forward in life. That's the focus of our work now: We want to recognize those adverse childhood events before they become crises.”
The CARE Center evaluates and treats children subjected to abuse by providing space to perform procedures and interviews in private. Children are questioned by social workers while doctors and police observe through a one-way mirror.
Children are then brought to evaluation rooms where procedures are performed to identify and document what ails them.
Steiner said the space in the Locust Building is optimal because it's so different from the Emergency Department that used to treat abused children.
“It's accessible, but away from the mainstream of the hospital. It feels safe here,” he said. “I think when a child comes in here, they sense that right away.”
Over the years, Steiner has led the center's expansion to include clinical services in seven Northeast Ohio counties other than Summit.
He said the CARE Center expanded as Akron Children's acquired more properties, which was often overwhelming.
“It became a significant responsibility,” he said. “Every time the hospital expanded, I'd think, ‘Oh man!' ”
Steiner said part of the reason the CARE Center gathered so much influence was the rising awareness of child abuse over the past few decades.
“I think the biggest change for the better has been awareness of the problem,” he said. “The public is more aware of the issue of child abuse, and they've recognized that it's a problem to be dealt with.”
He said awareness has made the public more likely to recognize abuse is occurring, leading to greater levels of reporting. As a result, the CARE Center was treating more children and both the hospital and professional accreditors recognized its importance.
In 2005, the center earned status as an Accredited Child Advocacy Center by the National Children's Alliance. In 2007, child abuse pediatrics became a certified subspecialty by the American Board of Pediatrics. Then, in 2009, the CARE Center added mental health services for child abuse victims after receiving a grant.
Steiner said he couldn't have accomplished what he did without a strong staff to support him. He thanked nurse Gail Graise and nurse practitioner Donna Abbott for their aid over the years.
“This has been really a team effort, to bring it from a closet to a regional care facility for Northeast Ohio” he said. “The three of us were the nucleus.”
Due to the nature of Steiner's position, he often found himself working side-by-side with law enforcement and social workers. He said he couldn't have asked for better colleagues.
“It's been a great experience, right from the beginning,” he said. “That said, it's gotten better.”
He said as the CARE Center grew to learn more about child abuse, police began to handle the cases with more care.
Steiner said he'd miss working alongside them, and his colleagues in law enforcement echoed the sentiment.
Akron police Lt. Brian Harding has worked with Steiner for 14 years as a supervisor for the Juvenile Bureau.
“When we have big cases, he's the go-to guy to talk with at Akron Children's Hospital,” Harding said. “He's always great to work with.”
Harding said Steiner's defining attribute is his passion for the job.
“He genuinely cares about the kids, and trying to make them whole,” Harding said. “He always has a smile despite the horrible things he has to see and deal with on the job.”
Akron Police Detective Jerry Gachett agreed.
“I'm going to miss his professionalism and his passion for his job and for the children,” Gachett said. “He's got a great zeal for life.”
Gachett said it was always a pleasure to work with Steiner because of his vast knowledge in the field.
“It's not a knock on other doctors, but his knowledge and his experience make him an authority,” he said. “Having the opportunity to work with him was a privilege.”
Harding and Gachett said Steiner played an important part in prosecuting child abusers and also ensuring innocent people weren't convicted.
“There have been several times where an injury looks really severe, but it turns out not to be abuse,” Harding said. “And there were other times when he was able to make disclosures about cases that led to us setting up timelines and getting people prosecuted for abuse.
“We've been very lucky to have him.”
After Steiner finishes his final day on the job, he said he intends to keep busy.
“I have a whole list of things I've put a hold on over the years that I just couldn't get to with a career and a family,” he said.
Steiner intends to continue his education with liberal arts college courses, including fields like literature, history, philosophy and foreign language.
“In med school, those were just things I never got to really experience,” said Steiner, who obtained his medical degree from the College of Osteopathic Medicine and Surgery in Des Moines, Iowa. “They put you on a track and it's hard to divert.”
He also said he wants to explore more of his hobbies, which include woodworking, gardening, tennis, golf and boating.
“I'll finally have time for those things,” he said. “I'll no longer have the parent of work to tell me what to do and when.”
Finally, he said he wants to spend more time with his family. His wife, Sue, works as a mental health technician at Akron Children's Psychiatric Intake Response Center. The couple has four children and one grandchild, with another grandchild on the way.
Steiner said he'll miss helping children. It was something he always wanted to do, he said.
“I always hated taking care of adults,” Steiner said. “Even now, every day, the kids make me laugh. I have a good time coming into work as a result.”
He said he can look back on his time at the hospital with pride.
“I've had a good run. I have no regrets,” Steiner said. “I can walk away feeling I've had a successful professional career.”
Feminist campaigner claims child abuse is rampant in strictly Orthodox community
by Rosa Doherty
The Jewish community is experiencing a “rampant epidemic” of rabbis who sexually abuse, according to an American educator and activist.
Elana Sztokman said public cases such as the conviction of Todros Grynhaus, who was jailed for 13 years for abusing two teenage girls, were the tip of the iceberg.
“We have a epidemic of abuse and it is rampant in the Jewish community," she said.
“A disproportionate number of abusers seem to be rabbis or quasi rabbis."
Speaking at a session at the Limmud conference in Birmingham, Ms Sztokman, who writes on the subject of Orthodox Jewish feminism, highlighted reasons why abusers were often able to escape punishment.
Ms Sztokman, a former executive director of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance, said victims who reported abuse were made to feel like outcasts.
She said: “We have seen it time and time again a victim comes forward and the community shuns them.
“Their lives are made impossible, kosher shops ban them, people in shul push past them and their families. And people come out in defence of the abuser.
“This pattern of behaviour needs to change and as a community it needs to be challenged.”
She also said rabbi abusers were “too often” protected by community leaders and their peers.
She said: “People don't like to think of their charismatic rabbi as an abuser or capable of such acts.
“They come out in defence of them and say ‘oh I only know him to be nice'.
“But what they are doing is silencing victims.”
Ms Sztokman criticised the “all to common” practice within the Charedi community of “discouraging victims from reporting abuse.”
She said: “Rabbis in these communities are telling victims to go to them before going to the police.
"How can a victim who is being abused by a rabbi then go to a rabbi to report it?”
She added: “People at the top in the Orthodox community tend to be male and it makes it hard for female victims to come forward or have an even playing field.
“Victims are dismissed and not believed. If you come forward against a abusive rabbi you will loose.”
During the session, called "Rabbis who Abuse" she praised moves by Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis to speak out about the problem of abuse earlier this year.
She said: “Rabbi Mirvis has made incredibly strong statements about it being a legal imperative to report abuse.
“It has meant fewer rabbis are discouraging people but there is much more work to be done."
She challenged the 70-strong audience of to “question social hierarchies” when it comes to cases of abuse.
“Just because a person has a position of power in the Charedi community doesn't meant they don't have a dark side. We need to get past the idea of status within the community.
“And most of all we need to listen to and believe the victims.”
Manny Waks, a leading campaigner against child sex abuse, said the lack of research into abuse within the community was a problem.
Mr Waks, who himself was abused, said: “There is zero research in the community and it is difficult to say if we have more of a problem or less than other community.
“But there are activists in Brooklyn who have suggested 50 per cent of Hasidic boys there there have been abused.
“That is not academic but it needs exploring. Its is a horrible thought.”
Annie E. Casey Foundation CEO believes we should engage management consultancies, like McKinsey, to improve the US child welfare system
by Marquis Cabrera
Recently, I interviewed the Annie E. Casey Foundation's CEO and President Dr. Patrick McCarthy: a respected foundation and philanthropic leader, with expertise in the area of children and family well-being. To date, the Annie E. Casey Foundation has invested billions of dollars in improving and innovating the foster care and child welfare systems. I was interested in learning from Dr. Patrick McCarthy how he thinks about innovating the child welfare system because throughout his tenure at the Casey Foundation, he has led efforts to improve human services practices and policies that can make a difference for the nation's most vulnerable kids and families. Here's a snippet of our interview:
Marquis Cabrera: What are some consistent and persistent pain points you see in the current foster care/child welfare system?
Dr. Patrick McCarthy: The toughest decision a child welfare worker can make comes with investigating abuse or neglect. It's extremely difficult to make that call: Do we intervene? Do you leave a child in a home, or do you remove a child? It's a pain point that on the one hand, there is tension between protecting child's safety, and on the other hand, the removal of a child from a parent is a traumatic event that can have lifelong consequences and set off experiences that will have an indelible impact on the child. If you're a manager or supervisor, this is the decision that keeps you up at night.
When the first call comes in, the child protection decision-making initiative begins. There are folks who are experts on how humans make decisions. How do emergency room folks and firefighters and police officers make decisions under stress? Can we take what we know from how these folks make decisions and apply it to child welfare? We all make decisions by telling a story. We pay more attention to those things that inform and reinforce story versus things that contradict stories. Doctors miss signs because they constructed a story. We learned that we're less likely to do that if multiple people are involved.
If you do decide to remove child, how do you match an intervention to the needs of the individual child or family? Too often in too many systems, the resources are not available to meet sufficient needs. A particular intervention is not available in a certain geographical location where the child is, or the right amount of information isn't available to know what the needs are. As a result, we may over-intervene, which may put children in settings that can do harm. There is a tendency to over rely on group placement; children that don't meet a profile are nevertheless put in residential treatment and left there because of the problem with poorly matching a child's needs to resources available. Matching of resources is definitely a pain point.
Helping frontline workers to make better decisions is also difficult. Our workers don't have sufficient information to make good decisions. They don't even have the tools to think about how to make a decision. Too often, work is done individually instead of as a team, which can create big gaps. Even if the family is known [to the system], an individual worker may not know how to best help that family because treatment plans or previous allegations are not available to the day-to-day worker, especially when out in the field.
Marquis Cabrera: What is the foundation doing to improve the aforementioned pain points?
Dr. Patrick McCarthy: We believe a bad system will trump a good program every single time. While we recognize the importance and effectiveness of evidence-based programs in helping people, we have to adjust how the system itself functions in order to make better decisions and do things more effectively. Then how do you marry that with evidence-based programs? One of our major investments is intensive strategic consulting: Casey staff and Casey consultants go into states and large cities for eighteen months to three years to identify a set of system reforms.
We believe, except in specific circumstances, that most children can be most appropriately served in a kinship or foster setting. We'll help the system figure out processes and figure out the high rates of group care. The proportion of kids in group or congregate care varies from state to state, but range from a low of 5% to a high of 30% in some states. There's a difference in child welfare policy in some states that leads to those decisions. We look at practice and financial incentives, and do this jointly with states, to reduce reliance on congregate care.
Marquis Cabrera: What is the Annie E. Casey Foundation doing to advance innovation in the child welfare space? Can you give me 2 or 3 initiatives that you're working on?
Dr. Patrick McCarthy: Through our consulting work, we learned how to use an intensive [practice] model to develop tools that other folks could use. Our models of practice are built from consulting work. We believe: Every child deserves a family. We attempt to help state foster care systems and kinship care systems decrease tendencies to put kids in group care. [Many states] haven't put resources into the foster care system or building a strong kinship care system; instead they rely on group homes. Most of the kids that leave foster care when they reach 18 to 21 entered as teenagers. The reason they entered is because of teenage behavior. For example, a child adopted at 8 years old starts acting up at 14-15, and extended family says that it's more than they signed up for. We have prototyped and come up with ways to develop mechanisms less likely to push kids into foster care.
We supported the development of Casebook - a child welfare information system for workers on the frontline when out in the field. It's cloud-based and very intuitive.
We are funding a tool that supports matching the child's needs with resources that will be effective for them: Kids Insight's Treatment Outcomes Package. What kinds of behaviors does the child see? What kinds of therapeutic interventions work? If you do this with whole systems, workers could see the whole pattern of problems and look at the resources. This will help determine things like if there are problems with substances or a lot of anxiety.
There are 25,000 children that age out of foster care space each year. The Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative focuses on this. It was separate, but now it's part of the Foundation: present in seventeen states working with private sectors, nonprofits, young people. It is creating opportunities in jobs, education, skill development, and asset development. We have increased funding and focus in this area - not just in child welfare, but also a program called LEAP (Learn and Earn to Achieve Potential) for youth ages 14-25. We're making progress on improving child welfare.
Marquis Cabrera: Do you have a big idea on how foundations can partner with governments better to improve child welfare outcomes?
Dr. Patrick McCarthy: We have a lot of faith and good experience with our consulting model. A lot of foundations should be willing to work with government to provide resources that they don't have. Private industry can bring in private resources. Bring in McKinsey or Anderson and look at the system and improve it because the system doesn't have flexible money to do so.
We are learning about things like brain development, trauma, and toxic stress that can help workers to understand behavior and emotional states of children in their care. I think foundations can help make connections between science and day-to-day decisions.
Most people who don't know the child welfare system assume it's a completely public-run system. They don't recognize that child welfare systems contract with private providers for services. In the past, we were focused on public child welfare - a small group of providers who make the transition from group care to community based and family care sources - not non-profit providers. They can be a resource to other providers.
Bring a few young people together. We have discovered that the one of the most powerful pieces to improving the system is asking young people how they feel and what they need, as well as giving them a voice in the process. We value that young people have a lot of offer here - "Nothing about us without us."
After months of digging, investigators uncover church abuse, then turn up the heat
by Ray Duckler
When Will Delker and Jim Rosenberg of the attorney general's office began sifting through pages from what they called the Secret Archives – two filing cabinet drawers filled with evidence of sexual abuse and cover-ups within the state's Catholic church – they knew what they had to.
They had to find victims named in the documents and persuade them to come forward. Many had not uttered a word about their ordeal for decades, not to a sibling, a spouse, anyone.
The pattern mirrored the stories that emerged from Boston after the Boston Globe's Spotlight team uncovered a scandal that later would sweep the nation. Priests had been molesting children and then receiving transfers rather than punishment, allowing the behavior to continue for years. Even after the abuse stopped, the trauma for the victims continued into adulthood.
“I grew up in this community, and I knew the meaningful and significant role the church played here, through school and elsewhere,” Rosenberg said in an interview. “But we were beginning to deal with victims who'd been terribly harmed and whose lives had been shaped or reshaped by sexual abuse at the hands of priests and compounded by the fact that the diocese didn't react in real time at all. It was a very difficult and emotional balancing act for us.”
The lengthy, arduous investigation began in the summer of 2002, after Delker and Rosenberg had gone through the Secret Archives outside the office of Bishop John McCormack.
McCormack had transferred from the Boston Archdiocese to the Diocese of Manchester four years earlier, in 1998. His power as Boston's auxiliary bishop made New Hampshire officials suspicious that he might have known about sexual abuse here and not said anything, as he had done earlier in his career.
At the time, New Hampshire was the fourth most Catholic state in the nation, relative to population, Rosenberg said. He also made sure to pass credit around, noting that law enforcement agencies agreed to free up personnel for the investigation for the better part of a year, and those individuals worked with little regard to time clocks.
“We would take information and follow up with these people,” Rosenberg said.
Then his eyes teared up, a sign of gratitude, I assumed, from a man known as a hard-boiled egg in legal circles. He and Delker were overcome with emotion at one point in 2002 while reporting to their boss, Phil McLaughlin, New Hampshire's attorney general at the time. They had found a victim, a friend.
“He was in our age bracket and we knew him professionally,” Rosenberg said. “We related to him, we were close in age, we knew him from work. You could have put yourself in the shoes of this child victim, and the fact that we knew him personally connected us to his story in a unique way.
“We heard several stories.”
They heard stories about Father Paul Aube and his abuse of children in Berlin and Nashua and Rochester and Manchester, leaving a trail of emotional trauma over an eight-year span that in many cases never faded.
They also heard stories about Father Gordon MacRae and his abusive behavior through the 1980s.
I spoke to a man in his 40s who says he was 12 when a priest sexually abused him in Manchester. The man, who requested anonymity, said the residual stress and shame he feels led to a divorce from his wife and an early exit from the fire academy, costing him a job.
He was targeted, he said, because he had no father figure growing up, leaving him vulnerable and needy for a support system.
“To be honest, this is something you carry with you, always kind of under the surface,” the source told me. “There was depression, not being able to get out of bed.”
Interviews by investigators led to more interviews with more victims. Tony Fowler was a retired Manchester police detective working in the attorney general's office when Delker and Rosenberg asked for his help.
He spoke to victims in the Carolinas and Maine, adults who'd been sexually molested years before as children.
“I don't want to get into details,” Fowler told me by phone. “But these people were so brave. You're talking about people who are married now with kids. Their memories were very specific, serious emotions. I was a driven man during this investigation.”
Fowler and Rosenberg drove to Maine to interview a victim listed in the Secret Archives. He was a professor, with a new life and an old memory, from Berlin in the 1980s.
“The first thing he said to me was, ‘How did you find me?' ” Rosenberg said. He says, ‘I never complained. I want to talk to you and tell you what happened, but you have to understand that I have not talked to my wife or children about the fact that I was the victim of sexual abuse 30 years ago.' ”
As the investigation deepened, so did investigators' understanding of Cannon Law, the regulations that governed the righteousness of church behavior.
But, ironically, Cannon Law was used to justify cloaking unthinkable crimes in secrecy.
“Cannon Law has a core theme of avoiding scandal,” Rosenberg said. “So when the church faces scandal, it will take steps that it feels are appropriate based on its own teachings to avoid notoriety and attention. It's part of an understood history, culturally speaking.”
That still sticks with McLaughlin, the attorney general.
“One of the themes that recurred, not just with church but in other ways, was the extraordinary endemic attitude of privilege and entitlement of certain classes of individuals and institutions,” he said in a sit-down interview with the Monitor. “It's in the DNA.”
During the investigation, incriminating testimony by the priests themselves blew the lid off the decades-old tragedy, giving officials what might have seemed like an open-and-shut case against individual offenders.
But those admissions surfaced only because a deal of immunity was agreed upon, needed because the statute of limitations had long since expired.
Instead, the state went after the church as an entity, citing a breach of a fiduciary duty, which gave them a fresh clock after the discovery of the abuse.
In other words, the attorney general's office had one year from the time the Globe's Spotlight story hit newsstands to indict the diocese on misdemeanor charges of endangering the welfare of a child.
“I was very confident we had sufficient evidence to result in the grand jury's indictment,” McLaughlin said.
Nudged by the pressure of an upcoming indictment, set for Dec. 13, 2002, the diocese caved, signing an agreement three days before to avoid a trial and public shame.
The attorney general's report, released at a press conference on March 3, 2003, officially publicized news that was hard to fathom.
Eight priests were identified as child molesters, each case documented with disturbing details. Overall, the report said, allegations of abuse were levied at nearly 40 priests.
“The investigation confirmed initial suspicions,” the report read, “that in multiple cases the diocese knew that a particular priest was sexually assaulting minors, the diocese took inadequate or no action to protect these children within the parish, and that the priest subsequently committed additional acts of sexual abuse against children that the priest had contact with through the church.”
The agreement also created safeguards. An annual audit to monitor the diocese's response to allegations of sexual abuse against minors was put into place, but that lasted only five years.
Elsewhere, all facts related to this investigation were released to the public, training classes and a centralized office to handle accusations were established, and a new position, director of safe environment programs for the Diocese of Manchester, was added to the staff.
“We agreed that any cases that came to our attention involving church personnel would be reported to the attorney general's office,” said Mary Ellen D'Intino, the program director at the diocese since 2006. “That's the agreement we have in place, we agreed to it and we continue to abide by it. All the measures that were put into place at the time remain in place.”
D'Intino added that victims, maybe 10 per year, still come forward, some of whom were abused by priests long since dead, and some whose stories were already documented.
“Some want to come back and just talk about it further,” D'Intino said.
Sexual assault – don't keep it a secret
Speak up about sexual abuse
Are you living with a terrible secret… a secret about someone you know or a person you trusted violating a child's rights?
Or, have you kept the ordeal you had to endure as a child a secret?
Many people do not expect or will never believe that heinous crimes, such as rape or molestation, can be committed in their own home or by those they trust.
Many adults who do find out that this has happened either do not know how to deal with it, cannot accept that a loved one or someone they “know well” has committed this crime or may not trust what the victim has said.
What do you do to protect children?
What do you do if the ones you love or know have committed such crimes against you or a child?
What do you do if you have kept these crimes a secret?
Henning Jacobs, trauma support coordinator at ER24, said victims who chose to keep quiet or who were never taken seriously while they were young must seek justice by reporting the perpetrator.
“Some victims keep quiet for many years and live with the pain and trauma,” she explained.
“A huge injustice has been done to these people; perpetrators must be brought to book.
“Finding justice will help victims to work through their emotional problems.
“The first step is to report the incident/s to the police and open a case.
“Victims should seek legal advice on the steps they should take; they should also seek counselling.”
Speaking about children, Jacobs said that they should be taught as early as possible that no one is allowed to touch them inappropriately.
“Crimes such as rape or molestation committed by a father, uncle or someone else close, like a brother or family friend, is shockingly common,” he added.
“Girls and boys should be informed from the age of about three years old what behaviour is okay and what is not.
“They should be taught that they do not have to do anything they do not want to do when it comes to physical touch.
“Make them aware of their bodies.
“Parents should ensure they have a great relationship with their children so that the children are comfortable telling them anything.”
How children are fooled:
Jacobs said perpetrators use “love” to fool children.
“Some perpetrators tell victims that what they are doing is the way they express this love,” he explained.
“Others tell children they are playing a game and that it is their secret game.
“They also compensate these children with presents and sweets.
“Children are blackmailed and often keep quiet due to fear.
“Some perpetrators tell them that if they tell anyone, something bad will happen.
“For instance, children are told that they will be taken away from their homes, while some victims are told that someone, such as their father, will go to jail.
“Victims are often ashamed and feel that what has happened is their fault.”
Adults who choose to keep quiet:
According to Jacobs, there are a number of reasons why a mother, for example, keeps quiet or ignores what the child is saying to her.
“One of the common reasons is finance; the mother may be financially supported by the perpetrator,” he said.
“Often, mothers are also scared of the perpetrator and may fear for their own lives.
“The victim's mother might also not believe the child.
“People who know that someone was or is being sexually assaulted should not keep quiet.”
Jacobs added that adults must understand that, by keeping quiet, they are indirectly telling the child that they are lying and are not trusted.
As a result, the child will grow up and struggle to trust other people.
The effect of the adult who knows keeping quiet is devastating on the child.
“Added to this, if the perpetrators get away with it, they may do it to more children; perpetrators must answer for their deeds,” Jacobs said.
“It is also illegal to keep quiet.
“Whenever a law is broken and someone is told about it, that person is, according to law, obliged to take further steps.”
He advised that children should speak to another, trusted person if they encounter problems with the initial person in whom they confide.
“If a child discloses to a teacher, for instance, and the mother or parents think that the child is lying, the teacher must help the child and ensure that the police or social services get involved.
“Legally an adult is obliged to act and report it when a child discloses to them that they are being sexually assaulted,” said Jacobs.
A case should be opened and charges should be laid against the perpetrator.
The police can help victims by finding a social worker to assist.
Then an interdict should be put in place preventing the perpetrator from being within a certain range of the child or the parent/s.
“A court case will then follow,” Jacobs said.
“The court will decide what is best for the child and what happens to the perpetrator.
”An educational psychologist also needs to be involved so that the child can receive help.
”The educational psychologist can testify in court as well.
“Extensive counselling is needed to help ensure that the child works through the emotional and physical trauma they have experienced.
“The parents or people close to these children who were affected also need psychological help to come to terms with what happened and to know how to help the child through the process.
“Trauma counselling will help these people put coping skills in place to help them deal with the aftermath of the abuse.
“The road to recovery is a long and hard journey, but counselling helps them through the journey and helps them to heal emotionally.”
There are several long-term effects of sexual abuse on children.
These include psychological disorders, such as depression, suicidal tendencies and problems during marriage, should the person get married, or with partners later on in life.
Jacobs said that children who were sexually assaulted sometimes become adults who sexually assault children as well.
Signs that parents can look out for in children who have been sexually assaulted include huge personality changes.
If a child is generally talkative and all of a sudden is withdrawn, this could be a sign.
A child may withdraw from the person who harmed them.
If it is an uncle or friend for instance, the child might tell parents that they do not want to visit this person anymore.
ER24's emergency contact centre can be reached 24 hours a day, on 084 124, for any medical emergency.
Illicit sex traffic has state on alert
by Caleb Bedillion
Human traffickers apparently believe there's increasing demand in Connecticut for the criminal sex they offer, that according to a federal prosecutor.
Federal and state officials announced on Nov. 4 the formation of a Connecticut Human Trafficking Task Force. The police departments of Waterbury and Naugatuck are among law enforcement agencies in the state with membership in the task force.
In a recent interview, the U.S. Attorney for Connecticut Deirdre M. Daly spoke about why she made this task force a priority. She underscored the "deeply disturbing" nature of sex trafficking and said that the current situation called for a focused response.
"We have learned that traffickers themselves may believe it's cheaper to operate in Connecticut, and they believe there's increasing demand in Connecticut," said Daly.
As described by Daly, the goal of the task force is simple: to identify and federally prosecute more sex trafficking cases in Connecticut.
Task force members include representatives of federal agencies like the FBI and Homeland Security Investigations.
According to the Connecticut U.S. attorney's office, at least 14 police departments have joined the task force, with more expected to do so.
Daly said the task force will allow law enforcement agencies to share leads and investigative resource. It will also facilitate specialized training for participating police departments.
In addition to Waterbury and Naugatuck, other police departments across the state joining the task force were those of New Haven, Bridgeport and Stamford.
In recent years, the U.S. attorney's office in Connecticut has prosecuted more than 20 sex trafficking cases.
Workers with the New Haven-based human rights advocacy organization Love 146 are glad to see increased attention to the issue of sex trafficking, an issue they believe is often misunderstood by the public.
Erin Williamson, a survivor support coordinator with Love 146, said that in her experience many Americans think of sex trafficking as something that happens far away in foreign countries. Or, if Americans do think of domestic trafficking, they think of it as occurring with foreign-born children brought here by traffickers.
That's not an accurate picture, Williamson said.
"The concept that this happens to our own children, it's something that's hard to wrap your mind around, and it's something that's hard to stomach," she said.
Further, victims of trafficking in the U.S. often face "a dearth of services" that are equipped to offer specialized care to those victims, Williamson said.
Love 146 describes itself as dedicated to the eradication of child trafficking. It offers two primary services, survivor care and prevention education.
A Connecticut-based survivor program was initiated in January 2014. Since its inception, the number of potential victims referred to the organization has steadily increased.
In the first quarter of 2014, the program received three referrals, according to statistics compiled by Love 146. By the third quarter of 201, the program had received 32 referrals.
Almost 75 percent of the programs referrals came from the Department of Children and Families.
In part, Williams attributed the increase in referrals to greater familiarity by relevant agencies in the state with Love 146's programs.
The largest number of DCF referrals came from branch offices in Bridgeport and New Britain, with 19 and 18 respectively. The Waterbury DCF office referred four cases and the Torrington office two cases.
Williams cautioned, however, against taking these referral statistics as indicative of where trafficking is actually occurring in the state. She noted that some DCF offices are more developed at identifying potential trafficking victims.
As with most states, Williamson said that metropolitan areas tend to be hubs for trafficking activity. However, she was quick to add that rural communities are not free of this crime, though it may take different forms in those areas.
Trafficking victims, and those who suspect that may know a trafficking victim, are encouraged to call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline at 888-373-7888.
Trafficking victims may also text "BEFREE" to the above number to receive an immediate response from the Trafficking Resource Center.
HUMAN SEX TRAFFICKING DEFINED The U.S. Department of Homeland Security defines human trafficking as, "a modern-day form of slavery involving the illegal trade of people for exploitation or commercial gain. Every year, millions of men, women, and children are trafficked in countries around the world, including the United States."
Human sex trafficking is just one component of this criminal behavior. According to Polaris, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that focuses on "modern slavery" around the world, "Sex trafficking is a form of modern slavery that exists throughout the United States and globally. Sex traffickers use violence, threats, lies, debt bondage, and other forms of coercion to compel adults and children to engage in commercial sex acts against their will.
"This criminal activity grows apace with the proliferation of Internet marketplaces where sex with children can be bought and sold," said U.S Attorney Dierdre M. Daly.
'John school' law aimed at curbing sex trafficking to take effect
by Mike Nowarzki
BISMARCK — People caught paying for sex in North Dakota already face the threat of jail time. Starting next week, they could end up in the classroom, as well.
Under a new "john school" law that takes effect Friday, judges can sentence those convicted of hiring someone for sex to attend an offender education program to learn about the harmful effects of the commercial sex industry.
It was among a raft of bills passed by state lawmakers last spring aimed at curbing sex trafficking in North Dakota, where an oil boom has attracted pimps hoping to cash in on a thriving economy full of male workers flush with disposable income.
"It is to attack the demand side of the equation when it comes to human trafficking," said Sen. Mac Schneider, D-Grand Forks, who introduced the bipartisan bill. "It's a hard thing to fess up to, but if there was no demand for the illicit services offered by sex traffickers in North Dakota, there would be no sex trafficking here."
The education program was part of a broader bill signed into law April 23 that also stiffened the penalty for hiring someone to engage in sexual activity. On Aug. 1, the penalty for a second or subsequent offense within 10 years was increased from a Class B misdemeanor punishable by 30 days in jail and a $1,500 fine to a Class A misdemeanor punishable by one year in jail and a $3,000 fine.
The john school piece was delayed until Jan. 1 to allow time to develop the curriculum, which will teach about the negative consequences of the commercial sex industry, including the health and legal consequences and impacts on communities, survivors, spouse and children.
Christina Sambor, coordinator of a Force to End Human Sexual Exploitation, a statewide coalition against human trafficking, said both FUSE and the attorney general's Human Trafficking Commission are in the beginning stages of creating the john school curriculum and will determine the administration and cost of the program in the coming months. Judges may order offenders to pay the cost.
Until North Dakota's john school is ready to launch, the state will use online options or some offerings through nonprofit organizations in the Twin Cities, she said.
The concept for North Dakota's john school came from the Offenders Prostitution Program run by the St. Paul, Minn.-based nonprofit group Breaking Free, which supports women leaving prostitution.
Terry Forliti, a survivor of sex trafficking who works as systems analyst for Breaking Free, welcomed the North Dakota john school law.
"It's very, very encouraging," she said, adding, "North Dakota has been a huge funnel for sex trafficking for years."
Breaking Free's program is an eight-hour, $750 seminar led by law enforcement, health and community experts and survivors of prostitution. Tests are given before and after the program to measure information retention and attitude change, Forliti said.
"It's a restorative justice program designed to hold the offender accountable by raising awareness and providing resources," she said.
Those who go through the program have only a 2 percent re-offense rate in Minnesota, Forliti said. The group doesn't track whether they reoffend in other states.
Of the 465 participants since January 2013, 70 percent had children, 57 percent were married and 81 percent had no prior criminal record, she said.
"So these are not guys who are sociopaths running around committing a lot of crimes," she said.
Breaking Free started the program in 2001, and its history suggests North Dakota's program may take a while to develop.
"The program we have today, it took a good eight, nine years to work out the details here and there," Forliti said.