National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse

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EDITOR'S NOTE: Every day we bring you news articles, opinion pieces, crime stories and official information from government web sites. These are highlights, and constitute the tip of the iceberg .. a small percentage of the daily information available to those who are interested in the issues of child abuse, trauma and recovery. Stay aware. Every extra set of "eyes and ears" and every voice makes a big difference.
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Recent News - News from other times

September, 2016 - Week 5
MJ Goyings
Many thanks to our very own "MJ" Goyings, a resident of Ohio, for her daily research that provides us with the news related material that appears on the LACP & NAASCA web sites.



To get yogurt, kids at daycare had to play 'smack for a snack'

by Karla Ward

A Lexington, Kentucky, daycare center is being monitored by the state after a complaint investigation found that two male employees made children line up and get hit on the legs or hand with a ruler in order to get some yogurt.

One of the two male employees involved in the incident at New Creation Child Care was cited by police for second-degree assault for the “game,” which he reportedly called “smack for a snack,” according to a state inspection report.

The employees who were involved in the Aug. 4 incident were not named in the report.

The children who were involved were school-age.

A 10-year-old girl told investigators: “The teacher said if you want a yogurt, you have to stand up to get hit on the hand or the leg. Everyone lined up to get a hit. Some kids were crying about it.”

Investigators who visited the home of the girl and a 7-year-old boy five days after the incident said that the two children “still had discoloration and bruising on their legs as a result of being struck by an object,” according to the inspection report.

While being questioned by a police detective, one of the men “confirmed he hit the children with a ruler and implied that it was just a game. The Detective asked him how many kids were hit and he replied, ‘Definitely twenty plus kids. But, not everybody got hit,'” according to the report.

One of the male staff members was said to have hit the children only on their hands, the other only on the legs.

The Office of Inspector General in the Kentucky Cabinet for Health And Family Services conducted the investigation of New Creation along with a detective from the police department's Crimes Against Children unit and a representative of the state Department for Community Based Services. They inspected the facility Aug. 9.

During the investigation, New Creation was placed under intermediate sanctions that called for increased monitoring, said Beth Fisher, spokeswoman for the cabinet.

“The Division of Regulated Child Care in OIG is currently monitoring the facility to assure compliance with the intermediate sanctions agreement,” she said in an email.

A message left with employees of the Industry Road daycare center Thursday night was not immediately returned.

The state inspector wrote that the daycare director was informed of the “smack for a snack” incident on Aug. 4, but the man who had hit the children on their legs was still working with the school-age children during the inspection.

“I didn't even want a snack, but he hit me anyway,” a 9-year-old told the investigators.

A 7-year-old boy said, “One day we got smacked with a hard stick for a snack. Sometimes it was on the leg and sometimes it was on the hand. Everyone that wanted a snack got hit; it hurt.”

Also during the Aug. 9 visit, during which the facility was caring for 83 children, the state inspector reported finding one woman looking after 27 school-age children, 12 more than permitted under state staff-to-child ratios.

In addition, the inspector found a shattered storefront glass window. Staff members said that one child knocked another child into the window, breaking it, on the same day as the “smack for a snack” incident.

A state inspection in May found the facility to be in compliance with state requirements, but there were problems in some previous visits, according to online documents.

In January, an inspector found several problems, including children between ages 1 and 2 watching “SpongeBob SquarePants” and 3-year-olds watching “Shrek.”

“The staff person kept telling the children numerous times to ‘sit down, get back in you chair, stop that.' The surveyor noted that most of the children were not watching the movie,” the inspector wrote of the 3-year-olds.

In April 2014, an inspector reported seeing children riding in the daycare's van standing up without seat belts on after being picked up from Mary Todd Elementary.

Members of the public can search for child care centers and check inspection reports through the Kentucky Integrated Child Care System.



Documentary Sheds Light on Child Abuse

by Marissa Stern

Sifting through 700 hours of film footage, including 200 hours of home video, Sasha Neulinger has been rewatching his childhood for the last four years to create a documentary, Rewind to Fast-Forward .

At a fundraiser called Montana Meets Pennsylvania at International House Philadelphia on Sept. 24, Neulinger — who grew up in Lower Merion and now lives in Bozeman, Montana — showed a gathering of people who were participating in a silent auction as well as munching on hors d'oeuvres clips from the assembly edits of the film.

While some of the clips were joyful, like Sasha as a little boy laughingly taking his baby sister's pacifier from her mouth, others hit you in the gut, like his father walking around his childhood home and coming to terms with the fact that his brothers and abusers also sexually abused his son.

Neulinger, now 27, was abused for years as a young boy by three members of his family. The case made headlines as it was found that his uncle, Howard Nevison, one of his abusers (Neulinger and family have changed their names), was a well-known cantor at a synagogue in New York's Upper East Side.

It's a part of his past from which Neulinger has spent years healing, and now he wants to share it with the world with the hopes that it will help others heal as well.

Watching the home videos incorporated with the film — which also features interviews with his psychiatrist, the prosecutor and detective on his case, his parents as well as others — gave him an opportunity to revisit his childhood and a chance to look at how his past affected him and how it has shaped him as an adult, he said.

“In rewatching my childhood,” he said, “I got to see the kid that I was before abuse. I got to see how much beauty and joy that I started with in life. I got to watch the four years of my life from 4 to 8 where I was holding this painful secret and I got to watch myself grow up. And in rewatching my childhood memories and moments, I got to realize something I couldn't possibly understand as a child who felt dirty, disgusting, unlovable, and that is that I never lost what made me beautiful. I only lost the ability to accept that I was beautiful, to see that I was worth something.

“But when I watch myself as a kid objectively as an adult,” he continued, “I see that my abusers didn't take that beauty away from me, even though I was experiencing pain, even though I was limited by self-doubt and self-deprecating thoughts. And in seeing that, it's been beautiful to reconnect with the part of myself that for so long I thought made me less than the quote-unquote victim.”

Interviews with his mother, as the audience saw, included recalling a time where Neulinger tried to jump out of a moving car and dark drawings he had made.

His story involves looking at multigenerational abuse and the emotional, clinical and legal facets that go with it.

“In juxtaposing my childhood to the childhood of my abusers, who were also abused,” he said, “we can see what help for a child actually means in terms of their overall health, but we can still look at my case and say that's not good enough — we need child advocacy centers, we need to erase the stigma and the shame, there needs to be more support for adult survivors.”

But ultimately, the message is one of hope.

“There is inspiration, there is hope and the message is that if we are able to look at our wounds and embrace your fears, to accept and examine our traumatic experiences, then we can truly heal them and move forward in life,” he said, “and this idea that it's never too late to start the journey of healing.

“And ultimately I believe that healing isn't a destination. It's a journey.”

Through Kickstarter, Neulinger started raising funds to create the project that became the sixth most-backed documentary in Kickstarter history, he added, and began working with Skywalker Sound and editor Ken Schretzmann from Pixar. The goal for the Sept. 24 event was to raise the additional funds needed for sound editing and to create an original score for the film, which he hopes will be done by August 2017.

His case spurred a larger movement in child advocacy, including the creation of Mission Kids Child Advocacy Center in East Norriton with the help of then-district attorney Risa Ferman and Abbie Newman.

A Philadelphia-area transplant from New York, Newman began her career as a pediatric registered nurse before becoming an attorney for 20 years and then moving into nonprofit work.

She recalled watching Neulinger's case unfold on the news, not being able to believe it. Now, as executive director of Mission Kids, she works to make sure that isn't people's first reactions.

“A natural reaction is that you want to think you're not seeing what you're actually seeing, you're not really seeing the signs,” she explained. “People will make up excuses in their own minds because it's easier to say, ‘Oh he's just eccentric, he's quirky, he's not really touching inappropriately.' The clip in the film where Howard is using the word pervert in a joking way, that's not a very — that makes people uncomfortable but people are willing to overlook it and I think that happens all the time.”

For her, the mission is for people to recognize abuse and talk about it to erase the stigma, and films like Neulinger's will help, she said.

“I want people to recognize that child abuse does exist,” she said, “that they should never question reporting what might be child abuse because they're concerned about the adult and what could happen to that adult if a report is false. I want them to think, instead, what happens to that child if he or she is being abused and you don't report it.

“The final message is that children can heal from abuse, but only if it's recognized and they can talk about it, and as adults, we need to help them let go of this secret and give them the support they need so they can heal.”

Donations for the film's development and production can still be made at



Chattanooga & Tennessee lead the war against child sex trafficking

by Millicent Smith

A white picket fence.

That's what she saw during the entire time — her first time — she was sold for sex.

Looking through a car window, the girl fixed her eyes on the fence, trying to escape her assaulted body still trapped in the car — a body that had just been sold for $250.

That was a good rate since she was only 12 years old.

Escaping a violent home, the girl was at a bus stop when she was found by the man who would become her pimp. The girl was looking for love, and that's what the man was peddling — or that's what he said.

But all thoughts of love vanished the day he left her in the car with the customer, the day she stared at that white picket fence.

In her Nashville office decorated with crayoned colorings and a collage of posed selfies from her young daughter, Margie Quin, assistant special agent in charge of the Human Trafficking Unit at the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, tells this story. Though she knows many other stories like this one, something about the girl's moment with the fence haunts Quin.

She has led the bureau's Operation Someone Like Me since May 2015 when Gov. Bill Haslam signed legislation giving jurisdiction over trafficking to the TBI. The operation's stings get their name from a survivor's story, a girl who helped Quin decode the jargon that pimps use to lure predators at online sites like

"Our agents were talking with a survivor in an effort to understand in detail how this crime unfolds," Quin recalls, "After more than an hour of conversation we thanked her for her time."

The team of agents was humbled by the young woman's response.

"No. Thank you," the survivor said. "You don't know what it means to someone like me that the TBI is willing to go out and rescue these girls."

"People ask me what I do for self-care," Quin say, then laughs. "I put the bad guys in jail. That's my self-care."

Fighting the war

In many ways, Chattanooga and Tennessee have become a focal point in the war against sex trafficking. The effort has involved not only agencies such as the TBI and local law enforcement, it also has generated support from locally-based groups such as Second Life Chattanooga, the Women's Fund of Chattanooga, Richmont Counseling Center and Mitch Patel, CEO of Vision Hospitality Group, which has a portfolio of Hilton- and Marriott-affiliated properties.

The battle also has made its way to Congress with the End Modern Slavery Initiative from Bob Corker, the Republican U.S. senator from Tennessee and former Chattanooga mayor.

As the geographic intersection of Interstates 75, 24 and 59, Chattanooga provides an easy path for pimps to transport their victims around the Southeast, Quin said during a January presentation in Chattanooga. That's especially true for traffickers from Atlanta which, in 2014, was ranked as the No. 1 city in the country for sex trafficking by Washington D.C.'s Urban Institute, which researches economic and social policy.

Jerry Redman, co-founder of Second Life, which helps victims of sex trafficking, believes the local anti-trafficking partnerships could have impact beyond Tennessee.

"Tennessee is just one of those states where the right people found each other and decided out of the chute, 'What if we work together?'" he says. "Could we create something that leverages resources in a strategic way and see if we could grow it beyond Atlanta and beyond Georgia and beyond Tennessee?"

Over the course of six stings in the state of Tennessee, Quin and her agents have made 131 arrests and rescued 10 trafficked women and girls. In Nashville, her agents posed as underage girls on for a sting in August. Instead of children waiting for them at the hotel, the johns found the TBI.

The agents arrested 41 people, including a high school teacher, an IT specialist and a 20-year-old Vanderbilt University football player who's no longer on the team. Over two days, the undercover TBI agents received 485 responses to their ads selling underage girls.

"You can see it is a demand-driven crime," Quin says.

Just a few months earlier, Quin and her agents executed a similar sting in Knoxville. The operation drew national attention when it was revealed that two church pastors were arrested while trying to purchase underage girls.

Quin and her team have executed two stings in the Hamilton County region since launching Operation Someone Like Me. They received 292 responses to their ads during the local undercover operation. The sting, which took place in September 2015, resulted in the arrest of 20 men, including a painter, an engineer, a truck driver, a landscaper, a student and a construction worker, according to the TBI's Operation Someone Like Me blog.

In February, TBI partnered with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation for a sting in which 168 men contacted undercover agents online. Nineteen men were arrested.

Dr. Jill Robinson, a research associate at Vanderbilt University's Peabody Research Institute, led a 2010 study on trafficking in partnership with the TBI, a study considered a linchpin in supporting Tennessee's anti-trafficking movement. She is reluctant, however, to cite exact statistics because trafficking is such an underreported crime.

"At a minimum there are currently hundreds of victims or survivors of sex trafficking in the state," Robinson says. "And I am confident that this is an underestimation."

Pitching in

TBI agents are not the only ones on the scene when the stings go down. In each county, they work with local nonprofit agencies to provide support services to the trafficked girls and women.

Sheila Simpkins, 46, who works as a director of survivor services with End Slavery Tennessee, a Nashville nonprofit, was present at both of the Hamilton County stings.

"The beauty of what TBI is doing," Simpkins says, "is telling these women that they are not alone, that whenever they are ready, there is someone that loves them and will meet them unconditionally and love them where they are at."

Simpkins is uniquely positioned to meet these women where they're at. She is a graduate of the Magdalene Program at Thistle Farms, a Nashville-based rehabilitation program for women leaving the life of trafficking. She was sent there after being arrested for prostitution.

"I was 14 when I was brought into the lifestyle," Simpkins says. "A boyfriend brought me in."

Like many other victims of trafficking, early childhood sexual abuse made her a vulnerable target.

"I was conditioned at a young age to use my body," Simpkins says. "When I was 6 years old, my mom would me bring into her bed to teach me how to perform oral sex on a man."

With a degree in psychology from the University of Phoenix, Simpkins uses those traumatic experiences to fulfill what she now sees as her calling.

"It's my life. It's what I live to do and I'm pretty darn good at it," Simpkins says. "If I did not have the life experience, I would not be able to make the connection I'm able to make with the girls.

"I give them my own experience and talk to them about their boyfriends and tell them what love is and tell them that, if a man loves you, he's not going to allow you to sell your body."

Corker initiative

In the winter of 2013, Corker and his Chief of Staff Todd Womack sat on a restaurant patio in Washington, D.C., for a weekly dinner to catch up and discuss the issues. As dusk fell over the most powerful city in the world, Womack and Corker discussed the plight of some of the most powerless people in the world: the millions of people living in slavery.

Womack had recently learned of the International Justice Mission (IJM), a nonprofit collection of lawyers, criminal investigators and social workers that helps rescue victims of slavery.

"You know, it's shocking to hear that slavery still exists and to hear the numbers," Womack says. "The senator was very receptive to what I had learned. For Sen. Corker, it really became an action issue when he met the survivors."

While on a trip to Asia, Corker met with IJM-rescued survivors of sexual slavery.

"I spent an entire day with about 20 young ladies who had been trafficked inside the Philippines," Corker says. "I heard their stories; how they were trafficked; what they dealt with and how it affected their lives; how they were being restored.

"Every country in the world has outlawed slavery, but it exists in 165 countries, including the U.S.," he continues. "There are 27 million slaves today in the world today; 24 percent are in sexual servitude. The other 76 percent are in forced labor such as fishing in Ghana, the rug manufacturing industry, etc."

To combat the problem, Corker created the End Modern Slavery Initiative. Through Corker, chairman of the Senate's Foreign Relations Committee, those oppressed in slavery now have more power on their side. The legislation passed unanimously out of the Foreign Relations Committee; in December, the Senate passed the fiscal year 2016 appropriations bill, which included funding for the initiative.

"Since Sen. Corker learned about the monstrous problem of human trafficking and modern-day slavery, he has been a champion in the fight to see the crime's demise," says Tim Gehring, policy director for IJM.

Although Corker has focused on the international fight to end slavery, he also has provided support to those tackling sex trafficking in Tennessee.

"Sen. Corker has been enormously supportive of this effort [of TBI]," says Josh DeVine, public information officer for the TBI.

He adds that people like Jerry Redman of Second Life have provided individualized response — a necessary part of the effort — to end trafficking in the Chattanooga area.

"Jerry Redman is doing incredible work with Second Life," DeVine says.

Locally speaking

Redman, a former minister, launched Second Life in 2007 after learning about sex trafficking in the local community.

"When we started talking about it, people started looking at us like we were nuts," says Redman. "'We don't have that here' was the prevailing mindset.

"We realized, frankly, that would be the tougher road."

Redman has been on the scene with TBI's Quin and End Slavery Tennessee's Simpkins on three stings, two in Hamilton County and one in Knoxville.

"We're in a separate part of the transaction area [of the sting location]," Redman says. "Upon [the trafficking victim] being taken into custody early in the process, we are made available to them. [We tell them], 'We have services available to you if you would like to hear how to get out of this situation, medical services, addiction counseling.'"

Six women from the Hamilton County stings have taken Redman up on his offer of a second life. As a result, the organization has become the point of contact for TBI's Human Trafficking Unit in 25 Southeast Tennessee counties.

"Within 24 hours of TBI catching a trafficking situation or when something comes across the radar involving a minor, TBI will notify us," Redman says.

Though Second Life supported 50 trafficking survivors in 2015 and 30 women so far in 2016, Redman knows the numbers are a poor indication of the scale of trafficking in Tennessee.

"We're not crying wolf," he says. "It's an age-old issue and the modern movement is just a decade old, so do the math. It doesn't sound sexy and people roll their eyes at measurability, but we have to find the resources to collect the data in an up-to-the-minute way."

The need to know the exact numbers irritates him.

"Well, tell me, what's an acceptable number?" Redman asks. "How many victims do we need to have in Hamilton County in order for the individual citizen to be moved to outrage and action?"

Hidden trafficking

Redman's organizations partner with other community leaders such as Vision Hospitality Group's Mitch Patel. Not only does he offer employment opportunities for trafficking survivors in his hotels, he also provides leadership on the issue to the hotel industry, which can be a hub for slavery.

To find their underage victims, predators no longer need to visit street corners; they can go classified ad websites like Backpage and Erotic Monkey. With such online human commerce, trafficking victims are very rarely in the public eye, and hotels have become places to identify and rescue victims.

"These kinds of sites seem to just pop up," Redman says. "[We] can't seem to keep up with how many. They cloak them [the girls] in a way that they portray all of them of age, but you'll see things like 'fresh' and quite often the buyers know they are talking about someone who is going to be younger than that."

In the 2014 report that ranked Atlanta No. 1 for sex trafficking, the Urban Institute also said online trafficking websites are "thriving."

"Pimps and sex workers advertise on social media and sites like and to attract customers and new employees and to gauge business opportunities in other cities," the report said. "Online child pornography communities frequently trade content for free and reinforce behavior. Offenders often consider their participation a 'victimless crime.'"

Once he learned of the role his industry plays in trafficking commerce through a presentation from the Women's Fund of Greater Chattanooga, Patel created a training program to educate hotel staff on how to spot trafficking.

"I'm a leader in the [hotel] industry and I did not know that this was taking place," Patel says. "It floored me, and I thought, 'We have this responsibility to educate and to tell as many people that this is happening.'"

The father of two young girls, the issue hits very close to home for Patel.

"You know, they [the trafficked girls in the presentation] were young. They were nine or 10 years old. It really put a knife right here," Patel says, clutching his heart. "The average age was 13. It resonated with me because at the time my daughters were around the same age."

Changing laws

Like Redman of Second Life, Chattanoogan Ann Coulter and the other members of the Women's Fund learned about the trafficking problem in 2007. They quickly developed a strategy to tackle the issue, deciding to attack it by changing the legislation that criminalizes the victims.

"[We were] outraged that girls were being arrested for prostitution while the human slavers that forced them into and kept them ensnared in sex trafficking were getting off with a misdemeanor," says Coulter, co-chairman of the Women's Fund board.

"We focused on advocating in the Tennessee General Assembly for the passage of laws that would attack the crime and provide protections to victims," she says. "Things such as making the sex trafficking of a minor a crime that carries a class A felony conviction."

Class A felonies are punishable by no less than 15 years and no more than 60 years in prison, according to the Felony Guide of Tennessee. There also can be a fine of $50,000.

The Women's Fund also helped lobbied for laws that allow minor victims "to testify in court under closed-circuit television rather than have to face their adult victimizer in court," Courter says, "and things like removing all parental rights for any parent convicted of trafficking their own child.

"Yes, it happens."

With the passage of the laws, Tennessee was ranked the No. 1 state in the nation for laws fighting human trafficking by Polaris, an international trafficking watchdog group.

Dealing with trauma

The local anti-trafficking community also has added trauma experts to its crusade. This year, Richmont Graduate Institute, a Christian-focused school in Chattanooga, opened a counseling center here and another in Atlanta.

Dr. Jeff Eckert, who runs the Chattanooga trauma center, has met with Redman to explore ways to support women who have escaped trafficking. Eckert believes it's more than coincidence that so many agencies are working to end trafficking in the region.

"I was going to use the word 'providential,'" Eckert says. "With Richmont being a faith-based institution, it's laid on our heart that God is directing something bigger than the idea we have had."

Along with female victims of trafficking, the Richmont Counseling Center works with men suffering from sexual addictions.

"I tend to be very direct and challenging once I've been in a relationship with a man that has been involved in trafficking," Eckert says. "I lay it out in black and white. I want them to be aware of the impact that they very well may not have considered.

"On the other hand," Eckert says, "it's about connecting them with resources to get back on their feet, a much more empathetic, compassionate, supportive role."

In some cases, both customers and pimps want out of the lifestyle, he believes.

"There are some people," Eckert says, "their sexuality has become so twisted, they say they don't want to keep living like this."

Despite his firm-hand approach to therapy for men involved in trafficking, Eckert doesn't think increased risk of prosecution is going to affect the behavior of local men involved in the trade.

"I think money would be better allocated for better treatment," Eckert said, "I don't see guys coming out of a punitive jail sentence with a greater sense of remorse or repentance or a desire to change, but I do see more possibility when there is opportunity to get some kind of help."

Despite the collaborative success of the anti-trafficking movement in Chattanooga, Second Life's Redman worries that other causes may soon capture the attention of the community.

"People get excited about something and then move on to the next thing, something else will be a little sexier to people," he says. "Life is scary, bringing up one more scary thing, you get to the point where you know people have reached capacity and can't know more one thing."

"At the same time, there is a 13-year-old girl somewhere," he says. "She reached capacity months ago."



Child abuse prevention starts at early age

by Mark Hughes

Shelly Stout has made it a mission to educate children on how to prevent sexual abuse and how to respond should they become a target.

Stout, who is with Kids' Space Child Advocacy Center, instructs pre-kindergarten through eighth grades. In grades pre-kindergarten through second grade, Stout uses two dolls, Joe and Suzie, to show the gender-mixed classroom where others can and can't touch them.

"Anything a two-piece bathing suit covers up we consider a private area," Stout said of Suzie.

The same goes for Joe in his bathing suit.

She teaches the kids a three-step process and uses hand signals to reinforce her message. Step 1 is "say no" as she waggles her index finger back and forth. Step 2 is to "get away," and she curls her last two fingers and thumb underneath and uses a walking motion with the remaining two.

Finally, "tell a trusted adult," which can be a parent, teacher or someone at church. "And if they don't believe you, keep telling someone," Stout said.

Stout has instructed 2,700 school children since the program began in March 2015. She said that HB1684, known as Erin's Law, requires that every child in kindergarten through fifth grade be taught child abuse prevention.

Of the 2,700 children reached, 80 informed a trusted adult about possible sexual abuse and 62 of the children were confirmed child abuse victims, according to data provided by Kids' Space. All 62 children were provided services through the organization.

Stout tells the younger students "it's not just the big, bad stranger" that may want to sexually abuse them.

"About 90 percent of sexual offenders kids know," said Hilary McQueen, executive director of Kids' Space.

Prior to taking on this position, Stout was an elementary school teacher. Since working with this program, she realizes "that some kids slipped through my fingers — I didn't recognize what they were telling me."

McQueen said it's important for sexually abused youth to recognize that they have been abused and then learn healthier coping skills.

"They think they have a target on their back, but what they don't realize is that very likely their peers at school have been through something similar and they're not alone," she said.

The program goes through eighth grade, but McQueen said if high schools need their help, they just have to call.

"We have teen support groups for ages 14 to 17 who are victims of sexual abuse," she said.


New York

ACS ignored DOI's recommendation to fix 'serious problems' like Zymere Perkins' case from reoccurring at troubled city agency

by Greg B. Smith

ACS should have cleaned up its act months ago — but failed to do so under a mountain of excuses.

Four months before the beating death of 6-year-old Zymere Perkins, the city agency responsible for protecting children was warned that it needed to implement reforms, investigators said.

The city Department of Investigation had found “serious problems” with the way the agency investigated repeat complaints against troubled families. At the time, they made six recommendations.

Four months later, the city Administration for Children's Services — a sprawling agency with an annual budget of $2.9 billion — has yet to implement any of those suggestions, the Daily News has learned.

Following Zymere's death, DOI is seeking documents from ACS about how it handled the case — specifically looking to see what the agency did to reform itself after DOI released its report.

“DOI is monitoring the recommendations issued to ACS in our May report,” DOI spokeswoman Diane Struzzi said Thursday.

She declined further comment.

A key concern DOI highlighted in May was the agency's problem monitoring families where allegations of abuse or neglect repeatedly surface — like in the Harlem case, where Zymere's mom, Geraldine Perkins, 26, had been investigated five times before the boy's death on Monday.

DOI had given ACS 30 days to fix the problem.

In Perkins' case, ACS had sent caseworkers to probe five instances of abuse, including one as recently as this past April. Each time, a caseworker deemed the allegations unsubstantiated and allowed the troubled mother and her live-in boyfriend, Rysheim Smith, 42, to continue caring for Zymere.

Both Perkins and Smith have since been charged with endangering the welfare of a child — charges that could be upgraded after the medical examiner determines an exact cause of death.

The DOI report came on May 3, weeks after the last ACS visit to Zymere's home. To address problems with the way ACS investigates families with repeat allegations, DOI said the agency needed to stop assigning one caseworker to the same family.

DOI uncovered that this approach created a built-in conflict of interest in which caseworkers were essentially vetting their own prior investigations of families with repeat complaints.

On Thursday, ACS spokeswoman Carol Caceres said the agency had “conditionally accepted” this recommendation — but confirmed the change had not yet occurred. She said ACS is now working the city to resolve “certain technological issues” so they can “address these system changes.”

DOI also discovered ACS wasn't able to make sure everyone in its investigations unit had access to all family histories — and gave ACS 30 days to fix this flaw.

As of Thursday, that reform also had yet to be implemented.

Caceres said the agency is “finalizing guidelines to ensure uniformity in documentation of case information.”

DOI also found inconsistencies in the way ACS issues discipline to caseworkers who screw up, specifically recommending the agency suspend workers under review or put them under added supervision.

ACS declined Thursday to say whether it had made any changes to its discipline protocol.

Under Commissioner Gladys Carrión, ACS had been implementing reforms before the DOI report, the agency said.

Caceres said the agency had launched an “initiative” regarding families with repeat complaints, and at some point — she didn't say when — began “elevating” some cases for more detailed review by supervisors.

“Through this work, ACS is aiming to serve families that we frequently encounter more aggressively at the front end by offering targeted intensive interventions earlier in the life of the case,” Caceres said.

She said ACS plans to launch a “new assessment tool” early next year in collaboration with the University of Chicago, New York University and the City University of New York. The tool will help the city “better identify families at highest risk of repeat child welfare involvement so that we can put services in place that can stabilize families.”

DOI also recommended punishing seven ACS workers involved in cases with two child fatalities and one near-fatality. ACS declined to punish six of the seven.

Caceres said “discipline was not warranted,” but all staff were given additional training.



Daveeta Walker trial raises questions about reporting child abuse

by Alexandra Jokich

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - During the murder trial of Daveeta Walker--who was convicted Thursday of torturing and killing her 4-year-old daughter--we learned multiple people may have known about the ongoing abuse and never said anything.

Newschannel 3 asked Kalamazoo County Prosecutor Jeff Getting if any of those people may also face charges.

We know police were looking into charges for the people on the periphery of this case--Kharisma Richardson's family and friends who knew something was wrong and failed to report it.

The bright-eyed girl died the morning of her fourth birthday, at the hands of her mother. Over the course of Daveeta Walker's trial, we now know a number of family members and friends knew Kharisma was being abused and didn't pick up the phone to report it.

"The community, we all as a society, those people that knew Kharisma, they failed her," Getting said.

We asked Getting if those who stayed quiet can be held accountable too. He says, in Michigan, certain people are required to report suspected child abuse. But that's largely limited to the professionals who come into contact with the child--like teachers, doctors and counselors. Other people, like family members, can also report, but aren't legally mandated to do so.

"The people that I think were most knowledgeable about this weren't people that had a legal obligation to report, and without that legal obligation, I don't know how the system, the criminal justice system, can hold them accountable," Getting said.

But he says, legally obligated or not, you should say something. For Kharisma, it could have changed everything.

"It's absolutely devastating for us as a community to lose one of members, especially if they're little tiny innocent ones, and so when we hear about those kinds of situations the best we can do to pick up and move on from our grief is to determine how can we prevent this from happening in the future," said Karen Hayter, a program coordinator with the Children's Advocacy Center, in Kalamazoo.

So what is the best way to report suspected child abuse? And at what point should you as the third party intervene?

We took these questions to the Hayter and the Children's Advocacy Center.

"Some people are concerned--oh it's not my business. It's everyone's business if you feel a child is at risk," Hayter said.

Hayter tells us certain people are mandated by michigan law to report suspected child abuse, like the child's teacher or doctor. And even though family or friends are not legally obligated to report, they are encouraged to pick up the phone, just in case.

"We encourage people who have a gut reaction this child is in danger to help the system out, help the child out! One phone call can save a life," she said.

Hayter recommends calling CPS or the police and providing basic details--like the child's name and the reason for concern.

But what if you don't actually know the child?

"If someone observes a child being abused in a public location, the best phone call at that time for that crime is a 9-1-1 phone call," Hayter said.

Getting says if people stepped in sooner, the outcome for Kharisma and other kids like her, could be different.



Gathering explores keys to child abuse prevention

by Elizabeth Hewitt

Gov. Peter Shumlin identified opiate addiction as the greatest challenge to the prevention of child abuse and maltreatment in Vermont during a conference in Montpelier on Thursday.

The daylong event, hosted by Prevent Child Abuse Vermont in recognition of the organization's 40th anniversary, attracted more than 100 people, including several top state officials.

Shumlin spoke at the start of the day, lauding expansions of health care, early education and other systems that have occurred under his tenure — factors that he says improve the safety of children in the state.

However, Shumlin said substance abuse presents a persistent challenge to the state's child protection efforts.

“There is no greater victim of opiate addiction than kids,” Shumlin said.

“We live in a country now where big pharma has so much power and influence over politicians in Washington that we sit here looking at the victims, the kids, and trying to find the resources to pick up the pieces,” Shumlin said.

As Shumlin approaches the end of his administration, he called on the next governor to continue to push for reform on opiate prescription painkillers at a national level.

“My advice, my hope, my prayer would be this: that whoever we choose continues the vigorous outspoken fight against painkillers in this country,” Shumlin said.

The two leading gubernatorial candidates, Democrat Sue Minter and Republican Phil Scott, spoke at the event later in the day.

Both candidates discussed economic development as a way to curb rates of child poverty in Vermont, and touched on education and housing issues.

Asked about budgeting, both candidates said prevention of child abuse is a priority, but they took different approaches.

Scott said public safety is a key function of government. He plans to audit every state agency, including the Department for Children and Families, to see how effectively government tasks are being fulfilled.

“Prevention of child abuse is crucial, and finding ways to redirect dollars away from the process and to the people who are really actually in need requires constant, constant focus on improving the operation performance of every single agency,” Scott said.

Minter said assembling a balanced budget requires a balance of meeting immediate needs and investing in long-term programs, “because we all know that prevention actually helps reduce costs in the future.”

“We must be thinking about prevention and we must be meeting our needs,” Minter said.



NKY mother says her plan for child abuse registry moving forward

Diaz hopes this bill can prevent other families from going through similar traumatic experiences

by Dan Griffin

CAMPBELL COUNTY, Ky. — A Northern Kentucky mother pushing for an online child abuser registry is seeing her plan move forward.

Jennifer Diaz said her daughter, Sophie Diaz, was 4 months old when she was abused by her babysitter, Desiree Rankin, and hospitalized because of her injuries.

Diaz said life has been a roller coaster as she's worked with lawmakers to fight for a change to save young lives.

"With this bill, I think it's helping me in the healing process," Diaz said.

Sophie is now 2 years old and described as a "typical toddler."

Rankin has been sentenced and convicted in the case. She was convicted of first-degree criminal abuse and served three months in jail. She's currently on probation.

Rankin took an Alford plea, meaning she admitted no guilt but acknowledged there may be damaging evidence in the case.

If she violates probation, she'll face significantly more time behind bars, the commonwealth attorney's office said.

Diaz contacted state Rep. Dennis Keene for help in making the child abuse registry a reality.

"I can't take away what that woman did to my child, and it hurts. I can't do anything about that, but I can try to fight to change this law so that she will never be able to do that again," Diaz said.

Keene has now pre-filed legislation in Frankfort to increase transparency when it comes to finding out if people serving as babysitters or child caregivers are convicted child abusers.

"This is something that I see, that it needs to be done. We're going to put every bit of effort into it, you know, 110 percent is not enough sometimes," Keene said.

The bill, called "Sophie's Law," would mean the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services would need to create and maintain a central electronic registry available to the public online.

Keene's office said if it's passed, Kentucky would be the second state in the country to enact this type of legislation.

Indiana paved the way for a child abuse registry earlier this year.

The bill, signed into law in March, requires that a registry be set up and maintained no later than July 1, 2017.

"You can't be sitting around waiting seven or eight days to find out answers. You need to know right away, especially when you need child care," Keene told WLWT News 5's Dan Griffin.

The Kentucky bill drawn up by Keene sets a similar deadline for a registry in the commonwealth.

Diaz hopes this bill can prevent other families from going through similar traumatic experiences.

"If there is a way to prevent another child from going through the trauma of abuse, we must do everything we can to prevent that from happening," Diaz said in a press release from Keene's office. "My baby was so tiny and helpless when we put her babysitting care in the hands of someone we trusted; never knowing she would be abused. Luckily my child recovered; some other children have not. Thank you to Representative Keene for making this child abuse registry available to parents and the public."

According to Keene's office, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services already voluntarily operates a "current central registry of individuals found to have a substantiated case of child abuse and neglect."

It said the registry is searchable by submitting an open-records request to the cabinet.

But "Sophie's Law" would put a central child abuse and neglect registry into a statute, requiring the Cabinet to make a registry on its website that would be searchable and available to parents and the public anytime.

Diaz hopes the bill will soon be law and give parents information they need before they hire someone to babysit.

"I want the world to know so that we can make a change," she said.

Keene said he wants to make this bill a top priority in the upcoming session of the General Assembly and he anticipates the bill will have widespread, bipartisan support.

He said the bill could face some hurdles depending on what committee it goes before, but he believes it will be a fairly cheap option and easily done because Kentucky already has a database for the registry.

Diaz said she is ready to share her story with lawmakers in Frankfort and plans to during the session.



More than 200 people gather to urge action against child abuse and neglect in the Inland Northwest

by Nina Culver

The four names were read aloud in front of more than 200 people in Riverfront Park Wednesday.

Maliki Wilburn. Sequoia Smith. Quentin Warren. Adalynn Hoyt.

The children were killed and injured in the Inland Northwest within a span of two weeks.

“It's too many,” said Dena Chappell, who sits on the executive council of Spokane Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (Spo-CAN).

“We know we're gathered here tonight because the children are not well,” she told people who held candles while children played and laughed on the giant Red Wagon sculpture in the background.

Several of the speakers had a unified message: this must be fixed.

If you believe something is wrong, step in and offer assistance. Take away any stigma of asking for help.

Don't judge because you don't know the path others have walked, Chappell said.

“Parenting is the hardest job we will ever have,” she said.

Dr. Keith Georgeson, a pediatric surgeon at Sacred Heart Children's Hospital, spoke briefly about his work.

“I'm the guy that takes care of those kids,” he said. “When you see what these kids go through, it's frustrating.”

Georgeson said he has watched 100 children die from child abuse during his career. “We would love it if we never saw another child die from child abuse,” he said.

Amy Vega, executive director of the Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery, said sometimes parents are afraid to call her organization, which cares for children from birth to age 7 for parents who are having short-term trouble coping.

“We are not a phone call away from CPS,” she said. “We can be preventative. We can keep them out of the hospital.”

In an interview before the vigil, Vega said her organization has taken in children 5,000 times this year. Some come once, others return several times. But 3,000 times families were turned away because the nursery was full.

“The one thing we're missing in this is that we all have an obligation to help,” she said. “We need to learn to be supportive and helpful.”

Several members of the Guardians of the Children motorcycle club attended the vigil. The group of volunteers help support and protect children involved in child abuse. The members use “road names” to protect themselves and their families from abusers.

“We go to court with them as advocates,” said Shark, the vice-president of the club's Northwest Chapter. “We do whatever we can.”

Children called to testify in court are often frightened and need the support offered by club members, Shark said. “They've got us,” he said. “They just look at us and tell their story.”

Those at the vigil were urged repeatedly to get involved and to look out for the welfare of all children.

“We have a responsibility not to let this happen again,” Vega said.

Where the cases stand

Two men have been charged with murder in connection with two recent child deaths, but no charges have been filed in a third death or in the case of a shaken baby. All four cases were reported in the span of just over two weeks.

The first case was 16-month-old Maliki Wilburn in Coeur d'Alene. Police and medics were called to the 800 block of North Fifth Street on Aug. 26 on a report that a child was having difficulty breathing. They found Wilburn with “obvious head trauma,” according to the Coeur d'Alene Police Department. He was home alone with his stepfather, Joseph J. Davis, at the time he was injured.

Davis was arrested the next day; he was charged with first-degree murder after Wilburn died in the hospital.

Medics were summoned to 501 E. Baldwin Ave. in Spokane on Aug. 28 on a report of a child not breathing. Doctors said 2-month-old Sequoia Smith had “textbook” signs of shaken baby syndrome, including severe retinal hemorrhages. She also had bruising all over her body, new and healing rib fractures and a broken femur, according to court documents.

Her parents, Autumn Smith and Sebastian Smith, said she rolled off the bed and onto Sebastian Smith's steel-toed boots. However, both eventually admitted that Sebastian would shake Sequoia, according to court documents. Sebastian reportedly told investigators that he was frustrated because the baby wouldn't stop crying so he shook her very hard, court documents state. The case is still under investigation and no charges have been filed.

Medics were called to an apartment at 19625 E. Wellesley Avenue in Otis Orchards on Aug. 29 on a report of a baby not breathing. After they arrived, they called deputies. The medic who performed CPR on 3-week-old Quentin D. Warren said he saw no obvious injuries. The baby's cause of death has not yet been determined.

His parents, Melissa D. McCormick and Sean J. Warren, told deputies they had been out drinking the night before and couldn't locate the baby when they woke up, according to court documents. He was found face down underneath a recliner. Deputies wrote in court documents that the home was unkempt, with dirty diapers on the floor. The case is still under investigation and no charges have been filed.

Two-year-old Adalynn Hoyt was found dead in her home at 3022 E. 55th Avenue on Sept. 12. Her mother, Lovina Rainey, said she had gone out drinking the night before and left Hoyt and her three other children in the care of Jason J. Obermiller, a convicted felon who was wanted on a warrant. Obermiller has been charged with murder for her death, which the medical examiner said was caused by a single blow to the toddler's stomach.

Rainey is currently facing federal drug trafficking charges and a judge refused to grant her a furlough from jail to attend her daughter's funeral. Other people who lived in the home were convicted felons and one was also allegedly selling drugs.

According to court documents, U.S. Marshals came to Rainey's home a month before her daughter died looking for Obermiller, who was wanted on a warrant for probation violations. Rainey denied that he lived there, but witnesses later told investigators that Obermiller was there.




Child Sex Abuse Letter

by Bill White

I wrote Sunday about the political decisions being made this week about how best to promote more access to justice for survivors of child sex abuse.

House Bill 1947 awaits action in the House, where it passed overwhelmingly earlier this year, only to be watered down by the Senate. House supporters will have to decide whether to accept the Senate version in the short time remaining in this session or to restore provisions in the original bill and hope the Senate will have a change of heart.

The chief point of contention is whether survivors who are blocked from civil suits by present -- and in some cases, older -- statutes of limitations should be granted some kind of retroactive access, either through a two-year window for everyone or, as laid out in the version the House passed, for those who are no older than 50.

One point I want to make, which I've made many times before, is that although much of the focus has been on the Catholic Church, the vast majority of abuse cases have nothing to do with clergy. These crimes also are committed by family members, family friends, teachers, coaches and others.

The Church gets most of the attention because it has lobbied so hard against these statute of limitations changes and because damning grand jury reports around the state have detailed crimes and coverups in some dioceses. One of those reports played a huge role in spurring legislative action this year, and a new grand jury is exploring abuse in the Allentown Diocese and elsewhere in Pennsylvania.

Anyway, the advocacy group The Center for Children's Justice emailed me a copy of a letter it sent this week to Gov. Tom Wolf and members of the Senate and House. I thought it was worth sharing with everyone else. Here it is:

Today, all across this Commonwealth, children are being sexually assaulted. Each of these children are courageously struggling to survive the assault against their body and spirit. More than likely, each of these children remain oblivious to the political debates unfolding about whether and how to reform the statute of limitations (SOLs) for childhood sexual abuse. Still every sexually abused child will be directly impacted by the decisions made before the 2015-2016 legislative session ends on November 30th.

Sexually abused children are in dire need of leadership and urgency on their behalf before November 30th.

The Center for Children's Justice (C4CJ) urges each of you to quickly identify where there is common ground on House Bill 1947 and to act expeditiously to enact reforms on behalf of the sexually abused child.

Reverting to the House passed version of House Bill 1947 seems inviting since it might lead Pennsylvania to further extend the civil SOL and then finally apply it retroactively.

Advancing an extended civil SOL that is applied retroactively powerfully recognizes that there are life-long consequences of childhood sexual abuse that impact physical health, emotional well-being, educational attainment, employability and social interactions. A retroactive provision also provides redress for the fact that justice for the sexually abused child of yesterday, the adult survivor of today, has been uneven and too often denied.

Still the PA Senate acted unanimously to strip the retroactive civil provision from House Bill 1947 that is a significant hurdle to overcome in the evaporating days of the 2015-2016 session. Also, the rightful anger that has resulted from the Senate's action has obscured other choices made by the Senate within House Bill 1947.

For instance, the PA Senate stipulated that the child being sexually assaulted today should have an unlimited period of time to file a civil claim against: the perpetrator or the person who conspired with another to bring about the abuse or a person having “actual knowledge” that failed to file a report with law enforcement or a county children and youth agency. Also, the Senate, like the House, waived sovereign and government immunity in childhood sexual abuse, but the Senate lowered the threshold to negligence (versus gross negligence).

Truth be told, neither legislative chamber passed a version of House Bill 1947 that is good enough for the child being sexually assaulted today or the adult who has survived past acts of childhood sexual abuse. There is still time to get to a better bill before November 30th.

C4CJ believes that as governor and as members of the PA House and PA Senate, you must find a path forward to give adult survivors of past acts of childhood sexual abuse – adults of all ages – the opportunity to initiate a civil claim no matter how long ago the abuse occurred. If, however, that path does not become a reality in the 2015-2016 legislative session each of you must commit to work together to:

1. Secure a retroactive provision related to civil claims for childhood sexual abuse early in the 2017-2018 legislative session; and

2. Enact, before November 30th, the other necessary and overdue SOL reforms woven into House Bill 1947 that will aid the child being sexually assaulted today.

C4CJ believes it is not only possible, but imperative for each of you to look beyond the conflict that has enveloped House Bill 1947 and to work overtime to find common ground. That path begins with comparing the House and Senate passed versions of House Bill 1947. In doing so it quickly becomes clear that there is common ground.

For example, overwhelming majorities of the PA Senate and PA House voted to eliminate the criminal SOL. 38 states have already eliminated, in whole or part, criminal SOLs related to childhood sexual abuse.

Majorities of the Pennsylvania General Assembly also voted this year, at a minimum, to extend (going forward) the civil SOL up to age 50. Finally, each chamber of the PA General Assembly also wants to waive sovereign and government immunity in childhood sexual abuse.

The courage of the sexually assaulted child should guide the decisions made on House Bill 1947. Children are counting on each of you to use the final days of the 2015-2016 legislative session to act with urgency and intention to protect every child in our Commonwealth from sexual abuse.




Bay Area Law Enforcement and Media Failed a Survivor of Sexual Exploitation

by Kate Walker Brown, Kimberly Chang and Elizabeth Sy

When the story of a teenager's exploitation at the hands of Bay Area police came to light earlier this year, we were sad and angry, but we were not surprised. We are an attorney, a counselor and nurse, and a physician, who have collectively worked for more than two decades with young people who are trafficked and exploited through the sex trade. Many of our clients and patients have told us about their disturbing encounters with law enforcement. They have affirmed that some police officers purchase sex, others offer to let individuals go in exchange for a sexual favors, and that still others have used the threat of arrest to keep our clients and patients from speaking out about the harms children and adults experience at the hands of law enforcement.

So when we learned that several Bay Area police officers coerced the young woman known as Celeste Guap, through their positions of power, into having sex with them in exchange for protection from undercover police operations and raids, we were not shocked.

What appalled and enraged us was the extent to which the Oakland Police Department (OPD) and other Bay Area law enforcement agencies were complicit in the manipulation and sexual abuse of this young woman. When a lone officer sexually assaults someone, you can call him a bad apple. But when upwards of 30 officers commit these crimes while others turn a blind eye—that's an epidemic. These events should make us question what was going on, how it happened, and how we are going to fix it so that others are not exploited in this way again.

To start this overhaul, several changes must take place. First, the media must stop victim-blaming this young woman.

Second, we should no longer rely on the police to be the primary institution that addresses sex trafficking. We must fund victim services through community-based providers and more appropriate agencies and diversify how these services are delivered so that they are not strictly tied to law enforcement agencies.

Finally, we need to implement new policies informed by those they are designed to protect, to hold law enforcement accountable, and ensure appropriate actions are taken when there is an abuse of power.

Stop Victim-Blaming

Sometimes it's hard to find the right words to describe a person or situation, we get it. We debated the terminology to use in this article, and discussed the ways in which the language people use to talk about human trafficking can sometimes ignore the agency and resilience of survivors. But portraying Celeste, a teenager, as a seductress that lured unsuspecting officers into bed with her? That's not only insulting, it's irresponsible. So journalists: do your job and find a way to accurately tell the story of what actually happened, and please stop participating in rape culture.

For the record, Celeste's experience meets the definition of human trafficking. According to the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act, a human trafficking victim is a "person induced to perform a commercial sex act through force, fraud or coercion" or "in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age." Consequently, any commercial sex acts with police officers that occurred before Celeste turned 18 clearly meet the definition of trafficking.

After she turned 18, the trafficking and exploitation didn't stop. That law enforcement officers can choose to arrest someone like Celeste, give her information about what friends have been arrested, or tell her ahead of time to avoid a certain street because of an undercover police operation, demonstrates a gross abuse of power by the police. Such abuse of power is a form of coercion, and the officers engaged in these acts are human traffickers.

So if you're going to label her anything, drop the criminalized term "prostitute" for the accurate legal term "human trafficking victim." Some major media outlets have recognized the inherent contradiction of terms like “child prostitute" and "teenage sex worker." These outlets adopted a style guide created by Rights4Girls to use the appropriate language. This should be the industry standard.

Furthermore, we find it appalling that television and print media have repeatedly used photographs and videos of Celeste. She is a victim of sexual violence. She was trafficked and raped when she was a child, and again as an adult, and should be afforded protections and basic decency.

Stop Requiring Victims to Cooperate with Law Enforcement

In the past, child victims of sex trafficking had to be arrested before they could access social services or healthcare as victims of crime. Most healthcare and social services for trafficking victims were provided in juvenile hall. A system that criminalizes victims of trafficking as a precondition to getting help, is fundamentally flawed.

Additionally, survivors of sex trafficking are still required to cooperate with law enforcement agencies in order to access victims of crimes funding, resources and services. Used as a means to obtain witness testimony in the prosecution of traffickers, it further traumatizes and victimizes those who are fearful of their traffickers, bonded to abusers, and not ready to face their exploiters in court.

Services must be victim-centered—meaning cooperation with law enforcement should not be a requirement, but rather a choice. The emphasis should be placed on community-based organizations and agencies that are equipped to address the trauma associated with exploitation. These organizations exist in the Bay Area and have been around for decades providing healthcare and specialized services for exploited and trafficked children and adults. Advocates and providers have seen tremendous value in providing services to victims in the community. They are able to maintain familial connections while seeking help, avoid being in an unknown place without meaningful relationships, and can address trauma holistically by involving family and friends in treatment and transition planning.

We recognize that law enforcement does play a role in combatting trafficking. They often do come across victims as part of patrol and during operations. When officers encounter potential victims, they are required by mandatory reporting laws to report the suspected abuse to the child protection hotline. To our knowledge, Oakland Police Officer Brendan O'Brien did not fulfill his obligation when he first encountered Celeste, then a child, who was fleeing her exploiter. Had he acted differently, Officer O'Brien could have changed the entire trajectory of this case, and the course of Celeste's life. Also, officers should continue to focus on identifying the traffickers and purchasers who create the supply and demand for human beings.

In 2014, the California legislature appropriated $14 million to serve commercially sexually exploited and trafficked children through an interagency approach led by child welfare, the system created to serve abused, exploited, and neglected children. In 2016, an additional $5 million was added to this annual appropriation. These shifts of funding are steps in the right direction. We should also fund and build capacity of other sectors, such as community health centers, the educational system, and public health, as these are additional access points to reach this extremely vulnerable population.

What we have learned from the OPD sex crime scandal is that there are inherent dangers in using the police as the primary public agency entrusted to outreach to victims of human trafficking. We need to continue to fund and develop more community-based solutions that are prevention and intervention-based, getting at both root causes of vulnerability to being trafficked, and long-term care and support for traumatized victims.

Engage the Community in Developing a Solution

How is it that law enforcement officers' involvement in sex trafficking has gone unnoticed for so many years? And what are we going to do to prevent another child or adult like Celeste from being harmed by the police?

First, we applaud Mayor Libby Schaaf of Oakland and Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley for their leadership in investigating, firing, and eventually charging many of the bad actors. We hope other cities and counties follow their lead. But more must be done.

Because many community-based providers would assert that this type of abuse hasn't gone unnoticed, we should ask why the public hasn't heard about it. We posit that there has never been a meaningful or transparent process to field and resolve complaints about officers abusing power. So, at a minimum, we must start there.

We urge counties and law enforcement agencies to develop a robust grievance mechanism to ensure victims of trafficking have a way to report police misconduct. Without this process, victims have no recourse against abuses of police power. We believe that survivors and organizations working with victims of trafficking should be at the table to provide meaningful input at all stages of the development of future policies. Community input and transparency will strengthen the policies and encourage the buy-in necessary for stronger victim protection and accessibility. And given the chilling effect the OPD sex crime scandal will have on victims coming forward in the future, the policies must be widely distributed and posted within communities.

Additionally, we urge county and law enforcement agencies to revisit existing policies regarding physical contact during undercover operations. To our knowledge, varying levels of physical contact between Bay Area law enforcement and individuals involved in the sex trade is allowed in order to confirm solicitation, which typically occurs during undercover operations. The rules are far from consistent and have been abused by officers. We recommend that police officers are prohibited from physically contacting suspected victims of trafficking and individuals engaged in the sex trade. Furthermore, there must be policies that allow for the immediate termination of officers who break these rules. Los Angeles County has such a policy. Alameda County does not.

No one looks good in this scandal. But if all of us, media, law enforcement, policy makers and advocates seize the opportunity, we can make long overdue changes to help some of our most vulnerable and victimized children and adults.

Kate Walker Brown is an attorney and lead of the Child Trafficking Team at the National Center for Youth Law in Oakland, California.
Elizabeth Sy is a registered nurse and a cofounder for Banteay Srei, a community-based organization in Oakland, California that works with young Southeast Asian women at risk of or engaged in the underground sex trade.
Kimberly Chang, MD, MPH is a family physician at Asian Health Services in Oakland, California, and cofounder and Board Member of HEAL Trafficking.

Editor's note: Following her arrest in Florida, other media organizations published the legal name of the young woman who has called herself Celeste Guap because she is now 19-years-old. Attorneys who say they represent the young woman have also asked that her real name be used. The Express , however, is still not using her legal name because the young woman hasn't provided us with consent to identify her. We have seen no public statement made by her asking that her real name be used. She is the survivor of multiple alleged sex crimes, some of which were committed when she was a minor.




Assault victims: you are not alone

Two St. Joseph programs and events in coming days remind our community is blessed with caring advocates for those who are subjected to assault or abuse.

More than this, our supportive organizations focused on this concern are prepared to provide training and raise awareness throughout the community of the threats and how to respond.

In this way — if we take advantage of the offerings — we stand a chance to lower the risk of assault and abuse. Rather than focusing so much on making sure survivors have support, we can transition to celebrating successes in stopping these crimes before they occur.

The St. Joseph YWCA is offering free advocacy classes for a large targeted segment of the community — everyone from teachers and nurses to any caring adult — that is interested in volunteering with the agency.

The training is extensive, spanning four weeks and approximately 28 hours of instruction. Classes begin Monday, Oct. 3, and will be held from 5:30 to 9 p.m. every Monday and Wednesday through Oct. 26. For information or to register, call Carrie Turner, training and outreach coordinator, at 816-232-4481.

Beyond building awareness, this kind of training is intended to equip volunteers to help provide support and connect victims with services.

A related one-time event is on the calendar for next week. The Northwest Missouri Children's Advocacy Center is sponsoring a high-profile speaker in a program at the Missouri Theater. Marilyn Van Debur, who was Miss America in 1958 and has built a career as a motivational speaker, will bring a very personal message.

Van Debur will share her experiences in coming to grips with childhood sexual abuse perpetrated by her father for more than 12 years. Organizers are hopeful the presentation will help raise awareness and educate the public about the signs and effects of child abuse.

This program, “Miss America by Day,” is planned for 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 7. For ticket information, call 816-232-1744.

The YWCA says statistics show 1 in 6 women will be assaulted in their lifetime. The Children's Advocacy Center says it annually sees about 600 children for counseling, and this year it will exceed that number.

More awareness, more education, more training — all are needed to confront this challenge.



Gathering explores keys to child abuse prevention

by Elizabeth Hewitt

Gov. Peter Shumlin identified opiate addiction as the greatest challenge to the prevention of child abuse and maltreatment in Vermont during a conference in Montpelier on Thursday.

The daylong event, hosted by Prevent Child Abuse Vermont in recognition of the organization's 40th anniversary, attracted more than 100 people, including several top state officials.

Shumlin spoke at the start of the day, lauding expansions of health care, early education and other systems that have occurred under his tenure — factors that he says improve the safety of children in the state.

However, Shumlin said substance abuse presents a persistent challenge to the state's child protection efforts.

“There is no greater victim of opiate addiction than kids,” Shumlin said.

“We live in a country now where big pharma has so much power and influence over politicians in Washington that we sit here looking at the victims, the kids, and trying to find the resources to pick up the pieces,” Shumlin said.

As Shumlin approaches the end of his administration, he called on the next governor to continue to push for reform on opiate prescription painkillers at a national level.

“My advice, my hope, my prayer would be this: that whoever we choose continues the vigorous outspoken fight against painkillers in this country,” Shumlin said.

The two leading gubernatorial candidates, Democrat Sue Minter and Republican Phil Scott, spoke at the event later in the day.

Both candidates discussed economic development as a way to curb rates of child poverty in Vermont, and touched on education and housing issues.

Asked about budgeting, both candidates said prevention of child abuse is a priority, but they took different approaches.

Scott said public safety is a key function of government. He plans to audit every state agency, including the Department for Children and Families, to see how effectively government tasks are being fulfilled.

“Prevention of child abuse is crucial, and finding ways to redirect dollars away from the process and to the people who are really actually in need requires constant, constant focus on improving the operation performance of every single agency,” Scott said.

Minter said assembling a balanced budget requires a balance of meeting immediate needs and investing in long-term programs, “because we all know that prevention actually helps reduce costs in the future.”

“We must be thinking about prevention and we must be meeting our needs,” Minter said.



Unique Child Abuse Training Hosted in Bentonville

by NWA

BENTONVILLE, AR -- Over the past couple months, the number of reported child abuse cases in Washington and Benton county have risen. But how do law enforcement officers train to respond to this?

At the Gunderson National Child Protection Training Center Thursday, a training for officers in how to investigate child abuse took place.

The officers were taught how to fully investigate any type of abuse call by using the center's Mock House. The Mock House is the only one of it's kind in the nation.

The house is a set-up in the condition of what some houses look like when police arrive to abuse calls.

Law enforcement during this training learn from start to finish what exact steps they should be taking to be ensuring they are properly investigating.

The center use's its one of a kind house, medical center, courtroom and interview rooms to complete the training.

Stephanie Morris, with the center, said this is the best way for officers to make mistakes and learn from them. She said, "Here we can help them, we can support them. We can give them tips and guidance so they can do a more thorough search that you don't get in the real world. So it's a really exciting training... a unique opportunity here in Bentonville."

The training only happens twice a year.



Princess Madeleine of Sweden: Why I'm Campaigning to End Child Sex Abuse

by Princess Madeleine

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, nearly 60,000 children were sexually abused in the United States in 2014. Globally, 18% of women and 8% of men report being victims of childhood sexual abuse. Despite these astronomical numbers, child sexual abuse is rarely discussed and solutions do not adequately address the public health crisis affecting such a large number of children.

We know that children who are sexually abused are at a greater risk for later mental health and anxiety syndromes, including depression and suicidal thoughts. The societal and economic consequences of not addressing the problem, or investing in prevention of, sexual abuse of children are grave. In 1999, my mother decided to use her voice to speak about children's rights and founded the World Childhood Foundation, which has since funded more than 1,000 projects in 20 countries. I have always admired my mother's courage and aim to continue her work in combatting child sexual abuse. Now as a mother of two, I am even more determined to help create a world free from sexual abuse for all children in our lifetime.

But it is not our children's obligation to keep themselves safe. We, as adults, have an obligation to ensure that our children are surrounded by child protectors.

Child sexual abuse thrives in silence. The first step in combatting sexual abuse is removing the stigma from discussing the abuse, which requires learning the facts, talking about it with our children and investing in prevention.

Learn the facts . We live in a digital world and it is crucial that technology is integrated in our fight. The new mobile app “Stewards of Children Prevention Toolkit” provides tools and educational resources for adults to prevent, recognize and respond to child sexual abuse.

Talk about it. Create a safe environment to talk to your child about sexual abuse, including body safety, anatomical language and personal boundaries.

Recognize the signs. The most common signs of sexual abuse are emotional and behavioral changes, such as “too perfect” behavior, withdrawal, fear, depression, unexplained anger and rebellion. Indirect physical signs can include anxiety, chronic stomach pain and headaches.

React responsibly. If a child shares that they have been abused, stay calm, praise the child's courage and listen.

As a new school year begins, let us commit together to keep our #EyesWideOpen and ensure that we keep the children in our lives safe from all forms of violence.

Her Royal Highness Princess Madeleine of Sweden works with the World Childhood Foundation and is the creator of the #EyesWideOpen initiative, to mobilize people to take action against childhood sexual assault.


Child Sex Abuse In Non-Christian Religions: Why We Need To Know More

by Ruth Gledhill

More research is needed into child sex abuse in other faiths besides Christianity, a new report says.

Nearly all the academic research that has been done into child sex abuse in an institutional setting has been based on Catholic abusers, with some also done on Anglican abusers.

But there has been little research into abuse by ministers of others faiths, or in non-Christian or non-religious settings.

A report commissioned by the Australian commission investigating institutional child sex abuse says: "The largest body of research from institutional contexts is based on child sexual abuse by clergy, and the majority of this research concerns Roman Catholic clergy.

"Although the research base in this area is sufficient to provide information about patterns of abuse and to allow some comparisons with literature based on perpetrators in general, there is little literature based on or including other religious denominations and almost no literature based on religious non-Christian institutional settings.

"There is a need for additional research based on perpetrators in non-Roman Catholic or non-Christian religious settings."

Australia's Royal Commission into Institutional Response to Child Sexual Abuse, set up in 2013, commissioned the report from academics at Adelaide University to look into the "characteristics, motivations and offending behaviour" of child sex abusers.

The aim was to aid understanding of offenders and help draw up strategies to help prevent such abuse in the future.

More than nine in 10 child sex abusers are male. Both men and women who sexually abuse children have often been abused themselves when they were children. They often suffered emotional abuse and neglect as children as well, including being exposed to violent pornography.

Most victims of clergy sex abuse are teenage boys, while most of those abused in educational settings in general are young girls, the report says.

Education is another area where more work is urgent.

The report says: "In educational settings, available research findings indicate the existence of sexual abuse by female perpetrators and by child or adolescent peers as well as abuse by male perpetrators.

"These findings suggest that further research is needed regarding sexual abuse by peers as well as abuse by female professionals, given the large number of female professionals present in educational settings."

The report found evidence that child sexual offenders report problems in loneliness, intimacy skills and social skills.

Regarding Catholic priest abusers, it says: "Those priests who had themselves experienced childhood sexual abuse engaged in sexually abusive behaviour for longer durations, engaged in abuse earlier in their ordained careers, had more male victims and victimised slightly older adolescents. They were also more likely to have exclusively male victims and to have substance abuse problems."

The report concludes: "There is a relatively small amount of literature concerning child sexual abusers in institutional settings, with the exception of the Roman Catholic Church. There is a need for considerably more research concerning child sexual abuse in institutional settings."

It adds: "In seeking to understand what is known about the characteristics of perpetrators, this review does not diminish or find justification for perpetrator behaviour; there is no justification for child sexual abuse."


Real-time streaming of child sexual abuse on the rise: Europol

by The Straits Times

THE HAGUE -- Live streaming of child sexual abuse and so-called "revenge porn" is on the rise on the Internet, Europe's police agency warned yesterday, saying vulnerable children are increasingly falling victim to sexual predators.

"Live distant child abuse is... being reported as a growing threat," Europol said in its latest annual Internet Organised Crime Threat Assessment, released at its headquarters in The Hague.

Live streaming of child sex abuse "involves a perpetrator directing the live abuse of children on a (pre-arranged) specific timeframe through video sharing platforms", Europol said in the 72-page report.

"The abuse can be 'tailored' to the requests of the soliciting offender(s) and recorded," it added.

More generally, "the volume, scope and material cost of cybercrime all remain on an upward trend and have reached very high levels", the agency said in a separate statement.

Most illegal activities take place in the so-called "dark net" or encrypted peer-to-peer networks, which offer a greater degree of anonymity to users.

Traditionally, live stream child abuse groups are based in South-east Asia, particularly the Philippines, but "more recent reports indicate that it is now spreading to other countries", Europol warned.

"Regions of the world with high levels of poverty, limited domestic child protection measures and easy access to children are being targeted by offenders," the policing agency said, without naming specific countries.

"The exploitation of children online is a huge problem for us," Mr Steven Wilson, Europol's cybercrime centre chief, told Agence France-Presse in an interview.

He added that cybercrime investigators have noticed a rise in so-called "revenge porn", where sexually explicit images are posted without another person's consent in order to harm that person or cause distress.

To counter these threats, Europol is working on a series of information videos on the dangers of online sexual abuse, which will soon be distributed in schools across various European countries.

The report also highlights other online cybercrimes, such as the growing threat of ransomware, that infects a victim's computer and then captures data, before demanding a payment for the data to be released.

Whereas ransomware used to target individual victims and small businesses, it now focused on major companies and even public institutions such as hospitals, Mr Wilson said.

"We have seen instances where hospitals have had their records locked out, potentially with fatal consequences," he said, referring to an ongoing case in the United States.

The report also touched on payment fraud, with logical and malware attacks against automated teller machines continuing to evolve and proliferate.

What's more, organised crime groups are starting to manipulate or compromise payments involving contactless near-field communication cards, according to the report.



Child-abuse prevention program expanding to Duval middle schools

by Tessa Duvall

A program that teaches thousands of children each year about preventing abuse is expanding this spring to reach area middle school students.

The Monique Burr Foundation for Children announced on Wednesday that it is piloting its new curriculum, Teen Safety Matters, in front of 15,000 students in Northeast Florida middle schools. Teen Safety Matters will cover bullying, cyber-bullying, abuse, digital safety, relationships, sexual assault and human trafficking, said Program Director Stacy Pendarvis.

The lessons build off the Child Safety Matters program, which was taught to 421,000 elementary children last year, including all elementary school students in Duval County, Pendarvis said. Since the program's creation 19 years ago, it has reached more than 1.5 million kids.

The foundation's curriculum was praised by child-abuse prevention advocate Erin Merryn, a survivor of years of childhood sexual abuse. Merryn, now 31, has used her experiences to advocate for Erin's Law, requiring all public schools to teach age-appropriate child sexual abuse prevention. The law has been passed in 28 states; Florida is not one.

Child Safety Matters “is one of the best, if not the best” curriculum available, Merryn, who has a master's degree in social work, said to an audience at the University of North Florida on Wednesday.

Merryn recounted being abused as a child, first by her best friend's uncle, then by her own cousin. When she learned her cousin was also sexually abusing her little sister, she came forward.

Schools and parents focus so much on teaching kids to avoid “stranger danger” that they fail to teach them that adults they know could hurt them, Merryn said. As a result, she said, the only message they get is from the abuser, who tells the child not to talk about it and that no one will believe the abuse occurred.

Merryn cited data that shows 93 percent of child victims are abused by someone they know, and that one in four girls and one in six boys are abused before age 18.

In December, President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act, which, in 2017-18, will make money available to support curriculum for child sexual-abuse prevention to be taught in schools. Because of this, Merryn said, states can no longer use the excuse that this is an unfunded mandate. And as for claims this will take away from other core lessons, Merryn said, “you can take a few hours out of the school year.” Students who are abused will act out and will be unable to learn, she said.

The new middle school program, like the elementary lessons, is designed to be age-appropriate and grow in depth each year, Pendarvis said.

The new programming grew out of a demand from school counselors, who were looking for a way to reach middle school students, she said. Middle school-aged children are “so vulnerable to online dangers,” Pendarvis said.

The curriculum is divided into three, 45-minute lessons and can be taught by school personnel who undergo the Teen Safety training, whether that's a teacher, counselor or nurse, Pendarvis said.

With $80,000 total from the Attorney General's office, the Mazda Foundation and the Community First Cares Foundation, the new curriculum was developed, Pendarvis said. But, in order for it to reach more students free of cost to the middle schools, the Monique Burr Foundation will need additional dollars.



State report on child abuse, neglect is out

by Bethanni Williams

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS 11)--A new report by state child welfare officials is giving a closer look at child abuse and neglect In Kentucky.

At least 9 Kentucky children died from child abuse or neglect over the past year and another 41 suffered life-threatening injuries at the hands of adults.

The numbers are preliminary and could rise as pending investigations into child deaths and injuries are completed.

Battering was listed as the primary cause of death or injury, followed by abusive head trauma, the report said.

Parents were the most frequent perpetrators, accounting for about 60 percent of the cases.

Most of the child victims were very young, with 71 percent under age 3.


Dept of Justice

Press Release

British Man Who Came to U.S. to Have Sex with Pre-Teen Boys Pleads Guilty and Agrees to 13-Year Sentence

LOS ANGELES – A British man who traveled to the Coachella Valley to have sex with pre-teen boys pleaded guilty today to transportation of child pornography and agreed to a 13-year prison sentence.

Paul Charles Wilkins, 70, of Littleport in East Cambridgeshire, England, a dual United States-United Kingdom citizen, was charged earlier this year in a four-count indictment for traveling with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct, attempted sex trafficking of children, transportation of child pornography, and possession of child pornography.

During the guilty plea hearing, Wilkins admitted that he traveled to the United States from the United Kingdom in January 2016 for the purpose of having sex with two brothers, 10 and 12 years old. Wilkins also admitted that in February 2016 he attempted to solicit a 9-year-old boy for anal intercourse in exchange for $250 at an apartment he had rented. In addition, Wilkins admitted he possessed child pornography on his computer and brought child pornography from the United Kingdom into the United States, including graphic sexual images of boys between the ages of 5 and 8 years old. Under the plea agreement filed in advance of Wilkins’s guilty plea hearing, Wilkins agreed to a sentence of 13 years’ imprisonment and a lifetime of supervised release.

“This defendant’s conduct was extremely dangerous,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “He sought to have sex with another boy immediately after his original arrangements to have sex with the two pre-teen boys fell apart. It is critical, therefore, that today’s guilty plea will keep defendant in prison for well-over a decade.”

Wilkins, who has been ordered held without bond, is currently scheduled to be sentenced before United States District Judge Dolly M. Gee on January 11, 2017.

“This defendant learned firsthand the fate that awaits predators who come to this country to sexually exploit our children,” said Joseph Macias, special agent in charge for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Los Angeles. “HSI special agents continue to work tirelessly to identify individuals who’re engaged in this reprehensible practice and ensure they’re held accountable for their actions. Above all, our collaborative efforts have prevented countless children from falling prey to these traveling pedophiles, who wrongly believe that purchasing an airline ticket and boarding a plane puts them out of the reach of the law.”

The investigation into Wilkins was conducted by special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Christina T. Shay.

Tracy Webb, Director of External Affairs
United States Attorney’s Office – Central District of California



Indiana woman accused in deaths of kids believed to be hers

by The Associated Press

ELKHART, Ind. (AP) — A mother has been arrested on two preliminary counts of murder after two children believed to be her son and daughter were found dead in a vehicle in northern Indiana, and police found the body of a man who they believe was an acquaintance of the woman.

Elkhart police said Tuesday that they believe the children found dead a day earlier are siblings Liliana Hernandez, 7, and Rene Pasztor, 6. Police had issued an Amber Alert for the children Monday, saying they were "believed to be in extreme danger."

Police released no details about how the children died. Autopsies were scheduled Tuesday morning in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Elkhart police said the children's mother, 29-year-old Amber Pasztor, of Fort Wayne, Indiana, was arrested Monday on two preliminary counts of murder. She was being held in the Elkhart County jail and has yet to be formally charged.

Elkhart police Sgt. Chris Snyder said investigators were working Tuesday "to put the pieces together" and determine what happened between the time the two youngsters were abducted in Fort Wayne and when the two bodies believed to be theirs were found in the city about 70 miles to the northwest.

Snyder said Pasztor parked outside the city's police department Monday evening and began speaking to an officer who was leaving after completing his shift.

"She pulled up to him and explained to him that she was part of the Amber Alert and the two kids were in the back seat," Snyder said, adding that the officer then saw the bodies of two children in the car.

He said police have no indication of a motive in the case. Snyder said Pasztor was initially cooperative following her arrest before "she became pretty emotional. And that's kind of where our detectives left it last night."

It wasn't immediately clear whether Pasztor had an attorney who could comment on her behalf.

Capt. Steve Stone of the Allen County Sheriff's Department said officers were searching for 65-year-old Frank Macomber, who authorities believe was with Pasztor at some point Monday, when they found the body of an older male early Tuesday in a wooded area near Macomber's Fort Wayne home.

An autopsy is planned Tuesday to determine the man's identity and cause of death.

Pasztor did not have legal custody of the children, police said. Police declined to say who the children were living with when they were abducted or why they were taken.

Police "are still actively investigating the case" and prosecutors haven't received their findings, Elkhart County Prosecutor's office spokeswoman Shelley Murphy said. She added that a magistrate will review probable cause information in the case Wednesday and formal charges will be filed later this week against Pasztor.



Govt urged to remove ticking clock on child abuse justice

by Bension Siebert

The Law Society of South Australia is urging the State Government to remove the three-year statute of limitations on civil claims brought by survivors of child abuse against perpetrators.

Currently, a person claiming compensation for damages related to child abuse in South Australia must do so within three years of their 18 th birthday – or go through a lengthy process to secure an exemption from the time limit.

Law Society President David Caruso has written to Attorney-General John Rau, arguing that the time limit is a cruel impediment to justice for people who may suffer the consequences of abuse throughout their lifetime.

“Child abuse can resonate and manifest itself in hardship for the victim's entire life,” Caruso's letter, sent last week, reads.

“Some persons, thankfully, recover but many are adversely affected, as are their relationships and the people around them.

“Imposing a time limit on recognition of their abuse is a cruel demarcation of their rights when the effects of the abuse they have suffered [are] not so limitable by time.”

Liberal Party Deputy Leader Vickie Chapman will introduce a private member's bill into parliament to extend the three-year time limit this week.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse recommended that state and territory governments remove limitation periods for civil litigation by survivors of child abuse against their abusers in a report published last year.

The New South Wales parliament passed legislation to remove the time limit in February this year. The Queensland Government introduced legislation to follow suit last month.

However, Rau told InDaily the ex-gratia payments scheme for victims of child abuse in South Australia operated as an alternative to legal action, and was a superior approach to that taken in New South Wales, which he described as “legalistic”.

Law Society representative and principal of Maurice Blackburn Lawyers Tony Kerin told InDaily survivors of child abuse should not have to endure the expense and complication of securing an exemption on the statute of limitations before pursuing a case.

“It's hard enough proving an injury [that occurred] 20 or 30 years ago,” said Kerin.

“In these horrific cases … there shouldn't be this extra hurtle you need to jump.

“We think it's time that these particular injury event is given special treatment.”

Senior lecturer in the University of Adelaide's School of Psychology Rachel Roberts told InDaily it often takes survivors of child abuse many years to be ready to speak to anyone about their experiences, let alone take legal action.

“People are coping with the impact that it's had in their life … often silently, and not sharing it with other people,” Roberts said.

“Some people hope that as they head into their adult years that these things will fade away [but] realise that some of that impact just doesn't go away.

“What can happen for some people is that the strong memories and the implications for them don't come up until they parents themselves [and] sometimes it's moving into a sexual relationships as an adult [that triggers memories of past abuse].”

The Royal Commission's report argued that limitation periods are a significant, sometimes insurmountable, barrier to survivors pursuing civil litigation”.

“We are satisfied that current limitation periods are inappropriate given the length of time that many survivors of child sexual abuse take to disclose their abuse.

“We consider that state and territory governments should implement our recommendations to remove limitation periods as soon as possible.”



Communication, expression important in helping survivors heal from trauma

by Lorri Drumm

EDINBORO — "We all experience trauma on some level," Matthew Sandusky told an audience gathered at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania Monday. "For me this happened on a very public stage, but we are all survivors. We all hurt when words are misused and we are re-victimized."

Sandusky was the keynote speaker at Monday's Third Annual Trauma Informed and Resilient Communities Conference, "Building and Sustaining Trauma Informed Communities," held at the university. His personal experience of sexual abuse from the age of 8 to 17 at the hands of his adoptive father, Jerry Sandusky, motivated him to use that trauma to help other survivors heal.

Jerry Sandusky, a former assistant football coach at Penn State University from 1969 to 1999, was found guilty on 45 of 48 counts of sexual abuse of young boys over a 15-year period from 1994 to 2009. He was sentenced in 2012 to 30 to 60 years in prison.

The free day-long conference was filled to capacity. It included speakers, a wide variety of workshops for skill development and even a drumming session intended as a tool for communication and expression.

Mela Calomino led a group of about 20 attendees with an assortment of percussion instruments as they took turns going around the circle and played in unison. Calomino has been employed by Crawford County Human Services in various capacities in child welfare since 2000. She is a certified instructor/facilitator of a variety of trainings including HealthRHYTHMs Group Drumming through Remo Inc.

"Drumming gives you the power of expression," she told the group. "It's a way of learning give and take." The session took on a life of its own as the sounds varied from soft sounds imitating a sense of calm to a thunderous roar that filled the room.

Sandusky's presentation immediately followed the drumming session. You could have heard a pin drop as all eyes and ears were on him, as he told his story to those in attendance.

Sandusky is the founder and executive director of the Peaceful Hearts Foundation, which provides survivor-informed advocacy with the purpose of preventing the sexual victimization of children by educating children and adults about sexual predators, promoting awareness of sexual abuse laws and supporting survivors and their families through the recovery process.

Sandusky and his wife formed the foundation in 2014. In November 2011, Jerry Sandusky was arrested for sexually assaulting at least 10 young boys. Months of soul-searching, strength and courage led Matthew to contact authorities about the abuse that he had suffered. He told the crowd he never thought he would talk about what happened to him, but after his secret was leaked to the media, he chose to use his voice for the first time as a way to bring about change.

Sandusky started his speech at the beginning by talking about his life with his biological family. He described living in a home shared with seven to eight adults and 10 children. The house had no running water and not a single adult male role model. He lived there after his mother left an abusive relationship with his biological father.

Never during his childhood did Sandusky learn that physical or sexual abuse was wrong. Nobody spoke up or tried to stop it, he said. "It was accepted by everyone around me," he said.

As a teenager he got into legal trouble, and Jerry Sandusky entered the picture. "I was sent to The Second Mile," Sandusky said.

The Second Mile was a nonprofit organization for underprivileged youth, providing help for at-risk children and support for their parents in Pennsylvania. It was founded in 1977 by Jerry Sandusky. "I was labeled the troublemaker and he was the savior of children," Sandusky said. "Everyone thought he was bigger than life. He turned out to be the most prolific child sex offender ever. He really perfected his craft."

There's still anger in Sandusky's voice as he describes the scandal as a missed opportunity for the state and a community. "We had a chance to show the world how to come together as a community to make sure this never happens to children again," he said, "Instead, the focus was about who coaches a football team. I say, who cares? We need to care more about the children."

Included in the audience taking in the story Sandusky shared were numerous agency directors and staff from Crawford County who see stories similar to Sandusky's on a daily basis.

"In my capacity as executive director for Women's Services, an organization dedicated to helping victims of domestic and sexual violence, I see the impact devastating crimes have on people every day," Bruce Harlan said. "I see the cumulative effects traumatizing events have on survivors of violence. Many adopt unhealthy habits as a way of coping."

Not everyone who experiences trauma develops emotional, physical and behavioral problems, Harlan said. "Healing is possible and resilience can be enhanced," he said. "In fact, we can prevent these traumatic events from happening in the first place. We can embed prevention, screening and treatment resources into all of our existing systems that serve children and families."

"This is why I am participating on Crawford County System of Care partnership team," Harlan said. "Working as equal and trusted partners, the System of Care wants to create a seamless, integrated and coordinated system of supports for children, youth and families that is family and youth-driven, strength-based and trauma-informed."

Harlan is also involved in the System of Care subcommittee, Peace4Crawford initiative. The subcommittee is made up of school, health care, human services, faith-based and other allied professional personnel from across the county, according to Harlan. One goal of the initiative is to see every county resident have a basic awareness of ACEs (adverse childhood experiences) and trauma and its impact across a lifespan, he said.

Gail Kelly, director of Crawford County Human Services, has worked all of her adult life in social services in Crawford County. Kelly hopes that family members, service professionals and government leaders will walk away from the conference with an increased understanding and awareness of trauma and the long-term negative impact it can have on a person's life. "We need to change the way we interact with others to avoid re-traumatizing and begin to assist in the healing process," she said. "The negative effects of trauma are staggering."

In her years working in social services, Kelly has seen progress in addressing trauma in the county. "I think the way we interact with people is changing. It is clear in social service agencies that workers and agencies are better informed about trauma," she said. "We are identifying trauma sooner and are more educated about treatment options."

Kelly sees the conference as a means to improve the future for Crawford County. "We need to continue our educational outreach efforts to all sectors of the community, not just social service agencies," she said. "Schools, churches, shop keepers and other community members are starting to come on board to help us become a trauma-informed community.

"We need to increase the array of services and providers that are available to assist individuals on their road to recovery," Kelly said. "We are heading the right direction, but we still have a ways to go."

"When you leave this conference I hope you all come together and say 'enough is enough,'" Sandusky told the crowd in closing. "If we teach our children what is right, generation by generation, we can put a stop to child sexual abuse."


New Jersey

Child Abuse Background Checks For School Employees Goes To NJ Senate

by Jerry DeMarco

Public school teachers, bus drivers and camp counselors in New Jersey would have to undergo a child abuse background check if a measure being considered by the state Senate becomes law.

“How many teachers, camp counselors, bus drivers and school employees are child abusers? Under current New Jersey law, we simply do not know,” said state Sen. Anthony Bucco, the measure's sponsor. “It is appalling that New Jersey does not require background checks that red flag employees with substantiated claims of child abuse.”

Employees and job candidates currently undergo a criminal background check that doesn't show substantiated claims of child abuse.

The new measure would have them joining all daycare workers and private preschool employees in undergoing a Child Abuse Record Information check.

“A standard criminal background check is simply not enough," said Bucco (R-Morris). "Unless we mandate CARI checks for all job candidates and current employees at New Jersey's public schools, we will fail to protect a number of innocent children from the horrors of child abuse.

"This dangerous oversight in state law must be corrected immediately.”

S-1210 would require current school district employees, job candidates, and contracted service providers -- including school bus drivers -- who are required under current law to undergo a criminal history record check to also be required to undergo a child abuse record information check.

The child abuse record information check would be conducted by the Department of Children and Families, which maintains the state's child abuse registry. The bill would also apply to camp counselors.

Offenders are placed on the CARI list only if the claims of child abuse have been substantiated.

"The thought of having one's child taught in school or driven on a bus by a child abuser is frightening,” said Rich Pompelio, the founder of New Jersey Crime Victims' Rights Law Center.

“I am pleased that [supporters] heard the voices of the many child victims who have been placed at risk by those entrusted each day to guard their safety," Pompelio said. "This bill should reach the governor's desk with lightning speed.”



Disturbing campaign to curb child abuse

Images mild compared with reality of problem

by Carol Sanders

A menacing man hovers over a little girl cowering on her bed in the dark. An adult with a camera comes out of the shadows, closing in on a child.

The unsettling images are part of a national campaign launched Monday to get people to report the online sexual exploitation of children, said Signy Arnason, director of The tip line was started 14 years ago this month by the Canadian Centre for Child Protection.

"It's certainly something that's pushing the boundaries a bit more than we typically would," said Arnason with the Winnipeg-based organization. "It's hard to misinterpret what you're seeing in these images." The images designed by an ad agency for the campaign are mild compared to the scope and severity of the problem, she said.

"The real horror show is the stats," said Arnason. receives an average of more than 2,000 reports per month.

In January, the report Child Sexual Abuse Images on the Internet: A Analysis reviewed close to 152,000 reports, examining 43,762 unique images and videos classified as child pornography.

Nearly 80 per cent of the images assessed by depicted pre-pubescent children under the age of 12, with the majority of those being under the age of eight, and nearly seven per cent were babies or toddlers.

Half of all images showed explicit sexual activity and assaults — and almost 70 per cent of the images appeared to have been taken within a home setting, the report said.

"It is an absolute horror what is going on here," said Arnason. "We've got to do a better job of tackling this issue."

The centre is encouraging parents and adult members of the community to visit to view the campaign and to engage in the conversation on social media using the hashtag #ctipday2016.

"We want to remind people that when they're online and come across concerning behaviour involving other adults with children we want them reporting that," said Arnason.

"The really important reminder at the heart of this issue is we're talking about childhood sexual abuse," she said. Reporting it early enough in the process allows authorities to take further steps to prevent it from being shared and getting Internet service providers to remove it, said Arnason.

"The sooner we know about it, the less likely it becomes popularly traded and shared," she said.

In the coming weeks the centre is bringing together experts from around the world to develop global recommendations to support the victims and to look for innovative solutions to address the issue of online child sexual abuse imagery, it said in a news release.

For more information see or call (866) 658-9022.



Lawmaker seeks stronger child sex abuse lawsuits bill


HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A Pennsylvania lawmaker who has told of his victimization as a child by a Roman Catholic priest said Tuesday that he will keep fighting for legislation to allow onetime-child sexual abuse victims to sue for damages, despite the measure's rejection in the Senate as the legislative session winds down.

Rep. Mark Rozzi, D-Berks, is backed by top House lawmakers, victim advocates and both major party candidates for state attorney general — Republican John Rafferty and Democrat Josh Shapiro — as part of wider legislation to respond to child sexual abuse cover-ups.

The provision would revive the ability of people to sue for damages if they are now older than the current legal age limit of 30 to sue. It is opposed by the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference and the Insurance Federation of Pennsylvania, which represents for-profit insurers.

Jennifer Storm, the state's victim advocate, said that the provision is the right thing to do for victims and that she did not want to have to tell age-limited victims, "sorry, today is not your day," if the Legislature decides against helping them.

Attorney General Bruce R. Beemer has lent his support to the measure as state prosecutors are investigating allegations of child sex abuse in Roman Catholic Church dioceses across the state after uncovering a long-running scandal in the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese.

The widening investigation has inflamed an emotional debate in Pennsylvania, and states are increasingly relaxing statutes of limitations to give victims who are now older a new window to sue.

Another vote in the House is expected in mid-October, according to House GOP officials. That would leave the Senate a handful of scheduled session days to respond in the waning two-year legislative session.

The House approved the provision overwhelmingly in April as part of a wider bill that would lift other time limits for perpetrators of child sexual abuse to be sued by their victims and prosecuted by authorities.

The Senate blocked it in June amid concerns that it conflicts with constitutional case law. Rozzi said he is trying to change senators' minds on the provision, and Beemer and others say there is a reasonable case to be made for its constitutionality and it should be up to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to settle it.

The Senate returned the bill with the other provisions intact, including one that went further than the House bill in providing avenues for future victims to sue.

A Senate GOP spokeswoman on Tuesday accused Rozzi of holding up those other provisions.

"He's holding victims hostage and he's handcuffing law enforcement because every day that this goes unpassed is another day that the statute of limitations expires for a child rape victim," spokeswoman Jennifer Kocher said.

Rozzi said his fight isn't about him, but about helping all victims in Pennsylvania, "past, present and future."

"The reason we are here today is because of the Altoona-Johnstown report that came out that discussed past victims," Rozzi said. "If the Senate wants to keep deny, deny, deny or try to put blame on me, that's on them, they have to wear that coat, not me. ... I know when I go home at night, I can sleep."


from ICE

Former Louisiana teacher sentenced to 15 years in federal prison for transporting child pornography

NEW ORLEANS – A former Louisiana teacher was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison Wednesday for one count of transporting child pornography. The sentencing follows an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Louisiana Department of Justice and the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office.

Don Francis, Jr., 46, of Metairie, previously admitted during his guilty plea in April 2016, that he transported child pornography. According to court documents, Feb. 5, 2014, HSI and state and local investigators executed a search warrant of Francis' residence and discovered child pornography on a computer maintained and controlled by Francis. HSI computer forensic agents located 5,378 images and 362 videos depicting the sexual victimization of children, some of whom were infants, on Francis' computer.

“We cannot, and will not, allow people in positions of trust to go unpunished”, said Special Agent in Charge of HSI New Orleans Raymond R. Parmer, Jr. “We expect people with access to our children to have their best interests at heart. We will continue to work diligently with our law enforcement partners to protect our children from predators like this.”

Parmer is the Special Agent in Charge of the New Orleans field office with responsibility for Louisiana, Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee.

In addition to his prison term, U.S. District Judge Sarah S. Vance ordered Francis to serve a lifetime of supervised release following the completion of his prison sentence. Francis was also ordered to pay $8,000 in restitution to his victims and will also be required to register as a sex offender upon his release.

The sentence was announced by U.S. Attorney Kenneth A. Polite of the Eastern District of Louisiana. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian M. Klebba.

This investigation was conducted under HSI's Operation Predator, an international initiative to protect children from sexual predators. Since the launch of Operation Predator in 2003, HSI has arrested more than 14,000 individuals for crimes against children, including the production and distribution of online child pornography, traveling overseas for sex with minors, and sex trafficking of children. In fiscal year 2015, nearly 2,400 individuals were arrested by HSI special agents under this initiative and more than 1,000 victims identified or rescued.

HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. From outside the U.S. and Canada, callers should dial 802-872-6199. Hearing impaired users can call TTY 802-872-6196.

Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST.

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


from ICE

New sex trafficking law results in first guilty verdict in Tampa

TAMPA, Fla. – In the first verdict from the updated federal sex trafficking law, a Tampa man was found guilty of attempted sex trafficking of a child by a federal jury on Sept. 12. He faces a minimum mandatory penalty of 10 years, up to life, in federal prison. This case was investigated by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

According to evidence presented at trial, Matheus William Geronasso, 23, of Tampa, responded to an advertisement posted on by a person looking for individuals willing to pay to have sex with his girlfriend's 14-year-old daughter. Unbeknownst to Geronasso, the ad had been placed by an undercover agent with HSI. Geronasso sent several text messages stating that he wanted to have sex with the 14-year-old girl. After negotiating the price, Geronasso drove to the designated location, met with an undercover agent, and paid to have sex with the child. He was indicted on March 26 and his sentencing hearing is scheduled for Dec. 14, 2016.

“Not only have we stopped a predator from harming children,” said Susan L. McCormick, special agent in charge of HSI Tampa. “But this verdict also sets precedence that the demand for child sex trafficking, by “johns,” is a crime that will be investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

On May 29, 2015, S. 178, the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015, was signed into law. It included the attempted sex trafficking of a child, in other words, addressing the demand and investigating and prosecuting the customers, or “johns.”  The code was updated to add the words “solicits or patronizes” to the sex trafficking statute making absolutely clear for judges, juries, prosecutors, and law enforcement officials that criminals who purchase sexual acts from human trafficking victims may be arrested, prosecuted, and convicted as sex trafficking offenders when this is merited by the facts of a particular case.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Lisa M. Thelwell and Josephine W. Thomas, with the office of U.S. Attorney A. Lee Bentley, III, Middle District of Florida.

This investigation was conducted under HSI's Operation Predator, an international initiative to protect children from sexual predators. Since the launch of Operation Predator in 2003, HSI has arrested more than 14,000 individuals for crimes against children, including the production and distribution of online child pornography, traveling overseas for sex with minors, and sex trafficking of children. In fiscal year 2015, nearly 2,400 individuals were arrested by HSI special agents under this initiative and more than 1,000 victims identified or rescued.

HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. From outside the U.S. and Canada, callers should dial 802-872-6199. Hearing impaired users can call TTY 802-872-6196.

Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST.

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


from ICE

West Texas man sentenced to more than 11 years in federal prison for enticing a minor to have sex with him

ABILENE, Texas — A West Texas man was sentenced Monday to 135 months in federal prison, following his guilty plea in May 2016 to one count of enticement of a minor.

This sentence was announced by U.S. Attorney John Parker of the Northern District of Texas.  This case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Abilene (Texas) Police Department, and the Taylor County (Texas) Sheriff's Office.

William David Harden, 65, formerly of Tye, Texas, has been in custody since his arrest based on a federal indictment in August 2015.

According to documents filed in this case, from about May to July 2015, Harden engaged in a cellphone texting relationship with a female minor under age 17.  Specifically, in early July 2015, Harden knowingly persuaded, induced, and enticed, and attempted to persuade, induce and entice this minor female to have sex with him, suggesting to the girl that by doing so, she could repay him for arranging to get a motel room where she could meet up with a friend.

At the Sept. 19 sentencing hearing, U.S. District Judge Reed C. O'Connor also ordered that Harden forfeit his 2008 pickup truck that he used to transport this girl and another minor to that motel.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven M. Sucsy, of the U.S. Attorney's Office in Lubbock, Texas, was in charge of this prosecution.

This investigation was conducted under HSI's Operation Predator, an international initiative to protect children from sexual predators. Since the launch of Operation Predator in 2003, HSI has arrested more than 14,000 individuals for crimes against children, including the production and distribution of online child pornography, traveling overseas for sex with minors, and sex trafficking of children. In fiscal year 2015, nearly 2,400 individuals were arrested by HSI special agents under this initiative and more than 1,000 victims identified or rescued.

HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. From outside the U.S. and Canada, callers should dial 802-872-6199. Hearing impaired users can call TTY 802-872-6196.

Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST.

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



Survivor abuse body's role attacked by experts who designed it

by Stephen Naysmith

A BODY that supports adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse has been attacked as "unacceptable and unethical" by the experts who originally helped design it.

Sarah Nelson and Anne Macdonald advised on and helped the Scottish Government establish Survivor Scotland, which aims improve the lives of people who have suffered abuse.

They have written an open letter to ministers, published in today's Herald, protesting over the new direction the strategy is taking. They argue it has lost sight of what survivors actually need and want.

It is signed by leading figures from charities working with adult and child victims of abuse across the country.

They say the national strategy for survivors of childhood abuse has changed from one supporting victims to help each other and shape the services they need.

The authors of the letter say it now ofoffers mostly medical and psychological support to adult abuse survivors and removes funding from any form of group support.

They argue the government would never treat victims of rape or domestic violence the same way, and say people abused at children have suffered a crime not a disease.

It is unthinkable, they add, that any political party or local council would treat survivors of other crimes as "weak" people who are only offered post-traumatic support or medical "interventions".

Current policy gives no active role to survivors of sexual abuse in shaping Scottish strategy despite their wisdom and experience, the letter says, a situation they also describe as "unthinkable".

Meanwhile experienced organisations have been required to justify their existence and provide business plans before they can bid for funding, it is claimed. The treatment of established charities supporting survivors as "amateurish outfits" is shameful, the letter says.

Eleven experts have signed the letter including Janine Rennie, chief executive of Falkirk based Open Secret, Laurie Matthew, manager of Dundee-based child abuse charity 18 and under, Dawn Fyfe of Glasgow's Say Women and Jan MacLeod of the Women's Support Project.

The experts also claim abuse prevention and protection from abuse have fallen off the agenda.

"This is unacceptable and unethical. SurvivorScotland strategy is now at odds with the original intention of this pioneering Scottish initiative. It was survivor centred, working actively with survivors and their agencies in shaping it."

The letter added: "Current adult survivor strategy flies in the face of longstanding Government principles on opposing sexual violence, putting Survivor Scotland and its funding policy strongly at odds with Scottish Government strategy against rape and domestic abuse."

The attack adds to the pressure on Deputy First Minister John Swinney over policies relating to adult victims of abuse, at a time when the troubled Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry is still facing criticisms from victims groups.

Survivor Scotland will offer support to those taking part in the inquiry, but will also cover others affected outside care. Around 80 per cent of adult survivors of child abuse say they were harmed at home or in the community.

Sarah Nelson said Survivor Scotland had lost its way: "It is treating survivors as people who are ill, not as people who have something positive to contribute to their own recovery."

"The principle of survivors supporting each other has disappeared. I've lost all confidence in this team and I don' t believe what we've got shows respect for survivors of sexual abuse or their long-standing supporters," she said.

Janine Rennie added: "The charities involved are all of the same view - the model on offer is completely inappropriate for survivors. This is not what was intended when Survivor Scotland was set up, survivors are being let down. Across the board, survivors are telling us this isn't what they want."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We have made real progress in delivering what survivors told us they wanted through the InterAction process, including a greatly expanded support fund of £13.5 million over five years to co-ordinate access to and deliver resources, integrated care and support for those who were abused in care.

"The new services have been shaped and informed by nationwide consultation and engagement with survivors and service providers.

“It is incorrect to suggest we are solely focused on treatment or exclusively on survivors of in-care abuse, as we are delivering a clear strategy for prevention, awareness-raising, training and innovation in third sector practice, as well as improving treatment where this is needed.”




Selection process for foster carers fails those most in need of help

by Brigitte Dwyer

THE shocking, tragic and completely avoidable death of Tiahleigh Palmer highlights the failure of our foster care system.

The immediate reaction to the death of the 12-year-old girl will be calls for more stringent tests for foster carers.

The truth is the selection process for foster carers is already so long, complicated and inappropriate that it drives most applicants away.

Those who stick it out, who jump through all the hoops and tick all the boxes, are often the ones with the worst motives – those who see foster care as a source of income.

One of the most common questions at the foster care information night is “How much carer payment will I receive?”

The whole process is wrong. It should be thrown out, and the organisations who select families – under the auspices of the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services – should begin again from scratch. But this time, they should not appoint themselves sole judges of a person's character or a family's motives.

As the system now operates, young and often unexperienced social workers make decisions about who and who is not an appropriate carer. They make regular visits to a house to interview the applicant, and come to their own final assessment about the suitability of the family. And they make bad decisions.

Instead of making a decision in a vacuum, these organisations need to draw on community resources to establish the character of a potential carer and a family.

If a family is a well-functioning and safe place, there will be reams of evidence to support this.

Let me give you an example. Last month I went to a foster care information session. It is the second time I have attended, and this time I was hoping that the process had been overhauled and a more rational approach taken.

I am a primary school teacher and have worked for many schools. I am a parent of four children, all of whom attended the same primary and secondary schools. I am well known as an active parent and volunteer at each of these schools. My children have almost all finished schooling, and have sound records of attendance and achievement. I still have a strong association with the school that my now 21-year-old son attended as a four-year-old. There are dozens of teachers, principals and support staff who would verify that my family is a safe, supportive and loving setting.

None of this information is relevant in an application for foster care. The selection process disregards every piece of background information about a family and begins with a clean slate. They believe that they have superior processes for selecting families.

This process has one effect – to drive away decent families willing to open their homes to provide short or long-term care for vulnerable children.

The screening process is onerous, unnecessarily lengthy and hostile. It takes months, requires hours and hours of time commitment, and involves a lengthy, stage-by-stage approval process.

The process includes extensive training modules, regular home visits by teams of social workers, intense scrutinising of lifestyle and home life, psychological and medical assessments for all household members, lengthy interviews and an array of references. The team of social workers eventually makes a decision about whether the family is volunteering for “the right reasons”.

Foster care in Australia is in crisis mode. The number of registered foster carers is plummeting as quickly as the number of vulnerable children is increasing. These are children who have experienced, or are at risk of experiencing, sexual, physical or emotional abuse or neglect.

The selection process has utterly failed to weed out the abusers, and has instead discouraged families who share a common sense of decency and a desire to create a good society.

Vulnerable children are now spending nights in office buildings with caseworkers, or are allocated to residential care institutions. This is a shameful outcome, and defies the overwhelming evidence that the best environment for the physical and emotional wellbeing of a child is in a family-like setting.



Child Sex-Trafficking Safe House In East Bay Used By Pimps As Recruiting Center


HAYWARD (KPIX) — The number of reported human-trafficking cases in California has skyrocketed 86 percent since 2012.

Social services agencies are struggling to provide help for a growing number of victims, many of them children. But a KPIX 5 investigation reveals that sometimes such help can backfire with tragic consequences.


It started off as any other morning, with Nitza's daughter Anjelique going off to school. But the troubled 12-year-old had a different plan. This was the day she was going to run away from home.

“I get a call from her school stating that she ran off the bus as soon as she reached the school — and was gone,” said Nitza.

Anjelique's grandmother made fliers, posting photos of the missing child all over the Bay Area. “I was going through anger, confusion, just fearing the unknown,” said Nitza.

Police ended up finding Anjelique but they didn't bring her back to her mother. Instead they dropped her off at Alameda County Social Services' assessment center in Hayward. It's where children at risk are first taken to safety. But Nitza says, for Anjelique, it was the opposite.

The family says Anjelique made friends with a teenage girl on that very first night at the shelter, who took her to a nearby motel. That's where the family says she first got lured into the sex-trafficking pipeline.

“It doesn't surprise me,” said Christopher Watson. A counselor with Bay Area Women against Rape , Watson works with sexually exploited children and has helped Anjelique through her struggles. “This is not just California, it's everywhere,” he said.”From our experience exploiters will go to places where they know that there are kids who are more susceptible to being exploited.”

He says, even though the county keeps the assessment center's location a secret, pimps know exactly where it is and could potentially use children inside to recruit others.

“A lot of children when they are commercially and sexually exploited they are groomed by the exploiter to essentially become what we call a peer recruiter,” Watson said.

Over several days and nights we videotaped activity at the motel that Anjelique was taken to. It's a busy place. We saw young women arriving in the evening. Others lingering at the doors of rooms. We watched various men visit those rooms. While others escorted women into cars, whisking them away only to bring them back hours later. And there always seemed to be someone on the lookout.

Up the street at the assessment center, no sign of activity. But Anjelique's grandmother is convinced exploiters are lurking in the shadows. “So you think there are pimps that are waiting outside the assessment center?” we asked her. “I believe so. Otherwise how could it happen to Anjelique you know? She doesn't know the area, She has never been by herself outside.”

“Ultimately state-law-wise, we can't physically prevent them from leaving,” said Jodie Langs, director of policy and communication at the West Coast Children's Clinic, a private company that runs the assessment center under contract with county Social Services.

Langs says peer recruitment is a problem and the staff has strategies for stopping it.

“If we have youth come in where there's a concern that they are already being exploited and they might recruit other youth, our staff will staff that child, work with that youth separately, monitor interactions with other youth.”

“This is a girl whose life changed drastically because of where she stayed for a very short amount of time and how close a nearby motel was, pulling her into that pipeline, so she might've been better off not going to the assessment center. What do you say to that?” we asked Langs. Her response: “That's a very good question. And I think that's why it's really important that we develop these alternative resources so that the assessment center is not the only option.”

But for Anjelique it was the only option. And that, her mother says, is unacceptable.

“Why would you put an assessment center literally walking distance from the stroll? From these hotel rooms? I don't know whether it's the law or whatever but that needs to change,” said Nitza.

Meanwhile, like countless other sexually exploited children, Anjelique's pimps got her addicted to heroin. She's now in a rehab facility.



State's third shelter for child sex trafficking victims looks to open in West Texas

Lubbock-based OneVo!ceHome seeking funds for ranch for underage victims

by Sarah Rafique

As child sex trafficking gains the attention of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, members of the Lubbock community hope to provide much-needed shelter and rehabilitation services for underage victims in West Texas.

In Lubbock alone, 23 of the 109 sex-trafficking victims receiving counseling are underage, said Kim Stark, executive director for Voice of Hope: Rape Crisis Center in Lubbock.

Statewide, however, there are only two sex-trafficking shelters with only 26 beds for children to have a temporary safe haven from the sexual abuse and psychological manipulation they endure from their traffickers.

OneVo!ceHome, a faith-based group in Lubbock, hopes to change that by opening Texas' third shelter by the end of the year.

“The only options right now for these kids are juvenile justice, which they're not criminals, they're victims,” said Peggy Galanos, president of OneVo!ceHome. “When we find them, we just don't have a place for them. A lot of times if they're standing trial against their pimp we have to put them in juvie or somewhere to protect them until they can testify. That's where we'd like to come in and give these kids a safe place, away from the city.”

The nonprofit is currently looking to purchase a 130-acre ranch in West Texas that will serve as many female juvenile sex-trafficking victims as it can, Galanos said. The average age for a sex trafficking victim in Lubbock is 15.

Sex trafficking has become a large enough issue in Texas that the Governor's Child Sex Trafficking Team was created as a result of the 84th Legislature, said John Wittman, press secretary for the Office of the Governor, in an email to A-J Media.

“(The team) works with law enforcement, the child protection and juvenile justice systems, and other public and private stakeholders to enhance Texas' capability to prevent and recognize child sex trafficking, provide rehabilitative services to its victims and prosecute those involved in the sexual exploitation of children,” Wittman said. “The effort began in earnest in June, when (the team) hosted three focus groups to gather information and input from over 100 stakeholders on the scope of child sex trafficking, the gaps in services and programs, and solutions to the issues the state is facing.”

OneVo!ceHome is a part of the team and attended its first meeting in June.

“The governor has elevated this (issue). He wants to do something about this and the neat thing is we have a seat at the table,” Galanos said. “Lubbock, Texas, is on their radar. We feel good about that; we just need to get the ranch either built or purchased.”

The shelter's board is thankful for the donations they have received so far. They are still seeking additional donations, large and small, to help with the project's initial cost, which is estimated to be $4.2 million. Once the shelter is up and running, Galanos said its operational costs will be taken care of through various grants and state funding.

While some shelters only offer a temporary solution to rescuing the sex-trafficking victims, Galanos said OneVo!ceHome is dreaming bigger.

“Ours is going to be a long-term residential shelter,” she said. “These are kids we'll probably be raising; these will be our children, our girls. They're not just a tragic statistic.”

Wittman said the governor's team's top priority is to develop and enhance trauma-informed services for child sex-trafficking survivors as well as bring awareness to it in order to prevent other children from becoming victimized.

“In order for victims of sex trafficking to heal and ultimately thrive, it is imperative that they receive trauma-informed treatment and support from highly trained and committed individuals, which is the ultimate goal of (OneVo!ceHome),” Wittman said.

Calling it a horrific crime, Wittman also said they hope to bring any criminals involved in sex trafficking to justice.

As more sex-trafficking victims are identified, Voice of Hope: Rape Crisis Center has hired more professionals to assist victims, said Stark, who is also a board member of OneVo!ceHome.

A sex-trafficking outreach worker/case manager was hired full time in October and the nonprofit hired an additional caseworker who began training this month.

Last year, Voice of Hope assisted with 374 cases of sexual assault, many of whom were victims who had been sex trafficked or exhibited signs of trafficking.

“We need to step up and protect the girls in our city,” Galanos said. “There's so many (victims) out there, there's no way we can build (a shelter) big enough to help them all. We just want to put a dent and help as many as we can.”

How to help

¦ Want to be a part of helping bring the first shelter for child sex-trafficking victims to West Texas? OneVo!ceHome hopes to purchase a ranch by the end of the year to serve as a shelter for child victims of sex trafficking, but it needs the public's help to raise funds.

¦ Donate online at or mail a donation to 7002 Canton Ave., Lubbock, TX 79413.

For more information about the mission, visit the website or call (806) 429-2192.

How to get help

¦ If you or someone you know is a victim of sex trafficking, report it by calling the National Human Trafficking Resource Center's 24/7 toll-free hotline at 1 (888) 373-7888 or email Tips can also be sent via text message between 3 and 11 p.m. to “BeFree” (233733).

¦ Victims in immediate danger should call 911. The Lubbock Police Department's non-emergency number is (806) 775-2865.