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January, 2017 - Week 1
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.

From the Department of Homeland Security

January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month: Join the Fight

The mission of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is to safeguard the American people, our homeland, and our values. As a Department, we work to combat the heinous crime of human trafficking each day because it robs people of their freedom; it makes our homeland less secure; and it stands in stark contrast to our American values.

By Presidential Proclamation, January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. DHS employees can take a stand against human trafficking by recommitting ourselves to the fight to end human trafficking in the United States. But you don't have to be a homeland security professional to combat human trafficking. This January, learn how to recognize the signs of human trafficking, and where to report suspected instances. We need you to help end trafficking in your community.

January 11 is the Blue Campaign's "Wear Blue Day", a day where we can all pledge our solidarity with victims of human trafficking and raise awareness about, and work to end, this heinous crime. You can participate by wearing blue and contributing to the campaign on social media using #WearBlueDay. Help us bring trafficking out of the shadows and into plain sight.

DHS created the Blue Campaign in 2010 to serve as the Department's unified voice to combat human trafficking. By prioritizing the fight against human trafficking and improving our coordination across the Department on this important issue, we embarked on a concerted effort to raise public consciousness of human trafficking, protect victims, and bring perpetrators to justice. Please join us in this important fight.



CU Boulder, Mental Health Partners receive $2M grant to treat children, families affected by trauma

Grant will fund training of Mental Health Partners clinicians, other providers around the state

by Sarah Kuta

Mental Health Partners and the University of Colorado's Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence have been awarded a $2 million grant to bolster services for Boulder and Broomfield county children and families that have experienced some form of trauma.

The five-year grant, awarded by the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, will go toward building a "Trauma Center of Excellence" and will help train nearly 1,000 mental health and other professionals across the state in trauma-informed therapy methods.

"The bottom line is increasing capacity at Mental Health Partners to be able to serve child survivors of sexual abuse, violence and other traumas," said Janine D'Anniballe, director of trauma services at Mental Health Partners.

At the moment, there are just a handful of clinicians who are trained in trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy, a highly effective form of treatment for traumatized children and their caregivers, D'Anniballe said.

With help and training from researchers at CU, Mental Health Partners hopes to be able to spread clinicians trained in trauma-focused therapy across its locations in Boulder, Longmont, Broomfield and Lafayette.

"Unfortunately, (trauma) is just an epidemic problem," D'Anniballe said. "It's a pervasive issue and often these cases can be difficult to treat because there's a lot going on with the child or with the family. So this model really grounds clinicians in knowing what to do and how to do it effectively."

The organization will focus on three underserved populations along the Front Range: Hispanic children and families, military families and families involved with the child welfare system.

The grant will also help create a system at Mental Health Partners to screen and assess children for indicators of trauma and other behavioral health needs. The system will also help match children with the appropriate treatments and providers.

"Trauma exposure is really prevalent but we can only learn about potentially traumatic events if we can do screenings," said Monica Fitzgerald, a clinical psychologist and senior research associate at the CU Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence. "We're talking about trauma including child abuse, interfamilial violence but also those other types of traumatic events that many people experience — it can be car accidents, it can be dog bites, sudden death or loss. That doesn't mean everyone needs treatment but we're trying to identify the folks that do."

Another key component of the grant is support for a statewide training initiative led by CU faculty that's been underway since 2010.

With the funding, CU clinicians can begin training mental health professional around the state in several additional types of treatments, including culturally modified therapy for Hispanic families and therapy for adult caregivers with post-traumatic stress disorder, among others.

CU clinicians will also be able to train other professionals who serve as brokers for mental health services for children and families, such as people who work in the juvenile criminal justice system or the child welfare system.

"We'll provide training and consultations and support to professionals that are out there serving children and families in Colorado," Fitzgerald said.


8 things judges need to know about teen dating violence

by Sylvia Paull

From the Hon. Marshall Murray, Judge of the Circuit Court of Milwaukee & Member of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges

One of the most important duties for any court system is to ensure that youth in the community are protected. As the former Presiding Judge of the Milwaukee Children's Court and Presiding Judge of the Milwaukee County Domestic Violence Courts, I have seen many young people who were survivors of teen dating violence. They included children who were both male and female, heterosexual and LGBTQ, and from every ethnic background imaginable. It was, and is, very sad to me that while these children are supposed to be focusing on the challenge of adolescence, they were instead grappling with the violence caused by their partners. (Throughout this article the pronoun “she” is used, although victims of teen dating violence can be both male and female. As with adult domestic violence, teen dating violence is a gendered phenomenon and there is a substantial overrepresentation of young teen girls who are victims of dating violence.)

This February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness month, and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) will be highlighting the importance of youth victimized through dating violence. As a judge and a parent, it's difficult for me to imagine that one in three girls that I saw in my court were likely to be physically, emotionally or verbally abused, according to a National Council on Crime and Delinquency report . That number is too high for any community. It is by far the most prevalent form of youth violence. Worse, it is violence experienced by young girls, including tweens , from the ages of 12 to 18.

One of the hardest tasks I have faced is making decisions in cases that involve victimized youth. I know that judges around the country (many of whom are parents) also are deeply concerned about making the right decision in cases that involve teen survivors. These are tough issues for any judge to handle by themselves. That's why NCJFCJ and I put together this article entitled 8 Things Every Judge Should Know about Teen Dating Violence . It's certainly not everything you may need to know, but it's a start. Every week this February, we will be posting a different article on a teen dating violence topic, including social media, native youth, LGBTQ issues and community collaboration. We hope you find this blog series helpful, and if you are interested in what you read, and want to learn more, please feel free to reach out.

•  Don't treat teen survivors like adult survivors.

Teens are not “young adults” in any sense of the word. In fact that term is a misconception which harkens back to well before the 19 th century when children were thought of as tiny adults in children's clothing. Teens and adolescents are developmentally and emotionally unique. As eloquently put by the National Institute of Mental Health report on the teen brain “… the brain does not begin to resemble that of an adult until the early 20s…the parts of the brain responsible for more “top-down” control, controlling impulses, and planning ahead—the hallmarks of adult behavior—are among the last to mature .”

Likewise, teen dating violence is not identical to adult domestic violence. Teens have specific vulnerabilities unique to their age and development. A Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence report notes that “Factors such as social expectations, entertainment media messages about relationships, and constant social media engagement can impact how teens individually perceive teen dating relationships and engage in conversations around teen dating violence.” This means that a judge may have to spend time discovering the context in which violence is occurring. Crafting a good, meaningful judicial response means learning about a teen's home life, her school, what they do for fun, her friends and family, and what resources are available in the community.

•  Remember that teens think differently than adults .

The United States Supreme Court case of Miller v Alabama in 2012 (132 S. Ct. 2455, 2462) encapsulated how teens think differently. There, the court stated that “… children are more vulnerable. . . to negative influences and outside pressures, including from their family and peers; they have limited control over their own environment and lack the ability to extricate themselves from horrific, crime-producing settings .” We know that teens have limited capacity for foresight and impulse control. We also know that in many cases teens may have an underdeveloped cognitive control system, limiting their ‘stop-and-think' response. All of this means that teens perceive system involvement differently than adults.

For a teen dating violence survivor, the inability to perceive risk as accurately or carefully as adults can also impede separation from an abuser. In fact, only a little over one-third of teens who were abused ever disclosed their abuse . Adult responses to violence like help-seeking, talking to police and moving away are often unavailable or not apparent to teens.

Teens are often reluctant to disclose abuse to an authority figure. As a judge, we are one of the clearest sociological symbols of authority. For teens, authority figures can be a jumble of teachers, mentors, parents, older siblings, uncles and aunts, law enforcement and yes, boyfriends and girlfriends. By the time a teen has reached your courtroom, she has interacted with a number of adults, all of whom portray themselves as authority figures. It may help to ask yourself, “Did every one of those authority figures convey the same message as me?” You want a teen in your courtroom to feel comfortable reaching out to system partners and seeking help. Above all, you want her comfortable talking to you.

Remember that a risk-benefit calculation is much less clear to teens, particularly a teen that has been traumatized by abuse. Teens may have difficulty weighing consequences and may either minimize or catastrophize potential courses of action. For example, a teen victim may fear telling her parents about an abusive partner because of a prohibition on dating. A foster youth may not disclose dating abuse because they fear being removed from their school-of-origin. An LGBTQ teen may be terrified of social condemnation if her relationship is discovered on social media.

To further complicate matters, some adolescent behavior overlaps with abusive conduct. Teens are cognitively primed to test social limits, and some forms of teen dating violence can be difficult to distinguish from general adolescent behavior. It's not unusual to find adolescents who display a “lack of respect, verbal abuse, put-downs, involvement of alcohol or drugs and a [general] disregard for privacy,” according to a report from the Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs. This does NOT, under any circumstance excuse any form of abuse or coercion. However, it does make analysis of teen dating violence a more complex process for judges.

•  Recognize the link between delinquency, substance abuse and teen victimization.

Just because a teen is a criminal defendant doesn't mean she cannot be a victim of dating violence. In fact, exposure to domestic violence increases the likelihood that a youth will engage in delinquent conduct, according to Carolyn Smith and Terence Thornberry in The Relationship between Childhood Maltreatment and Adolescent Involvement in Delinquency , 33 criminology 451 (1995), and Veronica Herrera and Laura Ann McClosky in Gender Differences in the Risk of Delinquency Among Youth Exposed to Family Violence , 25 child abuse & neglect 1037 (2001). Both the Center for Disease Control and the National Childhood Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) note that youth exposed to domestic violence generally experience psychosocial problems at a higher rate than non-exposed youth. In fact, studies note that victims “…may adopt drug and alcohol use to cope with partner abuse,” according to P.C. Giordano in Emotion, cognition, and crime, a paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association in 2003; and J. Miller and N.A. White in Gender and adolescent relationship violence , 23 criminology 1207, 1248 (2003).

As adults, we have had our entire life to develop positive, prosocial coping mechanisms. Teenagers have not had that time, and are still learning how to react to stressful situations, let alone victimization by a loved one. It's not unusual for teens who are in abusive relationships to exhibit trauma-fueled conduct such as aggressiveness, substance abuse, fighting or other disciplinary problems. Teens may also play hooky from school to avoid contact with the abuser.

Judges should always remember that in delinquency, one of the primary messages is for the minor to “take responsibility.” In contrast, one of the axiomatic principles in domestic violence treatment is that a victim is never responsible for abuse. As a judge, reconciling this mixed-message is our job, and it can be inordinately complicated. But if it's difficult for us to explain, how hard is it for a teen survivor to grasp? It's critically important to speak to teen survivors who appear in delinquency court, and remind them that abuse can be confusing, scary and something that is never their fault.

•  Think about culture .

Teen culture today is highly interpersonal. Modern youth are intimately connected to technology, and tend to problem-solve using online research and social media. A teen's social connections on online platforms (whether moderated or not) may serve as an ad hoc support system. In the alternative, online social platforms can be used as a forum for bullying, harassment or cyberstalking. Critically, this use of violence may be invisible to adults (and judges) not familiar with social media.

It is important to recognize that adults may not be a teen's first choice to seek help from. A teen may be more inclined to search for information about dating violence on a smartphone than compromise her identity by speaking to a teacher. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Teen survivors may be more inclined to seek help if they are guaranteed that their actions are completely anonymous. Indeed, this is one of the reasons why the National Domestic Violence Hotline allows survivors to chat and text advocates.

Similarly, remember that an adolescent's decision-making process is also affected by the intersection of ethnic, geographic and socio-cultural values. Familism and acculturation are particularly important components when crafting a response to teen dating violence. Teens from backgrounds that place a high value on community cohesiveness may not disclose abuse if they are worried about collateral effects on their family or group. Similarly, in nearly all situations, a juvenile victim does not have the ability to leave their residence or school without parental agreement. Escaping an abuser may require the victim to disclose abuse to her parents. This places the victim in a cultural Catch-22. Disclose the abuse and run afoul of cultural norms, or remain in the abusive relationship.

•  Talk to your school system to keep the survivor protected .

A great start to community collaboration led by the court is speaking with the local school system. A juvenile judge may spend anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes speaking with a teen survivor in a court proceeding, In contrast, the vast majority of an adolescent's day is spent in school interacting with educators, according to a U.S. Health and Human Services Department report . The majority of school administrators and teachers care deeply about their student's protection, and will do their best to work with agencies that address teen dating violence. Clear communication about what schools should and should not do can resolve ambiguities which can negatively affect the survivor.

A detailed court order can also help guide a school district which is responding to a teen dating violence situation. A school with a teen survivor may be required to shift an abuser's class schedule and develop procedures to ensure the survivor and abuser don't encounter each other during school hours. In addition, clear orders help hold the abuser accountable and address protection during extra-curricular activities such as football games, dances, club meetings, field trips and other events with large student participation. When crafting such orders, it can help to speak with school personnel to ensure they are aware of the boundaries of the order and the rationale behind the specific provisions of the order itself.

•  Social media can be a medium for control and abuse in teen victims.

Many adults do not recognize social media as a medium for abuse despite the fact that “youth spend more time with technology than any other activity besides sleeping,” according to a National Criminal Justice Reference Service report. In one study “more than a quarter (26 percent) of youth in a relationship and nearly a fifth (18 percent) said they experienced some form of cyber dating abuse victimization in the prior year.” The use of social media in teen dating violence intersects with a variety of crimes including identity theft, fraud, child pornography and harassment. Orders limiting the use of social media in dating violence cases are almost always necessary to protect the survivor from harassment.

Along with the risks posed by social media, it is also important to remember that youth use social media in many positive ways. Teens can communicate with support systems through Facebook and Twitter, seek help, find information and resources, and in some circumstances, find immediate help during a crisis. Encouraging teens to use domestic violence mobile applications (called “apps”) can also increase their ability to find help quickly and build resilience.

We are very fortunate that later this month, one of NCJFCJ's subject-matter experts will be writing an article for this series specifically on the intersection of social-media and teen dating violence. For the moment, I would encourage all judges to research the many ways social media can be used positively to help respond to teen dating violence victims. The National Center for State Courts (NCSC) has an extensive guide on how courts and judges can use social media to increase access in novel new ways. Futures Without Violence also publishes the Leveraging Social Media to Talk to Teens about Dating Violence guide.

•  You can't do it alone: Talk to community partners .

If there is one thing we judges have learned over the past four decades about domestic violence, it is understanding that neither judges nor courts can do it alone. Community collaborative systems provide the best results for survivors and are among the most effective forms of accountability to teen abusers. When the court acts as a centerpiece of community systems addressing dating violence, some of the burden can be relieved from resource-limited probation and court staff. At the same time, proper communication between agencies like the school district, batterer intervention programs (BIP's) and victim services can allow the court to react faster to high risk cases.

Reaching out to community leaders to form partnerships is the first step to achieving an organized collaborative response to this issue. For example, the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence notes that faith leaders can “Speak out against domestic violence [and help] address behaviors that [promote] violence against women and girls.” Futures Without Violence also notes that “Health care providers such as school nurses, family doctors, health clinics and medical centers can be key to both intervention and prevention… [and are] people that young teens and their parents look to and trust.” The Native American Communities Justice Project in California suggested that “Instruction by Native trainers in Native American communities about how to use the state court system,” might also be helpful to bridge divides between native communities, families and the courts.

•  Ensure the door to your court is open (and they know how to get there).

If there is one thing that your teen survivor should remember from her court experience, it is the door to your court is always open. The immense societal pressure that teen survivors face to drop protection orders and return to their abusers is magnified in the complex world of adolescence. Being a teen is not easy. Being a teen survivor is much, much harder. As a judge, it is important to remember that “Eighty-one (81) percent of parents believe teen dating violence is not an issue…,” according to the Family Violence Prevention Fund and Advocates for Youth. As judges, the message we should communicate to teen survivors in the courtroom is that we believe violence is an issue, and we take their safety very seriously, even if others do not. The importance of this to young teens who are trapped in abusive relationships cannot be overstated. A teen survivor who hears this message from a judge, understands that the court is a safe place to seek protection…and that is a good place for any judge to start.



Child abuse findings voided secretly in Kentucky

by Deborah Yetter

Grabbing the teenage girl from behind, Kevin Watson, a security monitor for Jefferson County Public Schools, slammed her head to the table, opening a gash that splashed blood on the girl's clothes, the table and the floor, according to accounts of witnesses at Breckinridge Metropolitan High School.

As he forced the girl's head back to the table, Watson was overheard taunting her.

"How do you like that," he asked the girl, then 17, according to another school security monitor who witnessed the September 2015 altercation.

Yet, despite a state Child Protective Services investigation that substantiated the incident as child abuse, Watson has a clean record with the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services, whose social workers issue findings in cases of alleged child abuse or neglect.

Using a secret process that not even victims may know about, Watson, exercising his right to a confidential appeal, was able to overturn the cabinet's child abuse finding against him. That kept his name from being added to an official list — also confidential — known as the state Child Abuse and Neglect Registry that can restrict adults from some occupations or activities, such as child care, working or volunteering with youths or serving as foster parents.

And data obtained from the cabinet by the CJ show Watson's case is not unique.

Of the hundreds of people who file such appeals each year, more than half are successful in overturning adverse findings through the same cabinet whose workers substantiated the abuse or neglect, according to the records. Appeals between 2012 and 2015 ranged from several hundred to nearly 1,000 a year, with anywhere from 56 percent to 66 percent being reversed or otherwise changed in favor of the person filing the appeal.

Because all proceedings are shielded by secrecy under Kentucky's strict confidentiality laws regarding child abuse and neglect, it can't be determined how the cabinet makes such decisions or who the cabinet notifies when someone appeals a case, including the alleged victims. Watson, who still works at Breckinridge, did not respond to requests for comment.

JCPS officials say they can find no record they were ever notified of Watson's appeal or offered a chance to submit the school system's investigation, which also substantiated witness accounts. Amari Walker, the injured student, never knew of the appeal or got a chance to participate, said her lawyer, Thomas Clay.

On July 6, 2016, the cabinet issued a single-page order with no explanation, reversing the abuse finding against Watson, according to records from his JCPS personnel file.

The cabinet rejected the Courier-Journal's request for further records of Watson's appeal, saying confidentiality laws protect its records of such proceedings.

Steve Davis, chief of staff at the cabinet, said the cabinet by federal law is required to offer people a chance to appeal findings of child abuse or neglect and state law requires that the records be kept confidential.

And while the law requires the cabinet to notify parties of an appeal, that generally applies to the person filing the appeal and the cabinet officials defending the findings, he said. Davis said he knows of no requirement in the law that victims or others with an interest in the case be notified.

Julie Locke, a Louisville mother, was shocked to discover that her ex-husband successfully overturned a substantiation of child abuse or neglect related to their two daughters. The substantiation stemmed from a 2014 finding by the cabinet that he had put the girls at risk during an incident in which he accosted Locke in front of them at a birthday party, grabbing, threatening and cursing her, according to a domestic violence petition.

"I never knew he filed an appeal," Locke said. "I never knew they were even entertaining an appeal. For me not to have been notified is bizarre."

Locke said that based on the cabinet's reversal of its finding, a judge — over her objections — granted her ex-husband additional visits with their daughters.

Clay, who also represents Locke, said he thinks it's time for such secrecy to end, that the state needs to revamp the laws and regulations that govern such proceedings.

"I don't get it," Clay said. "They're concealing information about the very people they are trying to protect. I don't know how they think they are serving the public by keeping this stuff under wraps."

Walker, now 19, recently filed a lawsuit against JCPS and Watson. She said she still is in disbelief over the incident that left her with blood pouring down her face and required stitches.

"It was crazy," said Walker, who now attends Doss High. "It happened so fast."

Davis said he can't comment on individual cases because of the confidentiality provisions of the law.

In Kentucky, when someone appeals a substantiation of abuse or neglect, the case is assigned to a cabinet lawyer who serves as a hearing officer and typically holds a hearing, takes testimony and makes a written recommendation to the cabinet secretary on whether to uphold or reverse the finding. The secretary makes the final call.

Davis said the cabinet relies on the judgment of the hearing officers and that cabinet officials don't like to "tinker" with a case because people filing appeals are entitled to an impartial hearing.

"We expect them to issue sound decisions," he said.

Some cases are settled through agreement of the parties or dismissed for various reasons without a hearing, according to the cabinet.

Dr. Melissa Currie, a pediatric forensic expert at the University of Louisville who occasionally is called as a witness at such hearings, said they tend to be informal, with participants seated around a table and the hearing officer in charge. She said she doesn't know how the state reaches a decision.

"I don't know how the system works," she said. "There doesn't seem to be any transparency."

Currie said she has testified at hearings that involved what seemed to be obvious child abuse or neglect, only to find out later that the substantiation was overturned.

"There are cases that seem very clear-cut and they are overturned and we don't know why," Currie said.

Often, a lawyer represents the person filing the appeal. Currie said she's heard lawyers make arguments that don't address whether abuse or neglect actually occurred but rather, appear to seek sympathy for the client.

" 'This is going to ruin this guy's life, he won't be employed,' " Currie recalled one lawyer arguing. "Of course, that should have no bearing whatsoever."

State law says that the hearing officer should allow only "the evidence on the record" and exclude anything that is irrelevant or immaterial.

Acena Beck, a lawyer with the Children's Law Center in Covington, said she had represented people at such hearings when she worked as a legal aid lawyer in Northern Kentucky. Generally, the hearings are held in the county of the person filing the appeal, she said, and how they are run depends on who's in charge.

"It can vary greatly depending on which hearing officer you get," Beck said. "There's no consistency."

Currie said she worries about the effect on social workers tasked with investigating difficult, complicated cases and reaching conclusions, only to have them overturned by the same cabinet that employs them.

"When a finding gets reversed, it undermines the investigation," Currie said. "It's demoralizing. They do all this work, they try to protect the kids."

Locke said she's still trying to find out how her ex-husband was able to reverse a finding against him.

His lawyer, Elizabeth Pepa, declined to comment, citing the confidentiality of the process.

"My client respectfully wishes for it to remain that way," she said.

Locke provided the CJ with a copy of the Nov. 19, 2014, letter from the cabinet substantiating abuse or neglect, along with the 2014 domestic violence order she obtained against her ex-husband.

Locke said she was astonished when his lawyer in mid-2015 announced the finding had been reversed following an appeal she knew nothing about.

"How does anyone get a fair hearing if both sides are not represented?" Locke asked.

Even more disturbing to Locke is the lack of any records of the appeal or an official explanation.

As a parent, Locke is entitled to confidential records involving her children of any hearing but when she and her lawyer asked for them, they found there were none. A cabinet lawyer told her the case "was settled outside a hearing," she said.

When they asked for records of the settlement, they received nothing, Locke said.

Seeking an explanation, Locke and Clay, her lawyer, said they met in December with cabinet officials who said they would look into it.

They are still waiting for an explanation, Locke and Clay said.

Some argue that at a minimum, the state's confidential registry of people who have substantiated findings of abuse or neglect against them should be open to the public.

Among those arguing that case is state Rep. Dennis Keene, who is sponsoring a bill this year on behalf of a constituent whose infant daughter was injured by a babysitter in 2014.

Keene, a Democrat from Campbell County, said his House Bill 47 would require the cabinet to publish the registry on its website.

"It should be more transparent and accessible to the public," Keene said.

Jennifer Diaz, the Northern Kentucky mother pushing for the law, said the babysitter was convicted of injuring her daughter and another child she cared for and sentenced to three months in jail.

Diaz said her daughter, now 2, recovered from the injuries that included bruises and head trauma. But Diaz said she believes there should be a way for parents seeking child care to check out individual sitters or other adults around their children.

"It's very important to us to get this passed," she said. "I want that registry to be accessible to the public so that everyone can see it."




Mysteries of Catholic church include delay in confronting abuse

When an institution measures time in centuries, change comes slowly. Still, it is dismaying that it takes a religious institution decades to finally find the moral high ground.

Last week a letter from Pope Francis to the world's Catholic bishops was made public. He called for zero tolerance for child molesters within the clergy.

“It is a sin that shames us,” the pope wrote. “Persons responsible for the protection of those children destroyed their dignity.”

One wonders what finally made the difference? An epiphany? “Spotlight”? The pleas of deaf Italian children molested by their priest teacher?

It certainly wasn't the pleas in 1993 of the victims of the first of 17 clergy members removed in the Belleville Diocese. It still wasn't the judgments against the Diocese in 2009 for $1.2 million or in 2011 for $6.33 million or in 2012 for three undisclosed awards to clergy abuse victims.

Only two of those 17 abusers lost their collars. The shame cast doubt on scores of good clergy members, hurt the faithful and indelibly changed the relationship between priests and parishioners.

There was some measure of justice for the few victims who received cash. For the rest there may have been counseling, but likely they just had the fragments of their faith.

If justice awaits in the afterlife, then those 15 who kept their collars found or will find St. Peter unwilling to use his keys.


New Hampshire

CASA-NH added to sexual abuse lawsuit

by Allie Morris

A new court filing accuses Court Appointed Special Advocates of New Hampshire of not taking action to stop partially unsupervised visits between two girls and their biological parents, despite a report the couple had molested other children.

Attorney Rus Rilee filed a motion Friday to add CASA-NH as a defendant to the ongoing civil lawsuit against the state's Division for Children, Youth and Families and Easter Seals.

The lawsuit, brought by the girl's grandparents, accuses the three entities of failing to protect the children from “horrific” sexual abuse by their biological parents despite repeated warning signs. The parents pleaded guilty in 2014 to felonious sexual assault charges and to manufacturing child pornography. Each was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.

Though the initial filing goes into graphic detail about the abuse and accusations of wrongdoing by DCYF and Easter Seals, most of the fresh allegations against CASA-NH are redacted. The motion requests the court allow the grandparents to waive confidentiality for sealed files it says establishes the “liability” of CASA-NH.

CASA-NH is a nonprofit group that “recruits, trains and supervises” volunteers advocate for abused and neglected children in the state's court system, according to its website.

The filing accuses a CASA-NH worker of taking no action to prevent the start of partially unsupervised visits between the girls and their biological parents, though the couple had been under investigation by the Claremont Police in July 2013 for reports they molested children at a homeless shelter.

The suit alleges the worker was on vacation when the decision to start the visits was made. But it says upon her return, she “knew or should have known” DCYF had not followed up on the police report in her absence and therefore, “it was not safe” for the girls to have any unsupervised visits with their parents.

The girls, then age 4 and 18 months, were sexually abused by their parents on “multiple occasions” during the partially unsupervised visits, the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit accuses CASA-NH of negligence, negligent training and supervision of its employees, and breach of fiduciary duty. The suit is seeking monetary damages and demanding a jury trial on several grounds.

A spokeswoman for CASA-NH said Friday the organization had yet to receive a copy of the complaint. “We couldn't comment further at this point,” said Director of Communications Carolyn Cote.

The initial lawsuit was filed last October by the grandparents, who are now the girls' adoptive parents. The state responded last month and sought to dismiss the lawsuit. DCYF said it's not liable for the physical harm and sexual abuse suffered by the children, and that it has no legal obligation to the grandparents.

Rilee objected to the state's motion to dismiss in the Friday filing, writing the state and Easter Seals “mischaracterize the plaintiff's claims in an effort to escape their liability for the unfathomable injuries” the girls experienced.

The lawsuit alleges that the biological parents sexually abused the girls during supervised and unsupervised visits in 2013, and that the mother filmed 14 of those sessions. Police found flash drives containing those videos. In one, a child's cry is muffled because her mouth is covered with duct tape and her arms are bound behind her back. The lawsuit alleges some of the abuse occurred during “bath time” with the parents, when an Easter Seals caseworker was in another room.

When the grandparents became aware of the abuse, they went to police. Days later, the parents confessed to the crimes.



Statute-of-limitations proponents set to renew push for change in sex-abuse law

by Dave Sutor

Whether to make any new child sexual abuse statute-of-limitation laws retroactive to include past incidents that have gone unpursued in the legal system became a point of contention in the Pennsylvania General Assembly last year.

It appears like the same political and legal debate might occur again during the 2017 session that recently got underway.

Currently, victims who were under the age of 18 when alleged abuse occurred can file civil charges until they reach age 30.

Criminal charges can also be brought until age 30 for individuals born before Aug. 27, 2002. That limit increases to age 50 for accusers born after that same date.

During the process, one group – led by state Rep. Mark Rozzi, D-Berks – has sought to make any increase in the statutes include retroactivity, meaning alleged violators could face charges for past allegations that had already surpassed their time limit. That version overwhelmingly passed the House.

But the bill that unanimously got through the Senate included an amendment – introduced by Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson – that stripped the retroactivity.

No compromise was reached.

This year, Rozzi plans to put forth a new bill, possibly by late January, that includes retroactivity. He is still working on the language and said he does not know yet if it will call for increasing the civil limit to 50 years or eliminating statutes of limitation altogether.

“Right now, we're just in the process of putting together exactly everything we want in a bill that's best for victims,” said Rozzi, who has said that as a child he was raped by a Roman Catholic priest.

Rozzi has received support from Johnstown native Shaun Dougherty, who came forward publicly saying he was abused by a priest at St. Clement Church on Lindberg Avenue. Dougherty spoke out after the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General released a grand jury report in March alleging that the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona–Johnstown perpetrated a decades-long coverup of child sexual abuse.

“I'm counting on the statute of limitation passing, and I'm counting on retroactivity being part of this bill,” Dougherty said.

‘Black and white'

According to the office of state Sen. John Eichelberger, R-Blair, other legislators plan to introduce a separate bill to extend the civil statute to 50 years but still oppose retroactivity on constitutional grounds.

Eichelberger, a leading opponent of retroactivity, offered no other comment. Scarnati did not respond to an interview request.

“That bill must be defeated,” Rozzi said. “There's no victim that stands behind that bill.”

Most current senators and House members were involved in the debate last year.

Some are about to get involved for the first time.

The area's newest legislator, state Sen. Wayne Langerholc, R-Richland, from the 35th Senatorial District, said he has not made up his mind about the issue.

“I have started to research that process and examine the different bills that are out there,” said Langerholc, a former Cambria County assistant district attorney who took office on Tuesday. “That's something that I definitely will look at and am actively researching.”

To legislators still figuring out how to vote, Rozzi said, “It's black and white. You're either with the victims or you're sided with the perpetrators.”

‘Zero-tolerance policy'

Opponents of retroactivity question the legality of subjecting alleged abusers to legal action after their statutes of limitation have passed, while such a change could be financially harmful to organizations.

Rozzi thinks the question of retroactivity should be an issue for the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania to decide.

Proponents also argue the statutes were reached in some cases because groups, including the Catholic Church, allegedly protected abusers from prosecution for years.

The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference and Insurance Federation of Pennsylvania, which did not respond to an interview request, are at the forefront of the opposition.

“We expect the debate about statute of limitations reform will continue in the new legislative session,” according to a statement from the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference. “Without seeing a specific proposal, I can't say what the Catholic Conference's position will be.

“I can make a point that was often drowned out in the debate about the statutes of limitations last session. The Catholic community is committed to encouraging healing among survivors and their families, and offers lifelong resources for survivors, including counseling and addiction treatment.”

Tony DeGol, the Altoona–Johnstown diocese's secretary for communications, issued a similar statement, saying, “We cannot predict what, if any, action lawmakers will take on this issue in this new legislative session.

“Regardless of what our elected officials do, the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown remains committed to a zero-tolerance policy for clergy, employees, and volunteers accused of sexual abuse. Allegations are immediately turned over to authorities and shared with the Pennsylvania attorney general's office.”

DeGol urged anyone with information about suspected abuse to call the attorney general's hotline at (888) 538-8541 or the diocese at (814) 944-9388.

To sign a petition started by Dougherty to be delivered to Scarnati, go to and search Shaun Dougherty.



A Florida mom put her 10-year-old in a timeout. Then came the gunshot, police say.

by Katie Mettler

Fifth-grader Ian Sevostjanov was getting ready for school Thursday morning when he got himself in trouble.

The 10-year-old boy was sent to a room by his mom, Olga Grusetskaja, 49, in the apartment where their family lives in Clearwater, Fla., authorities said. Grusetskaja was “addressing a behavioral issue,” according to police.

In the room, Ian found a gun, authorities said, which he used to fire a “lone shot” at himself.

First responders did “everything they could” to treat the boy, Clearwater Police Chief Dan Slaughter said at a news conference Thursday morning, but their lifesaving efforts were unsuccessful. Ian was pronounced dead at the scene.

At first it was unclear to authorities what transpired inside the apartment room, but Ian's death is now being investigated as an apparent suicide.

Two other family members, Ian's brother and father, were not home at the time of the shooting, but when family arrived on scene “they were overcome with grief,” Slaughter told reporters.

“We're trying to definitely approach this taking care of all our responsibilities, while also being respectful that there's an emotional trauma that's occurred,” he said.

Gun deaths involving children were one of the defining narratives of 2016, a year that brought heart-wrenching stories of toddlers and small children accidentally shooting themselves, accidentally shooting their parents, accidentally shooting other children. The pro-gun-control group Everytown for Gun Safety has been tracking accidental shootings involving children for years, and in 2016 found 247 shootings across the United States where a person age 17 or younger unintentionally killed or injured themselves or someone else with a gun.

An investigation by the Associated Press and USA Today found that in the first six months of 2016, “minors died from accidental shootings — at their own hands, or at the hands of other children or adults — at a pace of one every other day, far more than limited federal statistics indicate,” according to the report.

And the deaths raised so much alarm that the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence released a jarring PSA in October with a satirical message: “Guns don't kill people, toddlers kill people.” It featured fictitious mug shots of children in diapers and onesies, cast as criminals who must be locked up — a way to make a point about gun safety.

“This PSA is satire,” Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign, told The Washington Post at the time. “But the public health crisis it calls attention to is anything but. Whether the trigger is pulled by a toddler, a convicted felon, domestic abuser or terrorist, we have a problem in America with guns too easily falling into the wrong hands. And that translates to hundreds of lives lost or changed forever every single day.”

What separates the death of 10-year-old Ian — perhaps the first shooting death involving a child in 2017 — from many of the most tragic headlines of 2016 is that his, according to investigators, was a suicide.

Even so, Police Chief Slaughter, cautious about weighing in on such a hot-button political issue, addressed gun safety at his news conference Wednesday.

“There are rules and restrictions on making sure that you keep a gun in a safe manner that's not accessible to a child,” he said. “I think it's just a responsible thing to do as a gun owner. I'm not in a position to debate the Second Amendment here or anything, but with certain rights … in the Constitution come great, great responsibility. And if a person chooses to own a firearm there is responsibility for them to keep that in a safe location.”

The investigation, still in its infancy, will “include a look at how the firearm was stored,” authorities said.

“There are things we have to evaluate even if it is an accident,” Slaughter said. “Just because an incident is an accident, that doesn't mean there's not other things that have to be reviewed from a culpable negligence standpoint. There are rules and laws we have to evaluate.”

Ian was a fifth-grade student at Belleair Elementary School in Clearwater, a town west of Tampa on Florida's Gulf Coast. In local news reports, neighbors described the boy as happy, seen often around the neighborhood playing with other children.

“He's very intelligent, smart, cordial and just a happy kid,” Lesley Sarchione told TV affiliate Fox 13. “He played with all the other kids. They used to play soccer right in front of my apartment every night. I can't imagine how it's going to be for the other kids when they find out.”

Grief counselors were available to students and staff at Belleair Elementary Thursday after the shooting, reported the Tampa Bay Times. A police spokesman told the Times that there have been no disturbance calls to the family's residence in the last two years.

The boys' parents, Olga Grusetskaja and her husband, identified by the Times as Leonid Sevostjanov, were described as caring parents.

“They're very protective of their kids,” Patricia Rudd, who knows the family, told ABC Action News. “Shocking, I cannot imagine what they're going through right now.”

The Times reported that the family's previous home, in nearby Largo, was foreclosed upon in 2007. A former neighbor at that residence told the Times the parents got behind on their house payments and, when the property went into foreclosure, left all their belongings behind. The neighbor described them as “quiet neighbors,” according to the Times, who mostly kept to themselves.

Olga sometimes waved hello over the backyard fence.

Slaughter said the family had been “very cooperative” with the investigation and was in a “great amount of distress, as you can imagine.”

“It's a tragedy in all respects,” he said.



Family Justice Center serves hundreds in first months

by Jordan Allen

Through a coordinated response to Central Louisiana's domestic violence problem, the Family Justice Center of Central Louisiana provided services in 2016 to more than 215 adult victims of domestic abuse, intimate partner violence and sexual assault.

And the Family Justice Center's Director Preston Mansour says there's still plenty more work to be done.

"We've made a lot of progress since our move," Mansour said. "But in order to make this the best it can be, there's more work to be done. (Domestic violence) is an issue that deeply impacts our community, and we're working to change that."

The center began offering services in May out of a temporary location. It relocated in November to a permanent home, a building on the property of the former Huey P. Long Medical Center in Pineville.

Officials said they also served 126 children from May through November, providing services such as one-to-one education for child victims of abuse as well as general care while their parent worked with legal, health care, and community providers.

"Even with our move last year and without any formal advertising, we were able to help so many families," Mansour said. "Many of the families we helped were referred to us, but it's important to note that we don't turn anyone away, and we don't work strictly on a referral basis. Every person who comes to our door leaves here with some type of service and help. No one gets turned away."

The nonprofit organization is modeled after other Family Justice Centers around the nation, and has been called "a best practice in the field of domestic violence intervention and prevention services" by the United States Department of Justice.

It primarily aims to assist survivors as they navigate the justice system. But Mansour said the services offered "go far beyond that."

"We want to be the one-stop shop for survivors of family violence. ... A person can come here and know that while they are here, they are safe. Everything they say will be confidential and secure, and we are going to do everything we can to help them," he said. "If that means helping someone with legal paperwork or filing a protection order, we can do that. If it means providing them with a safe place to stay or a bus ticket to leave town, we will help with that as well."

According to statistics from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, more than 5,000 women living in Louisiana experience domestic violence each year.

Mansour said about half of the survivors who seek help from the Family Justice Center return for more services.

"That tells me that we're doing something right," he said. "Someone may come see us two times for two separate, unrelated issues. But the fact that they continue to come to us and trust us to help them, it tells me that we're making a difference."

The current on-site partners of the Family Justice Center include Faith House, the Rapides Parish Sheriff's Office, the Rapides Parish District Attorney, and NextSTEP of Central Louisiana. Mansour said he hopes to add more in the coming year, specifically a sexual assault counselor and advocate for civil legal services. The center also works with dozens of off-site partners located around Central Louisiana.

"Everything we have done so far, and everything we will continue to do in the coming years is because of this community. This is a team effort, and we can't do this without the support from Central Louisiana," Mansour said. "I know we can never eradicate the issue of family violence, but I'm confident that we can make a difference in this area and soon we will start to see the numbers go down. We're here to help in any way we can."


Campus Sexual Assault Survivors Need Support to Raise Their Voices

by Joan Cook

Stanford University was recently accused in a lawsuit of disregarding female students' complaints of a sexual “predator” on campus, permitting that male student to violently assault several women. In response, Stanford has now offered settlements to at least two of these women in efforts to close the investigations.

While this is alarming, it's sadly not new or isolated to this particular university. Schools ranging from Yale to the University of Southern California to Occidental College have all been criticized in the past for how they've handled sexual assault cases.

This can be complicated by the fact that serial rapists, perpetrators who rape two or more women, can exhibit a high degree of criminal sophistication. This was indicated in one study , which used one of the largest nationally collected datasets of serial rape cases reported to law enforcement. The study showed that tactics such as having a premeditated approach (planning ahead as to how and when to attack) and tending not to use much physical force likely help serial rapists evade detection.

One in four college women have reported surviving rape or attempted rape at some point in their lifetime. Rape can be extremely traumatic, with a high probability of producing post-traumatic stress disorder. Not only that, it also increases the risks of depression, substance abuse and disruption in resources, such as a loss of job or school time, reduced income and the dissolution of relationships.

But the courage of the women in the Stanford case and others who have come forward to report sexual assaults on campus make me hopeful that universities and perpetrators can be held more accountable, especially with greater support from us.

Ashley's Story

One such example is a young woman I met a few years back, who I'll call Ashley. Growing up in a financially stable home with two educated and attentive parents, Ashley never thought she would be a target for violence. She was an emotionally secure child, the youngest daughter of a Lutheran pastor and a teacher. Exposed to people of all different walks of life, she feared no one.

Ashley decided to attend college several thousand miles from home. Her safe, strong childhood gave her what she thought was an impenetrable foundation to build her life upon. College in a small mid-Western town afforded some safe and exciting opportunities for the feisty, fun girl from a big liberal town.

But the rape changed this. Out at a bar with her friends one night, Ashley finally let a football player, also a campus tour guide, buy her a beer. But before she finished it, she felt herself falling down into a daze. Offering the illusion of comfort and safety, he walked her back to her dorm room. In a fog of drug-induction, Ashley remembers lying on her bottom bunk bed, the young player kissing her savagely. She remembers him on top of her, grabbing both her hands, restraining them in handcuffs. She remembers trying to squirm and push him off and she can remember him pushing her legs apart.

The next morning, she awoke to find bruises on her inner thighs and wrists. She also found his sweatshirt – a mistake, a reminder, a marking of his territory? As she lay on her bed physically aching and emotionally numb, she tried to piece together what happened. She sought refuge from a girl down the hall and, when this person reassured her that it was just a date gone badly, Ashley decided not to tell any other friends.

Needing adult comforting, Ashley approached some of her professors. One pushed her to report the crime. But having taken a college class on patterns of violence, she felt the process of reporting was too involved and the conviction rate too low. She decided to attend a meeting of Rape Survivors Anonymous instead. Over time, she found out that several of those women had been raped by the same football player. He was a serial college rapist.

In the few years after the rape, her emotions, behavior and self-image vacillated – from brooding and shutdown to labile and a self-identified slut. Her attempt to reclaim her sexuality and sleep with whoever she wanted to backfired, sending her into deeper misery. She couldn't sleep at night. Down in the pits of the spiral, she questioned her strength to protect and care for herself. Fearing to meet the memory of the rape and its consequences head-on, she stayed frozen for years.

Need of Support

Now, as Ashley peels back the fear she finally gets angry about what happened to her. She grows mad at society for an epidemic that too few people are still talking about. She doesn't want to be quiet anymore though she's not quite ready to report her assault. She said, “Now…I know exactly why a woman wouldn't report it [rape]. Here he looks like he's this perfect student. Like I'm not gonna through that,” she told me in an interview, “The conviction rate is so low. If I had gone through going on the stand and all that…I don't think I could have handled that.” Ashley did eventually tell her parents, her friends and a therapist.

Women like Ashley need our support in raising their voices. College campuses need to be educating women and men about the definition of rape, including the kind that is facilitated by incapacitation due to alcohol or drugs. In addition, they need to create an environment that encourages supportive responses, both verbal and nonverbal, when women disclose these traumatic events. If we do this, there should not only be greater acknowledgement of these body and soul violations but a greater likelihood that these women will receive the support and services they need as soon as possible. Supportive disclosures should also decrease the barriers to reporting and increase the conviction rates of serial rapists.

Ashley and the many survivors of rape, whether on campus or not, deserve to be heard, understood and vindicated. May Stanford and other universities across this country stand up and take responsibility for their actions or inactions over sexual assault on their campuses.


Enduring a Child Abuse Investigation is the New Normal for Black Children

by Richard Wexler

I'm scared when I hear a hard knock at the door. I think they are coming. I was scared to go to school because they will come to the school and remove me and put me in a foster home. All because if my Mom and Dad don't do what they want, never mind they are not abusing us.

I will be so glad when I am 18 and my brother is 18. Then I know [no one] will never be able to put us in a foster home again.

Those words were written in 2006 by a 14-year-old girl who'd already endured needless foster care placement once. A caseworker decided her mother couldn't cope with being a single parent, holding a job and going to college. In 2006, the family was under investigation again – because the school system lost some records.

The girl's mother also wrote about the experience:

As soon as they heard the loud knock on the door my children knew it was [child protective services]. And they were scared. It's amazing how a hard knock on the door can only mean one of two things – or maybe both – in certain neighborhoods.

The Knock That is Now the Norm

Even more amazing, and more horrifying: the findings from a new study that attempts to estimate how often children hear that loud knock on the door. If you're black, it's more likely than not that it will be a part of your childhood. The study estimates that 53 percent of African-American children will be subjected to a child abuse investigation before they turn 18.

It will happen to 32 percent of Hispanic children. It even will happen to 28 percent of white children. In all, the study estimates, more than a third of all American children will endure the knock on the door and all that follows.

The study does not break down the figures by income level. We can only imagine the percentage of poor children for whom this trauma is a typical part of childhood.

Of course, the fear of that knock on the door is likely to be greatest in cases where a child has already been consigned needlessly to the chaos of foster care before, such as the 14-year-old quoted above. She was repeatedly abused in foster care. But even when it does not result in removal, a child abuse investigation is not a benign act.

At a minimum, children endure the trauma of strangers coming to their home, asking about the most intimate aspects of their lives, turning the house upside down, and leaving everyone in fear. If the allegation is physical or sexual abuse, the children may be subjected to a strip search and an intrusive medical examination. If anyone else did that, it would be sexual abuse.

That one should even have to point out that a child abuse investigation is traumatic for a child is testament to the willful blindness about race and class that permeates child welfare. Most of the time, when a black man is forced up against a wall by police and frisked, it doesn't result in arrest. But only right-wing extremists dismiss the trauma of stop-and-frisk as harmless.

Of course, if you've already convinced yourself that a child abuse investigation is no big deal, it's easier to oppose any change in the process to make it even a little less traumatic.

When Appalling Findings Don't Appall

But there is something even more appalling than the actual findings: the fact that the researchers were not appalled. On the contrary, approaching child welfare as a public health problem and not a social justice problem, the researchers blithely suggest that their findings mean child abuse is rampant, and the fact that 78 percent of allegations don't even meet the extremely low criteria for “substantiation” is irrelevant.

How do they know? Because some surveys in which questionnaires are administered to children and youth find that a whole lot of them have been maltreated in some way. One survey cited claims that 38.1 percent of children experienced “maltreatment.” But the actual questions posed by that survey use some very broad definitions. Here's the question about “neglect”:

When someone is neglected, it means that the grown-ups in their life didn't take care of them the way they should. They might not get them enough food, take them to the doctor when they are sick, or make sure they have a safe place to stay. At any time in your life, did you get neglected?

They might as well have asked “At any time in your life were you poor?”

The researchers also cite a study which purports to show that the rate at which children are re-abused is about the same whether the first report was substantiated or not. But the researchers neglect to mention that the rate of alleged re-abuse in either case was very low – between 4.5 percent and 18 percent, depending on how one counts.

So even taking the substantiation study at face value, it merely tells us what we already know: substantiation decisions are arbitrary, capricious and cruel, and whether a case is substantiated depends more on factors such as which caseworker shows up at the door, the race of the family, and whether there was a high profile fatality in the news recently than on any objective measure of maltreatment.

The findings in the new study of exposure to child abuse investigations suggest not an epidemic of child abuse, but rather an epidemic of false reports and over-investigation.

British researchers understood that after they found similar staggering rates of investigation, and looked at them without the willful blindness that sometimes characterizes their American counterparts.

So here is a modest proposal for helping to open some eyes. The next time researchers embark on one of those grand surveys asking young people about the trauma in their lives, they should add this question: “Were you ever the subject of an investigation of a false report of child abuse?”

They can grab a bunch of headlines by reporting that the rate of “emotional abuse” has skyrocketed.


South Dakota

Child Abuse: How And When Health Professionals Report Possible Cases

by Jill Johnson

Within the last year, we've reported on at least a half a dozen child abuse cases in Minnehaha County, where a child was seriously injured or killed at the hands of an adult. Recently, we told you about the arrest of 27-year-old Glenn Wanna Jr., he is accused of breaking a baby's arm. First described as an accident, doctors determined it was probably abuse. KDLT's Jill Johnson talked with a doctor about how and when they report possible cases of child abuse.

Dr. Jared Friedman, who practices emergency medicine at Avera Health, says it's hard to say how often they have to report possible cases of child abuse.

Friedman said, “… can't say that it's on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.”

However, Friedman says it's something they are always on the lookout for.

We take a history from them. We do out physical exam and we try to ensure that a child is being safely cared for, in an appropriate manor,” said Friedman.

But in his profession, he says things aren't black or white.

“It may be a case where it really seems suspicious for child abuse and it's not, it can be due to a medical condition and then there's cases where you believe it to be a medical condition and it turns out to be something else,” said Friedman.

Friedman says it's not his job to diagnose child abuse, but to always be on the lookout for it. He says there may be bruising patterns or

certain types of breaks in bones that make them suspicious, but that doesn't always revert to child abuse.

Friedman said, “If I fall off of a roof I can sustain a break just as easily as if sometimes I'm walking down the street and trip and fall and am unlucky and can have that same type of break so it's not always one type of break means it's definitely child abuse.”

Friedman says they try to find out, does the injury to the child match the story they're given?

“Our ultimate goal is to have the best outcome for the patient and that child's safety and well-being,” said Friedman.

When a doctor or nurse suspects that a child may have been abused, as a mandatory reporter, it's their job to get other experts involved such as the police or child protective services.

Friedman says they often contact a Child Advocacy Center, typically Child's Voice in Sioux Falls, who can provide medical evaluations for children who may be victims of abuse or neglect.


Legal expert: Religious freedom does not justify child abuse

by Mary Rezac

Minneapolis, Minn., Jan 5, 2017 / 04:49 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Two Minnesota parents are facing charges of child neglect after they prayed over their severely ill son rather than seeking medical attention just prior to the child's death.

A criminal complaint says the couple, Sarah Johnson, 38, and Timothy Johnson, 39, found their son Seth, 7, unresponsive and covered in vomit one morning in March 2015.

The parents told authorities they had decided to pray over Seth and treat him with vitamins and honey the night before his death rather than call 911 because they had “issues with doctors.”

The Johnsons said in social media postings that have since been deleted that they relied on their strong faith to overcome their son's death, according to local news reports.

But should the Johnson's attempt to use a religious freedom defense in court, it almost certainly will fail, a legal counselor told CNA.

“No religious freedom statute or law has ever been successfully used in that way,” said Kellie Fiedorek, who serves as legal counsel for the group Alliance Defending Freedom.

“First of all, both child abuse and domestic abuse are both crimes, and those who engage in that kind of behavior will be prosecuted,” Fiedorek said.

“And secondly, the government has a well-documented compelling interest in ensuring that children are safe and that will always supersede any religious teaching or religious belief or any kind of belief that would try to allow that kind of abuse or contact to happen,” she added.

Religious freedom jurisprudence considers the government's “compelling interest” as one of several factors in determining if the right to religious liberty is being exercised properly or abused.

Autopsy reports state that the child was suffering from numerous medical ailments including open sores and bruises all over his body. According to court documents, in the weeks leading up to his death, Seth had stopped sleeping, took hours to eat meals, and would occasionally shake and throw himself down the stairs. His cause of death was listed as pancreatitis and possible sepsis.

Seth first joined the family as a foster child at the age of 3, and was adopted by the Johnson's when he was 4. Prior medical records showed that Seth was a healthy and “thriving” child with no pre-existing conditions.

In a statement, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said despite a yearlong investigation, Seth's illness and death could not be linked to the actions or inactions of the Johnsons.

Therefore, the highest possible charge authorities were able to bring against the Johnsons was one charge each of child neglect resulting in substantive bodily harm, which would result in a gross misdemeanor.


Cathoilc Church

A child abuse scandal is coming for Pope Francis

by Michael Brendan Dougherty

The Catholic Church has long been plagued by sickening scandals involving priests abusing children. And there is reportedly another scandal coming — this one of the pope's own making.

Two people with direct ties to the Vatican tell me that Pope Francis, following the advice of his clubby group of allies in the curia, is pressing to undo the reforms that were instituted by his predecessors John Paul II and Benedict XVI in handling the cases of abuser priests. Francis is pushing ahead with this plan even though the curial officials and cardinals who favor it have already brought more scandal to his papacy by urging him toward lenient treatment of abusers.

In 2001, the Vatican instituted a massive reform in how it handled the cases of priests who abused children. The power to deal with these cases was taken away from the Congregation of the Clergy and the Roman Rota (the Vatican's Court), and placed in the office of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). Subsequently, the volume and speed with which the Catholic Church defrocked abuser priests went up. This was Pope Benedict's legacy of trying to confront "the filth" in the Church.

Recently, Pope Francis had the Vatican's secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, request an opinion from the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, led by Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, regarding the possibility of transferring competence to deal with abuser priests from the CDF back to Clergy and the Rota. Coccopalmerio's office responded with a positive answer.

And although it was not mentioned in media reports, Pope Francis also discussed this "reform of the reform" on child abuse when he met with his special advisory group, the Council of Cardinals, in mid-December, an official with direct knowledge of the meeting told me. The press office of the Vatican did not respond to requests for confirmation or comment.

Pope Francis has always talked tough on child abuse. In a letter to Catholic bishops on Dec. 28, the feast of the Holy Innocents, he decried child abuse. "Persons responsible for the protection of those children destroyed their dignity. We regret this deeply and we beg forgiveness. We join in the pain of the victims and weep for this sin. The sin of what happened, the sin of failing to help, the sin of covering up and denial, the sin of the abuse of power."

Francis was elected in part to reform a dysfunctional curia. So shifting responsibilities is not troubling in itself. And it is hard not to credit the sincerity of his jeremiads against child abusers. But the CDF's performance on this issue is miles better than the situation before 2001.

So why revert?

Perhaps because the CDF has taken a tough, rules-based approach to the issue of child abuse, which clashes with the more personal autocratic style of this pope. Or perhaps because reforming the reform would reward his allies, and humiliate an antagonist.

Rumors of this reform have been circulating in Rome for months. And not happily. Pope Francis and his cardinal allies have been known to interfere with CDF's judgments on abuse cases. This intervention has become so endemic to the system that cases of priestly abuse in Rome are now known to have two sets of distinctions. The first is guilty or innocent. The second is "with cardinal friends" or "without cardinal friends."

And indeed, Pope Francis is apparently pressing ahead with his reversion of abuse practices even though the cardinals who are favorable to this reform of reform have already brought him trouble because of their friends.

Consider the case of Fr. Mauro Inzoli. Inzoli lived in a flamboyant fashion and had such a taste for flashy cars that he earned the nickname "Don Mercedes." He was also accused of molesting children. He allegedly abused minors in the confessional. He even went so far as to teach children that sexual contact with him was legitimated by scripture and their faith. When his case reached CDF, he was found guilty. And in 2012, under the papacy of Pope Benedict, Inzoli was defrocked.

But Don Mercedes was "with cardinal friends," we have learned. Cardinal Coccopalmerio and Monsignor Pio Vito Pinto, now dean of the Roman Rota, both intervened on behalf of Inzoli, and Pope Francis returned him to the priestly state in 2014, inviting him to a "a life of humility and prayer." These strictures seem not to have troubled Inzoli too much. In January 2015, Don Mercedes participated in a conference on the family in Lombardy.

This summer, civil authorities finished their own trial of Inzoli, convicting him of eight offenses. Another 15 lay beyond the statute of limitations. The Italian press hammered the Vatican, specifically the CDF, for not sharing the information they had found in their canonical trial with civil authorities. Of course, the pope himself could have allowed the CDF to share this information with civil authorities if he so desired.

It's astonishing that after giving in to requests for intervention by Coccopalmerio and Pinto — requests which were unjust and humiliating — the pope would proceed to give authority over some child abuse cases to Pinto. But perhaps that isn't the first thing on his mind. Doing so would reward one of Pope Francis' friends and humiliate someone he sees as an antagonist.

The veteran church reporter John Allen recently noted in Crux that Pope Francis doesn't always take the direct approach when trying to kneecap his critics within the church, or the obstacles to his reform in the Vatican. Sometimes, he goes around them. Allen wrote that "it means formally keeping people in place while entrusting the real responsibility to somebody else and thus rendering the original official, if not quite irrelevant, certainly less consequential."

That has been Francis' approach with CDF, led by the German Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, in the past. When Pope Francis wanted to change the process for declaring marriages null, he essentially skipped over Müller, a constant critic of the pope's views on marriage and the sacraments. Instead the pope went to Cardinal Coccopalmerio. The loyalty of Monsignor Pinto is unquestioned. It was Pinto who lashed out at four cardinals who publicly questioned the orthodoxy of the pope's recent document, Amoris Laetitia . The four cardinals criticized the document for encouraging changes to Catholic sacramental practice they held to be impossible given Catholic doctrine. Pinto reminded them that the pope could remove their status as cardinals. Meanwhile Cardinal Müller seemed to be giving aid and comfort to these cardinals, saying that the sacramental practice of giving communion to people in adulterous relationships could not be endorsed.

In any case, on abuse, the justice dealt out by Müller's CDF seems to be too harsh for the pope and his allies. And so, the pope hopes to render the CDF irrelevant in these cases.

Nothing has been decided with any finality, and it is possible that saner heads will prevail and remind Pope Francis which cardinals and offices are really serving his best interests and doing justice in the name of his authority. Or at least remind him that while the press may cheer him for undoing John Paul II's teaching on communion for the divorced, they may not cheer him for lightening the penalties on child molesters who happen to have friends in his inner circle.



Visalia students collect hundreds of stuffed animals for victims of child abuse

by ABC News

VISALIA, Calif. -- Students at a South Valley school are being applauded for their selfless actions this holiday season.

Students at Valley Life Charter School in Visalia organized a stuffed animal drive for the Tulare County District Attorney's Office's Child Abuse Response Team.

During an assembly at the charter school, 5th-grader Jordan Nguyen had a simple question for his classmates: "How many of them had stuffed animals?"

"A lot of people raised their hand," he explained.

It was then that Jordan knew he could make a difference. He enlisted the help of friends, like Matthew and Janae, and together they set up a donation box near the office and posted signs around the school. The team asked students to part with their new or slightly used stuffed animal so that a victim of child abuse may have one.

"He thought beyond himself," Jordan's mom Yvonne said. "He didn't think of what he was going to get out of it, but how he could help other kids."

Yvonne says the school and community came together to help the cause, so much so that she had to store all the stuffed animals in their garage.

The drive only lasted a couple of weeks and wrapped up by winter break. There was only one thing left to do - deliver the toys to their final destination, Tulare County District Attorney's CART.

"And the DA's office was in for an early Christmas surprise when Jordan and friends dropped off the toys," Rian Johnson with the office said. "It took three cars to get them all here and plenty of trips to bring them inside."

The total came to 671 stuffed animals, and Nguyen and friends didn't expect that.

"That was surprising to me," Jordan said.

And neither did the District Attorney's Office, who thanked them for making a difference in the lives of so many vulnerable children.

"It tells me that people care about abused kids and they just want to help them as well as we do," Jordan said.

Jordan will collect stuffed animals again next year, and his goal is now 700 toys. But he's sure his classmates will continue to answer his call to bring comfort to children who suffer.


South Carolina

Mark Sanford Child Abuse Probe: “Still Open”

South Carolina Congressman Still Under Investigation


It's been nearly eight months since the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) launched an investigation into allegations of child abuse involving U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford . Given the seriousness of the allegations (which were first reported by this website) and the high-profile subject of the investigation, we're shocked this case hasn't been closed yet.

But it hasn't …

“The Sanford matter is still open,” SLED spokesman Thom Berry told us this week.

Multiple sources at SLED have cautioned us not to read anything into that fact – although at this point it's becoming increasingly difficult not to do so.

After all, we're referring to a former two-term governor and sitting U.S. Congressman who still fancies himself a player on the national political stage. Wouldn't there be immense pressure on the agency to clear this case as quickly as possible if there were nothing to the allegations?

That's been our thinking all along …

To recap: The incident in question allegedly took place on Sanford's Coosaw family plantation in Dale, S.C. on June 18 – and is said to have involved the young daughter of Sanford's brother, John Sanford, and his wife, Julia Umbreit.

According to our sources, Sanford roughed up the girl and dangled her “by her ankles off (a) dock” – threatening to drop her into the shallow water below.

What prompted this alleged outburst? The politician was angry after the girl doused him with a water gun, we're told.

“Mark was pissed because she had squirted him with a water gun so he chased her around until he trapped her bruised and bleeding on the roof of (a) dock,” our source told us at the time.

The next day the girl was “limping noticeably” as a result of her injuries – and was taken to see a pediatrician. The pediatrician who attended to the girl is said to have told her mother that if she did not report the matter to authorities, he would.

She did.

On June 21 – three days after the alleged incident took place – Beaufort deputies interviewed Umbreit and her daughter and “took pictures of (the girl's) injuries.”

Deputies also “conducted a recorded interview” with the girl and obtained from her a drawing of the dock where the incident allegedly took place. Additionally, they subpoenaed medical records in connection with the alleged incident – and obtained several statements and text messages as part of their inquiry.

After conducting these initial inquiries, the Beaufort County sheriff's office referred the matter to the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) “for further investigation.”

(To view the redacted documents related to this case for yourself, CLICK HERE).

Sanford has repeatedly refused to address the issue, but his brother has refuted the allegations, saying “any suggestion that my brother hurt my daughter's foot – or would harm my children in any way – is absolutely wrong.”

Guess we're going to have to wait a little longer to find out if that's accurate …

One possible back story floated by Sanford's allies? That Umbreit has an ax to grind against the notoriously frugal lawmaker in the aftermath of a 2011 drowning death that took place at a birthday party on the family plantation.

Specifically, we're told there is a major dispute within the Sanford family over the various trust funds accessed to settle a lawsuit brought by the family of six-year-old Camilo Andres Restrepo-Lopez – the victim in the 2011 drowning.

Restrepo-Lopez isn't the only child to die at Coosaw. In 2007, this website exclusively reported on a cash settlement paid to the family of a young girl who drowned on the property.

Sanford dramatically underperformed expectations during his 2016 GOP primary race against former S.C. Rep. Jenny Horne, and is staring down a potentially major campaign finance scandal in the aftermath of that race.

Of course that scandal pales in comparison to the potential impact of this investigation – assuming it leads to criminal charges.

Once the genuine article when it came to defending taxpayers, Sanford has become just another status quo Republican in the aftermath of the 2009 sex scandal that derailed his presidential aspirations (and nearly cost him his job as governor of South Carolina). In fact we've been extensively chronicling Sanford's descent into mushy middle-dom since his return to the U.S. House in 2013 (see here, here and here for those reports).

This website obviously has plenty of history with Sanford, but that doesn't mean we think he should be strung along in regard to this case.

If he did something wrong, he should be charged – and prosecuted. If not, he should be cleared – with the evidence collected during the investigation made public.



Experts see increase in men helping child sexual abuse victims

by Carley Gordon

NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -- J.E. Dunn Construction Group recently wrote a $100,000 check for Our Kids, an outpatient clinic of General Hospital that helps sexually abused children in 47 Middle Tennessee counties.

Their vice president, Will Gamble, said helping child victims is an issue close to their hearts.

"Since it's such a silent thing we feel like it's a perfect place to help volunteer and help donate money as well," Gamble said.

J.E. Dunn may now be part of a growing trend because experts say they're seeing more men and male-dominated industries actively seek out ways to help fight child sex abuse.

Many attribute the change to an increase in awareness stemming from high-profile sex abuse cases like Penn State's Jerry Sandusky and Nashville's Vanderbilt rape case.

"Football is pretty much sacred ground, and when there's a high-profile case that exposes abuse, people get upset and they see it in a new way," said Sue Fort White, executive director of Our Kids.

White said these days they have more men on their board than ever before and male volunteers are showing up in record numbers.

"Child sex abuse is such a difficult and complicated topic and most people don't want to talk about it, and yet here they are," White said.

It's a trend White hopes will continue because the problem of child sexual abuse is an epidemic.

One out of every four girls and one out of every seven boys will all be sexually abused before the age of 18. White said they need everyone's help: women and men.

"They all have children in their lives that they care about, either nieces or nephews, or children or grandchild, and when they start thinking about the prevalence, I think it scares them and they want to be a part of the solution," White said.



Sheriff: 1-year-old girl severely injured in sexual assault

by Jacob Beltran

As soon as investigators and medical personnel examined the severe injures of a 1-year-old girl who was reportedly attacked by dogs, they immediately knew her injures didn't match the story provided by her relative to authorities, said Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar.

The toddler, he said, suffered life-threatening injuries consistent with a brutal sexual assault. Police arrested two people in connection with the alleged incident, including the child's relative, Crystal Herrera, and her boyfriend Isaac Andrew Cardenas. Cardenas, 23, was being held on a charge of super aggravated sexual assault. Bail was set at $300,000.

Herrera, 22, was determined to have been providing false information to keep detectives from finding out what occurred. She was booked in the Bexar County Jail on a charge of injury to a child by omission.

“I can't even begin to describe to you the level of depravity that went into this crime,” Salazar said. “It's a horrendous case.”

Police said Herrera called 911 at 9 a.m. on Dec. 31 saying that the girl had wandered out of their home in the middle of the night and was attacked by dogs at their South Bexar County home.

But as detectives spoke to her and her boyfriend, they noticed their stories didn't add up, Salazar said. Later, Animal Care Services officers told police that the dogs they were sent to pick up showed no aggression.

Medical personnel examining the child's injuries quickly determined that she had suffered life-threatening stab wounds. Authorities said the girl's stab wounds, located on her upper body and private parts, were “non-accidental.”

“I've got seasoned detectives and emergency room personnel that have all agreed that this is one of the worst cases they've seen,” Salazar said during his first news conference since being sworn in as sheriff.

“This is one of those cases, I'll be honest with you, it's something that I haven't even seen the pictures, I don't want to see the pictures,” Salazar said. “It's been described to me and just imagining it is enough to chill any of us.”

The child was transported to University Hospital where she was in stable condition Tuesday.

“You can't even imagine what would possess somebody to do something like this to anyone, much less an innocent child that's totally defenseless,” Salazar said.

Salazar said detectives are looking into any history of abuse of the girl, who was to be taken into CPS custody.

“A child this small to suffer these types of injuries …she's going to carry this with her for the rest of her life, physically, emotionally, and also as a family” he said. “It's a heartbreaking case.”



Mother in viral child abuse video sentenced to 60 days in jail


(Video on site)

GREELEY, Colo. -- The Weld County mother who pleaded guilty after a video allegedly showed her abusing her 2-year-old son went viral has been sentenced to 60 days in jail and five years of supervised probation.

Katrina Kennedy-Flores, 26, of Lochbuie will only be allowed supervised visits with her son.

Kennedy-Flores pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of child abuse in October. She faced up to two years in the county jail.

“Unfortunately, I've had to watch this reprehensible video several times, and it never gets easier,” said Weld County District Attorney Michael Rourke. “The
emotional and physical toll this little boy went through is unimaginable. And though we were pushing for a much lengthier jail sentence, I hope Mrs. Kennedy
can learn from her mistakes and never put this boy in that position again.”

In the video, shot in April, the child is seen crying and Kennedy-Flores is seen throwing something into a playpen. Kennedy-Flores can be heard accusing the toddler of losing a cellphone charger.

The woman who recorded the 16-minute video said Kennedy-Flores hit her 2-year-old son, shook him violently and threatened to kill him.

Kennedy-Flores could be heard yelling “I'm going to kill you,” and “You're going to die.”

Pictures of the boy showed bruises to both arms and legs and on his forehead.

Kennedy-Flores was arrested in May and charged with misdemeanor counts of child abuse, and the judge ordered her to have no contact with her son. In August, a judge granted her supervised visitation in a therapeutic setting.

The boy was placed in the care of Kennedy-Flores's younger half-sister, Nicole.

“I confronted her. I was like what is wrong with you, like you really did this over a charger?” Nicole said after she said she watched the video online.

After the video was posted, viewers shared their outrage in hundreds of Facebook messages, comments and emails.

The video inspired a group of strangers who found each other on Facebook to try to change the punishment for child abuse. They want child abuse to be a felony charge instead of a misdemeanor.



Woman dragged from children's hospital wing, charged with child neglect

Tyneshia May, 22, took oxygen mask from child during treatment, JSO says

by Dawn Brooks

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A mother is charged with child neglect and resisting arrest after an incident at Wolfson Children's Hospital this week, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.

Nursing staff called police to the hospital Monday after Tyneshia May, 22, brought one of her children to the emergency room.

Police said May brought her child in and told hospital personnel that her child was not breathing well.
Nurses said they were concerned, because it was the fifth time in six months the child was brought in for the same health problem.

They claimed the child's condition kept getting worse because May didn't take her child for follow-up care after the ER visits and was not following through on the medications prescribed.

When hospital staff questioned May as to why she hadn't taken her child to follow-up visits or given medication she said, "Because I don't have time. I have three children."

They said she then got upset and took an oxygen mask and other medical equipment off of her child and threatened to leave.

The Sheriff's Office said a doctor explained to May if she left the child could die within a couple hours, but May continued dressing the child to leave.

During that time the child's oxygen level began to drop, so medical staff immediately put the child back on the oxygen mask, according to JSO.

When officers determined the case to be child neglect they said May resisted arrest and had to be dragged from the children's wing.

Department of Children and Families officials said they are investigating.

The Sheriff's Office said May's other children are safely in the care of relatives.



Pope to Bishops: Maintain 'Zero Tolerance' for Child Abuse

by Frances D'Emilio

Pope Francis has exhorted Catholic bishops worldwide to do what's needed to ensure children are protected from sexual abuse by clergy.

The Vatican on Monday released the text of a Dec. 28 letter Francis sent to bishops about injustices to children. They included slave labor, malnutrition, lack of education and sexual exploitation, including abuse by priests.

In the letter, Francis decried "the sufferings, the experiences and pain of minors who were abused sexually by priests."

"It is a sin that shames us," the pope wrote. "Persons responsible for the protection of those children destroyed their dignity."

The church's reputation has been stained in several countries during the last few decades as people have come forward to report that parish priests or other Catholic clergy raped or molested them as minors.

The allegations showed that local bishops sometimes knew about and covered up child sex abuse involving problem priests and triggered multi-million-dollar lawsuits, as well as several criminal prosecutions.

Expressing the church's regret, and begging forgiveness, the pope denounced the "sin of what happened, the sin of failing to help, the sin of covering up and denial, the sin of the abuse of power."

Francis also asked bishops for "complete commitment to ensuring that these atrocities will no longer take place in our midst."

"Let us find the courage needed to take all necessary measures and to protect in every way the lives of our children, so that such crimes may never be repeated," the pope said. "In this area, let us adhere, clearly and faithfully, to 'zero tolerance.'"

The pontiff himself has received mixed reviews on how the Vatican handles sex abuse.

Francis has laid out procedures to oust bishops for negligence, if they mishandle investigations into alleged abuse.

But he dismayed advocates for abuse survivors by appointing a Chilean bishop accused of covering up for a notorious pedophile.

The Vatican also took no immediate action after deaf students from Italy, in a 2014 letter to the pope, said a priest sexually abused them for years in Italy and now was working at a school in Francis' native Argentina. The priest was arrested last year and charged with raping deaf students at a school in Argentina.



Pope on sex abuse: Zero tolerance means just that

Vatican City - Pope Francis on Monday defended the Catholic Church's much-vaunted "zero tolerance" approach to abuse, while admitting the ancient institution had so far lacked the courage to go all out on stopping paedophile priests.

The church "recognises the sins of some of her members: The sufferings, the experiences and the pain of minors who were abused sexually by priests. It is a sin that shames us", he said in a letter made public on Monday.

"I would like us to renew our complete commitment to ensuring that these atrocities will no longer take place in our midst," he added in the letter, addressed to the world's bishops to mark the Massacre of the Innocents on December 28.

"Let us find the courage needed to take all necessary measures" to protect children.

"In this area, let us adhere, clearly and faithfully, to 'zero tolerance'," he said.


A string of historic paedophilia cases in North America and Europe has unleashed widespread criticism of the Catholic hierarchy, including allegations that in some cases bishops were aware of sexual predators among the priesthood but failed to curb them.

Francis came to power in 2013 promising a crackdown on cover-ups and a zero tolerance approach to abuse itself, but victims' groups have expressed discontent with his record on ridding the church of the taint of paedophilia.

In June, the pope announced that Catholic bishops guilty of negligence in child abuse cases can now be dismissed from office.

A "college of legal experts" - cardinals and bishops - was set up to help the pope arrive at a definitive decision in each case.

But a US group representing victims of paedophile priests accused the Vatican at the time of seeking to put a brake on efforts to stop abusers and bring them to justice by creating extra red tape.


United Kingdom

19 pensioners charged with child sex offenses

by Jack Longstaff

NINETEEN pensioners in North East Lincolnshire have been charged by police for sexually assaulting or raping underage boys and girls in the last four years.

An alarming set of figures obtained by the Grimsby Telegraph following a Freedom of Information Act request to Humberside Police, show that sexual offences against girls and boys under the age of 16 were the most frequently committed crimes by people aged over 65 between 2012 and 2015.

The figures, which also show that the number of OAP criminals in the borough almost doubled to 31 in 2015 from 17 in 2014, reveal that of the nine most frequently committed crimes by the over 65s in the last four years, five of them involved suspects being charged for crimes like rape of a female child under 13 and sexual assault on a male child under 13.

Other offences committed throughout the four-year period included harassment, assault with injury, and obscene publications (pornography).

Overall the number of pensioners charged for crimes in the Grimsby and Cleethorpes area between 2012 and 2015 has risen year on year, from just 10 in 2012 to 31 last year.

In 2013, 16 people aged over 65 were charged with a criminal offence, as were 17 in 2014.

National charity Rape Crisis, which provide support and counselling for victims of sexual assault, say that these figures are only likely to represent the "tip of the iceberg" of what they say is a "far more common" occurrence than most people realise.

The charity, which has a Lincolnshire HQ based in Lincoln, believe that victims of sexual assaults can suffer from mental health problems and develop things like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following an incident.

A Rape Crisis spokesperson said: "Figures related to sexual offences are always shocking because of course any rape or sexual assault, of a child or adult, is one too many.

"It's still estimated that at least three-quarters of all sexual offences go unreported.

"It's not clear whether these figures include adult survivors of child sexual abuse who have reported to the police years or even decades after the incidents. There has been a steady increase in these kinds of survivors coming forward in recent years. Adult survivors of child sexual abuse have already been silenced and hidden for too long and deserve recognition, not least of all because of the long-term, often lifelong, and sometimes devastating impacts that the sexual violence they've suffered can have on their lives and health."

In 2013, out of the 16 over 65-year-olds charged, two were done so for raping a girl under 13, two were charged for sexually assaulting a girl under 13, three were charged for raping a girl under 16 and three were charged with obscene publications.

As for 2014, two pensioners were charged with harassment, two for assault with injury, two for sexually assaulting a girl under the age of 13 and over, and four for sexually assaulting a girl under the age of 13.

Last year, which was the most prolific for OAP criminals, two were charged with fraud, two for sexually assaulting a boy under 13, five for obscene publications and 12 for harassment.

With serious sexual offences against under 16s shockingly proving to be the most prevalent crimes committed, the UK's leading children's charity the NSPCC say that 90 per cent of children abused at an early age will going on to develop mental health issues.

A NSPCC spokesperson said: "Any sexual offence against children is in itself abhorrent. What must not be overlooked though is the long-lasting impact these crimes have on victims.

"Accordingly, the NSPCC's It's Time petition – handed to 10 Downing Street in October – called for the government to improve data collection on abused children who need support. We will continually strive to ensure children get back on track after abuse. Victims' lives should not be defined by despicable trauma but optimism and potential."

Anyone seeking specialist, confidential, non-judgemental and independent help or support from Rape Crisis should contact

People with concerns about a child can call the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000 while children can contact Childline on 0800 1111 or at



Wetterling to speak in Springfield

If you go:

What: Child safety advocate Patty Wetterling of St. Joseph

When: 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 11

Where: Springfield High School gym

Admission: Free will donation

SPRINGFIELD — The mother of Jacob Wetterling will will tell her story and talk about creating a better world for children at Springfield High School at 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 11.

Patty Wetterling, now a child advocate for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, began her advocacy after her son Jacob was abducted in October 1989. Five years later, Patty and her husband Jerry's work helped create the Wetterling Act, a United States law that requires states to implement a sex offender and crimes against children registry.

The law was named for Patty and Jerry Wetterling's son Jacob, who was abducted by a stranger. Jacob was missing for nearly 27 years until his death was confirmed when his remains were found Sept. 1, 2016 after Danny Heinrich confessed to kidnapping and killing Jacob Wetterling. Heinrich then led authorities to Jacob's remains in a field.

Heinrich's confession came as part of his guilty plea to a charge of possession of child pornography. Without the confession, the state had no case to charge Heinrich with the murder of Jacob Wetterling.

Heinrich was sentenced to 20 years in prison and a lifetime of supervised release in November.

At the end of Heinrich's sentence, clinical professionals will review his entire past and determine if he becomes a Level 1, 2, or 3 sex offender and if he get a conditional release. If it is determined he is too dangerous to live on his own, Heinrich will be be referred to the Minnesota Sex Offender Program for the rest of his life.

The Minneapolis-based Jacob Wetterling Resource Center seeks to:

• End all forms of child abuse, neglect, and exploitation with training, education, advocacy, prevention and awareness, providing care and treatment for children, families, and adult survivors.

• A 24-hour Victim Assistance Helpline offers information, support, advocacy, and connection to resources for individuals, families and communities around issues related to missing persons, abuse, and exploitation.



Tennessee Child Abuse Laws And Judge's Orders Are Being Ignored

by Tony Gonzalez

Tennessee's law that requires suspected child abuse to be reported to authorities is too often being ignored, according to a child abuse watchdog group.

In its latest report, the Second Look Commission, which closely examines severe abuse cases, asks officials to be more vigilant this year in holding adults accountable. Failure to report abuse concerns can be charged as a criminal misdemeanor.

The commission is also worried that suspected abusers are getting too much access to children who have been placed into protective custody.

The group found that one child was killed by someone who was under a judge's order to stay away and have no contact. (The report did not provide further specifics.)

The broader concern is a practice known as a “family placement.” That's when an endangered child is temporarily moved into a relative's home, an arrangement when a no-contact order might be ignored.

“It's ongoing,” said commission Director Craig Hargrow. “Since our inception, we've noticed that.”

The commission suggests that judges should more clearly inform caretakers of their duties, even if they're family members. And the members of the commission are checking on whether no-contact orders can be loaded into a state database so that police can easily check on violators.

Fatality Data Reported

Since 2013, the Second Look Commission has found that 16 Tennessee children have died even after state Child Protective Services had confirmed that there was prior abuse.

That statistic had not been tracked by officials prior to a Tennessean investigation and a shakeup at the Department of Children's Services.

The agency has also firmed up its method of counting instances of children who are severely abused more than once. In fiscal year 2015, the state had 643 such cases, of which the majority involved repeat sexual abuse or exposure to drug use.



Doctors say meth use contributing to child abuse in Central Valley

by Jason Oliveira

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Experts say the combination of the drug itself and the behavior of the adult hooked on meth puts children living in these settings in a dangerous and damaging environment.

Experts agree child neglect due to substance abuse is a growing issue for many California families. And with the rise of methamphetamine use in the state, hospitals are seeing more kids coming in with meth and other drug exposure

Methamphetamine use continues to be a chronic problem across the United States and, like with any other drug, causes harm to more than just the user.

Children living in meth environments tend to be the casualties of abuse.
"I know I'm seeing more kids every year, and I'm not surprised if meth is part of the component," said Dr. Philip Hyden, a child abuse pediatrician.

Hyden has 30 years of experience, including the last seven as the director of the Guilds Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Center at Valley Children's Hospital in Madera.

"This is the worst child abuse I've seen in my entire career in the Central Valley," he said.

Hyden can't say for sure if child abuse in Central California is on the rise because of meth use but he believes there's a strong connection.

"It may not be the direct reason the child is being abused, but it is an environmental factor that probably contributes to the way the child is being treated," Hyden explained.

Methamphetamine is a stimulant drug that wreaks havoc on the nervous system. It causes, among other things, violent behavior and contributes to a loss of impulse control.
"No matter what drug you're on, if you're on drugs chronically, you tend to have some problems where the children are involved," Hyden said. "They're not being cared for. It's their failure to thrive. They'll come in here, and we've seen kids come in here starving to death - seriously, to death."

Experts say the combination of the drug itself and the behavior of the adult hooked on meth puts children living in these settings in a dangerous and damaging environment.

"When they do come in and the child may be acting very neurological inappropriately irritable tends to have the type of things you see with an amphetamine action upon the brain," Hyden said.

Researchers are just now working to find the impact meth may have on the growth of a child.

"I wouldn't be surprised if it doesn't have long-term effects on a child's brain," Hyden said.

Experts say the biggest weapon against child abuse is getting family members or friends to speak up and tell authorities even if it's just a suspicion.



Reduce stress to prevent child abuse

by The News-Democrat & Leader

Stress can increase during the holidays, even in the most loving of families. And that can put some children at risk for abuse or neglect.

With children home from school, holiday travel and seasonal shopping and associated expenses, parents can get frazzled more easily than usual. What is typically a fun and joyful time for children can become devastating when parents or caregivers cope with stress by becoming abusive or neglectful to children.

The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS), the state agency charged with child and adult protection, reminds adults to keep their cool this winter when it comes to disciplining kids.

“Parents enjoy spending time with their children, but frustration can escalate during times of high stress,” said Adria Johnson, commissioner of the CHFS Department for Community Based Services (DCBS). “It's never OK to hit a child.”

Johnson and Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky (PCAK), one of the cabinet's community partners, offered these tips to keep children safer this season:

•  Count to 10. It's a tried and true method to diffuse high emotions and clear your head before you say or do anything.

•  Get some space. If you are so upset that you feel like screaming — or more — leave the room. Say, “I'm so angry; I need a minute to think.” Then leave the room or send your child to his room so you can calm down and regroup. You'll get yourself under control, and it's a good example for your children.

•  Be quick. Catch your child in the act. Delayed reactions dilute the effect of the punishment.

•  Use selectively. Use timeout for talking back, hitting and safety-compromising problems. Don't overuse it.

•  Keep calm. Your anger only adds fuel to the fire and changes the focus from the behavior of the child to your anger. This prevents you from being in control.

•  Model disciplined behavior. Ask other adults around your children – even house guests – to do the same. Children are usually better behaved when their parents and caregivers are happier and more relaxed.

•  Teach children to communicate, too. Ask them to talk about what's bothering them rather than reacting by hitting or yelling.

•  Talk it out. If you're under stress, talking to someone is an easy and effective outlet. Looking to other parents for advice helps mothers, fathers and other caregivers feel less isolated in their problems. Online communities and resource sites can offer support and solutions.

•  Stick with it. Once you punish or say “timeout,” don't back down or be talked out of it. If you decide to use timeout to control hitting, for example, use it every time your child hits, even if he spends most of the day in timeout. Eventually, he'll decide that it's more fun to play without hitting than to sit alone in his room.

Johnson said staff at county DCBS offices may help parents by finding resources to deal with the problems that may cause stress, such as the loss of a job. Community resources are often available to assist families who need help with services like utilities, child care or job training.

“The local offices can assist with referrals to appropriate agencies,” Johnson said.

Log on to to find the phone number for the DCBS office in your county.

Drug and alcohol abuse may increase during the holidays, leading to an increase of child safety risk, Johnson said. Families who need help with these issues can get information about prevention resources from the CHFS Department for Behavioral Health, Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities' Substance Abuse Prevention Program at

Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky (PCAK), one of the cabinet's community partners, is a statewide nonprofit agency whose mission is to prevent the abuse and neglect of Kentucky's children through its outreach.

“Abuse and neglect are associated with short- and long-term consequences that affect not only the child and family, but also society as a whole,” PCAK Executive Director Jill Seyfred said. “PCAK gives parents and caregivers expert guidance on child safety. We're proud to be one of DCBS' partners in prevention.”

PCAK works with a statewide network of providers to offer parent education and support to help prevent child abuse.

To learn more about the self-help, parent education and support group providers serving Kentucky, contact Joel Griffith, To learn more about PCAK's other prevention opportunities and how you can help, call 800-CHILDREN, or visit PCAK online at

Johnson said it takes effort from entire communities to stop abuse and neglect. Kentuckians should remember that if they even suspect child abuse or neglect, they must report it. “It's the law,” she said.

In state fiscal year 2016 (July 2015-June 2016), more than 52,400 reports of abuse met criteria for investigation, and more than 15,300 of those were substantiated.

Call your local police or the cabinet's child abuse hotline at 877-KYSAFE1 – 877-597-2331 – to report suspected abuse. Callers remain anonymous.


Washington D.C.

Pentagon has struggled with a jump in child abuse in military families since America went to war

by Bill Worth

WASHINGTON — In September 2011, Army Sgt. 1st Class Crispen Hanson's commander at Fort Bliss ordered him into a military treatment program for child abusers.

Texas child welfare authorities had formally reported a “reason to believe” the 20-year Army veteran had severely beaten his 6-month-old son, Malachi, leaving him with a broken leg.

For the next four months, Hanson met weekly with a therapist from the Family Advocacy Program, a $200 million-a-year Pentagon program known as FAP that seeks to prevent child abuse in the ranks.

When Hanson completed the therapy, FAP officials closed the case and a state judge allowed him to see his infant son.

But three months later, on April 9, 2012, El Paso paramedics called to Hanson's house found Malachi dead. An autopsy found “blunt force injuries” and “innumerable contusions of the head, torso and extremities.”

The county medical examiner ruled the death a homicide.

Last year, Hanson pleaded guilty to two counts of injuring a child after prosecutors agreed to drop murder charges. A state judge sentenced him to probation. The Army gave him an honorable discharge and a full pension of about $28,000 a year.

Army officials said the decision to close the FAP case before the infant's death was appropriate. “No program has a 100 percent guarantee of success when dealing with individuals,” said William Costlow, an Army spokesman.

The Pentagon has struggled to deal with a little-noticed cascade of child abuse and neglect cases in military families in the years since America went to war in Iraq and Afghanistan, a Los Angeles Times/Tribune Washington Bureau investigation has found.

Previously unreleased reports by the Army, Navy and Air Force reveal numerous cases in which military officials knew or suspected that child abuse or neglect was occurring, but failed to intervene or to alert the Family Advocacy Program or state child welfare agencies, The Times found.

In many cases, the reports blamed military personnel for failing to report cases of abuse and neglect to FAP officials.

FAP “is not accessing those most in need due to … failure on the part of others to report concerns or maltreatment incidents,” warned an internal 2014 report on 27 deaths in Army families.

“In several cases, command was aware of ongoing abuse but failed to report it,” it said.

A 2014 report on 50 deaths in Air Force families over five years reached a similar conclusion.

“In numerous cases … Air Force employees and other individuals were aware of suspected child maltreatment or domestic abuse and did not report it to FAP or any other authority,” it said.

Citing privacy restrictions, Pentagon officials redacted parts of each report, which were released in response to Freedom of Information Act requests. The Times was able to identify many victims and their abusers by comparing the reports with court records and other legal documents.

Even senior FAP officials concede they are able to help only a fraction of the children who suffer abuse.

“We get about 25 percent of the incidents,” said Rene Robichaux, who oversees an Army-wide clinical child abuse treatment program from the Army Medical Command in San Antonio. “The rest occur behind closed doors.”

America's longest wars already have been associated with poor mental health in military families, behavioral problems in children, a higher risk of divorce, and higher rates of suicide, studies show.

Experts now add child abuse to that tragic list.

“We have a relatively high rate of child maltreatment,” said Dr. Sharon Cooper, a pediatrician and retired Army colonel who treats child abuse victims at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. “And we know that child abuse and neglect is highly influenced by deployment.”

Child fatalities have soared even as the armed forces have shrunk by 10 percent in recent years.

Fatalities more than doubled from 14 in 2003 to 38 in 2012. They remained above 30 a year through 2014 before dropping to 23 in 2015, the last year that Pentagon records are available. Overall, FAP counted 5,378 child abuse and neglect victims in military families in 2015.

The Pentagon long has claimed that child abuse is less severe in the military than in the civilian population. The military weeds out alcohol and drug users with random tests and annual fitness reports, and the mental strain of unemployment isn't a problem.

Moreover, base commanders are supposed to monitor their troops' daily lives and the welfare of their families. They can order FAP to counsel parents and even temporarily bar service members from contact with their families in abuse cases.

Military bases also are required to cooperate closely with state child welfare agencies, which share responsibility for protecting children in military families living on and off U.S. installations.

But in the last five years, the rate of child abuse and neglect in the military has gone up sharply — from 4.8 incidents per 1,000 children to 7.2 incidents, according to Pentagon records. Civilian rates vary depending on how they're counted, but generally are higher.

The failure of base commanders to intervene has sparked special concern among child welfare advocates.

Experts say those failures may occur because a criminal charge of child abuse can lead to a soldier's discharge — costing the family its livelihood — and also can be seen as a blot on a commander's record.

“There's a real reluctance to address child abuse fatalities in the military because it's a career ender for soldiers,” said Theresa Covington, head of the National Center for the Review and Prevention of Child Deaths, a nonprofit group in Washington that works closely with the Pentagon.

‘Absurd' solution

Underlying the problems is the belief at senior levels of the Pentagon that the military can handle family violence by ordering an accused abuser into FAP counseling, experts say.

“Ultimately an allegation of abuse is plopped down on the desk of some commander, who is supposed to take action, as if … you can discipline somebody who is abusing their children and make them stop, which is absurd,” said Mark Davis, an attorney involved in a decadelong lawsuit against the Army over the abuse death of 5-year-old girl on a military base in Hawaii.

FAP, created after the Vietnam War, now has more than 2,000 case workers and administrators. They offer help to 1.2 million active-duty couples and 1.1 million children at almost every U.S. military base, including in Germany, Japan and other overseas posts where families are allowed.

In the most violent cases, FAP officials can seek a protective order from the military that bars an abusive parent from contact with a child, or ask a civilian court to place a battered child in foster care.

FAP and Pentagon officials say the program provides valuable counseling, parenting classes, home visits and other help to thousands of military families, many of them young parents living on their own for the first time.

“The welfare of our service members and their family members warrants the highest priority in the Department of Defense,” said a Pentagon spokesman, Maj. Benjamin E. Sakrisson. “The department is actively committed to keeping children safe and healthy.”

The Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines all have boosted training and staffing at their FAP operations over the last decade, officials say.

FAP staffing at Army bases, for instance, has grown from 136 to 390, with many new hires assigned to visit homes of new parents to teach parenting techniques.

But some FAP offices are overwhelmed, especially after units deployed overseas return home.

At Fort Bragg, the nation's largest Army base, soldiers often wait weeks to see a FAP therapist for routine counseling, said Anne Malena, a civilian social worker in private practice who mostly works with Fort Bragg families.

“They're extremely overworked, and they're working on crisis situations most of the time,” she said.

FAP officials contend it is unfair to blame their staff for failing to foresee which military parents will abuse their children when warning signs often are fragmentary or ambiguous.

“Predicting these kinds of events is an extremely difficult thing to do,” said Dr. Terri Rau, a psychiatrist and senior policy analyst for the Navy's Fleet and Family Support Programs in Norfolk, Va., which oversees FAP.

Yet in some cases, there were clear warning signs.

In August 2012, Tamryn Klapheke starved to death in her crib at her parents' house on Dyess Air Force Base in Texas. She was 22 months old.

State prosecutors said her mother, Tiffany Klapheke, had left the infant without food or water for four days while her husband, an Air Force enlisted man, was overseas. Her two other children were also badly malnourished.

The base FAP office and Texas' Child Protective Services, the state agency responsible for investigating child abuse, had been repeatedly warned of neglect at the house.

Air Force doctors had notified both offices in 2010 and 2011 that the older children were underweight and had missed medical appointments.

“The consequences of not feeding the child could be fatal,” Edward Wilcock, the FAP social worker assigned to Tamryn's case, wrote in her file in September 2011.

But FAP closed its case three months later when Klapheke completed her assigned doctor visits and Tamryn had gained a little weight, records show.

Child Protective Services in Taylor County, where Dyess is located, closed its own investigation a week before Tamryn starved to death. Its last face-to-face contact with the family was 10 months earlier, courts records show.

Klapheke, 23, was convicted of injury to a child and sentenced in state court to 30 years in prison. Four employees at Child Protective Services resigned over misconduct in the case. The two older children were placed with a foster family.

Wilcock, who remains employed by FAP at Dyess, declined to comment for this story.

Capt. Nicole Ferrara, a base spokeswoman, said that the Air Force investigated whether “various personnel met their required duty obligations” and that “appropriate action was taken to address the findings.” She declined to disclose the findings or the action taken.

FAP also failed Kylee Houston, who lived her entire brief life inside the secure gates of Naval Air Station New Orleans.

Just 14 weeks old, the malnourished infant died in a soiled crib at her home on March 15, 2015. An autopsy blamed accidental suffocation.

Kylee's twin sister and four siblings, all under age 5, also suffered from extreme neglect, police found.

State prosecutors put them all in foster care and arrested the parents on charges of cruelty to juveniles and second-degree murder.

The father, Navy Seaman Xavier Houston, pleaded guilty in January to cruelty to juveniles and is serving a 10-year prison sentence. His wife, Calendria, is awaiting trial.

FAP was well aware of the danger.

On July 1, 2014, neighbors called the military police when they heard the parents fighting, a frequent occurrence. The police report noted that one child was filthy and the house reeked of dirty diapers.

The police shared the report with the base Fleet and Family Support Center, which oversees the FAP office. But the office didn't inform Louisiana's child welfare agency, as an agreement between the base and the state required.

A month later, on Aug. 5, Calendria Houston complained to base authorities that her husband had “left their four children, ranging in age from 3 years old to 5 months old, unattended at their residence,” according to a Navy investigation.

At his commander's urging, Xavier Houston had met a FAP counselor “a handful of times” to discuss his strained marriage, but not the welfare of his children, according to Houston's attorney, Clarke Beljean.

That failure angers Charles J. Ballay, the district attorney in Louisiana's Plaquemines Parish who is prosecuting the parents.

The military was “aware or should have been aware” that the Houstons were neglecting their children, Ballay said. “Somebody should have taken action to save the life of this young child.”

The Navy appears to agree.

Mike Andrews, a Navy spokesman, said several contractors involved in the Houston case resigned after Kylee's death. He declined to identify them or say whether they quit in response to pending disciplinary action.

Military police on the base were instructed for the first time to notify Louisiana's child protection agency in cases “involving child welfare of any kind,” Andrews said.

FAP has come under fire before.

In the early 1980s, about a decade after the Army, Navy and Air Force each developed programs for treating domestic violence on military installations, an investigation by federal auditors found the efforts were poorly funded, understaffed and often inadequate.

Congress provided additional money in response and ordered the Pentagon to keep better track of personnel accused of abuse. After cases continued to increase, Congress in 2001 created an independent task force to evaluate the military's efforts.

The panel issued 193 recommendations, including a call for the Pentagon to hire hundreds of “victim advocates” on military bases to help abused children and spouses, whom panel members believed often received short shrift from FAP.

The task force delivered its report to Congress on the same day in March 2003 that U.S. forces invaded Iraq. During a House Armed Services Committee hearing, distracted lawmakers ducked into side rooms to watch the invasion on TV. The Pentagon ultimately adopted many of the changes the panel proposed.

In 2011, Jessica Wright, then undersecretary of Defense for personnel and readiness, ordered another “top-level rapid review” of FAP. It produced 84 “preliminary ideas” for improvements.

It also led to creation of an Integrated Project Team to recommend ways to “help families in need and at risk as early as possible,” said Sakrisson, the Pentagon spokesman.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, a member of the House Armed Services Committee and a major in the Army National Guard, is one of the few lawmakers to focus on the issue.

Congress this month passed a national defense authorization bill that includes a provision Gabbard introduced that requires military personnel to immediately report suspected cases of child abuse to FAP and to state child protection agencies.

Yet even when the military and civilian agencies cooperate, victims go undetected.

In November 2011, for example, Laquita Lewis told police that her boyfriend, Jerrell Edwards, had punched and nearly strangled her after she complained he was driving too fast. Both sailors were stationed at Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia.

Because her son Jaiden, who was 2 1/2, was in the vehicle and she was pregnant with Edwards' child, the FAP office opened an investigation into “child neglect and domestic physical abuse,” records show.

Navy commanders ordered the couple to break off contact for a month.

But the base “incident determination committee” — a panel that includes senior officers, FAP officials, military police, hospital personnel and others who see abuse cases — voted to close the case three months later, ruling that Edwards' behavior “did not meet criteria for abuse,” records show.

Virginia Child Protective Services, which had opened a separate investigation, closed its case after social workers made a single visit to Lewis' apartment.

Edwards, who broke up with Lewis, was discharged from the Navy for using marijuana. But she let him move in after their baby was born.

In April 2012, Lewis found Edwards trying to revive Jaiden at the apartment. The toddler was unconscious and bleeding from the mouth, according to Navy documents.

Jaiden died at a hospital hours later, and an autopsy revealed a “ruptured stomach, lacerated liver and bruising to his colon,” as well as an apparent cigarette burn on his foot, the records show.

The incident determination committee reexamined the evidence. This time they concluded that Edwards had repeatedly subjected Jaiden to “severe physical abuse,” case records show.

Edwards was convicted in May 2014 in state court of murder and child abuse and sentenced to 30 years in prison.

“I thought I was doing the right thing by letting him spend time with his new child,” Lewis said in a telephone interview. “It's a decision I live with every day. But I can't help feel that the Navy failed me and Jaiden in some way.”

No case better highlighted the military's failure to protect children than the brutal death of 5-year-old Talia Williams. The tragedy inspired Gabbard, the Hawaii lawmaker hoping to reform FAP, to call her legislation “Talia's Law.”

“This young girl was abused for months and not removed from the abuse, even though she was living in military housing and the military has mandatory reporting,” said Gabbard. The procedures “failed Talia and they have failed many, many other children in military families.”

Talia was killed in July 2005 after months of near-daily beatings by her stepmother, Delilah Williams, and her father, Spc. Naeem Williams, a soldier at Wheeler Army Airfield in Hawaii.

At one point, military police took Talia to a base medical clinic after her day-care center reported bruises on her arms and back.

Talia told the staff that her father hit her with “Mr. Paddle” when he got angry, according to court testimony. But she was returned to her parents.

One of her stepmother's co-workers later went directly to FAP to report her concerns that Talia was being abused. She recounted overhearing Williams say it was “OK to whip a child, just don't leave any marks,” according to court records.

Hilda Borja, the FAP official who received the complaint, took no action, according to Army and court records.

An Army investigation later found Borja was “negligent in her duty to report suspected child abuse.” The report cited “a series of missed opportunities” by authorities that could have prevented Talia's death.

Borja resigned before the Army finished its disciplinary proceedings, officials said. In a brief phone interview, she said, “The truth is I had nothing to do with that family.”

Spc. Williams was sentenced last year to life in federal prison for murder. His wife was sentenced to 20 years in prison after she testified against him.

But the case had an unusual postscript.

In 2008, Tarshia Williams, Talia's biological mother, sued the Army in federal court for negligence and wrongful death.

Justice Department lawyers argued that the Army could not be held liable for child abuse on military bases. Protecting battered children, even on a base, was the job of Hawaii's Department of Human Services, not the Army, the government lawyers argued.

“The Army has no legal framework for taking custody or otherwise acting formally to protect abused children, and therefore explicitly relies on” state child protection agencies, the Justice Department said in court documents.

U.S. District Judge Alan C. Kay rejected the government's motion to dismiss the case. The Justice Department settled with Talia's mother last year for $2 million.


West Virginia


Prevent Neglect Of W.Va. Children

A criminal case in Ohio County has disturbing ramifications for anyone concerned with the welfare of children.

As we reported last week, a Peters Run resident, 69-year-old Willard Humes, has been charged with gross child neglect of his grandchildren, ages 2, 3 and 5.

Humes' daughter, Amanda, and the children had been living in his home. After a cable television installer reported conditions there, sheriff's deputies and Child Protective Services representatives went to the home in July.

They found the home was in deplorable, unhealthy condition and that the children were suffering from some untreated health problems. Humes and his daughter were arrested.

Amanda Humes has pleaded guilty to one child neglect charge, as part of a plea agreement. She has not yet been sentenced.

But Willard Humes' attorney, Jacob Robinson, has filed a motion to dismiss charges against his client.

Robinson cites the fact Humes was hospitalized for a substantial part of the time when the neglect allegedly took place. He adds that Humes provided his daughter and grandchildren with a place to stay when they were homeless.

But it is another reason Robinson cited as cause to dismiss the charges that should concern West Virginians, regardless of what happens in Humes' case. It is the legal issue of whether grandparents can be held responsible for the wellbeing of their grandchildren.

That is a question going far beyond Humes and his case.

Robinson has cited court precedents, including one case from the U.S. Supreme Court, in his contention that grandparents are not legally responsible for the care and control of their grandchildren. It is possible the matter in Humes case will have to be decided by the state Supreme Court.

If justices there determine Robinson is right — that no West Virginia grandparent is responsible for his or her grandchildren — legislators will have to act.

To many people, it would seem only common sense that any adult in whose home children are residing has at least some responsibility for their health and safety. But common sense and the law sometimes are not the same thing.

If indeed West Virginia law does not hold any adult in such a situation, regardless of the relationship to children being housed, at least partially responsible for them, it needs to be changed.




Montana's new child protection leader

by The Billings Gazette

Maurita Johnson is the new leader of the agency responsible for protecting Montana children from abuse and neglect. That job has never been more challenging. The number of abused and neglected children coming into the state system continues to grow.

Recently, Montana reached an all-time high number of children in foster care with 3,369 children placed statewide.

On Friday, the Yellowstone County attorney's office filed its 531st civil child abuse/neglect case of the year. That was an significant increase over 2015 when the office filed for court orders to protect 454 local kids.

Agency officials "have the ability to solve a lot of problems for families," Johnson told the Associated Press in an interview last month. "Having a kid home with a parent is what we want."

Those comments reflect the solution-oriented leadership that Montana's child protection agency so desperately needs.

Johnson, former deputy director of Child Welfare Programs in Oregon, told AP that she visited all six of her division's regional offices and all seven of the state's Native American reservations as she got acquainted with the child protection system. That's a good start.

Child and Family Services Division has been criticized from all sides over the past several years. Some criticism is justified, some isn't. The CFSD has changed course, again and again, retraining overworked, underpaid front-line staff. The solution must start with stabilizing the workforce that has had tremendous turnover. Small wonder that caseworkers' average tenure has been less than two years as they are required to carry three or four times the number of cases recommended by independent child welfare organizations.

The Protect Montana Kids Commission appointed by Gov. Steve Bullock last summer recommended changes in how the agency trains and supervises staff. CFSD also is hindered by its outdated 20-year-old computer system.

The commission's most urgent recommendations are to recruit more caseworkers, to better support caseworkers, foster parents and parents to give each family the best chance of safely reuniting. With too few workers, children are in the system longer, and parents take longer to get on track to being safe parents. For most, getting on track includes addiction treatment. Parental drug abuse has become the most common factor in child abuse and neglect cases in Montana.

Johnson said her plans include more worker training, getting more foster children into permanent homes, connecting with more community services and giving parents clear and reasonable conditions for the return of their children. Johnson and Sheila Hogan, the new director of the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, will be held accountable for improving services to Montana's must vulnerable children.

We call on the Bullock administration and the Montana Legislature to ensure that CFSD has the resources needed to protect children — from continued abuse and from languishing in the child protection system.



California Senate approves new approach on sex trafficking

by The Sacramento Bee

(Video on site)

State Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, asks colleagues to approve SB 1322 in June 2016. Under the bill, which took effect Monday, a minor engaged in prostitution will be treated as a victim and not arrested. Those soliciting the sex and those arranging the clients can still be charged with crimes. Video courtesy of the California Channel.