A year of stalemate and missed chances for NY lawmakers
STATE: Legislature ended its session on Wednesday.
by David Klepper
ALBANY — Upstate Uber. Landmark juvenile justice reforms. A big college affordability program that comes with a big catch. Those were the major accomplishments in a New York legislative session that ended Wednesday with a whimper and lots of unfinished business.
Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposals to improve antiquated voting rules went nowhere. The budget was late. Efforts to address Albany's chronic corruption problem again fell flat. Routine bills to renew local sales taxes didn't pass.
And despite broad support for the 15-year-old policy, lawmakers failed to cut a deal to extend mayoral control of schools in New York City, potentially disrupting governance of the nation's largest school system.
"This is a pathetic excuse for governing and an insult to the millions of New Yorkers who expect a basic level of competency," said Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause-New York, a government watchdog group.
It's not even clear whether the session is even over. The Senate and Assembly adjourned late Wednesday night, but lawmakers are already talking about returning to try again on mayoral control.
"I hope we come back very, very soon," said Sen. Jeff Klein, a Democrat from the Bronx. "We need to get the people's business done."
Cuomo blasted the Legislature for adjourning without extending mayoral control and said he may order them back. If mayoral control is allowed to expire on June 30, oversight of schools will revert to dozens of local boards.
"If they go home and they are not assaulted by the residents of their district and chased back to Albany, then yes, I would call a special session," Cuomo said.
It was a messy end to a session that started with grand ambitions in January. Avoiding the traditional state-of-the-state address to lawmakers, Cuomo unveiled his agenda during a series of speeches around the state. The move irritated lawmakers who still blame Cuomo for blocking a legislative pay hike last year. The acrimony set the tone for a bruising battle over the $153 billion budget. Lawmakers passed the budget a week late, a black mark on Cuomo's record of on-time budgets.
Cuomo's big idea for the year — free college tuition — stoked talk of a presidential run. But the proposal underwent significant changes before it passed. Lawmakers added a requirement that students receiving the benefit remain in the state after graduation for as many years as they received the assistance. Move out of state to take a job after graduation? You'll have to pay the money back as a loan.
The fine print prompted criticism from advocates for college affordability, though Cuomo defended the residency rules as necessary to ensure the state reaps the benefits of its investment in students. Some 32,000 students are expected to participate, according to one estimate.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie scored a big victory this year on juvenile justice with the passage of legislation that ends the state's habit of prosecuting and incarcerating 16- and 17-year-old offenders as adults. Lawmakers also voted to raise the age of marriage from 14 to 17 in a bid to end child marriage.
"One of the lessons from this session is: sometimes in politics you don't always get what you want, but we worked hard and we won some important victories," said Heastie, a Bronx Democrat.
A high-profile proposal to help molestation victims failed yet again. The Child Victim's Act would loosen the statute of limitations on child sex crimes to allow for more time for civil lawsuits or criminal charges. The bill would also create a one-year window for past victims to file lawsuits now barred by the statute of limitations.
The Assembly passed the measure but Senate Leader John Flanagan, a Long Island Republican, said his chamber would not vote, devastating survivors of abuse who have worked on the bill for years. On to next year, they say.
"You bet I'm disappointed," said one of the bill's leading supporters, Bridie Farrell, a former speed skater who says she was abused by an adult mentor when she was 15. "As long as Sen. Flanagan is making New York a sanctuary state for child molesters, we will not back down."
Lawmakers focused on other accomplishments: authorizing the ride-hailing apps Uber and Lyft to begin servicing upstate New York and Long Island, $2.5 billion for water quality and upgrades to aging water pipes; and more than $200 million to fight addiction.
"We would have preferred to have tied everything up with a nice neat bow. But under the circumstances, that just wasn't possible," Flanagan said.
And while in a legislative session, it's the bills that pass that count. Cuomo said officials deserve credit for at least talking about the right things.
"I think it's fair to say we got to every issue, we addressed every issue," Cuomo told reporters Thursday. "We just don't have agreement on every issue."
What happens when a parent is accused of child abuse? Experts voice concerns with system
by Kyle Lawson
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- In the uncertain world of child care investigations, experts on all sides agree on two things: The current system is flawed, but a system of some kind is necessary to protect our most vulnerable residents.
As the new head of the city's Administration for Children's Services (ACS) begins to reform an agency under heavy scrutiny, former case workers, family court attorneys and parents who've been investigated spoke to the Advance in recent weeks about problems they've encountered firsthand, and ways to mend the gaps moving forward.
Each year, the agency conducts more than 55,000 investigations of suspected child abuse or neglect in New York City.
OVERWORKED, INEXPERIENCED CASEWORKERS
According to a former case supervisor for foster children on Staten Island, a couple of things were to be expected regarding new hires: A lack of experience and an unrealistic case load.
"A new person would come in and there would be 20 cases on their desk," said Jason Maniscalco. "It was like, 'OK, have fun.'"
He declined to reveal the agency he worked for, but confirmed it was one of multiple organizations ACS contracts with to provide foster care services, in addition to support for families deemed at risk of a crisis.
Each case worker was expected to complete a home visit and file a report for 20 clients within a month. So the turnover rate was high.
"In addition to home visits, there's court cases they have to go to, in addition to paperwork and court reports," said Maniscalco. "It's not realistic."
He said new case workers often were fresh out of college and lacked the proper experience to interview foster families, or to file a report that ultimately was read by a judge.
"There were half-written notes that someone thought they had finished but didn't," said Maniscalco. "If the note isn't written, it's like it didn't happen."
CULTURAL, COMMUNITY DIFFERENCES
Child abuse sometimes is in the eye of the beholder, according to experts of both the investigative and legal stages of custody cases in New York City.
Frustrations surrounding complaints filed by teachers, for instance, can escalate quickly, said family court attorney Eric Gansberg. Especially if the school is in a minority, lower-income area.
"If a kid comes in and has a bruise and they're from a minority area, the teachers are more likely to assume mommy or daddy smacked the kid too hard," he said. "If they come from a more affluent area, where kids are always in organized sports, they might assume it's from that."
It's the type of scenario that former case worker Adriane James has seen play out in real-time. She recalled a case in Queens a few years back, when she worked as a parent advocate.
Standing over an open stove, a four-foot-nine, 90-pound mother of four swatted her 5-year-old-son on the back with a slipper to "shoo him away," said James.
When the boy returned to the classroom, his teacher saw a mark on him and alerted a school administrator.
"Police ran into the home and arrested the mother in front of the neighborhood," said James.
A judge ordered the mother be removed from the home, at which point the father had to quit one of his three jobs to help care for the children, she said.
James said the case is an example of the cultural discourse that can happen with an investigation, when considering the family's Ecuadorian culture of hard working men, big families and mothers who sometimes swat their kids.
"She didn't want to hurt the boy ... but our society says you can't do that."
GETTING AROUND CASEWORKERS
Despite a case worker's best efforts during a home visit, there are ways around the system.
Exhibit A: The case of 1-year-old Bianca Abdul.
Bianca was found lifeless inside of a pack and play in March, inside of her mother's Midland Beach home.
Leila Wade, the child's mother, had been under investigation by ACS and assigned to case workers in the past, amid a history of abusive relationships and an allegation of drug abuse, she told the Advance.
Her relationship with Bianca's father allegedly became violent in 2016.
Joseph Abdul, 36, pleaded guilty to assault after authorities said he struck Wade in the head with a cable box while their infant was in the room. He snatched the baby on his way out the door, police said.
A judge issued an order of protection and allowed the children to remain in Wade's custody, however, when Abdul was released from jail, Wade said she allowed him to visit the home. Weeks later, he was arrested again after a bloody encounter with a neighbor that Wade said occurred in front of her 12-year-old daughter.
Abdul was not living at the home in the months leading up to the death, police said.
Wade has said it's possible the child ingested one of her painkillers -- prescribed as a result of prior domestic violence-related injuries.
The medical examiner's investigation into the cause of death remains ongoing.
CASE WORKER CHALLENGES
In some instances, the court system doesn't support what a case worker feels is best for a child. So by law, case workers are required to return a child the home.
A case worker can be called on at any time of the day or night for client emergencies that might involve violence, drug use, or death.
Wade described an instance when multiple case workers peered in to her house on Moreland Street sometime after midnight, after a complaint of drug use at the house.
There are different types of caseworkers, ranging from those who investigate allegations for ACS to foster care workers who follow a child through the system once they're removed from a home.
Applicants for the investigative job must have a bachelor's degree and 24 semester credits in any combination of social work, psychology, criminal justice and education. Once hired, they're trained for six months at one of the agency's two academies, then are accompanied by senior case workers for their first cases.
A recent employee review of the position on indeed.com read as follows:
"Clients can be confrontational ... the work environment at times is very dangerous as you sometimes don't know anything about the family's background.. .. The management team does assist if there's a conflict... "
FILLING THE GAPS
Two high-profile deaths of children in Brooklyn and Manhattan last year drew criticism of ACS from government officials.
In both cases, the boys died as a result of alleged abuse by their caretakers after complaints had been filed with ACS, according to a Daily News report.
Former ACS Commissioner Gladys Carrion resigned in December amid the scrutiny, while ACS suspended four top officials, citing "serious gaps" in communication regarding one of the cases.
Though one of the most heartbreaking cases in recent memory occurred three years prior to Carrion's tenure, and involved a boy from Staten Island.
Then 7-year-old Patrick Alford was removed from his mother's custody on Staten Island in 2009, after she was arrested on theft charges. Patrick was placed in a foster home in Brooklyn, then, disappeared less than a month later.
His foster mother was the last person to see him when she took out the trash. She told police he disappeared when she turned to answer her cell phone.
In February, Mayor Bill de Blasio appointed David Hansell, 63, to head the agency, which operates on a $2.9 billion budget. Hansell is the third ACS commissioner over the past decade. The move was praised by observers frustrated with the agency's handling of several abuse cases in which children died.
Hansell has told reporters the agency has undergone a "top-to-bottom review" since he took the helm, with initiatives including arming workers with high-tech devices to notify police if they are in danger during an investigation, and revamping the ChildStat program.
The Advance requested an interview with Hansell, but was told by ACS that the waiting list of media outlets seeking an interview with him is a long one.
Nearly 850 employees in Md. school system on leave this year as child abuse investigations soar
by Donna St. George
One teacher in Prince George's County was escorted out of her school this spring after being accused of making an offensive remark in class. Another educator was sent home for allegedly failing to report a tussle that another staff member had with a student one day.
The latest data show they were among 848 employees placed on administrative leave at some point in the 2016-17 school year in Maryland's second-largest school system amid a major surge in allegations of abuse and neglect.
That total has soared more than 1,000 percent since 2014-15, the year before Prince George's was roiled by child abuse scandals and began to step up its emphasis on reporting misconduct. As investigations are conducted, many employees are off the job for weeks or months — an issue that has sparked increasing debate.
Prince George's school officials said this month they have plans to improve the process of placing staff on leave for next school year and clarify the type of behavior employees are required to report. But critics say student learning has already taken a hit, and they worry about losing good teachers who are tired of the turmoil.
The most recent figures show 142 teachers and 91 other employees were off the job as of June 6, a week before classes ended for the summer break.
“It's a purgatory of a kind I didn't know existed,” said the teacher accused of the offensive comment, who — like others The Post interviewed — asked that her name be withheld for fear of retribution. She said she has no idea when she will be called back to the classroom. It could be the fall. It could be never.
“I am absolutely scared of losing my career,” she said.
The conduct of district staff has been a focus since the county was hit with a string of scandals, including one that involved an elementary school volunteer, Deonte Carraway, accused in early 2016 of video-recording students as he directed them to perform sex acts.
Prince George's officials say the goal is to strengthen safeguards and shift a culture of nonreporting. Some new training is in the works, and they hope fewer employees are out next year. But they also say they have embarked on a major change that takes time.
School board Chairman Segun Eubanks said that the 848 employees off the job this year is “a big number” and the district may have “overcorrected” this year as it pushed employees to be vigilant and report troubling incidents.
About half of those on leave this year were teachers, the new data shows.
As the next school year begins, Eubanks said, the idea will not be to slow down reporting but to handle cases more effectively. “We need to find where that right balance is,” he said.
Critics have argued that while safety improvements were needed, they were poorly implemented, with major fallout. They cite a culture of fear, with teachers worried that any misstep or false accusation could mean being removed. Educators and parents say that teacher absences have often left students with substitutes for long periods.
D ata showed that of the 840 employee-related reports that went to Child Protective Services, 90 percent were screened out, meaning they did not warrant an investigation by that agency.
In cases with a final disposition, 67 employees were terminated, or resigned or retired; 51 suspended; and 78 reprimanded. More than 200 were cleared and about 170 received letters of professional counsel.
Several educators spoke about their experiences on condition that they not be named.
One teacher said she was placed on leave for not following proper procedures when she reported seeing another staff member grab a student by the shirt and shove him. Her leave persisted for most of the school year — and came after eight weeks of leave the previous year for kissing a first-grader on the top of the head after the girl hugged her, she said.
The teacher said the first-grader's father protested her removal. “The climate they've created is just horrendous,” she said, noting that young children expect physical contact. “Are you not going to hug a 4-year-old who is crying?”
? A counselor said he was accused of failing to report a physical exchange between a student and staff member in the cafeteria. But he says he had not witnessed the incident or been at school that day. Placed on leave in January, he said he was cleared at an April hearing, but has still not been called back to work.
“What's going on is really ridiculous,” he said. “I didn't do anything wrong.” He said he worries about his students, some of whom he's heard were suspended or expelled. He said he wants to be back at work.
? A retiree working as a substitute teacher said he was placed on leave last fall for tugging on a third-grader's hoodie as he sought to keep her in line in the hallway. He has been out more than six months. “I cannot fault them for trying to help children who need protection,” he said. “But they've gone overboard in the other direction.”
? The teacher accused of making an offensive remark said she did not make the comment and the job limbo has been tough. She gets paid, like others on leave, but waits at home — reviewing her teaching materials, reading journal articles, trying to keep her mind in the game. “I want to be teaching,” she said.
School officials say they have paid almost $10 million as of May 12 to employees on administrative leave for all types of reasons, including abuse and neglect investigations. That compares with $2.6 million last year, and $630,000 in 2014-2015.
But the district says costs are down for substitute employees. They estimated a reduction of $7 million to $13 million compared with previous years, partly because they are using fewer retirees, who are higher paid. They also say principals sometimes compensate for teacher absences by combining classes or using other staff to fill in.
Some worry about retaining and recruiting teachers in the 132,000-student district.
“Unfortunately, I fear it's going to be borne out in lower retention rates for teachers,” said David Murray, a school board member who co-authored a petition with three of his colleagues calling for revamping procedures that “have done more harm than good.”
Many Prince George's teachers are looking for jobs in nearby Montgomery, Howard and Charles counties, as well as in D.C. schools, said board member Edward Burroughs III.
“Everywhere I go, large groups of teachers are talking about how they really want to leave the school system,” he said, noting that the county also pays less than some other systems. “There really is a problem. Morale has never been lower.”
School officials say they recruit for 1,000 new teachers a year and don't expect any changes for 2017-18. Typically 500 former employees seek to be rehired, they said.
Teachers have until July 15 to say whether they plan to return next school year, said Theresa Mitchell Dudley, president of the county teachers union.
Dudley said that the safety of children is a priority but it's also been one of the toughest school years in recent memory for educators. For those placed on leave, she said, the process of waiting for a resolution has been fraught with delays, lack of communication and seemingly little understanding of “how traumatic it is.”
Parents, It Is Time You Talked About Sex With Your Children
by Harkeerat Anand
Most of you have probably heard the song 'Let's talk about sex' and, probably, also changed channels when it came on TV. Why do we treat sex as taboo? Why can't we talk freely about an essential human need which is the basis of all procreation and sustenance of life?
Like most people I know, I treat sex as something deeply intimate and personal. I refrain from ever talking about my own sexual experiences out of respect for myself and my partner. But I really feel that by treating sex as taboo, we encourage youngsters to engage in sexually dangerous behaviour. So it is time that we started discussing sex in a matter of fact way. Fact is that children as young as fourteen are becoming sexually active and if we don't educate them in time, we might be putting them at risk. I'm not saying that your child is 'doing it', but he/she is definitely curious, if not active. And it is better that he/she sees you as a friend and learns about it from you rather than by indulging in 'exciting' unsafe behaviour. I'm definitely not condoning early sexual activity, I only want you to be aware that times are changing and we must accept and tackle the issue instead of denying it.
Here are a few things I believe parents and guardians should be doing in order to ensure that their children are aware and make the right choices.
1. Talk to them about the birds and the bees
Calmly, and without laughing, sit down with your child and tell him or her about the whole process. If you're too uncomfortable doing it, you can take the help of a science book. But make it matter of fact. Please don't start giving a lecture on virtue and sanskar or your child may feel intimidated.
2. Tell them that just having sex doesn't make them cool or a grown up
It is a popular belief, especially among men that having sex makes a man out of a boy. Or a man's coolness is measured by how hot his girlfriend is or how many women he has had sex with. Please tell your child that that's not the case. That it's perfectly fine to wait to be with someone who they really like. That to be really cool, one must be doing cool stuff like getting somewhere in life. That it's cool to love your art and your books. Just having sex doesn't make one a grown up, but taking responsibility does.
3. Talk to them about consent
No one and it means no one, can have sex with them without their consent. Nor can they do it without someone else's. Neither their live in partner, nor their spouse, nor their good friend, no one is allowed to make them feel violated or abused. Teach them the difference between a good touch and a bad touch and that it's okay to raise an alarm if they feel that someone touched them inappropriately.
4. Tell them about the risks of being sexually active, not just the pleasure
Tell your kids about the importance of using protection. That despite being in a monogamous relationship, their partner might be a carrier from a previous experience, and they must use protection at all costs. Tell them about the risk of unplanned pregnancies and the effects of birth control pills. That those pills won't protect them against infections, and why it is a bad idea to have casual sex with strangers. Also that not all genital infections are dangerous STD's and can be treated with the right medical care.
5. Don't make vulgar jokes in front of your children
Most adults end up talking in innuendo or making sexually explicit jokes among themselves. Please don't do that in front of your kids. They should be able to respect their own sexual choices and those made by others.
6. Tell them that it isn't cheap or dirty if they feel the desire for it
Sexual experience is one of the most pleasurable experiences known to mankind. And when it happens with someone we love, it is also a greatly emotional and soulful one. Why must someone be made to feel dirty about having the desire to experience it? You can't stop your children from trying some stuff. But you can do your part by making them comfortable talking to you about it. If they are having issues, they should know that they can safely confide in you. The same goes for masturbation, menstruation and hygiene products. But do tell them that there's a time for everything. And it would be better for them if they focus on building a career when they are younger instead of spending too much energy in sexual pursuit.
7. Talk to them about gender identities and sexual orientation
Our country may have regressed and made homosexuality illegal, but it is an identity one can't deny. People are born queer. They are not perverts. Even Hindu mythology accepts it with the likes of Shikhandi. And believe it or not, but your own child could be queer. Teach your children to accept their own gender identity and sexual orientation, and of those who they feel are different. Each one of us is entitled to live a dignified and respectful life. Teach them about respecting each human being as a human being irrespective of their sexual choices.
8. What happens in someone's bedroom is strictly his or her business.
Unless you suspect someone of being a paedophile or a rapist, what happens in someone's bedroom is strictly their own business. A person's sexual fetishes and behaviour are his or her own secret, and we are no one to pry, mock, condemn or ridicule it.
9. Cheating may be common, but it's not acceptable
I grew up in an idealistic world where I thought adultery was a shameful sin. Now I know that it is common behaviour among both men and women. That still doesn't make it okay. Unless you are happy being in an open or a polygamous relationship, a cheating partner will take a huge toll on you emotionally and even physically, if he or she passes some strange infection to you. No matter how much you may love someone, you cannot take this kind of insecurity and callousness. It is a form of emotional abuse no one needs to take. And your children need to know that.
10. Tell them that they will get hurt
The day we decide to get intimate with someone, we are investing a lot of us emotionally. We open ourselves up to getting hurt. Even if you are the best couple ever, there will be times when you will get hurt. And if your partner is not right for you, you will get hurt a lot more. Tell them that if they feel more hurt than happy, then it is okay to move on. No one needs to be stuck in an unfulfilling relationship that only drains their reserves. There will also be people who will want to be with them only for the sex, and have nothing meaningful to add to their lives. You must caution them against such people. And that it's perfectly acceptable to walk out if they feel that way.
11. Accept that your child is growing up
As parents, it will be very difficult for you to believe that your baby has grown up. But you will have to accept it. Accept that they will be curious, that they will want to experiment, that they will go out with people you don't like and that they will get hurt. They will also need their privacy from you just like you need from them. You can only guide them in the right manner and love them unconditionally. You can't live their lives or make their mistakes. In order to learn, they must make mistakes of their own.
The more comfortable we are about discussing this topic with our youngsters, the more confident they will feel in trusting us with their intimate secrets. They will be able to come to us in case they are troubled and seek the right kind of guidance and support. They will also be more responsible than reckless. And hopefully, they will respect sexual choices of all around them and not use it as a criterion to judge or ridicule others. So that a country with more than a billion people can accept how so many of them came into being.
Penn State fails to ensure background checks for youth camps staff, state audit says
by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
PITTSBURGH — A state audit says Penn State fails to ensure all workers coming in contact with children through university-operated youth camps have required background checks, even five years after reforms announced in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal.
Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said as many as 57 youth camps held during 2016 may have operated with one or more staffers not having the background clearances required by law to be on file. His auditors found 7.9 percent of the youth camps they examined had at least one clearance missing for at least one staffer associated with the camp.
Penn State held 732 such camps in 2016; auditors examined the records for 76 of them.
“This error rate is poor for any university, but for PSU, it is particularly concerning considering the issues emanating from the Sandusky scandal,” DePasquale said.
Jerry Sandusky, a former Penn State assistant football coach who operated a charity that held youth camps on campus and in conjunction with the university, is serving 30-60 years for sexually abusing children.
DePasquale initiated the audit of the state's largest university in August 2016, saying he would examine progress made on reforms since the Sandusky child sex abuse scandal, including Clery Act compliance and recommended governance changes reaching as high as Penn State's board of trustees
The first-ever performance audit of Penn State also was intended to focus on costs and tuition affordability.
“Nearly five years have passed since the news broke about Sandusky's sexual abuse of children,” DePasquale said at the time. “Through this audit, we will test the university's implementation of new policies and procedures intended to prevent sexual, physical, or emotional abuse.”
In all, the 100-page-plus report offered nine findings and 23 recommendations to improve university operations and stop rising tuition.
According to the audit, Penn State will be implementing changes and expects to have a new human resource system with improved record-keeping and centralization of the background check process in place by the end of this year.
DePasquale's audit found that Penn State has worked to address the majority of governance recommendations listed in a 2012 report issued in the wake of the child sex abuse scandal. He said the university has taken “significant steps” to correct some of the previous weaknesses in governance.
Despite early intervention, little girl died amid neglect allegations
by Sue Loughlin
The warning signs showed up early in 9-month-old Adilynn Moseman's fragile existence.
In April 2011 — after the severely developmentally disabled child had been re-admitted four times for failure to thrive — a Riley Hospital for Children medical team raised “significant concerns” that the child's failure to gain weight could be the result of neglect at home.
Riley Hospital contacted the Department of Child Services, which investigated, and substantiated, neglect.
The Vigo County Juvenile Court then became involved, and the family received intervention services. But on Oct. 24, 2011, when told the family had “substantially complied” with requirements, the court ended its involvement. And DCS intervention and oversight stopped.
A few years later, on Jan. 21, 2016, 5-year-old Adilynn Moseman died. An autopsy attributed her death to pneumonia and malnutrition. She weighed just under 17 pounds.
After a year-long investigation, in which DCS again substantiated neglect, Adilynn's parents, Brian D. Moseman and Tiffany L. Daugherty, were arrested on charges including neglect of a dependent resulting in death.
Earlier this month, Daugherty also was charged with welfare fraud, with prosecutors alleging she misused Social Security benefits intended for the care of Adilynn.
With the warning signs clear when Adilynn was just 9 months old, could more have been done to prevent her death less than five years later?
Among other questions, when the mother failed to seek ongoing medical care for a child with major medical issues, did no one notice?
Efforts to contact Tiffany Daugherty and her public defender, Michael Brewer, on Friday, were unsuccessful.
Failure to thrive
Born July 12, 2010, Adilynn Moseman suffered from respiratory failure at birth and spent several weeks at Riley's neonatal intensive care unit. She eventually was diagnosed with hearing and visual impairments, inability to walk, microcephaly (small head), mitochondrial disorder and seizures. Mitochondrial disease is an inherited chronic illness that can be present at birth or develop later in life; it causes debilitating physical, developmental, and cognitive disabilities.
Adilynn used a feeding tube to eat and a tracheostomy tube to breathe.
Between March 11, 2010 and April 19, 2011, she was re-admitted four times to Riley Developmental Pediatrics for “failure to thrive” due to lack of weight gain or weight loss. In April of 2011, she weighed just 8.2 pounds.
Riley medical and social work staff observed a trend: When the child was in the hospital, she gained weight, but when she went home, she failed to thrive and even lost weight.
The “medical team has significant concerns that mother neglects the feedings at home and does not provide the prescribed feedings at home. If the patient continues to fail to thrive, [she] is at increased risk for infections, delays in development and ultimately death, if not properly fed,” Riley physician Dr. Abigail Klemsz wrote in late April 2011, according to DCS records obtained by the Tribune-Star by way of a public records request.
The patient “will need DCS input to help ensure [an] adequate home environment,” she wrote. “Patient does not have any documented reason to not gain weight.”
Riley social workers also raised “grave concerns related to mom depression and possibility that it has and continues to interfere with her ability to provide care for [Adilynn].”
The hospital contacted the Indiana Department of Child Services, which investigated — and substantiated — neglect. Riley had reported failure to thrive and Stage 2 malnutrition.
Vigo County DCS family case manager Misty Parker, who investigated the neglect and spoke with Riley staff, wrote, “They stated that Adilynn may have a slightly decreased life expectancy like any other medically fragile child, but she should be able to live a full life,” according to DCS documentation.
In May 2011, Vigo County Juvenile Court issued an order calling for DCS monitoring and intervention services. In October, the order was discharged because “participants have substantially complied with the terms” of the order.
In its investigation, DCS wrote that mom believed family did need counseling and more services and both parents “were very cooperative and willing to work with the Department through an informal adjustment.”
An informal adjustment is a way to handle a case involving a neglected or abused child without filing a Child In Need of Services (CHINS) case. It is a written agreement outlining what parents must do to keep their child safe and may include family counseling, parenting classes, substance abuse treatment, etc.
During the court-ordered intervention between May and October 2011, DCS referred the family to work with Lifeline Youth and Family Services, which provides home-based case work services. The family consultant was Beth Gaither.
At one point, Gaither reports the “family has done an excellent job.”
On July 8, she reported that Tiffany Daugherty told her “she loved and hated Riley [Hospital] since they had accused her of not feeding her baby, but loved the care they provided.”
In September, Gaither reported the child is “making good progress medically.” At the last doctor visit, Adilynn weighed 14 lbs. On Sept. 22, Gaither wrote that Tiffany is “resistant” to the topic of parenting skills for special-needs children. Gaither “has been told to proceed slowly by DCS family case manager.”
Later, Gaither told DCS that “all services [with Lifeline] have been successful.”
After the court discharged the case on Oct. 24, 2011, DCS and court involvement ended. That is, until after the child's death.
Did system fail?
Did the system — and in particular, DCS — fail Adilynn?
The Indiana Department of Child Services, created to protect children from abuse and neglect, is limited in what it can do, said Stephanie Shene, DCS communications coordinator and former family caseworker who has experience in the field.
“DCS can only intervene if a report [alleging abuse or neglect] is made,” she said.
Once a case is discharged by a court, and parents have completed what was asked of them, “DCS involvement ends,” Shene said.
An “informal adjustment” is used in cases where parents are willing to do what's asked of them in a written agreement, from contacting caseworkers each week to working with various support agencies.
The goal is to keep the family together, where possible, if concerns about a child's safety can be addressed through that agreement and support services, she said. But if a child is not safe, “We remove the child [with a court order] ...we will always do what is best for the child.”
Once a case is closed, “We try to put things in place that can be maintained” and ensure services are still in place, she said, but “our eyes go away.” It's up to the family to follow through.
It's common for DCS to have team meetings with various providers, including a child's doctor, so “we understand what needs to be done medically,” Shene said.
DCS would not get involved again unless there was another report of abuse or neglect. The way state law is written, “We are set up for intervention more so on a reactive basis; we have to know about it before we can go in,” she said.
As a caseworker, she said she has dealt with medically fragile children and in those cases, it's especially important to involve medical professionals, who can serve as extra eyes on those high-risk, high need children.
DCS looks to the community, providers and medical professionals to alert them if they suspect abuse or neglect, she said. “That's why we work a lot with communities ... including hospitals, to spread the message. If there are concerns, contact our hotline.”
If a child with serious medical needs repeatedly doesn't show up at doctors' appointments, that should raise concerns, said James Wide, DCS deputy director of communications. It's especially critical for medically fragile children because their health can rapidly deteriorate, particularly if a child is receiving inadequate nutrition.
Gap in medical care
Once the Vigo County court closed the neglect case involving Adilynn, records indicate fewer and fewer visits to medical providers. By one DCS estimation, the lack of medical care at one point included a multi-year gap in doctor's visits for the child.
• It appears June or July of 2012 was Adilynn's last visit to Riley Developmental Pediatrics, a department that works with children who have developmental disorders. At that time, the child weighed 21 pounds, 12 oz.
• On Nov. 14, 2013, Adilynn visited the office of Dr. Pablito Dela Cruz for a 3-year well child visit, and at that time, she weighed 16 pounds. Medical records from that office visit indicate, “No serious concerns with subnormal weight gain as this is likely associated with her underlying neurological condition.” The records also indicated, “no abuse/neglect evident.”
Dela Cruz did provide referrals to specialists, and the next appointment at the Terre Haute office was to be in one year.
The medical records also indicated “mom concerned with weight loss.”
• On Dec. 7, 2015, Adilynn was seen in the office of Dr. Laxma Marri; Daugherty requested an appointment for a prescription for a suction machine for Adilynn's trachea. The child weighed 17 pounds, according to records. This was Adilynn's only visit to Marri's office.
• Yet just a few weeks later, Tiffany Daugherty contacted Jessica Bradley through IU Health related to food orders and calorie intake for Adilynn; Daugherty told her Adilynn weighed 26 pounds, Bradley reported, according to a DCS contact log report. When DCS investigated Adilynn's death and asked Daugherty about the conversation, Daugherty told DCS that information was incorrect.
IU Health concluded that Adilynn was being fed 3 1/2 bottles of food per day, when in early 2014, it was recommended that the child have 4 1/2 bottles per day. In a followup call initiated by Bradley on Jan. 6, 2016, Daugherty reported the child had gained 1 1/2 pounds.
Bradley said IU Health had been providing food, but there were several times when the parents never called to order food and IU Health sent out letters to see if Adilynn was still a patient. Letters were sent several times.
On Jan. 21, 2016, 5-year-old Adilynn Moseman died. She was taken to the hospital with cardiac arrest and was unresponsive when brought in. Medical staff attempted to revive her. She weighed 16.9 lbs.
Both the Vigo County Sheriff's Department and DCS investigated.
A Jan. 22, 2016 autopsy report completed by forensic pathologist Dr. Roland Kohr indicated the cause of death was patchy bronchopneumonia [difficulty breathing due to constricted airways] and malnutrition.
On Oct. 25, 2016, after a lengthy investigation, Kohr provided a final report on this case after reviewing medical records. The pathologist concluded several indications of medical neglect in the case:
• Failure to gain weight while in the care of her parents, in spite of a consistent pattern of gaining weight while in the care of hospital personnel;
• Failure to seek ongoing medical care at Riley for several years for a child with major medical issues;
• Severe malnutrition at the time of her death in spite of having been provided special feeding materials by social services.
On March 7, 2017, Brian D. Moseman and Tiffany L. Daugherty were arrested on charges including neglect of a dependent resulting in death. The charge is a Level 1 felony; should conviction result, it carries a potential sentence of 20 to 40 years imprisonment. The couple faces an Aug. 28 trial date.
The arrest of Daugherty and Moseman came about two weeks after four Vigo County people — two of them guardians — were arrested in the sever malnutrition death of another child with severe disabilities, 9-year-old Cameron Hoopingarner, who weighed just 15 pounds when he died Feb. 21. Those defendants remain jailed.
East Alabama coroner warns of increase in 'huffing' deaths
by Carol Robinson
An increase in "huffing'' deaths in one east Alabama county has the coroner there issuing a warning about the dangers of inhalant use and abuse.
Cherokee County Coroner Dr. Jeremy Deaton just last week investigated the death of an adult victim who was inhaling 10 to 12 cans of inhalant each day. "We're seeing it a lot more,'' Deaton said. "It causes the heart to temporarily stop and decreases blood to the brain, causing that euphoric high. Sometimes your heart jumps back, and unfortunately sometimes it doesn't."
Inhalants include a range of household and industrial chemicals whose volatile vapors or pressurized gases are concentrated and breathed in via the nose or mouth to produce intoxication. Huffing isn't new, but Deaton said he's seen a jump in deaths over the past two years. "As a parent,'' he said, "I had no clue."
Though not always the direct cause of death, he's seen several cases where the use of inhalants contributed to death, such as a teen using it and then drowning.
Deaton issued a warning on Monday, saying parents of teens need to be aware that is on the rise. A 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health revealed that the primary population of inhalant abusers (68%) is under 18 years of age. Although inhalant abuse is declining from its peak in the 1990s, it is still a significant problem. In 2011, 7% of eighth graders reported inhalant use, along with 4.5% of 10th graders and 3.2% of 12th graders, he wrote.
Symptoms include mild symptoms such as drowsiness, lightheadedness but can lead to more serious consequences such as permanent damage to the brain and other organs. Sudden cardiac death from fatal cardiac arrhythmias has been reported even in teen inhalant abusers. Death from huffing can occur upon the first time of use or after prolonged inhalant abuse. Other causes of death related to huffing include asphyxiation, aspiration, or suffocation.
"Parents of teens need to be especially vigilant about signs of inhalant abuse (huffing), since the abused substances are simple household items and not readily identifiable as drugs of abuse,'' Deaton wrote. "Chemical-soaked rags or empty spray paint or other solvent containers may be found. Inhalants are substances that are easily purchased and are inexpensive, making them attractive to curious teens."
Deaton said the most commonly abused inhalant seen through the Cherokee County Coroner's Office is some type of compressed air used to remove dust from computers or other items around the house. "While there is no specific brand that is more popular than the other, parents should begin to ask questions of concern if containers are found around the house or in their children's vehicles,'' he wrote. "If parents are concerned that their child maybe suffering from this addiction, you should consult with your physician or the Court Referral System for options on addiction treatment."
Advocates: Child abuse victims will suffer under Senate health bill
by Anita Wadhwani
Abused and neglected children in Tennessee will suffer from Medicaid cuts proposed under the Senate health care bill, warned state child welfare advocates on Monday, painting a potentially dire picture of victims without access to treatment and a deepening of an opioid crisis that has pushed more kids into foster care because they lack a functioning parent.
TennCare, the state's version of Medicaid, is the principal provider of medical, mental health and special-needs services for about 8,000 kids in foster care, most as a result of abuse or neglect.
The Senate bill, unveiled Thursday, caps the amount of federal dollars sent to states to support their Medicaid programs. Proponents say the measure gives states more flexibility to decide how they spend those federal dollars, while detractors say it will require states to foot a larger share of the bill. Many states, including Tennessee, may be forced to make deep cuts in their Medicaid programs.
Linda O'Neal, executive director of the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth, foresees a "substantial impact on some of the children who are most vulnerable in Tennessee."
TennCare spending has been vital for substance abuse treatment and the care of babies born exposed to drug abuse in utero, O'Neal said. After years of alarmingly escalating numbers of babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome after such drug exposure, those births are leveling off in part due to substance abuse services provided through TennCare, she said.
TennCare also funds substance abuse treatment programs for adults that can help keep families together, preventing a spiral into addiction that can lead to parents neglecting or abusing a child.
TennCare funding is intertwined in a broad swath of nonprofit, public policy, adoption, private and public services, including the Department of Children's Services, that is aimed at preventing child abuse and aiding its victims.
Those include services that the Davidson County Juvenile Court relies on, said Judge Sheila Calloway, who described as one example the recent case of a child she called "Baby M."
The 2-year-old was severely abused by parents and caretakers addicted to cocaine and heroin, and will need a lifetime of medical care, she said. Today the child is with a family pursuing adoption and is receiving treatment through TennCare. As it stands now, TennCare also will provide funding for adoptive families to care for their children that could be cut under the new plan, advocates said.
"If there are cuts, I can't imagine what would happen to Baby M or others like him," Calloway said.
Neither of Tennessee's two Republican senators made a final decision on whether they will cast their vote for the health care legislation. Sen. Bob Corker said his final decision would be based on whether the proposal was better than the Affordable Care Act, in place today. Sen. Lamar Alexander has said he believes thousands of Tennesseans will be better off under the bill, but he, too, w ants more time to review the bill before making a decision.
Tennessee has just begun to create a series of programs to end the cycle of abuse and neglect caused by adverse childhood experiences such as trauma. Those programs rely, in part, on Medicaid funding.
"With these cuts ... we won't be able to implement any of that," said Lynne Farrar, executive director of the Tennessee CASA, which advocates for children in the court system. "That is very, very sad. It's very disappointing that we are making giant strides in the state of Tennessee ... only to face very deep, tragic cuts."
Upstsate Creates New Fellowship to Focus on Cases of Child Abuse and Neglect
by Scott Willis
Upstate Golisano Children's Hospital is looking for a pediatrician who might also be interested in learning how to treat victims of child abuse and neglect. It's the first-ever fellowship in child abuse pediatrics at Upstate, and only the second in New York.
Director of the fellowship program Dr. Ann Botash says it makes sense to have at least one fellow in the field here in Syracuse.
"We do have the right number of everybody. We do have the population. I think it's perfect for training someone. It's not overwhelming, but just the right number of patients to see."
Botash is also co-medical director of the McMahon Ryan Child Advocacy Center, which she says is a unique arrangement full of resources for a fellow to train and work with.
"We have a good number of people who do research in brain issues, and could work with a fellow perhaps looking at acute head trauma that happen from child abuse. We also have people doing research in orthopedics and fractures."
Botash says there is also essential psychiatric care, not to mention other critical services.
"Not every patient needs to be seen by a subspecialist. It's helpful, I think, because we have the connections with the community that a pediatrician may not have with child protective services, the police, or Vera House, for example."
As part of the training, she says the fellow will participate in rotations with trauma services, and work with sexual assault nurse examiners.
"They'll also work a little bit in primary care, so they have a well-rounded, really good understanding of pediatrics, as well as being able to look at a child suspected of abuse, making sure they've ruled out other possible reasons. I think that's the hardest part of the job, making sure you're not missing something medical."
The McMahon Ryan Child Advocacy center is on track to see more than 900 children this year…up from 700 in 2016. Botash says the field is nuanced…and interesting…
"There's so many community factors into what brings a child to you. The diagnosis itself often involves a lot of critical thinking and determination of...it's like a puzzle. You have to figure out what happened where and when."
She says they're getting the word out now, and hopes to find a match who can start the three-year fellowship next July.
Protecting Our Children: Penn State's child center to study abuse
by John Finnerty
Penn State is preparing to open a new $11 million Center for Healthy Children this summer with a mission to research how to best treat and prevent child abuse.
If all goes according to plan, the center will open in September, Penn State spokeswoman Monica Jones said.
It's part of the wide-ranging response the university has made in response to the horrific child sex abuse scandal involving former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky and the subsequent cover-up of the allegations by Penn State administration.
The center is being funded with a $7.7 million federal National Institute of Health grant, and $3.4 million in Penn State funds.
The opening of center is the latest milestone in what has been a series of actions that began shortly after the Sandusky scandal came to light. In 2013, Penn State hired Jennie Noll as part of a plan to create 12 positions to create what has since been called the university's Child Maltreatment Solutions Network.
“That's a big expense and that's in perpetuity,” Noll said. She came to Penn State from the Cincinnati's Children's Hospital. Before her stint in Cincinnati, she'd worked at the National Institute of Health.
The effort is supported, in part, by $12 million of the $60 million Penn State paid the NCAA over the university's handling of the Sandusky cover-up.
A settlement in a lawsuit filed by state Sen. Jake Corman, R-Centre County, dictates that the Penn State fine stays in-state. The remaining $48 million was placed under the control of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. Most of that money is being used to fund new or help existing Children's Advocacy Centers, facilities where specially-trained medical and law enforcement professionals interview and examine children believed to be victims of sexual assault.
Researchers at the Center for Healthy Children are consulting with those who work on the front-lines responding to abuse allegations to make sure their research is hitting areas that matter, Noll said.
One of the early focuses of research will be to develop a formula to determine what is a manageable number of cases for social workers in child protection agencies.
This has emerged as one of the looming topics of controversy over the state's legislative response to the Penn State child sex abuse crisis. The state changed the definition of child abuse and greatly increased the number of people required to report suspected cases of abuse. That led to a tsunami of reports of alleged abuse. The state and counties didn't invest extra money to add more caseworkers, fueling concern among advocates that in the tidal wave of complaints caseworkers are missing signals of serious abuse.
Child protective services agencies received more than 12.5 calls a day in 2016 with 44,359 cases of suspected child abuse reported to them. Of those, only 1 in 10 reports was substantiated.The protective services caseworkers were able to document that abuse occurred in 4,597 cases.
Five years ago, when the state got 24,615 reports of child abuse, caseworkers were able to substantiate 1 in 7 allegations.
The research is intended to provide lawmakers with a real guide to inform them about how much resource needs to be spent to adequately deal with the state's child protection crisis, she said.
Noll said that much of the effort to combat child mistreatment has been made with little quantitative analysis done to determine if it's working until years later when the youths grow up and either thrive or don't.
Their aim is to use research to determine if what's being done works and if it doesn't find an alternative that will pay off better. Some of the most important work will be in trying to figure out what works best to prevent child abuse before it happens, Noll said.
“That's why I came to Penn State,” Noll said. “to solve problems that move the needle.”
Once they identify models that work in Pennsylvania, they would expect to see it replicated in child protection agencies across the country, she said.
The research is an important component of the state's response to the child abuse problem, said Delilah Rumburg, chief executive officer for the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape. Advocates who work with victims of sex assault already use programs supported by evidence, she said.
“We feel confident that they are promising” tools to help victims, Rumburg said. But, rape crisis centers don't have the resources to invest in research to match what's underway at Penn State, she said.
“We have a long way to go on prevention,” she said. “We are turning a corner because of these heinous crimes” at Penn State.
David Heckler, who chaired the state's task force on child protection, said that the research is important to help compensate for the real-world strains on the child protection system.
“It's some overworked social worker who initially confronts a lot of these situations,” Heckler said. That means that if the facts of the case are obvious, the abuse will likely be identified quickly.
“If someone jumps out of a bush and rapes someone, then you're off to the races,” Heckler said.
However if the facts are murkier, it's more likely that the abuse might go overlooked.
“You're not going to solve that problems with a stroke of a pen in Harrisburg,” he said.
The Penn State research will help tremendously, he said.
“We're really excited about what Dr. Noll is doing, It's hard to assess if you're doing good things,” Heckler said. “There's always skepticism about whether grants are doing anything more than spending money.”
Heckler now chairs the committee created by the state Commission on Crime and Delinquency to oversee the $48 million from the Penn State fine.
Child Advocacy Centers
His experience with the task force on child protection convinced him of the importance of adding Children's Advocacy Centers across the state.
“If they had a CAC in Centre County” when the first Sandusky victims came forward, “it would have prevented 10 years of victimization, Heckler said.
The Children's Advocacy Center opened in Centre County in 2014 — three years after Sandusky's arrest. It's one of 11 Pennsylvania has added, increasing the state's inventory of such facilities by 50 percent in just the last three years.
When the committee began its work in 2013, there were 20 Children's Advocacy Centers in Pennsylvania, including one in Lawrence County and one Northumberland County. Children in one-third of the state lived more than an hour way from one of these facilities.
Since then, 11 Children's Advocacy Centers have been added, including facilities in Cambria and Mercer counties. Along the way, the Commission on Crime and Delinquency handed out 44 grants worth $3.3 million in 2015 and another 42 grants worth almost $2 million last year. In addition to the advocacy centers, some of that money went to rape crisis centers and other groups serving survivors of child sex crimes.
Heckler said the pace at which the money is being released jibes with the intent of lawmakers when they determined that PCCD should oversee the funds. Act 1 of 2013, which funnels the money through the commission, stipulates that no more than half of the settlement funds can be spent in the first five years.
But now only about one-sixth of the state, very rural portions of central Pennsylvania, are more than an hour's drive from a Children's Advocacy Center.
Heckler said that as the state adds Children's Advocacy Centers, it's become clear that it makes little sense to, in the short-term, push to open such a facility in each county. Rather, the group has focused on making sure that facilities are as accessible as possible to as many children who need them.
Some small counties just won't have enough cases of alleged abuse to justify a Children's Advocacy Center, he said.
Rumburg said the approach makes sense to her and seems to follow practices used by other social service groups. For instance, there are only 50 rape crisis centers to serve the state's 67 counties, she said.
CCF offering free training to help prevent child sexual abuse
by The Newnan Times-Herald
The Coweta Community Foundation along with the Georgia Center for Child Advocacy will host Darkness to Light's Stewards of Children training for nonprofit board members and non-profit organization volunteers.
The training will be held on July 18, 2017, from 10 a.m. to noon at The Newnan Centre, 1515 Lower Fayetteville Rd. The training is available to local non-profits as well as any interested citizens.
Darkness to Light (D2L) has championed the movement to end child sexual abuse since its founding in 2000. With affiliates in all 50 U.S. states and 16 international locations, D2L provides individuals, organizations and communities with the tools to protect children from sexual abuse.
To date, the D2L network of 6,000 authorized facilitators has trained more than 500,000 parents, youth-serving professionals and organization volunteers in D2L's award-winning Stewards of Children child sexual abuse prevention program.
To register, please visit www.cowetafoundation.org/event/232. Admission is free and includes a workbook and materials. Seating is limited to 50 participants.
For more information, call 770-253- 1833 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Two month campaign to prevent child sexual abuse
by John Hislop
Police Scotland and local authorities have launched a two-month campaign with the charity Stop It Now! Scotland as part of ongoing efforts to prevent child sexual abuse.
Stop it Now! Scotland is the Scottish arm of The Lucy Faithfull Foundation, which is the only UK-wide charity focused solely on preventing child sexual abuse.
Stop It Now! provides confidential and anonymous support to people who are having sexual thoughts about children and young people, supporting them manage these and control any associated behaviour.
In February, Stop it Now! Scotland reported that 1,600 people had sought their help to stop looking at sexual images of children online in 2016 alone, either through the charity's confidential helpline or from the self-help section of its website.
Stuart Allardyce, National Manager of Stop it Now! in Scotland, said: “Stop it Now! Scotland has worked with hundreds of men arrested for viewing sexual images of children.
“For many, being arrested was a real wake-up call. Many knew what they were doing was wrong, but struggled to change their behaviour on their own. That's where our work comes in.
“We make sure these men understand the harm they have caused the children in these images, and also the serious consequences for them and their families if they don't get to grips with their online behaviour. Once they understand this, they become far less likely to reoffend.
“But there are thousands of men out there viewing sexual images of under 18s. We need to get to them too, to help them understand what they are doing is illegal and incredibly harmful to the children and young people in the images – and to get them to stop.
“People can get help via contacting our service directly, our helpline, or online – all support given is completely confidential. So if you are struggling with your online behaviour, or if you know someone who is, please get in touch.”
Between April 2016 and March 2017, officers recorded 51 crimes of possessing indecent images of children in Edinburgh and 80 in the Lothians and Scottish Borders, with 98% of these solved so far.
This compares to 69 crimes recorded between April 2015 and March 2016 for Edinburgh and 62 across the Lothians and Scottish Borders. Of these, 97.5% were solved.
Police Scotland has a dedicated Cyber Crime Unit in the East which continues each day to investigate those who view sexual images of anyone under 18.
Detective Chief Inspector Brian Stuart of Police Scotland's Cyber Crime Unit in the East said: “Our ultimate goal here is to protect children.
“Accessing these images is not a victimless crime. A child is re-victimised every time an image of them is viewed and this creates further demand for these appalling materials.
We have a highly experienced and dedicated Cyber Crime Unit with access to extensive investigative techniques to pursue perpetrators of these crimes.
“The consequences of this behaviour for an individual are life-changing and can include losing your job, being imprisoned and registered as a sex offender.
“I'd urge anyone who is having inappropriate thoughts about children to seek help from Stop It Now! Scotland. Otherwise, expect a visit from officers.”
The campaign is being supported by the City of Edinburgh Council, West Lothian Council, Scottish Borders Council, East Lothian Council and Midlothian Council with our partners in NHS Lothian and NHS Borders.
Michelle Miller, Head of Safer and Strong Communities and Chief Social Work Officer at the City of Edinburgh Council said: “The reporting of these crimes is increasing. This is a result of greater awareness and a growing willingness on the part of victims and the public to report.
“Partner agencies, working together, have increasingly sophisticated ways of detecting these crimes; however, the main focus of this campaign is prevention: first and foremost, of the harm caused to children, but also of the impact on the adults involved.”
To get help, call Stop It Now! Scotland confidentially on 0131 556 3535 or visit get-help.stopitnow.org.uk where further advice, including a self-help section, is available.
Hotel, motel workers to be trained on spotting sex-trafficking victims
by Nichole Manna
Lincoln hotel and motel staff will soon have training on how to spot and help victims of sex trafficking.
Workers at about 100 Omaha hotels and motels have already received the training, which is offered by the Coalition of Human Trafficking. With the help of the Women's Fund of Omaha and local law enforcement, that training will expand to Lincoln.
Sister Celeste Wobeter, chairwoman of the Hotel/Motel Project, said 70 to 80 percent of sex-trafficking victims are taken to commercial lodging places for sex. Training staff -- from managers to maids -- will help them spot victims who may need immediate assistance.
"We need to realize this is going on," Wobeter said about sex trafficking. "We need to take off our blinders and shake our denial."
During a news conference announcing the training Monday, Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks of Lincoln called sex trafficking a despicable industry and said Nebraska has made strides in the last two years to protect victims and eradicate the crime, including a bill (LB289) that makes punishments stiffer for several sex trafficking-related crimes.
The state also made efforts to not treat sex-trafficking victims as criminals, she said. Until about two years ago, many adult victims were charged with prostitution.
The attorney general's office has worked with local law enforcement and county attorneys to make sure authorities know how to spot a victim from a sex worker.
Prostitution is defined as a person willingly exchanging sex for money. Sex trafficking happens when a commercial sex act takes place through force, fraud or coercion by a trafficker. Any minor sold for sex is a victim of sex trafficking.
The next step is the training of hotel staff, Pansing Brooks said.
Lucas Arias, president of the Lincoln Lodging Association, said they haven't been doing their part in being watchful eyes, but said they're more than willing to learn how to help law enforcement and victims.
Two hundred people are sold for sex every month in Lincoln and another 700 are sold in other parts of the state, according to a report from Creighton University.
When the study came out, Meghan Malik, of the Women's Fund of Omaha, said it clearly illustrated that trafficking is an issue statewide.
"No ZIP code or neighborhood is immune -- sex trafficking is happening in our communities," she said.
Twenty-five to 30 percent of the online sex ads researchers studied were posted by adults working independently and not being trafficked. About 70 percent showed some sign of advertised individuals being underage or controlled by a third party, the report says.
Growing number of children are being taken for human trafficking
by Jamarlo Phillips
The Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) says the number of human trafficking cases doubled from the previous year.
DCF says over the past three years there have been a total of 33 reports of people who were found to be victims of sex trafficking in Northwest Florida, but experts say it's hard to really know the numbers because so many cases are hidden.
Shauna Newell said she was a victim of sex trafficking.
"I was 16 years old, so I was the naivest at that age," said Newell.
Newell said her worse nightmare began after a friend invited her over for a slumber party 11 years ago.
"Her 'dad' kept taking us shopping, you know, was buying us anything we wanted. He bought us alcohol at one point so he was really cool. Like I was young so I wasn't allowed to drink," Newell added.
The now 28 year-old victim said she was drugged, raped and beaten over the course of four days before she was found. Now she wants to increase awareness and bring more of these cases to light.
"I guess I learned that things aren't always what they seem. You know, and that you really should, and I say this all the time and now that I'm a parent I kind of like chuckle to myself. I always say now that you should definitely listen to your parents. You know, they see things that you don't necessarily see. They can see through people," Newell mentioned.
Investigator Brad Dennis remembers victims like Newell.
"I have sat with victims, I have buried victims, I have preached victims' funerals," explained Dennis.
Dennis worked his first sex trafficking case 12 years ago.
"The problem that we have today is that we are not putting enough focus and emphasis on the demand side of this industry. And until we choose to go after these men that are exploiting these women and children, whether it's through labor or through sex.... Then this going to continue to grow, and it is going to continue to grow out of hand," Dennis said.
It is why victims like Shauna Newell are voicing their concern.
"I mean, my hope is one day that I won't need to tell my story anymore. I mean, you know, it's painful to talk about it and to bring it up over and over and over again. And, you know the naysayers and all that kind of stuff so I hope one day that all of the women that have come forward will no longer need to do that. That it will just be a known thing. You know, and that we could hopefully get a handle on it," Newell said.
According to the Department of Children and Families in Escambia County there were 15 reports of people who were a target of sex trafficking from 2014 through 20116.
In Okaloosa County there were eight confirmed reports in that period. DCF says there were six reports in Santa Rosa County.
There were also four reports of sex trafficking in Walton County.
U.S. names China as one of world's worst human traffcking offenders
by Caroline Roy
The 2017 edition of the annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report from the US State Department lists China as one of the worst human trafficking offenders in the world, on the same tier as countries like Syria, North Korea, Russia and Iran.
The report sorts countries into three tiers, with Tier 3 being the worst and Tier 1 the best, based on how well the government acknowledges and deals with human trafficking problems in its country.
This year, the report states that China "does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so; therefore, China was downgraded to Tier 3." That places the world superpower into the same category as countries like North Korea and Syria whose regimes are known for neglecting human rights.
The State Department calls the TIP report "the world's most comprehensive resource of governmental anti-human trafficking efforts." Countries are sorted based on the standards of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. Tier 1 countries have recognized their human trafficking problems and taken measures in order to meet the minimum standards of the act. Tier 2 countries are making an effort to combat trafficking, but have failed to meet the standards. Usually, if a country stays on the Tier 2 list for two years that country gets automatically shifted to Tier 3.
China has been a Tier 2 country for the past three years (it was Tier 3 in 2013). Last year, the State Department granted the country a waiver for showing some improvement, but this year Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was not so forgiving.
Tillerson listed many reasons for China's downgrade, explaining that the Chinese government "has not taken serious steps to end its own complicity in trafficking, including forced laborers from North Korea that are located in China."
The report listed a host of different types of trafficking prevalent in China, including forced labor (particularly of North Koreans), forced begging, sex trafficking and trafficking of people from outside countries into China.
The report admits that China, "took some steps" to address these issues but called for it to make stronger efforts towards eliminating human trafficking. "It is our hope that the 21st century will be the last century of human trafficking, and that's what we are all committed to," Tillerson said.
Details of the report leaked to the press on Monday, giving China time to release a statement defending itself against the downgrade.
"China firmly opposes the US' irresponsible remarks on other countries' fight against human trafficking, based on its domestic laws," said Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Lu Kang at a regular press conference.
Washington's open criticism of China comes as a bit of a surprise following months of friendly relations between President Trump and President Xi. Vox notes that the State Department could have simply granted China another waiver.
But this isn't the first sign that Trump may be finished keeping peace with China. A week ago, he tweeted that efforts to work with China on North Korea had "not worked out." This week, his buddy-buddy meetings with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Washington have caused many to speculate that the Trump-Xi honeymoon may be coming to a predictable end.
A man helped a lost toddler find her parents, police say. He was smeared online as a predator and fled town.
by Amber Ferguson
A man trying to help a lost toddler find her parents was misidentified as a kidnapper on social media over the weekend, according to police in Lakeland, Fla., prompting him to leave town in fear for his safety and the safety of his family.
The man was also punched by the child's father who told local media that he “thought he was trying to take my daughter” and “wanted to kill him.”
The whole episode prompted the Lakeland Police Department to warn citizens to “be careful about what you post on social media so as not to victimize an innocent person … Before posting information on matters such as this, we encourage people to identify the source and the validity of such claims before sharing them.”
Lakeland police, in a Facebook post, said the falsely accused man was visiting friends at a softball game when he noticed at a 2-year-old had gotten separated from her parents. She was “wandering by herself,” police said, and the man “believed that she was lost.
“The citizen attempted to ask the girl where her parents were and walked with her in hopes she could point them out,” the statement said, a fact verified by at least one independent witness.
At that point, “bystanders” told the parents that the man was “attempting to kidnap the child,” said police.
As the two were nearing the playground, three men approached them from behind, Patch reported. One man grabbed the girl and the other man, who is the child's father, punched the man five or six times.
“I thought he was trying to take my daughter,” the girl's father told News Channel 8.
“I saw this man with my daughter in his hands walking toward the parking lot. What would you do?” the father asked. “I wanted to kill him.”
The father told The Washington Post that it all happened very quickly, “within 45 seconds.”
The investigating officer noted the victim's face had several cuts and was swollen.
Police concluded that the man was only trying to help. “We had an independent eyewitness that saw him walking around, asking, ‘Is this your parents? Is that your father?'” Sgt. Gary Gross with the Lakeland Police Department told Fox 13 News.
According to police the young girl tried to pull away but the man was concerned for her safety and picked her up and continued walking toward the playground, “hoping that he would be able to locate the child's father.”
The father and his friends were not satisfied with the man's explanation or that of the police. “So, I guess in Lakeland, you can kidnap a child and get away with it,” the father said to police, local media reported. The police report, local media said, described the father as “increasingly agitated.”
According to WFLA, other media outlets and police, family members and friends went on social media and shared the man's photo, his Facebook page and his place of business, “calling him a child predator,” WFLA said.
Police, however, called him a “good Samaritan” in their statement. “It is understandable how parents can possibly be upset in a situation involving a lost child,” the statement said. “However, this incident truly involved a good Samaritan trying to assist a lost child finding” her parents.
“Accounts of this incident have circulated on social media with false information and speculation. Posting false information on Facebook could cause a defamation of character claim and those posting false information could be held [liable].”
One Facebook user responded: “I was one of those who shared post thinking it was helpful, now I feel awful that it clearly was not! Definitely teaches me to double check sources before spreading!”
“Now this man's face is all over the internet,” said another commenter on the police department's Facebook page. ” … The assumptions that were made can ruin this guys life. Unbelievable.”
The good Samaritan told several local outlets that he has now left town with his family for their safety. He says he will not press charges against the father.
The father made no apologies for his actions but told The Post, “All that matters is that my daughter is home safely.”
The police statement did not provide names and no one was charged. To protect the child and the falsely accused man, The Post is not using names in this story either.
Report on Sexual Abuse in U.S.A. Gymnastics Urges 'Culture Change'
by Christine Hauser
U.S.A. Gymnastics, the national governing body of the sport, said on Tuesday that it was adopting new recommendations intended to safeguard its athletes, after reports last year that it had routinely failed to notify law enforcement officials about allegations of sexual abuse by its coaches.
“Even one instance of child abuse is one too many,” said Paul Parilla, the chairman of the governing body in a statement published on Tuesday along with details of 70 new recommendations. “U.S.A. Gymnastics is very sorry that anyone has been harmed during his or her gymnastics career, and we offer our deepest regrets to any athlete who suffered abuse or mistreatment while participating in the sport.”
The report was prompted by an investigation published by the Indianapolis Star last year. The newspaper had uncovered four instances in which gymnastics officials were warned about suspected abuse by coaches but did not alert the authorities, and it said the coaches had gone on to abuse at least 14 underage gymnasts.
Late last year, U.S.A. Gymnastics commissioned a former federal child sexual abuse prosecutor, Deborah J. Daniels, to conduct an independent review of its policies. During the review, Ms. Daniels and her researchers from Praesidium, a company that specializes in preventing sexual abuse in organizations that serve youth and vulnerable adults, carried out more than 160 interviews with people in the gymnastics community; visited 25 clubs and the National Team Training Center; and attended competitions and camps through last month.
The result of that work was released online in a 100-page report on Tuesday, along with the recommendations, which the governing body's board of directors said it would adopt to prevent abuse and streamline its policies governing the way it handles reports of it. They include prohibiting adults from being alone with minor gymnasts, including sleeping in a hotel room. Adults will also be prohibited from having out-of-program contact with gymnasts via email, text or social media.
While U.S.A. Gymnastics already had some regulations in place, the report said the organization, which oversees the sport in the United States and sets rules and policies for athletes and coaches, needed to put in place what it called a “culture change” in the way it does so.
The recommendations were broken down into 10 areas, including administrative management; education, training and athlete support; reporting of suspected violations; and screening and selection of coaches, volunteers and other adults with access to athletes. The report recommended that it needed to be specific about prohibited behavior, by defining “appropriate” and “inappropriate” conduct in member clubs and by individuals who work with the athletes.
“Most member clubs do not have written guidelines regarding appropriate and inappropriate physical and verbal interactions,” the report said.
It noted in particular how the reporting of alleged abuse has been hampered by the relationship between an athlete and an adult who might have control over his or her career. For example, the report said U.S.A Gymnastics's procedures for reporting suspected sexual abuse was in the form of a written grievance process by parents and the athletes that was aimed at dispute resolution.
“Young athletes (in their teens or younger) and their parents are highly unlikely to report ongoing abuse to the authority that has so much power over the athlete's success in the sport,” the report said.
But a big problem is the gymnastics community has been its decentralized nature. Clubs are private businesses, which makes tracking the behavior of coaches uneven if he or she moves to another. “If a club's management is vigilant, it will check references as well as conduct a background check,” the report said. But those only reveal any criminal convictions, meaning that a new club may not find out about prior abuse or grooming activity.
The abuse charges have put the gymnastics federation under a shadow, particularly last year, when The Star reported revealed that U.S.A. Gymnastics had kept files of complaints involving more than 50 coaches suspected of abusing athletes, yet in many cases failed to alert law enforcement of possible wrongdoing. One of them was a longtime doctor for the American gymnastics team, Lawrence G. Nassar, who was charged in February with 22 charges of first-degree criminal sexual conduct involving at least seven victims.
Ms. Daniels's report also said one coach accused of abuse had worked in at least 12 clubs in four states. “He left a trail of anguish in his path, in the form of over 15 abused girls whose lives were forever damaged — but clubs continued to hire him, either because they were unaware of the abuse or, in the case of at least one club, reportedly knew but promised to ‘watch' him.”
Stephen Drew, a Michigan lawyer who represents gymnasts who allege they were abused by Dr. Nassar and emboldened to come forward after the Star report, said some of the new recommendations, such as immediate reporting of suspected abuse, were already law.
But he said the recommendations should be used to create “a clear protocol to document and investigate past abuse complaints — and to initially believe the person.”
“It is hard enough for people to come forward and make a complaint like this,” Mr. Drew added. “Every sign should indicate ‘we are taking this seriously.'”
USA Gymnastics Issues Apology to Sexual Assault Survivors
by Karen Mizoguchi
More than 80 women have come forward with similar claims against former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar, who allegedly molested young patients since 2007.
On Tuesday, USA Gymnastics released an apology in an open letter that was shared on their website.
“Even one instance of child abuse is one too many. USA Gymnastics is very sorry that anyone has been harmed during his or her gymnastics career, and we offer our deepest regrets to any athlete who suffered abuse or mistreatment while participating in the sport,” read the statement, which was signed by 21 members of its board of directors. “By working together, we can move the sport forward to better prevent the opportunity for abuse to occur.”
To better protect its athletes, the organization announced the new sexual misconduct policies it plans to implement.
“Adult members are prohibited from being alone with minor gymnasts at all times,” one of the policies stated, while another read: “Unrelated adults are prohibited from sharing or being alone in a sleeping room with gymnasts.”
The announcement of the new policies comes after a comprehensive review of the organization was conducted by former federal prosecutor Deborah Daniels, according to TIME.
Daniels suggested that USA Gymnastics bar unrelated adults from sharing or being alone in a sleeping room with gymnasts. She also recommended preventing adult members from having “out of program” contact with gymnasts through email, text or social media.
Both of Daniels' recommendations were put in place. In fact, the USA Gymnastics board of directors unanimously voted to develop a plan to implement many of Daniels' 70 suggestions.
USA Gymnastics ordered the review last fall following a series of civil lawsuits filed against the organization and Nassar by a pair of gymnasts who claimed the physician sexually abused them during their time on the U.S. national team.
Nassar, who was charged with possession of child pornography and molesting a family friend, pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Bernalillo County probram helps tackle child abuse and neglect
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A new behavioral health program is helping tackle childhood abuse and neglect in Bernalillo County.
The program is called ACE. It's designed to fill some of the gaps in the local health system.
They're doing it by focusing on prevention, intervention and treatment.
County officials say last year in New Mexico there were more than 8,500 reported cases of abuse or neglect.
Officials hope, through the program, they can change a pattern seen in children who go through it.
“What's even more heartbreaking about these statistics is that children who have suffered through the trauma or abuse are more likely to be arrested,” said Bernalillo County Commissioner Wayne Johnson.
To help out, nearly $6 million was presented to fund ACE's six campuses for the next two years.
fMRI Testing Holds Promise in Preventing Child Sexual Abuse
We can now tell what someone finds sexually interesting without them knowing
by Debra W. Soh
If there was a way of telling who in our society is sexually attracted to children, are we entitled to know? A recent study from Georg-August-University Göttingen in Germany suggests that we may need to grapple with this question.
Phallometric testing, also known as penile plethysmography, is considered the gold standard in measuring male sexual arousal, and particularly, deviant sexual interests such as pedophilia, which is the sexual interest in prepubescent children, roughly aged 3 to 10. The test involves measuring the volume of blood in the test-taker's penis using an airtight glass tube (or conversely, measuring penile circumference with a mercury strain gauge) while he is presented with a series of images of children and adults, and audio stories describing a corresponding sexual encounter.
Phallometry is commonly used in forensic settings to assess the sexual interests of sex offenders, in order to determine their risk of re-offending. As one can imagine, sex offenders tend not to be forthright about their sexual preferences, which makes phallometry all the more important. It has, however, been criticized because the test can become easier for individuals to fool with each successive assessment.
Brain scanning using fMRI holds much promise as a diagnostic tool in evaluating sexual interests, as research has documented a reliable network of brain regions involved in sexual arousal. The current study took this another step by testing whether brain functional activation could be used to infer what someone finds sexually interesting without them knowing .
This was accomplished by presenting sexual images subliminally. Study participants were shown pictures very briefly (for 483 milliseconds, or about half a second), followed by another image, or “mask,” that served to disrupt communication between the retina and visual cortex. As a result, it wasn't possible for viewers to manipulate their response because they weren't consciously aware of what they had seen.
Twenty-four healthy, heterosexual, non-pedophilic men took part in the current study. All underwent fMRI scanning while viewing pornographic and nude, non-pornographic images of women and men. Half were shown masks that were pictures of inanimate objects; the other half saw masks that were scrambled versions of the image they had just seen.
The researchers did not find any fMRI effects for the group that saw the masks consisting of inanimate objects, but the group viewing scrambled masks did demonstrate activation patterns denoting sexual arousal, despite not recognizing what they had seen. This suggests it may be possible to covertly monitor what a person is interested in sexually, beyond their control or manipulation.
Some caution is in order because of the study's small sample size and the use of uncorrected statistics, which do not rule out the possibility of false positives. The work does, however, offer promise for the application of fMRI to diagnose pedophilia, as well as other deviant sexual interests, such as biastophilia, the sexual preference for rape.
If such tests become possible, what then? Any such test is only ethical if its participation is consensual and test-takers are aware of what they will be shown. For example, if a patient has a past history of abusing children, we would need to take into account his likelihood of re-offending and the possibility that being exposed to clothed images of children, even subliminally, might increase this risk. Although it may be tempting to enforce testing in a variety of situations outside of a forensic context, we must first take a step back and ask ourselves what will be potentially lost and gained in doing so.
Michael C. Seto, the forensic research director at the Royal Ottawa Health Care Group, has estimated that 1% of the population is pedophilic, so statistically speaking, most of us probably know someone who is sexually attracted to children. It's critical, however, that we recognize pedophilia and child sex abuse are two different things, because many pedophiles never act on their desires and don't view child pornography because they understand that the effects of sexual abuse can be devastating.
Despite the fact that sexual interest in children was once believed to be the result of sexual abuse in childhood, current research suggests that pedophilia is biological as opposed to learned, and apparently immutable due to associated differences in brain structure and function. Furthermore, a recent fMRI study showed that non-offending pedophiles have greater inhibitory control than pedophiles who have offended, which likely explains why some are more successful in avoiding abusing a child.
As someone who has worked with pedophilic men in both research and clinical capacities, I believe early identification and prevention are critically important in reducing rates of child sexual abuse. This includes making support available to non-offending pedophiles so that they don't ever offend. We must encourage an open, fact-based dialogue on this issue because an emotionally charged, righteous approach drives it underground. The reality is, avoiding uncomfortable conversations will only make our society less safe for children.
Sexual deviants beware!- Public can now report child sexual abuse via portal
by the Economist Intern
The public can now report any website that carries material that has child sexual abuse – ‘pornography' through a portal that was launched this week in Windhoek. The portal will be hosted on the website of the local organisation Life Line / Child Line.
The National Reporting Portal for online child sexual abuse material is set to sensitise the general public to an anonymously report child sexual abuse material and ensure the material is taken down from online platforms.
“The emergence of online child sexual abuse images and videos, also called “child pornography”, is a scourge of our time and a reality in any country. Namibia is not immune to online child sexual abuse material,” said UNICEF representative, Marcus Betts at the launch.
As a result, in particular the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology, Ministry of Safety and Security, Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare and Office of the Prosecutor General, have taken action and, with the support from UNICEF and the UK based, Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) joined the global fight against online child sexual abuse with the launch of the online portal.
The national reporting portal launch in Namibia acknowledges the important role the general public plays in combating online child sexual abuse and exploitation.
According to Internet Watch Foundation representative, Kristoff Claesen, with the click of a button, one will be able to report by sharing the respective web link with the abusive content.
“It is easy to use. Through five steps, the public can report what they may deem as potential child sexual abuse and our trained analysts based in the UK will analyse and if it is a treat will take it down as well as notify the law enforcement officials in that country,” he added.
Meanwhile in a research study of ICT use and online protection risks by children (age 13 – 17 years) that was conducted in Namibia in 2016 with the support of UNICEF, 29% of respondents had seen child sexual abuse material online.
Make Iowa 'worthy of its children'
by Rep. Mark Smith
I started public school in 1957 in Weldon. It was 12 years after the end of World War II and many of the boys played war during recess. They often wore their fathers' hats from military service. Once I asked my father why he never told any war stories or shared his uniform so that we could play with them during recess.
That was a mistake. In no uncertain terms, my father let me know that anyone who has seen any part of war did not want to talk about it or be reminded of it. And he never did discuss war with my siblings or me. However, he told a story to my daughter and the tears fell down his cheeks as he did.
My father served on a destroyer escort called the USS Kretchmer. They were the closest ship to the island of Formosa when World War II ended and they were ordered to enter the island and remove the American prisoners of war. As they entered the bay, a Japanese soldier was still marching back and forth on the dock. The closer they came, the more frightened my father became. Finally, the soldier laid down his gun and motioned for my father to toss him the rope and the soldier moored them.
After the prisoners were safely on the ship, my father and others took tongs and buckets of bread to hand out to these starving men. One former POW placed a small amount of bread in his mouth and said, “it tastes like cake.” As my father told that to my daughter, the tears increased greatly.
I am reminded of Maya Angelou's poetic line: “History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.”
Two Iowa children have died this past year from starvation. Reading about starvation is not pleasant. It is a horrible way for anyone to die, let alone an Iowa child; a child living in the bread basket of the world.
I was a 22-year-old social worker when I investigated my first case of child abuse. Maybe that is why I have been following the Government Oversight Committee's review of what happened to these children. Maybe it is because my father was always devoted to, even when times were tough, ensuring we had enough to eat.
Due to confidentiality, I cannot relay some of things said by children who have suffered abuse. I can tell you that some of the simplest questions are the most difficult to answer, such as why adults abuse children.
There was one emotional day of testimony before the Government Oversight Committee earlier this month about the starvation deaths of these two Iowa children. House Democrats don't want this to ever happen again and that's why we've proposed several steps that must be taken to protect Iowa's children:
• Monthly Government Oversight meetings during the interim to review the progress of the Department of Human Services (DHS) and to hear from the DHS review team, parent groups, frontline DHS workers, Department of Education, home schooling coordinators, patrol officers, Child Welfare Advisory Committee, Iowa Child Death Review Team and current and future vendors who hold contracts with DHS.
• A complete review and in-person follow up with every DHS case in which a child was fostered, adopted and now home schooled.
• Require parents who receives a state subsidy for an adopted or fostered child to have that child meet with a medical professional once a year and a representative of DHS.
• The immediate hiring of 25 new social workers statewide to help with the burdensome caseload.
• Begin educating Iowans about the Department of Human Service's 24-hour child abuse hotline where tips can be left anonymously. If you see something, Iowans should call (800) 362-2178 or if they believe a child is in immediate danger, call 911.
While thousands of Iowa children are homeschooled in loving environments, while many children are adopted by foster parents, and while child protective workers are in short supply; we have a duty to insure all children in Iowa grow up in a safe environment. As Iowans, we are a scattering of villages that stand ready to raise a child.
History has taught us that whenever a person or a group of people are allowed to be banished from the public eye, horrible things can be done to them. POWs can be in ill health and denied basic needs. Children can be starved. The list goes on.
“You must work-we must work to make this world worthy of its children” stated Pablo Casals. What better place for this to occur than in Iowa.
State Rep. Mark Smith of Marshalltown serves the 71st District in the Iowa House and is the Iowa House Democratic Leader. He can reached at email@example.com or at 641-750-9278.
War, terror, neglect: How Canadian schools could tackle child trauma
by Jan Stewart
The callous bombing at an Ariane Grande concert in Manchester in May has focused Western eyes on the alarming trend of deliberate targeting of children by terrorists. Meanwhile, child refugees from Syria's war suffer trauma so extreme that a new term has been coined for it: “human devastation syndrome.” And every year many thousands of Canadian children are victims of crime, abuse and neglect.
Schools in Canada urgently need to become trauma-informed — to respond to the growing number of children who have experienced war, terrorism, crime and maltreatment. Educators, school staff and administrators need basic training on how to recognize and respond to trauma and how to provide trauma-informed care.
As a professor of education at the University of Winnipeg, and a former school counsellor, I have been teaching, conducting research and writing educational resources on mental health and wellness for more than 25 years. I focus on education, refugee resettlement and teacher development in post-conflict countries. I have also been working on how best to prepare teachers in Canada to meet the needs of Canadian and refugee children who have experienced war, trauma and maltreatment.
As part of my research I have developed a model for educators. This incorporates guidelines for creating a trauma-informed school and steps for teachers to provide basic mental health support to students.
The scope of the problem
Some children have never lived without conflict. Violence and suffering has scarred their past and shaped their future. UNICEF estimates that 14 million children are affected by conflict in Syria and Iraq or as refugees in neighbouring countries. Of the current 21 million refugees globally, half are children. More than 20,000 of these children have been settled in Canada.
While some of these children will respond with conviction to right the wrongs they have experienced, others will become perpetrators of the violence they once received.
The escape from violence and the search for safety can also have perilous consequences for refugees. Arrival in a host country such as Canada, can represent a new beginning and hope for a better future but challenges often persist and memories are not simply forgotten. Approximately 30 per cent of refugees will suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or depression.
Statistics Canada data from 2012 reported that in Canada too, thousands of children struggle with violent crime and maltreatment. In 2010, an estimated 74,000 Canadian children and youth were victims of crime. Research by the Public Health Agency of Canada reported that 1.4 per cent of Canadian children experienced significant maltreatment including exposure to violence and neglect, physical abuse, emotional maltreatment and sexual abuse.
Children who have experienced these traumatic events are also at higher risk of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and substance use disorders as well as mental health related concerns. Most children who have been exposed to trauma are never identified and consequently do not receive psychological treatment.
Why schools need to be prepared
The Government of Canada has committed to support more refugees. The demographics of Canadian schools and communities are changing. Educators need to be properly trained to support children and youth who have been exposed to trauma. This does not mean that educators need to be therapists or counsellors. Rather, all school staff need to know how to approach children who they see are suffering or hurting. They need to know how to listen, comfort and respond without causing harm.
When children feel acceptance and trust, they choose the person with whom they want to talk. And as research in Canada revealed, this is often a member of the school environment. Teachers need to be prepared to respond, refer and recommend strategies to support these students.
Our research revealed that in some cases the teacher may be the only trusted adult in a child's life. It is imperative, therefore, that teachers are equipped with the appropriate knowledge and skills to respond appropriately.
A model for trauma-informed schools
While conducting a three-year national research program investigating best practices for supporting refugee students in Canada, I developed a model for teachers. The model is based on an adaptation of the 11-Point Toolkit for Primary Health Care developed by Richard Mollica and colleagues in the Harvard Program in Refugee Trauma. It includes 15 steps organized around three general stages.
Stage 1: Creating a Climate of Care is designed to help develop the kind of atmosphere that is essential for establishing trust and safety in any classroom or school environment.
Stage 2: Gathering Facts provides some suggestions for approaching and talking with students who might need additional support.
Stage 3: Healing and Support provides strategies for teaching and learning new skills to promote healing. This stage also includes a commitment for follow up work, a plan for the future and a process of reflection for the caregiver.
One of the first steps in the model is to develop a supported plan for teacher networking and self-care. Working with children who have experienced trauma can be exhausting. Compassion fatigue, or burnout, is common. Establishing a solid resource network of professionals, both within and outside of the school community, is paramount.
Healing our children — a societal obligation
We must now confront the reality that when violence occurs there is not only damage to the individual, but also to society. As an old African proverb states, “when elephants fight, the grass gets hurt.” Educators need to start asking, “What happened to or what hurt this child?” as opposed to, “What is wrong with this child?”
Resolutions and frameworks that champion the protection of children exist on paper, yet the international community has largely ignored the devastating impact that conflict and displacement can have on children.
Our collective failure to protect children from violence and our inability to provide children with basic human rights should be a pressing policy issue for educators, politicians, practitioners and world leaders. It is one of the most serious mistakes a society can make. There is, after all, no better reflection of humanity than the way it cares for its children.
Cardinal leaves Vatican to face sexual abuse charges in Australia
Cardinal Pell is the highest-ranking Vatican official to face charges of sexual assault, adding to the church's long-running sexual abuse scandal and complicating Pope Francis's efforts toward reform amid 'zero tolerance' for sex crimes against children.
by Nicole Windielf and Kristen Gelineau
Vatican City—Cardinal George Pell, a top adviser to Pope Francis, took a leave of absence as the Vatican's financial chief Thursday to fight criminal charges in his native Australia that alleged he committed sexual assault years ago.
Mr. Pell forcefully denied the accusations, denounced what he called a "relentless character assassination" in the media, and said he would return to Australia to clear his name.
"I repeat that I am innocent of these charges. They are false. The whole idea of sexual abuse is abhorrent to me," he said in an appearance at the Vatican press office.
Pell is the highest-ranking Vatican official ever to be charged in the church's long-running sexual abuse scandal, and the developments pose a new and serious obstacle for Francis in his promised "zero tolerance" policy.
Victoria state Police Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton announced the charges Thursday, saying police had ordered Pell to appear in court July 18 to face multiple counts of "historical sexual assault offenses," meaning offenses that generally occurred some time ago.
There are multiple complainants against Pell, Mr. Patton said, but he gave no other details.
The cardinal has faced allegations for years that he mishandled cases of clergy abuse when he was archbishop of Melbourne and, later, Sydney.
More recently, however, Pell himself became the focus of a clergy sex abuse investigation, with Victoria detectives interviewing him in the Vatican last year.
It is unclear what allegations the charges announced Thursday relate to, but two men previously have said Pell touched them inappropriately at a swimming pool in the late 1970s, when Pell was a senior priest in Melbourne.
Patton said in Melbourne that none of the allegations against Pell have been tested in any court, adding: "Cardinal Pell, like any other defendant, has a right to due process."
Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said the Holy See had learned with "regret" of the charges and that the work of Pell's office would continue in his absence, albeit only its "ordinary" affairs.
In a statement to reporters while sitting beside Pell, Mr. Burke said the Vatican respected Australia's justice system but recalled that the cardinal had "openly and repeatedly condemned as immoral and intolerable" acts of sexual abuse against minors.
He noted that Pell had cooperated with Australia's Royal Commission investigation into sex abuse and that as a bishop in Australia, he worked to protect children and compensate victims.
"The Holy Father, who has appreciated Cardinal Pell's honesty during his three years of work in the Roman Curia, is grateful for his collaboration," Burke added.
Pell's leave takes effect immediately and he will not participate in any public liturgical events while it is in place, the Vatican said.
The cardinal said he intends to eventually return to Rome to resume his work as prefect of the Vatican's economy ministry.
The charges were announced on a major Catholic feast day, when many of the world's cardinals were already in Rome for a ceremony Wednesday to elevate five new cardinals. As Pell spoke to reporters, preparations were underway in St. Peter's Square for a Mass that Pell had been expected to join, but he stood down after the charges were announced.
The charges also will complicate Mr. Francis's financial reform efforts at the Vatican, which were already strained by Pell's repeated clashes with the Italian-dominated bureaucracy. Just last week, one of Pell's top allies, the Vatican's auditor general, resigned without explanation two years into a five-year term, immediately raising questions about whether the reform effort was doomed.
Burke said Pell's economy secretariat would continue working in his absence.
A prolonged absence would require Francis to make other provisions, since it is unclear if the office could, for example, issue the Holy See's annual financial statement without Pell's imprimatur.
Pell's actions as archbishop came under scrutiny in recent years by a government-authorized investigation into how the Catholic Church and other institutions have responded to the sexual abuse of children. Australia's Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse – the nation's highest form of inquiry – found shocking levels of abuse in Australia's Catholic Church, revealing this year that 7 percent of priests were accused of sexually abusing children over several decades.
Last year, Pell testified to the commission that the Catholic Church had made "enormous mistakes" in allowing thousands of children to be raped and molested by priests. He conceded that he, too, had erred by often believing the priests over victims who alleged abuse. He vowed to help end a rash of suicides that has plagued church abuse victims in his Australian hometown of Ballarat.
But he nevertheless became something of a scapegoat in Australia for the Catholic Church's mishandling of the scandal. His move to Rome to head Francis's reform effort had been viewed by many of his critics as an attempt to avoid justice.
Australia has no extradition treaty with the Vatican. But in a statement from the Sydney Archdiocese, Pell said he would return to Australia "as soon as possible," following advice and approval by his doctors. Last year, Pell declined to return to Australia to testify for the third time before the Royal Commission, saying he was too ill to fly. He instead testified via video conference from Rome.
The Blue Knot Foundation, an Australian support group for adult survivors of childhood abuse, said the decision to charge Pell sent a powerful message to abuse survivors and society as a whole.
"It upholds that no one is above the law, no matter how high their office, qualifications, or standing," the group's head of research, Pam Stavropoulos, said in a statement.
Proving the charges may be difficult. The prosecution must prove that the sex offenses occurred beyond a reasonable doubt, which can be difficult when so much time has passed, said Lisa Flynn, national manager of Shine Lawyers' abuse law practice in Australia.
In 2014, Francis won cautious praise from victims' advocacy groups when he created a commission of outside experts to advise him and the broader church about "best practices" to fight abuse and protect children.
But the commission has since lost much of its credibility after its two members who were survivors of abuse left. Francis also scrapped the commission's signature proposal – a tribunal to hear cases of bishops who covered up for abuse – after Vatican officials objected.
Francis drew heated criticism for his 2015 appointment of a Chilean bishop accused by victims of helping cover up for Chile's most notorious pedophile. The pope was later caught on videotape labeling the parishioners who opposed the nomination "leftists" and "stupid."
Asked last year about the accusations against Pell, Francis said he would wait for Australian justice to take its course before commenting.
It was unclear if Pell would face a church trial stemming from the accusations. The Vatican has clear guidelines about initiating a canonical investigation if there is a semblance of truth to sex abuse accusations against a cleric. In the case of a cardinal, it would fall to Francis himself to judge. Penalties for a guilty verdict in a church trial include defrocking.
When Trauma Won't Quit: Understanding Complex Posttraumatic Stress
by Amy Quinn, MA, MS, LMFT
The current accepted diagnosis for experiencing a single traumatic life event is posttraumatic stress (PTSD). In diagnosing posttraumatic stress, clinicians must see that the person experienced a traumatic life event in which they were involved in or witnessed events where death or serious injury was threatened or there was a threat to physical integrity of self or others (D'Andrea, Ford, Bradley, Spinazzola, & van der Kolk, 2012). But trauma can be more complicated than that.
Discussed in the clinical research is another form of posttraumatic stress, appropriately called complex posttraumatic stress. Herman (1992) defines complex PTSD as “typically the result of exposure to repeated or prolonged instances or multiple forms of interpersonal trauma, often occurring under circumstances where escape is not possible due to physical, psychological, maturational, family/environmental, or social constraints.”
So what are some of the situations in which someone is exposed to interpersonal trauma, and what are the short- and long-term consequences of someone experiencing this kind of trauma? Felitti, et al. (1998) describes several abuses by parents or other adults in the home in which interpersonal trauma can occur (read the full assessment). These include:
Psychological abuse: Repeated insults, negative comments, and swearing directed at the victim.
Physical abuse: When a parent or some other adult in the household repeatedly pushes, grabs, slaps, or hits the victim, and marks are often left.
Sexual abuse: When a parent or some other adult in the household repeatedly touches, fondles, or grabs the victim in a sexual way. When a child is forced to have intercourse with a parent or adult.
Substance abuse: When a parent or other adult in the home can be described as having a problem with drugs or alcohol.
Mental health issues: When a parent or other adult in the house can be described as having depression or another serious mental condition.
Mother treated violently: When the mother in the household is physically abused. The mother is repeatedly pushed, grabbed, and slapped, and it is witnessed by the victim.
Criminal behavior in the household: When someone in the home participates in an illegal activity or is arrested and sent to prison.
Bullying, neglect, betrayal: If a person is bullied, neglected, or betrayed by a loved one, this can cause interpersonal trauma (D'Andrea, et al., 2012).
When a person experiences any of the above, there can be many adverse effects. Studies show children who are repeatedly exposed to these abuses may experience severe coexisting problems with emotion regulation, impulse control, attention, and cognition, as well as interpersonal relationships and negative self-attributions (D'Andrea, et al., 2012).
One of the most cited studies on this subject found that the more times a child was exposed to these abuses, the greater the likelihood they experienced severe health problems in adulthood. The study found a strong relationship between the number of adverse childhood exposures and the following conditions: heart disease, cancer, chronic bronchitis or emphysema, history of hepatitis or jaundice, skeletal fractures, and poor self-rated health (Felitti, et al., 1998).
In addition, parents who have experienced trauma and do not seek treatment can unknowingly externalize their trauma and pass it on to their child's developing personality, a process known as transgenerational transmission (Shulevitz, 2014).
Because of the impact interpersonal trauma can have on health and well-being, seeking treatment is critical. Effective treatments for exposure to interpersonal trauma may include:
Prolonged exposure therapy: This treatment is supported by over 20 years of research and is highly effective for treating chronic posttraumatic stress and associated symptoms. The goal of exposure therapy is to address traumatic memories and triggers. The therapist works with the person to address these elements gradually so a tolerance to the memory is built over time (Foa, Hernbree, and Rothbaum, 2007).
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing: Otherwise known as EMDR, this treatment is also supported by over 20 years of research. By engaging the brain in dual attention stimulus (DAS) and left-to-right brain stimulation, the goal of this approach is for the person to access the memory; recall specific aspects of the memory; and reprocess the memory so it is stored in an adaptive form. The clinician helps the person to see the event in a different way—perhaps a source of strength or something that took courage to survive (Shapiro, 2001).
Cognitive behavioral therapy: CBT is an approach that targets automatic negative thoughts and core beliefs about the self. People who experience interpersonal trauma often have more negative beliefs and attributions about themselves that are not true (D'Andrea, et al. 2012). Using exercises such as thought records and data logs, the clinician helps the person to examine their thoughts and understand they might be unbalanced. By finding evidence for and against their negative thoughts, the person is able to create alternative and more balanced thought patterns about themselves (Greenberger and Padesky, 1995).
Despite evidence to suggest interpersonal trauma results in complex posttraumatic stress and has both short- and long-term adverse health outcomes, the mental health community is still struggling to develop a diagnosis to capture this exposure and condition. Several task forces have been created to address the need for a consensus on how to diagnose and treat people affected by interpersonal trauma. Until then, complex posttraumatic stress will remain a notable omission from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).
If you or a loved one has been exposed to any of the above-mentioned abuses, seek help from a licensed and trained mental health professional.
Police Officer Adopts Victim After Investigating Case Of Severe Child Abuse
by Tribune Media Wire
POTEAU, Ok. -- In 2015, Officer Jody Thompson was pulling into the parking lot at the police station in Poteau, Oklahoma when a call of child abuse went out.
"I thought I would respond to the call with on-duty officers to see if I could give any kind of assistance," Thompson told KFSM.
It was the moment when Thompson arrived that he met his future son. He responded with quite a bit of emotion when asked at what point he knew he would never leave the then 8-year-old's side.
"When I seen him. When I seen him in that house...I knew," Thompson said.
Poteau Police Chief Stephen Fruen explained what happened in that child abuse case.
"Based on some of the case facts, when we found him he was bound by his hands and feet with rope and had been submerged in a trash can, held in the shower," Fruen said. "They weren't feeding him. He didn't have much to eat. I think what he did get to eat he got at school. Bruises, he was covered in bruises from head to toe."
Investigators said the little boy was taken to the hospital by Thompson, who stayed by his side while the boy was recovering in the intensive care unit.
"And the rest is kind of history," Thompson said.
Thompson and his wife adopted John Thompson and have given him a life where they say he excels.
"He means everything in the world that we live in. He's the strongest person I've ever met. He means the world," Thompson said.
John Thompson is a straight A student and in the gifted and talented program at his school, his dad says.
When asked what his dad means to him, John Thompson responded quickly and assertively.
"He was helpful to me. He's the reason why I'm here right now," John Thompson said.
The Thompson's story doesn't end there. While going through the process of adoption with John, they learned John's biological mom gave birth to a baby girl in jail. The Thompsons took her in as well.
"We picked her up at the hospital. She was barely 24 hours old and we brought her home," Thompson said.
Fruen said his officer sets a standard for care and compassion in law enforcement.
"All of us can sit back and say we would do the same in that situation, but to come through with it and to do that, that's a measure of a man - and a very good police officer," Fruen said.
Pa. strengthens child abuse law
by the Sharon Herald
HARRISBURG (AP) – A new Pennsylvania law lets authorities factor in the age of the victims and the degree of harm when filing charges in child endangerment cases.
Gov. Tom Wolf signed the bill Thursday to increase penalties when victims are 5 years old or younger.
It also directs judges to consider ordering counseling for those convicted of child endangerment. The law takes effect in 60 days.
It was prompted by the 2010 death of 10-month-old Heath Ryder, who suffered brain and neck injuries after being shaken and thrown. Charges were filed against a 9-year-old girl and the adult baby sitter was sentenced to six to 23 months in jail after pleading no contest to child endangerment.
Police: 4 failed to report child sexual abuse
by Myles Snyder
LITTLESTOWN, Pa. (WHTM) – Four employees of a residential treatment program for children in Adams County are charged after police say they failed to report the sexual abuse of a child.
The employees of Hoffman Homes for Youth in Littlestown also failed to seek medical attention for the boy after he was sexually assaulted by another resident in November, state police said in charging documents.
Glenn Nace, 27, of Hanover; Antonio Hill, 23, of Chambersburg; Guy Joseph, 52; and Timothy Speelman, 31, both of Gettysburg, are each charged with failure to report child abuse, a second-degree misdemeanor, and endangering the welfare of children, a first-degree misdemeanor.
Adams County Assistant District Attorney Megan Zei said the four were all mandated reporters of child abuse.
Matt Sandusky on coming forward with child sexual abuse, 'My pain is my gift'
by Christine Vendel
YORK--Five years after Matt Sandusky first disclosed the regular sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of his adopted father, some people at State College are still uncomfortable with the topic.
"They'll come up to me and say, I don't have an opinion either way," Sandusky said. "But you're either against child sexual abuse or you're not."
Sexual abuse of children is happening, Sandusky told an audience Thursday at a fundraiser for Turning Point in York, a free counseling center for male and female child victims of sex abuse. Sandusky is a member of the center's board.
"We have to decide how are we going to stop it," he said. "How big is your circle (of protection?) Would you protect your children? Your neighbor's children?"
Victims and survivors of child sexual abuse need to be heard and believed, Sandusky said.
Sandusky knows how hard it is for victims to come forward, especially male victims abused by male perpetrators. And he didn't sugarcoat the likely response that victims would get once they come forward with the truth.
"I've experienced public shaming, public attacks," he said. "I've seen the ugliest abuse, people sitting behind computer screens...making fun of a man abused as a young boy."
Still, Sandusky said victims need to "do it. It's going to be hard but it's the only way to overcome what you're going through."
Sandusky himself said he got the courage to disclose his abuse on the first day of the criminal trial for his adopted father, a revered football coach at Penn State, when he heard another victim testify and noticed the eerie similarities to what happened to him.
That's when it really sunk in that this had happened to other boys, Sandusky said, and he felt compelled to let that victim know that he believed him.
Even then, he only disclosed a small amount of the abuse to the attorney general's office at first, contradicting his earlier grand jury testimony that denied abuse. Expecting victims to immediately relay every single bit of abuse that has ever happened to them is not realistic, Sandusky said.
In Sandusky's case, the abuse started when he was 8 years old, and came on the heels of a dysfunctional upbringing that included violence and abuse at the hands of his biological father.
He also pushed back at the perception that he initially supported or defended his adopted father, whom he did not name during his one-hour speech.
"I challenge you to find one piece of evidence where I said publicly, 'I stand with this man. He didn't do these things. He's being wrongly accused,' because I never did. That never happened."
People who think that just bought into the hype and perception because he was Jerry Sandusky's son.
Once Matt Sandusky came forward, he said his family immediately turned on him. They haven't spoken to him since.
One of Matt's brothers, who was charged earlier this year with trying to entice two teenage girls into sex acts, showed up at one of his speeches last year he said, with Dottie Sandusky, Jerry's wife.
"They thought I would be afraid to speak," he said of the appearance in Lewisburg. "It did create some anxiety it was a rough one to get to."
But Matt Sandusky said he was glad he pushed through and spoke at the event.
"I would look her directly in the eyes and tell her what her husband had done to me and that she had not done anything to support me. But she had done everything in her way to hurt me."
After the lecture, two women and a 5-year-old boy appeared back stage. They said the boy had been abused, and the boy relayed the shocking news that an older boy on his school bus had been putting his hands down his pants every morning and afternoon and squeezing until the younger boy cried."
The women then told Sandusky that they had never heard those details before.
"We knew something was happening," they told Sandusky, "but we didn't know exactly what was happening."
Sandusky said his goal every day is to ease the pain of at least one person. That's what's behind his speaking tour and the nonprofit he started, Peaceful Hearts.
"The pain I've experienced has got to be worth something" he said. "My pain is my gift."
Many existing services for sexual abuse survivors are set up for female victims and part of Sandusky's efforts are designed to knock down obstacles for males to come forward.
The Turning Point counseling center in York received a three-year grant of about $300,000 to provide free counseling to victims of abuse of both genders.
Males age 14 and older can seek help at the center.
Kristen Pfautz Woolley opened Turning Point in 2012 as a way to "pay it forward" after benefitting from therapy for her own childhood abuse at the hands of a family friend. The center has treated male patients privately before, but its original mission was for teenage girls and women. Woolley he said her team saw the need to redecorate, expand services and create an advisory board to better welcome and accommodate male victims. The men's center represents a shift in their mission.
The Pope's 'blind spot' on sexual abuse
by Daniel Burke
Last December, Pope Francis wrote a letter to bishops around the world, lamenting the pain his church has caused sexually abused children.
"It is a sin that shames us," the Pope said. "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." He pledged to take "all necessary measures" to assure that "these atrocities" never again occur in the church, where there would be "zero tolerance" of anyone who hurts children.
That's the kind of straight talk Catholics expected when the College of Cardinals elected Francis in 2013. He was an outsider, had never worked in Rome and earned a reputation as incorruptible while serving as an archbishop in Argentina.
But as the sexual abuse crisis continues to swirl around his church, Francis' promises have run into a brick wall of Vatican opposition. His plan for a tribunal to try bishops accused of covering up abuse was scotched. The two abuse survivors appointed to his commission to protect children have quit or been placed on a leave of absence after battling church officials. And now his commitment to take action faces its biggest test, after one of his top advisers, Cardinal George Pell, was charged with sexual assault in his native Australia on Wednesday.
The accusations against Pell set two of Francis' chief aims at odds. While he has pledged to punish officials complicit in sexual abuse, he is also loath to believe "gossip," as he calls it, and quick to offer mercy to sinners, especially those with whom he has close ties.
"He has a blind spot when it comes to people close to him," said John Thavis, author of "The Vatican Diaries" and former Rome bureau chief for Catholic News Service. "I think he has a wide tolerance for people who are advising him, and sometimes that gets him into trouble."
As Thavis noted, Pell's guilt has yet to be proven, but his influence in the Vatican is unquestionable. The 76-year-old is the Vatican's Secretariat for the Economy -- the Treasury Secretary, essentially -- and a key driver behind the Pope's campaign to reform the hidebound Vatican. He's known as hardheaded and tough-talking, the kind of "bad cop" popes need to crack recalcitrant bureaucracies.
But abuse survivors have long accused Pell of failing to protect children while he was a powerful archbishop in Australia. More recently, allegations surfaced that Pell himself was guilty of abuse, according to The New York Times and other media reports. The archbishop has vigorously denied both accusations.
The Australian police described the charges as "historical assaults" but did not release details about the charges or disclose any information about the alleged victims, saying only that there are multiple charges and "multiple complainants."
At a news conference in Rome on Thursday, Pell said he had been the victim of "relentless character assassination."
"I'm innocent of these charges, they are false. The whole idea of sexual abuse is abhorrent to me."
The Vatican said Pell will be granted a leave of absence to attend his trial, with court proceedings scheduled to begin July 18. While Vatican spokesman Greg Burke expressed respect for Australia's judicial system, he also praised Pell's past conduct on clergy sexual abuse.
"Cardinal Pell has openly and repeatedly condemned as immoral and intolerable the acts of abuse committed against minors," Burke said.
Pell cooperated with an Australian government inquiry into clergy sexual abuse, supported the Pope's commission on the protection of minors and, as a bishop in Australia, introduced measures to protect children and provide assistance to abuse victims, Burke said.
But Pell has also admitted that Catholic officials had made "enormous mistakes" in handling clergy abuse cases. Between 1950 and 2015, 7% of Australian priests were accused of abusing more than 4,440 children, according to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. From 1987 until he moved to Rome in 2014, Pell had been one of Australia's highest-ranking church officials in its two largest dioceses, in Sydney and Melbourne.
Peter Saunders, one of the abuse survivors on the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, has long accused Pell of mishandling sexual abuse by clergy in Australia, calling his treatment of victims "almost sociopathic." Saunders was placed on leave of absence from the commission in 2016 after clashing with church officials over the glacial pace of reforms.
Pell's background should have disqualified him from serving as a close adviser to Pope Francis, said Marie Collins, a former member of the Pope's commission to protect minors.
Collins, an Irishwoman and abuse survivor, quit the commission in February after accusing church officials -- but not Pope Francis -- of promising to combat sexual abuse in public while privately squashing efforts to reform the church.
"The fact that Cardinal Pell was appointed to a very senior post in the Vatican," Collins said in a statement Thursday, "rather than having to face any sanction for his mishandling of abuse cases was a slap in the face to all those he had let down so badly, not only victims but Catholic people who have spent years hearing assurance from the Catholic Church that it is taking the issue seriously."
Pell's case, Collins continued, "has shown is how little reliance we can put on assurances from the Catholic Church that bishops and religious superiors will face sanctions if they mishandle abuse cases."
Francis angered some Chileans in 2015 by promoting a bishop accused of complicity in a notorious sexual abuse case. The Pope called the protesters "dumb" and implied they were led astray by government leftists.
Francis also reinstated an Italian priest who had been defrocked by his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, in 2012 after being convicted of child sex abuse, only to again remove him from ministry earlier this week, according to National Catholic Reporter.
But that case pales in comparison to Pell's.
The Rev. Thomas Reese, a Jesuit priest and columnist for National Catholic Reporter, said the church should cooperate with the Australian investigators, and, if Pell is found guilty, Francis must immediately remove him from ministry, just as he would any other priest -- and then brace for the backlash.
"If he's found guilty," Reese said, "it's going to be an absolute disaster for the Vatican."
Key part of law to help child sex abuse survivors to expire
by Kate Brumback
ATLANTA (AP) — After suffering through sexual abuse for a decade starting when she was 5, a Georgia woman said she was too emotionally wrecked to sue her alleged abuser until it was too late — state law says victims must file lawsuits seeking damages before they turn 23.
She got another chance when legislators in 2015 passed the Hidden Predator Act, which provided a two-year window during which victims older than that could sue their alleged abusers.
Now 28, the woman, identified in court documents only as H.M., filed a suit against her abuser in March. The case is in progress.
Other survivors may not get the same chance: The two-year window opened by the Hidden Predator Act, which went into effect July 1, 2015, expires Saturday, at which point Georgia will return to being one of the “worst five states in the country” for providing recourse for victims of childhood sex abuse, along with Alabama, Michigan, Mississippi and New York, said Marci Hamilton, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and CEO of Child USA.
The 2015 law also provided a “discovery rule” that allows any victim of childhood sexual abuse suffered after July 1, 2015, to pursue civil action after age 23 if the lawsuit is brought within two years from the date when the victim knew or had reason to know of the abuse.
The lawmaker who sponsored the Hidden Predator Act, Republican Rep. Jason Spencer, is trying to get his colleagues in the General Assembly to extend the measure and go even further. He wants to open a new two-year window, and to expand the scope of the law to allow victims to sue both their abusers and the organizations where they worked or with which they were associated. He also wants to extend the deadline for filing a lawsuit by 15 years, to the victim's 38th birthday.
But the same intense opposition to the time exemptions that has limited efforts thus far could thwart this latest attempt, which Spencer hopes will pass in the legislative session that starts in January.
Among the opponents are religious and business interests that, while not publicly speaking against it, have actively lobbied behind closed doors to defeat Georgia's law and similar measures in other states, Hamilton said.
The opponents have argued that opening up the statute of limitations would lead to a flood of cases, false claims and ruined reputations — but Hamilton, who tracks cases around the country, says that hasn't been the case so far. In Georgia, only 10 lawsuits that would have been banned under the previous statute have been filed during the special two-year window, she said.
H.M. was adopted by her maternal aunt at a young age and thought of her aunt and uncle as her parents. When she was 5, the uncle, whom she saw as a father, began sexually abusing her, fondling her, taking naked photos of her and forcing her to perform oral sex, according to her lawsuit.
The Associated Press doesn't identify victims of alleged sexual abuse and is also not naming the alleged abuser because that information could be used to identify H.M.
H.M. said she became suicidal and had to be institutionalized shortly after she confided in her brother when she was 16. For a long time, she said in a phone interview, she just wanted to put it behind her and get on with her life, especially after a criminal case fell apart.
But a nagging feeling gnawed at her: She worried he could be abusing others.
“I had some anger and resentment, more toward myself than anything else because I felt like I should have done more,” she said.
A major drawback to limiting the age by which victims who were abused as children must file lawsuits is that victims frequently unconsciously block out the abuse and only remember it years or even decades later, often not until they are in their 40s, said Emma Hetherington, who runs the Child Endangerment and Sexual Exploitation Clinic at the University of Georgia's law school, which is representing H.M. and other clients free of charge. Others, like H.M., may vividly recall the abuse but aren't emotionally strong enough or in a stable enough situation to pursue a lawsuit until much later.
Eliminating the statute of limitations, or at least extending the window for lawsuits, can bring justice to past victims while also identifying and stopping the predators, many of whom continue assaulting victims into their elderly years, Hamilton said.
Meredith Gardial, a post-graduate fellow at the university's clinic, says lawyers have learned that H.M.'s uncle is still working with children's groups at churches, has been trying to start a Bible study for young girls at his home, and abused his stepchildren. The lawyers have passed that information on to the state's Division of Family and Children Services.
“There are people operating in the state right now, sexually assaulting children, that they could learn about if they were to pass the new window,” Hamilton said.
This report has been corrected to show that Marci Hamilton is a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, not Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York.