Paramilitary sect members indicted in child abuse case
by the Associated Press
A grand jury has indicted four members of a New Mexico paramilitary religious sect in connection with a child abuse and child sexual abuse investigation.
The Cibola County grand jury voted late Friday to indict the four members of the Aggressive Christianity Missions Training Corps after a magistrate judge refused to lower bonds.
Sect co-leader Deborah Green is facing charges of failure to report a birth, child abuse and sexual penetration of a minor.
Peter Green faces 100 counts of criminal sexual penetration of a child on suspicion of raping a girl from the time she was 7.
Two others face failure to report a birth charges.
The group, founded in California, says the allegations are totally false.
To Counter Child Abuse, Administrators and Case Workers Need Support to Implement Evidence Based Improvements
by Antonio Garcia
In 2015, more than 425,000 children were placed in foster care due to incidents of abuse and neglect. But many unsubstantiated cases under investigation divert time and resources from handling cases that warrant close monitoring and attention. According to recent statistics, more than two million reports of child abuse and neglect were accepted for investigation in 2015 – with more than 700,000 of them eventually substantiated as cases of child abuse or neglect.
Imperfect Responses to Harmful Abuse and Neglect
Caseworkers often report that negotiating the multiple demands of their jobs puts them under constant stress. The sheer volume of Child Protective Services reports and investigations, the number of youth in foster care that need to be looked after, and the piles of paperwork that must be filled out to track decision-making – all of these burdens are overwhelming under the best of circumstances.
Faced with such workloads, agencies and caseworkers are ill-equipped to deliver services based on evidence of what works for youth and parents in the foster care system. The current standard of practice, however, leads agencies and caseworkers to engage in practices not supported by research-based evidence. Poorly conceived and delivered services cause considerable harm by failing to limit the incidence and after-effects of abuse and neglect.
Victims of child abuse and neglect are nine times more likely to become involved in crime and 25% more likely to experience teen pregnancy. Such victims also face increased risks of smoking, early-age drinking, suicidal ideation, inter-personal violence, and sexual risk-taking. The sad results become obvious in later years. Two-thirds of adults under treatment for drug abuse report that they were maltreated as children. And similar reports of childhood abuse come from 14% of men in prison along with 36% of incarcerated women. Four-fifths of 21-year-olds who were abused as children show evidence of at least one mental health disorder. And saddest of all, about 30% of child abuse victims will later abuse their own kids.
What Could be Done?
Several steps can be taken to improve responses to child abuse and neglect:
Improved, ongoing training and job support for caseworkers and supervisors could ensure that they know the characteristics of the populations they serve and are aware of effective anti-abuse practices and know how to deliver them or help clients find others in the community who can provide optimal help. Front-line workers also need training to monitor client progress and detect when a case warrants more intensive intervention.
Enhanced preventive efforts could save lives and money. Research shows that the total cost of new U.S. cases of fatal and nonfatal child maltreatment was approximately $124 billion in 2008. The estimated cost per victim of nonfatal child maltreatment was $210,012 in 2010, including the costs for health care, productivity losses, child welfare services, criminal justice procedures, and special education. In fatal cases, the figure rises to an astonishing $1,272, 900 per death.
Resources should be reallocated to areas of greatest need. In addition to redistributing available funding to hire more staff to manage high caseloads, innovative and effective programs and services must be delivered to prevent child maltreatment and fatalities. States should take advantage of funds offered by the federal government to expand evidence-based child welfare interventions that may have previously been underfunded.
Lessons from Philadelphia
A promising model comes from the state of Pennsylvania, which has participated in a federally funded project that allows child welfare agencies to use Title IV-E funds for evidence-based reforms. Philadelphia's child welfare system has been at the forefront of adopting three evidence-based treatments for children and families that the city was previously unable to implement due to lack of funding. Waiver funds have made it possible to enhance preparation for child welfare caseworkers, develop databases to track outcomes for children and families, and train staff to identify and implement further improvements.
With flexible authority over spending, two child welfare agencies in Philadelphia decided to implement the Positive Parenting Program, an evidence-based approach to preventing child abuse. Although some reallocated resources have been used to train staff, additional funding is needed to discover barriers to effective program implementation and to implement additional steps known to be cost-effective – such as holding weekly consultations and boosting training for current and replacement leaders and caseworkers involved in the new program.
Research could pinpoint which approaches do best at giving various parents and youth access to the positive parenting program. And as parents and their offspring complete the program, further research would ideally track results in areas such as safety, reductions in abuse incidents, and improved parent-child relationships.
The Title IV-E Waiver Demonstration Project was a provision in the U.S. Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovation Act, which Congress reauthorized for five years in 2011. Now that the act is again up for reauthorization, Congress has the ability to implement changes to the way child welfare federal funds are allocated. Advocates for children have an opportunity to contact representatives and senators in Congress to propose that this program should expand to give more states the chance to reallocate funds and improve child safety.
Much remains to be learned about what it takes to carry out evidence-based interventions in the child welfare system, which provides vital help to many endangered children, youth, and families, disproportionately minorities. The federal Waiver Project provides a unique opportunity to observe what happens when system leaders, community partners, and providers mobilize to prevent childhood trauma. Lessons learned will help provide ongoing guidance to federal and state administrators and welfare leaders as they look for the most effective, empirically proven ways to protect children and families under their supervision.
Can Support for Fathers Prevent Child Abuse, Neglect?
by Eric Tegethoff
BOISE, Idaho – The Idaho Children's Trust Fund is accepting grant applications for programs aimed at preventing child abuse and neglect.
Over the years, the organization has supported programs that range in scope. One of the more novel approaches involves initiatives supporting fatherhood, which are now found across the state.
The Children's Trust Fund is currently funding a Catholic Charities' fatherhood program in Idaho Falls.
Taryn Yates, grant manager for the Children's Trust Fund, says it's a useful way to get dads involved, and can be especially helpful for fathers whose own fathers during childhood weren't around.
"This is really encouraging fathers, especially young fathers, to take more of an active role right from the beginning, to read to their children, to play with their kids,” she states. “A lot of these initiatives that we're seeing are teaching them how to do that."
The Children's Trust Fund supports programs with a variety of other focuses as well, such as Big Brothers Big Sisters, the child-sexual abuse prevention network Darkness to Light, and more.
Yates emphasizes that fathers play a key role in supporting their children.
"There's just definitely that special bond that kids really respond to, and studies show that the outcomes are just much better when a child has their father as a strong presence in their life," she states.
Yates says her organization looks for programs that strengthen families. It also wants to help fund programs that serve vulnerable communities that tend to lack access to resources, such as families in rural parts of the state.
The Children's Trust Fund typically supports six to eight programs a year. Grant applications are due Sept. 8.
Did Iowa do the right thing removing an underweight boy from a suspected drug home?
by Lee Rood
A normal 16-month-old boy typically weighs about 32 pounds.
Jeremiah Russell weighed 22½ pounds the day Iowa child-protective workers tracked down his mother in a Waukee mobile home park Aug. 1, according to a court filing.
Melinda and Lynn Ross say state workers showed no warrant or legal paperwork when they forced their way into the white mobile home they bought this summer. Acting on allegations of child abuse, the worker set to work asking questions and taking pictures of Jeremiah.
The grandmother and step-grandfather told Reader's Watchdog the toddler was small for his age, but they contend he has been that way since birth and ate well.
Melinda Ross says she cared for Jeremiah herself, along with her husband and her daughter, Laina Russell.
According to the court filing seeking the boy's temporary removal, however, the toddler had bruising from his knee to his diaper area, "severe" head lice and what appeared to be an ear infection.
A prosecutor working the case noted Jeremiah's intellectually disabled mother — who lived in the mobile home with her mother as guardian — referred to Jeremiah repeatedly as “s---head.”
But the Rosses say 22-year-old Laina's heart broke when they took her son away, and so did theirs.
And they blamed the state for overreacting after the high-profile deaths of children such as Sabrina Ray and Natalie Finn , whose parents had been investigated by Iowa's Department of Human Services workers for abuse.
"They're over-correcting themselves now with these kids who have been dying,” Lynn Ross said of state child-protection workers. “People don't realize you're not only tearing apart that child, you're tearing apart a family.”
Many Iowans this year have been critical of the failure of Iowa's child-welfare system to protect children such as Sabrina and Natalie, who died from neglect and malnourishment after being adopted out of foster care.
Is removal more harmful?
But family preservation advocates also accuse Human Services of removing far too many children from their homes, which research suggests can be more traumatizing then leaving them there.
One 1998 study found, for example, that babies born with crack cocaine in their systems were more stunted developmentally after being cared for in foster homes than those who stayed with birth mothers able to care for them.
"For the foster children, the separation from their mothers was more toxic than the cocaine," said Richard Wexler, executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform.
Under state code, Human Services has a wide berth to act when caregivers appear responsible for abuse — be it physical, sexual, mental — or expose their children to drugs or sex offenders.
In many cases, however, state agencies also fail abused and neglected children in their legal custody.
In Minnesota this year, such allegations prompted a national advocacy organization to file a civil lawsuit alleging that hundreds of children were placed at risk of violence and neglect because of a failure to investigate reports of abuse in unsafe group home or foster situations.
The risks of abuse reports
So what are child-protective workers to do?
Some experts such as Steve Scott, a child abuse prevention consultant in Des Moines, believe that Iowa's Human Services workers are wise to zero in on past allegations when reports are called in like the one involving Jeremiah Russell.
A national commission seeking to redefine child-welfare policy says past child-protective reports, even ones that are screened out, are critical in saving lives.
California data suggests that just one prior abuse report to child-protective services is the strongest predictor of potential risk for injury deaths for children under age 5.
The child's risk of dying from intentional injury was six times greater than that of other children in that research, the commission said.
Scott said that after intervention, families need intensive, high-quality services, including drug treatment if appropriate.
Both Sabrina Ray's adoptive parents in Perry and Finn's adoptive parents in West Des Moines were subject to multiple reports of abuse before either girl died from abuse and malnourishment.
Reports of abuse were also made before the death of toddler Avery McCoy last November in Riverside, according to at least one report.
Human Services spokeswoman Amy McCoy has said workers and supervisors are taking a closer look at rejected abuse allegations and families' histories with child-protective services since the deaths.
Ongoing abuse accusations
Human Services doesn't comment on ongoing abuse cases such as Jeremiah's. But court records show family members were asked to take him to an emergency shelter after other allegations this year.
In May, Human Services received a complaint that Jeremiah's great-grandfather tried to smother the baby, a court filing by the Polk County attorney's office shows.
Melinda Ross contended those allegations came back unfounded.
But the removal filing suggests the great-grandfather was found responsible for abuse for covering the baby with a blanket while he was trying to get him to stop crying.
While child-protective workers were investigating that case at a home on the east side of Des Moines, narcotics officers showed up on complaints of drugs.
Searching household trash, they said they found tossed baggies with meth residue and used syringes. A search inside turned up a meth pipe and marijuana pipe, according to court paperwork.
The Rosses don't deny the pipes were found, but they contend they weren't living in the house at the time.
Social workers also knew that David Evans, who lived with Laina, had already lost parental rights to two children because of child abuse.
One of his children was so malnourished in 2015, he nearly died, the removal filing by juvenile prosecutor Annette Taylor shows.
When drug screens for Laina Russell, Evans, and Melinda and Lynn Ross were ordered, family members avoided Human Services for several weeks and claimed they moved to Missouri, Taylor wrote.
In her interview with Watchdog, however, Melinda Ross, 43, said she and her husband never hid.
'They hate me, and I hate them'
Ross said child-protective workers hounded her when she was raising Laina and her son Justin, conducting at least three abuse investigations for alleged abuse and drug use.
“They hate me, and I hate them,” she said.
Ross says she doesn't do drugs.
“I drink a lot of caffeine, and I'm high strung,” she said.
She said she refuses to do a drug screen because her lawyer told her it's her constitutional right to do so.
The Rosses also contend that child-protective worker Melissa Krug and her supervisor Michelle DeLong forced Laina to sign over custody of Jeremiah Aug. 1. They say Laina didn't have the capacity to give consent to the removal.
The voluntary safety plan the mother signed called for Laina, Melinda and Lynn to take immediate drug screens; keep David Evans away from Jeremiah at all times; take the baby to a physician “as soon as possible,” then be taken to a crisis nursery.
But in a court hearing last week before Judge Susan Cox, Laina consented again to the removal — as long as she could keep visitations with her son.
“I want to bring him home as soon as possible,” she told the judge.
Jeremiah's next hearing in juvenile court is Sept. 14. But bringing him home, as the Rosses want, will be difficult if Laina's legal guardian — her mother — continues to refuse drug testing.
Human Services this year has been conducting more formal investigations involving hard drug use by caregivers after the agency found those cases more frequently required formal intervention.
Wexler says child abuse cases present only bad options for children.
But family reunification would be the least detrimental option if Jeremiah's grandmother would agree to drug testing and anyone in the home abusing drugs would agree to treatment, Wexler said.
"The far bigger problem than the family who refuses drug testing and/or treatment is the way DHS treats the many, many families where the agency jerks its knees and tears apart the family," he said.
"There are, in fact, cases where some use of some drugs does not endanger children — it happens in wealthy neighborhoods all the time. There are other cases where the danger is real, but a far better answer — for the children — is drug treatment."
A child says he or she was abused. Now what? A look at the Tennessee investigative process
by Dave Boucher
A boy and his mother say more than two years ago, the then-12-year-old was r epeatedly raped and assaulted by other students in a locker room at Brentwood Academy.
School officials said they responded appropriately to the allegations they received and deny wrongdoing. Police and child services say they are investigating.
But the length of the inquiry and documents obtained by The Tennessean raise questions about how law enforcement and child services respond to allegations of abuse.
An accusation of abuse is made. Now what?
As soon as any adult knows or suspects child abuse that person is legally required to call law enforcement or the Tennessee Department of Children's Services.
When either agency receives a call, they are mandated to inform each other of the allegation and share the known information within a group called the Child Protective Investigative Team, said Amy Coble, director of investigations for DCS.
DCS and Brentwood police say they opened investigations into the Brentwood Academy case in April 2015. The boy and mom say in a civil lawsuit the rapes and attacks occurred during fall 2014 and January and February 2015.
What is the Child Protective Investigative Team?
Known as CPIT, the team consists of DCS, local law enforcement and the local district attorney. When working properly, the team meets and confers on how to push forward with investigating an allegation.
DCS team members focus immediately on child safety, said Carla Aaron, executive director of child safety at DCS. That may include seeking medical attention for the child, examining the home environment or researching whether the child needs to be removed from a parent or guardian.
Law enforcement and local prosecutors focus on whether a crime was committed. Once it has been established that a crime may have occurred, there are several immediate steps, said Davidson County prosecutor Chad Butler and Nashville police spokesman Don Aaron.
Perhaps most important is an interview with the child.
Why is the interview so important, and who conducts it?
A verbal admission of abuse by a child drastically increases the chances DCS will ultimately determine abuse may have happened. It also could assist in the police and prosecutor investigation and decision-making process for whether charges will be brought.
While DCS and police have people trained to conduct interviews, officials want to have a forensic interviewer from a child advocacy center, like the Nashville Children's Alliance, talk with the child.
In a best-case scenario, DCS and police can watch the interview on a monitor or from an adjoining room. That limits the number of times a child may have to recount a possible attack while offering investigators details as soon as possible.
The child tells the interviewer abuse occurred. Is someone arrested?
The short answer is, it depends. Law enforcement continues to collect evidence, including clothing or photographs, and conduct interviews with possible witnesses. Depending on how soon after the alleged attack a child reports it, DCS may order a medical evaluation.
When do officials actually decide the child was abused?
While that decision can come at any point in the process, each member of CPIT has a timeline. As a general rule, DCS is required to determine whether an allegation of abuse is substantiated within 60 days of a report. Law enforcement and prosecutors do not follow the same timeline, but the team typically tries to reach a unanimous conclusion.
What happens if DCS decides the allegation is unsubstantiated?
A DCS decision can affect a criminal investigation, but it does not always stop one. If police and prosecutors believe abuse occurred, but the child did not make a verbal admission during the forensic interview, law enforcement could proceed with criminal charges even if DCS determines the allegations are unsubstantiated.
"That is very, very uncommon. Ultimately, as the district attorney, I can make the decision to do whatever I want with the case," said Butler, who focuses on child abuse cases for Davidson County.
What is the status of the Brentwood Academy case today?
Brentwood police confirmed opening the investigation in April 2015, as did DCS. Following DCS rules, a determination of substantiating the allegations would have likely been made by May or June.
The boy at the center of the Brentwood Academy case gave a detailed statement recounting specific rape allegations during an interview with Brentwood police in August 2015, according to a document obtained by The Tennessean.
In March 2016, a Brentwood police detective sent an email to the boy's family saying he would meet with a Williamson County prosecutor soon to discuss "appropriate charges for everyone involved."
According to Metro Nashville Police Department guidelines for child sex abuse investigations, consulting with the assistant district attorney and informing the victim's family of the status of an investigation happen after determining whether an arrest will be made.
That does not mean Brentwood police follow the same guidelines. DCS also recently said it had opened a new investigation related to the allegations "based on new information."
Brentwood Assistant Police Chief Tommy Walsh said Thursday the case remains open and that status will not change "in the short term."
Cop accused of fondling girl is 3rd in family charged with child sex abuse
by Crystal Bonvillian
An Alabama sheriff's deputy was charged earlier this month with sexually abusing a 12-year-old family member, and records show that he is the third man in his family to be accused of child sex abuse.
Roland Gilbert Campos Jr., 63, was booked into the Madison County Jail Aug. 18, an hour after he resigned his position with the Madison County Sheriff's Office. AL.com reported that Campos, a 10-year veteran of the department who investigated white collar crime, resigned three hours after the alleged abuse was reported.
Lt. Brian Chaffin, a spokesman for the Sheriff's Office, said during an Aug. 21 news conference that the Huntsville Police Department was called in to assist in the investigation, as was the National Child Advocacy Center, which is based in Huntsville.
The alleged abuse occurred in February, Huntsville police Lt. Stacy Bates told WHNT News 19 in Huntsville . He declined to give further details of the allegations.
Campos is charged with two counts of first-degree sexual abuse, according to jail records. He was released on $10,000 bail the day after his arrest.
Allegations of child sex abuse have been rampant in Campos' family. His son, Roland Gilbert Campos III, is serving two life sentences, without the possibility of parole, for sodomizing the 5-year-old daughter of his girlfriend, according to AL.com .
Roland Campos III was arrested on the charges in 2013 and convicted the following year. He is serving his life sentence at William E. Donaldson Correctional Facility in Bessemer.
The former investigator's brother, Russell Leland Campos, was indicted in 2011 on two counts of sexual abuse of a child under the age of 12, but that case never went to trial. AL.com reported in August 2014 , the month after Roland Campos III was sentenced to life, that Madison County prosecutors had determined they did not have enough evidence to prosecute Russell Campos on the charges.
In prosecutors' motion to “nolle prosse” the case, they said the state couldn't prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt without the testimony of the young alleged victim, who was “unable to testify due to the ongoing effects of psychological trauma.”
A judge continued the case for 120 days to give the girl more time, but ultimately granted the motion to drop the case after an attorney appointed to represent the girl reported back that even mentioning the case or testifying would send the girl into tears and panic attacks, AL.com said .
The judge pointed out at the time that there is no statute of limitations in Alabama on the sex abuse charges and that the case could be brought again if the girl became able to testify.
County sees rise in child abuse, neglect cases
Officials say drug use a root cause of increase
by Mary Alford
Hardin County has seen a recent increase in cases involving child abuse and neglect, with a significant amount of those cases related to substance abuse, officials say.
Family Court Judge Pamela Addington has presided over family court cases for more than 13 years. She said from mid-June 2004, when was elected to the bench, to December 2004, she handled 423 neglect and abuse cases. For the whole year in 2005, that number was 739.
In 2015, there were 810 cases and in 2016, there were 860. This year, Addington and fellow Family Court Judge Brent Hall, who has been on the bench for 10 years, are on track to have more than 900 abuse and neglect cases combined, Hardin County Attorney Jennifer Oldham said.
From Jan. 1 through Aug. 14, Addington said she and Hall have had 759 child abuse and neglect cases.
In 2016, total family court filings reached 2,698 cases. Addington said the total cases of what they have done this year already is more than 2,000 and “we're just a little over halfway point. We're probably going to be really closely double.”
“We've had a significant amount of cases,” Addington said.
Hall said Hardin County's numbers for Family Court filings have increased more than any other county in the state of Kentucky.
“Our numbers for family court filing have gone up. We're the highest in the state as far as increase,” he said, noting the state average for increase is about nine percent, while Hardin County is about 40 percent. “It's a huge increase in the case load.”
Assistant Hardin County Attorney Dawn Blair said she suspects a large contributor to the increase in family court filings is substance abuse.
“My gut is drugs,” she said, noting nearly 70 to 75 percent of all cases have substance abuse involved.
Oldham agreed. She said officials are “finding at the heart of many of our cases is drug use, drug addiction.”
Hall said “you can't parent well and be on drugs.”
“We've known it has been the majority of our cases for a lot of years,” Hall said. “It's sad. Our case numbers are going up because, probably, our drug numbers are going up. ... It's really disheartening to see our numbers go up like this. It's really disheartening to see the same faces over and over again.”
Ashely Purcell, a local foster parent, said since March 2016 she has had 13 different children in her home, with the stay ranging from 48 hours to much longer.
“The majority of children we've had in our home were because of addictions,” she said. “I know from everything I've read, the drug addiction and opioids, meth all of it is just on a horrible rise and it is our children ultimately paying the price for it. And whether they are born being exposed to it, drugs, or addicted or born in an environment around it, they are still victims of drug use because it affects them long term.”
Blair said the impact of drugs on children is well documented.
“There are all kinds of studies on adverse childhood experiences. Those have all shown to have negative impact on kids in the long run,” Blair said.
With the rise in these cases, it also means there is a rise in the number of children who are entering the foster care system.
David Vice of CASA of the Heartland said although the number of children being removed from homes has gone up, on pace to exceed last year's total, the number of social workers, CASA volunteers or attorneys representing those cases has not increased.
CASA volunteers are appointed by judges to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children in court and other settings.
At 18, children have the choice to leave the state's care or recommit to the state. If they choose to recommit, they have the option to stay in a foster home or live in a dorm or apartment. If they recommit to the independent living program, they still have rules to follow, which includes maintaining enrollment in school or employment. They are able to stay in the independent living program until they turn 21.
“A lot of kids will do that and go and those are the success stories we love to hear about,” Blair said.
Hall said of those who emancipate themselves with no permanent placement, within a year, about two-thirds will be dead, homeless or in jail.
One way to potentially help keep families together and possibly avoid those statistics is family drug court, Oldham said, noting no county in Kentucky has family drug court. She said the ultimate goal is to “reunify families and get people clean.”
Oldham said local officials are looking into revenue options to start a family drug court in Hardin County. According to the National Association of Drug Court Professionals, it “is a juvenile or family court docket of which selected abuse, neglect, and dependency cases are identified where parental substance abuse is a primary factor. Judges, attorneys, child protection services, and treatment personnel unite with the goal of providing safe, nurturing, and permanent homes for children while simultaneously providing parents the necessary support and services to become drug and alcohol abstinent. Family dependency treatment courts aid parents in regaining control of their lives and promote long-term stabilized recovery to enhance the possibility of family reunification within mandatory legal time frames.”
Oldham said she expects a family drug court to cost about $200,000 a year.
With this drug court, Oldham said “when children are in foster care because their parents are drug addicted,” they would have something “set up for actual treatment and actual monitoring through intensive drug screening and intensive management to get these families back together.”
“Right now, we have the concept, but need the money,” she said.
Blair agreed, saying family drug court would be “phenomenal,” in addition to more money for social services.
“The more barriers we can remove to help these families become self-efficient, the better off we're all going to be,” Blair said.
"This is our baby": Chilling details in case against Savanna Greywind slaying suspects
by Crimesider Staff
FARGO -- Prosecutors in North Dakota say a woman charged in the disappearance of a pregnant woman admitted taking advantage of the woman in an attempt to get her baby.
But charges filed Monday against Brooke Lynn Crews and her boyfriend, William Hoehn, don't shed any light on how 22-year-old Savanna Greywind died. Police Chief David Todd said Greywind's body was found Sunday evening by kayakers in the Red River , which borders North Dakota and Minnesota, "heavily wrapped in plastic and duct tape" and stuck on a tree in the water.
A criminal complaint says Crews told police she arranged to have Greywind come to her apartment on Aug. 19 -- the day Greywind was last seen alive -- and told her how to self-induce birth by breaking her own water.
Crews told police that Greywind left, but came back two days later to give her the newborn baby. But Crews' boyfriend, William Hoehn, told police that he came home Aug. 19 to find Crews cleaning up blood in their bathroom.
Hoehn said Crews presented him with an infant baby girl and said: "This is our baby, this is our family."
Greywind was eight months pregnant when she was last seen alive. An infant believed to be Greywind's was found with Crews on Thursday. The baby girl was alive and healthy. Authorities would not provide details about the child's manner of birth at a Monday press conference. Greywind's body was transported to Ramsey County to undergo an autopsy.
Police have said Crews and Hoehn were taken into custody and indicated that the baby girl belonged to Greywind, but wouldn't cooperate in the search for the woman.
Hoehn admitted to police that he helped remove garbage bags containing bloody towels and his own bloody shoes from the apartment and disposed of them in an apartment building dumpster in West Fargo, reports CBS affiliate KXJB-TV .
Crews allegedly admitted she had taken advantage of Greywind in an attempt to obtain her child and possibly keep the child as her own, the station reports. Crews also allegedly said she had multiple opportunities to turn the child over to law enforcement or the Greywind family but did not, though she knew that Greywind had been reported a missing person.
Crews and Hoehn are charged with conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to commit kidnapping and giving false information. They didn't enter pleas during a court hearing Monday.
'You did not act like a human': Judge gives woman max sentence in child abuse case
by Pat Reavy
ST. GEORGE — A 12-year-old Toquerville boy, whose abuse case sparked worldwide outrage after he was found lying on a filthy bathroom floor, severely malnourished and unable to move because his legs weren't strong enough, doesn't remember exactly how long he was kept in his "torture chamber," as prosecutors called it.
But the boy remembers hearing his siblings and parents open Christmas presents. Twice.
On Monday, a judge imposed the maximum sentence on the boy's mother, Brandy K. Jaynes, 36, convicted of three counts of intentional child abuse causing serious injury, a second-degree felony. She was sentenced to one to 15 years in the Utah State Prison for each count, with all counts to be served consecutively.
Before sentencing her, 5th District Judge Eric Ludlow called the abuse "deplorable" and "appalling." He made Jaynes look at a picture of the room her son was locked in, where Post-it notes with messages such as "Touch the camera, I will kick your butt with a stick” and "You will act like a human at all times” were duct taped to the wall.
"You did not act like a human at all times," Ludlow told Jaynes. "I've never seen anything like this. It's unbelievable, quite frankly."
Jaynes denied writing the notes, claiming the boy's twin sister was the culprit.
Details of the disturbing case caused a widespread outcry after Jaynes' arrest in January. Police said the 12-year-old boy was living in a feces-filled bathroom that had been fitted with locks on the outside of the doors. He weighed just 30 pounds when he was found.
Before being sentenced Monday, prosecutor Angie Reddish-Day revealed that the boy may have been locked up from four to eight years, based on witness statements and other evidence, including the boy's physical and mental condition,
It started with him being locked in a bedroom with no bed, being forced to lie on wood planks as Jaynes poured water on him, Reddish-Day said. The boy was later moved to a stand-up shower stall where boards were put up to keep him in. Evidence of food where the boy ate was found by investigators in the shower, she said. And later, he was moved to the small bathroom, where because of its size, the boy stopped growing.
And possibly the worst part about the case, according to Reddish-Day, was that Jaynes watched as her son withered away.
"What really puts this case in a different category is that she had a live feed camera watching him suffer every single day. That level of criminal knowledge and criminal intent is just, it's hard to put words to it. That you could do that to your child; that you could witness that happen to your child. She can't say she didn't know what was happening because she watched it happening,” she said.
On the day Jaynes was arrested, the live feed from the bathroom was still connected to her phone.
Before Ludlow announced his sentence, Reddish-Day made a strongly worded presentation to the court asking that the maximum penalty be imposed. She presented pictures of the boy and the bathroom to the judge, describing it as "clearly set up as a chamber to torture this boy."
Outside the courthouse, Reddish-Day admitted it had been an aggressive prosecution at every stage of the proceedings.
"Because there's really no other case like it. And honestly, I could have talked for four hours about this case. I could have laid out so many more facts,” she said.
On the other side, defense attorney Ed Flint described his client as a woman who got in over her head and didn't ask for help when she should have.
"It's impossible for the defense to put a nice shine on this case," he told the judge.
But Flint said Jaynes does feel remorse for what happened. He said she became addicted to meth and heroin during the final four months leading up to her arrest.
But when Ludlow asked why this boy was abused and his two siblings weren't, he didn't have an answer.
"I don't think she understands either, herself, your honor," he replied. Outside the courtroom, he told reporters: "None of us understand how it got to this point. She doesn't understand and she's the perpetrator."
Jaynes declined to address the court during sentencing. But in a memorandum filed late last week, Flint included a handwritten letter from his client.
In it, she says that she is sorry for what she did and that she misses her children.
"The media and everybody else has said some really horrible things that are not true but paints a picture of me that I'm the most horrible person on Earth. I never meant for this to happen," Jaynes wrote. "I screwed up by not getting help. I hurt him by not getting help. And for this, I'm so very sorry."
"This whole case has grown so out of proportion," she wrote. "It has portrayed me from the beginning to be the worst of the worst," while later adding, "I am guilty for not doing what should have been done. I regret it so much."
While stating that his client wasn't trying to deflect blame, Flint noted to the judge that it was "baffling" how no one knew what was going on inside the house, particularly the boy's father who there.
Russell Orin Jaynes, 40, is charged with child abuse , a third-degree felony. Prosecutors have called the father's actions "reckless" but have contended that Brandy Jaynes is the "primary defendant."
Reddish-Day called Jaynes a "master manipulator" and was able to keep both her husband and her own mother away from the room that her son was locked in. At times, she physically prevented them from looking in the room, the state argued. Russell Jaynes said he hadn't seen his son in a year, until he finally picked the lock on the bathroom door when his wife was gone and found his son lying on the floor unable to move.
The state and defense disagree on the boy's condition prior to being abused. Brandy Jaynes contends he was expelled from school in second grade and was a special needs child, and she soon became overwhelmed because no one offered her any help.
The state, however, said it was Jaynes that purposely kept everyone away. Reddish-Day contends Jaynes pulled her son out of school to "home-school" him but simply ended up abusing him. As for his alleged conditions prior to being abused, she said multiple doctors have concluded there were none.
"The evidence is that there's nothing at all wrong with this child that would have caused her to feel overwhelmed in caring for him. That's just her excuse and her attempt to limit her culpability in this case, and there's just no truth to it,” she said.
Since being removed from the small bathroom, the boy has quickly grown and gained weight. And he can eat anything without throwing-up or having any digestive problems, as Jaynes had previously suggested.
Reddish-Day also presented a short letter written by the boy to the court. Ludlow said the part of the letter he found most heart-wrenching was when the boy wrote that he "didn't care" what happened to his mother, though he said he still wanted to see her at some point because "she's still my mother."
After court, Reddish-Day said her first reaction to the sentence was sadness.
"Real sadness for the victim in this case and the children in this entire family. There's no winners in this case,” she said.
Flint said the sentence was not unexpected. He had filed a motion prior to the hearing requesting the three counts be condensed into one because Jaynes' crime was one continuous act and did not constitute three separate incidents of abuse. Ludlow denied that motion on Monday. Flint said he is considering an appeal on that issue.
New Research Links Increased Minimum Wage to Reduced Child Maltreatment
by Marisol Zarate
Advocates claim that raising the minimum wage would lift many families out of poverty and reduce income equality, but a new study contends that a rise in wages would also reduce child maltreatment.
According to a study from University of Indiana and University of Connecticut researchers released in the January issue of Children and Youth Services Review , neglect reports involving young children declined by 10.8 percent in response to a $1 increase in the minimum wage.
According to University of California Berkeley economics professor Michael Reich, the study provides more evidence that boosting wages can provide health benefits for low-income families.
“The results complement a number of other recent papers showing that minimum wage increases have beneficial effects on infant and maternal health, adolescent fertility, and other health outcomes,” said Reich, who has studied the impact of minimum wage increases in California.
In looking for a connection between increasing income and child maltreatment rates, authors Kerri Raissian and Lindsey Rose Bullinger studied minimum wage increases in 44 states between 2004 and 2013. Raissian and Rose Bullinger weighed those states' maltreatment rates against changes in state and federal minimum wages using a mix of data from the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data (NCANDS) and the U.S. Census. NCANDS is a federal data set that gathers reports of child abuse and neglect from all 50 states.
Neglect is defined by inadequate provision of food, shelter, clothing, medical care, and inadequate home conditions, according to the article.
According to the article, some scholars have long argued that poverty-related issues can manifest themselves through parental psychological well-being, substance abuse, depression and family conflict.
The data are disaggregated by race and ethnicity and by three major age brackets: young children ages 0 to 5, school-aged children ages 6 to 12 and adolescents ages 13 to 18.
The study found that the 30 states that had exceeded the federal minimum wage by a dollar reflected a reduced risk of child welfare involvement. Further, the decline in report rates is greater among school-aged children ages 6 to 12.
The results do not, however, show any significant effects among adolescents or effects on one ethnic group over another.
Bruce Lesley and Cara Baldari of Washington, D.C.-based First Focus said raising the minimum wage should be part of the conversation in addressing child abuse and neglect.
“A reduction in child maltreatment rates through raising the minimum wage would have a profound impact on the lives of hundreds of thousands of children who experience maltreatment and would reduce the economic cost to cities and states responsible for providing services to children and families who have experienced abuse and neglect ,” Baldari and Lesley wrote in an email to The Chronicle of Social Change .
Read the full article here
How Not to React When Survivors of Sexual Trauma Disclose
by Michelle Kukla, PsyD
A survey conducted in 2011 by The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence revealed one in five women and one in 71 men will be raped during their lifetime (Black, Basile, Breiding, Smith, Walters, Merrick, & Stevens, 2011). Additionally, one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before the age of 18 (Finkelhor, Hotaling, Lewis, & Smith, 1990). Given these alarmingly high numbers, it is not unlikely a survivor of sexual trauma may disclose to you in your lifetime.
Therefore, it is paramount to be prepared, to arm yourself with guidance and direction that will allow you to handle such a situation with care. Most survivors of sexual trauma will share what happened to them with at least one person in their personal network, such as a close friend, family member, or significant other. Survivors may selectively confide in others about their trauma, but I believe it is essential everyone has access to education and information about how to best respond—and how NOT to respond—in the event someone close to you discloses their experience.
Responding to Disclosure in Positive Ways
Sadly, research has shown survivors often receive negative or unsupportive reactions when disclosing trauma. Some of these responses often include blame, criticism of their actions at the time of the assault, questioning if an attack was indeed rape, and so on. These negative responses can have detrimental outcomes for survivors and often cause further hurt and emotional pain.
I previously wrote an article in which I focused on ways people can offer support to survivors of sexual trauma who confide in them. This article highlighted ways to use the BRAVE communications model to respond to disclosure with care and sensitivity. I was struck by how many people reached out and expressed they were still afraid to say the wrong thing during sexual assault disclosures. I was touched by the number of people who demonstrated such a strong commitment to not saying something unsupportive during this sensitive time. Consequently, I felt compelled to write a follow-up to discuss in detail what never to say or do when someone confides the sexual trauma they have experienced.
Since negative social responses often thwart a survivor's recovery and may produce more posttraumatic stress symptoms (Ullman & Peter-Hagene, 2014), it's critical you are thoughtful in your responses to these situations. One of the key elements to handling disclosure moments with support is knowing what never to do or say. You can prepare yourself beforehand by developing your awareness of the dialogue and behaviors to avoid, and this essential first step will help ensure any survivors of sexual violence who share their story will receive a positive experience when they decide to do so.
Preparedness can go a long way toward fostering healing for survivors. The list below offers guidance and a starting place, though it may not be all-inclusive, for people to develop understanding of how not to react when disclosed to:
Avoid reacting with disbelief. One of the most detrimental ways to respond is to show you don't believe the survivor. Studies have shown false reports of rape only account for about 2-8% of reports. These statistics are similar to any other crime (Lonsway, Archambault, & Lisak, D., 2009). We certainly don't doubt or question people who tell us they have had their home burglarized or their wallet stolen. Sexual violence should be no different.
Avoid reacting with blame, criticism, or judgment. Don't ask “why” and “what” questions, as these are only likely to perpetuate victim blaming and contribute to the survivor's negative thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Questions such as, “Why did you go alone to the apartment?” “Why were you drinking alcohol?” “Why did you get drunk?” “What were you wearing?” “Why did you start being physically intimate if you didn't want to have sex?” “Why didn't you fight back?” “Why didn't you scream?”are not at all helpful. In no circumstance is a survivor of sexual violence to blame for the crime. “Why” and “what” questions, however, have the potential to communicate to the survivor they are responsible for the act of another person, which, again, is never the case. Only the perpetrator of the sexual assault is to blame. In general, use extreme care when considering a why/what question in this circumstance.
Avoid negative reactions . Being negative when a survivor shares their trauma story can have consequences for the survivor. It's generally not advisable to tell survivors they shouldn't report the incident or tell them their attacker is unlikely to be caught even if they do report the attack. Neither is telling a survivor they shouldn't share with any more people a positive reaction. You may say this because you care and worry how others might react to hearing of the assault, but the atmosphere of negativity created is generally unhelpful and unsupportive. It is also critical survivors are not told what to do or how to handle the aftermath of the attack, as this effectively continues to take away or limit their sense of power and control. Survivors need to feel empowered. This means they should make their own choices about how to handle the crime, including decisions on whether or not to press charges.
Don't treat survivors differently. Treating survivors differently, such as by acting as if they are damaged in some way or now defective, can be damaging to their wellness and recovery. Survivors need to know they have a consistent and stable support system, so if you begin avoiding a person who has disclosed to you, this can be hurtful. If you aren't sure how you can help them, you can always ask!
Avoid minimizing what happened. Never tell survivors to just get over it or that what happened is in the past. Other unhelpful things to say to survivors include, “You don't need professional help;” “It was only sex;” or “Are you sure it was really rape?” “Sexual assault is about power and control, not sex.” These types of questions and statements are attempts to reduce what has happened to the survivor. The truth is, sexual violence is a common traumatic event frequently leading to PTSD in survivors, a majority of whom are women. Sexual trauma is not to be reduced and minimized, as the effects of this kind of trauma include negative emotional and physical consequences often warranting professional assistance. Encouraging survivors to seek mental health care for trauma can promote healing.
If a survivor of sexual assault confides in you, avoid the above reactions to increase your chances of providing survivors with a positive disclosure experience. This sensitivity will continue to help dismantle rape culture, make it more comfortable for survivors of sexual violence to share when they feel appropriate, and validate a survivor's decision to place their trust in you. Healing takes time, but you can help the process—one moment at a time!
Hoosiers reporting child abuse can't sue if confidentiality breached
by Scott L. Miley
INDIANAPOLIS – Hoosiers who want to remain anonymous when reporting child abuse suspicions to the Indiana Department of Child Services don't have a right to sue the state when that confidentiality is breached, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled this week.
The decision arose from a lawsuit filed by a Lawrence County family, referred to as the Does, against the DCS.
According to court documents, John Doe lived in Oolitic with his wife and three children. He often drove children to church on Wednesdays.
During those rides, he came to suspect that some of the youth, who were living in five homes, could be victims of child abuse. He called the DCS hotline and talked with a staffer. As the conversation ended, Doe was asked for his name.
He was hesitant in giving it but was told by the DCS worker that “it was confidential. Nobody will find out.” He gave his name to the staffer.
A few days later, a neighbor was on his lawn waving a DCS report, which had Doe's name unredacted. Word reportedly spread around the small town, and the Does were labeled “snitches.” One of the Does' children, they claimed, was bullied at school.
The Does sued the DCS.
The Indiana Supreme Court ruled Thursday in favor of the department while also reprimanding it for release of Doe's name.
Indiana law prohibits DCS from identifying people who report abuse but, as written, doesn't guarantee a person the right to sue or take action if that confidentiality is breached. The law is written to protect children, not those who report abuse, the ruling says.
Although the court doesn't condone DCS's “thoughtless fumbling of sensitive information,” Indiana law concerning the child abuse reporting system doesn't allow for a citizen to sue, according to the ruling written by Chief Justice Loretta Rush.
In part, the ruling reads: “Child-abuse reporters are DCS's eyes and ears on the front lines of the fight to protect children, and without their trust and cooperation, DCS faces a nearly impossible uphill battle.
“Knowing this, our General Assembly might choose to impose a right of action, just as it has for Hoosiers falsely accused of child abuse,” the ruling reads.
Davis House works to prevent child abuse, one adult at a time
by Landon Woodroff
Child sexual abuse can and does affect children from every economic class, race and religion, but in spite of this fact, it is often relegated to the societal shadows.
The reasons for this are many. For instance, victims may experience feelings of alienation or shame that keep them from telling adults about abuse. For their part, adults may find it easier to believe that something so upsetting could not possibly be going on in their communities.
The result is too frequently silence and inaction in the face of these types of crimes.
Davis House Child Advocacy Center is doing its best to change this dynamic.
On the one hand, the center provides various services to victims and their families that help them heal in the wake of abuse. On the other hand, the center tries to stop that abuse from happening in the first place by providing educational and training opportunities to adults in the area.
One of the educational programs that Davis House offers is based on a curriculum called Stewards of Children. Those who undergo this training learn various strategies to help prevent child sexual abuse as well as how to recognize and respond to possible instances of abuse.
Davis House held a Stewards of Children training session this past week at the Brentwood Library for several of its board members.
“It is a difficult subject, but it's one that we have to address,” Davis House Executive Director Marcus Stamps said toward the beginning of the session.
It is an important subject to address in large part because of how terribly prevalent it is. The training cited a statistic saying that 1 in 10 children will be the victim of sexual abuse by the time they turn 18 years old. Davis House itself had 467 new clients last year in its coverage area of Williamson, Hickman, Lewis and Perry counties.
Adding to the severity of the crime is the fact that child sexual abuse victims are more likely to suffer serious repercussions to their physical and mental health on into adulthood. Those repercussions can take the form of a greater propensity for substance abuse, anxiety, depression and self-harm, but also a higher likelihood of developing obesity, diabetes, heart problems and cancer.
“When we're talking about the impact of child abuse, we're talking about both the here and the now and the impact to that child, but we're also talking bout the impact of that soon-to-be, in the future adult,” Stamps said.
The first step parents and other caregivers to children can take to stop abuse is to simply familiarize themselves with the facts about child sex abuse. Some of those facts may not line up with what today's parents were taught about the subject when they were kids.
“I grew up with ‘stranger danger,'” said Tara Tidwell, the marketing and community outreach coordinator for Davis House. “Don't talk to the stranger on the corner, that's the one we have to be careful of. As long as you know them they're fine, if its someone you don't know, that's the problem.”
As the Stewards of Children program taught, however, children are much more likely to be abused by people they know than by strangers. In fact, according to the program, 90 percent of child sex abuse victims know their abuser. Additionally, 60 percent of victims are abused by someone the family trusts.
These statistics make a difficult problem even more difficult because they introduce all sorts of societal pressures and relationships into the process of preventing abuse.
“You cannot discount the impact of peer relationships or social scenarios that people are in that creates fear of why they don't want to do something about children,” Stamps said. “That is the attitude that we are trying to change. That's what it's gonna take for this community to be better protected as far as children go.”
It is much easier to be on the lookout for a stranger when trying to shield your child from abuse. The truth of the matter, though, is that abusers can be parents, co-workers, church members, coaches or even older kids (40 percent of abusers are older or stronger children, the presentation said).
Of course, the purpose of the workshop is not to make parents suspicion of everyone around them. Tidwell used an analogy to address the mindset that Davis House hopes to instill.
“The way that we talk about it is children get killed in auto accidents every day [yet] you would never not take your child out in a car because they could potentially get harmed,” Tidwell said. “So we have seat belts, we have car seats, we have boosters. We do everything that we can and use all of the tools that are available to us to try to protect our children on a daily basis as they go about living their lives.”
This means being aware of situations that could possibly put children at greater risk. For instance, according to the presentation, 80 percent of instances of child sexual abuse occur in isolated, one-on-one situations between a victim and an abuser.
“In terms of preventing that, look for ways you can make situations either observable or interruptible,” Stamps said. “You can still have one-on-one interactions, but for example [if] I'm sitting in this room with a child and I have all these windows open, it's observable.”
A speaker in the Stewards of Children video stressed the importance of references rather than just resumes or background checks in the course of hiring someone to watch children. A serial abuser may never have been caught, in which case a background check will not uncover anything problematic, but speaking with others who have seen the person interact with children may reveal possible trouble signs.
Another thing parents can do to protect their children is simply to be aware of worrying behavior, both among their own kids and those who interact with their kids.
Abusers, for instance, will often “groom” victims by giving them special attention or gifts and may also attempt to ingratiate themselves with families in order to gain one-on-one access with a child.
Since these abusers in many cases take advantage of a child's innocence regarding sexuality, experts in the Stewards of Children program recommend that parents use proper anatomical terms for body parts around their children.
Signs of abuse in children can take many forms. Most of the time, they are not physical.
“We often say change in behavior is one of the potential signs for abuse,” Stamps said. “When we say change of behavior it could be good, it could be bad. We don't know.”
Many people probably already know to be on alert if a child suddenly displays symptoms of withdrawal, anxiety or depression. Sometimes, though, children can go the opposite direction as a result of abuse.
Because they “want some portion of their life they can have control over” kids “may actually excel in school and sports,” Stamps said. “They may also want to please someone. They might go out of their way to be very good in terms of extra curricular activity so that they're very, very good.”
Finally, the training session included information about what to do if a child tells you about abuse.
“It takes a lot of courage for a child to tell you that they've been abused,” Stamps said. “They haven't just decided today, just a few minutes ago. They've thought about it. They've contemplated the consequences. They've thought this through.”
As a result, adults should remain composed when confronted with an allegation of abuse.
“Listen calmly, don't freak out,” Stamps said. “Because what happens is they're testing your reaction to see if it's ok to tell you this.”
Certain phrases are recommended by the Stewards of Children curriculum. They include “I believe you” and “What happened is not your fault.” Adults should ask open-ended questions so as not to influence the course of a child's disclosure.
Under Tennessee law, adults have very clear obligations when it comes to reporting child sexual abuse.
“In the state of Tennessee, every adult of known or suspected child abuse is a mandated reporter,” Tidwell said. “So if you suspect, whether a child has disclosed it to you or you've witnessed something where you think that child is trouble, you're obligated morally, yes, but also by law you're obligated to make a report to law enforcement or the Department of Children's Services.”
Over the past eight or nine years, Davis House has provided child abuse training to all sorts of different groups, including those at local schools, churches, day care centers, civic groups and homeowners associations.
“Really any group of adults who will listen to how to better protect their children,” Stamps said.
All of the services provided by Davis House are free. The company gets a little under a third of its funding from grants, but the rest is all raised from the community.
In addition to its training sessions, Davis House offers victims and their families counseling services and conducts forensic interviews in collaboration with the Child Protective Investigative Team.
“Even though we respond to allegations of abuse with investigative and healing services if we could prevent it entirely we would do that,” Stamps said.
How you can help stop child abuse
by Kelly Curtin
SYRACUSE, NY — This case of brings the issue of child abuse to the forefront again. Every ten seconds a report of child abuse is made in the united states.
In syracuse, The McMahon Ryan Child Advocacy said they had 699 child abuse cases last year and more than 6,000 calls to the hotline.
The center has seen more than 650 cases so far this year, and it will go up.
This agency is one place offering support and help for children who suffer sexual and physical abuse.
The deeply disturbing allegations coming out of this ramshackle house in Oswego County strikes a nerve with the staff at The McMahon Ryan Child Advocacy Center.
"We saw 699 kids last year those were all horrific events that happened to a child and sometimes the horrific things are on the inside as well as on the outside," said Colleen Merced, Executive Director at the center.
Merced said some people don't know when to make a call if they see abuse or anything suspicious, but it's crucial to trust your gut.
There's a New York State Child Abuse Hotline, 1-800-342-3720, to call, where you can remain anonymous, experts investigate the situation.
"I think a lot of people are fearful of getting involved and I think if people understood that you can be anonymous and they don't have to know who you are, you're saving a child's life," added Merced.
There are some signs that are more obvious for parents or teachers to pay attention to, like a child's behavior.
"A child becomes more withdrawn or they are not talking or they used to be really happy and now they are withdrawn those are signs and symptoms that something could be going on," explained Merced.
But many are hidden. Normally, children don't have a second set of eyes on them during the summer, which can make it easier for abuse to go unnoticed.
Merced said we all need to listen to children, for clues.
"A child wasn't being fed or was being hurt by someone in their home or either they go to a friends house and don't want to go home or they are scared and won't come out and say why," said Merced.
Experts said with school starting, it's important to let children know who they can turn to, whether it be a close friend, teacher, or parent.
A trusted go-to person could save a child's life.
Lawsuit: Social workers knew boy fed to pigs was being tortured
by Minyvonne Burke
The family of Adrian Jones is suing social workers in Kansas and Missouri claiming they knew the little boy was being tortured and abused by his father and stepmother but did nothing to help him.
Adrian's oldest sister, his maternal grandmother and biological mother filed the suits this week in Kansas and Missouri.
In the document, obtained by K CTV , the family alleges that despite documented calls and reports of the abuse over several years, Adrian was not removed from the home.
The family said the little boy's horrific death was an "entirely avoidable child-homicide."
Adrian's remains were found by police in November 2015 in a pig pen at his Kansas home. Prosecutors previously said they believe Adrian, who also went by the nickname AJ, had been starved to death. His father, Michael Jones, then fed Adrian's remains to pigs.
Jones, and his wife Heather Jones, were sentenced to life in prison .
According to the family's lawsuit, social workers in Kansas and Missouri had stacks of paper documenting the abuse .
"But their idea of intervention was limited, almost exclusively, to having A.J.'s father and stepmother sign a piece of paper agreeing to stop torturing the child - the legal equivalent of a 'pinky swear.' As it turned out, that signed paper might as well have been A.J.'s death warrant," the lawsuit reads.
The suit names the state of Kansas, the Department of Children and Families and its director Phyllis Gilmore. In Missouri, the family named 10 employees from the Department of Social Services in the suit, as well as the Family Guidance Center of St. Joseph and a Kansas City residential children's home.
The family said instead of the agencies intervening in Adrian's case, they "chose to act like disinterested bystanders."
Child safety experts dispel myths and share tips in Stillwater
by Jackie Bussjaeger
STILLWATER — Family safety was the theme of the most recent presentation in a community education series hosted by the nonprofit St. Croix Family Resource Center at St. Paul Lutheran Church July 31. Educators from the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center (JWRC) were invited to share their insights with St. Croix Valley families.
While kids played games, colored and learned safety topics with JWRC Program Manager Alison Feigh in one part of the church, their parents heard a presentation from JWRC Victim Assistance Specialist Jane Straub in the sanctuary.
Straub summed up the mission of the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center, and its role in promoting child safety.
“We do the serving of victims and survivors, but we also really want to work on prevention,” she said. “We know that abuse does not have to happen, and we want to find ways that we can prevent it.”
Though the center was formed in honor of Jacob Wetterling, a Minnesota boy who was abducted in 1989, Straub explained that Wetterling's case is not the norm.
“It is not a stranger that's the person that's going to hurt our kids,” Straub said. “That could happen, but it's extremely rare. And unfortunately, working at the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center, that's what people think. That was Jacob's case, where it was a complete stranger … Jacob's type of case is not what we need people to look at. We need to look at who are the people we invite through the front door.”
It isn't easy for parents to think this way, Straub said.
“I think as a adults that does make us feel a little uncomfortable, because we want to feel like people are above suspicion … unfortunately, we know that people who are looking to abuse children are looking in places where they have access to children,” she said.
Cases like Wetterling's have caused many parents to teach their children about “stranger danger,” but the National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse reports that around 90 percent of abuse is committed by someone the child knows. “Stranger danger” is not always the best practice.
“When we're not around, our children will have to go to a stranger to get help,” Straub said. “If they're lost in a store, we want them to go up to somebody who works at Target.” Approaching another mom with kids is usually another safe alternative.
“The other thing we have going for us is this gut instinct,” Straub said. “If somebody that you don't know comes up to you and starts to make you feel uncomfortable, you have bells and whistles going off. Our body kind of has this automatic response. If I am 5 or 8 or 12, and it's an adult that I know, it's an adult that I trust, it's an adult that I'm told that I have to be respectful (to), and that adult is making my bells and whistles go off, I sometimes try to quiet the bells and whistles, because that doesn't make sense with what I've been told about this person.”
All children should be able to identify five trustworthy adults they can go to for questions and help—parents should be familiar with whom their kids select. Children should also be encouraged to “check first” with their parents before talking to anyone or going somewhere with someone else.
Practice and positive reinforcement can help drive these behaviors home, Straub said. Even discussing scenarios with your children during breaks or while driving can make them think about what to do in uncomfortable situations.
One of the foremost methods to help children stay safe is talking to kids about healthy relationships.
“Talking to kids about consent, and I'm not just talking about sexual consent,” Straub said. “They have a right to their bodies, and talking about what their body parts are, and that they have the right to say no to touch that they don't like.”
Technology can be dangerous terrain, especially with older children, Straub said. Digital communication can easily create an illusion of a personal connection, which is how many adults with ill intent get access to young people.
“We will never be ahead of our kids, because our kids are digital natives, and we're the immigrants,” Straub said. “Our parents never had to talk to us about the internet, or apps, or sexting, so we don't know how to have those conversations with our kids. They're the experts.”
Straub recommended that parents ask kids questions about their apps—what's fun about them, who do they connect to on them, what might be dangerous about them.
Technology can also be a useful tool in safety—many families have a “no questions asked” policy, where if a child is in a situation in which they feel uncomfortable, they can text their parents a prearranged code word that indicates they want to be picked up.
The parents' role is to raise an independent adult, and sometimes things do not go as planned. When placed in a risky situation, a fight, flight or freeze reflex can kick in, no matter how prepared a child is.
“If something does happen and your child comes back and says, 'I forgot to say no,' you know what? You say 'It's okay; it's not your fault. What that person did was not okay. I still love you and it's not your fault.'”
But practice is still key when teaching kids the best way to be safe.
“We can't expect them to fight their way, scream their way, yell their way out of every situation if we're not talking about it and practicing it,” Straub said. Parents shouldn't feel like they're trying to scare their children, but rather arming them with the right tools to arise in uncomfortable or dangerous situations.
Learn more about family safety at the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center at www.gundersenhealth.org/ncptc/jacob-wetterling-resource-center or by calling 651-714-4673.
The St. Croix Family Resource Center is expanding its presence in the community with offerings such as an after-school program and community garden. Learn more about the St. Croix Family Resource Center, including upcoming community events, at www.stcroixfrc.org or by calling 651-231-7807.
Understanding trauma and dysfunction to break abuse cycle
by Mark Hughes
All organizations that serve youth need to be trauma informed, said Hillary McQueen, executive director of Kids' Space.
"We're taking an innovative approach in our advocacy for the child that's been in trauma and dysfunction by helping the parents to understand the importance of breaking the cycle of dysfunction, abuse and neglect," McQueen said.
The Adverse Childhood Experiences study that Kids' Space uses was conducted by the Center for Disease Control-Kaiser Permanente from 1995 to 1997 and involved more than 17,000 people, according to the CDC's website.
The questions focus on emotional, physical and sexual abuse, household challenges and neglect in a person's first 18 years of life, said Haley Poffel, director of services at Kids' Space, the Muskogee County Child Advocacy Center.
The higher the score the more negatively a persons mental, social and physical life is impacted.
"Surveys have shown that 90 percent of prisoners have had childhood trauma," Poffel said.
Early intervention is important if we're going to keep the negative results of trauma and dysfunction in a family from lasting a lifetime, Poffel said.
The study showed that all aspects of health — physical, mental and emotional — were negatively impacted by traumatic juvenile events.
Results of childhood trauma increased the likelihood of alcoholism, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, depression, fetal death, suicide attempts, illicit drug use, ischemic heart disease and liver disease among many other health-related problems.
"We want community partners to make their decision about child abuse victims through trauma-informed lenses," McQueen said.
She defined community partners as Court Appointed Special Advocates, law enforcement, child protective services, the district attorney's office, school staff and therapists.
"I believe that our knowledge of trauma informed care within our organization is going to make our services more effective," McQueen said. "We're going to know it very well."
Trauma can affect a child's ability to learn in school.
"When I speak to civic organizations and agents with the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics I simulate what it would feel like to a child trying to learn while in the midst of experiencing dysfunction and trauma in their everyday lives," McQueen said.
She asks her attendees to close their eyes and say the alphabet backwards three times while she bangs a book against the wall and make loud noises.
"This is basically like a child in second grade trying to learn while thinking about whether he will have anything to eat when he gets home or if he will be traumatized by someone," McQueen said.
School systems across the nation that are seeing positive results by being trauma informed, Poffel said.
"School systems who have done this have seen an increase in graduation rates, college enrollments and a decrease in disciplinary problems, teen pregnancy and substance abuse," Poffel said.
"It costs a lot of money not to be trauma informed — court costs, incarceration, medical issues and unable to get out of poverty," she said.
McQueen said that one of eight children in Muskogee County will have confirmed child abuse investigations. Eight out of 10 children will have contact with the child welfare system, Poffel said.
"These are hard statistics by the state chapter of Child Advocacy Center of Oklahoma," McQueen said.
Muskogee's numbers are high, and the only way to benefit Muskogee is to be trauma informed in working with our youth in order to improve our community, Poffel said.
"In as little as three years from now, if we incorporate this, we could see numbers change in a positive way," McQueen said.
Monsters do exist on the internet
by Terry Sweetman
A TINY multicoloured sneaker, a T-shirt with a comic book motif, another with Santa Clauses across the front, a toy carousel, a love-worn cuddly bear.
They're the sorts of things I'd expect to see strewn across my grandkids' rooms. But they are actually clues to one of the most horrid crimes most of us could imagine. Child sexual abuse.
You can find them on the Europol website under the heading “Trace an object” among other odds and ends plucked, I presume, from child abuse images or videos. Could somebody pick them out and indirectly point the finger at an abuser or a ring of monsters? Could somebody else – an Aussie traveller, maybe – recognise a hotel room with Asian decor where horrible things might have taken place?
They are slim clues but the best a dedicated group of policemen around the world, from Europol and Interpol, have to work on in their efforts to track down foul abusers and to rescue their little victims.
But, even with so little to go on, they have their success and their heartbreaks. Interpol, with 50 member countries and Europol connected to its database, identified five children every day last year. That brought the number of victims identified to more than 10,000 and to the arrest of more than 5000 offenders. They are horrific figures but probably represent the tip of the iceberg given that in Australia there are more than 5500 substantiated cases of child sexual abuse a year. And, on raw numbers, sexual abuse comes way beyond emotional and physical abuse and neglect.
The sequence of detection begins with photos or videos taken by the offender, shared online, discovered by police and placed on Interpol's International Child Sexual Exploitation database.
Specialists then analyse all the clues in the images and hopefully the child or offender is identified, and the child removed from harm, the abuser arrested. It all sounds pretty simple but, of course, it isn't because child abusers are devious, often organised, connected across the world and protected by electronic subterfuge.
The labyrinthine nature of child sexual abuse can be judged by a case only last week in which an investigation that began in Australia with the discovery of graphic images shared by paedophiles led to the rescue of a six-year-old in Canada and the arrest of an alleged child rapist.
The images led to the laying of child sex charges against a 34-year-old man and a 45-year-old woman in Adelaide and a 32-year-old woman from regional NSW.
And then a trail of clues led to Canada where a 28-year-old man was charged.
In the dry language of the cop shop, Winnipeg police said: “The ICE (internet child exploitation) unit learnt that between January 2017 and early August 2017, a six-year-old victim was sexually assaulted at a residence in East Kildonan.”
South Australia Detective Inspector Catherine Hilliard said the investigation was continuing and further arrests were possible, both in Australia and overseas.
What was the giveaway? Who knows?
It could have been a child's garment, some ornament in the background or the untangling of some distorted image through technological wizardry.
In case you think it's all a bit farfetched, consider a case from a few years back when images of the abuse of an 18-month-old found in the United States were placed on the ICSE database.
A Dutch member of Interpol's Victim Identification Network identified a stuffed bunny in the photo as Miffy, a popular Dick Bruna character. The toy, and other elements in the image, identified the Netherlands as the location of the child sexual abuse. A public appeal resulted in the identification and arrest of Robert Mikelsons who has since been sentenced to 18 years for abusing more than 60 children in two Amsterdam nurseries and homes where he babysat. Subsequent investigations around the world have so far led to more than 140 children being removed from harm and the arrest of nearly 40 sex offenders from every region of the world, many of them abusing multiple victims.
Miffy, my grandkids' favourite when they were tots. It's enough to make you sick.
Silicon Valley on edge as lawmakers target online sex trafficking
by Evan Halper
A fter a sustained assault from lawmakers, investigators and victims groups, the website Backpage.com agreed early this year to shut down its lucrative adult page, which had become a well-known sex-trafficking hub.
It wasn't long before the company was back in the headlines.
The adult section was gone, but the sex traffic was not. In May, authorities in Stockton charged 23 people with involvement in a trafficking ring that was using another corner of Backpage to market sex with girls as young as 14. A Chicago teenager allegedly trafficked on Backpage had her throat slit in June.
The resilience of this platform — host to an estimated 70% of online sex trafficking at its peak — is a long-running public relations mess for the tech industry. Internet freedom laws held sacred in Silicon Valley have helped shield Backpage from prosecution and lawsuits by victims of gruesome sex trafficking.
Now the tech industry's Backpage problem has evolved into a full-blown political crisis. An unexpectedly large coalition of lawmakers is aiming to hold sites like Backpage liable for trafficking, sparking panic in Silicon Valley over the far-reaching consequences for the broader Internet.
The noisy political battle is forging unusual alliances in Washington. And caught in the middle are some of the most influential lawmakers in California.
They find themselves struggling to reconcile a sex trafficking scourge that has hit their state hard with a remedy that Silicon Valley cautions would be a disaster for a free and open Internet.
Trade groups representing Google, Facebook and other Internet giants warn of a “devastating impact” on the tech industry if the 1996 Communications Decency Act is tinkered with in the way lawmakers envision to hold Backpage and others liable for criminal material on their pages.
They project “mass removals of legitimate content” by social media and other firms scrambling to shield themselves from a deluge of lawsuits from trial lawyers and prosecutors. The ACLU joined the Electronic Frontier Foundation and other groups in warning lawmakers that if they pass the law, every one of the millions of social media postings placed online daily becomes a potential liability for the company hosting it.
But much of Congress is unimpressed by the predictions of calamity.
The lawmakers have grown impatient with Silicon Valley's limited success at self-policing, and its flat-out refusal to consider modifications to its cherished immunity from the illegal behavior of posters, as enshrined by the two-decade-old act.
Judges keep returning to that immunity in dismissing claims against Backpage, sometimes in the face of what they acknowledge may be compelling evidence that the firm condoned trafficking.
“The Communications Decency Act is a well-intentioned law, but it was never intended to protect sex traffickers,” said Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio).
More than a quarter of lawmakers in Congress have already signed on as sponsors of the nascent bill Portman is taking a lead on that would change the act, or to a similar measure in the House. It is a formidable show of bipartisan support that is jolting tech companies. The momentum grew in August, when a Sacramento judge threw out state criminal pimping charges against Backpage, citing the immunity from such prosecution the company receives under the act.
California prosecutors had built much of their case around allegations that Backpage helped traffickers and pimps edit their ads to evade law enforcement. “Until Congress sees fit to amend the immunity law, the broad reach … of the Communications Decency Act even applies to those alleged to support the exploitation of others by human trafficking,” wrote Superior Court Judge Lawrence Brown.
The judge is allowing prosecutors to proceed with money-laundering charges against Backpage, which is accused of illegally using shell companies to trick credit card firms refusing to do business with Backpage into processing the payments of its customers.
The company denied helping to craft any of the sex trafficking ads that landed on its site. It is fighting the money-laundering charges. Company officials declined to comment on the congressional effort it has inspired, directing a reporter instead to the opposition campaign mounted by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Center for Democracy and Technology — groups that receive substantial funding from big technology companies.
Almost every attorney general in the country wants the decency act changed to strip legal immunity for sites that condone or promote trafficking. Fifty of them wrote a letter to Congress a few weeks ago citing several horrific cases in which Backpage was used to traffic teenage girls. They warned the act has “resulted in companies like Backpage.com remaining outside the reach of state and local law enforcement in these kinds of cases.”
California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra said the site would have been shut down long ago if not for the immunity. “We would have been able to stop the abuse and in some cases the death of some of these young people who got caught up in these sex trafficking rings,” Becerra said.
Missing from the long list of sponsors of Portman's bill is California Sen. Kamala Harris , who aggressively went after Backpage while serving as the state's attorney general, and in 2013 joined colleagues in other states in signing a letter with the same demand state attorneys general sent Congress this week.
The hesitance of Harris and California Sen. Dianne Feinstein to sign on reflects how cautiously lawmakers close to Silicon Valley are treading.
The indictment Harris filed against Backpage last year was a memorable career moment, with a three-year investigation leading to the arrest of the company chief executive as he returned from a trip abroad, and a large raid on corporate headquarters in Dallas. But stripping immunity under Internet law from companies like Backpage is complicated business that could have unexpected fallout. Harris still wants the decency act changed, but appears unpersuaded that the Portman plan is targeted enough.
Other California lawmakers are also uneasy about it. Only a smattering of the state's immense delegation has signed on to the House measure.
Among those opposing it is Rep. Ro Khanna , the former Stanford University economist now representing Silicon Valley in Congress. He is loathe to tinker with what he says is a pillar of the Internet economy. The protection online companies are given against illegal material that users lob on their platforms was foundational to the explosive growth of the industry, he said.
“It is a reason America dominates tech instead of Europe or China, where such immunity doesn't exist,” Khanna said. He said he feared even a narrowly targeted tweak could be exploited by lawyers and activists to attack a broad range of Internet content they find objectionable.
Opponents also warn that stripping the immunity may merely force Web companies to less aggressively police their content, because knowing what illegal material is on their sites could increase liability under the proposed changes to the act. They say companies should instead be pressured to step up their enforcement efforts and innovation of anti-trafficking software.
Tech companies, one of the most dominant lobbying forces in Washington, have been caught off guard by the fight. It wasn't long ago that there was scant support for changes to the immunity laws that Internet firms rely on, according to Eric Goldman, co-director of the High Tech Law Institute at Santa Clara University.
“This has moved faster than tech companies can even respond to it,” said Goldman, who argues that the measure would merely drive sex trafficking to places where it is harder for law enforcement to find and undermine the innovation economy in the process. “Can you come up with a topic more troubling to a legislator than sex trafficking? The argument that the bill may not solve the problem and actually create new problems is hard to make. Legislators are thinking, if it has a chance to help, why not try?”