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October 23, 2014



Proposition might ease access to child-abuse files

by Howard Fischer

PHOENIX — Proponents of Proposition 122 insist a potentially far-reaching amendment to the Arizona Constitution is necessary to ensure the public gets to monitor how well Arizona does in protecting children.

Postcards being paid for and mailed to voters by the Arizona Republican Party declare “an unconstitutional federal law” forces the state “to hide botched investigations of abused kids.” It features a photo of a young girl with a bruise on her arm crouching in the corner with her teddy bear.

The measure on the November ballot would allow the Legislature — or voters — to declare the new Department of Child Safety will not follow the federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, which includes provisions about what can and cannot be publicly released.

But it may not be necessary to amend the state constitution to do that.

“We could get out of CAPTA now if we reject the federal funds,” said Dana Naimark, president of the Children's Action Alliance. Naimark, whose organization has taken no position on Prop. 122, said she objects to proponents of the ballot measure using child-abuse issues to gain support, calling it a “distraction.”

Rep. Kate Brophy McGee, R-Phoenix, who has been at the forefront of demanding more transparency at DCS, supports Proposition 122.

She acknowledged the problem may not be with the federal child-abuse provision. In fact, she said that law specifically mandates disclosure of information in cases of deaths or near-fatal cases of abuse.

The big problem, she said, is how the state attorneys assigned to the child-welfare agency have chosen to read the federal law, using it as a shield to reject requests for public records.

“They interpret CAPTA so broadly as to make it shut down the access to and flow of information, as opposed to do what CAPTA was intended, which is to facilitate the sharing of information in the case of the death or the near-death of a child,” Brophy McGee said.

As far as whether Proposition 122 will force the state to open up records, “It's another tool in the toolbox,” she said, to ensure the new state agency she helped create is open to disclosure.

In essence, Proposition 122 would permit lawmakers or voters to decide a federal law or program is not “consistent with the (federal) constitution.” If that happens, all state and local governments and school districts would be prohibited from using their workers or funds “to enforce, administer or cooperate with the designated federal action or program.”

Where child abuse comes in is with CAPTA.

On one hand, the law that provides federal dollars to states for child-abuse programs specifically allows disclosure of information in instances of abuse that result in a fatality or near fatality. But other information is considered off limits.

Officials at the now-defunct Child Protective Services for years have cited that law's restrictions in rejecting requests for public records.

Brophy McGee said recent amendments to the law on confidentiality were designed to address some of that.

For example, the statute says records have to be maintained as required by federal law. But they also have declared “all exceptions for the public release of DCS information shall be construed as openly as possible under federal law.”

“Every time we ‘fix' (the law), they go right back to where they were and they cite CAPTA,” Brophy McGee said.

And she said the new DCS is “not doing any better” than the old CPS at being transparent about its operations .

While critics say the disclosure issue could be fixed with more simple changes to state law, businessman Jack Biltis, who is financing much of the pro-122 campaign, said he doubts an amendment to state law would do much.

“CPS has really just been creating excuses not to disclose anything they didn't want to,” he said, and blaming the federal law. He said Proposition 122 would solve that issue.

Biltis acknowledged ignoring the federal law risks losing federal dollars — about $670,000, according to Jennifer Bowser Richards, spokeswoman for DCS.

But Brophy McGee said she doubts there would be a legal fight from the feds if Arizona were to say it is going to make more information public, with or without Proposition 122.

“No state has ever lost funds because of CAPTA violations,” she said.

DCS Director Charles Flanagan would not be interviewed about the issue.



Missouri General Assembly evaluates how to help sexually-abused children

by Brendan Cullerton

Anti-child abuse groups and attorneys told a special Missouri legislative joint-committee Thursday sexually abused children need better post-abuse care.

The state legislature created The Task Force on the Prevention of Sexual Abuse of Children during the 2011 session and is now looking into how the task force performed and improvements members think can be made. Everyone giving testimony agreed the state needs to use more resources to provide evidence-based care to victims of sexual abuse.

“The things I have heard, the things I have seen, there is no human being on earth that can experience that and not have some very long-term health issues if the trauma is not addressed,” said Emily van Schenkhof, deputy director of Missouri KidsFirst. “So one of the things the task force is really trying to promote is that any child that has been sexually abused or any child that has been traumatized,they have the ability to be part of an appropriate mental health intervention, and we spend some time trying to heal that child.”

Schenkhof said the state needs to spend a higher proportion of sexual abuse money on the victims, rather than on the perpetrators of sexual abuse. She said little-to-no evidence has shown it is possible to change the behavior of a sex offender older than 30.

Several guardians ad litem, or state attorneys representing children, said a program to better treat psychological issues of the sexually abused should be a top priority in revamping state funding on the issue.

“You watch the forensic interview, you hear the child speak, and that changes you,” Missouri attorney Nicholas Mebruer said. “You know that that will permeate every aspect, every relationship that child will ever have [without adequate interventions].”



Child abuse investigator to speak

Staff Reports

ELLENSBURG — Tacoma Police Detective Bradley R. Graham, a specialist in investigating child abuse, will give a public lecture, title “Investigating Child Murder and Abuse,” noon to 1 p.m. Monday at Central Washington University's Dean Hall.

Graham has recently published the comprehensive textbook “Effective Child Abuse Investigation for the Multidisciplinary Team,” according to a news release.

A Chicago native, he earned his master's degree in law and justice from Central Washington University's Kent Center in 2013.

Graham advocates for a multidisciplinary team approach to child abuse investigation and was instrumental in the creation of the protocols used at the Pierce County's Child Advocacy Center at Mary Bridge Hospital in Tacoma.

Graham has been a detective in the Tacoma Police Department since 1997, first in the Criminal Investigations Division, and later in the Domestic Violence Unit. In 2000, he transferred to the Special Assaults Unit.

He specializes in investigating child fatalities and child sexual/physical abuse cases.


New York

Audit chastises Oneida County for repeat child abuse cases

Oneida County's rate of repeat child abuse cases is higher than the state average and more than three times the national average, according to a report from the state Comptroller's Office.

by Elizabeth Cooper

Oneida County's rate of repeat child abuse cases is higher than the state average and more than three times the national average, according to a report from the state Comptroller's Office.

The report measures repeat child abuse as the percentage of children who were the victims of “substantiated allegations” of abuse within six months after an earlier substantiated allegation was reported. In September 2012, the period studied, 19.5 percent of cases qualified. The state average was 12.4 percent and the national average 5.4 percent.

It's the second time Oneida County's Child Protective Services unit has been audited by the comptroller. A 2008 audit found the recurrence rate was 21.8 percent.

Director of Social Services Lucille Soldato, who oversees the Child Protective Services unit, said the department already is tracking trends and analyzing the data, but will redouble those efforts.

Asked why the county's recurrence rate is higher than the state and national average, she said it might have to do with her unit's method of determining what cases merit further investigation.

“We tend to err on the side of caution,” she said. “I would rather have them indicate ‘yes.'”

She said the more cases that are opened, the more likelihood there is for recurrence. She also said many of the cases are bad enough for monitoring but don't rise to the level where a court would remove the children from the home.

The county has enough staff in the unit, she said, and there is nothing that puts the county at a higher level of risk than other counties in the state for child abuse.

The Comptroller's Office selected seven other counties for its study: Dutchess, Livingston, Niagara, Rockland, Saratoga, Ulster and Washington. A state spokesman said the counties were chosen because of their diverse demographics, not because of any previous issues with child protective services.

Though the audit found Oneida County's Child Protective Services unit had followed recommendations given after the 2008 report, some of the problems have persisted.

“The caseworkers and supervisors often told us that there were issues in these families, including mental health concerns, domestic violence and drug or alcohol abuse conditions,” the report said. “However, in all cases the caseworker and supervisor could not think of any other actions they may have taken to prevent recurrence.”

The Comptroller's Office, however, determined that the county's Child Protective Services unit does not track or analyze its recurrence cases, and recommended that the county begin to do so.

“Doing so would help develop a better understanding of why the recurrence occurred or what historically has or has not worked to prevent recurrence,” the report said.

Among the other recommendations:

* Work with the state Office of Children and Family Services to achieve a long-term reduction in recurring cases.

* Examine each recurrence case to determine what might prevent future problems, and adjust actions accordingly.

* Track and analyze recurrence data to identify historical trends and predict future outcomes and prevent future problems.


Washington D.C.

Seriously, Buzzfeed? Defending Mothers Who Enable Child Abuse?

by Stephanie Edelman

The other week, BuzzFeed published an investigation of what it deemed “grotesque injustice”: cases in which battered women were prosecuted and incarcerated for permitting or enabling child abuse—after their abusive boyfriends or husbands had beaten and murdered their children.

The exposé was not merely sympathetic to these women. It portrayed them as helpless victims, lamenting the many who had “suffered” this fate. The piece was unabashed advocacy—and on behalf of women whom prosecutors, judges, and juries had decided to send to jail for complicity in the murder of their own children despite the anguish of each woman's story. In a sick twist, the tragedy of the real victims in these stories—the children who suffered horrible, violent deaths that their mothers did little to nothing to prevent—was somehow overshadowed by the victimhood of mothers who survived to tell the police how they really had tried to do something.

“Looking back over the past decade,” wrote Alex Campbell, “BuzzFeed News identified 28 mothers in 11 states sentenced to at least 10 years in prison for failing to prevent their partners from harming their children.” Then Campbell played his trump card: “ In every one of these cases, there was evidence the mother herself had been battered by the man.

No one would belittle the plight of women in abusive relationships; of course battered women deserve our sympathy and concern…until all of our sympathy is gone because there is a dead two-year-old who might be alive today if his mother has just called the police like her friend told her. To absolve these women of their responsibility is morally bankrupt, but of a piece with a modern liberalism that sees patriarchy and colonialism and racism as exculpatory factors for so many crimes and atrocities.

Doesn't Anyone Care About Abused Children?

I'm a woman and, far from sympathizing with these women, all I could think was how could anyone , much less an innocent child's mother, sit by and watch such sickening violence inflicted on that child and not be compelled to intervene, no matter what the cost? And how could we as a society be expected to condone inaction that leads to the death of a toddler?

This is not an irrational or crazy response—it seems more than a few jurors shared that view, and presumably those juries included men and women, liberals and conservatives. Moreover, in terms of legal process, it is hardly shocking. Laws often make people who are involved in a murder or other violent crime such as child-beating culpable for that violence along with the actual abuser. A mother who knowingly does nothing while her boyfriend hurts her child is legally responsible for that abdication of her duties—and a father would be, as well.

One of the cases centered on a woman who left her three-year-old son alone for hours in an apartment with her boyfriend immediately after he had brutally whipped the toddler, hurled him against a wall, and pressed his foot into the little boy's chest—all in the mother's presence, before locking her out of the apartment.

The mother's reaction? She left her child trapped with his abuser, refused to call the police despite a friend's repeated urging to do so, and spent the day shopping at grocery and beauty stores while her boyfriend continued to brutally torture her son. At her sentencing hearing, she testified that her top priority had been not to remove her child from harm or prevent further abuse, but “to calm her boyfriend down.”

To absolve this woman of any responsibility for this tragedy would mean absolving women of the maternal obligation to nurture and protect their children—children who in this case will suffer most the consequences of their mothers' inaction.

Trivializing Mothers' Responsibilities Is No Small Matter, Either

Absolving these women also trivializes the vocation of motherhood. It undermines the special bond between mothers and their children—which is not the same as the bond between fathers and their children—and overlooks entirely the transcendent aspect of motherhood (or parenthood), the beautiful and poignant idea that in having children, a parent becomes selfless.

More than just a moral imperative to care for children, the idea of an innate maternal instinct is also grounded in science. A 2008 study conducted by scientists in Tokyo determined that the maternal instinct to protect one's child is wired into the brain. Interestingly, a 2012 neurological study indicated that photos of baby's faces trigger biological responses, i.e. specific brain activity, even in childless adults, suggesting a “deeply embedded” response to care for children.

I understand, as BuzzFeed noted, that “victims of domestic violence often suffer ongoing trauma, meaning that the brain does not have time to recover the way it does from a one-off traumatic event,” but I find it hard to believe that such trauma would eradicate a mother's biological instinct to protect her child. Even if it did, do we absolve a child molester because he was molested as a child? Do we absolve a child abuser because his mother beat him? Trauma may be a mitigating factor, but that's why we have juries—and in these cases it seems clear they considered those facts and voted to convict despite them.

Campbell's apologia for mothers who permit child abuse also glosses over women's ability to make difficult choices. Putting a child's needs before her own is one of the fundamental realities all mothers face, and even battered women who fear retaliation from their abusive partners have the option to leave for the sake of their children. Campbell quoted prosecutor Carmen White as saying that “if a violent partner threatened her child” she would “‘sacrifice [her] life 10 times out of 10.'” Easier said than done? Maybe—but I doubt society is quite ready to appoint Buzzfeed as judge and jury in these cases.

All of these women had choices. The Left's continual drive to cast women as victims and prisoners of our own circumstances is demeaning and condescending, not to mention incompatible with any attempt to empower women.

Women have the incredible ability to bring life into the world. The bonds of motherhood should not be taken lightly, and certainly should not be dismissed in favor of stylish liberal activism. The capacity to give birth comes with a weighty responsibility to cherish and care for our children, whatever the cost. And if we utterly fail in that duty, we should not expect, let alone demand, society to abstain from judgment.

Stephanie Edelman is a writer who lives in Washington, DC.


United Kingdom

Sheffield Police 'Put Hundreds of Children at Risk of Child Abuse'

by Nick Hallett

Hundreds of children who were at risk of sexual exploitation have been let down by the police, according to a whistleblower.

Ann Lucas, who ran the sexual exploitation service in the city of Sheffield, told the BBC that although she had regularly passed on details of alleged abuse cases, senior officers at South Yorkshire Police refused to act.

The force is already the subject of an investigation following revelations of mass child sex abuse in the town of Rotherham, with police accused of failing to act due the fact the perpetrators were predominantly Muslim.

Sheffield has previously been seen as a model for tackling child abuse, with the local council setting up a specialist unit to deal with young prostitutes in 1997. The unit was deemed so successful that in 2001 the council received funding from the Home Office to create the Sexual Exploitation Service.

However, Ann Lucas, who ran the service from its creation in 1997 until her retirement in 2012, is highly critical of superior officers, whom she accuses of repeatedly ignoring abuse reports.

She said that around 2003 the service started tracking alleged child abusers, the addresses where they were said to be abusing children and their car registration details. Despite the information being passed on to the police, no prosecutions followed.

"There were arrests and child abduction notices [were served], so they might move off that young person," she said, "But without the prosecuting strand being strong, we could divert the person away but with the message [to the abusers] that you could get away with this, so they would move on to other young people."

She also says that in 2006, when the service became aware of allegations of teenage girls being abused by Iraqi Kurdish men, she showed evidence to the chief superintendent of Sheffield. Despite the evidence containing accounts of rape and physical violence such as kicking, punching and burning with cigarettes, the chief superintendent refused to act.

"I was told that [the force's] priorities were burglary and car crime and we had to cope with no extra police resources. It was extraordinary. How could anyone in their right mind think that burglary and car crime is more important than young people being raped?"

South Yorkshire Police have said: "This is a question that only those involved can answer. South Yorkshire Police will look into these allegations and where there is evidence of any misconduct referrals will be made to the IPCC [Independent Police Complaints Commission]."



Couple sentenced to 2,000 years for sexual abuse of a child


BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WAAY) – A federal judge sentenced Patricia Allana Ayers, 34, and her husband Matthew David Ayers, 42, to maximum sentences for sexually abusing a minor in their custody and making child pornography.

Patricia was sentenced to 1,590 years in prison. Matthew was sentenced to 750 years in prison by U.S. District Judge L. Scott Coogler.

According to officials the couple produced pornographic images of a child between 2010 and 2013, when the child was six to nine years old.

The photos showed the couple engaging in sexual acts with the child.

In June, Patricia Ayers plead guilty to 53 counts of producing child pornography, and Matthew Ayers plead guilty to 25 counts of producing child pornography.

Judge Coogler said, “I have been on the bench since 1998, and this is the worst case I have personally dealt with, including murders.”

Judge Coogler addressed the couple saying, "You robbed this child of her childhood and her soul, and a maximum sentence is the only sentence appropriate."

The Ayers entered a plea agreement in the case. In the agreement, Patricia Ayers said they took photographs of the child in lewd and lascivious poses, then photographed sexual acts with the child and sent them by email to a man in Texas. According to the plea agreement, she told the man in Texas she would fly the child out so he could have sexual relations with the child.

Joyce White Vance, U.S. Attorney said, "Children must be protected from sexual exploitation, and we remain committed to prosecuting child pornography cases. I thank the FBI for its diligent work on this disturbing case.”

After hearing Wednesday, the couple was placed back into the custody of Lauderdale County. They still face sexual abuse, rape and child pornography charges by the state.



Buckeye man, 18, accused of sexually abusing child for 5 years

by Jessee A. Millard

A Buckeye 18-year-old was arrested and stands accused of sexually abusing a child for five years, according to the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office.

Authorities became aware of the allegations against Douglas Cherry, 18, after he told a camp counselor he was sexually active with the child, a Sheriff's Office statement said.

The alleged sexual abuse began when the child was 9 years old and continued through age 14.

In interviews with deputies, Cherry admitted to the ongoing sexual abuse, and the alleged victim confirmed his account, the sheriff's statement said.

Deputies said the child told them she was coerced into participating beginning when she was in third grade and felt she would be beaten if she did not comply.

Cherry is being held in a Maricopa County jail without bond and faces 11 felony charges related to molestation of a minor, sexual assault, sexual abuse and sexual conduct with a minor, the statement said.



Arrest in Case of Dead Babies


The Canadian police said Wednesday that they had charged a woman with concealing the bodies of six infants in a storage locker, but that they were not considering it a homicide.

The police in Winnipeg, Manitoba, found what officers initially thought were four babies' bodies on Monday after being alerted by a storage company.

Andrea Giesbrecht, 40, also known as Andrea Naworynski, who had rented the locker, was charged with six counts of concealing bodies and breaching probation connected to previous incidents of fraud.


North Carolina

Former Elementary School Teacher Arrested on Child Abuse and Drug Charges

by Vita McHale

FAYETTEVILLE- The sheriff's office said 31-year-old Stacey Kolmodin's actions sent an 11-year-old child to the hospital.

From Sept. 18-Oct. 18 Kolmodin babysat the 11 year old who had numerous medical illnesses. Sometime during that time Kolmodin took the child's Tylenol with Codeine liquid prescription, and replaced it with another liquid that looked the same.

"The child was still taking the medication as prescribed by the doctor. But it wasn't the original prescription, it was the counterfeit one,” said Debbie Tanna with the sheriff's office. “As a result of that, developed some type of allergic reaction and had to be taken to the hospital for that."

She faces several charges including child abuse and creating a counterfeit controlled substance.

Kolmodin is a former teacher at Glendale Acres Elementary School. Tanna said Kolmodin was relieved of her duties in April after she was seen snorting a powdery substance at her desk.

"We discovered it was cocaine, and fortunately there were no students in the classroom at the time. They were actually out of the classroom on a recess," said Tanna.

According to the sheriff's office, Kolmodin's illegal activity began when she started to ‘Doctor Shop' obtaining multiple Percocet prescriptions.

"It shows you that addiction can impact any class of person,” said Tanna. “It also shows us that we have greater access to those types of medications than we have ever had before."

Child advocates urge parents to do thorough background checks on all babysitters.

Roberta Humphries with the Child Advocacy Center suggested regulating the amount of medication babysitters have access to.

"You could just leave that appropriate dose that they need to give,” said Humphries. “Maybe you would just extract out what they need to give to the child for that one night."

Kolmodin told investigators that her addiction began after she was prescribed medication for a surgery.



Parents of duct-taped Highlands student don't want charges

by The Associated Press

The parents of an autistic high school soccer player who was duct-taped to a goal post in a prank earlier this month don't want charges filed against two students involved if they apologize and do community service, the parents' lawyer said Monday after he and his clients met with local officials.

Attorney Phil DiLucente said the parents of 16-year-old Austin Babinsack of Natrona Heights don't want to see police file juvenile court charges against the two upperclassmen provided they meet the specified conditions, which also would include getting autism awareness training. He said the details must still be ironed out.

“I don't think, nor do the parents think, it will be necessary to press charges,” DiLucente said.

The attorney was working with Harrison Township police Chief Michael Klein and Highlands School District Superintendent Michael Bjalobok on a resolution after the player's parents, John and Kristi Babinsack, met with the superintendent, DiLucente said.

“The Babinsacks have never been interested in suing anyone; (they) just want a fair disposition of the situation,” DiLucente said.

The district has also agreed to intervene and prevent any more social media bullying that Austin has allegedly endured since his parents went public about the Oct. 5 incident.

“The meeting is an opportunity to draw some closure to the incident, to make sure the process of mending and healing takes place, and to make sure parents of the students involved know there is an action plan for the future,” Bjalobok said.

Officials have not released the names of the other players involved, though school officials have confirmed the boys — both upperclassmen — were suspended for five days and otherwise disciplined.

The duct-taping occurred on a night when underclassmen toilet paper the houses of senior players, usually the same week as the team's final home game known as Senior Night. The Senior Night game was canceled in the wake of the duct-taping incident.

Some past players have said it was understood — by players and parents — that a younger player would be duct-taped as part of the toilet-papering tradition which dates back several years. But DiLucente disputed that Monday.

“The parents know from the boosters that there is toilet papering of senior's homes, everybody knows that happens on that night. But it is not a ritual that someone gets taped to the soccer goal post,” DiLucente said, even if it has happened on occasion in the past.

And targeting Austin was out of bounds given his disability, DiLucente said.

“He was screaming at the top of his lungs,” DiLucente said, according to witnesses who helped free the boy after about 20 minutes. “That's a little bit off the range, and that's unnecessary and that's hurtful.”

The attorney said soccer coach Jim Turner's status wasn't discussed at the meeting. School officials have said the coach was suspended pending a resolution of the matter. Turner's attorney, Julian Neiser, told the AP he wasn't aware of Monday's meeting and knows of no change in the coach's status. Neiser has said the coach was not aware of the duct-taping and didn't condone it.

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