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Summit and Rally
August 31, 2010 permalink
Linda Plourde has called a Summit on Connecting for Change on Family Preservation and a rally to take place in Hamilton on November 5. This is the event originally scheduled for June 19.
Los Angeles DCFS Defies Law
August 31, 2010 permalink
The state of California passed a law requiring full disclosure of case files following a death in custody of the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). After a few successful applications on behalf of newspapers, DCFS has taken to stonewalling requests for information about child deaths. They have little alternative. Truthful disclosure would show that the foster care system is a killing field for children, losing public support and provoking a backlash against incumbent management. The child protection system, which has long ignored the rights of parents and the welfare of children is now defying the law to conceal its wrongdoing from the politicians and the public. Best estimates are that US foster care kills over a thousand children annually. Since the first Gulf War, that is over 20 thousand deaths, a lot more than the number of soldiers memorialized in the photo.
Los Angeles County didn't report child deaths
Officials failed to publicly disclose fatalities resulting from abuse or neglect, an audit finds.
Los Angeles County officials have failed to follow state law that requires them to publicly disclose child fatalities resulting from abuse or neglect, according to an independent audit released Monday.
The violations involve "potentially dozens" of child fatalities, County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said.
"The board has been misled, but more importantly the public has been misled and that is really inexcusable," Yaroslavsky said. "There is only one possible motivation here, other than the right hand not doing what the left hand is doing, and that is an intent to withhold information from the public."
Department of Children and Family Services Director Trish Ploehn, reached by telephone Monday evening, declined to comment, saying she was still reviewing the auditors' findings. She agreed to an interview with The Times on Tuesday.
The finding by the Los Angeles County Office of Independent Review comes amid a growing debate about whether child welfare officials are underreporting deaths of children whose families previously had come to the department's attention.
Yaroslavsky said auditors uncovered the discrepancy when they reviewed the case of Jorge Tarin, an 11-year-old Montebello boy who hanged himself with a jump rope in June. In confidential court filings, social workers declared his death to be the result of abuse or neglect, but when it came time to report abuse or neglect deaths to the public, the department left his case off the list.
In the audit, Michael Gennaco, chief attorney for the Office of Independent Review, noted a dramatic change last year in the amount of information released by the department, with disclosure in only four of 18 cases. Gennaco said the pattern has extended into 2010. The Times has been denied in repeated public records requests for information.
A 2007 state law requires release of numerous records in such cases unless doing so would jeopardize a criminal investigation. Gennaco found that child welfare officials were asking law enforcement agencies to object to the release of documents before investigators had the chance to review the case files. The effect has been blanket objections to disclosure that resulted in "a virtual paralysis of the statute's intent."
The independent audit was released just days after county officials closed an investigation ordered by the Board of Supervisors into who provided The Times with information about children who died while their families were child protective services scrutiny.
A single-page report on the inquiry written by County Chief Executive William T Fujioka said officials found nothing.
The investigation was launched behind closed doors in what supervisors acknowledged was a violation of the state's open meetings law. It was later approved in a public vote in what supervisors said was an effort to "cure" the initial breach.
The supervisors said they were responding to Ploehn's complaints that The Times had reported on material she described as confidential and inappropriate. Yaroslavsky, who voted against the leak inquiry during the public discussion, criticized Ploehn for pressing for the probe, saying "the obsession with leaks … exceeds the obsession with child deaths."
In an op-ed in The Times last week, Ploehn called it "simply untrue" that the "inquiry into illegally disclosed confidential case information is to mitigate bad publicity or improve social worker morale."
Ploehn said she and her employees had a duty to uphold state law and protect confidentiality. The unauthorized release of information, she wrote, "erodes public trust and contributes to the oversimplification of the work that social workers do. In very real ways, this increases the potential for harm to children."
Fujioka's assistant, Ryan Alsop, declined Monday to say how many staff hours were spent on the investigation.
Meanwhile, there were signs that a backlog of child abuse investigations continues to grow and county officials have acknowledged that some children have lived in a Department of Children and Family Services conference room in excess of the 24-hour limit.
Ploehn had pledged to take steps to reduce the backlog in June, after the death of a 2-year-old whose family was under investigation by her department. According to sources familiar with the case, the county's inquiry into allegations of abuse or neglect had been open for 57 days, exceeding the state's 30-day deadline. By the time of Joseph Byrd's death, the backlog had grown so large that state officials granted a temporary extension to L.A. County, giving them 60 days to close inquiries.
Since then, the number of children whose cases have run past the 60-day deadline has grown by 1,000. More than 13,000 children are the subjects of abuse investigations that have been open two months or longer.
Department spokesman Nishith Bhatt blamed the growing backlog on a rise in the number of calls to the county's child abuse hotline.
Yaroslavsky, however, said the backlog resulted from a "management problem" that indicates "the department needs to better manage the resources it has." He said the agency has 35% more social workers than it did seven years ago.
At the same time, department officials acknowledged that they established a makeshift shelter in a conference room near downtown L.A. with cots, food and a nearby shower, violating a state rule that children spend no longer than 24 hours in agency offices.
Bhatt gave varying accounts of the number of children who had stayed in the shelter and for how long, first saying that "about 20" extended stays occurred since 2009 and that no child spent more than two days in the conference room.
But he later said that 31 extended stays occurred in the room since January 2009, with one child spending five days there before social workers found the child a place to live.
Officials first pledged to address the issue of holding children in makeshift areas in 2003. Two years later, after reports of another 100 children kept too long in temporary quarters, officials renewed promises to fix the problem.
Source: Los Angeles Times
Addendum: The scandal spreads to falsification of death reports. Armed with secrecy, few can resist the temptation to alter facts to their advantage.
L.A. County child welfare official falsified death reports, two staffers claim
The senior managers say they faced a hostile work environment after reporting the alleged wrongdoing to the department's director. County supervisors act to remove child-death investigator.
Los Angeles County's child welfare system, already under fire for failing to report dozens of child deaths tied to abuse or neglect, is facing allegations that an official intentionally falsified fatality reports.
The existence of the civil allegations, filed in June by two senior managers and revealed this week after a public records request by The Times, comes to light as the Board of Supervisors acted to remove the county's independent child-death investigator, according to three sources familiar with the decision.
It was unclear who would replace Rosemarie Belda, who was appointed last year to the position after it had been vacant since 2006. The job, which reports directly to the supervisors, involves the politically sensitive task of reviewing child fatality cases in search of ways the county's case management errors might have contributed to the deaths.
The claim that some child fatality reports had been intentionally misleading was made by Cassandra Turner, a Department of Children and Family Services senior manager who said her superior "purposefully falsified at least three child fatality reports."
"These falsifications, which occurred in spite of my fervent protest, are clearly contrary to department policy," Turner wrote in a civil claim that seeks unspecified damages.
Turner served as an administrator in the department's child fatality section at the time of the alleged falsifications. Her claim does not contain specifics about those cases. She also says in the claim that she reported the wrongdoing directly to department Director Trish Ploehn in April 2008.
After her meeting with Ploehn, Turner said, the department failed to properly investigate the allegations and retaliated by assigning her to less-desirable duties.
She listed Darlene McDade-White, the department's chief internal affairs investigator, as a witness to the alleged wrongdoing. McDade filed a claim jointly with Turner saying she too faced a hostile work environment and, like Turner, was subject to racial discrimination because the two women are African American.
Melvin Neal, Turner's and McDade-White's attorney, declined to offer further detail. If the county denies their claim, the two women will be free to pursue a lawsuit in court.
Asked about the allegations Wednesday, Ploehn issued a written statement: "These are serious claims and they are being taken seriously. These claims are under investigation by the department, and our policy is not to comment on ongoing investigations."
The allegations about falsifications were made more than two months before last week's revelations that the department had failed to comply with state disclosure laws. Those findings were contained in a report by Michael Gennaco, chief attorney for the county's Office of Independent Review, who found that in many cases department officials referenced deaths from abuse or neglect in confidential court filings but then left those cases off the child-death lists for public release.
The lack of disclosure hid dozens of cases from public view, giving the false impression that far fewer children were dying of maltreatment under the department's watch. County officials have yet to establish a complete tally of improperly undisclosed records.
The move to end the tenure of Belda, who had recommended at least 25 reform measures for Children and Family Services and the Department of Mental Health in her role as child-death investigator, was made behind closed doors at Tuesday's board meeting, according to the sources familiar with the situation.
The previous child-death investigator was quietly dismissed in 2006 after investigating just two cases.
On Wednesday, all five supervisors — Michael D. Antonovich, Don Knabe, Gloria Molina, Mark Ridley-Thomas and Zev Yaroslavsky — refused to comment on Belda or the future of the position. A source familiar with the discussion said Yaroslavsky was the only person to speak in defense of Belda.
Source: Los Angeles Times
Trial for Chris Carter
August 31, 2010 permalink
Through much of last winter Chris Carter, available because of his seasonal employment, carried a sign "Children's aid destroys families" outside the Waterloo CAS office on Hespeler Road in Cambridge. He got much support from passers-by, and no police harassment. But on February 10 he moved to the Cambridge courthouse. The vocal Mr Carter was soon surrounded by over a dozen listeners and four police cruisers. He refused their request to cease and desist on charter grounds, and continued. Within the hour, acting on complaints from Kim Putman and Virgina Torrance, Mr Carter was arrested. He was let out of jail the next day with several pending charges. Months later he sent insulting, but not threatening, emails to Putman and Torrance, and was again arrested, this time for violating bail conditions and several additional charges. He has been at Maplehurst Correctional Complex ever since. His trial is scheduled for September 8 and 13 at the courthouse in Cambridge. As it is a purely criminal matter, the public should be admitted to the courtroom. Supporters within range of Cambridge are encouraged to attend on those days. This paragraph comes entirely from Mr Carter — anyone having personal knowledge of inaccuracies is invited to notify fixcas (contact info on home page).
Mr Carter will have a rare opportunity to cross-examine two children's aid lawyers, his accusers. He is open to suggestions on what subjects to explore while they are on the stand. Here is one suggestion. Ask for the profession of each (lawyer). As such, they can hardly be the kind of delicate women who would fall to pieces under insult. And to follow up, what is the kind of law they practice? Taking children from mom and dad. Not everyone can do that job. It requires someone with special human qualities, not including sensitivity.
Addendum: Supporters supplied Mr Carter with an audio recorder, but on the first day of the trial he was not permitted to use it.
William Mullins-Johnson Interview
August 31, 2010 permalink
Canada Court Watch has posted an interview with William Mullins-Johnson, falsely convicted of killing his niece on the testimony of Dr Charles Smith. He includes the role of children's aid in breaking up his family. Today, even after full exoneration by the courts, his family has not been restored. Link to vimeo, with a local copy (mp4).
August 30, 2010 permalink
Olivia L Cunningham of Niagara Falls New York is charged with endangering the welfare of a child after her toddler ran out into a street, and she is now dealing with child protective services. Do you think she should have kept the boy locked in? In cases where parents confine a child with locks, child protectors use that as a reason to take the kid.
Close call for toddler lands mother in trouble
NIAGARA FALLS—A police officer searching for suspects in a crime had to slam on his brakes to avoid running over a 1-year-old boy who ran into traffic in the 400 block of 17th Street late Friday.
Officer Joseph Palermo said that as he was driving in the 400 block of 17th Street shortly after 11 p. m., the boy— crying and wearing only T-shirt and diaper—darted from between parked cars.
The boy’s mother, Olivia L. Cunningham, 19, of 17th Street, was charged with endangering the welfare of a child, police said, and Child Protective Services was contacted. Police said the mother dropped the boy off at a friend’s residence to run an errand and the boy ran out an open door.
Source: Buffalo News
When to Call Elman
August 29, 2010 permalink
John Dunn has found a situation in which the provincial child advocate, Irwin Elman, can get CAS to comply with the law.
John F Dunn FYI: I informed a parent that his kids who wanted to attend court but were not being permitted to by CAS and Children's Lawyer to ensure kids contact child and youth advocate. The kids did and CAS was made to pay for cab-fare to get the kids to court. They appeared and participated expressing their wishes against the wishes of CAS and children's lawyer. Keep that in mind. It is their right over 12.
Source: Facebook, John Dunn
Norman Mintz R.I.P.
August 28, 2010 permalink
Former Hamilton children's aid worker Norman Mintz is dead after falling from his tenth floor apartment.
Probe into death from 10th-floor fall continues
The investigation into the death of 65-year-old Norman Mintz remains "ongoing," says the province's Special Investigations Unit (SIU).
Mintz died outside of his west end apartment on Tuesday evening, after plummeting from the 10th floor.
"Every case is different," said SIU communications co-ordinator Monica Hudon. "This one requires a post-mortem, and it depends on how long it takes for us to get that report back, and how long it takes to get witness interviews."
The civilian agency investigates reports involving police where there has been death, serious injury or allegations of sexual assault.
Hamilton police were investigating a fail-to-remain collision on Tuesday evening when, based on information they received, they went to the 10th storey of an apartment building on Main Street West.
At about 6:15 p.m., it was reported that a man had fallen from the building. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Whether and how the two incidents are connected remains unknown, and no timeline has been given by the SIU as to when the investigation will be concluded.
A worker at the building said Mintz was a retired schoolteacher. He had also worked for the Children's Aid Society of Hamilton-Wentworth for 16 years before being let go in 1994. At the time, a CAS official said Mintz was a "very sensitive human being" and that his termination had nothing to do with his moral character.
Mintz's death is the second lethal fall in Hamilton to be investigated by SIU this year.
In February, 32-year-old Kenneth Lyon jumped from his eighth-floor Robinson Street apartment, near Park Street South.
He had just been arrested for sexual assault and sexual interference, and broke free from two officers who had arrived with a warrant to search for child pornography.
Lyon leaped off the balcony, fell headfirst into a parked pickup truck and died instantly.
Source: Hamilton Spectator
August 28, 2010 permalink
Florida foster mother Tenesia Brown has been acquitted of killing Lazon Gulley by shaking. From the numbers in the article, the defense must have spent over $100,000 on the case. Acquittal on a charge of shaken baby syndrome is now available to any accused, but at a price beyond the means of the usual young mother or teenaged babysitter.
Former St. Petersburg foster mother not guilty of murdering baby
LARGO — Former foster mother Tenesia Brown looked ahead stoically for a full minute after a jury found her not guilty of murdering a baby in her care.
But then the verdict visibly sank in, as she tearfully hugged her attorney. Her husband, Marcus, on a bench just behind her, bowed his head and wept.
Fighting this charge for the past four years "was the toughest thing I've ever had to do because my wife was facing life in prison," Marcus Brown said after the verdict Friday night.
Not any more. Tenesia Brown walked out of the Pinellas County criminal courts complex facing no criminal charges for the first time since 2006.
Although there were no witnesses, prosecutors said circumstantial and medical evidence showed Brown had caused catastrophic brain injuries to Lazon Gulley, when he was 14 months old. They said Lazon suffered all the classic symptoms of shaken baby syndrome, went into a coma, and was unable to survive without life support. Even with it, he died within two years.
But defense attorney Ron Kurpiers attacked the very diagnosis of shaken baby syndrome during the four-day trial, and brought in experts who said the science behind the syndrome is faulty.
One of the experts was Ronald Uscinski, a neurosurgeon affiliated with Georgetown and George Washington universities, who said he saw no evidence of abuse.
"I don't know that this child was a victim of head trauma at all," Uscinski said.
Uscinski said he was paid $10,000 for Friday's testimony and $2,000 to review and analyze records, which brought sharp criticism from prosecutors.
"He's getting paid $10,000 to take the position that shaken baby syndrome or violent head trauma does not happen," Assistant State Attorney Holly Grissinger said in her closing argument.
The case dates back to 2006, when Brown was a new foster mother who had been given four children to care for in less than six months. She had not raised children of her own.
On March 3 of that year, Brown had to get off work early for the third day in a row because Lazon had diarrhea and vomiting. She picked him up from day care, and would later say the boy was conscious at that time.
Shortly after, something went wrong. At home with Lazon and his 3-year-old brother, Brown made a series of calls to her husband and to 911. The boy was taken to All Children's Hospital with severe medical problems.
"The defendant was alone with the victim for the last 29 minutes of his life. The fact is, when he got to the hospital, he was nonresponsive, he was in cardiac arrest and he had a subdural hemorrhage," Grissinger told the jury.
Grissinger's conclusion: "She killed him."
Prosecutors relied on testimony from physicians, especially Sally Smith, medical director of Pinellas County's child protection team. Smith said Lazon suffered from bleeding beneath a layer around the brain called the dura, and also in his retinas.
Both are signs of shaken baby syndrome, although the preferred term for the condition is now "abusive head trauma," Smith said.
No one witnessed Brown when she purportedly shook Lazon — and critics complain that the lack of a witness is another hallmark of shaken baby cases that come to court.
Some of the defense's witnesses steered clear of commenting on shaken baby syndrome itself, and some of them acknowledged some of Lazon's symptoms could have come from abuse.
But the attack on the diagnosis was a centerpiece of Brown's defense. Uscinski said once Lazon went into cardiac arrest, his brain was starved of oxygen for several minutes. Uscinski pointed to images that showed the boy's brain shrank over time. This — and not shaking or other trauma — would have led to the bleeding around his brain, he said.
Kurpiers, the defense attorney, was a bit teary-eyed himself after the verdict, which came after about two hours of deliberation.
"It doesn't happen often," he said.
Source: St Petersburg Times
Don't Trust Your Lawyer
August 27, 2010 permalink
Rob Ferguson points out that Deborah Ditchfield is a lawyer representing families impacted by children's aid. The enclosed news article show her as a financial supporter of CAS.
CAS endowment fund gets boost
The Children's Aid Society of Brant Endowment Fund works all year long raising funds to send on average 350 children to camp each summer and helps to finance post secondary education for individuals who otherwise would not have the opportunity.
It is with great thanks to our most recent supporters Lorne & Elsie Hankinson, Marilyn Shaver (Minotaur), M R & R Data Services Inc, Mary O'Reilly & Deborah Ditchfield, Blanche Parkhill, Aline Foster, The Brant Community Foundation (Youth Committee), Brantford Nissan Inc., Mary Bellar, The Fitness Centre and it's Members, Dan Cromwell, Pat Spidle, Brant County Power, Michelyn, Abby and Bailey Scianella, Marisa and Alexis Trignani, Linda Bagworth (Happy 25th Anniversary Peter & Pati Kunashko), and Bill and Dorothy Campbell.
Without such donations we could not offer our assistance to these young and deserving individuals. Please mark your calendars for Nov 6th 2010 when we will have our Annual Latin Fundraising Fiesta with a live high energy Latin band, art show, silent and live auctions, great food and this year the most unique location. For details contact Fran Welsh, firstname.lastname@example.org, (519) 752-9094.
Thank you to everyone! Your support over the years has made a life long impact to those we serve.
Fundraising Coordinator, Children's Aid Society
Source: Brantford Expositor
August 27, 2010 permalink
Chris Gottlieb in the New York Times points out that strangers who would never criticize clothing or eating habits feel perfectly at ease criticizing childcare. This culture supports the creation of super-police-power agencies that force parents to do it their way at gunpoint.
Parenting Under Scrutiny
Chris Gottlieb defends parents for a living. She is with the Family Defense Clinic at New York University School of Law, which represents parents accused of child abuse and neglect and tries to keep families together. With that daily backdrop, she read our discussion here a few weeks ago — the one about parents judging other parents harshly — through a somewhat different lens.
She had recently published an article in the University of Baltimore Law Review ( local copy pdf ) about “how the tendency to judge mothering harshly plays out for the poor and minority women who come under the scrutiny of the child welfare system.” She has adapted that article as a guest blog today — describing how her own experiences as a mother (her children are four and one) help her understand how it feels to be judged, and give her some insight into the feelings of her accused clients.
Many of you will disagree with her conclusions. But you will agree that her vantage point is one that most of us don’t usually have.
A woman approached on the subway to tell me that looking at newsprint up close could cause eyestrain. I quickly learned she was not worried about me; she was concerned about my baby’s eyes because I was carrying him face out, where he was about six inches from the newspaper I was reading. An elderly man chastised me because my baby’s legs were not covered. A saleswoman was more worried about his arms, but didn’t stop at commenting — she reached out to pull down his sleeves. Several strangers “tsked tsked” me when they learned I had my baby out of the house before he was six weeks old. I have been criticized for failing to have mittens on him, keeping him up too late and for drinking hot coffee while holding the little guy.
Maybe this onslaught should make me wonder about my mothering skills, but instead I marvel at how comfortable people feel telling complete strangers about their purported parenting flaws. I am certain that over the years, fellow subway riders have judged my fashion choices and found them wanting, or disapproved of what I was eating (or that I was eating on the train). Yet no one has ever voiced such opinions to me. But the discretion of strangers disappears as soon as you have a child, in fact, as soon as you are visibly pregnant. Heaven help you if you have a beer in public while expecting.
No infraction is too small or too strange to elicit comment. (The newspaper was too close to the baby’s eyes?) All my parent friends have experienced this no-win culture of judging parenting. Depending on their personalities, they have cowered, gotten angry or been demoralized by it. Yet as stinging as the comments and glares can be, for most of us they are limited to park benches and supermarket lines or, if we’re unlucky, to visits with the in-laws. Our culture of judging parenting by impossible standards hits some much harder.
Only after I had children did I truly begin to understand what I thought I already understood after years of standing beside my clients in family court: parenting is something we are inclined to judge harshly at the same time that it is impossible to do in anything but an extremely flawed way. You can’t get it right. We all know this. We all strive for greater excellence than we have hope of achieving. Yet we couple this knowledge with extreme intolerance for the shortcomings of other parents.
I represent parents accused of abusing or neglecting their children — few are more deeply despised in our society. If you know these parents through media coverage, you likely think we must do more to protect their children. The thing is, in the vast majority of cases, the ones these children most need to be protected from is not their parents. It is us. For we have empowered the government to judge parents and when the parenting is found wanting, to take children.
Certainly some children need to be separated from their parents and put in foster care. But only in rare situations is such a traumatic step justified. Yet over and over, I have seen caseworkers who investigate parents and judges who oversee intervention in family life hold parenting up for assessment and inevitably find that the parents fall short. Why? Because the standards imposed are as idiosyncratic and impossibly high as the standards of the people I hear from on the subway. The caseworkers and the judges, however, have the guns to back up their glares.
Contrary to the media images of severely abused children who have suffered and died at the hands of abusive parents, the vast majority of cases that clog the foster care system involve allegations of neglect, not abuse. And neglect is broadly construed. Parents are charged for refusing to give their children psychotropic medications, for using corporal punishment, for having a dirty home, for smoking marijuana. In other words, neglect includes many things that reasonable people have very different ideas about. Indeed, it includes many behaviors that my yuppie friends and I engage in without threat of government intervention.
Yet we allow, indeed encourage, government officials to be judgmental of the poor and minority parents who interact with the child welfare system. Despite clear constitutional law protecting the right of parents to raise their children as they see fit, one need only walk into family court to see this law routinely breached.
We have not sufficiently connected the phenomenon we observe in our own lives — of widespread willingness to impose perfectionist standards on parenting — with the explosion of inflammatory media coverage of child abuse and hyper-aggressive child protection policies. Legitimate efforts to protect children from serious abuse have morphed into second guessing decisions well within parental prerogative. Worse still, once government intervention in family life is authorized, the legal standard often becomes “best interests of the child.” How do courts and caseworkers determine what is in a child’s best interests? The same way the rest of us do: subjectively, inconsistently, and often erroneously. One judge wants more discipline; another wants less. I have heard caseworkers criticize mothers for everything from giving their children Chinese takeout food or Kool-Aid (the mother told me orange juice was too expensive for her) to having beer in the house to letting a child get wet under a sprinkler. A judge ordered one of my clients to take her child to the park every day. Every day! How can that level of micromanagement of parenting by the government make sense?
It is time to reevaluate our inclination to approach parenting with such unforgiving eyes — in our own lives and in our public policies. We would serve children far better if we viewed parenting by strangers as we view the parenting of our partners and friends when we are at our best: generously, with commiseration rather than a measuring stick. If we are going to interject, we might even consider offering support rather than judgment.
Source: New York Times
Damned if you do, Damned if you don't.
August 27, 2010 permalink
Edward L Steves III of Warsaw New York objected to the treatment his family got from his child protection worker. He was subdued with pepper spray. and charged with second-degree harassment, resisting arrest, second-degree obstructing governmental administration and endangering the welfare of a child. This is a situation in which a parent cannot win. In those unusual cases in which a parent stands by passively while social workers walk off with his kids, they later slam him for lack of concern for his children.
Warsaw man held in attack on CPS worker
WARSAW — A Warsaw man is in Wyoming County Jail after he allegedly became verbally and physically abusive to a female Child Protective Services worker Aug. 20, state police said.
Edward L. Steves III, 51, of Warsaw was being let into the Warsaw State Police building as part of an ongoing investigation by State Police and Child Protective Services when the incident occurred. Steves refused verbal commands from troopers and had to be subdued with the assistance of pepper spray. No injuries were reported in the incident.
Steves was charged with second-degree harassment, resisting arrest, second-degree obstructing governmental administration and endangering the welfare of a child.
He was processed and arraigned on the charges in Warsaw Town Court and remanded to Wyoming County Jail in lieu of $10,000 bail. He will reappear in Warsaw Court at a later date to further answer the charges.
Source: Daily News Online, Batavia NY
Owen Sound Rally
August 26, 2010 permalink
A Rally for Accountability took place August 25 in Owen Sound. The local paper has a report.
CAS protesters take to streets
A small group of demonstrators gathered outside city hall in Owen Sound on Wednesday demanding more accountability and transparency from the 53 Children's Aid Societies in Ontario.
The dozen or so protesters, from a number of organizations across the province, want as a minimum for the ombudsman to have oversight over the societies, said Christine Sorko-Houle of Tillsonburg.
Sorko-Houle said she was a member of the Voices of Innocent Families in Ontario, which she described as a Facebook group. She was in Owen Sound to help support a member of her group who had recently moved to the city from Tillsonburg.
Other protesters were from as far away as Sudbury and Oakville and belonged to Canada Court Watch and a group called Stop the CAS From Taking Children From Good Parents.
One man from Huntsville was there, he said, "supporting everyone who has problems like me." He said the CAS in Muskoka had done nothing to help his children, who were being abused by his ex-wife.
Vern Beck of Oakville, a Canada Court Watch member, said he had spoken to a dozen people within minutes of arriving at the protest in Owen Sound who had complaints about the CAS as either former wards or parents.
Sorko-Houle said there have been 50 or 60 similar protests across Ontario, including three at Queen's Park, this summer.
Source: Owen Sound Sun Times
August 26, 2010 permalink
A white baby will set you back $30,500. Mixed race babies, beneficiaries of heterosis, go for small discounts. You can pick up a pure black baby at the heavy discount of only $16,000. Oops, these are not sales. The payments are for "fees". Looks like black babies require filling out only half as many forms.
A Few New Situations as of Aug. 26
Hello!! On a quick personal note, I have a renewed sense of what all of my families and what prospective adoptive parents everywhere are going through. My husband and I adopted our daughter three years ago (using Christian Adoption Consultants, actually, which is what led me to the absolute joy of doing what I do now:) and we're starting to talk seriously about adopting our second baby. So, I'm immersed in home study forms and getting the house ready for a home study and getting funds together and looking at grants, etc. It's exhausting and so exciting! :) It really has reminded me, also, why having a consultant was such a blessing to us. It was an immeasurable help and relief to have someone there for us walking us through the entire process - from finding a home study agency to creating our profile to helping us think of the right things to talk about with our daughter's birth mom. It means so much to me, as well, as an adoptive parent that everyone at Christian Adoption Consultants is an adoptive parent also. We all know on a personal basis as well as a professional one what this process is like! So, a special prayer for all of you guys just starting out! Congrats on this exciting step - it'll be the greatest blessing of your life! :)
The following are a few situations available to our clients from the agencies we work with:
- Caucasian/African American baby girl due Oct. 17 in UT. Agency fees are 22,500 plus medical.
- Caucasian/African American baby boy due in Oct. Agency fees are 26,500 plus 4K in assistance to mom.
- African American baby boy due Oct. 5 in UT. Agency fees are 16K plus medical.
- Caucasian baby boy due Jan. 11 Agency fees are 30,500 plus medical.
For more info about any of these situations, other situations available to our clients or info about the services Christian Adoption Consultants offers, email me at email@example.com
Have a great day! :)
Source: Adoption: A Path of the Heart, August 26, 2010
August 26, 2010 permalink
If You Don't Find Out, It Didn't Happen
August 26, 2010 permalink
Los Angeles County is trying to keep its foster care fatality numbers low by concealing records. Tim Rutten comments in the Los Angeles Times.
While children die
Kids the Department of Children and Family Services should be protecting are dying. Instead of focusing on that problem, administrators are trying to stop the flow of information to the public.
In "A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge," the 18th century philosopher George Berkeley posed the first version of a question people have pondered ever since: If a tree falls in the forest with no one to hear it, has it really fallen?
A pair of Los Angeles County bureaucrats and their allies on the Board of Supervisors apparently have decided no, which is why they're working overtime to deny the public access to information concerning the mounting body count among children consigned to the care of the Department of Children and Family Services. County Chief Executive William Fujioka and Trish Ploehn, the department's director, apparently are convinced that the real problem at the DCFS is not the repeated mistakes and malfeasance that kill some of the most tragically vulnerable children in our community, but the public anger that results when people find out just how those deaths occurred.
Thus, Fujioka and Ploehn, disturbed by a series of Times articles on the dead children, have induced the supervisors to direct all county departments to join a witch hunt, or, as they call it, "an inquiry related to the inappropriate disclosure of confidential child welfare information and, in consultation with the county counsel, report back on the findings." The theory here is that if you cut off reporters' information, so that nobody knows exactly how the children died, it's as if they're not dead. No matter how agonizing a child's end, a vast bureaucratic silence will absorb his or her cries, and it will be as if they never lived — or died — at all. If any sound escapes, it will be that faint official splash that first echoed when Pilate washed his hands.
Fujioka is canny enough to know that the shameful is best accomplished in secret, so he initially proposed this inquisition to a closed session of the board last week. County Counsel Andrea Ordin was present but sat silently through what was an obvious violation of the Brown Act, which dictates that all but carefully delineated aspects of the public's business must be done in public. Still, Fujioka and Ploehn refuse to be deterred: They came back for an open approval of their witch hunt Tuesday. Only Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky opposed the inquiry, arguing that the board ought to focus on DCFS' problems.
Their dogged pursuit of alleged leakers stands in contrast to their lethargy when it comes to the latest series of Times' reports, which concern the tragedy of 11-year-old Jorge Tarin. As Garrett Therolf recently reported, the boy went to his school counselor one morning and said his life was "unbearable." According to school records, Jorge said that classmates bullied him and that his mother repeatedly struck him with a hanger and a shoe while his stepfather held him down. He said he wanted to kill himself "because I'm tired of people hitting me all the time."
A team from the county Mental Health Department was summoned, but the boy, who previously had spent 15 months in foster care because his mother and stepfather beat him, was ultimately sent home.
A social worker and police arrived at the family apartment shortly afterward. As The Times reported, the social worker did not have one of the new notebook computers that might have allowed access to a database showing that the stepfather, who answered the door, was under a court order forbidding his residence in the apartment. However, the social worker did know that Jorge previously had suffered abuse; that he had been removed from his family for more than a year; that he had alleged the abuse had resumed; and that he had threatened suicide.
Still, after a brief interview, the social worker left, leaving Jorge in the apartment. A short time later, while the rest of the household watched a Lakers game, the boy went into the closet of his mother's bedroom, took a jump rope and hanged himself.
Ploehn has insisted that no mistake was made in the case, and no action has been taken. Somehow, though, decent minds may wonder exactly what it would have taken to remove that poor, tormented little boy to safety? Did the social worker have to come in and find him with the noose around his neck?
If you were running a department that operated like that, neither you nor your boss would want anybody to know either, which is exactly why Fujioka and Ploehn are trying to turn the DCFS into a forest where nobody hears.
Source: Los Angeles Times
How to Control the Masses
August 26, 2010 permalink
The East German police state knew the sure way to control dissidents: steal their children. The authorities mastered the standard methodology including the nighttime raid to pick up the child, the sham court hearing, intimidation of mothers to induce consent, record secrecy (and later destruction), the dead baby scam (falsely telling a mother her baby died at birth) and the transfer of stolen infants to the politically well-connected. Two decades after German reunification the government offers no help to bereft parents seeking their lost children. Help would be futile, since the stolen children, now adults, usually have little interest in their real parents.
The legacy of forced adoptions
German families torn apart by forced adoptions during the cold war are still looking for answers – and their lost relatives
It took exactly four minutes to steal Andreas Laake's baby son – that was the length of the court hearing that swept away his paternity rights. Some 26 years later Laake can still recall every detail of the trial: his aching wrists cuffed behind his back; the musty smell of the courtroom; the steely voice of the young female judge. Then there were the vague words of the social worker who said that after his attempted escape from the German Democratic Republic: "we do not believe Mr Laake has the ability to bring up his son for the purpose of socialism".
Laake was not even allowed to defend himself. All he said in court were four words: "I do not agree." Several weeks later his son Marco was adopted by people who were considered, in ideological terms, much more reliable parents. "Since then, I've spent half a lifetime searching for him," says Laake.
It took a matter of minutes for Katrin Behr to be separated from her family too. It was a cold winter morning in 1972 when three men in long, dark coats knocked on the door to arrest her mother. Behr was four-and-a-half years old at the time, and can still remember the panic in her mother's voice as she urged her daughter to get dressed quickly. But Katrin Behr was left behind. The last words she heard were, "Be brave. I'll be back tonight," before her mother was spirited off to a socialist boot camp. It would be 19 years until they saw each other again. After short stopovers in various foster homes, Behr was adopted by a strict woman, a secretary of the Socialist party. She tried to adapt as best she could. "I did what I was told," Behr says. "As a little girl I really thought that that was the best way to avoid trouble."
Stealing children was one way the German Democratic Republic muzzled its people – Behr and Laake belong to an estimated 1,000 families torn apart by the socialist authorities. Forced adoptions were a tool that the regime "could impose on virtually anyone who was considered suspicious", Behr says; all it took to be judged a bad parent was to infringe on vague "socialist guidelines". In Behr's case, her mother, a single parent, was arrested after she had lost her job and decided to stay at home to care for her children – a major transgression in the eyes of a state that believed in compulsory labour.
In her new family, Behr always felt "like a second-class daughter", she says, "a Cinderella who had to clean the house and care for my younger adoptive brother while my adoptive mother was at work". She was told repeatedly that she had been put up for adoption because her natural mother did not love her. "I desperately tried to cling to a positive image of her," Behr says, "but any abandoned child would start to doubt that love after 19 years." She was granted limited access to her adoption file following reunification, and learned that her mother had never had a chance to get her daughter back. She also found out that her mother had spent several years in prison. Still, it took Behr a whole year to get in touch with her. "I hesitated," she says, "because I was afraid that the negative comments about her would be proved right."
When Behr finally met her natural mother, she says she was obsessed with the idea that everyone in her extended family would get along: she therefore arranged for her natural and adoptive mother to meet. This was a disaster. Behr had to separate the women when they literally went for each other's throat: "You stole my child, you communist bitch!" Behr's natural mother shouted. Today Behr is only in touch very occasionally with both women.
Three years ago, Behr set up a support group for the victims of forced adoptions, and since then the 43-year-old has been contacted by hundreds of people still searching for their children, parents or siblings. The 20th anniversary of reunification this October has prompted a flood of interest: a number of films on the topic have come out in Germany, and have been greeted with huge surprise by the public – they have also prompted victims to talk about their cases publicly for the first time. Like Laake, most of them feel betrayed twice over. The GDR destroyed their families, and the reunified German state did nothing to redress the injustice.
Walking through the dismal Leipzig suburbs feels like being transported back 20 years: there are potholes, weeds growing through the tarmac, dozens of uniform grey apartment blocks. Laake, a slim, frail man of 50, lives in a ground-floor flat in one of these blocks. Over the years, he has tried everything to find his son. He has posted notices on the internet. He has sent letters to politicians. He has recruited lawyers and private investigators. And he has continually been reminded that, while times and political systems change, his situation has not.
He is eager to tell his story, he says, despite the intimidation he has experienced. Laake and his family have been attacked by a man in the street; his car has been damaged twice; someone broke into his cellar; the only photo of his son as a baby has disappeared. But Laake says he is not afraid. "I am certainly not going to be paranoid. Not after all these years."
Laake's career as an "enemy of the socialist state" was never political. It started as a harmless teenage rebellion. He refused to join the youth organisation of the Socialist party, and at school in the 1970s he often wore a faux stetson and a black denim suit he'd made himself. This provocatively "western" outfit made him a target for his teachers' criticism. "But my mother always supported me," says Laake. "Our family agreed on the importance of personal freedom. As long as I can remember I wanted to get out of East Germany."
Early marriages were common in the GDR and so, at 19, Laake proposed to his childhood friend, Ilona, who came to share his dream of life on the other side of the iron curtain. Three years into their marriage, when she was expecting a baby, they decided to flee. Their idea was to cross the Baltic sea overnight in an inflatable rubber boat. It was hazardous: the beach became a prohibited zone after dusk, closely monitored by military police. "But when you are on the run, you stop thinking," says Laake. "You are in a sort of survival mode. It's all about: get on the water. Cower down in the dinghy so you're not shot. Then paddle for your life." They did not even make it to the water. "You can't describe the pressure you feel when there are five Kalashnikovs pointing at you."
As an ex-prisoner and attempted refugee, Laake is officially acknowledged as a victim of political injustice, and he has even been granted a small monthly pension by the German government. But as a betrayed father, there are no documents proving his case. The GDR authorities effectively covered their tracks. Laake never received any official papers about his trial and because of data privacy laws his son's adoption file is closed to him for 50 years. The only person who has limited access to the file – other than the case officers – is Marco himself. And there's no way of knowing if he's ever even been told that he's adopted.
With no access to the details of his case, Laake has had to commit everything he can to memory. The words of the security agent who beat him during questioning. The document he signed to spare his pregnant wife imprisonment, confessing that he alone was responsible for the escape. The Hannibal-Lecter-style cage they built inside a cell, where, for several weeks – as a special punishment – he was kept in solitary confinement. He was in prison for six-and-a-half years altogether.
Marco was born and put up for adoption while Laake was under arrest; his wife had buckled under the massive pressure to give their child up. "She was only 21 years old, she was afraid, they threatened to make her life hell, they mentally broke her." Laake knows that she had no real chance to prevent the forced adoption, but the couple nevertheless fell out over the loss, and are now divorced. "In the end I simply couldn't forgive her," he says.
While telling his story Laake shows me a number of photographs of Marco: in a rowing boat, aged eight, and as a teenager at a party. They were given to him just a few months ago, as a result of his persistent campaign, by a social worker who is apparently in contact with Marco's adoptive family. She also read out a short letter, supposedly from Marco, now 26, who said that he has a good life and does not wish to get to know his natural father. Laake was not allowed to see the letter himself, for reasons of data protection. "His language sounded clumsy and strangely impersonal," he says. "As if someone had desperately tried to put himself into Marco's position and then made the whole thing up."
Laake knows that "there is no law that could turn around my situation". When the reunification treaty was signed in 1990 the new German state had not distinguished between legal and illegal adoptions, so every case today is dealt with according to the old West German law, which prohibits natural parents from finding out about children they voluntarily gave up. The builders of the new German state 20 years ago either forgot to classify "adoptions against the will of the parents" as a violation of human rights or, as the historian and GDR expert Uwe Hillmer suggests, they simply were not interested. "Even members of the Kohl government admitted internally: forget about the past," says Hillmer. Many of the Socialist administration's files were destroyed during the last days of the GDR, and a former officer of the Stasi, the East German security service, once told Hillmer: "You haven't got the slightest idea about the real extent of injustice, and you will never find out what really happened."
That Stasi officer might well be right, but reading through Behr's victim support website gives some sense of the scale of what went on. Behr has collected more than 300 cases of alleged forced adoption so far, and she is trying to help more than 200 people to find family members. There are 93 unsettled cases regarding the deaths of newborn babies: Behr has documented the stories of mothers who were still lying in the delivery room when they were told that their babies had died – but swear they heard their child crying. They were not allowed to see their baby's corpse. One mother visited the grave of her twin daughters for more than 25 years before seeing two young women tell the story of their adoption on TV. They were her daughters. It's unclear why this cruel practice took place; most of the people involved in the forced adoptions have refused to talk. Hillmer says there are suspicions that Socialist party officials who could not have children "ordered" newborns from cooperative gynaecologists, although this has only been proved in one case so far.
Behr's objective is to make the victims' voices heard. She gives lectures across Germany about forced adoption. "Many victims find themselves in the humiliating position that no one even believes them, and the strangeness of their cases doesn't make it any easier," she says. Most of them suffer from depression, and some question their own memories, as Behr has herself. The separation from her natural mother destroyed her self-esteem and she suspects she will never fully recover.
Laake refuses to accept that the data protection law is the only reason he is prevented from contacting Marco; he suspects that Marco's adoptive parents don't want their son to know the circumstances of his adoption. "If they told him," he says, "it could destroy their family." He keeps turning questions over in his mind: what if Marco's clumsy letter was written by someone else? What if old Stasi networks are still operating in Leipzig? What if Marco's adoptive parents are former party officials trying to hide their past?
Behr is helping Laake with his investigation, and worries about his safety. Until recently, she didn't believe the rumours about Stasi networks being operational, but "looking at Laake's case with all its dodgy incidents made me change my mind", she says. After Laake was attacked in the street, police advised him to search for a new flat for his own safety.
There is another reason that Behr is concerned about Laake. She says that many victims of forced adoption build up high hopes that things will change for the better once they find their natural family. "They focus on a happy ending that is never going to happen." Behr has helped more than 100 people to find their lost family members so far, but most cases end like her own: there is an initial sense of relief, followed by disappointment that the parent or child in question has become a complete stranger.
Laake knows that there may be no happy ending for him, that the problem of East Germany's lost children "is probably not solvable". Nevertheless he will carry on searching for Marco. He has started to call the adoption office twice a week, and he is also planning a sit-down strike outside the office, "with a sign around my neck: give me back my son!" He says he doesn't expect anything from contact with Marco. "I could even understand if he didn't wish to meet me." But he wants to hear that for himself. Laake is tired of all the threats and delays. "All I want is certainty. That's the minimum a father can expect."
August 26, 2010 permalink
Rhode Island mother Faith Torres has been barred from all discussion about her family court case, even with her own family.
Judge bars R.I. mother from talking about custody case
PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- A Family Court judge has forbidden a woman from talking about her custody case with anyone, including the media, or posting anything about the matter on any blogs or other sites on the Internet.
The woman, Faith Torres, has contacted the American Civil Liberties Union about the gag order, but declined comment for fear of violating it.
"This court order is a blatant violation of the First Amendment,'' Steven Brown, executive director of the ACLU's Rhode Island affiliate, said. "If she believes she is being treated unfairly, or if she just wishes to make people aware of her case, she should be able to do so free of a court-ordered gag rule.''
The judge's order is so broadly worded, Brown said, that "Ms. Torres faces contempt of court charges if she discusses the case with her mother..."
By law, someone who violates a court order and is charged with contempt of court can face imprisonment.
Family Court Judge Debra DeSegna issued the gag order -- which applies not only to Torres but also her lawyers -- on July 29 at the request of the Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth and Families.
DeSegna was on vacation this week and could not be reached for comment. Neither Acting Family Court Chief Judge Haiganush R. Bedrosian nor Associate Judge Karen Lynch Bernard, who was filling in for DeSegna and signed the Torres order on Friday, responded to requests for comment.
Joanne H. Lehrer, the DCYF director's chief of staff, said Friday that she could not discuss specifics of the case. However, Lehrer said, it's not unusual for the agency's lawyers, particularly in custody cases involving domestic disputes, to draft such "broad brush" orders and ask the judges to enforce them to "protect the confidentiality of the child."
The gag order issued by Judge DeSegna in the Torres case is contained in paragraph 4 of a 1 ½-page ruling that details the conditions under which Torres is allowed supervised visitation with her oldest child. It states:
"All parties to this action, including the Plaintiff and Defendant, and all counsel are restrained and enjoined from discussing any of the within court proceedings and related matters involving the children with any third party, including but not limited to members of the media, postings on blog, and/or the internet."
Torres said at the time that her lawyer, Jodie Gladstone, objected to the order but the judge overruled her.
Several calls to the Providence law firm where Gladstone practices went unreturned. A woman who answered the phone at the firm told a reporter that Gladstone could not respond due to the court order.
Source: Providence Journal
No Tutors for Foster Kids
August 26, 2010 permalink
The foster system is thwarting the development a ward, one of the policies that turn many foster children into dysfunctional adults. When professor Leonard Richter of Walla Walla University heard Frankie Bones play the piano, he offered the boy university level tutoring. Frankie, seventeen years old, needed to cross the border from Canada to the US to take up the offer. British Columbia MCFD stepped in and blocked the lessons with threats to his long-term foster mother Esther Cordner.
B.C. ministry threatens police action to keep musician in Canada: foster mother
Frankie Bones turns 18 Friday; offered music lessons in U.S.
METRO VANCOUVER - An aspiring pianist’s foster mother says the Ministry of Children and Family Development is threatening her with police involvement to keep the teen in Canada and prevent him from pursuing his dream.
Although Frankie Bones is turning 18 on Friday, he is a foster child and his social worker won’t let him leave the country to take advantage of an offer of university-level music lessons in Washington state.
On Tuesday, Bones’s foster mother Esther Cordner received two letters, both dated Aug. 13. The first is signed by Bones’s social worker and says the music lessons may still be possible; the second is from ministry lawyer Katherine Le-Reverend and is more aggressive in tone.
The ministry can enforce its “custody rights to a child in his care in court and with assistance of police if necessary,” says the letter signed by LeReverend.
“It’s a threatening letter. They’re threatening me with the police, and threatening to take Frankie from my home,” Cordner said.
As of Friday, Bones will be old enough to vote, but he won’t be old enough to move to Washington state to study music.
The ministry could not comment on the case because of privacy concerns, but spokesman Darren Harbord said a social worker must approve all out-of-country travel for foster children.
Any Canadian over 16 years old can enter the United States with either a passport or an enhanced drivers licence. They do not specifically require their parents consent. However, if a border guard is at all suspicious they can detain the young person, Tom Schreiber, chief customs and border protection officer said in an interview.
Leonard Richter, a professor at Walla Walla University, heard Bones play and immediately offered him private lessons, Cordner told The Sun.
Bones is still in high school so he would need to complete Grade 12 at a nearby school. Cordner arranged for him to stay with a host family in Walla Walla while in the U.S.
A separate letter sent to Cordner the same day from Bones’s social worker, Nalini Prasad, says although the ministry is not yet ready to grant permission, the Washington school has not been entirely ruled out.
The letter says the ministry needs to complete a screening process for the host family and look at music schools available in B.C. In the letter, Prasad says that all matters relating to Bones’s attendance at the Washington school should be made through her.
Bones has been in foster care since he was a baby, raised by Cordner, who doesn’t want him to lose out on this opportunity.
“Frankie could be your poster child, that big feather in the ministry’s cap. You and your co-workers should be falling over yourselves to serve this young man. Instead you put up road blocks and you are setting up Frankie for defeat,” Cordner wrote in a letter to Bones’s social worker.
In a year, when he turns 19, the prize-winning musician will be free to travel to the States, but Cordner doesn’t want him to waste a year.
“Yes, his gifts will remain with him, but will this golden opportunity still be available next year?” she asked.
The ministry would be generally supportive of a youth in care furthering his education or a special gift, Harbord said.
“Just like any responsible parent, we would want to ensure an appropriate plan is in place to ensure the health and well being of the youth,” Harbord said in an e-mail.
Source: Vancouver Sun
August 26, 2010 permalink
Nevada's Family Services has an easy way to improve their performance: they fake the numbers. Teresa Medina quit after being ordered to lie on reports.
Allegation claims Child Haven numbers falsified
Former county administrator says she was asked to alter documents on how long children spend at center
A former Clark County child welfare administrator charges she was ordered to lie about the number of children at Child Haven to make it appear the county’s Family Services Department was doing a better job of placing children into foster care.
Teresa Medina said she quit her $65,000-a-year job because “I was asked to falsify documents relating to the time children arrived to the center and when they were pushed out into foster care,” she wrote in an e-mail to County Manager Virginia Valentine after she resigned.
“I was afraid of what I’d be asked to do next, what I’d be asked to lie about next,” she added, blaming Family Services Director Tom Morton for creating an “illusion that things are better for Clark County children.”
Medina, who supervised the reception center at Child Haven and who now works in Texas, reiterated her allegations in an interview with the Sun.
Valentine said she never saw the e-mail, and Morton denied that his employees were asked to lie or that children are imperiled by being placed in foster homes too soon.
“The argument that our policies and practices have made children less safe aren’t borne out by the numbers, otherwise we’d have an increase in child deaths,” he said.
Medina’s claims and the rebuttal are the latest development in the long-running controversy over how well Family Services cares for children.
The district attorney’s office in June produced 82 cases from over about five years that it said demonstrated Family Services was returning children to dangerous homes or not removing them quickly enough from the homes. Metro Police said it had offered free investigatory training, but Family Services never responded.
Valentine said a few weeks ago the county is reviewing the cases, and she has ordered Metro, the district attorney’s office and Family Services to work more closely together.
Medina said that while the department was supposed to count a child as a resident of Child Haven if he or she had been there for 24 hours, she and others were told not to count them unless they had been there for 30 hours. The result, she said, was that fewer children appeared to be staying at Child Haven than was the case.
The number of children at Child Haven has become a barometer in gauging the success of Family Services, especially after the department was threatened with lawsuits when the number reached 230 and one child died.
Once overflowing with children, the center sees about 330 a month, but they are moved quickly into foster homes or with relatives. Only two children resided there about noon Thursday.
Morton says Family Services has doubled its number of foster homes in the past four years, and that the rate that children have monthly contact with a county case worker has increased from 50 percent to 97 percent.
Medina said Family Services’ push to lower the occupancy at Child Haven risks rushing children into homes that might not be adequately investigated or might be a bad match for the children and the foster families.
She said she remembers one case involving a teenage girl sexually abused by her grandfather. Her supervisor, Medina said, wanted the teen out of Child Haven within 24 hours and found a foster home. But when the foster parents came to get her, the girl broke down — they were an elderly couple.
Medina said her request that more time be taken to find a better match was rejected.
Clark County’s experience with children taken into custody is a real-world testing ground for an academic debate that seems to have no decisive winner: Is it better to place neglected children in a family setting or foster home, or house them in congregate care such as a residential facility or a place like Child Haven?
Morton, who founded the Atlanta-based Child Welfare Institute, was hired in 2006 to oversee Family Services. Morton sped up background checks to place children with relatives, foster homes or into neighborhood-based foster homes within 24 hours of their arrival at Child Haven.
Even so, the National Center for Youth Law filed a lawsuit in federal court this year on behalf of 13 children, claiming investigations of abuse and neglect are substandard, as are medical and mental health treatment.
One child care expert thinks Clark County is moving in the right direction in child placements.
Richard Wexler, executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform in Alexandria, Va., said research has demonstrated that it’s far better for a child’s well-being to leave an institution such as Child Haven and enter a home.
“Most of the objective scholarship says that where you can have good foster homes, you can’t have good institutions,” Wexler said. “Not that you can’t have nice people with good intentions (operating institutions), but institutionalization is inherently not a good system.”
Still, Wexler thinks Clark County has a problem because it removes too many children too quickly from their families. “They need to stop taking children from homes needlessly.”
The more that children are removed from their families, the more pressure there is on case workers to quickly find them new homes, at the risk of insufficient background investigation, Wexler said.
“They’re not going to do the extra check, make the extra phone call,” he said. “Not because they don’t care, but because they don’t have the time. Wrongful taking (of children) leads to much worse.”
Medina works at Boys and Girls Country of Houston, a privately funded residential facility run by Lou Palma, the former manager of Child Haven who was fired nearly a year ago for reasons the county did not disclose.
Medina said she doesn’t think Child Haven should serve as a long-term residence for children. “I just want to know what the harm is in keeping a kid for a week and getting them settled, making them comfortable about where they’re going instead of giving them a meal, a psych assessment, new clothes and pushing them out the door.”
Source: Las Vegas Sun
August 25, 2010 permalink
An expectant mother who grew up in foster care is being threatened. Here is her posting, and the best of several suggestions.
Laura Lyndee Williams. Hi. I had a question for anyone that can help me out here. I have been involved with CAS since I was 9 years old. I became a crown ward around the age of 13. I am now 18 years old turning 19 in November. I am 35 weeks pregnant with no previous children. CAS is telling me that I have two choices, I either go to a maternity house or they will apprehend my child and I will only see him 3 times a week , 3 hours at a time. I am not with CAS anymore , I walked away from them at the age of 17. They are basing my ability to parent on my past in foster homes, and on my mother's past , as I am currently living with her. They are also basing my ability to parent my son on the fact that I have a history of getting involved with abusive partners, and are judging my current partner , my fiance, based on MY past, not his. I was wondering if there is anything I can do to stop this , I hope someone has some advice for me. Thanks.
PS. I had a history of being unstable when I was younger, moving from foster home to foster home, and that's what they're trying to use against me. I have not done anything to prove I would be a danger to my son. I haven't missed a doctor's appointment, and I have done everything that my doctor's have asked of me. I don't know if they have the basis to take my child on my past in their care, or my mother's past with them, seeing as this is not my mother's child but my own. and they've been saying that i wasn't raised properly... but I grew up in THEIR system, I didn't grow up with my family.
Jillian Howell Anderson. Leave the province of Ontario, go somewhere where the CAS is overseen by the Ombudsman. It's far too easy for them to make up a reason to apprehend your child, and it sounds as though they're already preparing themselves a nice case against you.
August 25, 2010 permalink
On August 23 John Dunn testified about Bill 65, and its impact on efforts to reform children's aid societies. His testimony in chief is enclosed, for the full dialog refer to the source link.
The reason I'm calling is as the executive director of the Foster Care Council of Canada. We advocate for transparency and accountability in child welfare. Specifically, there are two parts of the act I want to speak to. This will be pretty brief.
The part that I'm going to speak to is the section with regard to members. Currently, the Corporations Act that's in existence today-it's sections 306 and 307-allows members under 306 and non-members under 307 to request the list of existing members for advocating for policy changes, bylaw changes, things like that. You request a list of the members and then you write a letter to the members asking them to requisition the board for a meeting to discuss the issue or policy that you want to be changed. Under section 295, that's where the process gets done.
Under the new bill, Bill 65, it proposes to remove external input, so now it will be members only who can request a list of members. In many non-profit circumstances that might be okay and completely fine, because who else should have concerns? In the case of children's aid societies, they are non-profit corporations that are mandated into people's lives, so you have people who have their lives seriously affected by them and have no choice other than, at many times, to advocate for changes to policies through membership requests for a list of members. This will remove that ability for them, because the corporation of the CAS often does not allow people who are involved with CAS to become members. This is a common thing I'm hearing across the province.
With the lack of Ombudsman oversight of children's aid societies, with the Child and Family Services Review Board, which is a complaint body that actually has no power, because it's exempted from the powers and procedures act that most tribunals have-as you know and as many people are aware, the tribunal only has administrative power; it doesn't deal with a lot of the issues that are seriously affecting lives. So I'm hoping that there is an additional section similar to 307(1), (2), (3), (4), (5) and (6) of the Corporations Act that exists today that could be added for non-members to request lists.
Charges have been brought against Sudbury children's aid before. I'm currently involved in charges against the Ottawa CAS, prosecuting for failing to furnish a list of their members. So there are issues that need to be addressed by non-members, because if they exclude people who are advocating for changes simply because of that fact, then it's yet another level of accountability that's not available.
That's my presentation for today, and I'm open to any questions.
Part of the act, I believe, talks about the different types of non-profits, and I think that maybe you could create another type-for example, children's aid-where citizens' lives are forcefully affected by a certain type of non-profit. Subsequent to this, maybe we could talk about it at another time or through questions.
Source: Ontario Hansard
Action Against Ottawa CAS Survives
August 25, 2010 permalink
There has been another court hearing in the effort by John Dunn to prosecute the Ottawa CAS for failure to provide him with a membership list as they are required to do by law. The motion by CAS and it's executive director Barbara MacKinnon to dismiss the action was rejected by the court.
Ottawa CAS Fails in their Motion to Avoid a Trial Against Them
The Children's Aid Society of Ottawa and it's executive director Barbara MacKinnon made a motion to the court today attempting to have the charges against them dismissed. After considering their submissions, the court dismissed their motion and ordered that the parties set a date for trial.
The parties are to appear before the court on the 9th of September, 2010 at 1:30 to set a trial date.
Source: Fostercare News, August 24, 2010
August 25, 2010 permalink
A rally for accountability took place outside the Cornwall Courthouse on August 23. The Cornwall Daily News and the Cornwall Standard Freeholder covered the event, here is a copy of their Daily News audio report (mp3).
Call For Children's Aid Society Oversight
August 23, 2010 — There's a call for oversight of Cornwall's Children's Aid Society. A small group picketed outside Cornwall's court house with signs saying "CAS needs oversight now" and "It's all about power, control and money." Rally spokeswoman Diana Kinnear tells TheCornwallDaily.com, it's time for the Ombudsman to have the power to step in. (Hear audio clip to the right) Kinnear says there's a $25 million budget with no checks and balances. But the Executive Director of the CAS, Rachel Daigneault, says the agency already goes through many audits and reviews including a board which is overseen by the Ombudsman. Click on Full Story Audio to hear the entire interview with Diana Kinnear.
Source: Cornwall Daily News
Rally demands more CAS oversight
Several protesters called for reforms to the Children's Aid Society of the United Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry, one of many such scenes played out across the province on Monday, in front of the Second Street West courthouse.
In support of Bill 93, which would amend the Ombudsman's Act, Diana Kinnear, a Cornwall native who now lives in Edmonton, rallied protesters in a call for more oversight of the Children's Aid Societies of Ontario.
"We want the Ontario Government and the Ministry of Child and Youth Services to begin taking responsibility for Ontario's 53 Children's Aid Societies' actions and begin investigating complaints, criminal activity and wrongdoing," read a statement from the Ontario Children's Aid Accountability Rally (OCAAR).
"Ontario is the only province in Canada without independent ombudsman oversight to investigate decisions or recommendations made or any act done or omitted in the course of the administration of a Children's Aid Society. We believe this will help protect children in dangerous foster care situations and innocent families."
Kinnear said she knows people who have found themselves falsely accused of abusing their own grandchild because their names were confused with another grandparent.
"Their names got flipped and the CAS didn't bother to correct their mistake before it got to the courts," Kinnear said.
The child's mother had given the innocent grandparents custody of the child because she was a 19-year-old with substance abuse issues at the time.
Kinnear claims the mother was discriminated against and penalized because she has a learning disability.
After nearly three years, Kinnear said the case is still before the courts and the child still in foster care.
Rachel Daigneault, executive director of the local CAS, said she is "all for oversight," but adds that there are already many mechanisms in place to review the work of child protection workers.
"We support accountability reviews and mechanisms already in place, which help ensure our children are well cared for and receive the best service, under the Child and Family Services Act," she said. "Currently, the public is effectively protected through a variety of mandated oversights and rigorous standards."
Daigneault provided an extensive list of the checks and balances provided by the provincial government for the CAS.
The Child and Family Services Review Board manages client complaints, while oversight for the board is provided by an ombudsman.
Family courts of Ontario deal with all child protection matters, but Kinnear complained that once a case is before the courts, it can't be questioned by an oversight body.
Once a child becomes a ward of the Crown, Daigneault explained that the Accountability Office of the Ministry of Children and Youth Services' Crown ward review unit looks over each case annually.
Foster care licences are also audited, while the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth takes complaints from children in care. The list went on.
But people such as Kinnear believe there should be criminal investigations into some cases and that often parents accused of abuse are innocent of the charges.
She spoke of a case in which a baby born prematurely -weighing only two pounds -was treated by paramedics with CPR that broke the baby's ribs.
The baby stayed in the hospital for two months. After she was sent home with her mother, the baby was brought to regular doctor's appointments and well cared for over the following month.
But when X-rays showed a doctor the healed breaks to her ribs, the CAS was called in and took the baby away from her mother.
Kinnear claimed that even law enforcement authorities said the mother was innocent based on records kept by emergency services explaining the old rib injuries, but two years later the child remains in foster care.
Source: The Cornwall Standard Freeholder
Canada on $6.85 a day
August 25, 2010 permalink
Durham CAS is generously providing funding to a foster girl to allow her to attend university. The amount? $2,500 per year. Hope Marie can figure out how to provide food, shelter clothing, books and tuition on $6.85 per day. Scrooge is an annual subject of CAS promotion. Marie is also working at a grocery store and she is trying to reconnect with her parents. She might have better luck with them.
Bursaries help Durham CAS kids attend college, university
DURHAM -- Like thousands of other local students, Marie is packing up to head back to university this fall.
As she prepares for her third year as an English major at Dalhousie University, the 21 year old is stressing about how to cover the cost of tuition, textbooks, groceries and other essentials.
It's a common enough scenario -- but Marie's life to this point has been anything but.
Starting when she was 12, the Oshawa woman was in the care of the Durham Children's Aid Society, shuffling back and forth between foster homes after suffering physical and emotional abuse while living with her parents.
"When I was young, I had a lot of dreams. But as stuff went downhill at home, I started to be more negative. I didn't care about anything," says Marie, who asked that her real name not be used, because she is hoping to reconnect with her parents.
She says the support of foster parents and CAS workers helped her set a goal of attending university and becoming a high school teacher.
Now a bursary from Durham CAS is helping to make post-secondary education a reality.
Marie recently received a $2,500 bursary from the local CAS, to help cover her third year costs.
"I jumped up out of my chair when I found out, I was so excited," she says.
Her bursary is one of 35 being handed out this fall -- a record number for Durham CAS. That number is up from nine bursaries just four years ago.
About half of the bursaries are sponsored by local businesses; Marie's is from Royal Bank. The rest come from donations made to the Durham Children's Aid Foundation.
Durham CAS spokesman Shane Vieira says the bursaries have a huge impact on youth in the care of CAS, who often face barriers to attending post secondary school.
"Even if you're coming from an average family with a mom and dad who are supporting you, it's a challenge to go to college or university," he said. "Then think about the fact that most youth in care don't have that consistent family support. They don't always have someone telling them to do their homework or helping them reach their goals."
Money is another obstacle for youth in care.
Once they turn 18 the Province no longer provides funding for a foster home placement, which means many end up living on their own. Durham CAS provides those youth with $1,000 a month until they turn 21, when all financial support ends.
A recent provincial survey conducted through the Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies revealed less than 45 per cent of youth in care finish high school by age 21 as opposed to 79 per cent in the general population.
Only about 20 per cent of youth in care go on to post-secondary education compared to 40 per cent in the general population. Of those, only 20 per cent attend university, making Marie's accomplishment that much more rare.
"Knowing you have some extra help motivates you to keep going," said Marie, who will be working at a grocery store in Halifax to help cover the rest of her costs. "I stress a lot about how to pay for things and this takes some of that away."
Durham CAS is always looking for businesses and corporations to sponsor bursaries. To make a donation or learn more, visit www.durhamcaf.ca.
Source: Metroland Durham
While seeking rest from daily care,
I learned that Monsieur Molière,
The darling of the muses nine,
Whose blessings flow on him like wine,
Is now presenting on the stage
Yes, he's the idol of the age
A Miser who diverts us all;
And not a little bit. His thrall
Encompasses; his scope is vast;
He makes us laugh from first to last.
He speaks in prose and not in verse;
But the effect is none the worse.
His prose is so theatrical;
Its essence is dramatical.
This Miser, then, whose praise one sings,
Is prodigal in comic things.
What's more, the acting's excellent.
Your time could not be better spent.
Charles Robinet, Letters in Verse, Paris, 15 September 1668
August 25, 2010 permalink
Two apparent DHS impostors tried to take a girl from an Oklahoma mother, but she fought them off and they went away. The blurred video shows that the mother is bigger even than many social workers. In the carefully worded last paragraph, there is no official denial that the abductors worked for DHS, so this mother may have found a successful way to protect her daughter from DHS: eat lots of junk food and slug the social workers.
Woman: DHS Impostors Tried To Take Daughter
Police Investigate Alfalfa County Incident
ALINE, Okla. -- An Oklahoma mother said that two women posed as workers with the Department of Human Services and tried to kidnap her 2-year-old daughter.
The woman, who lives in Aline, Okla., but asked that her identity remain secret, said that what happened to her on Tuesday seemed real, but she didn't fall for it.
She said the women told her they were investigating a child abuse complaint and that they had a court order to take custody of the girl.
"I was hysterical," she said. "I thought they were going to take my kids because I thought it was the Department of Human Services."
She said the women told them she was in trouble because of bruising seen on one of her other children.
"They said they had allegations that one of my children had been abused and there were some other allegations and they needed to come inside," she said.
She said she didn't let them in, but the women knocked again a few minutes later. She said they told her they had a court order and one of the women tried to grab her daughter.
"She tried taking off with her and got off the porch," she said. "When I got to her, I basically slapped her in the face and pulled my daughter out of her hands. I went to the door and told them they need to come back with the police."
She said the women got into a car and drove away.
The woman said she called DHS and the Alfalfa County Sheriff's Department, which confirmed that they had not been asked to remove a child from a home. Officials said they have opened an investigation into the incident.
Source: KOCO Oklahoma City
Queens Park Rally
August 25, 2010 permalink
Several dozen people attended a rally for accountability in Toronto on August 16. Here is a report from Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (wmv).
August 25, 2010 permalink
The Bayne family will expand by one more child near the end of the year.
Zabeth Bayne. Paul and I are overjoyed to announce to everyone of our friends here that we are three months into expecting the fourth member of our family. We pray you will share our joy with this news and also share with us the need for prayer that God restore our family into the loving unit it is.
Source: Facebook, August 13 at 11:59pm
The Baynes finished their case to the trial court on Friday, August 13. Until that time they had kept news of the pregnancy among their own team, but somehow, the MCFD lawyer found out about it. Members of the MCFD legal team are licking their chops at the prospect of yet another child for their menagerie. Here is a report from Zabeth on the last day, and three blog entries by Ron Unruh.
Just a short note to let you know that our side of the case is now done and the Ministry is to make their closing arguments in the near future. No date has yet been found.
Also Paul and I are expecting our fourth child and the Ministry has received this information through unauthorized access to our email. I had emailed the news of our pregnancy to our lawyer, Ray Ferris, Ron Unruh, Mr. Cheung and my father. It was with agreed to keep confidence. Finn Jensen ended my cross examination with inquiring as to my pregnancy, which I had not disclosed. It is their intention to remove at birth, if the courts grant a CCO. They used this to insinuate that I would be unable to handle four children though not based on any previous evidence to this effect in our history of parenting. Merely a suggestion to the court. They would wish to expand the scope of the CCO to include our unborn child.
Ron Unruh has posted further details to this on his blog.
Source: email from Zabeth Bayne
IT'S NOT OVER 'TIL IT'S OVER / Part 279 / For Love and For Justice / Zabeth and Paul Bayne/
Most of us were trusting that today would be the conclusion of this hearing. It isn't. There is a degree of closure yet there is some ongoing business. I will explain.
At noon, counsel for the defense, Doug Christie indicated that he was ready to make his final summation. That caught the Judge and Jensen off guard. The Judge would willingly entertain that direction to the day, but Jensen immediately indicated that he was not ready with a final submission. Christie estimated that he would require an hour of time in the afternoon. Judge Crabtree said he would consider this over the lunch break.
When we reconvened at 1:30 PM after some procedural chit-chat, the Judge invited Christie to provide his summation. It was with the understanding that Jensen could not and would not reply to that summation today. It was clear in his remarks and I had certainly seen in his body language that Christie has had enough. He cannot continue to give time to this case. His time and expertise have been a gift to a couple who have lost all material possessions to get their children back.
Christie did his thing, restating the emptiness of the Ministry's case. This is purely a medical matter, injuries sustained to an infant. No evidence, no confession to point to willful inflicted harm by one or both of the parents which is the only reason you take the children away from parents. All the Ministry has is a diagnostic opinion by a child protection doctor identifying the baby's injuries as shaken baby induced when in fact there is no evidence that these injuries were the result of an act of violence. In fact it was later acknowledged by this doctor as impact related which of course renders it consistent with the explanation provided by the Baynes of an accident in the home. He recited once again the intentional smears concerning Paul's childhood, all of which was fictitious and the insidious nature of the cross examination throughout the morning, culminating in the most disgusting display of juvenile law practice by Jensen and points to something even more clandestine and sinister.
So where does that leave the Bayne children? They cannot come home yet. No, now a court time must be found in Jensen's and Crabtree's schedules, a court room, and Jensen indicated he needs the better part of one day to speak to Christie's one hour summation. That meeting won't happen until mid September. It really doesn't matter how long Jensen takes does it? The Baynes do not need to attend this but a transcript will be sent to the Baynes so that Christie can respond to that and finally Crabtree must review all the evidence and at last make a ruling. It could be the end of 2010 by the time a verdict is given.
Meanwhile three little children, two of whom because of prematurity have developmental challenges yet all three are being placed into age appropriate public school programs come September.
ADJOURNED/ Part 280 / For Love and For Justice / Zabeth and Paul Bayne/
At precisely 9:30 AM Friday August 13th, 2010, a clerk entered the court room with the customary words, “all rise.” In unison we stood in deference to Judge Thomas Crabtree who came to his desk carrying his laptop. On that laptop he contains his personal notes typed as he listens through endless hours. Judge Crabtree has expressed earlier that he wanted this hearing to conclude Friday.
Already seated in the witness box, Zabeth Bayne for the fourth day affirmed to tell the truth and counsel Finn Jensen immediately continued with his cross examination. Questions spewed effortlessly as he elicited responses by which he intended to arrive at a suggestion that Baynes had nothing about which to complain because the Ministry had provided the very same kind of good care for the children that the Baynes themselves would have chosen to provide if the Ministry was not involved. This tactic was employed repeatedly. Here's an example of this self-serving cross examination suited for you this morning. While Bethany was in hospital, the two boys required someone to care for them, right? Who better than family to care for the boys, correct? Zabeth's parents can satisfactory care for the boys, isn't that so? Zabeth and Paul trust their boys to the grandparents, don't they? Is this what Zabeth would choose for her boys so that she can be free to go the hospital? Of course it is, wouldn't you agree? Well, isn't that precisely what MCFD did for Paul and Zabeth? MCFD thought of the best interests of the children and put the family first didn't it?
Irritation, annoyance, frustration, aggravation is what attending Bayne supporters feel as they observe Zabeth being compelled to pluck at her memory for three years old details covered with mountains of disappointment and sorrow. On this day she answered clearly and confidently when she could, faltering only when Jensen made one of his regular suggestions to her that intimated she was dishonest or confused or purposely not recalling a detail or hiding the truth. Counsel Doug Christie struggled impatiently to hold back objections to countless moments when he felt Jensen crossed a line, knowing that each objection would lead to lengthy debate which would consume hours in total. Child protection lawyers like nothing more than to extend a trial because it wears on the defendants and exhausts their resources and makes the lawyers wealthy.
In 2009 the media contacted the Baynes to invite an interview. That interview was recorded and scheduled for airing within days. Soon after that a 2008 mediation meeting was held in which the Baynes were told that the boys would be returned. Then the televised interview was shown and MCFD was embarrassed and called this a breach of trust. Christie called it vengeful and retaliatory that MCFD immediately decided not to return the boys. Jensen alleged that communication of this change was given to Zabeth but that she chose to ignore or not to believe it. She testified that this communication was never clear to her when she planned her son's birthday party. Her lasting impression was that SW Loren Humeny had conveyed the children would be returned. Jensen suggested that her shock and surprise was feigned when MCFD workers arrived at the birthday party to remove the boys. It appeared that occasionally Jensen showed impatience with Zabeth's memory lapses or her seeming unwillingness to concede to his suggestions.
Well here's the point. MCFD has no evidence that either parent harmed their own infant daughter. They needed a confession. Jensen needed to catch her somehow on an apparent contradiction out of which she could not extract herself. That did not happen.
The most reprehensible tactic that Jensen used happened near the conclusion of the morning. Through a series of questions he sought to display that Zabeth and Paul could not meet all of the challenging needs of all three of their children if and when they were returned to them. Then he deftly zinged her with a couple of questions to evoke responses of information that was so personal and should have remained absolutely confidential. The room gasped.
Soon after with a suddenness that astonished Judge Crabtree as well as Jensen, Doug Christie standing tall and convincingly serious, announced, “I am ready to make my final submission.” Of course the judge would have to rule that this was permissible since Jensen was not finished his denunciation and should do his summation first. Jensen said he was not prepared to do summation. Yet he has had many months to be ready and knew this day was coming and that it wasn't going to spill over unless of course he said something like this. And the judge not wishing to created any fodder for an appeal acceded to this reason. Christie did his summation in the afternoon. Read yesterday's update for further details.
SURPRISE REVEALED Part 281 / For Love and For Justice / Zabeth and Paul Bayne/
Well Paul and Zabeth have made it official now. They are expecting their fourth child. Zabeth is into her third month of pregnancy. She announced it on her Facebook page.
They had no other option but to go public now. This is the private and confidential information extracted under cross examination to which I discreetly referred in the last two posts. Someone with that private information, that secret, disclosed it mistakenly or intentionally. This is the news to which Finn Jensen became privy and used during his cross examination. He led Zabeth through a series of easily affirmed statements that sounded like this, “You will agree that your two youngest children have many challenges? Boy B is developmentally behind and will require numerous therapies to assist him?” To these Zabeth responded by reciting a list of needs of which she is fully cognizant. Then he mentioned BabyGirl B and her deficit in movement and speech and Zabeth again responded with knowing affirmations. With obvious dubious tone, Jensen asked her whether she could sincerely believes that if the children were returned, Paul and Zabeth could look after them and meet all these needs. Then he asked her whether she would try to expand her family. When I heard that I knew exactly where he was going. She responded, “When Paul and I were married it was our intention to have a large family. We love children and we love our children and we want to nurture them.” Then with soft voice almost audible only to Zabeth to whom he was near, Jensen asked “Are you pregnant now?” She strongly and emotionally replied “Yes.” He whispered “how far along are you?” She said “two months,” and dissolved in tears. The room gasped. THE NEWS WAS OUT. The room gasped not because of the news but the insidious manner in which the news was broken. Christie strongly objected to this invasion of privacy.
Well Jensen's tactic was to infer that they cannot possibly look after three children when they have another one coming along. THAT IS NOT EVEN WHAT THIS TRIAL IS ABOUT. THAT'S NONE OF HIS BUSINESS. This is about whether either parent harmed their only daughter. They did not. This is about MCFD's failure to provide evidence for Jensen. The Baynes would be caring for their children if they had not been removed. They were diligently caring for the children before the removal. They would have made the adjustments that all good parents make when another child comes along. This case is not about whether they can care. It is about a Ministry taking three children, two of them certainly without cause, and the other for reason of suspicion minus evidence and therefore with no substantive reason for which to be granted continuing care.
Shortly after this, in what seemed like a dramatic moment, Christie announced to the Judge that he was ready to make his final submission. He and the Baynes wanted this done. This was absolutely enough. As far as Christie was concerned the MCFD had proven nothing but how vengeful and malicious it could be using innuendo and smear and grossly distorted risk assessment statements and then this unnecessary, insidious attack upon an expectant mother, knowing she was pregnant and putting the baby at risk because she could lose the baby.
Christie said that MCFD and Jensen have suggested that the Baynes are without strength and are isolated. Bayne supporters filled one entire side of the room and surrounded the MCFD employees on the other. Then Christie turned around to look at the supporters and asked the Judge (paraphrased), “Does this look like they are isolated?" He continued. "It is suggested that the Baynes do not have the necessary network of assistance to care for their children. How many of these people will do all that they can to help Paul and Zabeth care for their children?" A room of supporters stood to their feet in an emotional demonstration of solidarity.
Be sure to read the previous two posts which retell other aspects of the closing of the court case.
Source: Ron Unruh blog, August 13, 14 and 15, 2010
One Less CAS
August 25, 2010 permalink
Ontario will have one less children's aid society, through the merger of two northern agencies.
Province approves children’s aid merger
Posted By By Mike Aiken, August 24, 2010
Joining children's aid in Kenora-Patricia with Rainy River will cost just over $900,000 by April 1, but could save about $400,000 a year, once completed. It may also result in some improved services without layoffs.
This was the rosy scenario put forward by Bill Leonard, executive director for Kenora-Patricia Child and Family Services, as well as Bob McGreevy, president of the board of directors for Family and Children Services of the Rainy River District, during Thursday morning's news conference announcing the amalgamation of the two agencies.
Because the two agencies volunteered to merge, the spokesmen said Queen's Park has agreed to maintain their total budget allocation of about $17 million — $12 million for Kenora-Patricia, $3 million for Rainy River child welfare and $2 million for Rainy River mental health — along with most of their staff of about 250 full-time and roughly 100 casual positions.
"We wanted to maintain as much control as possible," McGreevy said, during the press conference.
The savings would come mainly through the reduction in senior management positions, Leonard agreed. For example, the new agency would only have one executive director, which would be Leonard.
About half the one-time costs — an estimated $400,000 — would be from labour issues, because there are different unions involved in the talks. If the negotiations go "swimmingly," then those costs could be less, Leonard added.
The new agency, which has yet to be named, would have about 250 children in care. The improvements in service could come through the extension of services from the Kenora area to the Fort Frances area, such as residential care.
Over the last year, the Ministry of Family and Children's Services has been working hard to find ways of reducing spiraling spending. The ministry's commission created to help resolve funding issues has toured the province, and it is strongly recommending mergers among the 53 children's aid societies in Ontario.
Within a decade, the ministry's budget tripled from $500 million to about $1.4 billion. Locally, there have been significant deficits reported.
Those affected included Anishinabe Abinoojii Family Services and Weechiitewin in Treaty 3, who were looking to cover shortfalls of about $900,000 and $940,000 respectively.
Last fall, Rainy River Family Services predicted a $600,000 shortfall, and Tikanagan Family Services in Nishnawbe Aski Nation was looking at a deficit of roughly $2.1 million last fall.
During this time, the total deficit for the province's 53 agencies was estimated at about $67 million.
Source: Kenora Daily Miner and News
Please Don't Take Our Child
August 25, 2010 permalink
British parents Victoria and Jake Ward had a baby diagnosed with a spiral fracture. Child protectors seized the baby, but he was eventually returned when accusations of abuse could not be substantiated. The parents had to fight for years in the courts for the right to publicly name the doctor falsely accusing them. This story is the subject of a BBC documentary Please Don't Take Our Child. Let us know if you find a copy that can be seen outside the UK.
Parents win legal battle to name doctor who accused them of child abuse
A couple cleared of injuring their baby son have won a legal battle to identify the doctor who gave evidence against them.
When Victoria and Jake Ward saw their baby son crying and refusing to feed, they took him to their doctor. When the cause of his pain could not be found, they took him back twice more.
The professional couple were shocked to be told eventually that William had a broken leg. But the drama turned into a nightmare when they were accused of having deliberately harmed their little boy.
Arrested, charged by police and threatened with having their child taken away by Cambridgeshire county council's social workers, it took two years for the Wards to clear their name.
Yet even after the criminal case collapsed for lack of evidence and a family court finally decided that the parents posed no threat to their son, the couple were astonished to find that the names of the doctors who had given evidence against them were kept secret.
Only now, three years later, have the Wards managed to draw a line under the affair by forcing the name of the key expert witness to be made public.
He was Karl Johnson, an eminent radiologist who specialises in non-accidental injuries and has acted a police witness in several cases of child abuse.
Mr Johnson, who is chairman of the British Society of Paediatric Radiology and works as a consultant at Birmingham Children's Hospital, told police that in his view William had suffered repeated fractures and had a history of being abused.
The case against the Wards also relied on the view of Dr David Vickers, a community paediatrician, that if no obvious explanation could be found for an injury then child abuse was likely.
The outcome of the case, in a landmark High Court judgement, has helped to lift the secrecy surrounding England's family courts, where campaigners claim that a lack of openness creates an environment in which miscarriages of justice can go unnoticed.
The family's nightmare began one night in July 2005 when, at three months old, William woke up in pain. He refused to feed and the next day Mrs Ward took him to see her GP.
The GP was unable to identify the cause of William's pain, but on returning home the Wards noticed his leg was swollen.
Determined to establish what was wrong they returned twice to the GP, but he was still unable to offer any diagnosis.
The Wards took their son to Addenbrooke's hospital in Cambridge, where an x-ray revealed he was suffering from a spiral fracture of the lower right leg, an extremely rare condition in children who have not yet begun to walk.
Because William's parents were unable to explain the fracture the hospital deemed the case suspicious and called in social services.
Further X-rays revealed what appeared to be three more fractures and an injury to his arm. This appeared to be strong evidence that William had been abused several times in his short life.
Mrs Ward, who at the time worked as a manager for child care strategy for Cambridgeshire, told BBC One's Panorama, in a documentary to be broadcast tomorrow night: "We were absolutely shocked.
"It was a nightmare which seemed to be spiralling out of control."
The Wards were only allowed to take William home with them when they agreed to be supervised 24 hours a day by Mr Ward's parents, who had to relocate from Devon to move into the couple's home.
The deal meant they could never be alone with their own son out of concern that they would cause him further harm.
The Wards were arrested and questioned by police on suspicion of grievous bodily harm and child cruelty towards William. On being released on bail they were immediately suspended from their jobs.
A week later William was placed on the council's child protection register.
With no help from outside agencies their couple mounted their own investigation into the cause of their son's injuries. Filming William asleep at night they discovered he moved vigorously during his sleep, repeatedly kicking his legs.
This led them to suspect that he may have caught his right leg between the bars of his cot and the mattress of their own bed, causing him to fracture it as he struggled to pull it clear.
Detectives removed the cot for examination. In the meantime Cambridgeshire applied to the family court for a care order, allowing them to remove William from his parents.
It soon became clear that both the police and social services were relying heavily on the evidence of Dr Johnson, who said that William had suffered four fractures which had taken place on at least two or more separate occasions.
However, in September 2006 the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to proceed with the case after detectives said they were unable to prove who had harmed the baby.
Naturally the Wards hoped social services would follow suit, but they were in for a shock.
Over the next 10 months the Wards were visited by at least three expert witnesses who had been asked by the judge to give their opinions.
By the time the two-week family court hearing began, Mrs Ward was pregnant with her second child and feared that if William was taken, her new baby would be too.
But during the family court proceedings serious doubts were cast on Dr Johnson's evidence by other medical experts.
His claim that William had suffered four fractures on at least two occasions was contradicted by their assertion that he had only two fractures, both of which had probably been caused at the same time.
Furthermore, Professor Tim David, an expert paediatrician, told the court that in this and many other cases, police and social workers were wrong to assume that an unexplained injury could normally be attributed to child abuse.
Judge Isobel Plumstead finally concluded that Mr and Mrs Ward presented no threat to William, declaring in her judgement: "There is no cogent evidence that these parents injured their son."
The Wards subsequently won a legal fight in the High Court for the judgement to be made public. However, the identities of the expert witnesses in the case remained shrouded in secrecy.
Angry that parents like themselves could be put through such an ordeal without being able to challenge the credibility of experts called to give evidence against them, the Wards returned to the High Court.
Lord Justice Munby agreed with their request and in a landmark judgement in January this year ruled that expert witnesses in family courts could now be named.
In the last week of the last Parliamentary session the judgement was rubber stamped into law.
Mrs Ward, 36, who now has three children and runs yoga and massage classes for babies, said they were not content with simply winning their own case.
She said: "How could we celebrate that someone has decided you didn't hurt your child when you know all along you didn't?
"There seems to be a small group of expert witnesses who often condemn parents. We wanted to be able to name expert witnesses in order to help all those other families who are going through what we went through."
Gordon Jeyes, director of children's services at Cambridgeshire county council until this year, defended his department's decision to press ahead with its application to remove William from his parents' care.
He said: "It was a clear cut case in that there was no immediate explanation and the parents were not clear how the baby had come by his injuries.
"Unfortunately the job of social workers is to think the unthinkable because sometimes terrible things happen.
"It was felt that it was a matter of such complexity and range of opinion that it was a matter for court determination."
Mr Johnson and Dr Vickers declined to comment.
* Panorama's Please Don't Take Our Child is broadcast on BBC One tomorrow at 8.30pm.
Source: Daily Telegraph
Stolen Girls Find Mother
August 25, 2010 permalink
In two more enclosed articles Mr Booker reports on a mother falsely accused of promiscuous sex and prostitution, and another case showing that in England animal protectors are also the fraternal twins of child protectors.
She defied the law to find her mother
Winona Varney was reunited with her mother through Facebook, writes Christopher Booker.
For once, after all the shocking stories I have reported on the secretive system that allows social workers to seize children from loving parents for no good reason, to send them for adoption, I can at last report a story where a family torn apart for nine years has been reunited.
When Winona Varney, now a pretty 16-year-old, recently fell into the arms of her mother Tracey at Truro railway station, they had not seen each other since she was seven. During that time, she and her 12-year-old sister Daniella have been living unhappily with an adoptive family, who repeatedly told them that their mother was a bad woman who did not love or want them. But when, in June, Winona managed to track her mother down, via Facebook, a short time later the two girls and their mother were again living under the same roof.
This harrowing story began back in 1997, when social workers from Cornwall county council received a wholly erroneous tip-off that there might be drugs in the house where Tracey lived with her partner. The day after the birth of their first child, a boy, they were made to sign an agreement that they would “work with social services”. Tracey then had two daughters, Winona and Daniella; but their father, who had been in care himself, had a strong aversion to social workers and eventually threatened one with violence.
On the social workers’ insistence, in order to keep her children, Tracey left her partner. She and they were sent to a mother and child unit in Staffordshire, where she often had to protect them from abuse by other inmates. Eventually, though there was no evidence that Tracey had harmed them in any way, the girls were sent for adoption, on the grounds that they were “at risk of emotional abuse”. They were taken in by a couple in a nearby Cornish village, and Winona was given a new name. (Their brother, however, was returned to his mother, after a year in foster care.)
Year after year, unaware of her daughters’ whereabouts, Tracey sent loving birthday and Christmas cards to them. But this could only be done through social services – who never passed them on. According to Winona, she and her sister were constantly told both by social workers and their adoptive parents that their mother was “a horrible person” who didn’t love them.
Tracey eventually found a new partner with whom she had two more daughters. In June this year, Winona managed to track down her mother through Facebook, and they arranged to meet at Truro station. They couldn’t believe their happiness at being reunited and more secret meetings followed.
When Daniella was told what was going on, she was initially wary, because of the lies she had been told about her mother. But twice the girls escaped at night through windows for further meetings, until eventually Winona rang the adoptive parents to say they were both going back to live with their mother.
Winona is so angry about what has been done to them that she has opened a page on Facebook entitled “Anti-Social Services Forced Adoption – We Can Help!”, to join up with other children in the same plight. She pays tribute to the advice she was given by Ian Josephs, the businessman living in the South of France who, through his Forced Adoption website, has helped hundreds of families who have fallen into the clutches of this corrupt and secretive system.
Not dissimilar was the case of Tammy Coulter, taken away from her mother by Derbyshire social workers when she was only seven months old, after an accident left her with a bruised cheek. After time in foster care, she was put out for adoption by a judge who said that, thanks to delays by the social workers, she and her mother would by now be strangers. Only after 17 years did she find her mother again through the website Genes Reunited, and was able to return happily to her birth family.
In 2006, Tammy told a London audience, which included judges, lawyers and Harriet Harman MP: “Finding out you’ve been adopted is one of the worst feelings in the world, because you feel that all of your identity, everything you’ve known about yourself, is a lie.” She said she was speaking out “on behalf of children and parents who have also been through the secrecy of family courts and the injustices that have taken place, and the devastation of one decision that determines the future of a child”.
After nine years of misery, Winona Varney would agree. She says that after going to college, she wants to get involved in child care – “but certainly not as a social worker, because I have seen what they can do”.
Source: Daily Telegraph
Forced adoption: social workers' surreal investigation recalls 'satanic abuse' scandals
In one ongoing case, social workers are pursuing the most surreal inquiries, says Christopher Booker
There could have been few more bizarre meetings anywhere in Britain last week than that between a married mother and the social workers who had taken her six young children to place them unhappily in foster care. The officials, of a council I cannot name, are fixated with the idea that this respectable Christian is a "sex worker", whose children all have different fathers and who is engaged in "child trafficking".
They appear to have no evidence for these charges other than the hearsay surmising of a single "witness". I gather that the social workers had reluctantly agreed to commission DNA testing of parents and children, to establish whether they were all from the same father. But even now, I am told, the social workers are refusing to disclose the test results.
The mother, accompanied to this surreal interrogation by a nun who had known her for years, insisted that she had only slept with one man in her life, her husband, the father of her children. She went on to ask one of the social workers how many men she had slept with. The reply was that this was a private matter.
Perhaps we are not very far here from those extraordinary cases some 20 years ago when children were torn away from their families wholesale because social workers had concocted a fantasy that they were being abused in weird satanic rituals (a story I told in my book Scared To Death).
It is vitally important that when this case again comes before the courts, the judge should put the council's supposed evidence to very careful test.
I look forward to being able to report in due course that this horrible farce has been brought to an end and that the distraught parents have been reunited with their children.
Source: Daily Telegraph
Did the RSPCA drive a man to suicide?
Alan Brough commited suicide after the RSPCA took his herd of Shetland ponies, writes Christopher Booker.
Several times in recent years I have reported on the change which has come over one of Britain’s richest charities, the RSPCA. Its officials too often seem bent on harrying genuine animal lovers, luridly misrepresenting alleged cases of cruelty in order to win the publicity which will keep funds rolling in, to the tune of some £115 million a year.
Last week I was alerted to a particularly chilling case by the SHG (Self Help Group, online at the-shg.org), set up to advise animal owners on RSPCA persecution. It involved Alan Brough, a 68-year-old retired builder from Newbiggin near the Cumbrian fells. He bought Shetland ponies 30 years ago for his daughters, who in time outgrew them.
Mr Brough released them onto the nearby moorland of Caldbeck Fell where, thanks to his continued care – which included rising at five o’clock each morning to bring them hay – they flourished and became a herd. Eventually the picturesque sight of 90 wild ponies became something of a tourist attraction and a distinctive feature of that northern corner of the Lake District.
Eleven days ago, at the instigation of the RSPCA, Mr Brough was arrested at 8.30am and held in custody at Carlisle police station while officials of the charity put the ponies onto lorries bound for RSPCA-approved sanctuaries. When Mr Brough was released at 3pm and discovered what had happened, he was, according to his family, “trance-like”. He drove to a nearby church, then to a riverbank, where some time later his 18-year-old grand-daughter found him. He had hanged himself.
The RSPCA issued a statement: “We are saddened by what has happened, and our thoughts are with Mr Brough’s family.” They offered to return the ponies to his widow, but then insisted on keeping them, on the grounds that – although there was no evidence of ill-treatment – the animals might suffer sometime in the future. Mr Brough was cremated on Friday, The RSPCA were wise to stay away from his funeral.
Source: Daily Telegraph
Adoption to Nowhere
August 25, 2010 permalink
Alexis Stevens was adopted as an infant in England by Americans and grew up in the United States. She was issued a phony birth certificate showing the adopters as her parents. With that document she exercised all the privileges of a citizen, including voting in elections. At age 48, she applied for a passport, and found she was not a citizen. Can she become one? Probably not. There is no procedure for dealing with cases like this and four years of effort have come to nothing. She has been an illegal immigrant for decades and her voting record makes her a multiple felon. The same thing happened to Canadian-born Ruth Shaw.
Adopted overseas as children, they're not U.S. citizens at all
Alexis Stevens liked to describe herself as a model citizen. She was adopted from England by a U.S. military family who moved her to Texas. She raised a family, put herself through college and became a school teacher.
Four years ago, Stevens and her husband, Wayne, decided to celebrate their wedding anniversary and Stevens' completion of her master's degree by going on a trip to Europe.
"I've always wanted to see where I was born," Stevens said.
The couple submitted passport applications and made a deposit on the trip. A few weeks later, Wayne's passport arrived in the mail.
His wife's did not. Turns out the model citizen was not a citizen at all.
Stevens' parents never went through the process to allow Stevens to become a U.S. citizen. The mistake her parents made by not applying for naturalization of their adopted children almost 50 years ago has sent Steven's life reeling, leaving her uncertain of her identity and her future.
Stevens has heard horror stories of adoptees returned to their birth country because they'd broken the law. She wonders if that applies to her because she voted in every election since she turned 18 and signed documents to get jobs and college aid stating she was an American citizen.
"It's a scary feeling," Stevens said in the kitchen of her Estero home. "Am I going to end up deported?"
'Who am I?'
Stevens' adoptive father was in the Army, stationed in England, when he and his wife adopted the 2-year-old Stevens and her younger sister.
When Stevens was 3 the family moved to Texas, where a court made the adoption official in the U.S. and issued Stevens a Texas birth certificate.
Stevens obtained a Social Security card, a driver's license and voter registration card. Her citizenship never was questioned and she assumed she became an American when Americans adopted her.
Now 52, Stevens breaks into tears when she talks about not being a U.S. citizen.
"I guess what makes it hard is it brings up the feeling of, 'Who am I?'" she says.
After realizing the State Department had not simply made an error in not issuing her passport, Stevens went for an interview with the immigration service in Tampa. She was given the wrong form to submit for citizenship. The application was rejected and she lost the $420 fee.
That's when she hired an immigration attorney, spent thousands of dollars and had her legal residency card reissued. The attorney told her he needs $4,500 if she wants him to represent her before an immigration court judge.
"You have many hundreds if not thousands of children who were adopted and are here legally, but are not U.S. citizens and therefore not afforded all the protections of U.S. citizenship," said Chuck Johnson, president and CEO of the National Council For Adoption, an advocacy organization.
More than half of the children adopted overseas by American parents become U.S. citizens when they enter the country thanks to the Child Citizenship Act of 2000. But the law doesn't apply to anyone who was 18 or older on Feb. 27 , 2001.
"We've been in conversations with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the Department of State and they know this is an ongoing problem," Johnson said. "But no one has offered a fix."
After adopting three siblings from eastern Europe, McLane Layton was surprised to find out the children aren't citizens.
"They're supposed to be treated like I had given birth to them," she said.
Layton worked as legislative counsel to then-U.S. Sen. Don Nickles of Oklahoma, and wrote the Child Citizenship Act before founding Equality for Adopted Children.
Layton's group advocates for adopted children to have the same rights as any child of American parents. The group has been unsuccessful in getting legislation passed to cover older adoptees who did not obtain citizenship.
"It's no fault of their own. It's neglect and ignorance on the part of the parents," Layton said. "The adoptee should not be punished in such a serious way because of the failure of their parents."
Stevens never will know why her parents failed to apply for her citizenship. Her adoptive father died when she was 6. Her adoptive mother died when she was 16. Her sister died at 19.
'Puts your life in limbo'
Anita Cotter is going it alone with the Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Cotter was a toddler when she immigrated with her American military parents into Texas. She, too, thought her Texas birth certificate was proof of her citizenship.
Cotter, who will be 53 next week, found her German birth mother living in Kansas. About 2 1/2 years ago she moved to be closer to her mother and the immigration problems began.
To get a driver's license in Kansas, Cotter needed to prove her citizenship. But her adoptive parents, like Steven's parents, had never applied for her naturalization.
"I was astounded," Cotter said. "I didn't know what to say. I've lived here all my life as a citizen and to get slapped with this at 50 years old was a total and complete shock."
The couple who adopted Cotter in Germany and brought her to the U.S. are dead. And Cotter is having a difficult time getting the adoption records she needs to apply for citizenship.
The whole process "puts your life in limbo," Cotter said. "I'd be real interested in knowing how many of us there are out there."
Most American parents complete the requirements for their foreign-born adopted children to become naturalized U.S. citizens.
Grace Willoughby was born in Germany and adopted by an American military family. She lives in California and has a vivid recollection of the naturalization ceremony in Baltimore when she was about 7.
"I stood up, put my hand up and swore I would be a good citizen of the United States," Willoughby said. "I remember that."
Jeanne Dunham of California also recalls a swearing-in ceremony when she was 11 or 12.
Her parents adopted her and the boy who became her brother from German children's homes in the 1950s. The couple were provided with step-by-step instructions written in German, which she still has, Dunham said. One of the steps was to apply for the adopted child's U.S. citizenship.
Kathleen Moakler, government relations director for the National Military Family Association, doubts people received much guidance from the military about how to proceed with an adoption and naturalization of a foreign-born child.
"Everything was so much looser then," Moakler said.
Moakler, a U.S. citizen, gave birth to her son while overseas in 1975. She registered him as a U.S. citizen only because she had "read a blurb" on the topic in a magazine she picked up at the commissary.
"I just wanted to make sure his ducks were in a row so when he ran for president no one would challenge him," she said. "If I had not seen that article, I wouldn't have done it."
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services spokeswoman Chris Rhatigan said last year 28 adopted children of military parents were naturalized in ceremonies overseas. Rhatigan said the State Department's website clearly explains to parents about naturalization and the perils of not getting citizenship for an adopted foreign-born child.
What was told or not told to people who adopted 40 or 50 years ago, isn't known. But people who immigrated legally, as did Cotter and Stevens, can apply for citizenship now if they want, Rhatigan said. They will have to meet all the requirements such as passing the citizenship test. Once the application is made, processing time can be as short as five months. But in some cases it takes years, because of residency and other requirements.
Cotter and Stevens intend to get their U.S. citizenship.
"Before all this, I was the most patriotic person you would know," Stevens said.
"I love this country. I have no intention of moving," Cotter said.
But, she added, "It's like a slap in the face. I'm an American and they don't consider me one."
Source: Ft Myers News-Press
Bayne Trial Resumes
August 9, 2010 permalink
According to postings by Zabeth Bayne and Ron Unruh, the Bayne trial resumes today.
Tolerance Rainbow Excludes Christians
August 9, 2010 permalink
British couple Colette and John Yallop are barred from being foster parents on account of their Christian views on same-sex parents.
Ex-vicar banned from being a foster parent after refusing to let gay couples visit his home
A former vicar and his wife have been barred from becoming foster parents after saying they did not want gay couples who are considering adopting to meet them in their own home.
John and Colette Yallop told the local council that, if approved as foster parents, they would be ready to help same-sex couples adopt children and would be happy for a gay person to visit on their own.
But they said they would rather meet such couples at a children’s centre than in their family home to avoid awkward questions from their own young son and daughter.
However, Lancashire County Council said it could not make exceptions to its equality and diversity policies.
Mr Yallop, 62, said: ‘We are not homophobic and have worked alongside gay people, but we believe inviting gay couples into our home for the handover process might be detrimental to our family life and our young children.
‘We don’t want to have to explain to our five-year-old daughter or seven-year-old son why a youngster we’ve been caring for has two mummies or daddies.
‘We accept council policies on equality and diversity. Even if we disagree with the rights of gay couples to adopt because it goes against our Christian beliefs, it doesn’t make us bad foster parents.
‘I suspect we’re not alone in believing children thrive where there is a mummy and a daddy, rather than two parents of the same sex. Nevertheless, this is a personal belief that doesn’t affect our ability to care for and love a foster child.’
Mrs Yallop, 43, said they told a social worker assessing them that they would happily have a single gay person or one partner of a gay couple as prospective parents in their home, or hand over a foster child at a centre.
‘This was something our social worker suggested we put in writing to the council. Then she said our application was being refused because of our views. We were shocked and upset.’
The couple, who have been married for nine years, said they had been told in an initial assessment they would be ideal.
But the council’s Fostering Recruitment and Assessment Team wrote to the Yallops last month to say their assessment was to end because of the couple’s views about their ‘ability to work with particular groups of people (in particular gay and lesbian people)’.
The letter said the request to meet gay couples outside home would ‘greatly affect the child’s experience of the introduction to adopters or carers and would potentially affect the success of their placement’.
‘We started the process of applying to foster newborn-to-four-year-old children in March,’ said Mrs Yallop.
‘We had interviews and completed a three-week course. It means a lot to us to give a child a start in life and seems unfair we are now being discriminated against because of our honesty.’
Mr Yallop, the manager of St Barnabas Church and Community Centre in Blackburn, said they felt it was the right time to foster because of the age of their own children.
‘We knew the assessment process would be intrusive,’ he said. ‘I’m no saint, having had to resign as a Church of England minister after committing adultery while married to my first wife.
'And I was a bit of a tearaway when I was younger. I knew the details of my going to jail for stealing would come out.
'But after 20 years as a vicar and then a support worker for people with mental health problems, I feel I’d have a lot to offer as a foster carer.’
County Councillor Susie Charles, Cabinet Member for Children and Schools, said: ‘We must operate within relevant legislation and the council’s equality and diversity policy, which both rule out discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.
'People who wish to foster must be open to working alongside all approved adopters to give the transition the best chance of success.’
But Andrea Williams, director of the Christian Legal Centre which is supporting the couple, said: ‘The Yallops have a loving family home to offer vulnerable children. It is not the homosexual community being discriminated against but the Christian community.’
The couple are expected to appeal against the council’s decision.
Source: Daily Mail
Kids Speak for Themselves
August 9, 2010 permalink
A panel at Michigan State University took an unusual approach to finding out the problems of the foster care system. Instead of calling on the usual experts, social workers, lawyers, judges, psychiatrists and other advocates, they asked foster children to tell their stories themselves. They got an earful. Even with this group, no one suggested curtailing foster care as a solution. The only remedies the reporter heard entailed providing even more social services.
Michigan kids tell stories of neglect, abuse in foster care system
Camp aims to prepare youth for success
Some ran from Child Protective Services workers because being put into "the system" was a scarier notion than abuse and hunger.
Some have never had a Christmas or birthday celebration.
They all just want to know someone cares.
Children and young adults from the Michigan foster care system took turns for more than two hours Friday morning sharing their stories, concerns, hopes and dreams with more than 50 policy makers from across the state in hopes of improving the system.
The discussion, called KidSpeak, was part of a four-day camp that started Wednesday and ended Saturday at Michigan State University designed to encourage foster care youth to finish high school and attend college. The camp is a partnership between the MSU School of Social Work, MSU College of Law and the nonprofit youth-advocacy group Michigan's Children.
Many of the youth shared stories of abuse and neglect. They asked policy makers to consider ways to make the foster care system a safer process that sets them up for success.
"This was my opportunity to get outspoken," said Orlando Mitchell, a 20-year-old who spent years in the Michigan foster care system.
Jack Kresnak, president and CEO of Michigan's Children, said KidSpeak was an effort to make sure foster kids do not become forgotten children.
Once they age out of the foster system, which can happen between ages 17 and 20, many of the children are essentially forced to become independent without a family there for help and guidance.
"With foster kids, the state has a special obligation to them because the state has removed them from the care of their parents, and it's by no fault of the children," Kresnak said.
"It's unfortunate that there are not special accommodations made at many universities for these kids - they need a specific amount of support because they don't have families to fall back on," he said.
Money can help ease the transition to college, Kresnak said, but the main thing many youth from foster care need is support and staff services.
For policy makers listening to the young speakers, the resilience in their voices was clear.
"You can hear it in these stories. They get it. High school isn't the end of the pathway to success - it's a critical benchmark, but it's not the end.
"They see college as the way that they get to make their lives better," said Leisa Gallagher, Department of Education Dropout Challenge coordinator and director of the dropout prevention initiative called Reaching and Teaching Struggling Learners.
Angelique Day, camp coordinator, said she hopes the discussion will spark opportunities to improve the lives of foster kids.
"The kids who are living it can probably give us the best idea for how we can make it better for them," Day said.
What foster care youth need, in their own words, is support to transition into the life of a successful, independent adult.
"Teach us how to handle things and how to better ourselves and to get out into the world and communicate with people," Mitchell said.
"Help us to become more responsible when certain things come about and help us with the main work of independence."
Source: Lansing State Journal
Britain's Forced Adoptions
August 8, 2010 permalink
Christopher Booker continues to expose as much as possible of Britain's opaque family law system. Mr Booker suggests reforms that do not go far enough. Only emiminating the large money flows for foster and adoptive care can put a stop to the plundering of families.
Britain's forced adoptions: the hidden scandal we can't ignore
Our social workers normally hit the headlines when some Baby P-type horror story comes to light, showing how they failed to intervene when a child was so maltreated by its parents that it died.
What don't usually make the news, however, are the hundreds of cases when the social workers' failure is the very opposite: where, aided by police and courts, they seem determined to remove children from responsible parents, to consign them to an often miserable life with foster carers or to adoption.
Having examined many such cases in recent months, some in exhaustive detail, and spoken to experts who are deeply disturbed by what is going on, I have no hesitation in describing this as one of the worst hidden scandals in Britain today.
It is clear that the child protection system created under the Children's Act 1989 has gone horrifyingly off the rails, leading one High Court judge recently to compare it to the kind of thing which went on in 'Stalin's Russia or Mao's China'.
Two general aspects of this system failure are particularly shocking, One is the callous disregard the system shows for both parents and children in failing to uphold the central principle it was set up to protect: the interests of the children.
The other is how the system is shrouded in such secrecy that its workings remain almost entirely concealed from public view.
What is remarkable is how consistently this system displays the same fundamental flaws. From the moment social workers intrude into their lives, the parents find themselves treated like criminals, plunged into a Kafka underworld.
When their children are seized, on suspicions which too often turn out to be unfounded, this is almost invariably with full support from the police. When one mother was recently breast-feeding her newborn baby at 3 o'clock in the morning, no fewer than nine police officers and social workers entered the hospital room to wrest the baby from her.
The parents then find themselves caught up in a court system which seems almost entirely geared to taking their children away. There seems no one outside the system they can turn to. The judges seem predisposed against them, Even their own lawyers can seem as much part of the system as those acting for the other side. When independent experts wish to put their case, their evidence is often ignored.
As parliamentary figures show, the number of applications for care orders averages around 8,000 a year. Of these only between 0.1 and 0.2 per cent are refused.
Often just as evident as the distress of the parents is that of the children, who find themselves placed in the care of strangers for reasons they cannot understand. Where 'contact' is allowed with parents this is ruthlessly supervised by the social workers, so that if a mother speaks 'inappropriately', as by showing any sign of affection to her child, the contact may be instantly terminated.
All this appears to be in flagrant breach of the original Act, which purports to put the interests of the children first, not least in prescribing that wherever possible if they are taken from their parents they should be kept with their siblings – as so often they are not – or placed with relatives.
Yet Parliamentary figures show that only in one per cent of cases are children placed with 'kinship carers' – whereas in Denmark the figure is 45 per cent.
Part of why social workers seem so zealous in seizing children on the flimsiest of evidence is that until recently councils were given ambitious 'adoption targets' by central government, rewarded with funds running into millions a year. Huge sums of public money are still available to fund this system. Social worker-approved foster carers can receive up to £400 a week for each child, and not a few social workers are foster carers themselves.
Almost as alarming, however, is the way the system manages to blanket its operations in such secrecy. Nominally to protect the interests of the children, it is forbidden to report anything which goes on in court or which might identify them. But this often goes so much further, as when social workers instruct parents that they must not talk about their case to any outsiders, that the secrecy seems designed to protect not so much the children as the system itself.
Ian Josephs, a businessman based in the South of France, first became concerned about this issue when he was a county councillor and has helped hundreds of distressed families through his Forced Adoption website. High on his list of recommendations as to how the system could be reformed is that parents who find themselves victims of the system should no longer be gagged from speaking to outsiders.
There should be an end to Britain's system of 'forced adoption', almost unique in Europe. Instead of judges deciding behind closed doors, parents should be allowed to put their case to a jury. Contacts between parents and children should no longer be controlled by social workers but by a judge.
Family courts should no longer be allowed to accept mere 'hearsay' evidence, Social workers should no longer be allowed to snatch children simply on vague suspicions that they might suffer 'emotional harm'. Finally, the courts should no longer be allowed to exclude evidence from independent experts just because this might challenge the social workers' case.
With these reforms, says Mr Josephs, much of the rampant injustice of this system might be removed. Since Parliament gave social workers such extraordinary power over other people's lives, politicians have by and large stepped away from the hideous abuse of that power which has resulted, Only the politicians can now get this tragically corrupted system back on the rails.
Source: Daily Telegraph
August 7, 2010 permalink
Parents in Grants Pass Oregon rallied against Josephine County CPS, complete with misspelled signs and a complaint of a shotgun divorce. Just like Ontario. Watch the video (flv).
Parents allege misconduct by Josephine Co. Child Protection Services
GRANTS PASS, Ore. - A group of parents are protesting what they call discriminatory and intimidating practices by Josephine County Child Protection Services.
On Friday they held a protest in front of the Department of Human Services in Downtown Grants Pass.
A small group of parents have filed complaints against the CPS, saying their action violate constitutional rights. They say they plan on filing a lawsuit.
"We plan on filing a lawsuit. We just got the tort claims done because they discriminated. They also violated our constitutional rights, the Fourth and Fourteenth amendments," Protestor Amie Brown said.
CPS counters the parents claims are not valid, but say they cannot comment on specific cases. CPS says all complaints are sent to the Oregon Governor's Advocacy Office in Salem.
Source: KDRV Medford
Legal Aid is Useless
August 7, 2010 permalink
In a brief note, John Hemming, a liberal British MP part of the ruling coalition, says legal aid lawyers in child care cases roll over. Legal aid is denied to families who wish to seriously contest the process. The real job of legal aid in Britain is to facilitate child removal. Just like everywhere else. An Ontario father told fixcas: "My lawyer rolled on his back and let CAS rub his tummy".
Legal aid proposals for family division
There is a lot of wailing going on about the legal aid proposals. Some of it may be valid.
However, given that most firms of solicitors merely roll over when facing care proceedings against their clients I see a lot of the money as being simply wasted.
Furthermore given that legal aid is from time to time refused for parents who wish to contest proceedings I wonder what it is all about.
Source: John Hemming blog
August 7, 2010 permalink
Rallies are scheduled for:
For the last two years the biggest rally of the year has been in October at Queens Park. The rally for August 16 is an early repeat of that event. Try to be there. The success of the Huntsville rally has engendered a reprise on September 11.
Baby Boy Seized in Oregon
August 7, 2010 permalink
Bill Bowen, who has figured out everything going on in the family court in tiny Klamath County Oregon, population 64 thousand, reports on a new case in his county. While small American towns in the past were infamous for grabbing out-of-towners and putting them on a chain gang, today's racket is grabbing their children.
Big new case in Klamath Falls, Oregon
There is a new and very important case in Klamath Falls Oregon involving a young mother who is being bullied by the idiots at DHS, in my opinion. You see this girl and her entire family are Christians, which is a crime there I believe, at least as far as the number two there feels, based on what her former employees have told me on film. The mother had returned to Oregon for one day from California with her baby and she actually, gasp, shudder, took him to church. DHS and the police showed up at her parents house with no warrent and threatened to kick down the door and took the baby. Now they say she "relinquished" him. So typical of what they do isn't it? We caught this case early enough to follow it and keep it exposed here on Face Book. Stay tuned because I intend to expose everything unless that mother is reunited with her child very soon so she can leave the state. Her Judge, none other than Macri Akisson, who you have or can read about here. That mother made Judge Akssion step down today because of her three nieces who work for DHS in that town. She had read about that judge and family connedtions here on my Face Book. She has the wherewithall to continue to force judge after judge in that corrupt county, in my opinon, to step down and not be able to hear her case. Her father is meeting with the District Attorney in that town tomorrow and whatever happens at that meeting WILL DETERMINE what information I will start releasing about what my investigation into that city and county revealed. I have data that could rehab-ilitate things there quite a bit. Sorry for the typo. I am sick of the corruption there and would like to leave certain people alone, but not if they are allowed to steal that baby. I am compilling that evidence in that case and fully intend to smear it all over this face Book, which in turn will be spread across the internet around the country and the world by those who copy and paste what is posted her on this FB site, if her rights are trampled. The other people in that county need to know that Judge AKisson recused herself from hearing that case because of her connection to her neices and their friends all of whom are DHS/CPS workers in that same county and the apperance that she could be biased, (Duh, ya think?) That means from now on every parent who has a DHS case in front of that judge can insist that she step down and they should. They don't even need to file anything or waste one of the two free challenges they haave the right to use to get rid of judges. She is bound to remove herself even without any motion being filed by the parents. One down, 4 more to go. This is a monumental chance at fairness in one of the worst family courts in the US, in my opinion. Stay tuned, this is going to get good. Oh yeah, I almost forgot, to the women boss or good old number two there, at DHS in that county where there are close to 70 employees and only one of them is a low level employee and a male, sort of, Neeners!
Source: Facebook, Bill Bowen
Addendum: Here is a picture of mother and son, Angie and Devon, along with a brief write-up by Bill Bowen
This is the little guy that the big battle up in Klamath Falls is brewing over with the Eunichs they have for judges there, Well the male ones anyway, Wogan, Isaacson, Bunch and Simpson (From the next county) in my opinion anyway. The women judges there have been so busy lately, or so I am told. Everyday I guess they have to practice writing "Surrender Dorothy" a thousand times.
Source: Facebook, Bill Bowen
Like Foster Mother, Like Daughter
August 6, 2010 permalink
When Autumn Dubray needed money she turned to women's oldest profession and tried to get her seventeen-year-old foster daughter to do the same.
Sioux Falls Overdose Call Turns into Prostitution Arrest
A 17-year-old calls police to an apartment after an apparent overdose, but what else officers learn after arriving on the scene leads to a woman's arrest.
According to police, a 17-year-old girl called officers to an apartment in the 6200 W Block of 43rd Street in Sioux Falls, after she took several pills in an attempt to kill herself.
The girl told police she didn't want to live with her guardian any longer. Police say 24-year-old Autumn Dubray was a court appointed guardian, and it was her actions as a caregiver that led to her arrest.
"The juvenile said Autumn had provided her with this alcohol and had been encouraging her to drink," said Officer Sam Clemens of the Sioux Falls Police Department.
According to court testimony, Dubray was out of work, and was prostituting herself for money. Police say Dubray told the girl, she had to do the same.
"Dubray had made a comment that she wanted the juvenile to have sex with men for money as well to help out, to try to get some more money for them to live on," said Officer Clemens.
According to court testimony, Dubray brought over five men to the apartment, and told the 17-year-old she had to have sex with one of them, and if she didn't, she would be kicked out, and have no where to live.
"It doesn't sound like the 17-year-old participated in any sex acts, but because of the information Dubray was arrested," said Clemens.
Police say Dubray also had a 5-year-old daughter living inside the home. When police arrested Dubray at the apartment, both girls were taken into protective custody.
Dubray is being charged with promoting prostitution of a minor and furnishing alcohol to a child.
During Dubray's first court appearance, the judge set bond at $25,000 cash or surety, and ordered no contact with the victim.
If Dubray is able to make the bond, she will be allowed to have contact with her 5-year-old daughter.
Source: KDLT Sioux Falls
Foster Record Secrecy
August 6, 2010 permalink
Former foster kids get the runaround when they request records of their childhood. One technique is to hold the client off for six months or a year claiming a records search in under way, then give only an excuse. Enclosed is an article with several examples from Texas. In Ontario, John Dunn has been denied copies of his foster care records.
Former Foster Kids Struggle to Get Records
Child welfare advocates say young adults who age out of foster care are almost routinely denied their records
For years, Leigh Ecke repressed her childhood — the physical abuse from her “small-time cult leader father” and the subsequent decade she spent in Texas foster care. But when she became pregnant with her second child, Ecke decided it was time to dig up her past. She made what she thought was a routine request to the Department of Family and Protective Services, asking for her paper record.
Three years and several follow-up calls and letters later, the state had given her nothing. It took an attorney and a hand-delivered request to the agency’s head of records to get a single disk filled with mostly illegibly scanned files.
“It’s a betrayal. I was a kid in their system, a part of their family, and for three years they gave me the finger,” says Ecke, a 38-year-old social worker who lives with her husband and kids in Colorado. “I don’t have a family to keep records for me, to share information about my life. It’s so paternalistic, like I’m not competent to have my own records.”
Ecke’s experience is only unusual because of how persistent she was. Child welfare advocates say young adults who age out of foster care are routinely denied their records: The state either ignores their requests, tells them they can’t be found or says compiling the paperwork will take anywhere from months to years. Mary Christine Reed, an Austin-based attorney with Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid who has made it her mission to break through this red tape, says she has only ever heard of one former foster child accessing her records without a lawyer — and that’s because she got assistance from a lawmaker.
“I’ve been amazed at the complete lack of response, even with [former foster kids] who are organized, experienced. It just goes into a black hole,” she says. “If they don’t have a lawyer, there’s little likelihood they will ever get their records.”
DFPS, the state agency that handles foster kids’ records, acknowledges there is a backlog of record requests — the result of cumbersome, time-consuming paperwork, a short-staffed redaction division and a records release system that prioritizes legal and investigative requests and those made by potential adoptive parents over former foster kids’ requests. But officials say the perceived radio silence from the agency has been remedied; as of a few months ago, all people who make requests receive acknowledgement letters and an estimated completion time.
“Special access is not needed” for routine records requests, agency spokesman Patrick Crimmins says.
The agency already has 45 redaction specialists, each reading 1,200 pages of case files a day. Officials hired temporary workers in February to help address a roughly 10,000-request backlog, the majority of which are public requests. To date, those workers have focused on adoption records, not former foster kids’ requests; this fall, they’ll switch over to the latter, which have been pending an average of 317 days each.
Not all former foster kids seek their records. For many, it’s simply too painful. But some say they can’t fully embrace adulthood without a clear picture of their past, and they feel paralyzed by the state’s delays. They want their records to reconnect with estranged siblings, to track down biological families or to understand what they endured. Others have needed their state records to navigate bureaucratic hurdles, including proving their legal name and immigration status for identification cards or applications.
Sandra Goets’ first failed attempts to get her Texas foster care record were in her early 20s. But the 36-year-old redoubled her efforts a few years ago, when health problems raised medical questions she was unable to answer. Why, a neurologist who performed an MRI for her migraines asked, did she have a brain scar indicative of a head injury? Why, when she had her chest X-rayed during a bad respiratory infection, could doctors identify six previously broken ribs?
“When your answer is, ‘Your guess is as good as mine,’ there are clearly things you’ve blocked out over the years,” says Goets, who was in Texas foster care from age 5 to 16. “I really felt a need to fill in the gaps.”
Her efforts have so far been futile. She’s filled out the same Form 4885 — the records request for former foster kids — five times and has made countless follow-up calls. Twice she got no response whatsoever. Once she was told her paper records were being moved to microfiche and that they were taking a long time to compile. On yet another call, she was told the agency had no record of her request.
Goets, who lives in West Virginia and has a 7-year-old son, just submitted a final request through Reed — and is waiting anxiously for a response.
“It’s just ironic that everybody else can see this information on me, everyone else has created all these evaluations,” says Goets, who has little recollection of her early years, aside from a military father and a German mother who drank heavily and spoke no English. “But you’re not going to tell me — an adult — about my life?”
Reed doesn’t think state officials are ill-intentioned; she blames the poor responses on red tape, scattered paperwork and misplaced priorities. She says that in some cases, former foster kids have been asked to foot large bills for their records, have been given the run-around about where to find them or have been provided incomplete files. For one client Reed represented, state officials said the records wouldn’t be ready for a year, then eventually sent a follow-up letter saying the records could not be found. When Reed called, another official refused to even look the former foster child up, saying the case was too old. The client had left foster care just two years prior.
“It’s been a painstaking process,” says Reed, who added that she’s had productive meetings with the head of records at DFPS to try to improve the process. “For these young people, they’ve been let down again.”
DFPS officials say they’ve been working on these and other shortcomings since early 2009 — implementing new standards for receiving, tracking and prioritizing requests and for precisely measuring the backlog. They’ve also improved technology, including rolling out online redaction software and digitally scanned case records.
“We’re working as hard as possible to improve this process for everyone,” Crimmins says.
Source: Texas Tribune
Press Shuns Family Law
August 6, 2010 permalink
After a baby is seized by police and social workers from an Irish mother so that the baby can be sent to a foreign country, the Irish press remains silent on the matter. One brave journalist gives only a penumbral report.
Media runs for cover at mention of 'family law'
The in camera rule was never intended to shield the legal system from public scrutiny, but that is the result of media’s interpretation of it, writes JOHN WATERS
IMAGINE THAT, sometime in recent days, the following events had occurred: that a garda had broken into a private dwelling and, without being able to display a warrant or court order, seized an infant from its mother’s arms. What if the mother, in the course of this break-in, had sustained an injury? What if the mother and the child were Irish citizens and if the purpose of this operation was so that the child could be despatched to a foreign jurisdiction and forcibly adopted?
Imagine that this distraught mother, on subsequently calling to ask the Irish childcare authorities about her son’s health and welfare, had been told that she had no right to such information. Imagine, finally, that no authority in this jurisdiction had ever expressed the slightest concern about this mother’s capacity to care for her own child?
There are many questions that should properly flow from such a scenario but I have, to begin with, just one: should such a story be considered newsworthy? Does the public have an interest in knowing about it? Yes or no? How, in terms of importance to our democracy, would such a story rank alongside one about, say, the dubious expenses of a public representative?
These events described above occurred in this State within the last week. But because they followed on proceedings in Irish courts which were held in camera, I have a difficulty. These proceedings had many worrying aspects, not least that they were allowed to proceed. But, arising from the interpretation of the law accepted in most media organisations, I risk being censored if I seek to give further details.
My immediate focus, therefore, relates not to the substantive questions raised by this case, but to the fact that the Irish media has decided it cannot be reported. Several journalists are aware of the broad facts, but nothing has been published. This circumstance arises from an extraordinarily narrow interpretation of the meaning and purpose of the in camera rule, which requires that proceedings concerning families and children be held in private.
Editors, reporters and, perhaps most pertinently, lawyers acting for media organisations, tend nowadays to interpret the in camera rule as a blanket ban on all coverage of or commentary upon such cases.
The purpose and intention of the in camera rule is not secrecy for its own sake, however, but the protection of the privacy of families involved in legal proceedings. It was never intended to shield the legal system from public scrutiny, although that is the end result of the media’s approach.
Conventionally, the wording of a court order in respect of the in camera dimension requires that any report of the proceedings should contain no information which would tend to identify minors or family members implicated in the proceedings.
Sometimes, the provision may be broadened to include respondents and/or notice parties. There is no requirement that other facts of the case be withheld from the public, and the standard reference in court orders to “reports” would seem to suggest that some reporting is invited.
Through the evolution of media custom and practice, however, a situation has developed whereby the very mention of “childcare proceedings” or “family law” is enough to have media lawyers and editors running for cover. Even though it is very often abundantly clear that the only purpose being served by a blanket suppression of information is the protection of judges, lawyers, State agencies and professionals, media practitioners continue to impose an interpretation of the in camera rule that implicitly assumes these outcomes to be legitimate.
Such interpretations of the legal situation are grossly inimical to the interests of democracy.
Something deeply ugly is happening at the heart of our society and the manner of its governance in the most intimate areas of human life.
If social workers from a foreign jurisdiction are enabled to run whooping and high-fiving from an Irish courtroom because they have been permitted to snatch the child of a blameless Irish mother, is it not time we asked what is happening?
The media offers the only forum in which such questions can be put. Media practitioners therefore have a sacred duty to take their courage in their hands and shine harsh searchlights on those who are empowered to intervene in the intimate lives of citizens to a close-to-absolute degree.
If we cannot report on such matters, why bother reporting anything?
Does it matter whether the economy functions?
Why should we care who sits in Leinster House?
Whatever happened to “publish and be damned”?
Are we journalists or entertainers?
How seriously do we take our role in democratic society?
Are we concerned with the public consequences of the events we write about, or simply seeking adequately interesting material to fill space and time to shift “product”?
Unless journalists and editors are prepared to address these questions, we may as well pull the blinds down on the enterprise of journalism and leave the protection of our democracy to the bloggers and tweeters, who at least have the excuse of having no responsibility for what happens to human freedom.
Source: Irish Times
Adopted Brother Sought
August 5, 2010 permalink
I am searching for my brother Robert Wayne MacDonald (Sheffield) or Robbie. At age six Robbie had brown hair and eyes, an oval shaped face and full cheeks. His birthdate is August 27, 1974. As a child Robbie suffered from Febrile Convulsions (due to fever) and has severe burns on his right hand, arm, wrist and earlobe. At age 7, Robbie was adopted by a DUTCH-CANADIAN family living in the Sarnia/Lambton area. Should anyone know of my brother's whereabouts please contact Linda at: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone 519-337-3010 or 519-381-3511. If you are out there somewhere please email me or call. I have been looking for you since I was 18 years old and now I am 38 years old and still trying to find you. Love Always, your sister Linda or Donna
Source: Sarnia Observer, classified ad
Newspaper Ad ID: 12017555
Ad number: 37551591-0500-0599
placed August 4, 2010
August 5, 2010 permalink
Toronto police are looking for Michael Dussault, 14, last seen on Saturday, July 3, 2010, in the area of Danforth Avenue and St Clair Avenue East. There is no mention of family, so this could be a foster runaway. Here is our copy of the Toronto Police Service News Release (pdf).
Lemonade stands get reprieve
August 5, 2010 permalink
A seven-year-old girl is busted for running a lemonade stand.
Lemonade stands get reprieve: Multnomah County Chairman Jeff Cogen apologizes for health inspection shutdown
No need to jack up the price of a glass of lemonade. Turns out kids won't have to shell out $120 for a health permit to run their lemonade stands after all.
Multnomah County's top elected official apologized Thursday for health inspectors who forced a 7-year-old girl to shut down her stand last week because she didn't have a food-safety permit.
Chairman Jeff Cogen also said he has directed county health department workers to use "professional discretion" in doing their jobs.
Inspectors told Julie Murphy and her mother, Maria Fife, to stop selling lemonade at the monthly Last Thursday arts festival in Northeast Portland last week. State law technically requires that even lemonade stands have temporary restaurant licenses, which cost $120 for one day.
Cogen said the inspectors were "following the rule book," but should consider that food-safety laws are aimed at adults engaged in a professional food business, not kids running lemonade stands.
"A lemonade stand is a classic, iconic American kid thing to do," he said. "I don't want to be in the business of shutting that down."
Cogen talked with Fife for five to 10 minutes to apologize.
Fife said she appreciated his apology after the furor and her daughter was happy because "she's starting to see it had some effect."
Fife also said a radio station has offered to sponsor a lemonade stand for Julie.
The mother and her daughter had gone to Last Thursday because it seemed like a fun place for Julie to open her first lemonade stand, said Fife, who lives in Oregon City.
But after 20 minutes of selling lemonade made from their gallon jugs of bottled water and Kool-Aid packets, a health inspector asked for their license. They didn't have one, and the inspector warned them to stop or face up to a $500 fine.
Initially, vendors at other booths encouraged them to stay, but the inspector returned with another woman. The crowd surrounded the two inspectors, who felt threatened, Cogen said. Fife and her daughter, who left the street fair crying, packed up and the two inspectors left.
Several people who read about the stand in The Oregonian offered to pay the girl's fee so she can sell lemonade. In addition, one of the Last Thursday vendors is planning a "lemonade revolt" at the festival this month.
Cogen and health department officials said they aren't sure what their response will be if people set up unlicensed lemonade stands, as the protest calls for. Cogen emphasized that his employees' safety is also a top concern for him.
The problem illustrates an ongoing dilemma for the health department -- and other local agencies -- in regulating aspects of Last Thursday, Cogen said.
Unlike other events including the upcoming Bite of Oregon or the Cinco de Mayo festival, the free-form Last Thursday fair along Northeast Alberta Street doesn't have a single organizer who takes charge of signing up vendors. People set up booths on a first-come, first-served basis. They don't have to register for space in advance.
The county health department still needs to monitor the food operations at Last Thursday for public health reasons, said Wendy Lear, director of business services for the county health department. Instead of dealing with a single organizer -- who typically has a list of participating vendors and could provide the basic sanitation and hand-washing facilities -- health inspectors have to check with each vendor.
The festival has grown in scope and in cost to taxpayers. In February, the city said it spends about $10,000 a month in the summer for police, security, barricades and traffic control for Last Thursday. Residents have complained of festival-goers urinating and vomiting in front of their houses and other drunken and rowdy behavior.
City Commissioner Amanda Fritz said she and Mayor Sam Adams will present a plan for Last Thursday in the next two weeks. She declined to discuss details, though she noted that vendors at Last Thursday don't pay vendor fees, which she said is "different from any other street fair" in Portland.
She added she believes the health inspectors were right to shut down the lemonade stand.
"When you've got 15,000 people, it's no longer a neighborhood event, it's a regional event," she said. "The county has the responsibility to fairly enforce the rules on permits and food handlers' permits."
Source: The Oregonian
Some very sour lemonade
The Oregonian Editorial Board The Oregonian Editorial Board
If 7-year-old Julie Murphy should grow up and someday have a child of her own, she'll have no need to embellish the story of causing Portland's civil disturbance of the summer of 2010.
No, selling lemonade wasn't a wanton act of defiance -- even though it took more than one government agent to shut her down.
No, her lemonade stand at Northeast Portland's Last Thursday art fair was never intended to contravene big-time health laws.
And no, emphatically no: She never intended to poison anyone with her Kool-Aid.
Instead, she'll be able to recall, it was nothing more than a cool idea suggested to her by Olivia, the cartoon pig whose 19th Rule of Life is: "Sometimes you just have to use your big voice."
Julie, in truth, never did.
Instead, Julie cried as the county heat arrived for the second time and was confronted by angry neighboring vendors using their big voices on Julie's behalf.
It didn't go well. Julie's mom, Maria Fife, packed up the lemonade stand, and they headed home to Oregon City.
"It was a bad day," is how Julie referred to it.
It was a sad day though for anyone whose inner kid remembers and wants another cup of pop, for anyone whose children are thirsty, for anyone still believing in this age of vigilance and terrorism that some things are simply what they appear to be.
Other than riding a bike, is anything freer than peddling lemonade?
Thursday became a much better day, however. Multnomah County Chairman Jeff Cogen called Julie's mom to apologize. The dutiful health inspectors may have been out to protect us, but they no longer need to bust kids.
So tell your story, Julie, whenever. You've earned it. May it forever be one great aberration of the times, something to laugh out loud about.
Source: The Oregonian
Laura Dekker Sets Sail
August 5, 2010 permalink
Laura Dekker, age 14, has left port in Holland to begin her attempt to become the youngest person to sail solo around the world. The actual solo trip will begin in Portugal. The biggest obstacle was not the Pacific Ocean, but the Dutch child protection system. It took her a year to get free of it. Here is previous reporting on Laura (August 2009 to July 2010) and her own website: LauraDekker.nl de Jongste solozeiler ter wereld!
Dutch teenager Laura Dekker sets sail for record bid
A Dutch teenager hoping to become the youngest person to sail solo around the world has set sail for Portugal, where she will begin her effort.
Laura Dekker, 14, was granted permission to attempt her voyage by a court ruling last week.
Dozens gathered in her home harbour of Den Osse to wave off Laura and her father Dick Dekker, who is accompanying her to Portugal.
"We want to be sure that the boat is completely ready," he said.
'Not really afraid'
Ms Dekker is planning to spend about two years aboard Guppy, her 8m (26ft) boat, to break the record set in May by Jessica Watson, 16, of Australia.
She must complete the trip before she turns 17 in September 2012 to break the record.
"I am not really afraid," she told reporters on the docks at Den Osse, where she lives on a boat with her father.
Asked what she would miss most, she replied: "Spot", her dog.
Ms Dekker had been under state supervision since October after a court in Utrecht placed a guardianship order, citing fears for her social and emotional development.
But the order was lifted last week by a court in Middelburg.
Her mother had expressed concerns about the solo voyage, but has since lifted her objections.
Ms Dekker was born on a yacht off the coast of New Zealand during a seven-year world trip.
Same-Sex Marriage is the Law
August 4, 2010 permalink
Judge Vaughn Walker, himself a homosexual, has ruled that same-sex marriage is the law, overturning California's proposition 8, passed by the voters in 2008. Who needs elections when you have judges?
Prop 8 ruling drives strong religious reactions: Outrage to joy
Proposition 8, banning gay marriage, has been overturned by U.S. Judge Vaughn Walker and experts are picking their way through the 130+ page decision but the nation's bitterest battle over gay marriage will go on with appeals. And religious voices are issuing statements of sadness, outrage and joy.
First to respond: The Mormons, who were among the strongest supporters of Prop.8. A statement released this afternoon said:
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints regrets today's decision. California voters have twice been given the opportunity to vote on the definition of marriage in their state and both times have determined that marriage should be recognized as only between a man and a woman. We agree. Marriage between a man and woman is the bedrock of society.
We recognize that this decision represents only the opening of a vigorous debate in the courts over the rights of the people to define and protect this most fundamental institution -- marriage. There is no doubt that today's ruling will add to the marriage debate in this country and we urge people on all sides of this issue to act in a spirit of mutual respect and civility toward those with a different opinion."
That civility plea is based in their experience: The LDS Church took heat from angry Prop 8 opponents in the wake of the referendum for their financial contributions and volunteer muscle. The Church did not make a direct contribution to ProtectMarriage.com from its Salt Lake City headquarters but it did have a letter read at every Mormon congregation in the state asking for believers to give time and money to the cause.
LDS Church spokesperson Kim Farah says there's no total for the dollars given but the Church estimated its non-monetary in kind contributions as valuing $189,903.58 -- "less than one half of one percent of the total funds (approximately $40 million) raised for the "Yes on 8" campaign," she said.
The 11 Roman Catholic bishops of California spoke as one through the church's lobbying arm in the state, the California Catholic Conference. The CCC executive director Edward (Ned) Dolejsi, who also serves on the executive committee of ProtectMarriage.com and the Proposition 8 Legal Defense Fund -- two groups that take credit for the original successful passage of Prop 8 -- said Wednesday in a press statement:
We are disappointed in Judge Walker's decision to find Proposition 8, which defined marriage as between a man and a woman, a violation of the U.S. Constitution.
Dolejsi cited the closing argument by Prop 8 supporters saying,
The historical record leaves no doubt...that the central purpose of marriage in virtually all societies and at all times has been to channel potentially procreative sexual relationships into enduring stable unions to increase the likelihood that any offspring will be raised by the man and woman who brought them into the world.
That the judge should find the marriage -- civilizations' longstanding public policy -- irrational and discriminatory does a great injustice to the institution itself and ultimately will further encourage the disintegration of mother-father families.
Homosexuals certainly have every right to the love, companionship and support of another person -- but the Courts do not have a right to distort the meaning of marriage.
Among supporters of same-sex marriage, the joy was abundant.
"Just another day in paradise!" is the way the Rev. Susan Russell, head of the gay Episcopal Group Integrity and pastor of All Saints Pasadena answered her phone Wednesday afternoon.
Russell points out that,
Progressive people of faith have biblical values, too -- and one of those values is telling the truth. And the truth is, if we're going to love our neighbors as ourselves, we need to be defending all marriages and valuing all families...
This ruling, says Russell comes down to a judge considering the religious arguments against gay marriage then concluding,
"No one has the right to write their theology into our Constitution (This) should be celebrated by people of all faiths, of any faith and of no faith.
Bishop of New Hampshire Gene Robinson, the first openly gay Episcopal bishop whose election drove the U.S. branch of the Anglican Communion into turmoil in 2003, was "delighted and encouraged" by the ruling. Robinson, recalling his youth in the segregated South, said there would still be Jim Crow laws on the books if the courts had not thrown them out. He said,
The fight is not over but the progress forward has certainly been strengthened by this. The most important thing is that the majority of the people may not always get it right. That's one reason we have the courts.
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Rev. Albert Mohler, unhappy though unsurprised by the ruling, zeroed in on what he considered its most dangerous aspect. Mohler, who also writes cultural commentary, said,
This clearly this is a huge boost to proponents of same sex marriage in terms of cultural momentum... In a society like ours the sense of cultural momentum is priceless. It gives proponents a sense of impending inevitability even as it upends millennia of human experiences and wisdom on marriage.
No one could possibly believe this was in the minds of the founders when they framed the Constitution. I greatly lament the social and political pitfalls.
But not all Baptists agree with Mohler. The Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, a practicing Baptist minister and President of Interfaith Alliance, found in the ruling "important distinctions between civil marriage and religious marriage. "
Gaddy said Walker's ruling ...
...was sensitive to the concerns of people of faith who oppose same-gender marriage on religious grounds but that he recognized, as do we, that their religious freedom will not be impacted by the legalization of same-gender marriage.
America's diverse religious landscape leaves room for a variety of theological perspectives on same-gender marriage; indeed, some faiths enthusiastically support it and others vehemently oppose it. Under this ruling, as with any constitutionally based marriage equality law, no religion would ever be required to condone same-gender marriage, and no member of the clergy would ever be required to perform a wedding ceremony not in accordance with his or her religious beliefs.
While the argument for keeping Prop 8 was that the referendum reflected the will of California voters, a recent survey found that those voters would have failed it by a slim margin if the vote were taken again today. The Public Religion Research Institute survey found a majority (51%) of Californians now say they would vote to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry. Jones said Wednesday:
Although the debate is usually cast as being between religious conservatives and secular liberals, our survey found sizable religious groups on both sides of the debate. A majority of Latino and white Catholics, as well as white mainline Protestants would now vote to support same-sex marriage. On the other hand, Black and Latino Protestants, as well as white evangelical Protestants, oppose allowing gay and lesbian people to marry.
Rev. Barry W. Lynn head of Americans United for Separation of Church and State cheered the downfall of the referendum, which he says as a push by lavishly funded political front groups representing the Roman Catholic bishops, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) and fundamentalist Protestant churches" to impose their doctrine on marriage on civil law..
In a Wednesday statement Lynn said,
A growing number of American denominations and faith groups perform same-sex marriages. Why should the state refuse to recognize those ceremonies while approving of ceremonies by other clergy? A decent respect for church-state separation means the government should not play favorites when it comes to religion.
Does the ruling suit you, confuse you, enrage you?
Source: USA TODAY
German Shepherd vs Rottweiler
August 3, 2010 permalink
After two-year-old Aaron Carlson was killed by a German shepherd at his home, San Diego County Child Welfare Services took his three siblings into custody for their safety. But are they any safer in foster care? Following the Los Angeles Times story on Carlson, there is a recap of a story of a boy killed by a rottweiler in foster care.
Siblings of boy mauled by family dog are taken by Child Welfare
Officials from San Diego County Child Welfare Services have taken custody of the three siblings of the 2-year-old boy killed Saturday by the family dog, officials said Monday.
Aaron Carlson was mauled by the family’s German shepherd in the family’s home in off-base military housing in San Diego.
Aaron was upstairs while his mother was downstairs, unaware of the attack, authorities said. His father is a deployed Navy sailor.
The move to take custody of the three other children is a routine precaution while officials determine whether their parents can adequately care for them, authorities said.
County animal control officials have euthanized the dog.
Source: Los Angeles Times
Most stories on the following incident are locked behind paywalls. Here is an Associated Press story reconstructed from a blogger posting.
Family Rottweiler kills foster child, 5
SPRINGFIELD - A 5-year-old boy was mauled to death by his foster mother's Rottweiler in the family's backyard on Saturday afternoon.
Kyle Anthony Ross lived with his foster mother, Linda McNeil, who owned the 2-year-old male dog with her boyfriend, Eddie Finklea. The couple usually kept the dog in a chain-link cage behind the home, police said.
Finklea and McNeil told police they thought the boy was napping when they noticed the dog wandering in the front yard around 1 p.m.
When Finklea brought the dog to his backyard pen, he found the boy lying on his back, unresponsive, with bite marks on his face and neck.
''It appears as though the little boy was in the cage,'' Lieutenant William J. Noonan told the Springfield Union-News and Sunday Republican. ''The 5-year-old apparently slipped out without anyone noticing.''
No one in the house saw or heard the attack, police said.
Noonan said that an investigation is still ongoing, and that he did not know if the owners would face criminal charges.
A man who answered the door at the house Saturday night said, ''We ain't got nothing to say. It was an accident.''
An animal control officer from the neighboring town of Chicopee removed the dog after the attack. He said the dog has a history of aggression.
''We had a complaint the dog bit one of the adult neighbors about a year ago,'' Richard B. Hartnett said. ''But it was nothing of this magnitude.''
The state Department of Social Services notified the boy's biological mother, Diana M. Ross, 27, of Ware, of the boy's death several hours after the attack. When she went to the hospital, she said, hospital workers did not allow her to see the boy's face because of the injuries.
Kyle Ross and a younger brother, Damien, 3, were removed from her home in 1999 after Kyle ''snuck out one day,'' Ross said.
Source: Animal Attack Files
No criminal charges were ever brought against the foster family in the Kyle Ross case. Here is a link to a full story of the Kyle Ross killing, Mauling at foster home tragic chapter in family saga.
Klamath County Judges
August 2, 2010 permalink
Bill Bowen, creator of the short documentary Innocence Destroyed, has investigated the judges of Klamath county Oregon. He has enough material to tell a powerful story of abuse. Mr Bowen also suggests a flag bearing a mother with a dead baby as the CPS logo. The picture at the right is a start, though instead of the mother's melancholy face, she might wear the social worker smirk.
More on Klamath County and the judges
Let’s start off with Judge Cameron Wogan, who is supposed to be the head judge in Klamath County and for the longest time I thought Roxanne Osborn was the head judge?? Oh well.
Cameron baby was the judge in one case against parents who DHS was trying vigorously to take away. It did not make any sense at first. I attended those hearings almost everyday and he never looked up and appeared to be playing on his computer despite the fact that a recording of the entire proceedings were being made and would later be transcribed into written, certified, transcripts. He acted like he had to type every word. A worker there informed me that judge Cameron Wogan likes to play computer games on his computer while cases as before him, I sure hope they are games and not something else.
In that case there were over one thousands distinct errors or blatant changes in the transcript when the audio record was transcribed and he refuse to grant a hearing on that matter. All of the more than over a thousand alterations of the testimony in that case favored the state and CPS, not one mistake favored the parents. That same judge discussed that case with another citizen not involved in that case, via letter, which the judge should never do. That judge also discussed that case with another couple who had no involvement with that case which is another big no, no and over a one year period that same judge refused to grant the parents a hearing where they could present the proof of what is written above. In another motion he refused to hear their motion although they had the top forensic audio expert on the west coast, who has testified as an expert witness for the state of Oregon willing to testify as to the inaccuracies of the certified transcript and Judge Wogan denied that motion as well. 27 word files of that couples hearings were all altered at the same minute on the same day and they do not match the audio record and it was done on a day when the court house was closed and only one former employee signed to enter the court house that day and had access to the computers. I have copies of those transcripts and sign in log for that day. I have a former transcriptionist for the same Klamath County Court house who on film and in front of witnesses, including two senators, plus a notarized affidavit, stated she was ordered by her boss at the court house to falsely attest that she had corrected bad transcripts and have her signature notarized when she had never typed the originals nor did she do any corrections. How you liking all this Cameron? It stings a little doesn’t it and now everybody is finding out about you. This isn’t all the information I have only a scant bit on here, but the rest is coming.
No, I didn’t forget Judge Issacson, how could I? Judge Isaccason had a young father brought before him. That father had been on probation and was due to get off probation at the end of that month, let’s call it April. The Probation Officer, Bill Wilkerson, told that father that if the father did some extra contributions and work he would be let off probation a month early. One of the father’s conditions of probation was no drinking. The father did what was asked and was verbally told by his probation officer that he was off probation. A few days later that father saw his former probation officer and when asked said he had stopped at a neighbors and drank two beers with him. The probation officer THEN informed that father that although the probation officer never told the father that it turned out he was not empowered to make such a deal to let the father off probation early and he revoked his probation and had him arrested and tried in front of judge Issacasson. Although the probation officer admitted he had told the father about the deal and told him he was off probation and further that once the probation officer had learned the father was not off probation, he never told him. Judge Issacson saw nothing wrong with that and sentenced the young father to 25 months in the state prison. That happened to be enough time for CSP to terminate that father’s rights and give his three blonde haired blue eyed children to a couple to adopt. That couple was not on the list of those approved and awaiting to adopt and in fact that couple had not at that time completed their courses which would enable them to adopt. The father was appointed a special attorney to represent him and that attorney came directly from the office of the Indigent defenders office of the state of Oregon or Office of Public Defender’s Services. That lawyer told the father that he thought the children were so beautiful that wanted pictures of them. (You see it coming don’t you?) It turns out that the secretary for the General Council of the Office Of Public Defender services had some relatives who wanted to adopt children and lo and behold guess where those children were placed and adopted. Roxanne Osborn saw to it the adoption was carried out before the parents even had the final hearing in the appeals court where their indigent attorney refused to bring up the alterations in their transcripts and this was all started by Judge Issacson, a judge in Klamath County. That is only one such story about this man who today, sits on the bench in Klamath County. I have the transcripts and letters from the head of OPDS claiming there is no relation between the couple with the unusual last name and the secretary of the corporate council for the office of public defender’s services for the state of Oregon with that same unusual last name that adopted the children and who jumped the line and I have copies of their old face book, since taken down, where they were corresponding with each other. So much for ethics. These people seem to believe that not getting caught is the same thing as having not done the act. I have a lot more on this and plan on exposing it all. This case sadly, is so typical.
Next up, Klamath Counties newest judge, Judge Bunch, who was the former County Council for Klamath County, right where all of these other cases were ongoing but he didn’t know, right?
Source: Facebook, Bill Bowen
Three Generations of Abuse
August 2, 2010 permalink
Amy Miller Being an an adoptee myself from the early 50's I most certanily agree that the CAS need to be held accountable. I was placed into a very nazi home...every abuse possible. When my daughter wouldn't listen to us as a teenager, we wanted help with councilling. My daughter ended in a foster home where the mother's son got her pregnant and if that wasn't enough, they were at the hospital the next morning to take the baby as my daughter was only 16 yrs. You just have to know where the Hell I told her to go! All for this Cause!!!
They are most certainly snakes in the grass!!!!!!!
Source: Facebook, August 2, 2010
August 1, 2010 permalink
Only four people showed up for the Walkerton rally on July 31. All were from out of town, no locals appeared, and there was no press coverage.
July 30, 2010 permalink
For today's class the euphemisms are:
The Toronto Star writes about adoption failures. The example case is of children with pseudonyms Carl and Sarah acquired by Paula and Bryan Blatchford to be companions for their (real) teenaged daughter Hayley. The school-aged kids, both in foster care more than two years, were old enough to understand that they were stolen goods, offered to the high bidder. Only adults get away with pretending that money exchanged during adoption is for fees, not purchase price. Sample problem: "Sarah would happily take the hand of a stranger." Cause: she had been taught by her foster care experience that one adult was as good as another. After a year and a half the prospective adopters returned the kids to CAS. From comments in the story, the kids seemed to prefer the homes they were in before coming to, and after leaving, the Blatchfords.
Like an arranged marriage, an adoption is the meeting of strangers who hope to stay together forever. Sometimes it doesn’t work out.
Paula and Bryan Blatchford were happy and hopeful that day in June 2008 when they welcomed two children into their family.
“We were so excited,” says Paula, “It was our dream come true.”
Carl and Sarah were already calling the Blatchfords “mom” and “dad” after a series of visits at their foster home and outings that included an overnight stay in a hotel.
“The kids were lovely, always happy and excited to see us. Those were definitely good times,” Paula remembers.
The newly-painted bedrooms in the suburban GTA home were waiting for the elementary school-aged children — aqua for Sarah and royal blue for Carl — with bedding they had selected at Sears. New toys and clothes were in the closets and a basketball net installed in the driveway.
As soon as the Blatchfords had married the year before, they’d set the wheels in motion to expand their family. Paula, 39, a former funeral director, had a 14-year-old daughter, Hayley, from her first marriage, but was unable to have any more children. Bryan, 47, an accountant in the trucking industry, loved his stepdaughter and wanted more children.
Willing to take older children who would be closer in age to Hayley, the Blatchfords were matched with Carl and Sarah (not their real names because their identity is protected by child protection laws), who had been in foster care for more than two years.
After the children arrived, they swam in the backyard pool, ate hamburgers for dinner and visited their new school.
A lazy summer stretched ahead: private swimming lessons at home, Paula teaching Carl his alphabet, Hayley and her friends hanging out with Sarah.
Sixteen months later, they were gone.
Each year, roughly 5 per cent of the 600 adoptions from children’s aids societies in Ontario are not completed. With children over the age of 6, that number can be as high as 25 per cent.
“Everyone is so hard on themselves,” says Wilma Burke, an adoption worker with the Toronto Childrens’ Aid Society, which had 4 disrupted adoptions out of 90 last year. “When an adoption disrupts, we all wanted it to work. No one should be blamed. We should not be too judgmental.”
The first day of school, the Blatchfords got a phone call saying Carl had punched another child on the school bus.
There was continuous lying and stealing and the children never bonded to the Blatchfords. Carl couldn’t bear to have Paula read him bedtime stories and Sarah would happily take the hand of a stranger.
“I can’t believe I didn’t have a nervous breakdown,” Paula says in an interview at her kitchen table. “I felt like I was living on the edge all the time. I was getting terrible migraines. I lost 10 pounds. I couldn’t sleep.”
Last April, Artyom Saveliev, a 7-year-old boy adopted by a Tennessee woman, was put on a plane and sent back to Russia with a note pinned to his shirt from the Tennessee woman who adopted him, saying she couldn’t handle his behaviour any more. For many, the headline-grabbing case was the first they’d heard of a disrupted adoption.
Experienced adoption workers say all children put up for adoption, whether given up by their parents or seized from the home, have special needs. Abuse, multiple moves, drug or alcohol addictions and abandonment have left their mark on fragile psyches.
Some people turn to international adoptions hoping to avoid these problems, but Sandra Webb, a Cobourg-based adoption therapist, says all children put up for adoption have special needs.
Parents need experts to help and they need to ask for help early.
“Many wait too long until they can’t stand the child.”
The Blatchfords now feel they were dealing with children with attachment disorders and possibly fetal alcohol syndrome.
Paula says that Sarah “cried for her (former) foster mother every day and constantly asked why she couldn’t adopt them instead.”
Attachment disorder is caused by disruptions in a child’s life and the failure of adults to provide security and a strong bond, according to Brenda McCreight, a B.C. registered clinical social worker who specializes in the disorder. The child only knows how to survive by manipulation, control, aggression or withdrawal, she writes on her website, www.theadoptioncounselor.com. There is a keen sense of abandonment as the child grows.
The older the child is at the time of adoption, the greater the likelihood of a disrupted adoption.
“The difficulty is when they’re adopted over age 6 and when they don’t attach. It’s not because they are bad,” says McCreight, who has two biological children and 13 adopted children. “All of them came with attachment disorder.”
McCreight says people can parent challenging children given proper training, supports and realistic expectations. She suggests they attend adoption seminars and workshops, network with other adoptive parents and get therapy.
All parents who want to adopt or foster children in Ontario must take mandatory preparation training of 27 hours in a program called PRIDE (Parent Resources for Information, Development and Education). It is delivered by approved adoption practitioners, the same people who also conduct the home studies.
It is a rigorous program designed to prepare parents for adoption and, with the requirement of “get to know you” visits, set the stage for success.
This doesn’t always happen.
Many parents and social workers in the adoption field argue that there should be no difference between adopted and biological children when it comes to permanency — once the child comes in the door they belong to that family no matter what. No changing your mind.
That’s not facing reality, says Sandra Scarth, president of the Adoption Council of Canada.
“It’s like an arranged marriage. We are putting people together who don’t really know each other. You want it to work, but it might not.”
A former social worker who herself adopted a child who’d already experienced a failed adoption, she says it is wrong to demonize parents in these cases.
“The thing is so sad. I’ve helped families that have had adoptions disrupted. They are a mess and feel badly about themselves.”
The Blatchfords felt defeated. Like failures. And they agonized over the effect this might have on the children.
“I just felt guilt, so much guilt,” says Paula.
At the Peel Children’s Aid Society, where there were two disrupted adoptions out of 42 last year, adoption worker Dawn Tracz says it’s a complex and emotional situation, and that’s why nobody likes to talk about it.
“As a worker, I invest a lot in an adoption and when it disrupts I get upset. Also, no one goes into this saying I’ll make a life long commitment and then back out. It is difficult.”
Encouraged by children’s aid workers to “give it time,” the Blatchfords went to counselling. The family got the message that “we’d have to change, not the children,” says Bryan, who was unwilling to accept the behaviour.
“If I stole something at work, I wouldn’t have a job,” he says. “The only rules we had in the house were no lying or stealing and respect others.”
Paula struggled for ways to deal with the stealing and impulsivity. She searched Carl’s backpack and pockets daily for items he took from schoolmates and insisted they be returned. Sarah constantly lost everything from clothing to Paula’s camera without worry — nothing appeared to hold any value to her.
Many of Paula’s tactics were frowned upon by her adoption workers such as declaring certain areas of the house, which contained money or valuables, off limits or putting a bell outside the boy’s bedroom door so she could tell if he was leaving his room.
The backyard swimming pool and the busy nearby highway were dangerous for Carl, who was impulsive. Three months into the school year, he walked away with another child.
Paula rushed to the school in a panic, but Carl had already been found at another child’s home miles from the school along a busy highway. He wanted to watch TV.
The advice she got from their counsellor was to keep the children under constant surveillance.
“I was always waiting for the phone call from the school,” says Paula. When she thought of her life, post-adoption, “I felt disbelief with a little bit of horror.”
Hayley increasingly found herself vying for her parents’ attention. She was “close” to moving out. “They were making my life hell,” she says of the children.
At first she was angry with her parents, but ultimately softened because “they were treating my parents like crap.”
The house was in a constant uproar and Bryan started working late to avoid the chaos.
It was a far cry from the glowing reports the Blatchfords received from the foster parents, Paula says. “The way everyone talked, we were winning the (adoption) lottery.”
When the school principal raised concerns that Carl couldn’t appreciate the consequences of his actions, Paula’s research lead her to believe that there was fetal alcohol damage. The couple had been very clear from the beginning that they weren’t willing to tackle brain damage.
While a 2009 provincial study on adoption titled Raising Expectations reports 4 per cent of children up for adoption are known to have fetal alcohol syndrome, it also says this is a vast underestimation of the true numbers. Mothers aren’t always forthcoming about their alcohol consumption and effects may not show up until the child is older.
When their adoption worker suggested preparing the paperwork to made the adoption final, the Blatchfords asked her to wait. They kept postponing the paperwork, hoping the children's’ behaviour would improve.
After much soul searching, the Blatchfords decided they weren’t equipped to parent Carl and Sarah. One night in September 2009, Bryan told children’s aid, “We’re done.”
Today there is little trace of the children in the Blatchford home. One bedroom has been painted over and made into a guest room, and the other is used for storage.
But there is a photograph showing Bryan and the children at a family wedding.
Hayley is standing a bit off to the side, but both Carl and Sarah are encircled in his arms. In those early days the family took many holidays together and there was hope.
Paula, although “relieved” at the decision to end the adoption process, still agonized over how the children would feel when social workers told them they’d be going to a new family.
Carl cried a little bit but the girl was calm. A week earlier, she had told Paula “I don’t think I want to stay here.”
Paula was prepared to pack for the children but, when they returned from their first trip to the new family, they eagerly packed for themselves.
“You’d think they were going to Disneyland,” says Paula, who was surprised by the response but glad as well. “They were happy to go.”
She is allowing her story to be told because she thinks people need to understand the challenges of adoption. She admits she had “blinders on” when she first met the children and wanted to believe the best.
“It’s not been our finest hour,” she says. “But not all adoptions work. It’s not all rosy. It’s a story that needs to be told.”
On that last morning in late October, she made their lunches, jam sandwiches and crackers and cheese.
With a brief “bye,” the children were out the door to school and they never came back.
“As soon as the door closed, I was a mess. I cried all day. I didn’t do anything for a week. I slept. I was mourning.”
To this day she still cries for the children.
“Oh yes, I loved them,” she says sadly.
Source: Toronto Star
No Dissent Allowed
July 29, 2010 permalink
Britain has a way of dealing with doctors who doubt the junk-science shaken-baby syndrome. Skeptic Marta Cohen has been banned from giving testimony in British courts.
Doctor gagged for doubting shaken baby syndrome
A PATHOLOGIST in the UK who argues that the trademark triad of symptoms of "shaken baby syndrome" (SBS) can have an innocent cause has been prevented from testifying in court as an expert witness. The restriction could stand until January 2012.
Yet, according to researchers and lawyers contacted by New Scientist, there are serious doubts about the safety of many shaken baby convictions. This is despite the fact that the triad of symptoms has been taken as evidence of murder for 40 years.
The pathologist in question, Marta Cohen of Sheffield Children's Hospital, learned of the restrictions following a private hearing on 22 July before the General Medical Council, the body that investigates complaints against doctors in the UK.
"The decision is appalling," says John Plunkett of the Regina Medical Center in Hastings, Minnesota, who has shown that short falls can cause the trademark symptoms said to be exclusive to child abuse.
The fear of similar outcomes means that British-based pathologists who dispute SBS are unwilling to take on cases of alleged child abuse. "It means that no one will take any head injury cases," said one, who asked not to be named. "If you disagree with the prosecution, you risk being called before the GMC."
The verdict appears under Cohen's registration details on the GMC website, stating that: "She must not give evidence as an expert witness in cases where there is alleged non-accidental head injury to an infant or child." It also makes clear that the restrictions are temporary precautions while the complaints against her are further investigated by the GMC.
It is not clear who complained to the GMC, but the motivation appears to come from criticisms circulated to prosecution services by a judge, Justice Eleanor King, following cases last year in which Cohen gave evidence. King's criticisms included accusing Cohen of developing a "scientific prejudice", of being "disingenuous" in her citing of research and unwilling to defer to prosecution expert witnesses.
The GMC will not explore the validity of the competing scientific theories about SBS, and will simply investigate Cohen's "fitness to practice". The GMC's ruling comes at a time when evidence is mounting that innocent events such as the birth process itself, choking, short tumbles and breathing difficulties can cause the classic symptoms (BMJ, vol 2, p 430).
A triad of markers
The three markers for a shaken baby diagnosis are retinal haemorrhages in both eyes; subdural haemorrhages between the fibrous dura layer that protects the brain and the brain surface beneath; and swelling of the brain. Subdural haemorrhages are said to arise from ripping and shearing of so-called bridging veins. New lines of evidence challenge this hypothesis with the discovery that subdural bleeds are much more common in babies than generally appreciated, and for a host of innocent reasons (see "Anatomy of a murder?").
Last year, Cohen and co-researcher Irene Scheimberg of Barts and the London NHS Trust examined post-mortem tissue from fetuses and newborns and found subdural haemorrhages in 16 of the 25 fetuses and 20 of the 30 newborns. They also found haemorrhages within the dural layer itself, suggesting that the bleeding started here (Pediatric and Developmental Pathology, DOI: 10.2350/08/08/0509.1). The research is just the latest of many reports to show that subdural bleeds can occur without shaking (see "Anatomy of a murder?").
No one doubts that frenzied shaking could cause the triad of symptoms, but only after severe accompanying damage to the neck. A baby's head striking a solid surface would also cause such damage but then there would be other evidence of an impact. For these reasons, there is increasing pressure for the triad not be used as evidence of guilt in the absence of any other evidence of child abuse. The American Academy of Pediatrics last year called for the phrase "shaken baby syndrome" to be replaced with "abusive head trauma". In the UK, the Royal College of Pathologists last December cautioned against viewing the triad as "absolute proof of traumatic head injury in the absence of any other corroborative evidence".
No independent witness has ever seen a shaken baby with such symptoms, the only evidence has come from confessions. Of 54 cases globally in which defendants admitted shaking a baby, only 11 had no signs of other injuries (The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology, DOI: 10.1097/01.paf.0000164228.79784.5a).
In 2001, Plunkett published 18 reports of all or some of the key symptoms in infants who had died after falling 60 centimetres to 3 metres (The American Journal of Forensic Medical Pathology, vol 22, p 1). In the same journal in 2004, (vol 25, p 89) Plunkett described evidence from a family video of a toddler with all the symptoms dying after a short fall.
The original concept of shaken baby syndrome arose not from research on babies but from road safety research published in 1968 on what happened to brains of adult monkeys when cars decelerated rapidly (Journal of the American Medical Association, vol 204, p 285). Since then, biomechanical studies using dummies as surrogates have concluded that shaking alone doesn't cause the classic symptoms. Oxygen shortage has been proposed as a possible cause of brain damage in infants by Jennian Geddes, a retired pathologist formerly of the Royal London Hospital. Although dismissed by the UK Supreme Court in 2005, some concepts behind Geddes's hypotheses have since been followed up.
In the US, momentum is building for a reappraisal of the status and validity of SBS as a way of diagnosing child abuse. There are also moves to reopen cases in which the triad may potentially have led to unsafe convictions.
The US Innocence Project, a nationwide network originating in New York City to identify and investigate potentially unsafe convictions, confirmed last week that they are looking into cases of SBS. "We believe there were a number of false scientific assumptions about these cases," says Barry Scheck, a founder of the Innocence Project.
"I'm involved in conversations around the possibility of creating an 'innocence commission' to look specifically into SBS," says Deborah Tuerkheimer of DePaul University College of Law in Chicago, and author of a recent law review calling for such a commission. She estimates that approximately 1500 Americans are serving sentences for SBS.
Tom Bohan, past president of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, has been fighting for SBS to be reviewed for more than a decade. "All I've wanted is an impartial examination, as I've come to the conclusion that SBS is bogus," he says.
Shaking won't damage vital brain veins
A central tenet behind the original concept of shaken baby syndrome is that the abuse would sever bridging veins that drain blood from the brain and direct it back to the heart via a channel in the brain.
Research is now showing that the bridging veins of infants are strong and seldom break when subdural haemorrhages occur. Julie Mack of Penn State Hershey Medical Center and her team found networks of hitherto unrecognised fluid channels and capillaries that develop in the protective dura about 30 weeks after birth. This is the time many shaken baby cases come to light (Forensic Science International, DOI: 10.1016/j.forsciint.2009.02.005).
These blood vessels are much more fragile and leaky than bridging veins. They can easily haemorrhage if lack of oxygen raises blood pressure, for example, which can happen if a baby is choking or a blood clot blocks the oxygen supply. In 2008, Veronica Rooks of the Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu, Hawaii, showed that in a group of 101 healthy newborn babies, 46 had subdural haemorrhages, presumed to be from the rigours of birth, all of which had disappeared by 3 months. These findings back up the suggestion that some of these fragile vessels can bleed again later in babyhood, perhaps after a fall or a choking episode.
Retinal haemorrhages too are proving to be more common than supposed. Evan Matshes of Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences in Dallas, Texas, re-examined 123 child deaths and found retinal haemorrhages are not limited to children who die of head injuries through abuse (Proceedings of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, vol 16, p 272). Matshes says these injuries may be seen in a variety of situations.
Source: New Scientist
Counselor, Heal thyself
July 29, 2010 permalink
Tonya Hunter-Lyons was a professional marriage counselor in Ohio, dedicating her life to helping others work out their marital problems. Her fate? She was murdered by her husband.
Marriage counselor stabbed to death, husband arrested
Video shows boy being left in street
CLEVELAND - Tonya Hunter-Lyons made a career out of helping people. She was the founder of the Bedford Heights marriage and family counseling service, Success 1. She counseled troubled marriages and families.
Friends and family say she loved her job. Her uncle, LeRoy Thornton said, "She was passionate about it."
On the door at the Bedord Heights counseling service, a sign is a grim reminder of what happened. All of her appointments had been canceled.
The 42-year-old was stabbed to death and police have arrested her husband, 38-year-old Maurice Lyons. Her 4-year-old son, who she loved so much, may have seen it happen. Police said someone dropped the young boy off on a street corner, which can be seen on surveillance video [Click the video player to watch the clip] . The boy later led police to his mother's body.
The video was recorded by security cameras at the Square Deal Market at East 28th and Cedar. Assistant manager Bobbie Buckner said a couple of his customers saw the child being abandoned in the street and called police. "They asked the boy about his mother and he got really scared," Buckner said.
Dr. Ellen Casper, a Beachwood psychologist, says at four years old the child will be able to remember images of his mother's attack but may not fully understand right now what happened to her. "My guess is that he knows something bad happened," Casper said.
Tonya's family is relying on faith and family to help ease the pain.
"He stripped a strong piece of this family, a big part of it, because of his jealousy," Thorton said.
The couple's short marriage was apparently filled with financial problems and at least two reports of domestic abuse. Tonya called police and took precautions, but it wasn't enough.
"The reality is that some offenders out there will harm the victim even when things are put in place," said Tim Boehnlein, Associate Director of Domestic Violence Center.
At the building where Tonya worked, friends said everyone knew and loved her. But they knew very little about her husband until recently.
Tonya Hunter-Lyon's son was initially placed in foster care, but Cuyahoga County Children and Family Services told NewsChannel5 that the boy has been placed with a relative on his mother's side of the family.
Source: WEWS Cleveland
July 28, 2010 permalink
Ten people participated in a rally outside the courthouse in Pembroke today. It continued through an hour-long rainstorm. On a main street with heavy traffic, a fifth of passing vehicles honked in support. Enclosed is a news article from Pembroke radio station CIMY FM 104.9 and a brief write-up of rallier Candice Villneff. Here is an audio clip of Candice Villneff (mp3) from CIMY and a high resolution rally photo. Another rally will take place tomorrow in front of Children's Aid in Pembroke.
CAS faces protesters who want accountability
Recognizing that it's a province wide problem, a small group of Pembroke Residents think something has to be done at the Childrens Aid Society. Several rallys are being held across the province in support of bill 93 which is calling for the non-governmental organization to become accountable to Ontarios Ombudsman. Rally Organizer Candice Villneff says they don't want to see CAS dissappear, just improve.
7 people attended todays (July 28) rally outside the Pembroke Courthouse and organizers will be back at it tomorrow. They plan to hold a second rally infront of the Family and Children Services Building located at 77 Mary Street in Pembroke. A release from spokesperson Neil Hasket claims that Ontario courts and enquiries have proven that children are taken from innocent parents and some are put up for addoption. It goes on to say that the request for oversight is reasonable adding that it will ensure safer, accountable and transparent Child Protection services.
Candice Villneff has five children, ages 14, 11, 6, 5 and 3 years. She has been under surveillance by CAS since 1996, shortly after the birth of her first child. In 2007 CAS took her four children while she was pregnant, and took her youngest child at birth. Last year all five became crown wards. Candice visits the four oldest children twice a month, the youngest (adoptable) child is off-limits. Candice's husband is the father of the three youngest children and stepfather of the others. The reason stated by CAS for taking the kids? The house was messy. If you find a home with four kids that is not a mess, please let us know.
Typical Busted Family
July 28, 2010 permalink
When young Oregon parents Alyssa and Chris Weber found one of their newborn twins to be cranky, a visit to the hospital found a broken clavicle, a common affliction for newborns and not a reason for the children to be taken for protection. But the hospital alerted Oregon DHS and a child abuse expert ordered full x-rays of both twins. A broken bone in the other twin justified taking them both into custody. Later medical analysis showed that the second boy never had a fracture, but DHS kept them anyway. Over a year later the couple are still without their children, DHS has them on track for adoption by the foster family and Alyssa is pregnant again. This pregnancy is a terrifying experience because of the prospect of child removal in the delivery room.
This is a typical child protection case, common in real life, rare in the press. The parents are young and poor, the reasons for taking the children were false, shrinks put lots of diagnostic letters after their names, DHS held Chris' own experience in foster care against him, their court-appointed lawyer is ineffective, the boys suffered injury in foster care, DHS has billed the parents for the cost of foster care, DHS prevented the parents from using recording equipment while visiting the twins, DHS claims the parents lost bonding during their year of separation, slamming them for improper eye contact, and the parents cannot get the children back no matter how many hoops they jump. The family was the target of a favorite gambit, the (false) suggestion to the father that his prospects of getting his children back could be improved by leaving his wife, an attempted shotgun divorce. Only ray of hope — if the father can document descent from in Indian tribe, he might get the case out of DHS jurisdiction.
Two young parents face off against DHS to regain custody of their twin boys.
Alyssa and Chris Weber had the same kindergarten teacher but they didn't meet until grade school. They started dating when she was a junior in high school.
"We used to hit each other over the head with a pop bottle," recalled Alyssa. Soon after, he proposed: "He did a knee slide up to me in the cafeteria and asked me to marry him with a ring and everything," she said.
"I didn't have a rose in my mouth. That was the only off key," added Chris.
The Webers married in 2008 at Stayton Pioneer Park. Alyssa had just found out she was with child. "We were both happy ... and shocked, and kinda scared because of the fact that we were homeless," she said. They hadn't been able to make the rent and were living in their Chevy Lumina for a few weeks. Upon receiving the news, they moved in with Alyssa's grandmother until their twin boys, Aiden and Zander, were born. Soon after, they found a place of their own.
"Two weeks after we moved out, DHS took our kids," said Alyssa, who was eighteen at the time.
She had noticed two-month old Zander was fussy and wasn't moving normally. Concerned, she rushed him to the emergency room. An x-ray revealed he fractured his clavicle, but an ER doctor explained that this kind of injury is common in babies, often caused by the birth process, and that they may go undetected because children so young don't move around very much. Zander's fracture was left to heal on its own.
At the time, the Webers didn't know what could have caused the fracture.
The hospital called the child abuse report hot line in March '09. "It is our policy [that we report] any child up to age two with any fracture that is not associated with a motor vehicle accident," said Julie Howard, Salem Hospital spokesperson.
The Marion County child abuse expert ordered full body x-rays of both boys, which revealed a possible fracture on Aiden. When investigators could not get a clear answer of how either injury may have happened, DHS [Department of Human Services] took custody of the twins, suspecting child abuse.
Soon after, it was confirmed that Aiden never actually suffered a fracture, but by then it was too late.
"We all sat around and thought what could've caused Zander's fracture. Within a week after they were taken, we figured it out," said Alyssa. "We were on our way to go pick up my mum and go shopping. She would help us out with what we needed that we couldn't get with food stamps. I noticed the car seats were a little snug but we were already late to pick her up. We almost rear-ended someone. I slammed on the brakes to avoid an accident."
The day before the almost-accident, the boys had received shots and Alyssa was expecting them to be fussy, which is why she said she did not noticed he was hurt.
"We told DHS what happened and they still said the cause was undetermined," she said. "We didn't agree with that report."
Authorities dropped all criminal abuse charges but DHS founded them for neglect because of the 'unexplained' injury.
As part of the DHS investigation, the Webers submitted to DHS psychological tests. A DHS-appointed psychiatrists diagnosed Alyssa with depression, anxiety and ADHD. Chris was diagnosed with PTSD and ADHD, and was told he needed to "grow up and mature."
"When they found out it wasn't child abuse and that we were gonna do everything possible so that it didn't happen again, they told me that I wasn't mentally stable enough to care for twin boys when I was doing it fine before," she said. "I only made one mistake which was not loosening up their car seats before leaving the house."
The Webers did say they have been sad.
"It's hard enough every morning waking up and not seeing the boys in our house. We stored all their toys in her grandma's house so we didn't have to see them," said Chris.
Two weeks after the call to the hot line, a juvenile court judge granted DHS temporary custody of the children, while DHS stated they would "continue to seek jurisdiction of the children." The conditions for return included the parents' cooperation with treating their mental health issues and them proving they had the knowledge and ability to parent.
"How do they know that I can't parent when they haven't even given me the chance to try and I'm a first time parent?" questioned Alyssa.
The twins have been in foster care for the last sixteen months. During this period, the Webers found an infected gouge on one of the boys' heads, it was revealed that they had received a double dose of vaccines, and the kids were taken out of state, they said.
"I didn't see anything stating that they had permission from the judge. They went to a wedding for a family that wasn't even their family and we missed a home visit over it," said Alyssa.
Since the boys were taken, the Webers have been allowed to visit them a couple of hours a week in a DHS location supervised by a note-taking observer.
In August'09, DHS had noted the parents' strong bond with the babies. Yet by December, the Webers failed to meet many of the DHS workers' standards. They stated a lack of bonding with the children; they commented on the Webers' appearance, which was "unkempt;" they made "little eye contact" and they claimed the children made less vocalizations and attempts to stand up when around their parents than with the foster parents.
They stated: "Both children are very attached to their foster parents ... both children do not appear to have a strong bond with their parents."
The Webers agree. They say the time spent away, the limited visits and the children's young age have contributed to their lack of proper bonding.
"Other DHS kids may seem like they are bonding better with their parents because they are older," said Alyssa.
"Our boys don't look at us as parents, they look at us as the Monday babysitters," said Chris, adding that a joyful DHS employee told him one of the boys said "hi dada" to the foster parent. "It was good news because they're talking but it was a slap in the face, it was like saying 'Guess what, your kids don't believe in you."
Alyssa said, "It hurts. It doesn't feel right. I carried them for practically 9 months. We're the ones who created them. I went through the c-section and the recovery time. I spent all those nights taking care of them and I make a single mistake and someone else gets to have my kids."
In order to improve their bonding skills and meet DHS requirements, the Webers took a class called "How to bond with your child," which recommended parents to "use your babies as weights to benchpress" among other things. They also had several meetings with parenting counselors.
Their efforts were in vain. DHS stated that they had failed to demonstrate their newly acquired skills; for example, by not using the DHS toys. "We used the toys. And we have recorded every visit until DHS told us we weren't allowed to record anymore," said Chris.
In the first part of 2010, the State's plan continued to be returning the kids to their home and the couple had made some progress in DHS' opinion: Alyssa was engaged in counseling and taking medication, and they had taken parenting classes. They were ready for Aiden and Zander to come home. "We baby proofed our whole house," said Chris.
Then, in June '10, there was an unexpected turn of events: DHS recommended that the plan for Aiden and Zander be changed from return to parent to adoption, based on visit observations and the fact that Chris had failed to get a job and attend counseling.
"It all changed when the foster parents said they wanted to be permanent guardians for the boys," said Chris. "DHS always had their mind set on adoption," added Alyssa.
Indeed, a May 2009 court document stated that adoption was a concurrent plan. "It doesn't seem right when it says that that early," said Chris.
They believe that their boys are very desirable candidates for adoption because they're younger than most kids who enter the foster care system and they're identical twins.
"They won't remember their parents if they're adopted out now. On a little one they can change their last names, they can make them believe they're the real parents. And identical twin boys are like gold for people because not everybody can have twins and twins get the most attention," said Alyssa, adding that people used to stop her constantly to praise her babies.
A juvenile court judge will make a final decision August 30th at 2:00 p.m.
"Chris has a job now and he got into counseling," said Alyssa. Chris is confident that the boys will come home this time, but Alyssa said, "I don't want to get my hopes up."
Added to their fears is the fact that Alyssa is now seven months pregnant. She is expecting another boy, who will carry the name of Iven James.
"I should be happy about this pregnancy but all I am is terrified. DHS told me I'm red flagged. They told me, 'If you're gonna have it in the hospital we're gonna be there ready to pick it up,'" she said. "They are saying we are not stable enough to have either the twins or Iven."
Gene Evans, communications officer for Child Welfare, said it's very rare for DHS to be in the hospital when an infant is born, but he said, "It does happen if there's a danger but not because another child is in DHS."
He continued, "Every case is different. Every case starts with someone reporting a child is in danger." He also said that a report could come from a DHS employee if they thought either parent presented a danger and that they are in fact mandatory reporters.
Evans said that potential issues could be drugs, alcohol or even mental illness, including depression, but DHS would need a reason beyond just the depression per se, such as deeming the mother unable to make decisions. "It's about the mom's behavior," he said.
The Webers plan to have Alyssa's father adopt Iven before he's born, but they haven't started the process because of a lack of resources, and a hope that the judge will rule in their favor before they need to resort to that.
At her young age of twenty, she is thinking about having a hysterectomy. "I'm thinking about having my tubes tied after this one because of all the troubles with DHS. I'm too terrified at having more babies yanked from me," she said. The Webers wanted a large family.
"We had a lot of hopes and dreams for our kids, like how we would spend our first holidays," said Alyssa. "We haven't had a single holiday with them. I've requested them, and I said I would agree to having supervision the entire time, and nothing. They say 'we're closed for that.'"
The Webers have a clean record. "We don't do drugs, we're completely clean people," said Chris, adding that they are peaceful people and that he never even curses. "In over seven years he's yelled at me once or twice, and that was only to get my attention," added Alyssa.
They think their financial situation acted against them, particularly in their inability to hire a lawyer. "I got a court-appointed attorney. They work for the state, doing what the state wants," said Alyssa.
There is one loophole, but they're not confident it will help. Chris is Native American, Ojibwa, Black Foot, Cherokee and Cheyenne. However, he doesn't have an official statement of his background. "I've been trying to find my grandfather my whole life," he said.
DHS rules apply differently to Native Americans. "It would be up to the tribe to decide whether or not the boys can come home," he said. "But it's up to DHS."
The requirement to achieve Native American status may vary. "In some cases it could be 1/2 and for others it could be 1/16," stated Evans.
The May 2009 record stated that DHS was "still researching whether the [Indian Child Welfare Act] would apply to this case." The Webers have yet to receive an answer.
Though they believe their case is unfair, they say sometimes DHS is justified, as in Chris's case. He was abused as a child and grew up in foster homes.
"DHS is taking an Oregon kid unrightfully," said Alyssa. "I believe that DHS Child Welfare in the state of Oregon has become corrupt with either money or power and are beginning to discriminate against young parents or parents with minor mental health issues."
According to Chris, DHS would have returned the kids faster if he had left Alyssa. "The judge said my mental disabilities don't inhibit my ability to parent, but Alyssa's disability would."
The Webers owe DHS a few thousand dollars for their boys' stay. "$365 dollars per month for each. It's like a daycare fee," they agreed.
States fund their own child protective services, with large amounts of help from the federal government. Additionally, states receive federal incentives for increasing the number of foster children who are adopted out.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families, Oregon received $220,000 in 2009 for increasing its rate of adoptions compared to previous years.
"They say that they are there to help put families back together but that is a lie," Alyssa stated. "They are there to rip them apart and get the money while doing so."
Source: Salem Weekly
July 28, 2010 permalink
Canadian boy Noah Kirkman was apprehended by Oregon when they found him bicycling without a helmet. Oregon refused to recognize his stepfather as a lawful custodian and held the boy for two years until an international uproar got the boy returned to Canada. So is this finally a happy ending? No way. Oregon is suing Noah's mother Lisa Kirkman for the cost of keeping him in their care for two years. Link to list of Kirkman stories.
So I'm being SUED by Oregon for CHILD SUPPORT and MEDICAL CARE for Noah while he was in care in Oregon. I have to go to court on September 14 in Calgary and fill out what looks like 30 pages of forms. Calgary CYS is graciously checking into what I can do and if I need a lawyer and if so, looking into which lawyer they think would be most appropriate. Calgary is almost as flabbergasted and pissed off as I am! Absolutely every bit of bad info given to them by Oregon about my family & I has been debunked. OREGON made the mistake in taking him and keeping him and now they expect me to pay for it? They have all my financial records and can see that I'm broke and was broke while they had him, too.
Source: email from Lisa Kirkman
Addendum: The press is afraid to mention names in this case, but here is their report.
Oregon sues Canadian over foster care
CALGARY - The mother who fought Oregon authorities for two years to get her son back to Canada after he was seized into foster care says it's ridiculous they are now suing her for child care costs.
The boy, now 12 years old, was taken by U.S. officials in 2008 while visiting his stepfather in Oakridge, Ore.
His mom battled for two years to get her son back to Calgary and finally saw her wish come true when he was returned to her last month.
Now the state is coming after her for costs related to his stay in foster care including medical expenses, citing the Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act.
On Monday, she received a notice of hearing from the Alberta provincial court asking her to appear in court Sept. 14.
"They want support money to pay for all the expenses and his medical care covered," she said.
"They tripled his medication, took him to doctors, he was seeing a therapist because of the trauma of being taken."
She said authorities could have just sent him back to Canada if they didn't want to pay his costs.
"My son wasn't supposed to be there - I won, I got him back," she said.
"After that they have the gall to charge me for his care?"
The mother said when she first read the letter her first reaction was to laugh.
"It's ridiculous," she said.
"I said 'no way' and I started laughing because it's so absurd.
"Now that I have my son back, which is the most important thing, I can take amusement of the ridiculousness of it."
She said the documents do not say how much authorities are seeking.
Lawyer Tony Merchant who fought for the mom to get her son back, called the turn of events "bizarre."
"Our firm has more family law litigation filed than any in Canada and I've never seen this happen before," he said.
"You wonder what misguided views could have caused this."
He also wonders if the costs the state of Oregon are trying to recoup also include those related to his schooling.
The boy was taken in September 2008 after he was stopped for riding his bike without a helmet.
He has a severe attention deficit disorder and struggled to explain he was on holiday and staying with his stepdad.
He was eventually shuffled through four foster care placements and three schools until he was returned home June 11.
The case, first reported by QMI Agency, attracted international attention as the Calgary mom pleaded with the Canadian government to step in.
She said her son is doing well, glad to be home, and ready to begin junior high in the fall.
"He's in seventh heaven," she said.
Addendum: The CBC program As It Happens broadcast an interview with Tony Merchant (mp3), lawyer for Lisa Kirkman, on July 30, 2010. Contrary to what Mr Merchant says, bullying parents for money after their child is taken by force is commonplace, both in divorce and child protection cases.
Addendum: More on the suit.
Calgary woman being sued by Oregon over son's foster care after he was seized
CALGARY - A Calgary woman who fought for two years to get her son back from the U.S. foster care system says she's now being sued by the State of Oregon.
At first, Lisa Kirkman laughed when she saw the letter saying Oregon officials want her to reimburse them for the cost of keeping her son Noah.
"It was just so absurd," she says.
"A foreign government kidnapped a Canadian child, we got him back, and now the kidnappers are suing me not only for the cost of taking care of him, but the ransom that they never got. It's that crazy."
Noah was 10 years old when he was seized in 2008 during a summer spent visiting his stepfather, who wasn't considered a legal guardian.
The little boy had been stopped several times by police for riding without a helmet and playing in areas he shouldn't have been, and officials said they became concerned when they discovered he had social services files in Canada.
Kirkman has said the files were open to enable Noah to access mental health programs for his special needs, which include a severe form of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Throughout the two years, Kirkman was allowed only occasional contact with her son.
"I know people who are in prison in the U.S. who have more communication with their loved ones than we had with Noah," she says.
The ordeal had its share of nightmarish qualities. Kirkman says she believes social workers and officials with Oregon's Department of Human Services deliberately tried to instill a fear of her and her parents in Noah, then argued they couldn't send him home because he was afraid to go.
"They would tell him things like my parents were going to come down and kidnap him."
But finally in June, Kirkman and her lawyers were able to get Noah back, even though the judge in the case expressed reservations, saying he believed Kirkman had abandoned her son in Oregon by leaving him with his stepfather.
Kirkman says this lawsuit may be punitive.
"I get the feeling that part of it is they're mad that I fought back and I won," she says. "None of the things that they claimed would happen are true. My son is very happy and starting regular school and we're doing very, very well. It's not the huge trauma that they claimed it would be."
Her initial bemusement over the lawsuit is turning into outrage and anger. She's particularly offended that Oregon's action uses a reciprocal agreement with Canada intended to catch deadbeat parents who try to skip out on child support payments.
And Oregon isn't her only target; she's also upset at the lack of support she's received from the Canadian government, which did nothing to intervene on her behalf.
Kirkman says she will outline in the coming days exactly how she plans on fighting back, but is confident she will win.
"I think common sense will prevail," she says. "It is pretty galling to go after me like this."
Source: Winnipeg Free Press
Addendum: Richard Wexler writes on the Kirkman case.
Oregon foster care agency to Canadian family: In lieu of a pound of flesh, we'll take your money
I've written several times on this Blog about the case of Lisa Kirkman, a Canadian mother whose son was thrown into foster care while he was staying with his stepfather in Oregon. After two years, and multiple foster homes, the boy finally was returned home; largely, I believe, thanks to international media pressure.
But clearly, the Oregon Department of Human Services doesn't like being made fools of in two countries. And they've found a great way to get even: Go to court in Canada, and try to make Lisa Kirkman pay Oregon for expenses the state incurred after it wrongfully took away her child. A hearing on Oregon's demand is scheduled to take place today.
Though crossing an international border in search of these payments is unusual if not unprecedented, sadly, the practice itself is not. In another case, one of the most poignant I've ever read about, Oregon DHS is adding insult to the enormous injury it inflicted on a family by seeking the same sort of payment.
In many cases, the payments can be the final obstacle standing between a foster child and return to his own parents.
There is a word for taking away someone's child and making that person pay money to get the child back: Ransom. And it hurts everyone in the system, even the agencies themselves.
- The overwhelming majority of parents who lose children to the system have no money to spare. Often that's why their children are in foster care in the first place.
- Because the standard of proof in child welfare proceedings is so low, this provision inevitably punishes many innocent families.
- The purpose of foster care is to keep the child safe. Everyone concedes it is harmful to take a child from his or her parents and the longer the foster care the greater the harm. If you make ransom a condition of returning the child and the birth parents manage to do everything else but still owe the ransom, the foster care is prolonged even though the home is now safe. That is punishing the child for the alleged financial failings of the parents.
Prof. Daniel Hatcher of the University of Baltimore School of Law has an excellent article about the entire issue in the Brooklyn Law Review.
One can certainly imagine a child welfare system like Oregon's not giving a damn about the harm to the children. One can see how they'd be desperate for the money - after all, when you take away children at a rate that now is more than 80 percent above the national average, those costs really mount up.
But what really makes ransom an insane practice, even by the standards of child welfare agencies, is the fact that not only does it do enormous harm to the children and their parents, it actually costs the government money.
Collecting ransom actually increases the cost of foster care. No impoverished family ever will come up with the full cost of foster care – instead they are charged for their "share" of the costs. But for every extra day a child is held in foster care because the birth parents haven't paid their "share" of the costs, the state has to foot the entire bill. The birth parents wind up in a deeper and deeper hole and the state winds up paying more and more.
Even if the birth parents scrape together the money to get their child back; or, in cases like the Kirkman case, where the child already is home, the payments only make it harder on the family financially, a particularly steep burden for families that already are poor.
Poverty often creates stress can lead to actual child abuse, or poverty itself is confused with neglect – so the ransom increases the chances of actual child abuse and/or having the child taken away again because of poverty. Once again, you harm the child – and cost the state more money
So why do these policies exist? Because grandstanding state legislators love them. They get to issue press releases about how they're "cracking down on child abuse" and since in their fantasy world, only parents who are evil, sadistic brutes lose their children to foster care, it's only fair to make 'em pay, right?
Not in the real world.
The Canadian Press, CBC News, CTV News, and the Calgary Herald all have stories about the latest turn in the Kirkman case. And so does the Eugene Register Guard, which has done a far better job than the Oregonian on the whole case.
In the Register Guard story, I posed a question, which I'll repeat here: If DHS is supposed to do everything it does "in the best interests of the child," how is it in this child's best interests to make his family poorer and inflict even more stress?
Source: Richard Wexler blog, September 14, 2010
Addendum: Proceedings have been postponed for three months.
Incomplete documents force three-month adjournment in case of Calgary mother sued by Oregon state
The state of Oregon's lawsuit to collect two-years worth of foster care and medical bills against a Calgary mother, whose then 10-year-old son was apprehended in 2008, has been adjourned for three months.
Provincial court family Judge Gordon Burrrell said on Tuesday the delay was necessary because of deficiencies in the application, which will require Oregon to have its own counsel here to address. The state was represented in the first court appearance by an Alberta government lawyer, acting as an agent.Burrell said, under the Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act, the state now has up to 18 months to reply to his inquiries.
A contrasting application by mother Lisa Kirkman, filed by her lawyer Daniel Mol, to toss the state's bid to collect the money against her, was also adjourned to the same date, Dec. 14.
"Under present law, Oregon has the right to file under under the Interjurisdictional Act and must do it in accordance with the provisions of our act and, on the balance of probabilities, they are entitled to such a claim," Burrell told court.
"I see things in the document that the court will require more information. The court must report to the claimant and must adjourn the hearing. Looking at the claim, it could be outright dismissed, but I need more information."
In particular, Burrell said Oregon has not sent a copy of their legislation stating it has the authority to support such a claim. For example, he said, the surname of the child is missing, notwithstanding the fact the state has a copy of the boy's Alberta birth certificate.
He also said there is no breakdown of the claims, other than that they are seeking $7,400 in medical expenses.
"There is no backup material to substantiate that claim. That has to be accepted," said the judge, who agreed to hear the case through to its conclusion.
"I need more information to see why the state only claimed that amount. I also require more information on why they only claimed against the mother and not the step-father. Also, why not claim against the biological father."
Kirkman told the judge she is still legally married to the stepfather, who helped raise the boy and was with him in Oregon on a holiday when he was apprehended. He was discovered riding a bicycle without a helmet and placed in foster care.
She said the now 12-year-old boy's biological father disappeared a month after the child was born and has never been located, despite extensive efforts, and has never had any legal guardian rights.
Gene Evans, spokesman for the children, adults and families division of Oregon's Department of Human Services, said because the issue is in the courts, he was unable to provide any specific information on the case.
However, he forwarded a copy of the state's policies on why it claims for foster and medical care in such situations where children have been seized. Mol said outside court he filed his client's counterclaim, but was unable to serve Oregon with the document because the state did not provide an address or other contact information.
However, he was granted a court order by Burrell to assure that will be done.
As for the dollar amount sought by Oregon, Mol said that would be governed by the Alberta Child Support guidelines. Mol said both he and the state must file arguments on their positions by the next hearing in December.
Kirkman, who got her son back in June and was caught off guard when told of the claim in July, said she was at times frustrated by the court process. But she feels confident she will eventually get through the legal wranglings, no matter how long it takes.
"It took two years to get my son back, so now that he's back I have the energy and the will and the desire to take this as long as it needs to happen," she said outside court.
"Now that my son is home and doing well and there is no Social Services involvement and we're trying to move on with our normal lives, anything after that I'm not as distraught about as I was before. I can take anything coming at me sort of with a little bit of a grain of salt.
"It's not that I don't take this (court battle) more seriously, there's just not as much energy attached to it. I can't speak to (the amount of money Oregon is seeking), but I can't think they would be doing this type of talking about a couple of hundred dollars."
Source: Calgary Herald
Addendum: It is over.
Mother's U.S. legal ordeal over foster care a real-life farce
In the theatre world, a farce refers to a light dramatic work in which highly improbable plot twists, exaggerated characters and often slapstick humour are generously dispensed for the audience's enjoyment.
On Tuesday afternoon, Lisa Kirkman sits as part of an audience, her soft smile and occasional giggle evidence that the play she's been watching unfold is hitting all the right notes. However, this real-life farce is anything but funny.
In the span of a quick few minutes, the curtain comes down on those torturous two years she spent fighting to get her young son back.
And while onstage mockery usually comes to a climax with a hilarious finale, in this case, it ends with but a whimper in a Calgary courtroom, with the announcement that the State of Oregon is dropping its lawsuit against the Calgary mother.
How decent of them. It's a far cry from the indecency the U.S. state put in motion when local police there stopped the lad, then 10, for riding a bicycle without a helmet. The boy was visiting his stepfather, an American citizen who'd raised him from the age of two, after his biological father left.
John, an American citizen, lived separately from his family due to a chronic health condition made worse by Canadian winters, and frequently hosted the boy and his mom when they came to visit.
In a move that would be outright slapstick comedy if not for the devastation it brought upon the family, Noah, a Canadian citizen whose mother is also a Canadian citizen, was made a ward of the State of Oregon and put into foster care.
"I saw him about a total of eight hours over those two years," says Kirkman, moments before getting the news that the State is no longer planning to sue her for the cost of care.
"That last year before he came home, they stopped letting me into the U.S., out of the blue, so I didn't see him at all until he came home in May."
Kirkman was described aptly to me by a mutual friend as "gregarious, funny and warm-hearted."
And she does indeed have a black mark against her, and one that would certainly raise the hackles of American border authorities. She has a conviction for marijuana possession on the record, and today is a medical marijuana activist.
But a parent's criminal misdemeanour conviction gives a foreign country no right to hold a Canadian citizen of any age; not only that, if the Canadian government stepped in and removed all children from the homes of parents with a marijuana possession conviction, the entire social welfare system would collapse under the weight of all those new wards of the state.
No, the state of Oregon didn't prove -- it didn't even claim -- that Noah was neglected or abused by either his mother or stepfather, who unfortunately doesn't have the status of legal guardian to Noah.
But that didn't convince them to cave in to common sense for several months. In the end, it was most likely embarrassment that prompted their about-face, dropping the lawsuit citing an estimated $7,500 in costs for caring for Noah -- the story made headlines around the world, eventually catching the attention of TV news network CNN.
On Tuesday, both Kirkman and her lawyer, Daniel Mol, express thanks for others who have helped them in their cause, most notably lawyer Tony Merchant and The National Council for the Protection of Canadians Abroad -- who earlier stepped in to fill the void of a silent Harper government and filed an application under The Hague Convention in U.S. federal court, asking for the boy's return under international law.
But after the momentary joy over their victory, the most salient emotion they show is righteous anger.
"I never expected to be sued for the cost of them essentially kidnapping my son," says Kirkman outside court.
"We're glad the state of Oregon has a sense of shame," says Mol, who has on other occasions wondered aloud how such a case of judicial child abduction would play if Canada had done this to an American child. "And the Canadian government should have been more active on this."
With that, Mol announces that on behalf of his client, he is filing a lawsuit against the state of Oregon, to compensate Kirkman and her family for their ordeal. But mostly, its intent is to send a message to other countries: "Don't mess with Canadians."
Call it a matter of fighting farce with fire, but in more than two years, it's one of the few things about this entire mess that makes the slightest bit of sense.
Source: Calgary Herald
July 27, 2010 permalink
About a dozen people participated in a rally outside children's aid in Kingston. Below is a write-up by CKWS TV, and from the same article a video exchange between Catherine Frei and CAS spokesman Yvonne Cooper (flv).
CAS RALLY:About a dozen protesters staged a rally outside the Kingston Children's Aid Society offices over the noonhour
About a dozen protesters staged a rally outside the Kingston Children'S Aid Society offices over the noonhour
The demonstration was just one of several protests that have taken place outside CAS offices across the province over the last few months.
Demonstrators say they are concerned about a number of issues including a higher than average mortality rate for children in foster care.
Source: CKWS-TV Kingston (CBC)
Addendum: The Kingston Whig-Standard writes at length on the rally. There are many user comments, most critical of CAS.
Protesters take aim at Children's Aid
A group of protesters gathered at the Children's Aid Society's offices on Montreal Street yesterday to demand more government oversight for Ontario's 53 children's aid services.
About a dozen people with homemade signs expressed their concerns.
"We're not against CAS, because we realize there is a lot of children out there who need protection," said Catherine Frei, who organizes a Facebook page called Protecting The Innocent, "but they need oversight. There's a lot of innocent families being affected.
"It doesn't need to happen that way."
The protesters cited questionable practices relating to investigating claims, employees who are not registered social workers and executives expensing luxury cars and trips, as was discovered by the Ontario Auditor General in 2006.
Their wish is for legislation to allow the Ontario Ombudsman to be able to review actions taken by the CAS.
"A lot of people don't realize they're private. Even when they're caught doing it there's no consequences," said Frei.
Yvonne Cooper, speaking for the local society, said all societies follow the same rules and regulations that are set out by the Ministry of Child and Youth Services.
"All of the Children's Aid Societies across Ontario, while we are all individually run and governed by our own boards of directors we are all mandated by the government of Ontario to carry out the services that we do," Cooper said.
There are mechanisms of review in place at the CAS, Cooper said, such as an internal complaint system where parents can "deal with the people in the agency itself."
"There's also an external process, that's conducted through the Child and Family Services Review Board and that system itself has the oversight by the ombudsman," she said.
Cooper acknowledged that not all CAS employees may be registered social workers, but it depends on their position.
"We have a couple of different qualifications depending on what their role is," she said.
"If you look at our job description the minimum requirement for education is to have a Bachelors of social work," she said, adding that people in managerial positions must have or be working toward a Masters in social work.
Cooper said the CAS tries to be as sensitive as possible when investigating claims.
"It's not an area that is taken lightly when it comes to dealing with parents and families," she said. "Families are precious and we work very hard to build strong families."
They also provide services to keep families together, but child welfare is their priority, as mandated by the government.
"We all know that keeping a child with their biological parents is the best place for a child, as long as they are safe," she said. "There are checks and balances at every single level."
Still, Andrew Skinner said he thinks there needs to be more accountability.
"Child protection ... is a $1.4 billion industry in Ontario," he said. "That's a lot of money to be putting out with no accountability."
However, Frei said the protest yesterday wasn't about the money.
"We have no problem with them being given the amount of money which they need to care for children in need," she said, "but let's make sure those children are in need."
Source: Kingston Whig Standard
Addendum: Queens University campus station CFRC (mp3) interviews ralliers Catherine Frei, Andrew Skinner, Beth Cartwright, Peter Boudreau and CAS spokesman Yvonne Cooper.
Social Worker Embezzles from Abused Children
July 27, 2010 permalink
Colorado Social worker Cheryl Fugett founded and operated a charity for abused children called the Jefferson County Children's Alliance. It was awarded $100,000 in public funds, at least $20,000 of which was applied to her dental work, repairing her roof, pool and hot tub repairs, her daughter's summer tuition and paying off her personal credit cards..
Woman Who Stole From Abused Children Sentenced
Cheryl Fugett Convicted Of Stealing $20K From JeffCo Children's Alliance
JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. -- A Lakewood woman who stole at least $20,000 from a program for abused children was sentenced Monday to two years in a jail work-release program.
Cheryl Fugett, the former executive director of the Jefferson County Children's Alliance, was also sentenced to 10 years probation by Jefferson County District Court Judge Philip McNulty.
The 60-year-old Fugett, a social worker, was convicted last month of stealing at least $20,000 from the nonprofit agency she founded in 1993 to provide counseling and specialized investigators for children who had been sexually and physically abuse.
Prosecutors said she used the JCCA’s funds to pay more than $5,000 for personal dental work, $1,400 for home roof repair and $1,000 for pool and hot tub repairs at her home. She also used the money to pay more than $700 for her daughter’s summer tuition at Colorado State University.
In addition, Fugett wrote over $5,000 in checks on the JCCA’s accounts toward paying off her personal credit cards, prosecutors said.
Because many financial records were missing, Jefferson County district attorney spokesman Pam Russell said, prosecutors could only prove $20,000 was stolen.
"We believe that the losses were far greater," she said.
The Childrens' Alliance had been awarded $100,000 in public funds from criminal bail fees to build a new facility, Russell said.
"None of that money ever got spent on the capital (building) project," Russell said. "It got intermingled into the agency's general funds that ultimately Cheryl Fugett was spending."
That case had strange twists and turns.
Fugett was on the state's Top 50 Most Wanted list when she was arrested in Oregon last year. She posted bond and was allowed to come and go from her Lakewood home.
While not a lawyer, Fugett acted as her own attorney during trial.
She missed an early court date, then failed to make her own closing argument at trial, Russell said.
The jury found her guilty of two counts of forgery and eight counts of felony theft.
Lakewood Police found her after the closing arguments walking around her neighborhood and appearing disoriented. She was taken to the hospital to be evaluated.
Prosecutors raised concerns in court that Fugett was suicidal, Russell said.
But the defendant denied that. Fugett said she had lost track of time while preparing her closing argument and had taken pain medication for muscle spasms.
The Children's Alliance closed and Ralston House, another organization that helps abused kids, took over its case load and remaining assets.
Source: KMGH Denver
Cops Rough Up Social Workers
July 27, 2010 permalink
Not all cops love social workers, as shown in this note about New York Police roughing up CPS workers.
Union: Cops Roughed Up Child-Protective Workers
Says NYPD Investigating
Two Child Protective Workers were injured by Police Officers who were supposed to be assisting them in removing children from a home June 30, highlighting the dangers posed by their jobs and the vital need for police awareness in such situations, District Council 37 Local 371 President Faye Moore said last week.
The full version of this story below became available to all readers after 4 weeks.
Union: Cops Roughed Up Child-Protective Workers
Says NYPD Investigating
Two Child Protective Workers were injured by Police Officers who were supposed to be assisting them in removing children from a home June 30, highlighting the dangers posed by their jobs and the vital need for police awareness in such situations, District Council 37 Local 371 President Faye Moore said last week.
The two workers, who are remaining anonymous, were at a home in The Bronx to remove two children, including an infant, and had two Police Officers with them in case the situation became dangerous. When the father of the children began to “act out,” Ms. Moore explained in a phone interview, the police radioed for backup.
Treated Like Suspects
But the two Police Officers who arrived burst through the door, injuring one of the Child Protective Workers who had her back to it, and then ordered everyone in the room onto the ground, berating the workers as they tried to identify themselves and saying “I don’t give a f--- who you are.”
Ms. Moore said she didn’t know why the two Police Officers accompanying the Child Protective Workers didn’t stop the backup officers from ordering everyone in the room to hit the floor, but said the NYPD was investigating the incident internally.
“Both of these ladies are severely traumatized, and one of them spent a night in the hospital,” Ms. Moore said. “They filed a notice of claim because of the injuries. [ACS Commissioner John B.] Mattingly has been in touch with [Police Commissioner Raymond W.] Kelly and there is an investigation taking place.”
Mr. Mattingly confirmed the incident had occurred, saying in a statement that “NYPD was assisting ACS to conduct a child removal when the family began to violently resist. NYPD radioed for backup and the scene quickly became chaotic. In the confusion, arriving officers caused injuries to ACS workers.”
He continued, “As Commissioner, I have requested that the Police Commissioner investigate the actions of the backup officers in this incident. It is important to note that ACS and NYPD work together every day throughout the city to protect children and will continue to do so despite this unfortunate incident.
“I especially want to thank our two dedicated and brave child protective workers who were involved in this case,” he added. “Without people like them, we would not be able to protect our City’s children. As far as I am concerned, they are heroes.”
The NYPD did not respond to a request for comment.
The worker who had the door opened on her back also suffered injuries and bruising to her face. “It really damages how effective we can be when people who are supposed to be supporting us in the field are treating us as if we’ve done something wrong,” Ms. Moore said.
A Need to Communicate
She hoped the incident would draw attention to the need for proper communication between Child Protective Workers and Police Officers in future situations. “This shows how dangerous this job is when people, even uniformed officers, don’t know who we are and what we’re doing,” Ms. Moore said. “We as a city can do better in appreciating what these Child Protective Workers do.”
Police in such situations should defuse tensions between the child-protective workers and the families losing their children, not aggravate them, she added. “To walk into a situation like that, you have people screaming and crying, and you have these two professionals, the most reasonable people in the room, you figure you’d want to talk to them.”
Source: The Chief
Addendum: The New York Daily News gives the names of the social workers.
Social workers say cops beat them, failed to follow protocol on child removal that lead to violence
It was supposed to be a routine assignment.
A pair of city social workers sent to remove two children from an abusive Bronx home thought they could count on the two NYPD cops by their side in case things got ugly.
Instead, the officers bungled the case so badly, the social workers say, they ended up in the middle of a melee that left them beaten and bloodied - by the cops.
"I don't feel safe anymore," said Administration for Children's Services staffer Virginia Thomas as tears streamed down her face during an interview with The News.
Thomas, 30, and Virginia Vaca, 37, said they are too traumatized to return to work.
"If I see a police officer, I will go the other way. I lost faith in the NYPD," Thomas said.
On June 30, the pair decided they needed to remove two girls, a 4-year-old and a 9-month-old, from a drug-abusing mom and violent dad. Following normal procedure, they called for backup from the 41st Precinct.
Vaca said as soon as she spotted the two responding officers at the Hunts Point building, she sensed trouble.
There was no supervisor, a violation of the police patrol guide.
Then, the cops told the women to knock on the apartment door instead of making sure the home was safe for ACS workers to enter, said Gary Maitland, a lawyer for their union, Local 371.
Once inside the apartment, Vaca said officers argued with the children's mother for 20 minutes - and then let her call the girls' volatile father.
Tensions exploded. The cops could not restrain the dad and called for backup.
Nearly a dozen uniformed men busted through the front door - knocking the two ACS workers to the floor.
"We kept trying to get up, and they are pushing us back down," Thomas said.
Vaca said she "kept trying to tell them we were ACS."
One cop replied, "I don't give a f--- who you are," Vaca recalled.
Officers then dragged the women by their hair and arms out into the hallway, the workers said.
"They acted like savages," Vaca said.
Another officer barked to Vaca to "do her f---ing job, and go get the kids." The parents were arrested and charged with assault and endangering the welfare of a child, court papers said.
They could not be reached for comment.
Vaca and Thomas were ordered to bring the children back to the stationhouse instead of an ACS safehouse in midtown, another violation of normal practice, the union lawyer said.
A spokesman for the NYPD, Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne, defended the officers.
"Police responded and brought a dangerous situation to a close. All of the officers involved remain on active duty," Browne said in a statement. "While Internal Affairs initially looked at the incident, it determined that it did not rise to IAB's level. It was referred instead to the precinct ICO [Integrity Control Officer], who is reviewing the complaint."
The ACS workers have filed a notice of claim against the city, the NYPD and the two officers, but they aren't necessarily looking for money, their lawyer said.
"What we want is a change in culture," said union president Faye Moore.
Moore sent a letter to Mayor Bloomberg on Tuesday and has emailed Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly. She is still waiting for a response.
The women are in therapy but neither knows if they will ever return to their old jobs.
"They took my life away," Vaca said.
Source: New York Daily News
Human Rights or Wrongs?
July 26, 2010 permalink
In the name of human rights, Amnesty International promotes policies that separate fathers from their children, attacking the human rights of both.
Human Rights or Wrongs?
Amnesty International’s commitment to freedom is questionable
Amnesty International has long been regarded as among the world’s leading human rights organizations. Having worked with Amnesty for some years in their campaign to free political prisoners, I know that they deserved this reputation.
So it is sad to see the group squander their credibility. Amnesty has been so captured by political ideology that, far from defending human rights, they have become advocates for violating them.
The latest example comes from Sweden, where Amnesty is no longer fighting for political prisoners but instead advocates for authoritarian ideology. Amnesty sponsored a film competition, but when some finalists produced a film that angered feminists, the film was pulled from Amnesty’s YouTube site. Amnesty denies that pressure from an Uppsala women’s shelter was responsible for suppressing the film, but the shelter itself is gloating about its political clout.
The film, created by four high school students and titled, The Right To Be a Father, is a powerful depiction of how children are taken from their fathers by Sweden’s feminist family courts. Separating children from their fathers is not only a bedrock principle of the war against "patriarchy," but also the bread-and-butter of the lucrative child custody industry, so it is not surprising that the sisterhood would come down hard on the heresy that feminists violate human rights.
The film was nominated for the final stage of the competition. Amnesty posted it on YouTube, and the creators were invited to the film gala in Gothenburg. "But our film was never shown at the festival, and the day after it also disappeared from Amnesty's YouTube channel," says Sara Sivesson, one of the creators. Further, the students claim they obtained an email from the Uppsala feminists bragging, "Thanks to the protests Amnesty did not show the film at the festival and they also dropped it from their website."
The matter was publicized by blogger Joakim Ramstedt, who alleges that his government health benefits were then revoked because of his blogging and that confidential information from his own custody case (he has not seen his five-year-old daughter for over a year) was leaked and posted on the internet in an effort to smear him. Sweden prides itself on protections for privacy and civil liberties, but this may be what we can all expect when a welfare state manages our lives.
This is not isolated. In recent years Amnesty has become a mouthpiece for the radical feminist agenda, to the point of pushing programs that violate human rights. Amnesty’s campaign against "domestic violence," for example, is a prescription for criminalizing the innocent on a huge scale.
Even on its face, "domestic violence" is a matter not of human rights but of crime. No one suggests that ordinary theft or assault, when not perpetrated by government agents, are "human rights" violations. They are crimes for which the criminal justice system either provides or it does not. If not, the system is dysfunctional, but it has nothing to do with "human rights."
But this is precisely what is wrong with the trumped-up hysteria over "domestic violence" (and most accusations are indeed trumped-up): It exists precisely to circumvent the legal safeguards and protections for the rights of the accused that make free countries free. Newfangled gender crimes like "domestic violence" exist to punish those who cannot be convicted with evidence.
Why can alleged assailants not be charged and tried according to standard laws against violent assault? Because domestic "violence" criminalizes almost anything, even if it is not violent or even physical.
In domestic violence cases there is seldom a trial, almost never a jury, and no one is ever acquitted. One study published in Criminology and Public Policy found that everyone arrested for domestic violence receives some punishment. Special "domestic violence courts" now exist for the express purpose of processing more convictions.
It is based on this presumption of guilt that Amnesty can claim that in the US "a woman is battered every 15 seconds." Amnesty provides no documentation for this preposterous figure, because none exists. We also learn that "Amnesty International considers domestic violence a form of torture," demonstrating an Orwellian willingness to redefine words and cheapening their own campaign against real torture.
Amnesty is quite clear that it is stretching the meaning of "human rights" into a backdoor penal instrument. "A human rights framework…enables Amnesty International to use international human rights standards and laws…to hold governments accountable if they fail to meet their obligations to protect women." In other words, far from limiting government reach and repression, Amnesty is working to expand them.
This in turn points to a larger problem in the trajectory of human rights law. When you accuse people of violating human rights – of crimes – you raise the question of protecting their own human rights at the most basic level of due process. Protecting the human rights of those accused of human rights violations is something for which "human rights" groups have shown little concern. On the contrary, they seem far more concerned with erecting an assortment of grand-sounding conventions, monitoring committees, and pseudo-tribunals, whose mandate seems to be to convict anyone who is accused.
The due process protections being undermined are far more fundamental than some questionable new human rights: "rights" to food or education, for example, or the "rights of the child" to be free from parental authority.
Addressing this question becomes especially urgent when an assortment of political authorities, from national foreign ministries, to the EU, to the UN, is busy creating criminal jurisdiction for itself – powers that are not limited by due process protections – culminating in the august "International Criminal Court."
Human rights are too important to be hijacked by ideologues with an agenda. We need an extensive discussion about what we mean by human rights and what it means to accuse someone of violating them. If human rights becomes a free-for-all for every mountebank peddling a grievance, it will become a vehicle for violating human rights, as we see with Amnesty International.
Baby drowned during baptism
July 26, 2010 permalink
Father Valentin accidentally drowns the infant son of Dumitru Gaidau during a baptism in Moldova.
'Baby drowned during baptism'
A PRIEST has been accused of drowning a baby as he BAPTISED the tiny tot.
The holy man is being quizzed after the baby's parents claimed he accidentally drowned their son at the ceremony.
Witnesses claim Father Valentin did not cover the six-week-old tot's mouth before immersing him in the font.
The priest denies being to blame for baby's death after the baptism in the Rascani district in north-western Moldova, Eastern Europe.
The baby's dad Dumitru Gaidau, 36, said: "We all saw it, the priest didn't put his hand over the baby's mouth to stop water going in as he should have done and as they do at every other baptism.
"We couldn't believe it that he just put his hand over his belly and over the head and submerged him three times in the water."
The baby's godmother Aliona Vacarciuc, 32, said: "The baby was crying as he went into the water.
"We couldn't believe it but we thought the priest must know what he's doing, but he didn't. When we got him back there was nothing that could be done anymore."
She said that she and the other godparents had challenged the priest and asked him: "What have you done."
She added: "He just told us that he knew better than we did what should have happened and that it was not his first baptism — he was experienced and knew what to do."
Doctor Sergiu Raileanu who examined the tiny tot however, told Romania's Publica TV that his examination confirmed that the baby had drowned.
Local police said they have launched a manslaughter investigation. If found guilty, the priest faces up to three years in jail.
Source: The Sun (UK)
Alberta Foster Death
July 26, 2010 permalink
An eighteen-month-old foster girl died in Alberta on Wednesday, July 21. Since she has no name, in future stories she will be called Medicine Girl.
Woman charged in death of Alberta foster child
More charges have been laid in connection with the death of an 18-month-old foster girl, at a licensed day home in Medicine Hat.
A 24-year-old woman was originally charged with aggravated assault, and failing to provide the necessities of life.
Those charges have now been upgraded to manslaughter.
The toddler died last Wednesday, after being airlifted to a Calgary hospital with severe head injuries.
The woman is scheduled to appear in court on Tuesday.
Source: CHQR News 880
Successful Rescue from Foster Care
July 25, 2010 permalink
Most attempts by parents to rescue their children from foster care end a few days later with police taking the children back and the parents facing criminal charges. Georgia mother Beulah Lorraine Miller found a way to do it successfully. She waited until her son was in an Oklahoma treatment facility, then posed as his foster mother and took him home. The staff found nothing unusual about an unfamiliar woman being a new foster mother. With the haphazard recordkeeping of DHS, no one noticed the missing boy for four months, and by that time he was safely out of state and the trail was cold. Nine months later another trick, maybe the same one, got her other son back. The incidents took place in 2006 and 2007, and the boys are still with their family in Georgia.
Brothers in foster care in Muskogee missing since 2006-2007
Two teenage brothers in foster care here were reported missing five months apart in 2007.
Michael Christopher Gross, who turned 18 in April, went missing Nov. 9, 2006, at the age of 14. He had been in a treatment center in Tulsa when he went missing, and the man who was Michael’s foster father said he believes Michael’s mother went to the treatment center to visit him and identified herself as the foster mother and took him.
Michael’s younger brother, Robert Mitcheall Gross, had lived in the same foster home as his brother. On Aug. 26, 2007, Robert, then 13, was reported missing by his foster mother. That report was made the same day he went missing.
A police report about Michael missing wasn’t made by a Department of Human Services worker until more than four months later, on March 15, 2007. DHS would give no information to explain why there was a delay in reporting Michael missing.
“We can’t comment on any particular case,” said DHS Public Information Officer Beth Scott.
The boys are believed to be with their birth mother in Georgia, but no one in Muskogee has reported hearing from them, police said. The mother, Beulah Lorraine Miller, had taken the children once before while they were in a foster home in Muskogee. They were found in Georgia with their uncle.
Scott said less than one percent of children in DHS custody go missing. On Wednesday, there were 59 children missing out of 7,972 in state DHS custody, Scott said.
The number of children in out-of-home care through DHS is dropping annually. There are over 1,000 fewer children in out-of-home care than there were in July of 2009, Scott said. More than 3,800 fewer children are in out-of-home care than there were in July of 2007, a 32 percent reduction in three years, she said.
When the report was filed stating Michael had left his foster home on Altamont Street in 2006, he had tuberculosis and had left his medicine. He also had a mood disorder, according to a police report.
The report mentioned Michael running away before and being found in Atlanta with family members.
Police were told the mother had at least 15 aliases, including: Sara White, Buelah Larane Miller, Daphne Jackson, Erica U. Brown, Buelah Miller, Tiffany L. Lee, Renee Gant and Diana Rosa Lee Frowner.
Miller was on probation in Georgia at the time her son went missing in 2006, police were told.
When Robert disappeared, the foster mother told police she was worried his biological mother had taken him. She told police the last time she saw him he was walking toward Fifth Street on the Sunday afternoon he disappeared.
OSBI Public Relations Officer Jessica Brown said the OSBI had never worked the case. She said they got the information on their Web site from The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s Web site.
Source: Muskogee Phoenix
CAS Gets More Protection from Public
July 24, 2010 permalink
John Dunn has spent years unsuccessfully trying to get Ottawa Children's Aid to comply with the law that requires them to provide him with a membership list. Now CAS is using the ultimate tool to thwart Mr Dunn: getting the Ontario legislature to change the law. A new Not-for-Profit Corporations Act (bill 65) will further isolate children's aid societies from public scrutiny by limiting the ability to get a membership list to persons who are already members. In case that is not enough protection, a court can issue an order allowing a corporation to refuse access to information that would be detrimental to any member.
Proposed Bill 65 - Non-Profit Corporations Act - Attempts to block citizens right to advocate for changes in CAS
To ensure you read the latest version of this post, please visit http://www.fostercarenews.blogspot.com as this post may have been modified since being sent out.
New Non-Profit Corporations Act Bill going to Committee (this pertains to CAS's and has serious impl0Dunnications and restrictions to non-members) Please read: The proposed new Bill to kill the old Corporations Act and create a new Non-Profit Corporations Act (Bill 65) will prevent non-members from asking for lists of CAS members.
SECTIONS 95 AND 98 ARE IMPORTANT TO US AS PEOPLE WHO WISH TO REQUEST CAS MEMBERS LISTS TO ADVOCATE FOR INTERNAL CHANGES TO SOCIETY'S BY-LAWS AND POLICIES
CAS'S REJECT OUR MEMBERSHIP APPLICATIONS. BUT THE LAW NOW STILL LETS US REQUEST MEMBERS LISTS TO ADVOCATE FOR CHANGES. THE NEW BILL 65 ONLY ALLOWS MEMBERS TO ASK FOR THE LIST. WE MUST PROTEST THIS AT THE COMMITTEE IN THE LEGISLATURE.
YOU CAN ASK TO CALL IN BY TELECONFERENCE OR GO IN PERSON.
PROPOSED PUBLIC INPUT DATES:
TORONTO QUEENS PARK: MONDAY AUG 23, 2010
KITCHENER: TUES AUG 24, 2010
SUDBURY: WED 25, 2010
KINGSTON: THURS AUG 26, 2010
TORONTO QUEEN'S PARK: AUG 31, 2010 - WHERE THEY GO THROUGH IT SECTION BY SECTION (CALLED CLAUSE-BY-CLAUSE)
YOU CAN ASK TO ATTEND BUT CAN'T SPEAK - GOOD TO LEARN HOWEVER WHEN IT GET'S TO SECTIONS 95 AND 98 WHAT THEY SAY. ANYONE ABLE TO MONITOR THAT DAY FOR ME AND REPORT BACK?
CALL BELOW FOR EXACT LOCATIONS AND TIMES FOR YOU TO SPEAK TO THE PROPOSED CHANGES AND HOW IT PREVENTS PEOPLE WHO ARE FILTERED OUT OF MEMBERSHIPS FROM ADVOCATING THROUGH EXISTING MEMBERS
YOU CAN SPEAK TO IT IN PERSON OR BY PHONE:
CALL BELOW TO GET YOUR NAME ON THE LIST TO SPEAK TO THE BILL BY PHONE OR IN PERSON
Bill 65, Not-for-Profit Corporations Act, 2010
99 Wellesley Street West Room 1405, Whitney Block Queen's Park Toronto, ON M7A 1A2
TTY: (416) 325-3538
Members' access to register of members
95. (1) A member or a member's attorney or legal representative who wishes to examine the register of members of a corporation shall first make a request to the corporation or its agent accompanied by a statutory declaration described in subsection (3). As soon as is practical, the corporation or its agent shall allow the applicant access to the register during the corporation's regular office hours and, on payment of a reasonable fee, provide the applicant with an extract from the register.
Corporation to provide list of members
(2) Any person described in subsection (1), on payment of a reasonable fee and on giving a corporation or its agent the statutory declaration described in subsection (3), may on application require the corporation or its agent to give the person a current list of members setting out the names and addresses of each member and such additional information as is required by the by-laws as soon as is practical.
Contents of statutory declaration
(3) The statutory declaration required under subsection (1) or (2) must,
(a) state the name and address of the applicant and, if the applicant is a body corporate, its address for service; and
(b) state that the list of members or the information contained in the register of members obtained under subsection (1) will not be used except as permitted under subsection (5).
(4) If the applicant is a body corporate, the statutory declaration must be made by a director or officer of the body corporate.
Use of information or list
(5) A member or a member's attorney or legal representative who obtains a list of members or information from a register of members under this section shall not use the list or information except in connection with,
(a) an effort to influence the voting of members;
(b) requisitioning a meeting of the members; or
(c) another matter relating to the affairs of the corporation.
ALSO SEE SECTION 98 OF THE PROPOSED BILL 65
Access to records refused - court authorization
(1) On the application of a corporation, the court may authorize the corporation to refuse to allow access to any records the corporation is required to keep under this Part or to give any information that the corporation is obligated to allow access to or to give under this Part, in whole or in part and on any terms that the court thinks fit, if the court decides that allowing the access or giving the information would be detrimental to any member or the corporation.
(2) On the application of any member of a corporation, the court may direct the corporation not to allow access to any records the corporation is required to keep under this Part or not to give information that the corporation is obligated to allow access to or to give under this Part, in whole or in part and on any terms that the court thinks fit, if the court decides that allowing the access or giving the information would be detrimental to any member or the corporation.
Posted by afterfostercare at 5:13 PM
Source: Foster Care News (John Dunn)
Addendum: A letter to MPP Monique Smith outlines the weaknesses of the proposed new law.
July 26, 2010
165 Main Street East
North Bay Ontario P1B 1A9
Subject: Bill 65 / Children's Aid
sent by email and Canada Post
A bill before the legislature will change governance of non-profit corporations, including Ontario's children's aid societies. It is bill 65, Not-for-Profit Corporations Act. Currently any person may get a list of members of a non-profit corporation, after executing an affidavit pledging to use the list only for lawful purposes. The new law limits membership lists to persons who are already members, and allows a court to restrict even that if finds that disclosure will be detrimental to any member. It continues the provision that a non-profit may through its bylaws determine what persons are eligible for membership.
While these provisions are suitable for a truly private organization such as a hunting club or a labor union, they are unsuitable for an agency disbursing over a billion dollars a year in public funds. Children's aid societies have shielded themselves from forms of oversight applying to other public agencies, such as freedom of information laws and the ombudsman. This new law will insulate them even more from public scrutiny.
To show you the developing public concern with children's aid, I attach to the electronic version of this letter two pictures published by the Huntsville Forester on July 13, showing a demonstration the day before. Twenty five similar demonstrations have taken place across Ontario this year and more are scheduled.
I suggest that you amend the proposed act to prevent children's aid societies from unreasonably restricting their membership through their bylaws, and to require them to disclose their membership to all pledging to use the information for lawful purposes.
I note that complaints about the Nipissing/Parry Sound children's aid are among the lowest in Ontario. To the degree that your efforts are responsible, I thank you for protecting the children in your riding from abuse at the hands of social workers.
Robert T McQuaid
558 McMartin Road
Mattawa Ontario P0H 1V0
Addendum: Reply from Mrs Smith
Monique Smith, MPP
August 24, 2010
Mr. Robert T. McQuaid
558 McMartin Road
Dear Mr. McQuaid,
Thank you for your e-mail of July 26 regarding Bill 65, Not-For-Profit Corporations Act, and the impact it may have on Children's Aid Societies (CAS) in Ontario.
I appreciate hearing from you on this issue. I can assure you that the government of Ontario recognizes that our Children's Aid Societies serve vulnerable members of our society and must be accountable to the government and to the communities that they serve. Having said that, I will certainly remain mindful of all of your comments and concerns as Bill 65 moves through the legislative process.
I have also taken the liberty of forwarding a copy of your correspondence to the Honourable John Gerretsen, Minister of Consumer Services, and to the Honourable Laurel Broten, Minister of Children and Youth Services, so that they may be aware of your concerns.
Again, thank you for taking the time to write to me.
Hon. Monique Smith,
/aw/ps/bc165 Main Street East, North Bay, ON P1B 1A9 • T - (705)474-8340 F - (705) 474-9747 E - email@example.com www.moniquesmithmpp.ca
Social Worker Brutalizes Woman
July 24, 2010 permalink
Matthew Carlile is a Social Service Specialist at the Oklahoma Department of Human Services in Sallisaw. He invited a woman to his home, greeted her with a shotgun, then severely brutalized her. The events in the article will come as a shock to believers in social services, but should be not surprise to those who realize that social work, along with police work, attract persons with the dominator personality.
Social worker arrested, accused of violent assault
Matthew Carlile, a Social Service Specialist at the Oklahoma Department of Human Services in Sallisaw was arrested Saturday after he allegedly beat, shot at, and held his former girlfriend captive for hours.
Authorities said that Carlile, 35, called his former girlfriend, Carmen Parra, 39, of Sallisaw and asked her to come to his house. When she knocked on the door, Carlile answered it with a shotgun in his hand.
According to the report, when Parra was lying on the bed, Carlile threatened to kill her and started shooting the shotgun into the mattress around her. She told authorities Carlile kept hitting her with the barrel of the gun. She said Carlile stuck the barrel of the shotgun in her mouth, pulled it out then struck her in the lip with it.
Parra told authorities that she was trying to avoid being hit in the face by the barrel so she covered her face with her arms. On Monday Parra was bruised from her face to her feet. Photos show multiple round barrel marks behind her ears, on her face, on her back, her buttocks, and her upper and lower legs, and on the bottoms of her feet. Parra’s right arm, from her hand to her shoulder, has dark purple bruises and her hand was swollen. Dark purple circles cover her legs in various spots, her back and behind her neck.
Eric Helms, Sequoyah County Sheriff’s investigator, said Parra had shoes on her feet at the time of the alleged attack. He said that she was hit with the barrel of the shotgun with such force on her shoes that the bottoms of her feet has round bruising on them.
Parra was able to run out of the house and get into her vehicle and leave. Sallisaw Police Officer Mark Rutherford and Sequoyah County Deputy Raymond Martin met with Parra at 1:45 a.m. Saturday shortly after Parra was allegedly assaulted.
Parra gave Rutherford the shotgun that was allegedly used during the alleged attack. Martin asked Parra how she ended up with the shotgun and she said, “He gave it to me and told me that I would have to shoot him or he would kill me.” She said when she took the shotgun she ran out of the house, to her vehicle and drove off.
Parra told authorities that Carlile kept threatening to kill her, then he would shoot the shotgun around her into the bed where she was lying. Martin reported during the initial report that Parra’s shirt was torn, she had bruises on her right forearm and blood on her right hand. He said she was heavily bleeding from the mouth. Parra was taken to Sequoyah Memorial Hospital in Sallisaw and treated and released.
Martin, along with other officers, drove to Carlile’s residence on Wild Horse Mountain Road just south of Sallisaw and knocked on the door. Martin reported no one answered. Deputies stayed near Carlile’s home while Helms drove to the sheriff’s department to type a search warrant in order to gain entry to the residence. While typing the search warrant, Sheriff Ron Lockhart called Helms to inform him that Carlile was in custody, and he gave the deputies verbal consent to search his home.
When deputies went inside the home they went to the room where Parra said the assault occurred.
“There was no bed in the bedroom. I did locate two spent shotgun shells lying in the floor and a pile of spewed dust, hair, small papers and small lead pellets,” Helms reported.
Deputies found blankets with bloodstains and holes consistent to what Parra had told them. Helms said while he was collecting the evidence he noticed a splattered stain on the wall.
“This blood stain was cut from the wall and secured as evidence because Martin said Parra was bleeding badly from her lip,” Helms said.
A bed was not found inside the home; however deputies drove into a pasture behind Carlile’s home and found a bloodstained mattress with several holes. They were also able to locate a box spring that had holes consistent to the mattress. Helms said Carlile was taken to Sequoyah County Jail and booked in on various assault charges.
On Monday Carlile stood before District Judge Jeff Payton, and Ryan Wyrick, assistant district attorney, who asked Payton to set no bond. Payton granted the state’s request and Carlile was taken back to jail. On Tuesday, Carlile retained Donn Baker, attorney from Tahlequah, and both Carlile and Baker went before Payton on Wednesday.
“Based on the seriousness of the offense and the need to protect the public I asked for $150,000 bond. Over the state’s objection, Payton lowered the bond amount requested,” Wyrick said.
“Payton set Carlile’s bond at $50,000 in order to get Carlile to the treatment facility,” John David Luton, first assistant district attorney said.
Payton said the purpose of setting the bond at a lower amount then what the state requested is to get Carlile into a rehabilitation program. Carlile will not be released to the public.
“Baker requested a lower bond be set on the condition Carlile goes to Hope Valley Rehabilitation, which is an alcohol, drug and related treatment program.
“As soon as he is out of the rehabilitation facility his bond will be revoked and he will be back in jail. This is an inpatient facility. We are going to verify that he is there and doing what he is suppose to be doing,” Luton said.
“We are not taking these allegations lightly. We take all domestic violence cases seriously. The situation is still being investigated and I’m expecting multiple charges,” Luton said.
Joy Walker, Sequoyah County DHS director, said an extensive background check is done on all new hires. Mary Leaver, spokesperson for the Oklahoma Department of Human Services said Carlile has been employed with the department since 2005.
“He is currently an active employee. The departments police however, is if any employee is convicted of a felony, it is an automatic discharge,” Leaver said.
Source: Sequoyah County Times
Kelly Pflug-Back Arrested
July 24, 2010 permalink
Kelly Pflug-Back has been arrested as one of the instigators of violence during the G20 summit in Toronto. Her finacé Julian Ichim was arrested on the morning of Saturday, June 26 during the summit. Fixcas posted an item on this couple on June 22.
Prime suspect in G20 damage turns herself in
A 21-year-old Guelph woman whose photograph was added by Toronto police to the new G20 most-wanted list is in police custody after turning herself in Wednesday afternoon.
Kelly Pflug-Back, a self-described grassroots anti-poverty activist, was one of several new suspects identified by police in connection with their investigation into “thousands of dollars in damage” during demonstrations on downtown streets while world leaders met behind fences and barricades at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.
Sgt. Nancy Loucks of Peterborough Lakefield Community Police Service told the Star that Pflug-Back turned herself in just before 3 p.m. Wednesday.
She was to be transported to a holding cell in Toronto on Wednesday night and is expected to make a court appearance at Old City Hall Thursday morning.
Pflug-Back’s photographs were among 21 released Wednesday by police, six of them duplicates from early lists of G20 most wanted from July 7 and 14. Charges against the others range from mischief to theft, said Det. Sgt. Gary Giroux.
Pflug-Back was identified at a news conference Wednesday morning as a suspect who faces six counts of mischief over $5,000, said Giroux.
Giroux alleged that Pflug-Back is an organizer and someone who gave orders to other demonstrators. Police allege the photographs show the suspect “in and out of her black clothing.”
She is accused in attacks on a police car occupied by Staff Sgt. Graham Queen and stores on Yonge St., including a McDonald’s and Urban Outfitters, and a CIBC branch on College St., he said.
Pflug-Back had been previously charged in an assault on an Olympics torch bearer in Guelph in January and had filed suit against Guelph police in September 2009.
Pflug-Back’s fiancée and co-accused in the torch-relay incident, 30-year-old Julian Ichim, told the Star in a phone interview that he felt Toronto police had unfairly demonized her by releasing her photo to the media in the wanted list.
“She was on bail, they knew where she was. Obviously she wasn’t trying to hide anything,” he said, adding the police had come to his Waterloo home to find her.
“She was gone for a couple of hours, there was no need to create all this hysteria.”
On Pflug-Back’s Facebook page, she writes about being held in a detention centre and being charged with conspiracy during the G20.
“ha I'm charged with conspiracy. That's a first,” she wrote on July 1.
“oh yeah, I was only released on really strict conditions,” she wrote in another post the same day.
The Toronto police would not immediately return calls on whether Pflug-Back was previously charged during the G20 and was released on bail prior to her inclusion in the most wanted list.
Ichim says he and Pflug-Back had been engaged for three months after dating a year and had expected to wed on Sept. 18, his birthday. Both are part of the Guelph organization Sense of Security, which provides food, shelter and aid for people in need, and advocates for people needing legal aid.
Ichim says he was arrested the morning of June 26 at a Tim Hortons near the Allan Gardens and charged with counselling to commit an indictable offence. He was released on bail posted by his parents on June 28.
In an interview with a blog on June 21, Pflug-Back talks about her protests against the Children’s Aid Society. Pflug-Back moved to Guelph a few years ago after growing up in Norwood, in Peterborough County, where she started writing poetry that has since been published.
Toronto police say 10 people from the G20 most wanted lists have been arrested already, including a young offender, Giroux said.
“Eighty per cent of the photographs come from calls or tips from the public. To this point, the interest is nothing less than remarkable with regards to their assistance,” he said.
As well, negotiations continue with the lawyers of some suspects to surrender their clients, he said.
Police have received 17,000 still photographs and more than 550 videos from the public. In all, Giroux said, investigators have identified 80 persons of interest.
Source: Toronto Star
Addendum: There is a Facebook group Rally To Free Kelly Pflug Back.
CPS Targets Blind Parents
July 23, 2010 permalink
Blind Missouri parents Blake Sinnett and Erika Johnson have been reunited with their daughter Mikaela Sinnett through the efforts of the National Federation of the Blind. From the story it is clear that many other blind parents have not been successful in retaining custody of their children. The blind join vegetarians, nudists, smokers and the obese as groups targeted for child removal.
Family Reunited After Wrongful Seizure of Child
National Federation of the Blind Successful in Returning Infant to Her Parents - Family Reunited After Wrongful Seizure of Child.
The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and its Missouri affiliate announced today that they have succeeded in a legal fight to bring a two-month-old infant, Mikaela Sinnett, home to her parents, Blake Sinnett and Erika Johnson of Independence. The NFB of Missouri hired an attorney to assist the couple after Mikaela was taken from them at Centerpoint Hospital almost immediately after she was born. For fifty-seven days the couple, both of whom are blind, were allowed to visit their child in foster care but were not allowed to bring her home. The sole reason given by Missouri's Department of Social Services was that the couple was blind and could not properly care for Mikaela without the assistance of a sighted person twenty-four hours a day and seven days a week. An evidentiary hearing was scheduled for July 20, but at the last minute the state of Missouri dismissed the case against the couple.
Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: "The National Federation of the Blind is pleased that the state of Missouri has dismissed its case against Blake Sinnett and Erika Johnson and returned baby Mikaela to their care. Despite the fact that blind parents are successfully raising children across the nation, blind Americans continue to find that misconceptions and stereotypes about the capabilities of blind people too often result in hasty and unwarranted decisions to remove children from the custody of blind parents. The worst nightmare of parents everywhere—having a child taken away—is sadly part of the lives of too many blind parents. The National Federation of the Blind stands ready and willing to help state officials across the country understand how blind people use alternative techniques to care for their children. But the blind of America will not tolerate our children being taken from us."
"We were and are outraged at the action of Centerpoint Hospital and the state of Missouri," said Gary Wunder, president of the National Federation of the Blind of Missouri. "Children's services have the job of protecting children from abuse and we have nothing but admiration for that work. Taking a child away because her parents are blind is an entirely different matter which violates state and federal law. We have gotten Mikaela back home, but we must fundamentally change a system that presumes the incompetence of blind parents and operates on a principle of guilty until proven innocent rather than the reverse. We cannot help but think that new parents who are blind in Missouri will avoid seeking medical and social services that they may need for fear that they will experience a similar ordeal. We can never give back the two months this family has lost, nor can we restore to Erika the joy of nursing her child that this separation has made impossible. What we can do is use their adversity to change the system that allowed this atrocity and educate the people who have mistakenly equated blindness with a lack of perception, intellect, and judgment."
On May 21, 2010, Erika and Blake went to Centerpoint Hospital, where Erika delivered Mikaela. When trying to nurse the baby for the first time, Erika asked for assistance from a nurse when she thought something was wrong. The nurse said that the baby was turning blue and helped reposition the baby, who then began to take nourishment. The nurse assured Erika that it was common for new mothers to need some instruction and that she was doing fine. Blake and Erika were therefore surprised when, some four hours later, they were met by a children's services worker who made inquiries about their vision; asked how they would feed, diaper, and supervise their child; and eventually decreed that Baby Mikaela would not be allowed to be discharged with her mother unless the social worker could be assured there would be constant supervision by someone with sight. On the recommendation of Missouri's Children's Protective Services, Mikaela was placed in foster care and one-hour visits were arranged for several times each week. When the National Federation of the Blind of Missouri determined that blindness was the only reason the child was taken by the state, the organization hired attorney Amy Coopman to handle the case. The National Federation of the Blind now has the option to file complaints with the Missouri Human Rights Commission and/or the federal Office for Civil Rights, as well as at least three options that can be pursued in the state's courts.
About the National Federation of the Blind - With more than 50,000 members, the National Federation of the Blind is the largest and most influential membership organization of blind people in the United States. The NFB improves blind people's lives through advocacy, education, research, technology, and programs encouraging independence and self-confidence. It is the leading force in the blindness field today and the voice of the nation's blind. In January 2004 the NFB opened the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute, the first research and training center in the United States for the blind led by the blind.
Source: Disabled World
July 22, 2010 permalink
The Observer reports on today's rally in Sarnia, quoting ralliers John Butts and Catherine Frei along with Sarnia CAS executive director Richard Newton Smith.
Protesters target CAS in Sarnia
A group of travelling protesters demanding reform of Ontario's child protection services held a small rally outside Sarnia's Children's Aid Society Thursday.
"We're not opposed to the CAS. There are children in need, but stats show more than 50% of families under investigation are innocent to begin with," said Catherine Frei, founder of Protecting the Innocent based in Kitchener.
She and John Butts of Families Opposed to Children's Aid Society Deceit (FOCASD) say there have been about 60 similar rallies across Ontario since February, involving an estimated 600 demonstrators.
The largest in Sudbury and Timmins earlier this summer attracted about 40 people. The Sarnia rally drew eight.
"We pulled this together at the last minute," Butts said.
The group alleges many abuses within child protection services, including illegal and unprofessional conduct.
"The number of kids in care is growing in leaps and bounds and we believe it's because the CAS gets government funding based on numbers," Butts said.
The protesters want the Ontario ombudsman to be given authority to review complaints against the CAS.
Ombudsman Andre Marin is on record as saying he wants oversight of Ontario's 53 Children's Aid Societies and that his mandate should be expanded.
But a private members bill supporting such a move has failed twice.
"We have the support of the NDP," Butts said. "(NDP Leader) Andrea Horwath has told us that there will be a third attempt to get this through."
He urged anyone with a complaint against the CAS to contact Sarnia-Lambton MPP Bob Bailey and call for change.
"We are fighting back within the bounds of the law," Butts said. "Our stories may seem shocking but that's why we're putting so much effort into this. Abuse within the system is just so common."
Richard Newton Smith, executive director of the Sarnia CAS, briefly met with the protesters outside CAS headquarters on Kendall Street in Point Edward.
"I'm prepared to deal with anything related to Sarnia. Contact me and I'll follow up," Newton Smith said. "Good luck with your travels."
As he turned to leave, he said, "In all seriousness, contact me."
"He's the first executive director to come out and talk to us," Frei said. "We asked him why it takes the CAS so long to provide full disclosure and he said he'd look into it."
"That's pretty vague," Butts said, "But at least he came out."
In an interview with The Observer, Newton Smith said the CAS already has numerous mechanisms and agencies that oversee its actions, including the courts, a local client complaints process, the Child and Family Services Review Board, the provincial advocate for children, and the Ministry of Children and Youth Services.
"We already have more than sufficient overviewers," he said.
Butts acknowledged the CAS is answerable to several agencies but said none are open to public scrutiny.
"The review board can review cases," he said. "But they won't look at anything that's before the courts, which eliminates about 90% of cases."
The group plans rallies in Kingston July 27 and at Queen's Park in Toronto Aug. 16.
Source: Sarnia Observer
Thanks to Catherine Frei for pointing this out promptly
Ministry of Children and Youth Services Investigated
July 22, 2010 permalink
The OPP is investigating three ministries, including the Ministry of Children and Youth Services and the Ministry of Community and Social Services. The investigation seems to relate to expenditure of funds, not to child trafficking.
OPP probing corruption by staff in at least three ministries
Civil servants escorted from buildings in raids and investigation of bid rigging, bribery and corruption on contracts
Police are investigating staff of at least three Ontario government departments including the Ministry of Community and Social Services in a widening corruption scandal.
The ministries of Energy and Infrastructure and Children and Youth services are among the other targets of the Ontario Provincial Police probe that broke open publicly last week with raids on a block of buildings steps from the Legislature, sources told the Star on Monday.
Sources said the government escorted an undisclosed number of employees from the Ministry of Community and Social Services as part of the execution of search and seizure warrants in the vast complex known as the Macdonald block at the corner of Bay and Wellesley. Officers also raided the home of one senior manager in that ministry.
One area of the OPP’s focus is that ministry’s “capital and accommodation services” branch, which is responsible for strategic planning, project management and dealing with the Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure. That ministry includes Ontario Realty Corp., which sells and manages provincial lands and buildings.
Ontario Realty Corp. selected Toronto-based CB Richard Ellis Canada, a major commercial real estate company, to handle all its responsibilities last year. At that time, it inherited several hundred employees working on government contracts.
In March, the Star asked Ontario Realty Corp. about former and current managers allegedly receiving benefits such as home renovations in return for government contracts.
At that time, Ontario Realty spokesperson Bill Moore said those allegations of “suspicious procurement practices” were under investigation. It is unclear whether the current raids have any connection to the earlier probe.
John O’Bryan, vice-chairman of CB Richard Ellis, would not comment on any allegations against company staff that might be subject of the investigation.
Contractors, who regularly deal with the government, have complained to provincial officials during the last two years about competitors gaining unusual favourable attention in winning work.
The OPP has said the ongoing investigation involves “irregular transactions” between government staff and outside contractors but has offered few other details. OPP spokespersons said the force has not arrested or charged anyone yet in the probe.
“We do not want to release any further information at this time because it could jeopardize an ongoing investigation,” said Sgt. Pierre Chamberland.
Despite calls from opposition politicians, government officials would not confirm any suspensions or firings of staff or other information in connection with the probe of alleged bid rigging, kickbacks and fraud.
“The OPP is conducting an investigation that concerns some individuals in the Ontario government,” said Michael Patton, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Government Services. “Since the investigation is ongoing it would be inappropriate to speculate or provide further comment at this time, At the same time, we are fully cooperating in the investigation.”
Other government officials have stressed that no politicians or their aides are under investigation.
At Queen’s Park, opposition politicians pressed Premier Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals for more disclosure on the investigation.
“This is the time for either the premier or one of the ministers to come forward and to reassure the public and those working in the public service who have all been tarred with the same brush about what the realities are,” said Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak.
Hudak said Ontarians don’t know which public departments or agencies are under investigation since the Macdonald block houses offices for 13 ministries The secrecy is also tainting hundreds of public servants and contractors, he noted.
The Tory leader noted there are 13 ministries and agencies — including the Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure and the Ontario Realty Corp., the government’s real estate arm — in the Macdonald Block.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said she was troubled by the silence from a Liberal government already under fire for excessive secrecy surrounding questionable regulatory changes before last month’s G20 summit of world leaders.
“This ongoing criminal investigation is extremely disconcerting and casts an unfortunate cloud over all provincial government operations,” she said.
Source: Toronto Star
Addendum: It looks like the investigation is about kickbacks from a carpet cleaning contract. The lion's share of the kickbacks went to the Ministry of Community and Social Services.
Carpet-cleaning contracts behind probe of Ontario ministries
Search warrant shows suspected fraud totalling over $390,000
Carpet-cleaning contracts are behind a criminal investigation at three Ontario government ministries, according to court records, with civil servants accused of accepting kickbacks and rigging bids to line their pockets with cash and electronics.
Premier Dalton McGuinty said last week that three government ministries were under investigation by the Ontario Provincial Police, but did not say why.
Speculation has been rife, but on Tuesday an unsealed portion of an OPP search warrant brought clarity, showing that investigators suspect that taxpayers and two government subcontractors have been defrauded of about $393,000 in the scheme.
The documents state that staff in the Ministries of Transportation, Economic Development and Trade and Community and Social Services are being investigated by the OPP for a scam that was centred on carpet-cleaning contracts.
None of the ministries would comment, other than to say they were co-operating with investigators. Two subcontractors – CB Richard Ellis and SNC Lavalin Profac – are also named in the filing.
Neither the police nor the province has identified the carpet-cleaning company at the centre of the probe. The court document simply refers to the company as a “vendor of record,” which is what the government calls any company that has been awarded a contract after going through the tendering process.
It is also not clear how many employees are being investigated.
“We are aware of the situation and we are co-operating with the OPP on the investigation, but we haven’t had to take any action in response to the situation,” said SNC Lavalin Profac spokesman Gopal Bensal.
No one has been charged in connection with the investigation, which police say centres on irregular financial transactions between government and outside vendors. The court document is a one-page overview of the investigation, which is the only public portion of a sealed court file.
“It is alleged the Ontario government, SCN Lavalin Profac and CB Richard Ellis employees who were involved in the awarding of service work (typically carpet cleaning) to a vendor would accept kickbacks in the form of cash payments, the provision of free personal services and/or the provision of personal electronics,” the document states.
The document says that sometimes, invoices would be issued for work that was never done. In other cases, the contract would be artificially inflated so employees could spread the cash among themselves.
“For smaller jobs that were invoiced at a couple of thousand dollars or less, the vendor provided the suspect employee with 10 to 20 per cent of the invoiced amount,” the document states. “For larger jobs … the vendor provided the suspect employee with approximately 50 per cent of the inflated amount.”
The police are also investigating claims that the civil servants and private contractors would tell the service vendor what other vendors were bidding for a contract, so they could undercut them and win the business and keep the scam going.
“It is alleged that in some instances, kickbacks were provided to the suspect employee for bid rigging in the form of cash payments and/or free personal services,” the document says.
The documents state that the scam cost the Ministry of Community and Social Services at least $300,000, the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade at least $50,000, and the Ministry of Transportation at least $16,000.
SNC Lavalin Profac and CB Richard Ellis were said to have lost approximately $27,000. The two companies provide real estate services to the Ontario government on a contract basis.
A CB Richard Ellis spokesperson said the company has been working with the Ontario government since October, 2009, and would co-operate with the investigation.
“CB Richard Ellis has strong policies regarding ethical behaviour and business practices that all our employees are required to follow,” Margot Friedman said. “We have zero tolerance for illicit or unethical activity in any form. Because the investigation is ongoing, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”
Source: Globe and Mail
Lewis Out, Ballantyne In
July 22, 2010 permalink
Mary Ballantyne, previously executive director of Simcoe CAS (Barrie) is replacing Jeanette Lewis as leader of the Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies (OACAS).
Ontario's child welfare association appoints new Executive Director
TORONTO, July 21 /CNW/ - The Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies (OACAS) today announces the appointment of Mary Ballantyne as Executive Director of the provincial child welfare association. With over 24 years experience in child welfare, Ms. Ballantyne has contributed significantly to the field in a leadership and management role.
"Child welfare in Ontario is facing challenging and exciting times with the work of the Sustainability Commission, an evolving Transformation Agenda and significant budget issues. The OACAS will continue to play a critical role in advocating for the needs of children and families across the province and in facilitating future direction and change in the critical work of child welfare. I am excited to be able to provide leadership to this important cause," said Ms. Ballantyne, incoming Executive Director of OACAS.
Beginning November 1, Ms. Ballantyne will lead the Association in representing Ontario's Children's Aid Societies (CASs) and supporting its members in working with the Commission for Sustainability in Child Welfare, government and community stakeholders.
For the past ten years, Ms. Ballantyne has served as Executive Director of the Simcoe County Children's Aid Society (Simcoe CAS). Some of Ms. Ballantyne's most notable contributions to child welfare in Ontario include developing a province-wide assessment tool for child protection, leading Simcoe CAS through pilot testing for an information management system for all CASs in Ontario and providing leadership on various provincial projects. She also brings to the Association commitment, skills and leadership in working with the Aboriginal communities.
"We are extremely pleased to welcome Mary to the Association," said Keith Sparling, president of OACAS. "Mary brings a genuine, compassionate and courageous approach to working with people and systems to improve the lives of children and families. We believe she will successfully carry forward the mission of OACAS as the voice of child welfare in Ontario."
In the interim, Virginia Rowden, Director of Social Policy, has been appointed Acting Executive Director of the Association.
About the Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies
OACAS is a membership organization representing Children's Aid Societies (CASs) in Ontario. The Association has served its members, the community, the public and the government in a variety of ways since 1912. Today, OACAS provides service in the areas of advocacy, government relations, communications and public education, youth in care, information management, training, and member outreach.
For further information: Marcelo Gomez-Wiuckstern, Director of Communications, (416) 987-9648; Marie-Lauren Gregoire, Communications Advisor, (416) 987-9685, www.oacas.org
Source: Canada News Wire
July 20, 2010 permalink
Rallies are scheduled for:
The big one will be at Queens Park in Toronto on August 16.
Canadian Cancer Spreads to Ukraine
July 20, 2010 permalink
Ukrainian officials love the positive Canadian experience with children's aid and want to implement the Canadian system there.
Hello dear Robert!
My name is Zhanna, writing you from Ukraine (neighbor of Russia). I am a member of whole-ukraininan society of parents (my site, in Russian: jujust.com.ua). Recently our government started a mass PR program of adoption of juvenile justice system in our country. As a result - our Children's Aid started to take away children from normal families. Officials tell us a lot about a positive Canadian experience in this area and they want to implement Canadian system here. I saw your site and would like to translate (to Russian) and publish some materials to let our people know another side of Canadian Children's Aid.
Would you let me to translate and publish on my site (and probably on some other sites of our parents communities) your materials? If you allow, we will specify links to your site with each translated post.
Thank you very much in advance,
Source: email from Kira Damaris
Here is a not very readable Google translation of the Ukrainian website.
July 20, 2010
[ kira.damaris at gmail.com ]
Subject: permission to translate and re-publish your materials
I was both amused and alarmed that Ukraine is contemplating adopting the Canadian system of children's aid. You are welcome to translate and post anything you find on my website.
Robert T McQuaid
558 McMartin Road
Mattawa Ontario Canada
Parasites Play Dirty
July 20, 2010 permalink
When changes in government spending save the taxpayers money, the parasites who formerly received the unnecessary spending fight dirty to keep their money. Today the CBC broadcast the story of bureaucrats Douglas Tipple and David Rotor (mp3), hired to cut spending in Canadian government procurement. After a year of success, a false leaker planted slanderous stories in the press to get them fired. It gives some idea of why it is so difficult for government to cut spending on utterly unnecessary functions such as child protection.
CPS Stonewalls Willards
July 20, 2010 permalink
Washington state senator Pam Roach summarizes the CPS lies in the adoption of the Willard's granddaughter Madison, at first identified by the alias Lily/Lilly.
Reformed Daughter And Wonderful Grandparents...Willard Case
Message from the Willards:
Our daughter's appeal was denied. We now go to adoption court against the great-grandparents on August 5th. Our daughter is appealing now to the Supreme Court of Washington.
I am campaigning. That means this will be short. But, the story is one of CPS charging forward with their minds already made up. Lying to the judges...they have absolutely no cares for what they have done.
The Willard's daughter was promised by CPS that if she relinquished custody of her little girl (Lilly as reported here) that her parents would be able to adopt Lilly. (That was lie #1. They can not make that promise and there was no paperwork to make them hold to that.)
The state took Lilly and put her in foster adopt with the 26 year-old single woman who had put in an order for a blond blue-eyed little girl.
I entered the seen. You know...just trying to help. The foster adopt filed an ethics complaint with the Senate (something that CPS probably said would be fun for her to do). I won. There is actually nothing wrong with a legislator trying to help a citizen from a lying bureaucracy. Personally, I think more should get involved. But then...I think government people who lie should be held accountable.
The state did a second home study replacing some lies (the grandparents stole a computer, etc) with other lies (Mrs. Willard was on dialysis and had breast cancer, etc.). Nothing happened to anyone because of the lies told to a judge. Nothing good was ever said about the Willards in the home study.
While all this was happening the MOTHER, sobered up, started school, and got a job. She has her own place to live. She petitioned to have her child back in a timely manner. Lilly never would have been taken if the state had not promised that Lilly would go to her young (45ish) grandparents.
With my intervention and some special political connection of the great-grandmother, Lilly was placed with the wealthy GGPs. That is certainly better than having her with the unrelated foster woman. So, that at least is a plus.
The court, today, ruled that Lilly's mother can not have her back and there will be a adoption hearing for the GGPs who have had "Lilly" for many months. The mother will appeal this ruling from the Court of Appeals. She is appealing to the Supreme Court of WA.
Please see the case that was decided in this court just a few weeks ago. The case of AB is reported here in PRR. The system is just fine with the lies. For them the end justifies the means. But the mother and the Willards, the hundreds of friends that the Willards have, and at least one legislator....me....understand that this monster of a government agency helps kill kids (one a month) on one hand...and takes kids and redistributes them on the other.
Source: Pam Roach blog
Judges Call Social Workers
July 20, 2010 permalink
When Massachusetts judges had to make a decision in a child custody case, they filled themselves in with an off-the-record call to the state Department of Children and Families. The parents never knew about the call and could not respond to errors in the information provided. An appellate court has now outlawed the practice.
Court ruling regarding child-custody cases in Massachusetts hailed as victory for parents
SPRINGFIELD – A recent decision by the state’s highest court in a case which challenged practices used in child-custody cases in Hampden Probate Court is a victory for parents, says an administrator of a regional legal services agency.
The state Supreme Judicial Court ruled that certain practices (“protocols”) relied upon by family court judges in Hampden Probate Court in child-related cases, such as those involving temporary visitation and custody, violated the due process rights of parents in those cases, according to Colleen Sullivan, managing attorney for Western Massachusetts Legal Services.
In 2006, Western Massachusetts Legal Services brought a lawsuit challenging the protocols which permitted judges to gather information in cases where there was state Department of Children and Families involvement. The practices included having court personnel simply call the state agency and get an oral summary of information in a file, without the parents’ knowledge of what information was being transmitted, Sullivan said.
The practice allowed for the possibility of incomplete, inaccurate or unreliable information being given to the judge, who would then rely in part on such information to make decisions on issues such as temporary visitation, guardianship or custody, she said.
Sullivan said Western Massachusetts Legal Services has always recognized that Probate Court judges grapple with very difficult issues and are guided by the best interests of the child.
But Western Massachusetts Legal Services also recognized that the protocols left room for serious errors in important decisions about family life, she said.
The Supreme Court acknowledged the difficulties that judges face in making such determinations, but found that the constitutional due process protections of parents here to have only complete, reliable and accurate information be considered by judges is paramount, Sullivan said.
The court ruled that “in the interests of justice, we exercise our broad discretion” to review the current protocols, and concluded that their use violates the due process rights of affected litigants.
The protocols can no longer be used, but the Probate Court can draft new ones that the Supreme Judicial Court’s Rules Committee will review.
Source: The Republican
Manual for Torturing Kids
July 19, 2010 permalink
A five-year freedom of information struggle in England has revealed a manual titled Physical Control in Care. It gives detailed instructions for abusing teenagers in state custody.
Shocking details of techniques used to inflict pain deliberately on children in privately run jails have been revealed for the first time in a government document obtained by the Observer.
Some of the restraint and self-defence measures approved by the Ministry of Justice include ramming knuckles into ribs and raking shoes down the shins. Other extraordinary passages in the previously secret manual, Physical Control in Care, authorise staff to:
- "Use an inverted knuckle into the trainee's sternum and drive inward and upward."
- "Continue to carry alternate elbow strikes to the young person's ribs until a release is achieved."
- "Drive straight fingers into the young person's face, and then quickly drive the straightened fingers of the same hand downwards into the young person's groin area."
The disclosure of the prison service manual follows a five-year freedom of information battle. The manual was condemned last night by campaigners as "state authorisation of institutionalised child abuse".
Published by the HM Prison Service in 2005 and classified as a restricted government document, the manual guides staff on what restraint and self-defence techniques are authorised for use on children as young as 12 in secure training centres. The centres are purpose-built facilities for young offenders up to the age of 17 and run by private firms under government contracts.
Instructions to staff warn that the techniques risk giving children a "fracture to the skull" and "temporary or permanent blindness caused by rupture to eyeball or detached retina".
The guidance, designed to cope with unruly children, also acknowledges that the measures could cause asphyxia. One passage, explaining how to administer a head-hold on children, adds that "if breathing is compromised the situation ceases to be a restraint and becomes a medical emergency".
Carolyne Willow, national co-ordinator of the Children's Rights Alliance for England (CRAE), which led the campaign for disclosure following the deaths of two teenage boys in secure training centres, said: "The manual is deeply disturbing and stands as state authorisation of institutionalised child abuse. What made former ministers believe that children as young as 12 could get so out of control so often that staff should be taught how to ram their knuckles into their rib cages? Would we allow paediatricians, teachers or children's home staff to be trained in how to deliberately hurt and humiliate children?"
The campaign for publication began following the deaths of Gareth Myatt and Adam Rickwood. Myatt, 15, died while being held down by three staff at Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre in Warwickshire. Myatt choked on his own vomit and died.
In the same year, 2004, 14-year-old Rickwood, from Burnley, hanged himself at the Hassockfield Secure Training Centre in County Durham. A judge ruled last year that the carers who restrained Rickwood shortly before his death had used unlawful force.
His mother, Carol Pounder, was said to be "relieved" that other parents would now know the truth behind the use of restraint.
Deborah Coles, co-director of the charity Inquest, which campaigns on the issue of contentious deaths in custody, claimed their deaths emanated from a "culture of obfuscation, secrecy and complacency… in which dangerous, unlawful and ultimately lethal practices continued unchecked".
Earlier this month the government was prepared to go to a tribunal to fight against the disclosure of the manual, despite the information commissioner ruling that the public interest was so grave the document should be released. The Ministry of Justice backed down and last week released the entire 119-page document. Previously, officials had even refused to give a copy to the parliamentary human rights committee.
Phillip Noyes, director of strategy and development at the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, said: "These shocking revelations graphically illustrate the cruel and degrading violence inflicted at times on children in custody. On occasions these restraint techniques have resulted in children suffering broken arms, noses, wrists and fingers. Painful restraint is a clear breach of children's human rights against some of the most vulnerable youngsters in society and does not have a place in decent society."
One former manager of a secure children's home with almost 20 years' experience said the revelations were "horrifying" and described the self-defence techniques as "child abuse".
"Nose distraction" techniques – sharp blows to the nose – have already been found by the Court of Appeal to have been routinely and unlawfully used in at least one centre.
The legal director for CRAE, Katy Swaine, said the contents of the manual offered evidence that the treatment of children in secure training centres had contravened human rights laws. She said: "The guidance given in this state-authorised manual violates human rights because it allows staff to deliberately hurt children outside cases of life-threatening necessity."
During the 12 months up to March 2009, restraint was used 1,776 times in the UK's four secure training centres.
Sir Al Aynsley-Green, the former children's commissioner for England and emeritus professor of child health at University College London, said: "It's time the whole country knows what is going on under their noses. This is just part of a brutal system, and we welcome the fact this is finally in the open."
Malcolm Stevens, a former government policy adviser and director of secure training centres who helped to develop the government's guidance for staff working in secure centres during the 1990s, said he could not understand why pain-inducing techniques were endorsed. He said: "I have never seen the need to use pain-compliant techniques, and after 15 years my view has not changed. I have no truck with distraction techniques."
The document also describes the application of steel handcuffs: children are forced to "adopt a kneeling position" while a second staff member "takes control of the head" by grabbing the back of the neck while cupping the chin.
Willow, who has drawn up 30 parliamentary questions to be tabled by MPs this week to ascertain how many times these self-defence techniques have been used in the past five years, said: "The ritualistic humiliation of making children kneel down to get handcuffs on and off is truly sickening and a clear abuse of human rights. Techniques include holding a 'child's forehead to the floor with another hand on the back of the neck'."
The Ministry of Justice said: "For young people under 18, the use of restraint is always a last resort. But where young people's behaviour puts themselves or others at serious risk, staff need to be able to intervene effectively, to protect the safety of all involved." The ministry added that the manual "is an aid for instructors" who train staff on the use of restraint techniques.
Source: Observer (UK)
July 18, 2010 permalink
Nigaila Gibbs was born HIV positive. She was a ward of the St Louis Missouri Children's Division until her arrest at age 20. She has been engaged in prostitution over the last two years, exposing dozens of her clients to HIV. The Children's Division found about her prostitution in February but for three months privacy rules thwarted notification of the police. They are still resisting full disclosure on grounds of confidentiality. In the Gibbs case confidentiality exposed dozens of men to risk of death. Anyone for abolishing confidentiality?
Police weren't told of woman's HIV, alleged prostitution
Months before a Richmond Heights woman was arrested for prostitution and potentially spreading HIV, representatives from at least two state agencies and two private nonprofit groups were aware of her alleged illegal behavior.
Why? Because Nigaila Gibbs, who police reports indicate may have spread the virus to at least 20 repeat clients and a number of one-time customers, was a foster youth still under the legal guardianship of the St. Louis City Family Court and the state Children's Division. These authorities knew she had carried the virus since birth.
But documents and interviews point to at least a three-month lapse in the reporting of her alleged dangerous sexual behavior and her HIV to police in early May. The Children's Division, private foster care agencies and members of the St. Louis Family Court were aware at least since February that she was advertising her services online.
The lapse happened despite a Children's Division rule requiring supervisors to make reasonable efforts to report to law authorities situations where a foster child is a clear threat to another.
Citing privacy laws regarding foster children, the agencies and court responsible for her care have declined to comment on the details of her case. That leaves unanswered many of the questions about why the city family court, presided over by Judge Jimmie Edwards, did not intervene earlier to get Gibbs off the streets.
Yet Gibbs herself, as well as others familiar with her situation, said her caseworkers, the Children's Division and the officers in the family court knew she was HIV-positive and a suspected prostitute for at least five months after she was kicked out of a subsidized apartment she was leasing through a nonprofit foster care agency. Gibbs was arrested late last month.
Seated on a hard plastic chair inside a cinder-block St. Louis County Jail interview room, Gibbs told a reporter last week that caseworkers knew of her behavior and tried to stop her, but she felt she had no choice.
"I'm not this monster that they're making me into," said Gibbs.
She said she'd been a foster child for nearly a decade, living in more than 60 different homes, residential centers and hospital facilities. She suffers from bipolar disorder, she said. Gibbs was 20 at the time of her arrest. Foster children can opt out at 18 or stay in the system with benefits and supports until they are 21.
Speaking through tears, Gibbs said she didn't want to end up in jail and was humiliated that her name and mugshot had been released to the media, along with the warning that she was carrying HIV.
"I really did want to change, and I wanted out of this," she said. "I really did want out of the business. I didn't know how to get out."
Her case illustrates the worst, but not uncommon, outcome for youths 18 and over who age out of the foster care system without a permanent home, said Gary Stangler, executive director of the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative in Clayton and a former head of the Missouri Department of Social Services. Studies indicate that about 20 percent of women in foster care end up arrested; prostitution within this group is not uncommon, he said.
"For a young woman who has had 50 placements, who has languished in the foster care system without any obvious movement toward what the law requires - permanence - then it's not all surprising that this woman would fall into that statistic," he said. "They're going to make their way on the streets. It's the only way."
It's unclear how long Gibbs' alleged prostitution was known to the foster care system and the caseworkers, court officials and agencies that handled her case.
What is clear is that at least one of those agencies knew of her activities no later than February, and appears to have taken steps to alert others in her case management.
Gibbs was living in an apartment through Alternative Opportunities Inc. Her rent and utilities were paid through the Children's Division for over a year to prepare her for aging out of foster care. Gibbs said the agency kicked her out of the apartment in February on suspicion of prostitution.
The agency notified her caseworkers, leading to a team meeting, officials close to the case say. Such meetings are held every two months to discuss foster care cases. But they also meet in cases of emergency.
In Gibbs' case, multiple players would have been part of that process. Her case was overseen by the Missouri Children's Division, Children's Foundation of Mid-America, a nonprofit, state-contracted foster care agency, an independent court advocate, and the Family Court, overseen by Edwards.
But it took three months before police were alerted.
Nor did the system exercise its right to forcibly emancipate Gibbs, which would have removed her from foster care and cut off state support.
Gibbs said her court advocate was against it.
Instead, her team gave her more freedom. Gibbs said that after losing her apartment in February she was allowed to move into her own apartment in Richmond Heights, where she was arrested last month. The Children's Division at first subsidized her rent, she said.
When her boyfriend told caseworkers in April that she was engaged in prostitution, Gibbs said Children's Foundation of Mid-America cut off her rent subsidy from the Children's Division.
"Instead of helping me, they said, ‘We're going to stop paying your rent.' " Gibbs said. "Obviously I'm doing alleged things because I don't know how to do things for myself."
Gibbs said health officials also knew of her alleged behavior since about February.
She had been attending a clinic at St. Louis Children's Hospital for youths with HIV. Workers there told her they were planning on contacting the health department, she said.
Yet, it is unclear whether St. Louis County health department officials or the Department of Health and Senior Services in Jefferson City were formally notified about the situation or whether they acted to contact legal authorities as they are allowed by law to do.
Citing confidentiality laws, both agencies declined to comment. Gibbs' social worker at Children's Hospital could not be reached for comment.
According to a St. Louis County Police Department arrest report, it wasn't until early May when the Children's Division came to the Richmond Heights Police Department with evidence that Gibbs was advertising her services online and in a local newspaper.
She was not arrested until June 30, when the St. Louis County Police Department's Special Investigations Unit caught her in a targeted sting at her apartment in Richmond Heights. According to the arrest report, an undercover detective contacted Gibbs and arranged a meeting through a St. Louis Backpage online advertisement titled "dirty deeds done dirt cheap" that included photographs of her. At her apartment, the detective removed his clothes and she hers. Then he said a code word to signal his team to move in for the arrest.
The arrest report said Gibbs later admitted to not warning clients that she had HIV, though Gibbs said she practiced safe sex.
Citing confidentiality laws, James Thurman, CEO of Children's Foundation of Mid-America, would not confirm whether the agency was handling Gibbs' case management when she was arrested; Gibbs said it was.
Thurman said his caseworkers worked with a challenging population of foster youth, meeting with them regularly and always informing all members of a support team - courts, advocates, Children's Division and others - in an emergency.
"If we become aware of something, we don't just sit around and say, ‘Oh, my God.' We start doing," he said.
He noted that any final decisions about a foster youth's case fell to the Family Court and the judge.
Gibbs, with silky auburn hair pinned up neatly, looks far different than her mug shot on websites both in St. Louis and around the country.
Aside from a reporter, Gibbs has had one visitor in jail - her longtime court advocate, who told her she had finally been kicked out of foster care, just days shy of when she would have aged out of the system.
Gibbs, who had yet to meet her public defender last week, faces charges that could put her in prison for 15 years. The court could opt to accept a guilty plea in exchange for special court supervision, said a St. Louis Prosecutor's Office spokesman. Her preliminary hearing is set for early August.
By Gibbs' count, she had 63 different placements in the foster care system, including foster homes, emergency placements, residential centers and psychiatric hospitalizations.
She said her life was tumultuous. Her mother died when Gibbs was 4. Her father struggled with alcoholism and a violent temper when he was drunk. He first lost custody of his children when Gibbs was 10 and for good when she was 12. In the past decade her father has served jail time for assault, drunken driving and other offenses.
Gibbs said she, too, once faced charges for threatening a court juvenile officer. She admitted threatening at least one of her recent caseworkers who tried to stop her behavior.
According to her arrest report, she began engaging in prostitution when she was 18 and homeless.
She was squatting in an abandoned house in south St. Louis and working at a Steak 'n Shake. When word spread among her co-workers that she had HIV, Gibbs quit.
That's when she began working the area around South Grand Boulevard, she said.
Gibbs, who turned 21 on Thursday, remains in the St. Louis County Jail in lieu of $50,000 bond. Her father, who talks to her by phone, has no money to put up.
Alone in jail, without anyone to help her, Gibbs says she knows she can change. She's pleading for mercy. She squinted her brown eyes intently as she spoke and wept.
"I want to get a job like a regular person. I will work for every little thing I own. I want to get my life the right way," she said. "I just want a second chance. Everyone deserves one, and I just want mine."
Source: St Louis Post Dispatch
CAS may Curtail Reporting
July 18, 2010 permalink
Ontario's children's aid societies file serious occurrence reports with the Ministry of Children and Youth Services at a rate of 20,000 per year. No one in the ministry analyzes the reports, and since they are secret the press cannot do stories based on them and the public cannot review them. Currently a report is filed for each instance in which a physical restraint is used on a child. Now the Commission to Promote Sustainable Child Welfare proposes restricting the reports to restraints causing an abuse allegation, injury or death. One man who can look at the reports is provincial child advocate Irwin Elman. He found a case in which one child was restrained every day for five years. It was not an isolated case. Mr Elman wants the reports to continue, giving him at least a small window into the functioning of Ontario's foster care system.
Safety net for at-risk kids may be removed
Children’s advocate opposes move
The controversial use of physical restraints on some of Ontario’s most vulnerable children may soon go unreported to reduce the hassles of paperwork, a provincial report reveals.
The move to end the reporting of all but the most serious incidents undermines a critical safeguard for kids in group homes and treatment residences, Irwin Elman, the provincial children and youth advocate, told the Star.
“Then nobody knows what happened in that house but the people in that house,” Elman said.
Roughly 20,000 “serious occurrence reports” were filed last year where a child in residential care was subdued by staff with physical force, according to provincial statistics. Agency workers are allowed to use these techniques only when a child appears in imminent danger of hurting himself or somebody else, a rule put in place nearly 10 years ago following two inquests where children died after being pinned to the floor or sat on by workers.
A provincial commission tasked with revamping Ontario’s child welfare system is recommending reports should only be filed if the restraint causes an abuse allegation, injury or death. It is unknown how many of the 20,000 meet this criteria.
These “serious occurrence reports” are considered a “major irritant” by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services and children’s aid societies, according to a review by the Commission to Promote Sustainable Child Welfare. The commission also found the paperwork is rarely ever analyzed by the ministry or acted on.
“Why have agencies complete all of these tasks when nothing really happens with it?” said David Rivard, executive director of the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto, who raised this point with the commission.
“We see (the reporting reduction) as a good thing,” said Mary Juric, acting executive director of the Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Toronto.
“When you use the word restraint, it sounds as though these children are in a serious restraint for a significant period of time,” she said, adding that some reports, which take up valuable time to write that could have been spent working with the child, reflect “very minor interventions.”
She also noted that staff using physical restraints must take a ministry-approved training course.
“We don’t support reducing accountability and oversight of any kind,” commission member Barry Lewis told the Star. He said cases of physical restraint that don’t lead to injury, death or allegations of abuse would still be logged internally by group home staff.
That’s not good enough, said children’s advocate Elman, who likens the ministry’s role to that of a parent.
The reporting system is a valuable oversight measure that should be used as an early-warning tool to help at-risk kids, he said. The sheer volume of reports alone, Elman said, indicates something is wrong. Restraints are only supposed to be used as a measure of “last resort”. The fact that a restraint of any kind was needed means a child was in major distress and that is reason enough to alert the ministry, he said.
“Obviously, if there’s this number of restraints going on, then the treatment the child is receiving is missing the mark somehow,” he said. “The ministry needs to continue to know about these kinds of things and have some ability to actually influence the kind of treatment children and youth are getting.”
The advocate’s office recently conducted its own review of the use of physical restraints on a young boy in a group home. Elman said the results reveal the importance of the reports.
The child (Elman’s office provided no other identifying details) had been physically restrained every day for a period of five years. In reviewing the restraint reports, the advocate’s office found that in many of the cases, the use of restraints was not justified. The office also found that the group home’s own documentation of the incidents seemed to indicate that staff behaviour escalated the situations. These reports had been filed by the group home to both the ministry and children’s aid but neither of these oversight bodies identified the issue.
Elman said the example is not an isolated case.
Another recent review by his office of a group home in Ontario revealed serious problems with the use of physical restraints that did not meet approved standards. The concerns were reported to the advocate by youth in the home. Their claims were validated by the information in the reports.
“This is why I say the reports need to be analyzed with serious rigour,” Elman said.
“I do not agree with reducing the requirement to report on them because of the apparent nuisance of filling out the form. The nuisance is far less a problem than the potential trauma that the restraint necessary or not, inflicts on the child or the children witnessing it.”
The ministry said it has not yet decided whether it will adopt the commission’s recommendation.
Said ministry spokeswoman Paris Meilleur: “Our number one priority remains the safety and protection of our most vulnerable children and youth in a system with effective safeguards and accountability.”
Source: Toronto Star
Sex for Cigarettes
July 18, 2010 permalink
Connecticut group home worker David Traverso coerced a teenaged girl into sex. As part of the bargain, she got cigarettes. Did the girl need to be in care to begin with? The last line of the story says that at age 18 she has returned to her real family. In this he-said she-said case, it is possible that the girl made up the story to get even with Traverso.
Sexual favor exchange for cigarettes may land former Litchfield group home employee 18 months in prison
LITCHFIELD — A former employee at a Litchfield group home, who police said had sexual contact with a 17-year-old girl in exchange for a pack of cigarettes, may serve between nine and 18 months in jail.
David Traverso, 34, of 708 Colony Road in Meriden, pleaded guilty in Litchfield Superior Court to second-degree sexual assault. Traverso was subcontracted to work at Touchstone, a residential facility that deals with Department of Children and Families clients, when he told a 17-year-old girl he would supply her with cigarettes in exchange for oral sex, Assistant State’s Attorney Terri Sonnemann said.
The guilty plea was submitted under the Alford Doctrine, meaning Traverso did not admit guilt but agreed there was enough evidence to find him guilty by a jury if the case went to trial.
The plea agreement calls for a 10-year suspended sentence with nine to 18 months in jail. Traverso’s attorney, Donna Candella, and the state’s attorney, Terri Sonnemann, will argue that length of time before Judge James P. Ginocchio at Traverso’s sentencing.
Traverso will also serve a 10-year probationary period and register as a sex offender for 10 years.
The incident, which occurred on July 11, 2009, was reported to the state police five days later. Another employee at the facility found the girl in possession of the cigarettes, and when he confiscated them the girl explained where they came from.
An investigation opened up on July 16 and Traverso was arrested in September. He reportedly no longer works for Delta T Group, the agency he was subcontracted through to work at Touchstone.
The alleged victim told police she was alone in her room when Traverso brought her the package of Newport cigarettes.
The girl reportedly felt pressured to do whatever Traverso wanted because he was older and in a superior position, according to the warrant. Traverso initially denied every aspect of the girl’s story during an interview with police, complaining that the girl asked him for cigarettes every day.
Sonnemann said Traverso admitted to digitally penetrating the girl, and he indicated he wanted to take her off grounds to have sex.
The girl is now living with a member of her biological family, the state’s attorney said.
Ronald DeRosa can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Source: Torrington Register Citizen
British Class Action
July 18, 2010 permalink
A class-action lawsuit has been started against the family court system in the UK. Plaintiffs Freedom Advocacy & Law have established a class action page and a public Facebook group. Here is a local copy of the proposed complaint (pdf).
From the notice of lis alibi pendens, the abuses alleged are:
- The UNITED KINGDOM, and the FAMILY PROCEEDINGS COURT(S) and LOCAL AUTHORITY(S) encompassed within, have failed to;
- Prevent the systematic destruction of the individual family unit, by means of false allegation, perjury, perverting the course of justice, harassment and maladministration.
- Prevent serious infringements of human right and fundamental freedoms of offspring, birth parents and extended family unit members during state intervention, through manipulation and reckless abandonment of domestic and international Laws, Statutes, Treaties and Conventions.
- Preserve the rights of the extended family during both Private and Public Law, excluding options allowing continued access of extended family members with offspring, and denying obligation for keeping family unity paramount.
- Prevent abandonment of fiduciary duties to protect and assist families and extended families during Family proceedings in both Public and Private Law.
- Consider the imposition on Public Funds regarding costings of Family Court proceedings to remove children to State care or adoption versus support services for families as required by Statute to ensure the continued integrity of the Family Unit.
- Disclose any and all conflicts of interest relating to those agents acting for said organisations and consider possible ramifications as to the outcome of Family Proceedings Court cases.
- The UNITED KINGDOM, and the FAMILY PROCEEDINGS COURT(S) and LOCAL AUTHORITY(S) encompassed within, have wilfully and with aforethought to stated intentions:
- Sought to withhold information pertaining to individual cases particularly regarding material, recordings and running logs, before during and after proceedings, from the Respondents in those proceedings, here named as collective and individual Plaintiffs.
- Committed acts of torture and distress, through action and inaction, against both adults and children in a demonstrable effort to alienate one from the other, dismantle marriage and force removal of minors in the wake of manufactured situations of natural parents' incapability of maintaining themselves never mind a family.
Source: NOTICE OF LIS ALIBI PENDENS (pdf)
While the alleged abuses are widespread, it is unlikely that a class action of this sort can remedy the problem. A court can hand down an order to a specific person or corporation, but it is hard to imagine what relief it can grant against a whole court system, or all local authorities in the UK. And in any case, courts are not the root of the problem. Appropriated funds for foster care and adoption place a bounty on the head of every child collectible by any social service agency able to wrest control of the child from his parents. As long as the bounty exists, social service agencies will use the funds to induce the necessary cooperation from judges, lawyers, psychiatrists, and all others essential to maintaining the flow of funds.
Big Garage Sale for Baynes
July 17, 2010 permalink
The Bayne family has organized a garage sale for July 24 in Port Moody, British Columbia to raise funds for their never-ending trial over custody of their three children. Link to the flyer for Big Garage Sale (MS-Word).
Source: email from Baynes
July 16, 2010 permalink
Here is a report on the rally in Kitchener Tuesday, July 13, which attracted 5 or 6 people.
As far as media, we have a blackout in Kitchener as our newspapers for whatever reason refuse to write any stories regarding the rallies which take place. There were a few people that turned up for the rally, and it was myself that was in court that day fighting for my two children, most crucial my three-year-old who is unable to make decisions for himself. My fifteen year old is.
It was one of the most digusting proceedings I have ever seen. They have me targeted because of the advocacy work that I do and the fact that I will "Stand up and Speak out" about the injustices done to innocent families.
The judge would not allow myself, Dad, or either of our counsel to speak. She also would not look at, let alone consider the evidence that was brought to court and ruled that there be a Summary Judgement in October.
The good news is that I had a meeting today with a person that can and will hold them accountable to their words, and they agreed to three things being completed and my little Marty be returned home. Now I just have to find the $2000 for the Psych assessment they want (absurd they are even asking ... but anyways) and I have some friends that are working on a fundraiser for me already. Hopefully things will work out.
Source: Catherine Frei on Facebook
posted with the author's permission
Group Home Hell
July 16, 2010 permalink
In a Rhode Island group home for teenaged boys the toilets did not flush, clothing was stolen and five boys were confined to a hot room to coerce a confession to the theft.
R.I. shuts down group home for teen boys in Johnston
PROVIDENCE — State officials have shut down a group home for teenage boys in Johnston pending an investigation into allegations that the toilets and showers were not working and that some of the boys had been confined for hours inside a sweltering common room last week following a report that clothing was being stolen.
The problems were reported to the state Department of Children, Youth and Families by Rhode Island Child Advocate Jametta O. Alston after her office’s investigators received a tip and visited the group home, The Johnston House, on Greenville Avenue, last Thursday.
The investigators reported that in the middle of last week’s heat wave, five of the seven boys had been confined to a common room with no air conditioning — a claim that the group home’s chief executive denies —– in an effort to get the boys to confess about the theft of some clothing.
Toilets at the home also couldn’t be flushed and the bathrooms stank of backed-up waste, the child advocate’s office reported. And the showers were not functioning properly, so staff had been taking the boys to a local YMCA to shower.
The DCYF has placed the group home’s license on probation, as is done during any abuse and neglect investigation, and has moved all the boys into other group homes, the agency’s deputy director, Jorge Garcia, said Tuesday.
The Johnston House is operated by the Windsor, Conn.-based nonprofit operation Community Solutions Inc. The company’s chief executive officer, Robert D. Pidgeon, said Tuesday that his employees are cooperating with the DCYF in the investigation.
The Johnston House is one of 102 licensed residential facilities in the state operated by agencies that have contracts with the DCYF. Rhode Island currently has 324 youths in DCYF custody who are living in group homes, according to Garcia.
The state pays a per diem rate of $215.57 per bed to house up to eight teenage boys at the two-story house in Johnston, which has a staff of 12 to 15 people to care for and provide therapeutic services to boys with behavioral and emotional problems.
The problems at The Johnston House surfaced last Thursday when the state child advocate’s office — an independent agency created to serve as a watchdog over the state child-welfare system — received a call from a social worker who had a scheduled visit at The Johnston House last week. The social worker, Alston said, was accompanied by a DCYF employee.
Two investigators from the child advocate’s office visited the group home, Alston said, and interviewed the boys, who repeated the allegations.
“In order to get a confession, you have the children sitting still in a hot room,” she said. “That’s, to me, disturbing.”
Pidgeon, the group home operator’s chief executive, denied that the children were confined to one room.
“It would be impossible to confine them to a room because we don’t lock the doors,” he said. “They have free access to come and go in the building or on the grounds.”
The staff at The Johnston House had placed all but three newly arrived residents on “house restriction,” Pidgeon said, in hopes that one of them would confess to who was stealing clothing. House restriction means that the boys were confined to the house or the yard, he said, so they couldn’t go on trips to the movies or out for Chinese food. However, he said, they were free to move around the property. Their bedrooms had air conditioning, but not the dining room or living room, he said. The restrictions had been in place for 8½ days, he said.
“It’s not part of our policy to have restrictions that last that long,” Pidgeon said. “It just strikes me that’s a little too long.”
The Johnston House also had been having intermittent problems in recent months with its water pump, but it wasn’t until July 1 that the water pressure became so low that it restricted showering and staff began taking the boys to a local YMCA to shower.
“By July, you couldn’t take back-to-back showers [and] couldn’t flush the toilet,” Pidgeon said. “It’s not like they were ever out of water. They just didn’t have the water pressure they needed.”
The two-story house, built in 1920, has a gabled, clay tile roof and decorative glass doorways, but its original clapboards have been replaced with vinyl siding and the wood façade is worn.
The group home’s operator, Community Solutions, bought the house in 1997 through its real-estate arm, Collins Group Inc., for $210,000. At the time, Pidgeon said, the company owned a number of properties used for residential juvenile care. But since then, the company has moved away from residential services for juveniles to home-based care, and the Johnston house is one of the last three properties it owns. The others are a group home in Coventry and a safe house in Windsor, Conn.
Community Solutions operates in 14 states, including Rhode Island, and is accredited by the national nonprofit Council For the Accreditation of Residential Facilities. The DCYF’s Garcia said he could not recall ever having had a problem with the company’s facilities.
Last Friday, the water pump at the Johnston group home was replaced and the pressure problem resolved, Pidgeon, the company’s CEO, said. By then, the residents had been unable to flush the toilets or use the showers for eight days. The same day, investigators from the DCYF’s child protective services and licensing divisions showed up at the home and interviewed residents and staff. The DCYF ordered that the home be shut down and the boys move out pending completion of their investigation.
The group home’s staff has not been working since Friday, Pidgeon said, and is not being paid pending the results of the investigation.
“What was most disturbing to me was that the DCYF social worker [who visited Thursday] didn’t make the calls” to report the problems, Alston, the state’s child advocate, said.
DCYF social workers are required to conduct monthly on-site visits of all children the agency places in group homes, Garcia, the agency’s deputy director, said. However, he said, the plumbing problems at the Johnston home were not necessarily something that a DCYF employee would notice if he or she didn’t use the facilities during the visit.
“I’m not sure if some of those issues would have been obvious,” he said.
Source: Providence Journal
False Exonerator Arrested
July 15, 2010 permalink
Social worker Todd O'Brien has been arrested for falsifying evidence in child protection cases. No, not for creating evidence falsely accusing parents of abuse and neglect. Social workers are never reprimanded for that. Mr O'Brien did the opposite: he marked cases as "unsubstantiated", clearing affected families of the burden of dealing with CPS, and denying his bosses the opportunity to seize children for a claim on appropriated funds. Earlier story.
Former County Worker Charged with Falsifying Child Protection Documents
RACINE - He was in charge of investigating cases for child protective services in Racine County, but Todd O'Brien has been accused of falsifying documents that could have put hundreds of children at risk.
O'Brien pleaded not guilty in a Racine County courtroom to six charges of falsifying documents.
His former employer, the Racine County Human Services Department, is in the middle of reviewing his entire case load.
The trust O'Brien allegedly fabricated may take years to repair.
"This is a combination of a white collar matter and a typical criminal investigation," said District Attorney Michael Nieskes.
O'Brien, who is 37 and from Franklin, was in charge of investigating child abuse and neglect cases.
But instead of investigating, he allegedly marked the cases as "unsubstantiated."
He has since been fired, and Racine County Human Services is reviewing about 250 of O'Brien's cases.
Neither O'Brien nor the people he was with in court would talk to us.
Officials with Human Services would not comment about the internal investigation or what specifically they're doing to make sure this doesn't happen again, but they say they're taking this situation very seriously.
So are prosecutors.
"Our fear is that someone will continue to be victimized or was victimized further," said Nieskes.
O'Brien is scheduled to return to court next month.
Source: WTMJ Milwaukee
Addendum: Within days, another case of the same from Florida.
Ex-DCF Worker Charged With 2 Felonies
FDLE: Child Protective Investigator Falsified Records, Led To Child's Abuse
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A former child protective investigator for the Florida Department of Children and Families' Jacksonville office was arrested Friday on two felony charges, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Special agents arrested Qua-Keita Anderson, 27, on charges of official misconduct and falsification of child protective records which contributes to great bodily harm.
The FDLE said it began its investigation after receiving information from DCF's Office of Inspector General that Anderson falsified records.
Investigators said they found that in July 2009 Anderson was assigned a case after the Florida Abuse Hotline received a call of child abuse caused by the child's mother in Duval County. According to Anderson's investigative notes, she conducted a face-to-face interview with the child and the child's father in August and subsequently closed the case in September and indicated no abuse had occurred.
In September, the Florida Abuse Hotline received another call on the family, who had moved to Highlands County, investigators said. This time, the child protective investigator verified findings of "failure to protect" and "physical abuse."
The investigation revealed that Anderson lied about visiting the home and conducting interviews with the family, which resulted in further physical abuse being incurred by the child, investigators said.
Anderson was booked into the Duval County Jail.
DCF spokesman John Harrell said the FDLE reported that this is the first time a charge of falsification of child protective records which contributes to great bodily harm has been made against a DCF employee.
Winning Streak Ends
July 15, 2010 permalink
Seven years ago Amber Nicklas, then one year old, was taken from California foster care care by three of her aunts. This week she was seized by police in Arizona and returned to foster care.
Amber Nicklas: Kidnapped Girl Missing Almost 7 Years Found
LOS ANGELES (CBS/KCAL/AP) Amber Nicklas was just 13-months-old when she was allegedly abducted by her three aunts from her foster parents nearly seven years ago.
Now, she is back in California after she was discovered safe in Phoenix, according to authorities.
Detectives from the Phoenix Police department's missing persons unit, as well as the FBI and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, came to a home in Northern Phoenix with a search warrant looking for the girl.
Officials say the woman who answered the door tried to hide the girl, now 7 years old, under clothes in a bathroom shower.
According to CBS affiliate KCAL, the girl was reported to be in fine condition and well cared for.
The girl's name and date of birth had been changed, but officials said a positive match was made using her footprint and a DNA swab.
She was originally kidnapped, reportedly by three biological aunts - all juveniles at the time - during a non-custodial visitation.
The foster parents were distracted by two of the aunts and the third aunt got away with the child, Los Angeles County sheriff's Lt. Bill Evans told the Associated Press.
Two of those aunts were later arrested; a third remains at-large.
The woman who was reportedly caring for the girl is not the third aunt, say police.
Source: CBS News
Girl Forced Under Knife
July 15, 2010 permalink
A teenaged Orangeville girl is about to have part of her body removed by surgeons against her will and against the will of her parents. A court justifies the use of force based on a medical opinion.
Is this a family of religious kooks who need intervention to save a life? Or a victim of over-zealous intervention, such as Katie Wernecke? (blog, father). We will never know, since under Ontario law the name of the family is secret, and they are unable to present their side in public.
For Ontario children, there is no right to refuse medical treatment, or even to seek alternative opinions.
Judge removes sick teen from parents’ custody
The parents of a teenager, who suffers from a rare neuromuscular disorder, lost the right to choose what type of treatment their daughter receives, following a child protection hearing held late last week.
As a result of Ontario Justice June Maresca’s ruling inside an Orangeville courtroom last Thursday (July 8), the teen will be placed in temporary care of the Children’s Aid Society of Dufferin County, which now has the authority to “consent” she undergo major surgery.
“This same disease is activated by stress and taking her away from us could put her into a more serious condition,” the girl’s father said. “We don’t want that. We want to try other options.”
Under Section 45.8 of the Child and Family Services Act of Ontario, The Banner is unable to name the child, her disorder, any of her family members or the name of the impending surgery, in order to protect her identity.
Rather than see their child undergo the procedure, the parents, who view the surgery as contrary to their religious beliefs, were hoping to send their daughter to a treatment centre called The Cleansing Way in the state of Washington. It was their hope she would receive herbal and natural treatments there, as well as what they believe is the healing power of prayer.
Never completely ruling out the surgery under contention for several years, the family wished to explore alternative treatments first, before deciding on whether to pursue the “invasive surgery” as a “last resort,” the girl’s father explained.
“It is based on, for me, having an option, our choice,” he said. “We haven’t exercised our choice to have alternative measures or try any alternative measures that may possibly work.”
The case raises ethical questions about whether parents, and also adolescents themselves, have the right to refuse medical treatment in favour of alternative medicine.
In 1999, the parents of a Saskatchewan boy with a form of bone cancer called osteogenic sarcoma refused the final stages of chemotherapy and the amputation of one of his legs — the only recognized treatment for the disease — and argued for alternative medicines in Mexico.
Although the court ruled the 13-year-old undergo the procedures, afterwards doctors found the boy’s cancer had spread to his lungs, meaning there was only a slight chance treatment would improve his condition. Once doctors withdrew their calls for chemotherapy, the boy was treated at the American Biologics hospital in Tijuana, Mexico, before later dying at St. Paul’s Hospital in Saskatchewan on June 30, 1999.
Similarly, in 1995, a Jehovah Witness couple temporarily lost custody of their child, who was deemed in urgent need of a blood transfusion, to the Children’s Aid Society of Metropolitan Toronto. In their subsequent legal claim, the Supreme Court of Canada, as many courts reiterated before, ruled freedom of religion, like any freedom, is not absolute when contrary to the best interests of a child.
Then, in 2009, a ruling in the Supreme Court of Canada changed the way medical care providers were to assess the decision making capabilities of children under the age of 16.
In that case, A.C. v. Manitoba (Director of Child and Family Services), the court decided the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms requires medical care providers to respect the judgment of children under 16 who refuse treatment, as long as they’re determined to be mature and independent enough to make a life and death decision on their own behalf.
In that ruling, through Madam Justice Rosalie Abella, five judges on the Supreme Court stated, “If, after a careful and sophisticated analysis of the young person’s ability to exercise mature, independent judgment, the court is persuaded that the necessary level of maturity exists, it seems to me necessarily to follow that the adolescent’s views ought to be respected.”
However, in the Orangeville family’s case, Maresca ruled in favour of a physician’s assessment, determining the teenage girl did not have decisional capability to choose treatment. Noting an “admiration for her courage and faith,” Maresca said what concerned her most was the girl “believes she is getting better” despite medical advice to the contrary.
According to written testimony submitted by Dr. Jiri Vajsar, clinical director of neurology at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, there are no further medical treatments available for the child and if her conditions are not treated in a timely matter, the risk is death. Dr. Vajsar also testified that the girl’s episodes of crisis, as a result of the disorder, have become more frequent and that current treatments haven’t improved her condition.
“I find that without the proposed surgery, (the child) will die. … I also find she does not have months (to wait),” Maresca said, weighing her ruling on Dr. Vajsar’s written testimony, “the best … if not the only” credible medical evidence available to her. “A decision must be made now.”
Given the crux of the case was ultimately decided upon one piece of medical evidence submitted by the lawyer for Dufferin Child and Family Services, the family believes the outcome might have been different if they were better prepared.
With their daughter’s surgery date tentatively scheduled for next week, the family is weighing its options in terms of filing an appeal.
“We didn’t have enough time to gather enough information,” the father claimed. “That makes a big difference. So definitely, everything you can see was rushed. … We were helpless. Our hands are tied behind our backs.”
Source: Orangeville Banner
Stop Taking Our Kids
July 14, 2010 permalink
Manitoba's First Nations chiefs are speaking out against the seizure of their community's children.
Chiefs threaten boycott on devolution
MANITOBA'S aboriginal leaders want more say on child welfare issues in their communities, and they're threatening an economic boycott if the province fails to listen to their concerns.
At a news conference Tuesday, grand chiefs representing southern and northern First Nations expressed frustration at what they say is the slow pace of devolution and a growing number of children being seized from aboriginal communities.
"It is quite obvious that the public is being led to believe that the chiefs are in control of child and welfare issues," said Southern Chiefs Organization Grand Chief Morris Swan Shannacappo, But he said that's far from true.
The chiefs want to be represented on the boards of child welfare authorities and see laws enacted to make those authorities more responsive to First Nations concerns.
"I don't have the answers on how things could be better, but I know who does have the answers and that's our life-givers in our community and they need to be consulted - our grandmothers, our mothers, our aunties, our sisters all need to be present at the table and help give solutions," Shannacappo said.
Chief Arlen Dumas of Mathias Colomb Cree Nation at Pukatawagan said the process of devolution -- in which First Nations people control delivery of their own family services -- has been effectively halted, with kids still being "clandestinely smuggled out of our communities."
The chiefs said Tuesday they're prepared to flex their communities' economic muscle if the province doesn't listen to them by Aug. 1.
"We're going to slow down the economy of the province of Manitoba," said Grand Chief David Harper of the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, which represents the province's northern First Nations. He said aboriginal people could sit on their wallets for a day or two or even weeks. There were no other details of how a threatened economic boycott might work.
The demand from aboriginal leaders comes after a massive review of Southeast Child and Family Services earlier this year raised concerns about the role chiefs were playing in CFS matters. According to that report, chiefs did on occasion try to interfere politically with agency hiring decisions and in the cases of specific kids.
Meanwhile, the chiefs are planning to embarrass the provincial government by holding a protest at the legislature during the Assembly of First Nations' annual convention in Winnipeg next week. And they also plan to highlight their differences with the province at the First Nations pavilion during next month's Folklorama.
Family Services Minister Gord Mackintosh was unavailable for comment on Tuesday.
Source: Winnipeg Free Press
July 13, 2010 permalink
About forty people participated in a rally for accountability of CAS in Huntsville yesterday. Many locals showed up with their children and signs detailing the abuses of their local CAS. It was a large turnout for such a small town. The signs and handouts told the story in Canada Court Watch reports titled Muskoka CAS turns children back into the clutches of their abuser! (pdf) and a new report handed out at the rally titled Muskoka Ontario Judge, T.M.Wood, orders that children can’t see their loving father, friends and family then places them into an environment of physical & emotional abuse! (pdf). Here are pictures of the Huntsville rally and a video (Facebook, local copy mp4).
Rally organizer Neil Haskett spoke of his own involvement with children's aid. It began when children's aid workers showed up at his home in 2003. He has only suspicions about why his family was selected for harassment. They separated mom (Neil's wife) from dad (Neil) interviewing them separately. Neil resisted cooperation, but with the threat of child removal CAS got cooperation from mom, and forced an agreement for dad to leave the home. This separation persisted for two months until CAS discovered mom and dad were still cooperating. They seized the children and placed them with Neil's parents. CAS continued with legal process to remove the children permanently and to prosecute Neil criminally. Six months into the process, suddenly all actions were dropped, both in family court and criminal court, and the family was reunited. Neil suspects that his collection of evidence of CAS criminal acts in his case may be the motive for the CAS change of heart.
As for CAS, Neil believes it is a good idea but it needs to be supplemented with realistic oversight, such as by the Ontario Ombudsman, and he loudly demands prosecution of criminal acts by CAS workers, such as those in his own case.
Below is a press report on the rally.
Rally Against CAS in Huntsville
Vern Beck is not a fan of the Children's Aid Society or the family courts right now. So much so, that he spearheaded a rally in Huntsville yesterday to voice his opinion. Beck is a Canada Court Watch child and family justice advocate and says there are grave issues with the Children’s Aid services in this province. He pointed to a local case as proof. Beck says the rally was to bring transparency and accountability to the agencies. Marty Rutledge, interim Executive Director for Family Youth and Child Services of Muskoka says child welfare agencies are under tremendous scrutiny from the court system and the organization's funders. He says the public can rest assured these checks and balances are functioning "very well".
Source: Moose FM Radio Network FM 105.5 Muskoka
Addendum: A slightly more extensive report in the Forester.
Downtown protest draws attention to CAS
Source: Huntsville Forester (page 3, not available online)
All of the July 14 issue is available online except for page 3. It is no accident. A duplicate of page 5 is in its place. Did CAS bully the Forester?
According to Jack Tynan of the Forester, the web deletion was an error. As of Monday, July 19, it has been corrected.
July 12, 2010 permalink
An Australian social worker found the sure way to win a case: a secret meeting with judge James Barry.
Brisbane Family Court trial halted over claims of secret talks with social worker
A CHILD custody trial was aborted when a Brisbane Family Court judge disqualified himself after being accused of holding secret talks with a case social worker.
The week-long trial – which involved an allegation of sexual abuse against a young girl – ended abruptly on April 28 following an application to Justice James Barry from the child's representatives for him to stand aside on the grounds of "apprehended bias".
Family Court Chief Justice Diana Bryant has summoned Justice Barry to a formal interview in Melbourne this week and alerted Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland to the issues.
Justice Bryant told The Courier-Mail that while she had no specific disciplinary powers, she would be spelling out to Justice Barry the "gravity of the situation for the Court and the serious inappropriateness of the conduct".
"Whilst not entirely agreeing with all that was asserted . . . to have been said between him and the (social worker), (Justice Barry) accepted that he had inappropriately discussed the contents of the family report with the (social worker)," Justice Bryant said. "The report was evidence in the proceedings."
Applying for the disqualification, barrister Jacoba Brasch – counsel in the trial for the court-appointed Independent Children's Lawyer – told Justice Barry that the social worker had informed her of the private talks which took place in the judge's chambers.
"It is . . . reported that Your Honour has said in this discussion, 'These men' – a reference to (the relative accused of sexual abuse in the case) – 'they go off half-cocked, you don't know if they are innocent or . . .'." Ms Brasch told the court.
Ms Brasch went on to submit that she had been told the judge had, in the conversation, said he liked the social worker's independent family report as well as commented on the mother in the dispute and her "overvaluing".
"(The social worker) . . . says Your Honour indicated you liked the report and it appears that there were various aspects of the report . . . discussed, including what was called the mother's overvaluing," Ms Brasch told the court.
"(The social worker) indicated that Your Honour had said, 'What is it with some mothers and their overvalued . . .' and I didn't catch . . . the next word."
The judge had advised the social worker "to expect to be challenged about the father's family issues" during cross-examination, Ms Brasch told the court.
She said the judge also had remarked to the social worker, regarding the child's paternal grandparents: "I've got a picture of this family. They are Presbyterian. The mother can't stand up to the father."
The trial, part-heard last October, had resumed on April 22.
Ms Brasch outlined to the court that she "ran into" the social worker near a court elevator on April 23.
"(The social worker) said to me, "The judge had spoken to me," Ms Brasch said. "His Honour (had) asked, 'You can tell by someone's reaction whether they're innocent . . .'. (The social worker) said he said, 'I'm not judge'."
On April 27, Ms Brasch told the court, she took advice from Bar Association of Queensland ethics' counsellors and then further clarified with the social worker the nature of his discussion in Justice Barry's chambers.
"(The social worker) indicated . . . he thought this discussion was in March," Ms Brasch told the court. "But it may be there was (another) discussion prior to the trial in October." Ms Brasch told the court that the social worker said he had initially "gone to Your Honour's chambers to discuss another matter".
The social worker was an in-house "family consultant" assigned by the court to impartially help resolve high-conflict custody cases. Family consultants, who may also be psychologists, are effectively witnesses.
Their written reports – which make recommendations about parenting arrangements – often play a pivotal role in evidence.
The Family Law Act grants no authority to family consultants to interact with a judge beyond providing the reports and giving oral evidence in an open court.
Ms Brasch's application was supported by the mother's barrister Jenny Hogan.
In court, Ms Hogan asked Justice Barry to disqualify himself due to a reasonable apprehension that he would not decide the case in an "impartial and unprejudiced" way.
In responding to the application and aborting the trial, Justice Barry told the court: "I am tempted to make a number of observations but have concluded so far as the discussions with (the social worker) are concerned, discretion is the better part of valour.
"I will be acceding to the application for me to step aside."
One Brisbane barrister told The Courier-Mail that any closed conference between a judge and a family consultant raised the possibility of one party influencing the other – unbeknown to the litigants and their counsel.
"How a trial should be conducted is not a matter of private briefings and discussions," the barrister said.
"It's got to be clear (to the court) what the judge is making his mind up on. The process of evidence has got to be transparent."
A top divorce lawyer said the events had rocked Queensland's family law fraternity and reflected a "mickey mouse" court.
"It's a disgrace," said the lawyer.
The abandoned trial, which entailed substantial court and legal costs, will be re-heard before another judge.
Source: Melbourne Herald Sun
July 11, 2010 permalink
There was a rally outside Manitoulin children's aid in Little Current. Canada Court Watch posted two pictures.
Addendum: Here is press coverage in the Midnorth Monitor.
Group wants more oversight of CAS
Seventeen years after being wrongfully convicted of murder in the death of his four-year-old niece, Valin Johnson, William Mullins-Johnson stands on the side of Highway 6 just south of Little Current with a placard that says "CAS needs oversight now."
Mullins-Johnson, now 39, was featured on the CTV newsmagazine W5 when his 1994 murder conviction, based heavily on the evidence provided by now-disgraced forensic pathologist, Charles Randal Smith, was overturned in 2007.
Released on bail in 2005 in advance of his October 2007 acquittal, the Batchewana Bay First Nation member spent 12 years in prison.
On Friday, July 9, he joined a group of about 10 people in a demonstration outside of the Little Current branch of the Children's Aid Society of the districts of Sudbury and Manitoulin. He said he attends similar events "as much as is humanly possible."
The demonstration was one of several the group staged across Northern Ontario last week led by an organization that wants the Ontario Ombudsman to be granted the power to oversee the province's 53 CAS agencies.
Mullins-Johnson, described by organizers as a special guest at the rally, said CAS was "instrumental in the unjustifiable conviction" that sent him to prison.
"CAS is too influential in court and people are too willing to believe them," Mullins-Johnson said. "It's a situation that's reaching crisis levels. Something has to be done. If it takes us doing this for the next few years, this is what we'll do."
The rally's organizer, Neil Haskett, said CAS needs oversight in order to protect children from dangerous foster care situations and innocent families from being torn apart. According to Haskett, 18 MPPs support more oversight for CAS in Ontario, including NDP leader Andrea Horwath, Frances Gelinas, Frank Klees, Howard Hampton, Frank Klees, Carol Mitchell and Sylvia Jones.
After almost two decades, Mullins-Johnson said torn apart is the best way to describe his family.
"My brother (and I are back together now like we should have been all these years," he said. "But my family has been shattered. They didn't want to believe that I was guilty, but after I was convicted what could they do?
"Even if you're found innocent in court, they'll keep you on this registry of abusers. I'm still on this national list that has no protocols and no governing body.
"In spite of my exoneration I know some people believe I did it. The court of public opinion is even worse than jail. Try getting a job with that reputation hanging over your head."
He said when she was six years old, another niece of his was brainwashed to believe her uncle is a killer.
"She's 23 now and she still hates me after 17 years. That's how deep this goes."
John Butts' daughter was taken away by children's aid in 2007; she was 14 at the time. He said she complained to CAS after he grounded her from a dance for not doing her chores.
Getting her back took 109 days, and bankrupted him.
"They use considerable resources to discredit someone," he said. "They cripple you financially and make you unable to defend yourself. And they continue to use taxpayer dollars to hide facts."
Butts founded FOCASD, Families Opposed to Children's Aid Society Deceit. He has the letters tattooed across the top of his right hand.
"We are not anti-CAS," he said. "We believe CAS is necessary, but we want the Ontario ombudsman to be able to oversee CAS financial decisions and to investigate complaints lodged against them."
As a reporter arrived on the scene, Butts had a megaphone pointed at the CAS office. Among other things, he was offering a $1,250 cash reward for any CAS worker willing to provide proof of "any criminal action by a CAS worker against an innocent Canadian family.
"This reward will continue to grow. Eventually one of your coworkers will be enticed to take it, and we'll have someone thrown in jail."
"Every day we contact more victims and every day we get closer to next year's (provincial) election. We are all too willing to vote against the Liberals in order to have the law changed."
Source: Midnorth Monitor
Courts Rediscover Mother's Rights
July 10, 2010 permalink
When a woman is battered by her husband, child protectors take her children claiming either that she failed to protect (by beating up her husband?) or that the children were harmed by witnessing the abuse. When appellate courts have dealt with the claim, famously as Nicholson vs Scoppetta in New York City, they have ruled in favor of the mother. The Iowa Supreme Court has just made the same decision for mother "Jane Doe", removing her name from the child abuse registry. Child protectors covet children so much that they use spurious reasons such as this, and many more mothers will lose their children as other jurisdictions reinvent this nonsensical theory.
Supreme Court: Agency had no authority to place woman on child abuser list
An Iowa City woman placed on a state registry of known child abusers was vindicated Friday when the state’s highest court ruled that the Iowa Department of Human Services over-stepped its authority and erred while interpreting legislative intent.
The woman, who is only listed as “Jane Doe” in court documents, was accused of committing child abuse by denying her child critical care in 2001 and 2002. According to court documents, the child was repeatedly exposed to his/her father, who had been a perpetrator of numerous incidents of domestic abuse against the woman.
The Iowa Department of Human Services’ final decision, which was later affirmed by the district court, found that the woman had committed child abuse and that her name should be placed on the central child abuse registry.
On appeal, counsel for the woman argued substantial evidence did not support the finding of child abuse, the legislature did not authorize DHS to to place her name on the registry, and that DHS’s practice of holding domestic violence victims responsible for the actions of their perpetrators is against public policy. The court agreed that the legislature did not authorize DHS official to place the woman’s name on the registry, and did not consider the other arguments.
The opinion, which was authored by Justice David S. Wiggins, delves into the history and legislative intent of state law encompassing child abuse and the state registry. It notes that prior to 1997 the legislature require DHS to place all confirmed reports of child abuse on the registry, but later launched a assessment-based approach to determine if “the child suffered significant injury or was placed in great risk of injury” and those matched the criteria were placed on the registry.
Effective July 1, 1998, the legislature expanded the assessment-based approach by adopting a new section of the Iowa code and provided a criteria for placement of information on the registry if there was a finding of child abuse. When the criteria was put in place, members of the legislature omitted the determination of “failure to provide for the proper supervision of the child” from the list of items deemed as qualifiers for placement on the registry.
“The legislature may express its intent by the omission, as well as the inclusion of terms,” wrote Wiggins.
We conclude when the legislature failed to list “failure to provide for the proper supervision of the child” in section 232.71D(3)(f) as a ground for placement of a person’s name on the registry, the legislature intended that DHS shall not place a person on the child abuse registry who has failed to provide for the proper supervision of his or her child. Accordingly, DHS’s interpretation of Iowa Code section 232.71D in rule 441—175.39, requiring that all “confirmed abuse shall be placed on the registry unless all three conditions are met” is irrational, illogical, and wholly unjustifiable because DHS’s interpretation extends, enlarges, and otherwise changes the legislative intent of section 232.71D.
The court reversed the earlier decisions and indicated that DHS should remove the woman’s name from the registry as well as purge any record that her name ever appeared there.
Source: Iowa Independent
North Bay Rally.
July 9, 2010 permalink
About 20 people participated in a rally outside the North Bay courthouse and Children's Aid Society of Nipissing and Parry Sound. This region has generated few complaints in the past, but several angry locals shared their bad experiences with North Bay CAS. A reporter from Bay Today interviewed a few participants. (The homepage of Bay Today has a large banner ad "I Am Your Children's Aid"). Here are pictures of the rally.
One mother, Jamie, a former crown ward herself, shared her story of CAS attempts to separate her from her daughter. She refused pain medication during delivery to protect her baby, even pushing away a nurse with a needle. Twenty hours after giving birth several CAS workers entered the delivery room. Her refusal of medication was held against her. Jamie knew from experience their real purpose was to take her baby, so refused an apparently innocent request to take the baby briefly into the next room. Instead she called her sister to the hospital, along with other family members and friends including a clergyman and his wife. CAS was ashamed to used force in the company of the clergy, allowing Jamie to get baby Tessa home. She remained under constant surveillance. How did CAS ultimately get the baby? One day Jamie pulled her car to the side of the road to breastfeed. A policeman, apparently with knowledge of the CAS surveillance, approached her and sent mother and baby to a hospital by ambulance on a mental health pretext. There a nurse forcibly injected the mother with a sedative while CAS took the baby. At age five, Tessa is back with Jamie.
July 9, 2010 permalink
The Commission to Promote Sustainable Child Welfare is a creation of the Ministry of Children and Youth Services in cooperation with the Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies. Refer to web pages   and an earlier article. The Peterborough Examiner presents the possibility that it may recommend more disclosure from Ontario's children's aid societies. An unlikely outcome considering the commission's pedigree.
The commission's first report is Towards Sustainable Child Welfare in Ontario (pdf, local copy). As usual in this kind of report, it has no occurrences of the words father or love but did include seven occurrences of the word mother, all about the way CAS deals with a report of a derelict mother.
Children's aid changes eyed
If you want to know how Ontario's Grade 6 pupils are doing with reading skills, you can check the Education Quality and Accountability Office website.
Want to know the average emergency department wait time? Public websites also offer that information about the province's hospitals.
But if you want to find out how vulnerable children are faring in the Children's Aid Society agencies -- such as the average amount of time they spend in CAS care -- getting that information can be daunting, said Ene Underwood, chairwoman of the Commission to Promote Sustainable Child Welfare.
Underwood is part of the three-year commission, which is to release its final report in 2012, that's investigating how to make Ontario's child welfare system, including CAS agencies, more accountable, efficient and sustainable.
The final report could lead to more websites stats on CAS care, as well as merging CAS agencies to save on overhead and offer specialized care more equitably, Underwood said Wednesday in Peterborough after meeting with Kawartha-Haliburton Children's Aid Society staff to discuss ideas.
Merging CAS agencies would save money because, for example, there'd only be one executive director's salary and one human resources department, Underwood said.
But the "bigger reason" for such a move, she said, would be to ensure all children in need would have access to the same specialized services.
For example, one CAS agency may have an adoption support worker while another doesn't. Merging those agencies would mean people in a wider geographical area could access that worker, she said.
The commission is also investigating some funding formulas that may, inadvertently, stop people from practices that would help children, Underwood said.
Foster parents, for example, get paid a certain amount to care for children. Depending which CAS jurisdiction they're in, some foster parents who want to adopt those children may decide not to because it would stop the funding.
It's a matter of practicality, not greed, because often these children have special needs that require money for care, Underwood said.
The commission wants to see consistency across Ontario so that all people using CAS care have the same opportunities, Underwood said.
Some grandparents, for example, who have kinship care of their grandchildren get CAS funding while some don't, depending on their jurisdiction.
"Whether it's a grandma (raising her grandchildren) in Wingham or a grandma in Havelock, it should all be the same," Underwood said.
NOTE:The commission will also look at the system for people who have complaints against the CAS and will investigate ideas such as having the agencies be accountable to Ontario's ombudsman, said Ene Underwood, chairwoman of the Commission to Promote Sustainable Child Welfare. The commission, established in November 2009, is made up of three people -- Underwood, Barry Lewis and Wendy Thomson. There are 53 CAS agencies in Ontario.
Source: Peterborough Examiner
Addendum: The Toronto Star has an editorial on the report.
How to reform Children’s Aid
Ontario’s child welfare system is so rule-bound it regulates the bath temperature and the size of a bedroom window in foster homes. Yet there is no tangible evidence that these regulations, the hundreds of other rules and all the accompanying paperwork achieve the one goal that really matters: ensuring children are happy, healthy and getting the care they need.
Similarly, Children’s Aid Societies are well-funded to apprehend and put children in foster care and group homes. But, they are not adequately funded to do the harder, time-consuming work for what are often better options for kids: helping them safely stay with their families or finding them permanent homes through adoption and kinship care.
A commission set up by Children’s Minister Laurel Broten to provide advice on making CASs more financially sustainable has recommended a new way of doing business. It deserves attention.
The report calls for a “shift away from a focus on compliance against standards to a focus on outcomes for children,” and an end to a funding formula that creates “perverse incentives” that can “discourage good performance.”
These changes and others are desperately needed. After decades of political tinkering with our child welfare system, we’re still largely failing these vulnerable children. Crown wards are much less likely to graduate from high school and much more likely to rely on social assistance as adults than children raised in stable families.
The commission was born out of a crisis last year, when many of Ontario’s 53 CASs could not make ends meet and the government balked at topping up budgets. (Costs have nearly tripled over the last decade to $1.4 billion.) What they have come back with, though, is not a series of budgets cuts but a welcome vision for a system that would put the needs of children first. That, ultimately, should reduce costs and, more importantly, improve outcomes for children.
Over the next two years, the commission will produce detailed recommendations to make a child-centred system a reality. Then, it will be up to the province to implement it. So far, the government’s response has been encouraging. When the report was released last week, Broten said her ministry would take immediate action to reduce duplication and unnecessary administrative requirements.
Right now, for example, multiple people often fill out reports on the same incident, and a child’s case worker may file several different types of reports on a single incident. The purpose of “serious occurrence reports” has become so clouded that some workers fill them in for matters as trivial as a scraped knee.
The administrative burden — that is, time spent doing things that do not protect children nor provide effective accountability — has grown to the point that the report estimates only 15 to 30 per cent of CAS staff time is spent on direct service to clients.
The commission’s goal is not to reduce oversight in the child welfare sector but to create mechanisms that are “appropriate, focused and usable.” In doing so, though, great care must be taken to ensure our most vulnerable children do not fall through the cracks.
What we want to know is how kids are doing. Are they safe and are they improving? And, we need a system that spends public dollars in ways that make sure those answers are yes. The commission’s first report solidly sets us on that path.
Source: Toronto Star
Gifts for Needy Social Worker
July 9, 2010 permalink
The Karnes County Child Welfare Board in Texas donated WalMart gift cards to CPS to provide clothing and other necessities to needy children. The gift cards really bought items for the baby of CPS caseworker Stefanie Moore.
CPS case worker arrested and accused of stealing gift cards
FLORESVILLE, TX – A case worker with Child Protective Services is in hot water and facing some huge criminal charges.
Stefanie Moore, 32, is accused of stealing $650 worth of donated WalMart gift cards from a supervisor’s desk drawer.
News 4 WOAI learned it was once Floresville Police detectives began looking into the case, Moore allegedly admitted to her direct manager she took the gift cards.
Each of the WalMart gift cards were donated to CPS by Karnes County Child Welfare Board. The gift cards were intended for children who needed clothing and other items. Sources told News 4 WOAI that Moore used some of the money to buy items for her own baby.
“It is uncommon and it’s something Child Protective Services does not and will not tolerate,” said CPS spokeswoman Mary Walker regarding the theft allegations.
Walker says Moore began working with the agency’s Floresville office in January 2009, and a background check was performed.
Moore now faces felony and misdemeanor theft charges. She is no longer working with Child Protective Service, since this criminal investigation.
“The actions of this particular investigator is not reflective of the actions of hundreds of men and women that are out there working on behalf of children everyday,” said Walker.
Investigators are also looking into whether Moore is behind some other reported thefts coming out of the Floresville office.
Source: WOAI San Antonio
Compensation Without Reform
July 8, 2010 permalink
Children who were abused as residents of British Columbia's Woodlands School for the mentally disabled will be getting compensation. There is no indication in the story that the province is taking the most important policy change in consequence: closing down today's mental hospitals.
Woodlands abuse survivors to get compensation
About 900 former residents of a B.C. institution for the mentally disabled who endured sexual, physical and psychological abuse at the hands of staff and other former residents can now apply for compensation.
The final approval of the agreement by the B.C. Supreme Court on Thursday means those who lived at the Woodland School in New Westminster, B.C., after August 1974 are allowed to seek compensation ranging from $3,000 to $150,000, depending on the abuse they suffered.
Those who were abused before the 1974 date are not eligible because the government hadn't yet enacted a law that required it to compensate those under its care.
Bill MacArthur, a Woodlands abuse survivor, said he's pleased for those who can now apply for compensation, but is heartbroken for those 300 or so former residents who have been excluded.
The group called Woodlands School Survivors is urging the provincial government to offer compensation to all those harmed at the institute for the mentally disabled, which was closed in 1996.
The proposed settlement was first announced in December, just weeks before a class action lawsuit was to proceed.
No Walking or Biking to School
July 8, 2010 permalink
Parents who walked to school alone when they were children now can be busted for giving their own children the same responsibility. London parents Oliver and Gillian Schonrock are under attack for just that.
Boris backs couple threatened by social services for letting their children cycle to school
Boris Johnson today slammed 'barmy' health and safety rules after a London couple were threatened with being referred to social services for letting their children cycle to school.
Oliver and Gillian Schonrock let their son and daughter, five and eight respectively, make the one-mile trip from their home on their own.
They say it helps to teach the youngsters independence, self-confidence and responsibility.
But other parents and teachers at £12,000-a-year Alleyn's Junior School in Dulwich, south east London, are said to think the practice is irresponsible and dangerous.
Headteacher Mark O'Donnell has met with Mr and Mrs Schonrock and told them the school is under an obligation to consider the children's safety and has a legal responsibility to notify the council if they fear it is being put at risk.
The London Mayor hailed the couple as 'heroes'. He said the Schonrocks should be applauded, not hounded, for showing faith in their children.
He said he 'passionately supported' their decision to allow their children to ride to and from school.
'They have taken the sword of common sense to the great bloated encephalopathic sacred cow of elf and safety,' he said in a column in the Telegraph.
'And for this effrontery they are, of course, being persecuted by the authorities.'
Mr Johnson said it was ultimately the business of parents, not the state, when it came to decisions such as this.
'If Mr and Mrs Schonrock have carefully assessed the route, and considered the advantages and disadvantages, then they should overwhelmingly be given the benefit of the doubt and the freedom to make up their own minds.'
Mr Schonrock, 40, the managing director of an e-commerce company who walked alone to school as a boy, said: 'We wanted to recreate the simple freedom of our children.
'Like everybody else our age we spent a lot more time with our friends playing in the streets or parks without parental supervision and without our parents becoming unduly worried.
'These days children live such regimented lives. They can do nothing unless it's planned. We are trying to let them enjoy their lives and teach them a little bit about the risks of life.'
Mrs Schonrock, also 40, said she is 'confident that the benefits to our children far outweigh the potential risk from 'stranger danger', road traffic accidents and other factors.'
The couple's children cycle on the pavement from their home in west Dulwich to the school.
Their route takes them alongside roads that become busy with traffic during the school run. At the halfway point they cross a road where there is a lollipop lady on duty.
On the return journey they are supervised, either by one of the parents or their nanny, which is deemed acceptable - but the Schonrocks have been told that they must ensure their children are accompanied on the journey to school as well or they will be referred to Southwark Council's Children's Services department.
Headteacher Mr O'Donnell told the Sunday Times: 'If a school feels a child in their care is at risk, they have a legal responsibility to notify the local authority.
'Is an eight year old responsible enough to come to school with a five year old and take responsibility when it comes to crossing busy roads? Or what would happen if the five year old has a tantrum?'Mr and Mrs Schonrock say rules on child protection, rather than the school, are to blame for the predicament they find themselves in.
Mrs Schonrock, who as a girl took the bus to school from the the age of four with her six-year-old sister, said: 'The question is do the government have the right to put an obligation on schools to not allow any level of risk whatsoever?'
Although schools are not responsible for children on their journey to school, guidance from the Department for Children, Schools and Families states that if a school 'believes or suspects that a child may be suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm' then it must refer the case to social services.
Today Catherine McDonald, Cabinet Member for Children's Services at Southwark Council, said: 'As this is an independent school, it is for them to decide how they arrange transport to school with the parents of their pupils.
'However, if an independent school does contact us, we'd give them the same advice as we do to our own schools, that they should develop a school travel plan with parents and children so they can get to school safely and in a way that promotes healthy living and is good for the environment.
'This would include both cycling and walking.'
Source: Daily Mail
July 8, 2010 permalink
Ralliers converged yesterday on Sault Sainte Marie Ontario.
Group to stage rally in front of CAS office
A group that charges Children's Aid Societies need further oversight to stop them from overzealously targeting innocent parents, brings its cause to Sault Ste. Marie on Wednesday.
The Children's Aid Society has to go in, and we have no problem with that, but there have been a number of cases, and it has been proven in court, that they have gone after innocent parents," said Neil Haskett, the Sudburybased organizer of the group.
Haskett is pushing MPPs to pass Bill 93, a private member's bill that would allow Ontario's Ombudsman to investigate the CAS.
We would either like legislation, or preferably we would like the Ontario Ombudsman, to have oversight of the 53 Children's Aid Societies," in the province, said Haskett.
The local CAS disagrees.
Jim Baraniuk, executive director of Algoma's CAS, said he sees little point in adding regulation to what is, "probably one of the most regulated social service organizations in the province."
He said provincial standards govern when CAS becomes involved in a case, and when it comes to "non-voluntary or intrusive action," the CAS must get its authority from the courts.
Ultimately the judge, through legislation, makes a determination of whether we become involved or not," he said. "It's really a highly-regulated system."
Haskett is not calling for the CAS system to be dismantled, but he charges that too often child welfare workers pursue cases that have no merit.
It could be a neighbour that's making a phone call, it could be a separation where one of the parents feels that they're not going to get the child, there's a number of malicious calls to the Children's Aid Society," said Haskett. "Unfortunately, because they're anonymous phone calls and it's in the Child and Family Services Act that they're allowed to be anonymous phone calls, nobody really knows."
Baraniuk said for those with concerns about the operation of the child welfare system, an internal process exists, as does an external body called the Child and Family Services Review Board, which was set up by the government as an impartial body to review complaints and to intervene.
As a taxpayer, I take exception to having overlapping systems that might be doing the same thing and, from my perspective, I think they have already established a number of regulatory bodies for auditing child welfare. Adding one more, I just don't think that's value for money," said Baraniuk.
Haskett's rally was slated for 9 a.m. to noon Wednesday in front of the Court House and Chidren's Aid Society building on Queen Street.
Around 30 people were expected to attend, including William Mullins-Johnson, the local man who spent more than a decade in jail after being wrongly-convicted of killing his niece, said Haskett.
Haskett said his group has held similar rallies at 15 of the province's 53 Children's Aid Societies.
Source: Sault Star
Addendum: Here are photos of the Soo rally.
July 7, 2010 permalink
The Toronto Star reports on the conditions at Youthdale, covered last year as Youth Gulag. According to a psychiatrist, sexual activity by a teenager proves suicidal intent because it could lead to AIDS. Or this diagnosis proves that the psychiatrist is the crazy one.
Youth lock-ups blasted
Star investigation Hearings order release of children found not to have mental disorders
Just around the corner from the Eaton Centre, a psychiatric facility is locking up youngsters who don't belong in secure custody, provincial documents reveal.
In one case, a 15-year-old girl's “moderately eccentric interests” in origami and the study of bugs were cited by a psychiatrist at Youthdale Treatment Centre as examples of a possible mental disorder. Another teen's admission of having unprotected sex was taken as evidence of a suicide wish because such behaviour could lead to AIDS.
“Secure treatment is not a placement substitute for child welfare,” a provincial appeal board ruled in ordering the release of a 14-year-old boy with a learning disability and limited school supports.
A Toronto Star review of 32 cases over the past two years where a youth formally appealed the lock-up decision found that nearly half (14) were overturned after an emergency hearing by the Ontario Child and Family Services Review Board. Most of these children were ordered released on the grounds they didn't even have a mental disorder.
Youthdale is a non-profit community agency. Last year, it received $11 million in funding from the Ministry of Children and Youth Services. In addition to the secure treatment unit and a less restrictive inpatient program downtown that has no maximum length of stay, Youthdale operates four group homes in the Annex, one home in Aurora and three cabins at a remote wilderness setting near Parry Sound for children with mental health issues. The centre also runs a 24-hour telephone crisis line, which is often the first step toward getting a child admitted.
With consent from a legal guardian — often children's aid — youth 16 years and younger can be held in Youthdale's secure unit for up to 30 days where they may receive mood-altering medications. Disruptive behaviour may be managed with chemical injections as well as mechanical and physical restraints.
Paul Allen, Youthdale's clinical director, said a review of his agency's policies and practices, led by two psychiatrists in response to complaints from former patients and parents, is underway. A report is expected later this summer.
“The challenge of balancing a child's rights and needs for treatment is a complicated matter,” Allen said.
To lock up a child, provincial law states that a facility must satisfy five criteria. It must demonstrate the child has a mental disorder; poses a substantial threat to himself or others; that secure custody would prevent the child from causing serious bodily harm to himself or others; that the facility offers appropriate treatment for the child's mental disorder and that there are no less restrictive method available.
A “mental disorder” is defined by the Child and Family Services Act as “a substantial disorder of emotional process, thought or cognition, which grossly impairs a person's capacity to make reasoned judgments.”
Once committed, the child meets with a provincial youth advocate who informs him he is allowed to appeal his secure placement. In 2009, 117 youth were admitted to the secure floor for 30 days. Appeals were filed by 30 youth, but 19 withdrew their applications before the hearing. Of the remaining 11, seven were ordered released.
The girl with the “moderately eccentric interest” in the study of bugs appealed in December 2008. The board ruled the 15-year-old, gifted student's behaviour — pouring flour on the floor and getting into physical confrontations with her mother — was the result of teen-parent conflict and was not caused by a mental disorder.
In the case of the girl who admitted to having unprotected sex, Youthdale claimed the teen refused to take birth control pills, which indicated a “gross impairment to make reasoned decisions.”
The board's decision cited evidence that the child had discussed birth control with a doctor and that the teen's mother threw out sample pills and refused to fill the prescription. The board also took issue with a psychiatrist's suggestion that the teen's ability to make reasoned judgments was impaired because she took Prozac only when she needed to feel better.
“This is typical of even adult patients taking medication,” the board wrote in its decision. “To suggest that a child should be admitted to a treatment centre because of this is unrealistic.”
Review board chair Suzanne Gilbert, a lawyer who specializes in criminal law and youth protection, told the Star she would not comment on individual cases. The board, which must rule within five days of receiving an application, has members with backgrounds in education, law, social services and mental health.
“To lock a child in a secure area is a very serious decision,” she said. Gilbert noted that of the three Ontario facilities with secure treatment units, all but one of the recent appeals have come from Youthdale.
Youthdale's headquarters is a four-storey, tan brick building on Victoria St. A sleep research clinic and gymnasium occupy the basement. There are as many as 20 children occupying beds in rooms on the upper two floors at any given time. Ten beds are reserved for children who present emotional and behavioral issues but no imminent risk of harm to themselves or others. The locked fourth floor is set aside for up to 10 children considered at immediate risk of seriously hurting themselves or others.
“Our approach to managing kids when they are distressed and agitated is well in advance of the 1950s,” said Allen, responding to comments from critics who suggested Youthdale's methods were outdated. Allen said the agency's treatment plans are “good as any care you will find in any hospital or any other mental health centre.”
Allen invited the Star to tour the facility last month.
Two of the children in the secure unit were in common areas at the time. One cherub-cheeked boy is seated alone inside a room with glass windows playing a hand-held electronic game. A girl sat by herself at a table, staring blankly ahead while holding a picture of trees torn from a magazine.
Their bedrooms, though impeccably clean, are cell-like — big enough only to accommodate the length of a twin-size bed, which is fitted with a flat sheet and a pancake-thin pillow. A window is covered in external blinds that open and close with a magnetic device held by staff. On this day, in the early afternoon, they are shut. The only personal artifact that shows a child sleeps here is a small, plush toy dinosaur perched on a shelf high out of arm's reach.
Dr. Nathan Scharf, Youthdale's director of psychological services, explained that the facility has been admitting more children under the age of 12. Many, he said, have neuro-developmental disorders. Scharf estimated that one-third of youngsters admitted to the secure unit now fall into this demographic.
“They're damaged in the sense that there is something wrong with them from the time they were born,” he added.
In one of the cases the Star reviewed, Youthdale argued a 14-year-old girl was a danger to herself because she once said, “I wish I was dead” after learning she could never return home to live with her mother. The girl was in the care of the Catholic Children's Aid Society and suffered from seizure-like episodes during which she drooled and walked into walls.
These episodes were considered further proof she posed a danger to herself. She was considered a danger to others on grounds that she can become “loud and argumentative.”
The review board ruled there was “no evidence that an emergency measure was at all warranted.
“It appears (the Catholic Children's Aid Society) was looking for a way to have her problems diagnosed and receive appropriate treatment after hitting an impasse in the child's care,” the board's decision states.
Youthdale's Scharf suggested the review board's decisions are subjective.
“How they interpret the information is subject to their own attitudes and philosophies,” he said.
In another case, the review board ordered released a 14-year-old boy who had a learning disability and was suspended for skipping school. The board noted “a clear link between the child's lack of appropriate school supports and behavioural difficulties.”
The board recommended less-intrusive options to help the child, such as working with the local hospital to access assessment and counseling services.
In one case involving a 14-year-old girl whose mother contacted children's aid for help after her daughter was sexually assaulted, Scharf told the review board an assessment at the centre's secure treatment unit will sometimes lead to prioritizing youth with community resources. The board called this an “irrelevant consideration.”
“To deprive a child of her liberty in order to more readily access community resources,” the decision stated, “flies in the face of the use of secure treatment as an extraordinary measure of last resort.”
The Ministry of Children and Youth Services told the Star it is committed to providing support for “our must vulnerable,” which is why it empowered the review board to scrutinize admissions into secure treatment.
Said ministry spokesperson Paris Meilleur: “The statistics demonstrate the process works and that the review board is serving its purpose.”
Source: Toronto Star
July 7, 2010 permalink
Ralliers gathered again at Sudbury yesterday to demand accountability for children's aid.
Protestors Demand Oversight Into Children’s Aid
Protestors looking for change from Children’s Aid took to the streets this afternoon along the Lasalle Street location.
With signs that read, “CAS needs oversight now,” they’re upset that Ontario has become the one province that does not have any oversight over it’s child protective services.
“You know there’s a lot of information that the public aren’t aware of because a lot of people don’t understand that they’re a private organization, they’re funded by the government but they’re a private corporation,” says organizer Catherine Frei.
With just over a dozen on the agency’s front lawn, she says there wasn’t a single person there that did not have some sort of negative experience with the agency. Some had even travelled over 400 km to Sudbury this week.
“None of us are opposed to the CAS, but what we are looking for is accountability and transparency,” says Frei. “We would like an independent party such as the Ombudsman to investigate their decisions.”
In the last year, the Ontario Ombudsman’s office has been forced to turn away 296 individual complaints and 2201 complaints in the past five.
According to officials, the complaints have centred around everything from refusal to investigate, or to thoroughly investigate, allegations of abuse and neglect; concerns about CAS apprehension of children and the care of children in CAS custody or supervision; inaccurate CAS records; threatening and harassing conduct on the part of staff; and refusal to permit access to children in their custody.
In the last couple years, attempts have been made by the legislature to correct this including Bill 93 introduced by NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.
However the NDP bill did not proceed past first reading when the legislature was prorogued back in March of 2010.
“It’s time that it happens, it’s happened elsewhere,” says Frei. “You know the workers here and the things that are happening to children and families, it’s time that they were held accountable.”
Source: EZ Rock 105.3 FM
Addendum: An articulate father expresses his opinion (mp4).
Social Worker Plays God
July 6, 2010 permalink
Washington state social worker Rhonda Lee Peterson Johnson is accused of impersonating a prosecutor to change the manner of conducting a paternity test.
Social worker pleads innocent to impersonation
PASCO — A social worker pleaded innocent Tuesday to allegations she posed as an employee of the Franklin County Prosecutor's Office in order to get a paternity test for a client's case.
Rhonda Lee Peterson Johnson faces a Sept. 15 trial in Franklin County Superior Court for first-degree criminal impersonation.
Court documents allege the 56-year-old West Richland woman called a Tri-Cities laboratory and, after answering a series of security questions, asked that the genetic testing for a particular case be changed to a "motherless draw" instead of one involving both parents and the child.
She misrepresented herself by implying that she worked for the prosecutor's office when she gave its account number in ordering the change, documents said.
Johnson's job reportedly was to represent children in foster care as a social worker for the state Department of Social and Health Services. She worked for the Richland office of the Division of Children and Family Services.
In this dependency case, she was trying to help a couple get custody of their grandchild, documents said.
It is not known if Johnson still is employed as a social worker.
The allegations that first surfaced a year ago led to a 2 1/2-month-long investigation by Detective Vik Mauro in the Washington State Patrol's DSHS Special Investigations Unit in Olympia.
The charges were filed in mid-June by Columbia County Prosecutor Rea Culwell, who is acting as a special prosecutor because of the conflict with the Franklin County Prosecutor's Office.
According to a seven-page investigative report written by Mauro, the potential father of the child in Johnson's case was known but the mother was missing after failing to show up for testing.
The Child Support Division of the prosecutor's office had sent mouth swabs of the father and the child to LabCorp of Tri-Cities, but still needed a swab from the mother to complete the request for all-party genetic testing. The lab waits to do the testing until all samples are submitted.
In order to move the case through the system, Johnson allegedly wanted the tests done "the sooner the better" and asked for a motherless draw.
A motherless draw involves only genetically testing the father and the child, and not the mother to the child. The process is more expensive and the prosecutor's office has a policy not to do a motherless draw, except in cases where the mother cannot be located, lives in a distant state or is dead, the report said.
Deputy Prosecutor Erica Davis was handling the paternal dependency case and reportedly knew that the mother was around, so on June 1, 2009, she asked for a bench warrant on the mother. Within days of the warrant being issued, a relative of the mother called Davis and agreed to bring her in for testing at a scheduled time.
In the meantime, Johnson called the prosecutor's office, requesting a motherless draw. She was told by legal secretaries during two separate phone calls that it would not be authorized and that a warrant had been issued for the child's mother.
A week later, Johnson called LabCorp to have the order changed so the mother didn't need to be tested, the investigative report said.
The lab's receptionist asked Johnson on June 16, 2009, several random questions to identify the case, including the account number which is needed to proceed, the report said. It is believed Johnson knew the prosecutor's account number for the lab from previous cases.
The lab later received the samples to test all parties.
The prosecutor's office learned that the motherless draw had been done when it received the genetic test results, the report said. The results for testing all parties came in days later.
That is when employees with the prosecutor's office called LabCorp and discovered Johnson allegedly made the change without an attorney's authorization.
Mauro contacted Johnson on Oct. 7 during his investigation but she wouldn't talk to him. "Johnson made an utterance that she had a court order to obtain paternity," Mauro wrote in his report.
Janelle Carman of Walla Walla, Johnson's attorney, called Mauro the following day and said she had advised her client not to meet with him "until they have a better idea of what the allegations are."
Mauro said he looked through the DSHS case file and didn't find a court order directing Johnson to obtain paternity directly from LabCorp.
Johnson is out on her personal recognizance.
Source: News Tribune
July 5, 2010 permalink
A rally in front of Timmins CAS drew thirty people, including falsely-accused William Mullins-Johnson and MPP Gilles Bisson. Following the newspaper story is a satellite photo of Child and Family Services of Timmins and District, 707 Ross Avenue East, showing that even in a small city (43 thousand people) CAS has an enormous facility. There is also a photo collection
Parents protest CAS
Call for provincial government to create regulating body
About 30 people from across the province took to Timmins streets Monday to rally against what they claim are "exaggerations and lies" by the Children's Aid Society.
With signs displaying messages like "CAS needs oversight NOW" and "Honk for justice," protesters from several groups travelled from cities including Sudbury, Burlington, and Huntsville.
John Butts, chairman of a group titled Families Opposed to Children's Aid Society Deceits (FOCASD), was driven to take action after his daughter was removed from his care by CAS workers.
"I wouldn't let my daughter go to a school dance until she cleaned her room, so one of her friends urged her to call the CAS," he said. "She was taken for 109 days, and when I finally cornered a judge about it in court, he told me I did the right thing in fighting it."
Butts explained that the major problem stems from workers not being held accountable for decisions they make about parents abilities to care for their children, and alleges that often stories are fabricated to "keep more files open."
"If the number of children being abused keeps rising like these workers say it's rising, then we're going to have an epidemic," he said. "That's just not the case.
"The reason they're doing this is to justify the huge budget they are operating on."
Various protesting groups allege that deceitful tactics are often used to warrant removing children from their homes, including false reports of drug and alcohol use, and false information provided by doctors and counsellors.
"The Parental Capacity Assessment CAS workers use has been found to be easy to manipulate," said Butts. "And judges don't question the details provided by workers."
According to Neil Haskett, creator of the website Bill88.ca, the groups would like to see amendments to provincial legislation regarding CAS investigations.
"We want the legislation (now Bill 93 under the McGuinty government) to say that the Ontario Ombudsman can review decisions or action taken by the CAS," said Haskett, who acknowledged that most parents involved with the CAS are "not bad people."
"We know that the CAS has gone after parents who are innocent," he continued. "We just want to make sure there's someone to oversee the claims and decisions made."
Most of the protesters involved in Monday's rally have been involved with CAS, including William Mullins-Johnson of Sault Ste. Marie, who served 12 years in prison after being wrongly convicted of killing his four-year-old niece in 1994.
Mullins-Johnson maintains that following further investigation by pathologists, murder and molestation charges were dropped in 2007. He was released from prison in 2005.
"I want to stop wrongful convictions," he said. "The CAS helped to make my case a molestation case, and coerced my living niece to say untrue things as well.
"I just want people to get the truth. This has destroyed my family."
MPP Gilles Bisson (NDP — Timmins-James Bay) agreed that having a regulating body investigate complaints against the CAS would likely be a good thing.
"I believe that all workers are trying to do the right thing," he said. "Every now and then, things go wrong, so the question is how do we deal with this."
Bisson added that regulating bodies have been effective in other fields, such as nursing and teaching.
Timmins CAS executive director Richard Lambert-Belanger explained that although the agency currently has provisions under which all situations are investigated, he would not be opposed to Ombudsman involvement.
"The CAS is mandated to provide services and follow whatever mechanisms are put in place," he said. "If that means an ombudsman, then so be it."
Lambert-Belanger also discussed the serious nature of the organization's responsibilities and the mandate of the CAS.
"Our main objective has always been to promote the well-being of children and families," he said. "We have to investigate every complaint we receive, and we know that removing children from their homes is a very serious matter.
"For that to happen, the agency has to feel that there are significant risks to the children living there."
He said before placing children in foster care, they explore the possibility of extended family members in an attempt to keep them in their local environments.
"A lot of our programs are wrapped around the idea of trying to strengthen families," he said. "Our agency is very much committed to the culture of learning."
NDP leader Andrea Horwath has shown support for Bill 93, introducing it in June 2008.
Currently, Timmins CAS has approximately 80 to 90 children in their care, one of the lowest ratios of all Ontario CAS agencies.
Source: Timmins Daily Press
Addendum: There is a short video of the Timmins rally (mp4).
July 4, 2010 permalink
A mother has posted her story of kidnapping by CAS. It contains the common lie that her eight-year-old daughter does not want to see mom. Based on past experience, they are also telling the daughter that mom does not want you any more.
Christine Embleton my story. I dont know if i should post this here but Id figure Id give it a shot, my child was apprehened a month ago from school with no prior warning, when i went to pick her up i was asked to come to the cas building after i heard the allegiation i was told my daughter was being apprehened I demanded to see her but was told she didnt want to see me Im sure everyone has felt the same but i died that day so like usual 5 days later was court but little did casknow i had already retained a lawyer i was served 2 minutes to 10am when court was to start, i was 2 weeks later video taped by the police and found of no wrong doing, i have yet to see or receive any communication with her with cas knowing i have done know wrong doing my ex has had 1 supervised visit and a 2hour unsupervised visit with her now i know she had some attitude issues shes almost 9 but the foster mom informed him last saturday that my daughter is lying breaking into the car and no defecating on the floor what the hell are they doing to my child everytime i ask to see her i get told she still doesnt want to see you i ask how she is and i get told shes good as much as my ex and i dont get along he even told cas that is bs that she would never say she doesnt want to see her mother her mom is that lil girls world which shocked me he even stated that cas informed me they are trying to work it out that she can go with her dad as much as im fighting to get her back to me i said send her there its better than foster care, so my question is if anyone knows when court is this tuesday with the immediate return of my child to me and with the fact that she is apparently suffering from reactive attachment disorder will the judge give her back to me on tuesday with what i am sure of alot of supervision by cas or am i fighting a losing battle her being in foster care is doing more damage to her than she has ever been in in her lil life?
Yesterday at 3:10am
Nanny State Has No Breasts
July 4, 2010 permalink
Commentator Christopher Booker writes on forced adoption using four examples. In the last British Keystone Kops ripped a newborn from his mother's breast then, when they realized they did not have a breast of their own, reunited the mother with the baby in intensive care.
Forced adoption is a truly dreadful scandal
Social workers are removing children from loving families without proper justification, says Christopher Booker
In recent months, I have been reporting on what is one of the most alarming scandals in Britain today – the secretive system that allows social workers to remove children from loving families without any proper justification, and to send them for adoption or fostering with no apparent concern for their interests.
Four more examples have come to light in the past week. The first came to my attention via Lynn Boleyn, a former councillor from Dudley, who first became concerned about "forced adoption" when she sat on various committees concerned with child care. Last week, she was in court with a mother of five girls, whose family tragedy began when her partner was sentenced to 14 years for abusing the eldest girl, who was sent to live with a relative. Although there was no evidence of their mother harming them in any way, the other four girls were seized by Dudley social services and placed in foster care. Three were kept together, separated from their two-year-old sister whom the council now wants to put out for adoption.
The three girls, aged 11, 10 and 7, are desperately unhappy, constantly asking to be reunited with their mother. But on Friday, a judge said he had no power to stop social services summarily withdrawing them from their local school to be sent to a new home. The 11-year-old was looking forward to being in the school play and the end of term Leavers' Service. She has now been torn away from friends she has known since she was four, the nearest thing to stability left in her life. The children's wishes were not taken into account.
A second case concerns another woman, for 20 years an NHS nurse who served with the Royal Army Medical Corps in the first Gulf War. Until recently, she was a semi-professional dog breeder, living happily at home with her eight-year-old son (his father having walked out when she was pregnant).
In March, their home was raided by two RSPCA officials and five policemen, complaining she had too many dogs in the house. Her home was untidy because she was clearing an attic, but the seizing of the dogs (breaking the leg of one of them) left it a befouled mess.
Acting on a tip-off from the RSPCA, Leeds social workers then intervened, and expressed surprise that the house was tidier than they expected. Nevertheless, they told the mother to bring her son's clothes to school, from where he was taken into foster care.
After three months, during which he has only been allowed short supervised "contact" with his mother, the boy is miserable, constantly asking when he can return home. His mother has repeatedly had to draw the social workers' attention to various conditions, such as head lice and threadworm, which indicated that he was not being properly cared for. Last week they announced that they were moving him to another foster home.
Although there was no evidence that she was anything other than an admirable mother, apart from the temporary mess made of the house in March, the social workers say her son cannot be allowed home until they have both undergone "psychiatric assessments". These cannot be arranged until October. Nor has the boy yet been given a guardian to represent him, as the law lays down.
My other two cases come from Ian Josephs, the former county councillor and businessman who runs the Forced Adoption website and has helped hundreds of families in a similar plight. When, in January, a couple brought their newborn son to hospital with a fractured arm, Coventry social services were called in on suspicion that the child might have been injured by his parents. After the mother had been arrested, handcuffed and held by the police for nine hours, the couple were terrified that their baby would be taken from them. Although not charged with any offence, they are on police bail, which prevents them from leaving the country.
The child's Irish grandmother took the baby to Ireland, where he is now surrounded by a large, supportive family. Social services are attempting to get an order through the courts for the grandmother to return to England with the baby.
My last case is so shocking that I will return to it in more detail at a later date. It centres on a London couple who, earlier this year, had their six children seized by social workers on what appears to be flimsy hearsay evidence (I have seen the court papers).
The mother was pregnant again. Last month, after the boy was born, three social workers and five policemen entered the hospital ward where she was breastfeeding at 3am, wresting the baby from her by force. They then discovered that they had nowhere to keep him. The boy was put into intensive care, where his mother was taken to breastfeed him for four days, until she was fit to leave the hospital. She saw her baby for the last time two weeks ago.
I will return to this story when I have had some explanation from the council responsible.
Source: Daily Telegraph
Addendum: A follow-up by the same author.
It's time to bring family law to book
Families are being torn apart by a system veiled in secrecy, says Christopher Booker
I have never, in all my years as a journalist, felt so frustrated as I do over two deeply disturbing stories of apparent injustice that cry out to be reported but which, for legal reasons, I can refer to only in the vaguest terms. To cover them as they deserve, and as the victims so desperately wish, would challenge a part of our legal system shrouded in an almost impenetrable veil of secrecy.
Two weeks ago I recounted four examples of what I described as one of the greatest scandals in Britain today – the seizing of children by social workers from loving families, on what appears to be the flimsiest and most questionable grounds. The children may then be handed on to foster carers, who can receive up to £400 a week for each child, or are put out for adoption, in a way which too often leads to intense distress for both the parents and the children involved.
One case I referred to concerns a north London couple whose five children were seized in April by social workers from Haringey council and sent into foster care. The mother was then pregnant, and her baby was born last month. Shortly afterwards, according to her account, nine police officers and social workers burst into her hospital room at 3am and, as she lay breastfeeding, wrested her baby from her arms with considerable force. Discovering they had nowhere to put the baby, the authorities took it to another part of the hospital, where the mother was escorted four times a day to feed her child, until she was discharged four days later.
Having talked at length to the mother, I found this story so shocking that I put a series of questions to the council, to get their side of the story. The response of Haringey (which, since the national furore over its failure to prevent the battering to death of Baby P, has been somewhat sensitive on these issues) was to ask the High Court to rule that I should not be allowed to write about the case at all. In the end, the court did not go that far, but The Sunday Telegraph was reminded of the comprehensive restrictions on reporting such stories.
After spending several hours with the parents, looking at their neat home, the little beds where their children used to sleep and the cot prepared for the baby, I came away more convinced than ever that something was seriously amiss. I found the wife impressive in her detailed account of the events, clearly a devoted mother who feels herself and her children to have been the victims of an extraordinary error – the nature of which, alas, I cannot reveal.
This week, two days have been set aside for the mother to put her case to a judge. Despite the tragedy that has torn their family apart, the parents have never previously had an opportunity to challenge Haringey council's version of the story. I only hope the court takes particular care to check out the evidence put before it, and that in due course I can fully report a case that sheds a revealing light on a system supposedly devised to protect the interests of the children but which too often seems to result in the very opposite.
Also this week, the fate of another family hangs on another court hearing. This is the story of a couple who last January were rejoicing at the birth of their first child. Some weeks later, concerned that the baby's arm seemed floppy, they took it back to the hospital to seek medical advice. An X-ray confirmed a minor fracture. This proved to be the start of a nightmare, which led to them being arrested, handcuffed and driven off separately to a police station, where the mother was held for nine hours without food. The father was imprisoned overnight.
It emerged that the doctor they saw had reported her suspicion about the child's fracture to Coventry social workers. The couple were put on police bail, ordering them to surrender their passports, forbidding them to be unsupervised in the presence of anyone under 16, and only allowing them to sleep in one of two named houses (the other being the father's family home). But because no charges had been brought, the social workers allowed the baby into the care of its Irish grandmother, a respected primary school headmistress. To avoid the baby being seized, she took it to her family home in Dublin, where it has been supported by a band of relatives.
Determined not to be thwarted, Coventry's social workers then asked the Irish courts to rule – in a case to be heard this week – that the baby must be sent back to them in England. The hospital doctor has meanwhile contacted the Irish medical authorities demanding that in no way must they carry out specific medical tests on the baby which might account for its injury.
On Thursday I spoke again with the mother, who reported that her own bail had been lifted. She was therefore about to join her baby in Ireland. But the child's father has been told that he may face charges for harming his son, a possibility they find incredible. This will be reported to the Irish court, prompting the fear that the child may be taken from his mother and grandmother, neither of them under any suspicion, and deported to England to be placed in foster care.
In the House of Commons last week I met the one politician who has done more than any other – as this kind of story grows disturbingly frequent – to expose what is going on. John Hemming, the Lib Dem MP for Yardley, Birmingham, not only set up the Justice for Families website, which contains details of many similar cases, but recently assembled an official all-party group of concerned MPs to campaign for the radical overhaul of a system which seems so horribly off the rails, and too often to be betraying the very principles it was intended to uphold.
Not the least startling feature of this system is the secrecy with which it has managed to hide away from the world almost all it gets up to. As is confirmed by Ian Josephs, a remarkable businessman who runs the Forced Adoption website and has helped hundreds of families in similar plight, one of its most glaring flaws is the extent to which aggrieved parents are deprived of any right to put their case, not just to the courts but to anyone who might be able to help them.
It is a system hermetically sealed off, in which the fate of parents and children can be decided by an incestuously closed community of social workers, police, lawyers, doctors and other professional "experts", who all too often seem to work together in an alliance which is ruthlessly oblivious to the interests of the families who fall into its clutches. Again and again I have heard of the misery of children torn from their distraught parents, forced to live unhappily in the hands of inadequate foster carers, and whose only wish is to be returned to those they know and love.
The more I learn about this scandal, the more I understand why, in April, an Appeal Court judge, Lord Aikens, savaged the actions of Devon county council social workers in a forced adoption case as having been "more like Stalin's Russia or Mao's China than the west of England". The council's lawyers were told to read a judgment by Lord Justice Wall, now head of the High Court's Family Division, which condemned Greenwich social workers as "enthusiastic removers of children".
It is high time the veils of secrecy were ripped from this national outrage; that politicians intervened to call the system to order; and that the press was free to bring properly to light family tragedies such as those I have only been allowed to hint at above.
Source: Daily Telegraph
CAS Wards Speak
July 2, 2010 permalink
Canada Court Watch has three new stories.
Foster Dad Convicted 29 Years Late
July 2, 2010 permalink
Former foster parent Brian Caza of Iroquois Falls Ontario has been convicted of sexually abusing three foster girls in incidents occurring 28 and 29 years ago. It was the kind of case where there was no physical evidence and no injury, only stories of three women who were ages 6 to 9 at the time of the incidents.
Cases like this accomplish nothing. Maybe the alleged crimes did not take place, in which case an innocent man will be punished. Or they did. How many other foster parents will be disuaded by the prospect of conviction in 29 years? Instead of looking into dark memories, CAS should concentrate on stopping abuse of kids in foster care now.
Former foster dad guilty on 3 counts
An Iroquois Falls man was found guilty of three counts of indecent assault upon females in Timmins Superior Court on Wednesday.
Brian Caza, 62, a former foster parent for the Children's Aid Society, was originally charged with 13 counts of physical and sexual abuse, including one count of sexual intercourse with a child and four counts of gross indecency. However, the judge found him guilty only three councils of indecent assault.
The victims are three sisters, aged 6, 7, and 9 at the time of the assaults, who were in his care from 1981 to 1982.
Caza acknowledged in his testimony that he gave the sisters oil massages to "relax them." The Court accepted the victims' testimonies that during the massages, the accused repeatedly touched their genitalia.
In her reasons, Justice Cindy MacDonald pointed to similar fact, a legal term which enabled her to use evidence provided from each complainant to strengthen and support their separate testimonies.
Accusations included repeated intercourse with the nine-year-old and numerous acts of oral sex. The defendant was also accused but not convicted of sexually assaulting the girls by inserting objects into their rectums.
In his case, defence lawyer Paul Bragagnolo suggested that the complainants memories may not have been accurate, or may have been "exaggerated and built upon" given the passage of time.
The Crown was represented by Assistant Crown Attorney Wayne O'Hanley.
Charges were laid against Caza after the complainants reported their allegations to police within the last couple of years.
A return date for sentencing has been set for Sept. 1 in the Superior Court in Timmins.
Source: Timmins Daily Press
Damage Award Against CPS Survives Appeal
July 2, 2010 permalink
In 2007 a jury awarded $4.9 million to mother Deanna Fogarty-Hardwick compensating her for abuse at the hands of CPS and a court added $1.6 million more. See March 26 and November 15, 2007. Last month an appellate court affirmed the award.
California Court of Appeal Affirms Mom's $4.9 Million Award Against Social Services Agency
RE: Fogarty-Hardwick v. County of Orange, et al. Superior Court of California, County of Orange Case No. 01CC02379 (Trial before Hon. Ronald L. Bauer, Dept. CX103) In 2007 an Orange County jury returned a $4.9 million verdict in favor of Deanna Fogarty-Hardwick finding that county social workers had lied to the juvenile court in order to cause the removal of Fogarty-Hardwick's young children - 6 and 9 years old at the time. In a unanimous scathing opinion issued Monday, June 14, 2010, Division Three of the Fourth District Court of Appeal noted that the evidence presented at trial led both the judge and jury to conclude that "something seriously wrong had been done to Fogarty-Hardwick" and that the conduct of the social workers was not "an isolated incident." The Court of Appeal went on to chastise the County saying "This conclusion is something that should be taken very seriously. In this case, the jury specifically concluded that Vreeken and Dwojak lied, falsified evidence, and suppressed exculpatory evidence...There was no error in rejecting qualified immunity in this case.
San Diego, CA (PRWEB) June 18, 2010 -- A California Appellate Court found this week against Orange County and its Social Services Agency, and Affirmed what is called a “Substantial” damages award arising from a Civil Rights Verdict obtained in May 2007.
After in depth review of extensive briefs and a complex record, Division Three of the Fourth District Court of Appeal for the State of California issues its opinion today affirming an Orange County jury’s verdict awarding Deanna Fogarty-Hardwick approximately $4.9 million against the County of Orange, and two of its social workers.
In its opinion, the Court of Appeal voiced its concerns over what happened to Ms. Fogarty-Hardwick: “Stated plainly, the outcome of this case cannot be dismissed as merely the unfortunate product of a runaway jury. The evidence adduced at trial obviously caused both the jury and the judge to conclude not only that something seriously wrong was done to Fogarty-Hardwick in this case, but also that the wrongful conduct was not an isolated incident. That conclusion is something the County should be taking very seriously.”
The underlying case was filed by Deanna Fogarty-Hardwick against the County of Orange in February 2001. The suit alleged that Orange County, social worker Marcia Vreeken and her supervisor Helen Dwojak violated Ms. Fogarty-Hardwick’s constitutional rights to raise and associate with her children free from governmental interference.
On March 23,2007 an Orange County Jury found against Orange County, social worker Marcia Vreeken, and social worker supervisor Helen Dwojak and awarded monetary damages of $4.9 million. A third social worker, Elaine Wilkins was found not liable.
Lead attorney Shawn A. McMillan states: “Ms. Fogarty is very pleased with the Court of Appeal’s decision to uphold the verdict. This case encompasses extremely important issues for the people of Orange County, and the People of the State of California. Allegations of social worker misconduct of the type proven in this case is "ubiquitous" as admitted in an Amicus Brief filed by the California Association of Counties. Hopefully, the 52 counties that belong to the association will take note of the outcome of this case and promulgate policies to prevent their social workers from engaging in this type of conduct in the future.”
San Diego Lawyer Shawn A. McMillan, of the Law Offices of Shawn A. McMillan, was lead trial counsel in the case, and the lead appellate attorney. Attorney Sondra Sutherland was co-counsel at trial and assisted on the appeal.
RE: Fogarty-Hardwick v. County of Orange, et al.
Superior Court of California, County of Orange
Case No. 01CC02379 (Trial before Hon. Ronald L. Bauer, Dept. CX103)
Source: PR Web
Thanks to Fern for pointing this out
Family Destruction History
July 1, 2010 permalink
New York historian Richard K Stephens has used internet technology to research two-century old news archives. Turns out not much in today's family law is really new. He has a large collection of historical incidents on flickr, most easily followed through sets or tags.
In past eras unwanted babies were farmed to a contractor who promised to care for them until age of majority. The fee tendered was far too small to cover the cost, and the usual outcome was infanticide.
Baby Farmers & Serial Killers: Grey Nuns, Montreal, 1876
Source: PK Papers
Baby Farmer & Murderer: Margaret Waters, England, 1870
EXCERPT: A most just sentence has thus been executed, and the law has conspicuously fulfilled its appointed office of being a terror to evil-doers. A more terrible case, with respect both to the heinousness of the offence and to the unexpected vengeance which has overtaken it, has never occurred … The wretched woman and her sister were proved to have systematically published advertisements offering to “adopt” children for a remuneration which no one in his senses could believe to be adequate. In other words, they offered to the parents of illegitimate children a means of getting rid of charges at once burdensome and shameful to them … For the sake of a paltry and precarious gain Margaret Waters and her sister had the heart to make away with the helpless little creatures … nothing can palliate the hideous spectacle thus brought to light. A murder in hot blood, the deliberate gratification of revenge, or even a premeditated act of violence in the pursuit of some selfish object, fall short in some respects to the heinousness of this offence. The deepest instincts of a woman’s heart must have been deadened, and the most ordinary feelings of human nature extinguished, before such slow murder could be perpetrated upon piteous little innocents.
… Margaret Waters confesses to receiving children for purposes of profit, whom she, at least, knew she could not support. She confesses to receiving them for 5 l. or 10 l., and finding other people who would receive them for a fortnight’s expenses paid in advance, and would then let her hear no more of them. She confesses to taking them into the streets, placing them in the hands of children, and then running away and leaving them to their fate. She confessed to all this, and yet she professed to see in it nothing but “falsehood and deceit.” It was not murder, and nothing seems to have astonished her so much as the sudden vengeance which overtook her … while admitting the most damning facts, she extenuates their criminality. It is well that the stern sentence of the law has pronounced a terrible condemnation of these heartless excuses. “Baby Farming” as practiced by Margaret Waters was ruthless and systematic murder, and her doom will indelibly stamp this brand upon her infamous trade.
We wish it could be thought this unhappy woman was a solitary instance of such wilful blindness. It is to be feared she has expiated the sins of others who have actually perpetrated similar crimes, and it is certain there are many who are direct accomplices in her guilt. When she says that “the parents of illegitimate children who seek to get rid of them are more culpable than persons like herself, and that if there were no such parents there would be no ‘Baby Farmers,’” she does but exaggerate a just charge. When Margaret Waters abandoned children in the streets to the casual care of passers-by, she did but repeat what had been done by those who had first abandoned them to her in the dark of the night at obscure railway stations. It cannot be too strongly asserted that this execution reflects more or less the brand of murder upon all who contributed to the offence — upon the parents who only sought to get rid of their children, and upon those who allowed their journals to be the instruments of what they might have known to be an infamous traffic. It must be acknowledged that the justice of the law is but brought justice, and spares many who deserve punishment. That is inevitable. But one of the great uses of the law is to depict in true colours the real meaning of common offences. Selfish and licentious men and women will know for the future what is the natural issue of the offences against morality and society which they lightly commit. It is murder, and nothing less, that is the ultimate meaning of these social evils, and this is the contamination incurred by those who facilitate such offences.
[The Times (London, England), Oct. 12, 1870; quoted in article on website “ExecutedToday.com]
Source: PK Papers
Pope Kidnaps Child
In 1858 Papal States police entered the home of Jewish couple Momolo and Marianna Mortara to take their six-year-old son Edgardo. The ensuing controversy contributed to the end of the pope's civil authority in Italy.
Government Child Kidnapping, Italy: Mortara, June 23, 1858
The 1858 Mortara kidnapping is the probably the most historically significant child kidnapping in history.
BOOK DESCRIPTION: At nightfall one June evening in 1858, a knock sounds at the door of a Jewish family in Bologna, Italy, then part of the Papal States. The dumbfounded couple, Momolo and Marianna Mortara, find a phalanx of police awaiting them. Their fright turns to panic when the police chief announces that he has been ordered to take away their six-year-old son, Edgardo. "You have been betrayed," he tells them. Someone, he says, has secretly baptized the boy, and now that the boy is Christian, he cannot remain with Jewish parents.
Despite their pleas to the Inquisitor of Bologna, who had heard the rumor of the Jewish boy's baptism and ordered the child seized, little Edgardo was removed by the police and sent to a Church institution in Rome dedicated to the conversion of the Jews. The parents, still believing that the taking of their son was a mistake--for they were sure Edgardo had never been baptized, put their faith in Pope Pius IX. The Pope, however, stood firm in the face of a storm of international protest demanding that he send Edgardo back to his parents. Indeed, he began to see Edgardo regularly and to regard Edgardo as his own son.
The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara tells of the desperate attempts of the Mortaras to get their child back. The case drew in emperors and ambassadors, and Italian patriots seized on it as well, eager as they were to discredit the Papal States and to bring about the unification of Italy. Before the story ended, the Mortara family, the Papacy, and Italy would be changed forever.
[Text: publisher’s description of David I. Kertzer, “The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara: The Extraordinary story of how the Vatican’s imprisonment of a six-year-old Jewish boy in 1858 helped bring about the collapse of the Pope’s worldly power in Italy,” 1997, Knopf]
Source: PK Papers
To shrinks the natural desire of slaves to run away to freedom is a disorder. Cure? A good whipping.
The Medical Profession & Social Control, "Drapetomania," 1851
Drapetomania was a diagnostic term for a mental illness invented – or “discovered” -- by Samuel A. Cartwright and described in an 1851 paper delivered before the Medical Association of Louisiana that was widely reprinted.. The term “drapetomania” derives from the Greek δραπετης (drapetes, "a runaway [slave]") + μανια (mania, "madness, frenzy").
Cartwright described the disorder which, he asserted, was "unknown to our medical authorities, although its diagnostic symptom, the absconding from service, is well known to our planters and overseers." He stated that the malady was a consequence of masters who "made themselves too familiar with [slaves], treating them as equals."
"If any one or more of them, at any time, are inclined to raise their heads to a level with their master or overseer, humanity and their own good requires that they should be punished until they fall into that submissive state which was intended for them to occupy. They have only to be kept in that state, and treated like children to prevent and cure them from running away."
In addition to identifying drapetomania, Cartwright prescribed a remedy. His feeling was that with "proper medical advice, strictly followed, this troublesome practice that many Negroes have of running away can be almost entirely prevented." In the case of slaves "sulky and dissatisfied without cause" — a warning sign of imminent flight — Cartwright prescribed "whipping the devil out of them" as a "preventative measure."
[This text is based on Wikipedia, edited and revided]
[published as Cartwright, Samuel A. (1851). "Report on the Diseases and Peculiarities of the Negro Race". DeBow's Review XI.]
NOTE: Present-day drugging of children who are considered “uncooperative” or who attempt to run away from government-controlled child-rearing schemes largely follows from the same type of reasoning.
Source: PK Papers
The Shaker cult was founded in England in 1747 by Ann Lee and spread to the United States where it flourished for a century and a half, reaching 6000 members at its high point. They practiced celibacy, but had many children acquired through adoption of orphans and as wards of adult recruits. The incoming children were taught loyalty only the the Shakers as a whole, as all property and children were held in common. Marx and Engels became admirers of the Shakers, making them models for the development of communism. The outside parent was permanently alienated, leading to controversy over parental alienation two centuries before Richard A Gardner popularized the term. The last recorded case of Shaker child abduction took place in 1923. Increasing state control of adoption made it impossible for the cult to continue.
Parental Alienation & Cults: Rude, August 23, 1817
NOTE: This text describes one of the means by which the Shakers cult indoctrinated children – usually with the assent of at least one parent – into accepting that parent-child relations are wicked and that children must hate their parents, and instead accppt the cult leaders as “parents.”
JACOB RUDE, aged 19 years, being duly sworn, saith, that in the year 1815, he went with his mother to the society of Shakers; that he with 7 other young persons attended an evening school in the winter of 1815 and 1816, that one evening after they had gone through the exercises of the school, John Woods, who taught the school, rose up & taught them, saying that they must hate their parents: and if their parent spoke to them, they must not answer them; or if they did, they must answer them in a scornful sneering manner, frown and look surly at them, &c. And then put the question to them in general, whether this was not their faith; they all answered Yea, except this deponent, who was silent – which Woods perceived, and immediately put the question to each one separately, beginning at this deponent, who stood first in the class, & who though conscious of the error, through fear, answered in the affirmative. – And, that Woods repeatedly endeavored to instill such principles into their minds.
[Rude, Jacob, Affidavit of Aug. 23, 1817, from: Eunice Chapman, “An Account of the Conduct of the Shakers …,” 1818, p. 94 ( This is the first of two books published by Eunice Chapman recounting the Parental Kidnapping of her children by her husband who had joined the Shakers.)]
Source: PK Papers
Source: PK Papers
Parental Kidnapping, Parental Alienation & Cults: Chapman, February 1819
“MRS. CHAPMAN.” Written by Eunice Chapman, Albany, New York February 1819 (original spelling and punctuation retained)
After the chains of wedlock were rent asunder, and I possessed my agency; and could protect and defend myself, I resolved to go in pursuit of my children. That mysterious providence, which casts a veil over future events, kindly and in a remarkable manner suffered me a short time previous to be informed where they were carried, when first taken from Niskeuna. Consequently I to accomplish my purpose, had to proceed in all the subtlety and intrigue, which the Shakers possess. I first sent my books to Enfield, New-Hampshire, then dismissed my school. A friend settled my first stage fare, who gave me a fictitious name; and on the 9th of May, 1818, at 2 o’clock in the morning, I mounted the stage in a dismal thunder storm: When my most intimate friends in Albany, thought I had gone to visit my parent. As I traveled, it appeared as though there was no bottom to the mud. I crossed the green mountain from Bennington to Brattleborough, when it was said, the roads were never so bad. On one side, the snow was three feet deep; on the other was mud and water. – For safety we took an open wagon, yet it would toss and slide and sink into the mud. I was fearful of being dashed in pieces against the steep ledges of rock near us. I can give but a faint description of my fatigue and feelings at that dismal period, with no friend to whom I could communicate my troubles. At 2 o’clock on the morning of the 10th, I put up in Battleborough, 76 miles from Albany, where I had one hour to rest. On the 10th, there fell torrents of rain, and with a crouded stage, which came to a poise of upsetting, I fainted with fear. At evening, I arrived in Hanover, N. Hampshire, on the plains of Dartmouth College, where I was close questioned by the landlady, (an old maid,) and much prepared to answer. On the 13th, I took the stage and traveled to Enfield, in N. H, and stopped at the stage house, two miles beyond the Shaker village.
I complained of being unwell, and much fatigued, and unable to travel; thus made an excuse to stop a few days to rest. I soon found I had landed in one of the best of families, who suspecting my business privately sent for Mary Dyer, who hastened to my apartment, and introduced herself, by exclaiming “Mrs. Chapman, can this be you?” We met like two unfortunate sisters.
By using shaker’s subtlety and intrigue, I ascertained that my children were in that Shaker village; meanwhile, I kept in close concealment. Mrs. Dyer and myself, were plotting for her to go with a few women and get admittance to see her children, and then the privilege of seeing mine; and I ten be prepared, and take a post, and enter their village by surprise, and rescue the little captives! It was necessary for us to make some confidents; consequently, on the 24th, the Shakers got word that I was in town,* [* It was no doubt communicate to them by some of those false friends who value a dollar more than the happiness or lives of their fellow creatures.] the Shakers were then in as much consternation as though they had heard the din of war against them, and the sound of the drum beat to arms! The inhabitants took a deep interest in my behalf, and much more so, because I had traveled such a distance, after I had experienced so much trouble and fatigue in this state. I was fearful that the Shakers would remove my children that night. The inhabitants arose to my assistance, kept a guard around the Shaker village, and prepared a civil officer to seize them in case they attempted to carry them off. Meantime the Shakers were under fearful forebodings, and to appease the inhabitants, they, on the 25th, sent word that I might seem my children. A member accompanied me thither; we were seated in the Shaker’s office. After waiting some time George, my eldest child came into my sight. I stood and gazed at the little stranger, but could recognize no appearance of my son. He said, “Eunice how do ye do?” I wept over him, but he appeared inflexible, undutiful, and unnatural, though I imagined that I saw the stifled tear startle in his eye. I shewed him his little pocket book with a dollar in small specie, which he had collected before he was carried to the Shaker’s: and his last words were “I shall leave my money for my mother.” I told him how carefully I had kept that to remember him by, he laughed at mew. I handed him a tablet to date the year in which he was taken from my protection; he wrote, “when I was kindly taken from my mother!!” My daughters, and some of Mrs. Dyer’s children were secured in one of their Bastiles, which contained a large number of Shakers. A town officer and a member of the Legislature of that State, with their wives, were admitted with me and Mrs. Dyer to see them. Susan (my next eldest, being now 12 years of age) came into the room: I gazed at her in silent amaze. She appeared like a shadow, with a countenance pale and depicted and features emaciated, while pining away under her confinement. She gently approached me and said “Eunice, how do ye do?” I dropped my face upon her pale sallow cheek, and involuntarily exclaimed; Oh! Can this be my Susan, my dear Susan!!” I could discover none of that sprightly activity, and engaging sensibility, which once made her the pride of her mother. – Even her dialect had changed! I tore off her ghostly cap, hoping to recognize the features of my Susan: She was so much grieved that I hastened to put it on again; I saw the tear of filial affection started her eye. My Julia came next, which excited painful, though pleasing sensations, the reflection of which now stops me to weep! I gazed a moment upon my Julia in silence; she also said “Eunice how ye do!” I fell upon her face, and while bathing her with my tears, in my interval of sighs and groans, said, Oh! My dear Julia, my long lost babe! Have I once more clasped thee in these wishful arms! But she had become a stranger to those endearing caresses, which were once the joy of my heart. I seated her in my lap, but she fled from me and said, “It is against order to sit in lap!” I handed her a fine dressed doll, she said, “It is handsome, but I do not want it here,” though she eagerly gazed at it. Without my asking them any questions, they like two parrots, prattled over what shakers had previously told them to say to me, (how much better they were than with me.) In the heights of my groans and tears, Mr. Chapman said, “Eunice, don’t make such a racket, you disturb the brethren and sisters.” When such a scene, called forth, and put to the test, every feeling of a parent, and even those gentlemen who accompanied me wept. At the same time, there stood a Shaker elder, (like an emblem of Satan) behind Mrs. Dyer’s two children, pushing them forward, to abuse their mother, until they tore her youngest child from her arms, and with it fled from her sight. The ghastly visage of Mr. Chapman, indicated that his heart was the seat of remorse. I exclaimed, “James Chapman can you remain insensible through all this!” As I was returning to my lodgings, James Chapman said that I must not trouble them by coming the next day to see my children, for the brethren and sisters had been in a perfect hell all day and wanted some rest.
The Shakers, under their shroud of sanctity said, that they had no control over the children, that they were not bound – that they would be glad to seem me take them away, and if I would come in a peaceable manner and ask for them, I could have them.
Accordingly on the 27th, I took proper evidence, and went in a peaceable manner, and asked to see my children, but they would not let us come even within their door yards. A large number of the inhabitants who were prepared to assist me, then came and demanded sight of the children, and an interview with Mr. Chapman, and said they were unwilling to protect a people, who would harbor a villain who had fled from the justice of the laws of his own state, &c. &c. After several hours solicitations and threats J. C. appeared. Proposals were made for him to give me all or a part of the children. Being counseled by the Shakers J. C. attempted to impeach my character, and that of my deponents in my book and the respectability of the families to which I belonged, and said he would sooner tie his children to a log and set them adrift in the river, than to give them to a crazy woman who was wandering from town to town, among strangers and unprotected &c. &c. The inhabitants told him that they were not ashamed to accompany me thither, and they believed my statements and that my deponents in my book were correct, and the Legislature of the state of New York would not have been imposed upon by a woman, and in case they had not good cause to pass that law it would not have been passed. I, with tears in my eyes replied, ‘Mr. Chapman when I was married to you, you was respectable; your relations are still so. I am now an unprotected wanderer, and expect to wander until I obtain my children, though I ought and might have been under the protection of a kind husband. Though may have some claim to the son, can you withhold my daughters, my dearest self from me? James remained inflexible when the spectators could no longer endure the scene. The sheriff seized him with a criminal writ, and thrust him under keepers. It was then strongly impressed upon my mind that some of my children were hid in a barn which stood upon the mountain, half a mile from any house. Merely to gratify me my friends went in search, not thinking it possible. There they found my son in a rough Shaker dress buried in the hay, and without eating his supper. It was then 12 o’clock at night. They brought him to me, he trembled as though he had been taken captive by the savages. The Shaker Elders followed us with their lawyer, and demanded sight of Mr. Chapman and a copy of the writ, but could obtain neither. As I took my son into a carriage to carry him away, he sprang to leap out and run back to the Shakers. I seized him in my arms, he came near to dragging me out head first upon the ground, but I did not quit my hold. I had to hold him in the carriage as we traveled. I had to lay my commands upon him, told him he must go with me and stay until he was 14, he could choose for himself he yielded. I traveled several miles, hid him, returned back for my daughters; but the situation of things were such it was expedient for me to hasten out of the state with the one I had. For 40 hours I was in constant agitation and fatigue, did not close my eyes to sleep nor rest my weary limbs nor eat my regular meals.
To prevent the Shakers pursuing after me, and let them know what they might expect in case they should I hired a man to go to the Shaker village and discharge a rifle for several nights successively. I hired another man to protect us, and a private carriage, and traveled through private roads much out of my way, which cost me several dollars a day. On the third of June we safely arrived in Albany to the joyful surprise of all my friends, where we received congratulations from every class; though I first had to hide my son until I could get him a decent suit of clothes. I employed all my leisure hours in shewing my son the different curiosities in the city, indulged him in innocent luxuries and amusements. With regard to education, his time while among the Shakers was lost. I strove by every means I was capable of, to awaken his sensibility and regain his affections. But for several weeks he behaved as though I was a stranger, and did not call me mother. I was fearful he would leave me and go to the Shakers in Niskeuna. I trembled whenever he went out of my sight, and the sight of a Shaker was a demon before me. After he became more natural, he acknowledged that he had at first intended of leaving me and going back to the Shakers.’ He stated that ‘the Shakers had imprinted a prejudice on his and his sister’s mind, against me, by telling them I had become a common and very base woman, so that people would not admit me into their house, and that people in the world were generally no better, &c. They implant a prejudice and contempt in the minds of children, against our ministers, churches, and the true doctrines of the gospel. I would observe that Elder Seth Y. Wells, and Joseph Hodgson, who were summoned to appear before the hon. Committee, to whom was refered my petition before the senate of 1816, and who testified before them, as stated in my first publication thus:
Q. by Committee. Where is Mr. Chapman? And where are the children?
A. by Wells. I cannot say.
Q. How did Mr. Chapman and the children go away?
A. I cannot say.
Q. Did he take wagon and horses, or sleigh?
A. I cannot say.
Q. How could Mr. Chapman take the children and go from your house, without your knowing it?
A. I cannot say.
My son states that this same Seth Y. Wells, wrote directions where Mr. Chapman should carry them, and he read them, and saw it was Enfield, N. H. and they were taken out of S. Y. Wells’ house in a severe cold night – in the presence of S. Y. Wells and Joseph Hodgson, and two Shaker women and put into a sleigh, and J. Chapman and Joel Wood, (a Shaker) drove them to Enfield, and Joel Wood returned to Niskeuna. That the Shakers read before the family, the memorial [pamphlet] of James Chapman against me, but did not let them know I had published a book or got a law passed, only a divorce, and they believed I was married again.
That after the Shakers in Enfield had heard I was in town, the elders called on him and his sisters, out of bed at midnight, and took them into a mountain, hid them in a barn, half a mile from any house! And towards day they took them out of the barn, dragged them three quarters of a mile father up the mountain where they lay upon the ground until mid day! And for three or four nights successively, mine and Mrs. Dyer’s children were scattered in different parts of the mountains and lay upon the ground, when the health of my Susan was such that she ought to have been under the care of a doctor.
Here I must stop to acknowledge, that I cannot thank the Shakers, for their kindness and tenderness to children, especially young females: for it evidently and conclusively appears, that they will sacrifice even the life of a child to gratify their will. He [source?] states, “that among the Shakers of Enfield there was a child, whose senses were injured, and the Shakers acknowledged that it was occasioned by their beating him on the head! That a man became insane, and would rave every night excessively, and say “I am the Lord’s anointed,” so that the family could not sleep. He fell into a stupor, and died very suddenly. Immediately after his death, the elder men and women held a meeting, and there was great lamentations among them; soon after the Elders spake of him in their family meetings, and said it was not the medicine they gave him that caused his death, but it was an epileptic shock, and forbid any of the family speaking of him to each other, which was not generally the case. That the elders often read to them their book “Mother Ann’s sayings.” It contains an account of the disasters, and the timely and unnatural deaths which have befell those who have persecuted, those that have left them, and what shall befall those who will leave them: warns them not to be disobedient to the Elders, &c. and not to play with cats and dogs for they fill them with evil spirits, together with some very vulgar sayings.” That he “has heard the Shakers laugh and boast how they had cheated the world’s people in the time of the war, by going to Canada after some boxes (which they had previously left there with garden seeds,) and purchasing a quantity of goods, wrapped some about their wastes, filled several boxes and put them below the empty ones, and our custom house officers slightly examined their load, and observed the Shakers are so honest they will not cheat’ and let them pass.
In two months after I arrived in Albany, Mr. Chapman came in pursuit of his son. He counseled with the Shaker’s lawyer what he should do; he told them he would be exposed to the penalty of the law, which was passed in the session of 1818, if he attempted to take the child, he must wait until next session to get it repealed. Mr. Chapman is now in Niskeuna; it is supposed by some, that the Shakers are prepared to petition for a repeal of that law, and suggested by others, their best friends dare not render themselves so unpopular as to present a petition for them. My son is now 14, and I can boast he is much attached to me, and detests the name of Shaker.
The inhabitants of N. Hampshire, are ready to assist me whenever I go after my daughters, but my sources are exhausted, and I have not the means. I must leave them at present, trusting that he who brings to pass all events, will provide a way and means to rescue them from heathenish bondage.E. CHAPMAN
Albany, Feb. 1819
[From: “A Portraiture Of Shakerism …,” By “Mary Marshall” (Mary Marshall Dyer), June 1823 (Stated publication date: “1822”), Pp. 291-305 (original spelling and punctuation retained)]
Source: PK Papers
Mary Marshall Dyer: The World's First Parental Rights Activist
Mary Marshall Dyer was a tireless advocate for those whose children were parentally kidnapped by a spouse who had joined the Shakers, a communalistic cult which believed familial love was a sin. Dyer was the world's first Anti-Parental Kidnapping Activist. She fought for over four decades against parental alienation as collectivist child-rearing as well as parental kidnapping.
NOTE: The following excerpt from Dyer's 1823 book explains the doctine and practice of the Shakers whereby converts' families were torn apart and family members were systematically indoctinated to develop antipathy to one another -- including children being taught to hate their parents. This practice of induced alienation was the source of a great number of child custody disputes, parental kidnappings and court cases resulting from those parties who refused to accept Shaker interference in their family relations.
EXCERPT from the Preface of "A Portraiture of Shakerism":
Another error of the Shakers’, and one of no small magnitude, if measured by its consequences, is, that of censuring all natural affection as evil, and calling it the work of the Devil. − Those ties of affection which bind parents and children, brothers and sisters, are by the Shakers called carnal affections, and must be wholly destroyed or eradicated from the mind, before a person, whether old or young, can be promoted to any degree of honor or enjoy any peculiar privilege amongst them as a disciple.
If the statement should at first seem incredible to any one, let him attend to the facts as narrated in these pages and attested by credible witnesses, and he will be satisfied that this is a grand article of regulation among the Shakers. Whereas the rule of Heaven in reference to this subject, is, “Honor thy father and thy mother” − “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. − And ye fathers, bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord!!” One of the black catalogue of vices, states, the subjects of these crimes would be “without natural affection,” and “disobedient to parents.”
The benevolence which the Creator has so solemnly enjoined upon his intellectual creatures, can never appear in real life, unless the heart be taught in infancy and childhood, by every endearing expression of sympathy and affectionate concern, practically to understand the great moral duties of life, and duly estimate their importance. That system of education, so much eulogized by deists and French philosophers, which teaches that we should be citizens of the world, and overlook with cold disdain on all the near relations of life, is more than barely defective. It must be evident to every reflecting person, that, if the mind be systematically trained to disregard all the tender emotions of our nature towards parents, and the nearest relatives in life, it would be very unnatural and improbable for the heart, under such principles, to feel tenderly for the welfare of society at large.
When the tender emotions of natural affection are extinguished in children, or in persons of mature age, they are fitly prepared for the exercise of every sordid and selfish passion; duly qualified to be the slaves of corruption, and the instruments of cruelty. And all that is necessary in order to bring their pernicious principles into operation, when their minds have passed this ordeal, is, to put before them suitable temptations, or to excite their prejudices. This error of the Shakers mingles itself with all their doctrines, and with all their practical regulations in regard to those children who are placed under their care by guardians or overseers of those poor children, taken from the large cities and sea-port towns as well as to those whose parents are in fellowship with the brethren of in Society. Lured by the hope that their children would be well educated to good trades, and fitted to be useful in society, many poor parents have given their children up to the Shakers; little imagining that their children would soon be taught the sinfulness and criminality of thinking of their parents with affectionate concern, or ever caring for them more than for other individuals. In short, that they ought only to regard the Shakers, and tremble at the idea of disobeying the Holy Father and Mother, who live in the Church.
The methods pursued by the Elders, or those who have the superintendence and management of affairs amongst the Shakers, to prevent any who may leave their society from being able to take any property away with them, or even obtain any consideration for their labor, while with the society, appear to be dictated by avarice, and the most marked injustice. Their practice of insisting that all adult persons who join the society should surrender their property to the community, or church, is a regulation of which perhaps the public ought not to complain.
Every society or corporation has its own peculiar regulations with which the public do not presume to interfere, so long as the peace and well being of society at large is not injured thereby. But the evil complained of relative to the Shakers, is, that they impose upon the ignorant and the young who do not understand their by-laws and regulations, (and who have no idea of the consequences resulting to themselves, from signing covenant, as it is termed) by which all their services become a gift to the Church. And should these deluded individuals ever after leave the Shakers, and ask for any compensation for their earnings, it is in vain they expect any thing from the Shakers.
It has uniformly been the practice of the Elders to instill into the minds of their young diciples and apprentices, the impossibility of their salvation, unless in full fellowship with the Church. To be in full fellowship implies the most complete subjection to the will of the Elders, and entire obedience to all their orders. Without the subjection and obedience to the Elders, they must be cut off from all hope of salvation, and deprived of all privileges among them.
When the ignorance and credulity of these young converts to Shakerism has effectually been wrought upon, so that they have implicit faith in the infallibility of the Father and Mother of the Church, then they are no longer to judge for themselves in any thing. Whatever sacrifice they are called to make, must be made without doubting or delay; to the good opinion and confidence of the public. Their habits of industry and economy, the strict order and regularity with which they proceed in their temporal affairs, the neatness and simplicity of the general appearance of their establishments, together with the thorough manner in which most of their manufactures are executed – all serve to attract the public attention, and gain esteem.
In these particulars they excel, and are so far justly entitled to the reputation which in these respects they enjoy. But on a nearer inspection of their character and sentiments, it is at once evident that their principles and conduct are in several respects, not only subversive of Christian morality, nut as far as their influence extends, operates peculiarly detrimental to the well-being of society. – If the writer be correct, who says, “he that subverts the laws of order, sins against the eternal cause,” the Shakers must stand convicted. At the creation of the world, the laws of order were self evident – and social happiness has ever been enjoyed in their inviolable observance, or ruined by trampling them underfoot.
One question only, need be answered to pass a final decision as to the morality or immorality of the Shakers, in their peculiar manner of life. The institution of marriage – was it from heaven or not? If from heaven, the Shakers must show beyond all contradiction that the lawgiver has annulled that law, before they or any persons on earth, can blamelessly despise it. It were insulting the Majesty of Heaven to suppose, that the rules which infinite wisdom dictated for men’s direction in life, are of trivial importance, and of little consequence to the welfare of society. The experience of nations demonstrates the fact that, if history may be credited, that social and public virtue has prevailed when the institution of marriage has been reverenced as sacred and inviolable – that public, as well as domestic virtue has soon become extinct or known only in name, when this institution has been despised and disregarded. Notwithstanding all the pretended sanctity of monastic life, it is well known that hypocrisy and intrigue have reigned in those retreats. Nor ought the advocates of such a life for a moment to expect that grace, which is the only sure guarantee of virtue, while they set at nought the counsels of Heaven by their practice.
Source: PK Papers
Source: PK Papers
Parental Kidnapping & Cults: Rhoads, June 27, 1923
NOTE: This 1923 case represents the last known instance of a Parental Kidnapping involving members of the Shaker cult. There have been scores of such cases involving the Shaers dating back to the 1780s.
FULL TEXT: Four woman and an eight-year-old boy who had journeyed from Raton, N. M., to Jersey City en route to Palestine were apprehended yesterday at 88 Oak Street, Jersey City, by Detective Edward Davis of the Jersey City police at the instance of Leonard C. Rhoads, father of the boy. He charged the woman with kidnapping the lad.
The women are Margery Rhoads, 30 years old, mother of the boy; Emily Hubbell, 60 years old; Anna Douglas, 50 years old, and Carrie Tanner, 28 years old, all of Raton, Colfax County, N. M. The women are followers of the Shaker faith and all declare that they had a vision which led them to undertake their strange journey. They maintain that the Lord directed them to hasten to Palestine, as He is soon to make His appearance there in person, and unless they are there to greet Him they will perish and forfeit eternal rest.
They were to have sailed on Saturday next for Palestine on the Tuscania, which, they say, the only steamer which will sail direct to Palestine before January, 1924.
When the strange quartet of religious zealots and the boy were taken to Police Headquarters in Jersey City and questioned by Chief of Police Richard Battersby he found that they had made solemn oath to stick together until death. Then Chief Battersby suggested that Mrs. Rhoads give the boy over to her husband and go on with the women, but Mrs. Rhoads refused. She said the boy must go to Palestine with her.
Finally she agreed to let the father of the boy take him back to New Mexico, but declared that she would fight for a divorce from her husband and legal guardianship of the boy Theodore, after which they all would make a new start for Palestine.
[“Holy Land Pilgrims Held As Kidnappers – Four Women Arrested in Jersey City on Charge of Stealing Boy in New Mexico,” The New York Times (N.Y.), Jun. 27, 1923, p. 40]
Source: PK Papers
In this crime a pregnant woman is attacked and her fetus is stolen, usually leaving the mother dead. The perpetrator typically is a woman aspiring to motherhood herself. In one variation, the pregnant woman is sedated by a doctor during a prenatal exam and wakes up to find her baby missing. Below are two articles, one on a string of Cesarean kidnappings conducted with the power of the state during Argentina's Dirty War, the second a list of cases from 1974 to 2009. Our previous article on this subject is the case of Heather Snively, but Mr Stephens' list is more extensive. Back in the days of baby farming, it was probably unnecessary for an aspiring mother to commit homicide.
Government Cesarean Kidnapping: Argentina 1976-1983
EXCERPT from academic article: At the Navy Mechanics School, Admiral [Emilio] Massera “created the regime’s largest and perhaps most brutal concentration camp.” Called the ESMA (Escuela Mecánica de la Armada), it was considered the “Argentine Auschwitz.” Among those detained and tortured were young pregnant women. At both the ESMA and Campo de Mayo Hospital, the junta set up makeshift maternity wards where these women were either given serums or forced to undergo Caesarean sections to accelerate birth. During delivery, the women were blindfolded and tied to beds by their hands and feet. Pregnant detainees rarely survived, and their babies were given to “politically acceptable” parents—families with some connection to the regime. The regime was able to reap considerable profits during the Dirty War from illegal adoption because of the high number of pregnant detainees. This illicit business was so well-organized that some couples were able to choose their baby based on a captive mother’s looks and education. Descriptions of imprisoned pregnant women were provided to military couples seeking babies; those with fair skin and blue eyes were at a premium. Prospective adoptive mothers visited the detained pregnant women, ensuring that they received special treatment to promote healthy deliveries. Once born, the babies were given to their adoptive parents, and their real mothers were systematically killed, ensuring permanent severance of all biological ties. The junta’s goal was erasure of family identities.
[Lisa Avery, “A Return To Life: The Right To Identity And The Right To Identify Argentina’s “Living Disappeared,” Section C: Babies Born in Captivity, Harvard Jouirnal of Law & Gender, Nov. 15, 2004, p. 241]
Source: PK Papers
20 Cesarean Kidnappers: USA, 1974 - Present
Source: PK Papers
There have been 20 known cesarean kidnappings in the United States (1974-2009).
- 1974 – Sweeney – 1 murder
Nov. 18, 1974 (body found), Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Mother: Margaret Sweeney (26), shot 3 times & hacked 20 times with hatchet; has 3 children, 18 mo plus 2 living with estranged husband
Perp: Winifred Ransom (35): acquitted Jul. 11, 1975 as insane “schizophrenic”; released as “cured” in 1977
C-Section: removed baby with “butcher knife”
Child: girl (8 months), survived
- (1976 – 1983 – Multiple cases in Argentina “Dirty War”)
Many thousands of victims
Adopters: military officers & others chosen by military dictatorship
C-Section: Performed by physician
Child: fake identity papers, adopted out but told adopters are real parents
- 1987 – Ray – 1 murder
Jul. 24, 1987, Albuquerque, New Mexico (Jul. 23?)
Mother: Cindy Lynn Ray, 23, strangled; Father is Samuel Ray; Mormons
Perp: Darci Kayleen Pierce, 19, the wife of an airman stationed at Kirtland Air Force Base (sentenced to life imprisonment); appealed in 1998
C-Section: had surgery tools and medical books ready, but didn’t have access so used “plan B,” Car key
Child: Amelia Ray (8 ½ months), survived; 6 lb, 2 oz, 2 weeks “premature”;
Book: Jim Carrier, “Hush Little Baby,” 1992
- 1992 – Lugo – survived
Sep. 1, 1992; Brownsville, Texas & Matamoros, Mexico
Mother: Laura Lugo (25); Kidnapped to Mexico for C-Section in Clinica Matamoros; Recovered child after 2 years; Murdered afterwards
Perps: Paulyna Botello extradited to Mexico after losing custody of child; Rosa Botello;
C-Section: Performed by Cecilia Noble, licensed Midwife in Matamoros, Mexico
Child: Jorge Daniel, survived; but K’d for 2 years before recovery; falsified birth records
Murdered a year later in unrelated crime
- 1995 – Evans / Ward – 3 murders
November 16, 1995: Addison, Illinois
Mother: Deborah Evans, stabbed repeatedly, shot in head
Other victims: & 2 children; Jordan (1 ½ survived), Joshua Evans (7) poisoned, Samantha Ward (10) stabbed,
Perps: Fedell Caffey, Jacqueline Annette Williams (adopter) sentenced to death, Levern R. Ward (father of cv); clemency 2002
Child: Elijah (Ward/Evans), 9-month survived
Book: Cox, Bill G., Special Delivery, 2001
- 1996 – Curry – 1 murder
Jan. 31, 1996 Tuscaloosa, Alabama
Mother: Carethia Curry (17), shot twice in head, boy sealed in trash can and dumped into ravine
Perps: Felecia Scott (29), “best friend” of victim; has 2 sons; sentenced to life without parole; Frederic Polion (37), sentenced to 20 years,Angela Burton (Felicia Scott’s sister) convicted of hindering prosecution, sentenced to 17 years, conviction overturned
Child: girl (9 mo) survived
Book: Diane Fanning, “Baby Be Mine: The Shocking True Story of a Woman Accused of Murdering …”
TV: “Arrest & Trial” (TV series) “Baby Snatcher” episode (2000)
- 1998 – Flores – 2 murders
Sep. 14, 1998; Fresno, California
Mother: Margarita Flores (40); body dismembered, found in Tijuana; Father: Heliodoro Cruz
Perp: Josephine Sonia Saldana (40); Serafin Rodarte (“Witness”) suicide
C-Section: Method unknown: only head, forearm and hand were found
Child: Doraelia (8 ½ mo), died
- 2000 – Ganief – Attempted murder
Mar. 2, 2000; Cape Town, South Africa
Perp: Lazerene Mannoe, 26, former Nambian police officer, pregnant; She was found unfit for trial and declared a ward of the state
Mother: Tasmidah Ganief, 16, survived; rescued by Vannessa Poleman, 17, Donovan Meiring, 16, and Shamiel Hassiem
C-Section: breadknife & scissors
- 2000 – Draper – 2 murders
June 17, 2000; Fernley, Nevada
Mother: Kathaleena Louisa Draper (17), asphyxiated, rubber glove in throat, body found in dump in garbage bag
Perp: Erin Rae Kuhn Brown, a 31, aunt, Adoption dispute
C-Section: Butcher knife
Child: boy, died; found in garbage bag
- 2000 – Andrews – 1 murder
Sep. 27, 2000: Ravenna, Ohio
Mother: Theresa Andrews, 23, shot in back
Perp: Michelle Zonko Bica, 39, suicide, locked self in bedroom when police arrive for questioning shot herself, baby was sleeping nearby
C-Section: Method unknown
Child: Oscar Gavin Andrews (9 months), b survived
- 2002 – Kaiser – Attempted murder
Dec. 16, 2002; Fullerton California
Mother: Elsa Kaiser, 30, survived; stabbed; F = husband
Perp: Charnetta Simmonsabduel (Charnetta Lavia Simmons), 30, sentenced to life
C-Section: Victim escaped before incision
Child: (9 mo), survived, born Dec. 20
- 2003 – Simpson – 2 murders
December 22, 2003: (last seen) Holdenville, Oklahoma
Mother: Carolyn Simpson, 21, shot in head; Father, Allen Simpson
Perp: Effie Goodson, 37, acquaintance, not tried (“incompetent”)
Lead-Up: faked pregnancy; baby shower
Child: boy (6 mo) died
- 2004 – Cartagena – Attempted murder
Jun. 1, 2004, Girardot, near Bogota, Colombia
Mother: Solangela Cartagena, 25; saved by surgery; drugged, Caesarean was professional” yet “leaves, stones and sand were found in the womb”witnessed by Nicole (2)
Perp: Luzmila Fierro, mother of 6
C-Section: razor blade (torn uterus)
Child: Miguel (8 mo) survived
- 2004 – Stinnett – 1 murder
December 16, 2004, Skidmore, Missouri
Mother: Bobbie Jo Stinnett, throat cut, strangle?; Father: Zeb Stinnett
Perp: Lisa Montgomery (36), custody dispute with ex
C-Section: kitchen knife
Child: Victoria Jo Stinnett, survived
Book: Fanning, “Baby Be Mine,” Aug. 2007
- 2005 – Brady – Attempted murder
Feb. 13, 2005; Fort Mitchell, Kentucky
Mother: Sarah Brady, survived
Perp: Katie Smith, killed by victim; previous false sexual abuse accusation sent her father to prison; conviction overturned on Mar. 31, 2006
Lead-up: Faked pregnancy
C-Section: Escaped before incision; preparation: surgical gloves, cutting instruments, medical gauze, homemade umbilical clamp
Child: McKaila Grace, survived, born on February 16, 2005
Book: Sarah Brady, Patrick Crowley & Eric Deters, “Saving Grace: The True Story of a Mother-to-be, a Deranged Attacker, and an Unborn Child,” Nov. 10, 2006
TV: Oprah, “Headline-Making Survivors,” 2006
- 2005 – Oskin – Attempted murder
Oct. 12, 2005; Pattonville, Pennsylvania
Mother: Valerie Oskin (31), struck in head by baseball bat & tire iron, sliced; rescued by Adam (17) & Andrew (his father) Silvis; survived (barely) through surgery; permanently diminished sense of taste & smell
Perp: Peggy Jo Conner (sentenced to 22-50 years)
C-Section: Box cutter
Child: survived: boy, adopted out
- 2006 – Tunstall – 5 murders
September 15, 2006 (first body found) Sep 21; East St. Louis, Missouri
Mother: Jinella Tunstall (23); bludgeoned with blunt object, bled to death
Other victims: 3 children drowned: DeMond Tunstall (7), Ivan Tunstall-Collins, (2 ½), and Jinella Tunstall (1 ½); bodies found in washer & dryer
Perps: Tiffany Hall (24),
Child: (7 mo) died
- 2007 – Howard – Attempted murder (abandoned)
July 31, 2007; Clinton, Missouri
Mother: Amanda Howard (18), survived; tied up; attempt to break neck by twisting head violently
Perps: Lauren Gash (19 or 20), Alisa Betts (17); Myspace contact
Preparation: False birth certificate found
C-Section: escaped before incision; prepared: scissors, x-acto knife
Child: Ethan Damon Howard, survived, born Aug. 1
- 2008 – Camacho Gomez – Murder
June 27, 2008, Pasco, Washington
Mother: Araceli Camacho Gomez (27), stabbed multiple times in the chest
Perp: Phiengchai Sisouvanh Synhavong (23); feigned insanity to avoid trial
Preparation: hands and feet bound by yarn
C-Section: box cutter,
Child: boy, Salvador Gomez, critical condition, survived,
- 2008 – Johnson – 1 Murder
July 17, 2008, Wilkinsberg, Pennsylvania
Mother: Kia Johnson (19), stabbed
Perp: Andrea Curry-Demus (38)
Preparation: bound with duct tape at the wrists and ankles, and there were also layers of duct tape and plastic covering much of her head.
C-Section: "A very sharp instrument" was used to cut open her belly”
Child: Boy, Terrell, survived
- 2009 – Lee
September 16, 2008, Hong Kong
Mother: Mrs. Lee (26)
Perp.: Leung Sing-ting (27)
C-Section: kitchen knife, not completed
Child: died from wounds March 2009
- 2009 – Snively – 2 Murders
June 5, 2009, Hillsboro, Ore.
Mother: Heather Snively, 21, murdered, body stuffed in a crawlspace beneath Roberts's kitchen
Perp.: Korena Elaine Roberts, 27, met through Craigslist.com
C-Section: (not described)
Child: Boy, taken by Roberts to hiospital, died
- 2009 – Haynes – 1 Murder
July 23, 2009, Worcester, Mass
Mother: Darlene Haynes – murdered, 23, last seen alive, Jul 23; mother of 3 other chn, 5, 3, 18 mo; Body found Monday, decomposing, Jul 27; Died from fractured skull
Perps: Julie Corey, (Alex Dion vindicated); Plymouth, NH, place of arrest, Wednesday Jul 29
Lead-Up: faked pregnancy
C-Section: (not described)
Child: Girl, 4 lbs., alive, Sheila Marie
- 2009 – Adams
Dec. 1, 2009, Suitland, Maryland
Mother: Teka Adams, homeless, kidnapped on Dec. 1 & bound; survived
Perp.: Veronica Deramous, New Hampshire/Maryland; assisted by 17-y-o son
C-section: cut: box cutters and knives; "abdomen was cut and her intestines, stomach and placenta were exposed," escaped before baby was removed. Escaped after 4 days
Child: Girl survived, Miracle Sky
Source: PK Papers
The US government has a witness protection program in which witnesses are placed in a new community with new identities. When children accompany their protected parents, the other parent may be separated from his/her children forever. Here is one case.
Parental Kidnapping & Government Child Kidnapping: Ruffalo, July 19, 1981
On the night of November 9, 1978, Donna Ruffalo drove to her ex-husband's apartment to pick up her son Mikey, then 9 years old. She found the place deserted.
Her former husband's clothing, furniture and color television sat undisturbed, and his wallet, packed with identification and credit cards, lay abandoned atop a bureau. But father and son, she was soon to learn, had vanished completely. To this day, Donna Ruffalo has not seen her son again.
Donna did not know it then, but she had become a character in a bizarre and horrifying story, one which included all the elements of a classic underworld crime thriller—with one astonishing twist. For although Donna's ex-husband, Michael Ruffalo, had been a member of the Civella. crime syndicate in Kansas City, it was not he, nor any mobster, who had abducted her little boy. The true enemy, it turned out, was a more unlikely and awesome one: the United States Government.
Donna Ruffalo’s ex-husband and her son had disappeared into a mysterious, dangerous and highly controversial Government operation known as the Witness Protection Program. Run under the auspices of the Department of Justice and the U.S. Marshals Service, it offers security for individuals willing to testify against members of organized crime. To protect the witnesses from mob retaliation, the program permanently relocates them in a state other than the one in which they've testified, changes their identities, promises them lifelong physical protection, new jobs and all the documentation necessary to support their manufactured backgrounds.
Since the early 1970's, over 3,500 people have entered the program and over 95 percent of them have themselves been criminals. In order to secure these valued informants, the Government has also relocated (at their request) over 9 , 0 00 wives, husbands, children and miscellaneous loved ones the witnesses refused to leave behind.
By 1978, Michael Ruffalo had been a mobster for years but had only recently started working the other side of the street as an informant for the F.B.I. Believing he had been marked for mob execution, he saw his surest salvation in the Witness Protection Program. He promised to supply the Federal Government with evidence against significant organized crime figures if it would promise him protection and a new life with his son.
"Two and a half years" I haven't seen my boy," says Donna Ruffalo. "I don't know what Mike's told him. I think Mike probably has told him that I'm dead. And if he did tell him what really happened, I feel he has probably poisoned his mind about me. This has all been just like a nightmare."
Shortly after Donna discovered Mikey and her husband missing, she received a phone call that brought the chilling reassurance that they were safe — with the Government. Donna recalls her progression from a state of shock to a short-lived state of optimism that the Government would make everything right. Initially, she approached the authorities with deference and respect, confident that once they knew the facts, they would clearly see that Mikey belonged with her and would send him back to her.
The facts on her side included these: She and Michael had divorced after only three years of marriage, when Mikey was an infant, and Donna had always had legal custody of the child. She had never received any of the child support a court had determined was due her, and she had worked two jobs to provide Mikey, and her sister, Angela, with a secure existence that included parochial schools, sports teams and Scouting activities. And, finally, it was hardly in Mikey's best interests to abandon him to a fugitive existence with a thrice convicted felon.
But Donna quickly discovered that the authorities were interested neither in hearing the facts nor in hearing from her. She telephoned frantically all over Washington, trying to find someone who would help her. Most Federal officials refused to speak with her; a few transferred her calls to others who said they were not permitted to say anything. She could not even pry information from them as to her son's physical health and wellbeing. Larry Fisher, a high-ranking official in the Marshals Service, told her that it sounded to him as though she and Mr. Ruffalo were "having a domestic quarrel" over their child and sarcastically suggested she get in touch with her husband.
Panicked, Donna turned to a local attorney for help. Together, they discovered that the case was an overwhelming one, filled with complex legal issues. Their progress was tortuously slow. Donna attempted to work as a kind of untrained legal assistant — doing research, calling attorneys and law-enforcement officials.
A friend suggested she tell her story to the American Civil Liberties Union (A.C.L.U.), which takes on cases of significance to social freedoms without charge. The attorneys with the Children's Rights Project of the A.C.L.U. agreed to take Donna's case and filed a $3 million civil suit in U.S. District Court against the United States Marshals Service and Michael Ruffalo.
According to A.C.L.U. attorney David Hashmall, the case presents a clear-cut violation of court orders dealing with child custody. Explains Hashmall: "The U.S. Marshals have no power to make custody orders — that power lies with the state family courts."
Hashmall hopes the A.C.L.U. suit will set a new pattern'and practice for the way children are affected by the Witness Protection Program. "What we have here," says Hashmall, "is a Government program.coupled with an increasing rate of divorce, and this will be an ongoing problem."
The Witness Protection Program, now 11 years old and operating on a yearly budget of over 21 million dollars, was created in secrecy and operated in secrecy until CBS correspondent Fred Graham discovered it and wrote about it — harrowingly — in his book, The Alias Program. Graham brought to public attention the haunted, crippled lives led by relocated witnesses, the broken promises and bureaucratic ineptitude that leave witnesses stranded without proper credentials and, occasionally, place them in mortal danger.
The agony of parents robbed of their children by the program became widely known when a book was written (by Leslie Waller) and a movie was made (directed by and starring James Caan), entitled “Hide in Plain Sight,” about Tom Leonhard, a Buffalo, N.Y., stonemason whose ex-wife took their children along when she and her second husband, a smalltime Mafia heist man, fled into the program.
Leonhard waged an eight-year battle with the U.S. Government in order to see his son and daughter. He lost the court case — U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Irving Kaufman decided that since the Justice Department had acted "in good faith," the court would not attempt to second-guess the officials' "rational exercise of discretion."
Judge Kaufman's opinion has remained a binding ruling. Consequently, the parents of children who have vanished into the program are usually advised by their attorneys that it would be pointless to take their protests to the courts. The result, Fred Graham says, is that these parents are left without recourse, even when the facts suggest that they have been terribly wronged.
Salvatore Martouche, who was Tom Leonhard's lawyer, says that he has been called by dozens of other parents, from around the country, trapped in the same situation as Donna and Tom.
"The whole thrust of these cases is abuse of power by the Government," Martouche says. "We want a law passed that will establish the precedent that Government agents can't interfere with the rights of parents and children to be together."
Tom Leonhard was finally reunited with his children, after their mother divorced the mobster. But it was not exactly the happy ending he had hoped for. "It choked me up inside when I saw them," Leonhard says. "I expected to see little-children, the way they were when I last saw them. They remembered me — but their mother had told them I was just a friend of the family. I had been wiped out of their minds."
Donna Ruffalo's greatest source of anxiety is Mikey's psychological well-being.
"I don't think Mikey can go out and play like normal children. In a situation like that, you're filled with so much fear — you're always looking over your shoulder."
The A. C. L. U. has thrice filed a Freedom of Information Act request, in an attempt to obtain at least minimal information about Mikey's health and progress. These requests have been refused.
Donna has pleaded with Federal officials for the chance to speak over the telephone, however briefly, with Mikey. When these requests were denied, she offered to travel to a U. S. Marshals office to speak to her son on one of their phones, in case they were concerned that her line was being monitored. "Well have to check with Washington about that," she was told. Washington said no.
About all she is allowed to do is buy Mikey some Christmas and birthday presents which she gift-wraps and takes to a Federal office in Kansas City, where she is given a receipt for them. Whether or not they ever get to Mikey she has no way of knowing.
The Government's position in all of this is that it is simply not answerable to charges. Off teals in the Justice Department say that the absence of any hearing concerning Donna's separation from her son isn't a relevant matter and that her rights have not been violated.
More specifically, they believe that the legal duty to protect persons who agree to testify against organized crime figures supersedes any rights or interests Donna may have.
"We do believe that there is a serious threat to Mr. Ruffalo’s wellbeing because of his testimony. It is not our view that nothing else matters," says Gerald Auerbach, chief counsel for the U.S. Marshals Service.
"It is our view, however, that his whereabouts cannot be disclosed, for any purpose, including for the mother to be in contact with the child."
Or, as Donna puts it: "Mike is beyond reach, and his safety is more important than anything. And to hell with me, and to hell with Mikey, and the rest of Mikey's family and everything else."
Donna and the Kansas City A. C. L. U. hope that their case will come to trial by early fall. The judge for the case, Howard Sachs, recently ordered that a secret 24-page memorandum be turned over to them from the Witness Protection Program.
The memorandum, which was signed by Michael Ruffalo, gives the terms of participation in the program, and one paragraph states that if a minor is granted custody to someone other than the witness who is being relocated, he cannot be relocated. Both Ruffalo, and the U.S. Marshals Service may be in violation of the order. Also pending before the same judge is a motion by the Government to dismiss Donna Ruffalo's suit on the grounds that Michael Ruffalo is not in the law's custody.
Donna acknowledges that "It's going to be a long, hard road," but when presented with arguments suggesting it would be wise to drop the case, her answer is short, simple — and unanswerable.
"This is my only son," she says. "I want him back."
[Mary Lang, “’The Government Stole My Son!’ - Mikey Ruffalo was not abducted by the gangsters his father had exposed but by agents of a controversial Government program known as Witness Protection.,” Family Weekly (Sunday newspaper magazine supplement), Jul. 19, 1981, Cover story, pp. 5 ff.]
Source: PK Papers
Addendum: We regret that the source material has disappeared from Flickr and we can find no postings by Mr Stephens on the internet after 2010.
July 1, 2010 permalink
Dufferin CAS has given the Gary Putman award to Martin Porteous, who coaches hockey and soccer teams for disabled youth.
There is no award for the real child advocates, those who work to protect children from children's aid. The man who really deserves an award is Neil Haskett, organizer of over a dozen rallies this year alone, bringing constant public attention to the harm committed by Ontario's children's aid societies.
Porteous wins 2010 Putman Award
The 2010 Gary Putman Award was presented to Martin Porteous at the Dufferin Child and Family Services (DCAFS) annual general meeting, held Wednesday June 23.
DCAFS said Mr. Porteous “was chosen from numerous nominees for his dedication and willingness to give his personal time to coach hockey and soccer to persons living with disabilities.” He is the head coach for the Orangeville Wolves hockey team and the Orangeville Rattlers soccer team.
“Martin is a small business owner who loves hockey and is a model of sportsmanship and fair play, both on and off the ice or soccer field,” DCAFS said in a press release.
“Martin Porteous has shown compassion and dedication to our community, our families and our children in Dufferin County through his continued volunteerism, his enthusiasm, and his ability to work with people with disabilities,” said Trish Keachie, DCAFS Executive Director.
The Gary Putman Award was created to recognize a member of the Dufferin County community who has made a significant contribution in improving the health and wellness of children and families, has demonstrated creativity and innovation to advance services in the community, has raised awareness of social issues affecting children and families and has worked collaboratively within the community to enhance services.
Mr. Putman led Dufferin Child and Family Services for 29 years before retiring as its executive director in November 2007. In recognition of his efforts and dedication to the children and youth of Dufferin County, an annual award was created in his honour.
Other nominees included Laurel Hunter, founder of Just Me and the Kids; Sandra MacDonald, MFTD Respite Program & Complex Special Needs Support Program at DCAFS; and Josh Kennedy, a youth worker actively involved with the Salvation Army & New Hope Community Church.
“The response clearly shows that our community cares and has numerous individuals who are committed to the well being of children,” DCAFS said.
Source: Orangeville Citizen
July 1, 2010 permalink
The Ride for Accountability has ended in Windsor. Radio station CKLW, AM 800, posted two bulletins on the event.
TRAVELLING CHILDREN'S AID PROTEST (photo)
A travelling awareness campaign for children has made it's final stop in Windsor. Two Ontario men have joined together to call for an external accountability for the province's Children's Aid Societies. Don Lester is from Hamilton and has had dealings with CAS in the past, John Dunn is from Ottawa and was a foster child in the system.
A cross province 30-day tour to draw attention to the accountability gap at Children's Aid Societies has wrapped up in Windsor. John Dunn of Ottawa is a former foster child and Don Lester from Hamilton has had dealings with CAS previously. They are calling for an External Accountability for CAS and they can't understand the resistance.
Source: CKLW AM 800
Addendum: Here is a video of John Dunn on Windsor A-Channel TV (mp4, low quality).
Addendum: The Chatham Daily News covered the ride. In rebuttal it quotes Mike Stephens, executive director of Chatham-Kent Children's Service, citing two internal reviews by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services as examples of existing oversight. They are in the words of Richard Wexler, audits that never go beyond the filing cabinet.
Campaign aimed at Ontario CAS
A campaign to draw attention to flaws in the system of the province's Children's Aid Societies recently made a stop in Chatham.
John Dunn of Ottawa and Don Lester of Hamilton brought their Ride for Accountability of Children's Aid Societies to the local CAS office on Saturday.
"We left Ottawa, and we're traveling all the way to Windsor as an awareness campaign so the public recognize there are serious issues with Children's Aid," said Lester in an interview after the Chatham rally.
While Both Lester, 65 and Dunn, 39 said there is a need for the service provided by the 53 CAS branches in Ontario, they also alleged many abuses within the system, including illegal and unprofessional conduct.
"We recognize that this is a system that does care for children; we're not saying there shouldn't be that kind of an agency," said Lester.
"We're saying there needs to be accountability and that parents and children need to be protected."
Mike Stephens, executive director Chatham-Kent Children's Service, told The Chatham Daily News: "We have so much oversight it would take me all day to tell you them all."
One of the checks and balances he cited was the Crown ward review undertaken by a team from the Ministry of Children and Youth Services.
"The ministry comes once a year, spends a week here and reviews the file of every Crown ward," he said.
Stephens said every file is measured against ministry standards. If there is an issue, the agency has to either report back or act on a directive from the ministry, he added.
A similar process is carried out for children in care, however, the ministry randomly chooses files to review, he said. The ministry also annually reviews foster care files, he added.
Dunn, a former foster child and the volunteer executive director of the Foster Care Council of Canada, started the campaign June 1 in Ottawa.
He said the main goal of the effort is to establish an effective, third-party oversight of the system.
"The most important thing is to have the ombudsman to have direct jurisdiction over Children's Aid Societies," said Dunn.
Ontario is the only province whose ombudsman does not have oversight of child protection services.
In his last two annual reports, Ontario ombudsman Andre Marin noted his office received more than 700 complaints and inquiries about the province's CASs
Among the allegations raised against CAS are:
- Refusing to investigate allegations of abuse;
- CAS refusal to disclose information relating to the reasons for apprehension, or services provided to children in care;
- Allegations of abuse of authority by CAS workers;
- Allegations of retaliatory actions against parents who challenged CAS decisions.
Marin's 2009-10 annual report noted that people have some recourse to complain about children's aid societies through the Child and Family Services Review Board.
Stephens said this independent, government established board is comprised of people who have not affiliation with the ministry or the CAS.
He said it has the power to convene hearings and can order a CAS to change its decisions.
Source: Chatham Daily News
Fingerprint Mom and Dad
July 1, 2010 permalink
Parents in Cleveland Ohio who want to get their children back from CPS will have to be fingerprinted.
Cuyahoga child-welfare agency to fingerprint parents
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The Cuyahoga County child-welfare agency for the first time is expanding criminal background checks to biological parents, a move that has raised concerns that the agency is overstepping its bounds.
Director Deborah Forkas has ordered caseworkers to fingerprint parents and all other adults living in a household after the county takes temporary custody of children, and also as a condition for reuniting families. The new rule follows a string of cases that raised questions about whether the county is doing enough to protect children from abuse and neglect.
In some circumstances, the policy requires parents to be fingerprinted even when allegations about their ability to take care of their kids are not severe enough for the county to take custody. An official at the Department of Children and Family Services says the rule is designed to make children safer.
But the Child Welfare League of America, a national advocacy group, said child-protection agencies should not be checking parents' background because it has no bearing on a person's ability or rights to be parents.
"If you do get a criminal background, what are you going to find that's going to say that person can't be a parent?" said Terri Braxton of the child welfare league. "It can be abused and used in many different ways. It could be incredibly subjective."
County officials would not say whether any specific cases inspired the rule, but the department had been criticized recently for recommending custody of an infant to a convicted cocaine trafficker with a long criminal history. Several weeks later, Stephon Davis was charged with killing Angel Bradley Crockett, 28, and dumping her body on Interstate 90.
The department posted the new rules on its website earlier this month. But last week, the agency took down the policy, which was outlined in a June 4 memo from Forkas, after The Plain Dealer asked Forkas about it in an email.
Forkas did not respond to several interview requests. Mary Louise Madigan, a county health and human services official, said the policy was removed from the web site so that it can be clarified for social workers.
It's been routine to require background checks and fingerprinting when children are placed with caregivers who are not their parents. Officials said the agency extended the checks to biological parents because it needs better information about parents.
"It's the agency being responsive to needs to make sure safety comes first," said Madigan.
Asked if the decision was based on expert recommendations or modeled on programs elsewhere, officials could not identify any. The Child Welfare League of America was not aware of other jursidictions fingerprinting parents.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio also took issue with the policy.
James Hardiman, legal director of the Ohio ACLU, said the policy disproportionately affects low-income and minority parents, who are subject of most county custody cases.
"We believe the focus should be on social workers, actual home visits and meaningful interactions that would have a chance of making children safer," Hardiman said. "We don't like expanding the policy. We don't know it will accomplish any government objective such as making children safer."
Forkas has promised reforms in the way the department reunites families after children are removed for abuse or neglect. In two such cases earlier this year, one child was scalded to death and two brothers were found starving after the county returned them to their mothers.
The department has scaled back services due to budget cuts, as it faces questions about whether it's doing enough to protect children in high-risk situations. Last year, Forkas started a call screening policy for the 696-KIDS hotline, which led to a sharp decline in investigations. This year through April, half the calls for abuse and neglect had been screened out, according to department data.
Source: The Plain Dealer
CPS Hires Criminals
July 1, 2010 permalink
Texas has to lower standards in order to fill jobs for child protection workers. Not noticed by the journalist, this is a consequence of inability to hire normal people for the job — most of them quit soon after finding out what the job really entails.
Criminal history fails to be a barrier for a foster care job
State approved dozens for hiring at center despite record of arrests
Job applicants with some criminal history on their résumés have no problem getting approved to work among the state's most vulnerable foster care children, according to a Houston Chronicle/Texas Tribune investigation.
A review of background check letters the Department of Family and Protective Services sent Daystar Residential Inc. — a Houston-area facility that made headlines for forcing disabled girls to fight each other - shows dozens of potential workers were approved for hire by the state despite arrests ranging from prostitution to assault with a deadly weapon.
It's unclear whether Daystar hired these workers; the state redacted all employee names. But their approval for employment raises questions about DFPS' background check process as lawmakers meet in Austin today to discuss abuse and neglect within Texas' 80 residential treatment centers for troubled kids.
"Our goal is to strike a balance between protecting the children in these facilities and the presumption that an individual applying for a job is innocent until proven guilty," said DFPS spokesman Patrick Crimmins. "There are certain criminal convictions whose nature or severity does not indicate a risk to children, or that so much time has passed to indicate there is no longer risk of occurrence."
According to the Chronicle/Tribune review, of the 536 background checks the state performed on potential Daystar employees between 2007 and May 2010, 136 resulted in a criminal match or a hit on the state's abuse and neglect registry. While some of the job applicants' criminal history matches involved misdemeanors like evading arrest, fraud by check, speeding, DWIs or drug possession, others had histories that included arrests for robbery, aggravated assault and domestic violence.
On Dec. 4, 2008, DFPS told Daystar that a job applicant arrested in Houston in 2000 for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon - a second-degree felony - was OK to hire. "This person's criminal history does not include a conviction that would prohibit the person from being present in a childcare operation," DFPS licensing representative Yolanda Hernandez wrote.
In 2007, a DFPS licensing representative told Daystar that an applicant with a 2001 "credit card or debit card abuse" conviction "must not be retained in a position allowing contact with children while the request for risk evaluation is prepared and considered." Yet a 2009 Daystar job applicant with a 1991 arrest for prostitution, 1993 and 1994 arrests for theft and a 2008 conviction for reckless driving sailed through the criminal background process.
Hernandez wrote Daystar: "This person's criminal history does not pose a threat and does not represent a standards violation, therefore no further action or follow-up is needed."
In many of the cases the Chronicle/Tribune reviewed, it's unknown if the person involved was ever convicted, because the letters the agency sends to child care operations are often missing such information. And, ultimately, it's unknown whether Daystar ever hired the employees with serious arrests.
Daystar attorney John Carsey said it would be unrealistic to expect a residential treatment center to have a staff free of employees with criminal histories.
"When you consider what happens to people when they're in high school or college, with hot checks or various things, you could easily end up with something on your record," Carsey said. "It would be unfair to the labor pool … to say nobody can work at a facility who has anything on their criminal history."
Before a potential employee is hired to work with children in Texas, he or she must submit to a criminal background check, one performed by the Department of Public Safety and forwarded to DFPS.
Some minor offenses or older convictions that have no relationship to caring for a child - misdemeanor theft, or an old burglary, for example - don't stand in the way of a hire, Crimmins said. But some felony offenses, including crimes against people, robbery, public indecency, stalking, and failing to report the sexual assault of a child, are supposed to permanently bar an applicant from working at a center or any other child care setting.
Applicants who have committed misdemeanor offenses in those categories - and certain drug offenders with convictions within the last decade - are eligible for hire, so long as they pass a risk evaluation process. DFPS officials say they consider the severity and circumstances of the crime, the length of time since it occurred, proof of rehabilitation and the applicant's job responsibilities.
"We require risk evaluations for those convictions where we believe there may be a correlation between the crime and caring for a child," Crimmins said, "… but where there also may be room for a person to be rehabilitated."
Reality of process
But advocates question why these facilities would want to hire anyone with a criminal record in the first place - and why the state allows them to do it.
The reality, child welfare expert Susan Watson said, is that the salaries at treatment centers are painfully low. The facilities are often in remote, unmonitored areas. And workers are undereducated and often simply don't care about the kids.
"I appreciate that it's really crappy pay for demanding work," said Watson, who coordinates Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid's Individual Rights Group, "but they hire those kinds of folks in shelter care facilities, and it's just asking for trouble."
Source: Houston Chronicle