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Compulsory Bad Medicine

September 1, 2014 permalink

Ashya King was treated in England for brain cancer. When parents Brett and Naghemeh King were unsatisfied with radiation prescribed for their son, they requested proton beam treatment for Ashya. British doctors refused to provide the treatment and instead threatened the parents with a protection order banning them from contact with Ashya. The parents fled with Ashya to Spain. There they have been arrested and Ashya is being treated in a Spanish hospital.

Here is a local copy (mp4) of the family video mentioned in the article. Bias alert! The first half of the Guardian story tells only the social services viewpoint.

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Parents arrested as missing Ashya King found by police in Spain

Ashya sent to hospital after father posts video online complaining about NHS treatment for his son's brain tumour

Ashya King with his mother, Naghemeh
Ashya King with his mother, Naghemeh. The family were last seen on Thursday afternoon.
Photograph: M&Y News Agency

The international hunt for Ashya King, the missing five-year-old boy with a brain tumour, came to a dramatic end on Saturday night when his parents were arrested in Spain and their son was taken from them and sent to a local hospital for urgent medical treatment.

Brett and Naghemeh King, 45, were spotted in their Hyundai people carrier around 10pm by police in Velez Malaga, a town an hour to the east of Marbella. The couple, who were being held under an international arrest warrant on suspicion of neglect, had checked into a hostel about 14 miles away in Benajaraf on the Costa del Sol where they had left their six other children.

Ashya had been removed from Southampton general hospital by his parents against medical advice last week. He was last seen with the rest of his family on a ferry travelling from Portsmouth to Cherbourg on Thursday afternoon. At a press conference on Saturday night, the assistant chief constable of Hampshire, Chris Shead, said: "Just before 9pm UK time [Spanish police] found Ashya. They stopped the vehicle that we've been circulating the details of and in the vehicle was Ashya's parents and Ashya. We don't have many details as to Ashya's condition in this time but we do know he was showing no visible signs of distress."

Shead added that the parents had been arrested and taken to a police station. "There are no winners in this situation," he said. "This must be a very distressing time for Ashya's family. Thankfully we have found Ashya. Our number one aim has been to ensure he gets the welfare he needs. We've immediately contacted Southampton General Hospital to make sure they have the details of Ashya's medical team in Spain. Tomorrow morning we will be sending a team of police to Malaga and they will continue the investigation."

In a YouTube video posted by Ashya's eldest brother, Naveed, earlier in the night, Brett King spoke for 10 minutes explaining the couple's decision to take their son out of hospital and seek medical help abroad. He complained about the "trial and error" treatment Ashya had been receiving on the NHS and called for the hunt to be called off, saying the family had become "refugees almost" and asked that they be left in peace. Sitting on a bed with his son lying limply in his lap in a nappy and T-shirt, King, 51, said: "We've been labelled as kidnappers, putting [Ashya's] life at risk, neglect."

He then pointed to food supplements at the side of the bed, connected to Ashya by tubes. "There's been a lot of talk about this machine, as you see it's all plugged in. We've got loads of these feeds, we've got iron supplements and Calpol," he said. "As you can see there's nothing wrong with him, he's very happy actually, since we took him out of hospital he's been smiling a lot more."

Online comments to the video were overwhelmingly supportive of the Kings, with people asking police to treat them with "compassion and understanding".

King said in the video that Ashya's health deteriorated after initial successful treatment to remove his tumour and they argued with doctors over next steps. The Kings wanted a specific type of cancer treatment called proton beam treatment that is not available on the NHS. Brett King said: "We asked the NHS if we could please go to America, to Switzerland, or another country to get proton beam, because it's so much better for children with brain cancer. It zones in on the area, whereby normal radiation passes right through his head and comes out the other side and destroys everything in his head. They looked at me straight in the face and said with his cancer – which is called medulloblastoma – it would have no benefit whatsoever."

King said the hospital threatened to take out an emergency protection order that would have banned them from coming on to the ward. "After that I realised I can't speak to the oncologist at all, because if I actually ask anything or give any doubt I wasn't in full accord with them, they were going to get a protection order which meant in his deepest, darkest hour [we] wouldn't be there to look after him. That's such a cruel system.

"We decided to try and sort it out ourselves but now we're refugees almost. We can't do anything. The police are after us. The things we want to do to raise the money to pay for the proton beam, they've prevented it now. So my son is being treated and he's doing fine. We're very happy with his progress. We're not neglecting him. He has everything he had in hospital. Speak to the nurses, have they seen him move as much as this? I'm not coming back to England if I cannot give him the treatment I want."

On Saturday afternoon, Hampshire police said they had "positive information" that the Kings' car had been seen in Spain, where they own a villa in Marbella. Spanish police visited the villa but there had been no sign of the family, fuelling fears about Ashya's condition.

His last operation had been seven days ago. Police had warned that his battery-operated feeding system was likely to have expired and feared that his health would deteriorate rapidly unless he received medical care.

Appeals for help in finding Ashya had been made in Italian, French and Spanish. Interpol sent out a missing persons alert to each of its 190 member countries.

A family friend said earlier that Ashya's family had run away in desperation: "This is my mother's friend, she has run away in desperation because they cannot accept that there is nothing that can be done for their son and want to look for help abroad," Katie Fletcher wrote on Hampshire police's Facebook page.

"Please don't judge. They are a very sweet, loving family and I can only believe they are doing this because they want to help their son."

Naveed first posted a YouTube video on 23 July speaking about his sibling's illness. "Everyone is sending their love now," he said. "We love you so much and we want to see you very soon and I love you so much and can't wait to see you."

The Office of Public Information for Jehovah's Witnesses, who refuse blood transfusions on religious grounds, confirmed that Ashya's parents were followers of the religious movement.

A spokesman said there was "absolutely no indication" that the family's decision to remove their son from hospital was "motivated by any religious convictions".

Brett King's mother, Patricia, said her son was "the most caring and wonderful father you could ever have".

Legal experts said it was unlikely that the Kings had committed an offence by taking Ashya out of hospital. Professor Penney Lewis, of King's College London, said: "There has never been a case where parents have done something like this and they have been prosecuted."

Shead said the six-and-a-half-hour gap between Ashya being taken from hospital and police being called would be considered "further down the line".

University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, which is in charge of Southampton general hospital, said Ashya was allowed to leave the ward under his parents' supervision and hospital staff raised the alarm when the length of his absence became a cause of concern.

Source: Guardian (UK)

Record for Stinginess

August 31, 2014 permalink

The Catholic Children's Aid Society of Toronto is awarding scholarships to more than a hundred students. The total amount awarded is approximately $100,000. The figures are inexact, but our calculations give a daily rate spread over four years of higher education of $0.68. This is below the previous record of $1.37 for a CAS bursary established three years ago by the same Toronto CCAS. Based on your editor's current bills for a university education, the actual cost is closer to $100 per day.

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Youth-in-Care to Receive Scholarships

Catholic Children's Aid Society Of Toronto

Hope for children

Fund Helps Youth-in-Care Realize Dream of Post-Secondary Education

TORONTO, Aug. 25, 2014 /CNW/ - On Wednesday, August 27, 2014, more than 100 current and former youth-in-care of the Catholic Children's Aid Society of Toronto (CCAS) will receive approximately $100,000 in scholarships from the Hope for Children Fund, paving the way to a college or university degree and the promise of new career opportunities.

Twenty-one-year-old Sheldon is a Hope for Children Fund Scholarship recipient studying Child and Youth Work at Sheridan College. "There's no question that as a former youth in care, I face a much bigger financial load than my friends," says Sheldon. "I don't have the option of living at home or relying on family for help with internet or phone bills. My life's goal is to help kids develop a sense of purpose and a better sense of who they are. By giving me some financial breathing room, the Hope for Children Fund scholarship has allowed me to pursue my education, while working part-time to pay the bills."

While more than half of Canadian 20-24-year-olds live with their parents, under provincial legislation youth aging out of care must leave their foster or group home at age 18. While some youth are able to maintain relationships with their former foster parents, many youth seeking to complete their schooling deal with the competing pressures of finding and sustaining decent, affordable housing, budgeting for utilities, groceries, clothing, tuition and text books and holding down part-time jobs. As a result, youth aging out of care struggle with their schooling and take longer to complete both high school and post-secondary education.

"We are so proud of the youth we support through the scholarship program," says Kara Spedding, Manager, Hope for Children Fund. "Many of these young people face emotional and financial pressures that their peers have not had to deal with. Most juggle multiple jobs while studying full-time, yet still go on to be great successes once they've completed their studies. For these reasons, the accomplishments of the youth we support are truly awe inspiring," added Ms. Spedding.

Since 1986, the Hope for Children Fund has awarded more than $2.5 million in scholarships and special achievement grants supporting nearly 1,000 students in their educational pursuits.

Scholarship Event Details:
Hope for Children Scholarship Event
Wednesday, August 27, 2014, 5:00 p.m.
The Bram & Bluma Appel Salon at the
Toronto Reference Library
789 Yonge Street, 2nd Floor

About Hope for Children Fund:

The Hope for Children Fund supports the Catholic Children's Aid Society of Toronto (CCAS) by raising funds for education and poverty relief programs for children, youth and families who receive services from CCAS. We believe by investing in our children and youth, and by helping families through difficult times, we can transform our community. To learn more about Hope for Children Fund, please visit: www.hopeforchildren.ca

Background:

  • 81 per cent of Ontario youth graduate high school, while youth in care have a graduation rate of 44 per cent. (Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies [OACAS], Child Welfare Report 2011)

Ontario Children's Aid Societies recommend that Ministry policy be changed to allow youth to stay in foster or group home care until they finish high school, and they have had the chance to acquire the skills they need to succeed on their own. (OACAS, Child Welfare Report 2011)

SOURCE Catholic Children's Aid Society Of Toronto

Source: CNW

Toddler Wanders

August 31, 2014 permalink

When Stephanie Pool was napping her toddler wandered out of the home. A neighbor found the child and called Canandaigua New York police. Stephanie got a ticket for endangering the welfare of a child.

Maybe mom should have locked the child in the home. But parents get busted for locking in children. Mom should never sleep.

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Sleeping mother arrested after child found wandering

Stephanie Pool

A Canandaigua woman faces charges after police say they found her two-year-old child wandering near her home.

Investigators say 33-year-old Stephanie Pool was sleeping when her child was found on a neighbor’s porch on Chapin Street in Canandaigua around 11:45 a.m. on August 20.

Canandaigua Police say Pool fell asleep inside her home, and that her child got out of the house through an unlocked back door. The child was not hurt.

Pool was issued an appearance ticket for endangering the welfare of a child.

Source: WHEC-TV

Don't Take My Child

August 29, 2014 permalink

On July 15 Britain's ITV broadcast the program Don't Take My Child. It exposed the abuses of Britain's system of snatching children under pretext of protection. A review by Christopher Booker is enclosed. Booker notes the irony that family-friendly conservative politicians are great supporters of the system of family destruction. Link to our copy of the video. It mentions the case of Lucy Allan.

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Under 'family friendly’ Tories, yet more children go into care

Too many children are removed from families for no justifiable reason, often because of government policies

Light at the end of the tunnel
Taken: nearly 30,000 children have been removed from families in England in the past year
Photo: ALAMY

It was curiously timely that David Cameron’s promise last week to put “the family” at the heart of all of his government’s policies should have coincided with the release of figures showing that last month the number of applications by social workers to take children into “care” was the highest on record. Up 18 per cent on the figure for July last year, many of these 1,013 applications covered more than one child, bringing the number of children being removed from their families in England alone in the past year to nearly 30,000.

What Mr Cameron may not be aware of is the immense groundswell of concern that far too many of these children are now being removed from their parents for no justifiable reason, thanks not least to the policies of his own government. Among the growing mountain of evidence for this was a powerful documentary, Don’t Take My Child, broadcast in ITV’s Exposure series on July 15 (which can still be seen via a link on the Forced Adoption website). This included interviews with several experts, including a former High Court judge, a top barrister for children, and a very senior social worker, all making the same point: that instead of trying to support families as they used to, too many social workers now seem bent on tearing them apart, not least to meet this government’s drive to see more children adopted.

The documentary opens with a terrifying sequence showing a newborn baby being snatched from its distraught parents by Staffordshire social workers and police. Much of what follows recounts the equally harrowing ordeals of other parents, only now free to speak about their experiences because, very unusually, they eventually managed to get their children back. Particularly telling is the story of Lucy Allan, a prospective parliamentary candidate for Mr Cameron’s Conservative Party, who describes the Kafkaesque nightmare that unfolded when her son was seized by Wandsworth social workers for reasons eventually found to be wholly baseless.

But what gives this documentary unprecedented authority is that these first-hand examples of how sadly the system has become corrupted from its original laudable aims are punctuated by interviews with some of the most senior experts from within the system itself. Sir Mark Hedley, a recently retired family court judge, emphasises that the shift from trying to give parents help to the almost routine removal of their children, has been “a major policy change”. He is echoed by Bridget Robb, head of the British Association of Social Workers, who says that “this government is much harsher than previous governments” in favouring the removal of children rather than giving help to “birth parents”, and “that is new”. Martha Cover, chair of the Association of Lawyers for Children, makes the same charge: that we are “moving away rather rapidly” from “giving support” towards “having children placed for adoption”, pointing out that Britain is now second only to the US in the proportion of children being “removed from their natural family and placed for adoption against their wishes”.

But the irony is that, despite our education ministry’s new passion for adoption, volubly championed by Michael Gove when he was Education Secretary (and who was successfully adopted himself), the number of children being adopted still remains ridiculously small: around 4,000 a year, compared with the 28,000 children who have this year been taken into care. This leaves an additional 24,000 children haplessly in state “care”, the cost of which alone, according to a new report from the Audit Commission, now averages £50,000 a year for each child. And this is not even to mention the unimaginable unhappiness inflicted on the tens of thousands of families who wrongly fall foul of this weirdly inhuman system.

In 2010, Mr Cameron told the House of Commons: “It is right to judge a society on how it cares for its most vulnerable, especially our children. So should not our legacy to future generations be to do all we can to make sure that the lessons learnt from these appalling events are learnt and applied so that such terrible mistakes will never be made again.” He was apologising for the horrifying scandal whereby, half a century ago, 130,000 children were secretly torn from their families, to be shipped abroad to a miserable new life in Australia and elsewhere. Little does he realise that a similar national scandal is unfolding right now – for which much of the blame lies with his own government.

Source: Telegraph (UK)

Coercing Perjury

August 29, 2014 permalink

Radley Balko found that in Houston grand juries, an institution intended to protect citizens from unjustified prosecution, are staffed by policemen or friends of policemen. The story appears here because of the case of Alfred Dewayne Brown, accused of participating in a robbery in which a policeman was killed. When exculpatory witness Ericka Jean Dockery provided an alibi, grand juror/policeman James Koteras threatened the witness.

Koteras at one point tells Dockery that unless she changes her story, her children will be “taken by Child Protective Services, and you’re going to the penitentiary and you won’t see your kids for a long time.”

Dockery changed her story and Brown was convicted.

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Exclusive: Houston cop who threatened, harassed grand jury witness served on at least nine other grand juries

On Friday, I posted an in-depth look at some of the problems the grand jury system in Harris County, Texas (home to Houston). I have since obtained some court documents that seem to confirm the most serious accusations from the system’s toughest critics.

First, a quick review: My Friday post was based on a series of columns by Lisa Falkenberg at the Houston Chronicle exposing how a grand jury verbally abused and threatened a witness into changing her story in a 2003 murder investigation. On July 25, Falkenberg revealed that the foreman of the grand jury was a longtime Houston police officer named James Koteras. This is already a problem. Grand juries are supposed to be citizen panels that protect us from unfounded allegations by police and prosecutors. At least that’s the theory. To have cops serving on grand juries chips away at that buffer. But that’s really only where the problem begins.

The case Falkenberg has been covering is the investigation of Alfred Dewayne Brown, who was accused (and eventually convicted) of murdering a Houston police officer. To have a cop on that grand jury is quite a bit worse. Falkenberg also found that another member of the jury was the executive director of a benevolence organization for police and fireman.

My post took a broader look at the Harris County grand jury system, and found that cops have routinely served on Houston grand juries. So have probation officers, corrections officers, and other members of law enforcement in the criminal justice system. Moreover, critics allege that the “key-man” system that many Harris County judges use to pick grand jurors selects for law enforcement officials and their friends, family, and acquaintances. Critics say it’s too easily manipulated, and results in grand juries continually picked from the same pool of people — cops, retired cops, friends and family of cops, and older, whiter, wealthier, more conservative people who both have the time and money to serve, and are familiar enough with the system to even know to volunteer to serve on a grand jury in the first place.

Adding to the problem, grand jury members are invited to go on police ride-alongs, are given free time at police shooting ranges, and are invited to participate in 3D shooting simulators designed to make them empathetic with police officers. Those same grand jurors are then asked to assess the validity and credibility of the police officers who testify before them, not just in routine investigations, but in investigations of the killing of police officers, alleged abuse by police officers, police shootings, or police corruption.

The documents I’ve obtained this week show that Senior Officer James Koteras not only served on the grand jury that indicted Brown, he has served on at least nine other grand juries between 1989 and 2011. He served as foreman at least one other time, and as assistant foreman at least twice. According to Falkenberg, Koteras was an active duty Houston police officer until 2008. Grand jury lists are sometimes sealed (though not always), and courts aren’t always forthcoming with them. So my source has been unable to access any beyond 2011, but it’s possible that Koteras has served on additional grand juries since then.

The transcripts of grand jury proceedings are also typically sealed, but the transcripts in the Alfred Dewayne Brown case were released as part of his petition for a new trial. Brown stood accused of participating in an armed robbery in which one of the assailants shot and killed Houston police officer Charles R. Clark. Ericka Jean Dockery was Brown’s girlfriend at the time. She was also his alibi. Brown claimed that he was staying at her apartment the morning of the crime. He also said that after she left for work that morning, he called her at her office while he was still in her apartment.

Dockery initially verified Brown’s alibi. But after aggressive questioning, led by Koteras, she changed her story, and became a key witness for the prosecution. Koteras at one point tells Dockery that unless she changes her story, her children will be “taken by Child Protective Services, and you’re going to the penitentiary and you won’t see your kids for a long time.” Falkenberg adds in her July 25 column:

He’s the one who tries to get Dockery to subscribe to the implausible theory that it was someone else – not her boyfriend, Alfred Dewayne Brown – sleeping on her couch just before the murder at a check cashing store, even though she insisted again and again she knew it was Brown by his build, his tennis shoes, and the color of the shirt she bought him.

At one point, Koteras shows a familiarity with Assistant District Attorney Dan Rizzo that reveals a rather cozy relationship.

“Hey, Dan,” the foreman calls to the prosecutor. “What are the punishments for perjury and aggravated perjury?”

“It’s up to 10 years,” Rizzo responds.

“In prison. OK,” the foreman says.

“Oh no,” says another grand juror as if on cue, echoing other commentary that reads at times like a Greek chorus.

Dockery changed her story, and Brown was convicted and sentenced to death. Assistant District Attorney Dan Rizzo then filed felony perjury charges against her. There was no evidence indicating she was lying. The charges were based on the fact that Rizzo (now retired) and the Koteras-led grand jury didn’t believe her. Those charges were then leverage Rizzo could use to be sure she testified (or, if you want to be cynical, to be sure she testified the right way). After Brown’s conviction, Dockery retracted her testimony, and has since signed an affidavit indicating she felt pressured by the grand jury. Seven years after Brown’s conviction, evidence emerged showing that Dockery hadn’t lied. Phone records surfaced showing a call had been made from Dockery’s apartment to her office, just as Brown and Dockery had initially claimed. The records had been sitting in the garage of a Houston police officer.

Falkenberg interviewed three of the grand jurors who served with Koteras in 2003. Oddly, despite the transcripts, none of them remember any of their fellow grand jurors putting any pressure on Dockery, nor do they recall Koteras’ status as an active police officer affecting their investigations. One of the grand jurors, MaryAnne Montalbano, told Falkenberg, “We talked about it and all. If it affected him and he served any way, that’s not good.” According to the documents I’ve received, Montalbano also served with Koteras on a grand jury in 1992.

Falkenberg has also since interviewed lots of Houston judges and law enforcement officials who claim to be troubled by the way the Koteras grand jury treated Dockery, and by the fact that an active Houston police officer could serve on a grand jury investigating the death of another cop. Yet few of them see to see this as a product of a flawed system.

But these new revelations seem to confirm critics’ longstanding objections to the key-man system. Koteras was repeatedly chosen to serve on Harris County grand juries, including four since he served on the grand jury that interrogated Dockery and indicted Brown. Perversely, the very secrecy imposed on grand juries in order to protect citizens from reputation-ruining false allegations also prevented anyone outside the grand jury room from becoming aware of Koteras’s aggressive questioning of Dockery. And that allowed him to go on to serve on more grand juries. A protection for the accused has basically become a tool to tilt grand juries to favor police and prosecutors.

According to a public information officer at the Houston Police Department, the agency also continues to pay its officers their full salary while they serve on grand juries. Typically, a grand jury meets twice a week, from about 8 in the morning until early to mid-afternoon. Each grand jury term lasts three months. This means that Houston is paying police officers to both investigate crimes, and serve on the grand juries that then determine if those investigations merit criminal charges.

Other observations from the documents:

  • The foreman of the 2004 grand jury was the now deceased Chester Massey, another retired Houston police officer.
  • Koteras twice served on a grand jury for 339th District Court Judge Caprice Cosper, in November 2006 and November 2008. Four other people served on both of those grand juries. Koteras served as foreman for the 2006 session.
  • In addition to Koteras, five other people served on both the November 2008 grand jury and on a February 2010 grand jury for 177th Circuit Court Judge Kevin Fine. Two of those people also served on the November 2006 grand jury , which means Koteras and those two others served together on grand juries in 2006, 2008, and 2010, in two different judicial districts.

In a city the size of Houston that sort of overlap can’t happen by chance. It can only happen in a system designed to select from a very shallow pool of potential grand jurors, or one where the selectors keep picking the same grand jurors for a particular reason.

Keep in mind, this is all from a review of only 10 grand juries spanning about 20 years on which James Koteras served as a member. Because of the unusual circumstances of the Brown case, we’re getting a tiny glimpse into a sliver of what happens in Houston grand jury rooms. But even here, we see evidence of law enforcement presence, selection from a shallow pool of jurors, and lots of repetition.

Grand juries in general have departed from the traditional idea that they’re supposed to protect us from unjust accusations. A recent Charlotte Observer article, for example, pointed out that in one four-hour session a Mecklenburg County, North Carolina grand jury heard 276 cases from prosecutors in just four hours — and issued 276 indictments. As the Observer pointed out, that isn’t just a perfect record, it’s a perfect record at the rate of one indictment every 52 seconds. Over two weeks, the grand jury heard 553 cases and issued 552 indictments. The only exception: a police officer accused of manslaughter.

But the Texas system — and the Harris County system in particular — seems particularly stacked against the accused. I ran these recent revelations by Jon Gould, a professor at the Department of Justice, Law & Criminology at American University who co-authored a 2011 report on grand juries for the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. “This is highly unusual, and highly troubling,” Gould says. “You don’t see this sort of thing anywhere else in the country.” Gould says it’s unusual to see a police officer on a grand jury at all in most states, much less repeatedly. “To see a police officer go after a witness like that is troubling. But to then see that he has served on 10 grand juries . . . I’ve never heard of anything like that.”

Yet it doesn’t seem at all unusual for Harris County. In my last post, Harris County District Attorney John Brewer said he saw nothing wrong with putting police officers on grand juries. District Judge Denise Collins, who oversaw the Brown case, told Falkenberg the same thing.

In my last post, I also spoke with Clay Conrad and Joseph Gutheinz, two Houston-area criminal defense attorneys who have criticized the grand jury system there. When told about these latest documents showing just how often Koteras has been reporting to the grand jury room, neither seems surprised. “It’s outrageous,” Conrad says “But no, it isn’t surprising.” Gutheniz adds, “Not only isn’t it surprising, I can assure you that he isn’t the only one.”

This week, Gutheinz sent a request to the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, asking the agency to investigate whether the way grand juries are empaneled in Harris County violates the constitutional rights of those who are accused of crimes.

Finally, it’s worth pointing out again that this was a death penalty case. And it appears that Koteras’ presence on the grand jury helped secure a conviction that may not have otherwise occurred. And all of this is happening in the county that executes more people than any other county in America, and by a wide margin. As of last year, Harris County had executed 116 people since 1976. Dallas County was second with 50. Gould points out that until only recently, Harris County judges also appointed attorneys for indigent defendants, including in capital cases. That system too was criticized for being too opaque and riddled with cronyism.

As of now, Alfred Dewayne Brown is still waiting to hear from a Texas appellate court about whether he’ll get a new trial.

Radley Balko blogs about criminal justice, the drug war and civil liberties for The Washington Post. He is the author of the book "Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces."

Source: Washington Post

Mom Doesn't Need to Know about Daughter's Cancer

August 28, 2014 permalink

Mariah Mikayla Brazell is the mother of two toddler children, Skylar Lacey Faith and Jasper, who have been in custody of Georgia DCFS for two years. When DCFS has given the family things to do to enable return of the children, all chores have been completed. But instead of reuniting the family, DCFS has added more hoops to jump. When Mariah started to notice bruising on Skylar, but not on Jasper, she spent three months requesting medical attention for the girl. When that finally happened earlier this month, caseworker Ashley Parker called to say that Skylar had cancer, then hung up without allowing questions. Social workers routinely boss mom with rude language. When the first family lawyer was ineffective, he was fired and replaced by another, who refuses to return phone calls.

The full story is on a Facebook video or a local copy (mp4). The mother's Facebook page is Mj Alyeeha Brazell. Mariah's father died when she was 17 years old, leaving her as a single mom with two children. Mariah's mother naively thought DCFS was a charity and got them involved in the care of her grandchildren. Mariah is now the wife of Jesse James Brazell.

Living Bereavement

August 27, 2014 permalink

British parents John and Jacque Courtnage have lost their two sons, ages six and eight, to adoption. MP John Hemming says the lawyers for the parents colluded with social workers to conceal exculpatory evidence. The family ordeal began when the parents took their baby to a hospital to examine a lump on his head. The parents characterize their lives without their children as living bereavement.

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Legal aid lawyer, secret court and social workers ‘colluded’ to adopt boys

TWO YOUNG children were taken from their distraught mother and placed for adoption because her own legal aid lawyers “colluded” with social workers, according to an MP’s extraordinary allegation in Parliament.

In a highly unusual accusation, John Hemming said lawyers for Jacque Courtnage colluded with Derbyshire County Council to prevent her analysing a document he believes would have cleared her of abuse allegations.

She and her husband have lost their two sons, now aged six and eight, for ever after a court ruled on the balance of probabilities they were responsible for harming their youngest when he was a baby.

They have never been arrested nor charged with any criminal offence due to lack of evidence.

Their heartbreaking story emerged in a Commons debate two months ago when Mr Hemming used Parliamentary privilege to name the mother and to make accusations against her lawyers and Derbyshire County Council.

He says the parents are the victims of a miscarriage of justice in the secret family court system.

The Lib Dem MP believes lawyers representing families on legal aid have a conflict of interest if they also do work for local authorities.

Mrs Courtnage, a 45-year-old accountant and her husband John, 47, an engineer, only discovered the potentially significant evidence nine months after a judge ruled their children should be taken from them.

They found it among their son’s medical records, which they secured after making a request to his hospital under the Data Protection Act as part of their own probe to discover the “truth”.

The evidence was an alternative diagnosis from a leading hospital consultant saying their son’s head injury had been caused by a fissure, a birth defect that weakened the skull bone.

Until then, Mr Hemming said, they had only been aware of the fracture diagnosis put forward by other experts and used by the council in its arguments before the court.

The children are now with an adoptive family and banned from any contact with their real parents.

Mrs Courtnage, who is not allowed to talk to the media about her case, told Mr Hemming: “Our children are our very existence and without them with us and being unable to touch them is like a living hell. Just talking about our boys reduces us to tears.

“The saying of a living bereavement is very apt and one we live daily. We have no grave to mourn at.”

She also told the MP about an incident when she was sitting in her car at traffic lights. “I was watching a little boy of around five years old waiting with his mum at the bus stop.

“He was bored and was trying to entertain her with his amusing antics.

Queens Medical Centre
Queens Medical Centre in Nottingham
ALAMY

He looked over to me and smiled and it was then that I realised that I had tears streaming down my face. I would never experience this with my own sons.

“We are angry at what has been done to us but words cannot begin to describe the contempt we have for what this has done to our darling sons.”

The couple’s “living hell” started in 2008 when Mrs Courtnage became concerned by a swelling on her baby boy’s head. She took him to the Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham where medics debated the X-ray results.

While two consultants made separate diagnoses of a fissure, others argued a fracture, a conclusion eventually accepted as the official version.

The diagnoses, together with evidence suggesting leg injuries to the child, were sent to Derbyshire County Council which then gave them to Mrs Courtnage’s lawyer.

However, Mr Hemming said the fissure argument was never highlighted to Mrs Courtnage and she did not see it among the 500 other documents in the large court bundles.

He told the Commons in September: “I have for some time been worried about what I was told by a social worker some years ago, which is that at times the legal aid-funded solicitors for parents conspire with local authority staff in order to ensure that the parents lose.

“One example where that appears to have happened is that of Jacque and John Courtnage, whose two sons were taken into care because one had a lump on his head.

The doctors were not sure whether it was because of a fracture or a fissure.

“The child was neurologically sound, which implies a fissure, but the parents did not see the evidence that it could have been a fissure until after the court had decided in 2010 that it was a fracture, and the question was never considered in any court judgment.

“A court order on October 30, 2008, had said that all evidence should be provided to the parents. That did not happen.

“The hospital provided Derbyshire County Council with the information in December 2008 but this did not get to the parents until after the finding of fact hearing of 2010, when they made a subject access request.

“The question is whether the council colluded with the parents’ solicitors.”

The MP said in the debate that he and Mrs Courtnage had asked the solicitors about the issue. He said a solicitor had denied the allegation but refused to give a “detailed response”.

He said in the Commons that, to him, meant the lawyers “colluded with Derbyshire County Council to keep this evidence from the parents”.

Mrs Courtnage tried to raise the fissure diagnosis before an appeal judge in September 2011.

However, due to an administrative mistake by court officials, the case was heard in her absence and the potentially vital pieces of paper were never presented to the judge.

She has recently decided to try to reopen the appeal under civil procedure rules.

A spokesman for Derbyshire County Council said: “We would strenuously reject any suggestion of collusion.

“The judge had before him all the child’s medical records including all those received from the Queen’s Medical Centre and the issue as to whether the child had a fissure or a fracture was fully brought before the court.

“The court had evidence from experts including a consultant paediatric radiologist and consultant neuroradiologist.

These experts were appointed independently by the solicitor acting on behalf of the child.

The child also had the benefit of a children’s guardian appointed by the court to represent his best interests.

“We are confident that the actions we took were the right ones and that the decision taken by the court was the right one.”

Source: Express (UK)

Ritual Satanic Abuse Victim Released

August 26, 2014 permalink

In North Carolina Michael Alan Parker has served 20 years in jail for a ritual satanic abuse conviction. He is finally being released.

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Judge orders Henderson County man freed after 20 years

Michael Alan Parker
Craggy Correctional Center inmate Michael Alan Parker, convicted of sexual abuse charges in 1994, will be a free man Tuesday after a judge vacated his sentence and dismissed sexual abuse charges.
Photo: Citizen-Times photo

A judge on Monday dismissed all charges and vacated the sentence of a man who has spent more than 20 years in prison on convictions of multiple sex crimes against three children.

Michael Alan Parker dropped his head and wept as Judge Marvin Pope announced his decision in Buncombe County Superior Court. Parker's lawyer, Sean Devereux, expects him to be released Tuesday from Craggy Correctional Center

"I'm elated that justice has been finally served," said Parker's brother, Larry Wayne Parker Sr.

Devereux said Parker, 57, was convicted during the satanic ritual abuse frenzy of the late 1980s and early '90s and not a single accusation of satanic ritual sexual abuse has proven to be true. All of the defendants originally imprisoned have had their convictions overturned, and Parker may be the last one, Devereux said.

"There is absolutely no doubt in my mind as to Michael's innocence," Devereux said.

Henderson County District Attorney Greg Newman objected to Parker's release but respected Pope's decision.

"We believe that this defendant did something to this kid," Newman said. "I think the question of what he did has been raised, and I think there's a legitimate issue there. So we may never know for sure. This happened a long time ago."

On Feb. 8, 1993, at a specially called term, a Henderson County grand jury returned true bills of indictment, charging Parker and eight others with the ritual abuse of Parker's three children. Parker was charged with eight counts of first-degree sex offense and four counts of taking indecent liberties with a minor. He was convicted on all 12 charges in January 1994 and sentenced to eight consecutive terms of life imprisonment for the first-degree sex offenses and an additional 40 years on the indecent liberties convictions.

Devereux made a motion for appropriate belief based on numerous grounds, including: the ineffective assistance of trial counsel; newly discovered medical evidence; new evidence from Parker's former co-defendant; newly discovered evidence regarding child testimony; recantation of one of his children's testimony; the state failed to disclose exculpatory evidence regarding a bomb scare during Parker's trial; ineffective assistance of appellate counsel; and cumulative error.

"From the shape-shifting stories of the Parker children — stories encouraged and manipulated by adults with a variety of interests in the outcome — to the inaccurate and unchallenged expert testimony, to the illusory 'bomb scare,' to the evangelistic rantings of the prosecution, the trial of Michael Alan Parker was an affront to everything North Carolinians want to believe about our criminal justice system," Devereux's motion stated. "The outcome remains a stain on that system."

Newman acknowledged that advancements have been made in the medical profession, specifically in forensic interviewing and medical examination on sexual assault cases. Dr. Cynthia Brown of Mission Children's Center was one of the expert opinions involved, Newman said. She reviewed medical testimony that happened in the trial.

"There were procedures and opinions from these doctors a number of years ago that were the trial held today, the medical findings then would not indicate abuse if given today," Newman said.

Theresa Newman, a Duke law professor (and no relation to Greg Newman), worked with Devereux on the case, which the attorney said he has been handling for about 12 years.

Pope was assigned to handle the case and the hearing was in Buncombe County on Monday, although it was a Henderson County case. Neither Devereux nor Newman was involved with the case initially, and Newman said he became familiar with the case after he started as district attorney last year.

"I feel that a Henderson County jury, 21-plus years ago, reached a verdict, and I don't know — no one knows — what evidence they found to be significant. We don't know whether it was medical proof, we don't know whether it was the testimony of the kid. We don't know exactly. Only those 12 people know," Newman said.

"My position has been that they reached that verdict. The Court of Appeals has said the trial was conducted properly and they upheld the conviction. And I saw nothing that would cause me to take a different position."

Parker Sr., of Spartanburg, S.C., and his son, Larry Wayne Parker Jr., have visited Michael Parker over the years. Parker Sr. said he always told his brother to "Keep the faith."

A year ago, Devereux said Parker was offered a deal that would've vacated the convictions and allowed him to leave prison based on time served if he pleaded guilty to some of the offenses.

"He wouldn't do that," Devereux said. "He stayed in another year — and potentially stayed in forever. He's a pretty courageous guy."

Source: Asheville Citizen-Times

Kobe in Danger

August 24, 2014 permalink

Kobe

A boy held in foster care by Highland Shores CAS has an injury that goes beyond an innocent bruise. CAS is rarely candid about the reasons for an injury to a foster child. The mother wants the child relocated to a safer foster home.

Petitioning Highland Shores Children's Aid Society Belleville Ontario

Remove any children in the foster home that this little boy is in. Have a third party investigation involving child abuse experts. Justice for Kobe!

Petition by
Brenda Green-Edwards
Kingston, Canada

Kobe is a friends one year old boy. He is in a foster home. Kobe has come to visits with his mom with signs of physical abuse. Such as a bruised and swollen ear and two days later comes with a nasty burn on his face that the foster parents claim happened from him grabbing a travel mug of hot coffee. The foster parents claimed he seen a "nurse" for his ear and told CAS this is normal. As for the burn the mom is not sure if he was seen at all!

This child needs to be moved out of this foster home. A proper investigation done and if warranted then charges laid for child abuse on this helpless baby.

There are so many children in the care of CAS that are being physically abused and even murdered. I do not want to see the latter happen to Kobe!

Please help me to help this innocent child and make CAS more accountable!

Source: Change.org

Father Attacks Social Workers

August 22, 2014 permalink

An unnamed Brantford man has been charged with assault for attacking two social workers in his home.

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Father assaults two Brant Family and Children's Services workers

A 24-year-old father has been charged with assault after acting violently towards two Brant Family and Children's Services workers.

The two workers went to a Fifth Avenue home to speak to the parents there about parenting issues, police said.

According to police, the father became violent and tossed a table towards one of the workers while toppling the other's chair.

Brantford police charged the man with two counts of assault against the workers.

Source: Metroland (Toronto Star)

Foster Boy Kills Hamilton Teenager

August 22, 2014 permalink

According to the CBC, Jesse Clarke was one member of a mob of teenagers harassing Brodie Nicholls. Nicholls killed Clarke. Nicholls lived with a foster mother, though at age 18 he may have aged out of care.

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Jesse Clarke's death caused by armed conflict: accused's foster mom

Family preparing funeral arrangements for 14-year-old

Melissa Mercuri
Melissa Mercuri and her son, Andre, sit at the makeshift memorial outside the home of Jesse Clarke's parents in the east end of Hamilton. Clarke, 14, was stabbed Monday night on Gordon Street, just north of Barton.
Adam Carter/CBC

A group of armed young men gathered outside the home of the man accused of killing Jesse Clarke just before the fight that ended the 14-year-old's life began, say the accused’s foster mother and neighbours.

Brodie Nicholls, 18, faces a second-degree murder charge in connection with the stabbing.

According to his foster mother, Charmaine Miller, and neighbours in the east-end area where the stabbing happened Monday night, at least a dozen young males showed up at Miller’s home around 9:45 p.m. Monday evening armed with metal pipes and bats. There was no indication that Clarke was one of the males who was armed.

Jesse Clarke
Jesse Clarke, 14, died after a stabbing in the Hamilton's east end Monday night.
Facebook

Miller told CBC Hamilton that a group of young men approached her home around 9:40 p.m. Monday and started yelling.

“They said if my kids didn’t come out, they were going to stab me,” Miller said.

The group had been at her house in the past, she says – but she would not say why, just that they had a “beef” with her children.

Miller says the group wouldn’t leave, and started throwing things at her and her house.

A neighbour told CBC Hamilton she saw three men strike Nicholls, the accused, with pipes.

“They hit him in the neck, arms and ribs with a steel bar,” Miller said.

Nicholls had a large abrasion on his neck Tuesday afternoon when he appeared in court.

Another neighbour – who declined to give her name over fear for her own children’s safety – said she saw the armed group outside the home around 9:45 p.m. and heard Miller yelling that she was on the phone with the police.

“She was yelling, ‘Get away from our house, I’m already on the phone with the cops,’” the neighbour said. “They started beating on the kid, Brodie.”

According to Hamilton police logs, officers received a disturbance call on Lincoln Street at 9:48 p.m. ET. According to a statement released Tuesday, police said they received a call about the disturbance just before 10 p.m.

Hamilton police Det.-Sgt. Matt Kavanagh did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday.

According to neighbours, at some point, the altercation moved from Lincoln Street to Gordon Street, and that’s where Clarke was stabbed. The remnants of tattered police tape could be seen attached to a front step on Gordon Street Wednesday morning. Neighbours say that’s one of the places where police found blood on the street.

'He would never hurt anybody,' brother says

Jesse's older brother, Cody Clarke, told CBC Hamilton from outside his family home that his brother was about to move back in with his family on Gage Avenue North just before he was killed. He had been living with his girlfriend, but they broke up and he moved in with his mother, Clarke said. He wasn’t happy, so he was preparing to move back with his father, brother and stepmother.

“He never should’ve left at all,” Cody Clarke said. “If he didn’t, he wouldn’t have been out with those people.”

Brodie Nicholls
Brodie Nicholls, 18, is accused of second-degree murder in connection with the death of 14-year-old Jesse Clarke.
Facebook

“He started running with people thinking he was all cool. I don’t know. But I know my brother, and he wouldn’t hurt anybody for any reason.”

The Clarke family has been overwhelmed with messages of support from the community, he said. A vigil was held outside their home Wednesday night, and a memorial has been built on a pole at Barton and Lincoln, close to where the teen was stabbed. His brother says the vigil was a difficult thing to deal with.

“It helped, but it hurt at the same time,” he said. “Seeing how many people were here for my brother crushed me.

“I don’t know how I’m getting through it. Time keeps going and thoughts keep coming and it just hurts.”

'Wrong group of kids,' friend says

Close family friend Melissa Mercuri organized the tribute to Jesse Clarke that now sits on Lincoln Street. She told CBC Hamilton she’ll never forget him.

“The kid had the biggest heart. So warm. So loving. His smile was pure affection,” she said. “He was just a big goofball.”

The 14-year-old's death was just a case of someone being at the wrong place at the wrong time, she said.

“He had a rough time this last little bit. It was just the wrong place, the wrong time, the wrong group of kids.

“I think he was just there to represent or be in the crowd.”

Funeral arrangements are still being organized, Mercuri says, but she expects the community will once again be there to mourn someone who died senselessly.

“He never got to have a kid or grandkids. Even to have a steady girlfriend and be loved,” she said.

“My heart just breaks for him.”

Source: CBC

Here is a sad note from Ontario's child advocate Irwin Elman:

Irwin Elman

I learn about the death of children in my mandate through the media. A ridiculous situation. This morning I read this article. I will ask for a briefing but learn nothing more than what is printed here. I will ask for an Inquest and will probably have that request denied and even if an Inquest is held it will be held several years since criminal proceedings have to take place.

I have questions like all of you. How does this happen? How can we make sure it does not happen again to a child we have made such a commitment to as a Province through the CAS?

Source: Facebook, Irwin Elman

The provincial officer responsible for the welfare of children is kept in the dark, just like everyone else.

Sexual Coercion

August 22, 2014 permalink

Add Brandon Howard Daniel in Alabama to the long list of social workers who coerced a mother into a sex act with the threat of removing her children.

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Former DHR case worker forced sex acts 'in return for not taking her kids,' woman claims in lawsuit

ALABASTER, Alabama – A former Department of Human Resources case worker who faces criminal charges in a sexual assault investigation has now been named by the alleged victim in a civil lawsuit.

Brandon Howard Daniel, 29, was arrested last August and charged with soliciting for the purpose of influencing official action, indecent exposure, harassment and theft of property. He is out on bond on the charges.

A lawsuit filed Monday on behalf of an Alabaster woman names Daniel, along with his supervisor Rasheda Gulley and Kim Mashego, the director of the Shelby County DHR office.

A DHR spokesman said the organization does not comment on pending litigation.

The criminal charges against Daniel stem from complaints made by a female DHR client who contacted police and reported inappropriate sexual contact during a home visit.

Brandon Daniel
Brandon Daniel

According to the lawsuit, on Aug. 12, 2013, Daniel became involved in a Child Protective Services case with the woman's family. A week later, Daniel showed up at the woman's home without an appointment and demanded that he be allowed to "inspect the house." The next day, Aug. 21, Daniel returned and demanded to "inspect the bedroom," the suit states.

Daniel threatened to remove the woman's children from her home before demanding "something in return for not taking her kids." He then forced her to perform sexual acts with him, the woman claims in the lawsuit.

Gulley and Mashego "failed to properly hire, train and supervise" Daniel and "negligently and wantonly" allowed him to violate the law while performing official DHR business.

The woman is seeking punitive damages from each of the three people named in the suit.

Daniel worked as a Birmingham police officer from 2009 until he resigned in March 2013. He had worked at the Shelby County DHR office for just six months before his arrest.

At least a dozen officers carried out a search warrant at the DHR offices in Columbiana on Alabama 70. They spent several hours inside the building, which was temporarily shut down by the search.

Alabaster police chief Curtis Rigney said Mashego cooperated with investigators during the search, but DHR attorneys refused to let detectives inside the building.

Source: Alabama Media Group

Foster Deaths in Newfoundland

August 20, 2014 permalink

The CBC has found that during the last five years 26 children died in Newfoundland while under provincial care. That is a high rate for a province with only 514 thousand people. Here is a copy of the disclosure (pdf) to the CBC. The Child/Youth Death Review Protocol is provided in the clear, but in reports relating to actual deaths everything of significance is redacted. Newfoundland and Labrador's child and youth advocate, Carol Chafe, was unaware of most of the deaths.

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26 children died while under province's protection since 2009

Child and youth advocate pushing for legislative change to be notified of deaths

Documents obtained by CBC News under Access to Information have revealed that more than two dozen children under the province's protection have died since the formation of the Newfoundland and Labrador Child, Youth and Family Services department in 2009.

According to the documents, 26 children and youth under the age of 18 have died while under the province's care — a number that has Carol Chafe, Newfoundland and Labrador's child and youth advocate, concerned.

Chafe said she knew about six of the deaths, but only learned of the other 20 when approached by CBC News.

Case type
In care - 3
Protective Intervention - 18
Youth Services - 3
Youth Corrections - 2

Cause of death
Medical event/condition - 8
Accidental - 12
Suicide - 6

"I was aware of some of the deaths but not all of them, but now that you have made that known to me, I have made a formal request for information on all of those cases," she said.

Of the 26 youth who died, three of the cases were children in foster care, 18 were receiving some form of protective intervention, three were involved with youth services, and the remaining two were with youth corrections.

Eight of the deaths were cited as being caused by a medical event or condition, 12 were accidental, and the remaining six were labelled as suicides.

CBC News requested an interview with Minister of Child, Youth and Family Services Sandy Collins. His communications director said he is unavailable for an interview until later in the week.

Chafe said she will look into each of the case files in order to determine if a further investigation on her part is warranted.

'An absolute farce'

Few details about the nature of the deaths is revealed in the 10 case files released by the Child, Youth and Family Services department. Much of the information provided is blacked out, with government stating the information is redacted to protect the children and families involved.

Dale Kirby
Liberal MHA Dale Kirby says the provincial government is protecting itself by not automatically providing information of deaths of children and youth under the government's care to the child and youth advocate.
CBC

Liberal opposition member Dale Kirby says the government is protecting itself by hiding this information from the child and youth advocate.

"That government would release this, it's an absolute farce," said Kirby. "Government is very clearly in this instance protecting itself."

Kirby said he isn't suggesting government make personal and private information open to the public, but said government is "hiding behind black ink."

He added these kinds of incidents should be disclosed to the child and youth advocate automatically, rather than needing to be sought out.

"Why is the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador hiding from the child and youth advocate? That makes absolutely no sense, and that was not what was supposed to happen when that office was set up," said Kirby.

Pushing for legislative change

Chafe said the province isn't required to notify her about the death or critical incident involving a child or youth under the department's care, a rule she wants changed so she's aware of the incidents rather than finding out through the media.

"I think all the deaths should be reported to me, and/or any critical incidents of children and youth receiving government services, because then I can determine if there's something I need to look into further," she said.

"It doesn't necessarily mean when it does occur that it is something wrong that occurred, but as the representative for children and youth, I am the one that should have a look at that as an independent body to determine if it requires further investigation, or if there was something done that could be changed and prevented from happening again, which is the whole point when I do investigations."

Chafe said she hopes the revelation of the 26 deaths will help speed up the legislative change she's looking for.

Source: CBC

Addendum:

Caught in a Lie

Bill Miller, father of the late Chancey Miller, who died after she was taken by child protectors in Newfoundland, draws attention to statements by Family Services Minister Charlene Johnson. The enclosed article published on October 30, 2012 quotes her:

In an e-mail to CBC News late Tuesday afternoon, Family Services Minister Charlene Johnson said no children have died because they were in care since the department was created in 2009.

She indicated that two children who were in care did die as a result of health and/or medical issues.

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A year after daughter's death, family awaits answers

Parents of 3-year-old girl feel shut out by government officials in quest for more information

The parents of a three-year-old girl who died while under the care of the province say they are still not getting all the answers they deserve about her death.

Chancey Miller was in the care of the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services when she died last September.

After a year of asking questions, the Millers still don't know exactly what happened to their little girl.

Chancey Miller
Chancey Miller is pictured in an undated family photo.
CBC

"She can never come back home," Maryann Miller, Chancey’s mother, told CBC News.

"They took away my last days with my daughter. Even if it was her last days. I just don't know. Would she have been fine with me? I don't know."

Chancey was born with a heart problem. When she was just two months old, she travelled with her father to Halifax to get a pacemaker to help her heart beat properly.

Last year, provincial officials decided to take Chancey into temporary care. The family acknowledges there were problems, but they were hopeful of getting her back.

The child was put in a group home in August. Around the same time, tests showed further problems with her heart.

"They really didn't give me any answers," Maryann Miller said.

"They did all kinds of blood work, then they said she had to go to Toronto to get another pacemaker, and we'd be up there for six weeks and then I'd come back home with her."

But that didn't happen. Two weeks after surgery, doctors said Chancey was well enough to be discharged but not well enough to go home with her mother.

Chancey was placed in a foster home outside of Toronto and Maryann says she was told she had to go home without her daughter.

Maryann Miller
Maryann Miller is still looking for answers after her daughter Chancey died last year.
CBC

"Her last words [were], ‘Mom, I'll be so happy when I see you again,’ " Miller said.

But, Maryann never did see her little girl again.

"Two workers came [to] my house and brought me a box of tissues and they told me Chancey died, actually, from an infection from an operation," she said.

For Maryann, that didn't make sense. She had weekly calls with the hospital. There was no mention of an infection.

"They were saying she was fine," Miller said.

But she wasn't fine. Documents obtained by CBC News show that the day before Chancey died, the foster mother rushed her to the hospital. She was having abdominal cramps and throwing up.

The doctors said she'd be OK, and sent her back to the foster home.

Around 7:20 a.m. the next morning, the foster mother found Chancey dead in her crib.

Search for answers

Now the Millers want answers.

They want to know why Chancey was released from the hospital given her heart problems.

Bill Miller
Bill Miller
CBC

They want to know why they weren't told their daughter had been brought to the hospital.

And they want to know why they weren't given the opportunity to be with their little girl when she took her last breath.

"They won't give me the information on a child that does not need protection anymore," father Bill Miller said.

"She is dead. She don't need no protection anymore. She don't need protection from anybody. Not me, not her, not you, not anybody. But yet, I can't get the information about her. Why she died, how she died."

Complete disclosure

Brian Wentzell is the family's lawyer. He's helping them find the answers they're searching for.

"There should be an automatic, at the cost of Child, Youth and Family Services, the complete disclosure to the family of all medical files related to this child or any child in a situation such as this," Wentzell said.

The lawyer says all files in the department should be disclosed to the family. They should then be given an opportunity to ask questions — and get answers.

The Department of Child, Youth and Family Services declined CBC News interview requests, saying it is policy not to comment on individual cases.

In an e-mail to CBC News late Tuesday afternoon, Family Services Minister Charlene Johnson said no children have died because they were in care since the department was created in 2009.

She indicated that two children who were in care did die as a result of health and/or medical issues.

In general, Johnson said, if departmental officials identify the possibility that something they did or didn’t do led directly to the harm of a child, further steps would be taken to investigate the situation.

If the department then determines it should have acted differently, the minister noted, the parent or parents would be notified.

Serious health condition

Chancey had a serious health condition and, according to the coroner's report, that's ultimately what killed her.

But Wentzell says an inquiry is the only way to make sure, if something was done wrong, it doesn't happen again.

Maryann Miller knows getting answers won't bring her daughter back, but it will help her deal with the loss of losing her child and the guilt of not being there to say goodbye.

"I love her," she said. "I'll be so happy when I see her."

Source: CBC

The heavily redacted report released to the CBC shows five deaths in 2010, seven in 2011 and seven in 2012.

report on dead Newfoundland child
child's epitaph

Foster Girl Murdered

August 19, 2014 permalink

Police in Winnipeg have pulled the body of 15-year-old Tina Fontaine from the Red River. After running away from foster care she was murdered, then tied up in a way she could not have done herself. The police were not looking for her. They dragged up her body while looking for someone else.

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Girl, 15, found in bag in Red River; police seek tips on slaying

Winnipeg police recover body of 15-year-old girl from Red River near Alexander Docks

Winnipeg police have released the identity of a girl found dead in the Red River Sunday afternoon.

Tina Fontaine, 15, was reported missing on Aug. 9. Her body was found in the Red River near the Alexander Docks at about 1:30 p.m., more than a week after she was reported missing.

tarp covering Tina Fontaine
Winnipeg police pull up a tarp after recovering a body from the Red River near the Alexander Docks on Sunday.
CBC

Police are treating Fontaine’s death as a homicide.

“It’s obvious this child didn’t put herself in the river in that condition,” said homicide investigator Sgt. John O’Donovan. “She’s definitely been exploited and taken advantage of.”

Fontaine was last seen in downtown Winnipeg on Aug. 8 wearing a white skirt, blue jacket and pink-and-white runners. She stood five-feet-three-inches tall and weighed about 100 pounds.

O'Donovan said the teen was known to spend time near Portage Place.

“She frequented mainly the central area. [She] frequented places like Portage Place and the streets adjacent to that, parallel to that, around Portage Avenue,” he said. “She frequented the central area in general.”

Fontaine, of Sagkeeng First Nation, had only been in Winnipeg for a month before her disappearance.

Tina Fontaine
Tina Fontaine, 15, had cut her hair short before her death. Winnipeg police provided this photo of her. She was last seen alive on Aug. 9.
Winnipeg Police Service

“She's a petite little thing — just turned 15, barely in the city for a little over a month,” O’Donovan said. “And she’s definitely been exploited and taken advantage of and murdered.”

Fontaine was in the care of a Child and Family Services agency when she went missing, according to police. She had run away from her foster home before, including once in July of this year.

“We know that she was in care and that she was rebelling in that care she was in. She was running away and had a history of that, but obviously she was in danger doing that,” O’Donovan said. “At 15 I’m sure she didn’t realize the danger she was putting herself in.”

Police said she was found wrapped in a bag, in "a condition she couldn’t have put herself in,” O’Donovan said.

“She’s a child. This is a child that has been murdered … Society should be horrified,” he said. “That’s why we’re asking for people to come forward. And that's why we're asking for people to help us and to come forward with anything they know about this child.”

O’Donovan said police can confirm she was alive on the morning of Aug. 9, but “anything further than that we would love to hear from people on.”

Anyone with information can contact police at 204-986-6508 or Crime Stoppers at 204-786-8477.

“It's an upsetting case here because we have a child here who is dead, plus we don't know when she died,” O’Donovan said. “We want to get it to the general public for their help.”

Police said Fontaine's body was discovered while police were looking for another — a man who had been seen struggling in the water near the Forks on Friday.

“The circumstances surrounding it are rather unique in that our dive unit was out there looking, you know, for somebody else,” said Const. Eric Hofley. “Unfortunately, the second body was located and recovered.”

Source: CBC

Addendum: The social services system is safe. The report on the death of Tina Fontaine will be kept secret.

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Report about murdered teen Tina Fontaine to be kept secret

The public may never know what exact role Child and Family Services played in Tina Fontaine’s life or her death.

WINNIPEG—Investigations are underway to determine whether Manitoba’s social services failed a 15-year-old aboriginal girl who ran away from foster care and was found dead in the Red River.

But the public may never know what exact role Child and Family Services played in Tina Fontaine’s life or her death.

The province’s children’s advocate automatically investigates whenever a child dies while in care, but the reviews are not made public. Child welfare authorities have also begun their own internal review but that is also confidential.

Ainsley Krone with the advocate’s office said Wednesday a final report will go to the Manitoba medical examiner, the ombudsman and the minister of family services.

To us, Tina Fontaine just another missing native kid: Mallick

“Under our current legislation, we don’t release it publicly,” said Krone, the advocate’s manager of communications, research and public education. “It’s the ombudsman’s office that has the responsibility for tracking the progress of recommendations that we make.”

Fontaine’s body was found on Sunday wrapped in a bag in the Red River after she ran away from her Winnipeg foster home where she had been for less than a month. Police are treating the case as a homicide.

The teen’s death touched a nerve in Winnipeg where more than 1,000 people gathered for a vigil Tuesday night to remember Fontaine and Faron Hall, the so-called “homeless hero” whose body was pulled from the same river where he saved two people from drowning several years ago.

Family Services Minister Kerri Irvin-Ross said she can’t talk about the specifics of Fontaine’s case but said the teen’s death is heartbreaking.

“This is a young woman that had a bright future waiting for her and it was stolen,” she said. “That is devastating for all of us.”

Fontaine’s case is being reviewed at several levels to see if there are lessons that can be drawn, Irvin-Ross said. The government is also looking at ways to make the children’s advocate’s recommendations public, she added.

But, she said, it’s tricky.

“It’s trying to find that balance between confidentiality and protecting the identity of families and children, but also making sure that we are sharing information with Manitobans.”

Despite countless reviews, inquests and inquiries, Manitoba continues to have a tragic history of children who have died while in the care of social services.

The murder of 5-year-old Phoenix Sinclair by her mother and stepfather in 2005 prompted major changes to the system and a doubling of the social services budget. It also spawned one of the most expensive inquiries in the province’s history that produced 62 recommendations.

The office of the children’s advocate still investigates about 160 child deaths each year.

Opposition critic Ian Wishart said it takes an inquest or an inquiry for the public to hear details about the failings of social services. There are still many unanswered questions in Fontaine’s case, he said.

“She had been moved within the last month to a new foster home. Whether or not there were enough supports there is one of the things we’re wondering about,” Wishart said. “She had apparently run away several times and, of course, the last time was with the most unfortunate of results.”

Police spent Wednesday canvassing the downtown area where Fontaine was last seen Aug. 8. Officers would like anyone who may have seen Fontaine or knows what happened to her to contact police.

The teen’s death has prompted renewed calls for a national inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women. At a Liberal party meeting in Edmonton on Wednesday, Leader Justin Trudeau said the entire aboriginal community across Canada has been affected by Fontaine’s death.

“It comes on a compounded loss of so many missing and murdered over the years, which is why the Liberal party has always been unequivocal that we need a full, national inquiry into the missing and murdered aboriginal women,” he said.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair tweeted that he was “disgusted and saddened by this story out of Winnipeg.”

“Enough talk,” he wrote. “We need action and an inquiry, now.”

National Chief Ghislain Picard of the Assembly of First Nations said an inquiry would be an important first step.

“We cannot allow violence to continue, particularly against some of the most vulnerable,” he said in a statement Wednesday. “First Nations demand immediate and concrete steps to better ensure the safety and security of indigenous women and girls in this country.”

The federal government has repeatedly rejected an inquiry. Justice Minister Peter MacKay did so again Tuesday when he said in a statement that it’s “time to take action, not study the issue.”

Source: Toronto Star

Puppy Saves Girl

August 15, 2014 permalink

Today there is some good news. A girl lost in the Siberian wilderness has been found. But it was not a social worker that came to the rescue. Three-year-old Karina Chikitova was saved when the family puppy kept her warm for eleven days, then led the family to her location.

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Little Girl Survives 11 Days in Forest Thanks to Family Dog

Karina Chikitova
Karina Chikitova managed to survive alone in the Russian wilderness for 11 days.
Emergency services of Yakutia

A 3-year-old girl managed to survive alone in the Russian wilderness for 11 days by picking berries and drinking river water, thanks to a series of heroic endeavors by the family dog.

Little Karina Chikitova disappeared on July 29 from her home in the village of Olom in the Sakha republic. She was believed to have wandered into the forest in pursuit of her father, who was unaware his daughter was following him, The Siberian Times reported.

Four days passed before the girl's mother was able to contact her husband, at which point she discovered to her despair that their daughter was not in his care.

Fortunately, Karina's loyal puppy had traipsed into the forest alongside her, and would soon save the day.

The toddler slept among the tall grasses of the taiga each night, making it especially difficult for search helicopters to locate her. Although temperatures in the area sunk to an average of 6 degrees Celsius each night, rescuers believe that Karina was able to keep warm at night by curling up with the dog.

She sustained herself during the day by eating berries and drinking river water, The Siberian Times reported.

About 100 people were involved in search efforts for Karina, though hope was nearly lost when her puppy emerged alone from the forest ten days later.

"That was the moment when our hearts sank, because we thought at least with her dog Karina had chances to survive," Afanasy Nikolayev, a spokesman for the Sakha republic rescue service, said in comments carried by The Siberian Times.

However, with the puppy's help, rescuers managed to retrace the dog's steps, leading them back to Chikitova.

Chikitova was discovered without any shoes, miraculously having suffered only mosquito bites and minor scratches during the fretful ordeal.

Source: Moscow Times

Girl Attacks Group Home Staff

August 12, 2014 permalink

A 16-year-old girl has attacked a staff member at a Peterborough Ontario group home. There are no details and no background information on the accused girl.

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Teen attacks staff at Peterborough group home

16-year-old girl now facing assault charge

PETERBOROUGH -- A teenage girl has been arrested after allegedly attacking a staff member at a Peterborough group home.

Peterborough-Lakefield police report that on Aug. 8, the teenage girl had become upset with staff and held up an X-Acto knife. The girl allegedly later assaulted one of the staff members, including throwing a cup.

The 16-year-old is charged with assault. She was released from custody and appears in court on Aug. 25.

Source: Metroland/MyKawartha (Toronto Star)

Foster Child Muzzled

August 11, 2014 permalink

Earlier fixcas reported on the Cook family in Texas. When their adopted son, infected with HIV before adoption, died, Texas child protectors seized their entire family. Recently son Justin Cook posted a video telling the story of his abuse in foster care. A Texas judge has ordered the family to remove the video. The original is gone, but here is a local copy (mp4) found by Breitbart.

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Texas Judge Orders Removal of YouTube Video Exposing Abuse in Foster Care System

I was beatened

HOUSTON, Texas -- In a continuing cover-up by Child Protective Services (“CPS’) in Texas, Judge Keith Dean this week ordered the removal of a YouTube video produced by a 13-year-old boy that exposes the sexual and physical abuse that he and his brother endured while in CPS foster care. The video also reveals the 377-day nightmare suffered by him and his six siblings after they were ripped from their loving family and placed in four different foster care facilities out of county. The mother told Breitbart Texas “they are trying to rake this abuse under the rug.” Breitbart Texas has procured the YouTube video from a source outside the family.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pRjTjqCWMbo&feature=youtu.be

The YouTube video shows the young teenage boy holding homemade signs that convey the story of what CPS caseworkers, and the CPS foster care system, has done to his family. One sign says “I was beatened [sic] and sexually assaulted on a day to day basis while my Social Worker did Nothing.” He holds another sign saying “My abuse goes uninvestigated.”

Breitbart Texas talked to the mother Angel Linthicum Cook in early July and reported about the atrocities suffered by this family. Cook and two of her sons had just testified at a Texas Sunset Advisory Commission hearing. The Commission was meeting to hear testimony about TDFPS (Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, “CPS”) abuses and other problems.

Legislators on the Commission were shocked by the Cooks’ testimony and promised to address the abuses by CPS and CPS caseworkers. Rep. Harold V. Dutton, Jr., said it was the worst thing he has heard or seen in state government during his 30 years as a State Representative. He said during the hearing that he had “never heard a story so bad, so egregious, that it just almost incites a rage in me. This is government at its worse.”  

Cook and her sons testified again in late July but she says the CPS abuses remain uninvestigated. She told the Commission that she was testifying to expose illegal and unethical abuses by CPS caseworkers in withholding evidence, lying under oath, and falsifying documents.   

There was a hearing this week in the CPS custody case. The judge assigned to the case, Judge Keith Dean of Dallas County, ordered Mrs. Cook to take down the YouTube video. He made her take it down while she was standing in the courtroom. Cook told Breitbart Texas that the CPS worker and the ad litem had angrily discussed the video while in the hallway but were very careful about was said on the court record. The Judge had signed an order whereby she could be held in contempt if she did not remove it. Breitbart Texas has obtained a copy of the Judge’s Order.

Keith Dean order

Mrs. Cook testified during the last hearing at the Texas Sunset Commission that her son was beaten, held down, and sexually abused while in foster care. Photos of her son’s injuries appear on her Facebook page.  She also testified that her seven-year-old son cries when someone knocks on the door, and he and her four-year-old cry if she is out of their sight. They beg her not to take them to daycare. The Judge ordered the Cooks to put their two youngest children in daycare saying they had too many children to take care of.

The trouble with CPS started when their youngest son Buddy, died in March 2013 because he had HIV. The Cooks had adopted Buddy and his younger sister after their biological mother left the children with the Cooks. She was hiding from CPS from two different states. Photos on Mrs. Cook’s Facebook page show the scars, bruises, and cuts on the boy when he was left with them. It was the Cooks that notified CPS that the mother had left the children in their care.  

The biological mother of the boy, Amanda Lunsford, was later found incompetent to stand trial for allowing eight men to sexually assault Buddy. Lunsford had also left her six-week-old daughter in the tent for three days. Lunsford has had three more children since she was found incompetent to stand trial.

CPS took the Cooks’ seven children on the same day that Buddy died. Mrs. Cook has told authorities, members of the Sunset Commission, Breitbart Texas, and others that the CPS caseworker lied and withheld evidence about Buddy’s HIV status and the biological mother’s CPS history from law enforcement and the Coroner. Mr. and Mrs. Cook were arrested for Injury to a Child by Omission. Although the charges were dropped in December of 2013, CPS kept the children for four more months. The agency still will not relinquish legal custody.

Under Texas law, CPS and the Judge have until October to terminate the Cooks’ parental rights or the case must be dismissed. Even though the children are back in the Cooks’ care after they have been exonerated from any wrongdoing, CPS still has legal custody of the children. CPS is expected to dismiss its case against the Cooks in October. The Cooks have spent over $140,000.00 defending themselves and protecting their family from CPS.

Jim Black, a CPS watchdog from Humble, Texas, said that “anytime a TDFPS employee fails to follow the guidelines, statutes, and rules set forth by the State, they are actually insubordinate to their employer, the people of Texas. When it comes to statutes, in many cases that insubordination results in down-right criminal behavior. Moreover, what we have is the fox guarding the henhouse. Texas needs another entity in charge of CPS internal investigations. Right now it is the Office of the Inspector General of the same agency.”

Lana Shadwick is a 22-year lawyer who has been a family court associate judge, CPS lawyer, and prosecutor. Follow her @LanaShadwick2

Source: Breitbart

Gays and Lesbians Needed

August 9, 2014 permalink

After children's aid takes a child from his parents, where do they want him to go? To gays and lesbians. The CBC reports.

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Children's Aid Society puts out call for lesbian, gay parents

Windsor, Ont., campaign urges gays, lesbians to become adoptive or foster parents

The Children's Aid Society in Windsor-Essex is trying to entice more gay and lesbian people to become adoptive or foster parents.

The aid society has partnered with Windsor Pride to try to tap into what it calls an underutilized demographic.

The first information session for the recruitment campaign is Wednesday evening in Windsor.

Local lesbian and gay individuals who currently care for adopted or foster children will join children's aid workers in speaking to the public about their experience.

Among them will be Kelly O'Rourke, who, along with her female partner, adopted the baby of a distant relative.

That child is now seven years old, and the couple recently adopted a second child, a five-year-old boy.

"He feels like he has got a place that he'll be forever," O'Rourke told CBC News.

"We're his forever family, and that means so much for a child ... We are now a family that he can call his, and it's really, really important that we all take a look and realize that this opportunity is open to all of us, and we can all help these kids."

Criteria the same for all parents

While the aid society is targeting gay and lesbian families, it says all potential parents must meet specific criteria.

"They all have to have the ability to raise a child to adulthood that biologically is not connected to you, the ability to keep the child safe — just all the things that you need to have and the skills you need to have as a parent irregardless of your race, creed, colour or sexual orientation," said Bev Thomson, an adoption recruiter with the aid society. "It's still the same."

The information meeting begins at 7 p.m. at 422 Pelissier St.

Source: CBC

Opening the Courts

August 9, 2014 permalink

A rally has been scheduled for the Opening of the Courts ceremony on September 9.

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The 2014 Ontario Canada Opening of Courts Ceremony Protest

Toronto 2014 opening of the courts ceremony date has been announced. Mark the Tues. Sept. 9, 2014 on your calendar and feel welcomed to attend.

There is no family in family law

This will be our fourth year doing this one. They've been doing it for over 60 years. we began in 2011. many of your most active and committed CCWers will be there.

In response to your request for information on the Annual Ceremony to Mark the Opening of Courts for Ontario - 2014, attached is a link to relevant information on the Ontario Courts website.http://www.ontariocourts.ca/coa/en/ps/ocs/annual-ceremony.htm

Please note there is no reserved seating for members of the public.

Regards,

Communications Officer
Ontario Court of Justice
OCJCommunicationsOfficer@ontario.ca


http://www.ontariocourts.ca/coa/en/ps/ocs/annual-ceremony.htm

Annual Ceremony to Mark the Opening of the Courts for Ontario - 2014

The Honourable George R. Strathy, Chief Justice of Ontario, the Honourable Heather J. Smith, Chief Justice of the Superior Court of Justice, the Honourable Annemarie E. Bonkalo, Chief Justice of the Ontario Court of Justice, and the Law Society of Upper Canada are pleased to advise that the ceremony to mark the Opening of the Courts for Ontario will be held on Tuesday, September 9, 2014.

The Ceremony will take place at 3:30 p.m. in Courtroom 6-1 of the Toronto Court House at 361 University Avenue.

Source: brainsyntax

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