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Teenaged Son Surrendered

October 5, 2014 permalink

A Guelph Ontario family has been compelled to surrender custody of their teenaged son as the only way to get treatment for his problems. The boy is now a crown ward. To add insult to injury, the parents cannot tell their story in public because mentioning their own names would identify their son.

Ontario ombudsman André Marin issued a report Between a Rock and a Hard Place in 2005 detailing the dilemma of parents compelled to relinquish custody of their children to get special treatment. In nine years, the child protection system has not corrected the problem. When children with special needs do come under state control, they sometimes get no special care, but neglectful care delivered at high cost to the taxpayers. Samantha Martin was surrendered by her mother as a newborn and returned at age 13, so maltreated in care that she died a few months later.

Links to the two audio programs with the parents: [1] [2] (both mp3).

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Guelph couple surrender son to state for FASD services

The parents of two children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder say they had to give up parental rights to their 14-year-old son because the government would not support the boy's special needs.

The Guelph couple cannot be named, as doing so would identify their youngest son, who is now a Crown ward.

The boy's mother says she and her husband adopted their son when he was three-weeks-old and found out that he had FASD when he was a toddler.

"We thought that we would get help," she recalls. "We thought that once we could show everybody that there was an actual, legitimate problem, that services would be here to help us."

Instead, she says service agencies told the couple that their son's diagnosis did not qualify him for provincial supports.

Parents say life became unbearable

As the boy grew older, his parents say he became more volatile and prone to violent outbursts.

"He would flip his dresser just like a piece of paper," the boy's father said. "I don't know how he could, but I guess his adrenaline would kick in and give him an amazing amount of strength."

Things got so bad that the couple says they had their home booby trapped, so that they would know where their son was in the house.

"You love them to pieces, but sometimes their behaviours made you kind of hate them at the same time," says the boy's father, adding that life had become almost unbearable for him and his wife.

Desperate for help, the boy's parents went to their local Children's Aid Society, but were told, once again, that their son didn't qualify for provincial supports.

"They bluntly told us that there's really no help out there for us unless he became a crown ward," says the boys mother. So, on March 4, 2014, the couple went to court and surrendered their 14-year-old son to the state.

"It was almost like experiencing a death," says the boy's mother. "There was such a sense of loss, because you don't become a parent thinking that you're going to have to give up your child in order to get services."

After he became a Crown ward, the boy was placed with a foster family. His parents say he will soon be moved into a group home, which is what they were asking for all along.

Agency says families have no other options

Family and Children's Services of Guelph and Wellington County cannot comment on specific cases in its jurisdiction; however, children's services director Sheila Markle says no family should have to give up custody of their child in order to get services.

"A family's need for resources and supports for their child is not a reason to involve child welfare, but the reality is that services and supports for some populations of kids--particularly kids with FASD--are not necessarily as robust as they need to be to help families cope."

Because there are not adequate services available for families who have children with FASD, Markle says parents are running out of options.

"If parents are saying they can't do it anymore, then sometimes we have to get involved."

Markle says that when a family gives up their parental rights to a child, it triggers a protection issue under the Child and Family Services Act, which allows children's welfare agencies to step in and care for the child.

Source: CBC

Cover Our Butt

October 4, 2014 permalink

Instead of "How do we cover our butt?", the policy of the Ministry of Children and Youth Services should be "How do we do better for our children?", says Ontario child advocate Irwin Elman. The comment came up after the ministry censored a document titled: “Issues Management Plan — Inquest Into the Death of JB.” Neither the Toronto Star nor the child advocate are able to see the uncensored document.

The parts of the briefing notes that were not censored shed some light on the ministry’s reaction to the inquest, which include the creation of a “JB Inquest Management Strategy,” with the participation of at least five separate departments that worked on legal and communication issues, including regularly monitoring media coverage of the inquest.

The records also contain prepared media lines for communications staff, organized under subtitles such as “If asked why the Ministry didn’t seek standing” and “If asked why the Minister or Ministry wasn’t present.”

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Queen’s Park secretive about how it dealt with fallout from Jeffrey Baldwin inquest

Ministry should have a plan to “do better for our children,” not a “cover our butt” plan, says children’s advocate after the Star obtained heavily censored government documents related to inquest into 5-year-old’s death.

The Ministry of Children and Youth Services is keeping secret key information on how it planned to handle the fallout of the coroner’s inquest looking into the death of 5-year-old Jeffrey Baldwin.

Briefing notes obtained by the Star related to the 2013-14 inquest include a document titled “Issues Management Plan — Inquest Into the Death of JB.” The information under subtitles such as “Concerns/Issues,” “Communications Objective(s)” and “Approach and Tactics” has been censored.

Irwin Elman, the provincial advocate for children and youth, and opposition critics told the Star the public has a right to know the secret details, saying they could offer insight into the ministry’s approach to coroner’s inquests and its thinking on how to improve the child protection system.

“The way things get attention often, in ministries, is whether it’s going to become an issue for the party in power,” said Elman. “Yet this is the Ministry of Children and Youth Services. This should be a ‘How do we do better for our children?’ plan, not a ‘How do we cover our butt?’ plan.”

“I think advice to the government, where it’s obviously about the child protection system, is something that we should all be able to hear,” said MPP Monique Taylor, the NDP’s children and youth services critic. “I’d be interested in seeing that portion, and I would commit to going to the minister and asking what exactly is in it.”

The Star obtained the documents through a freedom of information request. The ministry justified redacting some material by saying it was advice to the government and exempt under access to information laws.

Ministry spokesman David Mullock said Friday that redaction decisions are made by the ministry’s freedom of information staff and do not go to the minister’s office for approval.

The Star is appealing that decision to the information and privacy commissioner.

Jeffrey Baldwin died of starvation at the hands of his grandparents, Norman Kidman and Elva Bottineau, in 2002 after being placed in their care by the Catholic Children’s Aid Society. The CCAS has said it did not check its own files on Kidman and Bottineau before placing Jeffrey in their care, where he was kept inside a locked bedroom with almost no access to a toilet. He weighed 21 pounds when he died.

Bottineau and Kidman, who already had separate convictions for assault on their own children, were convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison in 2006.

The ministry was criticized for not seeking standing at the coroner’s inquest, despite the fact that it is ultimately responsible for the province’s child protection system. In fact, 49 of the inquest jury’s 104 non-binding recommendations were relevant to the ministry, including one that called on it to seek standing in future inquests dealing with the deaths of children in care.

The coroner’s counsel sent the ministry a letter in January 2013 asking if it wanted to seek standing at the inquest, but was told in August it would not.

At inquests, parties with standing can question witnesses. Jeffrey’s own grandmother and murderer sought standing about halfway through the proceedings, and spent one day on the witness stand.

Mullock said the ministry believed “the parties who had standing at the inquest were well positioned to present the relevant information and explore all issues.”

The ministry has said in the past that its staff was present in the inquest audience each day, and that it did send one witness to testify, although other parties with standing, including Elman, have complained the witness was not an upper-level civil servant and failed to answer many of their questions.

The parts of the briefing notes that were not censored shed some light on the ministry’s reaction to the inquest, which include the creation of a “JB Inquest Management Strategy,” with the participation of at least five separate departments that worked on legal and communication issues, including regularly monitoring media coverage of the inquest.

The records also contain prepared media lines for communications staff, organized under subtitles such as “If asked why the Ministry didn’t seek standing” and “If asked why the Minister or Ministry wasn’t present.”

The answers provided are exactly like those given by Mullock on Friday, as well as by then children and youth services minister Teresa Piruzza, who spoke to the Star after the inquest concluded in February and who did not attend the proceedings.

The ministry’s response to the Baldwin inquest has also left critics wondering if it will be any different when another inquest looking into a horrific child death begins, likely early next year.

Katelynn Sampson was 7 years old when she died in 2008, after being repeatedly beaten by her guardians, crack addicts who had been awarded custody by a family court judge. Donna Irving and boyfriend Warren Johnson pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.

An inquest examining the circumstances of her death was announced two years ago. When asked if the ministry would seek standing there, Mullock would say only that a date has not yet been set for the inquest.

MPP Jim McDonell, children and youth services critic for the Progressive Conservatives, said there’s no question the ministry should be actively involved.

“If you’re really interested in getting to the bottom of things and making changes, you have to get involved and be there and question those witnesses about their own experiences,” he said. “That opportunity (with the Baldwin inquest) is missed now, and I hope they don’t do the same with Katelynn Sampson, or it will be another important learning experience gone.”

Source: Toronto Star

Fixcas has a copy of the coroner's jury recommendations for JB, Jeffrey Baldwin.

Elman explains his comment on Facebook:

Irwin Elman

Perhaps an incendiary comment but...I was referring to the 19000 plus serious occurrence reports the Ministry of Children and Youth receives every year re children in residential care. The ones that get noticed in my mind, that get to the top of the pile are those that might make it to the public. Then an "issue management plan" is created. We have asked for 3 months of serious occurrence reports to be sent to us. At this point they will be redacted. We will try to analyze them nevertheless. When Bill 8 passes we will move forward.

Source: Facebook, Irwin Elman

Police Threaten to Remove Baby

October 4, 2014 permalink

Andre Stockett and his two-week-old son were passengers in a car driven by his wife when they were stopped for no apparent reason by the Sandusky Ohio police. The police changed their reason for the stop from driving without a license to driving without headlights (on a bright sunny day). When Andre was ordered out of the car, he assessed that as the black husband of a white wife, his life was in danger and refused to comply. The police resorted to threats to induce compliance. At 4:12 and 5:22 in the video police say the baby will be delivered to child services.

The video was posted on October 2 to YouTube, fixcas has a local copy (mp4). The name of the father comes from the website The Free Thought Project.

Bursary $0

October 4, 2014 permalink

In the past fixcas has noted the astonishingly small amounts of the bursaries awarded to foster children to support their higher education [1] [2] [3] [4]. Now British Columbia has achieved the ultimate in small bursary size: zero. The province will reduce other benefits paid to a foster student by the amount of any bursary received.

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College bursary money benefiting B.C., not former foster care students

Child advocate: ‘I want this fixed’

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond
Children’s advocate Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond was astonished to discover that the province is clawing back subsidy money given to foster kids who are receiving free tuition at B.C. universities.
Photograph by: Don Healy , Regina Leader-Post

After mounting a successful campaign to provide free post-secondary tuition for foster children, B.C.’s child advocate was appalled to learn the province may claw back the equivalent amount from other support funding it gives these vulnerable youth.

“I didn’t do this campaign around tuition waivers for (the Ministry of Children and Family Development) to come in and claw it back. This is the wrong thinking,” said Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, B.C.’s Representative for Children and Youth.

In at least one case, a $1,300 college bursary was awarded to an 18-year-old foster child, but the Ministry of Children and Family Development deducted the same amount from money they were giving the teen to pay for her tuition. The ministry argued the bursary should be used for her tuition, so felt it was appropriate to recoup the money.

But Turpel-Lafond said the whole idea behind convincing post-secondary schools to provide bursaries or waive tuition was to give an extra boost to foster children, who statistically face dire academic, employment and poverty outcomes.

Seven B.C. institutions have stepped up so far, all of them offering youth-in-care funds for this semester. But Turpel-Lafond said she heard from many young people this summer who were awarded a bursary or tuition waiver but faced some sort of bureaucratic roadblock from the ministry.

“This is the type of petty, clawback mentality that is not associated with success. It’s traumatizing. It’s embarrassing. It’s unfortunate,” she said.

“And I expect it to be fixed.”

The 18-year-old student, who cannot be identified because she is a foster child, had hoped the bursary money would help her pay for other expenses that come with expensive post-secondary education.

“The whole point of universities doing this is basically to lessen the load of the financial burden of kids in care. It was not for the ministry to freeload and deduct the money from kids in care,” she said in an interview.

The ministry, however, takes the position that it is acceptable to deduct the $1,300 bursary from what it was planning to pay for her $1,750 first-semester tuition because, as a foster child, her day-to-day shelter and food needs are already being covered. In this case, the ministry has also paid almost $300 toward the cost of her books.

The ministry sent The Sun an email explaining its policies. It declined, however, to provide someone to interview on the optics of this college-funded bursary saving the provincial government money — while leaving the foster child not one cent further ahead.

When the girl’s college announced its youth-in-care assistance program earlier this year, it said bursaries worth $200,000 would be given annually to cover tuition and student fees to help “break down the financial barriers these students face accessing the post-secondary system.”

Turpel-Lafond said it would have been decent to let the teen, who has faced an uphill battle just to reach college, keep the bursary for other expenses, such as tutoring, a healthy meal on campus, or school supplies.

“We are dealing with a small amount of money, like $1,000. Why can she not use that money to deal with some needed self care?”

The Ministry of Children and Family Development offers two programs to help youth older than 19, who have aged out of the foster care system, attend school. But Turpel-Lafond fears the bursaries and tuition waivers could be deducted from those meagre payments as well.

“We’ve seen the risk of that,” she said. “What I’m concerned about is the ministry thinking that their future will be a diminished responsibility to these young people.”

The ministry did not directly respond to questions about whether financial aid from these seven post-secondary institutions would be subtracted from the ministry’s education programs for those over 19.

Instead, it said the bursaries and tuition waivers are “to work in tandem” with existing government support. But it also said such support is based on need, and that factors such as income available to the applicant — including scholarships, grants and bursaries — “may affect final funding assessments.” (The Ministry of Children and Family Development italicized these words in the statement given to The Sun.)

The two programs to help youth after age 19 — when they no longer receive any support from the foster care system — are limited by budget and timelines:

  • The Youth Education and Assistance Fund offers four annual bursaries of up to $5,500 for tuition, books, fees or living expenses, while studying at designated schools, up to age 24.
  • Agreements with Young Adults funds living expenses for up to 24 months up to age 24 for attending school, learning job skills, or completing rehabilitation. On average, a person receives about $1,000 a month, but the entire program is capped at $5 million annually.

While only a low percentage of foster children complete high school, the 18-year-old interviewed by The Sun has a transcript full of As. She hopes speaking out about what happened to her bursary will prompt change and allow future students to keep the money, regardless of what they are collecting from the government.

“If you look at the stats on foster kids, it’s not that great. A lot don’t graduate, are incarcerated, on drugs,” the girl said. “The number that go to post-secondary is minuscule, so it wouldn’t cost the ministry that much (to let the students keep the bursary money).”

The girl has saved money by renting her textbooks for $300, instead of buying them for $900, but is still worried about being able to afford other expenses while she pursues her full-time course load in sciences.

Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo was the first institution to waive tuition for former foster children in 2013. Since then, six additional post-secondary institutions either waived tuition or offered bursaries to current or former youth in care: the University of Victoria, UBC, SFU, Langara College, BCIT and Nicola Valley Institute of Technology.

Source: Vancouver Sun

empty pockets

Voting for a False Accuser

October 3, 2014 permalink

Child protection has become an issue in the election for governor of Massachusetts. Martha Coakley, who has been the state attorney general since 2007, is the Democratic candidate. An attack ad (YouTube, or local copy mp4) alludes to a Massachusetts foster care panic by mentioning 50 abused, neglected or dead children. It further says Coakley defended DCF (against Children's Rights Inc), opposed reform and silenced children's advocates. Muzzling parents and their supporters is universal in child protection. As for the suit, these suits are really a form of collusion between adversaries [1] [2] [3].

Mrs Coakley does not come to the campaign with clean hands. She participated in keeping Gerald Amirault in jail for 18 years for satanic abuse of children, a crime that never happened.

An article on the current controversy is enclosed, followed by Dorothy Rabinowitz reporting on Martha Coakley's involvement in the Amirault convictions.

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Baker: Child welfare issues raised by ad deserve debate

STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, OCT. 2, 2014…..After Martha Coakley demanded that Charlie Baker repudiate an outside group’s new ad accusing the attorney general of failing to protect children, the Republican gubernatorial nominee on Thursday objected to the ad’s “tone,” but stopped short of calling for it to be removed from the airwaves.

Baker called a press conference in South Boston to respond to Coakley’s characterization of the new ad as “disgusting” and “misleading,” and her call earlier in the day for him to disavow the ad.

The ominously filmed and narrated ad, with darkened images of a child’s teddy bear and an empty playground, alleges Coakley knew about mismanagement at the Department of Children and Families that resulted in the abuse, neglect and death of more than 50 children under state supervision.

The ad, run by the Commonwealth Future super PAC and paid for by the Republican Governors Association, goes on to criticize Coakley for defending the state against a lawsuit filed by a national child advocacy group alleging mismanagement in the DCF foster care system.

“I don’t like the tone of the ad. It reminds me of the tone of a lot of the ads that have been run against me,” Baker said. “But I think the issue that’s raised by the ad, which has to do with the attorney general’s decision four years ago to fight the lawsuit that was filed by Children’s Rights, which raised very significant systemic problems at the Department of Children and Families, is a decision worth discussing.”

Coakley earlier in the day said she welcomed a debate with Baker on the issue of child welfare, but said the ad misrepresented her record. She went on to defend the decision to fight the lawsuit, which is still pending, suggesting the national group’s attorneys were seeking to profit from its lawsuit and offering a “one-size-fits-all” solution for Massachusetts that wouldn’t work.

A spokeswoman for Commonwealth Future declined to comment on the dust-up stirred by the ad, saying the ad speaks for itself.

Baker said he respected Coakley’s long career in public service, which includes a stint as chief of the child abuse unit in the Middlesex District Attorney’s office, but said he was disturbed by the allegations made by the advocacy group in the lawsuit against the Patrick administration.

“I think the attorney general certainly had an opportunity to recommend moving toward settlement and toward fixing what was broken in the agency,” Baker said.

Nearly choking up as he spoke, Baker encouraged everyone to read the briefs filed in the case.

“As a father of three kids, I’m telling you, that brief was really something,” Baker said. “It doesn’t anger me. It makes me sad. It’s case after case after case of kids who have been ping-ponged and pin-balled all over our child welfare system in really disturbing and difficult and troubling ways.”

Asked repeatedly whether he would call on Commonwealth Future, led by former Romney administration official and Scott Brown campaign manager Beth Lindstrom, to pull the ad, Baker reiterated his trouble with the tone of the ad, but would not go further.

“The attorney general has about as much control over these independent groups as I have over them and we should all remember that the first negative ad of this race was run by an independent group that started running a negative ad against me literally the same week they made a major donation to the Coakley campaign,” Baker said. “What I can control is my own message and my own campaign and I plan to continue to do that.”

The National Association of Government Employees super PAC ran an anti-Baker ad back in April kicking off the television ad wars. A senior Baker aide also pointed to an ad run by a labor and Democratic Governors Association-funded super PAC accusing Baker of profiting at Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, where he was CEO, while raising premiums as an example of the negative attacks Baker has endured.

“I’m sure many of the ads that have been run against me share similar circumstances,” Baker said.

A U.S. District Court judge dismissed the lawsuit brought by Children’s Rights at one point in the proceeding, but not before bemoaning the situation in Massachusetts where he determined a lack of adequate funding had put children at risk.

Coakley and her campaign said that Baker, while serving in the Weld and Cellucci administrations, oversaw a budget that failed to adequately invest in child welfare leading to higher caseloads in the 1990s than exist today.

Baker sidestepped questions about funding for DCF during his time in state government, but said he was proud of the work he did on community-based adoption and implementing recommendations of a foster care commission convened during his tenure.

Source: WWLP citing State House News Service


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Martha Coakley's Convictions

The role played by the U.S. Senate candidate in a notorious sex case raises questions about her judgment.

The story of the Amiraults of Massachusetts, and of the prosecution that had turned the lives of this thriving American family to dust, was well known to the world by the year 2001. It was well known, especially, to District Attorney Martha Coakley, who had by then arrived to take a final, conspicuous, role in a case so notorious as to assure that the Amiraults' name would be known around the globe.

The Amiraults were a busy, confident trio, grateful in the way of people who have found success after a life of hardship. Violet had reared her son Gerald and daughter Cheryl with help from welfare, and then set out to educate herself. The result was the triumph of her life—the Fells Acres school—whose every detail Violet scrutinized relentlessly. Not for nothing was the pre-school deemed by far the best in the area, with a long waiting list for admission.

All of it would end in 1984, with accusations of sexual assault and an ever-growing list of parents signing their children on to the case. Newspaper and television reports blared a sensational story about a female school principal, in her 60s, who had daily terrorized and sexually assaulted the pupils in her care, using sharp objects as her weapon. So too had Violet's daughter Cheryl, a 28-year old teacher at the school.

But from the beginning, prosecutors cast Gerald as chief predator—his gender qualifying him, in their view, as the best choice for the role. It was that role, the man in the family, that would determine his sentence, his treatment, and, to the end, his prosecution-inspired image as a pervert too dangerous to go free.

The accusations against the Amiraults might well rank as the most astounding ever to be credited in an American courtroom, but for the fact that roughly the same charges were brought by eager prosecutors chasing a similar headline—making cases all across the country in the 1980s. Those which the Amiraults' prosecutors brought had nevertheless, unforgettable features: so much testimony, so madly preposterous, and so solemnly put forth by the state. The testimony had been extracted from children, cajoled and led by tireless interrogators.

Martha Coakley
Martha Coakley, attorney general of Massachusetts, at a campaign stop, Jan. 13.
Associated Press

Gerald, it was alleged, had plunged a wide-blade butcher knife into the rectum of a 4-year-old boy, which he then had trouble removing. When a teacher in the school saw him in action with the knife, she asked him what he was doing, and then told him not to do it again, a child said. On this testimony, Gerald was convicted of a rape which had, miraculously, left no mark or other injury. Violet had tied a boy to a tree in front of the school one bright afternoon, in full view of everyone, and had assaulted him anally with a stick, and then with "a magic wand." She would be convicted of these charges. Cheryl had cut the leg off a squirrel.

Other than such testimony, the prosecutors had no shred of physical or other proof that could remotely pass as evidence of abuse. But they did have the power of their challenge to jurors: Convict the Amiraults to make sure the battle against child abuse went forward. Convict, so as not to reject the children who had bravely come forward with charges.

Gerald was sent to prison for 30 to 40 years, his mother and sister sentenced to eight to 20 years. The prosecutors celebrated what they called, at the time "a model, multidisciplinary prosecution." Gerald's wife, Patricia, and their three children—the family unfailingly devoted to him—went on with their lives. They spoke to him nightly and cherished such hope as they could find, that he would be restored to them.

Hope arrived in 1995, when Judge Robert Barton ordered a new trial for the women. Violet, now 72, and Cheryl had been imprisoned eight years. This toughest of judges, appalled as he came to know the facts of the case, ordered the women released at once. Judge Barton—known as Black Bart for the long sentences he gave criminals—did not thereafter trouble to conceal his contempt for the prosecutors. They would, he warned, do all in their power to hold on to Gerald, a prediction to prove altogether accurate.

No less outraged, Superior Court Judge Isaac Borenstein presided over a widely publicized hearings into the case resulting in findings that all the children's testimony was tainted. He said that "Every trick in the book had been used to get the children to say what the investigators wanted." The Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly—which had never in its 27 year history taken an editorial position on a case—published a scathing one directed at the prosecutors "who seemed unwilling to admit they might have sent innocent people to jail for crimes that had never occurred."

It was clear, when Martha Coakley took over as the new Middlesex County district attorney in 1999, that public opinion was running sharply against the prosecutors in the case. Violet Amirault was now gone. Ill and penniless after her release, she had been hounded to the end by prosecutors who succeeded in getting the Supreme Judicial Court to void the women's reversals of conviction. She lay waiting all the last days of her life, suitcase packed, for the expected court order to send her back to prison. Violet would die of cancer before any order came in September 1997.

That left Cheryl alone, facing rearrest. In the face of the increasing furor surrounding the case, Ms. Coakley agreed to revise and revoke her sentence to time served—but certain things had to be clear, she told the press. Cheryl's case, and that of Gerald, she explained, had nothing to do with one another—a startling proposition given the horrific abuse charges, identical in nature, of which all three of the Amiraults had been convicted.

No matter: When women were involved in such cases, the district attorney explained, it was usually because of the presence of "a primary male offender." According to Ms. Coakley's scenario, it was Gerald who had dragged his mother and sister along. Every statement she made now about Gerald reflected the same view, and the determination that he never go free. No one better exemplified the mindset and will of the prosecutors who originally had brought this case.

Before agreeing to revise Cheryl's sentence to time served, Ms. Coakley asked the Amiraults' attorney, James Sultan, to pledge—in exchange—that he would stop representing Gerald and undertake no further legal action on his behalf. She had evidently concluded that with Sultan gone—Sultan, whose mastery of the case was complete—any further effort by Gerald to win freedom would be doomed. Mr. Sultan, of course, refused.

In 2000, the Massachusetts Governor's Board of Pardons and Paroles met to consider a commutation of Gerald's sentence. After nine months of investigation, the board, reputed to be the toughest in the country, voted 5-0, with one abstention, to commute his sentence. Still more newsworthy was an added statement, signed by a majority of the board, which pointed to the lack of evidence against the Amiraults, and the "extraordinary if not bizarre allegations" on which they had been convicted.

Editorials in every major and minor paper in the state applauded the Board's findings. District Attorney Coakley was not idle either, and quickly set about organizing the parents and children in the case, bringing them to meetings with Acting Gov. Jane Swift, to persuade her to reject the board's ruling. Ms. Coakley also worked the press, setting up a special interview so that the now adult accusers could tell reporters, once more, of the tortures they had suffered at the hands of the Amiraults, and of their panic at the prospect of Gerald going free.

On Feb. 20, 2002, six months after the Board of Pardons issued its findings, the governor denied Gerald's commutation.

Gerald Amirault spent nearly two years more in prison before being granted parole in 2004. He would be released, with conditions not quite approximating that of a free man. He was declared a level three sex offender—among the consequences of his refusal, like that of his mother and sister, to "take responsibility" by confessing his crimes. He is required to wear, at all times, an electronic tracking device; to report, in a notebook, each time he leaves the house and returns; to obey a curfew confining him to his home between 11:30 p.m. and 6 a.m. He may not travel at all through certain areas (presumably those where his alleged victims live). He can, under these circumstances, find no regular employment.

The Amirault family is nonetheless grateful that they are together again.

Attorney General Martha Coakley—who had proven so dedicated a representative of the system that had brought the Amirault family to ruin, and who had fought so relentlessly to preserve their case—has recently expressed her view of this episode. Questioned about the Amiraults in the course of her current race for the U.S. Senate, she told reporters of her firm belief that the evidence against the Amiraults was "formidable" and that she was entirely convinced "those children were abused at day care center by the three defendants."

What does this say about her candidacy? (Ms. Coakley declined to be interviewed.) If the current attorney general of Massachusetts actually believes, as no serious citizen does, the preposterous charges that caused the Amiraults to be thrown into prison—the butcher knife rape with no blood, the public tree-tying episode, the mutilated squirrel and the rest—that is powerful testimony to the mind and capacities of this aspirant to a Senate seat. It is little short of wonderful to hear now of Ms. Coakley's concern for the rights of terror suspects at Guantanamo—her urgent call for the protection of the right to the presumption of innocence.

If the sound of ghostly laughter is heard in Massachusetts these days as this campaign rolls on, with Martha Coakley self-portrayed as the guardian of justice and civil liberties, there is good reason.

Ms. Rabinowitz, a member of the Journal's editorial board, is the author of "No Crueler Tyrannies: Accusations, False Witness And Other Terrors Our Times" (Free Press, 2003).

Source: Wall Street Journal

Forgetting Dead Children

October 3, 2014 permalink

A legislative audit in South Carolina has disclosed that child deaths under watch of state child protectors (DSS) disappear from criminal investigations and from statistical reports. The reports of child deaths given to the legislature are false. The journalist writes of homes under DSS watch, without mentioning that many are foster homes.

Previous analysis by fixcas has shown that throughout the USA, reports of fatalities in foster homes are understated. The South Carolina report suggests that foster care deaths escape prosecution and even statistical reporting.

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Audit: Excessive Caseloads, Unreported Child Deaths

152 Child Deaths Went Unreported to SLED

Legislative Audit Council
Photo: Legislative Audit Council

Columbia, SC (WLTX) - A number of policy changes regarding child fatality investigations and child maltreatment cases have happened in the weeks leading up to the release of an audit of the South Carolina Department of Social Services.

Those policy changes have occurred not only at DSS, but also at the State Law Enforcement Division, Department of Health and Environmental Control and Department of Public Safety.

The state's Legislative Audit Council released the long awaited audit of DSS Friday after a 2012 request from Rep. Jenny Horne (R-Summerville).

It's not the first time the LAC has audited DSS. The agency, which is required to have one lawyer and one accountant on it's council, audited DSS in 1985 and again in 2006.

The audit confirms months of reporting by News19 that DSS frontline caseworkers had too many cases and the system for investigating allegations of abuse failed in some instances.

THE WORKERS

The audit, "found areas in critical need of improvement without with the department will be less able to make significant progress in protecting children from abuse and neglect."

The starting salary for a DSS caseworker is $30,582 according to the report.

The turnover rate for child welfare workers in child protective services and foster care increased more than 12% from 2011 to 2013, the report says.

However, in it's report to the Association of Children and Families, the audit says DSS reported inaccurate turnover rates including employees that worked outside of the child protective fields in their count.

Right now, DSS caseworkers are not required to have college degrees in social work or a behavior science and standards for training those workers are "unclear" the audit said. New hires are also not required to have previous relevant experience.

"DSS does not maintain central records of the training and certification received by caseworkers, nor does it maintain central records of continuing education," the audit said.

In it's response, DSS says it's identified a Learning Management System that it will implement to track certification and training.

Starting November 1, the agency says it's increasing salaries for ti's child welfare caseworkers and supervisors. It's also creating new "caseworker assistant" and "lead worker" positions to give employees growth opportunities.

CHILD FATALITIES

DSS has reported to the Senate DSS Oversight Committee and the public that fatalities with prior agency involvement have declined since 2009 but auditors say lapses in reporting mean that may not be true.

"The number of child fatalities which met the criteria for reporting to SLED that were not correctly reported is shocking," said Dr. Susan Luberoff, State Child Fatality Advisory Committee Chair.

The LAC found 152 child fatalities in South Carolina between 2009 and 2013 where SLED did not have a report from county coroners and therefor child death data released by DSS could be compromised.

"We found that child fatality data reported to the General Assembly and the public regarding child maltreatment deaths, particularly those with prior DSS involvement, is not reliable," the audit says.

The audit suggests reporting failures could originate in county coroner's offices. Between 2009 and 2013, the audit says 104 fatalities were not reported by the coroner to SLED as required by state law. In 48 more, coroners say fatalities were reported but SLED has no record in it's database.

"It is not possible from this analysis to conclude that deaths with DSS involvement have declined," the report says.

SLED Chief Mark Keel says going forward, county coroners will receive an email from SLED acknowledging a receipt of a child fatatlity and that on other submissions (fax or mail) coroners should confirm their submission is received.

In response to the report, South Carolina's Department of Health And Environmental Control says they will work collaborate with SLED on child deaths:

In June of 2014, SLED requested that DHEC begin providing statistical information to SLED related to death certificates in which coroners note suspicious deaths to use as a check on the information currently provided by coroners.

Since that time, DHEC and SLED have been working cooperatively to establish a system which will allow SLED to cross-reference information received from coroners to ensure coroners are reporting suspicious child fatalities in accordance with statutory requirements.

Keel also says he's adding 4 new positions to the SLED's Department of Child Fatalities.

DSS says they'll now prepare written reports when an investigation suggests child abuse or neglect was involved in a fatality and are working with the South Carolina General Assembly to increase the amount of information that can be legally released.

The Senate DSS Oversight Committee meets Friday morning and is scheduled to discuss the audit and plans developed by DSS over the past two weeks to fill vacant caseworker positions before 2015.

Source: WLTX News

Children's Aid Worker Threats

October 2, 2014 permalink

A video shows the methods CAS uses to get bogus voluntary agreements from parents.

Published on Sep 30, 2014

"Its just gonna happen"
Children's aide worker threatening to take my son away over refusing chemo as they wouldn't allow a second opinion or option.

Source: YouTube

Link to a local copy (mp4).

Social workers are denying the father a chance to pursue an alternative to dangerous chemo treatment for his daughter. At least three times in the short recording workers threaten the father:

2:14
... they're gonna take your son and you're never going to see him again.
2:37
If you don't sign that paper we're apprehending the child
3:34
(regarding apprehension) It's just gonna happen. You either agree to the treatment or we have to apprehend (indistinct name) so we can get the child treatment.

There is no personal identification in the video, but it resembles the case of Aiden Pedersen

Brits Seize Latvian Girl

October 2, 2014 permalink

British social workers have taken the daughter of Laila Brice. The Latvian government has been watching the case for three years and has expressed an interest in protecting the family by having the case transferred to the courts in their native Latvia. A comment by John Hemming and a press release from the Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs are enclosed.

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Statement by Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in respect of UK Family Court case

This statement shows that the Latvians are taking action in respect of a case in England. There is a conference in Prague tomorrow about the problems in England (such a conference would be in contempt of court here because it would talk about cases). Sadly as a result of the Russians pulling out of the Council of Europe the report into English family law has been held back. It remains, however, that international concerns about England continue.

Source: John Hemming blog


Information on the Case of Laila Brice’s Daughter

Unofficial Translation

On 27 August, the “Central Family Court” of the United Kingdom held a hearing in the case of the adoption of the daughter of a Latvian citizen, Laila Brice.

The Ambassador of Latvia to the UK, Andris Teikmanis attended the hearing as an observer. The Embassy is satisfied with the court’s decision to refer the case to Her Majesty’s High Court of Justice, which has the competence, inter alia, to refer the case to a Latvian court.

The Embassy of Latvia in the UK in association with the Latvian Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Latvia has been monitoring the case of Laila Brice’s daughter since 2011 and has on several occasions applied to British social services requesting information on the manner in which the child’s mother could regain custody of her daughter. The Latvian authorities have been informed that Laila Brice’s daughter, who is a “minor”, has been placed in the care of British social services, and decisions in this case were made taking into account the child’s interests.

The Embassy of Latvia in London and the Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in cooperation with the Ministry of Justice of Latvia have provided Laila Brice with advice on the actions required for regaining custody in the UK or for transferring the case to the competent Latvian authorities

Press contacts:
Press and Information Division: (371) 6 7016272 Fax (371) 67828121
K.Valdemara street 3, Riga LV-1395
E-mail: media@mfa.gov.lv
Website: www.mfa.gov.lv

Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Latvia

Child Kidnapped by Fake Social Worker

September 30, 2014 permalink

In North Carolina Jeanette Medleycott-Lopez, an ordained minister with a degree in criminal justice, has been accused of kidnapping a child under pretense of being a social worker. There is no word of the fate of the abducted child.

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Outreach founder charged with child abduction

Jeanette Medleycott-Lopez
Jeanette Medleycott-Lopez

A community outreach founder — whose website says the woman is an ordained minister with a degree in criminal justice — appeared in court Tuesday, accused of impersonating a social worker and abducting a 3-year-old girl from the child’s father, according to court documents.

Jeanette Medleycott-Lopez, 43, of Poodle Lane in Holly Ridge was charged Friday by Onslow County Sheriff’s Office with misdemeanor impersonation of law enforcement and abduction of children.

Warrants list a Hubert address for the complainant.

Medleycott-Lopez — whose name also appears as “Jeanette Lopez” in other court documents — is accused of telling the child’s father that she was a Department of Social Services worker and Guardian Ad Litem court advocate for children, according to warrants.

“And (she) threatened to call law enforcement if (he) didn’t give his 3-year-old daughter to her,” according to warrants.

The date of offense was May 22, according to court documents.

Contact information for the child’s father could not be found.

Guardian Ad Litem District Administrator Rusty Brown told The Daily News that he cannot confirm or deny whether Medleycott-Lopez “has any past experience” with the organization.

“It is a volunteer position and she is not a volunteer with this program,” Brown said of Medleycott-Lopez.

State law defines child abduction as unlawfully taking custody — possibly by persuasion — of a child “who is at least four years younger than the person to leave any person, agency, or institution lawfully entitled to the child’s custody,” according to N.C. General Statutes.

Medleycott-Lopez indicated she was a “student-volunteer ... at community outreach,” is responsible for five dependents and receives $2,096 monthly in food stamps and Social Security, according to an affidavit of indigency.

Medleycott-Lopez was released Monday on $50,000 bond unsecured, according to documents for appearance bond and pretrial release.

Court documents list multiple phone numbers for Medleycott-Lopez and while one of the numbers — posted multiple times — is to The Daily News’ circulation department, a number listed in an affidavit for indigency reached an answering service with a woman’s welcoming, recorded voice.

“Hi. You’ve reached Jeanette at Mama J’s Helping Hand,” the woman says in the voicemail in reference to a community outreach organization based in Sneads Ferry. The voicemail later signs off, “Thank you and have a blessed day.”

A similar voice is recorded on the greeting at the answering service for the number listed at Mama J’s Helping Hand, “a local community outreach program. ... We specialize in feeding and clothing families in need,” according to the organization’s website, MamaJsHelpingHand.com.

The organization is “solely based on donations” and accepts food, clothing, household goods and money, according to the website, which claims the woman is an ordained minister who leads support groups for domestic violence and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Jacksonville attorney Janine Dunn was appointed to represent Medleycott-Lopez, according to an order of assignment or denial.

Medleycott-Lopez’s preliminary hearing is scheduled for Oct. 20 in Onslow County District Court.

Source: Daily News (Jacksonville NC)

The next day, her side.

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Woman accused of impersonating DSS worker responds to allegations

ONSLOW COUNTY -

An Onslow County woman accused of impersonating a DSS worker to abduct a 3-year-old child issued a statement Wednesday, saying she never claimed to be with DSS and doesn't understand the charges against her.

Jeanette L . Medleycott-Lopez, 43, of Holly Ridge, was arrested by the Onslow County Sheriff's Office on Monday. She is charged with abduction of children (felony) and impersonating law enforcement (misdemeanor), according to warrants.

The warrants say Medleycott-Lopez allegedly approached Jonathan Davis, of Hubert, on May 22 and claimed she was a DSS worker and a court advocate for children. Medleycott-Lopez threatened to call law enforcement if Davis didn't give his 3-year-old daughter to her, the warrants state.

But Medleycott-Lopez said the allegations are false. She issued the following statement Wednesday:

"I truly do not understand why I have been charged with these crimes. I run an outreach program. It is my calling and my life's work to help people.

"This all started when a young mother contacted me and my program, Mama J's Helping Hand, trying to get help for herself and her children. She said she feared for the safety of her oldest child, who was staying with her father. The father was refusing to return the child to her. She asked me to help her have the father return the child to her.

"I told her we would try to help but we would have to call Child Protective Services. She agreed, and the mother and I went to the father's house. I told the father I was with Mama J's Helping Hands, gave him my card with the Mama J's information on it, and explained we were there to have the child returned to her mother. After talking with him, he turned the child over to her mother and we returned to Sneads Ferry.

"From there, I called Child Protective Services and turned the matter over to them.

And please, I want it understood that at NO TIME did I ever represent to anyone that I was from DSS or that I was a social worker. I do not know why these charges were taken out against me, but I am confident this is all a misunderstanding and once my side is explained in detail, this will all work out."

On Tuesday, the father of the 3-year-old girl gave NewsChannel 12 his account of what happened. Davis said Medleycott-Lopez was accompanied by the mother of his child when they knocked on his door. Davis said he believed Medleycott-Lopez when she claimed to be a DSS worker. Davis said he then handed his 3-year-old daughter to the two women.

Davis said he knew his daughter's mother was planning to leave the area, so he called DSS to find out how to legally get his daughter back. But an official told him DSS never took his child, Davis recalled.

The DSS then contacted law enforcement, Davis told NewsChannel 12.

Davis said when he was in court, he saw that his 3-year-old daughter was with another family-- one he did not recognize. Davis told NewsChannel 12 he believes his child was put up for adoption without him knowing, and that the girl had been under the care of the other family since May. Davis also claimed his child's mother and the suspect received money for the adoption.

Davis has since been reunited with his 3-year-old daughter. The Onslow County Sheriff's Office has not confirmed Davis' account of what happened.

Medleycott-Lopez posted a $50,000 bond and appeared in Onslow County District Court Tuesday morning.

Source: WCTI

OACAS Lobby Reports

September 30, 2014 permalink

The Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies (OACAS) is a lobbying organization and as such is subject the the laws regulating lobbying. FOI researcher Chris Carter has obtained twelve pages of reports on the OACAS (pdf). There is a seven page report prepared by the OACAS itself and a five page report from the Office of the Integrity Commissioner.

Here are the OACAS plans for its $8,719,817 of government funding for the current year (2014):

  • Will monitor legislative agenda for relevant proposals related to child welfare.
  • Will participate in five-year review of Child and Family Services Act.
  • Bill 88, Child and Family Services Amendment Act (Children 16 Years of Age and Older), 2013
  • Bill 42, Ombudsman Amendment Act (Children's Aid Society), 2013 which would extend Ombudsman oversight to CASs.
  • Bill 53, Children and Youth in Care Day Act, 2013 which would establish May 14 as Children and Youth in Care Day.
  • Regulatory exemption tor child protection professionals with respect to Psychotherapy Act
  • Educational supports for children and youth,
  • financial and emotional supports for youth,
  • Continued Care and Supports tor Youth(CCSY),
  • child protection standards,
  • adoption supports,
  • Child welfare agenda,
  • Work of the Commission on Sustainable Child Welfare and various initiatives which may result from their recommendations to government including:
    • amalgamation of Children's Aid Societies (CAS),
    • administrative streamlining,
    • funding model for CASs,
    • accountability relationship between CAS Boards and government,
    • performance tracking and reporting,
    • shared services models,
    • changes to foster care and general CAS mandate.
  • Family Law administration rules;
  • Aboriginal child welfare and Customary Care,
  • regulation of psychotherapists and impact on child welfare workers,
  • program development related to educational opportunities for crown wards,
  • shared services for CASs.
  • Funding for training of front-line child protection workers and supervisors.
  • Funds for tracking child outcomes.
  • Subsidies for youth to attend conference for youth in state care.
  • Liaison role related to new Child Protection Information Network (CPIN).
  • Funds to support regional adoption events to be hosted by local CASs.
  • Adoption Resource Exchange events,
  • YouthCAN conference grant,
  • Accountability and Data Tracking,
  • Education Services for CAS workers and supervisors.
  • Start-up funds for shared services (in approval phase).

Source: Facebook, Canada Court Watch

Conflicting Rights

September 30, 2014 permalink

Lawyer John P Schuman advises Ontario parents to speak to CAS workers when the workers are protecting children. The same parents should remain silent when CAS workers are investigating a crime. As for children, parents cannot prevent CAS workers from interviewing them at school. The parents do not even have a right to be present in person or through their lawyer. The child however has a right to have his own lawyer present.

Schuman does not say how a parent can speak and remain silent at the same time. And how many young children have the knowledge to ask for a lawyer when questioned? Getting a lawyer for a child increases the likelihood of family destruction, since frequently the child's lawyer sides with the CAS.

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Can a Children's Aid Society Interview my Children without my consent? Should I speak to the CAS?

children playing

Yes. In Ontario, a Children’s Aid Society has the right to interview children without their parents’ consent during the course of a child protection investigation (an investigation into abuse or neglect). The Ministry of Children and Youth Services included interviewing children in the standards for the proper conduct of child protection investigations. Decisions in Ontario’s Child Protection Courts then said that functions of children’s aid societies under s. 15(4) the Child and Family Services Act must conducted in a manner consistent with those standards, which means the Act requires interviews of children. Since the standards say that children should be interviewed in the absence of the adults under investigation, that means the children’s aid society must interview children alone. The school cannot stop the CAS from interviewing a child either. There may be issues as to whether a particular CAS worker is qualified to interview a child with specific special needs. However, refusing to let a child speak to a CAS worker only makes it look like you are trying to hide something and you are afraid that the child may tell the CAS that you are abusing him or her.

Children are allowed to have a lawyer present while being interviewed. However, it is the child’s right to have the assistance of a lawyer not the parent’s right to have the child have a lawyer. It must be the child who seeks out and retains the lawyer, not the parent. When a parent intervenes to get a child the lawyer, that also looks like the parent trying to interfere with the child protection investigation to hide something. In short, if a parent sends a lawyer into the interview with the child, that looks bad to both the children’s aid society and the judge.

Whether you speak to a CAS worker yourself is a more complicated matter - and you really need to consult with a lawyer who does child protection law. If you do not cooperate with the CAS, that will be held against you. However, if the concerns are that you did something contrary to the Criminal Code, then you also have a right not to speak to the CAS because the CAS worker will tell the police every thing you say. If you are charged, you statements may be used against you in criminal court. If you do not speak, your refusal to speak to the CAS may be used against you in child protection court and make it difficult for you to get your kids back if the CAS takes them. This is a very difficult situation to be in. Child protection lawyers (the small number of family lawyers who do Children's Aid Society cases) can give you a lot of valuable advice, specific to your situation, to try to keep you out of trouble.

Another good reason to speak to child protection lawyer right away is that there is a big advantage to having a lawyer ready to fight back right away if the Children's Aid Society does take your kids, or starts court proceedings, or asks you to sign an agreement permitting the agency to be in your life.

John Schuman is a Certified Specialist in Family Law who has done children’s aid society cases for more than 15 years, acting for parents, children’s aid societies and native “bands” (the term in the Child and Family Services Act for First Nations.

Source: John P. Schuman

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