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Trick or Treat
October 30, 2014 permalink
Truth about Child Protection
October 29, 2014 permalink
An Irish study reports the truth about child protection, in contrast with most of the self-serving studies and press releases from social services. Most child protection cases are against single parents (almost all single mothers) and one in six parents suffers from a a cognitive or mental disability. Only a tenth of the cases involved married parents.
Most parents in child care court cases are not married and raising children alone
That’s according to a report launched by the Child Care Law Reporting Project.
A FAMILY COURT to handle child care orders is needed as soon as possible, according to the second Interim Report from the Child Care Law Reporting Project.
The report examined 486 cases from September of last year until July 2014. The cases involved 864 children – just over 20% of all children in court-ordered care.
It found that nearly one in three of the children involved had special needs while one in four cases involved a parent from an ethnic minority.
It also discovered that the vast majority of parents were single or separated and parenting alone – 90% of parents were unmarried and one in 6 suffer from cognitive or mental disability.
The Director of the report, Carol Coulter, says the cases are not given the attention they need or deserve in most Irish courts.
She pointed out that in most courts outside Dublin child care cases are heard on the general family law day, when there can be up to 70 or 80 cases on the list.
In one case the judge refused long-term care orders for a number of children, granting short orders instead and saying he would give the younger children back to the mother, despite the fact that a doctor gave compelling evidence of severe physical abuse.
“But the courts alone are not the answer to the problems of vulnerable families. Society as a whole must take responsibility for supporting them so that taking children into care is a last resort – albeit one that is necessary in certain circumstances.”
Coulter added that, “The disproportionate representation of non-Irish parents in the child care courts makes an urgent case for a renewed focus on integration policies, ensuring that those coming to our shores understand what is expected of them as parents.”
Source: The Journal (Ireland)
Former CAS Ward Runs for Mayor
October 28, 2014 permalink
In yesterday's municipal elections former CAS ward Gordie Merton ran for mayor of Gravenhurst. The vote count was:
|Nominated Candidate||Total Votes||Percentage %|
Stuck with Braces
October 25, 2014 permalink
A girl in Irish foster care had braces put on her teeth. Now they cannot be removed because her legal parent, the foster care system, refuses to pay. They claim a former foster mother arranged for the braces.
Girl in care has not had braces taken off due to unpaid bill
Teenager in care of the Child and Family Agency should have had braces taken off three months ago
A teenager in the care of the Child and Family Agency has not had her braces removed because of a dispute over paying the orthodontist, the Dublin District Family Court heard yesterday.
The girl should have had her braces taken off three months ago, but the orthodontist refused to carry out the procedure because the bill had not been paid, Judge Colin Daly was told.
As part of a court review of the care of the girl and her siblings, a solicitor for the agency said the orthodontic work had been arranged for the teenager by her foster mother, but that placement had subsequently broken down and the girl no longer lived with her.
The girl had been moved to a residential unit and the foster mother had not settled the bill, the solicitor said.
He said the agency had now received approval from management to pay the bill and was anxious to resolve matters, but he did not know how quickly the braces could be removed.
The solicitor for the girl’s court-appointed guardian said he was concerned the teenager’s braces had not been taken off. She had been wearing them for three months without needing them, he said.
The court was also told the girl wanted to go home to her mother, but the agency and her guardian believed it was not in her best interests.
Judge Daly asked whether the orthodontist had confirmed the girl did not need any further treatment and was told the practitioner had confirmed that.
He completed the review of the case, but ordered it should be brought back before the court if the teenager’s braces were not removed by the end of the month. “It is an unnecessary trespass on her person that should be remedied,” he said.
Source: Irish Times
Social Workers Diagnose Abuse Instead of Genetic Disease
October 25, 2014 permalink
Texas parents Ricardo Victorino Jr and Sabrina Vera had their infant son Jaiden seized by CPS when he fractured his femur (thigh). The parents have also been charged with criminal child abuse. Investigation has determined that the boy suffers from a bone condition, Ehler-Danlos syndrome, inherited from his unsuspecting mother. One irony - the mother is a former CPS caseworker.
Couple say genetic disease is cause of child's injuries, not abuse
LA PRYOR — A mother of a 6-month-old says the state is wrongly accusing her of child abuse, although a doctor has confirmed her son suffers from a rare genetic disease that makes him prone to broken bones.
Ehler-Danlos syndrome, or EDS, can cause weak bones in infants and leave them vulnerable to fractures, even with normal handling, says Dr. Golder Wilson, a Dallas geneticist who's scheduled to testify at a court hearing today on behalf of the mother, Sabrina Vera.
Vera is charged with felony injury to a child and her son, Jaiden, was removed by Child Protective Services.
Vera, 26, and her partner, Jaiden's father, Ricardo Victorino, 30, were bewildered about their son's injuries until they learned about the disease.
Wilson diagnosed Jaiden with EDS after examining him last month, finding telltale symptoms — eye discoloration, hyper-flexibility and unusually stretchy skin.
There are at least two other families in Texas who have gone through ordeals strikingly similar to what the La Pryor couple are experiencing — mysterious bone fractures in their babies, allegations of child abuse followed by criminal charges of injury to a child.
In both cases, the charges later were dropped after the children were diagnosed with EDS by Wilson. Both families appeared on Katie Couric's talk show in 2013 to tell their stories and spread the word about EDS.
Vera hopes the charges will be dropped in her case as well, and she can bring her son home.
In June, when Jaiden was 2 months old, Vera and Victorino noticed one of his legs looked swollen and floppy.
The baby had cried a lot ever since they brought him home from the hospital, where he'd spent a month in intensive care for aspirating meconium, an infant's first stool, during delivery. But this was different.
“Every time we'd touch his knee, he'd cry out,” Victorino said.
So the couple rushed him to a hospital in Uvalde. There, an X-ray showed Jaiden had a fractured thigh bone.
The baby was taken to University Hospital in San Antonio. Scans done there and at the Center for Miracles revealed bone fractures all over his body.
CPS was called in, and the verdict was swift: Jaiden was a victim of child abuse.
“It's been a living, breathing nightmare every since,” Vera said.
Child Protective Services declined to comment on the case, spokeswoman Mary Walker said Tuesday.
Vera and her mother were recently diagnosed with moderate forms of EDS by Wilson. Vera had no idea her own hyper-flexibility — to demonstrate, she can pull her thumb down until it touches her forearm — put her son at risk for fractures.
Ironically, Vera was employed for 21/2 years by CPS as a caseworker in the foster care system before her arrest.
The problem, said Wilson, is that many in the legal, medical and child welfare communities don't know about the disease and how it can masquerade as child abuse.
At least seven families in the U.S. have become ensnared in the legal system because their children have EDS, he said.
“There are some real injustices happening because of gaps in medical knowledge,” he said.
Dennis Moreno, Vera's attorney, said CPS is fighting the EDS diagnosis.
Vera said that when the X-rays came back showing the fractures in her son's body, the idea he'd been abused was a foregone conclusion on the part of hospital personnel and CPS.
“Everyone looked at us like we were monsters,” she said, sitting in her modest but immaculate home in La Pryor, where pictures of Jaiden decorate a living room wall and the cheery nursery, decorated with drawings of giraffes.
When CPS first removed Jaiden, he was placed with Vera's mother, and the couple only could see him with supervision three days a week. After a court hearing, Vera was arrested and put in jail for six days, with a $50,000 bond. After she was released, she could only see Jaiden for one hour a week at CPS headquarters in San Antonio.
Vera's mother came across the online video of the Katie Couric show, as well as a Dallas TV station report on EDS.
“We thought, maybe this is the answer,” Vera said.
They were able to have then 5-month-old Jaiden examined by Wilson in his Dallas office, who used something called the Beighton scale to diagnose the baby.
The blood test for EDA examines all 23,000 genes implicated in the connective tissue disorder spectrum, Wilson said. Jaiden's test won't be available for five months, but even a negative response won't discount the fact he has EDS.
“There are still genes the sequencing doesn't cover, so you could miss the mutation,” he said. “You have to look at a group of genes. ... That's the fallacy that the courts or CPS are falling into, aided and abetted by geneticists, saying, 'Well, if it's not medical, it must be abuse.'”
He said that spiral fractures — such as the one in Jaiden's femur — are traditionally seen as a sign of abuse, because they involve a twisting, not a simple break.
“But that fact is these bones are really soft in these babies,” Wilson said. “You can cause that twist just by the way you grab the ankles and lift to change a diaper.”
That Jaiden hasn't experienced any more fractures since being removed from his home doesn't prove Vera's guilt, Wilson added. A number of things could account for that — more careful handling in light of his disease, or increased muscle resistance that develops simply because he's growing.
Many adults and babies with EDS also have vitamin D deficiency, he said; as Jaiden eats and drinks milk, his muscles will grow stronger.
Other than her one-hour visit with her son once a week, Vera only gets to see the pictures her mother texts her.
“I miss him, every single day,” she said, standing next to his empty crib, tears in her eyes. “We're speaking out now just so this doesn't happen to another family.”
Source: San Antonio Express News
But the judge sided with CPS, keeping the baby away from mom and dad.
Judge rules that infant must stay away from parents
CRYSTAL CITY — A district court judge in Zavala County apparently wasn't swayed by the argument that a genetic tissue disease caused multiple bone fractures in then-2-month-old Jaiden Victorino.
Judge Amado Abascal granted the request of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services that the now-6-month-old be placed under the care of the state and not be returned to his parents, at least for the time being.
A lawyer for the state argued that it was likely abuse, not a connective tissue disease called EDS, that accounted for the fractures to the child's thigh, ribs and elsewhere in June.
“Placing the child back at home at this time is contrary to the child's welfare,” the judge said.
Jaiden will remain with his maternal grandmother, Dora Mirelez, while his parents, Sabrina Vera, 26, and Ricardo Victorino, 30, of La Pryor, undergo psychological evaluations, parenting classes, counseling and other services.
They will be allowed a supervised visit with their son one hour a week in the Uvalde office of Child Protective Services, where, oddly enough, Vera was a foster care caseworker until she went on maternity leave.
Vera has been identified by CPS as the alleged abuser and is charged with second-degree injury to a child.
She has steadfastly denied that she injured Jaiden.
The couple contend that, based on the findings of a Dallas geneticist, Jaiden has Ehler-Danlos syndrome, which can cause weak bones in infants and leave them vulnerable to fractures, even with normal handling.
Dr. Golder Wilson, the geneticist who specializes in EDS, testified by phone Wednesday on behalf of Vera. He also found that Vera and her mother have a moderate form of EDS.
The couple had an in-depth $9,000 gene-sequencing test performed on Jaiden, the results of which should be available in January or February. It may provide definitive proof of whether he has EDS.
The state argued that there was no evidence that Jaiden had many of the classic symptoms of EDS or that the disorder played a role in his injuries.
The attorney said in her closing argument that Jaiden suffered no apparent fractures in his three weeks in the neo-natal intensive care unit. Jaiden needed care immediately after his birth for aspirating meconium, an infant's first stool, during delivery.
Nor did Jaiden have any injuries in the first five weeks under his parents' care or in the care of his grandmother after CPS stepped in, officials testified.
His fractures apparently happened only in one period in June. This served to implicate his parents in committing physical abuse, in particular Vera, CPS concluded.
A polygraph test that Vera reportedly failed was not introduced in court.
In testimony, state investigators repeatedly mentioned Vera's seeming lack of emotion when Jaiden was in the hospital after the femur fracture was discovered and that she didn't pick him up for more than seven hours.
Vera's attorney said he was surprised that Wilson's testimony didn't convince the judge that Jaiden hadn't been abused.
“Other counties have summarily dismissed findings of abuse when medical evidence of EDS was presented, but for whatever reason, this judge decided not to,” Dennis Moreno said. “He had to rule what he thinks is the best interest of the child.”
The judge set another hearing for Dec. 10 to see if the parents are in compliance with the required services.
The couple said they will do “whatever it takes” to get their son back.
“We're just going to go forward,” Victorino said after the ruling.
Moreno said he plans to submit the medical evidence about EDS to the Zavala County district attorney's office. “I expect her charges will be dismissed,” he said.
Source: San Antonio Express-News
Social Worker Ruined for Loving Son
October 25, 2014 permalink
When social worker Heather Skinner's son was sentenced to prison, she communicated with him by text messages. For this communication she was convicted of a crime. A consequence of legal intervention in her family was the breakup of her marriage to the boy's father. In addition, she has been suspended from the profession of social work, making her jobless. All for loving her son. Social work is not a trade for people with normal parental instincts.
An article from the social worker advocacy website Community Care is enclosed. Link to the Health and Care Professions Council website for the hearing that suspended her.
Social worker who texted son in prison suspended by the HCPC
A Merton social worker has been suspended from the HCPC register for sending texts to her son who was scared about serving time
A social worker found guilty of texting her son who was serving time in prison has been suspended from the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) register.
The social worker, who was employed by the London Borough of Merton, was convicted in March this year of ‘causing transmission of an image or sound from inside a prison for simultaneous reception outside’ and sentenced to a 15 month suspended sentence. Mobile phones are not permitted to offenders serving their sentences in prison.
As a result of replying to a series of texts from her son about how frightened he was in prison, the social worker in question was dismissed from her job on grounds of gross misconduct. She subsequently separated from her partner with whom she had brought up the son.
Her partner was found guilty of an additional charge of conspiracy to supply the son with a mobile phone.
The social worker had no knowledge of any conspiracy to supply phones to inmates in the prison and the judge found she had been “motivated by concern for her son and not by a means to supply mobile telephones to the prison inmates.”
The panel recognised that the social worker felt deep remorse, shame and embarrassment for her actions and that she had a clean record of conduct previously. However given the gravity of the situation, and the length of the criminal sentence, it was seen as inappropriate to allow her to continue to practise while she was subject to a suspended court sentence.
Her line of work should have meant she was aware that her actions were illegal and inappropriate.
The panel said: “[she] acted without consideration of the consequences of her actions and thereby brought the profession of social work into disrepute by her illegal acts, which should have been known to her.
“The conviction demonstrated that the registrant’s actions at the time were rash, reckless and done without thought as to the consequences for herself and her son, as well as for her profession.”
The social worker has been suspended from the register for 12 months.
Source: Community Care
Alberta Foster Children Die Under Publication Ban
October 24, 2014 permalink
A two-year-old boy in Alberta foster care has died. The news report is sketchy because: "Four days after his death, the boy's family applied for and was granted a Calgary provincial court publication ban on his name and that of his four young siblings." This family may be one that prefers to keep its tragedies private. Or the social services system may have twisted their arms. Many of the purportedly voluntary acts of parents involved with social services are anything but voluntary.
In another article Global News reported a four-year-old foster girl dying on September 27.
And in a third article the Edmonton Sun reports two children dying in Maskwacis. Because of the vagueness of the articles, there is no way to be sure whether the total number of foster deaths is two or three.
Police investigating death of 2-year-old in provincial care
CALGARY ─ Another young child has died in provincial care in Alberta, QMI Agency has learned.
Tsuu T'ina First Nation police are investigating the death of a two-year-old boy who was a ward of the province when he died Sept. 25 at Alberta Children's Hospital.
Sources tell QMI Agency the child's mother is being investigated by police, but hasn't been charged.
The child may have suffered from some sort of assault, sources said.
Lisa Shankaruk, with Alberta Human Services, confirmed the boy's death and said an investigation may take place.
"We can confirm a child who was two (years old) died in care in Calgary," she said.
"Human Services will be looking at the situation and we've committed to releasing the results of any investigation publicly."
Four days after his death, the boy's family applied for and was granted a Calgary provincial court publication ban on his name and that of his four young siblings.
Shankaruk couldn't say who had custody of the child when he died, citing privacy legislation.
Tsuu T'ina spokesman Peter Manywounds, speaking on behalf of the nation's police department, would not comment on the case Tuesday.
Early this year the province disclosed 741 children who'd had some involvement in child welfare had died between Jan. 1, 1999 and Sept. 30, 2013.
The toll was made public after it was revealed 145 kids died over the same period while under provincial care and only 56 were publicly reported.
New legislation was drafted over the summer that lifts the long-standing publication ban on deaths of children who were wards of the province, allowing family members to talk about the tragedies publicly.
Under the same Bill 11, families with children in care can apply for a publication ban before the courts if they choose.
Source: Sun News Network
4-year-old girl dies following accident in Maskwacis
EDMONTON — Alberta RCMP is investigating after a four-year-old girl died after an accident in Maskwacis.
The girl was recently brought to Edmonton after she was injured while playing outside with other children in Maskwacis, formerly known as Hobbema, said Sgt. Josée Valiquette.
She said the RCMP stepped in because of the seriousness of the girl’s injuries. The girl died in Edmonton Saturday.
Alberta Human Services, which oversees social-based services such as foster care, family care and child support services, has confirmed the child was receiving its services.
Source: Global News
Maskwacis youth second minor to die in child welfare custody
Two children involved with child welfare have died in one week, with the recent death of a youth in Maskwacis leaving a community grieving.
“This community is hurting in a lot of areas, and there’s a lot of people fighting to bring the positives out,” said Brent Dueck, a watch supervisor with the Maskwacis RCMP detachment. “Anytime something tragic like this happens, it’s a blow to everybody concerned.”
RCMP were called to a home in Maskwacis — formerly known as Hobbema — at around 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 2, after family members discovered the youth dead in their basement.
Details are sparse as the case is under a publication ban through the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act, at the request of the youth’s family, but local RCMP say the death is not suspicious.
This latest death comes just days after a two-year-old ward of the province died at the Alberta Children’s Hospital in Calgary on Sept. 25.
Sources told the Sun that the mother is the focus of a police probe, but has not been charged. Sources also said the child may have suffered some kind of an assault.
The Tsuu T’ina First Nation police are investigating and Alberta Human Services has committed to publicly releasing results from their own investigation.
Earlier this year, the province revealed that 741 children who had some kind of child welfare intervention died between Jan. 1, 1999 and Sept. 30, 2013. During that time, 145 children died while under provincial care.
Source: Edmonton Sun
October 24, 2014 permalink
Should white parents foster or adopt black children? Here is a new reason for caution. Black foster child DeShawn Currie went into his white foster parents' home in North Carolina by himself. A neighbor thought he was a burglar and called the police. When police arrived, they saw only pictures of white people in the home, so they handcuffed and pepper-sprayed Currie. Inter-racial fostering is not safe in a community where the neighbors and cops are racist.
Wake Co. teen confused for burglar, pepper sprayed in own home
FUQUAY-VARINA, N.C. -
Police in Fuquay-Varina pepper sprayed a teenager in his own home after a neighbor reported him as burglar.
18-year-old DeShawn Currie let himself in the house on England Avenue on Monday afternoon after school. He said when he heard noises downstairs he looked out of his upstairs window, saw police cars in the driveway and went downstairs to figure out what was going on.
Fuquay-Varina Police said in a written statement that a neighbor has reported a possible burglary at the house. Officers responded, found a door ajar and went inside.
"I came downstairs to see what was going on, and there go the police, inside the house, guns drawn," Currie explained.
Currie said he tried to explain that he, his foster parents Rickey and Stacy Tyler, and their three young children had moved to Fuquay-Varina over the summer, so some neighbors may not recognize him. He said he tried to explain that the recent move was the reason his identification did not match the home's address.
Then an officer pointed out pictures on the fireplace mantel, Currie said. The pictures show the Tylers' three biological children. The Tylers are white. Currie is African-American.
“He was like how can you tell me you stay here when all the kids in the picture are white?” Currie recalled. “Right then I really started to get mad.”
Currie admits that the situation got heated and eventually led to officers putting him in handcuffs. He also admitted that at least twice he jerked his hand from the officer trying to handcuff him because he thought the officer was being too aggressive.
“Mr. Currie became very volatile, profane and threatened physical violence toward the police officer,” said the town's Public Information Officer Susan Weis in a written statement. “In an effort to calm Mr. Currie, the police officer asked him several times to have a seat, which he refused. Mr. Currie became increasingly belligerent and profane and the police officer attempted to restrain Mr. Currie with handcuffs to insure the police officer's and Mr. Currie's safety. Mr. Currie then struck the police officer's left arm knocking the handcuffs to the floor.”
The officer then used the pepper spray. Currie said he was on the ground being handcuffed when the officer used a second blast of spray on him.
Stacy Tyler arrived home to find Currie still handcuffed in the back of an ambulance. She said the whole ordeal has been hard for her entire family.
“My five year-old didn't understand why they hated him and wanted to hurt him,” Tyler said. “My husband had nightmares the whole first night about having to fight the police off from being in the wrong house."
She and Currie said they have worked hard to build a family since the Tyler's began fostering Currie last year. They were hurt by the thought that other people would assume they could not be family.
"That didn't necessarily take [that work] all away, but it damaged things," Tyler said as she explained how the incident made Currie second guess if he belonged with the Tylers.
Currie and his foster parents met with Fuquay-Varina police on Tuesday. They said the department is doing an internal investigation, but they do not expect to ever hear if an officer is disciplined because a police captain said it would be a private personnel matter.
“The family has complained during these discussions about the use of pepper spray. Race was never mentioned as a concern during these discussions. Nonetheless, Mr. Currie has made several remarks about race to the media after the event,” the town's written statement said. “The Fuquay-Varina Police Department does not engage in nor does it condone racial profiling. At no time during this event was race a factor. The Fuquay-Varina Police Department responded to a call from a concerned resident of England Avenue who had not previously seen Mr. Currie at this home.”
No charges were filed against Currie.
Tyler and Currie said the neighbor has apologized for not recognizing Currie and prompting the police response.
October 24, 2014 permalink
In Utah of 960 foster children old enough to qualify for a driving permit, only 15 have one. It's one more way foster kids fall behind.
Obtaining driver's license a rite of passage that eludes most teens in Utah foster care system
SALT LAKE CITY — Like any teenager, Sam Carling needed wheels.
But when he was old enough to obtain a driving permit, he was in foster care. Foster families weren't willing to assume the liability of young driver so none would give their consent for him to get a license.
"Mostly, I got around paying people to drive me," he said. Carling estimates he spent about $500 over three years just for rides.
Carling, who is 19 and was recently adopted, said he finally got a driver's license after leaving state custody.
Like any teenager, getting a driver's license is an important rite of passage to youths in the state's foster care system. But it is a goal that eludes the vast majority of them.
Of 960 youths ages 16 and older in foster care, just 15 have their driver's licenses, Jennifer Larson, adolescent services program administrator for the Division of Child and Family Services, told state lawmakers Thursday.
"Yes, it's a rite of passage, but it's also a major piece of ID," Larson said, addressing members of the Child Welfare Legislative Oversight Panel at the state Capitol.
Members of the state Youth Council, made up of youths in the state's foster care system, consider the issue a high priority, Carling said.
Obtaining a form of identification is important as teens who age out of foster care apply to colleges, open bank accounts or go to medical visits.
"I think it's a good way for kids to get independent," said Carling, who will soon serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Milwaukee.
Some lawmakers said it is understandable, given the limited stipends foster parents receive to help cover the cost of children they care for, that they would be unable, and perhaps unwilling, to cover the cost of automobile insurance for teen drivers.
"I’m trying to protect the foster parents out there. We pay them nothing, and we expect the world from them," said Sen. Allen Christensen, R-North Ogden.
Larson said members of the Youth Council understand that insuring teenagers is expensive, but they wonder if some mechanism could be developed so it is an earned privilege for those who maintain a 3.0 grade-point average or higher, regularly attend school and meet other conduct standards.
DCFS is meeting with state risk managers as well the private insurance industry to get a handle on costs and whether teens in foster care have comparable driving records to their peers.
"I don’t see the state buying a full-coverage policy for 16-year-olds," Christensen said.
Perhaps there are other options, said Rep. Johnny Anderson, R-Taylorsville.
"Maybe the kid can get a job and get their own insurance," Anderson said. "Maybe we can create a system where the (foster) parents can make the ultimate decision."
The issue is, obviously, still in the talking stages, Larson said.
"Is this something we can take on as a liability for the division?" she asked.
Source: Deseret News
October 24, 2014 permalink
After Rana L Cooper adopted a daughter in Pennsylvania the girl was subject to a reign of terror too horrible to summarize. Expand for details.
Abusive Mother Tried To Sew Daughter's Mouth Shut: Cops
Pennsylvania authorities have arrested a 46-year-old woman on a litany of charges, accusing her of trying to sew her 16-year-old daughter's mouth shut and eat cat litter, among other horrific acts.
Rana L. Cooper, a mother of seven children, has been the focus of an investigation that began at least six months ago. In a criminal complaint obtained by The Huffington Post, Cpl. Robert Copechal of the Pennsylvania State Police details a long list of abuses the teen suffered at the hands of her mother.
Authorities allege that the abuse may have started as soon as the child was adopted in 2008. Cooper's husband, the adoptive father, was allegedly aware of at least some of the abuse.
WARNING: GRAPHIC DETAILS OF ABUSE
The teenage victim told authorities that Cooper would not allow her to eat, drink, or even use the restroom until "points" were earned by cleaning the home. The victim alleged that because of this rule, she often soiled herself and did not drink for days.
The only time the girl could eat was after the rest of the family had already eaten, according to police. On multiple occasions, Cooper allegedly forced food into the chid's mouth, inducing vomiting. In one instance, the suspect allegedly forced the child to eat cat litter. On another occasion, the victim told police Cooper would force her to "go into the bathroom and scrape her finger around the rim of the toilet and eat what was on her finger."
The criminal complaint details more than a dozen instances of abuse. Cops allege that the mother once tried to sew the child's mouth shut with a needle and thread, stopping only after piercing the child's lower lip with a needle. Cooper often threatened to cut out the child's tongue, police said.
If the victim did not listen to her parents, Cooper would forcefully jam a Q-tip into the teenager's ear, causing it to bleed and leaving her partially deaf, the complaint reads. Cooper also allegedly attempted to gouge out the child's eyes.
"Child states that mother was in her face and she closed her eyes tightly," Copechal wrote in the report. "Child stated that mother took her finger and pushed in child's eyes causing broken blood vessels in child's eyes."
Cooper allegedly hit the child numerous times with a hair brush, spit on her, and forced her to eat toothpaste. The child told police that she was allowed to eat once a day.
The police document also states:
Mother choked the child two times until child blacked out. Last time happened about a month before child was removed.
The child stated that father was present when mother was choking her. Child stated that father told mother to stop however mother did not. Child stated that father proceeded to just stand there and watch as mother continued to choke child.
The child's father, 51-year-old Richard Cooper, told his wife he wanted a separation from her on Easter two years ago. Police said the mother blamed her adopted daughter for this. As punishment, Rana Cooper allegedly grabbed the girl by her neck and twisted it, then bit the child's nose until it bled before slamming her onto the ground and punching her in the face.
In July, the victim told police her mother struck her in the face with a metal belt buckle, causing her eye to swell and become discolored.
One of the suspect's seven children, 24-year-old Ronnie Cooper, told local station KDKA, that the allegations were all false.
“Nothing, none of that happened,” Ronnie Cooper said. “Like, I’m here every day, like, none of these [allegations] are true.”
In September, Rana Cooper admitted to police that she once submerged her daughter's head under water "for approximately 3-10 seconds," according to the complaint.
Cooper now faces charges including recklessly endangering another person, simple assault, and endangering the welfare of a child. District court officials told the Star Tribune that Cooper does not have a lawyer on file.
HuffPost Crime called the Cooper residence, but no one in the family was willing to speak. Richard Cooper is not currently facing charges.
Rana Cooper has a preliminary hearing set for Nov. 6.
The child no longer lives with the Cooper family.
Source: Huffington Post
Same-Sex Marriage and Adoption
October 24, 2014 permalink
In Virginia same-sex couples are cutting the nine-month wait imposted on opposite-sex couples. Just five days after legalization of same-sex marriage, same-sex adoption has been legalized.
‘I am going to adopt my son!’ Same-sex couples can now legally adopt in Virginia
RICHMOND, Va. — Five days after same-sex marriage became legal in Virginia, same-sex couples were told they could now legally adopt children. The Virginia Department of Social Services informed local social services offices of the change on Friday.
“Now that same-sex marriage in Virginia is officially legal, we owe it to all Virginians to ensure that every couple is treated equally under all of our laws, no matter whom they love,” Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe said in a written statement. “This historic decision opened the door to marriage equality, and now it is my sincerest hope that it will also open more doors for Virginia children who need loving families.”
Under Virginia law, a “married couple or an unmarried individual shall be eligible to receive placement of a child for purposes of adoption.”
In the hours after same-sex marriage became legal in Virginia on Monday, adoption agencies and courts were unsure what to do. A clerk with Chesterfield County said the paperwork had not been updated and guidelines had not been issued by the state.
“We are waiting from licensing on how to proceed,” Faith Kallman, with Jewish Family Services (JFS), said. She added while JFS had assisted same-sex couples in adopting in the past, they could only make one parent the legal guardian under Virginia law.
Today’s announcement from the state comes as a relief to couples looking to officially expand their families.
“I am going to adopt my son,” Shirley Lesser Monday after she married her longtime partner India.
October 24, 2014 permalink
Muskoka Family, Youth and Child Services will be merging with Simcoe Children’s Aid. The target date is April 1, 2015.
Muskoka children’s aid to merge with Simcoe
MUSKOKA – Family, Youth and Child Services is working toward amalgamation with Simcoe Children’s Aid.
Bonnie Greer, board president for the Muskoka agency, said provincial funding reductions have forced the aid organization to merge with its neighbour, despite previous staff cuts and increased service efficiencies.
“We still second guess ourselves, but we know in our hearts that this is the right move for the children and families of Muskoka,” said Greer.
She said the agency was the smallest in the province and ministry-funding cuts threw it into a financial deficit.
She said the board reduced the number of staff, combined services and partnered with other social services for cost efficiencies, but it was not enough.
The boards of directors for both the Muskoka and Simcoe agencies have since completed feasibility studies on the risks and benefits of merging. The results were in favour of amalgamation.
Greer said how Muskoka would be affected by the merger was an important part of the discussions with the Simcoe board.
“We knew we were in trouble, but we didn’t want to give up our Muskoka identity and we didn’t want to take services elsewhere,” she said.
The Muskoka agency not only provides child protection services, but also children’s mental health and youth justice programs.
Greer said the board was adamant that it wants to continue to offer those unique services, as well as others, including its walk-in clinic.
She said no cuts to services in Muskoka had been identified.
“We have a lot of very unique services in Muskoka that we will not give up,” she said. “We want to take the best from Simcoe, Simcoe wants to take the best from us, and make a super agency that serves clients well.”
A joint board steering committee has chosen April 1, 2015, as the target date for combining the boards. The new board will then work toward amalgamating the operations of both organizations.
Greer said Muskoka clients would see little change next year.
“The operations will take two to three years to transition,” she said.
Family, Youth and Child Services of Muskoka served 1,101 families and completed 472 investigations in 2013-14. The children’s mental health program served 707 clients that fiscal year.
Source: Metroland (Toronto Star) Muskoka Region
Loving a Foster Boy
October 24, 2014 permalink
What does it take to get a social worker convicted of a crime? Loving her foster child. Kara Brumley is awaiting sentencing in West Virginia for sex with her sixteen-year-old ward.
WV Child Protective Services Worker Pleads Guilty To Charges
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – A West Virginia Child Protective Services worker accused of having sex with a 16-year-old boy pleaded guilty to charges on Wednesday in Kanawha Circuit Court.
Kara Brumley pleaded guilty to two counts of felony abuse by a parent, guardian, custodian or person in position of trust, which carries a sentence of 10 to 20 years for each offense or fine of not less than $500 or not more than $5,000 or both.
She is accused of having sexual intercourse with a minor that she was working with as a social worker between April and May 2014.
Brumley told authorities she was closer to the 16-year-old boy than any of her other clients.
Brumley will be sentenced at 9 a.m. Nov. 21.
Emasculated Parents Held Responsible
October 24, 2014 permalink
Now that the law has stripped parents of all meaningful authority over their children, a court in Georgia has ruled that Sandra and Michael Athearn are responsible for their son's misconduct on Facebook. Teenager Dustin Athearn opened a Facebook account in the name of Alexandria Boston and used it to post unfavorable information about her. When parents Amy and Christopher Boston wanted to confront the offender, a school refused to disclose the family name for confidentiality reasons. The Facebook remained active for eleven months.
This dispute could have been resolved in days had both sets of parents been able to communicate with each other while having real authority over their children.
Parents May Be Liable for What Their Kids Post on Facebook, Court Rules
Parents can be held liable for what their kids post on Facebook, a Georgia appellate court ruled in a decision that lawyers said marked a legal precedent on the issue of parental responsibility over their children’s online activity.
The Georgia Court of Appeals ruled that the parents of a seventh-grade student may be negligent for failing to get their son to delete a fake Facebook profile that allegedly defamed a female classmate.
The trouble started in 2011 when, with the help of another student, the boy constructed a Facebook profile pretending to be the girl. He used a “Fat Face” app to make her look obese and posted profane and sexually explicit comments on the page depicting her as racist and promiscuous, according to court documents.
When the girl found out about it, she told her parents who then complained to the school’s principal. The school punished the boy with two days of in-school suspension and alerted his parents, who grounded him for a week.
But for the next 11 months, according to the appeals court opinion, the page stayed up. It wasn’t deleted until Facebook deactivated the account at the urging of the girl’s parents, the opinion said. The girl’s lawyer says the child’s parents didn’t immediately confront the boy’s parents because their school refused to identify the culprit for confidentiality reasons.
“Given that the false and offensive statements remained on display, and continued to reach readers, for an additional eleven months, we conclude that a jury could find that the [parents'] negligence proximately caused some part of the injury [the girl] sustained from [the boy's] actions (and inactions),” wrote Judge John J. Ellington in the opinion, which was handed down Oct. 10. He was joined by two other judges on the panel.
The appeals court, though, agreed with a trial court’s dismissal of another part of the lawsuit that sought to hold the parents responsible for allowing the page to be posted in the first place.
Atlanta litigator Edgar S. Mangiafico Jr., who defended the boy’s parents, told Law Blog that the court’s decision was marred by inconsistencies and said he would appeal the ruling to the Georgia Supreme Court.
Mr. Mangiafico said when he was researching the question of parental liability with respect to cyberbullying, he couldn’t find any case in which a court found parents negligent for failing to supervise their kids’ computer use.
Natalie Woodward, an Atlanta attorney who represented the girl, said she also believed the outcome was a novel one.
The ruling shows, she told Law Blog, that in “certain circumstances, when what is being said about a child is untrue and once the parents know about it, then liability is triggered.”
Source: Wall Street Journal
October 24, 2014 permalink
Dozens of people participated in a rally in Edmonton on October 16 for children who have died in foster care.
Another picture shows the rally circle.
Source: Edmonton Journal
Abused Baby Tooth
October 24, 2014 permalink
While helping her son Oskar pull a T-shirt over his head, mother Natalya Shianok knocked out a loose baby tooth. A few days later he did not come home from school. Norwegian authorities had snatched the boy for his protection.
Norway authorities remove child from parents over lost tooth
Norwegian authorities have snatched away a Russian couple’s young son after he shared the story of a missing baby tooth with his classmates. The parents are accused of child abuse.
The boy’s grandfather, Gennady Sharkikov, recounted the disturbing incident to LifeNews. On October 8, five-year-old Oscar Shianok did not come home. Norwegian Child Welfare Services (CWS) picked the child up from school and placed him into protective custody.
According to Oskar’s parents, Natalya and Sergey Shianok, a few days before his removal, Oscar had told his classmates that his mother accidently yanked out one of his baby teeth. Natalya explains that she was helping him pull a T-shirt over his head and accidently knocked out an already-loose tooth.
The CWS report claims his mother was abusive and deliberately knocked the tooth out.
Natalya and Sergey came to Norway from Russia looking for work and a better life for themselves and their two children. The parents quickly found employment and settled into a quiet life in Troms, a medium sized city in the north.
Natalya says that the family reached out to the Norwegian police for help, but were told that the missing tooth story was evidence of abuse and grounds for removing the boy from their custody. Police then began to ask leading questions about their younger daughter, Aleksandra.
The family left Norway in distress and returned to Murmansk, Russia.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said it would take action after the family reached out for help. Oskar’s grandfather contacted the Russia’s Children’s Rights Commissioner, Pavel Astakhov, who is now working alongside the Russian embassy in Norway to reunite the boy with his parents.
“For the moment Oskar remains in the care of a Norwegian foster family, and his mother has no idea where,” says Igor Lapitsky, head of the Russian consulate in Norway, reports RadioVesti.ru.
Irina Bergset, the director of Russian Mothers, an NGO which strives to curb foreign adoption of Russian children, explained that such situations are not unusual in Norway.
“In accordance with local laws, it’s as if Russian citizenship is null and void. They’ve declared everyone who happens to be on Norwegian territory a resident, and all the children to be property of Norway,” she explained.
CWS has attracted media attention and criticism for its overzealous invasion of noncitizens’ family lives in the past. In a high-profile case in 2012, CWS took two kids away from an Indian family amid criticism from human rights activists and the international press. It was only after diplomatic intervention that the children were sent back to India to live with an uncle.
Berit Aarset, head of Human Rights Alert Norway referred to the contentious custody removal as “kidnapping.”
Similarly, in 2013 CWS took a newborn baby away from a Nigerian couple claiming the mother was mentally ill and was not making an emotional connection with the baby because she did not make enough eye contact with the child.
Germany Forcibly Adopts Turkish Children
October 23, 2014 permalink
Turks living in Germany are complaining that Germany seizes children for baseless reasons, then places them for adoption with German families.
TURKS PROTEST ADOPTION OF CHILDREN BY GERMAN FAMILIES
DÜSSELDORF — A Turkish nongovernmental organization is spearheading a protest in Germany's Düsseldorf against the adoption of Turkish children by German families.
Activists from the Umut Yıldızı (Star of Hope) Association and Turkish citizens in Germany joined the sit-in strike outside Landtag, the representative assembly of North Rhine-Westphalia. They are voicing their concerns about a practice the Jugendamt (Youth Office) allegedly engages in, where they settle children from troublesome or unstable families with German foster parents even in the case of "baseless" complaints towards the biological family of the child.
Speaking on the 25th day of the protest, Kamil Altay, director of Umut Yıldızı, said thousands of children were removed from their families every year and "raised in a lifestyle foreign to their own values."
He said they filed petitions to 16 federal state assemblies and the German parliament on the issue and only 11 of them replied that their petition would be assessed. In response, Altay said it was "welcoming" to receive such a response.
Altay said Jugendamt officials registered children from Turkish families as German citizens in their database and placed those children with German families. "They are not accommodated with their relatives. They are not allowed to speak Turkish," he claimed. He said that his association assists families with the legal process to take back the children and offer psychological assistance to children.
Under a law implemented in 2012, putting children up for adoption was facilitated by making the slightest problem, such as a brawl at school or complaint about a family by a therapist the child was made to visit, a reason enough to remove them from their biological parents, according to Altay.
"First and foremost, we want this practice of removing children from their families in cases of baseless allegations, to be changed. There are 600 Jugendamts across Germany and every office has a different view regarding when to remove a child from his or her family. We want a nationwide standard to prevent differing views of different agencies," he said.
Altay says 600,000 children were placed under protective custody since 1995 and they have no concrete figure about how many of them are Turkish children. "They are recorded as German nationals even if they are from Turkish families with no mention of their ethnic background. This seriously disturbs us because they do not care about the culture and values of Turks," he said.
He claimed that their protest received broad support from Germans. "German citizens have problems too on haphazard removal of children from their families. For instance, Sabine, whose child was taken from her, joined our protest here," he said.
Though no concrete figure is available regarding the number, Turkish activists say about 5,000 Turkish children have been removed from their biological parents and placed in German foster homes, much to the chagrin of families who claim their children are then raised as Christians. The Turkish government is stepping up efforts to restrict this number as it plans to encourage Turkish families living abroad to adopt Turkish children to preserve their cultural identity.
Turkey's Family and Social Policies Ministry is attempting to popularize the concept of foster families among Turkish families living in Europe in order to reduce the number of Turkish children adopted by non-Turkish or non-Muslim families.
Preserving the cultural and religious identity of the Turkish community abroad is what underlies Turkey's struggle to keep children with Turkish families. The government mobilized diplomatic efforts last year after the story of 9-year-old Yunus made headlines. The Turkish boy was adopted by a lesbian couple in the Netherlands, causing public outcry in Turkey.
Source: Daily Sabah
More Ontario Legal Aid
October 23, 2014 permalink
Legal Aid is increasing the amount of time their lawyers can spend with clients on child protection cases.
Before getting excited that this will protect families, remember that legal aid lawyers and CAS serve the same paymaster. In the past this has meant incentives to get the client to plead guilty in criminal matters. In child protection the added time may be used to convince parents to part with their children  .
Families facing child protection proceedings to get more time with their legal aid lawyers
TORONTO, Oct. 20, 2014 /CNW/ - Starting Nov. 3, 2014, Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) will provide more time for lawyers to help clients who are involved in a court proceeding with a child protection agency. Clients and their lawyers may use this additional time to address legal issues by taking steps such as: bringing forward motions, participating in settlement negotiations and conducting in-depth file reviews – all of which support earlier resolution and avoid unnecessary trials. The increased hours for child protection matters is one of a number of programs that LAO is developing with the use of $30 million in additional provincial funding for family law and community legal clinics.
"I applaud the work Legal Aid Ontario is doing to strengthen the family law services it provides. Improving the delivery and scope of family law services is a vital step toward building a more holistic family justice system in Ontario."
"LAO is pleased to expand services for one of LAO's highest priority client groups. Parents who have had their children taken away are among the most vulnerable clients who appear at family court."
- LAO's family law strategy aims to reduce the number of families who go to court without a lawyer and to provide families with holistic and integrated services.
- Each year, LAO allocates approximately $70 million to family law services to help more than 125,000 low-income Ontarians.
- These family law services include summary legal advice, mediation, assistance from lawyers at family law information centres and family law service centres, settlement conferences and representation by private practice lawyers.
SOURCE Legal Aid Ontario
For further information: Josephine Li, Communications advisor, Phone: 416-979-2352 ext. 6015, Email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
How to Deal with a Knock on the Door from CAS
October 23, 2014 permalink
Lenore Skenazy spoke to former CPS social worker Carlos Morales. He has changed sides and now gives advice to parents on protection from CPS. It is hard to top Lenore's comments, so they are included below. Carlos Morales' book is Legally Kidnapped: The Case Against Child Protective Services, on website legallykidnapped.net. Here is a local copy of his video trailer (mp4). Do not confuse Morales with the more brash Patrick Rafferty at legallykidnapped.com.
What to Know about Child Protective Services
Hi Readers! The other day I spoke with Carlos Morales. a former investigator with Child Protective Services who grew disillusioned with the agency (to put it mildly) and is now president and founder of Child Protective Services Victim Support, the host of the Truth Over Comfort Podcast, and a committed legal advocate for family reunification.
In other words, he helps families trying to counter the power of CPS, in and out of court. His pursuit of a radical overhaul for child protection programs has led him to university lecture halls, television and radio studios, and the pages of a variety of publications. He also just published a book, Legally Kidnapped: The Case Against Child Protective Services (http://www.legallykidnapped.net/) , which he’s making free to download this week! (Offer ends Oct. 24.)
While I appreciate CPS stepping in when children are truly abused — we all want kids to be safe — from where I’m perched, I hear about the oversteps. And while I don’t want to make it seem as if every parent is in constant danger from CPS any more than every child is in danger from a predator, I do get questions from parents about how to deal with CPS if it comes knocking. So I asked Carlos to write up some basic tips. Here they are and here’s his book’s trailer. (Cue the scary music — literally. It has a scary music soundtrack.) – L
HOW TO DEAL WITH A KNOCK ON THE DOOR FROM CPS, by CARLOS MORALES
It’s no secret that Child Protective Services sometimes oversteps its bounds. Think of the stories we’ve heard of them going after parents who simply allow their kids to play outside or sit in a car for 5 minutes. There have been cases of similar overreach for the last decade. As a result, Lenore asked me to write up a small piece explaining how to protect your family from the agency. So here they are:
Educate Your Friends and Neighbors About Your Parenting Practices.
This has been consistent message among parents of Free-Range Kids. Have conversations with your friends and neighbors about your parenting practices, how much safer the world is for kids, and how preparing your children for questioning can be really helpful.
Download the Free-Range Kids membership card for kids.
Here it is. It can be very helpful in some cases.
Teach Your Kids to Clam Up
Tell your child never talk to a CPS investigator alone.
Know Who CPS Investigators Are
CPS Investigators are government bureaucrats with two months’ training and a tendency to overblow everything. These can be dangerous people, and they should be treated as such. Some will try to catch people off guard in order to get the “truth” out of parents and children. They may use intimidation, harassment or manipulation, because they believe that they are the hero and you are the enemy.
What To Do if They Come to Your Home
Record every interaction between yourself and CPS. It is important to always know your rights. A CPS investigator is not allowed to barge into your home unless they have a warrant – you’re protected by the 4th Amendment. Here are just a few suggestions which are presented much thoroughly in the book:
- Do not allow CPS investigators into your home.
- Ask the investigator exactly what the case is about.
- Only answer questions which are relevant to the case.
- Do not admit to any prior wrongdoings which could incriminate you.
- Try not to contradict any statements that you make.
- Do not sign any legal paperwork unless told to by an attorney.
- Do not take any drug tests unless court mandated (some children have been removed from homes because the parents smoke pot).
- Most of all: Do not assume that if you tell them everything that they’ll be “nice to you.”
If at any point you feel that you cannot answer any of these questions or are becoming too overwhelmed, remember to stay calm during the entire process. If it looks as though you may need to go to court, always hire a private family court attorney. Going to court alone is bringing a spark to a gun fight.
The reason for every one of these suggestions is explained at length in my book. For more information and limited time free access to the book, go to legallykidnapped.net. And good luck! — C.M.
Source: Free-Range Kids
Child Protectors Dump Abusive Boy
October 23, 2014 permalink
Washington state DSHS dumped a twelve-year-old boy who was a known sexual abuser of children on unsuspecting adopters Trish and Steven.
Foster parents sue after they discover adopted son’s past
Foster parents who adopted a 12-year-old boy in 2013 and later found out he had molested their other children, are suing the Department of Social and Health Services.
The boy, whom the adoptive parents say is now convicted of child molestation, lives with his adoptive father’s parents in a separate house they pay for, because he is not allowed to be with his siblings who are victims.
The parents’ lawsuit was moved to federal court this week and alleges their social worker and the state failed to inform them of crucial reports about their adopted son.
Trish and Steven, who did not want to use their last names, now have seven children: four biological and three adopted.
By March 2013, they had adopted their three children who were previously in their foster care. But two months later, Trish said they discovered their 8-year-old biological son was making sexual gestures.
He told Trish that was what his oldest brother, the recently adopted boy, had done to him.
“I was getting scared,” Trish said. “Then he said, he does this to our other one too. I lost it. I was crying.”
After discussions with their other children, they verified all of them had experienced the same thing. While she said she had often talked to them about not letting adults touch them inappropriately, the children told her they thought it was OK, because their brother was not an adult.
Trish said she was not informed of the child’s previous incidents.
“I also found there was a safety plan put in place for him in another home, where he wasn't even supposed to be in the same room as younger children,” Trish said.
Steven said after they immediately called DSHS, the department began an investigation on them.
DSHS would not share that investigation with KIRO 7. But a spokesperson sent this statement about the lawsuit:
“We are working with our partners in the Office of Attorney General to review this lawsuit filing. At this point, it contains allegations that will be proven or disproven in court, and we do not intend to try the case in the media.”
KIRO 7 found a memo included in the lawsuit sent from the state’s Office of the Children and Family’s Ombuds to Trish in March 2014. It stated that the “decision to place and maintain this youth in your home was unreasonable."
Another memo from 2002, sent from the assistant secretary of children’s administration to DSHS children’s administration staff, stated they had two tort claims costing the department more than t$2 million.
She wrote that “the errors are inexcusable” and “failure to share pertinent history…is unacceptable".
“Not only did the state fail us, they failed him,” Trish said.
Trish and Steven told KIRO 7 they want to see the state take accountability for this, even as they stay committed to helping their adopted son.
“Throwing him away his not an option. We're still trying to do everything we can,” Steven said.
Prince Edward County Foster Claims Settled
October 23, 2014 permalink
Highland Shores CAS has settled claims with three former foster children. Because the news is vague, there is no way to be sure, but it seems to be the case filed in August 2013.
Three CAS cases settled
Three former County foster children have reached out-of-court settlements with the Highland Shores Children’s Aid Society for damages stemming from sexual abuse sustained while they were in the society’s care.
An order dismissing further action against the child welfare agency has been approved by a judge at the Prince Edward County superior court where the lawsuit was filed in April 2013. Court staff confirmed only three of the five cases have been settled to date, leaving two outstanding plaintiffs.
Confidentiality provisions restrict the plaintiffs’ Belleville lawyer, John Bonn, from divulging details on the dollar amount of the compensation dispensed.
“It’s an order of the court dismissing the action on behalf of three of the plaintiffs, as against the children’s aid society,” Bonn said of the settlement. “They have resolved matters to their mutual satisfaction.”
Bonn added “there was no trial in this matter. They can’t talk about the terms of the resolution because there are confidentiality provisions in effect.”
When it was filed in 2013, the civil suits totalled $14 million ($2.8 million per plaintiff).
Each plaintiff initially claimed $350,000 for pain and suffering, in addition to $1 million each for loss of future earnings and another $1 million for punitive damages. They sought $100,000 in future care costs, plus $100,000 for special damages and $250,000 for aggravated damages.
Two outstanding plaintiffs will be addressed shortly, Bonn said.
“We continue to work on those,” he said. “We intend to mediate those.”
The suit directed at the CAS also targets four former foster parents, two are now serving prison terms for sexual abuse of children placed in their care. A third convicted predator’s case is now before the Ontario Court of Appeal.
“Like most of these issues, they’re difficult all the way through and deal with unpleasant issues, but the fact that we’ve been able to reach some form of agreement means that each side is able to live with it at some level,” Bonn said Tuesday.
Bonn filed the claims on behalf of the five female plaintiffs, now in their late teens and early 20s.
“With litigation done, it would bring an end to this piece of their involvement with the CAS,” Bonn said.
All complainants listed claim the Prince Edward County CAS (PECCAS) is liable for the abuse each of them suffered while in the care of PECCAS.
The County society is now part of the newly-amalgamated Highland Shores Children’s Aid Society, which also spans the societies of Hastings and Northumberland counties.
Mark Kartusch, the society’s executive director, was also tight-lipped about the settlement.
“I can’t disclose any of the details,” he said Tuesday. “However, we do hope this helps these youths move forward.”
Kartusch wouldn’t go as far as viewing the settlements as a form of closure for the plaintiffs.
“How does one ever have closure?” he said. “We believe in these young people and their future and want to support them in that.”
Before the 2013 merger, PECCAS was subjected to an extensive government probe which revealed a bevy of damning findings.
The investigation led by the Ministry of Child and Youth Services in Dec. 2011 - following a rash of child sex abuse charges against County foster parents - showed the agency was rife with significant internal conflicts recklessly placing vulnerable children in homes not properly screened and some cases not screened at all for months.
Kartusch said the agency has found better footing since the findings triggered amalgamation.
“I think we’re moving forward but will not forget the past,” he said.
Some concerns linger.
“I’m concerned that this may cause people to lose confidence in fostering or foster families,” he said, adding few bad apples aren’t representative of the whole bunch.
The 2013 statement of claims alleged “PECCAS is responsible, in fact and in law, for its own negligence and breaches of its statutory and fiduciary duties as well as for the negligence and breaches of duty committed by its servants, agents and employees,” states the claim, a copy of which was obtained by The Intelligencer in April 2013.
One statement of claim states, “PECCAS caused (the plaintiffs) permanent and extensive injuries and losses” ranging from alcohol and substance abuse to inability to trust, impairment of mental health, nightmares of abuse, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts.
“They (plaintiffs) have incurred medical expenses and will continue to require therapy and medical attention,” the 2013 statement of claim adds.
Two of the former foster parents initially targeted in the claim were Walter Joseph Holm, 46, and his wife, Janet Holm, 49.
They pleaded guilty to several charges, including possession of child pornography, sexual assault and invitation to sexual touching and were sentenced in November 2011 to four- and three-year prison terms respectively.
Three of the five plaintiffs, now ages 21, 23, and 19, are linked to the Holms. It’s not known if they were the three of five now concluded.
Justice Geoff Griffin blasted the Holms for turning their home into a “sexual cult” while fostering 25 teenagers over the course of nine years.
The three plaintiffs further implied that PECCAS was “vicariously liable for the actions” of the Holms.
Source: Belleville Intelligencer
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.
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.
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.”
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:
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.
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    . 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.
College bursary money benefiting B.C., not former foster care students
Child advocate: ‘I want this fixed’
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
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   .
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.
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
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.
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.
Audit: Excessive Caseloads, Unreported Child Deaths
152 Child Deaths Went Unreported to SLED
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 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.
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.
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:
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.
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
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 and Information Division: (371) 6 7016272 Fax (371) 67828121
K.Valdemara street 3, Riga LV-1395
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.
Outreach founder charged with child abduction
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.
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.
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):
Source: Facebook, Canada Court Watch
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.
Can a Children's Aid Society Interview my Children without my consent? Should I speak to the CAS?
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