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Bereaved Family Broken Apart

October 31, 2012 permalink

Four-year-old Birklee Giroux died while sleeping in her Michigan home. Child protectors, acting on an autopsy report of asphyxiation, seized the family's other child, eight-year-old Brody, from the bereaved parents. Though no charges have been filed, prosecutors may be holding Brody to force the parents to plead guilty to killing their daughter. In a past case Connecticut parents John and Christine Berkery pleaded guilty so they could get out of jail to fight for custody of their children, then the guilty plea was used as the justification for keeping their daughter away.



Is a boy being kept from his parents to force them to confess to a crime they deny committing?

JACKSON, Mich. (WXYZ) - A Jackson family is torn apart. First they lost their 4-year-old daughter. It was three months ago that little Birlkee Giroux went to bed, but the child never woke up. Her parents say they were devastated and shocked by what happened next.

Within days of finding their daughter dead in her bedroom, her parents, Brian and Billie Giroux, were deemed suspects. The state then removed their 8-year-old son Brody from their home while Jackson County authorities investigated the case.

Now, three months later, no charges have been filed, but young Brody’s life is in limbo. He is still in protective custody, and experts question whether the prosecutor is using the boy as leverage to get his parents to confess to a murder they say they did not commit.

To hear his family describe him, 8-year-old Brody is like most kids his age, precocious, fun loving and curious.

“Phenomenal little athlete already, and he loves and lives to be with his friends, to go outside and play soccer, to play catch,” says Brian Giroux, Brody’s father.

Brody’s grandma, Shari Rando says her grandson loved his little sister.

“He was a very protective brother,” she says.

But on August 7, Brody’s life changed. That’s when his little sister was found lifeless in her bedroom that summer morning.

“Basically put her to bed like every other night,” Brian says. “Covered her up, said love you, and walked out. Went in to wake her up around 9:30 and I found her.”

Billie Giroux, Birklee’s mother, says that she was in shock when she got news of her daughter’s death.

“Not understanding how she can be OK on Monday, and we’re playing outside shooting basketball, blowing bubbles…and then, after EMS workers stopped efforts to revive her, the deputy walked out and said she’s gone,” recalls Birklee’s mom, crying.

They say just as they were mourning the death of their little girl, came another blow. This time it was from Child Protective Services (CPS).

Brian Giroux remembers the day a CPS worker arrived, who he describes as blunt and cold.

“'Your daughter’s death has been ruled a homicide. Where is your son?' Those were the exact words when they walked in,” he recalls.

The state took Brody two weeks after Birklee died. He was placed in foster care with strangers. That’s where he remains to this day.

The document that turned the Giroux family upside down was the Jackson County medical examiner’s report. It says little Birklee’s death was caused by asphyxiation—and the prosecutor is pointing at the parents.

“Brody didn’t lose his baby sister,” said assistant Jackson County prosecutor Kathleen Rezmierski in court on September 12, to a probate judge. “She was murdered in her bed, and either mom or dad did it. They are the only two suspects in the investigation.”

Not only did they take Brody away, he is not allowed to see his parents while in foster care because he is considered a potential witness in the case.

“We also have, until this investigation is completed, concern, whether or not the eight-year old is a regestaewitness, and whether or not a child in that circumstance could be subject to coaching,” says the Jackson County Prosecutor Henry Zavislak.

Only Brody’s grandparents are allowed supervised visits with him once a month.

“He obviously misses mom and dad, and his family, his routine, his dog…sleeping in his own bed at night,” says Bill Gannon is Brody’s granddad.

While Brody waits, the wheels of justice move slowly. The prosecutor wanted to conduct a polygraph. But the Giroux’s, on the advice of their attorney, chose a highly-respected former state police polygrapher to test them. And both parents passed.

“We’ve done all the things they’ve asked us to do,” says Billie Grioux. “We took polygraphs; we paid for the polygraphs out of our pocket. We passed with flying colors.”

The couple also had a former pathologist review the case—and he doesn’t think it was murder. In his report, Dr. Bader Cassin writes “I was surprised to find that the manner of death was called homicide.” Cassin also was surprised that the Jackson County medical examiner made his ruling without having the child’s medical records or the police report. Cassin report questions whether the “asphyxia” conclusion is accurate.

Brody’s parent’s suspect that their daughter’s death may have been caused by an ongoing condition called febrile seizures. Medical experts say these seizures are fairly common among kids under five and they typically stop on their own. But could such a seizure have caused little Birklee’s death? The Chief Pediatric Neurologist at Detroit’s Children’s Hospital says, “yes,” if a fever is involved.

Dr. Harry Chugani of the DMC Children’s Hospital says that having a seizure during fever is “…really a form of epilepsy that is brought out by a fever, and then that’s really epilepsy, and epilepsy can cause death in sleep, yes.”

The Giroux’s say Birkleee was treated for seizures in the past, but not in the days or hours before her death. Still, they and their attorney believe Birklee’s brother Brody is now being held hostage to pressure the couple to confess to killing their daughter, a crime they say they didn’t commit.

“It’s horrendous, the abuse of power and authority that’s occurred here” says the Giroux’s attorney Stan Sala. ”They really don’t have anything, they’re grasping at straws. And then the threat in answer to the motion that says we’re going to keep Brody until you give us what we want is unbelievable!”

Asked what the prosecution wants, Sala says, “They want someone to admit to a crime that didn’t occur.”

The prosecutor denies using Brody as a confession tool.

Brody’s parents insist they did not harm their daughter, and desperately want their son returned home.

“Our son is with strangers,” says Billie Groux, crying. “We can’t see him. We can’t hold him. We can’t talk with him about his sister’s death. We can’t reassure him.”

While they wait for Brody to return, the Grioux’s have kept his bedroom and their daughter’s room just as they were before they were gone – except now those rooms are quiet and still.

Next week, the Giroux’s will be back in court. This time they will be going up against the Department of Human Services. Based on the medical examiner’s report that ruled Birklee’s death a homicide, the state has filed an abuse and neglect case to keep Brody from going home for good.

Source: WXYZ Detroit

Addendum: A day after broadcasting the story above, child protectors returned Brody to his parents.



Boy, family reunited after accusations parents killed daughter

JACKSON, Mich. (WXYZ) - Young local parents were reunited with their 8-year-old son Thursday morning after a 7 Action News investigation called into question the reasons he was taken away.

It was a medical examiners report that concluded the summertime death of their daughter was a homicide.

The ME’s report lead child protective services to remove the boy from his parents home, but on Thursday, a prosecutor dismissed the case against the parents that would have placed the boy in foster care for good.

“I walked out into the hall and Brody was walking up the ramp. It was so surreal to see him. He just looked beautiful.” That’s how Billie Giroux described her trip Thursday morning to a Jackson-area elementary school to see her 8-year-old son Brody. If it sounds strange that a Mom would be so taken by the sight of her child at school, consider the Giroux family story, and what has happened to them since August 7.

That morning, Brian Giroux walked into the bedroom of his daughter and found her unresponsive. Little Birklee, a 4-year-old ball of energy and art lover had been just fine the afternoon before, playing ball in the yard with her family.

Yes, she had suffered febrile seizures and had been rushed to the emergency room before. Because her mother and older brother had also suffered similar seizures, they expected Birklee to grow out of them at age five as they had done, but Birkle was dead with no apparent reason. The autopsy that followed would turn the grieving families lives upside down.

Dr. Patrick Cho, the Jackson County medical examiner listed “asphyxia” as the cause, and “homicide” as the manner of death. His conclusion set in motion an investigation, and an assistant prosecutor’s public pronouncement in a court hearing to take away the Girouxs’ parental rights that “Brody didn’t lose his sister. She was murdered, and Mom or Dad did it.”

In an emergency hearing this morning, that same prosecutor withdrew the court case that would have terminated the Giroux parental rights. Shortly after the 15 minute hearing, Billie and Brian Giroux were in Brodys school crying, hugging celebrating their sons return from foster care.

Brody remembers the days child protective service workers took him away from his parents. “They said I wouldn’t see my parents for a while. I was scared,” Brody said.

Thursday afternoon was the first time since August that they are free to play ball together in the yard, and weeks since Brody was forced to live with foster care strangers after Child Protective Service workers took him from his parents.

Scared was just one of the emotions that consumed the parents after Brody’s 4-year-old sister Birklee died in her sleep. Two weeks after her passing in her sleep, the Jackson Co. medical examiner ruled the death a homicide and Brody was taken, not allowed to speak with his parents because the prosecutor thought the boy might be a witness against his parents and might be coached before the investigation could end.

Brian was apprehensive about the morning hearing that sent his son home.

“I still didn’t believe it until the words came out of the prosecutors mouth” he told 7 Action News.

Now, Brian and Billie say they’ll dedicate their future trying to fix the system that caused them so much needless heartache.

“That’s going to be our mission in life,” he said. “ There has to be some common sense. There has to be some accountability, which doesn’t seem to be there now.”

Billie Giroux also wants the system to change.

“The system? I still feel that they have their place. That there are children I’m sure they do protect. I don’t know. I think Brian and I think we have a lot to do to change the system, to make it better, if that’s possible.”

Billie says the 71 days away from her son with no contact was “Miserable. Every day seemed like a year. Time usually goes so fast. But every day has been hard,” she said. “ Just missing him and wondering what he’s doing. He sounds so different , he looks so tall. He’s very grown up, and I’m very proud to say he still has a tender heart.”

Brian then thanked 7 Action News for the special report he believes helped bring Thursday's court action and the release of his son back to the family.

“I believe it was the report that got them to move this quickly. How else can you explain the movement into court, dismiss the petition, we’re moving on, you get your son back, all within hours of the report on Channel 7.”

Source: WXYZ

School Board / CAS Puffery

October 30, 2012 permalink

Two school boards in eastern Ontario are proud to announce a protocol with three local children's aid societies. The article is all puffery, no word on what the actual procedures will be.



Children’s Aid Societies and Local School Boards Renew Commitment to Student Safety

Children’s Aid Societies and Local School Boards Renew Commitment to Student Safety

The Peterborough Victoria Northumberland and Clarington Catholic District School Board, the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board and three Children’s Aid Societies (Kawartha-Haliburton, Durham, Highland Shores) within the Board’s jurisdiction, today officially launched and signed a new Children’s Aid Society/School Board Protocol which will guide their work together in ensuring safety for children at school.

Local school Board Chairpersons, Diane Lloyd and Dave Bernier; Directors of Education, Greg Reeves and Rusty Hick, joined with the three Executive Directors of the District Children’s Aid Societies - Jennifer Wilson, Wanda Secord, and Mark Kartusch, in affirming their commitment to school community safety by signing a new Protocol, titled “Ensuring Student Safety and Protection Together”.

The Protocol outlines the relationship, roles, and responsibilities of Children’s Aid Societies and school officials. Among other things, the Protocol identifies when Children’s Aid Societies should be involved and what kinds of information can be shared.

“This Protocol will guide us in using a consistent approach across the jurisdictions of the three Children’s Aid Societies and the School Boards involved as we work together to ensure the safety and protection of children and youth in our communities,” said Jennifer Wilson, Executive Director, Kawartha-Haliburton Children’s Aid Society. “It will support the work of educators and child welfare practitioners to provide early help and intervention to those children who may be at risk.”

“The Children’s Aid Society and our School Boards have always been close partners in the protection and well-being of children,” notes Wanda Secord, Executive Director, Durham Children’s Aid Society. “This new Protocol is a testimony to our coordinated unwavering commitment to ensure that children receive the services that they need in the most caring, responsive and accountable way possible.”

“All children and youth deserve to live in a safe and nurturing environment,” commented Mark Kartusch, Executive Director, Highland Shores Children’s Aid. “By working together as community partners, we can end the cycle of abuse and neglect and the devastating consequences that it brings to families. This Protocol is a statement of our shared commitment to this process.”

“Along with our community education partners here today, we welcomed the opportunity to develop collective approaches that safeguard and protect our student’s welfare,” said Diane Lloyd, Chairperson of the Board. “Together, we can ensure some of our most vulnerable children receive the care they need.”

“Proactively addressing effective safety measures for children and youth is a responsibility that all those who work with youth collectively share and we were extremely pleased to see the overwhelming support and eagerness from all partners to make this happen,” commented Dave Bernier, Chairperson for the Peterborough Victoria Northumberland and Clarington Catholic District School Board. “This Protocol will provide a coordinated response in the undertaking of child protection in our Catholic schools and enhance the safety and well-being of children in our schools and in our communities.”

“The new agreement will be of great benefit to our school staff,” states Greg Reeves, Director of Education for the Catholic Board. “The two school Boards and local Children’s Aid Societies co-ordinated their efforts to ensure that the document reflected the legal rights of students and staff and that there is a consistent approach across the Board with Children Aid Society involvement in schools.”

“It is always a worthy and valuable exercise when community groups like ours can come together to work cooperatively and collaboratively in support of the children in our care,” says W. R. (Rusty) Hick, Director of Education, Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board.



This Protocol is designed to assist in ensuring the safety and protection of students and to provide a coordinated response in the undertaking of child protection, abuse/neglect investigations within the jurisdiction of the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board and the Peterborough Victoria Northumberland and Clarington Catholic District School Board.

Goals and Objectives

  • Ensure a consistent approach across the jurisdiction for Children’s Aid Societies and the District School Boards to respond to children who may be in need of protection;
  • Deliver the best possible service to children and their caregiver(s);
  • Promote a child-centered investigation and to decrease a child’s “re-victimization”;
  • Increase the safety and protection of children;
  • Define and explain inter-agency procedures and responses of signatory service providers and the ‘duty to report’ all suspicions of child abuse or neglect;
  • To be accountable to each other and the children we serve;
  • To encourage collaborative, adaptive and responsive partnerships to enhance the safety and well-being of children in the community;
  • To choose the least disruptive course of action both within the District School Boards and as part of CAS intervention.

Guiding Principles

  • The Protocol articulates the shared commitment between the District School Boards and CAS responsible for the prevention, detection, reporting and investigation of child maltreatment. Early detection and community education provide the ultimate keys to ending the cycle of child abuse and neglect and their destructive consequences. We seek to collaborate and work cooperatively for the support and healing of children. The principles on page 2 provide a context for this document:
  • All children have the right to a safe, nurturing environment in which to grow to their full potential free from violence, abuse and neglect. It is a shared responsibility to ensure that these conditions are fulfilled.
  • All children who have experienced or witnessed maltreatment will be treated with dignity, respect and care. Their culture, ethnicity and religion will be valued and respected. Within the context of a collaborative investigative process and relevant legal principles, confidentiality will be respected.
  • Investigators should proceed on the assumption that a child’s disclosure warrants a full investigation. Most children are capable of being credible reporters of events. All allegations of child abuse and neglect must be taken very seriously and must be thoroughly investigated. A subsequent recanting by the child should not be taken as proof that the abuse did not occur.
  • Children who cannot verbalize a disclosure due to communication barriers may provide key information through their behaviour.
  • All actions taken will be in the best interest of the child(ren). A coordinated, cooperative and collaborative approach to child abuse prevention, detection, reporting, investigation and support puts the best interest of the child(ren) first. This approach also minimizes the opportunity for, and the potential of, re-victimization. It is recognized that the process may be traumatic, but the child will be supported throughout.
  • Joint investigations are in the best interest of the child and should be considered in all child abuse allegations. The fundamental principle of joint investigations is that decisions are made together through a consultative process and that a plan for the investigation is developed. The partnership will involve both child protection and police. The collaboration could expand to include the education system, the child care system and will expand to the criminal justice system when charges are laid.
  • The plan should take advantage of the particular strengths and abilities of each of the participants. The child(ren)’s developmental level will be taken into account throughout the entire investigative process and throughout the justice system.
  • Investigative decisions need to be based on a child’s intellectual, physical, social and communication abilities.
  • Following an investigation, children and caregivers will be offered referrals to community support services. Strengthening the family to protect and support the child can be the most effective way to stop the abuse and neglect and mitigate the effect of the abuse/neglect on the child.

Highland Shores Children's Aid
Durham Children’s Aid Society
Kawartha-Haliburton Children's Aid Society
Peterborough Victoria Northumberland and Clarington Catholic District School Board
Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board

Source: Northumberland View

School staffer admonishes child

Addendum: Here is the actual protocol. Much of the document is feel-good platitudes, or recitation of the provisions of the Child and Family Services Act. The heart of the matter starts on page 10, where the protocol provides for cooperation (or collusion) between children's aid and schools in the investigation of child abuse. It authorizes interviewing the child with or without a support person and strip-searching of the child, though expressed with more polite words. The child may be apprehended on the spot but notice to the parents occurs only where possible (hardly ever in practice). Starting on page 15 is the more extensive procedure for dealing with child abuse committed by school staff, who get protections unavailable to parents. For example, on page 19:

4. ... The Principal or other persons shall not discuss with or interview any parties with respect to the alleged incident(s) except as directed by the Children's Aid Society, Police or Supervisory Officer of the Board.

An alert reader points out that when a child is interviewed, the protocol makes no provision for audio or video recording. The social worker will make notes of only the parts of the interview that suit her purpose. On page ten, item c says: "Determine when the legal guardian(s) will be contacted". In broken families calling the guardian may mean leaving the custodial parent in the dark.

Give Peace for Chance

October 30, 2012 permalink

Chancey Miller died a year ago in Ontario while in the custody Newfoundland CYFS. The family still has only the part of the child protectors want them to know.



A year after daughter's death, family awaits answers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But, Maryann never did see her little girl again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Search for answers

Now the Millers want answers.

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

Bill Miller
Bill Miller.

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

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

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

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

Complete disclosure

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

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

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

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

Serious health condition

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

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

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

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

Source: CBC

The CBC broadcast a program on Chancey on October 30. audio link (mp3).

Child Protectors Sued

October 30, 2012 permalink

Rebecca Lévesque

Rebecca Lévesque, pictured, died in the custody of the Centre Jeunesse Chaudière-Appalache. The child protection agency refused to send the girl to the hospital in spite of her severe symptoms. Her father is suing the DPJ (Directeur de la protection de la jeunesse), the agency and five of its employees.



Décès de Rebecca Lévesque : poursuite de 1 M$ contre le Centre jeunesse

Poursuite de plus d'un million contre la DPJ, le Centre Jeunesse Chaudière-Appalache et 5 employés

Le père de Rébecca Lévesque, Martin Lévesque, intente une poursuite civile de plus d'un million de dollars contre le Directeur de la protection de la jeunesse, la direction du Centre jeunesse Chaudière-Appalaches et cinq de ses employés.

Rappelons que Rebecca Lévesque est décédée d'une septicémie, une violente infection du sang, en février 2011, alors qu'elle était sous la supervision de l'établissement.

La poursuite a été déposée vendredi au palais de justice de Québec par l'avocat de Martin Lévesque, Me Jean-François Bertrand.

Elle s'appuie sur les conclusions du rapport du coroner Luc Malouin, qui démontre que le personnel du Centre jeunesse Chaudière-Appalaches a refusé de transporter l'adolescente à l'hôpital, dans la nuit du 12 au 13 février 2011, même si elle présentait des symptômes graves.

Par ailleurs, Martin Lévesque continue de réclamer une enquête publique du coroner sur le décès de sa fille, mais il ajoute qu'il n'en veut pas au personnel de l'institution. « Je n'ai aucune rancune, aucune haine envers ces gens-là. C'est contre le système que je me bats. Il y a des gens qui sont protégés par d'autres », a-t-il indiqué.

Source: Radio-Canada

God Cancels Rally

October 29, 2012 permalink

Social workers, who claim to have the power of God, have applied their powers to wreck a rally scheduled for this evening at the Grape Expectations event in Hamilton. The outer reaches of hurricane Sandy have created a wind and rain storm in the region.

Hurricane Sandy

India and Slovakia Slam Child Snatchers

October 27, 2012 permalink

Christopher Booker reports that while authorities in the West are oblivious to the scandal in their child protection systems and family courts, those same institutions are becoming cause for protest in the rest of the world. India [1] [2] [3] [4] and five other Asian countries have joined Slovakia. Not mentioned by Mr Booker, Russia has also been vocal on the problem.



Indians join Slovaks in protesting against UK child snatchers

The behaviour of our 'child protection' system is a growing international scandal

Bratislava protest
Protesters outside the British Embassy in Bratislava

Concerned by my reporting on how our “child protection” system has gone off the rails, one of my readers, David Phipps of Witney, wrote about it to his MP, David Cameron. As Mr Phipps records on his Witterings of Witney blog, the PM replied that he was aware of my articles but that they give “a very misleading picture” of our care system. I may occasionally single out a case where “a wrong decision” was taken, but he wanted to assure his disbelieving constituent that such mistakes are “exceptionally rare”.

Among those rather better informed, and far less complacent, about what our social workers and courts get up to than Mr Cameron are a growing number of shocked foreign observers. The government of Slovakia, appalled at the number of children seized from Slovak parents in Britain for what it calls “no sound reason”, is threatening to take Britain to the European Court of Human Rights for what it believes is systematic violation of the rights of both children and parents.

When I was in India recently, a remarkable press conference took place in Delhi, attended by official representatives of five other Asian countries, at which senior legal figures, including the former chief justices of the Delhi and Punjab high courts, launched a petition calling on the Indian government to protest at the inhuman way so many Indian children are being seized in Britain and other Western countries. Earlier this year, widespread publicity was given to the Indian government’s intervention in the case of two Indian children seized by the Norwegian authorities, which resulted eventually in the children’s return to India.

The petition, signed by an array of Indian lawyers and human rights campaigners, listed 19 points criticising the “confiscatory child proceedings” which have torn apart so many Indian familes in the West. Nothing disturbs these lawyers more than the way in which social workers snatch children from their parents for the flimsiest of reasons, supported by courts which stand every cherished principle of law on its head, and rule that it is better for children to be looked after by strangers than by their own extended families.

Mr Cameron may remain oblivious to what is going on under his nose, but in the wider world it is becoming an international scandal.

Source: Telegraph (UK)

Rebecca Burns reports in English on forced adoption in the UK. The program includes comments by John Hemming. East European children are preferred because in Britain white children are more likely to be adopted than other races. The program is available from the website of the Voice of Russia and our local copy (mp3).

More Power for Children's Aid

October 26, 2012 permalink

The Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies (OACAS) has a news release and report presented to the government of Ontario, Child Welfare Report (both pdf). As usual in this kind of document, there are no occurrences of the word father, only one of mother, a note from a mother who thanked children's aid for caring for her children.

The recommendations all expand the role of children's aid societies, and augment their funding. They are:

  1. Ensure that Children’s Aid Societies are able to provide the right services at the right time.
  2. Deliver on the obligation to give Aboriginal authority over the practice of child welfare to Aboriginal communities, and adequately fund the services needed.
  3. Raise the age of protection from 16 to 18.
  4. Let Children’s Aid youth stay at home until they complete their education or training.
  5. Ensure that Children’s Aid Societies have sufficient funds to keep all children safe.
The news release quotes Sarah (a pseudonym):

Sarah, a former youth in care and current Children’s Aid client said “having an Aboriginal Children’s Aid worker really helps me find more about my heritage. I can relate to her and I feel more comfortable with her. She understands me more.” Before having an Aboriginal worker, Sarah had a hard time connecting with child welfare to get the support she needed to provide a safe home for her children. Having someone who understands where she comes from and the importance her heritage plays in her everyday life was the change Sarah needed to keep moving forward.

This report is in need of a rebuttal. The rebuttal news release could start with the story of Malachi Beaudry, a baby who died less than two days after going into the care of CAS in Sudbury.

Cruel and Unusual Punishment

October 25, 2012 permalink

When a teenaged boy killed two-year-old Aniyah Batchelor, the judge knew how to make him sorry for his crime. The boy was sentenced to therapeutic foster care.



13-year-old killer sentenced to foster care

A judge on Tuesday ordered that a 13-year-old Fort Washington boy who pleaded guilty to beating to death his 2-year-old foster sister in July be placed in therapeutic foster care.

The boy, who was 12 at the time of the killing, was charged as a juvenile. He pleaded "involved" -- the juvenile equivalent of guilty -- to involuntary manslaughter in September for the death of 2-year-old Aniyah Batchelor.

On July 3, Aniyah was found unresponsive at her foster family's Fort Washington home, and she was pronounced dead later that day. Prosecutors said that investigators found 53 bruises on Aniyah's body, 14 bruises on her head and severe internal injuries.

Family members of the toddler spoke about their pain during Tuesday's court hearing.

"I miss her every day," said the victim's mother, Stephany Cunningham.

"It has really torn my heart apart," said Aniyah's grandmother, Pamela Knight. "She was so young."

The Department of Juvenile Services recommended that the boy be placed in therapeutic foster care. An investigator with the department said that it was recommended that the boy not be put in a facility where he would be with boys with severe psychiatric issues.

But prosecutor Yvonne Cunningham asked that the boy be placed a more restrictive facility, saying that both the respondent and his parents are "in denial" about the incident.

Judge Sherrie Krauser said that the boy's family should not be held responsible for their foster child's actions.

"These are not uncaring parents," she said.

The case is unique because the boy hadn't exhibited behavior that served as a warning for parents and teachers, Krauser said, adding that it is not clear that the boy had an understanding of the harm he was inflicting.

"This situation is disturbing and troubling to all of us," she said.

Krauser said the boy should be placed in a foster home with no other children under the age of 18. Both he and his family members were recommended to undergo therapy.

The boy, wearing a red hooded sweatshirt and khaki-colored pants, sat in between his much-taller lawyers during the proceedings and did not speak.

Source: Washington Examiner

Scary Lawn

October 25, 2012 permalink

Ombudsman Oversight Needed
click for larger picture

Source: Facebook, Parental Alienation

An Ontario woman has found a way to scare off social workers for Halloween.

Shaken Baby Acquittal

October 25, 2012 permalink

In Ohio babsitter Jennifer M Campbell has been acquitted by a jury of causing the shaken baby death of five-month-old Colleen Dobbins.



Sitter acquitted in baby’s death

Defense suggested no abuse occurred

Colleen Dobbins
Colleen Dobbins
Jennifer M Campbell
Jennifer M. Campbell, 30, denied she shook the baby.

Erin Dobbins slumped into her husband’s arms and wept yesterday when a Franklin County jury acquitted a baby sitter of murder in the death of the couple’s 5-month-old daughter.

Jennifer M. Campbell, 30, who testified that she did not abuse Colleen Dobbins, smiled at jurors with a look of relief as the judge announced not-guilty verdicts on all counts, which also included felonious assault, involuntary manslaughter and child endangering.

“I can’t imagine a more difficult case,” Common Pleas Judge Pat Sheeran told the jury of seven men and five women, who deliberated for nearly 10 hours over two days.

Campbell declined to comment through her attorneys, Jonathan and James Tyack, as she left the courtroom with her husband and two dozen family members and friends.

“Sometimes in our zeal to protect children, the investigators and medical people in these cases rush to judgment without considering all the evidence,” Jonathan Tyack said. “I believe the jury’s verdict reflects that.”

The rush-to-judgment claim was central to the case presented by the defense.

Medical experts for the prosecution and defense presented conflicting testimony about the possible causes of bleeding in Colleen’s brain.

She died on March 24, 2011, two days after she stopped breathing at Campbell’s Northwest Side condo and was taken to Nationwide Children’s Hospital. The Franklin County coroner’s office determined that she died of a traumatic brain injury and ruled the death a homicide.

Campbell began providing day care for the baby at her Hedgerow Road home in January after her husband and Erin Dobbins met while studying for doctoral degrees at Ohio State University. Mrs. Dobbins’ husband is Dave Dobbins, an assistant lacrosse coach at Ohio State.

Campbell testified that Colleen was crying with increasing intensity after awakening from a nap. She said the baby arched her back and stiffened, then went limp in her arms and stopped breathing as she tried to comfort her.

Campbell, a former lifeguard, said she administered rescue breaths before calling 911.

The autopsy confirmed the findings of doctors at the hospital who diagnosed a subdural hematoma, or bleeding on the surface of the baby’s brain, and bleeding at the back of her eyes. Colleen had no external injuries.

The “most devastating” evidence against Campbell was blood that had collected between the layers of the retina, Assistant Prosecutor Robert Letson said in his closing argument.

Experts for both sides said the condition is considered evidence of shaken-baby syndrome.

But Jonathan Tyack said police investigators and doctors at the hospital were so sure of their initial theory that they never explored other possible causes for Colleen’s condition, such as a bleeding disorder.

“In the end, this case is about arrogance,” Tyack said in his closing. He told jurors that the charges against his client “should scare you to death.”

He and James Tyack, his brother, focused on an illness that caused Colleen to vomit and kept her home for three days the week before her death. They attempted to show that a daily log kept by Campbell and Mrs. Dobbins provided evidence that the baby, while no longer vomiting, wasn’t well when she returned to the sitter’s care.

Assistant Prosecutor Daniel Hawkins told the jury in his rebuttal closing that the defense strategy was to divert their attention from “clear-cut medical evidence.”

“Their whole defense is about possibilities,” he said. “Throw it all against the wall and see what sticks. This isn’t reasonable doubt. This is desperation. This is possible doubt.”

The jurors heard five days of testimony and more than three hours of closing arguments. Jury members declined to comment when approached after the verdicts.

Source: Columbus Dispatch

Professional Beating

October 24, 2012 permalink

Georgia DFCS supervisor Sharonika Wesby Wimberly knows how to treat children. When her own daughter overused her cell phone, she beat the girl with a broom handle, putting her in the hospital.



DFCS supervisor charged with child abuse

A regional supervisor for child abuse at the Department of Family and Children Services was arrested Tuesday on a charge of child cruelty in the first degree after she was accused of abusing her daughter.

Sharonika Wesby Wimberly
Richmond County jail photo

Sharonika Wesby Wimberly, 34, was arrested after Richmond County investigators were called to Richmond Academy by school authorities. They said Wimberly’s 15-year-old daughter had told them her mother beat her with a broom handle after she had overused her cell phone, sheriff’s Lt. Blaise Dresser said.

The teen was taken to a hospital, where she was diagnosed with deep tissue bruising on her arms, Dresser said.

Wimberly was booked into the Richmond County jail Monday night.

Dresser said Wimberly is in charge of Richmond, Columbia and Burke counties for DFCS.

Source: Augusta Chronicle

DEVELOPING ON 6: DFACS Employee Charged With Child Cruelty

Augusta, GA --

A 34-year-old Augusta woman has been charged with one count of Cruelty To Children In The First Degree.

The woman is identified as Sharonika Wesby Wimberly.

According to the incident report, Richmond County Sheriff's Office deputies arrested Winberly after being notified by Richmond County Board of Education Public Safety officers that Wimberly's 15-year-old daughter was suffering from injuries allegedly inflicted by Wimberly.

The girl's left elbow was severely swollen, according to the incident report, as well as bruising from the girl's left elbow to shoulder.

When the victim was asked about the origins of the injuries, the girl stated that "her mama beat her with a broom stick because she was texting when she wasn't supposed to", according to the incident report. The girl went on to say that "her mama usually just hits her with the belt so there are no marks, but that she just flipped out this time".

According to the incident report, the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services (DFACS), was notified, but they never responded.

It was originally thought the girl had suffered a fractured elbow, but after X-Rays were taken at a local hospital, it was determined she has deep tissue bruising.

WJBF News Channel 6 has confirmed that Wimberly is currently employed by DFACS.

We will continue to follow this story and provide mroe information as it becomes available.

Source: WJBF-TV

According to another report, when an abuse call was made to child protectors, Wimberly took the call on her on case.

witch with broom

Foster Family Appreciation Night

October 23, 2012 permalink

FACS Niagara is holding a Foster Family Appreciation Night. Canada Court Watch took the opportunity to organize a rally to draw attention to the failings of the foster care system. Photos: [Chris Steven] [2] [3] and video, YouTube and local copy (mp4).

Source: Canada Court Watch

Who's Your Laddie?

October 22, 2012 permalink

Pennsylvania foster Mother Yolanda M Clay left her ward alone in a hot car. When questioned by police, she could not name the boy.



Foster Mother Held for Court on Child Endangerment Charges

Yolanda Clay of Rankin faces charges for leaving a 4-year-old child with autism locked in car on 88-degree day in September.

Yolanda M. Clay, 54, of 238 Fourth St., Rankin, faces a formal arraignment Dec. 6 in Common Pleas Court on child endangerment and other charges after leaving a 4-year-old foster child in a locked car in Edgewood Towne Center on Sept. 6.

District Judge Kim M. Hoots held Clay for court after a preliminary hearing last week on charges of endangering the welfare of children—parent/guardian/other commits offense, recklessly endangering another person and disorderly conduct (hazardous physical offense) in connection with the incident.

According to a criminal complaint, a woman flagged down a Edgewood police officer in the Giant Eagle parking lot on Sept. 6 to report that a small child was in a black Ford Explorer with all the windows up. After calling for an ambulance, the officer was able to direct the child to unlock the car door.

The officer put the boy, who was sweating profusely, in the air-conditioned police car. He noted the child was unable to speak. The outdoor temperature was 88 degrees at the time and the temperature inside the car registered 100 degrees, the complaint stated.

When the child's foster mother returned to the car, she was arrested. The complaint indicates she was not able to provide the child's last name or date of birth. She did indicate that the child is autistic and cannot speak. She had custody of the child for more than two months, the complaint stated.

The foster father arrived at the scene but was not cooperative, police said.

The child was taken to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC for further evaluation. Greater Valley Foster Care Agency took custody of the child at the hospital.

Clay was charged and taken to Allegheny County Jail. She posted $5,000 bail and was released.

Source: Foot Hills - Regent Square Patch

woman stumped

Donation to CAS

October 19, 2012 permalink

Members of Rotaract, a group of yount Rotarians, presented a $250 donation to the Children's Aid Society of Brant. It is unlikely they would be happy with their donation if they fully understood what children's aid does with its money and power.



Brantford Rotaract surprises local agency

Remo Sambartolo
Brantford Rotaract president Remo Sambartolo, backed by executive members of the club, presents a cheque on Friday to a representative from the Children's Aid Society of Brant.

Brantford Rotaract members made a surprise visit to the Children's Aid Society of Brant on Friday to conduct a “random act of kindness.”

Rotaract members presented a CAS representative with a $250 cheque.

“We want to brighten the day of those in need,” said James Inwood, a member of the service club. “I think making it a surprise makes it that much more special.”

The fledgling local Rotaract group was established in 2009 and has about 25 members, many of them students at Laurier Brantford.

Connected with Rotary International, Rotaract is for those aged 18 to 30.

Brantford Rotaract sometimes works on joint projects with the Rotary Club of Brantford-Sunrise.

In addition to raising money for various causes, Rotaract members organize community projects. Later this month, they will help clean up a section of the banks of the Grand River.

Inwood said the club also plans to conduct other random acts of cheque donations to those in need throughout the year.

The CAS funding will go toward its breakfast program.

Source: Brantford Expositor

Cynthia Racine Guilty

October 19, 2012 permalink

A year after resolution, here is the outcome of the drunk driving case against social worker Cynthia Racine. On November 1, 2011 she pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a $3000 fine, a year's probation and one year OPD. Here is a photocopy of her record obverse and reverse. Earlier articles: [1] [2].

Foster Arson

October 19, 2012 permalink

Seventeen-year-old Leighla Long set fire to her foster home in Hungarton England. There is nothing in the news about what got her into foster care, but since her real family was in the courtroom at her sentencing, it is a reasonable guess that she was despondent over forcible separation from her family.



Teenage girl in foster care set her bedroom on fire, Leicester court told

A teenage girl in foster care set fire to her bedroom while two people were in the house, a court heard.

Leighla Long barricaded herself in the bedroom using furniture, but climbed out of the window.

Two police officers risked their lives kicking in the bedroom door, thinking she was trapped inside.

Long, 18, was sentenced to two years detention at Leicester Crown Court yesterday.

She admitted arson at the house in Town End, Hungarton, being reckless as to whether the lives of the foster carer and her 18-year-old son would be endangered on June 4.

Victoria Rose, prosecuting, said the house was badly damaged upstairs. Flames also spread through the loft to next door.

Long, who was 17 at the time, was behaving normally earlier that day.

Miss Rose said: "The foster carer then heard some banging and found the defendant on the conservatory roof.

"She told her to come down and went to call the police.

"The defendant went to her bedroom and pushed a chest of drawers across the door.

"The carer then saw smoke coming from under the door."

She and her son safely left the property.

Police officers, who arrived first, kicked open the defendant's bedroom door to find Long was gone.

Miss Rose said: "The fire was extensive with heavy smoke and teams of fire fighters were using breathing apparatus."

Three appliances and a support unit attended, along with 15 firefighters.

The fire was started deliberately by the defendant, but no accelerant was used.

The next door house was due to be sold, but had to come off the market because of the damage.

In interview, Long claimed she went on to the roof to self-harm and, after starting the fire, "forgot" about it.

Sentencing, Judge Michael Pert QC said: "You caused a considerable amount of damage.

"People didn't know you weren't in the building and two police officers made their way in to a burning house in an effort to save your life."

Harry Bowyer, mitigating, said: "She's had a very troubled upbringing.

"Her family are still in contact with her and sit in court today. She was unwell and unhappy at the time.

"She has since made progress while on remand in custody and is a much less angry person today.

"She wants to apologise to her foster carer and is well aware of the grief she's put her and the next door neighbour through."

Source: Leicester Mercury

Samantha Martin Report

October 19, 2012 permalink

The province of Alberta has produced a report on the death of Samantha Martin, a girl born with a genetic defect and returned to her mother at age 13. After years of malnutrition in foster care she had half the normal body weight for her age. She gained weight rapidly at home, but died of heart failure a few months later. The province has returned a verdict of death by natural causes, excusing itself of responsibility. But the report contains the usual suggestions that the social services system should do more.



Fatality report documents failures in foster care system

Samantha Martin
A new fatality report makes it clear Samantha Martin died after years of suboptimal care and a lack of medical attention while in foster care.
Photograph by: Supplied, Velvet Martin

EDMONTON - Samantha Martin weighed 51 pounds when she was 12, half the average weight for a girl that age.

When school officials phoned her foster mother to ask why Samantha’s lunches were not as “balanced” as those of her own son, they were told to “fill Samantha up with water,” according to a fatality inquiry report released to the media by the family Thursday.

The medically fragile child, who couldn’t speak because of a genetic disorder, died at age 13 after spending most of her life in foster care. Her parents fought for years to get a fatality inquiry, and although Judge Marilena Carminati found the child died from natural causes, her report demonstrates failures within Children’s Services.

The report also makes several basic recommendations for Children’s Services, including that caseworkers have an accurate understanding about the disabilities of children in their care. She recommends Children’s Services keep a diary for each child to ensure children actually get the annual medical checkup as required, that concerns from reliable sources are flagged and followed up on, and that caseworkers have reasonable caseloads.

“All (the report) is really saying is they should be doing their job,” said Velvet Martin, Samantha’s mother.

She gave Samantha up at seven weeks, believing that with her daughter’s diagnosis of Tetrasomy 18p, putting her in provincial care was the only way to get her the support she needed.

Martin became involved in Samantha’s life again when she was three, and increased her visits from then on.

Samantha went back to live with her parents just after her 13th birthday, and quickly gained 10 pounds. But five months later she came home from school one day retching and quickly went downhill, dying in a hospital a few days later when her parents took her off life support.

Human Services Minister Dave Hancock was unavailable to respond to the recommendations Thursday, and a spokesman for his department said he had not yet seen the report.

The report is dated Oct. 2, but is not scheduled to be publicly released by Alberta Justice until Nov. 2. Samantha’s mother sent it to the Journal on Thursday.

The report outlines large gaps in Samantha’s medical care.

Samantha’s pediatrician testified that normally a child with Samantha’s condition would come to see him every three months. He saw her only four times between 2000 and 2004.

The pediatrician also testified Samantha’s genetic disorder would not have made her underweight, that would be a result of a low caloric intake.

Samantha’s case worker from 1998 to 2005 was required to have in person visits with Samantha at lease once every three months. But there was a 14-month gap with no visits at all, and other gaps of seven or eight months at a time.

The previous caseworker also had only three visits during a 26-month period, when there should have been eight or nine, and when the third caseworker took over she did not visit Samantha between February and November.

The first caseworker met with Samantha’s teachers, who suggested Samantha might be having seizures and should get an electroencephalogram or brain scan. She starred that recommendation in her notes, but did not follow up.

The only records from Samantha’s next doctor’s visit are about a prescription for Resperidal, a drug for behavioural issues that has nothing to do with seizures.

The caseworker testified she assumed Samantha’s foster mother would have told the pediatrician about seizure concerns, even though the foster mother wasn’t at that meeting. The caseworker said she thought Samantha was having monthly doctor’s visits, but none were recorded. In fact, at one point records suggest Samantha didn’t see a pediatrician or family doctor for three years.

By late 2005, school officials were complaining about unexplained scratches and bruises on Samantha, her low weight and poor lunches.

Children’s Services special investigator Natasha Dancause reviewed the file and spoke with caseworkers. But she did not meet with Samantha or talk with any of the doctors involved, nor did she note the lack of records for medical checkups in the files.

Dancause decided in February 2006 that no investigation was warranted.

As a foster child, Samantha can only be named in public because her mother fought to get the publication ban lifted in the early days of the fatality inquiry.

Source: Edmonton Journal

The CBC story is Alberta girl, 13, failed by foster care, inquiry finds. Pat Niagara captured the CBC video (mp4).

Addendum: On November 2, the full report was released, available from the Province of Alberta or our local Public Fatality Inquiry (pdf). The report details Samantha Martin's years of neglect at the hands of the Alberta foster care system, acknowledging that her low weight was from malnutrition, not from her genetic condition. But the neglect is excused as contributing factor in her death on page 4:

However, Dr. McGonigle felt that Samantha’s underweight status which lasted for some years would not have been a contributing factor in her death, because when Samantha was returned to her biological mother and gained a healthy amount of weight, that would have countered any problems that would otherwise have been caused by the previous low weight. The autopsy report indicates that Samantha weighed 42 kg and was 1.42 m tall at the time of her death. Dr. Dowling, the pathologist, also testified that the fact that Samantha weighed far less than she should have for a considerable length of time was not a factor he could connect to her death in light of the other difficulties establishing a cause of death. Accordingly, it does not appear from the evidence that Samantha’s underweight years were a contributing factor in her death.

Ramarkably for a report of this kind, it names the persons responsible for Samantha's maltreatment. She was placed in the care of the (Mrs Joanie) Himschoot family near Morinville Alberta. Social workers were caseworkers Mrs Lorna Huff and Valerie Jensen, reviewer Diane Martin, and specialized investigator with Children’s Services Natasha Dancause [Kowalsky]. There is no mention of disciplinary action against any of these persons.

The report concludes with four recommendations:

  • That Children’s Services should ensure that those caseworkers who work with a foster child have accurate and up to date information from a reliable medical source about the child’s disability and in particular, the impact, if any, of the disability on the health, weight, and fragility of the child. This needs to be well understood in order for the worker to make informed assessments about how the child is doing in care, especially in the case of a nonverbal child who cannot communicate concerns with the child’s worker.
  • That Children’s Services should look at enhancing current policies to ensure that children are actually receiving their annual medical checkups as required, including a diary system so that the issue is flagged and not inadvertently overlooked.
  • That where a recommendation comes from a reliable source (such as a school assessment) that a doctor examine the child for a possible medical issue that the child may be experiencing, that processes are in place to ensure the issue is flagged for follow up by Children’s Services in an effective and meaningful way, including required entry by the Children’s Services child care worker or other support staff at Children’s Services into a diary system.
  • Ensure that caseworkers for the child have a reasonable case load so that they have the time they need to be able to adequately document and follow-up on medical needs of the child.

Samantha died after her genetic problems were aggravated by years of malnutrition. None of the recommendations would have contributed to saving her. The last, reasonable case load for caseworkers, is union-speak for hire more staff. The one factor that could have helped Samantha is not mentioned — provide for more control by the real parents. Had Samantha been fed by her mother for thirteen years instead of six months, the malnutrition would never have developed.

Earn Big Bucks!
Let Girl Die

October 19, 2012 permalink

A decade of legal wrangling in Oklahoma over insurance has allowed negligent foster mother Deanza Jones to collect a million dollars for the death of her ward Aurora Espinal-Cruz.



Ruling lets foster mother profit from baby's death to tune of $1 million, lawyer says

Aurora Espinal-Cruz
Aurora Espinal-Cruz

An appeals court ruling has allowed a Tulsa foster mother to “profit from her own neglect” by collecting about $1 million in insurance proceeds after a baby died in her care, according to court records and a motion by an attorney representing the child’s estate.

The ruling Wednesday by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that children in Oklahoma’s foster care system or their estates have no right to file “bad faith” lawsuits against companies providing insurance for the state.

Although the baby’s estate won a $24 million judgment in state court against the foster mother, she had no funds to pay the judgment. Two insurance companies providing policies for DHS claimed that their policies shouldn’t have to pay the claim, and the matter wound up in federal court.

In order to collect the judgment, attorneys representing the baby’s estate had to agree to give the foster mother a portion of any settlement proceeds from their federal “bad faith” lawsuit against the insurance companies.

U.S. District Judge Gregory Frizzell ruled that foster children lack standing to bring such lawsuits, preventing the baby’s estate from collecting on the entire judgment, and the 10th Circuit’s ruling upheld that decision.

Michael Barkett, an attorney representing the estate of 7-month-old Aurora Espinal-Cruz, said the firm plans to contest the ruling.

“If it (the ruling) stands, it preserves the ability of insurance companies to collude with negligent foster parents, avoid accountability to foster kids, and forecloses foster kids’ rights to protect and enforce their rights against such conduct,” Barkett said.

However, Keith Taunton, a spokesman for Colony Insurance Co., said, “The holding by the 10th Circuit in this appeal merely reaffirms Oklahoma law regarding the interpretation of insurance contracts generally and does not change anything as far as foster parents or the DHS foster program are concerned.”

Colony was one of two insurance companies paid by the Oklahoma Department of Human Services to provide liability insurance under the foster care program.

Aurora was 7 months old when she died in 2002 in the Tulsa foster home of Deanza Jones. No criminal charges were filed against Jones in the death.

But Barkett’s appeal to the 10th Circuit alleges that “while under the custody and care of foster parent Deanza Jones, Aurora suffered and died an agonizing death while left neglected and unattended for many days.”

“Aurora was found to have been suffering from untreated viral respiratory illness for days. She died by suffocation on her own emesis and coughed up blood while left abandoned by Jones in a filthy crib infested by cockroaches. Aurora’s skin in and around her diaper area had been eaten away by cockroaches,” the appeal states.

In filings that were part of a state lawsuit against her, Jones denied allegations that she neglected the child.

Source: Tulsa World


October 18, 2012 permalink

In Abiline Texas 22-month-old Tamryn Klapheke died in the care of her mother after a botched investigation by child protective services. As part of the press coverage, former social worker Joann Thomas reveals that CPS records are routinely falsified. Their term for the fakery is fluff. CPS has a way of handling its critics. They are now investigating Joann for her care of her own daughter.



KLAPHEKE DEATH: Ex-CPS worker alleges document tampering wasn't uncommon at Abilene office

ABILENE, Texas -

We're getting a better idea of what may be happening inside Abilene's CPS office from someone who used to work there.

A former caseworker says she tried to alert the state to practices within the Abilene office. And now that caseworker is in the middle of a cps investigation involving her own daughter.

"They've always done it, they just now got caught," said Joann Thomas. That's the explanation she gives after learning Abilene's Department of Family Protective Services is under criminal investigation.

Thomas left her job as a CPS investigator a little over a year ago. At the time, Thomas says she wrote an email to her supervisor and state officials unveiling what she believed were bad practices within the Abilene office; including the false documentation of cases.

"So I can go in and put in documentation...if I save the first screen, that's going to time stamp it. But, I can go into the actual document and save that as many times as I want to and save I can put something in the computer and make it look like I documented it on this date, but in actuality I didn't," said Thomas.

Tuesday, Abilene Police Chief Stan Standridge announced his department is investigating three women; Bit Whitaker, Gretchen Denny, and Barbara McDaniel for allegedly tampering with or fabricating evidence in the case of Tamryn Klapheke, the 22 month old girl found dead from neglect inside a Dyess home. Her mother, Tiffany Klapheke, now sits in the Taylor County Jail.

Fabricating or tampering with evidence is something Thomas says was not uncommon within the Abilene CPS office. "I remember one particular supervisor - she wanted me to go out and do a removal, and I was like, I'm not removing these kids, there's no grounds for removal of these kids...and she said, yeah you are, and I'll help you if you need me to fluff the affidavit. That's another phrase that you use that everyone in the agency knows what you're talking about," said Thomas.

We want to reiterate that during just the past month, Thomas has become the focus of a CPS investigation herself, a year after sending that email about CPS.

Source: KTXS Abilene

Addendum: Child protectors never miss a chance to plead for more money and power. In this article the Texas CASA is using the Klapheke case to beg for more funding. CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) gets into a case after it goes to court. The Klapheke case never got to court, so more funding would not have changed the outcome.



Nonprofit Says Worker Shortage Hurts Their Ability to Protect Kids 10/20/12

Midland, TX -It’s a story gaining national attention: a child abuse case in Abilene that turns tragic.

2 months ago 22-year-old Tiffany Klapheke left her 22-month-old daughter Tamryn to die in her own soiled bed sheets, while her husband was deployed overseas.

Just 6 days before the toddlers death a CPS employee closed an eleven-month investigation into the family. That employee has since resigned.

Klapheke remains in the Taylor County Jail on injury to a child charges.

The Abilene Police Department is investigating the Abilene CPS office.

Now a Midland children’s advocacy group is speaking out, hoping to stop tragedies like this one from happening again. The problem is, they say a shortage of workers and volunteers is hurting their ability to protect kids.

CASA of West Texas is a nonprofit group that serves as a voice and advocate for children in foster care. They work closely with CPS and CASA says it's more important than ever that they work together, since both organizations are overloaded with cases.

"It’s just tragic what happened to that child in Abilene,” says CASA of West Texas Executive Director Patty Pisklak. “This is a prime example of why there needs to be another set of eyes and ears on a case."

Volunteers with CASA work closely with children in foster care and in some cases they work just as close with Child Protective Services.

"We have had instances where we've had to call CPS and say this is going on where the child’s placed and that's not ok, they're not safe, they're at risk for abuse when they're in foster care as well," Pisklak explains.

CPS caseworkers across the state are backlogged with cases because of an employee shortage. CASA of West Texas says it's more urgent than ever that their organizations work together.

"We desperately need people to stand up for these kids and make sure they don't get abused again."

But there's no CASA in the Abilene area and even our local office is struggling to find volunteers.

"We’ve got 30 kids right now in this community, or in our 7 County service area that don't have a volunteer," Pisklak claims.

In fact, CASA of West Texas currently serves 300 children, but they only have 91 volunteers.

"They need somebody, they need somebody. They move from foster home to foster home and generally their CASA is the most consistent person in their life"

All CASA volunteers will have a background check and will be required to take 30 hours of training. For more information on how to help call CASA of West Texas at 432-683-1114.

Officials with CPS tell us the worker shortage has been a problem since April and they are currently working on their recruitment and retention efforts. CASA says the reason there is no branch of their nonprofit in Abilene is because of hesitation from the legal community there.

Source: KOSA

Addendum: The scandal is spreading. Enclosed is an article on the suspension of Geneva Schroeder, the program administrator for the Child Protective Services office in Wichita Falls. Following that is an opinion piece by Robert Franklin and two articles he refers to.



Local CPS administrator put on leave

Move linked to Abilene investigation

Abiline CPS
Police detectives come out of the Child Protective Services Office in Abilene, Texas, Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012, after executing a search warrant Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012. Police have launched a rare investigation of the Texas child protection agency after a 22-month-old girl died and her mother claimed her military husband's deployment overseas left her too stressed to care for their three children.
AP Photo/The Abilene Reporter-News, Nellie Doneva

The program administrator for the Child Protective Services office in Wichita Falls has been placed on emergency leave in connection with an investigation into CPS in Abilene that involves possible tampering or withholding evidence from an investigation.

Marleigh Meisner, a spokeswoman for CPS, confirmed that Geneva Schroeder was put on paid emergency leave Monday. Meisner said she can't discuss the reason because of the ongoing investigation.

"It's pending the outcome of the criminal investigation by the Abilene Police Department," she said.

In a memo given to Schroeder on Monday, acting Region 2 and 9 Director Camille Gilliam informed the Wichita Falls director of the decision to put her on emergency leave. The memo indicates that Schroeder must be available by phone during regular business hours. She is subject to be recalled for regular or other duties as assigned.

Patrick Crimmins, a CPS spokesman in Austin, said Schroeder is the highest ranking executive in the investigations program in the region and reports directly to the Region 2 and 9 director.

According to a news release by the APD, local authorities there opened an investigation into the Abilene CPS office Oct. 16 for its role in tampering with or fabricating physical evidence gathered during the CPS investigation of the Aug. 28 death of 22-month-old Tamryn Klapheke at Dyess Air Force Base. The child's mother, Tiffany Klapheke, remains in Taylor County Jail on $500,000 bond.

The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services placed Regions 2 and 9 Director Bit Whitaker, Schroeder's boss, on emergency leave Friday. Also placed on emergency leave was Barbara McDaniel, investigation supervisor, and Gretchen Denny, the former CPS program director in Abilene. Denny was reassigned Oct. 1 as a resolution specialist. Meisner said Denny reported to Schroeder, who also served as the regional director for investigations.

Police Chief Stan Standridge said in the news release that his detectives had concerns about the level of cooperation by CPS in the case, an investigation that by state Family Code dictates the two entities work together.

"In the ensuing days following the death of the child, the department became aware of instances in which CPS employees were told by supervisors not to cooperate with law enforcement," the chief said in the Oct. 16 message. "Additionally, records were requested by detectives as part of the investigation. However, those records were not immediately rendered."

The agency eventually provided documents to the detectives after the Taylor County District Attorney's office requested the same information. But the chief said there were concerns about the validity of the records.

Authorities executed a search warrant Friday at the Abilene CPS office as well as a supervisor's home and car.

Texas DFPS is conducting an internal investigation at the Abilene office, Meisner said. She added that the Wichita Falls office is not under investigation. She said she wasn't sure who will take Schroeder's place while she is on administrative leave.

Source: Wichita Falls Times Record News

Police, DA Launch Broad Investigation of Child Protective Services in Wake of Child’s Death

Tiffany Nicole Klapheke of Abilene, Texas, was so upset about her husband’s overseas military deployment that she walked off and left her three children, ages three years, 22 months and 6 months, alone, apparently for several days. Such, at any rate is her claim. What’s certain is that her 22 month old daughter Tamryn died of dehydration and malnutrition and the other two children were near death when police discovered them.

Klapheke is in jail on $500,000 bond, the two remaining children are in foster care and her husband has filed for divorce.

But that’s only part of the story. The rest is that the police are investigating the local Child Protective Services for allegedly covering up its involvement in Tamryn’s death. Read about it here (Associated Press, 10/16/12) and here (Houston Chronicle, 10/16/12). Although no charges have yet been filed, expect that to happen in the near future. For the time being, several Child Protective Services employees have either been fired or quit in the wake of Tamryn’s death and the police investigation.

Put simply, it looks like CPS knew that Klapheke’s children were at risk, but a caseworker closed the agency’s file on the children a matter of days before Tamryn died.

Agency spokesman Patrick Crimmins said a Child Protective Services caseworker assigned to investigate allegations of medical neglect against Klapheke closed the case soon after being promoted to supervisor and just six days before Tamryn died.

That employee resigned two weeks after the child died and her supervisor was disciplined. But the case turns out to be far broader than merely the malfeasance of a single caseworker and her supervisor. Police and the Taylor County District Attorney have executed warrants for agency documents and computers.

[Abilene Police Chief Stan] Standridge and Taylor County District Attorney James Eidson declined to say what charges police are considering. However, Standridge said officers executed a search warrant on the local CPS office and a supervisor’s home and car Tuesday morning after finding probable cause to suggest documents and other evidence existed to support allegations of evidence tampering.

Eidson said “there is more than one person” being investigated at the office.

According to the search warrant affidavit, a regional director, a program director and an investigative supervisor are suspected of tampering with evidence.

But that’s just the Klapheke case; apparently the problem extends beyond that case and beyond agency incompetence to intentional wrongdoing. As the Houston Chronicle reports, police are investigating whether agency officials have hidden evidence of abused or neglected children, tampered with evidence and lied to police, all in an effort to cover up the negligence of caseworkers, supervisors and others.

But it’s the behind-the-scenes action, in which police said CPS workers were told by super­visors not to cooperate with officers investigating the case, that now takes center stage and could affect hundreds of other cases in the Abilene region.

“The evidence suggests that the conduct being investigated predates the Klapheke investigation,” Chief Stan Standridge told the Houston Chronicle, which reported Monday that a CPS investigator quietly closed a previous case involving Tamryn and her sister six days before the girls were found…

“In the ensuing days following the death of the child, the department became aware of instances in which CPS employees were told by supervisors not to cooperate with law enforcement,” Standridge told reporters Tuesday…

The search warrant affidavit details suspicions that CPS regional administrator Bit Whitaker; program director Gretchen Denny, who has since relinquished that post and been reassigned; and CPS supervisor Barbara McDaniel, who was later reprimanded by CPS; tampered with evidence involving the Klapheke investigation.

Specifically, the affidavit states that another CPS worker, Rebecca Tapia, “was ordered not to release any information or photographs to medical staff or law enforcement” after Tamryn’s death and while investigators were at the hospital with the surviving sisters.

“Rebecca did not provide a photograph because she was directed by a supervisor not to provide a photograph,” Standridge told the Chronicle.

According to the affidavit, Abilene detectives interviewed 12 CPS employees in the weeks since Tamryn’s death and believe that several supervisors “have intentionally and knowingly concealed, altered or destroyed records and other documentation material to this investigation because of the damaging nature of the documents.”

McDaniel was interviewed Sept. 18 and according to the affidavit, she “lied” for several hours and ultimately admitted to giving the order not to share information.

Another person interviewed recounted several cases involving other police agencies in which “Gretchen Denny and Inv. Supervisor Barbara McDaniel had ordered investigators not to provide reports to law enforcement.”

High Turnover of Staff at Child Protectice Services

Finally, the root of the problem is what we’ve come to expect – understaffing by Child Protective Services. As happened in Arizona, Texas pays its caseworkers too little and gives them oversized case loads in high-stress jobs. That’s an iron-clad guarantee of high turnover, which is precisely what’s going on in both states. High turnover means ever-larger case loads for those who stay on resulting in higher stress, etc. creating an increasing spiral of underserved kids.

There was a backlog of cases in the Abilene office at the time of the toddler’s death due to a shortage of caseworkers, [CPS spokesman Patrick Crimmins] said. Instead of 16 caseworkers, there were six.

There’s a shortage of caseworkers statewide, he said, and chronic turnover is an issue. As of Oct. 12, the state had 1,495 case workers — more than 400 less than it should have, he said.

“We’re, frankly, caught in a pretty vicious cycle,” Crimmins said.

However much we pay child welfare workers, they’re not meant to be a substitute for families. There will always be a need for Child Protective Services, because there will always be some people who abuse and neglect children. But the decline of intact families and the rise of single-parent households has increased the likelihood of child abuse and neglect beyond anything it was in the 60s and early 70s. The simple fact is that a single parent, regardless of how dedicated, can’t care for children as well as two parents can. This society’s embrace of divorce and single-parent child rearing is one of the most destructive developments of the past 40 years; its consequences are many and essentially all of those are bad. We can reverse the tide of single-parent households, but it’ll take a political will that’s entirely lacking now. Until we find it, we’ll continue to throw money at Child Protective Services and wonder why so many children get hurt or killed.

Source: Fathers and Families.

FILE - An undated file photo provided by the Taylor, Texas, County Sheriff's Office shows Tiffany Nicole Klapheke. West Texas police are investigating the state agency that protects children for its alleged mishandling of a case involving Klapheke who claims her military husband's deployment overseas left her too stressed to care for their three young children, one of whom died.
AP Photo/Taylor County Sheriff's Office, File

Police probe Texas agency in case where child died

LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) — Police have launched a rare investigation of the Texas child protection agency after a 22-month-old girl died and her mother claimed her military husband's deployment overseas left her too stressed to care for their three children.

Abilene police Chief Stan Standridge said in an emailed statement Tuesday that the department began investigating the local Child Protective Services office after "certain CPS supervisors" refused to cooperate with officers investigating the Aug. 28 death of Tamryn Klapheke.

The girl died at an Abilene hospital after being found unresponsive at her home at Dyess Air Force Base. She weighed only 17.5 pounds and her body had chemical burns, indicating she had been exposed to human waste, according to a preliminary autopsy report from the Tarrant County Medical Examiner's Office in Fort Worth. It said Tamryn suffered dehydration and malnutrition from a lack of basic care over a period of time.

Her mother, Tiffany Nicole Klapheke, faces three felony charges of injury to child. After her arrest, she claimed she was too stressed by her husband's deployment to care for their three young children.

Agency spokesman Patrick Crimmins said a Child Protective Services caseworker assigned to investigate allegations of medical neglect against Klapheke closed the case soon after being promoted to supervisor and just six days before Tamryn died.

In doing so, the employee violated agency guidelines that require a final face-to-face visit and someone else to sign off on the closure, he said.

"You want to see the family again because you don't know what might have changed since you saw them," Crimmins said.

The employee hadn't seen the family in about 10 months when she closed the case, he said. She resigned a couple of weeks after Tamryn died. Phone numbers listed in the former caseworker's name were either disconnected or had a continuous busy signal Tuesday.

Her former supervisor, who oversaw the investigation of the allegations, has been disciplined, he added.

"It was a bad case, admittedly," Crimmins said, referring to how it was handled. "There's no question about that."

He said a criminal investigation of the agency was "rare" and that "we are cooperating fully with Abilene police."

Standridge and Taylor County District Attorney James Eidson declined to say what charges police are considering. However, Standridge said officers executed a search warrant on the local CPS office and a supervisor's home and car Tuesday morning after finding probable cause to suggest documents and other evidence existed to support allegations of evidence tampering.

Eidson said "there is more than one person" being investigated at the office.

According to the search warrant affidavit, a regional director, a program director and an investigative supervisor are suspected of tampering with evidence. A phone number listed for one of them had been disconnected by Tuesday, and there were no public listings for the other two. Their names are being withheld because no charges have been filed.

Klapheke remained jailed Tuesday in lieu of $500,000 bond. Jail records did not list an attorney for her.

Her two other daughters, ages 6 months and 3 years when Tamryn died, were treated for severe neglect at a children's hospital in Fort Worth, about 150 miles east of Abilene. They are now in foster care, Crimmins said.

There was a backlog of cases in the Abilene office at the time of the toddler's death due to a shortage of caseworkers, he said. Instead of 16 caseworkers, there were six.

There's a shortage of caseworkers statewide, he said, and chronic turnover is an issue. As of Oct. 12, the state had 1,495 case workers — more than 400 less than it should have, he said.

"We're, frankly, caught in a pretty vicious cycle," Crimmins said.

Klapheke's husband, Thomas, filed for divorce last week. His attorney's office said there would be no comment on the case.

Source: Associated Press, hosted by Google

Police probe of CPS widens after baby's death

Police investigators seized computers, cell phones and files from Texas Child Protective Services offices in Abilene on Tuesday as part of a widening probe into accusations that top officials directed workers to withhold child abuse files and photographs from law enforcement after the death of a child.

The rare action against one of the state's largest agencies comes six weeks after Abilene police discovered 22-month-old Tamryn Klapheke dead of dehydration and her two sisters barely alive inside a Dyess Air Force Base home on Aug. 28.

The three are believed to have been essentially abandoned for at least a week by their mother, Tiffany Klapheke, now jailed on three counts of child abuse.

But it's the behind-the-scenes action, in which police said CPS workers were told by super­visors not to cooperate with officers investigating the case, that now takes center stage and could affect hundreds of other cases in the Abilene region.

"The evidence suggests that the conduct being investigated predates the Klapheke investigation," Chief Stan Standridge told the Houston Chronicle, which reported Monday that a CPS investigator quietly closed a previous case involving Tamryn and her sister six days before the girls were found.

Inexplicably, CPS caseworker Claudia Gonzalez closed the case without visiting the family a final time and did so without a supervisor's signature, which is a firing offense under CPS rules. She has since resigned.

"In the ensuing days following the death of the child, the department became aware of instances in which CPS employees were told by supervisors not to cooperate with law enforcement," Standridge told reporters Tuesday.

'We are cooperating'

CPS Spokesman Patrick Crimmins declined to discuss the search warrant or the accusations. "We are cooperating fully with the Abilene Police Department," he said.

The search warrant affidavit details suspicions that CPS regional administrator Bit Whitaker; program director Gretchen Denny, who has since relinquished that post and been reassigned; and CPS supervisor Barbara McDaniel, who was later reprimanded by CPS; tampered with evidence involving the Klapheke investigation.

Specifically, the affidavit states that another CPS worker, Rebecca Tapia, "was ordered not to release any information or photographs to medical staff or law enforcement" after Tamryn's death and while investigators were at the hospital with the surviving sisters.

"Rebecca did not provide a photograph because she was directed by a supervisor not to provide a photograph," Standridge told the Chronicle.

According to the affidavit, Abilene detectives interviewed 12 CPS employees in the weeks since Tamryn's death and believe that several supervisors "have intentionally and knowingly concealed, altered or destroyed records and other documentation material to this investigation because of the damaging nature of the documents."

No one charged

McDaniel was interviewed Sept. 18 and according to the affidavit, she "lied" for several hours and ultimately admitted to giving the order not to share information.

Another person interviewed recounted several cases involving other police agencies in which "Gretchen Denny and Inv. Supervisor Barbara McDaniel had ordered investigators not to provide reports to law enforcement."

None of the three officials named in the affidavit, whom the police chief called suspects, have been charged. The Chronicle's attempts to contact the three Tuesday were unsuccessful.

A source close to the probe told the Chronicle top CPS officials had been warned this summer by the Taylor County district attorney about omitting data on court documents involving abused children who had been removed from their homes. Yet, one day after Tamryn's death, CPS' paperwork sent to prosecutors omitted details about previous investigations of the family.

Source: Houston Chronicle

Foster and Run

October 18, 2012 permalink

When Arizona foster dad Quentin Price got into a car accident he grabbed his two young foster children and fled the scene. He did not want to get arrested on outstanding warrants. All in the best interest of the child.



PD: AZ foster dad arrested for fleeing serious crash

Quentin Price
Quentin Price


An Arizona foster dad is facing charges after allegedly running from the scene of a crash with two children in his care.

Phoenix police said Quentin Price first denied being involved in the crash in the 2400 block of East McDowell Road on Tuesday night.

Price later admitted to taking his 1-year-old and 5-year-old children out of the car following the crash and running away because he did not want to get arrested, according to the report. There was a misdemeanor warrant for Price's arrest.

His girlfriend, his 15-year-old daughter and 1-month-old child remained at the scene.

Price said he got into a stranger's car who took them to his apartment after he told the driver that he had warrants and needed to get away.

Police said Price's girlfriend was seriously hurt in the crash and is not able to care for the child.

Police said only the 1-month-old child was in a car seat, and it was not properly restrained.

Price was arrested on two counts of child abuse and one count of giving a false report to police.

Source: KPHO CBS 5

hit and run

Shut Up While We Steal Your Family and Property

October 17, 2012 permalink

Richard Browning-Smith was hospitalized in 2009 for foot surgery. He spent some time recuperating in Horkesley Manor care home in Essex England, where social workers, without a medical diagnosis, decided he was unable to look after himself. He went to a bus stop on his own to get home, but social workers took him back by force and held him in the dementia unit. His son Richard Jr was out of the country at the time. But on his return, he tried to get his father, still able to solve crosswords and play chess, back home. Social workers complained about the condition of the father's home, so Richard Jr arranged to spend £60,000 on renovations. When Richard took his father home from Horkesley Manor, police arrived to take him back, but as there was no custody order in place, they left without taking dad. But a few weeks later Horkesley Manor completed the legal formalities and retrieved him. A year into the ordeal, Horkesley became the deputy of Richard Sr, what is called a guardian in other places. They got full control of his assets, including his bank accounts. Soon Richard Jr had to pay rent to live in what had been the family home for 50 years and his family heirlooms are in storage waiting to be auctioned.

Richard Jr has fought back through the courts, reaching the European Court of Human Rights. He has also drawn public attention to the case. Two newspaper articles are enclosed. A judge has ordered Richard Jr to avoid naming a council official, court officials or anything to do with the Court of Protection either through the press or social network sites, while warning that violation could result in three to six months in jail. On this coming November 2 the court will conduct a hearing on Richard Jr's capacity to litigate. This is a British procedure for getting rid of recalcitrant opponents by declaring them unfit to conduct their own litigation. A lapdog gets appointed in their place to concede everything the opponent wants. Mr Browning-Smith knows English, Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, Latin and French. Doesn't sound incompetent.

This is the familiar story of a child abducted and placed in foster care to justify a claim on the public treasury. In the Browning-Smith case, it is at the other end of life, and the father's estate may be part of the temptation.

Because of the threats against Richard Jr, we won't mention the source for these paragraphs.



Son in legal battle with county to save heirlooms

Richard Browning-Smith
Heading for court – Richard Browning-Smith outside the Mersea home of his father

A MAN is set for a court battle with social services bosses, who want to sell his father’s heirlooms to pay for his care.

Richard Browning-Smith wants Essex County Council removed as the legal guardian of his father, also called Richard.

He opposes the authority’s plan to finance his father’s care at Great Horkesley Manor by auctioning the work of two of Impressionist artist Camille Pisarro’s descendants worth an estimated £120,000.

He is certain there is a conflict of interest with the council paying for the care while holding the family purse strings.

Mr Browning-Smith, 57, will next month take the council to the Court of Protection in a bid to become his father’s legal guardian and end plans to sell the family heirlooms.

He would pay his bills by remortgaging his home in Maltings Wharf, Manningtree.

He said: “Essex County Council is taking me to the Court of Protection in June to get permission to sell the family heirlooms at Chelmsford,which I will contest.

“I will also ask for damages against Essex because they have cost my father and me so much money in legal fees.

“You cannot believe it could happen in this country.

“It is a warning to people they should make their wishes known – for example in a living will – before they are deemed to have become incapable. They can then make their own deputies for the future – a son or daughter, or someone from the next generation.

“Otherwise, you could see the county council appointed and you could be locked up for your own protection.”

Mr Browning-Smith says his widowed father was sent to the care home in October 2009 following a social worker’s assessment at Essex County Hospital, Colchester, where he spent three weeks recovering from a foot operation.

He said: “The social worker said he didn’t know where he wanted to live and didn’t know how to handle his finances.”

Mr Browning-Smith did not become his father’s legal guardian at that time as he was out of the country.

Last November, Essex County Council appointed its own people as deputies, despite Mr Browning-Smith’s efforts to get a family friend to stand in.

Half of Mr Browning-Smith’s care is paid for by benefits and a pension, while his son has so far been paying some of the remainder.

He has now been told he can no longer pay himself, and that it must come from his father’s wealth.

The works by Pisarro’s son, Lucien, and grand-daughter, Orovida, came to the Browning-Smith family via son Richard’s late godfather and Lucien’s uncle, John Bensusan-Butt.

Now they are being held in storage, along with the family’s antique furniture.

Mr Browning-Smith said his father had short-term memory loss, but not dementia, and was capable of answering crossword clues. He said he wanted to return to West Mersea, his home since 1964.

He added: “If he was here, he would be much happier.

“It is ridiculous for them to try and indoctrinate you and say he is happy there.

He added: “This has cost me nearly £30,000 in legal fees, but if it results in getting my father back, it is money well spent. ”

A spokesman for the council said: “Essex County Council cannot comment about this case.”

Source: Daily Gazette News, Colchester Essex

Mersea Man takes Council to European Court

home of Richard Browning-Smith in West Mersea
click on image for more detail

Eighty-year-old Richard Browning-Smith of West Mersea had been a heavy smoker all his adult life, and in 2009 he was diagnosed with peripheral arterial disease. In September of that year, he was admitted to hospital to have two toes amputated.

Richard lived at Lavender Cottage, Kingsland Beach, which had been his family home since 1964, and he set off for Colchester General hospital in the full expectation that he would be returning as soon as he had been discharged. Events were to prove otherwise.

After his operation, he was sent to Horkesley Manor care home for a short period of recuperation, after which, it was understood, he was to return to Lavender Cottage. But while he was at the care home, visiting social workers decided that he would be incapable of looking after himself if left alone. They claimed that he did not fully understand his finances and was not sure if he wanted to return home. However, when they found him walking to the nearest bus stop on his way back to Mersea, they forced him to return to the care home, stating later that they 'thought he might be a danger to himself'. He was admitted directly to the dementia unit.

At this time, Richard's son - also named Richard - was abroad, and when he returned to the UK at the end of December he went immediately to Horkesley Manor.

He demanded to know why his father was being held against his will, and was told by social workers that the 80-year-old 'no longer had the capacity to look after himself' and was suffering from dementia.

They added that the house at Kingsland Beach was unsuitable for a man of his age as it was not in a good state of repair.

'I found this particularly astonishing', said Richard. 'My father had been happily living in the house up to the time of the operation, and now it was suddenly being deemed unfit by people who knew nothing about it. As for dementia, like most people of his age my father had a degree of short-term memory loss, but he was still quite capable of doing crosswords and playing chess, so I have no idea what they meant by that. I'm not aware that he underwent any medical diagnosis.'

When he learned that the condition of Lavender Cottage was one of the reasons that he was being kept in the care home, Richard's father immediately gave his son access to his bank account and asked him to make whatever repairs and renovations that were necessary.

'We spent nearly £60,000 on double glazing, a new heating system and many other improvements', said Richard 'but it made no difference. Even though I told them that the family would pay for round-the-clock care to keep him at home where he belonged, the social workers said that they still intended to impose a deprivation of liberty order on my father.

'However, before they could get the order signed, I went to Horkesley Manor and collected him. He was delighted to be going home, but shortly after we got there the police arrived. They said that the social workers were claiming that I had abducted my father, but since the deprivation of liberty order was not yet in force, they admitted that they were powerless to act. My father was adamant that he wanted to remain in his own home, and after a three-hour discussion the police left.

'The following week, I took my father on a boating holiday along the Suffolk coast. We were in Felixstowe when I received an email from social services stating that the deprivation of liberty order was now in place and that I was to return my father to Horkesley Manor immediately.

'We had made an appointment at the local clinic to have the dressings on his foot changed, and when we arrived the police were waiting. I was powerless to stop them driving my father away.

'A week later, I went to the high court in London to get him released from what we both considered a prison sentence, but my appeal was refused. What's more, the social services department at Essex County Council applied to the court to impose conditions that would prevent me - in their words - abducting my father again. This means that if I want to see him I have to give the care home a week's notice, and we are only allowed to be together inside the building.

'At the end of 2010, social services instigated a process to become my father's legal deputy. They didn't have to give any grounds or reasons, but they were still granted full control of my father's finances and property. They had access to his bank accounts and stocks and shares holdings, and were technically landlords of the family home.

'Up to this point, I had been paying my father's care home bills, even though neither of us wanted him to be there. I was told that, in future, these costs would be met by social services who would sequester funds directly from my father's bank account

'I was still living in Lavender Cottage, but the council said that since they were now legally responsible for the property, in future I would have to pay them rent of up to £1.500 per month if I wanted to remain in my family home of nearly 50 years. They made it very clear that they wanted me out as soon as possible.

'They are also trying to sell my father's belongings, which they have impounded at a storage facility in Chelmsford. There are paintings by French artist Camille Pissarro's son and granddaughter that are worth well over £100,000, as well as antique furniture and other items. So far, I have been charged storage fees of nearly £5,000.'

Over the course of his battle with Essex County Council, Richard claims to have accumulated legal fees of over £30,000. However, his latest tactic has cost nothing. He has issued a writ of Habeas Corpus - an action that is always heard without cost in an English court - against Essex County Council for the unlawful detention of his father.

'Justice Bean, who presided over the case, instructed the council to appoint an official solicitor to act for them', said Richard, 'but although at first she agreed, a week later she mysteriously refused to pick up the case. It is obvious to me that this was because Essex County Council just didn't want the hearing to go ahead.

'However, the fact that all avenues for redress in the UK jurisdiction were now exhausted meant that I could apply to the European court of human rights for a judgement. Because there are allegations of false imprisonment and cruelty, the case has been given a fast-track grading and I am hopeful that it will be heard in the very near future.

'Apart from their grave treatment of my father, Essex County Council have threatened me with contempt of court proceedings and possible imprisonment because I have resisted their heartless, bullying tactics. But I will continue to refuse to co-operate with them while they are treating my family with such contempt.

'I have served notice on them that the case is now being heard in Strasbourg and asked them to supply all the details and paperwork that they have so far kept from me. If they refuse, the court of human rights will make an order against them.

'They have been holding me to account like a criminal; now it's their turn. I am determined to get my father out of their clutches.'

The Essex county Council social services department said that it was unable to comment.

Source: Mersea Island Courier

Addendum: In a court order dated October 12, 2012 judge Eldergill has comprehensively gagged Mr Browning-Smith and the court is taking steps to disqualify him from litigating and to take control of his assets. If successful, the court system will take the estates of both father and son, maybe a quarter million pounds. It will be used to pay for the so-called care for Richard Senior. A reasonable guess is £10,000 a year for his few remaining years, the rest to be divvied up by the lawyers.

Addendum: While Richard is safely muzzled by a court-imposed gag order, the press is free to spin the case against him. All the same facts he told in his own story, but presented in a way showing the court officers as the heros.



A Pissarro painting, the struggle to pay for care and the public's right to know

Following a campaign to report on the Court of Protection, a son's plea for publicity has illustrated the very difficult issues it is forced to confront

painting by Lucien Pissarro

It began with a call about a Pissarro painting. Earlier this year, a man whose elderly father had been taken into care contacted The Independent and said his local authority wanted to sell off a series of family heirlooms. Among the items the council was hoping to auction in order to pay for the elderly man's care bills was a 1906 landscape by the Franco-British artist Lucien Pissarro.

The man's son insisted his local authority was being mendacious, refusing to return his father to his home and choosing to auction items that held deeply sentimental value to the family.But the full story is significantly more complex. After The Independent successfully led a consortium of news organisations to seek access to the case in the Court of Protection, it can now be revealed for the first time.

Far from being mendacious, the court was told how the local authority had bent over backwards to accommodate the son's wishes, despite the fact that he had spent more than £70,000 of his father's assets without permission and had been allowed to live in his house rent-free. The judge, meanwhile, spared the man a referral for prosecution and a potentially lengthy jail sentence after he repeatedly committed contempt of court by illegally posting details about the case on Facebook, with his local newspaper and on the walls of his local fish-and-chip shop.

The case is important because it sheds light on how councils must find ways to pay for elderly patients who may need years of round-the-clock supervision. It also reinforces the importance of media being able anonymously to report complicated cases in private court hearings so that both sides of a story can be told accurately and the public informed about how such courts work.

With a population of increasing longevity, requests by local authorities to sell someone's assets are becoming increasingly common. Once someone becomes incapacitated and needs expensive assistance, possessions can be sold off to pay for that care. But the sale of such items can often prove deeply traumatic for a patient's family.

The problem with accusations of wrongdoing from relatives of patients is that they are difficult to assess because care proceedings for those who have lost the capacity to make vital decisions about their lives are dealt with by the Court of Protection.

Most proceedings within the important but little-known Court of Protection are held in private and the media have to apply to report on individual cases – a complex and expensive system that The Independent has tested ever since it first won the right to report Court of Protection cases three years ago.

The man – who is referred to as "RBS" in court documents to protect both him and his father – was dramatically saved from a spell behind bars because of his own fluctuating mental health. During two hearings in June and November, the court heard how the man "had a long history of involvement with mental-health services" and could be "irrational and unpredictable". As the case progressed through the court, he "bombarded" court officials, the media and social websites with updates and details of the case – information which ought by law to have been kept private, in order to protect the privacy of his father. He also issued a habeas corpus writ and applied to the European Court of Human Rights claiming that his father was imprisoned.

At a hearing to decide whether the man had the capacity to litigate in proceedings, the man insisted he was in full control of his faculties, leading District Judge Anselm Eldergill to warn that he could face prison if that was the case.

Three witnesses – neighbours and friends of the man – testified that his actions were motivated by a desire to have his father return home from care and a belief that the care home was not the best place for him. The judge described the witnesses as "kind-hearted, compassionate, truthful, intelligent and loyal to their friend" but added that they were largely unaware of how the man had behaved towards the court in recent months and that he had originally consented to his father's placement in the care home.

Care officials, meanwhile, insist that the elderly man's interests are best catered for in a care home.

In the end, the judge, an expert in mental-health law, made an interim order stating that there was enough evidence to believe the man lacked the capacity to litigate, pending further examination by medical professionals. But he added that he would do everything he could to avoid sending the man to jail.

The judge also praised the local authority for the way it had handled matters. "[RBS's] highly adversarial approach to litigation suggests he is unable to understand the deputy has been caring and generous towards him," he said. "He has been permitted to reside rent-free at his father's cottage, there have been no applications to commit him, despite fairly vicious public attacks on council staff, and his unauthorised dealings with his father's assets have been discounted. This is not a case of a bullying local authority abusing its powers over a vulnerable adult and their family; quite the opposite."

It will be down to the court to decide at a later hearing whether the sale of the Pissarro paintings should indeed go ahead. The court heard how the local authority was facing a shortfall of £14,400 a year to cover care costs once the elderly father's income was taken into account. He also has liabilities of more than £100,000 which need to be paid off. Both his son and daughter owe him money and the council could look into renting the cottage where his son lives. The Pissarro painting, the court heard, is expected to fetch between £20,000 and £30,000 at auction.

But in a stark warning against continued litigation, the judge cautioned that he was keen to avoid a "Jarndyce vs Jarndyce" situation – a reference to a fictional court case in the Charles Dickens novel Bleak House in which a legal battle over a handsome inheritance drags on for so long that the money is depleted.

"Given that the trigger has been whether the heirlooms have to be sold," he said, "a 'Jarndyce vs Jarndyce' situation cannot be allowed to develop which means [the heirlooms] have to be sold to pay the legal costs incurred deciding whether they should be sold."

The next hearing is due to take place early next year.

Picture this: Pissarro's life

The eldest son of the famous Impressionist painter Camille, Lucien Pissarro is a lesser-known artist but one who has an indelible connection to Britain. Born in 1863, he grew up in France surrounded by his father's peers such as fellow Impressionist founders Cézanne, Manet and Monet.

His father had a brief sojourn in Britain to escape the Franco-Prussian war and from then on would often wear tweed and insist on marmalade for breakfast.

Skilled as a painter in oils and watercolours as well as wood engraving and lithography, Lucien, pictured left in a self-portrait, felt like he lived in the shadow of his father and in 1883 he made his first trip to Britain, partially to put some distance between his own work and Camille's Impressionism. He eventually settled here permanently after marrying an English Jewish woman called Esther Bensusan.

Together they founded an illustrated-book company, while Lucien continued to paint haunting landscapes that fused both French Impressionism and the more traditional schools of English art that were current at the time.

He became a naturalised British citizen in 1916 and spent much of his time recording landscapes in Dorset, Devon, Essex, Surrey and Sussex.

Lucien and Esther's only child, Orovida, also became a prominent British artist in her own right.

Source: Independent (UK)

Here is one of the pictures being sold. LUCIEN PISSARO 1906 STRATFORD-UPON-AVON original frame hung above Fathers desk for many years after given too him by JOHN GORDON BENSUSAN BUTT who inherited the residue of his Aunt ORIVIDA PISSARO estate.

Source: Facebook

Addendum: On April 1, 2013 Richard Jr posted a picture of a bruise acquired by his father in "care".

Richard Bruce Browning-Smith Father with huge bruise on his forehead said to have happened last Tuesday , I had to find out myself on Friday , the care home did not even bother to telephone me to tell me what had happened to him !!!

Was he hit, or an accident they claim he fell over but recently they accused him of assaulting 3 other residents, at GREAT HORKSLEY MANOR.

Source: Facebook

Addendum: On July 19, 2013 the court of protection found Richard Jr to lack the capacity to conduct his proceedings.


Richard Bruce Browning-Smith added 6 photos.

Father was assaulted 3 times on consecutive days at the end of July this year . Had one of his teeth broken never received any medical treatment was promised emergency dental care which only amounted to a dental visit 2 to 3 weeks latter .!!!

ESSEX COUNTY COUNCIL have temporarily stopped referring any more people to GREAT HORKSLEY CARE HOME near Colchester on the Nayland road .?

Source: Facebook, Richard Browning-Smith

As is the custom, Richard Jr is being threatened with the wrath of God, or at least the courts, for leaving the documentary evidence online. Here it is: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]

Addendum: Some time in 2013 Anne Browning-Smith, sister of the elder Richard and aunt of the younger, passed away in a care home. Neither man, her closest living relatives, was notified.




She was my Fathers Sister , my Aunt , he and I are her nearest living relatives WE SHOULD HAVE BEEN INFORMED IMMEDIATELY by Carnarven house Clacton On Sea , I believe this is very suspicious and am asking Fathers Finance Deputy Julia Crow , to investigate fully as fraud looks to have been committed on my Grand Fathers Estate ELM FARM MARKS TEY approx 70 acres prime agricultural soon to be building land COLCHESTER , My Father has often talked to me on this issue .

Source: Facebook, Richard Bruce Browning-Smith

Addendum: Christopher Booker mentions the Browning-Smith case in the Daily Mail.



Read these stories of how the secret courts imprison the elderly in care homes against their will - and weep

Seldom does a parliamentary inquiry manage to uncover a national scandal on the terrifying scale of the one blazoned across yesterday’s Daily Mail front page under the headline ‘Prisoners of Care Homes’.

Astonishingly, this report by a House of Lords committee on the workings of the Blair government’s 2005 Mental Capacity Act found that ‘thousands, if not tens of thousands’ of old people have been forcibly incarcerated in care homes or hospitals against their wishes and are being ‘de facto detained unlawfully’.

At the heart of the scandal is the ultra-secretive Court of Protection, set up under the Act, which rules every year that thousands of people are deemed to ‘lack mental capacity’ — so that control of their lives and property can be handed over to social workers and other state officials.

Last year, the Mail lifted a corner of the veil of secrecy surrounding this little-known court’s workings when it reported the case of Wanda Maddocks, who was imprisoned by one of its judges for removing her 80-year-old father from a care home in Stoke-on-Trent where he was being abused.

Eventually, he was tracked down by social services, and forcibly returned to care, while his daughter was punished for ‘abducting’ him with a 12-month jail sentence.

The Mail was able to report the details of this story only after Miss Maddocks was released from prison, because in the meantime her father had died and his case was therefore ‘closed’.

What this report highlights is that thousands of people all over Britain have, like Mr Maddocks, been locked up against their will and the wishes of their families on the say-so of ‘experts’ in secret courts.

While the Lords report is savagely critical of how this system works, finding that it is too often used to detain old people illegally, it scarcely touches on the terrifying consequences of this incarceration for elderly and vulnerable individuals up and down Britain.

A number of journalists like me have long been aware that these constitute one of the most flagrant abuses of human rights to be found anywhere in the nation today.

But it has been extremely difficult to bring this to light because of the way the Court of Protection manages to hide the extraordinary powers it bestows on social workers.

We should be grateful to those members of the House of Lords who have raised the deeply worrying workings of this court to the forefront of national attention.

But it is only when you learn of individual cases, as I have over years of writing on this subject, that you truly appreciate just how much misery the Mental Capacity Act has wrought on those who fall into its clutches.

Here are three such cases concerning families who have contacted me in anguish. Because of the secrecy imposed on each of them by the Court of Protection, I cannot name the individuals and their details are necessarily sketchy — but they will all make you want to weep.


Mr C, who served with the ‘Glorious Glosters’, as the Gloucestershire Regiment was known for its heroics in the Korean War, had been happily married for more than 50 years when his wife developed Alzheimer’s.

At the behest of Exeter social workers, a Court of Protection judge ordered her removal from his loving ministration to a private care home.

Mr C was shocked to observe how his wife was not being properly looked after. When he arrived one day to find her missing from her room, it was eventually discovered that she had wandered off unnoticed and became trapped in a cupboard.

He protested to the social workers, whose response was to ask the Court of Protection for an order forbidding him and his wife to have any further contact.

Not only was he prohibited from visiting her for years, he was not even allowed to send her flowers or Christmas and birthday cards. He finds it hard to speak of what has happened to them both without weeping.


Miss G is a 94-year-old former midwife living in her own house in East London. When Redbridge council social workers sent in ‘carers’ to help her, she found them hopelessly inadequate.

But a married couple who befriended her at church moved in and looked after her so well that she now talks of them as ‘family’.

Meanwhile, the council hired a psychiatrist who found she did not have ‘mental capacity’ to make decisions on her own behalf, and sought the Court of Protection’s permission to take control of all her affairs, including her house and substantial savings.

Horrified, she paid £1,000 to be examined by the President of the Association of European Psychologists. He found that she certainly still had ‘capacity’ to manage her affairs, and was highly critical of the council psychiatrist’s report.

But the judge dismissed his findings, preferring those of the council’s ‘expert’.

This frail old lady is now terrified the social workers will evict the couple looking after her, and bring back the old carers who were so inadequate, using her own money to pay for them.


Few stories are more upsetting than that of Mr B, whose case came to court at the behest of Essex social workers three years ago and who was deemed by a judge to lack ‘mental capacity’. Against his wishes, he was removed from the comfortable house where he spent most of his life, to be incarcerated in a private care home

Initially, his son was allowed to visit him, and one day, at his father’s wish, the two went sailing. On their return, the son was arrested, his father taken back to the care home and the son’s visits were suspended.

The council had been given by the court complete control of the father’s property, money and other assets, including some very valuable pictures painted by a famous artist who was a family ancestor — which it then sent to a local auction house to sell, to help towards paying the fees for the care home.

When the son protested to the auctioneers, they were withdrawn from sale. His father, still able to play chess and do crosswords, despite having been ruled as lacking ‘mental capacity’, became ever more miserable at his situation.

Only recently, when he suffered a series of injuries inflicted on him in the home, has it begun to look just possible that — thanks to an unending battle fought by the son — this unhappy 85-year-old might be allowed to return home.

There must be hundreds of similar stories unfolding every year, almost none being reported, because of that blanket of secrecy the Court of Protection has been allowed to throw not just around its own workings but over the conduct of everyone who benefits from this system — the social workers, the psychiatrists they hire as ‘expert witnesses’, the lawyers who act for them, the owners of the private care homes they provide with a regular supply of customers.

As with much else that goes on behind the closed doors of our family courts, no one can argue with the laudable intentions of this system — to ensure those who cannot fend for themselves are looked after. But yet again we see the old truth that, where courts are allowed to operate in secret, terrible abuses of justice almost inevitably follow.

The Lords report concludes that Labour’s 2005 Mental Capacity Act, which brought in the Court of Protection and the so-called Deprivation of Liberty rules, has in practice so dismally failed to honour the purposes for which it was put into law that this whole system needs reforming virtually from scratch.

To this end, Lords recommend an independent body is given responsibility for oversight of the Act to drive forward vital changes.

But even in their excoriating report, these peers have scarcely told the half of why this reform is so desperately needed.

There is some hope, however. Lord Justice Munby, head of the Family Division of the High Court, appears determined to open the Court of Protection to the ‘glare of publicity’.

Which means we might one day see an end to one of the greatest scandals in Britain.

Source: Daily Mail

Addendum: Richard Geoffry Browning-Smith passed away on January 5, 2015. Rest in peace.

Source: Facebook, Richard Bruce Browning-Smith

Addendum: Christopher Booker writes his epitaph for this family.



That 'sinister court’ mocks justice again

The workings of the mysterious and ultra-secretive Court of Protection are a national scandal

nursing home patient
Two recent cases involved the forced removal of an old man into 'care' by social workers

My article on January 3, headlined “The most sinister court in Britain strikes yet again”, has for the past month been the “Most Viewed” Comment item on the Telegraph website. [ See Grandma Apologizes for Hugging Granddaughter ]. Its theme was the workings of the mysterious and ultra-secretive Court of Protection, which has only recently begun to emerge from the shadows – that’s thanks to the stalwart efforts of our top family judge, Lord Justice Munby, to lift something of the suffocating veil of secrecy shrouding the courts over which he now presides.

My report centred on the astonishing treatment of Kathleen Danby, a 72-year-old grandmother, who first hit the headlines last year when it was revealed that – two months earlier – she had been sentenced in her absence to three months in prison by Judge Martin Cardinal, for breaking an injunction by hugging her granddaughter who had run away from “care” 170 times.

But just how disturbing the workings of this all-powerful court have become has again lately been highlighted by two more cases, which in many respects were strikingly similar. Each of them involved the forced removal of an old man into “care” by social workers from Essex County Council, which was empowered by the Court of Protection to take complete charge of his life.

In both cases, as the men were deemed to be no longer capable of looking after their own affairs, the council took over the houses where they had lived for 50 years and virtually all they possessed. But in their outcomes the two stories could not have provided a starker contrast.

In the first case, as can be read on the Bailii website under (2015) EWCOP 1, Judge Paul Mort couldn’t have been more critical of the conduct of Essex council, which he described as “totally inadequate”.

“It is hard to imagine a more depressing and inexcusable state of affairs,” he said, than “to remove a defenceless old man” from the home where he had spent most of his life, to detain him in a “locked dementia unit against his wishes”.

Only because of the eloquent intervention of a friend was the scandalous treatment of this 91-year-old drawn to the court’s attention. This led Judge Mort to order that the man must immediately be released to go home, where he could be properly looked after; and that Essex must pay all his care and legal costs, plus hefty damages.

The other case I have long been following with dismay, but without being allowed to write about it. This concerned an 80-year-old who, after a complaint from a man who lived close by that he was being “neglected”, was in 2010 taken by Essex social workers to a care home, not only against his wishes but also initially without court permission. To the fury of his son, who had been abroad at the time, Essex was then authorised to take control of his father's home and all his assets, including valuable family heirlooms.

Such a blanket of secrecy was thrown around the case by Judge Anselm Eldergill in the Court of Protection that it was virtually impossible to refer to it at all. The father, miserably imprisoned behind locked doors, was only allowed occasional visits from his son, and even these were eventually suspended. Meanwhile, the council set about selling the father’s family home (to someone who had originally reported him to the social workers) and all his prized possessions to defray the costs of his “care” and ever-mounting legal fees.

Only after Munby issued his new guidelines in favour of more “transparency” were these draconian reporting restrictions partially lifted. But by now, after four years locked away in “care”, the old man was visibly going downhill. Worse still, he was violently attacked three times by a fellow inmate with a stick, with several of his teeth being knocked out.

Finally, last month, after he had been escorted outside in the cold for a smoke, he caught pneumonia and died. The contrast between the outcome of this case and the one which earned the same council and its social workers such withering criticism from another judge could not be more glaring. We may now be allowed to reveal rather more about the Court of Protection than was possible before the advent of Munby. But there is still far more going on behind those closed doors than justice and human decency should allow.

Source: Telegraph (UK)

Motherhood Punished

October 16, 2012 permalink

In two cases mothers are being punished for caring for their own children. Shantesha Fluker was arrested in Stockton California for taking her baby daughter. And in Illinois Nyway Abbaa was sentenced for taking her two children from a supervised visit. The judge called her selfish.



Mom arrested for taking child

STOCKTON -- Stockton police arrested a mother who is accused of taking her daughter away from an unsupervised visit on Monday.

Shantesha Fluker, 31, was found in a home on the 4400 block of Calandria Street, south of March Lane, at 8:40 p.m. Monday, police spokesman Officer Joe Silva said.

Police sent out a notice Monday morning that Fluker had gone to the 100 block of San Joaquin Street and took her 1-month-old daughter Tierra Vaughn from the building. Fluker does not have custody of her daughter.

Silva said Fluker was booked into the San Joaquin County Jail and the infant was placed back into the custody of Child Protective Services.

Source: The Record (Stockton)

Peoria mother gets probation for abducting her kids

Nyway Abbaa took her children from FamilyCore during supervised visit

King Peterson, Nyway Lois Abbaa, Audermare Peterson and Moriah Milan
Clockwise from top left: King Peterson, Nyway Lois Abbaa, Audermare Peterson, and Moriah Milan


A Peoria woman was sentenced to 30 months of probation for abducting her two young children in May from Peoria and taking them to Minneapolis.

Nyway Abbaa, 19, of 819 MacQueen Ave. apologized for taking her children on May 10 during a supervised visit, saying she was only concerned about the children's welfare.

The children were sick, she said, and she wanted to get them help in Minnesota, where she has ties.

Circuit Judge Steve Kouri questioned that, saying he didn't know if she was truly worried about the children or just being "selfish" and taking the children a few weeks after she had been declared an unfit mother.

Kouri opted not for any prison time - she faced two years in prison under a plea agreement - saying she would have only four months left, given 148 days already served and "good-time" credit.

Probation, he said, would give her more time to tackle her problems.

The judge ordered her to complete anger management counseling, take any medication that is prescribed and abide by the rules of the juvenile court overseeing her children's case. The judge also said she could not have any visits with the children until both he and the juvenile court judge signed off on the matter.

Prosecutors claimed Abbaa and King Peterson, 25, of Minneapolis grabbed the children from FamilyCore, 330 SW Washington St., about 2 p.m. May 10 after Abbaa went to FamilyCore for her visit with the children, who are in foster care.

The couple and the children made it to Minneapolis that evening before the vehicle was spotted by police and Abbaa was apprehended. Peterson was not present in the vehicle, and he turned himself in to police the next morning.

Peterson was acquitted in August of similar charges by a Peoria County jury after a one-day trial. Abbaa pleaded guilty two weeks later to child abduction.

Source: Peoria Journal Star

McGuinty Resigns
Parliament to be Prorogued

October 15, 2012 permalink

This evening Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty unexpectedly resigned. Most important for child protection, he has asked the lieutenant governor to prorogue the parliament. This means that all pending legislation will be dismissed, including bill 110, the bill for ombudsman oversight of children's aid societies, which just recently passed second reading and had been referred to a committee for hearings. At the next session of parliament it will be necessary to start over with legislation.



Dalton McGuinty
Seven months after the release of Don Drummond’s much-hyped report on how to fix Ontario’s finances, Premier Dalton McGuinty – who commissioned the report and once acted as though it would provide all the answers to the province’s woes – has clearly lost the faith. Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, right, is pictured at a news conference at Queens Park in Toronto on Friday, June 15, 2012. The premier spoke to reporters about his threat to call for an election over the Ontario budget.

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty resigns

Toronto — The Globe and Mail

In a surprise move, Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty announced his resignation Monday evening.

Just one year after winning a third mandate, Mr. McGuinty called his caucus together around the dinner hour at Queen's Park. With his wife, Terri, by his side, he said he would quit the leadership of the Liberal party and the premier's office. He will hold on to his seat in the legislature, representing Ottawa South.

Mr. McGuinty, who won the leadership of his party 16 years ago, said he will stay on until a successor is chosen.

He said he will also ask the lieutenant-governor to prorogue the legislature.

First elected premier with a majority government in 2003, he won a second term in 2007 but was reduced to a minority last year.

Last month, his party missed a chance to secure a majority when it lost a by-election in Waterloo.

More to come

Source: Globe and Mail

On Facebook, Monique Taylor, the MPP who introduced bill 110, pledged to continue the effort.



Monique Taylor Hi Yvonne, we are not sure yet if the house will proceed and in turn what happens to our Bills. I pledge to continue the fight to have the Ombudsman oversight of the children's aid society. There is too much to be done and too many risks of our most vulnerable children to stop now.

Source: Facebook, Monique Taylor

Pat Niagara captured the video of the resignation announcement on YouTube and a local copy (mp4)

Monique Taylor reacts to the death of bill 110.



Hamilton MPP's CAS bill 'dead in the water'

Monique Taylor's bill proposed Ombudsman have authority to investigate children's aid societies

Monique Taylor and Andrea Horwath
Hamilton Mountain MPP Monique Taylor, left, shown at a recent rally with NDP leader Andrea Horwath, introduced a bill that would give Ontario's Ombudsman the ability to investigate decisions made by children's aid societies. With Premier Dalton McGuinty proroguing the legislature, that bill has now died.

A Hamilton MPP says she's “devastated” that her bill allowing Ontario's Ombudsman to investigate Children's Aid Societies has died now that Premier Dalton McGuinty has prorogued the legislature.

Monique Taylor, MPP for Hamilton Mountain and the NDP's critic for the Ministry of Child and Youth Services, introduced a private member's bill that recently passed second reading. The bill would give Ontario's Ombudsman, Andre Marin, independent oversight over the societies' decisions.

But with McGuinty announcing his resignation and proroguing the legislature, the bill is “dead in the water,” Taylor told CBC Hamilton on Monday evening.

“I'm devastated for families,” she said. “We were jumping for joy when we passed second. Unfortunately, at the time I thought it was too good to be true and I wondered why. Maybe this is why.”

Children's Aid Societies already have “considerable oversight” on several levels, Dominic Verticchio, executive director of the Hamilton Children's Aid Society (CAS), told CBC Hamilton in an earlier interview.

They are accountable to courts when children are apprehended. Complaints may also be investigated internally or go to the province via the Child and Family Services Review Board.

But the Ombudsman has been asking for the ability to investigate complaints for the past 35 years. The bill has been introduced before, but Taylor's was the first to reach second reading.

“For him to prorogue, literally everything we've been doing is gone,” Taylor said.

The proroguing also signals the death of a bill that would see mandatory sprinklers in retirement homes. The bill introduced by Paul Miller, MPP for Hamilton East-Stoney Creek and NDP Seniors' Issues critic, had passed second reading.

“We're very disappointed,” Miller said.

McGuinty announced at a surprise caucus meeting Monday evening that he was stepping down as Ontario's premier and leader of the Liberal Party.

He is also proroguing the legislature to allow the government to negotiate wage-freeze agreements with public-sector workers.

Source: CBC

Ombudsman Editorial

October 15, 2012 permalink

The Hamilton Spectator editorially supports ombudsman oversight of CAS. Family lawyer Michael P Clarke adds a letter disputing one contention in that editorial.



Ombudsman needs new powers to probe

Monique Taylor
MPP for Hamilton Mountain Monique Taylor
Ron Albertson/The Hamilton Spectator

If Hamilton Mountain MPP Monique Taylor has her way, Ontario’s ombudsman will have the authority to investigate complaints against the province’s 47 children’s aid societies. Good for Taylor and the NDP. This idea makes sense.

It was wrong to exclude from the watchdog’s mandate the so-called MUSH sector — municipalities, universities, school boards, hospitals, nursing homes, long-term care facilities, police and child protection services. Repeated attempts to change that have failed. Taylor’s effort is more modest, but it’s a start.

The fact that independent investigative powers are a good idea does not mean that children’s aid societies are rife with problems. The opposite is closer to the truth. They are overloaded, underfunded and generally stretched too thin. Overall, they do an admirable job in a very challenging environment. But in this sort of high-stress, highly emotional environment, mistakes are inevitable. So are complaints directed at CAS and CCAS workers.

In the past two years, the ombudsman’s office has received nearly 500 complaints which it couldn’t investigate. In all likelihood, most of them were baseless or repairable. But the lack of independent, objective investigative tools makes the process more difficult and less transparent than it should be. It doesn’t have to be that way. The Legislature should set aside partisan concerns in this instance and support Taylor’s bid to give the ombudsman this additional responsibility.

Howard Elliott

Source: Hamilton Spectator

High time CASs were held accountable

Ombudsman needs new powers to probe (Editorial, Oct. 9)

It is a welcome development that NDP MPP Monique Taylor’s Bill 110 is progressing through the legislature. Children’s aid societies in Ontario have not been held accountable and it is high time they were subject to some scrutiny by an objective independent agency.

Where I take issue with the editorial is that it suggests the children’s aid societies are cash-strapped and, by inference, have difficulty fulfilling their mandate for lack of funds.

Ontario’s children’s aid societies receive $1.5 billion from the provincial government every year. For the last decade, funding provided to them has increased by $100 million every year. The problem lies with the way the children’s aid societies use these funds.

Readers should be reminded of the damning auditor’s report in 2006 that uncovered troubling expenditures including senior managers receiving high-end SUVs to use for work, worth much more than the maximum allowances for provincial deputy ministers; and trips by children and CAS employees to the Caribbean. Children’s aid societies have no difficulty building gleaming offices, hiring lawyers, support staff and teams of social workers and supervisors.

Unfortunately, the resources of the CASs are too often directed at apprehending children and keeping them in care rather than assisting families. Funding for children’s aid societies is predicated on how many children are “in care” — in foster homes or group homes. Thus, there is a strong financial incentive for children’s aid societies to remove children from their parents and keep them.

Hopefully the ombudsman will help curb these excesses and usher in a new era of responsibility and accountability in the way children’s aid societies fulfil their mandate.

Michael P. Clarke, family law, Hamilton

Source: Hamilton Spectator

Hamilton CAS executive director Dominic Verticchio adds his opinion, that there is already enough oversight. He comments that Hamilton CAS produces more litigation than Toronto though it has only a fifth the population. He blames the local bar. Fixcas has received more complaints about Hamilton CAS than Toronto. Maybe Mr Verticchio's policies are to blame.



Efficient oversight, not another ‘layer’

High time CASs were held accountable (Letters, Oct. 13)

The letter writer welcomes proposed legislation giving oversight of Children’s Aid Societies to the Ontario Ombudsman. CASs support accountability processes that help ensure the best possible outcomes for children, youth and families, and rely on public trust to fulfil their statutory mandate to keep children safe.

Currently, CASs are accountable to the government and the public through multiple mechanisms, which include opportunities for clients to raise concerns through independent bodies, such as the Child and Family Services Review Board, the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth and, as the letter writer well knows, the courts.

CASs would like to see a comprehensive, seamless framework for accountability and oversight that minimizes duplication and ensures timely decisions for children’s futures. We welcome discussions about Ombudsman oversight but stress that what is needed is an efficient and effective approach, not simply adding another layer on existing processes.

The letter writer contends we use all resources in apprehending children. Let’s put this into context. Last year, the Children’s Aid Society of Hamilton responded to 6,703 new calls about children’s safety and well-being from the community and served an additional 1,368 families who were having significant parenting issues. We supported almost 10,000 children in their own homes while only admitting 253 children into care.

The letter writer would also know our high legal costs are a result of a very litigious local family law Bar. In the last available data, Legal Aid Ontario spent $1.1 million in Hamilton in legal fees paid to lawyers representing families in child protection matters. By contrast, Legal Aid Ontario spent only $750,000 in Toronto, with a population nearly five times larger than Hamilton’s.

Dominic Verticchio, Executive Director, Children’s Aid Society of Hamilton

Source: Hamilton Spectator

Training for Murder

October 14, 2012 permalink

Reporter Jennifer Tryon profiles Terri-Lynne McClintic, the killer of Tori Stafford. The report shows her adoption into an abusive family, omitting mention of Terri-Lynne's periods in foster care. Pat Niagara captured the video to YouTube and local copy (mp4).



Blog: Jennifer Tryon on the Victoria Stafford story

I’m a mother and the last thing I want to hear about is the pleasure two horrific human beings took in abducting, raping and murdering an innocent 8-year-old child. Just typing that sentence makes me shudder. I try to prevent my mind from consciously putting myself in Tara McDonald’s shoes, she’s the mother of 8-year-old Tori Stafford, for I fear I’d never recover.

But my job put me in the place where I had to hear what happened. As a reporter for Global National, I was assigned to be in the London, Ontario courtroom where I listened to testimony describing the gruesome details. And if you picked up a newspaper or watched television news you’ve no doubt heard the details too. I know for some people it was all too much. Many had stopped watching and reading. It hit too close to home.

I saw Tori’s parents in court. Her father Rodney Stafford was always so vocal with the media, her mother far less so. It made me wonder, why doesn’t she speak up? I also wondered, could I speak to the hoards of media waiting outside with cameras and microphones if I were her and barely hanging on?

As a journalist I believe in speaking up, but in this case I don’t think I could have. The fact that she showed up day after day to listen to what happened to her daughter I think takes the kind of courage I hope I never have to discover in myself.

It’s been 3 years since Tori’s death, 5 months since Michael Rafferty’s verdict and I’ve wondered how that other mother is doing? Is she still broken? Is she able to get out of bed? Is there a light at the end of this tunnel? What I really want to know is, is Tara McDonald okay?

She agreed to meet me and participate in an exclusive interview for Global News’ current affairs program 16x9. She bravely sat down for first time since it all ended, to be interviewed about how it had affected her, Tori’s brother Darren and the entire family. While everything she said had impact, what got to me most wasn’t the gruesome details she described, or how she was considered suspect number one, or that there was no amber alert and that it took over 100 days to find Tori’s body. What she said that struck me most was the hurdle she’s faced on the streets. She described how people stared at her while she got groceries, “like, is that Tori Stafford’s mother? What she’s doing out of the house?” And how people would point at her and whisper. She says she even lost her job “because customers found it too difficult to see her in the store.”

Just like I did, it seems people put themselves into her shoes, so much so they couldn’t even face her. Are people so focused on how this crime would affect them that they’ve lost their ability to empathize? Are we so discomforted that this could happen to us that we’ve lost our ability to see that it did happen to someone else? Is the thought of how we would suffer preventing us from helping another through their suffering? She wasn’t to blame for the murder of her daughter, so why is she being punished? But her life moving forward without her daughter is sure to be punishing.

Tara McDonald was candid and honest, she’s not perfect, but she’s taking ownership of her life. She’s trying to move forward. I wonder how many of us could say the same if we really were in her shoes?

Source: Global News


October 13, 2012 permalink

Christopher Booker calls Britain's child protection system the worst scandal he has seen in 50 years. He continues with three cases.



The worst scandal I have seen in my 50-year career

Our 'child protection' system is severely dysfunctional, but it has not come to the centre of national attention because it hides its workings behind a veil of secrecy

family torn apart
One mother had her child taken away after falling out of a window and becoming temporarily paralysed. Social workers portrayed it as a suicide bid, and her as an alcoholic and a drug addict
Photo: ALAMY

Scarcely a week goes by without more evidence emerging to indicate that our “child protection” system is so dysfunctional that it should be looked on as a major national scandal. On one hand, we see the number of applications by social workers to take children into care soaring to nearly 1,000 a month, having more than doubled in the four years since the tragedy of Baby P. On the other, we hear of horrific episodes, like those recently reported from Rochdale and Rotherham, where social workers and police turned a blind eye to the systematic mass-rape of underage girls, many themselves in state care.

For three years I have been investigating scores of cases of children seized from their parents for what appear to be quite absurd reasons. This outrage has not yet come to the centre of national attention only because our child protection system hides its workings behind a veil of secrecy. I have been amazed to discover how our family courts routinely turn all the cherished principles of British justice upside down. The most bizarre allegations, based on hearsay, can be levelled against parents who are then denied the right to challenge them.

Although I have reported on several such cases more than once, they drag on through the courts so long that I haven’t been able to explain how they ended. I summarise three of them here to indicate why this is the most disturbing story I have covered in all my years as a journalist.

The fateful fall

Earlier story on this case: link.

My first case centres on a mother who, five months after the birth of her daughter, fell from a first-floor window. Lying in hospital, temporarily paralysed from the neck down, she took a call from a social worker who told her that her baby was being taken into care. Although no one had suggested that her fall was anything other than an accident, the social workers made out that it was a suicide bid and that she was an alcoholic and a drug addict. A psychiatric report and clinical tests found that none of these accusations were true.

The mother had to make a weekly 80-mile round trip to have “supervised contact” with her daughter. The contact supervisor wrote glowing reports on how closely they seemed to be bonded. But when, at a case conference, a social worker was challenged by the supervisor for having excised any references to this from her reports, it was the supervisor the council suspended. After a succession of hearings at which, I gather, the judge became increasingly impatient with the social workers for their sloppy handling of paperwork and repeated requests for adjournments, it seemed the case was going the mother’s way. Her wish for her daughter to be returned to her was supported by the child’s “guardian” (an official appointed by the court to represent the child’s interests).

But then, for no clear reason, fortune swung back the other way. Two years after the case began, the judge ruled that the child should be sent for adoption. As the mother made a final plea to the Appeal Court, a lurid report in the local paper repeated all the original claims of the social workers: that the mother was an alcoholic, a drug addict and had tried to commit suicide. A family friend tells me she witnessed the distraught mother being allowed a “goodbye session” with her daughter, the centre of her life for three years, whom she will never be allowed to see again.

The runaways

Earlier stories on this case: [1] [2].

My second case centres on a mother who fled to Ireland with her teenage son because social workers had been making enquiries about them, due to the fact that the father, who had been out of their lives for six years, was an alcoholic prone to violence. When they had been happily settled in their new home for six months, with the boy doing well at school, British social workers brought the father to Ireland and persuaded an Irish judge, on evidence that mother and son were not allowed to see, to order the boy’s deportation back to England. He was so depressed that he attempted suicide. (I spoke to the boy in hospital shortly afterwards).

After being taken to England, the boy was placed in foster care, where he managed repeatedly to convey to his mother that he was desperately unhappy. Although bright, he was initially sent to a special needs school, where he was bullied for being so different from the others. He was denied the right to attend court to express his wishes, in contravention of the UN Convention on Children’s Rights. Neither he nor the mother had anyone to speak up for them and, although there is no evidence that she ever harmed her son, it was ruled that he must remain in foster care until he is 18 (normally, children are released from care when they are 16). The mother continues to work in Ireland, denied any further contact with her son until he is old enough to return to her.

Parents who lost their six children

My third case is the strangest and most disturbing of any I have covered. I first came to it shortly after the mother of a large family had given birth to her sixth child. Her new baby had been torn from her arms in a hospital bed by six policemen and three social workers just three hours after the birth. Three months earlier, the social workers had removed five older children from the family home in the belief that the mother was a “sex worker” engaged in child trafficking with her husband, whom they claimed was not the father of any of the children. The social workers also had a letter, allegedly written by one of the children, claiming that her mother had beaten her.

What made all this particularly odd was that, one by one, these claims seemed to crumble. DNA tests showed that the children all came from the husband. The letter was in a different hand from that of the child supposed to have written it, but no graphological tests were allowed and it was eventually admitted that the letter had been “destroyed”.

For a time, the parents were allowed occasional supervised contact with their children, although for this they had to travel for four hours. The oldest child claimed at one meeting that she had been sexually interfered with in her foster home – after which she was never allowed to see her parents again.

But the case against them began to seem so flimsy that the baby was returned to them. However, they subsequently took the baby to a hospital to ask for advice on a puzzling complaint. A junior doctor carried out blood tests which apparently showed nothing amiss, but when the family’s name came up on a computer, the social workers were summoned. More tests were carried out, the parents were accused of giving their child a dangerous drug and the baby was again taken into care.

Events then took a still more serious turn. The couple were arrested, accused of planning to abduct their older children (even though they had no idea where they were) and fly them abroad in a private plane. They were sent to prison on remand, while a long list of further charges was compiled, ranging from physical abuse of their children to a claim that they had sought to kill the baby.

At their trial, 44 prosecution witnesses were called. Only two were allowed for the defence. The children spoke on video link, but their parents were not allowed to question them. The parents were given long prison sentences and a family court then ruled that the children must all be sent for adoption.

However odd all this may seem, I know enough about this family, and a story I have followed since 2010, to believe that it represents a travesty of justice which says much about what our child protection system has become.

Source: Telegraph (UK)

Unhelping Profession

October 13, 2012 permalink

A British webpage advises professional social workers on how to react when finding their own name on critical websites, characterized as social work hate sites: try to suppress the site and hide the social worker's personal information. Absent is the most important advice, never followed, conduct yourself so that clients have nothing to complain about. This advice page is one of the best indications that social work is not really a helping profession.



Five steps to take if you're named on a social work hate site

Advice for social workers on how to report abusive posts on anti-social work sites.

A number of social workers have found their images and details published on anti-social work ‘hate’ sites recently.

The situation is understandably distressing but there are steps you can take to report abuse or harassment. So what action should you take if you find yourself named on one of these sites?

  1. Alert your employer

    Alert your employer – they have a duty of care to you. They should have procedures in place on how to deal with members of the public who are abusive to social workers or assault them.

    The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) advice is that responsible employers should regard harassment of a social worker by these sites “as a type of assault”.

    These sites often publish defamatory information about social workers. Make your employer aware of the potential legal issues here.

    If your reputation is being tarnished by inaccurate and discriminatory information being published, your employer’s legal department may be able to take action against the site or its publishers.

  2. Contact your professional body

    For additional support contact your professional body. BASW has been active in raising awareness of these sites and may be able to provide further advice on how to deal with your employer.

    The College of Social Work has also contacted employers over the issue in the past.

    Contact details for the main professional bodies are:

  3. Report the site as abusive

    Anti-social work sites have appeared on different platforms including Facebook, Youtube, and hosted websites. Depending on who hosts the site you will need to follow slightly different steps.

    Here is how to report abuse on some of the most common platforms:

    • Facebook: If you have a Facebook account go the Facebook page you feel is abusive, click the dropdown menu and select 'report page'. If you don’t have a Facebook account you can still report violating pages here.
    • Youtube: You can report harassment and hate speech here. Youtube's community guidelines state: "There is zero tolerance of predatory behaviour, stalking, threats, harassment, invading privacy or the revealing of other members' personal information."
    • Twitter: If you receive threatening messages via Twitter you can report the user here.
    • Website: If the website is not part of an established social media platform you can lodge a complaint with the domain provider, you just need to know who to contact. You can find out who registered the domain by conducting a quick WhoIS search here. The ‘registrar’ of the site is likely to be the company you need to contact to report abuse.
  4. Consider lodging a complaint with the police

    If you feel you are in danger or are being harassed you can lodge a complaint with your local police force. Find the details for your local force here.

  5. Review your Facebook privacy settings

    Some social work hate sites have posted images and details gathered from social workers’ personal Facebook profiles. It’s a reminder of just how accessible a lot of information posted on the social network is and the need to review your privacy settings.

    This short video takes you through the privacy settings process and how to adjust yours to a level you’re comfortable with. YouTube link

    You can also check out our social media dos and don’ts for social workers.

Source: Community Care (social worker site)

Putting Humpty Dumpty Together Again

October 12, 2012 permalink

British parents Ben Butler and Jennie Gray found their baby girl Ellie limp and gasping for air. At the hospital one set of physicians diagnosed shaken baby, another found a birth injury. Though the girl eventually completely recovered from the condition, social services seized two children from the couple while accusing the parents, him of shaken baby, her of failure to protect. Ben spent a year and a half in jail and Jennie aborted her pregnancy rather than have her unborn child taken by social services. She experienced complications leaving her unable to bear more children. The stress broke up the couple. Now after five years, the two children have been returned to the broken family. The Telegraph uses the word "win" in its headline.



Couple win back children from social services after High Court battle

A couple whose two daughters were taken away by social services have been praised by a judge for “weathering the storm” of a lengthy High Court battle to win them back.

High Court
A father who was wrongly convicted of cruelty to one of his two daughters and had them taken away by social services has won their return after a High Court legal battle. The Court of Appeal ruled that the father had a right to know his secret accuser's identity
Photo: Alamy

Ben Butler, 32, and his former partner, Jennie Gray, also 32, lost their children after he was accused of shaking their baby Ellie when she was seven weeks old. There followed a nightmare that lasted five and a half years.

Mr Butler served time in jail on a wing for paedophiles, while Miss Gray decided to terminate a third pregnancy fearing this child would also be taken away from her, leading to serious complications which mean she cannot have any more children.

Mr Butler had his convictions for cruelty and causing grievous bodily harm to his daughter quashed by the Court of Appeal in June 2010.

However, he and Miss Gray, from Sutton, Surrey, then had to fight for more than two years before the Family Division of the High Court in London ruled that Ellie, now five, and her younger sister, Isabella, three, should be returned to them.

In a judgment made public on Friday, Mrs Justice Hogg said it was a rare “joy” for her to oversee a child being reunited with her parents.

The judge exonerated the father over the "shaken baby" allegations and the mother from accusations that she failed to protect Ellie from abuse.

Recognising that Mr Butler and Miss Gray had been through an “extraordinarily difficult time”, Mrs Justice Hogg said: "The parents have weathered the storm. They have each been resilient and determined, and shown tenacity and courage.

"I hope now that the record is put straight, that with their tenacity they will be able to put behind them those difficulties and look forward to a more positive future."

The parents’ long ordeal began in February 2007 when Mr Butler noticed that Ellie had gone limp and was gasping for air.

She was taken to St Helier Hospital in Sutton, where doctors diagnosed bleeding on the brain, bleeding in the eye and swelling of brain tissue, the "triad" of injuries seen as indicators of a shaken baby who has been deliberately injured.

Mr Butler insisted he had not hurt his daughter and Miss Gray supported him. A different team of doctors said Ellie’s head injury was in fact caused at birth, and she went on to make a full recovery.

However, the father was arrested, charged and found guilty at Croydon Crown Court in March 2009. He was jailed for 18 months and sent to Littlehey Prison in Cambridgeshire, where he shared a cell with a man who had been convicted of sexual assault.

Mr Butler, a former removal man, was cleared after the Court of Appeal ruled that the trial judge's summing-up to the jury was defective and the conviction was unsafe.

He said after his acquittal: “These three-and-a-half years have been horrendous. I can’t believe that it’s taken so long to clear my name.

"I can’t believe so much money has been wasted on prosecuting an innocent person when there was so much evidence that it wasn’t a shaken baby case.”

Sutton Council’s social services continued to argue that the family court should uphold the abuse findings it originally made against Mr Butler and endorse the local authority's plans for Isabella's adoption.

The council contended that Isabella was "at significant risk of harm" in her mother's care and she had lied about the extent of her continuing relationship with Mr Butler.

However, Mrs Justice Hogg ruled that the local authority could not establish that Ellie had been shaken and said its findings must be set aside.

She concluded in her judgment: “It is seldom that I see a ‘happy end’ in public law proceedings. It is a joy for me to oversee the return of a child to her parents.”

Source: Telegraph (UK)

Humpty Dumpty

Baby Taken From Mother's Breast

October 11, 2012 permalink

Attila Vinczer reports on a baby snatched from a young mother in Newmarket Ontario. CAS is already imposing court delays while the child is in their custody, enhancing their ability to benefit from the status quo.




Today a young mother, 22 years old, who had her child snatched by York Regional CAS without just cause, a mere 36 hours after giving birth will be at Newmarket Court for a Case Conference. In Family Court you must have a case conference, a chance to hash out a settlement of one or more or all issues only on consent, in a glorified mediation session. Often people are intimidated by the Judge and the lawyers for CAS when they are involved.

Legal cost is $3-5,000 or more to the parent and the court cost is much more than that. Only after a Case conference can you return to court to argue usually for Interim Orders. In this case, York CAS has robbed this mother of bonding with her baby girl and the chance of breast feeding her which is vital for the baby to receive crucial immune building substance only found in breast milk, not in formula which is what CAS is feeding the baby. Your CAS has managed to establish Status Quo which will make it very easy to achieve custody, meaning Crown Wardship that brings in thousands of tax dollars for the CAS agency a month.

The CAS lawyer will be named and the Judge who dismissed this mother's motion to order the kids returned to her care immediately. The Judge is a party to this child snatching.

I have just been informed that the Case Conference is being adjourned to November 15, 2012. This is a typical scenario where CAS gains further Status Quo when they take a child right from birth. The mother is robbed of her child while CAS has the luxury of time working in their favour and the tax cash rolls in for them for caring for this baby.

I encourage anyone in the Newmarket area to attend on November 15, 2012 at 50 Eagle Street to support his mother in court.

Source: Facebook, Canada Court Watch

Best Interest Dentistry

October 11, 2012 permalink

The best interest of the child is tooth extraction.

Donna Lynn Mitchell My 14 year old that is "in care" needs 5 teeth extracted. I just heard from the oral surgeon yesterday that they applied to CAS for funding to fix his teeth....which are hurting him....and they will only pay a small portion. Yes, I have the paperwork showing it. Now, if a parent did that, they would lose their kids.

Source: Facebook, Stop the CAS ...

budget dental clinic

47 percent

October 11, 2012 permalink

The enclosed poster was found on the front page of the St Catharines Standard and on their Facebook page, so far not on their news website. It asserts "47% of Ontarians know someone who has experienced abuse". Indeed we do. The abuse occurred in foster care.



47% of Ontarians know someone who has experienced abuse

Source: Facebook, St Catharines Standard

There is more in the FACS Niagara drive for Child Abuse Prevention Month. Pat Niagara captured the video in the enclosed article. look inside FACS Niagara Headquarters (mp4). Worker Marion Lichty refers to families broken up by force of arms as "consumers".



A bulwark against child abuse


It’s a nerve centre for some of the region’s most painful phone calls.

The screening department at Family and Children’s Services Niagara is deceptively calm. The humanly-proportioned, carpeted space feels almost Zen-like.

But here, eight employees bow into their screens, quietly handling a world of anxiety.

This is the front-end, where all FACS calls come in. Some are administrative. Others of children suffering from potential sexual or physical abuse are heartbreaking.

Above all, one rule abides, says Marion Lichty intake service coordinator.

“When in doubt, check it out.

“If you have a question or concern anonymously, call us rather than not,” Lichty inside FACS’ headquarters in St. Catharines. “That’s critical for everyone.”

By law, FACS must respond to concerns they get about the care and safety of a child.

And it’s true in a situation of an immediate risk, FACS has the legal right of entry in a home.

But removal of children from families is a last resort, workers stress. They are not baby snatchers.

They say 90% of their cases never involve taking a child away — generally a worst-case scenario.

Meanwhile, as FACS marks Child Abuse Prevention Month, it points to statistics revealing the scope of the problem.

According to the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies, half of Ontarians know someone who has been abused or neglected.

In Niagara, last year 5,279 referrals were made to FACS, with 3,878 families needing child protection services.

Some of the cases are harrowing.

FACS child protection supervisor David Gill is with a child advocacy centre. That’s an investigations unit looking at all of the region’s reported sexual abuse and more serious physical abuse reports.

It partners with the Niagara Regional Police as these incidents may also include a criminal investigation and charges.

Gill is asked if some of the stories bother him.

“We have to approach our work through a professional standpoint,” he said. “We are emotional beings ... but we need to keep our focus on investigative strategy, what are the supports we can put in place for the child?”

With that effort “comes the benefit of doing something for the family and child,” Gill said.

“It’s a way of taking the sometimes disturbing information that comes in, and focusing it on something that’s practical and functional. It’s the (act of) doing.”

Valerie Savoie, a child welfare supervisor, echoes other FACS workers: There are also edifying rewards in their jobs.

That parent rescued from brutal substance addiction and reunited with their child.

A family that gets help getting needed baby formula, food and counselling support.

There are the kids that thrive, balanced with the heartbreak of those that don’t.

“I’m a mom, parent as well,” said Savoie. “When you’re working with these families, you realize that families we work with are just like us, having daily struggles.

“Sometimes they need extra support and that’s just what we’re here to do.”

The 24-hour number for Family and Children’s Services Niagara is 905-937-7731

Source: Niagara Falls Review

Persons who are targeted by calls to the phone in the article may find the following contact information helpful in putting the family back together again:

Canada Court Watch
Box 51027 Maple Grove Post Office
Oakville, Ontario L6J 7P5

phone (Toronto area): (416) 410-4115
web: link
Facebook: link

Sleeping Watchdog

October 10, 2012 permalink

Alberta has a new watchdog, Del Graff, responsible for reporting on deaths in the province's foster care system. In his first four months on the job he has started no investigations.



No reviews from Alberta’s youth advocate since being given investigative powers

Del Graff
Alberta Child and Youth Advocate Del Graff has yet to launch an investigative review since being given the authority earlier this year to probe deaths and serious injuries of children in provincial care.
Photograph by: Archive , Calgary Herald

CALGARY — Alberta’s child and youth advocate has yet to launch an investigative review since being given the authority earlier this year to probe deaths and serious injuries of children in provincial care.

While critics question Del Graff’s willingness to take on the government that appointed him, he said Wednesday some cases may yet be subject to public review once his office has had a chance to examine them further.

“We’ve not publicized our intention around investigative reviews,” he said during a meeting with the Herald’s editorial board.

“That doesn’t mean we’re not doing them.”

Changes in legislation in earlier this year made the child and youth advocate an independent officer of the legislature who reports directly to members of the assembly.

Although Alberta was the first province to appoint a children’s advocate in 1989, the position previously reported directly to a cabinet minister.

The new legislation means Graff, whose five-year term began in June 2011, now has the authority to launch investigative reviews aimed at examining whether systemic issues have a role in any deaths and injuries involving children in care.

Graff’s office also provides one-on-one advocacy for youths in the child welfare system and legal intervention for all young people involved with the justice system, whether or not they are in provincial care.

The child and youth advocate’s office has 57 employees and an $11 million operating budget this year.

The office recently launched a series of meetings with youths between 17 and 21 years old designed to improve services for young people who leave government care.

“The best way to do this is to go to them and talk about that,” Graff said.

The advocate’s office is holding 15 focus groups throughout the province.

Graff said he hopes to issue a report on the issue in early 2013, composed of the focus group findings, advice from front-line workers and additional research by his office.

But NDP human services critic Rachel Notley said the child and youth advocate should be taking a more detailed look at services for children who leave government care when they reach adulthood.

“It’s a gargantuan gap,” said Notley.

“That’s something serious he should be calling the government to task on, instead of doing focus groups.”

Source: Calgary Herald

sleeping watchdog

EastEnder Loses Baby

October 10, 2012 permalink

The BBC television series EastEnders is showing a plot line in which a single mother, Lola, loses her baby to a social worker. The British Association of Social Workers has complained over the portrayal of social worker Trish. They contend that the program is full of misinformation about the social work profession.

In the opinion of fixcas, the program is misinformative. During the apprehension social worker Trish actually shows some consideration for the feelings of the mother.

For bittorrent users, here is a magnet link to the October 5 episode in which Trish confiscates baby Lexi.



EastEnders: BBC defends Lola plot after complaints from social workers

The BBC has denied setting out to portray social workers in a poor light following complaints over Lola Pearce's current EastEnders storyline.

Last week, viewers saw Lola's baby daughter Lexi removed from her care by strict social worker Trish Barnes after she was arrested for assault. The sad development for Lola followed a number of tense visits from Trish.

Danielle Harold as Lola Pearce in EastEnders
Lola realises how much trouble she is in.

The Guardian reports that The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) has now complained over the portrayal of Trish in the plotline, branding the recent scenes "shabby" as accurate procedures were not followed.

Bridget Robb, acting chief of the BASW, commented: "It is disgraceful to see a publicly funded broadcaster deliberately spreading misinformation about the child protection process because it is too lazy and arrogant to get it right.

"We regularly give advice to programs about social work storylines - we would like to know who advised EastEnders so badly.

"Social workers have a difficult enough job as it is. Unlike the writers and actors on EastEnders, they have to step through those front doors that no-one else wants to step through, and they do it on a daily basis, to protect children, not to target families.

"EastEnders' shabby portrayal of an entire profession has made a tough job even tougher."

social worker
Lola's new social worker arrives unannounced and at a bad time for Billy and Lola.
social worker
Lola's new social worker arrives unannounced and at a bad time for Billy and Lola.

One social worker complained directly to the BBC over the episode in question, claiming that it was irresponsible to show Lexi being taken away from Lola without sufficient grounds.

A BBC spokesperson commented: "It is not our intention to portray social workers in a negative light. Whilst the audience has seen how much Lola loves Lexi, and seen her behaving responsibly in caring for her baby, her social worker has not. Each time the social worker visited, she regularly saw worrying behavior that concerned her.

"The social worker also witnessed a series of other incidents and, under these circumstances; we believe the audience will have understood why she had to act quickly to remove Lexi when Lola was arrested for assault.

"There was no suggestion that the social worker's actions arose from anything other than a genuine desire to protect Lexi, or that her concerns about Lola were unreasonable given the picture she and the previous social worker had formed over a substantial period of time.

"Although EastEnders tackles many social issues and always carefully researches the details, it is a drama and Lola's story and that of the social worker are not intended to be representative of everyone in the same situation."

Lola will be seen attempting to win Lexi back with help from her family in upcoming episodes.

Source: Digital Spy

Preparing for the Ombudsman

October 10, 2012 permalink

Preparations are under way for ombudsman oversight of Ontario's children's aid societies. The mess is big enough to call on professionals who can destroy documents in multi-ton loads. Canada Court Watch gumshoes caught the cleanup in progress. Residents of the Niagara region are warned to be ready for toxic waste.

Shred-It truck at FACS Niagara
Click on image for more detail

Source: Facebook, Canada Court Watch

Pills for Grades

October 10, 2012 permalink

Concern over the use of psychotropic drugs for children, a few years ago restricted to the fringe such as Scientology or Natural News, has spread to ABC News and now to the New York Times. Pills are being prescribed for school children, not only for diagnosed conditions such as ADHD, but just to improve a child's grades.



Attention Disorder or Not, Pills to Help in School

Amanda Rocafort and son Quintn
Amanda Rocafort and her son Quintn in Woodstock, Ga. Quintn takes the medication Risperdal.
Bryan Meltz for The New York Times

CANTON, Ga. — When Dr. Michael Anderson hears about his low-income patients struggling in elementary school, he usually gives them a taste of some powerful medicine: Adderall.

The pills boost focus and impulse control in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Although A.D.H.D is the diagnosis Dr. Anderson makes, he calls the disorder “made up” and “an excuse” to prescribe the pills to treat what he considers the children’s true ill — poor academic performance in inadequate schools.

“I don’t have a whole lot of choice,” said Dr. Anderson, a pediatrician for many poor families in Cherokee County, north of Atlanta. “We’ve decided as a society that it’s too expensive to modify the kid’s environment. So we have to modify the kid.”

Dr. Anderson is one of the more outspoken proponents of an idea that is gaining interest among some physicians. They are prescribing stimulants to struggling students in schools starved of extra money — not to treat A.D.H.D., necessarily, but to boost their academic performance.

It is not yet clear whether Dr. Anderson is representative of a widening trend. But some experts note that as wealthy students abuse stimulants to raise already-good grades in colleges and high schools, the medications are being used on low-income elementary school children with faltering grades and parents eager to see them succeed.

“We as a society have been unwilling to invest in very effective nonpharmaceutical interventions for these children and their families,” said Dr. Ramesh Raghavan, a child mental-health services researcher at Washington University in St. Louis and an expert in prescription drug use among low-income children. “We are effectively forcing local community psychiatrists to use the only tool at their disposal, which is psychotropic medications.”

Dr. Nancy Rappaport, a child psychiatrist in Cambridge, Mass., who works primarily with lower-income children and their schools, added: “We are seeing this more and more. We are using a chemical straitjacket instead of doing things that are just as important to also do, sometimes more.”

Dr. Anderson’s instinct, he said, is that of a “social justice thinker” who is “evening the scales a little bit.” He said that the children he sees with academic problems are essentially “mismatched with their environment” — square pegs chafing the round holes of public education. Because their families can rarely afford behavior-based therapies like tutoring and family counseling, he said, medication becomes the most reliable and pragmatic way to redirect the student toward success.

“People who are getting A’s and B’s, I won’t give it to them,” he said. For some parents the pills provide great relief. Jacqueline Williams said she can’t thank Dr. Anderson enough for diagnosing A.D.H.D. in her children — Eric, 15; Chekiara, 14; and Shamya, 11 — and prescribing Concerta, a long-acting stimulant, for them all. She said each was having trouble listening to instructions and concentrating on schoolwork.

“My kids don’t want to take it, but I told them, ‘These are your grades when you’re taking it, this is when you don’t,’ and they understood,” Ms. Williams said, noting that Medicaid covers almost every penny of her doctor and prescription costs.

Some experts see little harm in a responsible physician using A.D.H.D. medications to help a struggling student. Others — even among the many like Dr. Rappaport who praise the use of stimulants as treatment for classic A.D.H.D. — fear that doctors are exposing children to unwarranted physical and psychological risks. Reported side effects of the drugs have included growth suppression, increased blood pressure and, in rare cases, psychotic episodes.

The disorder, which is characterized by severe inattention and impulsivity, is an increasingly common psychiatric diagnosis among American youth: about 9.5 percent of Americans ages 4 to 17 were judged to have it in 2007, or about 5.4 million children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The reported prevalence of the disorder has risen steadily for more than a decade, with some doctors gratified by its widening recognition but others fearful that the diagnosis, and the drugs to treat it, are handed out too loosely and at the exclusion of nonpharmaceutical therapies.

The Drug Enforcement Administration classifies these medications as Schedule II Controlled Substances because they are particularly addictive. Long-term effects of extended use are not well understood, said many medical experts. Some of them worry that children can become dependent on the medication well into adulthood, long after any A.D.H.D. symptoms can dissipate.

According to guidelines published last year by the American Academy of Pediatrics, physicians should use one of several behavior rating scales, some of which feature dozens of categories, to make sure that a child not only fits criteria for A.D.H.D., but also has no related condition like dyslexia or oppositional defiant disorder, in which intense anger is directed toward authority figures. However, a 2010 study in the Journal of Attention Disorders suggested that at least 20 percent of doctors said they did not follow this protocol when making their A.D.H.D. diagnoses, with many of them following personal instinct.

On the Rocafort family’s kitchen shelf in Ball Ground, Ga., next to the peanut butter and chicken broth, sits a wire basket brimming with bottles of the children’s medications, prescribed by Dr. Anderson: Adderall for Alexis, 12; and Ethan, 9; Risperdal (an antipsychotic for mood stabilization) for Quintn and Perry, both 11; and Clonidine (a sleep aid to counteract the other medications) for all four, taken nightly.

Quintn began taking Adderall for A.D.H.D. about five years ago, when his disruptive school behavior led to calls home and in-school suspensions. He immediately settled down and became a more earnest, attentive student — a little bit more like Perry, who also took Adderall for his A.D.H.D.

When puberty’s chemical maelstrom began at about 10, though, Quintn got into fights at school because, he said, other children were insulting his mother. The problem was, they were not; Quintn was seeing people and hearing voices that were not there, a rare but recognized side effect of Adderall. After Quintn admitted to being suicidal, Dr. Anderson prescribed a week in a local psychiatric hospital, and a switch to Risperdal.

While telling this story, the Rocaforts called Quintn into the kitchen and asked him to describe why he had been given Adderall.

“To help me focus on my school work, my homework, listening to Mom and Dad, and not doing what I used to do to my teachers, to make them mad,” he said. He described the week in the hospital and the effects of Risperdal: “If I don’t take my medicine I’d be having attitudes. I’d be disrespecting my parents. I wouldn’t be like this.”

Despite Quintn’s experience with Adderall, the Rocaforts decided to use it with their 12-year-old daughter, Alexis, and 9-year-old son, Ethan. These children don’t have A.D.H.D., their parents said. The Adderall is merely to help their grades, and because Alexis was, in her father’s words, “a little blah.”

”We’ve seen both sides of the spectrum: we’ve seen positive, we’ve seen negative,” the father, Rocky Rocafort, said. Acknowledging that Alexis’s use of Adderall is “cosmetic,” he added, “If they’re feeling positive, happy, socializing more, and it’s helping them, why wouldn’t you? Why not?”

Dr. William Graf, a pediatrician and child neurologist who serves many poor families in New Haven, said that a family should be able to choose for itself whether Adderall can benefit its non-A.D.H.D. child, and that a physician can ethically prescribe a trial as long as side effects are closely monitored. He expressed concern, however, that the rising use of stimulants in this manner can threaten what he called “the authenticity of development.”

“These children are still in the developmental phase, and we still don’t know how these drugs biologically affect the developing brain,” he said. “There’s an obligation for parents, doctors and teachers to respect the authenticity issue, and I’m not sure that’s always happening.”

Dr. Anderson said that every child he treats with A.D.H.D. medication has met qualifications. But he also railed against those criteria, saying they were codified only to “make something completely subjective look objective.” He added that teacher reports almost invariably come back as citing the behaviors that would warrant a diagnosis, a decision he called more economic than medical.

“The school said if they had other ideas they would,” Dr. Anderson said. “But the other ideas cost money and resources compared to meds.”

Dr. Anderson cited William G. Hasty Elementary School here in Canton as one school he deals with often. Izell McGruder, the school’s principal, did not respond to several messages seeking comment.

Several educators contacted for this article considered the subject of A.D.H.D. so controversial — the diagnosis was misused at times, they said, but for many children it is a serious learning disability — that they declined to comment. The superintendent of one major school district in California, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, noted that diagnosis rates of A.D.H.D. have risen as sharply as school funding has declined.

“It’s scary to think that this is what we’ve come to; how not funding public education to meet the needs of all kids has led to this,” said the superintendent, referring to the use of stimulants in children without classic A.D.H.D. “I don’t know, but it could be happening right here. Maybe not as knowingly, but it could be a consequence of a doctor who sees a kid failing in overcrowded classes with 42 other kids and the frustrated parents asking what they can do. The doctor says, ‘Maybe it’s A.D.H.D., let’s give this a try.’ ”

When told that the Rocaforts insist that their two children on Adderall do not have A.D.H.D. and never did, Dr. Anderson said he was surprised. He consulted their charts and found the parent questionnaire. Every category, which assessed the severity of behaviors associated with A.D.H.D., received a five out of five except one, which was a four.

“This is my whole angst about the thing,” Dr. Anderson said. “We put a label on something that isn’t binary — you have it or you don’t. We won’t just say that there is a student who has problems in school, problems at home, and probably, according to the doctor with agreement of the parents, will try medical treatment.”

He added, “We might not know the long-term effects, but we do know the short-term costs of school failure, which are real. I am looking to the individual person and where they are right now. I am the doctor for the patient, not for society.”

A version of this article appeared in print on October 9, 2012, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Attention Disorder or Not, Pills to Help in School.

Source: New York Times

Powerful Award

October 7, 2012 permalink

Esther Buckareff click for larger image

Following the September 23 screening at COMMFFEST filmmaker Esther Buckareff received a MADA award for Powerful as God. Michael Coren will spotlight her film on his TV program Monday evening.

Addendum: Esther Buckareff did not want to appear on camera, so Micheal Coren interviewed lawyer Michael P Clarke (mp4).

Help Reform Child Protection

October 7, 2012 permalink

Vernon Beck Canada Court Watch is looking to make contact with some professionals who know the system is broken and would like to participate in a community based approach which will eliminate a lot of the long court times and inaccurate assessments by child protection workers and CAS workers. If you know of a professional such as social worker, psychologist, custody assessor, teacher, lawyer, etc, who you believe would like to step forward to participate for the good of families, then please pass the name on to us at Canada Court Watch or have them contact us at Retired professionals and even retired CAS workers sincerely willing to help in a social justice initiative are OK as well.

Source: Facebook, Canada Court Watch

Kingston Rally

October 6, 2012 permalink

A Rally for accountability was scheduled for the opening of a new CAS palace in Kingston on October 2. Here is a brief video (mp4) and a photo. This longer video is a suitable christening of the new CAStle (mp4).

Source: Facebook

Hotel California

October 6, 2012 permalink

When Liliana Distefano was in ill health and unable to care for her son, she turned him over to the the Queensland Australia Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services. Now her health is restored and her runaway son wants to live with his mother, but the department will not relinquish the boy. Police regularly harass her in efforts to recapture her son.

At the Hotel California, "You can check-out any time you like, but you can never leave!" On expand send the attachment (mp3) to a music player, or discard it to ignore.



Son wants to return home to family

A 13-YEAR-OLD boy is in hiding, avoiding child services officers after fleeing foster care in an attempt to be reunited with his mother.

His mother, Liliana Distefano, says the boy has been on the run since mid-September and lives in constant fear of being seized by authorities.

At a meeting with the Chronicle, Ms Distefano, in the company of her son, accused the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services of harming her family's welfare.

Ms Distefano, who has another son with autism, said she was overcome by health and personal circumstances in early 2009.

She said she was left with no option but to relinquish her then 11-year-old son into the care of the department.

The decision was made when the pressure of her own health issues combined with her son's medical conditions forced her to form the view she was not able to care for him properly in that period.

"I had exhausted all avenues with regards to respite - Commonwealth respite, disability services - they all said there was nothing available," Ms Distefano said.

"In desperation, I contacted DOCS and they said the only way they could help was if I relinquished him into care."

Ms Distefano said departmental officers came to her home with documents, which she signed, and her son was removed from her care the same day.

It was the beginning of a traumatic, three-month separation, unbroken by a phone call or a visit.

"I knew nothing - I was beside myself for three months," Ms Distefano said.

"I called all the time asking 'where is he', 'when can we do contact'.

"Nobody would give me any answers."

Now, with the boy is on the run, a spokesperson for the department said specific cases would not be discussed but there were general guidelines that applied to all cases.

"When a child or young person leaves their foster home, residential care, or carers, and is then considered to be at risk of being harmed, police are immediately contacted," the spokesperson said.

"Every effort is made to locate the child or young person to return them to their home and to look into why they have made the decision to leave.

"Depending on the young person and their circumstances, the department will review arrangements to keep them safe, and their travel and movements may be limited."

Ms Distefano said in the two years from 2009 there had been varying degrees of contact between her and her son.

Recently, she noticed a change in his demeanour and then, in mid September, he gave her a letter during a visit containing various complaints and made it clear he wished to return home.

This prompted a fiery meeting with departmental officials and led to Ms Distefano seeking legal advice.

Ms Distefano said her boy was reported missing by the department, prompting periodic visits to her house by police.

She has alleged departmental officers had harassed members of her family by telephone.

"All I want is for my son to be allowed to come home, he is my son and I love him," she said.

In response to questions about the reunification process of children who had been surrendered into care, the department's spokesperson said: "Children subject to short term child protection orders have a case plan that details how they will be reunited with their families.

"This case plan will identify what additional supports are required for the child to safely return to their family's care.

"This may include engaging the family with agencies that can support them in addressing the child protection issues that led to the child coming into care."

Source: Fraser Coast Chronicle (Queensland Australia)

Kidnapping Sentence

October 5, 2012 permalink

A British court has handed out a jail sentence for kidnapping to, who else, the real mother Jodie Little. The grandparents were given lesser sentences for helping their daughter.



Woman jailed for child kidnap

Jodie Little
Jodie Little
Credit: West Yorkshire Police

A woman from Huddersfield has been jailed for 16 months after pleading guilty to kidnapping a baby girl. Jodie Little, 23, of Dyson Street, Dalton , was sentenced at Bradford Crown Court. Her mother Jayne Little, 47, and father Keith Little, 53, were

both given 9 months suspended sentences after pleading guilty to kidnapping a then 11 month-old girl on March 12 , this year. Keith Little was also given a 200 hours community service order. The baby girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was missing for two days before police found her.

. Detective Superintendent Mark Ridley said: "This was a very sensitive enquiry with an emotive background in which the overriding focus of our investigation was to ensure the welfare and safe recovery of the victim.

"Safeguarding vulnerable members of our communities is a priority and we are pleased that that this investigation has now been brought to a successful conclusion."

Source: ITV

Client Threatens Social Worker

October 5, 2012 permalink

A Kentucky social worker arriving to intervene in the life of James Johnson took cover in a bathroom when she found herself facing a gun.



Police: Man points gun at social worker

James Johnson

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. (WKYT) - Some tense moments for a social worker, after police say a man pointed a gun towards her while she was conducting an investigation Wednesday.

The Laurel County sheriff's office arrested 20-year-old James Johnson.

He's charged with robbery, wanton endangerment, and assault.

Deputies say after the social worker showed up at Johnson's house for an investigation, he became upset and confronted a neighbor, whom he believed complained to social services.

Deputies say Johnson assaulted the neighbor, took his gun, then went back to his home.

They say the social worker locked herself in a bathroom for protection, as Johnson pointed a gun in her direction.

Johnson was later arrested.

Source: WKYT

Father Chained and Muzzled

October 4, 2012 permalink

In family law, fathers get less respect than a chained and muzzled dog. Enclosed below is a decision reported in an Ontario family court case involving the Catholic Children's Aid Society of Toronto and two parents named only as NB and AL. The decision has been edited to show only the parts giving orders to the father. This father cannot publicly mention his name, or the names of his wife and children, and is forbidden to see his children as long as any of those names can be associated with his children through a Google search.



COURT FILE No.: Toronto C4767/09

DATE: 2012·June·25

Citation: Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Toronto v. N.B.-R., 2012 ONCJ 439



Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Toronto,


— AND —

N.B. (mother)

—AND —

A.L. (father),


Before Justice E. B. Murray

Reasons for Judgment released on June 25, 2012

[4] I made the following order.

  1. The access order of April 3 , 2012 is suspended until Father removes from the internet any information or images posted by him or at his direction or under his control that do or have the effect of identifying the children K.[2] or N.L or K.[1], directly or indirectly, as children in this case. Father shall advise the Society forthwith when he has done this, so the Society can confirm.
  2. The court will issue a further order identifying the information and images referred to above. The Society and Ms. Roskies may make submissions on this issue by June 8, 2012; Father shall have until June 15, 2012 to answer; and any reply shall be served and filed by June 20, 2012.
  3. Upon Father complying with the above provision, the access set out in the order of April 3, 2012 shall resume, on the following conditions:
    • Father may not bring any electronic or recording device into the visits, including any computer, iphone, cell phone, or camera.
    • If Father misses a visit and the Society does not agree that he was justified in so doing, then access is further suspended until further order of this court.

[17] I have reviewed Ms. Slinger’s affidavit containing descriptions of the 22 videoblogs. Based on those descriptions, I find that the following videos contain identifying information:

  • July 7, 2010
  • October 5, 2010
  • October 6, 2010
  • October 8, 2010
  • October 16, 2010
  • October 18, 2010
  • October 19,2010
  • October 26, 2010
  • November4, 2010
  • December 13, 2010
  • December 16, 2010
  • December21, 2010
  • January 17, 2011
  • January 18, 2011
  • January 19, 2011
  • January 20, 2011
  • February 18, 2011
  • March 29, 2011
  • November 12, 2011

[18] I order that Father remove these videoblogs from the internet.

[19] I further order that Father remove from the internet any posting of any type made by him that would result in a “hit” if any of the children’s names was entered in Google that would result in information of any type – including “tags” on screen – that would identify the children, directly or indirectly, as being connected to a protection case. For Father’s guidance, I state that I would consider a link to a protection case would be established by any posting that discusses Father’s experiences or views with respect to family court proceedings[1] or that mentions a children’s aid society or worker.

[20] When Father has complied with this order, he shall advise the Society in writing. If the Society agrees that there is compliance, Father’s access may resume. If there is disagreement, then the issue may be spoken to before me.

[21] With respect to any future postings on the internet by Father, I order that he make no posting that violates s. 45(8) of the Act. Father should be aware that that section, aside from prohibiting the publishing of information that has the effect of identifying the children as connected to a protection proceeding, also prohibits such publication of the names of himself and Mother in that regard. Pursuant to s. 85(3) of the Act, a person who contravenes s. 45(8) is guilty of an offence and on conviction is liable to a fine of up to $10,000 or to imprisonment for not more than three years, or to both.

Released: June 25, 2012

Signed: “Justice E. B. Murray”

Source: CanLii

When the law against publication of names was enacted, publication meant printing in a newspaper or broadcasting on radio or television. The legislators voting for the law never intended to outlaw a parent mentioning the names of members of his own family, that's why they made the restriction only for publication. But technology has advanced and the judge in this case has applied a law in a way never envisioned at its passage.

Technical note: Fixcas has a few times responded to requests to remove material that has become embarrassing to the families involved. Eradicating a name to the point that it will no longer appear in a Google search is a difficult process even for a computer professional. Unless this father is a skilled professional, it is unlikely that he will be able to comply with the order of the court even with his best efforts to do so.

slave with muzzle

Mother Arrested for Letting Children Play

October 4, 2012 permalink

Mother Tammy Cooper was watching while her children played outside. Neighbor Shelley Fuller, who noticed the children but not the mother, called the police with a report of abandoned children. Tammy was arrested and spent the night in jail. Comment by Robert Franklin is enclosed, along with a news article he cites.



Mom Hauled to Jail for ‘Child Abandonment’ While Watching Kids Play

Just last week I ran a piece about a man sitting in a movie theater in Portland who decided a mother who took her 4 – 5 year old son to the same movie was committing child abuse because the movie contained violent scenes and profanity. Never mind that the woman was completely within her rights to take the boy to the movie; the man intervened anyway, reportedly upbraiding her in the theater and then calling CPS whose employee told him there was nothing the agency could or would do. I pointed out that there are numerous “mandated reporters” regarding questions of child abuse, so if a teacher, physician, nurse, etc. suspects that a child is being harmed, he/she is required by law to report it to the child welfare agency.

But of course the man in the movie theater was no mandated reporter, he’s a freelancer, just an everyday guy who took it on himself to tell a mother how to take care of her son. In my previous piece, I mentioned that this state of affairs may remind one of the Stasi. The Stasi, of course was the East German secret police until the Berlin Wall came down. With the demise of the East German government, people started looking into Stasi records and, to their astonishment, found that its network of neighborhood informants was vast. People informed on their neighbors as a matter of course.

And so it is here, but our informants aren’t reporting political activism, they’re reporting parents for parenting. Often as not, they’re doing so to get back at a neighbor for some perceived slight or other. Here’s an example (KPRC, 9/6/12).

Tammy Cooper is a stay-at-home mother with two children, ages nine and six. They live on a quiet cul-de-sac in LaPorte, Texas, a bedroom community east of Houston. She was sitting outside one day watching her kids ride their scooters when a city police officer drove up. Intrigued, she walked out to the curb to inquire what was going on. He told her she was under arrest. One of her neighbors had called the police and reported that the children were playing unsupervised even though Cooper had been there the whole time. With her children clinging to the officer’s legs begging him to leave their mother alone, Cooper was handcuffed, placed in the police car and taken to jail. There she was placed in a cell wearing a county-issued orange jumpsuit for 18 hours.

The District Attorney’s office accepted criminal charges of child abandonment against a mother whose children had never been out of her sight and who were in no danger on the virtually traffic-free cul-de-sac. Unsurprisingly, those charges were subsequently dropped and Cooper is suing the city and her neighbor, Shelley Fuller.

It’s true that Cooper, while treated outrageously by her neighbor and the police, didn’t suffer unduly. Of course it’s humiliating to be arrested in your own neighborhood, to be thrown in a cell, etc. But Cooper will get over all that. But what she won’t get over, what she’ll never forget, is the fact that her parenting decisions aren’t her own. The most benign, everyday actions of a parent are at all times subject to second-guessing by anyone and everyone within eyesight.

And those people – her friends and neighbors – turn out to have a lot of power. That’s because they don’t act alone, but in close concert with the police and child welfare agencies. Did Tammy Cooper do something to irritate Shelley Fuller at some point? Well, Shelley can call the cops on Tammy any time she wants to and report child endangerment or abandonment and the police will serve as her cat’s paw. They’ll show up and arrest Cooper whether she’s done anything wrong or not. Probable cause? I’d like to know what that consisted of in Cooper’s case, because I don’t see any.

I’ve said it before; children are the open door through which the state enters family life. More and more, parental autonomy is being circumscribed by the police and other state agencies. There is a legitimate roll for the state when a parent is abusive or neglectful in ways that endanger a child, but those necessary state functions have become expanded beyond all recognition to include things like what happened to Tammy Cooper. The same is repeated countless times a day with the same educational result – parents learn that, however kind, loving and careful they are, the state has a million eyes. Some of them are right next door.

Thanks to Paul for the heads-up.

Source: Fathers and Families

Mom sues police over arrest

Says she was wrongly accused of child endangerment

Mom sues police department, officer

LA PORTE, Texas -

A stay-at-home mom from La Porte has filed a lawsuit against the city's police department, an unknown officer and one of her neighbors.

Tammy Cooper said she was wrongly accused of endangering her children and was even forced to spend the night in jail, all because she let her kids play outside.

She said her children, ages 9 and 6, were riding their motorized scooters in the cul-de-sac where they live while she watched from a lawn chair in her front yard just a few feet away.

"I was out there the entire time," Cooper said. "I never left that lawn chair the entire time."

Cooper said a little while later, a La Porte police car pulled up in front of her home.

"I went out there to see what he was here for and he said, 'Ma'am, we're here for you.' I said, 'Oh really? Why?' He proceeded to tell me he had received a call from one of my neighbors that my kids were riding their scooters unsupervised.

Cooper said she was handcuffed, put in the back of a police car and forced to spend the night in jail.

"Orange jumpsuit, in a cell, slammed the door, for 18 hours," Cooper said.

The charges against her were eventually dropped but she still describes the ordeal as humiliating and said her children were even questioned by police and terrified.

"My daughter had him (the police officer) around the leg saying, "Please, please don't take my mom to jail. Please, she didn't do anything wrong,'" said Cooper.

The La Porte Police department issued a statement saying;

"...we are confident in the known actions of the responding officers. In addition, officers did contact the Harris County District Attorney's Office while on the scene that evening, upon which their Office accepted charges of Abandoning a Child on Ms. Cooper."

Cooper said the ordeal has been stressful, time consuming and costly. She said her family has already shelled out $7,000 in legal fees.

"I hope that what I went through doesn't go unpunished - that there are consequences for a bad decision," Cooper said.

Source: KPRC - Houston

Purple for CAS

October 4, 2012 permalink

purple ribbon

Public school students in Winchester Ontario are invited to wear purple on Friday, October 19 to support the children's aid society. Fixcas favors reduction of child abuse and neglect. We are not so sure supporting Ontario's children's aid societies is an effective way to do so.




W.P.S. sharpening young minds

Upper Canada District School Board logo

Winchester Public School
547 Louise St S
Box 280
Winchester Ontario
613 774 2607 (Telephone) I 855 508 1588 (Fax)
Principal Jill Pensa Office Administrator Marie Shelp

October 4. 2012

Dear Parents.

A Message from one of our community partners. CAS

On Friday, October 19th we will be supporting the Children's Aid Society by participating in their 2012 October's Child Abuse Prevention Champaign, marked by the purple ribbon. We are asking students and staff to participate hy dressing in purple that day Each person wearing purple will receive a ballot which will enter them into a prize draw. The grand prize is a Disney Trip for a family of four compliments of MIX 96.

This week, our grades 3-6 classes will have presentation from our local police about the Purple Ribbon campaign on Friday, October 5th in our gym at 9:30 a.m.

On Saturday, October 27th the Purple Ribbon Finale will take place at the Aultsville Theatre There are shows at 2 p.m., 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. Grand Scale Illusionist Claude Haggerty will wow and inspire the crowd with magic and his story of triumph against all odds

Thank you for helping us paint our community purple on Friday, October 19th and supporting this important campaign.


J Pensa

creating futures

Source: Facebook, Melanie Jepp

Bill 110 Passes Second Reading

October 4, 2012 permalink

Bill 110, the Ombudsman Amendment Act (Children’s Aid Societies) 2012, passed second reading today in the legislature. Debate on the bill began late in the session (link to Hansard) with approval without a roll call. The bill was referred to the Justice Policy Committee, which will be conducting hearings at a time yet to be scheduled. A year and a half ago a similar bill 183 failed to achieve second reading. Two news stories on the current bill are enclosed.



Mountain MPP hoping to shine a light on children’s aid

Monique Taylor
Hamilton Mountain MPP Monique Taylor
Ron Albertson/The Hamilton Spectator

Hamilton Mountain MPP Monique Taylor wants to give Ontario’s watchdog sharper teeth to investigate children’s aid.

Taylor, the NDP’s critic for children and youth services, has introduced a private member’s bill that would give Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin the authority to probe child protection services.

The bill passed its second reading at the Ontario Legislature Thursday. From there, the bill faces the approval of a committee and a third reading in the house before it becomes law.

Taylor, who worked as Councillor Scott Duvall’s assistant before being elected in 2011, said she fielded many calls from residents looking for someone to investigate their concerns about children’s aid.

“Working previously for the city and working for a councillor, people were calling the office and asking where they could turn. The calls just were flooding in,” she said. “I knew that it was the right thing to do.”

The Ombudsman’s office has long been pushing for greater investigative abilities over the so-called MUSH sector, which includes municipalities, universities, school boards, and hospitals, as well as nursing homes, long-term care facilities, police and children’s aid.

“That’s been the view of the Ombudsman’s office since it was established in 1975,” said spokesperson Linda Williamson.

In 2011 and 2012, the ombudsman’s office received 491 complaints it couldn’t investigate.

There have been other private member’s bills attempting to open up the MUSH sector to ombudsman oversight, though none have successfully made it through the house.

However, this bill specifically targets children’s aid instead of the entire swath of organizations in the MUSH sector.

As Taylor’s office points out, Ontario is the only province that doesn’t grant its Ombudsman the authority to oversee its 47 children’s aid societies.

“I’m really pleased this bill has received the support of the legislature,” Taylor said in a statement.

“There have been a few attempts over the years to get similar legislation passed, but this is the first time it has made it past second reading. I’m looking forward to the bill going to committee and then back for final approval by the legislature.”

Source: Hamilton Spectator

Hamilton MPP wants more oversight of children's aid societies

Monique Taylor's bill passes second reading

Monique Taylor and Andrea Horwath
Hamilton Mountain MPP Monique Taylor, left, shown at a recent rally with NDP leader Andrea Horwath, will introduce a private member's bill Thursday afternoon that would give Ontario's Ombudsman the ability to investigate decisions made by children's aid societies.

Monique Taylor is calling on fellow MPPs to give Ontario's Ombudsman the ability to investigate decisions made by the province's children's aid societies.

A private member's bill initiated by Taylor, MPP for Hamilton Mountain and the NDP's critic for Ministry of Child and Youth Services, passed second reading Thursday afternoon. If made law, it would give Ontario's Ombudsman, André Marin, independent oversight over the societies' decisions.

“Children's aid societies are charged with the responsibility to make decisions that can turn the lives of children and their families upside down,” Taylor said in a media release Thursday. “They have the authority to remove children from their family home and put them into the care of others.

“Unfortunately, sometimes they get it wrong, mistakes get made and lives are ruined forever.”

The Ombudsman has been calling for oversight of children's aid societies since the office began 35 years ago, spokesperson Linda Williamson said. This is not the first private member's bill about it.

“Every year in our annual report, we discuss how we get hundreds of complains about children's aid societies and we're not able to deal with them,” she said. “We have nothing to do with the movement that's been happening, but we've seen it.”

'Considerable oversight'

Children's aid societies already have “considerable oversight” on several levels, said Dominic Verticchio, executive director of the Hamilton Children's Aid Society (CAS).

They are accountable to the courts when children are apprehended. They are also accountable to the province via the Child and Family Services Review Board — which falls under the oversight of the Ontario Ombudsman, he said. But complaints are often settled before they reach that level.

Of the 50 complaints lodged against the Hamilton CAS during the 2011/2012 fiscal year, all but nine were settled internally, Verticchio said. The remainder went to the Child and Family Services Review Board.

“We really believe we're highly accountable for the services we deliver,” he said.

At the Catholic Children's Aid Society of Hamilton, there were 10 complaints in the last fiscal year and one went to the review board, said executive director Ersilia DiNardo.

Complaint options

Parents with complaints against the society have a number of options, including taking the case to the review board, DiNardo said.

“Whenever anyone has a complaint about our service, we provide them with an information booklet that outlines for them the steps involved for resolving a complaint,“

Children's aid societies are also audited by the province each year. This, combined with the court system, makes for a “well defined system,“ she said.

Taylor told CBC Hamilton she first noticed the issue as assistant to Coun. Scott Duvall, she said. Issues ranged from parents “jumping through hoops” to meet criteria that suddenly changed, to court dates being unexpectedly cancelled.

Now that she's NDP critic, “the calls have been pouring in.” This private member's bill — Taylor's first — was “a no brainer for me.”

Life-altering decisions

“This is not about wearing a helmet while driving your bike,” she said. “These are life-altering decisions.”

Laura Reid is a former facilitator with the Aboriginal Healing and Outreach Program, which until March was offered through the Native Women's Centre. Reid worked with many women dealing with children's aid societies and said she's happy to see Taylor's bill.

Court systems are often too overwhelmed to pay close attention to each case, and with the current system, complaints often go through children's aid societies themselves.

”The Ombudsman would be a great step forward,” she said. ”Before, you could write to the Ombudsman's office but there was nothing they could do.”

Taylor's bill will now be examined at the committee level.

Source: CBC

Video of the second reading is on YouTube and local copy (mp4).

CAS Staff Gashes Boy

October 3, 2012 permalink

Mother Cindy Kelly Propper visited her son Bradley in CAS care to find that he had a gash across his face from being struck with a stick armed with a staple at the end.



Cindy Kelly Propper

So James and I went to see Bradley at the supervised visiting office, and I had stuck my recorder in my pocket, nobody knew I did this, Bradley went straight to his brother hugging him and crying,then he grabbed ahold of me hugging me and crying, he whispered to me "I am not suppose to tell you, or Adam said he would cause me trouble". I said you can tell me anything pumpkin. Bradley said the staff hit me with a stick and she didn't know there was a staple in the end and that's why I have a gash across my face. So a staff made the decision to hit our son in the face with a stick that had a staple in the end, instead of putting another staff member in her place while she cooled down. I have contacted the Stratford police officer that attended the agency, and the ombudsman called me this morning inquiring about our case. Next I have requested the incident report from Bradley's ca$ worker. This staff needs to be charged and loose her job, if where I that hit him with a stick I would be charged. A proper investigation needs to be done, if they where not in the wrong then why did they tell or son not to tell us? I will be speaking to this officer at 5:00.

Source: Facebook, Canada Court Watch

Distressed Man Arrested

October 3, 2012 permalink

In a news item leaving more questions than answers, a caller to a crisis line has been arrested for threatening to kill a worker with Newfoundland and Labrador's Department of Child, Youth and Family Services. Crisis lines are a resource for distressed people contemplating suicide. The crisis staffer is supposed to help the caller with his problems. Is getting him arrested helpful?



Child welfare threat leads to criminal charge

A Bay of Islands man has been arrested for threatening to kill a worker with Newfoundland and Labrador's Department of Child, Youth and Family Services.

The RNC said the suspect, 41, allegedly called a crisis line on Monday night and made the threat.

Officers tracked the call back to a house in the community of Halfway Point.

The man has been charged with uttering threats and with breaching a court order.

He is scheduled to appear Wednesday in provincial court.

Source: CBC

Addendum: A follow-up article names the man as Sean Dobbin and gives some of the circumstances. He was expressing his frustration when a social worker prevented him from seeing his own children.



Man says he never intended to harm social worker

CORNER BROOK A Bay of Islands man convicted of uttering threats to kill a social worker told the court on Friday that he never intended to do any harm to the woman.

While Sean Dobbin took responsibility for his actions, he still placed some blame on the woman for the situation.

Dobbin, 41, of Halfway Point, indicated that the woman made things difficult for him. He said when he wanted to see his children, who are under the care of Child, Youth and Family Services, that the social worker came up with lame excuses. He said his intention was to challenge the woman in court.

Dobbin was arrested by the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary on Oct. 2 following an investigation into a complaint of uttering a threat to cause death. The threat had been uttered in a voicemail message Dobbin left for the woman at her place of work.

He went on trial before Judge Wayne Gorman in provincial court in Corner Brook on Feb. 15. In a written decision dated Feb. 26, Gorman found him guilty of uttering a threat and breach of probation. A third charge of uttering a threat to kill the woman to another individual was withdrawn.

In the decision, Gorman said that the message left by Dobbin referred to him being the woman’s “worst nightmare” and that he was going to “fight until (she) or someone else was dead.”

In convicting Dobbin, Gorman said he was satisfied that he intended for his words to be taken seriously and for them to intimidate the woman.

Dobbin appeared before Gorman on Friday as part of his sentencing hearing. Crown attorney Ed Ring asked the judge to sentence Dobbin to between 30 and 60 days in jail and to impose a period of probation of between 18 and 24 months. He also requested that Dobbin have no contact with the social worker and suggested a three- to five-year weapons prohibition could be imposed at the court’s discretion.

Ring said the sentence is in the range of those handed out for similar offences and would satisfy any concerns for public safety and interests.

Dobbin’s defence lawyer Jamie Luscombe, however, asked the judge to impose a lesser sentence in the range of 14 to 30 days incarceration. He also asked that Dobbin be allowed to serve that time either conditionally or on an intermittent basis.

Luscombe also suggested a period of 12-months probation and that the weapons prohibition was not necessary. As for having no contact with the social worker, Luscombe asked for an exception to allow contact through court proceedings due to the issue of custody of his children.

Gorman will render his decision in the case on March 26.

Source: Western Star

Stop Internet Criticism

October 3, 2012 permalink

Here is a sure indication that social workers are feeling the heat from internet postings. British social workers are asking for new laws to shut down websites that mention them by name. An earlier article points to a critical page comparing social workers to Nazis. The original page with the Nazis is defunct, a blog from the same source is UK Social Workers Exposed.



BASW: Social workers need same online protection as celebrities

Social workers and other child protection professionals are at risk of personal harm unless action is taken to protect them from online attacks, BASW says

Tom Daley
Tom Daley received police support after online attack
Pic: Rex Features

Social workers and judges should be given the same protection from social media attacks as celebrities and wealthy individuals, the British Association of Social Workers said today.

The call follows a successful campaign by social workers to remove a number of online hate sites that published the identities of professionals involved in child protection, including social workers, judges and family court guardians, alongside Nazi imagery.

The sites also featured the names, pictures and personal addresses of several professionals. Yet so far no action has been taken by authorities.

Police should give their protection the same priority as that of diver Tom Daley and premiership referee Mark Halsey – both involved in recent high profile online attacks – BASW and its trade union arm the Social Workers Union (SWU) said today.

“This libellous publication of information and opinion on the internet is equivalent to spreading unedited opinion in a newspaper or on television,” said David Allan, acting assistant general secretary of SWU.

He said a responsible employer should regard it as a type of assault and have “very clear procedures as to how to deal with members of the public who are abusive to, or who assault, their employees to whom they have a duty of care”.

The union is encouraging employers to press for legal action against the site’s creator, “as a clear message that this type of abuse will not be tolerated”.

Bridget Robb, acting chief of BASW, said the organisation believes it knows the identities of those behind the sites and will be passing the details on to police.

“We will continue to press for action every time a site emerges, until they are stopped,” Robb said. “We will also be asking the Association of Directors of Children’s Services and the Ministry of Justice to contribute to this debate, and reminding employers once more of their duty of care towards their social workers.”

Source: Community Care

Addendum: A spokesman for the British Association of Social Workers gives her opinion, presented here with comments by fixcas in red.



Hayley is the press officer for the British Association of Social Workers

Don't Mistake Hatred for Freedom of Speech

Prince Harry and Kate Middleton may be less than thrilled at the public's interest in their lack of holiday attire but their plight, and that of many other celebrities who might crave more powerful privacy laws, can be keenly felt lower down the social orders too, and sometimes with far more malevolent implications.

A number of social workers have recently felt the royals' pain in an all-too vitriolic fashion, their names, faces, employers and addresses plastered all over a number of websites dedicated to exposing the ultimate conspiracy theory - that there is a secret plot to remove the attractive children of poor people and re-distribute them into a 'care industry' of potential middle class adopters. Money grabbing foster parents, paid for every child that a social worker 'snatches', are claimed to be a further by-product of the scenario.

Children taken by force from parents are regularly advertised for adoption. In addition, legislatures appropriate money as rewards to social service agencies for increased numbers of adoptions.

The British Association of Social Workers has condemned such 'name and shame' hate sites for presenting real security risks to individual social workers who are trying their best to protect children in a challenging and resource starved system.

Some sites make malicious use of the social services abbreviation 'SS', comparing social workers to the Waffen-SS, Hitler's notorious secret police service. Worse still, they stamp this Nazi imagery on to pictures of named social workers, often taken from Facebook. Whatever people's view of social workers, few would surely condone pictures taken from someone's wedding day branded with Nazi insignia and posted all over the internet, coupled with the person's name and details of how to find and intimidate them.

Hitler and Nazi have morphed into synonyms for pure evil. It is understandable that parents targeted for child seizure, most selected from the lower end of the educational and income scale, would express their opinions of social workers in the colloquial language of evil. The inarticulate character of the prime victims cannot excuse the act of family destruction through child removal, even when the perpetrators convince themselves they are acting out of beneficent motives.

Social workers are used to criticism; with the job, on occasion, necessitating entering a home to explain to a family that allegations of child abuse have been made against them, they know open-armed welcomes are unlikely. And of course social workers don't always get it 100% correct, especially with the sort of rising caseloads and diminished support BASW revealed in May through its State of Social Work survey of more than 1,000 frontline workers.

The fallibility of individuals is one reason why the system for removing children from care doesn't give social workers quite the uber-power many assume. When the stakes are so high, the decision to remove a child from a family home is extremely complex. As is the legislation underpinning such decisions, and the lengthy legal process that follows.

It's hard to know where to begin with this mangled logic. The fallibility of individuals is one of the best reasons social workers should not be given the power to remove children on whim. As for real social workers, they openly boast of their power, as when Dufferin social worker Jennifer Foster boasted to a client "We have as much power as God". The decision to remove is extremely complex? Then why is it entrusted to amateurs with only four weeks training? As for the legal process that follows, it shows little concern with finding the truth of the matter. In cases that do not get to actual trial, at least 99 percent of them, parents are not permitted to speak in their own defense, witnesses appear only by affidavit and cannot be cross-examined, and a mountain of evidence is gathered from persons using fake credentials or faked tests to push junk-science behavioral theories.

Yes, social workers make an assessment of a child's situation, but this then has to be scrutinised by managers and local authority lawyers before the child even begins their journey through the care system and the family courts system, whether that is temporary foster care before being returned home, or being removed from home on a permanent basis.

And then there is that stark reality facing social workers - the dilemma of whether to leave a defenceless child in a potentially abusive situation, or give someone the benefit of the doubt. What would you do?

Benefit of the doubt? Because of an immutable fact of human nature, what scientists call the Cinderella effect, people take better care of their own children than those of strangers. Foster care can be measured to be ten times as abusive, and deadly, as parental care. What a social worker calls benefit of the means placing a child in danger.

I have read posts on these sites that rant and rave about an 'evil' individual social worker 'stitching them up' that then go on to say, "yes, I had committed assault, yes I had been on a drinking binge for three weeks, BUT..." I ask you, Reader, what would you do, if faced with facts such as these? Are social workers just supposed to let children stay in such situations in the optimistic hope that it is 'just a blip' and that harmony will soon be restored to the household?

This paragraph suggests that real parental faults are a good enough reason to seize their children. But scientific measurement shows that even the worst parents provide better care for their children than the foster care system.

The recent tragic case of Jayden Lee Green, who was given methadone by his heroin addict parents, has been referenced by some hate sites to support their claims that social workers unfairly take children away from good parents. Yet surely a case such as Jayden's supports the view that, sometimes, too much is done to keep a family together.

In reality, taking a child into care costs a local authority money, it isn't some sort of ingenious council money spinner. In the landscape shaped by the death of Baby Peter Connelly, most child protection social workers worry that not enough children are being removed from abusive situations, not that they haven't hit their child snatching 'quota' for the month.

Jayden Lee Green and Baby Peter Connelly suffered at the hands of their real families when social workers failed to intervene. Social workers love to draw attention to these cases since they suggest that children could have better outcomes if only they had more money and power. They go to great lengths to suppress knowledge of children who were harmed of killed after placement in the foster care system. The public would be outraged if it became widely knows how dangerous foster care really is.

The secretive nature of the family courts, where they are closed to the public, no jury is present, and judgements are very rarely published, fuel the conspiracy theories. The principle behind having a closed court, like many child protection procedures, is for the benefit of the child. Not the parents, the child. Given the sensitive nature of the personal details revealed in the family courts, supporters of the closed system would argue that this protects families from Jeremy Kyle-style exposure.

When the issue of opening family courts to public scrutiny comes up, it is never families that object to openness, but only functionaries of the social services system. Protection of the child is the pretext, not the reason, for secrecy. The reason is to protect the social services system from exposure of its routine misconduct.

Solicitors, lawyers and judges involved in making decisions about children are also being targeted on hate sites. Such legal professionals are just as involved in care proceedings as social workers, yet social workers face the brunt of the 'blame'.

Families must of course have a right to protest, but these sites achieve nothing more than spreading hatred and inciting possible violence - or at the very least intimidation and harassment. Posting inflammatory comments can also cause more harm than good to those who feel they have been wronged. Families involved in protesting should be aware that IP addresses can easily be traced, and that abusive comments made online could potentially jeopardise any on-going care proceedings.

This is no empty threat. Social services trolls the internet looking for criticism, and uses it against the parents in court filings.

It is also concerning to see people offering assistance to such vulnerable parents, with dubious individuals using the hate sites to offer their services in 'helping' to win back their children. There is clear evidence of people claiming to have legal training and qualifications, for instance, when they have nothing of the sort. Families who believe they have been wronged should of course seek legal redress, but must be cautioned to seek legal representation from qualified and registered solicitors, and legitimate advocacy services, not from con men.

Fixcas concurs in advising persons affected by social services to get legal help from lawyers. But most CAS victims cannot afford a lawyer, and family defense requires help from more than lawyers, for example, using a litigation consultant or organizing political opposition. For these functions, parents should to look to other sources besides the bar.

Social workers are hardly in a position to defend themselves, not because they are frequently guilty of wrongdoing but because confidentiality clauses in their employment contracts, aimed at protecting the privacy of their clients, forbid them from speaking publicly about their work. This clause fuels conspiracy theorists, and leads to one-sided media stories about how children were unfairly taken away.

When social workers find it to their advantage, they are shameless about giving the details of real cases with real names. When they clam up, they are using what Richard Wexler calls the veto of silence. A reporter doing a story is informed by social services that there is a lot more to the story, but we cannot reveal it because of confidentiality. That usually is enough to scare the reporter away from publishing.

Without the case notes to accompany such stories, it is impossible to judge the truth, yet social workers can be judged guilty even in circumstances where they may have saved a child from an abusive home. We never get to hear about the thousands of children who were saved by social workers from being the next Baby Peter, or from the children who were glad that they were removed from their parents.

Children praising the foster care system that saved them? How come none of them have come forward, aside from those who are still under control of the social services system, such as teenaged foster children or foster kids who have graduated to become social workers?

This respect for confidentiality should work both ways, yet increasingly it doesn't.

Families, don't be taken in by these sites. Social workers, remember that Facebook can often be seen by strangers, and be careful of how much personal information you reveal online. No-one should be intimidating decent hard working professionals, and posing significant threats to their well-being, but the sad reality is that just as Kate Middleton might think twice about removing that bikini next time, so too social workers need to think twice about what they divulge to the world.

And members of the public, don't be taken in by the bland assurances of social workers endlessly claiming to work in the best interest of the child.

Source: Huffington Post

Pot-Bellied Pedophiles

October 3, 2012 permalink

Australian police are investigating the connection between two convicted pedophiles, Children's Services chief executive Steven Andrew Larkins and the late Robert Holland, a foster parent who used a uniform and ID from Hunter Aboriginal Children's Services to enhance his credibility with child victims. From their appearance they validate Alex Jones' parody of the pot-bellied pedophile (flv).



Paedophiles may have acted as carers

Steven Larkins
Potential paedophile ring ... former Children's Services chief Steven Larkins.
Photo: Dean Osland
Robert Holland
Robert Holland.
Photo: David Wicks

ONE of the state's worst paedophiles was able to access children by using a uniform and an ID tag from an Aboriginal foster child agency which employed a child abuser as its chief executive for nearly 10 years, the Herald has learned.

The connection has raised fears a paedophile ring may have been operating in the Hunter and Newcastle areas in the 2000s.

Police have been investigating how a shirt and ID tag from the Hunter Aboriginal Children's Services, a not for profit agency, were obtained by the paedophile foster carer Robert Holland.

Holland had them as part of his cover to access vulnerable and troubled children in the 2000s.

He died in jail in 2009 after being convicted of dozens of paedophile offences relating to children placed in his care by the courts and the state government.

The investigation into the link with Holland was sparked after the Children's Services chief executive, Steven Andrew Larkins, was convicted this year on charges of abusing two boys in the 1990s and of possessing child pornography and fraud offences.

Larkins had been in the senior management role at the children's services agency for almost a decade and had been given parental responsibility for the Aboriginal children, which enabled him to take them to his home.

Yesterday, the new HACS chief executive, Terry Chenery, confirmed police had been investigating a potential connection between Larkins and the uniform and ID tag which Holland had used.

''From what I know he [Holland] was not connected and never has been but [he] somehow managed to get some of our clothing and a HACS tag that you attached,'' Mr Chenery said.

''It [a connection to Larkins] is possible but there's no indication that he [Holland] ever worked or had an affiliation with us.''

Holland was able to access the children after becoming a foster carer and acting as a support person at the courts and at a home for troubled boys.

He was charged in 2007 with nearly 100 offences against 19 then-teenagers between 1969 and 2006. Some of the victims were children who had been put in his temporary foster care by the Department of Community Services or the courts.

Police said at the time of Holland's arrest the Department of Community Services had granted the care of many Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children to the accused from the 1980s onwards.

The department this week said it could not comment on the matter as it was not involved in ''bailing children'' to individuals from the Children's Court.

Last month, Larkins was convicted and sentenced to at least nine months in jail for four counts of possessing child abuse material. He was given a further 12-month minimum sentence for forging the working with children documents to obtain his $86,000-a-year position and for lying in a statutory declaration, amounting to a total non-parole period of 19 months.

The sentence has been stayed pending an appeal, although Larkins is not contesting the three-year good behaviour bond handed down for the assaults on the two boys. The appeal will be mentioned in the Newcastle District Court on November 15.

Do you know more?

Source: Sydney Morning Herald

Million Dollar Babies

October 3, 2012 permalink

A private foster contractor in Australia can charge up to a million dollars a year to care for four children. The Australian dollar is within 2 percent of the US or Canadian dollar.



Queensland's most expensive kids - foster care costs reach up to $1 million a year

FOSTER care costs are continuing to rise, with data showing the price of housing four children in one home costs Queensland taxpayers $1 million a year.

And there are nearly 100 such kids, all in state care, living in the Beenleigh district alone.

The true cost of housing children taken from their families was exposed this morning at the Child Protection Inquiry, now hearing evidence in Beenleigh.

The inquiry has heard that since the decline of institutional care up to $140 million a year is spent to accommodate children removed from their parents, with some kids cared for in motel rooms.

This morning the inquiry heard children are often housed in suburban homes with round-the-clock care provided by people not necessarily qualified as social workers.

A private company contracted by the State Government to run such homes, said the costs to house four children can run up to $1 million a year.

Costs can escalate via repeated police visits. In one example, a house in the Beenleigh district received 149 police visits in six month.

The inquiry also heard a case study of one child, who cannot be placed with a foster family because of behavioural issues, was costing the state up to $345,000 a year to house.

Commissioner Tim Carmody is closely questioning Antoine Payet, regional director for the south east region in Child Safety, on the housing system.

Mr Payet said up to 98 children in his district alone are unable to be placed with foster care families.

The inquiry continues.

Source: Telegraph (Australia)

Budget Cut Keeps Kids Away From Home

October 1, 2012 permalink

Durham CAS is facing a budget cut of $1.5 million this year. According to executive director Wanda Secord, children will be staying in foster care longer because CAS will have to "disband a new service team created to help children in care return home more quickly". Over at Waterloo funding cuts had the opposite effect. Some children will be going home to their parents.



Durham Children's Aid Society struggling with funding cuts

Local MPP says getting deficit under control is 'paramount'

Wanda Secord
Durham Children's Aid Society struggling with funding cuts. OSHAWA -- Wanda Secord is Durham CAS executive director.
August 15, 2012 Jason Liebregts / Metroland

DURHAM -- As the Durham Children's Aid Society prepares to mark Child Abuse Prevention Month in October, officials say the organization is facing increased financial strain.

Durham CAS recently learned it will receive about $1.5 million less in provincial funding for this fiscal year, compared with last year.

The Province has announced "cost constraints" for children's aid societies across Ontario as it wrestles with a 2011/2012 deficit of about $13 billion.

"We know the Province has a deficit they are trying to manage, but we certainly weren't anticipating a decrease. We were hoping to at least remain at what we got last year," says DCAS executive director Wanda Secord.

It means Durham CAS will lay off the equivalent of seven full-time positions and disband a new service team created to help children in care return home more quickly.

The local agency will also scrap plans for new hires and down the road could be looking at program cuts.

Durham CAS is also carrying a $3.3-million historical deficit, the result of funding changes the Province implemented in 2006/2007 and 2009/2010.

"We are being asked to do more with less," says Ms. Secord, noting demand for CAS services in Durham spiked at the start of the 2009 recession and has remained steadily high.

In 2011/2012 Durham CAS conducted 4,630 child welfare investigations and was serving about 1,100 families at any given time.

"The deficit, in my mind, is the biggest threat to health care, education and social services -- and the good work of CASs is included in that. It's paramount that we get it under control," says Pickering-Scarborough East MPP Tracy MacCharles, who serves as the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Children and Youth Services.

She says the Province is working closely with Ontario CASs to come up with better funding formulas and address the historical deficit issue, but stresses the agencies have to recognize the economic reality.

"We're asking everybody to help us manage ... we need all the people in all the sectors to kind of take a pause and look for efficiencies," Ms. MacCharles says.

Durham CAS officials are especially concerned about how the financial strain will impact recommendations to improve services for youth who are "aging out of care."

A recent report called "25 is the new 21" suggests extending financial support for former crown wards to age 25, noting young adults are now relying on family support well into their 20s.

It says every $1 the Province spends to extend support to age 25 will save taxpayers about $1.36 in the long run.

Source: Metroland Durham

crying children

Volunteer at CAS

October 1, 2012 permalink

Volunteer Dufferin

Dufferin children's aid has hosted a meeting to recruit volunteers to help with child protection and allied charitible functions. According to the Volunteer Dufferin website, to be eligible you have to be jumping for joy with a permanent smile on your face.



One-stop-shop for Dufferin volunteers

Dufferin volunteers
VolunteerDufferin. Members of several social service agencies, corporate partners and municipal politicians visited Dufferin Child and Family Services (DCAFS) in Orangeville on Wednesday (Sept. 26) to celebrate the launch of A $6,000 donation from Investor's Group was also acknowledged. The new website will act as a portal between potential volunteers and the broad range of organizations across Dufferin in need of their services.
Jim Martin

It can be hard to find the right place to volunteer, but the solution is now as easy as one click of the mouse.

The county’s social service sector is proud to present, which was launched at Dufferin Child and Family Services (DCAFS) on Wednesday (Sept. 26). The new website acts as a portal between potential volunteers and the broad range of organizations across Dufferin in need of their services.

“This is like the brokerage between you and the organization that needs you,” said project co-ordinator Jenny Carver. “It is kind of like the linking piece.”

The impetus behind the idea took flight about a year-and-a-half ago, when the Alzheimer Society of Dufferin County received a $66,200 grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation.

After bringing several of Dufferin’s various agencies on board, the website was launched this week.

“Hopefully, it just makes it so much easier for people to find volunteer opportunities by having one place to go to,” said Laurie Turza, executive director of the local Alzheimer Society. “And so much easier for organizations to find volunteers with one place to find them.”

It isn’t the first time Dufferin has attempted to consolidate volunteerism in one fell swoop. As Turza explained, there used to be a volunteer centre in Dufferin, but agencies found the model didn’t fit in with the largely rural community.

“Now, everybody is so technologically connected,” she said. “It was the logical way to go to give it another shot at boosting volunteerism in Dufferin.”

Carver said other areas like Peel Region or Guelph don’t rely on volunteers as heavily as Dufferin County. Locally, agencies depend on people donating their time, skills and efforts.

Volunteers hail from both ends of the population pyramid and in-between, ranging from retirees to youth.

“It is a huge volunteer-using community,” Carver said, referring to Dufferin. “In practically every sector, there is a lot of shoestring funding, so building up the capacity for volunteer backup is really important.”

The volunteer opportunities currently listed on the site range anywhere from cleaning up the Island Lake Conservation Area to delivering with Meals on Wheels, being a Big Brother or Big Sister, or mentoring people on a board of directors.

Since a broad range of people will likely visit the site, it has to be user friendly. After studying similar sites, Carver said the Dufferin site is more web-surfer friendly than most.

For instance, the site basically has volunteering opportunities set up like features used by Amazon or eBay. Instead of “add to cart,” potential volunteers can simply click on “I’m Interested” for more information, or to send an email directly to the organization.

“It gives you a chance to really look at different opportunities and say that one is really interesting,” Carver said. “There has never been a chance to do that in Dufferin before.”

The new website isn’t just about helping people find the right place to volunteer. It is also revolves around helping organizations consolidate their various volunteer searches under one IP address.

“There is a lot of information on there that hopefully will boost people’s idea of what volunteerism can be,” Turza said. “We hope to really raise the number of volunteers in Dufferin because it will be so much easier.”

For more information, visit, email or call 519-940-1271.

Source: Orangeville Banner

Applied Misandry 101

September 30, 2012 permalink

The University of Windsor provides a legal clinic staffed by law students. It provides free legal assistance to persons accused in domestic abuse cases. The catch? You have to be female to benefit.



Matt Gurney: University-run legal aid forgets justice applies to men too

University of Windsor

More than 40 years ago in Ontario, University of Windsor law students began volunteering their time to assist those in need of legal counsel, if the accused met certain financial criteria. The program continues today, under the banner of Community Legal Aid. Not that those first student defenders would likely recognize their creation in its current, grotesquely prejudiced form.

Each year, Community Legal Aid has 100-120 law students working in teams under more experienced students. It is led by two review counsel. They don’t take on high stakes cases — they are, after all, not yet lawyers. But it still gives the students real-life experience handling real-life cases, while providing a service to those in need.

Not all in need, however. Community Legal Aid will no longer take on any domestic abuse cases, it announced in an email, “unless the alleged offender is a woman.” In that case, it will work to find a lawyer who will take the case for free, or failing that, take the case itself. Men are on their own.

This astonishing decision, reported by the Windsor Star, has been swiftly condemned by the local legal defence community. But Community Legal Aid isn’t backing down. Camille Cameron, dean of the law school, told the Windsor Star that the students can’t be expected to take on every case that comes to them, and pointed out that similar programs run at other schools don’t take on domestic abuse cases. “We are talking about a student legal aid clinic at a university. We’re not talking about a private law firm, or even a legal aid office,” she told the paper.

No one would be upset if Ms. Cameron said domestic violence cases were too complicated for law students to handle. But that isn’t what has been decided. The student legal aid clinic may not be a private law firm or even a legal aid office, but it still feels up to the challenge of helping women facing domestic violence charges. It’s only the men that it is not willing to help out. That’s not an issue of resources or case complexity. That’s discrimination.

One of Ms. Cameron’s colleagues didn’t beat around the bush about it, either. David Tanovich, a University of Windsor law professor, said that the committee that decided to exclude men wanted to address “systemic issues” faced by women in the legal system. “We’re a social justice law school. We have a social justice mandate,” he told the Windsor Star.

It is also a law school. And the law recognizes a couple of key points the folks at the University of Windsor seem to have overlooked. The first is that everyone is innocent until proven guilty, including anyone accused of domestic violence — yes, even men. The second is that all are equal before the law, and that even detestable people who are almost certainly guilty of all they’re accused of (and more) have a right to fair trial. That doesn’t change if they are male.

Law isn’t about separating good people from bad people. It’s about establishing guilt through the examination of evidence during a fair, impartial proceeding. Lawyers are a critical part of that process, but the outcome is not theirs to choose. It calls into question the kind of education Windsor students are getting if their own faculty is somehow oblivious to this. How can these supposed experts have so thoroughly failed to understand how our system of justice works? What good is the experience students get working at Community Legal Aid if the experiences don’t reflect reality?

A final irony: On the Community Legal Aid website, they list their values. Number two is “Access to Justice” and notes, “Every person is entitled to a defence.”

Just don’t ask them to take part in it. They’re too socially just to care about justice.

Source: National Post

Addendum: Dr Camille Cameron, dean of the Faculty of Law University of Windsor, offers a change in policy. You need advanced training in rhetoric and logic, and possibly other disciplines, to make sense of it.



Dean explains CLA decision

The decision by Windsor Law's Community Legal Aid clinic to shift its jurisdictional mandate from domestic violence cases has received much attention from the criminal defence bar, alumni and media. I would like to explain what the policy is and why we have adopted it.

The decision we have made is as follows:

  • CLA will no longer represent men or women in court in cases involving domestic violence.
  • CLA will try to find defence lawyers to take such cases on a pro bono basis.
  • CLA will also make other referrals to community partners where appropriate and when those services are available.

Our initial policy included a caveat for cases in which women were accused in domestic violence cases. That caveat was that CLA would represent those women if no defence counsel could be found to take the case on a pro bono basis.

We included that caveat because of some evidence that charges against women in domestic violence cases had been increasing and that these women might also have been victims of abuse.

As a law school with a longstanding commitment to social justice and access to justice, this was in our view a category of cases deserving differential treatment, investigation and research.

Our decision to alter this policy and to treat men and women the same in matters of referral and representation, should address the formal equality concerns that have been raised. As a law school committed to social justice and to equality, however, we would be remiss if we did not also engage with the substantive equality issues at stake.

Substantive equality requires differential treatment in order to produce an equal result. We will therefore find the resources to conduct research and inquiry into the issue of women charged with domestic violence.

Figures made available by Hiatus House in Windsor confirm this is an issue in need of exploration. They report they had 32 women in their domestic violence shelter last year who had been convicted of assaulting men and that all of these women were also longtime victims of abuse. Most men who are convicted in such cases are not also abuse victims. Our initial policy aimed to recognize this difference.

Just as some people have criticized us for our initial decision to take cases involving women if we were unable to find representation for them, so might we be criticized for changing that part of our policy.

It is a good example of how different conceptions of equality can lead to quite different views. We think our decision to investigate and analyze these cases and their policy implications, and to report the results of these investigations, will go some way to responding to those who criticize our policy change on substantive equality grounds.

I return to the original reasons for deciding to discontinue taking domestic violence and peace bond cases. Renewal and reform of a law school curriculum, including its clinical programs, is essential.

This is not to say that what has gone before has been wanting. The many Windsor Law graduates who have had the benefit of our clinical programs and who are now successful practitioners, are a credit to those programs and a testament to the quality and value of those programs.

We are proud of our clinics and the students who pass through them. But renewal is essential, as views about best practice change over time it is necessary to make tough decisions about how best to use scarce resources.

We have decided that we do not have the substantial resources required to train and supervise 100-150 students to conduct domestic violence cases.

There will be plenty of relevant and significant legal work for our law clinic students to do, because there are more unmet legal needs in the community than CLA can ever hope to meet.

This ensures that our students will continue to have access to excellent clinical training, and that marginalized and disadvantaged people in the community will continue to get the benefit of CLA's excellent service.

Source: Windsor Star

Where'd my daddy go?

Finland Takes Russian Children

September 29, 2012 permalink

Russian mother Anastasia Zavgorodnyaya living in Finland has had four of her children seized by local child protectors. The Russian press gives the full story without keeping any facts or names confidential.



Four children, including newborn, 'falsely' taken from Russian mother in Finland

Second grade in Finland
Children of the second grade in a primary school in Finland.
AFP Photo / Olivier Morin

A Russian woman claimed Finnish authorities took her four children, including an infant, after falsely accusing her family of child abuse. The traumatized family will be apart for at least six months, while awaiting a court hearing.

­Anastasia Zavgorodnyaya, a 29-year-old Russian-born resident of Vantaa, Finland, and her husband said that they were shocked when their children – aged between one week and six years old – were taken into state custody and put in a foster home.

In late August, Zavgorodnyaya's oldest daughter Veronika was injured at school, she said in an interview with Rossiyskaya Gazeta. The girl's head struck a wall when she was allegedly pushed by older boys; a teacher witnessed the incident and escorted her to bathroom after Veronika became dizzy, and then helped her to a sofa.

The head trauma caused a concussion, a medical examination later revealed.

Zavgorodnaya is married to Ehab Ahmed Zaki Ahmed, a Sudanese national who has lived in Finland for 18 years. They took Veronika to a hospital in Helsinki after the girl’s speech became impaired from the injury.

The parents reported the incident to the school, and the headmaster promised to speak with teachers that witnessed the incident, Zavgorodnyaya said. Several days later, the headmaster called back and said that Veronika’s story was a lie, since she could not find any teachers who had seen the scuffle.

After the school refused to give them a statement about the incident, Zavgorodnyaya said she turned to social services. On September 7, instead of going to the school, social workers went to the Helsinki hospital where Veronika was being treated and took her away.

Zavgorodnyaya later had a brief encounter with her daughter in Helsinki that turned ugly: She refused to let go of her crying child, and social workers called police, who allegedly ripped the girl from her mother's arms.

“They grabbed me by both hands and dragged me away through the corridor. I was in the ninth month of pregnancy at the time, waiting for my fourth [child] to come,” she said.

Her husband was pushed to the floor and handcuffed, and both parents were taken to a police station and fined for resisting police, Zavgorodnyaya said.

During their absence, social workers went to the kindergarten their two-year-old twins Ahmed and Maryam were attending to take custody of the two children as well. “They said we should not bother going to the kindergarden, because social workers have already taken them,” she said.

A week later, the family received an official notice stating that they posed a danger to their children. The document said that, while being examined in Helsinki, Veronika allegedly told doctors that her father “slapped her below the waist,” and that the doctors believed her head injury may have been sustained at home.

For twenty days, the mother and father were reportedly allowed to see the twins only once. Zavgorodnyaya claimed that they appeared to have lost weight.

During this period, she gave birth to her son Yasin. When he was a week old, he was taken from Zavgorodnyaya, and social services would not allow her to see or breastfeed her child, she said.

All four of Zavgorodnyaya's children now live with the same adoptive family. Social services have not provided her or her husband with any further details, claiming they “do not have the right to know them,” she said.

Her letters and requests to Finnish authorities have also yielded nothing, nor the Russian diplomats' request addressed to the social services, she said.

The family hired a lawyer who has argued that the social service is clearly in the wrong, and that a judge will likely take the family’s side when their appeal is brought before the court. However, due to the large number of such cases they may have to wait as long as six months before the hearing; their children will remain with their adoptive family until then.

They plan to move from Finland to Russia once the family is reunited, Zavgorodnyaya said.

“Living in Finland is impossible,” she said. “Even if the kids are released, the social service will put us on blacklist and will monitor our every step. Any complaint, even from a drunken stranger, and we will lose our children again until a new court.”

Source: RT (Russia)

Addendum: A Russian source surveys the treatment of Russian mothers by countries infected with feminism.



Over fifty children seized from Russian-Finnish families

Over fifty children have been seized by the Finnish social services from mixed Russian-Finnish families, Russian and Finnish human rights activists said.

"There are currently over 18,000 Russian mothers in Finland. Fifty-one children from 36 mixed families have been seized. And those are just the situations we know of," Finnish human rights activist Johann Backmann told reporters on Friday.

The information was confirmed by Irina Bergset, Russian human rights activist and head of the international public movement Russian Mothers.

Backmann said Finnish women in Finland have adopted an unfriendly attitude to Russian women, saying he believes one of the reasons for this situation is the considerable increase in the influence of feminism in Europe.

"In the ideology of feminism, a Russian woman is enemy number one because in Russian culture and Russian traditions the woman represents beauty and house warmth, she raises children and takes care of her husband. The ideology of feminism has different priorities, namely, complete denial of normal family relations," Backmann said.

Backmann has suggested that Russians should boycott goods manufacture red by Finnish producers to draw the attention of the Finnish authorities to the issue of seizure of children from Russian mothers in Finland.

"We and the organization Russian Mothers suggest boycotting Finnish goods. If Finns behave this way and if they are not ready for compromise and dialogue with Russia, I think we will have to boycott," he said. Backmann also added there are plans to organize a series of protests near the Finnish embassy in Moscow in cooperation with the movement Young Guard.

"There are over 7,500 Russian families. It's a vital issue. If Finns treat Zavgorodnaya's children like this, why are you ready to eat yoghurt or use gadgets manufactured by prominent Finnish producers?" Backmann said.

The human rights activist said he believes the Finnish social security system is corrupt because compensation to adoptive parents and private child custody centers can reach hundreds of euros a month.

"The compensation is very high, up to 1,000 euros. It's very profitable for private child custody centers and families and the borderline between adoptive parents and child custody centers is vague. The system is very corrupt, and no one controls the situation. Sometimes even social services workers organize child custody centers," Backmann said.

Irina Bergset, leader of the international public movement Russian Mothers, has backed him, saying the same situation with Russian children is observed in other Western countries.

"Eighty-three families from 22 countries of the world have now contacted the organization. Yesterday we had a phone call from Florida, the U.S. A child came to school wearing one and the same vest three days in a row and the teacher called social services.

According to the laws of the state, the child is removed from the family," Bergset said.

He togetehr with the Russian Mothers organization is trying to draw the attention of the public and the press to dozens such cases because the Finnish scenario is not unique.

"We, Russian women, will not let anyone hurt our children. We will protect them!" she said.

On Sept. 29, 2012, social services seized four children, including a newborn baby, from Russian citizen Anastasiya Zavgorodnaya in Vantaa, Finland. Zavgorodnyaya is accused of cruel treatment of her children. She denies the accusations.

On Oct. 3, the Finnish social services allowed Zavgorodnaya to live with her children in a social services center. The final decision on the passivity of allowing the woman to live with her children is expected to be made on Nov. 7.

Source: Russia Beyond the Headlines

Niagara Falls Rally

September 28, 2012 permalink

Only a day after the Toronto rally, a small group was at work in Niagara Falls drawing attention to the need for ombudsman oversight.

Pat Niagara International Day of Protest for The Love of Children.....Niagara Falls, ON, September 28, 2012 members from Canada Court Watch, CAS ONTARIO, Voices Of Innocent Children, Voices of the Children were in attendance at a this protest to ask for accountability and transparency of the Children's Aid Society.

Photos: [1] [2] [3] [4].

Source: Facebook, Canada Court Watch

Video of the event is on YouTube and local copy (mp4).

Rally for Bill 110

September 27, 2012 permalink

Bill 110 providing for ombudsman oversight of Ontario's children's aid societies was scheduled for second reading today, but it was postponed by other business in the parliament. Many who came from far out of town to be present in the legislature instead conducted a rally at Queens Park. Here are some photos: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [MPP Steve Clark] [8]

Source: Facebook, Stop the CAS ...
Source: Facebook, Monique Taylor

Neil Haskett captured this video report by Delaney Windigo of APTN (mp4).

Source: Facebook, Neil Haskett

Pat Niagara created a rally video, found on YouTube or our local copy (mp4). This is a long one, an hour and twenty minutes. Following five MPPs in the first two minutes, several speakers contributed their advice and experience. The numbers are starting time in minutes.

Cindy Forster, MPP Welland (NDP) Monique Taylor, MPP Hamilton Mountain (NDP) Steve Clark, MPP Leeds-Grenville (PC) John Vanthof, MPP Timiskaming-Cochrane (NDP) Catherine Fife, MPP Kitchener-Waterloo (NDP)
Neil Haskett Acts as emcee.
Monique Taylor, MPP Hamilton Mountain (NDP) Thanks supports for making her work possible.
Maureen Fennelly Tells how CAS attacks a mother who stays with a man.
Chris York Summarizes the minority-government politics that make passage of bill 110 possible.
Lillian Christine Sorko
introduces Beaudry and Thunderbird
Marjorie Beaudry Grandmother of Malachi Beaudry, who died in CAS custody.
Eve Thunderbird Cousin of Mona Redbreast, who died running away from CAS at age 14.
Lillian Christine Sorko
Shinette (no spelling given) Caribbean immigrant tells of the loss of her own children to CAS.
Bobbie Gellner Tells the Baby Cassidy story. Mother Jessica Pelissero standing beside Bobbie is reduced to tears. Then the story of Wes and Cassandra with son Pearson Robillard standing present. CAS took three children, left mom and dad the other three.
Vernon Beck Tells of Canada Court Watch.
John Fox Extemporaneous talk including his experience with a social worker prying into his family at the birth of his own baby.
Marjorie Beaudry Discussion of aboriginal family conditions.
Lillian Christine Sorko
Chris York Discusses opposition methods. While not a lawyer, he maps out a legal strategy to be used by a CAS client or his lawyer to defeat children's aid in the courtroom.
Kim Shook Lillian Christine Sorko Talking about their own cases with CAS.
Helmi Charif NDP candidate for Windsor West.

The success of the campaign for oversight is apparent in the turnout of MPPs, who now take the issue seriously.

Baby Tug of War

September 26, 2012 permalink

When a social worker on a surprise visit tried to snatch a baby from mother Ashley Waller, the mom pulled the baby back and fled. Police later arrested her.



Police: Mom assaults CYF worker who tried to take baby

Pittsburgh police find Ashley Waller, daughter in Homewood

Shelter employee: Mom, CYF worker had 'tug-of-war' over baby

PITTSBURGH — A young mother who had been running from abuse was arrested early Wednesday after taking her baby daughter and leaving a women's shelter during a physical confrontation with an apparently unannounced caseworker.

Ashley Waller
Ashley Waller

Pittsburgh police said someone from the Allegheny County Office of Children, Youth and Families went to the shelter to serve a custody authorization to Ashley Waller and take her 5-month-old girl at about 10 a.m. Tuesday.

"All of a sudden, we heard this commotion and screaming, 'Call 911.' We saw them playing tug-of-war with the baby, and the mother snatched the baby away from the CYF worker," a case manager at the shelter said. "And with the force she had, pulling the baby away, the baby's head smacked off the ledge and we all heard it. It was like this big loud thud. And then she ran down the steps."

The shelter employee told WTAE's Janelle Hall that she doesn't think the situation was handled properly. She said CYF didn't tell police that someone was coming to take the child.

"She told me not to tell her (Waller) that she was coming," the shelter worker said. "She came, and I met with her, and she told me she was there to remove the child, and I asked her if the mother knew the child was being removed, and she told me no, and I said, 'You didn't bring anybody with you?' and she said no because she had a relationship with his mother because her 4-year-old daughter was already in the care of CYF."

Channel 4 Action News' Jim Parsons asked Allegheny County Department of Human Services Deputy Director Marcia Sturdivant why the caseworker would go alone.

"That's the very challenging part of casework. Oftentimes, we are doing our work alone because we want to make sure that families and children aren't further traumatized," said Sturdivant.

A CYF spokeswoman issued this statement: "In the difficult field of child protection, caseworkers often deal with emotionally charged situations and unfortunately -- but thankfully rarely -- sometimes these situations become emotionally volatile. We are grateful that our caseworker who was assaulted yesterday is recovering. The incident is currently under review."

Police said Waller and the 5-month-old girl were found early Wednesday morning in Homewood, and Waller was arrested on charges of aggravated assault, recklessly endangering another person and interfering with the custody of a child.

The 5-month-old is the second baby that CYF has taken from Waller, because she allegedly had her children around a man who had been abusive to Waller and against whom she had sought a protection from abuse order, according to the shelter worker.

Source: WTAE Pittsburgh

To every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction: or the forces of two bodies on each other are always equal and are directed in opposite directions. — Newton's third law of motion.

Comment: There is something wrong with this story. The mother engaged in a tug-of-war and was charged with a crime for recklessly endangering her baby in the middle. Fair enough. But, as in Newton's law, there was an equal and opposite force on the other end of the baby, exerted by the social worker. Her mission is to protect children before all else. In her professional capacity, she should have known to release the baby instead of playing tug-of-war. Why was she not charged with recklessly endangering another person?

Suppress the Truth

September 26, 2012 permalink

Manitoba Social worker Debbie De Gale told the truth when pre-interviewed by lawyers. Now she wants a court to keep her transcript secret. The reason? Revealing the truths that she told could cause management and co-workers to react negatively to her.



Social worker wants interview in Phoenix Sinclair case kept confidential

Phoenix Sinclair
Murder victim Phoenix Sinclair.
File Photo

WINNIPEG -- A veteran Manitoba Child and Family Services worker says she faces extreme workplace backlash if Manitoba’s highest court agrees to make public a full transcript of an interview she took part in with lawyers in advance of her testimony at the Phoenix Sinclair inquiry.

“I fear what will happen to me,” Debbie De Gale states in a sworn statement recently filed with the Manitoba Court of Appeal. “I believe that certain co-workers and management from CFS will be upset with me and may react negatively to me, based on what I shared becoming public,” De Gale said.

Tuesday, Justice Marc Monnin granted De Gale the right to present a written case for the court’s consideration. She hopes to keep her pre-interview transcript confidential and available only as a privileged internal document for use and reference by inquiry lawyers.

A group of four CFS authorities and others are battling to see about 12,000 pages of transcripts disclosed and are challenging inquiry Commissioner Ted Hughes’s Aug. 1 decision to deny them access. Hughes ruled the transcripts were only created to assist inquiry lawyers in preparing so-called will-say summaries of anticipated witness testimony. The interviews were not conducted under oath.

The court agreed to hear the CFS group’s case on Sept. 7, putting the kibosh on public testimony at the already-delayed inquiry after 2 1/2 days of public hearings. An appeals court panel will hear arguments Oct. 9, but it’s unclear when the inquiry will actually resume.

De Gale says she anxiously, but willingly, told inquiry lawyers Derek Olson and Sherri Walsh the truth about her work at Winnipeg CFS and her knowledge of Phoenix’s case in her pre-interview. She has worked for the city child-welfare agency since 1997.

Key to her case is how she spoke freely after being assured the “word for word” record would remain private.

Essentially, a deal’s a deal, she says.

“I feel that if the transcripts are now disclosed after I was provided the assurances, it is like I was tricked into sharing openly and freely at my interview,” De Gale states. “Had I known that the transcript from my interview would ultimately be disclosed, I would have chosen to share far less than I did,” she said.

De Gale, a social worker since 1986, states her pre-interview was conducted over two days -- broken up by Olson and Walsh, she says, to allow her to hire a lawyer part-way through. The reason, she was told, was because “some of the statements I had made contradicted information provided by other witnesses during their interviews,” she said.

The inquiry’s first phase will examine the services Phoenix Sinclair did or didn’t receive from CFS, other circumstances directly related to her 2005 murder at a home on the Fisher River First Nation and why it went undiscovered for months. She was a ward of Child and Family Services for much of her short life, but was not in care when she died.

Phoenix’s mother, Samantha Kematch and her boyfriend, Karl McKay, were convicted in 2008 of first-degree murder for Sinclair’s killing.

Source: Toronto Sun

Drug Lab Testing Fraud

September 26, 2012 permalink

Have you been asked to provide samples for drug testing? Do you think it will clear you? The innocent have nothing to fear, right? Wrong. This story from Massachusetts shows that in sixty thousand cases rogue lab technician Annie Dookhan corrupted test results. A thousand people are currently behind bars based on her evidence. She also faked her credentials. So far the state is placing the entire responsibility on just one person.



Drug lab chemist accused of lying

Testified that she had master’s from UMass, but school denies that

Massachusetts meeting
Prosecutors, defense lawyers, State Police, and Patrick administration officials met Monday to discuss drug convictions which might have been tainted by the lab scandal.

Former state chemist Annie Dookhan does not have a master’s ­degree in chemistry from the University of Massachusetts Boston as she claims on her resume, officials at the school confirmed Tuesday, raising fresh doubts about the credibility of the woman at the center of the burgeoning state drug laboratory scandal.

Dookhan, who resigned from the ­Jamaica Plain lab in March amid an inves­tigation, received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the university in 2001, officials said. But school records show that Dookhan took no additional courses after completing her undergraduate degree in 2001. UMass Boston officials said Dookhan requested an application for the master’s program, but never completed it.

Dookhan started working for the drug lab, run at the time by the state Department of Public Health, in 2003. She handled 60,000 drug samples, casting doubt on the reliability of evidence used in some 34,000 criminal cases.

Additionally, the chemist testified in criminal cases about 150 times since 2009 and may have jeopardized all of those cases by claiming under oath that she had a master’s degree in chemistry. A transcript suggests she lied about her education in at least one court hearing, in August 2010.

Annie Dookhan
Annie Dookhan has only a UMass bachelor’s degree.

State officials said that when Dookhan applied for her job at the lab, her resume suggested she was working on her master’s degree at UMass Boston. But, they said, an advanced ­degree was not a job requirement.

When pursuing the job, officials said, Dookhan signed an application attesting, under threat of perjury if she lied, that the information was accurate.

“The Department of Public Health hired Annie on Nov. 3, 2003, as a Chemist I, based upon her meeting the minimum entrance requirements of the position,” said Alec Loftus, spokesman for the Executive Office of Health and Human Services. “In 2005, Annie was reclassified as a Chemist II. While neither of the positions she held required a master’s ­degree, it is now clear that she intentionally misled the depart­ment about her education during the course of her employment.”

Dookhan, who has not been charged with criminal wrongdoing, has been under scrutiny since June 2011, when she ­improperly removed 90 drug samples from the evidence room without signing them out as required. But the chemist continued to serve as an expert witness in criminal cases for months until state officials ­became concerned that her misconduct was more extensive than previously believed.

The Patrick administration has identified 1,141 inmates in Massachusetts jails and prisons convicted based on evidence handled by Dookhan. Given the allegations against Dookhan, all of that evidence is now considered potentially tainted.

As drug cases continued to unravel in the scandal’s wake, a Brockton man serving 17 years in prison was released on bail Tuesday morning and a ­Wareham man was freed minutes later after serving half of his three-year sentence.

If not for an Immigration and Customs Enforcement hold on Manuel J. Abreu, he would have walked out of Plymouth Superior Court on the $7,500 cash bail posted by his family.

Despite arguments from prosecutors, Judge Frank ­Gaziano granted the bail, in part because of concerns about drug evidence tested at the now-shuttered lab.

Defense attorney Michael Traft said the weight of cocaine authorities allegedly linked to Abreu increased during the years it was in government custody.

Traft said the allegations about Dookhan manipulating drug samples and the fact that she is shown on government ­records as having had access to evidence in Abreu’s case warranted his client being freed on bail pending an appeal.

When Abreu was arrested by Brockton police in 2005, they allegedly found 182 grams of cocaine in the house he sublet. When retested following the Dookhan scandal, the weight of the cocaine had ­increased, to 206.25 grams, accord­ing to Traft.

Police also allegedly seized crack cocaine weighing 304 grams when tested in the lab in 2005. It now weighs 289 grams, but state officials say shrinkage resulted from moisture evaporating from the crack.

Gaziano sentenced Abreu to 17½ years in state prison earlier this year for drug sales in a school zone and drug trafficking, which carries a mandatory minimum of 15 years behind bars.

“Judge Gaziano has recognized the seriousness of the ­issue here, based on what we know so far, and ruled today with that in mind,” Traft said.

“We are very positive that he will be home soon,” said Maria Abreu, the defendant’s sister, who attended the bail hearing. “We will fight this all the way.”

After his family posted bail, Abreu, who was born in Cape Verde, was transferred to federal custody. It is unclear whether immigrations authorities will hold him until Nov. 27, when Abreu is scheduled to be back in court on a hearing on his appeal.

At the same time that Abreu was granted bail, another man, Joshua P. Fernandes, was freed in the same courthouse, after serving about half of his sentence for cocaine trafficking and drug possession. ­Fernandes was convicted in March 2011.

“Annie Dookhan was the person who weighed it, and she was the quality control supervisor for the lab,” said Kathleen Lucey, Fernandes’s attorney, moments after his release.

“I was a prosecutor out in Hampden for a lot of years, and I just thank God she didn’t touch any Hampden cases ­because I don’t know how these DA’s are handling this. . . . I feel for them,” Lucey said.

“He has nothing pending, nothing else, he’s a free man,” Lucey said.

Judge Richard Chin was the trial judge in the case, and after only 10 minutes allowed the “stay of execution of sentence,” after prosecutors agreed.

Fernandes’s family hugged him and then placed a call to his grandmother. “She’s so happy he’s going to be home for the holidays,” Lucey said.

Fernandes was arrested Nov. 20, 2009, during a raid at his home in Wareham. ­Fernandes said his Cranberry Highway home had been under surveillance by police.

After executing a search warrant, police said they found a cache of illegal drugs hidden in the house. He was charged with trafficking cocaine over 28 grams, possession of Percocet, and possession of Suboxone.

Law enforcement officials are scrambling to ensure that no one has been incarcerated on tainted evidence because of the alleged improprieties by Dookhan. The lab was closed after discovery of the scandal.

Defense attorneys across the state are examining whether Dookhan was involved in even more cases than previously ­believed, pointing to court testimony in which she states she conducted reviews of other chemists’ drug testing. How­ever, her name is not listed on any of that paperwork, leaving no paper trail for testing that she reviewed.

Attorney Patricia A. ­DeJuneas said she is handling an appeal of a conviction last year in Suffolk County. The allegations against Dookhan could become part of that appeal. In that case, Dookhan testified that she was involved with review­ing another chemist’s findings, but Dookhan’s name did not appear on paperwork certifying that the drugs had been tested.

“If she was doing that in other cases, there would be a whole slew of cases in which her name doesn’t appear in the certificates,” DeJuneas said. “Her impact is going to be a lot wider than just the cases in which her name appears.”

DeJuneas said defense attorneys are finding more questionable work by Dookhan as they review their own cases, but are waiting to hear from district attorneys on how they will proceed.

Miriam Conrad, head of the federal public defender agency, said the tally of cases involved in the federal court system will be far more than the 15 that state officials have already identified.

Conrad said she and other lawyers have been working with probation officials to identify cases on their own. Federal public defenders will have to look beyond a state list of cases that involved Dookhan to identify defendants who were sentenced as career criminals or had sentencing enhancements in federal court based on previous state drug convictions. That will have to include research­ing older state cases.

“The bottom line is, we ­appreciate their efforts, and any information we can get is extremely welcome, but we are conducting our own search of our own files,” she said.

Source: Boston Globe

Addendum: A lawyer comments on Annie Dookhan.



Annie Dookhan wanted to be a star. After all, the days of crime lab chemists working in dark back rooms, doing dirty, boring jobs, gave way to CSI coolness. And because she followed her passion, a whole lot of people are going to walk out of jail. Many innocent. Some guilty. It won't be possible to tell which is which, thanks to Annie.

What Annie did at the Massachusetts state crime lab makes the point better than any thoroughly written, thoughtfully researched, report by the National Institutes of Science. Annie makes clear that no science, not even real science, is any better than the human who does it. From HuffPo:

Chemist Annie Dookhan was "Superwoman," a colleague at a Massachusetts state crime lab used to joke. She seemed unstoppable in her quest to please prosecutors, police and her bosses, testing two to three times more drug samples than anyone else, working through lunch and not bothering to put in for overtime.

"The kind of person, if you owned your own business, you would want to hire her," a supervisor would later tell police.

Aside from faking her credentials, she faked the tests. Some she just didn't bother with, some she "dry labbed," which apparently means she just looked at a substance and decided it was narcotics. She made up weights, didn't calibrate equipment, and worst of all, sprinkled real drugs onto substances when there were no drugs to be had. A star.

The litany of wrongs is comical, not because they should make anyone laugh but because they were so laughable.

As early as 2008, a supervisor noticed Dookhan's testing numbers were high. He spoke to her superior, but nothing happened. In 2009, the supervisor took his concerns to another superior, saying he never saw Dookhan in front of a microscope.

In 2010, a supervisor did an audit of Dookhan's paperwork but didn't retest any of her samples. The audit found nothing wrong. The same year, a fellow chemist found seven instances where Dookhan incorrectly identified a drug sample as a certain narcotic when it was something else. He told himself it was an honest mistake.

In one incident detailed by state police, a lab employee witnessed Dookhan weighing drug samples without doing a balance check on her scale.

Dookhan was handling a staggering number of samples. An average chemist could test 50 to 150 samples a month, but Dookhan was doing more than 500, according to monthly reports, a lab employee told police later.

And her supervisors knew it. Her co-workers knew it. They may have come up with excuses why her mistakes may not have been deliberate, but they knew it all along. They just shut their eyes tight and went on with their business, making sure defendants were convicted.

People are funny. When they see something that stinks, but stinks in a way that produces results they like, they play whatever mental games they have to in order to rationalize the problem away. They believe in the results, which reminds us again of why crime labs have become such a cesspool for error. They consider themselves an adjunct of the prosecution, not a neutral agency whose only purpose is to perform scientific testing. They are part of the machinery of conviction, and are not only expected to do their part, but want to do their part. They want to be proud of the fact that their work puts bad guys away.

The law adores science. Prosecutors and judges may not really understand much about it, which is how we ended up as lawyers rather than doctors, but we embrace the notion of science because it brings a sense of precision and exactitude to our otherwise fuzzy world. It's an issue precluder, conclusively determining facts as facts and thus removing them from the mix of variables that could be in doubt.

Wrap up a ham sandwich in scientific mumbo-jumbo and we'll eat it up. For years, lawyers stipped to the chemists findings, even before the prosecution was required to put the warm body on the stand, because there wasn't much to do with them. They would recite all the tests they did and how that proved a substance was evil. It was all very perfunctory and official sounding. It's not like you would get Annie on the stand to testify that she "dry labbed" the sample and never actually did the tests at all.

And this is with the good forensic science, the real stuff. Not the bite marks, the duct tape, bullets, fingerprints or even Cokie, the beloved drug dog. This is the stuff, like DNA, which has an actual scientific basis. But none of it is actual science unless it's performed properly, subject to scientific method, by people who don't lie and contort, contaminate samples and "sprinkle" when the sample comes up empty.

There will be no shortage of hand-wringing over the disaster Annie has caused. Now, despite the fact that it could have been nipped in the bud, they have over 60,000 samples she tested, plus however many she signed off on forging other chemists initials which basically puts every test every done at risk, they have a problem.

People will walk, as well they should. Good people and bad people alike will walk. Whether this will make any prosecutor, judge or juror think twice about the efficacy of scientific, even good science, in that anything that involves the variable of a human being is never as perfect as it seems. After all, this isn't the first crime lab fiasco, and yet the gatekeepers continue to compartmentalize the disasters as isolated instances, one after another.

That there was an Annie Dookhan working in the Massachusetts crime lab can be chalked up to one bad apple. That no one figured out that she was doing the dirty when her supervisor never saw her in front of a microscope, however, can't. That there were doubts for years and no one ever mentioned it, as in Brady for example, while lawyers faced irrefutable scientific proof in court that foreclosed any further hard thought about the scientific evidence, there was a whole system at work covering up for Annie's 500 samples per month output of eyeballing white powder and proclaiming it cocaine, all to please the police and be a laboring oar in their vital mission to convict.

Yet the law, and the courts, still love science. It's one less thing to fight about.

Source: Simple Justice blog

NPR follows up, March 2013 and audio local copy (mp3).

Addendum: A year later the American Bar Association surveys problems with forensic labs across the country.



Crime labs under the microscope after a string of shoddy, suspect and fraudulent results

In January, the New York City medical examiner’s office confirmed that it was reviewing more than 800 rape cases from a 10-year period during which DNA evidence may have been mishandled by a lab technician who resigned in 2011 after an internal review uncovered problems with her work.

The review, then about half complete, had already turned up 26 cases in which the former technician failed to detect the presence of DNA evidence, including one in which the evidence has since led to an arrest in a 10-year-old rape case. The review uncovered 19 cases in which DNA evidence was commingled with DNA evidence from other cases.

A month earlier, a former chemist at a now-shuttered state drug lab in Boston was indicted on 27 counts of obstructing justice, tampering with evidence, perjury and other charges in connection with her handling of some of the tens of thousands of drug cases she worked on during her nine years there. “Little Annie” Dookhan is accused of faking test results, intentionally contaminating and padding suspected drug samples, forging co-workers’ signatures on lab reports, and falsely claiming to have a master’s degree in chemistry.

The ongoing investigation into her work—which could upend thousands of drug convictions—has already led to the closing of the lab, the release of hundreds of convicted drug offenders, and the termination of one lab official and resignation of another. It also led to the resignations of state Public Health Commissioner John Auerbach, whose office oversaw the lab, and Norfolk Assistant District Attorney George Papachristos, who was found to have had an inappropriately personal (albeit not romantic) relationship with Dookhan.

A few months before that, the St. Paul, Minn., police department’s crime lab suspended its drug analysis and fingerprint examination operations after two assistant public defenders raised serious concerns about the reliability of its testing practices. A subsequent review by two independent consultants identified major flaws in nearly every aspect of the lab’s operation, including dirty equipment, a lack of standard operating procedures, faulty testing techniques, illegible reports, and a woeful ignorance of basic scientific principles.

Assistant public defender Lauri Traub stumbled onto the lab’s problems when she asked to meet with the analyst who tested suspected drugs one of her clients was accused of possessing. Traub says she was horrified by what she found: The lab, an old-fashioned “cop shop,” was run by a police sergeant with no scientific background, had no written operating procedures, didn’t clean instruments between testing, allowed technicians unlimited access to the drug vault, and didn’t have anyone checking anyone else’s work. Analysts didn’t know what a validity study was, used Wikipedia as a technical reference, and in their lab reports referred to “white junk” clogging an instrument.

“In some ways, this is even worse than what has happened in Boston and elsewhere,” Traub says. “These people didn’t know what they were doing. They had no business running a lab in the first place. And yet they came into court every day and acted as if they did.”

Annie Dookhan
Annie Dookhan, center, is escorted from a Boston courthouse after refusing to testify in a drug case last October. Dookhan has been accused of faking drug results, forging signatures and mixing samples at a state police lab. Police say Dookhan tested more than 60,000 drug samples involving 34,000 defendants during her nine years at the lab.
AP Photo/Josh Reynolds

The city has since hired a certified fingerprint examiner to run the lab, who has announced plans to resume its fingerprint examination and crime scene processing operations, and begin the procedure for seeking accreditation. But it has no plans to reopen its troubled drug testing unit.

Those are just three of the most recent in a long line of forensics lab scandals that have roiled the U.S. criminal justice system over the past two decades or more. All are different, but all have the potential to put innocent people behind bars—or worse—and spawn litigation that could end up costing taxpayers dearly.

Such scandals have been occurring with mind-numbing frequency since 1993, when the long-running fraud perpetrated by former West Virginia state police crime lab serologist Fred Zain first came to light. But what else should we expect from a system so diverse, so fragmented, so unregulated, so lacking in uniform and enforceable standards—and so beholden to the interests of law enforcement?

Zain, whose work came under scrutiny after the DNA exoneration of a convicted rapist he had positively identified as the perpetrator, was eventually found to have falsified test results in as many as 134 cases during a 10-year period.

In fact, Zain was found to have tainted so many trials with false and misleading testimony, the judge assigned to investigate his work concluded that everything Zain ever said and did should be deemed “invalid, unreliable and inadmissible” as a matter of law. Zain died in 2002 while awaiting a retrial in West Virginia on fraud charges for which a jury had previously been unable to reach a verdict.

Zain has few rivals in the lab fraud department, but Joyce Gilchrist, who spent more than a decade as a chemist in the Oklahoma City Police Department’s crime lab, would have to rank right up there. Gilchrist, who testified as a prosecution expert in 23 death penalty cases, including those of 12 inmates who were later executed, was fired in 2001 for doing sloppy work and giving false or misleading testimony. Nicknamed “Black Magic” by detectives for her seeming ability to get lab results no other chemist could, Gilchrist was never prosecuted for her alleged misdeeds, though she reportedly was named a defendant in at least one lawsuit against the city by a convicted rapist who was later exonerated.

Jill Spriggs
Photo of Jill Spriggs by Jonah Light.


Nobody really knows how many crime lab failures there are because we usually only hear about them when somebody who has been wrongfully convicted of a crime is exonerated through DNA testing.

But we do know that there have been 310 post-conviction DNA exonerations in this country through the end of July, according to the Innocence Project, which works to free the innocent through DNA testing. And studies show that unverified or improper forensic science (defined as fraud, misconduct or the use of scientifically untested evidence) played a role in about 55 percent of those cases.

That’s kind of ironic because DNA testing—arguably the most scientific of all forensic disciplines—is highly regulated, while many other forensic techniques with questionable scientific pedigrees are completely unregulated in all but a few states. And DNA testing accounts for less than 4 percent of the work crime labs do, though that figure will likely rise now that the U.S. Supreme Court has held that police can take DNA samples from people charged with serious crimes.

Jill Spriggs, director of the Sacramento County district attorney’s crime lab and immediate-past president of the American Society of Crime Lab Directors, points out that neither the Massachusetts nor the St. Paul crime labs were accredited.

“Accreditation is vitally important to the success and quality of the product crime labs put out,” she says.

But accreditation alone won’t do the job, Spriggs says. Crime labs must engage in rigorous hiring practices, including detailed background checks on prospective employees, and have strong monitoring and management procedures in place to detect quality control issues early on, which neither the Massachusetts nor St. Paul crime labs apparently had.

“If you have one chemist doing three or four times as many cases a month as anyone else in the lab [as Dookhan reported doing], you should be looking into how and why that is,” Spriggs says.

Forensics lab directors say most accredited labs do a good job under difficult circumstances; and given the sheer volume of cases they handle, labs can’t be expected not to make an occasional mistake. But cases of outright fraud are rare, they say. But the ABA Journal counted dozens of scandals of all shapes and sizes in both accredited and unaccredited crime labs from one end of the country to the other in the last decade alone. And that count was by no means exhaustive.

Even the much vaunted FBI crime lab, long considered the nation’s premier forensic facility, has been rocked by scandal: first in its explosives unit, then its DNA unit, then its comparative bullet-lead analysis unit, and most recently in its hair microscopy unit.

Myrna Raeder, a professor at Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles and an expert on evidence and criminal procedure, is not sure whether there are more such scandals occurring these days or if we’re just finding out about them more than we used to. But as they seem to pop up so frequently, it reminds her of an arcade game: “It’s sort of like Whac-a-Mole.” Peter Neufeld, co-founder of the Innocence Project, says such scandals are definitely more “observable” thanks to the passage of the Innocence Protection Act in 2004, which requires states that receive federal funding for DNA databanks to certify the existence of an independent entity to investigate labs against which serious allegations of misconduct or negligence have been raised.

“There was a tendency before to just sweep these things under the rug, which they can’t do anymore,” says Neufeld, a founding partner of New York City’s Neufeld Scheck & Brustin.

Photo of Myrna Raeder by Jonah Light.


Paul Giannelli, a law professor at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland who has been studying crime lab failures for 20 years, says he used to think the problem was limited to the occasional misdeeds of a few bad apples. But given the many lab scandals that have gone undiscovered for so long, he’s come to the conclusion the problem is a systemic one that can only be remedied through regulation.

“And we can’t delegate to a private organization what should rightfully be a function of the government,” Giannelli says.

The shortcomings of the existing system have been well-documented, most notably in the National Academy of Sciences’ 2009 study of forensic science, which exposed serious flaws in the way crime labs operate.

The report found:

  • The field is highly fragmented. Of the 389 publicly funded forensics labs operating in the United States in 2005, 210 were state or regional labs, 84 were county labs, 62 were municipal labs and 33 were federal labs. Some major cities and counties have their own labs, as do some big-city medical examiner offices.
  • There is wide variability in forensic science disciplines, not only in techniques and methodologies but also in reliability, error rates, reporting, research, general acceptability and published material.
  • There is a dearth of peer-reviewed, published studies establishing the scientific bases and reliability of many forensic disciplines.
  • Many labs are underfunded and understaffed, which contributes to case backlogs and likely makes it more difficult for lab workers to do as much as they could to inform investigations, provide strong evidence for prosecutions and avoid errors.
  • Most labs operate under the auspices of law enforcement agencies, making them susceptible to pressures—overt and otherwise—to produce the kinds of results that police and prosecutors are looking for.
  • Rigorous and mandatory accreditation and certification programs are lacking, as are strong standards and protocols for analyzing and reporting on forensic evidence. Only a few states require crime labs to be accredited, though in 2005 more than three-quarters of all such labs were voluntarily accredited by private accrediting agencies —the vast majority of them by the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board, aka ASCLD/LAB.

“In short, the quality of forensic practice in most disciplines varies greatly because of the absence of adequate training and continuing education, rigorous mandatory certification and accreditation programs, adherence to robust performance standards and effective oversight,” the report said.

The National Academy of Sciences report presented 13 recommendations for improving the system, including one calling for creation of an independent national institute of forensic science to lead research efforts, establish and enforce accreditation and certification standards for labs and practitioners, and oversee educational programs.

The report also recommended removal of all crime labs from the administrative control of law enforcement agencies and prosecutors’ offices, creation of standard terminology for reports and testimony, and increases in funding for peer-reviewed research into the scientific validity of various forensic techniques. And it called for more research into human observer bias, establishment of routine quality control and quality assurance measures, and development of a national code of ethics for all forensic science disciplines.

To date, virtually nothing has been done to implement any of the study’s recommendations. Meanwhile, the drumbeat of crime lab scandals goes on.


One need look no further than what occurred at the Nassau County, N.Y., police department’s forensic evidence bureau in 2011 and what happened at the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation in 2010 to see the consequences of continued inaction.

The Nassau County crime lab was shut down in February 2011 after county officials learned police had known for months about serious problems with its drug analysis testing without informing anyone. The closure came two months after the lab was placed on probation for the second time in four years following a scathing inspection report by accreditor ASCLD/LAB, about which police officials never informed the district attorney or the county executive. (Neither apparently did anybody from ASCLD/LAB.)

The report documented 26 areas of noncompliance with ASCLD/LAB accreditation requirements, 15 of which were considered “essential,” 10 deemed “important,” and one characterized as “desirable.” The drug chemistry and latent print sections received the most citations, including improper maintenance of equipment and instruments, failure to properly mark and store evidence, and failure to secure the lab and adequately maintain records.

After the closure, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered the state’s inspector general, Ellen Biben, to investigate. Her findings, detailed in a 166-page report, cited a litany of failures she described as profound, including weak leadership, a dysfunctional quality management system, inconsistently trained and qualified analysts, and outdated and inconsistent testing procedures. The report also said the lab’s “significant and pervasive” problems were exacerbated by the New York State Commission on Forensic Science, which oversees the operation of the state’s 22 forensic labs, and which the report said had almost completely abdicated its responsibility for lab accreditation and monitoring.

“The confluence of these failures in oversight enabled the [lab] to operate as a substandard laboratory for far too long,” Biben wrote in her report. “In so doing, these failures deprived Nassau County, the criminal justice system and the public of their right to have complete and unfettered confidence in forensic testing.”

As bad as that scandal was, it pales in comparison with one uncovered the year before at the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation’s crime lab. An independent audit by two retired FBI agents showed that analysts there had systematically withheld or distorted evidence in more than 230 cases over a 16-year period, including three cases that resulted in executions.

The audit, precipitated by the exoneration of an innocent man who had served 16 years of a life sentence in the murder of a prostitute in 1991, found the lab’s serology section had long had a policy of reporting that presumptive tests for the presence of blood were positive, while failing to reveal when confirmatory tests proved to be negative or inconclusive. As a matter of practice, analysts also filed reports that overstated their test results and contradicted their bench notes.

A subsequent investigation by the Raleigh News & Observer found overwhelming evidence of a pro-prosecution bias at the lab, including training materials advising analysts on how to improve their conviction rates and instructing them to be wary of defense experts, whom it referred to as “defense whores.” Performance reviews were written by prosecutors praising individual analysts for their favorable testimony, and a video showed two blood-spatter experts congratulating each other when, after several failed attempts, they successfully re-created a scenario supporting the prosecution’s theory of the case.

The scandal also raised serious questions about ASCLD/LAB’s accreditation procedures. The crime lab, accredited by ASCLD/LAB since 1988, had been inspected five times during the period in which the serology section was found to be misrepresenting blood test results. It didn’t help that ASCLD/LAB, based in a Raleigh, N.C., suburb, is headed by two retired state crime-lab agents who held supervisory posts at the lab during the time the reporting policy was in place. Ralph Keaton, ASCLD/LAB’s executive director, was the deputy assistant director of the crime lab until 1995.

And the agency did itself no favors when it released a position statement defending the lab’s reporting practices as “consistent with the wording commonly used by forensic laboratories in the United States during that era.”


ASCLD/LAB accreditation is supposed to signal that a lab’s work is scientifically sound. Lab directors wear it as a badge of honor that they proudly cite as a seal of approval. And Keaton has been quoted as calling it the gold standard for forensic accreditation around the world, which he told the ABA Journal he never said but wouldn’t disagree with.

Most observers say voluntary accreditation is better than no accreditation at all because it has nipped some crime lab scandals in the bud and lets the labs know somebody is looking over their shoulders. But critics say the ASCLD/LAB seal of approval is not all it’s cracked up to be.

  • ASCLD/LAB's website lists the status of all accredited labs whose status has been revoked; it shows that no lab's accreditation is currently revoked.
  • ASCLD/LAB's website also lists the status of all accredited labs which have been suspended; it shows that no lab's accreditation is currently suspended.

Labs like North Carolina’s, which are accredited under a “legacy” program, are inspected only once every five years. Inspections are conducted by directors of other accredited labs that are also subject to inspection. The labs are always informed in advance that inspectors are coming. And the labs themselves choose the cases the inspectors review, though Keaton says inspectors always ask to see additional cases.

In 2004, however, ASCLD/LAB implemented a second accreditation program, ASCLD/LAB-International, which retained the forensic-specific requirements of the legacy program but incorporated additional, more rigorous requirements, including an annual audit. ASCLD/LAB is phasing out the legacy program and stopped accepting applications for it in 2009. But the last of the 125 labs still in the legacy program won’t have to apply for accreditation under the new program until their current accreditation expires. There are 271 labs already accredited under ASCLD/LAB-International.

New York City criminal defense lawyer Marvin Schechter, a member of the committee that produced the NAS report, is one of ASCLD/LAB’s biggest critics. Schechter, also a member of the New York State Commission on Forensic Science, wrote a lengthy memo to his fellow commissioners in 2011 recommending that they look for a new accreditor. He characterized ASCLD/LAB as an organization more interested in protecting its members’ images than in promoting accountability.

“In fact, ASCLD/LAB could more properly be described as a product service organization,” Schechter wrote, “which sells for a fee a ‘seal of approval’ covering diverse laboratory systems, which laboratories can utilize to bolster their credibility through in-court testimony by technicians, plus ancillary services such as protection from outside inquiry, shielding of internal activities and, where necessary, especially in the event of public condemnation, a spokesperson to buffer the laboratory from media inquiry.”

Keaton refuses to respond directly to Schechter’s remarks except to say that he disagrees with them. He also refuses to discuss the specifics of the North Carolina lab scandal, whose ripple effects are still being felt, although he does assert that a lot of what has been reported as fact is not factual.

But Keaton says that crime lab scandals fall into two categories: those involving fraud or other egregious misconduct, which are few and far between but suggest a complete breakdown in the integrity of a lab; and those based on human error, which are far more common but much easier to identify and correct. And he says the most serious problems he’s aware of have occurred in labs that were not accredited.

“I absolutely think the accreditation process is rigorous and demanding,” he says. “If you don’t believe me, ask one of the labs that have gone through it.”

If the accreditation process is so rigorous and demanding, critics wonder, then why have so few labs been sanctioned? ASCLD/LAB’s website lists the status of all accredited labs and shows that no lab’s accreditation is currently revoked or suspended; there are also no labs on probation. And Keaton says he can count on one hand the number of labs whose accreditation has ever been revoked or suspended, though he says it would probably take two hands to count the number of labs that have ever been placed on probation.

Keaton says that has a lot to do with the overall quality of accredited labs. But critics say it has more to do with the chummy nature of the inspection process, which creates a tendency to “go along to get along” among inspectors, and the agency’s own interest in keeping labs accredited.

Paul Giannelli
Photo of Paul Giannelli by Wayne Slezak.


In the wake of the scandal, the North Carolina legislature enacted several reforms. It amended its accreditation statute to have the crime lab accredited by two agencies, ASCLD/LAB and Forensic Quality Services. It reworded the statute to identify the public and the criminal justice system as the lab’s client. It made a crime the willful omission or misrepresen-tation of information subject to disclosure. And it created a forensic science advisory board to oversee the lab’s operation.

But while that may have solved North Carolina’s immediate problem, it doesn’t do anything to address the larger issue, Southwestern law professor Raeder says—how to prevent such scandals from occurring in the first place. “We can’t just keep stumbling from one scandal to the next,” she says.

There are two forensic science reform bills now pending in Congress, but neither has gotten out of committee. The Criminal Justice and Forensic Science Reform Act, sponsored by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., would require all forensic labs that receive federal funding to be accredited and all relevant personnel to be certified. The Forensic Science and Standards Act, introduced in the Senate by Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., and in the House by Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, would establish a national forensic science research program to fund research and develop forensic science standards.

The federal government has also announced establishment of a National Commission on Forensic Science aimed at strengthening and enhancing the practice of forensic science. The 30-member commission will develop policy recommendations for the U.S. attorney general on national forensic science standards, a uniform code of professional responsibility, and minimal training and certification requirements for forensic practitioners.

The move was widely hailed as a step in the right direction, albeit a small one. But a lasting solution will require government regulation, many say, just as is done with clinical, environmental and nuclear labs.

There’s no reason, Giannelli says, why the clinical lab that does Pap smear tests should be held to higher standards than the crime lab, whose work could put a defendant on death row.

“They’re both a matter of life and liberty,” he says.

Giannelli says there’s no need to start from scratch. The DNA lab regulations already in place could serve as a model for other types of forensic testing.

Others agree. But they wouldn’t stop there.

Raeder says pretrial discovery procedures and jury instructions must be changed to prevent forensic analysts from “fudging” the results of lab tests and “overreaching” when they testify.

To that end, the ABA House of Delegates adopted two resolutions at its 2012 midyear meeting. One urges governments at all levels to adopt pretrial discovery procedures requiring crime labs to produce “comprehensive and comprehensible” reports that spell out the procedures used in an analysis; the results of the analysis; the identity, qualifications and opinions of the analyst and anybody else who participated in the testing; and any additional information that could bear on the validity of the test results. The other urges judges and lawyers to consider several factors in determining how expert testimony should be presented to a jury and in instructing juries how to evaluate that testimony.

But before we do anything else, Neufeld says, we need to make sure that many of these forensic disciplines, developed by law enforcement agencies for use in law enforcement, are grounded in science.

“Let’s start by putting forensic science on the scientific track,” he says.

Source: American Bar Association

And crime labs are paid for evidence of convictions, while they get nothing for evidence of innocence.



New Study Finds That State Crime Labs Are Paid Per Conviction

I've previously written about the cognitive bias problem in state crime labs. This is the bias that can creep into the work of crime lab analysts when they report to, say, a state police agency, or the state attorney general. If they're considered part of the state's "team" -- if performance reviews and job assessments are done by police or prosecutors -- even the most honest and conscientious of analysts are at risk of cognitive bias. Hence, the countless and continuing crime lab scandals we've seen over the last couple decades. And this of course doesn't even touch on the more blatant examples of outright corruption.

In a new paper for the journal Criminal Justice Ethics, Roger Koppl and Meghan Sacks look at how the criminal justice system actually incentivizes wrongful convictions. In their section on state crime labs, they discover some astonishing new information about how many of these labs are funded.

Funding crime labs through court-assessed fees creates another channel for bias to enter crime lab analyses. In jurisdictions with this practice the crime lab receives a sum of money for each conviction of a given type. Ray Wickenheiser says, ‘‘Collection of court costs is the only stable source of funding for the Acadiana Crime Lab. $10 is received for each guilty plea or verdict from each speeding ticket, and $50 from each DWI (Driving While Impaired) and drug offense.’’

In Broward County, Florida, ‘‘Monies deposited in the Trust Fund are principally court costs assessed upon conviction of driving or boating under the influence ($50) or selling, manufacturing, delivery, or possession of a controlled substance ($100).’’

Several state statutory schemes require defendants to pay crime laboratory fees upon conviction. North Carolina General Statutes require, ‘‘[f]or the services of’’ the state or local crime lab, that judges in criminal cases assess a $600 fee to be charged ‘‘upon conviction’’ and remitted to the law enforcement agency containing the lab whenever that lab ‘‘performed DNA analysis of the crime, tests of bodily fluids of the defendant for the presence of alcohol or controlled substances, or analysis of any controlled substance possessed by the defendant or the defendant’s agent.’’

Illinois crime labs receive fees upon convictions for sex offenses, controlled substance offenses, and those involving driving under the influence. Mississippi crime labs require crime laboratory fees for various conviction types, including arson, aiding suicide, and driving while intoxicated.

Similar provisions exist in Alabama, New Mexico, Kentucky, New Jersey, Virginia, and, until recently, Michigan. Other states have broadened the scope even further. Washington statutes require a $100 crime lab fee for any conviction that involves lab analysis. Kansas statutes require offenders ‘‘to pay a separate court cost of $400 for every individual offense if forensic science or laboratory services or forensic computer examination services are provided in connection with the investigation.’’

In addition to those already listed, the following states also require crime lab fees in connection with various conviction types: Arizona, California, Missouri, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.

Think about how these fee structures play out in the day-to-day work in these labs. Every analyst knows that a test result implicating a suspect will result in a fee paid to the lab. Every result that clears a suspect means no fee. They're literally being paid to provide the analysis to win convictions. Their findings are then presented to juries as the careful, meticulous work of an objective scientist.

No wonder there have been so many scandals. I'm sure we'll continue to see more.

(Disclosure: In 2008, Koppl and I co-wrote an article for Slate on how to fix some of these problems.)

Source: Reason

coke test

Owen Sound Rally

September 26, 2012 permalink

A rally took place on September 25 outside the Children's Aid Society in Owen Sound. The only report is a video (mp4).

Source: Facebook, Zane Sherwood

Memorial for Chancey Miller

September 25, 2012 permalink

A vigil in Chatham Ontario to memorialize the death of Chancey Miller in foster care appeared in two press reports.



Downtown Chatham CAS Protest

memorial for Chancey Miller
A handful of residents protest against the CAS outside the Downtown Chatham Centre on Monday.

A group calling for changes to legislation dealing with Children’s Aid Societies held a demonstration in front of the Downtown Chatham Centre this afternoon.

Chris Carter of Canada Court Watch has held protests before, but had a special reason for this one.

“(It’s) in memory of Chancy Miller. Chancy was taken by the Newfoundland protection services and brought to Toronto Sick Kids Hospital,” says Carter. “Shortly after that they decided to take Chancy out of the hospital and put her in a foster home and she died shortly thereafter.”

Carter says the 2nd reading of a private members bill will take place this week which aims to allow the Ontario ombudsman to look investigate the Childern’s Aid Societies.

Source: Blackburn News

Residents show support for Bill 110

Chris Carter
Chris Carter, a member of Court Watch Canada, has delivered a petition with more than 1,100 local signatures to Chatham-Kent Essex MPP Rick Nichols, in support of Bill 110, to give the Ontario Ombudsman the power to investigate public complaints against children's aid societies.

More than 1,100 area residents are showing their support to give Ontario's ombudsman the power to investigate public complaints against children's aid societies.

Chris Carter, a member of Canada Court Watch, has delivered a petition with 1,167 signatures, to Chatham-Kent Essex MPP Rick Nicholls' constituency office that supports Bill 110, to amend the Ombudsman Act to allow for public complaints about the CAS to be investigated.

Carter said several local residents took part in collecting the signatures during various public events over the summer.

He said the goal is to have the petition delivered to Queen's Park as a show of support when Bill 110. A second reading for the bill is scheduled in the Ontario legislature this Thursday.

The bill was introduced by Hamilton NDP MPP Monique Taylor, children and youth services critic, and passed first reading in June.

Carter, who has been leading the charge on this issue by organizing several local protests calling for this change,s is encouraged by the fact that Premier Dalton McGuinty has called Ontario's Ombudsman Andre Marin to discuss the issue of powers being extended to the MUSH (Municipalities, universities, school boards and hospitals) sector, which includes the CAS and long-term care facilities.

Marin has repeatedly asked the government to extend the ombudsman's jurisdiction over the MUSH sector, which is the case for other provinces.

Marin told reporters earlier this year, while releasing his annual report that he had spoke with McGuinty and the premier appeared to have an open mind about this issue.

"So long as the door is open I remain optimistic," Marin said.

During an interview with the London Free Press in late August, Marin was asked if he has any sense of whether the province will allow him to investigate universities, school boards, hospitals, nursing homes, police and children's aid societies.

"If you had asked me that question a few months ago I would have said no . . . But I have renewed hope . . . We are in discussion with the premier and the premier's office," Marin said.

Carter is also optimistic about some movement being made.

"It's my personal feeling this bill is going to pass second reading and go to committee," he said.

Source: Chatham Daily News

Addendum: Chris Carter reports on success with his delivery of petitons to MPP Rick Nicholls.



Chris Carter

Well he was good to his word.

Last week Friday September 28/12 I visited his constituency office and had a brief conversation with Chatham PC MPP Mr. Rick Nicholls re: the issues of CA$ attacks against children and families.

I handed over an additional six pages of signatures re: the Ombudsman's Amendment Act petition which Lee Bolton and others had obtained during a productive afternoon public protest rally completed downtown Chatham last week Monday September 24/12 in memory of Miss Chancey Miller:

Mr. Nicholls promised he would read the petition into the record AND that he and other PC MPPs would be supporting the NDP private member's Bill 110.

Following numerous other MPPs such as the Woodstock PC MPP Ernie Hardeman (thank you Christine for your work on bringing Mr. Hardeman on board) and a number of NDP MPPs and maybe even the Liberal MPP Kim Craitor (?), Mr. Nicholls read the petition into the record yesterday (has anybody else been watching the OLA debates re: the contempt proceedings re: Liberal Environment Minister Chris Bentley recently?).

Thank you to the creator(s) of the petition, CAS ONTARIO website for posting it online for us to print off and utilize and to the citizens of Chatham who came together and got this petitioning done and the Chatham Bill 110 vote secured.

link to Hansard.

Source: Facebook, Canada Court Watch

A tribute to Chancey, including video of her while still alive, from Facebook and local copy (mp4)

Protecting Your Own

September 24, 2012 permalink

After the marriage of Indiana Department of Child Services Director James W Payne's daughter broke up, he moved in court for custody of his two grandchildren. But he didn't wait for the court. DCS made the placement before the court could hear the motion. Later, Payne was accused of slapping one of his grandchildren in the face, and the agency had to find an outside social worker to investigate the allegation. When the children had to be transported to other family members for visits, DCS paid the bill, something it does not always do. When political opponents questioned his actions, Payne claimed confidentiality. He was soon forced out of office.

Fixcas has heard many claims of conflict of interest, usually when a social worker is related to one of the parties in the case. This is one of the few to reach the press.



DCS chief James Payne fought his own agency over family matter

James W Payne
Department of Child Services Director James W. Payne, shown during a February 2012 presentation, waged a behind-the-scenes fight to discredit and derail his agency's recommendations in a child neglect case that involved his grandchildren.
Matt Detrich / The Star


Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels said Monday he has accepted the resignation of embattled Department of Child Services director James Payne.

The resignation comes after the Star's investigation into Payne's actions involving a DCS neglect case involving his grandchildren.

Posted 9:55 PM, Sep 22, 2012

Department of Child Services Director James W. Payne waged a behind-the-scenes fight to discredit and derail his agency's recommendations in a child neglect case that involved his grandchildren.

Payne's actions -- uncovered by a months-long Indianapolis Star investigation -- crossed ethical lines, experts say, and likely violated his agency's code of conduct.

Even as he ran DCS, Payne became deeply immersed in the case, which began in 2010 when his grandchildren were taken from their mother by his agency as she was locked in a nasty divorce and custody battle with Payne's son.

It wasn't DCS' removal of the children, however, that Payne opposed. What put him at odds with DCS was his agency's push, about nine months later, to end the neglect case and permanently reunite the children with their mother.

Payne, in written responses to questions from The Star, stressed that his only role in the case was "as a grandparent, father and husband," and not in a professional capacity.

At no point during his involvement in the case, however, did Payne step aside from his leadership role with the agency -- a move ethics experts say would have been appropriate.

The Star's investigation, based on a review of hundreds of pages of documents related to the DCS and divorce cases, found:

Payne became directly involved in helping his son fight DCS, including consulting with his son's attorney and drafting a legal brief highly critical of his agency's work in the case.

The Code of Conduct that Payne instituted at DCS forbids employees and top officials from "personal and private interests" such as intervening in a case involving relatives.

Payne did not notify Gov. Mitch Daniels of his deep involvement in the DCS case or let the governor know that he at one point became the target of an investigation into whether he slapped one of his grandchildren while the child was in his care. The child abuse allegation did not prompt an independent probe. Instead, Payne, who denied the allegation, was investigated and cleared by his own agency.

Payne received transportation assistance for the children through DCS, which is not available to all families, despite earning more than $130,000 and having a state-issued vehicle.

Payne was drawn into the case with his own agency through a family fight that continues after more than two years behind the closed doors of courtrooms, first in Hamilton County and now in Marion County. That drama has the elements of a tabloid tale: strippers, drunken driving, a private investigator, paternity tests -- even bigamy.

Payne's involvement as a grandparent, ethics experts say, was a role that every citizen -- including the DCS director -- has the right to assume. But as director, they say, he needed to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest.

"At a minimum, this is an incredible, inherent conflict of interest," said Elizabeth Harbeck Voshel, a University of Michigan professor who has chaired a state ethics committee on social services since 1985.

"I think anyone with even a common person's eye would raise their eyebrow and say, 'What, what, what was he thinking here?' "

Payne said the "governor's staff knew my grandchildren had been placed with my wife and me" and added that such DCS cases are confidential -- "even for my grandchildren."

That statement appears to contradict the response a Daniels spokesman provided to written questions submitted by The Star. Daniels appointed Payne in 2005 to the cabinet-level post, tasking the former Marion County juvenile court judge with turning around Indiana's long-troubled child welfare system.

"The governor," Jake Oakman responded, "has no knowledge of any of the questions you raise in your email."

Even the appearance of a leader's impropriety can be damaging to an agency such as DCS, said Frederic Reamer, a professor at Rhode Island College who chaired the task force that wrote the Code of Ethics for the National Association of Social Workers. While Payne is not a social worker, Reamer said the tenets of that code apply because of his role in running DCS.

"One of the qualities one wants in the administrator of a department with this kind of responsibility is impartiality and neutrality," he said.

"There should not be any hint of evidence that one is playing favorites, one is engaged in any behind-closed-doors efforts that could compromise his and the department's integrity."

DCS removes children

How Payne came to oppose his own agency -- and actually advocate for his grandchildren to be kept in the system he runs -- is rooted in the divorce and custody fight between his son, John, and John’s wife, Heather.

Heather Payne filed for divorce against John Payne in December 2009, 10 days after her husband was arrested for the third time during their marriage for drunken driving.

Heather Payne also sought and received a protective order and custody of their four children -- two fathered by John Payne.

Less than two months after the divorce filing, James Payne, a lawyer, filed a motion on his own behalf in the divorce case, seeking visits with the grandchildren. Grandparents typically have no standing in such matters while a divorce case is pending, and the judge denied his request.

The fight grew more contentious in early March 2010, when Heather Payne's attorney filed a notice that she intended to move with the children back to North Carolina.

Records obtained by The Star reveal it was around that time that a private investigator began keeping tabs on her. It is unclear whether her husband -- who was now living with his parents and just months earlier had qualified financially for a public defender in his drunken driving case -- was paying for the investigator or someone else was.

The next month, a motion filed by John Payne's attorney asked the court to remove the children and place them with their grandparents. The brief alleged their mother "continually left the children alone" and did not return "until anywhere from 4 a.m. to 7 a.m. or later." During those absences, the motion said, she left her oldest child to care for the younger children.

The legal brief also alleged that Heather Payne, who declined to be interviewed for this story, was working as a stripper.

The judge set a telephone conference with the attorneys representing the couple for May 20, 2010.

But the night before that conference call, the children were removed from their mother and placed with their grandparents -- not by the divorce court, but by the agency run by Payne.

Someone called DCS and Noblesville police around 10 p.m. on May 19, 2010, making the same allegation against Heather Payne that was central to John Payne's divorce case petition seeking to have the children placed with his parents.

The caller, who is not named in records examined by The Star, reported that Heather Payne left the children -- who ranged in age from 5 to 13 -- home alone and was headed to Ohio.

In some documents, Heather Payne contends it was the private investigator who likely called authorities. She also alleges the investigator attached a GPS tracking device to her car.

Noblesville police, along with Hamilton County DCS case manager Lyndsay Krauter responded to the call.

DCS contacted Heather Payne, who returned to the apartment around 1:20 a.m. Krauter, though, took the children into protective custody "since the children report ongoing incidences of being left without supervision for long lengths of time."

Just hours later, the four children were handed over by the DCS worker to Payne and his wife -- a decision later formalized by the court.

The intervention by DCS came at a time when Heather Payne appeared to have the upper hand in the divorce case. She had retained custody of the children, and her husband was ordered to pay more than $800 a month in child support.

But now that DCS had intervened, the neglect case, by law, took precedence -- even canceling the child support obligation. And, instead of the occasional visits Payne and his wife had failed to secure through the divorce court, the children were now living with the couple.

A DCS case against Heather Payne also would appear to potentially tilt the couple's divorce fight in her husband's favor.

Outside help

While Krauter handled the DCS proceedings initially, DCS later hired a former Illinois child welfare worker to oversee the Payne case. For the next year, that contract worker, Sandy Downs, would manage the case.

The agency also turned to a lawyer from the attorney general's office, Deputy Attorney General Laura Bowker, rather than use a DCS staff attorney to handle legal matters.

John Ryan, DCS chief of staff, said those steps show the lengths to which DCS officials went to avoid a conflict.

"We were crystal clear," Ryan said in a written statement to The Star, "that we had to approach this situation in a manner that definitively separated Judge Payne's professional role from that of his personal role as a grandfather."

Ryan said that started with Deputy Director David Judkins calling counterparts in neighboring states to see whether any of their agencies could take the case. None could, but Illinois suggested Downs, who was retired but still was a licensed Illinois caseworker.

Given the immediate needs of the case, Ryan explained, Downs was not able to go through mandatory DCS 12-week training.

Instead, Downs was to rely upon Judkins, who served as her contact, Ryan said, "regarding information about policies, procedures and Indiana legal requirements."

Downs' unfamiliarity with Indiana practices and procedures, however, created issues for some involved in the case.

In reports filed by staff from social services agencies that worked with DCS on the case, she was depicted as confused by agency practices and policy, and slow to respond to court orders and services ordered for Heather Payne and the children.

But if monitoring the neglect case was a daunting task, it was nothing compared to the challenge soon thrown to Downs, who did not respond to messages from The Star.

On Aug. 11, 2010, DCS received a report that was a potential bombshell: The DCS director had been accused of slapping one of the children "across (the child's) face." Downs now had to investigate this delicate and serious allegation. And because of the unique chain of command under which she worked, she was reporting to Judkins, who reported directly to the person being accused: Payne.

In his written response to questions from The Star, Payne denied striking his grandchild: "It never happened, never would, and the allegations were unsubstantiated by an out-of-state case manager."

"Gramps is the boss"

The allegation that Payne struck one of the children surfaced about two months after they were taken from their mother and placed with the DCS director and his wife.

A counselor from a nonprofit agency hired by DCS to work with Heather Payne and the children reported that two of the children told her "Gramps" hit one of them in the face. The blow, they said, was prompted by the child's disrespectful behavior.

The counselor, following Indiana law, reported the incident to DCS.

It's not clear who was made aware of the allegation beyond Downs and Judkins, but Payne at no time stepped aside while he was under investigation by his own agency.

A DCS report detailing the investigation says Payne came to the Hamilton County DCS office in Noblesville to be interviewed by Downs.

Payne denied the allegation, Downs noted, telling her, "I don't believe in corporal punishment."

In separate interviews with Downs, both grandchildren described the alleged blow to the face.

One of the children also was aware of the challenge facing Downs: "Gramps is the boss over you and everyone here and you'll get in trouble if you don't do what he wants."

In her final report, Downs cleared Payne, stating there was not sufficient evidence to substantiate the allegation.

Downs detailed her rationale: "Although both (children) stated that it did happen, they differed in degree."

One child said Payne struck the other child "across the face with his whole hand," Downs explained, "whereas (the other child) said it was more across (the child's) mouth."

The report didn't mention that any such blow -- regardless of the "degree" or where it landed -- would violate DCS policy prohibiting corporal punishment by court-appointed caregivers such as Payne.

Payne's grandchildren remained with the DCS director and his wife during -- and after -- the investigation of the slapping allegation.

Serving as a surrogate parent, Payne regularly interacted with workers assigned to assist the children, including Downs, as well as staff from nonprofits that work with DCS.

For about a month in the fall of 2010, another service was provided by DCS: the children's daily transportation from Payne's home to their schools and for the children's visits with their parents and to some other appointments.

A policy directive issued by Payne just months earlier said such transportation service "should be considered only after other options for obtaining transportation have been explored."

There was no explanation provided for why Payne -- who earns $132,600 a year and had a state-issued vehicle -- or his wife needed the DCS transportation assistance.

During this time, Payne also continued to be increasingly involved in the legal issues surrounding his grandchildren and their parents.

Payne appeared at many of the court hearings at which his agency and DCS partners presented evidence, reported on evaluations and provided other case updates.

Concerns about Payne's actions

It was also in late 2010 that, according to case records, Payne's actions prompted workers to note concerns about their interactions with the DCS director.

The first incident, in early November 2010, involved a visit with the children's mother that had to be rescheduled because the person supervising the visit had a scheduling conflict.

Everyone agreed to the switch, but Downs called the supervisor just hours before the visit to say Judkins had informed her that the visit would need to be rescheduled again.

"Apparently, I don't know, the Paynes weren't happy" with the new time, Downs told the therapist in a voicemail. According to the therapist's notes, Downs later told Heather Payne the decision "was made over her head" and provided her with Judkins' phone number.

Another report filed 10 days later, also from a visit supervisor, detailed a confrontation with Payne during a visit the children had with their father at Payne's home.

Payne didn't like a particular visitation rule and called Downs to complain. He also complained to the visit supervisor in a way, she described in her notes, that made her feel uncomfortable.

"(Worker) let James Payne know that she is the 'little guy' in this and must follow instructions from supervisors, as well as standard visitation rules . . ."

That appears to be the last time a therapist from the nonprofit service provider monitored the children's visits with their father. Records don't indicate why, but future visits were supervised by Payne and his wife.

Questions about children's visits with father

On Nov. 24, DCS moved forward with a plan that would put the agency and its director on opposing sides in a fight that would be waged over the next seven months.

The agency returned the children to their mother for a "trial reunification" -- a move approved by Judge Steven R. Nation.

So while the children now lived with their mother, they continued to have visits with John Payne -- specific time set aside by the court for the children to be with their father. But now those visits were supervised by the Paynes.

Call reporter Tim Evans at (317) 444-6204 and follow him on Twitter at @starwatchtim.

Source: Indianapolis Star

Social Worker Settles Score

September 24, 2012 permalink

In Stafford England social worker Leroy Forde decided to settle his differences with Darren Chevelleau by showing up at his home wearing a camouflage outfit while armed with a machete and golf club.



Man jailed after arming himself with machete

A CHILDREN'S social worker 'tooled up' with a machete started a violent brawl that left two people injured, a judge heard.

Leroy Forde turned up at a house in Stafford with the machete and a golf club after being accused of an extra-marital affair.

Householder Mr Darren Chevelleau (corr) opened the door to see Forde holding the machete and fearing he was about to be attacked, made a grab for it.

The fracas that followed spilled over from the house in Friars Street to a nearby car park. Mr Chevelleau suffered a cut to his fingers that needed four stitches and his partner, Mandy Ormrod sustained cuts to her left wrist and knee.

The defendant ran off when he heard the sound of police sirens and was arrested,covered in blood, at his home, said Miss Fiona Cortese, prosecuting.

Forde, aged 33, of Alliance Street, Stafford, who admitted charges of unlawful wounding, possessing the machete and common assault on Ms Ormrod, was jailed for a total of 397 days.

Judge Mark Eades told him: "During the course of the day there was an incident which appears to have involved your wife being told - whether correct or not I can't comment - you were having an affair with another woman and you were under the impression your marriage was over.

"Your reaction was an extreme one. I put to one side the fact you had donned camouflage outfit... you armed yourself with a machete, a long large weapons more consistent with a short sword and a golf club. The fact you were prepared to travel to Mr Chevelleau's house with those two weapons speaks volumes.

"The inevitable happened, things escalated and went completely out of control - the people in the house sought to restrain you and take those weapons off you. You ended up injured and they were injured."

Miss Cortese said the incident happened after Forde had been out celebrating the New Year in Stafford town centre.

The defendant, who had been drinking heavily, went home and put on camouflage clothes to walk his dog, but then armed himself with the machete and golf club and went to Friars Street.

In a basis of plea, Forde said he had no intention to use the weapons, but took them 'for protection'. He didn't have a problem with Mr Chevelleau, only wanting to talk about the allegations made about him.

Mr Chris Clark, defending, said Forde had held a responsible job "working with vulnerable children for social services."

He was suspended in the wake of the incident. "That employment is no longer available to him," said Mr Clark.

"His wife is standing by him and they are attempting to make a new start. My client has made a valuable contribution to the community since coming to this country from Barbados. By these rash actions he's put it wholly in jeopardy."

Source: Staffordshire Newsletter

social worker with machete

Tennessee Deaths in Care

September 22, 2012 permalink

Tennessee child protectors have complied with the law by releasing some data about child deaths in their care, but only after seven years of foot-dragging. A news article and comment by Robert Franklin are enclosed. Here is a local copy of the data mentioned in the article.



31 Tennessee kids died in first 6 months of this year, DCS reports

State agency violated law by failing to report all deaths for 7 years

Jim Summerville
State Sen. Jim Summerville
George Walker IV / File / The Tennessean

Ten children died in Tennessee during the first six months of 2012 while they were the subjects of ongoing investigations by the Department of Children’s Services. None was more than a year old.

An additional 17 children who died during the same time period had at some point been brought to the attention of DCS. At the time of their deaths, however, their case files had been closed.

And four children ages 18 and younger died in state custody during the same period of time.

The data on 31 children whose lives had at some point intersected with DCS workers before they died this year were released this week in response to requests by The Tennessean and by Democratic state lawmaker Sherry Jones. Jones had made repeated requests over the past two months for the information.

In releasing the data to Jones and the newspaper, DCS attorney Douglas Dimond acknowledged that the state agency charged with protecting children had been violating the law for seven years in its reporting of child deaths.

A 2005 law requires DCS to inform lawmakers of each child death or near-death in their district within 45 days.

“Although the statute was enacted in 2005, it does not appear that the Department has been generating individual notifications to legislators at any time or under any version of the statute since then, but the Department will certainly begin doing so immediately in compliance with the statute,” Dimond wrote.

DCS has come under fire in recent months for its inability to keep track of data it is required to by law after failures of a new computer tracking system known as TFACTS, which was installed for more than $37 million two years ago. All child death data must be entered into that system, according to official department policy.

On Tuesday, when DCS officials originally released child death data, they reported 40 deaths of children in the first six months of 2012.

On Thursday, DCS Executive Director for Child Safety Carla Aaron said that information was incorrectly generated and revised it downward to 31.

The 31 deaths this year bring to 233 the number of Tennessee children who have died in the past 2½ years who had some form of interaction with DCS staff before their deaths, according to newly released data from the agency.

They do not include, however, more recent cases such as the two children who died Aug. 2 in a hot car in Smyrna as their mother slept. A child neglect report had been filed against the mother, Samantha Harper, by La Vergne Police in September 2011, resulting in a referral to DCS, but it is unclear whether DCS began an investigation. Harper remains in custody.

Child welfare experts cautioned that the fatality numbers, without detailed explanation about the circumstances of each death from DCS, can’t provide a clear picture of how well the state agency is doing its job in intervening to protect the state’s children and whether any deaths could have been prevented in cases in which state officials already had been alerted to concerns about the children.

“Intuitively some of the numbers sound high, but you need to know all of the circumstances of the death,” said Linda Spears, vice president for policy and public affairs at the Washington, D.C.-based Child Welfare League of America.

The preliminary causes of death provided by DCS include asphyxia for a Montgomery County infant less than 2 months old, a home fire for a 2-year-old Lincoln County child, medical issues for four children and unknown causes of death for nine others. One 17-year-old Dickson County foster child died in a car crash, in which a foster parent was injured.

“Unsafe sleeping” is listed as a cause of death for five babies less than 6 months old. Spears said that interpreting such cases requires knowing whether the mother, for example, was so intoxicated that she rolled over and smothered the child in her sleep or whether she was simply uneducated about how to swaddle or put a baby to sleep properly.

'I really just want some answers'

Republican state Sen. Jim Summerville, who represents Dickson, Humphreys, Hickman, Cheatham and Robertson counties, said the numbers raise more questions than answers.

Summerville said he has already been concerned that DCS was prematurely ending investigations into cases of severe child abuse without interceding to protect children.

“What does this mean exactly?” Summerville said he plans to ask DCS Commissioner Kate O’Day. “What happens when a case is closed? We’re seeing cases in recent months that — in the past — would have been classified as severe child abuse that are now being called an assessment and are closed. Meanwhile, law enforcement isn’t in on it. Protective Services isn’t in on it. No one is assessing these children further. I really just want some answers.”

Summerville and child welfare advocates had already scheduled an Oct. 2 meeting with O’Day to discuss specific cases of children who they believe suffered severe abuse but whose cases weren’t classified that way by DCS.

A comparison to overall death numbers for Tennessee children shows that about one in 10 children who died in the state last year had some interaction with DCS while they were alive.

Of the 964 deaths of children 18 and younger reported by the Department of Health in 2011, 100 had come to the attention of or were in the physical custody of DCS before they died.

Of the 1,040 child deaths in Tennessee in 2010, 102 children had some interactions with DCS while they lived.

A comparison to nearby states puts Tennessee child death figures statistically above some of its neighbors.

In Alabama, for example, which has 1.1 million children versus Tennessee’s 1.4 million, between January and June this year, one child died who was the subject of an open case file and one child died who was in state custody, according to the Alabama Department of Human Resources.

In Arkansas, where 710,000 children live, there were four children in custody or subject to a DCS investigation at the time of their deaths during the first six months of this year, according to the Arkansas Department of Human Services.

Source: Tennessean

TN: DCS Violated Disclosure Law on Child Deaths for Seven Years

Yet another state’s child welfare agency has been violating state law by refusing to report information on the deaths of children who were being or had been investigated by the agency. Read about it here (The Tennessean, 9/21/12). This time it’s Tennessee. In the past I’ve written the same thing about Arizona, California and New York. In California, Los Angeles County is simply refusing to comply with orders by the legislature to provide information about children’s deaths to the investigator hired specifically for that purpose. In New York the agency refuses to provide information on child death and injury, and periodically lobbies the legislature to change the law requiring that it do so. The legislature always refuses, but the agency goes on its merry way, violating the law. It’s not as bad in Arizona where newspapers complain only of limited access to information that’s required by statute.

In Tennessee, it’s the members of the legislature themselves who are getting stiffed. Back in 2005, they passed a law requiring the Department of Children’s Services to inform a legislator of each child death “or near death” that occurs in his/her district within 45 days.

…DCS attorney Douglas Dimond acknowledged that the state agency charged with protecting children had been violating the law for seven years in its reporting of child deaths…

“Although the statute was enacted in 2005, it does not appear that the Department has been generating individual notifications to legislators at any time or under any version of the statute since then, but the Department will certainly begin doing so immediately in compliance with the statute,” Dimond wrote.

In short, for seven years, the Department ignored the law. And when legislator Sherry Jones and The Tennessean newspaper finally demanded that DCS turn over information on all children who died in the first six months of this year, they were stonewalled for two months.

The figures aren’t good. In the first six months of this year, 31 Tennessee children died who were either the subject of a DCS investigation at the time, had been recently or were in “state custody,” i.e. foster care, I assume.

Worse, this is shaping up to be a good year for DCS. That’s because, in the previous 2 1/2 years, 233 such children have died, so 2012′s average of 62 child deaths is a marked improvement.

Now, it’s true, as state officials say, that not every death is one that DCS should have or could have prevented. The alcoholic mother who passes out and rolls over on her newborn, smothering him, is not the same as the well-meaning mother who swaddles the child too tightly. Fair enough, but if all the deaths fell into the latter category, i.e. regrettable but not DCS’s fault, you’d expect to see the same type of figures in states with similar populations. To its credit, the article gives some examples and Tennessee DCS doesn’t stack up well.

A comparison to overall death numbers for Tennessee children shows that about one in 10 children who died in the state last year had some interaction with DCS while they were alive.

Of the 964 deaths of children 18 and younger reported by the Department of Health in 2011, 100 had come to the attention of or were in the physical custody of DCS before they died.

Of the 1,040 child deaths in Tennessee in 2010, 102 children had some interactions with DCS while they lived.

A comparison to nearby states puts Tennessee child death figures statistically above some of its neighbors.

In Alabama, for example, which has 1.1 million children versus Tennessee’s 1.4 million, between January and June this year, one child died who was the subject of an open case file and one child died who was in state custody, according to the Alabama Department of Human Resources.

In Arkansas, where 710,000 children live, there were four children in custody or subject to a DCS investigation at the time of their deaths during the first six months of this year, according to the Arkansas Department of Human Services.

That probably explains a lot about why Tennessee DCS failed for seven years to comply with the law on reporting children’s deaths. And that lack of transparency on the part of the agency in turn probably contributed its share to the children’s deaths. It’s one of the important points about transparency – it serves to limit governmental errors, malfeasance and corruption. Everyone, public or private, behaves a little more carefully when they know others are watching than they do when they act in secrecy. So the refusal by DCS to report children’s deaths to state legislatures results not only in a lack of information, it increases risk for Tennessee’s children. It’s the mission of DCS to reduce that risk, not increase it.

Source: Fathers and Families.

Social Worker in Love

September 21, 2012 permalink

In today's soap opera, Batshaw Centres took Maria's toddler son. Batshaw worker Peter read Maria's file and found that she was emotionally vulnerable and promiscuous. Peter poured out his heart to Maria and offered to help her get her boy back. Maria was so grateful she fell in love with Peter. Their love affair lasted until Maria became pregnant. Peter urged Maria to get an abortion but she refused. Peter threatened to kill himself if his name appeared on the birth certificate. Peter left Maria and has not seen her since. Maria Sanderson is now suing Peter Fergus and Batshaw Youth and Family Centres for $500,000.



Pregnant woman sues Batshaw, social worker

A woman who had an affair with her Batshaw Youth and Family Centres social worker while her young son was in protection — and became pregnant — is suing the organization and the alleged father for half a million dollars.

Maria Sanderson met Peter Fergus in June 2011 at Montreal Youth Court “after a police incident” in which Sanderson’s 18-month-old son was taken into care, the lawsuit alleges. The two allegedly developed a relationship immediately, initiated by Fergus, and Sanderson claims she told him she would do anything for him because she was so thankful to him for helping her get her son back. She felt like Fergus was her hero.

She said she fell in love.

According to the suit, Fergus suddenly ended the relationship when Sanderson got pregnant.

Sanderson said and she felt “preyed upon” because Fergus had read in her file that she was “in a vulnerable position, emotionally fragile and desperately wanted” her son back. He also knew she had been a victim of sexual abuse and was promiscuous.

Claire Roy, spokesperson for Batshaw, said the organization couldn’t say much since it hasn’t filed a statement of defence yet, but confirmed Fergus was fired from Batshaw on March 30.

Fergus’s lawyer did not return phone calls from The Gazette, and Fergus did not respond to an email request for an interview.

According to court documents, in the days following their first meeting, Fergus called Sanderson, asking her personal questions about her marriage and saying he was in an unhappy marriage and had a 6-year-old son.

After several “intense” phone conversations, Sanderson expressed her feelings for Fergus and he said “he was very fond of her as well,” court documents say.

During a visit to Sanderson’s home, Fergus allegedly sat on her bed to discuss her son, then leaned over and kissed her. According to the suit, the two then had unprotected sex, which they would continue to do three or four times a week until mid-July 2011.

But on July 24, Fergus allegedly sent Sanderson an email explaining he wasn’t in love and simply wanted intercourse. But a few days later, he wrote to Sanderson to say he cared about her, the suit says.

On Aug. 26, 2011, Sanderson discovered she was pregnant and claims the father had to be Fergus since he’d been her only sexual partner since the birth of her son. Fergus encouraged her to have an abortion, Sanderson says, but she refused.

Sanderson claims she heard nothing from Fergus for a month, until he finally replied to her eighth text message by telling her the relationship was over and that he wished her well. He threatened to commit suicide if his name appeared on the baby’s birth certificate, the suit says.

On Oct. 12, 2011, the two allegedly discussed baby names and Fergus’s attendance at the birth, but that was the last Sanderson saw of him. During phone calls that followed, Fergus told Sanderson that he didn’t love her, had too much work and no time to speak with her any more, the suit says.

Sanderson claims she was crushed.

In a motion filed in May, Batshaw tried to have the case thrown out, claiming the organization was in no way responsible for what happened and that Quebec Superior Court doesn’t have jurisdiction to award what amounts to child support if Fergus were found to be the father. The motion was dismissed in June.

Sanderson’s lawyer, Michel Perreault, was granted a court order to collect a DNA sample from Fergus to determine whether he is the father, but Perreault said they haven’t been able to find him.

Source: Montreal Gazette

Addendum: A follow-up a year later discloses why Sanderson's lawyer could not find Peter Fergus. He committed suicide in May 2012.



Mom sues child protection agency after affair with case-worker results in pregnancy

Maria Sanderson
The mother in question with her face blurred for privacy reasons.

A mother is suing the city's child protection services for $500,000 after an employee impregnated her and then committed suicide, QMI Agency has learned.

The mother, whose identity is protected by law and can't be published, claims a former employee of Montreal's English-language child services bureau, known as Batshaw, manipulated her for sex.

After the mother sued, the agency fired its employee, Peter Fergus, who then committed suicide in May 2012.

The mother first met Fergus in 2011, when the agency temporarily took custody of her second child.

Fergus, who was in charge of the woman's file, made sexual advances towards her during their first meeting, the lawsuit alleges.

The woman claims they had sex during their second meeting and she discovered she was pregnant in August 2011.

Fergus allegedly ended the relationship in October, and the woman contacted a lawyer and filed a lawsuit against Fergus and Batshaw in January 2012.

Batshaw spokeswoman Claire Roy said the agency suspended Fergus as soon as it heard of the woman's accusations.

"After an investigation, (Fergus) was fired in March 30, 2012," she said.

Fergus killed himself in May 2012. DNA tests proved that he fathered the child, who was born in April 2012.

The woman's lawyer, Michel Perreault, said Fergus could have had other "potential victims."

"(Fergus) told (my client) that he had flirted with other clients," Perreault said. "We think he was a predator."

The case has not yet gone to trial. The lawsuit's allegations haven't been proven in court.

Source: Sun News Network

Budget Shortfall Lets Kids Go Home

September 21, 2012 permalink

According to a news article drawn from statements by Waterloo CAS executive director Alison Scott, her agency will be making layoffs and closing group homes for budgetary reasons. The facts:

  • Waterloo CAS is grappling with a $2.5 million shortfall.
  • It is closing two residential group homes.
  • Thirteen children will be moved to foster care or back to their families.
  • The announced cuts will not really impact services to children and families.
  • The changes will save $1.3 million.
Two notes:
  • Since the return of some children to their families will not impact services to children and families, they must have been held in group homes to justify funding.
  • By our arithmetic, cutting CAS budgets by $4,788,500,000 could return all of Canada's foster children to their families.



Layoffs, group homes to close as family and children’s services fights $2.5M shortfall

KITCHENER — Family and Children’s Services of the Waterloo Region is closing two residential group homes and eliminating positions as it grapples with a $2.5 million shortfall in provincial funding.

This is the third time in four years that there have been layoffs at the agency because of provincial underfunding.

The equivalent of 24.7 positions is being eliminated, Alison Scott, the agency’s executive director, said Wednesday.

The layoffs and closure of the group homes, which take effect Nov. 5, will save the agency $1.3 million, but Scott said any further cuts would hinder the agency’s ability to protect the region’s most vulnerable children.

“We still have a shortfall of $1.2 million, but I can’t find any more cuts without really impacting services to children and families,” Scott said.

The 13 children in the group homes will be moved into foster homes, or will live with relatives or be returned to their families with agency supervision, she said.

“That’s cheaper and better for the kids,” she said.

The layoffs include 20.7 group home positions, three managers and one administrative position, she said.

Before the layoffs, the agency had hired seven child-protection workers, two youth workers and a support worker to help provide more front-line help to troubled children. Those jobs will remain and will be part of the $1.2-million deficit, she said.

Scott said any further cuts would impair the agency’s ability to meet its legal mandate to see a high-risk child referred to workers within 12 hours. Also, the provincial mandate to work toward keeping families intact is more time-consuming for child-care workers than placing a child in a group home or foster care.

The agency requested $49.8 million from the province to provide government-required services for the fiscal year from April 1, 2012, to March 31, 2013. The province granted $47.3 million, less than the $48.6 million received last year. Its budget still hasn’t been approved.

Financial woes have dogged the agency. In 2010, 11 positions were cut following 14 in 2009. There are about 500 workers and 540 children in care.

Scott said her agency isn’t alone, as across the province, there is a $67-million gap between what children’s aid societies need to protect children and what the cash-strapped government is providing.

“This is an issue that is facing all children’s aid societies in the province,” she said.

Source: Kitchener/Waterloo Record

Addendum: Another cry-baby article in the press.



Family and Children's Services of Waterloo Region
Family and Children's Services of Waterloo Region has announced more layoffs and program cuts to deal with its deficit.

More cuts for Family and Children's Services

Family and Children's Services of the Waterloo Region is laying off more workers and cutting programs as it struggles to deal with a big deficit.

An additional 22 part-time workers are being let go at the child welfare agency in an attempt to find about $250,000 in savings.

Last month two group homes were closed and 25 jobs cut in an effort to save $1.3 million.

Executive director Alison Scott says "It's very demoralizing for the staff, they're very concerned that they may not get to a case soon enough or they may not be able to provide sufficient help and they worry that children may be at more risk as a result."

The organization investigates 5,000 cases a year, serves 1,200 families and has 500 children in its care.

Programs that help children at risk of physical, sexual or emotional harm, foster parent programs and others could also be reduced due to a lack of funding.

Scott says the agency is underfunded by the province about $2.5 million this year, but must still fulfill its mandated programs.

"We're also not giving up on early help because we know if we don't provide early intervention then things will escalate and become more problematic and that actually costs more money."

However, Liberal MPP John Milloy says the agency has had a 25 per cent budget increase in the past decade and a commission is looking for solutions for all the troubled provincial agencies.

"When you look at a system when there has been literally hundreds of millions of dollars put into the system and they're still under a lot of pressure. I think we've got to think about two things. Obviously about the level of funding but also about, you know are there ways we can do things differently."

Scott says the funding increase came because there were more kids in the agency's care, but now with the funding cap, it has made all the cuts it can and has run out of options.

In fact, the Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies says only three of the 47 child care agencies in the province will be able to balance their books for 2012.

A decision will be made in the next two weeks about exactly which services will be reduced or cut in Waterloo Region.

Source: CTV

Addendum: In November more crying by Alison Scott. She is cutting visits between children and parents.



More cuts to child protection agency

Alison Scott
Alison Scott, executive director of Family and Children's Services of the Waterloo Region.
Record staff

WATERLOO REGION — The slashing of jobs and programs may not be over yet for the cash-strapped agency that protects Waterloo Region’s most vulnerable children, the head of Family and Children’s Services of the Waterloo Region said Tuesday.

On Tuesday, Alison Scott announced that one full-time manager has been laid off and the number of hours worked by casual relief staff has been cut by 300 a week to save money.

“I have been very cautious not to talk about whether or not there are further cuts. I just don’t know at this point,” Scott said.

At issue is provincial underfunding resulting in a $2.5 million deficit, the largest in the agency’s 118-year history.

In September, the agency announced it is closing two group homes and eliminating the equivalent of 24.7 positions to reach a cost-saving target of $1.3 million.

On Tuesday, Scott announced more job cuts — the equivalent of slightly more than seven full-time positions — to save $260,000.

Scott said the program most affected will be supervised visits between children in care and their biological families. Staff will now supervise groups of families in one setting, instead of providing one-on-one supervision. The hours of supervised visits will also be reduced.

Source: The Record

children jumping for joy

Vitamin D Deficiency = Child Abuse

September 21, 2012 permalink

It took the British medical and social services system three years to tell the difference between a vitamin D deficiency and child abuse. The law is still contemplating.



Baby is taken from parents after social workers ‘mistook rickets for child abuse’

VITAMIN supplements in baby milk led to an innocent couple being condemned for battering their month-old baby, a top family judge has heard.

An extraordinary sequence of medical events led to a case of congenital rickets being viewed as horrific child abuse by social workers, experts and a judge, and the baby boy being taken from his distraught family and put up for adoption.

Now, however, the parents have been given a final chance to get back their little boy - now aged almost three - from the care system.

This comes after lawyers had a “light bulb moment” and understood the full significance of the youngster’s medical records.

Michael Shrimpton, for the family, who come from the Sheffield area, told London’s Appeal Court that there is evidence that the boy was born with a Vitamin D deficiency, inherited from his mother, and that this led to “soft bones” and rickets.

Although blood tests carried out on the baby boy when he was four weeks old were normal, the barrister said his congenital condition would by then have been “masked” by the formula milk given to him by his mother, which contained Vitamin D supplements.

Mr Shrimpton argued that rickets was the true explanation for multiple broken bones suffered by the baby, which could have been caused during his difficult forceps birth or even in-utero while his mother was still pregnant.

The barrister pointed to “striking” medical records which showed severe abnormalities in the functioning of the baby boy’s liver, an organ which is instrumental in the processing of Vitamin D.

Now, with the boy on the verge of being adopted, Lord Justice McFarlane has intervened in the case, directing that the evidence be reviewed by a fresh medical expert.

Mr Shrimpton said that one of the country’s top endocrinologists, Professor Stephen Nussey, who has carried out pioneering work on the causes and effects of Vitamin D deficiency, will be instructed to carry out that task if he is available to do so at short notice.

Observing that medical knowledge on the causes of infant injuries is in a state of contant movement, the barrister added: “This is an important case.

“It is starting to take on the appearance of a leading test case.”

After hearing expert evidence in June last year, a judge at Sheffield High Court ruled that one or other of the parents must have been responsible for the baby’s catalogue of injuries.

The same judge refused to change her mind earlier this year and went on to free the boy for adoption.

However, Lord Justice McFarlane observed: “Medical knowledge of how some children may have bones that are more susceptible to injury than normal children has moved on”.

He added that there was no evidence of emotional difficulties, domestic violence, alcohol or drug abuse, or any other signs of dysfunction within the family, which could indicate a risk of child abuse.

Emphasising the extreme urgency of the case, in light of plans for the boy’s imminent adoption, the judge gave the parents 28 days to obtain a report from Professor Nussey, or another expert, in support of their case.

Recognising the parents’ “exceptionally awful” experience in having their child taken from them, the judge said that the court would carefully examine whether the Vitamin D deficiency explanation for the boy’s injuries was “more than an intellectual possibility”.

The local authority involved in the case had informed the Appeal Court that suitable adoptive parents have already been found for the two-year-old boy, but no further steps in the process would be taken prior to the court ruling on the case.

The case is set to return to the Appeal Court once the expert medical report has been obtained.

In December last year, figures obtained by the Yorkshire Post revealed a sharp increase in the number of cases of rickets across the region.

Source: Yorkshire Post

Putman has No Regrets

September 20, 2012 permalink

Gary Putman has no regrets for his failure to report the rape of one of his wards. Putman says when the victim, MA, came into the care of his agency, he did not read her file to learn her prior history of sexual abuse, and when the rapes came to his attention, he did not advise the girl to go to the police. MA's later history of depression, anorexia, anxiety and a suicide attempt shows that foster care did produce a good outcome for her.

On Facebook, Pat Niagara asks how many other unreported crimes are in Mr Putman's past? Neil Haskett suggests the shredders will be working overtime to clear the records. If Gary Putman was a normal person, he would be facing charges for failure to protect.



‘No regrets’ for not reporting sex with foster child

Situations like that are never ‘consensual’: judge

Gary Putman
Retired. Gary Putman, former executive director of the Dufferin Children’s Aid Society, says he doesn’t regret not informing police of a sexual relationship between Robert Horsburgh and his foster daughter in 1981.
Banner file photo

When Robert Horsburgh confessed to having sex with his foster daughter more than 30 years ago, then-Dufferin Children’s Aid Society (CAS) executive director Gary Putman saw no reason to inform police.

In those days, reporting illicit sex wasn’t something CAS workers did, Putman told The Banner.

“I have no regrets in what I did. I did exactly what would have been expected in that time, given that situation,” Putman said.

Although Horsburgh, who grew up in foster homes, had committed illicit sexual intercourse with a foster daughter — a criminal offence that was repealed in 1988 — Putman said CAS had yet to establish protocols to work jointly with police.

“In 1981, we as a child protection agency, we didn’t really, believe it or not, concern ourselves much about the law in terms of criminal cases,” Putman said.

“It would have been my understanding then, at any rate, a crime had not really been committed.”

Following a guilty plea, Horsburgh was sentenced to 12 months in prison, as well as 12 to 15 months probation, on Monday (Sept. 17). He also faces a DNA order, a 10-year firearm ban and will be added to the sex offender registry.

Horsburgh’s victim, who can only be identified as MA due to a court-ordered publication ban, became a ward of Dufferin CAS in February of 1975, following a sexual assault by her stepfather.

By November, MA had moved into Horsburgh’s Orangeville home, along with his wife Elsie and three children.

Horsburgh, a board member of Dufferin CAS, and his wife had provided a foster home for a number of children.

“When she came to the Horsburgh family, it was the first time for her to experience a healthy family and a first time for her to be happy,” Justice Meredith Donohue said while handing down sentencing earlier this week.

About a month after moving in, Horsburgh “French kissed” his foster daughter during a Christmas party at their home.

“I remember singing Silent Night. That song is a trigger for me now,” MA told the court in her victim impact statement. “I have never been able to enjoy a Christmas Eve service ever since.”

Horsburgh acknowledged the kiss was wrong and promised it would never happen again. He broke that promise days later, on New Year’s Eve. In the living room of their home, Horsburgh fondled his foster daughter’s breasts.

“The offender was in a position of trust by the CAS and society,” Donohue said. “He was in the place of a father who was to protect MA from such behaviour rather than commit such actions.”

The sexual encounters continued to escalate. By June 1976, Horsburgh was having “full intercourse” with his victim.

“This was not an isolated incident. The offender continued the abusive relationship more than weekly for over a year,” Donohue said. “The crime involves a gross breach of trust.”

When MA informed Putman of the abuse in 1981, he initiated a CAS investigation. Horsburgh, who also volunteered as a Cub Scout leader, hockey coach and Army Cadets leader, confessed to his actions. He was registered with the child abuse registry and removed as a foster parent with Dufferin CAS.

“We collectively all agreed the home would be closed to fostering,” Putman, who retired in 2007 after 29 years with the agency, said. “He, at the time, was a member of our board of directors. He indicated he would resign and he did.”

Putman, the namesake behind Dufferin Child and Family Services (DCAFS) Gary Putman Award, said according to memory and CAS records, MA did not mention any sexual contact that occurred before she was 16-years-old.

“My recollection of the intent of her meeting with me was to share with me the experiences with Bob, so the agency would not place children in that home anymore,” Putman said.

Although youth remain wards of CAS until age 18, MA was the age of consent during her sexual encounters with Horsburgh and reported the abuse to Dufferin CAS, now known as DCAFS, years later.

Putman said he likely did not recommend to MA that she call police.

“I had really left it to her to choose if she goes to police,” Putman said. “I probably wouldn’t have thought at the time it was something she would go to the police with.”

He added he was unaware of her previous history of sexual abuse. MA became a ward of CAS three years before Putman joined the organization.

“Certainly, when she came to see me, I didn’t grab a file and read a file to get all that background,” Putman said. “It was a casual kind of ‘Can I come in and talk to you’ request.”

As well, the discussion with MA led Putman to believe the relationship was consensual.

“She wasn’t overly distraught in telling me the story,” Putman said.

Donohue disagrees MA welcomed the relationship with Horsburgh.

“The offender starting sexual intercourse with his foster daughter could never be considered consensual or permitted in the eyes of the law,” she stated.

Following the CAS investigation, Elsie Horsburgh wrote MA a letter explaining the family never wanted to see her again.

“I felt as though five people had died that night,” MA said.

Weeks later, MA attempted suicide with an overdose of medication.

After years of battling depression, anorexia and anxiety, MA contacted the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board to seek assistance with medical expenses.

“The flashbacks became so severe I became psychotic and I had to be medicated,” MA said.

However, the absence of a police report meant her application was rejected. In 2010, MA reported the abuse to the Orangeville Police Service.

Det. Const. James Giovannetti, with the help of Crown Attorney Lowell Hunking, discovered the now-defunct illicit sex with foster daughter law, after about a week of examining former versions of the criminal code.

“It doesn’t matter if it was 10 or 15 or 30 years ago. If the offence happens then, that’s what we prosecute under,” Giovannetti said. “There is no statute of limitations.”

Police also investigated possible charges against Putman for failing to report the abuse, but found no violations of the criminal code.

“Just because there is not a legal obligation, doesn’t mean there isn’t a moral one,” Giovannetti said.

By the late 1980s, CAS had “clear protocols” for joint investigations with police.

Working with the criminal justice system, CAS has learned the notion of abusing a position of authority, Putman explained.

“That wasn’t so clear in 1981,” he said. “Child protection agencies really only concerned themselves with what we could actually do, that is protect children.”

DCAFS human resource manager Jennifer Moore added the Ministry of Children and Youth Services has established “stringent” standards for foster parent recruitment, training and selection.

“We are required to (complete) vulnerable sector screening checks, police checks and character reference check for each adult in a potential foster home,” Moore said.

“Certainly since the 70s, the child welfare field has evolved.”

DCAFS also plans to “take a closer look” at the events leading to Horsburgh’s arrest.

“Right now, our biggest concern is that young people know they can come forward if they have concerns about an abuse or neglectful situation,” Moore said. “Whether that’s in a foster home or their own home.”

Source: Orangeville Banner

I Am Your CAS - Gary Putman
click for larger image

Source: Facebook, Canada Court Watch

Lock-up for Boy

September 19, 2012 permalink

A medical report on an Arizona boy named only as TN said sugary foods caused him to have severe behavioral problems. His school gave him foods packed with sugar, then treated his misbehavior by locking him for hours at a time in a padded cell. In an earlier case, two children were locked up by their school in Newmarket Ontario: [1] [2].



Noyes Family Claims Arizona School Locked Son In Padded 'Scream Room' And Ignored His Severe Allergies

padded cell for TN (Noyes)

An Arizona couple is suing their son's former school district for allegedly throwing him in a tiny, windowless room for bad behavior they say was caused by officials ignoring his severe allergies and feeding him foods packed with sugar.

Leslie and Eric Noyes of Glendale, Ariz., filed a lawsuit in Maricopa County Court last week against Deer Valley Unified School District No. 97 and Desert Sage Elementary School, where their son attended second grade last year.

The complaint, obtained by Courthouse News Service, charges school officials with assault and battery, false imprisonment, gross negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress on their son.

The couple is seeking compensation for their son's medical treatment and transportation costs to send him to a school outside his district as well as general damages.

According to the lawsuit, the boy -- identified only as T.N. -- was 7 years old at the time of the alleged abuses. The Noyes say school officials provided various foods containing sugar to their son, even though they had been formally told the boy had "severe food allergies" and was "on a very strict, controlled diet and must avoid all foods that cause an allergic reaction." School officials had been notified, they said, that "foods containing sugar caused behavioral issues."

Despite those warnings, the complaint said, school officials insisted that T.N.'s allergies and behavior were unrelated and punished his acting out by putting him in a seclusion room as often as four times a week over a period of more than four months from October 2011 through February. Despite numerous trips to the time-out room, some lasting most of the school day, the Noyes say they were notified only twice -- a violation of district policy.

The complaint said school officials would "punish T.N. by grabbing him and dragging him down the hallway, forcing his head down toward the floor with two teachers on either side of T.N." The parent said their son suffered multiple bruises and that once a staff member fell on top of him and dropped him on his head. He also was made to "face down on the floor forcing him to inhale residue from carpet cleaning chemicals to which he is severely allergic and putting pressure on his back."

During his confinement to the 5-foot by 5-foot padded room, the boy "showed signs of respiratory distress and panic attacks," the lawsuit alleged.

He also was denied permission to go to the bathroom, causing him to twice urinate on himself "for which he was reprimanded." The complaint went on to say that the school's " 'behaviorist' concluded that the boy urinated on himself "to 'get attention,' apparently ignoring how humiliating the act of urinating on oneself is for a little boy." The child was "further humiliated and embarrassed" when school officials ordered him to change his wet clothes in front of them.

All this left the second grader "in a constant state of anxiety and fear" and because of "repeated overly punitive actions and false imprisonment, T.N. missed out on school, suffered nightmares, sleep disturbance, and stomach aches" and has "suffered serious personal and emotional injuries."

The Noyes first brought attention to what some call "scream rooms" in February when they were interviewed by a local TV station. At the time, the couple said they had been told their son, who was in a special education class, was "'out of control." They made no mention on air of their contention that school officials were feeding their son foods that could cause behavior problems.

The CBS 5 News segment featured video secretly recorded by Leslie Noyes. It showed the padded, windowless box in an empty classroom.

"My son has said he's been there anywhere from a few minutes to almost all day," she told the TV reporter. "He has been complaining about being restrained -- he uses that word, restrained. And being put into cool down."

School district spokeswoman Heidi Vega declined to discuss details of the pending litigation with The Huffington Post.

In a statement, the district said, "If a child requires the use of seclusion/physical intervention, parents are notified immediately. Two adults always accompany the child when secluded. This is the last method of behavior management schools use with a student. Our staff is fully trained on non-violent crisis intervention and put student safety first at all times. The safety of all students is important and remains a top priority in Deer Valley."

The use of cool down rooms in the same county whose controversial sheriff Joe Arpaio has forced prison inmates to wear pink underwear isn't unique to Arizona. School officials across the country have used seclusion rooms, most often for special education students or those diagnosed as autistic. The practice is controversial. In 2004, a 13-year-old Georgia student hanged himself after his parents said he was traumatized by being put in a time-out room.

Arizona has written policies on the use of seclusion and restraint but, according to the U.S. Department of Education, it has no laws regulating its use in schools.

Source: Huffington Post

Addendum: The same treatment in Ohio.



Probe: Kids wrongly put in seclusion

Rooms misused for punishment, report says

seclusion room
In June, two employees at Beatty Park Elementary were fired for improper use of seclusion rooms.
Courtney Hergesheimer | Dispatch

The Columbus school district has used its seclusion rooms — some as small as a closet, some reeking of urine or covered in spit — to punish children with special needs, a state investigation has found.

Investigators also found that some city schools continue to use a type of physical restraint so dangerous that it’s banned in Ohio because it restricts breathing and can kill children. Staff members aren’t properly trained, the investigation found, and though district policy says the rooms are only for “crisis situations,” they’re often used to punish students who are noncompliant or disrespectful.

Some parents thought their special-needs children were getting therapy when they actually were spending time in seclusion rooms.

The investigation, conducted by the Ohio Legal Rights Service, a state agency that works to protect people with disabilities, began in December 2011 when the mother of an autistic boy complained that he was traumatized inside a room at Eastmoor Academy. He spent hours at a time there, where he once took off his clothes, lay in his own urine, and developed a staph infection. He was sent there often for minor infractions, such as refusing to sit down or asking for more food at lunch.

The report mirrors the findings in a joint investigation by The Dispatch and StateImpact Ohio, a collaboration of NPR and Ohio public-radio stations, which found that many Ohio districts misuse seclusion rooms. Published in August, “Locked Away” found that, in many schools, children were locked in closets, cell-like rooms or old offices even when they posed no risk.

Seclusion rooms — despised by many special-needs advocates but considered necessary by some educators — are meant to be a place for students to calm down if they are a physical danger to others. Often, they are small, windowless spaces stripped of furniture. Many, including the ones in Columbus, have doors to keep children inside. The district has seclusion rooms in 10 of its 116 school buildings; one school dismantled them in April.

Legal Rights wants the district to stop using seclusion and dangerous restraint and to notify parents of incidents right away. The district says it plans to respond to the agency by the deadline on Oct. 15, but it disagrees with the findings. A spokesman also said a state policy is in the works that will permit seclusion when students could do physical harm to themselves or others. Currently, the use of seclusion rooms in schools is unregulated.

“We believe that it doesn’t fully represent all of the facts as we know them,” Columbus schools spokesman Jeff Warner said of the report. The district provided documents for about 80 students, he said, but the findings were based on just three.

The report cites interviews with three students, but all 80 cases were reviewed to reach findings, said Sue Tobin, chief legal counsel for Legal Rights.

Columbus calls them “respite rooms” or “processing rooms.”

“Respite is where you go to rest, to get a break, not because you’re being punished, and there’s nothing in there except the walls. There’s no sensory materials, there’s no music, there’s no educational tools or instructional tools,” Tobin said. “It’s solitary confinement.”

In June, Columbus schools fired two employees at Beatty Park Elementary, a school for children with behavior and emotional disabilities, after they injured two students and placed them in seclusion rooms for no acceptable reason.

“These rooms are dangerous, they’re traumatizing, they’re not effective in changing behaviors,” Tobin said.

Barb Trader, executive director of the disability-advocacy group TASH, said the report’s findings are not a surprise to her.

“It repeated the same thing that we’ve been hearing over and over: Restraint and seclusion are being used for convenience and punishment rather than for kids who are truly dangerous,” Trader said. “You’d think school districts would have strict policies about the appropriateness of their use.”

In the report, the agency also urges the Ohio Department of Education to ban seclusion. The department doesn’t plan to, but it’s working on rules for when schools can use seclusion and restraint. Spokesman John Charlton said the rules should be adopted in March.

Source: Columbus Dispatch

Addendum: A New York Times op-ed reports on confinement of a kindergartner in Lexington Massachusetts.




A Terrifying Way to Discipline Children

Editors' Note Appended

IN my public school 40 years ago, teachers didn’t lay their hands on students for bad behavior. They sent them to the principal’s office. But in today’s often overcrowded and underfunded schools, where one in eight students receive help for special learning needs, the use of physical restraints and seclusion rooms has become a common way to maintain order.

girl in isloation
Ward Zwart

It’s a dangerous development, as I know from my daughter’s experience. At the age of 5, she was kept in a seclusion room for up to an hour at a time over the course of three months, until we discovered what was happening. The trauma was severe.

According to national Department of Education data, most of the nearly 40,000 students who were restrained or isolated in seclusion rooms during the 2009-10 school year had learning, behavioral, physical or developmental needs, even though students with those issues represented just 12 percent of the student population. African-American and Hispanic students were also disproportionately isolated or restrained.

Joseph Ryan, an expert on the use of restraints who teaches at Clemson University, told me that the practice of isolating and restraining problematic children originated in schools for children with special needs. It migrated to public schools in the 1970s as federal laws mainstreamed special education students, but without the necessary oversight or staff training. “It’s a quick way to respond but it’s not effective in changing behaviors,” he said.

State laws on disciplining students vary widely, and there are no federal laws restricting these practices, although earlier this year Education Secretary Arne Duncan wrote, in a federal guide for schools, that there was “no evidence that using restraint or seclusion is effective.” He recommended evidence-based behavioral interventions and de-escalation techniques instead.

The use of restraints and seclusion has become far more routine than it should be. “They’re the last resort too often being used as the first resort,” said Jessica Butler, a lawyer in Washington who has written about seclusion in public schools.

Among the recent instances that have attracted attention: Children in Middletown, Conn., told their parents that there was a “scream room” in their school where they could hear other children who had been locked away; last December, Sandra Baker of Harrodsburg, Ky., found her fourth-grade son, Christopher, who had misbehaved, stuffed inside a duffel bag, its drawstrings pulled tight, and left outside his classroom. He was “thrown in the hall like trash,” she told me. And in April, Corey Foster, a 16-year-old with learning disabilities, died on a school basketball court in Yonkers, N.Y., as four staff members restrained him following a confrontation during a game. The medical examiner ruled early last month that the death was from cardiac arrest resulting from the student’s having an enlarged heart, and no charges were filed.

I saw firsthand the impact of these practices six years ago when my daughter, Rose, started kindergarten in Lexington, Mass. Rose had speech and language delays. Although she sometimes became overwhelmed more quickly than other children, she was called “a model of age-appropriate behavior” by her preschool. One evaluation said Rose was “happy, loves school, is social.” She could, however, “get fidgety and restless when she is unsure as to what is expected of her. When comfortable, Rose is a very participatory and appropriate class member with a great deal to contribute to her world.”

Once in kindergarten, Rose began throwing violent tantrums at home. She repeatedly watched a scene from the film “Finding Nemo” in which a shark batters its way into a tiny room, attempting to eat the main characters. The school provided no explanation or solution. Finally, on Jan. 6, 2006, a school aide called saying that Rose had taken off her clothes. We needed to come get her.

At school, her mother and I found Rose standing alone on the cement floor of a basement mop closet, illuminated by a single light bulb. There was nothing in the closet for a child — no chair, no books, no crayons, nothing but our daughter standing naked in a pool of urine, looking frightened as she tried to cover herself with her hands. On the floor lay her favorite purple-striped Hanna Andersson outfit and panties.

Rose got dressed and we removed her from the school. We later learned that Rose had been locked in the closet five times that morning. She said that during the last confinement, she needed to use the restroom but didn’t want to wet her outfit. So she disrobed. Rather than help her, the school called us and then covered the narrow door’s small window with a file folder, on which someone had written “Don’t touch!”

We were told that Rose had been in the closet almost daily for three months, for up to an hour at a time. At first, it was for behavior issues, but later for not following directions. Once in the closet, Rose would pound on the door, or scream for help, staff members said, and once her hand was slammed in the doorjamb while being locked inside.

At the time, I notified the Lexington Public Schools, the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families and the Department of Mental Health about Rose and other children in her class whom school staff members indicated had been secluded. If any of these agencies conducted a formal investigation, I was not made aware of it.

Rose still has nightmares and other symptoms of severe stress. We brought an action against the Lexington Public Schools, which we settled when the school system agreed to pay for the treatment Rose needed to recover from this trauma.

The physical and psychological injuries to children as a consequence of this disciplinary system is an issue that has found its way to Congress. Legislation to ban these practices has been introduced in the House and the Senate, but no vote is expected this year.

Meanwhile, Rose is back in public school and has found it within her to forgive those involved in her case. “They weren’t bad people,” she told me. “They just didn’t know about working with children.”

Editors' Note: September 16, 2012

An opinion essay on Sept. 9 criticizing the use of seclusion and restraint to discipline students described an episode on Jan. 6, 2006, in which the writer’s daughter, then a kindergartner, was kept in an isolation room at her school in Lexington, Mass. Several details of that episode have since been disputed.

The girl wet herself while being confined in a closet for misbehaving. But school officials, and a 2008 deposition by the girl’s mother, state that she was then cleaned up and dressed while her parents were notified — and that it was not the case that the parents found her standing alone, unclothed, in her urine.

The article incorrectly described the closet where the girl was confined. It was on a mezzanine between two classroom levels, not in the basement.

While the girl’s parents sued the Lexington school district in 2007, and obtained a settlement in 2008, the writer did not notify two Massachusetts state agencies — the Department of Children and Families and the Department of Mental Health — “at the time” of the episode, according to state records.

The girl’s parents divorced in 2007. If The Times had known before the article was published that the writer’s ex-wife was now the girl’s custodial parent, it would have contacted her.

Source: New York Times

padded cell

Canada Has 47,885 Foster Children

September 19, 2012 permalink

The Canadian census has counted foster children for the first time, finding 47,885 of them. These are kids take from mom and dad and placed in the homes of strangers. There are other children under care of child protectors, those in institutions and those still with their own parents but supervised by children's aid societies. The article gives some breakdowns, such as how many are in homes with only one foster child and their age distribution.



Census: Canada’s foster children counted for first time

John Dunn
John Dunn is director of the Foster Care Council of Canada, a group that advocates for people in foster care.

They are among Canada’s most vulnerable children and, for the first time in census history, their numbers have been counted.

According to the latest census release from Statistics Canada, a total of 47,885 children were living in foster care in Canada in 2011.

Nationally, their numbers are small, accounting for just 0.5 per cent of children aged 14 and under.

But for the first time, the census provides a one-day, Canada-wide snapshot of children and youth who have been removed from their families — vital information that has been missing in the child welfare system.

The majority of foster children — 29,590, or about 62 per cent — were aged 14 and under; 29 per cent were four and younger.

Foster children were more likely to be living with couples, particularly married couples, with the proportion of children 14 and younger living in “out-of-home” care highest in Manitoba, followed by the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Yukon.

The census doesn’t break down aboriginal status. While there’s a higher proportion of aboriginal people in Manitoba and the North, “we can’t say that’s all among aboriginal children,” Badets said.

However, aboriginal children are tragically and disproportionately over-represented “at every point of contact in the child welfare system,” said Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada.

Studies suggest that First Nations children are 12 times more likely to come into care compared to non-aboriginal children, and that a “toxic combination” of factors — including poverty, poor housing and substance abuse — are driving aboriginal children into the child welfare system, said Nico Trocme, a professor in the school of social work at Montreal’s McGill University and director of the Centre for Research on Children and Families.

“It’s not because First Nations families are somehow more abusive, that’s not what we’re finding,” Trocme said.

Rather, First Nations families are living in far worse conditions than non-aboriginals, even those living in extreme poverty, he said.

“The key answer — and it’s not an easy one — is to actually deal with the issue of child poverty, family poverty and poor housing, both for First Nations and non-aboriginal families.”

According to the census, a total of 17,410 households in Canada contained at least one foster child aged 14 and under in 2011. More than half — 57 per cent — were households with married couples; about 12 per cent were common-law couples and 14 per cent were lone-parent families.

Of the foster children counted, 8,590 were aged four and under; 11,455 were teens aged 15 to 19.

The main reason adolescents come into care is because of parent-child conflict, Trocme said. “These are often situations where the youth or the parent, or both, are asking the child welfare system, please help us.”

Some children are court-ordered into care, and others not. But Trocme said that most children stay in care for less than six months, and most — more than 50 per cent — are able to go home, stay home and never return to foster care.

However, “there is a small minority for whom their experience is quite different — children who end up having difficulty settling into a stable arrangement for a range of reasons, and who end up moving frequently,” he said. “And that’s always a concern — the impact of multiple moves on their well-being and development.

“From the foster children I’ve met, from the foster parents I’ve met, I certainly hear many more positive stories than negative ones,” Trocme said.

“But we have so little information,” he added, saying that “our best guess” is that the rate of admission to foster care in Canada has been increasing over the past decade.

“A good parent knows about her children, it’s just that straightforward,” said Gordon Phaneuf, acting chief executive officer of the Child Welfare League of Canada.

“We need to know about the circumstances of our vulnerable children. We need to know how many are in care, we need to know the circumstances that brought them into care, we need to know how they’re functioning,” he said.

John Dunn lived in foster care for 16 years, from the time he was taken from his mother when he was 18 months old, until his 18th birthday. He lived in 13 different homes.

“You’re always the new kid in school. You’re always adjusting, you’re always losing friends,” said Dunn, volunteer executive director of the Foster Care Council of Canada.

“Sometimes it’s instant. You don’t have time to say goodbye. You’re just gone one day from school, or gone from wherever,” he said.

“I used to call it like a constant state of mourning.”

Source: Edmonton Journal

Worse Than Russia

September 18, 2012 permalink

Vern Beck spoke with a refugee from the USSR. She reports that Canada is worse than Russia.



Vernon Beck

I just finished speaking to an immigrant grandmother from the former Soviet Union who told me that she had come to Canada to get away from the Communist system and now that her son is in the family court, she says that it it worse here than back in Russia. In her very own words, "There is no Justice in Canada".

She spoke of the lawyers taking all the money from the family (one lawyer we have complaints about already). She talked of another family law lawyer who lied and submitted perjured documents and a vindictive ex wife who called police trying to get her son arrested on domestic violence charges while giving different stories to police for the same alleged assault. The grandmother said that this women lied to immigration, lied to the courts has never worked while in Canada or even bothered to learn to speak English.

According to this grandmother, her daughter in law has ruined a once hard working family who only wanted to work and contribute to Canadian Society. The Grandmother cannot understand how the Canadian Family Court System can reward a woman who hates Canada and who had done so many evil deeds.

Welcome to Canada where with one phone call, the lawyers and the courts will destroy hard working Canadians.

Source: Facebook, Canada Court Watch


Request for CCAS to Record All Interviews

September 18, 2012 permalink

Children's aid often slants a story by telling only the parts it wants. Canada Court Watch suggests recording interviews to put a stop to this abuse.

Canada Court Watch requests Catholic Children's Aid Society of Toronto to incorporate the use of audio recording devices for workers

In response to complaints from children and parents about child protection workers not listening or getting the facts wrong, Canada Court Watch has send a letter to the Catholic Children's Aid Society of Toronto requesting that the Board of Directors mandate the use of audio recording technology by its workers during meetings and interviews.

Attachment: Sept 17, 2012 - CCW to Toronto Catholic CAS re recording by workers.pdf local copy (pdf)

Source: Canada Court Watch

Shaken Baby Reversals

September 17, 2012 permalink

Skepticism about shaken baby syndrome, starting with the intellectual elite such as Deborah Tuerkheimer (pdf) and the New York Times, is spreading. There have been thousands jailed on this junk science theory and even with the scientific doubts, new cases are still being prosecuted. Meanwhile the falsely convicted are being released one at a time. The Arizona Republic reports on the exoneration of Drayton Witt and Armando Castillo.



Drayton Witt and Maria Witt
Drayton Witt stands with his wife Maria Witt. Drayton's 2002 second degree murder conviction was vacated recently after the Arizona Justice Project helped secure his release.
Pat Shannahan/The Arizona Republic

New doubts in 'shaken baby' fatalities

Some in Arizona see convictions overturned

Drayton Witt kept insisting he had nothing to do with the death of his 4-month-old baby. He said it the night he brought the near-comatose infant into the emergency room on June 1, 2000. He said it during his sentencing, following his conviction on murdering the boy by shaking him. And he was still proclaiming his innocence as he started serving his 20-year sentence in 2002.

His lamentations didn't gain legal and medical weight until 2012. The Arizona Justice Project, a volunteer group of attorneys, filed a motion to toss out his murder conviction based on the evolving science around what was known as shaken-baby syndrome. The state did not file an argument in response. Witt was released on May 31, becoming the second Arizonan in the last two years to see his guilty verdict in a shaken-baby case erased.

Among those who helped secure Witt's freedom was the 97-year-old British pediatric neurosurgeon who, in 1971, first identified the trio of telltale symptoms that became accepted as proof that a baby had been violently shaken. Attorneys also secured a sworn statement from the medical examiner who originally ruled the baby died from being shaken. His revised conclusion was that the baby died of a disease.

Fifteen months earlier, in February 2011, a Buckeye man named Armando Castillo, 42, had his conviction overturned in the 1998 death of a toddler. Like Witt, Castillo maintained his innocence throughout. And, like Witt, Castillo would be imprisoned a long time before attorneys found medical evidence to back up his story.

In both cases, judges ruled that a jury would likely acquit each man after hearing the new medical understanding of the evidence.

The overturned convictions didn't erase the charges, just sent the cases back for a possible retrial. Prosecutors decided to keep pursuing murder charges in both cases. Castillo pleaded guilty to a reduced charge to avoid the risk of a retrial. Witt's murder trial is scheduled for 2013.

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said that his office still believes that Witt was responsible for the death of the 4-month-old baby boy. "Obviously, we believed it the first time around," Montgomery said.

He said prosecutors now focus more on proving that a child was injured, not necessarily that he was shaken. Montgomery said speculation that suspected abused children died from diseases was just defense-attorney theories.

"I think we're still looking at cases where children were injured," Montgomery said. "How we prove that may change."

That's because a growing body of medical and legal experts, nationally and internationally, are casting doubt on what became known as shaken-baby syndrome. Pediatric neurologists and forensic pathologists say the long-held triad of symptoms -- bleeding on the brain, swelling of the brain and bleeding in the eyes -- thought to indicate a baby was violently and intentionally shaken could also be caused by a host of diseases, including infections.

DePaul University law professor Deborah Tuerkheimer, who wrote a 2009 study on the use of shaken-baby syndrome in courtrooms, said the easily spotted symptoms became not only a medical diagnosis but also a legal tool adopted quickly and used convincingly in courtrooms nationwide.

Physicians would testify that a shaken child would become unresponsive or go limp almost immediately after the abuse. So the last adult with the child would be the primary suspect. And the shaken-baby diagnosis also provided a motive: a frustrated caregiver looking to quiet a crying child.

Some shaken-baby cases included other signs of violent abuse, such as broken bones, bruises or fractures. But others, like in Witt's case, had no outward signs of injuries. Cases were built solely on the symptoms of shaken-baby syndrome.

"(The syndrome) did all of the work," Tuerkheimer said. Jurors would hear the experts testify with certainty and couple that with an "inclination to want to convict and hold someone responsible for such an awful outcome," she said.

In the last half of the 1990s, the Maricopa County Attorney's Office handled shaken-baby cases at the rate of two a week. During one stretch, it had a conviction rate, in non-fatal cases, of 84 percent.

Tuerkheimer said many of the defendants were convicted in emotional trials, while others took plea deals because they saw little chance of winning. She said there's no way to know whether the Witt and Castillo cases are isolated wrongful convictions or signs of a systemic flaw that will produce hundreds of reversals.

"No one has any sense of the numbers here," Tuerkheimer said.

Witt knows he is No. 2, the second shaken-baby conviction in Arizona to be vacated. But he figures the pattern that police and prosecutors followed in his case was repeated many more times.

"The system is flawed," he said. "I'm sure there's a lot of people like that."

Maria Holt's baby son, Steven, was just shy of being 5 months old on June 1, 2000. Dressed in a blue and white onesie, he slept in his car seat as Witt dropped Holt off for her evening shift as a waitress at the Bill Johnson's Big Apple restaurant in north Phoenix.

Witt, then 18, and Holt, then 20, had been boyfriend and girlfriend since they'd met two years before, but Steven had been conceived with another man during a breakup. Regardless, Witt saw the baby as his son; he was in the delivery room when Steven was born, and the child carried his last name. It was routine for Witt to care for Steven when Holt was at work; she often called home between tables to check in.

During one call around 8 or 9 that night, Witt told Holt he thought Steven might have had another seizure. His eyes appeared odd, Witt said, and he was fussy. Holt said to come get her at the restaurant and they would take the baby to the emergency room.

Steven had been a sickly baby, in and out of the hospital three times during his short life, including a six-day stay at Phoenix Children's Hospital just a month earlier when doctors couldn't get a bead on what was causing the baby's vomiting and seizures.

On this night, the boy stopped breathing during the 6-mile drive from the restaurant to Paradise Valley Hospital. Witt pulled over and climbed into the back seat to perform CPR while Holt took the wheel. At the hospital, doctors worked to get Steven breathing again. Then the baby's heart stopped. It took them about 30 minutes to stabilize him, after which he was flown to Phoenix Children's Hospital.

A doctor at Paradise Valley Hospital, in a report, diagnosed the cardiac arrest and said the baby was suffering from dehydration and possibly sepsis, a severe reaction to bacteria. He also expressed concern about brain injury caused by dehydration, too much acid in the blood, and not enough oxygen. There was no mention of suspected abuse.

Witt and Holt left Paradise Valley Hospital to drive to Phoenix Children's. Expecting another long hospital stay, they stopped by their home to pick up extra clothes.

The idea that violent shaking of infants could cause brain injury was first proposed in a medical-journal article in 1971. Not only did it gain acceptance in the medical community over the next two decades, it also seeped into popular culture. Child-abuse prevention groups started awareness campaigns; the phrase "shaken-baby syndrome" entered the Random House dictionary in 1996.

By 2001, the American Academy of Pediatrics produced a position paper on shaken-baby syndrome, saying that doctors should presume abuse in any baby under a year old who had head injuries absent obvious trauma, such as a car accident. The paper, published in the journal Pediatrics, said the "constellation" of injuries in a shaken baby could not result from an accidental trip or fall.

The article also offered a psychological profile of adults who shake a child. "Such shaking often results from tension and frustration generated by a baby's crying or irritability," the journal article said, "yet crying is not a legal justification for such violence." It went on to warn that shaken babies were often misdiagnosed, meaning doctors needed to be extremely vigilant to spot them.

After Steven arrived at Phoenix Children's Hospital, a doctor who evaluated him wrote that the baby had no bruising or skull deformities, but showed some bleeding in the eyes. The doctor also noted that "the infant is flaccid. There is no response to pain."

At 3 a.m., a pediatrician wrote on a progress report that the baby's symptoms "raise the possibility of non-accidental trauma."

Medical records show doctors knew their infant patient had been at the hospital a month before for projectile vomiting and flulike symptoms. But by 7 a.m., doctors felt sure of what they were looking at.

"The findings are most consistent with shaken baby, plus or minus hypoxia injury," read a doctor's progress report on the case. Hypoxia refers to an injury caused by lack of oxygen.

Steven's condition did not improve. At noon, doctors declared him brain dead. One wrote the following: "Mom is currently hugging the patient and we are planning to withdraw support and allow him to progress to cardiac death later on this afternoon. The police have been notified of the findings."

Steven was pronounced dead at 3:30 p.m. on June 2.

In a case where shaken-baby syndrome seems a possibility, events quickly and simultaneously move along parallel tracks: doctors working to save a baby, police working to find a suspect.

But once doctors and police believe they are dealing with a shaken-baby case, they often ignore evidence that might suggest a different reason for a baby's illness, said Christina Rubalcava, an attorney with the Arizona Justice Project.

"You're already locked in to what it is," said Rubalcava, an attorney with Osborn Maledon who volunteered her time on the Witt case. She says that in general, once a doctor sees the triad of symptoms, a call to child-welfare agencies and police becomes automatic. The belief in shaken-baby syndrome "is like gospel to them," she said.

But Kathy Coffman, a pediatrician at Phoenix Children's Hospital who specializes in abuse cases, denied that doctors automatically diagnose shaking and ignore disease or infections or other causes. "We go through all the factors to make sure we're not missing something," Coffman said.

Coffman, a pediatrician for 20 years, was not at Phoenix Children's Hospital when Steven was treated and would not comment specifically on this case. She now is the medical director of a specialized unit at the hospital, made up of doctors and social workers, that handles suspected cases of abuse. "I don't think anybody who works in this field, law enforcement or anybody, is cavalier about making these calls," she said.

"The absolute last thing I want to do," she said, "is have someone go to prison for something they didn't do."

In the early morning hours of June 2, Phoenix police interviewed Witt and Holt as they sat in a room near their child. The questions seemed accusatory from the start, Witt said, and he ended the interview. A worker with the state's child-protection agency, in a report written later that morning, would say officers described Witt as "short-tempered and volatile."

After Steven died and Witt and Holt were leaving the hospital to go home, they found their car missing; police had seized it from the parking lot to search it for possible evidence. Friends drove them home, where they found two officers, armed with a warrant, who had been searching the trailer since 11:30 a.m. -- 4 hours before Steven died -- to find evidence to build a case.

"One thing after another," Holt said. "It's heartbreaking."

The police left at 9:30 p.m. They had pulled up carpet samples and took some baby items. The next day, officers knocked on the door and asked to take Witt in for questioning.

"Let's go," Witt said. "I ain't got nothing to hide."

Witt is a man of few words and didn't offer many to police. When detectives questioned him about what happened to the baby, Witt replied that he didn't know and that they should ask the doctors.

Witt was booked into jail on charges of first-degree murder and child abuse. He would remain jailed until his trial.

Holt said the arrest was devastating. "I lose my son, and then I lose the man who's done nothing but love me and love my son," she said. She had support from her extended family but felt some friends slip away. When she visited Witt in jail, which was often, she worked to buoy his spirits: "You'll be home soon," she would say. "This is just a misunderstanding. We know the truth."

Witt had a public defender who tried to get a plea deal, but Witt refused to take it. "When they arrested me, I figured somewhere down the line they'd come to their senses and figure out the right stuff," Witt said. "But clearly they didn't."

The trial started in February 2002.

"Steven Witt lived only five months," the prosecutor, Dyanne Greer, told the jury in her opening statement, according to a transcript. "He died as the result of violent, severe shaking. ... He died at the hands of a person who was supposed to be the caretaker ... and that man, ladies and gentlemen, is Drayton Witt."

Holt was called to the stand; she would be the first witness. It would be her job to tell the couple's story: how they "just clicked" when they first met through a friend; how Holt's extremely protective dog immediately warmed up to Witt; how, when she became pregnant by another man, Witt treated the child as if he were his own. She also told the jury about the baby's history of illnesses and hospitalizations, which included a respiratory infection, pneumonia, seizures and vomiting, and how the medicine he was given only seemed to make him worse.

After Holt, four doctors and the medical examiner took the stand. Each testified that Steven's injuries were most likely caused by shaking. To the jury, the evidence would have seemed strong and specific: The boy had certain injuries that, in the absence of major trauma, were possible only if he had been shaken violently. And the narrow, medically accepted time frame of the onset of the baby's symptoms pointed to Witt.

Witt, seated at the defense table, still held out hope. But his defense attorney called only one expert to cast doubt on whether the injuries were caused by shaking. Karen Griest, a forensic pediatric pathologist and former New Mexico coroner, said that "shaken-baby syndrome is sort of a hot topic of debate in the medical community. It's sort of an evolving process to figure out what is going on."

In closing arguments, the prosecutor painted a picture for the jury of Witt shaking the child.

"The defendant knowingly grabbed Steven, shook him so violently that he started to seize," Greer said. "Drayton had to know that Steven was being violently injured while he was shaking him to death, inches in front of his face," she said.

Jurors found Witt guilty of second-degree murder. When it came time for Witt's sentencing in April 2002, he told the judge that although he had been an unruly teenager, he had turned his life around with Holt and Steven. But he was not apologetic.

"I am not sorry, for I didn't do no wrong," Witt said, according to a transcript of the hearing. "I came up here to tell you how much my son meant to me."

The judge sentenced him to 20 years.

Though Witt asked for protective custody in prison, he said the request was denied, and he was put into the general inmate population. Three years into his sentence, he was attacked in the recreation yard by three men with improvised knives. Witt tucked himself into a ball and tried to cover his head, but said he was stabbed some 70 times before it was over. Ten of those wounds went through one or the other of his hands.

Witt was flown to a Flagstaff hospital, where doctors did surgery to repair his hands. Holt was at work when she got the call from Witt's parents telling her of the attack. When she saw him in his hospital bed, she knew they had to get married.

"Just wanting to make sure that he knew that I was there," she said. "And no matter what, he knew that if it came to 2020, I might be old and gray, but that I would be the one standing by that gate (waiting) for him to come home."

The wedding was in September 2006. The groom wore orange, his "carrot suit," as Witt called it. Prison rules dictate what a bride may wear: A wedding dress must have a neckline above the collarbone and sleeves that cover the arms. And no orange; that color is reserved for inmates. In the end, Holt just bought a dress she liked -- it was maroon -- and pulled a T-shirt over it during the ceremony to cover enough bare skin.

Tradition endures even in the strangest of settings. Witt said he paced in his cell nervously before the ceremony, held just before visiting hours. He would get to wear his wedding band in prison, but the bride had to provide prison officials proof of purchase. Guards did allow the groom to kiss the bride.

"It's emotional, no matter what," Holt said.

At the time of the wedding, all of Witt's appeals had been denied and exhausted. It appeared he would be in prison until 2020.

In 2009, Deborah Tuerkheimer published her paper, "The Next Innocence Project: Shaken Baby Syndrome and the Criminal Courts" in the Washington University Law Review.

"In its classic formulation, SBS comes as close as one could imagine to a medical diagnosis of murder," Tuerkheimer wrote. "Prosecutors use it to prove the mechanism of death, the intent to harm, and the identity of the killer."

Also that year, the American Academy of Pediatrics revised its position paper on shaken-baby syndrome. It urged physicians to stop using that term and instead describe injuries as "abusive head trauma." The group said it urged adoption of the "less mechanistic term" to stop the focus on shaking. Instead, the journal said, doctors should look at a wider range of possible causes.

Witt's prison records show that he was a model inmate after his marriage. He had been moved into protective custody following his assault. While there, he met Armando Castillo, another man who had been convicted of shaking a child to death.

The Arizona Justice Project filed its motion in Castillo's case in April 2010; his conviction was vacated 10 months later. The project took up Drayton Witt's case in 2011, and the news was a blast of hope, Maria Witt said. "You get that light sparked back in your life."

Those working on Witt's case assembled a list of medical experts who reviewed Steven's autopsy photos and medical records. Most concluded that Steven's death was likely caused by a blockage in the vein that drained blood from his brain.

The attorneys also spotted a letter in the New York Times Magazine from Norman Guthkelch, the British pediatric neurosurgeon who first wrote about the symptoms that indicated a shaken baby. In the letter, a response to an article about the changing medical opinions about shaken-baby syndrome, Guthkelch defended his 1971 paper that concluded babies can get severe brain damage from shaking. The city under Guthkelch's name: Tucson.

The Project attorneys asked Guthkelch to look at the records in the case. He filed an affidavit in support of Witt, which marked his first legal involvement on behalf of a person trying to reverse a shaken-baby conviction.

"The death of Steven Witt is the type of case where a diagnosis of Shaken Baby Syndrome should not have been made," Guthkelch wrote. He said there were too many other possibilities that could explain the baby's death, and that while his process offers a possible explanation for some head injuries, any presumption that an injured child was shaken was a "distortion" of his theory.

Also key to the case was the affidavit of A.L. Mosley, the county medical examiner who performed the autopsy on Steven. Mosley was shown new analysis of his autopsy by doctors who spotted errors in his work. Most notably, doctors said, autopsy photos showed a blocked and swollen vein that was not noted in the report.

Mosley, in his affidavit, concluded that "if I were to testify today, I would state that I believe Steven's death was likely the result of a natural disease process, not (shaken-baby syndrome)."

Witt's attorneys filed the motion in February. The state did not file a response. The judge vacated Witt's conviction and ordered his release.

The newly cast scientific thought on shaken-baby syndrome is affecting other cases. A 2007 case against Lisa Randall, a day-care operator, originally filed as a death-penalty case, was tossed out before it reached trial. An expert hired by the prosecution in 2010 concluded that the child did not die from shaking as originally thought.

In 2009, prosecutors dropped murder charges against Craig Rettig in a shaken-baby case from 2004. The defendant's lawyer located experts who found that the baby died from striking his head on a coffee table, not from being shaken.

Also, in 2009, Keith Roberts asked that expert testimony about shaken-baby syndrome not be allowed in his trial on charges that he killed his infant son. The Maricopa County Attorney's Office argued that both sides should present their experts and leave it for the jury to decide. The judge agreed. Roberts took a plea offer the day before his trial was scheduled to begin. He was sentenced to eight years in prison.

Witt was released from custody wearing a jail-issued paper suit. He borrowed a cellphone from a passer-by to call his wife. It was 8 a.m. She had been told he wouldn't be released until noon. She broke speed-limit laws driving from the opposite end of town to get him.

Maria Witt said having her husband out of prison is validation.

"To finally have people believe in me," she said, "and be able to start the grieving process and what we missed out on, and be able to start on the life that we missed out on, is more precious than anything."

Drayton Witt, who is working on a construction crew, said he often feels like a modern-day Rip Van Winkle, awakening to find a world where so much is accomplished by cellular phone, or that there are self-checkout lanes at the grocery store.

Witt does not want to take a plea deal like his friend, Castillo, did. He hopes prosecutors drop the case before his trial next year.

He does not blame police or prosecutors for the decade he spent behind bars. He said officers and attorneys were just doing their job. And he always figured the truth would win out.

"You keep screaming," he said. "Eventually, someone will hear you."

Source: Arizona Republic

Staples Donates to CAS

September 16, 2012 permalink

Staples is donating school kits to the local children's aid society. Staples says they will be given to children served by CAS. But a mother reported that foster kids had to pay for gifts donated to CAS.



Staples for school

Staples staff
Staples for school. Pictured, from left, Staples copy lead Laura Charlton, sales manager Ian Hawkins, and Simcoe County Children’s Aid Society executive director Susan Carmichael. Maija Hoggett, Photo

Staples in Alliston had a successful Back to School Supply Drive this year, with the local store collecting over 550 school kits to donate to the Children’s Aid Society.

The kits were sold for $5 to Staples customers and will be donated to families the Children’s Aid Society works with. This is the second year the Alliston Staples has chosen the CAS to benefit from the drive.

Pictured, from left, Staples copy lead Laura Charlton, sales manager Ian Hawkins, and Simcoe County Children’s Aid Society executive director Susan Carmichael.

Source: Barrie Advance

Shotgun Divorcées Speak

September 16, 2012 permalink

A Facebook discussion started with the question: "What is with CAS and shotgun divorces? Why are they so hellbent on driving couples apart?". Two victims gave their personal experiences.



Sherry Fischer-Wiskin They did it to my husband and I about two years ago!! We were forced to remain apart for a year, with our 1-2 year son staying with me (we were at a shelter for 4 months of that year!!) all because of flashbacks that weren't true of me. Then a judge says there's no reason to keep us apart, FINALLY, and I got to come home in January 2012, almost a year to the day. We were given a 6 month supervision term, CAS wanted a year, our lawyers said no 6 months. Now, they have closed our file and completely out of our lives!! CAS wouldn't allow me near my step daughter, but had no worries or cares about my being with my son, so....they obviously couldn't have been that worried!!

All I can say to any couples facing the shotgun divorce, even while apart, BE A FAMILY in any way you can!! Remain together and united and DO NOT GIVE UP ON YOUR FAMILY OR RELATIONSHIP!!

Neil Haskett You are right, they do try and play the couple against each other!! I can't even remember how often they tried keeping DH and I apart!! Every time we asked for a holiday visit or extra time or anything, they denied us, we were forced to have separate lawyers, they tried getting me charged, and had the police trying to pit us against each other!! We told them BEFORE we were forced to separate, that we were only willing to TEMPORARILY. Then we kept telling them that as often as we could, and they'd play dumb, like they expected us to not remain together. We said no, NEVER, it was only temporarily and we'd never agree to separate permanently.

Kim Shook-Advocate I found in my own case the reason CAS tried to break me and my hubby up was because he was my biggest supporter and when above and beyond to help me keep my kids ( he is their step dad),CAS figured without him in the picture I would be more likely to give in and allow them to control me and get me to belive they were there to help

I hear exactly what your saying,I have been fight false allegations for several years for my hubby and I am very close to winning.I can't explain how right now but rest asured I will explain when this mess for me is over.Keep up the fight to prove his inocence,never give up,stand your ground

Source: Facebook, Stop the CAS ...

Pay Us for Killing Your Son

September 15, 2012 permalink

Oklahoma DHS took two children from single father James Akins. His son Gordon Akins fell into depression and eventually killed himself. DHS did not bother to notify dad of the death. But they did continue dunning him for child support payments.



DHS Still Asking El Reno Father For Child Support On Deceased Son

James Akins and Gordon Akins
James Akins with his late son, Gordon Akins.

EL RENO, Oklahoma -

The Department Of Health and Human Services is asking an El Reno father still in mourning to pay child support for his dead son.

Nearly nine months after the death the state is still sending child support bills to the father. James Akins tells News 9 his son died while in DHS custody. That was in December 2011. Every month since then he has gotten a bill for child support. And Akins says the state has not recognized the in-custody death

DHS removed Gordon and Brittany Akins from their father's home two years ago. The thought of that brings Brittany to tears and angers her dad.

"It's your child and even when they was taken away from me I was still there as much as I possibly could," said Akins.

Akins raised his kids as a single father.

"I'm getting bills," said Akins.

He says he was confused by the bills.

"I raised them. I was owed child support until they were taken away. It wasn't long after they were taken away that Gordon started running amok," said Akins.

Gordon fell into a deep depression. He didn't hop on a skateboard or visit with his sister to cope. Instead the 17 year old took his life.

"Don't ever choose this way. You will leave someone behind hurt," said Akins. "I couldn't be in his life because of child welfare and this is where he ended up."

Akins says to add to the pain the state never contacted him to tell him about his son's suicide.

"I found out on my way to work from one of Gordon's friends," said Akins.

The state did however send an invoice for service.

"It is up to a little over $700 a month and it keeps rising every month this whole past year since he has been gone. It won't stop," said Akins.

His last bill says ‘Our records indicate Gordon isn't attending high school, so you don't have to pay child support'.

"I don't think it's right. They need to leave it where it is. They have done enough damage to our family as it is."

Akins says the state still has not recognized the death. And although DHS won't comment on this case specifically, it points out if you must pay for kids while they are in state custody and if you owe them, the debt isn't forgiven even if the child passes away.

DHS says the child support obligation follows the child. And any child support that is past due will be owed until it's paid in full.

Source: KWTV

wanted for child support

Slovakia Defends its Children

September 15, 2012 permalink

Britain's child protectors have become so rapacious that the government of Slovakia is contemplating legal action within the European Union to save its children in Britain.



Foreign government may take UK to European court over its 'illegal’ child-snatching

The Slovakian government has such 'serious concern' over the workings of Britain’s 'family protection' system that it plans to challenge the legality of the policy in Strasbourg

Britain steals Slovakian children
So disturbed is the government of Slovakia by the number of Slovak parents who have lost their children in Britain in recent years that its justice ministry has posted a declaration highly critical of Britain
Photo: ALAMY

In an unprecedented move, a foreign government is threatening to take Britain to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to challenge the unusual readiness of our social workers and courts to remove children from their parents for “no sound reason”. So disturbed is the government of Slovakia by the number of Slovak parents who have lost their children in Britain in recent years that its justice ministry has posted a declaration highly critical of Britain on its website and says that, if a decision of the Appeal Court this Tuesday goes against one Slovak family, it will back an appeal to the Strasbourg court that Britain has acted illegally.

I have often reported here on the zeal with which British social workers are not only prepared to travel abroad to seize children born there to British parents, but also to remove children from foreign families in Britain, even when they may only be visiting here on holiday. But this is the first time a foreign government has sought formally to challenge a practice that is almost unique in Europe (although worldwide headlines were made recently by a similar case where two children were seized from an Indian family resident in Norway, but were eventually returned to India after the intervention of the Indian government).

The case that goes to the Appeal Court this week concerns two young boys, Slovakian subjects, whose parents have lived and worked in Britain since their country joined the EU in 2004. Two years ago, when the parents took one of their sons to hospital to enquire about a minor infection, social workers were alerted that it might be the result of a “non-accidental injury”. The boys were put into the temporary care of the family’s American pastor, who describes how social workers then arrived with three police cars to remove the children, screaming as they were torn from their horrified mother and grandmother, to an official foster home.

Thus began a protracted legal battle, involving many court hearings, four different social workers, seven “expert” doctors and psychologists, 16 interpreters, 13 different “contact supervisors” and dozens of lawyers. Initially the local authority seemed happy to contemplate that the children might be returned to live with their grandmother in Slovakia, but the social workers of a council that advertises its enthusiasm for adoption on its website then suggested to the foster carers that they might like to adopt the boys.

By now the Slovak authorities were involved and could see no reason why the children should not come back to live with their grandmother. But earlier this year a judge found in favour of the council, ruling, to the astonishment of the Slovak authorities, that the boys should be adopted. The family enlisted the help of John Hemming MP, who has had sympathetic support from the Slovak ambassador to London. The case has attracted widespread media interest in Slovakia, and the Slovak justice ministry has posted on its website a “Declaration on adoption of Slovak children in the UK”, stating that it has such “serious concern” over the workings of Britain’s “family protection” system, and the readiness of the British authorities to remove children from their “biological parents” for “no sound reason”, that its representative on the ECHR plans to challenge the legality of Britain’s policy in Strasbourg.

Source: Telegraph (UK)

Addendum: The Wall Street Journal covers the case.



Slovak Government Challenges U.K. Foster-Care Ruling

Slovak authorities want to hold talks with British social service officials over a recent decision that forced two Slovak children into the U.K. foster-care system. The children, whose parents reside legally in the U.K., were removed from their parents’ custody amid abuse allegations.

The case has attracted widespread media attention in Slovakia, and has become a thorny issue between London and Bratislava. Slovakia, an European Union nation with a population of five million, has a large community of expatriates living in the U.K.

Some Slovak media and child-welfare officials have raised concerns over the British court’s ruling and and over media reports that the children may be put up for adoption in the U.K. or elsewhere. Late Tuesday, about 200 people protested in front of the British Embassy in Bratislava.

“We continue in negotiations with our British counterparts in defending interests of our citizens living abroad,” the Slovak Foreign Affairs Ministry and the government center for legal protection of minors, CIPC, said in a statement.

The Slovak Foreign Affairs Ministry didn’t comment on reports about the adoption of the two children, whose identities haven’t been revealed due to privacy rules. U.K. judicial officials don’t comment on foster-care rulings because family court proceedings are secret. Officials at the U.K. Department for Education, which is responsible for social services issues, weren’t immediately respond to emailed questions.

Earlier this year, a family court in London rejected a request by the children’s grandmother, who lives in Slovakia, to become their legal guardian. The court did allow Slovak authorities to file an appeal during an extended hearing, the Slovak Foreign Affairs Ministry said. The Slovak government said it supports the grandmother’s request.

“The Foreign Affairs Ministry has helped the [CIPC] office to react positively to requests by the grandmother [and] at several occasions notified our British counterparts through personal meetings and diplomatic cables that it is necessary to observe international treaties on [foster-care] issues,” the ministry said, referring to calls for allowing the two children to stay in the care of their extended family.

Legislation on foster care is different in each part of the U.K., according to Dominic Stevenson, a spokesman for the Fostering Network, the U.K.’s main charity for foster care. “But in England the law says that local authorities must look to family and friends first to provide a home for a child in care,” Mr. Stevenson said.

Source: Wall Street Journal

Addendum: Photo from a protest in Bratislava. The mother is Ivana Boórová, the boys are Martinko and Samko.

Boórová protest
Protest at British Embassy
September 18, 2012

Source: ČAS.SK

John Hemming discusses this case on a Slovak radio program (in English). Radio Tatras International with a local copy. And below Christopher Booker writes on the case.



Slovaks protest at Britain's 'illegal child snatching’

Demonstrators in Bratislava are echoing Slovak government criticism of Britain's 'child protection' system

Boórová protest
Protesters outside the British Embassy in Bratislava

More than 400 Slovak protesters jammed the street outside the British Embassy in Bratislava last Tuesday, brandishing placards with such slogans as “Britain thief of children” and “Stop legal kidnapping”. They were there to lend their voices to the Slovak government’s own concerns about British social workers and courts, which show a unique readiness to take children into care for what the website of the Slovak justice ministry calls “no sound reason”.

Slovakia has threatened to take the UK to the European Court of Human Rights over cases involving Slovak children, more than 30 of whom, according to one estimate, Britain has taken into care.

The demonstration was timed to coincide with a hearing in the London Court of Appeal of the plea of a grandmother, supported by the Slovak authorities, to have her two young grandsons returned to her care in Slovakia. Forcibly seized from their parents by social workers in 2010, the boys were sent by a judge for adoption earlier this year. Thanks in part to the presence in court last week of a senior official of the Slovak government and the intervention in the case of John Hemming MP, the grandmother was given leave by Lord Justice McFarlane to appeal.

On Friday, Slovak officials were also present in a Kent court which ordered five children from another family to be returned to Slovakia. The children were seized by social workers after the three youngest had been left in the care of their 17- and 15-year-old siblings while their parents were on night shift.

Mr Hemming is in touch with other foreign governments similarly concerned by the way their subjects are being taken into state care in Britain for reasons they believe to be in breach of human rights laws.

Source: Telegraph (UK)

The government of Slovakia has conducted a critical audit of its adoption system, suggesting that too many children were adopted outside the country. All of the reader comments are favorable to social services and critical of opportunism within the Slovak government.



Government Audit Raises Suspicions of Wrongful Adoptions

The recently publicised cases of Slovak families losing their children to the United Kingdom social services has led the government Human rights committee to audit the Centre for International Legal Protection of Children (CILPC) and hopefully unravel the full scale of the problem, with some curious findings.

protest at British Embassy in Bratislava
Protest in front of British Embassy over "child-snatching" in UK

Figures cited by SME daily talk about over 300 Slovak children who have been put up for adoption abroad in the past ten years, but not just in the UK. These cases of cross-border adoptions had to be given the green light by CILPC. The government human rights committee has therefore been auditing the work of CILPC, which has had to face criticism over its inactivity or slow reaction in the UK cases, as it could have requested the return of the children to Slovakia.

In all, it seems that about 100 children were sent to their new fates without the cases firstly being examined by a committee, while there were 357 cases of cross-border adoption (106 being questioned). Older cases from before 2002 remain a mystery as the records have been lost or deliberately destroyed.

Regarding the UK cases, SME cites some 50 cases of Slovak children being taken by Social Services, where CILPC did not request that they be sent back to Slovakia. The centre is the only body that can approve cross-border adoptions and enter processes where Slovak children are involved, but now it appears that officers at the centre were using a loophole to finalise cases without a commission examining them.

Another point is that Slovak children should only be put up for adoption abroad if there are no suitable families found in Slovakia, a principle that Lucia Nicholsonova from the SaS party claims has not been respected. It seems the large majority of the children were shipped off to Italy, with no or little follow-up by the CILPC as to where the children actually ended up. Nicholsonova is therefore planning to lodge criminal charges on suspicion of trading in children.

The new head of the CILPC, Andrea Cisarova (since this summer), is also keenly awaiting the full results of the audit, which will hopefully explain what happened to the records from before 2002 and why have so many Slovak children end up in Italy. Given all the recent revelations and accusations, many feel something dubious is taking place, while others have faith in the system and reject outright that such atrocities could ever take place here in our civilised Europe. The child’s best interests are maybe not always the primary motivating factor, however, and so families continue to be split apart, with or without legitimacy.

Source: The

Addendum: Christopher Booker reports that the court of appeal has ruled in favor of returning the Boórová children to their grandmother in Slovakia, but the intrepid child protectors are delaying through an appeal to the supreme court.



Slovaks win out over the child-snatchers

All last week I was waiting on tenterhooks for the verdict of the Court of Appeal on as murky a case of child-snatching as I have ever reported. The case had only got up to the Court of Appeal because of the intervention of the Slovakian government, which had expressed its concern at how many Slovak children have been seized by British social workers “for no sound reason”.

This harrowing story began two years ago when two young boys were forcibly removed from their Slovak parents, who had been working for some years in England. The reasons for their removal could quickly have been shown to be wholly groundless, had a crucial piece of photographic evidence been allowed to be questioned in court. Even so, at one point in a story that involved dozens of lawyers, social workers, “experts” and official carers, it seemed that the children were about to be handed back to the care of their grandmother in Slovakia. But the council was determined to hang on to them and persuaded another judge to rule that they should be put out for adoption.

The case has caused a huge stir in Slovakia, with television coverage and demonstrations in the streets. Nine days ago, thanks to the involvement of the Slovak government and John Hemming MP, the appeal court ruled that the boys should be handed to their grandmother. Lord Justice Thorpe told the family “you have won”, and asked for everyone to return last Tuesday to report on the arrangements made for the handover. But still the local authority refused to give up, hiring a QC to work over the weekend on a case for the boys to be kept in England. Again the hearing had to be adjourned.

Finally, on Friday, two judges confirmed that the children should be returned. But a third said that the council should be allowed to spend thousands of pounds more on appealing to the Supreme Court. If and when those children at last arrive in Slovakia, I look forward to reporting this story in full, because it reveals so much of how, behind its self-protective wall of secrecy, our “child protection” system too often actually works.

Source: Telegraph (UK)

A Slovak source names the grandmother as Eleonóra Studencová.

A December story says that courts have allowed the Slovakian grandmother to appeal the adoption. Contemporaneous news in the Slovak language, where real names are used, corroborate that this is about the Boórová family and say the children should be going home to Slovakia in January.



Slovakian grandmother wins right to challenge High Court adoption ruling keeping grandsons in the UK

  • She wants the boys, who were born in England to Slovakian parents, to leave the UK
  • Social workers intervened after one suffered an injury thought to have been caused by his father

A Slovakian woman who wants her two grandsons to leave the UK and live with her in Eastern Europe has won the latest round of a legal fight.

The Court of Appeal gave the woman - who cannot be identified for legal reasons - the go-ahead to challenge a ruling saying the boys should be adopted and stay in the UK.

Appeal judge Lord Justice McFarlane said Slovakian government officials had 'expressed concern' about the approach a lower UK court had taken to the case.

Lord Justice McFarlane was told that the boys - aged four and three - were born in England to Slovakian parents.

Social workers had intervened after one suffered a 'non-accidental' injury thought to have been caused by his father.

Both parents had accepted that the children could not live with them, said Lord Justice McFarlane.

Earlier this year a family court judge decided that the boys should be placed for adoption in England, not returned to Slovakia to live with their mother’s mother.

Lord Justice McFarlane gave the grandmother permission to challenge the family court judge’s ruling, during an appeal court hearing in London.

He said there was an 'arguable case' that the family court judge had 'fallen into error'.

The grandmother is expected to outline her arguments in detail at a full appeal hearing in London later this year.

Lord Justice McFarlane said the Slovakian government had raised concerns.

'They (the Slovakian government) expressed concern about the approach of the UK court in this case,' he said.

'They questioned whether the decision affords proper respect to the grandmother.'

A few weeks ago an MP who campaigns for family law reform raised concerns about the 'forcible adoption' of Slovakian children living in England and Wales.

Liberal Democrat John Hemming, who represents Birmingham Yardley, said Slovakian government officials were troubled by decisions made by judges hearing family court cases involving Slovak parents.

Mr Hemming raised the issue in a parliamentary motion and said Slovakian officials had worries that there were cases where children had been adopted 'without sound reasons'.

Mr Hemming said the Slovakian representative at the European Court of Human Rights had 'expressed a willingness to intervene in support of complaints made by Slovakian citizens about wrongful adoptions'.

He thought that officials had concerns about 'possibly 30 children' and said he would raise the issue with UK Government ministers.

Source: Daily Mail

Sex for Urine

September 15, 2012 permalink

DCF employee Andrew Thomas offered to help a Florida mother pass a drug test by providing her with a clean urine sample, but he asked her for sex in exchange. Investigators suspect he may have victimized other clients in a similar manner.



Former DCF investigator accused of soliciting sexual favors from woman he was helping


A former state employee was arrested Friday for soliciting sexual favors from a New Smyrna Beach woman in exchange for using his own urine for her drug screening, according to investigators.

WFTV learned a former Florida Department of Children and Families investigator was arrested Friday after investigators said he asked for sexual favors from a New Smyrna Beach mother he was supposed to be helping.

Investigators said 32-year-old Andrew Thomas pressured the victim for sexual favors in exchange for using his own urine sample to help her pass a drug screening.

"Yeah, he was scary. He seemed like he could have gotten aggressive and that's why I was scared,” the victim told WFTV. "It's not right. That's not the way he's supposed to do his job."

Investigators obtained an arrest warrant for Thomas on Thursday. Thomas was booked into the Cumberland County Prison in Pennsylvania where he will await extradition back to Volusia County.

He's been charged with bribery by a public servant, official misconduct and falsifying records.

Investigators said the incident happened on May 8 at the 22-year-old victim's home near New Smyrna Beach. The woman told Volusia County Sheriff's investigators that Thomas told her he needed a urine sample for a drug test so that he could close her DCF case.

Investigators said the woman complied, but Thomas claimed her sample tested positive for drugs. Thomas told the woman that his supervisor would likely want him to notify the woman's probation officer of the bad results.

However, investigators said Thomas told the woman that he wished he had taken the test for her, using his urine and said he could lose his job for helping her, so she would need to do something to prove he could trust her.

“He was going so far to bribe this woman to get his own personal gratification of sex, which is definitely beyond the pale,” said Brandon Haught, with the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office.

The victim told investigators that at one point she tried recording the conversation using her cellphone, but Thomas noticed and ordered her to delete it and to have sex with him.

Investigators said the victim took off her clothes, but they did not engage in sex. They said Thomas then provided a urine sample and had the victim sign paperwork attesting to having passed the drug screening.

The victim notified Thomas' supervisors at DCF. The next day, investigators said Thomas moved out of his residence and submitted a letter of resignation to DCF stating that he was moving to Pennsylvania to be near family.

A Volusia County Sheriff's investigator contacted Thomas in Pennsylvania and during an interview, Thomas confirmed what the victim told deputies. The arresting affidavit shows he admitted to the whole thing and said he was "in a dark place. Drinking, doing drugs, and buying hookers every night."

Investigators believe Thomas may have other victims. They said another woman has already come forward and said that Thomas, who was assigned to her DCF case, called and texted her late at night. Investigators said the woman said that he complimented how she looked, invited her to the beach and to go gambling, and asked her about body massages and sex.

Anyone with information about additional such encounters is asked to contact the Sheriff's Office at (386) 423-3301 or (386) 423-3888.

Source: WFTV

Addendum: Kid-gloves for the offender in this kind of case. No jail time, no criminal record.



Former DCF investigator gets probation in clean-drug-test-for-sex case

DAYTONA BEACH -- A former Florida Department of Children & Families investigator was sentenced on Wednesday to three years' probation as part of a plea stemming from accusations he offered a woman his drug-free urine in exchange for sex.

In an unusual move, Andrew Thomas, 32, was offered the plea agreement over the woman's objections that the punishment was not severe enough. The woman was not in court but was aware of the plea hearing, prosecutor Chris Miller said.

Miller said it was uncommon to offer a plea opposed by the victim. “It's very unusual,” Miller said. “But it's not unheard of.”

Thomas pleaded no contest to official misconduct, a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

Circuit Judge R. Michael Hutcheson withheld adjudication of guilt, meaning Thomas will be able to say he is not a convicted felon and won't lose rights such as the right to vote or own firearms.

Hutcheson sentenced Thomas to the three years' probation, along with 50 hours of community service and ordered him to continue undergoing mental health counseling.

In exchange for the plea, Miller agreed to drop two additional charges: bribery by a public servant, a second-degree felony, and falsifying records, a third-degree felony.

In agreeing to the plea, Miller said he had to take into account other factors beyond the victim's objections.

Miller said he was concerned about the credibility of his witness and his ability to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt at trial. He also added that Thomas did not have a criminal record.

Thomas did not comment as he walked out of the courtroom. He put his dark ball cap on his shaved head and walked into the rain.

His defense attorney Allison Thero had told the judge that Thomas would be back on a plane and out of state on Wednesday after the hearing.

Miller said he also took into account that Thomas had left the state and would not be living near the woman.

The charges stemmed from a visit Thomas made on May 8, 2012, as a DCF investigator to one of his cases, a woman near New Smyrna Beach. Thomas was accused of trying to get the 22-year-old woman to have sex with him by telling her that her urine test had tested positive for drugs.

Thomas told her that he wished he could help her by taking the test for her, police said. Thomas then said that he would help her if she demonstrated he could trust her by having sex with him, police said.

The woman did not have sex with Thomas but satisfied him by removing her clothing, police said. Thomas used his drug-free urine sample and signed off on documents saying she passed her drug test, police said.

The woman's boyfriend later called Thomas to confront him about what happened. Thomas claimed he felt pressured to help her and that he was trying to close all her DCF cases.

Thomas resigned the day after being notified of the complaint.

Source: Daytona Beach News-Journal

Calvin peeing

False Record Disclosure

September 15, 2012 permalink

For years Arizona's child protectors have responded to record requests from parties to litigation, such as parents, with expurgated reports containing only a small portion of the true record. Now that the omissions have come to light, CPS is saying it was a computer glitch. The news article shows that different parties got different versions of the record, showing careful programming to control the flow of information.



Arizona CPS discovers computer glitch that hid files for years

Arizona’s child-welfare agency has discovered a computer glitch that officials say kept public records from parents, lawyers and others for more than 15 years, a malfunction that could have led to children being wrongly removed and prevented caregivers from supporting civil claims against the state.

The computer error affected thousands of families, and attorneys say it could prompt efforts to reopen civil and child-dependency cases.

Officials with the state Department of Economic Security, which oversees Child Protective Services, were notifying the state’s 15 presiding Juvenile Court judges of the glitch on Friday and sending notices to more than 30,000 people who received incomplete public records over the past two years.

The state said it is unable to track or notify those who requested and received incomplete records before 2010.

Those receiving notices include parents involved in the nearly 8,600 open dependency cases, about 1,500 parents who have requested records on their CPS cases, nearly 1,200 judicial or law-enforcement requests, 55 members of the media, and more than 21,000 attorneys.

The records fiasco is the latest blow to the embattled agency, which has spent the past year trying to stem record growth in the number of children in foster care, slow staff turnover and reduce caseloads only to see all those numbers going in the wrong direction.

“If a case got to the wrong result because information wasn’t disclosed, that’s a big, big problem,” said Mark Kennedy, who has represented about 400 parents over the past three years. “To me, it’s pretty significant when CPS says we’re going to contact 21,000 lawyers. That’s like saying, ‘Start searching your case files because there may be some problems out there.’ “

Maricopa County Juvenile Court Judge Aimee Anderson said she expects it to become a larger issue for civil, criminal and family courts than the Juvenile Court, where about 90 percent of dependency cases are settled without a trial. But she added that a lot depends on what information was missing from the requested records.

“It’s hard to know the real impact that this is going to have, because we don’t know what we didn’t get,” she said. “I really think the state’s bigger problem is in the criminal arena … and lawsuits against the department.”

State and federal laws protect the confidentiality of CPS case information, but parents and caregivers who are the subject of CPS reports, and their attorneys, are supposed to have access to much of it in order to defend themselves against allegations of abuse or neglect, as well as efforts to place their children in foster care or permanently end their parental rights.

Under state law, CPS is required to release case information to judges, parties in dependency cases or their attorneys, as well as criminal defendants.

In addition, the agency must publicly release certain information on child fatalities or near fatalities and is permitted to confirm, clarify or correct information about ongoing cases that has been made public by another source, such as law enforcement.

Attorneys who represent parents and children in CPS cases say withholding these public records could prove costly for the state if it turns out children were removed from or returned to parents based on incomplete or inaccurate information.

The withheld information could be substantive, including:

Details of Child Abuse Hotline reports.

Services provided to the family.

Case notes and documentation from CPS workers and supervisors.

Assessments of children who participated in services.

Appeals of previous child-maltreatment findings.

DES spokeswoman Tasya Peterson said the problem was discovered in June during an annual review of the agency’s public-disclosure practices. An employee noticed that different sets of records were released to different parties in the same case.

Further review found the database system that tracks CPS cases, called CHILDS, had been programmed to print about one-third of the information considered public record under state and federal law. The programming error had been in place since the database was created in 1996.

“We thought we were printing out everything that there was,” Peterson said. “We didn’t have any reason to believe until this summer that we were not meeting our obligations.”

The CHILDS database has been a source of frustration for caseworkers almost since its inception, and streamlining the antiquated, clunky system has been a key agency goal. Until earlier this year, it took caseworkers a full day to input one case into the system.

Each CHILDS case can encompass hundreds of separate fields, or screens, and includes everything from the first hotline call to the most recent case notes. It includes information from witnesses, police, and interviews with children and caregivers.

Attorney Jorge Franco said he’s not surprised that CPS has discovered problems with its public disclosure.

He has sued CPS roughly 20 times and won seven-figure verdicts against the agency.

Franco said the computer glitch could expose the state to liability if it can be shown that additional records would have changed the outcome of a case.

“I have absolutely no doubt that because of this (CPS has) gotten a pass on tons of claims,” Franco said. “The big ‘so what’ is that the statistics … are skewed by the fact that there’s a bunch of claims out there that never made it into claims.”

Peterson said the computer program was designed to print 37 screens in response to public-records requests when it should have printed 98 screens. A screen doesn’t necessarily equate to one page of information.

The review found that much of the information included in the 61 missing screens was already contained in the documents that the agency released.

People requesting public records “were given the majority of the information,” Peterson said.

Attorney Joseph Ramiro-Shanahan, who also represents parents and children in dependency court, said that’s not much consolation. “That’s convenient for them to say, but who knows?” he said. “I don’t even know what I’m missing.”

Source: Tucson Citizen

Best Interest of the Child - Death

September 14, 2012 permalink

Baby M is on life support in Alberta and her parents are charged with child abuse. If she dies, charges against the parents could be elevated to homicide. A judge wants life-support terminated, the parents want it to continue. There have been other cases where the legal/medical system let a child die and blamed the parent(s). For example, a hospital starved Baby Cassidy to death. The next time mother Jessica Pelissero gave birth, Cassidy's death became the justification for taking her new baby.



Judge’s decision to remove Edmonton child from life support stayed

An Edmonton judge has ruled that a two-year-old girl currently in a coma should be taken off life-support and put into palliative care despite objections from the girl’s parents, who are accused of abusing the child.

However, Justice June Ross’s decision was stayed by an appeal court within hours so an appeal by the girl’s parents could be heard.

"It is a difficult situation," said Appeal Court Judge Jean Cote after his ruling late Friday afternoon. "There are some drawbacks to any possible decision here."

Paramedics found the girl, identified as Baby M, and her twin sister in an Edmonton home on May 25. Both girls were malnourished and suffering from injuries and Baby M was in cardiac arrest.

The child’s parents, both 34 years old, have been charged with aggravated assault, criminal negligence causing bodily harm and failing to provide the necessities of life.

They cannot be named to protect the identity of the children.

The parents, originally from Algeria, are asking to keep their daughter alive against doctors’ recommendations because of their Muslim beliefs.

In an affidavit, the father wrote: "My religious belief is that if it is Allah's will that despite all the doctors can do for (her) that she passes from this life, then it is God's will. As a devout Muslim and loving father I find it unthinkable to agree to limit or withdraw medical treatment."

However, because the parents’ charges could be elevated to murder if Baby M dies, Justice June Ross found their desire to keep her alive suspicious.

"They are, inherently, in a conflict of interest," she wrote in her decision Friday. "I am left with a concern that their decision may in fact be affected by self-interest."

Doctors have testified that Baby M’s condition is believed to be permanent and she is close to brain dead.

Since being admitted to hospital her condition has remained unchanged and she has suffered three bouts of pneumonia.

Doctors said the toddler is deeply comatose and completely dependent on technology to survive.

If Baby M remains on the respirator she must undergo a tracheostomy, which involves making an incision in the girl’s neck to make a direct airway.

Ross rejected the arguments that religious beliefs should be considered, as the girl is too young to have her own beliefs.

"The beliefs are those of (the girl's) parents, not her own," Ross wrote.

The judge also said the parents' beliefs do not trump the needs of the child.

"The religious practices of (the girl's) parents are properly limited where they are contrary to (the girl's) best interests in a fundamental way."

The lawyer representing the parents told the appeal court on Friday that her clients have lost the right to make decisions on behalf of their child, despite the fact they remain her legal guardian and that the charges against them haven't been proved.

"When we apprehend a child and we charge the parents, do they then lose the ability to make medical decisions on behalf of their children because of a situation they're put in?" April Kellet asked.

Lawyer JoAnn Quinn, who spoke on behalf of the girl, said it is her best interests that should prevail.

"(Her) emaciated, paralyzed, lifeless body must speak for her."

The parents were arrested in May after police found Baby M in cardiac arrest.

The 27-month-old girl and her twin sister were both severely underweight.

The couple’s son was found to be in good health. He was taken to foster care.

Source: CTV

Addendum: After a flurry of last-minute appeals, Baby M has died.



After a short life and a long legal battle, ‘Baby M’ dies in Edmonton hospital

CALGARY — A two-year-old Edmonton girl allegedly abused by her parents has died after the Supreme Court of Canada rejected a request to keep her on life support.

Sources confirmed that the toddler died Thursday night at the Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton after being removed from a ventilator.

The parents, facing child-abuse charges and being held at the Edmonton Remand Centre, had asked the Appeal Court of Alberta that they be allowed to visit their daughter one last time.

“My understanding is that [the parents] have been taken to the hospital and were allowed 20 minutes, as per court order,” said Michelle Davio, spokeswoman for Alberta Justice. “They were separate visits.”

Earlier in the day, the parents of Baby M lost a last bid to keep their daughter on life support — and avoid being charged with her murder.

The Supreme Court of Canada rejected their request for an emergency stay, which would have kept the toddler alive long enough for the court to hear an appeal of the Alberta Court of Appeal’s decision to let the girl die.

The two-year-old has been in a vegetative state for months, ever since paramedics were called to her Edmonton home on May 25 to find her emaciated — she weighed only 13 pounds — and with a head injury. Her twin sister was also malnourished, at 16 pounds.

The sister is now in foster care, as is an older brother, who had also been living in the home but wasn’t injured.

Her 34-year-old parents are charged with aggravated assault, criminal negligence causing bodily harm and failing to provide the necessities of life, charges that are likely to be upgraded now that the child has died.

Doctors told the courts Baby M was virtually brain- dead with no hope of recovery.

On Wednesday, the Alberta Court of Appeal denied the parents’ request to keep the toddler on life support.

In her judgment, Justice Frans Slatter confirmed the lower court’s decision, saying there were no overriding legal concerns that should obstruct the child’s best interest, which is to let her die.

“Upon review, we cannot see any error in that previous decision that would warrant interference by this court,” the judge said.

“The sanctity of human life is one of the core values of our society and justice system, but life is not without end.”

The parents, who cannot be identified, filed a motion with the Supreme Court of Canada asking it to intervene. They said love and their religion — they are Muslims — demanded they keep the child alive.

They did, however, sign a do-not-resuscitate order if her heart failed.

Muslim scholars have questioned the couple’s reasoning, claiming Islam does not mandate extraordinary measures to keep people in vegetative states alive.

Carissima Mathen, an associate professor who specializes in constitutional law at the University of Ottawa, said there was an argument for keeping the child alive long enough to hear the case. However, the court does not have to explain why it would not hear the appeal.

Tim Caulfield, a specialist in health law and policy at the University of Alberta, said the previous rulings were all sound.

“The decision was so sensible. [The judge] touched on all the factors, the religious belief issue, she touched on the potential conflict of interest issue. At its core, this was really about the best interest of the child and she really kept the focus on there,” he said.

Denied bail after their arrest, they are to appear for a bail review Friday.

Source: National Post

Foster Boy Killed his Abusers

September 14, 2012 permalink

Here is a story of a boy who grew up in foster care, coming to light because in the US, death penalty opponents leave no stone unturned in their efforts on behalf of the condemned. The boy, now 46-year-old Terrance Williams, grew up in foster care where he was subjected to repeated homosexual assaults by older men. When he got big enough to defend himself, he killed two of his tormentors. His shame at the sex acts prevented him from bringing them up in his own defense, and his lawyer did nothing to raise the issue.



Will Pennsylvania Execute a Man Who Killed His Abusers?

Eighteen-year-old Terrance Williams “did not fit the mold of a typical street criminal,” the Philadelphia Inquirer reported in September of 1984. “He was a bright, talented college student, former star quarterback of the Germantown High School football team. His friends, teachers, coaches and neighbors could not believe that he would be involved in murder, or any sordid activity.”

Yet Williams, who is African-American, had committed two grisly killings. One victim, the Inquirer reported, was 50-year-old Herbert Hamilton, who had been found naked, with a knife through his throat, on his kitchen floor. The other, Amos Norwood, who led the altar boys and directed the Youth Theater Fellowship at Philadelphia’s St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, had been beaten with a tire iron, set on fire, and left in a cemetery.

“The problem I find with you, Mr. Williams, is you are a Jekyll and Hyde, apparently,” one judge told him. Tried as an adult for the Hamilton murder despite being 17 at the time, Williams was already in prison when he was sentenced to die for killing Norwood. “We were glad we did it,” one juror told the press.

Today, Williams, 46, is facing death by lethal injection. This August, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett signed a warrant scheduling his execution for October 3. But in the meantime, the same jurors who sealed his fate have had a dramatic change of heart. At least five say that if they could go back, they would never have sent Williams to death row. That’s because they were never told a salient and deeply disturbing detail about his relationship with his victim. Williams, it turns out, had been violently and systematically raped by Norwood, beginning when he was 13 years old.

In fact, behind the image of Williams as a model student athlete was a childhood marred by horrific physical and sexual abuse that began from the time Williams was just 6 years old. Relentlessly beaten by his mother (herself a victim of abuse) and his alcoholic stepfather and gang-raped at a juvenile detention center when he was 16, by the time Williams killed Norwood he was regularly cutting himself, abusing drugs and alcohol, and had endured more than a decade of abuse.

Among the others who sexually assaulted him: his other victim, Herbert Hamilton.

Hamilton’s preying on teen boys seemed to be an open secret. The same Inquirer story opened with a description of the man as a devoted supporter of the Ben Franklin High School basketball team, a man who bought warm-up suits for the players and “bought a van to shuttle the team to and from games.” But he “also often invited youths he met through sports to his West Philadelphia apartment to join him, according to police, in homosexual activity.”

Williams was among them. While the Ben Franklin basketball coach claimed not to know about the abuse—a word conspicuously absent from press reports at the time, along with “rape”—he told the Inquirer that Williams was one of the boys who was “was over to his house a lot.”

Williams was shown some leniency for the Hamilton killing, in part because it reportedly occurred during a violent struggle after Hamilton demanded that Williams pose naked for him. He was convicted of third-degree murder and given a maximum sentence of twenty-seven years. But such evidence played no role in the trial for Norwood’s murder. His co-defendant, Marc Draper, the son of a police officer, testified against him to save his own life, claiming that Williams had been primarily motivated by a desire to rob Norwood. He got a life sentence, while Williams was given the death penalty.

At a post-conviction relief hearing in the late 1990s, attorneys argued that Williams had inadequate representation—his original lawyer, who would later be disbarred, did not meet him until one week before trial—and presented proof that, in addition to being raped at age 6 by a neighbor and “repeatedly molested by a [male] teacher” in his early teens, when he was 13, “[he] met and began a relationship with Norwood,” who was “cruel and physically abusive at times.” Family, friends and teachers attested to the abuse, and a trio of mental health experts would describe him as “suffering from extreme mental or emotional disturbance when he killed Norwood.” (Court filings describe how Norwood raped Williams in a parking lot the night before he was killed.)

But appeals at the state level were denied. And while a federal District court would acknowledge that Williams’s trial lawyer “failed to recognize that it was his duty—not his imprisoned client’s—to identify and pursue potentially mitigating evidence,” it, too, denied relief on procedural grounds.

It was not until this past winter that another witness would come forward, a former pastor named Charles Pointdexter, who knew Norwood for thirty years. He admitted having known that he had sexually abused teen boys.

“Amos seemed to have lots of close relationships with young men…” he stated in an affidavit signed February 9, 2012, saying that he began to suspect that they were “inappropriate” in nature. A few years before Amos’s death, one of the parishioners, the mother of a 15-year-old boy, told him that he had “touched her son’s genitals” during a car ride and that “Amos had inappropriately touched a number of boys at the church.” Pointdexter kept the knowledge to himself.

According to Williams’s lawyer, Shawn Nolan, this revelation was key. Speaking to The Nation after visiting his client on death row last week, he described how it would ultimately lead to the jurors’ coming out against the execution. “Once we talked to Rev. Pointdexter and he told us this stuff, we did further investigation and that led us to another guy…who indicated that Mr. Norwood approached him and propositioned him,” Nolan said. “And none of that evidence had ever come out before this year.”

Then, “we went and talked to the jurors,” he said. “And the jurors said if they had known this, they wouldn’t have voted for death.”

Indeed, affidavits signed in July include repeated statements to this effect. “If I had known about the sexual abuse and how it related to the crime,” one former juror wrote, “it would have changed my mindset.” Another wrote, “Now that I know that he was a victim of sexual abuse by Mr. Norwood, I would have voted for life without parole instead of the death penalty.” In addition, three of these jurors also explained that they had sentenced Williams to die partly based on the fear that he might be eventually released. (Pennsylvania is the only state that does not compel sentencing judges to make clear that a life sentence means life without parole.) “The reason that I opted for the death sentence was because I was under the impression that if we sentenced Terrance Williams to life in prison then he could get out on parole,” one former juror said. “I didn’t want him to get out of prison.”

“That’s powerful to me,” says Nolan. And as he seeks clemency for his client, “hopefully that’s powerful to the governor.”

Also powerful is a signed declaration from Norwood’s widow, Mamie, who says she has forgiven Williams for killing her husband. “I do not wish to see Terry Williams executed,” she said, citing her Christian faith. “He is worthy of forgiveness and I am at peace with my decision.… I wish to see his life spared.”

On the victims’ side, says Nolan, “There is nobody in this case that is asking for the death penalty.”

Indeed, there is overwhelming support for clemency. Among those calling on the state to spare Williams’s life are twenty-two former prosecutors, eight retired judges and forty-seven mental health professionals—a highly unusual display of support. Part of this is likely due to an increased public awareness of sexual abuse. Particularly in the wake of the Penn State abuse scandal, says Nolan, “when you put that in the context of the bigger discussion that everyone’s been having over the last year,” the case for clemency is compelling. “We have learned that so many young people have been the victims of sexual abuse [in Pennsylvania],” he says. While not all victims murder their abusers, Williams’s petition argues that his case is largely about devastating effects of that victimization.

At a hearing on Monday, September 17, Williams’s attorneys will have thirty minutes to convince the state pardons board to spare his life. It won’t be easy: the five-member body is notoriously stingy when it comes to commutations. Its members include the lieutenant governor and state attorney general, who, Nolan “interestingly is our opposing counsel in some of this litigation.”

Recommendations for clemency must be unanimous, and the governor must then agree. “It’s a tough process,” says Nolan. But he believes if there was ever a case for clemency, this is it.

This is not the first time Williams has faced the death chamber. Governor Ed Rendell signed an execution warrant for him in 2005—the thirty-ninth of his term. (He would go on to sign many more, boasting a total of 119 by the end of his tenure.) In fact, despite piles of execution warrants signed over the years—Corbett has signed at least nineteen since taking office—Pennsylvania has not carried out the death penalty since a prisoner volunteered in 1999. The last time Pennsylvania put a man to death against his will was in 1962.

To his supporters, resuming executions by killing of Terrance Williams would put a particularly ugly face on the state’s death penalty. —To me, this is a much more compelling case than a lot of cases that you see,” says Nolan. “It has that direct correlation to the crime. The man who was killed was victimizing this young boy, for years. And the jury never knew that. And that’s outrageous.”

Go here to read the clemency petition, signed affadavits, and more in support of Terrance Williams.

Source: The Nation blog

Outlaw Child Abuse Reporting

September 13, 2012 permalink

British MP Paul Beresford wants to outlaw possession of written accounts of child abuse. While he says he is aiming at pedophiles, his proposal would outlaw internet sites such a fixcas. A substantial portion of the postings to this site contain narratives of child abuse, for example, the recent article showing how Dufferin foster parent and CAS director Robert Horsburgh repeatedly engaged in sex acts with his foster daughter. No doubt, the proposed law will have some kind of exception allowing child protectors to continue writing their narratives/fantasies about the parents they accuse of abuse. But what is a parent falsely accused of child abuse to do under the new law? Drawing attention to the falsity of the story by publication will be a crime.



Outlaw possession of written accounts of child abuse says MP

Sir Paul introduces his bill in the Commons

A Conservative MP is seeking to change the law to close a loophole which allows paedophiles to legally possess written accounts of child abuse.

Sir Paul Beresford, the MP for Mole Valley, said such writing "fuels the fantasies" of offenders and could lead to the physical abuse of children.

For some child abusers "the written word is more powerful than the pictures", he told the Commons.

The MP has campaigned for a decade to tighten the law on child pornography.

Sir Paul wants to amend existing legislation so that written material is treated in the same way as indecent images, for which possession carries a maximum three-year prison term.

'Graphic image'

He told MPs a recent report by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop) had mentioned the possession of graphic written accounts of abuse by some offenders.

"Some offenders not only possess and distribute and produce photographs, they possess graphic notes or writings of child abuse," he said.

"For some, the written word is more powerful than the pictures. For some, the written word promotes a graphic image in their mind."

Sir Paul said he had long been aware of a correlation "between those who possess or distribute indecent printed material of children and those who commit horrific contact offences against children".

"This written material fuels the fantasies of paedophiles which is the key factor in their offending behaviour," he added.

"Therefore I believe that we crack down on any form of indecent material in the written form so that real children can be safe from abuse."

The law would be tightly written, he insisted, to cover obscene writing of a nature "that it must reasonably be assumed to have been produced solely or principally for the purpose of sexual arousal".

Only "absolutely vile" material would be targeted, he said, adding by way of example that well-known novels such as Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita - which explores a middle-aged man's obsession and sexual involvement with a 12-year old girl - would not be covered.


Sir Paul, who was a minister in Sir John Major's government but has been on the backbenches since 1997, has been campaigning for ten years to tighten up laws on indecent material featuring children.

By raising issues in the Commons, amending government bills and and tabling private members' bills, he has helped change the legal definition of gross indecency with a child so that it applies to under-16s and increased the penalties for possession and distribution of indecent images of children.

He has also successfully campaigned for jail sentences for people who refuse to provide a decrypting key to allow police to inspect computers suspected of holding child pornography.

He was also involved in efforts to introduce a fast-track procedure for issuing warrants in cases where people on the sex offenders' register refuse police access to their home.

The MP's latest ten-minute rule bill was given an unopposed first reading by MPs but further progress depends on it being given sufficient parliamentary time.

The Ministry of Justice said that "as with all such issues raised in Parliament, the government will consider and respond in due course".

Source: BBC

Opening of the Courts

September 12, 2012 permalink

Pat Niagara September 12, 2012 at the Opening of the Courts Inter-Denominational Church Service in Toronto, Ontario a number of groups came together to protest the destruction of families through the Family Courts. Members from Canada Court Watch, Canadians For Family Law Reform, Protecting Canadian Children and many others were in attendance.

Source: Facebook, Canada Court Watch

As they did last year, protesters got to speak directly to the judges on the sidewalk. Policemen can be seen in several of the photos. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16].

The video is on YouTube, or local copy (mp4).

Vern Beck found a court insider who is appalled at Ontrio's family law system.



Vernon Beck University Avenue court workers forced to remain silent

I spoke to one of the more senior court workers from the University Avenue courthouse.

She indicated that a some of the workers wanted to go outside yesterday to speak to the protestors but were all afraid of losing their jobs if they were seen speaking to protestors outside. The worker said that a number of workers inside support our efforts and that it was encouraging to see the protests outside of the building. The worker stated that she had worked in the family court section of the court and witnessed "very horrific child abuse", not by parents, by the judges in the courts.

Cracks are beginning to show. All are encouraged to keep up the fight.

Source: Facebook, Canada Court Watch

Vawn Smith got this close-up picture of four judges leaving the church.

Addendum: Our initial post gave no indication of the security cordon surrounding the judges, to prevent a repeat of last year's sidewalk confrontation. A cartoon with a comment by Vern Beck explains.



security cordon for judges

Vernon Beck Canada Court Watch

A reader sent me this image saying that it reminded him of the Opening of the Courts Ceremony in Toronto recently. He did not want to post it himself as he is before the courts and felt he would be punished for expressing his opinion publicly.

At the ceremony, the police blocked off the church where the judges were inside at the church and went so far as to get the building owners to sign no trespass orders to keep protestors from being seen from the judges. After the judges left the church they were herded like cattle into a large bus away from the peaceful mothers and father who were protesting and then went over to the courthouse on University Avenue for a nice formal dinner and gala.

It is tragic for the people of Canada that the judges of our great country allow the police and attorney general to silence peaceful protest for this is the very thing that they are supposed to be protecting.

Source: Facebook, Canada Court Watch

Thomas Szasz R.I.P.

September 12, 2012 permalink

Psychiatrist, and critic of his own profession, Dr Thomas Szasz, has passed away. The Reason obituary summarizes his work.



Thomas Szasz

I am sorry to report that Thomas Szasz, the great libertarian critic of coercive psychiatry, the "therapeutic state," and the war on drugs, died over the weekend at his home in Manlius, New York. He was 92.

Szasz, a Reason contributing editor and professor emeritus at Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, was driven throughout his long and remarkably productive career by what he called his "passion against coercion," especially the medicalized versions that recast repression as treatment. His radical critique of psychiatry, laid out in the 1960 American Psychologist essay "The Myth of Mental Illness" and then in a book of the same name the following year, may be more relevant today than ever, as the field grows to encompass every sin and foible despite its shaky empirical foundation. Szasz argued tirelessly that psychiatric labels, as nothing more than names attached to sets of behavioral criteria, should not be used to strip people of their freedom or relieve them of their responsibility. Defenders of mental-health orthodoxy dismiss this critique more often than they address it, but even when they engage Szasz's arguments they cannot refute his crucial point about the arbitrariness and subjectivity of psychiatric taxonomy.

In addition to opposing involuntary psychiatric treatment and the insanity defense, Szasz objected to medically sanctioned state interference in what ought to be private decisions, ranging from drug use to suicide. His critique of drug prohibition, which delved into frequently ignored issues such as the nature of addiction and the justification for the mandatory prescription system, went beyond cost-benefit analysis to reveal the essential immorality of using force to stop people from altering their consciousness with politically disfavored chemicals. He brought the same kind of penetrating analysis to the subject of "public health" paternalism, interventions aimed at minimizing morbidity and mortality by discouraging risky behavior. He was a powerful influence on my own work in both of these areas, and I will always be grateful for his courage and insight.

More on Szasz:

35 Heroes of Freedom

Straight Talk From Thomas Szasz (1974 interview)

Curing the Therapeutic State: Thomas Szasz on the Medicalization of American Life (2000 interview)

Thomas Szasz Takes on His Critics (book review essay)

Ill-Treated: The Continuing History of Psychiatric Abuses (book review essay)

You'd Have to Be Crazy (column)

Diagnosing in the Dark (book review essay)

Szasz in One Lesson (essay by Sheldon Richman)

Mental Health and the Law (Cato Unbound debate)

Thomas Szasz on Freedom and Psychotherapy (interview)

The Thomas S. Szasz Cybercenter for Liberty and Responsibility

The Myth of Thomas Szasz (essay in The New Atlantis)

You can find some of Szasz's articles for Reason here. Older ones can be found here (search on Author = Szasz).

Amazon has his books here.

Source: Reason

Addendum: A second obituary.



The Man Versus the Therapeutic State

Thomas Szasz's courageous defense of freedom and responsibility

The New York Times obituary for Thomas Szasz, who died this month at the age of 92, says his critique of psychiatry "had some merit in the 1950s…but not later on, when the field began developing more scientific approaches." That's a paraphrase of historian Edward Shorter, whose judgment reflects the conventional wisdom: Szasz called much-needed attention to psychiatric abuses early in his career but went too far by insisting on a fundamental distinction between actual, biological diseases and metaphorical diseases of the mind.

In fact, however, Szasz's radicalism, which he combined with a sharp wit, a keen eye for obfuscating rhetoric, and an uncompromising dedication to individual freedom and responsibility, was one of his greatest strengths. Beginning with The Myth of Mental Illness in 1961 and continuing through 35 more books and hundreds of articles, the maverick psychiatrist, driven by a "passion against coercion," zeroed in on the foundational fallacies underlying all manner of medicalized tyranny.

The idea that psychiatry became scientifically rigorous soon after Szasz first likened it to alchemy and astrology is hard to take seriously. After all, it was not until 1973 that the American Psychiatric Association (APA) stopped calling homosexuality a mental disorder.

More often, psychiatry has expanded its domain. Today it encompasses myriad sins and foibles, including smoking, overeating, gambling, shoplifting, sexual promiscuity, pederasty, rambunctiousness, inattentiveness, social awkwardness, anxiety, sadness, and political extremism. If it can be described, it can be diagnosed, but only if the APA says so. Asperger's, for instance, will cease to exist when the fifth edition of the APA's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) comes out next year.

As Marcia Angell, former editor of The New England Journal of Medicine, observed last year in The New York Review of Books, "there are no objective signs or tests for mental illness—no lab data or MRI findings—and the boundaries between normal and abnormal are often unclear. That makes it possible to expand diagnostic boundaries or even create new diagnoses in ways that would be impossible, say, in a field like cardiology." In other words, mental illnesses are whatever psychiatrists say they are.

How "scientific" is that? Not very. In a 2010 Wired interview, Allen Frances, lead editor of the current DSM, despaired that defining mental disorders is "bullshit." In an online debate last month, he declared that "mental disorders most certainly are not diseases."

Then what exactly are they? For more than half a century, Szasz stubbornly highlighted the hazards of joining such a fuzzy, subjective concept with the force of law through involuntary treatment, the insanity defense, and other psychiatrically informed policies.

Consider "sexually violent predators," who are convicted and imprisoned based on the premise that they could have restrained themselves but failed to do so, then committed to mental hospitals after completing their sentences based on the premise that they suffer from irresistible urges and therefore pose an intolerable threat to public safety. From a Szaszian perspective, this incoherent theory is a cover for what is really going on: the retroactive enhancement of duly imposed sentences by politicians who decided certain criminals were getting off too lightly—a policy so plainly contrary to due process and the rule of law that it had to be dressed up in quasi-medical, pseudoscientific justifications.

Szasz specialized in puncturing such pretensions. He relentlessly attacked the "therapeutic state," the unhealthy alliance of medicine and government that blesses all sorts of unjustified limits on liberty, ranging from the mandatory prescription system to laws against suicide. My own work has been powerfully influenced by Szasz's arguments against drug prohibition, especially his discussion of its symbolism and its reliance on a mistaken understanding of addiction, and his criticism of paternalistic interventions, such as New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's recently approved soda serving ceiling, that conflate private and public health.

I will always be grateful for Szasz's courage and insight, and so should anyone who shares his passion against coercion.

Source: Reason

Putman Protects Child Abuser

September 12, 2012 permalink

Dufferin CAS board member Robert Horsburgh used his foster daughter for his sexual gratification over a three year period starting in 1975. When the indiscretion was brought to the attention of Dufferin CAS, executive director Gary Putman put Horsburgh on the child protection registry, but failed to notify police. Horsburgh remained protected from police action for thirty years until the victim, identified only as MA, went to the police herself.



Guilty plea in sex with foster child case

Children's Aid Soceity didn't report abuse to police

Robert Horsburgh
Former CAS board member. Robert Horsburgh is seen here leaving the courthouse on Monday (Sept. 10).
Todd McEwen

A former board member of Dufferin Children’s Aid Society (CAS) pled guilty to illicit sex with his foster daughter.

Robert Horsburgh, 75, filed the guilty plea on June 11, more than 35 years after various incidents of illicit sex with his foster daughter occurred.

A court ordered publication ban, which protected details of the case, was lifted on Monday (Sept 10). The victim’s identity, aside from her initials MA, is still protected by the court.

“When Robert Horsburgh is sentenced, my jail sentence will finally end,” MA said while reading her victim impact statement in court.

Dufferin CAS placed MA in Horsburgh’s Orangeville home, with his wife, daughter and two sons, in November 1975. At the time, the victim was 15-years old.

“This was supposed to be a safe haven,” Crown Attorney Marie Balogh said.

The first sexual contact between Horsburgh and his foster daughter — an opened-mouth kiss — happened at a Christmas party in 1975. Horsburgh acknowledged the kiss was wrong and promised it would never happen again.

“I remember singing Silent Night. That song is a trigger for me now,” MA said. “I have never been able to enjoy a Christmas Eve service ever since.”

On New Year’s Eve of the same year, Horsburgh broke his promise. In the living room of their Orangeville home, Horsburgh fondled his foster daughter’s breasts.

“Before this happened, I was the happiest I had ever been and life was as good as it had been,” said MA, who considered the Horsburgh’s her family. “After this happened, my life completely fell apart and I had a complete breakdown.”

The sexual encounters continued to escalate. By June 1976, Horsburgh was having “full intercourse” with his victim.

“He always told her she had no need to worry about pregnancy as he had a vasectomy,” Crown attorney Marie Balogh said while reading from an agreed statement of facts.

Horsburgh continued to have sex with the victim, usually once or twice per week while his wife was at swimming lessons, until MA left for college in September 1977.

“There was one occasion (MA) went to bed early trying to avoid being alone with the defendant,” Balogh said. “He had full intercourse in her bedroom while his daughter slept in the bed next to (MA).”

When MA left for college, Horsburgh was no longer her legal foster parent. However, he continued to visit her at school.

“Robert Horsburgh would visit her at college and take her to a hotel room about once a month for sex,” Balogh said. “He would often give her extra spending money while visiting.”

After a breakdown the following year, MA told her doctor of the sexual abuse.

“She could no longer cope with it any longer,” Balogh said.

MA continued to battle depression and anorexia, eventually explaining the abuse to then-Dufferin CAS executive director Gary Putman in May 1981.

“After the disclosure, she ended up in the psychiatric ward of a Toronto Hospital,” Balogh said.

MA has suffered from continuous psychiatric problems since.

“I still don’t sleep in a bed. I sleep on the couch because I feel safer,” MA said. “I sleep with the television on because the sound keeps me safe. The quiet brings flashbacks.”

According to the statement of facts, Putman interviewed Horsburgh about the victim’s allegations. Horsburgh, who also volunteered as a Cub Scout leader, hockey coach and Army Cadets leader, confessed to his sexual relationship with his foster daughter.

“As of May 7 (1981) this couple is no longer fostering with our agency and the foster father’s resignation from the board of directors was accepted,” Putman wrote in a letter to the Ministry of Community and Social Service. “In order to protect this family from fostering in the future, we have as of June 24 registered the foster father with the Child Abuse Registry.”

However, Dufferin CAS did not report the abuse to police.

“CAS did not suggest (MA) go to police. We have no answer as to why,” defence attorney Lynda Lamb said.

In April 2004, MA contacted Dufferin Child And Family Services, requesting disclosure of her file and received a letter outlining the history with the CAS, as well as the sexual conduct. Six year later, she contacted the Orangeville Police Service to report the incidents. Horsburgh was arrested and charged with illicit sexual intercourse with a foster daughter – an offence that was repealed in 1988.

Horsburgh will return to court on Monday (Sept. 17) for sentencing.

“I lost my life, my family my job, my home,” MA said. “He still has his job, his family and his home.”

Source: Orangeville Banner

Addendum: In a letter to the editor Gary Putman gives excuses, but does not take responsibility.



Former CAS director explains unreported abuse case (letter)

Dear editor,

A recent article by Bill Tremblay regarding charges to Mr. R. Horsburgh was brought to my attention. In the article, the question is raised as to why the CAS (Children’s Aid Society) did not report this abuse to the police in May 1981.

First let me say how much I regret the abuse that MA suffered during this period in her life. MA was an adult (many years over the age of majority) when she met with me to disclose the situation she had faced with Mr. Horsburgh.

The mandate of Children's Aid only allows agencies to get involved in instances of abuse up to the age of 16. My recollection of the report, and in reviewing past records, her disclosure contained information that described instances of abuse over the age of 16.

The reason for disclosure at that time was to work with the agency to ensure that other girls were not placed in the foster home.

In the early 1980s child welfare agencies and police did not work in a close co-ordinated relationship as it is now. In fact, Dufferin CAS was one of the first agencies in the province to develop working protocols with the the local police services-in Dufferin in the mid 1980s before it became common practice across Ontario.

It was the normal practice in Ontario at that time to leave the choice of reporting to police by the victim over 16 if they chose to proceed with charges, and at that time the victim in this case was not ready to make this report.

Practice standards evolve over the years, but at that time the agency took all actions it could to prevent possible abuse to other young girls by immediately closing this foster home and reporting the disclosure to the appropriate child welfare mechanisms in place provincially.

Source: Orangeville Banner

Addendum: Sentenced to one year.



Jail time for illicit sex with foster daughter

Former Dufferin Children's Aid Society board member pleaded guilty

Robert Horsburgh
Heading to jail. Robert Horsburgh, in back, is seen here leaving the courthouse on Monday (Sept. 10). His sentence was handed down today (Sept. 17).
Todd McEwen

Robert Horsburgh will serve one year in jail for an illicit sexual relationship with his former foster daughter.

Horsburgh, once a board member of Dufferin Children’s Aid Society (CAS), was sentenced to 12 months in prison, followed by 12 to 15 months probation, on Monday (Sept. 17).

He also faces a DNA order, a 10-year firearm ban, and will be added to the sex offender registry

Horsburgh told the judge he regrets his actions, during the case’s closing arguments a week before sentencing.

“My actions have brought shame to my family,” Horsburgh said. “I deeply regret the pain and suffering I’ve caused.”

Horsburgh, 75, pled guilty on June 11 to having illicit sex with a foster daughter, more than 35 years after various incidents occurred.

Dufferin CAS placed the victim, who can only be identified as MA, in Horsburgh’s Orangeville home, with his wife, daughter and two sons, in November of 1975. At the time, MA was 15 years old.

The first sexual contact between Horsburgh and his foster daughter occurred months after MA moved into her new home.

The contact between Horsburgh and his foster daughter developed into “full intercourse.”

Horsburgh told the court he hopes his guilty plea would bring closure after more than three decades.

In 2010, Horsburgh was arrested and charged with illicit sexual intercourse with a foster daughter — an offence that was repealed in 1988.

“There is an overwhelming sense of relief this will bring closure to MA and my family,” Horsburgh said.

Defence attorney Lynda Lamb said Horsburgh’s guilty plea demonstrates he regrets this illicit relationship.

“I cannot think of a stronger sign of remorse than this plea of guilty,” she said.

Lamb asked the judge to consider a one-year conditional sentence, 15 months of probation, a DNA order and a 10-year weapons ban, as well as Horsburgh’s inclusion on the sex offender registry.

“Mr. Horsburgh is not a clear and present danger to anyone in the community,” Lamb said. “He has fully accepted all responsibility for his actions.”

However, Justice Meredith Donohue noted a conditional sentence is unusual for a conviction involving sex crimes. Donohue added Horsburgh’s health is not an issue when considering sentencing, as he is still able to work full-time.

Although Horsburgh has no criminal record, Donohue said the sentence serves as a deterrent to society.

Media coverage and the community discovering his actions also serve as punishment, Lamb said.

“He will lose the respect of his community,” Lamb said. “He will carry this for the rest of his life.”

Lamb added Horsburgh did not know his sexual relationship violated criminal law. “It was viewed as morally wrong,” she said.

Crown Attorney Marie Balogh said ignorance of the law is no excuse. She asked the judge to consider 12 months in jail, as well as probation, a DNA order and a decade long weapons ban and sex offender registry.

“We have a young person as a victim,” Balogh said. “A child in need of protection already.”

The crown added there is no reason Horsburgh cannot serve a prison sentence.

“There are no dire health issues,” Balogh said.

Source: Orangeville Banner

Parenting Capacity Assessments Assessed

September 11, 2012 permalink

Fixcas recently found a report titled The Value of Court-Ordered Assessments in the Child Welfare Process (pdf) by Nicholas Bala and Alan Leschied. A quick scan shows that it has nine occurrences of mother and no occurrences of father. Ordinarily fixcas dismisses child care reports without references to both mother and father as bureaucratic drivel, but since this report deals specifically with Ontario, here is a closer look.

On page seven we find a list of persons canvassed and surveyed for the report:

  • judges of the Ontario Court of Justice and the Ontario Superior Court;
  • lawyers for parents;
  • lawyers on the panel of the Office of the Children’s Lawyer;
  • senior counsel for all Children’s Aid Societies in Ontario;
  • Directors of Service for all Children’s Aid Societies in Ontario;
  • assessors and Family Court Clinic staff members.

On page nine additional opinions were solicited from:

  • Ontario College of Psychologists
  • Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers
  • Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons
  • Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies
  • Child Welfare League of Canada
  • Canadian Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

All are parties who gain financially from the current child protection system. There are no contributions from the persons directly affected: parents and children.

On page ten the report asserts:

First and foremost, s. 54 assessments provide the court with independent expert evidence from a qualified professional about the child and/or parents or potential caregivers that is not otherwise available from the parties. Both the independence and the expertise of assessors are essential.

There is nothing in the report to show, either through citation or argument, that the evaluators really have independence and expertise. It is just assumed.

Page twelve deals with criticisms of assessments:

Some of the common criticisms of child welfare assessments include: depending on office observations to assess parent-child interactions and not visiting the home; depending upon a parent’s self-report of their behaviours and not utilizing collateral sources for information; basing findings on single-session parental observations; and not using some form of standardized behavioural observation techniques.

The paragraph above omits the most serious criticism: bias. Assessments are typically done by mental health professionals who have retired from normal practice with patients and rely on assessment fees for their livelihood. It is obvious to them, and to outside observers, that the child protection agencies will stop sending them cases if they recommend returning children to their parents. So they develop assessment methodologies that fail just about everyone. Three earlier articles give examples of assessor bias in Britain: [1] [2] [3].

In view of the failure to consult with the persons primarily affected, parents and children, and failure to deal with the biggest problem with assessments, bias, the fifteen recommendations by Bala and Leschied should be treated, not as ways to improve the welfare of children, but as advocacy for the professionals involved in the child protection process.

India Guards its Children

September 11, 2012 permalink

India has intervened diplomatically to secure the return of Indrashish Saha, a boy seized in the name of protection in New Jersey. The boy is hospitalized for injuries sustained while falling out of bed, but child protectors are alleging shaken baby. Previous Indian intervention was successful in getting a protected child returned from Norway [1] [2] [3] [4].



India asks US to address parents' concerns in custody case

Indian authorities have requested the US State Department to address the concerns of an Indian couple, who have been given limited access to their one-year- old son after he underwent surgery for brain injury and are facing criminal probe for failing to take proper care of him.

The Consulate General of India here has taken up with the US authorities the case of the child, Indrashish Saha, son of Kolkata natives Debashish Saha and Pamela Saha.

The boy is currently in Children's Specialised Hospital, New Brunswick in New Jersey, and is being treated for injuries he sustained after he apparently fell from his bed at home last month.

Morris Country Prosecutors Office is also conducting a "criminal investigation" against the Sahas on how their son sustained the injuries. According to a complaint filed in the Superior Court of New Jersey by the Division of Child Protection and Permanency, the court has determined that that the "removal of the child is necessary to avoid an ongoing risk to the life, safety or health of the child."

Indrashish is currently under the custody of child welfare services and the Sahas have been allowed to visit him only once a week under the supervision of the division or a division approved supervisor.

Saha conveyed to the Consulate General his concerns as well as those of his family "that the child has not yet been handed over to them," a Consulate statement said. "The Consulate General has requested the US Department of State (Office of Foreign Missions) in New York to have the concerns of the parents addressed. The embassy of India in Washington has also taken up the matter with the US Department of State," it added.

Saha's wife had told the doctors that her son fell off the bed while playing and his head hit the floor, after which he became unconscious.

However, the doctors treating Indrashish as well as the welfare agency say that the little boy could not have sustained such serious injuries just by falling off a bed. His medical condition indicates that he is suffering from "Shaken Baby Syndrome" and his injury is "a high energy injury," the doctors have said.

"Various doctors stated that the injuries Indrashish sustained were not consistent with the explanation that Debashish and Pamela Saha gave but were consistent with Shaken Baby Syndrome," the complaint said.

"The child was abused/neglected in that his physical, mental or emotional condition has been impaired or is in imminent danger of becoming impaired as the result of the failure of his parents to exercise a minimum degree of care and in supplying the child with adequate food, clothing, shelter, education, medical or surgical care though financially able to do so or in providing the child with proper supervision or guardianship by unreasonably inflicting or allowing to be inflicted harm...," the complaint said.

Saha has denied that he or his wife neglected their child and is seeking support from the Indian government to send Indrashish back to India. The Sahas made their initial appearance in court on September 7 without a lawyer and the judge has set a date of September 14 when they would have to "show cause why an order should not be entered continuing the child under the care and supervision of the division and in the legal and physical custody of the division."

Saha, who last saw his son on September 6, said he wants to send the child back to India where he has relatives who can take care of him. He said he does not have relatives in US and does not want custody of his child to go to foster parents.

He is also looking for a lawyer to fight the case and said he has been in touch with the Consulate for help. The child protection division said it has "concerns as to how Indrasish sustained his injuries" and so he should be kept in custody of the court to "safeguard" his health and life."

Source: Deccan Herald

Addendum: New Jersey has agreed to free the child.



Custody row: New Jersey authorities agree to hand over child

Kolkata : The child welfare services in New Jersey, which had taken over the custody of one-year-old Indrashish, have agreed to hand over the child to a "bona fide guardian", his grand father said here Tuesday.

"My son (Debasish Saha) has told me from New Jersey that the US authorities have agreed to hand over the child to a 'bonafide guardian'. They have urged the ministry of external affairs (MEA, India) to suggest the name of the appropriate person who can take the custody," Nirmal Saha said.

Indrashish was taken into protective custody by US authorities after the child suffered a head injury Aug 9. The access to the child by his parents -- a US-based Indian couple from West Bengal -- has also been limited.

The US authorities have urged the Indian external affairs ministry, to verify through an NGO or an agency the person most suitable among the family's friends and relatives to be given custody of the child, he said.

Saha said that his son had suggested names of four relatives before the Court in New Jersey where the matter is being heard.

"It appears that after the US authorities get any response from MEA then only they would decide on who is the most suitable person to be given the custody of the child," he said.

Saha is among the people who can take the child's custody as suggested before the court in New Jersey. He had expressed his willingness to go to the US and take custody of his grandson.

Saha had met President Pranab Mukherjee and wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the external affairs ministry seeking their intervention in the matter.

Source: Two Circles

Addendum: The boy arrived home in February.



Ordeal ends at last, repatriated child is back from U.S.

Indrashish Saha
HOME SWEET HOME: Little Indrashish with his grandmother outside Kolkata airport on his arrival from the U.S. on Wednesday.
Photo: Sushanta Patronobish The Hindu

Fellow Bengalis on alien soil help beleaguered parents

Nearly six months after being taken away by United States Child Protection Services after he was hospitalised in New Jersey with head injuries, one-and-half-year-old Indrashish, son of an Indian couple residing in the U.S., returned here on Wednesday.

The child’s uncle Bhaskar Kundu, who brought Indrashish home, handed him over to the boy’s maternal grandmother Progati Basak on arrival at Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport.

“The child should not have been taken away by U.S. authorities. There were no lapses on the part of his parents in bringing up the child…We will keep him in the city for a few days and try to give him medical intervention,” Ms. Basak said. Indrashish will be taken to his grandparents’ home at Gangarampur in West Bengal’s Uttar Dinajpur district.

Earlier this month, a local court in New Jersey directed that the child be returned to Ms. Basak. While allowing repatriation of Indrashish, the court dismissed the case filed by the New Jersey Child Protection Services against his parents. The child fell from bed and suffered serious head injuries on August 9, 2012, within two weeks of his landing, along with his parents Debashish and Pamela Saha, at Parsippany township.

Nirmal Krishna Saha, paternal grandfather, said the repatriation would never have been possible had civil rights activists and the Bengali community in the U.S. not come forward to help the boy’s parents. Basabi Basu told The Hindu over telephone from Pennsylvania that she learnt about Indrashish being taken away from his parents through an-email circulated by members of the community. “Had we not intervened, the harassment of the parents by the U.S. authorities would have continued.” They would have even lost the child and Indrashish could have been put up for adoption, Ms. Basu said.

Source: The Hindu

Social Worker Assaults Ward

September 10, 2012 permalink

Greg Simard, an employee of the Children and Parent Resource Institute in London Ontario, has been charged with a crime for assaulting one of his wards. There are few details in the news report. Based on its website, the Children and Parent Resource Institute appears to be an arm of the Ontario social services system.



Employee at CPRI Arrested in Vicious Attack on 12-Year-Old Boy

London Police have arrested a 24-year-old man wanted in connection with a vicious attack on a 12-year-old boy late Sunday night at CPRI in west London.

Gregory Thomas Simard was arrested late Monday morning at Dundas and Clarke Road. So far, there's no word on what charges he's facing.

Police responded to the Children and Parent Resource Institute near Oxford and Sanatorium Rd around 11:49 p.m. Sunday following reports of an aggravated assault.

The facility cares for children with mental health, and developmental challenges.

The suspect, 24-year-old Greg Simard, is a full-time contract employee at CPRI where the 12-year-old boy lived. Police say the man had "regular contact" with the boy, and that this was not a "random act." Investigators are in the process of determining whether any other patients at CPRI have had previous issues with the suspect.

Police say the incident occurred inside the facility, although sources tell AM980 the 12-year-old boy was found by paramedics in a wooded area behind the building.

The child was rushed to London Health Sciences Centre, and remains in critical condition.

The London Police Service released the following picture of the suspect:

Greg Simard

Anyone with information in relation to this incident is asked to call the London Police Service at (519) 661-5670 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477). Information can also be sent in on-line anonymously to

AM980 has left multiple messages with management at CPRI, as well as the Ministry of Youth & Children's Services.

So far neither organization has offered any comment on the matter.

Source: AM980 News, London Ontario

The Sun papers give more on the story.



Caregiver faces charges in alleged assault of boy

Man accused of beating boy faces indecent act charge

LONDON, Ont. — A support worker has been arrested after a boy was snatched from his room at a special needs centre in this city and found viciously beaten in the woods has been arrested by police.

Police continue to investigate the Sunday abduction and beating of a 12-year-old boy who lived at the Child and Parent Resource Centre (CPRI), a provincial centre that treats children with severe mental health and developmental delays.

The boy was in critical condition Monday at a London hospital, found with "severe trauma" in the woods behind one of the residential cottages housing some of the young patients at the facility in London's west end.

"We'll certainly want to know why the child was moved," Det. Insp. Kevin Heslop, who heads the London police major crimes unit, said Monday.

"Typically, the question that comes up is, 'Was this for a sexual purpose?' We don't have any information at this point that we can release in relation to that, but that's one of the things that we'll be looking at."

The suspect, Gregory Thomas Simard, was arrested shortly before noon Monday in a parking lot. He faces a charge of aggravated assault.

Simard, 24, graduated from Fanshawe College's two-year developmental service worker program in 2011, one of about 100 students in his class.

Developmental service workers specialize in working with children and adults with disabilities.

Simard was on a short-term, full-time contract with CPRI that started in mid-June and was to expire in mid-September.

Police said he had regular access to the boy who was assaulted and the attack was not a random act.

Officers face the delicate task of interviewing some of the other children who live at CPRI or access its services because of Simard's access to the kids.

"Because this gentlemen may have access to other children, it's routine that our investigators will speak to the other children to determine if there are other allegations," Heslop said.

"To date we have no other concerns, but the investigation is early on.

"The investigators that are working this case are from the major crimes section and from the sexual assault and child abuse section. They are handpicked, they're well-trained and experienced," he said.

Staff at CPRI are "devastated," Heslop said.

"They've been co-operative and supportive of the police investigation . . . They're concerned about the reputation of CPRI and they're concerned about their staff and the emotional toll on them."

The Ministry of Child and Youth Services that runs CPRI released a statement reassuring the public about its commitment to the "safety and security of all children and youth in our care.

"We want to express our deepest sympathy for the child involved in this tragedy. Our thoughts are with the child and the child's family -- we know this must be a tremendously difficult time," the statement said.

All staff with direct contact with clients undergo police checks, a ministry spokesperson said.

Police were called to the facility just before midnight Sunday, after staff became concerned about the boy's welfare.

A former client of Simard described the man as a "normal, nice guy."

Monday, two police cars and a forensics van sat in front of Unit 6 at CPRI.

According to the CPRI website, Unit 6 is part of a number of specialized intensive residential treatment units that treat children and youth from birth to 18 years.

Unit 6 has nine spaces for boys and girls aged six to 13 with developmental disabilities, the website said.


Saving Foster Teens from Facebook

September 10, 2012 permalink

Professor Dale Fitch of the University of Missouri proposes guidelines for foster teens regarding use of social media. The full paper is not online, the press release is enclosed.



Adolescents in Foster Care Require Guidelines for Safe Social Media Use, MU Expert Says

Children could put themselves at risk for privacy loss, cyber-bullying

Story Contact(s):
Jesslyn Chew,, (573) 882-8353

COLUMBIA, Mo. – About 73 percent of online American teens use social networking sites, such as Facebook, to share photos, interests and experiences with others, according to Pew Research Center. For youths in the foster care system, sharing information online presents additional safety and privacy issues. A University of Missouri researcher recommends that child welfare agencies develop policies to guide how adolescents in foster care use social media.

Dale Fitch, an assistant professor in the MU School of Social Work, says agencies usually advocate restricting how youths in the foster system use social media in order to avoid potential liabilities that could result in lawsuits. However, like other teens who ignore adults’ instructions concerning information disclosure online, teens in foster care turn to the Internet to express their identities and share their stories. Social media is a positive tool that helps adolescents in foster care connect with society, but the lack of guidelines leaves them at risk for cyber-bullying, unintentional disclosure of identifying information and personal harm, Fitch said.

“Foster parents and caseworkers might tell teens not to use Facebook, but they’re using it anyway, which opens them up to negative consequences,” Fitch said. “They need to be able to share instances of unwanted social media contact with their guardians, and they might not reveal information if they’ve been told not to use Facebook.”

Extensive policies regulate how records of youths in the foster system are shared with others such as foster parents, school personnel, health care professionals and caseworkers, so encouraging teens in foster care to use the Internet allows them a sense of privacy and control over their own information, Fitch said.

“Although adolescents in foster care are very much aware of their own safety issues and are very protective of their foster families and biological siblings, they may not know the implications of sharing information online,” Fitch said. “Working with them to safely use social media is a huge step.”

Additionally, allowing youths in foster care to use social media could give their caretakers insight into the youths’ lives they might not have otherwise, which could help adults identify development issues, Fitch said.

“If adolescents have few friends on Facebook, foster parents need to find out whether they have other, hidden online profiles or if they’re having problems making friends,” Fitch said. “Adults could learn a lot more about what’s going on in the teens’ lives and what they’re thinking about. Those conversations happen on a limited basis now.”

Fitch used a tool called Critical Systems Heuristics to create a framework child welfare agencies can use to develop privacy guidelines to ensure the safe use of social media. He says youths in the foster system should be included in the policy-making process in addition to child welfare workers, foster parents or guardians, juvenile officers and judges.

The paper, “Youth in Foster Care and Social Media: A Framework for Developing Privacy Guidelines,” was published in the Journal of Technology in Human Services. The School of Social Work is part of the MU College of Human Environmental Sciences.


Source: University of Missouri

PAPA in BC responds:

Papa Inbc

This should be fun to watch, child-cash-cow outfits such as MCFD policing the internet to keep imprisoned children from such horrors as:

  • cyber-bullying
  • publishing their photos
  • posting their name
  • posting friends who in turn do not lock down their Facebook security settings
  • publishing their birthdate and city
  • publishing pictures of their school or the school name
  • inappropriate friends
  • inappropriate pictures
  • posting pictures of their new "forever family"
  • posting pictures of their Kraft dinner while the adults eat steak
  • identifying their location so their parents can find them
  • communicating with their parents and siblings

Lets add an extra 10% to the $100,000 per year per child it costs to keep these kids in care so social workers can browse the internet.

Source: Facebook, PAPA in BC

CAS Survivor

September 9, 2012 permalink

An occasional child has an allergic reaction to vaccines. For them, children's aid makes their situation worse, often falsely blaming the parents for abuse and seizing the child. Lisa Knowlton tells of her grandson's survival in spite of CAS imposing vaccinations after his allergy was known.



Lisa Knowlton

Lisa Knowlton

I Am Not A Crazy Anti-Vaxer! - In 2006 my grandson had an adverse reaction to his vaccines at 4 months. He almost died. Doctors refused to believe it was from the vaccines. They said my daughter must have done something to him. Childrens Aid took my 4 month old grandson from his mother and forced him to get more vaccines against our notarized waiver of said vaccines and without our knowledge. He was rushed to hospital where he almost died again. Cas kept it a secret from us, but not for long, you see he had a third series of vaccines forced on him without our consent, in their care. Again he was rushed to hospital. They had to tell us what they had done at that point as they were very afraid he would die in their care. So you see, everyone was willing to sacrifice my grandson's life, my daughter's life and tear a family to shreds to prove their damn vaccines are safe. In the end, we won because I fought like hell and proved with evidence they were all lying to protect the vaccine and themselves. Today my grandson is a healthy, happy boy and vaccine-free.

Source: Facebook, Lisa Knowlton

Real Child Protection

September 9, 2012 permalink

When Darrell Krushelnicki spotted a Pontiac driven by John Troy Heitzman speeding toward four children in a crosswalk, he deliberately rammed his Hummer into the car, pushing it out of the way. Real child protector Darrell Krushelnicki sacrificing his Hummer stands in contrast to cynical social workers stealing children for public funding.



Edmonton hummer hero won't see insurance hike

Hummer belonging to Darrell Krushelnicki
This is the damaged Hummer belonging to Darrell Krushelnicki as it awaits repairs in Edmonton on Sept. 5, 2012. Krushelnicki drove his Hummer into the path of a speeding car to prevent the driver of an oncoming car from hitting four children in a crosswalk.
Photograph by: Bruce Edwards , Edmonton Journal

A man who purposely drove his Hummer into another car to save four young pedestrians doesn't need to worry about his insurance going up.

Darrell Krushelnicki of Taber was leaving Bonnie Doon Mall last week when he noticed a potentially dangerous situation.

A car in the far lane was showing no signs of slowing down even as other cars were stopped to let four children use a crosswalk.

Krushelnicki says the driver was on his cellphone and didn't appear aware of the situation, so he made the split-second decision to pull out and let his own vehicle get hit instead.

Even though Krushelnicki was the one who instigated the collision, Rosa Nelson of Intact Insurance says he won't be held liable.

His deductible will be waived and police have said he will face no charges.

"We believe that insurance is about people, not things," said Nelson. "We appreciate that thanks to Darrell's quick response, four children were un-harmed last week while crossing a pedestrian crosswalk."

A Facebook group has started to commend Krushelnicki, who has been dubbed the "Hummer Hero."

The driver of the other vehicle has been charged with dangerous driving.

Source: Edmonton Journal

Deported Citizens

September 8, 2012 permalink

Canada forces its own citizens-by-birth to grow up outside of Canada when their non-citizen parents are deported. They return as strangers to their own country. The Toronto Star profiles three cases.



Canada’s ‘anchor babies’: Journey ‘home’ is tough for children deported with their parents

Hillary Booker
"I thought everything was going to be fun and great in Canada,” says Hillary Booker. "I feel lost here."

At age 2, Hillary Booker was taken to Grenada with her parents, who were deported to the island after they were caught overstaying their welcome — and visitor’s visa — in Canada.

Growing up in poverty and despair, Booker always fantasized what life would have been like for her here.

But the return to her birthplace some 12 years later was a disappointment. The teenager, a Canadian citizen by virtue of her birth in Canada, was thrust into adulthood overnight — trying to survive on her own with no friends or family around.

“Back home, everything was a struggle. I thought everything was going to be fun and great in Canada,” said Booker, now 19, who returned to Toronto alone in 2007. “But it turns out to be all negative. I feel lost here.”

Children born in Canada to non-status migrants are Canadian citizens by birth but that doesn’t prevent their non-status parents, often failed refugee claimants, from being removed from the country.

These parents are faced with a dilemma: Should they leave their children behind in state care, or uproot them for a life of destitution and/or danger in their home country?

Some migrants hope their Canadian-born children — who in the United States might be disparagingly referred to as “anchor babies” — will find a brighter future and one day serve as a connection to help them legally return to Canada.

While immigration and border officials consider the child’s interests in deciding whether to let parents stay on humanitarian grounds, critics say such decisions are arbitrary.

Canada is a signatory to the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, said Agnes Samler, president of the Defence for Children International Canada, an advocacy group for children’s rights.

“There is a promise in Canada that we’d take into consideration the best interests of the children, but it doesn’t always happen,” Samler said. “Maybe the parents are not true refugees, but how can you disregard our obligations to the children and tell them we’re going to punish you because of your parents . . . that you need to go or you need to be abandoned?”

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney is contemplating changing the Citizenship Act by removing the right to automatic citizenship by birth — a policy unique to Canada and the United States. In most other countries, citizenship is based on blood and requires one parent to be a citizen.

Both immigration and border service officials said they do not keep track of what happens to Canadian-born children of failed refugee claimants. But it appears most of these children end up leaving with their non-status parents.

“The Canada Border Service Agency has no legal authority over Canadian-born children. When making arrangements for removal of non-Canadian family members, the CBSA will advise them of the various options available for their Canadian-born children,” said CBSA spokesperson Luc Nadon.

“This includes travelling with their parents, finding a suitable guardian for their children in Canada, or, if there is no one who could assume guardianship, advising them to contact the provincial child protection authorities.”

Children’s Aid Societies cover children and youth under 16 and stay involved to 21 years of age, but do not keep statistics on Canadian-born children returning to Canada.

“From our experience, many Canadian-born children who return to Canada are between the ages of 16 and 18,” said Emily Strowger, a spokesperson for the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies.

“As Canadian citizens, these youth are able to access the same services available to all Canadian citizens — health care, education, job opportunities, but not child welfare services because of their age.”

Hillary Booker isn’t sure how her life might have been different had she stayed in Canada, but she knows what it was like in Grenada, a tiny Caribbean country with a population of 110,000.

When her mother, Jamma, a nurse, and father, Scott, a construction worker, were deported in 1995, they were unable to find jobs and had to entrust their five girls — all born in Grenada except Hillary — to a grand-aunt who was already caring for four other children in her one-bedroom shed.

“I know what it’s like growing up in poverty,” Booker said. “There’s not enough food, no TV, no computer. You take showers in the river and get water from the river.”

In school, 45 kids would jam into small classrooms where worn textbooks were shared by groups of five pupils. There were never enough school supplies to go around.

“There’s nothing there, even after you finish school,” said Booker, who grew up constantly reminded by her parents that she was Canadian and teased by local children as the “abandoned” Canadian.

Booker said her parents always urged her to return to her birthplace for “a better life.” At age 10, she began planning for her return. It took her more than two years just to reacquire her lost birth certificate — “a mission impossible.”

Finally, on Aug. 26, 2007, she got a plane ticket to fly to Toronto. She arrived at Pearson airport at midnight the following day.

Booker shared an apartment near Jane St. and Finch Ave. with her eldest sister Natalie, who was seeking asylum in Canada, and she enrolled in Westview Centennial Secondary School. But after six months, her sister was deported to Grenada when her asylum claim was rejected.

Given her age, Booker was assigned to the guardianship of a pastor at a community church, attending school by day and working at a local No Frills store after school to support herself.

“I was left by myself with people I didn’t know when my sister was deported. You wake up, go to school, then go to work. Sometimes I just cracked and cried for no reason,” said Booker, who moved out of her guardian’s house when she turned 18.

She is now majoring in law and society at York University with hopes of becoming a lawyer.

“I do feel I’ve been wronged by Canada,” she added. “But the experience has made me stronger, more mature and independent.”

Angelica Beatriz Mercau was born in North York General Hospital in 1991 to her Chilean mother, Angelica, and Argentine father, Juan Dante. The couple came to Toronto in 1988 and made a refugee claim based on political persecution.

When their claim was denied in 1993, they left Canada with baby Angelica. So began Mercau’s journey through South America and the United States — and finally her return to Canada, first briefly in 2008 and permanently last year.

Mercau’s sister, Carol, was born in Chile and brother, Paul, in Utah, where the family settled in 1998, after her parents struggled to provide for the kids in Chile and Argentina while toiling in cleaning and church administrative jobs.

The family succeeded financially in the U.S., with her mother working as a loan officer and her father as a realtor, but the insecurity of being non-status there proved too much. In 2008, Mercau’s parents sent the then-15-year-old “Angie” back to Toronto by herself.

Her first impression of her home country was bad. She was immediately “interrogated” by an immigration officer who questioned her return to Canada and accused her of carrying a fake Canadian passport.

“I honestly didn’t know much about Canada, but I was excited to see my hometown,” said Mercau, who lived at the Vaughan home of a family friend but left after six months because she couldn’t stand the depression and isolation.

She went back to Salt Lake City and finished high school and two years of studies in cosmetology before returning to Toronto in July 2011. Mercau said she is determined to stay for good this time.

“I knew I had to get my parents and siblings here. I’m here to help them. We need some stability. There’s just so much responsibility on me to bring them here,” said Mercau, now 21.

She has been working two jobs — as a part-time retail clerk and full-time secretary at an engineering company — to meet the income needed to sponsor her family to Canada.

But she was disheartened to learn that Ottawa recently imposed a moratorium on sponsoring parents for immigration.

Mercau’s parents and siblings moved to Toronto in February anyway, but their time in Canada is running out. The family faces imminent deportation — and separation.

“I am Canadian but I can’t define myself as Canadian. I grew up mostly in the U.S. but I don’t feel American,” said Mercau. “I just don’t know where I belong.”

Eduardo Flores Corona couldn’t imagine leaving his Canadian-born baby daughter, Victoria Guadalupe Flores, behind when he and his wife lost their claim for asylum based on persecution by drug lords and were forced to go back to Mexico in 2006.

But after the recent killing of three people in gunfire three blocks from his Acapulco home, the 42-year-old air-conditioning technician is having second thoughts about bringing her there.

“There are so many drug lords here, so much violence. It is horrible for kids to grow up in Mexico, when you have shootings, massacres and people beheaded all the time,” said Flores, who first arrived in Montreal in 2003 and later relocated to Toronto. Victoria was born at Humber River Regional Hospital.

“Victoria is Canadian. She is in danger in Mexico now and needs protection from the Canadian government.”

Flores said Victoria, now 9 years old, always asks him about their life in Canada and enjoys viewing their photo albums and video from those days.

“I always tell her she’s Canadian. She’s not from here,” said Flores, who owned a T-shirt printing firm in Toronto. “She’d ask me how it feels touching the snow. She wants to know about her babysitter and friends in Canada.”

And then Victoria asks why the family left.

“We tried everything to stay in Canada, to give her a normal life. But my wife and I didn’t want to be illegal in Canada,” Flores said. “We will send her back to Canada when she gets older, so she can have a better future and be free.”

Source: Toronto Star

Foster Warehouses

September 8, 2012 permalink

Florida warehouses disabled children in nursing homes for geriatric patients where they get no education or socialization.



Feds slam Florida for warehousing disabled kids

The Justice Department says disabled youngsters have been forced to live in nursing homes in violation of their civil rights.

Florida health and disability administrators have been systematically dumping sick and disabled children — some of them babies — in nursing homes designed to care for elders, in violation of the youngsters’ civil rights, the U.S. Justice Department says.

Hundreds of Florida children are spending their formative years in hospital-like institutions, sometimes growing up in the equivalent of hospital rooms with virtually no education or socialization, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division wrote in a 22-page letter to Attorney General Pam Bondi. Bondi’s office is defending the state against a previously filed lawsuit that claims the institutionalization of children violates federal law.

The letter, written by Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas E. Perez, is the federal government’s first attempt to weigh in on the controversy. At the end of his letter, Perez outlined a series of steps the state could take to reduce its reliance on nursing home beds for frail children. If state leaders fail to “correct” the practice, Perez wrote, “the Attorney General may initiate a lawsuit” of his own.

Some youngsters remain in nursing homes for much of their lives: “a number” of kids, the report said, have spent a decade or longer institutionalized, including some children who entered the facilities as infants and toddlers.

“Indeed, the state has planned, structured and administered a system of care that has led to the unnecessary segregation and isolation of children, often for many years, in nursing facilities,” the report said.

Under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, people with disabilities or medical conditions must be housed and treated in community settings whenever possible, not in large isolated institutions as most states did in previous decades. Since the law was passed in 1990, advocates for disabled people and children have used it to shut down often squalid institutions and to move disabled and mentally ill people into their own homes or into group homes that are part of larger communities.

In recent years, however, Florida health administrators have relied upon nursing homes to house hundreds of children who could safely live at home with their parents — often at less expense to the state, advocates claim. In his letter, Perez said the state has cut millions from programs that support the parents of disabled youngsters, refused $40 million in federal dollars that would have enabled some children to stay or return home, encouraged nursing homes to house children by increasing their per diem rate — and even repealed state rules that limited the number of kids who could be housed in nursing homes with adults.

Such policies, the Justice Department says, are not only contrary to federal law, they hurt children: Housed in nursing homes that are ill-equipped to care for them, youngsters often are deprived of an education, are unable to see their own parents and siblings — many of whom live hundreds of miles away — have no ability to socialize with typically developing peers, and sometimes are forced to sit for hours in front of a television for lack of recreation or other activities.

In court pleadings, and in a statement Thursday to The Miami Herald, state health regulators say they are complying with all provisions of the landmark law. The state provides all services that are “medically necessary” to sick and disabled children — including skilled nursing care and home health aides — “up to 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” said Shelisha Coleman, a spokeswoman for the state Agency for Health Care Administration, or AHCA, which is a defendant in a 2012 lawsuit that makes the same claims as the Justice Department.

Health administrators chided the Justice Department for essentially ambushing the state Thursday by releasing the strongly worded report on a DOJ website without first providing the state with copies of documents, transcripts of interviews and nursing home inspection reports upon which the Justice Department based its findings.

The state, Coleman said, does not have any policies or rules designed to force children into nursing homes. Advocates for sick and disabled children, she added, are complaining about individual decisions made solely on the basis of what is most appropriate for each child, she added.

In a court pleading last June, AHCA said federal law allows the agency to “place appropriate limits on a service based on such criteria as medical necessity” and cost-cutting.

In its report, though, the Justice Department said such individual decisions — some of which are “applied irrationally or without appropriate consideration of the child’s needs” — reflect a systemic policy that forces families to institutionalize their loved ones. During its investigation, the DOJ visited large nursing homes that collectively house more than 200 children in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Tampa and St. Petersburg, interviewing families and caregivers along the way.

The parents of one 8-year-old girl who is “medically fragile” and lives at home, though both parents must work, have seen medical services for their daughter denied or reduced 13 times since 2006, the report said, even though the girl’s condition has not improved or changed. “It’s a fight and a battle all the time,” to avoid institutionalization, the girl’s mother told investigators.

Matthew Dietz, a Miami civil rights attorney who already is challenging the state’s practices in federal court, called the report a “stinging indictment” of the state’s policies governing disabled children. “It’s a story of a systemic attempt by the state of Florida to deprive families and children with disabilities of the care needed to merely survive in a community-based setting,” Dietz said.

“The state’s reliance on nursing facilities to serve these children violates their civil rights and denies them the full opportunity to develop bonds with family and friends and partake in educational, social and recreational activities in the community,” Dietz added.

Deborah Linton, who heads The Arc of Florida, an advocacy group for people with developmental disabilities, said members of her group were “alarmed, as well as saddened” that warehousing children in nursing homes had “become an acceptable practice” among state social service administrators.

Other states, Linton said, have developed and funded programs that allow families to care for sick or disabled children at home — often at less expense than nursing homes and institutions.

“Florida can do better by these most vulnerable little ones,” Linton said.

Source: Miami Herald

Legislator Calls for Ombudsman Oversight

September 7, 2012 permalink

Jeff Leal, the Liberal MPP representing Peterborough, has written a letter to Eric Hoskins in support of bill 110, which provides for ombudsman oversight of children's aid. The letter mentions the case of Chad Wells, who got custody of his children after a struggle with CAS including a favorable but futile unenforced decision from the Child and Family Services Review Board. The letter is enclosed along with an editorial in the Sudbury Star referenced by Mr Leal.



Ontario coat of arms
Jeff Leal, M.P.P. Peterborough

August 10, 2012

The Honourable Eric Hoskins
Minister of Children and Youth Services
14th Floor, 56 Wellesley Street West
Toronto, Ontario M5S 2S3

Dear Eric:

I recently had the opportunity to meet with Mr. Chad Wells regarding the Private Members Bill 110 which would legislate broader powers of oversight for the Ombudsman in Ontario to include Children's Aid Societies and other public agencies. Mr. Wells had a long battle with the Muskoka Children's Aid Society regarding the custody of his three children. The courts ultimately made a decision that allowed Mr. Wells to have custody of his children.

When Bill 110 has been discussed, your Ministry has stated that the Review Board handles complaints regarding decisions made by Children's Aid Societies. In Mr. Wells' case, the Muskoka CAS was found guilty in court but your Ministry Review Board docs not enforce court decisions. This is why a significant number of individuals want Ombudsman oversight.

I have also included for your review a copy of an opinion editorial from the Sudbury Star, Monday, June 14,2010 entitled "Why did the CAS want foster father's name kept secret?" The information in this editorial suggests the need for Ombudsman oversight of CAS.

I want to thank you for taking the time to review this matter.

Yours sincerely.


Jeff Leal

Cc Mr. Chad Wells (address) Peterborough, Ontario (postal code)

Source: Chad Wells

Opinion Editorial

Why did the CAS want foster father's name kept secret?

The bravery of a 16-year-old young woman last week was astounding.

After having the courage to come forward to police about a foster father who had sexually abused her since age 11 and impregnated her at age 14, she also asked the court to lift the publication ban on the name of the abuser.

And yet the Sudbury and Manitoulin District Children's Aid Society fought to have the judge not only ban the name of Donald Klasges, but also asked Justice Patricia Hennessy to ban all reporting on the case.

Justice Hennessy said, "the irony is rich, that concerns for other foster children is most eloquently addressed by the victim."

No kidding. Klasges, 65, was sentenced to seven years in prison for abusing the girl.

This young woman -- who is not only a survivor of horrendous abuse, is now also a single mother of a two-year-old -- told the court she would be willing to have her name published if it meant Klasges' name would also be published.

According to The Sudbury Star, the request by the teen was supported by the Crown but opposed by CAS. The lawyer for the CAS, Dawn Dubois, said revealing Klasges as a foster parent could have an adverse impact on the future lives of foster children who had been placed with him in the past.

The survivor told Justice Hennessy it was that very reason that Klasges had been a foster parent to others, that she wanted the ban lifted.

I will go further than Justice Hennessy and say not only is the irony rich, but the CAS comes across as looking like it is protecting an abuser instead of supporting the survivor they placed with this man at the age of 11.

They CAS has said it is horrified by the case and quite shaken by it, and when Klasges was first charged in 2008, the society took six months to make it public.

There had been 42 children placed in his Levack home and officials needed time to investigate. Executive Director Collette Prevost said all 42 were contacted and there was no evidence of other cases of abuse. And apparently, the screening and training of foster parents has changed for the better since 2008 becoming more in-depth and exhaustive. Would it always have been so.

Having been a social worker myself, I understand the concepts of confidentiality and how important it is to ensure the names of the innocent and those who come forward for help are protected. When I worked with women who were abused as children and adult rape survivors, it was paramount to ensure confidentiality so more women would feel safe telling their story.

In this case, the survivor's name is protected and the name of the offender -- who pleaded guilty -- is not. So it floors me as to why this was such a big deal to the CAS. Who would gain by keeping Klasges's name private? Does it really help the other foster children who were placed with the abuser?

If it's true that no one else was abused by Klasges, according to the CAS, then what is the harm in releasing his name? Especially when the victim in this case was requesting it.

Does the CAS even begin to understand how they look when not only does it place the victim with an abuser, it fights her right to have the abuser's name made public?

Anyone who works in any of the helping professions understands that mistakes can happen --big mistakes that can have a lasting impact on people's lives. But we also know the importance of owning up to those mistakes and respecting the rights of people who may have been harmed in the process.

We all know many Children's Aid societies are struggling. Many are deeply in the red with no help in sight. The province has told them to fundraise, which is the most ridiculous thing I have heard in a long time.

When staffs are worried about layoffs and they are overworked with huge caseloads, mistakes will happen. Perhaps the province should get off its high horse and allow the Ontario ombudsman to investigate the agencies so real changes can be made.

Of course, that still doesn't explain why the powers that be in the Sudbury agency decided to fight the publication of Klasges name. When Director Prevost was asked why the CAS fought the release of Klasges's name, she replied, "the public has the right to ask the question." I guess we have the right to ask, but we don't have the right to hear an answer that makes sense.

Source: Sudbury Star

All news sources refer to the rapist as Douglas Klasges. Donald is a mistake.

Toddler Not Permitted to Give His Name

September 7, 2012 permalink

Hunter Spanjer is a three-year-old deaf boy who communicates in sign language. The sign for Hunter is a gesture that violates Grand Island Public Schools weapons policy. The school wants to have his name banned or changed.



Grand Island Preschooler Asked to Change the Sign for His Name in School

Hunter Spanjer

Hunter Spanjer says his name with a certain special hand gesture, but at just three and a half years old, he may have to change it.

Petition letter on addressed to GIPS asking officials to let Hunter Spanjer keep his sign name.

"He's deaf, and his name sign, they say, is a violation of their weapons policy," explained Hunter's father, Brian Spanjer.

Grand Island's "Weapons in Schools" Board Policy 8470 forbids "any instrument...that looks like a weapon," But a three year-old's hands?

"Anybody that I have talked to thinks this is absolutely ridiculous. This is not threatening in any way," said Hunter's grandmother Janet Logue.

"It's a symbol. It's an actual sign, a registered sign, through S.E.E.," Brian Spanjer said.

S.E.E. stands for Signing Exact English, Hunter's sign language. Hunter's name gesture is modified with crossed-fingers to show it is uniquely his own.

"We are working with the parents to come to the best solution we can for the child," said Jack Sheard, Grand Island Public Schools spokesperson.

That's just about all GIPS officials will say for now.

Meantime, Hunter's parents say that by Monday, lawyers from the National Association of the Deaf are likely to weigh in for Hunter's right to sign his own name.

Despite whatever rules and regulations may exist, some Grand Islanders we spoke with said they don't think it's right to make a three year-old change the way he says his name.

"It's his name. It's not like he's going to bring a gun to school when he's three years old," commented Dana Schwieger.

"I find it very difficult to believe that the sign language that shows his name resembles a gun in any way would even enter a child's mind," Grand Island resident Fredda Bartenbach reflected.

But for now, that's a discussion between the Spanjers and Grand Island Public Schools officials.

Grand Island Public Schools has released a statement since we talked with them Friday. A link can be found below.

Source: KOLN-TV KGIN-TV Nebraska

Rats in Human Services

September 7, 2012 permalink

The Barbara Roberts Human Services Building in Salem Oregon, headquarters for Oregon's social services, is infested with rats. Are they all rodents?



Rats! Oregon's health and human service headquarters has lots of them

Tom Barrows
Tom Barrows, landscape manager for the Oregon Department of Administrative Services, shows of one of the more than dozen rat traps in the state health and human services building. So far, 36 rats and three mice have been caught and killed.
Michelle Cole/The Oregonian

SALEM -- The first hint came in March with a complaint about noise in the ceiling. The first sighting came in mid-May. And the full magnitude of the problem became clear this month.


The Barbara Roberts Human Services Building, home base for the state's health and social service agencies, is infested. And, as of Monday, the rats were holding their own in the war to get rid of them.

"To date, 36 rats have been caught, all of which are second and third generation," wrote the chief operating officers for the Oregon Health Authority and the Department of Human Services in an all-staff memo.

"We have been unable to capture rodents of breeding age, which is key to eliminating the problem," the memo reported.

To be clear, office buildings, just like your home, can host a rodent from time to time. But Tom Barrows, landscape manager at the state Department of Administrative Services in Salem, says he's never seen anything like this.

"It's not one or two sneaking in," Barrows said Monday. "We've got an actual breeding population inside the building. That's the most direct way to say it."

While the traps are snaring the innocent juveniles, the battle is escalating against the savvy adult Rattus rattus -- more commonly known as the roof rat. The gray critters -- with tails as long as their bodies -- do most of their feeding at night. There have been a few, however, spotted during the day.

No one has been hurt, but some state workers admit to feeling unnerved.

Approximately 1,300 people who work at the building have been ordered to remove all plants from their desks, as well as all fountains, fish bowls and vases. Forget about any cubicle candy dishes. Food should be limited to what the worker will eat that day. Liquid containers -- coffee mugs, soda cans, etc. -- must be emptied before staffers leave for the night.

Thanks to budget cuts a few years ago, employees already are in the habit of emptying their own desk area trash cans. Now they cart their garbage to one of the covered centralized stations provided.

No one is sure how the rodents got into the 20-year-old, five-story building. And, please, they say they've already heard all the jokes about rats and state government.

The rats appear to have taken up residence in the 12 inches of space under raised flooring constructed to hide the tangle of computer cables.

Barbara Roberts Human Services Building
No one is sure what brought the rats into the 20-year-old building.
Michelle Cole/The Oregonian

There are theories that last winter's flooding of nearby Mill Creek might have driven them in. But none of the other agencies lining Summer Street has reported problems.

The state has paid an outside consultant about $5,000 to help in the battle. This is Oregon, so no poison is being set out. Instead, officials are relying on peanut butter, bacon bits and bits of chocolate to lure the critters into snap traps.

Yes, they're killing them.

The traps, lodged inside black plastic boxes to spare workers a glimpse of the carnage inside, are strategically located throughout the building.

At this point the strategy is to remove all food and water sources and force the animals to seek out what's in the traps.

Randy Gengler, a manager responsible for looking after state-owned buildings says it will likely be a couple of months before they know "whether we've gotten them all out or not."

Why not bring in cats?

Apparently, many have made the suggestion. But Barrows, the landscape manager, says there are lots of reasons not to go there.

For one thing, he says, then you have to get rid of the cats.

Source: Oregonian

Librarians Snitch

September 7, 2012 permalink

Leaving your child at the public library could result in a call to children's aid (and loss of your children).



Unattended Children Policy


The library welcomes children of all ages, but it cannot be responsible for their safety or supervision. Parents and caregivers are reminded that children may be at risk in a public place and should not be left unattended in or about the Library premises.

When an unaccompanied child is found in the library, and if the parent cannot be located, staff may contact the Children's Aid Society (CAS) or the Hamilton-Wentworth Regional Police Department.

Phone Numbers:

Children's Aid Society: 905-522-1121 or 905-522-8053 (after hours)

Hamilton-Wentworth Regional Police: 905-546-4925

Source: Hamilton Public Library

United Way Supports CAS

September 7, 2012 permalink

United Way logo

You can promote the break-up of families and high levels of child abuse in foster care by donating to the United Way.



United Way

United Way

Are you a United Way supporter?

Did you know that you can increase your support of the Children’s Aid Foundation by designating the whole or a portion of your annual United Way contribution?

While we are not a United Way agency, you can direct your United Way gift to our Foundation by indicating your wish on your United Way donation form and including our Charitable Registration Number 108076480RR0001.

In recent years, the Foundation has received close to $200,000 annually through designated United Way donations from individuals. These funds have been instrumental for implementation of innovative programs and services that enrich the lives of many vulnerable children and youth in care across Canada.

Please consider upgrading your support of the Children’s Aid Foundation in September-October during this year’s United Way Campaign.

Source: Children’s Aid Foundation

Fife Elected

September 7, 2012 permalink

When Progressive-Conservative MPP Elizabeth Witmer resigned her seat in the Ontario legislature, it created the possibility that the Liberals could upgrade their one seat minority to a one seat majority. Yesterday Catherine Fife of the NDP won the seat in a byelection. The new party alignment is Liberals 53 seats, Progressive Conservatives 36 and New Democrats 18. The Liberals will not become the majority party, and there is still a chance of enacting bill 110 to provide for ombudsman oversight of children's aid societies.



Fife win a ‘positive change’

Catherine Fife
Catherine Fife celebrates her victory in Waterloo, Thursday with her husband Dale left and party leader Andrea Horwath. [photo: Mathew McCarthy, Waterloo Region Record staff - story by. .
Mathew McCarthy/The Record

WATERLOO — Catherine Fife repainted the formerly blue Tory stronghold — belonging to Elizabeth Witmer for 22 years — a New Democratic shade of orange.

Supporters packed St. George Hall in Waterloo on Thursday night as they celebrated Fife’s victory with party leader Andrea Horwath.

“Today families in Kitchener-Waterloo have handed me a big responsibility,” Fife said.

“Over nine years I’ve learned about the kind of leadership they expect. They expect listening, hard work, and real results, I’m excited to take that experience to Queen’s Park,” said Fife. “I am so proud of the people that supported me, and I am grateful to the voters that have put their trust in me.

“Tonight’s results were a team effort. Voters across Kitchener-Waterloo who have never voted NDP in the past cast their ballots for positive change.”

The night before the election, Fife was knocking on doors until 9 p.m. in the suburbs of west Waterloo — an area she desperately needed to take her over the top.

“We worked right to the bitter end,” said Fife, who also campaigned on election day with Horwath, a frequent visitor to the riding in the last few weeks.

The byelection campaign was a gruelling one, with long days and endless media scrutiny on a riding that had the ability to change the fate of the Dalton McGuinty minority government.

“The scrutiny was incredible,” Fife said. “It was a high-pressured byelection, but we stayed above the fray.”

A poll conducted earlier this week in the riding suggested a NDP victory with Fife at 42 per cent, while the Liberals’ Eric Davis and the Conservatives’ Tracey Weiler were trailing, both at 26 per cent of the vote.

The momentum for a possible NDP victory brought many out to support Fife. About 700 volunteers were polling voters on Thursday.

This was the second provincial campaign for Fife. She finished third in 2007 with the best results the NDP has ever shown in the riding.

Fife’s strength has traditionally seen support in central and campus areas, whereas the suburbs were a challenge.

Fife said the dynamics of this campaign were the opposite of her previous campaign.

“The NDP is in a different place. We stayed focused on education and health care and people were listening,” she said. “People know me. They know how committed I am.”

Fife has been a trustee with the Waterloo Region District School Board for nine years and sat as chair of the board until taking a leave of absence to run for the NDP.

She’s the mother of two children, Claire, 11, and Aiden, 13, and her husband Dale is a history and law teacher at Waterloo Oxford Secondary School.

Fife served as the president of the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association and vice-president of the Canadian School Boards Association.

She said her work on the school board prepared her for understanding how government works and advocating on behalf of the community.

She is a moderate within the NDP party, who “understands that in order to further our social policy goals, we need to have a strong economy.”

Source: Metroland / Waterloo Record

Schools Snitch

September 7, 2012 permalink

While opponents such as CCW (local copy of letter pdf) contend that school cooperation with children's aid is unnecessary, or even illegal, real schools are determined to refer families to CAS regardless of parental objections. Here is a current example letter signed by Tony Pontes (pdf) on behalf of the Peel District School Board.

Addendum: Vern Beck reports on a recent conversation with a school principal.



Vernon Beck

I had a principal of a school call me last week and state that pressure was being placed on the principal by the Superintendent to allow CAS workers into the school in spite of the principal's difference of opinion about the legality of the CAS workers coming into the schools to speak to children. The principal hates CAS but it seems the Superintendent is friends with a CAS worker. The principal indicated being fearful of being fired if the instructions of the Superintendent were not followed. After telling the principal to start recording conversations with senior administration workers, the principal said that this would be implemented immediately as method of protection from intimidation from senior administration. The principal also said that CCW would be kept informed.

At some time in the future, we may have news to report of a Superintendent of Education at a school board being arrested and fired for extorting the principal. Below is a copy of one of the questions in the latest version of the Questions and Answers for school officials.

6) As a school board employee, is it lawful to secretly record conversations between myself and senior administrative staff?

In situations where school board employees may feel threatened or harassed by senior administrative staff over the issue of CAS workers coming into the schools or being involved at the schools, it is legal to secretly record conversations with senior school staff for one’s personal protection. Should senior administration staff attempt to put pressure on an employee such as a principal to allow CAS workers into a school against the principal’s own judgement then this could be considered as extortion under the Criminal Code of Canada depending on what was said and if recorded proof exists. Electronic recording is one of the best ways to protect oneself from unwanted workplace harassment or intimidation.

In this day of miniature digital recording devices it is very easy to do so. Recordings are also admissible in court in the event of a lawsuit by a school board employee against the Board as a result of the actions of senior administrative staff. Under the Education Act, Principals have the authority over the day to day operation of schools as it affects the students. Administrative staff should not be questioning a principal or putting the principal under pressure to engage in actions which may adversely affect students and which go against the Principal’s personal judgement. At the school level the principal has the final say and it the person who is ultimately responsible unless his/her decision is formally overruled on the record by the Board of Directors.

Source: Facebook, Canada Court Watch

Maine DHHS Takes Children

September 6, 2012 permalink

Discontent with child protectors surfaces in Maine.

DHHS protest

PROTEST: Beth Retamozzo, front, and others continue their protest against the Department of Health and Human Services claiming the agency has illegally taken their children. Retamozzo, 33, of Fairfield, said she began her protest last week in Skowhegan and seeks to regain custody of her three children.
Staff photo by David Leaming

Source: Maine Today Media

Addendum: A year later this same mother took her children after a supervised visit.



Waterville mom lost custody fight for 2 kids she allegedly abducted

'For reasons unfathomable to the court,' BethMarie Retamozzo, 34, 'would rather have [her boyfriend] in her life than to reunite with her children,' judge wrote in Aug. 8 order

A Fairfield woman charged with abducting her children during a supervised visit last week had lost an ongoing battle recently to regain custody of the two children, court documents show.

Joel and Joslyn Retamozzo
Joel and Joslyn Retamozzo

BethMarie Retamozzo, 34, had been fighting since May 2011 for custody of the children, Joslyn and Joel Retamozzo, whose guardianship she voluntarily gave to her mother in 2009 when Retamozzo went into the military.

Since then, the courts have questioned her ability to care for the children, and her attempts to regain custody have been "long and ongoing," according to her lawyer, Ernie Hilton.

Waterville police Chief Joseph Massey said Monday he believed the children's grandparents, Pamela and Kevin Taylor, of Fairfield, had traveled to South Carolina to retrieve the children from the South Carolina Department of Social Services, where they have been held since Saturday. A spokesperson for the department said Monday that the children were no longer in custody there.

When Joslyn Retamozzo, 7, and her brother Joel, 6, disappeared Thursday, police said they were concerned about the children's safety but would not say why.

Hilton said he could not disclose the name of the supervisor present at the visit in which Retamozzo disappeared with the children, and police also have declined to give the name of the supervisor. However, court documents lists Jen Dore, Retamozzo's landlord, as the only supervisor the court had approved.

The most recent decision in the custody case for the two children, which was handled by Somerset County probate court on Aug. 8, allowed Retamozzo to develop a list of acceptable supervisors that were required to also be approved by the court or a court-appointed lawyer to represent the interest of the children.

Visits were allowed to include overnight visits at Retamozzo's home or a supervisor's home.

The court order, issued by probate judge John Alsop after a June 27 hearing, concluded that the children's grandparents would continue to hold guardianship of the children. Retamozzo had been seeking full custody of the children, but Alsop decided against allowing that.

"A child is at risk when his or her parent fails to recognize danger, denies obvious facts, lies to the court appointed guardian and is also willing to lie in court," Alsop wrote.

Alsop wrote that Retamozzo lacked credibility when testifying and had given false statements to authorities. Court records also show that she made statements about wanting to kill herself and her children and inappropriately touching her 6-year-old son.

In addition, court records show that Retamozzo has a protection order against her boyfriend, Sanders Svenson. In one incident described in court documents, Svenson is reported to have hit Joslyn with a belt and to have exposed himself to the 7-year-old girl.

Alsop wrote that he did not believe Retamozzo's explanations regarding Svenson's appearance with her in certain locations. The court order bars Svenson from being present during any visits with the children.

"For reasons unfathomable to the court, she would rather have Sven in her life than to reunite with her children," the probate judge wrote.

One week after that court decision, one of those visits didn't go as planned. On Thursday, Retamozzo and the children never showed up at the park where they were supposed to meet the supervisor.

Supervision in focus

There are no clear laws for designating a supervisor or for holding supervisors accountable, according to James Burke, a law professor at the University of Maine School of Law.

The Department of Health and Human Services gets involved in probate court cases only if the court orders it to do so, department spokesman John Martins said. He said the department was not involved in the supervision of visits in this case. Court records show that the department is involved in other aspects of the case, such as providing counseling services.

Retamozzo, who has been charged with two counts of criminal restraint by a parent, a class C felony, is being held at the Colleton County Detention Center in Walterboro, S.C., according to Bridget Wyant, spokeswoman for the South Carolina Highway Patrol.

Her children, who were found by South Carolina Highway Patrol officers at 10:15 p.m. Saturday sleeping in their mother's van at a rest stop off Interstate 95's southbound lanes, were reported to be safe, according to Massey.

Burke said there are a number of challenges to appointing supervisors in custody cases, regardless of whether the children may be considered in "jeopardy," a term that refers to concerns about the welfare of the children. Overall, he said, the court system is overwhelmed with cases similar to the Retamozzos' and doesn't have enough people, money, time or other resources to handle the specifics of supervision.

The problem is not just legal, but social, he said. Burke said the court almost never appoints someone, but rather the two parties involved select someone they agree upon to supervise the visits.

"There are problems in highly conflicted family matters where a supervisor is needed, but the problem is that there is nothing in place to provide that supervisor," Burke said.

There are no criteria or screening processes for the person who supervises the visits, although some nonprofit groups work to provide such people, Burke said.

He said the system operates under the assumption that people will behave maturely, but sometimes that doesn't happen.

There is also no simple definition of "supervision," Burke said. It is not unheard of for a parent to drive the children to or from the area where they will be supervised, he said.

"What works in one circumstance might not work in another," he said.

Hilton said the last few months have been distressing for BethMarie Retamozzo, who has five other children, including a 2-year-old daughter of whom she has legal custody, and that her attempts to regain the custody of Josyln and Joel have been long and drawn-out.

"It has been an incredibly distressing situation for her, especially since she could have her baby but not the other two children," Hilton said.

Annalee Bloom, an attorney appointed by the state to represent the interests of Joslyn and Joel Retamozzo in court, said she had no comment on the situation.

Source: Morning Sentinel

Voluntary Agreements

September 6, 2012 permalink

Those voluntary agreements under which parents turn over their children to child protection agencies are rarely voluntary. An investigation by the Des Moines Register shows how coercion is used to extract the agreements. A commentary by Robert Franklin follows. Use of coerced voluntary agreements allows child protectors to bypass the courts and cook the foster care numbers.



Two parents sue Iowa DHS over kids removed from homes

Lawsuits challenge the use of 'voluntary agreements' signed by parents who have lost their legal rights

Karen Burkhart
Coming Monday: Karen Burkhart of Wellman, Ia., was a foster parent for her granddaughter for 20 months after her son surrendered his parental rights. But then a state adoption worker decided Burkhart and her husband wouldn't be able to adopt the child. Burkhart is struggling to adopt young Michelle. / LEE ROOD/THE REGISTER

State social workers have taken custody of children even when there is no proof of harm by a parent or caregiver, according to two lawsuits filed against the Iowa Department of Human Services.

The lawsuits also allege children are being removed from their homes based on voluntary agreements signed by parents who are no longer the child’s legal guardian.

In a Johnson County case, mother Jessica Wilbur was forced to file a court petition seeking the return of her 8-year-old daughter after the girl’s father alleged child abuse that turned out to be unfounded in 2009. The girl’s father had signed a voluntary placement agreement putting the girl in foster care, but he was not her custodial parent.

“I didn’t understand why I even needed to hire a lawyer,” said Wilbur, the girl’s custodial parent, who now lives in Texas. “I had done nothing wrong.”

Since major changes to Iowa’s child welfare system began in earnest in 2005, DHS workers have had parents and caregivers sign more voluntary agreements to remove children from their homes and place them in foster care. The use of voluntary agreements sidesteps formal oversight and intervention by juvenile court judges.

Roger Munns, a spokesman for DHS, said child-protective workers seek voluntary placements with relatives or foster care parents as a first option — the idea being to immediately get cooperation from parents — if they believe there is abuse, neglect or other unsafe conditions at home. And parents sometimes sign the agreements because a DHS worker has concluded a child is unsafe, meaning that an out-of-home placement is required.

But the state agency is now under fire over its increased use of those voluntary agreements, which result in children being placed in foster care.

Attorney Natalie Cronk of Iowa City has filed two lawsuits targeting the voluntary placement agreements and safety plans, which she says allow children to be taken from custodial parents with no proof they are unsafe.

“The ultimate goal of the children-welfare system, according to federal law, is supposed to be to keep a child safe in their own home,” said Cronk, who said she has come across several such cases. “But there has been this burden-shifting going on in Iowa that requires the parent or guardian to prove their house is safe, but not really defining what safety is.”

In the case of Wilbur, the Johnson County mother, the lawsuit alleges that DHS retaliated against the mother’s fight to get her child back with a “baseless” child abuse investigation.

In a Polk County case, a mother, Tiffany Koder, who lost custody of her two children in a contentious split with her ex-husband, Lance Brown, later alleged abuse by Brown and his new wife. A child-protective worker later had Koder sign a safety plan that prohibited Brown and Bailey Brown from having contact with their kids, despite the fact that Lance Brown was their legal guardian. “No one from DHS informed Lance that Tiffany had signed a safety plan that prevented him from having contact with his children,” Cronk’s lawsuit on behalf of Brown says.

Hospital and DHS workers later found no signs of abuse by Brown or the stepmother, but DHS put one of the children in foster care in 2010 anyway using a voluntary placement agreement signed by the mother. Brown did not get both children back for 83 days, Cronk said.

In both cases, Cronk is seeking a court order stopping DHS from “taking possession and control” of any child from parents who don’t have custodial rights — and seeking damages against DHS workers who do.

DHS has said in its defense that social workers cannot know who has custody when they respond to allegations of abuse.

Wendy Rickman, a DHS administrator overseeing child-protective services, said she could not discuss pending legal cases. However, she said, the growing use of voluntary agreements stems from “huge” criticism, from the federal government and families, that the agency was not doing enough to engage families.

DHS: Focus is family- centered policies

After several high-profile child deaths in the early 2000s, DHS was deluged with child-abuse reports, and Iowa’s child-welfare system was on the brink of buckling from high caseloads, lack of funds, high turnover, lackluster results and too few resources. DHS’s mantra, coined by its director at the time, was: “When in doubt, take the child out.”

Former Gov. Tom Vilsack hired private consultants to seek new efficiencies in state government, and DHS decided to focus the lion’s share of attention on young children who were most at risk.

Today, in the highest-risk cases, prosecutors file formal Child In Need of Assistance petitions on behalf of DHS, seeking to make the child a ward of the state. Many of those children wind up in foster or group homes, and their cases are subject to strict federal time lines to find permanency for the child.

“A (Child In Need of Assistance) petition in court is basically a lawsuit against parents,” Rickman said.

For the bulk of lower-risk cases, DHS uses a range of voluntary services, like counseling and parenting classes, dubbed Community Care, designed to keep the child safe in the home. Workers also rely more heavily on safety plans, written up to put safeguards around children deemed “conditionally” safe. Finally, the voluntary placement agreements lead to more at-risk kids being temporarily moved outside their homes.

Since 2005, the number of Iowa children in foster care has dropped by about 35 percent, according to new numbers released this summer by the Children’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Top DHS officials like Rickman say the lower foster care numbers reflect a concerted effort to work more closely with families on a volunteer basis, become more transparent and keep children safe in the home, if possible.

At the same time, child abuse numbers nationally and in Iowa have been declining, and many of the child-safety benchmarks measured in Iowa by the federal government have improved.

But more states also have been using voluntary placement agreements, leading some experts to question whether the lower statistics of children in foster care are accurate, since those numbers do not reflect cases not under formal court supervision.

As of 2011, Iowa still ranked fifth-highest in the nation in the rate of children placed in foster care per 1,000 population. That figure does not include those in voluntary placements because they are not “official” foster care cases overseen in juvenile court.

About 28 percent of the children who were in foster care as of the end of June began as voluntary placements.

Do voluntary plans violate rights?

Cronk insists voluntary placement agreements and safety plans violate parents’ rights, but she says parents sign them anyway because they risk permanently losing their children.

How the state uses voluntary placement agreements also bothers those who act as guardian ad litems, or lawyers for children in abuse cases, such as Michael Sorci, who heads the Youth Law Center in Des Moines. Sorci says he is wary of the cases because children don’t have their own advocates, and DHS workers, not judges, make all the decisions.

“Maybe they make sense for cases that are very short in nature,” he said. “But what’s the sense in letting them go on months and months, unless you want to keep it out of courts?”

Sorci said he’s seen the DHS enter into voluntary service agreements on meth, sexual abuse and domestic violence cases. That leaves him concerned about whether children are being returned to unsafe homes.

Some advocates have argued persistently that without the protection and advocacy guaranteed by law, any agreement proffered by an agency wielding power over a child’s custody can seem like a gun to the head.

For years, advocates of parents’ rights like Richard Wexler of the National Coalition for Child Welfare Reform have blasted Iowa’s DHS for a consistently high rate of removing children from homes compared to the state’s child population.

Now Wexler and other advocates question whether voluntary placement agreements, used when a child is considered unsafe, and similar “safety plans,” used when a child is considered only conditionally safe, are helping Iowa and other states report even fewer kids in care to the federal government.

“This is what I have come to call the foster care twilight zone,” Wexler said. “Federal regulations say if a child is out of the home for more than 24 hours, that child has entered foster care.”

Diane Redleaf heads the Family Defense Center in Chicago, the only nonprofit of its kind in the country devoted to protecting parents’ rights in child-welfare cases. Her agency won a class-action lawsuit against the state of Illinois in 2005 over the use of voluntary safety plans, which she said is Illinois’ equivalent to Iowa’s voluntary removals.

The Illinois case was overturned the next year by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that any safety plan is voluntary under the law.

“The result is that our state still has open-ended discretion to do whatever they want to a child,” she said. “These are complete end-runs around due process rights of both the parent and the child.”

Rickman said Iowa law limits voluntary placements to 90 days. After that, a child must go home or be placed officially in foster care. The state keeps no data on how many children are placed outside the home through safety plans.

Regardless of the actual numbers of kids in out-of-home care, Rickman conceded Iowa’s rate of removing children from homes is still too high. “But we are heading in the right direction,” she said.

To bring more balance to voluntary cases, DHS does try to engage parents in family team meetings, particularly when decisions are made about a child’s placement or if safety factors change in a given home, Rickman said. The meetings attempt to bring all key players in a child-welfare case together, including advocates for children and parents, to resolve factors that put a child at risk.

Rickman said she believes DHS workers are even more mindful today about the rights of parents and wishes of family members who want to help care for at-risk kids. “Ten years ago, we never asked if there was an aunt or uncle who could care for a child,” she said.

At the same time, the use of more voluntary placement and services has allowed DHS to ween its focus to the most critical cases, and rid itself of a once-long waiting list for children who need to be placed in foster homes and shelter care.

“It is a matter of trying to find balance,” she said. “I think we are in very stable shape.”

Source: Des Moines Register

Iowa’s Use of ‘Voluntary’ Safety Plans for Children Obscures Rate of Foster Placement

The State of Iowa is using “voluntary” safety plans for children to give the appearance that its Department of Human Services has lowered its rate of taking children into foster care. Read about it here (Des Moines Register, 9/1/12).

Back in June I wrote here about Texas’ use of “voluntary” plans to circumvent the due process of law afforded parents by courts. In the Lone Star State, Child Protective Services had gotten so bad about ignoring due process that the federal Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals told it to reform. The habit had been to simply declare that an emergency existed in a child’s life. That allowed the agency to have an ex parte hearing before a judge, produce whatever evidence it wanted with no fear of contradiction, and get an order taking the child into foster care. Parents and judges objected, and the Fifth Circuit told CPS to stop the practice.

So it did. But instead of affording parents due process rights, it went the opposite way, affording them less, not more, due process. It did that via “voluntary” safety plans for the children. Typically, parents are now confronted with two options. The first is agreeing to have their children taken by CPS temporarily. The second is that they can assert their rights to a court hearing, but CPS makes it clear that they will always have a target on their back. CPS will then do everything in its power to get the children away from the parents. Faced with that choice, the parents often agree to what looks like the lesser of two evils – the “voluntary” safety plan, only to find out that “temporary” was a lot longer than they thought.

Some advocates have argued persistently that without the protection and advocacy guaranteed by law, any agreement proffered by an agency wielding power over a child’s custody can seem like a gun to the head…

“Maybe they make sense for cases that are very short in nature,” [child advocate Michael Sorci] said. “But what’s the sense in letting them go on months and months, unless you want to keep it out of courts?”

Now it seems that these so-called voluntary plans have become all the rage among child welfare caseworkers in other states. Parents in Illinois sued to try to stop the practice, but an appellate court ruled against them. In Iowa, they’re being used just as they are in Texas; parents are intimidated into signing the plan that results in the loss of their children for month, years and sometimes permanently. But Iowa has developed yet another insidious use for the “voluntary” plans. Since the plans exist solely between the parents and the agency, no court is involved, and where no court is involved, there’s no record of the children even being in foster care. That is, the state doesn’t report the matter to the federal government, allowing it to claim a reduction in foster care placements.

For years, Iowa led the nation in its rate of taking children from their parents. Indeed, the watchword of one governor was “When in doubt, take the child out.” With that as the rule in cases of alleged abuse or neglect, it’s no surprise that Iowans saw an epidemic of taking children into foster care. That habit drew fire, and now the state can claim a 35% decrease in takings since 2005. But how much of that decrease really reflects the secrecy that accompanies “voluntary” safety plans that never see the inside of a courthouse, and thus are never reported to the federal government?

But Iowa doesn’t stop at merely intimidating parents in order to circumvent their due process rights and make DHS figures look better than before. These “voluntary” plans aren’t just Dickensian in their capacity for abuse, sometimes they’re downright strange. In a way I flat don’t understand, Iowa DHS actually manages to obtain the “voluntary” relinquishment of parental rights, not by the person relinquishing the rights, but by someone with no custodial rights to the child. That involves legal gymnastics the article doesn’t describe and I can’t imagine.

In a Polk County case, a mother, Tiffany Koder, who lost custody of her two children in a contentious split with her ex-husband, Lance Brown, later alleged abuse by Brown and his new wife. A child-protective worker later had Koder sign a safety plan that prohibited Brown and Bailey Brown from having contact with their kids, despite the fact that Lance Brown was their legal guardian. “No one from DHS informed Lance that Tiffany had signed a safety plan that prevented him from having contact with his children,” [attorney Natalie] Cronk’s lawsuit on behalf of Brown says.

Hospital and DHS workers later found no signs of abuse by Brown or the stepmother, but DHS put one of the children in foster care in 2010 anyway using a voluntary placement agreement signed by the mother. Brown did not get both children back for 83 days, Cronk said.

I can’t see any explanation that allows one divorced parent to voluntarily limit the parental rights of her ex, but Iowa DHS seems to do it with impunity. That’s why Cronk has sued DHS on behalf of two different parents, for violations of their federal civil rights due to the outrageous behavior of caseworkers.

The more we see of child welfare agencies, the more dangerous, incompetent and petty they look. Our legitimate concern for children’s well-being has turned governmental power against families with the unsurprising result that both parents and children suffer. Child protective agencies operate with far too little oversight as it is and their preference for taking children from parents is well-known. What needs to change is the mindset of the agencies nationwide. The internal workings of CPS need to be a matter of public record. Redact children’s names if necessary, but knowledge of what the adults at every level of those agencies are doing must be available to all. And resources must be redirected toward helping parents care properly for their kids and away from ever greater utilization of foster care.

The destruction of families by governmental power is one of the great scandals of current-day America and that power must be brought to heel sooner rather than later.

Source: Fathers and Families, Robert Franklin

Welfare Cheats

September 6, 2012 permalink

The state of Georgia is figuring out what fixcas has been reporting for years: the real welfare cheats are not single mothers, but agencies drawing on appropriated funds for fake or unnecessary cases. Columbus Georgia DFCS workers Deborah Cobb and Phyllis Mitchell have been arrested and charged with falsifying child abuse reports.



Georgia: Fraud Suspected at Family Services

The state is investigating whether child-protection officials falsified records to qualify for millions of dollars in federal money. Agents raided a Division of Family and Children Services office in Columbus on Wednesday and issued arrest warrants for two former officials. The former director, Deborah Cobb, and a protective services supervisor, Phyllis Mitchell, were charged with destroying, changing and falsifying child abuse reports. They are suspected of having falsified reports to make it seem as if they had met federal rules for investigating abuse in a timely way.

Source: New York Times

An analysis by Robert Franklin is enclosed along with two articles he refers to.



GA: Child Welfare Managers Arrested, Charged with Falsifying Child Abuse Documents

State and federal law enforcement agents raided the Muscogee County, Georgia offices of the Department of Family and Children Services this past Wednesday. They hauled off boxes of records and arrested the former acting director of the office and its intake supervisor. Read about it here (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 9/5/12).

The former director, Deborah Cobb, and child protective services supervisor, Phyllis Mitchell, are charged with destroying, delaying, changing and falsifying child abuse reports, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

At least some of those charges are felonies.

Strangely, the commissioner of the state Department of Human Services either totally misunderstands the nature of the alleged wrongdoing, or was tossing out a red herring for the news media when the Columbus Ledger-Inquirer asked him to comment.

In a statement obtained by The Columbus Ledger-Inquirer, Commissioner Clyde L. Reese III of the state Department of Human Services, which oversees DFCS offices, referred to possible allegations that the Muscogee office may have reduced numbers of abused children entering the state system…

“No DHS employee has any reason or incentive to hide allegations or abuse or neglect in order to lower the number of children and families to be entered into the state system,” Reese said. “DHS will cooperate fully with all federal and state authorities in their investigation.”

That’s right, which might have led Reese to consider the possibility that reducing the number of children in the system isn’t what the two are alleged to have done. After all, how would that serve to increase funding for the agency? It wouldn’t; in fact, it would have the opposite effect. Why would an employee do that? No reason I can see.

So we have to turn to this article to find out what’s actually alleged to have occurred (WRBL, 9/7/12). In fact, the women are alleged to have falsified dates on DFCS documentation to make it appear that cases were handled timely that weren’t. By being handled timely, the agency was able to receive federal money that wouldn’t flow if cases were handled tardily.

To their credit, apparently it was DCFS employees who blew the whistle on their superiors. More arrests may follow as Cobb and Mitchell are now being termed “ringleaders” of others.

What’s unknown at this point is how, if at all, the allegedly falsified records affected children’s well-being or prosecutors’ ability to bring criminal actions against parents or others who harmed children. Of course, falsified records could easily do just that, but the investigation has just gotten under way.

I suppose I don’t need to say that of course this was about money. The two, if they did what they’re charged with doing, plainly wanted to keep those federal dollars flowing, and seem to have stooped to some illegal and possibly injurious methods to make sure they did. If the truth be known, they probably have some superiors of their own who made it clear just what the consequences would be if the flow of greenbacks slowed. We’ll see.

Source: Fathers and Families, Robert Franklin

DFCS office in Columbus raided

State and federal agents raided a state Division of Family and Children Services office in west Georgia on Wednesday as part of an investigation into whether officials falsified records to get millions of dollars in federal funding.

Arrest warrants were issued for a former acting director and an intake supervisor at the Muscogee County DFCS in Columbus. The former director, Deborah Cobb, and child protective services supervisor, Phyllis Mitchell, are charged with destroying, delaying, changing and falsifying child abuse reports, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

In a statement obtained by The Columbus Ledger-Inquirer, Commissioner Clyde L. Reese III of the state Department of Human Services, which oversees DFCS offices, referred to possible allegations that the Muscogee office may have reduced numbers of abused children entering the state system.

Reece said the state agency stresses to all DHS employees — “in particular the Division of Families and Children Services child welfare and social services’ staff” - that safety of all children is the fundamental guiding principle.

“No DHS employee has any reason or incentive to hide allegations or abuse or neglect in order to lower the number of children and families to be entered into the state system,” Reese said. “DHS will cooperate fully with all federal and state authorities in their investigation.”

Child protective services offices must follow certain guidelines in evaluating and responding to abuse allegations to receive federal funding. The GBI said some of the record-keeping deals with how timely child abuse investigations are launched.

The federal Department of Health and Human Services had withdrawn funding from the DFCS for failure to maintain proper records on child abuse. The west Georgia office, however, later submitted new documents and data showing it had met compliance requirements. Federal funding was then restored.

District Attorney Julia Slater of the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit sought the GBI’s assistance in investigating the DFCS office on Aug. 15 after learning that Health and Human Services and the Office of Inspector General had launched an investigation.

The GBI did not say how much money was involved. Falsifying the records is a felony.

Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution

DFCS employees helped lead to supervisors' arrests

boxes of altered documents

COLUMBUS, Ga. -- Department of Family and Children Services whistleblowers helped lead to Wednesday's arrests of two Muscogee County Child Protective Services supervisors.

Forty-eight year-old Deborah Cobb and 54-year-old Phyllis Mitchell are on paid administrative leave from the agency pending the outcome of the investigation.

DFCS employees alleged the two women were ringleaders in an effort to alter, delay and destroy reports to meet internal guidelines and receive grant money.

Officials said employees allegedly saw reports with original dates scratched out and replaced with earlier ones, to make it look like the department was responding faster than they actually were.

Dozens of boxes allegedly containing numerous falsified child abuse reports were wheeled out of the Muscogee County DFCS office and are now in the hands of federal agents.

Muscogee County Sheriff John Darr said he was concerned after learning of the allegations. "For me, what was one of the most bothersome thing is the type of cases that we're talking about. You know when you're talking about child abuse cases that's one of the most serious things."

Darr said when there are gaps in reporting that can affect the prosecutor’s case if it goes to trial. “You know when you have something like that going on... I don't want to say the system breaks down, but you got some serious issues going on... with the quality of people working in your organization."

Cobb served as Muscogee DFCS Acting Director for 18 months before becoming Director of Social Services.

Mitchell has worked with the Department of Human Services for nearly 13 years. In 2010 she became an intake supervisor.

Sheriff Darr said right now, it's difficult to know if their alleged actions put young kids in jeopardy of being victimized again, but if officers don't get information they can't do their job.

"When we have these kind of reports of these kind of allegations it's just going to force us, in my opinion to just make sure we're looking at them a little bit deeper and a little bit harder,” Darr said.

Investigators will be pouring over the documents to see if they match the electronic records. They will also be looking at whether some abuse allegations were actually addressed at all even though the system may indicate that they were.

More arrests could be made in the future, but that depends on what officials discover moving forward.

Source: WRBL News 3

Addendum: Cobb and Mitchell have been reinstated to their jobs, where prosecutors fear they may erase the evidence of their own wrongdoing.



Prosecutors fear for evidence after DFCS pair reinstated in Georgia

Phyllis Mitchell and Deborah Cobb
Former Department of Child Services employees Phyllis Mitchell and Deborah Cobb sit through a hearing Monday afternoon with Cobb's Attorney Stacey Jackson seated behind. Not pictured is Mitchell's attorney Clark Adams.

The Georgia Division of Family and Children Services has reinstated two workers arrested last year for falsifying documents at its Muscogee County office, prompting prosecutors to seek a court order Monday denying the pair access to any records related to their case.

The case stems from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation's raiding the local office on Sept. 5, 2012, to seize records related to child abuse. They arrested Deborah Cobb, who for 18 months had been the office's acting director, and Phyllis Mitchell, an intake supervisor. Each was charged with felony false swearing and falsifying documents, authorities said.

Investigators suspect the two of concealing evidence of child abuse to cut the number of new reports. The division commonly referred to as DFCS operates under the state's Department of Human Services, or DHS.

"No DHS employee has any reason or incentive to hide allegations of abuse or neglect in order to lower the number of children and families to be entered into the state system," department commissioner Clyde Reese III said at the time.

Initially the two were suspended, but prosecutors learned Nov. 19 that they had been reinstated, though not in Muscogee County. Cobb, 47, now works at the agency's Harris County office, and Mitchell, 55, is in Chattahoochee County, their attorneys said.

Both went back to work about a month ago, with neither now in child protective services, lawyers said.

Assistant District Attorneys Letitia Sikes and William Hocutt IV filed motions Nov. 21 asking Superior Court Judge Gil McBride to ensure the suspects have no access to a database the state uses to track child abuse reports. The computer network is known as "SHINES," and the two are accused of using it to falsify reports.

Sikes told McBride the workers are accused not only of falsifying records themselves, but of directing others to do so.

Hocutt said authorities seized about six months' worth of records when they raided the Muscogee DFCS office last year, but more records likely will be needed and those could be at risk if not preserved.

In the motion, Sikes wrote: "Defendants will have access to records and personnel and will be able to destroy, modify or falsify evidence in the pending criminal cases." She asked that McBride "ensure defendants have no contact with evidence that is the subject of this investigation or which may become the subject of investigation and no contact with material witnesses."

Columbus attorney Clark Adams represents Mitchell, and attorney Stacey Jackson represents Cobb. Each said his client no longer has access to the SHINES database. They work in training and use only training programs, the attorneys said.

Hocutt said prosecutors have been getting little cooperation in their inquiries about the workers' current assignments. "Our issue is we have no idea what they're doing," he said.

Representing DFCS was Special Assistant Attorney General Sherry Goodrum. "These are internal matters," she said of the women's current positions. The agency considers them innocent until proved guilty, she said. Neither worker yet has been indicted, though Hocutt said he expects to take the case to a grand jury in the next two weeks.

McBride granted most of the prosecutors' requests. He ordered the workers to gain no access to SHINES or any other DFCS database, to stay out of the Muscogee DFCS office, to have no contact with workers in the Muscogee office and no access to that office's records. He also ordered DFCS to preserve any evidence related to the case.

He was ordering the defendants to have no contact with anyone who previously worked in the Muscogee DFCS office when Jackson objected that Cobb's current church pastor used to work in there, so that would mean she couldn't go to church.

Adams said a former Muscogee DFCS worker is now assigned to the Chattahoochee County office, so Mitchell could not go to work were she ordered to stay away from that employee.

McBride amended the order to say each defendant was not to discuss the case with any coworker and to have no contact with witnesses in the case.

Adams said no list of witnesses yet exists. Hocutt said one will be provided.

"It's a long list, I can tell you that," he added.

Another hearing in the case has been set for Dec. 19.

Source: Columbus Ledger Enquirer

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The Silence of the Grands

September 1, 2012 permalink

How should a grandparent react when a boy breaks his jaw? According to social workers, the best reaction is to avoid discussing the injury with the child. Christopher Booker discusses this and many other ridiculous rules made by social workers for visits between foster children and family.



Don’t ask your grandson how his jaw got broken, say social workers

An alarming story about a boy in foster care raises concern over 'child protection'

child in care
Distressing: alarm has been sounded over the treatment of some children taken into care
Photo: ALAMY

A chilling recent episode exemplifies what, to an outsider, is yet another a shocking feature of our state “child protection” system. This is the ruthless way in which, when children are taken into care, social workers try to drive a wedge between their new charges and members of their families who have done them no harm and are closer to them than anyone else in the world.

Last month, an 11-year-old boy was taken to the seaside by his foster carer. There he was attacked on the beach by a gang of teenagers who left him to be taken to hospital with a broken nose and jaw. No one was more concerned to hear about this than his grandmother, into whose care he and his 16-year-old sister had been given when they were removed from her former daughter-in-law and her new partner for abuse and neglect.

When the girl ran away from home after a verbal tiff, she was taken into care. Shortly afterwards, a Romanian social worker arrived at the boy’s school to remove him as well. Terrified, he tried to escape by scaling a 12ft fence, crying, “I want my nan!” She had given him the only real sense of loving security in his life. From then on, the grandmother was only allowed to see the boy at occasional contact sessions, closely watched by a social worker in a council contact centre.

As is not uncommon in such circumstances, they were both made to sign a long list of conditions on which continuing contact could be allowed. Expressions of affection must be limited to a “brief hug” at the beginning and end of each session, which had to be initiated by the boy. They were forbidden to make any reference to his “case” or why he was in care. There must be “no whispering”. No reference must be made to his foster home or social workers. The boy could not be shown photographs except by written permission obtained in advance. Any breach of these or some 15 other rules would end all contact. His grandmother was forbidden to have contact with him in any other way.

When she heard two weeks ago that he had left hospital after the assault, she asked to be allowed to see him. She was told they would be allowed a brief “one-off contact”, but only on condition that no reference was made to his injuries or what happened on the beach. When the grandmother called the police to ask whether any charges were to be brought against the boys responsible for assaulting her grandson, she was told they were to take no further action, on the advice of the social workers who had “parental responsibility” for the boy.

Again and again, I have heard how social workers impose almost totalitarian control over how contact sessions are conducted. Frequently, children look terrified as they try to remember everything they have been told, by social workers or foster carers, that they must not talk about. When families are foreign, they are strictly forbidden to speak to each other in the language normally used at home.

On one occasion, where a distressed 10-year-old girl told her parents that she had been sexually interfered with by a foster carer’s 19-year-old son, the contact was immediately terminated and the parents never saw her again. When this was reported to a judge, he waved it aside as of no concern.

How many of our MPs (apart from John Hemming) have any idea that the state system routinely treats children in this inhuman way? Politicians gave social workers the opportunity to abuse their power like this, through the Children Act. It is only, alas, politicians who can end the appalling mess that they thus unwittingly called into being.

Source: Telegraph (UK)

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