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Hitting Where it Hurts
December 31, 2013 permalink
Steve Reh's parents were unable to cope with his spina bifida, so he grew up in the Southwestern Regional Centre in Blenheim Ontario. When he was in pain, staffers asked him where it hurt. They hit him exactly in the place he pointed to.
Ex-Southwestern Regional Centre resident alleges rampant abuse at ‘the joint’
Steve Reh painfully recalls his childhood living in what he calls “a prison without bars,” as a resident of the Southwestern Regional Centre.
A morning wake-up call could be a cold bucket of water splashed in your face, he said, and brutal beatings and electric shocks were common during the day. And when you went to bed – some nights without dinner – you found you weren’t always alone under your blanket, he said, as that was often the time when sexual abusers would strike.
“It was basically hell encased in a building,” said Reh. “Waking up, you would just think: ‘OK, what’s going to happen to me today? Am I going to get hit again?’ You could never have nice thoughts. Ever.”
Reh is one of at least eight former residents who are from the Windsor area and are involved in a class-action lawsuit against the province for physical and emotional abuse that is alleged to have taken place at the centre. The lawsuit alleges the centre – for people with physical and developmental disabilities – failed to properly care for and protect the residents from physical and mental harm, and that the plaintiffs are emotionally and psychologically traumatized by their experiences.
A tentative settlement of $12.1 million was reached last week and still has to be approved by a judge. The allegations made in the lawsuit have not been proven in court. Reh said not all the staff participated in the abuse.
Reh, 50, has spina bifida and has been in a wheelchair his entire life. He became a resident of Southwestern Regional, located near Chatham, at the age of seven, and remained there for more than 10 years.
Prior to living at the facility, he resided in a group home. His parents had sent him there because they were unable to deal with his disability.
But one day he was swiftly moved to the Southwestern Regional with no explanation.
“At first, not much happened, but as the years would go on, I would either experience or see all kinds of abuse, be it sexual, emotional, physical, you know, whatever,” Reh said Saturday during an interview from his east Windsor apartment, where he lives with his wife Candi. “Like everything you could imagine that’s wrong, it was that.”
He said he was hit hard by workers, which left bruises for days, and for no apparent reason.
“Just for the hell of it, they would hit you, just to get their damn kicks,” said Reh. He said although it thankfully never happened to him, he witnessed some residents abused with what he described as cattle prods, a high-voltage electric shock used for herding cattle.
He said residents were only called out by their last name, if not by obscenities and insults like “Get over here, idiot.”
And he said complaining or showing any type of weakness was out of the question.
He recalled once when he was curled up in bed in pain, a worker came to inspect him and asked where it hurt. He said the worker told him to put his hands at his side so he could take a look.
Reh said the worker then punched him right where he had been hurting.
“If they hit any harder, they probably could have cracked my ribs,” said Reh. “So if I was in pain, I suffered through it, which was a lot less painful than what I might get afterwards. So I just began to build myself a little wall.”
As Reh spoke, his voice cracked, and he reached out several times to hold hands with Candi, who was sitting beside him on a couch in their living room.
“And the sexual abuse, well you can imagine what that entailed, I’m sure,” said Reh. “I was violated in every which way…. It’s a subject I don’t care too much to talk about.”
Now a short, middle-aged man with long, wispy, neatly combed grey hair, Reh refers to the centre as “the joint.”
He said he once tried seeking help from a worker in another ward, but that worker reported it back to the workers he was complaining about, and they beat him harder than ever.
He said he considered suicide twice while a resident of the facility, and one time held a razor blade inches from his wrist.
“There’d be no one I could turn to,” said Reh. “For lack of a better term, it was a prison without bars.”
He said one of the worst things he witnessed occurred one night while workers were playing cards. A blind child was sitting nearby, minding his own business rocking back and forth on the ground.
Then one of the workers got up from the game of cards and kicked the blind boy in the head with shoes that had high platform heels, Reh said.
“He rammed the kid’s head and about five minutes later, there’s blood coming down his face.”
Another time, he said, a boy was having a seizure and none of the workers were aware of it.
“Where the hell were they? Playing their little games,” said Reh. “So I had to go get one of them. He could have died.”
When Reh was 17, a couple attended the facility to adopt someone. When Reh met with them, he said it was like love at first sight and he knew that they had chosen him.
“They basically saved me,” said Reh. He remembers being adopted on a mid-December day in 1980.
He has never been back to the centre since.
“For about a dozen years after I left, I’d have flashbacks so crystal clear that an image would replace what I’m seeing, just in broad daylight, and it was like a constant reel of kids being beaten or whatever,” said Reh.
He said being at the facility made him paranoid. He could not trust anybody, and said he didn’t disclose any of the details of his abusive past to anybody.
He said he would flinch if someone came close to him and was always on edge.
He said he moved out onto his own in his mid 20s and became an alcoholic – an attempt, he said, “to bury it and just try to forget it all.”
But then he met Candi and her son John, who was seven at the time, and his life changed.
He said he thought he would never see the day when the facility would close, or he would be a plaintiff in a case against the province for what happened to him there.
The facility operated from 1961 to 2008. The class-action lawsuit was launched in December 2010.
Candi said Reh was sobbing happy tears when a tentative settlement in the case was reached last week. Thousands of former residents will be eligible for compensation if the settlement’s approved.
The tentative deal came after the province agreed to a $35-million settlement in a similar case involving former residents of the Huronia Regional Centre, a facility that also provided treatment and care for persons with developmental disabilities. That settlement included a written apology from Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne.
Reh said he feels justice is being served.
“Oh yeah,” said Reh, raising his fist in the air. “Finally, something’s being done. And thank God that place is finally closed.”
Source: Windsor Star
December 30, 2013 permalink
The granddaughter of Chris York's wife was apprehended at birth by FACS Niagara. He intends to fight the apprehension in court today. FACS made no effort to place the baby with family before apprehending.
Source: Facebook, Stop the CAS ...
Addendum: The case came to court on January 3 and was put over to January 20. Chris York's comment is enclosed.
Well court did not go as well as planned. It was put over until Jan 20th. I did manage a few things in court.
- Court will never be exceeding the 30 day adjournment rule as the CAS lawyer made it clear that he knew about section 51 and that I was going to enforce this at every date.
- CAS lawyer has agreed my wife and I have a vested interest in the case and that we wish to put forth our own plan of care for the child.
- Our motions were put over until that date to allow the mother of the child time to respond to them.
- I spoke with the CAS lawyer privately one on one and discussed the issues between myself and the CAS and the current issues. CAS stated their only issue with us having kinship is my flat out refusal to co-operate with the society which of course we know how well that went for them with me.
- It was made clear that at no time would they be getting any contact with my 2 children to interview them with regards to the kinship as they are not old enough to comprehend and they are not using this as a back door to gain access to them where they could not do so before.
I can not discuss more then this as it is now in court and I don't want to give my case away or violate 45(8) of the CFSA. thus far this post does not violate any laws or rules and there is nothing they can do about it.
I will update again after the next court date.
Source: Facebook, Stop the CAS ...
Foster Parents Injure Children
December 29, 2013 permalink
Medical insider doctor Terez Malka tells of injuries to children administered by their foster parents.
When children are abused by foster parents
I click open the x-ray viewer. After 4 years in emergency pediatrics, I am not really surprised that a tibia fracture underlies the bruised ankle I unexpectedly encountered on physical exam. Yet I audibly gasp as the chest x-ray loads. The torso in question belongs to a chubby little cherub of a 3-month-old in room 11, brought in for red eyes. I begin to count the fractured ribs — 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. I pause. That’s just the left side.
His 17-year-old mother sobs as the caseworker takes her son from her arms.
“He smiles when you kiss his face,” she calls as she’s escorted out of the ED, “and he likes it when you read him books. Someone has to read him books.” She looks towards me. I look down.
She admits to the social worker that she gets overwhelmed. His father, also 17, has a short temper. He works third shift, she works days. They pass the baby off. I don’t ask when they sleep.
“Having a baby,” she whispers, “is harder than I thought.”
I want to tell her not to worry. I want to tell her he’s in good hands, that he’s safe now, that someone will read to him and kiss his face and make him smile.
I don’t tell her about the toddler twins I admitted last week, profoundly dehydrated after days of not being fed by their foster parents.
I don’t tell her about the preteen I saw just hours ago, pushed out a second story window by her foster mother during an argument.
I don’t tell her that, on average, a child will spend 3 years in the foster care system and traverse through three placements before reuniting with their family. That he may be walking, talking, and calling someone else “mommy” by the time she’s able to navigate the court system and regain custody.
Statistics on abuse within the foster care system are nearly impossible to find, though anecdotes abound. This month, an 11-year-old foster child was found handcuffed on his front porch with a dead chicken hung around his neck. In 2003, a Pennsylvania foster mother was arrested after her foster daughter died of asphyxiation when duct tape was used to enforce a time-out. An inquiry into the Trenton, New Jersey foster care system that year found that up to 1 in 5 children within their foster system were abused at a foster home.
In Indianapolis, where I practice, the Department of Child Services (DCS) has undergone budget cut after budget cut over the past decade, $100 million in 2011, $16 million in 2012, and, most recently $10 million in 2013. The national turnover rate for DCS caseworkers is above 20%, with low salary, inadequate support, and excessive workload cited as the most common reasons for leaving. In my own encounters with DCS as a prospective adoptive parent, my caseworker changed three times over a 12 month period, with our final caseworker never responding to our emails. The social worker teaching our parenting course readily admitted at the start of our class that she had no experience with children, but had taken the job to cover until the position was filled.
I see extraordinary foster parents at my job every single day and have the honor of working with caseworkers who commit their lives to caring for and protecting children. I also witness the consequences when the system fails the very children it is charged with protecting.
So I don’t tell the young mother that her son is safe, that he’ll be cared for, that he’ll be back with her soon. “I’ll read to him,” I promise her.
S. Terez Malka is a pediatrics resident.
Source: Kevin MD
Two Years of Defying the Law in Kentucky
December 24, 2013 permalink
Kentucky has a law requiring disclosure of records in cases of child deaths. Years of foot-dragging by the state agency responsible for child protection has caused a judge to fine the agency $756,000. It sounds like a macho exercise of judicial power, but will have no effect. The money will be deducted from one account in the state treasury and added to another. No real change, and there will be no real disclosure. As we predicted nearly two years ago, there will be no disclosure unless the governor decides to invoke executive action.
Kentucky cabinet penalized $756,000 for 'willfully circumventing' child-abuse open records ruling, judge says
FRANKFORT, KY. — The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services must pay a $756,000 penalty after it “willfully circumvented” open-records laws by failing to fully release records on child abuse fatalities and near deaths, according to a scathing court order issued Monday.
Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd said the cabinet made a “mockery” of Kentucky’s Open Records Act by maintaining that documents — including dozens already in the public domain, such as reports that contain the identities of convicted child abusers — remain confidential.
His 56-page ruling orders the cabinet to pay statutory penalties and produce information it has withheld, arguing that the cabinet has demonstrated an unwillingness to comply with the law without “significant” court sanctions. The plaintiffs — The Courier-Journal and Lexington Herald-Leader — are also allowed to seek attorney fees.
The files are subject to open records law “to ensure both the cabinet and the public do everything possible to prevent the repeat of such tragedies in the future,” Shepherd wrote. “There can be no effective prevention when there is no public examination of the underlying facts.”
For nearly three years, The Courier-Journal and Herald-Leader have battled to obtain cases files in which children who were being monitored by the state died or nearly died from abuse or neglect.
The Courier-Journal requested the records to examine how state social services workers were handling those cases in the wake of reports that showed roughly 30 Kentucky children die each year of abuse and neglect, ranking the state among the highest in the nation in its rate of deaths.
Courier-Journal lawyer Jon Fleischaker called Monday’s order a “tremendous victory” and predicted that the combined attorney fees for both newspapers will exceed $200,000. He said the damages will likely be divided between the two newspapers.
“I have never seen a case that more warrants penalties,” Fleischaker said. “Hopefully this will send a message to both the cabinet and government in general ... that the open-records law means what it says.”
Gov. Steve Beshear’s office deferred all comment to the cabinet, which acknowledged receipt of the order but also refused comment. The cabinet has the right to appeal after the court enters a final judgment, which is expected in January.
While cabinet officials have turned over more than 20,000 documents related to scores of child deaths in Kentucky, they redacted details such as the names of perpetrators — even those convicted in open court or identified in police news releases. The cabinet also adopted emergency rules in an attempt to evade orders to disclose child abuse information, Shepherd said.
The cabinet has argued that it was following state and federal laws by protecting confidentiality in such cases.
But Shepherd said the cabinet clearly viewed the open-records law as “an obstacle to be circumvented, rather than a law mandating compliance” and argued that the redaction policy has continued a “veil of secrecy” in abuse cases.
He cited the case of a prematurely born Louisville infant, Rafe Calvert, who was found dead on an adult-sized pillow in his bassinet in 2010.
The cabinet originally ruled his death to be a result of medical neglect by his parents, who had missed numerous medical appointments and stopped using supplemental oxygen for the baby without a doctor’s authorization. But 3½ years later, the cabinet reclassified Rafe’s fatality as something other than medical neglect.
The judge also cited the case of Amy Dye, a 9-year-old Western Kentucky girl fatally bludgeoned in her adoptive home after state social service officials ignored a series of abuse complaints from school officials.
Source: Louisville Courier-Journal
Addendum: The judge has supplemented his order with an award of $301,000 to cover the legal bills of the newspapers.
Judge: State must pay newspapers $301,000 to cover legal bills in child-abuse records dispute
The state must pay $301,783 to Kentucky's two largest newspapers to cover their attorneys' fees in a court fight over records about children killed or badly hurt from child abuse, a judge ruled Tuesday.
Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd also refused to rescind his earlier order for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to pay a fine of $756,000 for willfully withholding public records from the Lexington Herald-Leader and The Courier-Journal of Louisville.
The cabinet is "reviewing" Shepherd's order, spokeswoman Jill Midkiff said Tuesday. She declined to comment further about the order, which could be appealed.
Shepherd strongly criticized the cabinet, saying its actions dragged out the case, which "vastly increased" what it must pay.
Shepherd said the cabinet refused to comply with the state's open-records law; sought unjustified emergency regulations to shield files; pursued unsuccessful attempts to switch the case to federal court and appeal one of his rulings; and repeatedly failed to comply with instructions on releasing documents.
"The record in this case vividly documents the cabinet's willful and unyielding determination to shield its conduct from the public scrutiny" required by state law, Shepherd said in the ruling.
Of the legal fees Shepherd ordered the cabinet to pay, $72,896 is for the Herald-Leader's legal bills and $228,887 is for The Courier-Journal's bills during the long-running litigation.
"If just a fraction of the energy spent fighting this open-records case was devoted instead to shining a light on child abuse, we might make some progress in preventing further tragedies," Kif Skidmore, an attorney for the Herald-Leader, said after Shepherd's ruling.
The cabinet has withheld "massive amounts" of information from the files sought by the newspapers, without the required examination of whether the redactions were justified or proper, Shepherd said.
Cabinet attorneys and officials have argued that their aim is to protect vulnerable children and families, and they have cited a concern that releasing certain information about deaths and near-deaths could discourage people from reporting suspected abuse.
In his order, Shepherd countered that the cabinet's conduct in the cases at issue shows that the "fortress of secrecy" it has built "is consistently used to cover up the cabinet's own malfeasance and its failure to protect our most vulnerable children."
Shepherd said the cabinet has made important improvements under current Secretary Audrey Haynes, but the public can't adequately understand breakdowns in child protection if the agency remains shrouded in secrecy.
"The record in this case demonstrates that such preventable tragedies will continue to occur as long as the Cabinet's conduct in child fatality cases remains effectively shielded from public scrutiny," the judge wrote.
Shepherd said in his order that he is mindful that the cabinet will have to pay the fine and attorney fees from public funds, but he concluded that it's the only way to secure justice in a case in which some of the cabinet's acts have been an "extraordinary departure from customary litigation."
The cabinet has already paid the newspapers more than $50,000 to cover their legal bills in an earlier related lawsuit over child-abuse records.
Source: Lexington Herald-Leader
Let Baby Die, Sue Mom
December 23, 2013 permalink
When a baby dies in the sixth day of foster care, who should be penalized by the law? Why it's the mother, for complaining about the quality of care. At least that is the counterclaim of the foster mother who let Delonna Sullivan die without medical care.
In this suit, both sides agree that the baby had severe medical problems while in foster care. It is difficult to see how the foster mother can defend not seeking medical attention until the baby was already dead. It is also hard to justify a claim of defamation while her name remains secret.
Foster mom denies wrongdoing in death of baby Delonna, sues for slander, defamation
EDMONTON - An Edmonton foster mother has filed a $20,000 countersuit against the biological family of an infant girl who died in her foster home.
She is one of 13 defendants named in a $2.5 million lawsuit launched after four-month-old Delonna Sullivan died in foster care on April 11, 2011.
The infant died six days after child welfare workers apprehended her from her mother.
In a statement of defence and counterclaim filed Oct. 4, the foster mother denies any wrongdoing in connection with the baby’s death.
She alleges “defamation of character, slander and malicious intent” and claims damages of $20,000 “for cost of care for physiological treatment.”
“The plaintiff claims that at the time of the apprehension Delonna Sullivan was a very happy healthy baby. While it is true that Delonna Sullivan was a happy baby she in fact was not healthy,” the statement of defence says.
“She was placed into the defendant’s care with the following: pink eye, a cold and a heat rash on her neck area.”
The statement of defence says the foster mother is a level-two foster parent with 11 years’ experience. It says she provided proper formula and bedding for the child — “a Graco play pen bassinet” — and also purchased additional clothing. The statement acknowledges the baby had diarrhea before she died, but says “it was nowhere near severe, let alone fatal.”
“The defendant acknowledges that Delonna Sullivan was ill but in no way ill enough to need medical care,” the statement says. “The defendant was treating the cold symptoms with the standard infant Tylenol.”
The foster mother also denies that Delonna’s mother asked her to take the baby to the doctor.
“The defendant denies any negligence in the care she provided to Delonna Sullivan,” the statement says. “The defendant did not deem it necessary to seek medical help nor did the plaintiff ever suggest such.”
The statement of defence was filed in response to a multimillion lawsuit filed April 10, 2013 by Delonna Sullivan’s mother, Jamie Sullivan, and her grandmother, Marilyn Koren.
It alleges, in part, that Delonna was apprehended for no reason, that the caseworkers and foster mother who cared for her were negligent, and that they failed to take her to a doctor when she was sick.
The suit names Delonna’s foster mother, the child welfare workers involved in her apprehension, the doctors involved in her care and various government and child welfare agencies, including the RCMP.
In a separate statement of defence filed Oct. 15, Dr. Samina Ali also denies any wrongdoing. Ali is the pediatric emergency physician who treated the infant when she arrived at the Stollery Children’s Hospital.
“At approximately 4 p.m., Delonna arrived at the Stollery Emergency Department via EMS. She had no cardiac or respiratory function, and was exhibiting signs indicating that she was dead and that her condition was irreversible,” Ali’s statement of defence says.
“Notwithstanding Delonna’s clinical presentation which indicated that resuscitation efforts could not succeed, Dr. Ali together with a team of other health care professionals appropriately and vigorously attempted to resuscitate Delonna.”
“The care and treatment given to Delonna by Dr. Ali was reasonable, skilful, careful and proper in every respect.”
Koren and Sullivan have filed a statement of defence in response to the foster mother’s counterclaim. They, too, deny all of the allegations against them.
Delonna Sullivan and her family can be publicly named because a judge in 2011 overturned a publication ban under the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act, at the family’s request.
The foster mother remains protected by that ban, and so her name cannot be published.
The child welfare workers, police, agencies and government departments have not filed statements of defence.
Allegations contained in a statement of claim have not been proven in court.
Source: Edmonton Journal
December 23, 2013 permalink
When a mall Santa Claus saw a girl below average weight, he threatened to report her mom, Theresa Stewart, to social services.
Shopping centre Santa Claus tells girl he would report her mummy for not feeding her enough
Four-year-old Lily is 3’ 4” tall - three inches higher than average - and weighs 5lbs less than is normal for her age
Shopping centre bosses apologised to a mum after its Santa told her daughter he would “report mummy” for not feeding her enough.
Theresa Stewart, 20, said on a visit to the grotto Lily, four, was quizzed by Santa about her diet and told: “You are small for four.”
Lily is 3’ 4” tall - three inches higher than average - and weighs 5lbs less than is normal for her age.
Theresa, of Tuffley in Gloucestershire, said: “He asked my daughter how old she was and she said she was four.
“He said: ‘You are small for four - what did you eat for breakfast?’
“She said she had a sandwich, because she has problems eating - it’s what she eats. She actually had an egg sandwich.
“Then he said: ‘I’m going to report your mummy’. Obviously this meant social services.”
A spokesman for Gloucester’s Eastgate Shopping Centre said it was a poorly judged “jest”.
She said: “We are aware of the incident involving remarks made by Santa in the grotto.
"Unreserved apologies have been offered to the family in question.”
Santa was not fired.
Source: Mirror (UK)
Aggrieved Father Ignored
December 23, 2013 permalink
British Columbia father Frederick Philip Shupe threatened his social worker by leaving a message on her voicemail stating “he will haunt her until she dies.” In the news article there was nothing about what drove the father to such desperation. A letter from a reader questioned why newspapers print the views of social services and ministers, but never interview parents to get their side.
Social workers fear client in custody dispute, court hears
A North Shore social services office is in “lockdown” over fears of a father embroiled in a child-custody battle.
A Crown prosecutor Tuesday outlined measures taken by Secwepemc Child & Family Services to protect staff from Frederick Philip Shupe.
“All of them are expressing a real fear of Mr. Shupe,” said Crown lawyer Neil Flanagan. “I’ve been told the Sydney Avenue office is now in lockdown . . . . Workers are afraid of him.”
Shupe, 45, was convicted after trial on two counts of uttering threats. In the first instance he left a message on a social worker’s voicemail stating “he will haunt her until she dies,” Flanagan said.
In the second instance, he confided to a probation officer that he wanted to tie up social workers, hold them hostage and set traps for police when they come to free them.
Shupe is awaiting sentencing on the convictions. As part of his bail conditions, the Crown sought to keep him away from social workers, making his only contact through a lawyer.
His lawyer, Don Campbell, said Shupe doesn’t want contact with Secwepemc Child & Family Services and would like the file transferred to another First Nations social agency in the city.
“He’s forced to go there because his children are in their care. Secwepemc Child & Family Services holds the key to any contact with his children.”
Shupe is involved in a separate family court proceeding regarding contact with his children.
Campbell said the agency “doesn’t want anything to do with him but they cling tenaciously to his file.”
Judge Edmond de Walle ruled that as part of bail conditions that Shupe have no direct or indirect contact with staff or family from the agency and he is banned from being within 100 metres of its offices.
He will be sentenced on the charges of uttering threats at a later date.
Source: Kamloops Daily News
Why wasn’t parent interviewed?
I am writing in response to your Dec. 11 article, Social Workers Fear Client. It seems to me that this article is one-sided. The parent was not interviewed so he could relate his side of the story.
So often in news articles about the Ministry for Children and Families, B.C. Child and Youth representative Mary-Ellen Turpel-Lafond is interviewed with criticism against the ministry and then Minister Stephanie Cadieux or deputy minister Mark Sieben is interviewed for a rebuttal.
Why are the parents not given the same time and coverage as the agencies? Why are the parents not listened to and their evidence considered? What about the fear that the parents have against a ministry that has taken their children, while uttering threats to the parents?
I always thought that the media operated under the guise of freedom of speech. But it would seem to me that the parents do not have the same freedom or coverage.
Editor’s note: The story you refer to was a court story about threats by an individual to ministry staff, threats that were serious enough police investigated and recommended charges, which Crown approved and the case proceeded to trial. It was not about the man’s child-custody battle.
Source: Kamloops Daily News
Luke to Get a Sibling
December 22, 2013 permalink
Luke Borusiewicz, born on September 22, 2006, was seized by Australian child protectors from parents Michael Borusiewicz and Jacqueline Hurlstone in July 2008. On January 28, 2009 Luke died from neglectful care by his foster mother. Since then Michael has become a vocal opponent of his country's child protection system, through Luke's Army and Facebook. Links to earlier articles:   
Michael has announce that he is about to become a dad again. His open letter to Queensland DoCS is enclosed.
Luke's Dad Having Another Baby - Should DoCS Qld be Allowed Near This Child
Good morning (DoCS Qld Case Worker),
Although there is much I would like to discuss with you at this time, I will try to be as brief as possible. (Expectant Mother) and I agreed that you should among the first people to know that she is pregnant with my child.
I ask that after what I have personally experienced with DoCS Qld that high priority be given to ensuring that I receive fair treatment in every possible way. Should you feel any personal grievances or dislike toward me I would ask that you be honest with me, and remove yourself from mine and (Expectant Mother's) case. Personally I feel no antipathy towards you but as you would understand my feeling toward the department as a whole is not so untainted.
I realise this is not an easy situation for anyone in the department to take on, but I give my word, I will do everything possible, anything that is asked of me, to have another chance at being a dad. Just don't ask me to turn my back on Lukey by taking down the site, I could never do that.
(DoCS Qld Case Worker), I have never lied to you, and have no intention of doing so. I promised you I would never publish what I did for you and your mother, and I haven't.
I promised you that I would never post anything about you on the site or on facebook again, and I haven't and don't intend to.
(Another DoCS Victim) sent me your address and phone number asking me to post these details on the site. I would never do such a thing to any child protection worker, in fact even on the several occassions when (Expectant Mother) needed to contact you urgently, I refused to give her your number. I made you a promise and I keep my promises.
Once again, if dealing with me is not acceptable to you, I understand. All I am asking for is that myself and my family not be abused, mistreated or threatened by DoCS Qld.
Obviously I had a drug problem which needed to be addressed when Lukey was still alive and I am grateful that this time around I do not have this burden to deal with, although I am happy to submit to any drug tests DoCS Qld may require in the future.
So far as anger management, I have done seven years in Naval Cadets as a teenager, I have played musical instruments constantly since the age of six and play about 10 insturments competently, I have practiced several martial arts and work on art pieces for up to 40 hours a piece as well as spending up to 18 hours a day on the web site.
This all indicates that I have a high level of self discipline. It takes a lot for me to lose my temper, and (Expectant Mother) will tell you that I have never hit her, but I have packed my bags more than once since we have been together. I will always walk away before things go too far.
I spoke to the man who ran the anger management course I attended in Cairns and he agreed that I did not have anger manegement problems.
I can give you the psychologist I went to and after the first trauma counseling session which lasted 3 1/2 hours his first comment was, "I don't know how this could happen to anyone, but if it happened to me, I hope I could handle it as good as you."
I have learnt much and I have devoted my life to studying child protection in an effort to improve it after I promised Lukey last time I spoke to him as he lay in his coffin I would, and truthfully I do not want you people anywhere near me or my child, but I am guessing this is not possible so I will submit to anything you should ask. There is nothing I will not do.
The last thing I wished to make you aware of, in my opinion the best myself and (Expectant Mother) have got on was when her daughter stayed with us for a week. (Expectant Mother) needs her kids back to know they are safe and to get on with her life.
I think after what the department has already put me through it would be cruel of you not to allow me the right to be a father again.
I am sending this email to (Expectant Mother), to yourself (DoCS Qld Case Worker), to the Qld Premier and DoCS Qld Minister Tracey Davis as well as posting it on the site and facebook with the intention of showing how the department treats parents who's children they have killed in foster care, and how much support there is for me to be a father.
I think it also would be courteous of me to send it out to the almost 50 journalists I have dealt with since Lukey died while in the care of the department. At this stage I will abstain from commenting further about my dealings with the department on this matter.
I will not go so far as to ensue a social media campaign or start petitions, I will not disclose any further information or correspondence on this matter unless I deem it to be illegal on the part of DoCS Qld.
Source: Luke's Army
Addendum: Social workers have advice for the pregnant mother-to-be: Get an abortion.
Source: Facebook, Luke's Army
December 22, 2013 permalink
In South Carolina foster mom Mattie Brooks kept her wards in a doghouse.
Warrant: Upstate foster mother kept abused child in doghouse
SENECA, SC (WYFF) -
An Upstate foster mother is accused of abusing a child in her care and is now facing several charges, according to Seneca Police Chief John Covington.
Covington said Mattie Brooks, 58, is charged with two counts of unlawful conduct toward a child and one count of criminal sexual conduct with a minor.
According to an arrest warrant, Brooks mutilated the child, confined the child to a doghouse for hours and days at a time, caused the child to drink unsafe chemicals, burned the child and deprived the child of food and water.
The warrant said the abuse happened between February 1999 and December 2009 and involved a female child.
A separate warrant said Brooks engaged in sexual battery with a child when she was between the ages of 5 and 8 years old in March 2004.
Brooks was arrested during a search at a home near downtown Seneca Thursday morning.
Covington said this is part of an investigation that has been going on for several months.
Source: WCSC 5
Indians Expel CAS
December 21, 2013 permalink
The Six Nations reserve has announced that Brant CAS will be expelled from its territory in January. There have been many announcements before, and this one should be viewed skeptically.
Brant CAS preparing to leave Six Nations
The Brant Children's Aid Society appears poised to leave Six Nations in the New Year amid reports that the Confederacy Chiefs Council has decided the CAS should operate only from Brantford.
CAS executive director Andy Koster said Friday that he's been told a formal letter will arrive in January notifying the agency of the chief's decision.
"before we were feeling an obligation to stay because one of the governments was asking us to stay and it would have been disrespectful to leave," Koster said.
"But it appears they've made their decision."
The elected band council has been working toward a transfer of operations that will see Six Nations take full responsibility for its own child protection system but it is still some distance from being operational.
The band signed a protocol to allow the CAS to continue with its 36-member native branch until May 2014 but then passed a band council resolution to ensure the agency be off the reserve last fall.
The CAS has defied that order to this point.
Koster said as far as he knows the CAS will still be expected to deliver services from Brantford.
He said the decision was made in a confederacy meeting at a longhouse where the agency wasn't allowed to be represented.
The native weekly Turtle Island News said a "runner" for the clanmothers made a presentation at that meeting accusing the CAS of a number of negative behaviours.
It also said Coun. Melba Thomas is strongly in favour of keeping the agency on site until a proper transitional plan is in place.
Source: Brantford Expositor
Addendum: As of April 2014 Brant CAS is still on the reserve. The plan now is to close the office on the reserve, but to continue protecting/taking children until an alternative protection agency is established, possibly years in the future.
Children's agency to leave Six Nations
Faced with the threat of legal action and getting nowhere in negotiations with the elected band council, Brant Family and Children's Services is leaving Six Nations.
The agency, formerly the Children's Aid Society, will close its extensive native services branch in Ohsweken at the end of June when its lease runs out.
"It became clear over the past month that we would not be able to successfully negotiate a continued physical presence on the reserve," said board chair Lesley Brubacher in an emailed statement on the weekend.
"We were facing legal action which we could not financially support within our current budget. With the end of our lease approaching, it presented a natural opportunity to ... relocate off-reserve."
The impending move will leave Six Nations with no on-site child protection system. Brant children's services will continue to have full responsibility for child protection on Six Nations but must operate from the Brantford area until Six Nations finishes developing its own approved agency.
That's a process that could take years.
Brant children's services has been working with Six Nations to bring about a fully native agency, but some on the reserve have demanded the agency leave, citing a list of grievances from several families.
The band council withdrew its blessing for the agency to remain on the reserve. And the situation came to a head in March when elected Chief Coun. Ava Hill sent the agency a letter giving it until March 31 to be off the territory, threatening legal action.
Brubacher said she is concerned about the 75 Six Nations children who remain in kinship care on the reserve, or in licensed foster homes there, plus any other children who may be in need of help.
"The board is concerned with child safety, response times, worker safety and community relationships when our agency is no longer operating from within the Six Nations."
When the native services offices closes, Brubacher said the board feels the agency won't be as efficient in delivering services or have the same access to native homes.
Brubacher said she is proud of the 36-member native services team, noting that it has endured criticism, controversy and uncertainty with "unwavering dedication" to child welfare. She commended team leader Sally Rivers.
"They remain focused on providing the best care they can to the families and children they work with," she said.
Agency executive director Andrew Koster said he is saddened by the situation.
"We have a long history of collaboration and co-operative work from the 1950s and on. "¦ We helped find homes for children on the reserve after the Mush Hole (residential school) closed."
Koster said that the agency put forward an application for on-reserve care, developed a proposal for a youth lodge and helped relocate children from the U.S. who weren't able to cross the border to be with family on Six Nations.
"In spite of all that, in the last few years it became obvious there was resistance to our involvement by some in authority on Six Nations," Koster said.
"There were a small number of complaints by clients that were presented as if it was widespread and there were a number of incorrect statements about kids in care."
At one point the agency had 65 Six Nations children in care but the community was told there were 500.
Koster said that, while the agency couldn't change the minds of elected band councillors, he feels indebted to the confederacy chiefs.
"They took the time to look at both sides of the issue. I will always appreciate that and so will our staff."
Source: Brantford Expositor
Ford Family is Safe
December 20, 2013 permalink
Christopher Bird, an associate of family lawyer Gene C Colman, comments on the children of Toronto mayor Rob Ford, Stephanie age 8 and Douglas age 5. Children's aid has not seized the children though the mayor is an admitted cocaine user.
Mr Bird is diplomatic. Like any predator, CAS takes the weakest prey. As long as there is an extensive Ford Nation willing to come to the mayor's defense, they will keep hands off the Ford family.
Should the Toronto Children’s Aid Society Investigate Rob Ford?
The mayor has admitted to drug use, and there's evidence of other troubling behaviour like driving drunk. Is this a case for Children's Aid?
By Christopher Bird • Photo by Christopher Drost
Rob Ford is an admitted user of illegal drugs and has admitted to drinking so much that he falls into “drunken stupors.” There is a mountain of evidence that he consorts with drug dealers, and the police have described him as driving under the influence. The police have also attended at the Ford residence multiple times on domestic disturbance calls. Given all of this information, many people—now including some of his council colleagues—have asked why the mayor isn’t facing criminal charges. (There are at least some answers.)
And there’s another question some people are asking: Why hasn’t the Toronto Children’s Aid Society taken Rob Ford’s children?
According to the Child and Family Services Act, a child-protection worker can apprehend a child with a warrant if they have reasonable and probable grounds to believe that there is no other course of action available that can protect the child. They can apprehend a child even without a warrant if they believe that there would be a substantial risk to the child’s health or safety while the warrant was being obtained. In circumstances similar to Rob Ford’s, a CAS will often take a very active role, up to and including seizing the children.
Given the level of media exposure, we can be fairly sure that Rob Ford’s children have not been apprehended, but we cannot say whether Rob Ford’s family is under investigation by the TCAS, because investigations are kept strictly confidential. The (obvious) reason: the entire purpose of the CAS system is to ensure that children’s best interests are prioritized, and it is always in children’s best interests to be kept anonymous in traumatizing incidences such as those that would require their apprehension. (A typical investigation usually involves interviews with the parents and children, separately and/or together as the child-protection worker deems appropriate.)
As with criminal charges, some have said that if Rob Ford were poor, or a visible minority, or not the mayor of Toronto, TCAS would be a lot less cautious about apprehending his children. This concern is not without merit. Class does play a role in determining whether a CAS chooses to take significant action when investigating a family. (Race and ethnicity can also play a role when a CAS worker is unfamiliar with or judgmental of different cultural aspects of parenting; however, it is fair to say that if CASes investigate parents who are visible minorities more often, it is primarily because visible minorities are more greatly represented among low-income families.)
CASes work under tight budgetary constrictions. In Ontario, they are not actually governmental bodies but non-profit agencies with quasi-governmental powers, funded by a combination of donations and provincial money (the latter is based in part on the number of open files being handled).
CASes obviously prefer to avoid intense legal battles—which exacerbate tensions, prolong decisions, and put a greater strain on the agencies themselves—and will typically try to work with families to create a strategy to gradually return a child to his or her home if it is reasonable to do so. However, being under investigation by the CAS can create problems for a family in and of itself, in terms of the associated emotional distress and social stigma. (Although CAS investigations are confidential, the simple truth is that what typically initiates a CAS investigation is a concerned party reporting a family to the CAS—and that party is under no obligation to stay quiet.) That’s why, if a family has the means, it will often hire a lawyer to represent the parents in their proceeding with the CAS. This usually results in a proceeding that is more expensive for the agency and has less successful outcomes from the agency’s point of view.
Although there is certainly no official policy preventing a CAS worker from commencing a proceeding against a wealthy family if they believe a child is at serious risk—and no CAS worker worthy of the title would let anything stop them from apprehending a child they believed to be in imminent danger—the simple truth is that in cases where the status of the child is in question, and where the family is more able to make the CAS’s case difficult, child-protection workers are less inclined to open an investigation, much less apprehend involved children.
When the wealthy family is also the family of a mayor—and a mayor who has demonstrated a tendency to verbally attack anybody he feels is persecuting him—it is possible that TCAS, if it does think Rob Ford’s children might be at some risk by remaining in the home (and this is, still, an assumption), might choose to proceed very cautiously. This is not because it would be intimidated by Ford’s penchant for shooting his mouth off—again, if it felt the situation was dire, it would intervene no matter what—but because it might be concerned that if it initiated an investigation, Ford would make the matter public, and therefore subject his children to public scrutiny that the CAS would prefer they be spared.
Christopher Bird is a family law lawyer and associate at the Gene C. Colman Family Law Centre.
December 18, 2013 permalink
Latest pretext for child protection: sharing a hot tub with family members.
Wentzville mom charged for topless hot tub photo with her daughter
WENTZVILLE • A mother who was photographed topless in a hot tub with her 14-year-old daughter, who was also topless, has been charged with misdemeanor child endangerment.
The image was circulated through social media at two high schools.
The 50-year-old woman is not being identified by the Post-Dispatch to protect her daughter’s identity. She could not be reached for comment.
The photo was shot with the girl’s phone by her sister, police said. It was taken Nov. 14 in a hot tub at their Wentzville home.
According to St. Charles County Prosecutor Tim Lohmar, the mother told authorities she had no idea the image would be circulated, but it was viewed by students at two high schools through Snapchat, a messaging app that allows users to send text, photos and videos that disappear after a few seconds. The woman’s son attends one of the schools and was ridiculed by his classmates because of the photo, authorities said.
Lohmar said it was clear that the woman and her daughter had knowingly posed for the photo. Both of them were covering their nipples, but their breasts were exposed, he said.
“This is an example of some extremely poor judgment by a parent,” Lohmar said.
This was not the first time a nude photo of the girl was distributed at a school, according to court documents. Last year, the girl had to undergo court-mandated counseling in reference to taking nude photos of herself and passing them around her school.
Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch
December 18, 2013 permalink
The New York Times does an exposé on the marketing of psychiatric drugs. There is little new for readers of fixcas, but the appearance of this article in America's most influential news source indicates a change in attitude by the governing establishment.
The Selling of Attention Deficit Disorder
The Number of Diagnoses Soared Amid a 20-Year Drug Marketing Campaign
After more than 50 years leading the fight to legitimize attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, Keith Conners could be celebrating.
Severely hyperactive and impulsive children, once shunned as bad seeds, are now recognized as having a real neurological problem. Doctors and parents have largely accepted drugs like Adderall and Concerta to temper the traits of classic A.D.H.D., helping youngsters succeed in school and beyond.
But Dr. Conners did not feel triumphant this fall as he addressed a group of fellow A.D.H.D. specialists in Washington. He noted that recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that the diagnosis had been made in 15 percent of high school-age children, and that the number of children on medication for the disorder had soared to 3.5 million from 600,000 in 1990. He questioned the rising rates of diagnosis and called them “a national disaster of dangerous proportions.”
“The numbers make it look like an epidemic. Well, it’s not. It’s preposterous,” Dr. Conners, a psychologist and professor emeritus at Duke University, said in a subsequent interview. “This is a concoction to justify the giving out of medication at unprecedented and unjustifiable levels.”
The rise of A.D.H.D. diagnoses and prescriptions for stimulants over the years coincided with a remarkably successful two-decade campaign by pharmaceutical companies to publicize the syndrome and promote the pills to doctors, educators and parents. With the children’s market booming, the industry is now employing similar marketing techniques as it focuses on adult A.D.H.D., which could become even more profitable.
Few dispute that classic A.D.H.D., historically estimated to affect 5 percent of children, is a legitimate disability that impedes success at school, work and personal life. Medication often assuages the severe impulsiveness and inability to concentrate, allowing a person’s underlying drive and intelligence to emerge.
But even some of the field’s longtime advocates say the zeal to find and treat every A.D.H.D. child has led to too many people with scant symptoms receiving the diagnosis and medication. The disorder is now the second most frequent long-term diagnosis made in children, narrowly trailing asthma, according to a New York Times analysis of C.D.C. data.
Behind that growth has been drug company marketing that has stretched the image of classic A.D.H.D. to include relatively normal behavior like carelessness and impatience, and has often overstated the pills’ benefits. Advertising on television and in popular magazines like People and Good Housekeeping has cast common childhood forgetfulness and poor grades as grounds for medication that, among other benefits, can result in “schoolwork that matches his intelligence” and ease family tension.
A 2002 ad for Adderall showed a mother playing with her son and saying, “Thanks for taking out the garbage.”
The Food and Drug Administration has cited every major A.D.H.D. drug — stimulants like Adderall, Concerta, Focalin and Vyvanse, and nonstimulants like Intuniv and Strattera — for false and misleading advertising since 2000, some multiple times.
Sources of information that would seem neutral also delivered messages from the pharmaceutical industry. Doctors paid by drug companies have published research and delivered presentations that encourage physicians to make diagnoses more often that discredit growing concerns about overdiagnosis.
Many doctors have portrayed the medications as benign — “safer than aspirin,” some say — even though they can have significant side effects and are regulated in the same class as morphine and oxycodone because of their potential for abuse and addiction. Patient advocacy groups tried to get the government to loosen regulation of stimulants while having sizable portions of their operating budgets covered by pharmaceutical interests.
Companies even try to speak to youngsters directly. Shire — the longtime market leader, with several A.D.H.D. medications including Adderall — recently subsidized 50,000 copies of a comic book that tries to demystify the disorder and uses superheroes to tell children, “Medicines may make it easier to pay attention and control your behavior!”
Profits for the A.D.H.D. drug industry have soared. Sales of stimulant medication in 2012 were nearly $9 billion, more than five times the $1.7 billion a decade before, according to the data company IMS Health.
Even Roger Griggs, the pharmaceutical executive who introduced Adderall in 1994, said he strongly opposes marketing stimulants to the general public because of their dangers. He calls them “nuclear bombs,” warranted only under extreme circumstances and when carefully overseen by a physician.
Psychiatric breakdown and suicidal thoughts are the most rare and extreme results of stimulant addiction, but those horror stories are far outnumbered by people who, seeking to study or work longer hours, cannot sleep for days, lose their appetite or hallucinate. More can simply become habituated to the pills and feel they cannot cope without them.
Tom Casola, the Shire vice president who oversees the A.D.H.D. division, said in an interview that the company aims to provide effective treatment for those with the disorder, and that ultimately doctors were responsible for proper evaluations and prescriptions. He added that he understood some of the concerns voiced by the Food and Drug Administration and others about aggressive ads, and said that materials that run afoul of guidelines are replaced.
“Shire — and I think the vast majority of pharmaceutical companies — intend to market in a way that’s responsible and in a way that is compliant with the regulations,” Mr. Casola said. “Again, I like to think we come at it from a higher order. We are dealing with patients’ health.”
A spokesman for Janssen Pharmaceuticals, which makes Concerta, said in an email, “Over the years, we worked with clinicians, parents and advocacy groups to help educate health care practitioners and caregivers about diagnosis and treatment of A.D.H.D., including safe and effective use of medication.”
Now targeting adults, Shire and two patient advocacy groups have recruited celebrities like the Maroon 5 musician Adam Levine for their marketing campaign, “It’s Your A.D.H.D. – Own It.” Online quizzes sponsored by drug companies are designed to encourage people to pursue treatment. A medical education video sponsored by Shire portrays a physician making a diagnosis of the disorder in an adult in a six-minute conversation, after which the doctor recommends medication.
Like most psychiatric conditions, A.D.H.D. has no definitive test, and most experts in the field agree that its symptoms are open to interpretation by patients, parents and doctors. The American Psychiatric Association, which receives significant financing from drug companies, has gradually loosened the official criteria for the disorder to include common childhood behavior like “makes careless mistakes” or “often has difficulty waiting his or her turn.”
The idea that a pill might ease troubles and tension has proved seductive to worried parents, rushed doctors and others.
“Pharma pushed as far as they could, but you can’t just blame the virus,” said Dr. Lawrence Diller, a behavioral pediatrician in Walnut Creek, Calif. “You have to have a susceptible host for the epidemic to take hold. There’s something they know about us that they utilize and exploit.”
Selling to Doctors
Modern marketing of stimulants began with the name Adderall itself. Mr. Griggs bought a small pharmaceutical company that produced a weight-loss pill named Obetrol. Suspecting that it might treat a relatively unappreciated condition then called attention deficit disorder, and found in about 3 to 5 percent of children, he took “A.D.D.” and fiddled with snappy suffixes. He cast a word with the widest net.
A.D.D. for All.
“It was meant to be kind of an inclusive thing,” Mr. Griggs recalled.
Adderall quickly established itself as a competitor of the field’s most popular drug, Ritalin. Shire, realizing the drug’s potential, bought Mr. Griggs’s company for $186 million and spent millions more to market the pill to doctors. After all, patients can buy only what their physicians buy into.
As is typical among pharmaceutical companies, Shire gathered hundreds of doctors at meetings at which a physician paid by the company explained a new drug’s value.
Such a meeting was held for Shire’s long-acting version of Adderall, Adderall XR, in April 2002, and included a presentation that to many critics, exemplifies how questionable A.D.H.D. messages are delivered.
Dr. William W. Dodson, a psychiatrist from Denver, stood before 70 doctors at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel and Spa in Pasadena, Calif., and clicked through slides that encouraged them to “educate the patient on the lifelong nature of the disorder and the benefits of lifelong treatment.” But that assertion was not supported by science, as studies then and now have shown that perhaps half of A.D.H.D. children are not impaired as adults, and that little is known about the risks or efficacy of long-term medication use.
The PowerPoint document, obtained by The Times, asserted that stimulants were not “drugs of abuse” because people who overdose “feel nothing” or “feel bad.” Yet these drugs are classified by the government among the most abusable substances in medicine, largely because of their effects on concentration and mood. Overdosing can cause severe heart problems and psychotic behavior.
Slides described side effects of Adderall XR as “generally mild,” despite clinical trials showing notable rates of insomnia, significant appetite suppression and mood swings, as well as rare instances of hallucinations. Those side effects increase significantly among patients who take more pills than prescribed.
Another slide warned that later in life, children with A.D.H.D. faced “job failure or underemployment,” “fatal car wrecks,” “criminal involvement,” “unwanted pregnancy” and venereal diseases, but did not mention that studies had not assessed whether stimulants decreased those risks.
Dr. Conners of Duke, in the audience that day, said the message was typical for such gatherings sponsored by pharmaceutical companies: Their drugs were harmless, and any traces of A.D.H.D. symptoms (which can be caused by a number of issues, including lack of sleep and family discord) should be treated with stimulant medication.
In an interview last month, Dr. Dodson said he makes a new diagnosis in about 300 patients a year and, because he disagrees with studies showing that many A.D.H.D. children are not impaired as adults, always recommends their taking stimulants for the rest of their lives.
He said that concern about abuse and side effects is “incredibly overblown,” and that his longtime work for drug companies does not influence his opinions. He said he received about $2,000 for the 2002 talk for Shire. He earned $45,500 in speaking fees from pharmaceutical companies in 2010 to 2011, according to ProPublica, which tracks such payments.
“If people want help, my job is to make sure they get it,” Dr. Dodson said. Regarding people concerned about prescribing physicians being paid by drug companies, he added: “They like a good conspiracy theory. I don’t let it slow me down.”
Many of the scientific studies cited by drug company speakers involved Dr. Joseph Biederman, a prominent child psychiatrist at Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital. In 2008, a Senate investigation revealed that Dr. Biederman’s research on many psychiatric conditions had been substantially financed by drug companies, including Shire. Those companies also paid him $1.6 million in speaking and consulting fees. He has denied that the payments influenced his research.
Dr. Conners called Dr. Biederman “unequivocally the most published psychopharmacology maven for A.D.H.D.,” one who is well known for embracing stimulants and dismissing detractors. Findings from Dr. Biederman’s dozens of studies on the disorder and specific brands of stimulants have filled the posters and pamphlets of pharmaceutical companies that financed the work.
Those findings typically delivered three messages: The disorder was underdiagnosed; stimulants were effective and safe; and unmedicated A.D.H.D. led to significant risks for academic failure, drug dependence, car accidents and brushes with the law.
Dr. Biederman was frequently quoted about the benefits of stimulants in interviews and company news releases. In 2006, for example, he told Reuters Health, “If a child is brilliant but is doing just O.K. in school, that child may need treatment, which would result in their performing brilliantly at school.”
This year, Dr. Biederman told the medical newsletter Medscape regarding medication for those with A.D.H.D., “Don’t leave home without it.”
Dr. Biederman did not respond to requests for an interview.
Most of Dr. Biederman’s critics said that they believed his primary motivation was always to help children with legitimate A.D.H.D. and that risks of untreated A.D.H.D. can be significant. What concerned them was how Dr. Biederman’s high-profile and unwavering promotion of stimulants armed drug companies with the published science needed to create powerful advertisements — many of which cast medications as benign solutions to childhood behavior falling far short of legitimate A.D.H.D.
“He gave them credibility,” said Richard M. Scheffler, a professor of health economics and public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, who has written extensively on stimulants. “He didn’t have a balance. He became totally convinced that it’s a good thing and can be more widely used.”
Building a Message
Drug companies used the research of Dr. Biederman and others to create compelling messages for doctors. “Adderall XR Improves Academic Performance,” an ad in a psychiatry journal declared in 2003, leveraging two Biederman studies financed by Shire. A Concerta ad barely mentioned A.D.H.D., but said the medication would “allow your patients to experience life’s successes every day.”
Some studies had shown that stimulant medication helped some elementary school children with carefully evaluated A.D.H.D. to improve scores in reading and math tests, primarily by helping them concentrate. The concern, some doctors said, is that long-term, wider academic benefits have not been proved — and that ads suggesting they have can tempt doctors, perhaps subconsciously, to prescribe drugs with risks to healthy children merely to improve their grades or self-esteem.
“There are decades of research into how advertising influences doctors’ prescribing practices,” said Dr. Aaron Kesselheim of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, who specializes in pharmaceutical ethics. “Even though they’ll tell you that they’re giving patients unbiased, evidence-based information, in fact they’re more likely to tell you what the drug company told them, whether it’s the benefits of the drugs or the risks of those drugs.”
Drug company advertising also meant good business for medical journals – the same journals that published papers supporting the use of the drugs. The most prominent publication in the field, The Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, went from no ads for A.D.H.D. medications from 1990 to 1993 to about 100 pages per year a decade later. Almost every full-page color ad was for an A.D.H.D. drug.
As is legal and common in pharmaceutical marketing, stimulants’ possible side effects like insomnia, irritability and psychotic episodes were printed in small type and dominated by other messages. One Adderall XR brochure included the recording of a man’s voice reassuring doctors: “Amphetamines have been used medically for nearly 70 years. That’s a legacy of safety you can count on.” He did not mention any side effects.
Drug companies used sales representatives to promote the drugs in person. Brian Lutz, a Shire salesman for Adderall XR from 2004 to 2009, said he met with 75 psychiatrists in his Oakland, Calif., territory at least every two weeks — about 30 to 40 times apiece annually — to show them posters and pamphlets that highlighted the medicine’s benefits for grades and behavior.
If a psychiatrist asked about issues like side effects or abuse, Mr. Lutz said, they were played down. He said he was told to acknowledge risks matter-of-factly for legal reasons, but to refer only to the small print in the package insert or offer Shire’s phone number for more information.
“It was never like, ‘This is a serious side effect, you need to watch out for it,’ ” Mr. Lutz recalled. “You wanted to give them more information because we’re talking about kids here, you know? But it was all very positive.”
A Shire spokeswoman said the company would not comment on any specific employee and added, “Shire sales representatives are trained to deliver fair and balanced presentations that include information regarding the safety of our products.”
Mr. Lutz, now pursuing a master’s degree and hoping to work in mental health, recalled his Shire work with ambivalence. He never lied or was told to lie, he said. He said he still would recommend Adderall XR and similar stimulants for A.D.H.D. children and adults.
What he regrets, he said, “is how we sold these pills like they were cars, when we knew they weren’t just cars.”
Selling to Parents
In September 2005, over a cover that heralded Kirstie Alley’s waistline and Matt Damon’s engagement, subscribers to People magazine saw a wraparound advertisement for Adderall XR. A mother hugged her smiling child holding a sheet of paper with a “B+” written on it.
“Finally!” she said. “Schoolwork that matches his intelligence.”
When federal guidelines were loosened in the late 1990s to allow the marketing of controlled substances like stimulants directly to the public, pharmaceutical companies began targeting perhaps the most impressionable consumers of all: parents, specifically mothers.
A magazine ad for Concerta had a grateful mother saying, “Better test scores at school, more chores done at home, an independence I try to encourage, a smile I can always count on.” A 2009 ad for Intuniv, Shire’s nonstimulant treatment for A.D.H.D., showed a child in a monster suit taking off his hairy mask to reveal his adorable smiling self. “There’s a great kid in there,” the text read.
“There’s no way in God’s green earth we would ever promote” a controlled substance like Adderall directly to consumers, Mr. Griggs said as he was shown several advertisements. “You’re talking about a product that’s having a major impact on brain chemistry. Parents are very susceptible to this type of stuff.”
The Food and Drug Administration has repeatedly instructed drug companies to withdraw such ads for being false and misleading, or exaggerating the effects of the medication. Many studies, often sponsored by pharmaceutical companies, have determined that untreated A.D.H.D. was associated with later-life problems. But no science determined that stimulant treatment has the overarching benefits suggested in those ads, the F.D.A. has pointed out in numerous warning letters to manufacturers since 2000.
Shire agreed last February to pay $57.5 million in fines to resolve allegations of improper sales and advertising of several drugs, including Vyvanse, Adderall XR and Daytrana, a patch that delivers stimulant medication through the skin. Mr. Casola of Shire declined to comment on the settlement because it was not fully resolved.
He added that the company’s current promotional materials emphasize how its medications provide “symptom control” rather than turn monsters into children who take out the garbage. He pointed to a Shire brochure and web page that more candidly than ever discuss side effects and the dangers of sharing medication with others.
However, many critics said that the most questionable advertising helped build a market that is now virtually self-sustaining. Drug companies also communicated with parents through sources who appeared independent, from support groups to teachers.
The primary A.D.H.D. patient advocacy group, Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, or Chadd, was founded in 1987 to gain greater respect for the condition and its treatment with Ritalin, the primary drug available at the time. Start-up funding was provided by Ciba-Geigy Pharmaceuticals, Ritalin’s primary manufacturer. Further drug company support helped create public service announcements and pamphlets, some of which tried to dispel concerns about Ritalin; one Chadd “fact sheet” conflicted with 60 years of science in claiming, “Psychostimulant drugs are not addictive.”
A 1995 documentary on PBS detailed how Chadd did not disclose its relationship with drug companies to either the Drug Enforcement Administration, which it was then lobbying to ease government regulation of stimulants, or the Department of Education, with which it collaborated on an A.D.H.D. educational video.
Chadd subsequently became more open in disclosing its backers. The program for its 2000 annual convention, for example, thanked by name its 11 primary sponsors, all drug companies. According to Chadd records, Shire paid the group a total of $3 million from 2006 to 2009 to have Chadd’s bimonthly magazine, Attention, distributed to doctors’ offices nationwide.
Chadd records show that the group has historically received about $1 million a year, one-third of its annual revenue, from pharmaceutical company grants and advertising. Regarding his company’s support, Mr. Casola said, “I think it is fair to call it a marketing expense, but it’s an arm’s-length relationship.”
“We don’t control what they do,” he said. “We do support them. We do support broadly what they are trying to do in the marketplace — in society maybe is a better way to say it.”
The chief executive of Chadd, Ruth Hughes, said in an interview that most disease-awareness groups receive similar pharmaceutical support. She said drug companies did not influence the group’s positions and activities, and noted that Chadd receives about $800,000 a year from the C.D.C. as well.
“One pharma company wanted to get Chadd volunteers to work at their booth to sort of get peer counseling, and we said no, won’t do that, not going there,” Dr. Hughes said, adding, “It would be seen as an endorsement.”
A.D.H.D. patient advocates often say that many parents resist having their child evaluated because of the stigma of mental illness and the perceived risks of medication. To combat this, groups have published lists of “Famous People With A.D.H.D.” to reassure parents of the good company their children could join with a diagnosis. One, in circulation since the mid-1990s and now posted on the psychcentral.com information portal beside two ads for Strattera, includes Thomas Edison, Abraham Lincoln, Galileo and Socrates.
The idea of unleashing children’s potential is attractive to teachers and school administrators, who can be lured by A.D.H.D. drugs’ ability to subdue some of their most rambunctious and underachieving students. Some have provided parents with pamphlets to explain the disorder and the promise of stimulants.
Susan Parry, who raised three boys in a top public school system on Mercer Island, outside Seattle, in the 1990s, said teachers pushed her into having her feisty son Andy evaluated for A.D.H.D. She said one teacher told her that her own twins were thriving on Ritalin.
Mrs. Parry still has the pamphlet given to her by the school psychologist, which states: “Parents should be aware that these medicines do not ‘drug’ or ‘alter’ the brain of the child. They make the child ‘normal.’ ” She and her husband, Michael, put Andy on Ritalin. The Parrys later noticed that on the back of the pamphlet, in small type, was the logo of Ciba-Geigy. A school official told them in a letter, which they provided to The Times, that the materials had been given to the district by a Ciba representative.
“They couldn’t advertise to the general public yet,” said Michael Parry, adding that his son never had A.D.H.D. and after three years was taken off Ritalin because of sleep problems and heart palpitations. “But somebody came up with this idea, which was genius. I definitely felt seduced and enticed. I’d say baited.”
Although proper A.D.H.D. diagnoses and medication have helped millions of children lead more productive lives, concerns remain that questionable diagnoses carry unappreciated costs.
“They were telling me, ‘Honey, there’s something wrong with your brain and this little pill’s going to fix everything,’ ” said Micaela Kimball, who received the diagnosis in 1997 as a high school freshman in Ithaca, N.Y., and is now a freelance writer in Boston. “It changed my whole self-image, and it took me years to get out from under that.”
Today, 1 in 7 children receives a diagnosis of the disorder by the age of 18. As these teenagers graduate into adulthood, drug companies are looking to keep their business.
The New Frontier: Adults
The studio audience roared with excitement two years ago as Ty Pennington, host of “The Revolution” on ABC, demonstrated how having adult A.D.H.D. felt to him. He staged two people struggling to play Ping-Pong with several balls at once while reciting the alphabet backward, as a crowd clapped and laughed. Then things got serious.
A psychiatrist on the program said that “the prison population is full of people with undiagnosed A.D.H.D.” He told viewers, “Go get this diagnosis” so “you can skyrocket.” He said that stimulant medication was effective and “safer than aspirin.”
No one mentioned that Mr. Pennington had been a paid spokesman for Shire from 2006 to 2008. His Adderall XR video testimonials – the medication “literally changed my life” and “gave me confidence,” he said in a 2008 ad — had drawn an F.D.A. reprimand for overstating Adderall’s effects while omitting all risks.
Mr. Pennington said through a spokeswoman: “I am not a medical expert. I am a television host.”
Many experts agree that the disorder was dismissed for too long as affecting only children. Estimates of the prevalence of adult A.D.H.D. in the United States -- derived through research often backed by pharmaceutical companies -- have typically ranged from 3 to 5 percent. Given that adults far outnumber children, this suggests that the adult market could be twice as large.
Because many doctors and potential patients did not think adults could have A.D.H.D., drug companies sold the concept of the disorder as much as their medications for it.
“The fastest-growing segment of the market now is the new adults who were never diagnosed,” Angus Russell told Bloomberg TV in 2011 when he was Shire’s chief executive. Nearly 16 million prescriptions for A.D.H.D. medications were written for people ages 20 to 39 in 2012, close to triple the 5.6 million just five years before, according to IMS Health. No data show how many patients those prescriptions represent, but some experts have estimated two million.
Foreseeing the market back in 2004, Shire sponsored a booklet that according to its cover would “help clinicians recognize and diagnose adults with A.D.H.D.” Its author was Dr. Dodson, who had delivered the presentation at the Adderall XR launch two years before. Rather than citing the widely accepted estimate of 3 to 5 percent, the booklet offered a much higher figure.
“About 10 percent of adults have A.D.H.D., which means you’re probably already treating patients with A.D.H.D. even though you don’t know it,” the first paragraph ended. But the two studies cited for that 10 percent figure, from 1995 and 1996, involved only children; no credible national study before or since has estimated an adult prevalence as high as 10 percent.
Dr. Dodson said he used the 10 percent figure because, despite several studies estimating adult rates as far lower, “once a child has A.D.H.D., he does for life. It doesn’t go away with age.”
The booklet later quotes a patient of his named Scarlett reassuring doctors: “If you give me a drink or a drug, I’ll abuse it, but not this medication. I don’t consider it a drug. Drugs get abused. Medication helps people have satisfying lives.”
Shire’s 2008 print campaign for adult A.D.H.D. portrayed a gloomy future to prospective patients. One ad showed a happy couple’s wedding photo with the bride airbrushed out and “DIVORCED” stamped on it. “The consequences may be serious,” the ad said, citing a study by Dr. Biederman supported in part by Shire. Although Dr. Biederman’s study showed a higher rate of divorce among adults with the disorder, it did not assess whether stimulant treatment significantly deterred such consequences.
Adults searching for information on A.D.H.D. encounter websites with short quizzes that can encourage normal people to think they might have it. Many such tests are sponsored by drug companies in ways hidden or easily missed.
“Could you have A.D.H.D.?” beckons one quiz, sponsored by Shire, on the website everydayhealth.com. Six questions ask how often someone has trouble in matters like “getting things in order,” “remembering appointments” or “getting started” on projects.
A user who splits answers evenly between “rarely” and “sometimes” receives the result “A.D.H.D. Possible.” Five answers of “sometimes” and one “often” tell the user, “A.D.H.D. May Be Likely.”
In a nationwide telephone poll conducted by The Times in early December, 1,106 adults took the quiz. Almost half scored in the range that would have told them A.D.H.D. may be possible or likely.
About 570,000 people took the EverydayHealth test after a 2011 advertisement starring Mr. Levine of Maroon 5 sponsored by Shire, Chadd and another advocacy group, according to the website Medical Marketing & Media. A similar test on the website for Concerta prompted L2ThinkTank.com, which assesses pharmaceutical marketing, to award the campaign its top rating, “Genius.”
John Grohol, a Boston-area psychologist who licensed the test to EverydayHealth, said such screening tools do not make a diagnosis; they merely “give you a little push into looking into” whether you have A.D.H.D. Other doctors countered that, given many studies showing that doctors are strongly influenced by their patients’ image of what ails them, such tests invite too many patients and doctors to see the disorder where it is not.
“I think it is misleading,” said Dr. Tyrone Williams, a psychiatrist in Cambridge, Mass. “I do think that there are some people out there who are really suffering and find out that maybe it’s treatable. But these symptoms can be a bazillion things. Sometimes the answers are so simple and they don’t require prescriptions – like ‘How about eight hours of sleep, Mom, because four hours doesn’t cut it?’ And then all their A.D.H.D. symptoms magically disappear.”
Because studies have shown that A.D.H.D. can run in families, drug companies use the children’s market to grow the adult one. A pamphlet published in 2008 by Janssen, Concerta’s manufacturer — headlined “Like Parent, Like Child?” — claimed that “A.D.H.D. is a highly heritable disorder” despite studies showing that the vast majority of parents of A.D.H.D. children do not qualify for a diagnosis themselves.
A current Shire manual for therapists illustrates the genetic issue with a family tree: three grandparents with the disorder, all six of their children with it, and seven of eight grandchildren, too.
Insurance plans, increasingly reluctant to pay for specialists like psychiatrists, are leaving many A.D.H.D. evaluations to primary-care physicians with little to no training in the disorder. If those doctors choose to learn about the diagnostic process, they can turn to web-based continuing-education courses, programs often subsidized by drug companies.
A recent course titled “Unmasking A.D.H.D. in Adults,” on the website Medscape and sponsored by Shire, featured an instructional video of a primary-care physician listening to a college professor detail his work-related sleep problems. After three minutes he described some attention issues he had as a child, then revealed that his son was recently found to have the disorder and was thriving in college on medication.
Six minutes into their encounter, the doctor said: “If you have A.D.H.D., which I believe you do, family members often respond well to similar medications. Would you consider giving that a try?”
The psychiatrist who oversaw the course, Dr. David Goodman of Johns Hopkins and the Adult Attention Deficit Disorder Center of Maryland, said that he was paid several thousand dollars to oversee the course by Medscape, not Shire directly, and that such income did not influence his decisions with patients. But as he reviewed the video in September, Dr. Goodman reconsidered its message to untrained doctors about how quickly the disorder can be assessed and said, “That was not an acceptable way to evaluate and conclude that the patient has A.D.H.D.”
A Shire spokeswoman declined to comment on the video and the company’s sponsorship of it.
Mr. Casola said Shire remains committed to raising awareness of A.D.H.D. Shire spent $1 million in the first three quarters of 2013, according to company documents, to support A.D.H.D. conferences to educate doctors. One this autumn found J. Russell Ramsay, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania’s medical school, who also serves as a consultant and speaker for Shire, reading aloud one of his slides to the audience: “A.D.H.D. – It’s Everywhere You Want to Be.”
“We are a commercial organization trying to bring health care treatments to patients,” Mr. Casola said. “I think, on balance, we are helping people.”
Source: New York Times
Banishing Children from their Birth Families
December 14, 2013 permalink
The New Yorker tells the story of mother Niveen Ismail. An immigrant from Egypt, she became a single mother at age 35. Unlike most targets of social services, she was well-educated and had a good-paying job. One day she left her three-year-old son while she went out earing a living. Police and social workers found the boy alone, and began the long process of breaking her relationship with her son and placing him for adoption. There was even an attempt to frame Naveen with a kidnapping plot. Fixcas has had two earlier articles on Niveen Ismail.  .
This story, sympathetic to the mother, is important because of where it appears. The New Yorker is about as liberal as you can get. The liberal intelligentsia is turning against the very idea of improving the life of a child by separating him from his natural family. From the article: "before long we will look back at the policy of 'banishing children from their birth families' as a tragic social experiment". In the same archaic category as eugenic sterilization or coloreds to the back of the bus.
WHERE IS YOUR MOTHER?
A woman’s fight to keep her child.
On December 5, 2005, a three-year-old boy named Adam spent the morning in his crib, playing a handheld Spider-Man computer game and snacking on crackers. He began calling, “Mama help!,” a phrase he used when he couldn’t get his games to work. He repeated the phrase at least ten times, but his mother never came. He had been alone for ninety minutes when police officers arrived at the home, an oceanfront condominium in Huntington Beach, California. A fireman climbed a ladder to the second floor, where Adam’s cries could be heard, and pushed open the window. Adam was standing in his crib, his blond hair falling just below his shoulders. A policeman on the ground shouted up to him, asking him where his mother was. “Shopping,” he replied.
After being lifted out of his crib, Adam (a pseudonym) repeatedly said, “Find Mama,” and tried to leave the apartment.
When he patted his mother’s bed, “a plume of dust came off the sheets,” an officer observed. The officer wandered through the rooms, noting that some parts of the apartment were immaculate and others in disarray. The medicine cabinet contained bars of soap arranged by color, but there were rings of “black sludge” in the sink and the toilet. In the kitchen, there were eggs in a skillet, live flies on the ceiling, and dead ones on the floor. The refrigerator contained an egg carton that held mostly eggshells.
Adam was taken to Orangewood Children’s Home, an emergency center for abused and neglected children. A social worker and a nurse found no signs of injury or mental impairment. He could recite his ABCs and count to a hundred.
He was friendly and polite; when a nurse checked his diaper and found that it was wet, he said, “I’m sorry.”
Adam’s mother, Niveen Ismail, a computer consultant, returned at around 6 P.M. When she saw a police officer’s card taped to her door, she assumed that her apartment had been burglarized. A petite, striking thirty-nine-year-old with long dark-brown hair and a slight Arabic accent, she called the department and begged them to return her son. She was told to discuss the matter with the Orange County Social Services Agency, which removes roughly twelve hundred children from their homes every year, the majority for issues relating to neglect.
When a social worker came to investigate, Niveen was so shy that she seemed shifty. Although she was intellectually confident, she spoke softly, deflecting attention away from herself. She admitted that she was exhausted: she was single, overworked, and had few friends and no family in the United States. When asked about her family, she told the social worker, “I was born overseas.” She wouldn’t elaborate, saying that her past was her “secret.”
At a hearing in juvenile court, a social worker testified that “there seems to be a great deal of mystery about the mother’s circumstances.” Niveen told a convoluted story about how she hadn’t known that Adam would be home alone, because his father was supposed to babysit. She added that she was overwhelmed, having just returned to work full time. “The car broke down twice,” she said. “The washing machine broke and flooded. . . . And he was sick. He had a cough forever, and he got two colds, and he was throwing up.” The judge found her explanations implausible and insufficient. Until the reasons for her negligence were better understood, he said, “nothing less than twenty-four-hour surveillance would protect this child.”
Adam was placed in the home of an elderly foster mother, who was caring for five other children. Niveen called the house at least once a day, but Adam was too young to say much more than “Love you, Mama, miss you, Mama, bye-bye,” before dropping the phone. The social worker assigned to the case, Mary, observed that Adam was quiet and withdrawn in the presence of his foster family and became teary when anyone mentioned his mother.
Niveen was allowed to see Adam twice a week. They met for an hour and a half at the office of the Social Services Agency, which has a large visiting room with linoleum floors and cubbies of toys.
Adam ran up to Niveen, smiling and shouting, “Mama!” Mary noted that “the mother was very affectionate toward the child giving him kisses, even when he told her to stop.” They sang nursery rhymes, played hide-and-seek, and drew letters and shapes. Once, when Adam fell asleep on her lap, Niveen held him and cried silently. She told Mary that her workload was too heavy, and that on the day she left Adam alone she had reached a “breaking point.”
A psychologist hired by the court concluded that Niveen’s neglectful behavior was caused not by a mental illness but by “certain problematic personality characteristics.” She repressed her emotions; she was defensive and isolated. On a lengthy personality test, she circled “True” after reading the statement “When I have a choice, I prefer to do things alone.” The evaluator said that she needed to embrace her “softer emotions” and overcome the belief that “sympathy and tender feelings only distract and divert people from being correct and successful.”
Niveen said that at visits she was forbidden from speaking Arabic with Adam, because the social workers needed to understand and document what she was saying. Her progress would be formally reviewed at hearings scheduled roughly every six months, and Mary’s notes would be crucial evidence. If Niveen did not comply with her case plan and prove, within a year, that she was a responsible mother—she was required to attend therapy and parenting classes and to clean her house—the court would begin the process of terminating her parental rights in order to free her son for adoption.
The director of the Orange County Social Services Agency, Michael L. Riley, said that most parents who become involved in the system “absolutely love their children.” He describes the problem as a “three-headed monster: domestic violence, mental illness, and substance abuse,” all exacerbated by poverty. Caseworkers, who are usually overworked and underpaid, must distinguish between mistreatment and parenting that is “good enough”—a subjective determination that is inevitably shaped by their own values and world view. Neglect is broadly defined, and its signs can be confused with poverty or a different culture’s approach to child-rearing. The removal rates of counties around the country vary widely and tend to be swayed by the memory (or fear) of worst-case scenarios: socialservice agencies most typically make the news because a child dies after being left with his birth family.
An Orange County elected supervisor, Todd Spitzer, said that the county’s Social Services Agency, like many child-welfare agencies, has made a choice to err “on the side of overreaction, because the alternative could be devastating.” Social workers recognize that if they recommend returning a child to a deadly home “it will be a career ender,” he said. “It will sully their reputations forever.” They may choose a knowable tragedy, the separation of a parent and child, in order to prevent an unknowable one.
At visits, Adam repeatedly expressed confusion, asking, “Are you O.K., Mama?” Sometimes he told her he loved her and curled up next to her, or tried to follow her out of the office, refusing to let go of her hand; other times, when she asked for a kiss, he would turn his face away and say, “No!” Mary noted that Niveen did not “know how to handle the child’s ambivalence.”
After a couple of months, Adam developed a habit of hitting himself in the forehead. “Don’t do that!” Niveen said, grabbing his hand. “Where do you learn these things?” Mary pulled Niveen aside and told her that she should “redirect” Adam to another activity, like coloring.
Niveen listened with a “sigh and scowl.”
Mary described Niveen as forgetful and depressed and noted that there is a “dynamic of the child bossing his mother around. He would tell his mother what to do and she would do it.” “Prognosis for return is poor at this point,” she wrote. She referred to another social worker who had been monitoring the case and stated that “she cannot put her finger on it, but that there is something different about the mother.”
To comply with her case plan, Niveen enrolled in a parenting class offered by the county called “Living Success,” where she studied selections from “The Parent’s Handbook,” which encourages a “democratic style” of parenting that “balances freedom, or rights, and limits, or responsibilities.” Niveen tried to learn to “parent American style,” she said. She worked to master three concepts: “boundaries, limits, and structure.”
An only child, Niveen grew up in Kuwait City with Egyptian Muslim parents who rarely disciplined her. She felt that the best way to honor her father, a professor of psychology, was to get good grades. A childhood friend, Sarah Badran, described her as a “hardworking, shy, introverted person who minds her own business.” She came to America to get a master’s degree in computer engineering at Manhattan College, a school that initially appealed to her because of its name. Her father encouraged her to get a Ph.D., in part because her personality wasn’t well suited to office life: her patience was limited when taking orders from people she found “fatheaded or sexist,” she said. She enrolled at Southern Methodist University, in Dallas, but the direction of her studies (in visual modelling) felt increasingly obscure, and she dropped out of the program. She moved to California in 1994 and got a second master’s degree, at Pepperdine, in international business.
Niveen didn’t feel as comfortable there as she had in New York City, which she said embodied “real freedom”: eccentricity was better tolerated, and it was easy to be anonymous. She tried to meet men in bars but found that she wasn’t their type. She was mystified by the way other women “seem to have it all planned out.” At thirty-five, after a brief relationship with a blond cameraman, she found she was pregnant. He urged her to get an abortion, explaining that he wasn’t financially prepared to bea father. But Niveen had always wanted a child, and she didn’t know if she’d have another chance.
After giving birth, in July, 2002, Niveen extended her maternity leave three times and then decided to quit her job and live off her savings. She took Adam to Egypt for several weeks to visit her parents, who had retired to Sharm el-Sheikh. They doted on Adam, playing him all the songs that their daughter had loved as a child. They tried to persuade her to stay in Egypt, but Niveen had begun to crave the stimulation of work again. “My mind needed nourishment,” she said. She returned to California in 2004, and spent a year looking for a new job, but few employers offered flexible hours. It wasn’t until Adam turned three and entered a Montessori preschool that she returned to an office full time, working as a computer consultant for a garment company.
She was leading a small financial-operations team, and consultants were flying in every week from Connecticut to prepare for the launch of the company’s software systems. She was so busy that she skipped one or two meals a day and her weight dropped below a hundred pounds. In the evenings, she didn’t have time to do anything but feed Adam, bathe him, and prepare for the next day.
Then she lay in bed, unable to sleep, rehearsing all the tasks that needed to be accomplished. She didn’t have the energy to take out the trash, so she let it accumulate on the kitchen floor beside the garbage can.
In early December, Adam fell at school and his tooth came loose, making it painful to chew. She kept him home from school for several days so that she could feed him herself. On December 5th, the day that Adam was taken away, Niveen was about to call her boss and tell him she couldn’t come to work, but she began to worry that she was sabotaging her career.
She had already missed several days, and her boss had said, “With you it’s always something.” She played with Adam for half an hour that morning, teaching him how to use his new Spider-Man game.
Then she imagined the way her boss would look at her the next time she came in, and felt suddenly ashamed. She got up, brushed her teeth, put some snacks in a ziplock bag, gave them to Adam, and left the house. “It was mechanical—I wasn’t thinking anymore,” she said. “Things grasped to myself. I was just trying to survive.”
Two months after Adam entered foster care, he fell and cut his face. A doctor examined the wound and spotted four small bruises on Adam’s neck that looked like finger marks. The Social Services Agency suspected that his foster home was chaotic. They began looking for a new home for Adam, who was described as a “cute, talkative pleasant little boy,” who was “sweet and mellow,” “has a good memory,” “attaches easily,” and was “very adoptable.”
At the end of March, 2006, Adam moved in with a “fost-adopt” family, which was prepared to adopt him if Niveen’s rights were terminated. The couple, whom I’ll call Rebecca and Steve Miller, had requested that their identities not be disclosed to Adam’s birth mother.
Three days passed before Niveen learned that Adam had been placed with new foster parents. The social workers seemed pleased with Adam’s new placement.
They noted how much better he looked with his new haircut and how “much nicer his lips appeared since they were not as chapped.” He had his own room, stocked with toys and photographs, which he proudly showed the social worker, Mary.
As she inspected his bedroom, Adam lay on the floor, “giggling excitedly.”
Two weeks after moving in with the Millers, Adam showed up at a visit sobbing, refused to greet his mother, and threw himself on the floor. Niveen told Mary that he had never acted that way before. “He is changing,” she said. At the end of the visit, he ran out of the visiting room, shouting “Mom!” as he collided with Rebecca. When Mary introduced the two women, they were silent. Eventually, Niveen said that she didn’t feel comfortable that Adam was calling another woman Mom. Instead, she suggested “Auntie.” Mary said that she understood the concern, but she wanted Adam to feel that he belonged in his new home.
At a visit a week later, Niveen read a picture book to Adam as he knelt on the floor beside her. He began hitting her legs and feet. “I’m mad at you,” he said.
Niveen asked him what he wanted, and he didn’t respond. She continued reading to him, but he told her, “No, I don’t want a book. . . . I’m mad at you.” When she his hands and kissed him, he were upside down, but I kept everything pulled away, hitting her legs. “I’m mad at you,” he said again.
For most of the twentieth century, the primary task of the child-welfare system was to keep families intact. Policy-makers assumed that parents’ failures were due to social disadvantages, like poverty or lack of support, so agencies provided them with day care, counselling, and income assistance. Child abuse was rarely discussed by politicians or scholars.
Then, in 1962, Henry Kempe, a pediatrician, and several colleagues published “The Battered-Child Syndrome,” a paper that revealed, through the analysis of X-rays, that many young children had mysterious bone fractures and cranial injuries. The doctors wrote that “the bones tell a story the child is too young or too frightened to tell,” and described the parents of these children as suffering from “some defect in character structure.” The “battered child” became the subject of numerous news articles, and within a decade every state passed laws that required medical professionals to report children who showed possible signs of mistreatment.
In her history “Making an Issue of Child Abuse,” Barbara Nelson, formerly the dean of the School of Public Affairs at U.C.L.A., wrote that politicians were far more willing to fund child-welfare legislation once mistreatment was seen as “a problem knowing no barriers of class, race, or culture.” In the seventies, child abuse was reframed as an “all-American affliction”: “individually rooted, described as an illness, and solvable by occasional doses of therapeutic conversation.” The responsibility to look into all allegations of mistreatment soon overwhelmed the resources of child-welfare agencies. They largely cast aside their mission of easing child poverty and eventually began investigating the dysfunctions surrounding more than two million children a year.
The interests of children were often pitted against those of their parents, who were treated as potential suspects.
During the crack and AIDS epidemics of the eighties and nineties, around half a million children (nearly half of them black) were put in foster care, and many spent years being shuttled from one temporary home to the next. In an attempt to shorten the time they spent in limbo, the Adoption and Safe Families Act, passed in 1997, placed strict limits on the time given to parents to prove their competence. The goal was to swiftly find new, permanent families for children whose parents were unable or unwilling to assume responsibility. The act gave financial rewards to states that raised their number of adoptions—up to six thousand dollars for every adoption that exceeded numbers from earlier years. By 2002, adoptions had increased by forty-two per cent.
In “Nobody’s Children” (1999), Elizabeth Bartholet, the director of the Child Advocacy Program at Harvard Law School, urged policymakers to “stop romanticizing ‘heritage.’ ” She wrote, “True parenting is defined more by social bonds than by blood.” Children who are severely neglected may experience cognitive delays and language deficits, disruptions in their body’s stress responses, and problems in their ability to interact with authorities and peers. Even the next generation may be damaged, since patterns of abuse and neglect often recur. She advocated expanding the use of adoption, even as she acknowledged that the most effective way to “stop the vicious cycle” would be social and economic reform. The role of race and class in child-welfare legislation, she wrote, is “rarely addressed honestly in a way that illuminates for onlookers their power.”
A formal review of Niveen’s case took place in a courtroom at the Lamoreaux Justice Center, in Orange, nine months after Adam had been taken away.
In California, it is illegal for child-welfare agencies and attorneys to discuss individual cases, and the agency and the lawyers involved in Niveen’s case declined to speak about it on the record. The field of family law is treated as a kind of legal backwater lacking in prestige: the cases can be judged by commissioners (civil servants who have not been elected or appointed, as judges would be), and the hearings are brief and, in many states, sealed from the public. The cases are argued by attorneys representing at least three sides: the child, the parent, and the county. Since many children are too young to articulate their wishes, their lawyers, also called guardians ad litem, can advocate for whatever objective they believe represents the “best interests of the child,” a phrase that all the lawyers use to advance their positions.
The county’s attorney said that Niveen did not understand the needs of her child, struggled with time management, and had an unrealistic plan for their evenings—she wished to take Adam out for dinner, rather than cooking. “That may be what she wants to do but it may not be what a four-year-old child needs to do in the evening,” the attorney said. She also complained that Niveen “talks in vagaries rather than specifics, and I think with a child you need to be able to understand specifics.”
Niveen’s lawyer acknowledged that she had come to the attention of social services for “very legitimate reasons,” but since then it had become “a case about clashing personalities, about odd clients, about different expectations, about different views of reality.”
On the witness stand, Niveen admitted that she hadn’t been up-front at the first hearing. It was she, not Adam’s father, who had left Adam alone.
She was nervous, stumbling over her words, and she still struggled to articulate why she had “put work ahead of his safety.” “I was in a state of desperation,” she said.
To determine what Niveen had learned in parenting class, the county’s lawyer asked her to describe Adam’s developmental needs.
“He needs a mother,” Niveen said.
“I’m talking about during the visits.
What does he need during the visits?”
“Well, it’s the same thing. That’s how I feel. That that’s what he needs, plus somebody to play with.”
The commissioner, Gary Vincent, didn’t think she was ready for custody.
“The responsibility that she articulates is so tepid in relation to the gravity of what she did,” he said. He would allow her to have visits outside the offices of the Social Services Agency, but told her, “We’ve got to start scraping away this fog that’s around you.” He explained, “Your problem is you see but you don’t see clearly.
You understand but you don’t really understand in depth.”
Niveen began seeing two psychologists. The first, who was paid for by the county, reported that during therapy sessions Niveen was argumentative and resistant. The second, whom Niveen hired, was an expert in the field of child custody, and she urged Niveen to be more open to feedback. “The way to ‘lose’ your case here is to complain and complain about how unfair the system is,” the psychologist, Leslie Drozd, wrote Niveen in an e-mail. “ ‘Winning’ is getting your child back and to do that, the formula is simple: Comply. Comply. Comply.”
Niveen was required to provide the agency with receipts for the antidepressants she had recently begun taking, verification of her attendance at Parents Anonymous, and pay stubs proving that she could afford the new apartment she was renting, in Newport Beach. When she couldn’t find recent pay stubs, a new social worker, named Rhea, expressed concern that Niveen had a “secretive nature.” Rhea acknowledged that Niveen’s new home was spotless, but she noted that Adam’s toys were “displayed in a very ‘staged’ manner,” and that Niveen did not “utilize any of the furniture herself.” The refrigerator contained only yogurt and pudding.
Once Niveen was under increased scrutiny of Social Services, the bar for being a “good enough” parent seemed to rise. The social workers took turns monitoring Niveen’s visits, compiling lengthy accounts of blunders: Niveen offered Adam too many toys to play with; she fed him a tuna sandwich while he was bowling; she let him sit on a slippery stool without noticing that he might fall off; and she failed to assemble a telescope before presenting it to him as a gift. She didn’t carry a purse, her pants were wrinkled, her hair was uncombed, and her sweater had rust-colored stains. Another social worker, who instructed Niveen to carry a “supermom bag,” containing water bottles and sunblock, wrote that Adam “pushes limits with her constantly. . . . It’s as if he literally is screaming at her to set some boundaries for him.” She chided Niveen for allowing Adam to swing a golf club in a park where other people were too close. “I have yet to observe Niveen talk to [Adam] in any way that helps him see thebig picture and raise his level of awareness.”
Niveen’s neighbor offered to videotape Adam’s visits so that the judge could witness the strength of their bond. In one long video, Niveen and Adam sat on the floor together, playing with a train set.
Adam was affectionate and engrossed, occasionally shrieking with excitement.
When they took a break for a snack, Niveen, who had been reading books on children’s nutrition, encouraged Adam to eat his cheese. “It’s good for your bones,” she said, brushing a strand of hair off his face. “It’s full of calcium.”
“Nah,” he said, picking up a hard-boiled egg. She offered to help him crack it, and he looked at her smiling. “I missed you,” he told her. “And Rebecca, too. I like both of you.”
After visits with Niveen, Rebecca reported, Adam was rude and defiant. He seemed like a “different child.” The Social Services Agency provided him with play therapy, behavioral coaching, dual therapy with Rebecca, and a new social worker, who concluded that he needed more predictability and structure. He was given the diagnosis “unspecified disturbance of childhood.”
Niveen began berating herself for her lack of judgment. “You start questioning your own reality,” she told me. Her lawyer waived the second review of her case, in February, 2007, so that she would have more time to demonstrate improvement in her parenting skills. She had recently hired a parenting coach, Valorie Christopherson, a former deputy sheriff, who shadowed her on visits. In reports submitted to the court, Christopherson discussed many of the same issues as the social workers—Niveen was too passive, deferential, and indulgent with her son— but these problems were presented as ordinary failings that could be overcome.
Christopherson wrote that Adam was always excited to see Niveen and appeared to “thrive on the attention she gives him.”
When Niveen returned to court, eight months later, a new judge, James Marion, had been assigned to the case, and Adam had already been in foster care for more than eighteen months. Adam’s attorney and the county’s lawyer recommended that reunification services be discontinued, because Niveen had benefitted only minimally, and because too much time had passed—a reason commonly given as grounds for termination of services. Three social workers said that Niveen had yet to learn to enforce limits with Adam. “The child tends to take over and wants to become the adult,” one said.
“What’s the detriment of that, besides becoming a narcissistic person?” Marion asked.
“He won’t have a concept of‚ of how to contain himself, how to—there’ll be poor impulse control.”
“Which will lead to more aggressive-type behaviors.”
“So what is going—what’s going to happen?”
“So he could become more agitated.”
Niveen, who cried through parts of the hearing, testified that she had spent months learning a more “authoritarian” method of parenting. “In the past, I used to be more of a permissive style, because, maybe, of the way I was brought up,” she said. She described her father as “very kind and gentle” and reluctant to take punitive measures. “You grow into your parents sometimes,” she said in a soft voice.
Marion acknowledged that in custody cases parents often feel as if the child-welfare agency were indiscriminately “piling on” criticisms. But he added that in this case all the social workers agreed that Niveen showed a “lack of judgment,” which he illustrated with three incidents they had documented. First, she had allowed Adam to go alone into the men’s room of a restaurant. Second, when Adam was playing in a pool, he drifted into the deep end, and Niveen, who was sitting next to the pool fully dressed, had to ask another person to lead him to shallower water. Third, she had left him on the balcony of her apartment, which had a chair near the ledge, while she went inside to change her shoes. Although a social worker was on the balcony at the time, Niveen had failed to inform her that she was in charge of supervising Adam.
Marion said that the agency had proved that Niveen posed a risk to her son. “I’ve got to think about the little boy,” he told Niveen. “I don’t think it’s because of your lack of love. I don’t think it’s for a lack of trying. I just don’t think you can do it.”
For two years, Niveen had avoided conversations about her ethnic origins, but once her reunification services ended she petitioned the court to place Adam with a Muslim, Arabic-speaking family.
Her request was supported with letters from the consulate general of Egypt in San Francisco and the civil-rights coördinator of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, who wrote that Adam’s current placement did not respect his “religion and cultural needs.” At a hearing, her lawyer acknowledged that it would have been better if she had raised the issue earlier— the agency tries to make culturally sensitive placements when parents request it— but “she was concerned, I think, of some prejudice.” “Imagine if we, as someone who might be Christian or Jewish, having to go to a Muslim country and then putting that out,” he said. “I think we would all be afraid of some type of negative impact in a court proceeding.”
The Judge denied the request, because, he said, it was not in Adam’s best interests to sever his bond with the Millers. A few months later, in a long statement submitted to the court, Niveen wrote that because of her “cultural background” and “lack of likeability” she had alienated the social workers, who had expended their energy on “trying to find something strange about my behavior and lifestyle [rather] than on appreciating all the changes and progress I have made.” She asked the Judge to imagine that he was Adam: “Having seen your mother’s good intent, her extreme regret for what she had done, her tremendous hard work to get you back and prevent the past from repeating itself, would you want to be put up for adoption and never see your mother or feel her love again?”
To be separated from a primary caregiver, however flawed, is a new trauma for an already vulnerable child. A study in Development and Psychopathology, after controlling for the effects of mistreatment, found that children in foster care have a weakened ability to regulate their emotions and impulses and to persevere when confronted with intellectual challenges; these behavioral problems were exacerbated when they were placed in a foster home with strangers rather than relatives. The adverse effects appeared to extend beyond childhood. An analysis in the American Economic Review found that, when there was no significant difference in the level of neglect or abuse, children who had been placed in protective custody were more likely, later in life, to be arrested or unemployed than those who had received services in their homes.
Sacha Coupet, a professor of law at Loyola University Chicago, who used to work as a guardian ad litem and as a psychologist, worries that the Adoption and Safe Families Act, by promoting “adoption as the normative ideal,” has made it easier to avoid “dealing with the enormously complex root causes of child neglect and abuse,” which may have little to do with parenting skills. “There’s this very American notion that mothers should be selfreliant, capable of taking care of their kids without any support, when that’s just not the world we live in,” she said. She finds that childwelfare agencies often “rush to get to the end of the story,” creating a middleclass fairy tale: “a poor kid is rescued by the state, given a new mom and dad, and the slate is wiped clean.”
Martin Guggenheim, a professor at New York University of Law, who represented children in court for more than a decade, believes that before long we will look back at the policy of “banishing children from their birth families” as a tragic social experiment. In a paper in the Harvard Law Review, he argued that “the use of coercive state power to redistribute children from their biological parents to others deemed by the state to be superior caregivers” should be restricted to rare and extreme cases, and resorted to only when less drastic measures had failed. The rights of Americans to “keep custody of children, and to control the details of raising them, are not accidentally or carelessly selected freedoms,” he wrote. He said that the courts perpetuate a “legal fiction”: the idea that “people in the courtroom can tell a young child, usually one of color, who he is related to and what community he belongs to.”
At Niveen’s final custody hearing, in July, 2008, her parental rights would be terminated unless she could meet the requirements for a “parental benefit exception”: she had to prove that her bond with Adam was so strong that the advantages of continuing their relationship outweighed the benefits of his settling into a permanent home with an adoptive family. Niveen’s psychologist, Leslie Drozd, submitted a letter to the Judge explaining that Niveen’s social workers were suffering from a “confirmatory bias.” She wrote, “The only data that has been collected and assimilated by the system has been that which confirms that a mother who could possibly abandon her child . . . is and shall permanently remain a ‘bad’ mother.”
Jane Mak, a court-hired psychologist, performed a “bonding study” that assessed the strength of Adam’s attachments. Her report drew on theories popularized by a 1973 psychoanalytic text, “Beyond the Best Interests of the Child,” which, despite its narrow focus, has provided a conceptual framework for modern child-welfare legislation. The authors write that children’s development is thwarted by “loyalty conflicts” and extended stretches of uncertainty. Once a child attaches to a foster caretaker, who becomes the “psychological parent,” the state should be reluctant to dissolve that bond. After observing Adam in her office with both sets of parents, Mak concluded that Adam was in a “distressful limbo state.” She wrote that Rebecca was his “primary psychological parent,” and that their relationship was strong and healthy, but added that he was also attached to Niveen, with whom he felt the “shadow of a shared past.” Mak warned that until Adam had a permanent family he would not be able to “attend to the tasks of being a child.”
For the first time, Adam came to a hearing. He had just turned six and was missing a front tooth. His hair was nearly white from the sun. He spoke clearly and cheerfully, especially when describing field trips he took with his kindergarten class.
His lawyer, Yana Kennedy, asked him, “If you could live anywhere in the whole wide world, where would you want to live?”
Adam cringed and ducked his head.
“What are you doing down there?” Kennedy asked.
“I need to put my shoes on.”
“O.K. You said you like where you live, right?”
“If you could live anywhere else in the whole wide world, where would you want to live?”
“I would live somewhere else.”
“I don’t know.”
The lawyer for the county tried a different tactic. “I think I read somewhere you wanted to live in Texas, is that right?” she asked Adam.
“What’s in Texas?”
“There’s, like—I seriously want to live there.”
“You seriously want to live there?”
“There’s golfing, and I want to play golfing every day I go to Texas.”
“I knew there was a good reason you wanted to live in Texas.”
Niveen’s lawyer tried to steer Adam closer to the question at hand.
“You said you wanted to live somewhere else. Would you want to live with Mama Niveen?”
“O.K. Now, do you want to continue to see Mama Niveen?”
“Yes, yes, yes.”
“And so why do you want to keep seeing Mama Niveen?”
After Adam’s testimony, Judge Marion commended Niveen for raising a son who appeared to be a “good kid.” He told her, “I think that’s a reflection on you, too, Ms. Ismail. So that’s a good thing. So take that with you.” He went on to say that “the clock has run out on Ms. Ismail, unfortunately.” Using the language in the bonding study, he said that Adam’s attachment to two families with different parenting styles was damaging to his “psychological integrity.” He ordered that parental rights be terminated and that Adam be placed for adoption. He told Niveen, “We’re freeing him to live as a child.”
The next day, Niveen was granted a thirty-minute “goodbye visit.” A social worker took photographs as Adam and Niveen, standing under a tree, hugged and kissed. Adam had been told in advance that it was their final visit. When Niveen began to talk about what had happened, he looked as if he were going to cry, and she dropped the subject. “He’s not confrontational—he holds things in,” Niveen said later. “I think it’s genetics. He gets that from my side of the family.”
Niveen had no more legal right to Adam than a stranger would have, and her requests for visitation were denied.
The Millers had become hostile toward Niveen after she walked to their beach house on Balboa Island, a vacation town less than a mile from her home, and interrogated a man who worked on their boat. She was looking for incriminating anecdotes, something that might derail the adoption. Later, when the Millers saw Niveen driving on their street, they filed a restraining order, which stipulated that she could not be within a hundred yards of their family.
Niveen reached out to other mothers whose children had become wards of the state, hoping to create some sort of advocacy organization. Some of them she met through Shawn McMillan, a lawyer who had recently won a $4.9 million verdict against the Orange County Social Services Agency after two social workers were found to have fabricated allegations against a mother and suppressed exculpatory evidence. McMillan is attempting to file a class-action suit on behalf of parents whose children have been taken away without a warrant. He said that he frequently sees cases where the mother “jumps through all the hoops,” but, in the meantime, the “child bonds with the new caregiver, and the agency says it’s no longer in the child’s best interest to go back to Mom.”
Niveen began following other custody cases, reading hundreds of appeals decisions. She recognized that her education and financial stability set her apart from most single mothers who became involved in the child-welfare system, and felt emboldened as she learned about parents who had been scrutinized as much as she had. A recent unpublished decision by a California Court of Appeals admonished the Orange County Social Services Agency for a pattern of frivolous allegations. The court wrote that this causes “parents to suspect the system is prejudiced against them, and social workers will use any excuse they can think of—whether credible or not— to deprive them of the custody of their children. It has to stop.”
When Niveen had exhausted her legal remedies in California, she petitioned the United States Supreme Court, asserting that the low burden of proof at California custody hearings—a preponderance of evidence—allowed “subjectivity to infest the proceedings.” Her petition was denied. A month later, she met with Robert Young, a private investigator, to request help with her “backup plan.” According to Young, she was contemplating two courses of action: Plan A was to find “dirt” on the Millers, so that Adam could be placed with a new family, one that she hoped would grant her visitation. Plan B was to abduct her son. (Niveen said that she only discussed the notion of kidnapping abstractly, to express her frustration, and that it was never a plan.) Young informed the Newport Beach Police Department that he had met with a mother who appeared to be on the verge of criminal activity. An officer contacted an Orange County social worker who knew Niveen and predicted that she would do anything to be reunited with Adam.
On December 4, 2009, Young met with Niveen a second time, in a small conference room in her apartment complex. He brought along a man he called his partner, Neal Schuster, actually a detective from the Newport Beach Police Department. Schuster, who secretly recorded the conversation, told Niveen that one of the reasons he wanted to help her was that “I’m not a fan of Social Services,” and it “sounds like you got a raw deal.” “I know that you guys discussed in the past two options,” he continued.
“Which option do you want us to go with right now?”
Niveen, who was wearing flip-flops and yoga pants, said, “I mean, I’m torn— I think I’d like to try the first one.” She added, “I don’t want to lose track of him.”
Schuster warned her that it might be hard to catch the Millers doing anything illicit. “People that are foster parents are pretty cut and dry—they have to go through a series of background checks.”
“Well, I know there is nothing,” Niveen said.
“Um, so are you ready to move with Plan B, then?”
“I was hoping for A.” She suggested that maybe they could catch Adam’s adoptive father having an extramarital affair.
Young pointed out that men cheat on their wives every day, and “nobody cares.”
Niveen said that she liked the idea of taking Adam to another country, possibly somewhere in the Middle East, but she worried that she’d set off an AMBER Alert, which informs the public of missing children.
“The F.B.I. has far bigger problems right now than going after one mother who took her biological son overseas,” Schuster assured her. He explained that if she had a current picture of Adam he could create a fake passport that would allow them to slip past customs.
“Well, if you think you can do it, that would be great,” Niveen said. She took him into the computer lab and e-mailed him a photograph of Adam posing for the camera with a sleepy smile. As they continued to discuss the details, she changed her mind, explaining that there was still a possibility that the Supreme Court would grant her petition for a rehearing. “Try to be creative about how we are going to do A,” she repeated. “I really would like to stay in this country.”
There were six officers surrounding the apartment complex. When Niveen walked out of the meeting, she was arrested and charged with solicitation to kidnap. She was taken to the Newport Beach Police Department, where she was interviewed by an officer named Helen Freeman, who told Niveen that she was a mother, too. “I can’t even imagine what it would be like to have my child taken away from me,” Freeman said. “It would be horrible, absolutely horrible. Is that kind of how you’re feeling now?
Niveen began crying, burrowing her face in a jail blanket that was wrapped around her shoulders. “I had bad news when they denied my petition,” Niveen said. “I had hopes.”
Freeman asked her if she thought that her appeals would be successful, and Niveen, barely able to speak, said, “Just don’t remind me.”
Niveen spent three months in the Orange County Jail, in a unit for women charged with endangering children. Niveen said that one woman was having a drink at a bar when her five-year-old ran into the street, calling for her.
Others had been arrested for exposing their children to drugs or for beating them. Niveen spent much of her time reading “The Count of Monte Cristo,” which her new criminal lawyer, Ann Cunningham, sends to all of her imprisoned clients. When Cunningham met Niveen at the jail, she was struck by her intelligence and despair. Niveen reminded her of “a little injured bird.” Then she reviewed hundreds of photographs of Niveen and Adam and saw a different woman. “She was beaming and holding that baby with a look of pride that I never saw again,” Cunningham said.
By the time of Niveen’s criminal trial, in December, 2011, Adam had been with the Millers for almost twice as long as he had lived with his birth mother. On the witness stand, Rebecca Miller described Adam as an inquisitive and articulate nine-year-old. She said that she had grown afraid of Niveen, because of the “history that we have through the whole family-court system and beyond.”
The social worker who had assisted with the adoption, Julie Fulkerson, said that over time Niveen had become “more threatening in her tone and more urgent.” Until the adoption was finalized, Fulkerson had given Niveen updates on Adam, usually brief summaries of the sports he was playing. “Whenever I made a statement to the fact that he’s happy, he’s well cared for, to try and reassure her of the situation, she would become agitated and feel insulted or have an angry comment related to the adoptive family,” Fulkerson said.
The Newport Beach Police Department had done a forensic examination of Niveen’s computer, which showed that she had searched for cheap flights to Cairo, for an application for reissuing an Egyptian passport, and for instructions on “how to hack a Facebook account.” She had also taken notes on the Millers’ Facebook friends, dates of birth, and driving directions to their house. The prosecutor, Beth Costello, described her as a “busy little bee on the computers,” and said that the Internet search history revealed how the “defendant is unravelling.” She reminded the jury that the victim in the case was not Niveen—it was her son and his new family, who had “provided him the home that he deserves.”
Cunningham acknowledged that the Millers were “lovely people” who “wanted to do a wonderful thing.” Pointing to a poster-size photograph of Adam displayedbehind the witness stand, she drew attention to the manner in which the agency had determined that Adam and the Millers were a “match,” a term used frequently by the Social Services Agency. “Why was he a perfect ‘match’?” Cunningham said. “His hair matches [Rebecca Miller’s] hair. He looks very much like he could be her son.”
She told the jurors that the Newport Beach Police Department had entrapped Niveen by turning her fantasy into an actual plan. “You have a mother missing her child and these people are saying, no problem. We won’t be detected. We guarantee it. We’ll get him a passport. Clockwork.
We do it all the time.” She reminded the jurors that this was Niveen’s first opportunity to have a trial with a high burden of proof. After spending six years in a court system with no jury, she said, “Niveen Ismail was tired of having the government make the decisions in her life.”
The jury found Niveen innocent.
Niveen sold all her furniture and Adam’s toys and moved into an apartment near her office, where she designed software, a job she found shortly after being released from jail. The Social Services Agency asked Niveen to sign a form that would authorize the release of her contact information on Adam’s eighteenth birthday, but she refused, because she felt that it signalled acceptance. She was still working on a civil-rights suit against the agency, which asserted that a mother should have the “right to implement her own parenting style without undue influence or pressure by the government.” In an unsuccessful writ of habeas corpus, she quoted a 1996 California court decision that said, “The idea that . . . a parent who has faithfully attended required counseling and therapy sessions must still relinquish her child because she has not quite ‘internalized’ what she has been exposed to has an offensive, Orwellian odor.”
The last time Niveen saw Adam was three years ago. She was walking down an aisle at a grocery store near her house and heard her son’s voice. When she turned the corner, she saw him sitting in a shopping cart pushed by a woman she didn’t know. They were picking out refrigerated flowers. Niveen was still under a restraining order, so she quickly left the store.
A few months before, she’d had another unexpected encounter. She was standing on the boardwalk on Balboa Island, looking out at the water, when she saw Rebecca Miller and Adam approaching. They had just got off a ferry and were coming down the boardwalk, holding hands. Niveen stood still and smiled at Adam, who appeared to be in the middle of telling a story. He was so close that she could have touched him. He looked in her direction but showed no sign of recognition. He and Rebecca kept walking, passing Niveen on their way home.
Almost five years after losing her parental rights, Niveen, who was forty-six, gave birth to a baby girl. She had been trying to get pregnant for more than a year. The child was smaller than Adam, kicked harder, and was more prone to tears. A hospital social worker came to Niveen’s bedside after being notified that she was a single mother and might need support. Niveen reluctantly answered all her questions, even those she found intrusive. She worried that she’d lose this child, too, but the social worker proved friendly and kind.
On a cool, overcast afternoon in March, a few weeks after giving birth, Niveen wrapped the baby in a blanket and took me on a tour of Balboa Island. Since moving out of her old apartment, she rarely came back to the island. We walked around the Fun Zone, a children’s park with an arcade where she and Adam had spent hours playing video games that the social workers deemed too violent. Niveen paused periodically to tuck the blanket around her daughter’s feet or to kiss her forehead.
When strangers exclaimed about the baby, Niveen, never one for small talk, smiled and kept walking.
She hadn’t spoken to Adam for almost five years. After their final visit, Adam had told his social worker that the next time he would see her was in Heaven. She pointed to the part of the beach where, years before, she had seen Adam swimming with friends. At the time, she’d informed Social Services that she saw him in the water without adult supervision.
Niveen quoted the line “Coincidences are God’s way of remaining anonymous.” I asked her if it wouldn’t be easier to live somewhere else. Recently, her neighbor had suggested that she go back to Egypt to be with family. Niveen had never felt that she belonged in Orange County, but she said that she couldn’t move away now.
“My life is here,” she said. “I’m not going to abandon my son.”
Source: The New Yorker
Consent to Rape, Save Kids
December 13, 2013 permalink
Florida social worker Jason Conrad Montgomery got sex from a mother by threatening to remove her children, and again when he told her she still owed him. What choice did she have? Watch the picture of a boy taken ten days after another mother refused sex with her caseworker.
DCF investigator accused of sexually battering child’s mother
An investigator for the Department of Children and Families has been jailed on charges he forced a Lakeland woman to have sex by threatening to take custody of her children.
Jason Montgomery, 27, 1719 James Pointe Drive, Bartow, is charged with two counts of first-degree sexual battery. Montgomery, an investigator since 2011, has been booked into the Polk County Jail.
Montgomery went to the victim’s residence Dec. 5 to discuss the women’s son, who was one of his cases, according to an arrest affidavit. The woman said her son had run away and he had behavioral issues. Montgomery agreed to drive her around to look for the son, during which he said she looked good after having several children.
They returned to her house, and when her children arrived home from school, Montgomery asked them to go to a park while he talked to the mother, the affidavit said.
He is then alleged to have told her that she “needed” to have sex with him, according to the affidavit. The victim refused, then Montgomery said, “Well, then I am going to be forced to do what I have to do.” The victim said she felt helpless because he worked for DCF so she did not resist and was sexually battered.
Weeks later, the victim reportedly got a phone call from Montgomery urging her to get home so they could talk about additional information he received from the police, according to the affidavit. She met Montgomery at her home and he told her, “You owe me for getting you out of trouble.” He then battered her again.
Detectives interviewed Montgomery on Sept. 11 and he denied having sexual or personal interaction with the victim, the affidavit said.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement notified detectives on Monday that DNA evidence found in the victim’s residence matched Montgomery.
Detectives got an arrest warrant for Montgomery today and he was arrested by the Bartow police, on behalf of Lakeland police, as he returned to work, according to the affidavit.
Source: Tampa Tribune
Addendum: At his trial Montgomery admitted to sexual relations with the mother, but was acquitted of rape.
Jury Acquits Ex-DCF Agent of Sexual Assault: Taking Stand Sways Jurors
BARTOW | A jury on Wednesday found a former child protective investigator with the Department of Children and Families not guilty of sexually assaulting a woman and threatening to take her children if she wouldn't have sex with him.
Larry Shearer, a lawyer for Jason Conrad Montgomery, 28, said the turning point in the trial was when he questioned Montgomery.
"He was just an excellent witness describing what happened," Shearer said. "He admitted having sex with her but he said that certainly he wouldn't rape her."
Montgomery, of Bartow, faced two counts of sexual battery by coercion, which are first-degree felonies, and a charge of extortion, a second-degree felony. The sexual battery charges each carried a penalty of up to 30 years in prison, while the extortion charge carried a maximum penalty of 15 years.
The jury took about an hour to reach a verdict.
Montgomery was arrested in December 2013. DNA tests linked him to the accusations made by a Lakeland woman.
In 2012, she told Montgomery that she did not want to have sex with him, according to a police report, after he had already touched himself in front of her and told her that she "needed" to.
"Well then I am going to be forced to do what I have to do," the Lakeland police report says Montgomery told the woman.
She told police that she felt he was implying that he would take custody of her children if she didn't have sex with him.
Mark Levine, assistant state attorney, told jurors that Montgomery abused his position of authority.
"He took a gamble and got burned," Levine said. "Her life is just as important as his life."
"All the evidence shows that it wasn't consensual," Levine said.
Shearer said that Montgomery lied to police about having sex with the woman to protect his marriage and job.
"It does not mean he raped her," Shearer said.
Montgomery resigned from the DCF in 2013.
Source: The Ledger, Lakeland Florida
Long Arm of Quebec Reaches Ontario
December 12, 2013 permalink
The Lev Tahor group, which fled Quebec to save their children from seizure, is being legally pursued in Ontario. The children's aid society of Chatham-Kent is seeking custody of fourteen children on behalf of Quebec. The hearing, initially scheduled for December 11, has been postponed to December 23. The whereabouts of children is not mentioned, but they may still be with their parents.
In what psychological jargon calls projection, CAS is accusing Lev Tahor of:
Most of these abuses are widespread within the foster care system. Another accusation, home-schooling, may be one of the real reasons for the legal action. Public schools don't like to lose their provincial funding when students stay home.
In other news, the press is beginning to derogate Lev Tahor. The group amassed $6 million and left unpaid bills behind in Quebec.
Ontario Children’s Aid officials seek court order to seize kids from runaway Jewish group Lev Tahor
A court hearing is being held in Ontario on Wednesday to determine whether 14 children belonging to the ultra-orthodox Jewish group Lev Tahor can be taken into foster care.
MONTREAL—Ontario Children’s Aid authorities have launched a legal battle to seize custody of 14 child members of the ultra-orthodox Jewish sect Lev Tahor and send them into foster care in Quebec.
The move comes two weeks after a Quebec judge ruled the children, ranging in age from two months to 16 years, are at “serious risk of harm” if they continue living in the community. Ahead of that hearing, about 200 members of the sect fled to Chatham-Kent, Ont., claiming Ontario provided them the liberty to educate their children according to a strict interpretation of Judaism espoused by Lev Tahor’s spiritual leader, Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans.
A feeling of calm had washed over the community in recent days and senior members of the group had claimed good relations with local child-welfare authorities, saying they had made their own inquiries since Lev Tahor arrived last month and found no problems.
But at 7 p.m. Tuesday they learned that Ontario would not be the refuge it had imagined.
Along with 500 pages of court documents, two families in the group received a summons to appear in court Wednesday morning. Among the documents, was the revelation that Chatham-Kent Children’s Services had sought a warrant on Dec. 4 from a Justice of the Peace that would let them carry out a Quebec court order to place the children in foster care under the guidance of Quebec child-welfare authorities, where they would undergo psychological and physical testing.
The application for the warrant was rejected on Dec. 7. The brief court hearing Wednesday morning was an appeal of that decision. The case will be heard again on Dec. 23.
The stealth with which local child-welfare officials apparently hoped to move is telling, as is the lack of comment on the case Wednesday.
About 200 members of the group boarded three buses in the middle of the night Nov. 18 out of fear Quebec authorities would place the children in foster care. The families are now prevented by a court order from leaving the country and there is great anticipation and concern about what could happen next, particularly among those with ties or a past to Lev Tahor.
There is also obvious concern among Lev Tahor members who, in an about-face from previous encounters, refused to discuss their legal situation.
“There is zero information I can give you,” said Mayer Rosner, who is Lev Tahor’s top administrator. “It’s a court order that I have to respect strictly.”
The Quebec investigation into Lev Tahor allegedly turned up evidence of neglect, psychological abuse, poor nutrition and health problems. Denis Baraby, the director of youth protection at the Centre Jeunesse Laurentides has said they found unkempt houses where children slept on beds with urine-soaked sheets, surrounded by garbage, as well as cases of children being forcibly removed from their homes and made to live with other families. There was also poor dental hygiene, substandard health care and a home-schooling regime that didn’t meet provincial standards, Baraby has said.
Critics of the group say Helbrans is operating a religious cult that encourages child marriages, isolates members from their families and uses anti-psychotic medication and bogus psychiatric diagnoses to keep followers compliant.
But Lev Tahor’s legal defenders say the group’s reputation has been sullied by incorrect information.
“Everything that people are saying about them is not necessarily true,” said Armenia Teixeira, a family lawyer in Montreal. “I’ve been with them for a year-and-a-half now and they’re not bad people . . . . They are entitled to their beliefs and they are not putting their children in harm.”
Teixeira said she will file an appeal of a Quebec court ruling from Nov. 22 in which Justice Pierre Hamel claimed jurisdiction over the 14 children who were later ordered into foster care despite the fact they had moved to Ontario on Nov. 18.
Source: Toronto Star
Lev Tahor court case pushed back to Dec. 23
The court case involving the fundamentalist Jewish Lev Tahor sect is being delayed two weeks, until Dec. 23.
Then, a judge will hear a request from Quebec authorities to have 14 children removed from their families and placed in foster care due to child neglect.
Last month, about 200 members of the group left their homes in Ste-Agathe-des-Monts for Chatham, Ont., just hours before the families were due to appear in a Quebec court on child neglect charges.
Yesterday, the Chatham-Kent Children's Aid Society appealed a decision rejecting their request for permission to have the children removed.
Addendum: After CAS hastily grabbed two children from a Lev Tahor family a judge ordered them returned. The court has also refused to issue a full publication ban.
UPDATE: Lev Tahor Custody Battle
Two children from the Jewish sect Lev Tahor are being returned to their parents.
According to Lev Tahor Lawyer Chris Knowles, the brother and sister were taken from their home by a Chatham-Kent Children’s Services case worker Thursday night after they saw what they thought to be symptoms of child abuse.
“They observed some marks on the child’s face. They commenced their investigation, they sought the assistance of the police, the police ultimately determined there was no criminal activity, but based on the society’s determination they apprehended the children,” says Knowles.
The judge presiding over the case has decided that there wasn’t enough evidence of abuse to take the children from their family. The issue is due back in court for a care and custody hearing on January 31. CK Children’s Services requested and was denied a full publication ban earlier today.
Source: Blackburn Radio
Addendum: The case was heard in Chatham on January 10. The judge will give a ruling on February 3. Two articles are enclosed.
Chris Carter points out the difference between this case and the usual child protection hearing. This large group can pool their resources to hire top-level legal help. Consequently, the judge knows he cannot issue the quickie decision that comes down in the routine case against a single family, one that can afford little or no legal help. Lev Tahor can be expected to appeal an unfavorable decision, so the judge must take his time to produce a reasoned opinion.
Court hears of hasty Lev Tahor exodus from Quebec to Chatham
They left in the dead of night, leaving their personal things and the community they’d lived in for years.
At stake for the 40 members of Lev Tahor, an ultra-orthodox Jewish sect from the Montreal area, were the children they feared would be taken by child-protection officials and put in temporary foster care.
It turned out they had good reason to worry: After they left, Quebec authorities successfully petitioned to apprehend 14 children from three families.
The group loaded up three buses and high-tailed it out of Ste. Agathe-des-Monts, Que., last Nov. 17 to Southwestern Ontario — to Chatham, nearly 800 km away.
They left so fast, Quebec authorities reported, they didn’t even have time to gather up credit cards and jewellery.
In one house, they left the coffee maker on.
Friday, a court in Chatham heard an application by the local child-welfare agency to enforce the Quebec order to put the kids in care in Quebec for 30 days to assess them. The order is being appealed.
In Chatham, Justice Stephen Fuerth heard there were plans to leave Quebec long before the Nov. 17 night-time exodus.
The group, distinct by the conservative clothes they wear, had been working with a Quebec real-estate broker to find a new place to live.
The broker’s affidavit told how the group had been talking about a move starting in April and visited properties in Eastern and Southwestern Ontario — in Belleville, Brighton, Brockville, Chatham, Hawkesbury, Morrisburg, Peterborough, Picton, Smiths Falls and Vankleek Hill.
They’d also advertised in several newspapers, looking for an appropriate property.
Their reason for leaving was because Quebec authorities, who’d been involved with the group for several months, wanted to act on concerns about children’s education standards that the group said went against its religious beliefs.
But, aas the lawyer for the local child-welfare agency, Chatham-Kent Childrens’ Services, pointed out in court Friday, the flight plan was sped up once Quebec child-protection officials, advised parents Nov. 14 they’d be starting a court action. They were to meet Nov. 18.
Lev Tahor settled on property along Hwy. 40, north of Chatham, known as Spurgeon Villa, which it had visited Oct. 30.
They left without advising child-welfare officials — first arriving in Windsor, then all gradually settling in Chatham by Nov. 27, the same day Quebec child services were granted an order to seize the children.
One of the remaining Lev Tahor members in Quebec told the agency’s director after the group left, “You make us a surprise. We make you a surprise.”
“It’s clearly why they made the move,” so the Quebec court couldn’t get at the kids, local child-welfare agency lawyer Loree Hodgson-Harris said in her argument to let the local agency enforce the Quebec order.
“You can’t allow, in this country, people to pick up and leave just because they don’t like the process or they don’t want to comply,” she said.
But Lev Tahor lawyer Chris Knowles argued the local agency can’t use child-custody laws to enforce the Quebec order, and that the group’s Charter rights are being disregarded.
He also the group didn’t have to tell Quebec officials they were leaving.
The local child-welfare agency, he said, has been investigating the group since it arrived and hasn’t found any reason – specifically, serious health issues raised in the Quebec order – that have led to them to make their own application.
A previous order in Chatham-Kent was overturned that had placed two of the Lev Tahor children in foster care.
Quebec wants to place the children with Hasidic Jewish families in Montreal.
One 17-year-old woman, married with a baby, was on the list to be put in care but was removed Friday.
Her baby remains on the list, arrangements made so she can go with the infant to Quebec if the baby is put into care.
Knowles said the plan doesn’t respect the group’s very distinct and different ”religious values.
He also said it’s wrong to send the kids to a province planning to pass a Charter of Secular Values, “a province that has chosen to place religious rights beneath other rights.”
The judge is to rule on the application Feb. 3.
Outside court, Knowles said there’s an appeal process if the court orders the kids sent back to Quebec.
ALLEGATIONS IN QUEBEC
Concerns raised by Quebec authorities in documents recently released. Allegations not proven.
- Fungal foot infections because not allowed to remove socks.
- Girls as young as 14 married off to older men.
- Reports of some bruises on one child.
- Administering melatonin to kids to calm them.
- Isolation, kids not allowed outdoor play; fearful of outsiders.
- Concern about possible collective suicide pact.
- Night-time exodus reports of crying, screaming, throwing belongings into garbage bags,
- Also that frightened kids were sedated for the 14-hour trip.
Source: Chatham Daily News
Lev Tahor Returns To Court
A judge will decide next month whether or not 14 Lev Tahor children will be sent back to Quebec and placed in foster care.
A children’s services lawyer tells the judge it is obvious the group is manipulating jurisdiction issues to avoid youth protection authorities. Chatham-Kent Children’s Services is asking for approval to act on a Quebec court order and seize the children, based on allegations of child brides , abuse and extreme neglect.
“The law, as it’s framed here in Ontario, does not permit a children’s aid society to seek relief under a piece legislation that’s meant for parents to work out their custody disputes,” says Lev Tahor Lawyer Chris Knowles, who notes the plan to place the children in Jewish foster homes is not enough. “There is no plan, what is the plan of care for these children? How does the Quebec authorities plan on ensuring that they will respect all of the aspects of the Lev Tahor groups cultural and religious practices.”
Knowles notes this is more than just a children’s aid matter, but a human rights case. The ultra-orthodox Jewish sect moved from Quebec to Chatham-Kent last November.
Source: Blackburn Radio
December 11, 2013 permalink
Valerie Ferguson, age 13, has run away from a Niagara Falls group home. Police are asking for tips on her whereabouts, but keep in mind she may be better off where she is now.
Falls teen missing from group home
Valerie Ferguson, 13, ran away Tuesday
NIAGARA FALLS - Police are looking for the public's help in finding a 13-year-old girl who ran away from her group home on Tuesday.
Valerie Ferguson is described as standing 5 feet 9 inches and weighing about 163 pounds, with long blonde hair and hazel eyes. She has a hoop style piercing in her nose, and was last seen wearing a puffy blue winter coat.
Police say at this time her whereabouts are unknown and ask that anyone with information to call them at 905-688-4111, ext. 2200.
Source: Niagara This Week
Addendum: Police found Valerie on December 11.
December 11, 2013 permalink
Barbara Kay comments on California father Preston King. He wants to raise his son Wyatt, but his ex decided to give up the baby for adoption. The Adam Hendricks mentioned in the article is a pseudonym for Saskatchewan father Rick Fredrickson. Like King, he tried to get his son back after the mother surrendered him for adoption. Rick's efforts to regain Liam came to a premature end in August 2007 when he was killed by a drunk driver.
Barbara Kay: Yet more family law gender injustice
A year ago 19-year old Preston King was a light-hearted young Southern California man in love with his high school sweetheart. Her pregnancy changed their lives dramatically. But, even though the couple’s relationship deteriorated and they chose to live apart, King accepted approaching fatherhood with admirable commitment and indeed pleasure.
As the birth date approached, though, King was shocked to learn that the mother planned to give the baby up for adoption, whether or not he agreed to it. The adoptive couple had already been selected by the mother, and King was invited by an adoption agency – via text message – to meet them. King immediately petitioned the Orange County courthouse for paternity testing, and in the weeks leading to the birth, went to court several times to claim his paternal rights.
In spite of his best efforts, though, King was not allowed to sign a declaration affirming his fatherhood and was denied the right to paternal mention on the birth certificate. After King spent a mere 15 minutes alone with his baby, born September 7, the infant went home with his adoptive parents.
King continues to press for DNA testing and the right to parent his child.
According to a Facebook page created to tell his side of the story – the mother claims King was not an engaged father-to-be or supportive of her needs – Mr. King was both engaged and supportive. He maintains he attended medical appointments, bought maternity clothes, pampered his ex with spa treatments and excursions, and bought baby furniture, a layette and decorative accessories for the nursery.
Response to the story has been unequivocally sympathetic to King and highly critical of the state’s dismissive attitude to fathers his case represents. An online petition has been set up to push for a change in California’s laws to prevent more such “unethical” adoptions.
Observers of the family law system in Canada will be reminded of the quite similar 2007 case of Hendricks vs Swan in Saskatchewan. Saskatoon dad Adam Hendricks was in the same position as King. He was a willing father, whose girlfriend unilaterally adopted their baby out to well-off strangers. The judge decided that blood ties are only one factor in awarding custody, and could not trump others. Kinship was “a pivotal point” 50 years ago, the judge explained, but today the “best interests” of the child must be the paramount consideration.
What do these two cases tell us about the prevailing culture as filtered through the family law system? That mothers count in a child’s life and fathers don’t.
When a mother – who might be poor, shiftless, unemployed, or otherwise disadvantaged – chooses to keep her child, the state does not intervene, and in fact will support her, if the child’s father (biological or presumed) cannot be run to ground. In the case of mothers’ rights, biology always trumps all other considerations. And yet, if the mother doesn’t want the child, suddenly the “best interests” of the child pivot from kinship – i.e. a willing, loving father’s natural rights – to the seductions of a detached home, a big back yard and a pony for Christmas.
So, in King’s case, if the mother had wanted to keep the child, the court would have ordered him to pay child support without any proof that the child was his biologically. On the other hand, even though she doesn’t want to keep the child, he has no right to custody unless he can prove paternity – which he cannot do unless the adoptive parents consent to a DNA sample being taken. And even if he could prove it, he might still lose the child if the court decided it was in the child’s best interest to live with biological strangers offering a pony.
Coincident with the appearance of King’s story, on Dec. 8, Canadian MP Maurice Vellacott moved for leave to introduce Bill C-560, which would amend the Divorce Act to make equal parenting the custody default after separation. Across Canada and across party lines, 80% of Canadians support equal parenting as a default in the absence of abuse, with slightly more support among women than men.
As the Hendricks and King cases make clear, our misandric family law systems routinely assign more importance to mothers over fathers. Yet decades of research unequivocally prove that children want to love and be loved equally by both their parents. These travesties of gender injustice must end. Equal parenting is equal gender justice.
Source: National Post
December 7, 2013 permalink
When Washington state social workers came to seize five-month-old Jaxon Smith, parents Summer Smith and Kasey McKernan fled with the boy. Police have not found the boy or his parents, but have shown their determination by arresting eight other people.
8 arrested in connection to missing Vanc. baby
VANCOUVER – Police arrested eight people Thursday in connection with a Vancouver couple who ran away with their infant before he could be taken into county custody.
Five-month-old Jaxon Smith was being taken into custody by county child protective services on Nov. 27. when Jaxon’s mother, Summer Smith, 36, and father Kasey McKernan, 31, fled with the child.
According to police, McKernan assaulted a social worker, grabbed the boy and took off in a pickup truck driven by Smith.
Thursday evening police arrested seven people in connection to the case.
Ashlynd Delaplaine, 21; Eric L. Gross, 43; Russell Majerus, 25; Timothy Duke, 43; Michael Gloyd, 44; Ryan Bean, 27; and Richard W. Countryman, 33 were arrested based on police investigation, outstanding warrants and drug charges, police said.
Thursday afternoon, 33-year-old Michael Grant Fuller was arrested on charges of kidnapping and rendering criminal assistance in connection with the case. But police still had not found Jaxon or his parents.
The pickup was identified as a black 1996 Chevrolet S-10 with Washington license plate A11272U.
Anyone with information on the whereabouts of the child or his parents was asked to call police at 360-487-7399.
The mother and child were arrested December 7 and the father was arrested the next day.
Bill 88 Hearings
December 6, 2013 permalink
On December 4 the Standing Committee on Regulations and Private Bills held hearings on bill 88. The deadline for scheduling an oral presentation was November 29, only a few days after the announcement. The quick schedule meant many interested parties did not find out before the deadline. The transcript of the presentations is not yet available online but observations by Vern Beck are enclosed.
Vernon Beck I attended the hearings at Queens Park yesterday on Bill 88. Court Watch submitted approximately 1 1/2" of documents to the Committee concerning the failure of CAS agencies to conduct business in an open and accountable manner. Jane Scharf, Pamela Palmer and Linda Plourd made excellent presentations. Near the closing, Archbishop Dorian Baxter made an oral presentation which stunned the committee and audience. Dorian caught the attention of everyone in the room when he made the closing statement that the passing of Bill 88 would open up a Pandora's box of problems and cause untold damage to children and families in Ontario. Many agree that passing of this Bill will be a big mistake for the Province of Ontario.
For those supporting the Bill, it seems that anyone who spoke in favor of Bill 88 was a person who would directly or indirectly financially benefit in some way from passing of the Bill. Bill 88 is literally a money grab by CAS agencies and those who provide professional services for CAS. As I have pointed out in my correspondence to the Premier, additional programs and funding can be put in place to support those persons above the age 16 without this funding being controlled by the CAS.
Overall, while it appeared that every effort was made to suppress those opposed to Bill 88, those who did manage to get their name on the list at the last minute did a great job getting the "no" side heard.
Source: Facebook, Canada Court Watch
The next day Jane Scharf presented a petition opposing the bill to the constituency office of sponsor MPP Rod Jackson in Barrie. Later that same day Mr Jackson attended one of a scheduled series of meetings promoting the bill.
The event occurred at the Mapleview Community Church south of Barrie. The meeting was attended primarily by supporters of the bill. When visitors declared their opposition, Student Life Director Laura Fess tried to get them to leave the building. Mr Jackson spoke to the crowd, followed by other supporters. They did not answer questions.
The meeting was one of a cross-provincial series (in the expand block). We can expect to see a stream of favorable press reports from these presentations to carefully selected audiences.
Tour Dates and Locations
- November 14, 2013: Windsor
- December 5, 2013: Barrie
- December 17, 2013: Niagara
- February 6, 2014: Sudbury
- February 11, 2014: Kitchener and Waterloo
- February 11, 2014: London
- February 13, 2013: Ottawa
To Attend The Tour Or To Inquire About Having The Tour Visit Your Community Please Call 1-705-726-5538 or Email firstname.lastname@example.org For More Information
Addendum: On December 11 the committee amended bill 88 bill. It now requires the child to initiate a request for care after age 16 and requires CAS to provide the care when requested. Another amendment allows the child to collect benefits under two other programs while getting support from CAS. Jane Scharf suggests these amendments may be enough to get CAS to switch to opposing the bill, ensuring its defeat.
The transcript of the December 4 hearing is now online. A dozen witness spoke in favor of the bill, Fay Martin, Marvin Bernstein, Laura Durst-Fess, Mark Williams, Lee Ann Chapman, Mary Ballantyne, Michele Farrugia, Kayla Sutherland, Don Weber, Johanna Macdonald and Stephen Gaetz with Irwin Elman adding qualified support. Owing to the short notice, only five opponents spoke Jane Scharf, Pamela Palmer, Nicolas Stathopoulos, Dorian Baxter and Linda Plourde. The opposing remarks are enclosed.
Ms. Jane Scharf: I’ll use all the time. I probably need five times as much.
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Okay. Please state your name and proceed.
Ms. Jane Scharf: My name is Jane Scharf, and I’m presenting a brief to the committee that I can’t possibly cover in five minutes, so I’ve asked the clerical staff to provide the committee members with a copy. There’s a report we’re calling The Dam is Breaking, and attached to that is an affidavit from Pamela Palmer, with some exhibits that go with the affidavit. Obviously, I can’t go through all this material, but I’ll just try to highlight what is in here.
We have put this document on a website, so if the public wants to look at the full version that the committee is going to see, they can look at it there. The website is under www.contactyourmpp.com, and the page title is “Standing Committee Brief.” So the affidavit is there and the brief is there, as well. I’ll just repeat one more time: www.contactyourmpp.com.
Primarily, we want to ask the committee to scrap this bill entirely. We think that there are serious problems with the administration of the children’s aid societies that are well known to the public at this point. Until those problems are fixed, we don’t want to see their jurisdiction expanded to include all youth aged 16 to 24, even those who were never in the care of children’s aid, which Bill 88 would do.
We’re making the claim here that in Rod Jackson’s presentation to the public, he misrepresented the facts in his promotion of this bill. We want the committee to scrap the bill as well as to file a complaint with the Integrity Commissioner under section 30 of the Members’ Integrity Act, because an MPP has an obligation to support the interests of the public and the government when they’re undertaking a political activity, such as introducing a private member’s bill.
This material that we’re submitting is evidence, and like I say, we have sworn the exhibits. We have evidence—
Mr. Rod Jackson: Go for it.
Ms. Jane Scharf: Pardon me?
Mr. Rod Jackson: Go for it.
Ms. Jane Scharf: Go for what? Are you supposed to talk when I’m presenting?
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): No. Please continue.
Ms. Jane Scharf: I don’t appreciate being interrupted, Mr. Jackson.
We have seven areas where we’re providing proof of difficulties or misrepresentations. First of all, Mr. Jackson says that there is nothing for youth 16 years old, 17 years old, except if they’re youth who are in the children’s aid. We have presented here a document, put together by the Ottawa police—
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): One minute left.
Ms. Jane Scharf: —and it’s Youth Resource List, and it’s 27 pages long.
As well, there are documents here showing that there is welfare provision for 16 and 17, and they treat them as minors, not as adults, as Mr. Jackson suggests.
Basically, nothing in the promotion is true. It’s all fabrication of fact, and this presentation demonstrates that.
As well, we’ve done a list of public information available to show that the CAS is not even following its own mandate—like, the auditors—the Ombudsman is having issues with them. The children’s advocate has said he doesn’t accept this bill in its current form.
In our brief, we have a statement from six advocates—or seven, including myself—
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Ms. Scharf—
Ms. Jane Scharf: —Robert McQuaid—just one second—
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Thank you. I’m afraid that your time is up.
Ms. Jane Scharf: —Dorian Baxter—please let me—just two seconds here—
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): No. I’ve got Ms. Pamela Palmer on the line, coming up to speak next. I’m afraid you have to end.
Ms. Jane Scharf: Can you ask her to read the list of advocates?
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): She will speak as she sees fit.
Ms. Pamela Palmer: Hello. Everything I speak to is found in the evidence presented to you minutes ago by Jane Scharf, in my commissioned affidavit and on our website, contactyourMPP.com.
We have been in contact with many youth currently in the care of the CAS who have all complained about abuse and neglect they face in the care of the CAS. They even tried to be here today to present to you.
CAS is a private corporation that answers to no one, with the exception of lax oversight by the Ministry of Children and Youth but only when there appears to be problems with the financial management of the corporation. Not even an MPP can investigate the CAS nor intervene on behalf of a family or child. The Ombudsman does not have oversight, even though he has been fighting for years to oversee the CAS. Their only review board is internal and has zero power to force the CAS to act in accordance with their findings.
They currently receive $1.2 billion a year of taxpayer money, yet over 80% of the street population comes directly from the CAS: youth who cannot secure income by any other means. The CAS has abandoned them. The CAS is not paying any money towards these kids, but it is collecting the money for these kids from the taxpayer. What will happen to their trusts and estates with this bill?
The youth in care represent less than 1% of the youth population, yet they are grossly overrepresented in the streets and prisons.
This bill should be about forcing them to clean up their act, not extend their power and jurisdiction through one of their ex-board members, Rod Jackson. This is a conflict of interest that needs to be investigated immediately.
Nine youth are represented in this bill, handpicked by the CAS—not the thousands of others currently in their care, in detention centres and jails, on the streets, or currently on OW or ODSP. None of those youth have been asked if they would want to go into the care of the CAS. I doubt any of them are here today to present, nor are there OW and ODSP workers, who will lose their jobs.
Much of the youth supports and shelters currently offered will be forced to close their doors. They have much better outcomes for the youth than the CAS. Why are they not being awarded this jurisdiction when their outcomes fare much better? Provincial advocate Irwin Elman said himself, “They do not have the capacity to support these youth 16 to 18, and I would like to see it mandated elsewhere.” He even wants this to bill die on the committee table.
Rod Jackson did not practise due diligence when researching and writing this bill. He has misled and misrepresented the facts to the public in legislation by failing to once mention the name “the children’s aid society” in one of his speeches to the Legislature. It has proven to the public he is not trustworthy and should be investigated by the Integrity Commissioner. In fact, we ask that you send a report to the Integrity Commissioner for further investigation.
This bill is nothing but a sneaky way to privatize welfare. Welfare is currently offered by the government. CAS is a private corporation already profiting off the backs of our children and youth and families. Not even the courts can order the CAS to provide services to their clients. Section 51(3.2)(c) of the Child and Family Services Act forbids it. Will you be able to guarantee that these youth receive services and support? CAS has more power than the police. Section 40 of the CFSA: The CAS can enter your home with or without a warrant, use force with or without police presence and apprehend children with or without a warrant.
In order for this to be a voluntary agreement, as it is being presented, there would need to be amendments to the OW and ODSP laws first, or this agreement is forced upon them by having no other means of support.
Let me leave you with this thought: The CAS has proven time and time again it fails—Jeffrey Baldwin, Randal Dooley, Katelynn Sampson and Matthew Reid, to name but a few. They will use their powers to abuse the funding process. See the Toronto Star article dated March 14, 2013—
Ms. Pamela Palmer: —a leaked memo by the Peel CAS where they instructed their workers not to return any children home, so that they can retain their funding. That is the grossest form of abuse you can find from an agency that is supposed to protect and serve our most vulnerable. They obviously only serve and protect themselves. They will destroy the future of this province and potentially this country.
The only thing that should be done with this bill is scrap it. It is one page. Scrap it.
As we speak, our youth have rights and freedoms under the charter. Do not allow their rights to be taken away and their futures destroyed. Thank you very much.
Mr. Nicolas Stathopoulos: Yes, I can. I was expecting to go on at 10 or 15 after, but I’m ready for you now.
Mr. Bill Walker: It’s not loud enough.
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): We’ll have to have the volume higher.
Mr. Nicolas Stathopoulos: Okay. I just mentioned that I was expecting to go on at 15 after. Am I on now?
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): We are moving you up because a number of other presenters weren’t available. You have up to five minutes.
Mr. Nicolas Stathopoulos: All right, thank you. Ready?
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Please proceed. State your name for Hansard.
Mr. Nicolas Stathopoulos: My name is Nicolas Stathopoulos, and I would like to thank the Standing Committee on Regulations and Private Bills for allowing me an opportunity to present my concerns and view on the subject of whether Bill 88 should be implemented into law. This committee’s mandate to hear from the public is indeed a proper course to exercise in a democratic process, and in consideration of a variety of arguments or insights, either for or against the passing of any bill into law.
However, although I do appreciate the committee’s function to gather a variety of views before the final reading, I also believe that there was not enough time allocated for Canadians to express their views on the matter of Bill 88 in relation to the “yes” side’s ability to stack the cards in their favour.
By that I mean that any present Internet search today on the subject of Bill 88 will yield documents, videos and an impression of overwhelming support for the yes side, as documented by several journalists, politicians and social worker lobbyists, who, for the most part, remain hidden, having a vested interest to see the bill passed—all this in absence of a visible argument against Bill 88.
What is becoming apparent is evidence of a campaign that appears to be perceptually managed and void of the little opposition against it. It’s very simple in today’s world to attain a consensus: All one has to do is work unilaterally, apply commonly known methods for radical or basic social change, and never or seldom inform the public until PR teams have completed their objectives and are in place. By the time public consultation is called, such as this committee mandate to document public views, it’s often too late to put up an effective opposition and convincing arguments, principally because of the time constraints implemented against the opposing side.
Bill 88’s objective would lead to—although not documented as such—the privatization of welfare for young people 16 to 24 years old under the auspice and management of a public-private corporation, CAS, children’s aid society.
It also references the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which is a controversial document created by a body of unelected officials to influence global national policies on social care. Care of Children in Welfare is also a document that is used to support the passing of Bill 88. Now the question is, why are we not creating our own policies, independent of the United Nations influence?
The children’s aid society will no doubt be awarded the management of overseeing the privatization of welfare for young people between the ages of 16 and 24 through Bill 88. Consider the controversies behind the many agencies of CAS to date—
Mr. Nicolas Stathopoulos: —that are reportedly acting without accountability and are void of transparency in the way that they perpetually conduct their cases, mostly against defenseless or low-income families. These are documented cases, one after another. In mainstream media, social networks, you name it, everything is very well documented as to their inability to function properly. What can then be expected to become of their role to manage this additional authority over the family unit or over people between the ages of 16 and 24 in the privatization of welfare?
I would also like to add that the University of Southampton in the UK, two and a half years ago, decided to scrap teaching the curriculum of social work in their university, citing that there is no credible evidence that social work is a viable discipline and—
Archbishop Dorian Baxter: Yes. My name is Dorian Baxter, and I am the Archbishop of the Federation of Independent Anglican Churches of North America. I was ordained here at St. James Cathedral by Archbishop Garnsworthy 30 years ago.
My main reason for being here is to state my very serious concerns about the possibility of this Bill 88 being passed. I first of all want to thank you, Mr. Chairman, and your standing committee for arranging for this get-together, because I think it’s very, very important.
I speak out of the crucible of personal suffering. Some 28 years ago, my children were subjected to horrendous behaviour by the Children’s Aid Society of Durham. I’m grateful to say that, after an 11-month battle, I was awarded sole custody, and I launched a massive lawsuit—unprecedented—against the Durham CAS.
Now, I should point out that, on the March 22, 1994, Justice Somers found that the Durham Children’s Aid Society in general, and one Marion Van den Boomen in particular, were guilty of the grossest negligence, the grossest incompetence, malicious prosecution and blackmail.
As a direct result of that, the social worker was given a slap on the wrist and transferred from Durham to London, where Ms. Van den Boomen continued to do 20-odd years of untold damage. She now has a pension, and the accountability was zero.
I mention this because the entire episode cost me a grand total of $387,000, from which I still reel today. But when I won that case, I had 130 people contact my lawyer, Mr. Donald J. Catalano, and they asked me to assist them, and I realized that there is such an unbelievable avalanche of bullying that goes on.
We all need a children’s aid society. But as you are aware, Mr. Chairman, and I’m sure the committee is aware, power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. For many years, thousands of us have been calling on the province of Ontario to give power to the Ontario Ombudsman.
My fear and my concern—everything that I have alluded to is documented in the papers that I have submitted to Valerie. But I would like to say this: As I speak to you today, I am engaged in several cases—nine, to be exact—involving the children’s aid society, two of them involving the very society that I had the honour and the privilege of bringing to justice. My action shattered the immunity of the children’s aid society forever.
The trouble is, there is no accountability. And I will be candid with you, Mr. Chairman, and your committee.
Archbishop Dorian Baxter: Thank you. I’m very concerned that if, in fact, this bill passes, the very problems that we are encountering for young people from the age of zero to 16 will be multiplied phenomenally. Right now, you must be aware that police have a 27-page booklet that offers all kinds of resources. I’m sure that MPP Jackson—if he knew what I’m telling you and he would only take time to see this, he himself, I believe, would vote against this bill.
I think what we really need more than anything is accountability. We do not need to give any more power to an organization that has already shown that it needs desperately to be held accountable.
I would conclude my comments—I think you said I’ve got another 30 seconds—to simply thank you again. But I would say, please, give a sober second thought. Do not allow this bill to pass. It will usher in a Pandora’s Box of tyranny beyond human comprehension.
I am more than happy to speak to any member of the committee and show all the documentation that I’ve alluded to and more. I would just like to say thank you very much indeed for affording me the opportunity. It took me three hours to get here. Thank you for being so gracious. I do hope that you will pay serious attention to the written documentation as well.
Ms. Linda Plourde: Thank you so much. I’m going to try to make it very quick, because I have a very strong message to send, and I’m not a professional so I’m not a good speaker. However, I am here on behalf of the 719 children who have died in care in Ontario alone. Between 2006 and 2012, 719 children died under the supervision of children’s aid. Children’s aid is a corporation, privatized. They’re there for profit; they’re not there for the children.
I would like to show I have travelled Canada on my own. I don’t get paid. I travel Canada. I give tours. I went to Washington, DC. It’s a global crisis, what we have under children’s aid. They even have the audacity to say on their sign, the children’s aid, “Today’s children, tomorrow’s parents.” They are setting up our children.
This is what happened—and I want you to look at these children—before they go in to foster care, and after they are apprehended. I went to over a hundred funerals. I went and spoke to each and every single family—not to children’s aid; I go and talk to the parents. When they write to me—almost every month, some parent contacts me and says, “My child died. They died in foster care. They’re supposed to be protected.”
Children’s aid has to be abolished. It’s a business, and we, the adults—each and every one in this room, each one of you—are responsible for the deaths of these children because we’re not acting up. We’re not acting up. It’s our responsibility to help these children [inaudible] four months, six days after in care, she died.
Ms. Linda Plourde: So basically, what I’m saying—I have gone to Tim Hudak. I have gone to Andrea Horwath. I wrote thousands of letters. What I’m begging each and every one of you today is to please think about the children. No career is worth the life of a child—none.
Source: Ontario Hansard
Addendum: Vern Beck has issued an article Ontario’s Bill 88 must be scrapped (pdf).
Nelson Mandela R.I.P.
December 6, 2013 permalink
Nelson Mandela passed away on December 5.
There can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than the way in which it treats its children
— Nelson Mandela
The foregoing quote was found in the New York Times.
December 3, 2013 permalink
Michigan child protectors have seized baby Layla, age seven days, from mother Dalia Kenbar. The press has done the unusual and covered the first (shelter) hearing in court just five days after seizure. From the facts in the story, it looks like the typical intervention in a wholesome hard-working family that has fallen on hard times, hard times that CPS aggravates. Dalia and her three siblings lost their mother in 2009 while she was serving her country in Iraq. Dalia lost an older child to CPS in the past, her lack of cooperation then was one of the reasons CPS struck again. Additional justifications are Dalia's fight with her brother (no charges) and the standard messy home allegations. Link (mp4) to the video in the article.
Ann Arbor woman fights to get baby back that CPS removed the day before Thanksgiving
ANN ARBOR (WXYZ) - An Ann Arbor mother is fighting to get her infant daughter back after Child Protective Services forcibly removed the baby the day before Thanksgiving.
Dalia Kenbar was hiding in an upstairs bedroom when Washtenaw County Sheriff's deputies and CPS case workers removed 7-day-old Layla.
"I had never done anything to my kids or my newborn," Kenbar testified Monday during a preliminary examination.
A CPS case worker agreed that there has never been any sign that Kenbar abused her newborn or eight-year-old son.
The eight-year-old boy was removed in April after Kenbar was involved in a fight over a cell phone with her 17-year-old brother that left scratches on the teen.
At that time, CPS workers say the house was a cluttered mess and the electricity to the home had been shut off.
Dalia Kenbar, her teenage brother and a 25-year-old brother lost their mother in 2009. She was killed in Iraq while working for the United States as a translator when she stepped on a roadside bomb.
In April, Kenbar also revealed to case workers that she was bi-polar, but not taking her medication because she was pregnant.
During Monday's hearing, Nicholas Barilovich, an investigator for CPS, testified that he knew Kenbar had given birth to her daughter just before Thanksgiving after calling area hospitals.
Barilovich said he believed CPS needed to remove the baby with an emergency order because they didn't know if she was in a suitable living environment and what he called Kenbar's "lack of cooperation" in the case of her eight-year-old son who has remained in foster care since April. That case is still pending.
Barilovich conceded that no one investigated the conditions of Kenbar's new home before removing her nursing infant.
Kenbar testified that she is unable to find the baby's father and the friends she now lives with are "like family."
At the end of Monday's hearing, the court decided to leave Kenbar's baby in foster care so that CPS can look into whether her new home is a suitable environment, which is something Kenbar's attorney Allison Folmar says should have been done before the baby was "snatched" from Kenbar.
The next court date is set for December 17.
Cesarean Baby Snatching
November 30, 2013 permalink
Historian Richard K Stephens coined the term Cesarean kidnapping for a crime in which an aspiring mother attacks a pregnant woman to cut open her belly and steal the baby. Britain forcibly confined a pregnant Italian woman in a psychiatric hospital, then drugged her and cut out her baby for adoption without her knowledge or consent. Expand for an investigative report by Christopher Booker, news by Colin Freeman and commentary by John Hemming.
Italian news sources give the mother's name as Alessandra Pacchieri. She called her baby Amelia.
'Operate on this mother so that we can take her baby’
A mother was given a caesarean section while unconscious - then social services put her baby into care
Last summer a pregnant Italian mother flew to England for a two-week Ryanair training course at Stansted. Staying at an airport hotel, she had something of a panic attack when she couldn’t find the passports for her two daughters, who were with her mother back in Italy. She called the police, who arrived at her room when she was on the phone to her mother. The police asked to speak to the grandmother, who explained that her daughter was probably over-excited because she suffered from a “bipolar” condition and hadn’t been taking her medication to calm her down.
The police told the mother that they were taking her to hospital to “make sure that the baby was OK”. On arrival, she was startled to see that it was a psychiatric hospital, and said she wanted to go back to her hotel. She was restrained by orderlies, sectioned under the Mental Health Act and told that she must stay in the hospital.
By now Essex social services were involved, and five weeks later she was told she could not have breakfast that day. When no explanation was forthcoming, she volubly protested. She was strapped down and forcibly sedated, and when she woke up hours later, found she was in a different hospital and that her baby had been removed by caesarean section while she was unconscious and taken into care by social workers. She was not allowed to see her baby daughter, and later learnt that a High Court judge, Mr Justice Mostyn, had given the social workers permission to arrange for the child to be delivered. In October, at a hearing before another judge, she was represented by lawyers assigned to her by the local authority and told she would be escorted back to Italy without her baby.
All this was such a shock to the mother that, back in Italy, she resumed taking her medication and embarked on a legal battle for the return of her daughter, which has by now involved lawyers in three countries, all of whom I have spoken to at length to establish the facts of this remarkable story. The High Court in Rome expressed outrage at what had been done to an Italian citizen “habitually resident” in Italy. But the judge there concluded that, since she had not protested at the time, she had accepted that the British courts had jurisdiction – even though she had not known what was to be done to her, was deemed to have no “capacity” to instruct lawyers because she had been sectioned, and had only been represented by solicitors assigned to her by the local authority.
In February, when the mother returned to Chelmsford to plead for the return of her daughter, the judge, I am told, admitted that, since resuming her medication, she seemed impressively articulate and a different person from the one he had seen earlier. But, because he could not risk a failure to maintain her medication in the future, he ruled that the child must be placed for adoption.
By now a new twist had entered the story. Supported by the mother, her American husband – from whom she is amicably separated, and who is the father of her eldest daughter – asked that the baby be sent to Los Angeles to live with his sister, herself a very capable mother, described by her US lawyer as “a rock”. British law is clear that wherever possible children should be adopted by members of their wider family. But in March, Essex social services ruled that this was unacceptable because, even though she was the aunt of the baby’s stepsister, the American woman had no “blood” tie to the baby. So, rather than allow the child to be looked after by her “kin”, she must be sent to live with complete strangers.
Since the adoption process is not yet complete, the mother has now, in a final attempt to get the British court’s ruling reversed, called in Brendan Fleming, the most formidable of the few British solicitors prepared to fight for parents whose children have been seized by social workers for seemingly no good reason. Also now involved is John Hemming MP, who has previously helped other foreign parents to win back their children from Britain’s “child protection” system, on the grounds that the UK courts have no jurisdiction over them. He describes this story, of the mother whose baby was forcibly delivered while she lay unconscious, as “extraordinary, unlike any other case I have come across, and one I hope to raise in Parliament”.
Source: Telegraph (UK)
Woman has child taken from her womb by social services
Exclusive: Essex social services have obtained a court order against a woman that allowed her to be forcibly sedated and for her child to be taken from her womb by caesarean section
A pregnant woman has had her baby forcibly removed by caesarean section by social workers.
Essex social services obtained a High Court order against the woman that allowed her to be forcibly sedated and her child to be taken from her womb.
The council said it was acting in the best interests of the woman, an Italian who was in Britain on a work trip, because she had suffered a mental breakdown.
The baby girl, now 15 months old, is still in the care of social services, who are refusing to give her back to the mother, even though she claims to have made a full recovery.
The case has developed into an international legal row, with lawyers for the woman describing it as “unprecedented”.
They claim that even if the council had been acting in the woman’s best interests, officials should have consulted her family beforehand and also involved Italian social services, who would be better-placed to look after the child.
Brendan Fleming, the woman’s British lawyer, told The Sunday Telegraph: “I have never heard of anything like this in all my 40 years in the job.
“I can understand if someone is very ill that they may not be able to consent to a medical procedure, but a forced caesarean is unprecedented.
“If there were concerns about the care of this child by an Italian mother, then the better plan would have been for the authorities here to have notified social services in Italy and for the child to have been taken back there.”
The case, reported by Christopher Booker in his column in The Sunday Telegraph today, raises fresh questions about the extent of social workers’ powers.
It will be raised in Parliament this week by John Hemming, a Liberal Democrat MP. He chairs the Public Family Law Reform Coordinating Campaign, which wants reform and greater openness in court proceedings involving family matters.
He said: “I have seen a number of cases of abuses of people’s rights in the family courts, but this has to be one of the more extreme.
“It involves the Court of Protection authorising a caesarean section without the person concerned being made aware of what was proposed. I worry about the way these decisions about a person’s mental capacity are being taken without any apparent concern as to the effect on the individual being affected.”
The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, is an Italian national who come to Britain in July last year to attend a training course with an airline at Stansted Airport in Essex.
She suffered a panic attack, which her relations believe was due to her failure to take regular medication for an existing bipolar condition.
She called the police, who became concerned for her well-being and took her to a hospital, which she then realised was a psychiatric facility.
She has told her lawyers that when she said she wanted to return to her hotel, she was restrained and sectioned under the Mental Health Act.
Meanwhile, Essex social services obtained a High Court order in August 2012 for the birth “to be enforced by way of caesarean section”, according to legal documents seen by this newspaper.
The woman, who says she was kept in the dark about the proceedings, says that after five weeks in the ward she was forcibly sedated. When she woke up she was told that the child had been delivered by C-section and taken into care.
In February, the mother, who had gone back to Italy, returned to Britain to request the return of her daughter at a hearing at Chelmsford Crown Court.
Her lawyers say that she had since resumed taking her medication, and that the judge formed a favourable opinion of her. But he ruled that the child should be placed for adoption because of the risk that she might suffer a relapse.
The cause has also been raised before a judge in the High Court in Rome, which has questioned why British care proceedings had been applied to the child of an Italian citizen “habitually resident” in Italy. The Italian judge accepted, though, that the British courts had jurisdiction over the woman, who was deemed to have had no “capacity” to instruct lawyers.
Lawyers for the woman are demanding to know why Essex social services appear not have contacted next of kin in Italy to consult them on the case.
They are also upset that social workers insisted on placing the child in care in Britain, when there had been an offer from a family friend in America to look after her.
Last night an expert on social care proceedings, who asked not to be named because she was not fully acquainted with the details of the case, described it as “highly unusual”.
She said the council would first have to find “that she was basically unfit to make any decision herself” and then shown there was an acute risk to the mother if a natural birth was attempted.
An Essex county council spokesman said the local authority would not comment on ongoing cases involving vulnerable people and children.
Source: Telegraph (UK)
Careful visiting the UK whilst pregnant. They just might take your baby for adoption.
This story in The Telegraph is a step beyond the normal abuses in the family courts (and court of protection). This was a pregnant mother visiting the UK for a training course lasting only two weeks. It ends up with her baby being taken through a forcible cesarian and then placed for adoption for the usual spurious reasons that are used.
Oddly enough last night I had another case of someone who was a foreign mother having her children taken for the system whilst she is deported. This is much like the case from which I highlighted a JR decision earlier this year. Mum was deported and the child kept.
The Italian case is one about which more will be heard. Also the one raised with me last night. The USA case is one which has had some attention.
In essence families count for nothing in the modern family court. The "best interests of the child" are "paramount" which means that what the social workers say goes. If a social worker does not say what the management want then the social worker can be fired as had happened. There is no independence in the system and family ties carry no substantial weight.
I did speak to Michael Gove about this on Wednesday. I do not think that he has this as an objective. It is clearly an unintentional consequence of the government policy of the last 12 years or so. It is, however, a real consequence and has to be brought to an end.
Source: John Hemming blog
Addendum: John Hemming has more to say about deporting mothers while retaining their children in foster care. Britain is not alone here. Fixcas has encountered this practice in the US, Canada and Sweden.
Italian Mother Case: Bipolar UK issue statement in support of mother
The following is a statement by Bipolar UK:
Bipolar UK response to media reporting on forced caesarean and continued separation of mother and child
The forced caesarean and continued separation of mother and child is, we believe, unprecedented.
It is sometimes the case that if someone is very ill they are unable to consent to a medical procedure which those caring for them consider is urgently needed. But officials should make every effort to consult with the family before decisions are taken, a procedure made more difficult in this case because the woman was only on a short stay from Italy. Moreover, if there were continuing concerns about the care of the child, one would have thought Italian social services would have been involved in determining what was best for the child.
Women with bipolar may become unwell during pregnancy and are at high risk of becoming ill following childbirth. The majority of women recover fully, they manage the impact of the illness through strategies involving medication, health care, therapy and self management and they are good mothers.
Notes for Editors
Bipolar – The Facts
Bipolar UK has a dedicated leaflet “Bipolar, pregnancy and childbirth” available to download at http://www.bipolaruk.org.uk/assets/uploads/documents/information_leaflets/bipolar_uk_bipolar_disorder_pregnancy_childbirth.pdf
Between 600,000 and 1.2 million individuals in the UK (1% to 2% of the population) have bipolar. The impact and devastation of bipolar are not about the sufferer alone. Including parents and partners for example, bipolar affects over three million people in the UK today.
Compared with other mental health illnesses that have a similar or lower impact, treatment of bipolar is still hampered by misunderstanding and severe stigma.
It takes an average of 10.5 years to receive a correct diagnosis for bipolar in the UK. The 2012 survey by Royal College of Psychiatrists, Bipolar UK and Bipolar Scotland for the first Bipolar Awareness Day in 2012 suggested this could be as long as 13 years.
Please refer your readers to www.bipolaruk.org.uk or they can contact us on email@example.com and 020 7931 6483.
Bipolar UK can provide case studies, interviews and comments from the charity and individuals affected by bipolar.
Source: John Hemming blog
Italian Mother: Statement by John Hemming
Unsurprisingly there is a lot of media interest in this case. We do, however, need to remember that at the centre of this case is a mother and a baby (and the wider family including two siblings of the baby).
I will be driven as to what I say to the media about the case by the wishes of the mother concerned. I have been discussing that with her today. I have already had a short conversation with her on the telephone and we have agreed to speak further later today. However, I do not expect to be able to make any statement beyond this statement until after 5pm today or even later. I am on the train at the moment which makes it really difficult to have long phone calls.
In the mean time my team have been contacting the Italian Embassy to find out what their position is on this issue. In previous cases the Polish, Czech and Slovak embassies have all been very supportive of their citizens facing unjust proceedings in the family division in England and Wales. However, I do not know what the view of the Italian Embassy or the Italian authorities more generally will be.
When it comes to international public family law each country has a central authority. In the UK the central authority is the Official Solicitor. Italy also has a central authority. In the case of the Slovak grandmother last year the Slovak Central authority applied to intervene in the appeal on behalf of the Slovak Republic. It is, of course, open to the Italian Central Authority to do the same.
The case does highlight the rather selective approach that the Court of Protection has been taking to issuing public judgments. There are many judgments that can be found on the bailii website, but this case does not appear. There has to be an improvement so that proper accountability can occur of judicial processes.
In the mean time I have been referring to the case of the Cootes family. This family who had to leave the UK and go to Spain to keep their daughter are now back in the UK. I know they are willing to be interviewed about what happened with them. My office will give out the grandfather's phone number to any journalists who ask for it. One similarity between this case and that of the Italian mother is the local authority's resistance to the proposal that a baby should be cared within the wider family rather than placed for adoption.
In terms of the question as to how I will raise this in parliament. There are lots and lots and lots of ways of raising something in parliament. I will not decide precisely how to do this until after speak to the mother concerned.
Source: John Hemming blog
Italian Mother: Statement by John Hemming
Response to statement from Judiciary:
"I welcome the transfer of the case from Chelmsford County Court to the High Court in front of the president of the family division. The appointment of the president of the family division was a very positive step and I am certain that any applications to him will be heard justly."
"I remain concerned that many decisions taken by the family courts are taken by the magistrates court (the family proceedings court) and are then appealed to the county court. This means that domestic proceedings can be exhausted without a case getting out of the area in which it is considered. This means that there is never any public judgment and the case in the UK has come to an end. All that people can then do is to take their case to Strasbourg."
Comment about failure of Essex to follow proper proceedings:
"The rules are straightforward when it comes to foreign nationals and care proceedings. The foreign country concerned should be contacted through their central authority (in Italy's case part of the Justice Ministry). This clearly did not happen and for this Essex County Council are clearly in the wrong."
Comment following Essex County Council's press release:
"Essex have not managed to explain why no-one in the wider extended family was competent to look after the baby when they were already looking after two of her siblings. Additionally Essex have not explained why this baby was in their control to get adopted when the mother always intended to return to Italy."
Source: John Hemming blog
Italian Mother: Statement by John Hemming (includes comments from mother and italian judgment)
Report of Conversation with mother:
John Hemming said "I have spoken to the mother concerned who has been very badly treated by the authorities in England. She has said to me that she would like to thank all the British people who have sent messages of support."
"Now that we know that the case is still live and to be heard by Munby P it is clear that the case is sub judice. That limits the range of parliamentary proceedings that can be used. I have, therefore, tabled a Motion in parliament relating to the failures of Essex County Council in terms of Communication with Foreign Institutions. This should appear tomorrow.
Essex County Council's failure to follow international law
Under the Vienna convention article 36 and also under Brussels II Bis revised (Council Regulation (EC) No 2201/2003) articles 15, 55 and 56 the Italian authorities should have been contacted about both the mother’s imprisonment and the care of the baby. However, they were not.
In 2011 Essex (in response to an FOI request) said they had no contact with High Commissions and Embassies. In 2010-11 they had 21 children who were foreign nationals who had become "looked after". This was as part of 138 who had become "looked after" in the previous 5 years. It is clear, therefore, that they were not following international law then and have not followed international law in this case."
The government are also at fault because they have refused to even try to keep track of which children in the care system are foreign nationals. This could be done easily in the SSDA903 return.
Comments on judgment:
I welcome the publication of the judgment on bailii. It is available here http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/Misc/2013/20.html.
We still need answers.
We need answers from the Mental Health trust who need to explain why the mother was kept in England for 6 weeks prior to being given the C Section.
We need the publication of the judgment about the caesarean section from the court of protection.
We need an explanation of why no attempt was made to allow the father to participate in the court case. He may not be allowed to enter the UK for immigration reasons, but should have been allowed proper participation on the phone or via video link at least.
We also need an explanation from the local authority as to why when the grandmother is deemed capable of looking after two children she could not look after the third.
On the Italian proceedings
"More details are coming out about the proceedings in the Italian courts. It is clear that Essex has misrepresented the court hearings in Italy. The court of first instance ruled itself not competent to rule in the matter and referred it to the tribunal in Rome who in October 2013 declared that it “cannot recognise the ruling of the English court because it is contrary to Italian and international norms of public order”.
Italian: "non poter riconoscere il provvedimento della Corte inglese perchè contrario alle norme italiane e internazionali di ordine pubblico".
Source: John Hemming blog
Italian Mother: Letter from Italian Human Rights Court Group to John Hemming MP
The UFTDU are similar to Liberty.
Source: John Hemming blog
Deported women forced to leave babies in UK is 'increasing problem'
MP makes claim after a pregnant woman, from Italy, was sectioned under the mental health act in UK and had her baby removed by caesarean section
Pregnant women who have been deported but are forced to leave their babies in Britain is becoming an ‘increasing problem’, an influential MP has said, after it emerged that an Italian national was forced into a caesarean section by social workers.
The Italian woman, who was made to leave her baby in Britain, had travelled to the country for a two-week Ryanair training course at Stansted when she was sectioned under the mental health act and told she must stay in hospital.
Essex social services then obtained a High Court order against the woman, allowing her to be forcibly sedated and the child to be taken from her womb.
John Hemming, MP for Birmingham Yardley and chairman of the Public Family Law Reform Coordinating Campaign, which wants reform and greater openness in court proceedings involving family matters, said there were many other instances of children taken from mothers in Britain, who are then deported.
He referred to the case of a mother whose child, now five-years-old, was born in Sweden, but was taken into the care of a local authority in Britain after her mother was involved in an incident at Heathrow airport.
The child was placed in a foster home in September 2012 and continued to live there until an appeal court ruled British authorities did not have jurisdiction over the child.
Mr Hemming said: “It’s a very big problem that has been swept under the carpet. Partly because it is so awful, people want to turn a blind eye to it.”
"In essence families count for nothing in the modern family court.
“The 'best interests of the child' are 'paramount' which means that what the social workers say goes. If a social worker does not say what the management want then the social worker can be fired as had happened. There is no independence in the system and family ties carry no substantial weight.
“The Italian case is one about which more will be heard.”
Mr Hemming said local authorties were often under pressure to make quick decisions about foster placements and adoptions.
Earlier this year, Education Secretary Michael Gove, launched a drive to increase the number of children adopted. It came after official figures showed almost half of all councils were failing to meet basic targets for placing children with adoptive parents.
He added: "The problem's been going on for a long time but it’s become an increasing problem because of some of the changes brought in by the current government.”
When the police arrived at the Italian mother's hotel room last summer, they told her that they were taking her to hospital to “make sure that the baby was OK”.
The officers had spoken to the woman’s mother on the phone, who explained that she was upset she couldn’t find the passports for her two daughters, who were staying with her in Italy.
The grandmother said she was probably stressed because she suffered from a “bipolar” condition and had not been taking her medication.
However, instead of taking the woman to hospital, officers delivered her to a psychiatric unit, where she was restrained and sectioned.
The baby girl, now 15 months old, is still being looking after by social services, who are refusing to give her back to her mother. The woman has launched a legal battle to return her daughter.
In what has turned into an international legal row, lawyers for the woman have publicly questioned why her family in Italy were not consulted beforehand and why social services insisted on keeping the child in Britain despite an offer from a family friend in America to care for her.
Under British law, a child should be adopted by members of their wider family wherever possible but social services ruled an aunt of the baby’s stepsister, an American resident, could not look after her because there was no “blood tie”.
Shami Chakrabarti, director of human rights organisation Liberty, described the case as “the stuff of nightmares”.
She said: "Please God there's more to this, but at first blush this is dystopian science-fiction unworthy of a democracy like ours. Forced surgery and separation of mother and infant is the stuff of nightmares that those responsible will struggle to defend in courts of law and decency.
A spokesman for Essex county council said the local authority could not comment on ongoing cases.
Source: Telegraph (UK)
Addendum: The international notariety of this case caused judge Mostyn to release two court orders and the transcript of a hearing. IN THE MATTER OF: Re: AA (pdf).
Demonstrating that social workers are out of touch with reality, Annie Hudson, chief executive of the College of Social Work, defends every act of the social services system in Alessandra's case.
How 'forced' caesarean case became a story about social work
The hostile media outburst was characterised by speculation and half-truths, with little focus on the complexities of the case
"Torment of the woman who had baby taken from womb" said one typical headline, as Essex social workers were pilloried by the media for apparently forcing an Italian mother to have a caesarean section. This should not come as a surprise – we have become accustomed to being "damned if we do, damned if we don't".
Yet the truth, as it gradually emerged last week, was very different. Media hostility has made social work wary of explaining what it does and why, so Essex council and the courts should be applauded for stepping in quickly to give a public and factual account of their decisions.
The Essex story, with its mental health, child protection, adoption and indeed international dimensions, gave vent to an extraordinary media outburst about "unaccountable and out of control" professionals riding roughshod over a mother's human rights. Much of this was characterised by speculation, half truths, and a breathtaking lack of sensitivity to the needs of a very small child who was rendered invisible.
Three professional practice issues stand out from this case: privacy, decision-making timescales and parental mental illness. Social workers were portrayed as undermining human rights via recourse to "secret" courts, when in fact the caesarean application to the court of protection was an obstetrician-led decision made on health grounds by Mid Essex Hospital Services NHS trust. All the professionals involved, including social workers, quite rightly sought to protect the privacy of both parent and child in making what were difficult and no doubt emotionally wrenching decisions.
The caesarean section made this case unusual, if not unique, but in other respects the decisions taken were nothing out of the ordinary. It is clear that social workers and other professionals made a measured and evidence-based appraisal of the child's interests, the mother's health, and whether a kinship placement in another country was feasible.
Importantly too, despite press portrayals of precipitous professionals, decisions about the child's future were within normal timeframes and entirely consistent with good practice. The baby was born in late August 2012 but it was in early February 2013 that the county court granted a care order and gave the local authority leave to place the child for adoption, thereby meeting the 26-week standard for care proceedings.
Social workers were accused by the media of not talking to the mother's Italian family when seeking a placement for the child. In fact, they did. The international dimension to social work decision-making is an increasingly important feature of the work, which may involve working effectively with counterparts in other countries and travelling abroad to assess kinship carers. Importantly, many such carers go on to give excellent permanent care for English-born children.
Zoe Williams, in a generally thoughtful piece in the Guardian, took less issue with the caesarean section decision and more with the adoption decision which she suggested "should truly worry us". She is of course right to point out that having mental health problems should never be equated with parental incapacity.
But we also have to recognise that a small number of parents with mental health problems do struggle to look after their children sufficiently well. It is in these situations that social workers, and other professionals, have to carefully weigh up the risks and take the hard decisions. The published court judgments suggest that great care was taken in making these decisions and remind us of the imperative that mental health and children's services work in partnership. This can be tough and demanding, especially when there is conflict; when this sadly happens then it is the interests of children that must be uppermost.
So a story which started out about social work "precipitousness" and "disregard for human rights" became, after a febrile media week, a story about the intellectually and emotionally demanding nature of social work. To that extent, we must hope that the story ultimately contributed to a more nuanced public understanding of the challenges facing social workers every day.
Annie Hudson is chief executive of the College of Social Work
Source: Guardian (UK)
Addendum: A week later Booker follows up.
Judge must unravel saga of baby snatched from womb
In the shocking case of an Italian mother whose child was removed by caesarean, the head of Britain's family courts will be looking closely at social workers' actions
When last week I broke the story of the Italian mother whose baby was forcibly removed from her womb and taken into care by Essex social workers, I had no idea what a storm this would unleash. Not only did the story make front-page news for four days running here in Britain, along with endless discussion on the radio and legal blogs, but it was reported in at least 41 countries across the world.
Two responses were particularly significant. The first was that Lord Justice Munby, who, since stepping up to become the head of our family courts, has robustly campaigned for our much-criticised child protection system to be opened up to “the glare of publicity”, now wishes to take over the case himself and to ask the social workers to explain their actions. The second was the publication not only of the judgment by Mr Justice Mostyn (pictured), who gave the original secret order for the baby to be removed in the Court of Protection, but also, very revealingly, a full transcript of the proceedings. It is this, above all, that has helped enormously to clarify understanding of this murky story, and makes it even more disturbing than it previously appeared.
On August 23 2012, when Alessandra Pacchieri had already been detained for five weeks in the psychiatric wing of an Essex hospital under the Mental Health Act, pleading to be allowed to return home to her family in Italy, Mostyn heard an application from the MidEssex Health Trust that the mother should be operated on next day to remove her baby, if necessary with use of force. Because the mother was deemed not to have the “mental capacity” to instruct her own lawyer, she was represented on behalf of the Official Solicitor by David Lock QC, who never met her.
The main evidence against the mother was two reports from a psychiatrist, Dr Rupesh Adimulam, who had diagnosed her as “psychotic” and “schizophrenic”, although her “bipolar” condition resulted from a chemical imbalance that had previously been corrected by medication. She had stopped taking that because she was advised that it was dangerous to unborn babies. An obstetrician’s report also said that a caesarean section was advisable because, with a natural birth as the mother wanted, there was a “1 per cent risk of uterine rupture”.
But Lock then raised a “multi-agency report” recommending that the mother should be given “a fair chance” of being treated for her condition in a mother-and-baby unit, allowing her child to stay with her. This point was not even considered by the court. Mostyn simply went on to suggest that, as soon as the baby was born, Essex social services should apply for an interim order to take the child into care, insisting that the mother “should not know about this order before she is taken and goes into hospital”. An order meeting Mostyn’s requirements, including use of force and withholding from the mother that Essex was to apply for a care order, was drafted by the health trust barrister and signed by Mostyn.
As we know from the mother, all went according to plan. Next day she was forcibly sedated, the operation took place and she woke up to find her baby gone, with her room “full of hospital staff and social workers”. She was briefly allowed to see and breastfeed her new daughter, but was forbidden to do this again (despite Munby’s ruling in an earlier case that to deny a mother the right to breastfeed her newborn baby is in breach of “the imperative demands of the European Convention on Human Rights”).
Ms Pacchieri says that her psychiatrist wanted her to be sent with her child to the mother-and-baby unit. But now the social workers had their care order, this gave them full control over what happened next. After three days the baby vanished from the hospital to be put into foster care. Weeks later, Alessandra was escorted by two hospital managers back to Italy, where her father owns a restaurant near Siena. After three weeks being treated in an Italian hospital, she was so fully restored to health that, when in February she returned to Britain to plead for her child not to be adopted, Judge Newton, who had seen her in October, said that she presented herself so impressively that she seemed almost a different person. But, because he could not rule out her failing to take her medication in the future, her child must be placed for adoption.
Such is the extraordinarily tangled saga which Lord Justice Munby has now set himself to unravel. We must hope that he studies Mostyn’s judgment and the events which followed very carefully indeed.
Source: Telegraph (UK)
Addendum: Still more. The courts cannot fairly criticize the press for inaccuracies when it is the courts themselves that whithhold the facts.
Lord Justice Munby probes 'court secrecy’
The case of Alessandra Pacchieri, the Italian woman whose baby was forcibly delivered, has prompted a significant judgment from Sir James Munby, head of the family courts
I was planning to report the heartwarming story of how a devoutly Christian husband and wife were last week miraculously reunited in time for Christmas with their four young children – who, for quite bizarre reasons, had been taken unhappily into foster care by social workers. An unusually sensible judge eventually excoriated the social workers for all that had been done to this family and ordered them to hand back the bewildered children to their distraught parents. But the mother then asked me to hold back on telling their story until the new year.
In fact, delaying that story could not be more opportune, because I need to report on a very important judgment given last Tuesday by Lord Justice Munby, now head of our family courts. This was in the much-publicised case first revealed here of the pregnant Italian mother, Alessandra Pacchieri, who, on a brief visit to Britain, had her baby forcibly delivered by a caesarean section on the secret orders of Mr Justice Mostyn, before the child was sent by Essex social workers for adoption.
Munby’s judgment, in response to an application by Essex for an injunction on further reporting of the case that has been covered across the world, takes further than ever before his crusade to meet the growing criticism of our dysfunctional “child protection” system by exposing it to “the glare of publicity”.
His most trenchant passage answers all those legal bloggers who rushed to criticise me and others for our coverage of this disturbing story by asking “how can the family justice system blame the media for inaccuracy in the reporting of family cases if for whatever reason none of the relevant information has been put before the public?”
“This case,” Munby went on, “must surely stand as a final, stark and irrefutable demonstration of the pressing need for radical changes in the way in which both the family courts and the Court of Protection approach what for shorthand I will refer to as transparency. We simply cannot go on as hitherto.”
Already Munby had dramatically demonstrated his point by urging Mr Justice Mostyn to authorise publication of the Court of Protection proceedings in which he ignored the recommendation of a “multi-agency report” that the Italian mother and her baby should stay together. These showed that Mostyn not only ruled in secret that the mother should be forcibly delivered of her baby, but that she also should not be told that Essex would almost immediately remove her child into care.
Munby criticised Essex for five failures to follow proper legal procedures. But he has obviously not yet been made aware that when last October Essex moved for the child to be adopted, they only notified Ms Pacchieri of what was to happen the previous day, in an encrypted email she was unable to read because they did not give her the correct code. They also misinformed Munby and everyone else with a statement claiming that, when the mother took proceedings in the Italian high court, this ruled that the child “should remain in England”. A translation of the court judgment shows that it did nothing of the kind. It found that the treatment of the mother by the British authorities “poses an irreconcilable conflict with the fundamental rights of the child”. The Rome court found that the case should have been handled differently in every respect, and that the UK “court decision cannot be recognised”.
In fact, the Italian government has now briefed London lawyers that it wishes to be represented in any further hearings of the case. Munby noted that no application for a further hearing has yet been made by Ms Pacchieri’s English solicitor, Brendan Fleming, but this is because no legal funding is likely to be made available to them. Fleming regards the case as so important that he is willing to work on it for no fee, but to defray the remaining costs he is setting up a “fighting fund”, which he hopes will allow the case to proceed as soon as possible.
We have not heard the last of this story, and Sir James Munby deserves commendation for his determination to ensure that justice should be done – and that it must be clearly seen to be done.
Source: Telegraph (UK)
Addendum: In January the same court orders cesarean surgery for another woman against her will.
Judge orders mentally ill woman to have forced caesarean
A mentally ill woman has had a baby after a judge ordered her to undergo a caesarean section in order to “keep her alive”
A High Court judge has given doctors permission to perform an urgent caesarean section on a mentally-ill woman with diabetes.
The woman was delivered of a baby boy within hours of Mr Justice Hayden giving specialists at the Royal Free London NHS Trust approval for the procedure, following a five-hour hearing at the Court of Protection.
He conceded that the decision was “draconian” but insisted it was necessary because the 32-year-old mother’s life may be in danger.
The ruling, late on Friday, came after doctors applied for permission to carry out the delivery in order that the patient’s “unstable mental state” could be treated.
Lawyers representing the trust said that the baby had been delivered without problem in the early hours of Saturday, and that the woman had hugged a surgeon after recovering consciousness. They said no restraint had been necessary.
The case has echoes of the treatment of Allesandra Pacchieri, an Italian woman forced to have her baby delivered by c-section and then removed from her by Essex social services, and comes at a time when the operations of the Court of Protection, which deals with such issues, is under renewed scrutiny.
The woman, who had been 32 weeks pregnant, was deemed unable to make the decision over how to give birth.
A specialist from the trust told the Court of Protection in London, which specialises in issues relating to the sick and vulnerable, that their priority was “keeping this woman alive”.
Mr Justice Hayden heard how she was thought to have paranoid schizophrenia, had stopped eating and tried to kill herself.
One doctor told the court that her mental and physical problems should improve and be easier to treat once the baby had been born.
The judge ruled that neither the woman nor the hospital where she was treated should be named but the health authority should be in order to “serve to reassure public confidence”.
He added: “The decision to compel a caesarean section on an incapacitous woman who is mentally and physically ill is an extremely draconian one. Doctors do not embark upon this lightly. It occurs extremely rarely. It is one that the lawyers also take very seriously indeed.
“I am perfectly satisfied that at the moment [this woman] is not able to make any reasoned evaluation of the advantages and disadvantages of a caesarean section.”
Mr Justice Hayden concluded that the woman lacked the mental capacity to regulate her diabetic medicine and monitor her own intake of food and water.
However, in granting permission for the operation the judge stipulated that the patient should not be restrained or have force used against her.
A specialist advised the court that the baby would not be at risk if delivered via caesarean section at 32 weeks.
The Telegraph revealed in December how Miss Pacchieri, an Italian who suffers from a bipolar condition, was taken into hospital while visiting England and sectioned under the Mental Health Act.
In a hearing which took place behind closed doors at the secretive Court of Protection, a judge granted permission for doctors to forcibly deliver her child, a girl, who was then put into foster care almost immediately.
Miss Pacchieri, 35, is fighting to get her daughter back and a decision on her case will now be taken by Sir James Munby, Britain’s most senior family judge.
The child, now 15 months old, can only be referred to as Child P because her anonymity is protected by court orders. She is still in the process of being adopted, against her mother’s wishes.
Miss Pacchieri came to Britain in June 2012 for a training course at Stansted airport to become an air hostess, when she suffered what her legal team insist was a “panic attack” which led to her being sectioned.
She said she had rung police for help who, after speaking to her mother in Italy about her bipolar condition, took her from her hotel to hospital, where she was told she would be sectioned.
She claims she refused to take medication for her condition because she feared it would harm her unborn child.
Ten weeks later, in August 2012, the local health authority obtained an order enabling doctors to deliver the child by caesarean section while Essex County Council began care proceedings which led to the girl being eventually put up for adoption.
Source: Telegraph (UK)
Shotgun Divorce in Niagara
November 30, 2013 permalink
A mother with sons ages 7 and 5 and a daughter age 3 tells of her shotgun divorce. She does not know the whereabouts of her husband because she has been forbidden contact for over a year.
AnnaBelle Tea I am new to this group I have been involved with fcas Niagara I am terrified, I lost my children once back in Jan and I got them back in March they want another 6 months involvement, my lawyer that I had says give them what they want it's easier that way, how this all came about was an Innocent of two summers ago my husband was going through some hard times, he never hit me or our children, however in Oct of that same year, I was upstairs getting my sons stuff together for school my sons where fighting when I came down my one was was in a chair I did not see anything it wasn't until we got to school when my son informed a teacher that daddy had hit him with a slipper, since then I haven't seen my husband for a year now I am not sure where he is right now as I am not to have contact with him, he is innocent however fcas thinks he is a monster and an abuser I was told after this innocent happened that if I didn't turn against my husband the worker would have taken the children away that day, I still have nightmares over it even tho my children are back I am still missing that special person in my life what can he do to clear his name, any help at all. I feel that I have betrayed my husband and my son feels guilty I keep telling him he has done nothing wrong, I am trying to stay strong but some days it's harder than others, my son sees a councilor at his school to help him cope as he has some incidents at school when he is home he is fine and happy. I am competently lost scared and confused my husband has court some time in Jan. I feel this is my fault some how I am seeing a councilor too to help me deal with all this. I am just not sure what I can do. The kids miss daddy dearly. When ever I tell people I always think that they must think I am crazy I just want this nightmare to end!
AnnaBelle Tea see the problem is I am not 100% sure if he did hit my son or if my son just said that I wasn't in the room at that time, no body is listening to me at the FCAS as they feel I was abused as well witch again is NOT true. Also there was NO warrant at the time he was arrested. Plus when the police came to the house there was NO warrant for when they did a so called such in finding a slipper. I am just lost I am NOT getting any where with FCAS do to the fact they feel I am minimizing everything! I am just so lost and confused and sadly I do not have anything to record with and also on another note the court wants my son to testify against his father, but I told them no that he has been through enough and he is just getting back to normal, but I do thank you Chris for taking the time to answer me, I just wish I knew where to go and who to go to to get my husband cleared.
Source: Stop the CAS ..., AnnaBelle Tea
Hard Lemonade Judge Sued
November 30, 2013 permalink
In April 2008 father Christopher Ratte attended a Detroit Tigers game where he bought his seven-year-old son Leo a bottle of Mike's Hard Lemonade. He did not know that it contained alcohol. A security guard noticed and had the boy sent to a hospital. There Michigan child protective services seized the boy on authority of an order signed by judge Judy A Hartsfield. She had signed a number of orders in blank with instructions to child protectors to fill in the names and date as the need arose. Lawyers for the Ratte family have successfully argued that this turned Hartsfield from a judge into an administrator, waiving her judicial immunity. Link to earlier story. Two years ago, the same community was found to be signing judicial child removal orders with a rubber stamp.
Family can sue in child removal case involving Mike's Hard Lemonade, judge rules
An Ann Arbor family can proceed with a lawsuit against a judge who placed their 7-year-old son in foster care after his father mistakenly gave him Mike’s Hard Lemonade at a Detroit Tigers game, a federal judge ruled today.
According to the lawsuit, Wayne County Family Court Judge Judy A. Hartsfield took the boy away from his parents without determining that the child was in danger, but rather had a practice of providing presigned child-removal orders for the on-duty desk clerk to be filled out after hours based on police allegations.
In allowing the case to proceed, U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn ruled that if the allegations are true, the practice of presigning orders violated the parent and child’s fundamental right to family integrity and the “clearly established” rights of parents to a notice and a hearing before the removal of their child, barring an emergency situation.
Cohn also ruled that Hartsfield is not entitled to judicial immunity because in presigning the orders, she was acting as an administrator, not a judge.
The lawsuit stems from an April 2008 incident in which 7-year-old Leo Ratté attended a Detroit Tigers game with his father, Christopher Ratté. Ratte said he accidentally purchased what he thought was lemonade from a stand advertising “Mike’s Lemonade,” and, not knowing that it contained alcohol, gave it to his son. A security guard saw the boy with the beverage and contacted police.
Leo was removed from the home and released into his mother’s custody several days after the incident.
Source: Detroit Free Press
Addendum: A federal court has refused to dismiss the claim against judge Judy Hartsfield.
In an aside, mother Claire Zimmeran says that the abduction of her son by CPS was an unbelievable nightmare, far worse than the death of her first child. This confirms other stories collected by fixcas from a tiny group of unfortunate mothers who have had both experiences.
Lawsuit against judge over child's removal can go forward
DETROIT (WXYZ) - A federal judge has ruled that a couple’s lawsuit against a Wayne County judge can go forward.
They accuse family court Judge Judy Hartsfield of improperly having their son removed from their custody, relying on pre-signed child-removal orders filled out by a clerk.
“It was an unbelievable nightmare. Far worse than the death of my first child," said mother Claire Zimmeran.
Her husband, a professor at the University of Michigan, mistakenly gave their then 7-year old son Mike’s Hard Lemonade, which contains alcohol, at a Detroit Tigers game. A security guard complained, and the boy ended up in foster care for three days and was then turned over to his mother.
“I felt totally helpless, I felt desperate," Zimmerman said.
The couple contacted the American Civil Liberties Union, which sued the Department of Human Services and Wayne County Family Court Judge Judy Hartsfield.
"We found out that these sorts of things happen a lot, not to upper middle class professors, but to people in Detroit who do not have the resources," said ACLU of Michigan Legal Director Michael Steinberg. " And rather than the kids being taken away for a couple of days, they’re taken away for a couple of months"
Steinberg says Judge Hartsfield violated the family’s rights by failing to have a hearing to determine if the Zimmerman's son was in ever danger. Instead, he says Judge Hartsfield gave a clerk pre-signed removal order to be filled out after hours, based solely on police allegations.
"To think that a judge would pre-sign an order and give police carte blanche to take away kids whenever they want, without even reviewing the allegations, is not only unconstitutional, it’s unfathomable," Steinberg said.
This week, U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn ruled that the couple’s lawsuit can go forward against Judge Hartsfield, who had claimed judicial immunity. But Cohn reasoned that Hartsfield was not acting as a judge when providing pre-signed orders, but an administrator.
Judge Cohn did dismiss the case against the department of human services supervisors who were relying on the judge’s orders.
Addendum: Settled privately.
Judge settles lawsuit in Comerica Park Hard Lemonade case involving 7-year-old
A Wayne County judge has settled a lawsuit filed by a couple whose son was temporarily removed from their custody after he was mistakenly given alcohol at a Detroit Tigers game.
The case was closed Tuesday in a federal court filing. Attorneys for the parents and Judge Judy Hartsfield say settlement details are confidential.
Leo Ratte was 7 years old in 2008 when his father mistakenly gave him Mike's Hard Lemonade at Comerica Park. University of Michigan professor Christopher Ratte says he didn't know the beverage had alcohol.
Police took steps to put Leo into protective custody for several days. Leo's parents sued the judge, claiming their rights were violated by Hartsfield's practice of signing blank forms and leaving them to be filled in by authorities to remove children.
Source: Detroit Free Press
Brittle Doctor's Opinion
November 30, 2013 permalink
Doctor Alain Sirard of Montreal's Ste-Justine Hospital has reported several patients to Quebec’s youth protection services as victims of child abuse. Many have turned out to not be child abuse at all. Sofia Manocchio was found to have several bone fractures in her arm. The problem turned out to be brittle bone disease.
Parents say they were unfairly accused of abuse at Ste-Justine
Youth protection called in case of brittle bone disease
Several families say that some Ste-Justine Hospital doctors unjustifiably reported them to Quebec’s youth protection services.
Geneviève Berthiaume’s daughter, Sofia, was four months old when she went to the Ste-Justine ER with a broken arm last fall.
Her x-rays revealed more than 20 fractures in her arm. According to normal operating procedures, the hospital notified youth protection services.
Except that Sofia was in the process of being tested for a host of illnesses because her arms hadn’t unfolded since birth. Still, Berthiaume says, Sofia’s doctor, Alain Sirard, pursued a theory that the girl was suffering from shaken baby syndrome.
Sofia’s father, Marcello Manocchio, says Sirard made some surprising comments.
“I’m Italian. So he mentioned to me that normally, all Italians slap their children,” he says. “It’s a total lack of ethics on the part of the doctor.”
Sirard submitted his diagnosis to youth protection services: abuse.
Investigating child abuse at Ste-Justine
The College of Physicians and the hospital have both received multiple complaints about Sirard, whose job it is to identify cases of child abuse.
Jean-Yves Frappier, head of Ste-Justine’s Social Pediatric department, says the hospital has to take every precaution in cases of suspected abuse.
“Our role is to protect the child above all, and that’s what the law asks of us. We are forced to report,” Frappier says.
But several parents with children who were seen by Sirard at Ste-Justine’s socio-legal clinic say he didn’t listen to their explanations of their children’s injuries.
“My dad went on the Internet to try to find out more,” Berthiaume says. “We learned that brittle bone disease is often misdiagnosed as abuse.”
Some time after their ordeal at Ste-Justine, Sofia’s tests came in. She was diagnosed with a form of brittle bone disease.
Her story is one of several in which doctors at Ste-Justine made allegations of abuse despite the absence of risk factors and against the advice of other experts.
Lawyer Katia Leontieff finds this worrisome.
“When a system is not able to be challenged, to be questioned, for me, that’s a system that is dangerous,” Leontieff says.
Families Flee to Ontario
November 30, 2013 permalink
About two hundred members of the Jewish sect, or cult, Lev Tahor recently fled Quebec and settled near Chatham Ontario to avoid seizure of their children. A Quebec judge has ordered 14 of the children to be placed in foster care. This episode may become known as out of the frying pan into the fire.
Canadian court orders Haredi cult's children be put in foster care
Fourteen children belonging to Lev Tahor to undergo medical exams and receive psychological support.
A Quebec youth court has ordered 14 children from the ultra-orthodox Jewish cult Lev Tahor be placed temporarily in foster care, undergo medical examinations and receive psychological support, CBC News reported Wednesday.
The court also ordered that the children's parents hand in their passports, CBC said, amid reports that the sect was planning to flee Quebec.
The court order was prompted by a request filed by Quebec's youth protection services that the children be removed from their families and put in foster homes, CBC said.
Authorities alleged that the 14 children from two families in Lev Tahor, a Haredi sect that was classified a cult by an Israeli NGO specializing in cults, were living in dirty houses littered with garbage and that the children, who were home-schooled, were unable to do basic math and many could neither speak French nor English, CBC News reported.
The group Lev Tahor, or "Pure Heart", with its 200 members of which more than 130 are children, left their homes in Ste-Agathe-des-Monts, Quebec, early last week, reportedly out of fear that welfare authorities would take their children. It was suspected that their fears arose after a dispute with Quebec education authorities over the contents of the children's homeschool education.
The group was planning to make its home in Chatham-Kent, a southwestern Ontario town of 108,000, Canadian media reported over the weekend. Many of the families have already leased homes in the community, the Toronto Star reported.
The evidence about the cult, headed by Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans, a newly religious Israeli who left Israel with a group of followers in 1990, began to accumulate over the past 18 months, following a feature in Haaretz’s weekend supplement.
During this time, families of community members filed complaints with the police of child abuse and misuse of psychiatric drugs to control cult members, as well as the kidnapping of children from their families in Israel and the forced marriages of 14-year-old girls with adult men.
On Tuesday the Knesset’s Committee on the Rights of the Child held a hearing on Lev Tahor, and families of the cult members as well as MKs slammed the State Prosecutor’s Office for dragging its feet in the case.
Police and prosecutors say that since early last year they have been examining complaints and testimonies about Lev Tahor, made up mostly of those filed by Israelis, but that there are legal obstacles to any action being taken in Canada.
Teen Girl Seized by London CAS
November 30, 2013 permalink
A London Ontario family filmed the apprehension of their daughter Kristen on November 7. She had spent time in a Kitchener group home, and the family story suggests that she had recently run away from her father to be with her mother. On the day of the incident she was just two months short of the age of CAS freedom, sixteen years. She objected strenuously to her forced abduction. The video London Children's Aid Society attempting to apprehend is on YouTube or a local copy (mp4).
The policeman tries to persuade her with the false claim that resisting will make it harder for her to later rejoin her family. Fixcas has never encountered a case in which a judge cited passivity of the foster child during apprehension as a justification for reunification. It is more likely that a social worker will claim that absence of objection by the child showed a lack of family cohesion.
The mother posting the video is Jen Bernell. She can be found on Facebook and YouTube. Jen has posted the full family story Kids Hurt By London CAS A TRUE STORY! on YouTube The audio quality is poor. Four children recount years of bad experiences with CAS and family courts.
CAS Clogs London Courts
November 30, 2013 permalink
In London Ontario the volume of CAS cases is large enough to block the courts for months.
Family law cases flood court system in London
If you’re fighting over a divorce, child support or property in London’s courts, better settle in.
Hundreds of family law cases in the court system are suddenly in limbo for the next six months, until a backlog of more than 70 child welfare cases is cleared up.
The order to make Children’s Aid Society (CAS) cases a priority came from the top, the court’s regional senior justice, after the trial list swelled to more than 100 CAS files.
Since the blitz began, that number has been whittled down to just more than 70 — but there’s still a lot of work to do.
Another 200 family law cases, unrelated to the CAS, are waiting in the wings.
Why there’s such a glut of child-welfare cases is complex. It’s partly because of the growing cases tied to economic troubles. One case that gobbled 154 days of trial time and the work of six lawyers, could also be a factor.
One veteran family law lawyer says the system is “completely overwhelmed,” needing ways to siphon off cases and relieve pressure on the courts.
“We are not triaging cases,” said lawyer Alf Mamo. “There are cases that could be diverted out of the court system and we’re having trials that are going on for days on end that could be resolved in one or two days without sacrificing fairness.”
As child-welfare caseloads rise, the number of applications the CAS takes to court also go up, said Jill Scrutton-Fulford, senior counsel for the Children’s Aid Society of London and Middlesex.
Only a small percentage of the agency’s caseload winds up in court, including cases where children are removed from their families to become wards of the state or be up for adoption.
In her 25 years working with such cases, Scrutton-Fulford said, “it’s the first time I’ve seen a blitz like this.”
Unlike most of Ontario, London has a so-called ‘unified’ family court in which Superior Court judges handle all aspects of the cases.
In most of Ontario, that workload is split between provincial and federal judges.
In London, however, there only four full-time family court judges — too few, said family lawyer Toenie Hersch, to complete all the work.
Guidelines say child-welfare cases should take no longer than 120 days to complete, but that rule of thumb is rarely, if ever, followed.
Lawyers say it’s not enough time for families to get the support they need — from counselling, to drug treatment and anger management — to stay together. Nor is it long enough to get through the court process.
“It is humanly impossible in the majority of cases to comply with these timelines,” said Hersch.
“This rule is unrealistic in 95% of cases in my view,” he said.
Hersch said less than a dozen lawyers in London will do CAS cases, almost always left to legal aid and involving at-risk families.
The highest-priority cases in the blitz are trials before a child can be removed from their parents.
Those cases, Hersch said, are so serious they’re “akin to the death penalty,” consuming a lot of time and energy.
Not only are they long, but the trial time in such cases has to be balanced with the interests of the child in foster care.
Mamo said more innovative solutions, such as dispute resolution or early case conferences, are needed to reduce the family law trial list.
While he said he understands why CAS cases have priority, “we should not ignore the fact there are other children” who need access to the court for things like child support and parental custody and access, he said.
The trial list has been moving faster since the judicial order came down this month, with some cases settled at the courtroom door or early in trial, Scrutton-Fulford said. Still, she noted, more cases come to the CAS daily.
“I think it’s just a matter of numbers climbing over time,” she said of the backlog.
CAS COURT CASELOAD
- 70 trials are on the trial list.
- 30 to 40 are Crown ward cases.
- To be cleared by May 30, when other family law cases can be scheduled.
OTHER COURT DELAYS
- Civil trials in London are being scheduled into 2015.
- Criminal cases are being scheduled as late as a year from now.
Source: London Free Press
November 29, 2013 permalink
Illinois mother Pam Harris has been compelled to join a union because she is caring for her disabled adult son. She is appealing to the US Supreme Court to get out of the union. See her on Illinois Policy or our local copy (mp4).
November 27, 2013 permalink
The latest CAS palace is under construction in Woodstock.
New CAS building expected to be completed by the end of January
The brand new Children’s Aid Society of Oxford building is expected to wrap up construction by the end of January, with staff preparing to move in by early spring.
The new building will have three storeys totaling 10,972 square metres (36,000 square feet) plus a lower level for storage, a mechanical room, staff and youth room, and a large multipurpose room.
The new construction will replace the former building on Light Street, where cramped staff are doubled up in offices and there is virtually no room for storage.
“We’ve outgrown this building, it inhibits our ability to provide programming and services because we are so tight for space,” said executive director Bruce Burbank. “In 2006 the board looked at the future, that we’ve outgrown our space and realized we needed a long-term viable solution.”
In 2000, changes to the law saw the rapid expansion of services due to legislation that meant the CAS had “to intervene more effectively in situations of child neglect and domestic violence.”
By 2006 staffing increases resulted in a building too small for services that included child welfare, the Family Violence Counselling program, the partner response program, child witness, court support and the Open Door program.
In 2009, 35 staff moved to a temporary location on Dundas Street.
The site, which was the home of a former car dealership, was purchased due to its desirable downtown location, which Burbank has stressed will ensure "the needs of children and families in need will remain visible.
“At one point we put an offer on the bingo hall, we decided that wasn’t the best location,” Burbank said. “It’s not readily accessible for a lot of our clients. So when this property became available we seized on it.”
He added that the central location highlights that “we have children in need in our community.”
“Suddenly people are realizing we exist,” he said. “Before we’ve been tucked away behind the courthouse.”
The new building, built with hard construction costs of $10.5 million, will consolidate staff currently working at three separate locations in Woodstock.
The lease is up on the Dundas St. building the CAS has been leasing for the last five years.
Earlier this year the Oxford CAS was subject to a 2% decrease in their budget over a course of three years, which worked out to a $1.5-million cut from a $16.4 million budget.
But Burbank stressed that decrease will not affect construction.
The land for the new building was purchased with funds from the sale of the Light Street building to the County of Oxford with owns the land, and the mortgage payments will become part of their operating budgets.
The government funding formula allocates funding for infrastructure and building occupancy separate from direct service costs.
“Our building costs will not adversely affect our service costs,” he said.
The new building is designed to be highly energy efficient with curtain walls on both it’s front and back and a living wall, or a wall comprised of plants and a integrated watering system, on the inside.
“That’s a nice feature, funded by donations,” Burbank said.
Funding and building of the new facility has not been without its challenges.
Despite being identified as a high-priority project, the CAS eventually had to finance their expansion project through TD Canada trust after two unsuccessful applications for government grants.
In September 2010, the society had to go through an Ontario municipal board hearing to receive the rezoning and bylaw amendments it needed to locate on the land.
In June 2011, the CAS had to overcome another challenge when they had to retain MMMC architects to take over the project from Murphy and Murphy Architects, who were unable to complete the project.
Construction began in August 2012 but was delayed for three months after the discovery of ground water meant the building had to undergo a redesign.
Source: Woodstock Sentinel Review
Skeletons in the Alberta Closet
November 25, 2013 permalink
An investigation by the Edmonton Journal shows that the death rate of Alberta foster children is a lot higher than shown in official reports available heretofore. The foster death toll over 14 years stepped up from 56 to 145. Either one is a lot higher than the deaths reported in the press as collected by fixcas. Expressed charitably, the provincial reports previously understated the deaths in foster care. Expressed candidly, Alberta child protectors have continued the tradition of lying about the foster death rate. Owing to the length of this series, it is on its own page, Fatal Care.
Addendum: Alberta's parliamentary opposition is asking for an emergency debate on the foster deaths. In a lame excuse, Human Services minister Dave Hancock explains that the 89 unreported dead foster children were omitted because they died of natural causes.
Wildrose Seeks Emergency Debate On 145 Alberta Foster-Child Deaths
EDMONTON - Alberta's Human Services minister, reacting to reports the government kept under wraps the deaths of 89 foster children, said those cases weren't published because the children died of natural causes or by accidents.
"There was no attempt to hide (the numbers)," Dave Hancock told the legislature during question period Monday.
"The numbers that weren't published were those children who died tragically of natural causes."
Both Hancock and Premier Alison Redford also stressed that the province must publicly report all child deaths and has created a new independent children's advocate to look into the deaths of all kids in government care.
"We did that because I worked in the family justice system and I worked in child welfare, and I am a concerned Albertan just as every other Albertan is," said Redford.
The remarks follow an investigation by the Edmonton Journal and Calgary Herald newspapers that found 145 children have died in government care since 1999.
The government has only publicized 56 deaths over that period.
The report lists youngsters who have died by hanging, malnutrition, hypothermia, head trauma, drowning, disease, fire, and stabbing.
They have overdosed, been asphyxiated, died in car crashes or because of sudden infant death syndrome.
A third of the children died as infants and another third were teenagers. Most were aboriginals.
The report also found that those in the system struggle with secrecy, bureaucracy and privacy rules that don't even allow parents to publicly identify their dead children.
It found the government also lacks a mechanism to track recommendations made from death investigations to improve foster child safety.
NDP critic Rachel Notley told the house that while Redford created a new Child and Youth Advocate last year to explore the deaths of foster children, the rules triggering an investigation have narrowed in order to lessen the number of investigations.
"Having a death reported to you is not the same as doing an investigation about how that death happened and how it can be stopped," said Notley.
"The fact of the matter is the Children's Advocate has done two reports so far. It's just not good enough."
All three opposition parties asked Speaker Gene Zwozdesky to grant an emergency debate on the issue, saying they need to get to the bottom of why the deaths were not reported and to make sure the children currently in care are being treated well.
Zwozdesky rejected the debate, noting that while it is a critically important issue, there were already 42 questions and answers on the topic during question period alone, not to mention member statements on the topic.
The newspaper report was the result of a four-year legal battle between the newspapers and the province, which declined to release the information until ordered to do so by Alberta's privacy commissioner.
Hancock told the house that they fought the release of the information to protect the privacy of the individuals involved and to prevent collateral harm to people connected to those in foster care.
Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith called for a public inquiry into the deaths and the state of the system. That was rejected by the government.
"It's not another inquiry we need," said Hancock.
"We've actually had the inquiries, and now we're implementing the results of those inquiries."
Hancock said the deaths of children in care are not only reviewed by the Children's Advocate, but also by a quality assurance council, and the medical examiner.
"It's not one investigation. It's three," said Hancock.
Liberal Leader Raj Sherman said he fears the death numbers are only the tip of a much larger problem.
"If the number of deaths of children in care is this grossly under-reported, then the number of children seriously injured while in government care is very likely under-reported as well," said Sherman.
Source: Huffington Post
Alberta's Human Services Minister minister Dave Hancock wants an investigation of the province's foster care system. Of course, he wants the investigation to be under his control. A news article is enclosed, followed by the opinion of mother Velvet Martin, who had a daughter die of neglect in Alberta foster care.
Alberta to review how it investigates, reports foster child deaths
EDMONTON - Human Services Minister Dave Hancock said a public review of the foster care system will include how the deaths of foster children are investigated and reported.
“I’ll push for a full, open discussion among the people in the system and others – so parents can give us their views on it,” said Hancock. “This is not an easy question; this is a very important question.”
He said everyone in the system wants to make sure they’re doing everything they can to keep kids safe.
“Over the past few days, a number of our community partners and staff have been in touch with my department to share their concerns about the negative image of frontline staff, caregivers and the child intervention system as a whole that is being portrayed as a result of the stories in the media and the discussions that are happening.”
On Monday, a joint investigative series on foster care deaths in Alberta by the Edmonton Journal and the Calgary Herald was published. The series took more than four years to research and complete.
The investigation found 145 children have died in government care since 1999. The government has only publicized 56 deaths over that period.
“I’ve been receiving many, many emails and letters from foster parents and kinship care parents who are really affected by this media that’s been happening regarding the deaths of children in care,” said Katherine Jones of the Alberta Foster Parent Association, who was also part of Wednesday’s news conference.
“We all are aware that children die in care. It is heartbreaking for everybody when that happens,” she said. “We also understand that there are things in the child welfare system that need to be improved on and we have seen a lot of work being done in that area.”
“The people that work in this field are dedicated – committed – to keeping children safe and to improving the lives of the children and families that we serve,” added Bruce Armson, with the Alberta Association of Services for Children and Families. “Unfortunately, that seems to have been overlooked at this time.”
“It’s not like the situation that you’ve seen now is news, to be honest,” said Hancock. “People who’ve worked in the system know that they’re dealing with… children in very difficult situations, they’re dealing with children who are medically fragile and come from tragic circumstances. People know that children die and that they die in care.”
Hancock went on to say the media coverage of the child intervention system has portrayed it “as one of despair,” but that it is also about hope.
“We need to say, ‘yes, we can always do better,’ and we need to say, ‘yes, there are tragedies’ because we are dealing with a very difficult and tragic population, but we also need to say ‘there’s hope.’ There’s a lot of good things happening, and there are a lot of good people doing it.”
Hancock reiterated his plan to form a roundtable with stakeholders, opposition members, and experts in children and youth services in the new year. That roundtable, he said, will come up with recommendations.
He also committed to reviewing Alberta’s Child Death Review system and the publication ban.
“What is the right balance of information to make sure we learn from every tragedy, we make sure families are treated properly and respectfully, and we protect the rights of all the others involved in the process?”
Opposition members insist only a full public inquiry will get to the bottom of what went wrong.
NDP Human Services critic Rachel Notley said she will ask members of the standing committee on legislative officers to support an NDP motion to give the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate further and immediate resources to investigate the deaths or serious injury of all children receiving government care.
The committee meets Friday.
Source: Global News
Mother of foster child says roundtable discussion just a runaround ploy
Amid the public furor over successive Alberta government’s failure to report the deaths of eighty-nine children in care deaths over the last fourteen years, a mother of a former foster child is speaking out, almost seven years to the day her daughter died of so-called “natural causes”.
But the 2012 fatality inquiry report into the death of Velvet Martin’s daughter Samantha also found she was severely malnourished, weighing just 51 pounds at the age of 12, suffered numerous unexplained fractures and bruises, and rarely saw a doctor while in foster care.
During the inquiry, Martin says her own legal battle to get legal aid representation for her daughter was fought by taxpayer-funded lawyers representing the Redford government.
“The ministry had a team of lawyers, the foster placement had their own renowned lawyer, and Samantha had no one but me to be her voice,” Martin says.
“And there’s something definitely, definitely wrong when the person who’s the subject of a public fatality inquiry, that we are supposed to learn from, has no legal representation.”
Meanwhile, Martin says she’s concerned the roundtable discussion proposed by Human Services minister Dave Hancock for January, is another case of the government hoping the public will have lost interest in the story by then.
“Are we waiting until January just so we can perhaps forget that a 145 children died? Maybe we’ll just go away? That’s not happening, sorry,” Martin says.
“If the ministry truly cares, they’re going to do it now, act now.”
Martin accused Hancock of being the latest in a line of children services ministers who claimed the foster care system works, and is getting better.
Source: CHED 630
November 25, 2013 permalink
Teenager Justina Pelletier was diagnosed with mitochondrial disease. When she developed the flu, parents Lou and Linda Pelletier sent her to Boston Children’s Hospital for the best treatment. But the hospital rediagnosed her condition as the vaguely defined somatoform disorder and got DCF to terminate the family's parental rights. The girl is now in legal limbo, separated from her parents at the moment she needs them most.
Hospital Holds West Hartford Girl For 9 Months After Parents Argue Diagnosis
It’s a medical “mystery” that has left a Connecticut family baffled and heartbroken.
After a long history of medical problems, a West Hartford teenager is now “trapped” inside a hospital with seemingly no way out.
FOX CT spent the past few months investigating the emotional case.
It has been a bitter custody battle, and nine months after it started, it’s still going on.
In December 2012, Justina Pelletier was an active 15-year-old girl who would go ice skating, laughed and spent time with her family.
But just two months later, her family says their nightmare began. “[Exhales] It’s beyond any wildest nightmare that you could think of,” says Justina’s father, Lou Pelletier.
Her longtime West Hartford psychologist has also been following the case.
“It’s the most bizarre situation … I’ve ever been involved with,” says Dean Hokanson, the clinical psychologist who has worked with Justina the past five years.
Justina was diagnosed with mitochondrial disease a few years ago. It’s a genetic disorder that can cause loss of muscle coordination and weakness.
Despite that diagnosis she lived a normal life.
But last February, she also got the flu and was admitted to Boston Children’s Hospital to see her specialist.
Almost immediately, a different team of doctors delivered a different diagnosis, questioning the original diagnosis of mitochondrial disease.
“They came in, and they said we cannot take Justina out of the hospital. They called DCF,” says Linda Pelletier, Justina’s mother.
They said Justina had “somatoform disorder.”
In short, they were saying she suffered from a mental illness, not mitochondrial disease.
Her parents, Lou and Linda Pelletier, were escorted out of the hospital by security, and within four days, they lost custody of Justina.
In addition to working with Justina, Dean Hokanson also testified at one of the court proceedings.
“They were actually being accused of being too active in pursuing healthcare matters for their child,” says Hokanson.
“It is kidnapping,” says Lou Pelletier.
Boston Children’s Hospital refused to comment about the case, but internal discharge documents obtained by Fox CT provide insight into why the hospital called DCF.
An April report written by a Boston Children’s physician shows that the hospital pulled Justina off many of her prior medications when she was admitted.
“Due to concerns regarding Justina’s regressive behavior changes around her family, the multiple medical procedures and care episodes she has been through … and both parents’ resistance towards recommended treatment plans for Justina … a child protection team was convened.”
Before entering Boston Children’s Hospital, Justina was on several medications and had undergone complex surgeries. The Pelletiers say Boston Children’s accused them of “overmedicalizing” their daughter.
But the family showed Fox CT proof that every procedure and prescription was sanctioned by doctors, including Tufts Medical Center specialist Dr. Mark Korson.
Tufts wouldn’t let Korson talk to Fox CT, but the Pelletiers did provide an email that Korson sent to their attorney, referring to Boston Children’s Hospital, their team of doctors and the somatoform diagnosis.
“I am dismayed. … It feels like Justina’s treatment team is out to prove the diagnosis at all costs. … The team has demanded that Justina be removed from the home. … This represents the most severe and intrusive intervention a patient can undergo … for a clinical hunch,” writes Dr. Korson.
Dr. Amel Karaa, who works at Mass. General Hospital, says conditions like mitochondrial disorder commonly lead to confusion for health care providers.
“A lot of social cases have been reported where the children were taken away from their parents by social services and the hospital because the medical team thought that the parents were causing this to their child,” says Dr. Karaa.
Back in Connecticut, the Pelletiers spend time reading letters from Justina.
“This one’s in her artwork,” says Justina’s sister, Jennifer, pointing to a folded note.
Nine months after she was admitted to Boston Children’s, Justina is still in the hospital, sneaking messages to her parents, hidden inside origami artwork.
“I know you trust in me. Don’t forget it. I love you more than everything in the whole world. Justina,” Linda Pelletier reads from one note.
The Massachusetts Department of Children and Families allows Justina’s parents just one hour-long visit per week and two twenty minute phone calls.
The Pelletiers are left fighting DCF in court, hoping to regain custody of their daughter, and watch her ice skate once again.
“Hospitals, be it this scenario or big picture, cannot just hide behind DCF to do their dirty work,” says Lou Pelletier.
Since our initial investigation, we’ve learned that the judge has issued a gag order in this case.
The Pelletiers’ next court date is Dec. 5.
Dec. 14 would mark exactly 10 months since they lost custody of Justina.
Source: FOX CT
Addendum: Glenn Beck takes up Justina's cause in two articles.
‘It’s Kidnapping’: Hospital Takes Custody of Teen Because Her Parents Were ‘Too Active in Pursuing’ Her Care
A 15-year-old is stuck in a Boston hospital after the medical facility took custody of her when her parents argued against her diagnosis.
For the last nine months, Justina Pelletier has been sneaking messages to her parents in Connecticut through folded origami notes.
“It is kidnapping,” Lou Pelletier, the girl’s father, told WTIC-TV.
The local news station investigated the case, for which a judge later issued a gag order, and has the background leading up to the ongoing custody battle:
Justina was diagnosed with mitochondrial disease a few years ago. It’s a genetic disorder that can cause loss of muscle coordination and weakness.
Despite that diagnosis she lived a normal life.
But last February, she also got the flu and was admitted to Boston Children’s Hospital to see her specialist.
Almost immediately, a different team of doctors delivered a different diagnosis, questioning the original diagnosis of mitochondrial disease.
“They came in, and they said we cannot take Justina out of the hospital. They called DCF,” says Linda Pelletier, Justina’s mother.
They said Justina had “somatoform disorder.”
In short, they were saying she suffered from a mental illness, not mitochondrial disease.
Her parents, Lou and Linda Pelletier, were escorted out of the hospital by security, and within four days, they lost custody of Justina.
The parents have been fighting the system ever since.
“They were actually being accused of being too active in pursuing health care matters for their child,” West Hartford psychologist Dean Hokanson, who has worked with Justina for five years, told WTIC.
A report by a Boston Children’s Hospital doctor viewed by the local news station cited Justina’s “regressive behavior” and “both parents’ resistance towards recommended treatment plans” as leading to a child protection team getting involved.
The family had argued that the procedures and medications given to their daughter were under the recommendation and guidance of other physicians. One of them was Tufts Medical Center specialist Dr. Mark Korson. WTIC couldn’t speak with Korson, but the Pelletiers provided the local news station with an email sent from the doctor to their attorney.
“I am dismayed. … It feels like Justina’s treatment team is out to prove the diagnosis at all costs. … The (Boston Children’s Hospital) team has demanded that Justina be removed from the home. … This represents the most severe and intrusive intervention a patient can undergo … for a clinical hunch,” Korson wrote in the email.
It isn’t the first case this year where a child has been taken from parents after a hospital visit. Police showed up at a California couple’s home and “snatched” their baby after they took their son to another hospital for a second opinion.
The Pelletiers are allowed to visit Justina in person for one hour and make two phone calls each week. The girl still manages to sneak her parents notes.
“I know you trust in me. Don’t forget it. I love you more than everything in the whole world. Justina,” Linda Pelletier read from one of her daughter’s notes.
“It’s beyond any wildest nightmare that you could think of,” Lou Pelletier told the local news station of the situation.
Read more about the case, which the Pelletiers will appear in court again for on Dec. 5, in WTIC’s full story.
(H/T: Daily Mail)
Source: The Blaze
Glenn Beck Explodes Over Latest Developments in Case of Boston Hospital Holding Teen Against Parents’ Will
Glenn Beck called the continuing case of Justina Pelletier, a 15-year-old girl whose parents lost custody after bringing her to Boston Children’s Hospital, absolutely “criminal.”
After more than nine months of being kept in the hospital, a judge on Thursday decided to keep the girl where she is, scheduling another court date for Dec. 10 in Boston.
It all began after Lou and Linda Pelletier took their daughter to Boston Children’s Hospital after she began exhibiting flu-like symptoms back in February. Several years prior, their daughter had been diagnosed with mitochondrial disease by doctors at Tufts University, but Boston Children’s reportedly disagreed with the diagnosis. They said Justina actually had somatoform disorder, a psychiatric condition, and that her parents were “over-medicalizing” her. When the Pelletiers disagreed and wanted to remove their daughter for a second opinion, they say they were escorted out by security and within four days had lost custody of their daughter to the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families.
The family has been unable to speak out about the situation since November, when a gag order was placed on their case.
“This is absolutely criminal,” Beck said on his radio program Friday in disgust. “I mean, if there was anybody in public office in the Northeast that I trusted, I would get them on the phone. But this is — this is crazy. How can a parent have a gag order and be told not to say anything? That’s their — it’s their child, for the love of Pete.”
Beck said the situation would be different if the parents wanted to “say Jesus at her at the top of the hour and hope that she gets better,” but they were acting on a medical diagnosis they had received from Tufts University. And while details about the situation are limited, it is being reported that while Justina was able to walk when she was admitted to Boston Children’s Hospital, she is now in a wheelchair.
“What this is saying to you, America, is … that child does not belong to you,” Beck asserted. “That child belongs to the state. They’re allowing you to take care of that child unless they disagree, and then the State takes (the child).”
Beck spoke with Cristy Balcells, the executive director of the MitoAction, who said her organization is “mounting an advocacy campaign asking for donations to try to help this family mount an even larger legal response.”
“I think that the national awareness, and pressure from the media is helping,” she told Beck. “The family does feel that they are in a corner and they don’t know what else to do. So we hope that by showing our support nationally, we can make a difference. We are talking now and have reached out to the legislature to try to emphasize how unjust this is and to ask for some transparency.”
She added that the girl’s family “is not after money,” they just want “their little girl to come back home.”
“This child has no parents right now,” Balcells said. “She hasn’t even been put into custody of, like, a family member or an aunt and uncle or someone who could at least be acting like a mom or a dad for her. She has no parent. She lives in a hospital room. Alone.”
Beck asked his audience to get involved at mitoaction.org/advocacy to make sure the family at least has “a really good attorney.”
“Let’s see if we can get this child home for Christmas,” he said. “This is the biggest outrage. Go there and see if you can help out.”
You can listen to audio from Beck’s interview, below (relevant time 1 hour 34 mins. – 1 hour 46 mins.)
Addendum: On December 21 a judge refused to return Justina to her family.
No release for Conn. teen caught in hospital dispute
At 11:37 a.m., a loud outburst came from inside Courtroom 6. Justina Pelletier’s father then appeared at the door and yelled “Evil!” into the crowded hallway. A few minutes later, her mother emerged, sobbing, “I don’t understand how they can do this. I didn’t do anything wrong.”
Linda and Lou Pelletier of West Hartford, Conn., went into juvenile court in Boston on Friday hoping a judge would return custody of their 15-year-old daughter to them. Justina’s life has been in limbo for more than 10 months, as the teenager has remained in state custody at Boston Children’s Hospital, mostly in a locked psychiatric ward, while her parents, doctors, and lawyers fought over her future.
Instead, Judge Joseph Johnston ruled the state should maintain custody of Justina, at least for now. He did, however, say he would appoint a court investigator to take a fresh look at the case, and he signaled a willingness to explore returning Justina to her home as long as Connecticut authorities closely monitor her care, according to two sources who were briefed on the decision at the closed hearing. The judge, who also continued his gag order on all parties to the case, set the next hearing for Jan. 10.
The family’s saga sprang from a diagnostic dispute between Justina’s doctors at Tufts Medical Center and at Children’s over whether the child’s deteriorating condition was primarily a physical or a psychiatric problem.
The focus of the case swiftly turned to a controversial concept called “medical child abuse,” which is being increasingly applied to parents suspected of interfering with their child’s medical care or pushing for unnecessary and even harmful treatments.
The case shows the profound challenges all the parties face in sorting out the truth behind medical child abuse allegations, and how raw the emotions can get when parents’ right to determine their child’s medical care clashes with the state’s responsibility to protect children from harm.
“They are all in a difficult spot looking at a difficult set of facts, and having to make difficult decisions,” said Dr. Stephen Boos, a child abuse specialist at Baystate Medical Center who is not involved in Justina’s case.
As detailed in a two-part Boston Globe series this week, Justina was rushed to the Children’s emergency room in early February by her mother. Linda had complained that her daughter was suffering severe symptoms from mitochondrial disease, a group of rare genetic disorders that affect how cells produce energy, often causing problems with the gut, brain, muscles, and heart.
Dr. Mark Korson, the chief of metabolism at Tufts, had been treating Justina for that disorder for more than a year and had sent her to Children’s only because her Tufts gastroenterologist had recently moved there. The girl, who six weeks earlier had performed in an ice show, was barely able to walk and had virtually stopped eating.
But within three days, doctors at Children’s disputed that mitochondrial disease was the primary cause of her symptoms and began to suspect that her parents were blocking psychiatric care that she badly needed. The clinicians at Children’s decided that the girl suffered primarily from somatoform disorder, in which symptoms are real but there is no underlying physical cause. The parents complained that the Children’s team was dramatically changing Justina’s course of treatment without Korson’s involvement or even an examination by the gastroenterologist they had come to see.
When the parents threatened to take Justina from Children’s to see Korson, the hospital reported its suspicions of medical child abuse to the state. That prompted the state’s child protection agency to take emergency custody.
Korson asked repeatedly for a roundtable meeting bringing together all of Justina’s key doctors and others who knew her best, as a way to devise a unified plan to present to her parents. This approach is widely advocated by child abuse specialists across the nation in highly contentious cases like this one. However, Korson’s requests went unanswered.
The battle over Justina’s future was one of five cases involving Children’s in the last 18 months where a disputed diagnosis led to parents losing custody or being threatened with that extreme step. These conflicts, which typically involve controversial diagnoses at the medical frontier, have exposed the consequences of the ongoing failure to upgrade medical expertise within the state’s Department of Children and Families. The agency, many observers believe, is simply not equipped to properly referee such cases.
Children’s, Tufts, and the state child-protection agency have declined to comment specifically on Justina’s case, citing patient confidentiality. The Globe, however, obtained records showing that Children’s staff and ultimately state officials believed that the girl was getting a series of needless medications and treatments rather than the mental health care she needed.
Both Children’s and the state noted in records that the parents had a pattern of combative behavior with staff.
It remains unclear why Justina is still at Bader 5, the psychiatric ward at Children’s. The hospital released a statement Friday saying that in general, it “does not keep patients in its care against the direction of the custodial guardian.” The state, Justina’s legal guardian, has apparently struggled since the summer to find a suitable residential center or foster home that would agree to take on Justina’s complex case.
Children’s added in its statement, “We make every effort to treat patients and families involved in these cases with compassion and respect, while focusing on the medical needs of the child involved.”
After Friday’s intense but brief hearing, Linda and Lou Pelletier and two of their four daughters huddled in the lobby of the Edward Brooke Courthouse, wearing expressions that alternated between despair and outrage, before walking out the front entrance. Their lawyer, Chester Tennyson, trailed them, clutching his briefcase and looking grim.
Source: Boston Globe
November 23, 2013 permalink
When mother Kristen Bartkiw provided her child with a lunch deemed inadequate under Manitoba's Early Learning and Child Care lunch regulations, the school supplemented the lunch with Ritz crackers and fined the family $10. Link to note.
Parents Fined For Not Sending Ritz Crackers In Kids' Lunches
It's quite possible that the single stupidest school lunch policy on the planet comes courtesy of a strange interpretation of the Manitoba Government's Early Learning and Child Care lunch regulations (an earlier version of this article incorrectly pointed at the Manitoba Child Care Association as the source of the strangely interpreted policy).
Apparently if a child's lunch is deemed "unbalanced", where "balance" refers to ensuring that a lunch conforms to the proportions of food groups as laid out by Canada's awful Food Guide, then that child's lunch is "supplemented", and their parent is fined.
Blog reader Kristen Bartkiw received just such a fine.
She sent her children to daycare with with lunches containing leftover homemade roast beef and potatoes, carrots, an orange and some milk.
She did not send along any "grains".
As a consequence the school provided her children with, I kid you not, supplemental Ritz Crackers, and her with a $10 fine.
As Kristen writes, had she sent along lunches consisting of, "microwave Kraft Dinner and a hot dog, a package of fruit twists, a Cheestring, and a juice box" those lunches would have sailed right through this idiocy. But her whole food, homemade lunches? They lacked Ritz Crackers.
So what say you? Have you come across a more inane school lunch policy? Because I sure haven't.
[Kristen also updated me that consequent to parents failing to pack "balanced" lunches they've moved to a hot lunch program that she describes as great. So perhaps some good came out of Manitoba's idiocy after all]
Disease Breaks Bones and Family
November 23, 2013 permalink
Texas father Andrew Huber was driven from his family for over a year because his daughter Kenley had a rare bone disease, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, treated as abuse by police and social workers.
Rare bone disease causes dad to be falsely charged with child abuse
THE WOODLANDS, Texas -- Reading time with their daughter Kenley is never taken for granted for parents Bria and Andrew Huber.
Their family was torn apart for more than a year. It started in August 2012.
"I was changing her diaper and I had just lifted up her right leg and heard a pop," said Andrew Huber.
That pop was a broken leg but when Kenley was rushed to a Dallas hospital, doctors found other broken bones and her dad was eventually arrested for child abuse.
Bria recalled being questioned by police.
"Halfway through my police interview, they told me that they believed that Andrew had been systematically abusing Kenley and her fractures were at varying stages of healing," Bria said. "I had been married to this monster that I never met."
But it just didn't make sense to Bria.
Kenley's pediatrician had never seen any problem and even the nanny reported seeing no signs of abuse.
"I had to step back and intellectualize and say could this have even happened," Bria said. "Let me not be blinded by my love but let me go through and make sure I'm doing everything to protect our daughter."
Andrew was in and out of court while Kenley was taken to specialists across the country to find answers.
Eventually, the family was told about another mother named Rana Tyson.
She was a nurse who had her twins daughters taken away until a diagnosis from a geneticist named Dr. Golder Wilson.
They have Ehlers-Danlos syndrome or EDS.
"One of the main symptoms is the underlying structure of the body, including the bones and joints, is fragile. So you get more fractures," Dr. Wilson said. "And therefore, just handling a baby routinely, like any parent would do, can lead to a fracture."
Kenley and Bria were diagnosed with EDS. Bria said she had never heard of the disease before. The discovery also set Andrew free.
"Right now it's just a joy to be back home and have the house," Andrew said. "That's far outweighing the anger. The happiness to have my girls back."
The Huber's want their story to be shared with as many people as possible. They don't want any other family to go through the nearly 14 months of hell they did.
Source: WHAS-TV 11
November 23, 2013 permalink
In Britain a family can be jailed for talking to their children about matters the social worker thinks of as inappropriate.
We can send you to jail for objecting to an offence we’ve yet to specify
Lord Munby has an uphill struggle on his hands
What an odd country we are, prepared to give record sums for the victims of the Philippines disaster, or to express outrage at the murder of children such as “Baby P”, but oblivious to the scandal whereby thousands of families are torn apart each year for seemingly no good reason by our secret family courts system.
The only public figure who appears to acknowledge that the best way to root out the frightening abuses of that system is to open it up to “the glare of publicity” is the man who is now head of it – Sir James Munby, president of the family courts.
One particular abuse at which his admirable but so far fairly lonely campaign is directed is the “draconian gagging” of parents who feel that they and their children have become victims of “punishment without crime”.
So far, his fellow judges have shown little sign of supporting him. In yet another harrowing case that I have been following, two foreign-born parents are so angry at what they see as the unjustified snatching of their five children by social workers that, like others before them, they have been using Facebook and YouTube to blazon their case across the internet.
This has so enraged the judge in the case that, as I gather from others trying to support the parents, she recently issued unusually tough gagging orders, threatening them with prison not only if they breathe a word about their case to anyone outside the courtroom, but also if they discuss a long list of subjects when they are allowed to meet their children, now living unhappily in foster care, during supervised “contact sessions”.
Not a word can be spoken to the children about any aspect of their “case”, such as plans being made for their adoption. The parents are thus forbidden to speak to the children in their own language.
But what particularly strikes outsiders who have seen the “contact order” is a clause threatening the parents with prison if they “discuss any matter that the contact worker indicates is inappropriate”. As one with some legal experience asks, “Under what law has a judge been authorised to threaten a parent with imprisonment simply because some person, unspecified, may consider that some matter, unspecified, is not ‘appropriate’?”
In trying to persuade his fellow judges not to impose “draconian” gagging orders, Lord Justice Munby seems to have an uphill struggle on his hands.
Source: Telegraph (UK)
Lawyers, Betray your Client
November 18, 2013 permalink
In an item not directly related to child protection, Britain is proposing higher fees for legal aid lawyers who get their clients to plead guilty. Fixcas has noted many times that families unrepresented by counsel frequently get better outcomes than those represented by legal aid. A crude way of stating the cause is that children's aid and legal aid serve the same paymaster, and consequently pursue the same interest. In more detail, the rules for funding can transmit similar incentives to both parties. We cannot give the specifics because the details are in internal regulations that are concealed or shielded by redactions when probed with freedom of information requests. The British story is a rare instance of the conflict of interest between lawyers and their clients coming out in public.
Lawyers to earn higher legal aid fees for early guilty pleas
Legal critics brand government moves to shave £220m off legal aid bill as perverse, unethical and counter-productive
Lawyers will be given financial incentives to encourage clients to plead guilty early under government reforms to legal aid but will lose money if cases go to trial, according to solicitors in London.
The warning emerged during the last day of the Ministry of Justice's consultation on saving £220m from the annual criminal legal aid budget and as former Liberal Democrats prepared to protest outside the party's headquarters against coalition support for the policy.
The London Criminal Courts Solicitors Association (LCCSA), which has examined revised fee figures in the MoJ consultation, says that a pattern of perverse financial incentives will affect both magistrate and crown court cases.
"A client pleading guilty to a standard actual bodily harm charge in crown court will earn their lawyer as much as a 20% fee increase," the LCCSA said. "There are some cases in the crown court where a quick guilty plea will earn a lawyer a 75% fee increase.
"Likewise, in magistrates courts a simple guilty plea [for instance, for common assault] will reward lawyers with a 17% pay increase. This flies in the face of the government's advertised 17.5% cuts to save £220m from the legal aid budget."
The association said the revised fees would result in some lawyers losing out as much as 65% in some magistrate court cases and up to 73% in some crown court cases. Steven Bird, a London solicitor and LCCSA member, said: "The only conclusion to draw from these figures is the sad truth that the new fee structure is ideological and has nothing to do with austerity.
"By law, we're already obliged to advise our clients about the benefits of an early guilty plea, by way of credit on their sentence … It doesn't take a legal background – or criminal record – to realise that these incentives for a guilty plea and disincentives for a trial are an affront to justice."
Responding to the claim, the MoJ said: "For a lawyer to advise a client to plead guilty when they are not would be one of the most serious breaches of the profession's code of conduct, and could see them lose their right to practise. We do not believe a professional lawyer would do so.
"At around £2bn a year we have one of the most expensive legal aid systems in the world and even after our changes would still have one of the most generous. We cannot avoid finding efficiencies to ensure it remains sustainable and available to those most in need of a lawyer."
The MoJ said the consultation involved average cuts of 17.5% and the existing "overly-complex fee structure" needed reform. The department has now told lawyers that cuts of up to 30% in so-called very high cost cases will start from 2 December. Some lawyers have threatened to boycott cases if fees are cut.
Meanwhile, the Justice Alliance, which is opposed to the legal aid cuts, is planning to demonstrate outside the Liberal Democrats headquarters on Friday morning. Among them will be Professor Philippe Sands QC, Dinah Rose QC and Jo Shaw, who recently resigned from the party.
Rose said: "The protection of the right of access to justice ought to be fundamental to a party which values civil liberties. It is put in jeopardy by the government's proposals to implement yet more cuts on legal aid."
Matt Foot, a solicitor and founder of Justice Alliance, said: "The government has no idea whether the proposals will work or whether it will cause total chaos. MPs from across the political spectrum have expressed their concern at government plans which will make it hard for ordinary people to challenge the state."
The Bar Council, which represents barristers in England and Wales, also released a statement opposing the cuts. Maura McGowan QC, chairman of the Bar, said: "What we have seen … is the denigration of thousands of members of the profession, who work hard in the public interest, whether in civil or criminal courts, and have had to endure deeper cuts than anywhere else in the public sector."
The Law Society, which represents solicitors in England and Wales, although less critical, also opposed the proposal. The society's president, Nicholas Fluck, said: "We are confident that, with some modifications, the Ministry of Justice's proposals can ensure that anyone accused of a crime and unable to meet the costs of legal representation has access to a high-quality defence solicitor of their choosing."
"It is unwise to risk tarnishing the respect in which our justice system both domestically and internationally is held by an apparent incentive to plead guilty, which could jeopardise the relationship of trust between clients and solicitors."
Source: Guardian (UK)
Your Money or Your Kids
November 18, 2013 permalink
British landlord Knowsley Housing Trust, is using the threat of child removal to induce tenants to pay their rent. Link to photocopy.
Source: SPeye blog
How to Keep Your Kids
November 18, 2013 permalink
In a mom vs dad case a Florida judge awarded custody of their daughter to the father based on a report from a social worker Tatiana Ashley. The unusual part is how dad got the worker to give the favorable report. They were sharing the same bed. Social worker Michelle Sales, who coveted the girl for adoption, concurred in disparaging the mother.
Mom gets children; DCF gets skewered
A young Miami mom was stripped of the right to raise her four children. The father of the youngest child was allowed to keep the girl.
Just another day in child-welfare court.
But then a child welfare judge in Miami discovered information that troubled him: A social worker who gave damaging testimony against the woman — while lavishing praise on the father — had had sex with the father, at least according to the man himself. Another case worker whose testimony also was damaging to the mother had told colleagues she wanted to adopt her children after the mother lost all rights to them.
Calling the actions of the two child welfare workers — as well as their bosses and lawyers — “reprehensible” and “manifestly unconscionable,” the judge returned the four children to their mother this week. In a 40-page order tinged with anger, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Michael A. Hanzman said the reversal was necessary in order to undo a miscarriage of justice.
Hanzman, who presides over child welfare cases in Miami’s Allapattah juvenile courthouse, wrote that the woman could not have received a fair trial because state child welfare “agents withheld information that demonstrated bias on the part of two material witnesses.”
The Department of Children & Families “and its cadre of private sector agents are a collective prosecutorial arm of the state, charged with a public trust,” Hanzman wrote in the order, signed Tuesday. “The constitutional rights of the families brought into our dependency courts depend upon the faithful and impartial exercise of that trust. When it is betrayed — as it was in this case — due process is denied.”
The mother, Hanzman added, “was entitled to a fair trial. She instead received the ‘parental death penalty’ in a proceeding infected by bias and conflict…The parties prosecuting her knew the process was contaminated, but took no corrective action. The fact that the lives of this family would be permanently altered — and the mother’s constitutional rights severed — was of no moment. The state simply trampled on those constitutional rights in its zeal to win at all costs.”
Child welfare officials in Miami-Dade had some harsh words in return for the judge. They said he had just recently ignored warnings from them and left an infant in the care of a relative who accidentally smothered him.
The woman at the center of the controversy, and her children, are not being named by the Miami Herald to protect their privacy.
Neither of the caseworkers named in Hanzman’s order — “lead witness” Tatiana Ashley and Michelle Sales, both of the CHARLEE foster care program — remain with CHARLEE, said a spokeswoman for the Our Kids agency, which oversees private child welfare programs in Miami under contract with DCF. Ashley was fired for “performance” issues unrelated to Hanzman’s order, and Sales resigned, the spokeswoman said.
Neither woman could be reached by the Herald for comment.
DCF’s ethics watchdog cleared the two women of wrongdoing in a lengthy report last August.
The Inspector General was asked to investigate the mother’s claims in January by an Our Kids’ regional manager. The IG, Christopher T. Hirst, concluded the mother’s allegations regarding Ashley could not be substantiated without a witness to the alleged affair. Likewise, Hirst wrote that there was no proof that Sales lied on the witness stand, and that her desire to foster or adopt the children did not create a conflict of interest.
DCF’s interim secretary, Esther Jacobo, who was leading DCF’s Miami district when much of the controversy unfolded, said Friday her agency is most concerned with the future welfare of the mother’s children — not with what has already occurred.
“The claims of unethical behavior by these caseworkers were thoroughly investigated by the DCF inspector general and not substantiated. Now, two years later, our attention must be centered on these children — their safety, security and emotional health. With all the information and facts in hand, my sincere hope is that the judge will do what is best for the safety and well-being of these children.”
Hanzman’s return of the four children occurs at a time of deep animosity between the judge and Miami child welfare administrators.
Earlier this week, a Miami infant born with medical concerns owing to his mother’s drug use died at the home of his adult half-sister in Broward. Hanzman, records show, sent the boy to live with his half-sister over the objections of DCF lawyers, an Our Kids foster care provider and the Broward Sheriff’s Office, which had conducted a study of the woman’s home and concluded she was not fit to care for the boy. Records suggest the half-sister may have accidentally smothered the infant while sleeping with him on a couch.
The mother at the center of Hanzman’s order this week emerged from a troubled home herself, sources told the Herald. Now 23, the woman “aged out” of foster care at age 19 with four small children, and sources say DCF continues to harbor serious concerns about her ability to raise the kids.
In July 2010, the agency’s hotline received a report that the mom and the youngest child’s father had an altercation. The children remained “safely” in the mother’s care, the judge wrote, until March 2011, when a relative complained that the father had pulled a gun on him.
When DCF was alerted to the incident by the mother, the agency placed all four children in foster care. Two months after that — and after the mom had mostly completed a laundry list of tasks designed to improve her parenting skills — the woman was arrested on a shoplifting charge. DCF abruptly reversed course, filing a petition to terminate the woman’s parental rights.
The mother, a petition said, had been “unable to gain the necessary insight required” to safely parent her children.
At trial in August 2011, Ashley, the case worker, testified that, while the mom had completed parenting, domestic violence and anger classes, and although she was “bonded” with her children, Ashley had “concerns as to her parenting,” the judge wrote.
As to the youngest girl’s father, the one who had allegedly wielded a gun, Ashley was far more complimentary. She testified that he was always “appropriate” in his visits with the little girl, and that she had no concerns about his parenting skills. Ashley recommended that he retain rights to the now-4-year-old daughter.
Sales, the order said, worked with the mother and her kids from October 2010 through the following January. Sales dropped the case, she testified, because she became fearful of the mother following a fight she witnessed between the mother and another woman. The mother insists that no such incident occurred, the judge wrote.
At a hearing on the mother’s concerns over the fairness of her trial, and in comments to the inspector general, Ashley strongly denied having a sexual relationship with the father. The father himself acknowledged the affair. The caseworker had begun “flirting” with him “while the two were in her car discussing what he had to do to get his daughter back,” the man testified. “They eventually wound up in the back seat having intercourse,” Hanzman wrote.
And, although the inspector general wrote that there were no witnesses, the father’s brother testified that he was at his mother’s house when the father and Ashley were in a bedroom having sex.
The mother of the children arrived at the father’s house in August 2011 while he and Ashley were “fooling around” in a back bedroom, the father testified. The father’s brother alerted him that the mother was walking up the stairs to see him. She confronted the couple and hit the father with a mop stick, the judge’s order said.
The caseworker, the father testified, told him that neither she nor CHARLEE were eager to sever his rights to the youngest child. He said he failed to disclose the sexual relationship out of fear that it would interfere with his custody rights.
As to Sales, numerous people — including several employees of CHARLEE — testified that she wanted to adopt the children.
So concerned were CHARLEE administrators about Sales’ desire to adopt the kids that they asked an Our Kids boss if it made sense to transfer the case to another foster care agency “to avoid any kind of conflict of interest.” The administrator, Hanzman wrote, refused the transfer request. Another judge who was presiding over the case was never told about the alleged conflict.
That omission, Hanzman wrote, “can only be charitably characterized as blatant incompetency.”
Source: Miami Herald
NDP Doubles Foster Care in Manitoba
November 18, 2013 permalink
In the last decade Manitoba nearly doubled the proportion of its children living in foster care. The increase occurred while the province was governed by the NDP.
Percentage of kids in agency care nearly doubled in last decade: report
The percentage of children in Manitoba who are in the care of child welfare agencies has almost doubled since the NDP took power in 1999.
In its 2012-2013 annual report released on Friday, the Department of Family Services and Labour said 3.5 per cent of children aged 17 and under are in care. That compares to 1.9 per cent in 2000-2001.
There were 9,940 children in care in Manitoba as of March 31. According to one estimate presented last summer during an inquiry into the death of Phoenix Sinclair, more than 80 per cent of kids in care in Manitoba are aboriginal.
More than 10,000 families (10,117) received services from child welfare agencies last year.
Although the number of children apprehended from their parents continues to rise, recent rates of increase indicate a slowing of this trend, the report noted.
It said the number of children apprehended is driven by many factors, including societal changes, economic conditions, employment rates and the composition and growth rate of the province’s population.
Of the nearly 10,000 kids in care last year:
- 73 per cent were in care for the first time;
- 88 per cent of those who were school age attended school;
- 80 per cent continued to go to school in their same school;
- 78 per cent of school age kids "met or exceeded" educational expectations; and
- 68 per cent of school-aged kids were involved in an extracurricular activity.
Source: Winnipeg Free Press
November 18, 2013 permalink
North Carolina social work supervisor Wanda Sue Larson knows how to treat a child. Her foster son was found handcuffed to a porch with a dead chicken tied around his neck. Wanda and husband Dorian Lee Harper have been arrested and charged.
Child found handcuffed to porch with dead chicken around his neck
A Union County social worker was one of two adults charged with intentional child abuse Friday after deputies found a child handcuffed to a porch with a dead chicken around his neck.
Dorian Lee Harper and Wanda Sue Larson, both 57, have been charged with numerous offenses after a deputy discovered the child at 4116 Austin Road, south of Monroe, authorities said.
Larson is employed as a supervisor with Union County Department of Social Services. She and Harper had adopted four children and were serving as foster parents for a fifth child, officials said.
Union County Sheriff Eddie Cathey called the incident “shocking.”
“I can assure you that we have only just begun our investigation into what has happened, and we will pursue it to its fullest extent,” Cathey said.
A deputy was responding to an animal services complaint at a neighboring home Friday when he walked up to Harper’s and Larson’s residence and saw a “10-12-year-old child secured to the front porch at the ankle, by what appeared to be a pair of handcuffs,” officials said.
“The child also had a dead chicken hanging around his neck and appeared to be shivering,” the Sheriff’s Office said.
Moments later a man appeared on the porch, and asked the deputy why he was there. The deputy asked for the man’s identification and why the child was handcuffed to the porch, officials said.
“The man produced a driver’s license, but then a child at the residence opened a door to the house releasing several large dogs that then accosted the officer,” the Sheriff’s Office said.
The deputy got in his vehicle and by the time the dogs were secured, “the man had removed the child from the porch and left the dead chicken on a barrel on the porch,” authorities said.
When backup arrived, deputies entered and searched the home and found five children, ages 8, 9, 11, 13 and 14, the Sheriff’s Office said. The children were removed from the home. Officers then began a criminal investigation, and the man was taken into custody at the scene.
Harper and Larson have both been charged with intentional child abuse inflicting serious injury, false imprisonment and cruelty to animals, authorities said.
Larson was not present when the children were discovered but is accused of being complicit in the ongoing mistreatment of the children, the Sheriff’s Office said. She was also charged with willful failure to discharge her duty as a public official.
The child handcuffed to the porch is the 11-year-old Harper and Larson had been fostering, authorities said. The children are now in custody of an undisclosed social services agency outside Union County.
Harper is being held under a $500,000 bond. Larson’s bond was set at $525,000. Both are being held at the Union County jail and are scheduled to appear in court on Monday.
Source: Charlotte Observer
Addendum: The real parents had complained of abuse in the past, complaints that fell on deaf ears.
Handcuffed boy's family: We've reported this abuse
UNION COUNTY, N.C. -- The biological family of an 11-year-old boy found handcuffed to a front porch with a dead chicken tied around his neck say the boy had been abused in the past.
The boy's foster parents, Wanda Sue Larson and Dorian Harper, were arrested Friday.
Five children lived in the home.
Deputies described filthy conditions inside the home unsuitable for kids.
Larson is a supervisor at Child Protective Services at Union County Department of Social Services.
The boy's biological family believes Larson's position with D.S.S. is why their concerns have gone ignored.
"We have, for over three years, been reporting to DSS of belt marks on the children. Hand prints on their faces. The children have been denied food," said Cindy Robbins.
Meanwhile, advocates are calling for a broader investigation into the county D.S.S.
"I think personally, any case that she's signed off on within the past year should be reviewed again by an outside agency," said Jeremy Bess.
It's a case that is making national headlines. Monday, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) said they were watching the case closely:
“The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services takes the safety and well-being of every child very seriously, and has been closely monitoring the situation in Union County.
At the request of county social services officials, the Department will conduct a review of the county’s processes and procedures to ensure the county’s child welfare program adheres to proper standards and protocols as the local investigation continues.”
Union County DSS issued a statement to NBC Charlotte, you can read the full document here.
Jail for Mom
November 12, 2013 permalink
After an English court ordered her to surrender her son Jaden for adoption Michelle Kelly took him to Scotland. Police there took the boy and she was returned to England. She faces jail time for the crime of fleeing and the boy will be adopted even though the judge's opinion describes her care of the youngster was 'more than satisfactory'. The pretext? She took the boy on a day trip with his father.
Mum to fight for son
A BASILDON woman was ordered to surrender her son for adoption even though social services said she was taking good care of him.
The ruling was revealed last Friday when Michelle Kelly, 28, of Mellow Purgess Close, appeared at Basildon Magistrates Court to admit 'keeping away a child in care without lawful authority'.
Miss Kelly fled to Scotland after a judge ordered her son Jayden into the local authority's care, despite social workers finding 'no areas of concern'.
Miss Kelly now faces up to six months in prison for fleeing with the child.
A clerk at Basildon Magistrates Court attempted to impose a gagging order on the case last week but Miss Kelly's solicitor Mark Pearson quashed the application.
Journalists had already overturned a prior gagging order in a previous hearing on September 12.
After blocking the gagging order, Mr Pearson read aloud from the judgement, delivered by District Judge Stephen Hodges at Chelmsford County Court on August 9.
It described Miss Kelly's son as a 'happy, well-maintained child' and said her care of the youngster was 'more than satisfactory'.
Mr Pearson revealed Judge Hodges had ordered the boy be put up for adoption because social workers discovered he and Miss Kelly had been on a day trip to London with the child’s father. He said social workers had feared Miss Kelly – who used drugs as a younger woman – could 'relapse' if she socialised with the boy's father. Miss Kelly claims she has passed all of her drug tests.
A social worker learned of the impromptu outing by monitoring the father's Facebook page.
Mr Pearson said: “The officer took the view that they could no longer trust Miss Kelly.”
Miss Kelly was given a week to appeal the August 9 judgement but Mr Pearson said a solicitor told her there were 'no grounds for appeal'.
Mr Pearson said Miss Kelly felt she was 'not given correct advice' and told the court he agreed.
Miss Kelly was ordered to surrender her son at the Willowbrook Family Centre, Church Road, on August 16, but instead fled to Scotland.
Mr Pearson said: “At this stage she simply did not know what to do. She is a mother who is going to lose her child when everyone is saying she is perfectly capable of caring for the child.”
The pair were found on August 22 and the child was taken into care.
Miss Kelly initially pleaded not guilty to the offence.
Mr Pearson said: “She couldn't bring herself to plead guilty because she felt she had done nothing wrong.”
He said she had changed her mind when she realised she had 'no choice'.
Magistrates were set to sentence her on Friday but told her they would defer the matter for a probation report because they felt she had 'significant personal mitigation in this situation'.
She will be sentenced later this month.
Mr Pearson said Miss Kelly would continue fighting for her son.
He said: “She is continuing and will never give up. There do seem to be some grounds for appeal.”
Source: Yellow Advertiser
Addendum: Kelly gets a non-jail sentence. Her son is still scheduled for adoption.
Mum who went on the run after social worker spotted her with son in a picture on Facebook is spared jail
A MUM who went on the run to Scotland with her son has avoided a jail term.
Michelle Kelly, 28, of Mellow Purgess Close, Laindon, fled with one year old Jaden after Essex Social Services secured an order to take him into care and put him up for adoption.
She was handed a 12-month community order at Basildon Magistrates’ Court , but has vowed to appeal against her sentence.
Jaden had been under close supervision since he was born in August 2012 because of concerns about his parents’ previous drug problems.
His dad, Junior Jeffrey, was not meant to have unsupervised contact because of his criminal past, but posted a photograph on Facebook of the family enjoying a day out at the London Eye.
After a social worker saw the photo, an emergency care hearing was arranged at Chelmsford County Court where a judge ordered Jaden be taken off Kelly.
She was due to hand him to social services at the Willowbrook Family Centre, in Church Road, Basildon, on August 16, but went on the run to Edinburgh.
Kelly was tracked down by police in Scotland on August 22, after she was spotted on CCTV, and agreed to be driven over the border so officers from Essex could arrest her.
She pleaded guilty to keeping a child away from their responsible person and was handed a 12-month probation supervision order.
Speaking after the hearing, Kelly said: “Twelve months is too harsh. I’m definitely going to be appealing it. Jaden is my child so I didn’t do anything wrong and I would do it all again if I had to.”
Her mum, Julie Felton, 52, of New Waverley Road, Noak Bridge, is preparing to appeal the decision to hand Jaden to social services. She wants to be considered as Jaden’s legal guardian.
She said of her daughter: “She’s a lovely mum who didn’t deserve any of this.”
Source: (Essex) Echo
British Child Protectors Ignore Law
November 10, 2013 permalink
Last year British child protectors tried to seize a baby from a couple fleeing to France to give birth. A British court ruled the seizure improper and the baby was returned to France. But legal precedent means little to child protectors. They are in the process of seizing another baby born in France under the same circumstances.
Another couple flee to France only to have their baby taken away
Parents being pursued by social workers appear to be having their emails hacked
Last year I reported the shocking story of Marie Black and Joe Ollis who escaped to France for the birth of their first child, after learning that Norfolk social workers intended to seize it at birth on the grounds that Marie had previously been in a violent relationship with another man, who was by then out of her life. The social workers tracked down the couple and, after baby Luna was born, returned, with the approval of a British judge, to deport the child to England.
Fortunately, the couple had been put in touch with a robust British solicitor, Brendan Fleming, who took their case to the High Court. Here, a more senior judge ruled that, since Luna was born in France and was therefore, under an EU law called Brussels II, “habitually resident” there, the British authorities had no jurisdiction over her. He ordered the social workers to return the baby to her parents in France.
Far from our social workers having learnt any lesson from this case, I have lately been following one which is almost a carbon copy. Another couple fearful that Bedfordshire social workers might seize their first child at birth, again on the grounds that the mother had previously been in an abusive relationship, set off to start a new life in France. A few days ago their baby was born in a French hospital, by caesarean section, and given a French birth certificate. The next day, the mother returned from a shower, covered only in a bath towel, to find her room filled with 10 French policemen and her baby gone.
The policemen were holding a piece of paper indicating that they had been sent by Interpol, at the instigation of the British authorities, to remove the child on the grounds that the mother was a dangerous woman who might harm her baby. The couple were shocked to see that much of the description of her was factually wrong. It was also clear that they could only have been traced by someone hacking into emails they had sent since their arrival in France. The French social workers had removed the baby on “orders from Britain”, but could not otherwise have been more friendly, allowing the couple to see their baby, who had been taken to an orphanage an hour’s drive away. They were horrified to see their child lying in a room full of cots containing other babies.
The mother had already been in touch with Marie Black and Brendan Fleming (although there is still no order from a British court to authorise all that has happened). When the couple appeared in a French court to contest the demand that their baby be deported, the judge was shown a statement citing the Marie Black judgment, making clear that, since Britain had no jurisdiction over the child, deporting her would be illegal. The judge, seemingly out of her depth, adjourned the case, suggesting that it should be heard by a more senior judge in three weeks’ time. We may hope that the new judge can recognise that the law is clear, and that the British authorities had no legal right to arrange what amounted to an act of kidnapping. Meanwhile, a note from Marie Black glowingly reports that 21-month-old Luna has just started attending a toddler group and that all is well. In due course, I hope to be able to report that this new case has come to a similarly happy ending.
Source: Telegraph (UK)
Parents Threaten Social Worker's Family
November 8, 2013 permalink
When New Hampshire social worker Caleb Wells took their son, parents Mark C Bohannon and Christina Kempton-Struthers threatened to retaliate in kind against his children.
Parents accused of threats against social worker's children
WINCHESTER — The parents of a Winchester boy taken into protective custody by N.H. Child Protection Services threatened to kill members of a social worker’s family in August and are scheduled for trial this month, according to court documents.
Mark C. Bohannon, 39, and Christina Kempton-Struthers, 28, are charged with criminal threatening and obstructing government administration for allegedly threatening to kill Child Protective Services worker Caleb Wells’ children.
Police allege Bohannon and Kempton-Struthers sought retaliation against Wells for removing their son from their home.
In an affidavit filed by Winchester police Youth Aid Officer Mike T. Tollett, he details a conversation Bohannon and Kempton-Struthers had in the presence of Sarah Marek, a case manager for Easter Seals in Keene. Marek had picked the two up in Winchester for a meeting with Wells in Keene.
During the drive, Tollett wrote, the parents talked about their anger toward Wells.
Kempton-Struthers said she knew where Wells, his wife and children live and what they look like. Bohannon added that if he and Kempton-Struthers didn’t get their son back, “they would camp out at (Wells’) house,” Tollett wrote.
That’s when Kempton-Struthers said they would kill each of Wells’ children and make him watch, Tollett wrote.
Bohannon also faces a charge of violation of a protective order for allegedly being at an apartment at 23 Ashuelot St. in Winchester where Kempton-Struthers and their son were staying. A protective order granted by 8th Circuit Court District Division in Keene on June 20 prohibited Bohannon from being on the property. But details about why Bohannon was ordered to stay away are unclear.
On July 26, police say Bohannon went to the Ashuelot Street home, violating the order, and he was later arrested.
That same day, Wells met with Kempton-Struthers and her son to arrange for his temporary out-of-home placement. This wasn’t the first instance in which Child Protection Services had taken the child, according to court documents.
The charges against Bohannon and Kempton-Struthers are scheduled for trial at the 8th Circuit Court in Keene on Nov. 20.
Alyssa Dandrea can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1435, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @ADandreaKS.
Source: Keene Sentinel
Fresh Shaken Baby Accusation
November 8, 2013 permalink
In spite of the scientific evidence refuting the shaken baby syndrome, child protectors continue to seize children based on this discredited theory. A mother identified only as Sharon appears in two video reports from NTV (Newfoundland). Fixcas has been unable to copy them, you will have to link to the source pages.
Wrongfully Accused: A story of the child protection system, Part 1
The child protection system includes an arsenal of weapons that give authorities extraordinary powers. It’s a system that one woman says was her judge, jury and executioner when she was wrongfully labelled a child abuser. Her nightmare started when her four-month-old daughter suffered an apparent seizure. Everything was suddenly at stake, including her right to keep her child. Her story began on a day in 2011 when she bundled up her child and headed to hospital. NTV’s Glen Carter reports.
Wrongfully Accused: A story of the child protection system, Part 2
It was a trip to the hospital, something most parents would find familiar. But in the case of one St. John’s woman, that trip with her sick daughter led to an accusation of child abuse. Tests showed her baby had bleeding on the brain and bleeding behind the retinas in her eyes. Those red flags were enough to convince doctors to call child protection officials and the police. The consequences were severe: a mother lost custody of her daughter and faced the possibility of criminal prosecution. But the mother says the diagnosis of shaken baby syndrome was horribly flawed, making her the victim of tunnel vision by a medical profession unwilling to consider alternatives. NTV’s Glen Carter reports.
Save the Children
November 7, 2013 permalink
The British government is claiming that the revelations of NSA surveillance by Edward Snowden pose a danger to children. Desparate bureaucrats will pull out the child protection argument when they have nothing else.
Edward Snowden leaks could help paedophiles escape police, says government
Paedophiles and other criminals could benefit from the Guardian newspaper's stories based on leaks by Edward Snowden, the High Court hears
Paedophiles may escape detection because highly-classified material about Britain’s surveillance capabilities have been published by the Guardian newspaper, the government has claimed.
A senior Whitehall official said data stolen by Edward Snowden, a former contractor to the US National Security Agency, could be exploited by child abusers and other cyber criminals.
It could also put lives at risk by disclosing secrets to terrorists, insurgents and hostile foreign governments, he said.
The claims emerged as lawyers for the Home Office launched a hard-hitting defence against a legal challenge which is seeking to establish the partner of a Guardian journalist was wrongly detained at Heathrow airport in August.
The High Court heard in a statement from Oliver Robbins, the deputy national security adviser for intelligence, security and resilience at the Cabinet Office, that publication of stories based on Mr Snowden’s stolen material had caused “real and serious damage” to national security.
Revealing the capabilities of MI5, MI6 and the government listening post GCHQ would make it easier for “terrorists to evade detection” and for “hostile foreign states to identify our intelligence officers and take steps against them”, said Mr Robbins.
He added that the disclosures risked making it easier for “paedophiles to cover their tracks online”.
Mr Robbins’ nine-page statement did not go into detail about how paedophiles would benefit from the Guardian’s stories about the security services.
However, it is well known that many paedophiles use the internet to share child pornography and to groom potential victims. They also use “peer to peer” groups on the web to communicate with other child abusers.
Any clues about how to evade detection which have been provided by Mr Snowden’s leaks could help paedophiles to cover their tracks.
Mr Robbins’ statement also said the data risked putting the lives of members of the Armed forces at risk from insurgents overseas.
Lawyers for David Miranda claimed the police and security services breached the law when they stopped him at Heathrow airport in August and seized nine electronic devices which contained 58,000 secret documents.
Mr Miranda, the partner of Glenn Greenwald, a Guardian journalist who has written a series of stories based in the leaks by former CIA contractor Edward Snowden, is also claiming his human rights were breached.
“It is right that the police should take action when an individual is suspected of couriering highly sensitive material that is of use to terrorists and other actors who seek to undermine our freedoms,” said Mr Robbins’ statement.
“There was and continues to be great concern about the potential harm which could result from the publication of the material appropriated by Mr Snowden and held by others at the time of Miranda’s stop.
“The Security Service believed that the onward transmission of the material posed a significant threat to UK national security.”
Matthew Ryder QC, for Mr Miranda, argued the government and the police were wrong to use Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 to detain his client.
Mr Ryder told the court that responsible disclosure of such material by the Guardian and other internationally respected newspapers “is not and cannot be terrorism”.
“The exceptional nature of this case insofar as it involves the use of Schedule 7 powers to obtain highly controversial journalistic material should not be underestimated,” said Mr Ryder.
Scotland Yard announced in August that it had launched a criminal investigation into the affair.
Police are understood to be still working to decrypt the files seized from Mr Miranda, a Brazilian citizen who was allowed to continue his journey after being held and questioned.
The case continues.
Source: Telegraph (UK)
Secret Jails Thrive
November 7, 2013 permalink
While top British judge James Munby issues rules against the practice, family courts have secretly jailed many parents.
Why do judges in our family courts ignore the law?
Sir James Munby's guidelines are being breached
It is a basic principle of British justice that no one should be sent to prison except in open court, so that their name can be known and why they have been jailed. But this has long been one of those basic principles that are routinely ignored in our ultra-secretive family courts.
In a parliamentary answer given by Harriet Harman in 2006, she said that some 200 people had been jailed in secret by the family courts in 2005, and that her government now wanted to open up the courts to ensure that this scandal did not continue. Last May and July, following publicity given to a case in which a woman was secretly sentenced to 12 months in prison for rescuing her father from a care home, where he was being mistreated, the new head of the Family Division of the High Court, Sir James Munby, issued guidelines reminding his fellow judges that this was against the law, as clearly restated in the Rules of the Supreme Court as long ago as 1965.
In recent years, I have come across many cases of judges continuing to break the law in this way. In one instance, a father who had already lost his two teenage sons because they were held to be “at risk of emotional abuse” from their mother, from whom he had separated, was before a judge who wanted to order the removal for adoption of his third son, aged four. When the father left the courtroom in disgust, the judge ordered his arrest for contempt.
While he was in custody, his new partner, still at home and fearful that the little boy might also be removed, panicked and took him to a secret destination. The judge summoned the father back to court to ask where they had gone. Since his partner’s flight was on the spur of the moment, the father explained, truthfully, that he had no idea. Refusing to believe him, the judge angrily sentenced him in secret to 12 months. The police tracked down the woman, who was convicted of kidnapping the boy but let off with a caution. The father was released after six months in prison, but given a penal notice forbidding him to have any further contact with his boys, all now in foster care, whom he had brought up and who loved him.
In another recent case, a couple whose son had repeatedly run away from a care home were secretly jailed for not disclosing his whereabouts. In October, months after Munby issued his guidelines, three judges in the Court of Appeal upheld their sentencing. Also last month, John Hemming MP protested that the sentencing of a woman to 28 days by another High Court judge, Mrs Justice Theis, was yet another example of “secret justice” in breach of Munby’s guidelines and the law, because, although her court had been technically “open” for the brief period of the sentencing, the case was not advertised and no one was allowed to know the woman’s name or why she was imprisoned.
It seems that Lord Justice Munby has a battle on his hands to persuade judges that it is their duty to obey the law of the land.
Source: Telegraph (UK)