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Shhh... Scottish Children Abducted
June 30, 2014 permalink
Christopher Booker reports on a child abduction in Scotland. At least, he does as far as legally permitted, which is not much. The case has come to court, meaning a full report may be possible soon.
A disturbing case of child removal that you can’t read about
One of the most bizarre examples of over-reacting social workers imaginable in Scotland has finally come to court - but now I can't report any further details
Circulating the internet has been a harrowing, two-hour recording of a Scottish family waiting for social workers and police to arrive to take two small children into care. Mostly we hear the father trying to talk calmly and reassuringly to his sons, who are chatting cheerily about how they want “to go to the beach”, although they all know what is going to happen. Finally, the social workers enter, saying they have an “emergency protection order” to remove the children, because of their “concern” that the family might leave the country. The children are heard crying as they are carried away. The father breaks down, sobbing and angry, although he manages to tell the police, still there, sounding sheepish, that he “appreciates” them for being “nice”.
The odd thing about this story is that, until last week, it had for years been widely reported in Scotland as one of the most bizarre examples of over-reacting social workers imaginable. Even now there is no allegation that the parents had harmed their children in any way. The local community is said to be outraged at what has happened. Yet now the case has finally come to court, neither I nor anyone else can report any further details of the story, for fear that the children might be identified.
Experienced observers who have been following this, including John Hemming MP, are confident that, if the proceedings turn out as they hope and suspect, this will indeed be a story worth reporting in full. But the time is not yet.
Source: Telegraph (UK)
June 25, 2014 permalink
Ontario ombudsman André Marin has delivered his annual report (pdf). Two sections copied below discuss the MUSH sector and children's aid. The essay titled Making MUSH History is a favorable report on legislative efforts to expand his authority, though that legislation died when the legislature was dissolved for an election. Later in the report under Children's Aid Societies there is a breakdown of the kinds of problems that led to 536 complaints the ombudsman has no authority to investigate.
Making MUSH History
For the past nine years, I have vigorously advocated for modernization of my Office’s mandate to include the MUSH sector – municipalities, universities, school boards, hospitals and long-term care homes, children’s aid societies and police. Combined, these organizations receive more than $50 billion in provincial funding each year, and have a significant impact on the lives of Ontario’s citizens, literally from birth to death. Yet they are not subject to the same robust scrutiny that applies to provincial bodies within my jurisdiction – which include all ministries, agencies, boards, commissions, corporations and tribunals.
My predecessors, starting with the first Ombudsman, Arthur Maloney (1975-1979), all called for expansion of the Ombudsman’s authority to various MUSH bodies. Since 2005, momentum for change has progressively gained traction. More than 130 petitions, signed by thousands of Ontarians, have been tabled in the Legislature to this effect, and MPPs have introduced 18 private member’s bills seeking changes to my jurisdiction to include MUSH bodies. And in recent years, both Premier Kathleen Wynne and her predecessor Dalton McGuinty, along with other provincial leaders, have assured me that they supported renovation of my mandate in principle.
But this year marked the first time in nearly 40 years that the government of Ontario has actually put pen to paper to extend Ombudsman oversight. On March 6, 2014, Premier Wynne made the historic announcement that the government would table legislation aimed at strengthening accountability and increasing transparency, including extending the Ontario Ombudsman’s oversight to municipalities, publicly funded universities and school boards. This was followed on March 24, 2014, by introduction of Bill 179, the Public Sector and MPP Accountability and Transparency Act, 2014.
In addition to expanding the authority of my Office over the M, U and S in MUSH, Bill 179 proposed the creation of a Patient Ombudsman to address concerns relating to hospitals and long-term care homes – and that office would, in turn, come under my investigative authority. As for children’s aid societies, the bill proposed to give the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth new investigative powers and the ability to address matters relating to children and youth involved in the child protection system.
In the spirit of co-operation and respect that characterizes the relationship between my Office and government administrators, I was consulted and provided with an opportunity to express my views as Bill 179 was drafted. I noted that, as I have long argued in my reports, I believe the organizations most urgently in need of my Office’s oversight are hospitals, long-term care homes and children’s aid societies. These are areas that every other parliamentary ombudsman in the country has been given the power to oversee, and that affect citizens who are among our most vulnerable. (Indeed, they are the areas that the previous premier told me he would prefer to target first.) That said, however, I appreciated that the bill proposed to open the entire MUSH sector to more oversight than ever before. It is the prerogative of our elected officials to make broad public policy decisions on behalf of Ontarians, and as an officer of the Legislature, I respect those decisions.
The dissolution of the Legislative Assembly on May 2, 2014, of course, killed Bill 179 along with others on the order paper. Still, this important legislative effort was not in vain. It reflected a commitment to increasing accountability in the MUSH sector, an area where Ontario lags behind the rest of Canada. Whatever happens next, support for these measures has been legitimized and imprinted on the provincial consciousness. Our Office stands ready to help the thousands of Ontarians who have complained to us about MUSH organizations. In 2013-2014, we had to turn away a record 3,400 such complaints, a 34% increase over the previous year.
As you know, the proposed legislation [Bill 179] would expand the mandate of the Ombudsman’s Office into entirely new areas. I note, with gratitude, that you and your staff provided a number of constructive comments that went into the drafting of the proposed legislation and were instrumental in refining and improving the bill....
I firmly believe that this proposed legislation is extremely important, and represents a historic opportunity to improve accountability and transparency in Ontario – and, simultaneously, expand the mandate of the Ombudsman’s Office. I am completely convinced that Ontario, and Ontarians, will be better off for having this initiative move forward.
Letter from Premier Kathleen Wynne, March 25, 2014
CHILDREN’S AID SOCIETIES
In 2013-2014, the Ombudsman received 536 complaints and inquiries about children’s aid societies (CASs) across Ontario. We heard from youth in care, former Crown wards, parents, grandparents and foster parents. Concerns were raised about delayed, inadequate and biased investigations, problematic child apprehensions, failure to respond to complaints, poor communication, and denial of access to children in care.
We also received nine complaints about the Child and Family Services Review Board, some expressing dissatisfaction with its restricted jurisdiction. Although the board oversees CASs, its narrow mandate allows it to consider only procedural concerns about children’s aid societies filed by individuals actually “seeking or receiving services” from them. It is also limited to granting procedural remedies, such as ordering that a CAS respond or provide reasons.
Bill 179 would not have given the Ontario Ombudsman authority over CASs. However, it would have expanded the authority of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth – an Officer of the Legislature like the Ombudsman – to include investigating and reporting on concerns about CASs.
Source: Ombudsman Ontario Annual Report 2013-2014
No Insurance for Foster Families
June 20, 2014 permalink
A Montreal foster family has lost their home insurance because they have more than two foster children. Insurers have figured out that foster children are a greater risk than real children. After the story hit the press, Wawanesa Insurance apologized to the family, but only extended their insurance for 60 days.
Montreal mother denied home insurance over 5 foster children
Wawanesa Insurance says it only insures homes with up to 2 foster children
A Montreal mother says she is shocked and outraged that after insuring her home with Wawanesa Insurance for 10 years, the company will cancel her coverage because she has more than two foster children.
“I was floored. I couldn’t believe that a company could actually cancel your policy because you have foster children.”
The woman, whom CBC News has agreed not to name in order to protect the identity of her five foster children, received a letter from Wawanesa informing her that her home insurance will be terminated next month.
“Due to the risk of aggravating circumstances, we find ourselves under the obligation to cancel your house insurance to respect our underwriting norms,” the letter from Wawanesa read.
The letter came after the family got a call from the company to update her file.
“They asked, ‘Do you have anybody in the house living with you who is not part of your immediate family?’ So I said I have foster children … and this is what I get for it,” she said.
The woman said she has been taking in foster children for years, and in the 10 years she’s been a client with Wawanesa she was never aware of its policy.
Underwriting rules 'clear'
A representative from Wawanesa would not comment on this specific case, but told CBC News its rules are clear.
"Wawanesa Insurance, like every other insurance [company], we all have underwriting rules. These rules determine what we insure and what we don't. Our underwriting rule for households which house foster children is that we insure homes with two or less foster children," said Thierry Gamelin, marketing manager at Wawanesa.
The family, which must now find another company to insure their home by July 11, calls it discriminatory.
“We’ve never, ever put a claim in to Wawanesa at all. This is the first time I’ve heard of any discrimination for foster kids. There are families out there that are trying to help other children have a stable life and not be labelled, and here the insurance company is labelling us for having foster children, and cancelling our insurance for it,” she said.
The Quebec Federation of Foster Families, which places foster children with families, said it has heard of this situation occurring before, but not often.
"The insurance companies can set the rules they want. If they assume more than two [foster children] are riskier, it is their choice," said the federation's vice-president Robert Pagé.
The Insurance Board of Canada told CBC News that it can help families find the insurance coverage that is right for them.
Wawanesa apologizes to Montreal foster family for cancelling home insurance
Insurance company says letter it mailed to foster family 'fell short' of its standards
Wawanesa Insurance has apologized to the Montreal foster family whose home policy was terminated for having more than two foster children, but has only offered a two-month extension to their policy while they seek other coverage.
The apology comes one day after CBC News broke the story about a foster mother from LaSalle, whom we have agreed not to name in order to protect the identity of her five foster children.
The company does not provide home insurance to families with more than two foster children.
The foster family got a letter earlier this week from Wawanesa informing them that their home insurance policy would be terminated next month.
"Our priority is the well-being of our clients, and the letter did not meet our standards. It was not representative of what we do normally. We have to be respectful, and this letter fell short,” Claude Auclair, the company’s Quebec vice-president, told CBC News.
Auclair said the family’s case is rare, but the company takes the matter seriously.
“We are taking steps to resolve the issue to make sure their needs are met,” he said.
60 extra days
The Montreal foster mother said the company’s apology does not resolve the issue.
“It was an insult because it still doesn’t rectify what they’ve done.… They never even called us to advise us that they’re cancelling our policy — they just sent the letter in the mail. So it was a shock, and giving us a phone call today to apologize for what’s been happening — it’s a slap in the face.”
She said the company told her it will extend her home insurance policy by two months — giving the family an extra 60 days to find a new insurer.
“They said they will look into it — if there is anything they can do — but they still didn’t offer to keep us on as a client. They just offered to extend it because they cannot accommodate us with having foster children in our home,” she said.
The family says the Quebec Federation of Foster Families referred them to another insurance company and they are awaiting a quote.
Same-Sex Adoption Forces Abortion
June 20, 2014 permalink
For readers who don't see the connection between same-sex marriage and child protection, a British mother has had three children taken away, for adoption by a same-sex couple. The mother, pregnant again with twins, has scheduled an abortion.
Family's anguish as they face THIRD forced adoption
A mum forced to give up her two kids for adoption by a gay couple wept last night as she told how her third baby has been offered to the same men.
And the desperate 29-year-old has booked an abortion tomorrow after finding she is now pregnant with twins who she's convinced will also be taken into care.
Sarah, whose real name we can't use for legal reasons, admits she has fought a long battle against heroin addiction.
But she said: "All I ever wanted to be is a good mum.
"I made a mess of it first time around but when my son was born last July I was in a stable relationship with his dad, had my own council house and was drug-free.
"After the birth I was allowed to care for him in hospital and I truly thought all was going well.
"But after four days they took him away - and in January they told me they were ending contact and he'd be freed for adoption. I was devastated."
She added: "I couldn't believe it when I learnt he's being offered to the same couple who got my two other children.
All wanted "Yes, I can see the benefit of keeping brothers and sisters together but I didn't have children to provide another couple with a readymade family." Three years ago The People told how Sarah's parents had cared for her first two kids Josh and Chloe - not their real names - who were five and four at the time.
good devastated Sarah admitted she couldn't cope but her mum Susan and dad Peter fought for custody of them.
Despite winning court cases against Edinburgh City Council, social workers kept appealing.
And as the legal bills spiralled Peter and Susan gave in.
The couple claim they were told if they objected to the youngsters being adopted by a gay couple they'd never see them again.
The council later apologised for its handling of the case.
But by then their beloved grandchildren were with new parents and both had new names.
The couple insist they are not homophobic but believe family ties should be more important.
Dad-of-seven Peter, 62, said: "It is no exaggeration to say the social workers and their intrusion into our family has ruined our lives.
"The children were at the centre of the family - we adored them and we miss them every day.
"I often go up to bed hours after my wife expecting to find her asleep and she's lying in bed crying. The pain just doesn't go away."
He added: "To learn this was happening to our daughter again was devastating because she is a changed person.
"She is more stable, had got herself off drugs and we had no fears this time she was ready to be a proper mum and would always put her baby first.
"It seems vindictive when she'd done all that was asked of her to not even give her a chance, with support and safeguards in place. We are all heartbroken again.
"We should be sitting around the table together on birthdays and at Christmas enjoying the company of our grandchildren, yet we're strangers to them.
"Instead they're lighting up the lives of another family who have no blood ties to them and who could not have had children without them being taken away from their real family.
"Our daughter should have been given a chance."
Sarah said when she found she was pregnant with her third child she moved from Edinburgh to Merseyside specifically to get away from the social workers who had removed her other kids.
She claimed she got off heroin by having a course of methadone and was drug-free two months before the baby was born in July.
Sarah said social workers in Sefton, near Liverpool, initially gave her hope she would be allowed to keep the baby.
But she said everything changed after a meeting in May involving social workers from Edinburgh.
Edinburgh Council says although it took no part in decision-making, two of its staff attended the meeting and handed over a file about Sarah.
From that point, she said, it was clear she had no chance of keeping the tot.
Sarah sobbed: "I recognise I've made mistakes and deserve to be under a watchful eye.
"Social workers could watch me 24 hours a day if they liked until they were satisfied I was doing everything right and putting my baby first.
"But I'm not even being given a chance.
"I think they want to teach me a lesson.
"I was critical of what they did with my two oldest children and the price I'm paying is I'll never be allowed to be a mother."
Sarah went on: "At first, social workers said my mum and dad would have contact with the older two probably twice a year and I'd be able to send cards and presents at birthdays and Christmas.
"But they have never provided me with news or photos as agreed and the contact promised to my parents has never materialised.
"Cards I sent signed 'Mum' were returned to me.
"I was told the adoptive parents were angry with me for making my case public."
She added: "They have shown themselves to be cold and indifferent to me and to my family and unaware of the pain losing my older children has caused us, so why should I be happy to send another child to their care?" Asked about her new pregnancy, Sarah said: "I know people will criticise me but it wasn't planned.
"And I wasn't even two months pregnant when I was told there was no chance I'd be allowed to keep the twins.
"I'm very much against abortion and I hate myself for getting into this situation.
"But I fear for my health if I carry them for nine months, give birth to them and then have to hand over two children.
"I'm dreading the abortion but if there's no hope I intend to do it, though whether I can go through with it when I get there I'm not certain.
"But I know the longer I leave it the harder it will be."
Her desperate move is backed by her parents.
Susan, 49, said: "As a family we're against abortion but we'll support our daughter whatever she decides.
"I'll cry my eyes out if I get a call saying she's gone through with it but I can understand why she doesn't want to carry the babies only to have to hand them over. You bond with your children even before they come out of the womb, so to go through pregnancy and birth and then not have the baby in your arms at the end of it is like a death."
Sefton Council said they can't comment on Sarah's case before a court hearing on April 27 when a judge is due to decide if her third child should be adopted. Social workers took the tot away soon after he was born.
Sarah said: "Having already lost two children I couldn't have felt worse if I'd been walking to the electric chair."
But to start with she and the baby's father were allowed to see him five times a week.
Sarah said: "I hoped they'd see I could be a good mum and would give me a chance.
"It hurt like hell to know someone else was tucking him in at night and comforting him when he cried and needed changing."
She said the five-day-a-week contact was cut to three in October, two in November and was scrapped in December after traffic jams made her four and a half minutes late one day.
She said: "I'm totally ashamed but I was so down I bought some heroin to escape the pain.
"Next day I realised how wrong it was and asked my GP to be put back on methadone.
"I'm on a small quantity each day - about a tenth of what some addicts have - and I intend to reduce it until I'm off it."
Sarah claimed she was told she could say goodbye to the tot at a final contact last Tuesday - but it was cancelled at the last minute and is due to be rearranged before the court hearing.
"I feel my chances of being a mum are slipping away."
The Catholic Church in Scotland last night repeated its stand against gay adoptions.
Spokesman Peter Kearney said: "Deliberately depriving children of a mother or a father, which same-sex adoption does, completely ignores the welfare of the children concerned.
"Growing international evidence casts serious doubts on such arrangements and it's to be hoped social work departments will acquaint themselves with this evidence and revise their procedures urgently.
"The best interest of children are served when they are cared for by a married mother and father - either their own or adoptive."
What do you think?
Source: Mirror (UK)
Justina Goes Home
June 18, 2014 permalink
A judge has ordered Justina Pelletier out of state care and back to her family. The judge was the same one who condemned her to permanent wardship three months ago. The enormous publicity for Justina may have contributed to changing official attitudes.
Elated teen says ‘I’m so excited’ to be heading home
Connecticut teenager Justina Pelletier spent 16 months and two birthdays in state custody as the central but largely off-stage player in an explosive drama involving parents’ rights and the controversial new field of medical child abuse. Now she is going home.
On Wednesday, the 16-year-old girl is expected to return to her parents’ custody and the family’s home in West Hartford, Conn., following a ruling by the same Massachusetts juvenile court judge who originally removed her from her parents’ care.
“I’m so happy. I’m so excited, oh, my gosh,” Justina said in an interview. “It’s such big news.”
In a two-page order issued Tuesday, Judge Joseph Johnston dismissed the child-protection case against Justina’s parents, Linda and Lou Pelletier, arguing that they and others had shown “credible evidence that circumstances have changed” since his decision to place Justina in the custody of the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families. He also wrote that in the month since Justina was moved to a residential facility in Thompson, Conn., her parents “have been cooperative and engaged in services,” including individual therapy for Justina and family therapy.
It was a remarkable change in tone from the judge’s ruling just three months earlier, when he determined the parents were unfit and awarded permanent custody to the state. At that time, he blasted the Pelletiers for behavior he contended was erratic and had doomed numerous attempts at compromise.
But that March ruling also seemed to spark intensified actions by Governor Deval Patrick’s top health official, John Polanowicz, to intervene in the highly contentious case that pivoted on dueling diagnoses from doctors at two of Boston’s top hospitals and attracted extensive national and even international attention.
Although her expected return will not be official until Wednesday, Justina, who has been using a wheelchair to get around since her admission to Boston Children’s Hospital in February 2013, was allowed to leave the residential facility Tuesday for what turned into a spontaneous celebration at the Outback Steakhouse in Auburn, Mass. By phone, in between bites of her hot fudge sundae, she said she could not believe she would finally be returning home for good. Asked how she plans to spend her first full day back home, she said she wants to play with her dogs, go in the family’s pool, and visit friends. She said she also wants to do something she has rarely been allowed to do during the last year spent in institutionalized care. “I want to sleep in,” she said.
Justina was out shopping with her mother Tuesday afternoon, without state supervision, as part of the increasingly expanded freedom her parents have been receiving over the past month, during her stay at the JRI Susan Wayne Center for Excellence.
Linda Pelletier said she screamed with joy when she heard the judge had decided to send her daughter home. “Unbelievable,” she said. “It’s been such a long journey.”
At least for now, Justina’s parents will be free of government oversight in the care of their daughter. The child protection agency in Connecticut, which last summer opened a medical child abuse case related to the family and later substantiated the claim, has indicated it will not be stepping into the case.
Gary Kleeblatt, spokesman for the Connecticut Department of Children and Families, said that investigation “will be closed” Wednesday when Justina returns home and is officially out of Massachusetts custody. He has said his agency did little on the case because Massachusetts was already providing services and addressing Justina’s various issues.
“We wish the family and Justina the very best,” he said, “and we stand ready to be of assistance if called upon.”
In 2011, Connecticut DCF had investigated an allegation of medical neglect made by members of Justina’s medical team, but dismissed it a few weeks later. In his March ruling, Johnston had rebuked Connecticut child protection officials for failing to get more involved in overseeing the case, which involved a child in their state.
Justina’s story, documented in a two-part Globe series in December , has been unusual from the start. She exhibited a perplexing set of symptoms that divided specialists at two top Boston hospitals, and she was the focus of a child custody dispute straddling two states.
By the start of this year, the controversy saw a surprising collection of organizations taking up her cause. They included groups representing conservative Christians, online hacking activists, critics of psychotropic drug use, and advocates of greater awareness of hard-to-diagnose disorders.
As detailed in the Globe series, Justina’s mother rushed her to Boston Children’s Hospital in February 2013, complaining that her daughter was suffering from severe symptoms of mitochondrial disease. That is a group of rare genetic disorders affecting how cells produce energy, often causing problems with the gut, brain, muscles, and heart.
Dr. Mark Korson, chief of metabolism at Tufts, had been treating Justina for that disease for more than a year and had sent her to Children’s only because her Tufts gastroenterologist had recently moved there. The teen, who six weeks earlier had performed in an ice show, was barely able to walk and had virtually stopped eating by the time she showed up by ambulance at the Children’s emergency department on that snowy morning in February.
But within three days, the team 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 the doctors believed Justina badly needed. The clinicians at Children’s concluded 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 said they wanted to discharge Justina from Children’s and take her to see Korson at Tufts, the hospital reported its suspicions of medical child abuse to the state. That relatively new term describes parents or other caregivers seeking unnecessary or potentially harmful medical interventions for children.
That prompted the state’s child protection agency to take emergency custody on Valentine’s Day 2013, a decision validated the next day by Johnston, the juvenile court judge.
The battle over Justina’s future was one of a handful of recent cases documented by the Globe that involved Children’s and a disputed diagnosis that led to parents losing custody or being threatened with that extreme step. These conflicts, which typically involved controversial diagnoses on the medical frontier, have exposed the consequences of the ongoing failure of the Massachusetts DCF to upgrade its medical expertise. The agency, many observers have argued, is simply not equipped to properly referee such cases.
More than seven years after recommendations from the Legislature and outside specialists that the child welfare agency hire a physician medical director to provide expertise in complex medical cases, DCF has yet to do that.
A spokeswoman for DCF said the agency does plan to enhance its medical team, which has traditionally consisted of a handful of nurses, by adding a new position called a director of integrated health services. But spokeswoman Cayenne Isaksen acknowledged that position would not have to be filled by a physician. In addition, she said, “the department is in the process of establishing an expert panel of doctors from a variety of disciplines who can provide additional support and consultation in difficult cases.”
Other children’s hospitals have found that the best approach for wading through the difficult waters of suspected medical child abuse is to convene a wide-ranging summit involving all the child’s key providers, including teachers and counselors, before making allegations to the state. That did not happen at Children’s Hospital in this case. Korson, Justina’s key specialist at Tufts, was not invited to participate in a meeting on the case at Children’s until well after that hospital had made its abuse allegations and after Children’s had moved Justina into its locked psychiatric ward.
Hospital spokesman Rob Graham said the parents’ actions prevented that from happening. “Boston Children’s standard of care in complex cases is to hold a summit that includes all the involved disciplines at Boston Children’s and external providers if available in person and by phone,” Graham said. “In this case, that work was underway, but the family escalated the situation making the initial summit impossible. Subsequently, Boston Children’s conducted extensive and ongoing communication and coordination with physicians across the Hospital and with external providers.”
Given its high profile intensity, the Justina case has caused ripples beyond the hospitals involved.
Alice Newton, a pediatrician who serves as medical director of the Child Protection Program at Massachusetts General Hospital, previously served in that same position at Boston Children’s Hospital when the Justina case originally exploded there. She said MGH, which is continually refining its processes, has recently decided to add an extra step in its process before reporting suspicions of medical child abuse to the state.
After Mass. General’s child protection team has gathered information but before it reports its concerns to the state child welfare agency, that hospital will convene a “medical child abuse team.”
That team will consist of hospital representatives from various specialties and disciplines knowledgeable about the terrain, but who have not been involved in the case in question. She said this new formal step in the process, which MGH has not yet had occasion to employ, will provide a mechanism for additional review and vetting before escalation with the state occurs. “We understand the potential impact of reporting suspected medical child abuse to the state,” she said.
The judge and Boston Children’s were hardly the only parties to criticize Linda and Lou Pelletier for their behavior during the ordeal. But even their critics had a hard time showing any marked improvement in Justina’s physical condition during her long time out of her parents’ custody.
“It’s a wonderful feeling to see that this little girl will be able to go home,” said Philip Moran, the lawyer for Justina’s parents. “Hopefully, we’ll see major progress because this is what she really needs.”
Source: Boston Globe
June 17, 2014 permalink
Deepan Budlakoti was born in Canada and raised at least partly in foster care. Now that he has been convicted of a crime, immigration lawyers have scrutinized his past and found a loophole in his citizenship. His parents worked for foreign diplomats near the time of his birth, and during Budlakoti's childhood no documents were filed to perfect his citizenship. Children's aid never bothers with details like this. So Budlakoti is being deported from Canada, yet no other country will admit him.
‘I can’t be stateless’: Born-in-Canada criminal fighting deportation after Ottawa decides citizenship not valid
Deepan Budlakoti - a Canadian born of Indian parents who is under threat of deportation to India because of a drug offence - was on Parliament Hill Wednesday with lawyers and supporters pleading his case against deportation.
Nearly 25 years after he was born in Ottawa, a convicted drug and gun dealer named Deepan Budlakoti will be in Federal Court Monday, asking for a declaration he is Canadian, in a uniquely complicated case that will test the Conservative government’s hard-line approach to protecting the value of Canadian citizenship.
At issue is the status of his parents, who are now citizens, but came to Canada as domestic staff of the High Commissioner of India. The children of foreign diplomatic staff are the only exception to the rule that anyone born in Canada is a Canadian citizen. There is dispute over when their employment ended — either a few months before Deepan’s birth, or a few months after.
Raised in Ottawa, for a time as a ward of the state, Mr. Budlakoti has twice been issued a Canadian passport declaring him a Canadian, and the question of his citizenship might never have arisen, except for his criminal convictions for break and enter, illegal transfer of a hunting rifle and intent to traffic in cocaine.
That triggered an examination of his file, after which the government took the position his parents were diplomatic staff when he was born, his passports were issued in error, and Mr. Budlakoti — who has now served his sentence and parole — is not Canadian. As a result, he was found criminally inadmissible to Canada, and faced a deportation order to India, which refused to accept him.
“He is effectively stateless, and whether he was rendered stateless by Canada, or whether he’s just stateless by virtue of some mishap or loophole or something, the fact is he is stateless, and Canada has added insult to injury by, through the course of his life, telling him ‘No, you’re not stateless. You’re a Canadian,’” said his lawyer, Yavar Hameed. To deny he is Canadian is to “exile him into oblivion.”
As his application to Federal Court says, he is not at liberty to travel within Canada or abroad, and “finds himself in a state of indefinite detention. … As a stateless person, [Mr. Budlakoti] lives in a highly precarious situation; he is in legal limbo, at the mercy of the [government of Canada].”
“This convicted criminal has never been a Canadian citizen. He should not have chosen a life of crime if he did not want to be deported from Canada,” said Alexis Pavlich, spokesperson for Chris Alexander, the Citizenship and Immigration Minister.
“Mr. Budlakoti is being removed from Canada for ‘serious criminality.’ He served significant jail time [three years] for trafficking both weapons and drugs. Even though Mr. Budlakoti was born in Canada, he is not a citizen due to the 1977 Citizenship Act which amended the rule to exclude all children of foreign-born diplomats born in Canada from Canadian citizenship unless one of the parents was a Canadian citizen or permanent resident. No application for citizenship has ever been made by him or on his behalf.”
Canada is a signatory to a 1961 international convention that imposes a duty to reduce statelessness.
Asking a court to declare Mr. Budlakoti’s citizenship “is an exceptional remedy because this is an exceptional case,” Mr. Hameed said. “It’s exceptional because Deepan was born in Canada, lived his entire life in Canada, and was assured on multiple occasions by the government of Canada that he was a Canadian citizen. … If there was an issue or a problem, the onus was clearly on the Canadian government to have done its due diligence, to determine whether or not there’s some exception to the rule or whether they have their records straight.”
To argue today, more than two decades later, that Canada made a mistake by issuing the passports is “very prejudicial and unfair,” said Mr. Hameed. “Now, with a finding of criminal inadmissibility, it basically bars him from taking the normal steps that he would have taken, or could have taken, to become a citizen earlier on.”
In an interview, Mr. Budlakoti described the case as a bureaucratic foul-up and a violation of international law, but he said he is “100%” confident he will not be deported.
“They can’t deport me to a country I’ve never been to. I’m stateless in Canada,” said Mr. Budlakoti. “If I lose, the government has to give me some kind of status. I can’t be stateless in Canada. That’s what it comes down to. Either give me back my citizenship, or rectify the fact that I’m stateless in Canada, caused by the government. There’s no possible way to be deported.”
He said he thinks his case is a politically motivated “tester case to see what they can pull off.”
Mr. Hameed said it is consistent with the government’s approach to citizenship as a “tenuous thing” that can be taken away from undeserving people.
His team managed to track down the former High Commissioner in India, who swore an affidavit backing Mr. Budlakoti’s position — that his parents were domestic staff of the High Commissioner until June 1989, after which they began working for an Ottawa doctor, Harsha Dehejia, in Nepean.
Deepan was born in October 1989, and his statement of birth lists the home of Mr. Dehejia. The government of Canada said it has a diplomatic note from India declaring that his parents’ employment ended in December 1989, which it only revealed after Mr. Budlakoti made this application to Federal Court.
Source: National Post
No Kids at Wedding
June 17, 2014 permalink
When Jennifer and Joh met they each had children of their own. Their relationship produced one more child, now three years old. On June 21 the couple will be cementing their family by getting married. Guess who will not be coming to the wedding? London-Middlesex CAS has control of the children and is determined not to allow them to attend. The story of the ordeal in Jennifer's words is enclosed. In three emails to CAS and three replies CAS refused to acknowledge the issue. While Jennifer asked about getting her children to the wedding, social worker Steve Didham answered about a planned parenting capacity assessment.
My son's father and I are getting married on June 21st and I have just about had enough with London & Middlesex Children's Aid Society. Specifically Steve Didham and Kevin Graham. Ignoring myself and my son's father's request to have our children participate in our wedding.
These two workers have known about our wedding since March 2014. I have emails dating back to that time. I have requests to have my three children in care all ages 3 years, 5 years and 14 years attend and participate in our wedding because in the eyes of our religion we are not married without the children participating and attending as we are a family first and foremost as well. Sections 65, 103 and 85 of the CFSA give my family the right to not only religious freedoms and choices but the abilities for my children to attend scheduled important family events such as weddings funerals births naming ceremonies any such ceremony that is deemed a religious ceremony that the children share with their parents. The Society must accommodate the family and provide the children to the parents for such an event. It's the childrens' right and they know this!!
CAS knows my wedding is centered around my children and they waited until the very last minute and began refusing to allow my children to attend and participate in my wedding even after being told daily that my wedding is NOT LEGAL in the eyes of my religion without all the children there, even though daily they have been emailed and told who will be attending the wedding, even though they have been told that in our religion the wedding is centered around the children and that they all have roles and it's too late to change anything now and we can't even if we wanted to because again our marriage would not be legal religiously and that's important. I can attach copies of those emails proving this as well.......
Steve Didham the CAS worker involved told me on April 29th 2014, and you will see this in the collection of six emails I attach to this post where I emailed asking about my wedding, and he responded only wanting to discuss a PCA and nothing more. However finally answered me and said the following: "I am confidant we can work something out". I was to give him one week to do that. However June 2nd 2014 to April 29th 2014 thats a lot longer then a week isn't it everyone!!!!! Cause finally only June 2nd my lawyer receives a letter and this is of course after he spends weeks bugging them about my wedding too and in their letter CAS refuses to allow my two youngest children the right to attend my wedding, my 14 year old the right to attend the religious aspect of our wedding ceremony nor any of the children the abilities to prepare for this wedding as requested.
We have presented a very reasonable plan offering that the foster parents and even on call CAS workers can attend everywhere we are with the children and no one leaves their sight with the children. I was very descriptive about where when and how for every part of that day and as soon as everything was done then they can leave with the children but they are still refusing being very vengeful and vindictive so I will NOT BE IGNORED!! CAS WILL NOT RUIN MY WEDDING!! ONE WAY OR ANOTHER ALL MY CHILDREN WILL BE THERE. SO HERE IS THE FIRST SET OF SIX EMAILS BETWEEN ME AND THE CAS WORKER STEVE DIDHAM AND DURING THIS ENTIRE PROCESS HIS SUPERVISOR HAS REFUSED TO GET BACK TO ME!!
Yes I'll also be filing court papers and complaints with the college and the CFSRB and you know the funny thing I have sent a bunch of emails in the last week telling them "hey wouldn't it be better if my time was spent cooperating with you instead of fighting with you? But I guess it seems that they just want a fight.......... THATS NOT MY FAULT NOW IS IT!!
1: Sent: Tue, Apr 29, 2014 8:11:57 PM
Dr. Milton Blake is now ready to resume the parental capacity assessment and needs to meet with you. He needs to meet with you over the course of 2 full days, starting at 9AM, at the London CAS office. The dates he has available are May 9, 12, 14 and 16 – May 12 and 14 are the best dates for him. Please confirm which days work for you of the dates I have provided so he can have his meetings with you. Again, they will start at 9AM and be for the entire day for each of the 2 days you will be meeting with him.
Please let me know at your earliest convenience. Thank you,
2: Sent: Tue, Apr 29, 2014 4:27 PM
That still doesn't answer why I was emailing you I emailed you about you doing your job & my children being at an IMPORTANT FAMILY EVENT WHICH IS MY WEDDING ON JUNE 21ST AGAIN ARRANGEMENTS ARE IN PLACE FOR KATHY ROBERTS TO CARE FOR & SUPERVISE THE CHILDREN THAT DAY I OFFERED A FEW REASONABLE OPTIONS FOR THIS TO WORK SO THEY COULD ATTEND & PARTICIPATE
As for your appointments I'll run this by my lawyer first because I'm not comfortable sitting at the CAS office for two full days alone like this especially with out support who says it specifically has to happen at the CAS office anyway what about a neutral location.
3: Sent: Tue, Apr 29, 2014 8:30:33 PM
I will reply to your earlier email when I have time to respond appropriately. The PCA is urgent Jen so yes, consult with your lawyer and let me know.
4: Sent: Tuesday, April 29, 2014 4:44 PM
Well Steve seeing my children & planning my wedding & tying up these legal things with Joh that we really should have done a few years ago is just as important. Phoenix deserves to have his mom & dad married, Leaylani deserved to grow up knowing that the step father that's help raise her isn't going anywhere and Donovan deserves to continue to grow up knowing that his best friend and step dad won't bail out on him either & btw I guess Joh needs to be part of that PCA too!! He will be my husband after all he has been involved with the kids he is Phoenix's father he named Phoenix not me!! So this other stuff is just as important. I have a reasonable plan for my children to attend our wedding. Feel free to contact Kathy Roberts to confirm the details that I've given you. It's an important family event the children are expected to be part of it & Kathy needs them one Saturday in May to take them shopping for wedding clothing this is a fair & reasonable plan!!
5: Sent: Tue, Apr 29, 2014 9:10:58 PM
I promise to get back to you about this Jen, and I am confident we can work something out. I will need some time before I can respond with what we feel is an appropriate plan – please give me a week for your request to be worked out. I am also working on getting your access resumed too – which is not easy since you know that your refusal to comply with access meant you were removed from the program. I am working very hard to try and get access for you resumed as early as next week - - I will confirm what access will be as soon as I know that plan as well.
Thank you for your patience on these matters; I look forward to hearing back from you about dates to meet with Dr. Blake once you have reviewed the request with your lawyer.
6: Sent:Tue Apr 29 17:27:08 2014
For the record I did not refuse to see my children it was the society that has not set up proper access for me to see my children again the option for access. I am offering is that Kathy Roberts supervises me with my children or you can put a worker in my home to supervise me with my children. After two years it's time to move this forward as well. Joh has the right to be involved. I suggest you get used to this idea quickly and work with us. We're willing to work with you. I'll give you the week but again I want to be clear Joh and I are very serious about doing this together.
Another wonderful example of CAS dodging their responsibilities to families!! This really has to stop & I refuse to let them get away with it not this time!!!
Source: Facebook, Canada Court Watch
Jail for Hugging
June 14, 2014 permalink
Christopher Booker comments on the harsh treatment of parents to enforce separation from their children. Booker was able to print the name of grandmother Kathleen Danby after the Daily Mail (enclosed article) published the story of her secret sentencing. Booker goes on to reveal the conditions in those supervised visitation centres where social workers forbid discussion of anything that really matters. One case reported by Booker resembles the disappearance of Howard Kober after disclosing sexual abuse. Booker's article makes reference to Wanda Maddocks and and an unnamed mother jailed for doing the legally right thing.
The mothers jailed after waving to their children in the street
It's a mystery why judges and social workers think they have the legal authority to act in such an inhuman way
By Christopher Booker, 8:04PM BST 14 Jun 2014
Many will have been amazed by the story of Kathleen Danby, the 72-year-old grandmother given a three-month prison sentence after police produced CCTV footage showing her and her 18-year-old granddaughter running to embrace in a pub car park. The granny, who lives in Orkney, had travelled down to Derby to meet her beloved young relation in defiance of a 2007 court order, which has allowed them only to have “supervised contact” by telephone once a month.
The girl, said to have a mental age of nine, is so unhappy in “care” that, according to Mrs Danby, she has run away 175 times. She was forbidden to see her father after he was jailed for roughly restraining her from “running into a busy road when she was having a temper tantrum”. He has twice since been in prison, once for waving at his daughter when he saw her in a passing taxi on her way to school.
Martin Cardinal, the Court of Protection judge who sentenced Mrs Danby, said: “I am sure this grandmother needs restraint.” It was Judge Cardinal who made news last year when it was revealed that he had secretly jailed Wanda Maddocks – for removing her 80-year-old father from a care home where he had been placed by social workers, and where he was being so ill-treated that she feared for his life.
Of all the disturbing features of our “care” system, one of the most chilling is the draconian restrictions it imposes on contact between children and loving parents or grandparents who have not harmed them in any way. If they are allowed to meet at all, it is usually in a grim council “contact centre”, where every word is noted by a “contact supervisor”, watching for any breach of the rules, which can stop the “contact” dead.
I have seen several of the contracts that family members must sign before being allowed these contact sessions. One is 23 clauses long. These severely limit or forbid any show of affection by either side. Conversation must be limited only to “everyday matters”, such as how the children are doing at school.
Virtually nothing the bewildered children want to discuss is allowed. Totally prohibited is any reference to why they are in “care”, what is to happen to them, or how they are being treated (in one case, where a distressed 11-year-old girl told her parents that she was being sexually abused by a member of the foster carer’s family, her parents never saw her again).
No reference can be made to the courts, social workers or any other “professional” involved in the case. Particularly forbidden is any “whispering”. Where foreign children are in care, they and their parents are forbidden to use the language they speak at home. When a Lithuanian grandfather recently flew to London to see his grandson, he was merely allowed one five-minute video exchange on Skype, using the only three words of English he knew: “I love you”.
Where no contact is allowed at all, the punishments for breaches can be astonishingly severe. I know of half a dozen cases where mothers were jailed simply for waving at their children when seeing them by chance in the street.
I recently reported on a mother, still in prison, after her desperately unhappy 13-year-old daughter had run away from a care home where she was being physically ill-treated. The mother had rung the police, but was careful to have no direct contact with her daughter, until the police begged her to go and calm the girl down in her brother’s house, where she was screaming and sobbing. For this, the social workers persuaded a judge to jail her for six months.
The real mystery is why the courts and social workers think they have the legal authority to act in this utterly inhuman way. If any lawyer can tell me precisely which law allows them thus to trample on one of the deepest and most natural of human instincts, I would be very grateful.
Source: Telegraph (UK)
Secret court jails gran who hugged her granddaughter: Pensioner sentenced to three months after disobeying order she should not see the teenager
- Kathleen Danby, 72, jailed for three months by secretive Court of Protection
- She had been banned from contacting girl, 18, who has learning difficulties
- Was told she could speak to her once a month, but met her at railway exhibit
- Also shown on CCTV hugging the teenager outside a pub
- Judge Martin Cardinal said the CCTV showed Mrs Danby was in contempt
- Grandmother refuses to attend court, and says she will not go to prison
A grandmother has been sentenced to three months in prison after she was filmed giving her granddaughter a hug.
Kathleen Danby, 72, was jailed by the secretive Court of Protection, which decided she had disobeyed its order that she should not see the teenager.
Under a draconian judgment kept secret from the public, Mrs Danby had been banned from making contact with the girl, who is 18 but has learning difficulties.
She was told she could only speak to her on the phone once a month at a set time, with social workers listening in. Mrs Danby was ordered back to court when social workers heard that she had met the girl at a model railway exhibition. Police also presented CCTV footage of her hugging her granddaughter outside a pub.
Mrs Danby was not at the hearing in Birmingham in April to give her version of events but Judge Martin Cardinal said the CCTV showed she was in contempt. He ordered that she be jailed for three months and issued a warrant for her arrest.
However Mrs Danby, who lives in Orkney, said yesterday that no police officers had arrived to execute the warrant. ‘I haven’t been jailed simply because I refused to go down there to court,’ she said, adding that she would refuse to go to prison simply for making contact with her granddaughter.
‘She is 18 and can decide for herself what she wants to do, she is being denied her human rights,’ Mrs Danby said. ‘She has the educational standards of somebody half her age, and behaves like a much younger child, but she is completely lucid in what she wants.’
Mrs Danby said the girl was moved into care in Derbyshire in 2007, when she was 11, a year after being removed from her father in Orkney. He was banned from seeing her after he was convicted for ill-treatment for restraining her from running into a busy road while she was having a temper tantrum, Mrs Danby said.
She said it was a ‘spurious excuse’, adding: ‘Social services completely cut off contact which was of course cruel to her in the extreme.’ The girl’s father has been jailed twice for trying to contact her – once for waving at her taxi as she travelled to school – she said.
The teenager was in the care home against her will and had run away 175 times, Mrs Danby said.
Judge Cardinal is the judge who sent Wanda Maddocks to jail in secret for trying to free her 80-year-old father from a care home where she feared his life was at risk.
Judge Cardinal jailed Miss Maddocks without publishing her name or making any details of her contempt public. She served six weeks in jail. The case came to light more than six months later and led to new rules so that no one may ever again be imprisoned without their name being published.
In Mrs Danby’s case, Judge Cardinal said that the teenager, named only as B, finds it hard to control her anger, has self-harmed and frequently runs away. Social workers believe her distress increases when she is contacted by her father or grandmother, he said.
Derbyshire County Council said Mrs Danby broke the injunction banning contact by meeting her granddaughter at 5.27pm on February 28 outside the pub next to the care home.
Four days earlier, the teenager escaped from her minder and took a circuitous route to the town of Chapel-en-le-Frith. Judge Cardinal said the girl knew that for the last three years her grandmother has attended a model railway show there in February. She told a care worker that her grandmother had come from Scotland to see her.
‘I am sure this grandmother needs restraint,’ he said.
Last night lawyers were debating whether, by failing to give any information about why Mrs Danby is banned from seeing her granddaughter, Judge Cardinal had met the full requirements brought in after the Maddocks case.
Source: Daily Mail
June 13, 2014 permalink
In yesterday's Ontario election the Liberal party got a majority, 59 of the 107 seats. The PCs and NDP got 27 and 21 seats.
In the last legislature, the NDP was pushing for ombudsman oversight of children's aid, the Liberals opposed and the PC gave tepid support. The new party lineup means there will be no meaningful oversight of CAS for the next four years.
In individual races, Rosario Marchese, who introduced oversight legislation in 2010 and 2011, lost his seat. Monique Taylor, who introduced similar legislation in 2013, was reelected. CAS opponent Rob Ferguson running as a Libertarian in Brant got 374 votes out of 52,088 cast.
Death to Truant Parents
June 12, 2014 permalink
When Eileen DiNino's children skipped school the state of Pennsylvania knew how to protect them. A judge put her in jail for two days for failure to pay truancy fines. She died half way through her sentence, leaving seven orphans. Even the sentencing judge is criticizing the use of criminal law for truants.
Mother Of 7 Jailed For Kids Truancy Fines Found Dead In Cell
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A Pennsylvania mother of seven died in a jail cell where she was serving a two-day sentence for her children's absence from school, drawing complaints from the judge that sent her there about a broken system that punishes impoverished parents.
Eileen DiNino, 55, of Reading, was found dead in a jail cell Saturday, halfway through a 48-hour sentence that would have erased about $2,000 in fines and court costs. The debt had accrued since 1999, and involved several of her seven children, most recently her boys at a vocational high school.
"Did something happen? Was she scared to death?" said District Judge Dean R. Patton, who reluctantly sent DiNino to the Berks County jail Friday after she failed to pay the debt for four years.
He described her as "a lost soul," and questioned Pennsylvanian laws that criminalize such lapses as truancy or failing to pay a trash bill.
"This lady didn't need to be there," Patton said. "We don't do debtors prisons anymore. That went out 100 years ago."
Her death is not suspicious, but the cause has not yet been determined, police said.
More than 1,600 people have been jailed in Berks County alone — two-thirds of them women — over truancy fines since 2000, the Reading Eagle reported Wednesday. Reading, the county seat, is about 60 miles northwest of Philadelphia.
"What you see is kind of a slice of inner-city life," said lawyer Richard Guida, who handled truancy cases, including DiNino's, as a Reading School District solicitor for more than a decade. "The people home taking care of the children are mothers. Many times, they're overwhelmed, and some of these kids are no angels."
Language barriers can also be an issue for letters and phone calls between the parents and school, given that the vast majority of the city and school population is Hispanic, he said.
The truancy fines themselves might be $75 or less. However, the debt can add up over court costs and fees. DiNino's court file shows a laundry list of court fees for one case alone: $8 for a "judicial computer project"; $60 for Berks County constables; $10 for postage. And she had been cited dozens of times over the years.
"The woman didn't have any money," said Diana L. Sealy, whose son married DiNino's daughter. "Years ago, I tried helping her out. She had all these kids."
Patton said he has lost sleep over her death. At the same time, he acknowledged that a short jail stint can sometimes "break the habit" of parents who'd rather party into the night than take their children to school the next day. The county started a program a few years ago that gives families 30 to 60 days to keep daily logs of each class and assignment. He estimated that the district truancy rate had dropped more than 30 percent.
DiNino did not work or appear to have much help with four children still at home, according to Patton. She frequently skipped hearings, or arrived without requested documents.
"She cared about her kids, but her kids ruled the roost," Patton said. "She was just accepting what was coming, and (would) let the cards fall where they may."
Although she was often unkempt, she came to court clean and neat to surrender Friday, he said. She had on clean sweatpants, had combed her hair, and had tape holding her glasses together.
"She was a different person. She was cleaned up, smiling," Patton said. "I think she realized, when this is done, the weight was off her shoulders."
Prison Warden Janine Quigley referred the newspaper's call to Berks County Commissioner Kevin R. Barnhardt, chairman of the county prison board.
"This woman died in prison, away from her family," Barnhardt told the Reading Eagle. "And for what?"
Source: Huffington Post
Deducting Foster Children
June 12, 2014 permalink
Philadelphia social worker Gebah Kamara and three others sold identity information on foster children so taxpayers could falsely claim them as dependents.
Six charged with stealing identities of foster children
A former social worker and three employees of a residential care facility for the disabled have been charged with selling the identities of children in their care to help others cheat on their taxes - a scheme U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger described Thursday as "truly despicable."
Federal prosecutors unsealed an indictment accusing Gebah Kamara, 46, a Liberian national living in Sharon Hill, of stealing personal information from several foster children he encountered while working for Catholic Social Services, the charitable wing of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
Also charged were Musa Turay, 41; Ibrahim Kamara, 48; Foday Mansaray, 38; three employees of Villanova-based Devereux Foundation, a charity that runs residential centers for patients with developmental disabilities. The three also held jobs at Medmans Financial Services, a Southwest Philadelphia tax preparation firm.
IRS investigators say that company's owner, Mohamed Mansaray, paid Gebah Kamara and the others for the stolen Social Security numbers and other information and then charged his clients $800 to claim the children as fraudulent dependents on their tax returns.
In addition to Mansaray and the three who worked for Devereux, two other employees of Medmans were also charged with counts of conspiracy, tax fraud and identity theft.
Momolu Sirleaf, owner of a separate tax-preparation service in Darby, also faces charges for a similar scheme involving the identification information involving foster children.
In all, prosecutors claim their purported fraud bilked the government out of at least $6 million in unpaid taxes between 2008 and 2013. Five of the eight defendants were arrested Thursday and made initial appearances in federal court in Philadelphia. All were released on bond after surrendering passports from West African nations such as Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Few had attorneys. Gebah Kamara and his lawyer, James Polyak, declined to comment about the case.
Representatives from Catholic Social Services did not return calls for comment Thursday. Gebah Kamara left the agency in 2011 for reasons unrelated to his arrest, Polyak said.
It remained unclear whether Devereux, whose spokeswoman also did not return calls, still employed Turay, Mansaray and Ibrahim Kamara.
The two Kamaras are not closely related.
If convicted, each of the eight defendants face possible decades-long prison terms.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer
Addendum: Another case of the same crime by a different participant.
Darby tax preparer charged with stealing foster kids' identities
A DARBY tax preparer has been charged with stealing the identities of foster children to falsely use their information on tax returns for his own benefit, according to an indictment unsealed yesterday.
Momolu Sirleaf, 34, of Wycombe Avenue, owned and operated I.E.S. Tax Services, of Darby.
According to the indictment:
Sirleaf obtained the names and Social Security numbers of kids in the foster-care system. He used their information to falsely add them as dependents on some of his clients' returns "to generate fraudulent refunds, some in excess of $8,000." He charged clients an extra fee of up to about $800 to falsely include these dependents on the tax returns.
He allegedly did this on returns filed from 2010 to 2012 for the previous tax years.
Sirleaf was arrested yesterday and was in court before U.S. Magistrate Judge Timothy Rice for his initial appearance.
He told Rice that he is now unemployed, and was appointed a lawyer. He will be arraigned next Thursday.
Sirleaf declined to speak to a reporter.
He was indicted last month and charged with aiding in the preparation of false income-tax returns, fraud and identity theft.
U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger and Special Agent-in-Charge Akeia Conner of the IRS' Criminal Investigation Division had harsh words for Sirleaf and for the defendants in the unrelated Medmans Financial Services case announced yesterday.
"The allegations in these indictments depict a disturbing practice of exploiting some of the most vulnerable members of our community," Memeger said in a statement. "Unfortunately, it is not unusual for criminals to injure victims through identity fraud and cheat the government of its tax revenue through tax fraud.
"But the conduct in these cases, in which the fraud schemes involved stealing identity information from disabled children and children in foster care, is truly despicable, and those who are responsible must be brought to justice," Memeger said.
Conner added in the statement: "Individuals who commit refund fraud and identity theft of this magnitude deserve to be punished to the fullest extent of the law. [Yesterday's] arrests should serve as a strong warning to those who are considering similar conduct."
Source: Philadelphia Daily News
Vernon Beck on Domestic Violence
June 12, 2014 permalink
Vernon Beck at the Toronto Domestic Violence Symposium. Event put on by The Canadian Maltese Charitable Services Trust.
June 12, 2014 permalink
Parents-to-be David Nault and Paige Nippi will be losing their son, already named Mason, at birth. Winnipeg CFS has announced their intention to seize the baby. The parents have received no explanation for the decision.
Winnipeg couple says CFS taking their baby with no explanation
Couple says they don’t have clear answers on why their child is being seized by Winnipeg CFS
A Winnipeg couple is looking for answers after being told their baby would be seized by Winnipeg Child and Family Services when he is born.
“Just the fact that my baby’s going to be born and taken away right away — nobody should have to go through that,” said David Nault. “We didn’t do anything wrong. It’s just not fair.”
David Nault and Paige Nippi said they were excited to discover they were pregnant, but after a visit two weeks ago from a CFS staff member, they were told the child would be seized.
Nippi said they were told there wasn’t enough information on the couple to determine if they were fit parents.
Nippi’s first daughter, from a pregnancy at age 15, is currently in the care of her grandmother, Nippi's mother.
“She’s still in my life, and I’m still her mom. The reasoning is because I’ve never fully parented her on my own is why they said they were taking my son away,” said Nippi.
Nault said the couple has moved to a better neighbourhood near a hospital in anticipation of the baby. They have both taken prenatal and parenting classes and asked their family for advice.
The couple has even decided on a name — Mason.
A court record check on the couple came up clean, and the couple said there are no substance abuse or mental health issues.
Nault has held a full-time job for years, and his boss is trying to help him.
Jerome Munz owns Fire Safe where Nault works.
“He has had no problem having people aid him in being a better parent,” said Munz. “I don’t think there should be an issue with the support network that he does have.”
The parents have purchased books, toys and a crib, and family members have also brought gifts in anticipation of the baby.
“You look over and there’s his crib and his dresser,” she said. Adding it hurts “just knowing he’s not going to be able to come home.”
Nippi was scheduled to be induced on Wednesday.
Winnipeg CFS would not comment on the case directly but did release a statement, saying, “In our legislation, child safety is paramount. An agency will only apprehend a child when there are serious concerns that a child may not be safe in the parents care.”
June 11, 2014 permalink
When Ethan Chaplin was caught twirling a pencil in class, the school decided not to take action. But New Jersey child protectors found out. Now the hapless dad has to jump through their hoops or lose his son to adoption.
Dad: NJ threatens to take away son after pencil-twirling incident
VERNON, N.J. (PIX11) – A 13-year-old boy was the most famous kid in school for a few weeks.
A simple pencil-twirling incident landed Ethan Chaplin in hot water with his school, which threatened to suspend him after a classmate claimed he was spinning the writing utensil like a gun.
After media attention from PIX11 and around the world, school officials backed off — but child protection agencies did not.
Letters to Ethan’s father, Michael, show the school found his son did nothing wrong at all, and that there would be no disciplinary action. The superintendent was even confident the issue would be behind all of them.
Ethan’s father says his son was just twirling the pencil, not pointing it like a gun.
And that’s exactly what happened, until Ethan’s father received startling communication from New Jersey’s Department of Child Protection and Permanency and Department of Children and Families.
“I received a letter from them saying they had found an incident of abuse or neglect regarding Ethan because I refused to take him for psychological evaluation,” Michael said.
In an effort to play along and clear his name, Michael agreed to take his son for an evaluation.
Ethan was seen by a social worker, and had his blood drawn and urine taken. In the end, no behavioral problem was found.
The state, it seems, is ignoring that set of testing, demanding further evaluation and threatening that if Michael doesn’t comply, they are will terminate his parental rights and free Ethan up for adoption.
“All I can do is keep fighting, keep telling the truth and (keep) presenting the evidence. That is all I can do and hopefully the state does the right thing,” Michael said.
He has even reached out to Governor Chris Christie’s office, who replied they would contact the Dept. of Children and Families to investigate.
“…I’m scared because they have a habit of running away with things unchecked and that’s exactly what’s going on,” Michael said.
PIX11 tried to get a comment from DCPP and NJ Department of Children and Families but received no answers.
The agency told PIX11 they can’t discuss the allegations or even acknowledge they have involvement with the family.
Death Records Faked
June 8, 2014 permalink
When a Florida newspaper began an investigation into child deaths, DCF began to keep deaths out of the record. The suppressed details from most reports, leaving the full story only in one case where they placed the blame on a judge instead of social workers.
Child deaths kept off the books at DCF
At 2 a.m. on Dec. 13, 2013, a Riviera Beach mom woke up to find her newborn baby's lips were purple. Blood and milk oozed from the girl's nose. She had stopped breathing.
The baby, authorities say, likely was accidentally smothered to death by her mother, who placed the girl in bed with her, and three other children -- a practice known as "co-sleeping" that can be lethal to infants.
Child welfare investigators had been involved with the family four times before the infant's death.
An investigator prepared an incident report on the baby's death later that day and emailed it to a supervisor.
The paper trail ended there.
Kimberly Welles, an administrator at the Department of Children & Families' Southeast Region, deleted the incident report, email records show. And she instructed the supervisor who wrote it, Lindsey McCrudden, to deep-six it, as well.
"Please do not file this in the system. No incident reports right now on death cases," Welles wrote in an email that day. "Please withdraw this and thanks. Will advise why later."
Last November, the Miami Herald was finishing a tally of Florida child abuse and neglect deaths among families that had previously come to the attention of DCF. The count was undertaken as part of a project called Innocents Lost. To track the number of dead children, which soared to new heights in recent years, reporters relied on public records, including incident reports.
Documents obtained after Innocents Lost was published show that, starting at least as early as last November as the Herald was grilling DCF on its problems preventing deaths of children under its watch, one branch of the agency deliberately kept as many as 30 deaths off the books -- ensuring they would not be included in the published tally.
The incidents were in DCF's Southeast Region, encompassing Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, Okeechobee and Broward -- the county cited by the Herald as having the most reported deaths by abuse or neglect. wwwDCF's new secretary, Mike Carroll, said he has dispatched his top deputy, Pete Digre, to look into the missing records.
Carroll's initial assessment of the matter: "Was it ill-advised? Absolutely. Was it a mistake? Absolutely."
But as to whether the missing records amounted to a deliberate attempt to conceal deaths or suppress numbers in a series of articles highlighting DCF blunders, Carroll said: "I am not certain yet. I hope that's not the case. I have made it clear to folks that we are not in the business of hiding information."
Southeast Region administrators say they ceased filing the required reports for at least five months because they were in the process of developing a new reporting tool, Carroll said.
He added: "There is no evidence that makes me think there was a conspiracy to withhold information ... I don't have anything that shows me this was done with ill intent."
Carroll reaffirmed previous pledges to transform his agency into one of the most open and forthcoming in the United States, beginning with the online posting of "every single death report."
Streamlining and speeding up the availability of agency information, Carroll said, will not only allow DCF to quiet its critics -- it may help the agency improve its performance.
"We have to get better at what we do," Carroll said. "If DCF had contact with a child, we should have zero child deaths with those families."
Rash of deaths
Reporters on March 31 requested all child death incident reports statewide since Nov. 1, roughly when the Herald's gathering of death reports had concluded. As DCF prepared to fulfill the records request, it discovered a strange new development: From at least November onward, the Southeast Region apparently had stopped filing incident reports, though more than two dozen child deaths had occurred in the region, according to the state's child abuse and neglect hotline.
On April 2, a DCF child abuse and quality assurance specialist, Leslie Chytka, wrote in an email that she had found 30 child deaths with no corresponding incident reports -- a violation of agency rules that say such reports must be completed "within one working day" of a child's death. She instructed staff in the region to file reports for all of the 30 deaths.
That led to another email, from another staffer, with the title: "the upcoming rash of incident report deaths." In it, DCF quality assurance manager Frank Perry wrote: "Disregard the next thirty or so incident reports that will be posted in the next day or so. They are child deaths we are aware of but are not in the ... system. I have been asked to create these incidents so they are recorded."
And create them he did -- very quickly. The reports, filed by Perry on April 3 and April 4, are unlike any of the of the 145 or so the Herald received from the rest of the state at that time: They were largely devoid of information. Many of the Perry reports consisted of four sentences or fewer and offered no information, or scant information, regarding each family's history with DCF. Such information is customarily provided in an incident report.
Only one child death incident report from the region included unredacted details of the family's history with DCF. That one blamed the death on a Miami judge who ignored an agency recommendation about where the baby should live..
Source: Bradenton Herald
Social Worker Lives Off Prostitution
June 7, 2014 permalink
Former Alaska foster child and itinerant prostitute Tara Burns tells the story of her years in and out of foster care. In her experience, laws intended to rescue children from sex trafficking made her life even worse. One abuse not previously noted by fixcas: at every encounter with her social worker, the worker confiscated all of Tara's money. Our best guess is that the worker did not deposit the money in the state treasury.
Sex Trafficking: How I Survived Foster Care
Sex-trafficking laws hadn’t been written yet when I was growing up in the mid 90s, but today sex-trafficking laws are all the rage. The laws are so broad, the authorities have used them to charge women with trafficking themselves. The media warns readers about violent pimps stealing girls from malls, but most victims’ stories are very different. I know this because I was a teen trafficking victim, and my experience reflects much of the research that’s been done with trafficking victims.
When my dad pimped me out during the Clinton era, the state called his crime “sexual abuse of a minor.” When the cops decided to try to “rescue” me when I was 15, they pressured the state to take custody of me so that my dad couldn’t snatch me and run. At that point, I had been living independently and with friends for years. My caseworker at the Department of Family and Youth Services (now the Office of Children’s Services) was reluctant to get involved—she thought I was a liar who needed to be punished for making up stories about my dad—but she eventually did what the cops said. Most of my foster-home stints lasted less than a week.
That was how the state “rescued” me from being pimped out by my dad—but I was lucky. Other teens have been raped and pimped in foster care. I didn’t know it at the time, but this is why I was so lucky: Ten years before, my mother ran with me to a neighbor’s house because she was worried we would be hurt. We sat up all night, equally afraid of going home or calling the police. That neighbor went on to become a police officer, and when a report about me came across her desk—similar to the 13 reports about me that had been made to the Department of Family and Youth Services and the two other reports that had been made to the police—she made it her mission to rescue me.
Within a few months, the state had run out of foster homes for me, so they dumped me in a youth shelter—that’s when I got banned from the shelter. I had been living with adult friends, who had started the process of adopting me, for three or four weeks. It was the longest period of time I had lived somewhere in years. After I unpacked my bag, my caseworker arrived and said the fire exits weren’t sufficient. She demanded I collect my belongings, follow her outside, and climb into her car.
“I don’t have time for this,” my caseworker said in the car. “I was supposed to get off work half an hour ago, and my kids are waiting for me to come home and make dinner.” She claimed the state lacked any more foster homes for me, so she took me to the youth shelter. I was familiar with the shelter because I usually stayed there for a few days between friends’ houses, so I didn’t mind. Before she let me leave the car, she went through my bag and confiscated my money, saying that I would probably spend my cash on drugs.
A few weeks later, I found out my caseworker had lied about why she removed me from my friends’ home. In court, my guardian ad litem allowed me to read my file. I found a big stack of papers revealing the true reason I had to leave my adult friends’ home: My friend had allegedly abused her son and allowed a child molester to live in her driveway.
Though the shelter typically allowed kids to stay for only two weeks at most, I stayed at the shelter for seven weeks, since the state had run out of places to keep me. The shelter forbade minors from leaving without a good reason, like attending class or going to work. I hadn’t attended school in years, so I kept inside for the duration of my stay.
Eventually, I got really bored at the shelter and started carving on my arms. The next day, I held the shelter director's baby while she and all of the staff had a meeting about me in the kitchen. They decided I had to leave because I was too much of a suicidal liability. They called my caseworker. Since I wasn’t actually suicidal, the hospital wouldn’t take me. My caseworker found me new foster parents, a couple who had recently immigrated to America from India. My first night at their house, the husband angrily criticized the dinner his wife had cooked for him. She threw away the food and then cooked him another meal. The following day, I went for a walk and forgot to go back.
My caseworker called my friends and told them I was a runaway (she said if they harbored me, they could be charged with a felony), so I went to a hotel bar instead of bothering my pals. At the bar, I found a man to go home with. Today we would call this “survival sex.” According to a recent study of youth in New York City’s sex trade called "Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children," 30 to 50 percent of homeless youth work as sex workers and only 16 percent of girls started with a pimp or escort service.
A couple days and a couple men later, I ran into my best friend’s foster parents at the store. She had lived with them since her mother died years ago, and they said that they could easily take me in because they were already licensed to foster her. They called my caseworker, and she came right over. After my caseworker searched my bag for drugs and took my money again, she agreed that I could stay with them. My new foster mom took me shopping and bought me a pretty baby-blue sweater that covered the cuts on my forearms.
My first night at her house, I sat down with the family at a big, round table for dinner. We look like a family! I thought—at least until I noticed the kids looked at the floor and stayed silent. I soon found out why they kept their mouths shut. Midway through dinner, my friend’s brother took a timid bite of macaroni, and my new foster mom exploded. She said his chewing was disgusting, called him a dog, dumped his plate on the floor, and then stood over him ordering him to eat like a dog and lick the floor clean. As he obeyed her demands, she kicked him.
A few hours later, my new foster mother tucked me into bed, kissed my forehead, and told me I had a family now. I waited for her to leave and then grabbed my blue sweater and climbed out the window. Outside, I realized we were miles out of town, and I didn’t have any equipment for cold-weather camping, so I climbed back in the window. The next morning, I called the cop who looked out for me, and she picked me up. I asked her to drop me at the store and promised her my new foster mom would pick me up later—adults accusing me of being a crazy liar had taught me to stop talking about abuse.
I walked to my usual bar, where I met their new bartender. He refused to let me in, since I was underage, so I walked in the cold through the areas where men usually picked me up and paid me for sex, stomping my feet in the snow to keep warm. No one stopped for me, so I walked to the shelter and begged them to let me in.
“I don’t think I’m supposed to let you in,” the worker said. “Just come in and warm up while I call and check.” She called the director at home, and the director said not to let me in.
“You know I might just freeze to death in your parking lot,” I said. In response, the worker gave me a blanket. I wrapped my body in the blanket and then sat in the snowbank near where the director always parked.
“Fuck you,” I told her when she arrived.
“You need to get off our property or I’m calling the police,” she said.
“Call the cops! Call the cops and tell them how you don’t let kids in your shelter!”
She rolled her eyes as she stepped around me. “I don’t have time for this,” she said. I looked at the morning traffic and snow and then stripped down to my tank top. A couple minutes later, one of my regulars stopped to pick me up. Who needs a shelter when you can suck dick for cash?
My situation wasn’t uncommon. The rescue industry and the laws it pushes cause so much harm that there is an entire book called Collateral Damage: The Impact of Anti-Trafficking Measures on Human Rights Around The World. “First, we were surprised how many stories we heard from girls, including transgender girls, and young women, including trans women, about their violent experiences at non profits and with service providers,” the Young Women’s Empowerment Project found in a participant-directed research project. “This was upsetting because adults and social workers often tell us that seeking services will improve our lives.”
Their findings didn’t shock me. After I left that foster home, my caseworker once again said she had run out of foster homes for me. My friends were—understandably—still afraid to harbor a runaway. My cop gave me a list of charities to call, but they all said they didn’t get involved with minors, so some of the shelter workers snuck me into the shelter at night, when they were the only ones working, and let me sleep in a warm room downstairs. Other nights, I slept in the snowbank at the shelter so I could yell at the director when she arrived in the morning, or I stayed with men or in hotel rooms they got me. For a period of time, I got off on bringing men to the shelter parking lot to do our business, but the shelter director never caught me like I secretly wanted. Once I hitchhiked to another town, spent a summer turning tricks with a friend, and then became a glamorous stripper for a few weeks. Another time I built a treehouse by a lake and cooked rabbits over a fire like in My Side of the Mountain.
Looking back, I wonder what my caseworker thought I really was doing to survive—or if she thought about it at all. I’m pretty sure that anyone with even the smallest bit of common sense knows that if you take a teenager who’s done sex work, take away her support system, and leave her homeless during an Alaskan winter, she’ll do sex work to survive. Confiscating money from her every time you see her should make that picture even clearer—after all, inducing a minor to do sex work could make a person guilty of sex trafficking under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. Did my caseworker sex traffick me? Did the state, or the shelter director, or the system traffic me? Why is the system so stacked that an independent adult prostitute can be charged with sex trafficking herself, but the state can allegedly coerce people into sex work with no consequences?
Studies show that my experience of sex trafficking isn’t uncommon. In a research project called the Bad Encounter Line, the Young Women’s Empowerment Project tracked violence in the lives of girls in the sex trade. The results showed that 30 percent of violent encounters were with police, 6 percent with DCFS, and 1 percent with shelters. Pimps accounted for only 4 percent of violent encounters. Sexual violence by police officers made up 11 percent of the total reports—almost three times as much as pimps, and overall there was seven and a half times more violence from police than pimps.
My story has a surprise happy ending, though: The state dropped custody of me. When I was 15, my caseworker told the judge plainly that I was a waste of resources. He read my psychiatric evaluation and agreed with her. “This is very serious,” he told me. “I’ve seen these diagnosis before. You’ll probably be dead before you’re 16.”
That night I slept in the shelter parking lot and fantasized about killing myself dramatically on their sidewalk. Unfortunately, that would have proved that they were right about my being a big suicidal liability.
Within a couple months, I petitioned to be emancipated. The judge granted my petition, allowing me to get a “real” job, rent a small house, enroll in high school, and do sex work much more safely and infrequently—all things that were impossible while I was in state custody.
Tara Burns is the author of Whore Diaries: My First Week as an Escort and Whore Diaries II: Adventures in Independent Escorting.
Source: Vice Media
Getting Rich on Foster Care
June 7, 2014 permalink
Christopher Booker reports on the outrageously high incomes for foster parents and foster agencies. A parent with three foster kids, a typical number, can earn £92,354 a year, at current exchange rates $169,932 Canadian. Booker does not look into the question of why legislators appropriate these staggering sums for foster care. It is easy for legislators to believe that a more generous appropriation will improve the lives of foster children.
Why the explosion in child-snatching is big business
When fostering excites venture capitalists, the number of children taken into care rises
A Norfolk reader sends me photographs of an advertisement placed on the back of local buses by Norfolk and Suffolk county councils. “New challenge,” it reads. “Have you thought of fostering? If so you can earn £590 a week.”
Two things are interesting about this, one general, one specific. For a start, it shows what mind-boggling sums are now available to councils whose social workers take children into care. I have quoted before advertisements offering foster carers £400 a week for each child. But £590 a week means that a foster home looking after three children taken from their parents, which is not uncommon, can now earn almost £100,000 a year. In addition are the lavish fees charged by fostering agencies to make the arrangements, almost invariably run by ex-social workers.
Most people have no idea what a big business fostering has become. When one such firm, National Fostering Agency, representing 175 local authorities after being launched by two ex-social workers in 1995, was placed on the market by Rothschilds in 2012, it was sold by its “venture capital” owners Sovereign to a “private equity” firm, Graphite Capital, for a staggering £130 million.
The more specific point, however, is that, of all the councils that feature in my files as seizing children from their parents for what seem like questionable reasons, Norfolk and Suffolk are high on the list. In one of the most controversial cases I have reported, it was Norfolk’s social workers who were eventually forced to hand back a baby to its parents, after they had twice travelled to France to take the child into foster care in England. Having been thwarted in their plans, when a judge ruled that they had no legal right to do so, they seized several more children from different members of the same family who, to justify their removal, now face many charges of criminal abuse.
Yet last year the children’s department of this same council, Norfolk, received the most damning report possible from Ofsted, failing it as “inadequate” (the lowest rating) on every one of the five counts on which social workers are judged, from “quality of provision” to “leadership and management”.
Our children’s minister, Edward Timpson, may last week have launched yet another initiative to speed up the rate at which children are adopted. But even he only mentions 6,000 children waiting for adoption, compared with the record 68,000 currently in care in England and Wales alone.
It is hardly surprising, when fostering has excited the interest of venture capitalists as one of the most lucrative industries in the country, that the number of children social workers take from their parents into care has, in the past five years, well over doubled, to 28,000 a year.
What then happens to too many of these children in “care” is just another part of this very disturbing picture.
Source: Telegraph (UK)
Hugging a Foster Child.
June 6, 2014 permalink
Rikki Salzman, a worker in a foster home in Pennsylvania, has been charged with sexual assault. It sounds horrendous until the last sentence, where the alleged victim disclosed the real offense: he and Salzman "were involved in an intimate relationship that included hugging and kissing on multiple occasions during his stay at Aborvale Manor." Maybe Rikki's crime was not being cold as ice, like a real child care worker.
Foster care employee accused of sexual abuse
Rikki Salzman faces charges
Rikki Salzman, 32, is charged with institutional sexual assault, corruption of minors and unlawful contact with a minor.
Officials say the acts took place at the Aborvale Manor facility, a foster care placement home, in Millersville. Salzman was an employee there.
Officials first became aware of the alleged child abuse from the Department of Public Welfare on Jan. 16, 2014, according to the affidavit of probable cause. In a mandatory reporting form, the DPW relayed allegations that a female employee was involved in a sexual relationship with a juvenile male.
When investigators spoke to the supervisor of Arborvale Manor, Mervin Fahnestock, on Jan. 23, they learned that there had been an internal investigation and Salzman had been suspended and later fired. Staff logs from Arborvale showed that there had been documented meetings with Salzman to discuss a variety of "inappropriate and unprofessional" interactions between her and the male residents in the facility, according to the affidavit.
"Fahnestock also provided a video from the facility which is monitored by surveillance cameras that showed an inappropriate interaction between (Salzman) and (the alleged victim). Fahnestock also provided a documented interview of another male resident … in the facility that provided extensive information and details regarding the sexual/intimate relationship that was occurring between Salzman and (the alleged victim)," the affidavit states.
Several months later, the affidavit states that investigators talked to the alleged victim, who said that he and Salzman "were involved in an intimate relationship that included hugging and kissing on multiple occasions during his stay at Aborvale Manor."
Supervising While Intoxicated
June 6, 2014 permalink
North Carolina child protective supervisor Karma Warren was charged with drunk driving while she was on standby.
NC DSS worker charged with DWI
Pitt County, NC - Washington Police arrest a Pitt County child protective supervisor for DWI and it happened while she was "on call." Police say they found her passed out behind the wheel. She blew more than 2 times the legal limit.
On May 21st at about 4 a.m. court records say Karma Warren was found passed out behind the wheel of her 2007 Hyundai.
It was parked in front of BB's Tavern in Washington.
Her warrant says she had difficulty staying awake, had problems rolling down the window and her breath emitted an odor of alcohol. She blew a .18 on her Breathalyzer test.
During the time the county was paying her a dollar an hour to be on call. However, it's unknown if she was called on that night.
9 On Your Side spoke to Interim DSS Director Earl Marett about the company policy about what the on-call policy says.
"The on-call policy requires the employee to be available," said Earl Marett, Interim DSS Director. "If they are not available and willfully abuse that policy, then disciplinary action can be taken."
Marett couldn't talk about specifics and couldn't say if Warren was disciplined.
9 On Your Side reached out to Warren through her work and went by her house. We were unable to speak with her.
Warren does not have a history in and out of the workplace.
CAS Rescues Tot
June 6, 2014 permalink
For the second time in a week, CAS has alerted the press to the seizure of a child from an abusive home. This one is in Hamilton, last week it was in London.
Hamilton boy, 3, taken by children's aid found living in squalor
Neighbours describe neglected house that made one police officer throw up
The Children's Aid Society of Hamilton has removed a three-year-old boy living in "squalor" from a home in the city's east end after neighbours alerted police to a foul smell coming from the residence.
CAS executive director Dominic Verticchio confirmed to CBC Hamilton that the boy was taken last Wednesday from the home near Parkdale Avenue North and Melvin Avenue where the toddler was living with his mother and grandmother.
"Certainly it was not fit for human residency," Verticchio said, adding that there was garbage and animals contributing to the foul smell reported to police.
The boy had "a few" flea bites, Verticchio said, and the SPCA and Hamilton police were also involved in the "ongoing" investigation.
He said the boy was a "typical three-year-old" and "he's in our care and doing well." Because of the involvement of CAS, the toddler cannot be identified, and some details that might identify him cannot be published.
'It was a real mess'
Barbara, a neighbour on the street where the home now sits deserted, said the mother, who she estimates is in her mid-20s, moved into the residence a few years ago when she was pregnant with the boy.
"I didn't even know if they were living over there anymore," she said.
Barbara met the grandmother once and "she seemed pleasant," but the house was an eyesore to neighbours on the quiet street as the grass reached knee height on more than a few occasions.
"There was garbage on the front porch - it was a real mess," Barbara said.
The home is now deserted, grass trimmed and garbage cleared away. The windows are also cracked opened allowing the odour to be detected from the sidewalk.
Anne has lived on the street for 50 years and said police, the SPCA and children aid were lined up down the block last week when the boy was taken away.
She listened through a window as one officer sat the mother down on a dirty lawn chair out back of the house where a mound of garbage bags half sat buried in the grass.
"I heard the officer saying....that's intolerable no one is ever going back in that house again," Anne said. "Another officer wearing one of those hazmat suit walked out the front door at one point and pulled his mask away and puked on the lawn."
Another officer entered the house without a mask and left 20 seconds later "shaking his head and wiping his eyes" in disgust, she said.
Hamilton police said the CAS is in charge of the case and any charges resulting from their investigation will be relayed to police.
Both woman described how they were "shocked" to learn the number of animals living in the house after as at least five dogs and as many cats were removed by the SPCA
"The officers were walking outside and wiping their feet across the grass," Anne said, speculating that the family let the animals defecate in the house because she'd only ever seen one dog outside.
The SPCA could not be reached for comment.
Ward 1 Councillor and City Housing Hamilton President Brian McHattie confirmed the home is an affordable housing residence and voiced his concern.
"I am very concerned to learn of this circumstance, it sounds like a horrific situation. My immediate concern is for the health and well-being of the three year old boy," McHattie said. "You can be certain that myself and the Board will be following up on this immediately with CHH staff."
Anne said prior to the family moving in the house was occupied by alleged drug dealers.
"It took them five months to repair it after they left and now who knows how long this is going to take. They'll have to take it back to the studs to get rid of the smell - that's a lot of money," she said
Police Reunite Mother and Daughter
June 4, 2014 permalink
Brampton police found a girl wandering by herself. They located her mother and reunited them.
Until the arrival of the child protection craze, there would have been nothing unusual about this story. Now it is as rare as man bites dog.
Ontario Tot reunited with mom after found alone
BRAMPTON, Ont. - A toddler found wandering alone near a busy intersection in Brampton has been reunited with her mother.
The little girl, who is about two or three years old, was seen walking by herself (near Bovaird Drive and Creditview Road) Monday morning in the city northwest of Toronto.
But hours later police had located her mother and brought the pair back together.
Police say the girl is in good health.
It wasn't immediately clear how the toddler came to be walking on her own.
Source: Orangeville Banner
Ayn is Going Home
June 4, 2014 permalink
Ayn Van Dyk has been ordered home by a judge after being held in custody for three years. A word of caution: MCFD announced Ayn's homecoming once before in 2012.
Shopping For Junior
June 4, 2014 permalink
Kim Brooks left her four-year-old son in a car for a few minutes while getting him headphones in a store. A bystander photographed the incident on a smartphone and alerted police. As is commonplace in police actions today, she was coerced by the threat of losing her children. She accepted a criminal punishment of community service and parenting classes.
A generation ago children became fearful of police when they were teenagers. A five-year-old running in fear from a policeman was unheard of. Brooks' story contains an example of a pre-teen boy recoiling in fear at policemen, or the thought of police intervention.
The day I left my son in the car
I made a split-second decision to run into the store. I had no idea it would consume the next years of my life
The day it happened was no different from most; I was worried, and I was running late. I was worried because in a few hours’ time I was going to be enduring a two-and-a-half hour flight with my kids, ages 1 and 4. I was running late because, like many parents of small children, I often find there just aren’t enough hours in the day.
We were visiting my family and I was eager to get home to my husband. My 1-year-old daughter had just gone down for a nap when, in the process of packing, I realized that my son’s headphones, the ones he used to watch a movie on the plane, had broken. I called across the house to my mother that I was going to run to the store to replace them.
“Me too,” my son said.
I asked him if he was sure he didn’t want to stay home with Grandma. “You hate going to the store,” I reminded him.
“No I don’t!” he said. I should have seen what was going on — my parents had been letting him play with the iPad in the car and he was trying to score the extra screen time. We got in my mother’s minivan and drove a mile up the road, through the sleepy subdivision where I’d grown up, the sort of subdivision where kids ride bikes in cul-de-sacs and plenty of people don’t bother to lock their doors, then we parked in the recently erected, nearly empty strip mall. I had two hours to get the headphones, get home, get my 1-year-old daughter up from her nap and fed and changed, get everyone to the airport, through security, and onto a plane.
“I don’t want to go in,” my son said as I opened the door.
“What do you mean you don’t want to go in? You wanted to come.”
He was tapping animated animals on a screen, dragging them from one side to the other. “I don’t want to go in. I changed my mind.”
I tried to make my voice both calm and firm. “Simon,” I said. “If we don’t get your headphones, you won’t be able to watch a movie on the flight. It’s a long flight. If you can’t watch a movie on the flight you’re going to be a very, very, very unhappy boy. It will just take a minute. Now come on. We’re running late.”
He glanced up at me, his eyes alight with what I’d come to recognize as a sort of pre-tantrum agitation. “No, no, no, no, no! I don’t want to go in,” he repeated, and turned back to his game.
I took a deep breath. I looked at the clock. For the next four or five seconds, I did what it sometimes seems I’ve been doing every minute of every day since having children, a constant, never-ending risk-benefit analysis. I noted that it was a mild, overcast, 50-degree day. I noted how close the parking spot was to the front door, and that there were a few other cars nearby. I visualized how quickly, unencumbered by a tantrumming 4-year-old, I would be, running into the store, grabbing a pair of child headphones. And then I did something I’d never done before. I left him. I told him I’d be right back. I cracked the windows and child-locked the doors and double-clicked my keys so that the car alarm was set. And then I left him in the car for about five minutes.
He didn’t die. He wasn’t kidnapped or assaulted or forgotten or dragged across state lines by a carjacker. When I returned to the car, he was still playing his game, smiling, or more likely smirking at having gotten what he wanted from his spineless mama. I tossed the headphones onto the passenger seat and put the keys in the ignition.
Over the past two years, I’ve replayed this moment in my mind again and again, approaching the car, getting in, looking in the rearview mirror, pulling away. I replay it, trying to uncover something in the recollection I hadn’t noticed at the time. A voice. A face. Sometimes I feel like I can hear something. A woman? A man? “Bye now.” Something. But I can’t be sure.
We flew home. My husband was waiting for us beside the baggage claim with this terrible look on his face. “Call your mom,” he said.
I called her, and she was crying. When she’d arrived home from driving us to the airport, there was a police car in her driveway.
Every year, 30 to 40 children, usually under the age of 6, die after being left alone in cars. Their deaths (usually by suffocation), are slow, torturous, unspeakably tragic. In some instances, they are the result of clear-cut neglect, but more often, they occur because of a change in routine — usually the father drops off at daycare but today it’s the mom and she is tired or harried and forgets the kid is with her and leaves him there for hours. I was aware of these tragedies long before the day I left my son, because, like most anxious, at times over-protective mothers, I spend a not insignificant portion of my time reading about and thinking about and worrying about all the terrible things that can happen to the two little people I’ve devoted my life to protecting.
I know that on a 75-degree day, a closed car can become an oven. I know that a home with an unfenced swimming pool is as dangerous as one with a loaded gun. I know how important it is to install car seats correctly, to adjust and fasten the straps regularly. When my kids were babies I always put them to sleep on their backs, though they hated it. I treated small, chokeable objects like arsenic, put up gates on all our stairways (not the tension-rod kind that can be pushed over, but the kind you bolt into the wall). I immunized them against everything immunizable, sliced their hotdogs lengthwise and removed the casing, made sure their plates and cups were BPA free, limited their screen time, slathered them in sunscreen on sunny days. When my more carefree friends say things like, “What’s the worst that could happen?” I usually have an answer. Sometimes I fantasized about moving with my family to a sun-drenched island in the Mediterranean where my children could spend their days frolicking freely on the beach without worry of speeding cars or communicable diseases, but I never confuse this fantasy with the reality we live in, the reality of risk and danger, the reality that terrible things happen to good, well-meaning people every second of every day.
And so, it came as more than a shock to me when, on the way home from the airport, I listened to a voice mail from an officer at my family’s local police department explaining that a bystander had noticed me leaving my son in the car, had recorded the incident using a phone’s camera, and had then contacted the police. By the time the police arrived, I had already left the scene, and by the time they looked up the license plate number of the minivan and traced it to my parents, I was flying home.
I’d never been charged with a crime before, so the weeks that followed were pure improvisation. I hired a lawyer to talk to the police on my behalf. I sought advice and support from those I loved and trusted. I tried to stay calm. My lawyer told me he’d had a productive conversation with the officer involved, that he’d explained I was a loving and responsible mother who’d had a “lapse in judgment,” and that it seemed quite possible charges would not be pressed. For a while, it looked like he was right. But nine months later, a few minutes after dropping my kids off at school, I was walking to a coffee shop when my cellphone rang. Another officer asked if I was Kim Brooks and if I was aware there was a warrant out for my arrest.
My friends and I sometimes play this game, the did-our-parents-really-let-us-do-that game. We recall bike ramps, model rockets, videotaping ourselves setting toys on fire. Many remember taking off on bikes alone, playing in the woods for hours without adult supervision, crawling through storm drains to follow creek beds, latchkey afternoons, monkey bars installed over slabs of concrete. My husband recalls forts built in the trunk of the station wagon on long road trips. I remember standing up in the back of my father’s LeBaron convertible while he cruised around the neighborhood, or spending an hour lying low on the seat of our station wagon, feet against the window, daydreaming or reading in crowded parking lots while my mother got groceries or ran other boring errands. One friend tells me how, from 7-Elevens, to Kroger, to various banks, schools and offices, he was left alone in the front passenger seat of a convertible Mustang for a good portion of his childhood, primarily because he was shy and wanted to not have to meet new people. For people of our generation, living a suburban childhood, the car was central to our lives, not simply a mode of transportation but in many ways, an extension of our home.
We all knew, of course, that cars were dangerous. Moving cars. Every few years there would be a terrible accident. In the fourth grade, a local mother and her three children were killed on their way to school. A few years later, three teenagers were maimed and paralyzed by a head-on collision with a tree behind our neighbor’s house. But these horror stories never penetrated the inside of our own family car, which seemed infinitely safe, cozy even.
In the months of fear and shame that followed my being charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor, I continuously analyzed my own mind-set that day, trying to understand how I did something that both a bystander and a police officer considered criminally dangerous, and the best I could come up with was the theory that I’d been lulled by nostalgia into a false sense of security. So many of my childhood memories involved unsupervised time in cars in parking lots just like the one where I’d left my son. I wondered in the days after it happened if being back home, out of the city, had given me a sort of momentary amnesia. I’d forgotten that more than 25 years had passed since those unsupervised childhood hours. And a lot could change in 25 years, I thought. People were always saying how the world was a more dangerous place than it had been when I was growing up. I had no reason not to believe them. I felt guilty and ashamed. I felt I’d put my child at risk for my own momentary convenience. I knew I wasn’t a terrible mother, but I’d done something terrible, dangerous, and now I’d suffer the consequences, go to court, pay legal fees, live with a criminal record. This was how I thought about what had taken place.
At the same time, I didn’t really understand the legal context of what was happening
“I don’t get it,” I said to the lawyer. “Contributing to the delinquency of a minor? That makes no sense. It sounds like I was buying him beer.”
He laughed. He told me he understood my confusion about the charge, but that it wasn’t that unusual. A few years before, the state had tried to pass an ordinance that would make it a misdemeanor to leave a child under 6 alone in a vehicle if the conditions within the vehicle or in the immediate vicinity of the vehicle presented a risk to the health or safety of the child. The penalty for a first offense would be a $100 civil penalty, in other words, a ticket. But the legislation didn’t pass, and so instead, the act of leaving a kid in a car would continue to fall into a legal gray area. The lawyer explained that the crime of contributing to the delinquency of a minor included “rendering a minor in need of services.” So, for example, he said, “If you’d left him there and not come back, someone from social services would have needed to come, bring him in, make sure he was safe and such.”
“But I did come back. I came back after a few minutes.”
“A gray area,” he repeated. Then he went on to remind me that in my case, it wasn’t just that I’d left him, but that someone had seen me do it and stood there and recorded it and called the cops and given them the video.
“A good samaritan,” I said. “They couldn’t have just confronted me directly?”
He laughed again, then grew serious. “Look,” he said. “Here’s how I look at it. I’m glad we live in a world where people are watching out for kids. I’m glad that when someone thinks they’re seeing something wrong take place, they get involved. But in your case, what happened wasn’t malicious. It wasn’t neglectful. It was a temporary lapse in judgment. This is what we need to stress.”
I picture this concerned someone standing beside my car, inches from my child, holding a phone to the window, recording him as he played his game on the iPad. I imagined the person backing away as I came out of the store, watching me return to the car, recording it all, not stopping me, not saying anything, but standing there and dialing 911 as I drove away. Bye now. At this point, almost a year had passed since it happened. I could hear my lawyer shuffling papers. I looked down and saw that my hands were shaking. My hands were shaking, but unlike before, I wasn’t afraid. I was enraged.
“I don’t know,” I said. “It doesn’t sound to me like I committed the crime I’m being charged with. I didn’t render him in need of services. He was fine. Maybe I should plead ‘not guilty,’ go to trial.”
His response was instant and unequivocal. “I don’t think you want to do that. This is going to be handled in juvenile court, and the juvenile courts are notorious for erring on the side of protecting the child.” I can’t remember if he said it or only implied it, but either way, the warning took root. You don’t want to lose your kids over this. It was the first time the idea had skulked out of the darkest, most anxious corners of my mind. My lawyer and I said we’d talk later. I thought I was going to be sick.
When I first began to process what had happened, I worried that, wrong or right, guilty or innocent, what I’d done, what I’d let happen, would seem abhorrent to anyone I told, that it was the moral equivalent of driving drunk, not evil, maybe, but reckless and stupid. Unfortunately, I’d never been much good at keeping secrets, particularly during periods of stress (my husband once asked if I’d ever kept anything from anyone). And so, as the months passed, I told people, and mostly, I was relieved and surprised by how supportive my friends and family were.
My parents felt the whole case was overblown and that I hadn’t done anything any parent over 50 hadn’t done a hundred times. My husband’s family helped us with the legal costs and put us in touch with friend who was a lawyer and agreed to talk me through the process. As it turned out, a similar thing had happened to his sister, and from what he’d heard it wasn’t uncommon. “These people, I swear, I think they sit in parking lots waiting for this to happen. If only you could put people in jail for being jerks.”
Other friends in whom I confided were equally supportive. One told of an acquaintance who’d had a similar experience. She’d gone to walk the dog around the block while her baby was napping and ended up with a year of weekly visits from DCSF. Another was a high school drama teacher and, after someone observed him fake-pushing a student in the fight scene of a school play rehearsal, put him on paid leave until a social worker could interview him in his home.
And even those friends who’d never had these harrowing experiences had difficulty believing I had really gotten into such big trouble. “I mean,” one friend said, comforting me, “were those like your best five minutes of parenting? No. If you were nominated for parent of the year and they needed a clip, would you submit that one? Probably not. But that doesn’t mean you committed a crime!” Other friends tried to soothe me with stories of their own errors and oversights. Kids forgotten and then found seven grocery aisles over, babies rolling off changing tables when Mom went to answer the phone. And still others tried to make me feel better by reminding me that regardless of what I had done on that single afternoon, most days I was a typical, overprotective, over-anxious, neurotic, independence-stifling, middle-class parent.
Who am I to judge was, to my surprise and relief, the most common response when I told people what had happened, though there were one or two exceptions. When I asked one very close, very dear friend if she thought I’d done something so terribly bad, she answered somberly,“Well, I think you made a bad decision.” That was one extreme. At the other end of the spectrum, a friend who writes and blogs about parenting issues asserted that the whole thing was ridiculous. “Who in the world hasn’t left their kid in the car for a minute while they run a quick errand. I’ve done it!” She grew quiet for a moment, and I thought maybe she was reconsidering this pronouncement. But when she spoke again it was to say, “You know who you need to talk to about this? You need to talk to Lenore Skenazy.”
I reached out to Skenazy early this year through a Facebook message, and she got back to me right away, saying she was happy to talk.
A former columnist for the New York Daily News and New York Sun, she was launched into the national spotlight in 2008 when she wrote a column about her decision to let her 9-year-old son take the subway by himself. The column resulted in a flood of both outrage and admiration, and spurred Skenazy to found the Free Range Kids movement, a movement dedicated to, in Skenazy’s words, “fighting the belief that our kids are in constant danger.”
As a mother who has often felt as though my kids are in constant danger, I wasn’t sure what to expect of her, if I was going to end up talking to a fringe “expert” who would tell me to forgo seat belts and bike helmets and vaccines to help my kids toughen up. Instead, Skenazy comes across as calm, direct and adamant in her ideas.
I asked if I could start by telling her a little about my story, but I’d hardly finished the sentence when she interrupted. “Don’t bother,” she said. “Instead, let me tell you your story.” Apparently, she knew it by heart. “Just let me close the office door first because my husband’s heard this spiel a million times. OK, so, you were running errands with your kid when you decided to leave her in the car for a couple minutes while you ran into a store. The surrounding conditions were perfectly safe, mild weather and such, but when you came out, you found yourself blocked in by a cop car, being yelled at by a nosy, angry onlooker, being accused of child neglect or endangering your chid. Is that about right?” Skenazy’s heard it all before. But her demeanor suggested the outrage such charges elicited in her hadn’t dissipated much over the years since, in response to her son’s subway ride, news outlets dubbed her “the worst mom in America.”
We talked for about an hour, and what stuck with me and surprised me most was not her sympathy, but her certainty, her utter lack of equivocation or doubt. “Listen,” she said at one point. “Let’s put aside for the moment that by far, the most dangerous thing you did to your child that day was put him in a car and drive someplace with him. About 300 children are injured in traffic accidents every day — and about two die. That’s a real risk. So if you truly wanted to protect your kid, you’d never drive anywhere with him. But let’s put that aside. So you take him, and you get to the store where you need to run in for a minute and you’re faced with a decision. Now, people will say you committed a crime because you put your kid ‘at risk.’ But the truth is, there’s some risk to either decision you make.” She stopped at this point to emphasize, as she does in much of her analysis, how shockingly rare the abduction or injury of children in non-moving, non-overheated vehicles really is. For example, she insists that statistically speaking, it would likely take 750,000 years for a child left alone in a public space to be snatched by a stranger. “So there is some risk to leaving your kid in a car,” she argues. It might not be statistically meaningful but it’s not nonexistent. The problem is,” she goes on, “there’s some risk to every choice you make. So, say you take the kid inside with you. There’s some risk you’ll both be hit by a crazy driver in the parking lot. There’s some risk someone in the store will go on a shooting spree and shoot your kid. There’s some risk he’ll slip on the ice on the sidewalk outside the store and fracture his skull. There’s some risk no matter what you do. So why is one choice illegal and one is OK? Could it be because the one choice inconveniences you, makes your life a little harder, makes parenting a little harder, gives you a little less time or energy than you would have otherwise had?”
Later on in the conversation, Skenazy boils it down to this. “There’s been this huge cultural shift. We now live in a society where most people believe a child can not be out of your sight for one second, where people think children need constant, total adult supervision. This shift is not rooted in fact. It’s not rooted in any true change. It’s imaginary. It’s rooted in irrational fear.”
The problem is, I understand irrational fear. In fact, irrational fear and I are old friends. Some things seem dangerous and others don’t, and often, it has little to do with statistics or data. No matter how many people reassure me that flying is the safest form of travel, so much safer than driving, I will always be more nervous at 30,000 feet than en route to the airport. Likewise, it won’t matter how many statistics or how much analysis on low crime rates or the importance of fostering independence Skenazy or people like her spout; for many parents at this moment in our culture, leaving kids unsupervised just doesn’t feel safe. Anything could happen, is a common refrain voiced by such parents. And I know what they mean. We’ve seen the television movies about abducted children. We’ve heard the heart-rending stories of kids injured in carjackings, or forgotten in sweltering cars. And once you imagine something, imagine what it must have been like for that parent or child who suffered it, it’s not a great leap to imagine it happening to you or your child, and then, if you’re like most parents, you will do anything in your power to prevent it. It’s not a matter of likelihood or statistical significance, but the terrible power of our imagination.
The juvenile courthouse was a long corridor of windows and leather benches filled with wandering, waiting, quietly agitated families. I went with both my parents and found the courtroom to which I’d been assigned. In the courtroom, I kept my legs and arms crossed to keep them from shaking. My stomach seemed to have its own pulse. But in the end, it all went as we’d hoped it would. My lawyer had persuaded the prosecutor to issue a continuance in the case, and he had agreed not to pursue the charge if, over the course of nine months, I completed 100 hours of community service and attended parenting education. They presented this agreement to the judge, who accepted the proposal, and then it was over, and the next day I flew home, feeling very, very lucky.
The punishment, in some ways, turned out to be a blessing. I was allowed to complete my community service at nonprofits I cared about deeply, and while it made my life a little more hectic, it was overall a positive experience. For the education I worked privately with a social worker who always had great ideas about how to incorporate positive discipline and adopt better strategies for setting limits. The only thing, in fact, that really bothered me during these probationary months was the impact the case had on my son.
At the time of the incident, he never mentioned what had happened, and I assumed that he was unaware, that the best thing would be not to bring it up. But, of course, kids are astute observers and somewhere along the line, he figured it out.
I got out of the car one day to feed the parking meter next to the driver side window. “Don’t, Mommy. Don’t. The police will come.” I went to let the dog into our front yard while he was watching his morning cartoon. “Mommy, no!!! The police.”
One afternoon after his swim lesson, he came out of the bathroom and for a second didn’t see me — I’d kneeled down to get his shoes from their cubby. When I looked up he was crying. “Mommy, mommy, I thought someone was going to steal me.”
That evening I sat him down and tried to explain it. I told him that he was right, that mommy had left him in the car for a few minutes one time and that was a mistake. I wasn’t supposed to do that. But it was all going to be fine now. Mommy wasn’t going to jail. And no one was going to kidnap him!
“Most people,” I told him, “are not trying to hurt you. Most people are good people. Do you understand? You don’t have to be afraid?”
He nodded slowly, but I could see from his face that he only half believed me. And as I thought about it, I questioned if this belief I had in the basic decency of strangers was part of the problem. Certainly, many of my fellow parents didn’t seem to share it. We live in a country of gated communities and home security systems. My sister has both, though she lives in a subdivision with about a dozen neighbors. We’re told to warn our children not to talk to strangers. We walk them to school and hover over them as they play and some of us even put GPS systems on them, confident, I guess, that should they get lost, no one will help them. Gone are the days of letting kids roam the neighborhood, assuming that at least one responsible adult will be nearby to keep an eye out. I’m told there are still things like carpools and babysitting co-ops, but I’ve never found one. In place of “It takes a village,” our parenting mantra seems to be “every man for himself.” Faced with this gulf between my own childhood and the environment in which I was raising my kids, I couldn’t help but wonder if it was good that I’d been taught a lesson, reprimanded for something stubbornly naive or careless in my nature.
In the three years since it happened, it seems like more and more people are talking about the crisis of helicopter parenting. In an essay in the Atlantic, “The Overprotected Kid,” Hanna Rosin writes how “In all [her] years as a parent, [she’s] mostly met children who take it for granted that they are always being watched.”
Other publications and websites and social media outlets and message boards are awash in eight ways to know if you’re over-parenting, or how to give your kid the freedom he needs and deserves. Psychologists and social scientists wonder if we’re not instilling children with a sense of learned helplessness that makes them into subfunctional, narcissistic young adults who have an overinflated sense of worth and sensitivity and, more recently, require trigger warnings on college syllabi.
But what I always find lacking in these warnings is some explanation, not only of how expectations have shifted so radically for parents, but of why they have shifted. The tip-of-the-tongue answer is often that the world is a more dangerous place than it was a generation ago. But it doesn’t take much research to debunk this myth and find that nationally, violent crime rates are lower than they were in the ’70s and ’80s. So how do we explain that activities that once seemed harmless — letting a kid play at the park without supervision or sitting in a car for a few minutes — have now become not only socially taboo but grounds for prosecution?
A friend and former classmate of mine, Julia Fierro, spent so much time thinking about these questions of parental anxiety, she ended up writing a novel on the subject. When I asked her what answers she came up with, she wonders if everyone doesn’t have “too much information — parenting books, birthing classes, a gazillion blogs and parenting sites and magazines, and anonymous online sites where parents are very judgmental, even when trying to help or give advice. I think all that info, all the conflicting extreme philosophies of parenting (attachment parenting vs. cry-it-out and few moderate philosophies being promoted) makes us not trust ourselves. Also, most of us who are ambitious young professionals move far from our families and so have little support or solid community.”
And maybe because we’re both so isolated and so “ambitious” in our parenting, we sabotage ourselves with impossible standards, live with a chronic fear of not measuring up in what’s supposed to be our most important calling. It’s almost as though, in the course of a few decades, we’ve all developed a cultural anxiety disorder around our children, and when I mull over this idea, I don’t feel anger or indignation over what’s happening, but an awful sort of sympathy.
Of all the difficult parts of parenting, the hardest for me (and for many people, I think) is not the fatigue or time drain or chaos of family life, but the inability to ensure that nothing terrible will ever happen to my children. This desire to prevent suffering in one’s kids is stronger than the desire to breathe, stronger than my most basic human instincts. And yet, no matter how strong the desire, none of us can do it. We just can’t.
Every day it seems there is less we can control about their future. The schools are failing, the middle class is vanishing, super-bugs grow stronger and antibiotics weaker. The seasons are slipping and I might not recognize the climate of the planet my kids will come of age in. College education floats further out of reach. Guns are everywhere. People are often angry and suspicious. Our food makes us fat and sick.
I can’t control any of this, so my grip tightens on what I think I can control, on everything within reach. And yet no matter how firmly I grasp, nothing anyone does can change the fact that sometimes, children get sick and die, or are killed in car accidents, or drowned in swimming pools when our backs are turned for just a second. Sometimes they go to the doctor with a cut on the leg and expire a few days later of blood poisoning. Sometimes they’re shot in schools, or become addicted to drugs or take their own lives. These occurrences are not common, but they happen, and we hear of them, and because we cannot imagine anything worse, we say, not to me, not to my child. It’s not going to happen to me.
My father told me a story once about a nightmare he had when I was small. He dreamted he was back in upstate New York where he grew up, and he was driving in a snowstorm along a deserted highway, me in the back of the car. He pulled onto the shoulder to check on a tire. A minute later, when he tried to get back into the car, he realized he’d locked himself out, and that I was trapped inside in my carseat. It was freezing. The snow swirled down around him in wild eddies. He banged on the window, trying to break it. He screamed for help, but there was no one near, no one to help, only empty fields and darkness.
I never leave my kids in a car now when I run into a store, and so I know nothing bad will ever happen to them in a non-moving vehicle. I suppose every little peace of mind helps. Still, I worry. I worry that when my husband and I decide our kids are old enough to walk alone to school, be that in two years or in five, some good samaritan will disapprove and call the police. I worry what the other parents will think if I hang back on the bench while my kids are playing at the park, reading a book instead of hovering over them. I worry that if I let my son play in the alley with the other kids and don’t follow him down because there are already eight responsible adults standing around, I’ll be thought of as the slacker mom who’s not pulling her own. And so I accompany when I probably don’t need to. I supervise and hover and interfere. And at least half of the other parents are probably doing it for exactly the same reason. This is America and parenting is now a competitive sport, just like everything else.
What do we get if we win? A kid who will never be hurt of frightened or alone? The promise and assurance of safety? I’m not that naive.
When I was little, I believed there was a wolf that lived in my closet, up near the black plastic bags of old clothes. The wolf spoke perfect English and told me that if I didn’t count to 20 before I fell asleep he would come out of the closet and eat my feet. I used to lie in bed, tight beneath the covers, and count. I knew that if I counted, I’d be safe. It made sense. One, two, three, four. I counted every night. I never doubted.
As I was beginning to write this essay, my son, now almost 7, had an accident. I was cooking dinner while he and my daughter played in the living room. I had just put a bunch of vegetables into a pan when I heard him laughing and shouting at his sister, “I’m a ghost, I’m a ghost.” What I couldn’t see from the kitchen was that he’d tossed the sofa throw blanket over his head in service of his role play and was wandering around the room like this, trying to scare his sister. I didn’t realize until I heard the terrible sound, a sound like a suitcase tumbling down the stairs. My husband and I both ran to the top. There was a second, maybe two, when he was lying there under the blanket. Not me. Not him. I called out his name, ran down the steps. “Oh, my baby.” He sat up, pulled down the blanket, bruised and shaken but otherwise fine. More than anything, it was our fear that frightened him. He started crying. “I’m OK?” he said, a question at first, and then emphatic. “I’m OK!”
Kim Brooks' fiction has appeared in Five Chapters, Glimmer Train, One Story, Epoch, and other journals. A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, she teaches writing and is at work on a novel. You can follow her on Twitter @KA_Brooks.
Social Worker Filth
June 4, 2014 permalink
Social workers set and enforce the standard for the care of children. So the care that social workers give to their own children must be of premium quality. Not in Florida. Kysa Donawa, who was both a child protection investigator and a foster mother, has been arrested for keeping her children in filthy conditions.
Filth, insects found in DCF worker's home, report says
Authorities have taken the children away from DCF employee Kysa Donawa
A Kissimmee child protection investigator with the Florida Department of Children and Families was arrested Friday, accused of neglecting six children and keeping a filthy, roach-infested house where deputies found two dozen marijuana plants and counterfeit money.
Kysa Donawa, 41, who lives on Hollyhock Court, was taken into custody after Osceola County deputies raided her house with a search warrant, looking for drugs.
They found eight grams of marijuana and 26 marijuana plants, according to the Sheriff's Office, but also what one deputy described as "extreme filth".
There were roaches, spiders and flies, a deputy wrote, rotting food and the overwhelming smell of urine in several rooms of the house.
Authorities took away her six children — a 6-year-old girl plus boys ages 8, 9, 12, 15 and 17 — and placed them with a relative, according to DCF spokeswoman Kristin Gray.
In one of the children's bedrooms, deputies found "roaches, flies and spiders on the walls and bed," according to a Sheriff's Office affidavit.
They also found $325 in counterfeit money in one bedroom, the agency reported.
Also arrested was Donawa's husband, Randy Donawa, 38.
He told deputies that he had found the 26 marijuana plants growing in a nearby field and brought them home but that they were dying and he had been unable to give them away.
Both Donawas are accused of six counts of child neglect, production of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Kysa Donawa told deputies that she had worked at DCF for about a month.
She knew nothing about the two packets of marijuana found in the house or the 26 marijuana plants growing in pots in the back yard, she told authorities.
Gray said Donawa was hired by DCF on May 2 and was still undergoing training.
She also was fired Friday, Gray said.
Donawa also had worked for the agency for short periods in 2002 and 2004, Gray said.
There is no record that Donawa was disciplined during those stints, Gray said, and both times left DCF employment voluntarily.
Source: Orlando Sentinel
Dr Phil on Psychotropics
June 1, 2014 permalink
On May 29 Dr Phil McGraw, no opponent of the child protection system, gave testimony to the US House of Representatives Committee on Ways and Means Subcommittee On Human Resources. In his prepared statement (pdf, local copy) he said psychotropic drugs are used as chemical straight-jackets for foster children.
Justina Going Home
May 31, 2014 permalink
Lawyers have reported that Massachusetts DCF does not intend to oppose a motion to free Justina Pelletier. So unless there is a last-minute trick, she will be going home to her parents soon.
Teen 'kidnapped' by state finally heading home?
Legal team confident government releasing grip on Pelletier family
A court motion has been filed asking that Justina Pelletier, the teen who was taken from her parents and allegedly subjected to a long-running “psychological experiment” by officials in Massachusetts, be returned to her family home.
And this time, according to a legal team representing the family, state officials are not opposing the plan.
Pelletier, 15, has been in the headlines in recent months because she was taken forcibly from her parents after they took her to Boston Children’s Hospital more than a year ago. There doctors after a minutes-long visit decided to treat her differently than physicians had been treating her for months. They banned other opinions and wouldn’t let her go home with her parents.
Now officials with Liberty Counsel have confirmed they filed a motion with juvenile court officials asking that the teen be returned to her home with her mother and father, Linda and Lou Pelletier.
“The Massachusetts Department of Children and Families has indicated that it will not object to the motion for relief from judgment filed today to return Justina home,” the legal team confirmed on Friday.
“Today is a significant event for Justina and the Pelletier family,” said Mat Staver, chairman of Liberty Counsel, who is representing the Pelletier family. “We believe and hope that the Pelleteir family will soon be reunited.”
The Pelletiers have been visiting with Justina in Connecticut frequently since she was moved there two weeks ago. She’s been under care from Tufts Medical Center, the same place she received treatment before her long ordeal began in February 2013.
“The Pelletier family and their legal counsel have communicated frequently with high-level officials of Massachusetts Health and Human Services and DCF. Their attorneys have been in regular communication reviewing the progress of the reunification plan,” LC reported.
“In light of the significant developments over the past several weeks, today a critically important motion will be filed with the juvenile court requesting relief from judgment to return Justina to her family and her home. DCF has stated it will not oppose this motion. We are pleased that Justina is close to returning home. We believe and pray that day will be soon,” said Staver.
“After nearly 16 months of separation, Justina requires much healing – physically, emotionally, and spiritually,” said Staver. “The completion of the plan is a very positive development and brings us almost full circle to where this process started, before DCF took custody of Justina: Tufts Medical Center is finally providing Justina’s healthcare once more.”
Only weeks ago, the family was not allowed to visit Justina on Eastern Sunday.
Earlier, a writ of habeas corpus was filed demanding that she be brought to court to determine whether there were grounds for state custody.
At the time, the filing alleged Boston Children’s was running a psychological experiment on her.
She was taken forcibly from her parents after they took her to Boston Children’s with symptoms of what appeared to be a flu or cold. Doctors there jumped to their own diagnosis and refused to let her return home with her parents.
LC had charged the girl “was essentially kidnapped by Massachusetts DCF after her parents took her to Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH) to see Dr. Flores, a physician who had treated Justina before at Tufts Medical Center for gastrointestinal problems.”
Even though she had been diagnosed with mitochondrial disease, which causes muscle pain and weakness, doctors at Boston Children’s Hospital said she had a mental condition and removed custody from her parents.
“This case comes down to the simple fact that new doctors at Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH), who had no experience with Justina, came up with a different diagnosis than her expert treating physicians at Tufts Medical Center,” said Staver. “The state cannot take children from their parents when the parents make reasonable choices for their medical care. This case is outrageous.
“The psychological experiment of Boston Children’s Hospital, under the sanction of DCF, has miserably failed. Justina has gone from a competitive figure skater to being confined to a wheelchair,” said Staver.
When she was taken to Boston Children’s, instead of seeing the doctor she had expected, Dr. Alejandro Flores, a gastroenterologist who had previously treated Justina when he worked at Tufts Medical Center before he transferred to BCH, her case was handed over the Dr. Jurriaan Peters, a BCH resident only seven months out of medical school at the time.
He brought in Dr. Simona Bujoreanu, a psychologist who coauthored an article in which she contends that in up to 50 percent of children who present with physical complaints, the complaints are not physical but mental.
According to Liberty Counsel, without consulting previous treating doctors, Bujoreanu rendered a diagnosis of Somatoform Disorder. Without a thorough review of her care, she opined that Justina’s physical complaints were mental, not physical.
BCH then presented the family with a new treatment plan to discontinue all medical care and medications and which forbade any second opinions, Liberty Counsel explained. When the parents refused to sign the new treatment plan and requested that Justina be discharged so they could take her back to Tufts Medical Center, BCH called DCF, and DCF prevented the family from discharging Justina. She still is in state custody.
WND reported recently that there also is a proposal in Congress that would block federal tax dollars from states with policies that “conflict with personal liberty.”
Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas, who is considering introducing the bill, joined with the nonprofit legal advocacy group Liberty Council, the Citizens Commission on Human Rights and Republican state Rep. Marc Lombardo to call for the release of Pelletier from Massachusetts state custody to the care of her parents.
“I find certain state policies involving individual and personal medical decisions to be disconcerting,” Stockman said. “It is my firm belief that we should not provide federal dollars, through NIH grants, to states that maintain policies that conflict with personal liberty.”
Stockman said Thursday that taxpayer dollars also “should not be spent on research performed upon people without their consent.”
A Liberty Council investigation revealed Bujoreanu diagnosed Justina Pelletier with Somatoform Disorder after only 25 minutes with the teen, without contacting other physicians.
Bujoreanu is researching Somatoform under a grant from the federal National Institutes of Health. Any ward of the state is subject to research being performed on them without their consent, even if the research is not primarily for the ward’s benefit.
Source: World Net Daily
May 31, 2014 permalink
Enclosed below is the story of the baby with no name. First a report based solely on the judge's opinion. It shows a dangerous and uncaring family unfit to care for a child put up for adoption. The parents refused to give the boy a name, and the father assaulted his social worker. Then Christopher Booker's report. He penetrated the anonymity to disclose the rest of the story. The Hindu parents reserved naming the child until conducting a private religious ceremony known as Namakarana. As long as social workers insisted on attending the ceremony, it could not take place. The father punching the social worker? The thin-skinned social worker could not take criticism from the father and resorted to punching. The father's blow was in self defense.
Fixcas has repeatedly warned of relying on anonymous stories identifying the parties only by first names or initials. This case illustrates the peril.
Child with no name must be adopted, judge rules
Father behind 'emotionally harmful' decision not to name child, judge says
A judge has ruled that a five-month-old baby boy should be taken away from his parents in part because the child had not yet been given a first name.
Mrs Justice Parker said one of her concerns in an adoption ruling was that the baby at the centre of the case had not been named by his parents.
Ordering that the child should be taken into care, the judge said the father had been behind the "emotionally harmful" decision not to name the boy.
"His father has refused to give him a name," said Mrs Justice Parker in her ruling.
"I think ideally the mother independently would not have taken that view."
The judge said the boy was starting to acquire language, and added: "Every child needs a name."
She went on: "I truly think that it is emotionally harmful not to give a child a name."
The judge decided that the baby should be taken into care after being told how his father had assaulted one social worker and threatened to kill another.
She said the father appeared to have become frustrated by what he saw as an "invasive" approach by social services staff - and she said she thought that he could be "dangerous".
She also had concerns about the vulnerability of the baby's mother, who had been diagnosed with a learning difficulty.
Mrs Justice Parker outlined her reasoning in a public ruling following a private hearing at a family court in Watford.
The judge said the couple's two-year-old son was taken into care last year after another judge raised similar fears and described the father's behaviour towards social services staff as "dangerous".
She said the baby had been taken into interim care days after his birth, pending a final court ruling on his future.
Mrs Justice Parker described a history of problems between the father and social services staff in her ruling.
The judge said the father did not think his partner needed local authority support when looking after children, and believed he could provide all the support she needed.
He appeared to have become "increasingly frustrated and intolerant" about what he thought was an "invasive approach" by social services staff.
He had punched a male social worker in the face a number of times at a court hearing last year and had been convicted of threatening to kill a female social worker, she said.
Mrs Justice Parker said there was no evidence that the father or mother had deliberately physically harmed either of their sons.
"This is a terribly sad case because father and mother, each of them, have many excellent qualities," said the judge. "It is absolutely plain to me that both of them love each of their sons, their boys, from the bottom of their hearts."
But she said she was "quite clear" that a placement for adoption was the only answer.
She said no other family member was available to care for the baby.
The father says he and his partner aim to appeal.
Source: Telegraph (UK)
The real story of the 'baby with no name’
A stressed father had to leave his £90k job after his son was sent for adoption - but the public were not told the full story
When Lord Justice Munby last year launched his admirable campaign to clean up our family courts from the growing stench of scandal surrounding the way they work, his priority was to strip away that self-protective veil of secrecy that has allowed so many abuses to flourish. His first move, on becoming head of the family division, was to insist that more judgments be published. But, welcome though this was, it is not easy for outsiders to grasp just how biased so many judgments have become without knowing how fairly the hearings that lead up to them are conducted, and how much the judgments themselves leave out.
An excellent example of this was the widely reported judgment last week by Mrs Justice Parker, in a case described as that of “the baby with no name”, whose father had “assaulted one social worker and threatened to kill another”. Nowhere did these reports explain why the father had refused to allow his son to be named, any more than they did those other two seemingly damning incidents. Yet having spoken to more than one person professionally involved in this case (but not to the parents), I understand that a full account of the circumstances behind them might have given the public a very different picture.
The father, who until recently held a senior position in a large company, is a British Indian and a devout Hindu. Ten years ago, when the mother was very young, she had a child with a man who left her. Her difficulties in coping on her own drew the attention of social services and the baby was given to the father. When eventually she met her present Hindu partner and had a second child, Hertfordshire social workers won a supervision order to ensure that her new son was being properly cared for.
But the Indian father, although said to be “normally a peaceable man who treats everyone with respect”, could not hide his increasing impatience at the constant intrusions of social workers into his family’s life, to the point where they applied to take the boy into care. A judge accepted that the child was “thriving”, but ruled that, because of the father’s “hostility” to the social workers, the boy should go into foster care. Outside the court, the father accused a social worker of having “lied” in his evidence. The social worker, as confirmed by a lawyer present, punched him on the shoulder. The father, in self-defence, took a swing at his head, and was fined £430 for assault.
Solely because of this background, when the mother had another baby, it was immediately taken into care. The parents were anxious to have their child named according to Hindu tradition, which involves a temple ceremony, Namakarana, which only the parents, close family and friends can attend. But the social workers insisted that they be present, lest the family “abduct” the child.
The father explained that this could not be allowed. During this impasse, the father, en route to discuss his case in Brussels, was stopped by police, who removed his laptop. In trying to explain his story, he admitted that he would like to do one social worker “significant harm” (his words were recorded).
None of this emerged from last week’s press reports on Justice Parker’s judgment. They record that she dwelt on the father’s assault on one social worker, his threat to “kill” another, and his refusal, for seemingly gratuitous reasons, to allow his son to be named. They quoted her as conceding that the parents had “excellent qualities” and had not physically harmed their baby in any way. She said that they obviously “loved each of their sons from the bottom of their hearts”. But the father’s “increasing hostility to social workers” and his “emotional abuse” of his son by not allowing his naming, created a “high risk of emotional harm” in the future. The baby must therefore be sent for adoption,
The strain and time involved in these court battles so impaired the father’s ability to carry out his £90,000-a-year job that last week he was forced to resign.
The parents are now being urged by their legal advisers to take both cases to the Court of Appeal. Under Lord Justice Munby’s new guidelines, the judgment will soon be published in full. But whether this will help outsiders to understand the full story behind what Justice Parker herself described as a “terribly sad case” is another matter.
Source: Telegraph (UK)
Parents Fear Kids
May 31, 2014 permalink
On a legal question and answer forum a parent asks about legal rights to discipline a child. The child threatens to report the parent to child protectors at school. The answer from a lawyer: The parent can do nothing to stop the intervention through the school system. Parents have no authority.
Child Threatens Parents "tell school to call CPS" after CPS Investigation. Can we hold school accountable for false reporting?
Asked May 27, 2014 - Benton Harbor, MI
Teen child is acting out at home and school. When reprimanded him and younger sister continue to threaten parents to have school call CPS. School reported our family for spanking back in January 2014. After 8 Hour investigation of our home and trip to emergency room for examination, the case was closed. The after effects months later is kids think they can have the school call the law on parents for disciplining them. As a parent scared to discipline them due to my home being violated unexpectedly back in Jan. My opinion and the opinions of other adults who have heard this "threat" from kids feel it is being prompted at school. We have nothing to hide here. How can we hold the school accountable for the permanent damage they have done. Son Age 11 is a documented special education student.
This question is open to new answers for 3 days.
Attorney answers (1)
Licensed in MI, Diane Marie Kay, Family Law Attorney - Pinckney, MI, Contributor Level 12
Answered May 28, 2014 09:27. I don't think there is anything you can do. The school, and all its employees are mandated reporters. That means that if they suspect anything might be going on they have to call CPS, if they don't they can be convicted of a crime. If your child comes to school and reports that they have been excessively disciplined, truthfully or not, the school has to report it.
Source: Avvo (Avvocato is Italian for lawyer)
May 31, 2014 permalink
The latest buzzword justifying child snatching is predictive neglect. Clairvoyant social workers can see future neglect, and protect children by removing them from their families. Pro Publica reports at length on the practice of using psychological evaluations to separate children from parents.
Should a Mental Illness Mean You Lose Your Kid?
Mindi has never harmed her daughter and is capably raising a son, but authorities took her daughter under a concept sometimes called “predictive neglect.”
In August 2009, Mindi, a 25-year-old struggling new parent, experienced what doctors later concluded was a psychotic episode. She had been staying in a cousin's spare basement room in De Soto, Kansas, while trying get on her feet after an unexpected pregnancy and an abusive relationship. She'd been depressed since her daughter was born and was becoming increasingly distrustful of her relatives.
Isolated, broke and scared, one Saturday morning, she cracked. She woke to change her 5-month-old daughter's diaper. When Mindi looked down, she believed the baby's genitals had been torn.
Mindi's mind raced for an explanation. The one she came to? That her baby had been raped the night before; that someone—she did not know who—had put sedatives in the air vents.
Mindi called her pediatrician's office. A receptionist told her to take her daughter to a children's hospital in nearby in Kansas City, Missouri. Doctors there found no evidence that the girl had been harmed or that any of what Mindi claimed had actually happened.
After Mindi started arguing, medical staff sent her for a psychological evaluation and notified local child welfare authorities, according to court records. (As is typical in child welfare cases, the court documents do not include the full names of anybody in the family. Mindi has asked ProPublica to use only her first name, as did other parents in the story.)
That night, authorities took emergency custody of Mindi's daughter, who is referred to in court documents by her initials, Q.A.H. A court-appointed doctor later concluded that Mindi had experienced postpartum psychosis.
But Mindi rebounded after the episode. She began to attend therapy and to see a psychiatrist, who prescribed an antidepressant. She found a job as a shift manager at Kmart and moved into her own apartment. Each morning, she'd call the foster home where her daughter had been placed and she'd read Q.A.H. a book.
In time, her psychiatrist, therapist and even a panel of judges concluded that Mindi should get her daughter back.
"I found the help I needed to be healthy," says Mindi, a wide-eyed woman with a round face and a chatty affect. "I was dealing with some mental battles at the time."
Dr. Stanley Golan, the psychiatrist who treated Mindi, diagnosed her with a mix of post-traumatic stress disorder—likely, a therapist later said, related to abuse—depression and possibly a kind of "mild delusional disorder." Still, the diagnoses, Golan said in court testimony, "do not interfere with her parenting and she is able to adequately care for Q.A.H."
"You can have these diagnoses and be symptom-free," he testified.
Indeed, in September 2011, Mindi, who was in another relationship, gave birth again, to a boy named Jace, whom she's now raising capably on her own. Citing Mindi's pending case over Q.A.H., Kansas authorities took Jace at birth and placed him in foster care. But they soon returned him after finding no evidence that Mindi posed any risk to her son. As a family therapist testified, Mindi has provided a "nurturing, loving environment and had met all of [Jace's] needs."
Yet four years later, after a protracted series of court fights, Mindi does not have her daughter back.
"I couldn't see how they could keep one while I had the other," said Mindi, sitting on the carpet in a living room with her son, surrounded by toy trains and a pile of books. "I don't think I should have to fight for my own child to come home." (Missouri and county child welfare officials declined to discuss the case.)
The question in Mindi's case is not about what authorities did when she plunged into a mental health crisis—nearly everyone involved in the case, including Mindi's own attorneys, agrees it was likely appropriate to remove her baby that day. Instead, the issue is whether a mental health diagnosis itself, in the absence of any harm, should be enough to keep Mindi from ever getting her daughter back.
Under a concept sometimes called "predictive neglect," Missouri and about 30 other states allow courts to terminate a parent's connection to a child if authorities conclude a mother or father has a mental illness that renders them incapable of safely raising the child. Officials usually must present evidence that the illness poses a threat. Most cases involve significant mental illness, not run-of-the-mill depression or anxiety. Yet there need be no evidence of actual harm or neglect, just a conclusion that there is a risk of it.
States typically do not track how many parental termination cases are related to mental illness, or how often parents have lost children based on a diagnosis. New York, one of the few states that does tally such cases, has about 200 parental terminations annually based on mental disability, a category that includes both mental illness and "mental retardation." If there were a similar rate nationally, that would amount to several thousand cases per year. The cases are typically sealed, and there's no way to know how many involve court overreach.
But if it's impossible to know how many parents lose children unnecessarily because of the stigma of mental illness, it's clear that the process for deciding such cases is deeply flawed.
Courts' decisions rest on the recommendations of evaluators who often do not observe parents at home or examine their actual record of parenting. Instead, they rely on psychological tests and case notes.
Incomplete evaluations are an "endemic problem," said Joanne Nicholson, who directed a unit that conducted parenting assessments for Massachusetts child welfare agencies and is one the country's leading researchers on parents with mental illness.
"Parents are often evaluated without a real analysis of their supports, of the life they actually live," said Nicholson, currently a psychiatry professor at Dartmouth College. As a result, "the diagnosis starts to speak louder than real life."
Children can also pay a price when courts overstep. Research shows that forcing children in and out of different homes can leave lasting emotional scars.
The logic of removing kids from parents with serious mental illness is straightforward. Studies have shown that serious mental illness correlates with higher rates of child neglect and abuse. Parents who can't take care of themselves aren't going to be in a position to take care of a child. And delusional thinking can lead to irrational, dangerous behavior.
"You have to put protection first," said Mary Kay O'Malley, who worked for years as a foster care caseworker, is now a professor at the University of Missouri Law School and has dealt with many cases like Mindi's.
When officials fail to intervene to protect children from mentally ill parents, the results can be tragic, irrevocable and front-page news. In one notorious 2008 case, a Long Island, New York, mother drowned her three children after county officials failed to respond to repeated warnings from relatives that she was dangerously unstable.
But O'Malley says she's seen agencies and courts unnecessarily cut off parents from their children. She says that's what happened to Mindi.
Six months after Mindi brought her daughter to the hospital, in February 2010, a parenting counselor reported that Mindi "is ready to be there for [Q.A.H.] emotionally, mentally, and [she] can support Q.A.H."
"The parent changed in this case," said O'Malley, who consulted for Mindi's attorneys for free after learning about the case. "But the court didn't."
The laws permitting termination of parental rights were mostly written in an era when serious mental illness was assumed to disqualify patients from participation in normal life, including parenting. Parents like Mindi may have been institutionalized. In many states, the mentally ill or intellectually disabled could be sterilized. The phrasing in the law has often changed—states have removed words like "feebleminded" and "depravity"—but the same concepts echo.
Indeed, a 2012 presidential commission report found that "parents with psychiatric disabilities experience the most significant discrimination when they attempt to exercise their fundamental right to create and maintain families."
"When [mentally disabled] people were institutionalized, they could not keep their kids. Now they're living on their own, and they're not allowed to keep their kids," said Patrick Yewell, who recently retired from a career as a foster care caseworker, supervisor and administrator in Kentucky's child welfare system.
Rudy, a 42-year-old West Indian-born man in the Bronx, New York, was also denied custody of his daughter. His chance to raise her now rests largely on a psychiatrist's evaluation consisting of two visits and a review of Rudy's records.
Rudy has long struggled with chronic bipolar disorder, for which he has been repeatedly hospitalized. Rudy is also intellectually delayed—an IQ test placed him at the borderline of intellectual disability.
He has no history of violence, abuse or neglect. His only child, J, who is now 3, was removed from the hospital immediately after she was born and placed in foster care. Rudy has been asking to be allowed to raise his daughter with help from his mother and sister.
Authorities first took J because of significant concerns about her mother. J's mother, from whom Rudy had separated before J was born, had already lost three other children to foster care. One of the children removed from J's mother and placed in foster care later died at the hands of a relative of J's mother. And like Rudy, J's mother suffers from mental illness and intellectual delays.
On June 28, 2010, Rudy watched as two Nassau County caseworkers and a cop walked out of the hospital with 4-day-old J. (ProPublica confirmed details of the case through court documents and multiple interviews.)
Rudy, who has closely cut hair and often dresses in baggy sports jerseys, recalls the day his daughter was taken as the saddest of his life. "I asked them why they took my daughter, and they didn't respond," Rudy remembered in a soft stuttering voice with an accent left over from his childhood in St. Croix. "I asked them if I could hold her before they took her, and they wouldn't let me hold her."
Rudy began what would become a weekly ritual: Riding two trains and a bus every Tuesday from the Bronx to Long Island to spend 75 minutes with J in a room in the county child welfare office. Some caseworkers were suspicious of Rudy. "The major concern for the family is both parents' mental health issues," child welfare officials wrote in a court document.
Others described him as a loving, if inexperienced, father. One caseworker note from a visit in September 2011 described Rudy as "gentle and caring," rocking J to sleep on the couch at the county office. Two weeks later, a different worker wrote that he was "getting more adept at caring for the child." J's mother, meanwhile, stopped showing up for visits and failed to appear in court.
But just over a year after J was first placed in foster care, two Nassau County officials pulled Rudy into a meeting room after a visit with J and told him that the county planned for J to be adopted by her foster family, case documents show.
"They said I have a mental illness, they were trying to see if I would sign away my rights," Rudy said as he sat one recent evening in his Bronx apartment, a pot of rice steaming on the stove. "They expected it to go smoothly, they expected me to surrender my rights."
In New York, counties are required to appoint an attorney for parents at risk of losing their kids, but Rudy hadn't yet been given one. Unsure of what was happening, Rudy went home and called his sister Rubeka, in Tampa, Florida.
"He sounded really upset. Not really angry, but more hurt," said Rubeka, who works as a psychiatric nurse.
Rudy and Rubeka consulted a lawyer and came up with a plan in which Rudy would move in with his sister and mother in Florida so they could raise J together. J's mother, who was also facing the termination of her parental rights, and whose mental health, according to case notes, was deteriorating, agreed to the plan. (J's mother declined to discuss the case with ProPublica, except to say she supported Rudy's effort to get custody.)
But Nassau County officials told Rudy that he should have laid out the plan months earlier and that because so much time had passed, federal child welfare law required them to request termination of his parental rights. The county's records suggest that caseworkers had warned Rudy about this; Rudy said he did not understand he could lose his rights so rapidly and that he waited because he believed J's mother was going to regain custody. Caseworkers also noted that visits between Rudy and J had gotten harder as she grew older—she would often cry inconsolably; she knew her father only as the man she saw on Tuesdays and considered her foster parents her real mother and father.
But these were not the reasons Nassau County authorities listed when they petitioned a county court to sever Rudy and J's legal ties. Instead, the county filed to terminate his rights based on his mental illness. Under New York law, parents can lose their children if courts decide their mental disabilities render them incapable of parenting for the "foreseeable future."
The Nassau County Department of Social Services would not respond to questions from ProPublica about the case or any related policy issues. The county referred ProPublica to the New York State Office of Children and Family Services. That office declined to comment as well and referred us back to Nassau County. The foster parents' attorney and the attorney appointed to represent J also declined to discuss the specifics of the case.
In the summer of 2012, a judge sent Rudy to Dr. Joseph Scroppo, a psychologist and attorney who has held appointments at several New York universities. Scroppo has a contract with Nassau County to perform forensic psychological evaluations and make recommendations about whether parents should keep their children.
Scroppo's evaluation was exhaustive compared with many in other parental rights cases. He met with Rudy alone for nearly 10 hours. Then Scroppo watched Rudy interact with J for 30 minutes. He gave Rudy an IQ test, asked him to define words, stack blocks and read a few sentences. He reviewed Rudy's mental health records, including his hospitalizations for manic episodes, and case notes from the child welfare department.
Scroppo concluded that Rudy could not be trusted to raise his daughter.
Rudy's "score indicates that he is probably capable of semi-independent living but would experience significant problems if he were to attempt fully independent living," Scroppo wrote. Citing Rudy's hospitalizations, Scroppo concluded that Rudy "is now, and for the foreseeable future, unable to adequately care for the subject child."
During a hearing in May 2013 in Rudy's continuing parental rights case, Rudy's lawyer, who was appointed to the case when the county filed for termination, grilled Scroppo on his evaluation.
"Your testimony...suggested that [Rudy] would have difficulty functioning fully independently; is that correct?" Rudy's lawyer, Lauren Broderick, asked.
"Yes," Scroppo replied.
"[But] wasn't it your understanding that [Rudy] was cooking his own meals at the time of your evaluation?" Broderick said, looking down at her notes.
"I'm not sure whether he was cooking his meals or not," Scroppo said.
"Did you inquire?" Broderick asked, looking up.
"No, I did not," he said.
"Wasn't it true at the time of your evaluation that [Rudy] was paying his bills?" she went on. "He was responsible for his own hygiene?"
"As far as I knew, yes," Scroppo said.
Broderick continued to push Scroppo to offer evidence from Rudy's life. Instead, Scroppo said, "I based the [categorization of] semi-independent status on the test that I administered to him."
New York's law allows mothers and fathers to present alternative evaluations in court, though funding is not always made available to pay for them. Rudy's sister and brother scraped together several thousand dollars to hire an evaluator for a second opinion.
Dr. Barry Rosenfeld, a psychologist who directs clinical training at Fordham University, did not just administer tests. He spoke to the people in Rudy's life to get a better sense of him—and pieced together a very different picture.
He discovered that in the early 2000s, Rudy shared an apartment near Tampa with Rubeka and their brother Mitchell. Mitchell had a baby boy and Rudy would take care of him. "My son was around 3 or 4. We'd go out for the night, or on the weekends, and Rudy worked less than us, so we'd leave my son with him," Mitchell said recently over the phone from Florida. "I never had any worries about that."
Rosenfeld learned from Norma Gonzalez, a caseworker who'd met regularly with Rudy in the apartment building where he lived when J was born, that "[Rudy] successfully manages his own day-to-day needs and has done so consistently for 3 years."
Rosenfeld noted that Rudy's plan to raise J with his sister indicated not incapacity, but a responsible recognition of his own need for help. "There appears to be no evidence that [Rudy]...is unable to adequately plan for care for his daughter," he wrote.
ProPublica asked a third party to read the two evaluations and to assess the soundness of their methods. Maurice Feldman, a psychologist based at the Centre for Applied Disability Studies at Brock University in Ontario, Canada, researches parenting capacity evaluations. He said that the two evaluators relied on different methods and assumptions.
Scroppo's evaluation didn't take into account the help Rudy planned to have from his family; Rosenfeld's did. "The first evaluator makes the assumption of the scenario that the parent has to parent the child totally independently," Feldman said.
Feldman also said that even though Scroppo's report was relatively thorough, it exhibited a common flaw: It measured mental disability in isolation from its impact on parenting.
"There is a conceptual leap that the first assessor used," Feldman said. He concluded that because Rudy scored "low on cognitive and personality disorder measures, therefore he can't parent," Feldman said. "But that is a fallacy."
"There is nothing in the first evaluator's report, none of the materials cited, that would lead me to believe he can't take care of his daughter."
Scroppo declined to speak with ProPublica about Rudy's case, citing professional obligations to confidentiality. But he did speak in broad terms about mental health evaluations in child protective cases, which make up a significant part of his practice.
"Evaluators are tasked with evaluating the specific parents, not the support system or other persons in their lives," Scroppo explained. "It's driven by the fact that only the parent is going to have ultimate decision making over the child. Although the parent may have —and I think it would matter if they did—a team to help them, it would hinge on their ability to be responsible. The law is for me to look at the parent in and of her self."
Academic studies have found that mental health parenting evaluations often take this self-sufficiency view of parenting. But as Feldman argues, "Nobody raises their child in a vacuum."
The American Psychological Association guidelines actually encourage evaluators to reach out to "extended family members and other individuals when appropriate (e.g., caretakers, grandparents, clinical and social services providers, and teachers)."
Yet often that doesn't happen. A decade ago, DePaul University researchers reviewed 190 evaluations from Chicago's child welfare system. Almost none of the evaluators called on family members or others besides the parents. Often, the evaluators relied on single short interactions with parents or failed to observe them with their children. More recent studies by researchers in New York and at the University of California, Berkeley found similar patterns.
"The tests are already less than perfect at measuring what they were designed to measure—IQ or psychopathology—and they are far less than perfect at measuring parenting," Karen Budd, the DePaul report's lead researcher, told ProPublica.
One reason evaluations come up short is money, said Nicholson, the Dartmouth psychiatry professor who researches parents with mental illness. "Really thorough evaluation is pretty resource-intensive, and nobody wants to do them," Nicholson said. "Nobody can actually afford that. Or they say they can't. Taking a kid away is expensive, too."
Even Scroppo agrees that these cases can be hard calls: "The severity of the mental illness is important in making any determination. And sometimes the line is not clear."
When Rudy is well, he is soft-spoken and thoughtful. "I am really focusing on being a father to my daughter. My dad was a good dad—he worked hard, he took care of us, and I want to do the same thing for my daughter," Rudy said last fall, after returning from work at the grocery store where he stocked shelves.
He also knows he would likely struggle to raise J by himself. Rudy has bouts of numbing depression and high-paced mania. At their worst, Rudy's manic states can flare into delusions. He has believed that he's a businessman and that YouTube videos carry secret messages. The last time he was hospitalized was in the winter of 2013. He and his sister Rubeka say the stress of the case, and the threat of losing his daughter, finally overwhelmed him.
But raising J alone, of course, hasn't been the plan. "If he slipped into an episode, we would know it," Rubeka says. "We would have been there to support her together."
Rudy acknowledges there are no easy answers nor perfect endings. The case has now dragged on for nearly four years. And more hearings are scheduled for June in the Nassau County family court.
J has "been in foster care for a long time," Rudy said. "It will be hard to take her out of foster care. [The Department of Social Services] is saying that she bonded with the foster mom. It's a tough case, you know."
When authorities take a child, a 1997 federal law mandates that they must provide parents with access to the programs and services they need to reunite with their children. If the issue that brought a child into foster care is homelessness, child welfare systems must find parents housing. If it's drugs: treatment. If it's abuse: parenting classes. Parents can be compelled to attend anger management classes, seek counseling or leave an abusive partner.
But the law does not explicitly cover disabilities, mental or physical. And in the absence of a clearly applicable federal standard, at least five states—Alaska, Arizona, California, Kentucky and North Dakota—have listed mental illness as one of a few "aggravating circumstances" that exempt authorities from having to provide help to attempt to piece families back together. Among the handful of other circumstances? Murdering, torturing or sexually abusing a child.
In New York, courts can relieve child welfare departments of having to prove they have made efforts to reunify families if judges deem a mother or father too mentally disabled to parent. That has been Nassau County's position regarding Rudy. "The department is not under any obligation to make reasonable efforts to return the child and to make recommendations [for services] to him," the county's lawyer said in a November 2013 hearing.
The rationale for denying services is often explained this way: If a parent is indeed so mentally ill that they're never going to be able to safely raise a child, why drag that family through an extended legal case and compel taxpayers to make futile expenditures?
But without setting up supports and services, there may be very little way to know whether a parent can raise a child. Rudy was not offered parenting classes or help moving to an apartment where J could join him. No caseworker tried to help Rudy find a program that could support him to raise his daughter, though supportive-parenting programs exist in New York City.
"Nobody ever offered me any help," Rudy says.
In Missouri, where Mindi's case unfolded, the state's obligation to explore support for mentally ill parents has become an issue in the courts.
In 2012, a state appellate court reversed a termination based largely on the testimony of a psychologist who'd administered tests but never actually observed the mother with her child.
"Even a mental condition that renders a parent unable to provide adequate care for a child alone does not provide a basis for termination if the parent has access to additional support because parenting is frequently 'a group effort,' " the appeals court wrote. "It is because of the frequently group nature of modern parenting that [the law] does not allow for the termination of parental rights simply because a parent cannot shoulder the entire burden of raising a child on his or her own."
While ProPublica spoke to dozens of attorneys around the country about questionable cases, few termination cases are appealed and fewer still are reversed—higher courts are typically deferential to trial court decisions. Missouri appeals courts and the state's Supreme Court have overturned at least seven other mental-health-based terminations since 2000. We found another seven cases since 2000 in which New York appellate courts overturned mental disability terminations.
In the last decade, states including Idaho, Utah and Vermont have added language to their child welfare statutes to protect parents with disabilities, including psychiatric disabilities. "A court may not remove a child from the parent's or guardian's custody on the basis of...mental illness," the Utah law reads.
But mental health advocates say progress is too slow. They say that even in states where mental illness is not listed explicitly as a reason for terminating parental rights, parents still face bias and aren't getting the help they need.
"People have focused on the language of disability or mental illness in the laws, and that is important," said Jennifer Mathis, deputy legal director of the Bazelon Center, a mental health advocacy groups. "But you also need to provide supports."
In 2011, two years after Mindi's child was removed, Missouri's legislature adjusted the child welfare laws to recognize the rights of disabled parents. The change came after news broke of a blind couple whose baby had been removed over concerns that their disabilities impaired their ability to raise a child.
The measure affirmed that nothing in the state's laws should "be construed to permit discrimination on the basis of disability or disease." Children cannot be removed, nor can parental rights be terminated, the bill maintained, "without a specific showing that there is a causal relation between the disability or disease and harm to the child."
As it was originally introduced, the Missouri legislation noted that in making child removal and parental termination decisions, the state "shall consider the availability and use of accommodations for the disability or disease, including assistive technology and support services." That language—the sort that advocates for parents and for people with psychiatric diagnoses say is needed to stop unnecessary family separations—was removed from the final legislation.
In Mindi's case, her daughter's foster parents and the state of Missouri asked the judge in 2011 to terminate Mindi's parental rights and for Q.A.H. to be adopted. The reason her rights should be terminated? Citing state law, lawyers for Q.A.H.'s foster family wrote that Mindi has "a mental condition which is shown by competent evidence either to be permanent or such that there is no reasonable likelihood that the condition can be reversed."
The petition rested largely on reports of the event three years earlier, when, after the delusion about her daughter's rape, Mindi brought her daughter to the hospital.
In 2012, a Missouri trial court granted the petition to terminate Mindi's parental rights, formally severing her connection to Q.A.H. Mindi was "unable to knowingly provide [Q.A.H.] the necessary care, custody, and control" because, the judge wrote, she "has delusions that then become her reality."
Earlier in the case, Mindi had regained custody of Q.A.H. after eight months of separation only to lose it again after refusing to allow visits from Q.A.H.'s father, who Mindi says was abusive. Such lack of cooperation is not legally sufficient to permanently separate children from their parents, but the judge who terminated Mindi's parental rights chalked up her claim of abuse to ongoing delusions—though no evidence was presented on this, one way or the other. Q.A.H. was placed back in foster care, this time with a new couple.
The judge also said in his opinion that Mindi had made strange faces while sitting in court, an "affect," the judge wrote, which "is quite unusual in termination of parental rights proceeding, but is consistent with mental health diagnosis given by [the court-appointed psychiatrist]."
Mindi's lawyers and other attorneys who represent parents like her say the judge's reaction is common: Actions and statements that might pass without notice in people without a mental illness are pathologized in people with a diagnoses. "People who have those records at the back of their mind are looking for something to support their theory that she's not stable," said Sandra Wirtel, Mindi's court-appointed attorney.
Mindi and her lawyers appealed the 2012 ruling, and the following year a Missouri appellate court sided with her. The trial court decision, a three-judge panel ruled, "utterly fails to establish that [Q.A.H.] would be harmed by a continued relationship with Mother."
The appellate judges added that the judge's observation of Mindi's facial expressions "does not constitute reliable and substantial evidence on the critical question of Mother's present mental condition."
Mindi began preparing for Q.A.H. to return, setting up a bedroom with a pink bedspread. They had not seen each other for nearly a year, and to rebuild their relationship, Mindi and Q.A.H. were allowed to begin visits. Her daughter was bigger, more talkative, her dark blond hair now in long curls. At first, Q.A.H. was shy, feeling out her relationship with this woman she'd been separated from. But then she asked her mother to play a game Mindi had made up when Q.A.H. was younger. "She remembered that," Mindi said.
Mindi thought her daughter would be home for Christmas. But in late 2013, Mindi's lawyer called her to tell her the case was not over. Q.A.H.'s foster parents, joined by the state, had appealed the case to the Missouri Supreme Court. Visits were halted again. The judges heard arguments in the case two months ago.
When she's with her son, Mindi can, for a moment, forget that for the last three years her life has been consumed by the fight for her daughter. Mindi enrolled in college again. She spends a lot of time at her Baptist church—Wednesday night Bible study and Sunday services. She now lives in the home of a family friend who is mostly away—Mindi's father died when she was young and she's estranged from her mother.
Late last year, she started to meet with the foster parents for monthly mediation sessions. Q.A.H. had lived with them for more than two years now.
To her attorneys, Mindi's case still seemed like a sure win. In 2007, the Missouri Supreme Court restored the parental rights of a young mother who'd been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
Judge Richard Teitelman sits on the Supreme Court of Missouri. Speaking broadly about such cases, he told ProPublica, "given the number of people in this world who are bipolar, or have some mental illness and who raise children very effectively,it would not seem to me that it should be a status thing—that anyone can say, if you're mentally ill you can't be a parent, you can't have a child. That does not seem to comport with today's reality."
In the early afternoon of March 25, Mindi received a phone message from the lawyer appointed to represent her in her parental rights case. The news was what she feared. "I just lost my daughter," Mindi wrote in a message to ProPublica.
The Missouri Supreme Court ruled, 6-to-1, that the lower court should be granted broad discretion in making decisions about the facts of a parental termination case. Though the judges noted that the state still had an obligation to prove that a parent's mental condition poses a risk to the child, they wrote that since the trial court had believed Mindi was a danger, the Supreme Court, which did not hear testimony from witnesses, was in no position to disagree.
Judge Teitelman issued a short lone dissent. "The evidence in this case...fails to demonstrate clearly that the Mother is currently unable to adequately care for the child and that she will be unlikely to do so in the future," he wrote, adding that the court's decision had been "simply speculative."
In early May, Q.A.H.'s adoption went through. Mindi has no contact with her daughter.
Source: Pro Publica
Childhood Walking Outlawed
May 31, 2014 permalink
Hawaii dad Robert Demond made his son walk a mile home from school. Dad got a $200 fine and probation along with a suggestion that he take parenting classes. The US has an epidemic of childhood obesity. Will anyone notice a connection?
Old School Father punished for ‘old school’ discipline
Man gets probation, fine, class for making son walk home
LIHUE — A Kilauea man was given probation and a fine Wednesday in 5th Circuit Court for punishing his son by making him walk a mile for not answering his questions — a form of discipline a judge called “old school” and no longer appropriate.
Robert Demond was sentenced to a one-year probation, a $200 fine and to a child parenting class for a misdemeanor charge of second-degree endangering the welfare of a minor.
Demond said he would handle it differently now after going through Family Court, where the case originated on Oct. 17, 2013, and to Circuit Court, where he pleaded no contest to the misdemeanor charge.
Demond told the judge that it was a common form of punishment when he was a kid and that he didn’t see it as morally wrong or criminal. He had picked his son up from school and questioned him about a matter that came to his attention. When his son didn’t respond, he stopped the vehicle and made him walk home to think about his actions.
“How far did you make him walk?” asked Judge Kathleen Watanabe.
“About a mile,” Demond said.
These are different times, Watanabe said. It is understandable that you became upset with your son, but it is dangerous for children to walk along the highway, and there are predators out there, she said. The age of the child was not revealed in the course of the hearing and the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney would not divulge further information.
Defense attorney Margaret Hanson said that Demond has no criminal history and presents no risk to the community. The offense was basically a form of punishment that is no longer considered acceptable by the community.
County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Gary Nelson said the discipline was not an appropriate way for Demond to correct his son’s behavior. Yet, it was clear that the defendant acted with the intent to teach his child a lesson and did not act out of anger.
The state recommended a child parenting course and supports the defendant’s motion for a deferred acceptance of his no contest plea. It allows him to motion the court to expunge the charge from his record after completing his probation.
Watanabe granted the motion.
Source: The Garden Island
Apprehensions in London.
May 30, 2014 permalink
A story from London Ontario leaves more questions than answers. CAS has seized two children after a ten-year-old boy was found locked in squalid conditions for two years. This may be a case of CAS exaggeration. Or, since he was under care of his aunt and uncle, it may be a child placed with the family by children's aid. Since there are no names in the story, it is impossible for more research to fill in the missing pieces.
London, Ontario boy found locked in room for nearly two years, aunt and uncle charged
The aunt and uncle of a 10-year-old boy have been charged after the boy was discovered locked in a filthy bedroom in a London, Ont. home, where it is alleged he was confined for 18 to 24 months.
“There was feces… the child’s pyjamas were soaked with urine when we found him,” London Police Det.-Insp. Kevin Heslop said at a Friday afternoon news conference. “It’s a horrific case.”
The boy was taken to a hospital Thursday afternoon, where he was diagnosed as underweight and malnourished. Police said he was only being fed twice a day.
Police said the boy was found in a locked master bedroom, “living in filthy conditions.” The bedroom had an ensuite bathroom, so the boy did have access to a toilet and shower.
“The room — in fact, the entire house — was in squalid condition,” Det.-Insp. Heslop said. “The bedroom had food waste, feces and urine on the floor and on the bed.”
The boy’s aunt and uncle, his guardians, are both charged with failing to provide the necessaries of life and forcible confinement. Police are not releasing their names to protect the identity of the boy.
Police said the child’s parents are out of the country and they have not been in touch with them yet.
The boy has been released from the hospital and is in the care of the Children’s Aid Society. The Childrens’ Aid Society was initially alerted to the situation on an anonymous tip from the public.
Police said the couple have an older biological child but say there’s no evidence that the child was also locked up in the house. That child has also been taken into the care of the Children’s Aid Society.
Police were alerted to the home by the Children’s Aid Society of London and Middlesex and when they arrived the home was unoccupied. When the homeowners returned, police discovered the boy after entering the premises.
Police were called because a Children’s Aid worker thought a shadow could be seen behind the drapes, although no one was answering the door.
“Our community came together in service of a child and he and another child are now safe,” Jane Fitzgerald, the executive director of Children’s Aid Society of London and Middlesex, said Friday afternoon. “The one thing he said he wants was he wants regular food and he wants to go to school.”
Police say they had no previous contact with the couple, but the Children’s Aid Society had brief contact with them in 2007 in regards to another child, who no longer lives with them.
Source: National Post
Addendum: Here is a video of the news conference (mp4), captured by Pat Niagara.
Source: City News
Police detective Kevin Heslop and London CAS executive director Jane Fitzgerald give a press conference. Fitzgerald starts her part by saying she is overcome with joy. She wants you to think of joy at saving a child. The real cause of her joy is the rare opportunity to draw attention to CAS as the savior of children.
The child is foreign and speaks little English. The parents do not live in Canada. The conference did not disclose the country of origin and gave no indication how the aunt and uncle came to be the guardians.
CAS Establishes Trust Fund For Child Locked In Bedroom For Up To Two Years
After an outpouring of support from the London community, the Children’s Aid Society has established a fund to help support a 10-year-old boy who was locked in a bedroom for up to two years.
The child was rescued by London Police and CAS officials on Thursday. The little boy, who was being cared for by his aunt and uncle, was found in filthy conditions and doctors say he was malnourished from only receiving two meals of fast food a day.
After being plucked from the disgusting environment, the little boy was placed in foster care and officials say he’s doing much better even playing video games and making friends with another child in his new foster home.
“We’ve had folks calling in to offer to be foster parents, to adopt, how can they provide financial support to this guy,” said Executive Director Jane Fitzgerald. “So we just felt it was important that we set a fund up that would allow the community to express their support, not only for this child, but also for all the other children that we care for.”
Fitzgerald says the young boy also has a healthy appetite and has a “particular fondness for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.” The CAS says the little boy’s nine-year-old female cousin is still in a separate foster home and is also doing well.
In a release issued Monday afternoon, the CAS says the London community’s interest in and compassion for the boy is enormous and there have been many inquires regarding donations to help support him.
As a result of the outpouring of support, the CAS of London & Middlesex has set up a private account to be held in trust for the child, called From London with Love.
The funds will be collected through the Society’s fundraising portal and will be held in trust by the CAS until the child’s permanent living arrangements are known.
“What we would hope is that this would permit this young person to eventually go on to seek their dreams in post secondary education, if that’s what they wish to do,” said Fitzgerald. “So it’s hard to speculate at this point what those funds would be used for, but as a Children’s Aid, we do receive funding from the Ontario government to cover the care costs, so that’s not what the money would be going for, it would be for his future.”
If you wish to make a donation, please visit www.caslondon.on.ca/donate-now and reference From London with Love.
Fitzgerald admits this is likely just the beginning of a life-long process.
“He’s really been in an isolated state for, well, we’re estimating between 18 and 24 months,” said Fitzgerald. “We are pleased that he is wanting to play with another child in his foster home. The foster parents report that he is very kind and very sweet, and we’re seeing those good signs. But we’re really beginning quite a long road with him, and we’ll really have to see how he does in the long run.”
The boy’s aunt and uncle have been charged in connection with the case and are scheduled to appear in court on July 10th.
To find out more about the Children’s Aid Society of London-Middlesex and the ways the community can get involved, please call (519) 455-9000.
Source: CFPL 980AM
Addendum: While CAS conceals the facts, the foreign language press has started to provide answers. The boy's father found out about his son's condition, not from children's aid, but from press reports. The Korea Times reports that the father and child are Korean. When the boy's mother died, the father was incapable of supporting his son. On May 5, 2010 the father sent the boy to live with his younger sister, the boy's aunt, in Canada. He was as shocked as anyone to learn of his living conditions. The father is making efforts to get his son back. Even the Korean language press refuses to disclose the family name. An English language press report is enclosed.
Father of 10-year-old confined to a bedroom for up to two years shocked to learn how his son treated
The father of a 10-year-old boy held captive in London by his aunt and uncle is preparing to come to Canada, reports say.
Shocked to learn how his son had been surviving — police say the boy was locked in the squalid master bedroom of a southeast London home for 18 to 24 months, and fed only fast food twice a day before his rescue last week — the man is getting his passport, he told the Korean Times Daily in Toronto.
The boy’s mother is dead and his widowed father sent him to Canada four years ago to live with a younger sister who promised to look after her nephew, said reporter Jay Jung at the Korean-language newspaper. .
“He was very upset with his sister,” said Jung, who talked to the father in Korean.
The man doesn’t speak English, said Jung.
“He has never been overseas . . . He has to make a passport.”
The man said he sent his son to Canada in 2010, after the loss of both his wife and his business.
The man’s mother, the boy’s grandmother, took her grandson and dropped him off for the sister to look after him in 2010, Jung said.
London police said last week the little boy arrived in 2010 and had never been to school.
Authorities also said then they hadn’t reached the boy’s parents.
The boy’s father said he hadn’t been in contact with his son, but feels guilty and angry about the situation, said Jung.
Contacted by The Free Press, the South Korean consulate in Toronto declined comment.
An anonymous tip to the London-area child-welfare agency led to the boy’s rescue last week. His pyjamas and bedding were found soaked in urine, in the room reeking of human waste.
The couple who live at the house, who had operated two London-area variety stores, are charged with confinement and failing to provide the necessaries of life.
The Children’s Aid Society of London and Middlesex took the boy into its care, along with a nine-year-old girl living at the house — the boy’s cousin — whom authorities say was not confined.
Under Ontario law, information that would identify the boy and the girl can’t be published.
The family in the case isn’t known in London’s Korean community.
“The whole community is in shock,” said Danny Choi, head of the Korean Canadian Society of London.
“We’re ashamed and really sorry about this . . . We are family-oriented people and we look after our children very well. We are very, very sorry about this.”
About 5,000 Koreans live in London, he said, and the community is tight-knit. It has a bi-weekly newsletter and is fundraising to build a community centre.
He said no one seems to know the couple charged in the case.
“We don’t have a lot of information,” said Choi. “It doesn’t make sense to us.
“Members of our society might go to court to see what information we can get. We don’t want this to ever happen again.”
Source: Woodstock Sentinel Review
Police Return Kidnapped Baby to Parents
May 28, 2014 permalink
The newborn daughter of Simon Boisclair and Mélissa McMahonand was kidnapped from the delivery room in Trois-Rivières Quebec. Police issued an Amber alert and asked the public for help in getting baby Victoria returned to her parents. The public responded and three hours later police nabbed the baby from her kidnapper.
What is unusual about this case is that the police sought to reunite parents and child. In most contemporary kidnappings parents cannot call on the police for help because the police conducted the kidnapping at the request of children's aid.
How Facebook helped find an abducted Quebec newborn: ‘Help us please… our daughter has been stolen’
With nothing else planned for a Monday night, a group of four Facebooking Quebec friends decided to pile into a car and try their hand at solving a baby snatching.
“We had nothing to do that night,” the Trois-Rivières searchers said in a statement to local media. So, “we went off in search of a red car.”
The quartet of three women and one man, all in their early 20s, had been spurred into action by Facebook reports of an unusual kidnapping from Sainte-Marie Hospital.
Just before 7 p.m., a woman dressed in red scrubs had walked into the room of Mélissa McMahon. Grabbing Ms. McMahon’s six-pound newborn, the woman wrapped the infant in a blue blanket and told Ms. McMahon she needed to take it away to be weighed.
In “less than a minute,” Ms. McMahon wrote in an online account of the kidnapping, a quick chat with hospital staff convinced her that “my baby had been stolen.”
The mother ran for the hospital’s entrance, only to find that the kidnapper had already fled the property in what witnesses said was a red Toyota Yaris hatchback with a “Bébé à bord” (Baby on Board) sticker on the back window.
“The possibility of a worst case scenario was turning loops in our heads,” wrote Ms. McMahon. “Unfortunately, the endings to these situations are rarely happy, particularly in cases like this.”
Within minutes, local police erected roadblocks and launched a full scale search as radio, television and social media were flooded by Amber Alerts for the missing baby.
“Help us please, after one day our daughter has been stolen,” read a Facebook post by father Simon Boisclair, asking friends to spread the news as “fast as possible.”
“Woman is 5’ 4”, 130 lbs, driving a red Yaris,” read a Monday night Tweet by the Sûreté du Québec. “If seen, dial 911.”
It was this scant information, collected from Facebook, that sent sisters Mélizanne Bergeron and Charel Bergeron into the warm night, along with friends Marc-André Côté and Charlène Plante.
The initial plan was simply to drive around the city of 126,000 looking for the fire-engine red car described in police alerts. But the far-fetched mission yielded results almost immediately after Mélizann checked her smartphone to see a recently-released security camera image of the suspected kidnapper.
Ms. Plante recognized the woman. “She was my neighbour; I moved two weeks ago so I knew it was her,” the barista later told Rouge 94.9 FM.
The quartet set course to Ms. Plante’s recently vacated apartment and, sure enough, a red Toyota Yaris with “Bébé à bord” bumper sticker was parked outside.
As one of the four snuck forward to try to and hear anything from within the suspected kidnapper’s home (they heard the sound of a “running tap,” according to Radio-Canada) Mélizanne reported the address to police.
Officers arrived without sirens to avoid attracting suspicion, broke down the front door of the suspected apartment and located the baby within a matter of seconds. A shaky cellphone video recorded by Mélizanne captured the exact moment an officer emerged carrying the missing child, eliciting tears from the young searchers.
From kidnapping to rescue, the baby, a girl named Victoria, had only been missing a total of three hours.
As for the four searchers, only minutes after beginning their hunt for the baby, they were being applauded by hospital staff and feted as heroes across Quebec.
“It all happened so fast, but to have her safe and sound in my arms after only three hours of intense searching was very surreal,” wrote Ms. McMahon, thanking Facebook for leading “four incredible people” to her baby. “Every click, every share made the difference.”
The suspected kidnapper, a 21-year-old woman, is believed to suffer from mental health problems.
As of Tuesday evening, she has not been criminally charged.
Strangers abducting newborn babies from Canadian hospitals is “rare,” but not at all unprecedented, according to a 2008 RCMP report on the phenomenon.
About half a dozen times since the 1990s, hospitals in Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta have been subject to incidents of a stranger stealing a baby under false pretexts, often while disguised as hospital staff. In every case, though, the infant was safely recovered soon after its abduction.
“The typical hospital abduction may involve a stranger,” reads the paper, penned by the RCMP’s National Missing Children Services.” “The abductors are usually females who really want a baby of their own. They are often overweight, compulsive, impersonators, married or cohabitating, and live in the community where the abduction takes place.”
On Tuesday, Quebec health minister Gaétan Barrette called on all the province’s hospitals to review their security procedures.
Source: National Post
Child Therapy Kills
May 27, 2014 permalink
On May 23 in Santa Barbara California Elliot Rodger killed six people, wounded thirteen others then killed himself.
Advocates are using the incident to push their agendas. Since the weapon used was a gun, gun control advocates are hard at work. Rodger's internet postings included some hateful comments about women, so feminists are blaming misogyny.
Mr Rodger, age 22, had been in therapy since age 8. According to wikipedia: "His manifesto mentioned a number of drugs that he was prescribed to use, although how long he was being treated with them and the identity of the drugs currently remain unknown." The press has been nearly silent on the drug issue, so we may not learn the names of the drugs. But in today's treatment culture it is hard to imagine fourteen years of therapy without psychotropic drugs. Rodger is an example of drugs creating thoughts that no normal person can form, and acting on them at the cost of six innocent lives and his own.
An enclosed article comments on Rodger's therapy, without blaming drugs.
Could Therapy Culture Help Explain Elliot Rodger's Rampage?
One of the terrifying achievements of the modern cult of therapy has been to churn out a generation of people completely focused on the self and in constant need of validation from others.
The most striking revelation about Elliot Rodger, the alleged Santa Barbara shooter, is that he had been in therapy for most of his life.
A family friend said Rodger had been seeing a therapist since the age of eight. Apparently he had visited a therapist "virtually every day" during his high school years. By the time of the massacre and suicide at the University of Santa Barbara over the weekend, when he was 22, Rodger reportedly had "multiple therapists."
Today it has been revealed that so central were his therapists to his daily existence that he emailed his hateful 141-page manifesto to them (and to his parents) 15 minutes before going on his stabbing and shooting spree.
I think Rodger's reported reliance on therapists from childhood through to adulthood deserves more analysis than it has so far received, because it potentially speaks to a dark side—a very dark side—of the modern therapy culture. There has been a mad dash to blame Rodger's actions on the misogynistic websites that he was known to visit, with some claiming these sites warped his mind and made him murderous. There has been far less focus on the therapy culture which by all accounts, and according to his family and friends, was a far more longstanding part of his life than his Internet habits.
Yes, he might have spent some late nights lurking on "men's rights" websites, but if the reports coming from those who knew him are to be believed, he spent 14 years visiting therapists.
To my mind, if we are going to say that any kind of "culture" was responsible for Rodger's rampage—and that is always a dangerous thing to do, since it lessens Rodger's own moral responsibility for what he did—then we might want to examine the impact of mainstream therapy culture rather than obsessing over the fringe misogyny culture he might have dabbled with.
We know a handful of things about Rodger. One is that he visited therapists. Another is that he was full of self-regard, was incredibly self-obsessed, and was utterly outraged when people, especially women, didn't treat him with the love and respect he felt he deserved.
It is possible that these two things are connected, maybe even intimately connected. For one of the main, and most terrifying, achievements of the modern cult of therapy has been to churn out a generation of people completely focused on the self and in constant need of validation from others; a generation that thinks nothing of spending hours examining and talking about their inner lives and who regard their own self-esteem as sacrosanct, something which it is unacceptable for anyone ever to dent or disrespect.
Could Rodger's fury at the world for failing to flatter his self-image as a good, civilized guy be a product of the therapy industry, of the therapy world's cultivation of a new tyrannical form of narcissism where individuals demand constant genuflection at the altar of their self-esteem?
Many thinkers have attacked the therapy industry's creation of a new and ravenous narcissism which demands constant flatter-feeding. In his classic 1979 book The Culture of Narcissism, the great Christopher Lasch said "the contemporary climate is therapeutic, not religious." He said therapy culture, the post-'60s obsession with self-reflection, had created a new "narcissistic personality"; it had given rise to individuals who "depend on others to validate [their] self-esteem" and who "cannot live without an admiring audience." The therapeutic individual views the world as a mirror, constantly expecting to see his own image in it, said Lasch, where the earlier, more robust individual saw the world as an "empty wilderness to be shaped by his own design".
In her powerful essay "The Overpraised American," Christine Rosen said the "overarching goal" of most therapeutic tomes is to teach people "how to love oneself." She quotes one self-help book which advises people to "Have a love affair with yourself!" Rosen writes: "Today's commercialised therapy purveyors all begin with the same premise: Think first of yourself."
The end result is a new generation invited to focus more on their navels, on their apparently fantastically interesting inner selves, rather than on the world around them; a generation encouraged to see any kind of challenge to their self-esteem, whether it's a tough exam, a presumed slight or a difficult, controversial idea, as an intolerable assault on their inner god. As the late American philosopher Jean Bethke Elshtain said, the era of therapy has created a "quivering sentimental self that gets uncomfortable very quickly, because this self has to feel good about itself all the time."
We see this everywhere today. We see it in university students who want to ban everything that they think harms their self-esteem, because they've been educated to see any attack on what they think and how they feel as utterly unacceptable. We see it in the growing cult of self-revelation and the search for validation on social networks like Twitter, where individuals' frenetic tweeting and their desperate desire for that all-important retweet speaks to the reorganization of society around the need for recognition, the need for an "admiring audience" to make the self feel puffed up. And we potentially see it, in its most extreme form, in Elliot Rodger, the son of therapy, who appears to be the ultimate "quivering sentimental self" made "uncomfortable very quickly" when he didn't feel good about himself.
It is striking how therapeutic is the language used by Rodger in his videos and his murder manifesto. He talks about how people's attitudes towards him "really decreased my self-esteem." He clearly sees such assaults on his self-esteem as unacceptable, saying "if they won't accept me… then they are my enemies." In short, fail to offer recognition to this damaged creature and you will pay the price. And then he makes the key cry of our therapeutic era: "It's not fair. Life is not fair."
Watch Rodger's video. The most alarming thing is how cool and well-spoken he is. This is a man used to talking about himself, following years of practice in therapy sessions. Clearly having decided to have a love affair with himself, Rodger terrifyingly declares: "I am the closest thing there is to a living god… Magnificent, glorious, supreme, eminent, divine!"
This isn't a religious thing. There's no evidence that Rodger thought he was a messiah, as other nutjobs have. Rather, it's a therapeutic thing. Therapy culture has created a new army of little gods made fearsomely angry by any perceived insult against their self-esteem. It has generated groups of people who, like something out of the Old Testament, think nothing of squishing things that offend them or hurt their sense of self-worth. It has made a whole new anti-social generation whose desire to protect themselves from emotional harm overrides the older human instinct to engage with other people and be tolerant of their differences. When Rodger says "I am a living god," he is speaking, not from any kind of wacky religious script, but from the mainstream bible of therapy. The cult of therapy convinces individuals they are gods and that their self-esteem is a gospel that must not be blasphemed against. As the New York Times columnist David Brooks once said of a therapeutic self-help guide to life, death, and life after death, "In this heaven, God and his glory are not the center of attention. It's all about you." The self has elbowed aside God; the self is God, as Rodger seems to have realised.
Perhaps we should see Rodger as a kind of therapeutic terrorist, using murder to gain recognition; his rampage can be seen as a very violent therapy session, a real primal scream in defense of his sacred self-esteem.
Addendum: Here it is: Xanax. Another news source adds Vicodin.
Elliot Rodger Was Taking Xanax In Days Before Mass Shooting, Insider Says
Elliot Rodger‘s parents Peter & Li Chin have told law enforcement that their son had been taking Xanax in the days before the horrific murders, and feared he could have been abusing the anti-anxiety medication, RadarOnline.com is exclusively reporting.
The Xanax had been prescribed to Elliot by a family doctor, according to law enforcement sources.
“Elliot had been taking Xanax for awhile, according to his parents … there were fears he might have been addicted to it, or taking more than was prescribed,” a law enforcement source told RadarOnline.com. “The Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department will be conducting formal interviews with Elliot’s doctors, and will review his medical and prescription drug records.
“During Elliot’s autopsy which was conducted by the coroner in Santa Barbara, blood samples were taken for the sole purposes of determining if there were any legal or illegal drugs in his system.
“Toxicology results are pending, and will take about 4-6 weeks for results. There is no way to determine at this time if Elliot had taken Xanax on the day of the killings, but the the toxicology results will most likely be able to ascertain if he was.”
Rodger on May 23 killed six people and then himself , in the college town of Isla Vista, Calif, adjacent to the University of California Santa Barbara campus.
In his manifesto, discovered by law enforcement after the rampage, Rodger goes after everyone and everything that he blames for destroying his life, especially sex.
His parents had divorced when he was young and his father had remarried but Rodger never liked his stepmother, and in his final days, planned to kill her. He became a World of Warcraft “addict” and became increasingly withdrawn as he grew older. He complained about being embarrassed because he had to take the bus to school, and he disliked minorities.
When hearing an African American classmate brag that he’d lost his virginity at age 13, Rodger was outraged.
“How could an inferior black ugly black boy get a white girl and not me? I am beautiful and I am half white myself. [Rodger's mother is from Malaysia] I am descended from British aristocracy. He is descended from slaves.”
As RadarOnline.com previously reported, Elliot refused to take to take psychiatric medication prescribed by a mental health professional because he looked up the side effects, and determined he didn’t need it.
At the time of Elliot‘s killing spree, he hadn’t seen a psychiatrist in over two years, and was being treated by a duo of psychologists in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara.
“At the time of Elliott’s killings, he was being treated by two psychologists: one in Santa Barbara and another in Southern California,” a family insider previously told us. “His family now recognizes that he should have been in intensive treatment including psychiatrists.
“They did everything they could to get him help, and they are absolutely riddled with guilt and self loathing because of Elliott’s actions.”
Source: Radar Online
Cutting Foster Care in Baltimore
May 27, 2014 permalink
Molly McGrath Tierney led the Baltimore Department of Social Services for seven years until until February 2014. In a TED talk given in Baltimore this January she was as severely critical of foster care as any opponent of the social services system. Foster care produces bad results for children while in care, worse results after they leave care - penitentiaries, the morgue or another generation of foster children. Foster care itself does more harm to children than the abuse from which the child was taken. An unending chain of systems reformers (including Tierney herself) try to tinker with the rules to turn the system around and make it work. Tierney boasts of more success than most agencies: during her tenure she cut the city foster care numbers to less than half their former size. Before reading on, watch her presentation at TED or YouTube or a local copy (mp4).
Tierney suggests an alternative to placing large numbers of children in foster care: assist families in caring for children in their own homes. Since this approach relieves the agency, and the taxpayers, of the burden of providing food, clothing and shelter for children and foster parents, it is a lot less expensive. Now the cost is restricted to the occasional expert meeting the family and dispensing advice or material assistance.
To understand the hazards of the alternative, think of two parables.
As things are now in most child protection agencies.
A child care agency has a thousand children in foster care. When the agency requests next year's funding, they quote a figure, maybe $40,000 per child, $40 million in all, to provide foster care for the next year. The legislators know that without the required appropriation, foster children will go without necessities. What is the chance that a legislator will advocate sub-standard care for foster kids? Let them go hungry? Go to school barefoot? An elected politician cannot stay in office advocating policies like these. The agency is assured of getting its $40 million.
And now the alternative:
As things would be according to Molly McGrath Tierney.
The child care agency has a thousand children under watch, all living with their families, but getting expert advice from professionals. The cost per child is only $5,000 per year, $5 million overall.
This time a legislator can suggest cutting the funding. Rationale? We think parents should be paying a bigger share of the cost of their own children. This argument has enough political appeal that the agency cannot be sure of getting its $5 million, but might see it trimmed to $4 or even $3 million. A few rounds of legislative cuts like this will mean the extinction of the service.
Replacing foster care with in-home care is better for families, better for children and better for taxpayers. But it suffers from a fatal flaw. The unfortunate relationship between the appropriation process and the political process means that the alternative to foster care cannot survive in practice.
Gene Colman in Orangeville
May 26, 2014 permalink
Family lawyer Gene C Colman will be appearing at an event in Orangeville What to do when the C.A.S. calls. It will be at the Tweedsmuir Presbyterian Church on the evening of June 11 (Wednesday). Expand for the full details.
Access to Justice Ontario Workshop: June 11, 2014
Wednesday, June 11, 2014, 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Access to Justice Ontario Presents
“What to do when the C.A.S. calls. From first call and forward.”
An interactive presentation by the lawyers from the Gene C. Colman* Family Law Centre Join this Free Public Legal Information Workshop
*Gene C. Colman, B.A., LL.B., is a long-time advocate for reform of the family law system. From 1980 he was an active member of the first child welfare lawyer representation panel of the Office of Official Guardian (now Office of the Children’s Lawyer). He has represented many parents against children’s aid societies. Associates Gillian Hayes and Megen Zelinka have joined Gene in the firm’s vigorous defense of the integrity and unity of the family unit. The lawyers will discuss creative yet practical and child-focused strategies for effective engagement with child protection agencies.
Place: Tweedsmuir Presbyterian Church 6 John Street, Orangeville L9W 2P1
“Like” A2JON www.facebook.com/A2JON
Source: The National Self-Represented Litigants Project
May 26, 2014 permalink
In Alberta Dr David Rudkin took the unusual step of telling a newspaper about abuse to a foster child. The newspaper took the even more unusual step of publishing a story on the incident. A two-year-old girl suffered burns to her face in a foster home, but was sent back to the same home.
Doctor concerned burned foster child at risk
A veteran Strathmore emergency room doctor fears a vulnerable foster child may be in peril after she was returned to a foster home where she suffered serious burns to her face five months ago.
Dr. David Rudkin told the Herald the two-year-old severely developmentally impaired aboriginal girl suffered first-and second-degree burns that he believes were the result of either abuse or extreme neglect.
A former medical examiner and 30-year physician, Rudkin, 55, said he decided to speak out because he doesn't believe there has been an adequate investigation, and child welfare officials have returned the child to the foster home where he believes other foster children could also be at risk.
"It's obvious no one is interested in doing anything," he said in an interview. "I think this is another catastrophe waiting to happen."
But Human Services spokeswoman Kathy Telfer said the ministry is aware of the incident and believes it was investigated thoroughly by Child Intervention Services and the RCMP.
"All parties involved in the investigations indicated that the injuries were accidental," she said. "We have also been working closely with the home and following up with the child frequently."
Rudkin said he saw the child "looking distressed and in pain" when she was brought to emergency in January the morning after suffering the burns.
The male foster parent accompanying her said the foster mother was bathing the child in the bath tub with a shower spray nozzle when one of the other children in the home turned the tap to hot, Rudkin said.
"The burn pattern was suspicious or peculiar in that it was strictly confined to her face and did not go to her scalp, ears or neck," he said.
"It would have been a significant amount of time there was hot water sprayed on this kid's face to cause this peculiar burn pattern ... It just didn't make sense this would have been a hot water burn."
Rudkin said it was also concerning that the foster parents waited 12 to 15 hours to bring the child to emergency.
"I think this kid would have been screaming in agony and they would have acted on it, but they didn't," he said.
After the child was transferred to Alberta Children's Hospital in Calgary, Rudkin said he followed up to see if anyone there had raised concerns about the nature of the injury. When he found out they had not, he contacted RCMP and Alberta child welfare officials to raise the alarm.
Rudkin said when he called back later to find out what was being done, he found the case had been closed.
The RCMP constable assigned to the case told him she visited the home and talked to the foster parents but didn't find anything worrisome or suspicious, Rudkin added.
The doctor said he was astonished he was not interviewed by police or child welfare investigators.
When he attempted to advocate for the child, Rudkin said he was referred to a series of child welfare officials who were "surly and defensive" and who said they couldn't talk about the case because of privacy concerns.
He said at the bare minimum, the children should be removed from the foster home pending a proper investigation by child welfare officials and police.
"I see kids with all sorts of injury all the time. I am trained as a family physician and I have been doing this for close to 30 years," he said. "Usually I can see the mechanism of the injury. It's pretty clear. This one? There's no way it could have happened like that. I just don't believe it."
But Telfer said RCMP investigated the home and later that day indicated they would not be pursuing charges as they felt the explanation was credible.
Telfer noted a child abuse team at the Alberta Children's Hospital also worked closely on the investigation. "We take any report of alleged abuse or mistreatment of a foster child seriously and we will take whatever action is necessary to ensure the safety and well-being of all of our children in care," she said. "We strive to have one of the most stringent screening processes for foster parents in the country."
Rudkin took his concerns to the Alberta Child and Youth Advocate, but that office only looks into systemic issues arising from serious injuries, and a spokesman said it didn't find any in its review of the file.
"We expect the decisions made by those responsible for her care will ensure her safety and her interests are the primary considerations," said the advocate's spokesman, Tim Chander.
"We have assigned an advocate to ensure this child's interests are being considered by decision-makers."
The situation arose after Human Services Minister Manmeet Bhullar launched an overhaul of the child welfare system to address concerns raised by an Calgary Herald-Edmonton Journal investigation last fall. The series revealed that child welfare workers frequently failed to follow basic policies and procedures in a range of areas from proper safety inspections of foster homes, completing criminal record checks on foster parents and other care providers and ensuring foster children received proper medical attention.
The newspaper investigation also found repeated instances of caseworkers failing to follow policy that required they have frequent face-toface meetings with foster parents and foster children. In some cases, children were not seen or foster parents visited for months.
But Telfer said workers now have regular contact with foster children and foster parents, and all foster homes undergo a home assessment before being approved and are reviewed annually.
"We monitor the safety and wellbeing of foster children after they are placed in a foster home," Telfer added.
Source: Calgary Herald
Death of Jaylene Star Redhead
May 26, 2014 permalink
The death of Jaylene Star Redhead is the kind of failure that social services wants everybody to know about. The Awasis agency of Child and Family Services (Manitoba) returned her to her mother Nicole Redhead. Nicole suffocated the baby.
What they want you to believe: If social services just had more money and power, more children could be kept in their benevolent care, and harm could be avoided. Recommendations by the judge investigating the case will result in exactly that.
Since the level of abuse in foster care is ten times that in parental care, every implementation of recommendations in this kind of case makes the situation of children even worse.
A news article and editorial are enclosed.
Shelter blamed in baby's killing
Supervision lax at facility where mom killed girl: judge
The judge presiding over the inquest into Nicole Redhead's killing of her daughter, Jaylene, says he was surprised by the lack of supervision at the Native Women's Transition Centre.
The judge presiding over the inquest into Nicole Redhead's killing of her daughter, Jaylene, says he was surprised by the lack of supervision at the Native Women's Transition Centre.
A lack of supervision at a Winnipeg transitional shelter helped lead to the death of a baby girl who was killed by her mother, a provincial judge has found.
Nicole Redhead suffocated her daughter, Jaylene, at the Native Women's Transition Centre, where alcohol and recreational drugs were used liberally.
The Awasis agency of Child and Family Services, which had returned the baby to Redhead even though they knew the mother had a history of severe crack addiction, had a mistaken belief about the level of supervision at NWTC, Judge Larry Allen found.
He cited a major communication gap between staff at CFS and staff at NWTC, which led to a faulty perception of the actual risk Redhead posed to her infant.
Allen's wide-reaching inquest report examining the death of baby Jaylene on June 29, 2009, was publicly released Friday.
The report's findings have prompted pledges from the province to improve aspects of the child-welfare system, including fostering greater collaboration between its various players.
Redhead is currently serving a 12-year prison sentence for manslaughter.
She admitted to killing Jaylene by suffocating her. The little girl also suffered physical abuse.
Redhead was nine months pregnant with another child at the time.
A mother to two prior children who had been seized by CFS, Redhead also saw Jaylene apprehended at birth in October 2007 because of a severe crack-cocaine addiction.
Redhead's personal background was marred by extreme trauma, abuse and addictions issues -- factors known to CFS.
She came to live at NWTC by January 2008 and by December was living in a more independent tier of housing there.
It was the fourth time Redhead had stayed at NWTC. She had chosen to leave on the prior occasions.
She regained custody of Jaylene under the provisions of a CFS "temporary supervision order."
A month later, she was back to using crack cocaine regularly.
The inquest was heard over 41 days between August 2012 and December 2013.
In addition to social workers, NWTC staffers and experts, it heard from past NWTC clients.
They described widespread and unchecked use of alcohol and drugs at the CFS-endorsed shelter around the time Redhead was living there.
Allen said a CFS requirement that Redhead undergo random drug testing was dropped "at some point" because it was felt she was staying at a "safe house."
A clinical psychologist who once assessed Redhead's capacity to parent called this development "a major miss."
CFS didn't know that not only was Redhead becoming intoxicated at NWTC but she was also taking weekend leaves, often leaving Jaylene with a relative to go "partying," the inquest heard.
In the months before Jaylene's killing, Redhead's CFS file was handed off to interim workers. Agency caseloads were consistently high and the social work suffered, the inquest heard.
One worker admitted not knowing why Redhead was living at NWTC or that she was considered a "high-risk" client with serious issues, Allen's report states.
The worker also believed NWTC to be a "secure facility," Allen wrote.
Her risk assessment was downgraded from high to low. Mere months later, Jaylene was killed.
This perception by CFS workers of NWTC as a "safe house" wasn't accurate, Allen suggests.
There was also an "inadequate understanding" between the two entities about which was responsible for what services for Redhead, Allen said.
"This misapprehension of just what NWTC was is one of the reasons for the tragedy of Jaylene Redhead's death," Allen states. "While it may be that the Awasis agency should have known more about where Nicole and Jaylene were going when away from the centre, they cannot be faulted for believing that NWTC was a safer environment than it actually was.
"Many of the (lawyers) involved in this matter and the court itself have been familiar with 'safe houses,' and NWTC in particular, for many years and I believe all of us were very much taken aback with the revelations as to drug use, lax enforcement of rules and lack of security at the facility," Allen wrote.
"The relationship between Awasis and NWTC appears to reveal poor communication of information and accordingly, poor information. Unfortunately, the reliance on this information was high. High reliance on poor information creates situations fraught with risk," Allen stated.
The death prompted an audit of NWTC by Manitoba's Child Protection Branch.
The centre's management has since undertaken extensive procedural and other changes, including adding after-hours staff and performing room checks for drugs and alcohol.
"The centre itself has gone a long way to rectifying perceived problems," Allen wrote. "The Awasis agency understandably appears to have misunderstood how NWTC was being run. It should never be the case again that the rules and practices of that facility are left as nebulous as they were preceding Jaylene Redhead's death," Allen said.
Source: Winnipeg Free Press
Kids in care are still in danger
An inquest report on the death of a 20-month-old girl returned to her drug-addicted mother goes through a litany of numerous critical details where a child-welfare agency failed in its duty to keep her safe. The stunning lack of attention to the risk posed to the child by her mother, ignorance of the mother's drug use, the return of the child to the woman without evidence it was safe to do so.
This reads like a story of many children who died while in the "care" of Child and Family Services agencies before fundamental reforms were triggered after the 2005 murder of five-year-old Phoenix Sinclair.
Yet, Jaylene Star Redhead was smothered by her drug-addled mother in mid-2009, while they were living at the Native Women's Transition Centre in Winnipeg. This, after stacks of investigations and inquiries and reports have piled up and regulations and rules written to prevent all that went wrong in this case.
Nicole Redhead, subsequently convicted of manslaughter and sent to prison for 12 years, suffocated her daughter to stop her from crying -- the toddler was found to carry numerous bruises from repeat abuse and beatings, including to her vagina.
Awasis, the agency in control of this case, employed workers at salaries $7,000 below counterparts elsewhere and loaded them with work. Some front-line staff juggled as many as 50 cases -- despite repeat recommendations from past inquiries compelling the province to address such conditions.
Documentation and filing, as a result, were not priorities, and so the risk Nicole posed to her child was obscured. The worker who agreed Nicole could live at the Native Women's Transition Centre in late 2007 had reviewed only a pamphlet on the centre and assumed it was a secure residence.
It wasn't. Doors were open, and residents regularly used drugs.
Nicole was abusing substances throughout her stay there, was leaving to party on the weekends and receiving no counselling adequate to her needs.
Awasis, relying on the uninformed reports from the transition centre, accepted that Nicole, who had lost her two younger sons due to drug abuse, was making progress and ready to live with her toddler, despite the fact the woman was again pregnant (for a second time while at the centre; she aborted the first).
Testimony at the inquest showed numerous flaws in supervision, assessment of risk, demands for documented proof of counselling -- there was no set agreement between the agency and the centre on a plan for Nicole.
Evidence showed Jaylene was almost fated to fall back into her mother's hands: Awasis's primary mission was to return children to parents as long as parents wanted to work toward that goal. The transition centre's focus, meanwhile, was to get abused or addicted women back on their feet.
It's clear no one had Jaylene as their primary concern. This despite the fact the safety of the child is the primary concern in the Child and Family Services Act.
Provincial court Judge Lawrence Allen made repeat recommendations in his inquest report, released Friday, flowing from the specifics of this specific death. They focus on adequate training, documentation, agreements for service and case-load management.
Much of this has been regulated previously.
Equally worrisome was his finding that the investigation report prepared by the Office of the Children's Advocate was all but unreliable -- due to the lack of time and money, people central to the tragedy were not interviewed. Further, there is an abiding distrust and finger-pointing between all the agencies involved.
Family Services Minister Kerri Irvin-Ross has been led to believe, in the wake of the recent inquiry into Phoenix Sinclair's death, that child-welfare agencies are getting in better shape to keep children safe. This inquest reveals is blissful ignorance.
Ms. Irvin-Ross needs to do an audit of case files to ferret out agencies and workers that continue to put the interests of dangerous parents ahead of the need to protect vulnerable children. The death of Jaylene Redhead shows huge holes still exist, and children are falling into them.
Source: Winnipeg Free Press
May 26, 2014 permalink
A class-action lawsuit is pending against the province of Ontario seeking damages for former foster children. Foster children suffer abuse that is subject to compensation through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board and proceedings for civil damages. In practice no one makes claims on behalf of foster children. The suit seeks to recover damages that would have been paid had the province diligently pursued claims on behalf of its wards.
Expand to see the summary of the case by the law firm Koskie Minsky LLP and a news report on the litigation. The amended statement of claim is Holly Papassay and Toni Grann vs the Queen (Ontario) (pdf).
This litigation may make a law firm rich and get modest compensation for middle-aged former foster children all on the backs of today's taxpayers. The real abuse is not addressed. The damage to foster children comes not from stealing their money but stealing their parents.
Children’s Aid Class Action
This class action claims that the Ontario government systematically failed to take all necessary steps to protect the legal rights and claims of children in its care.
In Ontario, a child may be removed from the care of his or her parents and put into the care of the Province for reasons that include physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, or neglect. In Ontario, permanent wards for whom the Province has legal responsibility are called Crown wards.
Crown wards were victims of criminal abuse, neglect and tortious acts as children, and as a result of which, were removed from the care of their families and placed under the care of the Province of Ontario. These children were also victims of abuse, neglect, and tortious acts while they were under the age of 18 and in the care of Ontario.
As a result of the crimes and torts committed against them prior to and during their Crown Wardship, the class members were entitled to apply for compensation from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board and to commence proceedings for civil damages.
The suit claims the province failed to take all necessary steps to protect the rights of Crown wards to apply for compensation from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board or to file personal injury claims for children who were abused prior to or while in the care of the Province.
The class action seeks to include all persons who became Crown Wards in Ontario on or after January 1, 1966, the date that the Province of Ontario voluntarily accepted legal responsibility and guardianship of Crown wards.
Please contact Koskie Minsky LLP with any questions:
Source: Koskie Minsky LLP
Former Ontario foster kids launch $110M lawsuit against province
OTTAWA — At five years old, Carole Chretien-Rankin was taken from her family in Ottawa’s Lowertown neighbourhood — she's never known why, she says — and her identify was erased.
Soon after she was taken to the Orleans home with a brood of biological and foster kids, her foster mother threw out her favourite dress, cropped her long, dark hair and gave her a different name.
Then, she alleges, she was pushed, slapped, punched and spat on, strapped until she couldn't sit down and molested by a foster brother, lured with the promise of pizza — an unheard-of treat.
Told she was so worthless even her own parents didn't want her, she was forced to cook and clean instead of playing like other kids, Chretien-Rankin charges.
"I was a slave in that home," she said.
At 53, she doesn't even know how she looked as a little girl.
"I have no pictures of myself when I was young — they never took them," she said. "I have no memories — it's devastating. ... It's like I never existed."
But now Chretien-Rankin wants to be seen and heard.
She is one of 350 people who've come forward to join a proposed $110-million class action lawsuit alleging that Ontario systematically failed to protect the legal rights of children who became Crown wards starting in 1966.
People who were abused and neglected — before and after being taken into care — could have applied for compensation from a fund for victims of crime or through a civil suit.
But they got nothing because the province that was supposed to act as their parent didn't make claims on their behalf, collect evidence or even tell them they could seek the money, argued lawyer Garth
Myers of Koskie Minsky LLP, who suspects the class action could include 40,000 or more people.
"Their lives would have changed dramatically," he said. "They would have been able to get therapy to deal with the abuse. A lot of these people are suffering to this day as a result of the abuse they sustained then.
"With early intervention, they could have commenced the healing process at an early stage."
Myers, part of the $67-million settlement for harm suffered by residents of three regional centres for people with developmental disabilities, calls it "just another example of the province failing our most vulnerable people."
None of the allegations have been proven in court and a judge has yet to certify a class action.
The province has filed notice it intends to defend itself, but a spokesman for the Ministry of the Attorney General declined to comment.
Chretien-Rankin, who says she was threatened with more beatings if she told anyone about the abuse, escaped her foster home at 16, reclaimed her real name and became a mother of two sons and licensed hairstylist.
She loved her job but says it became too much as struggled with depression, anxiety and memory problems.
"It's time for me to release the pain," she said. "It's time for me to heal. It's destroyed me long enough.
I went without way too much in my life because of fear."
Source: Sun News
No Hostility Allowed
May 26, 2014 permalink
A British father has lost his son to adoption because he showed hostility to social workers determined to take away his baby. The law expects that parents will show only love for professionals removing their children.
Five-month-old baby to be put up for adoption because father gets angry with social workers
A five-month-old baby who has still not been given a name will be put up for adoption because of his father’s hostility to social workers, a High Court judge has ruled.
The case will raise concerns about the impact of poor parental relationships with social workers on a child’s care arrangements.
The public ruling was made by Mrs Justice Parker following a private hearing at a family court in Watford. The family cannot be identified but Hertfordshire County Council was named as the local authority involved.
Mrs Justice Parker decided the five-month-old boy should be taken into care after being told how his father had assaulted one social worker and threatened to kill another. He appeared to have become frustrated by what he saw as an “invasive” approach by social services.
The judge said she thought he could be dangerous and that the mother made excuses for her partner rather than facing up to his behaviour.
But the baby’s mother criticised the judge, saying: “We haven't had a fair hearing and we're going to appeal. I don't think I have learning disability and the judge hasn't given me a chance to prove that.
“And my partner only gets angry with social workers - no one else. The judge hasn't taken account of that.”
She said the baby had not been given a name because her religion required it to have a naming ceremony.
Source: Independent (UK)
May 23, 2014 permalink
Mother Jessica L Murphy stabbed her son Jacob Noe to death in North Buffalo New York on May 14. The news is treating her as stark raving mad. That is a good possibility.
The Buffalo news has overlooked the chance that social services precipitated the death through its threat of intervention. An occasional mother elects to kill her own children because the pain of death is less than the pain of losing a living child. Some other mothers who made this dreadful decision were:
Mother’s ‘saving’ of son is tragic epitaph
N. Buffalo woman held in fatal knifing of boy
A mother who was charged with killing her 8-year-old son in their North Buffalo apartment early Wednesday morning explained to police that she was “saving him from going to hell.”
Authorities said that mental illness no doubt played a role in Jessica L. Murphy’s stabbing of her son, Jacob Noe.
“Everyone has to die. He had to die. I am saving him from going to hell,” Murphy told police in a statement that was later filed at Buffalo City Court.
And when officers tried to obtain more information, she said: “How can you ask me this after I just murdered my baby?”
After her arraignment on a charge of second-degree murder, the 29-year-old mother was taken to the Erie County Holding Center, where she was placed under “enhanced” watch by members of the mental health staff.
Jacob was a second-grader at Tapestry Charter School in North Buffalo and was known for his intelligence and his love of dogs, according to friends of the family and neighbors.
On Murphy’s Facebook page, two impressions emerged from her entries – one of a devoted mother who took her son on trips and baked cupcakes for school and the other of a woman who wrestled with fear and became annoyed when concern was expressed for her well-being.
Last Thursday, she wrote:
“I guess people are calling my mom to complain that they are worried about me because I like to post weird things on here. Please stop calling my mom. I assure you that I am 100% okay with who I am. I cannot be anything but my self and i will not be otherwise for the sake of keeping you from worrying. delete me if you can’t help but worry. its not my problem, but yours.”
That same day, she also wrote:
“nobody knows what is best for me but myself … I have to do what I want to or what I feel is right with whatever I already know, weather that be a great deal or nothing at all … and take whatever risks my nature is brave enough to allow. …”
In March, she wrote, “Goodbye Fear … I had to get to know everything about you in order to conquer you, but you wont be seeing me ever again.”
That same month she and Jacob took a vacation to Disney World. Last month they went on a camping trip to Allegany State Park with other family members.
Wednesday, neighbors said they had a difficult time reconciling the Jessica Murphy they knew with the one accused of fatally stabbing her son in the chest just before 1:45 a.m. in their second-floor apartment on Lovering Avenue, north of Hertel Avenue.
“We heard the screaming: ‘Help me, help me.’ It was a woman screaming,” next-door neighbor Leslie Alagna said of the words that shattered the normally quiet block. “A minute later, there were police cars and an ambulance on the street. It was terrible.”
Jacob died at about 2:30 a.m. in Women & Children’s Hospital.
Alagna recalled happier times last summer. “I’d see them out in the backyard, him and a baby in a blow-up swimming pool.”
Erica Kuntz, who lives downstairs from Murphy, described Jacob as an “awesome” child who wanted to play with her two Boston terriers whenever he spotted them. “He always wanted to play with Harvey and Chip,” Kuntz said, adding that she never observed Murphy acting in a strange manner.
Nancy Beenau, out walking her dog Comet, said Jacob and his mother were a familiar and apparently happy sight on a street whose residents are proud of their diverse neighborhood.
“No one wins in this,” Beenau said. “It doesn’t matter where you live, stuff happens. It was a 3-year-old and a 14-year-old on Monday.”
That shooting on Fennimore Avenue in the city’s Bailey-Kensington section, which Beenau referred to, critically wounded the two boys, who remain at Women & Children’s, where authorities say they are recovering.
Unlike the cheerful Facebook photos Murphy posted of herself and her son, a mug shot released Wednesday by police shows her blankly staring at the camera. It was taken hours before her appearance in court, where Public Defender Kenneth L. Goldberg entered a plea of not guilty on her behalf.
At the request of Assistant District Attorney James F. Bargnesi, who heads the Homicide Bureau in the Erie County District Attorney’s Office, Murphy was held without bail. A hearing was set for 2 p.m. Monday in City Court.
Source: Buffalo News
May 21, 2014 permalink
Bernadette Debay got her baby out of the clutches of CAS, but they won't let her breastfeed. At least, not until tests in late July. By that time she will be dry.
Has anyone here had to deal with CAS not allowing them to breastfeed even after the infants are returned to their care? They did hair follicle drug testing which very well should have been clean but apparently I tested positive for THC so they refuse to allow me to breastfeed until they do another test at the end of July! I'm starting to dry out even with pumping and taking fenugreek. Any advice would be awesome
Source: Facebook, Stop the CAS ...
All Scottish Parents on Probation
May 21, 2014 permalink
The Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 was passed by parliament on February 19, 2014 and received royal assent on March 27. Every child in Scotland will be assigned a named person at birth. A comment by a scholar is enclosed. Last year Christopher Booker commented on the proposal.
Within a few years of implementing this regime there will be child deaths following inaction by the named person. Public outrage nurtured by social services may result in prosecutions for negligence. Or, if unions protect them, policy and legislation could be altered to provide more powers and immunities for the named person. Either way, he will be taking responsibility for the welfare of the child, a responsibility that can only be exercised by visiting the family home, interviewing the child and investigating the child's contacts in education, religion, medicine and recreation. For parents, the named person will serve the same role that a probation officer serves for convicted criminals.
‘Named persons’: child protection at its most dystopian
About 10 years ago, I decided to write a dystopian novel about a future where the idea of privacy had completely collapsed; where each child born was given a live-in ‘support worker’ who helped the parent manage while ensuring the child was safe from the parent’s problematic behaviour. The very ideas of private intimacy and personal responsibility no longer existed in this futuristic dystopia; safety had become society’s only guiding principle, and all relationships were now mediated through a state-paid professional.
Of course, the book was never written, and now, following the passing of the new Children and Young People (Scotland) Act, it has become almost obsolete. It is no longer a futuristic fantasy that every child will have their own ‘support worker’ assigned at birth. It is soon to become a reality.
The new act will mean that, from birth, each child in Scotland will have a specific state-appointed professional, a ‘named person’, to oversee their interests, and, in particular, to oversee their safety. Initially, this named person is likely to be a health visitor or midwife, the role later being taken over by school teachers who will have the ‘duty’ and responsibility to act as the child’s guardian. The regulation of data-sharing between professionals is also to be loosened, giving the guardians new legal authority to access data from the police, local councils, NHS files and even, potentially, information accessed from Young Scot leisure cards.
The children’s minister, Aileen Campbell, has been dismissive of those people who have criticised the act as state snooping, or, as many Christian groups have put it, an ‘attack on the family’. For Campbell, the new powers and duties being given to the state guardians are simply another service to help families in trouble and further ensure that children are protected in society. Indeed, Aileen Campbell at times appears to be nonplussed by her critics, incapable of seeing why her caring approach is not instantly celebrated. The claims of state snoops undermining the family, she argues, are simply ‘misunderstandings’ and ‘misrepresentations’ of the new law. When someone raised the point that this act undermined the role of parents in child-rearing, Campbell, somewhat comically, replied, ‘we recognise that parents also have a role’.
However, given the increasing ways in which all children are being categorised as ‘vulnerable’, the way in which all professionals are being educated to put child safety at the top of their agenda, and at time in which ‘early intervention’ is promoted as the only rational approach to solving social problems, there is a serious risk that the relationship between the ‘named person’ and parents will become one predicated on suspicion. Given that the red line for when it is appropriate to intervene in a child’s life is also being downgraded, from the child being seen as at serious risk of harm to mere concerns about their ‘wellbeing’, the potential for unnecessary and potentially destructive state intrusion into family life with this law is significant.
The Scottish government appears to be blind to the potential this new act has for transforming the relationship between parents and the state, and for degrading the very meaning of privacy. Likewise, the potential this approach has for sullying relationships between teachers (who will make up the majority of named persons) and parents is ignored. There is also a great danger here that by incorporating every single child in the child-safety rubric, the few children who need state intervention in their lives will get lost in this vast system and not get the support they need. As one concerned parent has noted, when you are looking for a needle in a haystack, why make the haystack bigger?
Stuart Waiton is a sociology and criminology lecturer at Abertay University in Dundee. He is organising the No To Named Persons Conference in Edinburgh on Monday 9 June. For more information, and to reserve your place, click here.
Lenore Skenazy comments.
Every Child in Scotland to Be Supervised by State-Appointed Busybody
Imagine the very worst home a child could grow up in: No food in the fridge, parents strung out on drugs, the children covered with scabs and beaten regularly. You would want someone to step in and save the kids.
And then there's Scotland.
Scotland wants to treat all families as potentially abusive and appoint a "named person" (that is, a guardian) as soon as the child is born and up through age 18 to oversee the parenting. This "shadow parent" would be empowered by the government under the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act, which will take effect in 2016.
It is based on the idea that a person who has been named by the state, touched on the shoulder, has a superior authority and insight to others. Those who have been ‘named’ are seen as better qualified to ‘safeguard’ the wellbeing of a whole nation’s children. Therefore, concern for children’s wellbeing becomes a state-appointed position.
...This is a new kind of parenting-by-surveillance.
The day-to-day role of a named person is to follow ‘reports’ about a child, to keep an eye on their files. They will have rights to see private medical reports, and to request information about that child from other agencies (there is a legal ‘duty to help named person’).... The other aspect of a named person’s role is to propose ‘interventions’. They will have a role in drawing up a ‘child’s plan’ if a child is found to have a ‘wellbeing need’: this plan will outline the ‘targeted intervention which requires to be provided… in relation to the child’.
Therefore, in substance, the role of the named person is not actually to supplant the family, to state-raise children, but rather to insert a surveying, coercive authority – a spy – in the midst of every family.
This idea grows out of the conviction that Free-Range Kids (my book, blog, and movement), exists to extinguish: That all children are in danger at all times, and hence need constant oversight. Sometimes it's the police arresting a dad for letting his kids play outside, sometimes it's the police arresting a mom for letting her children walk to the pizza shop, and sometimes it's even the local library reporting a mom who let her kids, 12 and 15, walk home without coats on a night the authorities deemed too cold.
True danger lies in the notion that the state should decide if you are parenting your kids correctly. The care of your own children is not up to you.
For more stories like this one, check out Lenore Skenazy's Free-Range Kids blog.
CAS Not on NDP Radar
May 20, 2014 permalink
In the last Ontario legislature the NDP led the effort to get ombudsman oversight of children's aid societies. Will the election of an NDP government next month result in action? Maybe not. Divorced mother Rhonda Nordlander asked Dufferin-Caledon NDP candidate Rehya Rebecca Yazbek for her policy on CAS. Her answer: "It’s not on our radar right now and the concern right now is their funding cuts."
May 20, 2014
NDP REHYA YAZBEK TELLS A PARENT "CAS ISSUES ARE NOT ON THEIR RADAR" AND THEY ARE MORE CONCERNED ABOUT FUNDING CUTS OBLIVIOUS TO THE MISAPPROPRIATION OF CAS FUNDING
On a Saturday May 17th outside a Zehrs Supermarket in Orangeville, Ontario NDP candidate Ms. Rehya Yazbek (Dufferin-Caledon) responded to a question posed by a single mother. Rhonda Nordlander asked the question, “What does the NDP plan to do about the issues with the Children‘s Aid Societies?” Ms. Yazbeck responded “It’s not on our radar right now and the concern right now is their funding cuts.”
Ms. Nordlander, like many other parents are of the impression that the Children’s Aid Society (CAS) issues were on the NDP’s radar when MPP Monique Taylor NDP (Hamilton Mountain) tabled Bill 42 in the Legislature in 2013. This is now a very big concern as many parents have been mislead to believe that the NDP would bring Ombudsman oversight to the Ontario Children’s Aid Societies.
Are the NDP now backing away from their promises and have they flipped on their position because of campaign funding and pressure from the Ontario Public Service Employee’s Union? Dufferin Child and Family Services employee's are unionized as are other branches of the Society in Ontario and now it looks as if the NDP is backing up those Unions instead of the parents who have been calling for CAS oversight by the Ombudsman.
In May 2013 Bill 42 passed second reading but remained at the standing committee level for debate when the election was called. It’s been put on the Liberal’s back burner. Premier Kathleen Wynne’s proposal of Bill 179 doesn’t go far enough and only gives the Provincial Advocate Irwin Elman oversight to act on complaints brought to him by children and youth (not parents). This leaves parents powerless once again with their CAS cases held up for years in secret courts.
Nordlander says the secrecy that goes on in child protection cases hides the real issues from the public and politicians. Over the past 2 years her complaints have fallen upon deaf ears in the government and in the Ontario Family Courts. Ms. Nordlander’s story was published in the local newspaper but recently was taken down along with another story about her efforts to access justice as a Self Represented Litigant (SRL). She feels as though she is being silenced in order to keep the serious issues at Dufferin Child and Family Services a secret.
A concern of Ms. Nordlander’s is the waste of public funding that has gone on in her CAS case where by the time her case reaches the status review hearing in August she will have been before the courts and Child and Family Services review board over 20 times and DCAFS has been having their lawyers try and silence her complaints.
The article published in the May 8, 2014 edition by Tabitha Wells Reporter for the Orangeville Citizen exposed the injustices, loop holes and unconstitutional disposition of Nordlander’s CAS case. It also exposed that DCAFS refused her children services for 2 years and that many of the child protection workers, managers and the Executive Director at DCAFS have their social work memberships suspended, cancelled or are not registered members of the Ontario College of Social Work and Social Service Workers (OCSWSSW) because membership is voluntary.
Ms. Nordlander wants to make the public aware of the NDP’s flipped position so that the public is not mislead on June 12th when they cast their ballots and she wants to see her articles back on the net to raise awareness to the secrecy, injustices and misappropriation of funding that goes on in these cases.
For more information and an interview please contact: Rhonda Nordlander at 519-278-4060 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Orangeville Citizen February 21, 2013 and May 8, 2014 available upon request.
Source: Facebook, Rhonda Nordlander
Nickel Belt MPP France Gélinas jumped into the controversy with assurances that an NDP government will provide for ombudsman oversight of municipalities and other public sectors. Our copy of Andrea Horwath’s Plan that Makes Sense (pdf) does not contain the word ombudsman and does not otherwise discuss children's aid. The plan does include several provisions to increase provincial spending on programs for children.
Gélinas: NDP platform would expand ombudsman oversight
Office would gain expanded power over public sector
Ontario Ombudsman André Marin would get oversight of municipalities and other public sectors under the platform released by NDP Leader Andrea Horwath on Thursday.
Nickel Belt MPP France Gélinas said the ombudsman’s office would also play the role of the patient ombudsman, something she has been on the Liberals to do for years.
“Not every single word makes it into a platform,” Gélinas said, when asked why those measures weren’t spelled out in the party’s election platform. “It is implicitly included when Andrea talks about transparency and accountability.
“We did not describe in detail what transparency and accountability mean. In health care, and in children's services, it would mean the ombudsman. In other parts of the government, it would be open to the Freedom of Information Act, or capturing more people on the Sunshine List.”
In the weeks before the election was called, Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne announced that the ombudsman would gain increased oversight powers, including over municipalities. The office previously was an option as closed door meetings investigator for municipalities.
Sudbury city council fired Marin in 2013 after a serious of public clashes. At the time, Marin said it made little sense to give cities the power pick and choose who investigated them. Wynn’s proposed legislation would have taken away that power, as well as expand the scope of his authority.
Gélinas said her party decided to go with Marin rather than create new position.
“We prefer to give the existing (ombudsman's office) more power, rather than bring in new ways to do transparency and accountability,” she said.
“Whether we're talking for municipalities, for children's services, for the health care sector, whether we're talking long-term care or hospital care, we're talking the ombudsman.”
She stressed it’s the office that would receive the authority, whomever holds the title of ombudsman,
“(Marin) is in the office now. We have no intention of getting rid of him, but I think they have five-year terms or something like that,” she said.
“So it's the office – whether he's there or not, the powers would continue.”
Gélinas also said spending plans announced Thursday would have the four-laning of Highway 69 completed by 2016. The work will be paid for partially by money committed by the Liberals, as well as new funds.
The project has been delayed while environmental assessments were completed for the entire project.
“So the whole thing got put on hold,” Gélinas said.
“Now that the environmental assessment has been (almost) completed, that money is still there.
“And moving forward, we are committing to four-laning 30 kilometres of highway every year in the North.”
A fund was also announced that cities could use to fund projects like the Maley Drive extension, she said.
The NDP platform unveiled Thursday includes a host of new spending plans, which would be funded through a mix of tax increases and strategies to find savings in existing government programs. Like the Liberals, the NDP vows to balance the books by 2017-2018.
For Northern Ontario, the party commits to spending money right away on developing infrastructure for the Ring of Fire, although costs associated with those investments aren't detailed in the plan. Total new spending estimates are $1.8 billion in 2014-2015, rising to $2.86 billion in 2017-2018.
The party also plans to restore passenger service on Ontario Northland at a cost of $20 million a year, and $40 million would be spent in 2014-2015 to buy 200 more snowplows and sand trucks.
Other highlights for the North include a plan to open 50 family health clinics at a cost of $75 million a year, $70 million to eliminate the waiting list for acute care beds, $30 million to hire more nurse practitioners to work in hospital emergency departments. A tax credit for caregivers would cost $250 million by 2017.
A $29-billion fund would be used over 10 years for transit and transportation projects across the province. The full platform can be found at www.ontariondp.ca. Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne is expected to unveil her party's platform Sunday in Thunder Bay.
Source: Northern Life
Addendum: Rhonda followed up at a meeting of candidates. She held up a sign:
DCAFS CAS misspending, unregistered social workers and cyw's wrecking families, Stop secret courts, CAS taking away children with improper investigations, denying grandparents rights to see children, limited 1.5 hours per week access.
NPD Reyha Yazbeck rolled her eye's when I held up a sign in silent protest at the debate tonight. She has no understanding of the CAS issues
Nikki Priaulx I did watch her roll her eyes when you held up the sign. I have to say I felt discriminated with her constant "middle class" toss out. I am a poor single mother with a child who has ASD and is having issues with CAS! She came across as my vote or voice doesn't have any value to her. Well my voice has value and its also used to advocate for my son! And my voice also backs the Ombudsmen 100% in CAS oversight! As well as the fact Dufferin county has very little programs for children with disabilities. SHAME ON REYHA YAZBECK for behaving like a snotty, too good for anyone, narrow minded NDP!
I watched Syliva Jones turn her face away too! My heart strings won't be tugged on that easily by your fake promises of helping people with disabilities be more accepted and recognised in the community! I guess the jobs she refers to helping them get is serving her pancakes and strawberries! After all there are extremely limited programs for them and the sunshine list of DCFS workers grows! PUT THE MONEY WHERE IT BELONGS SYLVIA WITH THOSE KIDS FUTURES!!!
Source: Facebook, Rhonda Nordlander
Unhealthy Kids Canada
May 20, 2014 permalink
Active Healthy Kids Canada has released a report on physical activity by Canadian children. In comparisons with other countries Canada comes near the bottom of the list. In overall physical activity Canada is shamed by England, New Zealand, Finland and even third-world counties Mexico, Kenya and Nigeria. Will anyone notice the connection to arresting parents for letting their children play outside?
Less is more, global comparisons on physical activity reveal
The 2014 Active Healthy Kids Canada Report Card goes global for the first time
TORONTO, May 20, 2014 /CNW/ - For the first time, the Active Healthy Kids Canada Report Card looks at how Canadian child and youth physical activity stacks up against 14 other countries. The Report Card, released by Active Healthy Kids Canada in partnership with ParticipACTION and the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute's Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group (CHEO-HALO), reveals Canada is among the top countries for having well-developed physical activity infrastructure and programs, but trails at the back of the global pack for overall physical activity levels—other developed countries included in the report saw similar results. The global comparisons confirm that we've built it, so why are they not coming? The answer requires an honest look at Canada's culture of convenience—doing more in less time—which may be at direct odds with promoting children's health. In some cases, perhaps less is more.
"Our society values efficiency—we build more, do more and impose more structure—but perhaps this approach is somewhat misguided when it comes to getting kids more active," says Dr. Mark Tremblay, Chief Scientific Officer, Active Healthy Kids Canada, and Director of HALO. "A child's day is so structured that there is no room for free play or walking or biking to school. Having plenty of local playgrounds is important, but what if they never get used? To increase daily physical activity levels for all kids, we must encourage a mix of opportunities, such as organized sport, active play and active transportation."
When it comes to getting kids physically active, there is a tendency in Canada to prioritize structured opportunities. Canadian parents look to organized activities (e.g. dance recitals and sport leagues) and schools to get their kids moving, many local arenas and gyms are booked for organized activities, and there is a structured physical activity curriculum in place at schools in every province and territory. But, these means alone cannot make up for the lack of opportunities for spontaneous movement—such as getting to places on foot and playing freely outdoors—in our kids' daily lives.
"Overall, child and youth physical activity levels remain alarmingly low—the Report Card tells us that only five per cent of five- to 17-year-olds are meeting the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines," says Elio Antunes, President and CEO, ParticipACTION. "That's why we need to encourage a wider variety of opportunities to improve the grade on kids' physical activity levels, and in some cases we need to step back and do less. Many parents see active transportation and active play as inconvenient or unsafe, which results in kids spending their free time indoors being sedentary. In fact, these are great, cost-efficient ways to get kids moving more."
New Zealand and Mozambique lead the pack with "B" grades in Overall Physical Activity. The global comparisons reveal that New Zealand seems to have found success in providing a balance of opportunities for organized activities and active play, with most kids saying they spend an average of 78 minutes per day in free play. And, in Mozambique, where the majority of the population lives in rural environments, high physical activity levels consist largely of transport and domestic chores.,
"Considered in a global context, Canada is a developed country, but it might be fair to say Canada is overdeveloped when it comes to its physical activity infrastructure and programs for children and youth," says Jennifer Cowie Bonne, CEO, Active Healthy Kids Canada. "Canada will never reap the benefits of our well developed policies, programs and places unless we relax our grasp and give our kids room to move. Parents and families, policymakers, schools and community leaders must work together to make it easier for our kids to make the active choice, more often."
More on the global comparisons
For its 10th anniversary Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth, Active Healthy Kids Canada brought research teams from 15 countries across five continents together to establish and compare grades, and seek solutions to the worldwide childhood inactivity crisis. Countries that participated in the international comparison process, based on the Active Healthy Kids Canada Report Card framework, included: Australia, Canada, Colombia, England, Finland, Ghana, Ireland, Kenya, Mexico, Mozambique, New Zealand, Nigeria, Scotland, South Africa and the United States. The results of the global comparisons and Canada's Report Card were shared with 700 international delegates at the first-ever Global Summit on the Physical Activity of Children, hosted by Active Healthy Kids Canada on May 19 to 22 in Toronto.
Among the ten grades assigned to Canada, key grades and comparisons include:
- "D-" for Overall Physical Activity – Mozambique and New Zealand lead with a B, and Scotland lags with an F.
- "C+" in Organized Sport Participation – New Zealand leads with a B and Mozambique lags with an F.
- "B+" in Community & the Built Environment – Australia leads with an A-, and Mexico and Mozambique lag with an F.
- "D" in Active Transportation – Finland, Kenya, Mozambique and Nigeria lead with a B, and United States lags with an F.
- "F" in Sedentary Behaviours – Ghana and Kenya lead with a B, and Scotland, South Africa and Nigeria also received an F.
- "C+" in School – England leads with an A- and Colombia lags with an F.
Full copies of the short-form and long-form Report Card can be found at www.activehealthykids.ca.
The global comparisons were also published today in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health, Supplemental Issue on the Global Summit on the Physical Activity of Children, available at: http://journals.humankinetics.com/jpah-supplements-special-issues/jpah-volume-11-2014-global-summit-on-the-physical-activity-of-children.
About the Report Card
The Active Healthy Kids Canada Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth is the most comprehensive annual assessment of child and youth physical activity in Canada. Active Healthy Kids Canada works with its strategic partners to develop and disseminate the Report Card. The Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute's Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group (CHEO-HALO), works with an interdisciplinary Research Work Group that includes top researchers from across Canada, to ensure that the Report Card includes the most up-to-date evidence about physical activity for children and youth. ParticipACTION provides strategic communications expertise and support to produce and deliver the Report Card.
Production of the Report Card is possible through support from The Lawson Foundation, RBC, the George Weston Foundation through its Wonder+Cares funding program, the Heart and Stroke Foundation, Loblaw Companies Limited, the MLSE Foundation, General Mills Canada, the Jays Care Foundation, Canadian Tire Active At School and provincial and territorial governments through the Interprovincial Sport and Recreation Council (ISRC).
- Maddison R, Turley M, Legge N, Mitchelhill G. A national survey of children and young people's physical activity and dietary behaviours in New Zealand: 2008/09. Auckland, New Zealand: Clinical Trials Research Unit, The University of Auckland; 2010.
- Prista A, Picardo S, Ribeiro E, Libombo J, Daca T. Results from the Mozambique 2014 Report Card on Physical Activity in Children and Adolescents J Phys Act Health 2014;11(suppl.1)
- Wachira LJM, Muthuri SK, Tremblay MS, Onywera VO. Results from Kenya's 2014 Report Card on the Physical Activity and Body Weights of Children and Youth. J Phys Act Health 2014;11(suppl.1)
SOURCE Active Healthy Kids Canada
For further information: or copies of the Report Card, or to schedule an interview, please contact: Meaghan Beech, Hill+Knowlton Strategies, W: 416-413-4650, M: 647.463.4467, email@example.com; Katherine Janson ParticipACTION, W: 416-913-1471, M: 647.717.8674, kjanson@participACTION.com
Source: CNW (Canada News Wire)
May 20, 2014 permalink
It took 47 years and for sisters Eva Rushton and Sandra Barron to undo their separation by Nova Scotia foster care. Police and child services stonewalled their reunification efforts, but Facebook enabled them to find each other.
Long-lost sisters reunited with help of Facebook page
Saturday was a special day for sisters Eva Rushton and Sandra Barron.
They were reunited after being separated for 47 years. Barron flew in from Ontario for the long-awaited reunion.
The sisters were placed in separate foster care homes in Nova Scotia when Barron was five years old and Rushton was two years old.
Rushton started searching for her sister when she was 18, but she couldn’t get the information she needed to find her from police or Child Services.
This past winter, Rushton made a new attempt to find Barron by making a Facebook page called ‘Missing Sister Rushton.’ After a few days, the page was shared more than 13,000 times and the sisters eventually reconnected.
From that day on, the pair have been in touch regularly.
“It’s like a puzzle and now the missing piece is there. I’ve got all I need now. It’s nice to say you know your family,” said Barron.
Foster Mom Attacked
May 20, 2014 permalink
Philadelphia foster mother Mamie Chess was severely injured in an attack by her teenaged foster son Antoine. After the attack the boy took the keys to her SUV crashed it in Phoenixville, 30 kilometers away. The reporter gives no hint what happened in the past to generate such anger in a foster boy.
Cops: Teen beat foster parent, crashed stolen SUV
GREG JENKINS was awakened early Monday morning by a "loud thump" against the side of his rowhouse in West Philly.
"It sounded like something was about to come through the walls," Jenkins said Monday night outside his home, on Daggett Street near Girard Avenue.
He had no idea that the noises were blows being rained down on his elderly next-door neighbor by her 15-year-old foster son.
"I always got a bad vibe from that kid, to be honest," he said, "but I never pictured anything like this; he never struck me as violent."
Jenkins' 70-year-old neighbor, whom he identified as Mamie Chess, remained in critical but stable condition Monday night after the attack, police said. Meanwhile, her foster son, whom Jenkins identified only as Antoine, was in police custody, facing criminal charges in both the city and Chester County.
To hear police tell it, Chess was savagely beaten by Antoine over a petty argument, allegedly over the teen's curfew.
Lt. John Walker of Southwest Detectives gave the following account:
The incident started just before 4 a.m. Monday, when Antoine came home unannounced. When Chess began to chastise him for staying out so late, the teen snapped, grabbing a nearby table and swinging it at the woman who had raised him since he was 3 years old.
Antoine's blow hit Chess in the chest, fracturing her sternum. But he didn't stop there: He grabbed a nearby picture frame and hit her over the head with it, causing major bruising and cuts.
He then grabbed his caretaker and threw her down a flight of stairs, continuing to beat her as she lay bloodied and bruised in the home's basement.
At that point, he apparently decided enough was enough, snatching Chess' car keys and purse and fleeing the house in her Chevrolet Trailblazer.
A few hours later, that car was involved in a collision about 19 miles away, in Phoenixville, according to police.
Antoine was allegedly "driving at a high rate of speed and in a reckless fashion," and struck another car, Tredyffrin Township Police said in a statement. The teen remained at the scene, and later was charged with theft, reckless endangerment and related offenses.
He was taken back into the city, where he was charged with attempted murder, aggravated assault and related offenses for his alleged attack, Walker said.
Back on Daggett Street, Greg Jenkins was still reeling from the news.
"Living in this city, I don't want to say you get numb to these things, but...
"I'm not gonna say things like this never happen here, because this neighborhood ain't Bel-Air, but it's hard to handle hearing about this."
Source: Philadelphia Daily News
May 20, 2014 permalink
While public discussion of same-sex marriage focuses on love and tolerance, the part that matters to families is adoption. As soon as same-sex marriage is legal, or as in Utah, approaching legality, the first practical application of the new marriage licenses is to mediate same-sex adoption. In the enclosed article, LGBT advocacy groups express their displeasure over adoption delays in Utah.
Activists react to UT same sex adoption stay - WDAM.COM - TV 7 - News, Weather and Sports
Activists react to UT same sex adoption stay
SALT LAKE CITY (KSTU/CNN) - Some same sex couples are upset Sunday morning, after a judge issued a stay Friday night that keeps them from adopting children.
LGBT advocacy groups say many of those couples were already raising adopted children, and a lower court granted parental rights to both partners if they got married after it became legal in Utah.
The attorney general had not complied with earlier court orders, instead seeking this stay.
He said there's too much confusion as Utah's law is being tested in federal and state courts.
The president of a conservative group agrees.
"The decision was a wise decision it should have been the same with marriages," said Gayle Armes, president of a Utah conservative group. "District judges were ordered the state to grant these adoptions to gay couples that were already married so to take that away is very hurtful and frustrating for families."
The State Supreme Court has not yet scheduled a hearing over adoption rights for Utah's same-sex marriages.
Beware of Child Protectors
May 20, 2014 permalink
Lenore Skenazy published a letter from a mother in Washington DC who let two girls, age 6 and 7, walk outdoors by themselves. Her experience supports our contention that today the biggest source of danger to children is professional child protectors along with their army of members of the public nourished on propaganda about stranger danger.
To the man who called the police on two little girls instead of calling their parents:
A couple of weeks ago, on a Sunday at around noon, my family were visiting family friends. Our older child, 6, and theirs, 7, had been playing games on a tablet and getting underfoot all morning, so we sent them outside to get some fresh air. We told them that they could go down to the creek in the woods behind the house, visible from the back windows, where they had been many times before. We made them wear appropriate footwear and packed extra socks and tissues for stuffy noses. We gave them explicit instructions to stay on the near side of the creek. No matter how many times I have reviewed that decision since then, it still always looks like good parenting to me.
Shortly after the girls got to the creek, however, they made another decision—they decided to continue through the woods on a route they knew, walk past the shopping center on the other side, and loop back through another section of woods to the house. They wanted to show that they could do it. This was undoubtedly a poor decision, and it has certainly been made abundantly clear to both of them that this is so. It was not, however, inherently unsafe, or something they were not capable of. It was a poor decision simply because they were disobeying their parents, and creating a situation in which, had anything gone wrong, we would have had no idea where to look for them. Both girls knew where they were going and how to get back, and our daughter’s friend knew her phone number and address. Both girls know how to behave safely around cars. Both girls have even had some self-defense training, if it should come to that. They are competent, responsible little girls, which is why it was so surprising to us that they did what they did—we gave them the freedom they were granted precisely because nothing they had previously done would have lead us to expect this of them, and we trusted them.
They were at the furthest extent of their looping route, less than a thousand feet from the house and twelve minutes after they left us, when they encountered you as they walked through the shopping center, and you stopped and questioned them. They spoke readily to you, because neither of them have been taught that they must not talk to strangers. Strangers are simply people that we don’t know yet, and we refuse to train our children to fear people or shut themselves off from new connections.
I’m sure that you acted in good faith, sir. I can easily guess that you are a product of a culture that has made much of “stranger danger” and become very uncomfortable with the idea of children on their own, not protected from the oft-imagined lurking predator. But I don’t know why you didn’t call us when you were given a phone number that would have reached us immediately. Perhaps you genuinely believed that any parent who would let their children slip away like that was deserving of police scrutiny. Perhaps you have no children, and so imagine that parents can always have perfect control over their young charges, which we clearly didn’t. I very much wish you had just called us—we would have been there in minutes, our children would have been amply horrified by the consequences of their actions, and we would have been duly warned to extend them less trust for a time.
Whatever your reason, you decided that the appropriate thing to do would be to call the police. Did you call 911, I wonder? Did you actually consider two calm, articulate little girls on a walk to be an emergency? I don’t know. Maybe you are just a very firm respecter of authority.
The police came with admirable speed. Somewhat less admirably, they chose to put the girls in the cruiser (with no car seats) rather than, again, resorting to the completely available option of calling their parents to come get them. They brought the girls back to us a total of twenty minutes after they first walked out of the door. They could have just told us what happened and admonished us to keep better tabs on our children. They could have just handed over their official-looking little card about age restrictions (which they incorrectly believed to be law, but which in fact were only county recommendations) and told us not to let it happen again. But you see, when you call the police, this creates pressure on the police to Do Something. So what they did was arrest us—one parent from each family, our choice, with no chance for private conference to decide. They tried to arrest us for felony neglect of a minor, but apparently even the magistrate thought that was ridiculous, so they went for misdemeanor contributing to the delinquency of a minor instead. They informed us that we would be reported to the Department of Social Services and probably contacted by Child Protective Services — which we have been.
Now, we have carefully read all of the relevant laws and recommendations since then, and it is clear to us that we have not actually committed any such crime, for the principle reason that our daughters are not delinquent. They are not “in need of services,” they do not habitually run away, they are certainly not neglected, and they harmed no one. We hope and believe, therefore, that when our court date at long last comes up, we will be acquitted of the charge and we sincerely hope that our records will be expunged, because if they are not, you probably realize that having a criminal record of any sort can be very limiting to one’s career and opportunities.
By now, as you have been subpoenaed for the trials of both families, you probably realize a little of what you have wrought. I hope that you are dismayed. Even so, I find it difficult to imagine that you have any idea of the fear, shock, humiliation, and rage that our families have experienced because of all this. I find it difficult to imagine that you know what it’s like to be afraid that your own government will punish you for having done your best to be a good parent. To be arrested for absolutely nothing anyone is even claiming that you did, in the middle of a peaceful afternoon of sewing and childcare. To jump every time the phone rings, every time a car slows down. To forget for a few minutes or an hour, as the days go by, and then suddenly remember with a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach. To have to let a stranger into your house—a stranger with the virtually unchecked power to take your children away from you—so that she can poke around and interrogate your child and decide whether you are fit parents. To see your confident, strong-willed child afraid to play outside or let her little sister do so, because the lesson she has taken from this is to “never go outside.”
There are also more tangible problems—several thousand dollars in lawyer’s fees, for example, which we will not get back even if we are declared wholly guiltless. And if, heaven forbid, a further miscarriage of justice declares two devoted parents to be criminals, then there will be large fines and much, much larger blots on their record and reputation from then on.
Possibly you believe that, while all of this is unfortunate, it is a necessary side effect of a reasonable effort to keep children safe from predators and abusive or neglectful parents. Do you remember when you were a child? Did you ever roam the neighborhood with your friends, or walk home from school, or go to the gas station to buy candy? Maybe you walked to the library from time to time. We did all of those things, and gained skill, independence, and confidence by doing so. No one believed that our parents were neglectful. Perhaps you believe, as many do, that those are bygone days of relative peace and security. If so, you may be interested to know that this is entirely a media-created illusion, a product of the sheer selling power of horror stories and “stranger danger.” Crime rates, against both children and adults, are actually lower now than when we were children. What’s more, the overwhelming majority of missing children are taken by relatives, or run away, or are simply abandoned. Only a tiny fraction of them are kidnapped by strangers.
Our daughters disobeyed us, yes. But did they create an emergency? Were they in imminent danger that required the police? I cannot believe that it is so. By turning to the police for every problem, real or imagined, we waste their time and our money, and we create enormous pressure on them to Prevent Bad Things From Happening and thus to Do Something About It. The consequences of which I hope you now see clearly. By living in fear of the wildly improbable, we deprive our children of the chance to learn and explore and grow up. I hope that next time you see a child in public and don’t see a caretaker right away, you’ll consider just being a good neighbor, maybe asking the child if he or she needs help, maybe waiting by the child until a caretaker can be found if you really, really feel the need.
Maybe you could save another family from the terrible, terrible experience we—and others like us—have had.
– D.C. Mom
Source: Free-Range Kids
Single Mom Loses Son
May 18, 2014 permalink
Single mother Tammy Elizabeth Elliott lost her son Aden to North Bay CAS when she was unable to explain how he got a broken leg. If this mother had a good legal team, she would probably get the child back, because she did nothing to cause the injury. But that won't happen with the courthouse hacks currently representing her. Another point that is clear from the story, hospitals are now fearsome places for parents.
Tammy Elizabeth Elliott
I'm a GOOD mom and I need some help!! This will be a long read. So, sorry in advance.
January 2nd I noticed my one year old son Aden wasn't acting like himself. After we woke up and went to the living room I sat him in front of his toys, he played, but never moved, he sat there in the same spot for two hours, he seemed content playing with his toys through. I went to the bathroom, Aden ALWAYS follows me, this time he didn't. That's when I knew something was wrong, so I went to go change him and noticed his leg felt extremely firm with his sleeper still on, so I took it off and his leg was bruised (looked like bars of a crib). I called my mom, she came over and was at my place within about an hour, as soon as she got here we took Aden to the ER, when we finally got called in they did x-rays, and found that his left leg was broken for 2 weeks, and also found that apparently both his wrists were broken at different times before his leg, but they healed themselves, that's what the doctors said (He was crawling, and using his leg, AND wrists fine, he never acted like he was in pain either!). So as you can imagine, CAS got called... While Aden was still in the hospital (the next day) I had to go talk to two younger women, not sure who they were, but I think they said they worked with CAS, a cop, and a CAS worker. We talked and they wanted me to go talk to the cop, I said once my mom got there and was able to watch Aden I'd go. So after my mom got there I went to talk to the cop, I told him everything I know that could have broken Aden's leg, and what I think broke his leg adds up to the times his leg broke, but the cop, along with a few doctors say my 'story' doesn't add up, YES IT DOES!! He was not a nice man, he brought up that I am a young mom "it must be hard being a young mom during it alone" he said. Just because I'm young does NOT make me a bad mom, nor does it make it any harder to be a parent, it's both a challenge and a blessing for ANY mother, but I love every single moment, tears and all!
After I talked to the cop, I went to talk to the CAS worker, he told me that if I didn't sign a paper saying that Aden is under CAS supervision for a month (he said it was for the weekend and that he just didn't feel like writing a new one up Monday) that I wouldn't be allowed to go back to the hospital with Aden. I freaked, I was nursing him at the time, I was his everything, and vise versa, so I signed it, I didn't know what else to do... I went back to the hospital with my son, my CAS worker said that I was basically Aden's baby sitter for the weekend.
Then Tuesday came (the day they were going to decide what was going to happen). My worker decided that my mom would live with me for 6 months, I wasn't allowed alone with Aden for longer then 5 minutes, and CAS would have weekly check ups. So we went home, had those weekly visits, my mom and dad stayed here and we all did what CAS told us to do, make sure Aden gets to his doctor appointments, take the bumper pads off the crib, stop co-sleeping, bla bla bla. A month and a half later on Valentine's day, February 14th, my mom got a call from my new worker, Michelle. She told mom to meet at her office with my dad, and Aden, I came top, but she never asked me to come. we walked into her office, her and her supervisor were both there. They said "I'm sorry Tammy, we have to take Aden and bring him somewhere safe" I started bawling!! All I could say was "why!?!?!" "I nurse!" "he needs me!" "I DIDN'T HURT HIM!!" All they said was "the society will buy you a pump" "he is going somewhere safe". I obviously had a hard time handing my baby over so they threatened to call the cops, I didn't want Aden witnessing that so I passed him to Michelle. As soon as he was out of my arms I saw Michelle walking away with him. Aden's face was the worst, he was even reaching for me!! He was so scared!! )': (as I write this I cry, remembering the look on his face, it breaks my heart!!)
It's been three months since CAS took him, during the past few months I took a lie detector test (apparently I failed, but he wouldn't tell me what questions, he just constantly called me a liar) I have talked to my worker a few times, and honestly I am trying to Co operate, but every time I look at or talk to her I see my son's face that night, it sickens me!! There was a settlement resintaly, Michelle made it very clear she doesn't want to give Aden back to me, she said that there is another court date in June, she said something about 6 months, but she also said that if nothing is found as to why Aden was hurt he won't be coming back to me. She's trying to get Aden's biological father involved, he's only met Aden four, maybe five times, he drinks and drives, loses his temper very easily, steals, he's just not a good person, I don't trust him with MY son!! He has even told me over Facebook message that he doesn't want Aden. My lawyer told me to agree to a finding at the settlement, from what I understand that means that yes Aden was hurt in my care, but it doesn't mean I did it. So I have talked to Michelle since the settlement and as I said she told me that unless they find out how Aden was hurt he isn't coming back to me, she even started talking about Aden's 'dad' she said he is representing himself, that he's going to get checked out, maybe even be introduced to Aden. She went on for five minutes about how hard this must be for me, not knowing what was going to happen. Later that night I went to talk to Michelle's supervisor about getting a different worker, she said she won't do that at this time because Michelle is too involved. I told her supervisor about how I feel, and what I see when I loom at Michelle, but she just told me to suck it up. I am more then willing to co-operate, I will do whatever it takes to get my son back, I have been co-operating since the beginning of this nightmare, but no matter what I do it's never enough for them!! There was even LIES in the court papers!! I don't know what else I can do, this is getting harder and harder by the minute, I'm trying to push and fight for Aden, but I'm so drained, Aden is seriously the only thing that keeps me going, I just want my boy back, my everything!!!!!!!!!!!! Please help me!! Message me if you have questions!!
I added two recent pictures of my perfect little boy, and me, the luckiest mommy on earth!!
Source: Facebook, Stop the CAS ...
Addendum: Nine days later Tammy added this comment:
Tammy Elizabeth Elliott This was what I saw when I took off his sleeper. The first hospital said it was broken for two weeks, the second hospital which was the children's hospital said 5 days. Christmas day my boyfriend and I went out to his parents for dinner and as we were getting ready my boyfriend who was 180 pounds at the time and wearing steel toe hiking boots, Ryan accidentally stepped on the back of Aden's left leg, I came out of the bathroom because Aden was crying, I picked him up, I was able to calm him down, once I did he went and played like nothing happened. We went to Ryan's parents and Aden was crawling and walking while holding onto furniture, and he didn't seem like he was in any pain. The day before I brought him to the hospital he was really tired, he napped a lot, but not for long periods of time, I thought that he was just tired and needed to catch up on his sleep, it was still weird though. That night my boyfriend and I kept hearing Aden wake up, make weird winey moans, we would go check on him and he'd be sleeping. When we woke up and came to the living room I sat him in front of his toys, like always. He didn't move, he just sat there and seemed very content playing with his toys, after two hours I went to the bathroom, he didn't follow, that was when I KNEW something was wrong. So I went to change him and check him over to see what was wrong, before I took off his sleeper I noticed his leg felt really firm, so I took off the sleeper and this is what it looked like. I think Ryan stepping on his leg (same leg that broke, Ryan stepped on the opposite side) fractured his leg, then I think the crib broke it. While I was still in the hospital with Aden Ryan noticed the bumper pay was bent between a bar, just a bit, but it looked like a leg was there so we think that his leg got stuck in the crib and broke it, maybe that's why he was making weird cries... but i have told CAS, the cops, and the doctors that and they all say that it doesn't add up. they always say that Aden would have been in so much pain, but I swear, he wasn't, he was perfectly fine...
Source: Facebook, Stop the CAS ...
Her case is still one deserving of assistance, but it differs from her initial posting. When asking for help, it is best to tell the whole story correctly from the start.
May 17, 2014 permalink
Seth Clark, age 13, is missing in Timmins. The police report does not mention family, so this may be a runaway foster child.
Timmins Police searching for missing youth
The Timmins Police Service is seeking public assistance in locating 13-year old, Seth CLARK.
CLARK resides on Tamarack Street in Timmins, but was last seen shortly after 2 pm on May 15th, 2014 leaving his school on Toke Street.
CLARK is described as a Caucasian male, 5’5”, 120Ibs, wearing a blue hoodie, jeans, and dark shoes. He has brown eyes and long black shaggy hair.
If anyone has any information on the whereabouts of Seth CLARK, they are asked to contact the Timmins Police Service at 705-264-1201.
Source: Timmins Police Service
May 17, 2014 permalink
From New England here are two different stories showing the same problem: innumeracy.
DCF Inadequately Preparing Child Welfare Workers
With the ongoing crisis of abuse and neglect-related deaths in the commonwealth, it’s a miserable time to be a child welfare worker in Massachusetts. Truth is, it’s rarely a good time, anywhere. Several other states are in the middle of full-blown child welfare crises; nationwide, 30 to 50 percent of all children who die from maltreatment were previously known to child protective services.
Child welfare work is demanding, the pay is low, caseloads are high, colleagues come and go, the work can be dangerous, and human error can result in tragedy. It is challenging to protect children in this type of work environment and yet that’s the number one goal of the job. The majority of the time, children are protected, but every worker has the same fear of seeing a client’s name and face on the front page of the morning paper. And yet in general, the profession does a poor job of preparing workers to avoid this crisis.
In 2010/2011, I conducted the only large-scale, multi-state study on fatal maltreatment with 426 child welfare workers; 72 percent said they worry a child on their caseload will die. Only 42 percent knew that children are more likely to die from neglect than from abuse; only 20 percent knew that mothers are more likely to be responsible for their children’s deaths than other caregivers; and only 38 percent knew that children are more likely to be killed by a family than a non-family member. This reveals a significant gap in knowledge. I also found that there was no difference in knowledge between workers who reported receiving training and those who did not.
Critics often point to workers’ relative youth and inexperience as potential reasons for fatalities. But, in my study, workers who had a client die had been in the field for six years and were in their late 30s. Further, over half had a degree in social work and another third had a degree in the social sciences.
With results like these, the next question is obvious: Where do child welfare workers receive information on maltreatment fatalities? As it turns out — almost nowhere. My colleagues and I examined 24 child welfare and social science textbooks for inclusion of content concerning fatal maltreatment. We also examined pre-service child welfare training curricula from 20 U.S. states. We found that a minority of textbooks address risk factors for fatalities. Only one state had a dedicated section on fatalities in their pre-service training, but, that one state did not provide evidence-based information to workers about risk factors for death. Instead, the training described the social and demographic characteristics of the children in their state who had died.
It’s easy to say that child welfare agencies are failing children, but it’s also largely inaccurate. Thousands of children live more safely with their families because of help they received from child protection services. It’s true that child welfare agencies have failed some children and that a fraction of those children have died. That was not usually the fault of individual workers or supervisors, but a fault of the larger profession and the legislatures which fund them. Unlike other professional groups, child welfare workers rely exclusively on government funding. This system is largely failing its employees; it has not adequately prepared them to understand the conditions under which children die, and without this information, more children will meet the same fate.
A child’s death usually inspires reform in the child welfare system — new intake procedures, new risk assessment approaches, more workers to lower caseloads — all of which are probably important. But, never have I read that a child’s death has resulted in workers receiving evidence-based information about risk factors for fatalities. I hope that the current crisis in Massachusetts takes a new direction at the legislative and agency level and that all workers will learn what the evidence says about high risk situations that place children at risk for death.
Source: WBUR Boston
Shumlin calls for sweeping probe of DCF
Gov. Peter Shumlin is calling for a sweeping investigation of the state Department for Children and Families, one day after learning an agency caseworker saw bruises on the neck of a Winooski baby but took no action.
The child, Peighton Geraw, 15 months, died an hour after the April 4 visit by the caseworker to the child's home concluded.
"This is the second loss of a precious young life in recent months," Shumlin said in a statement to the Burlington Free Press, which sought the governor's response Tuesday to the revelations.
"While I immediately instructed DCF Commissioner Yacovone to investigate each case thoroughly, I have also demanded a broader examination of our systems so that we can take any steps necessary to better protect our children," Shumlin said.
Shumlin said he was "troubled" that the department's involvement with Peighton did not result in saving the toddler's life.
"This is not only a tragic loss to those who loved Peighton, but to all of us, because it highlights once again how vulnerable our children are when violence erupts and the adults in their lives fail to provide protection," Shumlin said.
"None of this will bring Peighton back," Shumlin added, referring to his call for an investigation. "But too many adults failed to take action to prevent the peril facing this baby, and it is imperative that we discover what went wrong — at every step — that led to this child's death."
Fletcher Allen Health Care personnel spotted bruises on Peighton's neck while treating him for a fever and vomiting on April 2, according to a sworn police statement on file at Vermont Superior Court in Burlington.
The hospital notified DCF the same day but discharged the baby back into the care of its mother, Nytosha LaForce, and her boyfriend, Tyler Chicoine.
Two days later, department caseworker John Salter visited Peighton at the apartment. The child was asleep, but Salter saw the bruises, the sworn affidavit stated.
Shortly after Salter left, Peighton was discovered not breathing. He was transported back to the hospital, where he was declared dead.
No one has been charged in connection with the baby's death, which has been ruled a homicide by Steven Shapiro, the state's chief medical examiner.
LaForce, 28, and Chicoine, 24, both have criminal records and were jailed on unrelated parole and furlough violations within days of Peighton's death.
DCF Commissioner David Yacavone, in an interview Monday with the Burlington Free Press, said confidentiality rules prohibit him from talking about the case. But he added that the department would conduct an internal review of how it handled the matter.
The Burlington Free Press was first to report the involvement of the Department of Children and Families in the Peighton Geraw case.
The investigation Shumlin is calling for likely would be conducted by a state Senate panel formed this winter after the February death of a Poultney toddler. The department permitted the child, Dezirae Sheldon, 2, to live with her mother after the parent was convicted of abusing the girl months earlier.
State Sen. Richard Sears, D-Bennington, said this week he wants the panel to examine whether the department's culture causes it to lean too heavily toward family reunification in cases involving allegations of child abuse and neglect.
"A major concern a number of us have is whether DCF has gone so far in the direction of reunification of families that it's forgotten what's in the best interests of the child," Sears said in an interview.
Sears said the special committee plans to hold nine public hearings throughout the state during three days in June to allow people to speak about the department and the issue of child protection.
Sen. John Campbell, D-Windsor, said Tuesday he hopes the state Citizen Advisory Board for Child Protection Services also will take a look at the department's handling of Peighton's and Dezirae's cases.
"The key for me is for us to do a complete evaluation," Campbell said. He said he asked Shumlin to make him a member of the board so "no rock will be left unturned."
Source: Burlington Free Press
In the first article, Emily M Douglas PhD says:
That is because child protectors know about almost every child. Ontario has even boasted of more child abuse investigations than births.
... children are more likely to be killed by a family than a non-family member.
These are both misleading products of innumeracy. The child death rate in foster care is ten times that of parental care. Since real parents care for a hundred times as many children as fosters, there are ten times more deaths in the safer real families than in the dangerous foster homes.
There is not so much as a hint anywhere in the Douglas article that a child could ever suffer harm in foster care.
In the second article, Vermont governor Peter Shumlin wants to investigate how two children died after child protectors failed to take them into custody. Dezirae Sheldon died in February and in April it was Peighton Geraw. Reading the article shows that the reporter believes that foster care is the sure way to save endangered children. Again, there is no hint that a child could suffer harm from foster care. In other news Vermont social services are demanding the power to remove a child from a home immediately without legal process. The history of foster care panics suggests they will get that power and more.
May 17, 2014 permalink
Some American states are clamping down on drug use by pregnant women. The mothers may be arrested and shackled before birth, or may be prosecuted after birth. The interventions feed the supply of babies for foster care and adoption.
Pregnant Women Increasingly Face Criminal Prosecution for Positive Drug Tests
Hello fetus, goodbye civil liberties
The "crack baby" panic may have gone the way of the cassette tape, but America's womb-based war on drugs is alive and kicking. Fueled by a potent mix of drug war propaganda and fetal rights advocacy, states have been charging pregnant women who use drugs—however casually or legally—with everything from child neglect and "chemical endangerment" to contributing to the delinquency of a minor and felony assault.
A study from the National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW) highlighted 413 cases of pregnant women being incarcerated or forced into drug treatment in the U.S. between 1973 and 2005. Since then, there have been at least 300 more cases, a number that NAPW said is a severe under-count.
This is in addition to the untold number of pregnant women who are reported to child protective services (CPS) agencies because of positive drug tests. Protocols vary between states, counties, and hospital systems, but in many, pregnant women are automatically tested for drugs at maternity wards or in the course of prenatal care. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2001 that drug testing pregnant women without consent was unconstitutional—but only when it could lead to criminal charges. And consent is a fuzzy concept here anyway, often given in the signing of general pregnancy medical forms.
In New York City, more than a dozen maternity wards regularly drug test new mothers, turning any positive results over to child protective services. City attorneys estimate that 100 to 200 neglect cases each year stem from these tests.
New York is one of 17 states that specifically address pregnant women's drug use in civil child neglect laws. In some, it's possible to take away a child based on a single positive drug test, regardless of whether the newborn exhibits symptoms of such exposure, whether the mother was using the drug as part of prescribed medical treatment, and absent any other reasons to suspect maternal drug addiction or unfitness to parent. The zero-tolerance policy has resulted in neglect investigations and even temporary child removal for positive drug tests stemming from poppy seeds, medical marijuana, and prescription opioids.
But some states aren't content merely taking away women's kids for these transgressions. NAPW warns of "an increasing trend toward viewing pregnancy as a proper subject of the criminal law."
At the forefront of these efforts is Tennessee, which recently passed a law allowing women to be charged with assault, punishable by up to 15 years in prison, for babies born "addicted to or harmed by" a narcotic drug. Newborns cannot, medically speaking, be "addicted," though they can experience withdrawal symptoms. The Tennessee law is largely concerned with something known as "neonatal abstinence syndrome," (NAS) a possible (but not certain) side effect of prenatal exposure to opiates.
NAS can come from a pregnant woman's use of any opioid, including painkillers, heroin, or the "maintenance" drugs—such as methadone and Suboxone—used to minimize withdrawal symptoms in folks giving up painkillers and heroin. Abrupt discontinuation of these drugs in dependent women can pose more risk to a developing fetus than the drugs do. Though NAS is being branded as a horrific syndrome that will mark a child for life—much like the apocryphal "bio-underclass" of crack babies we were going to see—it can be readily treated without leading to any known long-term, adverse effects for a child.
"While NAS is being singled out and criminalized, there are other drivers of negative neonatal health outcomes that are far more damaging, such as cigarette smoking and poverty," said Whitney O'Neill Englander, government relations manager for the Harm Reduction Coalition. "The implications of singling out one condition over another and criminalizing it, without a basis in science or medicine, is very concerning."
A wide swath of mainstream medical groups, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the American Medical Association, object to tactics like Tennessee's, which they say will deter pregnant women from seeking prenatal care and/or addiction help. Policies that punish women for substance abuse during pregnancy are "contrary to the welfare of the mother and fetus," asserted ACOG in a committee opinion. "Incarceration and the threat of incarceration have proved to be ineffective in reducing the incidence of alcohol or drug abuse."
Around the same time as Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam was signing his state's misguided new law, the Alabama Supreme Court upheld the conviction of Sara Hicks, charged for giving birth to a healthy baby who tested positive for cocaine.
Under Alabama's "chemical endangerment" law, passed in 2006, people are prohibited from exposing children to a controlled substance. The law was intended to keep people from bringing children to meth labs. But it's been used more than 100 times since its passage to prosecute women who use drugs while pregnant.
Alabama courts have continually held that the meaning of the word "child" in the law unambiguously includes fertilized eggs. The Supreme Court upheld this interpretation 8-1, with Chief Justice Roy Moore writing a separate concurring opinion "to emphasize that the inalienable right to life is a gift of God that civil government must secure for all persons," born and unborn:
Legal recognition of the unborn as members of the human family derives ultimately from the laws of nature and of nature's God, Who created human life in His image and protected it with the commandment: 'Thou shalt not kill.'
Chief Justice Moore went on to compare courts that uphold established abortion laws to Nazi war criminals.
Justice Tom Parker also wrote a separate opinion to emphasize Alabama's stance on the inalienable rights of the unborn, which apply "to life at every point in time and in every respect," including "a life free from harmful effects of chemicals at all stages of development." This, he notes, is what makes Alabama a "refuge" for liberty.
These justices had already ruled on a similar case, and it's "very unusual for a state supreme court to take a case to address a settled issue of law," said Lynn Paltrow, founder and executive director of NAPW. "It appears that the court accepted the Hicks case for the purpose of more fully articulating a view that pregnant women are proper subjects of Alabama's criminal justice system and a growing state and national system of mass incarceration."
They are, indeed. In Utah, a 24-year-old woman was recently charged with second degree felony child endangerment after giving birth to a child at 39 weeks—40 weeks is considered full term—and admitting that she had used meth several times during pregnancy. In Texas, women who smoke marijuana while pregnant can be charged with "delivery of a controlled substance to a minor," a second-degree felony punishable by two to 20 years incarceration. Ohio lawmakers are seeking to add extra penalties for selling drugs to a pregnant woman. And despite the now-legal status of marijuana in Colorado, using it while pregnant can still get you cited for child abuse.
"I would love to say that I see a shift towards the understanding that pregnant women can still be medical marijuana patients—indeed they sometimes are advised to use it for pregnancy ailments like morning sickness, for which it has historically been used by midwives for thousands of years," says Sara Arnold, co-founder of the Family Law & Cannabis Alliance.
"However, as the drug warriors grab at straws to try to stay relevant, the shift is towards greater invasion into pregnant women's bodies, their babies, and their homes via child protective services and family court, and sometimes criminal court as well."
These policies are not pro-children or pro-family. They mete out punishments based not on actual harm or risk but some combination of moral panic, fetal personhood propaganda, and selective interpretation of that risk. In their rush to usher newborns into the arms of state protective services, they frequently fail to consider what's best for babies at their most vulnerable. [What's worse for a child: a mother who smokes the occasional joint or is undergoing addiction treatment or being shuffled around from foster home to foster home for the first few weeks or years of life?]
It would all be highly objectionable even if it were working to decrease harm to babies and mothers. In reality, it fails to accomplish even this—and may actually drive up health risks—while managing new and powerful infringements on pregnant women's privacy and personal liberty.
Social Worker Dies in Fire
May 15, 2014 permalink
Sudbury social worker Nicole Belair died Tuesday, the day after she was injured in a fire. She was visiting a client at the time. Her funeral will take place on May 19 in Sudbury.
Sudbury woman, hailed as fire hero, succumbs to injuries
Reports on social media say Nicole Belair passed away Tuesday.
The Children's Aid Society has also issued a release to say it is mourning the loss of Belair, "a valued colleague and friend."
“We are shocked and profoundly saddened by the impact of this tragic accident, Colette Prevost, executive director of the Children’s Aid Society of the Districts of Sudbury and Manitoulin, said in the release.
"Nicole was a dedicated and experienced worker, and had built incredibly strong bonds with the youth and families she served. She will be missed by countless colleagues who have come to depend on her passion and commitment.
"First and foremost, our energies are being focussed on providing support to those most closely impacted by this incident – Nicole’s family and co-workers, and the youth and families to whom she was so fiercely dedicated. Our thoughts are with her family and friends at this time of such incredible loss.”
Friends and former clients of a critically injured social worker were praying for her recovery Tuesday as officials continued to investigate a blaze in Hanmer that sent two to hospital and displaced 14.
Nicole Belair, 33, was visiting a female client Monday at the 14-unit complex on Rita Street when fire broke out in the apartment of tenant Diane Paquette and spread to the building's top floor.
The Children's Aid Society worker "had just shown up," said the client's sister Marissa. "She ran in and got my sister Jaymee out, but came back into the building and was found unconscious."
The sisters' last names, as with other CAS clients who spoke with The Star, are being omitted out of respect for security concerns.
Paquette suffered serious burns and was transported to Toronto, while Belair was unresponsive and needed to be resuscitated by paramedics. As of Tuesday afternoon she remained in critical condition in the intensive care unit of the Ramsey Lake Health Centre.
"She saved my sister's life," said Marissa. "We're all hoping she pulls through, but it doesn't look good."
Jaymee was treated for smoke inhalation and released, said Marissa, but lost all her belongings to the fire and remained very distraught Tuesday about the condition of her rescuer and mentor Belair.
"Nicole's been part of her life for a very long time and they built a relationship that was more of a friendship," said Marissa.
That was true for other Crown wards who came under the wing of Belair. A former client named Tash described the social worker as "the type of person who puts people ahead of herself."
She said Belair was her caseworker for a decade but "even after I left care she was still a big part of my life."
Belair is "supposed to get married next month," said Tash. "It's really sad."
For Tiffany, yet another member of Belair's unofficial family, the social worker "basically became a best friend and parent to me."
The Sudbury woman is now living in southwestern Ontario and poised to graduate from university.
"My graduation is next week and she was supposed to come to it," she said through tears and sobs. "She basically got me to where I am in life, pushed me to go to post-secondary and to become successful and not repeat the cycle."
Tiffany is now working with youth herself in foster and group home settings. "She's inspired me to be who I am now," she said.
The women had the sense that Belair remained in the burning building to help others. "I wouldn't doubt it for a minute," said Tasha. "That was definitely Nicole's personality."
Others in the neighbourhood pitched in to rescue tenants as smoke poured out of a shattered window.
Brian Slegers, passing by the site of the fire before emergency personnel arrived, witnessed a group of good Samaritans grabbing ladders from a neighbouring house and shepherding a tenant to safety.
"Local people saw it and ran over," he said. "There was an older lady on a balcony and they were helping her out."
Lise Brosseau, commenting through the Star's Facebook site, said her boyfriend, Christian Robert, helped liberate the mother of Carole Pigeau from a second-floor unit. "He couldn't just leave her up there, and he wanted to go inside so badly to see if anyone was left behind," she wrote.
Investigators with the Ontario Fire Marshal's office remained on site Tuesday to conduct a forensic excavation, but had not issued a statement as to the cause of the fire by press time.
They did, however, say the fire began in the ground-floor apartment of Paquette, who used oxygen and told neighbours an explosion occurred when she opened her fridge on Monday afternoon.
Source: Sudbury Star
Buried on Monday.
Sudbury salutes heroic social worker
A police honour guard accompanied the funeral procession Monday as family and friends gathered at St. Andrew's United Church to remember Nicole Belair.
The 33-year-old social worker and bride-to-be was tragically killed last Monday after helping a client escape an apartment fire in Hanmer, but her strong spirit and compassion for others lives on in the hearts and minds of many, especially those of her immediate family.
Her father Gilbert Belair spoke on behalf of his wife Lorna and sons Marc and Adam Monday, noting "if it wasn't for extended family and all those who prayed for us and upheld us, we would have never gotten through this."
The shaken parent said when tragedies happen to others "you can watch the news and gloss it over a bit, but when that tragedy hits your home it's very difficult."
Belair said his daughter grew up in Wawa and Sault Ste. Marie, but moved in her late teens to Sudbury, which "she certainly made her home."
He described her as a good student and "a comedian," recalling Christmas dinners when "she would have us all in stitches, even though we were all so full we could barely move."
When he last saw Nicole, "I gave her a big hug, as I always do until the next time I see her," he said, his voice choked with emotion. "I never expected it to be a hug that would have to last for an eternity."
Partner Stephen Davidson, whom Nicole was poised to marry on June 28, thanked the medical staff who "fought hard for Nicole and never gave up," and especially the "two ICU nurses who never left Nicole and gave me and my family reassurance that she was well looked-after and loved."
He said it was impossible to sum up his feelings about his betrothed in one speech. "I really can't say goodbye, because I can't write enough words on a piece of paper to describe how much I love her," he said. "She was so many different things to me — she was my guardian, my companion, my soul mate. She was my best friend."
He recounted meeting Nicole 10 years ago on the patio of Cactus Pete's, where he worked as a DJ, and how she had "such an aura of attitude, it was just wild." While she was initially cool to his charms — in part because he didn't play her requests — the two soon hit it off and established a life together.
When they bought a house and moved in, Nicole loved everything about it except one small detail. "She walked into the bathroom and said the vanity has to go," he recalled. "Within a couple of hours of being in the house, she had torn apart the vanity and it was out the front door."
That, said her fiance, "was Nicole to a T. She never waited for anyone to do something she could do herself."
It was a mixture of toughness and empathy that drove Belair's work with the Children's Aid Society, which became a second family to her as well as a vocation.
"I think of all the impact she had on the children she's dealt with, all the people who moved on out of her care, as well as her team," Davidson said. "Her team meant everything to her; she loved every one of you ... they were all her sisters."
Many of Belair's colleagues were in attendance at the funeral, as was Colette Prevost, executive director of the CAS.
"Child protection is undoubtedly not for the faint of heart," she said. "Nicole had the heart that it takes to do this kind of work."
In speaking with colleagues and former clients about Nicole, "I have heard countless stories that describe a woman who was fierce in how she cared for the kids she worked with," said Prevost.
"These were her kids. She did not stand for anyone speaking anything but positively about them because she saw the potential and good in each and every one of them."
Greater Sudbury Police Chief Paul Pedersen said the value — and bravery — of such work cannot be overstated. "Like our officers, like others in EMS, like those I see represented here from the Canadian Forces, she was out on the front line, day in and day out, helping people."
As a child protection worker, Belair "saw people at their most vulnerable," said Pedersen. "And more than that, she saw children, the most vulnerable of all of us, at their most vulnerable."
On behalf of "all the men and women of the Greater Sudbury Police Service," Pedersen pledged "she will always be remembered, as we try our best to emulate her as we build safety and well-being in our community."
Source: Sudbury Star
The CBC broadcast the words of Sudbury CAS executive director Colette Prevost (mp3).
Girl Wants Out of Chemo
May 14, 2014 permalink
Eleven-year-old Makayla Sault of the New Credit First Nation near Brantford was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) and underwent chemotherapy. Now that the disease is in remission Makayla and her family want to end the chemo therapy in favor of a traditional remedy. McMaster Children’s Hospital has alerted the children's aid society and legal process is under way to force therapy on the girl. The article mentions the similarity to the earlier case of Devon Sweeney:         .
New Credit child resists forced chemotherapy treatment
NEW CREDIT – Makayla Sault, daughter of Pastors Ken and Sonya Sault has taken a very brave and bold move to assert herself. The 11 year old, who was diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukaemia in January, has asked her parents to stop chemotherapy treatments and instead give her Ongwehowe Onǫhgwatri:yo: (traditional medicines).
They have done so, and now McMaster Children’s Hospital says that they have a fiduciary responsibility to report the Sault’s to the Children’s Aid Society for keeping Makayla out of chemotherapy. Additionally, despite hours of consultations with various physicians, and indigenous officials, McMaster Children’s Hospital is pursuing a judicial process with the Consent and Capacity Board, a provincial body, to determine if Makayla or her family are of sound mind.
If the Consent and Capacity Board deems that Makayla and her parents are not of sound mind to make this decision, all involved are concerned that the Children’s Aid Society will move to apprehend Makayla from the New Credit First Nation and force her into chemotherapy, thereby derailing the Ongwehowe Onohgwatri:yo: process she is on.
That decision also would violate Articles 10 & 24 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; that indigenous people cannot be forcibly removed from their lands without free and prior consent, and the right to use traditional medicines and health care practices without discrimination.
Makayla was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) but also tested positive for the Philladelphia chromosome. This particular combination makes an aggressive form of leukaemia which, from a pharmaceutical perspective, requires two years of aggressive chemotherapy treatment with a survival rate of 75%.
However during the 11 weeks of chemotherapy that Makayla did complete, which brought the ALL into remission, the child endured acute side effects, including constant nausea, weakness, muscle wasting and a ten pound weight loss.
Pharmacists prescribed the child a variety of anti-nauseants, including medical marijuana to try and help control the vomiting, but there was no relief, leaving many in her team struggling to find a solution to alleviate Makayla’s severe side effects. “They kept saying that she is our mystery child,” said Makayla’s father Ken Sault, a well known Pastor of the New Credit Fellowship Centre.
“Coming to the last weeks of her treatment alarms started to go off inside of me” said her mother, Sonya. “It was that maternal instinct that told me that we’re not doing the right thing with her. She was so weak that when you went to go and talk to her you would have to get right down just to be able to hear what she is saying.” Sonya said. “I remember Makayla said to me, ‘Mom I can’t take this anymore. I want you to get me out of here. I don’t want to go this way no more’.”
The Saults’ were allowed to take Makayala home for a break from chemo. That is when the child spoke up and asked her parents for help. Her mother explained, “Makayla said to me, do you have the power to get me out of there? If you have the power to take me out of there I want you to take me out of there. I’m telling you mom it’s not right. The way that we are going it’s going to kill me.”
In the meantime, the child had a spiritual encounter where she says Jesus appeared and told her that she was healed. This encounter has been revered by the traditional healers and members of the New Credit First Nation, but the medical team told the family that in light of her spiritual encounter, she needed a psychiatric evaluation.
Taking all of this information, and Makayla’s specific request to stop chemo and instead use Onǫhgwatri:yo:, the family came together of one mind and is now treating the child via a traditional healer on Six Nations.
Hamilton Health Sciences has a number of Aboriginal Patient Navigators on staff to help medical officials and indigenous patients communicate effectively. However despite the hospital being next to Six Nations, which is the largest Indian Reserve in Canada, they do not have a current protocol in place for children whose families opt for Ongwehowe Onohgwatri:yo: instead of pharmaceutical therapy.
Because the hospital has no current protocol for indigenous families pursuing traditional medication in lieu of pharmaceutical treatment for children, staff feel that their hands are tied and that they need to bring this matter to a higher level of consultation with the Children’s Aid Society and the Consent and Capacity Board.
The Sault’s said that in a previous meeting one of the members of the team assigned to Makayla’s case told them that if they did not proceed with the two year protocol of chemotherapy for Makayla that Children’s Aid would become involved and that all three of the family’s children would be apprehended.
Apprehending children for preventing them access to chemotherapy is not a situation unheard of in Ontario. In 2008 an 11 year old Hamilton boy was temporarily apprehended by the CAS during a routine visit to McMaster and his parents were handcuffed and escorted out of the hospital by security after they refused to continue chemotherapy at the boy’s request.
The Saults say they are not refusing treatment, only one form of treatment via chemotherapy.
The family has put together a number of meetings with the staff of McMaster including the lead physician overseeing Makayla’s chemotherapy. McMaster proposed a compromise to combine chemo and Ongwehowe Onohgwatri:yo:, however the family declined stating that the chemo makes the child too sick to keep down the medicines traditional healers would be administering.
As for Makayla, the traditional medicines have helped her put the weight back on that she lost while in treatment. She isn’t vomitting anymore and she will be entering the track and field meet at her school in the coming weeks.
The CCB hearing date is not set at this time.
Source: Two Row Times
Addendum: Brant CAS has decided not to apprehend Makayla.
No plans to take New Credit girl away from parents: CAS
The Children's Aid Society of Brant says it won't take a cancer-stricken 11-year-old New Credit girl away from her parents after the family refused further chemotherapy treatments in favour of traditional medicine.
"We have no plans to apprehend the child. I understand on the referral that the family was told that we might do that. We don't have any plans for that," Andrew Koster, the society's executive director, said Monday.
"We are just hoping that there ends up with some kind of compromise that considers the child's safety and also her well-being."
Makayla Sault was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in January. She has refused to resume chemotherapy, in favour of indigenous traditional medicine after the side-effects of her treatment became too much for her to bare.
Koster said he's meeting with representatives from the New Credit First Nations and the Sault family on Tuesday.
Just weeks ago, Makayla's father Ken said he had to carry her around wherever she went because she had no strength to do it on her own. On Sunday evening, the girl led nine other children in a dance routine in front of a park full of supporters.
"She's been through an experience and these past few days, she's had a complete turnaround," Ken told a crowd of about 200 people at Veteran's Park in Oshweken Sunday night.
"This (story) has gone all across the country, standing up for our rights and privileges as First Nations … this is not affecting just our daughter, but it affects our nation as a whole, of First Nations people across this land," he said.
The crowd gathered for the Bread and Cheese fest, part of Six Nations Community Awareness week.
Ken, a pastor at the New Credit Fellowship Centre, introduced performers and speakers and led the concert with his wife Sonya.
"To see our daughter walk a path that she's called to walk, we stand with her and we support her 100 per cent," said her mother Sonya. "I know it's something that the medical world can't understand."
Through tears, Makayla spoke about her diagnosis and her "very intense chemotherapy." She was constantly throwing up; she couldn't walk; she lost her strength. She couldn't speak and she didn't want anyone to visit her in the hospital because she was so sick.
"I remember the nights when I would just pray to God to come get me, because I couldn't fight it anymore," she said weeping, while the crowd stood silent.
The family declined to speak to The Spectator at the event.
When the family decided to stop the treatment, McMaster Children's Hospital called CAS.
A statement issued by McMaster on Friday said it had no choice but to refer the case to the CAS.
"It is a legal obligation under the Child and Family Services Act of Ontario. It is then up to the CAS to determine whether action is required."
On Sunday, Six Nations Chief Ava Hill took to the stage to offer support for the family at the event.
She told The Spectator she was surprised McMaster had contacted CAS as she believes the choice of treatment should be a family decision.
"McMaster is so close to our community, people here have been taking traditional medicine for years. For them to now say it's not going to work is ludicrous," Hill said.
Source: Hamilton Spectator
Barbara Kay says Makayla faces an increased risk of death with the decision to switch to a traditional remedy, one that is probably a traditional placebo. She says this is a case in which the girl should be treated as a child in need of protection.
Medical interventions that reach the press are of the kind here, where medical technology could save a child otherwise facing a high likelihood of death. But that is not the common use of intervention for medical neglect. The overwhelming use is to force psychotropic drugs on unwilling children even when their parents demur.
Barbara Kay: Makayla needs to be saved from cultural correctness
Religion, medical science and the best interests of children can make a hot-potato stew. What do you do, for example, when scientifically ignorant parents believe prayers will be more efficacious than a proven medical intervention to save a critically ill child?
That was the question asked and answered in the 1995 case, B(R) v. Children’s Aid Society of Metropolitan Toronto, when Jehovah’s Witness parents refused a blood transfusion for their severely anemic 1-year-old daughter who was at risk of congestive heart failure. The decision was to make the baby a ward of the court in order to administer the transfusions, because it was felt that they offered the child’s best hope for survival.
The Supreme Court of Canada ultimately ruled that this state intervention was a legitimate limitation on religious freedom. In their ruling the Court considered Canada’s Charter of Rights (section 2 (a) – right to freedom of conscience and religion) versus the Ontario province’s obligation to a “child in need of protection” under the Ontario Child Welfare Act.
Jehovah’s Witness is a religion, not a culture. Its practitioners are not a burden to Canada’s national conscience. The transfusions would not afflict the baby with undue suffering. And in any case a baby has no opinions of its own to consider. The ruling doubtless pleased the vast majority of Canadians.
Today we contemplate the case of 11-year old Makayla Sault, an aboriginal child from the New Credit First Nation, afflicted with a rare form of leukemia touching only three to five percent of children with the disease. Its prognosis used to be extremely grim even with aggressive and uncomfortable medical intervention.
But the survival rate has increased dramatically under new medical protocols, which would give Makayla 70% odds of survival if followed to completion. As Christie Blatchford wrote in her May 22 column, “[Makayla’s] doctors at McMaster had good reason to believe she has a real shot at beating this thing – and that stopping the treatment after only one round, would put her at risk.”
Makayla seems to be a remarkably mature child with decided opinions of her own regarding her treatment. And she has made it crystal clear, with the encouragement of her parents Ken and Sonya, that she wants to stop the debilitating chemotherapy treatments she has been enduring in favour of a native treatment administered by a native healer from the nearby Six Nations reserve.
Makayla’s case was investigated by local Brant Family and Children’s Services. Two outcomes were possible. Either Brant could apprehend Makayla and force continuation of medical treatment, or they could acquiescence to the family’s wishes. Brant chose the latter course on “humane” grounds.
And are we happy with this decision? I confess that I am not happy at all. I would consider it far more humane in the long run to provide Makayla with optimal odds for survival than to grant a tranquillizing respite based on an illusory hope of a cure arising from “medication” for which no research or scientific literature exists.
I cannot imagine a more pressing “best interest” than life itself. And I have no confidence at all in the efficacy of homemade brews. I daresay most Canadians would agree that the chances of a cure from whatever natural ingredient is involved here are vanishingly slim; if native treatments for cancer were truly efficacious, that would be a hard secret to keep.
The problem is that Makayla has been told by people she trusts that she has just as good a shot at survival with natural treatments as with chemo. So she is not basing her decision on informed consent. What naïve child wouldn’t choose a painless procedure over a painful one, if her own parents and other trusted adults had given her such assurances?
I cannot help but think that this decision, unlike the Jehovah’s Witness case, has been influenced by political squeamishness rather than common sense. In its essentials, the 1995 case and this one are parallel, as both involve children who are incompetent to objectively assess their own long-term interests, and loving parents with the best of intentions, but guided by faith-based trust in remedies they erroneously consider the healing equivalent of medical science. Makayla’s parents have misinformed her. But Makayla does not know that. It is better that this little girl should be seen “as a child in need of protection” than run the elevated risk of her dying as a martyr to cultural correctness.
Source: National Post
The press has gone back to the case of Devon Sweeney. Devon is alive, but has not otherwise had a good outcome.
Family says forced chemotherapy wrecked their son’s mind
A Hamilton family whose son was forced to have chemotherapy says it saved his life, but wrecked his mind and body.
The boy, who can't be named because he is under the care of the Children's Aid Society, was 11 years old when he refused treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia because he believed God would protect him. His family wanted to turn to traditional indigenous medicine instead.
He was seized by the CAS in 2008 and a judge ruled the boy, who has fetal alcohol syndrome, wasn't capable of making an informed decision.
"They should never have done what they did," his stepmother told The Spectator Friday. "I'm thankful he is alive, but at what cost to his body and mind? He's a different person now."
She says his behavioural issues escalated after he was forced, under the watch of security guards, to have chemotherapy.
"He's angry at the system," she says. "He feels the system failed him. It made him rage against the machine."
His stepmother says he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. He self-harms, including cutting, and once tried to kill himself, she says.
Now at the age of 17 , she says he's recently been convicted of a number of crimes including arson, assault and mischief.
"It has been a roller coaster."
She says his body has also felt the effects of the treatment including issues with his sight, bladder and mobility, as well as delayed puberty.
She says he's lost his faith in God.
"He tried to hold strong to his faith," she said. "It's sad."
His stepmother, who is native, strongly believes he would have survived if he'd got traditional indigenous medicine instead.
"If they'd let me give him the natural medicine there might have been a different mental health outcome."
She hopes telling their story will help the New Credit family of 11-year-old Makayla Sault who wants to fight leukemia with traditional indigenous medicine.
"Stay strong and hold on to your beliefs," she says to them. "I still stand by it 100 per cent. They are native people. They should believe in their own medicine."
Source: Hamilton Spectator
Addendum: Makayla died on January 19, 2015.
Makayla Sault, girl who refused chemo for leukemia, dies
Ojibwe girl, 11, dies after abandoning chemo in favour of traditional, alternative treatments
Makayla Sault, the 11-year-old girl who refused chemotherapy to pursue traditional indigenous medicine and other alternative treatments, has died.
She died Monday after suffering a stroke Sunday.
"Surrounded by the love and support of her family, her community and her nation … Makayla completed her course. She is now safely in the arms of Jesus," her family said in a statement published by the Two Row Times.
The girl’s case made national headlines and ignited a debate about the validity of indigenous medicine and the rights of children to choose their own treatment.
Makayla was given a 75 per cent chance of survival when she was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) in March. She underwent 11 weeks of chemotherapy at McMaster Children’s hospital in Hamilton.
Her mother, Sonya Sault, said Makayla experienced severe side-effects and at one point ended up in intensive care.
After Makayla said she had a vision of Jesus in the hospital, she wrote a letter to her doctors asking to stop treatment.
“I am writing this letter to tell you that this chemo is killing my body and I cannot take it anymore.”
She left chemotherapy treatment while in remission to pursue alternative and traditional indigenous medicine.
"Makayla was on her way to wellness, bravely fighting toward holistic well-being after the harsh side-effects that 12 weeks of chemotherapy inflicted on her body," the family statement reads. "Chemotherapy did irreversible damage to her heart and major organs. This was the cause of the stroke."
Although her family claims her death was due to chemotherapy, in September, a McMaster oncologist testified that Makayla had suffered a relapse. The doctor also testified that there are no known cases of survival of ALL without a full course of chemotherapy treatment.
Attended 'life transformation program'
When Makayla decided against continuing chemotherapy, the hospital referred her case to the Brant Children’s Aid Society. After a brief investigation, it decided Makayla was not a child in need of protection and that it would not apprehend her to return her to treatment.
In an interview with CBC News in May, before the Brant Children's Aid Society closed its investigation, the director Andrew Koster said, "For us to take her away, to apprehend and place in a home with strangers, if that's the case, if there aren't any relatives, when she's very, very ill — I can't see how that would be helpful."
“I think people much more knowledgeable than ourselves need to be involved to look at what types of traditional medicines are being used, how does it fare up to some of the chemo treatments," said Koster.
In July, Makayla travelled to the Hippocrates Health Institute in Florida and took its three-week "life transformation program." A CBC investigation revealed that Hippocrates is licensed as a "massage establishment," and is being sued by former staff who allege the company's president Brian Clement is operating "a scam under Florida law" and practising medicine without a licence.
Makayla touched everyone she knew, said Peter Fitzgerald, president of McMaster Children's Hospital, in a statement.
"Her loss is heartbreaking," he said, extending his condolences to her family.
Related precedent-setting case in Ontario court
Her death comes a few months after an Ontario judge ruled in an unprecedented case of another First Nations girl who also refused chemo.
The girl, whose identity is protected under a publication ban, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in August. Doctors at McMaster Children’s Hospital gave her a 90 to 95 per cent chance of survival.
After 10 days of chemotherapy, she and her mother left McMaster to seek treatment at the Hippocrates Health Institute in Florida.
The mother of the 11-year-old girl, who cannot be identified because of a publication ban, says the resort’s director, Clement, told her leukemia is "not difficult to treat."
Clement, who goes by the title "Dr.," denied telling the mother that.
In an interview with CBC's Connie Walker, Clement said, "When we educate them they take care of themselves," he said, before shouting, "You're a liar. Get off the property."
In an interview with CBC News, her mother said, “This was not a frivolous decision I made. Before I took her off chemo, I made sure that I had a comprehensive health-care plan that I was very confident that was going to achieve ridding cancer of her body before I left the hospital. This is not something I think may work, this is something I know will work.”
The girl's mother said her daughter received cold laser therapy, Vitamin C injections and a strict raw food diet, among other therapies at Hippocrates.
Judge Gethin Edward rejected the application from the Hamilton hospital that would have seen the Children’s Aid Society intervene in this case.
Punished After Proven Innocent
May 13, 2014 permalink
In 2007 Olga and Boris Shved were accused of child abuse and their two children were placed in foster care. After seven years of legal struggles, the courts have completely exonerated the parents, based on evidence that the injuries to the younger child were the result of medical conditions, not abuse. The child protectors response? They are keeping the children. When falsely accused of abuse, the easier part is proving innocence to a court. The harder part is getting social workers to respect the decision of the court.
Pasco parents still fighting to get their kids back
Despite being cleared of abuse allegations, a Pasco couple haven’t seen their kids in almost eight years.
PASCO — Olga and Boris Shved never got to walk their kids to class on the first day of school.
They didn’t get to see baby Ella take her first steps or push trucks around the sandbox with her brother, Ryslan. They’ve missed many milestones and special occasions.
For almost eight years, Olga and Boris Shved have missed the joys and challenges of parenting.
There are two bedrooms in their home for their son and daughter, but they’ve been empty since 2006, when Ella and Ryslan were taken.
Olga Shved, now 31, was charged with abusing her baby girl, and Boris, 34, of failing to protect his kids. After years of legal battles — including a prison stint for Olga — the courts recently cleared her of all criminal wrongdoing and reinstated the couple’s parental rights.
Yet on Sunday the Shveds found themselves spending another Mother’s Day alone while their kids, now 8 and 10, live with foster parents in another state.
A Benton County judge is weighing whether the children can be returned.
“We want our kids back so bad,” Olga Shved said.
However, state prosecutors and social workers feel the same as when a judge determined in 2007 that the Shveds were unfit parents and should have no further contact with the children.
Acquitted, but not innocent?
Assistant Attorney General Kevin Hartze has argued that Olga Shved’s acquittal of assault doesn’t mean she is innocent.
At the time, the judge ruled the children were abused or neglected, that Ella had injuries caused by “nonaccidental trauma” when her parents had exclusive control of her and that anger-management issues were involved, Hartze said.
He contends the criminal case is irrelevant to the child-dependency matter, where it is the court’s role to step in and safeguard the kids.
“In essence, what the mother is asking is that we rearrange our system. ... Whatever happened in the criminal case is going to rule, and we’re going to go back and unscrew whatever may or may not have been done,” Hartze said.
He is trying to clear the way for the children to be adopted.
The Shveds know a judge originally ruled they were abusive based on information at the time. They did not participate in parenting services because they refused to admit harming the kids.
But the couple and their attorneys, Linda Lillevik of Seattle and Jim Egan of Kennewick, say the abuse claims are unsubstantiated.
They point to new evidence used in the criminal case showing Ella may have medical conditions from her time in the womb or during childbirth that caused the then-4-month-old’s skull fractures, bleeding in the brain and other injuries.
They are hopeful Court Commissioner Joseph Schneider will reconsider his earlier order, review alleged misconduct by a caseworker and return the kids to their parents.
Doctors: Textbook abuse
Paramedics were called to the Shved home in June 2006. Olga Shved, who went with her daughter to the hospital, told medical staffers she was trying to give the girl “water with an eyedropper when the child appeared to choke and may have stopped breathing.”
Ella, born two months premature, was underweight and had difficulty breast-feeding.
A doctor found numerous scratches on the baby’s body and breaks in her arm, thigh and ribs that were at least 2 weeks old.
Ella also had two subdural hematomas and corresponding skull fractures that were more recent, possibly happening within a day.
Doctors called it textbook child abuse. Olga Shved said the baby slipped from her hands during a bath.
Authorities questioned why she put makeup around the infant’s left eye to cover a bruise. Olga Shved said she was told to buy a certain makeup product because it had medicinal benefits for the skin and didn’t realize at the time that she could get a translucent product.
While prosecutors awaited investigative reports before filing charges, an assistant attorney general moved ahead with the dependency matter and eventual termination of parental rights.
Olga Shved says Ella was taken from her that first day, and 2½-year-old Ryslan several days later.
The children were placed with a foster family, even though Olga Shved said both of their parents and other relatives live nearby.
The Shveds were charged in May 2007 in Franklin County Superior Court: she with first-degree assault of a child, a felony, and he with failing to report an offense against a child, a gross misdemeanor.
His case was dismissed months later. A jury convicted his wife, and she was sentenced in December 2009 to 10 years in prison. The next year, Superior Court Judge Carrie Runge terminated the Shveds’ parental rights.
“Worst time of my life”
Boris Shved described it as “the worst time of my life” — his children were removed from their home, he lost his longtime job as a welder, and his wife was locked up on the other side of the state.
She served two years in the Washington Corrections Center for Women near Gig Harbor. He spent about $1,500 in prison phone calls, in addition to the cost of driving to visit every other weekend.
After the state Court of Appeals reversed her conviction, citing improper jury instructions, her case was returned to Benton County.
At the same time, a panel of judges reviewing their parental-rights case sent that back, as well.
On Feb. 21, Superior Court Judge Vic VanderSchoor found there was insufficient evidence to prove Olga Shved abused her daughter.
The acquittal came after a trial with the judge instead of a jury.
Bone disease, not trauma
Egan said two California doctors refuted the abuse allegations and said Ella’s injuries were the result of bone disease, not trauma.
VanderSchoor ruled an epileptic seizure was responsible, along with diffusely demineralized bones.
The judge also found that medication given to Olga Shved to stop early labor, along with the vacuum-assisted delivery during Ella’s premature birth, could have been responsible for the skull fractures.
Ella reportedly has continued to suffer seizures, and Lillevik and Egan said they have not been able to relay this medical information to the foster-care family to get proper treatment for the girl.
In April, Judge Runge vacated her earlier termination order, giving parental rights back to the Shveds, a move that Lillevik has rarely seen in 27 years practicing law.
Lillevik said it’s frightening that Olga Shved “was convicted of a crime she didn’t commit, and possibly a crime that didn’t even happen.”
Hartze argued that a criminal conviction isn’t needed for a finding of parental unfitness.
“Justice was done, the process was followed and appropriate decisions were made,” he argued.
The lawyers for the Shveds are asking Judge Schneider to throw out his prior findings.
They allege misconduct by the previous assistant attorney general, social worker and guardian appointed in the case.
Egan and Lillevik say it was improper and unethical for the state prosecutor to be in a relationship with the caseworker while they both were handling the Shved matters. The two later married.
The attorneys also gave Schneider paperwork showing the caseworker listed her employment position on Facebook as “professional baby snatcher,” with the description that she is “yelled and screamed at on a daily basis for other people’s problems ... but I do it for the kids and I don’t think I could do anything else.”
The day Olga Shved was sentenced, the caseworker said it’s “freaking time” and replied to a friend that “maybe she’ll fall while in prison and break her ribs, or nose, or arm, or leg or ...”
Lillevik said it’s time for justice and for the Shveds to become a family again.
“On the other part of this tragedy is those foster parents. They love Olga’s children, and I’m sure her children love the foster parents,” Lillevik said.
“At this point it’s just a tragedy all the way around.”
Source: Seattle Times
Boy Attacks Social Worker
May 13, 2014 permalink
The enclosed incomplete Pennsylvania story starts in the middle. It might have said a boy was stolen from his parents and placed in foster care, leaving him angered at a social worker. He attacked the worker. But the reporter started the story with the attack, leaving us mystified about the true cause of his anger.
Social services caseworker assaulted, threatened with knife by 12-year-old boy, Penbrook police say
A 12-year-old boy was criminally charged last week after Penbrook police said he assaulted a social services caseworker and threatened her with a knife.
The caseworker was transported to an area hospital for treatment after the alleged assault, police said.
The incident occurred Thursday at a residence in the 2300 block of Hoffer Street. Police said they were called there for a report of an assault.
Upon arrival, they said they learned the boy had assaulted the caseworker with his fists. He also tried to run from the scene when police arrived, police said.
The boy was charged with aggravated assault, making terroristic threats and resisting arrest. He will face the charges in juvenile court.
Source: Patriot News
May 10, 2014 permalink
When an officer did not like her answers, the nine-year-old daughter of Latoya Harris was dragged away in handcuffs, fingerprinted, photographed and held for an hour at a Portland Oregon police station. In a separate incident the same police force pepper-sprayed the three-year-old son of Don Joughin.
NEVER Let Your Kids Talk to the Police
“When they put the handcuffs on I thought, `Wait a minute, this has got to be a joke,’” recalled Latoya Harris, describing the arrest of her 9-year-old daughter last May. “The look on my daughter’s face went from humiliation and fear, to a look of sheer panic.”
At the time, the girl was wearing a bathing suit and a towel, still damp from running through a neighborhood sprinkler. She was taken away in handcuffs by officers David McCarthy and Matthew Huspek, fingerprinted, photographed, but never charged with a crime. She was held at police headquarters for an hour before her frantic mother — who didn’t have a car — could retrieve the girl from her captors.
The stated purpose of the visit was to investigate a playground fight that had taken place a few days earlier. The actual purpose of the arrest was probably to serve some depraved impulse on the part of the officers to assert their supposed authority over an intimidated but uncooperative child.
According to the Oregonian newspaper, Officer McCarthy — who, like others in his disreputable profession, fancies himself a mentalist of sorts — believed that the child wasn’t telling the truth in her account of the scuffle. His report characterized her statements as “vague,” and recalled that he observed her “breathing speed up,” an entirely appropriate response to the unwelcome presence of an armed and bellicose stranger.
“They repeatedly asked her, `Why don’t you tell me what really happened?” recalls the mother. The officers hauled her away on suspicion of fourth-degree assault. They refused to allow the mother to accompany the daughter in the back of the police car.
“In my opinion, they were trying to scare and humiliate her,” Harris said in testimony before the independent Citizens Review Committee. “All they had to do was give her a talking to. We’re talking about two grown men in uniform with guns.”
This act of gratuitous official sadism was — let’s recite it together — done in accordance with policy, according to department spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson. Handcuffing a nine-year-old is “justified” as a “safeguard,” Simpson asserted.
The Portland PD, which is under scrutiny by the Justice Department (for whatever good that would do), is notable for the tender solicitude its officers display toward vulnerable children. During a presidential visit by George W. Bush in 2002, police assigned to keep protesters caged in “free speech zones” unleashed a pepper spray fusillade against demonstrators who wandered beyond their pens. Among the victims was Don Joughin, who had brought his wife and three children to the event.
After the Jackboots had subjected the protesters to a caustic shower, Joughin turned to a Portland PD officer obstructing an exit and asked how he and his family could leave.
“He pointed and said to exit to the [northeast], into the spraying police opposite him,” Joughin recalled. Trapped between a panicked crowd and pepper spray-wielding assailants, Joughin pleaded with the officer to allow his family to pass.
“He looked at me, and drew out his can from his hip and sprayed directly at me,” testifies Joughin. His three-year-old son caught most of the blast. The Berserker then turned on Joughin’s wife and newborn son “and doused both of their heads entirely from a distance of less than three feet,” he recounts.
Reeling from the fumes and frantic to get help for his screaming child, Joughin tried to leave — only to find his family’s escape blocked at every turn by armored bullies who closed ranks and cut them off. The victims weren’t allowed to leave until someone in “authority” issued an order.
As Joughin and his family fled, one of the cops hurled a “Collateral Murder”-style taunt at their back: “That’s why you shouldn’t bring kids to protests.”
Actually, that episode, like the vicious abduction of Latoya Harris’s daughter, demonstrates why parents should cultivate within their children an incurable distrust of the state’s Punitive Priesthood — and must never, under any circumstances, allow such people to have access to their children.
The Rest of the Story
May 9, 2014 permalink
Dina Mackney is an upscale jeweler based in Reston Virginia. Her products are on sale through sixty five stores across the United States. Expand to see the description of her business from her website.
As a designer, Dina embraces and creates bold jewelry that is dramatic in scale and saturated with color, yet tempered by the clean, contemporary lines of her signature bezel settings. Inspired by the beauty and brilliance of all natural semiprecious gemstones, she designs distinctive jewelry set in 22k gold vermeil, fine sterling silver and solid 18-22k gold. Juxtaposing unique gemstones and unexpected color combinations that surprise and delight, each handcrafted design tells a unique story…much like the confident, modern woman who serves as Dina’s muse.
In a sea of dainty and delicate, a Dina Mackney Design is unapologetically bold and dramatic, while also capturing a timeless aesthetic that easily transitions from season to season. With unique and interesting stones an integral part of what makes a Dina Mackney Design so compelling, many of her signature and one-of-a-kind pieces showcase gems such as Australian Prehnite, Mexican Fire Opal, Tourmalinated and Rutilated Quartz, and Sleeping Beauty Turquoise.
Inspired by her lifelong interest in the arts and the natural beauty of the stones, Dina creates designs for women like herself who wear many hats – mother, artist, and entrepreneur. She studied at The Parsons School of Design, the University of Virginia and the British Institute of Florence in Italy. A native Texan, Dina and her children Jackson (9) and Lily (11) now split their time between the Washington, DC area and Middleburg, Virginia.
Dina’s designs have been featured in O, The Oprah Magazine, InStyle, Coastal Living, Condé Nast Traveler, The Washington Post, The Atlanta Journal Constitution, The Palm Beach Post and other prominent publications. Her jewelry is worn by celebrities including: Oprah Winfrey, Kate Hudson, Téa Leoni, Norah O’Donnell of CBS This Morning, and musician Grace Potter.
Source: Dina Mackney Design
And now, the rest of the story. Dina's husband, Christopher Mackney, was driven to suicide by family law actions on her bahalf. He died on December 29 in Washington DC, leaving a suicide note on the internet. Dina has responded by asserting copyright ownership of her husband's note, and trying to get it removed from the internet. Instead the story has benefited from the Streisand effect. Fixcas is going slightly off-topic to preserve the record. Here is Christopher Mackney's suicide note (pdf) along with legal threats from Dina's lawyers (pdf). To keep maximum distance from Virginia lawyers, both documents are hosted outside the United States.
Child Abuse is Everywhere
May 9, 2014 permalink
A parody in the Onion declares that most serial killers were denied a toy in childhood, setting them on the road to crime. Not a parody is a study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal Child abuse and mental disorders in Canada (local copy, pdf). It finds that a third of all Canadians were abused as children. This epidemic is found by defining child abuse to include spanking, grabbing, pushing, shoving, or witnessing one’s parents hitting one another or even yelling at each other frequently.
The absurd conclusions have serious consequences. As long as child abuse is perceived to be everywhere, professional psychiatrists, social workers and family therapists can justify intervention in just about every family. In the words of Barbara Kay:
Creating definitions that indict a full third of Canadians as abusers or victims points to an unrealistic understanding of human nature and human limitations. This study is easy to mock, but there is nothing funny about its potential ramifications. Its conclusions may well lead to official policies that in turn bring more children into care, children who will suffer far more in removal from their imperfect parents than will be helped by theory-driven state-appointed strangers.
Expand for the Onion spoof and a National Post news article on the CMA Journal report followed by Barbara Kay's comment. Pat Niagara captured a CHCH-TV Sauare Off broadcast (mp4) on the topic.
Study: Most Serial Killers Did Not Receive Toy Every Time They Went To Store As Kids
MINNEAPOLIS—A study published Thursday in The American Journal Of Criminal Psychology has found a nearly perfect statistical correlation between children who were denied a toy they wanted when visiting a store with their parents and the later development of homicidal behavior. “We found that even after just one instance of being told ‘no’ in a toy store aisle, children may begin to exhibit their first violent impulses, which often later manifest as a compulsive need to kill others during adulthood,” said forensic psychologist Edgar Pruitt, whose study tracked the emergence of deviant, psychopathic traits that first began to appear when each future killer left a store without a new Nintendo game, G.I. Joe, or remote-control car. “John Wayne Gacy, Jeffrey Dahmer, the Green River Killer—these were all people who did not get the toys or games they wanted. So as a parent, you have to ask yourself if the $15 you save by not purchasing Legos or a Spider-Man figurine is worth the potentially dozens of innocent lives your child might one day brutally take.” The study also found that young girls who were told they had to eat their dinner before they could have dessert went on in 100 percent of cases to become mothers who drowned their own children one by one in the bathtub.
Source: The Onion
link to video (webm)
One-third of Canadians have suffered child abuse, highest rates in the western provinces, study says
More than a third of Canadians have suffered some kind of child abuse in their lives and that abuse has a strong correlation with mental disorders, according to a new national study touted to be the first of its kind in Canada.
The study, published Tuesday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, found that 32% of Canadians had experienced physical abuse, sexual abuse, exposure to intimate partner violence or a combination of these while they were young — a number that includes behaviour once deemed socially appropriate forms of discipline, such as spanking with an object and slapping.
All types of child abuse were associated with all mental disorders, including suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts, said Tracie Afifi, lead study author and professor of Community Health Sciences and Psychiatry at the University of Manitoba.
“I know that the general public will be surprised with this number,” she said. “But as a child maltreatment researcher, this is what we were thinking it would be around, 30%.”
Indeed, comparable studies conducted in the United States and in Canada report findings around the 30% mark, including the 1990 Ontario Child Health Study which found 31% of males and 21% of females had experienced physical child abuse — similar data was reported in 2000-2001.
But quantifying and even defining child abuse can be extremely difficult, especially considering the effect different kinds of abuse can have on children in varying contexts, observers say.
“It does get to be tricky territory because the question gets to be how serious is it?” said Brad McKenzie, a professor emeritus in the department of social work at the University of Manitoba. For example, spanking is still legal discipline in Canada (though spanking with an object is not), and exposure to intimate partner violence, defined as hearing or witnessing caregivers hitting each other or another adult, is a recent addition to the definition of child maltreatment and has increased the rate of referrals to child protection services “significantly.”
“The degree of seriousness, the degree of harm is another kind of measure we need to consider when you think about what do we do with this information,” he said.
Using data from the 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey on Mental Health collected from 23,000 people in 10 provinces (the overall household response rate was 79.8%), researchers categorized the abuse by type — physical, sexual and exposure to intimate partner violence. Physical included slapping on the face, head or ears and being hit or spanked as the least severe; pushed, grabbed, shoved or something thrown at as second-most severe; and kicked bit, punched, choked, burned and attacked as the most severe. Sexual abuse and exposure to intimate partner violence did not have similar stages. Questions about child abuse were only asked to respondents over age 18 (respondents were all over 15 and excluded people in the three territories, in indigenous communities, the Canadian Forces and people living in institutions).
The researchers also used a tool to weed out one-off occurrences, and used a combination of self-reporting and in-person interviews with trained professionals, Prof. Afifi said.
Abuse was more prevalent in Western Canada, with the highest rate of 40% in Manitoba, 35.8% in British Columbia and 36.1% in Alberta. The lowest was 20.5% in Newfoundland and Labrador.
All types of abuse were related to mental disorders, the researchers found, even after controlling for “socio-demographic” differences.
“Not every person who is abused — even ones that are severely abused — not every one will have a mental disorder, but it does increase the likelihood,” Prof. Afifi said. “No matter how we looked at it, we got these consistent relationships. Even though we can’t say ‘the abuse is causing this disorder,’ when you see this causal relationship, you can be very confident in the data.”
Nico Trocmé, director of the Centre for Research on Children and Families at McGill University in Montreal and principal investigator of the Canadian Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect, welcomed the “confirmatory” study as a great addition to national research on child abuse that is sorely lacking in Canada.
“There’s no doubt more severe acts are more likely to be associated with more mental health problems,” he said. “But the very fact there is this continuum points to the risks of being complacent about things we might consider to be very minor abuse.”
To some children, being slapped by their parents may not have had a major effect, but to others it can fit into a broader context of vulnerability and contribute to heightened risk of developing a mental disorder later in life. That so many people have been affected by child abuse “speaks to how resilient people are,” he said.
Prof. Afifi hopes the study, which she calls ” one of the most comprehensive papers on child abuse and mental health from any country” will sound the alarm on the need for greater child abuse prevention efforts, and reveal the relationship between abuse in a young person’s life and the potential for mental illness later on.
“When people think ‘You know 32% that’s a lot, exposure to intimate partner violence is that really a problem, is that really all that damaging or being slapped in the face, is that really a big problem?’ we find that all the types of abuse were associated,” she said.
Source: National Post
Barbara Kay: Study paints a portrait of Canada as a nation of child abusers
While perusing my morning newspaper today, I was surprised to learn, from an article about the findings of a newly published study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, that I am a child abuser. Reading on in the same article, I was further startled to discover that I was also a victim of child abuse (thank goodness my parents did not live long enough to find that out).
Reeling from this double whammy, I was ill-prepared for the final blow: that both my abuse of my children and my parents’ abuse of me may be causally related to mental disorders! And I am not alone. According to this study – entitled “Child Abuse and mental disorders in Canada” - about a third of Canadians are abusers or abused, and their experience is “associated” with mental disorder.
Forgive the sarcasm and the attendant skepticism it represents, but this would not be the first study to ring alarm bells on an alleged epidemic of abuse. Rape culturists believe one in four university coeds is sexually assaulted on campus; so-called domestic violence experts tell us one in three women will be the victim of intimate partner violence; and now here we go again with child abuse. The problem with all these forms of moral panic projecting epidemic abuse of women and children is that their study statistics arise from definitions that cast so wide a net for negative behaviours that the conclusions they lead to are virtually meaningless
Rape culturists dumb down rape to include any sexual behaviour indulged in while a woman is intoxicated. Domestic violence alarmists dumb down intimate partner violence to include any actions, words or even tone and gestures that hurt a woman’s feelings. In both cases, what any reasonable person would consider to be true and consequential abuse is radically less common than the sensationalized numbers bruited in the media would suggest.
And in this study, which lead author Tracie Afifi, professor of Community Health Sciences and Psychiatry at the University of Manitoba claims is “one of the most comprehensive papers on child abuse and mental health from any country,” we find that child abuse includes spanking, grabbing, pushing or shoving, while witnessing one’s parents hitting (and presumably shoving, grabbing or pushing) one another or even yelling at each other frequently makes one a victim of child abuse. Well, my parents yelled at each other quite a lot in my presence and I am certainly guilty of having spanked (sometimes with a wooden spoon), grabbed and shoved my children on several occasions. And I don’t take kindly to being lumped in with “child abusers” or “victims of child abuse.”
Even collegial observers find the “comprehensive” nature of the study discomfiting. “[Exposure to Domestic violence] does get to be tricky territory because the question gets to be, how serious is it?” muses Brad McKenzie, professor emeritus in the department of social work at the University of Manitoba.” McKenzie notes that the expanding referential catchment for abuse, to include exposure to domestic violence, has had the real-life effect of “significantly” increasing the rate of referrals to child protection services.
He’s right about that. In Ontario alone, since the mid-1990s, the number of children taken into care rose from 11,609 children in 1998 to 18,126 in 2003 to 25,710 in 2012. What explains this dramatic increase? Human nature has not changed in the last 15 years. Parents in general are more educated and more sensitive to children’s rights than they were in my generation. Children are no more or less resilient than they were decades ago, and indeed throughout of all human history.
Willingness to report abuse is probably part of the answer. But another part is the changed definition of abuse. Physical abuse is no longer the primary reason children are removed from parental care in Canada. According to a 2005 scholar’s assessment, physical harm to children occurred in only 10% of cases of substantiated maltreatment, with only 3% of cases requiring medical intervention. That should ring alarm bells. Physical harm constitutes objective abuse, and should be the main reason for removal from a home. The definition of abuse has drifted away from physical harm into subjective realms because the vast majority of students in the “soft” sciences of sociology, psychology and child pedagogy are dominated by ideologically inspired curricula in which theories of social engineering capable of producing utopian outcomes permeate the discourse and texts to which these students are continually exposed. Utopianism breeds contempt for human imperfection, disdain for individual rights and the conviction that “experts” – efficiently clustered under the umbrella of the state – can improve on ever-so-flawed ordinary people in bringing about the ideal society they dream of.
Creating definitions that indict a full third of Canadians as abusers or victims points to an unrealistic understanding of human nature and human limitations. This study is easy to mock, but there is nothing funny about its potential ramifications. Its conclusions may well lead to official policies that in turn bring more children into care, children who will suffer far more in removal from their imperfect parents than will be helped by theory-driven state-appointed strangers.
I am sure the researchers of this study were extremely well-intentioned. But when perfection is made the enemy of the “good-enough,” good intentions can lead to bad outcomes.
Source: National Post
May 8, 2014 permalink
Massachusetts DCF has announced a plan to reunite Justina Pelletier with her family. Journalist Michael Graham says it is a fake. How does he know it's fake? The press release for the plan arrived in his inbox before word got to the parents.
For readers who don't believe child protectors use fake reunification stories, in December 2012 fixcas posted an announcment by father Derek Hoare along with a press report from the Abbotsford News. Both reported the news that Ayn Van Dyk would be soon retunited with her parents. She is still in foster care today.
Graham: Justina ‘reunion’ a political ploy
Press told well before state tells parents
“Why can’t Justina just come home?”
Of course that’s the question Lou and Linda Pelletier are asking about the daughter taken from them more than a year ago. As a parent, isn’t it the question you’d ask?
That’s not the question the Patrick administration wants people asking in the Justina Pelletier case. They want you asking why Justina’s parents won’t just accept Health and Human Services Secretary John Polanowicz’s family reunification plan. The Patrick administration doesn’t want you asking parenting or medical questions. They’re handling Justina like a political issue.
How do I know? Because I saw Justina’s “reunion” plan before her family did.
Monday at 12:15 p.m., my email “pinged” with a message from Alec Loftus of Health and Human Services. Attached was a letter laying out the state’s reunification plan — sent to the media before it was given to the family.
And not just “the media” — but me — Michael Graham — the guy whose emails and phone calls the Patrick HHS has refused to return for weeks. Suddenly I’m getting my first-ever email from Polanowicz’s office, “pre-selling” me the deal before Lou and Linda Pelletier even see it?
This isn’t protecting children. It’s politics.
Massachusetts and the Patrick administration have gotten a national black eye from this story. Bay State voters may give their undying support to Democrat pols no matter what they do, but most of America isn’t as blindly partisan. The scenario of a sick girl snatched from her parents during a weekend hospital stay and kept for more than a year is shocking beyond the Massachusetts border.
Then there’s the bizarro reunification deal itself.
The state’s plan is to (finally) get Justina out of Massachusetts and back to her home state of Connecticut. OK, good start. But instead of going home with mom and dad, the Department of Children and Families insists on keeping custody of Justina while she’s forced to stay in the psych ward of the JRI Susan Wayne Center.
So one state is going to oversee the custody and health care of the citizen of another state in a medical facility … in her home state?
Even if the Massachusetts DCF didn’t have a terrifying track record of lost and dead children in its care, this would be a formula for disaster.
Why not just release Justina to her parents, then send her file to Connecticut’s DCF and let their investigators decide if the Pelletiers are a danger to their daughter? Isn’t that the simple and easy solution for both Justina and Massachusetts?
Polanowicz continues to insist DCF doesn’t have that option. But as attorney Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel points out, “DCF regulations explicitly state that DCF ‘does have the option to close cases by administrative decision without court action’ even if their custody is based on a court order.”
I think the problem is what politicians call “optics.” Simply letting Justina go home validates the view that the Patrick administration was wrong to seize her in the first place.
Remember the original excuse was DCF’s accusation of “medical abuse” against the Pelletiers. That “abuse” consisted of following treatment prescribed by doctors at Tufts Medical Center. Now, Polanowicz’s own plan calls for the Pelletiers to “follow through with the Tufts Medical Center plan.”
Wait — isn’t that why the state took Justina in the first place?
I asked Lou Pelletier yesterday why not take the deal to, if nothing else, get Justina out of corrupt Massachusetts.
“Because this is a bait-and-switch,” he told me. “They want an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ scenario where Justina’s being treated just as badly, but without all the public pressure they’re getting now.”
Unfortunately, it appears Massachusetts will move her anyway. Lou and Linda Pelletier have no power. They’re the least important people in Deval Patrick’s political system:
Source: Boston Herald
Note: On May 11, Mother's Day, DCF refused to let Justina visit her mother.
Addendem: On May 12 Justina was moved to a facility in Connecticut, but remains in legal custody of the state of Massachusetts.
Justina Pelletier Moved To Connecticut Facility
Justina Pelletier, the West Hartford teen at the center of an interstate custody dispute, has been moved to a Connecticut treatment facility on Monday.
She had been at the Wayside Youth and Family Support Network Facility In Framingham, Mass. and was moved to JRI Susan Wayne Center For Excellence In Thompson, which is in the northeast corner of the state.
The 15 year old remains in the custody of the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families as she’s been the past 15 months.
She was taken from her parents after they disagreed with a sudden diagnosis issued at a new hospital.
Justina’s parents met with the Wayne center’s director Monday — the parents want her home immediately.
Source: WTIC FOX Connecticut
May 7, 2014 permalink
Ottawa CAS has busted the home daycare operated by Kathy Rowe. She had more then five clients, and CAS inspectors found safety violations in the home.
Ottawa childcare provider fighting shutdown
By Carys Mills, OTTAWA CITIZEN May 4, 2014
OTTAWA — A popular Ottawa childcare provider is fighting the shutdown of her daycare over government concerns about the number of children she looks after and alleged hazards in her home.
Kathy Rowe, 53, said she’s been looking after kids for close to 20 years. Recently, Rowe has been looking after as many as nine children under 10 years old at her Blair Street house, although the children wouldn’t usually all be there at the same time, she said.
The number of children is a problem for the Ministry of Education, which oversees Ontario daycares, and one Rowe says an inspector flagged last week when she visited the home. The province stipulates that unlicensed daycares, such as Rowe’s, have a maximum of five children under the age of 10. Any more than that is considered illegal.
After getting shut down last week over the number of kids and home “hazards” identified by the Children’s Aid Society, Rowe says she’s fighting to stay open and is calling for changes to provincial daycare laws, including more monitoring overall.
“There are a lot of people out there that should not be running daycares,” Rowe said. “But that shouldn’t mean that responsible people who are committed are going to be treated like criminals.”
A group of current and former parents who used Rowe’s services are rallying around her. They helped clean her home on Sunday and plan to picket an inspector expected to return Monday.
“I understand the system is black and white … but I do really feel the parents should be able to make a decision,” said Laura Sutin, whose son and daughter each stayed with Rowe for several years ending in 2011, when they grew out of daycare.
Before signing up with Rowe, Sutin said she saw her with about five kids at an indoor playground, all donning red shirts for easier identification.
Once her kids went there, Sutin said they “thrived,” enjoying educational activities, outings and pets at Rowe’s home. “She ended up being one of the best things in our life,” Sutin said.
But those factors aren’t considered under the Day Nurseries Act, which was the subject of proposed changes before a bill died on the Order Paper last week, when an election was called. The changes wouldn’t have allowed for more children at unlicensed daycares.
Lauren Ramey, spokeswoman for Minister of Education Liz Sandals, said the ministry responds to complaints about too many kids being at an unlicensed daycare.
When an inspector arrived, Rowe said there were eight children under 10 and three older kids. She said she was aware of the limit under the law, but it’s a number of kids she is comfortable with.
Ramey said if other issues are found at a daycare, other agencies can be called in. She did not respond to case-specific questions.
Children’s Aid was called in Rowe’s case, and according to an email Rowe provided to the Citizen, an inspector identified hazards inside her home, including the kitchen needing cleaning, choking hazards, a missing vent cover, improper storage of medication and a cat litter box being in an area where kids have access.
On Sunday, Children’s Aid after-hours supervisor Anita Beaudry said she had no information specific to the case.
Source: Ottawa Citizen
Parents rally to support ‘illegal’ Blair Street daycare
OTTAWA — Supporters of an Ottawa childcare shut down over government concerns about the number of children she looks after and alleged hazards in her home rallied outside her home on Monday morning.
Lindsay Bell, a mother of three whose six-year-old daughter went to the daycare before she started school, was one of half a dozen parents that showed their support for the daycare run by 53-year-old Kathy Rowe.
“I’ve been running my home daycare for 20 years without incident,” Rowe said.
Bell said she has never had any issues with the level of care her daughter received.
Parents should be given the choice where to send their children, but the Children’s Aid Society made that choice for parents when they closed the daycare last week.
“I think as a parent I have to have that choice,” Bell said. “If you take away my right to choose where (to send) my kids, as a parent I have lost the most fundamental right I have.”
Rowe has been looking after as many as nine children under 10 years old at her Blair Street house, although the children wouldn’t usually all be there at the same time, she said.
The number of children is a problem for the Ministry of Education, which oversees Ontario daycares, and one Rowe says an inspector flagged last week when she visited the home.
The province stipulates that unlicensed daycares, such as Rowe’s, have a maximum of five children under the age of 10. Any more than that is considered illegal.
After getting shut down last week over the number of kids and home “hazards” identified by the Children’s Aid Society, Rowe says she’s fighting to stay open and is calling for changes to provincial daycare laws, including more monitoring overall.
Children’s Aid was called in Rowe’s case, and according to an email Rowe provided to the Citizen, an inspector identified hazards inside her home, including the kitchen needing cleaning, choking hazards, a missing vent cover, improper storage of medication and a cat litter box being in an area where kids have access.
Rowe and parents said the home is “lived in,” but has never created any safety concerns.
Source: Ottawa Citizen
Fix Dufferin CAS!
May 7, 2014 permalink
A new group concerned with children's aid has been formed in Dufferin. There is a rally scheduled outside the riding office of MPP Sylvia Jones, 244 Broadway in Orangeville on May 16 at 9:00 am. Contact information is not clear, but interested persons can get more clarification using the enclosed email addresses for the group.
- Nordlander-Nalli <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Robert McQuaid <email@example.com>
- Rally May 16th Sylvia Jones Office
- Mon, 5 May 2014 09:46:21 -0700 (PDT)
- Reply to:
- Nordlander-Nalli <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Ladies and Gentleman; Please chime in...
More input and volunteers are needed.
Come to the next Wednesday night meeting as we are in the action stage of advocacy and social change. Arrange to phone in if you can`t come.
We have a huge opportunity now. There is some bad news first. We lost the May 16th opportunity to meet face to face with Sylvia Jones Dufferin MPP. This is because (as explained to me by Carol Clarke OM at Sylvia`s office) the election was called and by-laws stipulate she cannot meet with constituents on governmental issues until she's re-elected, she can`t see us face to face in a meeting. Therefore we must Rally now and we need more volunteers.
On a good note:
May 20th - Irwin Elman Office of Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth will be meeting face to face with the leaders of DCAFS to bring forth the issues, but he doesn`t have the power to do anything about them at this point. Only Minister Teresa Piruzza can.
Welcome to the volunteers who have come forth and a brief introduction on their roles:
Welcome Peter O (Orangeville Grandfather) with a grandchild with a disability coming out of the system. He`s wise to politics and is a member of the Green Party. He is wise to politics.
Welcome Sherry S. (Oranageville mom) to our team Ladies. She's good in advertising and working on flyers, has a computer and can do stuff on social media. Thanks Sherry for getting on board today!
Jenn R. (London mom) is working on Press Release about the Rally. She has established social media on Twitter. Jenn's writing letters to PM and Government, even getting kicked off Twitter sometimes LOL (someone`s trying to shut her down).
Nikki P. (Orangeville mom) is working on getting her disclosure for her case because she may have to switch lawyers due to conflict of interest. Her Lawyer is trying to adopt a baby from DCAFS. Ah...just a little conflict there don`t you think. My prayers go out to you Nikki, stay strong! We get our strength from our weakest moments. Nikki`s volunteered to get people to come out to our meetings (who are afraid to) and help get them making signs for the Rally.
I'm going into OCJ with a 14B (so is Nikki for leave to hear our motions on a closed date to get our disclosure), I have the CFSRB 2 day hearing (May 28,30) and am doing the IRCP (today) to show DCAFS the inaccuracy in their documentation. I`ll try and record it.
What is the consensus on becoming ``court nuisances`` these next few months. Bring the 14B motions to get leave to bring a motion to get disclosure in C.A.S. cases. Tell people to GET THEIR DISCLOSURE with 14B motions for leave in the OCJ or Child and Family Services Review Boards!
Dr. Julie McFarlane is pushing out our Wednesday Night Legal Info Meetings to her network of legal community stakehholders. I really want to stay connected with Julie and what we do. She`s on our side and represents a huge community of legal practitioners as she is on the Faculty of Law at U of Windsor. She also has a huge network now of SRL`s (self represented litigants).
Anyhow, sorry to make this long....I hate doing that but see below what I sent to Tabitha Wells Orangeville Citizen. I wanted to follow up on the article, when its going to go out. We should do this with Rob Cribb (TOStar) and Tara Deschampes (Ryerson Freelance Journalist).
Below I`ve listed some legislation that we will want to use:
"If you want to change the world, pick up a pen and write" - Martin Luther King
----- Forwarded Message -----
- Nordlander-Nalli <email@example.com>
- Tabitha Wells <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Monday, May 5, 2014 12:07 PM
- Rally May 16th Sylvia Jones Office
We are stepping up the A2J campaign with a Rally to take place on Friday May 16th, at 9:00 a.m.
Taking advantage of this critical time before an election we want to raise the C.A.S. issue in and amongst the community; and the systemic social injustices occurring in family courts. Sylvia was opposition critique of the Ministry of the Attorney General and Government Services and Child and Family Services. We are a headwaters community in action. We will send a press release out later today or tomorrow.
Can you send me an email of the article link when it goes out or (if you want me to review it for accuracy before it goes out) I'd be happy to do that (to avoid a later correction).
Place: On Broadway at Sylvia Jones constituency office on May 16th at 9:00 a.m.
Purpose: to ensure a safe community for our children, youth, parents and grandparents, people with disabilities and parents with children with disabilities. To raise the quality of life and address the poverty and low income issues.
Desired Outcome: Enact and Invoke the Child and Family Services Act legislation that give the Minister in power the authority to step in and investigate a C.A.S.
Revocation and Take-Over Powers
Powers of Minister
22. (1)Where the Minister believes on reasonable grounds that,
(a) an approved agency is not providing services in accordance with this Act or the regulations or in accordance with any term or condition imposed on the approval under subsection 8 (1) or 9 (1) or, in the case of a society, on the designation under subsection 15 (2);
(b) a director, officer or employee of an approved agency has contravened or knowingly permitted any person under his or her control and direction to contravene any provision of this Act or the regulations or any term or condition imposed on the approval under subsection 8 (1) or 9 (1) or, in the case of a society, on the designation under subsection 15 (2);
(c) approval of the agency under subsection 8 (1) or of the premises under subsection 9 (1) would be refused if it were being applied for in the first instance; or
(d) in the case of a society, the society,
(i) is not able to or fails to perform any or all of its functions under section 15,
(ii) fails to perform any or all of its functions in any part of its territorial jurisdiction, or
(iii) fails to follow a directive issued under section 20.1,
the Minister may,
(e) revoke or suspend the approval; or
(f) in the case of a society,
(i) revoke or suspend the designation under subsection 15 (2),
(ii) remove any or all of the members of the board of directors and appoint others in their place, or
(iii) operate and manage the society in the place of the board of directors. R.S.O. 1990, c. C.11, s. 22 (1); 1999, c. 2, s. 7.
Designation of children’s aid society
(2) The Minister may designate an approved agency as a children’s aid society for a specified territorial jurisdiction and for any or all of the functions set out in subsection (3), may impose terms and conditions on a designation and may vary, remove or amend the terms and conditions or impose new terms and conditions at any time, and may at any time amend a designation to provide that the society is no longer designated for a particular function set out in subsection (3) or to alter the society’s territorial jurisdiction. R.S.O. 1990, c. C.11, s. 15 (2).
Directors and Program Supervisors
6. (1)For the purpose of ensuring compliance with this Act and the regulations a program supervisor may, at all reasonable times, upon producing proper identification, enter premises where an approved service is provided, inspect the facilities, the service provided, the books of account and the records relating to the service, and make copies of those books and records or remove them from the premises to copy them as may be reasonably required.
Note: “program supervisor” means a program supervisor appointed under subsection 5 (2) of Part I (Flexible Services); (“superviseur de programme”)
“provincial director” means,
(a) a person, the group or class of persons or the body appointed or designated by the Lieutenant Governor in Council or his or her delegate to perform any of the duties or functions of a provincial director under the Young Offenders Act (Canada) or under the federal Act, or
(b) a person as appointed under clause 90 (1) (a); (“directeur provincial”)
This town hall flyer (MS-Word) gives better information on the group.
Addendum: The May 16 rally has been canceled. A new event has been scheduled for June 18 at the DCAFS annual meeting. That will coincide with the next Gary Putman    award. Here is the announcement on the DCAFS website.
- Nordlander-Nalli <email@example.com>
- Gary Puttman Award Night June 18th
- Tue, 13 May 2014 11:43:20 -0700 (PDT)
Our Rally has been postponed until we can get a bigger group together. Did you see on DCAFS website there is a Gary Puttman Award. The Award will be given out on June 18th at DCAFS AGM.
Vote for Oversight
May 7, 2014 permalink
To help guide voters in the upcoming election, the Ontario Coalition for Accountability has assembled a list of Ontario MPPs supporting extending the ombudsman's oversight into the MUSH sector, including children's aid societies.
Below is a list of MPP’s who have confirmed with us they’re supporting our calls for accountability of Ontario’s Long-Term Care Homes (LTC), Hospitals, Children’s Aid Societies (CAS), School Boards, Universities, Police and will vote to allow the Ombudsman to investigate these institutions.
MPP’s who support expanding the Ombudsman mandate.
Mantha, Michael Algoma–Manitoulin NDP Jackson, Rod Barrie PC Prue, Michael Beaches–East York NDP Singh, Jagmeet Bramalea–Gore–Malton NDP Walker, Bill Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound PC McKenna, Jane Burlington PC MacLaren, Jack Carleton–Mississippi Mills PC Leone, Rob Cambridge PC Nicholls, Rick Chatham–Kent–Essex PC Schein, Jonah Davenport NDP Jones, Sylvia Dufferin–Caledon PC O’Toole, John Durham PC Yurek, Jeff Elgin–Middlesex–London PC Natyshak, Taras Essex NDP Cansfield, Donna H. Etobicoke Centre Liberal Doug Holyday Etobicoke-Lakeshore PC Barrett, Toby Haldimand–Norfolk PC Scott, Laurie Haliburton–Kawartha Lakes–Brock PC Chudleigh, Ted Halton PC Horwath, Andrea Hamilton Centre NDP Miller, Paul Hamilton East–Stoney Creek NDP Taylor, Monique Hamilton Mountain NDP Thompson, Lisa M. Huron–Bruce PC Campbell, Sarah Kenora–Rainy River NDP Harris, Michael Kitchener–Conestoga PC Fief, Catherine Kitchener-Waterloo NDP McNaughton, Monte Lambton–Kent–Middlesex PC Hillier, Randy Lanark–Frontenac–Lennox and Addington PC Armstrong, Teresa J. London–Fanshawe NDP Sattler, Peggy London–West NDP MacLeod, Lisa Nepean–Carleton PC Klees, Frank Newmarket–Aurora PC Gates, Wayne Niagara NDP Hudak, Tim Niagara West–Glanbrook PC Gélinas, France Nickel Belt NDP Fedeli, Victor Nipissing PC Milligan, Rob E. Northumberland–Quinte West PC Clark, Steve Leeds–Grenville PC Ouellette, Jerry J. Oshawa PC Hardeman, Ernie Oxford PC DiNovo, Cheri Parkdale–High Park NDP Miller, Norm Parry Sound–Muskoka PC Pettapiece, Randy Perth–Wellington PC Smith, Todd Prince Edward–Hastings PC Yakabuski, John Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke PC Bailey, Robert Sarnia–Lambton PC Dunlop, Garfield Simcoe North PC Wilson, Jim Simcoe–Grey PC McDonell, Jim Stormont–Dundas–South Glengarry PC Vanthof, John Timiskaming–Cochrane NDP Bisson, Gilles Timmins–James Bay NDP Martow, Gila Thornhill NDP Tabuns, Peter Toronto–Danforth NDP Marchese, Rosario Trinity–Spadina NDP Arnott, Ted Wellington–Halton Hills PC Elliott, Christine Whitby–Oshawa PC Forster, Cindy Welland NDP Hatfield, Percy Windsor-Tecumseh NDP Munro, Julia York–Simcoe PC
Source: Ontario Coalition for Accountability / Haskett
Girls Attack Foster Mom
May 7, 2014 permalink
Three teenaged girls have assaulted their foster mother in Brandon Manitoba. The victim was hospitalized and later released.
Teens beat foster mom, assault cops
Three teenage girls face a slew of charges after a liquor-fuelled rampage at their foster home late Monday night.
Their foster mother was sent to hospital after two of the girls beat her with a chair, police say, in what turned out to be just the start of a troubled evening.
Officers were called at about 10:25 p.m. on Monday to the foster home, which is the 300-block of Louise Avenue.
They say that two 16-year-old girls had come back to the house drunk and with more liquor on them. But when their foster mom took the booze away, the teens turned on her — punching and kicking her as she sat on a couch, and hitting her in the upper body with a chair.
The 45-year-old woman needed an ambulance, and was hospitalized, but has since been released.
One of the girls also stole the woman's car keys, police say, and was trying to drive off when officers arrived. She slammed the car into reverse, hitting the house, before trying to drive across the home's lawn, crashing into a tree instead.
She was arrested once the car came to a stop, although not before managing to kick one of the officers in what police called "a sensitive area of the body" — the officer's groin.
This girl has been charged with aggravated assault, assault with a weapon, theft of motor vehicle, dangerous driving, impaired driving, refuse blood demand, assaulting a peace officer, and failure to comply with probation for consuming alcohol when ordered to abstain. She was treated at hospital for minor injuries sustained when the car's air bags went off and then held in jail overnight to appear in court Tuesday.
The second girl was also arrested and held in jail overnight. She is facing charges of aggravated assault as well as assaulting a peace officer, after she allegedly spit into the eyes of one of officers arresting her.
A third girl who lives at the home, a 14-year-old, came back while police were still at the scene, and was arrested for being drunk. She was also jailed overnight, and will have a court date in June to face charges of failure to comply with probation.
Source: Brandon Sun
Justina Harassed while Showering
May 4, 2014 permalink
The family of Justina Pelletier complains that a staffer approached her while she was showering and ripped away the curtain. Earlier articles:    . Expand for the text report, there is also a video (mp4).
Family: Justina Pelletier harassed by staffer while taking shower
Custody battle continues for Connecticut family
BOSTON —The parents of a Connecticut teenager caught in a high profile custody battle in Massachusetts called police during a meeting with their daughter Friday.
Pelletier is currently staying at a Department of Children and Families facility in Framingham and is allowed weekly visits with her family at a DCF office in Dorchester.
Her family said she told them about an incident that allegedly happened at the facility.
"My sister expressed that she was in the shower and she was harassed while she was naked taking a shower by a staff member that didn't even have privileges to be in the area of Justina's bathroom," said Justina's sister, Jennifer.
"We strongly deny any allegations of abuse and believe that any third party review of our care would support this position," said a spokeswoman for the agency providing Pelletier's care.
After hearing the allegations the family said they called police. Several officers responded to the office and family said they are interviewing Justina.
"I'm numb right now. I'm trying to stay strong, but it's not easy. It's absolutely disgusting," said her mother, Linda.
Family said Justina was taken back to the Framingham facility, where she has been kept despite their objections.
"DCF's primary goal has always been the health and wellbeing of Justina," said a spokeswoman for the Department of Children and Families. "Today's visit with the family took place as scheduled, and we continue to work to with all parties to find a solution that will allow her to return to Connecticut."
Source: WCVB Boston
Jeffrey Baldwin Bites Back
May 4, 2014 permalink
The Toronto District School Board is proposing to subject all volunteers to a background check. The Globe and Mail editorializes of the folly of this unnecessary policy. There has never been a single incident involving a volunteer threatening the safety of a child at TDSB school. Why did the policy change get proposed? The coroner's jury in the Jeffrey Baldwin inquest recommended:
- The Toronto District School Board shall implement a policy or procedure to take effect in the 2014-2015 academic year requiring that a Vulnerable Sector Screening be completed for all volunteers, with an updated Vulnerable Sector Screening to be completed by each volunteer no less than every five years.
This recommendation had nothing to do with Jeffrey Baldwin, who was not enrolled in school. The death was the work of his dysfunctional grandmother, unchecked by CAS workers. But the social services system treats coroner's juries as puppets who can endorse anything on their wish list.
Extreme parents, with nothing to fear but fear itself
Today’s generation of parents is arguably the most overprotective in history. Which is odd, given their upbringing. As children, they walked to school alone, rode shotgun without a seat belt and roamed outside for hours on end in happy pursuit of parentless adventure.
These carefree children survived, grew up, and many became parents themselves. Their helicopter tendencies are both ironic and unrecognizable to those who preceded them. Today’s parents accompany their toddlers down playground slides, they fight their kids’ battles at the hockey rink and they fill out their teenagers’ university applications. From play date to prom, they are hell-bent on shielding their children from danger, both real and perceived. The ability to mitigate a child’s exposure to even exceedingly low-probability risks and dangers has become synonymous with any modern notion of good parenting.
The obsession with safety – nudged by fears over lawsuits – has fuelled a staggering amount of policy overreach, particularly in schools, the crucible where parental paranoia and society’s rules collide. Toronto’s Earl Beatty Junior and Senior Public School banned soccer balls after a parent was whacked in the back of the head and suffered a concussion. A London school board banned peanut butter substitutes because they could be confused with real peanut butter. A school in Waterloo, Ont., banned children hugging each other, part of a “keep your hands to yourself” policy.
None of these policy changes actually solve real, widespread problems. But they create new ones. They are bureaucratic responses to imagined crises – or statistically insignificant ones – designed to address dangers that exist predominantly as figments in the overprotective imagination.
Such is precisely the case with a new rule under consideration by the Toronto District School Board that would require any parent wishing to volunteer at their child’s school to submit to a criminal background check, including a look into mental health records. It’s a classic case of policy overreach preying on parental fear that eclipses common sense. Ironically, this rule would also present an obstacle to helicopter parents, who see it as both a moral duty and a citizen’s right to volunteer at their children’s school. Obtaining a criminal background check is no small thing, and drives down parental participation, which is why there’s been such pushback.
It is worth examining in detail the sheer absurdity of what’s being proposed. Obtaining a criminal-background check to volunteer at your child’s school is about as cumbersome and pleasurable as getting a tooth removed. It is considerably more invasive and time-consuming. In Toronto, it requires you to obtain a form from your child’s school; list all of your personal information on that form; check a box allowing the police to access your relevant personal information under the Mental Health Act; potentially submit fingerprints; obtain a money order for up to $65 payable to the police; return said money order along with said form back to the school; wait for clearance to arrive in the mail; return that to the school. The entire process can take up to three months.
The idea of criminal background checks for parent volunteers in schools gained traction when the TDSB amalgamated in 1998. Before that, certain boards required it for certain volunteers. Others didn’t bother. As it stands, the TDSB requires criminal background checks for regular volunteers. The new rule would make it obligatory for all volunteers to pass a criminal background check, capturing everyone from a parent who wants to volunteer for a school’s spring track meet to one who simply wants to help take her daughter’s class on a field trip to the Royal Ontario Museum.
Schools depend on volunteer parents to function. Parents, in turn, are eager for the opportunity, and raise their hands in droves. There are currently 32,000 on the TDSB’s volunteer lists. Tens of thousands of parent volunteers have passed through school hallways since amalgamation. The proposed new rule implicitly suggests that child predators lurk among them. Yet, according to a TDSB spokesperson, there has never been a single incident involving a volunteer threatening the safety of a child at TDSB school. Not one. Not ever.
If the proposal for the new rule didn’t arise from a desire to solve an authentic problem, how, exactly did it come about? The answer serves to further underscore its ridiculousness. It stems from an inquest into the horrific death of Jeffrey Baldwin, a five-year-old boy who died after being neglected, abused and ultimately starved to death by his grandparents in 2002.
The jury at Jeffrey’s coroner’s inquest recommended that “a Vulnerable Sector Screening be completed for all volunteers,” at the TDSB, “with an updated Vulnerable Sector Screening to be completed by each volunteer no less than every five years.” This despite the fact that Jeffrey’s mistreatment took place exclusively in his grandparents’ home. Not at his school.
Canadian schools, despite our worst fears, are still overwhelmingly safe places. There is no crisis of parents posing a threat to kids in schools. The TDSB’s proposed rule is designed to solve a problem which does not exist. But a TDSB spokesman says that all of these precautions are necessary, because, after all, “you can’t be too careful.”
That line of argument is deeply unhinged from reality. It feeds on irrational fear, rather than fact. And it ignores the obvious costs of these ridiculous rules. Requiring every parent to submit to a police check will discourage parents’ involvement in schools, turn some school trips into logistical nightmares, and infringe on privacy to an unprecedented degree. Yes, we can be too careful.
Schools should support policies that reasonably protect children’s safety. Not inane rules grounded in nothing more than irrational fears.
Source: Globe and Mail
CAS as Punishment
May 3, 2014 permalink
The police were informed that Patricia's children were seen playing outside their home in the presence of an older adult male. In past generations, children playing outside was considered to be a normal healthy activity. Now the police treat it as abuse. As for adult men, police cannot imagine anything but a child molester. Later the video suggests he might have been a mis-identified teenaged brother.
In the last seconds of the video the police decided Patricia was not being sufficiently cooperative. No words say this, but from the tone of the policeman, the message is unmistakable. She is being reported to children's aid as a form of punishment, in much the same way a cop might hand out a frivolous ticket to an uncooperative motorist or rough up an unruly teenager.
Patricia later posted the CAS report on the incident.
View Allegation: Child Protection Intake - Patricia Turner - 184123 -SIM-18967 Page 1 of 1
View Allegation: Child Protection Intake - Patricia Turner - 184123 - SIM-18967 ?
Of Concern: Patricia Turner Focus of Concern: Aaron Fairfield Jr. Date of Incident: 2014-May-03 Eligibility Spectrum Rating: 2.1.8
On May 3/14 at 4:30 p.m. Cst. Greg Johnston- Badge 4757-Barrie City Police - 705-660-9215- spoke with AH/Stacey Beckles re: concerns for Elissa Fairfield (1) and AJ Fairfield (3) (Police Occurrence # BA 14 01 99 56).
Cst. Johnston advised that around 2:13 p.m. a couple driving by called their dispatch to report that they had found to children outside in the rain unattended. The couple advised that they observed a small toddler (Elissa) outside unattended and that the child was drenched from being out in the rain and was covered in mud. The couple also reported that there was a little boy (AJ) riding his bike in the middle of the road (with one slipper and one boot on). He too was also wet from the rain and muddy. The couple assisted AJ to the sidewalk with his bike. At that time they reported a teenager (Reggie) came out of the house and grabbed both children and went back inside.
Cst. Johnston advised that when police attended the home initially Reggie opened the door and got his mother. Advised that Patricia barricaded the front door refusing to let the police in. Patricia would not provide her last name and was very uncooperative with providing the police information about the children. After speaking with Patricia and her continuing to refuse the police entry to the home to check on the children's well being, Cst. Johnston advised that police pushed their way into the home.
Cst. Johnston advised that Elissa's pajamas were damp from the rain and the child was really dirty (child's feet were muddy and soiled). Advised that it was evident that she was not outside for just a short period of time. The officer advised that AJ was also observed to be wet, but was not as unkempt as his sister.
The officer advised that the home was dirty, but he has seen worst. After police saw that the children were safe and not in distress they decided to leave the home as Patricia was very agitated. Advised that Patricia audio recorded police and she advised them that she was going to sue them. They advised her that they would be making a report to the Society which Patricia was very unhappy about.
The officer was advised that his report would be noted and a supervisor would be consulted.
Record checks reveal that this family has a current open file in the Ongoing stage.
In consultation with BSD Anne-Julie Lippe a subsequent investigation will be opened with a coding of 218 due to the lack of supervision. A 7 day response time will be assigned.
Information about child and family functioning including support network
Source: Facebook, Stop the CAS ...
link for a (poor quality) picture of the report.
Some false statements in the report:
At 2:25 the policeman says the report was that an older male grabbed them in an aggressive manner.
At 0:29 in the video she can be heard saying "Turner".
At 3:59 she gives the age of the teenaged boy. Starting at 6:35 she gives the names and dates of birth to the two youngest children.
The few moments the camera shows the clothing of the children there is no sign of drooping from wetness.
Note that in contemporary police work, every "older male" is a child abuser, until shown otherwise.
The report correctly states that over Patricia's objection police pushed their way into the home.
Addendum: On September 22 Patricia got completely free.
Patricia Anne Burton
Just wanted to give ppl an update, I won today! Total withdrawal no findings no supervision order just custody to me very happy momma and couldntve happened on a better day then my bday
Source: Facebook, Stop the CAS
May 3, 2014 permalink
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has moved to dissolve the parliament and call an election for June 12. She did so to avoid the inevitable defeat in the provincial legislature after NDP leader Andrea Horwath announced her intention to join the PCs in voting against the provincial budget.
Ontario election called for June 12 as Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals lose support of NDP
Kathleen Wynne met with the Ontario Lieutenant Governor Friday and was granted a June 12 election after NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said she can no longer support the Liberals’ minority government.
“Andrea Horwath and Tim Hudak made the decision to go into an election,” Wynne said in a Friday afternoon news conference. “The people of Ontario…have a choice between safe hands and risky tactics.”
Wynne hinted at the Liberals campaign message and she said her party had guided Ontario through the tough times of the recession, although Ontario is not expected to balance the budget until 2018.
“Our recovery is taking hold and it is taking hold persistently,” she said. “Companies are hiring again. We are on our way back. We cannot put that at risk.”
Earlier Friday, Horwath came out strongly against supporting the Liberals any longer.
“This budget is not a solid plan for the future, it’s a mad dash to escape the scandals by promising the moon and the stars,” Horwath said at a news conference Friday morning. “I have lost confidence in Kathleen Wynne and her ability to deliver.
“Let me be clear, we will be voting against this budget. It is time to go to the people and have them make a decision.”
Horwath cited the gas plant scandal as evidence that she can’t support a government that the public doesn’t trust.
Hudak’s Progressive Conservatives had long said they would vote against the budget to force an election.
Hudak touted his “million jobs plan” Friday and said he was “laser focused” on getting more Ontarians work.
“If you are looking for someone who is running a popularity contest by promising funding on all kinds of projects but they don’t the cheques to cash in, then vote for the NDP or Liberal leader,” Hudak said Friday. “But if you want someone with a turnaround plan to get Ontario working again, look at me, look at my team.”
Premier Wynne delivered a budget Thursday that included $130.4-billion in spending for a deficit of $12.5 billion. The budget promised $29 billion over 10 years for public transit and infrastructure and a new Ontario Retirement Pension Plan for people without a workplace pension.
The budget included higher taxes on cigarettes and on those making more than $150,000 a year.
Wynne told CP24 Friday she was “proud to take this budget to the people.”
“I’m disappointed that [Horwath] wouldn’t have a meeting with me. I think there’s a lot in this budget that needs to be implemented in this province,” she told Belleville radio station CJBQ.
“But I’ve said all along … if we didn’t have a partner in the legislature, then we would take this budget to the people of the province, and we will do that.”
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Horwath said she was tired of Wynne’s broken promises.
“How can Kathleen Wynne promise to build a ship when she hasn’t even built a raft?” Horwath said. “We don’t have any confidence whatsoever in their ability to come through on those promises.”
Wynne does not need to wait for her budget to be defeated, as she can ask Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley to dissolve the legislature and call an election.
The NDP have propped up the minority Liberals over the last two budgets.
Source: National Post
May 3, 2014 permalink
A story in the Guardian shows how today's over-protective parents are raising a generation of cripples. To assist non-Brits, tube means subway and coach means bus.
The day I lost a child on the Tube
Twenty years ago our blogger lost one of his pupils on the London Underground and didn't even report the incident to the child's mother or his headteacher... fast forward to the present day and it's a very different story
Stuff happens, sometimes when you least expect it. But you just have to deal with it.
One day I lost a child on the London Underground. Beat that.
It was my first term and I wanted to impress my "lively" Year 6 class by doing a topic on dinosaurs. Kids love dinosaurs – Pterodactyl, Diplodocus, T Rex and all that – they're terrifying and great fun. In London we have the wonderful Natural History Museum with its amazing life-size exhibits. I organised a trip.
In those days, getting there from Hackney in east London involved a bus ride to Kings Cross Underground station followed by a tube ride to South Kensington. I don't know if you have ever been to Kings Cross Underground? It's undergone a transformation recently. It needed it. 350,000 people pass through that station every single day. It's an easy place to get lost…
There I was, six weeks as a teacher. I had 30 kids. I was on my own (except for a mum who worked part-time at the school - known in those days as "a Lady Helper"). The kids are excited. It's a day out. All they care about is comparing their sandwich fillings. We are on the platform and I see the first train coming is not going our way. So I'm trying to make myself heard above the melee of commuters, dancing up and down the platform trying to keep the kids back: "This is not our train everybody! Stand back! Stand back! It's not our train!" I think I've got the situation under control.
There's always one isn't there?
It's Maxine. She's a lovely kid but she's not taking a blind bit of notice of me. The train comes in, the doors open and she jumps on thinking everyone is going to follow her. The kids see her and shout: "Maxine! Get off, it's not our train!" But it's too late, before she can, the doors close.
I will never forget her face.
It's a bit like that painting by Munch - you know the one - it's called "The Scream". Only this time it's with a black girl wearing horn-rimmed glasses and her face is pressed against the door of the tube train as it passes me.
Now… just pause for a minute and think how the other kids reacted to this?
Maybe with horror? Shock? Panic? Perhaps even a little nervous laughter? Well, if you think laughter, you're only half right.
It was raucous, uncontrolled hilarity. Those kids were laughing hysterically. "Maxine! You idiot!" they screamed, pointing at her and bouncing down the platform, chasing the train for as long as possible before it disappears in to the darkened tunnels of the London Underground.
I am the one in a state of horror, shock and panic – because I don't even know where the train is going.
These days when you use the London Underground it has announcers, information boards, help points, CCTV, friendly people in blue uniforms everywhere. Then, there was nothing. You would have to go back up to street level to find someone to help.
I set about trying to organise my "Lady Helper" to manage the kids while I set off for some real help. I am running back and forth trying to find where the train has gone and what to do. The kids are still falling about laughing. They think this is great. Even the "Lady Helper" thinks it's funny.
Within a couple of minutes, someone walks round the corner and I get a real shock.
The head teacher? Wrong.
Maybe Maxine's mum? Nope.
It was Maxine.
How did that happen? Well, the next stop is Euston Square, only 50 seconds away. She had obviously jumped off the train there, run over the footbridge and there was a train coming back in the opposite direction. I kid you not - she was back with us within three minutes. Ok. Four. Tops. In fact, it was so quick, the kids were still laughing when she walked round the corner.
But boy, was I relieved. Phew!
So off we went to the Natural History Museum. We ate our sandwiches, we saw the T Rex, we got a tour, we drew pictures, and we learned a lot. When I got the kids back to school I asked them to write all about dinosaurs…
and what do you think they wrote about…? Yeah… you've guessed it.
But I'll tell you this… and this may surprise you… even shock you. It didn't even occur to me to report that incident to the head teacher. I've often wondered why. But I think over the years I've concluded that, in a funny sort of way, nothing really happened.
Yes, I know I lost a child on the London Underground… (did you have to remind me?) but… if you know what I mean… there was no real incident to report. Maxine wasn't hurt, she wasn't even upset. Maybe she was a little embarrassed because the other kids were laughing at her, but other than that there was no crisis, not even an issue. I didn't even think of mentioning it to Maxine's mum.
Fast-forward 20 years.
I am now the head teacher of a primary school in Hackney and my Year 6 teacher wants to take her 24 kids to the Natural History Museum because she's doing a topic on… yep… good old dinosaurs!
How many adults do you think she has going on the trip this time? Four? Five? Six? Actually it's seven. This includes two parents who won't agree to let their children go on the trip unless they are in attendance too.
The teacher, a great girl who has bags of energy and ideas, has already spent her weekend doing a reconnaissance visit. She's done a risk assessment, insurance forms, permission slips and planned the educational outcomes brilliantly. Off they go to the Natural History Museum with 24 kids and six other adults. It's still a bus down to Kings Cross and the tube round to South Kensington. They get to the platform of Kings Cross Underground… guess what happens?
No… it's not the teacher who gets on the wrong train this time.
No… Maxine has not grown up to be the Station Manager of Kings Cross.
Believe it or not, exactly the same thing happens. Only this time, it's not one girl, it's four!
The train pulls in and the teacher is calling out: "It's not our train everybody! Stand back! Stand back!" But in spite of the fact that there's a group of girls with an adult stood right next to them, they are so excited they are not listening to anyone. As the train doors open, they jump on. Everyone is shouting for them to get off. But before they do, in the melee of the crowded train, the doors close… and the train moves off…
What's the reaction of the other kids this time?
Wrong. (But you probably knew that already.)
Shock. Panic. Screaming. Crying. This time it's all of those and more - not just from the four on the train, but the other 20 still left on the platform, plus some of the adults too.
And the four girls on the train didn't do what Maxine did and jump off at the next stop. No, they were so freaked out by this they stayed on the train… to the end of the line. It was the Metropolitan Line. It finishes in Amersham in Buckinghamshire.
Back at school I get a phone call from the station manager there saying to me "I've got four of your girls here… what do you want me to do with them?" So I send a teacher out in a taxi to bring them back. There was no harm done. But the next day I get those 24 kids together and I ask them: "How many of you have been on the London Underground before?" Out of 24 Hackney born and bred kids, only eight had ever previously been on the tube.
Now there's a change of life-style for you. Twenty years previously, Maxine, as a ten-year old girl had taken herself off to school everyday using buses and tube trains without the slightest care. She had built up knowledge, a sense of direction, common sense and most importantly the confidence to deal with a situation if something went slightly awry.
These kids - and it's not their fault – but they don't have what Maxine had. Most live within three hundred yards of the school but their parents drive them to school every day. Most don't have the confidence and the ability to assess risk and deal with it in the way Maxine did.
But the reason I tell you this story is not because of the reaction of the children that day, but the reaction of parents. I said earlier I didn't even mention the first incident to Maxine's mum though I think if I had told her, her likely reaction would have been to give Maxine a roasting for "not listening to her teacher!"
But with these parents it was different. Within hours of the class getting back, I had over twenty parents outside my office demanding to know why this, that and the other had not been done, why hadn't we organised a coach, why hadn't we "protected their children from the hazards of London transport?" All questions we could well answer, and did.
But at the time I remember quite clearly, these questions exasperated me. Here was a talented, hard-working teacher who had only been in the job a couple of years and had planned a fantastic day out for those kids - only to get ear-ache for her thanks.
Later, on reflection, I realised that was unfair.
These days we all – the public that is - have a different attitude towards "professional people". The relationship between professional groups and their clients has undergone a transformation and this is something we should welcome – both as members of the public and professional teachers.
Not so long ago, we were very deferential to the likes of doctors, lawyers, accountants, social workers, architects and believe it or not, teachers. These days we expect, quite rightly, that professional people are accountable to us for their actions, especially when they take important decisions on our behalf. The days are gone when for example, I would turn up at my GP's surgery and feel too intimidated to ask questions. Now when I see my doctor, I expect to be engaged in a dialogue. I expect to ask questions and get answers about the issues affecting my health and if necessary, involved in decisions about any treatment.
And that's all these parents were expecting – a dialogue. It was a challenging dialogue I grant you, but it was a dialogue. So the reason I tell you this story is not to frighten you from organising school trips or to wax mythical about "the good old days of teaching".
No. The point of this story is change. It illustrates how the teaching profession you are entering today will be a different "place" in ten, fifteen, twenty years time. The relationship between a profession and its client group – and in our case that's children and parents – is constantly transforming. That is something we all have to accommodate. The landscape within which we operate changes too – sometimes quite dramatically. This may happen as a result of a change in government or it may result from a critical incident, like the tragic death of Victoria Climbie, which revolutionised the way professions work alongside each other to safeguard children.
However changes come about, we have to be ready to accommodate them. And we will. Professional people do. It's what we are here for, to meet the ever-changing needs of our clients – the children and parents we serve.
Alan Newland worked as a teacher and headteacher in London for over 20 years. He now lectures on teaching and runs the award-winning social media network newteacherstalk.
Source: Guardian (UK)
May 3, 2014 permalink
Florida mother Jessica Flores has been arrested and her daughter has been placed in foster care. It is a usual messy home case. What is not usual is that the name of the mother is published and that the family had to live in the motel when child protectors forced them out of their home. That last fact is omitted from the enclosed text report, but appears in the video (mp4)
4-year-old found digging through trash; mom arrested
Jessica Flores charged with child neglect
SANFORD, Fla. —A Sanford mother has been accused of child neglect after her 4-year-old girl was found digging through a garbage can at a convenience store.
A witness waved down an officer around 5:30 a.m. Saturday, saying he saw a girl digging through trash at the Sunoco station on 17-92 at 27th Street. Officers said the girl had peanut butter caked in her hair.
Jessica Flores, 27, was arrested and charged with child neglect and resisting arrest.
According to the police report, Flores and her two girls were staying at the nearby Value Place Extended Stay motel. Flores told cops her daughter let herself out while she was sleeping.
The police report says the motel room was a mess, with rotting food, clothes all over and a bad smell.
An officer who arrested Flores said, "I feel if the children are placed back with the mother, they will be in danger."
The child and her sister were put in protective custody.
Source: WESH-TV Orlando
Record for Abandonment
May 3, 2014 permalink
Jennifer J Bautista has been charged with a crime for leaving her baby in a car unattended. Three minutes is the shortest known time for this offense.
Jennifer J. Bautista, 28, of Ballston Spa was charged with endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor, in connection with an alleged incident that occurred outside the Saratoga Springs Public Library shortly before 1:30 on Tuesday afternoon.
Police said the woman left her five-month-old daughter unattended in her vehicle for approximately three minutes. Bautista had re-entered the library to receive her cell phone, according to court documents. The child was left unsecured in an infant carrier and was completely covered with a light blanket, police said. Members of Saratoga County’s Child Protective Services were contacted and responded to assess the situation. The child was unharmed by the incident. Bautista was released on her own recognizance. Regulations vary from state-to-state regarding the legality of children being left unattended in a vehicle.
Source: Saratoga Wire
Court Rejects Entire Shaken Baby Theory
May 3, 2014 permalink
Jennifer Del Prete has been freed after serving a decade behind bars. A judge lambasted not just her own case, but the whole shaken baby theory. The Del Prete case was unaffected by unusual factors that might distinguish it from an ordinary shaken baby prosecution. So the courts are not attacking mis-application of shaken baby, but the very heart of the theory. Legal skepicism of shaken baby is a positive development, but will not immediately correct the injustices meted out in the past, or in the future. In the now-discredited satanic ritual abuse, dozens of falsly convicted victims continued to serve time up to two decades later. There are still thousands of man-years of jail time to be served by innocent parents and baby-sitters for the junk-science shaken baby syndrome.
Finally, a Judge Calls Shaken Baby Diagnosis an “Article of Faith”
And frees Jennifer Del Prete, who was sentenced for murder 10 years ago.
Almost a decade into a 20-year prison sentence for murdering a baby in her care, 43-year-old Jennifer Del Prete was ordered freed on bond late last week. The ruling is one of a growing number that reflect skepticism on the part of judges, juries, and even prosecutors about criminal convictions based on the medical diagnosis of shaken baby syndrome. The case is also a critical turning point. The certainty that once surrounded shaken baby syndrome, or SBS, has been dissolving for years. The justice system is beginning to acknowledge this shift but should go further to re-examine and perhaps overturn more past convictions.
Doctors once believed that three neurological symptoms—bleeding beneath the outer layer of membranes surrounding the brain (subdural hemorrhaging), bleeding in the retina, and brain swelling—always meant that a baby had been shaken. Because it was accepted that a baby with these three symptoms would show the effect of brain damage immediately, the “triad,” as it became known, was also used to establish the identity of the abuser—the last person with the baby. SBS was, in essence, a medical diagnosis of murder.
Beginning in the 1990s, hundreds of cases were prosecuted based on this conception of SBS. The evidence of guilt was strikingly similar from case to case. This includes the Illinois prosecution of Jennifer Del Prete. In 2002, Del Prete was working at a small home day care in a Chicago suburb. One day, when she went to feed the 4-month-old baby in her care, she says she discovered the infant limp. Because the baby had the telltale triad of SBS symptoms, doctors were sure that Del Prete had shaken the baby to death. She denied it, and there were no witnesses. But based on the testimony of medical experts—primarily a pediatrician—she was convicted of murder in the first degree.
For my new book on the legal treatment of SBS, I focused on Del Prete’s case precisely because, among the hundreds of SBS cases that I had collected over the years, hers was so utterly typical. For instance, the case against Del Prete looked much like the case against a Wisconsin caregiver named Audrey Edmunds. In 1996, Edmunds too was found guilty of shaking to death a baby in her care, based on the triad, even though again there were no witnesses and she denied harming the child. She was sentenced to 18 years in prison.
In 2008, in the first decision of this kind, a Wisconsin appeals court reversed Edmunds’ conviction. According to the court, a “shift in mainstream medical opinion since the time of Edmunds’s trial” substantially undermined the state’s case. New research (continuing since then) had identified other causes of the triad of symptoms that pointed away from abuse or away from the adult with the baby last as the abuser. There was now, the Wisconsin court found, a “legitimate and significant dispute as to how the infant’s injuries arose.” The changing science meant a jury might well entertain a reasonable doubt as to Edmunds’ guilt. After the court vacated her conviction, the state dismissed all the charges against her.
Since then, a few others accused of shaking babies to death have managed to unwind their convictions. Among the exonerated is Drayton Witt, an Arizona father whose conviction for the murder of his 4-month-old son came undone in 2012 partly because the medical examiner recanted his testimony—after Witt had served a full decade in prison. Expert review of the medical records uncovered a plausible cause of the baby’s death. It appeared that the infant, who had experienced seizures throughout his life, died from an ongoing disease, one that led to a kind of stroke.
Shirley Smith, a California grandmother, received clemency from Gov. Jerry Brown in another SBS case. Smith was helping raise her daughter’s 7-week-old infant when he died in the middle of the night. The baby didn’t have the standard triad of symptoms—just “minimal” subdural bleeding. That makes Smith’s case an outlier. Still, she was convicted in 1996 and spent a decade in prison before she was released by an appeals court. Brown later commuted her sentence to the time she had already served, citing “significant doubts” about her guilt.
Del Prete’s upcoming release from prison is crucially different from the cases of Witt, Smith, and Edmunds. Witt and Smith prevailed, but because of the less typical nature of their cases, no court expressly questioned the SBS diagnosis. In Edmunds' case, the state court was concerned about what it viewed as a “legitimate and significant dispute” about the cause of the baby’s symptoms. But the judges stopped there. Now for the first time, a federal judge has condemned the standard SBS diagnosis itself.
In a 97-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly held in January that Del Prete had established her “actual innocence,” paving the way for a full exoneration. Considering the testimony of doctors on both sides at an eight-day hearing, there was “abundant doubt, not merely reasonable doubt, regarding Del Prete’s guilt.” One reason for this doubt was that the baby’s subdural bleeding began well before she was left in Del Prete’s care. But another, hugely important, rationale for the ruling was that the SBS diagnosis had become, Kennelly wrote, “highly suspect.” Given what we now know, the judge continued, a diagnosis of SBS is arguably “more an article of faith than a proposition of science.”
The prospect that Del Prete was wrongly incarcerated, while her children grew into adulthood, is profoundly troubling. But her case highlights problems that transcend her own tragedy—gross dysfunction in our criminal justice system. While Del Prete’s conviction is evidently unraveling, others just like it remain untouched. That can’t be right. Perhaps hundreds of inmates—people like Beverly Moore and Alma Calderaro—sit in prison because the mere presence of the triad of SBS symptoms was once assumed to prove their guilt. We have no mechanism in place for revisiting a category of flawed convictions. Our criminal justice system is too primed to stay the course.
One hope for these cases lies within prosecutors’ offices, which are beginning to create “post-conviction integrity units” dedicated to righting wrongful convictions. New York County and Dallas County have had such units for years, and now other offices are following suit. This past month alone, district attorneys in Philadelphia and Cleveland each added a section devoted to exonerating the innocent, and Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson announced that Harvard law professor Ronald Sullivan would become the chief of another conviction review unit that will work with an independent panel of attorneys.
To be sure, prosecutors should not have exclusive responsibility for identifying and correcting injustice in SBS cases (or potential wrongful convictions of any kind). A more comprehensive approach would include the formation of statewide innocence commissions, and it would certainly entail a greater role for the courts. But the work of prosecutors is critical in ensuring that injustice is remedied expeditiously and fairly. If one case unravels for want of solid evidence, those whose convictions rest on the same weak foundations should not continue to languish behind bars. Shirley Smith, the grandmother who served a decade, said it well: “Prison is so horrible. It’s just so horrible. It becomes even more horrible when you don’t belong there.”
Deborah Tuerkheimer, a professor of law at DePaul University, is a former assistant district attorney in Manhattan who has written widely on rape and domestic violence. Her new book is Flawed Convictions: “Shaken Baby Syndrome” and the Inertia of Injustice.