Sunday, April 1, 2012

Judge: Wendrow family can continue its lawsuit over dismissed child abuse accusations -Michigan

By L.L. Brasier and John Wisely

An Oakland County family can continue its lawsuit against officials who took the children away and jailed the parents on charges of sexually assaulting their severely autistic daughter, a judge ruled Tuesday.

Julian and Thal Wendrow and their two teenage children are suing Oakland County, the Michigan Department of Human Services and Walled Lake Consolidated Schools in U.S. District Court.

Julian Wendrow was arrested in December 2007 and remained jailed for 80 days. Thal Wendrow was placed on an electronic tether, and their children were sent to foster care for months before prosecutors dropped the case in 2008.

The case against the Wendrows was based solely on statements their mute and autistic daughter, then 14, was said to have made using a widely debunked communication method called facilitated communication. The child's hands were guided by a trained aide using the method, but studies show it's the aide usually doing the typing.

The Wendrows filed suit in 2008. Many of the claims against prosecutors were dismissed because they are protected under governmental immunity.

Last year, the defendants asked that all the claims be dismissed. On Tuesday, Judge John Corbett O'Meara agreed to dismiss the parents' and brother's claims that they were treated unfairly because of their affiliation with the disabled girl. O'Meara concluded only the girl has standing to sue under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

O'Meara let stand a defamation claim against former Oakland County Prosecutor David Gorcyca, who sought the criminal charges and then publicly said after he left office that the Wendrows were guilty even though the case was dropped.

Oakland County Corporation Counsel Judith Cunningham said Tuesday that most of the claims against the county were dismissed. "We are nudging toward victory," she said.

O'Meara scheduled a trial on the remaining claims for June.

Sarah Prescott, an attorney for the Wendrows, said she disagreed with the judge's decision to dismiss the family's disability claims but is happy the girl's claim can be presented to a jury.

"To say that she can go forward against all these defendants is the heart of the case," Prescott said. "The quicker we can get to the courthouse steps, the better."

In his ruling, O'Meara also let stand several claims against the Walled Lake school district, which first reported the allegations, because the facilitated communication occurred at the school where the autistic girl attended classes. According to depositions, school officials knew the communication method was suspect.

Lawyers for the district did not return a message seeking comment on Tuesday's ruling. The Michigan Attorney General's Office, which is defending the state social workers involved, declined to comment.

West Bloomfield and its police department, also named in the suit, settled with the family for $1.8 million in 2011.

O'Meara refused to dismiss a claim against a state worker who is accused of violating the Wendrow children's rights when she took the girl for a gynecological exam that found no evidence of abuse. The worker also drove the couple's 13-year-old son to the police station, where he was interrogated for two hours.


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Boy testifies against former foster parent in sex case - NC

Diane Turbyfill

An 11-year-old boy said his foster father sexually assaulted him multiple times a week when he was 6- and 7-years-old.

The child testified Tuesday morning that George Steen would molest him while the two showered together. His foster mother was sometimes in the Lincolnton home at the time but unaware of the molestation, the child said.

“I tried to scream the first day and the second day but he covered my mouth,” the boy said from the witness stand. “He was doing wrong things to me.”

Allegations of abuse

The child was taken from his mother and put into foster care in 2005, at the age of 4. He lived with the Steens on and off until he turned 8.

The boy said that Steen threatened to punish him if he told anyone what they did in the shower. Steen also told the child that no one believes a kid anyway.

The Steens were certified foster parents. According to the child’s testimony, he struggled to tell the truth in the past. If he told a lie, the boy would be made to eat soap when living with the Steens, the child testified.

The boy didn’t speak of the alleged abuse until he was placed in another foster home. One day while watching TV with his new foster mother the boy spoke of his relationship with Steen.

Lincoln County Department of Social Services was called, and Steen was charged with three counts of child sex assault.

Steen’s attorney, T.J. Wilson, said during opening statements Monday that the boy has a history of lying.

The defense has not yet had its chance to present evidence or witnesses.

Mental and emotional issues

Several psychologists and social workers testified in Steen’s trial Tuesday.

One psychologist talked of the child’s current mental state. He functions at a second-grade level and has sexual behavior issues. The boy suffers from depression, ADHD, expressive language disorder and reactive attachment disorder, according to specialists.

Like many children who have suffered sex abuse, the boy now expresses sexual predatory behavior. He now lives in a facility for children who display such behaviors.

Seven years in foster care

The Lincoln County child moved in with the Steens at age 4. It was his first foster home. His stay was short – just 21 days.

Social Services moved the boy to another family where his two sisters had gone. But taking on three children proved too much for those foster parents so the boy was removed from the home and returned to the Steens.

The child spent the next two-and-a-half years in the Steens’ home.

DSS attempted again to reunite the boy with family, returning him to his mother. But that attempt was short-lived. A month later he went into a group home. He spent six days there before being placed with another family.

The boy began acting out, according to social workers, and he was taken to a hospital for 10 days where his medications were leveled out.

He was returned to the Steens’ home in December 2007 where he stayed until February 2009.

At age 8 the child was transferred to another family for four days followed by a group home for nine days.

His next family kept him for three months before he was sent again to a group home.

In 2009, the child was placed with a family for nine months. That’s where he reported the alleged abuse.

The child now lives in a psychiatric residential treatment facility where his sexual and behavioral issues can be addressed.

On the stand

The boy was visibly uncomfortable when talking about sex in front of a room full of people. He told Lincoln County Assistant District Attorney Beth Lari that he was nervous and just wanted to finish his testimony.

He gripped a small stuffed animal. He said the toy was a way to calm his nerves.

The boy said he didn’t want to talk about it, but he wanted to make sure Steen didn’t victimize anyone else.

“That’s why I told,” he said. “I didn’t want no one else to be involved with this.”

The child left the courtroom Tuesday morning once he finished his testimony.


Missing baby feared dead; Sacramento County deputies criticize CPS

By Hudson Sangree

Law enforcement authorities are worried that a baby boy last seen 11 months ago may be dead, and they say Sacramento County Child Protective Services failed for all that time to alert them the boy was missing.

"We can't ignore the possibility that the baby is no longer alive," said Sacramento sheriff's spokesman Deputy Jason Ramos. "The disconcerting thing is that no family members or friends of (the mother) can say they've seen the baby since April 2011."
Dwight Stallings would be 22 months old today.

His mother, Tanisha Edwards, was arrested last week by Elk Grove police on suspicion of violating probation and being under the influence of a narcotic. She was also arrested on a warrant sought by Sacramento County Social Services against a parent or guardian who fails to appear for a hearing.

Edwards is being held at the Sacramento County Main Jail without bail.
Her son was nowhere to be found, and the mother was unable to provide investigators with an explanation for his disappearance, Ramos said.

Edwards is a drug user with a transient lifestyle and may have given her child to someone who is raising him under a different name, Ramos said.

Sheriff's deputies accompanied a CPS caseworker on four different occasions over six days in April 2011, when the caseworker could not locate either Edwards or the boy, the sheriff's spokesman said. In August, deputies once again went with a caseworker who was unable to find the mother and child.

Friends and family questioned after Edwards' arrest said they hadn't seen Dwight Stallings since last April.

Ramos said CPS may have been investigating Edwards for neglect or abuse but until last week did not file a missing persons report, which would have prompted the Sheriff's Department to began an investigation.

"It does sound like an inordinate amount of time without taking it to the next level (by filing) a missing persons report with us," he said.

CPS spokeswoman Laura McCasland said privacy rules prohibited her from discussing the case or even saying if Edwards or her son was involved with the agency.

"Everybody is very concerned about this child," she said but declined to discuss the case further.

She said that generally in such situations, caseworkers will look in many places for missing children, including at home and at preschool or day care. They will also check with other social services agencies and law enforcement to see if they've had contacts with parents, she said.

Ultimately a warrant will be issued for the parent's arrest, which brings the case to the attention of law enforcement, she said.

Ed Howard, a senior counsel with the Children's Advocacy Institute in San Diego, called it unusual and disturbing that CPS "would simply drop the ball by not telling the Sheriff's Department or anybody they can't find the baby or the baby's mom."

"That's unbelievably troubling but consistent with what we hear about Sacramento County CPS," he said, "that they seem unable or unwilling to get their act together keeping track of abused or neglected kids."

The Sheriff's Department is working with Elk Grove police to find Dwight Stallings. Anyone with information should call sheriff's investigators at (916) 874-5115.


Monday, March 26, 2012

Supervised visits for children lack standards in Minnesota


The state's visitation programs don't require licensing, training.

Every Thursday night, John drives to a St. Louis Park program that allows him to visit -- with constant one-on-one supervision -- his young daughter. The surveillance is ordered by the courts.

John parks his car on the left side of the building and heads to a "parenting room.'' A half hour later, the child's mother parks on the opposite side of the building and drops off her daughter. Mother and father never meet. Security systems watch for trouble. And the child gets to see a parent she is attached to, regardless of circumstances.

Each year, thousands of children across Minnesota participate in such "supervised visitations," a critical and sometimes controversial component in child protection and domestic violence cases. As counties press for family reunification for children in foster care, the visits play a critical role in a child's transition back home. They're also essential for women fleeing abusive relationships, whose ex-partners and husbands nonetheless have rights to visit their kids.

But there are no state standards for supervision or security for the nonprofits and individuals who oversee the visits. There's no required licensing or training, and each county handles things differently. While many rely on the special child visitation programs run by nonprofits, others enlist foster parents, family relatives or case aides who may oversee visits at city parks, libraries or even McDonald's.

Supervised visitation blasted into the public spotlight last month after a Washington man blew up his house during what was supposed to be a supervised session with his sons. "That story about the father who blew up his house led a lot of people to wonder about supervised visitation,'' said Linda Domholt, a vice president at Perspectives, the family services nonprofit that John goes to each week.

"There's a lot of need but not a lot of funding for this,'' she said. "It's time to shed some light on it.''

Lynn Lewis, human services manager for Hennepin County, said the service is critical.

"The cases that we see going to court, and getting supervised visitation, are some of the toughest,'' she said. "It can be a convergence of issues: drug abuse, domestic violence, poverty, untreated mental illness. You put a combination of any of those together and it could be toxic for a child.''

Minnesota a national leader

Minnesota was among the first states to create visitation centers, starting in the 1980s, said Carl Nordine, interim executive director of the Children's Safety Center/Genesis II for Families in St. Paul.

The St. Paul center, for example, was launched 20 years ago by a mother whose children were beaten with a two-by-four by their father during a visit, Nordine said. It now specializes in court-ordered visits for children hurt by domestic violence.

The center, like others, also can supervise telephone calls and e-mail exchanges between the child and potentially explosive parent, said Nordine, whose agency supervised 1,200 visits and 701 child "exchanges'' -- or child transfers between parents-- last year.

Perspectives offers something more: a pathway for parents to "graduate'' to unsupervised visits. John, who didn't want his real name used, is among parents enrolled in its "Parenting Time'' program.

He arrives a half hour early for each meeting with his daughter, and sits down with the supervisor who will monitor his visit in a room filled with toys, a doll house, a kiddie kitchenette and comfy couch.

He and the supervisor go through a parenting curriculum before the sweet 2-year-old walks in.

For the next two hours, the father-daughter conversations and actions are closely observed by the note-taking supervisor. If John were to attempt to say anything inappropriate to the child, or about her mother, the supervisor would stop him.

But the visit goes without a hitch for John, who declined to say why he was there. Dad and daughter first shared a grilled cheese sandwich and soup dinner he brought. They played with Barbie, explored the doll house.

John says he's grateful to have this place to visit his daughter. He's hopeful he will get unsupervised visitation soon.

While John's story did not involve domestic violence, its victims swell the ranks at many centers.

"From a battered women's perspective, they are critical,'' said Shelley Johnson Cline, executive director of the St. Paul Domestic Abuse Intervention Project. "Having a child in a visitation center means he is not going anywhere. The abusive parent can't make any threats, can't kidnap the child and can't use it as an opportunity to put the mother in greater danger.''

No standards

In spite of their important role in maintaining child safety and child-parent bonds, there are few standards for how or where visitation should be delivered in any state, said Jeff Nullet, executive director of the Supervised Visitation Network, a national network of nonprofits providing visitation services.

"There's nobody minding supervised visitation,'' said Nullet. "It's alarming sometimes, because anyone can provide these services.''

A growing number of private individuals oversee supervised visitation, said Michelle Basham, executive director of Genesis II for Families, which supervises about 300 to 400 visits a month in the Minneapolis area. She and Nullet are concerned about the lack of training requirements, safety procedures and other standards for individual supervisors.

County budget strains also are hitting visitation programs, said Basham. Ramsey County, for example, stopped using visitation centers for most of its child protection cases several years ago because of budget cuts. It relies on foster parents and relatives to supervise most visits, said Janine Moore, director of the county's family and children's services.

In high-risk cases, the visits can take place in a county building, supervised by county staff with law enforcement on hand to intervene if needed, she said. But having a neutral, third party overseeing the visits in a more relaxed environment could benefit both the parent and child, she said.

Said Moore: The centers "are something we would love to have.''


First Native American tribe approved to operate guardianship, foster care and adoption program

For the first time in U.S. child welfare history, a tribe will have control over the process for evaluating child abuse and neglect allegations, determining whether children need to be placed in foster care, and finding permanent homes for children –safely back with their parents, in the homes of caring relatives, or with adoptive families. Thanks to new federal rules, the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe (PGST) becomes the first Native American community permitted to operate its own guardianship assistance, foster care and adoption assistance program.

“The approval of this program marks an important milestone in furthering relationships between the federal government and Indian tribes in the operation of child welfare programs,” said George Sheldon, HHS acting assistant secretary for children and families. “I congratulate the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe on its achievement and I look forward to seeing additional Tribes operate their own welfare programs in the future.”

The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 (Public Law 110-351) allows tribes to receive direct funding from the federal government under Title IV-E of the Social Security Act. Prior to this law, states, not tribes, made decisions regarding foster care and permanent families for all Native American children.

The Title IV-E foster care program helps states and tribes provide:

• Safe and stable out-of-home care for children until they can be returned home safely or until they are placed permanently with relatives or adoptive families.

• Services for children and families to address the underlying causes and consequences of abuse and neglect.

• Support for children who are placed with relatives who become guardians or adoptive families.

Effective April 1, PGST will oversee a broad array of services and supports funded by HHS and typically run by states, including:

• Child Welfare

• Child Support

• Child Care

• Temporary Assistance for Needy Families

PGST will also run a pilot program with the state of Washington to determine eligibility for Medicaid and basic food benefits for tribal members in Kitsap County.

To mark this historic occasion, Acting Assistant Secretary George Sheldon and HHS officials will attend the tribe’s signing ceremony and celebration on March 29 in Port Gamble.

Originally known as the Nux Sklai Yem or Strong People, PGST are descendants of the Salish people. The Salish people are well established in the Puget Sound basin and surrounding areas. In the late 1930’s, the PGST reservation was created on the northern tip of the Kitsap Peninsula in Washington state. Nearly 1,000 tribe members live there today.

For more information on the program, visit

To find out more about the tribe, visit


Appellate Court Overrules Family Court's Finding That Father Neglected Children

CPS caregiver sentenced in child abuse case - Arizona

By Breann Bierman

CHANDLER, AZ (CBS5) - A caregiver for Child Protective Services has been sentenced to 10 years probation for child abuse.

A judge sentenced Angelica Jimenez Thursday morning, according to the Maricopa County Superior Court.

In January, Jimenez plead guilty to one count of Child Abuse and Hindering Prosecution.

Chandler Police arrested Jimenez in August after a baby girl she was caring for was rushed to the hospital. Jimenez initially told police she was alone when the infant stopped breathing.

Doctors found multiple bruises, abrasions and a cigarette burn on the baby's body. It was also discovered that the baby had 14 broken bones, some believed to have been caused by severe shaking.

Detectives learned later that Jimenez was with her boyfriend, Steven Saldana, when the baby was found not breathing and that he'd been staying at her home.

After a number of interviews, Jimenez admitted that she knew Saldana had been abusing the baby since the end of July, but that she never called police or CPS.

Police said Saldana is a convicted felon with a long criminal history. He faces three counts of child abuse in the case.


Jury convicts Wisconsin pastor in child abuse case

By The Associated Press

MADISON- Jurors have convicted a Black Earth pastor of conspiracy to commit child abuse for advocating the use of wooden rods to spank children.

The Dane County jury took about two hours to find 54-year-old Philip Caminiti guilty of eight counts Wednesday.

Caminiti, pastor at Aleitheia Bible Church, was found guilty of instructing members of his church that infants and toddlers were not too young to be struck on the bare buttocks with wood dowels to teach them to behave.

Caminiti told investigators his actions were in accordance with biblical teachings.

The Wisconsin State Journal reports Caminiti and his attorney declined to comment on the verdicts.

Caminiti remains free on signature bond but was ordered not to leave Dane County. Sentencing is expected in about two months.


Jail child abuse? Southern Poverty Law Center sues Polk County over alleged child jail mistreatment

It will be interesting to see how this one turns out. Is there really child abuse going on in this jail?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Police: California school counselor taped students having sex

The people that we entrust our children to should never be nasty perverts. This article goes to show that those that are supposed to be authorities / trusted by the state / professionals are no better than the perverts in prison.

From John Fricke and Phil Gast

(CNN) -- A drug counselor at California high school pleaded not guilty Wednesday to secretly videotaping students engaged in sexual activity with each other, and to possessing child pornography.

Gilbert Olivares, 34, turned himself in late Monday, according to his attorney and the Salinas Police Department. His bail was set at $1 million.

He entered his plea in Monterey County Superior Court to 19 felony charges brought by the district attorney.

Allegations include lewd act upon a child, contact with a minor for sexual offense, possessing child pornography and using a minor to do or assist prohibited acts, according to the criminal complaint.

Olivares' attorney, Andrew G. Liu, said he could not comment on specifics of the charges and his client's stance.

"We are at a very early stage," Liu told CNN. "I have just received 71 pages of police reports and I have not had time to review them yet."

Olivares was first arrested last week at Salinas High School, initially on 11 charges, according to authorities. Olivares posted $50,000 bail at that time and was released, according to police Sgt. Christopher Lane.

The criminal complaint alleges Olivares inappropriately touched the buttocks of a 14-year-old, identified as John Doe. The two allegedly also had conversations via Facebook.

On further investigation of items seized from the counselor's home, detectives found 14 videos made by Olivares in his office at the high school, police said in a statement.

"The videos are of teenage students engaged in sexual activity with each other within Olivares' office, during school hours," the statement says. "It appears the videos were taken without the knowledge of the victim students and Olivares is not in the room at the time. We continue to work closely with Salinas High School to help identify any possible victims in these cases."

Police said the forensic search of Olivares' computer also yielded dozens of pictures and videos depicting child pornography. They are not believed to depict children who attended the school and were probably downloaded from the Internet, police said.

A new arrest warrant on multiple charges was obtained Monday and bail was increased to $1 million.

"The bail is unusually high and that might be subject to challenge in the future," Liu said.

Olivares' preliminary hearing was scheduled for April 5.

"He is innocent until proven guilty and we're looking forward to a fair hearing in court," said the attorney. "He has the strong support of a loving family."

Olivares is employed by an organization that counsels youth on drug and alcohol abuse, police said. Although he worked as a counselor at Salinas High School for five years, he was not an employee of the school district.


State Corruption Risk By State

Grading the nation: How accountable is your state?

Too bad that they didn't investigate CPS, DCFS, DHS because I think most, if not all states, would have gotten a big fat F.

Request for Grand Jury Investigation of Butte County Child Protective Services - California

NORML Women’s Alliance Requests Grand Jury Investigation Into the Butte County CA Children Services

Butte County, CA- On Friday March 9th, The NORML Women’s Alliance (NWA), along with Butte County residents, put forward a complaint to the Grand Jury of Butte requesting an investigation into the County Children Services Division for the agency’s perceived and widespread misconduct

The findings in the people’s request include numerous testimonials from directly affected persons, submitted herein via the GRAND JURY COMPLAINT FORMS, which relate varied claims of CSD misconduct.

The National Coalition for Child Protection Reform, in their report dated September 6, 2011, confirms Butte County leads all of California’s large counties in the percentage rate of permanent removal of children from parents. Previously, the Grand Jury undertook a limited “narrow” investigation of the Children Services Division which did not sufficiently address all aspects of CSD conduct, nor addressed the narrow criteria of “front end” issues in a thorough, transparent manner conducive to meaningful, unbiased investigation and findings.

The NORML Women’s Alliance of Butte County, and NORML attorneys have put forth recommendations that they believe are in the best interest of Butte County children including a broad based investigation and a financial audit.

The NWA Community Leader of Butte County, Tamara Lujan, issued the following statement, “We thank the Grand Jury for its time, consideration and diligence in pursing our request. Only when government agencies have proper oversight can we as a community rest assured that corruption, abuse and other misdeeds are kept in check and deterred. Together We the People of Butte County and the Grand Jury can make these necessary strides of investigation and oversight to ensure all Butte families are truly served well, and are safe and secure at home.”


State demands child take cancer-causing drugs

Goes to court insisting that boy endure dangerous course of medication

By Bob Urich

In what is being seen as a preview of a fully implemented Obamacare, government officials in Michigan are demanding that a 9-year-old child follow standard procedure and take a dangerous course of cancer medications that can cause additional cancer – even though the boy has had three scans indicating an absence of the disease.

The case is being fought on behalf of Ken and Erin Stieler and their son Jacob by attorneys with the Home School Legal Defense Association.

The organization concerns itself with home school rights, responsibilities and restrictions but also intercedes in cases that could have a significant impact on child and parental rights.

The HSLDA’s chairman, Michael P. Farris, confirmed today that the Michigan Department of Human Services has filed suit to force the parents to administer the chemicals to their son even though he’s been clean of cancer on scans over the past year. In addition, lower courts twice have ruled against the demands of state agency officials.

Now the state agency has filed an appeal with the Michigan Court of Appeals demanding Jacob be given the chemicals, including ifosfamide, etoposide and doxorubicin, even though the U.S. Food and Drug Administration states that for ifosfamide and etoposide, the “safety and effectiveness in pediatric patients have not been established.”

The warning for doxorubicin is stronger, stating, “Pediatric patients are at increased risk for developing delayed cardiotoxicity.”

Farris told WND that the facts of the case are important, because Jacob underwent treatment for cancer and has been clean on the last three scans over the last year.

Further, the treatment demanded by the state, which insisted that prosecutors bring a medical neglect case against the parents, is not guaranteed to help and not even guaranteed to be safe.

On the HSLDA website, Farris wrote, “If they succeed they will force Jacob to resume chemotherapy despite the fact that the drugs in question are not FDA approved (either for children in general or for this particular cancer). Moreover, these drugs do not promise anything close to a guaranteed cure. And, the FDA requires the drug manufacturers to disclose that these drugs cause new cancers to form, heart disease in children, failure to sexually mature, and many other serious side effects in some cases.”

Farris told WND that there is concern about the outcome of the case, as the state’s argument is that the drugs are demanded in the “national standard of care” for the condition.

That’s the same type of concern that has been raised by many organizations and individuals about Obamacare, which is to face arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court later this month.

Farris told WND that parents have the right to make such medical decisions, not the state.

David Ackerly, director of marketing for the Michigan Department of Human Services, took a message from WND requesting comment on the case but did not respond.

Farris said it would be different if there was a clear and present medical danger, the treatment was proven and the family still refused.

He said the parents have asked for an individual evaluation of their son’s case, only to be reminded about the “standard” that the state intends to follow, which is described as dangerous.

“If we are put in a position where national standards are established, whether by practice or the government, it comes out the same,” he said.

It was in December when a trial judge dismissed a medical neglect case against the family. Now, at issue is “the ability of parents to make medical decisions contrary to the views of doctors.”

“This case may well shape parental rights principles for the long haul. We believe that parents, not doctors, should make tough decisions like this,” Farris said.

The HSLDA earlier reported how Jacob was diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma, a dangerous bone cancer, and he had surgery to remove a tumor and then chemotherapy to follow up.

“The treatment was incredibly difficult, and Jacob’s mom, Erin, told me that when she looked her son in the eyes, she knew in her heart that he simply could not survive many more rounds of these drugs,” Farris reported.

They tapped into a prayer network and were joined by hundreds to pray for their son’s recovery.

“After all of these rounds of chemotherapy were completed, there was a PET scan done to check on the status of the cancer. There was no evidence of cancer detected in Jacob’s body. Jacob’s family and friends rejoiced in his healing – praising God for this wonderful outcome,” Farris said.

But he said the doctors demanded to continue chemotherapy and radiation, citing their “standard of care.”

Jacob’s parents “begged the doctors to make an individual diagnosis, rather than simply following unbending standards. But the doctors were steadfast. All children with this cancer needed multiple rounds of these drugs – regardless of PET scan results, the doctors contended,” HSLDA reported.

The parents refused, and the doctors contacted Child Protective Services to ask that the parents be charged.

When the local CPS agency and prosecuting attorney refused, the doctors called the state to pressure the agency to file charges.

Farris said key to the case, which was decided in favor of the family before being appealed, is the treating physician.

“‘Have all of these drugs been approved by the FDA as safe and effective for children?’ I asked Jacob’s treating oncologist,” he said. “‘Yes,’ she replied, they have been FDA-approved for children.”

However, according to the official package inserts mandated by the government to describe the drugs contained and their complications, she was “flat wrong,” Farris said.

“In fact, as it turned out, the treating doctor had never even seen, much less read, these official FDA-required package inserts,” he reported.

A warning accompanying another drug demanded by the doctors, vincristine, was typical of those in the case, he said.

That warning said, “Patients who received chemotherapy with vinchristine sulfate in combination with anticancer drugs known to be carcinogenic have developed second malignancies.”

“This is not an easy case. It is not a case where a child has a current illness and the treatment is tested and proven to be safe and effective – those cases are easily resolved. The best evidence is that Jacob no longer has objective evidence of cancer. And not a single drug that the doctors want to give Jacob is FDA-approved for children for his kind of cancer,” Farris said.

He said it is a judgment call, a balancing of risks, and the issue is who makes that decision.

“The doctor told me during the deposition that she thinks that she should make the call – for every child in this situation. And she would give the same answer every time, rather than making an individual judgment,” Farris wrote. “I can’t imagine a more clear case of the need for parental rights.”

He said the project is being supported by the organization’s Homeschool Freedom Fund.


Changes could be coming to Child Protective Services - Kern County

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Counselor at children's home convicted of molestation - California

A Santa Ana man who worked with children without parents living in the United States was convicted Wednesday of molestation and could face more than seven years in jail.

Victor Salazar, 30, a counselor at the Florence Crittenden Home in Fullerton, was found guilty of four felony counts of lewd acts on a child between the ages of 14 and 15 and two misdemeanor counts of sexual battery, according to the Orange County district attorney’s office.

Children whose parents live outside the country, either because they were deported or because they came to the United States alone, live in the home. The children are generally taken into protective custody until they are placed in foster care, reunited with their families or reach maturity, officials said.

Salazar was found to have molested three boys he was assigned to counsel at the home between May 25, 2007, and Feb. 5, 2008.

Officials said the acts occurred when the children went into Salazar’s office to call their families in South or Central America. While on the telephone, officials said, they were sexually assaulted and fondled by Salazar.

A sentencing date will be set Thursday. Officials said Salazar also faces a lifetime sex offender registration.


State must pay $432,000 after infant dies in foster care, Clackamas County jury rules

By Steve Mayes

A Clackamas County jury concluded Wednesday that the Oregon Department of Human Services was negligent and partially responsible for the death of Astrid Ash, an infant who died while in foster care four years ago.

The jury also found the child's father partly at fault, but awarded him $432,300 in damages.

The father, Sam Driessen, filed a wrongful death lawsuit seeking more than $1.5 million.

The testimony highlighted two contrasting and troubling versions of the events preceding the death of 10 1/2-month-old Astrid.

Driessen had twice been convicted of drug crimes before he met Emily C. Ashby through a Craigslist ad where she offered to trade sex for methamphetamine, said Dirk Pierson, a state attorney representing DHS.

Ashby became pregnant and gave birth to twins -- born almost two months prematurely -- in late June 2007. Several weeks later she was found passed out in a car at a fast-food restaurant. After she tested positive for alcohol and drugs, DHS took custody of the twins and placed them in a West Linn foster home.

Astrid failed to thrive and had difficulty gaining weight. She suffered from reflux and sometimes vomited her meals. The foster mother compared the child to "a stopped-up sink."

Driessen's attorney, David Paul, said the foster parents were overwhelmed with their own children and financial responsibilities and did not have the skills to deal with medically fragile babies. DHS workers and others praised the foster parents as well trained, diligent and capable of caring for the twins.

On May 11, 2008 -- Mother's Day -- the foster mother discovered Astrid unconscious in bed. No one had checked on the baby for several hours. The foster parents unsuccessfully tried to revive her. A hospital doctor who examined Astrid after death reported her body temperature was 103 degrees, a sign of serious infection.

"This baby did not have to die," Paul said. Had DHS done its job and involved Driessen, "he would have pushed the right button" and immediately hospitalized the baby, Paul said.

DHS took a blood sample from Driessen in mid-March 2008 and knew he was the father almost two weeks before Astrid died. The agency, however, did not tell him until after Astrid was buried. The death certificate listed the cause of death -- and the name of the father -- as "unknown."

Pierson, the DHS attorney, said Driessen showed no interest in the twins or their welfare during Astrid's short life "and now he wants a million and a half bucks."

Although Ashby told Driessen he was probably the twin's father, he took no action to protect or support the children even though he knew Ashby used illegal drugs while nursing the infants, Pierson said.

The jury agreed up to a point. It found DHS was 56 percent responsible for the death.

DHS bears more blame because it was responsible for Astrid's care but failed to adequately address her on-going medical problems, said a juror, who spoke on condition he not be identified. The jury found other DHS actions troubling, said the juror: the delay in telling Driessen that he was the father, the lack of an autopsy that could determine the cause of death and burying the body the day after the death.

Driessen said he has changed since Astrid's death. He quit drugs, is employed and engaged to be married. He was given custody of the surviving twin, Axel, who reportedly is doing well.


County to pay $500K to settle foster care sexual abuse case - California

From wire service reports

LOS ANGELES - The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors agreed Tuesday to pay $500,000 to settle a lawsuit involving the sexual assault of a 9- year-old girl by a 17-year-old boy in foster care.

"The certified foster parents allowed children to have unsupervised, unmonitored play behind closed doors resulting in the assault of a 9-year-old girl by a 17-year-old boy," according to the case summary provided by county attorneys.

The girl -- listed as Jane Doe in the suit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on Oct. 28, 2009 -- is the biological child of the boy's foster parents.

Other details of the case, including the parents' names, were not disclosed.

The county has already spent more than $287,000 -- more than half the settlement amount -- on attorneys' fees and costs related to the claim, according to the attorneys' summary.

The supervisors met behind closed doors with their lawyers to discuss the case before voting 3-1 in open session to approve the settlement, with Supervisor Michael Antonovich casting the dissenting vote and Supervisor Gloria Molina absent due to illness.


County agency reviewing practices on taking children - California


Kern County is reviewing how its Child Protective Services agency removes children from their parents, according to Deputy County Counsel Mark Nations.

Until now, CPS has routinely taken children without warrants if the agency feels there is a credible allegation of "general neglect."

Law enforcement typically handles removal of children when severe physical or sexual abuse is alleged. General neglect is handled by CPS and runs the gamut from drugs being used in the home to no food available for the children.

On Wednesday, sources close to CPS said social workers this week had stopped taking children without warrants and were instead filing petitions asking the court to detain the children.

Nations confirmed that a review was under way but said he had no knowledge that any procedures had been changed thus far.

"Non-custody petitions (to the court) are not something new and whether they will receive increased use in the future remains to be seen," he said in an email.

The review of CPS procedures comes on the heels of a settlement offer in a federal lawsuit that was considered by the Board of Supervisors in closed session on Tuesday.

In that case, Darlene and Lawrence McCue allege CPS and the Kern County Sheriff's Department illegally took their son, then 7, from his school on March 6, 2008 without a warrant and with no evidence that he was being harmed.

The McCues were thought to be endangering their son by having him undergo unnecessary medical procedures for imagined or exaggerated conditions.

Kern County kept the child for four months before a juvenile dependency court found no evidence that supported his removal.

The McCues' attorney, Shawn McMillan, said the law is very clear that authorities must have a warrant to take a child unless they believe the child is in "imminent danger," which means they have reason to believe the child will suffer serious physical harm or death in the few hours it would take to get a warrant.

"There are no nuances," to the law, McMillan has said previously.

McMillan wouldn't say what the McCues' settlement offer involved, but did say there was no demand that CPS alter its procedures. However, he said he assumed that would happen as a result of the lawsuit.

Nations said Supervisors did consider the settlement offer Tuesday evening.

"It was more of an informational thing," he said. "Now, I need to move forward with what they instructed me to do, which I'm not at liberty to disclose."

Another portion of the McCues' lawsuit targets South Fork Union School District. McMillan expects that that part of the case will go to trial.

The McCues allege the school district gave their son a peanut butter cookie even though he's allergic to peanuts. They reported the district to the State Board of Education and believe the district then retaliated against them by filing false accusations with CPS, which resulted in the boy being taken by the county.

An attorney for the South Fork School District has said previously that school employees were simply answering questions from doctors and law enforcement.


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Off-Label Use Of Risky Antipsychotic Drugs Raises Concerns

By Sandra G. Boodman

Adriane Fugh-Berman was stunned by the question: Two graduate students who had no symptoms of mental illness wondered if she thought they should take a powerful schizophrenia drug each had been prescribed to treat insomnia.

"It's a total outrage," said Fugh-Berman, a physician who is an associate professor of pharmacology at Georgetown University. "These kids needed some basic sleep [advice], like reducing their intake of caffeine and alcohol, not a highly sedating drug."

Those Georgetown students exemplify a trend that alarms medical experts, policymakers and patient advocates: the skyrocketing increase in the off-label use of an expensive class of drugs called atypical antipsychotics. Until the past decade these 11 drugs, most approved in the 1990s, had been reserved for the approximately 3 percent of Americans with the most disabling mental illnesses, chiefly schizophrenia and bipolar disorder; more recently a few have been approved to treat severe depression.

But these days atypical antipsychotics -- the most popular are Seroquel, Zyprexa and Abilify -- are being prescribed by psychiatrists and primary-care doctors to treat a panoply of conditions for which they have not been approved, including anxiety, attention-deficit disorder, sleep difficulties, behavioral problems in toddlers and dementia. These new drugs account for more than 90 percent of the market and have eclipsed an older generation of antipsychotics. Two recent reports found that children and adolescents in foster care, some less than a year old, are taking more psychotropic drugs than other children, including those with the severest forms of mental illness.

In 2010 antipsychotic drugs racked up more than $16 billion in sales, according to IMS Health, a firm that tracks drug trends for the health-care industry. For the past three years they have ranked near or at the top of the best-selling classes of drugs, outstripping antidepressants and sometimes cholesterol medicines. A study published last year found that off-label antipsychotic prescriptions doubled between 1995 and 2008, from 4.4 million to 9 million. And a recent report by pharmacy benefits manager Medco estimated that the prevalence of the drugs' use among adults ballooned more than 169 percent between 2001 and 2010.

Critics say the popularity of atypical antipsychotics reflects a combination of hype that the expensive medicines, which can cost $500 per month, are safer than the earlier generation of drugs; hope that they will work for a variety of ailments when other treatments have not; and aggressive marketing by drug companies to doctors and patients.

"Antipsychotics are overused, overpriced and oversold," said Allen Frances, former chair of psychiatry at Duke University School of Medicine, who headed the task force that wrote the DSM-IV, psychiatry's diagnostic bible. While judicious off-label use may be appropriate for those who have not responded to other treatments for, say, severe obsessive-compulsive disorder, Frances said the drugs, which are designed to calm patients and to moderate the hallucinations and delusions of psychosis, are being used "promiscuously, recklessly," often to control behavior and with little regard for their serious side effects. These include major, rapid weight gain -- 40 pounds is not uncommon -- Type 2 diabetes, breast development in boys, irreversible facial tics and, among the elderly, an increased risk of death.

The Latest Fad?

Doctors are allowed to prescribe drugs for unapproved uses, but companies are forbidden to promote them for such purposes. In the past few years major drugmakers have paid more than $2 billion to settle lawsuits brought by states and the federal government alleging illegal marketing; some cases are still being litigated, as are thousands of claims by patients. In 2009 Eli Lilly and Co. paid the federal government a record $1.4 billion to settle charges that it illegally marketed Zyprexa through, among other things, a "5 at 5 campaign" that urged nursing homes to administer 5 milligrams of the drug at 5 p.m. to induce sleep.

Wayne Blackmon, a psychiatrist and lawyer who teaches at George Washington University Law School, said he commonly sees patients taking more than one antipsychotic, which raises the risk of side effects. Blackmon regards them as the "drugs du jour," too often prescribed for "problems of living. Somehow doctors have gotten it into their heads that this is an acceptable use." Physicians, he said, have a financial incentive to prescribe drugs, widely regarded as a much quicker fix than a time-intensive
evaluation and nondrug treatments such as behavior therapy, which might not be covered by insurance.

In a series in the New York Review of Books last year, Marcia Angell, former editor in chief of the New England Journal of Medicine, argued that the apparent "raging epidemic of mental illness" partly reflects diagnosis creep: the expansion of the elastic boundaries that define mental illnesses to include more people, which enlarges the market for psychiatric drugs.

"You can't push a drug if people don't think they have a disease," said Fugh-Berman, who directs PharmedOut, a Georgetown program that educates doctors about drug marketing and promotion. "How do you normalize the use of antipsychotics? By using key opinion leaders to emphasize their use and through CMEs (continuing medical education) and ghost-written articles in medical journals," which, she said "affect the whole information stream."

James H. Scully Jr., medical director of the American Psychiatric Association, sees the situation differently. He agrees that misuse of the drugs is a problem and says that off-label prescribing should be based on some evidence of effectiveness. But Scully suggests that a key factor driving use of the drugs, in addition to "intense marketing and some effectiveness," is the growing number of non-psychiatrists prescribing them. Many lack the expertise and experience necessary to properly diagnose and treat mental health problems, he said.

Among psychiatrists, use of antipsychotics is rooted in a desire to heal, according to Scully. "All of the meds we use have their limits. If you're trying to help somebody, you think, 'What else might I be able to do for them?' "

Since 2005, antipsychotics have carried a black-box warning, the strongest possible, cautioning against their use in elderly patients with dementia, because the drugs increase the risk of death. In 2008 the Food and Drug Administration reiterated its earlier warning, noting that "antipsychotics are not indicated for the treatment of dementia-related psychosis." But experts say such use remains widespread.

In one Northern California nursing home in 2006 and 2007, 22 residents, many suffering from dementia, were given antipsychotics for the convenience of the staff or because the residents refused to go to the dining room. In some cases the drugs were forcibly injected, state officials said. Three residents died.

A 2011 report by the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services found that in a six-month period in 2007, 14 percent of nursing home residents were given antipsychotics. In one case a patient with an undetected urinary-tract infection was given the drugs to control agitation.

"The primary reason is that there's not enough staff," said Toby S. Edelman, senior policy attorney for the Center for Medicare Advocacy, a Washington-based nonprofit group, who recently testified about the problem before the Senate Special Committee on Aging. "If you can't tie people up, you give 'em a drug" she said, referring to restrictions on the use of physical restraints in nursing homes.

Drugs At 18 Months

Nursing home residents aren't the only ones gobbling antipsychotics.

Mark E. Helm, a Little Rock pediatrician who was a medical director of Arkansas's Medicaid evidence-based prescription drug program from 2004 to 2010, said he had seen 18-month-olds being given potent antipsychotic drugs for bipolar disorder, an illness he said rarely develops before adolescence. Antipsychotics, which he characterized as the fastest-growing and most expensive class of drugs covered by the state's Medicaid program, were typically prescribed to children to control disruptive
behavior, which often stemmed from their impoverished, chaotic or dysfunctional families, Helm said. "Sedation is the key reason these meds get used," he observed.

More than any other factor, experts agree, the explosive growth in the diagnosis of pediatric bipolar disorder has fueled antipsychotic use among children. Between 1994 and 2003, reported diagnoses increased 40-fold, from about 20,000 to approximately 800,000, according to Columbia University researchers.

That diagnosis, popularized by several prominent child psychiatrists in Boston who claimed that extreme irritability, inattention and mood swings were actually pediatric bipolar disorder that can occur before age 2, has undergone a reevaluation in recent years. The reasons include the highly publicized death of a 4-year-old girl in Massachusetts, who along with her two young siblings had been taking a cocktail of powerful drugs for several years to treat bipolar disorder; the revelation of more than $1 million in unreported drug company payments to the leading proponent of the diagnosis; and growing doubts about its validity.

Helm said that antipsychotics, which he believes have become more socially acceptable, serve another purpose: as a gateway to mental health services. "To get a child qualified for SSI disability, it is helpful to have a child on a medicine," he said, referring to the federal program that assists families of children who are disabled by illness.

Ask Your Doctor

Psychiatrist David J. Muzina, a national practice leader at pharmacy benefits manager Medco, said he believes direct-to-consumer advertising has helped fuel rising use of the drugs. As former director of the mood disorders center at the Cleveland Clinic, he encountered patients who asked for antipsychotics by name, citing a TV commercial or print ad.

Some states are attempting to rein in their use and cut escalating costs. Texas has announced it will not allow a child younger than 3 to receive antipsychotics without authorization from the state. Arkansas now requires parents to give informed consent before a child receives an anti-psychotic drug. The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced it is summoning state officials to a meeting this summer to address the use of antipsychotics in foster care. And Sens. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) and Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) introduced legislation that would require doctors who prescribe antipsychotics off-label to nursing home patients to complete forms certifying that they are appropriate.

Medco is asking doctors to document that they have performed diabetes tests in patients taking the drugs. "Our intention here is to get doctors to reexamine prescriptions," Muzina said.

"In the short term, I don't see a change in this trend unless external forces intervene."


Report: Anonymous Ind. hotline caller pleaded 20 minutes for abuse check before boy’s death

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — An anonymous caller to Indiana’s child abuse hotline pleaded for 20 minutes for someone to check on conditions in a South Bend home six months before a boy living there was tortured to death, a newspaper reports.

The South Bend Tribune posted the story online ( ) Monday, after the Court of Appeals dismissed an attempt by the Department of Child Services to block the story’s publication. The caller last May told the person answering the phone at the hotline about another child’s injuries that day. The caller said the injuries left the boy limping and bleeding in his abdomen.

“Please go tonight. Please go,” the caller says. “I’m not saying this just to be saying this. Please go. Something got to be done. ... If they go there right now, they’ll see how them kids is beat, if they go there right now, because I don’t want it to get on the news and the boy died and then everybody come forward and they gonna say, ‘Well, why did nobody come forward from before?’”

Ten-year-old Tramelle Sturgis was found beaten to death in the house on Nov. 4, months after the May 27 hotline call.

His father, Terry Sturgis, is charged with murder, eight felony counts of battery and one misdemeanor count of battery, two counts of neglect, and two counts of confinement. He contends he was insane.

The Tribune reported a DCS spokeswoman did not respond to the newspaper’s requests to clarify policies on when the agency decides to investigate a call immediately and how urgent hotline calls are communicated to local offices. John Ryan, the agency’s chief of staff, declined comment to The Associated Press on Monday, saying he didn’t know enough about the policies or the case.

The Tribune reported that DCS documents it obtained under the state’s public records law indicate the call center contacted a family case manager the night of the call. The records do not indicate whether any action was taken then.

According to South Bend Police spokesman Capt. Phil Trent, police took a report from an anonymous caller just after midnight. Police records show two officers went to the house, having been told only that 10 children were possibly being abused. Trent said officers went to the home and everything appeared fine. He said unless police have more details to provide probable cause, they cannot enter a house after midnight, pull children aside and ask to look under their shirts for injuries. If an officer saw an injury or blood on a shirt, he would have probable cause.

“If you suspect that (abuse), you can seize the child, but you’d better be able to articulate why you did that,” he said.

The caller to the DCS hotline told the DCS worker the children would likely have marks.

“All you got to do is just raise them shirts up,” the caller replies with concern. “And I think them kids would tell it because them kids so scared.”

The caller said that the week before, some of the children were beaten so badly that their visible injuries kept them from being sent to school.

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said he asked the state Court of Appeals to dismiss DCS’ attempt to block the South Bend Tribune from publishing a story because prior restraint of the news media is inconsistent with the First Amendment. Ryan, who is with the DCS, said the agency was concerned the media would publish information that would identify the caller.


National child welfare advocate says Nebraska overhaul proposals won't solve problem

GRANT SCHULTE Associated Press

LINCOLN, Neb. — Nebraska's attempt to reform its child welfare system this year fails to address the fact that too many children are yanked from their homes and kept in foster care, a national child advocacy group said Monday.

The National Coalition for Child Protection Reform criticized Nebraska's reform proposals in a biting new report, which blamed most of the state's problems on a "take the child and run" mentality that needlessly splits families apart.

Lawmakers are on the verge of passing child welfare measures this session that would scale back caseloads for social workers, create a child welfare watchdog that reports to the Legislature and end the state's experiment with privatized services in all but two Omaha-area counties.

But family advocates said most of the measures fail to address the core problems: Nebraska removes children from their homes at a rate twice the national average, and keeps a higher proportion of its children in foster care than any other state.

Nebraska state officials say they use an evidence-based tool to decide which children are safe and unsafe in their homes, and will work with families and community services when possible to keep them together.

Richard Wexler, the coalition's executive director, said Nebraska child welfare workers too often see poverty in homes and assume the children are suffering from neglect.

Wexler said the glut of children becoming state wards led to high caseloads, which contributed to caseworker burnout and turnover that has destabilized the system. Costs have soared as well, and some children have had more than four caseworkers.

"Not only does Nebraska's obscene rate of removal do enormous harm to the children needlessly taken, it also overloads caseworkers so they have even less time to find children in real danger," Wexler said. "As a result, the take-the-child-and-run mentality which dominates Nebraska child welfare leaves all children less safe."

Richard Wexler, the group's executive director, says Nebraska social workers too often see poverty in homes and assume the children are suffering from neglect.
Melanie Williams-Smotherman, executive director of the Nebraska's Family Advocacy Movement, said the state's child welfare services are comprised of "career child savers" who use confidentiality and safety laws to pry children away from families.

"Their spirit is broken, their children have been harmed and alienated, and they have lost all necessary resources to remain stable and functioning," Williams-Smotherman said.

State child welfare officials said they are "on the same page" as the family advocates, and want to see fewer children taken from their homes. Lawmakers and child advocates have repeatedly criticized the state Department of Health and Human Services for failing to reduce caseloads and control costs.

Vicki Maca, who oversees the Division of Children and Family Services, said the state's Families Matter effort "is built on the goal of having fewer children in the state's care and serving them at home when it's safe to do so.

"We want a system that allows parents the opportunity to have access to services in their own community without state involvement," she said. "That is what our reform is all about."

Maca said the Department of Health and Human Services plans to apply for a federal waiver that would give the state more flexibility in how it uses child welfare dollars.

States are required to use most of the federal money for out-of-home services, which, according to some critics, creates a financial incentive to keep children in the system. Lawmakers and child advocates have pushed a measure that would require the department to apply for the waiver, which would free state officials to use the money for in-home services, such as parental counseling and substance abuse programs.

Child advocates have said Nebraska should seek the waiver right away, because states must compete for the waiver. Maca said the state needs to maximize the amount of waiver money the state can receive.

Nearly 8 out of 1,000 children were taken from their homes in Nebraska in 2010, compared with 3.4 nationally, the report found. The report also found a "racial bias" in foster care placements, with African-American children entering the system at a rate 3.4 times higher than the general population, and Native American children at 6.8 times greater.


Sunday, March 11, 2012

Oklahoma's broken DHS system spurred local advocates to ask Children's Rights for help

Here's a very informative link that contains info that others might be able to use.

Story on DCS hotline call is blocked - Indiana

Newspaper had posted information based on report that children were abused

The Indiana Court of Appeals approved an emergency request Friday from the Department of Child Services that prevents the South Bend Tribune from publishing a story based on the recording of a call made last year to the state's child abuse hotline.

On Tuesday, a St. Joseph County judge ordered DCS to release a copy of the May call to the hotline alleging 10 children were being abused in a South Bend home.

The Tribune briefly posted a story on its website based on the tape, along with audio clips from the 20-minute call. Both were removed after the appeals court ordered a stay of the local court order late Friday afternoon.

The Court of Appeals also set a hearing on the matter for Monday.

"We were very, very disappointed," said Tribune Executive Editor Tim Harmon. "The material that we received after the juvenile court judge's order is clearly something the public needs to know about. It is something we have reported about in the past and will continue to report about."

Harmon said the newspaper planned to use material from the call "very responsibly," and the story that was briefly posted did not include the caller's name or gender. It also did not use the names of the children involved.

One of those children was 10-year-old Tramelle Sturgis, who was fatally beaten about six months later. His father, Terry Sturgis, is charged with murder in the boy's death.

DCS already has released paper copies of the Sturgis family's files. Those records included information detailing allegations made in the May call to the hotline. They also reveal that a DCS worker did not make contact with the family until four days after that call.

A few weeks later, the worker ruled the allegation of abuse was unfounded.

However, the circumstances of Tramelle's killing -- he was beaten to death with a wooden club -- closely matched details of the abuse allegation in the hotline call.

Ann Houseworth, DCS spokeswoman, said she was unable to discuss details of pending litigation but did issue a brief written statement.

"The child protection process by statute begins with the call to the hotline -- 1-800-800-5556," Houseworth said.

"The statute requires and callers expect confidentiality when those calls are made. Disclosure of the identification of a caller will have a chilling effect on the willingness of people to call in and report abuse and neglect. Children will be in harm's way if the identity of the caller is disclosed. We will aggressively defend the statute and the confidentiality of those who care about children by calling in to report abuse and neglect."

The fight comes just one day after lawmakers gave final approval to Senate Bill 286. Included in the legislation addressing a number of DCS policy issues is a provision making recordings of calls to the hotline confidential unless a judge orders the information to be released.

Gov. Mitch Daniels could sign or veto the bill. The governor's spokeswoman, Jane Jankowski, said Daniels had no comment on the legal dispute.

DCS Director James Payne repeatedly has pledged that the agency would be open and transparent.

But one critic of the agency, Dawn Robertson of the family-rights group, says that has not been her experience.

"I've heard Director Payne say over and over how DCS would be open and transparent," she said. "In the years since, families we have worked with have repeatedly run into hurdles just getting their own records.

"So why would you think DCS was going to allow more access to information that would help the public determine whether or not the agency's actions are correct or appropriate?"


Saturday, March 10, 2012

Tell Congress Your Foster Care Horror Stories

Here's a very good blog we want to share with our readers.

Ex-Okla. child welfare worker charged with theft

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A fired Oklahoma Department of Human Services child welfare worker has been charged with stealing nearly $3,700 from three disabled foster children.

Michelle Fausett, of Oklahoma City, has been charged with three counts of financial exploitation of a minor.

A working telephone number for Fausett could not be found Saturday. Online court records show a warrant has been issued for her arrest, but do not list an attorney for her and county jail records did not list her as an inmate.

The charges filed Monday by Oklahoma County prosecutors allege that Fausett used federal disability payments to the children in order to by video game systems, laptop computers and televisions, but never delivered the items to the foster homes where the children were living.

One child lost $972, another lost $1,446, and the third lost $1,247, according to prosecutors.

Fausett, who was fired Jan. 20 for dereliction of duty because she stopped coming to work, was charged after DHS completed an internal investigation and sent the findings to prosecutors.

DHS "holds its employees to a very high standard because of the vulnerable people we serve," department spokeswoman Sheree Powell told The Oklahoman for a story published Saturday.

"The financial exploitation of a foster child is particularly disgraceful, and we will not tolerate any employee committing such an act," Powell said.

Fausett, who had worked at the agency more than three years, turned in her DHS identification badge, cellphone and computer Dec. 7 after a co-worker confronted her Dec. 5 about why a foster child never got items purchased for him in August, DHS records show.


Family not notified about daughter's alleged abuse at school - Texas


FORNEY, Texas - A Forney family has filed a compliant with the state, claiming that Child Protective Services and Forney ISD failed to tell them about an abuse investigation involving their daughter.

Four-year-old Bella Holt is a special needs student at Henderson Elementary School in Forney. On Jan. 31, school officials were notified by an employee that Holt's teacher reportedly pushed the child to the ground.

"CPS told me she fell on her bottom, hit her elbows, her head, and started crying," her mother, Tana, said.

The district looked into the incident and during the investigation reassigned the teacher to another school. Child Protective Services was also asked to look into the matter.

But at no time was the little girl's family contacted about what was going on.

It wasn't until March 1, four weeks later, they say they received a call from a CPS case worker.

"The first thing out of her mouth was, 'I apoligize for not contacting you,' said Rene Keitch, the child's grandmother.

"She was there four times, observing the child, but not once was her parent, [or] her grandparent notified," she continued. "Not one time."

The family says the case worker interviewed and photographed 4-year-old Bella without their permission.

Child Protective Services would not comment on the incident, or the allegations against their case worker. School district officials confirm Bella's family was not contacted by the school.

A spokesperson for Forney ISD said the teacher's transfer had nothing to do with the investigation, and called the timing of her move a coincidence.


Calif. prof gets prison term for child abuse

The Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO -- A former assistant professor of justice studies at California State University has been sentenced to 37 and 1/2 years in prison after pleading guilty to sexually abusing an infant.

Kenneth Martin Kyle entered the plea in federal court in San Francisco on Thursday to molesting a 5-month old infant in St. Louis, Mo. over several months. He was then sentenced to prison and ordered to pay $50,000 to the victim.

Kyle resigned his position at California State University East Bay after his arrest in March 2010.

Authorities say Kyle acknowledged traveling to St. Louis in 2009 to abuse the infant. He came to authorities' attention after he was allegedly discovered sharing child pornography over a so-called peer-to-peer network.

The infant's mother has pleaded guilty to state molestation charges in St. Louis and still faces federal child pornography charges.


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Some Child Abuse Offenders Could Be Removed From Database - Conn.

By SHANNON YOUNG, Associated Press

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ Low-risk and rehabilitated suspects of child abuse and neglect might soon have the opportunity to have their names removed from the state’s database under legislation being considered by the General Assembly.

The proposed bill would allow offenders on the state’s child abuse and neglect database to appeal their listing after five years if they aren’t involved in any new abuse reports or investigations.

Appeals would be granted to applicants who have rehabilitated themselves or have demonstrated other legitimate reasons for removal. Applicants would be required to submit at least two letters in support of the appeal from competent adults.

If the bill is passed, individuals would be able to begin applying for an appeal as early as July 1.

Currently, anyone identified as a suspect in Department of Children and Families investigations of child abuse and neglect is listed in a registry for such offenses, even if the individual is not convicted of a civil or criminal offense. Those listed in the registry can initially appeal the listing and can appeal it in court, if necessary.

However, if they lose the appeal, they are permanently placed in the DCF child abuse database.

The database, unlike the sex offender registry, is private and not available to the public. Employers who work with children, however, can contact DCF with a release, signed by the potential employee, to verify that the individual doesn’t present a risk to kids.

Because of this, some argue that while the registry was created to ultimately protect children, it can permanently damage the reputation of suspected offenders and subject them to unemployment.

Michael Agranoff, an attorney specializing in DCF cases, said he has been pushing the state legislature to adapt this measure. He said that while he is successful in winning appeals for some clients, Connecticut has very few DCF attorneys for adults and not every person accused can afford representation.

Agranoff said he has seen hundreds of people successfully rehabilitate themselves. He said no one should be subject to a potential lifetime of unemployment without being allowed to defend him or herself.

Thomas DeMatteo, the assistant agency legal director for DCF, said the agency supports the proposed legislation and is willing to give listed individuals a second look. Thousands of names are on the child abuse and neglect registry, he said.

“DCF works on the basis that people can rehabilitate themselves,” DeMatteo said.

He said, now, around 30 percent of all alleged offenders who appeal their listing are successful.

Despite DCF’s support, some child advocate agencies and activists have raised concerns over the bill’s lack of details and potential effects on other registries.

Mickey Kramer, with the state’s Office of the Child Advocate, said that while the bill sounds like a fair concept, she believes the proposed appeals process needs to be carefully scrutinized and, if passed, applied consistently across the state.

“The devil is in the details, which this legislation doesn’t address,” she said.

Kramer said she agrees with the concept of the legislation but thinks it needs to be more specific before she could support it outright. She said she will likely testify at the hearing.

Sen. John Kissel, R-Enfield, ranking member of the legislature’s Judiciary Committee, also raised concerns over the bill’s lack of details, specifically what qualifies a suspected offender as “rehabilitated.” He said he’d like to see a more specific definition of the term and learn more about how a person would be evaluated.

“God forbid someone gets off of the registry and harms another child,” Kissel said.

The Judiciary Committee will hear opinions on the bill at a Wednesday morning public hearing at the Legislative Office Building.

Wallingford Republican Sen. Len Suzio said the Select Committee on Children, on which he serves as ranking member, reviewed identical legislation on the issue before ultimately removing it from the bill.

He said that among other things, the committee questioned how the process of removing a person’s name from the child abuse and neglect registry would work when a suspected offender could potentially still be listed on the state’s sex offender registry.

Like Suzio, Karen Jarmoc, the executive director of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence, also expressed concerns on the relation between the child abuse and sex offender registries.

Jarmoc said allowing offenders to remove their names from the child abuse and neglect database may open the door for individuals to try and get their names off of other lists, like the sex offender registry.

She said the legislature needs to be careful that it doesn’t create a precedent for this type of name removal.

Last year, similar legislation that included a section concerning parental consent for children being interviewed by DCF failed to make it to the floor for a vote in the Senate. This year, the measures are separated into two bills.

Bill supporters are optimistic that the name removal legislation could be passed this session, as DCF is once again behind the measure.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Occupy the American Psychiatric Association Convention Protest May 5th

We got an email from PsychRights that we would like to share.
Hi All,

Below is the News Release MindFreedom just issued regarding the Occupy the APA protest on May 5th in Philadelphia. I hope you can come. PsychRights is coming with a limited number of t-shirts with the following design for people who come to the Protest. To reserve yours, with your name and size.
I hope to see you there.

Also, MindFreedom is devoting its monthly radio show to the Occupy the APA protest and I will be on this Saturday, March 10th, at 2 pm Eastern Time. People are encouraged to call in.

Press Release - For immediate release

Protesters, Rejecting Mental Illness Labels, Vow to "Occupy" the American Psychiatric Association Convention

PHILADELPHIA (3/6/12) - On Saturday, May 5, 2012, as thousands of psychiatrists congregate in Philadelphia for the American Psychiatric Association (APA) Annual Meeting, individuals with psychiatric labels and other supporters will converge in a global campaign to oppose the APA's proposed new edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), scheduled for publication in May 2013. Occupy the APA will include distinguished speakers from 10 a.m. to noon at Friends Center (1515 Cherry Street, Philadelphia). A march at 1 p.m. from Friends Center will lead to the Pennsylvania Convention Center (12th and Arch Streets), where the group will protest beginning at 1:30 while the APA meets inside.

"This peaceful protest exposes the fact that the DSM-5 pushes the mental health industry to medicalize problems that aren't medical, inevitably leading to over-prescription of psychiatric drugs - including for people experiencing natural human emotions, such as grief and shyness," said David Oaks, founder and director of MindFreedom International (MFI), which has worked for 26 years as an independent voice of survivors of psychiatric human rights violations. "We call for better ways to help individuals in extreme emotional distress."

Other speakers criticizing the revised manual, considered the psychiatric industry's bible, include Brent Robbins, Ph.D., Secretary of the Society for Humanistic Psychology, which has gathered more than 8,000 signatures from mental health professionals calling for "developing an alternative approach" to the DSM.

Jim Gottstein, Esq., founder and president of the Alaska-based Law Project for Psychiatric Rights (PsychRights), will cross the country to speak. "The public mental health system is creating a huge class of chronic mental patients through forcing them to take ineffective yet extremely harmful drugs. As the APA gets ready to do even more harm with its proposed expansion of what constitutes mental illness, I want to be there in person to participate in the protest."

Occupy the APA will begin at 10 a.m. at Friends Center (1515 Cherry Street, Philadelphia), where the speakers will also include Dr. Paula Caplan, a psychologist, playwright and activist from California; Dr. Al Galves, director of the International Society for Ethical Psychology & Psychiatry (ISEPP); Joseph Rogers, chief advocacy officer of the Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania (MHASP); and Dr. Stefan P. Kruszewski, a whistleblower who was fired by the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare after he reported the abuse and deaths of Pennsylvania children as a result of systemic physical and psychiatric malfeasance. His subsequent federal lawsuit was successfully settled in 2007.

"We will promote humane alternatives to the traditional mental health system, such as peer support, which evidence proves is effective in helping individuals recover from severe emotional distress," Oaks said. "Our protest is about choice, and everyone is welcome."

Contact: David Oaks, MFI,, 541-345-9106

James B. (Jim) Gottstein, Esq.
Law Project for Psychiatric Rights
406 G Street, Suite 206
Anchorage, Alaska 99501
Phone: (907) 274-7686) Fax: (907) 274-9493
Law Project for Psychiatric Rights

The Law Project for Psychiatric Rights is a public interest law firm devoted to the defense of people facing the horrors of forced psychiatric drugging and electroshock. We are further dedicated to exposing the truth about these drugs and the courts being misled into ordering people to be drugged and subjected to other brain and body damaging interventions against their will. Currently, due to massive growth in psychiatric drugging of children and youth and the current targeting of them for even more psychiatric drugging, PsychRights has made attacking this problem a priority. Children are virtually always forced to take these drugs because it is the adults in their lives who are making the decision. This is an unfolding national tragedy of immense proportions. Extensive information about all of this is available on our web site, Please donate generously. Our work is fueled with your IRS 501(c) tax deductible donations. Thank you for your ongoing help and support.

No autopsy of Monroe child despite police requests

Police say examiner's office ignored their concerns about child's death

By Noah Haglund, Diana Hefley and Rikki King

MONROE -- Police say they repeatedly tried to tell the Snohomish County Medical Examiner's Office that a 7-year-old boy who showed up dead at a Monroe hospital had a history of mistreatment and neglect.

Police wanted an autopsy and called at least three times to make their case. They were given "a dismissive 'no,'" Monroe police spokeswoman Debbie Willis said Tuesday.

State officials confirmed that a social worker witnessed at least one of those conversations, and the detective mentioned Child Protective Services' past involvement with the boy's family.

Still, the medical examiner's office ruled the boy's death "low suspicion." His body was released and cremated without an autopsy. Two weeks later, toxicology tests ordered by the medical examiner came back showing the boy died with lethal amounts of what appears to be over-the-counter painkillers in his system.

Police are investigating the death as a potential manslaughter. The case is complicated by a lack of evidence from a body, little cooperation from the boy's parents and possible missteps in how his death investigation was handled. National experts say there aren't clear-cut policies for when a child death investigation requires an autopsy.

The boy, identified in court papers only as "A.J." of Monroe, was pronounced dead Jan. 30. His father brought the boy into the hospital emergency room unresponsive, nearly 40 minutes after he said he found the boy "ash white," the documents showed.

In the days after the boy's death, a detective called the medical examiner's office at least twice to request an autopsy, Willis said. A sergeant called, as well.

The detective attempted to explain that he'd investigated the boy's parents in a reckless endangerment case two years before, she said.

"It was a dismissive 'no,' they were not going to do an autopsy," she said. "They asked if we had documentation of any physical abuse, and we said no."

The medical examiner representative reportedly told the detective that if police wanted to send documents, they'd be reviewed, Willis said. They asked for no additional information.

"The detective felt at that point that we'd had three dismissive phone calls, they're not listening, and we have an investigation to continue here, and did not send any reports to them," Willis said.

The Snohomish County Executive's Office, which oversees the medical examiner, has declined to discuss any specifics of the case, citing the ongoing police investigation.

Police look into deaths that may involve crimes, but the medical examiner's office determines how someone died and whether the death was natural, an accident or the result of someone else's actions.

A determination on the boy's manner of death is pending, meaning there's not enough information.

State toxicologists reported finding lethal amounts of salicylates in the boy's blood. Salicylates are common in aspirin and other over-the-counter drugs.

The tests determine the presence and amount of the drug in the blood, not how it was ingested.

An autopsy would have answered important questions, such as whether there were pills in the boy's stomach. Even without that evidence, authorities still should be able to investigate, said Janice Ophoven, a Minnesota-based pediatric forensic pathologist who has consulted on cases nationally and abroad.

"In this particular case, we have a cause of death -- that's not going to be in dispute," Ophoven said. "Then the question becomes how did that stuff get in there, and is there a reasonable explanation for that?"

Salicylate poisoning generally causes noticeable symptoms that last hours before death, she said. Those include breathing problems, nausea and vomiting.

"Assuming that the numbers are reported accurately and this is a fatal dose, somebody is going to have to answer the question of what the family thought when they saw signs of salicylate poisoning," Ophoven said.

The case ultimately will come down to "good police work in the days and weeks to come," she said.

Job defies policy

There are no policies to tell forensic pathologists in Snohomish County, or anywhere else, exactly when to perform autopsies. Instead, death investigators must rely on their training and experience to make the right call.

"The almost infinite varieties in ways that people die makes it impossible to write a policy to deal with every kind of death," said Dr. Andrew Baker, spokesman for the National Association of Medical Examiners and medical examiner for Hennepin County, Minn.

Baker added: "Whether one is done is only a piece of the much larger puzzle. Whether you do one or not depends on what historical information is available to you."

A former associate pathologist for Snohomish County said the information from Child Protective Services should have made a decision on the Monroe boy's case an easy call.

"To me, it's obligatory to do an autopsy in this case if the medical examiner knew of the CPS reports," said Dr. Carl Wigren, who left Snohomish County in 2009 and now consults with coroners, attorneys and families.

The child's father pleaded guilty in 2010 to reckless endangerment after police discovered his children living in deplorable conditions. The children, then 10 and 5, were removed from the home for three months. Before then, state social workers investigated numerous allegations of mistreatment involving the couple's two sons, including a report that the older boy, now 12, had been given a double dose of anti-seizure medication on at least two occasions.

Both boys were severely developmentally delayed, but doctors haven't found genetic or neurological reasons. The older boy has been removed from the home.

Timeline still unclear

What also remains unclear is the timeline of events between the younger boy having medical trouble and the hospital declaring him dead, police said.

His father said the boy was breathing and alive when they left the home, but the emergency room doctor said when they arrived, the boy appeared to be in the early stages of rigor mortis, which happens hours after death.

Child Protective Services received notice from the hospital about the younger boy's death, said Sherry Hill, spokeswoman for the state Department of Social and Health Services

A social worker was investigating the case by 10 a.m. that morning. That included contacting Monroe police to ask if they would be assigning a detective.

Generally, hospitals contact CPS or law enforcement when the child's death is unexpected.

The social worker was in frequent contact with the detective. The social worker noted that she was there when the detective called the medical examiner's office. During that conversation, the detective conveyed the family's history with CPS. CPS officials never received a request from the medical examiner to see those reports, Hill said.

"We felt assured that the M.E. was aware of the history of this family," Hill said.

The social worker noted that the medical examiner expected to determine a cause of death that day. The social worker noted that the medical examiner planned to complete a toxicology screen and a full body scan to determine if there were any signs of abuse or neglect, Hill said.

Once the medical examiner concluded that the death wasn't suspicious, the social worker talked with the family about the possibility of doing an autopsy. She advised the family that an autopsy could be helpful to determine what caused the boy's seizures, which could be helpful to their care of their older son. The social worker made it clear that the family would need to request a full autopsy.

The social worker reported that the parents said they would consult with their own doctors and "take care of it."

Officials with the Children's Administration plan to convene a child fatality review. The law calls for a review when a child dies of suspected neglect or abuse and has received services from the state in the past year.

Shortly after A.J.'s death, leaders at his school broke the news to students and families.

A.J. was in a first-grade class.

"He faced many health challenges in his short life and we will miss him," Fryelands Elementary School Principal Jeff Presley wrote at the time. "A.J. was a wonderful member of our school family and our thoughts are with his parents and brother."