Friday, February 10, 2012

The High Cost of Foster Care Abuse

FLUSHING, NY, February 09, 2012

More than 500,000 children in the U.S. reside in some form of foster care. Within one year of their initial placement, at least 15 percent of them will experience neglect, abuse, or other harmful conditions. Six times as many children die in foster care than in the general population. Children in placement are also far more likely to suffer physical and sexual abuse than other children. In group homes, where many of the residents abuse each other, there is more than ten times the rate of physical abuse and 28 times the rate of sexual abuse as in the general population. And these are just the reported cases. Since foster care agencies cannot always be relied upon to police themselves, the actual rates are likely to be much higher.

Lawsuits are a necessary consequence of foster care abuse. Often, they provide the only means for victims to seek monetary compensation for grievous harm. They are also instrumental in publicizing these tragedies, forcing state and private foster care providers to account for their actions and, hopefully, rectify them. Here is a sampling of recent foster care abuse lawsuits:

A Florida mother accused state and local child care providers of failing to protect her son from sexual abuse. Placed at age 10, the child was moved to 11 different foster homes in an 18 month period and twice attempted suicide.

Three young Maryland men filed suit against an agency that had notice of a sexually abusing foster father but failed to take action. The agency specialized in placements for children and adolescents with mental disabilities as well as brain and spinal cord injuries.

A lawsuit on behalf of a young girl repeatedly raped in foster care over a period of ten months was filed in Philadelphia. The rapist, who was not supposed to be residing in the home, was the foster mother's teen-aged son.

Lawyers in Colorado sued agency social workers on behalf of three boys placed in an adoptive home. Although the adoptive parents knew the boys had been abused in their biological home, social workers failed to warn them of just how heinous and extensive the abuse had been. The children engaged in incestuous acts with each other, necessitating strenuous efforts on the part of the adoptive parents to prevent the abuse. Ultimately, the strain of caring for the children caused the adoptive parents to divorce.

The payout for such lawsuits can be quite substantial. New Jersey has spent $51.7 million in 317 lawsuits brought on behalf of abused foster children dating as far back as 1996. Since 2005, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS) has paid out more than $3.4 million in civil lawsuit settlements. In a recently settled class action lawsuit involving foster care abuse, Oklahoma DHS spent $7 million in outside attorney fees in defense of the lawsuit, with $2 million more set aside for future costs. Additional class action lawsuits are pending on behalf of thousands of foster children in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Texas. Even when such cases do not result in monetary awards to the original plaintiffs, attorney fees can run well into the millions.

Foster care abuse exacts an enormous toll in emotional, psychological and physical damage. Lawsuits filed on behalf of these injured children, while essential, are prohibitively expensive for state and local governments. In a better world, all those tens of millions would be spent on preventing the very problems that put children in foster care in the first place. Sometimes, the price for the harm that results from the remedy is just too high.

Written by Ruth C. Stern on behalf of Orlow, Orlow & Orlow, New York Personal Injury Lawyers located at 7118 Main Street, Flushing, NY 11367

Phone: 212-203-4053

Connecticut announces program to deal with child neglect

The Associated Press

HARTFORD, Conn. — Connecticut officials say they are finalizing changes that will soon reform how the state's child welfare agency deals with less serious neglect cases by working more closely with families.

Department of Children and Families Commissioner Joette Katz announced Thursday that the department will implement a Differential Response system for reports of child abuse and neglect, beginning in early March.

The Differential Response system allows DCF to respond more appropriately to allegations of neglect and reports of child abuse by considering the factors surrounding a claim.

This system will fall under the department's new Strengthening Families practice model, which focuses on family participation in evaluating reports of neglect and abuse, foster care and other services provided by DCF.

Connecticut officials say they are finalizing changes that will soon reform how the state's child welfare agency deals with less serious neglect cases by working more closely with families.

Department of Children and Families Commissioner Joette Katz announced Thursday that the department will implement a Differential Response system for reports of child abuse and neglect, beginning in early March.

The Differential Response system allows DCF to respond more appropriately to allegations of neglect and reports of child abuse by considering the factors surrounding a claim.

This system will fall under the department's new Strengthening Families practice model, which focuses on family participation in evaluating reports of neglect and abuse, foster care and other services provided by DCF.


Judge on emaciated child: Didn’t anyone notice?

Blogger Note:

Now here is a judge that realizes that there are many people culpable in situations where a child is being abused but those in authroity look the other way. Way to go Judge!

CPS is such a failure as is many of the mandated reporters and it amazes me that the federal government continues to fund CPS.

Now, if we could only find a judge that will put a stop to this money machine that could care a less about children!

As the case of a 9-year-old boy with malnutrition continued in juvenile court, the emphasis shifted away from the boy’s parents and toward the actions of others who saw him.

By Carol Marbin Miller

Though Marsee Strong and Edward Bailey remain in Miami-Dade jails on aggravated child abuse charges, an inquiry Wednesday into the welfare of their 9-year-old son focused largely on the role of the doctors, therapists and investigators who were intimately involved with the family — yet failed to notice that the boy was profoundly malnourished and displaying visible signs of abuse.

Circuit Judge Cindy Lederman, who presides over child welfare cases at the county’s Children’s Courthouse in Allapattah, had an unusual hearing in the case Wednesday, requiring administrators with the Department of Children & Families to provide a detailed timeline of the agency’s involvement with the parents, as well as the involvement of other professionals. The 9-year-old, who is one of the family’s six children, was picked up by police last week after he was found wandering his North Miami Beach neighborhood naked, emaciated and sporting an injured eye.

“I still don’t understand how the child could get in this condition, how nothing was done, or inadequate things were being done,” Lederman said during the hearing.

The boy, who was described as having the frame of a 3-year-old, remains in the hospital, where doctors are fighting the effects of malnutrition, said DCF’s attorney, Christine Lopez-Acevedo. “He’s doing better,” Lopez-Acevedo said.

Officially, the children have been under the supervision of DCF since 2002, when a physical abuse report to the state’s abuse and neglect hotline led the agency to take custody of them. They remained in DCF’s care until 2004, when they were returned to Strong and Bailey. DCF retained jurisdiction over the case since then.

DCF’s attorney, Lopez-Acevedo, told Lederman the agency had substantial contact with the family in the ensuing years, though it appears much of the scrutiny concerned one of the 9-year-old’s older sisters, who has had significant involvement with the state’s juvenile justice system, and does not currently live with the family. Though investigators had spoken with the family several times over the past two years, no allegations emerged that Strong or Bailey had mistreated the kids, Lopez-Acevedo said.

Indeed, in June of last year Strong asked DCF for help in raising the children, Lopez-Acevedo said.

Neither the 9-year-old nor his siblings are being named by The Miami Herald to protect their privacy.

At Wednesday’s hearing, Lopez-Acevedo did not accuse the parents of mistreating their children. She said the 9-year-old at the center of the case appears to suffer from poorly understood psychiatric and medical conditions that cause him to eat excessively, and then vomit. Though police described him as horrifically malnourished — he weighed only 35 pounds at age 9, and Lederman said in court last week that he looked like a concentration camp survivor with protruding bones — the boy had been under the regular care of pediatricians and mental health workers, Acevedo said.

“There were a number of eyes on this child, and the [state child-abuse hotline] reports that came in did not include the possibility that he was not being fed in the home,” Acevedo told the judge. “To the naked eye, with his clothes on, you could not necessarily tell this child was suffering from malnutrition.”

Rita Doval, a nurse with the state’s Child Protection Team who interviewed the children, said the kids assured her they were well-fed at home. The 9-year-old said that his parents sometimes withheld food from him, but Doval said the parents contend they were told by other doctors to regulate what the boy ate because he would sometimes eat until he made himself sick. Though the withholding of food may have seemed like a punishment, Doval said, it was intended to protect him.

A court-appointed psychologist, Michael DiTomasso, said neither the 9-year-old nor his siblings suggested they had been abused by Bailey or Strong, though some of the children said they had been allowed to beat each other.

“Three of the children all made clear they had a good mommy and a good daddy,” DiTomasso said. “They were really defensive. They felt really bad, and they saw their parents get arrested. They miss the little one, too. They worry about him in the hospital.”

DiTomasso said he asked the 9-year-old pointedly to explain the marks and bruises police found on his body, but was unable to get an explanation. “My God, you look at the little boy and say, what happened to him? I saw the pictures, and then I saw the child. My first impression was, My God, who did this to him?”

The psychologist said the 9-year-old was in dire need of a comprehensive medical and psychiatric evaluation, and he was surprised that such a battery of tests had not yet been performed. “Something was really wrong physically with this child,” DiTomaso said. “He needs a thorough physical work-up. He’ll get it now, right?”


NJ Child Welfare Officials Faulted In Handling Slain Toddler’s Case, Says DYFS Commissioner

TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) – Child welfare officials in New Jersey failed to connect concerns of child abuse and domestic violence in the case of a 2-year-old whose father is accused of tossing her to her death still strapped in her car seat.

Children and Families Commissioner Allison Blake on Tuesday released a review over how the agency handled the case of Tierra Morgan-Glover.

The girl was found dead in a creek in Wall Township on Nov. 22. Prosecutors said the toddler’s father, Arthur Morgan III, killed her during a court-approved visit by attaching a tire iron to her car seat to weigh it down before throwing it into the creek from an overpass.

The cause of death was determined to be homicidal violence, including submersion in water.

Morgan was later arrested on Nov. 29 by U.S. Marshals in California after receiving a tip he was staying with friends in the San Diego area.

Child welfare officials investigated the turbulent relationship between Morgan and the child’s mother four times in 13 months before she was found dead.

In Dec., the toddler’s great grandfather blamed the court system for not doing enough to prevent Tierra’s death.

“My granddaughter pleaded with these people not to allow an unsupervised visit. Yet in spite of her request it was denied,” the man said.

The girl’s mother, Imani Benton, said a case worker told the courts there was no reason to deny Morgan unsupervised visitation.

“I reached out to the Department of Youth and Family Services when he hit her and he admitted to hitting her and they still deemed him fit as a parent,” Benton said.

Blake now says caseworkers never consulted with the agency’s domestic violence liaison. They and supervisors also failed to follow-up on recommendations made by the special response unit which first investigated child abuse claims.

Morgan is charged with murder.


Katy Teacher Charged in Child Abuse - Texas

Katy Teacher Charged in Child Abuse:

Child welfare officials saw no red flags from Josh Powell

Blogger Note:

The title of this article is the craziest title possible. It's been known to many of us caught up in the CPS Racket that CPS incapable of seeing REAL trouble when there is REAL reasons to suspect a parent my harm their children, now we have a public statement that they were blind to those very things.

CPS - Here's some hints:

When a suspect moves to another state shortly after his wife disappears, the wife is likely dead!

When a parent is suspected of murdering their wife, the suspects children are likely to be in danger!

When children are in CPS custody, it is your job to make sure that they are safe from harm at anyone's hands - including their father, the suspect in his wife's (the children's mother) disappearance and possible murder!

Questions for CPS:

Why were vistis allowed to take place at this suspected murderers home?
Don't you have supervised and monitored visitation facilities in Washington state?
If not - perhaps you should put some in place.

If you couldn't see the red flags in this case (which were waving high and wildly), how are you able to claim anyone may be abusing or neglecting their children or are a danger to their children in some way?
Whatever happened to your so-called risk assessment garbage?
Are you people blind?


By Brooke Adams

Puyallup, Wash. • As Washington authorities revealed new details about how Josh Powell killed himself and his two young sons in his home, a child welfare spokesman on Monday said there were no red flags that would have barred the visit.

One caseworker from Foster Care Resource Network of Tacoma had supervised all of Powell’s visits with his sons Charlie, 7, and Braden, 5. Those visits initially took place at the network’s office and then, beginning in November, at Powell’s home.

"From the children’s administration point of view, Mr. Powell was not accused of any child abuse or neglect," said Thomas Shapley, senior director of public affairs for the Washington Department of Social and Health Services. "There was no indication of threats to the children or any suicide ideation. This caught everybody by surprise."

Chuck and Judy Cox — who received temporary custody of the boys last September — said Monday the system failed their grandsons and needs to be changed. In light of recent events, it would have been appropriate to suspend Powell’s court-ordered supervised visitation, Chuck Cox said.

Powell learned in a Feb. 1 custody hearing he would not get his boys, back until at least July. The judge also ordered him to submit to a psychosexual evaluation and polygraph test regarding sexually explicit images found on a computer in his West Valley City home in 2009.

"I thought visitation should have stopped until they got that sorted out," Chuck Cox told The Salt Lake Tribune. "We were very afraid something like this could happen, as were the social workers and police. There were too many warning signs that were known, but due to the legal limits [the signs] couldn’t be acted on."

Cox added: "It’s sad that visitation was at his house, which allowed him to set up this whole thing."

The boys were removed from Powell’s care after their paternal grandfather, Steve Powell, was arrested on voyeurism and child pornography charges. Prosecutors said they needed to determine what, if anything, Powell knew about his father’s activities. Powell and his sons had lived in Steve Powell’s Puyallup home since 2010.

Shapley said if his department had received any indication the children were in danger or that Powell was unstable, there are protocols the department could have gone through to postpone visits.

There was nothing, he said.

"We were always on course to have the children returned to him," Shapley said. And while a judge here ordered new tests for Powell, there was no interruption in visitation.

"We were proceeding as per court order," Shapley said.

Police have said Powell planned out a gasoline-fueled fire that took his own life and the lives of his sons Sunday as the boys came to his home for supervised visitation. Shapley said the boys ran into the home and Powell locked out the caseworker, who called 911.

Shapley said he agreed with Washington police that if Powell "was intent on committing this heinous crime, it’s hard to imagine how anyone could have stopped him" no matter who was there or where the visit took place.

One national child welfare expert agrees Washington authorities acted appropriately.

"Unless you expect a caseworker to have 20/20 hindsight or the ability to read minds, no, there was no way to see this coming," said Richard Wexler, director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform based in Virginia. "If they couldn’t imagine it, I don’t know how the court could."

And while the Coxes had fears about what Powell might do, they never imagined he might act during a supervised visit with his sons.

"I had no idea he would be able to get away with dousing the place. Who possibly would do that? Sure, we were concerned about it, but not to go out that way," said Chuck Cox.

The Coxes had felt okay about visits at Powell’s newly rented home for the sake of the boys.

"Anything that would make them feel better, have a better life, we were for it," Chuck Cox said. "We were just doing everything we could to make them happy and have as normal a life as we could with their mom gone."

Wexler called Sunday’s deaths a tragic anomaly and said the most important lesson to learn is "not to try to learn lessons from horror stories because it will then result in hundreds of kids being kept needlessly away from their parents."

The department is conducting an internal review and will also begin a child fatality review, which must be completed in six months or less, Shapley said.

"We do want to see if there are things that can educate our practice going forward," he said.


Police officer accused of injuring child

Texas City police Officer John Thorn faces criminal charge

TEXAS CITY, Texas - A police officer has been accused of hurting a child.

Texas City police Officer John Thorn, 38, has been charge with injury to a child.

Thorn works in the department's field investigation team and is a K-9 officer.

Sources close to the case told KPRC Local 2 that the Galveston County Sheriff's Office and Children's Protective Services got a tip that Thorn used a belt to repeatedly hit his 6-year-old son on his back, neck and face.

"I just can't see John doing that," neighbor Bill Blankenship said. "He loved them kids too much. John is just a nice guy."

Neighbors said Thorn recently moved out of the home he shared with his wife and two children.

"They used to argue a lot," neighbor Robert Briones said.

The Galveston County District Attorney's Office said that it could not release details about the investigation because a child was involved.

Thorn turned himself in to investigators on Monday morning and was released on bond.

Thorn has been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the case.

If convicted, Thorn could lose his job and be sentenced to 2 to 10 years in prison or probation.


Caretaker details abuse child says he endured - Barahona Case

MIAMI (WSVN) -- The caretaker of a 10-year-old boy who was allegedly abused by his adoptive parents has provided new details about the abuse he said he and his murdered sister endured.

Katia Garcia was the temporary guardian who took care of Victor after the 10-year-old boy was found doused with chemicals and severely burned in a pickup truck on the side of Interstate 95, near West Palm Beach, on Feb. 14, 2011.

The body of Victor's twin sister, Nubia, was found in the back of the truck, which belonged to the siblings' adoptive father, Jorge Barahona.

The children's adoptive parents, Jorge and Carmen Barahona, were arrested and charged with murder and torture. Meanwhile, Victor was sent to live with Garcia.

Garcia made several audio statements to prosecutors in June, several months after Nubia's death. Garcia informed prosecutors that Victor told her what he remembered about living with the Barahonas. "His father used to put a bag over his head and that he used to choke him, and he says that there were a couple of times that he was very close to dying," said Garcia.

According to Garcia, Victor always referred to Jorge Barahona as "Dad," but that he nor his sister ever saw any signs of affection from their adoptive parents or heard them say "I love you."

Victor told Garcia about his sister Nubia and how she looked when he last saw her. "He stutters, because he's so angry. She had this big scab on her forehead and on her face and different parts of her face as well as smaller ones," Garcia said, "and he is very clear about that being what she looked like and how she was found the very last time he saw her."

Victor also talked about how he and his sister could barely walk after they were tied up for so long, Garcia said: "He would walk like hunchback because of the position that he had to remain in for so long."

Garcia continued, "He says that while they were in the bathtub, his dad would pour cold ice water on top of him and his sister."

In addition, Garcia said, Victor mentioned that Jorge Barahona would also pour other liquids on them while they were in the tub. "Like Clorox, like Drano," she said.

The abuse did not end there. "His father used to pour hot sauce in his ears, eyes, nose and mouth. His dad, his father, made him eat a cockroach," Garcia said Victor told her.

On another occasion, Garcia said, "[Victor] saw some of my eyelashes and then, he said that his was shut with like Krazy Glue."

According to Garcia, on Victor's birthday, all he could think of was Nubia. "That he missed her and that he thinks about her," she said. "He cried a couple times on his birthday."

Victor is now living with relatives in Texas.

Miami-Dade prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Jorge and Carmen Barahona.


Monday, February 6, 2012

Josh Powell kills 2 young sons in 'an act of evil,' authorities say

Blogger note:
Why didn't the court or CPS order that visitation be at a Visitation Center type facility that is not only supervised but is also monitored rather than allowing the children to go to his home? CPS failed these boys horrifically in this case. They knew that the situation was volatile and that the accusations against the father were of an extreme crime. This whole thing could have been prevented if CPS or the courts would have handled this properly but like most always, they did not.

Josh Powell, who has been implicated in the disappearance of his wife, was killed along with his two sons in a fire Sunday at Powell's home in Graham, Pierce County, authorities said.

By Sara Jean Green and Steve Miletich

GRAHAM, Pierce County — The 2-year-old mystery surrounding the disappearance of Susan Powell might forever lack answers after police said her long-investigated husband, Josh Powell, set his house on fire Sunday afternoon, killing himself and his two young boys moments after a caseworker brought them for a supervised visitation.

"The fire burned hot and it burned fast," said Pierce County sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Ed Troyer, who described the fire as an intentional act that came shortly after Powell sent an email to his attorney apologizing and saying goodbye.

Three bodies, believed to be those of Powell and his sons, Charlie, 7, and Braden, 5, were found in the same room in the house, authorities said.

Troyer called the deaths "a double murder-suicide."

"What happened here ... was an act of evil. Do not call it a tragedy because that sanitizes it. This was a terrible act of murder involving two young children," Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor said near the house.

Powell, 36, had lost custody of the boys after his father was arrested last year for allegedly possessing child pornography in another house they previously shared. The boys were in the custody of Susan Powell's parents; however, Josh Powell was allowed supervised visitation.

About noon Sunday, Troyer said, the caseworker, a state contract worker from Foster Care Resource Network, brought the boys for a scheduled visit to Powell's house. The caseworker was assigned to the children and had previously brought them to their father without incident, Troyer said.

Powell answered the door, pulled the boys inside, slammed the door and locked it, Troyer said.

Denied entry, the caseworker immediately began banging on the doors and windows and called 911. She told police she thought she smelled gasoline.

The caseworker reported the fire started within seconds, Troyer said.

The first 911 call was at 12:13 p.m., followed by other calls.

Graham Fire and Rescue responded within three minutes, finding the house in flames with no chance to save those inside, Troyer said.

The fire marshal will determine the exact cause of the blaze.

The Pierce County Medical Examiner's Office, which is to perform autopsies Monday, still needs to make positive identifications.

Troyer said Utah authorities might have been preparing criminal charges against Powell in connection with his wife's disappearance in December 2009, but he did not give details.

Buzz Nielson, the police chief in West Valley City, Utah, whose department is investigating the disappearance of Susan Powell, said Sunday night that detectives were pursuing promising new avenues in the case and that he had hoped to seek charges by the end of the year.

"It's a circumstantial one," he said of the case, adding that his investigators had not shared their progress with Josh Powell.

Nielson said he believes Powell was more concerned with civil-court matters, an apparent reference to the child-custody case.

Investigators from West Valley City police will be sent to Washington, said spokesman Sgt. Mike Powell, who is no relation to Josh Powell.

Asked if Josh Powell's death would forever preclude answers to his wife's disappearance, Sgt. Powell said it was important to "emphasize that Josh hasn't been cooperative with our investigation from the very beginning."

The Associated Press reported that Josh Powell's lawyer received an email from him shortly before the fire, saying: "I'm sorry, goodbye."

Attorney Jeffrey Bassett told The Associated Press the email arrived at 12:05 p.m. Sunday, but he didn't see it until two hours later, when others informed him of the fire. He says he knew Powell was upset after a judge last week ordered him to undergo a psychosexual evaluation, but he didn't see this coming.

Troyer said email and text messages from Powell's account were sent to a number of people, whom he didn't identify. He said investigators had no reason to doubt that Powell wrote them.

Firefighters were still mopping up the largely gutted house at 8119 189th St. Court E. late into the afternoon Sunday. Authorities began removing the bodies about 5:30 p.m.

Some people reported hearing popping sounds that sounded like gunshots at the time of the fire, while others described the noise as coming from the fire, Troyer said.

While Powell had not been arrested or charged in his wife's disappearance, he had been a person of interest in the case from the start.

Susan Powell, a Puyallup native, was 28 when she was reported missing Dec. 7, 2009. Josh Powell told police he last saw his wife around midnight, when he put their sons in a minivan and took them on a late-night camping trip in Utah's west desert in freezing temperatures.

Powell then moved back to the Puyallup area, where both his father and Susan Powell's parents live.

The boys were removed from Josh Powell's custody Sept. 22, the same day Josh Powell's father, Steven Powell, with whom the three were living, was arrested and charged with possessing child pornography. Temporary custody of the children was awarded by a judge to Susan Powell's parents, Chuck and Judy Cox of Puyallup.

Last week, a judge ordered that the boys remain in the custody of the grandparents.

Josh Powell has denied any role in his wife's disappearance and recently asked the judge to move his sons to a neutral caretaker, claiming his wife's parents — who have publicly implicated Josh Powell in their daughter's disappearance — were turning their two sons against him.

Chuck and Judy Cox declined to comment Sunday. Attorney Anne Bremner, who is representing the Cox family, said they have asked for time to grieve before speaking to the media.

Bremner learned about the deaths from a reporter in Salt Lake City. She then called Chuck Cox, who drove to Powell's house.

"It's unspeakable what he learned. It's horrific," Bremner said. "They've lost everything. They've lost their daughter. They've lost their grandkids."

Troyer said that Pierce County sheriff's investigators were coordinating with West Valley City police and that his office was seeking a search warrant for the house.

Steven Powell, who remains in jail in Pierce County, was notified of what happened Sunday and placed on suicide watch, Troyer said.

Steven Powell claimed last year that he and Susan Powell had a flirtatious relationship, and that he believed they were in love — allegations Chuck Cox dismissed as false, saying it was Powell who initiated unwanted sexual advances to her.

Troyer said the caseworker who went to the house Sunday was traumatized, and his detectives who had previously worked on the case were devastated.

"I feel bad for everybody ... so many people put so much work into this," Troyer said. Of Josh Powell, he said, "I wish he would have taken himself out and left the boys alone."

Troyer said police in Utah strongly believe Powell is responsible for the disappearance of his wife.

Denise Revels Robinson, assistant secretary of Children's Administration for DSHS, issued a statement saying, "All of us at the Department of Social and Health Services were shocked and deeply saddened by reports that Josh Powell had taken his own life and that of his two young children."

Robinson said the children were taken to the house as part of an ongoing court-ordered visitation schedule.

Robinson said the department will conduct a standard formal child-fatality review.

On her Facebook page, Susan Powell's best friend in West Valley City, Kiirsi Hellewell, expressed her grief, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.

"It's true. Feels like life is over," Hellewell said.

Denise Cox, the boys' aunt, told The Tribune she is in shock and was headed to her parents' house Sunday.

Cox had just seen her nephews at her parents' Saturday and joked about leaving the house because Charlie commanded her to come back to see him Sunday. She said it was funny that he didn't ask her to come back, he told her to — which the family thought was cute.

On Thursday, Braden Powell spent time with Cox and was affectionate, she said.

"He gave me a hug and a kiss and said 'I love you' before he left," she said. "It was the best feeling ever and almost brought tears to my eyes."


One-Time Religious Publisher, Foster Parent Charged With Sex Abuse Of Two Girls - Illinois

RIVER FOREST, Ill. (STMW) – A River Forest man who took in dozens of foster children since 1996 and volunteered with local youth groups was charged Friday with the sexual abuse of two girls.

Robert L. Gaskill, 63, of the 600 block of Ashland Ave., was ordered held Saturday in lieu of $50 million full cash bond by Judge Gregory P. Vasquez.

In bond court Saturday, prosecutors said Gaskill sexually abused two adolescent girls over a period from 1996 to 2009.

He is scheduled to be arraigned at 9 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 9, at the Maybrook Courthouse in Maywood. Sources said the case is expected to go to a grand jury for possible formal indictment.

A River Forest detective assisted by members of the WEDGE task force arrested Gaskill at his home Thursday. On Friday the Cook County State’s Attorney approved two counts of predatory criminal sexual assault, which is a Class X felony.

Gaskill and his wife have operated a foster care service in their large three-story frame home on Ashland Avenue, and a foster care support system called Tapestry Chicago. He also served on the board of the River Forest Youth Soccer program and was a program coordinator in the late 1990s.

Gaskill currently works as the marketing director at Lydia Home in Chicago, a residential facility for abused children. He previously worked for Mercy Home for Boys and Girls in Chicago.

Gaskill is also a former publisher of the Oak Leaves/Pioneer Press West Group, where he worked for 16 years until the mid 1980s. Following that, he was the president and publisher of Chicago Catholic Publications, which publishes the Chicago Archdiocese’s official newspaper, the New World.

Gaskill was not currently an employee of the Catholic New World or New World Publications, Archdiocese of Chicago spokeswoman Susan Burritt said Saturday. She did not immediately have any information on when he had served as publisher for Chicago Catholic Publications.

In a 2009 interview with the Forest Leaves, Gaskill said he and his wife had “been opening their home to foster children for about 15 years.” Many of them had disabilities of some kind.

He said he had fostered “about 75 different children over that time.”

In 2009, the Gaskills had 12 children, four biological, six adopted and two in foster care.

“Long before we got married, while we were dating, we both agreed we wanted to have large families,” Rob Gaskill said in 2009. “We thought it would be fun to have a lot of children.”


Parents suing over listing on child abuse index - California

A couple who cut locks of their daughter's hair as punishment for lying are suing an Orange County agency and social worker, saying they were not afforded due process.

By Christopher Goffard

A year after George and Bette McFetridge adopted a troubled teenage girl, the Irvine couple contends, her behavior grew increasingly disconcerting. She neglected her grades, kept company with grown men and ran away repeatedly.

On her camera, the Orange County deputy district attorney and his wife found a photograph of a pentagram, and of words written on pavement: "Torture." "Agony."

To punish her for lying about her whereabouts, Bette McFetridge took a pair of scissors and cut off locks of the girls' hair in early 2008 — a snip for each lie.

The "tough love" punishment led to an allegation of emotional abuse that a social worker deemed "inconclusive" but nevertheless landed the couple on the state's Child Abuse Central Index, where they remained for 11 months.

Now, the McFetridges are suing the Orange County Social Services Agency and Bridget Hannegan, the veteran social worker who handled their case. They allege their inclusion on the list damaged their reputations, stigmatizing them as child abusers, and that they were not afforded due process to fight the label.

Though George McFetridge is a county prosecutor, he is bringing the lawsuit as a private citizen and representing himself in court. In the suit, he alleges the social worker's confidential report about the case was forwarded to the district attorney's office, damaging his reputation, and that having his name on the abuse index impeded his attempt to become a court appointed special advocate.

In Orange County Superior Court on Friday, he told jurors that he used to prosecute child abuse cases in California and Nevada. "I have sent people to prison for child abuse," he said. Of himself and his wife, he added: "We are experienced, successful parents."

The girl, referred to in court only as "Holly," was 15 at the time of the hair-cutting incident. McFetridge said that his wife, concerned about their daughter's behavior, issued multiple warnings to tell the truth or risk punishment. After each lie, she cut another strand. "She cut a third strand, and then Holly started telling the truth," he told jurors. "We made a breakthrough."

He said he received a letter in April 2008 that he and his wife had been reported to the abuse index, but 12 weeks passed before he was able to see the social worker's report. He said the social worker falsely alleged the girl's hair was cut to within an inch of her scalp, leaving silver dollar-sized chunks missing.

The girl is now 18 and no longer living with the McFetridges, who acknowledge the adoption failed. "We're Facebook friends," Mr. McFetridge told jurors.

The couple is seeking $28,000 they spent to send the girl to a residential program, plus $1 a month for each month they spent on the abuse index.

Daniel Spradlin, attorney for the Social Services Agency and the social worker, told jurors the agency's actions were "reasonable and appropriate."

He described the girl as "a very emotionally troubled child," adding: "Nobody is saying Mr. and Mrs. McFetridge are bad people.… Maybe they did not appreciate how deep her troubles were." He said the girl believed herself a failure in her parents' eyes. "Mom wanted a daughter who was an avid reader," he said, which the girl was not.

Spradlin said Mrs. McFetridge grew resentful that the girl did not seem to appreciate the life they were trying to give her. He said the girl "had nothing" when they adopted her, but that her appearance — particularly her hair — was a large part of her identity.

"They used what the child's most precious possession was" to discipline her, he said.

The case is expected to continue next week.


DHS: Charges for failure to report abuse claims unheard of - Iowa

Written by Lee Hermiston

Wednesday’s arrest of the director of the Broadway Neighborhood Center for not reporting allegations of child abuse levied against a teacher at the center may be the first of its kind in Iowa, a spokesman for the Iowa Department of Human Services said.

“If it’s not the first time, it’s the first time in many years,” said DHS spokesman Roger Munns, noting employees in the agency’s central office have “quite a few years of experience.”

Sue Freeman-Murdah, 44, director of the Broadway Neighborhood Center, is accused of not reporting allegations of child abuse levied against a teacher in the Head Start Program, which she oversees. Because of her position at the center, Freeman-Murdah is considered a mandatory reporter, meaning she is required by law to report allegations of child abuse. She has worked at the center for more than 10 years.

According to a criminal complaint from Iowa City Police, the lead Head Start teacher informed Freeman-Murdah that the mother of a child enrolled in the program thought her daughter was the victim of a sexual assault. The alleged assailant was thought to be a teacher in the Head Start classroom. Police said the alleged victim was younger than 12.

The mother met with Freeman-Murdah and told her she thought the teacher had inappropriately touched her daughter and that contact raised to the level of abuse, police said. Police said the mother told Freeman-Murdah the child had repeatedly identified the teacher — who is not identified in the criminal complaint — as the perpetrator. The mother also observed injuries to her daughter, police said.

Police said Freeman-Murdah conducted her own investigation and did not contact police or the DHS. Iowa Code requires that health professionals, social workers, school employees, police officers, mental health professionals and employees of a DHS institution report allegations of abuse to a child younger than 12.

Iowa City Police Sgt. Denise Brotherton said the police department only learned about the allegations when the mother came to police on Dec. 21.

In a statement released Thursday, Neighborhood Centers of Johnson County Executive Director Brian Loring said no evidence of child abuse was discovered.

“The health and safety of children has always been, and remains, our top priority,” Loring said in the statement. “We want the community to know that the Department of Human Services investigated and found no evidence of child abuse. We have cooperated fully with law enforcement and the Department of Human Services and will continue to do so. In fairness to all the parties involved, we are avoiding further comments and will let the process run its course.”

Freeman-Murdah was arrested Wednesday afternoon, booked at the Johnson County Jail and released after about 30 minutes. She posted a $500 cash bond.

Freeman-Murdah made an initial appearance in court Thursday morning and entered a plea of not guilty. Judge Deb Minot set a bench trial for March 22. Freeman-Murdah has a right to request a jury trial — which would consist of six jurors — within 10 days. She said she did not know whether she would enter a request.

In addition to a potential sentence of up to 30 days in jail and a $625 fine, Minot warned Freeman-Murdah that her alleged actions could have “collateral consequences” with DHS. Munns said he wasn’t sure what those consequences could entail.

“Since this is so new, we haven’t crossed this particular bridge before,” he said.

Freeman-Murdah declined to comment after her appearance.

Munns said all reports of child abuse — only about half of which come from mandatory reporters — go through a central office in Des Moines. The office is staffed by about 30 child protective workers who determine if the allegation fits the definition of child abuse under Iowa law. Cases that fit that criteria are then directed to local offices stationed in each county. Munns said investigators respond within an hour for emergency situations and within 24 hours for all other reports, 365 days a year.

“This is not an entry-level job,” Munns said. “People who do this work have been around this field for years and are skilled at recognizing abuse and risk factors for future abuse. You want to prevent the child from being abused again. Obviously, the earlier you get a heads up on that, the better.”

The allegations of abuse do not have to be founded for a judge or jury to find Freeman violated the law by not reporting the alleged offense. Brotherton said the child abuse allegations remain under investigation.