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?