Aug 28-Sep 4: News Articles Legislative Updates and Appellate Court Cases Relating to Child Abuse & Neglect


KY: Kentucky Supreme Court to consider fairness of child-abuse registry

Sep 3, Courier Journal: A Louisville Sunday school teacher for 25 years, “W.B.” was appalled when he found out he might be listed on Kentucky’s Central Registry of substantiated child abusers because of an accusation for which he was never charged, says his lawyer, J. Fox DeMoisey. W.B. feared that being listed would cost him his teaching post — and worse, his reputation, DeMoisey said. So W.B. skipped the normal appeals process and sued, saying he deserved to have his case heard by a jury. A Jefferson Circuit Court judge and the Kentucky Court of Appeals ruled against him, saying that while the state should not “stigmatize the innocent,” it has an overriding interest in “keeping child abusers out of the ranks of child-care workers.” Now, the state Supreme Court has agreed to hear oral arguments Sept. 12 in the case, deciding just how much due process individuals deserve before they are branded as abusers. Link to Article

OH: Court Reverses Custody Ruling: Judges Say Lesbian Has No Right to Child

Sep 3, The Columbus Dispatch: After years of argument, acrimony and legal action, Maggie Gross won her child-custody battle this spring in Franklin County Juvenile Court. But the Franklin County Court of Appeals recently rendered that decision hollow. Judges said that Gross, a lesbian, has no rights to the biological daughter of her former partner because the child was adopted months earlier — in January 2011 — by the man Jennifer Herrick married after she and Gross split. Put another way, the appeals court said, the statute severs “legal relationships with non-relatives, such as (Gross), who attempt to base their claims on relationships in existence prior to the adoption.” Judges said the juvenile court no longer had jurisdiction to order shared custody, even though Gross filed for custody in 2009, before the adoption. “They’re saying that half of all this never happened, that half of her life didn’t exist,” Gross said of the 7-year-old girl, who was almost 3 when Gross and Herrick ended their relationship in 2008. Link to Article

WV: U.S. Finds W.Va. Not In Compliance on Foster Care

Sep 3, Charleston Gazette: While West Virginia officials cut child-care assistance to hundreds of low-income working parents, federal reviews show the state could do better at accessing other federal resources for children. In a May 2011 review, the feds evaluated the state foster care cases during a six-month period from April through September 2010. Officials from the Administration for Children and Families found that 12 of the 80 cases evaluated were in error and another 18 cases were ineligible for federal funding. The federal review also found that in 17 of the cases, the state did not claim foster care maintenance payments, though it was eligible for them. According to the review, having more than four error cases knocked the state out of compliance. Link to Article

US: Medical Consensus or Child Abuse? Moms on Methadone Caught in the Middle

Sep 2, Daily Beast: It can be a Catch-22 for new mothers addicted to opiates-doctors treat them with methadone while child-welfare caseworkers report them for continuing to use drugs. But because methadone is an opiate, like the drugs it is prescribed to treat, there is confusion among some doctors, child welfare workers and judges that using it is just substituting one drug for another, said Jocelyn Woods of the National Alliance for Medication Assisted Recovery. Mothers get caught in the middle. “Judges and caseworkers are practicing medicine without a license, even against medical advice,” said Emma Ketteringham of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, who worked on Rebecca’s case. Link to Article

IA: Two Parents Sue Iowa DHS Over Kids Removed From Homes

Sep 1, Des Moines Register: State social workers have taken custody of children even when there is no proof of harm by a parent or caregiver, according to two lawsuits filed against the Iowa Department of Human Services. The lawsuits allege children are being removed from their homes based on voluntary agreements signed by non custodial parents who are no longer the child’s legal guardian. The use of voluntary agreements sidesteps formal oversight and intervention by juvenile court judges. DHS has said in its defense that social workers cannot know who has custody when they respond to allegations of abuse. Wendy Rickman, a DHS administrator overseeing child-protective services, said, the growing use of voluntary agreements stems from “huge” criticism, from the federal government and families, that the agency was not doing enough to engage families. Link to Article

NE: Feds Order Nebraska HHS to Pay Back $3.2 Million

August 31, Omaha World-Herald: The cost of Nebraska’s experiment in privatizing child welfare services has jumped by $3.2 million. Federal officials notified the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services on Friday that the state would be penalized for failing to follow regulations for use of foster care funds. The penalty announced is for fiscal year 2010. Additional penalties are likely for fiscal years 2011 and 2012. The financial penalty is the latest blow to Nebraska’s failed privatization effort. Launched with promises of reform, the initiative wound up costing millions more than planned during its 2½-year life. Four of the five private agencies lost or dropped their contracts, citing inadequate reimbursement from the state, and the goal of improving care for children went unrealized. The $3.2 million penalty will come out of the $19.4 million worth of federal foster care funds that Nebraska receives annually. Link to Article

MI: Sexual Abuse Victims Call For Saginaw Diocese Bishop’s ‘Transparency’ In Philadelphia Sex Abuse Case

Aug 30, Saginaw News: Two victims of sexual abuse now advocating for children’s rights this afternoon delivered a letter asking for answers from the Most Bishop Joseph Cistone, whose name recently was linked to a planned clergy sexual abuse-based lawsuit in Philadelphia.
Cistone, the diocese’s leader, earlier this year was not named in any criminal indictments, but lawyers say he and others will be named in a civil case brought on by a former altar boy who claimed sexual abuse at a Philadelphia diocese in 1992, media reports indicate.
Lawyers claim Cistone, who was appointed as the Saginaw diocese’s leader in 2009, helped oversee the shredding of documents relating to the alleged abuse. Link to Article

MI: Michigan Adoption Ban for Unmarried Couples Being Challenged in Court Today

Aug 29, Detroit News: The state of Michigan is asking a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit that challenges a ban on adoption by unmarried couples. The lawsuit is led by two Detroit-area lesbians who are raising three children. State law says that April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse can’t adopt them as a couple, because it is an option available only to heterosexual married couples. DeBoer and Rowse say their civil rights are being violated. Detroit federal Judge Bernard Friedman will hear arguments Wednesday. In a court filing, the state attorney general’s office says Friedman should defer to the judgment of Michigan lawmakers and dismiss the case. No More Info in Article  But see: Link to 2nd Free Press Article : Link to 3rd Detroit News Article

IN: Indiana Child Abuse Reports Not Being Submitted

Aug 29, Jayden Noel’s ear was bruised and discolored. There was another bruise on the side of the baby’s face. His lip was cut. The emergency-room physician who examined Jayden in July 2011 at Major Hospital in Shelbyville was initially suspicious the injuries might have been signs of abuse. But ultimately the doctor determined the family’s explanation was plausible. “Do not feel at this time,” the physician wrote, “that a state of abuse exists.” Six months later, Jayden was dead, another victim of deadly abuse who appears to have fallen through the cracks in a system designed to protect innocent Hoosier children. Marion Superior Court Judge Marilyn Moores made a point of specifically chastising the emergency-room doctor, saying he “failed to make a report of suspected child abuse.” “When you have a pre-verbal child with bruising that seems inconsistent with the injury, living in a home with a (mother’s) boyfriend who is not the father, err on the side of caution,” Moores said of her reason for noting the actions of the ER doctor. Indiana law requires anyone “who has a reason to believe a child is a victim” of abuse or neglect to file a report with police or DCS. Link to Article

See also, a somewhat related story: 

A Different Take on Child Abuse Reporting Laws

Aug. 30, I had a story in The Star today about Hoosiers failing to follow a state law that requires anyone who “has reason to believe” a child is being abused or neglected to make a report to the Department of Child Services or local police. On the surface, the state’s mandatory reporting law seems like a no-brainer. But not everyone agrees. And I think it is worth considering a different take on the issue. Richard Wexler, who heads the National Coalition for Child Welfare Reform, has put a lot of time, energy and thought into his the stance opposing broad-based mandatory reporting laws. It is a position that — at least, initially — seems to run counter to common sense. But he makes some very strong and valid points. He has a position paper on the coalition’s website that details his reasoning — along with thoughts of others in the child welfare and social services fields and links. Link to IndyStar Article

MSU Police Instrumental in Tracking Suspected Child Porn & Extortion Case

Aug 30, A child pornography suspect in Pennsylvania was identified with the help of Michigan State University Police Computer Forensic Unit. The FBI arrested Joseph Ostrowski, 28, for attempted production of child pornography and extortion. He was also charged with cyber-stalking, once investigators learned he persuaded and tricked people in East Lansing to engage in sexual acts through Skype and recorded them without their knowledge. During 2011, the Michigan State University Police became aware of student social networking sites being compromised. Throughout the investigation by the MSU Police Computer Forensic Unit, records were obtained that led to the development of Ostrowski as a suspect. MSU Police detectives were with the FBI when search warrants on Mr. Ostrowski of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania were served. No more info in article. 

US: Why We Need to Treat Parenthood as a Privilege

Aug 28, Huffington Post: In our society, driving is a privilege because if we aren’t able to drive well, it will result in harm to others. Because parenthood can potentially cause great harm to children and society, and because it’s arguably the most important job in the world, it’s time we get more serious about holding these same attitudes when it comes to having children.
And we need to translate these attitudes to the development of programs, such as nationally mandating high school parenthood education. It exists in some schools, but more often than not it isn’t mandatory, and when it does exist, needs to go further than introducing what’s involved in parenting. At this age, young people need to begin exploring their interest, desire and aptitudes for parenting one day. Link to Article

Netherlands: Routine Screening Catches Child Abuse in ER

Aug 28, Reuters Health: Routinely screening all children seen in the ER for signs of maltreatment seems to have improved child abuse detection in the Netherlands, a new study finds. The progress suggests that such systematic screening helps catch more cases of child abuse, researchers report in the journal Pediatrics. But whether the findings could extend to other countries is unclear. Link to Article  See also: Link to MedLinePlus Article

US: Shauna Prewitt on Protecting the Children of Rape

Aug 27, Washington Post: Shauna Prewitt grew up in a Kansas City suburb. She was a 21-year-old college student when she was raped. Prewitt admits she struggled with the decision about an abortion until almost the last minute. It wasn’t out of hatred for her child, but the fact that pregnancy at 21 wasn’t in her plans. She soon discovered that keeping a rape-conceived child can come with a new set of problems: Her attacker sued for joint custody of her daughter. In more than half of states, the rapist-father is free to sue for custody and visitation. He has the same paternal rights as any other father. Those rights serve as a way to assert power over the rape victim. “And I can’t imagine anything more powerful than terrorizing a woman through access to her child.” Threats to sue for custody also serve as a bargaining chip for many rapists, who agree to terminate their parental rights in exchange for agreements to drop criminal charges. That’s what Prewitt is working to change. Link to Article

AK: Court Reduces Punitive Damages in Evangelist Child Abuse Case

Aug 28, Detroit News: Little Rock, Ark. – A federal appeals court on Tuesday ordered punitive damages against an evangelist who ordered two boys to be beaten to be reduced from $60 million to $24 million. The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld an additional $3 million award each for the two men, now in their 20s, who grew up in Tony Alamo’s ministries. The court’s decision comes after a jury last year found Alamo liable for battery, outrage and conspiracy and awarded the two men $30 million each in punitive damages, plus another $3 million each for the abuse they suffered. The appeals court said Tuesday that the men should get $12 million each instead of $30 million each in punitive damages. The federal appeals court shot down Alamo’s other arguments, including one that he wasn’t liable because he was exercising his First Amendment rights to freedom of religion. The court said the two young men who sued Alamo were raised in Tony Alamo Christian Ministries and were forced to work without pay starting at the age of 8. Alamo had an enforcer beat one of the boys when he was 12 because he made a small tunnel while hauling dirt for the church. The court said other boy was hit so hard he vomited. Link to Article


Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished)
Case Name: In re Hobson

The court held that the trial court properly terminated the respondent-mother’s parental rights and that termination was in the minor child’s best interests. Respondent did not expressly challenge the trial court’s decision as to the statutory grounds for termination. The sole issue raised on appeal was whether the trial court properly concluded that termination of her parental rights was in the child’s best interests where the trial court failed to consider relative placement in making its best interest decision. The court noted that the trial court expressly considered the fact that the child was placed with a relative and that a guardianship with the relative was proposed in lieu of termination. However, the trial court ruled that a permanency plan was not in the child’s best interests because respondent never had custody of the child, the child’s contact with her was extremely limited, and respondent would not be available as a parent for at least six or seven years due to her incarceration. Respondent never cared for the child and rarely had contact with her. Further, in light of the evidence that respondent did not have a close relationship with the relative caregiver and presented no evidence that the relative was open to a long-term guardianship, the trial court did not clearly err in finding that termination of respondent’s parental rights was in the child’s best interests. Full Text Opinion

Court: U.S. Court of Appeals Sixth Circuit
Case Name: United States v. C.T.H.

Defendant pleaded guilty to an act of juvenile delinquency after he was charged with possession of heroin with intent to distribute. The district court held a dispositional hearing in which it found by a preponderance of the evidence that defendant was responsible for the distribution of 647 grams of heroin. It then sentenced him to five years’ “official detention.” The appeals court accepted defendant’s interpretation of the Supreme Court’s precedent – that any fact (other than the fact of a prior conviction) that increases a juvenile’s statutory-maximum term of official detention must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. The court then found that the district court’s drug-quantity finding was such a fact, and therefore had to meet the standard of beyond a reasonable doubt. Full Text Opinion

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished)
Case Name: In re Weaver/Mullen

Respondent claimed that the trial court clearly erred when it found that termination of the respondent-mother’s parental rights was in the best interests of the children, because the trial court failed to consider that the children were placed with relatives, and cited Mason and MCL 712A.19a(6)(a). The Supreme Court reaffirmed the requirement of explicit consideration of placement with relatives at the time of termination in Mays, stating “that the trial court’s failure to consider the children’s placement with relatives at the time of the termination rendered the factual record ‘inadequate to make a best interests determination.'” The court recently spoke to this issue in Olive/Metts, stating that “the trial court was required to consider the best interests of each child individually and was required to explicitly address each child’s placement with relatives at the time of the termination hearing if applicable.” The appellate court also issued a order with the opinion providing the trial court with remand instructions, particularly to limit the issue of examination of each child’s placement as it relates to the best interests analysis. Full Text Opinion


If you have items that you think would be helpful to include in this occasional post, please forward them to me at the email in my signature block.
These stories were chosen because of their perceived relevance to the child welfare community.  MiPSAC is not responsible for the views expressed in any of these articles, nor does it take a position for or against the positions expressed in the articles.  They are presented merely to provide a sampling of what the media is saying about child welfare.

Charlie Enright, JD, MSW
4907 Foster Rd.
Midland, MI  48642
(989) 600-9696
[email protected]
Michigan Professional Society on Abuse of Children, MiPSAC
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