Some recent media articles relating to child abuse and neglect. 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
Michigan Professional Society on Abuse of Children, MiPSAC
This and previous CA&N News Articles can be found at: http://www.mipsac.org/category/can-articles
RECENT CA&N NEWS ARTICLES
IA: Basu: DHS Makes Child Safety Negotiable
Aug 13, Des Moines Register: The Iowa Department of Human Services’ child protection division has been engaging in a questionable practice that could undermine its very reason for being. The agency is “settling” cases with perpetrators it had previously investigated and concluded had engaged in “founded” cases of child abuse, even when none of the evidence has changed. Asked why DHS would settle, Munns said additional information could arise or family functioning could improve. “A settlement requires agreement of all parties,” he said in an email. “The safety of the child is always the paramount concern.” But it doesn’t appear to have been in that case or a Dubuque one chronicled in this column on May 20 involving parents Emalee Goedert and Michael Konzen. The DHS in 2009 founded Konzen for the sexual abuse of his two young daughters. He appealed, and 18 months later, DHS settled with him, despite the mother’s objections, and even though a DHS official could point to no new information. Link to Article
IN: Court: Gary Doctor Not Required to Disclose Birth Defects Before Adoption
Aug 13, NWI Times: A New York couple who adopted a Gary child can’t sue the delivery doctor for not telling them prenatal tests showed the child had significant brain abnormalities. The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Monday that Victor and Lynell Jeffrey failed to submit a request for health records that complied with the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and Indiana law. As such, Dr. Paul Okolocha was not required to send the requested records, the court said. In a 3-0 decision, the appeals court said because the Jeffreys’ request for medical records failed to meet specific privacy requirements of HIPPA and state law, the doctor had no obligation to release the records. The fact that Okolocha later illegally sent the records without proper authorization after the Jeffreys paid his newborn services bill was not relevant to the case, the court said. Link to Article
TX: After Violations, State Rejects Austin-Based Nonprofit’s Bid to Expand Foster Care
Aug 13, Austin Statesman: Austin-based nonprofit Lutheran Social Services of the South has lost its bid to privatize foster care in South Texas, state officials say, because of a history of problems at its Laredo, Garland and Richardson operations. In a letter, the state identified dozens of problems at the homes supervised by the Laredo, Richardson and Garland offices, including:
● Levying prohibited punishments, such as pinching, pulling hair, biting or shaking a child.
● Failing to properly secure weapons and ammunition.
● Using food as a punishment or reward.
● Humiliating, ridiculing or yelling at a child.
● Failing to keep homes safe, clean and in good repair.
The most serious incident in recent months occurred in May, when an improperly supervised 3-year-old boy drowned at one of the agency’s foster homes in Laredo. Link to Article
OK: DHS Seeks Names of Children’s Rights’ Sources
Aug 11, Tulsa World: The Oklahoma Department of Human Services is trying to find out the identities of the confidential sources used by a New York-based nonprofit, which filed a federal class-action lawsuit that was settled in January. DHS attorneys argued in a filing last week that Children’s Rights must produce all documents with its unnamed sources so they can verify claims made in its attorney fee request. “Defendants cannot adequately and properly respond to this request without knowledge of what, precisely, they are being asked to pay for,” the filing states. Children’s Rights balked at this reasoning in a Friday filing, claiming DHS has offered no explanation why the identities are helpful to the court. The lawsuit had alleged flaws and unsafe conditions in the state’s child-welfare system. Link to Article
MI: Proposed Muskegon County Juvenile Center: More Treatment Services, Less Locked Detention
Aug 9, Muskegon News: The replacement for the Muskegon County Juvenile Transition Center, part of the county’s ongoing investigation into replacing or expanding its two detention facilities, may be focused more on treatment and less on locked-down beds. Community Mental Health Executive Director Julia Rupp said many of the youth in the Juvenile Transition Center awaiting placement in a residential treatment facility outside the area have mental health issues. She said the community-based treatment approach would help keep those youth in the community near their families. She said officials and agencies in the community are in the process of building that service array. Link to Article
US: Things Getting Better in Foster Care? Not So Fast!
Aug 9, Huffington Post; Headlines recently proclaimed that the number of American children in foster care has dropped for the sixth straight year, falling to about 400,000 compared to more than 520,000 a decade ago. Unfortunately, this much-repeated headline significantly understates the size of today’s foster care population. The number in the news was a single day’s count. Looking at the entire year, 646,000 children spent time in foster care. Link to Article
IL: Illinois Supreme Court OKs Suit on School’s Inaction on Abuse
Aug 9, San Francisco Chronicle: Springfield, Ill. School administrators in McLean County can be sued for failing to warn a neighboring district that it was hiring a teacher with a record of sexual misconduct, a divided Illinois Supreme Court ruled Thursday in a case with echoes of the Penn State scandal. The teacher, Jon White, went on to abuse at least eight girls in his new job. Administrators at McLean County Unit District No. 5 had gotten multiple complaints about White and suspended him twice, for viewing pornography on a school computer and for making suggestive remarks to a fifth grader. White was forced to resign. But the district wrote a positive letter of recommendation for White. When he applied for a teaching job in Urbana, they filled out an employment verification form without making clear he left his job before the end of the school year. Link to Article
PA: DHS Change Will Emphasize Private Oversight
Aug 08, Philadelphia Inquirer: Danieal Kelly’s starvation death in 2006 set off waves of change at the Philadelphia Department of Human Services. The latest promises to reshape the agency like no other reform has, giving private groups more control over the cases of abused and neglected children. DHS has unveiled a program called Improving Outcomes for Children that puts neighborhood-based contractors in charge of managing cases. The approach is found elsewhere around the country, but there are questions about whether the strategy can work. The new strategy was recommended by experts who reviewed Kelly’s case and urged DHS to clarify roles and accountability. Unable to care for herself because of cerebral palsy, Kelly, 14, wasted away in her parents’ home as caseworkers from DHS and a private agency failed to detect her deteriorating condition. Her parents, and workers from DHS and the contractor, were criminally charged and convicted in her death. The way the public agency manages cases – one DHS and one private caseworker for each case – is “dysfunctional,” said Human Services Commissioner Anne Marie Ambrose. “Everyone can assume the other person will do it.” Link to Article
PA: DAs Want Money From Penn State Fines to Fund Child Advocacy Centers
Aug 8, USA Today: Prosecutors in Pennsylvania hope to steer some of the $60 million in fines Penn State must pay the NCAA over the Jerry Sandusky sex-abuse scandal to children’s advocacy centers across the state. The group is not seeking a specific amount of money, but wants to add to the 21 advocacy centers that now exist across 67 counties, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams said. The centers offer a single place for children to tell their stories of abuse to a trained interviewer, while police, therapists and others watch remotely. This prevents children from having to tell their stories repeatedly to various experts. The centers also offer various services or referrals to the victim and family members. Link to Article
The Power of Foster Care Politics
Aug 8, Huffington Post: While the nation bemoans a “gridlocked” Congress, I have witnessed a very different vision of our elected leadership. Instead of obstruction and partisanship, at least around one issue — foster care — I have seen members of Congress from both houses and sides of the aisle move at notable speed to introduce important, thoughtful legislation; and an ability to transform the recommendations of experts in child welfare and foster youth themselves into cogent policy. the Family Educational Records and Privacy Act (FERPA) — intended to protect against disclosure of student records to parties other than school officials or biological parents — creates difficulties for foster children, who are no longer in the custody of their biological parents. Amending FERPA would allow social workers access to student records, she says, helping them make critical decisions in how to best mitigate foster children’s educational challenges and celebrate their successes. Link to Article
Study Says More Kids Taking Antipsychotics for ADHD
Aug 7, Health Day News: Use of powerful antipsychotic medications such as Abilify and Risperdal to control youngsters with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other behavior problems has skyrocketed in recent years, a new study finds. “Only a small proportion of antipsychotic treatment of children (6 percent) and adolescents (13 percent) is for FDA-approved clinical indications,” said lead researcher Dr. Mark Olfson. Doctors who are not psychiatrists ordered many of the prescriptions for children. Although these drugs can deliver rapid improvement in children with severe conduct problems and aggressive behaviors, it is not clear whether they are helpful for the larger group of children with ADHD, he said. Their long-term effect on children’s developing brains has not been studied. Link to Article