August 14-21: News Articles Legislative Updates and Appellate Court Cases Relating to Child Abuse & Neglect

RECENT CA&N NEWS ARTICLES

NE: Privatization Fails: Nebraska Tries Again To Reform Child Welfare

Aug 21, Center for Public Integrity: Across the board, lawmakers, foster parents and child advocates now say Nebraska’s privatization effort failed because it was ill-conceived, rushed, and inadequately funded. They also say often the caseworkers hired by the private companies had caseloads that were too heavy and in many cases did not have enough training to deal with the complexities of the welfare system. Said state Sen. Heath Mello of Omaha: “Ultimately, the initiative failed because there was never a strategic plan serving as the blueprint on how to reform the system. The entire episode became an experiment on what not to do when trying to reform state government.” It’s ridiculous to call it reform when we’re doing the exact same thing with just different people. That’s not a reform; it’s just a burden shift. We have to figure out how we’re going to do it differently.” Link to Lengthy and Detailed Article

OR: Vatican Win: Judge Says Priests Aren’t Employees

August 21, Associated Press: The Vatican won a major victory Monday in an Oregon federal courtroom, where a judge ruled that the Holy See is not the employer of molester priests. The plaintiffs tried to show that the accused molester and all priests are employees of the Vatican, which is therefore liable for their actions. The plaintiffs argued that the accused molester’s fealty to the Pope, the Vatican’s ability to promote priests, the Vatican’s laicization — or removal — process, and the ability to change priests’ training all pointed to the Vatican employing priests. “We believe that under further scrutiny,” plaintiff’s counsel said in a news release, “the courts will find that Vatican protocols and practice make it clear that obedience to Rome required the secrecy and concealment practiced by priests and bishops as the clergy abuse crisis unfolded in the United States.” The impact of Mosman’s ruling on other priest sexual abuse cases is not yet clear. The case has gone further than any other in attempting to get at the relationship between priests in the U.S. and the Vatican. Douglas Laycock, a University of Virginia School of Law professor, said lawsuits against the Pope are usually dismissed on sovereign immunity grounds, with a U.S. court ruling that the Vatican can’t be sued because there is no jurisdiction in the U.S. to do so. “This was likely filed more to make a political statement,” Laycock said. Link to Article; Or see: Link to Article in Detroit News

MI: Preschool Children at Risk for Stress After Seeing Domestic Violence and Another Traumatic Event

Aug 20, International Business Times: Researchers sampled 120 children between ages 4-6 who were exposed to domestic violence in the past two years. About 38 percent of the kids were faced with additional traumatic events, such as sexual assaults by family members, physical assaults or life-threatening illnesses. Those children had higher rates of post-traumatic stress disorder than the other children who were exposed to domestic violence. “Such findings draw attention to an at-risk sample of children who may be labeled as aggressive due to their behavior problems, but are in fact highly traumatized,” Sandra Graham-Bermann, the study’s lead author and professor of psychology and psychiatry. “It is especially important to accurately diagnose these children so they gain access to appropriate treatment services.” Link to Article

AZ: Catholic Diocese Misses Abuse Report Deadline

Aug 19, NECN.com: The Roman Catholic office overseeing parishes in Maricopa, Coconino, Yavapai and La Paz counties has missed its own deadline to publish a report detailing sexual abuse by priests. The Diocese of Phoenix promised to publish a comprehensive list of abusive clergy and a financial accounting by June 14. The Arizona Republic (http://bit.ly/NaJbto) reports that diocese officials are refusing to discuss why they missed their own deadline. The report is supposed to detail the church abuse scandal in Phoenix, where more than two dozen priests were either arrested or accused of sexual misconduct. The scandal erupted in 2002 with the release of diocesan files in Boston and is believed to have cost about $3.3 billion in settlements and verdicts nationwide. Link to Article

OR: Case in Adoption-Immigration SNAFU to Proceed

Aug 19, Seattle Times: A 21-year-old woman who was born in Mexico and adopted by a U.S. couple has received the go-ahead to sue the state of Oregon for mistakenly telling her parents that she automatically became a citizen when she was adopted. Link to Article

PA: Devon Case Shows How Religious Orders Evade Scrutiny in Priest Abuse Cases

Aug 19, Philadelphia Inquirer: “It is so much easier to deal with the dioceses than with the religious orders,” said Thomas S. Neuberger, a Delaware lawyer who has represented clergy-sex abuse victims in claims against the Wilmington Diocese, as well as two orders, the Norbertines and Oblates of St. Charles. Neuberger said the independents fiercely protect their members and their secrecy. “You are a made man when you join a religious order,” he said. “They will run interference for you for life.” Link to Article

VA: Virginia Beach Police May Consider Child Welfare Cases

Aug 18, The Virginian-Pilot: City police officials might consider a suggestion that they take over child welfare investigations of abuse and neglect, currently the responsibility of the city’s embattled Human Services Department. Chief Jim Cervera recently met with Human Services Director Bob Morin to discuss the idea, which was Morin’s, according to Deputy Chief Bill Dean. Dean said the department is open to the proposal but needs more information about its impact. “We’re amenable to considering anything to increase services to children who’ve been victimized in these crimes,” Dean said. Joron Moore-Planter, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Social Services, said state law would have to change for Beach police to oversee the unit. Link to Article

OK: Children’s Rights Filing Is Called Inflammatory

Aug 18, Tulsa World: A recent filing by a New York-based nonprofit organization in a federal class-action lawsuit concerning the state’s child-welfare system is inflammatory and inaccurate, attorneys for Oklahoma Department of Human Services officials argued Friday. The lawsuit, which alleged flaws and unsafe conditions in the state’s child-welfare system, was filed against various DHS officials in Tulsa federal court in 2008. A settlement reached in January led to a child-welfare improvement plan that is being overseen by an independent three-person panel. Attorneys for the sued DHS officials argued in an Aug. 3 filing that Children’s Rights must produce all documents with its unnamed sources so they can verify claims made in its attorney fee request. In response, Children’s Rights claimed in an Aug. 10 filing that DHS has offered no explanation of why the identities would help the court.  Link to Article

IL: Kids Behind Bars: Illinois Rethinks Juvenile Justice

Aug 18, NPR: A damning report [PDF] from the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission called the state youth prison system an expensive failure. Its study showed that “well over 50 percent of youth” leaving the state’s facilities will go back to juvenile facilities — and others will head to adult corrections system. Many of the juveniles who ended up back in custody didn’t commit new crimes, but instead were found guilty of technical violations of a parole order, such as skipping school and staying out late. While the push to change the culture of Illinois’ juvenile justice system may help reduce the number of kids who end up in facilities, it is also tied to the state’s deep budget woes. In 2010, the Illinois auditor general said [PDF] that it costs an average of $86,861 a year to keep a juvenile in Illinois’ Youth Centers – far more than for community-based strategies. That point is underscored in a 2011 report released by The Annie E. Casey Foundation, which shows a dramatic difference nationwide between the average annual cost for housing a juvenile compared with community-based programs and public college tuition. Link to Article

PA: Penn State to Host National Child Sex-Abuse Panel

Aug 15, Detroit News: Penn State announced Wednesday that it will host a national child sex-abuse conference this fall, the latest in a series of initiatives designed to raise awareness of the issue and help the university recover from a devastating molestation scandal. The gathering scheduled for Oct. 29-30 in State College will feature academic and clinical experts on childhood molestation and trauma, as well as remarks by retired boxing champ Sugar Ray Leonard and former kidnapping victim Elizabeth Smart, both of whom suffered sexual abuse. “Penn State has made a commitment to becoming a leader in the research, prevention and treatment of child abuse, and this conference is an important part of that,” university President Rodney Erickson said in a statement. Link to Article

MI: Disabled Child’s Family Worried About Lost Services

Aug 15, Oakland Press: When he was six weeks old, Ben Zentz was the victim of “shaken baby syndrome,” leaving him with severe lifelong disabilities. Though he will turn 9 years old on Aug. 16, his cognitive age is about 12 months. He needs constant care, and as a result of being shaken to the point his skull was fractured, Ben has cerebral palsy, is blind and has a seizure disorder, said his adoptive mother, Debi Zentz. Debi and her husband, Phil, of Shelby Township adopted Ben when he was two. Many people with disabilities fear they might lose services because of proposed Medicaid cuts under an austere plan by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. Ryan just was named as vice presidential candidate by Mitt Romney. Federal funds provide money for CMH budgets in Michigan through Medicaid. Ben receives medical care under Children’s Special Healthcare, funded by CMH. The Zentzes worry Ben will lose any gains he has made because Macomb County Community Mental Health basically has eliminated most of his therapies. Link to Article

PA: Prosecutors: Statute of Limitations Doesn’t Apply in Case Against Tim Curley, Gary Schultz

Aug 17, Centre Daily Times: State prosecutors are arguing that the 10-year statute of limitations for failure to report child abuse charges that Tim Curley and Gary Schultz are facing doesn’t apply in this case. “To date, (d)efendants still have not notified the proper authorities that they had information that Sandusky was abusing children,” prosecutors wrote in a motion filed in Dauphin County court Wednesday. Attorneys for the former Penn State administrators argue the statute has passed, because the incident it applies to — when Mike McQueary found Jerry Sandusky naked in a campus shower with a boy — took place in February 2001. In the latest court filing, the prosecution compares the offense to someone failing to register as a sex offender with state police.  Link to Article

US: Adoption, Destiny and Magical Thinking

August 15, New York Times: A doctoral student at Northwestern University interviewed 38 adoptive parents. It turns out that most of the parents had told her that their children had been brought to them by destiny. Adoptive parents don’t have exclusive rights to the story of boy and girl meet baby, boy and girl fall in love with baby, boy and girl think they were meant to be with baby. Many birth parents also feel their children were destined to be in their lives. But when your child doesn’t come to you through “natural” means, the possibility of an intervening force — God, karma, destiny — becomes more salient. Adoptive parents don’t have as much control over their situation as other parents. They often adopt in response to infertility, and the adoption process is long and difficult. According to one adoptive mother, “The planets have to align.”Link to Article

AZ: Steven And Roger Ham, Gay Arizona Fathers Of 12 Adopted Children, Are Officially A Family After Legal Delays

Aug 14, Huffington Post: Though they reside in a state where same-sex couples can’t wed or adopt, two Arizona-based gay fathers are making national headlines after successfully challenging a series of legal restrictions in becoming an official family despite the odds. After an intense legal process and a little help from Washington state-based attorney Shelly Krebs, each of the 12 children now have both men’s names on their birth certificates as of July 13 — not an easy task in a state where same-sex partners are usually barred from adopting their partner’s children. Link to Article

US: One Baby, Two Moms: a Rise in Open Adoptions

Aug 14, Wall Street Journal: A three-decade study called the Minnesota/Texas Adoption Research Project tracked 720 people—adopting parents, children and birth mothers—and found all parties involved in an open adoption usually found it more satisfying than families involved in closed adoptions. Openness in adoption has been spreading across the U.S. since the 1980s, when agencies started brokering contact between birth and adoptive families. Birth families were demanding a greater role in choosing an adoptive family for their babies, and birth mothers had more clout in the negotiating process as the stigma of having child out of wedlock eased.
Today, there is some degree of contact in about 95% of adoptions, according to a study published in March by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute in New York, a nonprofit focused on adoption policy and practice. That is up from 79% in 1999 and about 36% in the late 1980s. Link to Article

MI: Parents Spank, Slap Kids in Public More Often Than Thought

Aug 7, Health Day New: Parents may resort to physical means of admonishing their kids in public spaces much more frequently than they admit to in surveys, a new study suggests.
In another finding, the research showed that fathers tended to more often dole out hugs versus spankings to their kids when out in public. The study, from a team at Michigan State University, is published in the current issue of Behavior and Social Issues. “I was very surprised to see what many people consider a socially undesirable behavior done by nearly a quarter of the caregivers,” study leader Kathy Stansbury, trained psychologist and associate professor in Michigan State University’s department of human development and family studies, said in a university news release. “I have also seen hundreds of kids and their parents in a lab setting and never once witnessed any of this behavior.” Link to Article

LEGISLATIVE UPDATES 

Senate Bill 1232 (2012): Michigan Indian Family Preservation Act

Adds a new act requiring provision of remedial services and rehabilitative programs designed to prevent the breakup of the Indian family and to reunify the child with the Indian family. Active efforts require engaging the Indian child, child’s parents, tribe, extended family members, and individual Indian caregivers through the utilization of culturally appropriate services and in collaboration with the parent or child’s Indian tribes and Indian social services agencies. Many other changes are included in the new statute. Link to Bill Status Page

House Bill 5812 (2012)

Amends MCL 722, Child Protection Law to modify the best interest of the child criteria relating to child abuse and neglect. Link to Bill Status Page

Senate Bill 0989 (2012)

The bill would amend the Child Custody Act to prohibit a court from granting child custody or parenting time to a person required to register under the Sex Offenders Registration Act (SORA) for an offense that would make custody or parenting time contrary to the child’s best interests or an offense in which the victim was a child, or if the person had been convicted of a specific offense listed in the bill. The bill also would:

  • Prohibit a person from being granted custody of or parenting time with a child if anyone in the person’s household were required to register under SORA for a felony in which the victim was a child or an offense that would make custody or parenting time contrary to the child’s best interests.
  • Allow a court to grant custody or parenting time despite these prohibitions if there would be no significant risk to the child, and if the other parent and the child (if old enough) consented.
  • Create a rebuttable presumption that there would be a significant risk to the child from unsupervised contact with an individual who was required to register under SORA for a felony in which the victim was a child.
  • Require the court to determine if the child’s other parent was a fit parent and was making the custody or parenting time decision in the best interests of the child.
    Link to Bill Status Page
    Comment by C. Enright: At last a bill to reverse the case I love to hate: DeVormer v DeVormer where a father was granted parenting time even though he had been convicted of molesting his son’s step sibling. Maybe, this time it will pass.

APPELLATE COURT CASES

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished)
Case Name: Greenhoe v. Slater

Plaintiff-husband requested a change of custody, seeking sole legal and primary physical custody for himself. In the motion, he alleged that CPS had alerted him to allegations of physical abuse of the child by defendant-mother, that her home had been officially tagged as unsafe, and that she was residing with her abusive boyfriend, against whom she had obtained a PPO, but which she did not enforce. The matter was then referred to the FOC, who recommended that joint legal and physical custody be maintained, but that defendant’s parenting time be limited and supervised. She objected to the proposal, and a hearing was held, following which the trial court found that plaintiff had established by clear and convincing evidence that the FOC recommendation was appropriate. Defendant argued that the trial court did not satisfy its duty to articulate specific findings concerning each of the statutory best-interest factors. The trial court admitted on the record that it failed to make findings and conclusions addressing the remainder of the factors. “A trial court must render factual findings and conclusions with regard to each best interest factor, or at least render a finding regarding its applicability.” “The remedy when a trial court fails to make reviewable findings on the record, as the trial court failed to do here, is a remand for a new child custody hearing.” Full Text Opinion

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

The appellate court affirmed the trial court’s decision that statutory grounds existed to terminate both respondents-parents’ parental rights to their three children. But, the court held that the trial court did not consider how the children’s placement with relatives affected whether termination was in their best interests and thus the record was inadequate for purposes of the best interests determination. The court vacated the trial court’s best interests decision and remanded the case to the trial court to consider the issue. The proceedings on remand were limited to this issue and the court ordered a specific time frame for the remand proceedings. 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]
Secretary,
Michigan Professional Society on Abuse of Children, MiPSAC
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