Some recent media articles and resources 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 posts can be found at: http://www.mipsac.org/category/can-articles
RECENT MEDIA ARTICLES
Record Number of Muskegon County Children Placed in Foster Care This Year.
Dec 26, The Muskegon Chronicle: In 2010, 285 children entered foster care. As of Dec. 15, 310 children had entered, and that number could rise to 330 by the end of the year, said Jane Johnson, director of DHS for Muskegon, Oceana and Mason counties. The number of children in foster care “ebbs and flows,” but this was the first time more than 300 children entered in one year. The DHS is looking for more foster families to make sure all of them are safe. Link to Article
Proposed Legislation Seeks to Empower Schools to Guard Kids Against Sexual Abuse
Dec 21, Herald-Palladium: Supporters say that legislation soon to be introduced in the Michigan Senate would help prevent the sexual abuse of children. Sen. John Proos, R-St. Joseph, and Rebekah Warren, D-Ann Arbor, announced Dec 15th that they will introduce the legislation. Proos said the law would allow school boards to adopt and implement policies addressing child sexual abuse and would create a one-time Task Force on the Prevention of Sexual Abuse of Children. It would consist of legislators, state officials and experts to make recommendations on changes to Michigan laws. If the bill is passed, Michigan would join Illinois and Missouri in enacting such a law. Under the proposal, schools could adopt age-appropriate curriculum, train school staff on child sexual abuse and adopt policies concerning informing parents on the warning signs of abuse. Similar legislation has also been introduced in New York, Minnesota, New Mexico, Indiana, Maine, Iowa and Massachusetts. Link to Article
Medical Neglect Case Dismissed Against Parents
Dec 21, Upper Michigans Source: A Marquette County Judge has dismissed the State of Michigan’s petition to force the parents of 10-year-old to resume chemotherapy for the boy.
The boy had been diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer, but recent PET scans came back clear. His parents, Erin and Kenneth Stieler, insist that he doesn’t need further chemotherapy for now, but the boy’s primary pediatric oncologist testified that Jacob still has cancer cells and that there is a very big potential for relapse. She said if he relapses his survival chances are poor. Link to Article
Schuette Praises Ruling Allowing One-Way Screens in Child Sex Abuse Trials
Dec 21, Midland Daily News: The Michigan Supreme Courts People v. Rose decision upheld an Appellate court ruling which approved a prosecutor’s request to allow an eight-year-old child rape victim to testify with a one-way screen between the witness stand and the table where the defendant was seated. The screen allowed everyone in the courtroom–including the defendant, defense counsel, the judge and the jury–to see the child victim, but shielded the victim from seeing the defendant. After reviewing briefs and hearing oral arguments by Schuette’s office and other parties, the Court allowed the decision of the Michigan Court of Appeals in People v. Rose to stand.
Link to Article See Courts Opinion set Out Below
Fundamental Change Needed to Ensure Future for West Michigan Children
Dec 17, Grand Rapids Press: Guest Commentary by Susan Broman and Matthew VanZetten. Kent County is at the crossroads in its work to improve outcomes for children. The number of children in poverty and the gaps between majority and minority populations are growing even as our public systems, nonprofits, foundations and schools are working together as never before. Twenty-two percent of children who have lived in poverty for at least one year do not graduate from high school on time, compared to 6 percent of those who have never been poor. This jumps to 32 percent for students who are in poverty for more than half of their childhood. What must we change to create a brighter future for all? Instead of searching for a “silver bullet,” we must work toward a common vision and priorities that center on data, not ideology. We need a targeted approach that builds on our public and private investments to alleviate the effects of poverty, support children and families in meaningful ways, and create a culture of learning. Link to Article
Bay County Canine Advocate Dodger’s First Day On the Job
Dec 15, The Bay City Times: As a nervous 11-year-old boy waited in a Bay County courtroom to see his assailant get sentenced, a yellow Labrador retriever named Dodger allayed the child’s fear, nuzzling him and licking his face. The boy was there to attend a sentencing hearing where a victim’s statement he had written was to be read by his pastor. The boy was introduced to the dog and the dog was brought into the courtroom to calm the boy. It was Dodger’s first day on the job Dec. 5, and the boy was the first abused child he interacted with since joining the Bay County Prosecutor’s Office. Dodger is the first canine advocate based out of a Michigan prosecutor’s office and the second such advocate in the state overall. Dan Cojanu started the first canine advocacy program in Oakland County with a chocolate Labrador retriever named Amos in 2009. Link to Article
State Trooper Testifies Bay City Woman Confessed to Molesting 2-year-old
Dec 15, The Bay City Times: The Trooper said, “She said that part of her middle finger went into (the girl’s) vagina,” She started touching the child as part of a diaper-change. The defendant was alleged to have told the trooper she was not sexually motivated during the touching and that she was molested as a child. Moore said that based on his experience in law enforcement, victims of childhood abuse can themselves have abusive tendencies as adults. The defendant is charged with one count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct with a victim younger than 13. Link to Article See Below:
Bay County Jury Renders Guilty Verdict in Woman’s Sexual Assault Trial
Dec 21, Bay City Times: A Bay City mother of four will soon be spending at least 25 years in prison, a fate Bay County Prosecutor Kurt C. Asbury believes is a fitting punishment for her molestation of a 2-year-old girl. A Bay County jury on Monday found Patricia M. “Missy” Kreiner, 30, guilty of first-degree criminal sexual conduct with a person younger than 13. Bay County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Nancy E. Borushko argued that Kreiner on March 5 or 6 inserted her middle finger into the vagina of her friend and coworker’s young daughter, a child she was baby-sitting at the time. Link to Article
Florida Charter Schools Failing Disabled Students
Dec 14, NPR, Morning Edition: Tres Whitlock, 17, has cerebral palsy and can’t speak on his own. Whitlock is trying to enroll in a Hillsborough County charter school, but has yet to enroll because of concerns about the therapy and services he needs. Tres is stuck in a public school where he feels ignored. He wants out. The 17-year-old would-be video game designer researched his options online and found his perfect match – Pivot Charter School. “It’s computer-based and I think I will do better,” he says. But when Whitlock tried to enroll in the school, he found a series of barriers in his way. The reason? He has cerebral palsy, and school officials say they don’t have anyone to take Whitlock to the bathroom. Whitlock and his parents are convinced their story isn’t unique — and enrollment data backs them. A Link to StateImpact Florida Story/Miami Herald investigation shows most charter schools in Florida are failing to serve students with severe disabilities. Statewide, 86 percent of charter schools do not have any students classified as severely disabled. That’s despite state and federal laws that require charter schools to give equal access to these students. Link to NPR Story
Comment by C. Enright: Doesn’t Michigan have the same “accept all students” policy for charter schools? Does anyone know if they are living up to their obligation? Is there such a thing as institutional child abuse? The school as an institution is caring for a child. A teacher would be responsible for child abuse/neglect. Why not the institution? I suppose one could argue until the child is enrolled, the institution has no responsibility.
MICHIGAN APPELLATE COURT CASES
PEOPLE v. RONALD CARL ROSE
Supreme Court of Michigan. December 9, 2011.
On order of the Court, leave to appeal having been granted and the briefs and oral arguments of the parties having been considered by the Court, we VACATE our order of February 2, 2011. The application for leave to appeal the July 1, 2010 judgment of the Court of Appeals is DENIED, because we are no longer persuaded that the questions presented should be reviewed by this Court.
MARILYN KELLY, J. (dissenting).
I dissent from the order vacating our February 2, 2011 order granting leave to appeal and denying defendant’s application for leave to appeal. The trial court violated defendant’s due process right to be presumed innocent when the trial court permitted an 8-year old child witness to testify behind a witness screen that prevented her from viewing defendant. The screen branded defendant with “an unmistakable mask of guilt” by suggesting to the jury that the witness had a good reason to fear viewing defendant; namely, that defendant had abused her. This error was compounded when the trial court gave no instruction to the jury directing it not to draw any inference adverse to defendant from the use of the screen. Accordingly, I would reverse the Court of Appeals judgment and remand the case for a new trial. Link to Google Scholar Supr Ct Opinion
PEOPLE v. RONALD CARL ROSE
Court of Appeals of Michigan UNPUBLISHED
Defendant Ronald Carl Rose appeals as of right his convictions by a jury of four counts of criminal sexual conduct in the first degree, MCL 750.520b, and two counts of disseminating sexually explicit matter to a minor, MCL 722.675. The trial court sentenced defendant to serve 25 years to 50 years in prison for each of his convictions of criminal sexual conduct in the first degree and to serve 16 months to 24 months in prison for each of his convictions of disseminating sexually explicit matter to a minor. The court ordered that the sentences be served concurrently and with 50 days credit on each. Because we conclude that there were no errors warranting relief, we affirm. Link to Google Scholar App Ct Opinion
Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished)
Case Name: In re Welsh
The trial court properly terminated the respondent-father’s parental rights to the minor child where the mother’s plea was sufficient to establish jurisdiction over the child and termination was in the child’s best interest. A petition was filed seeking removal of respondent from the home and termination of his parental rights, alleging that he lived with the mother of the minor child and another minor, DL, who was not respondent’s biological child. The petition further alleged that respondent sexually penetrated DL on multiple occasions. The petition was authorized, and the trial court took jurisdiction over the children after the mother, who was also a respondent to the petition, admitted to several of the allegations in the petition. Respondent stood mute. Following a hearing, respondent’s parental rights to the minor child were terminated. He argued that the trial court erred by accepting the mother’s admissions because the allegations and admissions were insufficient to meet the statutory requirements for jurisdiction. The court disagreed. “The mother admitted that she knew about respondent’s criminal history, including his guilty plea to a misdemeanor sex offense committed in the presence of her daughter, yet she took no steps to find out if” he posed a risk of harm to the girl. “By not doing so, the mother created a home environment that was unfit for her daughter to live in because of criminality and depravity on the part of respondent.” Her inaction likely contributed to her daughter being sexually abused by respondent, and her failure to take any action to ensure her children’s safety created a substantial risk of harm to their mental well-being. A trial court “‘need not separately ascertain whether it has jurisdiction over each parent.'” Respondent also claimed that the trial court erred in finding termination was in his child’s best interests. He asserted that he appropriately provided his son with love, affection, and day-to-day guidance, that he was capable of supporting the family through work in various labor positions, that there was no reason to believe supervised visitation would not be effective, that the evidence showed he was the primary caregiver to the children, and that the minor child’s preference should have been considered despite his young age. The court held that the majority of the evidence supported the trial court’s determination that terminating his parental rights was in the child’s best interests. The court “has long recognized that abuse of one child is probative of a parent’s proclivity to abuse other children.” The evidence clearly showed that “respondent committed heinous acts against another child living in his home.” Further, the fact that he refused to acknowledge any wrongdoing, and continued to argue that he was innocent of both convictions, demonstrated that the child would be at risk in his care. The court held that the trial court did not clearly err in finding clear and convincing evidence to support termination of respondent’s parental rights. Affirmed. Full Text Opinion
Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished)
Case Name: In re Holmes
The court held that the trial court properly terminated the respondent-father’s parental rights to his children where the statutory grounds for termination were established by clear and convincing evidence. Further, the trial court properly held that termination was in the children’s best interests. Respondent argued that termination was not in the children’s best interests and that no justification existed for termination of his parental rights because even though he was convicted of sexually abusing the 13-year old half-sister of his children, he did not sexually abuse his own children. He contended that he will never be in a position to do so because they will be adults when he gets out of prison. Based on this, the children will benefit from, and there was justification for, the termination of his parental rights. Affirmed. Link to Opinion
Comment by C. Enright: This decision calls to mind a seemingly contradictory opinion decided by the same court. A decision which I, personally, love to hate: DeVormer v. DeVormer 618 NW 2d 39, 240 Mich. App. 601; 2000. In the De Vormer decision, the Michigan Court of Appeals held that since the child’s father had been convicted of molesting his stepchild that he was still entitled to a presumption of parenting time with his biological child once he was released from prison. The case was decided based on Michigan’s Child Custody Act rather than the Child Protection Law. This, it seems, is a very important distinction. In deciding a child custody case, the court must make decisions based upon the best interests of the child as defined in the law. The relevant statutory provisions are:
MCL 722.27a Parenting time.
(1) Parenting time shall be granted in accordance with the best interests of the child. It is presumed to be in the best interests of a child for the child to have a strong relationship with both of his or her parents. Except as otherwise provided in this section, parenting time shall be granted to a parent in a frequency, duration, and type reasonably calculated to promote a strong relationship between the child and the parent granted parenting time.
(5) Notwithstanding other provisions of this act, if an individual is convicted of criminal sexual conduct as provided in sections 520a to 520e and 520g of Act No. 328 of the Public Acts of 1931 and the victim is the individual’s child, the court shall not grant parenting time with that child or a sibling of that child to that individual, unless both the child’s other parent and, if the court considers the child or sibling to be of sufficient age to express his or her desires, the child or sibling consent to the parenting time.(Emphasis added.)
These two cases seem irreconcilable to me.