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
This and an archive of previous posts can be found at: http://www.mipsac.org/blog/
RECENT MEDIA ARTICLES
Mar 5th, Lansing State Journal: “Animals get quicker response than neglected children, principal says.” Principal Freya Rivers tells a harrowing story of neglect involving three children and an untold number of animals at a household near Lansing’s Bingham Elementary School. Full column
Mar 5th, Allegan County, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) – A family lost their adult daughter, Lindsay Knight, in a vicious murder and watched as the killer was convicted, but they say that is only where the nightmare began. Knight’s family says that was Lindsay’s wish that the grandparents get custody of her children, but instead the children, Breanna and Derek Junior, were put in foster care and eventually adopted out. The grandfather says that being on the CPS registry for incidents in the 90s disqualified them for adoption even though a judge told him the records of those events should have been expunged. Link to Text Article
Mar 4th, The Jackson Citizen Patriot: Jackson County District Judge R. Darryl Mazur said Christy Brown, 21, did not act as an “aider and abettor” in the death of her son, Cameron Russell and dismissed murder and child abuse charges against her. Brown’s boyfriend, Ronald Woodard II, 23, will stand trial on the same charges. Link to Story
Mar 4th, The Saginaw News: VASSAR, An incident Saturday involving a Pioneer Work & Learn Center runaway who police believe stole a car and skipped town has cost a staff member his job. The report has residents of the small community concerned about the lack of a warning system to alert nearby residents if a youth flees the facility operated by Wolverine Human Services. It houses nonviolent, adjudicated (Delinquents) and foster care youths (Abuse & Neglect) 12 to 17. “We don’t want runaways, and we don’t want fences,” Whitney said. “We don’t take violent offenders. Most of the residents are in drug treatment. The others are in foster care to escape impossible living conditions. We keep them safe and well fed.” Link to Story
Commentary by C. Enright: Does anyone else see a problem with housing delinquents and neglected or abused kids together in the same residential facility?
Mar 4th, Farmington Observer: A Farmington Hills teen has been bound over to Oakland County Circuit Court on torture and child abuse charges in a case involving his infant son, who doctors said suffered 22 bone fractures in December and January. One of the doctors being Mary Smyth who is a MiPSAC Board member. Link to Story
Mar 3rd & 4th: National Public Radio broadcast two pieces on the impact of state budget cuts on child welfare practice. “Short-Term Cuts, Long-Term Consequences For Kids”. Discusses the implications of cutting funding for a program for at-risk parents. Studies show that in the long term, such programs actually save money. Another part of the story focuses on staff cuts at a Children’s Assessment Center where a one half FTE of two FTE interviewer positions and one of two social worker positions were cut because of budget constraints. Link to Story
“State Budget Cuts Threaten Child Welfare Programs” States facing big deficits are cutting programs to prevent abuse and protect children. This comes at a time when many on the front lines say they’re seeing a growing need. They discuss the likelihood of increase or decrease as a result of the economic downturn, but don’t resolve it. Link to Story Both stories include the program as broadcast and a written version of the broadcast.
March 3rd, The Muskegon Chronicle: Jenna Ashcraft, 18, of Grand Haven had more than tears to shed after the funeral of her second cousin, 14-month-old Clayton T. Mead, who was killed last April by convicted murderer Bradley O’Neil in Roscommon County. She took on a mission in memory of the toddler. Ashcraft, a senior at Grand Haven High School, said she wanted to “break the silence” of child abuse. With the help of her marketing class at the Careerline Tech Center in Holland, the students raised more than $800 for the Child Abuse Council of Muskegon County. Link to Story
Feb 27th, The Macomb Daily: A 25-year-old Commerce Township woman accused of stabbing her 13-month-old son several times with a butcher knife Feb. 4 has been found incompetent to stand trial. Link to Story
Feb 27th, Kalamazoo Gazette: Springer trial writes new rules for media coverage; live streaming of proceedings may be a first in Michigan. The Springers were found guilty of first-degree child abuse and torture in the death of their daughter Calista, 16, in a February 2008 house fire. Apparently, the Gazette provided the live streaming coverage of the trial. Link to Story
Feb 27th, The Kalamazoo Gazette: Calista Springer’s death could have been prevented. Katie and Cristin told Calista’s story to trusted adults. They told the story again and again and again. Nothing was done. The mistreatment of Calista was duly noted by her childhood friends, their parents, teachers and relatives in Centreville. Over the years, there were at least 15 reports filed to CPS that something was amiss. Link to Story
Feb 26th, The Grand Rapids News: Man tells police he threw body of missing Grand Rapids girl Jozlynn Martinez in trash after she died at home. Police Chief Kevin Belk said Malmberg, the mother’s live-in boyfriend, told investigators Jozlynn Martinez died at the home on Monday night. Malmberg told police Jozlynn’s body was taken to a commercial trash dumpster several blocks away from the home. Trash pickup area in the area was Thursday morning. Link to Story
Feb 19th, The Daily Reporter: Lansing, State Rep. Kenneth Kurtz and Gov. Jennifer Granholm on Thursday participated in a bill-signing ceremony at the state Capitol in honor of Kurtz’s legislation to help foster care children. Kurtz, a former foster care parent, said the new law allows children who are transitioning into foster care to stay in the same school regardless of whether the child resides in the district. No more info in story.
Feb 19th, Battle Creek Enquirer: Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s latest budget proposal calls for hiring hundreds of workers to deal with rising demand for food assistance and other services, along with beefed-up child welfare staffing in Michigan. The DHS’s overall proposed budget of $7 billion is paid for mostly with federal money. The department’s overall budget would rise by about 18 percent under the Democratic governor’s proposal at a time when funding for many other departments holds steady or declines. The state must hire more child welfare workers as the result of a lawsuit settled in 2008. Other workers would be added to deal with the consequences of the poor economy in Michigan, which has led the nation in unemployment for nearly four consecutive years. Link to Story
Feb 15th & 16th, National Public Radio: broadcast two pieces on Pope Benedict XVI’s summoning of more than two dozen Irish bishops to the Vatican for meetings to discuss Ireland’s massive clerical sex abuse scandal. Pope Benedict XVI scolded Irish bishops over their handling of decades of clerics’ sexual abuse of minors at the end of an exceptional two-day meeting at the Vatican on Tuesday. Feb 15th Story, Feb 16th Story. Both stories include the program as broadcast and a written version of the broadcast.
The pope also blamed the scandal on a weakening faith, but he did not address victims’ demands that he force some bishops to resign.
Feb 14th, Wood TV, Grand Rapids: New numbers released for 2009 show episodes of violent, spontaneous child abuse have spiked. In the statistics, which were released last week, it shows the number of outpatient evaluations for child abuse was 301 in 2008. In 2009, that number increased to 508. As far as cases involving children coming to the hospital, the number went from 53 in ’08 to 88 in ’09. As for the number of suspected child abuse cases forwarded to Dr. Debra Simms for a second opinion — she specializes in child abuse cases at the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital — the number went from 81 in 2008 to 199 in 2009. Deb Simms, MD is a MiPSAC Board member. Includes a video interview of Dr. Simms. Link to Story
Feb 13th, Midland Daily News: Study to identify gaps in Midland County youth services. Issues identified, so far, include:
1. One in eight women in Midland County receive less than adequate prenatal care.
2. Midland County’s infant mortality rate is trending higher than the state average.
3. The number of children in foster care has increased 19 percent in the past five years.
4. 10 percent of infants are born to mothers who have not completed high school.
5. The number of Medicaid-supported births has risen 49 percent in the past six years.
6. 60 percent of parents with children under age 6 are in the labor force, and the majority of them utilize unlicensed child care. Link to Story
Feb 11th, Battle Creek Enquirer: The Michigan Senate on Tuesday approved a bill sponsored by state Sen. Mike Nofs, R-Battle Creek, that would strengthen state review of child death cases. The bill permits the state’s Children’s Ombudsman to provide a report on suspected child abuse or neglect to the Legislative Child Fatality Examiner when a child in state custody has died. The measure is part of a package of bills that would create the Office of the Legislative Child Fatality Examiner. The bill now goes to the Michigan House. No more information in article
Feb 10, The Bay City Times: Appeals Court says child victims’ video testimony did not violate Midland County man’s right to confront accusers. The defendant claimed he was denied his right to confront his accuser when the Circuit Court judge allowed the victims to testify via video. “The state and federal constitutions guarantee a criminal defendant the right to confront the accuser,” the judges wrote. “However, that right is not absolute and must occasionally give way to considerations of public policy and the necessities of the case.” The U.S. Supreme Court has said the remote testimony of child victims does not violate a defendant’s right of confrontation if the prosecutor demonstrates the procedure is necessary to further an important state interest. “Protecting child witnesses from the trauma of testifying in a child abuse case is sufficiently important to justify the use of a special procedure,” the Appeals Court wrote. Link to Story
Feb 9th, Associated Press: A jury acquitted three former employees of an Ohio treatment center for troubled teens of involuntary manslaughter in the death of a 17-year-old girl who suffocated and choked on her own vomit after being restrained face down on the floor. Link to AP Story In related news: On December 9, 2009, Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) introduced legislation to prevent the harmful use of seclusion and restraint on students. The Preventing Harmful Restraint and Seclusion in Schools Act would help ensure the safety and security of both teachers and students by preventing and reducing the use of restraint and seclusion techniques in schools. The legislation, which was also introduced in the House of Representatives today by Congressman George Miller (D-CA), would also provide proper training for school personnel who impose these techniques, in order to ensure the safety of students and educators alike. To read the remainder of this article on Senator Dodd’s website, click here. To download a summary of The Preventing Harmful Restraint and Seclusion in Schools Act, click here. To download a copy of Senator Dodd’s floor statement, click here.
RESOURCES WITH TIME LIMITED VALUE
Infant mental Health Trainings: Relationship Development in Pregnancy and Early Postpartum Period, presented by Priscilla Tait, MS, CNM, IMH-E®
April 1, 2010 – Session I: “Relationship Development in Pregnancy and Early Postpartum: An Infant Mental Health Perspective”
July 29, 2010 – Session II: “Domestic Violence: Supporting Pregnant Mothers, Infants and Toddlers Living in Abusive Environments”
October 25, 2010 – Session III: “Substance Use and Abuse in Pregnancy and Early Parenting: Why Doesn’t She Just Quit?” View flyer for registration details.
The Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan is offering training on June 23-24, 2010, entitled: Investigating Child Exploitation. Attendees will be introduced to investigative techniques and technical resources for the investigation of child pornography cases. The presentation will include information regarding the forensic examination of digital evidence and the abilities of the examiners to provide data for investigation and prosecution. Topics will also include using search warrants, offender typology, and interrogation strategies. Participants will also hear about sexting and the dangers children are exposed to on the internet. Link to Investigating Child Exploitation Training
PAAM will also be holding several Forensic Interviewing classes throughout the year. The seminars can be accessed through the PAAM website at: Link to Interview Trainings .
RESOURCES WITH ONGOING VALUE
Feb 23rd, Medscape Today: What Rules Should Guide Imaging Decisions in Injured Children? Clinicians often find it difficult to decide whether computed tomography (CT) is appropriate in the evaluation of a child who has a blunt head injury. CT is an exquisite means of detecting potentially dangerous intracranial injuries, but it exposes particularly vulnerable populations to ionizing radiation and the potential for lethal malignant transformation. This dilemma has stimulated recent efforts to develop clinical rules that guide imaging decisions. Most of these efforts are ongoing and have yet to achieve conclusive results. However, based on the methodological approaches used in their development, these rules are likely to provide qualitatively similar benefits once they complete final validation. Link to Article
Feb 24th, Medscape Today: Serotonin Deficiency in Medulla Implicated in Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) may result from developmental abnormalities in brainstem control of autonomic function and breathing, as evidenced by abnormalities in SIDS patients of serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine [5-HT]) receptor binding in regions of the medulla oblongata implicated in this control. The goal of this autopsy study was to evaluate the association of 5-HT receptor abnormalities in infants dying from SIDS with decreased tissue levels of 5-HT and/or with levels of tryptophan hydroxylase (TPH2), its key biosynthetic enzyme. Link to Article
The National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect (NDACAN) at Cornell University is pleased to announce the availability of the data for the study entitled:
Mental Health Service Use Of Youth Leaving Foster Care (2001-2003)
Investigators: J. Curtis McMillen, Ph.D.
[NDACAN Dataset #133]
Please visit the National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect Web site for more information and ordering instructions: Link to Dataset There is no charge to obtain these data. The abstract for this study is included below. Abstract: The study was funded to explore the changes in mental health service use as older youth leave the foster care system. The data, however, examine many parameters of the lives of older youth in the foster care system, from their perspective. Four-hundred six youth in the Missouri foster care system were interviewed in person near their 17th birthday. They were re-interviewed when possible every three months until their 19th birthday. Eighty percent of the youth were interviewed at age 19. Thus, the study includes nine data points. Domains of instrumentation include psychiatric history, substance use, child maltreatment history, mental health service use, attitudes toward mental health service use, residential history, religious involvement, reading level, dating violence, trauma history, stress, perception of neighborhood, psychopathy, employment, legal involvement, childbearing, sexual activity, and much more.
Feb 24th, New Online Clearinghouse for State Child Welfare Policies: Child Trends, with support from Casey Family Programs, launches the State Child Welfare Policy Database to provide information on child welfare laws, procedures, and agency guidance for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The Database can help elected officials, administrators, advocates, practitioners, researchers, and other stakeholders keep up to date with the policies that protect our nation’s most vulnerable children. The site can be navigated by state or by topic. You can learn about your state’s expenditures on child welfare services, policies for relatives and “kin” caring for children involved in the child welfare system, benefits and services provided to foster youth after age 18, and much more. In addition to the traditional web version, the site is designed to be compatible with your mobile device, allowing for easily accessible information on the go. For more information about child welfare resources available at Child Trends, please visit: www.childtrends.org/childwelfare. Through program evaluations, data analysis, policy surveys, literature reviews, and research syntheses, childtrends seeks to inform policy makers and frontline practice.
The Child Welfare Information Gateway has a link set up to help compare state statutes, although it does not directly compare them itself. Link to Comparative Table The CWIG State Statutes searchable online database contains 30+ titles in series that are organized under the categories of Child Abuse and Neglect, Child Welfare and Adoption. You can find information two ways:
Click on a title. Clicking directly on any of the titles below will take you to a brief description of the topic and will also provide access to a PDF of statutes on that topic for all the States and territories.
Search the database. To access the statutes for a specific State, select a State from the dropdown box, check the box for a title from the list, and click “Go” at the bottom of the page. You can select more than one State per search OR more than one title per search.
Search State statutes for issues related to child abuse and neglect, child welfare, and adoption. Results will provide summaries of State statutes (and full text of laws, in some cases).
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration on Children, Youth and Families. Child Maltreatment 2007 provides some information about state-specific definitions of abuse and neglect. The definitions can be found in the State Commentary section submitted by each State as part of the annual publication of Child Maltreatment. http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/pubs/cm07/index.htm
MICHIGAN APPELLATE COURT CASES
Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Published Mar 4, 2010)
Case Name: In Re Beck
The Appellate Court considered the obligation of a parent to pay child support after that parent’s rights in the child had been involuntarily terminated. Saying: “Had the Legislature intended that a termination of ‘parental rights’ would also include a termination of ‘parental responsibilities’, such as the responsibility of a parent to pay child support, it could have used specific language to convey that intent.” The Court held: “In order to effectuate the statutory scheme by which the rights and responsibilities of parents and children are governed, and to avoid potentially detrimental or injurious consequences, we hold that, absent adoption, an order terminating a parent’s parental rights does not terminate that parent’s obligation to support his or her minor children. Accordingly, we affirm the trial court’s order requiring respondent to continue to pay child support despite the termination of his parental rights.” Full Text Opinion
A Comment by C. Enright: Thanks to the many responses to this decision on the Michigan Children’s Law List:
- Local Michigan courts have addressed this issue with widely varying results, county to county. This opinion would be expected to render the practice consistent.
- This opinion is controversial amongst attorneys and may be appealed further.
- In this decision, there was already a support order issued in the divorce matter. The question arises, would the rule apply in a case where no such order preceded the termination matter? The same rationale would seem to apply. But In Re Foster/Foster v Foster (226 Mich. App. 348 & 237 Mich. App. 259 respectively) may say otherwise, to wit that, “[O]nce the rights of Catherine’s (the child at issue) biological parents were terminated by the family division, third-party plaintiff’s rights derivative of the parental relationship were also severed.” 237 Mich. App at 263.
- How would it be different if a family member other than the mother, say the sibling or parent of the parent adopted the child? How would that be different from the bio parent continuing to parent the child? The rationale would seem to apply in either case. Might discourage relatives from adopting if payments were to cease upon adoption.
- Courts in abuse/neglect matters often require parents to reimburse the DHS for foster care costs (MCL 400.115b(5)). Would this rule apply to continuing foster care costs after termination?
- What rules would apply for terminating the support obligation as the child ages out?
- If parent(s) rights were terminated and support was ordered without prior Friend of the Court involvement, would the FOC manage the support obligation or would DHS or someone else? What about taking into account the parent’s income as they do with divorce cases? Would they use the same rules for determining support as in divorce cases or something else? What if the custodial parent remarries? Would that change or extinguish the obligation to pay? What if the new spouse decides to adopt?
- What if the parent(s) voluntarily relinquish their rights under the Adoption Code rather than the Child Protection Law?
- If the terminated parent pays more than half of the support of the child, does he get the tax exemption for the child? If so, how would he know he paid more than half?
- What if the grounds for termination are that the parent was unable to support the child?
- What if the parent is paying child support for other children? Would they be taken into account as in typical Friend of the Court proceedings?
- The case seems to raise many more questions than it resolves.
- Reminds me of another “strict construction” disaster in DeVormer v DeVormer, a parenting time case. The Appeals Court held that the bio father of a child was entitled to a presumption that having parenting time with his bio child even though he had been convicted of sexually abusing the child’s step sister. As it says in the parenting time statute, it is presumed to be in the best interests of the child if both parents have parenting time. An exception was if one parent was convicted of molesting ‘his’ child. The Court held that the Statute only applied if the parent sexually abused his ‘biological’ child and thus was inapplicable in the case. Of course if the mother had not fought the case and knowingly permitted parenting time with a convicted child molester, she would have been in trouble with the child protection law for failure to protect. DeVormer seems to have been interpreted in a way that makes it inconsistent with the child protection law. See below:
Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished, Feb 18th)
Case Name: In re Williams
The conditions leading to adjudication were the fact respondent allowed a former boyfriend to babysit the minor child, resulting in the child being molested and contracting gonorrhea, and her medical neglect of the child. The mother continued to have relationships with inappropriate men and deny them. She also exposed the child to the molester on at least two occasions. She continued to have problems putting the child’s need to be away from inappropriate men ahead of her own needs or wants. Full Text Opinion