October 16-30: News Articles Legislative Updates and Appellate Court Cases Relating to Child Abuse & Neglect

RECENT CA&N NEWS ARTICLES

MI: Traverse City’s Child & Family Services: Born of an Orphan Train

Oct 30, Traverse City Ticker: Notes the history of legendary pediatrician Mark Osterlin – helping Munson Hospital get off the ground, heading up its newly formed Children’s Clinic, and his early efforts leading to the establishment of today’s Child and Family Services, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this month. You might not know is that the inspiration for this community staple traces back to New York – and to the legendary orphan trains that whisked abandoned and neglected city kids off the streets, cleaned them up, and sent them west to families who promised a better life. Osterlin contacted the Michigan branch of the orphan train folks and proposed a northern Michigan branch, and in October 1937, realized his dream. Link to Article

US: The Only Hope for Many Who Want Children

Oct 30, New York Times Op Ed: Children’s lives depend on the renewal of the adoption tax credit. Most adoptive families need it in order to afford adoption, which costs an average of $30,000. Most of our applicants at Helpusadopt.org spend $30,000 to $50,000, and sometimes more depending on the circumstances and travel involved. Many American families seeking to build their families through adoption can provide for a child on a day-to-day basis but cannot pay these fees in full and up front. So these large costs present insurmountable financial obstacles. Link to Op Ed

 

MI: Foster Kids “Age Out” Without a Financial Education – OR NOT!:

Oct 29, The Street.com: This program is available in Michigan!

So what can be done to give foster kids a solid personal finance foundation? Opportunity Passport bridges the gap. Eddye’s story isn’t that of the typical kid aging out of the system.

After she turned 18, her caseworker told her about a program called Opportunity Passport that would match every dollar she saved, up to $1,000 per year. All she had to do was complete some personal finance classes. Eddye used matched funds to purchase a car and a laptop. She’s also used her savings to pay for her Certified Nursing Assistant and Emergency Medical Technician licenses. The program has three main benefits for participants:

First, the program gives foster kids experience in handling money.

Second, the program gives kids incentive to save.

Third, the program provides education and support.   Link to Article

FL: Florida Foster Children Wind Up In Unlicensed Religious Homes

Oct 29, Tampa Bay Times: Child care workers have violated Florida law by sending foster children to unlicensed religious homes, a Tampa Bay Times investigation has found. The Times discovered at least four state children living this year in three separate unlicensed religious homes. Two homes told the Times about the transfers. The third published information about the children in its newsletter. Department of Children and Families officials are investigating how the transfers occurred. “It’s a mistake,” said DCF spokeswoman Erin Gillespie. “We’re owning up to it. Everyone’s owning up to it.” Link to Article

Brain Scans Show the Impact of a Mother’s Love on a Child’s Brain Size

Oct 29, Medical Daily: Neurologists say that the latest images provide more evidence that the way children are treated in their early years is important not only for the child’s emotional development, but also in determining the size of their brains. Experts say that the sizeable difference shown in the two brains is primarily caused by the difference in the way each child was treated by their mothers. While at first glance, the images might indicate that the child with the right brain might have suffered a serious accident or illness, neurologists said that the truth is that the child with the shrunken brain was neglected and abused by its mother, and the child with the larger and more fully developed brain was raised in a loving, supportive home and was looked after by its mother. Link to Article

MI: New U of M Public Safety Division Announced in Response to Child Porn Case Involving Six-Month Delay

Oct 29, Ann Arbor Journal: A review of how the University of Michigan handled the discovery of child pornography within its health system has concluded with the recommendation to create a single, unified new division. Board of Regents Chair Laurence B. Deitch announced this new unit, the Division of Public Safety and Security, at Friday’s meeting at the university’s Flint campus. Board regents unanimously approved the recommendation for this new division. Stephen Jenson, a former pediatric resident in the University of Michigan Health System, was dismissed in December and was charged for possession of the child pornography. The Board also thanked the University of Michigan physician who did step up to make the discovery of the child pornography known, which ultimately led to Jenson’s arrest and prosecution. Link to Article

OR: States Don’t Often Share Child-Abuse Records. and Sometimes Kids Die.

Oct 26, The Oregonian: A 10-year-old girl is found dead in a footlocker in Arizona and police learn her family had been under investigation by child welfare authorities in Utah. A teenager is murdered in Eugene, leaving a trail of questions from Sacramento to Salem about who failed to protect her. A baby spends its vital first year with a stranger in Alabama foster care while relatives in Oregon wait for word that they can raise the child. The fate of those three children and thousands more across the nation might have been different if only critical information had made it across state borders. An investigation by The Oregonian finds child welfare workers in different states often fail to communicate about a family’s history or a child’s needs. Federal law directs states to cooperate in child abuse investigations, foster care placements and interstate adoptions. But that doesn’t always happen. The federal government offers few deadlines and weak enforcement about what can and should be shared. There is no national database identifying proven child abuse cases, though Congress passed a law requiring that in 2006. Link to Article

MI:Van Buren County Sheriff Dale Gribler Honored by Fight Crime: Invest in Kids Michigan

Oct 26, MLive.com: Van Buren County Sheriff Dale Gribler was recently honored by Fight Crime: Invest in Kids Michigan for being a strong proponent of child abuse and neglect prevention. Fight Crime: Invest in Kids Michigan is a statewide crime prevention, nonprofit organization led by more than 500 of Michigan’s best-known police chiefs, sheriffs, prosecutors and crime survivors. Gribler was presented the award by Clinton County Sheriff Wayne Kangas, the statewide co-chairman of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids Michigan. “Sheriff Gribler has been a strong representative for public investments in voluntary home visitation and parent coaching, and high-quality preschool, after-school programs, and community-based treatment programs,” Kangas said. Link to Article

FL: Agencies Work to Unite Foster, Biological Parents

Oct 25, CDAPress.com: Days after Austin-Knight’s children were put in foster care, she met foster mother Krista King at a park as part of an effort in Florida to encourage more foster parents to communicate with birth parents, let them talk to their children and honor their child-rearing wishes. Similar programs are in California, Virginia and New Mexico. The programs have been developed as child welfare administrators acknowledge that more than half of foster children will eventually return home to their parents _ a longstanding proportion that wasn’t always addressed in innovative ways. The approaches provide an opportunity to help rehabilitate the parents, most of whom lose their children because of drugs and alcohol or neglect issues related to poverty. Caseworkers and judges decide how much contact is appropriate. Birth parents who were abusive often aren’t allowed to maintain a relationship with the foster family. States vary widely on whether they encourage birth parents to stay involved. In states and counties now encouraging the interactions, parents may keep in contact over the phone or face-to-face. Foster parents are taught to speak positively about birth parents and are encouraged to do small things like place a birth parent’s picture in the child’s room. “It may not always be comfortable for the adults to navigate these relationships, but it’s about the best interest of the child,” said Claudia McDowell, who heads Bridging the Gap in Fairfax County, Va. The program in Northern Virginia arranges icebreaker meetings, often during the first week after a child’s removal. Link to Article

UK: 300 Potential Abuse Victims Emerge in BBC Scandal

Oct 25, Detroit News: London – The scale of the child sex abuse scandal engulfing the BBC expanded on Thursday as authorities announced that 300 potential victims had come forward with accusations against one of the broadcaster’s most popular children’s entertainers and that others might have acted with him. The well-known children’s TV and radio host is accused of using his fame to coerce teens into having sex with him in his car, his camper and even in dressing rooms on BBC premises. All but two of the cases involved girls and detectives have interviewed 130 people. Savile, who died last October at age 84, was “undoubtedly” one of the worst sex offenders in recent British history. Previously feted for his charity work at hospitals and homes for children, Savile is alleged to have deliberately supported such causes to target troubled youths whose credibility would be questioned if they reported the alleged sexual abuse.
The Savile scandal has rocked the BBC and prompted disbelief that the TV host’s crimes could have gone unnoticed or unreported by colleagues or managers. Link to Article

MI: Livonia Teacher Accused of Child Abuse Resigns

Oct 25, Observer & Eccentric: The Livonia Public Schools teacher accused of abusing special-needs preschoolers resigned Oct. 16, school officials said Tuesday. Sharon Turbiak will remain on paid administrative leave until March 31, 2013, the effective date of her resignation, they said. She has not been charged with any crime. Turbiak was scheduled to go before the Michigan Tenure Commission Monday. The school board voted unanimously June 18 to recommend the tenure commission terminate Turbiak’s employment. The tenure commission has the final say in whether a teacher is fired. Superintendent Randy Liepa said the district had the choice of proceeding through the tenure process or accepting her resignation, and it made more sense to accept the resignation. Turbiak is accused of slapping, grabbing and force feeding special-needs preschoolers in her classroom at Webster Elementary, among other unprofessional classroom management practices, from about October 2011 to April 2012. Link to Article

US: More States View Registration Requirements for Youth who Commit Sex Offenses as Inappropriate

Oct 24, Models for Change: In fact, registries actually have the potential to decrease public safety as well as needlessly harm youth’s lives. Researchers have shown that youth who commit sex offenses – including violent sex offenses – recidivate at the rate of one to three percent. Thus, 97 percent of the youth placed on sex offense registries will never commit another sex offense – a much higher percentage than youth who commit other crimes. Putting youth on these registries means that law enforcement resources must be put toward unnecessary tracking of these youth – often for decades – and this backlog of useless data on the registry can actually impede the ability of police to speedily investigate new sex offenses. One might argue that these drawbacks are worth it, if it means tracking the one to three percent of youth who will recidivate. The problem is that it’s not at all clear that registries help us do that. And that’s not all: a recent federal law that made state registries even tougher has only made this problem worse. Link to Article

US: Tough Times For Girls In Juvenile Justice System

Oct 24, NPR: Experts say girls make up the fastest-growing segment of the juvenile justice system, with more than 300,000 arrests and criminal charges every year. A new report by the Georgetown Center on Poverty, Inequality, and Public Policy says the system isn’t doing enough to help those young girls. Most girls who wind up tangled in the justice system have family problems, trauma or a history of abuse, says Georgetown University professor Peter Edelman, who co-authored the report, “Improving the Juvenile Justice System for Girls.” More than half of the girls detained these days don’t commit big crimes. More often their transgressions are things like skipping school, breaking curfew or running away from home, says Edelman, who has studied justice up close since the 1970s. “Getting them back into school and getting them back on a path without invoking the sanctions of the juvenile and criminal justice system,” Edelman says, “that is so much better in terms of not leaving those wounds and scars and preserving the possibilities for the future.” Link to Article

MI: Analysis : 4 University of Michigan Public Safety Failures That Contributed to 6-Month Child-Porn Reporting Delay

Oct 23, Ann Arbor.com: In winter 2011 University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman learned that at least eight officials failed to timely report a pediatrician caught looking at child pornography while at work. The six-month reporting lapse occurred because of a variety of reasons, including poor decisions by university attorneys and the misconception that hospital security acted as police. But perhaps one of the most significant factors leading to the lapse was the animosity between hospital security and university police, which multiple individuals say contributed to a “culture of fear and blame” between the units. The Board of Regents in March commissioned Margolis Healy to conduct a review of the safety culture, where if fell short and how insufficiencies contributed to the six-month reporting lapse that allowed Stephen Jenson, 37, to work alongside children at University Hospital while viewing child porn at his home and, worse, during shifts at work. The result was a scathing report of problems between the Department of Public Safety, hospital security and, less so, housing security. Link to Article

MI: Boy Scouts ‘Perversion’ Files Show 3 Cases of Alleged Sexual Abuse by Saginaw County Scoutmasters

Oct 23, MLive.com: The Boy Scouts of America severed ties decades ago with three Saginaw scoutmasters after sexual assault claims arose, according to documents contained in the more than 14,500 pages of the organization’s secret files. The records, released last week by an order from the Oregon Supreme Court, document sex abuse allegations across the country from 1965 to 1985. The records include about 50 files from Michigan, including three in Saginaw County. Link to Article

NYU Dentistry, Foster Care Agency Partnership, Improves Child Health, Aids Student Training

Oct 21, Science Codex: The New York University College of Dentistry (NYUCD) and Graham Windham, a local NYC-based foster care agency, have partnered to provide regular dental care to more than 650 children since spring of 2011. The success of the program, Partners Against Caries (PAC), both for the participating foster children and the dental school students, may serve as a model for other dental schools’ outreach programs. PAC’s successes were outlined in an oral as well as a poster session at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National Conference and Exhibition in New Orleans, October 20-23, 2012. “The program has been an overwhelmingly positive experience for both the children and families in foster care, as well as for the NYUCD dental students,” said study author Elizabeth A. Best, MPH, Department of Pediatric Dentistry. “The pediatric patients enjoy receiving care from the dental students, who are very engaged with the children.” For the dental students, the experience has been eye-opening. “Most of the dental students have little knowledge of the foster care system,” commented Best. “At NYUCD, we are now graduating dental students who have worked with this population, and are aware of their unique health care needs,” she said. Link to Article

PA: Outsmarting The Abusers; Police Here Make Inroads in Fight Against Child Abuse

Oct 21, Lancaster Online: “Nobody wants to believe that an adult would hurt a child,” Lancaster city Detective Aaron Harnish told a large audience last week at a local conference. “But these are crimes that happen every day.” However, Harnish and other experts explained at the two-day conference in downtown Lancaster, advancements in detection here have made it harder for offenders to hide. “It’s a matter of the expertise and investigative ability,” said Randall L. Miller, a veteran prosecutor hired by Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman to handle child-abuse cases. And those advancements have helped bring justice to more abused kids, local investigators say. At the conference, Harnish and Miller discussed methods that help Lancaster County stay ahead of the curve in investigating abuse. The article includes suggested investigative techniques. Link to Article

UT: Fewer Foreign Children Available For Utah Families to Adopt

Oct 21, Salt Lake Tribune: There is no single factor that explains the free fall, adoption experts say, which has occurred as the number of orphans continued to grow — now at 153 million worldwide, including 18 million who have lost both parents and as many as 8 million living in institutions, according to UNICEF. And interest in adoption remains strong as ever, though the recession may have affected some families’ ability to handle the expense. But most experts bring up two issues when asked to explain the decline: the rise in nationalistic policies by foreign countries favoring domestic adoption, and The Hague Adoption Convention, which was fully implemented in the United States in 2008. The United States recorded a peak number of adoptions of children from foreign countries in 2004 — 22,991 — but international adoptions have fallen steadily since then. In 2011, slightly more than 9,300 children were brought into the United States from another country. Link to Article

MI: Resentence Juvenile Lifers? Michigan Appeals Court Considers Implications of US Supreme Court Ruling

Oct 17, Mlive.com: The Michigan Court of Appeals is weighing arguments in a single case that may shape the fate of 368 prisoners serving mandatory life sentences for violent crimes they committed when they were minors. The nation’s highest court ruled mandatory life terms without the possibility of parole is an unconstitutionally cruel and unusual punishment for minors, invalidating sentencing schemes in Michigan and other states. In her 5-4 majority opinion, Justice Elena Kagan wrote such mandatory sentences fail to recognize the potential for cognitive and character development in young people. Judges, she said, need the ability to consider mitigating factors and circumstances at the time of sentencing. But Kagan did not indicate whether the ruling should retroactively apply to convicts who were sentenced years ago. Michigan has more “juvenile lifers” than most states, according to an MLive Media Group analysis. Defense attorneys are expected to request hundreds of resentencing hearings in coming months, and judges around the state are looking to the Court of Appeals for guidance. Link to Article  Comment by C. Enright: An important factor not discussed in the article or in the Supreme Court opinion is the impact of juvenile incarceration on the cognitive development of the offenders. Say a 30 year old gets out of prison after 15 years of incarceration. Even if he has a high school diploma – how likely is that since he was told he was never going to get out anyway? – He has not been outside for 15 years. He wouldn’t know how to act in a public place. He has never needed to get a job so has no job skills and has none of the normal social skills that those never incarcerated have developed without thinking about it. Are we ready to give these potential parolees the help they need to stay outside? Or will release just become an inevitable revolving door?

TX: CPS Target Of Probe After Toddler Dies

Oct 14, Houston Chronicle: Six days before officers were called to the home, a newly-minted Texas Child Protective Services supervisor hastily but quietly closed an 11-month-old neglect investigation involving Tamryn, the dead toddler, without making a required final visit to the family or having someone approve the case’s closure. Those two errors, along with a series of others committed by CPS workers in Abilene, are the latest fatal foibles involving child abuse victims across Texas in which too few workers are investigating too many cases at one time. In this instance, the Houston Chronicle has learned, CPS – the state agency charged with caring for abused children – is now the target of a rare criminal investigation. “The Abilene Police Department is actively investigating the local CPS office,” Chief Stan Standridge confirmed, declining to give any other details. In August, the Chronicle reported on the death of Houston toddler Julia Martinez, whose case languished as Harris County CPS workers shouldered as many as 80 cases a month with many of those 60 days old or more. Link to Article

LEGISLATIVE UPDATES

House Bill 5600 (Substitute H-3)
Expand & Clarify Eligibility For Set-Aside Of Juvenile Adjudications

Brief Summary: The bill would allow an individual to have more than one adjudication for a juvenile offense set aside under certain conditions. (Unlike adults, who are convicted when found guilty of an offense, juveniles are found responsible, and the process is referred to as an adjudication.)

The Apparent Problem: Traditionally, the emphasis in the juvenile justice system has been on rehabilitation. However, beginning in the late 1980s and continuing through the 1990s, the trend shifted toward treating juvenile offenders more harshly. This was due, at least in part, to a rise in serious juvenile crime. Laws across the country were changed to reduce judicial discretion for certain offenses, resulting in more juveniles being tried as adults. Even those remaining in the juvenile justice system faced more punitive treatment than before. One result has been that juveniles who have turned their lives around are finding it difficult, if not impossible, to move forward. With their juvenile record following them into adulthood, these now-responsible citizens are blocked from joining the military, going to college, and finding employment. As the trend across the nation has begun to shift in the other direction, back to an emphasis on rehabilitation, some states have amended their expungement laws to make it easier for youth who have demonstrated change to clear their records. It has been suggested that Michigan review its treatment of juvenile offenders who were adjudicated in the juvenile justice system (not those tried as adults in adult court) to make it easier for deserving individuals to put their past behind them. Link to Bill Status Page See the Fiscal Analysis for the pros & cons.

Senate Bill 694 (Substitute S-1 as reported)
Senate Bill 1303 (Substitute S-1 as reported)

Senate Bill 694 (S-1) would amend the juvenile code to revise a provision granting jurisdiction to the family court over a juvenile whose home or environment is an unfit place for the juvenile to live in due to neglect, cruelty, drunkenness, criminality, or depravity on the part of a parent, guardian, nonparent adult, or other custodian. The bill would refer to a juvenile’s home or environment that “is or will be” an unfit place to live in.

Senate Bill 1303 (S-1) would amend the juvenile code to provide that the Department of Human Services (DHS) would be permitted, but not required, to provide services to reunify a child with his or her parent, and the court could order the DHS to provide those services, in situations involving a parent who “is or will be imprisoned for 2 or more years”. Link to Bill Status Page for both bills.

 

Senate Bill 1240
Social Services Agency Liability Act

The bill would grant immunity to a social services agency, and its officers and employees, for injury or damage caused by the provision of a child social welfare program. Specifically, a social services agency would be immune from liability for personal injury or property damage caused by its provision of a child social welfare program. A director, member, officer, employee, or agent of a social services agency also would be immune from liability for personal injury or property damage caused by that person while he or she was acting on behalf of the agency in the conduct of a child social welfare program, if he or she were acting or reasonably believed he or she was acting within the scope of his or her authority. The immunity provisions would not apply if the conduct that caused personal injury or property damage amounted to gross negligence or were willful misconduct. In a civil action for damages resulting from the conduct of a child social welfare program, there would be a presumption that a director, member, officer, employee, or agent of a social services agency was acting within the scope of his or her authority and that his or her conduct did not amount to gross negligence and was not willful misconduct. Link to Bill Status Page

 

Senate Bill 1314
Copying Or Reproducing Child Sexually Abusive Activity Or Material

The bill would amend the Michigan Penal Code to include copying or reproducing child sexually abusive activity or material in the current prohibition against, and the penalty for, involvement in child sexually abusive activity or material. The bill also indicates that a violation would be committed when actions were taken for personal, distributional, or other purposes. Link to Bill Status Page

 

Senate Bill 934
Criminal Sexual Conduct: Foster Homes & Child Care Organizations

The bill would amend the criminal sexual conduct (CSC) provisions within the Michigan Penal Code. This section lists the conduct for which a person would be guilty of CSC. The bill would add circumstances in which the actor (person committing the offense) was an employee, contractual service provider, or volunteer of a child care organization, or a person licensed to operate a foster family home or a foster family group home in which that other person (the victim) is a resident, and the sexual conduct occurred during the period of that other person’s residency. Link to Bill Status Page

APPELLATE COURT CASES

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished)
Case Name: In re Garrison; Wayne County

Although the court held that the respondent-mother did not show a violation of her procedural due process rights, the court concluded that remand for further proceedings was necessary because the trial court’s determination that “there were no allegations against the father” and thus, that it had “no other choice but to return” the child to his care was both factually and legally flawed. The trial court placed the minor child with the father, and terminated its jurisdiction over the child. The petition for temporary custody identified the father as a respondent and alleged that he had no relationship with the child. He entered a plea at the pretrial hearing and the order of adjudication indicated that the trial court acquired jurisdiction in part because he lacked a home and a source of income. Thus, the trial court clearly had a choice whether to return the child to her parent and the relevant inquiry under MCL 712A.19a(5) was whether returning the child to the father would or would not “cause a substantial risk of harm to the child’s life, physical health, or mental well-being.” In making that determination, the trial court is to consider whether the parent substantially complied with the case service plan as well as “any condition or circumstance of the child that may be evidence that a return to the parent would cause a substantial risk of harm to the child’s life, physical health, or mental well-being.” The trial court did not address these issues before deciding that it was compelled to return the child to the father and terminate its jurisdiction over the child. “There was evidence suggesting that such action could cause a substantial risk of harm to the child.” The foster-care worker testified that the father had suitable housing, but he had not completed parenting classes and the worker did not know whether he was participating in or benefiting from the classes. Further, the record showed that his attendance at family visits had been sporadic throughout the proceedings, even though he was granted unsupervised visitation in 10/11. Also, the father had a wife and three other children in his home and there was no evidence as to the child’s relationship with them. Full Text Opinion

MiPSAC WEB PAGE / ADDITIONAL INFORMATION 

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
These and previous CA&N News Articles can be found at: https://www.mipsac.org/category/can-articles where you can subscribe to an abbreviated version of posts such as this one.

 


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