Category Archives: Uncategorized

Aug 21-28: News Articles and Appellate Court Cases Relating to Child Abuse & Neglect

Childhood is the barrel they give you to go over the falls in. Whatever you get to take with you in it can’t be bigger or sharper than an idea.

Linda McCarriston 

RECENT CA&N NEWS ARTICLES 

US: Helping Foster Kids Even After Adoption

Aug 28, NPR: The U.S. adoption system was largely organized around placing infants, both from this country and abroad. But, it turns out that, by far, the largest number of adoptions in the U.S. is through the foster care system. That means toddlers, young children, even teens. Yet many in the field say the system does little to help families cope with the special issues a number of these children will face, even years after adoption. Foster adoptions have nearly doubled since 1997, when a policy change gave states financial incentive to place children with permanent families. The federal government has also waged an aggressive and charming ad campaign, with TV spots reassuring people that they “don’t have to be perfect to be a perfect parent.” Debbie Riley, head of the Center for Adoption Support and Education in Maryland, says she is seeing an increasing number of “disruptions.” “Families are calling and saying, ‘I can’t do this,’ and [they’re] putting children back into [foster] care”. Link to NPR Article

Baby, Allegedly Shaken, Still Critical: Justin Mcintyre Charged in Injury of Son Bentley

28 Aug, WOOD TV: – A 6-week-old boy hospitalized last week after showing symptoms of having been shaken remains in critical condition. Bentley McIntyre was admitted to Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids on Aug. 24 with brain trauma. His family has been by his side the whole time. Police suspect Bentley was shaken by his father — 23-year-old Justin McIntyre — at their home in Ferrysburg late last week. He is charged with felony child abuse. He was in court on Tuesday in which a preliminary hearing was scheduled for September. Link to Article

MI: Saginaw’s Top Catholic Bishop To Be Named in Philadelphia Clergy Sex Abuse Lawsuit

Aug 27, Saginaw News: Attorneys plan to name the leader of the Diocese of Saginaw in a lawsuit surrounding clergy sex abuse allegations at his former assignment in Philadelphia, media reports indicate. Bishop Joseph Cistone earlier this year was not named in any criminal indictments, but lawyers say Cistone and others will be named in a civil case brought on by a former Philadelphia altar boy who claimed sexual abuse in 1992. “My best description of them is that they were the kingpins,” Slade McLaughlin, a Philadelphia attorney, told the news station when describing Cistone and another former Catholic administrator in Philadelphia. Link to Article

GA: Georgia Makes Parent Volunteers In Schools Mandatory Child Abuse Reporters. Is That A Mistake?

Aug 26, AJC.com: Schools in Georgia are now informing parents of a law passed this year that broadens the list of people mandated to report child abuse. The list now includes volunteers at churches, colleges, clubs, summer camps or soccer fields or parents who chaperone a field trip. They could go to jail if they fail to report suspected abuse. Link to Article

MA: Program Helps Families Create Their Own Solutions

Aug 26, Boston Globe: The Family Independence Initiative, which recruits families, urges them to identify their aspirations, and pays them $160 a month to record their progress toward achieving them. The central idea behind the initiative is that poor people have the resourcefulness to solve their own problems. That with the support – and the watchful eyes – of a small community of peers, they can transform their lives. The results so far have been stunning. Among the first families to join these groups two years ago, personal savings have grown a massive 264 percent. Average monthly incomes have risen 25 percent, not counting FII payments. Children’s grades have jumped 25 percent, too. Members have started businesses, bought houses, enrolled in college, begun microloan programs, gotten care for sick children, lost weight, and found community. Link to Article

US: Finding Hope after Trauma: The Remarkable Recovery of the Adolescent Brain

Aug 26, Huffington Post: A 2005 study conducted by Casey Family Programs found rates of PTSD in young people formerly in foster care to be more than twice that of U.S. war veterans.
Young people who have experienced trauma are extraordinarily resilient. Nowhere is this clearer than among the population of young people who have been in foster care. Trauma comes in all forms, and whether the trauma young people in foster care experience is defined by physical or sexual abuse, moving from place to place, being separated from siblings and other loved ones, or living in a disjointed system — its impact can be devastating. Without access to a supportive family or network, young people in foster care — especially those who abruptly age out of the foster care system — don’t have the same opportunity to recover and move on. And yet, it is precisely during that window of their young lives — between ages 14 and 25 — that young people have the most potential for recovery and resilience. New advances in neuroscience tell us that the brain is not “done” by age six, as previously thought. Instead, the adolescent brain continues to develop, providing a “use it or lose it” timeframe similar to that which exists in early childhood. Even after significant trauma, the brain can indeed rewire itself — meaning that the physiological consequences of trauma can be reversed. Systems that support young people must seize this window of opportunity. Link to Article

Young and Alone, Facing Court and Deportation

Aug 25, New York Times: Immigration courts in this South Texas border town and across the country are confronting an unexpected surge of children, some of them barely school age, who traveled here without parents and were caught as they tried to cross illegally into the United States. The youths pose troubling difficulties for American immigration courts. Unlike in criminal or family courts, in immigration court there is no right to a lawyer paid by the government for people who cannot afford one. And immigration law contains few protections specifically for minors. So even a child as young as six years old has to go before an immigration judge — confronting a prosecutor and trying to fight deportation — without the help of a lawyer, if one is not privately provided. Link to Article

US: Special Visa Program Offers Citizenship Path For Illegal Immigrant Youth In Foster Care

Aug 27, Washington Post: Two years ago, her mother was deported, her brother was detained and she was put in foster care. A powerful reminder of all she lost and gained is printed on the top right corner of her green card: “SL6.” That’s the code for special immigrant juvenile status (SIJS), the little-known program that allows Boudet and hundreds like her each year to live and work in the U.S. as a legal permanent resident. The program has quietly helped 10,000 young illegal immigrants become legal permanent residents since 1997. More recently, much attention has been focused on President Barack Obama’s deferred action policy that allows some young illegal immigrants to avoid deportation by obtaining temporary work permits. Thousands flocked to apply for that program on the first day alone. Advocates say that the new Obama administration policy won’t directly change the juvenile visa program, and that it’s too soon to tell exactly how the visa program may be affected by the policy change. But it may make young illegal immigrants more comfortable coming forward for help staying in the U.S. That could lead to more people applying for the visa. The policy change also gives them another option if they don’t qualify for the special visa program because of key requirements to be under the age of 21, unmarried and a dependent of the state at the time of the application.  Link to Article

US: As Thousands of Parents Are Deported, US Citizen Kids Face Fallout; Some Placed For Adoption

Aug 25, Associated Press: It’s a question thousands of other families are wrestling with as a record number of deportations means record numbers of American children being left without a parent. And it comes despite President Barack Obama’s promise that his administration would focus on removing only criminals, not breaking up families even if a parent is here illegally. Nearly 45,000 such parents were removed in the first six months of this year, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Critics say the parents are to blame for entering the country illegally in the first place, knowing they were putting their families at risk. These parents have taken a reckless gamble with their children’s future by sneaking into the country illegally, knowing they could be deported. “Not to deport them, gives them the ultimate bonus package, and creates an incentive for others to do the same thing.” Others, including Obama, say splitting up families is wrong. A year ago, he told a Texas audience that deportation should target “violent offenders and people convicted of crimes; not families, not folks who are just looking to scrape together an income.” And, last year ICE announced a new policy of “prosecutorial discretion” that directs agents to consider how long someone has been in the country, their ties to communities and whether that person’s spouse or children are U.S. citizens.

In Congress, California Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard has proposed legislation that would make it more difficult for local agencies to terminate the parental rights of immigrants. She calls it “heartbreaking … that in the U.S., immigration status in itself has become grounds to permanently separate families.” It is, she said, “absolutely, unquestionably inhumane and unacceptable, particularly for a country that values family and fairness so highly.” Link to Article

TX: A Child’s Life Lost Amid Too Many Cases at CPS

Aug 24, Houston Chronicle: Information obtained by the Houston Chronicle shows the fragile toddler died earlier this month on a mattress inside her southeast home as her case remained stuck in the investigative stacks at a protective services office with some of the highest caseload volumes in Houston. Link to Article

WI: Father Reaches Settlement with Welfare Workers in Death of Infant Son

Aug. 24, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: The father of a 5-month-old boy who was drowned by his mentally ill mother in October 2007 has settled his federal lawsuit against three child welfare workers and their employers, according to online court records. The suit, filed in federal court in Milwaukee, alleged wrongful death and a violation of the 14th Amendment. When Will Robert Johnson was just 1 month old, child welfare workers removed him from his mother’s home because they feared that her serious mental illness compromised his safety. Yet four months later, social workers left him alone with her for a visit, and he drowned in the bathtub. Two social workers and a supervisor were named as defendants. The three and their employers, which had contracted with the state, knew or should have known Will’s mother, Arkisha Johnson, had a long history of mental illness, which included threats of violence, emotional instability, multiple suicide attempts and failure to take her medication, according to the suit. In October 2010, the Child Welfare Disclosure Act was passed without opposition by state lawmakers and quickly signed by the governor. It requires the state Department of Children and Families to notify the public when a child has been killed or suffered serious injury. Link to Article

MA: Children’s Rights Chides Mass. System on Foster Care

August 24, Boston Globe: A children’s advocacy group has issued a series of scathing reports on the Massachusetts foster care system, contending that nearly 1 in 5 children in state custody for at least two years have suffered abuse or neglect. The group, called Children’s Rights, released the reports Thursday as part of a federal class-action lawsuit it brought against the state’s child welfare system in 2010. It asserts that children are mistreated at a high rate under state care, that they often bounce from one foster home to the next, and that they sometimes stay in the foster system for years. Approximately 1 in 6 who are reunited with their families return to foster care after further abuse or neglect, the group says. In several reports submitted by child welfare specialists, the group said the state’s Department of Children and Families is plagued by dysfunction, low staffing, and lax oversight. Link to Article

ID: 3-Year-Old Idaho Child Reunited With Father in Mexico

Aug 23, Miami Herald: A young girl whose custody case was ultimately decided by the Idaho Supreme Court traveled to Mexico earlier this week to begin living with a father she had never met before. Maria Ramirez, 3, flew to Mexico on Monday and was handed over to her father, Jesus Ramirez, to begin a new life with him and his family in Salamanca, a small town in central Mexico, according to officials with the Consulate of Mexico in Boise. In April, the Idaho Supreme Court ruled that a lower court erred in severing the man’s parental rights even though he had never met his daughter, initially came to the U.S. illegally and was barred from ever returning. The Idaho Department of Health and Human Services argued to have the father’s custody rights severed as the agency explored placement options for the child after officials removed the girl from the mother’s home. Mexican officials in Boise cheered the girl’s transfer to her father’s custody and the legal process that affirmed the rights of birth parents over questions of a parent’s immigration status. Link to Article  Comment by C. Enright: How can someone be reunited with a parent she had never met? This must be a very traumatic experience for this girl.

US: For Chinese-American Adoptees, Matters of Identity

Aug 23, NPR: Of the roughly 80,000 Chinese children adopted in the United States since 1979, almost all are girls, abandoned at birth by their parents because of China’s one-child policy, coupled with inheritance laws that favor boys. Waiting for them at this end was the pent-up parental longing of thousands of infertile couples, single women (and a few single men) and gay and lesbian couples. This is hardly unexplored territory, but until now most of the copious commentary on Chinese adoption has come from the parents’ point of view. Now some of the girls are old enough to speak for themselves, and Linda Goldstein Knowlton, a Hollywood producer and an adoptive mother herself, picks up their story in Somewhere Between, a warm-hearted if somewhat over-orchestrated documentary that gives voice to four teenaged adoptees from loving but very different homes. Link to Article

MI: Saginaw Woman Charged With Sexually Assaulting 6-Year-Old Boy Mentally Fit For Trial

Aug 22, Saginaw News: A Saginaw woman charged with sexually assaulting a 6-year-old boy is mentally fit for trial, a judge has ruled. Saginaw County District Judge A.T. Frank on Monday relied on a report from the Center for Forensic Psychiatry in Ypsilanti to determine that Jessica D. Nielson, 28, is mentally competent. Link to Article

CA: Senate Unanimously Passes Bill to Protect Child Actors

August 22, Los Angeles Times: The California Senate unanimously passed a bill today that would provide greater safeguards for child actors in Hollywood, moving the measure one step closer to adoption. The bill would require criminal background checks for talent managers, publicists, photographers and others in the entertainment industry who would have unsupervised access to young performers. It also would prohibit registered sex offenders from representing minors. Link to Article

CA: Social Workers Build Bridges to Find Homes for Foster Children Living on the Street

Aug 21, Los Angeles Times: L.A. County’s staying connected to juveniles on the street via Facebook, family ties and foot patrols and placing them when they’re ready. The Department of Children’s and Family Services doesn’t have enough famil y foster homes for parent-less adolescents. Unhappy teens who run away become wards of the Probation Department because they’re considered delinquents. The two agencies barely talk to one another, so those children languish on the streets and are often victimized by thieves, drug dealers and pimps. Four years ago, in the wake of a scandal over hundreds of unaccounted-for children the foster care agency agreed to try an unconventional approach, forming a small Runaway Outreach Unit that relies not on hauling kids in from the streets, but building trust to bring them back. “The old way wasn’t working,” said the unit’s leader, social worker Eric Ball. Since 2008, his team — using Facebook, family connections and foot patrols — has located 1,500 missing youths and eased 500 into independent living and out of foster care, he said. “The important thing is to make contact and begin to earn their trust,” Ball told me Saturday, from a crowded downtown community center, where his team had gathered hundreds of their teenage wards for a daylong conference on healthy living. “We’re trying to empower them,” Ball said. “Nobody likes being told what to do.” Link to Article

IN: Some Judges, Police Call Department of Child Services Child Abuse Hotline ‘Frustrating,’ ‘Inefficient’

Aug 21: IndyStar.com: Department of Child Services officials call the agency’s centralized child abuse hotlinea “model for other states,” “one of the most up-to-date and effective” in the nation. The hotline’s workers in Indianapolis answer calls promptly and effectively 24 hours a day, the state officials say, delivering consistent results for children in all of the state’s 92 counties. But local officials who have been using the centralized hotline since it went into effect in 2010 paint a different picture. They use descriptions such as “constant problem,” “very frustrating” and “inefficient.” “They do not seem to understand the issues that are actually going on in the field,” a Warrick County sheriff’s detective says. A Knox City police detective is more blunt: “Children are not getting the help they need.” Those comments are contained in responses to an informal survey conducted by Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford, which he shared exclusively with The Indianapolis Star. Link to Article  See also: Link to Courier Press Article and Link to Indiana Public Radio Article

FL: Florida Turns Down $4.9 Million from Federal Government Designed to Strengthen Parenting

August 21,Tampa Bay Times: Kimberly Dudley says she is grateful for the agency Healthy Start, which sent an educator into her home to help her get off drugs and prevent her kids from being shipped to foster care. “If I didn’t have the program, I would be homeless with a premie,” said Dudley, 21, a Clearwater mother of two young children. Now the program is in danger. Earlier this month, the Florida Department of Health turned down a $4.9 million federal grant that already has helped 84 Pinellas County families and hundreds more statewide. The department was forced to turn down the money after the Florida Legislature refused to accept it. Some state lawmakers were upset because the program is connected to the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare.” Link to Article

FL: State’s DCF Removes Child Protective Investigation Function Away from Sheriff’s Office

Aug 20, Citrus Daily: The state’s Department of Children and Families (DCF) has taken child protective investigations away from the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office. Citrus County Sheriff Jeff Dawsy said the DCF’s move was totally unanticipated. “I never saw it coming,” said Dawsy. “I’m shocked.” The DCF has optioned to bring Citrus County’s child protective investigations (CPI) back in-house, effective as of Oct. 31. DCF’s precise reasoning is cloudy, but the state agency has said that the performance and measurable outcomes of the program under the Sheriff’s Office was never in question. The DCF exercised the exit clause in a one-year contract, signed earlier this year, to keep the program under the auspices of the Sheriff’s Office. After hearing the news, Sheriff Dawsy promised to make the transition of services as smooth as possible, although he admitted to worries about the safety of the county’s children. The Sheriff’s Office said today that the DCF’s decision in no way impacts the six other Florida sheriffs who currently perform the same CPI function. No additional info in article.

GA: Degarmo Publishes Book on Foster Parenting

Aug 20, Jackson Progress-Argus: John DeGarmo has worked as an English and drama teacher, managed a day care center, hosted various radio shows throughout both the United States and Australia, and even worked in the field of professional wrestling. He is currently serving as a media specialist at both Jasper County High and Middle schools. He recently earned his doctorate and he published his doctoral dissertation on the challenges that foster children face in public schools. “Fostering Love: One Foster Parent’s Journey,” according to DeGarmo, was about his own personal experiences with the foster care system. It takes actual events that have taken place in his first nine years as a foster family and puts them in writing. He uses the perspective of himself as the parent and the stories form from how each experience affected him and his own children. Link to Article

GA: Court Cases Show Challenge of Prosecuting Child Abuse

Aug 18, Augusta Chronicle: The challenges of prosecuting crimes against children were on full display the past two weeks in the Augusta judicial circuit. jurors delivered a partial acquittal of Corduray Scott, who was charged with fatally squeezing and shaking his 3-month-old son, Corduray Jr., in 2010. While convinced Scott was guilty of felony murder, they cleared him of killing the boy with malice. The week before in Columbia County, jurors deadlocked after 11 hours of deliberations could not produce a verdict in the case of Lawanda Concettes Tripp, a baby sitter accused in the 2009 death of a 22-month-old toddler. Former assistant district attorney Adam King said the prosecution walks into a trial with the jury’s sympathy for a child victim. But the advantage is limited – human nature makes it hard to believe someone could be so cold-hearted they would harm a child, King said. “That sympathy cuts both ways,” he said. The same can be said of the scientific and medical evidence. Link to Article

APPELLATE COURT CASES

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

The court held that because the trial court intended that the child should be allowed to maintain a relationship with the respondents-parents, it clearly erred in finding that termination was in the child’s best interests. Thus, the court vacated the termination order and remanded for further consideration of the best interest factors. In an order issued concurrently with its opinion, the court set a schedule for the proceedings on remand, and retained jurisdiction. In the consolidated appeals, both parents challenged the termination of their parental rights to their infant son (TM). The petitioner-DHS presented clear and convincing evidence that at least one statutory ground supported termination. However, the trial court did not properly consider TM’s placement with his paternal grandmother when deciding whether termination was in his best interests. The court noted that relative placement is relevant to the best interest analysis because the relative may be open to allowing the parent to maintain a relationship with the child, which may be in the child’s best interest even if the parent is not a fit full-time custodian. 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.

 

Improving the Economic Security of Children in Foster Care and Young People Who are Transitioning from Foster Care

July 9, 2012, State Policy Advocacy and Reform Center: This brief discusses ways that advocates can help foster children and youth who aged out of foster care access critical public benefits including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the School Lunch Program, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Though not the only available benefits, improving access to these initiatives offers real potential to improve children’s lives. Link to Brief

October 2009 CA&N Media Articles, Cases and Resources

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
(989) 832-9628
[email protected]

Crimes Against Children Research Center of the University of New Hampshire has published a commentary on the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS), which aggregates and publishes statistics from state child protection agencies.  The latest NCANDS report highlights a 12% decline in the rate of substantiated child maltreatment from 2006 to 2007, one of the largest year‐to‐year drops ever revealed by the system. But according to notes accompanying the report, at least 4 states (Florida, Louisiana, Nebraska, and New Jersey) described major administrative and statistical changes in their systems that resulted in declines of 24‐60% in one year. In particular, a 60% drop in the number of victims reported by Florida, attributable to a new way the state categorizes cases, accounted for much of the national decline identified in the report.  Recalculated to exclude states with declines or increases of 20% or more, the report data showed that from 2006‐2007 there was no change in substantiated sexual abuse, an 8% decline in physical abuse, and a 1% decline in neglect.  Link to UNH Commentary

The ABA Center on Children and the Law announces the release of Healthy Beginnings, Healthy Futures: A Judge’s Guide.  This Guide is the result of a collaboration between the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and the Zero to Three National Policy Center.  It addresses the wide array of health needs of very young children in the child welfare system.  By sharing current research on physical health, child development, attachment, infant mental health, and early care and education, the authors provide tools and strategies to help judges promote better outcomes for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers who enter their courtrooms.  While the Guide is written for judges, the information it provides can be useful for both parents’ and children’s attorneys, guardians ad litem, CASAs, and other child advocates. The Guide can be accessed through its own webpage, which allows for download of the full PDF version, individual chapters, or chapter Practice Tips: Link to ABA Report.

The following article has been posted to Philanthropy News Digest: Resource Center Established to Help States Implement Foster Care Legislation  The nonpartisan Fostering Connections Resource Center will work to provide timely data and customized tools to state and local decision makers responsible for implementing the Fostering Connections Act  Link to Article

The ABA Center on Children and the Law, as part of the National Quality Improvement Center on Non-Resident Fathers and the Child Welfare System (QIC NRF), recently released a book and training curriculum on Advocating for Non-Resident Fathers in Child Welfare Court Cases.
Both can be downloaded for free, and hard copies of the book are also available (shipping and handling charges will apply).  These two resources are based on the expertise of legal professionals across the country and include practical guidance on engaging non-offending, non-custodial fathers in their children’s cases.  The book is available at www.fatherhoodqic.org/book.shtml and the training curriculum is available at http://www.fatherhoodqic.org/curriculum.shtml.  For more information please contact Lisa Pilnik ([email protected]) or Jessica Kendall ([email protected]).

The first findings from the National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence have been released. They appear in an article in the journal Pediatrics and in a bulletin published by the US Department of Justice.  Link to DOJ Bulletin  or  Link to Pediatrics Article

New Study Finds Most States Fail to Adequately Protect the Legal Rights of Abused Children.  Second Edition of a State-By-State Report Card Shows Improving Grades in Some States; Michigan gets a C grade.

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished) October 7th
Case Name: In re Williams
The trial court correctly terminated the respondent-mother’s parental rights to the minor child based on her long standing drug addictions, inability to complete a drug treatment program, and lack of housing and employment. However, the trial court erred in permanently severing the respondent-father’s fundamental right to the care and custody of his child after proceedings conducted without the assistance of counsel.  The court held a trial court cannot “deny a respondent appointed counsel by imputing to the respondent income earned by people who bear no legal responsibility to contribute to the respondent’s legal expenses.”  At the termination hearing the DHS argued the father’s lack of “independent housing” and his insufficient income supplied grounds for terminating his rights. The court held it was fundamentally unfair to deny appointed counsel because a respondent does not qualify as indigent, while at the same time invoking his indigence as a ground for terminating his parental rights.  Court’s Opinion

Detroit News, Sept 30th: The Detroit Center for Family Advocacy, developed by law professors at the University of Michigan Law School, offers free legal assistance and support to keep children with family members and out of the foster care system. The office works in collaboration with Wayne County’s Department of Human Services. It is located on West Grand Boulevard in Detroit, the center is targeting the Osborn neighborhood on Detroit’s east side, where more than a third of the children live in poverty. The community has one of county’s highest rates of children being removed from their homes.

The Future of Children is a collaboration of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University and the Brookings Institution.  The mission of The Future of Children is to translate the best social science research about children and youth into information that is useful to policymakers, practitioners, grant-makers, advocates, the media, and students of public policy.  The project publishes two journals and policy briefs each year.  They have just published their Fall 2009 Journal: Preventing Child Maltreatment.  It contains eight articles on various aspect of prevention.

Detroit Free Press, Sept 30th: “Lack of legal help keeping many Michigan parents, kids apart.”  Full story

Detroit Free Press, Sept 30th: “Report gives Michigan foster care overhaul mixed marks.”  Full story

Traverse City Record Eagle, Sept 30th: Editorial: “Red flags in family court.”  Dennis Mikko, until last month a referee in the 13th Circuit Court’s Family Division, allegedly had a stash of nude photos of children in a briefcase in his courthouse office.  Full editorial

The Michigan State Court Administrative Office, Child Welfare Services Division, through the Court Improvement Program, has been working on improving the quality of legal representation in Michigan.  As part of this project, we contracted with the ABA, Center on Children and the Law to conduct an independent study of legal representation for parents in Michigan and to make recommendations for improvement.  We are excited to announce that the report has been released!   The report is available online at under the Quality of Representation committee information.  Additionally, the report is available through the ABA, Center on Children and the Law, Parent Representation Project website, http://www.abanet.org/child/parentrepresentation/home.html.

The book, Growing Up in the Care of Strangers, came out this August.  The uniqueness of the book is that each of the authors went on to college and graduate school (5-6 got Ph.D.’s) and are currently devoting their lives to helping foster children (5 of them grew up in the MI foster care system).  The purpose of the book is to share their experiences, discuss how they were impacted and then based both on their own personal experiences and their experiences working with foster children, provide recommendations for the current foster care system.  A Review

On May 27-29, 2009, the Administration for Children and Families, Children’s Bureau, hosted its first National Child Welfare Evaluation Summit in Washington, D.C. The purpose of the Summit was to explore the current state of evaluation practice in the field of child welfare, and provided a forum to discuss dynamic tensions, like those between theory and practice, rigor and flexibility, fidelity and adaptability, and evidence-based practice and practice-based evidence in the field of child welfare.  All of the materials provided to the Children’s Bureau by presenters at the Summit are now available to the public on the website of James Bell Associates. These materials include PowerPoint presentations, handouts, and resources.

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished) August 18th
Case Name: In re Toia
The trial court properly terminated both respondents-parents’ parental rights to the three minor children where clear and convincing evidence established the statutory grounds for termination. Conditionally affirmed and remanded for further proceedings consistent with the requirements of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) to ensure compliance with the ICWA notice provisions and a determination whether the ICWA applies.  Full Text Opinion

MSU News, July 30th: While some 75 percent of the nation’s foster care children say they’d like to attend college, just 13 percent actually enroll – and of those, only 4 percent graduate.  Michigan State University has launched a program to attack the problem.  Foster Care Alumni Services is a comprehensive initiative that offers assistance to MSU students in an effort to help them remain in school and ultimately graduate. Services include community mentoring, scholarships, care packages and help lining up everything from student employment to housing to financial aid.  Link to Story

Detroit Free Press, June 10th: “WMU initiative leads to success for former foster kids.  Western Michigan University did something last fall that no other state school had — hand a free education to 51 former foster youths.”  Full story

Educational assistance for former foster youth: Western Michigan University plans to offer up to 50 former foster youths a place in its Seita Scholars program this fall. For information, go to http://www.wmich.edu/fyit/ or call 269-387-8362. Other schools — Michigan State University and the University of Michigan, for example, set aside financial assistance for former foster youths.  Wherever they attend school, alumni of the foster youth system also may be eligible for up to $4,000 per school year in an Education & Training Voucher, or ETV, in addition to other financial aid.  For information, go to the Michigan’s Foster Youth in Transition Web site at http://www.michigan.gov/fyit or Lutheran Social Services of Michigan at https://www.samaritas.org. An ETV coordinator can be reached at 877-660-6388.

Deaths and Near Strangulations Prompt Massive Recall of Window Coverings

Three strangulation deaths and seven near strangulations prompt CPSC to issue a massive recall of window coverings. Six companies, including IKEA and Pottery Barn Kids, are recalling 5.5 million Roman shades, roll-up shades and other window coverings. All of these products have a similar deadly hazard, young children can strangle when their neck gets trapped in the exposed cords.

For a complete list of the recalls, please visit our web site at http://www.cpsc.gov/

About once a month a young child dies in this country from a window cord strangulation. Due to the life-threatening hazard these window coverings pose to children, CPSC urges all consumers to examine all shades and blinds in their homes. If looped pull cords, exposed inner cords, or exposed lifting loops are found, replace the blinds or shades with products that do not have these dangerous strangulation hazards.

Please share this important safety information with friends, family and daycare centers.

***Information recieved via US Consumer Product Safety Commission Office of Information and Public Affairs http://www.cpsc.gov/

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission

Two Additional Infant Deaths Prompt Re-announcement of Simplicity “Close-Sleeper/Bedside Sleeper” Bassinets

Consumers urged to immediately stop using the 3-in-1 and 4-in-1 bassinets, including those with Graco logo and “Winnie the Pooh” motifs

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is once again urging all parents and caregivers to immediately stop using convertible “close-sleeper/bedside sleeper” bassinets manufactured by Simplicity Inc., of Reading, Pa. CPSC has learned of two additional infant deaths since the August 2008 safety alert and recall announcements that notified consumers of two infants who had strangled in their Simplicity bassinets. To date, CPSC is aware of four infants who have died in the close-sleeper bassinets.

CPSC learned that in September 2008, a two-month old female in Demorest, Georgia suffocated when she rolled into the adjustable fabric siding of the bassinet, pressing her face into a “pocket” which formed near the Velcro© fasteners. In another incident in January 2009, a six-month old female in Fort Worth, Texas appears to have been fatally entrapped in the bassinet’s bar opening created when the Velcro© fasteners were not secured. An investigation into this infant’s death is ongoing.

In addition, CPSC has received two separate reports involving a 10-week old and a 3-month old whose heads became entrapped between the lower bassinet bar and the mattress support. The infants were freed by their caregivers without injury.

The Simplicity 3-in-1 and 4-in-1 convertible bassinets, including bassinets with the Graco logo and “Winnie the Pooh” motif licensed by Disney Consumer Products, contain metal bars that are covered by an adjustable fabric flap. This fabric flap is secured by Velcro© fasteners, which are intended to be partially removed when the bassinet is converted into the bedside/close-sleeper mode. If the Velcro© fasteners are not properly re-secured when the fabric flap is adjusted, or if the consumer entirely removes the fabric flap exposing the metal bars, an infant can slip through the opening between the lower metal bar and the mattress support and become entrapped and suffocate or strangle. Consumers are urged to check their bassinets to ensure they are not using one of the recalled Simplicity bassinets.

Parents and caregivers are advised to return these bassinets to the retail store where they were purchased. All of the recalled bassinets can pose a danger to infants.

To determine whether your bassinet has been recalled, please check this website.

Recent CA&N Media Articles, Cases and Resources

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
(989) 832-9628
[email protected]

Grand Rapids Press, March 9th: “Editorial: Lawmakers should support legislation to amend the Child Protection Law to require the Department of Human Services (DHS) to notify the Children’s Ombudsman about the death of a child under state supervision.”  Full editorial

Saginaw News, March 9th: “Department of Human Services report: Three fired from Wolverine Human Services in threats, incidents against juvenile residents.”  Full story

Detroit Free Press, March 6th: Reports recently issued by national groups have been critical of the Michigan child welfare system.  The Free Press published two op-eds.  One written by Judges James Alexander and Kenneth L. Tacoma and the other by Don Duquette.
Duquette Op Ed – –  Alexander & Tacoma Op Ed

University of Michigan offers scholarships specifically for youth who have aged out of the foster care system.  Blavin Scholarship can ease way from foster care to U of M.  Full Story

Detroit Free Press, March 6th: Editorial: Lawmakers should raise state’s dropout age to 18. Full editorial

Detroit News, March 6th: “Editorial: Make school relevant to fight dropout rate.”  Full editorial

Grand Rapids Press, March 6th: “Editorial: Reforms to the Friend of the Court that improve efficiency and services are in the best interest of children.”  Full editorial

Saginaw News, March 5th: “Midland County Commissioners have approved the first contracts under a pilot project grant of $299,607 for Baby Court.  The Department of Justice, Office for Civil Rights, established the initiative with a grant. Midland along with Genesee and Wayne counties are part of the three-year pilot program.  Jerry Kole, Midland County trial court administrator said 15-20 Midland children, aged 0-3 years will be involved each year.  Program provides an option other than termination.”  Full story

Livingston County Daily Press & Argus, March 5th: “[The] Michigan Department of Corrections … is expected to decide whether to relocate some 275 higher-security-level, mentally ill adult males to the W.J. Maxey Boys Training School.” | Full story

The first Johnson Children and The Law Workshop addresses the capacity of children to participate in legal decisions affecting their welfare. The 2009 series of workshops is now complete.  Workshop videos are now posted on the U of M Law School web site. Workshop Link

Macomb Daily, March 3rd: “Editorial: Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox has issued a plea to craigslist to take quick action to protect children from online sex predators.  Full Editorial

Jackson Citizen Patriot, March 2nd: Jackson area officials are hoping to secure a $268,067 grant to support a program that facilitates supervised visits between parents and children.  Weber said she hopes to serve at least 180 families over three years with the help of the funding. About 37 families are currently involved in the program, she said.  The program has been managed by the Council for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect since 1988, but it will be directed by Catholic Charities if the grant is approved.  Full Story

Muskegon Chronicle, Feb 26th: The mother calls it discipline. Authorities call it abuse.  Whichever side of the argument you fall on, rest assured, biting a child will land you in jail. Full Story

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished)
Case Name: In re Johnson; February 26th; from Wayne County
The five-year old daughter alleged her father sexually abused her. The trial court held a “tender years” hearing.  Four witnesses – a therapist, a nurse, the child’s mother, and the child’s grandmother testified the child’s statements were unsolicited and were not the result of direct questioning.  On appeal, the father argued the mother was a “bitter, delusional schizophrenic who coached” the child into making her statements.  The court of Appeals affirmed the trial courts decision to terminate the father’s rights to the child.  Full Text Opinion

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished)
Case Name: In re Beuford: February 24th; from Wayne County
The respondent-father waived the issue of whether the trial court erred in finding a statutory ground for termination of his parental rights.  The father’s parental rights were terminated. He argued the trial court erred in its best interests analysis because there was no evidence contradicting the expert testimony of a psychiatrist at the Clinic for Child Study that the termination was not necessary. The court disagreed. The court noted the trial court erred in finding termination was not contrary to the child’s best interests rather than by affirmatively finding termination was in her best interests. MCL 712A.19b (5) was recently amended to provide a trial court must now find termination of parental rights is in the child’s best interests. However, there is no specific burden on either party to produce evidence of the child’s best interests – the trial court should weigh all the available evidence. Neither the statute nor the court rule requires the trial court to make specific findings on the best interests issue. Thus, despite the evidence of the child’s bond with respondent, based on the record as a whole, the court was not left with a definite and firm conviction the trial court clearly erred in its best interests determination. The trial court’s order terminating respondent’s parental rights was affirmed.  Full Text Opinion

2009 Children’s Bureau Discretionary Grants
Program Office: Administration on Children, Youth, and Families, Children’s Bureau. The following funding opportunity announcement(s) has/have been published:

Due Date for all Applications: April 27, 2009

  • Funding Opportunity Title: National Resource Center for Child Protective Services (More Info click here)
  • Funding Opportunity Title: National Resource Center for Child Welfare Organizational Improvement (More Info click here)
  • Funding Opportunity Title: National Resource Center for Adoption (More Info click here)
  • Funding Opportunity Title: National Resource Center for Youth Development (More Info click here)

Information on applying for Children’s Bureau Discretionary Grants is available on the Children’s Bureau’s Web site
If you have questions, please call the ACYF Operations Center at 1-866-796-1591.

Detroit News, Feb 27th: “An undercover investigation shows Craigslist is not protecting children from predators, Attorney General Mike Cox said in a letter to the Web site’s CEO.” | Full story

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished)
Case Name: In re Bridges
The trial court erred by terminating the respondent-mother’s parental rights to the two minor children where the evidence failed to clearly and convincingly establish she caused any injury to M. She is the mother of MP and JB, the two involved children. Her third child, M. died at 10 weeks. Child abuse was strongly suspected. No evidence existed respondent ever intentionally harmed M. or otherwise inflicted the contusions noted at the time of the autopsy. The ME (Medical Examiner) conceded based on the evidence available to him he could not rule out a homicide took place, but he had more questions than answers. The cause of M.’s death remained purely speculative. The speculative record simply did not support the fact respondent probably caused his death. Further, the ME specifically denied detecting any evidence of acute or chronic abuse, and none of the other witnesses supplied evidence even remotely consistent with a conclusion respondent had ever abused M. According to the ME, the contusions found on M.’s chest, arm, and face were consistent with the events surrounding a frantic effort to grab and hold the child while performing CPR, and did not cause or contribute to his death. Nothing in the record supported an inference any of the contusions contributed to his death in any manner. The trial court inferred the bruising on M.’s body resulted from injuries inflicted by respondent, and identified as the sole basis for this inference the absence of any “plausible” explanation for the bruising supplied by respondent herself. However, because the ME and the detective admitted the bruising could have occurred during resuscitative efforts, respondent’s failure to supply an alternative “plausible” explanation did not even support a reasonable inference she caused the injuries. Although her invocation of the Fifth Amendment permitted the trial court to draw an adverse inference, the existence of an adverse inference did not relieve the petitioner-DHS of its burden to produce clear and convincing proof of the ground for termination. Even assuming respondent’s failure to testify resulted in a presumption her testimony would have been unfavorable, “[t]he burden of producing evidence of a fact cannot be met by relying on this ‘presumption.'” Thus, an adverse inference drawn from her invocation of her Fifth Amendment right did not shift to her the burden of proving she did not cause the bruising, and did not relieve the DHS of the need to prove a ground for termination by clear and convincing evidence. Reversed and remanded.  Full Text Opinion

Detroit News, Feb 26th: [A] Detroit Public Schools board member, whose parental rights to five sons already are essentially severed, failed to regain custody of his 2-year-old daughter.  Full Story

Ann Arbor News, Feb 26th: Editorial: WISD steps are right for abuse allegations.  Full Editorial

Detroit Free Press, Feb 23rd: Editorial: State shouldn’t be so quick to separate families.  See related Op Eds above, dated March 6th.  Full editorial

AP/Detroit Free Press, Feb 21st: Courts can oversee a custody dispute between lesbian parents who adopted in Illinois even though Michigan doesn’t formally recognize gay relationships, the state Court of Appeals said.  Full story

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished) Feb 17th
Case Name: Crain v. Schultz
Under the facts of the case, there was proper cause to trigger the trial court’s obligation to determine custody through a review of the statutory best interest factors. Defendant submitted evidence plaintiff made false allegations of sexual abuse of the child by defendant to CPS on two occasions, which resulted in CPS and police investigations. Significantly, the child was subjected to a number of forensic interviews and a sexual assault examination. The record also demonstrated plaintiff threatened the child’s psychologist and teachers. CPS ultimately substantiated a claim of mental injury of the child by plaintiff. While a trial court cannot speculate about facts that may arise in the future, it need not “await some negative effect on a child before undertaking an examination of the child’s best interests.” The court of appeals agreed with the trial court’s statement the false allegations also demonstrated inappropriate behavior toward defendant, and clear attempts to prevent him from visiting the child. The trial court found plaintiff “has gone out of her way to destroy any relationship that the child might have with [defendant].” The court found these facts were relevant to factor (j), the willingness and ability of the parties to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent, and were of a magnitude to have a significant effect on the child’s wellbeing. The evidence presented by defendant amounted to more than minor allegations of contempt or visitation complaints. Affirmed. Full Text Opinion