Some recent media articles and resources relating to child abuse and neglect. If you have items that you think would be helpful to include in this occasional post, please forward them to me at the email in my signature block.
These stories were chosen because of their perceived relevance to the child welfare community. MiPSAC is not responsible for the views expressed in any of these articles, nor does it take a position for or against the positions expressed in the articles. They are presented merely to provide a sampling of what the media is saying about child welfare.
Charlie Enright, JD, MSW
4907 Foster Rd.
Midland, MI 48642
Michigan Professional Society on Abuse of Children, MiPSAC
This and previous posts can be found at: http://www.mipsac.org/category/can-articles
RECENT MEDIA ARTICLES
After Penn State Scandal, U-M To Set Expectations For Employees Who Suspect Abuse
Dec 5, Ann Arbor.com:
The Penn State scandal is likely to influence the University of Michigan’s approach to how its campuses deal with suspected child abuse, President Mary Sue Coleman said Monday during a meeting with the executive arm of U-M’s faculty senate. The Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs voted to approve a resolution to set expectations for a university community member who suspects criminal activity.
The resolution expressly states that faculty should come forward if they suspect sexual misconduct or abuse. It also seeks the formation of mentorship training and education programs and requests that university administrators closely review all U-M programs that work with children. Link to Ann Arbor.com Article
Man Charged With Physically Abusing 4-Year-Old Girl
Dec 3, Tri County Times:
A 35-year-old Fenton Township man has been arraigned for child abuse after an anonymous tip alerted authorities. The county’s child protective services received word through an anonymous tip that someone should check on the child. That information was forwarded to the Genesee County Sheriff’s Department, which then sent a deputy to investigate. The investigation revealed that a 4-year-old girl who had bruises and burns. During questioning, the defendant told detectives he became angered when she ran around their mobile home and at one point injuring a younger child despite him telling her to stop. He said this angered him and he grabbed the girl by her arms, causing bruises. The defendant is also accused of forcing the girl to stand in the corner with a hot space heater near her feet. Detectives observed burns on the girl’s feet.
Officers said the girl tried to tell them that her injuries were from falling on her own, but they were not convinced. As the officer asked the girl if she was afraid, she shook her head yes. When they asked if she was afraid of someone in the room, she again, shook her head up and down.
The defendant was then arrested. The girl was transported to an area hospital for medical treatment and two other children inside the home were removed. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Dec 13th. Link to Article
New federal child porn charges for Holland homeless man
Dec 01, The Holland Sentinel:
A 51-year-old man charged in September with possessing child porn on his cell phone while staying at the Holland Rescue Mission now is jailed on federal charges. Steven Douglas Evink, 51, pleaded not guilty Thursday at his arraignment in U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids. Magistrate Judge Ellen Carmody ordered that Evink be held pending a trial. According to a three-count indictment, Evink is charged with sending and receiving digital child pornographic images and videos from his cell phone across state lines
According to documents filed in a local state court case, Evink has lived in Ottawa County for nine months and in Michigan for 11 years. He has been unemployed for about four years and told a judge he has no children of his own. Documents indicate Evink was previously convicted of several sex crimes in the state of Texas dating back to the 1990s. He is listed on the Michigan Sex Offender Registry. Link to Article
States Fail In Fight Against Sex Trafficking
Dec 1, NPR:
Too many states still inadvertently provide safe havens when it comes to sex trafficking — even when children on the streets bear the consequences. That’s the conclusion of a new report released Thursday by the advocacy group Shared Hope International. Link to NPR Article – – Link to Shared Hope Report
Overmedication of Foster Children
Nov 30, CBS News:
Children in foster care in five states are taking psychotropic drugs at a rate “two to over four times higher” than non-foster children on Medicaid according to a draft of a new government report obtained by CBS News. Data from five states: Oregon, Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan and Texas was included in the report. Data in the new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) shows that in the five states examined, 609 foster children and over 1,100 non-foster children were taking five or more psychotropic drugs at one time, a “high-risk practice” that lacks sufficient scientific data, according to experts consulted for the study. The report also found that over 20,000 foster and non-foster children were taking dosages that “exceeded the maximum standards published in medical literature.” Link to a draft of the GAO report – – Link to CBS Article
Texas Considering Legislation To Keep Kids In School And Out Of Court
Nov 30, NPR:
The sort of offenses that might land a student in the principal’s office in other states often send kids in Texas to court with misdemeanor charges. Some schools have started rethinking the way they punish students for bad behavior after watching many of them drop out or land in prison because of tough disciplinary policies. John Hudson, the director of attendance, truancy and dropout recovery in the Waco alternative school says, “When you look at the numbers of times students are disciplined in school, suspended, separated from school, placed in disciplinary alternative education placement, the unintended consequence is that their education suffers to the point where it puts them farther and farther away from graduating.” Hudson thinks these unintended consequences prove that the schools’ disciplinary policies are not working. This seems to be the growing consensus in Texas, but it’s going to take a lot of work and legislation to undo the damage the harsh disciplinary policies have caused. Link to NPR Article
Parents file suit saying investigators violated civil rights
Nov. 17, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
The parents of a 6-year-old boy who faced charges of first-degree sexual assault have sued Grant County officials who investigated and filed the juvenile petition. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Madison, contends that officials violated the civil rights of the boy and his parents, and seeks damages and an injunction against Grant County District Attorney Lisa Riniker. The suit also names a sheriff’s deputy and social worker as defendants. None of them could be reached for comment late Thursday. The plaintiffs are identified only as D, who is now 7, and his parents as Jennifer and Kurt D. According to the lawsuit, in the fall of last year the boy was playing with the girl and her 5-year-old brother when the mother arrived. The children said they had been playing doctor. Their mother told investigators she suspected D had put his finger in the girl’s anus. The lawsuit states that prior to the play date, D had medical conditions that required rectal examinations. Riniker wound up accusing D of first-degree sexual assault, as part of a juvenile court petition for protective services filed November 2010. Link to Journal Sentinel Article
4-Year Old Girl Testifies In A Criminal Trial About Sex Abuse By Mom’s Boyfriend
Nov 30, Adrian, Daily Telegram:
A 4-year-old girl testified that her mother’s boyfriend touched her four separate times during March and April at his trial on 1st-degree criminal sexual conduct charges in Lenawee County Circuit Court. The girl testified from behind a screen set up at the witness stand to prevent her from seeing the defendant. Responding to questions from the Prosecutor, the girl said the defendant molested her four different times, at least two of them while her mother or brother was present. The defense attorney questioned the 4-year old girl, drawing conflicting answers to some of her statements. Link to Daily Telegram Article
Comment by C. Enright: This is similar to the screen procedure used in People v. Ronald Carl Rose, which is on appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court on the issue of violation of the right to confront a witness when such a screen is used. Link to Rose Appellate Court Opinion
Yes! A defense attorney gets to cross examine a 4-year old in a criminal proceeding such as this. One could question whether a criminal conviction is important enough to risk traumatizing a 4-year old in the process. Not only does she face cross exam by an adult attorney who does not have her best interests at heart. But she might realize in the future, that she wasn’t believed and the system failed and the defendant is free anyway and who can she trust. Or she might be believed and know that because of her complaints a man she might even have liked is serving a long prison sentence. Not clear how she might perceive such a trial, but it could easily be as traumatic as the abuse. See Comment below.
A Follow-up on this story:
Not Guilty Verdict Ends Child Sex Abuse Case
Dec 02, Daily Telegram:
A jury watched a video replay of a 4-year-old girl’s sex abuse testimony before returning a not guilty verdict Thursday in a trial of a 22-year-old Adrian man. Defense attorneys argued that the defendant was caught up in a custody dispute. Noah Manuel Cruz was relieved and elated after waiting more than three hours for a verdict that means he will go free rather than spend at least 25 years in prison, said defense attorney John Baker. Baker delivered a detailed rebuttal of the prosecution’s case, including criticism of a police investigation he said violated state protocols for interviewing children about sex abuse. Baker said the girl’s biological father was allowed to hold and talk with her during the interview despite protocols prohibiting parents from being present. “She’s 4 years old and she’s capable of being manipulated,” Baker argued. Link to Article
Comment by C. Enright: This raises the question: Was it worth the potential trauma to a 4-year old for the possibility that the accused will be punished? Is the goal retribution or protection of the child? The evidence might have been sufficient to terminate any parental rights such an accused would have. The burdens of proof are different. E.G. hearsay evidence is permitted in a child protection case. As it turns out this defendant did not have any parental rights to start with, so preventing him from making contact with the girl would have been much simpler and more certain.
A Comment by C. Enright
Interrogating A Very Young Child
When questioning a very young child in a criminal proceeding it is important to take into account the developmental limitations of the child. This varies from child to child based on intelligence, any traumatic incidents the child has experienced and other possible developmental limitations (autism, ADHD and the like). A 4- year old perceives interrogation quite differently than an 8 year old or a 12 year old or a 17 year old. Our Michigan ‘Child Forensic Interview Protocol recognizes and tries to compensate for many of the possible issues. However neither the prosecutor nor the defense counsel in an adversarial court proceeding is required to use the Protocol and generally they don’t because the burdens of proof for each side are quite different and demanding. The constitutional ‘right to confront one’s accuser’ does not compensate for developmental issues in a witness. For a comparable situation with an adult consider the following question: If I ask you, “How many formal art works do you have hanging in the largest room in your home?”You might, if you were an astute attorney, ask what ‘art work’ and ‘formal’ meant. Does our wedding picture count? What about an award plaque? And you might ask what the point of such a question was. Why the largest room? Are you sure which is the largest room in your home? Is a long hallway a room? What if you live in an apartment or condo? Is a common room in such a setting a ‘room in your home’? What if the art work belongs to someone else? Does my unfinished basement count as a room? Does height (volume) count or just square footage (area) in calculating the ‘largest room’? To a 4-year old, all questions are like this question. But a very young child doesn’t have the sophistication to stop the questioner and ask for clarification. Because testifying under oath is a novel experience for them, they generally would not feel they had permission to ask questions or request clarification.
Very young children may not understand the context of a question. “Are you afraid of your daddy?” could be a very unclear question to a child. There may be some things she likes and some things she does not like. The very young child would not likely ask for clarification or a more specific question and may very well guess at an answer rather than declining to answer. An example of a question one would not ask a young child, according to the forensic interview protocol would be: “Was he wearing a blue shirt or a red shirt?” This is a closed end question. The problem is that he may have been wearing a yellow shirt. An adult answering such a question would think nothing of correcting the questioner. Studies show that young children will answer the question either red or blue even though it was yellow. They don’t feel they have the right to question the questioner and feel obligated to pick one of the proffered answers. For more detail on the difficulties of questioning young children see: Questioning Child Witnesses. Cf. Young Witnesses In Criminal Proceedings ; Children in Court
A Question: These are just a few relevant articles I found in a Google search. Does Michigan have a formal protocol for questioning young children in a criminal proceeding? Or is it a free-for-all, allowing attorneys to take advantage of the young child’s naiveté?
And another point, very young children may have expectations about the consequences of their testimony. They may be aware of the consequences to the people they are testifying about. Someone, usually a family member may have told them: “Do you want your daddy to go to prison?” A very young child might have an opinion that they don’t want their molester to go to prison. They may actually have liked the molester or maybe even the molestation. They do not have their own socially learned but internalized moral rules like adults. They may have been told what happened was bad. That telling may be the only opinion they have heard and know. They may not understand that the other person was bad, not them. “What your daddy did to you is terrible.” “Your daddy is such a kind and generous person.” The same child may have gotten conflicting messages from various family members. I have seen it happen. To think that a very young child can sort this out is the wildest fantasy. It is not surprising that a very young child could be as traumatized by the trial process as by the crime itself. We should not anthropomorphize the child’s thoughts. They don’t have the experience and judgment adults have. Most adults have a difficult time understanding the unsophisticated thoughts of the young child. Young children are not as sophisticated as we adults who know for sure that the award plaque hanging in our unfinished basement is a formal art work in the largest room.
RESOURCES WITH TIME LIMITED VALUE
The Michigan Youth Opportunities Initiative (MYOI) is excited to share ways you can support youth from the Michigan foster care system.
- Purchase Michigan made products of gifts, jewelry, original artwork and more at www.artfulvision.com. When you make a purchase select MYOI as your non-profit of choice and 20% of your purchase will be given back to the MYOI youth.
- Register your Kroger card online at www.krogers.com, follow the instructions attached in this message to link your card with the Michigan Youth Opportunities Initiative (MYOI). MYOI will get a percentage back from your grocery shopping. Please take the 5 minutes needed to complete this.
- Get a copy of the MYOI Expressions magazine. This wonderful magazine is a compilation of short stories, poems and artwork written by youth who have been in the Michigan foster care system. For a donation of $15 or more you will receive a magazine!!! All donations are tax deductible and go 100% toward providing for youth who have been in foster care. Order online at www.myoifund.org or contact Khadija at 248-921-282.
- Order a Michigan made Jazz CD for the holidays for a donation of $15. The CD, Your Peace Counts is a beautiful combination of Michigan’s finest jazz musicians performing both classics and original scores. The perfect gift!
- Please spread the word to your friends and family to help youth from foster care in Michigan. Visit our donation website at www.myoifund.org to make a direct, tax-deductible contribution today.
Thank you for your support! The young people in our communities deserve our best.
Hillsdale/Branch County DHS
RESOURCES WITH ONGOING VALUE
The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) has announced that the Healthy Native Babies Project Workbook Packet is now ready for distribution. It includes updated versions of the Workbook and Toolkit along with Healthy Action for Native Babies handout. The Workbook is a comprehensive and up-to-date guide for health professionals, social workers, community organizers and anyone working in Native communities. The easy-to-read, informative text outlines the facts of SIDS, how to reduce the risk, strategies for reaching communities, and action steps to reduce the risk of SIDS. The Toolkit disk allows individuals to design culturally appropriate and regionally specific materials, such as posters, flyers, postcards and brochures. In addition, there are phrases translated into Native languages as well as photographs of Native families taken across the country to assist communities in delivering customized outreach materials. The Workbook Packet can be ordered, free of charge, via the toll-free line at 1-800-370-2943 or online at Link to NICHD Order Page.
Info provided by:
Stacey M. Tadgerson, M.P.A. Zoe Lyons
Department of Human Services (DHS) Acting Director
Director, Native American Affairs (NAA) Hillsdale/Branch County DHS
MICHIGAN APPELLATE COURT CASES
Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished)
Appeal: From St Clair Circuit Court
Case Name: In re Jansen/Kenel
Respondent was arrested for and convicted of drug trafficking and sentenced to 95 months in prison. She was currently incarcerated with her earliest release date being in 4/16. Respondent’s 2016 earliest release date and lack of an appropriate relative caregiver distinguished the case from Mason. Under the circumstances, respondent failed to provide proper care and custody for the children and could not provide them within a reasonable time. Thus, the trial court did not err in finding sufficient evidence to terminate her parental rights. Respondent argued that she and the children had a strong bond and she had made progress. The court noted that the only progress she made was that she was unable to abuse substances while incarcerated. The children suffered through two inappropriate placements and could not be in their mother’s care until at least 2016. The decision to terminate her parental rights was affirmed. Link to Opinion