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 


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, 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: 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


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


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]
Michigan Professional Society on Abuse of Children, MiPSAC
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