Category Archives: Better Laws

Who Could Starve A Child?

.jpg photo of man charged with death of 14 year old son
Antonio Juan Gonzalez, 33, charged with homicide, Child Abuse.

Father charged with homicide, Child Abuse after emaciated teen son found dead

MERCER COUNTY, PA  –  A Pennsylvania father is facing charges after his 14-year-old son who only weighed 70 pounds was found dead.

.jpg photo of man charged along with father in death of child
Paul Bacorn, 29, a friend of child’s father, charged with criminal conspiracy and endangering the welfare of a child.

The emaciated teen was discovered outside of the family’s home Thursday morning.

Police say his father Antonio Juan Gonzalez is the one who called 911.

The teen was homeschooled and lived in the home with his father and his 4-year-old sister.

Police say their mother died years ago.

The little girl was average weight and seemed to be in good health.

She’s now in state custody.

Police say they can’t believe the conditions the children had to live in.

Lt. Dan Ekis/state police crime section commander:

“It was squalor conditions.  It was in a country setting.  The victim was found just inside the trailer,” said Lt. Dan Ekis, the state police crime section commander.  “We couldn’t begin to understand what this child went through in fourteen short years, but obviously the way he died, especially at the hands of his father, is especially disturbing.”

Paul Bacorn, a friend of the father, is also facing charges for endangering the welfare of a child and criminal conspiracy.

Meanwhile, authorities are waiting for an autopsy to confirm the teen’s cause of death.

TX Cares About Children And Families

.jpg photo of child abuse graphic
Some child abuse pediatricians have implicated parents who appear to have credible claims of innocence, an investigation by NBC News and the Houston Chronicle found.

Texas lawmakers want to protect families wrongly accused of Child Abuse

In response to an NBC News investigation, lawmakers want families to be allowed a second medical opinion before a child is taken from a home.

HOUSTON, TX  –  Texas lawmakers are calling for stronger safeguards in the state’s child welfare system after an NBC News and Houston Chronicle investigation found children had been taken from their parents based on disputed medical opinions from doctors trained to spot child abuse.

The reporting showed that child welfare workers removed some children from homes after receiving reports from state-funded child abuse pediatricians that were later called into question, leading to traumatic family separations and months-long legal fights.

Rep. James Frank, chairman of the Texas House of Representatives committee that oversees the state’s Department of Family and Protective Services, said the investigation exposed serious problems.

“I’m very concerned with the premature, unnecessary removal of children, and I think it happens a lot more than people in Texas understand,” said Frank, a Republican from northern Texas.

Frank said he plans to call for a series of legislative hearings in the coming months to explore potential improvements.  Some legislators have suggested creating a way for courts, child welfare workers or accused families to request a second medical opinion before the state removes a child from a home.

Texas provides $5 million in grants each year — including $2.5 million from the agency that oversees Child Protective Services — to support the work of child abuse pediatricians, a small but growing subspecialty of doctors who examine children who come into hospitals with suspicious injuries.  The Texas grants deputize some of the doctors to review cases on behalf of child welfare investigators, who then rely on their reports when deciding whether to remove children from parents.

Frank acknowledged that these state-supported physicians have a difficult job and that they play a critical role in protecting abused children, likely saving lives.  But he said he’s heard from numerous parents in recent years whose children were removed by Child Protective Services based primarily on a report from a child abuse pediatrician and despite contradictory opinions from other doctors.

In those cases, Frank said he thinks child welfare workers are sometimes too deferential to agency-funded abuse doctors and fail to complete a thorough investigation before taking children.

“In most cases, the doctors aren’t saying ‘This is child abuse,’” Frank said.  “They’re saying that they are concerned that it’s child abuse.  And so I don’t know there are enough checks and balances to make sure that we have confirmed that it really is child abuse.”

Rep. Harold Dutton Jr., a Houston Democrat and lawyer who has represented a mother who says she was wrongly accused by a child abuse pediatrician, said he has begun discussions with Frank to figure out potential improvements.

“We haven’t come up with anything yet, but we’re working towards it,” he said.  “One of the things that needs to happen is we need to better define when CPS should remove children.  We’ve got to do a better job of that.”

In a statement, Patrick Crimmins, a spokesman for the Department of Family and Protective Services, said the agency relies on the expertise of child abuse pediatricians when its caseworkers and other medical specialists are unable to determine if a serious injury is a result of abuse.

“We believe this process has worked well to detect abuse in complex cases and has protected children,” Crimmins said.  “But any process — particularly one with the lives of children and their families at stake — can be improved, and we want to work with legislators and stakeholders to do just that.”

In interviews, leading child abuse pediatricians said they are careful to rule out underlying medical conditions and accidental causes before issuing their opinions. The doctors acknowledged that a mistaken child abuse diagnosis can result in a child being taken from caring parents.  But overlooking warning signs, they said, could lead to a child being left in a dangerous home, with potentially fatal consequences.

To state Rep. Gene Wu, the issues raised by the NBC News and Chronicle reporting were familiar.  Wu, a Houston Democrat and lawyer, sometimes handles cases involving Child Protective Services and allegations of abuse.

“I have personally dealt with a couple of cases … where you had day-to-day physicians who said, ‘This is a typical type of bone break that is common in children of this age because they’re learning to walk,’” Wu said.  “Then the case gets looked at by the child abuse expert and they say it might be child abuse, and then everyone sort of freaks out.”

In those instances, Wu said, “CPS is sort of caught in this damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t situation.”

Child abuse pediatricians are trained not only to identify abuse, but to identify medical conditions that can mimic abuse.  The doctors say they rule out or fail to confirm abuse more times than not.

But Wu said when medical specialists are focused on finding and preventing child abuse, it’s natural that some run-of-the-mill injuries may appear more sinister.

“If you’re a hammer, then everything is a nail,” Wu said.

In many cases, the only doctor consulted by Child Protective Services and called to testify in court is the child abuse expert who initially flagged the concerns, in part because many families do not have the money to hire seasoned lawyers or outside medical experts.

To address that, Frank and other lawmakers have suggested requiring Child Protective Services to seek additional medical opinions in some instances before removing children.  Another fix, Wu said, might be to create a mechanism for courts across the state to bring in independent experts to evaluate medically complex cases and offer a second opinion.

“We could create a pot of money that courts could dip into,” he said.  “One party could make a motion to the judge to request an independent expert, and the state could have a list of medical experts to take a look at it.”

There are no “easy solutions,” he cautioned.

“I’ve described the CPS system as a very finely balanced seesaw,” Wu said, “and if you tip it too much you’re going to take kids away from good parents, and if you tip it the other way, you’re going to have dead kids. …  Whatever we do, we need to make sure that this policy solution doesn’t tip the balance.

Aborting Two 13-Year-Olds Led To Misdemeanor Charges

.jpg photo of Doctor whose home was found containing over 2,000 aborted fetuses
Dr. Ulrich Klopfer

2,246 fetal remains found in Illinois home
of abortion doctor

After Dr. Ulrich Klopfer died in rural Crete, Illinois, on Sept. 3, authorities found “2,246 medically preserved fetal remains” in his home.

Klopfer performed thousands of abortions in northern Indiana clinics before his medical license was revoked in 2016.  But it’s unclear where the fetal remains came from, though the Will County, Illinois, Sheriff’s office said in a news release there was no evidence that Klopfer performed abortions on his Illinois property.

Public records show that Klopfer had not been licensed to practice medicine in Illinois since 1990, when he failed to renew his license.  Records do not show Klopfer holding any other state’s medical license after the Indiana suspension.

Authorities are not saying if they think Klopfer, 79, transported the remains from Indiana, how the fetal remains had been preserved or why the remains may have been in his possession in the first place.

Kathy Hoffmeyer, Will County, Ill., Sheriff’s spokeswoman, on Monday called this a sensitive investigation and declined to release details.

Indiana records allege the doctor, first licensed in 1979, had a history of bad record keeping in his clinics.

According to a complaint filed by the Indiana Medical Licensing Board, Klopfer worked in clinics in South Bend, Gary and Fort Wayne from 2012 to 2015.

The board in 2016 found that Klopfer failed to properly file paperwork regarding abortions performed at the clinics, including some that were dated the same day as the procedure, a violation of Indiana’s 18-hour waiting period.

The licensing board found he performed abortions on two 13-year-olds without filing paperwork within three days as required by law.

The allegations regarding the 13-year-olds led to misdemeanor criminal charges in two counties, which Klopfer was facing at the same time he fought to keep his medical license, records show.

He was charged with failing to timely file a public report and admitted wrongdoing in St. Joseph County in 2014 and Lake County in 2015, according to the licensing board’s complaint.  Under terms of the pretrial diversion agreements, the misdemeanor charges were later dismissed.

None of the Indiana allegations against Klopfer were related to fetal remains.  How such remains ended up on Klopfer’s property are a mystery.

In the news release, the sheriff’s office said a lawyer for the Klopfer family first told officials about the discovery of the fetal remains.  IndyStar left a message on Monday for the attorney, identified by WMAQ-TV (Channel 5) Chicago as Kevin P. Bolger.

Klopfer’s family had no idea the fetal remains were inside the doctor’s rural home, Bolger told WMAQ on Saturday.

“No one has any answers,” Bolger told the station.  “The family is cooperating 100%.”

Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill told IndyStar on Monday that the discovery of the fetal remains “shocks the conscience.”  Hill said his office will work with the office of Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul on an investigation into the “grisly” findings.

LA DayCare License Revoked After Continued Abuse Of Children

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In a statement, the department says the decision comes after instances of children being mistreated by staff.

West Monroe DayCare license revoked
after Child Abuse allegations

WEST MONROE, LA  –  The Louisiana Dept. of Education has revoked the license and pulled public funding from Assembly Kidz Daycare in West Monroe.

In a statement, the department says the decision comes after instances of children being mistreated by staff.

The statement also says the center failed to timely report the most recent incident.  Read more about that incident here.

You can read the full news release below.

The Louisiana Department of Education today revoked the license of an early learning center in Ouachita Parish and terminated its public funding after escalating instances of children being mistreated by staff members, resulting in employees being terminated and arrested for cruelty to juveniles.  The center also failed to timely report the most recent incident to the appropriate state agencies and to the parents of the children involved.

“Early childhood education centers have the responsibility of not only preparing our youngest learners for success in Kindergarten and beyond, but also prioritizing their health, safety and well-being,” said State Superintendent John White.  “This center has proven it is unable to protect our children.”

Most recently, in August, the Department’s Division of Licensing inspected The Assembly Kidz Care, located at 1007 Glenwood Drive, after learning a staff member mistreated three 3-year-old children.

The center’s video showed the staff member picking up one child by the shirt before dropping them to the floor, causing the child to hit their head.

The staff member was then seen aggressively grabbing a second child while attempting to put the child down onto a sleeping mat, and dragging a third child across the room and onto a sleeping mat.

The center’s video also showed the staff member hitting and shaking the children.

 A parent watching the center’s video observed the mistreatment and brought it to the attention of the center’s director.  The center did not notify the state education department, the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services or the parents of the children involved within the required time frame.

This center is now ineligible for public funding through the Child Care Assistance Program, which helps make child care more affordable for working low-income families.   The education department has alerted families affected by this action and is working closely with them to identify safe, quality alternative options.

The Assembly Kidz Care has 15 calendar days from receipt of the notice of revocation to appeal the decision.  Providers who have had their licenses revoked are ineligible to apply for licensure for two years.  Operating a child care center without a license may result in an order to cease and desist, as well as an injunction from a court prohibiting the continued operation of a child care center without a license and placement on the statewide registry of individuals prohibited from operating a child care center.

TX AG CEU Roundsup Child Predator

.jpg photo of child predator arrested for child sex abuse
Robert Lee Gonzales, 42, of El Campo, Texas.

AG Paxton’s Child Exploitation Unit Arrests El Campo Man for Sexual Assault of a Child

AUSTIN, TX  –  Attorney General Ken Paxton today announced that the Child Exploitation Unit of his office arrested 42-year-old Robert Lee Gonzales, of El Campo, Texas, pursuant to three warrants for sexual assault of a child.

A CyberTipline report from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children® (NCMEC) alerted the Child Exploitation Unit (CEU) to Gonzales, who reportedly uploaded child pornography to a social media account.

Following a search warrant at his residence, Gonzales was interviewed by CEU investigators and denied possessing child pornography.

Investigators seized several digital storage devices for examination by the Digital Forensics Unit of the attorney general’s office.

As the investigation continued, a subsequent search warrant for Gonzales’ social media account revealed communications with two children, detailing sexual assaults, as well as images of child pornography.

The two children were identified and interviewed, both confirming that Gonzales sexually assaulted them.

Attorney General Paxton’s office works to protect children by using the latest technology to track down some of the most profoundly evil predators online.

Since its inception, the Child Exploitation Unit has made 334 arrests and obtained 589 convictions on charges for possession of child pornography.

Attorney General Paxton urges all parents and teachers to become aware of the risks children face on the internet and take steps to help ensure their safety.

If you suspect someone is producing or downloading child pornography, you can report it to NCMEC.
CyberTipline
1-800-843-5678

For more information on cyber safety, please visit:
https://texasattorneygeneral.gov/initiatives/cyber-safety/