Woman arrested for Child Abuse after
toddlers found in bug infested trailer
without any food
WASHINGTON COUNTY, UT – A woman has been booked into jail on a charge of child abuse after police say her children were found filthy and underfed in a trailer infested with cockroaches and other bugs.
According to a statement of probable cause, Virginia M. Martinez has been booked on one count of child abuse as a third-degree felony.
The Washington County Sheriff’s Office says they responded to Martinez’s home on the Shivwits Reservation April 7 due to a verbal argument between Martinez and a male subject.
Responding officers say Martinez was intoxicated, agitated and hard to reason with and that the inside of the trailer was “destroyed”. Police say there were holes in the walls, floors and ceiling. They said one bathroom had an inoperable toilet inside a shower, while in another bathroom the toilet worked but the shower was inoperable with holes in the floor.
Police say Martinez’s two children were filthy and a 3-year-old boy covered in mud was eating noodles off a counter that were so old they had dried out and changed color. A 2-year-old girl was also found to be very dirty, and both children had bug bites on their bodies. Police say the trailer was infested with cockroaches and other bugs.
Martinez did not have food in the home, documents state, and police say it appears she had no transportation or means to get food. Police say a family member came to the home while officers were there and told them the woman is an addict but doesn’t want to go to rehab to get clean.
Police say they observed the 2-year-old girl playing near a broken porch and asked Martinez to keep an eye on the girl, but the woman told police the girl had fallen before and learned her lesson and would not fall again. The child then fell off the porch and was checked out by medical personnel.
Martinez was arrested for child abuse and for failing to provide safety, proper care or food for her children. Police state the Division of Child and Family Services were to take custody of both children.
Santa Clara County Launches New
Child Abuse Hotline
Santa Clara County, CA officials declared April as National Child Abuse Prevention Month, timing the announcement with the launch of a new 24-hour hotline for people to report suspected child abuse.
What they failed to mention, however, is why the county needed a new hotline in the first place: to fix a system that, until recently, was so woefully broken that it left an untold number of children in danger.
In 2013, the county’s Department of Family and Children’s Services (DFCS) came under fire for dropping up to half the calls some months to its child abuse hotline. From July 2012 to the following year, call center operators answered an average of just 62 percent of calls. Only a third of the 18 percent of calls that went to voicemail were ever returned. About one in every five people hung up, frustrated by the hourlong holds.
It’s impossible to say how many valid abuse cases went unreported.
After San Jose Inside’s parent publication Metro Silicon Valley reported on the scathing 2013 audit, the county hired more call center employees and improve its hotline metrics.
“In years past … there was a problem with the phone being answered,” county Child Abuse Prevention Council Vice Chair Steve Baron said in an interview earlier this week. “That problem has been largely rectified.”
Under new leadership, DFCS has since seen a considerable increase in the number of calls answered, Baron said. People reported about 3.5 million child abuse cases each year in the U.S., about 58,000 in the Bay Area and more than 1,800 verified cases in this county alone. In 2017, the county hotline logged some 30,000 calls—virtually of which were answered.
“They’re capturing and answering, I believe, over 98 percent of every call that comes in now,” he told San Jose Inside. “Sometimes people just hang up or they change their mind so that accounts for the 2 percent. But now there’s a human being answering the phone and they’re capturing those calls.”
Gilbert Murillo, who oversaw the child abuse reporting center during the time it was dropping half its calls, said the county had reduced wait times to 16 seconds by last year.
For people who would rather not speak to anyone, there’s also an option to go straight to voicemail—a feature included for the newly launched hotline as well. And according to DFCS Director Francesca LeRúe, every single one of those voicemails gets returned.
The county’s newly announced hotline—833-SCC-KIDS (833-722-5437)—will field calls around the clock and will eventually replace the current system, which consists of multiple phone numbers.
“We have three different numbers in Santa Clara County, so it’s very confusing for people,” LeRúe said. “We just thought it was important to streamline the process, to have one number, and then decided it was important that it should be, in fact, toll-free.”
Funding will remain unchanged with the new streamlined system, she said, and may eventually save money.
But those three existing hotline numbers will stay in place for another year to give the county time to inform people about the new one.
The first big push in promoting the hotline comes as part of National Child Abuse Prevention Month, LeRúe said. The county encourages the community to wear blue on Friday to call attention to the cause, and to attend the 36th annual Child Abuse Prevention Council Symposium on April 27 in Campbell.
“There’s still a lot of awareness that needs to come to the community to let people know some facts about what child abuse is, what child neglect is,” LeRúe said. “Everybody in Santa Clara County plays a big role in protecting children, it’s everybody’s responsibility.”
County social workers, executives and @SupCindyChavez raise awareness about protecting children from abuse. #ChildAbusePreventionMonth event highlights new toll-free number to Report Child Abuse in #SantaClaraCounty. Call (833) SCC-KIDS (833-722-5437) 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week pic.twitter.com/uL4yzMArpr
— Santa Clara County (@SCCgov) April 4, 2018
STARKVILLE, MS – It’s a problem that plagues every community, child abuse.
“A child is an innocent person and often times they really can’t be able to help themselves,” said West Point Police Chief Avery Cook.
Law enforcement said they’re seeing a rise in the number of reported child abuse cases.
Sally Kate Winters Family Services reports from 2016 to 2017, the organization saw a 73 percent increase in the number of child abuse interviews they conducted.
The abuse comes in different forms, and Sally Kate Winters is on the front-line in many of these investigations.
“Sally Kate Winters provides forensic interviews for child victims of abuse, so we do felony child abuse investigations and we interview kids who’ve been abused,” said Morgan Colley, Children’s Advocacy Center Advocate at Sally Kate Winters Family Services.
Now the organization is sharing its knowledge.
During a Child Abuse Investigation Training on Monday, law enforcement officers, child protective services, and first responders learned new techniques for spotting signs of mistreatment.
“We’re trying to help provide law enforcement with every tool that they need to investigate child abuse and child sexual crimes especially,” said Steven Woodruff, investigator for the district attorney’s office. “We’re seeing an uptake in that in our community, and we don’t think that it’s just now starting to happen, we think that it’s just beginning to be reported more.”
“We’re doing two different presentations, one on corroborating evidence, so we have a child that discloses something and getting them to think about some of the minor details that a child might bring up in their testimony to make their story come alive,” said Jim Holler, who conducted Monday’s training session. “This afternoon we’re doing one more investigative piece, especially physical abuse investigations and what the investigators can do to help the kids to help make their stories come alive.”
Holler is a former police chief with more than three decades of law enforcement experience.
He said the tools everyone learned during the training session are important and can help prosecutors be more effective.
“Just trying to put all the facts together and making sure that we’ve got the details, so we can bring a strong case to our prosecutors office, and hopefully that case will be strong enough to go proceed without a child having to testify,” said Holler.
Sally Kate Winters and the district attorney’s office co-sponsored the training session.
Criticism raised over ending Child Abuse prevention program
Lewiston, Maine – The LePage administration is being criticized for its decision to end a statewide program aimed at preventing child abuse and neglect, even as Maine has witnessed its second horrific case of child abuse in three months.
State officials say the $2.2 million Community Partnerships for Protecting Children program duplicates other Maine prevention programs and is not evidence-based.
Maine Department of Health and Human Services officials surprised nonprofit leaders in a meeting a few weeks ago by saying the program that launched more than a decade ago would not be renewed, and did not give clear reasons why, said officials with Opportunity Alliance, the South Portland-based nonprofit that started the program.
“It is our duty to the Maine taxpayers to ensure that programs we fund are not duplicative of one another,” DHHS spokeswoman Emily Spencer said Wednesday in an email response to questions from the Press Herald.
“Their money needs to be spent in the most effective and efficient ways possible.”
The decision by DHHS preceded the death Sunday of a 10-year-old girl in Stockton Springs, who authorities say died of battered child syndrome. It came after a Wiscasset woman was charged with depraved indifference murder in connection with death Dec. 8 of a 4-year-old girl in her care.
Ken Kunin, superintendent of South Portland schools, which works closely with Opportunity Alliance on the program, said DHHS is “wrong” that the program is providing services available elsewhere.
“It doesn’t duplicate. They offer direct help and support for families and communities,” Kunin said. “It’s been a tremendous asset in South Portland. More kids attend school, are healthier and parents have really been connected to services. It’s really been a tremendous program.”
Debra Dunlap, regional director of Community Partnerships for Protecting Children in southern Maine for Opportunity Alliance, said it makes no sense to eliminate prevention programs that can stop family problems from becoming acute.
“It would be like building hospitals with only emergency rooms,” Dunlap said.
In southern Maine, where the program has been established for about a decade, CPPC partners with about 60 groups, including schools, nonprofits, law enforcement, local governments, churches and others to identify and help families at risk of abuse and neglect.
Opportunity Alliance officials argue the program has saved children from difficult circumstances, although they acknowledge that like many prevention programs, the benefits are difficult to measure. Just two years ago, the state expanded the program to other communities, such as Bangor and Belfast, which makes the move to end the program all the more puzzling.
“The safety of kids in Maine is in jeopardy, and supportive services for families who need help will be vanishing,” said Mike Tarpinian, executive director of Opportunity Alliance.
Child abuse has been in the spotlight in Maine recently with some high-profile cases, most recently in Stockton Springs, where Sharon Carrillo, 33, and Julio Carrillo, 51, were charged in the beating death of Marissa Kennedy. She was Sharon Carillo’s daughter and Julio Carrillo’s stepdaughter.
Police reported the 10-year-old received daily beatings from the Carrillos for months before dying on Sunday. The Office of Chief Medical Examiner performed an autopsy and determined that Marissa died of battered child syndrome.
The Carrillos have been charged with murder, and made a court appearance in Belfast on Wednesday.
Neighbors from when the family lived in Bangor said they called police and Maine DHHS over concerns about child abuse, but it’s not clear why Marissa was allowed to continue to live with the Carillos. The couple moved from Bangor to Stockton Springs last fall.
Tarpinian said it doesn’t make any sense to end a program that had been helping to reduce the number of abuse cases in the state over the past decade. In Cumberland County, where CPPC has been established the longest — for about a decade — substantiated cases of child abuse or neglect plummeted from 445 in 2008 to 261 in 2016, the most recent year available, despite DHHS launching more child abuse investigations during that decade.
Opportunity Alliance officials say because so many factors go into the trends, including state policies, cultural trends, overall declining crime numbers, demographics and other issues, it’s impossible to know exactly how much the prevention program helped.
“We know we played a really critical role,” Dunlap said. “We know more kids are living safely with their families because of this program.”
By the numbers
Statewide, substantiated abuse and neglect cases dropped from 2,521 to 2,268 from 2008 to 2016, although most of the CPPC programs outside of Greater Portland are much more recent — starting after 2015.
The $800,000 per year state contract with Opportunity Alliance is slated to end Sept. 30, as are contracts with four other nonprofits, including Penquis in Bangor, Community Concepts in Augusta and Broadreach Family and Community Services in Belfast, either in September or this summer.
The state spends a total of $2.2 million per year on the prevention program, Tarpinian said, and a quality prevention program will save the state money as fewer children end up in crisis and need Child Protective Services and in foster care. The state announced on Wednesday that it was operating with a $128 million surplus.
The CPPC program began as a pilot program in Portland by the Opportunity Alliance in the mid-2000s, and a comprehensive program launched in 2008 in South Portland’s Redbank Village and Brickhill apartments. The program has since expanded to all of southern Maine, Lewiston, Augusta, Bangor and Belfast.
Spencer said the programs duplicated the state’s Child Abuse and Neglect Councils, which are entities created by the Maine Legislature to prevent child abuse and neglect.
“Maine’s (Child Abuse and Neglect) Councils serve the same families that the CPPCs were intended to serve,” Spencer said.
Dunlap said the Child Abuse and Neglect Councils do not have the resources to conduct community-based programs like CPPC does, and the programs do not duplicate each others.
Spencer said the program is not “evidence-based” and that there was also a question of funding.
“When originally established, DHHS believed that the CPPCs were an evidenced-based program,” Spencer said. “Upon further research as we considered renewing and expanding, it has been determined that they are not evidenced based, but are seen as a method for engaging communities with the goal of preventing child abuse.
“This is the same goal of Maine’s statutorily established CAN Councils.”
‘Best that’s available’
But Dunlap said that CPPC, while not meeting the rigorous scientific standard of evidence-based, is the best that is available. There are no community-based prevention programs that meet the evidence-based standard DHHS is seeking, she said.
“Every aspect of the model we are using is based on research that shows what families need to keep kids safe from abuse,” Dunlap said.
“It’s not a simple recipe where you can put the ingredients in and get a cake. How do you prove something that didn’t happen?”
It is difficult to count how many people are served by the community-based programs, Dunlap said, but in South Portland, at least 1,630 individuals are helped per year.
The community-based prevention programs provide many services and are difficult to explain, Dunlap said, but one example is the Neighborhood Resource Hub on Westbrook Street, between Redbank and Brickhill in South Portland. The hub is a combination food pantry, and a place where people can connect to social services that they may not be aware of, such as signing up for federal heating assistance, Medicaid or Affordable Care Act insurance. Employers will post job listings looking for workers.
Becky Morse, a volunteer at the Neighborhood Resource Hub, said she has seen how the service benefits families.
“It’s a safe place, and it gives people a sense of security where people can go and get their questions answered, find out where to get help. They can be instantly directed,” Morse said.
She said the food pantry is also a great resource to have within walking distance, as people can pick up bread and fresh vegetables.
Sharp rise in Child Abuse, Neglect cases in
SAN ANTONIO, TX – The number of cases of child abuse and neglect in 2017 has gone up almost 36 percent from 2014.
After more than 5,846 cases of child abuse and neglect in 2013, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services saw the numbers steadily drop down to 4,550 in 2016. Last year, however, the number of cases exceeded the 2013 figure with 6,175 confirmed victims, a 35.71 percent jump from 2014 when the numbers began to fall.
“In 2017, we had the largest number of confirmed victims of child abuse and neglect,” said Anais Biera Miracle, spokeswoman for the Children’s Shelter of San Antonio.
Besides the growth in Bexar County’s population, Judge Peter Sakai, who hears many of the cases in Children’s Court, said: “It’s drug addiction. It’s mental health issues. It’s domestic and family violence.”
Sakai said the Children’s Court has been dealing with the situation by “aggressively looking at the high rate of removals with more preventive measures.” He said, for example, there’s the family preservation docket.
“We try to get custody orders for relatives and getting children out of the foster care system and back with family,” Sakai said.
But Sakai said the bottom line is more resources for prevention.
Miracle said the shelter is trying to develop more strategies to effectively reach parents grappling with substance abuse, mental illness and learned behavior from generation to generation.