Tag Archives: Family

Almost Twice National Average In IA Foster Care

.jpg photo of Child Abuse graphic
“One long-time external partner observed that the emphasis on working with families and on reunification seems to have been lost.”

Child Abuse reports up, morale poor among
Iowa social workers, consultant reports

Child abuse investigations in Iowa have increased 43 percent since last year, but the state’s response to those reports needs work, according to a wide-ranging review released Friday.

About 8.2 children of every 1,000 in Iowa are in foster care, higher than the national rate of 5.5 per 1,000, the report by the Child Welfare Policy and Practice Group shows.

“One long-time external partner observed that the emphasis on working with families and on reunification seems to have been lost.”

The consultant’s review of child welfare practices in Iowa criticized both the Department of Human Services for high turnover and poor morale among caseworkers and state policies and spending priorities.

It was initiated amid investigations into several reported child abuse cases that were not caught in time, including the deaths of Natalie Finn of West Des Moines in October 2016 and Sabrina Ray of Perry last May.

Ray’s adoptive parents and other family members face multiple felonies next year following her starvation and physical abuse.

Finn’s mother was convicted of first-degree murder and kidnapping this month.  Her ex-husband, Joseph Finn II, goes to trial next month.

The reviewers made numerous short- and longer-term recommendations that likely will be discussed next month at the Iowa Legislature.

The consultants found morale is poor among state social workers.

And while Iowa’s Department of Human Services enjoys a largely stable workforce, turnover and caseloads are high in Polk and Linn counties.

Staff complain that training is insufficient and the state for too long has expected them to do more with less.

The report recommended, among other things, that Human Services:

  • Provide more accurate caseloads of child welfare workers in each Iowa county and more competency-based training;
  • Provide better services and communication with children and families; and
  • Eliminate barriers to its central abuse intake system.

“The department will look closely at the recommendations to see what we can move on within the agency, and what may require legislation or additional action,” spokesman Matt Highland said.

Mandatory reporters of child abuse in Iowa voiced frustration with the state agency charged with investigating abuse because they weren’t able to find out what happened after they provided information, the report found.

“Physicians, educators and providers of community-based prevention services… expressed frustration with their inability to communicate with DHS, particularly following their having made a report,” the report said.

Educators complained that parents often disengaged because they were able to figure out where abuse reports originated, and then those same reports resulted in no intervention by social workers.

“Several also cited situations in which this has resulted in parents’ retaliation against children as information made available to the parents made it clear that children disclosed alleged maltreatment,” the report states.  “In these cases, children may cut off communication with teachers, counselors or mentors with whom they had previously trusted.”

But in some places, the report was as much a critique of state leaders’ policy and spending priorities as Iowa’s child welfare practices.

“Child welfare intervention should not be viewed as a substitute for universally available basic health, mental health and supportive community services that can help families, especially those in poverty, to voluntarily access resources needed by themselves and their children that may keep their needs from escalating to the point that they result in a report of abuse or neglect,” the report said.

The state’s child welfare system is not doing enough to engage children’s parents in assessing needs related to child safety and evaluating progress, according to interviews with youth, parents, grandparents, foster parents and DHS case managers.

“One long-time external partner observed that the emphasis on working with families and on reunification seems to have been lost.”

Another issue: Agencies that contract with Human Services are receiving $500 per family for each referral, regardless of whether the family uses the voluntary services.

The consultants voiced concern about child welfare being housed within the Department of Human Services, the state’s largest agency which juggles sizable responsibilities.

They also said its staff is tasked with administering so many programs in search of efficiency, their understanding of child welfare initiatives and policies is hindered.

“Assessing the often multiple and complex needs of families and children who present to child welfare systems requires substantial clinical knowledge and skill in gathering and interpreting information,” the report said.

AZ Official Charged With Child Abuse In MN

.jpg photo of old Gila County Courthouse
Old Gila County Courthouse

Gila County official charged in MN with Child Abuse shortly after he was rehired

A manager for Gila County’s health and emergency services agency is scheduled to stand trial early next year in Minnesota on charges of abusing his two children, according to court documents.

Joshua Beck, 40, is charged with two counts of assault and two counts of endangering a child, according to court records in Cook County, Minnesota.  His trial is scheduled to start on Jan. 29.

Beck was the Cook County Health and Humans Services director in Minnesota before he resigned on July 21.  His charges were filed in Minnesota about a week later.

Before moving to Minnesota, Beck had worked as manager of Gila County’s Public Health Emergency Preparedness, a program within the department, in Globe.

Gila County hired him back after he left Minnesota, for the same position, a role that helps oversee the county’s 53,000 residents’ safety in event of a public health emergency.

Gila County Manager James Menlove said he was aware of Beck’s pending criminal court case.  He said Beck had applied for the job and was hired before the charges were filed.

“Gila County takes the charges against Beck very seriously, but as is the case with anyone in the criminal justice system who has yet to be convicted, Beck is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty,” according to an emailed statement.  “Gila County remains steadfastly committed to the safety of its employees and the residents it serves.”

Beck was rehired on July 18, before the charges were filed on Aug. 1 in Cook County, the statement says.  He had two previous stints with the county from November 2012 to May 2013 and again from March 2014 to September 2016.

His current annual salary in Gila County is $62,042.

‘We believe this is a witch hunt’

Through his lawyers, Beck denied the allegations.  He said the false claims of abuse are at the center of a custody dispute involving his stepson and stepdaughter and other family members.

“He adamantly disputes the allegations and is taking the steps to defend himself in court,” said Tyson Smith, a lawyer for Beck, in a phone interview.

Christa Jacqueline Groshek, another Minnesota lawyer for Beck, said in a phone interview Beck is innocent and the children’s grandmother has been seeking custody.

Groshek said Beck has three biological children with his wife and none of them have alleged they’ve been abused.  She added that Beck has worked in public health policy for a long time and he cares for families and children “so he wouldn’t hurt children.”

“We feel like he’s been wrongfully accused,” she said.  “We believe this is a witch hunt that started with the maternal grandmother.”

Groshek made these arguments on Monday to a judge in Cook County at a hearing seeking to dismiss the prosecutor’s evidence. She said she expects the judge to make a decision whether to dismiss the charges or not in the next couple of weeks.

Allegations of abuse

According to a probable-cause statement, the 10-year-old girl told a staff member at First Witness, a child well-being advocacy organization in Minnesota, Beck had abused her since before moving from Arizona.

“She indicated that the defendant calls her names, pulls her hair, throws objects at her, forcibly wakes her up, and takes away her cochlear implants so she cannot hear,” the complaint said.

In one instance, the girl told the staff member Beck grabbed her neck and choked her until she couldn’t breathe, the court document says.  The girl said the choking gave her a bruise and affected her sense of smell, the document says.

In another instance, she said Beck pulled her hair, slapped and threw toys at her face, the document says.

Both children also told the staff member, according to the court document, that while they lived in Arizona, Beck threw them both to the ground.  The boy’s head hit some rocks and his head began to bleed and one of the girl’s ankles was injured, the document says.
The children said they didn’t receive medical attention for their injuries and the girl couldn’t walk on the ankle for a few days, the probable cause statement says.

The boy also said Beck “likes to cause him pain,” the court document states.

Both children said Beck encourages the three younger children to mistreat them, too, by hurting them physically or calling them derogatory names, according to the court document.

Cameron County TX DA’s Office Making A Difference

.jpg photo of Cameron County Assistant DA and Child Abuse Investigator
Cameron County TX DA’s Office Cares About All Children

Cameron County Child Abuse Unit works to aid those in need

Cameron County, TX  –  Often, the person who sexually abuses a child is someone the child knows or trusts.

When Cameron County Assistant District Attorney Patrick Rodriguez first started working for the Child Abuse Unit, he was surprised to find that many times, the sexual abuse is happening quietly.

“I always felt that sexual assaults were something loud and vicious, but a lot of what we see is a silent horror,” Rodriguez said.  “It’s quietly an uncle (or another family member) molesting a child.”

Right now, the CameronCountyDA’s Office is working on 50 cases pertaining to child abuse, but more are always coming in.

Not every incident that is reported makes it to court or even the Child Abuse Unit’s desk.  Investigators may determine that there is not sufficient evidence for a case, or if the case does reach the unit, witnesses may drop the charges or change what they say, said Brandy Bailey, supervisor of the child abuse unit.

“We’ve had quite a few cases where the mothers or grandmothers will say that it didn’t happen.  That’s why it’s so important we all have that relationship with the therapists and professionals,” Bailey said.

Law enforcement helps, too, with the amount of evidence and statements it is able to provide for a case, Rodriguez said.

Gabriela Cruz, the Child Abuse Unit’s paralegal, helps keep the unit running, too, said Yvette Vela, public information officer for the DA’s Office.

It’s Not Over Until The Bucket Is Empty

.jpg photo silhouette of dying woman who reported Child Sex Abuse as part of bucket list
Reporting Child Sexual Abuse after adulthood in Victoria, Australia has increased to 13,000 last year from 4,000 in 2010.

Woman uses bucket list to report uncle for Child Abuse before she dies

Victoria, Australia  –  A woman who was dying from terminal cancer ticked off a truly horrible item from her bucket list when she reported her uncle for abusing her as a child.

The unnamed woman had told her mother about the abuse when she was a teenager but waited until she was dying decades later to report the crime.

Her story was retold by her mother, Kaye, to Victoria Police’s podcast Unspeakable which aims to encourage victims of sexual offences to speak out.

It takes an average of 22 years for survivors of sexual abuse in Australia to tell someone about what happened to them and longer to report it to police.

However, reporting in Victoria, the Australian state where the crime occurred, has increased to 13,000 last year from 4,000 in 2010.

Kaye explained to Unspeakable that her daughter had first told her about the abuse in a phone call after she returned from an overseas trip, aged 19.

However, she told her that she did not want to report the abuse at that time and that she didn’t want her grandmother to know.

‘It was very heavy on the shoulders I can tell you.  At times I didn’t know what to do.  Because she didn’t want to do anything about it, I couldn’t do anything about it,’ she said.

Kaye tried to report the abuse herself but was told by Boronia Police that there was nothing they can do.

Decades later, Kaye’s daughter was diagnosed as terminally ill and had just weeks to live when she drew up a bucket list with reporting the crime at the top of it.

Detective Christine Robinson received the report and filmed Kaye’s daughter in her own home as she detailed what happened to her.

She was then admitted to hospital but police took her written statement to her bedside so she could read it in case she died before her uncle was taken to trial.

Within two days her uncle had been arrested, he confessed to what happened and within a week he had been summoned to court.

He pleaded guilty but due to the limits of the legislation that was used at the time of the offence received a five month suspended sentence and was placed on the sex offenders register.

But Kaye said her daughter would have been blown away by what happened.

She told Unspeakable: ‘She was hoping for a good result.  “It’s fine mum, I can die now knowing he’s going on the sex offenders list”.

‘I was pretty confident we would but she was sure we’d get the outcome we did.’

MA Father Snaps Over Snapchat App

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Father simply wanted to see the girl’s phone.

Judge keeps father in custody in Child Abuse case

PEABODY, MA  –  A Peabody father charged with grabbing his 11-year-old daughter by the throat and hitting her with a belt after learning she had the Snapchat app on her phone will remain in custody until trial, a Peabody District Court judge ruled on Friday.

Judge James Barretto made the ruling following a hearing where Sean Nguyen’s sister, Michelle Nguyen, testified that she was misquoted in a police report about the June 17 incident. Michelle Nguyen told the judge Friday that she never saw her brother hitting the child with a belt, despite what it says in a Peabody police report.

Barretto was not convinced, saying he did not find her testimony on Friday to be credible.

Sean Nguyen, 31, of 2 Aborn St., Peabody, has pleaded not guilty to strangulation and assault and battery on a child causing injury.

The incident occurred late Saturday night, while Sean Nguyen’s daughter was visiting him for the weekend.  He learned that the girl had installed the Snapchat application on the phone, and wanted to see if there were any inappropriate photos.

Michelle Nguyen, who was called as a defense witness Friday, testified that she was downstairs in her own apartment when she heard yelling and screaming, and went upstairs, where she found her brother and his daughter in the girl’s room.

“I want the phone,” he said. “I want to see the pictures.”

“Chino, you need to chill,” she said she told her brother.  “That’s when I grabbed her.”

Michelle Nguyen told the judge that she took the girl to her apartment downstairs, and then to her sister Vikki’s home in Salem.

From there, they took the girl to the Salem police station.

Prosecutor Deirdre Foley suggested that the actions of both of the defendant’s sisters that evening show that they were concerned for the girl’s well-being.

“Ms. Nguyen cared enough, and was concerned enough, to take her niece out of the home,” said Foley.  “They were telling him, ‘Calm down, Chino.’  He was angry.  It’s fair to infer that he was out of control.”

Foley said Sean Nguyen’s response to discovering the Snapchat app was “beyond anything that could ever be considered reasonable.”

‘Responsible and loving’

Sean Nguyen’s lawyer, Kevin Chapman, pointed to a Department of Children and Families report that says the girl told investigators it was the first time her father had acted aggressively toward her.

The girl’s mother also expressed surprise at the allegations, Chapman said, citing the DCF report.  She told investigators that Sean Nguyen had “never been abusive” to either her or their child.

“He has always been responsible and loving toward this child,” Chapman said, citing the mother’s statement to DCF.

He noted that the girl’s mother, who has custody of the girl and lives in another county, has not sought a restraining order.  The girl was also described in the DCF report as being “not afraid” of her father, he said.

Chapman argued that police have overcharged his client, noting that while Sean Nguyen is facing a charge of assault and battery on a child causing injury, police found no marks on the girl and there is no evidence she suffered any physical injury.

He told the judge he plans to seek dismissal of that count at the next hearing in the case on July 17.

Sean Nguyen was visibly upset during the hearing, and after the judge’s ruling ordering that he remain in custody, he tried to address the judge directly.

“As a father,” he began, before being cut off by his lawyer and the judge.

Chapman said outside court that he plans to appeal Barretto’s decision to a Superior Court judge.

Because of extensive coverage of the case on local television earlier in the week, Sean Nguyen has been held in an administrative segregation unit at the Middleton Jail, his attorney said.