Battle Creek stepmother charged with
Child Abuse of twin girls
BATTLE CREEK, MI – A Battle Creek stepmother is facing up to life in prison if convicted of child abuse of twin sisters.
Ashley Swartout, 25, was arraigned Thursday in Calhoun County District Court on one count of first-degree child abuse and one count of second-degree child abuse.
She faces up to life in prison on the first-degree charge and 10 years in prison on the second-degree charge.
Swartout was arrested Monday after Battle Creek police obtained a warrant following an investigation which began Dec. 16.
Police said Swartout and her husband, Nathaniel Callahan, 28, the father of the twin seven-year-old girls, brought one of the children to Bronson Battle Creek hospital at 9:49 p.m. Dec. 16 for treatment.
Doctors notified police after finding severe bruising and swelling to both sides of the girl’s face as well as bruises on her arms, front and back of her torso and a bloody lower lip.
The girl said her stepmother was angry because the child was not doing her chores and grabbed her by the hair and banged her head against the walls and floor. The girl said the woman also twisted her arm behind her back and told the girl she would break it.
Swartout told police she has seizures and does not recall the incident. She said she remembers being angry at the girl about homework and chores but blacked out and remembers nothing until she was on the bathroom floor and her husband was over her.
Callahan told police his wife has a long history of seizures and doctors have been unable to diagnose the cause. She is not able to have a driver’s license because of the condition.
However the girl said her stepmother was talking to her when the reported assault first began and then had a seizure and began to throw up.
Callahan came home from work and both he and Swarthout took the girl to the hospital.
AG Paxton’s Child Exploitation Unit Arrests Five Predators For Child Pornography
AUSTIN, TX – Attorney General Ken Paxton today announced that the Child Exploitation Unit (CEU) of his office arrested five men for Possession of Child Pornography during a two-week span between October 23rd and October 31st.
The arrested suspects include:
Damon Todd Turner, 52, of College Station, arrested October 23 on one count of Possession of Child Pornography.
Justin Howard Everett, 37, of College Station, arrested October 24 on one count of Promotion of Child Pornography.
Enoch Santo Rivera, 35, of Bedias, Texas, arrested on October 29 on five counts of Possession of Child Pornography.
Jason Dominguez, 29, of College Station, arrested on October 30 on three counts of Possession of Child Pornography.
Carl David Baxter, 43, of College Station, arrested on October 31 on four counts of Possession of Child Pornography.
“I commend the hard-working investigators from my office’s Child Exploitation Unit for stopping these child-predators from potentially harming more innocent children,” said Attorney General Ken Paxton. “This grotesque behavior is clearly rampant across the country and it serves as a reminder that we, as a community, must continue to protect the vulnerable from exploitation.”
Turner, Everett, Rivera, Dominguez and Baxter were each arrested after CyberTipline reports from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children® (NCMEC) notified CEU that Rivera uploaded child pornography to an internet service account, Everett and Dominguez uploaded child pornography to social media applications, and Turner and Baxter uploaded child pornography to an internet search engine.
Investigators executed search warrants at each of the men’s residences.
Numerous digital devices were seized by the CEU to be examined by the Digital Forensics Unit.
Rivera was transported to the Grimes County Jail, while Turner, Everett, Dominguez and Baxter were all transported to the Brazos County Jail.
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 347 arrests and obtained 593 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
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.
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.