Thursday, July 14, 2016

DCF File

"The unit within the state auditor’s office that pursues allegations of public assistance fraud will announce Wednesday that it identified a record $13.7 million in fraud last fiscal year, an increase of 44 percent over the previous year. Auditor Suzanne Bump, testifying before the Joint Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday, said that her Bureau of Special Investigations will release its findings in its fiscal 2015 annual report on Wednesday."

I think they grouped them all together.

"Mass. had highest rate of abused children in nation" by Matt Rocheleau and Andy Rosen Globe Staff  January 28, 2016

Massachusetts reported the highest rate of abused and neglected children in the nation in fiscal year 2014 and had nearly the same number of victimized children the following year, according to newly released state and federal figures.

Massachusetts is last or near the bottom in most of the categories that matter, and yet they still have the image of a compassionate state of deep blue. Other than being out in front on the same sex thing, this state serves the $ame old intere$ts in $o many ways. 

I used to be proud of Massachusetts, you know, don't blame me I voted for McGovern, but now that I under$tand how this $tate is run I'm ashamed.

The sharp increase in reported abuse cases comes amid a string of high-profile cases of children who died or were severely injured — some while being overseen by the state’s child welfare agency.

Massachusetts tallied 31,863 victimized children in the federal government’s fiscal 2014, which concluded at the end of September 2014, according to a report by the US Department of Health and Human Services. That equaled 22.9 victims per 1,000 children statewide, making it the highest per capita rate in the country.

The next-highest rates of reported child abuse were in Kentucky (20.6), Rhode Island (16), New York (15.5), and New Mexico (15.2).

In the fiscal year ended in September 2015, the state tallied 31,114 victims, or 22.4 per 1,000 children.

National figures are not yet available for the more recent year.

State officials attributed the increased number of reported cases to greater public awareness and increased vigilance by the state.

Advocates also blamed the opioid crisis, pointing to a number of cases in which addicted parents had abusedor neglected their children.

That's a different file.

“The issue of child abuse and neglect is now in the forefront of everybody’s minds in the Commonwealth,” said Maria Z. Mossaides, head of the state Office of the Child Advocate. “What we’re seeing is the cumulative effect of a handful of very tragic cases, and the continued attention to this issue on the part of key policy makers.”

Public attention on the state’s child welfare system intensified in December 2013, when the Department of Children and Families announced that it had lost track of a Fitchburg preschooler, Jeremiah Oliver. He was later found dead by the side of a highway.

A string of other heartbreaking stories followed, and with them several reports critical of the DCF. The agency has been hobbled by high caseloads for social workers, a backlog of cases, and an overwhelmed foster care system.

Governor Charlie Baker has proposed allocating $12 million for 281 new hires at the DCF, including scores of social workers and 22 supervisors, and ordered a number of improvements, including more thorough investigations for the increasing number of cases.

I think he just cut all that in the latest budget theater. And they're off!

The state is “initiating an unprecedented, multi-pronged and multi-year reform effort to keep kids safe,” DCF spokeswoman Andrea Grossman said in response to the latest child abuse figures.

The federal report, released late last month, was a compilation of child abuse and neglect statistics nationwide for fiscal 2014.

The total number of children victimized in Massachusetts during fiscal 2014 was 57 percent higher than in the prior year, when 20,307 children were victimized, and far higher than in any year since 2010, the earliest year of data included in the report.

Nationally, 702,208 children were reported to have been abused and neglected during fiscal 2014, or about 9.4 victims per 1,000 children, less than half the Massachusetts rate, the report said.

The total number of victimized children in the United States was about 2.9 percent higher than it was in the year before.

Rafael López, commissioner of the Administration on Children, Youth and Families at Health and Human Services, said state officials across the nation have reported that parental drug abuse, mental health issues, and domestic violence are contributing to increases in child abuse and neglect.

“We need to shift our focus to the front-end prevention of child abuse and neglect and make sure that families get the help they need when they need it,” López said in a statement.

Mary McGeown, president and chief executive of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, said research showed that children whose parents abuse drugs or alcohol are three times more likely to be abused and four times more likely to be neglected than children whose parents don’t abuse substances.

Massachusetts has been hit hard by the opioid epidemic, and that “is having a bad outcome for kids,” she said.

A 48 percent increase in neglect — by far the most common type of maltreatment, both locally and nationally — appears to have driven much of the increase in the victims tally.

“An increase in neglect is often tied to drug abuse,” said professor David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire.

McGeown said other underlying factors are poverty and a lack of stable housing.

“Kids who live in poverty are 22 percent more likely to be abused or neglected than children raised not in poverty,” she said.

State Senator Michael J. Barrett, the former Senate chairman of the Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities, said:

“The question is now, since we probably have a better sense of what we’re confronted with than many other states do, what’s our next move?”

He said the state would have to spend more money to make its system of monitoring children effective.

McGeown said she was encouraged by steps the state has taken to address the DCF’s shortcomings and the opioid epidemic, but more needs to be done in other areas.

“We need to make sure we look at the larger community and see what can we do to help these kids and their families long before they reach DCF,” she said.



Mass. child abuse deaths drop

Not all the news is good
DCF reforms will require workers to focus on family problems

The state’s Department of Children and Families is beleaguered.

There’s only one place in the US that pays more for child care than Mass.

That's why I call it Ma$$achusetts!

Also see: DCF Cases

More cases piled up on the desk:

"Man admits sexually abusing, torturing step-daughters" by John R. Ellement Globe Staff  February 10, 2016

A North Andover man Wednesday pleaded guilty to charges that he physically and sexually abused two stepdaughters for years, sometimes by demeaning their ethnic heritage, forcing them to use the Nazi salute, and twisting their tongues with pliers, Essex prosecutors said. 

I suppose it's not just priests, and all hail Joe Pa!

The stepfather was identified as Justin Ladd, 35, who, according to prosecutors, repeatedly abused the two girls over a five-year period, and whose father is ethnically Dominican, telling them they “aren’t white, they aren’t right,’’ ordering them to dance like monkeys, and hitting them with a hammer, belt, and pieces of wood.

He also admitted to exposing himself to them and threatening to have members of the Hells Angels motorcycle gang rape and murder them if they disclosed the pain he was inflicting on them. Ladd, who has “white power’’ tattoos, had a Nazi swastika on the walls in his home and ordered the girls to give him the Nazi salute, prosecutors said.

Overdoing it a bit, isn't he?

He was sentenced to four to five years in state prison and five years probation after his release, when, among other requirements, he is to attend a parenting class. He will also be required to wear a GPS monitoring bracelet once released from prison.

His wife, identified by prosecutors as 34-year-old Anne Ladd, pleaded guilty to two counts of reckless endangerment of a child and two counts of permitting bodily injury to a child, prosecutors said.

She was sentenced to five years probation, a term recommended by both prosecutors and the defense, and may only see her children while under the supervision of the Department of Children and Families — if her daughters want to see her, prosecutors said.

The teens have been placed in foster care, prosecutors said. 

I don't know what's worse, the sexual abuse or the torture.


Maybe he would have gotten away with it had he worked for the government.

3-year-old Kenai Whyte is ‘driving around in heaven with the angels’

Kenai Whyte was a child left in danger

"A Roxbury woman is being held without bail after pleading not guilty Wednesday to allegations that she beat her 3-year-old stepson to death, an attack that authorities said left young Kenai Whyte bruised, bloodied, and suffering from a broken neck. Prosecutors gave no indication about their theory of what led to the attack, but.... No bail for stepmother accused in death of Roxbury 3-year-old"

Stepmother was sole caretaker when Roxbury boy was injured, prosecutor says

Toddler dies after fall into West Newbury pond

Toddler who drowned in West Newbury pond identified

4-month-old boy found dead in Chelsea

He was just wandering around....

"4-year-old child found wandering Boston street" by John R. Ellement Globe Staff  February 23, 2016

He was wearing his pajamas, but he had his sneakers on. He knew his name, both first and last.

And the 4-year-old boy definitely knew his destination as he walked on Blue Hill Avenue in Dorchester around 3 a.m. Tuesday.

“He said he was heading to the store to get chocolate,’’ a Boston police officer wrote of officers’ early morning encounter with the boy.

Officers went to the Dorchester residence where they found a sleeping mother who was shocked to learn that her child had made his way out of her home and out onto the street, said Officer Stephen McNulty, a department spokesman.

Police alerted the Department of Children and Families about the child’s early morning jaunt, McNulty said. He said police plan to let the child protection agency take over the case....


RelatedParents of toddler found alone didn’t come forward for nearly a day

They ended up removing the kid and sending him to Utah.

"13-year-old boy steals SUV for ride from Foxborough to Boston.... The teen had been in the care of The Home for Little Wanderers, which said it will work with state officials to determine whether he will end up in the custody of the state Department of Youth Services or return to “a child welfare facility.’’

That a joke?

"New state police unit to target child trafficking" by Joshua Miller Globe Staff  April 05, 2016

Top state officials announced Tuesday a new four-person State Police unit targeting human trafficking cases that involve children.

At a State House event, officials also announced policies clarifying that minors who are sexually exploited — paid for sex, for instance — are not criminals, but victims of child abuse who should be aided by the state Department of Children and Families.

The push “will help us bring this issue to the forefront and, most importantly, help the children that are victimized and that are hurting in too many places here in our Commonwealth,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito, who leads a state council on preventing domestic violence and sexual assault, at a news conference.

Detective Lieutenant Pi Downsbrough, a nearly 25-year veteran of the State Police, is in charge of the unit, which includes three other troopers, and has been up and running for a few weeks.

Downsbrough said its focus will be children under 18 who are being exploited and trafficked for sex. But “there is no bright line when you’re doing these investigations,” she said, so if there are older victims, the unit will also ensure there is a criminal investigation and work to get the victims help.

Asked how common child sex trafficking is in Massachusetts, Polito said part of the problem is that is underreported because “it’s an activity that is very much in the shadows.” The lieutenant governor said part of the reason for the administration’s efforts is to bring the crime to the forefront.

Especially when it comes to elite that rule or world. The pre$$ and authority helped to hide that because if the public knew what compromised perverts they were being told to love that would be the end of them.

The policy change, which is implementing a shift in the law, will mandate that when there is a case of child sexual exploitation — for example, a minor being paid for sex — there will be a response from DCF in addition to law enforcement. DCF could help place victims in foster homes or provide social services, while law enforcement could target the traffickers. 

Doesn't DCF have enough to handle without this? Or is this just a way of inserting the police state into another institution like the zoos?

“A youth who has been commercially sexually exploited — until the law changed and we changed the policy — they could have been prosecuted as a prostitute,” said Marylou Sudders, state secretary of health and human services. “So now what happens is, it is seen as a form of child abuse or neglect.”

When the state does it via social service cuts and such.... aaah! They looking out for you!


Whatever you do, don't leave before your case is closed:

"Woman who said she fled to protect daughter is convicted" by Nestor Ramos Globe Staff  April 06, 2016

A North Shore woman who fled Massachusetts in 2012, after she said her daughter had accused her ex-husband of sexual abuse, was found guilty of custodial kidnapping in Newburyport District Court on Wednesday.

Miranda Drew, 30, was not acting in fear of imminent danger to her child when she packed up and left for New Mexico, Judge Mary McCabe ruled at the conclusion of the three-day bench trial, and she had not pursued every legal avenue available before she fled.

McCabe sentenced Drew, who’d waived her right to a jury at the trial’s outset, to one year of incarceration. The sentence was suspended for two years, requiring Drew to comply with Probate Court orders in order to stay out of the house of corrections. She was also ordered to pay restitution to James Stanley for his efforts to retrieve the girl from New Mexico.

Whether Drew, 30, absconded with the girl was not in question during the trial. Instead, the case and the questions it raised about how the Department of Children and Families and the state’s probate and family courts handle abuse allegations that emerge during custody disputes were the subject of a Globe investigation and subsequent story in January.

Stanley has never been criminally charged with abusing his daughter, and a forensic trauma investigator for the Essex district attorney’s office, Patricia Snyder-Mathews, testified that two interviews with the girl did not produce clear, consistent allegations against Stanley.

Stanley denied the allegations in an interview with the Globe over the winter and in court on Wednesday.

“All I’ve ever done is try to co-parent,” Stanley said. “Neither of us is perfect. But I never raped nor molested anybody.”

Stanley was also the subject of sexual abuse allegations brought by a daughter from a previous relationship and was charged as a juvenile with the rape of his younger sister — charges that were eventually dropped....

They fumbled them, so to speak.


Still loose....

"State failing on granting quick hearings in DCF cases" by Michael Levenson Globe Staff  May 06, 2016

Low-income parents are waiting days or even weeks to contest the removal of their children by child protection officials because of a shortage of attorneys available to represent them in Juvenile Court, judges and lawyers say.

State law guarantees families a hearing within 72 hours of the removal of a child, as a critical first check on the power of the state to remove children based on allegations of abuse or neglect.

But court officials say that as the number of abuse cases has increased sharply over the last several years, they cannot find enough lawyers to handle the cases within the required time frame. 

Then they are violating the law, aren't they?

As a result, the so-called 72-hour hearings are routinely delayed, sometimes by three to four weeks, depriving parents of their right to argue that their child should be returned to them or placed with a relative, judges and lawyers said. The child, meanwhile, remains in foster care.

Justice delayed is justice denied.

“Anytime you have indigent litigants who have a right to a hearing, and lawyers are not available, it’s unjust,” said Carol A. Erskine, the first justice of the Worcester Juvenile Court. “It is critical that lawyers be made available to these parents and children so that the court can provide them with the hearing, which is their constitutional and statutory right.”

Court officials said the delays are part of the fallout from the opioid crisis, which has led to more children being removed from their drug-addicted parents.

That's become a good catch-all for all the ills of society, isn't it?

The Department of Children and Families has also been placing more children in foster care following a string of tragedies in recent years, including the case of Jeremiah Oliver, a Fitchburg boy who went missing in 2013 while under DCF supervision and was later found dead.

Statewide, the number of petitions filed by DCF to have children removed from their homes jumped by 38 percent, from 2,459 to 3,383, between 2011 and 2015. This year, removals are on track to reach a record high.

I don't have any parental advice for you, folks. 

“Ultimately, that increase in cases brought by DCF has taxed the entire system, so that we’re beyond capacity,” said Michael Dsida, who oversees the division of the state public defender agency that represents low-income parents and children in removal cases.

Jodi Rich, a lawyer, recalled one recent case in which a father drove from Georgia to Worcester Juvenile Court after his child was removed from the mother’s home. But the child’s case could not be heard that day because no lawyers were available.

“This is the first time I’ve seen cases get continued on a routine basis,” said Rich, who has practiced for 16 years. “It really feels like the whole system is breaking down.”

And now their budgets are being cut.

Mary Ann McGinnis, a Worcester lawyer, said she had a case in March delayed by 12 days.

When the case was finally heard, the court dismissed the allegation that the child, who was younger than 5, had been abused, and returned the child to the parents.

“Those parents were without their child for 12 days,” McGinnis said. “They didn’t have custody. They had to have supervised visits. . . . And after they got to their 72-hour hearing, they won. They got custody back.”

Amy L. Nechtem, chief justice of the Massachusetts Juvenile Court, said the state must recruit and train more lawyers to represent parents and children in removal cases.

“Judges are ready to try these cases when they come in, but we can’t hear them without counsel,” she said. “It’s absolutely a very, very serious problem for us.”

The state currently has 100 public defenders available to represent families who cannot afford their own lawyer.

Another 700 private lawyers have been certified by the Committee for Public Counsel Services to take the cases. But many accept the cases only on a part-time basis, as part of a general law practice, Dsida said.

The private lawyers are also capped at 75 cases each and cannot bill the state for more than 1,800 hours per year, under state law.

Rich said that if the cap on the number of cases were lifted, it could help alleviate the problem.

While 75 cases may sound like a lot for one lawyer to handle, she said, some in her own caseload date back years and are relatively dormant.

“I’m certainly able to handle it, and in a crisis like this, I would take more, and yet I can’t,” she said. “I understand the restriction, but I should be able to manage my own practice.”

But Dsida cautioned against allowing lawyers to handle more than 75 cases.

“My fear with increasing the ceiling is we will end up with a lot of lawyers being persuaded to take more cases than they’re capable of handling, and clients will not get the representation they’re constitutionally entitled to get — both parents and children,” he said.

The pay rate — $50 an hour — also makes it difficult to recruit lawyers willing to handle the emotionally charged cases, lawyers said.

In July, the rate will increase to $55 an hour, the first bump granted by the Legislature in a decade.

To truly reduce the lawyer shortage, Dsida said, DCF should begin taking fewer children into custody.

“Yes, we need more lawyers, and we’re taking the steps we can reasonably take to try to add capacity,” he said. “My hope is that DCF will start providing more services to families in their own homes, and enable some families to stay together.”

Andrea Grossman, a DCF spokeswoman, said the agency removes children only when necessary.

“The department takes its responsibility to keep children safe very seriously and removes children from their homes when there is an immediate safety risk,” she said.

“While the 72-hour hearings and custody are scheduled and determined by the courts, the department believes parents should have timely hearings and adequate representation.”


I'm so frustrated I'm shaking....

"Pediatricians call on governor for review of shaken baby cases" by Patricia Wen Globe Staff  May 04, 2016

A group representing 1,800 pediatricians in Massachusetts is calling on Governor Charlie Baker to launch a review of the state medical examiner’s office, after it changed its determination on three infant deaths in the past two years.

The letter from the Massachusetts chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests the medical examiner’s office is allowing defense medical experts to have outsized influence, prior to trial, in cases involving “shaken-baby” death investigations. In the three cases, child fatalities originally deemed to be homicides were later changed to be of “undetermined” cause.

“Publicly available information questions whether individual examiners may have been influenced by participating attorneys and paid reports from defense medical experts,” according to the letter obtained by the Globe. “Sadly, these extraordinary and alarming events call into question both the capacity and independence of our medical examiner’s office.”

A spokesman for the governor, whose secretary of public safety oversees the medical examiner’s office, did not comment on whether Baker would undertake a review of the office but noted the office had received a $1 million boost from the governor....

At the point the baby started crying.


RelatedSJC orders new trial in ‘shaken baby’ case

Also seeBaby’s death at Lynn shelter investigated

NDUSJC orders new trial in 2007 ‘shaken baby’ case

Related: "A 4-year-old Brockton girl and her 2-year-old brother were recovered by Brockton police on Monday afternoon after they were found wandering on Nye Avenue, police said. A resident called police at around 4:30 p.m. after seeing the children in the middle of the street, a block away from their home, Brockton police said in a statement. The children were taken to a local hospital while police canvassed the area looking for their parents, police said. Their mother later called police looking for her children and met them at the hospital, police said. They were away from their mother for a little more than two hours. Authorities are investigating the circumstances that led to the children being unattended, police said."

Also see:

Brockton toddler wandered alone to a Dairy Queen

4-month-old boy at Lynn shelter died of natural causes

Woburn toddler dies while in the care of a family friend

Dead Woburn boy’s twin in DCF custody

Babysitter accused of being drunk on job