U.S. Military Has Ignored Child Sex Abuse by Afghan Forces

The U.S. military showed little interest for years in investigating widespread sexual abuse of children by Afghan security forces it funds and trains, says the U.S. special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction. The scale of the problem remains unclear due to a lack of guidance on how to respond to suspected cases, a lack of training on how to report them, and reluctance to do so for fear of reprisals.

The U.S. military showed little interest for years in investigating widespread sexual abuse of children by Afghan security forces it still funds and trains, says a report from the U.S. special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction. The scale of the problem remains unclear due to a lack of guidance on how to respond to suspected cases, a lack of training on how to report them, and in some cases reluctance to do so for fear of reprisals, said the special inspector general, The Guardian reports. “The full extent of child sexual assault committed by Afghan security forces may never be known,” the report said.

Two-thirds of the people and organisations interviewed for the report said they were aware of “child sexual assault incidents or related exploitation by Afghan security forces. The investigation was requested by 93 members of Congress, after the New York Times warned that child sex assault was “rampant” among Afghan forces. The practice should raise serious concerns about U.S. support, under legislation known as the Leahy Law. This bars U.S. military units from providing funds, training or other aid to foreign military units that are involved in serious human rights abuses. A technical provision – “the notwithstanding clause” – has allowed the Pentagon to keep a flow of training, equipment and other aid to units that have committed serious violations, if they are considered necessary for U.S. national security. That has effectively allowed funding authorities to ignore the Leahy Law, the report said, a practice it said Congress should consider ending.

from https://thecrimereport.org

How Did CA Couple’s Child Abuse Go Undiscovered?

Since Louise and David Turpin were charged with multiple felony counts of torture, child abuse, abuse of dependent adults and false imprisonment, the people who knew or met them are trying to figure out how the siblings’ alleged abuse was not detected for so long.

Louise and David Turpin were married 33 years ago but have renewed their wedding vows in Las Vegas at least three times. After hearing that the couple were accused of starving their 13 children and chaining them to their beds, Kent Ripley, the Elvis impersonator who presided over their ceremonies, pulled up videos where the siblings, in matching outfits and similar haircuts, smiled and danced. “Watching them now it’s kind of haunting and disturbing,” Ripley told the Associated Press. “They all looked young and thin but I figured it was just their lifestyle. Maybe the activities they did, maybe because of their religious beliefs … I knew they were a fun family.”

Since the Turpin parents were charged with multiple felony counts of torture, child abuse, abuse of dependent adults and false imprisonment, the people who knew or met them are trying to figure out how the siblings’ alleged abuse went undiscovered for so long, reports the Washington Post. The siblings, who range in age from 2 to 29, were severely malnourished when they were rescued from the Turpin’s Perris, Ca., home on Jan. 14. When they weren’t chained they were fed very little food on a schedule. Louise Turpin’s sister, Teresa Robinette, recalls how the nature of her video calls with her nieces and nephews changed over time, until she was no longer allowed to speak with them. “They were very friendly, but it was a very weird conversation every time because they weren’t real talkative,” she told NBC’s “Megyn Kelly Today.” “When she let me video-Skype to them, it got to where instead of having them all together like we did years and years ago … she would bring in one or two or three at a time, and then she would send them out and tell them to send down so-and-so.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

CA Couple Arrested for Shackling Children to Beds

David and Louise Turpin were charged with torture and child endangerment after deputies found their 13 children confined at home, some of them shackled to their beds with chains and padlocks.

Riverside County, Ca., sheriff’s deputies entering a home in Perris, Ca., found “several children shackled to their beds with chains and padlocks in dark and foul-smelling surroundings,” the Los Angeles Times reports. Parents David Turpin, 57, and Louise Turpin, 49, “were unable to immediately provide a logical reason why their children were restrained in that manner,” deputies said. The couple, who had 13 children, were arrested on suspicion of torture and child endangerment and each was being held in lieu of $9-million bail. The youngest child was 2. At first deputies assumed from their frail and malnourished appearance that all in the group were minors, but they determined that seven of them were adults ages 18 to 29.

The address is also listed in a state directory as the location of the Sandcastle Day School, with six students enrolled. David Turpin’s parents, James and Betty Turpin of West Virginia, told ABC News they were “surprised and shocked” at the allegations. They said their grandchildren are home-schooled, and that they had not seen their son and daughter-in-law in four or five years. The neighborhood where the children were found is a development of neat ranch-style homes built in recent years. A lot about the family struck a neighbor as strange. The children she saw were very pale, and she often wondered why, if there were so many children in the house, they never came out to play.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Did ‘Repressed Memory’ Falsely Convict Jerry Sandusky?

Author Mark Pendergrast claims the former Penn State defensive football coach was a victim of “media frenzy” and a distorted use of repressed memory which led to his conviction for child sex abuse. In a conversation with TCR about his new book, he explains why he believes Sandusky should get a new trial.

In 2012, former Penn State defensive football coach Jerry Sandusky was found guilty of 45 counts of sexual abuse of young boys over a 15-year period from 1994 to 2009. He is now serving a 30-60 year sentence in Pennsylvania’s SCI Greenesupermax” prison.

But in a recent book, journalist Mark Pendergrast claims that a closer look at the evidence presented at trial shows Sandusky is likely innocent.

sanduskyPendergrast argues, in The Most Hated Man in America: Jerry Sandusky and the Rush to Judgment, that the charges were largely the result of efforts by aggressive police investigators and recovered memory therapists who encouraged boys to “remember” molestations that may not have occurred. Pendergrast published his original arguments in The Crime Report in 2016.

In a conversation with TCR writer Megan Hadley, he discusses how his earlier work on the “repressed memory” phenomenon led him to investigate the Sandusky case, why he believes “greed” and media frenzy helped to distort the facts, and how the “rush to judgment” may similarly have ensnared others who have been wrongly accused of campus sex abuse.

The Crime Report: Where did your interest in the Jerry Sandusky scandal begin?

Mark Pendergrast: In 2013, I got an email from a woman who read my book about repressed memories, and she wanted to know if I paid any attention to the Jerry Sandusky case. She said that it involved repressed memory therapy. At the time I didn’t know anything about it. I assumed Sandusky was guilty, particularly because of Mike McQueary, a graduate student at Penn State who had seen him abusing a child in the shower. But when I looked into it, I found McQueary didn’t actually see anything; he only heard sounds. Then I got the trial transcripts and really dug into the case. Frankly, I became obsessed with it. I believe it is very likely Sandusky is innocent.

 TCR: In your book you explain how a media frenzy can cause the public to panic. Is that what happened in this case?

Pendergrast: There have been several moral panics throughout history where everyone assumes someone’s guilt and it becomes a mass rush to take action. That clearly did happen in the Sandusky case. The media jumped on the grand jury presentation, and it became a feeding frenzy. Within a week Joe Paterno, the longtime coach, had been fired, the president of the college was fired, two other administrators were accused of hiding the abuse, and basically Penn State became the epicenter of a media feeding frenzy.

 TCR: In your book, you cite repressed memory therapists, police officers, and alleged victims as reasons why Jerry Sandusky was falsely accused. So who is to blame?

Pendergrast: They are all to blame. It started with a 15-year-old, Aaron Fisher, who didn’t want to spend so much time with Sandusky anymore. The pattern that I basically uncovered was that Jerry Sandusky would try to be a mentor to troubled young men who were in the Second Mile program and many of them at 14 or 15 started to pull away from him. He was concerned they would get into drugs and bad habits, and from the young men’s point of view, it was like rebelling against a parent. Aaron told his mother one weekend that Sandusky made him feel weird and he asked his mother about websites for sex offenders. His mother then decided this would be a meal ticket, according to the neighbor who lived next door to them in a public housing project.

So Fisher was sent to (Clinton County psychiatrist Dr.) Mike Gillum, who was absolutely sure from the beginning that Sandusky was an evil molester. Although Gillum denies he practiced repressed memory therapy, that is clearly what he did. He believed that Aaron was too scared or didn’t remember the abuse, and he needed to be educated about how the brain works. Gillum was sure Sandusky fit the profile of a terrible pedophile. It seems fairly clear that without Mike Gillum going after Fischer, none of these abuse allegations would have happened. I blame Mike Gillum. But I also blame greed. I think from the very beginning Fisher and his mother thought there might be a lot of money in this.

 TCR: What are your opinions about the Harvey Weinstein and Hollywood sex abuse scandal? Do you believe Weinstein’s victims are lying and seeking attention/ money as you claim Sandusky’s victims were?

Pendergrast: I don’t think so. I read the New Yorker piece and it all struck me as being researched and accurate. I think the Weinstein story is true and I think it unleashed a flood of allegations, most of which seem substantial and reasonable.

In the case of Harvey Weinstein, it would appear everyone knew he was doing this for years— unlike Sandusky, where nobody made any accusations. Weinstein is apparently quite guilty, and many of the other people are too. I think most women have been subjected to unwanted sexual advances at one time or another, almost every woman in America.

TCR: You state “allegations of sexual abuse on college campuses involving sports figures may be particularly susceptible to a rush to judgment.” What other parts of our society do you believe are highly susceptible to a rush to judgment’?

Pendergrast: Fraternities. Any allegations involving fraternities are assumed to be true because so many of them are true. In my book, I cited the University of Virginia case, where there was a false allegation reported in Rolling Stone and widely accepted. Or the Duke University lacrosse players.

The interesting thing about this is the way that the media has treated it. Because the case was debunked and thrown out and the players were exonerated, everyone rushed to write books about it. The difference between the Duke Lacrosse case and the Sandusky case was that Sandusky was found guilty and nobody wants to look at any alternative.

So far, the appeal process in Pennsylvania has upheld that judgment. Part of the problem in Pennsylvania is that nobody who is elected is going to want to be “soft on pedophiles,” certainly not the “evil” Jerry Sandusky. And the judges in Pennsylvania are all elected, so it is extremely unlikely that any Pennsylvania judge is going to grant a new trial to Sandusky. I am hopeful however, that when it reaches the federal level, he will get a new trial because his current lawyers did an excellent job at presenting the case.

So I have not lost all hope. But this innocent man is sitting in solitary confinement in prison, and it is remarkable that he has kept his sanity.

TCR: What role did the police play in the possibly wrongful conviction of Sandusky?

Pendergrast: There is something called confirmation bias that psychologists write about, and it means that you are looking for a presumption of guilt that you have already have. That is what the police did. They were not the least bit interested in children who said Sandusky was a great guy and he didn’t abuse them. [Officers] made it clear to these young boys they didn’t believe them and they said “if you remember something at 3 in the morning call us.” They would cross-contaminate by saying “many other people said [Sandusky] has done ‘this and this and this, how about you?’ ” [Officers] would make [the young boys] feel that they were failing, hiding, or lying if they didn’t say Sandusky had abused them.

People who believe Sandusky is guilty will say “young boys are ashamed of having been involved with a man in sexual abuse and will often hide it.” I think there is some truth to that. But it is extremely unlikely that none of these 35 young men who came forward told no one. Nobody suspected anything. So the police methodology was terrible and they trolled for victims. It wasn’t a matter of anyone spontaneously coming forward until, finally, after the grand jury presentment was out, people came forward, because it became obvious there was going to be a lot of money involved here.

You want to know who is to blame? Penn State is to blame. Penn State was terrified about looking bad, so they assumed guilt and fell all over themselves, giving away millions of dollars to basically anybody without any kind of due process.

 TCR: You quote from Mikhail Khorev, a Russian Baptist leader imprisoned for more than three decades in the former Soviet Union, who said, “It was interesting to see what lengths the state officials had gone to prove to themselves that I was a criminal.” Is this what happened in the case of Jerry Sandusky?

Pendergrast: Yes. But we also see that in many cases of DNA exoneration. People whose DNA proves they are innocent. But once the prosecutors and the police decided somebody was guilty, they would ignore any evidence of somebody else being guilty. So the real murderer or rapist went free while they were prosecuting the wrong person. And even when the DNA evidence exonerated [the innocent], the prosecutors and the police refused to admit they did anything wrong. It’s hard for somebody to admit they did anything wrong.

mark pendergrast

Mark Pendergrast

It is significant that there was no childhood pornography found on Sandusky’s computer or phone. The irony of all this, is that the prosecutors were sending racist, gross pornography to each other the whole time while investigating Sandusky, who is as pure as snow. He was considered to be something of a saint before the total vilification. But he was a very naive kind of guy. His children referred to it as a Mayberry world he lived in. All of Sandusky’s children (besides the one who went to repressed memory therapy) are sure he is innocent, but won’t say it in public because they are afraid for their own careers and families.

TCR: You say “False confessions are far more common, and easier to elicit, than most people realize.” How so?

Pendergrast: The police can lie to people. It’s possible for them to lie and say “oh your friend said you did it and we saw you.” Or maybe the police will tell the alleged victims they blacked out or repressed the memory. Many of those kids are sleep deprived and frantic, and they will say anything to get out of there. It happens.

TCR: Have you gotten any backlash for writing your book? Perhaps from victims, their families, or advocate groups?

Pendergrast: No, there has not been. However, the only book interview I could get was with one of the alleged victims. Nobody else would talk to me.

Editor’s Note: In a related book, Memory Warp, Pendergrast takes a critical look at the phenomenon of repressed memory. For more information on this and other publications by Pendergrast, he invites readers to check out his website.

Megan Hadley is a staff writer for The Crime Report. Readers’ comments are welcome.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Dr. Roy Meadow and His Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy Doctrine

     In 1977, a pediatrician from England published the results of an investigation he had conducted into the cases of 81 infants whose deaths had been classified either as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) or natural death. The study,…

     In 1977, a pediatrician from England published the results of an investigation he had conducted into the cases of 81 infants whose deaths had been classified either as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) or natural death. The study, by Dr. Roy Meadow of St. James University Hospital in Leeds, covered a period of 18 years. His article, "Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy: The Hinterlands of Child Abuse," which appeared in the journal Lancet, was shocking in its implications. Dr. Meadow claimed that these 81 babies had, in fact, been murdered, and that the forensic pathologists who had performed the autopsies had ignored obvious signs of physical abuse in the form of broken bones, scars, objects lodged in air passages, and toxic substances in their blood and urine. He came close to accusing some of these pathologists of helping patients, mostly mothers, of getting away with murder.

     The Munchausen Syndrome, a psychological disorder identified in 1951 by Richard Asher, described patients who injured themselves, or made themselves sick, to attract sympathy and attention. Asher named the syndrome after Baron von Munchausen, a man known for telling tale tales. Dr. Meadow added "by proxy" because the people gaining sympathy and attention from illnesses and injuries were not hurting themselves. They were getting sympathy and attention by injuring and sickening their infants and children.

     In his landmark article in Lancet, Dr. Meadow profiled some of the pediatric cases that had puzzled him in the early 1970s. For example, he was treating a young boy who had extremely high salt levels in his blood that adversely affected his kidneys. Because there was no way the boy could have eaten this much salt, Dr. Meadow came to suspect that the mother, a nurse, was force-feeding salt into the child through a nasal tube. When Dr. Meadow voiced his hypothesis to his colleagues at the hospital, they ridiculed him. In this case, however, the boy's mother confessed to exactly what Dr. Meadow had suspected. Her intent had not been to kill her child, but to use him as a way to make herself a center of attraction at the hospital, an environment she found exciting and romantic.

     After the publication of Dr. Meadow's shocking article, physicians all over the world sent him accounts of cases similar to the ones he had described in his Lancet piece. Even Dr. Meadow was shocked by some of these stories--cases that involved punctured eardrums, and induced blindness, as well as inflicted respiratory problems, stomach ailments, and allergy attacks. Years later, Dr. Meadow would design a controversial experiment involving hidden cameras in hospital rooms where suspected MSBP victims were being treated. Of the 39 children under surveillance, the cameras caught 33 parents creating breathing problems by putting their hands, bodies, or pillows over the victim's faces. Staff members monitoring nearby television screens quickly entered the hospital rooms, causing the abusers to discontinue their assaults. In England and the United States, some of these videotaped episodes were later shown on commercial television. After that exposure, MSBP was no longer an obscure psychological disorder.

     In the years that followed Dr. Meadow's initial research into these child abuse and infant death cases, he came to believe that the vast majority of MSBP perpetrators were women, and that one-third of them were either nurses, or women who worked in some other capacity within the health care industry. His research also suggested that many of these mothers were married to men who were cold and indifferent, and that at least part of the motive behind making their children ill was an attempt to emotionally energize their spouses. According to Dr. Meadow, many MSBP women also enjoyed the attention and sympathy they received from physicians and nurses.

     Because of his groundbreaking work on behalf of helpless and endangered children, Dr. Meadow received a lot of attention himself. He was in great demand as an MSBP consultant, was asked to give speeches and presentations all over the world, and testified as an expert witness in dozens of high-profile murder trials. In England, he received a knighthood in recognition of his contribution to the fields of medicine and forensic science. As a result of his testimony in homicide trials involving multiple SIDS deaths in the same family, his comment that "one [SIDS death] in a family is a tragedy, two is suspicious, and three is murder," became widely known as Meadow's Law. (In the United States it's referred to as "the rule of three.")

     In Great Britain, in a handful of homicide trials between 1996 and 1999, Dr. Meadow's theory that three SIDS cases in one family equals murder, was challenged by the defendants. As a result, Meadow's Law is no longer a court recognized doctrine in England. (Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy in Great Britain is now called, "fabricated illness.")

     In the United States, a new version of this personality disorder emerged. Called Munchausen Syndrome by Internet, mothers seek sympathy and attention by faking their own illnesses--mainly cancer--online in support groups and other social networks. At present, this version of the syndrome is not recognized by the American Psychiatric Association. While there is no known cure for the Munchausen Syndrome generally, the virtual form of this disorder does not involve actual self-harm, or the abuse of children.


from http://jimfishertruecrime.blogspot.com/

10 Horrific Cases of Fatal Child Abuse

Physical and sexual abuse against children is a heartbreaking reality worldwide. In the United States alone, 1,850 children die each year from some form of child abuse. Many factors contribute to child abuse, including poverty, alcohol, and drugs. While all child abuse is horrific, the particular cases listed here caused major shock and outrage throughout their … Continue reading “10 Horrific Cases of Fatal Child Abuse”

The post 10 Horrific Cases of Fatal Child Abuse appeared first on True Crime Diva.

Physical and sexual abuse against children is a heartbreaking reality worldwide. In the United States alone, 1,850 children die each year from some form of child abuse. Many factors contribute to child abuse, including poverty, alcohol, and drugs. While all child abuse is horrific, the particular cases listed here caused major shock and outrage throughout their … Continue reading "10 Horrific Cases of Fatal Child Abuse"

The post 10 Horrific Cases of Fatal Child Abuse appeared first on True Crime Diva.

from https://truecrimediva.com

‘There’s No Such Thing as a Child Prostitute’

California’s efforts to implement two major new laws to help sex-trafficked kids are hampered by cultural stereotypes held by law enforcement and some legislators that criminalize the youngsters, a Los Angeles journalist discovers.

Despite California’s efforts to switch to a victim-centered approach for its sexually trafficked youngsters, change has not come easily or quickly.

In the last two years, two important and well-intentioned new laws affecting youth who have been sexually exploited have been passed, but the culture surrounding the issue of trafficked young people is still hard to change, according to Leslie Heimov, executive director of the Children’s Law Center of California, and chair of the California CSEC Action Team Committee.

She points for example to California’s State Bill SB 855, passed in 2014, which allocating $14 million in funding to provide state-mandated local training for foster care workers plus implementation of support programs for victims of commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC).

It marked the beginning of getting people to look at the entire problem differently, but  it still did not clearly identify CSEC kids as victims of abuse, Heimov said.

“Even within the child welfare community these victims weren’t victims — they were criminals — young people who were making conscious choices to sell themselves for sex.”

The initial goals for those who work with trafficked youngsters are in many ways heartbreakingly basic, said Diane Iglesias, senior deputy director of the state Department of Children and Family Services.

After identifying the affected young people and getting them into a support network, she said, workers hope to persuade their traumatized charges not to run away from their safe housing and back to their pimps who, while abusive, are at least familiar.

Only once the cycle of running away is broken, she said, can the trafficked young people embrace treatment.

“The challenging thing to understand is where on a continuum, from group home, to remote location, to locked up, does this child need to be,” she said.

Yet, even more basic than those concerns is the fact that, until very recently, trafficked kids were still being arrested.

Senate Bill 1322 passed in 2016, banned law enforcement from arresting minors involved in the sex trade, except when their safety may be at risk. This bill was an enormous and essential step in treating sex trafficked kids as the victims they are and directing them toward social services, rather than cells, child advocates say.

Sponsored by Democratic Sen. Holly Mitchell and signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown, SB 1322 became active on Jan. 1, 2017, formalizing a statewide commitment to recognize these young people as crime victims with unique vulnerabilities — not as criminals.

But passing a law is one thing, changing a culture’s perception is another.

On Dec. 31, 2016, the day before the law was to kick into gear, Republican state Assemblyman Travis Allen published an op-ed in the Washington Examiner stating falsely that California had just “legalized child prostitution.”

The Glacial Pace of Cultural Change

Now, even with SB 1322 in place, for certain segments of the culture, such as law enforcement, the shift in perspective has been complicated.

“Los Angeles is doing a better job of getting law enforcement to the table, but statewide it has been very difficult,” Heimov explained. “The challenge is, we have some [officers] saying, ‘Well, now that there’s no crime, there’s nothing we can do’ and that is a part of the attitude and culture change.”

Leslie Heimov. Photo courtesy Children’s Law Center.

Police have two main functions in serving their communities, she said. One is to prevent, stop or react to crime; the other is the peace officer or safety role.

So, “when they see a member of the community in distress, they’re supposed to do something about it,” Heimov said. “If a cop sees a 4-year-old alone on the street corner they don’t just walk away because the child isn’t committing a crime.

“They’re supposed to investigate why the child is alone and bring them to safety.”

Similarly, if a police officer sees a person on the street in the early hours of the morning and she appears to be a trafficked minor, the police officer’s proper role is to bring her to safety.

“But there’s a lot of law enforcement that is not there yet because they haven’t completely made that emotional shift to seeing the child who looks like a prostitute as a victim,” Heimov said.

Maheen Kaleem, attorney at Rights4Girls, explained why this cultural shift in the system is an essential part of the two-step process of seeing and then addressing the problem.

“[Before this legislation] the child welfare system wasn’t recognizing these kids as being trafficked because of the fact that, when kids went missing from placement, there weren’t protocols in place to look for them or to flag that they needed to be sought out,” she said.

In other words, when a kid disappeared, often running away from their foster care group home and into the clutches of a trafficker, many times no one bothered to look for them, unlike what would occur if a loved and cared-for child vanished from their family.

Identifying Commercially Sexually Exploited Children

As Heimov said, SB 855 and 1322 now provide counties with funds for CSEC prevention and intervention, and a list of services that are specifically designed with the victimized children in mind. However, the first challenge across the state, say advocates, is still identifying these children.

In San Francisco, calls to the San Francisco Human Services Agencyhotline come from multiple sources: teachers, shelters, group homes, police officers or anyone who identifies a child, said agency program analyst Johanna Gendelman.

“These calls aren’t coming in in the middle of the night. You’d think, ‘Some kid is being pulled out of a hotel at 3 in the morning,’ but our statistics don’t really show that,” she said. “Kids are mostly being identified through the day from their foster care provider, from their school, they are running away from health clinics.

“And the calls are mostly coming in during the day.”

Although there have been two or three instances “where the police have pulled kids out of hotels,” she added.

Once trafficked youth are discovered, the next step is bringing them to a safe space, something that isn’t always easy to find.

“It’s a challenge in stabilizing the youth, and it’s a challenge of child welfare in general,” Gendelman said. “We don’t have enough foster parents in San Francisco. We often have to send our children sometimes as far as Stockton [California].”

The lack of appropriate foster parents means, it’s “difficult to place that child in a loving community,” she said. “We struggle with this in child welfare generally,”

With research pointing to a large portion of the CSEC population having been recruited from group homes, and foster care in general, child welfare advocates say there is a distinct line linking the issue of child sex trafficking, in part at least, to a problem that many have long been pushing to address.

Changing the Before and After of Child Sex Trafficking

According to the California Child Welfare Council, a high percentage of youth who fall prey to sexual exploitation had prior involvement with the child welfare system, very often in group homes.

Nearly half (46.7 percent) of minors statewide who are suspected or confirmed as victims of domestic sex trafficking ran away from a foster care group home, according to the Center for Public Policy Studies.

Assembly Bill 403 took effect on Jan. 1, 2017, with the purpose of ending the group home model in order to better address the needs of the harder-to-place youth who enter the child dependency system.

Older kids, highly traumatized youth and children, and kids who have been affected by sexual trafficking are typically put into group homes, and most often a series of group homes, where in too many cases their emotional needs are not met nor are they kept safe.

With these problems in mind, AB 403 mandates that all the group homes in the state’s 58 counties are required to relicense themselves as Short Term Residential Therapeutic Programs (STRTPs), centers that are designed to provide individualized treatment services for each youth for a short period of time. Then, ideally, the youth move on to a healthy, long-term placement with an appropriate family — either with relatives or a foster family.

However, two years after AB 403’s passage, this mandate still seems to be more wish than accomplishment.

“I don’t think there’s been a lot of on-the-ground change,” Leslie Heimov said. “There’s promise of change and there’s hopefulness regarding change, but we aren’t there yet. The most difficult-to-place kids still go to group homes.

“Kids with the most challenges and the highest needs still go to group homes.”

While everyone agrees that the new system required by AB 403 will be an essential improvement for the state’s most at-risk foster kids, victims of child sex trafficking included, 10 months after the legislation and its Continuum of Care Reform (CCR) was to begin, there appears not to have been all that much progress.

“This isn’t going to be something where we flip the switch and see all the children out of group homes,” said Greg Rose, deputy director of child and family services for the California Department of Social Services.

According to Rose, the CCR implementation has three main goals:

  • The provider community makes the shift from group homes to STRTPs.
  • The Resource Family Approvalprocess for foster care families starts, so the families can provide specialized services for victimized foster youth.
  • Continuing efforts to increase the number of foster care families continue.

Goal 1: Making the Shift to STRTPs

“The multisystemic treatment foster care homes, which we think hold great promise, they’re funded,” said Heimov, “but as far as we know, only a handful exist. There are very few spots for these high-end, single-child foster homes.”

In other words, while the state statute has been passed with the intention is to create nurturing environments for CSEC and other high-needs youth, with rare exceptions, the execution still needs to happen.

“The county has made funding arrangements and authorized them, but they don’t have the actual real people trained and ready to receive children,” Heimov said.

Until Goal 1 can be met, namely the opening of fully operational STRTPs, Rose explains that reliance on what is known as “congregate care” will be used, but only for a very limited time. And while kids are in these group homes, they are to receive “therapeutic interventions” — services such as counseling, health screenings, mental health services and other assistance aimed at improving the wellbeing of youth waiting for a more permanent placement, ideally with a family.

(To augment the reform that AB 403 requires, in 2016, California passed Assembly Bill 1997, which reduces the number of days kids can stay in individual counties’ problem-plagued emergency foster care shelters—used to house children facing emergency transitions between homes—from 30 to 10-day stays.)

There are deadlines for the transition from group homes to STRTPs. Former group home providers who serve foster youth must make the change no later than the last day of 2017. Providers that serve exclusively probation-involved youth, however, may request extensions through the end of 2018.

“The purpose of the STRTPs is to create a protocol whereby kids who are new to the system or who have experienced some sort of placement disruption are properly assessed to really identify their needs,” Rose said.

And, since these are short-term programs, he said, administrators will be planning for a youth’s discharge into placement with a family from day one.

According to Rose, the new short-term therapeutic facilities will be able to create specialized programs and treatments by placing children who suffer from similar experiences in the same treatment homes, so that they can get the services they really need rather than be subjected to one-size-fits all programming.

Advocates also hope that limiting the time that trafficked youth spend in facilities, away from a family or home environment, shrinks the window of opportunity during which they can be lured into trafficking, either by older kids or pimps who have previously made good use of a flawed foster care system.

Still, living in a group care environment for even up to a month is not in children’s best interest, Rose said. “We are asking the county to focus on finding families for those youth immediately, rather than sometime in a 30-day period,” he said.

But, as Heimov made clear, the kind of short-term treatment facilities Rose described are still more model than reality.

Which brings us to the second and third goals.

Goals 2 & 3: Resources and Families

Another fundamental principle of CCR is that when children get their permanent homes, they should not have to change placements to get the services they require. Research shows that being placed in foster care is traumatic enough. For placements to be successful, behavioral and mental health services should be available in an in-home setting.

Rose stressed the importance of thoughtfulness when placing a child with a family, so that he or she can experience consistency in relationships as well as permanency and stability. In other words, there’s no point in placing an already traumatized kid with a family if the placement doesn’t stick.

His hope, as for others who are driving this change, is to create a paradigm shift from what used to be finding children to fit the available families, to now identifying families that fit the needs of the children.

But finding families isn’t easy. And, at the moment, there aren’t enough families for all the kids who need them, which prominently includes the CSEC kids.

“I think it is a recruitment issue,” said Heimov. “Then the recruitment challenge is compounded by the county having a reputation for not providing the support that’s promised to caregivers — and people talk.”

La County Sheriff Jim McDonnell. Photo by Celeste Fremon/WitnessLA

As a consequence, she said, potential foster parents are often reluctant to move forward with an especially complicated child if they’re not confident they’re going to get support from the county.

According to Heimov, Los Angeles County and state officials have acknowledged this urgent dilemma and are working to make changes to improve the situation.

The recruitment teams are trying new strategies with the help of organizations like Foster More, a coalition of not-for-profit organizations and foundations.

But the concept of matching the family to the youth’s needs “is new,” said Heimov, “and people have to develop confidence in it before they’re going to jump into a very challenging situation with a child.”

Rose acknowledged that having enough foster families available continues to be a challenge.

Another monkey wrench thrown into the mix, according to Heimov, is the state’s recently instituted foster care family approval process, which potential foster families and relative caregivers must now go through. “Resource Family Approval,” or RFA, as it is called, requires more training for the families and relatives, which DCFS and most juvenile advocates agree is important.

But the new procedure has also lengthened the time necessary to get approved.

Right now, said Heimov, out of 4,000 foster families and relative caregivers waiting to be approved, “as of two or three weeks ago,” only 331 had actually received approval, she said.

Scaling the Model

The county has two pilot sites where they’re doing aggressive family finding for foster care. These two cases are going well, but this is a very small portion of the entire county and it has yet to reach cross-county, Heimov said.

“LA has a long and sad history of instituting really excellent pilot programs, but when they try to roll them out countywide they aren’t fully implemented.” Thus, she said, the programs don’t work as well as they did in the pilot. “And everyone throws their hands up and wonders why. And the why is because they lose fidelity to the original model when they try to go to scale,” Heimov said.

In short, the county is using a variety of methods to address the foster family deficit, many of which show real promise according to several DCFS sources. But finding new and innovative ways to successfully recruit more foster families, as with the changeover of the group homes, takes time.

The Legal Side

Matters are further complicated by the fact that, in addition to the need for better care and stability for these children, there are also often legal hurdles for CSEC victims to deal with, which mean further challenges for those who hope to help them heal and to thrive.

“When we get the girls, we’re not only getting a victim,” said Iglesias of Children and Family Services, “we’re getting someone who’s got involvement with the criminal system. They may be testifying against their pimp,” or they may have outstanding cases themselves. This means not only legal complexities, she said, but also the possibility of additional trauma to an already traumatized young person.

“CSEC is a sexy issue right now and people want to learn about it and address it, but I think we need to slow the roll and learn how to do this intentionally and carefully in a way that benefits and helps the girls,” Iglesias said.

Yet, despite all the challenges, Iglesias and Heimov also see progress.

“It is a hard population, we’re learning as we go,” Iglesias said. “I think we’ve come a long way though.”

At least, she said, “We truly mean it when we say there’s no such thing as a child prostitute.”

SEE ALSO: “How Los Angeles County Faced its Tragic Problem with Sex-Trafficked Kids” (TCR June 1, 2017)

This story was a project of the 2016 John Jay/Tow Journalism Reporting Fellowship for The Center on Media, Crime and Justice at John Jay College. An earlier version was published this week by the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange and WitnessLA. Readers’ comments are welcome.

from https://thecrimereport.org

America’s Youngest Crime Victims

Millions of children are suffering potentially long-lasting trauma as a result of exposure to crime. A researcher who coined the term “Triple C-Impact” to describe the phenomenon says local agencies should not wait for policymakers to act.

In today’s world, crime penetrates the lives of children from many sources. They witness violence at school, in the neighborhood, or even in the “safety” of their home. Children may also be affected indirectly, when parents fall victims to crime, or when a parent is incarcerated.

The unique developmental, social and cultural characteristics of children make them particularly prone to the negative forces of crime. Childhood crime exposure leaves deep scars that gravely affect mental and physical health, as well as life outcomes.[i]

To raise awareness of this dire and often neglected phenomenon, I coined the term the Triple-C Impact, or Comprehensive Childhood Crime Impact.[ii]

Unfortunately, despite the severity of the Triple-C Impact, not enough has been done to address it —and to heal the open wounds it has left on millions of children nationwide. No effective mechanisms to identify affected children and refer them to vital services that can aid their recovery are currently in place.

Although resources and services for affected children exist in most states, access is obstructed by a myriad of bureaucratic hurdles and flaws in the system’s design.

As a result, the majority of children harmed by crime do not receive treatment that can help them overcome the trauma. For more on this, please click here.

While we impatiently wait for policy-makers to take notice of the problem and implement systemic solutions on the state and federal level, there is a lot that can be done on the organizational and even individual level to address the problem.

On the organizational level, a broad range of agencies and organizations come into daily direct contact with Triple-C Impacted children and families. These include law enforcement agencies, prosecution agencies, public defenders, courts, juvenile correction facilities, foster care agencies and child protective services, victim advocacy organizations, non-governmental service providers, and other organizations funded under the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA).

Other highly relevant entities are adult correctional facilities (particularly women’s facilities), homeless and women’s shelters, schools, hospitals and clinics.

Such organizations can raise awareness among employees who come in contact with affected children and families. One effective strategy is to provide periodic staff-training sessions and to distribute comprehensive information on the effect of crime exposure on children, on the different forms of exposure that have the potential to cause harm, and about common signs of exposure.

To enable regular and systematic identification, protocols should be put in place to guide practitioners to pay attention to these signs, and ask relevant questions when interacting with the at-risk populations. Groups who warrant special attention are domestic violence victims, crime victims who may have minor children, female inmates, youths in juvenile facilities, children and youth in foster care, children who provide testimony before courts or other investigative agencies, and the homeless.

Readily available handouts that explain in simple language the risks of the Triple-C Impact and the value of early intervention are invaluable. Parents with the best intentions are often unaware of seemingly trivial information, for example, that “simply” witnessing a crime, or even parental victimization that the child is not aware of, can potentially cause significant harm that can be alleviated with treatment.

A good example is a toolkit developed for law enforcement by the federal Office of Juvenile Delinquency and Protection and the Yale Medicine Child Study Center.

The ability to refer to services and provide information on locally available resources and services is also critical, considering the access barriers in place in most jurisdictions.

Lastly, any actions taken to promote communication and collaboration between the different governmental and non-governmental agencies and organizations operating in the field can help us leap forward in the ability to serve the Triple-C Impacted children.

Developing a fruitful cross-agency exchange can enhance the efforts taken to serve affected children. It can raise awareness of available initiatives, enable mutual referrals, adopt a uniform terminology for a more fluent and effective communication. Such exchange will also open opportunities to develop inter-agency strategies to address the problem, facilitate the provision of more rounded and holistic services, and allow us to learn and grow from the trials and experiences of others.

Such actions cost very little. But they would make a significant difference in our ability to serve children and families affected by the Triple-C Impact.

This is particularly vital in a political environment in which systemic actions on the federal level as well as most states are unlikely to occur in the near future.

Even if an agency is not inclined to act, highly effective— yet simple—actions can be taken on the individual level, without organizational support.

  • Learn the warning signs to identify affected children, and educate others around you, colleagues and clients alike.
  • Ask questions: Gently and compassionately inquire about involvement of children in relevant cases.[iii]
  • Know the law: Make sure you understand what the laws in your jurisdiction say about the issue: Which categories of children are eligible for services? What are the eligibility criteria? What are the relevant procedures? Know which agencies in your state are charged with service application and provision.
  • Understand internal guidelines\policies. Many vital details relevant to eligibility and application procedures are hidden in the guidelines and are not part of the published information. Find a specific contact person at relevant agencies, and update your contact list annually, since staff turnover is frequent and common.
  • When possible, initiate contact on behalf of the victim or parents. Your chances of obtaining information are almost always better than those of your clients. Help the clients complete the application process and follow through until a favorable decision is made.

Never forget that the actions of one person can be life-changing for many, especially when children in the direst of circumstances and their whole life ahead of them are involved.

Although the opportunity to improve the life of even one child is a good enough reason to act, we must remember that the effect of the Triple-C Impact is not isolated to individual children.

Michal Gilad

Michal Gilad

With millions of children across the nation untreated and hampered from conducting a healthy and productive lifestyle, and with their heightened risk for acute health problems, substance abuse, criminal behavior, and repeat victimization, community safety is inevitably compromised, and public funds are unnecessarily burdened.

Thus, taking action to identify affected children and to increase their accessibility to existing resources and services can have a positive effect on society as a whole.

Michal Gilad is a doctoral researcher with the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Her research focuses on the adaptation of legal policies to the developmental needs of children and adolescents. Michal has clerked for the Hon. Justice Edna Arbel of the Supreme Court of Israel. She also practiced law as a public prosecutor, and served as a policy attaché for the State Attorney of Israel. Please click here for other examples of her work. She welcomes readers’ comments.


[i] Although each and every child is unique and is affected differently, a hefty multifarious assemblage of negative symptoms and outcomes are repeatedly documented among children affected by crime exposure. These include developmental and behavioral problems; attention disorders; attachment disorders; learning disabilities; and poor educational and employment outcomes. These children also suffer from increased risk for repeat victimization, mental health problems, and greater likelihood to engage in criminal activity.  They are more inclined to practice risk behaviors, including alcoholism, drug abuse, smoking, suicide attempts, sexually promiscuous behavior, and unintended pregnancies. A strong link between childhood crime exposure and life threatening health conditions, such as cancer, lung, heart, liver and skeletal diseases, sexually transmitted diseases, and obesity, was also established.


[ii] https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3014717

[iii] e.g. domestic Violence cases, parental victimization, child victims with siblings, juvenile cases. 

from https://thecrimereport.org

Harvey Weinstein-Why We Refuse To Acknowledge Abused Women Offenders

Observations The history of sexual and physical violence directed to women offenders (especially during childhood) is considerable. Add neglect, and it indicates that most have challenging histories. The Harvey Weinstein incident and additional stories of abuse pale in comparison to the numbers involved. Yet we say nothing, do nothing, and within the confines of the […]

Observations The history of sexual and physical violence directed to women offenders (especially during childhood) is considerable. Add neglect, and it indicates that most have challenging histories. The Harvey Weinstein incident and additional stories of abuse pale in comparison to the numbers involved. Yet we say nothing, do nothing, and within the confines of the […]

from https://www.crimeinamerica.net

Saving Offender Rehabilitation and Reentry Programs

Observations I’m suggesting that we focus almost exclusively on mental health and the co-occurring issue of substance abuse. With budget limitations, we can’t be all things to all people. Are we at the point where we need to completely rethink our approach to programs for offenders? Little will happen until we stabilize people in need. […]

Observations I’m suggesting that we focus almost exclusively on mental health and the co-occurring issue of substance abuse. With budget limitations, we can’t be all things to all people. Are we at the point where we need to completely rethink our approach to programs for offenders? Little will happen until we stabilize people in need. […]

from https://www.crimeinamerica.net