Appeals Court Limits Texas Foster Care Reforms

A federal appeals panel ruled 2-to-1 that Texas wrongly exposed children in foster care to physical and psychological harm but said remedies ordered by a federal trial judge went too far.

The state of Texas has failed to address severely overburdened caseworkers, routinely exposing children in foster care to physical and psychological harm, a federal appeals court ruled Thursday. Even so, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit said a federal judge went too far when she ordered Texas to make sweeping changes to its foster care system, including a cap on the number of children overseen by each caseworker and a ban on foster children sleeping in state offices, the Austin American-Statesman reports. Writing for a 2-to-1 majority, Judge Edith Brown Clement said that while the U.S. Constitution protects foster children from persistent threats of injury, aggressive verbal bullying and attacks on their emotional well-being, “incidental psychological injury”  does not rise to the level of a “substantive … violation.”

Many fixes ordered by U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack of Corpus Christi went beyond the Constitution’s requirements, reflecting instead the “best practices” identified by child-welfare specialists, Clement wrote. “The Fourteenth Amendment does not entitle plaintiffs to receive optimal treatment and services, nor does it afford them the right to be free from any and all psychological harm at the hands of the State,” she said. The appeals court voided an order that would have immediately cut workloads to no more than 14 to 17 foster children per caseworker. Jack noted that high caseloads led “numerous” foster children to have no contact with caseworkers for months at a time. Clement said the requirement would create havoc, creating a “deluge” of paperwork and forcing Texas to redistribute cases in ways that would be destabilizing for all involved, including the children. Dissenting Judge Patrick Higginbotham said, “This was a remedy necessary in response to an agency the State has been unable to tame for more than 20 years.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

Pope Calls Meeting to Discuss Protecting Minors

Pope Francis summoned to Rome next February the presidents of the world’s bishops conferences for a meeting focused on protecting minors. The pontiff is dealing with a global clerical sexual abuse crisis and explosive accusations of a cover-up that have shaken his papacy and the entire Roman Catholic Church.

Pope Francis summoned to Rome the presidents of the world’s bishops conferences for a meeting focused on protecting minors, the Vatican announced on Wednesday. The pontiff is wrestling with a global clerical sexual abuse crisis and explosive accusations of a cover-up that have shaken his papacy and the entire Roman Catholic Church, the New York Times reports. The meetings will be held from Feb. 21 to 24. The announcement was made on the eve of a meeting in the Vatican on Thursday between the pope and American bishops, including Cardinal Daniel  DiNardo, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, Francis’ leading adviser on the issue of sexual abuse.

The Americans seeking answers from the pope and a full investigation into why one of their most prominent colleagues was allowed to ascend to a top position in the American church, despite allegations that he had sexually abused seminarians. Reports of abuse by that prelate, Theodore McCarrick of Washington, D.C., led to his resignation as cardinal. Subsequent accusations, in a bombshell letter by the Vatican ambassador to the U.S., Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, accused Francis of lifting sanctions against the American that had been put in place by Francis’ predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI. Many survivors of abuse, and people who campaign on their behalf, have lamented that the letters and the power struggles in the Vatican have eclipsed the central issue of protecting children from abuse within the church. The February meetings that Francis called are intended to put the issue front and center again.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Should Religion Ever Be a Defense in the Death of a Child?

In the current political climate, the apparently growing deference to religious beliefs may signal a rise in their successful use during trials. TCR’s legal columnist warns the result could be more children dying unnecessarily.

On Aug. 2, 10-month-old Mary Anne Welch was found dead in her crib in her Michigan home. An autopsy determined that she died from malnutrition and dehydration “due to neglect by adult care givers.” So, the police arrested her parents, Seth Welch and Tatiana Fusari, on charges of felony murder and first-degree child abuse.

A tragic story, but sadly not as uncommon as we would like.

What makes this case somewhat unusual, however, is the parents’ defense: They claim that they didn’t seek medical attention for their daughter partly for religious reasons.

seth welch

Seth Welch and Tatiana Fusari. Credit: Kent County Jail

Fusari told detectives that although she and her husband had noticed a change in Mary Anne’s physical appearance at least one month before her death, they didn’t reach out for medical help for fear of having the children removed by Child Protective Services. She linked their motives to “lack of faith and trust in the medical services and religious reasons.”

On his Facebook page, Welch quoted the Bible in explaining why he didn’t vaccinate his children, saying “The righteous shall live by faith. It’s God who is sovereign over disease and those sorts of things and ultimately death.”

Although this is a claim most closely associated with Christian Scientists, who rely on prayer rather than medicine, believers in other religions have also tried to use their beliefs as a defense in criminal court. Usually these religions have faith-healing as one of their core tenets.

For example, the Followers of Christ, a reclusive Pentecostal sect based primarily in Idaho and Oregon, also practices faith healing. In 2015, a state task force found that the child mortality rate for the Followers of Christ between 2002-2011 was 10 times that of Idaho as a whole.

The Church of the First Born is another Pentecostal sect that is against medical treatment. In defense of its faith-healing practices, the church cites James 5:14: “If any be sick, call for the elders of the church, let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.”

If an adult follower of any of these religions chooses faith healing over medical treatment, there’s no issue. After all, if a grownup chooses to rely on prayer instead of antibiotics, surgery and the like, they’re only endangering themselves.

But issues do arise when adult believers prevent their minor children from getting medical attention due to their own religious beliefs. In such cases, the children have no choice or say in the matter─and it’s their lives that are at stake.

Whether a parent’s religious beliefs can be used as a defense to neglect, endangerment or even death of a child was addressed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1944.

In Prince v. Massachusetts, the Court held that the right to practice religion freely does not include liberty to expose a child to communicable disease, ill health or death. “Parents may be free to become martyrs themselves. But it does not follow they are free, in identical circumstances, to make martyrs of their children,” explained the Court.

That should be the end of the issue, right? Unfortunately, no.

In 1974, President Nixon signed the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act into law. Possibly due to the influence of John Ehrlichman and J.R. Haldeman─both of whom were Christian Scientists─the law has a provision that protects parents who believe that prayer is the only way to cure illness.

Even though the Act has been amended several times since then, it still provides that nothing in this Act shall be construed:

  • as establishing a federal requirement that a parent or legal guardian provide a child with any medical service or treatment against the religious beliefs of the parent or legal guardian; and
  • to require that a state find, or to prohibit a state from finding, child abuse or neglect in cases in which a parent or legal guardian relies solely or partially upon spiritual means rather than medical treatment, in accordance with the religious beliefs of the parent or legal guardian.

In fact, a surprisingly high number of states have provisions in their civil and/or criminal laws that specifically allow defendants to rely on religion as an excuse in various contexts for failing to provide medical care for their children.

The infographic below from ChildUSA, a non-profit that promotes justice for victims of child abuse and neglect, shows the types of religious exemptions in each state.

tableAs you can see, the scope of the religious exemptions in state law pertaining to sick and injured children varies widely.

Some states protect parents from being declared negligent under civil law solely because they opted to provide spiritual treatment instead of medical treatment to their children, while others provide a religious exemption to criminal liability. In some states, the criminal exemption applies only to misdemeanors; but in others, it can be used as a defense to felonies, including homicide.

The criminal law provisions often have three key components:

  1. The defendant must have been pursuing spiritual treatment in lieu of medical treatment;
  2. That spiritual treatment must have been provided in accordance with the principles of a recognized religion; and
  3. Such treatment must have been performed by an accredited practitioner.

Like any laws, these provisions are subject to change. In some cases, a spate of deaths of children that could have been prevented by proper medical care─and often the intense media scrutiny of these tragedies─have led to the amendment or removal of these provisions.

For instance, because of the long history of child deaths associated with Followers of Christ in Oregon, the state legislature removed faith healing as a defense for all homicide charges in 2011.

As to the death of Mary Anne Welch, Michigan’s criminal law does not contain a religious exemption or defense. If it did, such a defense would be unlikely to help her accused parents, who didn’t try to treat her through prayer or faith healing; they apparently did nothing.

In states without religious exemptions in their criminal laws, officials may still be reluctant to charge grieving parents with the death of a child because of the optics. Even when prosecutors do file charges against the parents, the results are mixed.

Sympathy for the parents’ loss may sway jurors into acquitting.

For example, in 2008, 15-month-old Ava Worthington died at home in Oregon of bronchial pneumonia and a blood infection. Her parents and other members of their church, the Followers of Christ, prayed for her recovery and conducted faith-healing rituals, but they never sought medical treatment or called 911 when she stopped breathing.

Prosecutors charged her father and mother with second-degree manslaughter and criminal mistreatment. A jury acquitted the mother of both charges and convicted the father of only criminal mistreatment, a misdemeanor.

After the verdict, the jurors explained that they tried to look at the circumstances from the parents’ perspective and personal values. The foreman said, “They’re good parents who tried everything they knew in their heart. … They thought what they did was working.”

Similar feelings may even influence a judge as to sentencing should the parents be convicted.

For example, in 2009, Herbert and Catherine Schaible lost two-year-old Kent to pneumonia. The parents, who are Pentecostal, said that medicine violates their religious beliefs. For Kent’s death, the judge merely sentenced them to 10 years’ probation and ordered them to seek medical care if another one of their children became sick.

It was only after a second son, eight-month-old Brandon, also died from pneumonia under similar circumstances that the Schaibles were sentenced in 2014 to 3.5-7 years in jail after they pled no contest to third-degree murder.

When sentencing the Schaibles to prison for Brandon’s preventable death, the judge said, “You’ve killed two of your children…not God, not your church, not religious devotion — you.”

According to a 1998 study, 172 children died between 1975-1995 who were denied medical treatment because of their parents’ religious beliefs. In 140 of those cases, the children died from conditions for which survival rates with medical care would have exceeded 90 percent.

Advocates of the First Amendment argue that provisions in civil and criminal law that protect faith healing are necessary to ensure freedom of religion. But such provisions essentially give parents with religious objections to modern medical care the right to let their children unnecessarily suffer and even die without such care.

In this day and age, it’s simply crazy that children in the U.S. have been allowed to die from treatable conditions such as diarrhea, diabetes, appendicitis, sepsis and various infections─and even crazier that their parents could get a free pass.

We wouldn’t allow a group to sacrifice a virgin to their god in the name of religious freedom. How is it any different to allow the very individuals responsible for the safekeeping and welfare of their offspring to intentionally prevent those children from getting lifesaving treatment?

No one can reasonably object to parents complementing appropriate medical treatment for their children with faith healing. But we should object─and object loudly─when parents substitute prayer for drugs, anointing with oil for surgery or any religious rite for a scientifically-based medical procedure.

But in the current political climate, there seems to be a growing deference to religious beliefs. Could we see a rise in the use of this defense─and in its success? Perhaps.

In some cases, doctors and hospitals have gone to court, asking judges to intervene and allow them to provide medical care to sick children despite their parents’ religious objections. If courts get more conservative, we might see more such orders being denied and thus more children dying unnecessarily.

In May 1995, Nelson Mandela said, “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”

Robin Barton

Robin L. Barton

Our society’s soul will be black indeed if we continue to allow parents to put their religious beliefs before the health and wellbeing of their children.

Robin L. Barton, a legal journalist based in Brooklyn, NY, is a former assistant district attorney in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and a regular columnist for The Crime Report. She welcomes readers’ comments.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Yevaeh Patrick-Moon Didn’t Have to Die, Lawsuit Argues

Breakfast reading from the Voice Media empire:  On Friday, August 24, the friends, family and loved ones of Yevaeh Patrick-Moon will take part in a vigil to mark what would have been her tenth birthday had she not drowned in a pool at a business called Hotel Elegante. Five days later, on August 29, Lynthia Washington, […]

The post Yevaeh Patrick-Moon Didn’t Have to Die, Lawsuit Argues appeared first on True Crime Report.

Breakfast reading from the Voice Media empire:  On Friday, August 24, the friends, family and loved ones of Yevaeh Patrick-Moon will take part in a vigil to mark what would have been her tenth birthday had she not drowned in a pool at a business called Hotel Elegante. Five days later, on August 29, Lynthia Washington, [...]

The post Yevaeh Patrick-Moon Didn’t Have to Die, Lawsuit Argues appeared first on True Crime Report.

from http://www.truecrimereport.com

Ethel Anderson: The Unrepentant Child Molester

     In 2011, Ethel Anderson, a 29-year-old teacher at the Mango Elementary School in suburban Seffner, Florida outside of Tampa, resided in Riverside with her husband and 5-year-old daughter. Anderson had recently been named the Diversi…

     In 2011, Ethel Anderson, a 29-year-old teacher at the Mango Elementary School in suburban Seffner, Florida outside of Tampa, resided in Riverside with her husband and 5-year-old daughter. Anderson had recently been named the Diversity School Teacher of the Year.

     In December 2011, Teacher of the Year Anderson began tutoring a 12-year-old math student in her home. Over the next three months, she and the boy exchanged 230 pages of test messages in which she described, in vivid language, her lust for the child. Anderson also expressed her anxiety over feeling unattractive because of her weight. In these exchanges, the boy used the name Dirty Dan. No one reading this material would have guessed that Dirty Dan was a 12-year-old kid communicating with one of his public school teachers. The online exchange between teacher and student, while a bit puerile, was pretty raunchy.

     In February 2012, the teacher-student affair ended following a lover's spat. The angry kid got his revenge by telling his mom everything. It's hard to imagine what was going through the mother's mind when her son described receiving oral sex from a woman paid to teach him math. The couple, according to the boy, also simulated various sexual acts while fully clothed. The boy's tutor also fondled him.

     The mother, perhaps worried that school officials and police officers would take the teacher's word over her son's, confronted Anderson before alerting the authorities. During that meeting, the teacher admitted having an inappropriate relationship with the boy. The student's mom, having clandestinely audio-taped the conversation, went to the police with the evidence. (The mother may also have seen the texted messages between her son and Anderson.)

     Hillsborough County Assistant State Attorney Rita Peters, in March 2012, charged Ethel Anderson with nine counts of lewd and lascivious conduct with a child. Each count carried a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. Following the teacher's arrest, the school suspended her without pay. Eight months later, Anderson resigned.

     The child molestation trial got underway in Tampa on September 18, 2013. The boy, now 14, took the stand for the prosecution. "I felt she was like my real girlfriend," he said. "She said I was her boyfriend and she loved me. I was thinking, 'I'm living a guy's dream...dating my teacher.' "

     According to the young prosecution witness, Anderson told him she planned to leave her husband because he wasn't a good father, and didn't communicate with her. As time went on, however, the student began having doubts about the relationship. "I'm dating a girl I'm in love with and she thinks of me as a kid. It didn't feel right."

     On the third and final day of the trial, defense attorney William Knight, in a bold move, put his client on the stand. Rather than plead some kind of emotional breakdown, drinking problem or addiction to drugs, the former school teacher denied having physical contact with the boy, essentially calling him a liar. Claiming that the 12-year-old had tried to instigate a sexual relationship, Anderson said, "He attempted, at one point, to grab me in an inappropriate manner. He attempted to kiss me and I pushed him off."

     Regarding her sexually vivid text messages, the defendant said they were nothing more than "sexual therapy" tools to get the boy to focus on his studies. "I recognize it was explicit and inappropriate, but it was all fantasy," she said. "He was going through puberty. He couldn't connect with his family. He was always thinking sexually. My purpose was to get his attention."

     Prosecutor Peters, in a blistering cross-examination of the defendant, asked, "You want the jury to believe that you were in fantasyland to help the boy? Was that part of your training as a teacher? So by giving in to these sexual fantasies he did better in school?"

     "Sometimes, yes," Anderson replied.

     Defense attorney Knight, in his closing remarks to the jury, pointed out that the prosecution had not presented one piece of physical evidence proving any kind of sexual contact between his client and the student.

     When it came her turn to address the jury, the prosecutor called the former teacher's attempt to explain herself "remarkable," and "amazing in its audacity." The state attorney told the jurors that "everything the defendant told you defies logic and common sense."

     On December 19, 2013, Circuit Judge Chet Tharpe, calling Ethel Anderson a parent's worst nightmare, sentenced the former teacher to 38 years in prison.

     Judge Tharpe was Anderson's worst nightmare.
 
 
     

from http://jimfishertruecrime.blogspot.com/

Violence, School Achievement and Future Criminality

Observations Schoolchildren exposed to violence have a tougher time learning. Violence also affects the success of people caught up in the criminal justice system. If students exposed to violence affect school test scores, then the state of education will be stalled unless we impact multiple forms of violence and abuse. If you were wondering why […]

The post Violence, School Achievement and Future Criminality appeared first on Crime in America.Net.

Observations Schoolchildren exposed to violence have a tougher time learning. Violence also affects the success of people caught up in the criminal justice system. If students exposed to violence affect school test scores, then the state of education will be stalled unless we impact multiple forms of violence and abuse. If you were wondering why […]

The post Violence, School Achievement and Future Criminality appeared first on Crime in America.Net.

from https://www.crimeinamerica.net

Edna Iddings, 70, Charged With Brutally Abusing Her 10-Year-Old Grandson

  ​ Breakfast reading from the True Crime Report archives: She hogtied the boy with an extension cord and left him on the floor of the home’s entryway. Because his arms and legs were pinioned behind him, he had urinated on himself, which further enraged Iddings. Westword has the story.

The post Edna Iddings, 70, Charged With Brutally Abusing Her 10-Year-Old Grandson appeared first on True Crime Report.

  ​ Breakfast reading from the True Crime Report archives: She hogtied the boy with an extension cord and left him on the floor of the home’s entryway. Because his arms and legs were pinioned behind him, he had urinated on himself, which further enraged Iddings. Westword has the story.

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from http://www.truecrimereport.com

Travis Anderson Let Injured Baby Die While He Prepared Stolen Tools to Sell

  ​ Breakfast reading from the True Crime Report archives: With their 20-day-old baby fatally injured, Anderson “spent time on the Internet researching the tools he had stolen while [girlfriend]Crystal removed the stickers from the boxes containing the tools.” Westword has the story.

The post Travis Anderson Let Injured Baby Die While He Prepared Stolen Tools to Sell appeared first on True Crime Report.

  ​ Breakfast reading from the True Crime Report archives: With their 20-day-old baby fatally injured, Anderson “spent time on the Internet researching the tools he had stolen while [girlfriend]Crystal removed the stickers from the boxes containing the tools.” Westword has the story.

The post Travis Anderson Let Injured Baby Die While He Prepared Stolen Tools to Sell appeared first on True Crime Report.

from http://www.truecrimereport.com

Travis Anderson Let Injured Baby Die While He Prepared Stolen Tools to Sell

  ​ Breakfast reading from the True Crime Report archives: With their 20-day-old baby fatally injured, Anderson “spent time on the Internet researching the tools he had stolen while [girlfriend]Crystal removed the stickers from the boxes containing the tools.” Westword has the story.

The post Travis Anderson Let Injured Baby Die While He Prepared Stolen Tools to Sell appeared first on True Crime Report.

  ​ Breakfast reading from the True Crime Report archives: With their 20-day-old baby fatally injured, Anderson “spent time on the Internet researching the tools he had stolen while [girlfriend]Crystal removed the stickers from the boxes containing the tools.” Westword has the story.

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from http://www.truecrimereport.com

Marcus Leyba, Drunken Asshole, Crushed His 9-Week-Old Baby’s Skull In

  ​ Breakfast reading from the True Crime Report archives: When paramedics arrived, Lilian Leyba was not breathing and cold to the touch — and no wonder, since her skull was crushed. One described the back of her head as feeling like “mush.” Westword has the story.

The post Marcus Leyba, Drunken Asshole, Crushed His 9-Week-Old Baby’s Skull In appeared first on True Crime Report.

  ​ Breakfast reading from the True Crime Report archives: When paramedics arrived, Lilian Leyba was not breathing and cold to the touch — and no wonder, since her skull was crushed. One described the back of her head as feeling like “mush.” Westword has the story.

The post Marcus Leyba, Drunken Asshole, Crushed His 9-Week-Old Baby’s Skull In appeared first on True Crime Report.

from http://www.truecrimereport.com