| Today's NAASCA news:
April 18, 2014
Archdiocese task force designed to fall short
by Ruben Rosario
Many well-intentioned reports urging change are only as good as their implementation.
Which gives me an opening here to address the findings released this week by the seven-member Safe Environment and Ministerial Standards task force. The panel was assigned to look into how the local archdiocese mishandled clergy child abuse and misconduct cases in recent years and to recommend changes.
Not surprisingly, the task force found "serious shortcomings" in the way the archdiocese handled the cases of one priest found with adult pornography in his possession and another priest arrested, convicted and serving time for abusing minors while a pastor in a parish on St. Paul's East Side.
Conducting criminal background checks on priests every six years, creating an anonymous abuse complaint hotline, making the Delegate for a Safe Environment a mandated reporter and having all misconduct allegations reviewed by the archdiocese's Clergy Review Board were among its recommendations.
But what the task force did not dohas drawn criticism for the report. A clergy victims group, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said the report failed to name names or to assign blame to those who "ignored, hid, minimized or enabled heinous crimes against children."
Jennifer Haselberger, the former chancellor for canonical affairs whose public disclosures last fall through Minnesota Public Radio of mismanagement shed light on the cases and led to formation of the task force, was not impressed with the findings.
"I am puzzled that the task force concluded that there were not appropriate mechanisms in place to (bring to the) surface failures with the policies and procedures," Haselberger, who resigned in protest in spring 2013, told me. "I assure you that we were very well aware of the failures, and that I wrote countless memos on the subject, and that the decision to proceed in the same manner was a deliberate one."
On advice of her attorney, Haselberger turned down a request to meet with the task force.
Yet "I did provide them with information," she added in an email. "Specifically, I informed them that all necessary information was available from the archdiocese in the countless memos I had prepared over the course of nearly five years, which described in great detail the concerns I had regarding the archdiocese's handling of clergy misconduct.
"According to the report's appendix of materials reviewed by the Task Force, my memos and other internal communications were either not sought or not produced."
'DON'T CALL THE CHURCH. CALL 911'
The truth is that the task force members did not review Haselberger's memos. This panel was created with the sole mission of looking into flawed policies and making recommendations. It was not a grand jury seeking to indict someone or assign blame. How could it be? It was commissioned by the archdiocese itself.
The panel also was handicapped by its members' inability to interview two other key church officials heavily involved in the decisions that led to the mishandling of the cases. One is former vicar general Kevin McDonough, who lawyered up soon after the public disclosures, and his successor, the Rev. Peter Laird, who resigned in October in the midst of the news reports.
The manner by which Laird was not made available to the task force may suggest that an entrenched culture in church leadership may be hard to change.
The task force was informed by a church official that Laird was on leave and they could not locate him. Yet, the panel later learned that Laird sent a letter to the archbishop and expressed a willingness to meet with the panel. But the panel had concluded its probe by then.
Not all seven members bought the explanation of why Laird was not made available to them in a timely manner.
In its report, the task force expressed disappointment that "the archdiocese was not more transparent with respect to the situation with Father Laird. The Task Force sees this failure to communicate and lack of urgency as an example of the kind of issue that the Archdiocese needs to address to change its culture."
In fairness, the task force's job was to simply look at what went wrong and to create an environment that would prevent it in the future.
It was not there to present heads on a silver platter. Perhaps another entity will be assigned that task. The recommendation of bringing in more lay people to monitor handling of cases and conducting regular performance audits are ways to ensure that no one individual can decide a case and also eliminates that "thin black line" of clericalism.
It also noted that "the Office for the Protection of Children and Youth needs to ensure that all parish websites emphasize that concerns and suspicions of clergy sex abuse of minors should be reported to law enforcement."
Or, to quote a former parish pastor of mine during a homily more than 15 years ago: If you suspect a child has been abused, don't call the Church. Call 911."
That is still the best recommendation of all.
Ruben Rosario can be reached at 651-228-5454 or rrosario@ pioneerpress.com . Follow him at twitter.com/nycrican
Helping Victims of Child Sexual Abuse
by Tiffany Liou
MOLINE, IL – The statistics are shocking. One in six boys will be sexually assaulted before they turn 18. For girls, it's one in four.
Nicole Cisne Durbin of Family Resources says most of the time, it's done by someone the child knows and trusts. "Unfortunately, the majority of the time, the victim or survivor knows their perpetrators. Especially in the case with kids, it's someone they know and usually love and trust and that's why it's really under-reported because they're being manipulated by adults."
Family Resources, a group that works with abused children and families, says the problem is a lack of education. For every assault reported, eight go unreported.
Cisne Durbin says, "Leaving your children in the care of a sexual offender is a very dangerous thing to do. That's common sense to a lot of us, but it may not be to some people who just don't know any better."
In some cases, the spouse may also be a victim, or have grown up being sexually abused. Cisne Durbin says, "Kids are resilient, so when they have specialized services, it's easier for them to head down a path of recovery and be resilient to something as awful as a traumatic event like child sexual abuse."
If a child does come forward, Cisne Durbin says it's important to listen. "The number one factor in their recovery and healing from that trauma is an adult believing them." She says to tell them they are not alone, it's not their fault, and get them help immediately.
Colorado makes child abuse data website public
by Christopher N. Osher
Colorado has created a website that provides the public with child-protection and child-abuse data for each county, making the state one of four in the nation to make such information accessible to the public.
The creation of the website is one part of a series of reforms in Colorado after news reports on problems with the state's child-protection system by The Denver Post and 9News.
"At the end of the day, the goal is to be transparent with the public and to keep our families safe and healthy," said Julie Krow, the director of the Office of Youth and Families in the Colorado Department of Human Services. "This is something we can't do alone. We need our community to help us."
California, Arizona and Iowa are the other states with similar websites available to the public.
Colorado's website, cdhsdatamatters.org, provides county-level data on child-abuse referrals, instances of child abuse and how many children are reunified with their families after being placed in foster care. Other tracked information includes instances when children are removed from troubled families, caseworker visitation rates, child fatalities, types of maltreatment, and timeliness of responses to allegations of abuse.
"This is a strong effort to increase transparency," Krow said.
The website, which the state created in partnership with the University of Kansas, required an initial investment of about $390,000, Krow said. Ongoing maintenance costs are minimal, she said.
The website allows comparisons that show how a county is performing in contrast to the rest of the state or to another county. Information also can be sorted by age, gender and race, and by the state's judicial districts.
Krow said county child- protection officials can use the data to see how they are doing compared with their peers in the state. If those officials see one county excelling in certain areas, they can reach out to the other county to find out how to make improvements, she said.
Already, before the data became public, the state has been reviewing it to make improvements, Krow said. She said that over the past year, the state sought to improve response times for reviewing and investigating child-abuse allegations. The counties now meet time standards nearly 90 percent of the time — up from 50 percent, she said.
The website drew praise from Stephanie Villafuerte, the executive director of the Rocky Mountain Children's Law Center, an advocacy organization.
"Now we can talk about the facts," she said. "We can talk about the numbers and statistics and talk about all that as opposed to just talking about anecdotes. I think that this is a brand-new day."
Colorado officials launched the website the same month they announced they had spent nearly $1 million to arm child-protection workers with new laptops, smartphones and computer tablets to help them become more efficient. The state also plans to have a new child-abuse hotline up and running by January. Efforts also are underway to overhaul the system for training child-protection workers and mandatory child-abuse reporters.
The investigative reports by The Post and 9News in 2012 found caseworkers often made mistakes in their paperwork or when doing safety assessments and safety plans for at-risk families. In more than half of the child-abuse deaths reviewed during a six-year period, caseworkers did not follow state policy regarding how to investigate abuse and neglect allegations, according to an analysis of state child-fatality reviews done by the news organizations.
'Parental Substance Abuse: Its Impact on Children' to be held on April 23
by The Messenger-Gazette
The Somerset County Commission on Child Abuse & Missing Children (CCAMC) will hold its annual spring forum for professionals who serve children and families on Wednesday, April 23.
“The Commission provides educational programs on child abuse and is a key player in the development of community-based collaborations,” said Freeholder Director Patrick Scaglione, who will be a featured speaker at the event. “The speakers at this year's forum will address the negative effects of parental substance abuse, as well as the positive effects from parental recovery.”
The forum, titled “Parental Substance Abuse: Its Impact on Children,” will be held from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Somerville Lodge 1068, B.P.O. Elks, located at 375 Union Avenue.
The conference fee is $25. Registration and breakfast will be available at 8:30 a.m. Checks should be made payable to Friends of Somerset County Youth. To register, contact Andrea Clegg, Office of Youth Services, at (908) 704-6333 or email@example.com.
Speakers will include Freeholder Director Scaglione and retired Judge Thomas H. Dilts. Presenters from Richard Hall Community Health Center, the New Jersey Department of Child Protection and Permanency, Princeton House Behavioral Health Center, and Catholic Charities will discuss parental substance abuse and its effect on children.
Sponsored by the Somerset County Commission on Child Abuse and Missing Children and Friends of Somerset County Youth, the annual spring forum is held during Child Abuse Prevention Month and is intended to help raise community awareness and combat abuse and neglect of children.
For more information, contact Mariann Bruno, Somerset County Office of Youth Services, at (908) 704-6356.
Addressing sex abuse at a young age
by Levi Ismail
AUSTIN, Minn. – As part of a month-long effort to discuss child sex abuse, one county is empowering young students to speak out.
Each year, more than 300,000 kids are the victims of sexual assault in the country, that's according to the American Psychological Association.
In Mower County the Crime Victims Resource Center is paying visits to second grade classrooms as a way to instruct students on how to interpret inappropriate behavior.
“Sometimes it can be difficult for children to be able to process that but it's also a very good and healthy conversation to have with the parents and people here at school,” said Joe Kroc, Neveln Elementary School Social Worker.
All month-long, Joe Kroc of Neveln Elementary School is working with the Crime Victims Center, to help bring the message of sex abuse awareness.
“The biggest challenge is you are dealing with an age group that is not savvy about the world they don't have adult experiences to draw on their not really adept at formulating and explaining what they saw or what may have happened to them,” said Capt. David McKichan, Austin Police Department.
According to Capt. McKichan and those at Neveln Elmentary, the challenge to these kids, is simple.
“To report to a trusted adult if someone is making you feel uncomfortable and your body feel unsafe, that you need to go to a trusted adult and report that right away,” said McKichan.
Reporting abuse is an issue that doesn't affect just young people.
Adult victims often avoid their abusers, who many times, they know, but with young victims, the emphasis is on bringing positive adult role models into their lives, who are willing to step forward.
“The child is not going to be capable of driving down here walking down into our L.E.C and telling us they like to make a report about what's going on them. So those other people in the child's life are of paramount importance if abuse and neglect or other things are going on,” said McKichan.
For more information about the second grade sexual abuse prevention education program, call Crime Victims Resource Center at 507-437-6680 or 1-800-349-6680.
New book asks how best to prevent child sex abuse
by ILENE FLEISCHMANN
The statistics are shocking: As many as one-third of boys and three-quarters of girls in the United States experience some sort of sexual abuse as children or adolescents. The response has been determined: Governments have passed strict laws, entered into international treaties and established large bureaucracies in hopes of curbing child sexual abuse.
But Charles Patrick Ewing, SUNY Distinguished Service Professor in the UB Law School, says an honest accounting shows that none of these efforts has been demonstrably effective against the problem. “The bottom line,” he says, “is that for most part the data don’t support much of what’s been done and it’s very difficult to prevent children from being sexually exploited or abused.”
What does work? Some common-sense strategies, he says, that can be as simple as teaching children to stay out of risky situations and making transparency and safety a priority in organizations that serve children.
That common-sense advice is at the heart of “Preventing the Sexual Victimization of Children: Psychological, Legal and Public Policy Perspectives” (Oxford University Press), Ewing’s new book that critically examines the ways adults have tried to protect children from sexual abuse.
The idea for the book, Ewing says, came when he spoke at a conference at Johns Hopkins University on preventing child sexual abuse. “I learned a lot about the subject and I heard a lot of ideas, but not much empirical support for them,” he says. “I decided to survey all the methods that people have purported to use to prevent child sexual abuse. I came up with a rather large list and then I asked, do the data support any of these?”
Chapters in the book give a historical overview of the problem, examine the effects of the crime on children, discuss prevention strategies aimed at parents and children, and at perpetrators, and review Internet-related child sexual abuse and exploitation, the abuse of children in institutional settings and the significant problem of the prostitution of children.
“Over the past couple of decades, society has made significant gains in preventing child sexual abuse,” Ewing writes in his conclusion. “However, if these apparent gains are to be maintained in the years to come, preventive efforts … will need to be carefully examined using both empirical evidence and logical reasoning.”
He cites as “probably ineffective or counterproductive” such strategies as enhanced criminal penalties, extending statutes of limitation, civil commitment of child sex offenders and restrictions on offenders’ jobs, residency and travel.
“Strategies that may be effective” include parent education, encouraging bystander intervention, background checks for those who work with children and limiting the sexualization of children in media and advertising.
Strategies most likely to be effective, Ewing writes, include risk education and teaching children to protect themselves, minimizing private space in schools and juvenile detention facilities, using technology to stop the production and distribution of child pornography, and severely punishing the producers and distributors of such material.
“It seems almost so simple as to be absurd,” Ewing says, “but we keep looking at these grand schemes and there are some things just staring us in the face that are more effective.”
- Rethinking the architecture of institutions that serve children, putting in more windows and fewer doors, with more open space.
- Parents not allowing their children to be alone with teachers or other adults.
- Teaching children to protect themselves. “Even younger kids can be taught what's wrong and right, and to tell someone if something happens to them,” Ewing says. “With older kids you can teach them to get away and to avoid situations where they might be subject to sexual abuse.”
- “Desexualizing” the way children's images are used in media. “Everywhere you look,” Ewing says, “people are trying to sell you something and using sexualized images, and a lot of the images are about kids.”
- Changing the culture of institutions that serve children. Ewing credits recent changes in the Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts for reducing the risks of predatory sexual behavior.
- Treating children who are arrested for prostitution — almost always runaways — as victims and not criminals, and diverting them into programs that provide housing, education, counseling and therapy.
- Making Internet service providers responsible for screening out child pornography being traded on their bandwidth. “Clearly, a huge way in which kids are sexually abused is in the making and distribution of child pornography,” Ewing says. “As it is now, the guy who gets caught downloading or possessing child porn gets a draconian prison sentence, but what about the people who create the stuff?”
Davenport women accused of letting kids stay with known sex offenders
by Shellie Nelson and Brittany Lewis
Four women now face child endangerment charges in connection with a sexual abuse and child pornography bust in a Davenport mobile home park.
Police said at least six children were victims of child abuse, child neglect or child pornography that happened at one Davenport home in the Patriot Mobile Home Park and Apartments, in the 4800 block of West Kimberly Road, in Davenport.
Three adults were arrested and charged in connection with the case in early April 2014. Now, four more people are charged.
“I've had a lot of sex abuse cases over the last 20 years, but this is probably the largest sex abuse case with this amount of people involved in it by far” said Lieutenant Bryce Schmidt of the Scott County Sheriff's Office.
The investigation began when a man reported suspicions that three children – ages 2, 4 and 6 at the time – were sexually abused by James Faler and Melvin Lucier. Faler and Lucier were roommates at the time of the alleged abuse.
Lucier was arrested in his trailer at the Patriot Mobile Home Park. Faler remained jailed in Louisville, Kentucky, where he had been previously arrested and allegedly had digital and printed images that showed him sexually abusing children. Jessica Epping was also arrested for allegedly allowing Faler to supervise her six-year-old son.
Police said Wednesday, April 15, 2014, four women who are all from Davenport were also arrested and faced felony charges in connection with the case. The women are each accused of allowing children to be supervised by Faler and/or Lucier:
Jenni Jenkins, 29, was charged with one count of child endangerment with bodily injury. She was held in the Scott County Jail in lieu of $10,000 cash-only bond.
Sherry Ann Oats, 48, was charged with four counts of child endangerment plus one count of child endangerment with bodily injury. She was held in the Scott County Jail in lieu of $30,000 cash-only bond.
Sarah Melissa McConnell, 34, was charged with one count of child endangerment plus three counts of child endangerment with bodily injury. She was held without bond in the Scott County Jail.
Shaneka Posey, 23, was charged with two counts of child endangerment with bodily injury. She was held in the Scott County Jail in lieu of $10,000 cash-only bond.
“At one point or another, they had custody of children, and they allowed those children to go to a sex offender's residence,” said Schmidt, “Unfortunately in some of those incidents, there were some sexual acts that did take place during those incidents.”
“That's something you do not do. You warn your kids, you tell your kids, you don't send them into the lion's den,” said Michelle Taylor who lives in the Patriot Homes Mobile Park.
Records show on multiple occasions kids reported being sexually assaulted by either James Faler or Melvin Lucier.
According to affidavits, some of the women are accused of letting their own kids spend the night with the two men.
One mom allegedly sent her kids to the home Faler and Lucier lived after the child reported sexual abuse and was allegedly present when another child was assaulted.
“Some of the kids are very young, almost too young to talk to, where for them to comprehend. The ones that we were able to successfully interview, I think there were 6 or 8 that were part of the investigation,” said Schmidt.
“I sat here when I heard about it thinking, it's happening right across the street, is there something I could have done?” said Taylor.
(Picture on site)
Cult Leader Victor Arden Barnard Charged With Child Sex Abuse
by M. Alex Johnson
Washington authorities put out a statewide alert Wednesday for a cult leader facing dozens of charges in the alleged sexual abuse of young girls in Minnesota.
After a two-year investigation, Victor Arden Barnard, 52, was charged last week with 59 counts of criminal sexual conduct during his time as leader of the River Road Fellowship near Finlayson, Minn. Each of the counts carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and a $40,000 fine.
Barnard is believed to have been living most recently in the Spokane, Wash., area, Lt. Shane Nelson of the Washington State Patrol said Wednesday.
According to a criminal complaint obtained Wednesday by NBC News, Barnard left the church and moved to Washington sometime around 2012 when the fellowship splintered over allegations that he was having affairs with married women.
He may have gathered a new group of followers around him in Washington, according to the complaint, which was filed in Minnesota's 10th District Court in Pine County in support of an arrest warrant.
In the complaint, Minnesota prosecutors called Barnard a "master manipulator" who persuaded church members to let their daughters, some as young as 12, live apart from them to fulfill what he preached was their biblical obligation to have sex with him.
The girls, who lived in a group called "Alamoth," were required to be virgins when they were "invited" by Barnard and were to remain unmarried, according to the affidavit, which NBC News is not reproducing because of its explicit nature and because the alleged victims were minors.
The affidavit focuses on two unnamed girls, who are now adults but who were 12 and 13 at the time they say Barnard assaulted them.
They told detectives that Barnard preached that he "represented Christ in the flesh" and that because Jesus "had Mary Magdalene and other women who followed him," it was normal for Barnard to have sex with them.
Barnard would tell them "it was in God's Word," according to the affidavit.
The girls treated Barnard — who often dressed in biblical robes — "like a rock star" as he repeatedly engaged with sexual intercourse with them over a period of about 12 years beginning around 2000, prosecutors said in the affidavit.
It also says that Barnard's control over his followers was so strong that investigators have had trouble getting church members to cooperate.
The mother of one of the two girls cited in the complaint even talked her husband out of removing their daughter from Barnard's inner circle when she learned of his abuse, the affidavit says.
Man smothered crying son over video game
by Associated Press
HOMOSASSA, Fla. — A Florida man suffocated his young, crying son so he could play video games on his Xbox and watch TV, sheriff's deputies said Friday.
Cody Wygant, 24, is charged with third-degree murder and child neglect. He was being held Friday without bail at the Citrus County Jail.
Sixteen-month-old Daymeon Wygant wasn't breathing when emergency crews arrived at the home Thursday morning. The child pronounced dead at a hospital, investigators said.
“It is inconceivable that a father could kill his infant son — it just baffles the mind,” Sheriff Jeff Dawsy said. “Our only sense of relief now comes from knowing that we did exactly what we needed to do to bring justice to him swiftly. Our prayers go out to those who knew and loved Daymeon.”
Wygant said he was frustrated because the boy was crying uncontrollably, preventing him from playing his Xbox games, according to investigators. He covered the boy's nose and mouth for three to four minutes until he became lethargic, then placed him in a playpen and covered him with bedding, which was tucked around the boy's body and head, officials said.
Wygant didn't check on Daymeon for five hours, investigators said, while he played Xbox and watched three episodes of the television show “Fringe.” By the time he checked on the child, Daymeon had turned blue and was unresponsive, they said.
Wygant is the primary care giver for the child, and the mother — Wygant's girlfriend — was not home, officials said.
During preliminary interviews with the parents, they indicated the child had been placed in the playpen around 7 a.m. Thursday, officials said. But upon further questioning, Wygant said he suffocated the child around 1 a.m., they indicated.
The medical examiner performed an autopsy, but results haven't been made public.
Sheriff's officials said Wygant moved to Florida in 2013 and has no family in the area except for his girlfriend. Her name was not released.
They have a 3-month-old daughter, who is in the custody of the Department of Children and Families.