Mothers Of Lost Children – Indiana

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Archive for the ‘Indiana Child Protective Services’ Category

Crisis in Family Courts: Abusers Getting Custody

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I had several dear friends on this recent show on Dr. Phil. Both mothers I know had their children killed by their fathers in horrible murder-suicides when the court ORDERED them to give the children to the father (even after death threats).

What an Amazing Vigil at the White House on Mother’s Day

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Mothers of children being taken and given to abusers and rapists are tired of not being heard.  We won’t shut up, we won’t go away!  Here’s a video someone made that has some pictures from the vigil.  It’s awesome!

For the love of our children…


April 25th is Abusers Awareness Day: Learn the Truth About Parental Alienation Syndrome

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In 1985, PAS was first described by Richard Gardner, a psychiatrist who wrote that adults having sex with children is not a bad thing.[1]

Gardner described PAS as a “syndrome” whereby vengeful mothers employed child abuse allegations as a powerful weapon to punish ex-husbands and ensure custody to themselves.[2] He further theorized that such protective parents enlisted the children in their “campaign of denigration” and “vilification” of the abuser, that they often “brainwashed” or “programmed” the children into believing untrue claims of abuse by the father, and that the children then fabricated and contributed their own stories.[3]

To distance themselves from the discredited theory and its embarrassing originator, proponents of Parental Alienation Awareness Day sometimes claim that Parental Alienation Syndrome and parental alienation are different.  In reality, they are often used synonymously and the consequences can be dire.  Children can end up in the custody of their abusers.

Since 1985, abusers have come to convince family courts to ignore children’s allegations of abuse by invoking parental alienation and Parental Alienation Syndrome.  They wrongly claim that mothers are to blame because they are brainwashing their children.

PAS WIDELY DISCREDITED

1996 – The Report of the American Psychological Association Presidential Task Force on Violence and the Family discredited the theory. It stated:

Although there are no data to support the phenomenon called parental alienation syndrome, in which protective parents are blamed for interfering with their children’s attachment to their abusers, the term is still used by some evaluators and courts to discount children’s fears in hostile and psychologically abusive situations.[4] Family courts often do not consider the history of violence between the parents in making custody and visitation decisions. . . . Psychological evaluators not trained in domestic violence may contribute to this process by ignoring or minimizing the violence and by giving inappropriate pathological labels to women’s responses to chronic victimization. Terms such as “parental alienation” may be used to blame the women for the children’s reasonable fear of or anger toward their violent abuser.[5]

2003 – The National District Attorneys Association’s Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse discredited the theory. It stated:

Although PAS may be hailed as a “syndrome” . . . in fact it is the product of anecdotal evidence gathered from Dr. Gardner’s own practice. [...] PAS is based primarily upon two notions, neither of which has a foundation in empirical research. […] PAS is an untested theory that, unchallenged, can have far-reaching consequences for children seeking protection and legal vindication in courts of law.”[6]

2006 – The American Bar Association’s Children’s Legal Rights Journal discredited the theory. It stated:

PAS’s twenty-year run in American courts is an embarrassing chapter in the history of evidentiary law. It reflects the wholesale failure of legal professionals entrusted with evidentiary gate-keeping intended to guard legal processes from the taint of pseudo-science…. As a matter of science, law, and policy PAS should remain inadmissible in American courts.[7]


2006 – The
National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges also discredited the theory. It stated:

The discredited “diagnosis” of “PAS” (or allegation of “parental alienation”), quite apart from its scientific invalidity, inappropriately asks the court to assume that the children’s behaviors and attitudes toward the parent who claims to be “alienated” have no grounding in reality. It also diverts attention away from the behaviors of the abusive parent, who may have directly influenced the children’s responses by acting in violent, disrespectful, intimidating, humiliating and/or discrediting ways toward the children themselves, or the children’s other parent.[8]

CONSEQUENCES

One of the most troubling consequences of Gardner’s theory is that, “PAS shifts attention away from the perhaps dangerous behaviour of the parent seeking custody to that of the custodial parent. This person, who may be attempting to protect the child, is instead presumed to be lying and poisoning the child.”[9]

As a result, some children placed in the custody of their abusers have committed suicide; others have run away, and countless others have endured the abuse and are permanently traumatized. In recent years, children placed in custody of their abusers have been coming forward to tell their stories and to warn of the danger surrounding the fictitious syndrome.[10]


[1] www.stopfamilyviolence.org/373

[2] Gardner, 1992a; 1992b

[3] (Gardner, 1992b, p. 162, 193; 2002, pp. 94-95). – Meier, J. (2009, January). Parental Alienation Syndrome and Parental Alienation: Research Reviews. Harrisburg, PA: VAWnet, a project of the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence/Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Retrieved 3/10/2009, from: http://www.vawnet.org

[4] Pg 40

[5] Pg 100

[6] http://www.ndaa.org/publications/newsletters/update_volume_16_number_6_2003.html

[7] http://www.stopfamilyviolence.org/media/Hoult_PAS_admissibility.pdf

[8] http://www.stopfamilyviolence.org/media/NCFCJ%20guidebook%20final_2006.pdf

[9] Bruch, Carol S., Parental Alienation Syndrome and Parental Alienation: getting It Wrong in Child Custody Case in Child and Family Law Quarterly, Vol 14, No 4, 2002: 384.

[10] http://www.courageouskids.net

Indiana CPS: Accessories to Murder

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A major flaw I believe with how Indiana CPS conducts investigations is that the abused children are often interviewed in the presence of the alleged perpetrator.  I have seen it myself.  My own children were quizzed about abuse in the presence of their abuser (their father) after reporting to mandated reporters at school that they had been abused.  Because my children are in a custody dispute, CPS really did not investigate.  They did not know the children were coached what to say to CPS by the abuser and were paid money to entice them into compliance.   Everything was dropped.

As I was looking around for more information on the two dear children who died in Vanderburgh County on Saturday morning in the house fire, Alyssa and Caleb Lynch, I found this in the comments on CBS News:

by evillegirl47715 April 13, 2010 3:25 PM EDT
I am from this area and I know people who work in the two children’s school. The latest hearsay is that there were traces of duck tape found on the bed where the children’s bodies were located. So it is suspected that the SICK BASTARD taped the children to the bed and then set the house on fire.

It is very likely that the flippant attitude by Indiana CPS in disregarding abuse allegations very well lead to the children’s deaths.  Jeff Weisheit, most likely panicked by the allegations, decided to do the children in after being reported by the children’s father and grandfather for abusing them:

  • Alyssa and Caleb Lynch were both recently in Panama City Florida celebrating a birthday almost 2 weeks ago with both my Father Joseph Lynch Jr. and Brother Steven Lynch. Caleb and Alyssa both notified my father and brother that Lisa’s boyfriend (Jeff Wesheit) was hitting them. Both my father and brother contacted CPS in Indiana about the incedent and nothing happened. Now our family has lost two wonderful children to the hand of a wicked man. The same man Lisa Lynch had an affair with while still married to my brother, ending their marriage. Joseph Michael Lynch 3rd

    Apr. 12, 2010 2:17pm EDT | from michaellynch

If Indiana CPS personnel took their jobs seriously, they could have put the children into protective custody until an investigation was done PROPERLY.  No, CPS seems bound determined to take children from good parents and leave them with abusers.  Indiana CPS needs to be held accountable and charged as accessories to murder.

Read the Probable Cause Affidavit here.  It indicates they found traces of duct tape on the children, indicating at least one was bound to the bed before the fire was started.

Also see ATTENTION INDIANA: CPS Lets Two More Children Die, When Will Someone Do Something About Them?

ATTENTION INDIANA: CPS Lets Two More Children Die, When Will Someone Do Something About Them?

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Two more dear children died this past weekend in a house fire.  Dear Alyssa and Caleb Lynch lost their lives when mom’s fiance set fire to their house and left them to burn up while mom was at work.  The two children were recently with their father to celebrate a birthday, and the children told their father and grandfather that the fiance, Jeff Weisheit, was hitting and mistreating them.  Both the father and grandfather reported this to Indiana Child Protective Services over two weeks ago, and nothing was done about it.  NOTHING.

Now the children are dead.  Hope you all are sleeping well at night….their dear mother and father aren’t.

A short excerpt from WLWT:

Sheriff: ‘This Is Tough Stuff’

Weisheit is also facing charges in Indiana in connection with a fatal fire.

In Indiana, Vanderburgh County deputies said rescue crews were called to the fire at 10040 Fisher Road at about 4 a.m. Saturday.Fire crews said that the home was engulfed in flames when they arrived. Neighbors told firefighters that Weisheit lived at the home with his fiancée, Lisa Lynch, and her two children, Alyssa, 8, and Caleb, 5. Lynch was at work at the time of the fire.When deputies could not find Weisheit, an alert was put out to find him. That’s what led to the chase in Boone County. Indiana officials said that firefighters found the bodies of two children inside Weisheit’s home. The bodies have been taken to the Vanderburgh County Coroner’s Office for an autopsy and positive identification.

“This is tough stuff,” Vanderburgh County Sheriff Eric Williams said. “The fire was put out, and our people, along with German Township, began searching through that debris and as a result of that search we recovered two deceased children that were burned badly.”Investigators said they believe the fire was intentionally set.  Covington police said that Weisheit admitted to setting the fire and that he knew the children were in the home at the time.

And look here in the comments:

  • Alyssa and Caleb Lynch were both recently in Panama City Florida celebrating a birthday almost 2 weeks ago with both my Father Joseph Lynch Jr. and Brother Steven Lynch. Caleb and Alyssa both notified my father and brother that Lisa’s boyfriend (Jeff Wesheit) was hitting them. Both my father and brother contacted CPS in Indiana about the incedent and nothing happened. Now our family has lost two wonderful children to the hand of a wicked man. The same man Lisa Lynch had an affair with while still married to my brother, ending their marriage. Joseph Michael Lynch 3rd
    Apr. 12, 2010 2:17pm EDT | from michaellynch
  • In regards to the murder of Alyssa, and Caleb Lynch. These two beautiful children were my Neice and Nephew. I am thankful that police were able to apprehend the monster responsible, however this will never bring back these children. Joseph Michael Lynch 3rd
    Apr. 12, 2010 1:59pm EDT | from michaellynch

May this dear family get some justice for these horrible deaths.  Just because a broken family is involved…just because it involves children of divorce doesn’t mean you can keep blowing this off.  Run everyone into prison who works for CPS and has blown off child abuse charges, because too many children are paying the ultimate price here in Indiana.  May little Alyssa and Caleb rest in peace.

Also see Indiana CPS: Accessories to Murder

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Silent Vigil to be Held at The White House on Mother’s Day

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MOTHERS DAY AT THE WHITE HOUSE

In the somber spirit of the U.S. suffragettes, the Argentine Mothers of the Disappeared, the Turkish Saturday Mothers, the German Rose Street Women, and most recently, the Liberian women who stopped a civil war, we are gathering at the White House to ask our President to meet with our delegates and to help stop the systematic removal and oppression of our children by family court.

Peaceful silent vigil at the White House in Washington DC

Sunday May 9, 2010 from 11:00 am until at least 2:00 pm.

Exact location TBD. We are requesting a permit for Penn Ave and 14th.

We will bring white ‘Mothers of Lost Children’ tshirts, white scarves and handouts. Be sure to bring water bottles, powerbars, suntan lotion, dark glasses, umbrella. Reserve hotels soon (unless you travel by night on a bus and don’t stay in DC).

A few suggestions for posterboard signs to bring with you to hold:

  • Children are taken from safe mothers and forced to live with abusers. Why?
  • I gave birth to a beloved daughter: Her batterer has custody.
  • I gave birth to a cherished son: His identified molester has custody.
  • I gave birth to three precious children: Our violator has custody.
  • I fear judicial retaliation: What country IS this? (if a scarf is over your face)
  • Mr. President, please stop the children’s suffering.

We are compiling one page stories into a booklet. If you would like to contribute factual information and quotes, especially words from your children, send them to us (mothersoflostchildren@gmail.com). You don’t need to give any identifying information. Also, contact us to connect with others in your region who plan to come. Come early or stay later in the week to visit your Congressmembers, if you wish. Just find the name and make an appointment with him/her, or his/her staffer!

http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

https://writerep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml ;

Attention Indiana Legislature: Read About The Shared Parenting Disaster in Australia Before You Do it to Us

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This is from the Daily Telegraph in Australia, where they are already experiencing problems with forced shared parenting.  The “shared parenting” advocates in Indiana, at least some of them, believe that even an abusive parent deserves shared parenting.  This is horrifying to us that see our children abused and the abusers are applauded by the family courts of Indiana and often rewarded with full custody of the children.  This is often the starting point – shared parenting – but the goal is to get out of child support and gain full custody.

Children ‘at risk’ in shared parenting

THE practice of splitting child custody equally between divorced parents is being questioned after a major study found one in five parents in the arrangement believed it was not working.

An estimated 90,000 Australian children are in shared-care arrangements under a policy introduced by the Howard government with the support of fathers’ rights groups.

But the largest study of the family law system, released yesterday, found a presumption of a 50-50 split was putting some children into violent homes.

Attorney-General Robert McClelland said yesterday a “misunderstanding” that parents were guaranteed equal time under the law was to blame. “Bush lawyers or pub lawyers are providing advice to people going through the system that is wrong,” he said.

“We are now in a situation where people have resolved cases where the best interest of children may have not been regarded.”

Family laws introduced in 2006 included a presumption of equal parental responsibility, widely interpreted as an even-time split.

But researchers said yesterday parents had agreed to shared care even when they did not have to. Other parents were disillusioned because they were not granted a perfectly equal arrangement.

And violence was not being addressed in court because of the threat of paying full court costs if the allegations were not proven.

Mens Rights Agency director Sue Price said any shift away from equal time was a “disastrous” return to the old-fashioned notion that fathers didn’t count.

“It is not good for children not to have both mum and dad in their life,” Ms Price said.

The Australian Institute of Family Studies report, which took three years and surveyed 28,000 people, found about one in 20 children in shared care had parents who reported violence as a risk.

“There are significant concerns around the minority of families where there are safety concerns,” institute director Professor Alan Hayes said. Where safety concerns were reported by parents, children suffered but they suffered the most when they were in shared care agreements, he said.

But researchers found “overwhelming” community support for the concept of shared parenting.

Ms Price said violence by women was ignored in the three reports released yesterday.

Not Just Indiana, but a National Child Custody Crisis: Why Are Moms Being Punished in Courts?

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It isn’t just happening here in Indiana, it is happening everywhere.

Custody Crisis: Why Moms Are Punished in Court

Tuesday, January 19, 2010
filed under: divorce logic

Talk to mothers, divorce lawyers, and child advocates and you’ll hear tales of a family court system that’s badly broken.

Linda Marie and Children

Gina Kaysen Fernandes: To an outsider, Linda Marie Sacks had the perfect life. Her husband was rich, and they lived in a huge home in Daytona Beach, FL, where she spent her days shuttling her girls to school and various activities. Linda Marie describes herself as a “squeaky clean soccer mom” who “lived my life for my children.” Behind that façade, Linda Marie says she married a monster — a man who verbally and emotionally attacked her for years and sexually abused their two young daughters.

When she finally left him and tried to take her girls with her, she encountered a new monster — family court. Rather than protecting Linda Marie and her two young daughters from a sexual predator, a family court judge denied Linda Marie custody and put her daughters into the hands of their sexually abusive father.

Talk to mothers, divorce lawyers, and child advocates and you’ll hear tales of a family court system that’s badly broken. It’s one that routinely punishes women for coming forward with allegations of abuse by denying them custody of their children. Instead of protecting children from abusers and predators, the court often gives sole custody to the abusive parent, say child advocates. Mothers who tell judges their children are being molested or beaten are accused of lying and are punished for trying to intervene. Some are thrown in jail for trying to keep their kids from seeing an abusive parent. Women, many of whom have few financial resources at their disposal, are often at the mercy of a court system that is not designed to handle domestic violence.

Linda Marie first suspected something was wrong in 2002 when she received a shocking phone call from a school administrator. Her 7-year-old daughter was acting out sexually, with knowledge beyond her years. A short time later, the Sunday school teacher reported overhearing Linda Marie’s daughter saying, “I suck my dad’s penis.” She received more phone calls from school about her little girl using Barbie dolls to simulate oral sex with a boy in her class. “I was very concerned, these are alarming red flags,” said Linda Marie.

She consulted family therapists who also expressed alarm and concern, but failed to report these claims to an abuse hotline. In one of the therapy sessions, the oldest daughter drew a picture that depicted her father as an erect penis on legs. Linda Marie says she once walked in on her husband wiping her daughters’ vaginas in the bathroom before school, “because he told me he wanted them to be fresh.” When Linda Marie confronted her husband, he ignored and dismissed the allegations.

After 11 years of marriage, Linda Marie filed for divorce in 2004. Armed with detailed documentation, she believed the judge would grant her sole custody of her two daughters for their protection. “I was sheltered. I didn’t know I had stepped into a national crisis in the courts,” said Linda Marie, who spent tens of thousands of dollars in a legal battle that ended in the loss of her parental rights. Linda Marie has only seen her children during supervised visits for a total of 54 hours over the past two and a half years. “I’m one of the lucky moms,” she said, choking back tears. “Some bonds are severed forever. I’m thankful for my two hours a month.”

Some mothers like Lorraine Tipton of Oconto Falls, WI, have served jail time as the result of contentious custody arraignments. In November, a judge sentenced Lorraine to 30 days behind bars because she didn’t force her 11-year-old daughter to follow the court’s order to live every other week with her abusive father. “She’s terrified of going; she has night terrors and severe anxiety,” said Lorraine.

Her ex, Craig Hensberger, was arrested three times for domestic violence and once for child abuse. His criminal record also includes two DUI arrests, one of which happened while driving with his daughter. The court ordered Hensberger into rehab and demanded “absolute sobriety,” but his daughter claims he still drinks excessively when she visits.

Hensberger admitted in court that he still continues to drink, but the judge punished Lorraine instead for trying to protect her child. “My abuser is continuing his abuse of me and my daughter with the help of the court,” said Lorraine, who spent three days locked up until her daughter made the heart-wrenching decision to return to her father’s home so her mother could be released from jail. “He can’t get to me physically. The only way he knows how to hurt me is to take my child away.”

“What we are seeing amounts to a civil rights crisis,” says attorney and legal writer Michael Lesher, who co-authored the book From Madness To Mutiny: Why Mothers Are Running from the Family Courts — and What Can Be Done about It. Many judges and court-appointed guardians act above the law with apparent impunity, he argues.

“There’s no hearing, no evidence, no notice — they can take your child away from you,” Lesher tells momlogic. If a mother raises concerns or openly discusses child abuse in court, she typically ends up being the one under investigation. “Mom is guilty until proven innocent,” he says.

A family court judge with the Los Angeles Superior Court refused momlogic’s request for an interview to respond to these allegations.

Unlike criminal court, family court does not rely on criminal investigators to gather evidence in an alleged child abuse case. Instead, the court appoints family advocates known as “guardian ad litem,” or GAL, who are expected to investigate the abuse allegations and make their recommendation in the best interest of the child. GALs are sometimes licensed psychologists, social workers, or attorneys who are not necessarily trained in evaluating sexual abuse or domestic violence. They have the judge’s ear, and their opinions can alter a child’s future. There are no juries and there’s no mandate for legal representation. In fact, most women end up representing themselves because they can’t afford the attorney fees.

Most moms don’t want to take the case to criminal court because they prefer to keep the matter private. Legal experts contend the evidence in sexual abuse cases isn’t typically strong enough to hold up in criminal court to overcome the threshold of “beyond a reasonable doubt.” While the bar is set much lower for proving evidence in family court, advocates argue Child Protective Services frequently doesn’t want to get involved. “If there’s a custody battle going on, CPS won’t touch it,” says Irene Weiser of the advocacy group StopFamilyViolence.org.

There’s no doubt fathers play a critical role in a child’s life, and in most cases, are equally loving and capable parents who deserve custody. However, studies find when a wife accuses her husband of abuse, more than half the time, she faces a counter-accusation of “parental alienation syndrome,” or PAS. Although PAS is not a medically recognized disorder, divorce attorneys often successfully argue that it emerges when a parent brainwashes a child into thinking the other parent is the enemy.

The psychiatrist Richard Gardner, who first coined the phrase “parental alienation syndrome” in 1987, has written more than one hundred articles on the subject, but has offered no scientific data to support his theory. While it’s not considered a certifiable medical condition, PAS is widely accepted in the legal community.

“Parental Alienation unequivocally, categorically exists, and it’s a form of child abuse,” says author and forensic consultant Dean Tong. While he believes more studies need to be done to validate PAS, “it does exist, anecdotally speaking,” he says. As an expert witness, Tong has been called a “fathers’ rights prostitute” for his work in court clashes. But he also testifies for mothers who are fighting to appeal unfavorable rulings. For Tong, it’s about using forensics to find the truth. “I’m not here to protect guys who are guilty,” he says.

In years past, mothers were typically considered the “protective parent” in custody decisions when courts relied on the “Tender Years Doctrine,” which states that children under the age of 13 should live with their mothers. Recently, several courts have ruled that doctrine violated the Equal Protection Clause in the 14th amendment, and replaced it with the “Best Interests of the Children” doctrine. It’s a huge victory for the increasingly powerful Fatherhood Movement that contends dads are systematically alienated from their children after a divorce.

Tong argues the current legal climate continues to put fathers on the receiving end of false allegations. “It’s handcuffs first, speak later,” said Tong, who experienced that firsthand. In 1985, Tong’s ex-wife falsely accused him of sexually abusing his 3-year-old daughter. He spent time in jail and went through “a year of hell” trying to prove his innocence. While Tong was eventually cleared of any wrongdoing, he never regained custody of his kids, and remained under supervised visitation for years. Tong became a self-taught expert on the subject of family rights and abuse accusations. He has written three books, including Elusive Innocence: Survival Guide for the Falsely Accused.

“There’s an assumption that maintaining a child’s relationship with the father is a good idea — even if the father is abusive,” says Stop Family Violence’s Weiser, who believes when the overburdened court system is unable to sort out a custody conflict, it relies on misogyny. She argues there are many judges, GALs, and evaluators who believe that women are inherently vindictive and will lie to get a leg up in a custody battle. “We see it over and over again in family court, where judges or professionals don’t believe the violence is occurring,” Weiser says.

“All we have is ‘he said, she said.’ Who’s telling the truth? That’s up to the judge,” says Tong, who believes the justice system isn’t working for either side. “The system is not doing a good job interviewing kids, we’re still in the dark ages there,” says Tong, who thinks there needs to be more formal education and training for the professionals, including judges who are hearing child custody cases.

According to the American Bar Association, child abuse allegations in custody disputes are rare — occurring in only six percent of cases. The majority of those accusations are substantiated. In terms of false allegations, fathers are more likely than mothers to intentionally lie (21 percent, compared to 1.3 percent). In fact, abusive parents are more likely to seek sole custody than nonviolent ones, and are successful about 70 percent of the time.

After three years of litigation, Linda Marie Sacks says she was no match for her ex-husband’s financial resources and powerful connections. “He was buying his way through the courtroom.” Despite 10 calls into the abuse hotline by licensed professionals, Linda Marie’s ex-husband still claimed she was making false allegations of abuse to alienate his children, and the judge believed him. Linda Marie was kicked out of her home and put on supervised visitation with her two daughters, who are now ages 10 and 12. “The judge legally kidnapped my daughters and won’t give them back,” she said.

In some extreme cases, a custody decision will be reversed, which is what happened to Joyce Murphy. The San Diego mother was charged with kidnapping after she took her daughter out of state, away from the girl’s father, because she believed he was a child molester. The father, Henry Parson, accused Joyce of parental alienation and she lost custody. “Despite my pleas for protection to the police and the DA and the family court representatives, and even psychologists, Mr. Parson was able to convince them and the community at large that he was the victim, and I was just an angry, embittered, divorced woman,” explained Joyce.

Six years later, Parson was caught in the act and pleaded guilty to six counts of child abuse, which included oral sex with a child, molestation, possessing child porn, and using a child to make porn. After Parson received a six-year prison sentence, Joyce told reporters that family court’s only good decision in her case was granting her full permanent custody of her daughter after her ex-husband was jailed.

Lorraine, the Wisconsin mom who was jailed for protecting her daughter, knows her daughter’s nightmare will continue for the rest of her childhood. “He’s never going to stop, it’s never going to end until she’s 18.” Linda Marie says she’s putting every penny towards her legal efforts to win back custody of her daughters. “I will never stop fighting for my girls. I know one day justice will prevail.”

Critics argue that not only is the family court system broken, it was never designed to deal with issues like child custody. The goal is to develop solutions that are in the best interest of the child. “Unfortunately when judges and guardians start thinking of themselves as super government, all sorts of abuses will occur,” says attorney and author Lesher.

Activists are working towards making reforms through legislation. “The heartbreaking challenge is that there’s not one quick fix,” says Stop Family Violence’s Weiser. “This is a war — it’s very ugly, it’s bloody, and very bitter,” concludes Tong.

Battered Mothers Custody Conference Coming Up Soon in New York

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Time is getting short!  You still have a chance to register…please visit the website Battered Mothers Custody Conference.  Dates are January 8 – 10th, in Albany, New York.

Handprints of children taken by family court will be collected and displayed.  Here is the press release from Linda Marie Sacks:

“Children Taken By the Family Courts” Handprints
Albany, New York 

For the 1st year, the Seventh Annual Battered Mothers Custody Conference 2010, Battered Women, Abused Children, and Child Custody, A National Crisis VII: “Now That We Know, What Are We Doing About It?”  is hosting the construction of children’s handprints who have been taken by the family courts.

www.batteredmotherscustodyconference.org

January 8th, 9th, and 10th 2010 in  Albany, New York

This is a national crisis in the family courts all over the US and Mothers are losing custody….unfairly by a court system that is not protecting our children.
Just imagine, a long clothesline, with mini wooden clothespins, and handprints of all sizes, representing protective mothers and their children who have been “legally kidnapped” by the family courts.

We are asking Mothers who have lost physical custody of their child(ren) to create handprints to commemorate their lost child(ren). Throughout weekend of the conference, we will be providing materials and ask Mothers to add paper cut-out handprints to the clothesline.

However, Mothers do NOT need to be in attendance at the conference in order to add their handprints.  Please mail the handprints before Jan. 2, 2010 to:
Linda Marie Sacks  P.O. Box 730966 Ormond Beach, FL 32173
Questions…..call Linda Marie  386-453-3017
  after Jan 2, 2010 please mail to:
Dr. Mo Hannah, Chair, BMCC 2010   26 Purtell Avenue Latham NY 12110    mhannah413@aol.com      518-210-2487

Instructions:  Place your child’s hands on a piece of paper, cardstock works best,  trace your child’s handprints (left and right) on colored paper, cut out and write a message if you’d like and mail before the conference to Linda Marie, as she will constructing the clothesline and will have it at the conference. After the Jan. 2th date…please send to Dr. Mo Hannah.

Sadly, if you cannot see your child(ren) to trace their handprints, please, trace YOUR handprints for every child you have lost to the crisis in the courts.
Once the handprints are constructed, we will lend it out to individuals and organizations for promoting and publicizing the problems faced by battered mothers and children within the family court system.

One day justice will prevail…..thanks to all the wonderful people who are part of the solutions to the family court crisis.
 
Contact:
Dr. Mo Hannah, Chair BMCC 2010 
518-210-2487
mhannah413@aol.com
or
Linda Marie Sacks
386-453-3017
lindamariesacks@aol.com

Susan Hoppe, New Ombudsman: Can She Save Indiana’s Abused Children?

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Well, I hope this does some good.  I am hopeful, but not expecting much.  After all, Indiana recently received a failing grade for failing to protect abused children, one of eight states to earn that grade.  See the report:  New Report Released: Indiana Earns a Failing Grade When it Comes to the Rights of Abused Children.  From the Indianapolis Star:

New DCS ombudsman has no staff, little money

That’s what Indiana’s first DCS ombudsman will confront when she starts her new job this week

Posted: December 13, 2009

Indiana’s first child services ombudsman starts work Monday, and if the task of a lone person trying to keep watch over nearly 11,000 children and their families, 1,600 caseworkers and scores of private service providers isn’t daunting enough, consider this:

Questions already are swirling about whether Gov. Mitch Daniels’ appointee, Susan Hoppe, can be objective and independent.

Neither Daniels nor the legislature has spelled out a clear mandate for Hoppe, a 25-year veteran of the state’s child welfare system.

She will be expected to do the job with no staff and a budget that is a fraction of what is available to her counterparts in other comparable states — one of whom called it “a recipe for failure.”

On top of all that, Hoppe comes on board as the Department of Child Services faces increasing criticism from children’s advocates on two fronts: The agency is removing children from their families at a rate significantly above the national average, and at least 15 have died while either involved in active or recently closed DCS cases since September 2007.

“It certainly will be a daunting task,” said Cathleen Graham, executive director of IARCCA-An Association of Children & Family Services and a former head of the state’s child protection agency.

“Her charge includes both working on individual cases and reporting to the legislature on larger, systemic issues. That’s going to be a lot for one person to juggle.”

State Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, sponsor of the original ombudsman bill that was significantly reworked before it won approval, sounds less than confident.

“Right now,” he said, “I’m at a loss. Is this going to be a successful venture or not?”

The answer to that question lies with Hoppe and how she approaches the job.

Hoppe was not available last week for an interview. But she did address her new post in two brief telephone conversations with The Indianapolis Star after her appointment last month.

“I have no agenda,” Hoppe said, “except to improve the system and certainly improve the public’s confidence in the Department of Child Services. I am going into this job quite open-minded. I plan to do a lot of listening, reviewing and observing.”

Does law lack teeth?

Indiana is joining about 30 other states that have some sort of ombudsman program that covers child services.

Gerald Papica, the Tennessee ombudsman and co-chairman of the Children and Families Chapter of the United States Ombudsman Association, said some programs focus on broad systemic issues and nearly all do at least some work involving complaint resolution.

In Washington state, the ombudsman mission statement says the role of the office “is to protect children and parents from harmful agency action or inaction, and to make agency officials and state policy makers aware of systemwide issues in the child protection and child welfare system so they can improve services.”

But when Indiana lawmakers created the ombudsman position during the special session in June, they did not provide a mission statement. The legislation lacks any specific mention of addressing complaints raised by families about the actions of DCS — which was a driving factor for many who pushed for an ombudsman position.

Instead, the Indiana law lists a broad range of issues the ombudsman could review, including complaints that DCS “failed to protect the physical or mental health or safety of any child or failed to follow specific laws, rules or written policies.”

Some backers say that is strong enough.

But others say the lack of a clear directive to address mistreatment of families is another sign of weak legislation they say was hijacked by DCS and its supporters, then watered down and slipped into the budget bill at the eleventh hour.

Hoppe said it is too soon to talk about specifics of how her office will operate or what types of cases she will review.

“My first priorities,” she said, “will be to set up policies and procedures to receive and investigate complaints and to set up guidelines for prioritizing reviews.”

Daniels — who said he will not get involved in Hoppe’s work, such as asking her to look into specific cases — has made it clear his vision for the ombudsman has nothing to do with advocating for families that have complaints about DCS, the agency he created in 2005.

Daniels said his goal for the office is to “continue strengthening the improvement and oversight of our award-winning child protection system without undermining the morale or efforts of hard-working and compassionate caseworkers.”

Dawn Robertson, spokeswoman for the family rights group HonkforKids, which was among early champions in the push for an ombudsman, said Daniels’ statement is telling. Robertson said her organization has documented nearly 10,000 instances of alleged mistreatment of families and misconduct by DCS and its partners. She said the allegations involve human and civil rights abuses, policy and procedural violations and instances of caseworkers lying and threatening families.

The number of complaints is likely to grow in the wake of DCS’ actions in 2008, when Indiana recorded the largest increase in the country in children removed from their families, according to the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform. The organization also reported that the 9,375 removals in Indiana — children taken at a rate nearly 60 percent above the national average — is the most in at least a decade.

“We were hoping the ombudsman would be an avenue where families could have someone pursue their complaints,” Robertson said, “but it isn’t going to change anything the way it is now.”

She’s among those concerned about Hoppe’s ties to the state child welfare system.

Hoppe oversaw a staff of 50 that investigated child abuse and neglect reports in Marion County when she worked for the state’s child welfare system. At that same time, current DCS Director James Payne was the Marion County juvenile court judge. Many of the cases Hoppe’s staff investigated ended up in Payne’s court.

“I think she is an insider and way too close,” Robertson said. “That will ultimately, either directly or indirectly, render her incapable of providing unbiased opinions. I believe her loyalty will be with the agency, rather than the families or those in the middle who are looking for help.”

But Hoppe said concerns of bias are “a nonissue.” She said it has been nine years since she worked in the state’s child welfare system and that she never worked directly with Payne.

“I consider my experience a plus in terms of understanding the vulnerabilities and strengths of this system,” she said.

Graham, of IARCCA, said she thinks Hoppe is “an excellent choice” for the job.

“She’s not a political person, and she is a very fair person,” Graham said.

But will she dig into the specific actions of DCS caseworkers?

Robertson is among those particularly disappointed that the ombudsman was not directed to review the deaths of children involved in open cases or recently closed DCS cases. Ombudsmen in Michigan and Washington must review such deaths.

An ombudsman’s review is critical, Robertson said, because confidentiality regulations prohibit DCS from commenting on its actions in specific cases. Often, the only investigation when a child dies is done by DCS, and the results are not made public.

Indianapolis attorney Chris Worden, who formerly worked as a public defender representing families in Marion County juvenile court and now volunteers as a guardian ad litem, was another who lobbied the state to create an ombudsman post. By the end of the legislative session, however, Worden was hoping the weakened bill would die because it lacked true independence and amounts to little more than adding to DCS staff.

Worden said he was further disheartened to see the comments Daniels made when he announced Hoppe’s appointment. The governor noted “we can never do enough to protect our little ones from the selfishness or even brutality of irresponsible parents,” but didn’t mention any help for families that have complaints about DCS actions.

“Any time somebody takes a strong position one way, such as Governor Daniels did in his quote about irresponsible parents, you have to worry,” Worden said.

A true ombudsman, he explained, “would recognize that in most cases DCS gets it right, but in a portion, they keep a child out of a home and cause harm, and in a portion, they put a child back too quickly and cause harm.”

Office is short on cash, staff

But even if Hoppe decides to investigate deaths — and does so in nonpartisan fashion — does she have the muscle to do it?

The Michigan ombudsman’s office has 11 full-time employees, and Washington, with a population comparable to Indiana’s, has eight full-time staff members.

“Without at least a part-time investigator, I don’t know how you get that job done,” Worden said.

The small budget for Indiana’s office — $145,000 a year, which includes Hoppe’s $90,000 salary — is a red flag to Bill Angrick, the citizens’ ombudsman in Iowa.

“One of the biggest mistakes you can make,” Angrick said, “is to create an office with all these high hopes and expectations and then underfund it. It’s a recipe for failure — or at least dissatisfaction.”

Cindy Booth, executive director of Child Advocates Inc., who provides advocates for Marion County children involved in DCS cases, also is disappointed.

“When people started talking about an ombudsman,” Booth said, “I researched Michigan’s program and believed this could be such a vital part of accountability and assessment of our child welfare system in Indiana.”

But, she added, “that will be difficult with such a limited budget.” And that, Booth fears, shows a comprehensive approach is not a priority to state officials.

“What I hope the presence of an ombudsman will do is tighten everyone’s focus on whether we really are serving the child and assisting the family,” she said. “The problem with our system is that when it goes wrong, it often goes horribly wrong — up to and including the deaths of children.”

She and Graham also fear Hoppe could quickly become overwhelmed by complaints about individual cases.

“So many people are hanging their hopes on this office — and for a variety of different reasons,” Booth said. “I always thought of it being more about systemwide accountability, and my fear is it will be seen as a quasi-appeal system by many others and quickly get bogged down.”

But Brown, the state representative who sponsored the original ombudsman bill, said he expects Hoppe to investigate alleged abuses by DCS.

“A lot of the testimony in favor of the bill came from parents and family members who did not have an opportunity to have their concerns addressed,” he explained. “When I get a chance to talk to the ombudsman, I will make sure she knows what the intent of the legislation was.”

The Seventh Annual Battered Mothers Custody Conference is Coming Up Soon in New York

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Battered Women, Abused Children, and Child Custody:

“A National Crisis”

The Seventh Annual Battered Mothers Custody Conference

BMCC VII:

“Now That We Know, What Are We Doing About It?”

January 8th, 9th, & 10th, 2010

(Friday evening, 6 p.m. – Sunday afternoon)

Holiday Inn Turf

205 Wolf Road, Albany, NY

(Five minutes away from Albany International Airport)

Call: 1-800-HOLIDAY or 518-458-7250

Ask for the Battered Mothers Custody Conference block.

Reserve early!

This year, we especially invite grassroots groups, legal and other organizations to share what they’ve done to combat unjust family court practices that cause harm to battered mothers and their children.

For updated details and registration, please visit www.batteredmotherscustodyconference.org

Please reproduce and distribute freely this announcement and the conference brochure available online at www.batteredmotherscustodyconference.org

Children Who Witness Abuse or are Abused Need Help in Indiana: Will Anybody Listen?

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This article is from The Guardian in the United Kingdom.  However, with the lack of concern about domestic violence in Indiana and it’s affects on children, a program definitely needs to started here like this.  And while having school children learn about what is right and wrong, make the state legislators, all family court judges, and CPS/DSC personnel, who continue to turn their back on abuse if custody is involved, get some training on this also.  They all seem blind to the fact children are horribly affected by this….they don’t seem to care.  Family court judges willingly hand full custody to abusers here in Indiana, and refuse to consider bona fide abuse and expert testimony in their decisions.  Someone in this state has got to step up and do what is right for the children here.

What role should teachers have in preventing domestic violence?

Classes about abusive relationships are to become compulsory for children as young as five. Chris Keates says they could break the cycle of misery in homes

    Domestic violence. Photograph: Christopher ThomondDomestic violence and bullying are about the exploitation of power differentials.

     

    Evidence demonstrates that one in four women will experience some form of domestic violence during their lifetime. What is often overlooked is the impact of this abuse on the thousands of children and young people who witness, experience and in some cases perpetuate this violence.

    We know that the experience of domestic violence manifests itself in the behaviour of school pupils in a variety of ways. Children and young people who live in domestic abuse situations may have an increased risk of being bullied or be unable to fully participate in school life. Their anger and distress may also lead them to bully other pupils, and educational attainment often suffers.

    To argue, as some have done, that tackling domestic violence should not fall within schools‘ remit is to miss the point. The teaching union Nasuwt believes that educating young people about healthy relationships and tackling bullying, violence and other inappropriate behaviour towards women and young girls is central to schools’ purpose.

    The Nasuwt was the first union to launch a programme of work on prejudice-related bullying, and has worked closely with the TUC on tackling violence against women in the workplace. We have been at the forefront of raising this problem and have ensured it is included in government anti-bullying guidance.

    Both domestic violence and bullying are about the exploitation of power differentials: government figures show that in the 2006/07 academic year there were 3,500 temporary exclusions and 140 permanent exclusions from schools in England for sexual misconduct, including incidents such as groping, using sexually insulting nicknames, daubing obscene graffiti and serious sexual attacks.

    In total, 280 of the fixed-term expulsions were from primary schools, and in 20 cases the child responsible was just five years old.

    Using personal, social and health education to develop discussion and learning on domestic violence is an important starting point, and enables all of these issues to be considered coherently. However, this will be futile if the issue is not seen as the responsibility of the whole school. If behaviour in the playground and whole school environment is inconsistent with messages in the classroom, school pupils may not take the issue seriously. Staff, parents, governors and students all need to adopt a zero-tolerance attitude to all forms of violence and discrimination.

    Domestic violence is an emotive and complex issue and it will be critical that schools are able to draw upon the expertise of qualified staff (other than teachers) who are best able to deliver specific advice and knowledge. An increase in education on domestic violence and abuse may also lead to an increase in students disclosing violence in their homes. It will be important that appropriate training and support is provided for school staff to be able to deal with this.

    Domestic violence tends to repeat itself down the generations. Today’s announcement from the government is a welcome and important opportunity to break this cycle of abuse and ensure future generations are better equipped to resist the misery that domestic violence inflicts on all those caught up in it.

    • Chris Keates is general secretary of the Nasuwt teaching union

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