Friday, August 28, 2015

Child welfare changes in Denver to protect children:

All Denver City employees who interact with children and families will be trained to identify and report signs of child abuse and neglect.
That is but one of the recommendations from the Mayor’s “Child Safety-Net Impact Team” to be implemented immediately in an effort to stem the number of deaths and egregious incidents involving children.
Among the other steps to be taken: 
  • Denver Human Services (DHS) social workers will be assigned to selected Denver Public Schools. So far, it is unclear how many caseworkers will be involved or which schools.
  • Denver Health medical teams will consult with DHS “red teams” that make decisions about whether complaints or “referrals” are accepted for assessment.
  • Denver Health will also collaborate with DHS to develop a nurse home wellness program for families that may not qualify for an assessment but need assistance.
These “Impact Team” actions come after an ongoing 7NEWS investigation has uncovered serious errors by DHS in several cases involving the deaths of children.
A third child death in the past year involving the burning and beating of 23-month-old Javion Johnson finally prompted the mayor to take action. The child’s mother and boyfriend are charged with murder.
Now, 7NEWS Investigator John Ferrugia has confirmed that when mandatory reporters called DHS after the child’s mother tested positive for THC, the Denver agency did not perform a state-mandated assessment of the Javion Johnson and his family. 7NEWS also found DHS caseworkers never visited the family.
While DHS deputy director Jeff Holliday would not address specifics of the Johnson case, he explained the state law.
“If a child is born THC-positive it is defined in title 19 as abuse and neglect,” he said, “and that child is found to be dependent and neglected. I think that is pretty clear. We would be required not to open a case, but at least initiate an assessment.”
But the 7NEWS investigation found that never happened.
Now DHS has added a new layer of review of all "red team" decisions.  Sources said that is the result of the Javion Johnson case. Holliday notes that the move comes after a review of all three child death cases investigated by 7NEWS.
The question is: Had DHS properly visited the family, checked on the newborn Javion, and been involved in monitoring the family, would Javion be alive today?


Zimbabwe: Red Cross Tightens Child Tracking Systems:

The Red Cross Society has introduced tagging systems at every entry point at the ongoing Harare Agricultural show as it steps up efforts to prevent child losses.

Every child is getting a wrist tag on which the name of the parent or guardian and their contact details are written and will be used to track them in the event the child goes missing.In an interview, Red Cross disaster management officer Mr Hope Munyari said the child tracking initiative was the best alternative to ensure children's safety during the show days. "We have designed wrist tags, which have the name of the parent or guardian and their contacts, useful for contacting them in the event that the child is lost. The method is secure since the wrist tag cannot be easily removed. Children below 13 years are our target," he said.

Mr Munyari believes that the initiative would reduce cases of missing children during the show days especially after the tragic incident involving Gift Matapure, who went missing within the Show-grounds. "We urge the public and parents at large to ensure that any child below 13 years is tagged for easy identification in case of missing reports," he said.

Since the Agricultural Show began on Monday, Red Cross had tagged over 2 000 children. "The first two days of the show have a low turnout, but we have already tagged more than 2 000 children and we are happy the exercise is taking shape." Mr Munyari also urged parents and guardians to co-operate with the exercise as it was in their best interest. "Some parents are refusing to have their children tagged, which is not ideal as the grounds are overcrowded with high chances of their offspring going missing.

"During last year's exhibitions, over 100 children were reported missing, but with the help of the Red Cross authorities and this tracking system, we quickly reunited them with their guardians," said Mr Munyari.

Last year 35 000 children were tagged.

By Samantha Chigogo


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Goa Human Rights Commission issues guidelines on tracing missing persons:

Panaji:Taking the issue of women and child trafficking seriously, the Goa Human Rights Commission (GHRC) has recently issued guidelines on tracing missing persons and asked the state government to set up anti-human trafficking unit (AHTU) exclusively to deal with human trafficking cases.

The AHTU, recommended to set up under the police department, is aimed at building capacities of law enforcement officers on tackling human trafficking. The advisory issued by the commission specifically calls on state government to setup AHTU in ensuring swift search and tracking in all cases of children reported missing, as an essential measure for the rescue of such children.
 Commission has directed the state government to implement the guidelines and asked to file their action taken report on October 26.

The three-member bench headed by Justice (retd) P K Mishra issued the guidelines to the chief secretary and Director General of Police while hearing the matter on a suo motu cognisance taken by the commission as well as on a complaint filed by Delhi-based NGO Bachpan Bachao Andolan highlighting the lack of efforts on part of police and government authorities to curb child trafficking in the state, who are bought from across the nation and forced into sex trade.

Giving an advisory on preventing and combating human trafficking, the three-member commission, in its guidelines, has stated that “upon receiving any complaint of  offence against women or child then the police shall register FIR and investigate the matter in right perspective and in the case of missing report is filed in respect of women or child, then local police should conduct preliminary investigation by conducting inquiry into the whereabouts from the ‘extended family of relatives, neighbours’.”

“And if they could not be traced within four weeks then they have to register the FIR and conduct investigation and even after that the local police cannot trace a missing child in four months of registering of FIR then the matter may be forwarded to the anti human trafficking unit for intensive investigation,” it says.

This unit will be responsible for collecting, collating and analysing data on kidnapping and abduction of people in the state. The unit will also investigate cases of use of children and women for the purpose of exploitation, such as beggary and prostitution, a GHRC official said.

The human rights body further recommended the state government to designate police officer of not below the rank of DIG as nodal officer to exercise powers of investigation on handling cases of missing children.


Friday, August 21, 2015

Dauphin County Children & Youth inspection marred by 84 citations:

random review of Dauphin County Children & Youth agency cases resulted in 84 citations for offenses ranging from misfiled paperwork to caseworkers working without required child abuse clearances.

The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services reviewed the agency on several different occasions for its yearly inspection, as well as "for the purpose of investigating complaints" and ultimately placed the agency on a six-month provisional license. Its report on the ruling was released to the public Thursday.

"In the past year, the overall level of services with the children, families and service providers has declined," the state wrote in its review, commenting on the quality of services being provided to area children and families.
The state highlighted a number of problem areas, including issues with screen-out and referral paperwork, missteps in the process of assuring the safety of all children and a lack of family engagement.

Quality of care diminished as a result of an increased staff turnover rate, a restructuring of the agency that did away with specialty units and an increase in cases referred to the agency, according to the state's report. 

Several issues were found with mandated Safety Assessments including, missing entirely or conducting late assessments, not listing all children, children not seen within required timeframes, missing or late supervisor reviews and signatures and children listed as "safe" when their realities should have been deemed and listed as "unsafe."

Children at risk

Some violations put children's immediate safety at risk.

In some cases, "there was no indication that the safety of the victim child and other children in the home was ensured immediately," according to the report.

Caseworkers should also assess the risk under which all children within a targeted home live, but this didn't happen in all cases.

The findings outline issues that some may find trivial — a forgotten photograph, putting down the wrong race for a child on paper work, not collecting the correct records or signatures and missing case review deadlines by a day. 

Others, a bit more troubling — examples of caseworkers finding clear safety threats, but not documenting any protective steps; No proof that families were ever visited and cases where a child was placed in out-of-home care and not put through the "child grievance procedure" to explain what was happening.

Caseworkers closed out cases without seeing and re-evaluating children within the mandatory 30 days of the caseworker ending the case. A number of cases showed a child was classified as "unsafe" and in placement but was listed as safe on assessment sheets.
Some cases were closed out without a safety assessment or visiting the child's home at all.
Conversely, in one case, a child was found to be "safe" but a safety plan — which is not necessary for the determination — was still found in the file.

The county submitted a corrective plan to address some of the issues in last year's licensing rotation, but the violations remained, only to once again be spotted as a problem area during the annual-April inspection. 

Dauphin County will undergo additional reviews as the state provides greater oversight until the agency is granted a full license. A county can receive three provisional licenses before its license would be revoked by the state, but the state also can revoke a license if it finds the agency is negatively impacting the safety of the children it serves.

The county provided the state with a list of cases, to which the department selected a random sample. The findings were enough to downgrade the agency's standing.

The state considered "the number of violations, the nature and severity of those violations, whether the violations are systemic and cross numerous cases and repeated from one year to another," according to an email from Kait Gillis, press secretary for the Department of Human Services.

"Violations that impact the safety and well-being of children are given greater weight," Gillis added.  

A grand jury probe into the agency — which was independent of the DHS review — revealed similar issues and children's safety impacted to the point of death. 

On the state's part, all fatality and near fatality cases are examined for regulatory violations as part of the department's fatality and near fatality review process. 

A number of the violations were repeat offenses that had been previously identified in the agency during other licensing cycles, but the citations did not stop at the case level.
Staff members were hired without proper criminal, child abuse and FBI clearances. An unnamed caseworker was employed with the agency for nearly a year before termination and the proper clearances had never been supplied. Others waited more than a month to supply the proper clearances to be working with children.

While Dauphin County officials could fight the downgrade, they don't intend to pushback against the state's determination.

'Serious mistakes'

"The department has acknowledged that serious mistakes were made in the past and will not be appealing today's issuance of a provisional license," said Amy Richards Harinath, county spokeswoman, in a statement released in response to PennLive's request for an interview with Children & Youth interim administrator Joseph Dougher and oversight Commissioner George Hartwick.

The agency, Richards Harinath said, is confident that it's corrective decisions already implemented address all of the violations and, "most importantly, will serve to better protect the children and families of Dauphin County."

In fact, a majority of the issues identified by the state had "already been addressed" by the April inspection, according to the statement. Richards Harinath acknowledged that several of the violations came down to compliance issues and not quality of care.

"Many [violations] had to do with a failure to properly document how cases were handled and not submitting reports to the state on time," she said.

By Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico's standards, the county is "heading in the right direction," and he called for state officials to address issues that can't "easily be fixed at the local level."

"Not all the issues uncovered during the grand jury investigation can easily be fixed at the local level," Marsico said in a released statement. "Some issues, such as a review of caseworker training and high caseloads need to be addressed at the statewide level."

DHS will rule again on the status of Dauphin County's license when the provisional license expires on Jan. 24, 2016.

By the numbers

Dauphin County Children & Youth saw a "significant increase" in staff turnover rate with 28 members of the staff leaving the agency:
  • 1 Administrative Staff;
  • 3 Clerical support;
  • 2 Fiscal staff;
  • 1 Case aide;
  • 1 Legal staff;
  • 20 caseworkers.
The state reviewed the following Dauphin County Children & Youth records:
  • 20 of 988 Child Protective Service records;
  • 30 of 1,961 General Protective Services intake records, including 10 "Once & Done" records;
  • 20 of 296 Ongoing/In-home Services records;
  • 10 of 319 Placement records;
  • 43 agency Resource family home records, including 37 new resource homes
  • 4 of 32 Adoption records; and
  • 169 personnel records, including 24 new employees.
Dauphin County has participated in the Quality Service Review process:
  • First review in 2012;
  • Second review in 2014;
  • Third review scheduled for 2016.
The public welfare agency serves "a diverse population":
  • About 271,000 residents make up the population.
Editor's note: To report suspected child abuse, call ChildLine at 800-932-0313 (TDD 866-872-1677)

Megan Trimble | 

 Trinity Mount Ministries Website

Parents snap up tools to locate missing kids:

Parents have always worried about what could happen if their child went missing.
On Tuesday, children and their parents lined up for photos, fingerprinting and free DNA test kits at the Napa Police Department, part of a ongoing program popular with parents, according to Sgt. Mike Hensley.
Parents who were at the event acknowledged that while child abduction is rare and Napa is a safe city, it always helps to be prepared for the worst.
“I don’t want to be one of those parents who think nothing’s going to happen,” said Napan Monica Fiesler, who was there with her toddler son.
“It’s just to be on the safe side,” said Sara Gallegos, who was there with her two pre-school-aged girls. “If your child goes missing, they can pull up all the information.”
While waiting to be processed, children ran around the grassy area outside the station, while others got the chance to sit in a police car or see a police motorcycle. Each child who participated got a plastic “police hat” as a souvenir.
Children ranged in age from infants to pre-teens. Infants had thumb prints recorded, since their fingers are too small to identify the prints. Other parents were getting their children’s information recorded for the second or third time, since fingerprints can change as they grow.
DNA testing tools have never actually been used to find a missing child in Napa, Hensley said. But the photos and fingerprints could be useful, especially now that every police car has a computer.
Parents were given envelopes and instructions for storing samples of their children’s hair and saliva for DNA information. Police gave out CDs and USB drives so parents could record all the information in one place.
“I think it’s a real tool for parents,” said volunteer Terry Butler. “You can go to any law enforcement agency, and you have the information.”
Hensley also offered the service at National Night Out on Aug. 4, where it was one of the most attended booths.
“There seems to be a high demand for it,” Hensley said. “At National Night Out, I had to turn parents away.”
Indeed, Tuesday’s event was so popular that police ran out of ID kits. Another event will be scheduled.
 Trinity Mount Ministries Website

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Retrial for confessed Etan Patz murderer reset for winter:

 This May 28, 2012, file photo shows a newspaper with a photograph of Etan Patz at a makeshift memorial in the SoHo neighborhood of New York where Patz lived before his disappearance on May 25, 1979. (Photo credit: AP/Mark Lennihan, File)

The retrial of the murder and kidnapping case of Etan Patz, a Jewish boy who disappeared in 1979 in New York, has been rescheduled for the winter.

New York judge Justice Maxwell Wiley set a new date of February 22, 2016 to allow the case’s new prosecutor ample time to prepare the retrial of the alleged abductor.

The murder and abduction case was reopened over 30 years after Patz’s disappearance. Acting on the tip from a relative, police arrested the accused, Pedro Hernandez, 54, of Maple Shade, New Jersey.

Relatives told the media Hernandez has a long history of mental illness. Prosecutors, however, felt confident that 20 years of medical records supported their conclusion that Hernandez was “credible and persuasive.”

The case ended in a mistrial this past May when the jury could not reach a decision. Of 12 jurors, one refrained from voting to convict.
Pedro Hernandez, the murder suspect in the case of missing child Etan Patz. (photo credit: YouTube screenshot)
Patz’s abduction is considered one of the most notorious child kidnappings in US history. It led to a nationwide movement that can be traced to today’s Amber Alerts, which notify drivers of missing children.

His image was reportedly the first of a missing child reproduced on a milk carton. In 1983, then-US president Ronald Reagan designated May 25, the anniversary of his disappearance as “National Missing Children’s Day.”

Six-year-old Patz disappeared near West Broadway and Prince Street in Manhattan on the first day his parents gave him permission to walk to his school bus stop unaccompanied. He left home and never returned.

A New York judge did not declared the kindergartner legally dead until 2001.

When Hernandez confessed to the killing, The New York Times reported that he told police he took the boy inside a local bodega, a Hispanic mini-mart. Patz’s body was never found.

Based on his confession, Hernandez was charged in November 2012 with second-degree murder and first-degree kidnapping.


North East India - Gogoi directs strong action for child and women safety


Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi on Monday directed comprehensive enforcement of laws to remove all encumbrances coming in the way of child and women safety and their development.

The direction was given in a high-level meeting chaired by him, an official release said.

He also directed the concerned department to formulate a strict deterrent to stop child and women trafficking, unlawful employment of children through placement agencies and other crimes related to children and women.

The meeting decided to carry out a comprehensive survey on child labor in the state for evolving an action plan to tackle the problem of child labor.

"Gogoi directed that a survey should be undertaken in consultation with Kailash Satyarthi Children Foundation and UNICEF.

"A state level Advisory Council, headed by the Chief Minister, would be constituted to review the progress of the State Convergent Plan of Action for Child Abuse, which would be implemented in partnership with UNICEF," the release said.

Assam would also partner with the Kailash Satyarthi Foundation for rehabilitation and welfare of trafficked children, it added.

A mechanism would be put in place for fast tracking of cases related to child abuse and violence against women.

The chief minister directed convening a meeting with NGOs working throughout the state in the field of child protection and development.

"The government would also strengthen measures by legislation to prevent child marriage in the state," it added.