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January 18, 2005

Neville calls for action on eating disorders

January 2005 Ireland

Fine Gael Deputy Spokesperson on Health and Children, Dan Neville TD has called on the Tánaiste and Minister for Health to recognise that eating disorders are a serious psychiatric illness with a 20% mortality rate.

"Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric condition as evidenced by the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy report, Speaking Your Mind.

"We must remember that eating disorders are not self-inflicted. They are complex disorders that have no one cause or cure. Addressing the problem involves coordinated efforts from school education programmes and public awareness and health promotion activities to professional training for health professionals and access to service provision at community, primary and inpatient level.

"Some 1% to 2% of young females are affected by anorexia while 3% to 5% are affected by bulimia. It is estimated that 10% of new eating disorder cases are male. A recent community survey indicated an increase in the number of people engaging in inappropriate weight management behaviours such as laxative abuse and forced vomiting. These dangerous behaviours can lead to the development eating disorders. People with eating disorders can and do recover, 60% make a full recovery, but early intervention absolutely key.

"The Minister must immediately introduce training on the management of eating disorders in each of the former Health Board Areas. A dedicated service should be delivered through outpatient and where necessary, in-patient care. There is a need for one member of personnel in each health board area, who will have a special interest post in psychiatry dealing with eating disorders.

"There is a need for greater self-esteem building work and development of coping skills within the educational system. Campaigns promoting a proper diet and healthy eating need to be examined, and care must be taken that important messages relating specifically to eating disorders do not get lost in the midst of more recent discussions on obesity."

Posted by Nancy at 06:51 PM | Comments (0)

Eating disorder concerns voiced

January 18, 2005

The Scottish Executive has been accused of not doing enough to help people suffering from eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia. The Scottish chairwoman of the Royal College of Psychiatrists made the criticism in written evidence to Holyrood's health committee.

Dr Denise Coia believes services are "woefully inadequate" and that no improvement has been made since 2001.

The committee is meeting in the north east to hear evidence from campaigners.

Eating disorders are an increasing problem in Scotland, with about 10% of young women affected by such conditions.

They are becoming more widespread despite a report in 2001 which called on health chiefs to draw up plans to tackle the illness.

The health committee is meeting in Stonehaven on Tuesday as part of an inquiry into eating disorders.

Anorexia nervosa has the highest death rate of any psychiatric illness and is estimated to affect one in 100 women.

Care centre

The Eating Disorders Association complained in 2003 that fewer than 10% of patients were receiving treatment.

Scotland's first specialist day care centre for young sufferers was opened that year at Gartnavel Hospital in Glasgow.

The Scottish Executive said ministers welcomed the opportunity for the health committee to examine the subject.

A spokesperson said: "Mental health, within which eating disorder services are usually provided, is one of the executive's three clinical priorities for NHS Scotland.

Planning and delivery

"We must recognise that NHS boards have to consider a large number of competing priorities in planning and resourcing services.

"Ministers accept that there is still some way to go on the organisation and planning of eating disorders services and they have urged boards to collaborate on planning and delivery issues."

The Deputy Minister for Health and Community Care, Rhona Brankin, will meet the health committee on 25 January.

Posted by Nancy at 06:45 PM | Comments (0)

Danger of eating disorders in teenage diabetes

January 2005

Teenage girls with type 1 diabetes who also have an eating disorder need to be identified to reduce risk of serious complications, according to UK research.

Researchers followed the progress of 87 teenage girls and young women with type 1 diabetes over a decade. Of the group 15 percent had a probable eating disorder, such as anorexia or bulimia, at some point during the study.

In addition, more than one-third reported cutting back on their insulin in an effort to keep their weight in check, while others said they had vomited or used laxatives to achieve weight control.

The study published in the journal Diabetes Care found that these problems become even more common in young adulthood compared with adolescence.

The results showed that those with a history of eating disorders were five times more likely to suffer two or more diabetes complications.

Those who had ever used unhealthy weight-control tactics or misused their insulin faced a similarly elevated risk of complications. During the study period six women died, two of whom had bulimia.

Lead author Dr Robert Peveler at the University of Southampton, said that despite the importance of healthy habits in type 1 diabetes, some patients are able to disguise the fact that they have an eating disorder.

He said: 'Surprisingly, some patients do manage it for a time. The deterioration in their health may be quite slow and therefore hard to spot.'

The researchers called for better methods of detection and management of this group of patients.

Reference: Peveler R The Relationship of Disordered Eating Habits and Attitudes to Clinical Outcomes in Young Adult Females With Type 1 Diabetes Diabetes Care 2005; 28: 84-88

Posted by Nancy at 05:08 PM | Comments (0)

Miami Filmmakers Announce Completion of “The ABC’s of Eating Disorders”, a Documentary Film About Eating Disorders

New documentary reveals insight to life with an eating disorder. Documentary is available in time for National Eating Disorder Awareness Week February 27 – March 5

January 18, 2005 [PRWEB] Miami, FL

Miami filmmakers Joanna Popper and Arne Zimmermann completed “The ABC’s of Eating Disorders,” a documentary film on eating disorders. Anorexics, bulimics, and compulsive overeaters share their intimate experiences and struggles. The interviews captivate and allow the viewer into the mind of someone with an eating disorder.

Eating disorders are epidemic in America. Dr Marty Lerner, of Milestones in Recovery who was interviewed in the documentary, estimated that 50% of women have eating disorders at some point in their lives, and almost as many men. He also estimated that at any given time 20-30% of the population is suffering from an eating disorder.

Eating disorders have been largely misunderstood. Rather than being about food and weight as popularly thought, eating disorders are classified as a psychological disorder. Susan Kleinman of the Renfrew Center said, “Eating disorders have been misnamed. They really should have been called emotional disorders.” Alexis Todd from the Renfrew Center adds that “they are the deadliest of all psychological disorders.” The mortality rate associated with anorexia nervosa is 12 times higher than the death rate of all causes of death for females 15-24 years old.

This program is new, exciting and different. The viewer sees real people candidly speaking about their eating disorders and experiences. It includes compulsive overeaters, which is often overlooked. The project focuses on mainstream cases of functional people, not just Hollywood stars or people who die. Interviews include a wide variety of people from different backgrounds, genders, ages and ethnic groups. This breadth allows diverse audiences to connect with the program.

Producer Joanna Popper says, “The documentary was made to increase awareness on eating disorders, let people know they’re not alone, and encourage recovery. And, it helps people without eating disorders understand them.” She continues, “As Pro-anorexia internet sites increase, it’s important to have Pro-recovery materials in the public view. And the timing is perfect with the National Eating Disorder Awareness Week coming up in February.”

The Producer, Editor and people who were interviewed in the documentary are available immediately for interviews and happy to talk about all topics.

About the Producer and Zakto Film
The Producer, Joanna Popper, has been an advocate for eating disorder treatment and recovery since seeking her own treatment three years ago. She was interviewed on the subject on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360°, New Times, and Spanish and Portuguese-language radio stations. She has spoken at University of Miami Delta Gamma sorority. Filmmaker Arne Zimmermann is the Founder of Zakto Film. Arne shot and edited “The ABC's of Eating Disorders.” www.zakto.com/abc

For more information, view the trailer or to order the documentary email www.zakto.com/abc or email e-mail protected from spam bots.

Posted by Nancy at 05:02 PM | Comments (0)

Jury selection begins in abuse trial

January 18, 2005 [Lincoln Star Journal]
By Margaret Reist

Jury selection began Tuesday in the child abuse trial of Brandy Blair, who is accused of leaving her 22-month-old child locked in an unairconditioned room for two days, where he died.

Christian Reifler was electrocuted in June, apparently by a stapler stuck into an electrical outlet. Other residents living in the house at 1907 L St. found him and called authorities.

Blair, 23, is charged with child abuse resulting in death, a crime that carries a penalty of 10 years to life in prison.

Prosecutors have said the trial is expected to last about a week.

A second felony child abuse charge, which was punishable by up to 20 years in prison, was dismissed by prosecutors at the end of last month.

Court documents have alleged that Blair put her son in an upstairs bedroom on the evening of June 7, wedging a towel in the door so he couldn't open it and wander around the house, and didn't return until June 9.

During those two days, according to the documents, she went out with friends, smoked meth and watched movies.

Four other adults were living in the house at the time.

According to the court documents, one of the residents gave Christian a glass of water on June 8, and Blair checked on him the morning of June 9, several hours before she left and the other residents found him.

The autopsy showed Christian died of electrocution and was also dehydrated and emaciated, according to the documents.

Three of the four people living in the house, including Blair's brother, have been charged with misdemeanor charges of either child abuse or failing to report child abuse.

Posted by Nancy at 04:55 PM | Comments (0)

Accused tells of decades of abuse

January 18, 2005 Lisbon, Australia

A FORMER driver for a Portuguese state-run institution at the centre of a pedophile trial, which has tainted top figures, told a court today he had over the years sexually abused 22 boys under his care.

Carlos Silvino, who also stands accused of procuring minors for wealthy child molesters for more than two decades, apologised to the victims, but insisted he had remained their friends even after the abuse took place.

"Practically no one got angry with me. I am the one who got angry with myself," he told the Lisbon court after identifying each victim and specifying the offences he committed against them.

The 22 victims were between the ages of 8 and 14 when the abuse took place.

Silvino is charged with a total of 634 offences, including 598 counts of sexual abuse of minors from Casa Pia, a Lisbon-based network of 10 homes and schools, which looks after some 4000 troubled or orphaned children.

Last month he told the court he had for years delivered boys from the more than two century old institution, at their request, to several of the other six accused in the high-profile trial.

Silvino, who has told the court he was sexually abused himself while under the care of Casa Pia as a child, is the first of the seven accused to take the stand in the trial which has gripped Portugal since it began in November.

His testimony is seen as key in the case against the other accused, including television personality Carlos Cruz, whose career spans three decades, and former ambassador to South Africa Jorge Ritto.

A former director of Casa Pia, Manuel Abrantes, is also among the accused, as is a 62-year-old woman who is charged with providing her home so that the sexual encounters could take place.

Mr Abrantes, who maintains he is innocent, said Silvino's confession was "very serious".

"For this to have taken place, someone had to have closed their eyes," he told reporters as he left the courthouse for a lunch break.

The scandal began in September 2002 after the mother of a boy who attended classes at a Casa Pia school told police her son had been raped by Silvino while on a field trip.

A subsequent investigation uncovered allegations of decades of sexual abuse at the institution. More than 100 children currently at Casa Pia show signs of having been abused, social workers say.

The case has shattered public trust in the authorities, especially after reports surfaced that children had complained about being abused since the mid-1970s, including to a former Portuguese president, butt no one had acted.

Posted by Nancy at 09:02 AM | Comments (0)

Child abuse protocol changes

January 13, 2005 [Ledger Inquirer]
By Harry Franklin

15-year-old guidelines updated to close loopholes

A more comprehensive Muscogee County Child Abuse Protocol was signed and implemented Wednesday.

The measure is designed to improve coordination between agencies involved in identifying, reporting and evaluating child fatalities to determine whether they were accidental, intentional or natural deaths and to see whether they could have been prevented.

Georgia law requires that each county have a protocol in place. Muscogee's had been in effect about 15 years. Work by a group of local agencies began to update the plan in March. The completed document is 61 pages, nearly three times as large as the previous plan.

"It's a lot more detailed on the actions that will be taken and what occurs when a child has been abused," said District Attorney Gray Conger during the morning signing at the Government Center.

The Child Abuse Protocol Team worked to develop an accurate identification and reporting process so that the evaluation of circumstances in child fatality investigations is monitored and implemented in Columbus.

Joanne Cavis, a member of the Muscogee County Child Fatality Subcommittee, said reviewing child fatalities involves much more than child abuse. It includes looking into the deaths of infants when the cause of death is labeled as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or Sudden Undetermined Infant Death.

For a death to be labeled a SIDS death, three things must take place, according to Lori Davis, a field program specialist for Region VIII, Georgia Department of Human Resources, who is in special investigations. A death scene investigation, an autopsy and a clinical/medical history of the infant must be done. If any one of those are lacking, the death of an infant that cannot be explained is listed as SUID.

"Probably the most important message you can send is that infants need to be on their back in a bed by themselves," said Cavis, with the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service. "The biggest problem we have with baby deaths is infants in bed with adults and other children... . If you want to feel close to a baby, put it in a bassinet next to your bed."

Infants 2-4 months old are at greatest risk, she said. After nine months, the risk drops significantly.

Statistics from the Muscogee County Child Fatality Review show that accidental deaths and homicides of children have declined over a four-year period. But five deaths were attributed to SIDS and three to SUID in 2002. In 2003, five deaths were listed as SIDS deaths and one infant death was unexplained, among 18 child deaths reported and evaluated. Two child deaths were attributed to homicide by the review committee in 2003 and two in 2002.

Gov. Sonny Perdue announced Tuesday he will push for 500 more case workers for the state's Division of Family and Children Services, because agency case workers are overloaded, to boost morale and reduce turnover.

"Every county, every municipality, including Columbus is going to get some additional case workers," said DFACS spokesman Bryan Toussaint. "Is there an exact number? No one's going to know, at least right now."

For more information on how to protect infants from sudden death, call the Extension Service at 653-4200

Posted by Nancy at 08:58 AM | Comments (0)

Complaints air over Oregon's child protection system

January 17, 2005 [Associated Press]

SALEM - Spurred by recent cases involving the death and injury of children in state care, a legislative panel began hearings Monday into a child protection system that one lawmaker said suffers from "an alarming problem."

"We are going to get to the bottom of what these problems are," said Rep. Billy Dalto, R-Salem, who is chairman of the House Health and Human Services Committee.

Meanwhile, the state's top child protection official said the program is struggling to keep up with a rising number of child abuse and neglect cases fueled in large part by Oregon's methamphetamine epidemic.

"The methamphetamine problem alone is driving our system in a way that none of us could have anticipated 10 years ago," said Ramona Foley, assistant director of the Oregon Department of Human Services.

The comments came as Dalto's committeee began looking for ways to avoid a repeat of two high-profile cases that have put a spotlight on the department's child protection efforts.

Last month, officials found a 5-year-old girl, Jordan Knapp, in a foster home near Sandy weighing a mere 28 pounds. The girl's foster parents face charges of child abuse.

A week later, a 15-month-old boy, Ashton Parris, died of head injuries after the state returned him to his birth mother as part of a state-supervised plan to reunite the family.

The death is under investigation.

Those cases brought a call from Gov. Ted Kulongoski to review the state's child protection system.

A state team that looked into the case of the malnourished girl issued a report last week criticizing what it said were poor communications and record-keeping, and a lack of coordination among caseworkers.

Some of that same criticism was aired at Monday's committee hearing.

House Speaker Karen Minnis, who attended the meeting, said the Multnomah County sheriff's office has told her the state department at times has been reluctant to share information with local police agencies.

"There is a lot of frustration that law enforcement can't get information" on pending child abuse complaints, the Wood Village Republican said.

The department also drew criticism from one lawmaker who said state caseworkers sometimes remove the child from the home and break up a family without proper justification.

Rep. Gordon Anderson said it such cases, it seems like "overkill" to send two or three police cars to a home to remove a child.

Others on the committee, however, said they sympathize with the enormous task facing state caseworkers who've seen reports of child abuse and neglect climb by 60 percent in the past decade.

In the most recent year, state caseworkers screened more than 20,000 complaints of suspected neglect and abuse.

Of those, more than 9,000 were confirmed.

Foley, in her remarks to the panel, said while people involved in the state's child protection effort at times feel "overwhelmed" they are searching for ways to improve the program. She noted she has asked a team of national child protection experts to review Oregon's program for assessing abuse complaints.

Posted by Nancy at 08:52 AM | Comments (0)

Jury Selection To Start In Shanley Sex Abuse Trial

January 18, 2005 [The Boston Channel]

Decades after he allegedly molested young boys at a church in Newton, Mass., defrocked priest Paul Shanley is going to trial. Jury selection begins Tuesday.

NewsCenter 5's Gail Huff reported that Shanley, 73, is free on bail and it is not known whether he will be present for jury selection.

Shanley was arrested three years ago in San Diego and charged with several counts of rape of a child and assault and battery for alleged crimes that occurred while he was at St. Jean's Parish in Newton. The case began with four accusers but is going to trial with only one. The plaintiff's name is not being revealed. The most vocal accuser, Gregory Ford, [pictured right] was dropped because prosecutors feared his medical history could hurt the case against Shanley. His father, Rodney Ford, said he hopes the former Catholic priest is convicted and goes to jail.

All four boys told similar stories of being taken out of religious education classes by Shanley and raped in the confessional, restroom and church rectory. Prosecutors dropped three of the accusers before the trial.

Shanley allegedly abused more than 12 young boys during his career as a Roman Catholic priest in the Boston archdiocese, but the statute of limitations made it impossible to prosecute most of the cases because they took place so long ago. Because Shanley moved out of state, however, the clock stopped on some of the cases, allowing prosecutors to charge him with sexual abuse that took place between 1979 and 1989.

Shanley became one of the more well-known clergy sex abuse figures because he was a flamboyant "street priest" and youth worker in the 1970s who garnered publicity for his work with homeless teens. Internal church documents showed that archdiocese officials knew of sex abuse complaints against Shanley dating back to 1967, including reports that he advocated sex between men and boys, but they refused to deal with the issue, instead transferring him from parish to parish, including the Newton church.

Shanley has denied ever raping anyone. He was defrocked by the Vatican (news - web sites) in Feburary 2004.

The archdiocese has already paid more than $85 million to more than 500 accusers who sued the church and won a large settlement.

Shanley's lawyer said he will argue that the accusers made up the abuse stories in order to collect monetary settlements from the archdiocese.

Because the clergy sex abuse cases have been so widely publicized, the judge has allotted at least four days for jury selection with the expectation it will be difficult to put a panel together. The trial is expected to take two weeks.

Posted by Nancy at 07:56 AM | Comments (0)

Murder and Suicide Reviving Claims of Child Abuse in Cult

January 15, 2005 [NY Times]
By Laurie Goodstein

Ricky Rodriguez, the son of a leader of the Children of God, showed off weapons in a videotape he made the night before he killed his former nanny and himself. On the tape he said he had "a need for revenge."

Growing up in the 1970's in a religious cult known around the world as the Children of God, Ricky Rodriguez was revered as "the prince." The group's leaders were his mother and stepfather, and they taught that their son would guide them all when the End Times came.

He was so special that his unconventional upbringing - by a collection of often-topless young nannies - was chronicled in "The Davidito Book," which was distributed to cult members as a how-to guide for rearing children. And children the cult had in multitudes.

Last Saturday in Tucson, Mr. Rodriguez, now 29, invited a former nanny, Angela Smith, to go to dinner. He took Ms. Smith to his apartment, stabbed her to death, went to his Chevrolet, drove west across the California border to a small desert town, Blythe, and called his wife on his cellphone to explain why he had killed Ms. Smith, the police in both states and Mr. Rodriguez's wife said.

Then with one shot from a semiautomatic handgun, the police said, he ended his life.

The group lives on. What was known as a 60's cult that attracted members like the parents of the actor River Phoenix and Jeremy Spencer, the Fleetwood Mac guitarist, is now called the Family International.

A spokesman in Washington, Claire Borowik, described the organization as a Christian fellowship with 4,000 children and 4,000 adult members who lived in 718 communal houses in 100 countries. The group sends aid workers and missionaries to disasters like the recent tsunami. Its musical troupe, the Family Singers, have at various times sung in the White House.

But Mr. Rodriguez's murder-suicide is reviving accusations by former members about routine physical, emotional and sexual abuse that they say they experienced as children.

There is evidence of the practices in documents that the cult's leaders consider so damaging that they acknowledge they twice sent out "purge notices" to their followers with explicit directions about which pages to burn, which photographs to white-out and which to excise with Exacto knives.

Mr. Rodriguez recorded a videotape the night before he killed Ms. Smith and committed suicide. The video, which was provided to The New York Times by Mr. Rodriguez's wife, was taped in his apartment in Tucson and shows him loading a gun and showing off other weapons.

He said he saw himself as a vigilante avenging children like him and his sisters who had been subject to rapes and beatings.

"There's this need that I have," he said. "It's not a want. It's a need for revenge. It's a need for justice, because I can't go on like this."

Mr. Rodriguez is not the only suicide among people reared in the Children of God. Some former members who keep in touch with one another through a Web site, movingon.org, say that in the last 13 years at least 25 young people reared in the cult have committed suicide.

In response to questions, the Family strongly insisted in an e-mail message from Ms. Borowik that the formers members were intentionally inflating the count by including accidents, overdoses and people who are alive.

For the Family International, the latest murder-suicide threatens to revive a past that Ms. Borowik said she thought the organization had put behind it. The Family announced in 1986 that it had changed its guidelines and would excommunicate anyone who had sexual contact with children, she said.

The group survived investigations into child abuse in Argentina, Australia, France and Spain in the 90's. Although some members were briefly jailed, there were no convictions of top leaders.

Ms. Borowik attributed Mr. Rodriguez's crime not to his past, but to his current "peers." She said that when he left the group in 2000, he came in contact with former members who are "virulent vitriolic apostates, which we have a small circle of, who want to do damage to our movement."

They failed to point him in "positive directions," she said.

Mr. Rodriguez's mother, Karen Zerby, known as the Queen or Mama Maria, still leads the Family. Her whereabouts and travel schedule are kept secret, even from most group members, Ms. Borowik said, "because of her spiritual ministry to so many people."

Ms. Zerby refused an interview request submitted to Ms. Borowik.

Posted by Nancy at 07:47 AM | Comments (0)

Bishop reviews reporting plan for suspected child sex abuse

January 18, 2005 [Tucson Citizen]
By Sheryl Kornman

The spiritual leader of southern Arizona's Catholics meets with clergy to go over the Tucson diocese's policy in reporting incidents of sexual misconduct.

The Catholic Diocese of Tucson appears to have stepped up efforts to make sure suspected child sex abuse is reported to authorities following the arrest in December of a priest on suspicion of failing to report an incident of alleged abuse.

Diocese spokesman Fred Allison said the timing of Bishop Gerald Kicanas' Jan. 10 review with the diocese's clergy leaders of the church's guidelines for reporting sexual misconduct by clergy is not related to the arrests in December of a Tucson priest and a church volunteer for failing to report an alleged incident of child sex abuse.

Authorities dropped the charges, and the priest was reassigned to San Luis, near Yuma, Allison said.

At the Pastoral Council meeting Kicanas covered the diocese's compliance plans, its zero-tolerance policy and the matter of the priests against whom there are credible allegations of sex abuse. The Pastoral Council is made up of clergy and lay people.

What he said was not made public.

To reach more people, a column in the January issue of Catholic Vision, the diocese newspaper, tackles the issue of why clergy or other church personnel may not report allegations of sexual abuse of minors.

Paul Duckro, a psychologist and the diocese's director of the Office of Child, Adolescent and Adult Protection, noted these key points:

  • "The arrests of two of our personnel for alleged failure to report have demonstrated that we ... are not perfect in our response to situations in which we encounter possible abuse."

  • "Lack of education in regard to reporting incidents was not the issue."

  • It was "the way of thinking that could lead to the wrong response."

  • The situation in front of us "is perceived to fall outside the definition of child abuse. It might be seen as a family matter, consensual or between kids."

    Duckro said "abuse is abuse no matter the relationship of perpetrator to victim and no matter the voiced consent of the victim."
    And, he said, clergy can make a mistake when they honor secrecy agreements.

    "The fact is there is no confidentiality in most circumstances for most of us," he wrote.

    A diocese employee who says "I don't have time for this" is making "another mistake that can make perfect sense at the time but carries no weight under the law," Duckro wrote.

    He advised clergy to "take the time now (to report an incident) or risk spending much more time later trying to undo the problem the delay creates."

    Thinking "this could not be true" is not an excuse for not reporting an allegation of abuse. "Make the call," he said. "Let law enforcement sort it out."

    Dukro said that a lack of confidence in how police or Child Protective Services might handle the matter is not a reason to not report alleged child abuse or sexual molestation.
    "Know the law," he advised them.

    Kicanas sent letters to all diocese priests and deacons the week of Jan. 3 asking them "to review the requirements for background checks and fingerprint verification," according to his weekly memo published on the diocese Web site Jan. 10.

    According to the diocese's Web site, "Fingerprinting and criminal background checks will be performed on all priests, deacons, religious, seminarians, diocesan employees, and all volunteers who minister to children, adolescents or vulnerable adults."

    They were also asked to make sure they had signed statements indicating they had received training on the diocesan Code of Conduct and Guidelines for the Prevention of and Response to Sexual Misconduct.

    Posted by Nancy at 07:22 AM | Comments (0)

    Panel begins child abuse hearings

    January 18, 2005
    By BRAD CAIN [Associated Press writer]

    SALEM — Spurred by recent cases involving the death and injury of children in state care, a legislative panel began hearings Monday into a child protection system that one lawmaker said suffers from "an alarming problem."

    "We are going to get to the bottom of what these problems are," said Rep. Billy Dalto, R-Salem, who is chairman of the House Health and Human Services Committee.

    Meanwhile, the state's top child protection official said the program is struggling to keep up with a rising number of child abuse and neglect cases fueled in large part by Oregon's methamphetamine epidemic.

    "The methamphetamine problem alone is driving our system in a way that none of us could have anticipated 10 years ago," said Ramona Foley, assistant director of the Oregon Department of Human Services.

    The comments came as Dalto's committee began looking for ways to avoid a repeat of two high-profile cases that have put a spotlight on the department's child protection efforts.

    Last month, officials found a 5-year-old girl, Jordan Knapp, in a foster home near Sandy weighing a mere 28 pounds. The girl's foster parents face charges of child abuse.

    A week later, a 15-month-old boy, Ashton Parris, died of head injuries after the state returned him to his birth mother as part of a state-supervised plan to reunite the family. The death is under investigation.

    Those cases brought a call from Gov. Ted Kulongoski to review the state's child protection system.

    A state team that looked into the case of the malnourished girl issued a report last week criticizing what it said were poor communications and record-keeping, and a lack of coordination among caseworkers.

    Some of that same criticism was aired at Monday's committee hearing.

    House Speaker Karen Minnis, who attended the meeting, said the Multnomah County sheriff's office has told her the state department at times has been reluctant to share information with local police agencies.

    "There is a lot of frustration that law enforcement can't get information" on pending child abuse complaints, the Wood Village Republican said.

    The department also drew criticism from one lawmaker who said state caseworkers sometimes remove the child from the home and break up a family without proper justification.

    Rep. Gordon Anderson, R-Grants Pass, said in such cases, it seems like "overkill" to send two or three police cars to a home to remove a child.

    Others on the committee, however, said they sympathize with the enormous task facing state caseworkers who've seen reports of child abuse and neglect climb by 60 percent in the past decade.

    In the most recent year, state caseworkers screened more than 20,000 complaints of suspected neglect and abuse. Of those, more than 9,000 were confirmed.

    Posted by Nancy at 07:13 AM | Comments (0)