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January 19, 2005

Meth boosts child-protection needs

Health and Welfare seeks budget increase
January 19, 2005 [Spokesman Review]
Betsy Z. Russell Staff writer

BOISE – Idaho's child-protection caseload is up 25 percent from a year ago, mainly because of parents who are abusing methamphetamine.

"You cannot use methamphetamine and be a parent – it just doesn't work," Magistrate Judge Bryan Murray told legislative budget writers this week. "They cannot deal with the needs of their children. Children are at extreme risk where they are in a home with methamphetamine being used."

Murray and other law-enforcement and state officials painted for lawmakers a frightening picture of the world of children whose parents abuse the drug. And while there are increasing numbers of substantiated child abuse and neglect cases in the state, the state Health and Welfare Department hasn't increased its number of child-protection workers since 1992.

The department now wants to add 15 child-protection workers – one of an array of proposals for additional staff in its budget request for next year.

"In our view, the consequences of not funding the child protection program at a level equivalent to the need ultimately will place children at risk," Ken Diebert, administrator of family and community services for Health and Welfare, told the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee.

Lawmakers were chilled by the presentation, part of a weeklong series on the inner workings of the huge Health and Welfare Department, the state's largest agency.

"It's distressing to hear the individual stories of the cases that are happening out there," said Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, vice chairwoman of the joint committee. "Our job is to make sure that the resources we are utilizing are going where they need to go, and assessing the need for additional resources and where they're going to come from."

Keough said that before she knows if the new workers should be added, "I need some more information." For example, department officials said they hold some positions vacant to move the funding into benefit payments.

New Senate Health and Welfare Committee Chairman Dick Compton, R-Coeur d'Alene, sat front and center for the budget hearing, along with his House counterpart, Rep. Sharon Block, R-Twin Falls, chairwoman of the House Health and Welfare Committee.

"It's scary, it's absolutely scary," Compton said of the picture officials painted of drug-abusing parents. "It's beyond criminal. It's one thing if they screw up their own lives, poison their own minds, but it's another thing to screw up the lives of these youngsters."

Col. Dan Charboneau, director of the Idaho State Police, told the story of a young girl who was afraid to go home after school, so she brought a friend. The friend saw several children caring for one another in an unkempt environment with no food, and told her parents. Child-protection officials then discovered five children in the home unattended, and a sixth duct-taped to a post in a crawl space as part of punishment from the parents. Large quantities of drugs were found.

Charboneau also shared another story about state police officers who were readying a meth lab bust and observed a young boy in a skeleton costume periodically running up and down the street. They thought the youngster might be watching for the police. But when they went in, they found the parents passed out on the couch.

The child had dressed himself for a school Halloween party in the costume, but wore no shoes, socks or underwear. He told police he'd been running up and down the street trying to catch the school bus.

Posted by Nancy at 10:29 AM | Comments (0)

Accuser dropped in priest abuse trial

January 19, 2005 [Associated Press]

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) - Prosecutors dropped an accuser from the criminal case against former priest Paul Shanley, leaving just one alleged victim to testify in the trial that began Tuesday for one of the most notorious figures in the clergy sex abuse scandal.

Prosecutors already had dropped two other accusers from the case, and they removed the third because they have been unable to find him since a hearing in October when he had difficulty remaining composed to testify. The move to drop him from the case was expected.

The witness' removal leaves Shanley, 73, facing three charges of raping a child and two charges of indecent assault and battery on a child. The maximum sentence would be life in prison.

About 80 prospective jurors were questioned Tuesday for the trial that is expected to last about two weeks. Four jurors - three men and one woman - were seated by midafternoon.

Shanley's lawyer has made it clear he will argue that the lone remaining accuser made up his story of abuse to win a monetary award in a civil lawsuit.

Posted by Nancy at 10:18 AM | Comments (0)

Yemen opens eyes to prevalence of child trafficking

January 19, 2005 [The Washington Times] By Peter Willems

SAN''A, Yemen -- A two-day workshop based on the first study of child trafficking in Yemen was held last weekend, representing the first public admission that children are being sent to Saudi Arabia to support their families and thus exposed to abuse.

Awareness of the issue has grown in the past year, but it has provoked disagreement about the magnitude of the problem and how many youngsters working north of the border should be considered trafficked children.

"We have fully acknowledged that this is a problem for us and appears to be growing," said Ramesh Shrestha, a Yemen-based representative of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), speaking at the opening of the forum, which brought government ministers and representatives of aid organizations together Saturday and Sunday.

"There are different issues on the definition of trafficking," he said. "Whether or not it is trafficking or illegal immigration, and there are different numbers for children being trafficked, but the basic fact is that there is a problem."

The study by Yemen's Social Affairs Ministry and UNICEF was carried out in Hajja and al Mahweet, two provinces thought to be primary sources of child trafficking, and was based on interviews and group discussions with victims, families, traffickers and government authorities.

The information gathered showed that more than 25 percent of children interviewed faced risks to their well-being, including going hungry and getting lost. The study found that some died during the journey to Saudi Arabia, and many said they had been robbed or beaten and abused by security officials. In addition, nearly 65 percent of the children trafficked did not have a place to stay and ended up living on the streets.

The most common ways of earning money by Yemeni children abroad are begging or becoming street vendors.

Research teams were not able to carry out a full assessment of sexual exploitation. But according to a woman interviewed in the survey, "Children were sexually abused even by the traffickers themselves and before they got into Saudi Arabia."

One of the reasons that child trafficking has become a lucrative business in Yemen is that many families are unaware of the hardships that their children may encounter. Most parents involved in the study said they saw no difference between child trafficking and illegal immigration to boost a family's income, and most were willing to pay a trafficker to make it possible.

The major cause of child trafficking in Yemen is poverty.

"Child trafficking is one of the bad symptoms of people suffering from poverty," said Amat al-Aleem al-Soswa, Yemen's U.S.-educated human rights minister. "If the families happened to be well-off, the parents would not have let their children go to another place and be vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. It is poverty, and we should fight it if we want a radical solution for this problem."

In the World Bank's recent report on Yemen, the country's rise in gross domestic product slowed from 4.1 percent in 2001 to 2.5 percent last year. Economic expansion is not keeping up with Yemen's population growth, one of the highest in the world.

The Population Reference Bureau, a private organization based in the United States, estimates that Yemen's population grows about 4 percent annually. Forty-two percent of Yemenis live below the poverty line, and the percentage is expected to rise unless the government hastens economic reforms.

The child-trafficking study shows that more than 60 percent of the children sent abroad are from families with eight or more members and that most of these families survive on less than $108 per month. Families said sending children to work increased income dramatically, sometimes doubling their family income.

"Saying that raising awareness in communities can solve the problem is probably not accurate," Mr. Shrestha said. "People will become aware that it is bad, but other compelling reasons -- like economic hardship -- might motivate families not to take action against child trafficking. Children sending money back to their families living in the poorer areas near the border might continue."

Posted by Nancy at 10:12 AM | Comments (0)

Family, Friends Say Goodbye To Suspected Child Abuse Victim

January 19, 2005 San Antonio

About 100 people packed a Catholic church Tuesday on the Southeast Side to pay their last respects to a 1-year-old girl who police say died suspiciously.

Four girls carried a 3-foot-long casket bearing the body of 1-year-old Clarissa Ramos into St. Margaret Mary's Catholic Church for a funeral mass.

"She was so cute," said Roxanne, the baby's cousin. "She was always so happy. She was barely learning how to walk and talk. She was really, really beautiful."

Many people at the funeral had a hard time understanding why Clarissa died the way she did.

The Bexar County Medical Examiner's Office ruled her death a homicide and the San Antonio Police Department are investigating the case as a capital murder. No arrests have been made in the case.

The girl's mother, Sindy Riojas, told KSAT 12 News she went shopping and left Clarissa in the care of her boyfriend, Robert Hernandez, the day the baby was taken to a hospital. Hernandez claimed the baby, who died of massive head injuries and other injuries, fell from a playpen.

"I just can't understand those kind of people," said Aurora Adam, a family friend. "A child is a child, and we need to protect them and take care of them as much as we can."

Clarissa's 4-year-old sister is the custody of Child Protective Services while the case is investigated.

Posted by Nancy at 10:03 AM | Comments (0)

Fugitive sex-abuse suspect held

January 19, 2005 [Reading Eagle News Staff] Berks Country, PA

A Berks County fugitive wanted for sexual abuse of a child was apprehended Tuesday night by U.S. Customs & Border Protection agents from the Department of Homeland Security at a bus station in San Diego near the Mexican border, officials said.

Richard T. Balsavage, 24, whose last known address was in Hereford Township, was arrested after agents learned he was wanted by the Pennsylvania state police.

Troopers got an arrest warrant for Balsavage from District Justice Wally Scott in March and entered his name into the FBI's National Crime Information Center after he fled Berks County. He had been sought ever since.

State police said Balsavage took pictures of a 2-year-old boy in sexually explicit poses about three years ago in Kutztown.

The pictures were discovered last year at a residence where Balsavage had been living in the 400 block of Klines Corner Road, police said.

State police Cpl. Douglas J. Bendetti said Balsavage will be returned to Berks County to face charges of sexual abuse of a child and related offenses.

Posted by Nancy at 09:54 AM | Comments (0)

Tenn. high court OKs abuse lawsuit

January 19, 2005 [Associated Press]

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – The state Supreme Court says a $68 million lawsuit alleging that the Roman Catholic diocese of Nashville covered up child sex abuse by a former priest can go forward.

The unanimous ruling issued Tuesday overturns lower courts which had said the diocese could not be held responsible for the emotional distress alleged by the plaintiffs.

The high court in its ruling said a defendant can be found guilty of inflicting emotional distress even if its misconduct was not directed at a specific person. The court said its decision broke new legal ground in such cases.

Posted by Nancy at 09:43 AM | Comments (0)

Commission makes U-turn on abuse testimony decision

January 19, 2004 Ireland

The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse is to reverse its decision to only hear testimony from a sample of the abuse victims who have come forward to the inquiry.

The Commission decided last year that it could not hear testimony from all of the 1,300 people who have made abuse allegations because it would be too costly and time-consuming.

However, reports this morning said it had now announced all the alleged victims would be interviewed by a legal team, which would then decide what cases to send forward for full hearings.

The Commission was established to investigate allegations of widespread child abuse at state-run institutions like schools and orphanages.

Posted by Nancy at 09:40 AM | Comments (0)

4 Jurors Seated In Priest Sex Abuse Trial

Potential Jurors Asked About Homosexuality, Church

January 19, 2005 [Associated Press]

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- Four jurors have been seated so far to hear the child rape case against Paul Shanley, a key figure in Boston's clergy sex abuse crisis.

A man and a woman were the first chosen from a pool of about 80 people in Middlesex Superior Court Tuesday. Two other men were chosen later in the day.

Judge Stephen Neel is asking potential jurors if they have been sexually abused; their views on homosexuality; and their feelings about the Catholic Church and the Boston Archdiocese in particular.

Among the jurors selected was a man who is Catholic and does landscaping at his church.

Jury selection will resume Wednesday morning.

Prosecutors formally dropped one more of Shanley's accusers from the case Tuesday because the man can't be found.

That leaves just one 27-year-old man to testify against the defrocked priest who's charged with molesting four boys in the 1980s at Newton's Saint Jean Parish.

Posted by Nancy at 09:32 AM | Comments (0)

State's high child abuse

January 19, 2005 By Heather Low Choy

ALMOST half Tasmania's substantiated child-abuse cases involve children in intact two-parent families, a new report shows. Substantiated child abuse is where there is reasonable cause to believe harm has occurred.

Children living in traditional family units account for more of these cases in Tasmania than in any other family situation, Child Protection Australia 2003-04 reveals.

The report, released yesterday, shows 44 per cent of the state's substantiated abuse cases in the 2003-04 financial year involved children from intact families.

However, the abuse did not occur within the family in all cases.

The report was compiled by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare using data from community service departments.

Neglect was the most common form of abuse in Tasmania, accounting for more cases than physical, sexual or emotional abuse.

Forty per cent of cases involved neglect, 33 per cent physical abuse, 18 per cent sexual and nine per cent emotional abuse.

Tasmanian cases doubled to 427 in 2003-04, as documented in last year's Department of Health and Human Services annual report.

Deputy Premier David Llewellyn said that since February 2003 an extra 39 positions had been created in Child and Family Services.

Indigenous children were the subject of child-protection substantiations up to 10 times the rate of other children.

Anyone with concerns about a child's welfare can phone 1 300 737 639

Posted by Nancy at 09:27 AM | Comments (0)

Church says former bishop accused of child sexual abuse

January 19, 2005 [Associated Press]

DAVENPORT, Iowa (AP) - A former bishop of the Sioux City Roman Catholic diocese was accused of child sex abuse when he was a priest in the Davenport diocese, and the Davenport diocese reached a settlement with one of the accusers, church officials said.

A report issued Tuesday by Davenport Bishop William Franklin said that there were three allegations against retired Sioux City Bishop Lawrence Soens and the diocese settled one of those allegations for $20,000 in October.

Soens was the Sioux City diocese's fifth bishop, serving from 1983 to 1998.

Soens' name did not surface publicly until now because no lawsuits were filed naming him, according to Patrick Noaker, an attorney for victims who as a group reached a $9 million settlement in October with the Davenport diocese.

Sioux City diocese spokesman Jim Wharton defended Soens and said news of the allegations "shocks and saddens all of us."

The Sioux City diocese never received complaints regarding sexual impropriety against Soens, Wharton said.

"Soens' service as shepherd of the diocese was exemplary," Wharton said. "He is a special person who has dedicated his priesthood to working and caring for others. He is a prayerful, holy man, and the people of the diocese pray for him and those who make these allegations."

Timothy Bottaro, Soens' attorney, said that Soens has denied the allegations, but that since the matter is now before church authorities, he can make no comment.

Tuesday's report summarized the Davenport diocese's investigation of sexual abuse in the past year.

It is the first time in Iowa that a bishop has been publicly accused of abuse in connection with the scandal that has exposed decades of abuse of minors by clergy.

Soens served at Davenport diocese parishes in Burlington, Victor, Charlotte and Clinton. He was an administrator at Regina High School in Iowa City, on the faculty of St. Ambrose Academy, and served as rector and on the faculty of St. Ambrose College in Davenport before becoming a bishop.

Franklin issued the report as a summary of child sexual abuse that the diocese has received since its last report on Feb. 25, 2004. An allegation against Soens was noted in that report, although he was not named. Two additional allegations against him surfaced in the past year.

The Davenport Diocese reported and the Sioux City Diocese confirmed that Soens is "completely retired and not involved in any capacity."

Soens accompanied the Rev. Roger Augustine, administrator of the Diocese of Sioux City, on a November visit to the Vatican, where the U.S. bishops met privately with Pope John Paul II and members of various Vatican offices.

Franklin said that he is in consultation with Catholic Church authorities for final resolution of the matter.

Posted by Nancy at 09:23 AM | Comments (0)

Child abuse referrals double

January 19, 2005 Australia

The number of suspected cases of child abuse, neglect or harm referred to Australian authorities has more than doubled in the past five years, new figures show.

An Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) report found the number of notifications increased from 198,355 in 2002/03 to 219,384 in the 2003/04 financial year.

The latest figure represents a rise of 10.6 per cent on the previous year, but also shows notifications have more than doubled in the past five years, from 107,134 in 1999/2000.

In addition, the number of cases where there was reasonable cause to believe that harm had occurred or would occur rose in all states and territories.

Report co-author Susan Kelly from the AIHW's Children, Youth and Families Unit said some of this increase in notifications and substantiations reflected changes in child protection policies.

"However, it is also an indication of a higher level of awareness of child protection concerns in the wider community and more willingness to report problems to child protection departments," she said.

"Increased funding of child protection and community support services in general, and an increase in the number of child protection workers could also be contributing factors."

The report found the number of children in out-of-home care in Australia rose by more than 3,000 cases over the last three years.

The number of children either placed with relatives, or in foster or residential care, has increased from 18,241 in 2001 to 21,795 in June 2004.

Since 1996, the number of children in care has increased by 56 per cent, with the increases occurring right across Australia.

"About 94 per cent of all these children are living with relatives, foster carers or in some other home-based arrangement rather than in facilities such as family group homes or residential care," Ms Kelly said.

It also showed rises in the number of children on care and protection orders in all of the states and territories.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were over-represented in the child protection system.

For children on care and protection orders, the indigenous rate was 11 times that of other children and up to 12 times the rate for children in out-of-home care.

Posted by Nancy at 09:18 AM | Comments (0)