Child-protection failings detailed
Panel seeking reform hears tales of overloaded workers, cuts, poor communication
Denver Post, by David Olinger, Staff Writer, February 01, 2004
Child-protection workers are getting overwhelmed with paperwork requirements and climbing caseloads while programs that could help abused children have been cut statewide.
Social services and police agencies sometimes battle over information about abused children, and victims keep dying with no explanation from a system meant to protect them.
Those were some of the concerns aired Friday by a new commission formed to improve Colorado's child protection system. The group held its first meeting as new state figures show child abuse and neglect cases are growing significantly throughout Colorado.
Statewide, civil court cases concerning children who are neglected, abused or otherwise at-risk jumped 14 percent to 2,116 in the first half of this fiscal year.
In Boulder County, cases jumped 70 percent; in four other populous counties - Douglas, Jefferson, Weld and Adams - caseloads have grown more than 30 percent, according to Office of State Court Administrator records.
Colorado's new child-abuse review commission was formed by state Rep. Debbie Stafford, vice chairwoman of the House committee overseeing social services programs, in response to a Denver Post series on child-abuse deaths.
"I want to walk out of here with legislative proposals that are reasonable and that can be offered, this year," Stafford told 20 people at the meeting.
The meeting produced a broad range of proposals, from public education campaigns and parenting classes in schools to senior volunteer programs that could assist child welfare agencies.
Shari Shink, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Children's Law Center, said Colorado needs to lower its tolerance of child abuse, increase support for an overwhelmed system and create an ombudsman program to improve accountability.
"Kids are dying, and nobody gets to know why," she said.
Carol Chambers, a child abuse prosecutor in Arapahoe County, said she sees cases in which social service agencies will not cooperate with police and professionals fail to report abuse immediately as required by law.
"The concept of 'immediately' is a little bit vague," she said.
Child welfare officials and representatives of nonprofit agencies suggested that financial support may matter more than legislative changes.
"As I drive around Denver, I can't believe that some money can't be pulled from the road system to care for the kids," said Lois Romaine of Lutheran Family Services.
Linda Zschoche, Jefferson County's child welfare manager, suggested a state analysis of workloads for child protection workers.
"Our staff is probably spending 50 to 60 percent of its time on accountability," meeting federal, state and county requirements they refer to as "feeding the machine," she said.
At the same time, growing child- abuse caseloads may require them to take 20 to 25 cases involving 50 to 75 children. By now, they are "too busy to attend a session on burnout," Zschoche said.
Child advocates, legal guardians and court and county officials say Colorado abuse and neglect cases are growing in complexity as well as sheer numbers.
They cite three main factors behind the increase:
A prolonged economic downturn has caused additional stresses, such as unemployment and lost savings for many families, some of whom ultimately take it out on their children.
Those economic woes extended to state government, which cut services at a time of increased needs.
The growing use of methamphetamine in Colorado has left many children neglected by their parents or directly exposed to the drug, drug dealing and weapons.
People throughout the child-protection system say the increase is challenging their ability to help the children involved in hundreds of new Colorado cases each month.
A neglected child's case can get neglected by the system when "caseloads are up but the level of staffing is the same or declining," said John Thirkell, a veteran assistant county attorney in Jefferson County.
"Whether you're a social worker or an attorney or a guardian or a judge, if you have an hour a week to pay attention to a case, it's better than half an hour," he said.
Colorado CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates), which provides volunteer advocates for abused and neglected children, has found "a steady increase statewide" in requests for help, "and we see it in urban and rural counties," said executive director Barbara Mattison.
She said she sees joblessness and meth use as two major factors. About 85 percent of the children her agency serves come from families receiving some form of public assistance, "which is very indicative to us that the stresses of poverty play an important role," she said. "These aren't happy times for people when they don't have jobs."
The Office of the Child's Representative, which provides guardians to abused and neglected children, recently reported a dramatic case increase in the Denver area.
The court administrator's office records reviewed by The Post count "dependency and neglect" petitions, which usually concern allegations of child abuse or neglect but may also concern runaways, out-of-control teens or families needing help with a mentally ill child.
Court administrator's office records indicate the case increase is less severe statewide but still growing quickly.
"It is a significant increase. It's certainly something to be concerned about," said Daniel Gallagher, its policy analyst for juvenile cases.
"These cases take a lot of time, a lot of resources. They're really second only to first-degree murder cases, in terms of the time it takes," he said.
State court records show that in the past six months, El Paso County filed the most cases, followed by Adams, Jefferson and Denver counties.
Debra Campeau, managing attorney for the El Paso guardian office, counts the war in Iraq as an added factor in the Colorado Springs area.
"Certainly this community has been hit hard by the deployment for the war," she said. That not only created stresses for families missing one or both parents, but the soldiers' absence has "very much a ripple effect through the whole economy."
She said budget cuts for services such as public health nurses for new families haven't helped.
"A lot of these programs have been cut. All of those things have contributed," she said.
Canadian Press, (various newspapers across Canada, including the Toronto Star) Aug. 16, 2006.
ISLE LA MOTTE, Vt. A Montreal mother recovering from alleged self-inflicted wounds will be charged in the coming days with murdering her 8-year-old son, whose body was found in Lake Champlain, a Vermont state attorney said today.
I am going to prepare a charge of first-degree murder, Grand Isle States Attorney David Miller said in a telephone interview. Read More ..
Australian Associated Press
December 05, 2008
A WOMAN who killed her infant son by jumping with him from the eighth floor of a city apartment block has walked free after being convicted of manslaughter.
Yeeda Topham, 40, of Roleystone near Perth, had pleaded guilty in the West Australian Supreme Court to a charge of unlawfully killing 21-month-old James Topham on November 5 last year. Read More ..
Fire Officials Claim Fire Intentionally Set
NBC4-TV, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.
LOS ANGELES, USA -- Murder charges are expected to be filed against a woman whose infant son's body was found in a washing machine after firefighters doused what they say was an intentionally set fire, authorities said Tuesday.
Latunga Starks, 32, was taken into custody last night, according to the Sheriff's Department Web site.
Los Angeles Police Department Lt. Dennis Shirey identified the mother and her nearly 3-month-old son, Michael Kelvin Thompson.
The Toronto Star, By Peter Small, Courts Bureau, March 01, 2008
Xuan (Linda) Peng has been found guilty of second-degree murder in the drowning death of her 4-year-old autistic daughter Scarlett in a bathtub in the family home.
A Superior Court jury returned its verdict Saturday morning after two days of deliberations.
Scarlett Chen was discovered unconscious by her distraught father David Chen in the tub on the second floor of the family's townhouse on Rosebank Dr., near Markham Rd. and Sheppard Ave. E. on July 12, 2004.
Peng told police that she had put their daughter down for a nap in the adjoining bedroom, and had no idea she had climbed into the bathtub, which the woman had filled with water to clean some kitchen utensils.
However, seven months later, homicide detectives charged the 36-year-old Chinese immigrant with first-degree murder. The charges were later reduced to second-degree murder. Read More ..
Associated Press, Globe and Mail, Tuesday, May. 13, 2003, Page A15
TYLER, TEX. -- A woman accused of fatally beating two of her sons with rocks spent Mother's Day sobbing and muttering in a jail cell.
Deanna LaJune Laney, 38, remained on suicide watch yesterday at Smith County Jail, where she was held in lieu of a $3-million (U.S.) bond on capital-murder and aggravated-assault charges.
Ms. Laney is accused of killing Joshua Laney, 8, and Luke Laney, 6, and injuring their 14-month-old brother, Aaron. The toddler remained in critical condition yesterday at a Dallas Hospital.
In a call to emergency workers early Saturday, Ms. Laney reported that she had just "bashed their heads in with a rock," Sheriff J. B. Smith said. Read More ..
Investigation into the Death of Zachary Andrew Turner (18 July 2002 to 18 August 2003)
Zachary Turner, a 13 months old baby, died at the hands of his fugitive mother, Dr. Shirley Turner, who killed him and then committed suicide on August 18, 2003.
Turner was facing extradition to the United States to stand trial for the 2001 murder of Dr. Andrew Bagby, Zachary's father.
28-year-old Dr. Andrew Bagby was found shot to death in Keystone State Park, 55 kilometres northeast of Pittsburgh, PA, U.S.A.
Turner fled to Newfoundland, Canada where Zachary was born. She was out on bail against the wishes of U.S. authorities at the time of Zachary's death. Read More ..
Canada's largest national newspaper
The Globe and Mail
October 6, 2006
Toronto - As a female friend of Frances Elaine Campione put it, this after Ms. Campione was charged on Wednesday with murder in the death of her two young children, "That mother needs a hug."
In that line, widely repeated in Toronto and national media outlets, is a telling clue to what is so wrong with much of what happens both in the nation's family courts and in its child-protection system -- the pervasive view of the female of the species as constantly nurturing (except, you know, when she allegedly kills) and as in need of constant nurture (hugs all 'round, no matter what).
For the record, Ms. Campione was arrested two days ago after she phoned 911 to report that there were two dead children inside her Barrie, Ont., apartment, and shortly after, didn't police arrive to find the bodies of her own little girls, one-year-old Sophia and three-year-old Serena.
She and her estranged husband Leo were reportedly in the throes of a nasty custody battle, with Mr. Campione accused of assaulting his wife and the older child, and Ms. Campione allegedly alarmed, and/or depressed, at the prospect of losing that fight.
And The Globe has confirmed that involved with the family was the Children's Aid Society of Simcoe County. At the moment, the nature of that involvement is unknown -- except as it has been reported by neighbours who saw social workers at the apartment and say that, for a time recently, the girls lived with their paternal grandparents.
Wednesday, May. 22, 2002
KINGSTON, Ont. (CP) -- An Ontario woman who was sentenced to 16 years in prison in one of Canada's stiffest penalties for child abuse will be released on full parole after serving less than half her term.
Lorelei Turner, 38, and her husband Steven were convicted of manslaughter in July 1995 for beating and starving their three-year-old son John to death in a case that horrified Canadians who followed the trial.
But on Wednesday, a panel of the National Parole Board in this eastern Ontario city ruled Turner will be released but placed on probation until July 2011.
Until then, she must remain within 25 kilometres of her residence, is not allowed unsupervised contact with anyone under 16, and must continue to receive counselling.
"The board would have looked at the risk and obviously found a low risk to reoffend," Carol Sparling of the National Parole Board said Wednesday.
The Associated Press, U.S.A., November 4, 2014
NEWPORT, Ore. -- A woman who said she threw her 6-year-old son off a historic bridge on the Oregon coast was arrested after the boy's body was found in the bay, police said.
Police and firefighters in the coastal city of Newport, Lincoln County deputies and the Coast Guard searched the bay with boats and a helicopter after Jillian Meredith McCabe, 34, of Seal Rock called 911 at 6:25 p.m. Monday to report throwing her son off the Yaquina Bay Bridge.
The boy's body was found at 10:23 p.m. in the bay after it was spotted near the Embarcadero Resort, police said.
Days after buying another woman Valentine's Day flowers, a Sydney father came home to find a trail of blood leading him to the bodies of his two young children lying next to their mother, a court has been told.
Australian Associated Press
Aug 24 2009
The woman had given the couple's three-year-old daughter and four-year-old son rat poison and an unidentified pink liquid before smothering them and killing them, court papers said.
She then tried to take her own life, the NSW Supreme Court was told.
Doctors agree the mother, from Canley Heights in Sydney's west, was suffering from "major depression" when she poisoned her children on February 19 last year.
She has pleaded not guilty to the two murders by reason of mental illness.
As her judge-alone trial began, the mother's lawyer told Justice Clifton Hoeben his client didn't think life was worth living after learning about her husband's affair.