Tuesday’s Children and the Law News Roundup

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Mothers are Tougher on Kids During Recession, www.newsfeed.time.com

A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy is broaching how a down economy can impact family life. New York University sociologist Dohoon Lee contends that an uptick in strict maternal behavior stems more from anticipation of hard times rather than actual exposure. In fact, mothers treated their children harsher for each 10% increase in the unemployment rate in the city where they resided.

Lee examined data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, which tracked more than 4,800 children born in 20 U.S. cities between 1998 and 2000 as well as unemployment rates and consumer sentiment index to measure the health of the economy. The mothers, mostly single parents, were interviewed periodically throughout the child’s life over a span of nine years. Harsh behavior was  determined by a scale of 10 psychological and physical measures, including spanking, swearing and yelling, and participants were asked to identify how often they engaged in this type of behavior ranging from “never” to “more than 20 times.”

DNA samples were also take from the mothers and children during the ninth year, adding a genetic nuance to the study. As Pacific Standard explains, women with a sensitive gene variation of the DRD2 Taq1A genotype, which is connected to the release of dopamine, were most inclined to engage in maternal misbehavior during the recession.

The study also looked at the effects of changes to individual family income but found no statistical significance resulting in an increase in harsh behavior. Moreover, the study underpins how fear of future adversity can lead to more negative behavior, according to Princeton University sociology professor Sara McLanahan, who co-authored the study. “People can adjust to difficult circumstances once they know what to expect, whereas fear or uncertainty about the future is more difficult to deal with.”

Nurse Suspected of Killing Up to 46 Kids to Get Out of Prison, www.abcnews.com

A nurse convicted in 1984 of killing an infant and suspected of murdering dozens more will be released from prison without completing her 99 year sentence because of an expired Texas law that grants a “mandatory release” to inmates with good behavior.

On May 14, 1984 Genene Anne Jones, now 63, was sentenced for the murder of 15-month-old Chelsea McClellan in 1982 in a small-town pediatric clinic where Jones was a nurse.

Jones began injecting the child with a lethal dose of the muscle relaxant succinylcholine while the baby was still in her mother’s arms, according to McClellan and court records.

Jones was also convicted of injuring a child in another attack in which the child survived. She was sentenced to 60 years on that conviction, but it was ordered to be served concurrently with the 99 year sentence.

Ron Sutton, the criminal prosecutor who won the murder conviction, estimates that Jones is responsible for the deaths of between 11 and 46 infants in Bexar County from 1978 and 1982.

Jones is scheduled to be released from prison on Feb. 24, 2018, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. She will have served 35 years, about one-third of her sentence.

Jones will be released because of a Texas law called Mandatory Supervision. Enacted in 1977, the law allowed all convicted criminals to be automatically released on parole after they complete a certain amount of calendar time and good conduct time, which includes participating in work and self-improvement programs, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice parole and mandatory release guide.

Mandatory Supervision was amended in 1987 to exclude violent criminals. But any violent criminal convicted in Texas before 1987 is still eligible for early release, according to the guide.

“We need to find another case, another victim, whose death we can charge her with sufficient evidence,” Andy Kahan said.

Adoption Numbers Rising for Kids in Foster Care, www.usatoday.com

The percentage of kids adopted from foster care is swinging upward, a new report suggests.  Last year, 13.1% of children in foster care were adopted, an increase from 12.6% in 2011, according to statistics released today by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families. The report highlights data from the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System.

Of the 1.8 million adopted children in the USA, 37% came from foster care, according to the 2007 National Survey of Adoptive Parents. Private domestic adoptions accounted for 38%, and international adoptions were at 25%. These numbers don’t include step-parent adoptions.

“The data suggests states are striking a balance between improving the quality of child welfare services and moving children to permanent families,” the agency’s Bryan Samuels says in a statement. “Our role will be to continue to help states find that right balance with limited resources moving forward.”

Adoption is not the goal for all children in foster care, the agency says. Many kids are reunited with their parents or other relatives.

The number of foster-care kids waiting to be adopted dropped from 106,345 on Sept. 30, 2011, to 101,719 on Sept. 30, 2012. Also, the number of foster-care kids waiting to be adopted whose parents’ rights were terminated fell from 62,759 in 2011 to 58,587 in 2012.

 

 

 

Monday’s Children and the Law News Roundup

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Man Wanted in Custody Case Returning to Oklahoma, www.abcnews.com

The father of a Cherokee Indian girl mired in an adoption dispute was ordered to leave an Iowa National Guard base and return to Oklahoma, an Iowa Guard spokesman said Sunday.

Brown, who is Cherokee, is charged with custodial interference involving his 3-year-old daughter, Veronica. A South Carolina couple has been trying to adopt Veronica since her birth in 2009; they raised her for two years.

The issue has been clouded by the Indian Child Welfare Act, which prompted a court in 2011 to favor the girl living with her father. But in June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that South Carolina courts should decide who gets to adopt Veronica.

The girl’s biological mother, Chrissy Maldonado, is not Indian and supports the adoption. She has filed a lawsuit against the federal government claiming the Indian Child Welfare Act is unconstitutional.

More recently, a South Carolina judge finalized the couple’s adoption and approved a plan to reintroduce Veronica to the couple, Matt and Melanie Capobianco. Brown didn’t show up for the first scheduled gathering Aug. 4, prompting the charge.

Several American Indian groups are also pursuing a federal civil rights case, saying a hearing should be held to determine if it is in Veronica’s best interest to be transferred to South Carolina.

Cherokee Nation spokeswoman Amanda Clinton has called the move to charge Brown “morally reprehensible” and “legally questionable.”

The attorneys for Veronica’s adoptive parents and her birth mother argued in a joint statement Sunday morning that not only is Brown committing a felony, but anyone who hides the child from law enforcement or stands in the way of the court order to turn her over — including the Cherokee Nation — also should be considered lawbreakers.

In US, a Youth is Killed by a Gun Every Three Hours, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange

More than 18,000 young people were killed or injured by a gun in 2010, according to a new report released by the Children’s Defense Fund, “Protect Children Not Guns 2013.”

According to the report, approximately 2,700 young people, up to 19 years old, lost their lives in 2010 to gun violence, the equivalent of one death every three hours and fifteen minutes, averaging 51 deaths every week.

Using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, researchers found that gun violence was the second leading cause of death for young people, only automobile accidents claimed the lives of more children and teens. The report’s authors also found that African-American youths were twice as likely to be killed by a gun than killed in a traffic accident.

Despite representing just 15 percent of all children and teens, the report said black youths made up 45 percent of all young people killed by firearms in 2010. Not only are African-American youths 4.7 times more likely to be killed with a firearm than white young people, black children and teens were approximately 17 times more likely to be the victims of a firearm-related homicide than white youths.

Older teens represent an overwhelming majority of firearm-death victims. Researchers said nearly nine out of 10 firearm-related injuries or deaths among young people in 2010 occurred among youths ages 15-19, according to the authors of the report. Black males in their mid- to late-teens were found to be the most at-risk group overall, and individuals in the demographic were 30 times more likely to be the victims of gun-related homicides than white males in the same age range.

In 2010, nearly three times as many young people in the U.S. were wounded by firearms than the number of U.S. soldiers injured in Afghanistan during the same year. Since 1963, the report stated, more than 160,000 young people have been killed by firearms in the United States — triple the total number of U.S. soldiers killed in action in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq combined.

“We also need policies that support consumer product safety standards for all guns, public funding for gun violence prevention research, and resources and authority for law enforcement agencies to properly enforce gun safety laws,” she concluded. “We can — and must — raise our individual and collective voices and demand our political leaders do better right now to protect children, not guns.”

DoD Responds to Child Abuse Crisis, www.navytimes.com

Faced with an epidemic of child abuse across the four services, the Defense Department is establishing a child abuse working group, according to a Pentagon spokesman.

“The Department is in the process of establishing a Prevention and Coordinated Community Response to Child Abuse, Neglect and Domestic Abuse Working Group,” said DoD spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen.

The working group is part of the Pentagon’s effort to strengthen “awareness and prevention efforts to protect children and apply resources to prevent incidents of child abuse, neglect and domestic abuse,” he said.

DoD is under pressure from two powerful members of the Senate Armed Services Committee who have pressed Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel for child abuse statistics and a plan to reverse the trend.

The senators’ inquiry was sparked by an Army Times investigation that found 29,552 cases of child abuse in the Army alone between 2003 and 2012. The abuse led to the death of 118 Army children; 1,400 of the cases included sexual assault.

The number of Army cases has spiked 28 percent between 2008 and 2011. The Air Force is also reporting a 25 percent increase in cases of child abuse and assault between 2008 and 2012.

In all services except the Marine Corps, the number of cases has continued to climb. The Marine Corps cases dropped by 5 percent between 2011 and 2012 and have dropped significantly in fiscal 2013. But the number of Marine child abuse deaths has risen.

Between 2008 and 2012, there were 5,755 cases in the Air Force, 267 of them sexual, resulting in 16 deaths.

The Marine Corps figures for 2011 and 2012 showed 1,591 cases, 47 of them sexual, with six deaths. There have been four deaths this year.

The Navy reported 3,336 cases between 2009 and 2012, with a decline in 2012. But figures for the first half of 2013 show the number of cases climbing again. Among Navy families, 42 children were killed between 2008 and 2012.

Friday’s Children and the Law News Roundup

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Metro Atlanta Backslides on Protecting Kids in Foster Care, childrensrights.org

As Georgia experiences major changes in its child welfare leadership, new data shows that metropolitan Atlanta’s effort to protect abused and neglected children in foster care has suffered. According to the latest report from federal court monitors, the performance of the Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS) “declined on a number of issues related to the safety of children in the State’s care.”

The report revealed an increase in the rate of children who were subject to maltreatment in foster care; this came after two monitoring periods in which the state came extremely close to holding such incidents to the required level. The monitors also noted several other safety concerns:

* The state failed to meet requirements for timely initiation and completion of maltreatment investigations for children in foster care;

* Nearly a quarter of Fulton and DeKalb’s Child Protective Services (CPS) investigators carried excessive caseloads, sometimes more than double that permitted by court order;

* CPS investigators failed in some cases to undertake complete histories when investigating foster homes. While the state had previously been in compliance with this measure 91 percent of the time, that figure fell to 76 percent;

* Several foster homes were found to be caring for children in DFCS custody despite having confirmed histories of maltreatment.

The monitors also revealed declines in other areas. The state posted its worst performance to date in keeping siblings in the same foster home, doing so only 66 percent of the time–a severe drop from the 81 percent placed together during the previous monitoring period. Also, the monitors found that the educational achievement of youth leaving foster care has worsened, with only 40 percent at age 18 or older attaining a high school diploma or GED,compared to 49 percent and 58 percent achievement the last two times the monitors reported on this issue.

Rescued Children Shouldn’t be in Handcuffs, cnn.com

According to the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act, as a minor who has been forced to perform a sexual act for money she is a victim of sex trafficking. Yet under prostitution statutes in most states she has also committed a criminal offense – and now she is in handcuffs. About three-quarters of  the children rescued last week by the Federal Bureau of Investigation through Operation Cross Country VII live in states that afford them no legal protections from prostitution charges.

Some could face up to two years in juvenile detention, others, thousands of dollars in fines. Many may also be charged for possessing the cocktail of drugs that traffickers use to create dependency and compliance in the children they sell. And though the FBI is likely to afford special leniency to those rescued in the sting, without change, the same may not hold true for the children arrested on the streets in the coming months and years.

Nor has it in the past. In 2007, a Texas District Attorney prosecuted a 13-year-old girl for prostitution while her 32-year-old “boyfriend” went free. She was one of 1,500 sexually exploited children arrested nationwide that year.

Treating a child as an offender breeds mistrust in a legal system that ought to protect him or her, and traffickers and pimps exploit this, threatening their victims with arrest and criminal records if they try to seek help.

‘Safe harbor’ laws remove the conflicts between federal and state law by exempting children from prosecution for prostitution, while ensuring strict punishment for people who sell children.

They also require that law enforcement agencies undergo training on how to identify and assist victims, and prompt agencies to participate in the creation of statewide multidisciplinary systems of care.

Since 2008, ‘safe harbor’ laws have been passed in Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Vermont, and Washington, with a Texas Supreme Court ruling offering the same security.

Poor Children Show a Decline in Obesity Rate, nytimes.com

The obesity rate among preschool-age children from poor families fell in 19 states and United States territories between 2008 and 2011, federal health officials said Tuesday — the first time a major government report has shown a consistent pattern of decline for low-income children after decades of rising rates.

Children from poor families have had some of the nation’s highest rates of obesity. One in eight preschoolers in the United States is obese. Among low-income children, it is one in seven. The rate is much higher for blacks (one in five) and for Hispanics (one in six).

The cause of the decline remains a mystery, but researchers offered theories, like an increase in breast-feeding, a drop in calories from sugary drinks, and changes in the food offered in federal nutrition programs for women and children. In interviews, parents suggested that they have become more educated in recent years, and so are more aware of their families’ eating habits and of the health problems that can come with being overweight.

The new report, based on the country’s largest set of health data for children, used weight and height measurements from 12 million children ages 2 to 4 who participate in federally funded nutrition programs, to provide the most detailed picture of obesity among low-income Americans.