Tuesday’s Children and the Law News Roundup

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.

 

 

 

Alexandra Wolf

About Alexandra Wolf

Alex Wolf is a second year law student at the University of Houston Law Center. In 2010, she received a Bachelor of Arts in sociology from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Prior to attending law school, Alex worked as a paralegal at the Lanier Law Firm’s Los Angeles office. During college, Alex interned for Covenant House Texas, a shelter for at-risk youth as well as for Conscious Alliance, a non-profit organization dedicated to eradicating hunger for children and adults alike. Alex also served as an undergraduate research assistant analyzing deviant and suicidal tendencies and behaviors. This summer, Alex worked as a law clerk for Berg & Androphy, a firm specializing in white-collar defense and qui tam actions. Alex is on the Houston Journal of International Law and serves as secretary for the Immigration and Human Rights Law Society.

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