Thursday, December 22, 2011

2012's Perfect Storm

As we bid 2011 farewell, a perfect storm is brewing to confront child abuse in 2012.

It started with the Penn State scandal grabbing national headlines when a revered football coach failed to call police after hearing an eye witness' account of sexual assault on a child. The accused (another coach) admitted to "showering and horsing around" with kids but denies any wrongdoing.

The public outcry from the Penn State story resulted in a Senate hearing on whether there should be a federal child abuse reporting law (see our December 13, 2011 post Senate Hearing Advises Training).

The next day, a first-of-its-kind government study came out finding sexual violence "widespread" in the U.S. and the majority of rape victims are children. Experts called its findings a "staggering" national problem and concluded that "We need to focus on children."

At the Senate hearing, Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said "it is critical that we train and empower adults to know the signs of abuse and to know what to do when they see it or suspect it."

In these tough economic times, efforts to pass funding for child abuse educational programs will surely face challenges. Stay tuned for storm updates.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Senate Hearing Advises Training

Today, the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Children and Families held a hearing on the need for a federal law requiring the reporting of child abuse and neglect.

During the hearing, child advocacy experts testified that training adults is the single most important step in detecting and preventing child mistreatment. For example:
  • Dr. Robert Block, President of the American Academy of Pediatrics, emphasized the importance of educating adults about what is and is not abuse. He also recommended educating kids about inappropriate adult behavior.
  • Teresa Huizar, Executive Director of the National Children's Alliance, recommended that adult training be tied to certification and licensing of professionals working with children.
  • Erin Sutton, the Assistant Commissioner for Minnesota Children & Family Services, noted that education about mistreatment reduces the number of false reports and enhances the value of child protective services' scarce resources.
If you're looking for training, we can help. Shield the Vulnerable offers interactive online training courses in all 50 states (as well as the ten Canadian provinces) on how to recognize and report child abuse and neglect.

Each state-specific course identifies who are legally mandated reporters, explains the "what-when-and-how" of making an official report, and includes a Quick Reference Guide with the state's rules and contact information. Plus, we also offer several online child safety training courses containing age-appropriate content.

Monday, December 12, 2011

'Tis the Season for Financial Abuse

Elder financial abuse spikes during the holidays.

The 2011 MetLife Study of Elder Financial Abuse found that nearly one-third of elder abuse reported in news articles from November 2010 through January 2011 involved financial exploitation. And losses suffered by elders at the hands of family, friends, and neighbors were higher than any other category during this time of year.

To help seniors protect themselves, Consumer Reports publicized new national telephone hotlines that went live in November.

Financial Abuse Questions: 888.303.3297
Ask Adult Protective Services professionals questions about elder financial exploitation and how to prevent or stop it.

Medical Questions: 888.303.0430
Health care professionals can help callers spot the warning signs of vulnerability to financial abuse.

General Finance Questions: 888.227.1776
Experts from the Financial Planning Association can help elders or their adult children help prevent elder investment fraud and financial exploitation.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Overzealous Prosecutor

A Wisconsin District Attorney has charged a six-year-old boy with felony first-degree sexual assault on a five-year-old girl.

The girl's mom found her daughter in the boy's yard "with her skirt and underpants around her ankles" and the boy touching her while playing "butt doctor." If convicted, the six-year-old will be listed as a sexual predator when he turns 18.

When challenged on the wisdom of prosecuting the little boy, Grant County District Attorney Lisa Riniker said, "The legislature could have put an age restriction in the statute if it wanted to. The legislature did no such thing."

His parents have sued the district attorney for violating the boy's constitutional rights. The complaint alleges that the girl's brother was also playing "doctor" with them, but he was not charged.

The parents' attorney told WISC-TV that, according to experts, "a 6-year-old child is unable to intellectually and emotionally associate sexual gratification with the act that D has been accused of committing."

So far, the case has not been thrown out of court. In fact, the district attorney has been granted a gag order to prevent the boy's parents from talking publicly about the case. And, the six-year-old has been served with a summons, ordering him to appear in court or go to jail.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Professional Endorsements

It is our hope that our online courses will help responsible adults protect the most vulnerable in their communities. So, we're proud when we get favorable reviews from professionals who've taken "Report Child Abuse" and "Detecting Predators."

Here are a few of their comments:
"I am very impressed with this course. As a sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE-RN) I have had extensive training in abuse of all types in pediatric patients and found this course incredible impressive and thorough. Great job!" (J.S.)
"Great job...having been a law enforcement officer investigating crimes against children, I found this to be pretty thorough and informative." (C.W.)
"I have participated in other trainings on the protection of children & prevention of child abuse/neglect (as a camp counselor, athletic director for a K-12 school, and a state employee), and this training is certainly one of the best." (M.T.)
"I have worked in the health field for 30 years, Emergency Room and Health Department. Have taken many classes on this subject, but this course was the best I have ever seen. Very well put together, lots of great scenarios." (M.S.)
"I am a prosecutor who specialized in sexual abuse for many years. I found this to be extremely accurate and helpful. I was surprised at how thorough the training was and realistic. (E.C.)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Training Abuse

There is a general reluctance to confront the issue of when parents' religious practices become child abuse until a shocking case forces us to face the unresolved tension between the rights of religious freedom and society's duty to reduce child suffering.

Two such cases involve a controversial parenting book — To Train Up a Child, by Michael and Debi Pearl — which has turned up in "a bevy of child abuse cases." This child-training manual quotes biblical passages to support the authors' belief that parents must use a "Rod of Reproof" to punish children because "Any spanking, to effectively reinforce instruction, must cause pain." The book also teaches that "fasting is good training" for picky eaters.

A so-called "Biblical Rod" (plumbing supply tubes in this case) caused the death of 7-year-old Lydia and nearly killed her 11-year-old sister. Pearls' book is claimed to have reinforced Lydia's adoptive parents' belief that God wanted them to regularly beat their children. Lydia's adoptive parents pled guilty to murder and are serving 22- and 12-year prison sentences.

A copy of To Train Up a Child was also found in the adoptive home of a 13-year-old Ethiopian child, Hana, and her 10-year-old brother. Police found Hana unconscious in a barn and she later died of hypothermia after being forced to sleep outside when the temperature dropped to around 40°. Hana was starved for days and 30 pounds underweight when she died.

Hana's parents are now charged with homicide by abuse for her death and the first-degree assault of her brother. The couple has pled not guilty to the charges.

Heartbreaking stories like these prompted Janet Heimlich to take on this topic in her book Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment, in which she explores solutions to this problem such as educating communities about child abuse and neglect.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Child Victims of the Recession

While the recession's unemployment numbers climbed in 2008-2009, pediatricians saw a significant increase in another troubling statistic: the number of cases of abusive head trauma from child abuse. A study reported in the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics concludes that "these results are concerning and suggest that prevention efforts might need to be increased significantly during times of economic hardship."

Unfortunately, prevention efforts have suffered in these times of severe budget cuts. For example, $91 million was cut from the budget for Arizona's Department of Economic Security that oversees Child Protective Services (CPS) at a time when five reports to CPS did not save a six-year-old Phoenix boy who died after suffering a brain bruise and other injuries. His parents have been charged with child abuse.

Dr. Mary Rimsza oversees the agency responsible for investigating child fatalities in Arizona. She points out that, in addition to the decreased budget and increased demand for CPS during bad economic times, CPS experiences a job turnover rate of 25% each year due to the stressful nature of the work.

With CPS resources stretched thin, Dr. Rimsza says, "You really shouldn't turn the other direction and say 'well somebody else will take care of this kid' or 'it's none of my business' because it is your business. Everybody in the community has a role in trying to keep our kids safe."

Monday, September 26, 2011

Show and Tell

Remember when kids brought their favorite stuffed animal to school for show and tell? Teachers now face bigger challenges than equal "awwwwws" for one student's teddy bear and another's puppy.

For example, a stunned teacher in St. Louis watched her kindergarten student show his mom's crack pipe and several baggies of crack rocks to the class. The boy's mother was arrested and charged with drug possession and child endangerment.

In Pittsburgh, a kindergarten teacher found bags of heroin in a 7-year-old's backpack and locker after the student cut his finger with a razor blade. The boy told police that he got the drugs from his dad's bedroom and had given some to his friends. Parents contacted the school district when their children came home with a white substance in packets that were stamped with the words "Magic Ticket" and a drawing of a bunny coming out of a hat.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

No One Listens

He blogged about school bullying and posted a hopeful YouTube video that was called "It Gets Better, I promise!" But during National Suicide Prevention Week, Jamey Rodemeyer committed suicide after enduring years of bullying.

In middle school, the bullies attacked him online with anonymous posts filled with hate. Just two days before he ended his life, Jamey posted a message that read, "I always say how bullied I am, but no one listens."

Jamey had just started ninth grade at Williamsville North High School, which had lost another student to suicide in February 2010. One of North High's social workers said, "We really encourage kids not to use those sites if they're having a hard time because it just aggravates the situation."

Successful anti-bullying strategies, however, involve the entire school community to create a safe environment for kids like Jamey.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Abused Actor Sues Stepson

With a boyish face and 5'3" frame, it seemed like Mickey Rooney would never grow old. But, the 90-year-old Hollywood legend filed an elder abuse lawsuit against Rooney's stepson, Chris Aber, and Aber's wife, Christina, alleging financial exploitation and verbal abuse over the past ten years.

In March 2011, Rooney testified before the Senate Special Committee on Aging imploring Senators to take action against elder abuse because "if it happened to me, it can happen to anyone."

According to the complaint, Aber became a signatory on all of Rooney's personal and business financial accounts and then diverted Rooney's mail to a post office box to allow him to fund an extravagant lifestyle without Rooney's knowledge.  Under Aber's threats of financial collapse, Rooney continued to perform, earning income for unpaid taxes and credit card bills Aber incurred under Rooney's name.

Rooney's complaint also names co-conspirators, including Jessie Heuer who ran the website to market and sell unauthorized copies of items belonging to Rooney, without Rooney's consent.

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Last Straw

While patio dining at a Denver-area restaurant with "perfect ambiance," a concerned patron sprang into action instead of looking the other way.

According to news reports, our hero noticed a "cute, darling little girl" at a nearby table with her father. However, the father was more interested in his other dinner companion than his fussy toddler. 

Soon enough, concern turned to alarm when our observer watched the little girl pick up something from the ground and eat it. But, it was the final straw when our diner saw the father begin feeding the toddler "straws of margarita."

The concerned diner called the police. It turns out that the little girl's dad is himself a cop. He's now being investigated for felony child abuse.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Keep Them Safe

Definition of SHIELD
1: a broad piece of defensive armor carried on the arm
2: one that protects or defends
First Known Use: before 12th century

Definition of VULNERABLE
1: capable of being physically or emotionally wounded
2: open to attack or damage
First Known Use: 1605

Hundreds of years ago, the words "vulnerable" and "shield" were first used to describe how humans can be harmed by other humans, and how they can be protected against harm.

Over the past years, Shield The Vulnerable has provided online training to thousands of individuals and families about preventing abuse and neglect, and ways to help kids, tweens, teens, and elders stay safe. Our purpose is simple: as the number of trained individuals grows, so does the number of persons who are protected.

By being aware and reporting suspected mistreatment, everyone has the potential to help protect the vulnerable. That's what Shield the Vulnerable is about – teaching people how to recognize, report, and prevent abuse, bullying, exploitation, and neglect.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

New Jersey Strengthens Bullying Laws

New Jersey has enacted a new bullying law aimed at providing an apparatus for anonymous tips when lunch line bullies are seen doing their thing at schools.

Read all about the new law and let us know what you think. Has this gone too far or is this not yet enough to keep children safe?