Friday, July 27, 2012

Kentucky CPS Files Are Public Records

A Kentucky judge has ruled that the files of that state’s child-protection system are public records, allowing the Lexington Herald-Leader newspaper access to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services’ (CHFS) case files of children who were killed or critically injured as a result of abuse and neglect in 2009 and 2010.

One of those files revealed the tragic story of two-year-old Kayla Mosley who found her parents' stash of pills. She ate enough pills for an acute drug overdose and had been dead several hours when she was found by her "drug-addled" parents.

Another case file describes how four-year-old Nathaniel Knox arrived at the hospital with a skull fracture, bruises all over his body, and an adult-sized bite mark on his arm. Nathaniel's mother told doctors that he had fallen off a low deck and hit his head. But his mother's story did not square with Nathaniel's injuries. One doctor said that it would have taken "tremendous force" to crack the toddler's skull, and lesions on his retinas indicated previous beatings. Nathaniel died on August 1, 2009.

The Herald-Leader's analysis of the CHFS files released so far found that: 
  • children age 4 and younger accounted for 37 of the 41 deaths 
  • toddler boys are killed more often than girls
  • men are more likely to be the perpetrators
  • at least one adult was a high-school dropout in homes where a child died from abuse or neglect

Monday, July 16, 2012

ABCs of Elder Abuse

It started with Rodney Chapman mowing Gwendolyn Swank's lawn and doing handyman jobs around her mobile home. They lived across the street from each other in a mobile home park in Pemaquid, Maine, which has the oldest median age in the country. Chapman became Gwendolyn Swank's best friend and worst enemy.

Gwendolyn worked her whole life as a bookkeeper and accumulated over $300,000 in assets. Six years after Chapman befriended her, the balance in Swank's retirement nest egg was 37 cents. On June 12th, 85-year-old Gwendolyn was awarded $1.3 million against Chapman who is serving a five-year sentence for theft and has no ability to pay the judgment.

According to Detective Robert McFetridge who specializes in elder abuse cases, this case followed the ABCs of how to steal money from an elderly person, "A, befriend them. B, slowly start making them dependent on you. C, isolate them from other people. D, take everything they own."

After befriending her, Chapman convinced Gwendolyn to invest in an auto repair and recovery business which she's not sure ever existed. Then Chapman learned that Gwendolyn was scared about illegal drug activity in the area so he fed her fear by pounding on her trailer at night, telling her to stay inside, took her phone away, and restricted visitors and the use of her car, telling her it was for her own safety.

McFetridge investigated the case and said, "In my opinion, it's just as serious as if he had beaten her within an inch of her life … By the time we intervened, she was down to living on peanut butter and rice cakes. She was really a prisoner in her own home."

Tips for protecting yourself against elder abuse:
  • Stay socially active and engaged
  • Do not let anyone rush or pressure you into signing a document, purchasing something, or giving away your money or property
  • Build relationships with the professionals who advise you or handle your money
  • Avoid joint accounts
  • Powers of attorney are useful and important tools, but can be misused
Click here for a directory of state helplines and elder abuse prevention resources.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Grandmas Do Cry

Four middle-school students received a one-year suspension from school for bullying a 68-year-old bus monitor to tears. The ugly episode was caught on cell phone video (warning: language), recording the boys' relentless taunts about Grandma Karen Klein's girth.

One student's words were especially cruel saying, "You don't have a family because they all killed themselves because they don't want to be near you."  Klein's oldest son committed suicide ten years ago.

Once the video went viral, the public outcry fueled a fund raiser to raise $5,000 for Klein to take a nice vacation – the result was an astonishing $667,000.

When asked about the bullies' punishment, Klein said the best part was "that they have to do community service for senior citizens." And, because the video went viral, "it's putting people into action, making them talk to their children, making them teach them what they should not do."