Too few lawmakers address foster youth aging out or the failed foster care system. Let’s fix it.

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A woman sits at the steps of the BC Legislature as hundreds of people, many youth who have aged out of foster care, rallied to ask for better support for youth aging out of care. (Arnold Lim/Black Press)

Someone sent information this morning that said “Youth speak out on ‘aging out’ of foster care; requesting extension on age limit”

Lane Ball out of Huntington Beach, West Virginia is developing a story with Nexstar about how foster care facilities push for the “aging out” limit to be extended. We hope that somewhere in the development that he realizes there is a financial incentive to keep children in state custody, and most importantly, we hope that Lane Ball reports how badly the foster care system is failing our most vulnerable youth. If Lane doesn’t “get it” and report it, you can bet that we will.

Young adults that age out of foster care often do not have familial ties to their own biological families. Sometimes it is because the family was so bad that the child could not be safe around any of them, but for the most part, about 90% of the time, the state severs a child’s ties with biological family members out of “respect” for the foster placement’s wishes.

It is most of the time too difficult for foster “parents” with very little training to integrate the new family with the biological family. The result is that children age out of foster care very often not knowing who they are or where they came from.

What makes it even worse for them is that throughout their lives in foster homes, they are about 80% of the time prescribed psychotropic drugs “to help them cope”. Once they age out, they no longer have access to their medicines.

Many will turn to street drugs and about 75% of the aged-out youth will end up in jail or prison within 2 years of aging out. It is reported that at least 1 in 7 foster children will fall into the hands of human sex traffickers. I think the number is higher because social workers are not required to report missing foster children. There are no amber alerts for them, and city reports show that between 60% to as high as 99% of children rescued in sex trafficking stings were in state custody before they were trafficked. Even the Department of State admits that the U.S. foster care system is a problem.

Less than 3% of foster children ever go to college and less than 2% will ever graduate. Foster placements simply fail to teach the vulnerable youth how to make it in this world and by the time they turn 18 and hit the road, they are ill prepared for what life throws at them.

Lane’s report today shows that lawmakers are taking notice. He says, “When someone ages out of foster care, it can be difficult adjusting to life as an adult. This past year, the federal government offered a safety net for individuals not quite ready to be on their own, but that will soon no longer be the case”.

“Supporting Foster Youth and Families Through the Pandemic Act”  created specifically to aid foster children during the Covid pandemic expires on September 30, 2021. Apparently, the Annie E. Casey Foundation is pushing for legislation that will support foster youth between the ages of 18 to 27-years-old.

Some CASA advocates as well as US Senators Sherrod Brown from Ohio, and  Shelly Moore Capito from West Virginia are taking notice and working on legislation that will provide support for foster youth that are aging out.

West Virginia Senator Shelley Moore Capito stated, “Throughout my time representing West Virginians in Congress, I’ve consistently worked to deliver needed resources and support to our state’s foster children, and help improve West Virginia’s foster care system as a whole. As legislation is introduced, I’ll prioritize the well-being of those in foster care, regardless of their age, who were particularly hard hit by the pandemic”.

Senator Brown from Ohio said, “It’s critical that Congress act now and extend the moratorium on ‘aging out’ of foster care. Now more than ever – as we continue to recover from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. We cannot afford to cut young Ohioans off from critical housing and support services. Every young person deserves a safe and stable place to call home”.

Other senators from other states do not seem to be concerned about foster youth until they realize that there is something in it for them, and there is now about $100 Billion ASFA 1997 dollars and the Trillions of dollars put out into communities through the American Rescue Plan, The Family First Act, the American Family Plan, and countless other Acts that have been made to increase access to quality healthcare and services. Hopefully lawmakers will get on the ball and help desperate, vulnerable foster youth that have no ties to family that can support them.

As Lane Ball develops his story, I hope he does he research well and reports the facts about how badly the state has failed our most vulnerable children that are now becoming young adults and being set free in this messed up world. Our prayers go out to them that God will clear the path and work with everyone’s Hearts and Minds to make each foster youth a successful member of society, hopefully by beginning before they age out not knowing what to do. We pray for people that care to make a powerful difference in their lives each and every day so that they can become the people that God created them to be.

I offer two solutions; (1) place children will family or someone that they already know and trusts so that their lives are not disrupted any more than it has to be, and (2) localize foster care so that youth do not end up in strange places with strange people far from where they no their way around. This will prevent children from being trafficked and provide more stability.

If you want to offer any solutions, please do so in the comment section. Thanks for reading. We look forward to hearing from you.  

Alaska state worker arrested on child pornography charges one day after adopting 4 kids

A white balding man's mugshot

A malware alert on a company computer led IT to report an Eagle River man with four adopted foster children to the FBI. Now he is facing child pornography charges. Agents arrested John Daniel Brooks, 51.

State records show Brooks is an analyst-programmer for the Department of Environmental Conservation, and a registered foster parent with whom the state Office of Children’s Services had placed four children, ages 1 to 13.

Brooks and his wife had officially adopted the children just one day earlier. Casey Grove, from Alaska Public Media in Anchorage says, “Agents searched Brooks’ home and devices and found hundreds of digital images of child pornography hidden in various computer folders, and when they asked him, Brooks said he was sexually attracted to children. He admitted that he had agreed to become an assistant with one of his daughter’s scouting group, in part because of his attraction to children, according to the charges”.

Brooks has worked for the Department of Environmental Conservation since 2010, and he was placed on unpaid leave this week, so taxpayers are still paying him. The U.S. Attorney’s Office is asking anyone with further information about Brooks’ activities to call the FBI at (907) 276-4441.

Yes! Class action status against Wade Correctional Center in Claiborne Parish, Louisiana means advocates can move forward.

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The federal lawsuit claiming abuse at Wade Correctional Center in Claiborne Parish, Louisiana prison alleges harsh treatment and isolation of the mentally ill and has been granted class action status.

Until taxpayers decide that enough is enough, they will just have to keep paying for the damage done through the misconduct of those in charge. State officials of course denied the lawsuit’s allegations when it was filed and do not want to respond now either. That too, of course caused prolonged suffering that taxpayers will just have to keep paying for until it decides that enough is enough and puts the bad actors out!

Jeremy Alford from LA Politics reported…..Finally, a federal judge granted class-action status on Monday to a lawsuit involving several inmates at Wade Correctional Center in Claiborne Parish. The inmates allege that the mentally ill in the prison were not treated humanely in recent years. Based on reporting from the Associated Press, “U.S. District Judge Elizabeth Foote’s decision means the criminal justice advocates who filed the lawsuit in 2018 can potentially seek relief for hundreds of prisoners. … Exactly how many is unclear but the ruling by the Shreveport judge says there were 366 people being held at the buildings in question in March 2020.”

Delaware pastor convicted of child sex abuse. Alicia is awarded $1.5 million, but says it’s not about the money.

What makes this case even more horrible is that besides her abusers testifying that she has false memories, they said she had false memories because of the psychotropic drugs the doctors have had her on since she was a child. So it’s a big circle of abuse where the systems just keep pointing fingers instead of addressing the problems. The members of the church that testified were the same people that abused her. Imagine finding the strength that she did as a sex trafficking survivor, only to have the people she accused of abusing her testify that she has false memories because of the psychotropic medications the doctors keep her on.

courtesy Alicia Cohen and Delaware Online

Alicia Cohen, 41, who was awarded $1.5 million by a federal jury said in her 2019 civil lawsuit that Ronald Cohen, also known as “Rafi” and “Raphael”, began sexually abusing her when she was three years old, and then started selling her to other men for sex about two years later, when they were living in Oklahoma.

Alicia says that Ronald Cohen used his “religious facade” and “ministries,” including the nondenominational Miracle Tabernacle, as a cover for child sexual abuse and child sex trafficking and that he filmed and sold videos of her being raped.

Ronald Cohen denied the claims as “false, frivolous, and defamatory” and was “shocked at the verdict” defense attorney Dan Boyce said Friday. Cohen asked Boyce to file a motion for judgment in his favor, or a motion for a new trial.

Attorney Dan Boyce He also said Cohen is in his 70s and depends on Social Security, and that he is “judgment proof” based on his finances. Dan Stephenson, Alicia Cohen’s attorney, said the case was not about money, but about holding Ronald Cohen accountable. “The central issue in the case was whether the defendant raped his daughter repeatedly for years as a child. The jury clearly said ‘yes’ and awarded both compensatory and punitive damages”.

“Due to the actions of defendant, plaintiff has suffered extreme mental, physical, psychological, and emotional trauma. She has spent an enormous amount of time and money seeing doctors, psychiatrists, counselors, and other therapists.”

The jury did not rule in Alicia’s favor on the sex trafficking charge and Boyce says that the judge refused to allow an expert defense witness to offer an opinion that Alicia Cohen’s memories from 30 years ago were false.

Cohen disagrees with the outcome saying, “We brought a mountain of evidence including objective, medical, and admitted facts. We had treaters, treater records, and expert witnesses supporting what Alicia said.” Alicia claims that her father ran a sex trafficking ring in the 1980s.

The Pike Creek pastor Ronald Cohen, and his friends testified saying “Entirely false.” “Not an iota of truth.” “Absolutely preposterous.” “Never happened.” And denied any existence of a child sex trafficking ring.

The half-dozen of those who were accused, and one woman who Alicia Cohen claimed was a victim testified that the accusations were untrue and the trafficking never occurred, and apparently, even though the jury believed that Alica was sexually assaulted and abused, they did not believe that all of those people were part of the sex trafficking ring that Alicia claims they are.  

The federal jury found Ron Cohen liable on five of 14 counts: sexual abuse of a minor, assault or battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress and false imprisonment.

The jury did not find Ron Cohen liable for nine other charges under federal, New Jersey and Florida law, and two other states where Alicia Cohen alleges she was raped.

Alicia said that she was “grateful” for the verdict and the work of her legal team, as well as “the people who have supported” her. “This verdict will help me to heal and move forward. It redirects my focus from the past to the future. I don’t feel stuck anymore”.

Borderline Personality Disorder or Adoptee? — Finding Joy…….

I came across a video on youtube where Dr Ramani was talking about borderline personality disorder (bpd) and how to recognise it from the 9 traits of it. Watching it I thought wow! This sounds so much like the traits of an adopted person. There are the 9 traits according to Dr Ramani. You can […]

Borderline Personality Disorder or Adoptee? — Finding Joy…….

ASFA 1997 Incentivized Foster Care ~a taxpayer’s opinion

Let’s break something down as far as Title IV-E goes. The Department makes a TON of money off our kids when they remove them. Incentive based kidnapping is the real plague in the states. I’ll use numbers based on where I live. First, they receive the report. Doesn’t matter how true or false it is. It’s their foot in the door to your livelihood. They’ll create a false claim of immediate danger because Title IV-E must have proof of a “Service plan” and they have to show reason for removal. Once removed the department gets paid $3k/child and $4k if they are disabled or handicapped. That’s only within the first month. Afterwards, they take the children to doctors, psychologists, and therapists under their grant and pay. They claim one child as 3 to triple the money back on their efforts. Once again, libel and slander. Not to mention coercion and collusion. Lastly, they put them into foster care such as emergency foster facilities or foster homes. No check are made for the welfare of the children so practically ANYTHING could happen to our babies and they exercise plausible deniability, yet won’t investigate the claims of the children or yourself if you find out. The foster facility gets a check for $3k/mo per child. This is suppose to go towards food, medical and clothes. Yet time and again we see children with dirty or worn clothes, dirty faces, bruises and so on. You may be wondering how much does 1 state’s “Department” gets out of all of this? Our state got $2.2 BILLION in August of 2020 alone!!! Scary huh? Sadly I’m sure it’s more in some other states but this is the real truth! Look it up. I’m sure you’ll find it. We need to protect our children from these kidnappers and abusers and speak out!!! Contact your Senators, mayors, governors and all public officials about the corruption they are Llowing through their absolute refusal to act!!! Tell your Senators to REPEAL the Adoption and Safe Families Act and to return our children!!Remember these children are the future of our nation and if we give up now the future is lost! Speak out! BE HEARD!! DON’T GIVE UP!! ~ Annalee Bobbitt

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Related Articles : What I wish I had known. Case Preparation Child Welfare CasesFrom a mom shoved in the system:,How to approach a legislator, lawyer, judge, and any other important person in a legal case., Think it won’t happen to you? Mom, who got $9.6M in same case, daughter sued Orange County. A look at the Right To Lie Case.

Genetic Enhancements and Brain Machine Interfaces

“Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him.” Isaiah 43:7

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Unfortunately, not everyone defines morals the same way and not all scientists look at the same moral compass. A few years ago, I looked at Karen Moxom’s Mind Over Matter Project that is moving beyond implanting chips in people who are paralyzed or missing a limb to implanting chips in addict’s brains to change their behaviors (Moxon, K, Ph.D., Ignacio Saez, Ph.D., and Jochen Ditterich, Ph.D., 2019). What I found disturbed me, and leads us back to moral and ethical questions about how technology should be used.

Karen Moxom speaking about her Mind Over Matter project stated that “Technology in neuroscience will soon let us simply think about something we want our computers to do and watch it instantaneously happen” (Moxon, et al., 2019). As the technology, she is working with becomes more available and safer to use there are also ethical questions to ask about when the technology is appropriate to use and how it should be used in the future. The technology can change someone’s life that is missing an arm or a leg by decoding algorithms of recorded neuron activity to carry out the patient’s intention to move. There is also a theory that the device will work with memory patients that suffer from Alzheimer’s or be able to change an addict’s decision-making process so that they make better decisions. Besides deciding how to use the device, there are also cost and inequality concerns because the device will be costly. Another concern is that no one knows what the societal impact of being able to plug thoughts into a computer will be. She did not mention any of those things in her reports though.

Besides the fact that technology has taken off so fast that there are not ethical guidelines in place to refer to when ethical questions arise, the definition of “personhood” may need to be changed to make the experiments legally ethical. Moxon’s study from 2015 intended to establish genuinely causal relationships between neurophysiological activity and behavior shows  brain-behavior causality can be achieved by disrupting neural activity with an external intervention and observing the consequent change in behavior. The study shows in neurorobotic BMI, brain-behavior causality is not between the brain and the body, but between the observed neurophysiological activity within the brain and an external device outside the body. Possibilities are endless and there are numerous studies about how neurol coding in the interface can be used to change behavior. They all show how beneficial the technology can be to someone that is missing a limb or suffering from paralysis or Parkinson’s disease but do not say much about the possible adverse effects of using the device.

“Who makes these judgments and how?” R&D (research and development) is crossing the line in genetic modifications. Science is always going to seek answers. Scientists are inquisitive beings that will always have more questions about how humans and other things are made and how to improve them. Addictions is a field with little scientific data to base any decisions on. Addicts are often misunderstood and are rarely cared for. Most addicts end up in jail and there are experiments there that raise ethical questions also, but the big question that I have about Moxom’s work is who gets to decide how a person is supposed to think and behave? To link that back to genetic modifications, who gets to decide what the perfect human is? Will we ever have eyes blue or brown enough? Will humans ever be the desired look? with the desired personality?

Who’s desire? It cannot be a matter for either science or society alone to decide. We as a culture have to decide what we will and will not accept as morally and ethically acceptable. Will we allow the definition of personhood to be changed so that scientist’s work does not legally violate human rights?

When considering genetic data healthcare professionals have to consider what data needs to be collected and how it should be analyzed and used. We also have to be careful with labels because words count and they can hurt. Patient’s lives can easily spiral out of control if they receive the wrong treatment or no treatment at all. Someone may become depressed or financially stressed, and that can lead to more problems with a person’s health. Low self-esteem about a known genetic characteristic might lead someone to think that they cannot be a good parent or that they can only have children that are physically and mentally disabled. Do we as a society believe that if someone does not look like or think like us that they should not be born? Adoption and fostering is an alternative that many people with physical disabilities choose to take out of fear that giving birth to a biological child will create a person who’s life will not be successful and appreciated. While many children do need homes and people that they can trust, do the genetically challenged people that want children think that by chosing to adopt and foster believe that they are receiving the “perfect child” because of the way that the child looks? That person will end up being disappointed because most orphan children have already suffered unthinkable trauma that looks cannot cover up. Jiankui’s work creating genetically enhanced babies was condemned because he deceived vulnerable patients into using a risky, untested procedure with no medical justification (Sample, 2019).

Society needs to be more aware of how our thoughts and actions affect others. Genetic enhancement can be life-saving such as with treating memory problems before a patient develops Alzheimer’s, or to cure blood disorders, cancer, blindness, AIDS, cystic fibrosis, and other diseases. Genetic screening can be used by doctors to detects pre-existing genetic characteristics.  The goal for most medical scientists is to create a healthier society. Gene editing can be done to prevent diseases, cure diseases, and to change or improve physical appearance, metabolism, and physical capabilities. Mental faculties such as memory and intelligence can also be genetically enhanced. Food can be genetically modified and created.

Beneficence is a foundational moral principle that means that doctors have a moral obligation to make decisions based on what is best for the client and to set their own needs aside to focus on the needs of the clients throughout the relationship. Fidelity is a moral principle that pertains to the importance of building relationships based on trusts. On agreeing to participate in a research project, participants are entrusting themselves to the researcher who has an obligation to protect each participant as much as possible from any harm as a result of participating in their research. Most genetic enhancements probably are for the good of the patient, but then there are other processes and procedures that may cause more harm. The entire mind, body, and spirit of each patient would have to be evaluated to assess how appropriate a genetic enhancement will be. In doing so I hope that doctors will remember that we are all made by God and in his image.

References

Moxon, Karen,  Guglielmo Foffani, (Brain-Machine Interfaces beyond Neuroprosthetics, School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems, Retrieved From,), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neuron.2015.03.036

Moxon, K, Ph.D., Ignacio Saez, Ph.D., and Jochen Ditterich, Ph.D., (2019), Mind Over Matter: Cognitive Neuroengineering, The Dana Foundation, Retrieved From, http://dana.org/Cerebrum/2019/Mind_Over_Matter_Cognitive_Neuroengineering/

Sample, Ian, (2019), Chinese scientist who edited babies’ genes jailed for three years, The Guardian, Retrieved from, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/dec/30/gene-editing-chinese-scientist-he-jiankui-jailed-three-years

The Biological Basis of PTSD

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that occurs after a person experiences a traumatic event. PTSD can be the result of combat, abuse, assault, a natural disaster, an accident, or a terrorizing event (DSM-5). Symptoms can include a person reliving the event so much so that they live their life on guard as if they expect the event to reoccur. They may even isolate themselves socially so that they avoid reminders of the event. Sometimes people with PTSD develop anxiety, become depressed, or turn to drugs to escape.

Psychological distress following exposure to a traumatic or stressful event with or without fear-based symptoms can vary. A combination of symptoms has been recognized in the DSM to include adjustment disorders marked by reactive attachment disorder and social engagement disorder that can develop into PTSD. The DSM includes diagnostic criterion for trauma and stress related disorders such as reactive attachment disorder, disinhibited social engagement disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, acute stress disorder, and adjustment disorders. Clinical characteristics of anhedonic and dysphoric symptoms resulting from demanding situations or the inability to feel pleasure because of circumstances are shown in the DSM-5 for both children and adults. The DSM considers direct and witnessed exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence leading to reoccurring involuntary, and intrusive distressing memories of the trauma. Flashbacks and other disassociative reactions are also listed to make the diagnosis.

These reactions to fear can cause problems in relationships and at work so what is happening? Neurobiological and physiological changes happen after a traumatic experience in the central and autonomic nervous systems. The brain rewires itself to cope with the experience by decreasing the volume of the hippocampus and activating the amygdala. The brain begins to act differently in an abnormal way so that processing memories is affected that can result in physical behavior that cause the body to act as if it is reliving the experience. These behaviors may cause other physical damage, but more research has to be done to find out what the physical and medical effects of PTSD actually are.

If symptoms are persistent and last for more than a month, a doctor can diagnose PTSD by gathering medical history and completing a physical exam on the patient. The physical exam rules out any physical causes of the symptoms.  After ruling out any physical or medical reasons someone shows symptoms of PTSD, the doctor can then refer the patient to a psychiatrist, psychologist, or other mental health professional that is specially trained to assess and use tools to evaluate a patient for PTSD.

Treatment for PTSD can involve both medication and counseling with the goal of reducing symptoms to help the patient cope and make daily life manageable. Psychotherapy can be used with both the patient and the family to teach new coping skills and to help work through the symptoms of PTSD. Patients that attend individual, group, and family therapies have better outcomes than patients that attend individual therapy or do not seek treatment at all. Medications may include serotonin inhibitors (SSRIs) such as Paxil, Celexa, Luvox, Prozac, and Zoloft; and tricyclic antidepressants such as Elavil and Doxepin, mood stabilizers such as Depakote and Lamictal, and atypical antipsychotics such as Seroquel and Abilify are sometimes used to control feelings of anxiety. Blood pressure medicines such as prazosin or propranolol are also sometimes used to control nightmares.

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17 Tips for Professionals Addressing Abuse

Dr. Tchividjian, an accomplished leader in law ethics and in churches offers 17 tips to address abuse. Tchividjian told Roys Podcast that he was motivated by a shortage of lawyers who understand the distinct needs of sexual abuse victims. “Many of them (lawyers) should not be doing this,” he said. “They don’t understand victimization. They don’t understand the church … And they end up re-victimizing their own clients. I’ve encountered so many of these survivors who’ve been actually re-victimized by the very lawyers who are supposed to be advocating for them.”

Dr. Basyle “Boz” Tchividjian, the grandson of Dr. Billy Graham; a Florida attorney who served as an Assistant State Attorney in the 7th Judicial Circuit of Florida, where he created the first Sex Crimes Division at the Office of the State Attorney and served as Division Chief; Founder and former Executive Director of GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment), an internationally recognized non-profit organization that equips faith-based organizations with the tools they need to correctly respond to allegations of sexual abuse and educates them on how to create safeguards to protect children and other vulnerable people within their communities; who published scholarly articles such as, “Predators and Propensity: The Proper Approach for Determining the Admissibility of Prior Bad Acts Evidence in Child Sexual Abuse Prosecutions” (American Journal of Criminal Law) and “Catching American Sex Offenders Overseas: A Proposal for a Federal Mandated Reporting Law” (UMKC Law Review; Boz also currently serves as an adjunct professor at Stetson University; and is an Assistant Professor of Law, Liberty University School of Law, Lynchburg, VA, and offers professionals tips to professionals that address abuse, When the Child Abuser Has a Bible: Investigating Child Maltreatment Sanctioned or Condoned by a Religious Leader, and Practical Suggestions for Legal Protections ….

17 Tips for Professionals Addressing Abuse

1. Review penitent privilege and other potential legal issues with the prosecutor prior to commencing the investigation.

In some states, various laws and privileges may make a criminal investigation of a church leader more challenging. If the investigator is not fully aware of these laws and legal issues, review them with a prosecutor well-versed in the subject. 

Although some states may have laws or court rules recognizing that certain communications between an ordained minister and a penitent are confidential, these states often have exceptions if the communication pertains to child maltreatment.14 It is equally important to determine who has the authority to waive the privilege. Generally speaking, penitent privilege is designed to protect the confidences of the penitent, not the clergy person. Accordingly, if the child victim or even a child abuser waives any confidentiality concerning communications with a church leader, the government may be able to access these communications, and any documents generated as a result. 

It is also important to review the state criminal code on aiding and abetting criminal conduct, before or after the fact, as well as state law on conspiracy to commit criminal activity. In many instances, the pastor or church leader may not have directly committed the criminal conduct but will have encouraged or provided instruction on the commission of the criminal conduct. 

It is equally important to review the state mandated reporting law. If the pastor is a mandated reporter and failed to report instances of child physical or sexual abuse to the authorities, this conduct is criminal in many states. 

Finally, review state laws pertaining to emotional abuse. Although these statutes are rarely enforced, many states prohibit egregious conduct that inflicts mental harm on a child. For example, forcing the child to publicly or even privately confess responsibility for being sexually abused may violate the law in some states.15

2. Understand the general dynamics of secrecy in a particular religious setting. 

In many churches condoning or sanctioning violations of the criminal law, there are numerous steps taken to disengage the church from the local community.  Even when parishioners interact with the general public, some pastors stress the importance of maintaining distance from those outside of the church community. In one instance, a pastor teaching that babies must be struck with dowel rods urged parents not to physically strike infants at Walmart or in public settings simply because others outside the church “may see this as abuse.”16

3. Understand that faith issues are often distorted and manipulated in order to coerce victims to submit to abuse. 

Child abuse within religious environments is often carried out by those who use common scriptural terms and twist their meaning to accomplish and justify their criminal acts.  For example, physical and/or sexual abuse may be justified as a necessary expression of “God’s love.”  Thus, the victim is manipulated into believing that such criminal conduct is condoned by God and therefore acceptable.  These environments also tend to be very legalistic, whereby children are taught that God’s approval of them is based upon their “good behavior,” which is usually determined by their obedience to the very adults who inflict the abuse.  It is critical to understand these dynamics when approaching and interviewing children and adults living in such an environment.  Oftentimes, they will initially be very defensive of the abuse and the abusers because they have been conditioned that such behavior has been ordained by God. Wes Stafford, who endured physical and sexual abuse at a Christian boarding school, writes:

The boarding school staff abused us in every way a child can be abused—not only physically and emotionally but spiritually as well. We were terrified of their powerful and vengeful God, reminded daily that we were little sinners in the hands of their angry God.17

4. Understand the unique spiritual blocks and problems the child victim may have.

A child who has been forced to “confess” her sins to a pastor or congregation will likely accept that he or she is responsible for her abuse and may be worried about the wrath of God if she cooperates with a governmental investigation. Some child abuse victims have been “shunned”— a period of forced isolation as a means of discipline or to otherwise reinforce the belief the child is actually to blame for his or her own abuse.18

Given familial, religious and societal pressures to be strong, some boys may be reluctant to acknowledge abuse out of fear of being labeled weak. C.S. Lewis notes this was a factor in his reluctance, and the reluctance of his classmates to disclose the physical and emotional abuse inflicted at their boarding school: 

Vanity helped to tie our tongues…A boy home from school…would hate to be thought a coward and a crybaby, and he cannot paint a true picture of his concentration camp without admitting himself to have been for the last thirteen weeks a pale, quivering, tear-stained, obsequious slave.19

Accordingly, the forensic interviewer may need to spend additional time in building rapport, offering reassurance, and in otherwise earning the trust of the victim.20 The MDT will need to select a mental health professional competent to address the child’s emotional and spiritual injuries.21

5. Understand that exploitation of authority is at the heart of abuse perpetrated and/or ignored by those within the faith community.

From the earliest age, children are taught to respect and obey their elders.  Unfortunately, abusive church leaders often distort their role and authority by claiming to speak for God.  This type of environment provides no accountability for those in leadership.  This form of authoritarian control tends to cultivate over time and usually results in an environment where; 1) leadership is unresponsive to concerns raised by parishioners regarding suspected abuse; 2) reporting abuse to outside authorities is discouraged or even prohibited, and; 3) adults are openly valued more than children.  Such environments produce parishioners (adults and children) who are initially unwilling to report criminal behavior and are uncooperative with criminal investigations.  Investigators must make every effort to communicate with these individuals away from their authoritarian leaders with the understanding that it will take patience and time to gain their trust. 

6. Look for church records. 

Increasingly, pastors and other church leaders use social media in spreading their message.22 Accordingly, examine church websites, Facebook pages and other sites for sermons or other messages relating to a case of child abuse. If, for example, a parent who beats his baby with a dowel rod says this was taught in church sermons or parenting classes, obtain any recordings of these messages. If there are no recordings, ask the pastor if he has a written copy of the sermon or sermons. If this form of “discipline” was taught as part of a parenting class, obtain all records and course materials. 

If a child abuse issue has been brought to a church council or otherwise addressed within the church body, obtain any minutes of the meeting and interview anyone who may have been in attendance. These witnesses may have significant knowledge about the abuse, the parties involved, and the role of a religious leader in protecting an abusive party, and in ostracizing a child victim.

7. Determine the absence of church child abuse policies. 

A growing number of churches have policies in place to protect children. These policies may include background checks, limiting or excluding situations in which a church worker or volunteer is alone with a child, and some sort of training on child abuse for those working with children.23 However, churches that condone or sanction abusive behavior will usually not have taken the time to develop or implement child protection policies.   Documenting this absence may assist an eventual jury in seeing that a particular religious leader was fully aware that the policies he was promoting violated state law—and he and other church leaders had no intention of confronting  known  or potential child abusers.

8. Explore the educational background of the religious leader. 

Some church leaders have received little or no formal Bible education (Bible School, Divinity School or Seminary) and thus have never studied scripture in its original Hebrew or Greek languages or otherwise mastered the very scriptures they are citing in support of abusive practices. Obtaining this information, as part of the interview or interrogation of a religious leader, may help an eventual jury understand why it is the pastor or church leader could stray so far from generally accepted interpretations of scripture and could otherwise establish him or herself as the definitive source of knowledge on all things related to God.24 This information may also be relevant to determining whether the pastor or church worker is properly ordained or is otherwise leading a recognized church for which penitent privilege and other legal rights pertain. 

9. Look for evidence documenting whether the criminal behavior is a result of the religious leadership’s uniquely held beliefs. 

When a religious leader expounds extreme views—such as hitting infants for “selfish crying”—it is helpful to establish that these views are uniquely held by the pastor and/or local church leadership being investigated.   Many churches are part of a larger body of churches which make up a denomination.25  Each denomination has certain governing rules and leadership structures that each church must follow. Furthermore, most denominations have some degree of centralized authority that is exercised from its headquarters. The investigator should always contact the denominational headquarters to assist in determining if such positions are endorsed by the denomination or whether they are simply the result of the peculiar beliefs of the local church.26   Non-denominational churches are those that do not have any formal association with other churches and are usually not subject to any form of central authority.  Since non-denominational churches do not have a centralized leadership structure that can be contacted,  the investigator should attempt to communicate with the religious or educational institutions the leader has attended  to determine if they have taught, currently teach, or in any way adhere to these extreme views. If the investigator can establish that the educational institutions the leader has attended condemn particular views, it becomes much easier to establish that a religious leader’s views are distinct from mainstream religious views—including those who taught him theology.  

10. Check with prior congregations that have been served by members of the church leadership.  

Many pastors and staff have served numerous congregations and, in some cases, a congregation removes them because of their unbiblical teachings or behavior. Accordingly, it is important to ask where else the church leader/s may have served and then contact church elders, leaders, and/or congregation members of those churches. In some cases, the investigator will be able to show a pattern of an individual who is out of control in his teaching and practices. This evidence will assist the prosecutor in proving that a particular leader was not practicing religion—he was practicing child abuse in the name of religion. 

11. Look close to home for evidence of abuse

Leaders who espouse beliefs that foster abusive church environments often practice these beliefs in their own home. In his autobiography, C.S. Lewis describes a childhood boarding school as a “concentration camp”27 and notes that the headmaster’s physical and emotional cruelties were also inflicted on his own family.28 

Investigators must make every attempt to contact and interview family members of the suspect.  As in most abuse cases, the family members who no longer live under the same roof as the perpetrator will often be the most willing to disclose the abusive home environment. Joy Davidman (the wife of C.S. Lewis) found that after she left Douglas Gresham (an abusive first husband) that she was able to confront him and to protect her children. Davidman wrote Gresham: “It must be a great surprise to you that I now have such powers of resisting your commands and persuasions. Throughout our marriage you could always make me knuckle under one way or another, and I’m sure you find difficulty in understanding that them days are gone forever.”29

Just as Davidman and her children 30 were able to speak of their terror once separated from the abusive party, investigators may find that family members who have some distance from an abusive religious leader will likewise be able to speak more freely. Oftentimes, investigators will discover a common thread between the pastor’s spiritual rhetoric, his behaviors at home, and the behaviors replicated in other church families. 

12. When interrogating a religious leader, be prepared to play in his ball field. 

Perhaps the most famous, and one of the most effective cross-examinations in history, was

Clarence Darrow’s cross examination of William Jennings Bryan in the “Scopes Monkey Trial.”31 Darrow, an agnostic, understood the value in using scripture itself to undermine the religious tenets espoused by William Jennings Bryan.32 Investigators and prosecutors confronting a religious leader using scripture to justify their conduct will gain little traction in citing child maltreatment laws or other “secular” institutions or regulations—but religious leaders are oftentimes very willing to discuss the biblical basis for their conduct and teachings.  It is important for investigators to realize that the church leader will most likely have a greater familiarity of scripture and thus will attempt to use such knowledge to manipulate its meaning to justify and/or explain the abusive behavior.  Prior to the interview, the investigator should seek out the opinions of local clergy and biblical academics who can provide insight to the precise scripture passages the investigator expects to address in the interview with the church leader. It will also be helpful to find out what translation of the Bible the religious leader is using. If the suspect cites a passage from scripture, the investigator will want to be able to read the passage in the same translation the suspect uses. It is crucial that the investigator remember  the objective is not to win a theological argument, but to simply expose the leader’s condoning or sanctioning of criminal behavior.   

As an example of possible investigative questions to pose, consider these:

Pastor, you told us the Bible requires parents to discipline their children with a rod. In Proverbs 13:24 it states “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.” Is that the verse you are relying on in support of hitting children with a rod? What does it mean when the verse says to be “careful” in disciplining a child? Is there anything in that verse, or any other part of scripture, that teaches the necessity of hitting babies? Is there anything in scripture that teaches where on the body a baby should be hit? That teaches a child’s clothes should be removed and it is the bare bottom that needs to be hit? That it is acceptable to cause injuries or even draw blood? Are there other theologians or religious leaders at the university you attended or at the other churches you served who would disagree with you? Why would they disagree? Is it possible they may be right? 

Are you familiar with the passage in Luke 17:2 whereby Jesus says, “It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones”?  Would you agree that Jesus has some extremely harsh words for those who hurt children?  Do you believe Christ’s words are applicable to the man who sexually assaulted this girl?  Do you think it is possible that blaming the child for “seducing” the adult into a sexual relationship may also cause that child hurt?33  

Questions along these lines will force the religious leader to justify his teachings and practices and will either force him to back away from his words and conduct—or will expose the extremity of these views. For example, there simply is no verse in the Bible explicitly stating that babies should be hit with dowel rods, or that children are responsible for being sexually assaulted. Advocating for such positions will expose the leader’s self-created doctrines which will be very clear to anyone who subsequently listens to the interview with the religious leader. 

13. Explore the concept of “submission” during the investigation.

If the pastor or church leader justifies abusive conduct toward women and children in the congregation by citing Bible verses pertaining to submission,34 it may be helpful to discuss his views on portions of scripture requiring church leaders to submit to the government.35 As one example as to how this might work, consider the following set of questions:  

Pastor, in the book of Romans, it states: “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.

Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God

has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.”36 Do you agree with the teaching contained in this verse? Are you aware that it is a crime to have sexual contact with a child? Are you also aware that you are required to report to the authorities whenever you have a reasonable suspicion that a child has been sexually abused? Accordingly, when you failed to report the abuse of this child to the police, you not only violated state law, you violated the teachings of your own church? 

14. If the religious leader cites materials or sources outside of the Bible—find them. 

A religious leader teaching that infants should be struck for “selfish crying” or who advocates any other unlawful behavior towards children will often cite non-scriptural resources such as “parenting books” or pamphlets, which are loosely based upon unconventional and warped interpretations of particular biblical passages.37 For example, one survivor of child physical abuse explained that her parents precisely followed the disciplinary techniques contained in a book written by Roy Lessin.38 The victim describes the procedures used as follows: 

My first spanking was when I was six months old. My mother spanked me for crying after she put me to bed. She had to spank me repeatedly to teach me not to cry when she put me down. I know about this incident because my mother used to tell all the new mothers about how young I was when she started spanking me. My last spanking occurred when I was thirteen years old. The Roy Lessin spankings that I remember most vividly took place between the ages of three and seven…My father would explain the reason for the spanking…I had already developed irritable bowel syndrome and would feel my guts cramp up with anxiety during his speech. Then he would ask me to take off my pants and underwear. I would feel deeply embarrassed because my father was not supposed to see me naked….The stick, paddle inscribed with Bible verses, or belt would swish violently through the air before slapping painfully…I would scream in pain and anguish…My parents were never concerned about the marks they left on my body…Pulling up my pants was incredibly painful…After we prayed, it was time for me to be happy. But my insides would be a mess…It would be a lesson I’d learn for life—being falsely happy regardless of how my body felt…39 

If a religious leader or parent informs the authorities that they discipline pursuant to a book or manual such as the Lessin book, it is important to obtain a copy of the book and ask the party inflicting or encouraging the abuse if the procedures taught in the publication were routinely followed or recommended in a particular home or church. Such a book  is evidence that should be seized and turned over to the prosecutor. In essence, you have  discovered a “how to” manual for abusing children. 

When seizing the material, note its location and photograph it. Materials of this nature found in the pastor’s office closely connect him to the book. If the book or other materials are in the church library, determine if the pastor must review and approve all materials placed in the library. Also, check with congregation members to find out who has borrowed or checked out these materials. The investigator may be able to establish a clear pattern of a church leader recommending these materials to particular families, and the children in these families being subjected to abuse.   

15. Ask for a “demonstration.” 

If a religious leader advocates hitting babies with a dowel rod, ask him to produce the rod and demonstrate the force he would recommend by striking a doll. Make sure to video record the “demonstration.” If the pastor strikes the doll with excessive force, this is evidence there are few, if any boundaries when inflicting blows. If, on the other hand, the pastor strikes the doll lightly, this may assist the prosecutor in establishing the pastor’s beliefs are disingenuous. After all, if a baby has bruising or other injuries, it likely required a blow more significant than a light tap. 

If a pastor claims that infants should be hit for “selfish crying,” show him some video or audio tapes of infants crying and ask him to distinguish between needful and “selfish” cries. It is critical to record the pastor’s attempts to distinguish or explain these various cries. This will likely be powerful evidence that there is little rhyme or reason to the pastor’s teachings. 

16. Confront the religious leader with evidence. 

Generally speaking, confronting a suspect with physical evidence increases a chance for a confession.40 If the investigator has physical evidence of children being abused in a congregation, such as photographs of bruises or other injuries, it may be helpful to confront the religious leader with these photographs and ask him if the injuries depicted are excessive. If the leader says no, it is evidence that he does condone excessive discipline in violation of the state’s penal code. If the leader acknowledges the injuries are excessive, he is conceding that some of his church members have violated the law.  

17. Objectivity and respectfulness is critical. 

An investigator should not assume that everyone in a particular congregation agrees with the pastor’s views or conduct. In addition to the children abused, there may be parents or others who are skeptical but may be afraid to speak out because they fear ostracism or are worried about damaging the church. Accordingly, an investigator who remains respectful of religious views during the course of the investigation is more likely to find witnesses willing to speak with him or her. Although the nature of the crime will necessarily involve a discussion of theology, the investigator must be mindful that his role is to collect evidence—not to reform a particular church. 

An investigator may want to attend worship services or otherwise make him or herself available at public gatherings of the congregation. The investigator should freely distribute his card and otherwise express his concern about the welfare of children. Making himself known as a resource to the entire congregation increases the chance the investigator will receive a phone call, perhaps in the middle of the night, from a worried parent or parishioner who believes that children are being abused—and that can lead the investigator to evidence. 

Part of the Criminal Law Commons, Criminal Procedure Commons, Law and Psychology Commons, Religion Law Commons, and the Sexuality and the Law Commons

References at Tchividjian, Basyle and Vieth, Victor, “When the Child Abuser Has a Bible: Investigating Child Maltreatment Sanctioned or Condoned by a Religious Leader” (2011). Faculty Publications and Presentations. 53. https://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/lusol_fac_pubs/53

Fostered or Forgotten?

It is time to stop the foster care to prison pipeline.

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We have to stop the foster care to prison pipeline. There are people sitting in jails and mental hospitals that do not even know who their family is or where they came from and public defenders and social workers “drop the ball”. Leaving them there with no one to advocate for them, and do you want to know how it almost always ends? It almost always ends in solitary confinement until they kill themselves or a jailer loses it and kills them.