Category: accountability

accountability, cps, domestic violence, system failure children
We Were Voted in Top 100 for Domestic Violence Blogs!

Top 100 Blogs Award

It’s Almost Tuesday was voted in the Top 100 for Domestic Violence Blogs!  This is a wonderful accomplishment for the work we’re trying to do for our children in foster care and for survivors of domestic violence.

A victim recently reached out to the newly appointed White House VAWA Advisor, Lynn Rosenthal and during the conversation, Rosenthal stated, “I can’t do nothing to help your situation.” Rosenthal continued by saying, “the Vice President is very concerned on this topic and I relay your situation to him.”

The Womens Legal Resource Blog reports the same sentiments as we feel about it, concern and a diminished faith in the system.

We invite you to read the comment placed by this victim, Heather Thompson at the article titled Working with the White House to keep victims from falling through the cracks by Alexis A. Moore, another advocate who is the owner of Survivors in Action, and an expert in cyberstalking, stalking, and domestic violence.

When domestic violence resources fail, victims die. Family law and criminal courts are failing victims nationwide.

When a victim of domestic violence has to write a letter like the following letter – something is wrong:

I know that when I went through it—I had no support from friends or family—nor from the law—I had nowhere to go, nowhere to turn and I felt it was my fault and that I deserved it. When you are not valued as a child, when you are abused physically, emotionally, sexually and mentally you have no basis to believe it should or could be any other way. I felt it was my lot in life. Where do you go with 4 small babies at 19 years old, without an education, without any money, without any help or support, coming from an abusive family and where he will not find you? How did a 19 year old get into a fix like that in the first place?
It’s always about how little she is worth compared to how valuable he is and she has been born and bred to believe she is less valuable then he!

There is the whole thing in a nutshell.

Some of us make it out alive—some of us don’t—but none of us make it out without deep scars. Can’t we put aside everything else to stop this now? We are at epidemic proportions- they are killing us figuratively and physically- violence against women is a hate crime. Both my daughters were victims of violence. The cases are pending and I am not able to discuss these issues at present. Two sons-in-law are in jail. My oldest daughter Denise 45 passed 3/7/09. My youngest, Louisa 41 , remains hospitalized to date. It’s cyclical—daughters raised in these households go on to be abused—sons go on to abuse. From birth to death women must be valued.

—BJ, mother of domestic violence homicide victim
When resources fail, victims die.

Or when a woman makes a video documentary “just in case something happens to her” – something is very wrong.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ek37imbFbIA&feature=player_embedded]

I pleaded for help before my son was taken.  I took a stack of police reports proving numerous violations of my protective order into the victims/witness office at my State Attorneys office, and was told my case was too complicated and escorted out.

I haven’t seen my son in 4 years.

Something is very wrong.

accountability, child, child custody, cps, custody, false allegations, parental alienation syndrome
Parental Alienation & Grief

The parental alienation syndrome (PAS) is a disorder that arises primarily in the context of child-custody disputes. Its primary manifestation is the child’s campaign of denigration against a parent, a campaign that has no justification. It results from the combination of a programming (brainwashing) parent’s indoctrinations and the child’s own contributions to the vilification of the target parent.

The primary person responsible for the induction of a parental alienation syndrome (PAS) in a child is the litigating parent who hopes to gain leverage in a court of law by programming in the child a campaign of denigration directed against a target parent.

In most cases alienated parents are relatively helpless to protect themselves from the indoctrinations and the destruction of what was once a good, loving bond. They turn to the courts for help and, in most cases in my experience, have suffered even greater frustration and despair because of the court’s failure to meaningfully provide them with assistance.

It is the author’s hope that increasing recognition by the judiciary of its failures to deal effectively with PAS families will play a role in the rectification of this serious problem.

(Excerpted from: Gardner, R.A. (1998). The Parental Alienation Syndrome, Second Edition, Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics, Inc.)

by Dr. Barbara Steinberg

Q: A parent who has been alienated from his or her child’s life experiences extreme loss. Often we are asked by a targeted parent, “How do I deal with his on-going pain?”

A: First, know that you are not alone. There are others, both mothers and fathers, who have similar experiences, and who are in deep agony over the loss of contact and meaningful relationship with their children.

Second, know that you are not crazy. In our culture we are not encouraged to experience our grief. We are taught to be strong, to rise above it, to tough it out, to get over it and get on with life. Sometimes that is wise counsel if we linger in our pain, and our outrage becomes the complete focus of our life affecting our work, our social life and our spirit. However, the loss of a child whether by death or by exclusion from that child’s life is beyond the realm of most parents’ ability to cope.

In the beginning of an alienation process, we believe, as parents, this is not really happening. We deny that the other parent of our child is capable of these vengeful acts, and we choose not to believe our child, whom we love deeply, would ever treat us in such a hurtful ways.

Denial is the strongest emotional defense mechanism we have at our disposal, and it is the one on which we rely the most. For most parents, because they truly want contact and relationship with their child, their denial does not hold up under time or with the reality of the disconnection they experience.

Third, many parents feel confusion, which suggests they are not able to identify and process the bunch of emotions; they are experiencing in their gut. Usually, these can be separated into feelings of deep sadness, intense anger, extreme outrage, and desperate blame.

To keep from being overwhelmed by this internal “bucket of worms,” many parents detach from the situation that they believe is an act of self-preservation. Some bargain with them using the following logic, “My child will get what’s happened when he/she turns eighteen so I’ll just wait.” Both strategies are akin to whistling in the dark.

Fourth, targeted parents want to know how to deal with these strong emotions in healthy ways because if allowed to remain unreleased, they often gain a life of their own and emerge at inappropriate and inopportune times toward others who do not understand or deserve the depth and intensity of the feeling.

Sometimes, these emotions are held internally. In an attempt to self-medicate the resulting pain, the targeted parent turns to addictive behaviors or substances. Eventually, if strong emotions are held internally for a long period of time, they can convert into physical problems, which plague the individual for the remainder of his/her life.

So the dilemma remains, what do I do with my pain? Keeping a journal or diary is helpful, but strong emotions require active self-interventions. Many parents report feeling relief from their deep sadness by allowing themselves to cry and scream.

If you believe this might assist you in your process, to avoid embarrassment, it is wise to isolate yourself perhaps in a quiet, natural place so you can grieve in an unrestrained and unobserved way. It is also helpful to take a sequence of your child’s pictures so you can activate your feelings of loss.

Intense anger is a physical activator so you will need to participate in a focused activity such as bowling, driving golf balls at a range or hitting balls in a batting cage. A less expensive approach is throwing ice cubes at a sturdy wall, an activity, that parents report, gives a sense of relief and release from ever tightening bands of anger.

Outrage describes a parent who feels misunderstood so there needs to be some attention paid to “telling your story.” The problem is finding a receptive listener who has the patience and energy to hear the saga of hurt, frustration and humiliation more than once. Targeted parents can tell their story into a small tape recorder; they can write their story by hand into a journal, a loose-leaf notebook or a diary. They can use a word processor and store it on computer disc, or if they are creatively inclined, they can write poems to their children. Some parents have already published their story in books and poetry.

Of importance here is the intention to alleviate the outrage of misunderstanding that, as a parent, you are unimportant, even nonessential in your child’s life. Also, it is important that you be heard, and that you remind yourself that you are still a parent by keeping your child’s pictures around you. Another approach is to involve yourself in the parenting role with other children as a Godparent, as an involved uncle or aunt, as a Big Brother or Big Sister. Validating yourself as a parent can go a long way to heal feelings of outrage.

Finally, desperate blame is probably the most difficult bereavement issue to process. Some blame is justifiable: the other parent, the other parent’s family, the legal and social services system, your child, yourself. However, the only one under your jurisdiction of control is yourself so this is the part that you work with in three separate ways. First, it is critical, regardless of the attitude and reception from the other parent, from the other parent’s family and from your child that you stay in positive contact with them. Civility and cordiality in face-to-face contact is essential regardless of what is said in your presence or behind your back. In addition, sending your child cards, letters and little packages on unimportant days is appropriate. Also, communicating with your child by telephone, by e-mail and by facsimile can be effective. If you have completely lost contact with your child, then set your priority to find him/her and restore contact at least by distance. If this is impossible, then collect items and memorabilia in a special box or trunk reserved for your child and the possibility of future contact.

Second, become active as a citizen for positive change, and learn about the strengths and weaknesses of the system you blame for preventing you from having parenting opportunities with your child. This action may not change the disposition of your situation, but you may make the system a better place for other targeted parents and their children.

Third, for your sake and for the sake of your relationship with your child, it is imperative that you forgive the other parent. Notice there was no mention of forgetting what has happened, or how you have been treated, but again, for restoring your emotional balance and your ability to cope with life challenges in healthy ways, you will need to forgive the alienator.

For some, this is a spiritual journey, and for others the path is a secular one. What is important is that you go about this process in a unique way that you believe will work for you so the specter of losing your child is diminished, and your health and well being are in restoration.

accountability, amber alert, child, child death, child welfare reform, foster care abuse, crime, custody, domestic violence
Violent Relationships in Family Court
Duncan Connolly
Duncan Connolly

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Clear and Present Danger by SusanMurphy Milano

Like most of us I am deeply disturbed by the escalating number of parents murdering their own families. This past weekend was no exception as police discovered 9-year-old Duncan Connolly

(left) and 7-year-old Jack Connolly (right) were found murdered in rural Putnam County, IL. Their father was found dead not far from where his car was left.

Jack Connolly
Jack Connolly

According to police sources, the boys’ father had a rope around his neck when he was found. The discovery brought to a close a national three-week search for the man and the boys, precipitated by Michael Connolly’s abduction of his sons following a weekend visitation.

The last time Amy saw her two boys alive, something was not right. Connolly was acting strange when they met at the police station.

Amy refused to hand over her boys on March 7th, an officer threatened her if she didn’t give them to their father, she would be arrested according to her lawyer.

Amy Leichtenberg filed orders of protection against Michael Connolly more than once after his repeated physical and emotional abuse in the later years of their marriage. Amy filed for divorce that year and moved out of their home. In a 2006, a petition for a protective order against her husband was filed, saying that his “controlling and obsessive behavior” included threats to kill himself and others along with a series of bizarre demands he made of her. Within a 15-month period, Connolly violated the orders of protection 57 times.

In 2007, Amy was awarded full custody of the boys with Connolly given supervised visitation. According to court reports from the family visitation center, Connolly’s behavior was dangerous enough to temporarily cease all visits with the boys.

In my experience, when a family visitation center terminates interaction between parent and child, it sends a red flag of danger. Connolly, the ever witty and clever abuser, was able to resume visits when his psychiatrist sent a “sympathy letter” to the judge “if my client is able to spend more time with his sons, Mr. Connolly’s depression and outbursts would lessen.” The judge responded by setting a series of “behavioral guidelines.” This included obtaining employment, housing and continued therapy. “

(He) tells me if I ever take the boys away he will hunt me and my parents down and cut us open,” Amy Leichtenberg, then known as Amy Connolly, stated in the 2006 petition seeking an order of protection. Amy said during their marriage Connolly had tried to isolate her from her family. A common characteristic among abusers.

Despite the 57 violations of the protection orders, dangerous behavior and deadly threats, McLean County Judge James Souk “rewarded” Connolly unsupervised visitation with his sons. Connolly filed numerous motions with the court, basically wearing the judge down. Despite pleas from Amy and her lawyer, which were ignored.

This mother’s plea for supervised visitation was dismissed without regard to serious safety concerns.

There is an automatic presumption that it is in the best interest of a child “regardless of court orders”, prior violence or threats, to maintain visitation with both parents.

Victims of domestic violence face a double edged sword. Either expose their children to imminent danger, or defy the court system refusing to allow visitation.

Like so many others before her, Amy tried to deal with a violent relationship in a family court environment. In family court the two parties are presumed to be on a level playing field–law abiding individuals who have a disagreement over a private family matter.

A core assumption of family law is that family disputes are not criminal disputes. As such, there are few safeguards built into the family court system to protect against the criminal dynamics that dominate family disputes in cases of family violence. In addition, the accusations the victim makes in family court, no matter how serious, carry no more authority than one person’s say so.

One of the most serious consequences is that when a family violence victim opens a case in family court against her abuser, the abuser is given equal opportunity to fight back against the victim’s accusations, often because the abusers past is not an issue.

Unless, of course, he is brought in from county or state prison sporting an orange jump suit and leg shackles.

There are lawyers and men’s groups who argue using domestic violence with a broad brush is not a reason to deny fathers visitation with their children. Accusing mothers of lying or making up stories to keep fathers’ from their children. Under the current laws, a parent without custody is entitled “reasonable visitation.”

There is a high burden of proof as evidenced in this case when a court refuses to take into account dangerous abusers pose to their children. Until we place the issue of labeling these cases as a “private matter” or an isolated incident, expect the death toll among children to rise.

Expect the courts to continue to ignore clear and present danger signs when a victim of violence seeks a divorce.

accountability, awareness, child, children, cps, education, families, family, foster care, government, home, law, legal, social workers
CPS v. Home Schoolers… FAQ on Dealing With School District

HOME SCHOOLING PARENTS v. CPS

Truancy laws are very often used by CPS so its a good idea to be familiar with what could happen.

If you are homeschooling in Texas, it might be a good idea to be familiar with what you could be up against when it comes to CPS and your child’s education.  Many home schoolers find themselves being accused of truancy when they are being schooled at home.

So before you find yourself being charged with Parental Failure to Abide by the Compulsory Attendance Laws, followed by Neglectful Supervision, here’s a FAQ sheet on DEALING WITH THE SCHOOL DISTRICT.

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This article is reprinted from the Handbook for Texas Home Schoolers published by the Texas Home School Coalition Association and may be copied only in its entirety, including this paragraph of credit and information. The Handbook for Texas Home Schoolers is a manual for home educators in Texas that includes information about where to find curricula; the laws in Texas; the how-to’s of home schooling; graduation; national, state, regional, and local organizations; and samples of letters referenced in this article. It can be purchased from the Texas Home School Coalition Association at PO Box 6747, Lubbock, TX 79493, for $20 (includes tax and shipping). For more information, contact the THSC Association at (806) 744-4441, staff@thsc.org, or www.thsc.org.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS when dealing with the school district.

  • I have decided to home school. What do I need to do? My child is enrolled in public school.

The first thing you need to do is obtain a curriculum. It is wise to find a local support group to help you set up your school.

Although you are not legally required to contact the school district, chances are very high that you will receive a visit from an attendance officer if you simply remove your child. Therefore, once you have a curriculum in hand, write the principal of the school your child attends and tell him that you are withdrawing your child to teach him at home. If the school contacts you and says that you must do more (come to the central office, fill out a form, or something else along those lines), do not go to the school. Your reply should be that if they will provide their request to you in writing, you will be glad to respond. If you receive a request of any kind, you are only required to give them a simple letter of assurance.

  • How many days per year must we have school?

The Texas Education Code requires that public schools meet 180 days per year; public school students must attend 170 days/year. This applies to public schools only. Home schools in Texas are private schools and the state of Texas does not regulate the number of days per year that private schools must be in session or the number of days a student must attend.

  • How many hours a day must we conduct school?

Home schools in Texas are private schools and are not regulated by the state. No minimum hours are required. You will probably find that your student can accomplish more work in the same period of time than public school child if for no other reason than because of not having to stand in line, wait for roll call, and the like.

  • May someone else homeschool my child?

Yes. Home schools in Texas have been determined by the Texas Supreme Court to be private schools. Private schools are not regulated by the state of Texas. There are no requirements such as teacher certification or curriculum approval. The ruling of the Leeper case states that a parent “or one standing in parental authority” may educate a child. However, if a person is teaching more than three students outside her family, she may encounter problems with local zoning ordinances, and the state may require that she be licensed for childcare.

  • May my child participate in classes at the public school?

That is a local school decision. It is possible for a public school to allow this, but it is not likely at this time. The rules are somewhat different for special needs students; check with your local district.

  • May my child participate in extracurricular activities at the public school?

At this time, a local public school could allow your child to play in the band or other such activities; however, he would not be able to take part in events sponsored by the University Interscholastic League (UIL) such as athletic competitions or band and choir contests.

  • What is the compulsory school age requirement?

A child who is age six as of September 1 of the current school year must be enrolled in school until his eighteenth birthday, unless he has graduated. 16. What about testing my child? Although the state of Texas does not require testing of private school students, many home school parents do give their children annual tests using nationally-normed achievement tests.

  • May my child go out in public during the day? What if someone questions him about why he is not in school?

Home schools in Texas are private schools. Home school parents are law-abiding citizens and should not feel the need to hide their children during the day. If someone asks you or your child why he is not in school, you should respond that you home educate and that you have already accomplished your work for the day or that you are on a school field trip. You should be aware that if your children are seen during public school hours you will generate questions. If your child is in public without you and your city has a daytime curfew, you could encounter difficulties.

  • What happens if my child wants to enter or re-enter public school?

School districts set the requirements for enrollment in their schools. This is a local decision–not one made by the state of Texas. You should check with the local school district concerning its policy regarding accepting unaccredited private school students.

  • What is required for graduation?

Home schools in Texas are private schools and not regulated by the state; therefore, just as with other private schools, home schools set their own graduation standards. There is no minimum age requirement for graduation.

  • How can my child receive a diploma?

When a student meets the requirements set by his school for graduation (see question #19), he may receive a diploma. Diplomas may be ordered from the Texas Home School Coalition Association and other sources.

  • What if I work?

Remember that home schools are private schools and there is no requirement for hours or the time when education must take place. The only requirement is that a written curriculum covering the basic areas (see question #3) must be pursued in a bona fide (not a sham) manner. Consequently, one could work and teach his child as well. While this would be difficult and take some discipline, it is certainly possible and legal.

  • Is there a recurring theme here?

The answer is “yes”! Home schools in Texas are private schools. Private schools in Texas are not regulated. Therefore, home schools in Texas are not regulated. Keep this thought central in your mind when dealing with those who want to regulate or restrict your freedom to teach your children.

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accountability, arrest, child death, child welfare reform, foster care abuse, cps, domestic violence, government, jail, police, psychotropic medications, social services, system failure
Child welfare officer jailed (ACCOUNTABILITY!!!!)

this is what i like to see – this case is a couple years old, but its a good leader to what needs to keep happening – accountability!!!

The Pinellas sheriff’s employee lied about checking on children and filed false overtime claims, detectives say.

By CHRIS TISCH
Published December 10, 2004


Megan Gallagher faces felony charges of grand theft and falsifying records.

LARGO – Pinellas County sheriff’s detectives arrested one of their investigators Thursday, alleging that in a least two dozen cases she failed to visit homes where child abuse had been reported, then wrote fake reports.

Megan Gallagher, 25, also submitted bogus overtime slips for hours she never worked, sheriff’s officials said. She was booked into the Pinellas County Jail Thursday on felony charges of grand theft and falsifying records.

Gallagher, who has worked for the agency since March 2002, was placed on paid administrative leave.

After learning of one case of deceit, supervisors in the Sheriff’s Office’s child protection division found 26 cases where Gallagher falsified documents this year, according to officials. In most of them, she made no visits to families where children were reported to be in danger, said Capt. George Steffen, the division’s commander.

None of those children suffered injuries because of Gallagher’s no-shows, though two children later were removed from a home Gallagher failed to visit, Steffen said.

“It was very disturbing and we acted as quickly as we could,” Steffen said. “This is extremely egregious on her part.”

Steffen said the work of his 77 investigators is important and can save children from harm or neglect. The possibility that Gallagher wasn’t doing that work is alarming, he said.

“If you’re not making contact as you’re required to and they are tasked to do on a daily basis, obviously you’re going to leave children at risk,” Steffen said. “And we were fortunate in all these cases that nothing serious occurred.”

The 26 cases Gallagher is accused of falsifying all occurred this year, though officials intend to look back even further, Steffen said.

He said he couldn’t rule out that there are more cases in previous years, and that children may have been harmed if there was more deceit.

“We are going to go back further,” he said. “It could be growing.”

This marks the third time this year that a child-protection investigator with the Sheriff’s Office has been arrested.

Two other child protection investigators were arrested in August on charges they submitted false overtime slips, though neither was accused of skipping family visits.

Both of those investigators resigned, then entered pretrial intervention programs that could result in criminal charges being dismissed, court records show.

Division supervisors tightened up on overtime procedures and began reviewing spikes in overtime, but found no other people abusing the system. Gallagher’s time slips were not reviewed at that time because she filed for it sporadically, Steffen said.

Sheriff’s officials said the overtime in question this year amounted to about $2,000.

A fellow investigator became concerned during a visit with a family that Gallagher had supposedly visited earlier this year, officials say. When questioned by the second investigator, the family said Gallagher had never called or visited their home. A report filled out by Gallagher said she had.

“This family said they didn’t even know anyone by the name of Gallagher, had never seen her or been contacted by her,” Steffen said. “Of course, this raised a red flag. The information was practically totally fabricated.”

Steffen said he assigned four investigators to meet with the families that Gallagher had failed to visit. Of the 160 or so cases she was assigned in the first eight months of this year, she did not visit 26, sheriff’s officials said.

Officials said they did not know what Gallagher was doing when she said she was visiting with at-risk families.

Steffen said Gallagher used similar descriptions in most of the reports she is accused of falsifying, including often saying that dishes were piled high in the sink. Steffen said supervisors have been reminded to be vigilant when reviewing investigators’ work and to look for such repetitive descriptions.

In 1999, the Sheriff Office replaced the state’s Department of Children and Families in investigating child abuse cases.

Steffen said there are no plans for changes in management practices and said the accusations against Gallagher are not reflective of the division.

“Most of our people are honest,” he said.

[Last modified December 11, 2004, 19:12:00]