Category: child

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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abduction, child, christmas, cps, health, holiday
Christmas – 3 Years Stuck

If you haven’t read my story, you can find it here –Its Almost Tuesday, The True Story.

This is my 4th Christmas without my son. The first was Christmas 2004; but it is as devastating for me today as then… if not more. It just doesn’t show as much.

I have not spoken to my son, nor have I seen him, received any reports on his well-being, no pictures, no correspondence, nothing. I’m supposed to talk to him on the phone and get supervised visits. But my mother never did play by the rules.

Why? Is she punishing me for acting out against her as a teenager when I ran away from home with my “first love”?

Her persecution of me has gone on so long that at this point, i think she truly believes her exaggerated recollection of my past and her vision of me has been stretched and skewed into another person than who she once remembered as her daughter. I am many things according to her, but those things are based on lies… but to her, they are truths…

The truth is, I AM many things… the ultimate ‘product of my environment’ … but I am not what she says me to be (and she tells everyone – the dog pound, hairdresser, potential mates, grocery store clerk, mailman, that her ‘mentally ill drugged out daughter abused her grandson so he was taken into foster care and she saved his life” (now praise her – praise her, give her the attention she desperately wants to make it worth it)…

It wasn’t worth it … and I never hurt my children…

I’m not here to talk about the merits of my case, its long over, she won – or did she? Nobody won, it was a total loss, mostly, for the children… my son is bearing the brunt of this nightmare.

She didn’t save him… she stole his childhood… she was maliciously revengeful towards me after I fought with her one day and wouldn’t back down and the police were ultimately called on her.

Being 8 years old at the time he was taken, I know my son remembers living at home with me, unless he has blocked it out. He must.

I have tried to get messages to him to call me, but he never does. I am told he is given those messages. I don’t know the truth. I just know that he doesn’t call.

From what I understand, he doesn’t want to talk to me, see me, nor have anything to do with me. I’m told that he does not so much as talk about me.

At all? But we were once so close.

I don’t understand what is going through his little mind. I only survived this from my place, which was barely, not from the child’s point of view. Maybe he’s doing what he must to bide his time and just survive – like me?

Or maybe he is truly confused? Being told over and over again that he was in foster care for being abused, but having good memories of home without abuse… it doesn’t make sense to him.

Maybe he’s blocked it all out and doesn’t remember any of it? He’s repressed it all? Is that possible for an 8 year old?

Then I wonder, does he love me?

Does he miss me?

Does he forgive me?

Does he know the truth?

Will he end up like me? Will he be a mentor to other foster children one day?

Will he self-destruct? Will he turn to drugs? End up in prison? Does he know how hard I tried? Will he believe me if I ever get to tell him one day? Will he hate me forever? Will I live long enough to see him again?

Do I want to see him again and risk his anger coming out on me, being blamed… would I endure it with strength or would that be the straw that broke my back…?

These are questions that haunt me every day of my life.

My sadness is overwhelming. I love him more than I can write, there are no words to describe that love… it keeps me alive. But, my suffering is so strong, I

My coping skills have struggled against themselves, and I’ve found myself retreating into myself, my memories, and my writing, as my self-therapy. It has been so long now that most of the people in my life have never met my son. Most people in my life now have not seen me with my child, he is merely a boy in a photograph. I rarely speak of him as its too painful. I don’t want the questions. I don’t want the confusion on another person’s face as they try to understand what happened. I don’t want to hear “They can’t do that….” anymore. They can, and they did.

I don’t know why I’m writing about it now, except to say that I am in a lot of pain these days, inside my soul. I’ve gone through the gamet of phases, tried a variety of techniques to make it through this, read, written, talked, and meditated… none of it has worked… there is no pain like that of losing a child, and knowing he’s out there, one or two counties away, with my own mother, who knows the truth, that i loved him and cared for him with my life, but whose anger is separating us irreparably.

No matter what, if she were to give me access to him back today, there is a significant loss of several years, taking my child from a boy to a teen that are gone. They cannot be replaced or given back. They cannot fix this for me, ever, no matter the therapy, retribution, justice, forgiveness, revenge, or healing. There is nothing to give back what was taken from us, his 8th year, 9th year, 10th, 11th, and 12th year, and however many more… I will never hear his voice as a child again, and I didn’t get to be around while it changed, to adapt to it.

My mother forever stole my child and I’m sorry, but I cannot get over it. I cannot pick up and move on. I can only do what I do, this blog, and other small activities that keep it at bay inside of me, hopefully by helping others.

Someone asked me the other day how old my children were (they were 8 and 13 when he was taken) , I said to my friend, “my children? Oh, my daughter is 17 now, and my son is 8”.

No wait… he’s not 8 years old anymore… except to me….

I write a check, and put the year 2004. I dream of him, and he’s 8 years old. I’m stuck.

I saw a picture of my son’s step-cousin on myspace yesterday, she was the same age as him, and the last time I saw her, she was 8 too. Now she’s photographed on myspace playing guitar in her own rock band on stage. Woah – SLAM – i thought, how long has it been? Nearly 4 years? No it hasn’t, it was yesterday, its not over, its still happening, the pain is just as strong, and it hurts, losing my baby boy… 4 years – gone… you can’t fix that for me… you can only hope, as I do, each day, that I find the strength to keep breathing for another day… sometimes I don’t know if I can…

Sometimes I don’t want to.

I guess Christmas is still magical for many, but to parents who have lost their children, its dreaded torture. To them, I give you my heart and prayers, and say to you that I understand, I really do… its killing me too…

To the parents that have their children this Christmas, be blessed, plentiful, and not in presents, but in love. Kiss and hug your children two more times each night in remembrance of the lost children who don’t have their parents to show them love. Let them stay up a little late, who cares, Santa’s coming!! Take not for granted that your children are home with you, you are the luckiest person on earth if you are with your child.

For those who are acting out against another parent, alienating children, stop what you’re doing, quit justifying it to yourself, get help, listen to your conscious, resist the anger, and go to a counselor, before the child suffers harm that can’t be fixed…. or before the other parent can’t cope anymore and commits suicide…

it happens…

If you know someone who is abusing a child or other parent this way, seek intervention, and do it soon. Don’t turn a blind eye, deaf ear, or put your head in the sand. You may be able to save a life this Christmas, and what better gift could you give a child but the love of a parent, and the ending of a nightmare that could otherwise cost everything….

Bah Humbug…

I miss you my son – more than you could imagine. Call me. I pray our family steps up at some point to end this suffering for us. .. i pray for that… to save my life…

I pray for a reunion…

adoption, child, child welfare reform, foster care abuse, cps, domestic violence, education, family, foster care, foster child, healing, love, system failure
How to Bond With Your (Foster) Child

Top 10 Five Minute Bonding Activities

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These activities are not for every foster/adoptive parent or every foster/adoptive child. Only do what is comfortable for you and your foster/adopted child.
Keep in mind:

  • Child’s Age – Chronological and Emotional
  • Child’s History of Abuse and/or Neglect
  • Comfort Levels

Please note that I’m not promoting these activities as a way to create an instant bond between you and your child. Bonding is a process that takes time. These activities are ideas that will help start the process of bonding.

1. Brushing Hair

This can be a great and easy way to spend time with a child. It also involves a safe touch, which is so important to creating a loving bond.

2. Read a Story

Not only will you be increasing your bond by spending time together, you’ll be increasing the child’s vocabulary and other literary skills.

3. Sing Songs

We used to have a tradition of singing songs before tucking our daughter into bed, favorites included Old Macdonald, London Bridge, and many different Sunday School songs. Also try songs like “This Little Piggy” where each line of the song is sang as you tickle a toe, involves appropriate, safe touching with a child who may be fearful of touch due to past abuse.

4. Clapping Games and Rhymes

Remember the games played on elementary playgrounds? If not here are some web sites with words. Fun activity involving safe touch.

5. Bed Time Routine

A routine can include tucking in with a soft blanket, hugs and kisses, a short story, song, or prayer. Keep in mind the comfort level of all involved. If a history of sexual abuse exists or you don’t know the child’s history, protect yourself against allegations by having another adult with you at bed time.

6. Staring Contest

Maintain direct eye contact, the first person to look away or blink loses. A fun game for older children and a great way to have eye contact which helps build attachment. Be sure the child does not interpret this activity as threatening or intimidating and understands that it is a game.

7. Hand Games

More safe touching activities like Rock Paper Scissors, Bubble Gum Bubble Gum in a Dish, or Thumb Wrestling. Some of the above links will take you to pages filled with more game ideas.

8. Paint Finger and Toe Nails

More appropriate for girls – this is a sweet way to spend five minutes. Consider allowing the child to paint your nails.

9. Rocking

This is one bonding activity in which you must calculate emotional age, history, and comfort levels. My son was 12 when he came to us as a foster child, but he needed and welcomed being held and rocked. I spoke to his therapist before rocking him and had no trouble in doing so. He was extremely small for his age, which made rocking him easier. Be aware of sexual arousal with older children and activities that involve such closeness.

10. Lotioning

Applying lotion to a child’s hands and feet can also be part of a bedtime routine. Children of color will benefit from having lotion applied to their legs, arms, face, and back. Caution: Consider child’s sexual abuse history, age, and comfort level with this activity. Some abused children can misinterpret different kinds of touch. Be aware of sexual arousal. If you sense that any activity is upsetting to the child – stop. Document the incident, tell the therapist at your next meeting.

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child, children, families, family, healing, love, medical, medication, safety
Government Advisers: Don’t Use Cold Medicines in Children Under 6

FDA Says Over-the-Counter Med Need Further Study

Cold medicine

Concentrated Tylenol Infants’ Drops Plus Cold & Cough, right, and Pedia Care Infant Drops Long-Acting Cough, left, is shown in a medicine cabinet of the home of Carol Uyeno in Palo Alto, Calif., Thursday, Oct. 11, 2007. Cold Drug makers voluntarily pulled cold medicines targeted for babies and toddlers off the market Thursday, leaving parents to find alternatives for hacking coughs and runny little noses just as fall sniffles get in full swing. The move represented a pre-emptive strike by over-the-counter drug manufacturers – a week before government advisers were to debate the medicines’ fate. But it doesn’t end concern about the safety of these remedies for youngsters.  (Paul Sakuma/AP Photo)

WASHINGTON – Cold and cough medicines don’t work in children and shouldn’t be used in those younger than 6, federal health advisers recommended Friday.

Video

No More Kids Cold Medicine

The over-the-counter medicines should be studied further, even after decades in which children have received billions of doses a year, the outside experts told the Food and Drug Administration. The FDA isn’t required to follow the advice of its panels of outside experts but does so most of the time.

“The data that we have now is they don’t seem to work,” said Sean Hennessy, a University of Pennsylvania epidemiologist, one of the FDA experts gathered to examine the medicines sold to treat common cold symptoms. The recommendation applies to medicines containing one or more of the following ingredients: decongestants, expectorants, antihistamines and antitussives.

The nonbinding recommendation is likely to lead to a shake up in how the medicines – which have long escaped much scrutiny – are labeled, marketed and used. Just how and how quickly wasn’t immediately clear.

In two separate votes, the panelists said the medicines shouldn’t be used in children younger than 2 or in those younger than 6. A third vote, to recommend against use in children 6 to 11, failed.

Earlier, the panelists voted unanimously to recommend the medicines be studied in children to determine whether they work. That recommendation would require the FDA to undertake a rule-making process to reclassify the medicines, since the ingredients they include are now generally recognized as safe and effective, which doesn’t require testing. The process could take years, even before any studies themselves get under way.

Simply relabeling the medicines to state they shouldn’t be used in some age groups could be accomplished more quickly, FDA officials said.

Indeed, the drug industry could further revise the labels on the medicines to caution against such use. The Thursday-Friday meeting came just a week after the industry pre-emptively moved to eliminate sales of the nonprescription drugs targeted at children under 2.

Government Advisers: Don’t Use Cold Medicines in Children Under 6