Category: death

children, cps, crime, death, domestic violence, haiti, social workers, tampa florida
Florida Mom Slain With Her 5 Children Endured Abuse

ist1_2685442-domestic-violence

September 21, 2009    Filed at 11:09 p.m. ET TAMPA,Fla. (AP)

A Florida woman slain along with her five children endured regular abuse from her husband but seemed overwhelmed by trying to raise the kids herself and wanted him around as a father figure, Department of Children and Families records show. Police in Haiti on Monday detained Mesac Damas, wanted for questioning in the slayings of his wife, Guerline Damas, and the couple’s three boys and two girls in their Naples, Fla., apartment. A relative said detectives told them their throats had been slit. Collier County Sheriff’s deputies have called Mesac Damas a person of interest in the slayings. The 33-year-old boarded a flight to Haiti from Miami International Airport on Friday, a day before police found the bodies. Mesac Damas told The Associated Press at the police station where he was being held in Port-au-Prince that he had planned to surrender and that he returned to his native Caribbean nation ”to say goodbye to my family.”

”I was going to turn myself in. You see I’ve got my suit on and everything,” Demas said as police led him from a backroom where he was interrogated to a jail cell.

He did not respond when asked if he killed his wife. Just days before he left the country, a Department of Children and Families caseworker assigned to the family had made an unannounced visit to the apartment and noted in a report that the children, ages 11 months to 9 years, seemed healthy and safe. Mesac Damas was home and dinner was cooked. The toddler was wearing a sundress and playing with her doll while the older daughter, dressed in pink, asked the caseworker if she had brought her a pink book bag, because she was going to school next year. The boys were in T-shirts and shorts and the worker didn’t see any bruises or marks.

Mesac Damas was due to finish a court-ordered battery intervention course in November. ”There is no safety concern,” the file reads. ”Children are doing fine.” But relatives of Guerline Damas, 32, said her husband was a ”loose cannon” who would take away his wife’s cell phone and be rude to her family. ”You’d never know what he’d do,” said her younger brother, Mackindy Dieu, 23, who lived with the couple several years ago. Dieu said his sister wasn’t open about the details of her personal life and her family didn’t know she was being abused until January, when Mesac Damas was arrested and charged with misdemeanor battery after he hit his wife as she held their baby daughter in her arms. According to DCF records, he choked her and ripped her shirt off.

”As this is occurring, the child slipped out of the mother’s hand and fell to the floor,” the report states. It was one of a handful of times that sheriff’s deputies had been called about domestic disputes between the couple.

But this one was different: Mesac Damas was taken into custody and a restraining order filed. The other children had been outside playing and were terrified by what had happened, a caseworker noted. In interviews, two of the older boys described seeing their parents fight regularly. The oldest, 9-year-old Michzach, told the caseworker that he would try to take all the children in a bedroom when the abuse happened. ”If he tries to call 911, dad hits him on the hand or in the head,” the file noted. When it was especially bad, Guerline Damas would sleep in her car. She hadn’t had an easy life — she immigrated to Florida from Haiti as a teenager after her father was murdered in their home. She went to high school and later found work in a Publix supermarket.

”What are you doing with this guy?” Dieu said the family told her when they learned about the abuse.

”You need to leave.”

The couple separated — for two months. Guerline Damas began counseling at a shelter for abused women. A caseworker noted she seemed overwhelmed at the thought of raising five children by herself. She started pushing for the restraining order to be lifted.

”She believes that a father should be with his children and she has faith in him, that he will not repeat domestic violence against his wife,” records from a visit in late March state.

Mesac Damas pleaded no contest to the battery charge and was given 12 months probation and ordered to take parenting classes and enroll in a battery intervention program. Around April, he moved back in. The family seemed to make progress. Mesac Damas said he was learning to control his anger and talk with the children more. The children said they had missed their father. The caseworker described observing a ”loving relationship” between the father and children.

”This clinician believes that this family will be a solid family unit once again,” the file states. —- Associated Press writer Jonathan M. Katz reported from Port-Au-Prince, Haiti.

child welfare reform, foster care abuse, cps, death, family, foster care, government, suicide, system failure
Abuse changes brains of suicide victims

Source:By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor
Tue May 6, 9:47 PM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Suicide victims who were abused as children have clear genetic changes in their brains, Canadian researchers reported on Tuesday in a finding they said shows neglect can cause biological effects.

The findings offer potential ways to find people at high risk of suicide, and perhaps to treat them and prevent future suicides.

And, the researchers said, they also offer insights into how neglect and abuse can perpetuate unhealthy behavior through the generations.

Moshe Szyf of McGill University in Montreal and colleagues studied the brains of 18 men who committed suicide and who were also abused or neglected as children, and compared them to 12 men who also died suddenly but from other causes, and who were not abused, although some had various psychiatric problems such as anxiety disorders.

They found changes in the genetic material of all 18 suicide victims. The changes were not in the genes themselves, but in the ribosomal RNA, which is the genetic material that makes proteins that in turn make cells function.

These changes involved a chemical process called methylation, a so-called epigenetic change involving the processes of turning genes on and off, they reported in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS ONE, available at http://www.plosone.org/doi/pone.0002085 .

“The big remaining questions are whether scientists could detect similar changes in blood DNA — which could lead to diagnostic tests — and whether we could design interventions to erase these differences in epigenetic markings,” Szyf said in a statement.

Dr. Eric Nestler of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas said both drugs and psychotherapy may act to reverse some of these changes.

CHANGING THE BRAIN

“Ultimately we believe that a person who gets better from psychotherapy is inducing changes in the brain,” Nestler told reporters at a meeting of the American Psychiatric Association in Washington where similar research was discussed.

Szyf’s colleague, Michael Meaney, has shown in animals that parental abuse and neglect can affect the brains and behavior of offspring.

He has studied the brains of rats, for whom parental care can be demonstrated in how much the mother grooms her pups.

“You can put two rats on a table and tell which one is raised by a low-licking mother. The one reared by a low-licking mother is more nervous, and fatter,” Meaney said in an interview at the Psychiatric Association meeting.

Images of the brain cells of the rats show the brain cells of low-licking mothers have fewer dendrites. These are the strands that help one neuron communicate with another.

Meaney, who also worked on the suicide study, said the research, taken together, demonstrates how early experiences can cause physical changes in the brain.

He said female rats reared by low-licking mothers reached puberty earlier, meaning they had more offspring.

Similar findings are true of humans, who often have children at younger ages when times are stressful. The best way to pass along genes in uncertain times is to have more children, he said.

(Editing by Julie Steenhuysen and Sandra Maler)

child welfare reform, foster care abuse, cps, death, family, foster care, government, suicide, system failure
Abuse changes brains of suicide victims

Source:By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor
Tue May 6, 9:47 PM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Suicide victims who were abused as children have clear genetic changes in their brains, Canadian researchers reported on Tuesday in a finding they said shows neglect can cause biological effects.

The findings offer potential ways to find people at high risk of suicide, and perhaps to treat them and prevent future suicides.

And, the researchers said, they also offer insights into how neglect and abuse can perpetuate unhealthy behavior through the generations.

Moshe Szyf of McGill University in Montreal and colleagues studied the brains of 18 men who committed suicide and who were also abused or neglected as children, and compared them to 12 men who also died suddenly but from other causes, and who were not abused, although some had various psychiatric problems such as anxiety disorders.

They found changes in the genetic material of all 18 suicide victims. The changes were not in the genes themselves, but in the ribosomal RNA, which is the genetic material that makes proteins that in turn make cells function.

These changes involved a chemical process called methylation, a so-called epigenetic change involving the processes of turning genes on and off, they reported in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS ONE, available at http://www.plosone.org/doi/pone.0002085 .

“The big remaining questions are whether scientists could detect similar changes in blood DNA — which could lead to diagnostic tests — and whether we could design interventions to erase these differences in epigenetic markings,” Szyf said in a statement.

Dr. Eric Nestler of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas said both drugs and psychotherapy may act to reverse some of these changes.

CHANGING THE BRAIN

“Ultimately we believe that a person who gets better from psychotherapy is inducing changes in the brain,” Nestler told reporters at a meeting of the American Psychiatric Association in Washington where similar research was discussed.

Szyf’s colleague, Michael Meaney, has shown in animals that parental abuse and neglect can affect the brains and behavior of offspring.

He has studied the brains of rats, for whom parental care can be demonstrated in how much the mother grooms her pups.

“You can put two rats on a table and tell which one is raised by a low-licking mother. The one reared by a low-licking mother is more nervous, and fatter,” Meaney said in an interview at the Psychiatric Association meeting.

Images of the brain cells of the rats show the brain cells of low-licking mothers have fewer dendrites. These are the strands that help one neuron communicate with another.

Meaney, who also worked on the suicide study, said the research, taken together, demonstrates how early experiences can cause physical changes in the brain.

He said female rats reared by low-licking mothers reached puberty earlier, meaning they had more offspring.

Similar findings are true of humans, who often have children at younger ages when times are stressful. The best way to pass along genes in uncertain times is to have more children, he said.

(Editing by Julie Steenhuysen and Sandra Maler)