Hundreds Attend CASA Gala To Help Fight
Woodlands, TX – More people are standing up in the fight against child abuse in Montgomery County and to make a difference in those children’s future.
On Saturday night, 669 people filled the Waterway Ballroom at the The Woodlands Waterway Marriott Hotel & Convention Center for the 21st Annual CASA Speaks For Kids: Boots & Ball Gowns Gala.
Last year, the gala raised more than $60,000 to benefit CASA Child Advocates of Montgomery County.
This year, guests participated in a live auction with Judy Olson and entertainment by the David Caceres Band at the program hosted by KTRK Channel 13 news anchor Art Rascon.
Special guest, actor and producer Mathew St. Patrick flew in from Los Angeles for the event after being invited by gala chair Joni M. Barker, who knows his sister.
While some know St. Patrick best for “Six Feet Under” and “General Hospital,” not many know he grew up in an orphanage from the time he was in fourth grade to halfway through his senior year.
As someone who understands the challenges, St. Patrick said it was important for him to attend the gala and put a face to the name. A trip to Los Angeles with St. Patrick was also up for bid during the auction.
“This is something that is dear to my heart because I understand what these kids are going through,” St. Patrick said. “I know what it is to be told what you can’t do, I know what it is not to have support. So to have these advocates fighting, trying to get them included into the general population in terms of what their rights are, what their opportunities in life are – that makes a world of difference. I didn’t have an organization like this. For me, it’s pay it forward.”
CASA Executive Director Ann McAlpin said CASA trains volunteers to be advocates for the children. The advocates become a constant for the children, helping them in a variety of ways.
One CASA advocate recently helped a second-grade child who struggled with reading. McAlpin said the advocate’s fight led to the child being diagnosed with a neurological issue that was causing vision issues.
“Because of that advocate, now (the child) loves to read,” McAlpin said.
Another advocate worked four months searching for a child’s family, finally finding the grandmother on social media and the father who did not know he had a son. Now the child is reconnected with a family, she said.
Dee Corn of The Woodlands praised the event she has attended for the last 10 years.
“I think it is wonderful,” Corn said. “It’s a great cause and they do a nice job every time.”
The congressional hearing cited the AP report that found more than two dozen unaccompanied children were sent to homes across the country where they were sexually assaulted…
Lawmakers Fault HHS With Migrant
Child Sexual Abuse
WASHINGTON – Migrant children in the government’s care fell prey to human trafficking after the Health and Human Services Department failed to protect them, according to a bipartisan congressional investigation released Thursday.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., stopped his line of questioning and left the hearing after saying that the witnesses were “the definition of non-cooperative.”
The six-month inquiry found that the government, overwhelmed by the influx of tens of thousands of children crossing the border to flee violence in Central America, failed to conduct the most basic checks on the adults entrusted with caring for the children.
Many adult sponsors didn’t undergo thorough background checks. Government officials didn’t visit homes and in some cases, had no idea that adult sponsors had several unrelated children, a possible sign of human trafficking.
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, chairman of the Senate Homeland and Governmental Affairs investigations subcommittee, said the HHS placement program for migrant children suffers from “serious, systemic defects.” The report echoed the findings of an Associated Press investigation.
At a hearing reviewing the program, officials from the department angered Democratic and Republican senators, who dismissed their answers as incomplete or complained that they failed to take full responsibility for the children who were abused or exploited.
At times the officials said they did not have the legal authority from Congress to follow-up on the children.
“We are mindful of our responsibilities to these children and are continually looking for ways to strengthen our safeguards,” said Mark Greenberg, acting assistant secretary for HHS’s Administration for Children and Families.
Greenberg testified that one case was a “deeply dismaying event” but said he was not able to discuss details due to an ongoing criminal investigation. He said policies in place at the time were followed.
“It’s discouraging that they won’t even acknowledge the fact that they blew it,” Portman said after the hearing. “They let these kids go be trafficked in horrible conditions and they won’t even say that if they had put in some basic common sense procedures they could have helped avoid this.”
The congressional investigation and hearing was in response to a case in Portman’s home state of Ohio, where six Guatemalan unaccompanied minors were placed with human traffickers and forced to work up to 12 hours a day on egg farms under threats of death.
Lawmakers argue that the government weakened its child protection policies in recent years as it dealt with the influx.
Portman said federal officials don’t know how many migrant children they’ve sent to live with convicted criminals across the U.S. over the last three years.
The congressional hearing cited the AP report that found more than two dozen unaccompanied children were sent to homes across the country where they were sexually assaulted, starved or forced to work for little or no pay.
The congressional report said that as part of the subcommittee’s six-month investigation, it reviewed “more than 30 cases involving serious indications of trafficking and abuse.”
Since almost all of the children have not been publicly identified, it could not immediately be determined if the children studied by the AP were among those cited by Portman.
According to emails, agency memos and operations manuals obtained by AP, some under the Freedom of Information Act, the agency relaxed its procedures as the number of young migrants rose in response to spiraling gang- and drug-related crime in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.
HHS bars releasing children to anyone convicted of child abuse or neglect or violent felonies like homicide and rape. The department says it recently signed a contract to open new shelters, and is strengthening its protection procedures as the number of young migrants is once again rising.
Some of the new policies were adopted in July, after prosecutors charged sponsors and their associates with forcing the teens to de-beak chickens and clean chicken coops on farms around the town of Marion. The department placed the children in substandard trailers without setting eyes on the sponsors or the environment, and only performed such home visits in less than 5 percent of cases overall from 2013 to 2015, the report said.
At the hearing, lawmakers from both parties bristled at the officials’ answers, saying they weren’t adequate when the lives of children had been endangered.
The panel’s top Democrat, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, said she was “disgusted and angry” by the results of the investigation.
“The bottom line is when a child is admitted into our country, the United States of America should be an example for the world of how we care for those children,” McCaskill said.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., stopped his line of questioning and left the hearing after saying that the witnesses were “the definition of non-cooperative.” Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., criticized the overly legal tenor of many of the officials’ responses and asked if they understood why the senators were angry.
The panel’s report says the agency still can’t track whether an adult is attempting to sponsor multiple children at the same time. In addition, current policies allow sponsors to prevent children from being contacted by social workers who go to the home for a check-up visit.
The report also notes that HHS did not spend all of the money it had left in the program even though it says it was overwhelmed and lacked sufficient funding to provide services. In a letter to lawmakers in December, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell said a contingency fund is necessary to ensure children are not left at the border.
NEW YORK – The number of U.S. children victimized by abuse and neglect increased by nearly 3% in the latest annual reporting period, according to new federal data.
According to the report released Monday by the Department of Health and Human Services, the estimated number of victimized children in the 2014 fiscal year was 702,208 – up from 682,307 in 2013.
The report estimated fatalities attributable to child abuse and neglect at 1,580 — up from 1,530 in 2013.
HHS said Rafael Lopez, commissioner of the Administration on Children, Youth and Families, had sought input from child welfare officials in states with the increases in reported abuse and neglect.
According to Lopez, the officials cited substance abuse, mental health issues and domestic violence as factors contributing to the increased maltreatment.
“We need to shift our focus to the front-end prevention of child abuse and neglect and make sure that families get the help they need when they need it,” Lopez said.
States with more than 30% increases in maltreatment over the past five years include Arizona, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Tennessee, according to the report.
About 70% of the fatalities in 2014 involved children younger than 3, and parents were the perpetrators in 80% of the cases. Georgia, Illinois, West Virginia, Oklahoma and Michigan had the highest rates of child fatalities.
Overall, white children accounted for about 44% of the victims of maltreatment, black children about 21% and Hispanic children about 23%. Smaller percentages were Asian, Native American and mixed race.
Seventy-five percent of the victims suffered neglect, 17% were physically abused and 8.3% were sexually abused. The report tallied 58,105 children who were sexually abused in 2014 – down considerably from the peak of about 150,000 in 1992.
The report, formally known as the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System, is based on input from child protection agencies in every state.
Rep. Chris Smith: ‘Planned Parenthood Is
Child Abuse Incorporated’
In a speech at the March for Life rally in Washington, D.C., on Friday, Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) said Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, “is Child Abuse Incorporated,” pointing to recent undercover videos, which showed Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale and procurement of aborted babies’ organs.
“Planned Parenthood is child abuse incorporated,” said Smith.“Recent undercover videos by the Center for Medical Progress have exposed in numbing candor several high-level Planned Parenthood leaders gleefully talking about procuring children’s organs all for a price, all while altering gruesome dismembering procedures to preserve intact livers, hearts, and lungs.
“This isn’t as you know the first time Planned Parenthood has been caught doing the unthinkable,” Smith said. “In 2011, undercover videos by Live Action exposed Planned Parenthood clinics that were eager, eager to facilitate secret abortions for child sex trafficking victims and another series in 2012 exposed Planned Parenthood promoting sex selection abortion, especially of little girls.
Smith said the press will eventually recognize what pro-lifers already know that Planned Parenthood “is the tip of an ugly iceberg, a multibillion dollar industry that systematically exterminates children and hurts women.”
“Subsidized by over $500 million in taxpayer funds every year, Planned Parenthood dismembers or chemically poisons a baby to death every two minutes, killing over 7 million innocent children since 1973,” he said.
Smith noted that this week there will be an override of President Barack Obama’s “veto of the bill to defund Planned Parenthood, and we will win that in the House.”
We teach children to tell if they are hurt, but sometimes they cannot. Children who have been sexually exploited may be too afraid or ashamed to tell. They may think no one will believe them. Exploiters use this to their advantage. They know concerned adults often wait for a child to say something before taking action. But we cannot wait. Our children need us to be proactive.
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children is working with families to help them actively protect children from sexual exploitation. Families may help reduce the incidence of child sexual exploitation by learning how to recognize and respond to signs of child sexual abuse. Use the following action steps to empower your family and combat child sexual exploitation.
Protect and Monitor
Screen children’s caregivers and check their references. Ask children, “Do you feel comfortable with [caregiver]? Why or why not?”
Get involved in children’s activities. Ask organizations, “What policies do you have in place to protect children from sexual exploitation?” Examples should include policies about screening, travel, and online communications between children and staff.
Know what children are doing and who they are doing it with, both off- and online.
Use role-playing exercises to practice basic safety skills with children – for example, kicking, screaming and yelling if someone grabs them or touches them in a way that makes them uncomfortable.
Listen to children. Pay attention if they tell you they do not want to be with someone or go somewhere.
Teach children they have the right to say “NO” to anyone or anything that makes them feel scared, uncomfortable or confused and how to get out of those situations as quickly as possible.
Be sensitive to any changes in children’s behaviors or attitudes such as sudden mood swings or age-inappropriate knowledge about sexual situations and contact.
Provide a safe environment in which children are encouraged to frequently share their thoughts and feelings.
Support Child Victims
Reassure children it is OK to tell you anything and you are there to help.
Remain calm and nonjudgmental if children disclose abuse or any other problems they may be having.
Make sure children know that being exploited is never their fault.
If you suspect a child is being sexually exploited, contact law enforcement immediately.
You may also make a report to NCMEC’s CyberTipline at www.cybertipline.org or by calling 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678).