Your Child Needs You – Pt 4

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Your Child Needs YOU
BEFORE It Is Too Late

Unsupervised boys at Dallas County juvenile
detention center engaged in sex acts

DALLAS, TX  –  Boys locked up for sex offenses were left unsupervised at a Dallas County juvenile detention center long enough to engage in sexual acts with each other on at least two occasions.

The misconduct occurred while the youths were sleeping on mattresses on the floor of a multipurpose room at the Lyle B. Medlock treatment facility in southern Dallas.  The boys were required to sleep on the floor as a group “intermittently” from December through April because of severe understaffing, said Terry Smith, the county’s juvenile department director.

At least five boys were found to have engaged in sexual contact during that period — three boys in one instance and two in the other, Smith said.

“I’m madder than hell,” said Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price, who sits on the juvenile board.  “They’ve turned it into a free-for-all out there.  Nobody’s minding the store.”

About 28 boys, ages 13 to 17, are in a treatment program known as STARS at the facility because they were found to have committed sex offenses.

Staffers learned of the sexual incidents in April during routine polygraph tests that are part of the STARS program, Smith said.  The youths said the incidents occurred while they were housed on the multipurpose room floor several months earlier, Smith said.

At least one boy’s parents called Price’s office to complain about the sexual incidents.  At a juvenile board meeting last week, Price asked about what happened.

Medlock superintendent Marilyn Boss told Price that the sexual incidents involved “touching” but “no penetration.”

After reviewing investigative reports related to the incidents this week, Price said Boss’ characterization was false, although he declined to answer whether the contact did include penetration.  He said the reports aligned with the parents’ accounts.

“They lied publicly,” Price said.  “It was a lot more than touching.  It was sexual shenanigans.”

In addition to the sexual contact and sleeping on the floor — which could violate state standards — detained children have escaped from low-security county juvenile facilities as recently as Wednesday.

Two juveniles who’d been adjudicated for offenses ran from the cafeteria at the Youth Village on Wednesday, Smith said.  At least two escaped in April after they broke a window by throwing a drawer through it. One of the juveniles has yet to be found.

This is all evidence, Price said, that the juvenile department is plagued by mismanagement.

“The fact that staff had access to this kind of information and no heads have rolled is unacceptable,” he said.

Smith said she has taken steps to hold officers accountable for the lapses in supervision and to address the issues created by understaffing.  She recently held a job fair to boost recruitment.

“There are things we must improve upon, absolutely,” Smith said. She said she plans to move the boys in STARS to another lockup by the end of June, where each youth will sleep in his own cell.  Smith said she planned that move six months ago — before the allegations. Price expressed skepticism about that, sarcastically calling the decision a “eureka moment.”

Smith said the department is doing the best it can with a group of deeply troubled children.  None of the youths involved in the sexual incidents alleged any force or coercion, she said.  Regardless, juveniles in confinement aren’t legally able to give consent for sexual activity.

“Those kids have been abused and exposed to horrific situations themselves,” Smith said.  “Part of the problem with our sex offender kids is they don’t have appropriate ways to express themselves sexually because of their own sexual trauma history.  Those are the cycles we try to break.”

County Judge Clay Jenkins, who sits on the juvenile board, said he was “concerned” about the “failures” but stopped short of calling the department mismanaged.  All juvenile lockups struggle to prevent sexual contact between youths and none are “100 percent successful,” he said.

“There were clearly issues here that need to be corrected and improved on,” Jenkins said.  “I can’t take a jump from that, to saying that the entire juvenile system is headed in the wrong direction or there’s a leadership problem systemically.  But I can say that any time there’s sexual contact between children in confinement, that’s unacceptable.”

Smith said she was disappointed in the managers at Medlock, where STARS is housed, for not telling her about the severity of the understaffing there.  She was unaware that youths were sleeping on mattresses on the floor until Price brought it up at the public meeting last week.

Raises and hiring boosts at state Child Protective Services caused some of the staffing woes, Smith said, as juvenile officers jumped to jobs they were qualified for at higher pay.

She said she needs about 40 more employees and hopes to hire them by the end of June.  Exacerbating the staffing issue, she said, the number of teens being placed under Dallas County’s supervision has risen 14 percent this year.

The department has been careful to stay within the staffing ratios required by the state, which are one employee for every 12 juveniles during waking hours and one employee per 24 youths during sleeping hours, Smith said.

The county’s Juvenile Board is responsible for inspecting and certifying that its facilities are up to state standards to keep receiving state funding.  The board is made up of Price, Jenkins, five judges and a community member.  Last week, Price voted not to pass the Medlock center, but the other members did approve the building’s certification.

Price plans to file a complaint with the Texas Juvenile Justice Department asking the agency to investigate Dallas County’s problems.  Besides a lack of supervision, Price said the lockups have violated the standard that requires juveniles to sleep at least 6 inches above the floor.

After a sex abuse scandal roiled the TJJD in 2007, state lawmakers created the Office of the Independent Ombudsman to investigate state-run juvenile detentions.  Years of reforms have caused more youths to be held in county lockups closer to their homes rather than in remote rural detention centers.  But the ombudsman office is not staffed or mandated to keep tabs on county juvenile facilities, though watchdog groups say it should be.

The state pays $126 per day per youth housed at Medlock, which has the capacity for 96 juveniles.  That funding could be cut or suspended if state regulators find the lockup to be out of compliance and it fails to correct the problems.

There are signs that Medlock’s conditions are improving, at least in some ways.  In the first quarter of this year, Medlock logged five uses of physical restraints and zero instances of suicidal gestures or staff injuries.  That’s down compared with the first quarters of 2016 and 2015, when the facility logged more reportable incidents, including 18 and 38 uses of physical restraints, respectively.

Still, the issues coming to light are disturbing to observers.  They could cause youths to end up in worse shape than when they went in, said Lindsey Linder, juvenile justice policy attorney at the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition.  She called the sleeping on mattresses on the floor “dehumanizing.”

“This is horrific,” Linder said.  “The idea that we’re putting these kids in situations that is going to further perpetuate their sexual trauma is abhorrent. It should be common sense and obvious that we should do everything we can to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

AR CPS Put Children In Hands Of Monster

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Clarence C. Garretson, 66, sentenced to life for Child Sexual Abuse of Foster Children.

Van Buren man sentenced to life for
Child Sex Abuse

PARIS, AR  –  Clarence C. Garretson will spend the rest of his life in federal prison for a series of sexual abuse crimes committed on children under this care as a foster parent for the Arkansas Department of Human Services.

For 18 years, Garretson and his wife, Lisa Garretson, hosted 35 children.  Fourteen of those children who were placed at their home for protection against abuse and neglect became victims of sexual abuse.

Chief Judge P.K. Holmes III imposed the life sentence on Garretson, 66, Wednesday in the U.S. District Court of Western Arkansas for his conviction on one count of transporting a minor in interstate commerce with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity.

Garretson was also sentenced to a term of 15 years imprisonment each on four counts of transporting minors in interstate commerce with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, with those terms to run concurrently with the life sentence.

More than 45 people attended the sentencing of the Van Buren man who pleaded guilty in October to five of the 11 sexual abuse charges that occurred over the course of nearly two decades.  With a “rider waiver” from C&T Trucking Co. in Van Buren so a minor could accompany him on a trip Garretson took a 10-year-old girl in 2014 on a trip and raped her, according to court documents.

“What occurred was under the guise of being a foster parent and adoptive parent he committed torture and sexual assault when the children were looking for a place of safety,”  Holmes said.  “It was an extreme failure on DHS’s part and further victimized the children with the most horrific criminal acts.”

Holmes said he recognized the difficulty for DHS in dealing with deception, but pointed out a female victim had told DHS on three occasions she had been sexually abused beginning when she was 11.

Several of Garretson’s victims, both adopted children and former foster children, read impact statements at the sentencing hearing Wednesday.  Each voiced their contempt for Garretson’s use of intimidation to control them and the psychological repercussions they continue to experience as a result of the abuse:  Anxiety, lack of self-esteem, nightmares, alcohol and drug abuse, trust issues with males or authority figures and fear of people in general.

“It’s a hurt you can never forget,” a female victim said.

One of Garretson’s victims said he had threatened to kill her younger brother if she exposed the sexual abuse.

“I felt lost, confused, alone, bullied, mad, sad, angry,” a woman who had been abused by Garretson said.  “The truth is Arkansas DHS put me in the hands of a monster.  Nothing can be done to change that, but he can rot in a federal prison for the rest of his life.  There is no excuse to abuse a child.”

A male victim adopted by the Garretsons said in his statement that the investigation into his adoptive parents exposed them as “hypocrites” and he is regaining his self-confidence through therapy.

“Don’t let this dictate your life,” he said to the other sexual abuse victims.  “This is the beginning of a new life.”

Concerning the defendant’s wife, the judge said “if she didn’t know she should have. … It’s such a sad case.”

In 1998, Garretson and his wife were approved by DHS to operate a foster home and later to become an adoptive home.

The FBI special agent learned DHS had received a report in 2002 from a foster child then living in the home that she had been sexually assaulted by Garretson.  Based on that information, the agent began locating children who had been in foster care at the Garretson residence.

A second minor interviewed in June 2016 was a foster child in the Garretson home from 2000 to 2004, which led to another Class C felony rape charge for Garretson.  At the time of the offense, the girl was over 13 years of age but less than 18.

In 1999, a boy and his two older sisters were sent to the Garretson home by DHS.  They were legally adopted by the Garretsons in 2001.  The boy was 11 in 2001 when he went out on a long-distance trip with Garretson and was sexually assaulted.  This happened on multiple trips during summer vacation from school in 2002 and 2003.

Also in 1999, DHS placed a fifth victim and her two siblings in the Garretson home and she remained there until 2004.  The minor was interviewed by an FBI special agent in July 2016 and disclosed she was sexually assaulted by Garretson on an over-the-road trip to California during the summer of 2000 when she was 13 years old.