Category Archives: Child Abuse

There are 5 forms of Child Abuse: Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Family Violence, and Sexual Abuse.

Doctor Luberoff Made A Big Difference Pt-2 of 2

.jpg photo of a Multidisciplinary Team for Child Abuse
Retiring Child Abuse pediatrician Dr. Susan Luberoff meets for the last time with the Kershaw County Multidisciplinary Team (MDT).

Pioneering Child Abuse pediatrician retires

Camden, SC  –  Dr. Susan Breeland Luberoff may not be from or live in Kershaw County, but she has helped county and municipal law enforcement agencies here change the way child abuse and sexual assault cases are investigated for nearly 30 years.  Luberoff’s focus has been on the forensics of such cases — the collecting and processing of evidence by medical personnel and translating that work into language and processes members of law enforcement can use in their investigations.

~Continued~

Almost 30 years ago, already a pediatrician, Luberoff became the youngest faculty member in USC’s pediatrics department.  About two years in, she was asked to take over a role where she would supervise the collection and processing of evidence in child abuse and sexual assault cases.

“I realized there was a need for more than just evidence collection,” she said.  “So, we added in social work and child life specialists.”

Eventually, Luberoff and some colleagues started a clinic that was initially open a few hours on certain days, but grew to the point of being open every day.  They took on another faculty member, who specialized in mental health and borrowed space at an orthopedics office before moving into the mental health department.

Over the years, an early version of an MDT formed with the addition of forensic interviewers, victims advocates and guardians ad litem.

Luberoff herself is an important piece of the pie — a child abuse pediatrician, which is a board certified discipline medical students can choose to pursue.

Despite the darkness that surrounds child abuse and sexual assault cases, there is light.

“I actually have fun every single day because I’m working with non-medical people, which medical people don’t often get to do,” Luberoff explained.  “Non-medical people are very professional people, very grounded.”

She sees the MDT’s job as putting the pieces of a puzzle together.

“It’s how the medical side — injuries, sex abuse exams — helps decide if other tests are needed and help non-medical personnel interpret the medical reports.  I love languages and medicine is a language.”

Her favorite quote is, “A teacher … he can never tell where his influence stops.”  To her, that means, hopefully, one of the many people who have attended or watched videos of her lectures will remember something that helps with a case.

“We help agencies figure out whether abuse has happened,” Luberoff said, explaining that about one-third of complaints turn out not to be abuse, which she said is helpful in and of itself.  “If law enforcement has questions, they have access to us during the investigation, but, most of the time, I don’t know how the case turns out.”

The intensity of Luberoff’s work will wind down now that she’s announced her retirement.  She said she will continue to teach first- and third-year medical students and has just accepted a part-time position with a disability service to help determine what, if any, services potential clients need.

She’s also applied to go back to school, and wants to take classes in things like geology, Italian, astronomy or linguistics.  And she plans on being a “professional grandma.”

“I have four grandchildren so far,” Luberoff said, with family in Columbia, Charleston and up in Philadelphia, Pa.

That means her friends on the Kershaw County MDT won’t be seeing her as often.  Colleague after colleague said a little something about her impact on their work and lives — and gave her lots of hugs.

All of them said they would miss her, but wanted her to know one thing: what she has done and what she has taught has positively influenced their mission to protect children.

Doctor Luberoff Made A Big Difference Pt-1 of 2

.jpg photo of a Multidisciplinary Team for Child Abuse
Retiring Child Abuse pediatrician Dr. Susan Luberoff meets for the last time with the Kershaw County Multidisciplinary Team (MDT).

Pioneering Child Abuse pediatrician retires

Camden, SC  –  Dr. Susan Breeland Luberoff may not be from or live in Kershaw County, but she has helped county and municipal law enforcement agencies here change the way child abuse and sexual assault cases are investigated for nearly 30 years.  Luberoff’s focus has been on the forensics of such cases — the collecting and processing of evidence by medical personnel and translating that work into language and processes members of law enforcement can use in their investigations.

A Lexington County resident, Luberoff is a pediatrician and long-time faculty member at the University of South Carolina’s (USC) department of pediatrics who has known Camden Police Chief Joe Floyd for about 45 years.  Early during Floyd’s career in Sumter, he and Luberoff worked on the initial grants — as did a team in Arizona — that helped create what are known as MDTs, or multi-disciplinary teams, across the country.

MDT members come from the worlds of law enforcement, child advocacy, social services, health care and other disciplines.  The Kershaw County MDT, for example, consists of representatives from the 5th Circuit Solicitor’s Office, Department of Social Services (DSS), local guardian ad litem program, Family Resource Center, Child Advocacy Center, The CARE House of the Pee Dee in Florence, SisterCare, Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office and Camden Police Department (CPD).

When he and Luberoff met in Sumter, Floyd was working in his department’s criminal investigative division.

“She was the go-to person for child abuse and sexual assault,” he said during Luberoff’s last meeting with the Kershaw County MDT on Dec. 8 in the CPD’s training room.  “She inspired one of my Sumter investigators to go to (the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division) to investigate child and sexual abuse.  She’s a credit to the medical field because she made a difference in many people’s lives by protecting children.”

Luberoff noted to her younger colleagues that their Sumter days pre-date cell phones, tracking each other down via landlines.  That was then, this is now.  Luberoff complimented those same colleagues by saying she “learned something every single time” she attended an MDT meeting.

But it was those same colleagues who said the same, only in reverse.
“We’ve learned very much from you,” CPD Victims Advocate Dena Horton said.  “The impact of your touch on our cases — our superiors have always said, ‘You have no idea how fortunate you are to have her.’”

One of Luberoff’s other colleagues said she first saw the pediatrician in a video presentation dealing with sexual assault victims.  They said the video was “painful to watch,” but that it taught them a lot.

Another MDT member said anytime Luberoff’s name is mentioned, people are in “awe” of her work.

Luberoff appreciated the comments, but said she sees her work as being part of a pie.

“I’m very careful to stay in my piece of the pie,” she said, “and trust the rest of the pieces of the pie to do their job.  All the pieces are equally valuable.”

She added that she does like to make sure the different pieces are communicating with each other.

Other MDT members talked about how they were initially shocked at the direct, blunt references to body parts and functions, but realized it was “OK, despite being uncomfortable.”  They said Luberoff had a way of not minimizing those processes, but getting the concepts across in a way so that they and their colleagues could receive it.

“My goal has been that, for whoever attends those lectures, they leave with a new skill or an improved skill,” Luberoff said, especially when it comes to not just understanding medical terminology, but having that understanding positively impact the investigation of such cases.

Floyd agreed.

“I have always been left with another tool I case use to protect children and prosecute these cases,” he said.

Luberoff has, as one colleague pointed out, testified in court.  There have even been times, they said, when a judge appears uncomfortable with the terminology Luberoff has to use, but that she manages to ultimately put them more at ease.

“I testify on things specific to the case so they understand the medical part,” she said, explaining that sexual assault cases can typically take two years to get to court.  “Family court allows DSS up to 45 days to investigate to make a determination and, if they say to go forward, it usually takes a few months to get to court.”

Massachusetts CPS Ignores Sexual Abuse

.jpg photo of CPS Child Sexual Abuse graphic
Massachusetts DCF does not consider Child Sexual Abuse a “critical incident”.

Audit: MA DCF unaware of assault to Children in their care, 118 incidents of sexual abuse
unreported

MA DCF does not consider sexual abuse a “critical incident”

BOSTON, MA  –  An audit released Thursday by State Auditor Suzanne Bump found the Department of Children and Families was unaware of more than 250 incidents of what appeared to be “serious bodily injury” to children in their care, and did not report more than 100 incidents of sexual abuse.

“I can’t frankly understand how it is that they can justify their willing ignorance of this information,” Bump told 22News.

According to a news release sent to 22News by Bump’s office, the audit discovered that DCF was relying on others to report occurrences of serious bodily injury to children rather than using data sources they have “at their fingertips.”

“The audit discovered gunshot wounds, burns and head contusions went undetected by the Department of Children and Families.”

The 260 incidents of serious bodily injury include:

  • 15-year-old with brain damage from a firearm injury.
  • 1-year-old with first and second degree burns on body.
  • 12-year-old with multiple head contusions that a doctor determined was the result of an assault.

Bump is also calling on the DCF to consider sexual abuse a critical incident.  Since it is not considered a critical incident, DCF does not report instances of sexual abuse to the Office of the Child Advocate, which is tasked with making sure children in state care receive timely and effective services.

“Bump’s audit found that 118 incidents of sexual abuse of a child in DCF care were not reported to the Office of the Child Advocate.”

These incidents include:

  • Sexual abuse by 2 male employees at DCF-contracted residential facilities; Both sexually abused three girls each.
  • 10-year-old raped by his father.
  • 4-year-old sexually abused by her mother.
  • 17-year-old who was gang raped by five assailants.

Designating incidents of sexual abuse as critical incidents would trigger immediate investigation actions into those incidents.

“How can the agency not consider sexual abuse a serious injury to a child?  It defies logic,” Bump said in the release sent to 22News.

Bump said in response to the audit, DCF is centralizing its reporting of critical incidents in which children in its care are involved, updating its procedures for referring incidents of abuse, neglect, and/or sexual abuse to DA offices, and recording child-on-child injuries in case files.

Bump suggested that DCF use MassHealth data to identify serious injuries to children under its care.

Read the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families audit

TX AG HTU Stops Child Sex Trafficker

.jpg photo of Child Sex Trafficker
Domingo Gonzalez, 48, of Uvalde Texas

AG Paxton’s Human Trafficking Unit
Arrests Uvalde County Man in
Child Sex Trafficking Case

AUSTIN, TX  –  Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced that the Human Trafficking Unit (HTU) of his office arrested 48-year-old Domingo Gonzalez of Uvalde on a warrant for Compelling Prostitution in Bexar County.

Compelling prostitution is committed when a person knowingly causes another by force, threat or fraud to commit prostitution.

It also occurs when a person causes, by any means, a child younger than 18 to commit prostitution regardless of whether the actor knew the age of the victim when the offense occurred.

Gonzalez’s case was referred to the attorney general’s office after a 15-year-old girl was rescued from domestic sex trafficking.

During an interview with law enforcement officials, Gonzalez confessed to committing the act of prostitution, and HTU investigators discovered that the person Gonzales paid to have sex with was the 15-year-old victim in their investigation.

The Human Trafficking Unit collaborates with local, state, and federal law enforcement partners to rescue individuals who are victims of labor and sex trafficking.

If you suspect human trafficking, call the attorney general’s office at 512-463-1646,
email: humantrafficking@texasattorneygeneral.gov,
or call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.

For more information and additional resources, visit https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/cj/human-trafficking

Head Of TX CPS Vows To Get Better

.jpg photo of adoptive mother of child found dead
Sini Mathews, mother of Sherin Mathews.

State failed 3-year-old Sherin Mathews,
head of Child Protective Services says

Texas Child Protective Services Commissioner Hank Whitman is disappointed in his agency’s handling of Sherin Mathews’ case.

Whitman, who declined to talk about any specifics of the case, said the agency will figure out how Sherin’s case “slipped through.”

“I’m gonna tell you right now, it is my mission, it is my passion that we get better at this,” he said.

In March, a doctor found that the 3-year-old Richardson girl had suffered injuries to her upper-arm bones and fractures in her leg bones that were in various stages of healing, according to testimony Wednesday.

The doctor, Suzanne Dakil of the Referral and Evaluation of At Risk Children Clinic, reported the injuries to CPS, suspecting that Sherin had been injured at the hands of her parents.

“I had no explanation other than this child had been physically abused,” Dakil said.

Sherin was found dead in a culvert Oct. 24, more than two weeks after her father reported her missing.  Wesley Mathews originally told police he had left her outside in an alley around 3 a.m. as punishment for not drinking her milk.  Later, he said that she had choked while he “physically assisted” her in drinking the milk, and he left her body in the culvert.

Wesley and his wife, Sini, remain jailed on charges related to the girl’s death.  Her father is charged with injury to a child with serious bodily injury and her mother is charged with abandoning or endangering a child.  Authorities say the couple went out to dinner with their other daughter, also 3, while leaving Sherin at the house alone.

The other daughter was placed with family members in November after more than a month in foster care.  She is the couple’s biological daughter; Sherin was adopted from India.

Court testimony this week showed that Sherin was treated for an elbow fracture in September 2016.  The family said her sister had pushed her off a couch while the two were playing, according to medical records.

Injuries in her upper-arm bones were suffered after Sini grabbed the girl to catch her from a fall on the playground, she claimed.  But Dakil told the court that the injuries weren’t consistent with the mother’s claims.

After more X-rays showed leg fractures, Dakil reported the family to CPS.

The agency reached out to Dakil about Sherin’s medical history, she said, but the CPS commissioner says that “they could have done a better job.”

Commissioner Whitman says he can’t say why Sherin wasn’t removed from her home after the report, but that “it breaks [his] heart.”

“I mean, to have a child go outside because they didn’t want to drink their milk or whatever, I mean that story was just not believable,” he said to WFAA.  “I don’t know.  I don’t know what was going through her father’s mind.

“It’s astounding to me why someone would do that to a baby.”