Category Archives: Better Laws

‘Adoptable’ A Reason To Take The Kids

.jpg photo of child adoption graphic
In a rare move, the Arizona Court of Appeals reverses a decision that severed a mother’s parental rights.

‘Untethered to the evidence’:  Court reverses DCS case that cut mom off from kids

Arizona  –  In a rare move, the state Court of Appeals has reversed a decision that severed a mother’s rights to her two children, saying state child-welfare workers presented a case “not sufficiently rooted in the evidence.”

The court cited numerous flaws in the evidence — or a lack thereof — presented by a Department of Child Safety caseworker, as well as a state-appointed psychologist who evaluated the mother.  Writing for the three-judge panel, Acting Presiding Judge Peter B. Swann concluded there appeared to be only one motive to separate the mother from her kids: that the children were adoptable.

The court reversed the decision of Juvenile Court Judge Cari Harrison and sent the matter back to the Juvenile Court.  It is unclear what will come next.

In a statement, DCS noted the action is highly unusual, something that was echoed by the courts, as well as the Attorney General’s Office, which represents the agency.

DCS reviewing the case

DCS said it is evaluating its next move.

“We will conduct a careful review of the facts of this case before deciding how to proceed, as we do in each case when considering what permanency plan is most appropriate,” spokesman Darren DaRonco said in an emailed statement.

Repeated attempts to contact the attorney who represented the mother were not successful.

It is also unknown when the rights of the mother, identified only as “Alma S.” in court documents, were severed, where the children have been in the meantime, and where they are now in the wake of the court’s finding.

Because of privacy laws, cases involving children in DCS custody do not contain information that would lead to the identification of the children.

Hospital visit triggers DCS involvement

The case dates back 2½ years, when a hospital official called DCS after seeing one of the children for a fractured leg bone, a fractured rib that was on the mend and multiple bruises.  Hospitals are required by law to report injuries that might suggest child abuse.

While the initial DCS plan was to provide services to the family and keep it together, in early 2016 the plan shifted to severance and adoption.  By the time the court was ready to issue a decision, the father said he would not fight the severance recommendation, and had his rights revoked.

The mother, however, did not agree to the severance plan.  In court, she invoked her Fifth Amendment right to remain silent when asked about domestic violence, why she didn’t bring her child to the hospital immediately and whether she was aware of the severity of the child’s injuries.

Without her testimony, the Juvenile Court judge relied on the psychologist’s evaluation of the mother.  The psychologist submitted a report finding the mother had substance-abuse issues, personality disorders and concluded her chances of being a good parent were “poor at best.”

While an appeals court normally gives great deference to such finding, Swann wrote, a review of the record showed that evaluation was “untethered to the evidence.”

Failing to do the basics

In a 15-page ruling, he faulted how the case was constructed and concluded the evidence does not support cutting off the mother’s rights to parent her children.

The ruling details how a new case manager, assigned to the matter in summer 2016, failed to do the basics of the job.

For example, the case manager never met with the mother outside of court hearings, only consulted with one of the social-service providers who worked with the mother on various issues, never checked out her suspicions that the mother was still dating the birth father of the child who had been brought to the hospital, never visited the mother’s home to see if it would be safe for the kids and only read several of the 145 pages of parent-aide notes filed in the case.  Parent aides supervise visits between parents and children to evaluate their interactions.

The psychologist, according to the court ruling, received only partial information from DCS, dating from the earlier stages of the case.

The agency did not include later reports that showed the mother had successfully complied with all of the work DCS was requiring her to do in order to get her kids back, including results that showed she was testing clean for drugs, had received domestic-violence counseling and had an eight-month track record of successful supervised visits with her children, “where she always came prepared and showed proper parenting skills.”

The court also faulted the psychologist for failing to evaluate the mother’s parenting skills and suggested the subsequent report submitted to the court was “so lacking that we question (though we do not here decide) its admissibility.”

‘Adoptable’ a reason to take the kids

In reversing the Juvenile Court’s ruling, the appeal panel said it found little evidence that it would be in the children’s best interests to sever the mother’s rights.

“(A)part from these unsupported, conclusory opinions, the only evidence that severance is in the children’s best interests is the fact that the children are adoptable,” the appeals ruling stated.  And it noted there apparently was no opportunity to adopt the children into the same household, meaning the siblings would be permanently separated.

The judges noted it is not permissible to adopt out children on the assumption that someone with better parenting skills might be able to care for a child. Instead, DCS must show a “substantial likelihood” that the parent cannot effectively parent in the near future.

The other judges, who joined in Swann’s conclusions, were Michael J. Brown and Patricia A. Orozco.

About this report

In 2016, when the number of children removed from their families peaked at more than 18,000, the Arizona Community Foundation gave The Arizona Republic and azcentral.com a three-year grant to support in-depth research on the topic. As part of that effort, reporter Mary Jo Pitzl and our other staff experts investigate the reasons behind the surge in foster children and the systems meant to support and protect them.

TX AG And TX Law Enforcement Cares For Children

.jpg photo of Child Abuse graphic
TX AG And TX Law Enforcement Cares For Children.

OAG Collaborates with Harris County Sheriff’s
Office To Keep Predators Off the Streets

AUSTIN. TX  –  Attorney General Ken Paxton today announced that the Fugitive Apprehension Unit of his office collaborated with Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez to arrest 28 sex offenders over the course of five days during a Child Sex Offender Warrant Initiative.

“My office will make every effort possible to ensure that our children are protected from predators,” Attorney General Paxton said.  “I commend Sheriff Gonzalez and his office for their hard work, and I thank everyone involved with this collaborative effort to keep our neighborhoods safe.”

From October 23-27, teams of sworn officers from the attorney general’s office and the Harris County Sheriff’s office executed open warrants for child sex crimes and for Failure to Register as a Sex Offender.

In addition to warrant execution, teams also drove by offender homes to check for violations such as Halloween decorations.

“Harris County parents should be able to trust that the law enforcement community is pulling together to do everything we can to keep children safe on Halloween and every day of the year.  I want to thank the Texas Office of the Attorney General for helping us track down and arrest some of our community’s most dangerous offenders,” said Sheriff Gonzalez.  “Child predators are on notice: We are watching and we will lock up anyone who attempts to harm a child.”

To learn more about the attorney general’s Criminal Investigations Division and its efforts to keep Texans safe, visit https://texasattorneygeneral.gov/cj/criminal-investigations.

For more information about protecting your children online, visit https://texasattorneygeneral.gov/cj/criminal-investigations.

LaHood Says Enhanced Is Status Quo

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District Attorney Nico LaHood takes Child Abuse cases seriously.

DA continues to push for change in
Child Abuse laws

SAN ANTONIO, TX  –  One day after a woman was arrested and accused of hurting three children, the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office announced a woman in a separate child abuse case has taken a plea deal.

Nico LaHood Starts A Child Abuse Division

Porucha Phillips, 34, entered a plea to two counts of injury to a child-serious bodily injury and received a sentence of 50 years in prison.

Phillips was arrested in April of 2016 after deputies found a three-year-old and a four-year-old tied with a dog chain and leash in the back of a North East side backyard.

Two other suspects still face charges in this case.

“We’re still in that negotiating process.  This sets the tone.  We’re showing how serious we are about this case,” District Attorney Nico LaHood said.

LaHood said he takes child abuse cases seriously.  Last legislative session he pushed to have the law “enhanced.”  He said it would give a judge or jury the opportunity to give the appropriate punishment for some of the most horrific abuse cases they see.

“It’s an enhancement, which always makes people feel uncomfortable, but all it’s doing is bringing everything up to status quo,” LaHood said.  “We have that in other areas of the law with sexual assaults, with family violence, domestic violence situations.”

LaHood said he would push to have the laws changed again in the next legislative session.

Can You Read Better Than You Can Think?

.jpg photo of Congressional hearing on missing migrant Children
Where are the 90,000 Latino Children????

Three members of Congress arrested
at Trump Tower street protest

NEW YORK, NY  –  Three Democratic members of Congress have been arrested on disorderly conduct charges at a protest outside Trump Tower.

“This is a classic example of idiots listening to liars with a mic in their hand.  If anyone believes these three (3) Elected Law Makers care anything for Children, then you probably need a wakeup call….”

Lawmakers Fault HHS With Migrant Child Sexual Abuse

“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…”

Filtered Search Engine Results Today Might Not Be Tomorrow

“The article led the reader to believe that possibly 10 – 30 Children were “missing”, when the link was fixed that number had grown to 90,000+ Children.”

“NOW, tell me how many Elected Law Makers care anything for the Children of this world.”
Robert StrongBow

U.S. Reps. Raul Grijalva, of Arizona;  Luis Gutierrez, of Illinois;  and Adriano Espaillat, of New York, were among a small group of demonstrators who sat down in the street on New York’s Fifth Avenue on Tuesday and refused to move.

The lawmakers were handcuffed and led away.  Police say they were issued desk appearance tickets and released.

“How is this anywhere near EQUAL JUSTICE????   No Protesters in Charlotte, North Dakota DAPL, and surely not Kent State were issued desk appearance tickets and released.”

The protesters were demanding that Congress pass legislation protecting thousands of young immigrants from deportation.

Protest organizers said before the event the lawmakers planned to get arrested.

President Donald Trump delivered an address at the United Nations earlier Tuesday.  The Republican was scheduled to stay at Trump Tower afterward but wasn’t present for the protest.

Media AntiChild Agenda – Child Porn Or Attempted Child Porn????

.jpg photo of man taking pictures of women and children in dressing room
Ian Kendrick Gregory

Chesterfield, Henrico police investigating cases of illicit photos of Target shoppers

HENRICO, VA  –  Shoppers are on alert after two men are accused of taking illicit photos or video at Central Virginia Target stores.

In the latest case, Ian Kendrick Gregory is facing charges because police say he tried to take videos of shoppers in the dressing room. Police say it happened at the Target store at Libbie Place Shopping Center on West Broad Street in Henrico.

Most shoppers we spoke to say they usually aren’t super cautious going into the dressing room.

“I actually don’t think about it, to be honest with you,” said Abby Owens.

“I’ve never had any issues or anything like that, but I mean, I’ve never been cautious,” said Ashleigh Peatross.

That opinion is changing because police say Gregory was just arrested for trying to record two people in the dressing room.

Investigators say one of the victims was underage.  Police say a woman was in one of the changing rooms when she looked down and saw a camera underneath the door. She decided to confront the man behind the camera, who police later identified as Gregory.

Police tracked down Gregory and arrested him.  They say that a second victim was also identified in the crime.

Gregory is not the only person who is accused of taking illicit photos. Chesterfield police continue to look for another man they say tried to take video up a shopper’s skirt .  It happened June 17 at the Target store at Westchester Commons.

Shoppers are hoping the managers at the retail giant will take action and have an employee stay outside the dressing rooms.

“They’re usually not even there, so you just walk in and change,” said Peatross.  “So if someone was always there, yeah, it would be a lot better and a lot of safer.”

Gregory is charged with unlawful filming of an undressed person and unlawful filming of an undressed minor.