SAPD, BCSO team up to combat Child Abuse during prevention month
SAN ANTONIO, TX – Abuse to one child is too many. That’s the message from Wednesday morning’s Blue Breakfast hosted by St. Jude’s Ranch for Children to raise awareness for Child Abuse Prevention Month this April.
Area leaders and law enforcement attended and acted as the voice for the many neglected and abused children across the county.
San Antonio Police Department Chief William McManus and Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar were some of those speaking at the Blue Breakfast.
Salazar said they can’t just arrest the problem away. The root of the solution lies within educating the community.
“Educating the public on what their responsibility is as far as notifying authorities if they see abuse,” Salazar said. “Letting neighbors know it’s not just OK but many times you are legally bound to report abuse if you see it.”
Organizers with St. Jude’s Ranch for Children, a refuge for hundreds of abused children, said there are other ways you can do your part.
Tara Roussett, CEO of SJRC, said they are in need of foster families, financial support and mentors. They need people who are willing to connect with children.
Fort Hood leaders and community members gathered for the 2018 Fort Hood Child Abuse Prevention Month and Month of the Military Child proclamation signing ceremony at the III Corps Headquarters Tuesday.
The ceremony honored military children, raised awareness of child abuse and its long-term effects and recognized military and civilian leaders who contribute to child safety.
“We want to celebrate our military children and celebrate the necessity for their safety and well-being,” Billy Floyd, Fort Hood Family Advocacy program manager, said. “We want to make sure that the community does not forget that all children deserve the right to be safe and to be protected.”
Organizations that prioritize child safety such as law enforcement units, Child Protective Services, Communities in Schools and counsel personnel attended the event.
Floyd pointed out that sometimes parents argue and don’t consider the serious effects it could have on children.
“We have to be cautious of that and model how to manage conflict,” Floyd said. “How to agree to disagree. We all have stressors, but how do you manage your situation so that no one is in harm’s way? That is the biggest key.”
Mayuana Hutt, the guest speaker for the event, experienced the effects of living in a home with domestic abuse, first hand.
“I was born to two young individuals that were in a long on-going volatile relationship,” Hutt said. “Most children’s earliest moments don’t involve high-speed chases on the highway or violent late night encounters, but for me, these are the memories I have of my parents.”
Hutt revealed to the crowd of approximately 100 attendees that she still remembers the night when her father would hold a knife to her mother’s throat and held her mother at gunpoint for long periods of time.
“Individuals in chaotic situations don’t always think of how the situation affects their child,” Hutt said. “I can still picture those days like they were yesterday.”
Hutt’s mother, Drenda Williams stood on the side lines to support her daughter through the difficult speech.
“I didn’t know that being a survivor, how much it affected her until we actually talked about it,” Williams said. “It kind of made me take a step back and see how my actions affected her and make sure that she has healed from that situation as well.”
Fort Hood police officer Lt. Andrew Samarripa beelined toward Hutt after the ceremony to commend her for her courageous speech.
“The main thing is that a lot of my law enforcement career I have been really focused on the community and the preventive aspects of things,” Samarripa said. “But to see an individual such as her, to be able to come and speak to what the victims see and how they process … it is really courageous on her behalf.”
At the end of the ceremony, grade school children from on-post schools gathered around III Corps and Fort Hood Deputy Commander Maj. Gen. JT Thomson as he signed the proclamation to stomp out child abuse.
Two horse cavalrymen attended the event in full regalia and boots as the crowd joined in with the children beating their feet against the ground to ‘stomp out’ child abuse.
“I ask that everyone involved, whether military or civilian, unite collaboratively as we continue to lay the foundation in which all children can be raised in caring relationships free of fear and free of abuse,” Thomson said. “Demonstrate our commitment as we pledge our continued support towards resilient Families.”
Kansas House unanimously passes bill to release information after Child Abuse deaths
In a final vote Thursday morning, the Kansas House unanimously passed legislation that would require the state to release information after a child dies of abuse or neglect.
The chamber voted 124-0 in favor of the bill. It now goes to the Senate, where lawmakers will decide whether to accept the House version. If they don’t, the bill would be sent to a conference committee to work out any differences. After that, each chamber would vote again.
Child advocates say if the bill becomes law, the most vulnerable children in Kansas will be better protected.
“Absolutely it’s a step forward,” said Lori Ross, a long-time advocate in Missouri. “Transparency is necessary for the child welfare system to continuously improve. … I’m so thrilled they haven’t dropped this.”
The House action comes after several high-profile deaths in the recent years. Frustrated lawmakers, as well as child advocates across the state, have said more must be known about these cases so the system improves and other children are protected.
The Star has fought for years to obtain records and information after several horrific child deaths, including the 2015 death of Adrian Jones, a Kansas City, KS boy whose body was fed to pigs.
In a months-long investigation into the secrecy that permeates Kansas government, The Star found in late November a pervasive effort inside DCF to avoid transparency, hiding behind privacy laws and internal procedures — even instructing employees to shred notes taken in meetings where the death of a child was discussed.
Under the bill, SB 336, DCF would be required to release within seven business days the age and sex of the child, date of the fatality, a summary of previous reports to the agency and findings, as well as any department-recommended services provided.
Also, if a child dies while in state custody, the bill requires the DCF secretary to release the age and sex of the child, date of the fatality and summary of the facts surrounding the death. This section relates directly to children who die in foster care and the death is considered an accident.
Since Secretary Gina Meier-Hummel took over the troubled agency in early December, she has vowed to be more transparent. She worked with lawmakers on the bill and she and Gov. Jeff Colyer have been pushing for its passage.
As the bill went through the committee process there were heated moments as troubles with the child welfare system were discussed. Lawmakers said this week that Meier-Hummel is providing the leadership that the state currently needs.
After Rep. John Carmichael commended the Judiciary Committee in a Wednesday hearing for its work with the legislation, he turned his attention to discussing Meier-Hummel.
“I also want to express to the current secretary of DCF my admiration for her first bringing the bill,” the Wichita Democrat said. “And second, for responding frankly and candidly to sometimes difficult questions in the Judiciary Committee.”
Expert: “Dramatic” increase in Child Abuse cases in southeast Alaska
JUNEAU, AK – Social workers’ caseloads for child neglect and abuse have dramatically increased in southeast Alaska.
Erin Walker-Tolles, executive director of Catholic Community Service in Juneau, testified before the House Finance Committee earlier this month, KTOO Public Media of Juneau reported on Sunday.
Walker-Tolles asked for more funding to deal with a 59 percent increase in referrals to her nonprofit’s child advocacy center, which deals with cases of children who might be victims of abuse and neglect across the southeast. The number of children referred to the center went up from 97 in 2016 to 154 last year.
“It’s dramatic, it’s pervasive and, from what we’ve heard from the other CACs, it is statewide,” Walker-Tolles said.
Program Manager Susan Loseby said she’s not sure what caused the increase.
“I would hope that more kids aren’t being abused,” she said. “It’s just that more people are reporting what they suspect as abuse.”
Either way, the center needs more workers, Loseby said.
The center has three full-time employees and three on-call nurses who perform medical examinations. Walker-Tolles and Loseby are asking for $77,000 to hire and train an additional staff member.
“Ethically it’s the right thing to do,” Walker-Tolles said. “And if you want to talk about money, honestly it’s a cost-savings to the entire community and the state. If these kids are able to heal, be safe, grow up, go to college or school or find a vocation that inspires them and contribute to the economy, instead of falling into despair, failing school, not having job opportunities. The outcomes can be pretty grim.”
Loseby said working with children who have been abused and even raped takes a significant toll on staff, especially when they’re constantly on call.
“It’s a lot to digest, hearing all of the disclosures that children are making and then working with the families who are also in trauma,” she said. “It has, of course, increased the hours that we work, it has decreased the time that we can take off to heal and get the respite that we all need.”
Nurse suspended after 5 newborns injured
MADISON, WI – Five infants suffered serious injuries including a fractured skull, rib and arm in the newborn unit of a Wisconsin hospital and the nurse who cared for them has been suspended, a federal agency said in a report after it inspected the hospital.
The Wisconsin State Journal reported that UnityPoint Health-Meriter hospital in Madison didn’t respond to the suspected abuse until early last month, when staff noticed two babies with bruises. An internal investigation revealed two similar cases last year and one from January. The identity of the suspended nurse has not been released.
Quoting a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services report, the newspaper said the federal agency was so concerned about the hospital’s response that it threatened to cancel its Medicare contract with Meriter.
The agency told Meriter in a Feb. 23 letter that the situation “is so serious that it constitutes an immediate threat to patient health safety.”
Meriter spokeswoman Jessika Kastern said the hospital is cooperating with authorities and has implemented new safety measures.
According to the inspection report, staff in the 42-bed unit noticed bruising on the arm of an infant on Feb. 2. A doctor thought it might be from the baby clutching wires or an IV device. The next day, staff noticed bruising on the arm and wrist of another baby. A doctor thought it might be from a tightly wrapped blanket.
On Feb. 4, staff saw bruising on the second baby’s face and three days after that they discovered a lump on the baby’s head. A CT scan Feb. 8 showed the baby had skull and arm fractures. The nurse was suspended.
The Madison police department is investigating.
Meriter told the agency that it has assigned a security guard to the newborn unit and is putting cameras in all rooms. Each nurse will now care for two patients instead of three in the unit, which handles babies in intensive care.