Category Archives: Good People

Kentucky Couple Shaken By False Child Abuse Calls

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Beth A. Bond, 37, then a social worker in Hardin County

Elizabethtown, Kentucky – The first time it happened, on April 1, the young couple thought it must be an April Fool’s joke.

Several Elizabethtown Police officers appeared at the door around 10 p.m. to check on them and their baby — asleep in her crib — following an anonymous report the couple, one of them holding the girl, had engaged in a drunken fight outside.

Corey Chaney, 25, and April Rodgers, 23, who are engaged, were dumbfounded, having spent a quiet evening at home having dinner with friends.

“We asked if it was an April Fool’s joke,” Chaney said. “Then we realized it was serious.”

Even worse, it was the first of a series of such calls — all false and all late at night, repeatedly sending police and state social workers to the couple’s Elizabethtown apartment, disrupting their lives and leaving them panicked that the state might try to take their baby.

“It was all pretty terrifying,” Chaney said. “We couldn’t figure out why anybody would do that.”

But the most astonishing news came when the couple learned that the alleged source of the false reports was one of the state’s own social workers who lived with her fiancé in the apartment below theirs, neighbors they barely knew.

Beth A. Bond, 37, then a social worker in Hardin County with the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services, and her fiancé, Joseph W. Applegate Jr., 42, are charged in Hardin District Court each with six counts of complicity to call in false reports. They were charged May 27 following an investigation by Elizabethtown Police.

Bond and Applegate made the false calls to the cabinet’s social service “intake,” or abuse hotline, between April 1 and May 23, according to court records. Police said it was because of a “verbal dispute” with the other couple, a dispute Chaney and Rodgers deny ever happened.

The only motive they know of is that Bond allegedly told police she found her upstairs neighbors “too loud,” Rodgers said.

Bond, who joined the cabinet in 2013 as a social worker handling child abuse and neglect cases, resigned her state job June 1, according to state personnel records. She could not be reached for comment, and her lawyer, Adam Cart, did not respond to a request for comment.

Applegate could not be reached for comment and did not have a lawyer listed in court records.

Teresa James, the commissioner of the Department for Community Based Services, the social service arm of the cabinet that employed Bond, said she was appalled to learn one of her own social workers was charged in the case, saying the alleged actions violate basic standards of social work and constitute a criminal offense.

“I find it very disturbing and very disappointing,” James said.
Cabinet officials said Bond would have faced disciplinary action had she not resigned.

Chaney and Rodgers said they are still reeling from the ordeal that made them the subject of six separate investigations of child abuse and neglect by cabinet social workers — all unsubstantiated. The couple underwent drug tests and repeated scrutiny by social workers and signed multiple “prevention plans” designed to prevent further abuse, even though Chaney and Rodgers knew the reports to be false.

“It took over our lives,” Chaney said.

And they remain shocked it was one of the cabinet’s own social workers charged with making the false reports.

“It’s scary to think that she could do this to someone,” Rodgers said.

But they are most outraged that cabinet officials never seemed to take seriously their concerns that someone was calling in false, anonymous complaints even as a parade of social workers showed up to investigate.

“There is no way to hold a rogue social worker accountable,” Chaney said. “There’s got to be a system in place to protect families. There’s everything in place to protect anonymous callers.”

James said that when cabinet officials learned of the allegations in late May, they cooperated with police.

As for anonymous calls, James said the cabinet relies on such calls to the hotline to learn about and investigate alleged child abuse and can’t ignore calls that meet requirements for investigation. It accepts anonymous calls because callers often are afraid of retaliation, she said, and the cabinet has no way to track down such callers.

Meanwhile, if an allegation of child abuse or neglect appears serious, officials must investigate, she said.

“The cabinet has to go out on every call that comes in that meets the criteria,” she said.

Chaney, who works in his family’s telecommunications business, and Rodgers, who works for a veterinarian, said they have no criminal offenses in their past nor any previous involvement with the social service system.

Lawyer Barry Sullivan, who represents Chaney and Rodgers, said the case represents a massive “waste of resources” by police and social workers. Further, his clients’ ordeal shows a hole in the state social service system when it comes to false, anonymous complaints, he said.

“This could happen to anyone,” Sullivan said. “The bottom line is that there was a social worker allowed to run amok because there’s a system in place to protect anonymous callers.”

Further, Sullivan said, it calls into question the accuracy of Bond’s work on cases of child abuse and neglect she handled while employed by the cabinet.

Cabinet officials said they have reviewed Bond’s cases and turned open ones over to other workers.

Sullivan, who said he has years of experience in family law in Kentucky including cases of alleged abuse and neglect, said officials at the Hardin County social service office brushed him off when he asked them to look into the unusual nature of the calls against the couple. Officials told him they were just following policy and procedure by investigating each call, he said.

Rodgers said the couple pleaded with workers with Child Protective Services to consider whether someone was making false calls.

“We asked CPS, how many calls are you going to take before you realize this isn’t true,” Chaney said. “They said, ‘Oh, we have to respond to every call.’ ”

And the severity of the allegations increased as the calls continued, they said. One call claimed Rodgers was holding the baby upside down over a balcony; another alleged Chaney was violent and high on methamphetamine; and the last claimed he slammed the child into a wall.

Each time police would show up at the apartment, at the request of the cabinet, to find no evidence of the allegations, they said.

“The cops by the third call were apologizing, and by the fourth call they were getting mad,” Chaney said.

Fortunately, he said, police grew suspicious about the calls and began to investigate.

Still, each call triggered a new investigation from a new state social worker with a new round of questions about their personal lives, such as whether they used drugs (no) whether they fought violently (no) or whether they had abused or neglected their child (no). All were closed by the cabinet as unsubstantiated, or unfounded.

But the couple had discerned a pattern to the calls and decided to act.

Each time a case against them was about to be closed as unsubstantiated, a call with new allegations would come into the CPS hotline, triggering a new investigation. Knowing a current case was about to be closed, and anticipating a new hotline call, Chaney and Rodgers took their daughter and left their home to stay with Chaney’s parents.

The couple alerted Elizabethtown police about their plans.

The first night they were away, May 22, a call came into the abuse hotline reporting that Chaney had become violent and thrown the baby against the wall. Another call followed on May 23, alleging a disturbance at the couple’s apartment. Police went to the apartment but found no one home.

A few days later, police charged Bond and Applegate with six misdemeanor offenses involving the false reports.

Rodgers said she wept “tears of joy” at the news after weeks of fearing she might lose custody of her baby over false allegations.

“We were so scared that someone was going to take her away,” Rodgers said.

Chaney said he’s relieved by the arrest but disappointed it’s just a minor offense.

“You can tear someone’s family apart and it’s a misdemeanor,” he said.

Chaney and Rodgers say the ordeal has taken an enormous toll, emotionally and financially.

They had to hire a lawyer and take time off work for repeated meetings with social workers; and, after their neighbors were arrested, they decided to move to avoid any encounters with Bond and Applegate.

“We moved that weekend,” Rodgers said. “It took every single dime we had.”

No one from the cabinet has contacted them to explain or apologize, the couple said.

They decided to go public with their story, they said, to expose what happened.

“We don’t want this stuff swept under the rug,” Rodgers said.

Added Chaney, “I don’t want this to happen to somebody else’s family.”

VICTIMS NEXT DOOR: Part 3b, THE CYCLE OF ABUSE

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Lutheran Services Florida at the Gulf Coast Kids House offers sand play therapy using miniatures that represent feelings in a sand tray

“Because the silence, it’s what takes on a life of its own. And it is the secret and the silence, and when you put light on that silence and that secret is the time that it becomes healthier, and people can emerge from that. ”

Nancy Hagman, Lutheran Services Florida

Without treatment, abuse can continue from generation to generation
By Kaycee Lagarde

Keith Ann Campbell knows firsthand how difficult it can be to break the cycle of abuse in a family.

When she tried to speak out, she was silenced.

She’s since dedicated her career to helping the voices of other children be heard.

“I was abused as a child, and I told my family about it, and they basically didn’t want to make any waves with the family,” said Campbell, the executive director of the Santa Rosa Kids’ House in Milton, a child advocacy center for abuse victims. “So they just didn’t tell anybody. And unfortunately, that happens a lot.”

For some children, an abusive environment is all they’ve ever known.
And if they’re never taught any differently, it may continue to be all they ever know, and all their children ever know.

So the sad cycle continues.

Research shows about one-third of abused and neglected children will grow up to abuse their own kids when they become parents, but experts stress the statistics don’t necessarily paint the whole picture.

Even if victims of abuse don’t end up doing the same to their children, the cycle can affect them in other ways.

“That’s not to say that they’re going to grow up and do the same things,” Campbell said. “But we call it stopping the cycle of abuse because chances are, they will grow up and something will happen, whether it’s them doing that to their kids or them causing their kids to go in a different direction and have it done somewhere else. It just seems that it runs in family lines.”

For the one in three victims who do end up abusing as adults, it can almost always be traced back to problems that were never addressed, pain that has been suppressed since childhood, say local experts.

It’s normal for victims and families to avoid talking about the abuse and go on as if it never happened, said Sherri Swann, clinical director for Lutheran Services Florida at the Gulf Coast Kid’s House, which can affect child abuse victims as they enter adulthood and have children of their own.

“People have triggers every day in their environment that set their behaviors in motion, and sometimes your behaviors that are reactive are not always the healthiest,” Swann said. “And so unless you take steps to do something different, you’re more than likely going to fall short.”

Malika Godwin, an infant mental health therapist at Lakeview Center in Pensacola who counsels families dealing with abuse and maladaptive behaviors, said parents often don’t realize their parenting is harmful, especially if it’s what they learned from their own parents.

Without perspective, they can unknowingly pass the same dysfunctional behaviors down to their children, Godwin said.

“And now you’ve got this little one who then grows up and doesn’t realize that that’s not a typical or a functional way to handle stressors, so now they carry it on to their family,” Godwin said. “And that’s how we see patterns continue within families, is when there’s no insight to the unhealthiness of that type of strategy or that intervention.”

In some cases, the cycle of abuse continues at the hands of others — not just by the ones who suffered the abuse — said Nancy Hagman, a program manager and therapist for Lutheran Services Florida’s sexual and physical abuse treatment program.

The victim may be less likely to catch clues to protect their children from others, Hagman said, especially if they’ve never addressed their own abuse and how it has affected them.

“Because you’ve been abused, you do not know how to stop the abuse from happening to your children and grandchildren,” Hagman said. “Unless you have been in treatment for your own victimization, and then your level of safety goes up — your awareness of the dynamics of abuse, your awareness of the incestuous cycle of abuse. And you become more aware of how to intervene and pick up on the clues that your child is at risk.”

While there’s no simple answer explaining why abuse continues to be present in families, there are factors that can play a role and increase the risk for abuse.

The most common risk factors include intergenerational patterns of abuse, substance abuse, immaturity and stress, especially in families struggling with poverty, unstable housing or unemployment, according to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, a service of the Children’s Bureau, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

That’s not to say those factors are always present in abusive households, however.

“It spans all races, socioeconomic, education levels — pretty much across the board,” Swann said.

“The offender can be the most respected person in the community, and that adds to the continuous struggle for the victim,” Hagman said. “Because that person is seen as wonderful or great or perceived as the best in the world, and look at what all the wonderful things they’ve done. And so the challenge for the victim, then, is ‘But what I had happen is still true, no matter who else it is perceives whatever they perceive.'”

Poverty, substance abuse and maturity level aside, perhaps the true culprit that perpetuates abuse is silence, Hagman said. Family members don’t tell anyone, the child doesn’t tell anyone, and so it continues happening.

“Because the silence, it’s what takes on a life of its own,” Hagman said. “And it is the secret and the silence, and when you put light on that silence and that secret is the time that it becomes healthier, and people can emerge from that.”

Combating abuse, whether generational or not, comes back to awareness, education and treatment, say local experts — and the sooner, the better.

“If the child doesn’t get treatment, it’s going to mess with them for the rest of their lives,” Campbell said.

Shannon Massingale, who helps families and children as a case manager at Lakeview Center, agreed that intervening and getting victims the help they need is crucial to stopping the continued abuse.

“Parents who are aware of it, open to the fact to realize the situation wasn’t the safest or the healthiest, and try to put an effort into preventing that for their children are really taking steps to kind of break that cycle…,” she said. “If we can put those interventions in place, they can then have a healthy relationship with their caregiver, and go on to be successful and not have those reoccurring traumas in their life.”

Through counseling and an array of services for families, the Gulf Coast Kid’s House, Santa Rosa Kids’ House and Lakeview Center all provide and promote treatment — but that can only come after victims have the courage to speak.

And once a child does speak, it’s important to listen.

“One of the things that we’ve found that contributes to the success of a case is when a child discloses the abuse to their mom or to somebody, that person believes them, because that starts the cycle for getting their needs met,” Swann said. “They say, ‘OK, this terrible thing happened. Let’s go to the police, let’s go to the doctor, let’s go see a therapist’ and ‘I believe you.'”

PENSACOLA News Journal

Child Abuse Detection Workshop Held At NWACC

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Child Abuse Detection Workshop at the National Child Protection Training Center

BENTONVILLE, Arkansas – Local law enforcement agencies and prosecutors came together Thursday (Aug. 13) for a training session on how to better detect and investigate child abuse cases.

Organizers said around 50 professionals from Washington and Benton County attended the training at the National Child Protection Training Center. Benton County Prosecutor Nathan Smith said the training is important to make sure all agencies are on the same page.

“This training is really about equipping officers and forensic interviewers to be able to conduct these cases in the way that leads to those results,” Smith said.

He said it’s vital that the case is handled correctly from the beginning, starting with how to identify if child abuse is happening.

“Child abuse is rampant everywhere we have lots of instances of it, much more than we want so really the goal is how do you deal with it and how do you prevent it, how do you let schools and nurses and people like that know the signs to look for,” Smith said.

U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Arkansas, also attended the training.

“What we’re trying to do is break the cycle, and nobody is working harder than these folks it’s a labor of love and I just have all the respect in the world for them,” Boozman said.

The National Child Protection Training Center is only one of four in our region. It serves child abuse professionals from 16 states.

VICTIMS NEXT DOOR: Part 3a, THE CYCLE OF ABUSE

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Deidre Cox is speaking out against abuse in hopes of breaking the cycle of abuse

About this series

Today’s stories are the third in a four-part, eight-day series focusing on child abuse in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties. Our goal is simple: to increase awareness of the need to report suspected abuse, in the hopes of saving children and families in our community.

The cycle of abuse isn’t confined to passing on abusive tendencies, it also leads to a plethora of life-altering decisions that destroy families for generations.

Don’t expect to find a one-size-fits-all explanation as to why one person versus another crosses the moral line and slams a baby’s head against a wall, scalds a toddler in hot water for soiling her panties or starves their children. Certain risk factors increase the odds of abuse, but sometimes people are just evil.

“Just the secrecy of it is so detrimental, and you can’t move past something that you can’t even accept is going on… Because for so long, you think you’re sick and there’s something wrong with you, when you’re not sick — they are. You’re not the one with the problem — you’re the victim.”
Deidre Cox

Abused in her youth, Deidre Cox is sharing her story and asking others to speak out
By Kaycee Lagarde

For years, Deidre Cox’s family lived behind a veil of secrecy.

They all knew the ugly truth, yet no one talked about it — no one but Deidre.

And she plans to keep talking.

Deidre took a deep breath and smiled softly as she sat down on the plastic chair inside the cold, tiled prison visitation room, ready to share her story.

But as a lifetime of pain and guilt began to resurface, the smile turned to tears.

She doesn’t remember many details surrounding the sexual abuse from her biological father — most of it happened before her third birthday. But she remembers enough.

Enough to know the abuse has impacted her life, her decisions, her ability to be a good parent, despite her best efforts.

Enough to know that she would never let it happen to her children.

From an early age, Deidre knew her dad was a pedophile. After her parents separated when she was about 3 years old, Deidre lived with her mother in Navarre — but her father stayed in the picture, maintaining a relationship even after he remarried and had four children.

As she grew older, Deidre was able to mostly avoid her dad and his sexual passes, though she couldn’t say the same for her half-brothers and sisters.

Her family never acknowledged the abuse, causing Deidre to live a life of confusion and anger toward the people who she knew were supposed to keep her safe.

“Not only are you victimized by the abuser, but you’re more victimized by the person who you thought would protect you,” Deidre said in her soft, sweet voice, still resembling that of a child. “And that’s the one that is hardest to get over.”

Her parents and siblings found it easier to force smiles and fake normalcy, Deidre said, which puzzled her all the way into adulthood. But for a child, it was especially confusing.

“I don’t know why this is happening to me, but we’ll wake up in the morning and pretend like it didn’t, and we’ll go on,” she said, tears filling her eyes. “That’s our mom, that’s our dad — we love them. Today we’re going to go swimming in the pool, and we’re going to have a grilled cheese and everything’s going to be great. And then when the lights go out, things are different.”

A lost mother, a family destroyed

Now 46 years old, Deidre is nearing the end of a seven-year sentence at the Gadsden Correctional Facility in Quincy, Fla., Deidre’s time at Gadsden has given her countless hours to reflect on the abuse and begin to heal.

After struggling with drug addiction, grand theft to support her habits and a laundry list of related charges that kept Deidre in and out of jail, an escape from a work release program in Pensacola finally landed her in prison.

She traces her self-destructive tendencies back to her childhood, a product of both the abuse and a lack of parental structure.

And though she succeeded at keeping her children away from her dad and free from abuse, the cycle destroyed their lives in other ways.

A mother at 16, Deidre said she had no idea how to be a parent, because she certainly hadn’t been taught by her own.

“I thought parenting was about playing,” she said. “I had no business being a mother, but I was one, and so we were just going to play. And that’s what we did.”

Deidre blames that absence of discipline for ultimately leading to the death of her son, Ricky, at just 20 years old. Driving while under the influence of drugs and alcohol, Ricky lost control of his vehicle and was killed instantly in a crash on April 16, 2007.

The loss was devastating for Deidre.

“His life was destroyed from that lack of knowing how to parent, which came from a destructive childhood,” she said. “So how many other children have to die like that who don’t even get abused, but because of generational abuse?”

An upward climb, a promising partnership

During her time at Gadsden, Deidre was able to dig deeper into the causes and effects of the destruction in her family. She entered therapy and began seeing patterns of self-sabotaging behaviors in both herself and her 25-year-old daughter, Miranda, who still struggles with drug addiction.

Being in a place where she could finally get help and truly talk about her abuse, Deidre began actively seeking ways to move on from her past and better herself as a result.

She’s encouraging other victims to do the same.

“You have to get out of that guilt and shame and move forward, and realize that you can do that,” Deidre said. “I think so many people are stuck in the guilt and shame that they don’t realize tomorrow’s another day, and you can just move forward. And even if you get stuck that day, you just wake up and try again the next day.”

While struggling to cope with Ricky’s death, especially as the anniversary approached each year, Deidre found a much-needed distraction.

“Coming into that time, April 16… it can be very tragic and it can lead to triggers and self-sabotaging behaviors and start the cycle all over again,” Deidre said.

After reading an article about the Gulf Coast Kid’s House in Pensacola, a child advocacy center for victims of abuse, Deidre began writing staff members as she continued to seek answers about the cycles of neglect and abuse in her family.

The connection eventually led to an annual fundraiser in Ricky’s memory to support the Gulf Coast Kid’s House, which raised about $500 last year through requests mailed by Deidre.

But she has even bigger plans in mind.

Scheduled for release on Dec. 31, Deidre wants to further her education and continue advocating for child abuse awareness, perhaps even starting her own child advocacy group or nonprofit.

No matter what path she chooses, Deidre said her hope is to promote transparency about abuse and encourage others to share their stories and seek help.

“Just the secrecy of it is so detrimental, and you can’t move past something that you can’t even accept is going on…,” she said. “Because for so long, you think you’re sick and there’s something wrong with you, when you’re not sick — they are. You’re not the one with the problem — you’re the victim.”

Though she’s still “wildly imperfect,” Deidre plans to spend the rest of her life helping others in any way she can — and she intends to do it in a big way.

“Now that I’ve seen I can come out the other side of it, I plan to bring some other people with me,” she said.

PENSACOLA News Journal

Stopping The Spread Of Child Sex Abuse Images

This week, major US Internet firms have joined an effort to curb the spread of images depicting the sexual abuse of children.

Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo have agreed to adopt a system to identify and block such images.

It’s based on a digital fingerprint, or hash, which analysts assign to images of child sex abuse.

This enables the participating websites to filter and block the content.