Tag Archives: Caring For Others

NY Has An AntiChild Attitude

.jpg photo of unwed father in new york who have fewer custody rights under a quirk of the law
David Dunbar, 43, an overnight manager at a grocery store, is one of the many unwed fathers who have fewer custody rights in New York under a quirk of the law.

He Didn’t Abuse His Daughter. The State Took Her Anyway.

What does it mean to be a parent?  One man hopes his case will change how a decades-old New York law treats unwed fathers.

For the first five years of his daughter Amanda’s life, Ping N., a restaurant manager in Manhattan, lived with his little girl and her mother.  He tucked her into bed at night and enjoyed spoiling her with her favorite snacks, like fish balls, egg tarts and ramen noodles.

But when child welfare officials found that Amanda’s mother had inflicted excessive corporal punishment on her in 2013, they removed the girl from the home.  Even though court records show that Ping had never committed abuse and was not present when it took place, a judge later decided that he would lose his daughter, too.  Ping could not have custody or any say in her life anymore.

The reason was a quirk of New York State law: He and Amanda’s mother were not married when she was born, making him less of a father in the eyes of the courts.

Lawyers for Ping, an immigrant from China whose surname is being withheld to protect the identity of his children, are now appealing that decision in what they hope will be a test case that changes how the decades-old law treats unwed fathers.
In New York and 11 other states, if a mother is accused of abuse or neglect but the father is not, and he is not married to her, he must prove that he is a parent in his own right — otherwise he will not have a say in whether the child is put up for adoption.  In most of those states, including New York, proof means paying child support — not to the mother but to the government agency that has taken the child.

“This is just blatant discrimination based on stale gender stereotypes — that the only way to be a father is to have a wedding ceremony or else to be a kind of rote financial provider,” said Martin Guggenheim, a law professor at New York University who studies family law and children’s rights.

Defenders of the New York law, which dates to 1980, say it helps children who have been languishing in foster care to get a permanent home sooner by preventing unmarried fathers who do not support their children from using the courts to delay or stop an adoption.

If those fathers had full rights, “we would have to prove by clear and convincing evidence that he abandoned the child … which can take years,” said Ira L. Eras, a New York lawyer who has mostly represented foster care agencies for three decades.

A Family Court judge in Manhattan ended Ping’s parental rights last year, paving the way for Amanda’s adoption by another family.  The judge cited Ping’s status as an unwed father at the time of his daughter’s birth and his failure to pay child support to Catholic Guardian Services, the foster care agency that the city’s child welfare arm, the Administration for Children’s Services, had hired to take custody of the girl.

Ping’s appeal, which was submitted in February and will be argued this fall by lawyers with the Family Defense Clinic at New York University School of Law, contended that he was financially supporting his daughter by giving her clothes, toys, food, gift cards and money, as well as by paying for outings and meals they had together.  Ping said he was never told that he also owed child support to the government and had never received a bill.

His lawyers added that there was no apparent way for fathers to pay child support to New York foster care agencies, a claim echoed by other lawyers in similar cases.

A spokeswoman for the Administration for Children’s Services, Chanel Caraway, and the executive director of Catholic Guardian Services, Craig Longley, both said they could not comment on a specific case.  Ms. Caraway also declined to comment on whether the agency had ever tried to get fathers to pay child support in these situations.

The state does not track how often the law is given as the reason for ending a father’s parental rights.  But a review of Family Court decisions and interviews with foster care lawyers suggests it is routinely cited in those cases.

Last week, David Dunbar, a 43-year-old overnight grocery store manager from the South Bronx, narrowly missed becoming one of them.

After the mother of Mr. Dunbar’s daughter developed severe mental illness in 2014, the children’s services agency deemed her to be an unfit parent and placed the girl, Destiny, then 10, in foster care.  In order for her to be adopted, the agency had to show that Mr. Dunbar was also not a fit parent.

Although court records show that Mr. Dunbar consistently visited Destiny, took parenting classes and passed drug tests, the foster care agency, St. Dominic’s Family Services, argued that his rights should be ended in part because he failed to communicate regularly with officials about his plans for his daughter.

As the years went on, the agency began citing the state’s decades-old law as an alternate reason for ending Mr. Dunbar’s rights, court records show.  But at a hearing in Manhattan on Sept. 18, the agency dropped its petition, largely because Destiny, now 16, had repeatedly stated to the court that she wanted to be with her father.

“I loved my daughter’s mother,” Mr. Dunbar said.  “I wish I could’ve married her.  I wish we could have lived a wonderful life together.  But we didn’t.  That doesn’t mean I’m not a dad.”

Diane Aquino, the chief operating officer of St. Dominic’s Family Services, said that she could not comment on an individual case but that the agency would not try to end a father’s rights if he were “actively planning for his child.”

“Five years in foster care indicates a father who is only intermittently planning,” Dr. Aquino said.

A half-century ago, unwed fathers had even fewer rights.  But a landmark Supreme Court decision in 1972 redefined fatherhood, to an extent.

In that case, the justices found that a state could not deny an unwed father his parental rights without demonstrating that he was unfit.  Over the next decade, legislators in New York and at least nine other states decided that the fitness of these unmarried fathers would be judged by whether they paid child support and maintained some relationship with the child.

When those laws were passed, many policymakers had a particular scenario in mind: a single mother who wanted to give up her child for adoption.  Their goal was to prevent an absentee father from thwarting the mother’s decision without having paid child support.

But they did not take into account adoptions that occurred after a government agency had taken a child from a mother because of abuse or neglect.  In order to satisfy the law, the unwed father would technically have to send payments to the government.

In New York, lawyers for fathers said that making payments to foster care agencies was not even possible.  The agencies do not try to collect the money, they said, and fathers do not know where or to whom to send it.

“I’ve tried to imagine ways of doing it — having my clients get child support orders against themselves, which they can then pay, or offer to pay the agency in cash every time they can, just so it’s in the record that they tried,” said Yusuf El Ashmawy, a lawyer who represents Mr. Dunbar and other fathers.  “It’s mind-bending.”

Since its passage nearly four decades ago, New York’s law has not been updated, even as the culture and the courts have embraced more expansive views of what makes a family . The state’s highest court struck down an earlier provision requiring unwed fathers to be living with their child’s mother in order to have a say in an adoption, but it has not directly ruled on other aspects of the statute.

Ping’s lawyers hope his argument will sway the court.

His daughter Amanda, now 11, was adopted by a white family with whom she has bonded.  She lost her ability to communicate with Ping in Mandarin; he does not speak English. Ping eventually married Amanda’s mother, and they had a son, Owen, now 6. Ping’s wife has since died, and he is raising his son on his own.

Jury Starts Deliberations In Davis Trial

.jpg photo of man on trial for felony child abuse
Kenneth R. Davis, 31, of Springfield Missouri

Dismissed jurors discuss Kenneth Robert Davis’ felony Child Abuse case

GREENE COUNTY, MO  –  A Greene County jury is deliberating the fate of an accused child abuser.

Robert Davis is charged with 7 felonies for brutally beating and torturing his then, 8 year-old daughter last year.

Attorneys for both sides stated their cases to the jury one last time Thursday morning.

The prosecution declares that Davis severely beat his daughter and that they proved their case beyond a reasonable doubt.

The defense argued that the state tried to make Davis look bad.   They insist that he did not abuse her.

We spoke to two alternate jurors after they were dismissed from the case.

“I felt like I’d ran a race and never got to cross the finish line.  I feel glad because I don’t have to be a part of it but I also wish I was able to finish out what we started.  I think he was, can I say, a big fat liar?  I thought he was a big fat liar,” said Julie Kennedy.

Heather Hutson was also dismissed from the case.

She said, “The defense just seemed kind of almost lost.  They weren’t really sure where to go.  This guy was guilty.  The defense didn’t seem to put up too much of a fight.  There was nothing to prove his innocence or to defend his innocence I should say.”

Davis is also charged in the beating death of two year-old Kinzlea Kilgore.

He’ll be in front of a Dallas County, Missouri judge for that case next week.

Help Stop Child Predator In CO

.jpg photo of police composite sketch of child predator in colorado
A composite sketch of a suspect in an attempted abduction case in Colorado. Photo courtesy Fort Collins Police Services.

WANTED: Suspect reportedly tried to abduct a teenage girl in Colorado

FORT COLLINS, CO  –  Police in Colorado are hoping a composite sketch can help lead to an arrest in an attempted abduction case.

The incident happened on Tuesday in Fort Collins at about 3:40 p.m.

Police are reporting a teenage girl was riding her skateboard on Deerfield Drive when she fell.

A vehicle described as an older, tan, four-door sedan with “bubbled window tint” stopped, and a man got out.  He approached the girl, grabbed her arm, and pushed her into his vehicle.

Two men were walking nearby and approached the vehicle to intervene.

The suspect reportedly told the witnesses that he knew the victim.

The victim told them she did not know the suspect.

She fled the area on foot and called the police a short time later.

Police are asking for help in identifying the suspect and are asking the two witnesses to come forward.  A composite sketch of the suspect is at the top of this article.

The suspect is described as a Hispanic man, in his early 20s, about five-foot-ten, with short hair, a thin mustache, bushy eyebrows, a deep voice and a Spanish accent.  He was wearing a white tank top and blue jeans at the time.  He reportedly has tattoos on both arms.

“Detectives have been diligently investigating this incident.  Now that they’ve spoken to area residents and completed necessary interviews, we need the larger community’s help identifying the suspect,” said Sgt. Heather Moore, who leads the Crimes Against Persons Unit.

“We’re very grateful to the bystanders who intervened, and we also really need them to contact police to share what they saw.”

Anyone with information is asked to call 970-416-2825.

Operation Net Nanny 16th By WSP MECTF

.jpg photo of Law Enforcement Operation stopping child sex predators graphic
COLLABORATION: OPERATION NET NANNY

Operation Net Nanny: 19 ARRESTS
in KITSAP COUNTY

KITSAP COUNTY, WA  –  Nineteen dangerous sexual predators who targeted children in Kitsap County were removed from the streets, thanks to a multi-day operation run by the Washington State Patrol (WSP) and several partner agencies.

Dubbed “Operation Net Nanny,” this is the 16th operation spearheaded by the WSP’s Missing and Exploited Children Task Force (MECTF), an Internet Crimes Against Children affiliate.  Since the original operation in August 2015, MECTF has netted a total of 271 arrests and rescued more than 31 children across the state.

The funding for this operation was made possible due in part by support from the public as well as a generous donation from Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.).  O.U.R. is a non-profit 501(c)(3) who shares the mission of law enforcement agencies to save children and see that child predators are arrested and prosecuted. O.U.R. is privileged and honored to partner with our nation’s law enforcement heroes in this important cause to combat the sexual exploitation of children in our nation’s communities.

MECTF’s primary mission is to proactively target those persons involved in child abuse and child exploitation via the internet.  “This operation is aimed at protecting our vulnerable children.  We will not rest in our efforts to make Washington communities safer and appreciate our partners in this important work” says WSP Chief John R. Batiste.

From July 25, 2019 to July 29, 2019, undercover law enforcement officers used various websites on the internet and phone applications to communicate with people interested in having sex with children.  The operation generated hundreds of responses.  The would-be perpetrators who were arrested during the operation traveled to meet with the undercover detectives posing as underage girls and boys with the intent to engage in sexual activity with children as young as six years old.

Primary crimes investigated are:

  • RCW 9A.44.073 – Rape of a child in the first degree – attempt
  • RCW 9A.44.076 – Rape of a child in the second degree – attempt
  • RCW 9.68A.100 – Commercial sexual abuse of a minor
  • RCW 9.68A.090 – Communication with a minor for immoral purposes

The names of the individuals arrested during the operation are:

  • Joseph T. McCarthy, 23, Maple Valley
  • Anthony J. Tangonan, 24, Bremerton
  • Owen T. Shreve, 27, Poulsbo
  • Hector C Escobar, 26, Lakewood
  • Jordan M. Kaufman, 24, Port Orchard
  • Kendall N Spann, 25, Bremerton
  • Bradley D Petrie, 21, Bremerton
  • Skyler L Barkdull, 20, Tacoma
  • Timmothy A Hoskinson, 49, Bremerton
  • David Bagby, 39, Port Orchard
  • Mathew E Sanches, 25, Tacoma
  • Zachary M. Drouin, 26, Olalla
  • Dominic J. McGill, 27, Lynnwood
  • Reid A. Weeks, 64, Woodland
  • Noah A. LaFountaine, 22, Bremerton
  • Jason C. Steele, 46, Seattle
  • Travan T. Tagaloa, 33, Bremerton
  • B. A. Youngblood Simpson, 26, Bremerton
  • Jimmy S. Howard, 46, Bremerton

“The number of arrests made during this operation is extremely disappointing,” said Bremerton Police Department Chief Jim Burchett.  “I hope that someday we conduct an operation like this and no one responds.  Until that time, we will continue taking proactive steps to keep our kids safe, including partnering with the Washington State Patrol Missing and Exploited Children Task Force in the outstanding work they do in protecting children from predators.”

Anyone with information related to the suspects listed, or information leading to the identity of victims potentially involved in these cases please contact MECTF at mectf@wsp.wa.gov.

“The Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office will continue targeting those persons who engage in victimizing the most vulnerable members of our communities, our children, through sexual abuse and human trafficking,” said Kitsap County Sheriff Gary Simpson.  “Working as part of the WSP task force optimizes our investigative and enforcement capabilities ten-fold, which assists us in holding these perpetrators accountable for their actions.”

The collaborative effort involving more than 60 dedicated law enforcement officers, agents, and staff led to the success of this operation.  Those agencies involved include:

  • Federal Bureau of Investigation’s South Sound Child Exploitation Task Force
  • Homeland Security Investigations
  • Naval Criminal Investigative Service
  • Bremerton Police Department
  • West Sound Narcotics Enforcement Team
  • Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office
  • Jefferson County Sherriff’s Office
  • Washington State Attorney General’s Office
  • Washington State Patrol High-Tech Crime Unit
  • Washington State Patrol Criminal Investigation Division
  • Washington State Patrol Field Operation Bureau
  • Washington State Patrol Missing and Unidentified Persons Unit
  • Washington State Patrol Missing and Exploited Children Task Force (MECTF)
  • Washington State Patrol Fusion Center
  • Kitsap County Prosecutor’s Office
  • Maui Police Department ~ Hawaii
  • Alabama Attorney General Office

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

DONATE TODAY

.jpg photo of Operation Underground Railroad Logo graphicIn the past five years of existence, O.U.R. has rescued 2,760 victims and assisted in the arrests of more than 1,493 traffickers around the world.

NY Gov Dragging Feet Signing Legislation?

.jpg photo of girl legislation is named for
Erin Merryn

Child Sex Abuse victim advocates want
to know why Cuomo hasn’t signed
Erin’s Law

ALBANY, NY  –  Advocates for child sex abuse victims say Gov. Andrew Cuomo is dragging his feet on signing education legislation that could decrease future child sex abuse cases.

“Erin’s Law” requires at least one hour per school year to teach kids in kindergarten through eighth grade about abuse and how to report it.

A 2015 federal law championed by U.S. Senator Kirstan Gillibrand (D-NY) provides grant funding for the program.

It’s been passed in 37 states, including New York, when the bill cleared both legislative chambers on June 20.

“I don’t know what’s going on in New York.  It’s frustrating because I flew to New York and testified in 2011.  It’s been the most difficult state to get it passed.  Now we have to wait yet another year,” Erin Merryn, an abuse survivor from Illinois, for whom the legislation is named, told The Post.

Under the law, the state Education Department would be required to devise the curriculum, but a spokesman said the department does not comment on pending legislation.

“They made me repeat first grade because of what nobody knew was going on,” Merryn added.

“You’re actually saving money by teaching this because those kids that are being abused are the kids that you’re having to pour so much more funding into.”

“It’s important that [Gov. Cuomo] does this sooner than later, even though we’ve missed this year’s deadline, this is crucial for the children of the state of New York,” she said.

“Erin’s law actually prevents child abuse in a big way,” said child sex abuse survivor Gary Greenberg, who has pushed the bill for years.

“[It] is an even more important law than the Child Victims Act because it will actually go into every public school in the state and teach kids who to report to, and about appropriate touching.  As time goes on he’s signing all these bills, a lot of bills, and no Erin’s law,” he said of Gov. Cuomo.

The law would take effect on the July 1 after the bill is signed.

“We 100 percent agree with the intent of the bill and want to ensure it’s implemented correctly.  The bill language remains under review by counsel’s office,” said Cuomo spokeswoman Caitlin Girouard.

The state’s office of Children and Family Services said in 2018, the statewide central register hotline received 297,233 calls related to child abuse cases resulting in 199,047 reports flagged for further action.