Criminalizing moms

This article makes an excellent point about black mothers – but, it also applies to any mother.  On other posts, I’ve written about mothers being held to higher standards than fathers, mothers being jailed for refusing to hand over custody to abusers, and mothers being treated unjustly by the family court system.

Jezebels, welfare queens–and now, criminally bad black moms

Nelson was chasing after him with her 2-year-old daughter in her arms when the family was hit by a driver with two prior drunk driving and hit-and-run convictions on his record. He was again drunk that night, and later served six months in jail for his crime.

For her loss, the Cobb County solicitor general charged Nelson, who didn’t even own a car, with vehicular manslaughter. When an all-white jury found her guilty in July, news of Nelson’s conviction and the possible three-year prison sentence she faced led to a national outcry and an online campaign for leniency. At her sentencing a judge gave her community service instead of jail time, and in a rare move, offered Nelson a new trial. Last week, Nelson accepted.

And –

“It’s a hard time to be a poor black mother,” Jones said. “Structurally, the support systems for them have been severely eroded and there are just more ways to punish people for being bad parents than there were in the past, because the criminal justice system is more punitive.”

In the last 20 years, women of color have become the fastest growing segment of the prison population, driven in large part by new classes of crimes that have been created or relabeled, said University of Hawaii criminologist Meda Chesney-Lind. Where 20 years ago crimes like the sale and possession of tiny amounts of drugs, or drug use during pregnancy, were not even considered crimes, today they are fueling a massive uptick in incarceration rates. The addition of mandatory minimum prison sentencing over the years eliminated judges’ discretion and contributed to these racially disparate increases.

And-

In January, Ohio mom Kelley Williams-Bolar was charged with falsifying records when she used her father’s home address to get her daughters into a better school in a wealthier neighboring school district. She served 10 days in jail, and even though the theft charges were dismissed after a similar national outcry, the felony on her record has threatened her career in special education.

In April, Norwalk, Connecticut officials prosecuted Tanya McDowell for doing something similar; she’s pleaded not guilty. “I just want to know: When does it become a crime to seek a better education for your child?” McDowell said at the time, the Norwalk Patch reported.

In 2009, South Carolina officials took Jerri Gray’s obese son Alexander Draper away from her and put him in foster care because, they argued, the teen’s health was in danger and he was no longer safe with his mother. Gray lost custody of her son, and then was charged with criminal neglect. Two years later, her charges are still pending, her attorney says, and Draper lives with his aunt. Last week, the latest in a series of studies showed how difficult it would be for a low-income family to buy groceries that meet the USDA’s standard for nutritious eating.

McDowell, Williams-Bolar, Nelson and Gray are all single parents, all black mothers struggling in tough circumstances to raise their families. Where poor black mothers are concerned, compassion’s in short supply, but there’s plenty of blame to hand over.

Want further proof? Here’s 2 cases just from today:

Shamika Koyce Dunn arrested for felony child neglect   (How many times do they put the father’s entire name in the headline?)

Authorities arrested Shamika Koyce Dunn, of Woodbridge. Her 3-year-old daughter was discovered walking in the street unattended.

Police returned the child to her home and, while investigating, Dunn returned home carrying half a bottle of wine and was in possession of marijuana, police said.

The child was in good condition. Police say young girl is now in the custody of another family member.

I’m sorry, but this behavior would be excused if it were a father (particularly if he was white). It would be considered a minor blip in his parenting skills. The child was, afterall, unharmed.

Here’s a case of a day-care provider – a very young woman (23) who’s trying to make a living taking care of children – not earning very much – and now charged with a felony – that will likely ruin her short-lived career. Again, the kids were unharmed.

Prince William day-care provider charged with neglect 

A Prince William County day-care provider was accused of child neglect after a 1-year-old and a 3-year-old in her care wandered out of her house and into the neighborhood, police said.

For a comparison to how dads are treated, look at this recent case where the boy was beat and shoved inside a stove – yes, a stove.

Son begs for leniency for dad who stuffed him in oven

A Staten Island man who brutally beat his then-9 year old son, stripping him naked, burning his hands and then throwing him into a kitchen oven, will serve just four months in jail on weekends for the attack.

And-

Police said Moss punched his son in the face and then pushed him into the oven,  threatening “I’m going to burn you alive!” The boy begged to be let out of the  oven, which wasn’t turned on, and then the father forced him, still naked, out  the front door.

When Moss’ wife got home from work, she took her son to the hospital, where he was treated for second and third degree burns.

And-

Judge Collini responded, “This court feels compelled to temper justice with understanding and compassion, for the victim.” He sentenced James Moss to four months of weekends in county jail, with five years of supervised probation. James Moss can’t be reunited with his family at this time but will continue supervised visits with his son.

Outside court, Moss’ 11 year old son was led away by his mother and a caseworker, wearing a dark baseball cap and
sunglasses.

When PIX 11 asked Moss’ defense attorney if the sentence was a slap on the wrist, he replied, “It’s absolutely not a slap on the wrist! The judge took into consideration the wishes of the victim.” As the judge pointed out, he–with his sentence–did not want to add to the trauma of a child who’s already been severely traumatized.

Raleigh dad charged after child wanders roadway 

Raleigh police say a 3-year-old girl is OK after she wandered out of her house and walked across four lanes of traffic while her father was home asleep.

Authorities say the girl was found several blocks from her home around 11 a.m. Wednesday.

Police charged the girl’s father, 27-year-old Aaron Harris Rush, with misdemeanor child abuse.

 

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Mothers and daughters in the headlines

Here’s my beef: headlines often reveal the relationship between mothers killing their children but not so much with fathers killing their kids (for example, it might read: Man kills teen). Also, headlines often mention women/mothers when couples are involved together – but not men/fathers, like this one:

New Mexico Mom gets 25 years for starving daughter

LAS CRUCES, N.M. – A New Mexico woman has been sentenced to 25 years in prison for the death of her young daughter, who withered away from malnutrition and dehydration while the mother spent hours chatting and playing World of Warcraft online.

Rebecca Colleen Christie was sentenced in federal court for her November 2009 conviction on second-degree murder and child abandonment charges, the Las Cruces Sun-News reported.

Prosecutors said 3 1/2-year-old Brandi Wulf gained just a pound and a half in the last year of her life and weighed 23 pounds when Christie called 911 on Jan. 26, 2006, to report her daughter was limp and unconscious.

Christie’s ex-husband, U.S. Air Force Sgt. Derek Wulf, pleaded guilty to child neglect and will be sentenced June 15.

He’s not only missing from the headline, it doesn’t mention how he spent his tme.

He was stationed at Holloman Air Force Base but was away on a nine-day assignment when the girl died. The newspaper reports he had expressed reservations about his wife’s ability to take care of their child; her older daughter had already been placed with Christie’s parents.

If you’re concerned about your wife’s ability to parent, wouldn’t you step in? The blame can’t just be placed on her, and, indeed, he is charged with child neglect.

For 15 hours the day the girl died — from noon to 3 a.m. — the computer showed “continuous activity” as her mother chatted with friends from the online fantasy role-playing game, according to court documents.

Wulf told an FBI agent he would regularly come home from work and find his daughter with an empty water glass as his wife was busy “playing on the computer,” according to court documents.

The house had an overflowing litter box and pervasive smell of cat urine. And there appeared to be so little food that the child ate cat food, according to the U.S. attorney’s office. There also was no PediaSure, police said, which a year prior had been prescribed to the child for digestive problems and frequent diarrhea.

At a sentencing hearing in mid-May before U.S. District Judge Robert Brack, Christie sobbed that she was sorry, the Sun-News reports.

“I’ll never get to see her grown up. … That weighs on my heart. That was my little girl,” Christie said slowly, with difficulty, her shoulders hunched and the chains on her wrists shaking. “It was my responsibility to take care of her, and I failed her, and I’m sorry.”

Not in the best interest of the children

Counselor sexually abuses 3 girls and gets…probation

Juvenile Counselor Sexually Assaults 3 Teen Girls, Gets Probation?!
Sign Our Petition NOW & Help Secure Justice for Victims

Last week, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Cassandra Mullen proposed a sentence of ten years probation with absolutely no jail time for a court-appointed juvenile counselor–Tony Simmons–who pled guilty to raping one girl and sexually assaulting two others that he was transporting to Manhattan Family Court. Court transcripts show that prosecutors from the Manhattan district attorney’s office did not object to the no-jail time plea.

In one of the instances, the assailant brought a 15-year-old girl entrusted to his custody down to the basement of the court building to rape her. Just moments after the attack he escorted her to her scheduled court appearance.

Take Action: We need you to send the message that this is outrageous!

1. Sign our petition NOW to Justice Cassandra Mullen to demand jail time for this violent offender and justice for the victims.

2. Forward the petition and the article to five friends, and post on Facebook and Twitter. The more signatures we get, the bigger our impact on this case.
Petition URL: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/now-nyc_justiceforassaultvictims/

3. Get the Daily News Article | See Our Letter-to-the-Editor: Troubling Case

Source: NOW

Child psychiatrist keeps on abusing…

The 2005 incident took place two years after the one for which Olmsted was forced to register as a sex offender.

“To find that the state board knew of not one but two complaints of impropriety with young girls and yet allowed this doctor to continue his practice with children is unconscionable,” the father wrote. “I am severely disappointed with the state of Texas right now and doubtful of its ability to stand watch over her children.”

Carona’s ire was raised after he learned that Olmsted was publicly reprimanded by the board in August and placed on probation with restrictions on his license for 10 years. A neighbor accused him of touching her beneath her clothes and sucking her toes when she was 10.

“As a father of five, it outrages me” that someone who practiced with children, then violated a child, “would somehow be allowed to retain his medical license,” Carona said.

“Holding on to that license, regardless of the restrictions that may have been stacked up on it, has an air of legitimacy, and I think could in fact further endanger others.”

Read about it here: 2nd family accuses child psychiatrist of misconduct with 10-year-old girl

And, don’t count on CPS to help children either…

Child Protective Services investigated more than three million cases of suspected child abuse in 2007, but a new study suggests that the investigations did little or nothing to improve the lives of those children.

And-

In an editorial published with the study, starkly titled “Child Protective Services Has Outlived Its Usefulness,” Dr. Abraham B. Bergman suggests some essential changes: child abuse, because it is a crime, should be investigated by the police; public health nursing services should be the first to respond to concerns of child neglect; social workers should assess appropriate living situations and work with families to obtain services, and not be engaged in law enforcement. But Dr. Bergman, who is a pediatrician at the Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, expressed considerable skepticism that such changes would happen.

Read about it in the New York Times here: Child abuse investigations didn’t reduce risk, a study finds  

Believe women

Child psychologist loses custody of her 2 sons

Amy Castillo was a pediatrician with a clean record yet the judge believed her husband (who had vandalized the house, threatened to kill the kids and was institutionalized) and she was denied a restraining order.

He drowned the 3 children in a hotel bathtub in Baltimore.

Now, here’s another case – a child psychologist loses custody of her 2 sons after making allegations of abuse. The judge transfers custody to the husband until the mother ‘changes her mind about the allegations.’ Even her family members are forbidden contact.

I can’t say whether these allegations are true or not, but allegations can be hard to prove and this judge’s decisions are ridiculous. Clearly, the judge doesn’t believe this woman made false allegations malicously, so by punishing her, she’s sending a message that allegations – whether or not they’re made in good faith – will be penalized severely.  Not a good public health policy.

She recalls how, on the evening she lost her children, Tin ordered her and her family to stay put in the courtroom and directed that Pennington’s nanny drive her boys to their father’s parents. As the boys sobbed, Pennington says, the exchange took place in the parking lot of a Charlotte pancake house.

It’s been 18 months since then, and Pennington says she’s seen her sons for only 17 hours, despite completing thousands of dollars in court-ordered therapy. To get more visitation, she’s supposed to change her mind about allegations she made against her ex-husband. Yet she claims requirements in Tin’s order are impossible to meet.

Change her mind? Is that what Judge Tin thinks is the answer to a mother who believes abuse took place?

When Pennington and her ex-husband divorced in 2006, they agreed to share custody. Back then, nothing suggested their break-up would end so badly.

But in 2007, Pennington filed for primary custody. She alleged, among other things, that her ex-husband wasn’t properly giving one son his asthma medicine and wasn’t adequately preparing the two boys for school.

Pennington and her ex-husband tried mediation. It failed. About two weeks later, in early 2008, she reported serious allegations to a pediatrician. A Department of Social Services investigation followed.

To protect the privacy of the boys, the Observer isn’t providing details of the allegations or identifying the children or their father, who shares their last name.

In subsequent months, Pennington reported several more incidents that she said her sons disclosed to her following visits with their father, according to Tin’s order.

But the DSS investigation didn’t substantiate Pennington’s allegations. And police concluded the allegations were unfounded, Tin’s order says.

Instead, it was Pennington who DSS cited for neglect, finding that she had repeatedly discussed the allegations with her sons. During the trial, a DSS social worker testified that one of Pennington’s sons said his mom and her boyfriend talked about the allegations all the time, “even after the judge told them not to talk about it.”

The trial lasted 13 days. When it was over, Tin issued a tough ruling from the bench. She gave custody of the boys to their father and limited Pennington, at first, to supervised visitation with her children – if her therapist and their therapists deemed it appropriate.

How is discussing abuse allegations with children considered neglect?!?
Tin also ordered Pennington to pay $266,657 for her ex-husband’s attorney fees. He was represented by lawyers with James, McElroy & Diehl.
She doesn’t just get fined for a “false allegation,” she has to pay over $250,000 for her exes legal fees, along with her own.
Tin wrote that Pennington may have believed the allegations she was making. But if she ever wanted unsupervised time with her boys, the judge required an unusual condition: Pennington would have to show a “changed perspective,” admitting that her ex-husband didn’t commit the acts she alleged, and that her actions had harmed her boys.
Tin ruled she would use testimony from multiple people familiar with Pennington’s behavior to decide if she changed her perspective. They would include therapists and her family members – as well as her ex-husband.

After the trial, Tin also forbade several of Pennington’s family members from having contact with her boys.

This is sounding more and more cult-like. She gets virtually no contact until she changes her mind about her sons being abused. The judge is basically saying, I don’t care if you believe abuse took place, change your perspective or suffer the consequences.

Pennington says she’s a good mother being punished for believing what her children told her. She says she did not repeatedly question and coach her children about the allegations.

She’s now supposed to pay her husband’s attorney fees, child support and for therapy for herself and her sons, she says. She has also spent about $268,000 on her own legal fees, according to Tin’s order.

Pennington believes she has proof that Tin’s order is flawed. She filed ethics complaints against her sons’ two therapists, and the licensing board recently agreed that Tin’s order had created possible conflicts of interests by requiring the therapists to both treat and evaluate family members.

Pennington’s complaints prompted the therapists to halt visitations – one reason she’s seen so little of her sons.

Read more here:  With stakes so high, she won’t stop

 Here’s more on Judge Tin and judicial bias: Trials that will not adjourn

The right context

Ask yourself this: who commits more child abuse, men or women? If you’re like most folks, you’ll say women. Perhaps it’s been the media that has influenced this perception. Take notice the next time you read an article on child abuse and how each gender can be treated differently. Here’s an article that puts child abuse into context – something that is not often done.

Men are more commonly the perpetrators in abuse cases, while women lead in cases of neglect. Statistics show the most typical abuser profile is the boyfriend of a single mom, 18 to 30 years old and unemployed. If the mother is facing financial difficulties herself, she may have the boyfriend move in to share living expenses — or to have free child care while she works.

The fact that these men have no biological bond with the children, and often no prior parenting experience, makes them ill-prepared to deal with crying jags, potty-training accidents and the battle of wills that can come with feeding very young children.

“If you look at the age curve for victims of shaken-baby syndrome, it often correlates with the crying curve of babies — the amount of time each day that babies spend crying,” said Dr. Mark Kesler, medical director of the state’s child protection team for Orange and Osceola counties. “People don’t understand that babies can cry a certain number of hours each day, and that’s normal.”

It doesn’t take much, Kesler notes, to seriously injure an infant by shaking. The difference in size and strength between adult and child coupled with a baby’s weak neck muscles and disproportionately large head can quickly lead to permanent brain damage or death.
 

The article, Brutal Child Abuse on the Rise, states that child abuse may increase as the economy worsens. 

It also provides resources at the end.

It’s a difficult topic, but it’s written with facts and resources. Well done!

Notice how this article, Lynn Child Abuse Rates Outpacing Most of US, provides some context, but discussion of solutions focuses on who? Single moms, of course. Research does find that single parenthood contributes to a small degree of social problems. However, 25 million single parents in a nation of 300 million are not the cause of society’s social ills, including child abuse. Father absence is actually just a small factor. It makes more sense to look at factors like poverty, drug laws, gang prevention and so on than to focus on single mothers.