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TEXAS News

Post by TomTerrific0420 on Mon May 17, 2010 1:37 pm

The Dallas Children's Advocacy Center says it cannot keep up with the
growing number of children who need counseling after suffering physical
or sexual abuse. Even after adding
another counselor, the center – which handles Dallas cases
referred through Child Protective Services – has had to place
children on a waiting list because of increases in the past five months,
particularly in March. "Some of the types
of offenses we've seen are just breathtaking," said Dr. Ashley
Lind, senior director of clinical services at the center.
The children include those who have faced severe molestation,
family violence and neglect, Lind said.
The Children's Advocacy Center provided 963 counseling sessions for
children in March. That's up from 500 in March of last year.
"We had an all-time high," Lind said. "It's a dramatic
increase." Some experts believe the economy has
played a role. Financial strain has forced more families into
smaller quarters or into housing with relatives, Lind said.
Tighter quarters increase stress and can make children more
vulnerable. CPS reports small increases in North
Texas in the number of confirmed abuse cases, from 16,562 in 2008
to 16,935 in 2009. Numbers for 2010 are not available. And
Dallas police reported 1,475 cases of physical or sexual abuse in
2009, up from 1,391 in 2008 and 1,223 in 2007.
Marissa Gonzales, CPS spokeswoman, said there's no evidence that the
economy is to blame. "While anecdotally we
know that stress on a family, including economic difficulties,
contributes to the incidence of abuse or neglect, we don't have
any way to quantify the effect the poor economy may be having on
the increase in cases," Gonzales said. The
numbers may be rising because more people report abuse, she said. In
addition, the population of children continues to grow.
Other groups reporting an increase in abuse cases include
Children's Medical Center at Dallas, which runs the REACH
(Referral Evaluation of At Risk Children) program. Dr. Matthew J. Cox,
medical director for REACH and assistant
professor of pediatrics at UT Southwestern Medical Center,
described some of the violence against children as "horrific."
"We see head injuries with bleeding around the
brain, we see children with multiple broken bones, we see
children covered in bruises," Cox said. He said many children
have been badly burned. "There are a lot of
children abused in the North Texas area and Dallas every year,"
Cox said. "It's severe abuse that occurs in our own
neighborhoods." The number of Dallas County
children who died from abuse rose to 29 in 2009 from 24 in 2008,
according to the Texas Department of Family and Protective
Services, which oversees CPS. Lind said the
children coming to the Dallas Children's Advocacy Center for
counseling are showing severe depression or aggressive behavior.
"Children typically will respond to traumatic situations
with PTSD," she said, referring to post-traumatic stress
disorder. The disorder can include flashbacks, nightmares and
intrusive images during school. "We're seeing
children who have been witness to [family violence] homicides and
were hurt – whether shot or stabbed – themselves. We're seeing
children who have been locked away for long periods of time and
not fed."
BY THE NUMBERS: ABUSE CASES

Groups, including the Dallas Children's Advocacy Center,
are showing an increase in the number of child abuse cases in Dallas.

Number of client sessions
2007– 7,085
2008 – 7,180
2009 – 8,063
2010 (through April) – 3,337 (almost 500 more than at the same time last year)

SOURCE: Dallas Children's Advocacy Center

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Re: TEXAS News

Post by TomTerrific0420 on Thu May 20, 2010 2:29 pm

Each year, more than 800,000 children are reported missing in
America. Yet, most parents don’t keep a copy of their child’s
fingerprints or other identifying information on hand in case of an
emergency.
In recognition of National Missing Children’s Day, Tuesday, May 25,
Best Western Westchase Mini-Suites (2950 West Sam Houston Parkway South)
and the Texas Center For the Missing encourage parents to stop by the
hotel from 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. to receive a free child identification kit
and tips for talking to kids about safety.
The kits include instructions and supplies to collect a child's
fingerprints, dental records, personal information, photo and DNA
sample. A completed kit can then be made available to police should a
child be reported missing.
First proclaimed by President Ronald Reagan and observed by every
administration since, May 25 is the anniversary of the day when
six-year-old Etan Patz disappeared from a New York street corner on his
way to school in 1979. Etan’s case brought widespread attention to his
and the many others who become missing everyday. His recognition
eventually led to a nationwide commitment to help locate and recover
missing children.

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Re: TEXAS News

Post by TomTerrific0420 on Sat May 29, 2010 4:55 am

Registration is still available for the 10th annual
Court Appointed Special Advocates of Denton County’s charity “Pulling
for Kids Sporting Clay Tournament.”

The event was rescheduled from May 14 to June 17 due to
inclement weather. In addition to the shooting tournament, the event
will feature a gun raffle, award ceremony and steak dinner.

Although the original tournament was rained out, CASA development associate
Lauren Barker said this year could potentially be the biggest yet.

“We currently have about 240 registered shooters and about 50
volunteers signed up,” Barker said. “This could be record participation,
and it’s much bigger than we initially planned.”

The main function of CASA is to train and recruit community volunteers to serve
as court advocates for children who have been removed from their homes
by Child Protective Services due to abuse or neglect. Anyone 18 or older
can sign up, and volunteers undergo a minimum 30 hours of training and
commit to at least a year of service.

“One of the things we pride ourselves on at CASA is consistency,” Barker said. “We will assign a
volunteer to a case, and they typically stay with the child through the
whole thing. The lawyer or judge may change, but the CASA volunteer stays the same.”

In 2009, CASA volunteers served 451 Denton County children.

Proceeds from the “Pulling for Kids” sporting clay tournament go toward
operating expenses and paying staff to train additional volunteers.

Last year, the event raised $50,000. Over
the course of its 10-year history, it has raised more than $340,000 for the organization.

Dixie Berry, president of the CASA board of directors, said a board member came up with the idea for the shooting
tournament when the organization was still fairly new.

“We were looking for something that made more than garage-sale
money, and we didn’t want to host a golf tournament like many other
nonprofit organizations,” Berry said. “So someone suggested a clay
shooting tournament, and we decided to try it.”

Berry has helped organize and attended the event for the past seven years.

“It’s always a good time, and it’s our way to get the rest of the community involved with CASA,” Berry said.

The event begins with lunch
which is followed by clay target shooting at 10 stations. An award
ceremony and dinner are held immediately after the shooting.

“We always give away awards for best male and female shooter,” Berry said.
“We also have our ‘DAL,’ or ‘Dead-ass last’ award. That’s really just for fun.”

In addition to the tournament and the meals, Berry said the event typically features a gun raffle.

“A lot of the guys tend to appreciate that,” Berry said.

Barker said she hopes everyone who signed up for the May tournament will come out next month
and that a few more people will have the chance to register.

Tickets for the tournament cost $125 for an individual or $500 for a team of
five. They can be purchased online at www.casadenton.org or by calling
the CASA office at 940-243-2272. All levels of experience are welcome to
participate.

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Kingwood parent takes action after 7 teenage girls disappear in 2 months

Post by TomTerrific0420 on Tue Jun 01, 2010 4:27 am

The disappearances of seven teenage girls in less than two months
have prompted a concerned parent to question the system that labels them
"runaways."
Ira Kettles-Lemiska started a Facebook
page
to increase awareness about the girls, who all went missing
near her Kingwood home.
Only one, Ali Lowitzer, has drawn much media attention. Lowitzer was
last seen on April 26 getting off her school bus just feet from her home
near Knotty Post Drive and Low Ridge Road in Spring.
Lowitzer, along with the other girls, have been labeled "runaways" by
law enforcement officials, due to a lack of evidence of any foul play.
"The more involved I get, the more I’m hearing, ‘Oh no, they’re a
teenager? Most likely, they’re a runaway.’ That’s just so not fair,"
said Kettles-Lemiska.
The Houston Police Department said it receives between 6,000 and
7,000 missing person reports a year. Most of them are runways.
HPD detectives said every call gets a missing person report opened,
but to see if the teen is likely to be a runaway, they’ll check whether
the teen took their cell phone or a change of clothes. Another question
is whether that teen has a history of disappearance or criminal
activity, and if he or she has used any social networking sites.
Law enforcement officials said having seven missing girls from the
same area is not unusual. There are thousands of similar cases
throughout the Houston area. The reality is, cases involving kidnapping
or assault take priority and get more resources.
But that is small consolation to parents like Stacy Turner, whose
15-year-old daughter, Cynthia, disappeared from her grandmother’s
northwest Houston home on April 12. She admits the teenager likely ran
off, but that doesn’t make the ordeal any easier.
"Not knowing if she’s OK is the scariest part," she said. "They think
that it was the child’s choice. But they’re just kids!"
Any parent who is worried about their missing child is urged to
contact the Laura Recovery Center for
Missing Children.

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Re: TEXAS News

Post by TomTerrific0420 on Sun Jun 06, 2010 2:06 pm

250 cases of abuse include a staff-provoked fight among 7 girls

Workers at a center for distressed children provoked seven
developmentally disabled girls into a fight of biting and bruising as
staffers laughed, cheered and promised the winners a precious prize: after-school snacks.

Four of the girls were injured, according to records
obtained by the Houston Chronicle and The Texas Tribune. State officials
learned of the incident at Daystar Residential Inc. in Manvel the day
after it occurred, when a Daystar employee doing health checks found
bite marks, scrapes and bruises on the girls' bodies.
The fight was one of more than 250 incidents of confirmed abuse and mistreatment in
residential treatment centers during the past two years, based on the
Chronicle/Tribune review of state records.
But unlike last year's scandal at the
Corpus Christi State School, where staffers were found to have forced
mentally disabled adults to fight one another, there were no impassioned
calls for reform. No criminal indictments sought against the
perpetrators. And no lawmakers publicly grilling a state agency about
how it could have happened.

Instead, the two staffers at Daystar, a child residential treatment center located 30
minutes south of Houston, were quietly fired after the fight in 2008.

To this day, the names of the pair — a dorm supervisor and another female worker — are kept secret by
the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, even though
the center, contracted by the state to provide care, has received
$16 million in taxpayer money since 2006.
“Why I'm outraged is, the department hid this from us,” said state Rep.
Patrick Rose, D-Dripping Springs. “This is another example of us having
to find out about systemic failures through the press, as opposed to
proactively from the department. … We could've fixed this problem last
session when we were addressing a very similar issue.”

Choking, punching

Residential treatment center records reviewed by the Chronicle and Tribune show
state investigators confirmed hundreds of violations from mid-2008
through April of this year — at least 250 of them involving abuse,
neglect and mistreatment. All of those centers remain in operation today.
Workers choked and punched kids to get them to behave. Children who were
supposed to be supervised attempted suicide. Kids were threatened with
corporal punishment and forced to strip down to their underwear so they
wouldn't run away. In some cases, residents engaged in sexual acts with
peers, with staff members and, in one case, with a staffer's relative.
In the past five years, six facilities — three of them in the Houston area —
have been shut down or denied a license, but none of those
was still operating between 2008 and the present, the time frame in
which data was reviewed by the Chronicle and Tribune.
One was closed because of a child's death and others because of a failure to maintain
standards or repeated deficiencies.

In the staged fight at Daystar in April 2008, state inspection records
show the two employees gathered the seven “developmentally delayed”
girls, ranging in age from 12 to 17, and forced them to fight.
DFPS investigated, confirmed the abuse, and cited Daystar over several
deficiencies — but didn't put the facility on suspension or probation.
Daystar attorney John Carsey said the state's
conclusions are “misleading and frankly incorrect.” He says the
company fired two female employees who failed to intervene in a shoving
match between two girls — not seven — that resulted in some hair-pulling and nothing more.

“Nobody got hurt,” said Carsey, who declined to provide copies of the
company's internal investigation. DFPS stands by its findings.
“We are very disappointed in Daystar's characterization of this very
serious incident and their criticism of our investigation,” said Sasha
Rasco, DFPS' assistant commissioner of child care licensing. “These
employees staged a fight between these children and cheered as the fight
occurred. A medical examination found four of the girls were injured.”
DFPS did not revisit the fight at Daystar — or report it up the chain — in
early 2009, when police stumbled onto cell phone videos of workers
at the Corpus Christi State School forcing profoundly disabled
residents to fight each other.
“Nobody ever came up from (DFPS) and told us,” said Jay Kimbrough, who was Gov. Rick Perry's
chief of staff when the Corpus Christi fight club news broke. “And
‘fight club' was a magic phrase, a defined term at that point.”
The Corpus Christi fights, staged the same spring the Daystar incident occurred,
brought inflamed criticism from those in the disability community,
prompted Perry to place a moratorium on state school admissions, and
led to the conviction of six workers on charges of injury to a disabled person.
The state poured money into the Department of Aging and Disability Services, which oversees
state schools, to install security cameras and other safety measures.
DFPS “should've stepped up and said, ‘This is bad, this is evil, and we are holding
everyone accountable,' ” said Jeff Garrison-Tate, whose nonprofit
Community Now works for people with disabilities. “You think, ‘How could
it get worse than the Corpus Christi fight club?' Only in Texas could it get worse.”

Troubled children

Since 2006, residential treatment centers have received more than $300
million to care for the most troubled or disabled children taken into
foster care. Children placed at a residential treatment center are there
because basic care for them is not enough. They are likely to bear
deeper emotional scars, and some, in social worker parlance, “act out,
sexually.”
Others have turned to alcoholism or drug addiction. Some struggle with
depression or developmental disabilities.
“Each child in one of these facilities
is troubled, typically with serious emotional disturbance and/or mental
health issues,” said DFPS spokesman Patrick Crimmins.
“These centers are designed to provide treatment for them.”
The state contracts with about 80 residential treatment centers, nearly
half of them in the Houston area.
The state workers at the Corpus Christi State School were arrested and later convicted of
felonies. DFPS officials say they referred the Daystar matter to local
law enforcement. But both the Manvel Police Department and the Brazoria
County Sheriff's Office say they never received any notification.
DFPS refused to release the report it filed with law enforcement and said
it couldn't prove notification was sent; the agency deletes all faxed records after 30 days.

Drugs, sexual contact

The Chronicle/Tribune review of state inspection reports and other records
revealed dozens of incidents of serious abuse and neglect, including
physical beatings and failing to report attempted suicides and
allegations of sexual assault.
Unmonitored youth escaped, stole vehicles, and started
fires. Staff failed to report sexual contact among young kids and
provided others with alcohol and illegal drugs.
Workers punished kids with dangerous physical restraints or long periods of confinement —
sometimes without their clothes. Among the incidents:

• • At the Brookhaven facility
in McLennan County, a child who was supposed to be monitored at
all times left the room and attempted to hang himself with his
shoelaces.A second child swallowed 30 psychotropic pills. Within months
of those incidents, a staffer choked a child and struck him with a milk crate.
• • At Houston's Serenity residential treatment center,
staffers forced residents to strip down to their boxers and take off
their shoes to prevent them from running away.
• • At the Avalon Center in Eddy, staff didn't intervene when a young girl ran into the
highway and yelled for oncoming traffic to hit her.
• • A staffer slammed a door on a resident's head at the Guardian
Angels residential treatment center in Houston.

DFPS insists that disciplinary actions do not have to take the form of license suspensions
to improve care. In the incidents above, Crimmins said three firings resulted
and center policies were changed. DFPS officials do say, however,
there should have been a more elaborate investigation into the
Daystar incident.
“We should have conducted more follow-up, with interviews of the children
and other Daystar employees to make sure that this was an isolated
incident and to make sure that there was nothing in the prior
performance of the two employees that might
have indicated problems,” Crimmins said.

‘Not a perfect system'

The fired Daystar employees' names were added to Texas' abuse/neglect registry, which
means they shouldn't be hired to work in direct care again.
“We believe this operation acted appropriately in response to this
incident,” Crimmins said. “It is not a perfect system, but our goal is
constant improvement and to make these operations as safe as possible.”
Rose, who chairs the House Human Services Committee, said he intends to make some
safeguards mandatory, including a requirement that a surprise inspection
be done within 30 days of an abuse incident.
“My office, our committee, will work
to move the department in this direction immediately,” Rose said.
“Unless we're made aware of the problems, we're left responding to them,
as opposed to fixing them. Here, clearly, the department did a poor job
of reporting systemic failure to the Legislature.”


Last edited by TomTerrific0420 on Sun Jun 06, 2010 2:36 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: TEXAS News

Post by TomTerrific0420 on Sun Jun 06, 2010 2:12 pm

It was nearly five years ago when I first identified the need to
serve youths who were without a place to live. I wasn’t the only one who
experienced the fragile souls of teenagers and young adults who have
either been evicted from their homes or those who choose to leave
because their home environments are intolerable ... we now have a board
of directors for the Christian Development Community Corp.; also known as Our House.
Our board has worked diligently to serve those in the community. This
Board is one of hope, vision and perseverance and we have had great
success. If someone had told me five years ago that we would have two
Community Development Block Grants from the city of Abilene to build a
homeless shelter specific for teenage youths (the first of its kind in
the state), coupled with numerous gifts from generous donors, I would
have said “only in God’s timing.”

The one phrase we continued to hear over and over from community
leaders was “are you sustainable?” We knew there was a need, with more
than 200 youths who currently self-identified within the last school
year as not having a fixed, regular or adequate nighttime residence. We
estimate there are at least another 400 young adults in the Big Country
who do not self-identify, which means they couch surf, begging for a bed
and food from friends, neighbors and extended family members as they are able.

National studies indicate a surprisingly high rate of homelessness
among youths. Researchers estimate that between 5 and 7 percent of the
general teenage population experiences at least one episode of
homelessness each year. This number does not include young adults (aged 18 to
24) who experience homelessness. Homeless youths and young adults
are at risk for physical abuse, sexual exploitation, mental health
disabilities, chemical or alcohol dependency, and death. (National
Alliance to End Homelessness)

So our passion to meet the need was solid, but would our operations
be sustainable if we opened a shelter? Once again, our passion found
logic through BCFS (Baptist Child & Family Services), known as
Texas’ leader for transitional services to youth. Our formal
collaboration with BCFS means we have someone who can manage both the
financial and the emotional needs of the youths who are in need of Our
House. Even more importantly, the youth transition center will
specifically connect youths to community resources helping the youths
become self-sufficient.

And we are ready to build ...

Our new location is west of Lincoln Middle School and south of First
National Bank of Baird on S. 1st Street, directly located in the heart
of the Abilene. Our shelter will serve those within the city limits and
beyond to rural areas of the Big Country.

BCFS’ youth transition center will be open in the Spring of 2011, and
they have a plan to use a case worker which will travel to the
surrounding areas, such as Sweetwater, Albany and Coleman, and work with
school officials to identify those who need services from ages 14-23.
No one will be turned away who is in need and has a desire to improve their lives.

Our shelter and transition center are not focused on if a child has a
“revenue stream” or state funding as they transition out of foster
care. Our services have been and will continue to be focused on serving
any teen in the Abilene and surrounding communities.

We still have $100,000 to raise in the coming months to finish and
furnish our new home. Our youths need Our House. Don’t miss the
opportunity to be involved.

To make a contribution, mail it to Our
House, P.O. Box 2282, Abilene, TX 79604, or visit us on the web at
OurHouseAbilene.org.


The author, Randy Perkins, is the current board chair of Our House Abilene
and has owned restaurants and investments in the Snyder area.
Currently, he works with Pioneer Drive Baptist Church Missions in
Abilene; one of the many supporters of the ecumenical Our House agency.

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Re: TEXAS News

Post by TomTerrific0420 on Mon Jun 07, 2010 2:04 pm

They say stability is one of the keys to raising a successful child.
For children who come into the foster care system to be protected from
neglect and abuse, however, stability can be in short supply.

Child Advocates provides anchors, Court Appointed Special Advocates,
to be a voice for children as they make their way through the stormy
days, months and sometimes years of foster care.

“Last year CASA volunteers advocated in court for 237 children,” said
CA Executive Director Emily Streeton. “As proud as we are of those
numbers, we still had to turn away children who needed CASAs because
there weren’t enough volunteers. We need about 40 more.”

Streeton pointed to the noticeable increase in the number of children
coming into Child Protective Services care just in the past six months.
Reports show 1 in 50 children in Wichita County are victims of abuse
and neglect; 1 in 55 in Montague County are abused.

“This is alarmingly high compared to the statewide average of 1 in
95,” said Streeton.

CASAs can be the only stable influence in the lives of children who
may move through a number of foster homes, be transferred to different
schools and have an assortment of CPS caseworkers assigned to them.

Children who have had CASA advocates, Streeton explained, have better
outcomes and have a better chance of not carrying the cycle of abuse to
another generation.

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Re: TEXAS News

Post by TomTerrific0420 on Mon Jun 07, 2010 2:10 pm

Walden resident Corinne Wyatt works in the Montgomery County
Sheriff’s Office’s felony warrants division. She spends her weekends as a
member of the Brazos Chapter of Bikers Against Child Abuse, a
non-profit organization that provides support and safety to abused children.
By counseling abused children BACA provides positive
influences and helps navigate the children the court system during what
can be a very traumatic time in their lives. Once a month, the group
treat the children to activities like bowling, roller skating or pool parties.
“When we adopt a kid, we want that kid to have the
opportunity to be a kid,” said Wyatt, who goes by the nickname of “Shooter.”
“By the time we go to court, we are their family,” she said.
Wyatt said people are intimidated by bikers, but BACA members
must pass a thorough criminal background check. They are screened for
any history of child abuse or family violence, attend BACA meetings for a
year and must be unanimously voted in by the chapter’s executive board.
All BACA members receive biannual training from a Licensed Mental Health
Professional on how to deal with children, Wyatt said.
BACA members hail from a wide range of professions, including business
owners, police officers, doctors and lawyers who are passionate about
about their concern for children.
“Our problem is not enough people know about us,” Wyatt said.
"When they see the biker image they are afraid of us.”
The organization began in 1995 with one child
in Utah, and has spread to more than 30 states and even Australia.
A former biker himself, Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney
Phil Grant praises BACA’s effort in the county.
“It’s really great,” he said of the group the group. “We can let them handle the
familial support that isn’t our job at the DA’s office. (Abused
children) go through a very traumatic process, and the criminal system is very foreign to them.”
Though members of BACA are professionals at work and don’t want their image to scare people away
from what they do, Wyatt admits they can use intimidation to help their kids in certain situations.
While they dress appropriately in court, some judges allow them to wear their patches to let people know
of their presence. Also, in extreme cases of harassment, BACA members
will stand watch outside a child’s house 24 hours a day for protection.
Wyatt admits she enjoys driving through a child’s neighborhood with the
group, making noise and letting neighbors know they are involved in that child’s life.
“We want to make the neighborhood know that this
is our kid and you have to go through us to get to him,” she said.
Although Wyatt is a former firefighter and has been a part of many
organizations, she said bikers are the closest group she has ever been a part of.
“Whenever you drive by another rider, they always give
this low wave acknowledging another rider,” she said.
She has been a member of the Brazos Chapter for two years now and has seen as
many as 70 kids work with the group during that time. The chapter’s
headquarters are in Brehnam, but they meet once a month at Thirsty
Parrots in Monaville, south of Hempstead. Wyatt said they have worked
with children in Brenham, College Station, Houston and other areas of Texas.
As someone who works with the Sheriff’s Office, Wyatt sees
child abuse cases often and hopes the district attorney’s office will
work with the chapter more in the future.
Grant, an expert in child abuse cases, said he would gladly work with the chapter, although
BACA’s involvement is based on individual cases, and most children
usually work with the Houston chapter.
“We don’t know about children unless a district attorney comes to us,” Wyatt said.

To learn how to get involved or more information go to www.bacausa.com.
For more information on the Brazos Chapter, go to www.bacabrazosvalleytx.org.

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Re: TEXAS News

Post by TomTerrific0420 on Thu Jun 10, 2010 5:26 am

Court Appointed Special Advocates are, unfortunately, a necessity in today's world.
CASA volunteers are advocates for children,
children who wind up in the legal system either through neglect, abuse
or removal from a home. The children are not criminals, they are victims
as surely as any who fall prey to predatory actions by others.
Some are neglected and lack adequate, basic necessities of life while others
are abused in one form or another. Some are the children of parents who
are addicted to drugs, some endure unbearable treatment. Through it all,
they somehow survive.
Once these children enter the judicial system for a
determination of their future, CASA volunteers are appointed by the
court to speak on behalf of the child, advocating for their positions as victims.
Here in Palo Pinto County CASA volunteers have handled some
59 cases involving more than 119 children. Thirty-seven of those cases
have been closed, representing 74 children. Some were reunited with
their families, some were adopted and some reached the age of 18 thus no
longer eligible for representation.
According to Linda Jones, CASA coordinator for Palo Pinto County,
there are now more cases than ever.
As a result, volunteers already working busy schedules are taking on
more cases. More volunteers are needed – people who are willing to
stand up for the children of the county who need their voices heard in
the court system, allowing them a voice in their destiny.
Like everything else, it costs money and the money comes from fund-raisers
and donations. Flinn Stone will hold a fund-raiser 4 p.m.-1 a,m,
Saturday, July 10, at the Trio Club in Mingus which will feature music
by Truman Hudson and Riggin and Sonny Burgess. There will also be silent
and live auctions and a barbecue. All proceeds go to CASA for the Cross
Timbers Area, Palo Pinto County.
Not everyone has the time to dedicate to the children, to help them through tough and sometimes
traumatic times, but many can help those who do.
For tickets, reservations or information, call Sandra Miller, 940-329-8014;
or Martin Flinn, 817-597-5447.

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Re: TEXAS News

Post by TomTerrific0420 on Fri Jul 02, 2010 3:22 pm

Monday's meeting of the state Blue Ribbon Task Force for the prevention
of child abuse and neglect included a lot of what you might expect:
collegial conversation, passionate advocacy and many ideas. But
there was also urgency and a sense that this isn't going to be a group
inclined to blindly give its stamp of approval to just any government
program, practice or law. That would make the work speedy, but it
wouldn't be meaningful. The panel also isn't out to find a villain. As
the task force chairman, Dr. Chris Greeley, noted, child abuse is a
complex problem. So is its solution. Held at St.
Peter-St. Joseph Children's Home, whose executive director James Castro
is task force vice chairman, it was the group's sixth meeting. The
Legislature created the task force last year in a bill sponsored by Sen.
Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio, and Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon, D-San
Antonio, and is composed of nine members appointed by the governor,
lieutenant governor and House speaker. Besides Castro and
Greeley, they include two physicians, an advocate for victims of
domestic violence, a Travis County prosecutor, a Houston minister, a
family counselor and a child-protection advocate. From different walks
of life, they have a common vision. That may not seem like
progress, but observers say it's a first for the state to have a body of
child or victim advocates — one that's not a government institution or
think tank — assess how to improve child-abuse prevention efforts. This
matters because the rise in the number of child-abuse deaths last
fiscal year indicates we're not doing well at all. According to
state figures, child-abuse and neglect-related deaths accounted for 280
fatalities, a 31 percent increase compared to the previous fiscal year
and the highest since the Texas Department of Family and Protective
Services began keeping records in 1998. Per capita, Texas has a higher
rate of child deaths from abuse or neglect than any other state. Tackling
that problem requires an uncommon commitment, and this group is giving
it. The task force wasn't given any resources — its members have only
their wits and networks to help them find their way. Three of
the meetings have been held in Austin, with the other three in Dallas,
Houston and Monday's at St. PJ's. Nearly all the members have attended
the six task force meetings on their own dime. To be fair, several other
Legislature-created task forces, even those with a child-welfare focus,
also are without funding to offer travel reimbursements to its members
or those invited to testify. It's debatable whether this setup
makes the Blue Ribbon Task Force's work more difficult. At the very
least, it's an unfortunate distraction and has driven the panel to stop
meeting in different cities — something they did to hear geographically
diverse testimony from child-welfare workers and others who deal with
issues related to child abuse and neglect. Going forward,
funding for the panel will become more important because the task force
is considering making a pitch to continue its work past Sept. 1, 2011,
when it is due to dissolve. The proof of the task force's value will be
in the ideas it brings to lawmakers in January.

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Re: TEXAS News

Post by TomTerrific0420 on Tue Feb 15, 2011 6:14 pm

Court Appointed Special Advocates of the South Plains will host a
volunteer training session from 5:30-9 p.m. Feb. 17 and Feb. 24.
CASA
is in need of 189 volunteer advocates to provide a voice for children
who are removed from their home and in the foster care system due to
child abuse.
A CASA advocate must be at least 21, have at least 5 to
15 hour a month for a minimum of 18 months and have a desire to
advocate for children. A volunteer application is available at www.casaofthesouthplains.org.

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Re: TEXAS News

Post by TomTerrific0420 on Wed Mar 30, 2011 8:51 pm

Legislation that would raise the age from 6 to 10 for which a child
killer can be charged with the death penalty was approved this morning
by the Texas Senate.

Senate Bill 377 by state Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, would bring
Texas closer in line with other states, most of which have age 12 as the
age-based trigger for capital murder charges.

If victims are under that age, a murderer can be more readily charged with capital murder.

For several years, Texas has had the youngest age — at 6.

Huffman said the change “brings in ages 6, 7, 8 and 9 who have been
murdered and makes it a capital crime to murder children those ages,”
she said.

A Houston case highlighted the need for the change, other senators said.

The measure now goes to the House for consideration.

Get more Legislative coverage inside the Virtual Capitol
http://www.statesman.com/blogs/content/shared-gen/blogs/austin/politics/entries/2011/03/30/deathpenalty_trigger_increase.html

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Re: TEXAS News

Post by twinkletoes on Tue Nov 22, 2011 6:14 pm

Psychiatrist kept working with children for 5 months while abuse claims investigated

Updated: 9:01 a.m. Friday, Nov. 18, 2011
A former Austin State Hospital child psychiatrist accused of sexually abusing
his patients was allowed to continue working with minors at the facility for
five months while the state investigated the allegations against him.


Dr. Charles Fischer, 59, was fired this week amid accusations that he had
abused at least one patient while working in the child and adolescent unit
of Austin State Hospital, a state-run psychiatric facility for people with
mental illness. The investigation was started by the Department of Family
and Protective Services in May, according to multiple sources with direct
knowledge of the case. On Oct. 24, the department told hospital officials
that the psychiatrist had been involved in two instances of sexual abuse
with at least one patient.


Officials have opened a wider inquiry into accusations from at least eight
possible victims dating back to 2001.


Fischer could not be reached for comment Thursday. Fischer's lawyer, Antonio
A. "Tony" Cobos, said "we categorically and vehemently deny
any allegations of misconduct. We have no other comments at this time."


Throughout the five-month investigation, hospital officials allowed Fischer to
continue working with children in the same unit. There is no formal policy
that prohibits whether staffers accused of abuse may interact with patients
during such investigations, said Carrie Williams, spokeswoman for the
Department of State Health Services, which oversees the state hospitals.
With Fischer, the department placed "restrictions on his conduct"
after the allegation, she said, though she declined to provide details.


"Even if we don't transfer an employee away from patients, we could put
strict boundaries on how that person interacts with patients," Williams
said.


The investigation into Fischer's alleged behavior took far longer than most
conducted by the Department of Family and Protective Services. A typical
abuse and neglect investigation is, on average, completed within 12 days,
according to the agency's annual data book.


"This was an extremely complicated case with many variables," said
department spokesman Patrick Crimmins. "It was much more complex and
time-consuming than a typical investigation."


Though Fischer was permitted to continue working with patients, other
situations have been handled differently at Austin State Hospital. For
example, in May 2010, a former nurse accused of throwing a patient into a
wall hard enough to crack the drywall was reassigned to another unit while
the case was investigated.


"It's a judgment call, sometimes a difficult one because of limited
information at the beginning," Williams said. "We're looking at
our policies and practices in this area to see if there is something we need
to do differently."


Austin State Hospital's policy differs from other local facilities for people
with disabilities. The Austin State Supported Living Center, which houses
people with intellectual disabilities, does not allow staffers accused of
abuse or neglect to work directly with patients until the investigation is
concluded, said Allison Lowery, spokeswoman for the Department of Aging and
Disability Services, which oversees the center.


Seton Shoal Creek, a private psychiatric hospital, has a similar policy for
anyone accused of "inappropriate behavior" with clients, said
spokeswoman Adrienne Lallo.


"They would not have access to our patients — adults or children,"
she said.

http://www.statesman.com/news/local/psychiatrist-kept-working-with-children-for-5-months-1977209.html

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Re: TEXAS News

Post by twinkletoes on Fri Nov 25, 2011 5:33 pm

November 23, 2011 11:40 AM
Abusive Texas Judge Claims Child Abuse Victims Are 'Fantasizers'

An Aransas County judge, who was caught on tape brutally beating his daughter, has been suspended by the Texas Supreme Court.

Judge William Adams (R) agreed to a suspension without pay while the
State Commission on Judicial Conduct investigates the allegations
against him, according to The Associated Press. The clerk of the Texas Supreme Court made the suspension official Tuesday.

The judge has not admitted any "guilt, fault or wrongdoing" in agreeing to the suspension.

Adams admitted earlier this month that he was the man in the video seen administering about 20 lashes with his belt to his daughter Hillary Adams, but argued, "It's not as bad as it looks on tape."

"Yeah, that’s me," he later told a local TV reporter. "As you can see, my life’s been made very difficult over this child."

The suspension comes as attorney David Sibley filed another complaint against the judge for manufacturing laws and claiming the testimony of child abuse victims are never believable.

"Judge Adams created nonexistent law stating that children are 'fantasizers' and the statements of children amount to 'no evidence'," Sibley wrote the complaint filed in Aransas County Court at Law Tuesday. "The child's statements were corroborated in several ways and were believable."

The attorney added: "Specifically, he concealed the fact that a primary care giver was homicidal, suidical, hallucinatory, psychotic, heavily drugged, etc."

"The Order signed by Judge Adams that there was no evidence or no investigation is a bald face lie. He is a liar."

The disturbing (and NSFW) 2004 video of Adams beating his then-16-year-old daughter has been viewed over six million times since it was posted on YouTube last month.


http://videocafe.crooksandliars.com/david/abusive-texas-judge-claims-child-abuse-victi

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Re: TEXAS News

Post by kiwimom on Wed Feb 08, 2012 10:55 am

7th February 2012
On any given day, the 19-year-old takes to the streets, turning
tricks for cash to feed her heroin habit. She's long bounced between sex
work, jail, and unsuccessful stints in treatment.

Melissa Lujan, an HIV and AIDS outreach worker who makes her rounds
delivering condoms and bleach kits to the city's call girls, says the
girl's a wreck: doped up and difficult. "She's only 19 years old now and
she's absolutely a mess. A complete mess," Lujan says as we drive
through the city's West Side.

Lujan says she's put out calls to clinics and shelters across the
city to see where she might be able to place her if she is ever willing
to accept help. "All the response I got was, 'Oh, we know her. She's a
very difficult client. Good luck.' Then, click."

Driving across the city, Lujan sighs with every sex worker she spots.
If the 19-year-old is difficult, it's no wonder. Lujan says the girl
was forced into sex work as a child by a mother who sold her to
neighborhood men to feed her own addiction. The girl contracted HIV and
hepatitis C by the time she was 13. "You hear the same thing again and
again: gang affiliated, mom's an addict, father's an addict, parents
were incarcerated," Lujan says. "We view these girls as just your
average prostitutes now."

With a concerted push from state lawmakers over the past three years,
led largely by San Antonio's Democratic state Senator Leticia Van de
Putte, "trafficking" has become a buzzword of sorts in Texas. With the
inaugural meeting of the statewide task force in 2010 and a U.S.
Department of Justice-funded Bexar County trafficking task force,
officials warned of waves of foreign nationals being hustled across the
border and into Texas strip clubs, tea houses, and massage parlors,
"stables" of women sold like cattle by heartless pimps (See "Land of the
lost," June 16, 2009). Lately, however, their focus has turned closer
to home: to local kids bought and sold for sex right under our noses, be
it runaways turning tricks to survive or teens kept in line by pimps
employing violence and drug addiction. "It should shake you to the core
to think that modern day slavery is happening here in our community, in
our state," Van de Putte told the Current. Local officials and advocates
say they've begun to unravel cases involving young victims that the
system should have caught much earlier. Many local children, they fear,
continue to be labeled as habitual truants, delinquents, or runaways
rather than identified as victims of abuse that are simply trying to
survive.

Even in the cases of the only two successful prosecutions of child
sex traffickers by the Bexar County District Attorney's Office the
teenage girls were rescued not by police department stings or
high-profile takedowns but by a juvenile probation officer finally
asking the right questions of kids stuck in lockup on unrelated charges.
"Two years ago, I wouldn't have known how to go about identifying
someone who's a victim of domestic minor sex trafficking," said John
Moran, head of the Bexar County Juvenile Probation Department's gang
supervision program. "Now we know they were there, in our system, but we
just didn't realize it."

In 2009, Bexar County Juvenile Probation Department, prodded by the
task force, implemented a new, more comprehensive screening process for
juvenile defendants: a series of more probing questions about the
child's exposure to sex and violence. Moran was stunned by the results.
So far, about 90 minors in the system have been flagged — all, he said,
showing the warning signs of a trafficked or sexually exploited child.
Since they began the more comprehensive screenings, the department's
confirmed and sent 22 cases to local law enforcement for further
investigation and possible prosecution. One, Moran says, was a girl who
ran away at 15 after being sexually abused by her father. She hooked up
with a group of adult men who, in time, became her pimps, moving city to
city selling the girl to johns. When pressed, some of the children even
began to divulge information on detailed ledgers tracking the johns and
the cash, Moran says. "That indicates to me that there were ongoing
clients for some of these kids."

But while the local task force brought increased awareness, education
and training, the resources that made them possible are already
collapsing.

"I'm exhausted, my referral resources are exhausted. And that applies
to virtually every agency in Texas," Lujan said. "What's it matter if I
find these girls on the street if there's nowhere I can take them?"

Last year, Bexar County lost the $1 million federal grant that had
funded the task force. A last-minute infusion of $200,000 from a state
grant is keeping the unit — and its two full-time investigators who
handle about 50 cases annually — afloat through most of 2012. It won't
even come close to covering the victim services funded in the past,
however.

The half-million-dollar grant enabling Project Carinó at the Center
for Health Care Services, a program providing intensive substance abuse
and mental health counseling for local women, most of whom were sold for
sex as children, may also phase out this year, according to program
director Briseida Courtois. And the area's only specialized shelter for
domestic trafficking victims, Embassy of Hope, closed last May after
private donations dried up and Director Elizabeth Crooks was unable to
secure grant funding.

Meanwhile, two forces on the front lines of the fight against child
exploitation, public schools and Child Protective Services, have been
drastically impacted by state funding cuts, points out Chris Burchell, a
former sheriff's department investigator who handled Bexar County's
first child sex trafficking cases before founding the nonprofit Texas
Anti-Trafficking in Persons. As the school took a multi-billion-dollar
hit, the Center for Public Policy Priorities estimates Child Protective
Services' 2012-2013 budget is 10 percent below what the agency said it
needed to manage its existing case load. Lawmakers specifically cut
child abuse and neglect prevention programs by 44 percent.

Van de Putte often recalls the case of a 16-year-old runaway from
Oregon who was arrested in South Texas on drug possession and
prostitution charges. Repeat hospitalizations and severe health problems
brought him to San Antonio for medical care. In 2006, Van de Putte got a
call from a worried doctor at University Health Science Center. "I
remember the physician telling me, 'I really just don't think this child
could have endured these types of injuries willingly,'" she said. The
boy, malnourished, showed signs of chronic abuse and had internal
injuries so severe that his bowel had to be surgically re-sectioned.
When authorities looked closer, they found the boy had been doped up and
forced to have sex with as many as 10 men a day. The pimp threatened to
kill the boy's younger sister if he didn't do as he was told.

The next year, Van de Putte pushed for the state to mandate
sex-trafficking training for all law-enforcement officers, something the
law-enforcement community balked at. "The response was just, 'Oh, these
kids are just prostituting themselves for drugs.' Amazingly at that
time law enforcement just did not have that sensitivity," she said. Her
bill failed, but lawmakers ordered the attorney general's office and the
Texas Health & Human Services Commission to study human trafficking
in the state — both international and domestic. The report zeroed in on
law enforcement's failure to identify and assist minor victims. By
2009, Van de Putte pushed for and got the first state-level legislation
to assist domestic victims by training law enforcement and creating the
statewide Human Trafficking Prevention Task Force.

With two successes now under its belt, the Bexar County DA's office
is slated to try two more high-profile child sex trafficking cases this
spring. And officials expect even more coming down the pike. Kirsta
Melton, a family violence prosecutor in the DA's office who started
handling the county's trafficking cases in 2008, says she's seen nine
victims so far, all young girls, and hopes to prosecute some 40
defendants. "My gut tells me there's a sub-population of kids like this
in San Antonio that are just under the radar," she said. One of the
successful prosecutions involved a victim born to a heroin-addict mother
on San Antonio's Westside. The child got her start in a dumpster.
According to her grandmother, the mother threw the child away when she
was born and extended family literally had to fish her out of the trash.
The mother would later die of an overdose; the father molested her.
After she ran away from home at age 11, she met Elizabeth Delgado, a
downtown San Antonio prostitute, according to prosecutors. For the first
few days, Delgado helped care for and feed the girl, but then she told
the girl she had to pull her weight. She taught her how to start turning
tricks. After a few months taking "clients," the girl ran away again,
only to bounce in and out of foster care and juvie. By the age of 15,
she stumbled across Julian Maldonado, a reported Mexican Mafia member on
the Westside who began pimping her out to neighborhood johns. Maldonado
started feeding the girl drugs to keep her placid, according to
attorney Melton, who prosecuted the case.

While the details of her abuse are disturbing, so is how the case was ultimately caught.

After Maldonado forced her to sleep with an elderly man, a john in
his late 60s, the girl fought back. She ran from a Westside motel room
with the man's pants and wallet. When Edgewood School District police
found her, they arrested her for theft and locked her up. "When we went
back and looked we couldn't believe it," Burchell said. "It was book
her, then slammer. She just went through the system. No one was paying
attention."



It was only in juvie that the girl finally got treatment for her drug
addiction, learned she had HIV and hepatitis C, and slowly began to
divulge the details of her abuse to a therapist. Seven years after the
child was first coerced into the sex trade, her pimp Maldonado pleaded
no contest in May of 2011 in exchange for a 10-year sentence.

At a conference with local health care providers in January, Miriam
Elizondo, vice president of client services at Rape Crisis Center in San
Antonio, said a central problem is that victims are slow to
self-report. Typically, she said, fewer than one percent of the Center's
clients identify themselves as trafficking victims. And when the Center
took to reviewing its cases, Elizondo says they were shocked to find
how many children were being classified as sexual assault or child abuse
victims when they could have been trafficking cases. "It's crucial we
identify these cases," she said. "There are significant long-term needs
involved."

Some clients, she said, come in unable to speak, contemplating suicide or have already attempted suicide.

Melton's other successful prosecution is the highly publicized case
of a 12-year-old girl forced into sex slavery at an Eastside crack
house. Brothers Juan and Bobby Moreno kidnapped the child and locked her
in the bathroom, according to authorities. According to the girl's
testimony, the brothers raped her and then kept her for 10 days.
Customers at the crack house could pay extra for sex with the girl. In
all, she was forced to have sex with about 25 men, and when she resisted
she was tied to the bed. According to court records, some of the johns
snapped nude photos of the girl with their cell phones. Eventually a
neighbor came to the house, recognized the girl, and rescued her.

Burchell, who eventually investigated the case, recalls interviewing
the girl. "When I walked out of that room, I got teary eyed. She
described some of the most sadistic shit that a human being could
endure." Melton says the girl has never really recovered. "She has
continued within the juvenile system to struggle significantly." Juan
Moreno received four life sentences in late 2010. His brother Bobby is
set to be tried on similar charges this coming spring.

For law enforcement, the concept of "human trafficking" is still a
relatively new one. The feds didn't recognize it until 2000 when
Congress passed the Trafficking Victims and Protection Act. It took
until 2008 to put domestic victims under that umbrella.

Burchell likens the growing awareness to that surrounding domestic
violence. After decades of inattention, advocates and law enforcement
slowly built an infrastructure to identify and support victims of
domestic abuse, while lawmakers acted to make abusers easier to
prosecute. "Basically, mamma gets beaten by a drunk or whatever at the
house, we have everything we need to remove her, house, clothe, and feed
her. And we can put that guy in jail, then put him out on the street
with protective orders," he said.

States are still scrambling to build similar network for young victims of sexual exploitation, he says.

The prospect of domestic minor sex trafficking has also forced
officials to ask hard questions about how the system deals with
prostitutes more generally, Melton says. "I think when we arrest these
women [involved in prostitution], we have an obligation to begin to talk
to them about what's going on. … A lot of times if you find adult
prostitution, you find a child component there."

But the criminal justice system is often unforgiving, says Courtois
of Project Carinó. Sex workers with multiple arrests, often for a mix of
prostitution and drug abuse, are still frequently dismissed as
degenerates, prejudices that keep past exploitations from surfacing.
"We've heard a judge say this in open court, that 'You're nothing but an
addict and that's all you'll ever be,'" Courtois said. "When you have a
system telling them this over and over, they start believing it. … The
problem is, we've realized like 70 percent of our women were victims of
exploitation. As kids they can remember their parents, family, or
someone exchanging them for sex with men."



Tackling domestic minor sex trafficking also means confronting
uncomfortable connections, says Elizabeth Crooks with Embassy of Hope.
Like many anti-trafficking advocates, Crooks squarely blames a
hyper-sexualized society and points to legal sexually oriented
businesses — including strip clubs and the "barely-legal" internet porn
sites — as breeding grounds for child exploitation. "Many of the girls
I've seen have worked in quote-unquote legal establishments. Dancing or
porn or whatnot," she says. "I don't care what you say, that has a dark
side. … Girls that are underage aren't doing it of their own will."

"Jessica" ran away from a well-off Northside San Antonio family to
start stripping at a Northside club at age 17. "They wanted to snatch me
up before I turned legal and some other club got me," she says. After a
few weeks of dancing, club owners told Jessica they'd fire her if she
didn't start "taking care" of customers in the back room. Eventually,
they sold her out for sex on a routine basis. A heroin addiction and
boyfriend who brutally beat her when she didn't bring home the cash kept
her involved. "I was just stuck. I'd go in night after night and just
want to die," she says.

Advocates say the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission plays a key
role in the anti-trafficking movement, issuing citations for "sexual
contact," underage nude dancing, or for having prostitution on premises.
According to TABC records Bexar County clubs Sugars, Essence, Endless
Music, and the San Antonio Men's Club have all received prostitution
complaints within the past decade.

One Houston-area woman, now 26 who wished to be identified as
"Grace," found help from Crooks and Embassy of Hope. A runaway at age 9,
Grace survived by having sex with adult men who'd in turn feed,
shelter, and pay her. By the time she was a teenager, she was being sold
in strip club champagne rooms, shady health spas, modeling studios, and
massage parlors across Houston and other Texas cities. The pimps flew
her and others to Nevada, where they registered as sex workers. "I was
always inside. I was never allowed to go outside the studio or club,"
Grace said. Drugs kept things bearable. One night, while she was in a
drug-induced daze, her pimp gave her a large back tattoo ("It was
basically a brand he put on some of his other girls"). Once, when she
refused to work, a pimp stuck a gun to her temple.

In counseling, she's now a witness in a federal case against six men
charged with a litany of federal crimes, including sex trafficking of
children, sex trafficking by force, and the transportation and coercion
of minors.

Along with adult entertainment, anti-trafficking activists have eyed
another target: adult classified advertisements. Last November, when the
National Association of Attorneys General gathered in San Antonio for
their annual conference, domestic minor sex trafficking was front and
center. Washington State Attorney General and NAAG President Rob McKenna
stood beside former congresswoman Linda Smith, now president of the
anti-trafficking nonprofit Shared Hope International, to promote the
group's crusade against sex trafficking. Both decried adult classifieds —
particularly of the online variety at Backpage.com,
a website for classified ads owned by Village Voice Media Holdings
(which includes the Houston Press and Dallas Observer in its stable of
13 weekly papers) — that cover some 500 cities around the world
including San Antonio.

Last August, in an open letter signed by more than 40 state attorneys
general, the group called Backpage a "hub" for human trafficking, and
late last month the coalition pushed for Washington state lawmakers to
pass a bill that clamps down on companies that don't demand ID before
allowing sex-related ads to be posted online. (Those placing adult ads
in the Current's classified pages are required to submit an ID).
Backpage has so far declined to do so and has indicated that if passed,
the company would challenge the new law, saying it's in violation of the
1996 Communications Decency Act. Most recently, VVM took a serious
drubbing from New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, who last month
detailed the grisly case of a 13-year-old Brooklyn girl who
investigators say was pimped via Backpage.com. He called the site "a
godsend to pimps, allowing customers to order a girl online as if she
were pizza."

While Melton, Burchell, and others say adult classifieds and Backpage
have become ubiquitous in child sex trafficking, VVM contends it's made
significant investments in technology and editing staff to screen its
adult ads. The site says its editors report suspicious cases to the
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and has even
assisted in investigations. Similar scandal enveloped Craigslist in 2009
over its adult classified, eventually pushing it out of the
adult-classified business.

VVM's open letter to critics reads, in part: "Neither government
officials nor God's advocates can dictate such arbitrary control of
business or free speech. … Complicated issues require sophisticated
solutions, not PR flurries."

Perhaps most striking, VVM's own reporters have jumped into the
squabble with a series of pieces aimed at discrediting a widespread
"sex-trafficking panic" pumped by what the writers called "sex
prohibitionists" — those bent on ending "the world's oldest profession,"
along with porn or adult entertainment of any kind. (With critics
estimating VVM makes $22 million a year from sex ads, the company
certainly has a dog in the fight and readily admits so in each of its
installments.) One feature, circulated in all but one of the company's
weeklies last June, targeted celebrity Ashton Kutcher for publicly
citing faulty data on sex trafficking. "Real Men Get Their Facts
Straight," read the headline, a snarky jab at Kutcher's "Real Men Don't
Buy Girls" PSAs.

Indeed, much of VVM's coverage dwells on the widely cited data
surrounding sex trafficking, contenting the feds have given millions in
grants to advocacy groups, often to launch public-awareness or education
campaigns, who hype the scope of the problem and inflate the numbers.

In attempting to get at the scope of child sex trafficking, advocates have touted suspect statistics.

In one study, the Women's Funding Network alleged exponential
increases in underage sex trafficking over the course of mere months in
targeted markets after studying a handful of major American cities. A
Texas version of the study was replicated for the Dallas Women's
Foundation in 2010 as authorities issued dire warnings to the media that
Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium would bring a deluge of underage
prostitutes. Arrests ultimately proved to be negligible. Neither of the
studies actually surveyed or much less located any underage sex workers.
Researchers concede there's no direct way to safely study, or make
contact with, children in the sex trade. Their methodology essentially
amounts to perusing ads for hookers and escorts over a period of weeks
and marking which ones appear to be underage. The verdict? "The latest
Texas statewide data suggests 188 girls under 18 are commercially
sexually exploited on a typical weekend night via internet classified
websites and escort services," reads Shared Hope's most recent report on
domestic minor sex trafficking in the state. It's a figure the Current
erroneously cited in December when reporting on the release of the
report.



The reality is there's no large, empirical study gauging the
prevalence of child prostitution, says David Finkelhor, director of the
Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New
Hampshire. No one really knows how many juveniles are sold for sex
across the country. Estimates on child prostitution range from 1,400 a
year (FBI Uniform Crime Report data) all the way to 2.4 million, an
oft-cited figure lifted from dated and questionable research largely
based on hunches. According to Finkelhor, none of the espoused estimates
are based on strong data. Instead they hinge on "educated guesses or
extrapolations based on questionable assumptions."

While the feds collect national data, the U.S. Department of Justice
itself concedes "comprehensive research to document the number of
children engaged in prostitution in the United States is lacking." A
2006 DOJ study that analyzed FBI data found the system caught 1,400
children engaged in prostitution in one year, though that number's
widely seen as a low-ball. "In truth, not many law enforcement agencies
are actively arresting youth in regard to this problem," he says. Most,
he says are arrested for other crimes — like drug possession, curfew
violation, or others. While the data may be plausible, he says, "no one
believes this estimate fully characterizes the problem."

Aggregating state and local law enforcement data, the Texas
trafficking task force reported in 2011 that 369 children had been
identified as domestic minor sex trafficking victims in the state
between 2007 and 2011. University of Texas at San Antonio social work
professor Bob Ambrosino and two dozen of his students made a documentary
on the local minor sex trade last year. They hit the streets for a
month, filming at a furious pace to capture stories of active and former
sex workers, finding most had been forced into the trade as minors. In
late November, they screened an hour-long documentary, titled Behind
Closed Doors: Voices from the Inside, for local social workers,
professors, victims advocates, and policymakers. "Based on what we
found, I feel it's a grossly underreported problem," Ambrosino said.
"Part of what we discovered is that a lot of the professionals, whether
health care, police, or what have you, were just not sensitized to the
problem. When you've got a minor that's picked up for prostitution,
there's probably something else going on there," he said.

It took until 2010 for Texas' handling of juvenile prostitution to
change from a system that viewed delinquents in need of prosecution to
one that recognized children in need of saving. That year, the Texas
Supreme Court ruled that a 13-year-old runaway girl, sentenced to 18
months probation after she was caught offering to give an undercover
Houston cop a blowjob for $20, couldn't be charged with selling sex.
"Children are the victims, not the perpetrators, of child prostitution,"
wrote then-outgoing Justice Harriet O'Neill. The state estimates that
between 2006 and 2009, an average of 63 kids a year were arrested on
prostitution charges in Texas. San Antonio police arrested just 16
minors for prostitution in the past decade, according to police records
obtained through a state open records request.

While an omnibus bill pushed by state Senator Van de Putte in the
last legislative session dolls out harsher penalties to child
traffickers, Ambrosino says state law still pales to the severity, and
clarity, of federal statute. Child victims of sexual exploitation can
also be hard to identify because they don't always come forward.
Ambrosino insists homeless teens or runaways selling sex in exchange for
shelter or food, so-called "survival sex," often go unnoticed. In an
attempt to crack down on those soliciting sex, Van de Putte's bill laid
out harsher penalties for johns caught with minors, bumping the highest
penalty from a state jail felony to a first degree felony. "It doesn't
matter anymore if we can prove they knew the girl was a child," Van de
Putte said.

Alfonso Garcia does HIV outreach with the local nonprofit We Are
Alive. Starting five years ago he began running across young men, often
juveniles, gathering outside local gay bars and in parks selling sex to
survive. Most he interviewed said they started out as young boys after
being thrown out of their homes for being gay. "One had been doing it
since he was a child, like 10 years old. They're forced to live like
that at such a young age," Garcia said. "Their self-esteem is so
battered by the time they've [turned 18] they just think this is what
you do to survive. And most people just write them off as criminals."

Ambrosino has his own views as to the local causes. In parts of town
long battling gang activity and drug abuse, cases largely followed a
pattern involving intergenerational domestic violence, child abuse, and
heroin or crack addiction. It also goes back to how society, as a whole
views children, he says, and pervasive infantilism — what Ambrosino
calls "the unending search for the virgin." It's a concept reinforced by
our advertising-drenched culture that runs heavy on photos of women
made up to look young and innocent.

For those paying attention, child sex trafficking is easier to find
in local headlines. Former Spurs guard Alvin Robertson is set to go to
trial next month on charges that he forced a 14-year-old San Antonio
runaway into stripping and prostitution. Last October, police charged
Kwaiku Agyn with forcing a 16-year-old runaway into prostitution. The
same week, police accused a woman of selling off her teenage daughter
for three years to support her own cocaine habit.

"Debbie" tells an increasingly familiar story. Her parents divorced
when she was five years old. Her mother, a heroin addict who wasn't
making enough cash to support the habit, began selling her by the time
she was 6. At first the mother would only let men molest and fondle her.
"I'd be in pain and I would start to cry," she recalls. "So she
injected me with heroin at the age of six." By the time she turned 8,
the mother started letting men have sex with her.

At 11, Debbie got pregnant. Though child protection workers
questioned the mother, she lied, saying Debbie had become pregnant when
she ran away from home.

Sometime after her own child was born, Debbie's mother forced her to
get married. After that, she cycled in and out of sex work and
addiction. Her husband, a much older man, would beat her and sell her
off when he needed his fix. "I would think why didn't anyone come
looking for me?" she said. "Like, why aren't the school people trying to
find out where I'm at?"

Advocates say victims like Debbie have always been there. We just weren't looking for them.

The only question remaining is whether we can develop a system
equipped to find and treat these trauma-scarred child victims. "The
system has failed most of these individuals at such a very young age,"
says Lujan, as we continue our drive into the Eastside. She points to
young women perched on street corners and outside clubs and spills her
frustration over compromised funding, stretched resources, and
overburdened caseworkers. She's waiting to see whether the system again
fails these young girls if and when she can pull them off the street.

http://sacurrent.com/news/underage-sex-trafficking-is-everywhere-local-law-enforcement-looks-but-will-their-budgets-hold-out-1.1268733

kiwimom
Supreme Commander of the Universe With Cape AND Tights AND Fancy Headgear
Supreme Commander of the Universe With Cape AND Tights AND Fancy Headgear


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