Wednesday, February 14, 2024

NCCPR news and commentary round-up, week ending February 13, 2024

● There was excellent reporting this week on two states that destroy astounding numbers of Native American families every year, and the state officials who don’t give a damn about itI have a short blog post about it, including links to excellent reporting from the Montana Free Press, South Dakota Searchlight and the Sioux Falls Argus-Leader. 

● Remember the children who were torn from their parents and thrown into foster care because the parents committed the crime of Driving While Black?  Now, Tennessee Lookout reports, the mother is suing.  And with the lawsuit come new details about what the family endured: 

According to the lawsuit, before the children were taken, even a state trooper showed more humanity than “child welfare” agency caseworkers: 

“Trooper Clark told (DCS caseworkers) Pelham and Medina that Clayborne was a good mother, that she should be released so that she would not be separated from her children, that the kids were not being neglected or abused, and that it would be best for everyone for Clayborne to stay with the children,” the lawsuit said. 

The caseworkers took the children anyway.  And after the family was reunited: 

Even after they were returned, the kids have displayed signs of trauma: the couple’s now-six-year-old son begs his mother “please don’t them come back and take us.” He experiences nightmares and wets the bed. Another child “has a visceral reaction to seeing police."

The Imprint has a useful state-by-state guide to laws that curb the practice of family police agencies swiping foster youth's Social Security benefits.  

KUSA-TV Denver has more about a case of a now former family police caseworker, Robin Niceta. Niceta took advantage of anonymous child abuse reporting (but did a poor job covering her tracks) to falsely accuse a member of the Aurora City Council, Danielle Jurinsky, of child abuse. Sentencing has been delayed because Niceta’s lawyer is ill.  That illness is real.  Less real, it appears, was a previous request by Niceta to delay her trial because she supposedly had a brain tumor.  She’s now been charged with falsifying the medical records. (If the charges are true, she apparently wasn’t good at that, either). 

What was not delayed were victim impact statements in the original false allegation case.  Jurinsky’s father told the court: 

"Your Honor, every lie and every evil criminal action committed by this defendant against Danielle and our family was planned, not random, spur-of-the-moment decisions, but planned and researched. She hoped it would it would succeed in removing a son from his home and destroy a family. This is why this person should not receive leniency from the court." 

The whole ordeal never could have started if not for the fact that, like 48 other states, Colorado allows anonymous reporting. They should do what Texas did and largely replace it with confidential reporting, in which the accused still doesn’t know the name of the accuser, but the family police do. 

In the Virginia Mercury, Valerie L’Herrou, deputy director of the Center for Family Advocacy, urges support for legislation that would bolster the quality of family defense in that state. She writes: 

In Virginia, one issue that contributes to poor outcomes for children in foster care is the extremely poor system of legal representation for parents of children in foster care. Multiple other states have vastly improved the quality of legal representation for parents, because this has been shown to improve outcomes for children in the system. 

● In Rhode Island, state officials have given a whole new, unfortunate, and stunningly naïve meaning to the concept of “passing the smell test.” I have a blog post about it. 

In this week’s edition of The Horror Stories Go In All Directions:

Hawaii, 2021: six-year-old Ariel Sellers was allegedly adopted to death.  Though relatives wanted to take her in, she was placed with strangers.  Ultimately, they adopted her and changed her name to Isabella Kalua.  The foster/adoptive parents have been charged with murdering the child.  She allegedly died trapped in a dog cage with duct tape covering her mouth and nose. 

Hawaii: 2024: Because the family police agency is stonewalling, a lot still is unknown, but as Honolulu Civil Beat reports, ten-year-old Geanna Bradley appears to have been a foster child.  The presumed foster parents obtained guardianship status – and were paid $1,961 per month to “care” for her.  Then, police allege they “restrained her with duct tape [and] confined her to a tiny space while they collected money for her care”  and ultimately killed her. According to Hawaii News Now  Prosecutors say Geanna’s death was “especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel, manifesting exceptional depravity.” KHON-TV reports she suffered “multiple injuries to her face including her ears, eyes, forehead, cheeks, lips and a road rash-type of injury on her chin. Part of her nose bridge was missing.” 

Another child, this one known to have been adopted, also was found abused in the same home. 

Hawaii Public Radio got comment on the case from Prof. Dorothy Roberts, author of Shattered Bonds and Torn Apart and a member of NCCPR's Board of Directors who said:

"This is just one example of a child who was harmed after the system took her from her home. As far as I could tell from the father who was interviewed, she would have been better off in his care than in the care of these people who abused her." 

One other thing to know about Hawaii: The state takes away children at a rate more than 40% above the national average.