February 26, 2005
New CPS statistics released
February 26, 2005 [Associated Press]
HOUSTON, February 26, 2005 — Of the 204 children who died from abuse or neglect in fiscal year 2004, 45 were previously reported as possible abuse or neglect victims to the state Child Protective Services agency, according to data released this week.
The figures come as lawmakers are working to reform CPS during the legislative session.
Gov. Rick Perry has endorsed a $329 million CPS reform plan. Among the reforms is developing a more precise way to investigate for signs of future abuse that would reduce the number of cases occurring after investigations are closed.
“At this point we’re trying to look forward to see what we can do to improve this,” Darrell Azar, CPS’ spokesman in Austin, said Thursday. “We’re trying to do anything we can to prevent the death of a child.”
Since 2002, about a quarter of the 591 children who died of abuse in Texas had a previous referral for abuse or neglect to CPS. In the 2004 fiscal year that ended Aug. 31, the 45 children represented 22 percent of all children who died of abuse and neglect.
The year before that, 28 percent of all children who died had a prior abuse or neglect allegation investigated by CPS. In 2002, that figure was 26 percent.
From Sept. 1, 2003, to Sept. 1, 2004, four Cameron County children died from child abuse. They include a 21-month-old child that died Sept. 14, 2003; a 4-year-old child that died Oct. 9, 2003; a 5-month-old child that died Aug. 9, 2004; and an 18-month-old child that died Aug. 28, 2004
The child that died in October had been previously been suspected of being abused and was a CPS case.
Bexar County led the state in 2004 in the number of children previously reported to CPS who later died with seven. Harris County had six deaths and Dallas County had four.
Agency officials said the deaths occurred before or as Perry, a Republican, launched an investigation into the agency and imposed a series of emergency measures as a string of startling child deaths occurred last year.
“We’re really looking at the pre-reform effort data,” Azar said.
Perry in January ordered that an investigations division be created within CPS and the agency is looking for a person with a law enforcement background to fill the leadership post in that office.
The reform plan proposed by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission and backed by Perry also calls for 848 more caseworkers by 2007. It also suggests that investigative techniques used by law enforcement would greatly improve the state abuse investigation system.
“It’s an approach that you take, a little more emphasis on critical thinking skills and a more thorough job of ferreting out information,” said Geoffrey Wool, a spokesman for the Department of Family and Protective Services, CPS’ parent agency.
Brownsville Herald reporter Laura Martinez contributed to this report.
Former advertising salesman pleads guilty to sex abuse
February 25, 2005 [Fox 12 Oregon]
PORTLAND -- A former advertising salesman at a Portland radio station is headed to prison.
David Neel was sentenced to 18 months in prison after he pleaded guilty to one charge of sex abuse in Linn County.
After serving his sentence, Neel will be placed on parole for five years.
Neel also faces charges in Multnomah County for abusing a child during a station sponsored event at Oaks Park skating rink.
Detectives say in November of last year, Neel used his position at the Mix 107.5 to gain access to kids.
Jackson's Lawyer Previews Strategy
February 26, 2005 [Associated Press]
By Tim Molloy
SANTA MARIA, Calif. - A judge has ruled that Michael Jackson (news)'s lawyers can present evidence at his child molestation trial that his accuser's mother has made abuse charges in the past.
The allegations relate to the credibility of the accuser's family. The defense is expected to portray them as after Jackson's money.
Jackson, 46, is accused of molesting a 13-year-old at his Neverland ranch in Santa Barbara County, plying the boy with alcohol and conspiring to hold him and his family captive.
The prosecution alleges the boy was molested after the airing of a TV documentary that showed the boy with Jackson, who said he allowed children to sleep in his bed.
Lead defense attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr. laid out much of his case Friday during motions on whether evidence could be admitted about the accuser's family's lawsuit against J.C. Penney.
The lawsuit claimed J.C. Penney security guards beat them, held them against their will and groped the mother after the boy left a store without paying for clothes.
Superior Court Judge Rodney S. Melville agreed to allow jurors to hear about the lawsuit, although he was critical over how much Mesereau was revealing about his case ahead of opening statements, set to begin Monday.
"You almost laid out your whole case, not for me, but for other people," Melville said, referring to the courtroom packed with observers, including a dozen reporters. Others watched in an overflow room.
Mesereau told the court that the day after the alleged beating by guards, the mother returned to the store and hugged employees, then filed the lawsuit and later amended it to add the groping claim.
Mesereau also said the woman testified in the J.C. Penney case that her husband had never hit her, but later alleged in her divorce that he had beaten his family for years. She also accused her ex-husband of inappropriately touching her daughter, the lawyer said.
The family's lawsuit ended in a $150,000 settlement from J.C. Penney and Tower Records. Mesereau said the mother hid assets from the settlement to get welfare payments from Los Angeles County.
He also said the mother had her son ask celebrities including TV host Jay Leno for money and spent some of the funds on cosmetic surgery.
Prosecutor Ron Zonen argued that the issue was how the mother acquired the money, not what she spent it on, and that the issue was largely irrelevant.
"The question is whether a man who admits to sleeping with children was sleeping with this child, and what he did with this child. That's what this case is about," Zonen said.
Mesereau argued that it all showed a pattern of fraud.
"She got a breast enhancement and a tummy tuck and then told Mr. Jackson and all these people that she was destitute," the attorney said.
The judge ruled that during opening statements lawyers may not show the jury the entire "Living with Michael Jackson" documentary but may use a clip. The prosecution plans to use a two-minute segment. The first prosecution witness is expected to be the documentary's maker, Martin Bashir.
Income tax donations vital to child abuse prevention program
February 26, 2005 [The Charleston Gazette]
By Chandra Broadwater
With nearly $14,000 in grants from the state Children’s Trust Fund last year, workers at the East End Family Resource Center were taught about child abuse prevention.
Children and families in the community were provided resources they could not get on their own, said center Director Derrick Gibson. What’s more, programs like those at the center create awareness about a problem community members often deal with, he said.
“They come to us for help,” he said.
The East End Family Resource Center is just one example of many in the state that benefit from the state Children’s Trust Fund, said Jim McKay, development coordinator for the fund.
It supports more than 300 statewide partners in 22 teams that help children grow up free from child abuse and neglect. It is primarily supported with contributions of state citizens and businesses, in addition to matched federal funds.
The trust fund is also part of the Partners in Prevention Project, which includes groups like the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, the state Department of Health and Human Resources and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources.
Prevent Child Abuse West Virginia administers the trust.
This year, McKay said, the group wants to remind people to donate, simply by marking a box on their state income tax forms.
“We take in about $60,000 a year this way,” McKay said. “And we’d like to grow that as much as possible.”
The fund receives about 90 percent of money through $5 to $10 tax donations, he said. This program turns 20 this year.