Youth Services Law

Showing 12 posts from February 2009.

That Didn't Take Long

Legal blogs already are picking up on the study that I mentioned yesterday. The normally-solid Sexual Abuse Claims Blog quotes one report that "child abuse can permanently alter the way your genes fight stress, leaving victims of childhood abuse more vulnerable to stressful events throughout their life."  

Let's all repeat one more time - the study looked at a grand total of 36 tissue samples. To quote a neurobiology professor, "The bottom line is that this is a terrific line of work, but there is a very long way to go either to understand the effects of early experience or the causes of mental disorders."

If you run across an expert who makes this claim about the results of childhood abuse, take a good look at the studies they are relying on. As one of my favorite literary characters said, "Wizards should know better."

Exaggerating Results of Research Studies

News articles about a recently-published neurological study illustrate how easily a poorly-supported claim can become accepted dogma. The current issue of Nature Neuroscience reports a study of the brain tissue of people who had died under varying circumstances. They found significant differences in the brains of people who had suffered abuse as children.

Numerous news agencies reported the study, announcing breathlessly that child abuse "permanently alters" how the brain responds to stress, that child abuse alters the brain, and that child abuse "causes lifelong changes" to the brain. The study, however, proved no such thing.

Continue reading Exaggerating Results of Research Studies ›

Recovery from Sexual Abuse

The Journal of Mental Health Counseling has an interesting article discussing factors that help children recover from sexual abuse. The focus of the article is "transgenerational trauma and child sexual abuse," but it has a very helpful section summarizing recent research into factors that aid a child's recovery from abuse. Those factors include:

•  Self-perception. When children think their pre-abuse lives were positive, they are more likely to have a positive self-image after the abuse.

•  Reaction of support network. When adults around the child deny the abuse or support the perpetrator, children are at greater risk for negative symptoms.

•  Emotional support . Children who receive support from their primary caregivers show fewer symptoms than children who lack that support. One study suggests that maternal support is a more important factor than the nature of the abuse or the child's relationship to the offender.

Hat tip: The Phrenologist's Notebook

Back in The Saddle

Posted In Miscellaneous

My apologies for the break in posting.  A nasty sinus infection and business travel kept me away from a reliable Internet connection for longer than I expected.

Pool Safety Law

Posted In Youth Camps

I spent part of last week at the American Camping Association Convention, learning about current standards in the camping industry. One of the hot topics was the recent Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act. The law, passed in December, requires retrofitted safety features for public pools, and "public" has a broad definition. Many camps and other pool owners have been unable to find drain covers and other safety features that comply with the law, so have been forced to close their pools.

Alternative to Injury Waivers

Posted In Youth Camps

In this earlier post about injury waivers no longer being valid in Florida, I listed some reasons to continue to use injury waivers.  Michael Wetzel posted an intriguing comment:

I recommend "participation agreements" which employ a mediation then arbitration (med/arb) clause instead of release language. Courts will enforce the agreements, making parties use ADR, which saves time and expense and provides greater predictability in outcome. Insurance companies should be notified and allowed to participate, but the settlements/awards are covered by the "duty to pay" policy language.

I am an enthusiastic supporter of mediation, even though I joke that a successful mediation takes all the fun out of being a trial lawyer.  I have had more mixed results with arbitration.  Just because someone is an arbitrator does not mean that they have any more knowledge or expertise about a particular subject than anyone else.  Sometimes you get a great arbitrator who does have specialized knowledge.  Sometimes you have only narrowed your pool of uninformed factfinders to a single person.

Update: Cheerleading is a contact sport, after all

In December, I blogged about the Wisconsin appellate decision holding that cheerleading is not a "contact sport," as the  negligence statute defined it. The Wisconsin Supreme Court has disagreed. In its opinion (, the court held that the fellow student who had failed to go to his proper spot could not be held liable for negligence.

This is a solid, common-sense decision. Clearly, the state legislature intended to  shield individual students from negligence claims by fellow athletes. High school sports have some unavoidable dangers, including the fact that high school students sometimes lack coordination, skill, and even ordinary judgment. Most parents believe that the benefits of sports outweigh those risks. When a student accidentally injures a fellow athlete, the law does not need to be involved.

Thanks for the plug

Posted In Miscellaneous

Welcome, readers of CKA Mediation Blog. The author of that blog, Chris Annunziata, has some great ideas about alternative dispute resolution that you should check out.

Charges Dropped in MRSA Death

Posted In Illness, Youth Camps

A court has dismissed all criminal charges stemming from a teenager's death in a "boot camp" program. The 15-year-old died from an untreated staph infection. I missed earlier reports about this case, including this one giving some unverified details of the the child's death. If the allegations are true, it seems that someone should have at least checked his temperature. I am sympathetic to the difficulty in determining whether a child "feels bad," but fevers are hard to fake. 

I have not seen any reports showing that any of the staff had the intent necessary for a criminal conviction. The civil case that remains, however, will have a lot of jury appeal.

MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus) is quickly becoming a common, almost epidemic, occurrence in youth camps, schools, and day care centers. We are long past the time when caregivers could claim that it is an unusual disease that never would have occurred to anyone as a possibility. MRSA is too dangerous a disease to leave untreated. The CDC, for example, has found a fivefold increase in deaths where a child had both the flu and MRSA.

Every organization that cares for children needs to be familiar with the symptoms of MRSA, and the CDC's website about controlling its spread.

Exposure to Domestic Violence as Child Abuse?

The new issue of Child Maltreatment has a provocative article arguing for treating exposure to domestic violence as a form of child abuse.  This argument is gaining credibility in the mental health circles, in light of so many studies showing how children who only witness domestic violence exhibit many of the same symptoms as children who are direct victims.  

The article is worth purchasing simply for the list of research studies showing the effects of witnessing domestic violence. Any attorney or expert working on cases involving alleged or proven abuse should be familiar with that research. As I noted in my post about a study released last fall, competent experts must be able to rule out domestic violence as an alternate cause of symptoms and/or damages in litigation.

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