Youth Services Law

Showing 7 posts from May 2009.

Traveling again

Posted In Miscellaneous

I haven't blogged lately, and won't be blogging for the next few weeks, because I will be traveling on a family vacation through June 17. Then, I'll be speaking at the APSAC Colloquium in Atlanta. If you're planning to be there, drop me an email. I would love to make connections or talk again to old friends.

Verbal Aggression Related to Child Adjustment Issues

The current issue of Child Maltreatment has a fascinating study on children exposed to domestic violence.  Unlike similar studies, this one looked not only at battery-type violence, but also verbal aggression.  The researchers found that women and men were equally likely to be involved in aggression and violence, including verbal aggression.  They also found significant adjustment issues in children who experienced only verbal aggression.

Like all studies, this one has limits and needs to be replicated.  In the legal setting, however, it adds a significant wrinkle to the question of damages.  In any case where mental health is an issue, both the expert witnesses and attorneys need to investigate and account for domestic violence, including relatively moderate verbal aggression.

Child Stuck in Potty, Freed

Posted In Humor

From Minor Troubles, we learn that firefighters in Britain were able to free a child who got her foot stuck in a child's potty.  They even were able to "keep the potty intact for future use."  

Experienced parents know that one essential to responding to these type of emergencies is taking lots of pictures to use to blackmail your children when they are teenagers.

Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation Syndrome is Not A Diagnosis

An article about a convicted child molester whose victim has recanted her testimony caught my eye last week.  It wasn't the victim's change of heart that interested me.  As a former prosecutor, I am familiar with that phenomenon.  Sometimes witnesses think the sentence was too harsh, or they think that they have moved on and recant as a way of extending forgiveness.  And sometimes they really did lie in the original trial.  I don't know enough about this particular case to have an opinion on what really happened.  But I have serious questions about this testimony, presented by the prosecution to challenge the recanting victim:

The prosecution made its case by presenting testimony from a psychologist who theorized that Julie suffered from "child sex abuse accommodation syndrome," one of whose key symptoms is denial. In short, the theory was that her recantation as an adult was a form of denial that she had been sexually abused or that her father did it. Under the theory, her new statement also represented an effort by her to restore a family relationship.

The problem is that CSAAS is not a diagnosis.  No one can "suffer from" it.  If the expert actually testified as the article describes, then he or she was woefully, even inexcusably, uninformed.

Continue reading Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation Syndrome is Not A Diagnosis ›

Animal Cruelty a Red Flag for Domestic Violence

Posted In Child Abuse

People working in child abuse prevention have long argued that animal cruelty is an indication, and perhaps a precursor to, domestic abuse. The Journal of Interpersonal Violence recently published a study offering support for the belief that animal cruelty is at least a red flag for domestic violence. Researchers asked questions of college students, and found that 60% of the students who had experiences with animal cruelty also had experienced domestic violence. Retrospective studies have limitations, such as the likelihood of hindsight bias, but this study provides important data support for treating animal cruelty reports as red flags for possible domestic violence.

Youth-serving organizations should be alert for this link. If you see a child who exhibits signs of cruelty toward animals, you should be alert for other signs that the child has been abused. In the civil litigation arena, lawyers and experts should be aware of this link, and should investigate domestic violence as a possible cause of anxiety symptoms.

Zero Tolerance Victim Gets Grudging Vindication

Posted In Schools

A teacher accused of having unauthorized prescription drugs in her car at school has won dismissal of the charges.  She had been charged with having Xanax without a prescription.  She produced proof that the car had been in the shop for a month, that other people had driven it, and that she was drug-free.  In the face of all of that evidence, the District Attorney said only that he didn't think he could prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.  Hardly a gracious statement to an innocent teacher who probably will be paying off her attorney fees for quite a while.

The saga started in February, when the school superintendent of the Houston school district sent campus police with drug-sniffing dogs to search the cars in all employee parking lots.   The searches netted quite a few teachers, including Ms. Herrick.  It would be interesting to see empirical evidence of how many of the teachers charged in that sweep eventually were convicted.  I suspect that the damage to employee morale and lost efficiency from suspending teachers over unfounded charges significantly outweighed any benefit.  

At the time of the searched, a school district spokesman said that the district was treating the employees the same as it would treat students charged with the same offenses. Exactly -- maybe the district should rethink its entire policy of having zero tolerance become zero judgment.

Hat tip: Overlawyered

Swine Flu Resources

There are some very good new resources for dealing with swine flu. The CDC has published a new website for child care providers.  The Department of Health and Human Services and the CDC have combined to create a checklist for day care centers and preschools. The American Academy of Pediatrics has a similar publication.

Although these resources are geared toward child care centers, every youth-serving organization should review them. They offer good advice and common-sense suggestions that will help you continue your program while protecting your clients.

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