Rhode Island taxpayers have contributed an enormous sum to wage a war that most of us know nothing about. The systems our state established to protect children have instead subjected many to danger and trauma that will profoundly shape the rest of their lives. Who will help to build public awareness and political consensus to protect children from those who prey on them or who profit from their abuse? How should government respond in ways that are transparent and accountable?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Patrick Lynch builds his war chest, Part 1

Attorney General Patrick Lynch has been making personal phone calls, reaching out to prospective donors, building his war chest to run for Governor of Rhode Island in 2010.

Potential donors need to understand how Lynch and his office have failed children held hostage by Family Court, including those I’ve called “Molly” and “Sara” in the Little Hostages blog.

After DCYF’s child protection investigator made a finding that indicated Molly’s father for sexual molestation in 2004, Attorney General Lynch did not convene a grand jury to consider the evidence. Why not?

I interviewed the town police chief who originally handled Molly’s case. Based on his experience, he told me that he believed Molly’s father could not have passed a lie detector test. Nevertheless the Attorney General’s office considered Molly, at 3, “too young” to make a credible complaint of sexual abuse.

But it is well known that children three and younger are especially vulnerable to sex crimes by family members.

Rhode Island children would be better protected from criminal acts within their own homes if Attorney General Lynch worked to assure that these children will no longer be subjected to scores of examinations by one stranger after another, including many whose reports show them to be unqualified, biased, or simply inept with children.

Some counseling agencies, like Day One, have state-of-the-art interview rooms, where a skilled interviewer who relates well to children can help a child disclose traumatic information. A multidisciplinary forensic team can observe the interview on a monitor in a separate room. They can communicate their questions discretely through the interviewer. A DVD of the interview can be made available for grand jury or judge. The recording provides a confidential record so evaluators can steadily improve the performance of interviewers and the integrity of the process.

These DVDs could reassure judges who fear that some interviewers may predispose children to allege crimes that never happened. Where sexual abuse did occur, the value of preserving the child’s first description of a crime is clear. Spontaneous words, gestures, and drawings of young children, unmediated by adults, are often compellingly vivid.

Molly’s energetic reenactment convinced the investigator. But that evidence was not videotaped. DCYF met with the accused father and his defense attorney, buried the investigator’s written report, and hired an administrative hearing officer who overturned the finding that indicated the father had molested his daughter. The same hearing officer revealed extreme personal bias against mothers in her written decision and in her online essays appealing to men to hire her as their divorce attorney.

Neither DCYF nor the Attorney General acknowledged these failings. In 2006, DCYF removed Molly from a mother who had been uniformly praised in scores of letters from neighbors and colleagues. Sixteen months later, in 2007, DCYF took Molly from a state shelter and gave her to the very man she had so vigorously accused.

Our top law enforcement officer should understand the need to collect evidence early and thoroughly in a prescribed process that can be evaluated and perfected. There is no need to subject a child to repeated grilling by countless adults—as was inflicted on Molly and many other children who have suffered enormously at the hands of the state.

Constant repetition quickly makes a child sound rehearsed, giving rise to allegations that the child has been “coached” to lie by the other parent. A victimized child soon grows anxious and despondent and may refuse to talk altogether.

In 2009, Phil West and I met with Attorney General Lynch and his staff to discuss these ongoing concerns. Lynch seemed unfazed by the problem and entirely self-satisfied. He said his staff participates in regular team meetings to consider cases like Molly’s. While insisting that DCYF, not the Attorney General, is responsible for crimes against children at home, one of Lynch’s top staff stated with absolute confidence that “we have the best criminal justice system in the world.”

The rest of the world is not so sure. In 2007, the national child rights organization, First Star, issued its report card showing Rhode Island earned only 25 points out of 100, scoring the lowest of all fifty states, for our failure to assure vulnerable children adequate legal representation:


When Rhode Island’s Child Advocate Jametta Alston and the national organization Children’s Rights renewed their class action suit against DCYF one month ago, they were joined by sixteen children’s legal aid organizations, law school clinics, and child advocacy experts from across the country:


Rhode Island’s Attorney General has failed to protect these children. Instead of helping Patrick Lynch become Governor, consider how he has placed Molly, Sara, and other vulnerable children in far greater danger through his actions and failures to act as Attorney General on their behalf.

We have been researching some of those cases for future posts.


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About the Author & Purpose

Parenting Project is a volunteer community service provided since 1996 by Mathewson Street United Methodist Church, Providence, RI, to focus on the needs of children at risk in Family Court custody cases. The coordinator, Anne Grant, is a retired United Methodist minister and former executive director of Rhode Island's largest shelter and service agency for battered women and their children. We research and write about official actions that endanger children and the parents who are trying to protect them. Our goal is to reform this area of government and to establish an effective, transparent and accountable child protective system.

We first reported on this case at http://custodyscam.blogspot.com/

To read the blog more easily, please reduce the width of your column. Some of the pictures can be enlarged by clicking once on them.

Comments and corrections may be sent in an email with no attachments to parenting project @ verizon.net

About "Parental Alienation"

If you are not familiar with Richard Gardner's theory of "parental alienation" and how it is being used in custody courts, scroll down to the earliest posting, "Junk Science in Custody Courts." For more scholarly research, visit  http://www.leadershipcouncil.org/1/pas/1.html

For more on the scandal in custody courts, see: