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?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Eight years ago

Late in 2003, three-year-old "Molly" angrily complained about her father's "sausage games." What the State of Rhode Island did to Molly and her older sister "Sara" in the years that followed outraged their neighbors, who convened a community meeting and asked the Parenting Project to investigate. By 2009, we set a goal that finally began coming to fruition this week, when Governor Lincoln Chafee's new director of the Department of Children, Youth and Families, Janice DeFrances, confirmed that DCYF is beginning an assessment as its first step toward getting accredited.

In 2004, DCYF's frontline staff properly helped Molly and Sara by referring them to counselors at Day One.

When DCYF indicated their father for sexual molestation, his defense attorney appealed. The father first blamed his own father, a psychiatrist and convicted pedophile who had sexually abused his own children. But Molly insisted the offender was her father.

Next, he blamed his wife for "alienating" the girls against him--which did not explain how Molly could re-enact male masturbation and draw a graphic portrait of her father.

A year after Molly's complaint, DCYF's legal department flipped the case at an administrative hearing where the father was the plaintiff, and DCYF was the defendant. Since the girls' mother was not a party to this proceeding, DCYF never informed her of it. She was not present when DCYF's administrative hearing officer ruled that the father was credible, while the mother (whom the officer had neither met nor questioned) was not.

She ruled that the mother's alleged demeanor made Molly's complaint unbelievable. (Over a year later, the hearing officer revealed her own strongly worded bias against mothers on the Internet, where she was seeking men as divorce clients.)

The father's defense attorney's friend became guardian ad litem, who orchestrated the case at Family Court, searching for clinicians who would blame the mother in order to remove the girls from her and their lifelong home in 2006. DCYF sent the girls to a foster mother who told them their mother had mental problems, which was completely untrue.

Distraught there, the girls went to their next foster home and then to a state shelter in another city at enormous expense to tax payers.

The father's defense team needed time--three years until his indication for sexual molestation could be expunged. Finally the Court turned the girls over to their father in another state and limited all contact with their mother.

The DCYF legal department's fear of lawsuits has led the agency to fail many other children. Family Court gives enormous authority to guardians ad litem who have close ties to defense attorneys and judges. The Court's confidence in unreliable psychiatric "evaluations" and its use of gag orders to intimidate protective parents has vastly increased the damage, so that the truth is rarely found within this costly system.

As DCYF begins its process toward accreditation, the General Assembly and Family Court are grappling with entrenched problems throughout Rhode Island's child-protective system.

For more about this, paste this link in your browser:

While we honor the leaders who are working on these issues, we also must praise the three-year-old who would not be quiet about the behavior that made her feel so angry and frightened.


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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/

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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: