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In some ways, the scene Sunday afternoon in Verona looked like a child’s birthday party.

 

A picnic table wrapped in pink plastic was crowded with family and members of the community, surrounded by coolers of water and soda. There were decorations of butterfly wings and pop hits playing on a speaker somewhere. Toddlers ran around a playground next to the pavilion. Balloons tied to a park bench, bounced in the wind.

 

But while everything was cloaked in hot pink, the posters and T-shirts were ominous. Family members were wearing T-shirts bearing the phrase “Justice for Bella” and a photograph of the toddler, wearing a bright pink dress and her hair in pigtails.

At a home in Punta Gorda, deputies found a young girl covered in bug bites and a rash while wearing a diaper overflowing with urine.

The filthy home reeked of feces, moldy food and cigarette butts. Facing the girl’s booster seat was a table covered in white powder from drugs, according to records from the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office.

Deputies stumbled upon the situation June 13 because they were searching for the girl’s mother, who had a warrant for her arrest. Both parents were arrested for child neglect, along with other charges.

If deputies hadn’t been sent to the house in search of the mother, the child might still be in a house where the adults were allegedly using meth.

Experts say that many neglect or abuse cases are going undiscovered right now.

With schools, childcare facilities and camps closed due to COVID-19, reports of child abuse in Charlotte County have plummeted. In April, the number of reports of child abuse to the Department of Children and Families in Charlotte County was at the lowest it’s been in about nine years.

But that doesn’t mean fewer children are being abused.

When Florida schools shut down in mid-March, kids stopped seeing their teachers — who are trained to look for and report signs of child abuse.

“Quite a few reports come from professionals at schools mostly because they’re trained in what to look for, and kids spend a lot of time at school,” said Nathan Scott, child welfare policy coordinator with the Family Safety Alliance. “During COVID-19, they haven’t been at school, so that’s been a contributing factor (in the decline in reports).”

People who are required by law to report child abuse include professionals such as educators, health professionals and social workers — anyone who has contact with the child as part of his or her job.

The vast majority of reports come from these mandated reporters — especially teachers, who produced 21% of the 4.3 million referrals made in 2018, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

 

Read More in The Sun Port Charlotte

3 ways the foster care system can emerge stronger after the coronavirus pandemicThere has been a significant drop in reports of child abuse and neglect during the coronavirus pandemic. Many fear that as we emerge, the child welfare system will be flooded as the impacts of family stress become public again. In preparation, state foster care departments must improve their operations to better serve foster parents and assist social workers with complex cases.

First, all states should offer foster parent training online.A number of states including Illinois and Tennessee were moving in this direction. But online training makes even more sense in light of COVID-19 and the adaptations many families already have made to group learning.

Currently, many states have inflexible training schedules for the foster parent classes that happen only on certain evenings and at certain locations. Coordinating schedules of working parents for their own families is challenging, but getting a dozen or more family units in the same place for 20 to 30 hours of training with commuting considerations and other family and work commitments is nearly impossible.

 

 Read the full story in USA Today

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For Father's Day, The Advocate teamed up with Extraordinary Families, a Los Angeles-based foster and adoption agency, to highlight LGBTQ+ dads showing the world that love is what defines a family.

A child enters foster care every two minutes in the United States, and currently there are over 400,000 children in care, according to Extraordinary Families. In Los Angeles County alone, there are approximately 20,000 children and youth in foster care at any given time, making it one of the largest foster care systems in the country. Older children, sibling sets, those with disabilities, and youth who identify as LGBTQ+ are often in care longer and less likely to be adopted. Complicating things, the Trump administration just this month pushed the Supreme Court to greenlight religious-based discrimination that would allow agencies to turn away prospective LGBTQ+ parents.

Thanks to the help and partnership of quality resource families, Extraordinary Families, which works with many LGBTQ+ parents and kiddos, is helping to find safe and nurturing families for all children in foster care. Scroll down and read some of their success stories.

Since 1994, Extraordinary Families has been a leader in foster care, adoption, and child welfare policy reform. A leading nonprofit foster family, adoption, and advocacy agency based in Los Angeles, it is dedicated to improving the daily lives and long-term outcomes of children and youth in foster care by recruiting, training, and supporting high quality foster and adoptive (resource) parents for children removed from their families due to abuse or neglect. The organization welcomes a diverse population of individuals and families to serve as resource parents regardless of age, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, disability, marital or domestic partner status, political affiliation, or ancestry. Resource families are viewed as members of a team providing individualized care so each child can reach her/his/their fullest potential.

 

READ MORE IN THE ADVOCATE

This year's Gerber baby has been chosen!

safe imageGerber’s 10th Annual Photo Search winner is Magnolia Earl, who will represent the brand as this year’s spokesbaby.

Magnolia, from Ross, California, was chosen among 327,000 contestants who submitted their photos, videos and stories through Gerber’s contest website.

Magnolia and her family were rewarded a $25,000 cash prize, $1,000 in Gerber Childrenswear, $1,000 from Walmart and phones with a year of free unlimited service from Verizon.

“At a time when we are yearning for connection and unity, Magnolia and her family remind us of the many things that bring us together: our desire to love and be loved, our need to find belonging, and our recognition that family goes way beyond biology," said Bill Partyka, president and CEO of Gerber.

Read The Full Story at USA Today

Linebacker Dre Greenlaw overcame a lot of adversity to settle into his role as an integral defensive player with the 49ers last season.greenlaw

Greenlaw faced tremendous odds off the field, as his youth primarily was spent in foster care. There were plenty of rough times on the field during his four-year career at Arkansas, too.

The team went 6-18 in Greenlaw’s final two seasons of college. In the first season without Greenlaw, the Razorbacks went 2-10 for the second consecutive year in 2019.

Arkansas prospects at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis last week had to answer questions about the team’s lack of success.

"I think the last two seasons we had going 4-20 reflected on a lot of our character,” Arkansas linebacker De’Jon “Scoota” Harris said. “It showed that we stuck through hard situations and we had to overcome a lot of adversity that we had to overcome.

“We had to step up as leaders as a team. We had to keep leading the way. I feel like we showed that a lot the past two seasons, and these coaches know that. We just keep doing what we're doing and executing our plans to go out there Saturday and show that we can play at this next level."

Greenlaw faced many of the same questions a year ago, and NFL.com rated him as a seventh-round pick or priority free agent before the draft. The 49ers selected Greenlaw in the fifth round with the No. 148 overall draft pick.

Greenlaw started 11 games for the 49ers. He took over at weakside linebacker when Kwon Alexander missed the second half of the season due to a torn pectoral. Greenlaw made the defensive play of the season when he stopped Seattle tight end Jacob Hollister just shy of the goal line in the closing seconds to preserve the 49ers’ crucial Week 17 victory.

"He's definitely (an inspiration) when you watch him you want to have that type of rookie year,” Arkansas defensive lineman McTelvin Agim said.

Greenlaw remained in the starting lineup for the 49ers three postseason games, including Super Bowl LIV, when Alexander returned to the active roster. He is a key component of the 49ers' future. Harris and Agim said they have leaned on Greenlaw during the draft process to gain insight from a friend who went through it just one year ago.

Said Agim, “He says to be yourself. ‘Wherever you go, just try to focus on making the team and taking it one day at a time, honestly.’"

 

READ THE FULL STORY AT NBC SPORTS

Annapolis Police Department Media Release

 

On January 5, 2020 the Annapolis Police Department received a report of sex offenses that occurred in the unit block of Juliana Circle West. The victim was identified as a 13 year old female. This investigation widened to include reports of child pornographic images.

s3d955aae29fa4924b22339223a98aa69 small optimizedThe suspect was identified as Jose Argueta, 44, of Glen Burnie. He came into contact with the victim as the driver of a church transportation van. It was reported that on four occasions Argueta sexually assaulted the 13 year old victim and during some of these assaults pornographic photos of the victim were taken by Argueta.
 

Detectives obtained an arrest warrant for Jose Argueta charging him with nineteen counts relating to the assaults. On January 9, Argueta was located and arrested. He is being held at the Jennifer Road Detention Center without bond.

The Annapolis Police Department is urging anyone with information about these incidents or the suspect to contact Detective Pyles at 410-260-3439 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. You can also submit anonymous tips through Metro Crime Stoppers of Maryland.

 

Submitting Anonymous Tips to Metro Crime Stoppers of Maryland

Metro Crime Stoppers of Maryland is an organization separate from the Annapolis Police Department. When you phone in or submit your Annapolis crime tip online or through the P3 Tips smartphone app Metro Crime Stoppers receives your tip anonymously and only forwards your tip information to the Annapolis Police Department. No identifying information is ever forwarded to us. Metro Crime Stoppers uses a special coding system to protect your identity, they do not use Caller ID or record telephone conversations. If your tip leads to the arrest or indictment of a person for a felony you could qualify for up to a $2,000 cash reward from Metro Crime Stoppers. You can submit a tip by calling 1-866-7LOCKUP (1-866-756-2587), visiting www.metrocrimestoppers.org, or through the P3 Tips smartphone app. The app can be found in the Apple or Android app stores by searching for P3 Tips.

Dashawn Wiggan had broken his foster home’s curfew.

With a mixture of fear and awe, he arrived with his boyfriend at the Christopher Street piers. Loud, fast beats with crashing rhythms met them in front of the dark Hudson River, where young dancers had congregated.

From the Anne Arundel County Police Department's Criminal Investigation Division- Major Crimes Section

On Saturday, July 27, 2019 at approximately 9:28 a.m., the Anne Arundel County Police and Fire Departments responded to the 7900 block of Chesapeake Drive, Orchard Beach, Maryland for a nine month old male infant in medical distress. The infant was transported to the Baltimore Washington Medical Center for further medical treatment. Life saving measures were continued at the hospital until 10:19 a.m. where the infant, identified as Niyear Taylor of the 7900 block of Chesapeake Drive, was pronounced deceased.

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — For years, advocates have pushed for stricter safeguards against child abuse or neglect.

Failure by officials to report suspected abuse or neglect as required by law now carries jail time and fines.

The change comes in the wake of a notorious case of a former teachers aide in Prince George’s County, who in 2016 was indicted on 270 counts related to the sexual abuse of more than a dozen children at Judge Sylvania Woods Elementary School.

Deonte Carraway is now serving 75 years in prison for sexually exploiting children. Some students had reportedly gone to teachers about it, but nothing would be done.

“Two years ago, (then-county state’s attorney) Angela Alsobrooks testified on these hearings in Annapolis that when the Deonte Carraway case came up in Prince George’s County, she had no remedy to hold those professionals accountable,” said Adam Rosenburg with the Baltimore Child Abuse Center.

That changed in October. Maryland law now holds adults, including teachers, youth workers, healthcare personnel and others, responsible for filing written reports under penalty of law.

Failure to comply carries a penalty of up to three years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

“The child would say ‘This just happened to me,’ and the adult in authority wouldn’t do anything about it there,” Rosenburg said. “By not reporting the abuse, children continued to be abused and bad people continue to get away with it.”

Read More at WJZ-TV

Anne Arundel County State's Attorney Anne Colt Leitess announced today that a jury convicted James Robert IV, 38, of Severn of sex abuse of a minor, seven counts of rape and lesser included offenses. This appears to be the first case in the State of Maryland where a comfort dog accompanied a victim when testifying during a trial.


"Testifying in court can be extremely traumatizing for survivors of sexual assault especially for a child. In this case, the use of a comfort dog provided the survivor with a sense of safety as she recounted the horrific details about the abuse she suffered," said Anne Arundel County State's Attorney Anne Colt Leitess. "With professional counseling and continued family support, I hope that she will continue to heal. I am grateful that the defendant will be held accountable for his crimes and can no longer hurt her. I would like to thank Caring Canines for providing this valuable service to those who have been traumatized."


On November 15, 2018, the Anne Arundel County Police Department responded to the 1700 block of Carriage Court to conduct a well-being check after receiving a tip from a sexual assault tip line. The tip stated that the defendant, later identified as James Robert IV, had raped the survivor. On November 20, 2018, the Anne Arundel County Police Department and the Anne Arundel County Department of Social Services interviewed the survivor who revealed that the defendant raped her on four separate occasions and threatened to kill her. During one incident, she advised that he choked her and only stopped after she told him she was unable to breathe.


During the trial, the survivor testified with the aid of a comfort dog from Caring Canines. The dog and handler were trained and certified through PetPartners.org to provide interventions and emotional support for victims of trauma. In 2018, Anne Arundel County and Harford County Circuit Courts became part of a pilot program allowing the use of comfort animals in the courthouse. The program was launched with the support of Administrative Judge Laura Ripken who considers written requests made on behalf of children who appear in either civil or criminal proceedings.
Robert will be sentenced on January 29, 2020 by the Honorable Stacy W. McCormack.


Assistant State's Attorney Mary-Ann Burkhart prosecuted the case on behalf of the citizens of Anne Arundel County.

It was one of Canada's most promising social media apps. But Kik, once valued at $1 billion, is to be closed, in large part because of a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation into a cryptocurrency created by the app's owners.

960x0Though not mentioned in the closure announcement released late Monday by CEO Ted Livingstone, the anonymous messaging app faced consistent criticism it had become a crime haven. Harassment and child exploitation, for instance, were constant problems.

In one shocking case, a 13-year-old was murdered by the man with whom she was communicating over Kik. A Forbes investigation later found that grooming and sharing of child abuse material was rife across the app. And earlier this year, it emerged the FBI had taken control of a Kik user's account to run groups sharing such illegal imagery for over a year as investigators sought to ensnare pedophiles. 

But Livingtone didn't mention any of those problems. Instead, he said the company is refocusing on its cryptocurrency, Kin, launched back in 2017. In June the SEC charged Kin's creators over an initial coin offering (an ICO is a public sale of a cryptocurrency's tokens) that raised $100 million. (After another Forbes investigation, Kik promised to spend $10 million of that money on dealing with child abuse on the platform; with many other platforms, like Facebook and Twitter, also now investing hundreds of millions to deal with similar problems, the “anything goes” era now well and truly over.)

The SEC believes that Kin coins are, effectively, securities and should be regulated as such. That meant that the ICO should've been registered with the SEC, which it wasn't, according to the regulator. In a blog post, Livingstone cited problems with fighting the SEC on that issue as one of the core reasons for closing Kik.

READ THE FULL STORY ON FORBES

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