Pubdate: Tue, 15 Jan 2002
Source: Ventura County Star (CA)
Copyright: 2002, Ventura County Star
Author: Leo G. Alvarez
Bookmark: (Youth)


The Star's Jan. 6 to 9 series on youthful offenders brings out two 
salient points. First, there is a correlation between an abused child 
becoming a criminal offender and, second, the child of a drug-using 
mother may be born brain-damaged. These two situations cry out for 
legislation to punish abusers of children and particularly females 
who use drugs during pregnancy.

Next, let's begin with a simple comparison -- a misdemeanor crime 
such as cruelty to animals. Being found guilty, the defendant is 
likely to receive probation of three years -- one of the conditions 
being that the defendant will not keep pets. That makes sense, since 
the premise is the defendant will not re-offend if there is no 
contact with animals.

Now, change the scenario. Change the victim to a child and the 
offender to a caregiver of that child. Section 300 of the Welfare and 
Institution Code comes into play when a child is abused and Child 
Protective Services will become involved, confer with the offender, 
perhaps with the child involved, and offer recommendations to the 
judge hearing the case.

Because it is a case involving a child, the case will probably not be 
prosecuted criminally and all hearings will be held behind closed 
doors to "protect" the child.

The stated first option of the court (Judge Toy White, Star, Jan. 6) 
and the Public Social Services Agency (Ted Myers, Star, Jan. 24) will 
be to reunite the victim with the offender and the caregiver (the 
mythical family). Since the family will have been successfully 
reunited, there will likely be no action taken against the offender, 
and the Public Social Services Agency will be ordered to make follow- 
up reports to the judge. PSSA will have also closed the case and view 
it as a success.

Now, if I throw a dog onto a freeway and the animal is killed, I will 
most likely be sentenced to three years in prison.

If I severely beat a child in Ventura County to the point of near 
death, based on precedence already set, I should serve about eight 
months in county jail, be placed on probation and be reunified with 
the child, even if I have violated my probation and have an 
outstanding warrant.

Does anyone see the error of PSSA and the judge's thinking here? Am I 
wrong in the belief that justice is not being served and that 
children are being exposed to revictimization through reunification? 
Will abusers see reunification as permission to continue the abuse?

The public does not see any of this, and certainly hears nothing of 
it, because of the closed doors. So, isn't it to be expected that 
what one does not see or hear really does not happen? Hit someone 
else's child and the wrath of the community will fall upon you, but 
hit your own child and no one cares. It is assumed to be your 
God-given right to "correct" your child.

It is long overdue that to truly serve the best interest of an abused 
child, the abuser should not be granted custody of the victim child. 
The abuser should be criminally charged, sentenced, jailed or placed 
on probation, and the child should not be reunified with the abuser.

If I strike a child with a belt, it is considered normal parental 
punishment. However, if I strike another adult with a belt, I can be 
charged with assault and battery -- a misdemeanor and, in some cases, 
I can be charged with assault with a deadly weapon -- a felony. When 
will common sense prevail?
- ---
MAP posted-by: Josh