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Most scams, such as sub-prime mortgages and email scams, victimize adults. But custody scams victimize children. When government fails to protect children it throws open the doors to private contractors—lawyers and clinicians—who enrich themselves at the expense of children. (More about this child and the mother who tried to protect her appears below.)

Saturday, September 25, 2010

When authorities fail to protect children

Swatara Township, PA, boy's death ruled homicide; maternal grandmother says she tried to report child abuse, but was rebuffed

Published: Thursday, September 23, 2010, 12:00 AM Updated: Thursday, September 23, 2010, 12:43 PM
LARA BRENCKLE, The Patriot-News

The Dauphin County coroner’s office announced Wednesday what Tammy Beltz said she’s known since May 25.

Her grandson Jayahn Cox-Phoenix’s death was a homicide.

The coroner ruled Jayahn, 3, died as a result of freshwater drowning and traumatic brain injury, according to a news release.

Swatara Township police issued a news release stating they were opening an investigation into Jayahn’s death.

Jayahn was found unresponsive in the bathtub of a home in the 3600 block of Chambers Hill Road on May 21, police said.

The district attorney’s office, the police and Dauphin County Children and Youth Services, which was involved in Jayahn’s life, declined further comment. No charges have been filed.

But Beltz, of Harrisburg, is talking. She said she has been even before the day her grandson, who loved walking to the store and afternoons at Chuck E. Cheese’s, died.

Jayahn, she said, was being abused. She had proof, she said, but no one would listen.

“I have 11 grandkids,” Beltz said. “I lost my grandson, and I feel like I failed as a grandmom because I couldn’t protect him.”

Born to Beltz’s daughter, Jasmine Cox, in 2007, Jayahn and Cox lived with Beltz in her Crescent Street home.

Stephen S. Dixon, Jayhan’s father, didn’t care for him until January, Beltz said. Initially, Beltz said, her daughter allowed Dixon to care for the boy on weekends. On March 21, Beltz said, Dixon took Jayahn and then refused to return him when the weekend was over.

Beltz and her daughter called police, but were told that with no formal custody arrangement and Dixon’s acknowledged paternity, there was nothing they could do.

Two days later, according to court documents provided by Beltz, Dixon lodged a child-abuse complaint against Cox with Dauphin County Children and Youth’s Childline. Those allegations were unfounded, Beltz said.

Throughout April, Cox and Beltz attempted to contact Jayahn and Dixon.

Those calls, Beltz said, either went unanswered, were blocked or answered evasively.

Beltz made several calls to CYS after reports from other family members and friends told her that Jayahn was being abused.

She said she never heard back from CYS on the findings of her family’s allegations.

“They never came out, never invited us to a safety plan meeting, nothing,” Beltz said.

In a last-ditch effort, Beltz went to Dixon’s home to try to get Jayahn back. The police were called, she said, and refused to let her take Jayahn.

Beltz called CYS during the incident to plead her case one more time, she said. She said she was told to stop bothering caseworkers with unfounded allegations.

The next day, May 7, Cox filed a handwritten petition for emergency custody.

“I also reported to Children and Youth about my son being beat,” she wrote. “I haven’t seen or talked to my son in over two months now. Every time I call and ask to speak to my son, he’s either asleep, not there, just left or half the time they don’t even pick up.”

On May 11, Judge Andrew Dowling denied the petition, saying the court “failed to see sufficient allegations of conditions or facts.”

Eleven days later, Jayahn was hospitalized.

A cell phone number for Dixon was disconnected.

A woman who answered the phone at another number, which Dixon had given in court papers, said Dixon would not be speaking to a reporter about his son’s death and told a reporter to never call her home again.

Beltz and her daughter are grappling with the loss. When she misses her grandson, Beltz plays the message Jayahn left on her phone in one of his last calls, about three days before his father took custody of him. It’s all she has left of him, she said.

“Why nanna not answering phone?” his baby voice asks his mother. Then the line goes quiet.
© 2010 All rights reserved.

About the mother and child pictured at the top

On February 21, 1992, Rhode Island Family Court's Chief Judge Jeremiah Jeremiah gave this two-year-old to the sole custody and possession of her father despite his history of domestic violence and failure to pay child support. The father, a police officer, brought false charges against his ex-wife, first saying she was a drug addict. (Twenty-two random tests proved she was not.) Then he had her arrested for bank fraud, then for filing a false report, then for sexual abuse, then for kidnapping. None of his charges stuck.

The child remained with her father and stepmother until 2003, when, at 14, she finally realized that her mother had not been a drug addict. The teenager persuaded Judge Stephen Capineri to let her return to her mother. There she began working on the painful issues of lifelong coercion and deception--a tangled knot of guilt and rage. Most painful has been her father’s continuing refusal to let her visit two dearly loved half-sisters, whom she has not seen since 2003.

She is one of countless children in Rhode Island subjected to severe emotional and physical trauma by Family Court when it helps abusive parents to maintain control over their families after divorce. When she turned 18 in 2007, she gave the Parenting Project permission to publish her picture on behalf of all children who have been held hostage by Rhode Island custody scams.

We are using this blog to provide links to stories that will help concerned people, including government officials, become aware of this form of child abuse and legal abuse. We must work together to improve the courts' ability to recognize the signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in victims of domestic abuse who are trying to protect their children.

PLEASE NOTE: If you are looking for the story of the removal of "Molly and Sara," please visit

About the Author and the Cause

Parenting Project is a volunteer community service begun in 1996 at Mathewson Street United Methodist Church, Providence, RI, to focus on the needs of children at risk in Family Court custody cases. Our goal is to make Rhode Island's child protective system more effective, transparent, and accountable.

The Parenting Project coordinator, Anne Grant, a retired minister and former executive director of Rhode Island's largest shelter for battered women and their children, researches and writes about official actions that endanger children and the parents who try to protect them. She wrote a chapter on Rhode Island in Domestic Violence, Abuse, and Child Custody: Legal Strategies and Policy Issues, ed. Mo Therese Hannah, PhD, and Barry Goldstein, JD (Civic Research Institute, 2010).

Comments and corrections on anything written here may be sent in an email with no attachments to

Find out more about the crisis in custody courts here: provides forensic resources to end violence against women

about domestic violence in hague custody cases:

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