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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.)

Monday, August 30, 2010

Governor Carcieri's Legacy in Family Court

The Parenting Project has set up a new blog to report on Family Court custody cases that illustrate systemic problems in this court:

We are urging Governor Carcieri to begin the process of reforming this burdened court by asking the five candidates for chief judge (Justices Bedrosian, Capineri, D'Ambra, Forte, and Voccola) about their proposals for change.

These five candidates represent nearly 90 years on this bench. We have much to learn from their recommendations for court reform.

Two of the candidates, Justices Capineri and D'Ambra, spoke in their public interviews before the Judicial Nominating Commission about plans they had submitted to the Governor. We have asked the Governor to release these and any other proposals as public documents. We do not need a chief judge who is satisfied with the status quo.

Rhode Island is the only state that gives judges life tenure with no review.

Governor Carcieri knows that successful businesses need good methods of performance review.

For Rhode Island to "race to the top," our schools must develop sound procedures to evaluate teacher performance.

Likewise, successful courts need reliable methods to evaluate the performance of judges and court officers. Performance review will help to assure greater independence of judges. If it is well designed and properly done, it will guard against conflicts of interest.

We have asked Governor Carcieri to select a chief judge with a clear vision for reforming Family Court. Which of the candidates would endorse a request for private funding to begin a pilot project on judicial performance review in Family Court? That pilot project could set an example for our other courts.

We need a chief judge:
• who is not satisfied with the status quo that rewards political connections and cronies;
• who is committed to identifying systemic problems that place vulnerable children and families at risk;
• who possesses the managerial skill to implement a sound plan for reform; and
• whose strength of leadership can overcome apathy and entrenched resistance to reform.

We ask Governor Carcieri to select a new chief judge of Family Court who will make court reform a major part of the Governor's lasting legacy for Rhode Island.

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:

more about domestic violence in law enforcement: