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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.)

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Drawing conclusions: Children's drawings during abuse investigations

April 3, 2014
American Friends of Tel Aviv University
Illustrations by children can be a critical tool in forensic investigations of child abuse. A recent study compared the results when child abuse victims were offered the opportunity to draw during questioning with results when victims were not offered this opportunity. "The act of drawing was not only an empowering experience for these children," said the lead investigator. "We had no idea the gap would be so great between those who drew and those who weren't given this option."

Is a picture worth only a thousand words? According to Dr. Carmit Katz of Tel Aviv University's Bob Shapell School of Social Work, illustrations by children can be a critical tool in forensic investigations of child abuse.
Dr. Katz's study, published in Child Abuse and Neglect, compared the results when child abuse victims were offered the opportunity to draw during questioning with victims not offered this opportunity. Her findings saw a significant difference, suggesting a therapeutic value and indicating that children empowered to draw pictures about their abuse provided much fuller and more detailed descriptions.
"The act of drawing was not only an empowering experience for these children," said Dr. Katz. "We also found it to be forensically more effective in eliciting richer testimonies in child abuse cases. We had no idea the gap would be so great between those who drew and those who weren't given this option."

A chance to express themselves
Some 125 alleged child victims of sexual abuse were randomly selected for the field study. The children, aged 5-14, were questioned by nine well-trained forensic interviewers about a single occurrence of alleged sexual abuse. The children were divided into two sets -- a control group, questioned and allowed to rest during the session; and a variable group, offered the opportunity to draw pictures about their experiences for 7-10 minutes instead of resting.
The interviews in the study were conducted according to standard NICHD (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development International Evidence-Based Investigative Interviewing of Children) protocol, which dictates using open-ended questions to elicit more comprehensive testimonies.
"For example, we asked children to 'tell me again everything that happened to you,' without using any leading terms to steer the discussion," said Dr. Katz. "And we found that if that question was followed by the comment, 'You can use the drawing if you want to,' the child's testimony was substantially more comprehensive and detailed."
In the study, Dr. Katz worked with professional practitioners from Israel's Investigative Interview Service, which is considering incorporating her strategy into the standing NICHD protocol.

Empowering the victim
"As a social worker, I'm not only interested in obtaining accurate forensic results," said Dr. Katz. "I'm also interested in empowering the children. Through drawing, children reported regaining some sense of control -- even feeling hopeful. This also has recuperative properties."
Dr. Katz has focused her research on turning the typically traumatic forensic interview into a first step toward recovery for child abuse victims, who reported feeling understood, successful and in control after drawing during the questioning. "The only thing that counts is the child's narrative and his or her narrative of the respective drawing," she said. "But forensic investigators must be very careful not to attribute meaning where none exists. For example, 'I see a penis in this drawing, please tell me about it,' is a projective strategy which usually garners false results. My strategy is to offer open-ended prompts alongside drawing, which we found to be a great facilitator of communication."

Story Source:
The above story is based on materials provided by American Friends of Tel Aviv UniversityNote: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:
  1. Carmit Katz, Zion Barnetz, Irit Hershkowitz. The effect of drawing on children's experiences of investigations following alleged child abuseChild Abuse & Neglect, 2014; DOI: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2014.01.003

Cite This Page:
American Friends of Tel Aviv University. "Drawing conclusions: Children's drawings during abuse investigations." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 April 2014


Monday, December 1, 2014

A Better Way to Select Judges

Monday, December 01, 2014
Guest MINDSETTER™ Anne Grant

One mother’s riveting, sometimes rambling, testimony at the Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC) on May 4, 2011, may have led to the commission’s recent proposal to change its rules. (Katie Mulvaney, “R.I. judicial nominating panel proposes allowing public to comment on nominees,” Providence Journal, November 3, 2014.)

She asked commissioners’ patience with her “two invisible disabilities,” post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which, she said, “make it easy for others to deceive and humiliate me.” Her testimony prompted me to research her three-year-old custody case and to attend her next hearings.

Rhode Island’s Family Court is a civil court with a criminal demeanor. After I had become executive director of the Women’s Center of Rhode Island in 1988, I found that battered mothers who had succeeded in getting their children away from violent homes into our shelter were often treated as criminals in Family Court.

Having escaped one form of assault, they were stunned by the legal attacks and bullying in the courtroom, where they were typically called “defendants” instead of “respondents” -- the civil court term preferred in other states. Few mothers had money to hire attorneys. Since this was not a criminal court, they had no access to public defenders. Legal Services seldom had enough staff for such interminable cases waged by terrifying opponents.

The mother at the JNC’s public hearing (I’ll call her “Tracy”) testified against an attorney who sought nomination to Family Court. He had been the court-ordered guardian ad litem representing the child’s “best interests”. She told the commission he had laughed at her, refused to interview her witnesses, failed to complete his reports on time, threatened to bankrupt her, and colluded with the other side.

Trained as an engineer, Tracy had served with top-secret clearance as an officer in the Air Force, where the military regimen provided a structure that worked well for her high-functioning autism. I asked if she could apply her engineering skills to what was happening procedurally in her case, and she designed a tool that she called a “7/30 chart.”

Data-driven and beautiful in its simplicity, this might be the tool needed to evaluate lawyers and judges by their own docket sheets instead of grandiloquent speeches and letters from influential friends.  

Here’s how it works: When a judge makes a verbal order at a hearing, the winning attorney must render the judge’s words in writing and send that draft to the opposing attorney within seven days to establish their agreement on the substance of the order. This written order must be signed by the judge and entered into the record by the clerk within 30 days of the hearing. 

Applying these administrative rules as her algorithm, Tracy set up a track on which a properly administered case should run. Every hearing should result in one order. All orders should be entered within the limits set at 7 days and 30 days from the hearing.

An ideal 7/30 track might look like this:   

Tracy’s 7/30 chart of her own case opens with a string of four emergency ex parte orders against her, four continuances, and numerous orders entered “out of time.” Court orders land far off track, and some never get entered at all. The case had been running off track for nine months before Tracy even saw a judge.

While these administrative abuses do not begin to reveal the substantive abuse, they show a system gone awry. In Tracy’s case, the opposing attorneys repeatedly violated court rules. Their legal tactics played havoc with Tracy’s autism and PTSD, triggering symptoms that worked against her in court.

At the JNC hearing in 2011, the guardian ad litem who had a major hand in Tracy’s case heard from other angry parents, and commissioners declined to nominate him. 

But in February 2014, he appeared once more at the JNC, again seeking nomination as a Family Court judge. One commissioner publicly apologized that the attorney had no opportunity to respond to his critics three years earlier, and they nominated him without ever investigating those complaints. 

Now the commission is considering a good rule change to hear public comments first and investigate any complaints before they interview applicants. Another positive change would be to secure the most recent decade of docket sheets from each applicant’s cases and run them through Tracy’s 7/30 algorithm. 

A single docket will not reveal which lawyer or judge created problems. But it will show how to investigate case files and focus better interview questions about troubling patterns in these cases. 

If clerks posted a 7/30 chart inside each file, a trial judge could call lawyers to the bench to ask why a case has gone off track. When judges seek nomination to higher courts, their own 7/30 charts would show the JNC how well they manage cases. 

Litigants can use 7/30 charts as an objective standard to complain to the Disciplinary Counsel or the Judicial Tenure and Discipline Commission. 

Moreover, the JNC could invite the public to submit 7/30 charts on all applicants before selecting those candidates to be interviewed. The present system raises suspicion that good candidates have been excluded without public knowledge because some commissioners may be too entrenched in a highly political system.  

Anne Grant ( has researched and written about Family Court cases for more than twenty years. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

M.C. Moewe: Why police refuse to believe children are in danger

When Are Police Allowed to Do Nothing After a Child is Abducted?

By M.C. Moewe

This is the sixth in a series of articles about the treatment of abused children in the U.S. family court system.

When Jessica Gonzales’ three daughters disappeared while playing in their Castle Rock, Colorado, front yard in 1999, she knew her estranged husband Simon had taken them and they were in grave danger.

Though Gonzales informed the local police that the courts had issued an order of protection against her husband, the police made no attempt to retrieve the children, despite a 1994 Colorado law that required police to enforce such an order when there’s probable cause of a violation. In a 60 Minutes interview six years later, Castle Rock police chief Tony Lane was asked why they didn’t attempt enforcement. He responded, “What safer place can children be than with one of the parents, the mother or the father?”

continue at 

Monday, September 22, 2014

End the Nightmare at Family Court

Leora N. Rosen, Beyond the Hostage Child: Towards Empowering Protective Parents

This clear, readable, and affordable update to Dr. Rosen’s 1996 text, The Hostage Child, focuses our attention on the lifelong harm done to children by family courts and the remedies needed. She identifies specific federal funding streams that have done great damage (for example, the “Responsible Fatherhood Programs” that inspired the deadly rampage by Beltway Sniper John Muhammad from West Coast to East and another by Joshua Komisarjevsky in Connecticut).

This book holds validation for those who have been traumatized when courts removed terrified children from protective parents and gave them to the sole custody of abusers. Dr. Rosen shines a light we need to go forward.

She asserts that alleged crimes of domestic violence and child sexual abuse within the family should never be sent to civil courts that are designed for compromise. She briefly describes five proposed models for change and offers more detail on a sixth, composite model, CARCO (Child At Risk Classification Office) that focuses on a public health assessment of the child’s risk of being exposed to violence or abuse. She uses the acronym TRIAL to represent key elements of CARCO: Training, Reporting, Investigation, Adjudication, and Long-term planning – that are woefully absent from the present practice of adversarial litigation in family court.

Dr. Rosen has performed a huge service by focusing those of us who feel numbed by our own inability to protect desperate children and non-offending parents from the lies of lawyers and psychologists who have reduced them to a profit center. She concludes by urging Congress to use its authority and enact CARCO for the District of Columbia, creating a model for the nation. Federal funding incentives can be redirected to inspire other states to follow suit and to end the nightmare that breeds child abuse at family court.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

M. C. Moewe: How government fails sexually abused children

Even though the sexual abuse of children is a crime, such cases frequently end up in family courts and not criminal courts when the alleged perpetrator is a parent. Experts in child protection say this is a problem, but fixing it would require a broad investigation into how abuse allegations are handled criminally at every level of government.
In the United Kingdom, that’s exactly what is happening now.
The discovery of a decades-old pedophile ring catering to prominent British politicians and the elite going back as far as the 1960s has prompted Prime Minister David Cameron to order an unprecedented inquiry into all agencies charged with investigating child sexual abuse — including police, courts and child welfare agencies.
“In recent years we have seen appalling cases of organized and persistent child sex abuse,” Home Secretary Theresa May told Parliament.
If the United States needs a spark for the same kind of self-examination into how allegations of abuse have been tragically ignored, look no further than Omaha, Nebraska, in 1988.


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

M. C. Moewe: If You Want Custody Of Your Kids, It's Better to Be a Criminal

They had both lost, one mother in criminal court, the other in family court. But Mary Winkler, convicted of voluntary manslaughter for shooting her husband, got her children back. The other parent never did.
When it comes to taking parental rights away from a convicted criminal, courts have checks and balances built into the system. Under federal law, criminal courts terminate parental rights only as a last resort and require reasonable efforts to preserve and reunify families.
Family court is another story. ...

M. C. Moewe finally gets to report on judges forcing abused children to live with abusers

U.S. judges routinely force abused children to live with their abusers.

But after nearly a decade of trying, I have given up on the mainstream media doing any significant investigations into this ongoing human rights atrocity. My name is M.C. Moewe. I have worked at several newspapers but my last full-time job was in 2008 as the investigative reporter for the Daytona Beach News-Journal.

My first day on the job, an editor handed me a stack of files asking me to look into a family court custody case. I was surprised, because as anyone who has worked in a newsroom can tell you, there are frequent calls from distraught parents alleging that the other parent is doing something horrible to their child and no one will help.

When that happens ... 


Friday, June 27, 2014

Anne Stevenson does it again, exposing legal abuse in Georgia's child protection industry

ATLANTA, June 26, 2014 — According to court records, throughout 2011-2012, “Jane’s” children (then ages 2 and 7) repeatedly insisted and showed credible evidence to child psychologist Nancy McGarrah, Ph.D and Ann Shannon, LCSW, that that their father made suicidal and homicidal plans with them, that he routinely watched child porn with them and sexually assaulted them during overnight visits.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

In Memory of Anthony, Austin and Athena Castillo

by Eileen King, Executive Director, Child Justice, Inc. 

Congratulations to Cheryl C. Kagan (D) who won the Maryland Primary Election for District 17, defeating Del. Luiz Simmons (D) who was also running for Sen. Jennie Forehand's seat.  

Karmic Justice has been served.

Local Marylanders may remember that on February 25, 2010, before the Md. House Judiciary Committee, Del. Simmons "re-tried" Dr. Amy Castillo's credibility after she testified in support of a bill that proposed changing the burden of proof from "clear and convincing" to "preponderance of the evidence".  

I was stunned and horrified that anyone would try to destroy the credibility of a mother whose fears were absolutely justified and who had suffered the unimaginable loss of her three children.

This material gives you an idea of why this was a very important primary race for Maryland's victims of domestic violence/child abuse and for the state laws that protect them. 

Here is Dr. Amy Castillo's testimony on Feb. 25, 2010:

You can watch Del. Simmons' questioning here:

The Washington Post Editorial Board wrote about HB 700's death here:

My March 13, 2010 Op Ed in the Washington Post: 

Del. Simmon's justification for his behavior as well as his characterization of advocates as "zealots": 

You can hear Del. Simmons attempt to justify his position here: 

Another good article from the Ms. Magazine blog:

And don't forget this blog:

There's more of course...but as I said above, this material gives you an idea of why this was a very important primary race for Maryland's victims of domestic violence and child abuse and the laws that protect them. 

Eileen King
Executive Director
Child Justice, Inc. 
301-283-1762 cell
Ignorance Is This Campaign 

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Silent Scandal of Courts Putting Children With Their Abusers

Sitting on a flowery couch, a 10-year-old girl recalls the first time her father raped her. She was three years old and tried to roll away, but there was little she could do when he pulled her towards him and took off her nightgown.

“I often wonder what would have happened if I had either cut, or at least moved that scene,” said the filmmaker who shot and edited Small Justice: Little Justice in America’s Court, a 2001 documentary that followed three parents through the U.S. family court system as they tried to protect their children from abuse.

A PBS executive had told Garland Waller that the opening scene was just too much and if she’d change it, the documentary might have a chance to air. “I wish I had been more flexible about changing the content,” said Waller, an assistant professor of communications at Boston University ...

Continued here:

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Two-Parent Households Can Be Lethal

… and the lethality can keep occurring in future generations.

Here's the problem when civil court judges ignore the history of crime in families, because lawyers want to keep the case "civil": 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A Hostage Child Goes Home

AFCC Judge Johnston issued orders releasing Justina Pelletier from DCF custody and putting her into her parent's care. She goes home tomorrow!

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS, June 17, 2014 –  Communities Digital News has from the family that  Jennifer Pelletier had planned to spend the next three days in front of the Suffolk County Juvenile Court with hundreds of child welfare advocates protesting for her younger sister’s release from State care, but now it appears that those efforts may not be needed.
After over 18 brutal months in the custody of the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families, Jennifer says the Commonwealth of Massachusetts will return Justina to the family tomorrow, Wednesday, June 18, 2014.


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Finally… Authorities take action against company run by NY family court judges, attorneys

NEW YORK, June 17, 2014 — The IRS has revoked the tax exempt status of a New York corporation founded and operated by sitting family court judges and the professionals who appear before them for failure to comply with federal tax laws.
This is just the latest string of punitive actions authorities have taken over the years against the national trade association whose members oversee cases involving the State’s most vulnerable children and families. Legal industry professionals are now asking questions about whether the authorities should do more to protect families from sub-regulatory corporations, and whether or not a bigger cover up is afoot?  

Read more at:

See more of Anne Stevenson's revelations on the AFCC's operation in Connecticut:

Monday, June 2, 2014

What William Holt’s Disciplinary Hearing Shows About Rhode Island

On May 30th, attorney William F. Holt admitted violating the Rhode Island Supreme Court’s Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct. His hearing before a 3-member panel of the Supreme Court’s Disciplinary Board summarized the violations: ex parte communications with a judge; removing divorce documents from the clerk’s office; filing a motion that misrepresented an order of the court; compounding litigation in multiple courts; and endangering a litigant by enabling her estranged husband to enter her home despite his psychiatric history and guns. 

These kinds of offenses are all too common in Family Court. The uncommon aspects of Holt’s hearing were that a judge finally censured him for fraud on the court and referred him to the Disciplinary Counsel and that the Disciplinary Counsel followed through with charges and negotiated a settlement – the equivalent of a plea bargain. The panel may now recommend to the Supreme Court that Holt’s license to practice law be suspended.

In 1993, when I was executive director of the Women’s Center of Rhode Island, we examined our successes and failures in order to improve our effectiveness helping families escape domestic violence. We gathered a group of mothers who had succeeded in protecting their children from violence at home only to find that Family Court exposed them to greater danger. Their complaints frequently focused on Bill Holt, a protégé of the Chief Judge of Family Court, Jeremiah S. Jeremiah, Jr. 

Holt and Jeremiah belonged to a group we called “the Cranston Cabal” from their years in the administration of Mayor Edward DiPrete, who became governor and then promoted the man he called his “closest friend,” Jeremiah, his executive counsel, to the top position at Family Court.

DiPrete later pled guilty to eighteen felonies, avoiding a trial that would have implicated others in his circle, and went to prison. Jeremiah faced his own ethical issues relating to his Cranston office building and business dealings with his tenants, including Holt, whose favored status with the Chief of Family Court made him a force to be feared.

Among the conflicts in cases I documented, Holt and Attorneys John Tarrantino and Patricia Rocha—the same two who represented Holt at his disciplinary hearing—hammered out a questionable insurance scheme to benefit their clients. They persuaded Rocha’s father, the late Judge Gilbert Rocha, to block the insurance investigators’ access to court records.

Holt’s conduct in that case displayed the same “zealousness” he described to the disciplinary panel on Friday. He called it his “passion for the law.” He described his thrill at strategizing and mental gymnastics. “I had the world by the tail,” he said, before this “tragedy” struck when he was finally censured.  

His colleague of eight years, Catherine E. Graziano, offered a revealing memory at the hearing. She and Holt had met on opposite sides of a divorce case. Later he called out of the blue asking her to join the firm he planned to start. She agreed to think about it, but was astonished when Holt called back to say he had put up his sign on Reservoir Avenue, and it already had her name on it.

His style of coercive control over colleagues and clients apparently affected judges, too. The disciplinary panel heard of a judge who could have censured Holt but merely scolded: “I’m not going to sanction you, but don’t let this happen again.”  

In one case, not part of Friday’s hearing, a mother had planned to sue Holt for malpractice after he had let her divorce order go through despite its reference to a settlement agreement that did not exist. When she complained, Chief Judge Jeremiah would not let her leave court until she had signed that agreement. The court never dealt with the real problems she and her child faced. Her street was shut down for the bomb squad to remove chemical explosives her husband had stored in their basement. Another state later suspended her ex-husband's medical license after his felony convictions for sexually abusive child pornography.

The real tragedy is not Holt’s brush with justice but that Rhode Island’s Family Court functions largely as a patronage mill, rewarding political insiders with appointments as judges, magistrates, and court personnel. The Court seldom gets to the issues that endanger families, and William Holt’s hearing illustrates why.

For years I was told that the Disciplinary Counsel would not charge attorneys for ethics violations like Holt’s unless there was clear financial malfeasance. At Holt’s hearing, Deputy Disciplinary Counsel Barbara Margolis said, “I can’t figure out why he did these things,” because it was “not for personal profit.”

Of course it was. Family Court lawyers in Rhode Island have a limited number of families to charge their billable hours. These common methods of dragging out cases are tools for holding the world by the tail and winning by attrition, not rule of law. 

UPDATE: The Disciplinary Counsel suggested a one-year suspension of Holt’s license, but the Supreme Court imposed a three-year suspension in November 2014, saying he “showed a persistent pattern of deceiving judges.”

After studying Rhode Island divorce cases that cost families hundreds of thousands of dollars, I was astonished when a Florida attorney told me she charges a flat $4,000 plus court fees for divorce and custody cases, and they are usually done within a year. Rhode Island is long overdue for its judges and Disciplinary Counsel to censure and charge the flagrant ethical violations in Family Court.  

Blog Archive

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: