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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, February 2, 2014

What Woody Allen and DCYF have in common: Children Who Remember

Thanks to Nicholas Kristof at the New York Times for publishing an open letter from Dylan Farrow about her famous adoptive father, Woody Allen, and the sexual abuse she remembers from more than two decades ago, when she was 7:

Rhode Island's Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) washed their hands of two sisters, "Sara" and "Molly," after taking them from a devoted mother when they were 9 and 5. DCYF held them in foster homes and separated them in a state shelter for more than a year, before giving them to their father -- even though the girls had accused him of kicking their mother down the stairs and playing "sausage games." 

I have seen the huge red erect penis the older child drew years ago. It was unforgettable and too graphic to post. I have posted the younger girl's portrait of their father grinning as he ejaculated. It is hard to imagine how their mother could have brainwashed these images into her daughters as their father's lawyer argued. A cabal of women lawyers and mental health experts earned tens of thousands of dollars in their campaign to take these girls from their mother. The father had money; the mother did not.

It's too bad the case now being heard in federal court against DCYF could not have included Sara and Molly and the case documents referenced throughout our LittleHostages blog, including

DCYF worked hard to rid its system of this case and these children. I believe the girls now live in France with their father. I do not know whether they see their mother at all. 

But I know this: they are growing up. "Sara" will turn 18 this year. I hope that she and "Molly," like Dylan Farrow, will know how many of us always believed they were telling the truth. From my interviews, police believed them. I have scores of letters written by neighbors who knew and believed them. The relatives of their child care provider believed them. Some staff at DCYF believed them, but feared for their jobs. 

We will keep confronting the system that failed Sara, Molly, and countless children as well as the parents who tried to protect them. 

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: