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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. 

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: