(Broward County Florida: April 15, 2015) When Jennifer Bush was 9 years old, she was taken by the State and placed into foster care after allegations of Munchausen by Proxy were raised against her mother, Kathy Bush. On the anniversary of the day she was removed from her family, Jennifer is speaking out to say that her mother was not abusive, and offers a message of hope to other children in foster care.

As a young child, Jennifer spent her life in and out of hospitals, struggling with a severe illness that caused intestinal and neurological issues. She underwent about 40 operations, including removal of her gall bladder, appendix and part of her intestines. Doctors struggled to find a solution. The Bush family tried to give Jennifer as normal a life as possible, she enjoyed horseback riding and dance.

Grappling with enormous medical bills, Kathy advocated for health care reform and spoke publicly about her daughter’s illness. Kathy’s efforts made national attention in 1994 when she visited the White House, and testified at congressional hearings. Jennifer met then first lady, Hillary Clinton.

A year later, as Jennifer’s health troubles continued, a health care worker made a report that she suspected Kathy was making the child sick on purpose by giving her extra doses of medicine. Kathy was accused of Munchausen by Proxy – a rare, and controversial, syndrome in which a parent makes a child sick on purpose in order to draw attention and sympathy to themselves.

An investigation was launched that later resulted in Kathy being convicted of aggravated child abuse and fraud; she spent 3 years in prison.

Jennifer was taken into State care and spent the next 10 years living in shelter care and foster care. Jennifer says foster care was traumatic. She begged to see her mother. After aging out of the system, Jennifer reunited with her mother, and the rest of her family. She now works as a social worker and says it is her “dream job” to help other children.

 

Jennifer released this statement about her experiences, and offers a message of hope to other children in foster care:

Twenty years ago Today, on April 15, 1995, my life was changed forever.  That was the day that I was taken from my home and my family, but that day has not changed how close my family continues to be.  The ten years I spent in Foster Care were traumatic, and I had some devastating things happen to me. 

However, I persevered because of all of the angels that were there for me during these difficult times.  These people helped shaped the women I have become today. Today, I can proudly say my family is extremely close knit.  We have flourished despite the devastating separation. 

The bond I had with my brothers, prior to being removed from my family, is something that never changed.  My relationship with them helped carry me through my years in foster care.  My parents and I have picked up from where we left off, and have a very close and loving relationship. 

Today, I am living my dream as a social worker, and changing the lives of the children, and families I am working with today.  I am married to my high school sweetheart, who has walked along side me for the past ten years. 

I get a lot of joy making memories with my family, and making a difference in my community.  Although this isn’t always a happy anniversary, it is a day to celebrate my family and who we are today.

My message to foster children:

Growing up in the foster care isn’t an easy task.  Actually, the odds are often against you to be succeed in life. 

I challenge you to rise up against those odds, and be the very best you can be with the circumstances you are facing.  Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed to get the extra help that is offered, you will be thankful that you did in the future. 

There were many times that it would have been easier to give up, but its persevering against the odds that makes it even more fulfilling.  

Speak up for yourself, be your biggest advocate, and be proactive. At the end of the day we owe it to ourselves. Don’t let your current circumstance shape your future, and never doubt yourself!

With respect,

Jennifer Bush

 

Read More: 

Mother Abused Girl, Broward Jury Decides (Sun Sentinel)

‘Munchausen’ victim misses mom (By Associated Press, 2005)

‘She didn’t abuse me’: Woman taken from her family aged nine and her mother jailed in high-profile Munchausen-by-proxy case speaks out for the first time, 19 years on

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Public Domain: wallup.net

 

“Leaving an abusive partner or spouse is complicated. Victims are often isolated and financially dependent on their abusers. Hard to imagine? See for yourself how domestic abuse escalates.”

The All State Foundation offers a powerful, interactive demo as part of it’s “Purple Purse” campaign to raise awareness about the devastating effects of financial abuse, and the difficulties victims face when escaping an abusive relationship.

Click Here to Experience: Why Don’t You Just Leave? (Purple Purse)

“Why Don’t You Just Leave?”  is  a video portraying the first person perspective of an abuse victim. Along with the video is a narrative telling the story of the victim.  The viewer sees the life of the abuse victim in their home, the effects of the abuse are shown in a light fixture swinging crazily from side to side, and objects spilled om the floor. The video follows the victim in their efforts to escape and reach out for help.

Domestic abuse is defined by a pattern of behaviors involving threats, intimidation or force used  to gain power and control over another person. This demo really gives viewers a sense of how power and control manifests by portraying the struggles victims commonly face, and showing examples of how abusers trap victims into staying in the relationship.

The Purple Purse site also includes real Survivor Stories to providing inspiring examples of women who have escaped, and survived, abusive relationships.

About All State  Foundation “Purple Purse”: 

Allstate Foundation Purple Purse is the longest running national campaign focused on ending domestic violence through a proven solution: financial empowerment services for survivors. We’ve invested over $50 million and helped more than 1 million survivors recover their financial independence and break the cycle of domestic violence.

The “Purple Purse” does not offer funding directly to individuals; but does offer grants to organizations that assist abuse victims.

For More Information: 

Purple Purse Financial Tools Introduction

Online Financial Curriculum

If you are a victim of domestic violence looking for assistance, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE (7233). If you are in danger due to domestic violence, dial 911.

You can’t stop where you come from because it’s in your blood, it’s in your DNA..” ~ Lia Marie Johnson

Lia Marie Johnson, actress, singer and YouTuber, released a heart wrenching song and video titled “DNA” about the devastating impact domestic violence has had on her life; and her struggle to break free from the cycle of abuse. 

Past my bedtime,

Blue and red lights,

Come take you away,

Hate to see you like a monster,

So I run and hide...”

According to statistics, as many as 10 million children witness domestic violence each year. In the United States, in a single day (2008) 16,458 children were living in a domestic violence shelter or transitional housing facility, while an additional 6,430 children sought services at a non-residential program. (fromThe National Network to End Domestic Violence, (2009). Domestic Violence Counts 2008: A 24-hour Census of Domestic Violence Shelters and Services). And in Canada, on any given day, about 2,500 children are living in an abused woman’s shelter with their mothers (Little Eyes, Little Ears). 

Witnessing abuse includesWitnessing can mean SEEING actual incidents of physical/and or sexual abuse. It can mean HEARING threats or fighting noises from another room. Children may also OBSERVE the aftermath of physical abuse such as blood, bruises, tears, torn clothing, and broken items. Finally children may be AWARE of the tension in the home such as their mother’s fearfulness when the abuser’s car pulls into the driveway.” (Domestic Violence Roundtable) Witnessing abuse is traumatic to children, even if they are not physically hurt, and causes harmful effects on every part of a child’s life physically, emotionally, socially and developmentally. Children who witness abuse are also more likely to become involved in abusive relationships as adults (which is not limited to intimate relationships but could involve any social interaction such as: work, church/religious involvement, friendships, or a pattern of being manipulated or taken advantage of.) 

The video for “DNA”, released in 2016, shows the cycle of abuse in two parallel stories of Lia witnessing domestic violence as a child, and later experiencing it in her own life as a young adult. 

Public Domain Image: http://awesomwallpaper.com

The damage that abuse has created in Lia’s life are vividly depicted in the video for “DNA” – these are common struggles many survivors face – she is a young adult who is seeking love and attention in the wrong places. She is the life of the party whose smile hides the turmoil she feels inside. She feels depressed, anxious, insecure. Lia’s life is spinning out of control as she parties and drinks. For more info on how domestic violence affects children, please read: Children and Youth Exposed to Domestic Violence

Research has also shown that children who are exposed to violence, or are victims of violence, are at a much higher risk for entering abusive relationships in later in life – meaning the cycle of abuse continues. This is also true for Lia, who reveals in the “DNA” video, her own experiences being involved in an emotionally and physically abusive relationship. Lia says about this relationship,”When I wrote this song, I was at a really low point. I saw a lot of similarities. I didn’t want to be like that.” (Lia Marie Johnson – DNA “Behind the Scenes”). The similarities are shown in the video, when images flash back and forth between Lia and her memories of her parents, where she witnessed her mother being abused by her father. The song also reflects the inner conflict Lia feels – torn between fear of her father and the love she has for him.

Lia says witnessing abuse left her with low self-esteem and feeling that she “would always be a f– up” but she later learned, that she can change her life. And what she saw in parent’s life does not have to repeat into her own. Which is true, it is possible to break the cycle of abuse. If you have been a victim of domestic violence or exposed to it, there is help, support and resources available to assist you with safety planning and other needs (please see list of Helplines below). 

Are the pieces of you

In the pieces of me

I’m just so scared

You’re who I’ll be when I erupt,

Just like you do

They look at me

Like I look at you

I won’t be, no

I won’t be like you

Fighting back,

I’m fighting back the truth …”

 

Additional Reading: 

Child Abuse and Neglect: How to Spot the Signs and Make a Difference

The Effects of Domestic Violence on Children (Domestic Violence Roundtable)

Little Eyes, Little Ears: How Domestic Violence Shapes Children As They Grow by Alison Cunningham & Linda Baker

 

Helplines: 

National Child Abuse Hotline: 1.800.422.4453
www.childhelp.org

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1.800.799.7233
www.ndvh.org

Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network: 1.800.656.4673
www.rainn.org

National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline: 1.866.331.9474
www.loveisrespect.org

 

Lundy Bancroft will be speaking in Minnesota at the upcoming conference “Behind Closed Doors: A Deeper Look Into Domestic Abuse, Sexual Assault, and the Effects of Trauma”.

The conference hosted by Saving Grace, a local non-profit, in recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. For more info, visit: Saving Grace Facebook

For more information, and registration, please visitBehind Closed Doors Conference – St. Paul, MN – 10/27/2017

DATE AND TIME

Fri, October 27, 2017

7:30 AM – 4:30 PM

 

LOCATION

Amherst H. Wilder Foundation

451 Lexington Parkway North

Saint Paul, MN 55104

 

ABOUT THE CONFERENCE:

Through plenary presentation and breakout sessions, participants will gain in-depth knowledge of the multiple and complex factors associated with abuse and trauma.

“Behind Closed Doors” will provide education and training:

  • To understand the effects of verbal/emotional, physical, sexual, and interpersonal violence; trauma and recovery in adults and children.
  • To identify the short and long-term impact of domestic violence and sexual assault; emotional, mental, physical, economical, financial, and legal.
  • To understand the effects of trauma on the brain, in adults and children, and utilize Forensic Experiential Trauma Interview techniques.
  • To increase professional collaboration efforts of community partners in being able to identify, interrupt, and influence a positive change in the outcomes of batterers and victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, and human trafficking.

    Lundy Bancroft

Lundy Bancroft will be presenting as a keynote speaker on “Why Does He Do That?: The Profile and Tactics of Men Who Abuse Women“. Lundy will also host 3 break out sessions in a smaller group setting on the following: “Meeting the Post-Separation Needs of Women and Children”, “Assessing Risk to Children from Men Who Batter” and “Advocacy and Legal Representation for Women in Custody Disputes.”

Behind Closed Doors” will then be followed by several break out sessions, so participants can chose the subjects they want to learn more about and customize the conference to their interests and/or needs.

The break out sessions are conducted by a wide variety of experts including therapists, nurses, law enforcement, child protection worker, victim advocates, legal professionals and other community professionals.

Topics Include: 

*Understanding Trauma

*Effects of Violence and Trauma on Children

*Documentation and Care of the Patient

*Family Court and Legal Issues

*Best Practices in Sex Trafficking Investigations

*Challenging Bias, Beliefs and Assumptions

*Understanding Multi-Cultural Issues in Domestic Violence Situations

And more…

Public and professionals are invited to attend what will be an interesting, and informational event!

“Behind Closed Doors” is specifically designed for Social Workers, Child Protection Workers, Teachers, School Counselors, Lawyers, Law Students, Child Custody Evaluators, Guardians Ad Litem, Parenting Consultants, Judges, Law Enforcement, Investigators, Probation Officers, Health Care and Mental Health Professionals, Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Advocates, Physicians, Nurses, and Forensic Nurses. *CEU’s, CLE’s, & POST credits are being applied for*

 

Listen In: Violent No More: Helping Men End Domestic Abuse

I don’t think we will end domestic abuse or rape or trafficking in this country until the culture starts to change; and I think each and every one of us has an obligation to speak up, to get involved and there’s lots of ways to do that in our communities, and you just have to take that step.

And we shouldn’t be waiting ’til a horrible tragedy happens, when you read something in the newspaper about a woman being killed or just the statistics that are so haunting about all of these young girls being trafficked in all of our cities, that that it really is up to us, our institutions, our communities, and the culture to change the belief and attitudes. And when that happens, I think we’ll start to see some fundamental changes…” ~ Michael Paymar

Following a recent show on Battered Women, Psych Up takes on the crucial issue of helping men end domestic violence.  Our guest, Representative Michael Paymar brings tremendous knowledge and experience to this issue. His career has spanned from his direct work with batterers and his co-founding the nationally recognized Duluth Domestic Abuse Intervention Project to combating gender violence and related issues as a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives.

As the author of “Violent No More: Helping Men End Domestic Violence”, and the co-producer of the award winning documentary film, With Impunity: Men and Gender Violence, Michael Paymar discusses with host, Suzanne Phillips, the success and challenges in ending domestic violence. He describes the power of a group model that requires men to take responsibility and offers hope. He considers the need for a change in the personal, familial and cultural attitudes that allow domination of women with impunity.

In the back and forth he considers the messages that boys and girls are given and offers examples of how a father, mother, coach, or college co-ed can shift the attitudes that perpetuate gender violence. This show makes domestic violence a personal and painful reality that we need the courage to face.

For Help: 

The National Domestic Violence Hotline – 1-800-799-7233
1-800-787-3224 (TTY for Deaf/hard of hearing)

Learn more about More about Michael Paymar’s work:

Education for Critical Thinking

Violent No More: Helping Men End Domestic Violence by Michael Paymar

Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs (Home of the Duluth Model)

 

Public Domain Image

(Duluth, St. Louis County, Minnesota: Jan 28, 2017) In 2015, an Indian Child Welfare Court was established in Duluth, headed by Judicial District Judge Sally Tarnowski, to offer a better informed, culturally sensitive approach for Native American families involved with the legal system. Professionals working in the Indian Child Welfare Court are specially trained in ICWA (the Indian Child Welfare Act), the historical context leading up to ICWA and other relevant legal and cultural issues in order to better meet the needs of families, and to better collaborate with tribal communities. 

Read more about the court: Indian Child Welfare Court in Duluth aims for better outcomes for Native American families (Duluth News Tribune)

The Indian Child Welfare Court was created in response to ongoing concerns, validated by research, that shows Native children are being placed into state care at high rates – taken from tribal communities and placed into non-Native families. This is significantly harming families and communities. In Minnesota, statistics consistently show, that Native children are placed into state care at earlier ages, have multiple placements, and spend longer amounts of time into foster homes or institutions.

In October 2014, David Glesener a Child Protection Supervisor for St. Louis County Public Health and Human Services reported that,”As of this week, we have 540 children in out of home care, up from less than 500 two years ago. The percentage of those in care that are American Indian has also been rising and is at 40% – up from 30% two years ago. The numbers are similar in counties across Minnesota. The situation is truly epidemic for American Indian families and tribes...” The crisis of Indian children in Minnesota

In another somber report (August 2016) the Star Tribune reported that,Of the 1,300 Indian children discharged from Minnesota foster care in 2013 and 2014, the most recent years available, only 58 percent were reunited with their parents or primary caregiver, according to a Star Tribune analysis of federal data. That’s the lowest of any racial or ethnic group” Saving themselves, then their family

The Indian Child Welfare Court is designed to work in the best interest of the child’s well-being and safety while also considering their cultural needs, and utilizing community resources where appropriate.

The result has worked to build closer relationships between all those involved – including tribal governments and authorities, social services and the court system. The court room is also designed so that every sits together at one table, in a square,”In the middle of the tables inside the courtroom sit the Native American medicines sage, tobacco and sweetgrass. Everyone — from the clients to the judge — sits on the same level in a square. ICWA cases can include multiple attorneys and parents, social workers and a guardian ad litem. Before this court, all child protection cases were heard in a smaller, more intimate court. But it meant that people were talking to the backs of heads..” (Duluth News Tribune)

Currently, there is only one Indian Child Welfare Court in existence in Duluth but if this court proves successful, others could be modeled after it. The court operates through a grant issued from a federally funded study.UMD Leads American Indian Child Welfare Act Project

History of Native Children Being Taken from Home, Community

The history of Native children being taken from their homes is long, and complex, and involves actions taken by the U.S. government on Native people, and consequences that resulted within families, and Native communities as a result of these actions. Native communities, and families have been significantly impacted by the destruction of their traditional way of life and along with it, the destruction of community and family ties, and destruction of values and teachings that provided ways to raise and care for children. Poverty also remains a serious issue that is impacting Native families. 

Janice LaFloe of the American Indian Family Center (AIFC) says, For years and years, American Indian people have worked together to protect their community, as decisions were made for them, through the signing of treaties and breaking of promises, through the forced system of tribal governments and the forced assimilation of taking children into mission schools…The forced removal of children to go to boarding schools was the most detrimental thing you could have done to Indian community. There was a whole generation or more of children removed from their homes. The amount of abuse that happened to children in those boarding schools led to a perpetual cycle of learned behavior that surfaced and continues to play out...” American Indian children in Minnesota disproportionately placed in foster care (TC Daily Planet)

(PA) Carlisle Boarding School. Wikipedia Commons.

Out of home placement for Native children can be traced back to boarding schools (1860-1973), which were operated by the U.S. government through the Bureau of Indian Affairs, or by religious missionaries. The purpose of boarding schools was to educate and assimilate Native children into the mainstream “American way of life”, and to shed their Native identity entirely. At boarding schools, Native Children were given a new name, forbidden to speak their Native language, their hair forcibly cut, clothing changed, and they were taught to be ashamed of their identity and encouraged to adopt American practices. Abuse (physical, mental, sexual) and neglect was common place at boarding schools, as was forced labor. Many children died as a result of abuse or disease, resulting from overcrowding or neglect in boarding schools.

Government policies forced Native children into boarding schools – many children were kidnapped or parents were threatened, including use of physical force, to gain compliance. In many areas, racism kept Native children out of public schools so their only choice of education was a boarding school. Or, extreme poverty caused parents to send children into boarding schools. In Minnesota, in 1971-1972, 1/4 of the total population of Native children under the age of 1 years old had been adopted, and 90% were adopted into non-Native homes. According to the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) 2013 Legal Review, 60,000 Native children were enrolled in boarding schools in 1973, when the boarding school era was coming to an end.

Children being taken out of Native homes and placed with non-Native families has created a crisis that threatens the existence of Native people, and the preservation of their culture. The trauma caused by boarding schools is experienced in Native families, and communities to this day. According to experts, and health care professionals, there is a direct relation between the trauma and destruction of family ties caused by boarding schools and the high rates of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), drug and alcohol abuse and suicide among boarding school survivors and their families. In addition, survivors of boarding schools were instilled with shame, and taught to believe they are at fault or to blame for the abuse inflicted on them. There was no help, support or resources offered to cope with what happened, or to address the harms inflicted. Another disastrous effect was that the passing down of Native teachings, languages and customs was interrupted, and in many cases not passed down – and children were taught to be ashamed of their identity, and encouraged to separate from family and community.

In 1978, the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) was established out of a response to rising concerns about the well-being of Native children who were being taken, at high rates, from their homes by public and private institutions and placed into non-Native families. Cultural genocide remains a very real concern for many Native communities, as does the fate of their children – many who have never returned. The intent of Congress under ICWA was to “protect the best interests of Indian children and to promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and families” (25 U.S.C. § 1902). ICWA applies when there is an Indian child involved in child custody proceedings including foster care placements, CPS and family court proceedings. The goals of ICWA are to strengthen Native families, protect tribal interests and keep decisions within Native communities. Minnesota has added an additional layer of protection for children under the Minnesota Indian Family Preservation Act (MIFPA), passed in 1987.

For More Information:

ICWA – Historical Context, Information & Application: Powerpoint Presentation by Evie Campbell, MSW (UMD)

The sad legacy of American Indian boarding schools in Minnesota and the U.S. (Minn Post)

No one protects like a mother… A new ad campaign by Lysol celebrates the protective strength of mothers, and the incredible lengths they will go to keep their children safe. (For their part, Lysol says that no one protects against germs like their product.)

The ad campaign, named “What it Takes to Protect“, is created by McCann New York and features a video depicting wild animals to symbolize the fierceness, strength and beauty of motherhood. This creative ad campaign features humorous moments and touching images that will resonate with Moms everywhere.

What it Takes to Protect” was especially inspiring to me, as a mother who has been involved in family court proceedings with an abusive ex because what keeps me going day after day, week after week, and weeks turning into years in family court… is that motherly instinct to love and protect my child above all else.

The term “Protective Mother” is actually used to describe women, who are often survivors of domestic violence. who fight for the safety and well-being of their children, and fight to maintain a relationship with their children in family court. Abusers often initiate custody disputes or other legal action against their victims as a way to maintain power and control, and will use children as a pawn to hurt their ex partners. Sadly, the family court too often fails to recognize domestic violence and how it manifests post separation and rulings are issued that endanger both mother and child, and often results in a dangerous abuser gaining unsupervised visitation or, even, sole custody. The efforts these mothers make to escape the abuse, and attempt to keep their children safe and rebuild their lives under such daunting challenges, is truly courageous… and should be celebrated. 

According to McCann New York Co-CCO Thomas Murphy,”There is something deep and universal in the motherly instinct to protect. and it goes beyond human moms… Everyone knows that in nature you don’t mess with the mother! McCann New York, Lysol Show You How to ‘Protect Like A Mother’

What it Takes Protect” offers an interactive website: Protect Like a Mother (Lysol)

The website features fun facts about animal mothers in the wild portrayed with stunning pictures of animal mamas and their babies, allows you to e-mail a Mother’s Day card and showcases the video.

In addition, there will be a free, family friendly event in Brooklyn, New York over Mother’s Day weekend May 13-14, 2017. According to the website,”The free, family-friendly exhibit will pay tribute to the fiercest moms on the planet through larger-than-life interactive animal installations, reaching up to 24 feet in height and including an eagle, an octopus and an orangutan. The installations will chronicle motherly instincts through visual storyboards of the most incredible moms on Earth.

Date: Mother’s Day Weekend – May 13th – May 14th
Time: 9am – 6pm
Location: Brooklyn Bridge Plaza at Brooklyn Bridge Park”