Child Abuse

(Stearns County, MN, 2014) Shocking family court order: Supported by testimony from GAL, Family Court awards joint custody and primary residence of a child to a convicted child molester. GAL cites concerns that the mother is “protective” and orders orders her to have a “psychological evaluation” because the child has been tardy to school on several occasions….

As reported on the blog “Family In Law” by Michael Boulette on Jan 31, 2014 (I edited the names for privacy reasons)

“One unpublished case out of the Court of Appeals this week.

In re the Marriage of H vs. H, A12-2127, (January 27, 2014) leaves the impression that Appellant (Mother) took for granted that the court would never award custody to Respondent (Father) because of his criminal history. (Father was a registered sex-offender for an offense he committed as a 13 year old.) It appears she was wrong.

After awarding Mother sole legal and physical custody in the parties’ 2009 divorce, the Court later granted Father temporary sole custody of their child in 2011. The district court restored custody to Mother a few months later, only to permanently modify custody in 2012 by granting the parties joint legal and joint physical custody and establishing Father’s home as the primary residence.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about H is the basis upon which the Court found “endangerment” sufficient to modify custody under Minn. Stat. 518.18: missing school.In affirming the district court’s custody modification, the Court of Appeals found support in the case law for the concept of endangerment-as-educational-neglect.

Apparently, the child’s difficulties in school, coupled with Mother’s interference with Father’s parenting time were enough to tip the scales towards endangerment and sustain the district court’s ruling.”

Background: Mr. H and Ms. B married in June 2006 in Stearns County, Minnesota. A daughter was born in the fall of that same year. A separation occurred in 2007 with formal divorce proceedings initiated in 2009. After the divorce, the mother, Ms. B was granted sole physical and sole legal custody of the child. Mr. H was ordered into supervised visits. Mr. H did not exercise parenting time during the time he was jailed for failing to register as a sex offender — this would have been the second offense for the same reason.

The Father, Mr. H, has a lengthy criminal record dating from 2003- with the most recent case being in 2012. Charges range from passing bad checks, theft to various traffic offenses. And two separate charges of intentionally providing false information under the Minnesota predatory offender registration rules (failing to register as a sex offender). There are conflicting reports about the age of the victim involved in the sexual offense. Mr. H was 13 at the time, the GAL reported the victim as age 11 while the police report states that an officer learned from the BCA the age of the victim as age 4. What is know is that Mr. H was found guilty, and was convicted of molesting a child.

In 2010, Mr. H petitioned the Court for more parenting time and an un-named GAL was appointed. The GAL criticized the mother Ms. B for being “protective and somewhat possessive” and felt it was in the best interest of the child to further parenting time, unsupervised, with Mr. H. Ms. B alleged that sexual abuse had occurred and on two occasions, failed to bring her daughter to visits. Ms. B also claimed that Mr. H brought her daughter to bars. A police investigation was conducted and found no evidence of sexual abuse.

As parenting time advanced, Ms. B continued to express concerns and in May 2011, denied Mr. H parenting time on other occasions. In June 2011, the Court gave Mr. H temporary sole physical and sole legal custody because Ms. B would not bring her child to visits.Keep in mind, at that time – Mr. H is still on probation and is a registered a sex offender. The Court felt it was in the best interest of the child to be reunited with her father, a convicted sex offender with a lengthy criminal record — and that the mother posed more of harm to the child by refusing to take her child to now unsupervised visits.

Reading the history of this case from the Appellate findings, it appears the Court moved rather quickly to push reunification with the father. Also, upon being released from jail, the father begins a new relationship with a woman who has a minor child living with them for part of the week. Which should be concerning — the guy just got out of jail for an offense related to child molestation, he is supposed to be establishing a better relationship with his own child and now is moving in a woman with her own young child. How much time and energy is Mr. H really putting into improving his own life? And how much can he provide his child when he is moving another family into his home–and his own relationship with his own daughter has not been established. And given his history, does Mr. H really need a minor child in his care? Not to mention the guy was in supervised visits for a reason and is now moving a woman and a new child into his home.. The Appellate findings do not answer these questions but they would have to be addressed by the GAL at some time, and clearly she was not concerned with any aspect of Mr. H’s parenting or home environment.

Around this time, the mother Ms. B suffered a mild concussion and while recovering, claimed she had trouble getting her child to school. Ms. B also said that some of the absences were excused because the child had medical issues and required frequent doctor visits. The record shows at least 3.5 absences and one tardy per semester. Ms. B. subsequently signed an Attendance Contract with the school. The school did not take any other formal action against Ms. B and did not notify social services.

The father Mr. H also suffered a back injury at some point, and missed at least one visit with his child because of it. Yet it appears the GAL dismissed his ability to parent based on a physical injury and instead focused on Ms. B’s physical injury as an indicator that she was not able to provide for her daughter.

It appears that the GAL pushed for Ms. B to get a psych eval, which the Court did order. The record offered does not show if Mr. H. was also ordered to undergo a psych eval. Ms. B psych eval showed that she has adjustment disorder with anxiety and depression, concerns with economics and concerns with the safety of her daughter and occupational problems.

When the child continued to be absent or tardy from school, the GAL cited “educational neglect” to recommend physical custody to Mr. H. It is unclear if other interventions or measures had been tried before removal was recommended by the GAL. Mr. H was living in a home with a girlfriend and her daughter. The GAL cited evidence that the daughter of the girlfriend was rarely late for school so the home would provide a better environment for the child. Which is somewhat strange because Mr. H never married the girlfriend, and is not the biological father of her child, so he is not considered a legal guardian. Further, the nature of their relationship as dating only, not marriage, does not indicate stability…the relationship could change at any time, and should not be used as a basis to determine custody. The Court then granted joint custody to both parties with primary physical going to Mr. H.

The appeal filed for this case was problematic in that the transcript from district court was not submitted, thus limiting the ability of the judges to make a decision on the Court’s conclusion of law. Also, Ms. B’s claims about contradictory statements made by the GAL could not be verified without an actual court transcript. Ms. B also did not submit the findings of her psych eval to the appellate court. When reading the findings, it seems clear the Appellate Court largely interpreted the psych eval based on what was in the GAL report. So presenting the psych eval would have been crucial. Also important, would be an updated medical report to note any change in condition or improvements. The Appeals Court upheld the findings of the district court.

Mr. H was discharged from probation in March 2014.

I am having trouble finding the best interest of the child in this ruling – The mother, Ms. B divorces her husband, specifically stating safety concerns for her child. At the time, Mr. H is put in jail and removed from society because he is a danger. Mr. H gets out of jail to be awarded increased unsupervised parenting time — while he is still on parole, and still be monitored because of concerns with his ability to be safe with children! And then the Court awards Mr. H joint custody and primary residence even while he is dating another woman, and moved a child into the home. That means the Court is awarding the non-relative woman who is staying in a relationship with the convicted child molester while punishing the blood relative mother who chose to divorce, and clearly expressed concerns for her child’s safety and left the relationship for safety rasons. Now we have two children in the home with a convicted child molester. And somehow missing a few days of school is supposed to be a bigger concern?!? The child molester father is given more resources and support to help gain custody of his daughter than help given to the protective mother, who has raised the child continuously since birth. And now the Court wants to introduce a live-in girlfriend and her daughter into this young child’s life? And this is really supposed to be in the best interest of the child? This ruling is problematic on so many levels — and yet it is so similar to so many stories many of us have experienced due to systematic failures in family court, and failures of the GAL program.

— EJ Perth

EJ Perth:

A heartbreaking yet courageous story of a mother fighting to protect her children…and the family court system that failed this family.

This story is reblogged from:

The Guardian ad Litem recommended sole custody to an allegedly abusive, criminal and drug abusing father who was later to found so unfit and abusive towards the children that they were later removed from his home. This mother was then prevented from being reunited from her children because she was now being sanctioned by the court for failing to pay exorbitant GAL fees!
“Even though my children are fully cognizant, aware, of their own memories, of me, their mother, of my behavior, of my affection, my deep, abiding, maternal love for them, and of our lives together, I have yet to offer any reasonable explanation why their father, an indisputable criminal, abuser, drug-user, was able to obtain, and keep, custody of them for so long, and, how this was done with the complicity of those court appointed to see to the children’s safety and well-being … how all these things were done for so long, how I was given very limited, stringent visitation, as their mother, and for so long. Is it acceptable to try to explain to children? How does one do so in any rational way?”

Originally posted on amississippimom:

Starting Over When You Can’t Go Back?  – To All Protective Parents:  Rebuilding when you can’t go home again:
To all of my friends:  I have slowly begun to rebuild my work and my career, my freelance paralegal research.  I had been self-employed in the same field for over 20 years when my life came to a screeching halt in 2010 when my young children (ages 9 and 12) were kidnapped by their father and taken over 200 miles away … this was parental kidnapping, against custody, against the law.  So many others are familiar with this horror but this type of kidnapping garners little sympathy and certainly less action.  This atrocity, and the long-haul of horror it places a protective parent in is in no way different than having your children kidnapped by a stranger.  Although with parental abductions there may some knowledge, confirmation, and awareness, however vague, that…

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EJ Perth:

Convicted criminals become foster parents of vulnerable children and safe, stable parents who provide appropriate love and care for their children are losing custody and being denied visitation by the actions and rulings of CPS/DHS and family court.

This has to change! #CPSReform #DHSReform

Boston Herald, Feb 8, 2014: “The state’s embattled child welfare agency admitted there are at least 475 convicted criminals now living in foster homes that care for at-risk kids, according to stunning data for 2013 released to the Herald last night…

The department’s decision to release the report after the close of business on a Friday came after a Herald report this week showing criminals with convictions for more than 100 offenses, including drug trafficking, armed assault and inducing sex from a minor, could be cleared as foster parents.”

Originally posted on Protective Mothers' Alliance International:

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The state’s embattled child welfare agency admitted there are at least 475 convicted criminals now living in foster homes that care for at-risk kids, according to stunning data for 2013 released to the Herald last night.

The Department of Children and Families — already under fire from lawmakers — cleared the unnamed cons despite their checkered pasts.

DCF did not share the same data for previous years.

The department’s decision to release the report after the close of business on a Friday came after a Herald report this week showing criminals with convictions for more than 100 offenses, including drug trafficking, armed assault and inducing sex from a minor, could be cleared as foster parents.

The DCF data for 2013 states:

• In total, 557 waivers were granted to people with convictions ranging from misdemeanors to felonies to live in homes with foster children;

• Of those, 475 currently live…

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“You are GUILTY until proven innocent in family law” — Carlos Morales

CPS Whistleblower Exposes CPS’s Corruption, Kidnapping, and Drugging of Children by Carlos Morales:

About: Former Child Protective Investigator, Carlos Morales, Exposes CPS’s Corruption, Kidnapping, and Drugging of Children. He explains the incentives that the State gives to destroy families, and what to do if CPS comes after you, your friends, and your community on The Renegade Variety Hour (interviewed by Taryn Harris).

The first podcast discussing this can be found at:


*How the CPS system is built to fail, and how its procedures destroy lives. Morales quit working for CPS because he saw the system was destroying lives
*Insight how how CPS “enforces the war on drugs more than enforcing the war on child abuse”. They vast majority of cases we had were not for physical abuse but for supposed neglect or they were cases that were completely made up–completely made up.” And then CPS had to question children about graphic allegations of abuse, which traumatized them
-In cases where actual abuse occurred, putting the children into a foster home, often was not a better alternative. Morales says, (2:52) “In foster you have a way higher chance of being raped, molested, abused and killed than you do in an actual home where you are already being abused.”
*Family law has an incentive to “prove” abuse and remove children from homes, because that is how we get paid (Morales)
*Financial incentives in the foster care system, labeling children with disorders and drugging them for profit (they get money for every disability a child has). Often times, these labels do not account for the natural stress, disruption and reactions child experience when taken from their homes and community, and put into a foster home. Morales says not all foster care homes are bad, he just wants to show the incentives and systematic failures that contribute to corruption, and put children at risk
*The lack of training, education, qualifications and experience in CPS officers
*Tips on what to do if you are investigated by CPS
*Tips on how to handle a CPS interview
*Tips on how to keep notes about your case
*Get informed about your rights!

Warning: This song may be triggering, as it discusses domestic violence from a child’s perspective, and the video contains images of abuse.

“Oh Mother” is a powerful firsthand account of abuse and survival–that has really touched my heart. This is a song for battered women and protective moms from a child who has survived, and grown into an amazing woman. That child is the talented Christina Aguilera, now a mother herself.

The lyrics are haunting….
“She was so sick of believing the lies and trying to hide
Covering the cuts and bruises (cuts and bruises)
So tired of defending her life, she could have died
Fighting for the lives of her children..”

“Oh Mother” is a powerful piano ballad sung by Christina Aguilera (featured on her 5th album, “Back to Basics”, 2006). “Oh Mother” describes Christina’s childhood, growing up in a home where domestic violence was present.

Christina says, “Growing up I did not feel safe. Feeling powerless is the worst feeling in the world… I turned to singing as an outlet. The pain at home is where my love for music came from.” (Thompson, DailyMail)

Christina say that of her violent father made her family’s life “hell” and that he physically and emotionally abused her. The father denies all allegations of abuse.

Christina’s mother fled the home with Christina and her sister, taking them to live with her grandma. Christina’s parents divorced when she was 7 years old.

Christina has expressed that there is too much secrecy about domestic violence; “Oh Mother” has certainly raised awareness about abuse and the effects of violence on children. Christina dedicated this song to her mother. The video ends with a sign lit up that reads,”I Love you, Mom”.

Source: “Christina Aguilera talks about childhood hell at the hands of her violent father” by Paul Thompson, MailOnline. Spet. 23, 2009:

Wikipedia: “Oh Mother”:

As many as 10 million children per year witness or are caught in the middle of domestic violence. Domestic violence, and the resulting trauma, has a profound effect on a child’s physical, emotional, behavioral and social health. Children who have witnessed or experienced domestic violence commonly suffer from: anxiety, depression, social withdrawal, nightmares, flashbacks and feelings of guilt/remorse.

A relationship with a stable, caring adult is one of the most important factors in a child’s recovery from abuse or trauma, and can help to break the cycle of violence.

Some tips on how you can best support an abused child, and be a positive role model :

*** If you are working as a mentor, “Big Brother/Sister”, peer support, spiritual support, advocate or family/friend to this child, be consistent in scheduling regular visits. Don’t over commit your time then miss a visit. Don’t schedule a large number of visits then decrease the visits unexpectedly. Consistency is crucial to a child’s sense of safety—so schedule visits on a regular basis that is realistic to what you can offer, and what your time/energy allows for. Then put those visits on a calendar so the child knows what to expect, and can plan for your visit.

*** Working with an abused child can be triggering, exhausting or very emotional for the support person—so make sure you are caring for your own physical and emotional needs. This may involve a “check-in” with your supervisor. Or taking classes or attending support groups with the organization you are working for. Or it may involve self-care such as taking a walk/exercise, listening to music, reading, enjoying a hobby etc. If you feel the need to talk about your day, keep the privacy of those you are working with—do not reveal their real name or sensitive personal information about their case or family situation. If there is an urgent issue, go to a supervisor for help, if there is no supervisor you may consider calling a domestic violence shelter for advice or calling 911 in an emergency or if you feel the child’s life is in danger.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline for victims is 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), 1-800-787-3224 (TTY) or Information about local is also available through the hotline.
NATIONAL CHILD ABUSE HOTLINE: 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453)
Crisis Counselors Available 24/7 or

*** Use community resources as needed, this may include children’s support groups for victims of abuse, parenting classes, religious/spiritual support, food shelves, housing support, case management etc.
A good place to find resources is United Way 211:

*** Creating a welcoming, child-friendly environment will reduce anxiety and help foster trust. This may include offering toys, books or games (that are non-violent). Opening a window to allow sunlight in the room. Including pets in the visit. Greeting the child in a way that is comfortable to them—soft voice, smile, avoiding direct eye contact, calling them by a preferred nickname etc (you will learn these over time, as your relationship grows). Or being sensitive to cultural needs. Be consistent in your routine. Allow the child choices. And be open to trying new things, in a creative way.

*** Listen with an open, neutral ear. Refrain from judgment, shame or blame. Be open to hearing the child’s unique way of expressing themselves– their voice may not come out in a direct conversation but may be revealed in a game, in playing with toys, relating to a song or art/drawing a picture etc.

*** Domestic violence and trauma can affect a child’s mood, behavior and ability to socialize. If needed, develop a “safety plan” with the child, their parent(s) and therapist to address behavioral problems if they arise. Work with parent(s) and care providers to become aware of the child’s emotional or behavioral issues, their triggers so you can better meet the child’s needs.

*** “Kids Helping Kids: A Guide for Children Exposed to Domestic Violence” by Mental Health Programs, BC Children’s Hospital is a valuable resource and support for kids, parent(s) and caregivers.
“Kids Helping Kids” offers testimonies about domestic violence told by children in stories and pictures, which validates to children that they are not alone, and the feelings they have are okay.
“Kids Helping Kids” offers tips on how to support abused children, and gives general advise on commonly available community resources. It also offers child-friendly tips on how to talk to children about their feelings and the changes happening in their family.
I highly recommend “Kids Helping Kids” – it’s written in child-friendly manner to educate children about abuse and help prepare them to cope with the trauma, and the changes occurring in their family (which may include out of home placement or court involvement).

Any more tips? Please share your thoughts, resources or links in the comments box!

For More Information and Tips:

“Helping Children Exposed to Domestic Violence”. American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, “Facts for Families Pages”, #109, April 2013:

“Honor Our Voices: A for Practice When Responding to Children Exposed to Domestic Violence.” Presented by MINCAVA, Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare and Avon Foundation for Women:

“How Can I Help a Child Exposed to Domestic Violence?”. National Online Resources Center on Violence Against Women, Casey Keene, 1/2/2013:

“Kids Helping Kids: A Guide for Children Exposed to Domestic Violence” by Mental Health Programs, BC Children’s Hospital:

Talking to a “Protective Mother” Who Lost Custody of Children
Due to an Unjust Court Ruling: 10 Comments to Avoid & Why


These tips are for family, friends, community supports, professionals and others who are in a position to help or support a “Protective Mother”. It is devastating for a Mother to lose custody of her children—especially in a family court proceeding where she may feel victimized, violated and abused (and there no recourse for justice). Those closest to the Mother often struggle with what to say or how to help. Sometimes comments made to help actually hurt the Mother. Other times, those making comments struggle with their own emotions and/or grief and their actions and behavior causes hurt or harm because they are also struggling or don’t know what to say. Some just don’t believe that a court of law would make a mistake, and believe the Mother must have done something wrong to lose custody. These 10 Comments are commonly reported among Protective Mothers to be hurtful, and traumatic. I am sharing these comments to raise awareness, and offer tips on how to better offer emotional support to Protective Mothers.


5. Don’t tell a Mother how you want to hurt or get revenge on the ex. And don’t vent or dump anger, hatred or plotting revenge onto the Mother. This happens when a Mother tells her story and there is a strong reaction that involves harming the ex or fantasies of getting back at him.
The Reality: Holding in hurt, anger, hopelessness and other feelings intensifies those feels, and will ultimately cause more hurt and pain in your life—or that of someone else if you lash out. Words and actions to hurt or get revenge on an ex will negatively impact the custody case of the Protective Mother, and may cause her to be punished by the Court—even if she did not commit any crime or wrongdoing.
I heard a lot of anger towards my ex after I lost custody of my children; it made me afraid of talking about my situation because I felt I had to take care of and protect my friends and family members from the bad news. As a result I felt alone. Or hearing intense anger about the abuser intensified my own feelings or triggered memories of abuse.
If you are a friend or family member of a Protective Mother, and witnessed her being abused or losing custody, it is normal to feel empathy—to feel hurt, anger or frustration but don’t dump or project those feelings onto the Mother of the ex. Recognize that in your role as a support, at times, you will need support or rest—the loss of the child and trauma of family court will affect you as well.
Another tip: Take time for hobbies, recreation, social activities and other activities that are important to you, don’t withdraw or isolate. It is important to have an outlet, and to keep a connection to the things that bare a positive for you. When you can use your energy in activities or ways that make you feel good about yourself, or offer a way to vent frustrations in a safe, healthy way—that will help you work through the pain and hurt, and lead to healing. It may also be something you can enjoy together with the Protective Mom, and be another way of offering support.

4. Don’t completely Ignore the Situation and Act Like Everything is Fine.
The Reality: Acting like everything is fine, and ignoring the most traumatic loss a Mother can experience—her children—IS NOT HELPFUL! This will make a Mother feel alone, isolated and that she has no one to turn to for comfort or support. It is better to be honest and up front about your own feelings and limitations, so the Mother knows what to expect.
Then again, if the family or friends are acting like the loss of your children is no big deal, and seem unable to empathize with you, this may indicate an unhealthy relationship. You may have to reconsider this relationship and what your role in it.

3. Should’s… Don’t tell a Mother what they “should” have done differently in Court or in their marriage/divorce. Or criticize the mom’s lifestyle, appearance, employment, religion, etc. to excuse/blame/justify what happened.
The Reality: See #6. Similarly, don’t give a Mom “shoulds” if her appearance, demeanor, habits etc change after losing her children. Be understanding the loss of a child is incredibly painful and traumatic
—it feels like a death even though your children are alive, especially when you cannot have contact with those children. So be sensitive and understanding to the needs of the Mother, and allow her time to grieve and process. If you see the Mother is struggling, gently ask to help or offer support but also respect her answer, don’t force yourself onto her. I remember that after I lost my kids, my church sent me a postcard that said “We prayed for you” and the prayer team signed their names to it—that meant so much to me. Simple gestures go a long way, and one of the most profound gestures is loving acceptance. Give the Mother your love and acceptance—not your “should’s”,

2. Comments that you must have done something to make the Court take your kids/Good moms don’t lose custody of their children. Comments that Insist a Mother must “prove” her case. Examples: I don’t believe you//Judges would never award custody an abuser/Courts are always fair etc …

The Reality: Fit, loving Mothers who are primary caregivers lose custody at alarming rates—this is happen across the US, and all over the world. Your initial reaction may be disbelief, and for good reason, but don’t project that disbelief onto the Mother—take some time to process your own feelings before approaching the Mother or take time to educate yourself on the issues. The Mother will be hurting, and will need your support. The questions you have are probably are ones running through the Mother’s mind over and over. And are questions family court reformers are struggling with now. Even if you don’t have the answers for what happened in court or in her custody situation, focus on what you do have control of and ways you can offer support or help—make a cup of hot chocolate, suggest a support group or day at the spa, lead a prayer, bring her a meal, offer to help with housework.. etc When the Mother is ready, she may open up and talk more about her situation, for her to do that she must have trust in you, and feel safe. That process begins with offering support, and being present with her in her pain—not questioning, just being available.

1. Don’t say or do things that jeopardize the current custody case, custody situation or the Mother’s relationship to her child(ren).
This may include: Social media posts that threaten, criticize or harass the ex. Contacting the ex or making deals in order to see the children (or for other reasons). Publicly criticizing the Mother or showing a lack or support. Not respecting the Mother’s wishes or requests regarding her children or need for privacy. Breaking court orders. Talking negatively about either parent in front of the children. Putting the child in the middle of the custody dispute. Attending court hearings and showing emotional displays or outbursts in court, threatening either party, being disruptive or dressing provocatively in court. Publicly criticizing, harassing or naming the judge, attorneys, or other involved parties. Publicly naming the children, and revealing sensitive information about abuse allegations or information that should be private (legal name, address, date of birth, where they live, etc). Getting revenge on either party.

The Reality: DO NOT take the law into your own hands! Even though the Court situation can seem hopeless or that there is no justice, do not make it worse with aggressive, hostile or crazy behavior and actions that may cause the Court to further punish the Mother or restrict her parenting time—this is NOT helpful.

Consider seeking support and finding a safe outlet instead. Support may come from friends, family, community. Church, Professional help (lawyers, support group, counseling, religious support, classes, grief group etc).

Lisa Copen Quote

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