parasailingThis review about the dangers mandated reporters are facing is taken from a series of excellent articles on child abuse by the Daily Kos

As a longtime volunteer CASA guardian ad-Litem, I have too much experience with failure to identify/failure to report terrible things done to children.  Reporters genuinely fear for their safety and reputation and fail to report (0r, “see”) horrific abuse to avoid potential damage to themselves.

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MON JUL 14, 2014 AT 07:03 AM PDT

‘Mandated Reporters Fear Retaliation, and Their Fear is Legitimate’: Tom Ridge

byMCMoeweFollow

After two preschool children indicated their father was abusing them and one child tested positive for a sexually transmitted disease, a health care professional treating the youngsters followed her state’s mandatory reporting law — but now she’s the one in trouble.

“They act like I made it all up,” the professional, who agreed to be interviewed on the condition of anonymity, said of her state licensing board. “I have lost business and I’m having trouble getting back into a couple of insurance networks.”

She’s confident she made the right decision to report the suspected sexual abuse but is baffled why a state agency has joined the alleged abuser in questioning her motives. “Less than five percent of children who report sex abuse are telling lies,” said the professional.

Child psychologists and others who work to protect abused children say this is a common scenario — they report abuse and suffer retaliation when the alleged abuser files a complaint against them. They say the actions taken to punish them by government agencies speak louder than the mandatory child abuse reporting laws.

In Pennsylvania, where former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky escaped detection for years while molesting multiple children, several politicians have pointed to the state’s treatment of Dr. Jim Singer as part of the reason why. “As a concerned psychologist and mandated reporter, Mr. Singer spoke out,” Pennsylvania State Sen. John N. Wozniak wrote on March 5, 2013, to State Attorney General Kathleen Kane. “What happened to him after he did might certainly have had a chilling effect on the reporting of child abuse and allowed perpetrators like Jerry Sandusky to remain unchallenged.”

Last month, a news story on the conservative CNS News pointed to Singer’s case as one reason why Pennsylvania has the lowest rate of reported child abuse in the nation. “Pennsylvania remains a statistical outlier in when it determines a child has been a victim of child abuse — 1.2 per 1,000 Pennsylvania children were victims of child abuse in 2011 whereas nationally 9.1 per 1,000 children were victims,” according to a letter written by a child advocacy group to state legislators.

Singer, a Pennsylvania psychologist, said in a phone interview last week that he lost his license after reporting a case of possible sexual abuse of a 16-year-old by her father. For more than 20 years he has sought for federal or state officials to investigate his allegation that Pennsylvania child welfare officials retaliated against him for making the report. Pennsylvania state police Lt. Ivan Hoover wrote a 33-page report in 1997 that outlined possible criminal violations by state officials against Singer.

“I believed in the government. I thought they would do something,” said Singer, adding that legal fees and his inability to find employment have left him financially devastated. “Because I lost my license, I am treated like a criminal. People believe that I did something wrong. The whole system is backwards.”

A table at the bottom of this story describes eight letters written between 1991 and 2013 by Pennsylvania officials calling into question the state’s treatment of Singer. “This case is a perfect example of what is quickly becoming a national problem,” wrote then-Congressman Tom Ridge in an April 12, 1994, letter to then-Attorney General Janet Reno. “Child advocates have stated that although child abuse continues to increase, the number of cases reported has decreased. The reason is simple. Mandated reporters fear retaliation, and their fear is legitimate enough that they are willing to risk children’s lives by ignoring the abuse.”

Ridge’s letter indicated that a hearing on the problem was to be held by a Senate subcommittee later that month. It was scheduled to occur on April 27, 1994, and Singer said he submitted written testimony. But after former President Richard Nixon’s funeral caused the hearing to be cancelled, it was never rescheduled.

Though he checks regularly with various officials, Singer said his case still has not been investigated.

In 2009, the New York courts suspended Barry Goldstein’s law license after he represented Genia Shockome, a mother whose custody case was written about in Newsweek. “During the [disciplinary] hearing, I warned them that if they made a decision that penalized me for trying to protect my client, that action would put women’s lives in jeopardy,” Goldstein said in a phone interview. “It’s very hard for battered women to find an attorney who will present evidence of abuse, because most judges don’t want to hear it.”

Goldstein believes he was punished to protect a judge. “What these bad judges are doing is they are not only not believing there is abuse, they are retaliating against the mothers,” said Goldstein, who pointed out that Shockome was forbidden to contact her two young children and jailed for contempt during the custody hearing. “They (the disciplinary agencies) believe that if they don’t protect judges then people will lose faith in the judicial system. But by protecting the worst judges, they are harming the reputation of the judicial system.”

The psychologist Anna C. Salter has battled lawsuits and ethics charges for her research that was critical of court experts who dismiss allegations of child sexual abuse by asserting that the child had false memories. “All these attempts at intimidation and harassment eventually failed,” Salter wrote in an June 1998 article for the journal Ethics & Behavior.

In her article, Salter concluded that the fight among experts to protect sexually abused children is much more sinister than a battle of two different groups with opposite scientific methodologies. “It is a political fight between a group of well-financed, well-organized people whose freedom, livelihood, finances, reputation or liberty is being threatened by disclosures of child sexual abuse and – on the other hand — a group of well-meaning, ill-organized, underfinanced and often terribly naive academics who expect fair play,” Salter wrote.

The professional whose young patient had an STD has lost her battle to protect the two children. A family court judge has given the alleged abuser full custody. Now she is trying to hang on to her license. “I know the board has a job to do but I have felt like they believe I am guilty before I even walked into their office,” she said. “Mandated reporters are going to be terrified they are going to have to go through this if they report.”

This is the sixth in a series of articles for Daily Kos about the treatment of abused children in the U.S. family court system. M.C. Moewe is a former criminal justice and investigative reporter for several newspapers with a B.A. in journalism from the University of North Texas. Email m AT moewe.com or use this link.

Government correspondence regarding retaliation against a Pennsylvania mandatory reporter

Letter Date/Link Quote From Letter
State Rep. Dan A. Surra to Gov. Robert P. Casey 4/10/1991 The Child Protection Service law protects the identity of a professional that reports child abuse. This is not happening in Clearfield County! In fact a psychologist, named James Singer, has been constantly hounded by The Commonwealth because he reported child abuse. … Governor Casey, I had the child (victim) in school a few years ago and I was suspicious of serious problems in her home life. In reflection, I am glad I did not report anything.
State Rep. Dan A. Surra to Acting Secretary of the Commonwealth Brenda Mitchell 2/28/1992 There seems to be a strong case pointing to the fact that the State covered up perjury in this case.
State Rep. Sam Smith to Health Systems Development Corp. 3/11/1992 Unfortunately, the individuals who will be affected the most by this lack of consensus on intent of the law are the innocent children who are the abuse victims. … It is obvious that such irresponsibility, on the part of the Departments of State and Public Welfare, will cause more and more mandated reporters to think twice before reporting suspected child abuse.
Congressman Tom Ridge to U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno 4/12/1994 Child advocates have stated that although child abuse continues to increase, the number of cases reported has decreased. The reason is simple. Mandated reporters fear retaliation, and their fear is legitimate enough that they are willing to risk children’s lives by ignoring the abuse. This problem must be addressed, and I feel it important enough to contact you for a second time.
State Ethics Commission Deputy Executive Director Robert P. Caruso to potential employers of Jim Singer. 9/18/2006 Although the Investigative Division of the State Ethics Commission was unable to take any action regarding information brought to us by Dr. Singer, my review of the information which included a State Police report would appear to indicate that Dr. Singer, at the very least, was treated unfairly by the BPOA (Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs) prosecutors. Further, it is strongly suspected that the information used to adjudicate Dr. Singer may have been based in part or in whole on perjured testimony.
State Sen. Daylin Leach to Attorney General Kathleen Kane 2/26/2013 As the world learned last year during the state’s prosecution of Jerry Sandusky, witnesses to incidents of child abuse must speak out. Mr. Singer did, and what subsequently happened to him may have had a chilling effect on others in a position to protect some of our Commonwealth’s most vulnerable citizens for the past 25 years.
State Sen. John N. Wozniak to Attorney General Kathleen Kane 3/5/2013 A reinvestigation of Mr. Singer’s case combined with enacting tougher laws will ensure that Pennsylvania is taking the appropriate steps to protect both children and mandated reporters alike.
State Rep. Mike Hanna to State Speaker Samuel H. Smith 3/25/2013 Dr. Singer’s conduct was examined by the Pennsylvania Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs and his license to practice as a psychologist was illogically suspended by the State Board of Psychology. During this investigation, there appeared to be evidence of prosecutorial misconduct, but this conduct was never investigated by the Commonwealth.

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