Posts Tagged ‘child sexual abuse’

When most people think of the homeless, they think of the mentally ill, drug addicts or alcoholics that would rather live off of the money they beg for on the street than to get a real job. But there is a large part that makes up a much darker side of the homeless community: Homeless youth. 

Homelessness among young people is a serious issue. Homeless youth in our communities are individuals who lack parental, foster or institutional care. They are the ones who have become invisible to most and an irritation to some.The National Runaway Switchboard estimates that on any given night there are approximately 1.3 million homeless youth living unsupervised on the streets, in abandoned buildings, with friends or with strangers. Homeless youth are at a higher risk for physical abuse, sexual exploitation, mental health disabilities, substance abuse, and death. It is estimated that 5,000 unaccompanied youth die each year as a result of assault, illness, or suicide. 

Common Reasons Why Youth Become Homeless:

Family problems: Many youths run away, and in turn become homeless, due to problems in the home, including physical and sexual abuse, substance abuse of a family member, and parental neglect. In some cases, youth are asked to leave the home because the parents cannot afford to care for them.

Transitions from foster care: Youth who have been involved in the foster care system are more likely to become homeless at an earlier age and remain homeless for a longer period of time. Youth aging out of the foster care system often have little or no income support and limited housing options and are at higher risk to end up on the streets.

Abuse in Foster Care

When there is suspicion of abuse or neglect in the home, child welfare services may intervene and the child can be removed from the family and be placed into protective services and eventually into foster care. Unfortunately, many of these children end up being abused and neglected in the foster homes that were supposed to be a safe haven for them. As a result, homeless youth often become frustrated and rather than continuing to endure the abuse, they resign themselves to a life on the streets alone. 

According to a report issued by Julie Rogers, the inspector general of Nebraska Child Welfare, At least 50 Nebraska children, some as young as 4 years old, had suffered sexual abuse while in the state’s care or after being placed in an adoptive or guardianship home from July 2013 through October 2016. All of the cases were reported to the state’s child abuse hotline and all were substantiated, either by the courts or by child welfare officials. Few details were released on the cases. According to another report issued by Rogers, sexual abuse and suicidal behavior among children in the care of the state increased again last year. There were 45 reports of child sexual abuse during 2017-18.

During the same 2017-18 period, there were two suicides and 52 suicide attempts involving youths whose care falls under the state umbrella. The previous year, there had been one suicide and 45 suicide attempts. The 52 attempts involved 49 youths, three of whom made multiple attempts. 

Research has shown that 43% of runaway and homeless youth were sexually abused before they left their homes. These young people often flee abuse at home or in foster care, but are exposed to further sexual victimization and human trafficking once on the street. One of every three teens on the street will be lured into prostitution within 48 hours after leaving home. And the average age of entry into prostitution is fourteen. 

These children often grow up in broken and dysfunctional homes where love and affection are absent. Instead of protection, many times these children receive brutal treatment. Their self-esteem is beaten to the point of feeling unworthy of any respect or fair treatment. They are insulted, humiliated, threatened, yelled at and isolated. They endure repeated sexual abuse—sometimes from several perpetrators. All of these factors may contribute to Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other emotional problems which lead them to start using drugs as a way to cope. 

28% of youth living on the street and 10% of those in shelters engage in what is often referred to as “survival sex”. (Exchanging sex for money, food, drugs or a place to stay) Most of these children come from horrific living conditions. They find themselves vulnerable, desperate, and in need of surviving. They require basic needs like food and shelter; therefore, they give into survival sex. 

The situation for these youth is dire. But there is help available for homeless youth in our community. The Youth Emergency Services (YES) has a shelter that is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week with youth workers, counselors and homeless youth advocates. The shelter is available to youth ages 16 to 20.

Youth seeking shelter services are screened to ensure appropriate placement and safety of the residents. The emergency shelter is a family-style residence with separate sleeping areas for male and female clients. Youth share meals, television and computer privileges, and recreation and laundry facilities in a community area.

A trained staff of counselors, advocates and youth workers spends individual, focused time with residents to help them work through the problems they face. YES exists to help these youth turn their lives around. You can find out more about YES volunteer opportunities and ways to to help at: https://www.yesomaha.org 

We need to change our mindset and preconceived ideas about these helpless children that lead us to make erroneous conclusions. Many of us may have looked the other way and denied ourselves the opportunity to help. It may be that the assumptions made in regards to the homeless youth are what is preventing us from aiding and reaching out to them. If we did, perhaps there would not be over one million of our youth living on the streets each year in the United States.

 

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Diversity has made our Nation a more vibrant and open society—in ideas, perspectives, and innovations. But the full potential of our diverse, multicultural society cannot be realized until ALL Americans, including racial and ethnic minorities, gain access to quality health care that meets their needs. Racial and ethnic minorities have less access to mental health services, are less likely to receive needed care, and when they do receive care, it is more likely to be poorer in quality than whites. This is especially true when it comes to mental health issues in children.

My friend, Denisha Seals, has authored the book, “Butterflies In Me”. It is a children’s picture book designed to create open discussions and critical thinking about the mental health challenges minority children face—which are often ignored. I have read both the “Butterflies In Me” book and companion work book and I highly recommend it to families, therapists, and schools. 

Denisha was sexually abused when she was 5 years old. Her experience led her to suffer from PTSD, anxiety and depression. “Throughout the years of therapy no professional diagnosed me.” She says. “They knew about my childhood and they didn’t diagnose me. My mental health challenges were obviously causing a lot of issues in my life into my teenage years.”  

Denisha is no different than millions of other victims of child sexual abuse. While this is her first published book, she plans to write more in the future. She is also working on a documentary, “No Longer Silent: Hear Our Voices,” which she hopes to license this fall.

The documentary is designed to give survivors of child molestation and sexual abuse an opportunity to have their voices heard, and to have public policymakers and potential allies gain a greater awareness of the devastating effects of such negative social interaction on the lives of individuals, the community and social fabric as a whole.

She hopes that by telling her story it will help other victims tell their story too and start the healing process.

You can purchase Denisha’s books at the following links:

https://www.facebook.com/denisha.seals.77

https://blossomingtogether.weebly.com/books.html

There is healing for survivors of childhood sexual abuse. And having a conversation about it is the first step.

If you were asked what the most critical problems facing our society today are, how would you answer? Poverty? Crime? Drug abuse? Sex Trafficking? What if I told you that most of these problems could be reduced or even eliminated? Most of these problems all stem from the same root cause: Child abuse and neglect.

Studies have shown that victims of child sexual abuse are at a higher risk for substance abuse problems, associated psychological disorders and/or mental problems. They are also at a higher risk for committing violent crimes. And yet when we hear of one of these abused children being arrested and convicted of crimes we seem to have little or no compassion for them.

According to a report released by the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, almost half of the women and one tenth of the men in our nation’s jails and prisons say they were physically or sexually abused as a child before their imprisonment. For prisoners who had spent part of their childhoods in foster care, the rate of abuse was even higher. 44% of the male prisoners and 87% of the female prisoners who had spent the majority of their childhood in foster care or institutions reported abuse. These were foster homes that were supposed to be a safe place for them to live!

These experiences are deeply traumatizing for a child and have long-lasting and profound impacts on them. Child abuse, which includes sexual, physical, emotional and child neglect, is a major social problem in our country. In ‘Does Child Abuse Cause Crime?’ (NBER Working Paper No. 12171), authors Janet Currie and Erdal Tekin found that child maltreatment roughly doubles the probability that an individual engages in many types of crime.

This does not mean that every victim of child abuse will grow up to commit crimes or become a drug addict. It simply means that they are at a higher risk. That is why it is so important for school counselors and teachers to become familiar with the many ways in which childhood abuse and neglect issues can manifest themselves in a child. At the same time, they must realize that disclosure of child abuse does not always happen as as quickly as they would hope. Many times it may take a victim several months to reveal the abuse—sometimes years. I have known many adults who have never revealed their childhood abuse until they were over 60 years old!

The question many ask is, “Why don’t children tell someone about their abuse?” There are many reasons why a child victim of sexual abuse is not likely to tell anyone about their abuse. Often, the abusive adult will convince the child that they won’t be believed. Children frequently remain silent to protect a non-abusive parent from becoming upset. In order to keep the abuse secret, the abuser will often play on the child’s fear, embarrassment or guilt about what happened, convincing them that no one will believe them or that telling anyone will break up the family and it will be the child’s fault. 

Another reason kids don’t tell is because they may know friends who have also been abused at home and went to court. Not only did their friend not receive justice, they also ended up in foster care for a while. So they don’t tell anyone. They just try to forget about it and keep all the hurt inside—And so does their family.

Many times an abuser could be someone you’re close to or in a relationship with. Children of single mothers are especially vulnerable. The mom is so busy working to pay bills and put food on the table, (Sometimes working two or three jobs) that she may not imagine someone whom she invited into her home would have intentions of harming her children. But it has been proven that children living with only one biological parent are 33 times more likely to be sexually abused than children who live with both their biological parents.

Watch for the signs

So how can we know who to trust? We need to read the signs. Someone may be a danger to your children if they:

  • Insist on physical affection such as kissing, hugging or wrestling even when the child clearly does not want it. 
  • Insist on time alone with a child with no interruptions. 
  • Are overly interested in the sexual development of your child or teenager. 
  • Regularly offer to baby-sit children for free or take children on overnight outings alone. 
  • Buy your children expensive gifts or give them money for no apparent reason. 

Lastly, check to see if the person you’re in a relationship with is listed on the National Sex Offender Registry—Not just the local registry. Because a registered sex offender will not volunteer his or her information. And if found out, will most often tell you how they were unjustly convicted. Also be aware that many sex offenders will move away from the state they lived when they were convicted without notifying the state where they move to. Because they know that authorities will not look for them unless they commit another crime.  

We all feel shock and outrage whenever we hear of child sexual exploitation by a teacher, coach or religious instructor, but stories of a child being sexually abused by a parent, step-parent, or someone living in the same home as the child rarely receives even a blip on the local news.

Why is it so easy for us to ignore these lost children? 

Maybe because it’s easier for us to ignore the root problem than to work on a solution. To begin with, we need to work to change the court system when it comes to dealing with those convicted of child sexual abuse. When someone is convicted in court, most judges allow the perpetrators to plead guilty to a lesser charge and sentence them to probation and require them to register as a sex offender—which does nothing to protect vulnerable children.

Many still believe that the Sex Offender Registry prevents pedophiles from living near them in their in their community. This is a misconception. Nebraska is one of 22 states that don’t place any restrictions on child sex offenders. None! This means that a convicted child sex offender can visit and/or work in schools, daycares, children museums, and even live with or socialize with vulnerable children. The SOR law can only mandate that the offender register his or her required information at the sheriff’s office within the required time. (Nebraska statutes 29-4004 and 29-4006) Some judges even allow the perpetrators to have contact with their victim!

Prosecutors will tell the victim that it will be emotionally easier for them if they allow a plea deal. But what they don’t tell them is that when a case of child sexual abuse is brought before the court, the perpetrator is charged with crimes against the State, not against the victim. Then, the only option for the victim to get justice for what’s been done to them is to take it to civil court. How many 6 to 9 year old victims do you think have the knowledge and financial means to take their abuser to civil court? 

Another thing we can do is petition out legislators to change the Sex Offender Registry laws in our state to better protect our children. I have written to many state senators asking them to change the SOR law. The very few that responded told me that there was nothing they could do. It’s easy for politicians to ignore one or two people, but it’s much harder for them to ignore hundreds of people demanding the same thing.

Lastly, we can encourage survivors of child sexual abuse to speak out. Arrange for schools to allow them to tell their story and contact local news outlets and ask them to cover the event. It is a proven fact that other victims will open up when they know someone else has experienced the same thing. Child sexual abuse needs to be talked about. Remaining silent will only keep this epidemic hidden. 

“Only by dropping our well worn masks

revealing the degrading darkness of hell

can we hope to finally bask

in the life giving light outside our cell.”

By Juno Diaz, Pulitzer Prize winning author and survivor of childhood sexual abuse

Sex trafficking, drug abuse, mental health issues and criminal activity are only symptoms of the problem. We need to take care of the root of the problem. Otherwise, all the laws we pass and programs we develop will be like putting a band-aid on a broken bone. 

“…but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:14)

“But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matthew 18:6)

Other resources:

https://www.stopitnow.org/ohc-content/what-keeps-us-from-talking-about-sexual-abuse

https://www.smallvoices.org

https://www.d2l.org/the-issue/statistics/

https://laurenskids.org/education/curriculum/

From Denisha Seals (Child sex abuse survivor and author)

Good Morning Loves!!
Hey you! Yes, you!!
Reclaim your life back…reclaim who you were supposed to be before the trauma occurred.
Restart your journey….restart as many times as you need to, to be stronger to take those next steps in your journey.
Remove them….remove the people, substances, foods, drama and poisonous situations that darken your road to recovery.
Replenish yourself…replenish your spirit.. cleanse your soul with forgiveness, positive thinking, positive relationships, healing, love, and abundance.
Rejoice in it!!! Rejoice…in your journey, and Thank God for how far you’ve come!

You’re much more than what your critics say. You survived more than they could ever imagine themselves. Your life isn’t over yet. Because you still have a lot of fight left in you!

Most of us would like to think that people are basically good and that our country will eventually become good and fair for most of us.

I know that the sovereign Creator of the universe will eventually bring his divine plan to fruition. And victory will belong to the faithful because the Lamb of God has overcome by virtue of his death and resurrection (Revelation 5:6; 12:11). And all who stand in opposition to the King of Kings will be vanquished. 

But history has proven to us that sometimes a country has to “hit bottom” before drastic changes are made. I know this: if righteousness exalts a nation (Proverbs 14:34), then unrestrained sin will also destroy it. I also know that God has a moral standard by which He judges nations, and when they reach a certain depth of depravity, He will bring them down (Genesis 15:16; 18:22). 

God gave Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, forty days to get their act together (Jonah 3:4). When they repented, God relented. Assyria then continued for another century and a half. However, the Assyrians degenerated again, and the prophet Nahum was sent to proclaim their destruction (Nahum 1:9). Nineveh fell completely in 612 B.C.

What makes Americans believe that we live in an eternal empire, when in reality this country is on a collision course with oblivion when Assyria, Babylon, Greece, Rome—none of these superpowers, lasted more than a few centuries? Decadence consumed all of them. And there are clear signals that the same weaknesses are eating away at America as well.

Anyone who reads a local newspaper or watches the evening news will have to admit to the fact that our country is in deep trouble—School shootings, Sexual assaults on children and other cases of child neglect and abuse have become all too common. And our legislators have done nothing to make any real changes. 1 in 5 children will be sexually abused before they reach 18. (Many in their own homes) And even when the perpetrators are convicted, most judges on sentence them to probation!

We’ve replaced the Bible and prayer in our public schools with metal detectors and police security. We’ve given up the security of family values and replaced them with immoral ideas and attitudes. Sanctity of life is no longer fought for, and more often is legislated against. As a result, our children have become uncontrollable beasts who murder without conscience. And those who were designed to be examples for our children—from parents, teachers and coaches, to the local pastor, to our legislators, on up to the President, have fallen and have led us to the brink of destruction. 

Just as Israel of old, we too, have forgotten God and replaced Him with our own golden calf. We have bowed down to the idols of humanism, secularism, and government control, and we have reaped the rewards of our actions.

I have heard many complain about how corrupt our government is. And they usually blame the current administration for the country’s ills. But God tells us that it is His own people who are to blame: “For exaltation comes not from east or west or out of the desert, but it is God who judges; He brings one down and exalts another.” (Psalm 75:6-7) 

If God is the one who “brings one down and exalts another” then the current administration was placed there by God himself. But why? Why would God place a wicked leader in such a prominent place? So that His people would repent and turn back to Him! (See Habakkuk, Jeremiah and Isaiah) We are like Nineveh. Except God is still waiting for us to repent.

America was once a great nation because it was founded on absolute principles based on God’s Word, the Bible. For years God has been trying to get our attention, calling us to arise from our slumber! To return to him and repent of our wicked ways so that He can heal our land. (II Chronicles 7:14) But we have ignored Him. 

In recent years we had George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barrack Obama as presidents. Each one’s administration and its policies became progressively worse than the last. Yet we refused to repent and turn to God. And now we have Donald Trump who has continually lied to the public, encouraged actions of white supremacists, violated human rights, and has a history of sexual harassments and assaults. And STILL we refuse to repent!

As believers in God and his son, Jesus the Messiah, it is the responsibility of us who have been justified by his death and resurrection to seek God’s face, repent of our apathy and wickedness and pray earnestly for revival! Revival in our own heart first—as well as for our community and our nation.

We have to understand that repentance isn’t just walking in front of the church and parroting a “sinner’s prayer” and then believe that you’re okay as you walk right back into worldly pleasures. Repentance means more than just being sorry. Someone once said that the road to destruction will be paved with the souls of the sorrowful. I’m sure that all of the fallen angels who rebelled against God are sorry now that they followed Satan in his failed revolt against God.

In Matthew 7:21-23 Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

You also have to acknowledge that in your flesh, (that is, in your own strength) this is impossible to accomplish. The foundation of all sin and all the problems that have plagued societies and civilizations since the fall of man is ‘Self’. Everything from lust, to murder, to war, are all sins derived from ‘Self’. Wars are being waged simply because someone has something that the other wants and cannot have. Neither side will compromise, so they go to war. (James 4:1-4)

But how can we know what God’s will is for us? How can we know that what we’re doing is sin that needs to be repented of? 

By studying the Bible (Basic Instructions Before leaving Earth). You see God did not leave us alone without leaving us an instruction manual. By studying the Bible we will understand God’s heart and what He expects from us and how very much he loves us and wants to bless us. And I’m not talking about being spoon-fed a pastor’s version of Scripture, but to really study it for yourselves, allowing God’s spirit to teach you.

But you must also be aware that once you surrender to God’s will and decide to obey Him, the world will come against you—and sometimes the strongest opposition will be among your closest friends and loved ones. (1 Peter 4: 12-16; Romans 5:2-5; Matthew 5:10-12)

I don’t think our nation (or the world) has ever been in a greater sense of turmoil than it is at this moment. All the blasphemy, all the unbelief, all the dirty stories, all the lying, all the deception, all the sexual perversion and all the drunkenness…And that is happening among people who claim to belong to God! This tremendous iniquity continues to rise up in the sight of God. The shadow of darkness and death is over this generation like nothing we’ve ever had before. And yet, the greatest tragedy of all is this: A silent Church in a dying world. We have neither the vision nor the passion, nor at this moment, the intention of setting our house in order “to break up our fallow ground” and to prepare the way of the Lord. (Hosea 10:12)

“…I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing. So choose life, so that you and your descendants may live, and that you may love the LORD your God, obey Him, and hold fast to Him. For He is your life, and He will prolong your life in the land the LORD swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” (Deuteronomy 30: 19-20) 

Some will read that Scripture and interpret it as God saying, “CHOOSE LIFE! OR I WILL DESTROY YOU!” But it’s more like a compassionate father gently saying, “I love you. Please…choose life.”

Parents, with their children in tow, have been coming in droves to our borders seeking a better life for their children and families. Many of the parents brought their children on the long and dangerous trek because they hoped that America would have more pity on those with children. Most were escaping the gang violence and poverty in their own country, so it’s easy to understand why a loving parent would put their children through so much for a chance for a better life.

Actually, it’s not much different than when the Pilgrims made their dangerous trip to the “New World” to escape the tyranny of the King of England. Or the new settlers on the frontier. They also brought their children with them on their dangerous journey. And people consider them heroic.

Americans already upset at the images of thousands of children being separated from their parents and being housed in cages, were even more shocked and outraged at the recent death of a seven year old immigrant who died while in custody of Border Security officers. Many were incensed at some of the politicians who casted the blame for this little girl’s death on her parents. 

But where is the outrage at the thousands of American children who are abused and killed every year—Many by their own parents? The American Society For The Positive Care For Children States that 1,750 children died from abuse and neglect in 2016. That same year there was also 4.1 million child maltreatment referral reports received. And 143,866 children were placed in foster care. 78.0% of child fatalities involve at least one parent. 70.0% of child fatalities are under the age of 3. And nearly 50% of children who die from child abuse are under one year old! ( https://americanspcc.org/adverse-childhood-experiences/ )

Our Broken Foster Care System

Many of the immigrant children were placed in for-profit foster care facilities across the nation. Children placed in a for-profit foster care system are dying at alarming rates, but the deaths are not being investigated! And autopsies are not even being attached to the now-closed case files, a two-year investigation has found. (https://theintercept.com/2017/10/18/foster-care-children-deaths-mentor-network/) The report cited news accounts of children placed in homes with individuals who had been convicted of kidnapping and other serious crimes, with foster-parents who had substance abuse problems, and in homes where caretakers had previously failed foster care placements. What is most shocking is that between 50-60% of maltreatment fatalities are not recorded on death certificates!

Child Sexual Abuse: The silent Epidemic

Roughly 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 10 boys will experience sexual abuse. It is a sad fact that children are the most vulnerable among us and also the least equipped to advocate for themselves. Because of the #MeToo movement more and more survivors of sexual violence and sexual harassment are coming forward to share their stories. But for the most part, the focus of #MeToo has been on adult victims of workplace sexual misconduct. This has to change! Almost 60,000 children are sexually abused every year. Over 90% knew their perpetrator very well—A step-parent, relative, or caregiver. 

It is time for the women and men of #MeToo to advocate for children as ardently as they do for adults. Removing stigma is key, and encouraging survivors to disclose their own experiences will help others feel safe enough to come forward. We must disrupt the silence, because silence benefits only perpetrators, never victims.

 

Consequences For the Victims

  • Abused children are 25% more likely to experience teen pregnancy.
  • Abused teens are more likely to engage in sexual risk taking behaviors, putting them at greater risk for STDs.
  • About 30% of abused and neglected children will later abuse their own children, continuing the horrible cycle of abuse.
  • In at least one study, about 80% of 21 year olds that were abused as children met criteria for at least one psychological disorder.
  • The financial cost of child abuse and neglect in the United States is estimated at $585 billion! 

Children living through abuse, violence and other traumatic events unnecessarily suffer the ill effects for the rest of their lives. These life-altering events are called Adverse Childhood Experiences. (ACEs) Positive parenting and protecting our children from harm prevents the harmful effects of ACEs. Children who are nurtured and supported throughout childhood are more likely to thrive and develop into happy, healthy, and productive adults. 

Each state has its own requirements for reporting abuse. Some states require that every adult who suspects abuse makes a report. Other states very clearly define which persons and professions are required to make reports. It is important to know the reporting laws in your state. (You do not have to be certain that abuse has occurred to make a report). In Nebraska, everyone is a mandatory reporter. This means that not only physicians, medical institutions, nurses, school employees and  social workers are mandated to report abuse, but any person who has reasonable cause to believe that a child has been subjected to abuse or neglect is required by law to make a report to the CPS Hotline and/or Law Enforcement. (Nebraska Revised Statute 28-711)

I strongly suggest that non-professional people contact local Law Enforcement. Recently, an Omaha elementary teacher was convicted of sexually abusing at least 7 young children on school grounds. One was a 7 year old girl! That same week an Omaha assistant principal was convicted of having sex with a 15 year old girl and her younger sister! Both were accused of sexually abusing children in other states. And neither schools reported to police. It was only reported to police after the parents found out. And they reported it.

Why is it only when things like this happen that people become shocked and outraged and speak out against the perpetrators? This is happening every day in some child’s home—by someone they trust!

I was even more shocked when I heard an Omaha police spokesperson say that “hopefully these children will get over it soon.”

Get over it? Their innocence and childhood has been destroyed, and you think they will get over it? It will take years and years of therapy and support before they will be able to live with it. But they will never get over it.

If you have a child you must be diligent to protect them from sexual predators—from without and from within. 

“Safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments are essential to prevent child maltreatment and to assure that children reach their full potential.” – CDC

Our Broken Justice System

When criminals are brought before judges for sentencing, judges should weigh factors including the severity of the crime, public safety, losses to the victim and a defendant’s efforts to change. But all too often judges hand down light sentences to repeat offenders who often go on to commit even more violent crimes. It has become even more common for judges to hand down probation to those convicted of child sexual abuse.

Our Broken Court System

In June of 2013 an 11 year old girl had been sexually abused by her then step-father. (A third degree Felony) He was later arrested and held on a $250,000.00 bond. Even though a great many pages of documents were submitted to Sarpy County Judge Zastera proving that this man had been physically and emotionally abusive to his children and wife for more than 10 years before he was arrested for child sexual abuse, the judge allowed him to plead guilty to a lesser charge of misdemeanor sexual assault, and only sentenced him to two years probation and required him to register as a sex offender! 

Although Judge Zastera required him to have no contact with his step-daughter, he did allow him to live with his three other biological children. Only ten days after he was released on probation, he was arrested again in Plattsmouth, Nebraska after throwing his then 8 year old daughter across a room and into a wall. The father was later transferred to the Sarpy County jail for violating his probation—after police discovered weapons, drugs, alcohol and pornography in his possession. But he was never charged for abusing his biological daughter! He was then sentenced to less than three months in the Sarpy County jail and then allowed to leave the state; where is allowed to abuse others there.

Judge Zastera has since retired from the bench, but now works as a defense attorney for other sex offenders.

Our Broken Welfare System

Many may ask, “Why didn’t the mother just take her kids and leave?” Many times women who live with an abusive partner don’t leave with the children out of fear of retribution from their partner. Some have even had their abusive partner threaten to kill them and their children if they ever left.

But rather than providing therapy and help for these children and their mother, who all suffer from years of abuse, the children are removed from the home and placed in foster care where they are refused contact with their mother and many times placed in separate foster homes.

In the meantime, the mother suffers even more mental anguish from being separated from her children and may begin to self medicate with drugs or alcohol. This causes CPS to flag the mother as potentially unfit and the children could be removed from her care several times. 

A typical CPS victim family is living below poverty level. Their main concerns have been to take care of their children and make enough money to pay bills each month. They don’t know what the US Constitution says and have never studied laws about child welfare, thus, they are no match for child welfare social workers whose work-life revolves around court cases and separation of children from their families. So long as families are kept confused and “in the dark” about what’s going on, the social workers have a great advantage over them when they go to court.

There has been a great outcry against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for separating young children from their mothers after crossing our borders illegally. Many are calling it inhumane and demanding the dismantling of ICE because of it.  But where is the outrage against Child Protective Services (CPS) and the hundreds of thousands (Yes, thousands) of children separated from their mothers and siblings? 

In 2016, over 687,000 children spent time in U.S. foster care. In June of 2017, the child welfare system in Nebraska had 4,123 children in foster care. And the numbers keep rising. But instead of being safely reunified with their families, many of these children will languish for years in foster homes or institutions. Nebraska historically has removed children at one of the highest rates in the nation. 

Recently the Omaha World Herald reported that state auditors are calling into question more than $26 million worth of Nebraska child welfare spending from last year. The audit also discovered that a state ward was placed in the home of a foster parent whose son was the ward’s boyfriend—even though the boyfriend was convicted of sexual assault in 2011!

HHS agreed that with the auditors that some matters needed correcting, but disputed key findings in the audit. Isn’t placing a child in the home of someone convicted of sexual assault a key finding? 

Foster Care And Minority Children

Racial and ethnic minority children are overrepresented in the number of children in foster care. African American children, Native American children, and children of two or more racial backgrounds are more likely to be in foster care. Even more striking, the time spent in foster care increases for minority children with two or more racial backgrounds. This is a troubling and complex situation.

The Foster Care Review Office data on DHHS wards indicate that minority children are also more likely to be separated from their siblings during their time in care. This is particularly true for African American children and Native American children. But once children are in the foster care system, there is little variation in well-being by race. Many children of all races struggle with a variety of issues related to being in foster care. 

National research shows that children who experience four or more changes in placement are likely to suffer permanent damage from the instability and trauma of broken attachments.

The American child welfare systems is badly broken—and the children are the ones who suffer serious harm as a result. Some will be separated from their siblings. Others will be bounced from one foster home to another, never knowing when their lives will be uprooted next. Too many will be further abused in systems that are supposed to protect them.

Caseworker turnover produces another source of instability. Among the Nebraska cases reviewed, 16.8 percent of children had five or more caseworkers while in their latest episode of foster care. An additional 36.8 percent had three or four caseworkers! 

So it’s no wonder so many children fall through the cracks! It was reported that at least 50 Nebraska children—some as young as 4 years old—have suffered from sexual abuse while in the state’s care. And that’s just in the first 4 months of this year! 

For-Profit Foster Care

For-profit foster care homes were originally created to replace government-funded foster homes. For-profit programs are generally revered because they can cut the corners and costs that public systems can’t. But those corners are generally very important and critical for the wellbeing of children. And when corners are cut, it generally means that those who are supposed to care and provide for children are under qualified, not background-checked, and occasionally criminal. In 2013, the LA Times reported that children living in private, for-profit foster care are 33 percent more likely to experience abuse—be it physical, sexual or emotional.

The Omaha World Herald reported that for five years Nebraska has tried privatized foster care; and it has been a terrible failure. A study compared results achieved by state child welfare workers and by the Nebraska Families Collaborative, the private agency that manages child welfare cases in the Omaha area. It found no cost savings and no significant difference—either positive or negative—in outcomes for children and families. “Privatization promised better outcomes at a lower cost, and that has not happened,” the authors wrote in their report. “It was, perhaps, a worthy experiment, but it has failed.” And yet the Nebraska State Legislature continues to be unable to reach a common sense solution for the child welfare problem in our state.

What does the Bible say about this?

The Bible does not specifically use the term child abuse. What the Bible does tell us is this: children have a special place in God’s heart and anyone who harms a child is inviting God’s wrath upon himself. When Jesus’ disciples tried to keep children from coming to Jesus, he rebuked them and welcomed the children to his side, saying, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” (Mark 10:14) Then Jesus took the children in His arms and blessed them. (verse 16) The Bible promotes child blessing—not child abuse.

Children are abused and mistreated in several different ways, all of which are abhorrent to God. The Bible prohibits child abuse in its warnings against improper treatment. Though healthy forms of discipline are biblically acceptable, such discipline should never be administered as physical punishment. There is no place for uncontrolled anger when dealing with children.

The Bible also prohibits child sexual abuse in its condemnation of sexual sin. Sexual abuse or molestation is particularly devastating, and warnings against sexual sin abound in Scripture. To force sexual acts upon a child is a horrible, evil offense. 

In addition to committing a sexual sin, the perpetrator is also attacking the innocence of one of the world’s most vulnerable persons. Sexual abuse violates everything about a person from his or her understanding of self to physical boundaries to spiritual connection with God. In a child, these things are so barely established that they are often altered for life and without appropriate help, may not ever heal.

Another way the Bible prohibits child abuse is in its forbidding of psychological and emotional abuse. Ephesians 6:4 warns fathers not to “exasperate” or provoke their children but to bring them up in the “training and instruction of the Lord.” Harsh, unloving verbal discipline, emotional manipulation, or volatile environments alienate children’s minds from their parents and render their instruction and correction useless. 

It has been well documented that many foster parents provoke and exasperate their foster children by placing unreasonable requirements on them, belittling them, or constantly finding fault, thereby producing wounds that can be as bad as or worse than any physical beating can inflict. Colossians 3:21 tells us not to “embitter” our children so they will not become discouraged. Ephesians 4:15–19 says we are to speak the truth in love and use our words to build others up, not allow destructive words to pour from our lips—especially toward the tender hearts and minds of children. Child abuse in any form is evil. 

We are told that if we witness injustice that we are to write to our senators and other lawmakers to make our voice heard. In the past I have written to over 20 state senators pleading with them to do something to protect our children from predators that they are forced to live with—either in their own homes or in foster care—by placing restrictions on those who have been convicted of child sexual abuse. Currently, Nebraska has no restrictions on sex offenders of any kind, so being required to register as a sex offender means nothing. The few who responded: Governor Pete Ricketts, Senators Patty Pansing Brooks, Brett Lindstrom, John McCollister, and Sara Howard, told me that there was nothing they could do.

Nothing they can do? According to the Nebraska Legislature website, a senator is called, among other things to: “…right injustices involving the public; establish state policy by introducing bills to create new programs, modify existing programs, and repeal laws which are no longer needed; study problems between sessions and determine whether legislative solutions are needed to correct them…”

 CPS, the court system, the broken foster care system and lawmakers who refuse to protect our children and allow them to receive justice are just as guilty as the one who abuse them. Jesus said, “…But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large millstone tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea. (Matthew 18:6)

But it’s not just CPS, the court system, the broken foster care system and lawmakers that are to blame. Anyone who has witnessed, or know of a child being abused and does nothing are as guilty as those in the broken foster care system who refuse to protect our children. “If someone sins by failing to testify when he hears a public charge about something he has witnessed, whether he has seen it or learned of it, he shall bear the iniquity.” (Leviticus 5:1) 

God’s Justice

The Bible is very clear about refusing to report the crime of child abuse: “Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” (Psalm 82:3-4) “Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, ‘Behold, we did not know this’, does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work? (Proverbs 24:11-12)

Today, Jesus might well say, “I was hungry and you gave me no food; I was thirsty and you gave me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not welcome me; afraid, abused and in foster care and you did not visit me. Truly, I say to you, when you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” 

The Bible reveals that all of mankind’s systems of government will one day be wiped away. This will happen at the return of Jesus the Messiah, which is detailed throughout God’s Word.  “In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever.” (Dan. 2:44) See also: Revelations 11:15; Obadiah 1:21; Zechariah 14:9

Unlike our current government system, the kingdom of God will not be “left to another people”.  It will not be based upon the ideas of man. This government—the kingdom of God—will be built upon God’s Law, which will be administered perfectly. This newly established kingdom will solve mankind’s most persistent problems, which stem from its flawed systems and governments. But until that day comes, we have an obligation to be a voice for those who are afraid to speak.