Officials: Texas foster care center sex-trafficked minors

State officials say employees at a foster care center under a state contract to shelter children who have been trafficked for sex have been trafficking those children themselves

Officials: Texas foster care center sex-trafficked minors

ByThe Associated Press

March 10, 2022, 8:49 PM

HOUSTON — State officials told a federal judge Thursday that employees at a foster care center under a state contract to shelter children who had been trafficked for sex had been trafficking those children themselves.

The matter arose at an emergency hearing before U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack, who has been presiding over a 2011 class-action lawsuit against the state Department of Family and Protective Services that alleged that children were held in unsafe conditions, the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News reported.

State officials said a staffer reported in late January that a former employee had sold nude photos of two young girls and used the money to purchase illegal drugs and alcohol for them. Further investigation revealed several staffers still employed at The Refuge were involved in the criminal activity.

There are seven alleged victims and nine alleged perpetrators, state officials said. One staff member has been arrested, and additional criminal charges are expected, officials said. The children were finally removed from the facility by Wednesday, 1 1/2 months after the first report, state officials said.

“The most appalling thing about this is the disregard of these children,” Jack said. “You had to wait to get eight calls before you took 11 female already-trafficked children out of this trafficking situation. This is a system that remains broken.”

Department Commissioner Jaime Masters said she was only made aware of the situation Wednesday.

“There is no excuse for why I didn’t know, which is why several people are losing their jobs,” Masters said.

In a statement, The Refuge said it was “fully cooperating with authorities and we hope the alleged perpetrator will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and we will assist the Sheriff and the Bastrop County District Attorney’s office in their prosecution.”

“Our hearts are broken and we are outraged by the actions of former employees whose intent was to harm, not help,” said founder and CEO Brooke Crowder.

THAT LITTLE BLACK BOOK… The Clinton/Epstein Connection

According to records obtained by the Daily Mail, between 1993 and 1995, Jeffrey Epstein visited President Bill Clinton’s White House 17 times, bringing with him a total of eight women.

The convicted sex offender had connections to many celebrities, journalists and prominent political figures, including Clinton. Many of them were listed in Epstein’s little black book.

In its report on Epstein’s many visits to the Clinton White House, the Daily Mail noted that hanging on the walls of Epstein’s mansion in Palm Beach, Florida, were photos of these visits and a few of the women he had with him.

In addition to Epstein’s longtime partner, Ghislaine Maxwell, the names of the other seven women who accompanied him to the Clinton White House were listed in the report.

Maxwell was recently convicted of several crimes related to her complicity in the sex-trafficking crimes of Epstein.

The Daily Mail said three of the women named were Epstein’s former girlfriends — Celina Midelfart, Eva Andersson-Dubin and Francis Jardine.

The other women in the photos were Jennifer Garrison, Shelley Gafni, Jennifer Driver and Lyoubov Orlova.

As this news surrounding Bill Clinton continues to develop, one can just imagine Hillary tensing up with frustration and thinking to herself, “Not again!”

After all, her husband has been accused of sexually assaulting and harassing several women over the years, and he was impeached for lying about his sexual relationship with a White House intern.

It’s unclear how many additional prominent figures were involved in Epstein’s crimes.

Britain’s Prince Andrew faces a lawsuit over allegations that he sexually assaulted one of Epstein’s victims when she was 17 years old.

Andrew has denied any wrongdoing, but Queen Elizabeth II chose to strip him of his royal titles on Thursday.

Will other prominent political figures — former U.S. presidents, for example — face similar legal proceedings related to their relationships with Jeffrey Epstein?

Only time will tell.

Continue reading “THAT LITTLE BLACK BOOK… The Clinton/Epstein Connection”

Maryland man gets 9 years for human trafficking case

Maryland man gets 9 years for human trafficking case

October 29, 2021

ELLICOTT CITY, Md. (AP) — A Maryland man was sentenced Thursday to nine years in prison for sex crimes against a minor, prosecutors said.

Timothy Ford, 40, of Columbia was sentenced to 25 years with all but nine years suspended for a 2019 incident in Columbia, the Howard County State’s Attorney Office announced in a news release. Ford pleaded guilty last year to human trafficking and filming a child engaged in a sex act.

The victim was panhandling when Ford approached and asked if he was looking for work. Once in the car, Ford told him he could earn hundreds of dollars if he engaged in sexual acts with other people. Instead, the victim said Ford took him to his home and sexually assaulted him, prosecutors said. 

Investigators with Howard County Police identified Ford as the suspect and arrested him about a week later. 

As part of his sentencing, Ford must complete a psycho-sexual evaluation and treatment, sex offender treatment, have no contact with the victim, have no unsupervised contact with minors and must register as a Tier II sex offender.

Congregate Care Facilities For Children

Breaking The Code of Silence of Fostered and Orphaned children

An estimated 120,000 to 200,000 minors are placed in congregate care facilities across the United States annually, according to information from Breaking Code Silence, an advocacy group made up of people who were placed in treatment facilities.

Oregon foster child mistreated while out of state joins federal lawmakers in oversight push

The first time Uvea Spezza-Lopin traveled on a plane, she was 9 and in the custody of the Oregon foster care system. State child welfare officials sent her to a psychiatric residential treatment facility in Montana. There, she was regularly sedated, restrained and locked in a seclusion room.

This week, Spezza-Lopin, now 12, took another flight. This time she headed to Washington, D.C., to speak alongside U.S. lawmakers to support an effort to federally regulate what’s often called the “troubled teen” industry.

Between 2016 and 2018, the number of foster children Oregon leaders sent to residential treatment facilities in other states skyrocketed. Children were scattered across 16 different states at one point. At the time, state workers said they didn’t have enough foster placements in Oregon.

Two people with blond hair stand side by side.
Uvea Spezza-Lopin, right, joins Paris Hilton in calling for more oversight into treatment facilities that house vulnerable kids. Sara Gelser Blouin

The senator noted Oregon had stopped placing children in such facilities, in large part due to the work of Oregon state Sen. Sara Gelser Blouin, D-Corvallis. Gelser Blouin grilled Oregon state child welfare officials after OPB broke the news in 2019 that the state was shipping children out of state.

“Let’s stop the system of shipping children out of state to facilities that have no oversight,” Merkley said Wednesday.

Merkley and Rep. Ro Khanna, D-California, are pushing to create a commission in the U.S. Department of Justice to oversee congregate care. The legislation would also give grants to states to help regulate the facilities. Finally, it would create a bill of rights to ensure kids placed in care don’t lose their rights.

An estimated 120,000 to 200,000 minors are placed in congregate care facilities across the United States annually, according to information from Breaking Code Silence, an advocacy group made up of people who were placed in treatment facilities.

“Many children leave these facilities more traumatized than when they arrived,” U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-California, said at the press conference.

This week, Spezza-Lopin shared her story of being in foster care off and on since she was a baby, of being placed in 15 different placements, homes and institutions, of being thrown onto a concrete floor, put in a headlock and called a pervert by adult caretakers while in Montana.

The girl from Junction City, Oregon, spent her day in Washington, D.C. with an unlikely friend, Paris Hilton. The celebrity and entrepreneur was abused while at Utah’s Provo Canyon School in the 1990s and has joined the effort to bring more oversight to the industry.

Hilton noted the state-by-state patchwork of regulations under which these facilities currently operate is not working and detailed the abuse she suffered as a teen.

Spezza-Lopin spent her time in Washington lobbying with Hilton. She met well-known politicians and appeared on Good Morning America. She ate at her first restaurant that used cloth napkins.

But as she stood in front of the U.S. Capitol, with photographers snapping photos and microphones in her face, she was thinking of her best friend at the facility in Montana, another young girl with whom she has no way of contacting.

Ella, if you’re out there,” she said. “I’m doing this for us

Today, there are an estimated 120,000 – 200,000 minors in congregate care facilities across the United States. These youth are pipelined into congregate care placements through the child welfare and juvenile justice systems, school districts’ individualized education programs, refugee resettlement agencies, mental health providers, and private parental placement. Many of these youth have prior trauma histories before placement, issues only exacerbated by extended separation from their communities once placed in an institutional setting.

This industry receives an estimated $23 billion dollars of annual public funds to purportedly treat the behavioral and psychological needs of vulnerable youth, yet it operates without meaningful oversight. The
industry’s lack of transparency and quality care has led to youth experiencing maltreatment including sexual assault, physical and medical neglect, and bodily assault that has resulted in civil rights violations, hospitalizations, and death. Youth are too often denied access to legal counsel, advocacy, and the most basic rights to personal safety and satisfactory living conditions.

States and facilities have long neglected to track the placement and lengths of stay of youth, ensure quality care, report critical incidents and deaths, develop best practices, and account for outcomes of
care. Without data, or means to track and address findings of institutional abuse, our nation’s understanding of this issue is severely limited. We must begin by developing systems and infrastructure
that will prevent catastrophic abuse and increase our understanding of evidence-based practices for youth in these settings.


BECAUSE THE LICENSURE OF THESE TREATMENT OR BEHAVIOR MODIFICATION FACILITIES VARIES WIDELY……………………………. WE NEEDED A BROADER DEFINITION.

WHAT DEFINES CONGREGATE CARE?
Breaking Code Silence defines the term Congregate Care Program or Facility (CCP/CF) as a public or private entity that, with respect to one or more children who are unrelated to the owner or operator of the program, purports to provide housing, treatment, or modify behaviors in a residential environment, such as:

  • Wilderness or outdoor experience, expedition, or Intervention
  • Boot camp or other experience designed to simulate characteristics of basic military training or correctional regimes
  • Residential treatment program, center, or facility
  • Non-medical residential center
  • Therapeutic boardinq school
  • Behavioral modification program
  • Foster care facility
  • Youth justice facility
  • *The term “CP/CCF” does not include a psychiatric hospital

“TREATMENT SHOULDN’T LEAVE A COMMUNITY OF SURVIVORS”

WHAT WE RE SEEING”

Investigations conducted by Breaking Code Silence and state officials have collectively shown trends in congregate care facilities.
Here are a few of the many abuses seen consistently across congregate settings:

  • Inhumane and degrading discipline
  • Usage of seclusion and physical, mechanical, and chemical restraint
  • Physical, medical, and nutritional neglect
  • Sexual assault, harassment, and grooming
  • Forced medication and overmedication
  • Conversion and aversion therapy
  • Lack of individualized treatment
  • Prohibition of communication with parents, lawyers, and advocates
  • Restricted access to education

In the 2021 study, “Away From Home: Youth Experiences of Institutional Placements in Foster Care” by the organization, Think of Us, surveyed 78 young people with recent lived experience in institutional placements.

Although this study only recorded the experiences of youth in child welfare, the sentiments expressed show an accurate reflection of all children and young people in institutions.

  • “Institution placements failed to meet the mandate of child welfare”.
  • “Institutional placements were carceral”
  • “Institutional placements were punitive”
  • “Institutional placements were traumatic and unfit for healthy child and adolescent development”
  • “Institutional placements felt like they didn’t have a way out”

“DESPERATION WITHOUT DIGNITY’: NDRN

“Desperation Without Dignity: Conditions of Children Placed in For Profit Residential Facilities” a 2021 report issued by the National Disability Rights Network in tandem with 18 state protection and advocacy agencies (P&As) gave a grueling inside look at the experiences at for-profit residential centers.

Some of the findings include:

  • “Physical abuse, often masked as punishment or a control tactic, is not uncommon in RFs.”
  • “Children in RFs across the country report sexual assault at the hands of staff.”
  • …overuse and misuse of psychiatric medication during monitoring visits at both youth residential facilities and also at for-profit psychiatric hospitals that treat children.”
  • “Youth were found to lack adequate access to clean water and proper sanitation and have limited recreational space.
  • investigators noted blood and feces on the walls and floors of the residence halls durinq a monitoring visit..
  • ..youth were forced to sleep on concrete slabs and almost exclusively sit on the floor…
  • “Some youths report that they are unable to obtain academic credit for education completed at RFs, putting them at a
  • significant disadvantage upon return to their communities.’

* Because of inconsistent reporting and licensing standards this number is most likely much higher. This number accounts for Juvenile Justice, Child Welfare, and special Education placements – and estimates private placements.

WHAT SHOULD WE DO?

THIS ISSUE IS NOT NEW.
For decades, government and independent investigative reports
have consistently pointed to weaknesses in regulation, oversight, inconsistent licensing, decentralized jurisdiction, lack of reporting, and lack of meaningful State action towards non-compliance. Yet, little has been done.

These reports have highlighted how this negligence has led to
loss of life and continues to underscore that congreqate care
placement does not have positive outcomes for youth.

“IT IS NOT ACCEPTABLE TO FOCUS ON ONE OR THE OTHER FIRST. A “FIRST THIS, THEN THAT” APPROACH HAS RESULTED IN A CYCLICAL NON-SOLUTION, WITH A GREAT DEAL OF PLANNING AND VERY LITTLE CHANGE. –DESPERATION WITHOUT DIGNITY, NDRN

ORGANIZATIONAL GOALS
YOUTH RIGHTS:

To establish youth rights for all young people in congregate care and systemizing loqistical processes that allow them to enjoy exercising their rights with efficacy and immediacy.

DEFINE THE ISSUE:
To establish a working definition of institutional abuse and neglect so as to engage with currently
established child protection agencies and allow victims to seek recourse. This definition and understanding
of facility culture and practices that allow for environments of abuse will also assist in the development of
individual treatment and intervention for institutional abuse.

OVERSIGHT AND ACCOUNTABILITY:
To create a culture of transparency, data-sharing, and meaningful State action against non-compliance is
the start to eliminating abusive settings disquised as “treatment.” To do this, it is vital to empower and fund
local protection and advocacy agencies, advocates, and oversight entities to have authority and necessary
resources to enforce actions against non-compliant facilities that are endangering young people.

FAMILY OVER FACILITIES:
Without question, prioritizing family-unity and community must be reflected in policy and funding efforts.
Bringing this high-level goal down to local agency level is what will prevent young people from being placed
out of the home. We must focus on what our communities are lacking to make this possible. Accessibility,
quality of services, and funding are good places to start.

DEPATHOLOGIZING ADOLESCENCE:
To shape a world in which transitioning into adulthood is supported, encouraged, and not criminalized is the beqinning to healing our families and communities. We must abandon all punitive ideology about young people and instead ask ourselves how we can be mentors, leaders, and support in their lives.

THE ACCOUNTABILITY FOR CONGREGATE CARE ACT

The Accountability for Congregate Care Act of 2021 will address systemic weaknesses across multiple agencies and systems that increase reliance on congregate care and subject youth to abuse and neglect.

The passage of this Act will create a uniform Youth in Congregate Care Bill of Rights for all youth in congregate care regardless of which public or private pipeline they entered the facility.

This Bill of Rights will create a standard for the ACCA Joint Commission to lead an interdisciplinary program of research, in consultation with other Federal agencies, recognized experts in the field, and advocates. Through this research, the Commission will advise on reduction of
congregate care placement, understanding the nature and scope of institutional abuse, and will consult with States on the closure of facilities that are unable to meet standards within the Youth in Congregate Care Bill of Rights.

By supporting the passage of ACCA, funds will be created to mend systemic issues that have led to our current failures in youth and family services. The main goal being to not only establish understood rights, but to lift the walls of our largest systems and work together to provide youth with the tools and opportunities to have the brilliant futures they
deserve.

THE YOUTH IN CONGREGATE CARE BILL OF RIGHTS

EVERY YOUTH IN CONGREGATE CARE. SHOULD HAVE THE RIGHT TO:

  • a right to physical well-being, including
    • freedom from abuse and neqlect; includinq all forms of physical, psychological, and sexual abuse, neglect, exploitation, financial exploitation, and excessive medication;
      • the right to be free from institutional abuse and neqlect
      • freedom from aversive behavioral interventions
      • freedom from physical, mechanical, and chemical restraint or seclusion
    • protection against unreasonable search and seizure;
      • including the use of strip searches or cavity searches as a means of punishment
  • a right to social and emotional well-being, including
    • prohibition of long periods of forced silence
    • restriction of communication with staff, caregivers, child protective services, law enforcement, or advocates
    • sufficient educational and life skills imparted onto them
    • reasonable daily access to the outdoors
    • to have essential needs met
  • to individualized and appropriate
    • to treatment that is culturally competent, trauma-informed, and most supportive of such each youth’s personal liberty and development
  • to be free from abusive, humiliating, degrading, or traumatizing treatment by staff or other youth; including
  • the ability to report mistreatment anonymously without fear of reprisal
  • • access a protection and advocacy agency

TO LEARN MORE, SUPPORT OUR CAUSE TO OR GET INVOLVED…

Linktr.ee

TO SCAN CODE:

Hold your cell phone over the QRcode with your Camera App open.

OR CONTACT

Caroline Cole – Dr. of Gov’t Relations
Breaking Code Silence
CLorson@breakingcodesilence.org

Rebecca Mellinger – Impact Producer
Paris Hilton
RebeccaM@parishiltonentertainment.com