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Inspired by stories shared by birth parents, adoptive parents, and adult adoptees, PPL explores the dark side of adoption, and the consequences illegal and unethical actions have on future family-life and the well-being of those affected by adoption.

Too many children are placed for the benefit of agencies and based on the demands of prospective adoptive parents.

Too many children are placed in inappropriate homes because the business interests of adoption agencies have higher priority than the safety of children.

PPL documents and archives cases where the child placement system did not work in the best interest of the child and we offer a platform for those who want to express their thoughts and feelings about the dark side of child adoption.

Case news

Most recent articles added to the case archives

Woman charged with beating and scalding her 5-year-old adoptive son with Down syndrome

Date: 2014-09-26

By Charlene Adams

A Wisconsin mother of two allegedly beat her five-year-old son who has Down syndrome so badly that the boy defecated in his pants, she then made the boy sit in scalding hot bath water, authorities say.

Ruthann Gneiser, 31, told investigators that she was 'as angry as I've ever been.'

Medical Center of Aurora staff notified authorities after Gneiser brought the child in on Monday with 'heavy bruising' on his back and scald burns on more than 50 percent of his body, according to ABC 2.

The married, stay-at-home mom reportedly got angry with her adoptive son and began slapping him repeatedly on the back until he defecated in his pants.

ABC 2 reports that Gneiser made her son stand in a cold shower until he 'got himself cleaned up.'

She then made the boy sit in hot water for up to 1 1/2 minutes only noticing that the water was very hot when she reached in and nearly burned herself, Gneiser told authorities.

The child was transferred to the Children's Hospital of Wisconsin where he underwent emergency surgery, according to ABC 2.

UPDATE-2: Mom accused of beating, scalding son with Down syndrome

Date: 2014-09-25

By Michelle Clemens

Manitowoc County - A Manitowoc boy who has Down syndrome suffered burns on over 50 percent of his body when he was placed in scalding water, according to a probable cause statement from Manitowoc County.
Ruthann Gneiser from the Town of Newton now faces felony charges.

Investigators were alerted around 5 o'clock Monday evening when hospital staff said they were treating a boy in the emergency room with burns and heavy bruising on his back. Authorities believe the injuries happened four hours earlier.

Law enforcement made contact with the boy's mother, who admitted to causing the injuries to her son, according to the probable cause statement.

"Obviously it's a very tragic situation when a young child like that gets abused," Sheriff Robert Hermann said.

The statement says Gneiser was angry with her son, so she slapped the boy repeatedly on the back with an open hand, at which point he defecated in his pants. She then pulled the boy into the bathroom and forced him to take a cold shower and sit in hot water while he cleaned himself and his underwear.

IN Supreme Court Takes Larry Russell Case

Date: 2014-09-19

By Jon Swaner

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) – The Indiana Supreme Court will review a Valley high-profile child abuse case.

The state’s top court agreed to review the case against Larry Russell of Terre Haute.

He and his wife Nikki pleaded guilty to neglect and criminal confinement charges.

The court of appeals overturned Larry Russell’s 10 year prison sentence.

The court felt his plea agreement did not follow state law.

The Supreme Court’s decision to take on the case means both the appellate and trial courts rulings are vacated.

Deputies describe 'bizarre methods' of discipline

Date: 2014-09-18

By Spencer Roush

BLOOM TOWNSHIP – Two parents accused of using "bizarre methods" to discipline their children, including allegedly beating them with sticks piled up in the home's basement and forcing one of the children to live and bathe outside, are out on bond since their arrest last week.

The Fairfield County Sheriff's Office intervened when it reported a 15-year-old girl, who was allegedly living outside without a toilet, electricity or running water, slipped a note to a neighbor's door asking for help and food. Deputies reported the girl was wearing tattered, dirty and ripped clothes and shoes when they arrived just before 10 p.m. Sept. 11.

The girl reportedly told deputies she had been living in the shed at the rear of the house, located along Lithopolis Road, for more than a month because she was in trouble for sneaking into her parents' room to use the computer.

Texas mother's murder conviction overturned in salt poison case

Date: 2014-09-18

By Tom Dart

A mother found guilty of murder after her foster child died of salt poisoning has had her 2007 conviction overturned by the Texas court of criminal appeals.

Hannah Overton’s attorneys are now seeking to expedite confirmation that the decision is final so she can be released on bail, which would allow her to embrace her family for the first time in seven years. They are also waiting to hear from the Nueces County district attorney’s office, which could seek a re-trial on the murder charge, pursue a lesser charge or dismiss the case.

Overton’s San Antonio-based lawyer, Cynthia Orr, said that her client found out about the court’s ruling during a telephone call with her family on Wednesday evening. “She was very emotional, very excited and very happy and also wondering what all of it meant and what all of the next steps were,” Orr told the Guardian.

Sister Of Brutally Slain Nubia Barahona Sues DCF

Date: 2014-09-16

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The adoptive sister of Nubia Barahona, a young girl who died in the custody of her adoptive parents, has filed a lawsuit against the Department of Children and Families.

On Valentine’s Day 2011, police found the decomposing body of ten-year-old Nubia Barahona in the back of her adoptive father’s truck parked on the side of I-95 in West Palm Beach. In the front seat, they found her twin brother Victor suffering seizures from chemical burns.

The lawsuit alleges that Nubia Barahona’s now 11-year-old adoptive sister, referred to as “J.B.” in the complaint, is a “survivor of severe child abuse” and accuses DCF and its employees and agents of “negligence and wanton misconduct.”

Hearing in abused child case postponed again

Date: 2014-09-16

BY DEB GRUVER

The preliminary hearing for the parents of a 14-year-old Sedgwick County girl diagnosed by a doctor as a victim of child torture has been continued a fourth time.

The girl’s adoptive parents were scheduled to appear in Sedgwick County District Court on Tuesday, but the preliminary hearing in a criminal case against them has been postponed to Oct. 29.

The Wichita Eagle has been following the case since April as part of its “In Need of Care” series examining child abuse and neglect in the community. The Eagle is not naming the parents because doing so would identify the girl and her three adopted siblings, all of whom police placed in protective custody on March 28.

Prosecutors filed criminal charges against the parents June 6 after earlier filing a child-in-need-of-care petition on behalf of the four children.

The father faces three counts of child abuse, two counts of aggravated battery, one count of aggravated endangerment of a child, one count of criminal restraint and one count of criminal damage to property. The mother faces the same charges with the exception of criminal damage to property.

Nubia Barahona’s adoptive sister sues DCF

Date: 2014-09-15

By oanna Zuckerman Bernstein

The adoptive sister of Nubia Barahona, the child whose gruesome death while under the care of her adoptive father and mother shook Florida a few years ago, filed a lawsuit on Monday against the Florida Department of Children & Families, a child welfare worker, and two former DCF investigators.

The lawsuit alleges that Nubia Barahona’s now 11-year-old adoptive sister, referred to as “J.B.” in the complaint, is a “survivor of severe child abuse” and accuses DCF and its employees and agents of “negligence and wanton misconduct.”

J.B. was “abused physically, sexually, and emotionally” by her adoptive parents, Carmen and Jorge Barahona, and she was also “forced to witness” the Barahonas’ abuse of her adoptive siblings, according to the complaint, filed in state court. The Barahonas, awaiting trial, face the death penalty if convicted on charges of first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse and neglect for Nubia’s death and the alleged mistreatment of her twin brother, Victor.

Fairfield County couple charged with keeping 15-year-old daughter in shed

Date: 2014-09-13

By Mary Beth Lane

LANCASTER, Ohio — A Fairfield County couple has been charged with child abuse, accused of forcing their 15-year-old daughter to live in an outbuilding without food, water or a toilet.

Douglas Lyle Sherman, 64, and Kim Eng Sherman, 60, were arrested on Thursday night at their home at 10200 Lithopolis Rd. in Bloom Township. They are being held in the Fairfield County jail, Sheriff Dave Phalen said yesterday.

Deputies found a disturbing arrangement when they went to the home, which has a small outbuilding attached in the rear.

Their daughter was made to live in the outbuilding, and she was refused entry to the family home for food and other necessities, Phalen said.

The girl spent nights in the outbuilding with no lights, water or toilet. She used a garden hose and soap placed outside the building to shower, and used the woods to relieve herself, Phalen said.

Two cinder blocks supporting a sheet of plywood covered by cardboard served as a makeshift bed in the outbuilding, he said.

“It was very disturbing, to say the least,” Phalen said.

Alaska teacher agrees to return to Missouri to face child abuse charges: report

Date: 2014-09-11

Owen Melvin Miller was the father to seven adopted children, but one of them told a police officer he had done ‘inappropriate things to her, leading to an investigation. Miller will return to Missouri to face charges.

BY Michael Walsh

He fled to a remote area of northwestern Alaska, but he couldn't outrun the allegations of child abuse.

A Missouri man who has been teaching language arts in the Alaska's Northwest Arctic Borough will reportedly return to his home state to face accusations that he raped his adopted child.

Owen Melvin Miller, 42, was arrested in the Kiana School in Alaska on Aug. 29 for multiple charges, including child molestation, statutory rape and incest, Alaska Dispatch News reported.

Last year, one of Miller's seven adopted children told a Wasilla police officer that he started doing "inappropriate things to her" in 2002, according to the local broadsheet.

This information was reportedly forwarded to Missouri authorities who interviewed two of his other adopted children. They also said they had been neglected and physically abused for years.

Jury Selection Begins for Army Couple Accused of Child Abuse

Date: 2014-09-09

Jury selection began Tuesday in the child abuse case against a South Jersey Army Major and his wife.

John and Carolyn Jackson of Mount Holly are accused of abusing their foster children with disciplinary measures that included assault, withholding food and water and forcing the children to eat hot sauce.

The couple was charged last year with 17 counts including endangerment, assault and conspiracy. Prosecutors allege that the assaults against the children were so violent they caused broken bones. Both pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The couple forced the children to eat hot pepper flakes and hot sauce and fed one child a substance that gave the child extremely elevated sodium levels, prosecutors alleged in court documents and in arguments.
Prosecutors said the couple told their biological children that they were "training" the foster children to behave and instructed the biological children not to tell anyone.

According to the indictment, the Jacksons have three biological children and fostered three children they later adopted.

Sheriff: Parents facing charges after "torture" of adopted child

Date: 2014-09-07

WBIR-Dandridge) Investigators in Jefferson County said they believe a 7-year-old boy was tortured by his adoptive parents.

According to Sheriff Bud McCoig, Charles Sealock, 57, and Suzan Sealock, 51, were charged with aggravated child abuse and neglect, and false imprisonment after the boy was found asking a nearby neighbor to trade a pine cone for food Saturday.

"Thank goodness the neighbors called and we were able to intervene," said McCoig. "Detective Taylor said this was the worst case of child abuse she has ever seen here."

The investigation, involving the Department of Children's Services, showed the boy was dirty and covered in cuts, bruises, and scars.

The boy at first told investigators he didn't have a home, then later said the Sealock's locked him a small bathroom for days at a time, and only gave him baby food to eat.

"This 7-year-old had been kept in a 3-by-4 room, small room, without any bedding. And there was actually a chest pushed up against the door so the boy couldn't escape from that room," said McCoig.

Wisconsin Supreme Court upholds new hearsay law

Date: 2014-09-07

By Todd Richmond

MADISON, Wis. -- A new state law allowing hearsay as evidence in criminal defendants' preliminary hearings is constitutional, the state Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.

Hearsay is testimony that quotes someone who isn't available to testify. Such testimony has generally been barred at preliminary hearings, where a judge decides whether the case should continue to trial. The proceedings are typically a formality.

Republicans who control the Legislature passed a law in 2012 allowing judges to permit hearsay during the hearings. They argued the change would streamline the hearings by eliminating the need for multiple witnesses to testify about every element of a case and spare crime victims from the trauma of testifying.

Kiana teacher arrested on Missouri child sex abuse charges

Date: 2014-09-05

A Missouri man who spent the past four years teaching throughout Western Alaska has been arrested on charges of sexually abusing his adopted daughter — and is alleged to have subjected his six other adopted children to “years of physical abuse and neglect.”

On Aug. 29, Alaska State Troopers arrested 42-year-old Owen M. Miller in Kiana, where he had been teaching language arts to middle and high school students in the community of more than 350 people just east of Kotzebue.

Miller faces an extraditable warrant from Missouri on five felony counts of child sex abuse, stemming from allegations from one of his adopted children and testimony from at least two more.

“We were contacted by the Missouri authorities,” said Kotzebue trooper Nathan Sheets. “They provided us a copy of his arrest warrant and said they had been told he was in Kiana working as a teacher.”

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