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Kansas uses more rigorous evidence standard for child abuse than other states

Date: 2014-08-23

BY DEB GRUVER

Kansas is the only state in the country that requires clear and convincing evidence to substantiate an allegation of child abuse or neglect.

That standard could be putting children at risk, some in the child welfare field say.

When the Kansas Department for Children and Families substantiates abuse or neglect, it places the perpetrator on a registry that bans him or her from living, working or regularly volunteering in a child-care facility – including foster homes – regulated by the state Department of Health and Environment.

No other state requires such a high burden of proof, according to “Child Maltreatment 2012,” a study by the Administration for Children and Families, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

A survey of states found that most use a preponderance of evidence, a less rigorous standard in which evidence shows it is more likely than not that abuse or neglect occurred.

'Top 15 most wanted' fugitive couple caught in Oregon

Date: 2014-08-14

Therese Apel,
The Clarion-Ledger

A couple wanted since 2008 on numerous charges tied to the death of their two-year-old adopted daughter have been arrested in Portland, Oregon.

Union County authorities have confirmed Janet and Ramon Barreto are in custody. According to the US Marshals, the Barretos were located in a shopping mall around 5:15 p.m. Tuesday. They had a child with them at the time of their arrest which is now in protective custody.

A tip on Monday lead authorities to their location, Marshals said. The couple refused to identify themselves, but a digital fingerprint system was used to identify Ramon Barreto. Janet Barreto was identified after being fingerprinted at the jail.

They were charged in 2008 with child neglect, child abuse, tampering with a witness, and manslaughter in the death of Enna Barreto, and the abuse of six other children. They were each wanted for failure to appear on original charges of manslaughter of a child, three counts of child abuse, six counts of child neglect and tampering with a witness.

Sheriff Jimmy Edwards says the U. S. Marshals Service located the couple in Portland, Oregon, on Tuesday.

Sonya custody case drags on as another birthday passes

Date: 2014-07-20

by Brian Haas

Five years of legal wrangling and blistering social media spats and this is what anyone has to show for it: Sonya McCaul, who celebrated her 10th birthday on Friday, is still technically in state custody.

The years-long battle for Sonya, a girl raised by foster parents in Dickson until a court earlier this year ordered her returned to her biological father in Omaha, Neb., has still not been fully settled. The Tennessee Department of Children's Services has legal custody of her while she stays with her biological father, John McCaul, in Omaha on a trial basis. The foster parents who raised her while McCaul was in federal prison, David and Kim Hodgin, continue to try to terminate his parental rights.

Despite all the attention paid to the case — which has tapped into the kind of raw emotions that often accompany custody cases, amplified by the uniqueness of the dilemma — they are running out of options.

More: Sonya's foster mother Haslam: Help my family

More: Dickson judge rules Sonya to stay in Nebraska

Biological mother of child found chained to shed wants him back

Date: 2014-07-07

By Lauren Squires

MEMPHIS, TN -
(WMC) - The mother of a child found chained up in a backyard shed says she wants her parental rights back.

It's a fight that came to a head last week when she saw her son being taken from his adoptive parents on WMC Action News 5.

Dionne Robinson had her parental rights terminated five years ago after she deserted her children in a drug-fueled haze.

"I had a drug problem back then and that caused them to take them," she said.

Now she wants a second chance at being a mom.

"It was very heart breaking for me. I just broke down in tears, because that's nothing a child should ever have to go through," said Robinson.

On July 3, Memphis police rushed the home of Melvin and Kenya Bloomingburg on Gaywinds Avenue after a young girl called 911 to report that her brother was chained up in the backyard shed.

Child found restrained in Memphis home

Date: 2014-07-04

MEMPHIS, TN -
(WMC) - On Thursday, Memphis police say they found a child chained up in a backyard shed.

Six children were removed from the home in the 5600 block of Gaywinds Avenue. The 8-year-old boy is at the center of the bizarre investigation.

It started when police received a call from a sibling that the child was chained up in the backyard shed, but physically, he wasn't hurt.

"Just to make me think about it, it's awful," said neighbor Elaine Evans. "You know, we speak like you speak to your neighbors, don't try to get in their business, but they seem pretty nice people, but you never know."

Several neighborhood children said the boy was chained up at least once before when they wanted him to play basketball with them.

"Then he was like ‘I can't, I'm chained up' and I said 'why you chained up?' And he said ‘ask my mama,'" said one neighborhood boy.

Police contacted the Department of Children's Services, whose investigators joined officers on the scene for much of the day. DCS is working to determine the relationship between the adults inside the house and the children.

Many questions remain after boy is found chained up at Memphis home

Date: 2014-07-04

by Katie Rufener

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Department of Child Services is trying to figure out who six children belong to after they were taken from a home where a boy was found in restraints.

All the children were removed from a house in the 5600 block of Gaywinds Avenue Thursday. Neighbors tell WREG that’s where a young boy was found chained up.

DCS said, according to their records, none of the children taken from the house are foster kids.

WREG tried talking to a man who claimed to be the own the house. He wouldn’t share his name, but the home’s owners are listed as Melvin and Kenya Bloomingburg. They have lived there since 2006. The man refused to talk to a WREG reporter about the children or the accusations.

DCS said the house was a foster home for the last two years, but the family stopped fostering in February. They said there were never any problems during that time.

However Thursday night, the house was swarming with police after hearing a child was being restrained in a shed behind it.

Couple says they kept son locked in garage to protect other children

Date: 2014-06-30

By Kris Betts, Tina Shively and Eleanor Beck

DRIPPING SPRINGS, Texas -- The couple accused of kidnapping their own adopted son said they had to keep him locked up to protect their other children and community.

The couple is out on bond after it was lowered to $70,000 on Friday.

Jenifer Thyssen, 40, and her husband, 39-year-old Dane 'Andy' Thyssen, are accused of locking up their 22-year-old adopted son, Koystya Thyssen, in a garage apartment by himself for at least four years.

Attorneys representing the couple say they kept their son locked up because he had sexually assaulted children, including a relative, in the past.

Attorney Rip Collins said, "He [Koystya] has a history of sexually abusing children, not only in other countries, but in this neighborhood, in this community. And their concern was, they had him restrained because of their concern that other people would be harmed."

Friends say the couple adopted Koystya from Kazakhstan in 2004, when he was 11 years old.

Reports of girl’s abuse deemed ‘unsubstantiated’ by DCF

Date: 2014-06-28

BY DEB GRUVER

When someone reported that the adoptive mother of a 14-year-old Sedgwick County girl had hit her with a bat, the Kansas Department for Children and Families found there was not “clear and convincing” evidence that abuse had occurred.

Social workers investigated the October 2012 report and determined the family did not need services from the state agency whose motto is to “protect children, promote healthy families and encourage personal responsibility.”

Prosecutors, however, thought a crime had occurred.

On June 9, a week after The Eagle first wrote about the girl’s case, they filed charges against the couple who fostered and later adopted the girl.

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 except for criminal damage to property. The alleged incident with the bat was the basis for one of the aggravated battery charges. The Eagle is not naming the parents because doing so would identify the girl.

Couple kept adopted son locked in home, deputies say

Date: 2014-06-27

DRIPPING SPRINGS, Texas -- A Texas couple accused of keeping their adopted son locked up in a garage apartment for at least the past four years said they had to keep him captive to protect their own children.

Jenifer Thyssen, 40, and her husband, Dane Thyssen, 39, are accused of kidnapping. The couple was arrested earlier this week. They appeared in court Friday to argue that their $350,000 bond should be lowered.

Hays County sheriff's deputies say the couple told them they confined 22-year-old Koystya Thyssen in an apartment at their home in Dripping Springs "for the safety" of their other children, according to the arrest affidavit. Dripping Springs, a town of around 1,900 residents, is about 20 miles west of Austin.

Court documents don't indicate how many children were in the couple's care. In testimony Friday, Dane Thyssen indicated the couple had six children

Koystya was arrested after admitting he had burglarized a next door neighbor's house, according to a Hays County detective.

Koystya told detectives he used a screwdriver to break out of the garage apartment next door where he was kept locked inside.

Dripping Springs couple accused of keeping son locked away

Date: 2014-06-26

By Patrick Tolbert and David Scott

DRIPPING SPRINGS, Texas (KXAN) — A burglary investigation turned into a bizarre abduction investigation after the 22-year old suspect told police he escaped from his adopted parents, after being locked in their garage apartment for five years.

According to court documents, Jenifer Elise and Dane Andrew Thyssen admitted to locking their 22-year-old adopted son, Koystya Thyssen, in the apartment for his safety and the safety of their four younger children.

Investigators say the apartment’s windows were boarded up and that the door was locked from the outside. It had a toilet, microwave and refrigerator. Koystya told investigators he was kept locked away and was given a box of food once a week.

The story came out when Koystya was arrested in May on a charge of burglarizing a neighbor’s home. The homeowner’s stolen undergarments and magazines were found in Koystya’s home.

That’s when Koystya began telling detectives about his story.

Dripping Springs Couple Arrested for Holding Adopted Son Captive

Date: 2014-06-26

A Dripping Springs couple was arrested Thursday, accused of keeping their 22-year-old adopted son in a locked garage apartment for about four to five years with little access food or the outside world.

According to the arrest affidavit for Dane Thyssen, 39, the garage apartment was outfitted with a toilet, sink, refrigerator and microwave.

All windows were boarded up and a padlock secured the door from the outside, the son, Koystya Thyssen, told police.

A package of food was dropped off once a week, usually on Saturdays, and Koystya said that if he ran out, he would have to wait until the next Saturday.Koystya told police that he had lived in a garage apartment behind his adoptive parent’s house since the family moved onto the property four or five years ago.

He said he was locked in the apartment six days a week, only allowed to leave on Wednesday to shower and visit with his counselor. Police became aware of the situation when Koystya was arrested, suspected of burglarizing one of Thyssen’s neighbors along Meadow Ridge Drive.

He said he had stolen a screwdriver from his father’s workshop and used it to escape.

Lawyer of parents accused of abusing adopted daughter wants case closed to media

Date: 2014-06-20

BY DEB GRUVER

The lawyer for parents accused of abusing their 14-year-old adopted daughter and keeping her in a windowless basement room asked Friday that Sedgwick County District Court Judge Patrick Walters close the case to the media.

Michael Cleary noted The Eagle had been reporting the case as part of its “ In Need of Care” series and said he would not try the case in public.

The Eagle reported about the case in May and earlier this month after Sedgwick County District Judge Tim Henderson gave the newspaper access to child-in-need-of-care petitions and hearings for two reasons: to be transparent about how the system works and to show the public the extent of child neglect and abuse. Reports of child abuse and neglect have risen by 25 percent in Sedgwick County in five years, to 12,366 in the fiscal year that ended in June 2013.

Walters told Cleary that he did not make the ruling to open the case to the media and advised “that anyone having a concern speak with the current presiding judge,” Judge Robb Rumsey.

Lincoln County woman pleads guilty to child abuse

Date: 2014-06-16

In the Lincoln County Circuit Court Monday, the mother of several adopted children pleaded guilty to three counts of child abuse.One case involved one who disappeared for for more than seven hours, triggering a massive search.

The woman, Sharon Wilkerson, 55, of Lakota Acres, entered the pleas before Circuit Judge Chris Kunza Mennemeyer as part of a deal with prosecutors. In the exchange for the guilty pleas, she got a suspended imposition of a seven-year sentence and will serve 120 days of ‘shock time’

As part of the agreement, several other charges were not pursued by the prosecution.

The charges involved one of Wilkerson’s adopted daughters and a foster child, authorities said. According to court documents, Wilkerson beat the girls with various instruments. The abuse happened in 2010 and 2011.

The daughter, who was 10 in 2010, disappeared in October of that year for more than seven hours. When she returned, she told reporters that she left home to go for a walk with the family dog and he started chasing squirrels. She got lost, she said, and spent part of her time away taking a nap. She returned home on her own.

Lincoln County mom pleads guilty of beating adopted daughter, foster child

Date: 2014-06-16

By Susan Weich

LINCOLN COUNTY • The mother of several adopted children — including one who disappeared for more than seven hours in 2010, triggering a massive search — pleaded guilty Monday to three counts of child abuse.

Sharon Wilkerson, 55, of the first block of Lakota Acres, entered the plea before Circuit Judge Chris Kunza Mennemeyer as part of a deal with prosecutors. Wilkerson had faced 29 counts of child abuse. In exchange for pleading guilty to three, she received a suspended seven-year sentence and must serve 120 days of “shock time” in prison.

The charges involved one of Wilkerson’s adopted daughters and a foster child, authorities said. According to court documents, Wilkerson beat the girls with various instruments, including an arrow, a plumbing supply line, a curtain rod and hangers, in 2010 and 2011.

The daughter, who was 10 in 2010, disappeared that October for more than seven hours. She later said she took a walk with a family dog and became lost.

It is unclear how the abuse came to the attention of authorities.

Sedgwick County parents who allegedly beat, locked girl in basement charged with abuse

Date: 2014-06-09

BY DEB GRUVER

The parents of a 14-year-old Sedgwick County girl diagnosed by a doctor as a victim of child torture appeared in court Monday to face abuse charges.

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.

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 adoptive siblings, all of whom police placed in protective custody on March 28. Judge Tim Henderson gave The Eagle access to child-in-need-of-care petitions beginning in February with the understanding that The Eagle would not identify any children. The Eagle is following this case and others.

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