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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

Fighting for The Safety of Kids in Foster-Care System

Date: 2014-11-12

By Aidan O’Shea

When an Ohio couple began adopting high-risk foster children, social services flagged them as a “go-to family.” That couple’s abuse of those children could have been stopped.

Witnesses at the criminal trial of Michael and Sharen Gravelle for the abuse of their 11 foster children testified that the Gravelles had hosed their children off outside in winter, that they had shoved children’s heads into the toilet and flushed, and that they had beaten children with sticks and boards. Most notoriously, the Gravelles made some of their children sleep in wood and wire enclosures. These cages, the Gravelles argued, were used to protect the children from themselves.

Cross Creek father charged, mother ordered to trial in child abuse case

Date: 2014-11-09

By Scott Beveridge

Rana Cooper leaves district court Thursday followed by her husband, Richard, at right, after they faced charges in the alleged abuse of their daughter.

SLOVAN – A Cross Creek Township man was arrested Thursday on allegations he failed to protect his daughter from what prosecutors claim was horrific abuse she suffered over four years from her mother.

District Judge Gary Halvelka arraigned Richard Allen Cooper, 51, on a charge of endangering the welfare of children immediately after he ordered charges filed against the man’s wife, Rana, 46, to Washington County Court.

“I don’t think this child understood how horrific these things were,” said Traci McDonald, an assistant Washington County district attorney assigned to the case. “She thought it was discipline.”

Rana Cooper, of 159 Cooke Road, is charged by state police with simple assault, reckless endangerment and endangering the welfare of children, and she is free on $100,000 unsecured bond. Richard Cooper, of the same address, is free on $10,000 unsecured bond.

Pennsylvania Mother Rana Cooper Stands Trial for Daughter's Abuse

Date: 2014-11-09

By Olivia Demarinis

A Pennsylvania mother will stand trial on abuse charges after she allegedly forced her daughter to eat cat litter and tried to sew her mouth shut.

Rana Cooper, 46, told reporters that she is "a very good mother" after she left Thursday's preliminary hearing.

The girl, now 16 years old, said she was abused because her mother considered her "embarrassing to the family," which is a large group with seven sons.

"I was not allowed to go anywhere with the family," she said.

The girl testified that she suffered from abuse for several years; in one instance, her mother tried to sew the girl's mouth shut but stopped at one jab of the needle. She also testified that her mother would choke her until she blacked out, bit her on the nose, watched as she was attacked by a Rottweiler and held her head underwater in the sink.

"I don't think this child understood how horrific these things were," assistant district attorney for Washington County Traci McDonald said. "She thought it was discipline."

Husband charged in failing to stop abuse

Date: 2014-11-08

By Janice Crompton / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

A Washington County man was arraigned Friday on charges that he failed to intervene when his wife beat and assaulted their adopted daughter, disguising abuse as discipline and forcing her to eat cat litter and toilet residue as punishment.

Richard Cooper, 51, of Cross Creek appeared before District Judge Gary Havelka on charges of endangering the welfare of a child. He was released on $10,000 bond.

During the same time, his wife, Rana Cooper, appeared before Judge Havelka, and was held for court on charges that she tried to gouge out her daughter’s eyes and attempted to sew the child’s mouth shut. Police also have accused her of choking the girl until she blacked out and sitting on her so she couldn’t breathe.

Ms. Cooper, 46, also of Cross Creek, was charged with aggravated assault, endangering the welfare of a child, simple assault, and reckless endangerment. She was released on $100,000 bond. Her trial date has not yet been set.

The now-16-year-old girl had been abused for at least the past four years, police said. She was adopted at the age of 7 or 8.

Parents arrested for caging son, 19

Date: 2014-10-30

BY KELLY KRAGER

PARIS TOWNSHIP - The adoptive parents of several mentally and physically disabled youths were arrested on warrants requested after a sheriff’s deputy discovered they kept their legally blind and non-verbal son locked in a caged bed.

Timothy Tolin, 66, and Karen “Sue” Tolin, 65, were arraigned Tuesday in Huron County District Court on charges of unlawful imprisonment, a 15-year felony charge, and vulnerable adult abuse-third degree, a high-court two-year misdemeanor. The Tolins were each released on a bond of $5,000, which was set by Huron County District Judge David Herrington.

The 19-year-old man was discovered Oct. 20 by Huron County Sheriff’s Deputy Steve Bismack, who had responded to a civil dispute at the Tolin home, located at 3700 Minden Road.

After speaking with the parties involved, Bismack was granted permission to enter one of the bedrooms in the home, where he found the alleged victim.

Michigan couple charged after adopted son found in cage in 'extremely unsanitary' conditions

Date: 2014-10-29

PARIS TOWNSHIP, MI — A husband and wife face a felony charge after their adopted 19-year-old son was found inside a cage in "extremely unsanitary" conditions, Huron County Sheriff Kelly Hanson reports.

Karen S. Tolin, 65, and Timothy E. Tolin, 66, occupants of the house where their adopted 19-year-old son was found, were arraigned in Huron County District Court Tuesday, Oct. 28.

Each is charged with a single count of unlawful imprisonment, a 15-year felony, and third-degree vulnerable adult abuse, a high court 2-year misdemeanor.

Both are free on $5,000 or 10 percent bonds, court officials said.

Police responded to investigate a civil dispute about 4 p.m. Monday, Oct. 20, to a home at 3700 Minden Road south of Priemer, when they discovered the mentally challenged male teen in a caged bed with the door chained shut, the Huron County Sheriff's Department said in a prepared statement.

"The odor was very noticeable as the deputy began to climb the stairs," Hanson said.

All Criminal Charges Against George Harasz Are Dismissed

Date: 2014-10-28

By David Owens

HARTFORD — All criminal charges against George Harasz, a former Glastonbury man who was accused of sexually assaulting boys that he and his former husband adopted through the state Department of Children and Families, were dismissed Tuesday at Superior Court.

Harasz's former husband, Douglas Wirth, was found not guilty after a trial last month.

Prosecutor Anthony Bochicchio told Judge Joan K. Alexander on Tuesday that the 8-year-old boy whose allegations of sexual assault against Harasz would have been the subject of his trial was not capable of testifying.

Bochicchio said that the boy, along with his DCF social worker and court-appointed guardian, attended a preparation session Friday at the courthouse in Hartford. The boy became physically and emotionally overwhelmed, and shut down, when questioned about the abuse that he said he had endured.

"All agreed that it would be in the best interest of the complainant not to testify," Bochicchio said, adding that he could not ethically bring the case to trial.

Hearing for foster parents of dead girl, 3, pushed to Monday

Date: 2014-10-28

BY RUTH BROWN

The family of 3-year-old Serenity Julia Gandara wondered if her foster parents -- her alleged killers -- would ever see trial, but the couple finally made their first Kern County court appearance Tuesday.

Alberto Garcia, 31, and Carla Garcia, 30, are accused of killing Serenity and abandoning her 4-year-old brother Isaiah Gandara in their southwest Bakersfield home in July 2010.

The Garcias then fled to Mexico, taking their two biological children and Carla Garcia's son from a previous relationship with them. The couple was apprehended in February 2012, and after exhausting extradition appeals, booked Friday into the Kern County Jail.

"I didn't think they would find (them)," Serenity's paternal grandmother Renee Maese said outside of court Tuesday. "I thank God every day they found them."

During the brief appearance, the Garcias wore jail uniforms and were handcuffed.

Kern County Superior Court Judge H.A. "Skip" Staley agreed to postpone their court appearance until 3 p.m. Monday.

Two arraigned on charges after teen found in cage in Michigan's Thumb

Date: 2014-10-28

By Brad Devereaux

PARIS TOWNSHIP, MI — Two adults were arraigned on charges of unlawful imprisonment and abuse after police found a 19-year-old "mentally disabled" man in a cage that was chained shut inside a Huron County bedroom.

Karen S. Tolin, 65, and Timothy E. Tolin, 66, both occupants of the house where the teen was found, were arraigned in Huron County District Court Tuesday, Oct. 28. Each is charged with a single count of unlawful imprisonment, a 15-year felony, and third-degree vulnerable adult abuse, a high court 2-year misdemeanor.

Both are free on $5,000 or 10 percent bonds, court officials said.

Police responded to investigate a civil dispute about 4 p.m. Monday, Oct. 20, to a home at 3700 Minden Road south of Priemer, when they discovered the mentally challenged male teen in a caged bed with the door chained shut, the Huron County Sheriff's Department said in a prepared statement.

The two suspects were arrested on the charges authorized by Huron County Prosecutor Tim Rutkowski.

Fugitive pair returned to Kern County in foster child's death

Date: 2014-10-26

By Tammy Brown

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) - A man and woman wanted in connection with the July 18, 2010, death of a Bakersfield foster child have been returned by the FBI to Kern County to face charges.

The Sacramento Division of the U.S. Department of Justice made the announcement Sunday.

Alberto and Carla Garcia had been in the custody of Mexican authorities since February 2012 awaiting extradition.

Serenity Julia Gandara, 3, was found dead inside the Garcia's southwest Bakersfield home in 2010. Investigators said Carla Garcia called her sister to tell her about the death, and the aunt called police. Serenity's 4-year-old brother was found asleep in a bedroom.

The sheriff's in-custody webpage shows the Garcias are jailed without bail and scheduled to appear in court Tuesday.

Foster parents of girl found dead in 2010 returned to Kern

Date: 2014-10-26

The couple wanted in connection with the death of a 3-year-old foster child in 2010 was returned to Kern County by the FBI this weekend.

Authorities say 31-year-old Alberto and 30-year-old Carla Garcia fled their southwest Bakersfield home in 2010 for Mexico, leaving behind the body of Serenity Julia Gandara and her 4-year-old brother Isaiah, who was found asleep in a bedroom.

The Garcias were arrested in Mexico in February 2012 and have been awaiting extradition.

Their return to Kern was announced Sunday by the Sacramento Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Carla Garcia is charged with first-degree murder and three counts of willful cruelty to a child, and Alberto Garcia is charged with first-degree murder and two counts of willful cruelty to a child, according to Kern Countuy Superior Court records.

According to court records, the Garcias’ family members said they were aware of “ongoing physical abuse” of both children.

Doctor testifies in Army couple’s trial about suspicions of child abuse

Date: 2014-10-21

By KAREN SUDOL

In treating the injured 2-year-old adopted daughter of Army Maj. John E. Jackson and his wife, Carolyn, a doctor testified Tuesday that he was reminded of a patient he had seen two years earlier with similar injuries: the girl’s adopted brother.

Juan Gutierrez, head of the pediatrics intensive care unit at Morristown Medical Center, testified Tuesday in the Jacksons’ child-abuse trial in federal court in Newark that the underweight girl’s body, dotted with scars, resembled that of the boy he had previously treated.

“I came to the realization that the mother taking care of this child was the same person who had been taking care of the prior child I had seen,” he said.

Gutierrez was the first witness called at the trial of the Jacksons, who are charged with abusing and neglecting their three young adopted children through beatings, withholding water and force-feeding them hot pepper flakes and sauce. The couple lived at Picatinny Arsenal in Morris County for a period during which they also are charged with withholding proper medical care from their children.

Jeffrey Baldwin statue unveiled in Greenwood Park

Date: 2014-10-18

Years after his tragic death, young Jeffrey Baldwin was again remembered with the unveiling of a memorial statue Saturday afternoon in Toronto's Greenwood Park.

The life-sized bronze statue sees Baldwin dressed up as Superman, an image familiar to anyone who followed the inquest into the boy's death.

Baldwin starved to death in 2002, just before his sixth birthday, while under the care of his grandparents. Both are now serving life sentences for second-degree murder.

During the inquest his father, Richard Baldwin, described the young boy's love of Superman, though the statue was arranged by a complete stranger in Ottawa.

Todd Boyce started an online campaign last year, raising more than $50,000 for the work by sculptor Ruth Abernathy.

"I just felt compelled after learning about what happened … how he was hidden away and abused," Boyce told CBC News. "I felt I needed to do something so he'd be remembered."

Jeffrey Baldwin’s grandmother denies responsibility in his death

Prosecutor: Army major, wife abused adopted kids

Date: 2014-10-17

By KAREN SUDOL

When people met Army Maj. John E. Jackson and his wife, Carolyn, they were impressed by them. The couple “presented well” to the outside world. And they seemed engaged with their six children, three of whom were adopted.

But it was a different story behind closed doors, where the adopted children were malnourished, beaten and burned, a federal prosecutor said Friday during the start of a trial that has received nationwide attention for its horrific allegations of child abuse.

The couple engaged in a systematic pattern of abuse and neglect of their three young adopted children, then lied to health care workers about the origin of their children’s injuries when they sought medical attention for them, Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Shumofsky told a jury during opening statements before U.S. District Judge Katharine Hayden in Newark.

Teenage son will testify against U.S. Army major and wife accused of abusing adopted children

Date: 2014-10-17

By Thomas Zambito

Newark - The teenage son of an Army major and his wife will tell jurors how his parents punished his three adopted siblings with vicious beatings they justified by pointing to the Bible, a federal prosecutor said today.

During opening statements in the child endangerment trial for U.S. Army Major John Jackson and his wife, Carolyn, 34, an assistant U.S. Attorney revealed for the first time the key witness against them will be their 16-year-old biological son.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Shumofsky said the teenager confronted his mother after witnessing her striking the adopted children with belts, sticks, spatulas and paddles for offenses like walking too slowly or getting in a car seat too slowly.

“You spare the rod, you spoil the child,” his mother told him, Shumofsky said. “He was told you can’t argue with the Bible.”

The Jacksons are facing federal charges of child endangerment and assault for abusing their three adopted children between the years 2005 and 2010 while John Jackson, 38, was stationed at Picatinny Arsenal in Morris County.

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