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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.

23 January 2018

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Case news

Most recent articles added to the case archives

Ringgold woman accused of abusing adopted son says she’s innocence

Date: 2014-12-04

By Adam Cook

A Ringgold woman accused of abusing her 11-year-old adopted son is proclaiming her innocence.

Christine Evelyn Baughman, in a prepared statement issued Wednesday afternoon, Dec. 3 through her attorney, said she is “innocent of these allegations that have been made against her.”

“… As more light is cast upon this situation, her innocence will become apparent,” Baughman’s attorney Adam C. Cathey of Ringgold said in the statement.

“On November 25, 2014, Dr. (Henry) and Ms. Baughman were contacted by Catoosa County child protection and law enforcement authorities,” Cathey said. “At that time, Dr. and Ms. Baughman were informed of allegations having been made by an unknown third party regarding their son. Notwithstanding their full compliance with the investigation, Ms. Baughman was hastily arrested at 10:00 p.m. that evening. While the charges made against Ms. Baughman appear very serious, she wants to assure the community that she is innocent of these allegations that have been made against her.”

Ringgold woman arrested for child abuse of adopted son

Date: 2014-12-03

By Adam Cook

A Ringgold woman was arrested for alleged child abuse two days before Thanksgiving, following an investigation of claims that she physically and emotionally abused her 11-year-old adopted son.

According to the Catoosa County Sheriff’s Department:

Christine Evelyn Baughman, 43, was arrested Tuesday, Nov. 25, for first-degree cruelty to children. She was released from jail the following day, Nov. 26, on a $5,000 bond.

The investigation into Baughman’s treatment of the child began with a welfare check of the boy at the family’s home on Nov. 22, after a complaint had been submitted to the Department of Family and Children Services.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation was also notified of the complaint, as was child crimes detective Tim Deal with the Catoosa County Sheriff’s Department.

“It’s a joint investigation,” sheriff Gary Sisk said Wednesday, Dec. 3. “Interviews were conducted in the case, and the charge was then brought about.”

Catoosa County Woman Arrested for Cruelty to Children

Date: 2014-12-03

A Ringgold woman faces a child cruelty charge for abusing her own son, according to the Catoosa County Sheriff's Office Wednesday.

Christine Evelyn Baughman is charged with cruelty to children in the first degree, accused of physically and emotionally abusing her child. he police report indicated that the "weapon" used was an "adult belt." After a search online, NewsChannel9 found out the suspect worked in healthcare around children.

According to the incident report, the alleged abuse happened between November 19 and November 20 at the family's home at 635 Middleview Drive in Ringgold. Whitfield County case workers with the Department of Family and Children Services were called to check out the boy on November 22. That's when DFCS took photos of injuries and reported everything to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, authorities said.

Kathleen and Martin O'Brien plead not guilty to child abuse charges

Date: 2014-12-02

By Andrea Anderson

ELKHORN—A Lake Geneva couple accused of abusing their children told at least one adopted child that if he or she told anyone about the abuse, the child would be sent back to his or her respective country, Judge James Carlson said Tuesday.

Kathleen and Martin O'Brien were charged in May 2012 with a combined 23 felony and misdemeanor charges of abusing their six children—some adopted from Guatemala and the former Soviet Union. Accusations range from spraying the children with pepper spray to making them stand outside shoeless in the winter

In September, attorneys for the O'Briens filed motions to dismiss or modify five charges, saying prosecutors were too vague about when the crimes supposedly happened.

Carlson denied the motions Tuesday, and the O'Briens pleaded not guilty to the remaining charges.

Kathleen, 52, pleaded not guilty to four felony counts of child abuse and one misdemeanor count of disorderly conduct. Martin, 52, pleaded not guilty to six felony counts of child abuse.

The Limits of Jurisdiction

Date: 2014-12-01

By Erin Siegal McIntyre

It’s unclear how the two-year-old broke her femur, Dr. Napoleon Castillo Molinedo told me. The Guatemalan pediatrician regularly saw the child, identified as “Karen Abigail Lopéz García” in his office records, for check-up appointments and vaccinations. Firing up a weary PC, the doctor retrieved Karen’s old records, printing out a list: ten visits in the first seven months of 2007 alone.

The adults who brought the toddler into Castillo’s office, members of the Bran family, were in the business of children. More specifically, they provided what most Americans call “foster care” for Guatemalan kids during their adoptions to mostly American families. According to Castillo, the Brans “didn’t overflow with love for the kids.”

“I charged them less per child, since they brought so much volume through my office,” the doctor said. He said the Brans claimed Karen “fell down” and broke her limb “jumping on a bed.” But he didn’t believe them.

Taking a stand: Community involvement needed to alleviate child abuse

Date: 2014-11-18

'Screaming from the rooftops': Child abuse a problem requiring community action, experts and victims say

By Sarah Rafique

Nearly 12 years of beatings, malnutrition and mistreatment didn’t end until Kate Belus’ adopted brother was lying in a coma in the hospital and Child Protective Services stepped in.

Now, Belus wonders if it could have been prevented if her neighbors had just spoken up.

“There wasn’t ever an outlet (for me) to see that what was happening was wrong,” said Belus, 31, who now lives in Lubbock after graduating from Texas Tech. “I didn’t understand why nobody had said anything earlier.

“Once the trial happened a whole bunch of people stepped up and said, ‘Yeah, we thought something was wrong but we didn’t really say anything.’ So that’s hard. They could have stopped it earlier.”

Eventually, Belus’ parents, Christine and Richard Dodson, were sentenced to 45 years in prison for injury to a child.

Littlest victims: Kate Belus still feels pain of neglect decades after abuse by parents

Date: 2014-11-16

Belus says transition difficult for victims

By Sarah Rafique

Christine Dodson shook her daughter awake.

She told the 11-year-old she had to watch the other kids.

Her youngest brother was not breathing.

“I came downstairs (and) in the foyer on the ground, my step-dad was doing CPR on him and didn’t wait for an ambulance,” said Kate Belus, 31, who now lives in Lubbock. “They packed up and went straight to the hospital.”

A combination of trying to “beat the demon” out of him and lack of nourishment led to gangrene and, after several attempts of resuscitation, Belus’ adopted brother fell into a coma. While at Brackenridge Children’s Hospital in Austin, doctors conducted skin grafts to help his skin repair. They waited for the 5-year-old boy to wake.

It took several months.

Belus’ mom and step-dad, Richard Dodson, were tried in 1996 for the abuse they caused him. They were never charged for the abuse Belus said she and her other siblings endured.

The Dodsons are serving 45-year sentences each.

Investigating child abuse

Littlest victims: Kate Belus didn't run from the beatings

Date: 2014-11-15

Prevalence of child abuse in Lubbock County has consistently been about twice the state's average

By Sarah Rafique

Kate Belus didn’t run from the beatings that lasted until the wooden dowels broke.

She didn’t run for food so she could finally eat for the day.

She didn’t run toward help.

She was simply running — for hours — in circles outside her two-story home in Round Rock because she was scared of what would happen if she didn’t.

“We had a figure-8 track in the backyard between two big trees and we had a triangular track in the front yard between three trees,” said Belus, 31, who now lives in Lubbock after graduating from Texas Tech. “We literally would run around them for hours on end; that’s hard after you just took a beating to your feet.”

Belus, who was homeschooled and spent all day with her parents, didn’t complain about the punishments, which sometimes led to broken toes hidden beneath her shoes and invisible to strangers.

She never talked back.

Prosecutors vow a retrial after judge declares mistrial in child abuse case of Army major

Date: 2014-11-15

By Ted Sherman

Federal prosecutors say they intend to retry an Army major and his wife charged with abusing their children, after a judge halted the proceedings yesterday over the inadvertent disclosure that the couple’s two-year-old son had died while in their care.

No timetable has been set yet for a new trial for Maj. John Jackson and his wife Carolyn, who are charged with endangerment and assault for abusing three of their six children, while stationed at Picatinny Arsenal in Morris County.

A conference on the matter is expected to be held after Thanksgiving.

A mistrial in the high-profile was declared yesterday morning by U.S. District Judge Katharine S. Hayden, a day after one of the prosecutors referred to the dead child, despite orders from the judge to keep the death from jurors because it would be prejudicial to the Jacksons.

The couple, who have been accused of hurting the child, have not been charged with his death, which was ruled by a medical examiner to be from “natural causes.”

Witnesses: Couple accused of murdering girl abused children

Date: 2014-11-14


People who knew the accused killers of a 3-year-old girl had seen the couple spanking and bruising their children, according to redacted police reports released Friday.

Alberto Garcia, 31, and Carla Garcia, 30, fled their southwest Bakersfield home in 2010 before police found Serenity Julia Gandara dead and her 4-year-old brother, Isaiah, abandoned there.

The Garcias were arrested in Mexico in February 2012 and had been awaiting extradition until last month.

In 2010, neighbors and relatives told police they had seen Serenity and Isaiah with apparent signs of abuse, according to the new reports.

Some claimed the children were spanked or had their hands restrained if and when they cried.

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. Both are being held in jail without bail.

Mistrial declared in child abuse case of Picatinny major and his wife

Date: 2014-11-14

By Ted Sherman

The child abuse trial of an Army major and his wife came to an abrupt end this morning, a day after a prosecutor mistakenly disclosed to jurors that an adopted two-year-old son of the couple had died in their care.

U.S. District Judge Katharine S. Hayden, who had ordered that the child’s death be kept from the jury because it would be prejudicial, declared a mistrial in the high profile proceedings against Carolyn and John Jackson.

“I’m firmly convinced that the right to a fair trail has slipped away,” said Hayden.

She said while the mistake was not malicious or intentional, it was unfair to the defendants to proceed, with the jury now knowing that one of their children had died.

“It begs imagination and logic to believe the jurors will disregard what they know and what they learned,” she said—that their son died while in their custody.

Judge weighs mistrial in child abuse trial of U.S. Army major and wife

Date: 2014-11-13

By Thomas Zambito

Newark - A federal judge cut off testimony in the child abuse trial of Army Major John Jackson and his wife and sent jurors home today after a prosecutor slipped and suggested that one of the couple’s three adopted children had died.

Defense attorneys for the Jacksons immediately demanded a mistrial out of earshot of jurors who, because of a pre-trial ruling, were not supposed to learn of the youngster’s death in 2008 before he’d turned three.

U.S. District Court Judge Katharine Hayden said she will rule Friday morning on whether to declare a mistrial several weeks into the government’s case against John and Carolyn Jackson.

The Jacksons are facing child endangerment and assault charges for abusing and neglecting three of their adopted children through harsh discipline that included feeding them red hot pepper flakes and pouring hot sauce into their mouths.

The couple was living at Picatinny Arsenal in Morris County with their three biological children and three adopted children when some of the abuse is alleged to have occurred. They had previously lived in Oklahoma.

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.

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."

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.

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