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Therapeutic intervention in the Masha Allen case


When last week Jaycee Dugard re-appeared after having been abducted for 18 years, her well-being and her future were one of the main considerations of the authorities involved. The New York Times ran an article For Longtime Captives, a Complex Road Home, in which several therapists shared their view about cases like these.

One of the experts mentioned is Dr. Judith A. Cohen medical director of the Center for Traumatic Stress in Children and Adolescents at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh. Allegheny County, the place where six years earlier Masha Allen was found living with a pedophile adopter, who raped her, abused her and sent her photographs all around the world. If ever there was a clear-cut case where top-notch intervention would be required, it was Masha's. Yet despite the availability of such an expert on child trauma in the area, all the help Masha got was fifteen hours of wrap-around service at the house of her foster mother Lynn Ginn by the Holy Family Institute and counseling once per week at the Bethany Baptist Church from an unlicensed counselor.

So why did Masha not receive the treatment she needed at the time? The reason is plain and simple, faith-based zeal dominated her placement with Lynn Ginn.

Lynn Ginn was a troubled young woman who grew up in Georgia under the name Kimberly Murphy, a name she later changed to Lynn Ginn, when she started a new life admitting herself to the Peniel Center in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, a faith-based drug rehab center. Kimberly/Lynn supposedly suffered from anorexia at the time.

Through the Peniel Center, where she stayed twice, once in 1998 and once in 2001, Lynn Ginn met Cheryl Allen, a black evangelical judge, who had introduced praying in courtroom and who sought a seat in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Judge Cheryl Allen took Lynn Ginn in her home and got her counseling through Theotherapy, a faith-based service for which Judge Cheryl Allen served as a board member.

At Judge Cheryl Allen's directions, Masha was placed with Lynn Ginn hours after police rescued her and it was in this faith-based environment, belief prevailed over reason. Although Masha received a mental health evaluation by Dr. Sharon of A Second Chance Wellness Center, the recommendations were not followed up. Instead of asking expert opinion, available near-by, prayer was believed to be in Masha's best interest.

Things didn't work out well in Pennsylvania for Masha , Lynn Ginn, who by then had changed her name in Faith Allen with the help of Judge Allen's Court Attorney Elizabeth Lacey, subsequently took her to Georgia, inspired by the works of Karen Dones. In Georgia, Masha received treatment through Attachment and Bonding Center of Atlanta. This treatment immediately followed upon Masha's refusal to return to home, after she had been abandoned by Faith Allen in Washington DC, a week earlier, the day after Faith Allen had received the Angels in Adoption Awards. Masha didn't want to return to Faith Allen's home, but DCF Georgia left her no other option, but to comply.

by Kerry and Niels on Wednesday, 02 September 2009