Monthly Archives: November 2012

Early intervention – a benefit cost analysis

Victimized Youth

In 2011, Minnesota passed the Safe Harbor for Youth Act, a law which increases penalties for pimps, purchasers, and other sex traffickers of minors. The law more closely aligns Minnesota state statutes with federal law, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (“TVPA”), creating structures for victimized youth to receive protective services.

The law does the following:
• Excludes sexually exploited children under 16 from the definition of delinquent child;

• Includes the definition of sexually exploited youth in Minnesota’s child protection code;

• Creates a mandatory first-time diversion for any 16 or 17 year old who has been exploited in prostitution (where the child meets the criteria);

• Allows prosecutors to continue diversion or to proceed with CHIPS petitions for children coming through the system additional times;

• Increases penalties for buyers of sex with adults, from $250 to a minimum of $500 and a maximum of $750. Forty percent of fees will go into an account to serve sexually exploited children; and

• Directs the commissioner of public safety to work with stakeholders to create a victim-centered response to sexually exploited youth.

The Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center performed a study analyzing the law’s impact since the beginning of its gradual implementation, using funding directing it to perform and cost-benefit analysis. The study’s focus was sexually-exploited female runaway and homeless youth ages 12 to 17.

Upon performing an academic analysis, researchers found $34 in benefit to every $1 in cost for the program.

These results imply that our state and national legislators should reconsider their priorities. When economic times are tough, we are nonetheless financially better off protecting our most vulnerable youth. Not only that, we are morally better off.

No Way Out But One

Collins Family

Finally, the issue of child abusers being awarded custody in the family courts is gaining in public awareness, thanks to the recent film No Way Out But One, which just aired on the Documentary Channel on October 28, 2012.

There are hundreds if not thousands of protective parents around the world (mostly women) who have lost all or partial custody of their children in family courts when they complained that their former or divorcing spouse was physically or sexually abusing their children. This has been going on for years without widespread public knowledge. How can this be, you might ask? Isn’t the legal system here to protect the innocent? Don’t we all care about protecting children from abuse?

Well, call it misinformation. Call it inappropriate skepticism. Say that people perceive family court disputes as involving inappropriately drawn out custody battles based on parental selfishness. Call it the big money made by custody evaluators hired by family courts in these cases. Whatever the real bottom-line reason, courts are not listening. Instead of protecting our children from abusers, our courts are giving abusers unfettered access to the children.

A strange justification has been used to allow for this phenomenon. This justification is called Parental Alienation Syndrome (“PAS”). Family courts have been throwing around the terms PAS and alienation for years. Finally, very recently, the American Psychiatric Association, after much consideration, decided not to include PAS in its upcoming revised version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

Alienation theories have been used to claim that in the context of custody disputes, desperate and selfish parents will make up anything simply to obtain custody to the exclusion of the other parent. If a parent points out that there is evidence of abuse, the court and custody evaluator perceives the allegations with skepticism, often leveling accusations that this parent is simply trying to alienate the children from the other parent. Courts have done this repeatedly even in the face of clear evidence of abuse. They then often take custody rights completely from the protective parent on the theory of alienation.

While this seems ridiculous and extreme, the reality is that these theories have been so commonly used that there are numerous nonprofit groups fighting for justice on this issue. Large numbers of protective parents participate in rallies to protect their children. Hearings have been help before legislative committees on these issues. Mothers have attempted to run away with their children to protect them from being forced to have unsupervised visitation time with a violent cruel abusive parent.

This new film from producers Garland Waller and Barry Nolan, made on a shoestring budget of funds raised from an angel investor and Kickstarter, has been widely screened. It poignantly tells the true story of Holly Collins, a protective mother who completely lost custody of her children to an abusive father whose children were returning from visits with bruises and who had even cracked his own son’s skull. The family court’s unbelievable reaction to her attempts to protect her children forced the mother to take the children to the Netherlands, where she became the first American woman to be granted asylum. Years later, the United States came to pursue her on kidnapping charges.

ake a look at the film’s website: No Way Out But One.