Sunday, August 24

$60 Million in Fines Should Be Used To Establish An Office of Child Advocate

Eckel and others in Gang of 19 are turning blind eyes to DPW and CYS failures in believing that the $60 million in fines for child protection programs would help PA's children

Ray Blehar

Like the 11/9/11 trustees did with the victim settlements, the Gang of 19, which includes nine holdovers from the from the 11/9/11 group, continued to overlook the failures of DPW and CYS in its haste to "help the victims of child abuse."  The PSU BOT must acknowledge these failures and should propose (to the legislature) that the best use of the funding would be to establish an independent Office of Child Advocate to oversee DPW.

At the 15 August meeting of the Governance Committee, Keith Eckel confirmed that the Gang and their predecessors have promoted that Penn State Athletics was to blame for enabling Sandusky and therefore, decided to saddle them with paying the $60 million in fines to help children. Make no mistake, the larger University isn't paying a dime of the fine money.  

Eckel:  Revisionist history about
PSU's desire to keep money in PA
"My recollection from the beginning is that our Board and our leadership always supported the concept that the $60 million be spent in Pennsylvania for the benefit of abused children in this state.  I believe, as I understand it, the resolution presented positively deals with that aspect, and I think that's critically important, and I do not like to see that money in any type of reserve fund instead of being used by Pennsylvania people for the benefit of our children. So I am strongly in support of that concept." 

Eckel wasn't being truthful that the Board desired that the money be kept in Pennsylvania from the beginning, as there was never anything other than a complete roll-over on the NCAA Consent Decree.  It wasn't until the Corman/McCord lawsuit in January 2013,  that the idea of keeping the money in PA surfaced, and, at that time, PSU and its Board didn't voice its support for Corman. Instead, it did what it has typically done in the Sandusky affair and didn't comment on the case.

The fact of the matter is that PSU became forced litigants in the lawsuit when Judge Anne Covey decided information from PSU was needed to determine if the Consent Decree was entered into legally.  As we saw at the Governance Committee meeting, as well as in the Paterno v. NCAA lawsuit, PSU and its General Counsel, Steve Dunham are doing everything they can to avoid providing information for discovery.

However, more importantly, Eckel wasn't being truthful that the Board is genuine about its concerns over Pennsylvania's abused children.  The willingness to settle with the Sandusky victims, child abuse reporting training for PSU employees, and now the desire to support the aspects of the lawsuit that keeps the fine money in state have been strictly public relations moves to provide the appearance of contrition, again -- all not costing PSU a dime, with a tad of corruption mixed in.

Board Refusal to Acknowledge 1998 DPW failures

Frazier:  Gave DPW a pass for its
failure to recognize abuse in 1998
As I've noted many times previously, when trustee Al Clemens stated that the rift between the board's position on the Freeh Report and the alumni's position, he mentioned the DPW's failed investigation of Sandusky in 1998 and that the state should bear some responsibility for enabling Sandusky's abuse.   Former Special Investigations Task Force co-lead, Kenneth Frazier shot back that he wasn't concerned about the state's failures and actually concluded that PSU officials should have known more than the DPW agents who investigated the case.  

Frazier, like nearly everyone else in this case except many concerned PSU alumni and friends, have given the 1998 DPW investigation a pass in the Sandusky case, based on an incomplete record.  

Louis Freeh did not include critical information about signs of possible sex abuse known to investigators in the text of his report.  However, the most critical information Freeh withheld were five e-mails that showed Centre County CYS's involvement in the case up until  May 27th.  CYS received the damning psychological report about Sandusky from Dr. Alycia Chambers, therefore the press reports that the investigators were unaware of her report were false.  

The DPW investigator, Jerry Lauro, claimed never to see either Chambers report or the Seasock report -- which he helped to arrange according to the 1998 police report.   Lauro stated that had he seen the Chambers report, he would have made an abuse finding.  

“The conclusions she had drawn in her report were pretty damaging,” Lauro said. “I would have made a different decision. ... It’s unbelievable, and it gets my blood pressure going when I think about it.”

A real investigation, not a phony one like Freeh conducted, would have rightfully condemned the 1998 DPW investigative failures  and could have put the focus were it belonged in terms of improvements needed to protect children -- better investigations.  

A History of Failures

DPW Secretary Mackereth:  Her 1982
failure caused the death of a child 
Sandusky's 1998 failure was not unique in any sense, but part of a history of DPW failures to properly intervene and protect children dating as far back to 1982.  The 1982 case involved the current Secretary of the Department of Public Welfare, Beverly Mackereth, who was then a caseworker in York County.  Mackereth investigated the case of Aleta Bailey who was abused by her mother's live-in boyfriend, Larry Hake.  When she examined Aleta, she noted two sets of bruises from beatings and took the child to be medically examined.  The doctors informed her that the beatings were severe and the child in no way should have contact with Hake.

Mackereth, who contacted police to escort her to the home because Hake had a reputation as a violent individual, put Aleta back into the Bailey home with the provision that Hake should never be left alone with the child.  Five weeks later Aleta was dead -- raped, tortured, and beaten to death by Hake.

Fast forward to 1998.  Sandusky was placed under investigation by the University Park police and Centre County CYS was called to perform the child abuse investigation.  The Public Welfare Code required CYS to contact The Second Mile to inform them of the investigation, but more importantly to work with the charity to ensure Sandusky had no contact with children while under investigation.

That didn't happen.

The police report revealed that Sandusky was accessing Victim 6 and another boy during the investigation by visiting them at their Little League baseball practices.  In addition, Sandusky continued contacting Victim 6 by phone during the investigation.  Trial verdicts also revealed that Sandusky was accessing and abusing Victim 4 during that time frame.  All of this information is a matter of public record.

In 2008, Clinton County CYS repeated the same mistakes as Centre County CYS in 1998.  They did not work with the charity to ensure Sandusky did not have access to children, and despite claims by TSM's Executive Director Dr. Jack Raykovitz that Sandusky was immediately banned from all programs involving children, the evidence proves otherwise.   

According to press reports, Sandusky was allowed to attend a TSM Clearfield banquet involving families in March 2009 and also was permitted to participate in the 2010 Second Mile Summer Challenge camps.

Just like the Board's statements that few of them were aware of the grand jury investigation of Sandusky when the news broke in March 2011, the Board apparently is continuing to pretend they are unaware of these other widely reported DPW failures.

August 2014: The Tutko Case

On August 4, 2014, news broke that 9-year old Jarrod Tutko Jr. was reported dead and that his father, Jarrod Tutko Sr. had been charged with child endangerment, abuse of a corpse, and concealing the death of a child.

The news report also included the fact that Dauphin County CYS had been called to investigate a prior abuse complaint at the Tutko home.   According to Kimberly Tutko, the mother, she believed Jarrod's older brother Aaron called in an abuse complaint December 2013, stating that his father threw a bottle at Jarrod's leg causing him harm.

Unseen by CYS? The feces
covered room of Jarrod Tutko, Jr.
Dauphin County CYS investigated and determined no abuse took place.  It would appear that a more thorough investigation by CYS could have prevented this tragedy.  Cathleen Palm, a principal at the Center for Children's Justice,  opined that sometimes child abuse investigators will only investigate the allegation at hand and "can be blind to what may be occurring throughout the rest of the house."   

Based on reports from neighbors, the CYS agents investigating this case were willfully blind.  The neighbors reported that Jarrod's older brother looked malnourished - that they could see Aaron's ribs through his skin.

This practice has also been confirmed in Centre County, where one complaining parent referred to his child's case as a "drive by investigation."  The 1998 investigation by CYS could also qualify as a "drive by" based on the 1998 police report.  There was considerable foot-dragging by CYS to investigate Sandusky and, after they punted the case to DPW, it appeared Jerry Lauro spent more time driving back and forth to State College than he did in actually investigating the case.

The Tutko case was back in the news this past week with the release of the autopsy, which determined Jarrod Jr. died from starvation and dehydration.  County coroner Graham Hetrick stated the condition of the body and the condition of the home was "horrendous."

Is the PSU BOT paying attention to this case?

PSU's Misguided (and Corrupt) "Prevention" Efforts 

While the Center for Child Abuse Prevention at the Milton Hershey Medical Center will provide a holistic approach to the broader scope of child abuse, other steps the University has taken appear to be misguided -- focused on reporting -- and fail to address the real problems in PA's child protection system.

First, PSU used the proceeds from the 2012 Ticket City Bowl to provide funding to the Centre County Women's Resource Center and two other organizations for child abuse prevention efforts.  The decision, in part, has the appearance a conflict of interest, as PSU VP for Administration, Tom Poole, is married to Anne Ard, who is the Executive Director of the Center.  The training for adults in the community (to recognize and report child abuse) was planned to be conducted by the Centre County YMCA's Stewards of Children Program. 

PCAR: Rushed to judgment on Paterno
and the events of February 9, 2001
In January 2012, PSU provided a $1.5 million grant to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR) to provide training and education on child abuse reporting and prevention. In the wake of the Sandusky charges, PCAR made a statement concluding that Joe Paterno's reporting "failure" was to blame for Sandusky's abuse was a premature judgement

In another effort, PCAR called what happened at PSU the "mother of all teachable moments" about by-standers failing to report.   There should be little doubt that PCAR was simply reinforcing the narrative resulted from the BOT's 11/9/11 decisions.

PCAR provided training on how to identify and report child abuse to 10,000 PSU employees.  While this may have been born of good intentions, it appeared to be overkill to take this type of action based on a single incident.  In addition, through my access to PSU as an alumni "volunteer," I was able to take the training program and found that while it heightened awareness in recognizing abuse, it clearly omitted some critical signs of child abuse that were also omitted in the Freeh Report (i.e., those that were ignored by DPW investigators).  I don't think that was just a coincidence.  However, the bottom line of all of the training is that it doesn't prevent child abuse for occurring, but only recurring.

Child sexual abuse on college campuses is rare and this grant money would have been better spent on age appropriate child sexual abuse prevention programs for children.  This is a truly preventive effort. Training children to recognize signs and talk to their parents about it before abuse happens them is definitely preferred over waiting until adults recognize the signs -- then reporting it to a system that fails much of the time.

PSU's Promise to Be A Leader

PSU officials promised after the Sandusky grand jury presentment broke that the University would become a national leader in child abuse prevention.  It is incumbent on PSU to recognize the Commonwealth's failures in the Sandusky case and in other cases, and as the state's flagship University, demand that improvements be made at "home" first.  

Just throwing money at the state agencies and the so-called victim's advocate groups isn't the answer.

One of the biggest disappointments in the Sandusky scandal has been the quick rush to judgment by the victim's advocates against PSU and their collective silence about the failures of DPW.  This silence is driven, in part, because of these group's reliance on the Commonwealth for grant money to fund their efforts.  

If a settlement is reached in the Corman lawsuit and the PSU football program is saddled with paying the fines, the Board should make recommendations to the legislature regarding the best use of the funding, rather than just letting the legislature slice, dice, and distribute monies to various groups across the state.  

While I am not a fan of government bureaucracy, a number of child protection advocates believe that Pennsylvania would greatly benefit from the establishment of a state-level independent "Office of Child Advocate."  AG Kathleen Kane also voiced her support for this office while campaigning (shown below).  

The Office would provide oversight and review of DPW, ensure protection of children during child abuse investigations, and provide PA's families with an "ombudsman" to resolve issues and complaints related to child protective services.  

Based on the history of Sandusky, Tutko, and other failures, this would be money well spent.

1 comment:

  1. Pathetic that a PA child welfare worker, who had a child killed or her watch, would rise to the head of DPW. One wonders what the record of other candidates for the position looked like if hers was the best.

    No wonder PA has such a poor record in protecting children from abuse.