Thank you, Congress, for Putting Child Safety First!

Important update!

Congress passed House Conc. Resolution 72 on September 24th, late into the evening.

This was a bipartisan effort with tireless support from child advocates, lawyers and legislators from across the country. This was a tremendous first step toward improving safety, mental health and family stability for children!

Watch this video courtesy of C-SPAN to hear what Representatives from both the Republican and Democratic parties have to say about this new mandate to states and courts. The video is linked in the previous sentence. To comment on this legislation and story, please use the Contact form here.

My Advocate Center supports Georgia Courts in improving child safety and mental health.

Why did My Advocate Center begin publishing information about this proposed resolution back in April of 2018?  The answer: child safety and emotional well-being should always be the first priority of every legal matter involving children. Always. Most of us, however, could not fathom that this has NOT been the case; in fact, the true needs of children, including protection from an abusive parent, are often ignored.

You’ve seen the news reports, heard the stories and talked about it on social media, or maybe only quietly shared it with your counselor when privately grieving what has happened to you or to your loved ones.

The next step for Georgians is to ask our policy leaders to help create momentum on this issue. Please sign the petition below and get to know your U.S. Representatives by sharing your experience with them.

What is the overall goal?

Keeping our children safe, our families stable and healthy, protecting our rights as parents and grandparents to care for our own children. To do this, we need to improve how our courts and legal professionals manage family disputes that enter the the legal system.

Did you know? We reached over 1000 signatures on our previous petition, so just imagine what we can do now!

News Report: Call for Fulton Family Court Investigation

What do Fulton County families and children need most?

If you ask parents caught in legal conflict, you’ll likely hear the word transparency.

Georgia news media, parents, advocates and legal professionals attended a press conference on April 24th that covered in detail the danger experienced by safe, loving parents and their children in family court cases.

The allegations are serious and a plea was made to Fulton County’s District Attorney Paul Howard to investigate the claims.

The press conference featured Georgia expert William Perry who is known for his news reports on ethics failures in government. Perry, who goes by Georgia Ethics Watchdog in his reports, learned just how dangerous the legal environment is for families, and decided to do something about it. Several tragic stories were shared and family law attorneys weighed in, agreeing that something needs to be done. Atlanta’s Fox5 News aired the story that evening, doing a remarkable job at laying out what is complicated and challenging to explain.

The news report explained that for these parents who are being victimized, nothing is more important to them than their children. Children are reportedly being taken from them without any regard for the law.

Perry addressed needed policy changes and spoke about his challenge to law enforcement and other authorities to investigate cases where good parents are wrongfully accused, torn from their children and set up to fail.

My Advocate Center’s term to describe the problem is profit over protection.

Outcomes make no sense given our laws and the facts in such cases.  The real needs of children are thrown by the wayside. Does it need to be this way?

The image here was taken by a news team at the Fulton County courthouse in recent years, when custody experts were paid to suppress evidence of child abuse that was substantiated by forensic evaluations and law enforcement. The litigation resulted in protection and proper medical treatment being withheld from the child.

Young adults are coming forward now to speak about their experiences such as what this child experienced when outcries for help were ignored and silenced. There is no need to wait in beginning investigations and working to remove danger by closing loopholes in state policies.

When families are exploited there is often a lack of transparency and due process in the management of the litigation, so Perry emphasized the need for parties to be allowed to record their own court proceedings.

Superior Court Rules on Recording Court Hearings

This issue was addressed by Georgia’s Supreme Court and Superior Court judges and includes recommendations from stakeholders in the press, My Advocate Center and other advocacy groups.

The new rule changes take effect in May of 2018, benefitting the public, professionals who are ethical and committed to protecting clients and children, and also benefitting the courts in creating more efficiency and positive outcomes.

Parents, grandparents, professionals and even children are speaking up about experiences and the need to take action. Contact My Advocate Center’s founder Deb Beacham here to report details to My Advocate Center or to ask for assistance.

Investigations and News Reports Matter

Learn more about what is happening across Georgia and how investigations can make all the difference in improving safety, family stability, and the ability for parents and children to recover from trauma.

Contact My Advocate Center to review case studies and data on these issues. Investigators will discover that the problems described here are wide-spread and found nationwide, but with Fulton County’s large population and high rates of domestic violence and child abuse, there is a special need for a concentrated review of cases in this area.

Background material for news reports and investigations can also be found in reports such as this story by an Augusta news station about glaring misconduct by a Guardian ad Litem who manipulated cases based upon whether vulnerable women would comply with his demands, or not.

Investigating Backpage and Exploitation

Exploitation is one of the worst diseases of all time in our society.

Exploitation isn’t a new disease; acts of abuse in taking advantage of those who are vulnerable, who can be beaten down, held hostage in some manner, used for work, sex, entertainment, experiments, etc., and to increase the perpetrators’ profits have occurred since the beginning of our existence.

It is almost impossible to avoid as it occurs in many forms, so when an investigation such as this one into the website Backpage and the people running it leads to a shutdown, seizure and federal charges, it’s a big win.

Exploitation of others, especially of children, isn’t going to slow down until profit centers collapse and perpetrators are exposed. In my work and throughout this website I explore and report on various forms of exploitation and abuse. I believe it’s important to identify the pressure points in society where vulnerabilities are created or worsened, where families are broken down, parent-child relationships disintegrated and children destabilized to a point that puts them at much greater risk for harm. Families in conflict, especially when children are involved, are ripe for exploitation. It is profitable to take advantage and to use children to increase profits.

Common sense, even without all of the available data, tells us that when you destabilize children, increase uncertainty, take away needed medical and psychological healthcare, traumatize them by denying access to nurturing and safe parents, enable perpetrators of physical and psychological abuse, you are setting our young ones up to fail. You are also creating inventory for those who profit from exploitation of children.

What is Backpage and what is the impact of this investigation?

As seen in Reuters online news:

Groups and political leaders working to end forced prostitution and child exploitation celebrated the shutdown of Backpage, a massive ad marketplace that is primarily used to sell sex. This effort involved multiple states and federal authorities including the FBI, IRS and also the US Postal Service. The website posting said U.S. attorneys in Arizona and California, as well as the Justice Department’s section on child exploitation and obscenity and the California and Texas attorneys general had helped shut down the website.

“Today, Backpage was shutdown. It’s a huge step. Now no child will be sold for sex through this website,” tweeted US Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota.

Heitkamp helped draft legislation passed by the Senate last month that makes it easier for state prosecutors and sex-trafficking victims to sue social media networks, advertisers and others that fail to keep sex trafficking and exploitative materials off their platforms. The bill passed by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 97-2.

President Donald Trump will sign the bill into law next week, said Heitkamp. The legislation, featured prominently in the popular Netflix documentary “I am Jane Doe,” amends the Communications Decency Act, which has shielded website operators from state criminal charges or civil liability if they facilitate sex ads or prostitution.

“Shutting down the largest online U.S. marketplace for sex trafficking will dramatically reduce the profitability of forcing people into the commercial sex trade, at least in the short term,” said Bradley Myles, chief executive of Polaris, an international anti-slavery group that runs the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

There would be “a dramatic shift in the marketplace starting tonight,” Myles added.

This article by Medium explains more about the steps and effort involved to achieve the passage of SESTA and the shutdown of Backpage.

LEARN MORE ABOUT THE FEDERAL LEGISLATION HERE.

The legislation followed a two-year investigation by the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs’ Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, on which Heitkamp serves, into ads placed on Backpage.com of victims of sex trafficking, including in North Dakota.

The new federal law will empower states to do more to protect those vulnerable to trafficking. The name of the legislation is the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA).

Specifically, SESTA would:

  • Allow victims of sex trafficking to seek justice against websites that knowingly or recklessly facilitated the crimes against them.
  • Eliminate federal liability protections for websites that assist, support, or facilitate a violation of federal sex trafficking laws.
  • Enable state law enforcement officials, not just the federal Department of Justice, to take action against individuals or businesses that violate federal sex trafficking laws.

Senator Heitkamp emphasized that this legislation is necessary to immediately provide victims an avenue to seek justice for their exploitation – and make sure that companies will be held liable to the fullest extent of the law for profiting from this form of modern-day slavery.

Note: until there is greater liability and consequences for those profiting from all forms of exploitation of children, both online and offline, our children will not be safe. This work at the state and federal level to take down this website and charge the people responsible for facilitating child sex trafficking is a great step; it is already having a powerful impact on the exploitation of minors.

In local Georgia news:

Atlanta news station WSB-TV’s reporter Lauren Pozen interviewed advocate Kasey McClure of 4Sarah.net along with attorney Esther Panitch who is waging battles for victims childhood sexual abuse.

“Lots of companies who host other people, who communicate through them, are really going to be watchful for to see how far this goes because it’s not just an unpopular website like backpage, but will it affect other websites that maybe are kind of on the line,” said Channel 2 legal analyst Esther Panitch.

Advocates for victims of sex trafficking say the takedown  is a step in the right direction.

“More victims started coming forward and saying this is happening to me and I think people started recognizing they had a problem. The issue that is going on with backpage is them being held accountable for basically allowing men to exploit and rape minors,” said advocate Kasey McClure, who founded 4sarah.net.

How does this affect my community, my children?

Backpage.com let users create posts to sell items but it is mostly known for prostitution among adults but also trafficking children.

Channel 2 Action News reported child trafficking as recently as last month in Cobb County where police found prostitutes as young as 14 years old inside a Marietta motel. Teens told police they were forced to create ads on backpage.com.

Children should not be treated as commodities, should not be sold or exploited, ever. They deserve our focus, and need our time and resources to protect them. Do you agree? Contact me here to learn more about what you can do.

Noteworthy Research by My Advocate Center

Studies show that it is routine practice for professionals involved in family conflict to break down relationships between protective parents and children. It is routine practice to engage in psychological abuse of the children and to put them in harm’s way, escalating stress and worsening coping mechanisms.

These children become more vulnerable to addiction and exploitation.

Why is this happening? The answer is multi-faceted but simple:

  • It’s profitable to do so.
  • Family conflict cases create ripe opportunities to increase profits at the expense of victims of abuse and/or fraud.
  • Perpetrators of abuse are motivated to spend more to avoid consequences; they are also often led to break other laws to avoid exposure.
  • Parents who are desperate for protection, including for their children, are easy to destabilize and take advantage of during litigation; trauma is intentionally caused and used to wear them down, using up time and financial resources as well as removing community support from them in the process.
  • Children can be easily isolated or cut off from the protective parent and worn down or brainwashed into not resisting against abuse; during the course of such abuse the children are also often denied the kind of medical and psychological treatment needed to survive and cope with what has happened to them.
  • There is no oversight, let alone accountability, for those exploiting and profiting from this form of child trafficking.
    • Even in cases where child sexual abuse has been confirmed by DFCS or other forensic experts, the result is the withholding of protection and a coverup of the abuse.
    • Even when professionals obtained proof the abuser created and/or possessed child pornography, this evidence did not serve to protect the children.
  • Anyone trying to stand up for their right to protect their children faces attacks to discredit and destabilize them; and may even be denied due process, including being prevented from presenting evidence and testimony in their defense.
  • Children who have asked to be heard are silenced, with some sent out of state and isolated by appointed court professionals such as psychologists acting as “evaluators” of the family conflict concerning the children.
    • Children who are not sent away are still restricted and controlled through the use of certain therapists and/or guardians who serve to control the thought process of abused children, and filter or control the flow of information to and from the children.
    • The professionals in these roles will often also submit false reports to courts, give false testimony to protect the abuser and/or to blame the protective parent.
  • Putting profit over protection is the norm that parents are not warned of before submitting their lives and giving up their rights in our courts

Use this form to report a situation involving any of the above issues. For reports involving child abuse, click here.

Fortunately there are also legislators at the national level who understand this is a major problem;

The mishandling of family conflict by professionals who control and profit from undoing and withholding what children need, including safety and the nurturing care of a safe parent, is a problem that feeds the sexual predation industry and also benefits from it. The two areas of exploitation serve the other and conflict with the key policies and statements set forth in this concurrent resolution in our U.S. Congress.

  • Child Safety must be the first priority in matters of custody litigation, and states should improve how custody cases are adjudicated
  • 15 million children per year are exposed to domestic violence or child abuse, which are often linked
  • Child sexual abuse is significantly under-documented and under-addressed in the legal system
  • Child abuse is a major public health problem with an estimated total cost of $124 billion related to child maltreatment, including physical, sexual, psychological abuse and neglect, and that is just for one year’s worth of confirmed cases.
  • The CDC’s work on Adverse Childhood Experiences (“ACE”) further explains the harmful impact in this resolution
  • Allegations of family violence, child abuse and child sexual abuse are discounted often in litigation
  • Perpetrators of abuse are often given custody of the children. There’s more, but you get the idea.

My parting thought for you is this question:

Is it possible to strengthen families and to better protect children so that we eliminate the vulnerability of children to predators?

Deb Beacham

 

Georgia Political Update: Victim Protection and Perpetrator Accountability

Many of our citizens believe that protection for victims is the battle cry only heard from the progressive side of the aisle, but in this past legislative session I learned about the role of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board and how conservative values drove policy reform efforts to better serve victims of abuse and to improve safety and stability for our citizens.

One of the things that stood out for me is that the Georgia Baptist Mission acknowledged its members have as much to lose as other religious groups from extending statutes of limitations for suing not only sexual predators but also the entities that enabled and/or covered for the predator. In spite of this financial and public exposure risk, the Baptist leadership stated firmly its position to seek better protection for the vulnerable and real accountability for perpetrators of child exploitation.

This is not a liberal or conservative issue, nor is it a characteristic of one party or another.

It is resoundingly a matter of right versus wrong.

We need more of this form of advocacy, this type of integrity and leadership. We need more people across society to loudly and firmly, “No,” to putting profit over protection. In my work and social engagement, online and offline, I’ll continue to acknowledge and support good work by those on all sides of political, faith, protection and enforcement issues. The more we all pull together and close the divides that exist around this problem, the faster we save lives and stop abuses of all forms.

The topics of predatory behavior, the lack of transparency and accountability for perpetrators, the lack of protection for children and adult victims of abuse, and the extreme difficulty for victims and survivors to recover are ones I’ve been studying, analyzing and reporting on for years. I’ll continue this work far into the future, specifically focused on solutions that both prevent and assist in recovery.

I’m especially grateful to all participating actively and investing in creating change in this area of our society. Thank you for standing up, speaking out, and showing up repeatedly and demonstrating your commitment to improving safety and allowing for recovery.

In this section below, I’ve included an excerpt of the legislative update from the Georgia Baptist Mission Board’s Public Affairs team:

SEXUAL ABUSE

“On a positive side was legislation like HB 732, sponsored by Rep. Deborah Silcox, that increases fines and penalties for pandering and solicitation for sex trafficking. These are the “middle men” who are out there drumming up business for pimps and johns. This legislation is needed to crack down on all who are a part of sexual exploitation of individuals for sex trafficking in our state. See GBC resolution on this issue https://gabaptist.egnyte.com/dl/JTaByb5jS7/RESOLUTION_ON_HUMAN_TRAFFICKING.PDF_ .

Rep. Jason Spencer addresses the topic of sexual predators at a press conference. MIKE GRIFFIN/Index

A bill that caused a sizable amount of controversy had to do with HB 605, The Hidden Predator Act. This bill, sponsored by Rep. Jason Spencer, (https://christianindex.org/children-hidden-predator-act-2018/ ) passed the House by a 170-0 vote. The bill basically allowed the statute of limitations to be extended to allow victims of child sex abuse to sue entities who had covered up child sexual abuse in the past. The bill was severely amended in the Senate. (https://christianindex.org/legislative-update-georgia-hidden-predator-act/ ) It was amended so much that there was very little legal remedy left for those whose statute of limitations had run out for criminal prosecution.  This legislation was introduced in the context of the legal cases regarding the Boy Scouts, The Catholic Church and USA Gymnastics.

Georgia Baptists supported this bill because we felt that it struck a balance in allowing the victims to sue, and the rights of the entities to defend themselves. However, because of the severe amending done by the Senate, the House did not agree with their version. The Senate would not appoint a conference committee and the House would not agree to the changes and the bill, therefore, died. This is a sad outcome for these victims/survivors of child sexual abuse.”

 

Let me know about your involvement in these issues and how I can better support you by contacting me here, and by connecting and engaging on social media.

Thank you,

Deb Beacham

My Advocate Center on Twitter

Facebook Advocacy

 

Warm Christmas and Holiday Wishes

To all who have been following and supporting My Advocate Center whether since inception in 2011 or in recent weeks and months, thank you and Merry Christmas!

Stay warm and stay kind, encourage advocacy and generosity wherever you are, and remember to put the needs of our children first and you will be blessed.

Deb Beacham, Founder

 

Judicial Guide to Child Safety in Custody

Having visited many courtrooms around the state of Georgia over the last decade, for extended hours observing and studying in clerk’s offices, I can say there is a marked difference between judges who have an eye and ear for filtering out abusive and deceptive tactics, and those who don’t.

This Guide was developed by the NCJFCJ for judges and other officers of the court to use for the specific purpose of enhancing child safety.

Coercive control is one of the key terms identifying the methods used by a parent who is willing to use children to harm the other parent and/or for financial gain. Being a compelling liar often goes hand-in-hand with the ability to effectively coerce a child or parent into complying with demands. Another sign that coercive control is being used is that the controlling parent and counsel are indifferent to the trauma caused to the children and the targeted or victimized parent.

Please download and share the Guide below, and contact the NCJFCJ with questions, and let me know if local case studies might be helpful for your staff. This Guide and the related Trauma-Response documents are equally important for law enforcement, child protective services and all first responders, especially pediatricians and emergency room staff and doctors.

What has largely been missing from those responding to the outcries for help made by parents and children caught in conflict is an understanding of exactly how harmful litigation is for victims of abuse and their children, and what it means when protection is denied.

For this reason, I’ve also included a compelling read on this facet of child safety.

For Abuse Survivors, Custody Remains a Tool for Perpetrators to Retain Control – Pacific Standard by Deb Beacham on Scribd

 

Judicial Guide to Child Safety in Custody Cases by Deb Beacham on Scribd

The Right Bug Repellant

Years ago when I first started studying the conduct of professionals who assist families during times of conflict, I noticed something interesting. When someone who is intensely worried and frustrated believes they have the right counsel, they will dress as they are told, cut their hair and change various behaviors for the sake of achieving the objective of the day. These changes in behavior and style and speech seem to happen quickly, without study, due diligence or challenge.

Imagine if a man relying on counsel is heading into the woods instead of into a courtroom.

He’s mainly worried about mosquitoes.

He asks his highly recommended counsel to hand him bug repellant to save him from the buzzing mosquitoes. He’s assured that if he applies this spray liberally and forges ahead, he will come out fine on the other side of the woods.

As he heads into the woods, believing he is covered and really has only about 100 yards to go, the buzzing sound goes away but he notices something else. He pulls up his pant legs to find a handful of ticks – you get the picture.  Ticks dig in and they are hard to get out. Treating disease caused by ticks? Expensive, time-consuming, stressful, and not always possible.

The man is confused. He has no reason to believe that his counsel would not give him the right advice or that he wouldn’t receive the protection he’s paying for and expecting, so he starts looking around trying to figure out where all the ticks came from and why he wasn’t warned about them. The ticks are much more threatening and painful than the mosquito bites he was trying to avoid…so what to do?

He calls out to his counsel who offers to sell him another bottle of spray and some ointment. So the man pays for what he is handed, takes the bottles out of the bag and begins spraying and applying the ointment. While he’s busy with these bottles another problem hits him. He can’t see his feet…or his ankles any longer. While applying the ointment to the back of his legs and prying out ticks, he doesn’t see he’s been standing in quicksand. He panics – he’s never seen quicksand before and realizes it seems to be pulling his legs in an inch at a time!

Now angry and scared, he calls out loudly to his counsel. Then he pauses.

He sees his counsel and a couple of other suits approaching with shovels and barbed wire. Quickly he tries to rationalize how they are going to save him with barbed wire? Is the shovel enough to move the quicksand away as he is now in up to his hips?

Feeling stuck?

You know what to do now, right? Click here for the right tools.

 

Erasing Families Near You

This woman is an actress but on this video, in this horror story, she is not acting.

She speaks the truth for many thousands of parents and children across America and around the globe.

The act of erasing a loving, safe parent from the lives of his or her children is a profitable business, and a cruel one. This is the driving force behind much of our research and reporting into the conduct of lawyers and doctors acting as Guardian ad Litem or child custody evaluator, and it is the reality that led to the creation of this mild cartoon focused merely on the financial aspects of such cases.

But what can be done? Is there a way to help families avoid such loss?

First, watch this video, then contact me to learn more about solutions in motion.