Conn. foster mom pleads guilty for spoon-spanking

Woman-pleads-guilty-to-spanking-child-with-wooden-spoon[1]A foster mother faces 100 days in prison after acknowledging she spanked a 4-year-old girl with a wooden spoon.

Jami Littlefield, 51, of Griswold, pleaded guilty Monday in Superior Court in Norwich to third-degree assault. She told authorities she paddled the girl in January because she was acting out, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.

Littlefield was arrested after the girl's biological mother noticed bruises on her daughter's buttocks when the child bent over to pick up a toy during a supervised visit. Medical staff at the Pequot Health Center determined the girl's contusions appeared to have been caused by the repeated strikes of a blunt instrument.

Littlefield initially denied hitting the child but later said she spanked the girl with the spoon she was using to stir soup after the child struck her granddaughter, spat at her and used a racial slur, according to the arrest document.

Gary Kleeblatt, a spokesman for the Department of Children and Families, told The Day of New London ( that Littlefield's foster care license, which she received in 2004, was removed after her arrest.

Foster parents receive extensive training on the proper care of children, including how to manage behaviors without resorting to corporal punishment, Kleeblatt said.

"Certainly we expect that they will not use an instrument of any type," he said.

Littlefield is scheduled to be sentenced on July 17. Under terms of her plea deal she faces 100 days in prison and two years of probation.


A version of this column originally appeared in

Shining a Light on the Trafficking of Foster Youth

KarenBass 2Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said it best earlier this month: “The incomprehensible evil of child trafficking has to be brought to a halt ... we cannot and must not let these children down.”

The secretary hit the nail right on the head. May is National Foster Care Month, and there’s no better time to address the need to combat this crisis.

Foster youth are particularly vulnerable to child trafficking, and few agencies have incorporated policies, protocols or case management techniques to prevent exploitation and appropriately meet the needs of trafficking victims.

Forced to bounce in and out of homes without basic physical or emotional needs fulfilled, foster youth are often exploited by pimps. Traffickers shower foster youth with attention, luring them into a life of illegal activity — often enlisting older foster youth to recruit their peers into the lifestyle as well.

Foster youth group homes have even been dubbed magnets for pimps. According to the Department of Justice, women and children make up as much as 80 percent of all trafficking victims, and thousands of child-trafficking victims exist in the United States.

States including Connecticut and Florida have shown alarming percentages of child-trafficking victims having been in the child welfare system.

In Connecticut last year, 98 percent of child-trafficking victims were involved in the child welfare system, with most reported abuse occurring while in foster care or group homes.

Similarly, the FBI estimates 70 percent of trafficking victims in Florida had been in the child welfare system.

Despite these alarming statistics, state child welfare agencies are rarely given the resources and education needed to identify and protect trafficking victims.

Further compounding this problem is the fact that those who suffer from exploitation are not likely to identify themselves as victims of child trafficking — and even when they do, many are unaware of what services are available to help them.

Here is where a community approach is needed to help bridge these gaps and prosecute traffickers so these innocent women and children can begin rebuilding their lives.

We all can play a role in building that change. We must ensure child welfare agencies have the tools to understand the unique needs of child-trafficking victims and the resources to appropriately serve them.

Already efforts are under way to continue providing training on child trafficking to non-law enforcement responders such as firefighters and health care professionals, who with proper training are often in the best position to accurately identify trafficking.

The nongovernmental organization Truckers Against Trafficking has developed a website, hotline and mobile application to make it easier for members of the trucking and travel plaza industries to identify and report trafficking when they see it.

In Congress, I’ve introduced the Strengthening the Child Welfare Response to Trafficking Act (HR 1732), a bipartisan piece of legislation to bridge the gaps that prevent survivors from getting the support they deserve as well as help law enforcement to crack down on this growing epidemic.

If passed, the legislation would direct the Department of Health and Human Services to develop and publish guidelines to assist child welfare agencies in serving trafficking victims and at-risk youth. It requires child welfare agencies to report missing, abducted or trafficked youth to law enforcement within 72 hours for entry into the National Crime Information Center database.


A version of this column originally appeared in

A version of this column originally appeared in

Foster Care Youth: The Faces of a Nation’s Soul in Crisis

MO: Kids Rejoin Foster CareFor some children, the uncertainty of life on the street is better than certainty of violence at home. It was for me. At age 14, I escaped from an abusive home with no money, nowhere to go and only the clothes I was wearing. I remember staring into the night, standing somewhere between fear and freedom. I became one of the millions of homeless teens, yet I was lucky because foster care ultimately saved me.

However, after an emergency placement and three foster homes, the challenges were not over. At 17 I aged out of the foster care system early when my foster parents moved out of state. On my own again, I had to find a job, a place to live and finish high school. Then I climbed the next mountain to graduate from college and medical school. I completed residency, became a physician, a vice chancellor and dean of a school of medicine, and now will be President of the Lasker Foundation.

Shameful statistics
I only recently began publicly talking about my foster care experience because I realized that speaking out would help foster youth - and I discovered that many people lack an understanding of the harsh statistics and their impact on the country's future. The nation faces a crisis that demands a call to action to start truly caring about foster youth before it is too late.
• Nationwide, more than 400,000 youth were in foster care in 2011, more than 100,000 were waiting to be adopted and more than 7,000 entered the system than exited. Nearly 60 percent were children of color.
• More than 10 percent of the country's young adults who age out of foster care lack a permanent family - and have a one in 11 chance of becoming homeless.
Less than half of U.S. foster youth who age out of foster care graduate from high school and only three to 11 percent earn a bachelor's degree.
• Throughout the country, foster youth have high rates of poverty, incarceration, substance abuse and suicide, and are more likely than other youth to experience depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic medical conditions.

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Police: CPS worker accused of urinating, exposing himself outside SC school

Derrick_Hensley[1]YORK COUNTY, S.C.--. A Gaston County child protective services worker has been arrested after police said he urinated and exposed himself to people outside a York County middle school.

Police arrested Derrick Hensley Monday afternoon in the York Intermediate School parking lot.

Investigators said Hensley had beer in his car and was drunk.

Witnesses told police he relieved himself in front of several people during school dismissal.

Hensley has been charged with indecent exposure and DWI, police said.

This is not the first alcohol-related charge Hensley has faced.

Channel 9 checked archives and found he was arrested in Gastonia in July. At that time, he was charged with DWI and later released on bond.

It is not clear if he was found guilty of in that case.

A version of this column originally appeared in

Court agrees with state on foster kids

child-abuseThe state will not have to return 15 troubled foster teens it removed because of safety concerns from three private facilities, including one in Lacey, a Thurston County Superior Court judge has ruled in part of an ongoing lawsuit.

The state Department of Social and Health Services said an April inspection found safety issues at the group homes run by New Vision Programs that stretched to September 2010 and included:

  • Foster children restraining their peers.
  • Medication errors.
  • Inadequate supervision.
  • Failure to provide adequate food.
  • A lack of background checks and training for staff members.

The company sued the state earlier this month, contending the youths were removed without proper notice or explanation. It asked for a temporary order to get the children back. Judge Christine Schaller denied the request Friday.

“We strongly reject those allegations,” New Vision attorney Tom Rask said Tuesday about the safety concerns. He said the lawsuit is still being reviewed and that his client’s goal is “to keep open and get kids back.”

“We’re asking the judge to do that in the lawsuit,” he said.

The state removed the youths from one home in Lacey and two in Vancouver and moved them to other foster placements or to the care of relatives. Children were not removed from another New Vision home in Lacey and two in the Portland area.

DSHS officials said they worked with New Vision to address the safety concerns, and some were fixed, but others arose. A complete report was given to the company, the state said.

“These are children with behavior challenges, a lot of them have some pretty serious criminal records or behavioral problems, and some of them require constant supervision,” DSHS spokeswoman Chris Case said Tuesday.

The New Vision homes are designed to help stabilize the youths with behavioral rehabilitative services. Washington pays the company per youth for all its services, which amounted to about $170,000 in total in December 2012.

That month, a foster youth was seriously injured jumping off the second-story roof of one of the homes, according to the state. An unsupervised staff member had been left with the youths, and New Vision workers tried to withhold and falsify records of the staff member’s presence at the home and her lack of required training, DSHS alleged in court documents.

State officials said the incident happened a week after New Vision director Trent Hall agreed in writing not to leave youths with unsupervised staff members before they had cleared a background check.

“We deny any wrongdoing,” Rask said.

Read more here:


A version of this column originally appeared in

A version of this column originally appeared in