Separating Surrogate Twins

parent-trap_lindsay-lohan[1]A surrogate was hired by David Tutera and his spouse Ryan Jurica. She became pregnant with twins right before they broke up. The girl is biologically David’s and the boy is biologically Ryan’s child. The Parent Trap realized.

“Tutera and Jurica were united in a civil union in Vermont in September 2003. About three years ago, they decided to have children through a surrogate, but by the time the babies were born, the couple had split up. After the two ended their relationship earlier this year, they reached a temporary custody agreement to raise their 2-month-old twins, a boy named Cedric and a girl named Cielo, separately.

Although the divorce isn’t final, the couple has decided Jurica will raise his biological child, Cedric, and Tutera will raise his biological child, Cielo.

Tutera appeared on “The View” last week and announced the couple’s decision.

“We transferred two embryos into the surrogate: One was biologically mine, my daughter, Cielo. One was biologically his, his son,” he explained.

Jurica said it was Tutera’s decision to split up the children, and he’s still sad that this is the solution they’ve reached.

Jurica said the idea came up when the two separated and Tutera told him, “We know the boy is yours and the girl is mine. You can have your son and I can have my daughter, and we can move on with our lives.”

Going forward, Jurica said, he plans to explain everything to his son as soon as he’s mature enough to understand the situation.

“I plan to tell Cedric everything. I think honesty is the only way to live,” he said. “Obviously it will have to wait until he’s old enough. It’s a complex and complicated story, both how he came into this world and my past and my divorce, so it’s a lot to talk about.”

HLN contacted Tutera for a response, but he declined to comment”

A version of this column originally appeared in

Pennsylvania CPS Fail

How Could You? Hall of Shame-Australia Foster ParentsThis story started on March 19, 2013 when Joan Gensiak was arrested along with her sister and mother for starving their 32-year-old brother Robert, who had Down Syndrome. He had not seen a doctor in two years and had severe psoriasis associated with hypothermia. His body temperature was only 92 degrees and he weighed only 69 pounds. He died in the hospital on March 20, 2013. Joan has a 5-year old son, 9-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter who were placed with their father Michael Wallace and his wife Narda.

“On March 25, police and Children and Youth officials took Joan Gensiak’s 2-year-old daughter, fearing her well-being because the home was riddled with scabies, lice and possibly ringworm. Joan Gensiak told police that Dr. Remick had diagnosed her toddler with scabies but she didn’t agree with the diagnosis so she refused to use the medication prescribed.

Instead, she decided to treat her daughter’s rash with baby oil.

The child was taken to the emergency room of Moses Taylor Hospital where she received treatment for scabies”

Mom, daughters charged with starving family member with Down syndrome to death

[The Times Tribune 6/20/13 by Joseph Kohut]

On Tuesday September 10, 2013, “Narda and Michael Wallace were taken into custody by Archbald Police Tuesday night. Officers said they found the couple’s three-year-old daughter with bruises all over her body.

Investigators claim the girl’s brothers, ages five and nine, told police about being punched, hit with coat hangers and whipped with belts by their parents at their home.”

Parents Accused of Whipping, Beating Children

[WNEP 9/12/13]

“Narda and Michael Wallace had three children living at their home in Archbald and last night were charged with child abuse, accused of repeatedly beating the 9 year old and 5-year-old boys and a 3-year-old girl who came to them about four months.

She’s the daughter of Joan Gensiak of Taylor who was arrested earlier this year in one of the most shocking neglect cases police say they’ve ever seen.

In a matter of hours after hearing allegations, Archbald police had Narda and Michael Wallace in handcuffs and charged them with assault and endangering the welfare of children.

The three children the couple had between them were rushed out of their home in the Valley View Estates mobile home park in Archbald. The 9 year old and 5-year-old boys told investigators they were often punched but the 3-year-old girl got the real beating.

According to court papers, the boys told police Narda Wallace would hit the girl with hangers and wooden spoons, pour hot sauce on her tongue, and would sometimes make her sleep on the kitchen floor.

This all came to light when a teacher from Jermyn Head Start spotted bruises on the girl.

“Right from the beginning, the teacher observed the injury and knew what their role was, passed it on, and you see the end result now,” said Archbald Police Chief Tim Trently.

The arrest of Narda and Michael Wallace is the end result of what’s been an apparently tumultuous year for that 3-year-old girl.”

“After the arrest, police in Dickson City thought Narda Wallace was a woman they are looking for. She’s now a person of interest in a fraud case we told you about last week.

Dickson City police are investigating to see if Narda Wallace is the woman is surveillance video using a stolen credit card last month at CVS in the borough.

Now, Wallace is accused of abusing a child who came to her home looking for a safe haven.

Narda and Michael Wallace’s three children are now in protective custody, while the couple is behind bars facing a long list of child abuse charge.s They’re expected back in court next week.”

Archbald Couple Accused Of Abuse

[WNEP 9/12/13 by Stacy Lange]

“The abuse happened in a trailer at Valley View Estates.

While neighbors are now upset over the arrest of Narda and Michael Wallace, many weren’t surprised.

One neighbor, who asked not to be identified said, “I balled. I cried. I cried terribly. You don’t want children? Give them to people that can’t have them.”

According to Archbald police, Narda Wallace hit the three-year-old girl on the back with a plastic hanger until it broke. They then say she hit the girl with a wooden spoon.

When the girl was examined Wednesday, court documents indicate she had bruises on both her ears, left thigh, stomach, hip, hands and arm.

“It’s very sad that a three-year-old innocent child has to be put in that situation,” Archbald Police Chief Tim Trently said.

Court documents also allege that when the girl peed her pants, Narda Wallace would call her “nasty” and a “dummy” and would make her sleep on the kitchen floor without a blanket or pillow.

She also allegedly put hot sauce on the girl’s tongue.

Neighbors say they often saw Narda yelling at the girl out in the open.

“My mother died. I gave the girl a doll my mother gave me and Narda threw it away,” one neighbor said.

Michael Wallace is accused of punching in the chest, not only the three-year-old girl, but also the five and nine year old boys who lived in the home.

One of the boys told investigators the punches were so strong it felt like his heart was being ripped out of his chest.

“Any type of child abuse, there’s never an excuse for that,” Chief Trently said. “What causes people to do that? I don’t know if I’ll ever understand that.”

Investigators say one of the reasons why the girl may have been abused on Wednesday is because she was having a hard time fixing the tongue of her shoes.

Police took all three children in the home into emergency custody and placed them in temporary foster care.”

Archbald Couple Arrested on Child Abuse Charges

[PA Homepage 9/12/13]

“An alert worker at the Head Start program in Jermyn took the first step that led to Thursday’s arrests of Michael Wallace, 42, and Narda Dee Wallace, 35, of 35 Valley View Estates, Archbald, on charges of simple assault, recklessly endangering another person and endangering the welfare of children.

The worker noticed bruises on the little girl’s ears Wednesday and reported it to Children and Youth Services, which called Jermyn police, who in turn, gave the case over to police in Archbald because the abuse took place there.

A Children and Youth caseworker contacted the Children’s Advocacy Center and arranged for an immediate interview and doctor’s examination of the girl, according to the arrest affidavit.

The exam found bruises on her left thigh similar to the kind inflicted by a belt and other injuries on her stomach and left side. The stomach and side bruises “are possible bite marks,” a doctor told police.

The girl also had bruises on her right hip, on her left arm from the forearm to above the elbow and “multiple skeletal bruises.”

“(The girl) told (the) Children and Youth worker … and her Head Start teacher that her ‘mom’ hit her,” the affidavit says. On Thursday, Deputy District Attorney Jennifer McCambridge identified Mrs. Wallace is the girl’s stepmother”

“One time, Mrs. Wallace kept hitting the girl with a plastic hanger until the hanger broke, the boy told police. After the hanger broke, Mrs. Wallace picked up a wooden spoon and continued hitting the girl, the boys said.

“Both boys stated that they heard mom yelling and hitting (their sister) in the morning (Wednesday) because she had a hard time fixing the tongue on her shoes,” the affidavit says. “(The 9-year-old boy) stated that (his sister) sometimes ‘pees’ in her pants and bed and mom calls her nasty and a dummy.”

That wasn’t all.

“Mom also puts hot sauce on (the little girl’s) tongue and makes her keep her tongue out so she can’t wash it away,” the affidavit says.

The 9-year-old boy said he and his brother used to get hit with a belt and a wooden stick described as a “back scratcher” a lot. He also told investigators the abuse happened “mostly always, each and every day.”

In interviews with Archbald police, the Wallaces denied ever hitting their children.

Mr. Wallace remembered the girl having trouble with the tongue on her shoe and her stepmother yelling at her and “calling her stupid,” but his wife never hit the girl.

Mrs. Wallace denied her stepdaughter had any problems while getting dressed, but admitted hitting her son with a belt when he was younger and said she “no longer does it.”

Mr. Wallace was charged with three counts each of simple assault, recklessly endangering another person and endangering the welfare of children. Mrs. Wallace is facing one count each of simple assault, recklessly endangering another person and endangering the welfare of children. Both remain in Lackawanna County Prison in lieu of $15,000 bail each. Their preliminary hearings are set for Wednesday at 10:15 a.m.”


A version of this column originally appeared in

New Directions in Child Abuse and Neglect Research

New Directions in Child Abuse and Neglect ResearchIt has been 20 years since the National Research Council (NRC) issued the report, Understanding Child Abuse and Neglect.

It now has been updated. A four-page overview can be seen at this link

You can browse the entire  375 -page prepublication pdf at this link.

“In the first major study of child abuse and neglect in 20 years, researchers with the National Academy of Sciences recently reported that the damaging consequences of abuse can not only reshape a child’s brain but also last a lifetime.

If untreated, the effects of child abuse and neglect, the researchers found, can profoundly influence victims’ physical and mental health, their ability to control emotions and impulses, their achievement in school, and the relationships they form as children and as adults.

The researchers recommended an “immediate, coordinated” national strategy to better understand, treat and prevent child abuse and neglect, noting that each year, abuse and neglect costs an estimated $80 billion in the direct costs of hospitalization, law enforcement and child welfare and the indirect costs of special education, juvenile and adult criminal justice, adult homelessness, and lost work productivity.

In Utah, according to a 2008 report from Prevent Child Abuse America, the annual cost for child abuse is $2.8 million, taking into account similar factors, such as hospitalization and law enforcement.

Executive Director of Prevent Child Abuse Utah Trina Taylor agrees with the report’s finding of the long-term damage that follows child abuse and the related costs.

“When kids are abused, we see more addiction problems and more mental issues. Even the physical effects are devastating, such as heart conditions,” she said.

Taylor said Utah is in line with the national rates of child abuse and may even have more because the state has more children. Every 38 minutes a child is abused, she said.

“Child abuse and neglect is a serious public health problem, which requires immediate, urgent attention,” said Anne Peter­sen, a professor at the Center for Human Growth and Development at the University of Michigan who chaired the research committee for the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council of the National Academies. “The consequences can last into adulthood, with significant costs to the individual, to families and to society.”

The report, produced at the request of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, found that while rates of physical and sexual child abuse have declined in the past 20 years, rates of emotional and psychological abuse, the kind that can produce the most serious long-lasting ­effects, have increased. Rates of neglect have held fairly steady. Researchers said they do not know why.

“That’s why we make that a research priority in our recommendations,” said Lucy Berliner, a professor at the University of Washington’s School of Social Work and a committee member. “We need to understand better the reasons behind these trends.”

Berliner said the committee is proposing a coordinated strategy, because it found so much variation among states, in how abuse and neglect are defined and how local officials are trained to respond to it. “Some states had dramatic, 100 percent increases in cases of neglect,” she said. “And others had 100 percent decreases. That speaks to the complexity of the problem.”

Taylor said the best way to curb the effects of child abuse is to prevent it all together. Her organization works with families that are in a high-risk category of child abuse, even getting involved before the child is born. The group provides support and education for parents to keep the risk minimum and also educate kids to identify abuse and to seek out help.

Every year, child-protection agencies receive 3 million referrals for child abuse and neglect involving about 6 million children, the report found, though with unreported instances, the actual number is probably much higher, the researchers said. And, the report noted, about 80 percent of the children in investigated abuse and neglect cases are not removed from the home.

Child victims are equally likely to be male or female, the report found. The majority are younger than 5. About 80 percent of the perpetrators are parents, the vast majority biological parents. More than half of the perpetrators are female.

Angela Diaz, director of the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center and another committee member, said the report found three risk factors that increased the likelihood of child abuse: parental depression, parental substance abuse and whether the parents had been abused or neglected as children.

The researchers did not find an association between rates of abuse and times of economic hardship, such as the recent Great Recession.

“Researchers found relationships that were hard to make sense of: increases in child abuse in relationship to mortgage foreclosure but not to unemployment rates,” Berliner said. “It’s not all that straightforward. After welfare reform in the 1990s, there was a concern that as people lost their benefits, that would cause a spike in child-abuse referrals. Instead, that was a period of the greatest reduction in child-abuse referrals.”

While so much remains a mystery about the causes of abuse, and why some children respond to treatment and recover and others do not, the researchers said advances in brain science in the past 20 years show just how devastating and long-lasting the effects of abuse can be on the structure and the function of the brain.

Research has found that abuse and neglect can influence the amygdala, the part of the brain that regulates emotions, particularly fear and anxiety. Abuse also has been shown to change how the prefrontal cortex functions, the part of the brain responsible for thinking, planning, reasoning and decision making, which can lead to behavioral and academic problems.

But there is hope, researchers said.

“The effects seen on abused children’s brain and behavioral development are not static,” said committee member Mary Dozier, chairman of child development at the University of Delaware. “If we can intervene and change a child’s environment, we actually see plasticity in the brain. So, we see negative changes when a child is abused, but we also see positive brain changes when the abuse ends and they are more supported. Interventions can be very effective.””


A version of this column originally appeared in

Foster parent, ex-teacher sentenced to 10 years in jail

Lowell Johnson

Lowell Johnson

A Lexington Park man has been sentenced to 10 years in jail for sex abuse of a minor. Lowell Johnson, 65, was sentenced by Judge Michael Stamm on Thursday in St. Mary’s County Circuit Court. Johnson was a foster parent and former teacher. He had entered an Alford plea to one count. An Alford plea means he did not admit guilt but conceded the state could have proved its case if it went to trial.

Johnson had been charged with abusing five children who were either his foster or adopted children. They ranged in age from 10 to 16, according to Deputy State’s Julie White. He was arrested in July of last year after a suspected sexual abuse was reported to the St. Mary’s County Bureau of Criminal Investigations by a Child Protective Services investigator.

Judge Stamm sentenced Johnson to 18 years but suspended it down to 10 years in the Maryland penal system. The state sentencing guidelines for the offense was 10 to 18 years.

The judge received a number of letters in support of Johnson and heard three character witnesses during the sentencing hearing. Johnson was a long-time social studies teacher at Great Mills High School. The judge noted that he too had been a social studies teacher and knew Johnson during that time.

A colleague at Great Mills, retired head of the social studies department at Great Mills Mary Weiskopf spoke in Johnson’s behalf. She said, “Lowell cared about the kids. He did a lot for the kids.” She said that included a lot of extra-curricular activities, including coaching girls’ softball and basketball.

Johnson was also a long-time part-time employee of the Department of Recreation and Park. Recreation supervisor Kenny Sothoron said he receives a lot of complaints from parents but he had never had one against Johnson in the almost 30 years he worked for the department.

Sothoron, during his statement was asked by White if he was aware of the charges against Johnson. Sothoron said he avoids reading the news. Then White asked if he was aware that five girls aged 10 to 16 were the victims. Johnson’s attorney Robert Harvey, Jr., objected and the judge sustained the objection.

Johnson’s pastor at Restoration Free Gospel Church, Ronald Thomas said he still doesn’t believe what Johnson has been charged with actually happened. “He is a great man. I see how he works with kids,” the pastor said. Rev. Thomas said that he had served time in prison, so he knows firsthand when someone is doing wrong.

White told the judge that being a foster parent takes “a very special person.” She said the foster parent takes in “birds with broken wings.” They are turned over to the foster parent, she said, and told to “fix them and teach them to fly.” Instead, White said, Johnson “put them on the ground and stomped on them.”

White also read a letter from the mother of one of the victims, in which she said, “My daughter has nightmares six or seven times a month of Lowell Johnson coming into her room.” The mother added, “She is always worried that something is going to happen.” She said she is having difficulty in school.

Harvey, in his arguments to the judge noted that Johnson had only pled to one abuse case and did not admit the others. Harvey said he mulled over the concept of the scales of justice and said Johnson’s long history of good works in the community balanced the bad. Harvey said mitigating factors were Johnson’s age and health, lack of criminal record and years of community service.

Before sentencing Johnson apologized to the judge. He thanked his family and friends for standing behind him and apologized to them for what he had put them through.

The judge noted Johnson’s service but said he had heard nothing to make him want to impose a sentence that was lower than the state guidelines. He did recommend the sentence be to the Patuxent Institution, which specializes in rehabilitation. The judge also ordered alcohol and sex offender counseling. Johnson will be a registered sex offender for life when he is released from jail. He also will be on five year’s supervised probation.

A version of this column originally appeared in

A version of this column originally appeared in

Charities warn that children in care are at risk of sexual exploitation

TWO IRISH CHARITIES say that child welfare and protection services need to be vigilant for cases of sexual exploitation of young people in care.

Following confirmation by the PSNI on Monday that over thirty people had been arrested across Northern Ireland as part of a major investigation into the abuse of children, Barnardos and Ruhama are warning that children in care in the Republic are at risk of similar exploitation.

22 victims were identified in the PSNI investigation, following a review of cases where young people went missing from the case system.

“Through our work we know some children and young people who are in care in Ireland are at serious risk of exploitation by adults who seize on their vulnerability,” Barnardos’ Catherine Joyce said.

“It would be foolish to think that children in Ireland are not under similar threat of exploitation as that reported in Northern Ireland and in Britain. We know that they are.”

The charities warned that the combination of stretched front line services and a culture within the system that treated children who abscond from care solely as a behavioural issue needed to be tackled.

According to Ruhama CEO Sarah Benson: “We need to ask the right questions. Where do children go when they go missing from care? Who are they with? We need a greater focus on the child protection issues that come up in these situations rather than just on the child’s behaviour.”

Benson said there had been “too few criminal investigations into the behaviour of adults keeping company with children who go missing while in care”.

Read: Over thirty arrested across Northern Ireland in major child abuse investigation >

Read: Remains found in Dublin Mountains are those of missing Elaine O’Hara >

A version of this column originally appeared in