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Column Was Based on Incorrect Pennsylvania Statistics About Child Abuse Investigations

Recently Youth Today published a column ("Pennsylvania County Has Wildly High Rate of Needless Child Abuse Investigations") by Richard Wexler in which he wrote, "It is child welfare's equivalent of stop-and-frisk. It happens over and over again, it's traumatic, it's usually baseless and unnecessary, and it's racially biased. It is a child abuse investigation."

Wexler used his column to invite high emotion, telling readers that child welfare professionals routinely search homes in the "middle of the night" and strip-search children.

Wexler cited a special report released recently by Pennsylvania's auditor general.

In this report, the head of Cambria County's children and youth agency is quoted on page 27 as saying that caseworkers "saw" 9,840 "unduplicated" children during 2016 representing "37 percent of the entire population under age 18."

Wexler then declares that "virtually every impoverished child in Cambria County will have this state-sanctioned trauma inflicted upon her or him before reaching the age of 18."

Had he relied on any source beyond the auditor general's report, Wexler would have discovered the cited statistic was wrong.

Cathleen Palm | October 24, 2017 | Youth Today |  Read More...

Child welfare system findings 'appalling'

Part of the problem is that there is an absence of critical thinking in child welfare, Cathleen Palm, founder of The Center for Children’s Justice, said.

"That's not to say that child welfare is devoid of good thinkers, but it is to say in one breath that we really need the social work side to keep families together and be supportive, but at the same time that can unintentionally put blinders (on the caseworker) that doesn't allow them to see that a situation isn't safe or isn't consistent with the proper development of children," Palm said.

Palm feels that situations where a caseworker should be raising red flags are being ignored because caseworkers tend to focus more social work and support to keep the families together.

"There are many times where something happens to a child and you go, 'But there was a red flag here, and a red flag there,'" she said. "Are we critically thinking enough to recognize the red flag, (and where you have multiple flags) you should really be paying attention and saying, 'Should we be doing something different in this case?'"

Merriell Moyer | Oct. 18, 2017 | Lebanon Daily News |  Read More...

Kids become collateral damage in drug crisis

The death toll in the ongoing drug crisis has been so staggering - there were 4,642 drug fatalities in Pennsylvania in 2016 - that Cathleen Palm, a longtime, Berks-based advocate for children, believes the day-in, day-out toll on children has become lost.

"We are really struggling to get recognition of how big this ripple effect is," she said. "We haven't had the spotlight or energy or resources to say, 'What does that mean in terms of young kids?' "

Likely answers, Palm said, are increased risk of child abuse that includes sexual abuse, increased truancy, exposure to harmful situations and - for the very young - inhibited development.

"Zero to three is a critical stage of early brain development," said Palm, who runs The Center for Children's Justice, a nonprofit near Bernville.

With a parent abusing drugs, Palm said, "There is going to be a lot to undo once they get into that pre-K program."

Ford Turner | October 1, 2017 | Reading Eagle |  Read More...

In drug crisis, reports of kids in unsafe homes surge across Pennsylvania

But child welfare budget documents filed recently by individual counties paint a similar picture.

Cathy Palm, founder of the Berks-based nonprofit The Center for Children's Justice, shared segments of those documents her organization reviewed.

"Heroin use is at epidemic levels in our county," the Lancaster County document said. "We are experiencing people using heroin are putting their children at significant risk. Typically when they are using they pass out or even overdose and leave their children unsupervised."

The Schuylkill County document said, "The county is still seeing a tremendous increase in the number of serious drug cases, with several children entering placement due to fatal drug overdoses."

State Rep. Katharine Watson, a Bucks County Republican, introduced a bill two months ago that she said would close a loophole in the reporting to authorities of babies born with dependence to drugs.

Ford Turner | October 1, 2017 | Reading Eagle |  Read More...

Mother finds help, hope in Gaudenzia's
women-only treatment center

Cathleen Palm founded The Center for Children's Justice, a Berks County advocacy group. Residential programs that allow parents to live with their children are hard to come by in Pennsylvania, she said.

Stable housing can give a parent the time it takes to begin recovery without losing custody. Wraparound services are crucial, Palm said, such as childcare, budgeting, employment services.

"Recovery is hard. Parenting is hard. Parenting, particularly a newborn, while you're trying to stay in recovery? Let's just say a lot of cards in the deck are stacked against you," Palm said.

Eric Scicchitano | September 29, 2017 | The Daily Item |  Read More...

We need to better serve abused
and neglected children in Pennsylvania

The "State of the Child" report also suggests that human services officials reduce paperwork requirements, especially for General Protective Services cases (cases in which a child is getting insufficient care or faces potential harm), which differ from Child Protective Services cases (suspected child abuse cases).

This worries Cathleen Palm, founder of the Center for Children's Justice. "So often when a child dies or nearly dies, that same child lived in a family where there had been multiple GPS reports before that lethal event," she said. "The GPS cases are so often providing red flags that, if ignored or misread, can further compromise a child's safety."

In her view, and it seems to be a reasonable one, there needs to be serious consideration about exactly what GPS cases are, and what the risks of reducing the paperwork and data collection on them might be.

The LNP Editorial Board | September 21, 2017 | Lancaster Online | Read More...

Chronicle: In Harm's Way is a critical investigation
into Pennsylvania's struggling child welfare system.

DePasquale and Cathleen Palm still want the oversight of an independent ombudsman free from legislative or gubernatorial control.

"Children's lives are in jeopardy, their custody, their safety, their wellbeing. To us it is a no-brainer we should be putting something in place that is an independent overseer of a system as consequential as the child welfare system.

September 20, 2017 | WTAE |  Read More...

Pa. child welfare system is broken;
caseworkers overwhelmed, underpaid: report

Children's advocates applauded DePasquale's recommendation to appoint an ombudsman to oversee the child-welfare system.

"While federal and state laws provide the framework for how child welfare services are to be delivered, by and large, critical decisions affecting a child's safety and connection to a stable family can be quite random varying dramatically from caseworker to caseworker and county-to county," said Cathleen Palm, Founder of the Center for Children's Justice. "Pennsylvania's child welfare structure too rarely lends itself to transparency or accountability undercutting the identification of systemic issues that impact, not just one child, but also the collective community of children."

Ivey DeJesus | September 14, 2017 | PennLive |  Read More...

Lawmaker wants better response to drug-exposed babies

Watson "is doing a great service" in pushing the legislation to get the state to confront the issue, said Cathleen Palm, director of the Center for Children's Justice.

Palm said data included in state child death reports raise serious red flags about the dangers of not providing adequate support to parents who are dealing with substance abuse while also trying to raise young children.

Those reports include the shocking death of 5-month-old Summer Chambers, who starved to death in Johnstown last December after her parents both overdosed and died, leaving no one to feed the baby.

John Finnerty | Aug 20, 2017 | CNHI News Service |  Read More...

Grace Packer's death shows why PA
needs child protection ombudsman

The Morning Call's reporting on the consequential decisions made by child welfare agencies on behalf of Grace Packer, who was exposed to sexual violence multiple times in her short life, is a powerful reminder that Pennsylvania has waited too long to create an independent child protection ombudsman.

Positive outcomes occur for many children receiving child welfare services. Still, not all outcomes are positive, and consistently the voices of abused children can be disregarded or silenced.

Pennsylvania has no neutral party empowered to review or rework decisions affecting a child's safety or placement in foster care or residential placement. Unheeded warnings or systematic shortcomings affect not just the individual child but also the collective community of children.

State policymakers have long been urged to create an independent ombudsman. This advocacy preceded and followed grievous acts of violence or injustices committed against children — events that placed Pennsylvania in the national spotlight.

Still, momentum has never been on the side of abused children like Grace. Pennsylvania policymakers are considering how to reimagine the delivery of critical health and human services. Creating a child protection ombudsman is one promising and needed solution.

Cathleen Palm
Jefferson Township, Berks County
The writer is the founder of The Center for Children's Justice.

Cathleen Palm | August 6, 2017 | Morning Call |  Read More...

New bill to allow anyone to free kids left alone in cars

"If someone wants to intervene, how do we make sure that we don't leave someone fearful of helping the child?" said Cathleen Palm, the founder of the Center for Children's Justice in Pennsylvania. "One of the ways you protect kids and bring public awareness and education on protecting kids is legislation like this."

Palm said her group began working on the bill when it partnered with the Humane Society to advocate for the protection of both kids and animals from neglect and to raise awareness about the dangers of leaving them in cars.

Kaitlin Washburn | August 1, 2017 | The Morning Call |  Read More...

Frazzled child welfare workers struggle as abuse reports soar

More caseworkers are needed, but just as important, she said, is an analysis of the flood of referrals now coming in — a gush she says the task force did not anticipate.

Palm proposes the state pay for a study of all the calls to Childline. She believes it might reveal thousands of calls that could, and probably should, be diverted from county children and youth workers and toward other state departments, such as housing, public welfare or drug and alcohol.

Some of the reports to Childline are about families dealing with things such as eviction, drug abuse, unemployment and poverty. All of those affect the children in those families, but aren't necessarily problems a caseworker should deal with.

"We're putting way too much on our children and youth system," she said. "In many ways we've set it up to fail."

Matt Assad | July 29, 2017 | The Morning Call |  Read More...

Tennessee: Making newborn drug exposure a legally reportable condition put problem in focus

"Right now, the data we get, there is a huge lag in time," Palm said. "It's going to be a very different response if we realize in real time that babies are being born dependent to drugs. That invites a different strategy."

Jo Ciavaglia | July 26, 2017 | The Intelligencer |  Read More...

Pennsylvania law keeps some drug-exposed infants off child welfare radar, advocates say

The prescribed-narcotics exception in Pennsylvania law was intended to reduce the social stigma surrounding parental substance abuse, which discourages pregnant women from entering drug treatment, said Cathleen Palm, founder and executive director of the Center for Children's Justice in Berks County. But the exception created unanticipated consequences, she added.

"It takes the eyes off the baby because you don't want to punish the mom. But you need to focus on mom and baby. Sometimes parents with a drug history don't need child welfare in their lives, but if you don't check, you don't know," Palm said. "You've really diminished the commitment to the baby in an attempt, rightfully, to not judge the actions of the mom."

Jo Ciavaglia and Marion Callahan | July 26, 2017 | The Intelligencer |  Read More...

Child advocates dismayed by proposal to raise cost of background checks

"It is hard to understand the justification for asking the low-wage worker providing child care or caseworkers investigating child abuse to pay more in fees to get or keep jobs so few would ever consider doing, yet we all know matter to child safety," Palm said. The background "checks were seen as a key tool to protecting children so it seems important to avoid imposing any hurdles to obtaining them."

She also would like to be certain any new language put into statute doesn't undo the existing fee waiver for all volunteers caring for children not just those who give their time freely to Big Brothers/Sisters, domestic violence and rape crisis programs. She called this broader fee waiver a "bipartisan promise" made by the governor and lawmakers in 2015 that doesn't exist in law.

Jan Murphy | July 21, 2017 | Penn Live |  Read More...

Infant's death leads to new Pa. law strengthening penalties on those who endanger children

Cathleen Palm, founder of The Center for Children's Justice, said the legislation is important because while several criminal charges can be filed against a perpetrator who abused a child, many of them are often dismissed or negotiated through a plea agreement.

"That can mean that the only remaining charge or the guilty plea is linked to endangering the welfare of children," Palm said. Right now, the offense of endangering the welfare of a child "doesn't really weigh the range or type of injuries the child experiences or the age of the child meaning there can be a huge disconnect between the severity of the abuse the child endured versus the justice dispensed for such abuse."

Jan Murphy | June 29, 2017 | Penn Live |  Read More...

State report issued on child welfare agency in Grace Packer case

She also said the Packer case is a powerful illustration of why the child welfare system needs third-party oversight, something Palm has advocated for years.

"Children and youth in our child welfare system experience abuse, removal from home, court-ordered services, often with their voices so diminished and, even if they can speak up, the concerns get voiced, not to an independent child protection ombudsman, but instead to the very system that controls the fate and future of the child," she said.

Jo Ciavaglia | June 7, 2017 | WERE |  Read More...

Proactive child abuse prevention gets increased attention as fatality rate rises in PA

"Our funding is and always has been so lopsided towards being reactive," said Cathy Palm, founder of Center for Children's Justice. "At some point, we have to shift the paradigm from thinking we'll just intervene when something has already happened to a child to thinking, we know what stressors can cause something like this to happen. How can we prevent that from happening?"

Eleanor Klibanoff | June 6, 2017 | WPSU |  Read More...

Berks girl's overdose death offers stark, painful warning

"There just is no leadership to say, 'Kids are dying,' " Palm said. "The reports that are produced are stuck in a drawer somewhere." Palm said the powerful message of the tragedy was buried by government bureaucracies that failed to follow the requirements of state law that supports publicizing details of child fatalities and near-fatalities.

Ford Turner | June 2, 2017 | Reading Eagle |  Read More...

Prosecutors call for bump in funding for parenting help

Palm said the key to making sure these programs are successful is giving parents access to help when it is optional and before the family situation deteriorates to the point that it's in crisis.

The Nurse Family Partnership works well because the help comes from a non-threatening source.

"It's a lot more effective than having someone knock on the door and say, 'I'm from the government, I'm here to help,'" she said.

She said that a mom recovering from drug addiction is a good example of a situation where the in-home visits can provide guidance.

"Raising a child is intimidating and overwhelming for all of us," Palm said. "If you are a woman in recovery, bringing a newborn home just adds to the challenge."

With the state grappling with a drug crisis, along with a child abuse crisis, the need is greater than ever for the type of assistance the home-visiting programs provide, she said.

John Finnerty | May 31, 2017 | CNHI Harrisburg Bureau |  Read More...

Child abuse reports continue to surge in Allegheny County

"Do we have a lot of reports that potentially are not the reports the child welfare agency are equipped to deal with? Or do we have reports that really do meet the threshold, but county agencies don't have the resources and wherewithal to keep up with the reports?" Ms. Palm asked. "We don't know the answer to that."

Julian Routh | May 22, 2017 | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette |  Read More...

2016 child abuse report not accurate representation, child advocates say

Without timely data, child welfare advocates and officials might fail to recognize trends that could trigger faster efforts at raising red flags and initiating calls for policy changes, said Cathleen Palm, executive director and founder of the Center for Children's Justice, a Berks County child advocacy group.

Reporting delays also put the lives of other children at risk, Palm added. If a Bucks County infant died of an unsafe sleeping situation and — months later — two children in Cambria County died from the same situation, recognizing those deaths or near-deaths could spur the state to remind other county child welfare agencies to make sure caseworkers review proper sleeping conditions with parents of young children, Palm said.

Jo Ciavaglia | May 13, 2017 | Bucks County Courier Times |  Read More...

Former state trooper convicted of sex crimes not on Megan’s Law list, case now under internal inquiry

HARRISBURG — A former state trooper who was convicted of sex crimes against teens and described as a "predator" was not listed on Pennsylvania's sex offender registry, an investigation by The Caucus found.

The revelation has prompted an internal inquiry by the state Board of Probation and Parole and calls from child justice advocates for an independent investigation.

"The best thing to do is have an independent review," said Cathleen Palm, founder of the Center for Children's Justice. "You would want to make sure whatever hiccup, kink or error did not carry over to any other kids or offenders."

Brad Bumsted | May 8, 2017 | Harrisburg Bureau |  Read More...

Former state trooper convicted of sex crimes not on Megan’s Law list, case now under internal inquiry

HARRISBURG — A former state trooper who was convicted of sex crimes against teens and described as a “predator” was not listed on Pennsylvania’s sex offender registry, an investigation by The Caucus found.

The revelation has prompted an internal inquiry by the state Board of Probation and Parole and calls from child justice advocates for an independent investigation.

"The best thing to do is have an independent review," said Cathleen Palm, founder of the Center for Children's Justice. "You would want to make sure whatever hiccup, kink or error did not carry over to any other kids or offenders."

Brad Bumsted | May 8, 2017 | Harrisburg Bureau |  Read More...

2016 child abuse report not accurate representation, child advocates say

Without timely data, child welfare advocates and officials might fail to recognize trends that could trigger faster efforts at raising red flags and initiating calls for policy changes, said Cathleen Palm, executive director and founder of the Center for Children's Justice, a Berks County child advocacy group.

Reporting delays also put the lives of other children at risk, Palm added. If a Bucks County infant died of an unsafe sleeping situation and — months later — two children in Cambria County died from the same situation, recognizing those deaths or near-deaths could spur the state to remind other county child welfare agencies to make sure caseworkers review proper sleeping conditions with parents of young children, Palm said.

Jo Ciavaglia | May 13, 2017 | Bucks County Courier Times |  Read More...

Child abuse reports continue to surge in Allegheny County

"Do we have a lot of reports that potentially are not the reports the child welfare agency are equipped to deal with? Or do we have reports that really do meet the threshold, but county agencies don't have the resources and wherewithal to keep up with the reports?" Ms. Palm asked. "We don't know the answer to that."

Julian Routh | May 22, 2017 | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette |  Read More...

Prosecutors call for bump in funding for parenting help

Palm said the key to making sure these programs are successful is giving parents access to help when it is optional and before the family situation deteriorates to the point that it's in crisis.

The Nurse Family Partnership works well because the help comes from a non-threatening source.

"It's a lot more effective than having someone knock on the door and say, 'I'm from the government, I'm here to help,'" she said.

She said that a mom recovering from drug addiction is a good example of a situation where the in-home visits can provide guidance.

"Raising a child is intimidating and overwhelming for all of us," Palm said. "If you are a woman in recovery, bringing a newborn home just adds to the challenge."

With the state grappling with a drug crisis, along with a child abuse crisis, the need is greater than ever for the type of assistance the home-visiting programs provide, she said.

John Finnerty | June 29, 2017 | CNHI Harrisburg Bureau |  Read More...

Berks girl's overdose death offers stark, painful warning

Palm said the powerful message of the tragedy was buried by government bureaucracies that failed to follow the requirements of state law that supports publicizing details of child fatalities and near-fatalities.

"There just is no leadership to say, 'Kids are dying,' " Palm said. "The reports that are produced are stuck in a drawer somewhere."

Ford Turner | June 2, 2017 | WHERE |  Read More...

Proactive child abuse prevention gets increased attention as fatality rate rises in Pa.

"Our funding is and always has been so lopsided towards being reactive," said Cathy Palm, founder of Center for Children's Justice. "At some point, we have to shift the paradigm from thinking we'll just intervene when something has already happened to a child to thinking, we know what stressors can cause something like this to happen. How can we prevent that from happening?"

Eleanor Klibanoff | June 29, 2017 | WPSU |  Read More...

State report issued on child welfare agency in Grace Packer case

She also said the Packer case is a powerful illustration of why the child welfare system needs third-party oversight, something Palm has advocated for years.

"Children and youth in our child welfare system experience abuse, removal from home, court-ordered services, often with their voices so diminished and, even if they can speak up, the concerns get voiced, not to an independent child protection ombudsman, but instead to the very system that controls the fate and future of the child," she said.

Jo Ciavaglia | June 29, 2017 | theintell.com |  Read More...

Infant's death leads to new Pa. law strengthening penalties on those who endanger children

Cathleen Palm, founder of The Center for Children's Justice, said the legislation is important because while several criminal charges can be filed against a perpetrator who abused a child, many of them are often dismissed or negotiated through a plea agreement.

"That can mean that the only remaining charge or the guilty plea is linked to endangering the welfare of children," Palm said. Right now, the offense of endangering the welfare of a child "doesn't really weigh the range or type of injuries the child experiences or the age of the child meaning there can be a huge disconnect between the severity of the abuse the child endured versus the justice dispensed for such abuse."

Jan Murphy | Updated on June 29, 2017 | pennlive.com |  Read More...

Allegheny County DHS using algorithm
to assist in child welfare screening

Cathleen Palm, founder of the Center for Children's Justice, based in Berks County, said if the tool is leading to better safety outcomes for children in Allegheny County, it would be good to find a way to apply it elsewhere in Pennsylvania, though Ms. Palm said realistically, most other counties do not have the same level of integrated data as Allegheny County does. "You would be hard-pressed to find this in other communities, particularly on this scale," she said.

Kate Giammarise | April 9, 2017 | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette |  Read More...

Protecting our children:
Sandusky case changed everything

"If the measure is, did we get more reports, that's a success," said Cathleen Palm, founder of the Center for Children's Justice. "We got a boatload of reports. In other ways, advocates and those close to the system say, they may be swamping caseworkers so it's harder to focus on cases of actual abuse in the midst of the avalanche of allegations. "We have to stop deluding ourselves that the hard work is making the report" of suspected abuse, Palm said. "The system is overwhelmed."

John Finnerty, CNHI State Reporter | April 9, 2017 | Johnstown Tribune Democrat |  Read More...

Note to Penn State trustee Albert Lord: Money doesn't
erase the pain suffered by Jerry Sandusky's victims

Victims can go on to lead wonderful lives, Palm said, but it's as if the abuse they suffered gets hardwired into their DNA — "it doesn't ever really leave you."

Editorial | April 4, 2017 | Lancaster Intelligencer Journal |  Read More...

State must prevent addiction's toll on its youngest

The bill's goals are important, as Center for Children's Justice founder Cathleen Palm of Jefferson Township noted last year: "A baby, a young child's brain is 80 percent developed by the time they are 3."

Editorial | April 3, 2017 | Reading Eagle |  Read More...

Smallest Victims - Narcotic-dependent newborns
growing along with drug epidemic

Marion Callahan and Jo Ciavaglia staff writers | Mar 31, 2017 | theIntell.com |  Read More...

Former Penn State President Found Guilty in Sandusky Abuse Case

Children's advocates called the administrators' convictions a victory for accountability. "We can no longer put institutional loyalty above protecting kids," said Cathleen Palm, the founder of the Center for Children's Justice, a nonprofit that pushed for changes to Pennsylvania's child abuse policies in the wake of the scandal.

By Jess Bidgood And Richard Pérez - Peña | March 24, 2017 | NY Times |  Read More...

Victim advocates warn against 'walking away'
from lessons of Sandusky and Spanier

Cathleen Palm, founder of the state's Center for Children's Justice, said it's likely that the Sandusky abuse would have been reported sooner if it happened today. In the past, she said, someone like Joe Paterno was only required to tell his supervisor. Now, he would be required to call Childline, the tipline to report abuse, or law enforcement.

The verdict against Spanier is a case study in the failures of the old system, Palm said, although the new system has its own flaws. The flurry of legislation that came after Sandusky led to a lot more child abuse reporting because people are worried about running afoul of the law for not reporting. Funding hasn't kept pace and neither has training.

"So many reports are coming in the front door," she said, "there's not enough resources or people to sort through and figure it out."

Wallace McKelvey | March 24, 2017 | PennLive |  Read More...

Were foster child's claims about Packers taken seriously?

It's for exactly that reason, Palm said, that the state rather than the counties investigates abuse allegations against people in the child-care system. It reduces the possibility of conflicts between foster parents and county caseworkers and employees of private agencies under contract with those counties.

"You can see how it might be possible — even unintentionally — for those who might be familiar with another to give them more of a pass," she said.

Palm believes another layer of protection for children is needed to ensure checks and balances, namely, an independent ombudsman who would provide additional oversight of the child welfare system.

Peter Hall, Michelle Merlin and Nicole Radzievich | March 19, 2017 | The Allentown Morning Call |  Read More...

Spanier trial could shed light on Penn State's culpability

"This is one of those situations that will potentially prove precedent-setting," said Cathleen Palm, founder of the Center for Children's Justice in Berks County, who also noted the many improvements lawmakers have already made to Pennsylvania's child-abuse reporting laws in the wake of the Sandusky scandal. "So in some ways the lessons to be learned have already been learned and are in place, hopefully protecting kids better than five years ago, a decade ago, two decades ago."

Susan Snyder & Jeremy Roebuck - Staff Writers | March 19, 2017 | www.philly.com |  Read More...

Pennsylvania focuses on helping opioid-addicted parents kick habit, keep their children

While it's difficult to get specific data from county bureaus, Pennsylvania children have been neglected or even died after a parent or caretaker died of an overdose or fell unconscious, said Cathleen Palm, founder of The Center for Children's Justice. Palm is concerned that there is no "systematic statewide review" of such incidents.

For a system already swamped with the expanded mandated abuse reporting law, the opiate epidemic "couldn't be happening at a worse time," Palm said. With no easy fix to protect at-risk children, the center has called for a state task force to examine the problem.

Renatta Signorini | March 18, 2017 | Pittsburgh Tribune Review |  Read More...

In sect that shuns medicine, case against pastor is novel

Cathleen Palm, of the Pennsylvania-based Center for Children's Justice, said she hopes the prosecution, at a minimum, will spur action in the Legislature to protect children whose parents don't seek necessary medical care based on religion.

"What the district attorney has done is clearly pivotal," she said.

Michael Rubinkam | March 16, 2017 | Associated Press |  Read More...

Kids affected by opioid crisis need protection, say state officials

"From what we know about early brain development," Palm said, "we want to have someone watching out for these kids, who are victims of the opioid crisis, and make sure their experiences are those of nurture and protection, not of trauma, abuse, anxiety or uncertainty."

Both Watson and Palm envision a task force made up of nongovernmental stakeholders and experts in the field, including behavioral health treatment providers, obstetric and pediatric physicians, early intervention providers and providers of home-visiting programs.

Susan Baldrige, Staff Writer | March 15, 2017 | www.PennLive.com |  Read More...

Editorial: Systemic troubles now in focus

Cathleen Palm, executive director of the Center for Children's Justice, said agencies across the state, regardless of location, population, demographics and workforce all attempt to overcome the same challenges. "This is systemic," she said.

March 5, 2017 | Sunbury Daily Item |  Read More...

Auditor general launching review of child protection statewide

Palm echoed DePasquale's observation that the challenges facing child protection caseworkers have come in waves as the state changed the law, creating a crush of new reports of suspected child abuse at a time when many long-time caseworkers left the field.

"It's critical that we take another look to see, did we fix it or did we exacerbate" the problems, Palm said.

John Finnerty | Mar 2, 2017 | CNHI Harrisburg Bureau |  Read More...

Too often, abused children remain voiceless and forgotten

The brutal rape, murder and dismemberment of Grace Packer provides a potent illustration that too often the abused child in our commonwealth is voiceless and forgotten. Grace's life and death also provide a reminder that important decisions about child safety, well-being and permanency are made by systems operating with little transparency or accountability. In the spring of 2011, well before Pennsylvanians were shocked by the serial child sexual abuse perpetrated by former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky, dozens of organizations called on Pennsylvania's governor and General Assembly to create a Task Force on Child Protection and Accountability.

Cathleen Palm | March 5, 2017 | The Intelligencer |  Read More...

'You can tell they're in pain:'
Hospitals see more infant victims of opioid crisis

There's a bill to create a task force to focus on the impact of the opioid crisis on pregnant woman and babies. It's a large effort by the Center for Children's Justice.

Samantha Galvez | Feb. 9, 2017 | ABC 27 News |  Read More...

Tiniest victims

Cathleen Palm, founder of the Pennsylvania-based Center for Children's Justice, said much more needs to done to provide help for mothers of NAS babies, and to monitor and protect the babies. "We have really been trying to get policy makers to understand the nuances," she says.

Born addicts, opioid babies suffer withdrawal from first breath

David Wenner | Feb. 9, 2017 | www.PennLive.com |  Read More...

Child advocacy group calls for changes to abuse laws in PA

"I think we all want parents to be able to parent their children. We want people to be able to subscribe to their religious beliefs," Palm told 69 News, "but we also have to ask ourselves, have we reached a point that it's unreasonable for a child to die of something as preventable and as treatable as pneumonia?"

Palm said drawing the line between religion and parenting is difficult.

María Salazar | Feb. 3, 2017 | WFMZ |  Read More...

Child welfare investigation findings into Grace
Packer's death might not be public for months

"Clearly Grace Packer is a case that has, at the core, left people pretty uncertain about whether the state is competent in protecting kids in our foster care and adoption system," Palm added. "While a review is done on Grace's behalf, it's bigger than Grace."

Jo Ciavaglia staff writer | January 24, 2017 | BucksCountyCourierTimes |  Read More...

Could red flags have saved Grace Packer?

Perpetrators of child abuse deemed "founded" are barred from working or volunteering with minors. But entering the child abuse database on an "indicated" report, as Packer did, holds no legal significance, and does not start an investigation into a person's parental rights. Such registrants are not forbidden from working with children, according to the state Department of Human Services.

Nonetheless, most organizations still do not hire them, said Cathleen Palm, founder of the Center for Children's Justice, based in Bernville, Berks County.

Packer's entry into the registry "doesn't mean — and the law doesn't require it to mean — that [county child welfare agencies] have to go before the court and say: 'Should we reassess? ... Should there be any change in her ability to parent kids in her home?' " Palm said.

Justine McDaniel • STAFF WRITER | January 20, 2017 | www.philly.com |  Read More...

Bucks County lawmaker wants legislative
investigation of Grace Packer murder

A "foundational question" in this case is whether Sara Packer was identified as a child abuser before or after 2010, according to Cathleen Palm. She's the founder and executive director of the Center for Children's Justice in Berks County, the county that oversaw Grace Packer's adoption.

"There will likely be many more questions if (Sara Packer) was named as a perpetrator and the living status of the children was unchanged," she added.

Plus, Palm added, as a child welfare worker, Packer was mandated by state law to report even a suspected case of child abuse, Palm said.

Jo Ciavaglia, staff writer | Jan 13, 2017 | www.BucksCountyCourierTimes.com | Read More...

Advocate: Grace Packer tragedy should spur system review

The repeated abuse against Grace has many questioning the integrity of the child welfare system. "Whether it's Grace or other children, I think we are starting to realize, what many of us in the system already know, we are not a child-centered system," said Cathleen Palm, founder of the Center for Children's Justice.

Jamie Stover | Jan 13, 2017 | WFMZ | Read More...

State opens probe into Grace Packer's rape and murder

"This case really dictates something different than an Act 33 review," said Cathleen Palm, founder of the Berks County nonprofit Center for Children's Justice which pushed for passage of Act 33.
"We believe in these reviews. Grace's life so warrants ... an independent review."

Steve Esack • Contact Reporter | January 12, 2017 | The Morning Call | Read More...

Op-Ed: Child abuse tragedies
demand some collective soul-searching

Dauphin County Judge John Cherry recently sentenced a mother to state prison for the starvation death of her 5-month-old daughter. He questioned whether, as a society we have become 'anesthetized' to such horror. Some soul searching is clearly justified.

Cathleen Palm | January 11, 2017 | Harrisburg Patriot News | Read More...

Murder suspect Sara Packer's employment
as child welfare worker terminated over 'misconduct'

Pennsylvania employers and organizations are barred from hiring individuals or using volunteers for positions that involve direct unsupervised contact with children if the person was named as a perpetrator in a proven child abuse report within the previous five years. The same prohibition would apply to applicants for foster or adoptive parents, according to Cathleen Palm, founder and executive director of the Center for Children's Justice, a Berks County child advocacy center.

Jo Ciavaglia, staff writer | Jan 10, 2017 | www.BucksCountyCourierTimes.com | Read More...

Abington mom accused of daughter's murder
was once a child welfare worker

Jo Ciavaglia, staff writer | Jan 9, 2017 | www.TheIntell.com | Read More...

Affordable Care Act, and How the Opioid Crisis Affects Children

This week's Pennsylvania Newsmakers features an interview with Ted Dallas, Secretary of Pennsylvania's Department of Human Services, who provides an update on the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid expansion. Then, joining host Terry Madonna is Cathleen Palm, Founder of the Center for Children's Justice, for a discussion of children and the opioid crisis.

First Aired January 1, 2017 | NewsMakersTV.com | Read More...

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