A place to post and discuss news.

Moderators: family_man, LindaJM

Posts: 5496
Joined: Sat Feb 25, 2006 3:06 pm


Postby Marina » Sat Apr 12, 2008 7:27 pm

. ... source=rss

Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Courting change

Men’s roles growing in CASA program


[email protected]

When Kevin Sanders walked into his first training session to become a court-appointed special advocate, he quickly realized that he was the sole man in a sea of women.

“I thought, ‘Wait a minute. Maybe this is for women,’ ” Mr. Sanders said. “I was a little leery.”

His wife, Joan, persuaded him to continue. “Don’t you dare stop,” Mr. Sanders recalled her saying. “You’re great with kids.”

That was three years ago. Mr. Sanders, 43, is now on his third case as a volunteer for the CASA Project. The job entails speaking for the best interests of a child who most often is the subject of a care and protection petition because of abuse or neglect.

When Mr. Sanders joined CASA, about 2 percent to 3 percent of the volunteers were men. That figure is now up to 19 percent. Still, the organization, which has been working with the Worcester Juvenile Court system for 27 years, would like to see more men among its 153 volunteers.

Last year, boys made up about half of the 302 children the juvenile court assigned to CASA. Many of the boys have never had a male figure in their lives, and they respond well to men, said lawyer Sue Ellen Scrogin, who specializes in family law and is the organization’s executive director.

“We love that positive response,” she said.

Mr. Sanders’ situation was unusual. He had injured his ankle so badly that he could not work. He had returned to school at Anna Maria College and was studying criminal justice when he came across CASA. He was intrigued. He wrote a paper on the organization and its mission.

A CASA volunteer has 30 hours of training and is then sworn in by a judge as a guardian ad litem, or court-appointed special advocate. The volunteer is eligible to be assigned to a case and is empowered by the court to investigate all aspects of a child’s life. Then, with the assistance of a CASA staff supervisor, the volunteer recommends to a judge what situation would best meet the child’s basic needs. The judge takes into consideration the views of medical, legal and other witnesses, as well as the statements of all involved, and reaches a decision.

Ms. Scrogin stressed that a volunteer is not supposed to develop a close relationship with a boy or girl, as would be the case in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.

“It’s not a personal role model,” she said. “We are people who are there to investigate to help judges make informed decisions that need to be made for children in the juvenile court.”

Mr. Sanders was assigned to a boy who had missed many days of school. The child’s mother was single and caring, Mr. Sanders said, but she had health problems. He talked to the mother, other family members, doctors, nurses, social workers and the boy’s teachers.

Mr. Sanders, the father of two children, had to straddle a fine line in his relationship with the youngster.

“At first he resented me,” Mr. Sanders recalled. “You have to come down to their level. He had a lot of interests, the same as my son.”

As the two became acquainted, the child talked about how he wished he had a father to take him to sporting events. Mr. Sanders was understanding, but always turned the subject to what was positive in the boy’s life — his friends and his spiffy bike.

The court closed the case when the child was back in school and the mother was working. Mr. Sanders became involved again six months later when the same problems cropped up. “His mother needed help,” Mr. Sanders said. “It was a vicious cycle.”

Ray Zeena read about CASA in the Telegram & Gazette. He immediately thought he would like to help out. Mr. Zeena is a field investigator for the Hanover Insurance Group. Criminal behavior plays a role in some CASA cases.

“Insurance fraud is a crime,” Mr. Zeena, 36, noted. “I’m in some bad neighborhoods sometimes.” CASA, he said, “is a comfort zone for me.”

His first case involved a small child who had been taken from her mother because their living conditions were unacceptable. The parents had been involved in drugs. The father had made some effort to get his life together, so the judge wanted to place the child with him.

Mr. Zeena, who lives in Worcester, met with both parents.

“The father seemed like he could snap at any moment,” Mr. Zeena said. “He smoked in the house and had no parenting skills.”

The mother had support from a boyfriend and her family.

“There was no doubt in my mind that the child was better off with the mother,” Mr. Zeena said.

The volunteers come from varied backgrounds but their motives tend to be similar.

John Gunther, the father of two grown children, recently retired as an intellectual property lawyer at EMC Corp. Given his own good fortune, he said, he was looking for a way to “give back to society.” He found CASA on the Internet.

In one case, Mr. Gunther, who is 62, was assigned a brother and sister. Their father was in prison and their mother had serious difficulties with her parental role. Mr. Gunther stayed with the case for a year. The boy was in a safe environment out of the home; the girl knew how to handle her mother.

“As an older teen, the daughter was not going to say, ‘Send me to a foster home,’ ” said Mr. Gunther, who lives in Webster.

He said he found the situation frustrating. “If they were under my care, I’d read them the riot act,” he said. “Parents have to be parents.”

A volunteer is asked to stay with a case for 15 months, Ms. Scrogin said.

“We feel if they give 15 months of their lives to a child or sibling group, we thank them,” she said. “We understand if they can’t continue.”

Mr. Gunther is not certain whether he will take another case, but he plans to help recruit volunteers.

“There’s a lot of learning on my part,” he said. “I’m a strategic and motivated person, so I have a lot of limitations when you are in the social-criminal justice type of situation.”

Mr. Sanders and his family now live in Westboro, in a dark green gambrel roof house with a bubbling brook in the back yard. He grew up in a single-parent home in Worcester. His mother always worked two jobs. He said he understands what life is like for people who struggle.

Both he and Mr. Zeena are on to their next cases.

“I love it,” Mr. Zeena said. “I feel like I did something. I contributed to society.”


Posts: 5496
Joined: Sat Feb 25, 2006 3:06 pm

Postby Marina » Tue Apr 15, 2008 3:50 pm

. ... p?ID=14515

Connect: CASA helps give voice to children in need
Pia Hallenberg Christensen
Staff writer
April 14, 2008

For more than 20 years, Gayle Kiser has been a court appointed special advocate representing children in Spokane courts.

She’s listened to stories from the war zone of dysfunctional families that would keep most people awake at night. She’s heard the echoes of beatings in the voices of battered mothers, the shrill anger in the voices of drunken fathers, the slurred speech of strung-out women and the quiet resolve of men who want their children back. But mostly she’s heard the tiny scared voices of children who face a family war alone.

“I once heard a tape recording of a 911 call from a 4- or 5-year-old who thought her father shot her mother,” said Kiser. “To this day it raises the hair on my arms. I mean you can’t imagine what that’s like, to be so little and be so scared and hear that and feel like there’s nothing you can do.”

It was in 1986, as an empty-nester facing a quiet house, that Kiser signed up with CASA. She worked in court administration at the time and had seen and heard a lot.

“When you see your first case, it can be very sad and scary,” Kiser said. “But then, there’s no putting the genie back into the bottle. Sexual abuse, domestic violence, drugs, alcohol, family problems – it’s always been there – we just haven’t always dealt with it.”

Each of the 200 CASA volunteers has one mission: to represent the best interest of a child who’s without legal representation. Perhaps the parents are incarcerated or otherwise unfit to care for children. Perhaps the child has been neglected or mistreated. Sometimes the child has simply been abandoned.

Straddling the gap between the social system and the judicial system, the CASA volunteer is the child’s voice in court proceedings and negotiations. Kiser said she’s often the only stable, recognizable face in a child’s world that’s spinning out of control.

“It’s rewarding giving a voice to a child, finding ways to represent how unique each child is,” said Kiser. “Bringing a child to life from the dull pages of a boring report in a way that judges and participants see them as a ‘child’ not a ‘case’ is rewarding, too.”

Kiser tries to learn as much as she can about each child – what he or she likes to do, a favorite book or hobby, even how the child likes to be put to bed.

“I can be completely honest with the parents and say, ‘I don’t think it’s safe for Johnny to come home until you are in treatment,’” said Kiser, adding that her input often is received differently because she’s not a social worker or a judge.

Kiser’s relationship with parents is not always adversarial.

“I’m really touched by the depth of kindness and sacrifice some parents show when they realize they can’t take care of their children,” Kiser said. Just recently, a mom unexpectedly gave permission for her daughter to settle permanently in one foster home.

“Sometimes it’s the ones with the least capacity who get it,” Kiser said.

In court, the CASA volunteer’s opinion has a lot of weight.

“In 80 to 85 percent of the cases, the judge follows their recommendation,” said Susan Cairy, juvenile court volunteer programs director in Spokane County Juvenile Court.

When Cairy came to the program she’d already heard of Kiser.

“Gayle, she’s the kind of person you want to clone,” Cairy said. “She’s a real balanced individual, that’s one of her greatest assets. Her attitude is always, ‘let’s mediate’ – it’s never ‘it’s my way or the highway.’

“Being the voice of a child she has done an absolutely stellar job.”

Working with abused, abandoned and neglected children has an impact.

“I stop at every lemonade stand I see, it drives my husband crazy,” said Kiser, who is married to EWU professor Larry Kiser. “I mean, if you can shine on a child and make them feel like they’ve done a great job, that they are likeable, you should do it.”

When she gets a new case, Kiser spends 30 days gathering information.

“It can be a little nerve-racking when you knock on the family’s door not knowing what to expect,” Kiser said. “There have been a couple of times where I thought I perhaps wasn’t in the best situation I could be in.”

A CASA volunteer can bring a staff person along on a first visit, or meet with the family at a public courthouse.

“I form opinions during that initial time,” Kiser said.

Working with social workers and Child Protective Services, it typically takes 12 months to arrive at a permanent plan for the child: either the child is placed with relatives, in foster care or perhaps adopted.

“This is about finding a stable situation for a child that doesn’t have any other adults who can do that,” Kiser said.

CASA volunteers are assigned to children ages birth to 17, and in 2007 received more than 500 referrals from Child Protective Services – the most ever.

“I’ve watched that number grow from 200 to 300,” Cairy said. “I don’t think it’ll ever go down.

“We have 200 active volunteers right now but we could easily use 500. At this moment, there are close to 600 kids who are not represented by a volunteer.”

New CASA advocates get to see one case through until the child is placed, before they take on new cases.

“There are drawers and drawers full of files,” Kiser said. “When I first started, at one time I had five open cases and a 40-hour job – it was just a killer. Today, I tend to take cases that are more complex, but I only take one or two at a time.”

Kiser estimates she’s worked with hundreds of children over the years.

She belongs to a CASA support group that helps her deal with the impact of the violent situations she deals with.

She recently went through 20 years worth of case notes she kept in the attic.

“I was sitting there, purging and shredding, and I began to feel the sadness for some of the families again,” Kiser said.

She stays in touch with some children and families, but emphasizes that her job is to help the family move on. Kiser never goes looking for ‘her’ children.

“Remember, I’m connected to a very bad memory and if I suddenly show up, I could be triggering more harm than good,” she said.

If past clients seek her out after growing to adulthood, “I’m more than happy to meet with them,” she said.

“Remember, my job is to help them move on and do better for themselves, after some really tragic circumstances,” Kiser said. “The most rewarding situation for me really is when they don’t need me anymore.”


Posts: 5496
Joined: Sat Feb 25, 2006 3:06 pm

Postby Marina » Sun Jun 01, 2008 7:25 pm


Former CASA volunteer accused of child sex abuse

Posted: May 31, 2008 08:24 PM EDT

53-year-old Billy Carroll a former CASA volunteer has been charged with aggravatesd sexual assault of a child. CASA or Court Appointed Special Advocates are dedicated volunteers who are suppose to monitor the welfare of foster care kids.

Carroll was arrested after the 8-year-old victim came forward. He's also accused of taking pornographic pictures.

Las week, investigators recovered home videos of Carroll and his victims. The victims range from age 2 to adult women.

Authorities consider Carroll a pedophile and serial rapist.


Posts: 5496
Joined: Sat Feb 25, 2006 3:06 pm

Postby Marina » Sun Oct 12, 2008 9:07 pm ... 7&cxcat=52


Family advocates shun juvenile court hearings
Director says he's mad judge had 2 in group briefly detained.
By Steven Kreytak


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Saying he is angry that a judge ordered two of his family advocates into a holding cell during a juvenile court hearing two weeks ago, the director of a group contracted to support children at risk of being removed from their homes in Travis County refuses to send advocates to any more court hearings.

Joshua Boydstun, director of Texas Family Support Services, said a parenting coach and a child mentor working for him were among a group told by state District Judge Jeanne Meurer to spend time in a jail holding cell Aug. 26. Meurer said she was upset that the group, which included a Child Protective Services supervisor and caseworker, had recommended that she order a 14-year-old girl locked up in juvenile detention while awaiting trial. Meurer said the group spent 20 minutes in the cells, something she likened to a voluntary site visit rather than a punitive measure. She said she wanted them to understand the emotional toll that being jailed takes on children.

"I regret that I could apparently not articulate in a positive way what I was trying to do," she said. "I do care about and respect them and that they took it in a way that was hurtful or frightening to them."

CPS workers and Boydstun's workers were upset at the incident, saying they were detained against their will.

Although CPS is required to be in court, some others involved in trying to repair broken families — such as those working for Boydstun — have voluntarily attended to offer support and provide input to the judge. Texas Family Support Services is contracted by the Austin Travis County Mental Health and Mental Retardation Center to provide a variety of services to assist at-risk families, but the contract does not require court appearances.

"We will not communicate with the court unless we are under subpoena," Boydstun said, noting that his providers have boycotted numerous court appearances in recent weeks. "I have decided that I can't ensure that their civil rights are not going to be violated if they go to the court."

He said the social workers would not comment on the events of Aug. 26 and were considering legal action.

An MHMR center spokesman said the agency has not heard of a hesitancy to appear in court from any other contractors.

A Casey worker was also among the seven people put in holding cells by Meurer. The others were a Court Appointed Special Advocates member and the 14-year-old girl's mother.

Laura Wolf, executive director of CASA of Travis County, said she hadn't heard from staff or volunteers about any reluctance to appear in court. She declined further comment.

It's unclear what the impact will be of not having some family advocates at family and juvenile court proceedings, said Laru Woody, family justice division director for the Travis County district attorney's office, which represents the state in CPS cases. Boydstun said families have lost a valuable advocate in court, a loss that is impossible to measure. Meurer agrees.

"I spent a whole career promoting the community to get involved, to provide more resources," she said. "I would never intentionally jeopardize that."

Posts: 5496
Joined: Sat Feb 25, 2006 3:06 pm

Postby Marina » Tue Oct 21, 2008 3:59 pm ... 7&cxcat=52

Sex assault case haunts parents of possible victim
Couple discusses relationship with Carroll, life since his arrest.
By Tony Plohetski


Friday, September 26, 2008

The parents of the now teenage daughter refused to let themselves think it was true — that a longtime family friend had been charged with sexually assaulting a child.

Within days, the case against Billy Dan Carroll started to roll out: Police said they had found a videotape in which Carroll appeared to be molesting small children, some of whom appeared to be unconscious.

The parents said they grieved at what police said happened and wept for the victims. They wondered who they were.

Six days after Carroll was arrested, the mother drove her daughter and some of her friends to a Whataburger for a Saturday lunch.

As she wheeled into the parking lot, she checked her cell phone voice mail and had a message from an Austin police detective. The investigator thought her daughter, who had for years been friends with one of Carroll's two daughters, was on the videotape police had found.

The mother said she rushed the girls inside and nervously dialed the detective's number. He asked her for photographs of her daughter — he had estimated her age on the tape and wanted pictures of her from that time period — and said that he also wanted to interview her.

The mother promised to help.

"It was like the floor had dropped out from under me," said the mother, who broke into tears recounting that day. "My heart just sank."

Four months later, the parents, a professional couple in their 40s, agreed to their first media interview since Carroll's arrest in May. They also filed a lawsuit Thursday against Carroll and his ex-wife, Kathy.

The suit accuses Carroll of fraudulently transferring his assets by giving them to his ex-wife in their divorce. It also said that Kathy Carroll was negligent in her duty to care for the couple's daughter, an allegation her attorney denies.

And it said that any monetary damages, including attorneys fees, would be donated to Austin aid organizations whose goals are assisting sexual assault and rape victims.

Billy Dan Carroll, who police now call a serial child rapist, has been charged with molesting six children, including the parents' daughter. Authorities have said one of Carroll's victims on the tape appeared to be as young as 2.

Carroll also is accused of videotaping a 13-year-old girl with a camera hidden in his home and drugging a victim with a narcotic-laced slushy drink.

Police have said Carroll met one victim, an 8-year-old girl, through his volunteer work with Court Appointed Special Advocates of Travis County, an organization that assists abused and neglected children.

Bill Hines, a court-appointed attorney who is representing Carroll, did not return three calls seeking comment this week. Carroll will be in court today for an initial appearance in the criminal case.

At the office of an Austin attorney the couple hired to represent them in the civil suit against the Carrolls, they talked last week about how their trust in almost everyone has been shattered and how they are now left trying to understand how the allegations went undetected for so long.

The parents said they are also confronting their own raw emotions and anger toward a man they considered a friend.

They declined to be identified to protect their daughter's identity. The American-Statesman does not usually name victims of sexual assault.

The parents also would not answer certain questions on the advice of their attorney, Geoff Weisbart, including what their daughter has told them or police. The parents would not say what, if anything, their daughter remembers about the possible abuse or how old she was when it may have happened.

The couple said they consented to an interview to raise public awareness about the victims of child sexual assault and their families.

According to the lawsuit, their daughter was 7 years old in one instance and Carroll removed her from the room where she was sleeping after drugging her with a narcotic-laced drink.

The lawsuit said that Kathy Carroll was in the Carrolls' home when an assault happened, and that she had "accepted the responsibility of monitoring, supervising, protecting and caring for their daughter."

Austin attorney Robby Alden, who is representing Kathy Carroll, said he doesn't think the claim against his client has a legal basis.

"I don't think the law creates a duty for social hosts to protect all of their guests against all harm at all times, especially in the absence of knowledge, and Kathy Carroll had no idea that any of this was going on with Bill, any more than any other of Bill's friends and acquaintances," Alden said.

The parents said they mostly hope that the suit will allow them to ask the questions that now haunt them.

"I'd like to know how this happened," the mother said. "I just want answers."

Their daughter, who is under 18, met Carroll's daughter in the first grade, they said.

The two families lived in the same neighborhood, and their daughters rode the bus to school together most mornings. Later, they became involved in the same school activities.

Over the years, the parents also became friends and would routinely drop their daughters off at each other's houses for sleepovers.

The parents said they never had a moment of doubt about Carroll. They said he routinely helped with fundraisers at their daughters' schools and that they knew he also was active in the Texas Court Reporters Association. Carroll co-owned a court reporting firm with offices across the state.

As their children became teens, the mother said she particularly appreciated that the Carrolls seemed to embrace certain values, such as abstinence and remaining drug and alcohol free.

"You just get comfortable with somebody over time if they seem to be stand-up people," the teen's father said. "They talk about going to church; they treat their kids well; they are friendly with your kids."

In the past four months, the parents said they have struggled with their daughter to move on.

They said they feel not only grief for their daughter, but also sadness for the situation.

"Even before I knew it was our kid who was part of the whole thing, it was an overwhelming sadness," the father said. "I feel like I lost something."

Since the arrest, their daughter has been in therapy and continues going to the same school. Her parents said she has expressed concern for other possible victims, but doesn't know their identities. They said their daughter one day wants to perhaps counsel other victims of sexual abuse.

Her mother said the family is most focused now on healing, and living day-to-day.

"I think about it every day," the mother said. "I think about it when I get up. I think about it at night. I need to know how this happened."

Posts: 5496
Joined: Sat Feb 25, 2006 3:06 pm

Postby Marina » Tue Oct 21, 2008 3:59 pm ... rID=220678

Billy Dan Carroll back in court
9/26/2008 1:10 PM
By: News 8 Austin Staff

A former Austin businessman accused of sexually assaulting several children appeared in court Friday.

A Travis County grand jury previously indicted Billy Dan Carroll on charges of aggravated sexual assault and indecency of a child.

Meanwhile, Carroll's wife is being sued by the parents of a child left in her custody.

They claim Kathy Carroll failed to properly monitor or supervise their daughter while she was at their home.

Billy Dan Carroll is accused of sexually assaulting as many as six children.

On Friday, attorneys filed a motion for discovery to place certain evidence under a protective order and not to be made public.

Carroll's next court appearance is scheduled for October 31.

Posts: 5496
Joined: Sat Feb 25, 2006 3:06 pm

Postby Marina » Tue Oct 21, 2008 4:01 pm ... 4.html?npc

Carroll faces new civil accusations

06:32 PM CDT on Friday, September 26, 2008


The man accused of child molestation, Billy Dan Carroll is facing new legal accusations -- criminal and civil.

KVUE's Clara Tuma reports

Carroll appeared in court Friday morning on the criminal charges. He faces multiple counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child, indecency with a child and improper photography involving at least six young girls.

Police say he assaulted the girls while they were spending the night at his home in Northwest Austin. Police say they found videotapes of Carroll having sex with some of the girls after executing search warrants at his home and former business.

Carroll's attorney asked for help and asked the judge to appoint him a co-counsel, but Judge Melissa Goodwin said she would wait and how the evidence unfolds before deciding whether to appoint a second lawyer at taxpayer expense.

After the hearing, Prosecutor Allison Wetzel said the district attorney's office has not decided whether to attempt to end the case with a plea bargain.

"It's too early in the process for that," Wetzel said. "It's real important for us to get the input of the families of every one of the victims, and we're going to be meeting with all those families to get their input and talk about what is important to them, what they would like to see, and then we'll be making a recommendation and the defense can accept it and there will be a plea or they'll reject it and we'll go to trial."

The second arena where Carroll faces allegations is in civil court, after the family of one of his alleged victims filed a civil lawsuit against him and his ex-wife.

The lawsuit claims Carroll assaulted a then 7-year-old girl after drugging her with some kind of slushy drink.

The lawsuit also says Carroll's ex-wife was at home the night of the assault and failed to protect the 7-year-old. It does not allege she knew anything about the assault.

Posts: 5496
Joined: Sat Feb 25, 2006 3:06 pm

Postby Marina » Tue Oct 21, 2008 4:03 pm ... 7&cxcat=52


Prosecutors weigh plea deal for man accused of assault
Carroll's attorney seeks help of second lawyer.
By Tony Plohetski


Saturday, September 27, 2008

A court-appointed attorney representing a man accused of sexually assaulting six children asked a judge Friday to appoint a second lawyer to work with him on the case. The same day, prosecutors said they would probably offer a plea deal to Billy Dan Carroll.

Prosecutors said any potential deal would not come until after they discuss options with possible victims and their families in the next several weeks.

During a brief hearing in state District Court, attorney Bill Hines, who is representing Carroll, also asked Judge Melissa Goodwin to appoint an investigator to work with him but did not say specifically what the investigator would do.

Goodwin appointed an investigator but said she needed more time to consider Hines' request for another lawyer.

Carroll is accused of sexually assaulting six children. He also is charged with indecency with a child by contact and indecency with a child by exposure. Police have said they seized a videotape from Carroll's home in which he is seen having sex with children. Investigators have said that one of the girls was as young as 2.

Carroll also is accused of videotaping a 13-year-old girl with a hidden camera in his home and drugging a child with a narcotic-laced slushy drink.

Police said Carroll met one victim, an 8-year-old girl, through his volunteer work with Court Appointed Special Advocates of Travis County, an organization that assists children.

Also during the hearing, Hines asked to review evidence against Carroll. Prosecutors said they would seek a protective order against some material being released, which would prevent it from being made public before trial.

Return to “In the News”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 4 guests