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Adoption and Child Welfare Law News

FLORIDA: “Florida Court Calls Ban on Gay Adoptions Unlawful”
10.01.2010 | Adoption
By: John Schwartz read »

UTAH: “Navajo Nation can’t fight adoption of tribal kids”
10.01.2010 | Adoption
By: Brooke Adams read »

NATION: “Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption Names America’s 100 Best Adoption-Friendly Workplaces”
10.01.2010 | Adoption
By: Staff Writer read »

NATION: “Study: Foster children struggle to learn”
10.01.2010 | Child Protection / Foster Care
By: Ledyard King read »

NATION: “Shortage of foster parents seen as U.S. trend”
10.01.2010 | Child Protection / Foster Care
By: Marisa Kendall read »

OHIO: “Ohio Supreme Court: Sellersburg couple can keep son for now”
10.01.2010 | Adoption
By: Matt Thacker read »

WASHINGTON D.C.: “HHS awards $39 million to states for increasing adoptions”
09.23.2010 | Adoption
By: Staff Writer read »

NEW YORK: “NY law lets unmarried adults jointly adopt”
09.23.2010 | Adoption
By: Associated Press read »

PENNSYLVANIA: “Report: Number Of Pa. Kids In Foster Care Declines”
09.23.2010 | Child Protection / Foster Care
By: Staff Writer read »

CONNECTICUT: “Federal judge to hear Conn. DCF oversight case”
09.23.2010 | Child Protection / Foster Care
By: Staff Writer read »

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Posted by admin - November 14, 2010 at 2:33 am

Categories: Foster Care and Adoption Laws   Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

President Obama addresses bullying | VIDEO

President Obama addresses bullying and says that we must dis-spell the myth that bullying is a normal course of nature.  He truly cares and feels sad about what has happened in this country.  He speaks out specifically following the suicides of gay students in recent months.

The president in a video after a series of suicide among gay teens: “I know what it means to grow up feeling out of place”

“We must break this myth that bullying is just a normal rite of passage.” Cosi ‘Barack Obama has expressed “shock and sadness” in front of the number of suicides among gay teenagers in a video produced as part of “It Gets Better Project” launched by the writer Dan Savage, who in recent days, always with a video, he joined Hillary Clinton.

“I appeal to every young person who listens, you should know that if you have problems there are adults who care about you that can listen,” said Obama, who then made, and as’ used to do, referring to his personal experience, explaining that know “what it means to grow up feeling out of place.”

“You are not alone – he continued staring into the camera– you did nothing wrong, nothing to deserve to be victims of bullies. There ’s a whole world that awaits you, full of possibilities.’ There are people ready to love you for who you are. “

When this video posted on YouTube, many people are saying that the United States is the biggest bully of them all.  Some feel that it is ironic that the U.S.A. president would release a video about bullying.

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Posted by admin - October 22, 2010 at 6:46 pm

Categories: Anti-Bullying Laws   Tags: , , , , , , , ,

4 Teens Commit Suicide Because of Bullying at 1 Ohio School

By MEGHAN BARR, Associated Press Writer Meghan Barr, Associated Press Writer – Fri Sladjana Vidovic's mother, Celija, left, her sister, Suzana, and father, Dragan, talk at their Mentor house about their loss.

Amy Sancetta Associated Press photos
Sladjana Vidovic’s mother, Celija, left, her sister, Suzana, and father, Dragan, talk at their Mentor house about their loss.

The grave of Mentor student Eric Mohat is decorated with pink flowers.

The grave of Mentor student Eric Mohat is decorated with pink flowers.

Sladjana Vidovic committed suicide in 2008.

Sladjana Vidovic committed suicide in 2008.

Oct 8, 4:01 pm ET

MENTOR, Ohio – Sladjana Vidovic’s body lay in an open casket, dressed in the sparkly pink dress she had planned to wear to the prom. Days earlier, she had tied one end of a rope around her neck and the other around a bed post before jumping out her bedroom window.

The 16-year-old’s last words, scribbled in English and her native Croatian, told of her daily torment at Mentor High School, where students mocked her accent, taunted her with insults like “Slutty Jana” and threw food at her.

It was the fourth time in little more than two years that a bullied high school student in this small Cleveland suburb on Lake Erie died by his or her own hand — three suicides, one overdose of antidepressants. One was bullied for being gay, another for having a learning disability, another for being a boy who happened to like wearing pink.

Now two families — including the Vidovics — are suing the school district, claiming their children were bullied to death and the school did nothing to stop it. The lawsuits come after a national spate of high-profile suicides by gay teens and others, and during a time of national soul-searching about what can be done to stop it.

[Related: School-yard bullying: A survivor's tale]

If there has been soul-searching among the bullies in Mentor — a pleasant beachfront community that was voted one of the “100 Best Places to Live” by CNN and Money magazine this year — Sladjana’s family saw too little of it at her wake in October 2008.

Suzana Vidovic found her sister’s body hanging over the front lawn. The family watched, she said, as the girls who had tormented Sladjana for months walked up to the casket — and laughed.

“They were laughing at the way she looked,” Suzana says, crying. “Even though she died.”

___

Sladjana Vidovic, whose family had moved to northeast Ohio from Bosnia when she was a little girl, was pretty, vivacious and charming. She loved to dance. She would turn on the stereo and drag her father out of his chair, dance him in circles around the living room.

“Nonstop smile. Nonstop music,” says her father, Dragan, who speaks only a little English.

At school, life was very different. She was ridiculed for her thick accent. Classmates tossed insults like “Slutty Jana” or “Slut-Jana-Vagina.” A boy pushed her down the stairs. A girl smacked her in the face with a water bottle.

Phone callers in the dead of night would tell her to go back to Croatia, that she’d be dead in the morning, that they’d find her after school, says Suzana Vidovic.

“Sladjana did stand up for herself, but toward the end she just kind of stopped,” says her best friend, Jelena Jandric. “Because she couldn’t handle it. She didn’t have enough strength.”

[Related: Cyber-bullying: When enough is enough]

Vidovic’s parents say they begged the school to intervene many times. They say the school promised to take care of her.

She had already withdrawn from Mentor and enrolled in an online school about a week before she killed herself.

When the family tried to retrieve records about their reports of bullying, school officials told them the records were destroyed during a switch to computers. The family sued in August.

Two years after her death, Dragan Vidovic waves his hand over the family living room, where a vase of pink flowers stands next to a photograph of Sladjana.

“Today, no music,” he says sadly. “No smile.”

___

Eric Mohat was flamboyant and loud and preferred to wear pink most of the time. When he didn’t get the lead soprano part in the choir his freshman year, he was indignant, his mother says.

He wore a stuffed animal strapped to his arm, a lemur named Georges that was given its own seat in class.

“It was a gag,” says Mohat’s father, Bill. “And all the girls would come up to pet his monkey. And in his Spanish class they would write stories about Georges.”

Mohat’s family and friends say he wasn’t gay, but people thought he was.

“They called him fag, homo, queer,” says his mother, Jan. “He told us that.”

Bullies once knocked a pile of books out of his hands on the stairs, saying, “‘Pick up your books, faggot,’” says Dan Hughes, a friend of Eric’s.

Kids would flick him in the head or call him names, says 20-year-old Drew Juratovac, a former student. One time, a boy called Mohat a “homo,” and Juratovac told him to leave Mohat alone.

“I got up and said, ‘Listen, you better leave this kid alone. Just walk away,’” he says. “And I just hit him in the face. And I got suspended for it.”

Eric Mohat shot himself on March 29, 2007, two weeks before a choir trip to Hawaii.

His parents asked the coroner to call it “bullicide.” At Eric’s funeral and after his death, other kids told the Mohats that they had seen the teen relentlessly bullied in math class. The Mohats demanded that police investigate, but no criminal activity was found.

[Related: 6 signs of cyber-bullying and what you can do about it]

Two years later, in April 2009, the Mohats sued the school district, the principal, the superintendent and Eric’s math teacher. The federal lawsuit is on hold while the Ohio Supreme Court considers a question of state law regarding the case.

“Did we raise him to be too polite?” Bill Mohat wonders. “Did we leave him defenseless in this school?”

___

Meredith Rezak, 16, shot herself in the head three weeks after the death of Mohat, a good friend of hers. Her cell phone, found next to her body, contained a photograph of Mohat with the caption “R.I.P. Eric a.k.a. Twiggy.”

Rezak was bright, outgoing and a well-liked player on the volleyball team. Shortly before her suicide, she had joined the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance and told friends and family she thought she might be gay.

Juratovac says Rezak endured her own share of bullying — “name-calling, just stupid trivial stuff” — but nobody ever knew it was getting to her.

“Meredith ended up coming out that she was a lesbian,” he says. “I think much of that sparked a lot of the bullying from a lot of the other girls in school, ’cause she didn’t fit in.”

Her best friend, Kevin Simon, doesn’t believe that bullying played a role in Rezak’s death. She had serious issues at home that were unrelated to school, he says.

After Mohat’s death, people saw Rezak crying at school, and friends heard her talk of suicide herself.

A year after Rezak’s death, the older of her two brothers, 22-year-old Justin, also shot and killed himself. His death certificate mentioned “chronic depressive reaction.”

This March, her only other sibling, Matthew, died of a drug overdose at age 21.

Their mother, Nancy Merritt, lives in Colorado now. She doesn’t think Meredith was bullied to death but doesn’t really know what happened. On the phone, her voice drifts off, sounding disconnected, confused.

“So all three of mine are gone,” she says. “I have to keep breathing.”

___

Most mornings before school, Jennifer Eyring would take Pepto-Bismol to calm her stomach and plead with her mother to let her stay home.

“She used to sob to me in the morning that she did not want to go,” says her mother, Janet. “And this is going to bring tears to my eyes. Because I made her go to school.”

Eyring, 16, was an accomplished equestrian who had a learning disability. She was developmentally delayed and had a hearing problem, so she received tutoring during the school day. For that, her mother says, she was bullied constantly.

By the end of her sophomore year in 2006, Eyring’s mother had decided to pull her out of Mentor High School and enroll her in an online school the following autumn. But one night that summer, Jennifer walked into her parents’ bedroom and told them she had taken some of her mother’s antidepressant pills to make herself feel better. Hours later, she died of an overdose.

[Related: Stop bullying by complaining – in writing]

The Eyrings do not hold Mentor High accountable, but they believe she would be alive today had she not been bullied. Her parents are speaking out in hopes of preventing more tragedies.

“It’s too late for my daughter,” Janet Eyring says, “but it may not be too late for someone else.”

___

No official from Mentor public schools would comment for this story. The school also refused to provide details on its anti-bullying program.

Some students say the problem is the culture of conformity in this city of about 50,000 people: If you’re not an athlete or cheerleader, you’re not cool. And if you’re not cool, you’re a prime target for the bullies.

But that’s not so different from most high schools. Senior Matt Super, who’s 17, says the suicides unfairly paint his school in a bad light.

“Not everybody’s a good person,” he says. “And in a group of 3,000 people, there are going to be bad people.”

StopCyberbulling.org founder Parry Aftab says this is the first time she’s heard of two sets of parents suing a school at the same time for two independent cases of bullying or cyberbullying. No one has been accused of bullying more than one of the teens who died.

Barbara Coloroso, a national anti-bullying expert, says the school is allowing a “culture of mean” to thrive, and school officials should be held responsible for the suicides — along with the bullies.

“Bullying doesn’t start as criminal. They need to be held accountable the very first time they call somebody a gross term,” Coloroso says. “That is the beginning of dehumanization.”

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Posted by admin - October 11, 2010 at 6:35 pm

Categories: General Abuse Laws   Tags: , , , , , , ,

Timeline of Tyler Clementi’s Last Days Before Suicide

Timeline of Tyler Clementi’s Last Days

Sept. 1: Fall semester begins at Rutgers. Dharun Ravi and Tyler Clementi are roommates in Davidson dormitory on Busch Campus.

Sept. 19: Twitter feed from Ravi: “Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went into molly’s room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with another dude. Yay.”

Sept. 21: Twitter feed from Ravi: “Anyone with iChat, I dare you to video chat me between the hours of 9:30 and 12. Yes, it’s happening again.”

Sept. 22, around 8 p.m.: Friends say Clementi sends a Facebook update: “Going to jump off the GW Bridge. Sorry.”

Later that hour, Clementi commits suicide by jumping from the George Washington Bridge, authorities and the family’s attorney said.

Sept. 27: Molly W. Wei, charged with invasion of privacy, surrenders to authorities.

Sept. 28: Ravi, also charged with invasion of privacy, surrenders to authorities.


Tyler Clementi’s family released the following statement Sept. 29:

On behalf of the family of Tyler Clementi, I can confirm that Tyler committed suicide last week by jumping from the George Washington Bridge. His body has not been recovered.

Tyler was a fine young man, and a distinguished musician. The family is heartbroken beyond words. They respectfully request that they be given time to grieve their great loss and that their privacy at this painful time be respected by all.

The family and their representatives are cooperating fully with the ongoing criminal investigations of two Rutgers University students. They will have no further comment at this time.

Paul Mainardi, Esquire


Facebook tribute page: In honor of Tyler Clementi

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Posted by admin - October 1, 2010 at 6:26 pm

Categories: Gay Abuse Laws   Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Massachusetts Does Not Have An Anti-Bully Law

Advocates say the situation is the worst for special-education and autistic students. A survey just released by the Massachusetts Advocates for Children showed that of the 400 parents surveyed, almost 90 percent reported that their child had been bullied sometime in the past year.

Julia Landau of MAC said “kids with autism are much more frequent targets of bullying, they act different…their verbal tics are often mocked. More than half of the respondents reported that their children were physically assaulted as well.”

And a study released by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network last year showed that 9 out of 10 gay and lesbian students reported experiencing harassment at school.

Yet, despite the pervasive nature of the problem there are still eight states that do not have anti-bullying laws on the books. Massachusetts is one of them.

Dozens of bills have come before the Massachusetts state legislature in the past few years but all failed in part because teachers, principals and lawmakers can be at odds over how to solve the problem. Educators often argue that existing harassment and assault laws can be used to prevent bullying, and legislators taking a cue from their constituents, are clearly anxious to enact new laws.

(VIDEO) Massachussetts student, Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover Committed Suicide after other kids bullied him with gay slurs

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Posted by admin - at 4:20 pm

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Tyler Clementi Video – Rutgers President Addresses Suicide

Rutgers University President Richard McCormick released a statement regarding the suicide of freshman Tyler Clementi, and the charges against his classmates, Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei.

Members of the Rutgers Community:

I deeply regret that today we learned from the family of one of our students that they believe their son has committed suicide. We are profoundly saddened by this report, and our hearts and prayers are with the parents, family, and friends of this young man, who had started at Rutgers this semester as a first-year student on the New Brunswick campus.

While there is a lot of information being communicated, we don’t have all the facts in this case.

This young man was reportedly the victim of an incident that took place in one of our residence halls last week.

Two fellow Rutgers students have been arrested and charged with invasion of privacy for their actions in that incident. If the charges are true, these actions gravely violate the university’s standards of decency and humanity.

The case is being investigated by the Rutgers University Police Department. The students—like all who are accused of a crime—must be presumed innocent until proven guilty. The case is also being investigated by the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs under the code of student conduct. Please know that while Rutgers does not comment publicly on the specifics of cases involving active criminal investigations and allegations of student conduct, the university is taking this case very seriously.

We extend our heartfelt sympathies to the family during this most difficult time. While I did not have the privilege of knowing this young man, I have learned that in addition to his academic abilities, he was a gifted musician. Our university community feels the pain of his loss, and I know there is anger and outrage about these events.

Rutgers is a community that is extraordinarily proud of its diversity and the respect its members have for one another. In fact, we have just launched a two-year dialogue focusing attention on civility in the context of one of the most culturally and racially diverse research universities in the nation. I ask that all members of the Rutgers community honor the wishes of the family by providing them with privacy during this painful time and by committing to the values of civility, dignity, compassion, and respect for each other.

Richard L. McCormick
President
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

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Posted by admin - September 30, 2010 at 9:25 pm

Categories: Gay Abuse Laws   Tags: , , , , ,

Tyler Clementi’s Suicide Opens Discussions & Sparks Rage

PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP)– The death of a Rutgers University freshman stirred outrage and remorse on campus from classmates who wished they could have stopped the teen from jumping off a bridge last week after a recording of him having a sexual encounter with a man was broadcast online.

“Had he been in bed with a woman, this would not have happened,” said Lauren Felton, 21, of Warren. “He wouldn’t have been outed via an online broadcast and his privacy would have been respected and he might still have his life.”

Gay rights groups say Tyler Clementi’s suicide makes him a national example of a problem they are increasingly working to combat: young people who kill themselves after being tormented over their sexuality.

A lawyer for Clementi’s family confirmed Wednesday that he had jumped off the George Washington Bridge last week. Police recovered a man’s body Wednesday afternoon in the Hudson River just north of the bridge, and authorities were trying to determine if it was Clementi’s.

The lawyer has not responded to requests for comment on whether Clementi was open about his sexual orientation.

Clementi’s roommate, Dharun Ravi, and fellow Rutgers freshman Molly Wei, both 18, have been charged with invading Clementi’s privacy. Middlesex County prosecutors say the pair used a webcam to surreptitiously transmit a live image of Clementi having sex on Sept. 19 and that Ravi tried to webcast a second encounter on Sept. 21, the day before Clementi’s suicide.

A lawyer for Ravi, of Plainsboro, did not immediately return a message seeking comment. It was unclear whether Wei, of Princeton, had retained a lawyer.

Collecting or viewing sexual images without consent is a fourth-degree crime. Transmitting them is a third-degree crime with a maximum prison term of five years.

ABC News and The Star-Ledger of Newark reported that Clementi left on his Facebook page on Sept. 22 a note that read: “Jumping off the gw bridge sorry.” On Wednesday, his Facebook page was accessible only to friends.

Even if the young violinist from Ridgewood was not well known at his new school, his death stirred outrage.

“The notion that video of Tyler doing what he was doing can be considered a spectacle is just heinous,” said Jordan Gochman, 19, of Jackson, who didn’t know Clementi. “It’s intolerant, it’s upsetting, it makes it seem that being gay is something that is wrong and can be considered laughable.”

Other students who did know Clementi were upset that they didn’t do more to help him. “I wish I could have been more of an ally,” said Georges Richa, a freshman from New Brunswick.

About 100 people gathered Wednesday night for a vigil on campus. They lay on the ground and chanted slogans like, “We’re here, we’re queer, we’re not going home.”

Several gay rights groups linked Clementi’s death to the troubling phenomenon of young people committing suicide after being harassed over their sexuality.

On Tuesday, a 13-year-old California boy died nine days after classmates found him hanging from a tree. Authorities say other teens had taunted the boy, Seth Walsh of Tehachapi, for being gay.

Steven Goldstein, chairman of Garden State Equality, said in a statement that his group considers Clementi’s death a hate crime.

“We are heartbroken over the tragic loss of a young man who, by all accounts, was brilliant, talented and kind,” Goldstein said. “And we are sickened that anyone in our society, such as the students allegedly responsible for making the surreptitious video, might consider destroying others’ lives as a sport.”

Last week, Dan Savage, a columnist at the Seattle weekly newspaper The Stranger, launched the latest of several efforts to try to stem the problem: the It Gets Better Project, a YouTube channel where gay, lesbian and bisexual adults share the turmoil they experienced when they were younger – and that their lives are better now.

In response to Clementi’s death and other incidents, the group Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays said it would issue a “call to action” on the subject on Thursday.

Rutgers University President Richard McCormick wrote in a letter to the campus, “If the charges are true, these actions gravely violate the university’s standards of decency and humanity.” Coincidentally, the university on Wednesday was launching a new two-year Project Civility, designed to get students thinking about how they treat others.

Meanwhile, for some of Clementi’s new classmates, the first time they learned much about him was when they got word of his death.

“I guess the only person I haven’t talked to is Tyler ’cause he’s like really quiet and shy,” said Justin Lee, a freshman from Princeton who lives on Clementi’s hall.

___

DeFalco reported from Ridgewood. Associated Press writers Geoff Mulvihill in Haddonfield, Colleen Long in New York and David Porter in Newark contributed to this report.

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Posted by admin - at 6:24 pm

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