Thursday, 14 May 2009
Sarah Palin's indifference (updated)
Alaska has the highest rate of sexual abuse in the country. The figures have been bad for a long time and things have not changed under Sarah Palin. A boy who was sexually abused by a friend of his mother from the age of six until he was ten is suing the state for compensation. Here are some brief details:
A "culture of indifference" explains why the state agency that is supposed to protect children mishandled almost every report it received about a young boy repeatedly sexually abused by an old man and virtually abandoned by his crack-addicted mother, a lawyer for the boy told an Anchorage jury Tuesday.
"They accept no responsibility but they were aware and, what it appears is, they just didn't care," attorney Cynthia Strout told jurors in closing arguments Tuesday.
But a lawyer representing the state Office of Children's Services says any missteps were minor, caseworkers made reasonable decisions, and damage to the boy is the fault of the boy's mother and her friend who abused him.
The first report came in 1994 about the boy's father abandoning him in a Ketchikan motel. But the pivotal point came on June 12, 1997, when OCS received a report of suspected sexual abuse and didn't investigate even though state law says it has to, the lawyer for the boy, now 18, told the jury.
OCS never interviewed the boy, or anyone else, or followed up in any way to see if the child needed help, his lawyers told jurors.
From that point on, the state was on notice that the boy was in danger, yet the abuse -- and the complaints -- continued until 2001, his lawyers said.
In all, OCS received 19 reports that the boy was being abused or neglected and only two were handled to minimal standards.
The state's lawyers said the cases were handled properly. Supervisors reviewed the casework, attorneys at the Department of Law were notified. Just because boxes weren't checked on forms, she said, it didn't mean the actions weren't done.
And while the boy was harmed, the lawyer said, the damage was from the abuser and his mother. If anyone should pay, she told jurors, it's them.
I gave you the bare bones of this case. For further details, read the full report on ADN.
In other countries, and very likely in other parts of the US, the state would have conducted an inquiry into the case in order to fire the people responsible for failures, correct procedural mistakes and improve services. But not in Alaska.
Sarah Palin is right. People shouldn't turn to the state for help with anything. As long as people like her and the heads of department appointed by her have this kind of attitude, asking the state for help is a bloody waste of time.
Link to the full report.
UPDATE: What the jury decided, ADN