March 21, 2011

“Beyond Dumb” Parenting



If you leave my driveway the police will be notified immediately.

     The young man’s wife and two children, ages two and four, were leaving our home after spending several months with us. He brought a small rented van to transport their belongings. There was only room in the front for two persons. The upshot was that the man, over forty years old, was going to travel six hours to his home with the boys and their mother in the back of the packed van.

     That’s when I made the threat to contact the state police if the van left my driveway.


     This type of parenting apparently isn’t unique. A thirty-five year old Fall River (Massachusetts) man was accused of locking his two sons, ages three and six, in the trunk of his car while he ran an errand at a sailing shop. He told investigators the boys like to play in the trunk. (November 2009)

  •      I passed a man parked in an alley. On his lap was a two or three year old boy. “He likes to drive the truck,” the father told me proudly. “He sits on my lap and drives it down the mountain into town.”
  •      A twenty-nine year old Southwest Greensburg woman took her three week-old infant to a party where she allegedly became “severely intoxicated,” got into a fight, after which she (more…)

March 12, 2011

Random Acts of Kindness: Pass Them Forward



     Displays of “random acts of kindness” are making the news lately.

     In reviewing materials in my files when I found an article I’d written about children in a summer program doing random acts of kindness. They were participating in a Summer Fun Fest sponsored by the Jamestown (Pennsylvania) Family Support program in the mid-1990s. The program was designed around the theme of “giving,” the gift being something made by the child.

     The first week the children made something to give their parents.

     During the next three weeks, groups of children, accompanied by adult leaders, walked around town, stopping at randomly chosen houses, offering gifts.  They were learning to give gifts to people “just because you are (more…)

January 5, 2011

Chemicals Injure Children in Child Care Facilities: Abuse or Accident?



Abuse or Accident?

     It reads nonsensical, almost SciFi: A child care worker places a Drano-soaked diaperon a seven-month-old girl, Brielle…burning her abdomen, backside and legs. Not mildly burning her—chemical burns are the worst—they eat the skin…and they worsen with exposure. . A lawyer representing the infant and her mother, Kimberly Spriggs, understates it mildly: This is clearly somebody’s negligence. Another understatement by Dr. Bruce Dixon, director of the Allegheny County Health Department: It’s unfortunate that this happened.

     Regardless of who brought the Drano into the Butterfly Garden Early Learning Center (McKees Rocks, Allegheny County, PA) December 30, 2010, no matter how the product managed to soak the Center’s diapers, a question remains: How does a person (more…)

October 16, 2010

Baby Removed from Home after Mother Eats Poppy Seeds




A Pennsylvania House Bill 2760, passed three years ago, allows hospitals to test a mother’s  blood to protect newborns.

  • Children and Youth Services removed Elizabeth Mort’s three day old child from her New Castle, Pennsylvania, home because the mother tested positive to opiate use.
  • The ACLU believes Jameson Hospital and agency workers made a judgment without thoroughly investigating.
  • Mort’s positive test was due to her ingestion of poppy seeds, which can influence drug tests.

     Jameson Hospital may have gone too far by failing to consider what Mort might have eaten. (read Can Poppy Seed Ingestion Affect Drug Tests?)

     “One thing I think is a violation is the fact that Lawrence County CYS immediately got a court order without the parents present to remove a newborn baby based solely on the hospital’s report of a positive drug test,” said Sara Rose of the ACLU, noting that CYS may have violated the law.


     This isn’t the first time Lawrence County’s Children and Youth Services overreached their powers.

     While living in New Castle in the latter 1980s I came to know a woman I’ll call Sylvia. While five of her children were removed from her home and placed for adoption she remarried. A child was born from this union.

     I was closely involved with Sylvia, and worked with her, teaching her to overcome a number of problems. She was a good “student,” and had the Children and Youth Services helped her in this way, she would not have needed me. Instead, they (more…)

April 25, 2010

Cruel and Unusual Punishment for Children



About Carolyn: I wrote, received, and administered a Pennsylvania Children’s Trust Fund grant, which was designed to heal adults of their childhood abuse, enabling them to break the chain of abuse with their children. Within the grant I taught community members how to be first-responders to domestic violence/child abuse, ran a family support program and counseled adults to aid them in the healing process.


What do the following statements have in common?

 “I got real angry and flipped out… I started to freak out.

“I blew up.”
“I have a short temper. I just lost it.”

     They all include an uncontrollable rage resulting in (more…)

April 14, 2010

Punishment or Neglect: Neither is Correct



Neither is correct

About Carolyn: I wrote, received, and administered a Pennsylvania Children’s Trust Fund grant, which was designed to heal adults of their childhood abuse, enabling them to break the chain of abuse with their children. Within the grant I taught community members how to be first-responders to domestic violence/child abuse, ran a family support program and counseled adults to aid them in the healing process.

     The media reports of a Palm Bay, Florida eight year old girl not only having her mouth washed out with a bar of Irish Spring soap, but being forced to eat it too, brought to the forefront some not-so-fond childhood memories .

     I recall my step-father washing my mouth out with soap. I also remember watching him do the same thing to one of my younger siblings—his biological children. I was eleven or more years older than the preschoolers I was observing.

     The Florida man was the father of a younger child in the household, and, according to his mother, Adriyanna Herdener, he is the head of the household. She deferred the punishment to him.

     This was an example of simple punishment becoming what police called a (more…)

February 12, 2010

My Mother as My Mentor



      My mother wasn’t a “present” mom. I can’t recall any conversation I had with her beyond the normal, eg. “do the dishes” and “I need you to babysit.” These weren’t conversations, anyway—they were instructions. There were no mother-daughter chats or outings.

     Throughout my teen years she was held up as a pillar of her church and community, yet I knew the truth: she wasn’t a very “moral” person.

     She once told me her mother, my grandmother, was so overbearing that she gave my mother three choices: teaching, nursing or office work—none a choice that satisfied her. My mother chose to (more…)

February 9, 2010

Writing Poetry with My Grandson, Vince



     While visiting my son, Nolan, and his wife Tammy, in Cleveland, five-year old Vince saw newspaper photographs of Rashard Mendenhall, Etan Thomas, and Fernando Perez, all sports figures*. Vince is an ace in sports.

     I took the opportunity to tell Vince that each of these sports figures wrote poems. Perhaps, I said, Vince and I should write a poem.

     I asked him to give me two words that rhymed. He picked “climb” and “prime.” He didn’t know what they meant, so I suggested he pick easier words. He then came up with “snow” and “hoe.”

     Between us, we managed to come up with the following poem: (more…)

October 20, 2009

Should your cat be kept indoors or outdoors?



      A Humane Society I researched estimated that feral cats have a life expectancy of five years, while indoor, cared for, cats live as long as seventeen years.

     How long does a cared-for house cat with outside privileges live?

     In August, our about-sixteen year old cat Honey died (to read her story, click on: Honey’s Coming Home! Our cat must recuperate & Honey went home—She’s romping in animal heaven). She lived her life happily as an outdoor cat, as did many or our cats which lived long lives, fifteen years and more.

     Virtually all cat shelters have a non-flexible clause in their cat adoption papers that requires (more…)

April 29, 2009

Characteristics of and lures used by child molesters





     April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. (to view photo click on: I will be continuing my posts on child abuse and domestic violence throughout the month. Please be there for children whom you suspect are being abused. Sometimes, all you can do is hold out a loving hand and pray for them.

     This post is part of a continuing series about child abuse and parenting. At the end of this article are links to the other posts on this subject. If the links do not work, go to , click on the folder CHILD ABUSE or the folder DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, and scroll down the posts to find answers to your questions.


     It is essential for a parent to know the characteristics of a child sexual abuser in order to protect their child. It is equally important to understand how perpetrators lure children into their web of harm, and to teach their child how to identify danger and respond to it, and most importantly, to report it to a safe person.

     However, if adults can be fooled, how much easier is it to fool a child. Parents need to be knowledgeable and continually alert to the dangers around their children.


     An abuser/perpetrator may not view their behavior as harmful. They may be unclear of (more…)

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