Over at the City Paper, Pierce Greenberg has a story that's really upsetting to read about the difficulties of bringing cases of child abuse to court.
Davidson County Assistant District Attorney Sharon Reddick said there are several main factors to consider in an indication.
“It’s basically, did the child make a disclosure? Very rarely, the other evidence is such that it’s one we’re going to indicate or prosecute. … Maybe a child is really too little to articulate what will happen. That’s fairly rare,” Reddick said. “The vast majority of indications are: Did the child disclose sexual abuse? Can the child identify the perpetrator?”
But all cases of indication don’t rise to the level of prosecution. As mentioned, 167 cases where abuse was indicated were not prosecuted in Davidson County in 2011 — while 204 cases were taken to court. Of the 167 non-prosecuted cases, 27 of those involved a juvenile suspect, while 140 were alleged adult-on-child abuse.
Greenberg does a great job getting at the complexities of these cases and the heartbreak that a lot of people can know something bad is happening to a child, but they just don't have the evidence they need to do much about it.
But one part struck me as so horrible I almost had to laugh:
DCS also keeps a close eye on so-called indicative cases that weren’t prosecuted.
“We are able to track prior investigation. It’s not uncommon for a case that might not have prosecution, that we go and put in counseling … and keep that case open for a period of time,” [DCS Director of Child Safety Carla] Aaron said. “If someone has concerns later, we can go back into our system and track that to see what happened on that prior investigation.”
Really? Really?! How? In TFACTS?
You know, honestly, someone needs to get to the bottom of whether DCS' tracking system works or not. Half the time, they're saying stuff like, "We have to break the law because we can't report how many dead kids had interaction with DCS, because our tracking system is a broken nightmare of hideous proportions that hasn't worked right since we implemented it years ago." And the other half of the time they say something like, "Oh, these cases are hard, but don't worry, we're able to track prior investigations."
Do people at DCS not remember that it was just last month they were saying that they can't track kids because the system doesn't work? Now they can track kids? Did everything get fixed in the past couple of weeks? Do they not remember that they just told us that the tracking system is an irredeemable mess? Is there no consensus on how bad the tracking system is? Is there a glitch so that it can't track dead kids but can track sexually abused kids?
Whatever the hell is going on with TFACTS, I have to tell you, I don't have any confidence that Carla Aaron's statement is true. I don't the people of Tennessee can feel any assurance that those kids are being tracked.
And that's pretty scary.