Tag Archives: child abuse

Who do you trust with your child? – Part 2

She was just a few months old, so she had only her cries and her body language to communicate her fear. It could easily have been dismissed with any number of excuses — maybe a precocious stage of separation anxiety. But her daddy knew it was something else.

“You could tell she didn’t want to be with her [caregiver],” he says now. “She clung to me. You could see the terror in her eyes. She was clawing and scraping, and I thought, that’s weird.”

But it didn’t make sense. The person who cared for his daughter while James Motz and his wife were at work was a family member. “She was good with her own kids,” James remembers, shaking his head as he still struggles to understand it all. “Her daughter, who is a little older than my daughter, was perfect — well-behaved, well-mannered, polite.”

But there was that one thing: The child had a hurt arm every once in awhile. James and his wife didn’t dwell on it. Kids grow up with bumps and bruises. It doesn’t always mean something sinister is going on.

Still, he couldn’t let go of a gnawing sense that something wasn’t right. “I told my wife I needed to put in cameras [at the caregiver's home],” he says. He had every right to do that. James, then a wildly successful 24-year-old business owner, had bought the house in which the caregiver and her family were living. It was just a few blocks away from his own west Valley home.

The decision was supposed to be a win-win, a way to provide safe and loving care for his daughter while James and his wife went back to work. He was trying to be a good guy, finding his own solution by helping some relatives who were down on their luck. He’d given them a place to live, given them both jobs.

But cameras? Basically spying on someone you have every reason to trust? James and his wife argued about it. How do you weigh vague suspicions about your daughter’s safety against the privacy rights of a family member you’ve entrusted with her care?

Before the decision could be made, before the plan could be implemented, Lily was in the hospital, a victim of Shaken Baby Syndrome. Her parents were faced with the prospect of raising a child who could have permanent brain damage.

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Child advocates around the state are commemorating it by launching a new awareness campaign to help parents choose safe caregivers.

“Who Do You Trust With Your Child?” is a joint effort involving the Arizona Department of Economic Security, the Arizona Coordinated Prevention Campaign, ChildhelpSouthwest Human DevelopmentPhoenix Children’s Hospital and Prevent Child Abuse, among others.

A dedicated website at childhelp.org/mychild directs parents to resources. A hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453) is operated by trained staff who can answer questions about safe caregivers.

James Motz with his daughter Lily (now 5), who made a full recovery from her injuries. Photo courtesy of the Motz family.

If you could talk with James Motz, if you could see how this experience haunts him still, you would realize how important it is to trust that primal, instinctual sense of danger we all have deep inside us. You wouldn’t hesitate to consult these resources if you had even the slightest sense that something was wrong in a childcare environment.

“I’d never had kids,” says James, who is now a stay-at-home dad to Lily and her younger brother. “I didn’t know if  I was just crazy and overprotective.”

His advice to other parents? “Trust your instincts, 100 percent. If something is off, it’s off.”


Who do you trust with your child? – Part 1

James Motz and his daughter Lillian (then 3) in a photo that ran in our April 2010 magazine. Photo by Daniel Friedman.

What do you think when you see this picture? A proud, loving father. A caring, protective father. A guy who would do anything to keep his precious daughter safe.

That’s what James Motz of Surprise thought he was doing when he went to extraordinary lengths — near superhuman lengths, some would say — to make sure his baby girl would be in safe hands once he and his wife returned to work following her birth.

They had looked at some child care centers as they considered their options.  They interviewed some nannies. Nothing felt right. Then some family members came to mind. The husband had lost his job; the couple had declared bankruptcy and were losing their home. Maybe, James thought, he could do something to help them that would also solve his own dilemma. Who better than family to love and care for his daughter?

He found his brother-in-law a job. He hired his sister-in-law to take care of then 3-month-old Lillian. He even bought a house for the couple. It was just down the street from his own. It was a spec home and it wasn’t cheap. But James was 24 and making $350,000 a year. To him, it was an investment well worth making.

Phoenix writer Mary L. Holden won an Arizona Press Club award for writing the story of what happened next — and what happens all to often in what should be a safe and trusting environment.

Before she was 5 months old, Lily was in the hospital, a victim of Shaken Baby Syndrome. Her dad’s confidence that he could protect her was shaken, too.

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Child advocates around the state have chosen to commemorate it by launching a new awareness campaign to help parents choose safe caregivers.

“Who Do You Trust With Your Child?” is a joint effort involving the Arizona Department of Economic Security, the Arizona Coordinated Prevention Campaign, Childhelp, Southwest Human Development, Phoenix Children’s Hospital and Prevent Child Abuse, among others.

A dedicated website at childhelp.org/mychild directs parents to resources. A hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453) is operated by trained staff who can answer questions about safe caregivers and make referrals to specific resources.

“Unsafe caregivers are often someone we know,” says Mark Klym, MPA, program coordinator for the division of Children Youth and Families at DES.

Next: Why James suspected his daughter was being abused. 

Affirmation — and a challenge — from colleagues in the press

Last night, the Arizona Press Club honored journalists from statewide publications large and small with awards for exceptional work in reporting, writing, photography and design. Raising Arizona Kids was among the publications honored.

Mary L. Holden. Photo by Daniel Friedman.

Writer Mary L.Holden was recognized in the Non-Metro Writing/Social Issues Reporting category for her April 2010 story, “Casting a Light on the Shadow of Abuse.”

Mary put a lot of heart and soul into this project, which involved interviews with researchers and medical professionals who work the front lines in child abuse prevention and treatment. She listened to horrific stories about the unimaginable ways some children are mistreated by adults who typically lack the tools or knowledge to deal productively with the stresses and emotional damage in their own lives. She put a personal face on the issue by sharing the story of a Surprise family whose daughter was abused by a caregiver. She provided insights into the longterm damage of abuse and how it can manifest in adulthood.

James Motz of Surprise and his daughter Lilian, who was brutally shaken by a caregiver. Photo by Daniel Friedman.

The judge, Suki Dardarian, managing editor at The Seattle Times, described her entry as “a well-crafted story about the medical and emotional toll of child abuse. While it is a well-covered story, this reporter used strong cases and compelling writing to draw the reader through her story.”

Taylor Batten, editorial page editor of The Charlotte Observer, judged entries in the Best of Arizona/Features Blog category, to which I had submitted several of the blog posts I wrote about my experience in Ethiopia last summer, when I accompanied Paradise Valley couple Brian and Keri deGuzman on their journey to welcome two orphaned babies into their family.

Observing a distribution of food to starving families in Soddo, Ethiopia. Photo by Brian deGuzman.

“Barr produces memorable storytelling from an emotional and at times dangerous trip,” Batten wrote. “She is a powerful writer who captures the emotion of her subject while also revealing a bit about herself in an authentic way. Fantastic photos.”

It’s weird to be typing those words about yourself. As an editor it is my job to make other writers look good. I have attended many Arizona Press Club Awards events in the past 21 years to joyfully support my writers as they accepted awards. But in 35 years of writing and editing (give or take a few lost to graduate school or raising small children), I never once received an award.

What I’ve decided is this: It’s great to have a piece of paper that gives you membership in a small cadre of professional journalists whose work is deemed by peers to go above and beyond. It’s even better to hear the specific feedback, which envelopes your fragile writer’s ego like a soothing, restorative  balm.

But the very best part is the spark it ignites that grabs your imagination, rekindles your hope and challenges you to go out and do something even better.

Walking to prevent child abuse

Is someone bringing coffee?

I have to admit. I kind of felt like this guy on the right when I dragged myself out of the house at 6:30am to walk in today’s Children’s March on Child Abuse. But the beautiful morning and the energy of the crowd that was gathered at the entrance to the Phoenix Zoo was invigorating — and so was the nippy temperature hovering well under the 60s.

The walk was organized by Phoenix Children’s Hospital to build awareness about child abuse, and raise funds to prevent it. Many of the 200 or so people in the crowd were there with children. Given the nature of the event, I found my eyes drawn to the many examples of loving connections between adults and children waiting to walk. Here are two of my favorites:

Love that transcends generations.

Time with daddy.

12News reporter/anchor Tram Mai showed up about 7:45 to give some opening remarks and thank the event’s sponsors, which included Raising Arizona Kids, Honest Tea and E&J’sDesigner Shoe Outlet. She read a moving essay by Sassha Motz of Surprise, whose daughter Lily was a victim of Shaken Baby Syndrome inflicted by a trusted family member. (Lily and her dad, James, are featured in our April cover story, “Casting Light on the Shadow of Abuse.”)

Tram Mai reads some opening remarks; watching is PCH pediatric nurse practitioner Amy Terreros.

Then it was time to walk. With a quick thumbs up…

Thumbs up!

…we headed through the gates to the Nina Mason Pulliam Children’s Trail. Several members of the Raising Arizona Kids family walked today, including Marketing Director MaryAnn Ortiz-Lieb (Happy Birthday!) and her daughter Juliann (a senior at Xavier College Preparatory), Assistant Editor Mary L. Holden, Art Director Michelle-Renee Adams, Account Executive Catherine Griffiths, my husband Dan (who writes our Sports Roundtable blog when he’s not too busy lawyering) and me.

Off we go!

The walk was a nice way to start the weekend and a reminder that we all need to spend more time at the beautiful Phoenix Zoo.

Enjoying the zoo.

And now? Breakfast!

What are the odds?

Calendar & Directories Editor Mala Blomquist calls it the “Six Degrees of Mary Holden.” Almost any time one of us mentions the name of someone we’ve talked to, Mary’s got some sort of connection.

Assistant Editor Mary L. Holden.

Mary is Six Degrees of Separation personified — packed into a tiny frame with a fierce intellect, a compassionate heart and the networking skills of a politician.

It doesn’t hurt that she was born and raised in Phoenix, so her institutional memory goes deep.

Last weekend, Mary took her daughter Annie, a freshman at the University of Washington (who was home for spring break) to San Diego to visit her godmother, Margaret McLaughlin, and some friends from UW who also live there.

In the middle of one visit, Mary happened to mention the story she wrote for this month’s magazine: “Casting a Light on the Shadow of Abuse.” She mentioned the name of the physician/researcher who had done groundbreaking work that is helping medical professionals understand and respond to the long-term implications of child abuse.

At that moment, Mary felt Annie’s godmother’s hand on her shoulder.

“Dr. Felitti? Dr. Vincent Felitti?” McLaughlin asked.

It turns out that Felitti had diagnosed McLaughlin with hemochromatosis (a disorder that interferes with the body’s ability to break down iron) in the early 1990s. He treated her condition and she even participated in one of the studies Felitti did on genetic indicators for the disease.

“She spoke very highly of Dr. Felliti and in fact credited him for saving her life,” Mary said. “Some might say that it’s a small world. Some might say that this is just an interesting coincidence. But I think this connection is truly fascinating, and I love it when things like this happen.”

Mary sent a copy of our April issue to Dr. Felliti with a personal letter recounting the coincidence. “I am very honored to have helped spread the news of the ACE study,” she wrote, ” and I deeply thank you for saving the life of my daughter’s godmother.” — Karen