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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Child Abuse and Sham Peer Review...Corruption in Pennsylvania II

UPDATE: Check out my new book, The Definitive Dossier of PTSD in Whistleblowers, and in chapter three this story, and especially its mentally debilitating effects, is explored in much greater detail. 

If you haven't already, please check out part one. I am about to make some serious accusations against the entire state apparatus of Pennsylvania, and some of the supporting evidence is found in that part.

In 1986 Jim Singer was a practicing psychologist in Dubois, Pennsylvania. He maintained his own private practice and at the same time at the Maple Avenue Dubois Regional Medical Center. He treated a patient that would change his life forever and expose him to corruption at all levels of the Pennsylvania state apparatus as well as possibly the national level.

This patient was 25 years old and he had a history of being abused. He had recently moved out of his parent's home and was living with his aunt. He also had a history of alcoholism. Furthermore, he thought he might even have a sexually transmitted disease. After consulting with the patient, Singer suggested he consult with a physician for a full physical examination. At Dubois, the patient was treated by Dr. Al Varacallo, a family physician. Upon examining him, Dr. Varacallo admitted to Dubois Regional Medical Center, he and Singer decided that the proper course of action moving forward was family counseling with Singer leading the counseling and Dr. Varacallo sitting in for observation.

Once Singer had a chance to interact with the entire family, he observed a family full of dysfunction. For instance, the daughter was dressed rather provocatively especially for a fifteen year old. He noticed that as soon as the father entered the room, the two siblings went from being outgoing to quiet. Furthermore, the father admitted that not only did he have a tendency to drink too much alcohol, but would get violent when overly inebriated.

Finally, during one of the breaks, the daughter approached Singer and insisted on having a private session with Singer. Singer explained that this was improper and that if she wanted to have a private session she would need to get her school's guidance counselor to give her written permission. That happened on Thursday evening and when the family came back for the next session on Friday, the daughter had two permission slips signed by two separate guidance counselors.

Furthermore, during one of the breaks, a nurse on the floor, who also happened to be a neighbor of the family, revealed to Singer that the daughter had bags packed and was planning on running away. Furthermore, the nurse said that the daughter also drank a lot and had a tendency to date older men.

At this point, Singer suspected that the daughter was being abused. He decided to confront her brother, the 25 year old that was originally his patient. Singer suspected abuse but the brother was resistant. He refused to answer and demanded to be left alone. Finally, after being grilled for a while, the brother demanded to be left alone and verbally fired Singer as his psychologist.

At this point, Singer was stuck between the proverbial rock and hard place. He still suspected abuse. He was a mandated reporter and must report abuse even if he only suspected it, however since he was fired, he couldn't seek to treat anyone in the family. He consulted with Dr. Varacallo. They both decided that the proper course of action was for Dr. Varacallo to approach the family, and the daughter specifically, and see if she wanted to move forward with treatment.

Not only did the daughter agree, but later in the day on Saturday, her aunt, the father's sister, called Singer and offered to come in with her niece and her daughter. They all came in the next day Saturday. After meeting separately with Dr. Varacallo, the daughter, her aunt, and her cousin met together with Singer. Singer probed whether she was being abused, and she admitted that she was being abused by her father.

At this point, there was no longer any options for Singer. Medical ethics and procedures demand that he call the proper authorities in this case. That's exactly what he did and the Department of Children Services of Pennsylvania were contacted. In the meantime, Singer left the hospital to attend to another patient. The case worker, John Bennesse, didn't appear to be terribly interested in the case according to witnesses. It was a Saturday and he appeared to want to be elsewhere. That said, after interviewing several medical professionals, he removed the child and placed her in protective custody of her aunt.

There is standard procedure that is supposed to be followed moving forward in any case of abuse. Of central importance, DCFS is supposed to immediately get the child legal representation. This way all contact between the accused abuser and the victim can be handled through the third party, the attorney. This never happened, and soon the parents were showing up at her school and threatening the child. The father began threatening Singer and his daughter.

It got so bad that the daughter began contacting Singer and begging for help. She indicated that she was suicidal. Upon realizing that no attorney was ever hired for her, Singer went to legal aid and found her representation. Only months later DCFS finally got the child their own representation.

Months later, the child contacts Singer again and sends him a letter of thanks for saving her life. Singer then contacted the Pennsylvania Department of Welfare to complain about the unprofessional behavior of DCFS. Initially, DPW sent in an investigator and the investigator agreed with Singer's concerns. Months went by and nothing was done as a result of the investigation. Singer sent DPW a letter complaining that action was being stalled. DPW responded and now they said that they found nothing wrong and that it was all a "misunderstanding".

In March of 1987, the daughter called Singer again in tears. She said that she was sorry that she had gotten him into so much trouble and that her father was about to get even with him.

Singer didn't know it yet, but he was about to be on the receiving end of a well orchestrated sham peer review. Later that same day, he was called in to examine a patient that was hysterical. What Singer didn't know was that this patient was a neighbor of the accuser and likely was a plant. The patient was speaking in gibberish. He refused to take his medication and claimed that since a psychologist was called in then it must all be "in my head". The patient was entirely uncooperative, however Singer didn't make much of this bizarre encounter until months later.

Over the next several months, Singer began losing patients. What he didn't know was that someone was poisoning the proverbial waters about his reputation in the relatively small town of Dubois. In early 1988, Singer was informed by the Pennsylvania Board of Psychology (PBOA) that he was being formally investigated. There was seven patients in all, including the peculiar one I mentioned and the abuser himself, that filed complaints. Now, Singer first became a psychologist in 1973. Prior to these complaints, he'd never had any complaints. It should have been a red flag to any legitimate licensing board that a doctor usually doesn't go nearly fifteen years with no complaints and suddenly has multiple complaints all at once. Of course, what Singer didn't know was that he wasn't dealing with a legitimate board but rather a corrupt one.

The whole entire affair was nothing more than a sham. There was evidence that not only were witnesses bribed in order to make up testimony but that this was done at the behest of DCFS itself. Furthermore, through the course of the trial it was even revealed that DCFS actually revealed Singer as the source of the complaint of child abuse. Of course, this is a total aversion to any proper procedures. Anyone that reports child abuse is always supposed to have their anonymity maintained. Singer was initially charged with 58 counts, and was put through a legal loop that wound up nearly bankrupting him. He finally needed to reach out to the National Child Abuse Center for legal help.

He was finally found guilty of billing errors. He was put on probation. In 1992, while the case was under appeal the board removed his license because they claimed he didn't pay the fine the board punished him. (Singer told me that he didn't pay the fine upon the advice of his lawyer)

He has never recovered his license in Pennsylvania. In fact, only about a month ago, he had license restored in the state of West Virginia. No one was ever seriously investigated, let alone punished, for looking the other way or incompetently protecting the child in this case. Mark Spotz is currently on death row following a killing spree. He found himself in the Pennsylvania DCFS system at about the same time as this case was starting. Not only did Spotz have a history of being abused, but serious questions remain about just how much DCFS protected him against his abuser when he found himself in their care. His attorneys have been claiming that had the trial jurors known of the extent and nature of abuse suffered as a youngster, as well as his previous diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder, and substance abuse, they might have spared his life. The alleged abuse included mandatory sex acts as a 10-year-old, introduction to drugs, beatings, confinements and situations that, according to a psychologist, ranked “at the very bottom of bad.” How many kids were under the care of Pennsylvania DCFS and wound up being neglected like Spotz and the child in this case?

In Part three, I will discuss all the "powerful" politicians that Singer reached out to for help. They include both Bob Casey Jr. and Sr., Tom Ridge, Arlen Spector, and Rick Santorum. Their behavior in the subsequent fifteen years after Singer's license was removed is nearly as deplorable as that of the Psychology Board and DCFS.

Here is part 3


Joe said...

Thanks for posting this. I have been a mandated reporter in California, working for a non-profit that teaches self-defense and empowerment skills to women and children in the area, about 60% of our clients have a history of having received sexual or physical abuse. So .. it's pretty horrifying to read what you've documented so clearly here.

Anonymous said...

The impact of what happened to Dr. Singer is that now other psychologists, and professionals, are NOT reporting suspected child abuse. Even worse, many are supporting CPS, GALs, family court professionals even when presented with strong evidence of abuse... because they are afraid if they do not go along, there will be retaliation. Families are being destroyed. Children are being re-abused... and some commit suicide. What can we do to get justice?