Ombudsman report 2011


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Ombudsman report 2011

  1. 1. Summary Report of the Ombudsman in the Case of Mila Handrahan Covering the Period of the 0mbudsman’s Involvement October 2009 to September 2011 Background: The Ombudsman has reviewed two complaints by Dr. Lori Handrahan alleging abuse and neglect of Mila by her father, Igor Malenko. In October 2009 Dr. Handrahan alleged sexual abuse of Mila by Mr. Malenko. In May of 2011 Dr. Handrahan re-iterated the earlier complaint and added new complaints including physical abuse, neglect and medical neglect. Because there have been three (3) DHHS investigations we have chosen to do a summary with the hope that confusion will be reduced as to what DHHS found and when and our review of that action. In both cases, Dr. Handrahan has enlisted friends, advocates and professionals to support her allegations. In the first complaint received by the Ombudsman in October 2009 Dr. Handrahan made a complaint of sexual abuse of Mila by Mr. Malenko. The Ombudsman supported DHHS’s decision not to substantiate Mr. Malenko primarily for three reasons: 1. We agreed with DH HS’s judgment that Mi| a’s disclosure was tainted by multiple interviews in which she made conflicting statements. Additionally, as a 2 and ‘/2 year old she was not considered a good witness and no other evidence was presented. 2. Dr. Handrahan was not considered credible. She was in a very conflicted custody battle with Mr. Malenko. Potentially corroborating information (about Mr. Malenko that might have lent credence to the sexual abuse complaint) provided by Dr. Handrahan could not be confirmed by anyone who had face to face contact with Mr. Malenko. The only available clinical information from face to face assessment of Dr. Handrahan suggested that she, rather than Mr. Malenko, was mentally ill. Three (3) clinicians who interviewed Mr. Malenko did not find him to be mentally ill. 3. The circumstance of her complaint about Mr. Malenko raises further concern. She reports that she did not immediately call anyone. She waited 2 weeks before taking the child to a clinic for an exam during which she reported the alleged sexual abuse. Dr. Handrahan carried Mila into a public clinic naked and wrapped in a blanket (she says she did so because they had just been to the beach). The clinic staff did not feel a mandatory child abuse report was necessary. 4. The Family Matters Court had previously found against Dr. Handrahan, and for essentially the same arguments raised in this Ombudsman case. In the first case, Dr. Handrahan states that Mr. Malenko was a very violent man, with a history of criminal violence dating back to his childhood in what was then Yugoslavia. She also alleged that he was seriously mentally ill and required medication and hospitalization. She reported that he was discharged from the army because of his mental illness. We found that: 1. Mr. Malenko, in his adolescence, did injure another child in a sports contest and was found not criminally responsible.
  2. 2. 2. Mr. Malenko was assessed in Budapest, Hungary at Dr. Handrahan’s request (for a crisis situation in which she reported that he needed medication and hospitalization). The mental health center did not find him to be mentally ill but did offer couple's counseling. 3. Mr. Malenko and Dr. Handrahan were assessed in Maine by Dr. Kabacoff, a clinical psychologist. Dr. Kabacoff’s assessment resulted from a contested Family Matters hearing on custody of Mila. Dr. Kabacoff did not find that Mr. Malenko had a mental illness, but did diagnose Dr. Handrahan as having a personality disorder. Dr. Kabacoff, in her summary findings predicted that Dr. Hand rahan would react as she has in response to any disagreement with her beliefs. 4. Handrahan and Malenko also saw a clinical psychologist in the Portland area. When he declined to treat Mr. Malenko as she demanded she discontinued the contact. 5. The only corroborating assessment (of Dr. Hand rahan’s assertions about violence) came from an in absentia assessment of Mr. Malenko completed by Polly Campbell based solely on Dr. Handrahan’s statements. Ms. Campbell also stated a gut feeling that Mr. Malenko was viewing pornography. DH HS’s initial investigation did not consider Ms. Campbell's "gut feeling” to be a report of abuse or neglect. Dr. Handrahan also alleged that DHHS and the Ombudsman had ignored a critical finding by the Spurwink Child Abuse Clinic. The Spurwink Clinic did render a report in which it found that sexual abuse was likely to have occurred. The Court also considered the Spurwink report and testimony and did not find it credible. We noted the report's caveats about Spurwink’s inability to state positively that Mila was sexually abused. We note that Spurwink never assessed Igor Malenko directly, but drew all its knowledge of him from hearsay. Court Action Related to Dr. Handrahan’s Complaints: After our initial review we reviewed court findings related to Dr. Handrahan’s allegations. Dr. Handrahan was well represented by a team of attorneys and amicus curiae in her law court appeals. The court findings were: 1. Family Matters Court found her to be not credible and awarded shared custody. 2. The Law court upheld the findings of the Family Matters court. 3. Her complaints about Mr. Ma| enko's attorney (including inappropriate influence of DH HS) were denied. We note that Dr. Handrahan has been supported by a powerful collection of organizations and attorneys and that she continues to get financial and other supports as she continues her efforts to acquire custody of her daughter. Action of the Maine Children's Alliance - Board of Directors: ‘ In Dr. Handrahan’s 2011 correspondence to us about her new complaints she made serious accusations about our work on her previous complaint. Because it rose to the level of potential criminal wrong doing, the Board of Directors of the Maine Children's Alliance was notified. The Executive Committee of the Board of Directors determined that it was appropriate to secure an independent review of the Ombudsman’s work in this matter.
  3. 3. A review of the Ombudsman’s procedure and basis for opinion were reviewed by Anita St. Onge. Her vitae and her report to the Board of Directors is available upon request. She found no fault with the Ombudsman’s work in the first complaint. Ombudsman’s Current Review of Handrahan Complaint: We opened a second review in July 2011 following an earlier complaint that Mr. Malenko had further abused and neglected Mila. We opened our review after DHHS completed its second review through the Biddeford Office (an earlier complaint in 2011 was investigated by the Portland DHHS office). Our review includes both Biddeford and Portland investigations. The circumstances of the second DHHS review were unusual. After intense pressure from Dr. Handrahan and her advocates DHHS undertook a review of earlier complaints after its most recent review had found Mila to be safe. It appears clear that this second investigation by the Biddeford DHHS Office was to determine if DHHS inappropriately handled Dr. Ha ndrahan’s complaints about the alleged exposure to Methamphetamine and Mr. Ma| enko’s alleged viewing of child pornography. We find that DHHS’s Portland Office appropriately assessed complaints about Mila’s safety. DHHS did not find that Mr. Malenko had abused or neglected Mila based on the allegations made by Dr. Handrahan. The Portland DHHS Office investigated Dr. Handrahan’s complaints of physical abuse and neglect made around the 1st of April 2011. Dr. Handrahan alleged that Mila had a bruise on her forehead when Dr. Handrahan picked her up from child care on Friday afternoon, March 29, 2011. Dr. Handrahan described the bruise as a hematoma. She reports that she had her tape recorder on as they drove to her home in Sorrento and after she noticed the ”hematoma”, and Mila said her father hit her with a kitchen cooking pot. She also states that Mila was wearing a dirty pull-up diaper and was told by the child care staff that Mr. Malenko frequently drops Mila off in a dirty diaper and it is not their responsibility to clean her up. The Portland DHHS Office did not substantiate Dr. Handrahan’s complaint because: 1. Mila made conflicting statements about how or whether she had gotten the bruise. A case worker interviewed Mila alone and Mila said her father did not hit her; that it was what her mother told her to say. She later re-iterated this version when interviewed by Dr. Handrahan’s private investigator and a DHHS caseworker, in Dr. Handrahan’s home. 2. The DHHS caseworker contacted the day care center and spoke to two staff that did not corroborate Dr. Handrahan’s statement about what she states she was told by day care staff about Mr. Malenko. Day Care staff reported to the caseworker that they had no concerns about Mr. Malenko but did have concerns about Dr. Handrahan. 3. Medical evidence and report from the visit to the Ellsworth area emergency room did not support Dr. Handrahan’s report of a hematoma. The ER Physician reported a minor healing bruise and stated that a report of child abuse was not made because the injury was not sufficient to warrant it. The Ombudsman notes that, as with the 2009 allegation of sexual abuse made by Dr. Handrahan, there was a delay in this report as well. The facts as stated by Dr. Handrahan indicate the following: 1. When she reported the "hematoma" she stated physical abuse had been going on for two months. No details were given as to where, when and how this abuse occurred.
  4. 4. 2. Dr. Handrahan states that she saw the "hematoma” on Friday evening but did not take the child to the emergency room until Sunday; two days later. While Dr. Handrahan is not a medical professional her field of study could reasonably lead her to understand that a blow sufficient to cause a hematoma on a child's head could also result in inter- cranial bleeding; a life threatening situation. It seems clear that, if there was a blow by Mr. Malenko, it was not a serious injury and wasn't perceived as such by Dr. Handrahan. We believe that to be true because: 1. The emergency room physician did not find a hematoma as Dr. Handrahan states was present on Friday. Were there a hematoma it would have been present on Sunday. 2. The picture of Mila’s forehead taken at the emergency room and made available to us barely showed any bruise at all. It did show what may have been a birth mark. 3. No mandatory referral to DHHS was made. DHHS did contact the Physician to determine that the Physician did not view the healing bruise that she observed to be likely to have been the result of abuse. 4. Dr. Handrahan asserted that the drug "arnica” was applied by Mr. Malenko resulting in the dramatic healing that must have occurred between Friday evening and Sunday. She says that arnica causes very rapid healing when applied to bruises of this sort. 5. Mr. Malenko was not present to continuously apply arnica. Both he and the child care staff report seeing no bruise on Friday prior to Dr. Handrahan picking the child up. A medical definition may help to clarify why Dr. Handrahan’s statement appears inaccurate. Hematoma [hé’mat6’ma, hem’-] pl. hematomas, hematomata Etymology: Gk, haima + oma, tumor "a collection of extravasated blood trapped in the tissues of the skin or in an organ, resulting from trauma or incomplete hemostasis after surgery. Initially there is frank bleeding into the space; if the space is limited, pressure slows and eventually stops the flow of blood. The blood clots, serum collects, the clot hardens, and the mass becomes palpable to the examiner and is often painful to the patient. A hematoma may be drained early in the process and bleeding arrested with pressure or, if necessary, with surgical ligation of the bleeding vessel. Considerable blood may be lost, and infection is a serious complication” Medical references suggest Arnica is helpful in reducing bruising and complications that may result. Nowhere could we find any assertion that it is an over—night cure. In addition to the above Dr. Handrahan suggests that other complaints were completely ignored by DHHS. She states that a urine analysis of Mila completed in April 2010 and allegations about Mr. Ma| enko’s use of the computer to view pornography involving children were not investigated. She states that Mr. Malenko has a criminal record including a relatively recent arrest for shoplifting, that lends credibility to other allegations about his behavior. DHHS maintained it had no such complaints on record but did agree to investigate these new concerns. In April 2010 Dr. Handrahan states that her friend, Polly Campbell, who works for the Attorney General’s Domestic Violence Unit helped Dr. Handrahan secure a urine analysis of Mila Handrahan’s urine. She states this was done because she feared Mr. Malenko was using over the counter medications to drug Mila prior to sexual abuse. She also reported that Mila said her father ”b| ew meth in her face. ”
  5. 5. DHHS did not make any finding related to the alleged exposure to Methamphetamine. We found that DH HS's non-finding was appropriate based on the facts as known. Materials available to us support the following understanding: 1. Polly Campbell did secure a urine analysis for Dr. Handrahan of what Dr. Handrahan states is a sample of Mila’s urine. The sample's analysis returned a finding of meth present at 56n/ g. Dr. Baum, a toxicologist at Yale University offered his expert opinion that this was a likely indication that Mila was exposed to her father's use of the street drug Methamphetamine. 2. Dr. Baum assumes that the urine tested was that of Mila. The Maine Drug Enforcement Agency refused to investigate further because they determined there was no chain of evidence showing strong likelihood that the urine was, in fact, that of Mila. Ms. Campbell obtained the sample from Dr. Handrahan and did not observe that it came directly from Mila. 3. Maine toxicologist Dr. Karen Simone reported to DHHS that if the sample was indeed from Mila it did not suggest exposure to street meth. She stated that the analysis in question showed only the L form of Meth. If it were street Meth it would have shown both form L and D. She concluded that the most likely exposure was to an over the counter medication. 4. Subsequent tests were negative. 5. The expert witnesses from Yale and Harvard suggested very serious concern about Mr. Malenko that in our opinion, lack credibility because: a. The urine sample in question has not been established to be that of Mila Handrahan. B. If the sample were that of Mila a substantial element found in street meth was not present. C. Both experts base their remarks in large part on information provided to them by Dr. Handrahan whose facts about Mr. Malenko have proven to be false in many instances. DHHS made no finding on the allegation of child pornography. They did investigate this allegation (which appears to come from Polly Campbell's ”gut feeling” that he was viewing pornography). No evidence was found. While earlier statements suggest that Mr. Malenko’s computer was given to the State Police Computer Crimes Unit, the State police indicate they never saw Malenko’s computer. Ms. Austin of DHHS reports that Dr. Handrahan declined to discuss it further. DHHS found no criminal record. Dr. Handrahan’s private investigator observed Mr. Malenko for some period of time (actual duration unknown to us) and found no illegal or other objectionable activity. We are very certain that if the private investigator found a criminal record it would have been provided to us with other materials provided to us by Dr. Handrahan. We find that DHHS had no basis for a finding against Mr. Malenko. We note that no one who assessed him directly has made any negative finding. The advocates for Dr. Handrahan have never assessed Mr. Malenko directly. The most concerning evidence against Mr. Malenko has been Mila’s disclosures. We find that DHHS was correct not to substantiate Mr. Malenko on the basis of those statements because: 1. At 2 and ‘/2 years of age Mila was not a good witness and she was subjected to several interviews that may have influenced her. 2. At four she made clearly conflicting reports.
  6. 6. 3. Dr. Handrahan is in a bitter custody battle and has motive to attempt to influence Mila’s disclosures to discredit Mr. Malenko. 4. Nothing Dr. Handrahan has alleged about Mr. Malenko has been supported by objective evidence. We also note that no medical professional who has assessed Mila at her mother's request has made a mandatory report to DHHS. While he did not make formal complaint against Dr. Handrahan it is clear that he might have done so. We suggest that DH HS should further investigate the actions of Dr. Handrahan in relation to the emotional health of her daughter. We suggest that, in addition to a comprehensive Child Protective Services investigation, DHHS specifically consider the following: 1. Over 2 and V2 years Dr. Handrahan has been video and audio taping Mila on a routine basis for the obvious purpose of getting the child to make negative statements about her father. Few parents subject their children to such relentless recording. 2. Mila has been subjected to repeated pelvic exams as Dr. Handra han tried to find evidence against Mr. Malenko. These exams are, by themselves a negative experience for the child, and in the context of an obvious battle between the parents may be traumatic. 3. Mila has also experienced repeated urine tests since the April 2010 test. All have been negative. Again repeated medical testing in the context in which it happened may have been traumatic. 4. Mila was reportedly exposed more recently to an out of control visit to her home (and that of her father) by Dr. Handrahan. Mr. Malenko had the court's order giving him the ability to determine how visits between Mila and Dr. Handrahan might happen. He informed her that visits would be supervised. She went to the home anyway and reportedly behaved in a very inappropriate manner in front of her child. The police were called to the home. 5. While Dr. Handrahan could have been visiting with her daughter, she has not done so since May 10, 2011. Mr. Malenko required supervised visits because he wanted to protect his daughter from further unnecessary and probably traumatic medical exams, video and audio recordings. 6. Mila’s stability in her pre—school program was disrupted because her Mother discontinued paying child support. In relation to the reported traumatic visit to Mr. Malenko’s home Dr. Handrahan has tried to place the blame for that action on a letter that she claims Mark Dalton, Program Administrator of DH HS's Biddeford Office wrote saying he was ordering only supervised visits for Dr. Handrahan. When no such letter was found she maintained it was forged by Malenko and his attorney. The police person present stated that there was a court order not a letter. In conclusion, we note that Dr. Handrahan retained the services of Maureen Flatley in this most recent review. Ms. Flatley told DHHS she would be communicating for Dr. Handrahan and that all communication should go through her. After she left Dr. Handrahan’s employ Dr. Flatley reportedly concluded her work with DHHS with an acknowledgment of the thoroughness and competence of their work.
  7. 7. Materials reviewed by the Ombudsman: For the 2011 Review - The Ombudsman's Office reviewed the following materials: 4/1/11 CPS report, CPA decision, medical records, court documents, emails, and narrative logs from 4/4/11 to 5/12/11, 6/3/11 CPS report, CPA decision, emails from Ms. Handrahan, Ms. Handrahan’s history of Mr. Malenko’s abuse of Mila, court documents, emails from Maine Computer Crime Unit, emails from attorney Waxman, various recordings by Ms. Handrahan, narrative log from 6/6/11 to 6/28/11, all materials furnished by Ms. Handrahan, and all materials furnished by Mr. Waxman. For the 2009 Review - The Ombudsman reviewed the following documents; Child Protection Assessments, Narrative Logs dated 07-13-09 to 08-21-09, PFA‘s, Court documents and exhibits presented for evidence, releases of information, Spurwink Medical Evaluation 07-14-09, Spurwink Psychosocial Evidentiary Assessment 07-28-09 & 08-04-09, Carol Lynn Kabacoff, Psy. D Family Assessment dated July, August, September 2008, Mi| a's medical docs, Igor Malenko’s Polygraph Examination dated 07-24-09, Semmelweis University School — Community Psychiatric Centre Medical Report, and GAL reports. W, W“ r/22/~ G. Dean Crocker, MSW, Ombudsman for Child Welfare