Expert who gave more than 100 assessments in Ontario child protection cases lied about credentials for years, judge finds
By Jacques Gallant
Legal Affairs Reporter
Wed., July 31, 2019
An Ontario psychologist who testified she has conducted more than 100 assessments as an expert in child protection cases — including some in which children were permanently taken from their parents — lied about her credentials and was unqualified to perform the work, a judge has found.
Nicole Walton-Allen had “intentionally misrepresented her qualifications” since at least 2009, according to a December ruling by Ontario Court Justice Penny Jones in a case in which the Hamilton-based psychologist gave an expert opinion supporting the Halton children’s aid society’s request that all five children in one family should be placed in its extended care.
Walton-Allen, who made the recommendations in a report known as a parenting capacity assessment, is authorized by the College of Psychologists of Ontario to practise in the area of school psychology, but had repeatedly passed herself off as a clinical psychologist to increase her credibility as a mental health professional, Jones found.
“I find that (Walton-Allen) does not have the qualifications to complete such a report given the complexities of the issues involved and given her educational and professional background,” Jones wrote after tossing the psychologist’s 280-page report.
The fact Walton-Allen’s reports had been accepted as expert testimony in other courts, “is not binding on me,” ruled Jones, a longtime family court judge who normally presides at Toronto’s 311 Jarvis St. courthouse. “I suspect that the same decision I have made would have been made by those other courts if the facts known to me were also known to them.”
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In a system where losing a child to the state is described by lawyers as the “capital punishment,” the damning findings against Walton-Allen raise the question of whether children were permanently taken away from their parents based partly or entirely on reports prepared by a psychologist found to be unqualified.
The case also highlights the fact that there are no clear rules on the type of professional who should be conducting a parenting capacity assessment, which typically looks at whether parents can address the child’s basic needs and whether there are supports available to them. The judge urged the College of Psychologists to fix this, saying these assessments can be “very influential” on a case.
“This is another Motherisk,” said Novalea Jarvis, the lawyer for the mother in the Halton case, who brought Walton-Allen’s credentials to the judge’s attention.
Lawyer Novalea Jarvis, who represented the mother in the Halton case, is calling for an independent review of child protection cases in which psychologist Nicole Walton-Allen provided an expert opinion.
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Jarvis was referring to the Hospital for Sick Children scandal, uncovered by a Toronto Star investigation, in which drug and alcohol hair samples from the hospital’s Motherisk lab were admitted as evidence in thousands of child protection proceedings even though they did not follow testing gold standards.
Like with the Motherisk scandal, Jarvis is calling for an independent review of all cases in which Walton-Allen submitted an assessment.
“I think it’s exactly the same,” Jarvis told the Star. “You have faulty testing — it can be faulty testing on the child who died, it can be faulty testing by way of a hair follicle test or can just be someone who comes to court and doesn’t have the proper credentials, training, education and experience.”
Tammy Law, the president of the Toronto chapter of the Ontario Association of Child Protection Lawyers, echoed the call for a review, saying that after Motherisk the next area of serious concern in the system is parenting capacity assessments.
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“We need to know what went wrong here, and why did we rely on so many of these assessments, and what was the decision-making process,” Law said. “Was there any finding that was not reasonable, based solely on her opinion? Or largely on her opinion? It’s really troubling.”
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The Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies — an umbrella organization representing the province’s children’s aid societies — said it no longer supports the use of Walton-Allen’s services for parenting capacity assessments. The association did not answer questions as to when it became aware of Jones’ ruling and whether there should be an independent review.
“We take Justice Jones’ findings regarding the court-appointed psychologist in this case very seriously,” Nicole Bonnie, the association’s CEO, said in a statement to the Star. “Ontario’s children’s aid societies’ priority is the safety and well-being of all children, youth, and families and we continue to support the use of authorized individuals and services to inform and support the work.”
A staff member at the company founded by Walton-Allen, Behaviour Innovations, confirmed the psychologist received the Star’s email of detailed questions for this story. The Star received no response from Walton-Allen.
The psychologist co-founded Behaviour Innovations, which has offices in Hamilton and Toronto, in 1998. According to its website, the private agency provides psychological services to individuals with developmental disabilities, including autism.
According to Jones’ ruling, Walton-Allen had been approved to be the parenting capacity assessor by a different judge in the Halton case based on her CV, which said she was a clinical psychologist. The children’s aid society had proposed Walton-Allen and the mother, who was represented by a different lawyer at the time, consented to the choice.
After Jarvis discovered from the College of Psychologists that Walton-Allen was only authorized to practise in school psychology, she requested additional trial time to cross-examine her on her credentials.
In court, Walton-Allen testified that she had completed more than 100 parenting capacity assessments since 1992, and had spoken in court on about 20 of those assessments. She acknowledged she was not a clinical psychologist, Jones wrote, but believed she was well qualified to prepare parenting capacity assessments.
Walton-Allen provided a variety of reasons in court for why so many materials listed her with that designation.
It was a staff member’s error that the title appeared on her CV, she said. (She later submitted a corrected CV to court.) When asked why two earlier reported court decisions referred to her as a clinical psychologist, she said she did not notice the error on her CV at the time and did not hear the judge in the case qualify her as a clinical psychologist.
She denied being aware that her LinkedIn page (which can no longer be found online) and company website listed her as a clinical psychologist. (The website, which no longer describes her as a clinical psychologist, did so as recently as August 2018, according to an online archive.)
“Her denials strained credulity,” the judge wrote in her ruling.
But the final straw for the judge was a letter that Walton-Allen “dictated, read and sent” to a psychiatrist in the Halton case. In it, she said: “I am the clinical psychologist assigned to do a court-ordered parenting capacity assessment.”
Walton-Allen could not provide the court with an explanation for how that could have happened, the judge found.
“I became convinced that she had been intentionally using the clinical designation to increase her credibility as a psychologist,” Jones wrote.
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With Walton-Allen’s report struck, and following a trial that heard from a number of witnesses, the children’s aid society conceded that the two youngest children should be placed in the mother’s custody with conditions, Jarvis told the Star.
Had the report been accepted, “I think my client may not have gotten the children back,” Jarvis said.
The mother had also consented to having her three oldest children placed in the society’s extended care, with access to them, due to their specialized needs, Jarvis said. She specified that Walton-Allen’s report had no bearing on that decision.
The mother, who is identified as J.B. in the ruling under the strict publication ban imposed in child protection cases, told the Star in a statement that she was “shocked” when she received Walton-Allen’s assessment. “How could the assessor say I could not parent any of my children safely when I had previously cared for my children for over 10 years on my own?”
“I have now had my two youngest children in my full-time care since December 2018 and have been able to safely parent my children from then to the present contrary to the findings of Dr. Walton-Allen,” she said.
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(The children’s father, identified as D.T. in the ruling, indicated he did not intend to participate in the trial, the judge said.)
A 2008 academic article in the Canadian Journal of Family Law found court-ordered assessments in child protection cases are “among the most challenging forensic assessments that mental health professionals undertake” and can be heavily relied on by the courts.
The result of a child protection proceeding was consistent with the recommendations of the assessor in almost 80 per cent of cases, according to a survey of 27 judges included in the article. Yet despite their critical importance to a case, there are no clear rules regarding who should be doing the assessments.
“Without accepted standards for professionals carrying out (assessments), there is a significant risk that some of those who are preparing assessment reports may not be competent to undertake the work,” wrote the article’s authors, Queen’s University family law professor Nicholas Bala and Alan Leschied, a psychologist and professor in the faculty of education at Western University.
The assessment analyzes the child’s attachment to the parents, the child’s “cognitive, behavioural and emotional adjustment,” the parents’ ability to provide for basic needs and whether they have any mental health or addiction issues, according to the article.
Jones’ ruling did not indicate how much Walton-Allen charged for the assessment. David Miller, treasurer of the child protection lawyers’ association’s Toronto chapter, told the Star that the society typically pays for the assessment, which lately can range in price from $3,000 to $5,000. Jarvis said that in her experience they can range from $13,000 to $20,000.
In the Halton case, Jones heard testimony from College of Psychologists registrar Rick Morris, who said that, to his knowledge, most parenting capacity assessments are done by clinical psychologists. He testified that a school psychologist probably wouldn’t have training to the same extent in more serious psychological disorders, including schizophrenia.
Morris also said in court there is no rule that states only clinical psychologists can do the assessments, something the judge said needs to change.
“I would urge the College of Psychologists of Ontario to review this policy in light of the recent miscarriages of justice that have resulted from unqualified expert opinion evidence being accepted by the court,” Jones said in her ruling.
Morris told the Star in an email that it is not the practice of the college to set specific qualifications or experience necessary to perform a particular type of assessment.
“Members of the College of Psychologists conduct a wide variety of assessments and utilize a very broad spectrum of intervention techniques. Each requires knowledge, training and skill specific to the nature of the assessment or type of intervention,” he said.
It is professional misconduct for a psychologist to intentionally make misleading public statements about their area of authorized practice, Jones noted in her ruling. (J.B. filed a complaint against Walton-Allen with the college around October 2018, her lawyer said, but has yet to get a decision as to whether it will be sent to a discipline hearing.)
The judge compared the college’s definitions for school psychology and clinical psychology in coming to her decision. She noted that a school psychologist would have training “in the administering of psychological testing with a focus on learning issues and an ability to perform an appropriate psychological assessment and be able to plan, execute and evaluate an appropriate psychoeducational intervention.”
A clinical psychologist can diagnose and/or treat individuals with disorders of behaviour, emotions and thought, the judge wrote. Clinical psychologists require knowledge of a number of areas and must be able to come up with a diagnosis and plan and execute an appropriate treatment program, Jones wrote.
Among other things, the court had tasked Walton-Allen with examining whether the parents had any “cognitive, psychiatric, psychological or mental health issues” which could affect their ability to parent the children.
Looking at the assessment, Jones concluded that it would fall within the clinical area of practice, as it made “far-ranging recommendations and comments about personality and psychopathalogy, abnormal behaviour and prognosis for change.”
Dr. Javeed Sukhera, the interim chair of the division of child and adolescent psychiatry at Western University, agreed that the assessments are traditionally done by child psychiatrists or clinical or forensic psychologists, due to the expertise required.
“It’s pretty complex, you need to have knowledge about the way the brain functions, knowledge about human cognition, knowledge about the concept of capacity, and how to make those assessments,” Sukhera told the Star. “But you also need to have a deep knowledge of child development and about how children and young people live and function in the world.”
Law, the head of the child protection lawyers’ association’s Toronto chapter, said she wants to know how many cases involving a Walton-Allen assessment did not end with a judge’s ruling — such as instances in which parents decided to settle.
“I question in cases that aren’t reported, whether parents were forced, coerced or pressured into agreeing to Crown wardship, or giving their children to family members,” she said. “There is a real concern about miscarriages of justice.
“But as we saw in Motherisk, it’s very hard to turn this stuff around. The child has been adopted. What do you do?”
In her statement to the Star, J.B. said that the children’s aid societies must investigate the credentials of the assessors they propose to the court, and must properly scrutinize the parenting capacity assessment when they receive it, as should all other parties in a child protection proceeding.
“I believe that there needs to be an investigation into any court matter wherein Dr. Walton-Allen was the assessor,” J.B. said. “There needs to be more protection for the public from experts who are not qualified.”
Jacques Gallant can be reached at email@example.com.
Jacques Gallant is a Toronto-based reporter covering legal affairs. Follow him on Twitter: @JacquesGallant
Hamilton-based expert who gave more than 100 assessments in Ontario child protection cases lied about credentials for years, judge finds
Hamilton-based psychologist Dr. Nicole Walton-Allen had “intentionally misrepresented her qualifications
” since at least 2009, according to a December ruling by Ontario Court Justice Penny Jones.
Lawyer Novalea Jarvis, who represented the mother in the Halton case, is calling for an independent review of child protection cases in which psychologist Nicole Walton-Allen provided an expert opinion. – Richard Lautens , Toronto Star
1 / 2
An Ontario psychologist who testified she has conducted more than 100 assessments as an expert in child protection cases — including some in which children were permanently taken from their parents — lied about her credentials and was unqualified to perform the work, a judge has found.
Nicole Walton-Allen had “intentionally misrepresented her qualifications” since at least 2009, according to a December ruling by Ontario Court Justice Penny Jones in a case in which the Hamilton-based psychologist gave an expert opinion supporting the Halton children’s aid society’s request that all five children in one family should be placed in itsextended care.
(2016) Family of #Alberta man scalded to death in care demands government action after inquiry
Concerns Over NHS Gender Identity Service Investigated
July 25, 2019
The UK’s Health Research Authority (HRA) is investigating concerns raised by the BBC’s Newsnight programme about the NHS Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) and early access to puberty blockers.
The decision to prescribe the hormone blocking drugs is partly based on the results of a study, the design of which is now in question. Michael Biggs, associate professor of sociology at Oxford University, told the BBC he didn’t see how children and parents could have given informed consent for the drugs based on the “lack of information” provided.
Last year, Medscape reported on how demand for transgender care far outstrips the evidence-based medicine to support it.
Policy Based on Unpublished Study
The programme reported how GIDS used an unpublished study as evidence to lower the age to offer puberty blockers to children as young as 11 with gender identity issues. The service has bases in London at the Tavistock Centre and in Leeds.
The programme also reported concerns about the treatment possibly causing suicidal thoughts. The Tavistock Centre’s board minutes from 2015 show significant levels of thoughts of self-harm, suicidal thoughts, and suicide attempts among study participants.
Puberty blocking is used, in effect, to buy time before any future decision on gender reassignment. However, previous research from Australia found that once the treatment began children or teenagers tended to always continue with a gender change.
There have been high profile resignations from the service. There was criticism in an open letter to the head of GIDS from a former clinical psychologist at the service in Leeds, Dr Kirsty Entwhistle. She wrote: “I think it is a problem that GIDS clinicians are making decisions that will have a major impact on children and young people’s bodies and on their lives, potentially the rest of their lives, without a robust evidence base.
“GIDS clinicians tell children and families that puberty blockers/hormone blocks are ‘fully reversible’ but the reality is no one knows what the impacts are on children’s brains so how is it possible to make this claim?
“It is also a problem that GIDS clinicians are afraid of raising their concerns for fear of being labelled transphobic by colleagues.”
Later in the letter she wrote: “I also strongly believe that it is GIDS duty to make it known that it is highly unlikely that any child presenting there will be told that they are not transgender. One of my biggest ethical dilemmas whilst working at GIDS was that there were parents who brought their child to GIDS anticipating that we would confirm that the child was not transgender but we are not able to tell parents that actually there is some unspoken rule that means GIDS clinicians do not tell families, ‘your child is not transgender’.
“Since leaving GIDS I have, over time, been learning about organisations and academics who present a more critical approach to gender identity and the medical pathway for children. I have also seen accounts of young people who no longer identify as transgender, even after medical interventions and are now distressed about having been put on the medical pathway. It is by seeing their courage that gives me the courage and the ethical duty to speak up.”
Teresa Allen, chief executive of the HRA said in a statement: ” The HRA co-ordinates the Research Ethics Service, a network of committees which reviews around 5000 health and social care research studies each year across the UK … We have examined the review process for the research study into pubertal suppression for adolescents with gender identity disorder, which was approved by a REC [Research Ethics Committee] in 2011. The committee followed the normal process of reviewing the study documentation, including the participant information and consent process. However, the information that Newsnight has brought to our attention has not been raised with us before. We will therefore investigate further, which may include a review of the original ethics opinion.”
A spokesperson told Medscape News UK that no timescale is yet in place for that investigation.
The HRA’s statement said it has already looked at the REC minutes “to establish what ethical issues were identified by the REC and what advice they gave in the context of this particular type of study. We have looked at the minutes and documents that we had from the second REC submission to establish whether the researchers had considered advice from the first REC submission in terms of their approach to this study. We have checked the available records to establish whether any adverse events were reported to us or the REC about this study and we have checked our complaints log to establish the nature of any complaints received and acted upon those findings.”
The statement continued: “On the material available to us at present we have not seen anything that raises a specific concern or that we believe has been handled inappropriately. However, the ethics review was undertaken by our predecessor organisation, and we do not have all of the information about the study, including the Participant Information Sheet (PIS). Given that concerns have been raised about the PIS, we would like to consider that to see if there are any lessons to be learnt, or matters to discuss with the research team or sponsor.”
GIDS issued a response refuting the allegations made: “Recent statements appearing in the media do not represent the ethos or practice of our Gender Identity Development Service, which takes a thoughtful and safe approach, caring for young people at a vulnerable time in their lives. Our experience with this group indicates that the choice to do nothing may do significant harm, but the service is thorough and systematic in its approach to exploring with the young people and families the best way of dealing with their distress and the consequences of different choices.
“This is a contested field of work. The service has always taken a balanced approach and does not affiliate with lobby groups. In this context, the service attempts to occupy a thoughtful position based on the best available evidence while facing criticism from both ends of the spectrum of opinion in a highly scrutinised area of practice.
“In responding to some concerns raised about the service, the Trust completed a Board level review earlier this year, which resulted in recommendations to address issues, including clarifying processes within the service and addressing any unwarranted variations in practice. However, we strongly refute the blanket and generalised criticisms of the service. These points are at variance with the experience of service users within the service, which have been overwhelmingly positive. Where any clinician has specific concerns, the Trust has well established procedures for reporting them.”
MLA proposes $10K fine for not reporting harm to a child
Updated: June 11, 2019
A person could be jailed for six months and fined $10,000 if they fail to call police when a child is in harm’s way under a bill making its way through the legislature.
If passed, Bill 202 will amend the Child Welfare Act to hold adults accountable for their lack of action if they know or suspect a child needs welfare intervention.
Currently, the act only requires people to contact “a director” if they have reasonable and probable grounds to believe that a child is in need of intervention. It’s referring to a director within the child welfare system, but UCP Calgary-West MLA Mike Ellis, who tabled Bill 202, says few people know who a director is, let alone how to contact one.
Ellis argued it’s imperative to broaden that to police — a term everyone understands and knows how to contact.
“This is a mechanism to provide accountability for those people who are ignoring a child in need of intervention and say, ‘You can’t ignore this anymore,’” Ellis told a legislative committee meeting Tuesday morning.
The standing committee voted Tuesday to expedite the bill’s review process and recommend it continue its way through the house, though NDP voices in the group urged the committee to first hear from social-workers.
Change ‘could save a life’
Bill 202 echoes a bill Ellis brought forward in 2016, which he called Serenity’s Law.
He did so after the Edmonton Journal broke the story of Serenity, a four-year-old girl who died — bruised, malnourished, with a suspected head injury — on Sept. 27, 2014, while in a kinship care agreement.
Time constraints saw that bill die on the order paper before it passed.
Serenity’s biological mom travelled from outside Alberta to the legislature to urge the passing of the bill bearing her daughter’s name, saying she had high hopes it would help protect kids.
Citing Serenity’s mom’s words at the time, Ellis told the committee Tuesday adults in the home before the little girl’s death should have been aware of the abuse and informed authorities.
“She said this small change could have saved Serenity’s life,” Ellis said Tuesday.
Brooks-Medicine Hat UCP MLA Michaela Glasgo said that’s why the committee should forgo consultations with stakeholders.
The longer we wait, she said, the more children could potentially lose their lives.
by Michael Biggs, Dept of Sociology, University of Oxford
(22 July 2019)
Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust started an experiment in 2011, using Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone agonist (GnRHa) to block puberty in children suffering gender dysphoria. My original investigation for Transgender Trend (posted on 5 March 2019) raised serious questions about this experiment. The outcomes were never published in a scientific journal. And I discovered unpublished evidence that initial results, after the drugs had been administered for one year, were predominantly negative.
My research was reported by the Daily Telegraph. It is elaborated in a chapter in Inventing Transgender Children and Young People , edited by Michele Moore and Heather Brunskell-Evans. It has just featured on BBC Newsnight, broadcast on 22 July.
Following my original investigation, I wrote to Professor Russell Viner at University College London (UCL), the experiment’s principal investigator, and Dr Polly Carmichael, Director of the Tavistock’s Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS), asking why they failed to publish results. I also contacted the Research Ethics Committee which originally granted permission, pointing out that the researchers consistently failed to provide annual progress reports. Another researcher working with Transgender Trend submitted a Freedom of Information request for further details of the experiment, and this apparently prompted GIDS to post a webpage entitled ‘A statement and update on the Early Intervention Study by the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust’ at the end of June. The statement first came to notice in the Sunday Times on 7 July.
The statement runs to more than 4,600 words. The first 3,600 detail the origins of the experiment, emphasizing two points. First, in the years before 2011, families and transgendering organizations like Mermaids lobbied vigorously to lower the age at which GnRHa drugs were administered to children, and the Tavistock could not resist this pressure. Second, the researchers could not employ the standard randomized trial to assess the effects of blocking puberty. Both points have some justification, but one wonders why such a lengthy apologia would be necessary if the experiment’s outcomes have been favourable.
The Tavistock now claims ‘The study concluded in February 2019 when the last cohort member began the next stage of therapy (cross-sex hormones) at age 17 years’. When the Daily Telegraph asked GIDS to respond to my questions (before publication on 6 March), its spokesman did not mention that the study had just concluded. Similarly, on 26 March, Viner replied to my letter, stating ‘The early intervention study cohort remain under study as some of the last recruited young people have still not completed the treatment pathway’ (italics added). Carmichael’s reply on the same date also said nothing about the study having been concluded in February. The webpage on GIDS’ research still describes it as ‘a study that is currently underway’.
When Lord Lucas kindly followed my suggestion to ask a parliamentary question, he was told on 22 May that the Tavistock ‘plans to publish the data once all of the young people in the study have reached the stage when a clinical decision is made about moving from pubertal suppressants to cross-sex hormones, which the Trust expects to occur in the next 12 months’. Did the Tavistock mislead the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the Department of Health and Social Care, who answered the question? The earliest indication that the experiment had terminated came from the NHS Research Ethics Committee, which informed me on 25 June that a final report is now being drafted by the chief investigator, Viner. One suspects that this precipitous ending – which has apparently been backdated to February – was forced by Transgender Trend’s scrutiny.
Whenever the study formally ended, the researchers have been collecting data for eight years. The first subject consented to GnRHa drugs in June 2011. All 44 subjects enrolled in the experiment had completed one year on the drugs by mid 2015, two years by mid 2016, and three years by mid 2017. The results should have been closely monitored and the outcomes published in a scientific journal. After all, GnRHa has never been licensed for treating gender dysphoria, not just in the United Kingdom but anywhere in the world.
Five years ago, in 2014, Carmichael told the Mail on Sunday that the study demonstrated favourable outcomes: ‘Now we’ve done the study and the results thus far have been positive we’ve decided to continue with it’ (italics added). She even appeared in a BBC television programme – ‘I Am Leo’, aimed at audiences aged 6 to 12 – to promote the benefits of GnRHa drugs. (See our analysis of the programme here).
The Tavistock’s statement says remarkably little about the experiment’s outcomes. It cites Carmichael and Viner’s presentation to the 2014 World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) conference showing ‘there was no overall improvement in mood or psychological wellbeing using standardized psychological measures’ (italics added). This finding was presented in February 2014, but just four months later Carmichael claimed ‘the results thus far have been positive’. I cannot find slides from this 2014 presentation, but Carmichael’s presentation to the 2016 WPATH conference apparently recycles the same finding. It also acknowledges that ‘Natal girls showed an increase in internalising problems from t0 to t1 [after 12 months on GnRHa] as reported by their parents’ (italics added). This negative outcome is omitted from the Tavistock’s statement.
The statement also omits two other statistically significant negative outcomes that I discovered buried in an appendix submitted to the Tavistock’s Board of Directors in 2015. Most seriously, after a year on GnRHa, ‘a significant increase was found in the first item “I deliberately try to hurt or kill self”’’. Evidence that an experimental treatment raised the risk of self-harm should be a major concern, but GIDS have never addressed this finding. There is a backhanded admission in a presentation given by the GIDS endocrinologist, Professor Gary Butler, to the 2016 WPATH conference (only the abstract is available). ‘Partial suppression [of sex hormones by GnRHa] may produce more side effects due to hormone swings, and also a lowering in mood leading to clinical depression. Expectations of improvement in functioning and relief of the dysphoria are not as extensive as anticipated, and psychometric indices do not always improve nor does the prevalence of measures of disturbance such as deliberate self harm improve.’ Butler’s presentation is, curiously enough, not cited in the Tavistock’s statement.
The Tavistock’s statement also fails to mention an article coauthored by Carmichael (Costa et al. 2016), which includes data from some subjects in the Early Intervention Study. This article purported to show beneficial outcomes from GnRHa, but I have demonstrated that the authors made an elementary statistical error. The analysis actually failed to detect any difference between children who were administered GnRHa and those who were not.
Finally, the Tavistock’s statement cites a recent article on bone density, coauthored by Butler (Tobin, Ting, and Butler 2018). The article – a one-page abstract – emphasizes that bone density did not decline, in absolute terms, after GnRHa was administered. This is extremely misleading, as pointed out by Dr Michael Laidlaw and reiterated by Dr William J. Malone, both endocrinologists. Growing children need bone density to increase. The article admits that the children did experience a decline relative to the normal standard for their age group, and this decline was especially marked for girls. My graph shows the distributions implied by the article’s figures.
It is obvious that a substantial minority of the girls on GnRHa suffered from abnormally low bone density.
In sum, the Tavistock’s statement continues the sorry record of prevarication and obfuscation that has dogged the experiment for several years. GIDS is clearly incapable of undertaking rigorous scientific research, perhaps because it has been swamped by exponentially increasing caseloads. There is no such excuse for the failure of UCL’s Institute of Child Health, the experiment’s lead sponsor. Neither organization can be trusted to objectively analyze the 2011 experiment.
We demand that a team of independent researchers be given access to all the data from the experiment. They will need expertise in statistics, psychiatry, and endocrinology; most importantly, they must have no vested interests in the promotion of GnRHa drugs. Given that this experiment has been used since 2014 to justify the provision of these drugs to children under the NHS, the outcomes of this experiment – on all the physical, psychological, and behavioural measures that were collected – must be published urgently.
Our next post will examine in detail the process undertaken by GIDS to gain ethical approval for this study.
In Their Own Words: Parents of Kids Who Think They Are Trans Speak Out
Parents like us must remain anonymous to maintain our children’s privacy, and because we face legal repercussions if our names are revealed. Parents who do not support their child’s gender identity risk being reported to Child Protective Services and losing custody of their children.
Gender Dissenter Gets Fired https://www.nationalreview.com/2019/07/allen-josephson-gender-dissenter-gets-fired/
Gender Dissenter Gets Fired
By MADELEINE KEARNS
July 12, 2019 11:08 AM
Dr. Allan Josephson discusses academic freedom, child welfare, gender ideology, and the price he has paid for his principles.
Allan M. Josephson is a distinguished psychiatrist who, since 2003, has transformed the division of child and adolescent psychiatry and psychology at the University of Louisville from a struggling department to a nationally acclaimed program. In the fall of 2017 he appeared on a panel at the Heritage Foundation and shared his professional opinion on the medicalization of gender-confused youth. The university responded by demoting him and then effectively firing him.
Now he is fighting back. Josephson v. Bendapudi has been filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky.
Here Josephson discusses his case, gender dysphoria, academic freedom, and the medical harms of gender ideology for children with National Review’s Madeleine Kearns. (Note: This interview has been edited for clarity.)
Madeleine Kearns: This all started after you appeared on a panel at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. Were you speaking there as a conservative or as a medical professional?
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Senior Democrats Fear Debate Will Devolve Into Circular Firing Squad
Allan Josephson: Oh, I was speaking as a medical professional, clearly. And I was chosen because of the perspective that I would give. I had been directing the division of child and adolescent psychiatry at the University of Louisville for 15 years. I had been successful there and was asked to give a speech off campus and on my own time. It was not a university event, and I was speaking in my individual capacity.
MK: So what happened?
AJ: Shortly after that speech, it became clear that a few on my faculty were upset with some of the things that I’d said. Within a few short weeks — it was stunning how quickly it occurred — I was removed from my leadership position and then, within the next year, subjected to fairly hostile work-environment situations and, finally, not that long ago, informed that my contract would not be renewed when it ended on June 30.
MK: So this is because of your expressed professional opinion on gender dysphoria in young people. I assume you knew, going to the Heritage Foundation, that this is a very hot topic politically. And yet you felt compelled to speak up. Why?
AJ: Well, I was asked by people that I respected. Their concern was that we hear all kinds of information from one perspective. And the leaders of the seminar recognized that not all voices were being heard. I had given a couple of talks in other places. So, they invited me, and I was aware of the potential controversy. But I also had things I needed to say because I felt they were clinically true and appropriate and because this is a perspective that more people need to hear.
MK: How stressful has this ordeal been?
AJ: It has had various phases. The first phase was “this just can’t be happening to me.” I was very successful and very well liked. I built my division up from a few people to probably 15 and we had a clinic of almost 30 people. I was banned from faculty meetings. I was banned from certain kinds of interactions with staff and told what I could and couldn’t say to people. And this was a place that I built, you know. And then the stress of one’s personal relationships. My family worried about me, friends worried about me. It was probably was six months before I felt comfortable and was sleeping again. You know, the personal stress is pretty enormous, but then I decided to do something.
MK: You mentioned earlier about the politicization of this particular field of medicine more generally and gave the example of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which last year issued a widely criticized policy statement endorsing “gender affirmation” [psychological, medical, and surgical sex-change treatments for minors]. You said something very interesting: that for people who aren’t familiar with this process, this could seem like there’s a medical consensus, when actually, it is a very small number of people driving this change.
AJ: It’s a political process: correct. And the way committees are formed, various people who have various interests get on them. They do intense work, and sometimes very good work, but it often doesn’t meet the scrutiny of a scientific statement. An organization affirming a position is not necessarily science, but it is a group of people agreeing to say something.
MK: So is what you’re saying that, within the profession, a lot of people agree with you in your assessment of this issue?
AJ: Well, it’s hard to know what “lots of people” means. I think it could be that there’s a silent majority. I think there are a lot of people who agree with me: There’s no question. And I’ve spoken with colleagues on various campuses who have had similar situations where someone will come into their office, close the door behind them, and say something to the effect of, “You know, I really agree with you, but for various reasons I can’t speak out.” So whether it’s intimidation, fear of bullying, it’s hard to know how big that number is. But I can assure you since the Heritage Foundation, I’ve had many supportive calls from parents of children experiencing gender dysphoria, etc.
MK: Interestingly, I’ve also had emails and calls from AAP members and pediatricians saying pretty much what you said and asking to remain anonymous.
MK: The other thing you mentioned is that — to those outside this world — it can seem as though there are only a handful of doctors expressing your view, which makes them much easier to dismiss as crackpots or whatever.
AJ: I think it takes a certain academic perspective and knowledge of the field to say something. It can be lonely. For me, it was really three things.
First, it was a conviction that I had been wronged. It was just this moral sense. You don’t do this to someone who had worked this hard for university and in a few weeks get rid of them for expressing a view, which is really part of your job description. So there was a kind of a righteous indignation.
Second, I saw parents and children being hurt by this. These kids are, for the most part, very vulnerable people. You can see that when you spend time with them. Certainly, the teenagers have multiple problems. Most of the time, 60 or 70 percent of the time, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, they’re hurting people. And parents are confused because they’re basically getting one message from medical and mental-health professionals and that is “Affirm people.” And so I have encouraged people to explore before prescribing treatment, specifically to consider other developmental factors, family factors, that have gone into the insecurities that are associated with this.
And, and then finally, I spoke up because I’m at the end of my career. I have accomplished a lot professionally and had an established reputation. If someone like me can be demoted, harassed, and then effectively fired for expressing my views, think of what an intimidating effect this has on younger professionals, who are not yet established in their careers. And that should not be how academics proceeds or how science proceeds. We think together, we reason together, we talk together. My colleagues couldn’t do that. And I think we see that nationally as well.
MK: And gender dysphoria is just one of many things that you have contributed to professionally, isn’t it?
AJ: Oh, absolutely. I have a broad range of interests and still do.
MK: [Laughs] I’m glad to hear it. Conversely, for a lot of activists, it would seem that this is all they think about. They have a certain kind of single-mindedness. Whereas, for most people who have weighed in on this issue in any way, it’s really one of many, many things going on in their lives. It’s just that they feel it’s necessary — given what’s at stake, given what’s happening to kids — to respond.
AJ: That is a very, very perceptive comment. I have kind of a joke with some of my family and friends. One of the ways that you diagnose transgenderism, according to the lingo, is that if a child is “persistent, consistent, and insistent” in the demand that they are the gender opposite to their biological sex, then it must be true. When I saw that, my knee-jerk response was, “Do these people have children?” Because in the process of raising children, they insistently, persistently, consistently demand lots of things that are not good for them, whether it’s turning off the computer, eating your own food, staying up too late, and it’s the parents’ job then to guide them to say, This is what you need to do to be healthy.
And, and of course, in a loving relationship, kids may test that a little bit, but they accept it. That’s what’s been the most amazing thing about this. These people are uni-focused and often don’t have children, and don’t understand children. And they are often not scientists. So it’s an interesting group that fuels this.
MK: What’s it going to take for this environment to change so that young medical professionals are able to say what they really think about this issue?
AJ: I think it would take a return to basic principles. There are a lot of things that are just amazing. Like why this phenomenon is so widespread now, when it virtually was unheard of ten years ago. It has to be a social, cultural phenomenon. We need to understand those factors and think about it. But what we’re hearing right now is just to keep quiet and keep your head down. And that’s not how science advances. That’s not how we best serve our patients.
MK: Your particular case really relates strongly to academic freedom. But there is another concern I think many people are having — coercing clinical practice.
Recently in the U.K., a doctor was fired for refusing to call trans patients by their preferred pronouns. The particulars of that case notwithstanding, I think what a lot of people don’t realize is that treating a child as if they were the opposite sex is a form of social psychological treatment, one that could lessen the likelihood that that child will psychologically realign with their body by the end of adolescence.
There seems to be an outsourcing of this kind of psychological evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment to teachers, parents etc., so this is an issue related to not just to academic freedom but to clinical practice at the culture at large. Do you agree with that?
AJ: Yes. The lack of thorough evaluation is a huge problem. Most clinicians or most places won’t say that they don’t evaluate people, but I’ve sat through some situations where it was stunning, the cursory nature of the evaluation, and then after that time the patient gets hormones. I mean, it is, it is a knee-jerk response in many clinics, and I think you used the word “appropriate” in “evaluation.” What is going on? Why should a child declare that there’s something that they’re biologically not? That’s a fascinating intellectual question in what is going on here. But there’s a shutdown of any investigative kind of thinking. That’s a real problem.
MK: Do you worry about the kind of global direction of this? I’m thinking specifically about the World Health Organization, which recently removed gender dysphoria from its list of mental disorders. Some worry that future editions of the DSM [the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders] might do the same. Is it possible that we will get to a situation where a child comes into a clinic, diagnoses themselves, and prescribes their own treatment, and clinicians are powerless to do anything but go right ahead?
AJ: We are very close to that now. There are now over 50 gender clinics in the United States. These were unheard of seven or eight years ago. And they’re set up real, almost like — if I may use a crude analogy — a restaurant where a person comes in and orders a treatment. Doctors have always said — you give me the symptoms, and I’ll help you with what I think is going on for the diagnosis. But that basic process is being short-circuited by a “this is my diagnosis; this is what I have” approach. And literally they’re asking for hormones. And amazingly, doctors are going along with it in many cases. I think it’s a travesty of our profession.
MK: What would you want to say to a medical professional reading this who might be feeling scared and worried, but who shares your concerns?
AJ: I think it just has to be a groundswell of discussion and seeing the activist tactics for what they are. The other side is bullying, intimidating. It’s such a nonacademic approach to things. Academia — the marketplace of ideas, the sharing back and forth, the refining of ideas, testing of ideas — is now being replaced by activist approaches.
So I think we need to talk together. We need to support each other. I field all the phone calls I get. I’ve had people, mostly parents of children suffering from gender dysphoria, but also professionals, after some interactions, say, “Well, thanks, doctor. You’ve given me hope again.”
How Child Protective Services Can Trap the Parents They’re Supposed to Help
July 16, 2019 | Elizabeth Brico
I woke to the sound of my 3-year-old daughter crying. It was a hard, bitter cry. If you have young children, you know the one — it punches through the walls and triggers your heart into a frenzy. I sprang up, ready to run to her bedside. But as wakefulness returned, the sound faded. My daughter was not crying for me. She wasn’t even there. She and her 4-year-old sister were taken from my custody more than a year earlier by the state of Florida.
In the United States, 7 million children are reported to abuse hotlines each year. More than 3 million of those allegations trigger a child maltreatment investigation. But that’s just the beginning of the story: Once a finding of child neglect has been made, parents have to try to correct the issue or issues that led to child protective involvement. Typically, that involves mandates for parents to undergo addiction treatment, find stable housing, secure employment, begin therapy or psychiatric care, and so on.
There’s a problem, however: Taking all those steps and proving they’ve occurred can be a byzantine process, with hard deadlines, ignorant investigators, and unsympathetic judges who work against parents. For parents who are up against the clock set by the Adoption and Safe Families Act — which requires states to file for termination of parental rights if children have been separated from their parents for 15 out of the 22 most recent months — these delays can mean the difference between reunification or the permanent severance of a family.
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If you rely upon mainstream media to clue you into the state of child rearing in the United States, you could be forgiven for believing that a typical child services case looks like a father throwing his toddler against a wall, or a mother slipping some of her prescription methadone into her infant’s bottle. But physical abuse cases comprise less than a quarter of substantiated maltreatment cases. Neglect accounts for the other three-quarters — and in child welfare terms, “neglect” is a very wide umbrella.
The most basic definition of child neglect is deprivation of something essential, such as food, appropriate clothing, housing, child care, or medical attention. Each state gets to refine the specific definitions of child neglect within that broad federal parameter, but they all generally leave the door open for child neglect to be defined as a lack of financial means, or issues that can result simply from poor parental access to mental health or addiction treatment.
My case began with an accusation of drug use. The investigator — an inexperienced member of the County Sheriff’s Office in Broward County, Florida — did not speak with me before deciding to petition for the state to shelter my kids. She looked at my records from methadone treatment nearly five years earlier and decided she did not need any more information. I found her card in my bedroom when I returned from a trip to Miami. My daughters were given to my in-laws, pending a dependency trial, which began two months later.
By then, I had submitted enough negative drug tests to shift the accusations from active drug use to whatever they could pin on me, which ultimately amounted to poverty and mental health treatment. I was still struggling to secure permanent housing, and because I didn’t qualify for Medicaid without custody of my daughters, I was not in therapy for my post-traumatic stress disorder.
It’s important to note that there is no national “child protective services” agency. Instead, each state has its own child welfare department — sometimes called CPS, sometimes something else — and each jurisdiction within the state governs its own specific proceedings. Service providers generally have to be approved by the local child welfare authority, and jurisdictions are supposed to help parents access them. But the disparity between some jurisdictions’ caseloads and the number of available services can mean long delays or inadequate referrals. And because CPS functions differently in each state and data are self-reported, there are not unified statistics on the number of parents involved in this process in the U.S.
In my case, the judge ordered a slew of services, including a psychiatric evaluation, substance abuse treatment, trauma-based therapy, parenting classes, random hair and urine drug screens, and family therapy, all to be completed maintaining stable housing, income, and paying child support. I was never offered any help with housing or employment, and by the time I received my first referral for mental health services, three months post-trial and six months since the start of the case, it was already time for my October case review. The judge deemed me noncompliant for all of my services, despite the lack of opportunity I had been given to complete them prior to the hearing. Although data does not exist on average wait times for parents involved with child services, social workers agree parents can wait up to six months for referrals and other help.
Far worse than the delays, however, was the quality of care offered to me, especially regarding addiction treatment. Prior to the child services case, I had been living in Seattle and engaged in buprenorphine-based pharmacotherapy for opioid use disorder. I had to taper off my prescribed buprenorphine because I did not know where to access it in Florida without health insurance. When I was given a referral for an addiction treatment provider, it was to an abstinence based-program that openly espoused punitive practices. By that time, I had been separated from my daughters for six months, granted only one weekly supervised visit. Referral delays had also barred me from engaging with trauma therapy.
After the hearing where I was deemed noncompliant, a sense of hopelessness settled over me. I began to believe that administrative issues would continue to be conflated with bad parenting, and that I was fighting an unwinnable battle. Divorced from all of my supports and motivations, and in a state of deep depression, I finally relapsed, as I had been accused of doing for the past six months.
I spent the night puking over my toilet, regretting the decision to use. When I was drug tested at my evaluation, I learned that I had injected illegal fentanyl, a super-potent opioid that has been popping up in heroin supplies across the country and driving a spike in overdose deaths. But my evaluator was not sympathetic. She demanded that I attend detox, even though a one-time use does not produce a physical dependency that would necessitate a detox, and did not offer me the pharmacotherapy that would have best prevented continued use.
When I asked my case worker for another referral to an evidence-based provider, I was ignored. In late April 2019, more than a year after my case was opened, my attorney notified me about a medication-assisted treatment program that would be financially covered. I enrolled immediately, and recently won a court battle to have it accepted — so long as the buprenorphine was only administered on a temporary basis. (Studies, meanwhile, have shown that buprenorphine is most effective in patients who take it for two years or longer.)
My clock is up in late August. At the beginning of last year, my life was a mess of sleepless nights, playdates, toilet training, and seemingly endless house chores. There never seemed to be enough time in the day. Stress was my baseline.
Now, my life is a series of endless, empty hours broken only by the routine of my court-mandated services. Instead of fixing breakfast and coaching my girls through brushing their teeth and dressing for school, I drink coffee alone before biking through the heat of Florida to three and a half hours of intensive outpatient therapy, five days a week. I am not greeted in the afternoon by my daughters, but with texts from a faceless social worker directing me to take random drug tests. My days are shaped by paperwork, mandates, and a persistent sense of longing. I am haunted by a constant hunger for the chaos of motherhood. I miss stepping on Lego bricks, and bedtime kisses. I miss cajoling broccoli into stubborn mouths, and big shrieking hugs as my girls tumble off the bus from school. Every time I see my daughters now, something has changed: a favorite color, a hair style, a shoe size. I am missing everything, and I have no idea when or if my real life will begin again.
Mayor sued for blocking residents on Twitter
3 political activists claim Jim Watson violated charter section on free expression
In what may be the first case of its kind in Canada, three local activists are suing Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson for blocking them on Twitter, arguing that by doing so he’s violating their charter rights.
Watson was served with the suit on Tuesday night after the application was issued by the Ontario Superior Court, according to Paul Champ, the lawyer for the three applicants.
The three applicants are:
- Emilie Taman, a lawyer, professor and political activist who has run for office for the NDP and publicly challenged the city’s preferred location for the new central library, and who was blocked on Twitter by Watson on Sept. 29, 2018.
- James Hutt, an organizer with the Canadian Union of Postal Workers and a central figure in the pop-up overdose prevention tent that operated illegally in Ottawa for a couple of months last year, and who was blocked on Twitter by Watson on Sept. 21, 2018.
- Dylan Penner, the media officer for the Council of Canadians, who was blocked by Watson on Twitter on Sept. 19, 2018.
The suit claims that by blocking them, Watson breached the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms section on freedom of expression.
The mayor issued the following statement Wednesday afternoon: “This is my personal Twitter account. I have the right not to be attacked and harassed by the same individuals on a regular basis. I believe in civility in public discourse, and this type of behaviour would not be tolerated in a face-to-face debate. I look forward to dealing with this matter in due course.”
Watson suggested last month that he blocked Taman because she is planning to run for office and was attacking his integrity.
But in an interview, Taman said that she didn’t question his integrity, just his politics.
“I think the problem is that the mayor takes any kind of criticism as a personal attack,” she said. According to Taman, Watson blocked her after a tweet in which she suggested he had a “right-wing agenda.”
In the lawsuit, Hutt claims he was blocked after several tweets and re-tweets questioning why Watson was missing a debate on the environment and another on the gender issues.
Mayor under fire
Watson has come under fire on social media for blocking residents who are critical of him. By using Twitter’s blocking option, not only does the mayor not see their tweets, but those he blocks can’t see his messages either.
The mayor has said that @JimWatsonOttawa is his personal account, but he regularly uses it to communicate city news. For example, during last month’s tornadoes, he tweeted information about power outages and other emergency information.
By blocking some residents, the lawsuit alleges, the mayor is denying them information and the “ability to engage in debate concerning municipal issues using Twitter,” which the applicants argue is now a vital method of communication for public officials.
The applicants say they’re fine with being “muted” by the mayor on Twitter, which means Watson would not see their tweets, but they would be able to read the mayor’s Twitter feed.
Trump also sued
The applicants argue that the charter section that protects freedom of expression “includes the derivative right to access government information where it is necessary for meaningful expression on the functioning of government and other matters of public concern.”
In other words, by blocking them, the mayor is denying them their freedom of political expression, according to the lawsuit.
Although this may be the first case in Canada where a public official has been sued for blocking members of the public on Twitter, a similar lawsuit was brought against U.S. President Donald Trump. In May, a state district court found it was unconstitutional for Trump to block citizens on Twitter. The White House is appealing the decision.