Category Archives: children

The Amber Alert Is Not Used For All Missing Children

Why wasn’t Tori Stafford featured as an Amber Alert? While the police were searching as hard for the young girl she was not part of the Amber Alert system.
On April 11 Const. Laurie-Anne Maitland of the Oxford Community Police explained to Canada.com the reasoning behind Tori not being part of the Amber Alert notification system:

“There have been a lot of questions about the Amber Alert and why it wasn’t issued,” Maitland said Saturday. “At the time of the call coming in, we didn’t have what was required for an Amber Alert – not even close.

“At the time, we did not have a confirmed abduction . . . we did not have (information indicating) serious bodily harm or death and we have to have descriptive information of the child and the abductor and any vehicle.”

“When the criteria is not met, (the Amber Alert) is not done. It’s no less of an alert because it’s not called an Amber Alert. That’s one of the things that’s been difficult for a lot of people to understand – they have this belief that there’s something we could be doing that we’re not, when that’s not true.”

At a news conference today the police still are insisting that the criteria was not met for Tori.

While police were looking for a woman that Tori went home from school with on the day of her disappearance it was not thought she was abducted. Instead the police considered this a criminal investigation from the very beginning.

The Amber Alert stands for “America’s Missing: Broadcasting Emergency Response.” It was named for Amber Hagerman who was murdered in Arlington, Texas in 1996 at the age of nine. The program is in the United States and Canada.

AMBER Alerts are distributed via commercial radio stations, satellite radio, television stations, and cable TV by the Emergency Alert System (where they are termed “Child Abduction Emergency” or “Amber Alerts”), as well as via e-mail, electronic traffic-condition signs, the LED billboards which are located outside of newer Walgreens locations, along with the LED/LCD signs of billboard companies such as Clear Channel Outdoor, CBS Outdoor and Lamar, and wireless device SMS text messages.

The criteria for a child being placed in the system is:

1. Law enforcement must confirm that an abduction has taken place
2. The child must be at risk of serious injury or death
3. There must be sufficient descriptive information of child, captor, or captor’s vehicle to issue an alert
4. The child must be 17 years old or younger

Not all police departments use the second criteria when placing an Amber Alert resulting in many Amber Alerts focusing on parental abductions where it is not thought that the child is in risk of serious injury.

The only difference between Canada and the United States is who is notified. (RCMP instead of the FBI)

The sad truth about the children on the Amber Alert program is that there are many more sad outcomes than positive ones. Still the alert can at times save young lives.

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Arrests made in missing Tori Stafford case (updated)

There have been two arrests in the case of the missing girl, Tori Stafford. The 8-year-old Tori has been missing from Woodstock, Ontario since April 8.
Tori’s father, Rodney Stafford said he and his wife were informed by police about the Tuesday night arrests.

The Canadian Press reports:

“Tara and I were both given a phone call last night and made aware that two arrests have been made,” Stafford told media. We’re not sure where from, who they are and they (police) didn’t give details on Victoria or anything like that.”

Tori was last seen April 8 leaving school with a woman wearing a puffy white coat. There have been extensive searches in the area of her home that have failed to produce any evidence of the child.

A private investigator has offered to help find the girl free of charge, saying that returning the child would be all the reward he needs.

The police gave a news conference Wednesday afternoon and the family was informed of Tori’s death last night. During the press conference, police revealed the following information:

The court date is May 28 and suspects were arrested yesterday. Police have arrested two natives of Woodstock, Ontario. Michael Thomas C.S. Rafferty, 28, and Terri-Lynne McClintic, 18, were arrested. Both are charged with abduction and Rafferty is charged with first-degree murder. McClintic is also charged with knowingly aiding and enabling Rafferty. The woman’s charges could be updated and she is being charged with crimes after the fact.

Police have yet to find Victoria and are still looking for the child’s body.

Police are not saying much more about the case, as they’re now working to give the Crown attorney a case for court. When Tori is found, the media will be notified.

Questions about how and when she died can not be answered at this time, and police are not commenting on the location at which they are currently searching for Tori’s body. Police suggest sexual assault may be also been a factor in this case.

Tori’s disappearance did not meet the criteria of the Amber Alert program, and police are not commenting on motive. They say, however, they are not anticipating any other arrests at this time.

One piece of evidence brought the police to where they are in their investigation, but that item was not identified.


Toronto Program Helps Poor Students With Educational Obstacles

The Models Schools for Inner Cities program has helped bridge community and several elementary schools in Toronto. The program is a grassroots effort to even the playing field in some of the city’s poorer areas.
The grassroots program, Inner City Advisory Committee (ICAC), has helped children with not only educational goals but by providing some basic health needs. Children in the schools that are in the program last year had vision and hearing tests for their students. The results were profound. Some of the children could not see the blackboard, some could not hear their teachers. The program not only tested but then helped parents obtain corrective surgeries, glasses and hearing aids for their children. The program is funded through The Sprott Asset Management Gift of Sight and Sound program in partnership with the Toronto Foundation for Student Success, Wal-Mart Canada and The Canadian Hearing Society. this program will carry over to 50 inner city schools again in September.

The program has shown that it works but it also faces an uphill battle as funding can be hard to obtain. It is asking for $8.5 million to be dedicated in the TDSB budget to maintain the Model Schools for Inner Cities program, $1.0 million be added to the MSIC budget to allow the support of up to 24 model middle schools and $2.5 million be added to expand the program to serve up to 30 secondary schools.

Seven schools in Toronto’s inner city are model schools, Firgrove, Nelson Mandela Park PS, Willow Park, Forest Manor, George Webster, Kingsview Village Jr. and Bala Avenue Community School. These schools all have one common thread, students who live in poverty attend.

As the Toronto School Board site states:

“This is our collective effort as communities, as a Board and as individuals to level the playing field for all our children,” said Sheila Cary-Meagher, TDSB Trustee for Ward 16 and Chair of the Model Schools for Inner Cities Task Force. “By working together with students, families, schools and the community, we can make a real difference in the lives of our children in poverty.”

The program started in November 2006 providing stability and a safe haven for the students. By developing partnerships with higher education institutions the education of the students have been able to provide support for the students. Every teacher has a teacher candidate from York University at one of the schools. One of the programs is a Saturday arts program with art and music.

Children are given snacks and lunches helping families even more.

Parent Michael Corniffe whose daughter attends Forest Manor feels his involvement is important. “Getting involved in this type of program is fantastic. It’s really beneficial to the kids in the school and in the community. The school is very dedicated to its parents.”

The program is not just for the students but their parents as well. There are monthly parent workshops. This month the program explores School Profiles and Principal/VP role in parent engagement at the school level.

One school in the program is George Webster ES. Principle Nancy Steinhauer discussed the benefits of being a model school: “The program has definitely helped my school. We have parental involvement and more community agencies now as a result of the program. Today some of the student are in fact out with community support workers getting glasses as part of the vision testing.”

The funding that the program provides really does level the playing field for Steinhauer’s students. The classes have all had opportunities to go on three field trips this year that are relevant to their curriculum. In a school that has a high poverty population getting funding for these types of events is rare. Fund raisers can only bring in what the community can afford, without the funding from the school board for Model Schools the children would not be getting as many of these precious memories.

The children are feeling safer in their school in just two years. 71 per cent of the students have said that they like going to school compared to 61% before the program. School spirit is at 80% now.

Parents have the resource of after school programs for their children at George Webster. 51% of the children no longer go straight home from school now, instead they are involved in safe and educational after school programing that doesn’t end until 6:15 p.m. each evening. In an area where there isn’t a close community center that’s a godsend.

This summer the children of the school will have a preschool program. By teaching skills earlier the kids will be able to thrive when they enter school. That fits in with the school’s goals of being a heart of the community. Steinhauer wants her parents to feel safe and welcome at her school.

Academically it’s early in the stages as to how much of an improvement there has been. The testing though is showing some very positive results. Before the program reading tests showed students below grade level. That has changed — this year the kids were on grade level or above at the start of the year.

Perhaps the most positive sign though is the lack of school suspensions this year. Not one children has had to be disciplined in that way.

Parents also are more involved with their children’s education at George Webster. Whether it is reading to their children from books in their first language or attending parent meetings the involvement has increased.

Last week Digital Journal talked with Cassie Bell, Inner City Project Coordinator. At that time she stressed how important the funding is for this program. Each year ICAC has to fight hard for the next year’s funding budget. The program has to as Ms. Bell says “rob Peter to pay Paul.”

“At what part do we stop yakking and get to work.”

It’s a positive program that is working for the schools involved. Hopefully funding will continue and the program will grow. Each school in Toronto deserves to be a model school, each student deserves the very best education that the community can provide.

A video of the program is located here.


How Women Can Prevent Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

There’s one birth defect that is 100 per cent preventable: fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. The only way to prevent this detect though is to not drink a drop of alcohol while you are pregnant.
When a mother drinks alcohol while pregnant she risks her fetus with each sip. The condition fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, or FASDs can affect the development of the fetus and cause lifelong learning and behaviour challenges. The condition is also known to cause birth defects in the heart, brain and other organs that last a lifetime. There is no cure for these conditions, only prevention.

It’s not known what amount of alcohol is safe for a mother to drink which is why the Centers of Disease Control recommends that pregnant women refrain from all alcoholic beverages during their pregnancy, that includes prior to the knowledge of being pregnant.

In the United States about 1 in 12 women use alcohol during their pregnancies. The condition happens in 0.2 to 1.5 cases per 1,000 live births.


Young girl dealing with breast cancer at the age of 10

At the age of ten Hannah Powell-Auslam should be putting pink ribbons in dolls hair instead of dealing with breast cancer. The young girl was diagnosed recently with stage 2 cancer, a rarity in young girls.
When Hannah complained to her mother of an itch no one could have thought that in days the girl would be having surgery a mass. The doctors didn’t expect to find cancer. because of that the surgery didn’t remove all of the tumor because it had grown into breast tissue. The mass was sent off for testing with the doctor reassuring the family not to worry because breast cancer does not happen with children.

Sadly the truth was that Hannah does has Stage IIA Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, an adult form of breast cancer.

Hannah had a mastectomy of her left breast on Thursday. When she is older reconstruction surgery, which she calls recreation surgery can be performed.

Sadly one of the sentinel lymph nodes have come back from pathology as positive for cancer. Still her doctor believes that Hannah can beat this disease. She has an 85 per cent chance of a five-year disease-free survival.

The family has had difficulty finding an oncologist that deals with breast cancer in one so young. They are working with the doctors at UCLA Medical Center who deal with adults going through the disease.

Her battle with cancer is being journaled at ourlittlesweetpea.com, a site started by her uncle and father.

If you would like to support Hannah the family is accepting donations.


Turkish Police Mistakenly Fire Tear Gas At School

Dozens of children have been hurt after Turkish police made a mistake, firing a tear gas canister into a school in the town of Altinsehir.
Police were in responding to a disturbance over the decision of local authorities to tear down unlicensed buildings with water cannons and tear gas. Protesters were filmed throwing stones at the police and setting fire to tires.

About ten children aged seven to 15 had to be taken to hospital from exposure to the fumes. Tear gas irritates the eyes, nose, mouth and lungs.

A four-month-old infant was also taken to hospital when another of the canisters was fired into the window of an apartment building.


Opinion: Inside Toronto’s Gun Violence, No Excuse When Kids Are Dying

hen I moved to Toronto it was during the summer of gun violence. To someone from the States it really didn’t seem so bad, after all it was handguns. It’s amazing how much an attitude can change in just a few years. Today violence shocks me, as it should.

Toronto is now dealing with a spat of gun deaths in the West Side. Senseless murders, young lives lost. When 14-year-olds are gunned down in a field and left to die something is indeed wrong.

These gun wars have nothing to do with the recession. They are a sign of the times though, desperate acts from desperate people. There is no justification. Drugs could be the motive but that can’t be the entire answer. What has happened to our youth that makes pulling the trigger even be in their thought process?

When Basil Bryan, 23, was shot in the chest, laying on the sidewalk there is footage of someone just walking on by. Has the city become that callous?

How many times will words of shock and grief be printed in newspapers like City News after Daniel Da Silva died.

“I’ve known him since he was a little kid,” said Will Roque. “What are you going to say? (His mother) is hysterical, crying, I don’t even think she’s going to the coroner’s office.”

“That’s one of the best kids in the world,” adds family friend Vitalina Rolo. “I can’t say anything bad about him, nothing.”

Kids standing at bus stops aren’t even safe.Jarvis St. Remy, 18, was gunned down in the street waiting for a bus.

City News quotes Mayor David Miller:

“Imagine being a mom, your son being gunned down like this, it’s just heartbreaking for everybody,” he said. “We just simply have to get at the guns and get them off the street.”

So what can be done to stop this violence? One answer is education. In Toronto there is one program that started in 2004 called Inner City Advisory Committee (ICCA).

Digital Journal spoke to Cassie Bell, Inner City Project Coordinator about what her program does for the youth in at-risk areas. The group works with 7 elementary schools with a total of 50 schools being touched by the program to bring a more level playing field to the early educational game. With hard fought for grant money the program last year was able to have hearing and vision tests given to students at the model schools. What they found was confounding. There were children who were in need of vision surgery, children who were deaf. Working with partnerships those children were able to be treated. Once treated, kids who had been behaviour problems in school started to be star students according to Ms. Bell.

“At what point do we stop yakking and get to work. We have to deal with the problems now.”

The program is showing results. It also like many programs that work has to fight each year for the funding to continue.

MP Mario Silva sent Digital Journal the following statement:

Of course I am concerned about gun crime in my city. Our police service works very hard to keep the streets safe and I have always been fully committed to giving them the tools they need to do their jobs properly.

More than that, along with my colleagues in the Liberal Party, I have stood up against any attempts to weaken our current gun legislation.”/quote]
In September it was announced that Toronto was taking action to prevent crime in Toronto to the tune of more than $4.9 million in funding for a project that is aimed at preventing and reducing street gang activity.

Public Safety quotes Toronto Police Chief William Blair:

“A meaningful approach to prevent and reduce crime must start with an intelligence-based, targeted enforcement approach, along with a strong community mobilization component, such as our effective Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy, but it must build on TAVIS, to encompass government and community initiatives and involvement to be truly effective,” said Toronto Police Chief William Blair. “Today’s announcement furthers the process of keeping Toronto a safe, vibrant, and diverse city.”

The money will to go to:

* addressing early risk factors among vulnerable children and youth;
* preventing youth gang and drug-related crime;
* preventing recidivism among high-risk groups; and
* fostering crime prevention in Aboriginal communities.

Yet the crimes are getting worse, the deaths more frequent. With the millions being tossed around what is being done at the street level? One program that has gotten funding is the TAVIS program. The program partners the communities at risk with Toronto police officers. The Toronto Police web site states the goal of the program:

We expect that TAVIS will reduce crime, particularly violent crime, in neighbourhoods across Toronto. It will also help the community to take charge of their own neighbourhoods; you and your neighbours will have the primary role in solving problems and preventing crime.

In the next few weeks look for more in-depth articles about school programs that work in Toronto and the TAVIS program in Toronto.