Social workers decided to not remove an Anchorage boy from his home after he was seen on national television being punished with hot sauce and a cold shower, according to an Office of Children's Services supervisor who testified Friday as Jessica Beagley's child abuse trial continued.
There were no signs of "maltreatment" -- which the office defines as neglect, physical or sexual abuse, domestic violence or drug use -- during visits to Beagley's home and interviews with her children, according to Virginia Moring, who supervises five OCS investigators.
Beagley, 36, faces one count of misdemeanor child abuse. The mother of six, including 7-year-old twins adopted from Russia, was seen punishing one of the twins on a Nov. 17 segment of the "Dr. Phil" show called "Mommy Confessions."
Moring said investigators interviewed Beagley and her husband Gary, an Anchorage police officer, as well as their coworkers and officials at the kids' school. They also talked to the children, Moring said.
"Did you inquire of the children if they felt safe there?" asked Beagley's lawyer, William Ingaldson.
"They felt safe," Moring said.
And what happened at the conclusion of the investigation? Ingaldson asked.
"We did not intervene," Moring said.
Municipal prosecutor Cynthia Franklin asked Moring if the main goal of OCS is to keep families together.
"It's one of the goals," Moring said.
So the boy remained in the home, and Beagley sought help from mental health professionals for what she described to them as repeated behavioral problems, including urinating on the floor of his bedroom and lying.
Psychologist Stephen Mailloux testified that he evaluated the boy Feb. 24 and diagnosed him with Reactive Attachment Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Attention Deficit Disorder.
Beagley told Mailloux she'd heard that the boy was abused and neglected in Russia before coming to Alaska at age 5, Mailloux said. Reactive Attachment Disorder, R.A.D. for short, often stems from a lack of affection at a young age and multiple, changing caregivers, Mailloux said.
The disorder is characterized by a lack of empathy for the feelings of others, Mailloux said. Normal methods of punishment tend to not work for kids with R.A.D., he said.
If a normal child acts out, a parent or teacher might increase the level of punishment incrementally, for example, by starting with a scolding and moving up to a timeout if the bad behavior doesn't improve, Mailloux said. At some point, the child sees that he or she has upset the authority figure, but R.A.D. kids don't recognize or care about that, Mailloux said.
"The normal things don't work for these little guys," Mailloux said.
Licensed therapist Chantal Cohen testified she'd been working with Beagley and the boy in once-a-week visits. The boy was also put on medication following Mailloux's diagnosis, Cohen said.
"I've seen a consistent improvement with (him) since I started seeing him," Cohen said. "I attribute that to the medication and part of that to my work with Mrs. Beagley."
The defense rested its case later Friday. Beagley then waived her right to testify.
Closing arguments are scheduled for Monday morning and the six-person jury will likely begin deliberating Monday afternoon.
Reach Casey Grove at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4589.