Modern Family TV star Ariel Winter is now front-page news. Not for her talent, but for allegations her own mother has filed against and about her. But, this case shines the light on more than just a child star, a stage mom and the law. It helps us take a good look at the huge problem of child abuse and neglect in our country.
In fact, every day five children DIE from abuse or neglect in the U.S. This is shameful. In the case of Ariel Winter it is hard to know where to start and what is fact and fiction. What we do know is that this 14-year-old star of Modern Family has a sad home life mainly due to her mother Chrisoula Workman. As is typical in Hollywood there is now a fight over the $75,000 a week Ariel earns and who should have custody/guardianship over her and obviously over her money.
What is curious is that Workman has called the authorities on her own daughter and thus has incriminated herself! In September Workman filed a police report and a DCFS report that she “walked in” on her 14-year-old daughter and her 18-year-old boyfriend having sex. To make matters worse she claims that a sexual relationship was going on for five months. So, where was Workman, the mother, during this time? Why wasn’t she protecting her child and why did she ONLY report this months later?
Additionally, Ariel was placed Oct 3 under the temporary care of her older sister Shanelle Workman partly because of allegations that their mother was emotionally and physically abusive. Even more shocking is that Shanelle was placed in foster care in the 1990’s due to problems with her mother. There is no doubt that there is a form of child abuse here. The question is to what extent.
Chrisoula seems to have handled the situation ALL wrong, and certainly not like a caring mother. Now she will have to face a CPS- DCFS investigation and if Chrisoula is wrong, she herself could face multiple charges. If Chrisoula is right, the boyfriend Cameron Palatas could face statutory rape charges himself. What a sad mess and true disaster. Those of familiar with the CPS- DCFS system know that not only is it flawed it is BROKEN. Often times unskilled volunteers called CASA workers get involved and complicate things further. In cases like this when there is a great deal of money at stake, these cases if not handled properly drag on for years and lead to fight after fight.
I have much experience guiding clients through the CPS process. When it works it does save children and when it doesn’t it destroys them. Family court is one of the worst places on earth. It will be interesting to see how justice works in this case. Certainly I will be watching closely and hoping that if nothing else we can use this case as a lighting rod to look at the problem and sickness of child abuse in this country.
Wendy Feldman is a criminal justice expert, insider and family legal coach. She is available for private consultation on how to prepare for a successful incarceration, probation and re-entry. She is also available for media commentary and has appeared on shows from The Today Show, The CBS Early Show, E! News, People.com, Fox News, NBC News, CNN, NPR and Nancy Grace. She is a weekly featured guest on the syndicated America Now radio program. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org