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Sunday, June 15, 2008

Expert in Day-Care Probe Can't Back Up His Resume

A man brought in by the State of Illinois as an expert to investigate key aspects of allegations of sexual child abuse at the Rogers Park Day Care Center misrepresented his credentials in his resume and during recent court testimony, records show.

Allen Friedmann, 34, of 245 Court of Shorewood, Vernon Hills, played a critical role in the investigation. Working with a social worker and a Chicago detective, he conducted most of the sensitive interviews in which authorities tried to determine whether any of the 88 children enrolled at the center had been abused.

Friedmann was employed by Human Effectiveness Living Program (HELP), which treats sexually abused children and abusers. HELP was hired by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services to provide expertise in interviewing the children who attended the center.
Along with HELP's director, Friedmann designed the format used in the interviews.

Examination of Friedmann's college transcripts, court transcripts and interviews with former employers show that he built his reputation in part on exaggerations and sometimes fabricated his qualifications.

In an interview Thursday, Friedmann said he "never intentionally misrepresented" his qualifications.

He acknowledged that he once told a prospective employer that he held a master's degree when he had not yet earned a bachelor`s degree, but said that was "a onetime, stupid" ploy.

Allegations of sexual abuse of children at the Rogers Park Day Care Center, 7101 N. Greenview Ave., surfaced in April, 1984. The center`s janitor, Deloartic Parks, was charged with three counts of sexual child abuse. His case is pending.

The Cook County state`s attorney's office is investigating accusations made by some children against center staff members. A DCFS investigation that ended last September found insufficient evidence to support those charges.

Questions about Friedmann's qualifications are the latest in a series of problems, which DCFS officials say stemmed from outdated regulations and their lack of experience in such cases, that have stymied the investigations.

Friedmann is no longer involved in the case, and he resigned from HELP in February.

DCFS Director Gordon Johnson said cases like Friedmann's are prompting his agency to more carefully scrutinize the qualifications of staff members and people hired under contract.

Sources in the state's attorney's office said they would review evidence of Friedmann's misstatements but added that questions about his credentials would not have "much impact." Chicago police detective Scott Keenan agreed, pointing out that investigators had "used a team approach" in the interviews.

Park`s lawyer, Adam Bourgeois, disagreed. "Whenever the court has an expert, all the parties tend to rely on that expert", he said. "If someone doesn`t have qualifications, it turns the trial into a charade."

"If what children say is not believed alone, then people who do the interviewing have to be beyond reproach. Anything else invalidates the process", said Jon Conte, a University of Chicago professor and abuse expert who advised DCFS in this case.

Friedmann has some experience in the field of child abuse investigation, including more than two years as an abuse investigator with DCFS and one year as a counselor at the Center for Children`s Services in Danville.

Some of those who have seen Friedmann`s techniques say he is a skilled interviewer. "I feel comfortable having him instruct doctors on how to talk to children," said Dr. Howard Levy, director of pediatrics for Mt. Sinai Hospital, where Friedmann teaches a course to doctors.

According to Friedmann's school transcripts, he does not hold a degree in psychology, medicine or social work, courses of study most commonly followed by sexual abuse experts. His only formal instruction in these fields consisted of undergraduate courses, one completed graduate course and several professional seminars, transcripts show.

While testifying under oath as an expert witness last year in a civil suit, Friedmann said he had completed a year of graduate work at Loyola University and "about a year" of graduate work at the University of Illinois.

Loyola records show that Friedmann took one undergraduate course in 1977 but show no graduate work. U. of I. records show that he attended one semester and took two graduate courses, one of which he did not complete. Read more here.

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