Two Michigan couples were arrested on Monday and accused of abusing eight of the dozens of children they adopted or fostered for alleged “financial gain,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel (D) announced.
Couples Joel and Tammy Brown and Jerry and Tamal Flore are facing a total of 36 charges in connection to evidence of abuse toward some of the children they adopted or fostered since 2007, prosecutors said.
“These egregious allegations highlight not only a moral and legal failure of those entrusted with the children’s care, but a failure in our systems to ensure children placed in custody are properly taken care of,” Nessel said in the statement.
Prosecutors said the Browns and Flores allegedly abused eight of the nearly 30 children they adopted or fostered under the guise of discipline.
Prosecutors accused the couples of adopting the children in order to collect money from the state’s adoption assistance program, which is intended to financially assist adoptive parents in covering for their child’s care.
Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Nessel described the abuse as “routine and systematic” as well as both mental and physical.
According to prosecutors, Joel Brown used his “expertise” from his time working in the Children’s Services Administration Office of Family Advocate to keep the abuse of both families under the radar.
The Browns and Flores were also accused of abuse earlier this year, but the charges were dismissed in the Browns’ case. The charges against the Flores were reduced, prosecutors said.
Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Nessel admitted the initial investigation “needed more work” and that Children’s Protective Services could have had better documentation and “more accurate notes.”
Nessel said that investigators have interviewed 10 of the adopted children, some of whom are adults now.
“Children who end up in our foster care or adoption systems are often already coming from unbelievably vulnerable situations and deserve our utmost care,” Nessel said. “The Brown and Flore families preyed upon dozens of children who were removed from previously abusive biological homes and subjected the children to prolonged routine and systemic mental and physical abuse under the guise of discipline.”
According to charging documents, the Browns face a total of eight charges including first-degree child abuse, which holds a potential life sentence. The Flores face a total of 28 charges, including six counts of first-degree child abuse.
Prosecutors said the couples’ arrest warrants have been processed and they have until Friday to turn themselves in.
David Carter, an attorney for Tamal Flore, told the Lansing State Journal that she will turn herself in by Friday. He also characterized the prosecution as “grasping at straws.”
Mary Chartier, an attorney representing Joel Brown, also criticized the investigation and prosecution in a statement to the outlet.
“We won in court once, and we’re confident that we’ll do so again,” Chartier said.
Nessel urged lawmakers to amend the law to combat child abuse by raising the statute of limitation, arguing that victims are not likely to report their abuse until they’re free from their abuser.