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Literacy Program Among Controversial Budget Cuts

Aired February 11, 2005 - 14:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: "Now in the News," legendary American playwright Arthur Miller, whose works included "Death of a Salesman" and "The Crucible," has died. His assistant says Miller, who was briefly married to Marilyn Monroe died last night at his Connecticut home of congenital heart failure. Arthur Miller was 89 years old.
Florida authorities think they found the mother of a newborn baby that was tossed from a moving car. Broward County sheriff says the interviews with the woman put a, quote, "whole new light on the story." Well, we expect news coming out of a conference any moment now -- we're going to take you there live as soon as it happens.

A still frail Pope John Paul II is sending a message of support to the sick today. In a letter read at Mass, the 84-year-old pontiff says that he feels especially close to those who are ailing and asks for their prayers. Today is the church's World Day of the Sick.

Some U.S. troops in Iraq got a surprise visit today from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld told troops in Mosul they could return home once Iraqi security forces are trained and competent. During his one-day visit, Rumsfeld also met in Baghdad with Iraq's interim prime minister Ayad Allawi.

TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: When President Bush sent Congress his $2.6 trillion dollar budget plan, he included a host of program cuts critics say will hurt poor Americans. With that in mind, we're taking a closer look at some of the items in the budget. Dana Bash shines the spotlight on what program the White House says isn't working.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Surat (ph) and her daughter Erem (ph) come to this D.C. school four mornings a week.

BASH: While Erem learns her ABCs, Surat's practicing her English next door. This is Even Start, a 225 million dollar literacy program launched by First Lady Barbara Bush 16 years ago. Now her son wants to get rid of it.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Even Start is not working and so I've asked that the program be eliminated. And focus resources on things that do work.

BASH: Bush officials argue three studies show the program, designed to coach low income parents to read with their kids, is not working.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am going to be good example for my children.

BASH: Surat calls herself proof the president is wrong, saying Even Start made her more English literate and better equipped to make her five kids better students.

BASH: Josie (ph) says the program teaches her to be self- efficient.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can see a big difference in my life.

BASH: A Bush aid compares these positive testimonials to patients taking placebo drugs and feeling cured.

C. TODD JONES, DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION: While they seem to believe they're getting improved services, we didn't see the impact through our studies.

BASH: The coordinator here calls the Bush study flaws, insisting their data demonstrates real results.

CHRISTIE MCKAY, DC DIRECTOR, EVEN START: There might be a few Even Start programs that have not been successful, but just because there's a few defense contractors that aren't working out, you don't cut -- eliminate the whole defense system.

BASH (on camera): The White House tried to eliminate the Even Start literacy program last year, but Congress put it back in the budget, primarily because of very important patron.

(voice-over)> Former Republican Congressman William Goodling came up with Even Start. He's lobbying former colleagues the $225 million program is insignificant in a $2 trillion budget, but not to the students.

WILLIAM GOODLING, FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: It will make the difference to the parent who's cut from the program, there's no question about it.

BASH: This Even Start center is one of about a thousand nationwide. They could stay open without federal dollars, but say it's not likely.

Dana Bash, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS: Just want to remind you that we're about -- just minutes away from a news conference we're anticipating in Fort Lauderdale with the sheriff of Broward County, Ken Jenne, where Kyra, we will learn more about this story of a one-day-old baby boy who was thrown from a car. We're expecting that news conference in just a couple of minutes and when it happens, of course, we'll take you there live.

In the meantime, have you ever seen okapi? Okapi. There you go! We've got a cute newborn to show you. Looks kind of like -- well, a giraffe, right? PHILLIPS: And a zebra all mixed in one, I guess.

All right, it's almost Grammy time. Many people predict it will be a big night for the late Ray Charles. Special guest Toure in the house with a preview for it.

HARRIS: And where to take the love of your life for dinner this Valentine's Day? It's all in picking the right restaurant!

PHILLIPS: Where are you going, Tony?

HARRIS: I got to figure it out.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: Yes, stripes are in at the Cincinatti Zoo. Meet it's newest in-style resident, a 3-week-old okapi. That's it, that's what it's called, an okapi. She was born January 15th, weighing in at 60 pounds. Now, when fully grown, she could reach 500 pounds. She may look like a cross between a zebra and a horse, but the okapi is really more closely related to giraffes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "GUNNER PALACE")

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You sit on your coach and you watch the TV and you go to your 9:00 to 5:00 job and you complain about the pizza being late. There's no way you're going to know how we live here. Someone being sympathetic to this -- I don't even know if I'd be sympathetic if I wasn't in the Army. If you watch this, you go and get your popcorn out of the microwave and talk about what I say. You'll forget me by the end of this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIPS: Trust me, you won't forget the film "Gunner Palace" after you see it. 400 American soldiers carrying out their mission from a bombed-out pleasure palace built by Saddam Hussein. What takes place in this film, well, you've never seen on the news until now.

Director Michael Tucker and Army Captain John Powers (ph) join us now with a sneak preview. I am amazed with the access that you got, Michael. How did you get this access?

MICHAEL TUCKER, DIRECTOR, "GUNNER PALACE": I just asked. A lot of people think it's this big mystery -- how do you get access or the whole embedded program. I wasn't really embedded.

PHILLIPS: What were you?

TUCKER: I went to the brigade and command battalions talked to a couple of the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) people and said I wanted to make a documentary about American soldiers and they said sure.

PHILLIPS: Did you get any resistance from the military once this was, you know, put together and they saw how it was put together and how candid it was?

TUCKER: They screened it last week, the Hollywood liaison office, and I think they were quite pleased with it. They can't really take a stand on it. But I think they felt like it was fair and accurate, honest. And we're two years into this war so with 1,400 soldiers dead, 10,000 wounded, and it's hard -- it is a very, very harsh reality.

PHILLIPS: John, were you surprised that Michael got this kind of access to shoot this documentary and come inside, you know, not just the raids and the serious stuff of this war, but the personal side of how you guys live, how you joke around, how you, you know, try to deal with a lot of -- we're going to have to hold that thought. We'll come back to you in a moment.

We're going to take you straight to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. It's a story we've been following. As you know, that baby, 1-day-old, thrown out of a moving car. We're listening now to the sheriff of Broward County, Ken Jenne.

KEN JENNE, BROWARD COUNTRY SHERIFF: They're calling him Johny, named after the doctor that's caring for him. He's absolutely perfect and I can attest that his lungs are growing stronger as the days go on.

After we got word yesterday that someone had tossed a baby out of a car, people were shocked. People through Broward County, people through the state of Florida, everywhere was shocked.

I think the most shocked people were here in Broward County Sheriff's Office, the way they reacted to it. And I think the common question that I had is what have we come to as a society in a community?

It will happen in a dry cleaners, it will happen around here. It's a significant question. Well, the situation has become both happy and sad. But it's not as horrible as we first thought. The baby was never thrown out of a moving car. This is a case of a disturbed woman who gave birth but did not want to keep her child and made up an incredible story.

The mother of the baby is the good samaritan that we were talking about. And she saw that -- the one who told us the infant was being discarded, she came into our district office in Ft. Lauderdale with that story and a newborn baby. And we now know is her son that we know is Johny.

Our first concern with everybody has got to be with the child, with the baby. We flew him to Broward General. We then made sure that at Chris Evert's clinic for children who that they -- he was cared for.

We then went to work to find the mother. Every single school resource deputy in Broward County was first called on to start gathering information, every emergency room and every health clinic was checked. We questioned the good samaritan yesterday, last night, and then we scheduled another interview today. The break in this case started to come at about 9:30 this morning when she was invited into our office.

During the questioning, the woman, Patricia Pokriots, admitted that she gave birth to her baby in the bathroom of her mother's house at about 1:30 Thursday.

Now obviously, at this stage, we have a person with two stories. So we had to verify the physical evidence that existed. Part of that physical evidence was left in the North Lauderdale Substation Broward Sheriff's Office, part of that was at her home.

She indicated to us she had taken a shower, put the baby in her pickup truck and had planned to drive to the North Lauderdale Fire Station to leave her baby there. When she was driving, she came upon two people in a white car arguing.

She decided to build a story around them. As you recall, other witnesses saw the same couple in the same white car arguing. So what happened was one story built upon the other.

She pulled into our district office and brought the baby inside. And without going into much detail, the woman, Patricia Pokriots, learned she was pregnant a couple of months ago. She kept the secret from her family and everyone else.

Yesterday afternoon, she suddenly went into labor, had the baby in her bathroom. After we took her statement today, we took her to a hospital and she has been committed under the Baker Act at our urging so that she can be there for observation and physical observation. We think it's absolutely essential to her because of some of the statements she's made.

Also, as we speak, in dependency court, our child protective investigation unit of the Broward Sheriff's Office is going in and trying to appear and appeal to the judge to take both the baby Johny and her 10-year-old away from her and put into state custody.

Frankly, in her statement, she has indicated that she does not want the child, that she wants to give up the child, so we are proceeding under that.

At this point, she has not been charged and, frankly, the only charge that I can think of of really charging against her is -- would be making a false police report.

The good news in this is that she made a decision that she did not want her child, not to put in a (UNINTELLIGIBLE). As horrific and wrong as that story is. If she had just taken baby Johny to the fire station, left him there, we couldn't have asked any questions. The law in the State of the Florida and 44 other states is very simple.

There is a safe harbor up until that child is 3 days old, you can leave a child there. If Ms. Pokriots had just left the child there and we could have taken it, none of this would have happened. Her trouble and why we're all here today is she decided to lie about what would happen.

We don't have the last word of what is going to happen with the baby we now call Johny, but I can tell you thousands of people want to make sure that he has a safe and loving home.

You know, we've gotten phone calls, we've gotten e-mails, we've gotten letters from across the country that say, what can we do? Can we bring him a teddy bear? Can we adopt him? Can we put him in a foster home? What can we do to help?

Even in this unique situation, the one good thing that comes out of this is that there is a great love for this child we know as Johny, who was rejected at birth, born in that bathroom, but the truth of the matter is there are a lot of loving and compassionate people that understand that Johny needs it. And it really started right when he arrived at that police station between the deputies, between the paramedics, and between the concern of the public.

I now would like to introduce Gina -- Genella Oh (ph) from the ChildNet to come over here, and talk a little bit about the Department of Children and the baby and that status.

QUESTION: Sir, could you please spell the mother's name for us? Thank you.

JENNE: Certainly. Patricia P-O-K-R-I-O-T-S. Pokriots.

QUESTION: How old?

JENNE: 38.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, Sheriff.

As the sheriff indicated at this point, there is a dependency hearing that is going on. Until we know more information about what is decided at that particular hearing, I can't speak too much to much to the specifics of what will happen to this child but I can give you some background information on the process.

ChildNet is the local privatized agency to take care of all of child protection services for all children in Broward County. The state decided to privatize those services several years ago and ChildNet is the organization responsible here in Broward County.

When a child comes into care such as this child, there are a number of things that need to happen judicially in order for us to learn more information about that child, about the situation that brought them into care and then begin to look to a plan of attack for how to handle the child from that point.

We're delighted at ChildNet that we have had such an outpouring of support, as the sheriff said, from people in the community, but also from across the country. And we're absolutely thrilled to know that so many people are concerned for this child and we're excited that so many of them are concerned about children throughout the county.

This child, baby Johny, I think they're calling him, is not currently available for adoption. Maybe will never be. We won't know that for some time. However, in Broward County, we do have hundreds of children who are available for adoption, who range in age up to 18 years old. We have a lot of teenagers. We also have a lot of sibling groups.

I saw a family the other day with two adorable 4-year-old twins who are trying to be adopted together and possibly with their older siblings. And so we're really pleased that we have had so much outpouring of support for the children in our community.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do we know who the father is?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is a question why...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why the child is not available for adoption? There is a legal process that needs to transpire from this point. Once the child is determined to be dependent, if that is the decision at today's hearing, then we'll take steps forward in the legal process to determine where the child's best placement may be. There may be a father, there may be another relative who is available to care for that child. In addition, we would need to terminate the parental rights of the parent. In this particular case, it sounds like the mother has already indicated an interest to do so and so if that is the case that would be a very quick process to do that. But this, as I said, is a legal process that will transpire over the course of the next several weeks and months.

JENNE: And to answer your question, Patricia will not identify the father. And we've asked her and, at this stage, the father has not been identified. And that is the reason we're not giving up...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ...the whole story made up and were there ever any injuries to the baby whatsoever? Was there...

JENNE: No, -- the baby did come in a plastic bag to the station house. But, if today, I ask, as you know, the physician, the neonatologist to say specifically that there weren't any bruises or scratches on there because we want to make that very clear as soon as we realized what might be happening.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was the baby in critical condition or in any kind of life-threatening or medical emergency situation?

JENNE: First of all, my physician's license has expired. But my best guess is no. I think that whenever you see a child that you believe is abandoned, the assumption is that that baby has -- is a challenge. Remember, there has been no neonatal prebirth care of that child that's gone on. That is a child that its mother has told us didn't even recognize until a couple of months ago that she was pregnant. Two, during that period of time, she kept it hidden. That child had no care, had no -- nothing happened and so when we found it on the side of the road, the presumption ought to be that that child has problems. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was the child carried to full term?

JENNE: I do not know that but if it is not fullterm, it was near term. Just by the...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ...tossed out of the car and not having any injuries. In retrospect, does it seem sort of unbelievable?

JENNE: No. You've got to understand you have one witness saying that they saw another -- you have the baby itself and then you have witnesses verifying that are totally independent. So you have two sources of witnesses saying that there was the arguments in the car, that that was occurring in there.

And you've got to understand, when you're coming to a child, you want us to assume the worst and get out the word as quickly as possible, because I'll tell you, the one thing that you can't do, is if a child is missing or a child is injured or there is a problem with that, you've got to react as quickly and as effectively and efficiently as possible or else that lost time is never gathered up again. Let me get some over here, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sheriff, can you tell us again what made you think -- made your detectives think that something just wasn't right about this story?

JENNE: Well, they kept on asking questions and when they started talking to her, you could see that she was -- they felt that she was a little bit reluctant. She was missing some of the names. And that's when it started getting confusing with her when her story started to unfold. Actually, it was very good work on the part of the detectives in interviewing techniques and how this -- how this occurred. I have to give them a great deal of compliments on how they handled that and I think they drew her out as much as possible. And remember, the nervousness the day before would be as anybody in this room. If you opened up a plastic bag and found a baby, you're going to be nervous and so that didn't do it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ...you could tell that she had a belly, I presume? I mean, did you suspect at all based on her appearance?

JENNE: No, no. I mean, as my mother would say, she was a big- boned woman. And, you know, and because of that, and because of that, no. I mean, you know, I'm not going to presume that someone, if their waist size is little larger than the next person, that they're pregnant. I think that's...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about the 10-year-old, the 10-year-old, I suppose it was a boy or girl? And what sort of condition was the 10-year-old in taking care of him?

JENNE: In the house, we -- although we are going into the process to separate the child because of the mother's state, we believe rather strongly that there is nothing immediately wrong with the child, and under normal circumstances, this hadn't occurred, there would not be a move to take the child away. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is there a grandmother as well?

JENNE: Yes, there is.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is her (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of living?

JENNE: She works at a local fraternal organization, not-for- profit organization, as a barmaid.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Was she ever arrested? Does she have an arrest record?

JENNE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is that, please?

JENNE: Aggravated battery.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Any sign of drug use, any...

JENNE: None that we're aware of. Yes?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

JENNE: I hope not.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) within her what she expressed that you felt that that what was appropriate.

JENNE: She indicated that she might -- she indicated that there could be -- that she might be a threat to herself and to others.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sheriff, since she won't identify the father other than the grandmother, does she have any support system here that may want the child?

JENNE: No. No. None that we're aware of. Just the child's grandmother. And I have to -- who she lives with, yes.

Yes, please.

Detective Vaccaro.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She really wasn't in a position -- I'm sorry. She basically said she was unaware that the pregnant occurred and because of her medical condition, she was, obviously, wasn't aware of it right away. She said over the past two to three months she was aware that she probably was pregnant and she just couldn't have it. I think she was hoping for a miscarriage or something along those lines.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did she say she was sorry about lying?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Her biggest concern at the time appeared to be that she didn't want any family members or anyone to know what was going on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

JENNE: It's in there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's the main thing.

JENNE: The medical condition? Her medical condition right now?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ...she was -- because of her medical condition, she didn't know why she was...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I believe she indicated that she may not have been regular with her (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

Vaccaro. Richard.

Rich.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How old is the aggravated assault...

JENNE: 199...what was it? 2002.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

JENNE: We don't know that. OK. A question I asked. We haven't...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She lives at home with her family...

JENNE: Yes. Her mother, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: With her mother.

JENNE: So this is the situation we have. And let me emphasize something to you, something that none of us talked enough of. We have a safe harbor law in Florida. And none of us expect a mother or a family to give up their child. But when they do, in the laws of the state of Florida, it is -- it is -- there is just no way someone ought to abandon them on the side of a swell like we first thought and I think that's where this nation and this community were really repulsed in throwing out a child, tossing out a child.

The truth is that Florida has a wonderful law and that is it gives an opportunity to take that young child to a firehouse, to a hospital, to someone else and we're going to do everything we can to encourage people to do that. You know, the days of seeing a child abandoned in a dumpster, child abandoned on side of the road should be over, particularly in the state of Florida where we have this wonderful law that gives people the opportunity and the irony of this, once again, if Patricia (ph) had done this, we would not be talking about her name.

And her child would be safe, she would be safe and this would not be an issue before us so to all of you I want to say thank you. This to the people in the Broward sheriff's office is a -- was very very difficult because, you know, when they first saw that child, I think I had more deputies that wanted to adopt or take that child in than not, the firefighters that did the job. We took it seriously. The hospital district took it seriously, the way it should.

You asked the question earlier. The truth of the matter, when a child is at stake and trying to figure out what went wrong in something like that, that is when this community has to use its resources, its thought process, to try to do it.

And I want to thank -- you know, thank God it is what it is. Thank God it is what it is. But I want to thank the press, particularly the local press, for are what you've done in helping us, because, if this had been an untoward situation, a bad situation, you would have made a difference here.

Thank you very much.

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