- Associated Press - Monday, June 5, 2017

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - A lawyer for a refugee from the Congo accused of beating her two children with a broomstick says her experience in the justice system has been marked by miscommunication and a lack of information. But authorities say her actions went well beyond any form of physical discipline.

Police arrested Joyce Chance, 32, in Concord, New Hampshire, in April on multiple assault charges. They said school officials had contacted authorities regarding concerns about her son and daughter, ages 12 and 9. The state Division of Children, Youth and Families investigated and the children were removed from her care. Chance has been released on bail, pending her trial.

Chance, who emigrated from a refugee camp in Uganda, has been in Concord under a year. According to a police affidavit, when asked how she disciplines her children, she said through an interpreter, “We beat our kids in Africa.”

After her release on bail, she told New Hampshire Public Radio (https://bit.ly/2qPP9Lo), also through a translator, “Nobody (told) me it’s not okay to punish your children that way.”

Under state law, a guardian can use physical force against a minor when she or he reasonably believes it is necessary. But police believe what happened was child abuse.

A police affidavit says a pediatrician examined the children and said both had numerous injuries, such as bruises and scars, from an object like a belt or “patterned instrument.” The boy said Chance hit them with the broomstick, which eventually broke into pieces.

Public defender Robin Davis said Chance doesn’t speak English, and Davis suspects the language barrier has affected the investigation.

“The big issue here is the cultural differences,” she said. “I think there’s a gap here that needs to be filled.”

Davis said that people like her client need more opportunities to learn about local laws and that law enforcement need to understand the hardships faced by the communities they serve. It wasn’t immediately clear what assistance Chance received when she settled in Concord.

Concord Police Chief Bradley Osgood said his department once attended regular meetings with members of the African refugee community. New residents would ask about subjects such as domestic violence and driving laws. He said those meetings, which were hosted by a nonprofit, stopped over a year ago.


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