Yesterday, (December 29th,2005) I had the opportunity to speak on Ember Reichgott Jung’s radio show* on the topic of Invisible Children. It was a terrific conversation that has further convinced me that there exists a core issue that must be addressed before meaningful change can take place. It is that people in positions of power…
We know what works to keep our children safe and out of trouble. The question is will we actually provide the support for all at-risk children? Our children deserve the chance to survive and thrive and to be protected from the cradle to prison pipeline that steals too many young dreams and futures.
Children suffer more abandonment & more trauma when their therapist prematurely leaves (quits the patient) than they would have experienced without treatment. I have yet to witness my county provide timely or adequate mental health therapies to any of the truly damaged children I have come to know through the Court System. Most of them take multiple prescriptions of psychotropic medications with very limited access to mental health professionals. The children’s behaviors and development are living proof of ongoing mental trauma.
Most women drew longer sentences (under federal mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines) than the perpetrator, they lost custody of their children, and in almost all cases, they had not profited from the criminal’s activity. See Incarcerated Mothers and Their Children.
At the William Mitchell Law School today, I learned that Minnesota has been a genuine leader in Juvenile Justice in America for one hundred years.
There is a myth about our public education system that has the potential of bringing down our nation. The myth is that the lack of funds does not plague America’s schools.
Federal Reserve Board Chairman Art Rolnick through extensive research has proved that rates of return on money spent on early childhood programs are greater than tax money spent on malls and stadiums (FedGazzette, March 2003).
But who reads the FedGazzette?
It’s just that our policy makers don’t appear to appreciate the failed history of punishing abused and neglected children.
Most lawmakers ask, “where is the money going to come from?” when they should be asking, “where is the money going?”
Managing child protection cases, she said, “means one judge, one family. It means you don’t [delay] these cases because someone is sick. You don’t make a kid wait in foster care three months while we tend to adult problems. It means that when parents leave the courthouse, they have a written notice of the next court hearing and a written case plan so they’re not wondering what the judges meant.”
About 90% of the children in juvenile justice systems have come out of child protection systems (MN Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz). About 90% of the adults in the criminal justice system have come out of the juvenile justice system. We have created a Prison Feeder system.
This is one of America’s most active and powerful resources in the struggle to save our At Risk Children.
Grandparents need the attention and appreciation of our policy makers to help them in their efforts.
Support the MN Kinship Care Givers. They do some very hard work for some very special people.
The economic impacts of bad contemporary policy making will disable our communities for years to come if we continue to ignore the critical physical, emotional and mental health needs of these vulnerable children. By continuing to operate in the same haphazard fashion, medicating and incarcerating at risk children, who deserve so much better, we doom ourselves to continued crisis, crime, teenage pregnancy, drug use and overcrowded prisons.
On Aug. 28, 2005, the Hibbing, MN Daily Tribune ran an article about me and my book, Invisible Children, titled A serious book about a serious problem by reporter Cathy Braun.
The author packed the book with his passion and purpose: society’s involvement in children’ in abusive and dysfunctional homes’ foster care and the system in general. If you care about your community’s welfare, it is a “must read.”
Add your ideas and share your stories and experiences by posting them here.
The First 12 are my thoughts, the next 6 are from Victor I Vieth, UNTO THE THIRD GENERATION: a call to end child abuse in the U.S. within 120 years, Journal of Agression, Maltreatment & Trauma
The book is finished. It just arrived from the publisher. Books are always neater and cleaner than the process that makes them. Hundreds of hours, stacks of paper, and dozens of edits. I’m genuinely embarrassed by some of the poorly edited pages that I sent to people to review and comment on what I had been writing.
There have been over one hundred social workers, foster parents, and other adults in my life since I left my dad. None of them have stayed for more than a few years. My feelings of abandonment have been reinforced over one hundred times. I have lived with twenty-seven foster families and group homes. My explosive personality and lack of trust make it hard for me to stay in one place too long.
Children in American child protection systems are only removed from their homes if their lives are in imminent harm. The average length of child sex abuse in America is four years.
Abused children and torture victims suffer from the same kinds of trauma. They exhibit many of the same kinds of problems. They need the same kinds of long term mental health therapies to allow them to rebuild their traumatized mental states, learn coping skills, and how to function in our communities.
“One-quarter of all Americans met the criteria for having a mental illness within the past year, and fully a quarter of those had a “serious” disorder that significantly disrupted their day-to-day lives, according to the largest and most detailed survey of the nation’s mental health…The numbers suggest that the United States is poised to rank Number One for mental illness globally.
Pliny the elder, 2500 years ago, “what you do to your children, they will do to your society”
I do not wish to minimize the seriousness of post traumatic stress syndrome in solders.
I only wish to point out the seriousness of post traumatic stress syndrome in children.
Unlearning Child Abuse (or go to prison)
There is no safety net for many of the poor neglected and abused children they care for. There is no child psychiatrist for a sexually abused seven-year old, or for the starved and tortured six-year old. Go to school. Get well. Take these pills. We just don’t have a budget for the services you need.
Investing in early childhood programs and mental health services could actually save us money, and certainly make our streets safer, and our communities more pleasant to live in.
It’s not so much about money– Minnesota’s 2001 GDP (gross domestic product) ranks greater than Austria, Saudi Arabia, Poland, Hong Kong, Denmark, and a hundred other nations.
At the very least, tell your legislator you are tired of full prisons, dangerous streets, and failing schools. Tell them that you support mental health services for children.
A school administered mental health assessment would have discovered Jeff Weiss. He could have received the help he needed to lead a full and productive life. This child was not born crazy; he was made crazy by the adults in his life. No one helped him. He deserved better.
Teachers and administrators are being blamed for the high rate of dropouts and low student achievement. I would make the argument that the number of drug using and mentally ill children in our schools today interferes dramatically with the business of education. Don’t blame the teachers or school administrators. What’s wrong is poor public policy.
A discussion around early childhood programs, mental health services, and the use of psychotropic medications is overdue.
Child abuse redefines the way a child thinks and sees the world. Abused children have severely limited learning and coping skills. An abused child’s mental development has been arrested by an anxiety and fear that supercede the learning of other personal and social skills. Without personal and social skills, and a lessening of the anxieties and fears, Abused children fail at school, don’t make friends, and keep a terribly low self image.
Jeff Weise resembles many of the children in Child Protection I know. A mother that hated him, Psychotropic medications, repeated examples of self-loathing, talk of suicide and homicide. Working with neglected and abused children has shown me a part of human development that I could not have otherwise become familiar with.
Normal children overcome feelings of self-hate and inadequacy with the help of parents, teachers, and other adults in their lives. Abused children can’t trust the adults in their lives. Their own abuse has come from the trusted adults in their lives. These children often resent or hate authority figures as a result of the suffering adults have visited upon them.
What do you feel when a baby is found dead in a dumpster, a young person deliberately murders innocent people, or some other insane tragedy fills the headlines?
Do you feel a sense of loss and sadness for the suffering of the parties involved?
Or are you filled with judgment and a need to blame someone and a desire for punishment?
I’m certain that community investment in troubled youth is a sound investment. It also strikes me that any nation that values children would find a way to invest in children.
Children that have suffered severe or prolonged abuse need a counseling regimen that will be part of their life for a long time. Short term counseling for severely damaged children is just one more abandonment.