Wow, Sunday’s Star Tribune article by Brandon Stahl, was a thorough, accurate, and a hard hitting affirmation that Minnesota’s abused and neglected children don’t get help even when they are bruised and bleeding and reported to child protection.
Brandon’s reporting concentrated on the increase in children murdered by their parents and the obfuscation surrounding information and County records that would shed light on the horrific deaths of very young children.
From my experience as a Hennepin County CASA Guardian ad-Litem, the real tragedy lies in the absolute lack of information about prostituted seven year old’s, molested three and four year old’s, overly medicated six year old’s, and the suicidal children (as young as four) who I have come to know as a volunteer child protection worker.
Because this topic is so uncomfortable and so few facts ever make the newspaper, these children are invisible until a baby is found in a dumpster or dies some awful public death. Until we as a community recognize that we have created a system for dealing with child abuse that is reactive and not proactive, we will continue to read about horrifically murdered children and not about successfully providing services to at risk youth.
Rich Gehrman at Safe Passages For Children has been working hard to legislate for consistency and transparency in reporting of child abuse and neglect. His success would go a long way in putting an end to the ignoring of these invisible children.
The early childhood tragedies referenced in this (my) articles third sentence are from my caseload in Hennepin County. The prostituted seven year old saw the police come to her house 49 times before she was removed from her family (that prostituted her). When I asked the juvenile officer on that case why it took so long to bring the child to safety, her response was that there was just so much violence against children in her community, that it took an act of “Imminent Harm – to life” to force an officer to remove a child from the home. In her case, she tried to kill her four year old sister in the presence of the officers.
This is what we think of children in Minnesota.
I really did visit a very frightened four year old girl in the suicide ward at Fairview Hospital whose seven year old sister became my 11 year charge in the CASA guardian ad-Litem program. The seven year old had been kicked so hard by her sexual abuser (of four years) that she went into convulsions. When I met the seven year old, I estimated her entire vocabulary to be less than 25 words.
For those of you who think that these children are not worthy of public investment, I draw your attention to the boy in caseload that was tied to a bed, sexually abused, beaten severely, starved, and left alone for days (when he was 4, 5, 6, and 7 years old) because the County didn’t see it necessary to invest the money to do a background check on the father requesting custody of his son. There was a court order in an adjacent state forbidding the man from being around young boys because of what he did to them (criminal acts that had already caused him to spend 2/3 of his adult life in prison – he was in prison when he requested custody of his son).
That boy, my guardian ad-Litem case child, was with me for about 14 years (even after he left the system) has cost our state over three million dollars as he aged out of foster care (with 29 foster care placements). This amount does not reflect any cost to the people he stabbed, teacher he beat up, or the horrific things he has done to so many people that have come into contact with him in his tortured existence in our community (the World Health Organization defines torture as “Extended exposure to violence and deprivation”).
He never made the paper either*.
*None of these cases were ever made public and no perpetrators were never prosecuted.
From Brandon Stahl’s Star Trib Article of 5.18.14 Read the entire article here
Seven children died last year from abuse or neglect despite prior knowledge by Minnesota child protection agencies that their lives were at risk, records provided to the Star Tribune show.
That total is the highest in the state’s records, which go back to 2005. The Department of Human Services said it will study each case to probe whether county social workers missed chances to save the child, but an initial review has found that some counties could have done more…
Beginning in May 2009, Pope County Child Protection received 15 abuse and neglect reports about Eric Dean, 4, and his family. Caregivers took photos of bruises and bite marks on his head. The county conducted one investigation in July 2011 and found no maltreatment. In February 2013, the boy was flown to St. Cloud Hospital, his abdomen bruised and distended from blunt trauma. He died two days later. A doctor found the injuries revealed “uncommon” and “vicious” abuse. Amanda Peltier, fiancée of the boy’s father, told police and a doctor that she had slapped the boy, bit him and “launched” him across a room, but blamed his injuries on other falls.
Peltier is currently on trial on first-degree murder charges. Pope County would not discuss its handling of the boy’s case…
Over the last nine years, 26 children have died from abuse and neglect in Minnesota, and 79 others have suffered life-threatening injuries despite previous evaluations by child protection agencies. The number of children who were supposed to be protected by counties but died or suffered near-fatal injuries from abuse or neglect averages about one a month…
Minnesota is one of nine states where it’s up to counties to decide whether to accept an abuse report and investigate. In 2013, the state’s 87 counties received more than 67,000 reports of suspected child abuse or neglect, but closed seven out of 10 cases without an investigation or assessment.
State law requires child protection workers to keep a family intact, unless they feel a child is in extreme danger. They can require parents to get drug or mental health treatment, or enroll in parenting classes. When parents don’t comply, a county can remove the child, but only with a judge’s order.