Thank you Brandon Stahl & Star Tribune, and all journalists taking seriously the issues of child protection. If you keep digging and writing, it may just be that Minnesota can become an example to the nation of what state’s do when they value children.
Kendrea Johnson’s social worker was unaware that Kendrea’s mental health provider knew this six year old girl was severely mentally ill and having daily thoughts of suicide and homicide.
Tannise Nawaqavou, Kendrea’s foster mother didn’t know either. No one told anyone that this six year old girl wanted to kill herself (and others – she had twice threatened to kill her foster mother with a screwdriver).
As a long time Hennepin County CASA guardian ad-Litem, it hurts me to see policies in place that insure not the best interests of the child, but the best chance that people will never know about the terrible things going on in the lives of abused and neglected children. We do this to foster and adoptive parents all the time and it has to stop (it is dishonest). The intensive therapy needed by traumatized children is simply beyond the ability of average people (most foster/adoptive parents – note the privacy laws referred to by child protection in Brandon’s article above).
People (like the psychologist from Pennsylvania (below in read more) quoted in today’s article*) that don’t believe suicide happens to six year old’s just don’t have a clue.
I’ve written about my experiences with suicidal children, seven year old foster boy Gabriel Myers hung himself and left a note about how he hated Prozac (Kendrea Johnson left a note also), Mayoral candidate Don Samuels spoke in a KARA interview about his experience as a city councilman dealing with a suicidal five year old, and ask any experienced child protection worker and they will have stories of dangerous if not suicidal behaviors of very young children.
The suicide warnings on the packets of Ritalin (banned in Sweden in 1968 because of suicides), Prozac, and dozens of other psychotropic medications forced upon the thousands of children in child protective services in this nation are pretty clear proof that the issue is real. Big Pharma is not a friend in this war on information. Pay attention to how big Pharma does not show up or receive much attention even when psychotropic medications are present in the victim at death.
My experience in years of volunteer CASA guardian ad-Litem work is the child running into traffic, falling off a high roof, or other extremely dangerous behavior. These kids have been horribly traumatized, they blame themselves and are often filled with self loathing. We don’t talk about this (and we don’t address it).
Had it not been for the heavy media exposure in the Star Tribune on these issues, I believe Kendrea’s suicide would not have been classified as such (it was not until the media continued writing about it that the information about the mental health worker’s statements about her suicidal/homicidal talk became known). We just don’t want to know about this awful condition as a community. Until this discussion and the information about it is made public (thank you Governor Dayton’s Task Force on Child Protection), abused and neglected children will suffer long after they are removed from the toxic homes that have caused them such trauma.
In a prior KARA interview, Brandon Stahl spoke on how hard counties make it to access information about children in child protection, even after the child has died. Freedom of information act requests often met with foot dragging and excessive costs (of public information).
There is no good reason to not make the data available. Multiple approaches exist that can safeguard the privacy of the child/family. This is not rocket science.
The longer it takes to achieve transparency, the longer it takes to identify the depth and scope of the problems and create support for solving them. Until this happens, the nightmare that is life for children unlucky enough to be born into generational families of abuse and neglect will continue. We can do better.
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*David Palmiter, a psychology professor at Marywood University in Scranton, Pennsylvania, who researches child and adolescent behavioral disorders, said he never had come across a case of suicidal thinking in a child younger than 10 in more than 25 years of practice.