Foster Care Standards Are Important (Minnesota fined for failures)

July 10, 2015 in CASA, Child Death, education, Foster Care, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources, The States by Mike Tikkanen

mississippi double exposure red wingThank you Brandon Stahl for drawing attention to the sadness I witnessed again and again as a volunteer CASA guardian ad-Litem; children re-abused and children re-entering the child protection system at double the national rates.  Some counties did much worse.  

New Federal fines are today’s punishment ($750,000) for Minnesota’s failure to meet federal standards (since 2007) of social workers not visiting children while they are in foster care and for abused children re-entering the Child Protection System within a year.  Some state’s are facing embarrassing and costly class action lawsuits for not keeping foster children safe.

One of my guardian ad-Litem boys had 29 different foster and shelter placements before he aged out of foster care.

To know the child walking around starving and without shoes during the winter is different than reading about her.

Watching our policy makers support billions of dollars for stadiums, giant new transit systems, and the unnecessary billion dollar cost of the failed 35W bridge (because anti tax people saw to it that the 5 million dollars in bridge maintenance money was a tax too high for them) while traumatized children can’t find governmental support for safe homes or mental health services seems to me like poor governance.

Art Rolnick’s work at the Federal Reserve bank in 2003 proved that early childhood investments were the best money a government could spend.  My experience within the child protection system proved repeatedly that Art Rolnick’s early childhood research was conservative.  I worked with multiple cases that cost the County in excess of one million dollars apiece and know that the pain and dysfunction continued with that child long after leaving the system (and as a continuing burden to taxpayers).

The child protection system we have today is very expensive, not transparent or accountable, and painful for just about everyone involved in it.

Where’s the money to come from is asked again and again.  That is not the right question.

Do we value children as much as stadiums and transit is more accurate.  Do we have a grounded understanding of what a better functioning system would look like?

Are the people in the system willing to share their insights and be more open about what’s working and what needs improvement?

When Dee Wilson from the Casey Foundation delivered the recommendations for Hennepin County Child Protection at the County Commissioners briefing at the courthouse, he pointedly remarked that social workers were fearful and un-trusting within their working environment.  Especially now with investigations and media coverage of system failures, worker bees feel like they are under the microscope and responsible for all the problems in child protection.

They are not responsible for the systemic institutional failure to protect children – and it is wrong and counter-productive to think it is.


The fault lies in governance at the top, with a lack of awareness, transparency, accountability and the courage to face wicked problems.  Until we who make these rules & policies demand transparency within foster care and child protection, there is little chance of long term improvements taking hold.  

There are 11,000 children in our state’s foster care system today.  To the degree that they can find safe homes and heal from the traumas they have suffered from, our state will benefit from the taxes they pay and great things they do for their community as they enter adulthood.

Minus safe home and healing, Minnesota will pay more federal fines, be embarrassed in the media and suffer from our state wards remaining state wards as they age out of foster care (80% of youth aging out of foster care lead dysfunctional lives).

Prisons are a direct cost (500+million dollars annually in our state) the costs of crime go way behind dollars to the victims, their families and neighbors – often destroyed lives.

Quality of life and safe communities suffer the most from troubled children becoming troubled adults.  When awful things happen to you, your children, friend  or parent – these questions will matter much more than they do today.

Let’s stop asking where’s the money and start asking about what we can do to become more aware of the issues impacting the youngest and most vulnerable among us.


All adults are the protectors of all children  

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