I need your stories to add to the growing body of evidence that change in child protection laws, politics and policies are overdue.
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If you or someone you know have a meaningful story or powerful information – forward this to them. Link to KARA’s first book INVISIBLE CHILDREN
Volunteer work in child protection as a CASA guardian ad-Litem (GAL) introduces you to the part of our community that is now defining these United States.
I thought it an anomaly that my first GAL visit to a traumatized four year old state ward was in a hospital suicide room. This was a truly frightening experience that I can never forget (what could I say to her?).
Twenty years later I know of countless attempted child suicides and am reporting on very young foster children who have killed themselves by hanging. The last little girl (seven year-old Kendrea Johnson) left a note.
Decades of brutalized, traumatized and suicidal children have proven to me that this dysfunctional part of our society has become exponentially larger than the media, legislators or the public understand or are even aware of. Until this changes, life in America will continue to surprise us with violence and failure with more and deeper signs of our dysfunction filling our streets and media.
The medical profession through their ACES studies and decades of research clearly articulate the core issue of generational child abuse, trauma and mental health issues that are so powerfully impacting schools, public health, courts, jails, crime and our quality of life.
More importantly, these studied professionals offer viable and effective solutions that could reverse the trends, save taxpayers billions of dollars and make life for at risk children and all of us so much better.
About ten years ago, DR Bruce Perry gave a talk in Minneapolis and he stated that if we have not addressed the problems he had just spent the morning explaining, by the end of this generation (he meant 20-25 years), 25% of Americans would be special needs people. People that can’t live on their own, who need services, cause themselves and others harm and fall in and out of hospitals, squad cars and state ward status.
Abused and neglected children are unhappy, troubled and very costly to our communities. Just a single guardian ad-Litem boy in my caseload cost the State/County three million dollars by the time he aged out of foster care. This does not include any consideration for the teacher he beat up, the person he stabbed or the terrible things he did to many of the 29 foster families he lived with as a state ward. He as AIDs today and remains a state ward (he’s almost 30).
For the purposes of this book, a generation is five years. Every five years we unleash another generation of untreated traumatized five year olds into our schools.
Teachers deal daily with violent and dangerous youth in their classrooms impacting learning, school performance and safety.
Children bringing their terror and trauma, dangerous and disruptive behaviors with them to school have little chance of achieving reading, math or other measurable academic proficiency.
Many of them won’t graduate and of those who do, about a third of them won’t be able to find the Pacific Ocean on a map.
This is an effort to understand and explain how what ails our nation’s children is what ails our society, fills our prisons, breaks our schools and destroys communities and what must change to reverse this course.
Anyone familiar with America’s international well-being measurements know how far we have fallen from leadership in the quality of life measurements among the industrialized nations since the 1970’s.
The U.S. has an abundance of crime, prisons, dangerous and poverty stricken communities at the same time our health and educational institutions are more costly and less effective than those in the rest of the industrialized world.
Smart nations treat children better than we do. They know those children need to succeed if their communities are to being successful. The politicians I speak with always talk about how we cannot afford the policies and programs that would change the outcomes for at risk youth.
This is a failure of priorities and not lack of money – many poor nations are making us look inferior in these matters.
The following pages include stories and observations by children, medical professionals, social workers, educators, judges, foster and adoptive parents and parents that have been terribly abused by America’s child protection system.
To a person, individuals I’ve met working in this field are striving to the best of their ability to do their jobs well. Not only are they not appreciated for their efforts, they don’t have the training or resources to successfully deliver the services that need to be provided.
This book is not critical of the people doing the work – it is the opposite. I find it appalling that state governors and legislators running for public office make political hay blaming teachers for failed schools when the real problem is that policy makers don’t vote for crisis nurseries, subsidized day care or quality early childhood programs.
There is a relationship between high school graduation rates and the fact America expels more children from day care than any other industrialized nation (by significant numbers).
This book argues that the rest of the industrialized world has under stood for years how children must be made ready for school – and if they are not school will not work for them (or us).
Any person that can survive living or working with America’s millions of traumatized youth in schools, homes, justice, or social services atmosphere where violence, undertraining and chaos are prevalent deserves accolades not criticism. Educating, parenting or providing social, court or health services to these children is much more demanding than it has ever been.
It was a lot easier to be critical of service providers before I became one.
One of my 11 year old state ward boys beat up his teacher – he was a beautiful child with life threatening behaviors. He hurt people – he hurt himself.
We read and watch crazy violent acts in schools and on the streets every day. There but for the grace of god or help from our community, is your nephew or neighbors child.
I could not do what foster, adoptive and parents of special needs children or any of the service providers working with them do every day.
So for me, more empathy, less criticism and knowing that there are very few right answers to these problems.
The following stories and observations by others paint a picture of American institutions with a poor record of transparency; accountability and almost no ability correct themselves or admit mistakes.
Every state needs an ongoing Governor’s task force to evaluate the successes and failures of child protection in measurable, accessible and understandable format.
Legislation and related policies and services impacting babies and five year olds’ that have been neglected, raped, beaten and starved for the past year. These are not anomalies, but every day occurrences in every state in our nation. We aspire to be better than this. We claim to value children.
Our institutions are creating the problems that they were designed to stop.
This book argues that our institutions are responsible for the cyclical nature of child abuse in America.
The exponential growth in traumatized children walking the streets, failing the schools, and filling the prisons and making life miserable for themselves and others are solvable problems (within one generation).
The multiple Child Protection State Task Forces and media coverage of 3 year old rape & murder are growing proof that drunk uncles ought not do daycare, young families should have a place at our economic table, and that crisis nurseries, quality daycare, trauma based children’s mental health interventions, and early childhood programs save lives and make people and communities happy, safe and prosperous.
Just a little bit of study also prove the financial wisdom of investing in children and their problems when they are young (as the Federal Reserve Bank studies by Art Rolnick demonstrated in 2003).
What America spends today in dealing with the behaviors and lifestyles of traumatized children and the adults they become is many times greater than any amounts we could spend helping children recover from childhood trauma and learning the coping skills necessary to live as a contributing and happy member of our community.
How we have gone so far off the practical and proven path of building healthy children is painful to read but it is the first step in recognizing that the problem is “us” and must be recognized before it can be understood and understood before it can be solved.
This book is KARA’s effort to grow awareness about abused and neglected children in our communities and identify what’s working and what must change to avoid the growing sadness and costs of murder, crime, homelessness and dysfunction traumatized people bring to our adult world and all the people they interact with for the rest of their lives.
Minnesota Passes A Law
Slipped into legislation in ____ because the practice needed to be codified as it was so common (DHS statement), was the law that social workers could not use a family’s past history of child abuse in reviewing a new case of child abuse.
Most of us see the giant disadvantage an abused Minnesota four year old would suffer if the social worker did not know of his six year old sister’s multiple rapes or the fifteen reports of child abuse of the child by mandated reporters. That is exactly what killed four year old Eric Dean. Fifteen largely ignored reports of child abuse and one example of the overuse of toothless family assessments (where the well-being of the child takes the very back seat of the investigation).
Our Governor had the political courage to call this colossal failure of child protection in Minnesota a “Colossal Failure” and he called for a task for to review why Eric Dean died, what we could learn from it and what changes in our child protection system would prevent the next preventable child protection tragedy.
Many many children have died since the formation of Minnesota’s child protection system and there’s plenty of institutional push back against implementing the changes that would make this cruel and senseless dying go away.
Just as troubling, there are high paid professional people in charge of the laws and policies that rule the lives of at risk children and they don’t believe reporters should cover these stories or that change needs to happen. Things are just fine, nothing to see here.
Some of us including former Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz, have become aware of the depth and scope of the problems child abuse and neglect are delivering to our communities. “The difference between that poor child and a felon is about 8 years” and “90% of the youth in juvenile justice have passed through child protection” are accurate and concise reflections from Chief Justice Blatz. The difference between that poor child and a preteen mom with no parenting skills, a drug habit and a violent boyfriend is my own reflection on Chief Justice Blatz’ reflection.
The State of Other States
Please appreciate that I never use a Governor’s (politicians’s) name or political affiliation.
Nothing in this book is a political statement and I want no one to have a reason to think that it is. Children can’t vote, they have no voice in the system and can’t defend themselves at all in either the Democratic or Republican parties. Politicizing children’s issues is evil. Please agree with me on this.
What a Governor (politician) did or did not say or support is what needs to be seen and understood. Abandoning children is neither religiously or politically acceptable – yet it is done in every election cycle in the most callous and heartless ways.
In the last chapter, Minnesota’s Governor had the political courage to identify the death of four year old Eric Dean after fifteen reports of child abuse by mandated reporters as a colossal failure of Minnesota’s Child Protection System.
That’s a radical statement for a high ranking politician by any standards that is very rarely printed in a newspaper. This child’s face had been partially chewed off and his arm broken in the photo that appeared in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The reporter, Brandon Stahl, in a video interview with Kids At Risk Action stated that the autopsy photos were much worse (he choked up in our interview).
Compare that to Indiana’s Governor (with his hat in the ring as a vice presidential candidate) a few years ago, when he redirected the funding. Funding promised to families adopting special needs children was redirected to his political supporters who cut the most from public assistance programs. Funding that was meant for families adopting special needs children (after the adoptions were completed). He is a gaping asshole. I’m pretty sure that is true even today – years after he implemented his hurt the poor families initiative.
If you don’t know families with an autistic child, a child adopted through the state ward system, in wheel chair or other special needs – please stretch yourself and make an introduction. You will quickly learn how heroic these parents are. Most of us go through life with financial troubles, the occasional teen pregnancy/juvenile crime child or a drug and alcohol problem. Families that adopt special needs children plan for child care after they themselves die.
There is no comparison. Revere people that adopt special needs children. Every hour of every day they meet the needs of a child that requires their care and attention in so many ways for so many hours that the rest of us never see and can’t visualize. Get to know a special needs parent.
To understand the depths of depravity Indiana’s Governor sank to by destroying the lives of five hundred families that had adopted special needs State Ward children to discover that the modest stipends for health care, education and transportation promised their children had been redirected for political reasons after the adoptions were completed – caused people to lose faith in the integrity of our political system.
I know because I visited those families and could do nothing to help them – most of them were people that really needed the money to make life bearable for their newly adopted children. I really hate that man. He deserves our contempt and a place in hell if it exists.
Five more pages.