Thank You Governor Dayton (shining a light on Minnesota’s Child Protection system)

It took real courage for Minnesota’s Governor to use the phrase “Colossal Failure” when describing the role child protective services played in the tortured death of four year old Eric Dean.  The politics of child protection are not favorable to politicians. Plenty of Governors would have let the story die down without making too much…

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Privatized Juvenile Prisons – Kids For Cash The Movie (watch the trailer)

KIds For Cash the movie is a documentary about two Pennsylvania Judges who were imprisoned for 40 years because they sentenced thousands of innocent juveniles to prison for 2.5 million dollars in kickbacks. This movie captures the devastating impact imprisonment has on youth and the dangers of privatized facilities. Watch the trailer here.

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Eric Dean Is One Of Many (child protection is failing children in most states)

The language in today’s Star Tribune describing the bloody whipping of Viking’s star Adrian Peterson’s four year old boy *(Tyrese Robert Ruffin) demonstrates the lengths my community will go to to protect the rights of 250 pound men to brutalize their 45 pound four year old children. MN Vikings Adrian Peterson beat his son repeatedly with a stick and had used belts to beat him on numerous other occasions (the child’s words in the Houston police report).

Beaten savagely by a 240 pound professional athlete, this very young child had leaves stuffed into his mouth and suffered open wounds on his back and buttocks, and a bruised penis. He still had welts a week after the beating.

The Star Tribune today ran two articles about this poor traumatized boy with “not reasonable” and “reactions dwell on line between discipline & abuse” in the titles. Nowhere in the articles is child protection mentioned. It is mostly a discussion about football.

Adrian’s defense was that his father beat him the same way. For the religious among us, “visiting the iniquity (horrors) of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

or the much easier to remember, “like father, like son”.

None of this will help Tyrese become a normal, coping child and there is reason to believe that the he suffers from some behavioral problems already (I would argue a result of the traumas inflicted upon him by his monster of a father).

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Admitting I Have Problem Is The Hardest Part (thank you Brandon Stahl for identifying the problem)

Brandon Stahl’s reporting has been the best thing to happen for Minnesota’s abused and neglected children in my lifetime.

As a longtime volunteer CASA guardian ad-Litem, I have seen an underfunded and not too healthy child protection system become sclerotic, insular, and unresponsive to the needs of our most vulnerable children.

The slow tortured death of Eric Dean was only reported in a newspaper because he died. Had he lived, we would not know about it. I have children in my CASA guardian ad-Litem caseload that suffered just like Eric, and no one knows about their suffering but me (and people that read my words).

Over the past twenty years, I have watched underfunded, under-trained, under-resourced child protection workers (including judges, educators, day care and health providers, foster and adoptive families, try to work with cold and unresponsive systems that are now creating exactly what they were designed to stop.

I have seen lives of very young children destroyed forever because easily available information was ignored. Plenty of children in Minnesota have had Eric Dean type torture that no one knows about (because our systems are overwhelmed and unresponsive).

Governor Dayton’s proposed investigation should uncover the sad truth that no child protection information gets public attention unless a child has died violently.

The fact that most counties don’t keep past reports of screened out cases and are prohibited from considering past reports when evaluating new charges of child abuse should be seen for the awful impact it is having on children living in toxic homes (it leaves children in homes where they are molested, neglected, tortured, and murdered).

That Minnesota Counties don’t report death and near death of children as required by Federal Law is misfeasance, nonfeasance, or malfeasance and should be viewed as a crime worth punishment.

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WCCO / KARA Radio Interview (Jordana Green Show)

Our most recent radio interview; (ten minutes) September 9th live WCCO radio interview with Jordana Green (ten minutes) A lively discussion of the critical issues facing abused and neglected children and what we can make life better for them. Support KARA’s MN Public Television documentary project on this topic

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Changing A Bad Law (thank you Brandon Stahl & Star Tribune)

Minnesota’s abused and neglected children finally catch a break. Brandon Stahl’s superb reporting on the tortured death of 4-year old Eric Dean after fifteen ignored reports finally reached the State’s top child protection people (Erin Sullivan Sutton) and is trickling down to the legislators that voted to eliminate what was at the time already weak tracking, reporting, and responding to of child abuse complains by counties.

While this is great news for the 68,000 children that are reported as abused in MN each year, it will not restore the millions of dollars that have been cut from County budgets for child protection services that would allow counties to:

Provide the public access to a transparent record keeping and tracking that will allow transparency that the rest of us might monitor how reports of abuse are responded to across the state,

Create consistent standards for screening in cases from county to county (today, four MN counties screen out 90% of child abuse reports)

Fix the damage done already to the thousands of MN children that have been screened out and are living in horrific circumstances,

It is left to be seen if the legislative turnaround will impact the 29% of abused children in the system that today are sent back to abusive homes,

Or our state ranking as 47th in the U.S. on the amount it spends on children in child protection,

Or that 80% of Minnesota’s abused children are abused again while under court supervision,

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Brandon Stahl Reports (reporting on the reporter)

ois Jurgens tortured and killed her three year old adopted son Dennis Jergens over time and in a most brutal fashion. She was the adoptive mother of six children and she tortured them all over long periods of time. She was eventually convicted and sentenced for murder – but not before adopting five other children (after Dennis’s was tortured to death).

Prior to the adoption of Dennis, Lois had been hospitalized three times for mental illness and there were Mayo Clinic psychiatrist records strongly recommending against Lois becoming an adoptive parent because she was a potential paranoid schizophrenic.

She had been turned down by a number of Catholic adoption agencies, but Ramsey County (like many counties) was having trouble finding adoptive homes for abandoned and abused children. Within a year of the adoption, Dennis was admitted to the Ramsey County hospital with burns on his penis and bruises all over his two year old body.

Five years after Dennis’ death, Lois and her husband moved to Kentucky and adopted five more children (states still don’t share information in many cases).

Brandon Stahl has written clearly and accurately about four year old Eric Dean’s short tortured life and the institutional failures that lead to his death. How fifteen reports were made to the under–trained/understaffed/under-resourced county workers ignored all of them.

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Another Avoidable Child Death

Gordon Collins-Faunce, a father with PTSD & related psychotropic medications, and a history of physical and sexual abuse growing up in his own foster family, hurled his two-month old son into a chair. Ethan Henderson died three days later. Child Protective services had been alerted but deemed the boy was safe. While it is easy to blame the workers, it solves nothing without attention to the systems, resources and procedures that will prevent the next Ethan Henderson from an abusive family home.

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Why Are So Many Six Year Olds On Prozac?

Hennepin County Judge Heidi Schellhas shared her records of very young children taking psychotropic medications that had passed through her courtroom with me in 2005 (for my book, Invisible Children.

It was astounding to see how many six and seven year old children in Hennepin County’s Child Protection system take Prozac and other psychotropic medications. Since the book, I have followed reporting about the medicating of the very young from states and counties around the nation.

Most states that have reported on this topic run between 1/4 and 1/3 of their child protection children on psychotropics and teens in foster homes appear to use these drugs at a higher level. It appears that the use of psychotropic medications by non-foster children occur at less than 20% of the rate as the use of these drugs by foster kids.

Most states don’t track the data and those that do don’t make it easy to find.

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Almost Half The Children Dying From Abuse In Colorado Were In Or Known To Child Protection Workers (72 of 175)

Today’s Denver Post Article reports a just completed state child protection workload study that indicates a need for 574 more child protection workers to keep abused and neglected children safe in the state (a 49% increase). Of the 150 CP workers interviewed, 100 felt that their case load was unmanageable.

Only 25% of these workers had face to face contact with their caseload children on a monthly basis. That’s pretty cold. Monthly contact is not enough to start with. The system can be so cold and removed and the family and child are so at risk.

There is currently a call for a Colorado Child Protection Ombudsman, who would investigate complaints within the child welfare system. That would be a start towards recording and responding to the biggest problems faced by children, families, and the people trying to make the system work.

2 years ago the Post published a series about 175 Colorado children who died of abuse and neglect (72 of them known within the child protection system). The video on this site makes a compelling argument for adequate reporting, more resources, better training for workers, and smaller caseloads – monthly visits are not enough.

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This Week’s At Risk Children’s News

SC: Exclusive – Robert Guinyard’s life and death in SC’s child welfare system
The State – August 17, 2014
Since his death, Robert has become the face of the debate over whether Social Services is doing all it can to protect children like the 4-year-old, one of 67 children who died last year after contact with the state’s child welfare agency.
http://www.thestate.com/2014/08/17/3623563/exclusive-robert-guinyards-life.html

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Founder of ACEsTooHigh and ACEsConnection Jane Stevens

The ACEs scoring is hugely important and with attention to and implementation of the programs and disciplines that reverse or mitigate the terrible impact of childhood trauma our communities will see an improvement in graduation rates, a decline in crime and prison populations, much safer and happier neighborhoods.

The opposite side of this approach are DR. Bruce Perry’s words that if these issues are not addressed, “25% of Americans will be special needs people by the end of this generation”. He spoke that sentence 8 years ago. And he & the medical community have more than adequate research to back up that statement.

Jane Stevens s the most informed and articulate person I’ve listened to in this field. She has a unique perspective as a researcher/reporter who has read and studied the huge volume of information not just from a single aspect of child abuse and neglect, but from the various institutional perspectives as well as how different communities within the states are using or not using and the results the states are seeing with the use or non-use of the ACEs research and recommendations.

If you read nothing else today, introduce yourself to www.ACEsTooHigh and http://www.acesconnection.com/

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What’s The Difference? (and why we should care)

Coming from years as a CASA guardian ad-Litem, child friendly perspective, I see similarities and a correlation between what in business would be labelled “Worst Practices” or, what is happening to the citizens of Ferguson at the hands of an aggressive judicial/policing approach to justice for the citizens of Missouri, and the way America treats children and juveniles.
25% of American juveniles are tried as adults (often 10 and 12 years old), recidivism rates are now at 70% in our prisons -Black men born in 2001 have a 33% chance of incarceration. Almost half of America’s incarcerated youth serve their terms in privatized prisons. Many laboring for as little as one dollar a day.

Almost 20,000 children have been killed by gunfire since 2010,

Thousands of children in child protection systems are medicated by psychotropic pharmaceuticals like Prozac, Ritalin, and Zoloft instead of being treated through mental health programs that could help them gain the coping skills necessary for leading productive lives.

Six million children are reported abused in this nation each year. About ten percent of them receive services in an overwhelmed child protection system. In most states, only the very worst child abuse cases receive any attention.

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About Women In Prison (most are primary caregivers, many lose their children forever)

I had the good fortune of meeting Tom Daly who wrote a history of Shakopee women’s prison and he told me how women benefited from the educational offerings and the ability to visit with their children while in prison (his book featured below). It was Tom’s opinion that the the recidivism rate stayed well below thirty…

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Most Interesting Child Abuse Articles Of The Week

altimore Sun Mandated Reporters (sanctions for not reporting)

CA: Former foster youths graduate with help of Journey House
Pasadena Star-News – July 23, 2014
When youth grow too old for the foster care system, they often go into “survival mode” seeking shelter and food, Journey House Executive Director Tim Mayworm said. Many end up on the street. “Most foster youth never even think they can go to college, let alone graduate,” Mayworm said.
http://www.pasadenastarnews.com/lifestyle/20140723/former-foster-youths-graduate-with-help-of-journey-house

CT: Child advocate agency raps child welfare officials
WRAL – July 23, 2014
The Connecticut Office of the Child Advocate criticized state child welfare officials on Wednesday for their handling of a transgender girl held at a detention center for boys on accusations she fought with other girls at a psychiatric center.
http://www.wral.com/child-advocate-agency-raps-child-welfare-officials/13835100/

CT: Giving Adoptees and Their Kids the Rights They Deserve (Opinion)
News Junkie – July 23, 2014
More than 65,000 adoptees in Connecticut have been legally barred from accessing their birth records.
http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/op-ed_giving_adoptees_and_their_kids_the_rights_they_deserve/

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Powerful Stories From The Atlantic Journal (here’s a preview)

Working with abused and neglected children and dysfunctional families is complex and grueling and needs more not less understanding and support.

Blaming social workers when a baby is found in a dumpster is not so different for blaming teachers for failed schools.

Troubled students not only don’t learn, they disrupt and make teaching the rest of the class much more difficult.

This is not so different from blaming law enforcement for the boy in the squad car (admit it, that would be ridiculous – but the analogy works in both prior examples).

Support teachers, support social workers, support justice workers. It is very hard work inside of institutions with very bad governance (and that my friends is our fault).

Support KARA’S TPT documentary project to bring these issues into the limelight and help our children get a fair start in life.

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We Could Do Better (lowest of the 38 states offering 4 year olds ECE)

While the CASEY Foundation ranks MN 5th in the nation for child well-being, there are serious flaws in our racial disparity and early childhood numbers.

Almost half of MN’s African American children live in poverty. In 2001, half of the adult African American adult men were arrested (no duplicate arrests and 58% of those men went on to be rearrested for a second crime within 2 years).

Our educational performance racial disparity is among the worst in the nation.

From the CURA reporter

MN ranks at the very bottom of states that provide early childhood education to four year old’s (2% vs the national average of 25%). We now have 8000 families on a backlog for subsidized child-care.

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It Could Be Worse (Virginia screens out 83% of all child abuse complaints)

Minnesota screens out 66% of child abuse complaints overall, but 4 MN counties screen out 90%. The only good thing to say about conditions in Virginia is that there seems to be some transparency in the reporting which one would hope will lead to more concern for what happens to abused and neglected children. All this talk about how we value children in America seems to be just talk.

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State Ward Children As Medical Guinea Pigs (or parents withholding medical treatment for religious reasons?)

Justina Pelletier’s sad case of medical experimentation on state wards in Massachusetts and the religious freedom to deny children with treatable diseases medical care in so many states, proves the awful truth that children have no significant rights in this nation. Almost five hundred children have died in Florida after DHS contact, more than seventy children died in California from 2008 to 2011, and the Governor of Kentucky (Steve Beshear) hid the evidence of dozens of children murdered by their parents.

Consider that

* thousands of five, six, and seven year old children in child protective services in this nation are prescribed psychotropic medications to mask their terrible behavioral problems (generally without any significant therapy), &

* the explosive growth of privatized detention centers and prisons that provide inadequate and poorly supervised services for at risk youth which has lead to the exponential growth of prison populations and preteen moms,

and the picture of how America values its children becomes pretty gloomy.

That America pays day care workers about the same as it pays food service workers really shows the low value of our youngest citizens. Most other industrialized nations demand more training and credentials of their daycare workers and they pay them more (a genuine indication that children have value in those societies).

State ward children used as guinea pigs in medical experimentation needs way more scrutiny than it receives as does the consumption of Prozac like drugs on very young children.

America’s youngest citizens need more rights to safety, health, and well-being (sign our pet

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CASA Guardian ad-Litem News (updates from around the nation)

Lawyers to become ‘eyes and ears’ of judges in new Family Law Guardian ad Litem pilot program
Bradenton Herald
More than two dozen lawyers from the Icard Merrill law firm have signed up to be guardians ad litem as part of a new Family Law Guardian ad Litem …

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Volunteers make a difference in children’s lives
MiamiHerald.com
The Guardian ad Litem Program, a volunteer-based organization, works to advocate for the best interests of our communities’ most vulnerable …

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Lombard Family Law Firm Relocates and Expands Office
Insurance News Net
O’Connell is a court-approved Guardian ad litem for the Eighteenth Judicial District. Lombard family attorneys Angel M. Traub, Chantelle A. Porter, …

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Jamie B. Schwinghamer Appointed to Board of Directors for Voices for Kids of Southwest Florida, Inc.
Naples Daily News
VFK supports the Guardian ad Litem (GAL) Program of the 20th Judicial Circuit, which recruits and trains volunteer child advocates to represent …

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Tallmadge resident Kim Ray named Juvenile Court Volunteer of the Year
Tallmadge Express
She was told that someone who works in the court-based Court Appointed Special Advocate/Guardian ad Litem (CASA/GAL) Program was receiving …

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New law gives voice to neglected, abused kids
Cherokee Tribune
The guardian ad litem determines the child’s best interests through guidelines in the new juvenile code, training and experience and, to some extent, …

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Attorneys argue Vidinhar hearing closure
Standard-Examiner
Second District Juvenile Court Judge Janice Frost heard oral arguments from Aza Vidinhar’s attorney and guardian ad litem, as well as from an …

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Elise Patkotak: Because of FASD, justice takes time in Barrow courtroom
Anchorage Daily News
There was a long time when I was a guardian ad litem with the Barrow court overseeing cases involving children in state custody. I still occasionally …

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Man sentenced for threatening daughter’s foster parents, others
The Northwest Florida Daily News
He then began calling the girl’s foster parents, their minor child, the girl’s dependency placement counselor, the girl’s guardian ad-litem and relatives of …

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Brutal Truths and Worst Practices (America’s injustice System)

One out of 28 American children has a parent in jail or prison – 60 percent of inmates are people of color (only 30% of America’s population are people of color). There are twelve time more drug offenders in state prisons than there were in 1980.

25% of American youth are charged in adult courts & many ten or twelve years old children are tried as adults. About ten thousand juveniles are housed in adult prisons and jails every day. 2/3 of those youth suffer from mental health issues and half that number have multiple and serious diagnosis.

Seven of ten of these youth have seen someone killed or severely injured and three of ten have attempted suicide. My first visit to a CASA guardian ad-Litem four year old was at the suicide ward of Fairview hospital in Minneapolis. The thoughts of killing yourself start young in at risk youth. Jeff Weise had been talking and writing about it before he killed his grandfather and fourteen others before killing himself.

And we wonder where the violence on our streets and in our schools comes from.

Black men born in 2001 have a 33% chance of incarceration and black youth are five times more likely to be arrested than white youth.

2/3 of America’s prisoners recycle within 3 years of being released Our recidivism rates are soon to exceed 70%.

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Child Welfare In The News (find your state here – some international)

FL: Daniel Kids offering foster care training classes: More than 8,000 children are currently in Florida foster care (Includes video)
News 4 Jax – June 01, 2014
Here in Florida there are over 8,000 children currently in foster care. There are many ways for the community to get involved and help these kids who are in transition from foster or adoptive parents to volunteers and mentors. There’s one group of children who need a special type of foster care.
http://www.news4jax.com/news/daniel-kids-offering-foster-care-training-classes/26275402

FL: How DCF kept 30 child deaths off the books
Miami Herald – June 01, 2014
Documents obtained after Innocents Lost was published show that starting at least as early as last November, as the Herald was grilling DCF on its problems in preventing the deaths of children under its watch, one branch of the agency deliberately kept as many as 30 deaths off the books – ensuring they would not be included in the published tally.
http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/06/01/4151260/how-dcf-kept-30-child-deaths-off.html

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Kilah’s Law

In May of 2012, at the tender age of 3, Kilah Davenport was cruelly beat by her stepfather. She had to have emergency brain surgery that involved removing a portion of her skull to relieve swelling on her brain but was still left with permanent brain damage and in a wheelchair. The injuries she sustained caused complications that led to Kilah’s death in March of 2014, just a few weeks before her 5th birthday.

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