Sad Stories; How America Values Its Children (a national disgrace)

“National Disgrace” is the headline in the Wednesday Star Tribune report on the Federal Government’s failure to enforce child protection laws, and the many children dying of abuse and neglect in plain view of child protection workers.

“Colossal Failure” were the words of MN Governor Mark Dayton when speaking about his state’s failure to provide child protection services to 4 year old Eric Dean after 15 ignored reports (by mandated reporters) of the bite marks and broken bones prior to his murder this year. The photos and the stories presented by journalist Brandon Stahl at the Star Tribune were horrific and caused the Governor to create a task force to stop the awful happenings in Child Protective Services.

Mark Dayton’s task force is recommending transparency and changing the awful laws and practices that currently make keeping children safe next to impossible.

Minnesota was a leader in child protection services twenty five years ago (as was California). Today, our state spends less on child protection than 46 other states and the results are in; Racial disparity, very troubled schools, and horrific child protection failures.

Don’t use my words to blame service providers. It’s not them it’s us.

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At Risk Children Need A Voice & KARA Needs You To Help Us Speak!

Help us grow Kids At Risk Action to make it a strong force to change to child protection and help at risk children.

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Why Teachers Quit – 2 Perspectives (Finland & Harvard)

When I interviewed teachers for my INVISIBLE CHILDREN book, an art teacher cried as she told me how she had entered teaching because she wanted to make a difference by bringing her love of art and teaching together. No Child Left Behind turned her into a warden with little time for sharing art or her passion for teaching with students that wanted to learn. In her perspective, the school scoring mandate meant that troubled students ended up in her room, because there was no worry about the performance in the “art” class. Fifty students, not thirty. Troubled students with violent outbursts, not seekers of art and beauty. She spent most of her time keeping students safe, not teaching the concepts of color and contour.

She was a dedicated, kind, and generous educator that recognized that the politics driving her chosen vocation were ruining her dream and her life. She told me why she gave up.

She was crying when she told me her story on the curb at a Mayday parade in Minneapolis. I will always remember her.

Her story is repeated in the data and the writings I recommend below.

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Kids At Risk Action TV Interview Shorts (for the record)

Abused and neglected children need our voices.

KARA is working with TPT TV to give them a loud and clear voice &

a path to a safer, better life.

Below are short clips from KARA’s documentary project

Watch & Help KARA make this happen.

These brief (2 minutes each) video interview excerpts tell powerful stories of child abuse and child protection in our community.

Share these links with your friends and networks & remember KARA presentations for your next community, religious or business event topic.

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Abused To Death While Child Protective Services Observed – 1000+ American Children in six years (AP report)

Brandon Stahl, the intrepid Minneapolis Star Tribune reporter spoke to KARA on camera about how difficult he found it to gather information on abused and murdered children in MN. Not making public information relevant to how a child died serves no good purpose. Who are we protecting by this secrecy?

When there is transparency, issues can be identified, addressed, and resolved. Until then, America’s child protection issues will remain under-reported, under-discussed, under-addressed, misunderstood, and never resolved.

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5 Worst States For Child Homelessness (35% of Mississippi Children Are Impoverished)

From the National Center On Family Homelessness; California has over 500,000 children children lacking stable housing. 35% of Mississippi’s children live in poverty. Arkansas, Alabama, & New Mexico have the next highest rates of child poverty and homelessness in the nation. Homelessness leads to mental health issues, crime, school problems (low performance and graduation rates).…

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RECENT DOCUMENTARY INTERVIEWS (Brandon Stahl)

KARA’s interview of Star Tribune reporter Brandon Stahl was riveting. The discovery process that Brandon followed to unearth the tragedy that was Eric Dean’s life and death is a compelling drama all by itself. When he got to the part about reviewing the autopsy photos of this traumatized and tortured four year old boy Brandon choked up (as did everyone else on the set).

We the public will never see those photos. These pictures were deemed to be too disturbing to print (we need to be protected from the actual photos of what happened to Eric Dean). The public’s memory of little Eric Dean is the smiling boy in colorful clothes with bite marks on his face and a broken arm.

Brandon’s description of the autopsy photos reminded me of the seven year old guardian ad-Litem case child that had spent four years tied to bed, sexually abused, beaten and starved and covered from head to foot with bruises, welts, and cuts when he entered child protection. My little friend is alive today, but he carries his many mental and physical traumas with him every where he goes. None of the horrid stories I encountered as a guardian ad-Litem ever made the paper.

Brandon explained what it’s like to get information from agencies that would rather not give it. He pointed out that the average person would most likely become frustrated and give up as the process is very tedious, very frustrating, and very expensive.
This story would not have ever made the newspaper if the Star Tribune had not supported Brandon with thousands of dollars to spend on the simple information requests that allowed this reporter to piece together the complex series of events that lead to the murder of a four year old little boy over a two year period. Each report of Eric’s abuse (15) by mandated reporters, what steps were taken by the County to see that the child was safe (one ineffective/useless family assessment where the question of whether the boy had been abused was never raised).

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For The Record (Toni Carter’s Comments on the Death Of Eric Dean + my response)

A central theme in the April 20 article “7 of 10 abuse calls not checked” was that Minnesota counties appear to “screen out” more reported cases of child abuse than other states, and that the percentage of cases that are closed without investigation varies between Minnesota counties. But it’s important to look beyond the data points to the data collection to understand these differences.

Increases in the statewide “screen out” rate from 2000-2010 may reflect changes in data recording practices rather than changes in agencies’ screening decisions. In 1999 a new data reporting system was implemented. As counties became more adept at using the new system the amount of data reporting increased. However, the actual number of reports “screened out” did not.

Despite the resulting higher “screen out” rate, Minnesota did the same number of assessments per year from 1996-2010, with a low of 16,384 in 2001 and a high of 19,846 in 2006, even though our child population is decreasing. While serving the same number of families, counties now document information received in a more consistent manner.

We believe it’s misleading to compare Minnesota screening practices to other states because of the variation in state laws, data collection systems and data retention practices.

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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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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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Don Samuels’ Story

As part of KARA’s TPT documentary project I interviewed Minneapolis City Councilman / Mayoral candidate Don Samuels recently. He described his experiences as a volunteer CASA guardian ad-Litem, North Side resident, and city councilman that were relevant to child well-being and child protection.
Don had a powerful observations about how much better it would be for children and the community if our child protection system concentrated on the needs of that at risk child at the moment of need instead of the systematic institutional approach that occurred each time he (Don) saw a child engaged in the child protection system.

He spoke of being in the courtroom representing a child as a CASA guardian ad-Litem, noting that the child had an attorney, the mother and father each had attorneys (they were divorced), there were social workers and a health worker for the child, the County Attorney, and the usual bailiff, Judge, and courtroom staff, and the huge costs related to all these people in this courtroom trying to make justice happen (not necessarily in the best interest of the child).

The Don Samuels story that will stick with me forever is the five year old boy (call him James) trying to commit suicide by jumping out a third story window at school. Because the boy’s teacher could find no mental health resources for this child, she called her City Council member, Don Samuels for help. Don became involved with James over about fifteen years years and came to know the traumatic life the boy lived and the very bad outcomes James kept having from the institutional care he had received.

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KARA -TPT Television Documentary Update

Saturday, August 16th KARA concluded the fourth in a series of professionally conducted video interviews being scheduled for our TPT documentary partnership (seven people/about fourteen hours of interview to date).

KARA’s strategy for the program is to blend the perspectives and insights of the children, families, child protection workers, along with other involved professionals by sharing experience within the child protection system to identify what works and what needs to be changed.

We are discovering through this process just how hard people are trying and it is becoming apparent that awareness, discussion, and change are needed.

KARA and TPT’s underlying hope for this project is to identify and discuss the critical issues that need the attention of the public and policy makers to drive changes that will create better outcomes for abused and neglected children.

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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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The Most Important Child Friendly Sites of This Week

http://acestoohigh.com/ Read a few of these smart and powerful articles and you will know more about at risk children’s issues than anyone on your block.

http://safepassagemn.com/landing-page.html This video will be the best six minutes you can spend this week.

We are all in this together. Let’s all pull in the right direction (pro child) Support KARA’s TPT documentary project

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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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KARA Brooklyn Park Think Again Presentation, Pizza and Social – June 17, 6pm

Early Childhood Education Boosts
Academic Achievement and Career Success

Tuesday, June 17 6 p.m. Pizza and Social 6:30 p.m. Program

Brooklyn Park Council Chambers, 5200 85th Avenue N

Please RSVP and Share on Facebook
or to

Carol Woehrer, carolwoehrer@usfamily.net

A question and answer session will follow the presentations.

Sponsored by the Maple Grove, Osseo, Brooklyn Park, and Brooklyn Center Chapter of the League of Women Voters; Kids at Risk Action , KARA; Think Again MN ; and the BrooklynPark Diversity Team.

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Tuesday, June 17 6pm KARA Brooklyn Park Think Again Presentation, Pizza, and Social

Early Childhood Education Boosts Academic Achievement and Career Success Tuesday, June 17               6 p.m. Pizza and Social           6:30 p.m. Program Brooklyn Park Council Chambers, 5200 85th Avenue N Please RSVP and Share on Facebook or to Carol Woehrer, carolwoehrer@usfamily.net A question and answer session will follow the presentations. Sponsored by the Maple Grove, Osseo, Brooklyn…

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Help KARA Accomplish Its Mission (volunteer & support our documentary project)

Support KARA’s MN Public TV documentary project  Your donation will help KARA bring this powerful story to a statewide and national audience through television and social media. We are also seeking help us with reporting, writing, and building a greater social media presence. Do you have the skills to help us accomplish our goals of…

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MN Public TV / KARA Partnership (bringing attention to the issues of abused & neglected children)

MN Public TV is partnering with KARA for a once in a lifetime opportunity to improve the lives of abused and neglected children. To do this we need your help.

KIDS AT RISK ACTION (501(c)3 non-profit, is partnering with Minnesota Public Television (TPT) to tell the INVISIBLE CHILDREN’s story through compelling interviews with children and adults within the world of child protection. KARA needs your support and asks for your gift to help make this project happen.

Larger donors will be featured on the program, invited to the pre-screening party at TPT (St. Paul), and receive priority consideration for all new projects as they develop. This project will be a big part of our ongoing efforts at KARA.

Donate Button or Contact me directly to help KARA complete this project mike@invisiblechildren.org

Program purpose; Create awareness of the critical issues impacting at risk children & identifying how to break the cycle of child abuse and neglect.
Program themes; Mental health and coping skills, and the basic rights of children to safety, healthcare, and education.
Program production; Experts and personal stories of children and adults within the child protection system.
Program look and sound; Serious and inspiring
Target audience; General public with attention to legislators, and everyone touched by our child protection system

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Speaking For The Weakest & Most Vulnerable Among Us – Star Tribune Articles

It hurts me to see people in high positions who are responsible for child protection make claims that there’s nothing to see here, things are just fine, child protection is working as it needs to (“Counties are committed to safety of kids,” April 25).

There is very little fine about it, and by accident or by design, information about it is hard to find and rarely published. By almost any measure and from my perspective over many years as a volunteer guardian ad litem within the system, there are not enough resources, record keeping is poor, child protection cases need to be over the top to get into the system, and children stand only a small chance of getting what they need to recover from the years of abuse and neglect they have suffered.

Things have gotten worse since Minnesota went from screening out one-third of the cases to screening out two-thirds. Screening out 90 percent of cases (as four Minnesota counties do) is a very big deal.

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Responding To Toni Carter’s Star Tribune Article Yesterday (County Commissioner & Pres MN Assoc. of Counties)

Minnesota’s counties received nearly 68,000 reports of child abuse or neglect last year but closed most of those cases without investigation or assessment.

A review of state and federal data by the Star Tribune shows that the number of child abuse reports being screened out without any protective action rose last year to the third-highest rate in the country.

In all, the state screened out more than 48,000 such abuse reports last year ­— and authorities often made their decisions after only gathering information from a phone call or a fax.

What happens to those cases is largely unknown. Records are not open to the public. Many counties also don’t keep track of closed cases, potentially resulting in multiple reports of abuse of a child without intervention. A bill advancing through the Legislature would require counties to keep information on screened-out cases for a year to spot recurring child abuse.

“We’re finding gross discrepancies in what one county does vs. another,” said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Jeff Hayden, DFL-Minneapolis.

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