Bringing Attention to Child Abuse Deaths

As part of a campaign to stop child abuse and neglect deaths, The Every Child Matters Education Fund and its partners—the National Association of Social Workers, the National Children’s Alliance, and the National District Attorneys Association—are running ads that urge Congress to address the fatalities that claim the lives of innocent children every day. Specifically, the ads ask Congress to hold hearings and provide emergency funds to stop state cuts in child protective services.

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Brandon Stahl’s investigating and Safe Passage’s volunteers are changing lives

  Brandon Stahl’s reporting (September 2014) on the tortured death of 4 year old Eric Dean and his  powerful Star Tribune articles about tortured children & the “catastrophic failure” of child protection in Minnesota (Governor Dayton’s words), shine light into the invisible world of child abuse that is so hard to talk about and so…

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Brandon Stahl Sets A Precedent For Excellence In Reporting (share this with your local newspaper – it could be repeatable & help children)

The issues of child abuse and child protection services are complicated and not well understood by the general public, state legislators, or even the people delivering the services. In the almost twenty years I’ve spent as a volunteer in the system (CASA guardian ad-Litem), I’ve not witnessed a reporter going as deep into the heart of a child protection story until reading Brandon Stahl’s series in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

When a baby is found in a dumpster or some other horrific suffering of a four year old makes the paper, an article of outrage leaves the reader hating and blaming a person or institutional failure. Because it takes a sustained and painful effort to take a deeper look into the depth and scope of the nightmarish conditions that preceded the great sadness of a child’s suffering and death at the hands of a caregiver, the reporting almost always stops right here.

Thirty years ago in White Bear Lake MN (near my home), Lois Jergens went on to adopt five more children after murdering 4 year old Dennis Jergens. None of the approximately fifty children I lobbied to be removed from their homes because of torture, sex abuse, or neglect were ever known to anyone outside the child protection system. The absence of information about abused and neglected children is directly related to our high crime rates, full prisons, troubled schools, and unsafe neighborhoods. We would all benefit by knowing the trauma of ground truth – then we could face it and deal with it. It would be better for us and better for children.

Today, Brandon Stahl is peeling back the layers of this complicated institution of child protection. So few people know anything substantive about it and even the people running it can be so wrong so often (as in passing laws about not using past history of abuse in current investigations or family assessments instead of child protection in high risk cases).

In our interview with Brandon Stahl, he was clear about just how hard it is to pry information out of institutions that either have done a very bad job of gathering and keeping it, or simply don’t want it known. He spoke of the substantial financial investment his newspaper had to make in order to get the basic information about the murder of four year old Eric Dean by his step-mother after fifteen reports of child abuse by mandated reporters.

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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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Book review: Armchair Interviews

The author packed the book with his passion and purpose: society’s involvement in children’ in abusive and dysfunctional homes’ foster care and the system in general. If you care about your community’s welfare, it is a “must read.”

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Body Memories – Why Child Sex Abuse Never Ends (letters from survivors and non survivors)

Dear Doctor,

As a medical professional you have taken an oath to do no harm, but there are ways in which you can hurt your patients without even recognizing you are doing so. What seems to you as a simple exam may cause injury to those who have been victimized by someone’s touch. This is a subject that we, survivors of sexual violence, have been meaning to discuss with you for some time now, but your authority can be more intimidating than you may know. I am also unsure if you are aware just how much power you, as a physician, hold and to the extent that you affect the lives of all of your patients. Your interactions with us travel much deeper than the physical core.

The relationship between patient and doctor is also mental, built on trust, understanding, and the security of knowing that your doctor has your well-being at heart. We, as your patients, entrust in you the most intimate parts of our bodies and our lives. But this trust has to be earned, and it is much harder for us patients who have been so severely violated. The intent of this letter is not to in any way criticize your work as a

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Blog Talk Radio Mike Tikkanen 7PM Friday

Stop Child Abuse Now (SCAN) – 2155 — Special guest Mike Tikkanen — Friday, 06/07/2019

Direct URL:

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/naasca/2019/06/08/stop-child-abuse-now-scan–2155

Tonight’s special guest is Mike Tikkanen from Hopkins, Minnesota, a returning NAASCA family member, founder and President of KARA (Kids at Risk Action), a non-profit action tank supporting people, policies, and programs that improve the lives of at-risk

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Black Children Matter (and child protection systems)

Yesterday at the State Capital in St Paul, Black Lives matter rallied outside for fair treatment by the police and inside (where I was) at the rotunda for fair treatment in child protection for black families and children.

Child protection is viewed by many in the community as a finance driven machine making life miserable for families and ruining the lives of their children.

Far too many group homes and foster care givers fall far short of providing a safe haven for traumatized children and state ward children are often;

* forced to take psychotropic medications without adequate mental health services

* abused while in child protective services

From reporting to discharge, the over representation of Black children in the child protection system cannot be overstated.

Nationally,

37% of children are reported to child protection by the time they are 18 unless they are black, when the number jumps to 54%.

Black families are 4 times more likely to be subjects of a child protection investigation & 5 time more likely to experience a child protection report than white families.

Black children are 5.3 times more likely to be placed in foster homes than white children.

After 20+ years as a white volunteer CASA guardian ad litem, I know that the system leaves few people involved with it satisfied and I very much see why black families think the system is a money driven machine.

Not having a child protection system would be unethical and deadly for children. Our best hope is to make the changes that are critical to building a fair and effective system that breaks the cycle of generational child abuse.

Communities that fail to support young mothers and their children will not have schools performing at acceptable reading, math or graduation rates and they will continue to suffer high crime and incarceration rates. The U.S. criminal justice system has approached a near 80% recidivism rate within the prison system.

To this end, Kids At Risk Action strongly supports the efforts of Safe Passage for Children of Minnesota

www.safepassagemn.com and the CASA guardian ad litem volunteer program www.casamn.org

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Bill Murray Stop Child Abuse Now Radio Interview

ill Murray knows the best questions to ask to create a lively and informative discussion on the issues that impact abused and neglected children.

This 90 minute talk is a powerful and comprehensive talk I had with Bill and his panel about our institutions and what needs to change to make our children and communities happier and safer: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/bill-murray/2013/05/16/stop-child-abuse-now-scan.mp3 (move the arrow a little bit to skip the music if you wish to start at the conversation).

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Bigger Armies & More Wars – Why Americans Hate Children

Just yesterday a tea party fellow I know (RW) was telling me about the wisdom in former MN Governor Tim Pawlenty’s words, “children that are victims of failed personal responsibility are not my problem, nor are they the problem of the state of Minnesota”. Solid Christians both of them, so they must be right. Although I’m still having trouble finding the religion that abandons children.

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Big Pharma vs. 5 Year Olds (and the loser is,)

Today’s in-depth article on the billions of dollars in fines and judgments paid out by big drug companies on civil and criminal complaints for promoting drugs (not even established as safe and effective for adults) to pediatricians & school guidance counselors) for use by children needs to be understood and taken a step further.

From this guardian ad-Litems perspective, the most serious drug abuse facing America are the psychotropic medications being prescribed to children (even three and four year olds). The side effects can be awful, the drugs often cause more harm than good and seldom does adequate therapy accompany drug usage.

Johnson & Johnson has settled thousands of cases for their “illicit promotion of Risperdal” (3 billion dollars) and are currently litigating over four thousand cases (and only a fraction of damaged people ever sue).

The safety and efficacy of Risperdal was promoted for use by children when it had not even been established that it was safe or effective in adults and J&J will continue to sell these drugs, lose these lawsuits and make boatloads of money.

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Big Pharma – Who Do We Blame?

The root of the problem is that each and every (almost) abused and neglected child in the system has severe mental health issues and there are almost no useful alternative medical systems in place to address this – instead we use drugs.

The World Health Organization defines torture as “Extended exposure to violence and deprivation”. Every child I worked with as a CASA guardian ad-Litem (about 50) experienced extended exposure to violence and deprivation.

Only the worst of the worst cases make it into the system. When I started in 1996, 2/3’s of the reports were investigated. Today because of budget cuts, 1/3 are being investigated.

Half the kids in my case load had been sexually abused. That is a trauma that no five or ten year old gets over without professional help. When they come of age, they get into trouble because they can’t cope. They did not learn how to read, play well with others, or learn to sit quietly in a room – they have been traumatized.

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Beyond Capacity; Arizona’s Child Protection System (not the only state)

Child Protective Services oversight committee shows Arizona’s child welfare system experienced a greater caseload increase than all but one state in the 10 years ending in 2012, while most states saw decreases.

University of Chicago researcher and former federal child welfare commissioner Bryan Samuels’ review of state and federal data also found the response time in Arizona for child abuse and neglect complaints soared from 63 hours to nearly 250 hours between 2009 and 2012.

Samuels said the data he reviewed at the request of state officials working to overhaul the broken system showed Arizona’s child welfare system became overwhelmed as caseloads soared. That led to a large increase in the amount of time children were in the system before being reunified with their families or placed in permanent homes.

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Better Record Keeping & Higher Standards For Tracking Child Maltreatment & Protection

Our series on child welfare has called attention to a report by the state’s Office of the Legislative Auditor, which found that standards for child maltreatment vary widely across the state and that counties do not keep data about reports consistently.
We also explored issues with Family Assessment, the child protection option in which families are required to participate in an assessment of risk to their children but do not have to accept services. The limited data available indicates that 70% of families are now diverted to this track and very few of these actually receive any services.

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Better Guidance Urgently Needed For Doctors In Child Protection Cases, Say Experts

A British Medical Journal Journal article (below) points out the confusion in doctors duties regarding child protection. In Britain the welfare of the child is place highly only when a decision is governed by the Children Act statute, which has created an atmosphere of increased complaints against paediatricians. Doctors may be avoiding work related to abuse because of this.

As a guardian ad Litem in the U.S., I often found the medical professionals unresponsive to the violence and dysfunction responsible for the condition of the child before them.

In the U.S. there is an organization trying to change that; The Academy on Violence and Abuse, www.avahealth.org is working diligently to better educate the medical profession about the signs of abuse and how to respond effectively.

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Better Futures for Minnesota Children (from Safe Passage For Children MN)

Mission:

To rebuild the Minnesota child welfare system so children are safe and reach their full potential.

Vision:
There will always be a group of Minnesota citizens who advocate on behalf of victims of child maltreatment, and who will hold counties and the state accountable for continuously improving outcomes for these children and their families.

Goal:
Our goal is to build a child protection and foster care system in Minnesota that

continuously improves the lives of children, as demonstrated by objective, measurable outcomes. If the system is working well children’s outcomes will improve over time.

The following are major milestones for achieving this goal:

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By 2017 all children will be periodically assessed for their level of trauma starting when they first enter child protection.
By 2019 all children in the system will be periodically assessed for improvements in their cognitive and physical development, as well as in measures of behavioral and mental health.
Workers and supervisors will be accountable for improving these outcomes for individual children as monitored through quality reviews and updates to the courts.
Counties will be accountable for improving outcomes for children in their caseloads overall as shown by summary reports.
In subsequent years our goal is to continue to monitor outcomes at the county and state levels, and advocate for necessary budget allocations, practice improvements, and related resources to ensure that the child protection system is continually improving its response to children.

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Best Interests Of The Child; ICWA, Politics, & Media

It’s obvious to almost anyone that reads this article that the best interests of the child weren’t even considered when Sierra Goodman was ripped from the Campbell’s adoptive home by ICWA. It was a home she loved and flourished in.

But the best interests of ICWA were not being served, as is again the case with baby Veronica Rose in the same disturbingly anti child court case being held in South Carolina.

Living in 20 foster homes, passing through 13 schools, and leading a tortured life, Sierra Goodman, now 28 is allowing her story to be told in the hopes of bettering the lives of the many children passing through child protection systems that are not allowed to consider the “best interests of the child” when ICWA is involved.

What have we become to use children as a football to advance out political and institutional objectives above and beyond their own precious souls?

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Best ACEs Articles for July 2016

Register for the 2016 Conference on Adverse Childhood Experiences [ACEsConnection.com]
Join Center for Youth Wellness October 19-21 for the 2016 Conference on Adverse Childhood Experiences in San Francisco. The conference is a unique opportunity for every expert and practitioner committed to advancing the ACEs movement to come together to build a better future for children exposed to early adversity and trauma.

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