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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Fumbled Child Protection Warnings Cost Children Their LIves (thank you Brandon Stahl- Star Tribune)

Seven children died last year from abuse or neglect despite prior knowledge by Minnesota child protection agencies that their lives were at risk, records provided to the Star Tribune show.

That total is the highest in the state’s records, which go back to 2005. The Department of Human Services said it will study each case to probe whether county social workers missed chances to save the child, but an initial review has found that some counties could have done more.

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How America Treats Its Children

The recent International Labor Organization study proves that the U.S. is one of three nations on the planet that does not provide some kind of monetary payment to new mothers who’ve taken maternity leave from work. America also provides the least amount of maternity leave among the industrialized (and many emerging and third world) nations.

That is what we think of children in America. New Zealand and Norway provide up to 14 weeks of paid leave, and 70 nations provide paid leave for fathers.

In America, we pay our daycare workers what we pay food service workers (the lowest paid people in the nation) and have almost no requirements for education or training for the difficult and important task of raising our youngest citizens.

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More Attention To Children’s Issues (the only way to make their lives better)

Sare the information discovered by Star Tribune writer Brandon Stahl in this article (and his future writings on the topic) with your social media and friends. The more people understand the core issues, the greater the chance that legislators will respond to an educated populace and make the lives of abused and neglected children a little better.

Minnesota now screens out more child abuse cases than 47 other states (this is a terrible fact if you are an abused child).

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Snapshot On Florida’s Child Protection System (or what’s not working)

In the wake of a bloody year for Florida youngsters, lawmakers have pledged to repair the state’s frayed safety net for abused and neglected children.

But as the state’s annual legislative session winds toward the final gavel, many children’s advocates say legislative leaders have failed to match their words with action and fear some proposals may create new problems.

Gov. Rick Scott has proposed spending $39 million to hire 400 “boots on the ground,” or child abuse investigators who will respond to hotline reports and identify at-risk kids. But investigators typically work with a family for 60 days or less, and then families in need of follow-up help are sent to privately run local agencies.

Those agencies, the governor says, don’t need new money. The agencies counter that if the governor’s plan goes through, their already-backlogged caseloads will swell and families will compete for the services they need to keep children safe. They are asking for $25.4 million more.

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Years Of Ignored Child Abuse In Arizona (why should we care?)

Charles Flanagan, head of the new Division of Child Safety and Family Services, said five were people working for him who were found to have been instrumental in crafting and implementing a policy that resulted in ignoring state laws which require all complaints be investigated.

Flanagan said the firing came after review of an extensive investigation conducted by the state Department of Public Safetyof exactly who was accountable for ignoring the law. He said these are the people most responsible.

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See No Evil – 90% Of Child Abuse Reports Screened Out In Minnesota Counties (Red Lake, Wilkin, LeSeur, Waseca)

Today’s Star Tribune *article draws attention to the thousands of children that are neglected, abused, traumatized enough to be seen and reported by others. The vast majority of child abuse is never seen and never reported.

Minnesota, decided that denying children safety saves money. Statewide our screened out average is 71% compared to the national average of 38%. It is one thing to read about the horrid conditions facing babies and children, another to meet the child and see what sex, starvation, neglect, or other forms of violence actually does to a 5 or 10 year old child

I’ve written about the 7 year old foster child that hung himself and left a note about Prozac and visited a 4 year old in a hospital suicide ward.

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Yesterday’s State Of The Child Summit (Children In Legal Proceedings) at Hamline University

It was the simple truths that struck me hardest as I listened to the Hamline University presenters yesterday. I was reminded of MN’s former Supreme Court Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz statement that “90% of the youth in juvenile justice have come through child protection”, and that, ” The difference between that poor child and a felon, is about eight years”. The pipeline to prison starts here.

Behavior problems in schools are not well served by hiring more police officers. As a long time guardian ad-Litem, it is apparent to me how authority figures are viewed by abused and neglected children (a big segment of the behavioral problems at school). It has hurt me to see well meaning officers treated horridly by abused children through no fault of their own. Traumatized kids lash out at authority and take no prisoners. This gets them in big trouble and their behavior problems get worse, not better. Police interactions are often just one more trauma to be suffered by an abused child. Don’t blame the police – they didn’t set this system up.

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CASA Guardian ad-Litem Distinctions (clarity on different kinds of guardian ad-Litems)

There are three very different kinds of guardian ad-Litem; Volunteer, Staff, and Lawyer.

1) Volunteer CASA GALs generally take just a few cases and get to know the families and children in the court proceedings very well. CASA stands for, Court Appointed Special Advocate. as a CASA GAL, I had fifty children in my case load over twelve years. Some of those children stayed with me over the entire twelve years. I knew them and their families very well.

2) Staff GALs are given case loads similar to case loads that social workers are given. In my experience, staff GALs have more cases and less time per child/case.

3) Attorneys are paid by the County or by the parent depending on the state. In my experience, attorneys rarely visit the family, and generally meet the child for the first time at court.

Feel free to add clarifications to this posting if I’ve missed something or you disagree with me.

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In Defense Of People Doing The Work

It hurts me to hear destructive criticisms about how teachers are the cause of badly performing schools, social workers blamed when a baby dies a horrid death while under County supervision, and most recently an all out diatribe against the uncaring volunteer guardian ad-Litems in America.
These professions are not entered for the great wealth or social prestige that accompany the difficult work that come with the job. Educators are dealing with mental health issues, the impact of poverty, abuse, and homelessness as our society becomes less well off, and recently, less well governed. Social workers are expected to work miracles with terrifically damaged children in toxic homes, drug and violence issues, huge caseloads, and few resources to fix anything.

Volunteer guardian ad-Litems work with badly damaged children trying to guide them through a complex and bureaucratic court system in the hopes of saving them from both the system and the traumas they have suffered from.

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Thank You Safe Passage For Children

As a long time CASA guardian ad-Litem who finds it impossible to believe that the depth and scope of child abuse in my community (both local and national) is largely unspoken until some poor child is found in a dumpster or has his brains bashed out against a wall by a caregiver, I am excited by the efforts to quantify these sad facts by Safe Passages For Children.

It is precisely because we don’t keep track, or if we do, don’t publish the mountain of unhappy things happening to our children. If these things were recorded, reported, and discussed, our institutions could function more effectively and children would be much safer and happier.

What follows is a major effort by Rich Gehrman and Safe Passages For Children to identify the tip of this iceberg (thank you Rich and company)

Please sign our petition for safe and healthy MN children (even if you are not from MN)

Petition to make health, education, and well being available to all MN children

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477 Child Deaths In FL (preserving families but costing lives)

When 8-week-old Kyla Joy Hall was hospitalized with a bleeding brain and fractures to both legs, both wrists and a foot, police could not determine which of her parents injured her. One thing was certain: Someone had inflicted life-threatening injuries on a newborn.

While Kyla healed in a medical foster home, child-welfare authorities moved to strip both parents of their rights to her. But when her mother bowed out of the picture — to become an actress — her father transformed, without explanation, from abuse suspect into fit parent. Josi Hall, Jacksonville firefighter, was awarded full custody despite the misgivings of his own mother.

Ten months later, Kyla’s father viciously attacked her. Her injuries included a “pulpified” liver, knuckle-sized bruises to her chest and, the decisive blow, a cleaved heart that sustained damage similar to “that of a kick from a horse,” an autopsy said.

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Violence Against Children – A family Tradition (TEDx, Robbyn Peters Bennett)

Violence, a family tradition: Robbyn Peters Bennett at TEDx Bellingham This short (13 min) TEDx video clearly articulates what is wrong with hitting babies & children (and legislators in Kansas lobbying for the right to leave bruises on children). Passed down generation after generation, sticks, paddles, and open hand hitting all leave mental health marks that result in compensating behaviors, poor brain development, and the next generation of parents beating their children. If you know someone that hits their child, or lives in Kansas, send this link to them.

6 million children are reported to child protection services in the U.S. each year Only a fraction of these children receive the help they need to lead productive lives.

(invite me to speak at your conference) / Buy our book or donate Sample 4 minute video of Mike’s awesome talk on child protection in America

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Daycare In America (more sad stories)

A South Carolina woman who allegedly operated an unlicensed daycare out of her home faces multiple charges after a child under her care died. But investigators say that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Pamela Clark Wood, 49, was arrested March 6. Police began investigating Wood last month after Greenville County Sheriff’s deputies received a call about anunresponsive 3-month-old baby girl, who later died.

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Children In The News – read about your state here (thank you child welfare.gov)

ID: Bill to protect children of faith healers in Idaho will not get a hearing
Associated Press – February 26, 2014
House leaders ruled out a hearing on a bill meant to curb the number of children who die because their parents choose faith healing and not medical assistance for religious reasons.
http://www.katu.com/news/local/Bill-to-protect-children-of-faith-healers-in-Idaho-will-not-get-a-hearing-247401091.html

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GOP Is Right; We Are Spending Too Much (because we invest too little)

David Strand is a KARA board member, he has lived in Finland, worked on the making of public policies for children and written about how other advanced nations make public policy on children’s issues. He is a frequent contributor to KARA’s web pages. Look up his other articles under “select a category – David Strand” on the right hand side. David’s article today;

Edwin Green (recently deceased and not his real name) was an executive for 3M from the 1960’s into the 80’s. He once gave me a lecture on business philosophy, a lesson that resonates in today’s climate of political impasse. Edwin mentored me and asked why I was bothering to study for an MBA at night school. I replied my engineering education was quite narrow and studying business helped me understand working at 3M. Smiling broadly, Edwin told me he (also an engineer) hadn’t studied business but “he knew how to run a business.” Mostly, he said, all you have to know is when “to spend a nickel to make a dime”, his one-minute lecture.

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Another Screened Out Of Child Protection Baby Dies In MN

Freda Perdue, 33, was charged Friday in Ramsey County District Court with child neglect and child endangerment.

According to the criminal complaint:

Police were called last Saturday to the East Metro Place in White Bear Lake on a report of a male infant who was not breathing.

Police found Perdue crying next to the baby, who appeared to have blood around his nostrils. He was taken to St. John’s Hospital in Maplewood, where he was pronounced dead.

Perdue told police that the night before she had laid the baby on his back on a mattress where her three other sons and a neighbor boy were sleeping.

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Snakes In Guatemala vs Guns In America

Last weekend, after 20 years of handling snakes, Jamie Coots received his final bite. A rattler got him in the back of the hand. It happened as Coots, a Pentecostal minister, was leading the Saturday night service at his church in Kentucky. Two hours later, he was dead.

The same thing happened two years earlier in West Virginia. Mack Wolford, another serpent-handling preacher, succumbed to a rattler’s venom.

After scores of deaths from messing with snakes, you’d think people would give it up. But they haven’t.

Three months ago, a 15-year-old boy died in Ohio. A local TV station said it happened when he brought a snake and “passed it to a 16-year-old friend.” A similar tragedy occurred the same day in California, when a homeowner “was showing his friend a snake.” “It’s a shock that something like this could happen,” said a neighbor. “I had no idea there was ever a snake in the home.”

On Dec. 1, a young man died in Florida after friends brought a snake to his apartment. “They passed it around,” according to the South Florida Sun Sentinel, and the snake delivered the fatal wound when the man’s girlfriend picked it up. “It was a stupid accident,” said the dead man’s grandfather. “It never should have happened.” On Dec. 20, a 3-year-old boy died in Arizona after discovering his parents’ snake. A local TV station reported that “the parents told investigators the snake was inadvertently misplaced for a short time. That’s when the child found it.”

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70 Child Abuse Deaths In California’s Child Protection System

When paramedics arrived, eight-year old Gabriel Fernandez was not conscious. His skull was cracked. Three ribs were broken. Bruises and burns covered his body. Two teeth were knocked out of his mouth. X-rays would later show that the third-grader had BB pellets embedded in his lung and groin. Gabriel’s mother, Pearl Fernandez, 29, and her boyfriend Isauro Aguirre, 32, told the paramedics that Gabriel’s injuries were self-induced. Later Aguirre said that he delivered ten or so blows to Gabriel’s stomach for lying and “being dirty.”

Before Gabriel’s death, his mother was the target of six investigations of child abuse. One of Gabriel’s teachers reported the boy coming to school battered. One of Gabriel’s therapists reported that Gabriel said that he was forced to perform oral sex on a family member. Gabriel told a teacher he’d been beat with a belt buckle until he bled and his mother shot him with a BB gun. Gabriel wrote a suicide note, found by his teacher.

According to documents obtained by the LA Times and a recent wrongful death lawsuit filed by Gabriel’s grandparents, Gabriel was never interviewed privately by a social worker about his abuse. Fernandez and Aguirre have been charged with first degree murder of a child. The two have yet to enter their pleas. Two months after Gabriel’s death, four DCFS employees related to his case were fired.

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Faith Healing & Another Child Death In Philadelphia

8 month old Brandon Schaible died of treatable pneumonia because his parents don’t believe in medicine.

This is not as rare as one would hope. In Idaho, 144 children have died in the Followers of Christ Church due to lack of medical care. Religious shield laws are everywhere (does your state have them?

Idaho makes it legal to deny children medical care (including to death). In Oregon 15-month-old Ava Worthington. 16-year-old Neil Beagley. 8-month-old Alayna May Wyland. 9-hour-old David Hickman died that way. Below are articles related to child death due to religious practice and the legal underpinnings (further down) that make withholding medical treatments from children legal.

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