What’s Wrong With School Choice? (from GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG)

The proponents of school choice will tell you that they are only doing the will of the people. This is what parents want, they say. Baloney. While there are individuals who support school choice, the overwhelming majority of money behind this movement comes from conservative billionaires actively trying to dismantle the public education system. They want to steal the public system and replace it with a private one. They don’t care about your child. They just want to steal the hundreds of billions of tax dollars we pay to educate our children. This is not philanthropy. It is a business transaction meant to screw you and your child out of your rights.

February Sad Stories Part II

Sign Up Here For KARA’s Free Friday Morning Real Story KARA tracks current news about at risk children bringing transparency and  attention to our youngest and most vulnerable  citizens.  Please note that what you see here is only a sampling of what should be reported –  the great majority of child trauma & abuse never gets…

February Sad Stories 2017 Part I

http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Bill-would-let-nonrelatives-care-for-foster-10920621.php
KY: Westerfield introduces bill to set age of criminal responsibility for youth
Kentucky New Era – February 08, 2017
Criminal complaints filed have been filed against children as young as 4.
Information Gateway resource: Youth Involved With Juvenile Justice and Child Welfare: https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/systemwide/youth/collaboration/dualsystem/
http://www.kentuckynewera.com/web/article_7232ebe2-ee8d-11e6-9100-cb7fb0fa0fdd.html
MA: Report: Despite efforts, 35 kids died in state care
Boston Herald – February 10, 2017

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

Why We Hate Lawsuits (Eric Dean’s grandmother sues county & social workers for his death)

The most painful thing about the Eric Dean lawsuit (aside from the sadness of a four-year old boy tortured to death over years by his step mother Amanda Peltier) is reliving the abuse that led to his death when this new lawsuit hits the papers.

Brandon Stahl’s Star Tribune article today is an in your face reminder of how bad things are for at risk children, how vulnerable and voiceless they are and how Eric’s torture was ignored by so many for so long.

 

Without the persistence and hard work of Brandon Stahl and the Star Tribune, Eric Dean’s death would have remained unnoticed and child protection in MN unchanged. 

Four MN counties would still screen out 90% of the child abuse calls & social workers would still be forbidden from knowing about prior histories of abuse in home when investigating new reports.  15 reports of face and body bites, broken arm and intestinal puncture could still be ignored.

Fostering Special Needs & Dying Children (a special kind of parent)

Too many children know tremendous suffering without getting to experience most of the joys and wonders of childhood.

For paralyzed, chronically or terminally ill children life is very different and extremely demanding on the parent caregiver.

In Los Angeles county’s department of Children and Family Services, there are 600 children (out of the 35,000 monitored by the county) who have severe medical needs and have been abandoned by their birth parents.

Whether it is the sadness and trauma of abuse or the inability of a parent to care for a child a judge has ordered the child be removed from the only home she has ever known.

What kind of person has the courage to say, “I want to be your father, I want to be your mother” to a child in a county welfare system who cannot walk, or play, suffer daily seizures and cannot speak?

Mohamed Bzeek, a quiet, devout Muslim foster father and his wife Dawn in Azusa CA have fostered dozens of traumatized and seriously disabled children. Mohamed has buried about ten children, some died in his arms.

Why We Need You – Speak For An Abused Child in Court (short video)

Volunteer: Be the voice for a child that doesn’t have one! (Greater Minneapolis-St. Paul Area OPPORTUNITIES)

One hundred and seventy five Hennepin County children are without a guardian ad litem today – WE NEED VOLUNTEERS.

Do you know any? Send this to a friend and share it with your social media.

With the response to recent reporting of child abuse and child death in MN, a corresponding increase of child abuse cases are entering the system & means that volunteers are badly needed.

Teaching In a Strange Land (mental health workers without training)

What struck me hardest in today’s INVISIBLE CHILDREN presentation at a suburban elementary school was the dedication and desire my audience of 60 educators have for the children in their classrooms. Even the most difficult kids.

Martin Luther King Day was a train the trainer day for these teachers. Our discussion on trauma and dealing with traumatized children sparked keen conversation and shined a light on the depth and scope of the mental health issues students bring to school.

Did you know that 37% of children overall and 57% of Black children are reported to child protection services in America by the time they turn 18. (American Journal of Public Health 1.17)

This a particularly American problem and it is growing. Educators, like social workers, law enforcement, adoptive and foster parents, must grasp the new mental health reality if they are to succeed in their work with this population.

Most of my audience today “got it” when I talked about child abuse, foster homes, and what it takes to get into Child Protective Services and why abused and neglected children exhibit irrational and sometimes dangerous behaviors and need to be understood if learning is to occur.

January Sad Stories Part I (thru 1.13.17)

river-vista-double-exposureSign Up Here For KARA’s Free Friday Morning Real Story

KARA tracks current news about at risk children bringing transparency and  attention to our youngest and most vulnerable  citizens.  Please note that what you see here is only a sampling of what should be reported –  the great majority of child trauma & abuse never gets reported.

American states are struggling to find answers for saving at risk children and reversing the explosive growth of child abuse and neglect.  Today, many state ward children are the 4th and 5th generation of abused children raising their own families without parenting skills and serious drug, alcohol and mental health issues

37% of children overall and 57% of Black children are reported to child protection services in America by the time they turn 18.  (American Journal of Public Health 1.17)

12 million children a year are reported to child protection services each year and in many states, 1/3 of foster children are required to take psychotropic medicines

ALL ADULTS ARE THE PROTECTORS OF ALL CHILDREN

Compilation of information and writing on this page is the hard work of  David Vang, Mike Toronto, Jamar Weston, Adolf Nchanj and Blaz Zlate,  Callie Benscoter, (student volunteers at Century College) Katie Frake, Boston College, Julie O, and KARA.

SUPPORT KARA HERE (5$/mo suggested)   

Dear Elementary School Teacher (I’m sorry for being such a problem)

I may look like the other 4th graders in your classroom, but I am not. I’m very different. My birth family’s repeated traumatic sex assaults and beatings have had a powerful and lasting impact on my body and mind. I don’t love or trust anyone and don’t feel loved or trusted at all.

The reptilian, fear activated part of my brain, the amygdala, is much larger than other children’s. This interferes with my ability to sit still in a classroom and I’m unable to concentrate on the things you are talking about. My mind is always filled with fearful thoughts and anxiety about the next bad thing that’s about to happen. It couldn’t be otherwise. The Prozac I’m forced to take (about a third of all foster children are medicated by psychotropics) makes me stupid and slow and I hate that. Some seven year olds know what the suicidal ideation on the side of the Prozac box actually means (fully formed thoughts of self harm and suicide delivered in waking moments).

I don’t have the coping skills to handle small personal things in the classroom like other children. Certain words and behaviors by others trigger a violent learned fear response in me that other kids don’t seem to have. I can be violent and did not learn social interaction at home, My reactions to minor things do not come from the executive function of my brain. I can’t control myself, things just happen.

Please understand that foster children are not foster children because a parent tired of caring for them or someone hit a child once or twice. At least I’ve not seen that among the foster kids I know. I’ve come to know many foster children through the County system as I’ve moved from foster home to foster home. It is the “Imminent Harm Doctrine”, that let’s a judge remove a child from a birth home. Literally, a child’s life must be in danger before the court will take a child away from birth parents. It really is almost as traumatic to be removed from the home as it is to stay and suffer the abuse. No matter how bad the abuse is, the fear of waking up in a strange place, with no one you have ever seen before is extremely frightening to a seven year old.

I became a state ward because my mother, who had been horribly abused as a child herself, had very violent boyfriends who thought sex with children was acceptable behavior. One of the boyfriends kicked me so hard I went into convulsions & needed an ambulance ride to the hospital (I was seven). The medical staff saw the awful bruises and placed me in child protection.

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

1 In 3 Children Investigated For Abuse by 18 (Washington University Study)

river-vista-double-exposureAs a long time volunteer County CASA guardian ad Litem it has been hard to comprehend the explosive growth of child abuse in my lifetime.  This study (lead author Hyunil Kim PhD Student at the Brown School at Washington University St Louis) published in the January issue of the American Journal of Public Health is troubling on several levels.

First, to reach numbers this high by only including reports of child abuse that met County standards for a case to be investigated, indicates that this already high number (37% overall & 53% for Black Children) is possibly even higher

200,000 Youth Tried As Adults Each Year; Temple University

My experience with children receiving adequate therapy for the severe trauma and resulting behavior problems that were so indelibly a part of these very young children’s lives was almost non existent.

Once these very troubled children become old enough to impact their surroundings they do so in a most troubling manner. That’s why our jails are full and our schools are troubled.

From the study; “In other words, by one mechanism or another, more than 200,000 individuals under the age of 18 are prosecuted in criminal court each year. There are three trends in the data worth noting.

High Hopes For Hennepin County’s New Child Protection Model

Today’s heartening Star Tribune article gave me hope that I’ve not had in decades for the saving of abused and neglected children from extended traumas and ruined lives.

“No longer will a child need to endure maltreatment before they get social services in Minnesota’s most populous county, an unprecedented step in the state”.

Thank you Task Force on Child Protection, Safe Passage For Children, Governor Dayton and all the legislators and supporters standing for the weakest and most vulnerable children in our community.

Additional funding for staff, reduced caseloads, responding to child abuse reports at all hours (including weekends) and focusing on the child’s well-being instead of the crisis mode required after traumatic abuse has been endured (usually for years) will make a huge difference in the lives of these kids.

By making services available to struggling families and insuring that very young children reported as abused receive face-to-face assessments and the help they need, we will be interrupting patterns of behavior that can ruin a child’s life forever and making their lives safer and happier.

The ACE’s (Adverse Child Experience) medical studies have proven the negative mental health outcomes of childhood trauma.

It’s Inevitable (foster care rates below dog care)

In America, the average cost of foster care for dogs is between $30 & $35/day.

Foster care for children in this nation run from $8.07 / day (Nebraska) to $30 / day (DC) with an average of about $18 / day.

Dogs (owners) must bring dog food and don’t need to supply diapers.

Foster parents must buy food and sometimes diapers for these children (and pay for transportation costs to doctors, schools and the broken and worn out things that will be broken and worn out by this foster child).

Dogs require 30 to 60 minutes / day of a caregiver time – traumatized children* require 12 to 24 hours of caregiver time daily.

Any foster mom or dad that’s stayed awake all night to monitor a violent or sexualized state ward on psychotropic medications to insure that the rest of the family stay safe from unpredictable behaviors of a dangerous traumatized child can tell this story with greater impact (I know, I’ve heard it many times).
No dog** ever carries lighter fluid or has the intention of burning down the house.

Raped and tortured children not getting adequate help for their traumas often exhibit terrorizing behaviors that hurt themselves (cutting, suicide attempts) and others (lighting fires, stabbing pets and other children).

Deliberate Burns Make Up 10 % of All Childhood Burn Cases

This government study shows the frequency of children, most under two, almost all under ten, that are deliberately burned by their caregivers. It is striking in that it gives clear definition & how to interpret a child’s burns. This is perhaps a more technical/professional piece than is usually found here, but I think it is important.

Minnesota’s Mental Health Crisis (spot on reporting by our Star Tribune – Many Thanks)

Today’s service providers are rarely capable of adequately dealing with the level of dysfunction encountered by a large and growing number of people.

They will fail to achieve the results they strive for until we the voters demand the core changes that will reverse these painful trends. These failures drive up burnout and good workers leaving the field for lack of success and very high stress (and lack of understanding appreciation from the rest of us).

Reflect on this;

The “colossal failure” of Child Protective Services” Governor Dayton’s words upon the death of 4 year old Eric Dean after 15 largely ignored reports of child abuse

MN Supreme Court Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz’ statement s that “90% of the youth in Juvenile Justice have come through Child Protection” and“ the difference between that poor child and a felon is about 8 years” are as true today as they were a few years ago when she said them. My spin on the Chief Justice’ words are that, the difference between that poor child and a preteen mother with no parenting skills, a drug problem and a violent boyfriend, is about 8 years.

2/3 of the youth in the Juvenile Justice System have diagnosable mental health issues & half of them have multiple, chronic and serious problems.

1/3 of the children in Child Protective Services are proscribed Prozac or other psychotropic medications.

20,000 one and two year olds were proscribed psychotropic medications in this nation in 2014 (Johnson & Johnson paid 4 billion dollars in fines for illegally selling these drugs to pediatricians for use on children and there are 5000 cases awaiting trial).

MN Sheriff’s had to threaten a law suit to get the state to move on providing timely mental health services for the people in their jail cells.

Child Protection and Appreciating Social Workers (we really should)

Christopher Sorenson recently wrote a compelling piece in the Star Tribune about animal safety as the foundation underlying our current child protection system and how only extreme cases of child abuse make the news or public awareness.

Speaking of service providers Chris writes; “On a daily basis these folks see what none of us wants to see – children being destroyed by neglect, physical and sexual abuse, and …, Our dirty secret in Minnesota and in this country is the abuse and neglect of children that continues each and every day”.

He points out how hard social work is and how stressed employees in a high-pressure and overburdened system do very difficult work under tight deadlines for modest pay. I would add; and with far too resources to get the results needed for the children they are working with. Turnover is high.
20,000 two-year olds were proscribed psychotropic medications in 2014 and millions of terribly abused 3-10 year old children took those drugs without adequate therapy and suffered greatly because of it. Ddrug companies were fined billions for selling these drugs to pediatricians for use on children. Millions more abused children were ignored after being reported to child protection services in this nation.

Judges Jailing Children For Money In America (yes it happens)

A second Pennsylvania judge (Michael Conahan) has plead guilty for receiving commissions for each child sent to privately held detention facilities (PA Childcare and Western PA Childcare) .

2.6 million dollars in fees were paid for between one and two thousand children sentenced for things they did not do. Judge Mark Ciavarella was identified some months ago as the primary offender in this case.

This adds a sorrowful twist to Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz statements that “90% of the youth in juvenile justice have passed through child protection” & “”The difference between that poor child and a felon, is about 8 years”.

In Pennsylvania 90% just isn’t filling privately held facilities with enough human prison fodder. I know how hard life is for at risk children and find this kind of crime to be a hanging offense for both the owners of the privately held facilities as well as the corrupters of our legal system.

Child Abuse & The Most Powerful Suicide Note Ever

Of the children I’ve worked with as a guardian ad-Litem, a high percentage of them have been sexually abused. I have seen the horror of child sex abuse and how 10 or 25 years later, a troubled being still fighting the darkness every day.

Child sex abuse may be the most under-reported crime in America. It could also be the most under-treated horror in America. As a guardian ad-Litem, my first visit to a hospital suicide ward to visit a four year old girl that had been horribly abused was never made public, or when I worked with the seven year old that had been prostituted, or any of the family members that practiced child sex abuse.