Minneapolis Public Schools – Ready To Learn Has Real Meaning For At Risk Youth

December 13, 2014 in education, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources by Mike Tikkanen

3rd grade reading proficiency, by race/ethnicity

Percent of students scoring a 21 or higher on the ACT — overall and by student group (2014)

Source: Minneapolis Public Schools
This data is a pretty good indication that a great many metro children are not ready to learn when they enter school.
Early childhood programs and help for young families could go a long way in improving these statistics.

Is Minnesota Setting A “Great” Example For Dealing With Child Protection Issues?

December 13, 2014 in Child Death, education, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources, The States by Mike Tikkanen

mississippi double exposure red wingWith Governor Dayton’s Task Force recommendations reported in today’s Star Tribune article (Dayton’s Task Force Agrees On Overhaul, Brandon Stahl), I am optimistic that this (“great” example) approach to child well being could become a reality.

Ten years ago, the father of one of my family’s Mexican foreign exchange students explained how he (as a State of Sinaloa Legislator) had traveled to MN and CA to review child protection systems.  At the time, these were the two states he deemed to have the most advanced and effective systems in the nation.

MN has at one time done child protection as well or better than any other state – when reviewed by someone without bias.

MN reduced child protection funding by over forty million dollars these past few years.  This explains sad stories like Eric Dean’s death after fifteen (ignored) reports of abuse by mandated reporters and why family assessments replaced child protection, why social workers are shorted training, process, and resources needed to effect the change that could heal toxic families or provide safety to their young charges.

The other side of this (“great example”) headline are states setting a “worst” examples?  

There are many states where it is increasingly dangerous for children born as the next generation of (sad stories) abused and neglected children to become preteen mothers and adolescent felons, many of whom are proscribed psychotropic medications to control dangerous behaviors.  If you Google “worst states in America”, they are the states with;

the least;

spent on prenatal care, crisis nurseries, early childhood education, child welfare and child protection,

the most;

 child poverty, infant mortality, child abuse death, child death, teen death, births to teen moms, sexually transmitted diseases among youth, least amount spent on child welfare, child poverty, uninsured children, 

These states fail to grasp the impact of not saving at risk children and breaking the cycle of dysfunctional children and generational child abuse.  

Youth without coping skills or basic parenting ability, often with alcohol & drug problems and tendencies towards violence and sex abuse have a huge impact on the schools they attend, dropout rates, jail and prison populations, and the quality of life in their communities.  

Minnesotans should recognize that the forty million dollars in child protection cuts these past few years has probably cost many times that much in troubled youth with marginal coping skills, mental health issues, and *violent/criminal behaviors.  

When it is your child, neighbor, or friend that is mugged, assaulted, robbed, or worse, these words have much more impact.  

Ask your teacher friends what it’s like to preside over a classroom with troubled youth, or your friend with a child adopted from County Child Protection, 

Ask your social worker friends what it is like to work within a system where the needs are so great and the resources so few.

*Nationally, the insurance costs of crime are between 1 and 1.6 trillion dollars a year.

Buy our book or donate 2 minute documentary trailer

Sample 4 minute video of Kids At Risk Action talk on child protection in America (invite KARA to speak at your conference – Mike@invisiblechildren.org )

Support KARA’s TPT Documentary Project with your gift  Chose Kids At Risk Action at Amazon Smile (they donate to KARA out of your online purchases)

International Rights of the Child Treaty (U.S. & Somalia the only countries not signed on)

December 10, 2014 in Child Death, education, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources, The States by Mike Tikkanen

Guatemala ChildrenOver 25 years ago the rest of the world (194 nations) decided that children have basic human rights and begin signing the International Rights of the Child Treaty.  Under this document, children are to have the rights to education, safety and well being including not to be made soldiers, not to be enslaved).

America is the only nation that has not signed that agreement, largely because we still demand that southern states continue to militarize youth as young as eleven, through military schools.

All children have the rights guaranteed by the Convention, without discrimination of any kind.

“The child shall enjoy all the rights set forth in this Declaration. Every child, without any exception whatsoever, shall be entitled to these rights, without distinction or discrimination on account of race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status, whether of himself or of his family.”

These rights are:

  • Development with dignity
  • A name and nationality
  • Access to food, housing, and medical care
  • Special care if handicapped
  • Love and understanding
  • A free education
  • Care in dangerous situations
  • Peace, love, and frienship

Please share this widely


 Buy our book or donate

Sample 4 minute video of Kids At Risk Action talk on child protection in America (invite KARA to speak at your conference – Mike@invisiblechildren.org )

Supoort KARA’s TPT Documentary Project with your gift  Chose Kids At Risk Action at Amazon Smile (they donate to KARA out of your online purchases)


Comment on Brandon Stahl’s Friday article on uninvestigated child sex abuse cases 12/5/14

December 8, 2014 in Child Death, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources, The States, Wonderful People by Mike Tikkanen



Please forward this letter (or in your own words) to Governor Dayton; gov.citizenoutreach@state.mn.us

I’ve taken from Brandon Stahl’s article on uninvestigated child sex abuse cases  that someone has decided that children reported as sexually abused before 2013 will go uninvestigated and stay where they are (even if they are still being sexually abused) as the County doesn’t see it important to put resources to finding out if these children are still endangered.  

In my caseload as a CASA volunteer guardian ad-Litem, I know children as young as two who were sexually abused – and the resulting traumas that followed them for life.  They deserve to be rescued.

I find this cheap, short sighted policy making appalling and I know that it is much more costly to ignore them than to do the right thing.

Will someone besides Brandon Stahl please speak out for these kids?

What kind of a community writes off the worst kinds of child abuse for relatively modest financial reasons?

Any investigation into the financial aspects of these bad decisions will discover that we do not save money by allowing children to remain in horridly abusive homes.

These are the kids with severe behavioral problems and poor coping skills that fail in our schools, become preteen moms, adolescent felons, and make our communities unhealthy and unsafe.

What costs money are failing schools, unsafe streets,  prisons and recidivism (70% nationally).

What a cold hard people we have become (and bad at math).




Child Death Reviews Thwarted in Edmonton (council chair quits in protest)

December 4, 2014 in Child Death, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources, The States, Wonderful People by Mike Tikkanen

children down hill having funFrom the Edmonton Journal

Dr Lionel Dibden resigned his chairmanship of the Council for Quality Assurance Nov 27th due to lack of transparency and limiting the scope of child fatality reviews.  These are the problems facing all child protection service providers.  Which children should be reviewed, what should accountability look like, and who should have access to information?

Tough questions – unless seen through the eyes of a child.

A community that hides information that is screaming for attention serves neither the child nor the community.  Schools suffer as abused children carry their traumas with them into the classroom, communities suffer because traumatized youth commit crimes and suffer pregnancy and disease at very high rates, and prisons are expensive.  Recidivism in the U.S. has reached 70%.  Worst of all, the extreme suffering I have witnessed during my years as a volunteer guardian ad-Litem.  The unspeakable horrors committed on children who were unlucky enough to be born into toxic homes (lasts forever).

Support KARA’s efforts to bring awareness and change to child protection through our documentary project


It Happens Over and Over (profound child abuse – child death – inadequate reporting & response)

December 3, 2014 in Child Death, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources, The States by Mike Tikkanen

invisible children picture web 11.09Thank you Brandon Stahl for your dogged research and reporting.

This is my take from Brandon’s article of Nov 30th (linked above)

Minnesota’s recent brutal murder of 4 year old Eric Dean after 14 ignored reports of child abuse by mandated reporters (and one family assessment) is becoming just one of thousands of cruel stories demonstrating the low value our nation places on children.

As American’s, we talk big about how we value children and our religious affiliations are many, but there really is very little child protection in the U.S.  If you are three years old and your caregiver is repeatedly abusing you, there’s a good chance no one will help you.

Watching this over many years as a volunteer guardian ad-Litem causes me great pain and it is only recently that I have found any hope that conditions might change for the weakest and most vulnerable among us.

MN has tried to reform its child protection system 3 times in the last 25 years, 16 state and county agency heads the nation have resigned or been fired (mostly after the death of children they were hired to protect).

In Maine, it is estimated that up to 70% of abused to death children were known to child protection agencies.  In Arizona, 6000 child abuse reports were ignored by the agencies and many children died (they abolished Arizona’s child protection agency afterwards).  Florida reported almost five hundred children killed while known to child protection (since 2008).

What follows is my past reporting on how various states treat their youngest citizens;



One thousand stories of child abuse across the nation (find your state here)

Three year olds on Prozac (how does it work in your state?)

Ohio, Texas, and Florida child protection news

Kids For CAsh (how bad can it get)

Almost half the children dying from abuse in Colorado were in or known to child protection

State of Virginia screens out 83% of all child abuse reports

For more, click on “the states” right hand column on our website dropdown “select a category”


Dear Governor Dayton’s Task Force On Child Protection (for the record)

November 26, 2014 in CASA, Child Death, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources by Mike Tikkanen

Pensive ParakeetI sent this letter to the Governor’s Task Force earlier today (share it with your contacts);

Dear Governor’s Task Force People,

I’ve been a volunteer CASA guardian ad-Litem since 1996 and witnessed many terrible things being done to children both in and out of child protective services (none of them ever made the paper or received any public awareness).   I helped found and remain on the board at CASA MN and wrote the book INVISIBLE CHILDREN on this topic in 2005.

Nothing in this letter is meant to reflect badly on adoptive or foster families, GALs/social workers, the courts/police/juvenile justice, educators, task force members, or others directly involved in trying to help children in need of protection.  We are doing what we can with the training, resources, and understanding we have.

This letter is intended to bring to your attention the depth and scope of the problems and the high level failures that cause the terrible data and Governor Dayton’s “colossal failure” language for describing child protection in MN.  I have inserted a few personal CASA stories (MT) to exhibit specific system faults that need addressing by your task force. Read the rest of this entry →

7$ Child Daycare? (hint – gotta go north)

November 20, 2014 in education, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources, The States by Mike Tikkanen

my best sunset everIt’s over now, but for years, universal child daycare has been the rule (at $7.30) in Quebec.

I just can’t help pointing out that some of our neighbors to the North feel very strongly that children’s daycare is worth government subsidy.  $75,000 is the low income threshold and $200,000 is the high income threshold.

True, the politics of public service have beat up the program and $20 is becoming the new norm.  

Keep in mind that over time, children in quality day care thrive, learn important stuff, and perhaps more importantly, don’t smoke crack cocaine with their out of jail uncle while mom works.

The U.S. expels more children from daycare than any other nation (and has for some time).  It’s an issue that bodes badly for the poor educators that later serve these children in public schools and goes a very long way in explaining America’s suffering graduation rates, high crime, and prison populations.

If we valued children half as much as we claim to, there would not be 8000+ children on waiting lists in MN for subsidized daycare.

Do you know who your state legislator is?  This will not change until some of us make that call.  Share this widely.

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Sample 4 minute video of Kids At Risk Action talk on child protection in America (invite KARA to speak at your conference – Mike@invisiblechildren.org )

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

November 18, 2014 in Kids At Risk Action (KARA), Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources, The States by Mike Tikkanen

Roses on WallFrom 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).  Children in poverty with poor living conditions suffer from multiple stresses that last a lifetime.

No one wins when children that can’t cope with their surroundings become adults that can’t cope with their surroundings.  We all benefit when children can become productive members of the community leading healthy lives.  Read the report here.

Read the rest of this entry →

We’re Number One (America leads the world in the wrong things)

November 17, 2014 in Child Death, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, The States by Mike Tikkanen

rabbit yawningAmong the industrialized nations, we are now number one in child homelessness;

one in thirty kids – 2.5 million American children, experienced homelessness last year.

Many states don’t offer children insurance, Crisis nurseries, daycare, prenatal care, or healthcare – and parental leave for new babies is off the table in half the nation.

The U.S is well known for having the highest child poverty rates, STD rates, juvenile crime and preteen pregnancy rates among the advanced nations.

States that don’t offer prenatal care, daycare, insurance, or housing for 2 year olds cost themselves great sums in the long run; crime, prisons, and dysfunctional adults – the opposite of taxpaying, productive citizens. are very expensive.

I maintain that those states are filled with legislators that can’t add.  If they could, they would see the terrific long term costs unhealthy children without coping skills create within their communities in crime, prisons, health care and extreme costs to schools and social services in their communities (and this makes for really unhappy/unsafe neighborhoods).

Unhealthy and unprepared children explain our why our schools repeatedly rank at or near the bottom with reading, math, science, history test scores and our graduation rates remain among the lowest of the industrialized nations.

Today’s Star Tribune article by Daniel Heimpel on creating an Office Of Child Protection is a great idea but long term probabilities for its success are not very good.

Children can’t vote and adults are mostly given to fist shaking and blaming if reminded of institutional failures when a child is found in a dumpster or dead after fifteen reports of child abuse.

States will fight hard for their rights to not provide insurance, prenatal care, or child protection and make it sound like they are “saving families” in the process.

A child protection Czar would be busy 24 / 7 fighting state by state with Louisiana, Mexico, South Carolina, Arkansas, Mississippi, North Carolina and a handful of others that are really committed to policies of ignoring poor families, child death, child mortality, child poverty, child health, and uninsured children.

I like the idea of protecting children and creating a child protection Czar, but Hercules died a very long time ago and I don’t know who else could fight that fight.

KARA’s Brandon Stahl Reader (compiled and annotated Star Tribune articles by Brandon Stahl on child abuse & child protection for the record)

November 15, 2014 in Child Death, Crime and Courts, Foster Care, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources, The States, Wonderful People by Mike Tikkanen

coneflowersFor many months now, the Star Tribune’s intrepid reporter Brandon Stahl has been researching and writing about the depth and scope of problems facing MN’s abused and neglected children. 

This page is dedicated to Brandon’s work and the thousands of children that pass through child protection services each year in MN (and the thousands of abused/traumatized children that need help but are ignored).

Most of the disturbing information Brandon uncovered in his reporting is hidden and would never have been known without his persistence and hard work.  Our child protection systems are practiced in not making information easy to find.

I have spent many years as a volunteer in the field of child protection looking for this kind of information and been unable to discover even a fraction of what Brandon Stahl has made public by his reporting.

This CASA guardian ad-Litem is cautiously optimistic that Governor Dayton (and other public figures) are speaking out* about the lack of public awareness, poor public policy, and resulting institutional failures that are ruining so many lives and so directly contributing to trouble in our schools and on our streets (and the racial disparity this state is so well known for).

For the first time in my memory, the important issues of child abuse and child protection have become serious front page news and there is a possibility that Governor Dayton’s task force will ultimately bring about critical changes needed to improve the lives of children born into toxic homes.

What follows are my observations on each article and a clickable list of everything to date (that I could find) written by Brandon Stahl on child protection and child abuse.

Save  and Share this page with your friends, social workers, educators, adoptive and foster families, and others that work with at risk youth.

KARA has interviewed Brandon for our documentary project and will post pieces of that video interview as soon as it is edited.

*Governor Dayton’s “colossal failure” remark about the public policies that led to the death of Eric Dean and Judge Ranum’s “sickened” by abuse program’s failures comment to name a few.

Here are Brandon’s Articles to date (compiled for easy access)

Read the rest of this entry →

Child Abuse Stories Across the Nation

November 10, 2014 in Child Death, Crime and Courts, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, The States by Mike Tikkanen


DE: State Investigated Slain Del. Girl’s Mom 4 Times
Asssociated Press – November 10, 2014
Child protection officials in Delaware closed four separate investigations into a mother now charged in the beating death of her 4-year-old daughter, closing all of them after ruling that repeated complaints of abuse and neglect were unsubstantiated.
MN: Lessons from child abuse deaths go unheeded in Minnesota (Opinion)
Minneapolis Star Tribune – November 09, 2014
A Star Tribune examination of state and county records shows little evidence that the mortality reviews are stopping child protection failures. The reviews often take years to complete – and sometimes do not occur at all. What’s more, findings from such reviews are frequently sealed off from public scrutiny, despite a federal law requiring more disclosure.



San Antonio Nov 7 2014 Captured fugitive Matthew Aranda sentenced in 3 year old Melody Velasquez death, http://www.foxsanantonio.com/news/features/top-stories/stories/captured-fugitive-sentenced-childs-death-7912.shtml#.VGFWbvnF98E

Bakersfield CA Nov 7 2014 No bail in foster child’s death in the killing of 3 year old Serenity Gandara http://www.bakersfieldcalifornian.com/local/x400519558/No-bail-in-foster-childs-death

West Caln township PA, Nov 6 2014 3 year old Scotty McMillan hung up by feet, beaten & killed http://7online.com/news/police-3-year-old-hung-up-by-feet-beaten-killed-in-pa/383684/

Pittsburgh PA Nov 6 2014  five week old baby dead, two other children suffered abuse, Lincohn Levys charged with aggravated assault, Sheena Alston charged with child endangerment.  http://www.wpxi.com/news/news/local/couple-faces-judge-after-death-child/nh2jy/

San Diego CA Nov 3 2014 Daycare provider held on 2M bail in 11 month old Louis Michael Oliver’s death.  http://fox5sandiego.com/2014/11/03/daycare-provider-held-on-2-million-dollars-bail-in-childs-death/

TX: Texas Girl Was Taken Away From Parents Because They Smoked Pot, Only to Be Killed in Foster Care (Opinion)
Houston Press – November 06, 2014
While the idea of removing a toddler from her parents’ care not for abuse, but for simple marijuana use, is puzzling at best, what’s even more disconcerting is that the same rules didn’t apply to her foster family.
http://blogs.houstonpress.com/news/2014/11/placing_kids_in_foster_care_for_weed_cases_has_dire_consequences.php Read the rest of this entry →

Elephant In The Room (Mitch Pearlstein today Star Tribune)

November 8, 2014 in CASA, Child Death, education, Foster Care, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources by Mike Tikkanen

Pensive Parakeet

Mitch Pearstein has some stunning and relevant facts and useful thoughts in his Elephant In The Room article (Star Tribune 11.8.2014.

That 2% of non-parental caregivers are responsible for half of all reports of child abuse by non-parents, points a pretty big finger as the screaming need for subsidized daycare (that we used to have in this state) and other family friendly policies.  That so many single parents can’t afford quality day care and work for companies without family friendly policies leaves few choices for poor families.

As a volunteer CASA guardian ad-Litem lobbying for the removal of children from toxic homes, I saw many examples of children left in the care of drunk/drugged uncles and boyfriends while a poverty or near poverty parental caregiver went to work each day.  These children are many times more likely to be abused (and killed) than other children.

Life is better for children in “higher income two person households” and that to ”investigate and punish” moms and dads that molest and torture their children resonates with folks but doesn’t fix the issue (the fact that a great many families can’t afford quality daycare seems lost on Mitch & far too many others). Read the rest of this entry →

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

November 6, 2014 in CASA, Child Death, Crime and Courts, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, The States by Mike Tikkanen

20130107-can-mozart-boost-brainpowerThe 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.

The lack of transparency and deliberate obfuscation of public information by those institutions makes the work of a Brandon Stahl incredibly difficult.  A lesser reporter might have given up – which probably explains the great dearth of information surrounding the millions of children beaten, tortured, molested and murdered in this nation each year (and my fifty GAL children).

I am so grateful that Brandon Stahl’s articles have captured Governor Dayton’s attention and forced the creation of this task force to investigate the “Colossal Failure” (the Governor’s own words) of child protection that led to the tortured death of helpless little Eric Dean.

My greatest fear is that our trouble institutions out of misunderstanding or fear of looking bad, will have a loud and persuasive voice on the panel and successfully defend ineffective or awful policies and procedures that harm at risk children.

Let’s protect children, not institutions.

KARA’s mission is to raise awareness within our village about child abuse and child protection.  It is up to each one of us (the villagers) to work together, to support and improve our institutions, and protect every child in MN

Buy our book or donate

Sample 4 minute video of Kids At Risk Action talk on child protection in America (invite KARA to speak at your conference – Mike@invisiblechildren.org )

Supoort KARA’s TPT Documentary Project with your gift

Help KARA break through the veil of invisibility that surrounds abused children today and create public awareness and outrage at what is happening to so many of our at risk youth. 

Follow us on Twitter http://twitter.com/KidsAtRisk  Share This Blog – Submit your comments, stories and child protection news.

Feel free to use this information to start conversations and give voice to the millions of abused and neglected children that otherwise remain voiceless and invisible.







Child Protection News – Your State Here (Texas and Florida are tied once more)

October 19, 2014 in Child Death, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, The States by Mike Tikkanen

oldships at harborPlease send KARA clips from your local news regarding child protection information in your state and please let me know if you are reading this from outside the U.S. and would like to see more news about child abuse and child protection issues from your community.


US: Will Supreme Court muzzle teachers in child abuse trials? (Commentary)
Staten Island Advance – October 06, 2014
On Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal arising out of Ohio which, depending on how it’s resolved, could eliminate a critically important method of proving child abuse.
US: Incarceration plays a major role in health and health disparities in the United States Read the rest of this entry →


October 19, 2014 in CASA, David Strand, education, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources, The States, Wonderful People by Mike Tikkanen

Roses on WallThe most disturbing realization from my interview with David Strand is the difference between America’s loud and persistent rhetoric about how “valuable” our children are and how our public policies actually treat youth.

We have the highest rate of child poverty among the industrialized nations, prosecute 25% of our youth in adult courts (we just recently quit executing juveniles), and have no meaningful public policy for child safety outside of the “Imminent Harm Doctrine” (which allows a judge to remove a child when his/her life is endangered by their caregivers).  Minnesota made it law that prior reports of child abuse are not to be used in evaluating new reports of child abuse (and four MN counties screen out 90% of child abuse reports).

If you want to know how other industrialized nations value children, ask David Strand.  David is a sophisticated businessman that helped form public policy for children over the ten years he lived and worked in Europe.  When he returned to the U.S. he wrote an in depth evaluation of the vast difference in public policy towards children between the U.S. and the other 23 advanced nations that we had historically compared ourselves to.  His book, NATION OUT OF STEP  clearly articulates the falling quality of life measurements from failed or non existent public policies that determine how AMERICA treats its children.

If America wants its schools to compete, prisons and crime to shrink, and build a healthier and more capable citizenry, David makes clear that none of this can happen without functioning public policies that address the safety and well-being of children.

Strand spent time as a volunteer CASA guardian ad-Litem and became familiar with the depth and scope of the problems facing at risk children in his home state (MN).  His observations about just how out of whack our public policies are towards children and young families go a long way towards explaining why we have ten times the crime and ten times the prison populations of most other advanced nations.  David knows Art Rolnick and Art’s work at the Federal Reserve bank in 2003 defining the high rate of return on investments in programs that promote healthy children.

Perhaps the most painful recognition I came away from this ninety minute interview that it is common for other industrialized nations to use America as an example of what not to do.  They don’t want bigger prison systems, more crime and failing schools and they will vote for whatever it takes to not replicate our failures.

We the American public, on the other hand, have refused to recognize that what the other industrialized nations have employed is in fact working to create happier, safer, and healthier communities (as measured by all the quality of life indices that make up a functioning society).  Support for early childhood programs, crisis nurseries, family leave (for fathers too), and subsidized day care go a long way towards building families and healthy children.

While prenatal care, family leave, subsidized day care, and a genuine understanding of children’s mental health and “ready to learn” issues are costly, they return on these investments is exponentially higher in the form of productive citizens and a better quality of life for all members of those societies.  Our video of this interview will follow once it is edited.

For now, watch our 2 minute KARA / TPT movie trailer & support our documentary project here




“Kids Are Slowly Being Neglected To Death” – Hennepin County Judge Jane Ranum (Thank You from the children in my caseload)

October 14, 2014 in CASA, Child Death, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources, The States by Mike Tikkanen


Thank You Star Tribune reporter Brandon Stahl

Thank You Pioneer Press reporter Ruben Rosario

Thank You former MN Supreme Court Justice Kathleen Blatz for joining the task force and your years of speaking out about the serious failures within our child protection system.

Thank You Governor Mark Dayton for using the long overdue “colossal failure” language to describe an overburdened, misunderstood, and under-supported child protection system and creating the investigative task force to make it work better for children.

From the fifty children in my CASA guardian ad-Litem caseload, Thank You.

You have given voice to the tragic failure of child protection that allows four year olds to die tortured deaths after 10, 20, 30 reports of child abuse to state agencies.

Without you, these children have no voice;

Not in the homes they are raised in,

Not in the courts that investigate their families,

Not in the media or the state legislature (they can’t write and don’t vote).

These children are silent and invisible without you.

We the public find child abuse uncomfortable and refuse to pay attention until a baby is found in a dumpster and then we wring our collective hands about ‘those awful people’ and work to punish a social worker and send the parental offender to prison.

That the parent was a fourth generation abused preteen mother with serious mental health issues has little significance to us.  Justice must be served.

None of the fifty children I lobbied to remove from their toxic homes ever made the newspaper.

Not the baby with the bottom half of her body burned off, the boy who was tied to a bed, beaten, starved, and sexually abused for four years, or the more than ten other very young children who were also sexually abused – 2,3, 4, and 7 and 9.

Most of these children remained in their homes suffering their abuse for years.

Most of these very young children were given psychotropic medications instead of useful mental health services and they never did receive the help they needed to recover from the violence that had been done to them as children.

Most of my guardian ad-Litem kids did not go on to lead productive lives.

Today, seven percent of MN child abuse cases are investigated.  Only the very worst of the very worst cases ever make it into child protective services.  Minnesota’s family assessment process does not even ask the question “if” the child was abused.  We don’t want to know.  The system is underfunded, undertrained, and under – resourced and can’t handle what it works with today.

Quote from Erin Sullivan Sutton (Assistant Commissioner from children and family services);

“It’s a mistake to think child protection was a success before the advent of family assessment”.

I think this is an understatement, but it does draw our attention to the depth and scope of the problem.

It is against Minnesota law to use prior reported cases of child abuse within a family to determine if the family is torturing their children.  Legislators that defend this practice have not thought it through.  This  was after all a death sentence for Eric Dean, Dennis Jergens, Desi Irving, Lakesha Victor, and over twenty five other children who were killed while well known to child protective services (and what about the hundreds of other children that remained in violent, dangerous and neglectful homes).

The trauma’s suffered by abused and neglected children last a lifetime and go a long way towards explaining the mental health issues leading to the violence, crime, prisons, failed schools, and unsafe streets in our communities.

Children deserve better.

Children should have the right to a safe home and certainly not to die when the community has been told again and again and again about their abuse.

Help KARA bring public attention to abused and neglected children through our Public Television Partnership with TPT TV


TPT/KARA Movie Trailer (2 minutes)

October 3, 2014 in Grandparents & Kinship, Guardian ad-Litem, KARA Events, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources by Mike Tikkanen

children down hill having fun          Friends of KARA,

watch our 2 minute movie trailer and share it with your friends, 2 minute KARA/TPT television trailer

Support KARA’s efforts to tell the story of child abuse in our community (donate)

Children and Youth, Front and Center (great child protection online resource)

October 2, 2014 in Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources, The States by Mike Tikkanen

20130107-can-mozart-boost-brainpowerFor readers looking to broaden your view of child protection in America, I recommend this website; https://chronicleofsocialchange.org/

It covers the national debate on child protection issues in an accurate and easy to read manner.






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

September 29, 2014 in Child Death, Kids At Risk Action (KARA), Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources, The States by Mike Tikkanen

beautiful MN lake sceneFriends,  this conversation at the Star Tribune draws attention to the cold hard reality that children have no voice in the homes they are raised in, child protection, or the legislature (they can’t vote) and without reporters like Brandon Stahl and Ruben Rosario, not much attention is given to the sadness and terror abused and neglected children live with every day.

star tribune April 25th 2014

http://www.startribune.com/opinion/commentaries/256767191.html    Read the rest of this entry →

Thank You Ruben Rosario

September 25, 2014 in CASA, Child Death, Crime and Courts, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources, The States by Mike Tikkanen

my best sunset everIn reviewing Minnesota’s past child abuse tragedies to connect the dots between the sadness of four year old Dennis Jurgens murder by his adopted mother of 1965 (Lois Jurgens went on to adopt five other children after that murder) and the Eric Dean murder recently, I discovered the work done by St Paul Pioneer Press reporter Ruben Rosario on the beating death of three year old Desi Irving by her mother in 1997.

Ruben Rosario’s investigation turned up the exact same issues we are facing today and very candid remarks (1998) by then former head of Hennepin County’s Department of Children, Family and Adult Services.

Ruben and David Sanders draw attention to the lack of public transparency, closing cases without investigation, state laws that prohibit discussion of even the most egregious cases of child abuse,  deliberately keeping child death cases “off the books” (30 cases in FL recently), and the impossible fact that government data often does not include deaths involving children whose families never came in contact with child protective services.

Ruben’s drew attention to Brown University research demonstrating that 15% of all murders during a 32 year period of investigation were the killing of one or more children by a parent, step-parent, caretaker or other parental figure

One third of the victims were under one year old, and two-thirds were six or younger.

The need for a database clearing house, keeping data longer and making it more transparent and accessible are necessary if the public is to have any basis for understanding the depth and scope of child abuse in America today.  6 million children are reported to child protection in America each year (58,000 annually).  Four counties in MN screen out 90% of all child abuse cases, our state average is to screen out almost 70% of all cases.

From someone who has witnessed child abuse tragedies as a volunteer guardian ad-Litem again and again over many years, it is obvious that our community’s big talk about how we value children is just that – talk and nothing more.

Thank you Ruben for your in depth reporting on child abuse & thank you Governor Dayton for remarking candidly on the “Colossal Failure” of child protective services that cost Eric Dean his tortured and painful four year-old life.

Help KARA change this.   KARA TV interview at Catherine’s Crossings.  WCCO radio interview   (12 minutes)

 Buy our book or donate

Sample 4 minute video of Kids At Risk Action talk on child protection in America (invite KARA to speak at your conference – Mike@invisiblechildren.org )

Supoort KARA’s TPT Documentary Project with your gift

Help KARA break through the veil of invisibility that surrounds abused children today and create public awareness and outrage at what is happening to so many of our at risk youth. 

Read the rest of this entry →

Child Protection News (gathered nationally – find your state here)

September 24, 2014 in Politics and Funding, Public Policy, The States by Mike Tikkanen

babies best ever Child Welfare in the News is distributed at no charge by Child Welfare Information Gateway (www.childwelfare.gov), a service of the Children’s Bureau/ACF/HHS (www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb). It features news stories on topics of interest to child welfare and related professionals. Inclusion does not imply endorsement of any view expressed in an article, and opinions or views do not reflect those of Child Welfare Information Gateway, the Children’s Bureau, or staff. Other free subscriptions from Child Welfare Information Gateway are available at:  www.childwelfare.gov/admin/subscribe

The following are collected from September 9th to today;

CA: Drugging Our Kids

San Jose Mercury News – September 20, 2014
Children in California’s foster care system are prescribed unproven, risky medications at alarming rates.

FL: DCF was alerted 2 weeks before deadly rampage
Bradenton Herald – September 22, 2014
Two weeks before Don Charles Spirit annihilated his family, Florida child protection investigators were told that his grandchildren were surrounded by drug abusers – living with a grandfather whose history included the accidental killing of his son, and the physical abuse of his daughter and grandkids.

MN: Gov. Dayton orders changes to Minnesota’s child protection programs
Northland’s News Center – September 22, 2014
Governor Mark Dayton ordered the Department of Human Services Monday, to take a closer look at how child abuse cases are investigated. Also: Abuse case drives Dayton to order county child welfare reviews (Includes audio): http://www.mprnews.org/story/2014/09/22/gov-dayton-plans-measures-to-combat-child-abuse
http://www.northlandsnewscenter.com/news/Gov-Dayton-orders-changes-to-Minnesotas-child-protection-programs-276397681.html Read the rest of this entry →

It’s Worse In Texas

September 23, 2014 in CASA, Child Death, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources, The States, Wonderful People by Mike Tikkanen

default-headerMinnesota is reacting to a very rare and thorough investigation of abused children (thank you Brandon Stahl).

This is the first time in 30 years (since three year old Dennis Jergens tortured murder) that well written and multiple child abuse stories from our cities major media are forcing our community to consider how shallow our commitment to at risk children is.

As a volunteer CASA guardian ad-Litem, I worked with dozens of children with toxic and painful home lives very much like Eric Dean’s home.  None of my caseload children ever made the paper - not the girl who had the bottom half of her body scalded off, not the boy sexually abused, tied to a bed & left alone for days, starved and beaten for four years, not the suicidal four year old, the prostituted seven year old, or the small boy who walked back home (35 miles) from Cambridge on a ten degree night in a T shirt because he was thrown out of a group home as punishment for his mental health problems.  Their stories, and a million others every year, are never in the newspaper, never told on TV or radio, and rarely spoken of by the people that know them.

These are awful and uncomfortable stories that we would rather not speak of and the children themselves rarely know just how wrong what has happened to them is.  Nor do they know the life long traumatizing damage that has been done to them.

But I know.

I also know, that until the rest of the community cares enough about the horrific damage done to thousands of abused children every week (and not just the tortured dead children that make the newspaper) to have in place a child protection system that identifies and deals with children needing services, reporting, and policies to keep them safe, our prisons will remain full, our schools to fail, our communities unsafe, and children will be traumatized in their homes on a daily basis.

Without Brandon Stahl’s Star Tribune reports, Governor Dayton would not have ordered a joint county-state investigation of Minnesota’s child protection services and Adrian Peterson’s son being beaten with a stick and forced to eat leaves would not have been a news item any more than the guardian ad-Litem cases I have written about in this article and Adrian would still be playing football as a star for the Vikings and his forty pound son would be hit again and again by a 240 pound professional athlete.

What follows is a brief report on the abused and neglected children tortured or murdered in Texas recently.  Brandon, would you consider a trip to Texas to save those children?

Supoort KARA’s TPT Documentary Project with your gift

Help KARA break through the veil of invisibility that surrounds abused children today and create public awareness and outrage at what is happening to so many of our at risk youth. 

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

September 22, 2014 in Child Death, Kids At Risk Action (KARA), Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources, The States, Wonderful People by Mike Tikkanen

mn panorama leaves turned 2It 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 fuss about it.  For instance, prior MN Governor Pawlenty stated that “Children that are the victims of failed personal responsibility are not my problem, nor are they the problem of the state of MN” &  Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana removed the funding that had been set aside for families adopting special needs children (after 500 adoptions had been completed – counting on that financial assistance for help with the children’s transportation, education, and health care).

After all, children can’t vote and there is no real political price to pay when bad things happen to them (like the screening out of 70 to 90% of child abuse reports, disappearance of subsidized daycare, under funding of child protective services (MN is 47th among the states in funding children in child protective services), or incarcerating juveniles as adults to name just a few).  The only CP children that make the paper are those that die alarming deaths or are children of celebrities.  As a guardian ad-Litem, I have 50 stories way more awful than the violence suffered by Adrian Peterson’s child and not one of them ever made the paper.

There will be a review of the state’s child protection policies.  Let’s hope they discover that investigating child abuse reports by mandated reporters is important and that keeping records of child abuse claims allows CP workers to know the history of troubled families, and that public scrutiny of heretofore hidden public information is not only wrong (and against federal laws), it has consequences.

What the public does not know hurts children.  Without this review, there would be no further conversation.  Without the conversation, nothing will change.  6 million children are reported abused in the U.S. each year.  58,000 in MN.  They need our awareness, understanding, and some empathy.

It is up to us, the voting public, to vote for the people, policies, and programs that will benefit children that so desperately need out attention and understanding.

Help KARA change this.   KARA TV interview at Catherine’s Crossings.  WCCO radio interview   (12 minutes)

 Buy our book or donate

Sample 4 minute video of Kids At Risk Action talk on child protection in America (invite KARA to speak at your conference – Mike@invisiblechildren.org )

Supoort KARA’s TPT Documentary Project with your gift

Help KARA break through the veil of invisibility that surrounds abused children today and create public awareness and outrage at what is happening to so many of our at risk youth. 

Follow us on Twitter http://twitter.com/KidsAtRisk  Share This Blog – Submit your comments, stories and child protection news Read the rest of this entry →

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

September 17, 2014 in Crime and Courts, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, The States by Mike Tikkanen

Roses on WallKIds For Cash the movie is a documentary about two Pennsylvania Judges (Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan) who were imprisoned for 40 years because they sentenced thousands of innocent juveniles (some as young as ten years old) to prison for 2.5 million dollars in kickbacks.

Judge Ciavarella received a 28 year sentence, and Conahan is awaiting sentencing)

This movie captures the devastating impact imprisonment has on youth and the dangers of not policing privatized facilities.  It seems wrong to me that the prison owners who paid the illegal kickbacks are not being sentenced along with the judges.  Thousands of lives were ruined and there is no getting back a childhood or erasing the damage done to the poor children ruined by this monstrous institutional failure.

Watch the trailer here.


 Buy our book or donate

Sample 4 minute video of Kids At Risk Action talk on child protection in America (invite KARA to speak at your conference – Mike@invisiblechildren.org )

Supoort KARA’s TPT Documentary Project with your gift

Help KARA break through the veil of invisibility that surrounds abused children today and create public awareness and outrage at what is happening to so many of our at risk youth. 

Follow us on Twitter http://twitter.com/KidsAtRisk  Share This Blog 



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

September 14, 2014 in Child Death, Crime and Courts, Kids At Risk Action (KARA), Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources, The States by Mike Tikkanen

image001The 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).

If you search this blog by, “the states”, you will find that children throughout America live in danger of violence and death with not enough help from their state, county, or federal government.  They only get help from the media when they die and someone needs to go to jail.

The only law that protects children at a federal level is the “Imminent Harm Doctrine” which allows a judge to remove a child whose life is endangered by a a caregiver.  Judges have great leeway in determining what  ”imminent harm” means.  In MN it means that 80% of children will be abused again while under court supervision and that 29% of abused children will be sent back to the abusive conditions they were rescued from,

To be fair, most states have underfunded courts and child protection systems.  We as a people, tend instead to deny resources and blame the social worker when a baby is found in a dumpster – instead of funding programs that might help children.

Instead of the critical thinking which would draw our attention to the vast numbers of children reported abused each year (six million), we seem to prefer an absence of awareness to children’s issues.

Four year old Eric Dean’s recent tortured murder brought about the usual wringing of hands, blaming, and pontification but will things change?

Crisis nurseries, subsidized day care, mental health care, child protection standards for counties to follow, along with reporting and accountability, would actually make a difference in the lives of abused and neglected children.  Thank you Governor Dayton for pointing out the “colossal failure” of the child protection system in MN.  It really could use our support.

Looking at today’s paper, it appears our community is more inclined to argue about how many times or how hard you can hit your child because “you have the right to”.  Kansas recently proposed a law allowing caregivers (all caregivers including coaches, teachers, and just about anyone in charge of a child) to hit a child up to ten times and leave bruises and bloody noses.

What’s the difference between discipline and abuse?  Trauma.  And it lasts forever.

From today’s Houston newspaper, “As of publication, Peterson is not under arrest and is expected to play for the Vikings this weekend when they host the Patriots. (UPDATE: Shortly after publication of this story the Vikings deactivated Peterson for Sunday’s game against the Patriots.)”

 Support KARA’s public television documentary project to make life better for abused and neglected children

 *note about Tyrese name not appearing anywhere in the approximately 8000 words printed in the Star Tribune today indicates the boys lack of importance to the story.  Every lawyer’s name got ink, as did multiple football celebrities and experts from a number of disciplines.  

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

September 11, 2014 in CASA, Child Death, Crime and Courts, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources, The States, Wonderful People by Mike Tikkanen

babies best everBrandon 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.

In a nation with the largest annual income on the planet (as measured by gross domestic product), that we don’t support the people, programs, and policies that could at least protect the Eric Dean’s living among us, is a sad reflection on the values we hold as citizens, neighbors, and voters.

8319 (families on a waiting list for subsidized day care in MN)

4 (average times a child is placed in child protection)

47th (Ranking of MN for amount spent on children in child protection)

80% (percentage of children abused again while under court supervision)

29% (percentage of children sent back to the abusive conditions they were rescued from)

60% (percentage of child abuse calls screened out overall in MN 3rd highest in the nation)

90% (percentage of child abuse calls screened out by Red Lake, Houston, LeSeur, & Nicollet Counties)

What can you do?

Become a volunteer CASA guardian ad-Litem and work for the best interest of a child in your county Phone: (612) 728-5930

Call your state representative (Senator, Governor, other people of influence) and send them this article

Vote for child friendly legislation

Quit the destructive blaming and finger pointing that has brought us to this sad state and be concerned and constructive in your thoughts and deeds.

Support KARA’s MN public TV documentary project Read the rest of this entry →

WCCO / KARA Radio Interview (Jordana Green Show)

September 9, 2014 in Child Death, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources, The States by Mike Tikkanen

parasailingOur 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

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

September 9, 2014 in Child Death, Crime and Courts, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources, The States by Mike Tikkanen

coyote-yellowstone_56393_600x450Minnesota’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 complaints 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,

It will also not shrink case loads, create more crisis nurseries, shrink the waiting list for subsidized day care (over 8000), or make the child protection system more child and family friendly.

The biggest issue might be that these terrified and tortured children have no control or voice in their own homes, no voice or lobby at the statehouse to make laws to protect them, no voice (except for Brandon Stahl) in the media, and the only federal law that protects children in America is the “imminent harm doctrine” that forbids people from killing their children, which is interpreted by different courts in very different ways.

These issues are beyond the powers of the children being affected and are up to us the adults who will give voice to the tragic circumstances abused and neglected children live through every day of their young lives.

Support KARA’s MN Public Television Documentary Project on this topic

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Brandon Stahl Reports (reporting on the reporter)

September 8, 2014 in Child Death, Crime and Courts, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources, The States by Mike Tikkanen



This is the first time in my memory that a key reporter (Brandon Stahl) from a major newspaper (Star Tribune) has taken the time and energy to thoroughly investigate child abuse.  The greatest sadness in all this may be that a baby must die for the public to care enough to read about it.  As a volunteer guardian ad-Litem and CASAMN board member, I’ve come to know many children that have lived horrific lives and some that have tried to escape by killing themselves (one four year old, and a seven year old foster boy that hung himself and left a note).


Lois 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.

There will be blaming and hand-wringing by the county administrators until this story goes away, and then we can expect a long silence until the next horrific and completely avoidable child death occurs in our state.

There are four counties in MN that screen out 90% of child abuse cases and the rest of the state screens out 71%.

In my own child protection volunteer work, the state of Wisconsin had a court order forbidding a man to be around young boys because of what he did to them.

This man had spent 2/3 of his adult life in prison for crimes he had committed upon young boys when he was given custody of his four year old son.  That boy, his son, was tied to a bed and left alone for days at a time without food or water, sexually abused, and beaten from head to toe.  When I met this boy, his whole body was covered with bruises (he was seven years old).

This boy’s four year, tortured, near death experience was the direct result of a county not having the most simple safeguards in place.

The court order was a public document, the prison record for crimes against children were available in any background check – how much more blatant could this oversight have been?

I have come to believe that the fault lies in our aversion to the topic and the absence of discussion about child abuse that has made it so prolific in our nation.  Six million children are now reported annually in this nation and very few of those reports are responded to and fewer still are tracked and monitored.

There is very little difference in the circumstances that killed Dennis Jergens, and the circumstances that almost killed my guardian ad-Litem case child, and now, those circumstances have killed Eric Dean.

The horror of abusive child death are the sign of a damaged social safety net.  If our young and most vulnerable can’t be looked after, we are surely a misguided community.

We also know that the long lasting results of child abuse will fill our prisons, damage out education system, and have made life unsafe and unhappy in many of our communities.


Thank you Brandon Stahl for your excellent work.  Please continue until a few more of us wake up to help these children from our institutional neglect and put in place safeguards that will improve the lives of abused and neglected children.

Support KARA’s TPT documentary project to make life better for abused and neglected children

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Another Avoidable Child Death

September 5, 2014 in Child Death, Crime and Courts, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources, The States by Mike Tikkanen

mararishi guatemala thanksgivingGordon 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 death or terrible injury in an abusive family home.   Support KARA’s tpt Television documentary about child abuse Read the rest of this entry →

Why Are So Many Six Year Olds On Prozac?

September 2, 2014 in CASA, Child Death, education, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources, The States by Mike Tikkanen

image001Hennepin 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.

I believe that not tracking this data is wrong.  It is only by tracking and reporting how many six year old children are being forced to use psychotropics will the larger community begin to understand the depth and scope of the problem these children have with mental health issues.

In my experience as a volunteer CASA guardian ad-Litem, these children are medicated so they will be docile and easier to manage.  Foster children are often treated with anti-psychotics  even though their mental problems are the result of trauma caused by abuse and neglect and not the bipolar disorders and schizophrenia these drugs were designed to treat.

Rather than providing mental health services that could help traumatized children learn and gain the coping skills they need to live, we just find it cheaper and less trouble to proscribe Ritalin, Prozac, antidepressants, and other mind numbing drugs that often come with serious side effects. Read the rest of this entry →

Remarkable Reporting; Brandon Stahl – Star Tribune & Tragic Abusive Death Of Eric Dean

August 31, 2014 in CASA, Child Death, Crime and Courts, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources, The States by Mike Tikkanen

coneflowersThank you Star Tribune and Brandon Stahl for your in depth reporting on the awful state of child protection in Pope County MN.

A few months ago Brandon Stahl presented Star Tribune readers with the sad fact that four Minnesota counties screen out 90% of child abuse calls.  Today, you have shown us how a child can be reported to Child Protection Services fifteen times with egg sized lumps, multiple bite marks, broken arm,  swollen cheeks, black eye, facial scabs and puncture wounds and have those reports screened out as unimportant fourteen times.

Eric’s death was as violent and tortured as his life was.  Eric’s day care providers tried again and again to report to Pope County Child Protection the bleeding and bruises that had been visited on a helpless child but even these mandated reporters finally gave up when they realized that the County had no intention of taking any action to save this child.

This story has been repeated 54 times in Minnesota since 2005 (children that have been murdered by their caregivers after being reported to child protection).

29% of abused MN children are sent back into the abusive conditions they were rescued from.

MN now ranks 47th among the states on the amount it spends on children in child protection

30% of Minnesota families reported for abuse receive services

The waiting list for subsidized daycare in MN is over 8000 names long (people just quit signing up)

80% of Minnesota’s abused children are abused again while under court supervision (this data from U of M CURA Reporter Summer Fall 2013).

For all the talk about how precious children are, some Minnesota children are more precious than others.  This is how Minnesotans value other people’s children.

As a longtime CASA guardian ad-Litem, I have seen horrific things done to very young children and feel compelled to repeat their stories.  We need to have this conversation if anything is going to change.

I know what abuse and violence does to children – and the effects of abuse and violence are with that child forever.

These terrified and tortured children have no rights, no lobby to be heard at the State House, and with no CASA guardian ad-Litem, no voice to describe what it’s like to be tortured to death as a three year old in your own home.

Think about just how lucky you were to be born into a family that loved you (or at least didn’t beat, neglect, or molest you).

Minnesota’s under-funding of programs that could provide reporting and services to at risk children is a moral failure.  If it were not for Brandon Stahl’s reporting on Eric Dean’s very avoidable senseless death, just the few people who had him in their daycare center would know about this tragedy.  There is something amoral in community that allows three year old children to be tortured to death and then forgotten about.

At times like this, the path of least resistance is to hate and blame Pope County and their Child Protection Services.  I will argue that it is us, as a State and its voters, that have just not deemed these children important enough to make the reporting and investigation of child abuse a priority and mandate standards to insure that 3 year old children are not tortured to death in the presence of Child Protection Workers.

Support KARA’s TPT Documentary Partnership Project (pass this on to your friends)


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Guardian ad-Litem News

August 28, 2014 in CASA, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources, The States by Mike Tikkanen

casa_v_redblue_R_alt_rgb_normalThese are CASA guardian ad-Litem stories KARA has gathered from around the nation; Read the rest of this entry →

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

August 26, 2014 in Child Death, Crime and Courts, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources, The States by Mike Tikkanen

default-headerToday’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.

Support KARA’s tpt television documentary project




Don Samuels’ Story

August 24, 2014 in CASA, Child Death, education, Kids At Risk Action (KARA), Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources, Wonderful People by Mike Tikkanen

Pensive ParakeetAs 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 insightful observations about how much better it is for children and the community when a child protection system concentrates 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 terrified teacher could find no mental health resources for James, 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 received.

Traumatized children don’t do well in school, nor do they cope well with peers, or their community.  Left alone, their chances of unlearning trauma and terrible behaviors without help is slim and so unfair to a child.

If the child’s family cannot deliver the necessary conditions to help a child succeed in school, thrive, and learn coping skills, the community must step forward or the odds for failure and a dysfunctional lifestyle are exceedingly high.

About a year ago, Don encountered James, now about 21 years old, at a residential treatment center that he (Don) had been asked to speak at.  This young man was foggy with drugs (legal or illegal) and did not even recognize his old advocate and friend.

As we talked in the interview, Don speculated that this child, now adult, had cost the County huge sums of money to this point.  Future prison costs alone could add several million dollars over a lifetime.  That doesn’t touch on the costs of crime, higher insurance rates, the lower quality of life experienced by the thousands of innocent families living in less safe neighborhoods with extra deadbolts and great fear for their children’s safety (nor does it include any money for families that suffer break ins/vandalism/rape/or assaults that are so common in troubled communities).

It seemed so obvious listening to Don talk about how important a child centered approach to child protection/child well-being is to saving children, saving communities, and saving money.  The televised interview will do a better job of relating the story than I have here (watch for it).

 Support KARA’s tpt project 

This Week’s At Risk Children’s News

August 22, 2014 in International Child Abuse, Invisible Children, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, The States by Mike Tikkanen

KoalaThank you Children’s Bureau;

Child Welfare in the News is distributed at no charge by Child Welfare Information Gateway (www.childwelfare.gov), a service of the Children’s Bureau/ACF/HHS (www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb). It features news stories on topics of interest to child welfare and related professionals.


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 Read the rest of this entry →

Founder of ACEsTooHigh and ACEsConnection Jane Stevens

August 20, 2014 in education, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources, The States, Wonderful People by Mike Tikkanen

ocean wedding at sunsetLast night KARA board members Sam, Tiffin, and I attended a small gathering of people committed to improving the lives of abused and neglected children to meet and talk with Jane Stevens, journalist and founder of ACEsTooHigh and the ACEsConnection.

Jane spoke about the impact the ACEs research is having and how different states are approaching the powerful information on how trauma impacts children that continues to flow from the medical community.

Awareness of the ACEs scoring is hugely important and communities that are working to implement programs  that reverse or mitigate the impact of childhood trauma  are seeing 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 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/





KARA -TPT Television Documentary Update

August 17, 2014 in education, KARA Events, Kids At Risk Action (KARA), Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources by Mike Tikkanen

parasailingSaturday, 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.

Through this process we are discovering 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.

The committed and hardworking people doing the work cannot meet the existing needs of the children they serve (only the worst cases get in to the system) and the privations of these children regularly exceed the training, resources, and capacity of our institutions and the foster and adoptive parents that love and care for them. Political neglect and lack of public awareness keep things the same.

Thank you to our interviewees, Tony Fischer, and Tiffini Flynn Forslund for making these interviews possible.

Support KARA’s TPT TV Documentary Project (donate)

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

August 17, 2014 in CASA, Crime and Courts, education, Health and Mental Health, Kids At Risk Action (KARA), Politics and Funding, Public Policy, The States by Mike Tikkanen

children down hill having funMy first quarter of Sociology Studies at Moorhead State College in the 70′s demonstrated that meeting nonviolent protesters with a militarized police and over the top force (German Shepard Dogs and brutal water canon/riot stick attacks) provoke the mob – not calm the mob. Read the rest of this entry →

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

August 5, 2014 in Crime and Courts, education, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, The States by Mike Tikkanen

an-onlooker-watches-the-annual-solar-eclipse-in-albuquerque-new-mexicoI 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 percent when the prison was in a “reform” mode.  Today it hovers around 70 percent, like the rest of American prisons (now that the reforms are gone).

Most women in America’s prisons today are incarcerated under the Kingpin laws.  Most of these women are primarily guilty of being in love with or afraid of, some man (the kingpin).  The Kingpin has had years sawed off of his drug dealing sentence for each new “assistant/dealer/co conspirator that he gives us to prosecutors.  Most of these women never see the money, not a threat to society, never posing any real threat to society.

The average tenure of women prison wardens is under one year.  I spoke at a women’s prison warden’s conference in Bloomington MN a few years back and heard the stories of how awful it is to face these women and continue the grossly unfair conditions and punishment that the law requires.

Pregnant women are or can be shackled in childbirth in 29 states.

Most imprisoned women are incarcerated for Drug Offenses

The sexual abuse of women in prison is a huge problem

Most women in prison are parents and were primary caregivers prior to incarceration

The number of children with an incarcerated mother has doubled between 1991 and 2007

The trend is getting worse and no one benefits.  Counties spend millions of dollars to find homes for the children of incarcerated moms and it makes childhood much worse for children than a public health approach to the drug laws would.


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KARA tpt Progress Report

July 31, 2014 in Invisible Children, KARA Events, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources, Wonderful People by Mike Tikkanen

KoalaTony Fischer and Tiffini Flynn Forslund conducted KARA’s first interview (of many being scheduled) with St Paul School Board, Vice Chair Keith Hardy.

Keith Hardy setting his sights even higher

Keith knows how abused and neglected children need help to achieve the outcomes necessary to succeed in school and he has solid ideas for improving outcomes for both children and schools.

This was a great beginning to exploring issues impacting at risk children and discovering what needs to happen to make life better for children, our communities, and our institutions.

The systemic issues that affect our schools are key to changing the same systemic problems in our society. 

Learn more about KARA’s tpt documentary partnership project support KARA’s tpt documentary project


Most Interesting Child Abuse Articles Of The Week

July 25, 2014 in Politics and Funding, Public Policy, The States by Mike Tikkanen

cool tigerThe following articles caught my attention this week and will be of interest to those of you concerned with child protection; Read the rest of this entry →

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

July 24, 2014 in CASA, Child Death, education, Kids At Risk Action (KARA), Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources, The States by Mike Tikkanen

cardinal best everAnyone concerned with children, child protection, and the arguments for or against aggressive state policies should take the time to read this two part series in the Atlantic Journal Magazine this month.

What follows are key pieces that I find a very compelling case for all of us to tell our stories (over and over) and work to improve the programs, support, training, and institutions that impact at risk children.  My comments are in italics.

Please add your thoughts in the comment section below.

Key Quotes from the Journal;”

Both my parents were physically abusive, and my father was sexually abusive as well (I later found out he also sexually abused my older half-sister, who moved away when I was two). The first time I made an outcry to an adult about my abuse, I was 4. CPS was called, they made a visit, nothing happened. Over the next several years, CPS was called several more times: a doctor who noted that a pelvic infection in an 8-year-old was not right; a teacher who observed bruises and erratic behavior. When I was 14, I called them myself because my father choked me until I passed out and I was frightened he would kill me. Sometimes they sent someone to look into it, sometimes not. I only found out about the other calls when I got to look at my file later on. Between ages 4 and 15, there were a total of 5 calls made to CPS on my behalf. Nothing was ever done. That’s 10 years of my life.  I have fifty stories just like this as a volunteer CASA guardian ad-Litem – violence and or sexual abuse happened to almost every child in my caseload.

Do you know what 10 years looks like to a child who doesn’t know when or why she will be beaten next, just that it will likely be soon? To a child who, night after night, dreads her bedroom door opening? I could have, maybe (foster care is no picnic either) been safe all that time, if there really was the problem of over-aggressive CPS response that you describe. You know how I got out? A teacher helped me run away to a youth shelter. I had a great deal more support than the average child in foster care. Eventually, the state terminated my parent’s custodial rights. And here I am, alive, so many years later, with a family of my own. Grateful. Was everyone I encountered in CPS awesome? No. But as a whole, they saved my life.  Very few of the children I worked with went on to lead happy lives.

It would be one thing if that was just one example. But almost everyone I knew in foster care who suffered real, unrelenting abuse, described how difficult—not how easy—it was to get CPS to do something. And maybe I grew up in a rough place (Is Maine a rough place?) but more than half of the people I know who never went to foster care also suffered real, unrelenting abuse, but never got out until they became an adult. That’s the one thing you are missing in your graph. How many children are abused, (six million children are reported as abused each year in America – About ten percent of them receive services) but for various reasons (oh, that nice family wouldn’t do that, everyone else is doing it), never get reported? Never show up on the radar? Never even get a CPS visit?(four counties in MN screen out 90 percent of all abuse calls)
An Every Child Matters Education Fund report on national child abuse and neglect deaths in the U.S. estimates that approximately 50 percent of child deaths reported as “unintentional injury deaths” are reclassified after further investigation by medical and forensic experts as deaths due to maltreatment. That’s a heck of a lot more kids getting hurt and dying than is included in the data in your article. (So what about the kids I knew in foster care who were taken away under little to no pretext? All Native American. What is the predominant difference between kids who are taken away for very little reason and kids who are ignored, like myself? The former are often African-American, Native American or other minorities. The latter are most frequently white with charming or manipulative abusers. Here’s a decent report on that.)
The reason I am writing this email is because I feel that the impression you are giving is that the problem is that CPS is checking on too many children, when the problem is clearly institutional racism with a side order of classism. If you address those issues, the children unnecessarily removed would plummet. To raise the bar for CPS to act to protect children would only cause the number of fatalities among victims to rise. Furthermore, the tone in your article seems to empower those who would seek to discredit CPS altogether. What child protective agencies need is more funding and better, more-educated staff, not less.”

You might blame me for not printing the counter argument to this perspective that was printed in the same magazine.

I am unable to do so, because after many years as a volunteer CASA guardian ad-Litem, I have never seen a case in the Hennepin County system (where I have worked) that was not over the top abuse, generally years of abuse, most of the time the kind of abuse that made my skin crawl (prostituted seven year old, suicidal four year old, sexually molested two year old, and much much more).

My whole being screams for more funding, fewer cases per worker, better training, and more resources for the children and people working with them.  Those working to discredit the people doing the work have got it all wrong.  Abused and neglected children need more, not less from we the people, we the community.  

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.


As an educated person that simply understands the value of productive citizens and the terrific cost of dysfunctional people have as social burdens on society, I am appalled at the conditions in states (Louisiana, Texas, South CarolinaVirginiaAlaska, and Mississippi) where there are few safeguards for at risk children.

There will never be enough prisons or safe places for the rest of us to avoid the crime and violence that untreated traumatized children bring with them as they grow into adulthood.  For those who use religious arguments against government intervention as a safety net for these children, shame on you.

There is not a religion on the planet that abandons the weakest and most vulnerable among us.


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

July 23, 2014 in education, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources, The States by Mike Tikkanen

magnificent double exposure lacrosse mississippi river lampshadeWhile 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.

A well established (2003) Federal Reserve Bank study has proved the almost 11$ return for each dollar spent on early childhood programs.  Think what this means in terms of failed fourth grade reading proficiency (59%) and the attendant drop out rates, juvenile/criminal justice rates, public safety, public health, and burden on our schools.

We know that more early childhood programs for at risk youth increases readiness to learn in school, which increases reading proficiency by the fourth grade and on to higher graduation rates and lower drop out rates.  We also know that nationally, 25% of american youth are charged as adults andover 30% of America’s youth are arrested before their 23rd birthday.

This is simple math and logic, the opposite of rocket science.   Become an advocate for children; make some effort to point this out to another person today – it just might help bring early childhood programs to MN four year old’s a little bit faster.


Don’t Blame The Mandated Reporter (why child abuse reporting is sporadic)

July 15, 2014 in Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Wonderful People by Mike Tikkanen

parasailingThis review about the dangers mandated reporters are facing is taken from a series of excellent articles on child abuse by the Daily Kos

As a longtime volunteer CASA guardian ad-Litem, I have too much experience with failure to identify/failure to report terrible things done to children.  Reporters genuinely fear for their safety and reputation and fail to report (0r, “see”) horrific abuse to avoid potential damage to themselves.

Support KARA’s Public Television Documentary project to bring attention, awareness, and change to children’s issues.

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

July 11, 2014 in Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources, The States by Mike Tikkanen

THINK AGAIN BROOKLY PARKMinnesota 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 abused and neglected children.  All this talk about how we value children in America seems to be just talk.

Connecticut DCF Vows to Investigate After 9 Child Deaths This Year  Milford, Connecticut   June 22, 2014

Following the deaths of nine children this year who had been placed with families involved with Connecticut’s Department of Children and Families, an investigation is being called for.   All of the deaths are reportedly caused by something other than natural causes.


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.

6 million children are reported to child protection services in the U.S. each year (60,000 in MN alone)  Only a fraction of these children receive the help they need to lead productive lives.   Help KARA change this.


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New Video From Safe Passage For Children (it’s a Wow)

July 9, 2014 in Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources, Wonderful People by Mike Tikkanen

coneflowersThis strong new piece from Rich Gehrman at Safe Passage For Children makes a powerful case for why Minnesota’s abused and neglected children are being shortchanged and what we must do to fix our troubled systems; SafePassage Video

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


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

June 30, 2014 in Child Death, Crime and Courts, education, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources, The States by Mike Tikkanen

my best sunset everJustina 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 and parents denying their children medical help for treatable illnesses is just wrong.

America’s youngest citizens need more rights to safety, health, and well-being (sign our petition here) and share it with your friends.

Take a moment to check out KARAs public TV documentary on this and other children’s issues and share it with your friends. All the tools are there. Get perks, make a contribution, or simply follow updates. If enough of us get behind it, we can make ‘At Risk Children’s Documentary Project With TPT TV’ happen!


This Is Happening (KARA’s Public TV Documentary Project)

June 29, 2014 in Foster Care, KARA Events, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources by Mike Tikkanen

default-headerTake a moment to check out KARA at Indiegogo and share it with your friends.  All the tools and perks are there.  Get perks, make a contribution, or simply follow updates.  If enough of us get behind it, we can make “At Risk Children’s Documentary Project with TPT TV” happen.