Sad Children Stories From February

February 28, 2015 in Child Death, Crime and Courts, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, The States by Mike Tikkanen

my best sunset everThe following sad stories have been gathered from around the nation and give an indication of how different states are handling child abuse and child protection.  Find your state here; Read the rest of this entry →

Important Points By Brandon Stahl (Star Tribune) Today On Pope County

February 28, 2015 in Child Death, Crime and Courts, Foster Care, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources, The States by Mike Tikkanen

Pensive ParakeetThe following quotes from Brandon Stahl’s reporting today in the Star Tribune indicate the depth and scope of child protection troubles in MN.  That Governor Dayton used “Colossal Failure” language and created a task force to investigate the sad tortured death of 4 year old Eric Dean is to be commended.  Awful things happening to 4 year old children are not always addressed in helpful ways by politicians in other states (see other states in “read more” below).

From Today’s Star Tribune (Brandon Stahl);

“The system is designed to not have law enforcement involved, to not have a forensic investigation, to not have to gather the facts about whether maltreatment happened,” Hudson said. “And [in Eric’s case] it worked as designed.”

“Even when Eric told his day care providers that his stepmother was responsible for the abuse, Pope County child protection workers only once investigated the reports.”

“Eric’s caregivers reported him for abuse at least 15 times, including when he had bite marks on his face (*a broken arm) and bruises all over his body.” *my note.

“The county should have also forwarded all of the abuse reports to law enforcement, gathered information about potential drug or alcohol abuse by Eric’s parents, and determined if Eric was safe in his home, the panel found.”

“Pope County child protection workers violated state law and missed numerous chances to intervene on behalf of 4-year-old Eric Dean before he was murdered by his stepmother in 2013, according to findings from a state child mortality report released Friday.”

“The report is also a stark contrast to Pope County’s own review of the case last year, which did not identify any failures in how its child protection workers handled Eric’s case.”

If the new law allowing prior reports of child abuse to be used in investigating new reports of abuse works well, and if Governor Dayton’s Task Force recommendations are effective in bringing more transparency and more needy children into child protective custody for safety and treatment, the resources are not there to serve the increased needs.

About 30 years ago, MN altered statutes to allow children that witnessed the assault/rape of their mother to be classified as abused children.   Before the year was over, child protection caseloads almost doubled and the statute (was voted) reverted back to its prior definition of child abuse simply because there was no appetite for increasing the budget to deal with that many more abused children.

The appetite for increased resources for child protection needs is still inadequate.  We will continue to accept/ignore oreven codify institutional behaviors that are in practice (think of the awful law we just removed from the books forbidding social workers from using past reports of child abuse in examining new reports of child abuse).  

Viewed in this light, as a volunteer CASA guardian ad-Litem talking to police, judges, legislators and others involved in the system, knowing more about individual cases of abuse will only create a need for more services and resources for a much larger number of very needy children.

And it is not just the needs within child protective services that are under duress;

A police force stretching already stretched resources (think of the prostituted 7 year old left in the home until the 49th police call - and only then removed because she tried to kill her 4 year old sister in the presence of the police), or the officer who knows that the badly damaged suicidal 6 year old will just be back in her home in 3 weeks anyway
(why call social services to have the child taken once more to St Joseph’s Home For Children) and the police chief from MN town who speaks of the growing number of dysfunctional families in his community overwhelming his officers currently?

Our foster care and adoption systems are having serious problems handling the number of seriously troubled children in their care at this time.  What will happen when those numbers significantly increase because of better reporting, more transparency, and more children in the system?

The rest of us need to keep this conversation going to make sure that children and young families find the resources they need to lead productive lives or the stresses placed on our institutions will continue to produce results that they were designed to stop. Read the rest of this entry →

1% of U.S. Family Courts Are Safe Baby Courts

February 25, 2015 in Child Death, Foster Care, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources, The States by Mike Tikkanen

20130107-can-mozart-boost-brainpowerThis article from the ACEsTooHigh website is a comprehensive article about the difference between traditional family courts and emerging early childhood courts is striking and worth reading in its entirety.  In safe baby courts, kids don’t suffer more abuse (and that is very different than the data coming from traditional family courts. Read the rest of this entry →

Common books Symposium Century College (KARA 1 of 5 panel members) 2.25.15 10 am (free)

February 24, 2015 in education, KARA Events, mike tikkanen speaking, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Wonderful People by Mike Tikkanen

     Koala1)   Ernie Boswell,  psychology, speaking on Vets Issues

     2)   Dick Kotasek, addiction counseling instructor, speaking on

                  how counseling the addicted has changed.

     3)  Eve Bergmann, Licensed Clinical Social Worker and addiction

                  counseling, speaking on her 30 years of practice.

     4)  Justin Martin, psychologist, speaking on GLBT Issues

     5)  Mike Tikkanen, Kids at Risk Action, speaking on rights and

                  awareness of abused and neglected children.

 The symposium is on the East Campus, the technical programs building (and library, administration, and science).

 As for parking, that’s always a problem.  Where you are headed is the Main Door in the middle of the East Campus on the NORTH side of the building.  There is parking out front, and spill over parking.  It’s always a competition.  There is also parking on South side.

 Lincoln Mall is on the 2nd floor by the United Nations flags.  It’s a commons space that we can set up with chairs and a podium, with the big windows behind the speakers.

 Enter the First Floor main entrance, head to the left.  There’s an elevator (and stairs) hidden in the hallway about two doorways down the hall.  Arrive on the 2nd floor and turn right.  You can’t miss the Mall.

Watch & Share these 2 minute trailers from KARA’s TV documentary project (help us BUILD KARA & spread the word)

Donate any amount to support our ongoing efforts for abused and neglected children


How We Treat Women and Children in America

February 22, 2015 in Child Death, Crime and Courts, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, The States by Mike Tikkanen

buddha 1Seriously mentally ill, Jose Guadalupe was beaten unconscious in his solitary confinement cell by correction officers on September 2.   2 months later, Tracy Johnson, IQ of 65, was pepper sprayed in the face and beaten hard enough to break his eye socket bone.  This is Rikers Island, one of America’s largest correctional institutions.

Throughout the nation, we are imprisoning and abusing mentally challenged & often innocent youth for years at a time.  70% of the 132 Rikers Island beatings (for 2013) examined by the NY times resulted in punctured organs, head injuries, and broken bones, like a shattered jaw, broken arms, and teeth knocked out.

Thousands of five and six year olds are proscribed psychotropic medications each year in America’s child protection systems.   Many more completely innocent children are victims of faith healing for curable diseases or psychotropic medications  or even medical experimentation as a state ward (no choice).

There is a culture of blaming and lack of care for people in our institutions with not enough thought given to how they might benefit from care to go on to lead productive lives in our communities.

Women really pay a steep price for getting into court trouble.  Imagine losing your children forever for a nonviolent crime.

Most women are behind bars because they loved or feared the wrong man who most often got years lopped off his sentence for “giving up” other conspirators in the drug business.  These women lose their children and the little meaning that was their life.  They pay for their crimes forever.

If we hope to make a home for troubled moms, behaviorially challenged teens, or anyone who has experienced being caught up in an American court system, we best look to the rest of the industrialized world for answers – for what we are doing today is a colossal failure and costing each and every one of us huge sums of money, our public safety, and quality of life.

Today we have 5% of the world’s population & 25% of the world’s prison population.  Add the 7 million on parole to the 2.5 million in prisons and jails to the many millions of children in juvenile justice and those reported to and involved in child protection services and DR Bruce Perry’s projections become reality today.

25% of Americans will be (are?) special needs people and state wards.  That’s expensive and crazy – our institutions are creating exactly what they were designed to stop.


Watch & Share these 2 minute trailers from KARA’s TV documentary project (help us BUILD KARA & spread the word)

Donate any amount to support our ongoing efforts for abused and neglected children










KARA Talk – March 1, Mike & Tiffini -Pilgrim House 10:15 Arden Hills

February 21, 2015 in KARA Events, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources by Mike Tikkanen

guatemala family dinnerMarch 1 – Invisible Children

Join us at Pilgrim House Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 1212 W Highway 96, Arden Hills MN 55112

Mike Tikkanen & Tiffini Flynn Forslund are board members at KARA, Kids At Risk Action working to bring attention and support for the people, policies, and programs that improve the lives of to at risk youth.

Mike & Tiffini have been volunteer Hennepin County guardian ad-Litems.  Mike is also a CASAMN board member & founder of KARA, Kids At Risk Action with a mission to speak for the rights and awareness of abused and neglected children. KARA’s current project is a television documentary/expose with TPT – advisor on our project is Don Shelby.

By generating conversation and exposing facts that many are afraid or unable to speak about, we will discuss the critical issues facing abused & neglected children. Mike and Tiffini identify the problems children, schools, and neighborhoods face daily because of poor public policy and the dysfunction created by lack of awareness within our community. The KARA website is

Following the program are Soup Sunday and the Annual PH Auction.  2 minute KARA movie trailer

Help KARA make this happen

Share this with your friends, contact us and invite KARA to speak at your next event.

Donate Now

KARA Conversation With A Minnesota Police Chief

February 19, 2015 in Health and Mental Health, Invisible Children, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources, Wonderful People by Mike Tikkanen

children down hill having funMy conversation with a Minnesota police chief (in an outstate town of over 10,000 people) today was eye opening.

He spoke of how city leaders don’t take his repeated warning about the growing body of experience his community is having with troubled children & families.  These leaders debate his stated daily reality for his police officers as if it were a small thing.

Like the growing bloc of dysfunctional families with serious mental health and coping problems and how this population is stressing the police force, courts and public welfare systems and how that added stress flows into the daily lives of the city/county workers themselves leading to serious problems of failure in school and failure of child protection systems and the high rate of worker turnover in education and social work.  And then there’s the costs to the County and diminished quality of life to the citizens.

We both see that there is far too much training that goes into the difficult work of teaching and social work to see turnover rates growing as fast as they are.  No one likes poor graduation rates or high crime rates. Unsafe neighborhoods are no good for anyone.

His view is that the elasticity of our systems is not limitless – it will break at a point and become a major social ill impacting our entire civil society making life painful for all of us.

It is precisely the functionality of our institutions that have made life in this nation as attractive as it has been.

For a growing number of people conditions are getting worse and this includes working people forced to deal with a more problematic and behaviorally challenged population.

Dr Bruce Perry has thirty years of working with at risk children and speaking to audiences about the impact abused and neglected children are having on our communities. Eight years ago Dr Perry made the statement that 25% of Americans will be special needs people by the end of this generation – I think it may already be true today. After all, without counting the people on psychotropic medications unable to hold down jobs or lead productive lives, we now have 2.5 M citizens in our jails and prisons and over 7 M citizens on or recently on parole (people with criminal pasts have a very hard time finding work that will keep them off of welfare).

Psychotropic medications are impacting between 1/3 and 2/3 of the youth in child protection and juvenile justice. Former Supreme Court Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz stated that “90% of the youth in juvenile justice have passed through child protection” – and more painfully, “The difference between that poor child and a felon, is about eight years”.

I failed to remind the Chief that Kathleen Long, author of the book ANGELS AND DEMONS (about the child protection system in California) holds that “American institutions are creating exactly what they were designed to stop”.

A thought I refer to frequently.

This conversation went like many prior conversations with other professionals dealing with dysfunctional families, abused and neglected children, and behaviorally troubled juveniles. We all see a desperate need for mental health services, crisis nurseries, therapeutic daycare, and education and resources for young families.

We also see the terrific stress on our workers and systems and the cost to our communities in money and quality of life and we agree that we will not arrest and incarcerate ourselves out of this sad and dangerous epidemic of dysfunctional families having their next generation of dysfunctional children and that breaking this cycle will save money and create happiness all around.

Today, social workers are blamed when children die in their care and teachers are blamed for failed schools.  This approach is woefully inadequate and wrong.  It redirects the conversation away from the real culprits behind this exponentially expanding catastrophe (I can use this word as Governor Dayton has in this topic).

It is becoming clear to some of us that few people outside the circle of worker bees immersed in the lives of at risk children have any idea of the depth and scope of this issue and that very little will change until they do.

Until one’s own child, grandchild, neighbor or friend is robbed, raped, beaten, shot dead or burgled, this isn’t a current issue. Instead of waiting to ask “why me” let’s all ask ourselves, what can I do to make life better for the at risk children in my community.

Watch our short video on the topic

help us BUILD KARA & spread the word)



Nothing Just Fine About It

February 19, 2015 in Child Death, Health and Mental Health, KARA Events, Kids At Risk Action (KARA), Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources by Mike Tikkanen

parasailingAt the end of a recent KARA presentation about child abuse and child protection in our community at a metro Kiwanis, a University Professor argued strongly that child protection was working “just fine” from his perspective.

This after I had just pointed out the lack of support, training, and resources for the courts and social workers and the terrible stories and results MN is currently experiencing.  Governor Dayton called child protection in the death of 4 year old Eric Dean (after 15 ignored reports of child abuse) a “colossal failure”, MN ranks 47th in what we spend on child protection, and this professor lived just a few miles where a very young child was raped and murdered (18 month old Maplewood girl).

He did not seem to know that day care workers are paid less than food service workers in America and in the rest of the industrialized world day care workers are are required to have advanced degrees that include mental health training (and are paid better because of their training).  He did not agree that more attention needed to be focused on at risk youth.

“Just fine” for him perhaps,  not having to meet or deal with the traumatized two year old’s, and the never ending string of abused and neglected children that social workers and court personnel see day after day and year after year with too little resources and too big of a case load.

There is nothing fine about the statistical reality of state wards in child protection becoming state wards in juvenile justice and then state wards in criminal justice.  There is nothing just fine about the amount of psychotropic medications being used on children and juveniles in the system, or the problems foster and adoptive parents must face everyday with the behavioral problems these kids bring with them into their homes and school.

The professors thinking goes a long way in explaining the absence of crisis nurseries, therapeutic day care, and other programs that would give kids safety and coping skills necessary for success in school and in life.

It saddens me greatly that an educated segment of our community knows so little about the sadness that exists for so many involved in child-well being and child protection that they are unable to identify and support the programs and policies that could address the problems and make life better for children, our schools, and communities.

Watch our short video on the topic

help us BUILD KARA & spread the word)




News From Safe Passage For Children of Minnesota & The Child Protection Task Force

February 9, 2015 in CASA, Child Death, education, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources by Mike Tikkanen

parasailingFollow Governor Dayton’s Budget and Child Protection Task Force News at Safe Passage for Children of MN links below;

Performance Mode

Work Group Meetings Update

Governor Dayton’s Child Protection Budget

Report on Governor’s Task Force and Work Group Meetings (Jan 14)

While I’m optimistic that these concerned people are working on improving services and strategies for abused and neglected children of Minnesota, it is painful to read the continuing sad news being reported about overwhelmed social workers, class action lawsuits, inadequate safeguards, and growing caseloads.  It frightens me to think about how much (or how little) can be changed by one task force in one year within a system that handles sixty thousand children annually on a limited budget and imperfect systems.  What happens next year?

If we valued children or even just understood the economic impact of under-served abused and neglected children passing through our schools, communities, courts, and in the end, juvenile and criminal justice systems, things would be different.  Basic math proves the extraordinary costs to communities of failed schools and children unable to graduate on a trajectory to dysfunctional lifestyles and another generation of troubled families with more abuse and neglect.  Do you have a task force for at risk children in your state?

Early childhood programs are a great investment in our communities and our children.  Both the kids and our communities deserve better.  Support the CASA guardian ad-Litems in your community & give children a voice.

Watch & Share these 2 minute trailers from KARA’s TV documentary project (help us BUILD KARA & spread the word)

Donate any amount to support our ongoing efforts for abused and neglected children


Overwhelmed Child Protection Workers (redefining what is manageable)

February 8, 2015 in Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources by Mike Tikkanen

Chrysanthemum- and not in a good way.  Quoting Jodi Wentland (Olmsted County’s child and family services director) in Brandon Stahl’s Star Tribune front page article today, turnover is too high, inexperienced social workers are taking cases “before they are fully trained… with excessive case loads…, & they often leave”.  To no one’s benefit I might add.  It is costly to the state to trained employees that leave the field quickly, disruptive to the children and families that experience multiple and inexperienced child protection workers, and adds to the awful news we are seeing more of in our newspapers and on TV (think Eric Dean and Kendrea Johnson).

Even when Child Protection Agencies reported they could always handle the the workload, that’s not always a sign of stability. One county, for example, reported a 25 percent annual turnover rate was reasonable.   This striking comment (again from today’s Brandon Stahl article) from Traci LaLiberte* about child protection providers prompted my title for this article today and is worthy of repetition, “These systems have been so stressed for so long that they’ve redefined what’s manageable”.

It is time that the rest of us look long and hard at what we are asking service providers to do (with the seriously troubled families they work with) and ask ourselves how we would perform in “a social workers shoes”?

Can we rightfully expect meaningful results with the training, resources, and overwhelming caseloads social workers are faced with when they go to work each day?

And more importantly, do we as a community actually value children enough to provide them with a few short years of safety and education to insure they can make in in school and in life?


*Traci LaLiberte is the executive director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare





Are Class Action Lawsuits The Future For Child Protection? (Just filed in Arizona)

February 5, 2015 in Child Death, Crime and Courts, Invisible Children, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources, The States by Mike Tikkanen

sunset costaricaNote, this article is not about blaming people doing the work – it’s about legislators that are unaware of the dire straits millions of abused and neglected children are facing and lawmakers slow and inadequate reaction to the conditions existing in our most important institutions today.

Many states are failing their most vulnerable citizens in the most tortured and traumatizing ways.  National Disgrace (Star Tribune) & Colossal Failure are the words being used across America describing child protection in too many states.  Four and five year old children are dying by homicide and suicide.

Two days ago, a lawsuit was filed against the AZ Department of Child Safety alleging “severe shortage of mental and physical health services”, “failure to conduct timely investigations of child abuse reports”, and a widespread failure of the State to help troubled children maintain family relationships. Read the rest of this entry →

Writers/Researchers Wanted (child protection information in your state)

February 3, 2015 in Politics and Funding, Public Policy, The States by Mike Tikkanen


KARA wants to gather information about how child protection systems are working in your state.

If you like researching and writing contact us for how you might participate;


Toddler Shoots Both Parents (becoming a commonplace event)

February 1, 2015 in Child Death, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, The States by Mike Tikkanen

4 little kittens..This is the third toddler shooting that I’ve written about recently.

A three year old Albuquerque NM boy shot and wounded both his parents with his pregnant mothers loaded hand gun last Saturday.  His two year old sister was uninjured.  Below are recent articles concerning guns and American toddlers.

Three People Shot In One Week By Toddlers

More Americans Shot By Toddlers Than Terrorists

Two Year Old Shoots Florida Mother To Death (a state that fines doctors for telling mothers to lock up their guns).

100 Children Killed by Gunfire Since Newtown (June 2014)

America has about ten times the rate of gunfire death than the rest of the industrialized world.

Guns kill more infants & toddlers than police officers in the line of duty.

A gun in the home increases the risk of suicide by 3 to 5 times, homicide by 3 times, and accidental death by 400 percent.

Since 1963, three times as many American children and teens have been shot dead than soldiers killed abroad – in 2010, five times more children and teens were shot dead than soldiers killed in Iraq and Afgghanistan.

Gun violence kills more black youth (from one to nineteen years old) every year except for car accidents.  Below are stunning graphs that demonstrate these facts (courtesy of (the pump handle)

Watch & Share these 2 minute trailers from KARA’s TV documentary project (help us BUILD KARA & spread the word)

Donate any amount to support our ongoing efforts for abused and neglected children

The Cost Of Ignoring Your Two Year Olds (why daycare matters)

January 31, 2015 in Crime and Courts, education, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources, The States by Mike Tikkanen

babies best everChildren born into dysfunctional families without access to crisis nurseries, quality daycare, or other early childhood programs rarely do well in school, learn how to read at grade level, or graduate.

Limited vocabulary skills, high incidence of behavior problems and mental health issues (about one third of children in child protective services are on psychotropic medications).  School failure predicts a life of crime, drugs, dysfunctional lifestyles and state ward ism.

State ward ism is my word for; Read the rest of this entry →

Dear State Representative Lohmer

January 30, 2015 in CASA, education, Foster Care, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources, The States by Mike Tikkanen

parasailingUpon receipt of an email from a MN State Legislator directing my attention to the cost of Governor Dayton’s trying to improve conditions for MN’s at risk youth, I penned this response and would ask you to write something like it and send it to your state representative (I have altered it slightly for this post).

We should all send at least a few notes to our state representatives each year – and this is a worthy cause).  If you get the chance, drop by and get to know them.  Most legislators have offices in your community as well as at the State House.

Dear Representative Lohmer,

Responding to your note to me below (decrying the cost of early childhood programs being recommended by Governor Mark Dayton),  I’ve been a volunteer CASA guardian ad-Litem for almost 20 years and watched what short changing MN children does to our schools, city streets, and state budget. Read the rest of this entry →

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

January 29, 2015 in Child Death, Health and Mental Health, Invisible Children, Kids At Risk Action (KARA), Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources, The States by Mike Tikkanen

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

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

We have traded at risk children and young families for failed schools, unsafe streets, full prisons, and a giant pharmaceutical industry (about a third of CP kids are on psychotropic medications for their severe behavioral problems – about the same percentage that exists in juvenile justice and criminal justice).

Mark Dayton’s task force is recommending transparency and changing the broken laws and practices that currently make keeping children safe next to impossible. Read the rest of this entry →

Conversation at ACEs Connection (We Are Paying For This)

January 28, 2015 in education, Health and Mental Health, Invisible Children, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Wonderful People by Mike Tikkanen


Join the conversation at ACEs Connection above and add your voice

The State Of Child Protection in Texas (655 under-reported deaths of abused children)

January 25, 2015 in Child Death, Crime and Courts, education, Foster Care, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources, The States by Mike Tikkanen

guatemalan boy 2With one of the nation’s largest child abuse agencies, 2.5 billion dollar budget, & 8000 employee, Texas struggles to deal with the increase in child protection cases, not enough quality foster and adoption families, and cases that stay in the system far too long (federal lawsuit).

For a long time now, Texas has ranked last or near last among the states for prenatal care (50th), low birth weight babies, health care expenditure (48th), spending on mental health (49th) graduation rates (45th), SAT scores, child abuse deaths, uninsured children, births to teen moms, WIC benefits per person (50th), 4th highest in women living in poverty, and 6th highest in child poverty (2013 Texas Legislative Study Group/83rd Regular Session of the Texas Legislature).

Texas is also know for its consistently low voter turnout.

Texas is first in executions, 2nd in larceny, theft, and property crime rate, 4th in rate of incarceration and personal bankruptcy filings,  (March 2013).

26% of Texas population (1.7 million Texas children) live below the federal poverty level & Of the 804 Child fatalities reported in 2013, 156 were related to child abuse or neglect according to Child Protective Services.

Nearly half of the 655 under-reported child deaths occurred to children on CPS radar.  That’s what happens with extraordinarily high caseloads, too few resources for existing cases, and a serious lack of transparency & reporting.

Each year, over 100,000 Texas children between the ages of 7 & 17 go missing, many of them while in child protective services.  The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates that 60% of children likely to be victims of sex trafficking have run away from foster care or group homes. Read the rest of this entry →

KARA Update & 2015 Children & Youth Issues Briefing Friday January 23rd

January 24, 2015 in CASA, Child Death, education, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Wonderful People by Mike Tikkanen

penguinsA busy week for KARA.

Board member Sam Ashkar and I met with Steve Lepinski, CEO of the Washburn Center.  We have much in common and hope the conversation continues.  One of Steve’s observations has stuck with me, “there are three children’s hospitals in the metro, and no children’s mental health hospitals”.

I shared an article from the morning Star Tribune that reported “between 800 and 1000 emergency psychiatric visits at HCMC each month”.  It is the tip of the iceberg that is mental health and how it is just under the surface and at a crisis level in our community.

We should all champion the need for more and better mental health services for children.  Few people are aware of the depth and scope of the problem that so directly impacts our schools, public health, and public safety.  Crime, violence, and abuse don’t flourish in mentally healthy people. Read the rest of this entry →

Child Protection – Research – Transparency & Safe Passage For Children (Rich Gehrman)

January 23, 2015 in Child Death, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources, video by Mike Tikkanen

babies best everAnyone interested in the real politics and machinations of child protection policies and services in MN needs to know about Rich Gehrman/Safepassage For Children studies and recommendations.  They set a gold standard for information and instruction that I am most happy to see on board at Governor Dayton’s Task Force On Child Protection.

Based on in depth research of child protection cases Safe Passage reported how well/not well MN children and families are being served with current policies.  Most notable among their studies observations were;

* Caregiver compliance was often predicated more on attendance than changing bad behaviors

* A third of the children continued to be abused while under court supervision

* Access to child protection records is critical to understanding and changing public policy for abused and neglected children

* 60% of child abuse reports in MN are screened out (4 counties screened out 90% of abuse calls)

* The average abused child is placed in four different homes

Rich’s latest Public Radio interview (listen here)

Watch & Share these 2 minute trailers from KARA’s TV documentary project (help us BUILD KARA & spread the word);



Child Abuse – Society Is Paying For This (Hank Marotske today’s Star Tribune)

January 22, 2015 in CASA, Child Death, Foster Care, Guardian ad-Litem, Health and Mental Health, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources, The States by Mike Tikkanen

Pensive ParakeetTruer words were never spoken.

I am encouraged by Abby Simmons Star Trib reporting today on the MN Child Abuse Task Force 11 point plan to make child protection a priority in Minnesota.  That a bipartisan group of lawmakers are able to agree that keeping children out of harms way is the least we can do for them gives hope to the possibility of crisis nurseries, day care, and mental health services*.

If adopted, there will be more transparency about child abuse and how it is addressed in each county, counties will no longer screen out 90% of child abuse reports, reported cases will be shared with police, assessments will be used only when safety of the child is not an issue, and the use of prior child abuse reports will become part of the investigation instead of off limits.  Well done MN Task Force On Child Abuse. Read the rest of this entry →

by admin

Child Protection, Kendrea Johnson & The Information War

January 20, 2015 in CASA, Child Death, Foster Care, Invisible Children, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources, The States by admin

coyote-yellowstone_56393_600x450Thank you Brandon Stahl & Star Tribune, and all journalists taking seriously the issues of child protection.  If you keep digging and writing, it may just be that Minnesota can become an example to the nation of what state’s do when they value children.

Both articles today (James Eli Shiffer & Brandon Stahl/Paul McENROE) speak to the critical importance of information transparency and how not much changes when we the people are kept in the dark.

Kendrea Johnson’s social worker was unaware that Kendrea’s mental health provider knew this six year old girl was severely mentally ill and having daily thoughts of suicide and homicide.  

Tannise Nawaqavou, Kendrea’s foster mother didn’t know either.  No one told anyone that this six year old girl wanted to kill herself (and others – she had twice threatened to kill her foster mother with a screwdriver). Read the rest of this entry →

Falling Through the Cracks (NYTimes) 786 Children Die While in Child Protective Services

January 19, 2015 in Child Death, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources, The States by Mike Tikkanen

mississippi double exposure red wingThis article in yesterday’s NY Times, (from AP) shows how at least 786 children died awful deaths while in full view of child protection authorities.  The numbers are most likely much higher (read KARA’S Sad Stories page here).

TAKE ACTION & join KARA in our awareness building campaign to save lives and support abused and neglected children in our communities. Read the rest of this entry →

Minneapolis 6 Year (Kendrea Johnson) Old Hangs Herself? (police left to ponder – I don’t) Star Tribune Today

January 15, 2015 in Child Death, Foster Care, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources by Mike Tikkanen

image001Thank you Brandon Stahl (& David Chanen) at the Star Tribune for writing this article giving voice to the elephant in the room that is dangerous and suicidal behavior of very young children in child protection.  No one wants to hear it and no one wants to address this, but it is a very real problem of great consequence to children and our communities.

As painful as this conversation is, without it, dangerous and suicidal behaviors will continue to be an issue for abused and neglected children in need of protection (in & out of the system).

As a CASA guardian ad-Litem, I see this awful suicide as the tip of the iceberg that is the under-treatment (resources/response/coordination/services) provided to the poor young souls unlucky enough to be born into a dangerous and dysfunctional family.

Children traumatized severely enough to be removed from their birth home don’t have coping skills to mend themselves or manage the behavioral problems that follow from what has been done to them.  Considerations:

Judge Heidi Schellhas shared a list of children from four to fourteen forced to take psychotropic medications.  It was a very big list – nationally, between a third and one half of children in CP are proscribed psychotropic medications.  Label warnings about the dangers of suicide for consumers of these powerful medications are not there for nothing.  Suicidal ideation is very real. Fully formed thoughts of suicide for five year olds – what’s that like?

I’ve written about suicides of young people over the years; the most pertinent article to this case is 7 year old foster child Gabriel Myers who hung himself and left a note about how he hated Prozac.

Recent mental health guidelines for medicating three year olds Read the rest of this entry →

Why Teachers Quit – 2 Perspectives (Finland & Harvard)

January 11, 2015 in education, Kids At Risk Action (KARA), Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources, video, Wonderful People by Mike Tikkanen

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

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

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

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

Two recent works, Finnish Lesson: What Can the World Learn About Educational Change in Finland, Read the rest of this entry →

Powerful Video Expose On Drugging 5 & 10 Year Old State Ward Children

January 9, 2015 in CASA, Child Death, Foster Care, Guardian ad-Litem, Health and Mental Health, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, The States, video by Mike Tikkanen

parasailingThis video from Mercury News is the most comprehensive and powerful discussion I have seen on the topic of forcing abused and neglected children to take psychotropic medications.  Remember, state ward children have no voice in this discussion.  These decisions are made for them by a closed system that rarely shares information and by and large fears discussion on the topic of mental health.

These children’s stories mirror my experience as a volunteer guardian ad-Litem in child protection services and make me wonder how it is possible that this topic still remains under the radar.

Drugging decisions are made often because of fear and cost*, not effectiveness.  The traumas of child abuse can be dealt with if met head on and early but spiral into dysfunctional lifestyles if left untreated.  80% of youth aging out of foster care lead dysfunctional lives. Read the rest of this entry →

Minnesota Can Set A National Example Of How Child Protection Works (Bravo Task Force and Governor Dayton)

January 8, 2015 in Child Death, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources, Wonderful People by Mike Tikkanen

Roses on WallGovernor Dayton’s Task Force on Child Protection is off to a great start.  Thank you Rich Gehrman and all the other Task Force members working hard to make children safe in our state.

You can read the complete recommendations of the Task Force here (22 pages).  You can follow it even more closely at Safe Passage For Children here

I’m celebrating the recommendations for transparency,

More effective audits,

Eliminating the preference for “assessment” (not finding out if the child is being abused) over “investigation” (finding out if the child is being abused),

Creating a common framework for decision making for the reporting of child abuse,

Eliminating the awful law barring prior screened out reports (they should be permitted and encouraged and maintained for five years),

Including child safety as the PARAMOUNT consideration for decision making,

Sending all reports of maltreatment to law enforcement, and allowing screeners to seek collateral information when making decisions.

These are all in the Task Force Recommendations and they are a great beginning for child safety in our state.

Friends of KARA, Let’s take the few minutes each week it takes to follow these recommendations to their implementation.

Copy/steal from me any/all of this info and provide it to your friends and networks.  These changes must happen if children are to be safe in MN.  Let’s make Minnesota an example of how children to keep children safe and well in this nation.

Join KARA & Stand Up For Children




2 Year Old Shoots Florida Mother To Death (more common than you think)

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

December 31, 2014

infernoMost years, more citizens are killed by toddlers with guns than terrorists in America.  This time, the toddler shot his mom in a Walmart store.  In November this year, 3 people were shot in 1 week by America’s toddlers.  Toddlers shooting themselves rarely receive media attention.

Gun manufacturers have found really effective marketing tools for selling guns to children (like the pink “Crickett” for five year old‘s).  While guns are manufactured all over the world, most guns are sold to American citizens as other nations (except Switzerland) have come to understand the consequences of unregulated marketing of firearms.

In 2010, 18,270 children were killed and injured by gunfire – over 100 accidentally.

Unrelated to guns,  Florida reported almost five hundred child deaths that occurred after the children were reported to Child Protection Services.  

To make matters worse for Florida children,  laws were introduced making it illegal for pediatricians to ask a patient about guns in the house or if they were locked away separately from the ammunition (as a child safety issue).  The gun lobby is pretty strong in Florida (the child health and safety lobby is not).  The initial bill sought a five million dollar fine and five years in prison for asking a Floridian if there was a gun in the home (that is nuts, right?)

Among the industrialized nations, America has slid to near the bottom of almost every public health indicator with 20 times more gun homicides, and way more mass murders, violent crime, criminals, prisoners, and unsafe streets.

If we the people valued public health more, children more, safe streets more, maybe we could give the gun lobby a little more push-back and secure our communities from some of the sadness making the papers every day.

Watch and share KARA’S 2 minute documentary clip of Star Tribune reporter discussing the death of 4 year old Eric Dean

On The Death Of 6 Year Old Kendrea Johnson (another perspective)

December 30, 2014 in CASA, Child Death, Foster Care, Guardian ad-Litem, Health and Mental Health, Politics and Funding, Public Policy by Mike Tikkanen

Lake AtitlanStrangled dead tangled in a jump rope is not something that happens to six year old children (Star Tribune today)

As a Hennepin County CASA volunteer guardian ad-Litem, I watched abused and neglected children, traumatized children, whether they be two, four, or six years old, do terribly destructive things and try to kill themselves.  My first visit to a four year old CASA case girl was at the suicide ward of Fairview hospital.  She had watched the beatings and rape of her mother and sister (who was three years older than her) for most of her four years on earth.  Think of the terror going through a child’s mind watching drug crazed, violent, and sexual abuse of your mom and sister.  It changes a person.

I’ve written about the seven year old foster boy who hung himself and left a note about how he hated being forced to take Prozac.  Children in foster care are often medicated to keep them from hurting themselves and others.  You really don’t get into foster care unless you have been traumatized and behavioral issues are endemic to trauma victims.  A very real side effect of psychotropic medications is suicidal ideation (fully formed thoughts of killing yourself, delivered by your brain – like a daytime nightmare). Read the rest of this entry →

Withholding Medical Care From Children – Is It Legal? (faith based child death – is it murder?)

December 20, 2014 in Child Death, Crime and Courts, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, The States by Mike Tikkanen

4 little kittens..Over the years KARA has followed the deaths of children dying because their parents withhold medical treatments because of religious beliefs.  Beliefs similar to those that prompted the hanging and burning of innocent women as witches in Salem not that long ago.

It is hard to believe current laws deny minimal standards of health and well being for their youngest citizens.

Some states foster very child unfriendly laws concerning access to prenatal care, child health insurance or punishment for withholding available medical care from very ill children based on religious beliefs.

Are children property to be denied readily available medical care?

How often and how hard can you hit your toddler (ten times and leave them bleeding in Kansas and without healthcare )?

Can they be executed for rebellious behavior (Arkansas thought so)

What follows are some of the children that have died because parents refused their children medical care over the past few years.  If your state allows the burning of witches or withholding medical care to children make a call to your state representative/Governor, and let your opinion be known (remember, at risk children are too young to speak for themselves and have no voice but yours). Read the rest of this entry →

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

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

mn panorama leaves turned 2This article in the Huffington Post about an AP compilation (over 8 months they canvassed all fifty states) on children dying while involved in America’s child protection systems makes it clear that the issues being discussed by MN Governor Dayton’s  Task Force on Child Protection are shared by most if not all states in this nation.

786 children were included in the report, but 230 open-case child deaths were not (seven states with poor reporting were left out).

It is common for state institutions to make information unavailable or hard to find when it comes to child welfare and for governmental agencies “not” to cooperate or share information (especially child death information). Read the rest of this entry →

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. Read the rest of this entry →

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


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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;

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. Read the rest of this entry →

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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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). Read the rest of this entry →

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. 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,

Bakersfield CA Nov 7 2014 No bail in foster child’s death in the killing of 3 year old Serenity Gandara

West Caln township PA, Nov 6 2014 3 year old Scotty McMillan hung up by feet, beaten & killed

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.

San Diego CA Nov 3 2014 Daycare provider held on 2M bail in 11 month old Louis Michael Oliver’s 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. 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. Read the rest of this entry →

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;

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