The Unspoken Truth (from Kristin Rode)

May 21, 2015 in Foster Care, Health and Mental Health, Invisible Children, Kids At Risk Action (KARA), Links To Helpful Orgs, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Wonderful People by Mike Tikkanen

coneflowersMy name is Robert Hamelin and when I was 4 years old I entered the Foster Care System. My stepmother began to physically and mentally abuse me. I was taken out of the home I lived in, with her and my father and moved into the first foster home. When I was 9 years old my father was killed. He was the only good memory I had left. His loss had such a deep impact on me. I knew now that I was completely alone. By the time I reached the 6th grade I began acting out for attention. My behaviors became worse. The abuse had continued worse than ever, as now, I was being sexually abused. By the time I was 18 years old I joined the Marine Corps. I needed stability but even more important, I needed to find out if I could overcome my past and succeed, despite 14 years of violent child abuse.

The system failed me but it did not beat me!

Today I am a successful Regional Vice President for Transamerica. I have raised 5 beautiful daughters, 4 of which have already graduated from college. What is disheartening is 32 years after I got out of the Child Protection System, it continues to fail children and the abuse, still all too common. We need to come together to fix a broken system.

Each year, about six hundred thousand abused and neglected American children are removed from their homes, placed into group homes, foster homes, and adoptive homes with minimal mental health counseling and often not much history or training provided to the new care giver. These children are expected to adjust well into society, succeed in school and with their peers

Children in child protective services are only removed from their homes if their lives are in imminent harm. These children are often returned to their homes by Child Protective Services if changes are made. Many children are returned to abusive homes, with little to no follow-up.

My name is Kristin Rode and my siblings and I were placed in the Foster Care System just before my 5th birthday. We were in and out of this system until I was 11 and placed in a home that would eventually adopt the three of us. Much like Robert, prior to being adopted, the horrific abuse my siblings and I endured, no child should. You think it will be better with each new foster home you are placed, but that wasn’t the case for us.

The system failed the three of us but it did not beat us.

We did not let the abuse define who we would later become. The scars will always remain but our desire to change this system helps us to know our life’s experiences weren’t for nothing!

My name is Mike Tikkanen, Founder of KARA and Invisible Children. I have spent over 20 years trying to protect children like Robert, Kristin and her siblings. The concept of trust, that is so easily taken for granted, is one of the significant long-term barriers to recovery. Children are violated and deprived by their own mothers and fathers and then again when they become a ward of the state. Many children never rebuild a level of trust. It is quite common for these children to self-loath because they subconsciously believe they are responsible for the abuse they have suffered.

Ask any teacher, social worker, mental health worker, juvenile/police officer that seek better results from the institutions they work in. The foster care system is broken in so many states. Some of the worst in Minnesota, South Carolina and Texas.

There is a general agreement not to speak about conditions/lack of resources/failures or horrific things.

When six year old Kendrea Johnson hung herself with her jump rope in a Northern suburb of Minneapolis her social worker claimed to not know she was in therapy, not know that she had talked about suicide and threatened her foster mother.

Judges rarely speak out on what they see and know needs change. Social workers are very protective and are trained not to speak out. Foster and adoptive parents have terrible stories but no platform to be heard. Health and mental health workers treat thousands of traumatized children each year but hardly ever make this information public (Thank You Many service providers and adoptive/foster parents fear reprisals by speaking out.

The media is only involved in the most horrific cases and generally don’t come anywhere near completing the story (baby in dumpster/blame the mother – not the institution responsible for her 4 generations of abused parents and no parenting skills)

I challenge you to help us make a difference and stop the abuse.

In addition, KARA is looking to add 5 board members in the upcoming weeks. If you want to help make a difference by sitting on our board, here in Minnesota, please contact Kristin Rode at​

More On Child Suicide, Death By Hanging and Kendrea Johnson

May 19, 2015 in Child Death, Health and Mental Health, Politics and Funding, Public Policy by Mike Tikkanen

invisible children picture web 11.09Yesterday’s New York Times article on huge increase in Black Children killing themselves should make some impact on anyone with a heart.  From 1993 to 2012, JAMA Pediatrics published a study that found that suicide among black children doubled (hanging by black boys tripled) at the same time, suicide for white children fell by half.  This is what I’ve seen as a CASA guardian ad-Litem, read about in the Star Tribune and witnessed in KARA interviews (Don Samuels).

What I find stunning about this article is the absolute non-discussion about child abuse, child trauma and children in child protection and apparent cluelessness about why  children kill themselves.

PLEASE SHARE THIS INFORMATION WIDELY (until we have this discussion, chances for improving the lives of at risk youth remain slim).

SUPPORT KARA’s efforts to advocate for abused and neglected children

Why CASA Guardian ad-Litem?

May 14, 2015 in CASA, Child Death, Guardian ad-Litem, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources by Mike Tikkanen

KoalaAfter years of watching and working as a volunteer CASA guardian ad-Litem in child protection two things have become clear to me;

1) Abused and neglected children really do need a CASA guardian ad-litem advocate &

2) The system really needs insiders to speak loudly and repeatedly about the real world of America’s child protection system.  Workers within the system (besides volunteer CASA guardian ad-Litems) find it politically unwise to say things that reflect badly on the system (at the risk of losing their jobs).  Volunteers have less to lose and by definition are “child advocates” (ie, Court Appointed Special Advocates).

As much as I respect the very hard work done by dedicated case workers (I mean every word of that – there is no harder work), case loads are too high, resources are too slim and few will risk their jobs to speak out about individual or system failures.

If I could change one thing in child protection today it would be the transparency, tracking and accountability that would come from the speaking out by those who witness these travesties every day.

The reason our communities don’t have crisis nurseries, quality daycare and other child friendly programs that would promote learning and coping skills and launch at risk youth into productive lives is that we don’t talk about it.  When you don’t talk about it, it does not exist.

“it” being the suicide by seven year old’s on Prozac, sexual abuse and repeated horrific violence against six year old’s that we see when they finally make it into Child Protection.

The only thing the public knows about the at risk children we see every day are the kids that die when the media brings it to public attention (generally showing a glaring system failure but solving nothing).

Until Brandon Stahl and the Star Tribune made a focus on just how bad life was for poor four year old Eric Dean, media coverage about child abuse was almost non existent.  It is only because of this reporters consistent and intrepid work that Governor Dayton’s “colossal failure” language formed a task force that brought public attention to absurd policies and gross negligence that desperately needed changing, that change happened.

My point is that until a thing is spoken of it does not exist and nothing is going to change.  The public has a short memory and the media won’t be here for long.

If all the public knows is that eight very young children have been murdered by their parents and caregivers since Eric Dean’s death after 15 largely ignored reports of child abuse – it is a much smaller problem than the horrific stories that accompany a very large percentage of the tens of thousands of children reported to child protection in MN each year (and the 6 million children reported nationally each year).

Maybe I’m an unreasonable optimist – but if more people were aware of the cyclical nature of child abuse, the prevalence and dangers* of medicating abused children with powerful anti-psychotic drugs (instead of adequate life changing therapies), how common life threatening behaviors are to damaged children and just how costly, impactful and long lasting abuse is for the thousands of children passing through Child Protection every year – we would support programs that would save those children from the terrors they have lived with and will continue to live with (and pass  onto their children and the next generation).

All adults are the protectors of all children (thank you Don Shelby)

*about one third of children in child protection systems are proscribed these drugs


Growing Up In Baltimore (it’s really hard)

May 4, 2015 in education, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, The States by Mike Tikkanen

From the Washington Post on the Justice Policy Institute study of Freddie Gray’s Baltimore neighborhood;

Unemployment rate of 16-64 year olds; 51.8%

Employed with Travel Time to Work of over 45 Minutes; 31.8%

Families receiving TANF; 25%

Chronically Absent HS students; 49.3%

Percent of Population over 25 Without HS diploma; 60.7%

Narcotics Police Calls per 1000 residents; 464.8

Mortality Rate for 15-24 year olds; 19 per thousand

Children 6 and under with Elevated Blood-Lead levels; 7.4%


92% of Foster Care Kids Using Psychotropic Meds Get Them For Unaccepted Reasons (this is drug fraud)

May 1, 2015 in Child Death, Foster Care, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources by Mike Tikkanen

default-headerFrom the Washington Post yesterday, most foster care children on antipsychoctic drugs get them for far too long and without medical justification.  2/3 of the nearly 700 claims studied raised high-risk “quality of care” issues.

As a long time CASA volunteer guardian ad-Litem, many of my case kids were on multiple drugs simultaneously and many of them hated being forced to use them.  Some kids threw the drugs away.

In Minneapolis, I would like to know (there should be more transparency) if six year old Kendrea Johnson’s suicide by hanging involved psychotropic medications.  She was a very troubled foster child, in therapy and had talked about homicide and suicide.  When Jeff Weise killed himself, his grandfather and 14 others he had talked about suicide and homicide and was taking Prozac.

7 year old foster child Gabriel Myers hung himself and left a note about how he hated Prozac.  KARA’s video interviews include families, a City Councilman, and other professionals talking about antipsychotic medications, very young children and suicide.  This subject needs our attention now.  It is cruel punishment for a child suffering from the traumas of abuse and removal from a birth home.

There are 3 children’s hospitals in the metro area and NO children’s mental health hospitals and there are 800 to 1000 emergency psychiatric visits at HCMC every month (many of them children).

This conversation is overdue.

What we don’t know cannot be dealt with and will not be improved.  Let’s stop the next awful six year old suicide.   Read the rest of this entry →

Sherriff’s For Pre K (save our children)

April 23, 2015 in Crime and Courts, education, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources, The States, Wonderful People by Mike Tikkanen

coneflowersWow and thank you Hennepin, Ramsey and Dakota County Sheriffs.  Sheriff Rich Stanek’s “we must make investments in early childhood education for Minnesota kids now to avoid paying far more for the cost of crime in the decades to come” took genuine political courage (thank you from Kids At Risk Action Sheriff Stanek).

In the Star Tribune article today I found it ironic that full implementation of the Governor’s Universal Pre School would cost almost as much as we spend on prisons in MN each year (the Sheriff is arguing that we will have fewer people to put in those prisons if we support Pre K education for children).

Sheriff’s Matt Bostrom, Tim Leslie, and Rich Stanek – KARA salutes you.

A special thank you to Rich Gehrman and the volunteers at Safe Passage For Children for all your efforts to bring quality policy to the children of MN at the State Legislature this year.

What follows is probably more than you want to know about the long debate from a law enforcement perspective about education, crime, mental health.  Please chime in. Read the rest of this entry →

Without Understanding Core Issues, Better Answers Are Hard To Come By (or why legislators need more information to do their jobs well)

April 21, 2015 in Child Death, education, Health and Mental Health, KARA Events, Kids At Risk Action (KARA), Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources, The States by Mike Tikkanen

child abuseIt was the final question and statement from the Legislative Committee after my testimony about generational child abuse and the “real costs” of under-funding Child Protection and Children’s Mental Health at the State House yesterday that caught me off guard and made it difficult for me to fall asleep last night.   Read the rest of this entry →

Mental Health – Connect The Dots (the hidden dangers of antidepressents and children)

April 10, 2015 in CASA, Child Death, Health and Mental Health, Kids At Risk Action (KARA), Politics and Funding, Public Policy by Mike Tikkanen

parasailingToday’s Star Tribune included 2 powerful articles that if read together provide an alarming insight into how misreported and mishandled the information about suicide, suicidal ideation, and psychotropic medications is (and people are dying every day because of it). Read the rest of this entry →

Child Suicide, Prozac, Child Protection, and Foster Care (and how are they related?)

April 6, 2015 in Child Death, Foster Care, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources, The States by Mike Tikkanen

image001More American children (especially low-income and foster care kids) are on antipsychotics than in any other country (Governing magazine March issue).

Brandon Stahl’s March 27th Star Tribune article graphically explains how child protection was unable to deal with mental health, medications, and child safety be in the suicidal hanging Read the rest of this entry →

What’s Wrong With Kansas Part II (how the state values its children)

April 4, 2015 in Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources, The States by Mike Tikkanen

mararishi guatemala thanksgivingNo longer does Kansas promise its children a full school year .  Several districts are closing early because Governor Brownback effectively eliminated 51 million dollars from school budgets (cut per pupil $950 from 2008 to 2014).  We know what the governor thinks of educating children.  The Kansas Supreme Court ruled that school funding levels were unconstitutional and ordered the immediate reversal of certain spending cuts (hooray for fair minded judges).

Even more repugnant than Brownback’s disrespect for children and education is the all out attack on children that took place in the legislature last year, literally making it legal for any care giver to assault a child and hit them up to ten times (at their discretion). Read the rest of this entry →

Child Protection – The Big Lie (don’t blame the service providers – its the lawmakers)

March 29, 2015 in CASA, Child Death, Kids At Risk Action (KARA), Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources, The States by Mike Tikkanen

guatemala landscape wowMinnesotan’s talk big about how we value children and how exceptional we are as a people, a nation, a culture.  Most of us claim to be spiritual people valuing life and religious teachings that protect our community and its children. Read the rest of this entry →

Help KARA Do Something About Drugging Foster Kids (invitation to action)

March 24, 2015 in Foster Care, Health and Mental Health, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, The States by Mike Tikkanen

this-caterpillar--photographed-in-north-carolina--looks-incredibly-deviousInvisible Children readers know that psychotropic medications, especially “antipsychotics,” often are used to sedate and restrain problematic people, children especially—and not just any children, but foster children particularly, and most of all, foster children in so-called “group homes.” Read the rest of this entry →

Drugging Our Kids

March 23, 2015 in Health and Mental Health, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources, The States, Wonderful People by Mike Tikkanen

mararishi guatemala thanksgivingThis series of videos report on the dramatic increase in the forced use of psychotropic medications by children in California’s foster care system is worth watching and sharing widely.   The use of these drugs on very young children may very well may be an epidemic in every state.

I have personally watched the explosive use of these drugs over the past twenty years in Minnesta’s child protection system and have talked with professionals (including judges, educators, families & service providers) who are very concerned with the dangers of using these powerful anti-psychotic medications in place of mental health treatments for abused and neglected children.

Prior reporting on the topic; A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N,  (share your stories here)

“Police & Sheriffs More Concerned About People’s Mental Health Than Advocates Are” (thank you Senator Barb Goodwin)

March 23, 2015 in Child Death, education, Health and Mental Health, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources, The States by Mike Tikkanen

sunset costaricaI’m always pleased to find outspoken observers in the mental health discussion.  Today’s Star Tribune article begins to articulate the gaping hole in our communities (and the nation’s) approach to mental health.  Much like child suicide and child sex abuse, we have avoided the mental health topic leading to the worst case of overbuilt prisons, unsafe streets, and terribly overwhelmed schools of any industrialized nation.

Senator Barb Goodwin told Abby Simons of the Star Tribune what a sad state it is when public advocates for mental health don’t speak as urgently for mental health services as the service providers forced to deal with mentally unhealthy people.  Is it because the public doesn’t know how damaged abused and neglected children are that they don’t understand what happens to them and the people living with and among them?  I refuse to believe that it is a lack of compassion.

Can you imagine what it’s like to be a juvenile/law enforcement officer, teacher, or other caregiver/service provider choosing between personal safety and protecting a disturbed child?  I watched a 6th grade teacher, a man about my size whack a young girls head on a banister (hard) as she was trying to gouge his eyes out and biting his face.  What college teaches defense tactics to grade school teachers?

My deepest sympathy lies with the birth / foster / adoptive parents unable to obtain mental health services for a violent behaviorally challenged child.  What do you think went through the mind of Michael Swanson’s mother after years of rejection seeking mental health services for her boy when she found out that Michael had executed Sheila Myers & Vicky Bowman-Hall?  We failed her, her son, and the tragically murdered girls and all their friends and families by not addressing the fact that mental health is being ignored in our community.

We read and watch daily about parents and caregivers trying to save children from themselves without help.  Jeff Weise had asked his grandfather and community elders repeatedly for help before he murdered 14 people and committed suicide at Red Lake MN a few years ago.  After the murders, Red Lake found money for a mental health facility to avoid further catastrophes.

Think about this; HCMC (a single Minneapolis hospital) admits 800 to 1000 emergency psychiatric visits each month (many of them children), there are no mental health hospitals for children in the metro (there are 3 children’s hospitals), I’ve been witness to too many traumatized children unable to find any kind of consistent quality mental health services and their unstoppable path to unhappiness and a dysfunctional lifestyle.

I’m of the opinion that DR Bruce Perry is spot on when he leaves the stage with the comment that, “25% of Americans are going to become special needs people by the end of this generation if we fail to address the mental health issues” he had spoken of in his presentation and that the costs of not attacking this problem with new ideas and money is exponentially more expensive than the one ten thousandth (4 million dollars requested for the diversion hubs is 1 ten thousandth of 42 billion dollars) of MN projected 2016-2017 budget.  The return on this investment could be remarkable.  Let’s go for it.

This financial pie ought not to be diverting resources from other proven mental health programs.  Instead, it is time to divert money from punishment based institutions and wake up to the gaping hole in our health care system that has exacerbated public safety issues, driven recidivism in our prison systems to 70%, damaged our schools, and made life unbearable for thousands of Minnesota’s at risk children and the people they live and deal with.

Advocate for children, advocate for mental health, and advocate for the families and service providers working to help people lead meaningful lives.  Thank you Senator Barb Goodwin for being outspoken about mental health services in Minnesota.  Let’s the rest of us step up and speak our piece in support of mental health services for vulnerable MN citizens.






Minnesota’s Chance To Invest In Children & Families (from Governor Mark Dayton’s office)

March 22, 2015 in Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources, The States, Wonderful People by Mike Tikkanen

Chrysanthemum The very best news for at risk children and their families delivered from the Governor’s office;

After a decade of deficits, state leaders are now facing a $1.9 billion budget surpluscreated by Minnesota’s strong and growing economy. As Minnesota continues the discussion on where to invest the state’s budget surplus, Governor Dayton today released his supplemental budget proposal, which after his newly-proposed investments today, would devote nearly 80 percent ($1.5 billion) of the surplus to Minnesota children, students, and families. Governor Dayton’s plan would make bold new investments in education at every level, put hundreds of millions of dollars into the pockets of working families, and make long overdue investments in the state’s aging, under-funded transportation systems.

The Governor’s supplemental budget proposal, released in detail today, would invest Minnesota’s surplus in free universal pre-kindergarten for all 4-year-olds and increase funding for every K-12 public school in Minnesota. Additionally, the Governor’s budget proposal would invest in higher education to make it more affordable for Minnesota students and their families. His proposal would deliver $187 million in tax credits for child care and working families, and raise wages for low-income working families for the first time in nearly 30 years. It would also provide additional funding for nursing homes, and provide for essential public safety improvements. Read the rest of this entry →

Cars With 3 Wheels (From Our Friends At Safe Passage For Children Of Minnesota)

March 20, 2015 in Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources, The States, Wonderful People by Mike Tikkanen

children down hill having funA car with three wheels is not 75% as good as one with four.  There is a minimum set of features without which a car won’t move at all.

This principle applies to child welfare because elected officials have frequently given this program much less than managers request, and assumed they somehow will make things work.  But if the system has, for example, adequate staffing but poor training, or lacks a quality assurance program, it is like a 3-wheeled car.  It simply won’t run.

Minnesota has an historic opportunity to rebuild its child welfare program.  To accomplish this the legislature must step up to approve the $50 million that the Governor has put in his budget, so state and county managers have the tools they need to do the job.

Where Bad Laws Come From (& why it’s not fair to blame the worker bees)

March 18, 2015 in Child Death, Crime and Courts, education, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources, The States by Mike Tikkanen

Pensive ParakeetBrandon Stahl’s article in the Star Tribune today suggests that Minnesota is probably the only state in the nation to have forbidden social workers from considering past screened out cases of child abuse in evaluating new reports.  Pressured to put a consistent policy in place by a state auditor, DHS institutionalized a policy that would lead to untold suffering and death of abused children for four years (it ended today with the Governor’s signing of the reversal of that bill.

That is just the tip of the iceberg that the Governor’s Task Force is working on.  Perhaps with the added attention to the Task Force and Brandon Stahl’s  continued reporting we can move up a few notches among the states in what we spend on child protection in MN (we rank 47th currently).

It befuddles me that the studies completed by the Federal Reserve Bank by Art Rolnick and Rob Grunewald have not brought the larger business community into appreciating the fundamental issues underlying a productive work force and a safe and healthy community.   It may be that the arguments should be made in terms of cost instead of savings.  I think it would scare people to know how expensive ignored at risk youth are to our community.  A single boy in my CASA guardian ad litem caseload cost this county at least 3 million dollars by the time he aged out of child protection (not including the awful things he has done to people).

By any measure, taking care of vulnerable children is the duty of all of us and to make you feel better, saves money and is the right thing to do.



Reporting Child Abuse in MN  Reporting Child Abuse Nationally; 800-422-4453

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

Four Year Key’Ontay Miller-Peterson Murdered – Two & Three Year Old’s Starved (2 families reported by the Star Tribune today)

March 17, 2015 in Child Death, Crime and Courts, Health and Mental Health, Politics and Funding, Public Policy by Mike Tikkanen

ocean wedding at sunsetI hope the task force is working fast and that it’s efforts will lead to a reduction in the number of murdered, tortured, and suicidal very young children in Minnesota.

Today’s Star Tribune indicates the “colossal failure” (Governor Dayton’s words) of child protection in the death of Eric Dean after fifteen reports of child abuse by mandated reporters is still causing suicide, torture and death to afflict Minnesota children today.

Just a few months ago, six year old Kendrea Johnson’s social worker was unaware of her suicidal and homicidal talk before she died by hanging herself with  jump rope.

Today’s Star Tribune has two disturbing articles of worst case abuse and murder suffered by two, three, and four year old Minnesota children;

Four year old Key’Ontay Miller-Peterson’s mother found guilty in the repeated assaults and eventual murder of her son Key’Ontay Miller-Peterson.

The two year old and three year old children of Michael Gunderson of Princeton were starved to the point of eating feces when discovered by the Sheriff’s Department. 

I want to believe that we are better than this as a community.

After all, we have money for a billion dollar stadiums and equally expensive transit system.  It’s not that we are short the money – it appears to be how we value sports and mobility over children.

What we do to our children, they will do to society”  Pliny the Elder, 2500 years ago.


Reporting Child Abuse in MN  Reporting Child Abuse Nationally; 800-422-4453

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

Hiding Child Suicide Hurts Everyone (until it exists – nothing will change)

March 8, 2015 in CASA, Child Death, Foster Care, Politics and Funding, Public Policy by Mike Tikkanen

KoalaSix weeks ago, Brandon Stahl’s Star Tribune article about the death of six year old Kendrea Johnson by apparent suicide, pointed out just how misinformed (or misdirected) our community is when it comes to the impact of trauma on children.

An unnamed Hennepin County Medical examiner was quoted in the article, “the decision to carry out such an act (suicide) is outside what a normal six year old could think about”.

This statement should have been, that all children in foster homes have been traumatized and normal does not exist for most of the six million children reported to child protection in this nation every year and that suicidal thoughts are not uncommon to traumatized children.

Awful things happened to these children or they would not have been taken from their home and placed in foster care.

Being removed from your birth home is traumatizing in and of itself.  What happened before changes the way a child reacts to life – literally, it changes the way the brain responds to “normal” events for a child.   Then, we add psychotropic medications that trigger thoughts of suicide (just read the package).  Judge Heidi Schellhas shared her list of very young children taking Prozac, Ritalin, and other mind altering medications with me.  Six year olds were on the list.

My first visit to a four year old girl in my CASA guardian ad-Litem work was at the suicide ward of Fairview Hospital.

I’ve written about seven year old Gabriel Meyers who hung himself and left a note about how he hated Prozac.

KARA’s interviewing for our child protection television expose includes past volunteer guardian ad-Litem and former mayoral candidate Don Samuels telling his story of a teacher calling him and asking for help with a five year old suicidal boy.

I’ve been on an airplane delivering a twelve year old suicidal boy to an out-state suicide prevention group home because all the metro suicide beds were taken – there are 800 to 1000 emergency psychiatric visits to HCMC every month (and many of them are children).  Remember, this is just a single metro hospital.  There are 3 children’s hospitals in the metro and zero children’s mental health hospitals.

While it is true that most five and six year old children fail in their suicidal attempts, their lives often remain self destructive and lead to early death.  It hurts me that if not for the reporting of Brandon Stahl at the Star Tribune, no one would know that Kendrea killed herself, except her therapist and other service providers that knew she was having daily thoughts of suicide.

It is an awful condemnation of our values and community that abused and neglected children suffer this much with so little meaningful help from the rest of us.  This speaks volumes about how we value children.

She is out of the news cycle now and probably not going to get much more attention.  We should all feel some sorrow and empathy for the six year old girl that had to think about how she was going to end her life and then doing it.  It should be much bigger news.



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

Donate $5 to support KARA’s ongoing efforts advocating for abused and neglected children

SMART JUSTICE – Mental Health Police in Texas

March 4, 2015 in Crime and Courts, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources, The States by Mike Tikkanen

star gazing at the dockA friend sent me this today from NPR, and I think it would solve many of our nations troubles and is worth sharing (widely).  San Antonio Texas and Bexar County have saved 50 Million dollars and made life safer, more just, and much kinder for their citizens.  The jails aren’t full today because the officers are dealing with the mental health issues that are getting people shot and beat up by other police departments.

In Minneapolis, our County Hospital admits 800 to 1000 emergency psychiatric visits each month (that’s only one hospital).   Instead of facing more awful stories about how police departments are causing their communities to fear them, this department has recognized that jail is ineffective in treating mentally unhealthy people involved in low level crime and they came up with a better way.  Read the whole story below (with audio).

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 Read the rest of this entry →

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 →