Brandon Stahl Sets A Precedent For Excellence In Reporting (share this with your local newspaper – it could be repeatable & help children)
The issues of child abuse and child protection services are complicated and not well understood by the general public, state legislators, or even the people delivering the services. In the almost twenty years I’ve spent as a volunteer in the system (CASA guardian ad-Litem), I’ve not witnessed a reporter going as deep into the heart of a child protection story until reading Brandon Stahl’s series in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
When a baby is found in a dumpster or some other horrific suffering of a four year old makes the paper, an article of outrage leaves the reader hating and blaming a person or institutional failure. Because it takes a sustained and painful effort to take a deeper look into the depth and scope of the nightmarish conditions that preceded the great sadness of a child’s suffering and death at the hands of a caregiver, the reporting almost always stops right here.
Thirty years ago in White Bear Lake MN (near my home), Lois Jergens went on to adopt five more children after murdering 4 year old Dennis Jergens. None of the approximately fifty children I lobbied to be removed from their homes because of torture, sex abuse, or neglect were ever known to anyone outside the child protection system. The absence of information about abused and neglected children is directly related to our high crime rates, full prisons, troubled schools, and unsafe neighborhoods. We would all benefit by knowing the trauma of ground truth – then we could face it and deal with it. It would be better for us and better for children.
Today, Brandon Stahl is peeling back the layers of this complicated institution of child protection. So few people know anything substantive about it and even the people running it can be so wrong so often (as in passing laws about not using past history of abuse in current investigations or family assessments instead of child protection in high risk cases).
In our interview with Brandon Stahl, he was clear about just how hard it is to pry information out of institutions that either have done a very bad job of gathering and keeping it, or simply don’t want it known. He spoke of the substantial financial investment his newspaper had to make in order to get the basic information about the murder of four year old Eric Dean by his step-mother after fifteen reports of child abuse by mandated reporters.
The lack of transparency and deliberate obfuscation of public information by those institutions makes the work of a Brandon Stahl incredibly difficult. A lesser reporter might have given up – which probably explains the great dearth of information surrounding the millions of children beaten, tortured, molested and murdered in this nation each year (and my fifty GAL children).
I am so grateful that Brandon Stahl’s articles have captured Governor Dayton’s attention and forced the creation of this task force to investigate the “Colossal Failure” (the Governor’s own words) of child protection that led to the tortured death of helpless little Eric Dean.
My greatest fear is that our trouble institutions out of misunderstanding or fear of looking bad, will have a loud and persuasive voice on the panel and successfully defend ineffective or awful policies and procedures that harm at risk children.
Let’s protect children, not institutions.
KARA’s mission is to raise awareness within our village about child abuse and child protection. It is up to each one of us (the villagers) to work together, to support and improve our institutions, and protect every child in MN
Sample 4 minute video of Kids At Risk Action talk on child protection in America (invite KARA to speak at your conference – Mike@invisiblechildren.org )
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Feel free to use this information to start conversations and give voice to the millions of abused and neglected children that otherwise remain voiceless and invisible.