How We Treat Children

November 20, 2013 in Crime and Courts, education, Health and Mental Health, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, The States

boy in stripesPhoto courtesy of Richard Ross

If you are an adolescent with mental health issues in New York, you might end up at Riker’s Island.

If your issues are severe and you are disruptive, you could be locked away in the punitive solitary confinement cage for 23 hours a day for hundreds of days at a time.

(invite me to speak at your conference) / Buy our book or donate  Sample 4 minute video of Mike’s awesome talk on child protection in America   Read the rest of this entry →

Schools Criminalizing American Children

September 14, 2013 in Crime and Courts, education, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, The States

boy in stripes photo courtesy of Richard Ross www.juvenile-in-justice.com

East coast schools are experiencing the mass incarceration and expulsion of student populations.

Using armed police instead of counselors has lead to a giant leap in overcrowded courts, incarcerated youth,  & privatized juvenile justice facilities.

Its a growing trend in this nation. New Jersey eliminated all mental health services from schools and uses the justice system to deal with adolescent problems.

New York students with disabilities are 4 times more likely to be suspended than the non-disabled (New York Times/Molly Knefel) with 69,000 expulsions and 2,500 arrests last year, mostly for infractions that would have dealt with by counselors in years past.

Pennsylvania recently sent 2 judges to prison for 40 years for receiving kickbacks for sending thousands of mostly innocent youth into the privatized youth prison system.

The data is clear that children of color and poverty are grossly over-represented in this newly criminalized society that is sweeping the nation.

In a nation that pays day care workers less than food service workers (the least paid profession in the nation) and has refused to adequately fund crisis nurseries, or subsidized day care, we should not be surprised that our youth are unprepared to learn in school and a source of non-criminal behaviors that trouble school officials. We should think twice about ignoring mental health issues, punishing the disabled, and privatizing a system that is criminalizing an entire generation of American youth.

This goes a long way in explaining high crime statistics, overcrowded prisons, and low graduation rates.

What we do to our children, they will do to society” Pliny the Elder, Greek Philosopher, 2500 years ago Read the rest of this entry →

America The Beautiful (unless you’re born an at risk child)

November 5, 2012 in Crime and Courts, Guardian ad-Litem, Invisible Children, Public Policy

Yesterday’s NYTimes review of the large and long study of Cook County youth doomed to a dysfunctional lifetime of violence, drugs, & incarceration could be the sort of reporting that could finally shake our communities into recognizing just how costly in lives and money our war on children is in America.

Unemployment is rampant: 71 percent of the men and 59 percent of the women are without jobs as adults. Of the 1,829 youths originally enrolled in the study, 119 have died, most of them violently — a death rate three to five times as high as the one for Cook County men in the same age group over all and four times as high as the one for women. In all, 130 have been shot, shot at, stabbed or otherwise violently attacked. As a group, they show high rates of post-traumatic stress, depression and other psychiatric disorders.

25% of American youth are charged for their crimes in the criminal justice system, not the juvenile justice system (about 250,000 per year).

About 66& of the youth in juvenile justice suffer from mental health disorders (and fully half that number have chronic, serious, and multiple diagnosis).  This statistic is about the same for children in child protection systems.

Remember, the World Health Organization defines torture as “extended exposure to violence & deprivation”.  Tortured children need mental health support.  All the children in my caseload as a guardian ad-Litem suffered from extended exposure to violence and deprivation – and almost none of them received anywhere near the help they needed to lead normal lives.

By avoiding the mental health issues inherent in child abuse, we insure that troubled children will become dysfunctional adults, prisons will remain full, school failure and dropout rates will remain high, and our city streets will become more violent (checkout Flint Michigan, Detroit, St. Louis, etc).

40 years of institutionalization, drugs, violence, & dysfunctional lifestyles or, caring enough about a five year old to make sure he/she gets help obtaining the coping skills necessary for a normal life (the answer is obvious).

It is that simple.

Contact me to start a conversation mike@invisiblechildren.org   

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