“What we do to our children they will do to society”   Pliny the Elder    I met with State Senator Mee Moua recently. I am a guardian ad-Litem concerned with the twice-abused children I know through County Child Protection.  Senator Moua is the first State legislator to speak to me with a genuine interest in creating a public dialogue around Children’s mental health issues after many tries.

We agree that a significant part of the problem with failing schools is the big numbers of traumatized children being warehoused in classrooms.
Teachers are in the terrible position of being responsible for educating students and managing traumatized children at the same time.

Because it is a complicated issue with no simple answers, legislators avoid the topic and don’t provide useful solutions.

The public is quick to blame parents, immigrants, and teachers for school failure, but unable to grasp the seriousness of a million new cases of abused and neglected children entering American classrooms each year. Blaming mentally ill or drug addicted abusive parents is useless. Blaming children or immigrants is wrong.

Until we can get our minds wrapped around the inter-relatedness of child abuse, mental illness, education, crime and pregnancy, we will continue to be a nation of teenage pregnancies and young criminals.

By federal statute, children removed from their homes by Child Protection Services have suffered the trauma of having their lives in danger of imminent harm (or they are left in the home.) That is the law under which children are removed from their home (the Imminent Harm doctrine.)

In my guardian ad-Litem cases, most children removed from their homes by the county need counseling very badly and they do not receive it.

The terrible behaviors abused children develop to stay alive in the toxic environment of beatings, drugs, sex, and neglect, make them social outcasts and define them as mentally ill in their new life settings.

Children that have suffered severe or prolonged abuse need a counseling regimen that will be part of their life for a long time to overcome the trauma and asocial behaviors learned in their early years. How do we unteach violence, sexual behaviors, or illegal drug use taught to a seven-year-old?

Short term counseling for severely damaged children is just one more abandonment.
Can prescriptions of psychotropic drugs like Ritalin, Prozac, without commensurate mental health services take the place of professional mental health counseling and the teaching of life skills for a disturbed seven year old?

Too large a percentage of children in the Child Protection System are receiving serious doses of psychotropic medication and not nearly enough mental health services. This is not saving our communities any money. We pay for the institutionalization of these children for many years.

What can we as parents, citizens, educators, and spiritual people do to create awareness of the seriously troubled children are being “managed” with psychotropic medications and expected to “become normal” without the help of therapy?

At the very least, tell your legislator you are tired of full prisons, dangerous streets, and failing schools. Tell them that you support mental health services for children.