Minneapolis Star Tribune, 5.7.05, reporting on a National Institute of Health mental health study;
“One-quarter of all Americans met the criteria for having a mental illness within the past year, and fully a quarter of those had a “serious” disorder that significantly disrupted their day-to-day lives, according to the largest and most detailed survey of the nation’s mental health…The numbers suggest that the United States is poised to rank Number One for mental illness globally.
The article goes on to articulate the chronic condition of mental illness and the importance of expert medical attention.
As a long time guardian ad-Litem and student of the impact of American institutions on abused and neglected children, I would offer that the harshest consequences of America’s untreated mental health problems are suffered by chronically poor families that have histories of abuse and neglect.
One million American children annually are placed in Child Protection systems because they meet the criteria under the Imminent Harm doctrine for having their lives endangered by their parents.
By definition, abused and neglected children have been traumatized (generally for years) and then torn from the only home they have ever known. Very few of these children receive adequate mental health therapy. Instead, they are placed into group homes that are over crowded and understaffed, and foster and adoptive homes that vary widely in their ability to deal with the serious needs of the children they serve.
The data from children under county protection is negative. School failure, illiteracy, crime, and early pregnancy are all too common. One percent of children living in foster homes goes on to college.
90% of the children in the Juvenile Justice system have come out of Child Protection. Over 90% of the adults in the Criminal Justice System have come out of the Juvenile Justice System. Over fifty percent of the children in the Juvenile Justice system have diagnosable mental illness.
The social workers, teachers, and therapists that tend these children try with their best efforts to make life better for their young charges and cannot to be criticized for not having the resources or framework to accomplish their tasks. It is we the people, the voters, the politicians that have made sure there are inadequate services
Abused and Neglected children are abused two times. Terrified and tortured by their parents, and secondly when they are handled like the problem they are to the counties that must deal with them. Many abandoned children spend the majority of their lives in state institutions, never having overcome mental health traumas suffered in their birth homes.
Abused and neglected children are sent to schools where they are disruptive and unable to learn. Many abandoned children are taking psychotropic medications like Prozac and Ritalin. They disrupt classrooms, make life unbearable for public educators, and have brought graduation rates to 53% in the Minneapolis Public Schools (Roosevelt graduated 28% of its class last year.) 25% of American high school graduates can’t read.
This should not be a political issue. No religion allows for the abandonment of the weakest and most vulnerable among us.
50 years ago, senior citizens were eating dog food out of cans and living under bridges. Media attention and public outrage created AARP and finally lobbied for an adequate social security for seniors.
Can’t we do the same for children?