If you have not worked with children in child protection systems, the above headline might seem extreme.

There is very little sympathy for felons in our nation and very few people stop to question why there is so much crime and so many criminals.

Not me.

I know that MN Supreme Court Justice Kathleen Blatz is accurate when she says that 90% of the youth in our juvenile justice systems have come through child protection services & that Minneapolis MN arrested 44% of its adult African American men in 2001 (no duplicate arrests).

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I also know that we so dramatically under – serve abused and neglected children that most of them never recover from their childhoods. The most recent big study of children aging out of foster care shows 80% leading dysfunctional lives.

Three million children per year are reported to child protection systems in America. About 500,000 children are under court protection.

Almost all felons have come through the juvenile justice system. We have had a recent run of white collar crime in the U.S. but I am certain that it is still a tiny percent of the 1.5 trillion dollars in insurance estimate cost of crime in this nation each year.

Anyone reading the biographies of criminals executed in the U.S. each year will find that they are all very disturbed, and that the majority of them were horribly abused as children. Not addressing the mental health needs of terrifically abused children to terribly dysfunctional adulthood.

Can we help abused children to lead normal lives? Yes, we can.

Would it be less costly to invest in troubled children than it is to wait until their criminal histories are significant enough to place them into second chance programs?

Yes, it would; the cost of each juvenile in the juvenile justice systems of New York and California now exceeds 240,000 dollars per year. It is not uncommon for re-offenders to spend 25 to 35 years in and out of prison (66% recidivism is considered the average in America).

The Missouri model of ten years ago proved that treating juveniles as youth instead of criminals turned their recidivism rates from 90% to under 20%.

It seems doubly wrong that our system spends more money to ruin children for life than it would to facilitate their training and needs to become coping, capable citizens. We have the technology and the money to do this, I have seen it done.

The rest of the industrialized world does it pretty well – note our falling quality of life indices internationally.

What we have instead is a push for privatizing prisons and jails, squeezing the last oversight of non financial incentives out of an already underfunded, dysfunctional, and by many interpretations, cruel system; http://spectator.org/archives/2011/03/11/juvenile-abuse

“Children that are the victims of failed personal responsibility are not my problem, nor are they the problem of the State Of Minnesota” MN Governor Tim Pawlenty quoted to Andy Dawkins and David Strand.

In the execution referred to in the headline, Republican Gov. John Kasich last week rejected Baston’s plea for mercy.

Baston asked for clemency based on the victim’s family’s opposition to capital punishment and his chaotic upbringing, with his lawyer saying he was abandoned as an infant and would wander the streets with his dog trying to find his mother when he was a boy.

12 years in child protection has changed the way I look at grown up abandoned children.

There is not a religion on the planet that would abandon children a second time.

5 Comments

  1. johnnie was my foster brother…upon entering the foster home he was first to greet me and make me feel comfortable…we became fast friends …brother and sister…he did not deserve the death sentence….we are a product of a corrupt foster care system…once 18 we are left to the wolves to fend for ourselves state of ohio has no more monetary use for us…i know johnnie and i know he didnt pull the trigger….who will give ohio a death sentence for the murder of my brother?

  2. I know I’m only one voice, but I’m so sorry Cassie for all the sadness and unfairness that our child protection system heaps on helpless children like you and Johnnie.

    We are much less of a decent society because of this.

    My hope is that our understanding of child protection will grow to include the things children need to lead fulfilling lives.

    Many of us have worked hard to bring attention to what we think is the biggest injustice our nation suffers from today (how we treat children).

    My sympathies and best wishes for a better tomorrow.

    MikeT

  3. Cassie-

    Thank you for speaking out and sharing your story…this gives me hope. So many are not listening. I too know the talents that youth display even coming out of dire situations…to show love, connect, comfort and to care.

    My deepest sympathies for your loss. Keep your head up!

  4. Such a tragic story and it reminds me that there but for the grace of God go I. I suffered abuse, but was never removed from home. If I had, things might have been very different for me. Thank God I was protected by my Mother. I recently met a student at the online university I attend who is a success story of the foster system. Having been through four foster homes – the last was her salvation. Although in a crowded home of three natural children and eight fosters – this family provided her with a love and stability that has helped her to become the amazing woman she is today. She has a relationship with her birth family but sees the dangerous behaviors continue today – the same ones that got her removed from their care. She is now in her mid-20’s and expecting her first child. I am so proud to know her and so grateful for the family who cared for her. I would take in 100 children if I could. Unfortunately we are a poor family and even the supplement from the State isn’t really enough to care for a child properly. We reach out and do what we can – we give our time and our love. Everyone can do this – no matter how poor.

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