Last week KARA board members Sam Ashkar, Bob Olson, & I attended the Child Well-Being meeting to learn current information on the status of abused and neglected children in MN.  The data came from the Citizens review panel, Office of the Legislative Auditor, and a powerful report from Canan Karatekin at Safe Passage For Children.

Information is important in how one frames and speaks of a problem.  Being grounded in facts is always superior to what one hears from the talking heads (and blogs).

Statistics are evidence of the success or failure of important process and programs.

Last Year there were 58,163 reports of child abuse 2/3’s of them were screened out (were not investigated).

This is about twice the percentage screened out five years ago and troubling to me and other people working with abused and neglected children.

75% of these reports were from mandated reporters; teachers, healthcare workers, law-enforcement, & other professionals working with children.  25% were from voluntary reporters.

Many people have a problem with reporting child abuse (it’s uncomfortable, can be intimidating, and there is a fear of negative consequences).  A good friend of mine told me how he did not report what he was certain to have been the prostitution of a six year old neighbor’s daughter (he was guilt ridden, but  did not help the child).  One of my worst cases included what I was certain to have been the repeated sexual abuse (and likely prostitution) of a seven year old girl.  It’s not that rare.

75% of cases closed on Family Assessment during the first six months of 2011 were NOT referred for services.  This was a cause of concern among Citizens Review Panel members (and me too).  My experience as a volunteer guardian ad-Litem was that only the very worst of the worst cases of child protection were allowed into the system even when we were screening in twice as many cases (as we are today).

About half the children I worked with had been sexually abused and the violence and drug abuse these kids suffered from was severe and long term.  The World Health Organization defines torture as “extended exposure to violence & deprivation” and this was the case in all of the families I have worked with in child protection (these children were tortured).

What became clear and troubling to me from the powerful reporting of Safe Passage For Children, was that the services offered to families were declined or not followed through with in 75% of the cases.  A combination of fear of the system, drug addiction, alcoholism, and mental health trouble keep these children in homes without hope.

This explains why most of the violent crime committed by youth in Ramsey County comes from about 4% of the families living there (ACE study) and why the graduation rates at Roosevelt High School remained under 30% for five years running,  why 44% of Hennepin Counties African American Men were arrested in 2001 (no duplicate arrests) & why 80% of youth aging out of foster care lead dysfunctional lives.  I also think it explains the 600,000 annual fetal alcohol births, highest rate in the industrialized world of sexually transmitted disease among American youth, & 2.3 million incarcerated citizens (and the attendant crime and violence).

Children left in toxic environments without help can’t just become normal when they reach adulthood – they require the tools and support to cope with the complex society we have built.  If our youth don’t receive the help they need to make it through reading and high school, at home, our community must make the effort.  It cost way less in the end & life will become much more livable for children & the rest of us.

Thank you Child Well-Being Network for providing this forum.




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