Thank you David for clearly articulating the core mental health issue of childhood trauma suffered by the millions of   American children reported to child protection each year.  David Brooks Article NYTimes Today.

The World Health Organization defines torture as “extended exposure to violence & deprivation”.  Every child in my CASA guardian ad-Litem caseload suffered from being tortured (half of them had been sexually abused).  This explains why children in child protection suffer from PTSD at twice the rate soldiers returning from Iraq & Afghanistan do, why 2/3 of the youth in juvenile justice have mental health diagnosis (and why half of them have multiple, serious, & chronic diagnosis) & why 80% of youth aging out of foster care lead dysfunctional lives.

Mr. Brooks, please continue your research & writing on this issue because very few other big time news people are & this is why our prisons are full, schools are troubled, & so many communities are becoming unlivable (Flint Michigan no longer has a police presence after 5pm – and they really need one).

As a long-time volunteer child protection worker, I am sensitive to just how little America talks about what is arguably the single defining reason for the decline of our schools, cities, & quality of life.

3 million children a year are reported to child protection systems.  We are providing services to about half the number we were helping five years ago (due to anti-tax people and no money).

The lack of services and mental health resources have driven our institutions to where they are producing exactly that which they were designed to stop (violent, drug using criminals & preteen moms with no parenting skills).

The Federal reserve study of a few years ago (Art Rolnick/Rob Grunewold) determined that investing in children is the best return on the dollar available for government spending.  It is far less expensive than 40 years of institutionalization and the billions we are spending on crime & insurance trying to protect ourselves from tortured children.

Instead, a baby is found in a dumpster and we blame the overworked social worker and ignore the third or fourth generation abused child that birthed this unfortunate baby and wait for the next horrific thing to plague our community.

When a 12 year old shoots his father we try him as an adult and throw away the key (25% of American youth are tried in adult court).  When a 7 year old hangs himself and leaves a note, we rail about the system but change nothing (Prozac forced on 4 & 7 year olds, who’s crazy?).

Until this conversation becomes common to us, the beatings, crime, and failing schools will continue (God help teachers trying to manage inner city classrooms now full of Prozac & Ritalin or the social workers of Chicago, Arizona, or LA).

The good news is that we have effective & inexpensive ways of making things right, subsidized daycare, crisis nurseries, & great methods of teaching coping skills & growing mental health services to make children well.

As a citizen of a first world nation I am horrified at just how little my community knows or want to know about the 3 million children called in to child protection services each year, the pain they suffer & the damage they do.

Until some of us speak, nothing will change because no one wants to talk about tortured children or mental health & these kids have no voice in the homes they are raised in, no voice in the courts or justice system that rule their lives, they are misunderstood by the media, and ignored by politicians. 

Please pass this article on to people you believe can help us start this conversation & help me reach David Brooks & the larger media;   Include this article and a request to the NYT editor to continue David Brooks conversation;

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The Psych Approach

Published: September 27, 2012 399 Comments

In the 1990s, Vincent Felitti and Robert Anda conducted a study on adverse childhood experiences. They asked 17,000 mostly white, mostly upscale patients enrolled in a Kaiser H.M.O. to describe whether they had experienced any of 10 categories of childhood trauma. They asked them if they had been abused, if their parents had divorced, if family members had been incarcerated or declared mentally ill. Then they gave them what came to be known as ACE scores, depending on how many of the 10 experiences they had endured.

Josh Haner/The New York Times

David Brooks

The Conversation


David Brooks and Gail Collins talk between columns.

For Op-Ed, follow@nytopinion and to hear from the editorial page editor, Andrew Rosenthal, follow@andyrNYT.

The link between childhood trauma and adult outcomes was striking. People with an ACE score of 4 were seven times more likely to be alcoholics as adults than people with an ACE score of 0. They were six times more likely to have had sex before age 15, twice as likely to be diagnosed with cancer, four times as likely to suffer emphysema. People with an ACE score above 6 were 30 times more likely to have attempted suicide.

Later research suggested that only 3 percent of students with an ACE score of 0 had learning or behavioral problems in school. Among students with an ACE score of 4 or higher, 51 percent had those problems.

In Paul Tough’s essential book, “How Children Succeed,” he describes what’s going on. Childhood stress can have long lasting neural effects, making it harder to exercise self-control, focus attention, delay gratification and do many of the other things that contribute to a happy life.

Tough interviewed a young lady named Monisha, who was pulled out of class by a social worker, taken to a strange foster home and forbidden from seeing her father for months. “I remember the first day like it was yesterday. Every detail. I still have dreams about it. I feel like I’m going to be damaged forever.”

Monisha’s anxiety sensors are still going full blast. “If a plane flies over me, I think they’re going to drop a bomb. I think about my dad dying,” she told Tough. “When I get scared, I start shaking. My heart starts beating. I start sweating. You know how people say ‘I was scared to death’? I get scared that that’s really going to happen to me one day.”

Tough’s book is part of what you might call the psychologizing of domestic policy. In the past several decades, policy makers have focused on the material and bureaucratic things that correlate to school failure, like poor neighborhoods, bad nutrition, schools that are too big or too small. But, more recently, attention has shifted to the psychological reactions that impede learning — the ones that flow from insecure relationships, constant movement and economic anxiety.

Attention has shifted toward the psychological for several reasons. First, it’s become increasingly clear that social and emotional deficits can trump material or even intellectual progress. Schools in the Knowledge Is Power Program, or KIPP, are among the best college prep academies for disadvantaged kids. But, in its first survey a few years ago, KIPP discovered that three-quarters of its graduates were not making it through college. It wasn’t the students with the lower high school grades that were dropping out most. It was the ones with the weakest resilience and social skills. It was the pessimists.

Second, over the past few years, an array of psychological researchers have taught us that motivation, self-control and resilience are together as important as raw I.Q. and are probably more malleable.

Finally, pop culture has been far out front of policy makers in showing how social dysfunction can ruin lives. You can turn on an episode of “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,” about a train wreck working-class family. You can turn on “Alaska State Troopers” and see trailer parks filled with drugged-up basket cases. You can listen to rappers like Tyler, The Creator whose songs are angry howls from fatherless men.

Schools are now casting about, trying to find psychological programs that will help students work on resilience, equanimity and self-control. Some schools give two sets of grades — one for academic work and one for deportment.

And it’s not just schools that are veering deeper into the psychological realms. Health care systems are going the same way, tracing obesity and self-destructive habits back to social breakdown and stress.

When you look over the domestic policy landscape, you see all these different people in different policy silos with different budgets: in health care, education, crime, poverty, social mobility and labor force issues. But, in their disjointed ways, they are all dealing with the same problem — that across vast stretches of America, economic, social and family breakdowns are producing enormous amounts of stress and unregulated behavior, which dulls motivation, undermines self-control and distorts lives.

Maybe it’s time for people in all these different fields to get together in a room and make a concerted push against the psychological barriers to success


  1. I have been engaging in this conversation on Linkedin. I want to commend you for your thoughts and will provide you with a link where you can make a difference if you want to get invovled with government and their problems: If you have a research proposal write a 500 word paper to describe it and enter an application at that link before Nov 09, 2012. Read all about it… so you know how to get invovled in that proposal. Thanks and I hope you continue to work on these issues.

  2. Foreward conversation from linkedin:
    Rob Pikula • You made many good points on your latest article, this is good.
    But from my experiences with the courts and child services, I have watch CPS continue to give a child back to an unstable mother even after the child has begged to be taked away. She has been neglected, abused and recently left at an ex-boyfriends house for 3 months for her to take care of herself at the age of 15. Afterwards the judge said she should stay with the mother at the new boyfriend’s home, and CPS wittnesses that this child lives out of a box. Changing schools yet again, the case worker says, since you are a good kid we cannot remove you from this environment. Others have shown concern to take custody of her.
    Please, is it because there are to many cases that this child isn’t being neglected enough for anyone to help her?

    Lona Skaggs • It might have to do with funding; I believe (and it is a personal belief from what I know from my personal experiences in dealing with the government as a low income recipient of funds that are competitive in nature). The child’s income at this x-boyfriend’s house must be suffcient for the family …and since the child is not displaying neglectful symptoms (tolerating her life-even so undesirable as it might appear)..the welfare system is not willing to deny a caregiver the desire to provide funds for her. Thus, without sufficient evidence to disconnect her from a caregiver that provides funds..she is stuck in a situation that does not carry enough evidence of abuse. I do not imply that you have not considered this; but do think you understand this mechanism of funding and how the government is rolling the dice on children’s welfare by caseload and evidence. There is an upcoming opportunity to become involved in making a difference in the programs that care for the funding of children that are needing. Here is a link …a call for proposals can be read there …and for those that can; the deadline for your proposal is Nov 09, 2012. read all about it 🙂

    Rob Pikula • Yes it probably is funding and it does make sense what you say but again CPS not protecting. There is more to the story, she was left at the ex boyfriends for 3 months then once they went to court the judge had the child go back with the mother at the new location. What the case worker saw was a child with no room living out of a box with her cloths, small bruises on her wasn’t enough to investigate anyways. This new guy walks around in the nude around the 15 year old.
    When a child begs you with tears that please take me away from my mother – there should be an investigation because something else is going on.

    See there is a connection with this child as she is my daughter’s half sister. I had gain custody years ago with my daughter then help the 2nd ex-husband get custody of this child because how unstable the mother was/is. Then he past away, with the 10 year old finding her father. Within hours CPS with no regards of this child at all takes her away from the people that have been taking care of her and puts her in foster care that day. Then against the judge, forces the child back in mother’s hand even though other family members were trying for custody.
    This gets deeper, this was such a long dramatic story prior to this of years of proof of the mothers unstability as what she did to my daughter that I wrote a book on this.

    My plans are to show parents what could happen fighting in court and what happens to their children if they pursue arguing about divorce. That maybe they should re-think divorce or even if they shouldn’t go through the court system. For the parents to take responsibility for their kids because CPS truely will not have the child’s best interest.
    Meanwhile with my extensive research find another way to help other children being abused, for example shows many cases where CPS has put a child back in harms way, and its not pretty.

    I can go on and on of what I have witness with this one case alone, plus many others too.

    But I know there is a bigger picture and each county has there good and bad, how can we help these abused kids? They shouldn’t continue to put these children back in harms way.

    I will look at this conference page


    Lona Skaggs • Your welcome; I think that the unity of everyone that cares cures anything…just my outlook; I am not a positivist ..although I do believe as Compte argued (Macionis, 2012)that society operates by their own set of laws and there is other laws (gravity and morality, etc). So anyway; the law I speak of is morality’s laws, and I am sure that what you are doing is the only possible path in the fact that you ar at war with the forces that have the society laws in place. The ideal world would not permit this ( a world ran by the morality that is inherently good-that world is not here yet). So, I commend you, Rob, that you inherenty see the good and understand the root that divorce in itself sets us up for these problems; and that the trust in this system to do the right thing is a false trust. Keep up your work; I hope your proposal is accepted to make changes. You will need to narrow your topic to the specific trigger that is keeping this girl and other’s like her in the system’s control. Look for the mechanism (the legislature) that measures the decision for taking her and find a sample group to use in the research large enough to bring the numbers into sight to show this is repeated over and over for the same reason. I hope this helps. Lona

    Macionis, John J. (2012). Sociology 14th Edition. Boston: Pearson. p. 11. ISBN 978-0-205-11671-3.

  3. I would like to add about the children having trouble and problems coping in school.

    As I was raising my daughter with full custody, the emotional drama that her mother put her through created a high level of ADHD and depression. I had thought I gave my daughter much love, guidence and stability, but the signs were being expressed and shown in school. At an early age in first grade was when I received a call from the teacher saying that my daughter needs to be evaluated for ADHD.

    She couldn’t sit still and cannot pay attention in class, she said. My first thought was, that can’t be, and I am doing so much to keep her in a loving environment and away from the mother’s influences as much as I could. My family was our strength and stability, as my daughter spent a lot of time with them. But it was those reckless weekends with her mother that lingered on. It took days to get my daughter to relax and calm down sometimes. After many test and seeing a specialist for ADHD it was evident she needed help, but the doctor was more concern of depression. Of course drugs were his first remedy and I declined at first.

    The big red flag came when my mother, while watching her hears my daughter singing, but as she went closer to hear it was about killing herself.

    Twenty one years later, and as I am writing this I still am holding back tears of remembrance of all the things her mother did to her emotionally, in fear.

    Even then I thought maybe, just maybe there was a bigger picture of why I have been witnessing and acting through all of this emotion chaos, which is why I wrote this book “Our Children Come First”. It explains in raw detail of what happen to my daughter and me, in and out of court while protecting her. From day one to five years ago, the end turns out to be…….
    Please see and find out more.
    Thank you

  4. I first read this in the Linkedin connections; and as I went to discuss the ADHD problem scenario; I found I was to return here. I will reprint. Rob, my thoughts on the ADHD problem are…there is not enough specifics; depression might look like ADHD; there is a list of criteria to mark off that is observable (empirical). My son was 6 years old and the teachers wanted to label him ADHD; but he only had 3 of the 10 in the list I had (1983). I think they know more now and might have a bigger list: The problem is in the way the child is wired to understand her own world view. In general, the human condition can be defined by the experiences; but inall, the indidividual will define their own life. Humans are unique in brain wiring for thoughts just as they are in fingerprints. In fact, every encounter that you had with your daughter, you imprinted something she chose from that encounter. As it is with every other episode she experienced in her life (including her dreams). There is nothing you could have none differently–your bigger picture is seeing that–forgive yourself and sto trying to rewrite her life…can nt be done, you know. I see your writing as good therapy for you; but it can also be harmful if obsessive like it would make any differnce for what tookplace any where inthe past. As for making differences for others insimilar situations; we can only try; but should reamin focused on the here and now. To ad your book…my daughter reads from a web site where people can write while they publlish: -but I do not know anything about it… except it is free.

  5. I would like to know where are all the places at we can put all of these blogs and information, for example; magazines, web sites, newspapers, LinkedIn, etc.? So we can post as much info all over the world as we can.

    Bring out all the good people within the system to do the right thing and remove any authority figure that basically is only in it for the money and control.

    Let’s focus on HOW CAN WE SAVE AND REMOVE A CHILD FROM HARM with no concern for money.

    Don’t miss understand me, I do understand you need money to house and feed the kids with a good guardian, etc. but the energy focus is only on money in most counties. That is all they think and talk about. If we only say I WILL HELP YOU then ACT ON IT we could change the energy. Then the money will follow for the right reasons.

    It is obvious trying to help certain parents is not working so stop thinking of them and only the children safety. Stop putting the children in custody of the harmful, unstable parents or foster parents.

    ON THE OTHER SPECTRUM, CPS stop removing children from their parents for no apparent reason but for greed and control. Remove those caseworkers, management and counselors etc. before they put another child in a harmful environment.

    Which is what I see the most, two completely separate tragedies.

    Also to change the energy to positive we need to hear a lot more good uplifting stories. I want to hear the good cases that came through where a child ended up in a good life because of it. The more of these will change the energy flow.

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