A busy week for KARA.

Board member Sam Ashkar and I met with Steve Lepinski, CEO of the Washburn Center.  We have much in common and hope the conversation continues.  One of Steve’s observations has stuck with me, “there are three children’s hospitals in the metro, and no children’s mental health hospitals”.

I shared an article from the morning Star Tribune that reported “between 800 and 1000 emergency psychiatric visits at HCMC each month”.  It is the tip of the iceberg that is mental health and how it is just under the surface and at a crisis level in our community.

We should all champion the need for more and better mental health services for children.  Few people are aware of the depth and scope of the problem that so directly impacts our schools, public health, and public safety.  Crime, violence, and abuse don’t flourish in mentally healthy people.

Wednesday was spent at the Century College intern fair, looking for writers and researchers for our website.  Several promising candidates showed up.

Friday was spent with about a thousand close friends (and child advocates) at the annual Children and Youth Issues Briefing conference in St Paul.  I reconnected with board members from CASAMN, Greg Brolsma,  Police Chief from Fairmont MN  with great insights about how the issues of abuse and neglect impact the larger community, and Rich Gehrman from Safe Passage For Children MN.

My biggest take away from the speakers today* was this statement by Becky Roloff CEO of the YWCA in Minneapolis (paraphrased) because a child’s future ability to cope in school and in life is almost completely formed by five, I’ve changed my definition of a generation.  It’s not 20 years, it’s five.  Every five years, another generation of children able to cope or not cope in school, with peers, and in life enters our community.

Becky’s larger point being, either we throw ourselves into prenatal care, stabilizing young families, crisis nurseries, early childhood programs, and affordable quality daycare, or we will continue to create new generations of troubled five year olds headed for failure and lifetimes of special needs and dysfunctional lifestyles. 

Emerging Policy Initiatives, Youth Perspectives, MN Children’s Cabinet, Governor’s address, and Legislative leaders delivered multiple perspectives about children’s issues.  When the video of the event is posted I will put it up on KARA’s website.

2 other thoughts that will stick with me from this meeting are;

1) the short sighted and repeated reference to affordability with little reference to the extraordinary cost (in dollars and quality of life) of not valuing children enough to insure at least basic health and skills,


2) Governor Dayton’s remarks about how infighting among service providers could damage his efforts to provide 327 million dollars for children and education in his current budget proposal (which certainly would not serve the children we were there to advocate for).

The cost of children not able to achieve the coping skills needed to succeed in school, with peers, and in life, are exponentially higher than providing subsidized daycare, crisis nurseries, and early childhood programs.

Without help, the traumas of abuse and neglect last a lifetime and cost a fortune over that person’s lifetime and are repeated again as that child starts another family just like the one he/she came from.

Art Rolnick’s work at the Federal Reserve proving a 17 dollar return on each dollar invested in early childhood programs for the average child pales in comparison to the dollar invested in the at risk child.  A single child in my caseload cost the county (and County) in excess of two million dollars) that could have been a fraction of that cost if addressed adequately (and he is still a young man with a long, expensive, dysfunctional life in front of him).

Both political parties made much of “the cost” of helping children achieve basic health and skills (and yes, mental health is health).  For a nation that spends so lavishly on war and military budgets, it hurts me how cheap we can be when it concerns our youngest and most vulnerable citizens.

Other advanced nations provide free or very low cost high quality daycare and require advanced degrees for providers, MN has 8000 families on a waiting list for subsidized daycare and pays providers the same as food service workers (one of the lowest paid professions).

How does this state value its children?  As a long-time volunteer guardian ad-Litem, I saw too many children left with drunk/druggy uncles and allot of neglect and abuse because of it.

Our website monthly traffic has more than doubled (from under 4000 to over 9000) in the last 45 days and if it continues, we can achieve the big numbers we need for success with our documentary/expose project.

 To that end, please share each Friday’s 9am email web update with your Facebook and or other social media (if you did not get one this morning please let me know).


There is an immediate need for all of us to send a written letter in support of Transparency as there is an assault underway presently to end what little there is.  If they are successful, Reporters like Brandon Stahl will not be able to get the information they need to report on stories like the death of Eric Dean.  Who wins?

This is awful and it is important that you do this.  Click here to submit comments (that will stop this assault on Transparency)  (go to the bottom of the page) You must send a written letter… not emails.

If it had not been for Brandon Stahl’s reporting, we would not have a Governor’s Task Force On Child Protection and no one would know about Eric Dean or the other 60 abused children that have died in this state recently.  Let’s keep the light focused on children.

CASAMN is holding its Fundraiser on March 5th at the Surly Brewing company…. Please show support & share this widely;

http://casamn.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=mf_event_detail&event_time_id=12 It’s fun, a great bunch of people and a very important cause