The issues of child abuse and child protection services are complicated and not well understood by the general public, state legislators, or even the people delivering services. In the almost twenty years I’ve spent as a volunteer in the system (CASA guardian ad-Litem), I’ve not witnessed a reporter going as deep into the heart of a child protection story until reading Brandon Stahl’s series in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
When six year old foster child Kendrea Johnson hangs herself and leaves a note and four year old Eric Dean is tortured and murdered after 15 largely ignored reports of child abuse, the reporting leaves the reader hating and blaming a person or institutional failure. Because it takes a sustained and painful effort to take a deeper look into the depth and scope of the nightmarish conditions that preceded the great sadness of a child’s suffering and death at the hands of a caregiver, the reporting almost always stops right here.
All Adults Are The Protectors Of All Children
Thirty years ago in White Bear Lake MN (near my home), Lois Jergens went on to adopt five more children after murdering 4 year old Dennis Jergens. None of the awful things done to the fifty children I lobbied to remove from their homes because of torture, sex abuse, or neglect were known to anyone outside the child protection system. The absence of information about abused and neglected children is directly related to our high crime rates, full prisons, troubled schools, and unsafe neighborhoods.
We would all benefit by knowing the reality of child abuse and child protection in our community – then we could face it and deal with it. It would be better for us and better for children.
Star Tribune report Brandon Stahl is peeling back the layers of this complicated institution of child protection. So few people know anything substantive about it and even the people running it can be so wrong so often (as in passing laws about not using past history of abuse in current investigations or family assessments, hiding critical information and fighting against institutional change instead of fighting for child protection).
In KARA’s video interview with Brandon Stahl, he was clear about just how hard it is to pry information out of institutions that either have done a very bad job of gathering and keeping it, or simply don’t want it known. He spoke of the substantial financial investment his newspaper had to make in order to get the basic information about the murder of four year old Eric Dean by his step-mother after fifteen reports of child abuse by mandated reporters.
The lack of transparency and deliberate obfuscation of public information by those institutions makes the work of a Brandon Stahl incredibly difficult. A lesser reporter might have given up – which probably explains the great dearth of information surrounding the millions of children beaten, tortured, molested and murdered in this nation each year (and my fifty GAL children).
I am so grateful that Brandon Stahl’s articles have captured Governor Dayton’s attention and forced the creation of this task force to investigate the “Colossal Failure” (the Governor’s own words) of child protection in MN.
My greatest fear is that our trouble institutions out of misunderstanding or fear of looking bad, will have a loud and persuasive voice on the panel and successfully defend ineffective or awful policies and procedures that harm at risk children.
Let’s protect children, not institutions.
KARA’s mission is to raise awareness within our village about child abuse and child protection. It is up to each one of us (the villagers) to work together, to support and improve our institutions, and protect every child in MN
Sample 4 minute video of Kids At Risk Action talk on child protection in America (invite KARA to speak at your conference – Mike@invisiblechildren.org )
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