These Minneapolis Star Tribune articles deliver stunning clarity to the state of my community’s mental health.

3 separate articles (Brandon Stahl, Jennifer Bjorhus & Kelly Smith) articulate the current crisis dealing with psychiatric issues in policing, health service providers and child protection workers.

This mental health crisis is impacting teachers and school performance juvenile justice and criminal justice.  This paints a more complete picture of why our institutions are creating almost exactly what they were designed to stop.

Today’s service providers are rarely capable of adequately dealing with the level of dysfunction encountered by a large and growing number of people.

They will fail to achieve the results they strive for until we the voters demand the core changes that will reverse  these painful trends.  These failures drive up burnout and good workers leaving the field for lack of success and very high stress (and lack of understanding appreciation from the rest of us).

Reflect on this;

The “colossal failure” of Child Protective Services” Governor Dayton’s words upon the death of 4 year old Eric Dean after 15 largely ignored reports of child abuse

MN Supreme Court Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz’ statement s that “90% of the youth in Juvenile Justice have come through Child Protection” and“ the difference between that poor child and a felon is about 8 years”  are as true today as they were a few years ago when she said them.  My spin on the Chief Justice’ words are that, the difference between that poor child and a preteen mother with no parenting skills, a drug problem and a violent boyfriend, is about 8 years.

2/3 of the youth in the Juvenile Justice System have diagnosable mental health issues & half of them have multiple, chronic and serious problems.

1/3 of the children in Child Protective Services are proscribed Prozac or other psychotropic medications.

20,000 one and two year olds were proscribed psychotropic medications in this nation in 2014 (Johnson & Johnson paid 4 billion dollars in fines for illegally selling these drugs to pediatricians for use on children and there are 5000 cases awaiting trial).

MN Sheriff’s had to threaten a law suit to get the state to move on providing timely mental health services for the people in their jail cells.

While these sad facts are repeated in almost all states, in MN they go a long way in explaining not just child protection failures, but school failure, crime on the North side and the racial disparities that so profoundly set us apart from the rest of the country (44% of Minneapolis’ adult black men were arrested in 2001 – no duplicate arrests).

Friends, it all stems from a failure to recognize the importance of helping young families & normalcy for infants and children.   Children that are reported to child protection that are traumatized and don’t develop coping skills, often lead dysfunctional lives.

After lobbying for the removal of 50 severely traumatized children from their abusive & toxic homes as a volunteer CASA guardian ad-Litem, I have become an advocate of Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz words and heartfelt supporter of crisis nurseries, subsidized quality daycare & quite simply, more services for young and poor families.

The argument that we can’t afford it is not only immoral (not a religion on the planet ignores its youngest and most vulnerable), it is false.

Just one of the children I worked with through the CASA guardian ad-Litem program cost this community about 3 million dollars by the time he aged out of foster care.

Some value should also be placed on the criminal things he has done to this community and the sadness he visited upon the 29 foster and adoptive families that tried to help him for those years and the continuing cost of his AIDs treatments.   With his high level of mental health dysfunction,  he will always be a state ward.

80% of children aging out of foster care lead dysfunctional lives.

While boys seem to be more heavily involved in the justice system, girls are showing up more often also.

Troubled girls are having more and more children and they are growing up just like they were raised  with drug problems and drunken, abusive boyfriends.  How can that be otherwise, as parenting skills don’t come from the stork?

It’s a sore subject in most communities as it really is a civil rights issue.  Our community has laid the groundwork for this level of dysfunction and unhappiness by making services to young families out of reach for a large segment of our citizens (institutional daycare in the metro averages 14,000 dollars a year – try that on a 10 or 12 dollar wage).

We are now in our 5th, 6th, and 7th generation of  traumatized abused and neglected children raising the next generation of traumatized, abused and neglected children.

Without caring more for young and troubled families, quality daycare, crisis nurseries and more trauma informed mental health services we will not stem the crisis service providers are facing every day as teachers entering the classroom, or justice workers dealing with mentally unhealthy and Prozac using suspects & health providers try to find facilities for suicidal/homicidal and other psychotic patients (HCMC alone sees 800 to 1000 emergency psych visits each month in this city). 

Sorry to not end on a happy note, but it could be improved if YOUR legislator would wake up to the huge economic costs of not spending money on making children healthy.

Share this piece with your state representative (they make these decisions) and if you are reading this from another state – share it with a newspaper reporter you have seen write about related articles (they might see the 3 reports appearing in one newspaper on one day as a trend they would like to start in your state).

THANK YOU STAR TRIBUNE, BRANDON STAHL, JENNIFER BJORHUS & KELLY SMITH for your excellent reporting on these critical issues.

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KARA’S Traveling Child Abuse/Child Protection Exhibit


Recommend the exhibit to your college/university/museum – start the conversation where you live.