A very smart person that I consider a friend suggested that the sad story of Florida’s foster care system (in the blog article just prior to this one) is not comparable to the state of foster care in my state of MN. Suggesting that things are fine in MN’s foster care system. Nothing to see here, let’s talk about something else.
Dee Wilson delivered the Casey Foundations report on child protection in MN and softly stated that our group home facilities were grossly unable to deal with the level of trauma and behavioral problems that these overwhelmed homes were experiencing.
Just a week ago MN closed the group home in St Cloud MN because of many violations over many years.
That home allowed kids to bang their heads against walls to the point of concussions, facial injuries and head trauma along with forced sex in the presence of staff.
Don’t blame the staff*. It’s the management and the people making the rules. It is always the management that determines the wage, the training and the supervision that will be in place in every business endeavor. It’s always the policy makers that determine the oversight and resources available to the homes providing the service. These things are made extremely clear in the Florida video.
To expect low waged and undertrained people to manage children traumatized by years of abuse now being managed by a cold and distant state is just unworkable.
Florida state ward children are psychotropically medicated at a rate of 48%. MN children are medicated at 33%.
A Hennepin County judge shared with me her list of medically drugged children that passed through her courtroom during the year. Children as young as six and pages of single spaced names.
This is a national trend. In 2014 America put 20,000 one and two-year old’s on psychotropic medications and fined Johnson & Johnson 4 Billion dollars for illegally selling these drugs to pediatricians for use on young children (and there were 4 thousand cases awaiting trial). That is just one drug company I followed. There were several others sued also.
One should know what it means to be psychotropically medicated to understand what it takes to run a group home filled with Prozac and Ritalin children.
The suicidal ideation message on the side of each package is genuine. Fully formed thoughts of killing yourself delivered like a movie or violent daydream is a reality six and seven-year old’s experience. When foster child Kendrea Johnson hung herself in Brooklyn Center two years ago, no one mentioned Prozac. Her social worker did not know the child was seeing a therapist. When seven-year-old foster child Gabriel Myers hung himself in Florida, his note specifically stated how he hated being forced to take psychotropic medications.
One of my CASA guardian ad litem case boys walked home 35 miles on a ten degree MN night because a low paid staffer at a privately-run group home forced him outside for misbehaving (told him he could come back inside when he got his mind right).
That boy, my GAL child was about twelve and on multiple psychotropic medications at the time. His decision making was never good and that night he almost killed himself by choosing to walk home in a t shirt on a ten-degree night.
I’ve been in foster homes where sexual abuse happened in the presence of a CP worker.
I’ve been in foster homes where eight children under 15 were sanding and scraping and painting like employees of a remodeling firm. Conditions were unsafe and unclean and not what fostering was meant to foster.
Every state has a shortage of quality foster homes for abused and neglected children (read it here).
There are multiple reasons for these shortages but at the core of it is the attitude that we are an exceptional nation that treats its abused and neglected children just fine.
Florida’s Foster documentary is the tip of the iceberg and this story needs telling in every state.
*In the end, it’s we the people who vote to care or not care enough about training, resources and rules that abused and neglected children will live with. Mental health services under the Affordable Health Care act became the first viable access this nation has offered to these children and it may not have lasted a year in place if the current health care bill passes the senate.