A few minutes reading last week’s child abuse news is enough to demonstrate the depth and scope of policy failures and inadequate resources legislators make available for saving at risk children from the traumas of abuse and neglect.
Most states struggle to provide even a minimal support system of safe foster care for state ward children. There are never enough foster homes for traumatized children and providers are expected to manage severely damaged children without training or mental health services.
37% of children overall and 54% of Black children are reported to child protection services in America by the time they turn 18. (American Journal of Public Health 1.17)
12 million children a year are reported to child protection services each year.
Traumatized children bounce from facility to facility and often forced onto the streets because of behavioral issues that are unmanageable by untrained providers.
13 year-old girls in Florida’s privatized group homes have regularly been forced onto psychotropic medications and prostituting themselves for years. This Frontline quality film should be seen by everyone that cares about kids – the password is “foster”.
As a volunteer CASA guardian ad litem, I have witnessed these awful practices in MN Group homes also.
Nationally, about 33% of state ward children are forced onto psychotropic medications (Florida is at 50% and Texas kids over 13 are 67% medicated).
20,000 one and two year old children were medicated with Prozac like drugs in 2014. The same year drug companies were fined (and paid) billions of dollars for illegally selling these drugs to pediatricians for use on young children.
If you have never suffered suicidal ideation from use of such drugs, you will have a hard time understanding the violent nature of suicidal ideation and why it is clearly articulated on the package of every psychotropic medication (or why Jeff Weiss killed all those people, or why 6 & 7 year old foster children suicided themselves by hanging. Gabriel Myers left a very straightforward note about killing himself because of being force fed Prozac).
Most people think that traumatized children trying to kill themselves in a very rare thing (it’s not).
I’ve come to know and empathize with fifty traumatized children as a CASA guardian ad litem. My experience as well as 20 years of writing and research that self-loathing and self-harming behaviors are very common.
I agreed with the coroner in the case of Kendrea Johnson – it is difficult for a child that young to “tie a sophisticated knot” and calculate distance and physics necessary for a successful suicide.
My first visit to a four-year old CASA GAL case was at the suicide ward of Fairview hospital. I’ve been on multiple suicide interventions with several of the children in my caseload.
All these children were psychotropically medicated – several of them on multiple medications simultaneously.
From a Star Tribune Article today, it is apparent that the recent uptick in investigating child and infant death at the hands of caregivers is impacting the number reported child abuse cases and the obvious inadequacy of child protection systems in all states.
Historically, we blame educators for failing schools and social workers for murdered children within the child protection system.
This behavior is wrong and counterproductive. It’s like blaming a police officer for the person in the squad car.
If you know police officers, social workers and teachers you know how hard their work is and how dedicated they are to what they do.
The blame for the poor results we have been getting in our schools, child protection and criminal justice system lies with us as voters and policy makers.
Until we understand the depth and scope of the problem and give the people working with the children and youth in our communities the support they need, our problems will continue to grow.
On the bright side, Minnesota has the Washburn Center for Children which is almost 100% successful in treating abused and neglected children. We know how to break the cycle of generational child abuse.
All that is left to do is scale the trauma informed practices to a level that meets the need. The economic reasons for doing this are compelling and it is the right thing to do.