David Channen’s March 24th Star Tribune article brings into focus the awful reality that we don’t have the transparency, accountability or heart to make changes that could save children from violence and neglect that destroys their lives and impacts our schools, public health and public safety for decades.

Not providing guardians in 293 cases impacting 643 children in Hennepin County is just one piece of the many ways our community is failing children and young families.

This lack of support and resources for the program is not new.

That judges recognize the futility of asking for a guardian, that the “House of Horrors” girls were reported to child protection over fifty times (perhaps 150 times?) over 15 years where developmentally disabled girls were beaten with bats, starved, raped and gave birth by their dad identifies the depth and scope of the problem abused children face.

For 22 years as a volunteer County Guardian ad Litem I have watched two year olds and five year olds fall into the maelstrom that is the overburdened child protection system in MN.

My first visit to a 4 year old foster child was at the suicide ward of a hospital.

Some 6 year olds are successful suicides (Kendrea Johnson a few years ago in Brooklyn Park) but most very young children only end up hurting themselves and being forced onto psychotropic medications.

 

The fear and aloneness in the eyes of the child sitting next to me in court as the judge decides where she will live after being taken away from the only home she has ever known is palpable.

Here, in a roomful of adults she has never seen before about to determine what will become of her family, where she will live and what school she will go to are too monstrous for words.

How would you as a six year old respond?  Remember, coping skills for these events don’t exist is six year olds.

 

It’s always been terror and trauma for these kids.  Torture, trauma and abuse in the home.  Terror and trauma of the unknown as the institution takes over every aspect of her life.

If there is no return to home and the child has disruptive behaviors, she will know dozens of adult figures, none of them very well.  She may have ten or more foster placements.  One boy had 27 placements before aging out of foster care.  He was with me for 14 years.

 

As a CASA guardian ad litem, I was the only adult that remained in a number of my state ward children’s lives while they passed through the system.

It seemed that every other adult came and went after a year or two.  Kids really need a stable caring relationship with an adult.

There was a moment of optimism a few years ago after the Governor called out the “colossal failure” of child protection in the horrific tortured death of 4 year old Eric Dean and the studied and practical recommendations of the task force in the aftermath of that tragedy.

But David’s article (above) clarifies that this is just the tip of the child protection iceberg.

 

By not adequately funding the Guardian ad Litem program, the Legislature is guaranteeing that more and more abandoned children will not have a voice in their own life and that the odds of leading a normal life will be seriously compromised.

About 80% of youth aging out of foster care lead dysfunctional lives.

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