COVID & Child Suicide November 2020

KARA (Kids At Risk Action) tracks current news about at risk children bringing transparency and  attention to our youngest and most vulnerable  citizens.  The COVID pandemic has interrupted most major media reporting of child abuse issues.

KARA’s reporting is only sampling of what should be reported –  the great majority of child trauma & abuse is never known. Major media and institutional reporting on children’s issues are much lower due to the COVID pandemic.

ALL ADULTS ARE THE PROTECTORS OF ALL CHILDREN

Follow KARA on Facebook

Good Bye David Strand – Founding KARA Board Member and Best Friend

KARA’s Founding Board member and best friend David Strand has passed away after a long illness.

He brought a wealth of experience, passion and commitment to the cause of America’s abused and neglected children.

David came to know a great deal about how children are treated in other advanced nations because he helped to craft public policies on children’s issues while living and working in Northern Europe.

A Free & Powerful Mental Health Resource For Minnesota Children

KARA has partnered with a leading mental health company, Praestan Health, to provide at risk youth free access to a  digital and coaching mental health and wellbeing services for at-risk youth.

Portages is a powerful new tool for youth struggling with trauma and other mental health issues.

Homeless & LGBTQ youth, foster children, and youth in juvenile justice will be given preference for this project.

Lawsuits and the Death of Two Year Old Arianna Hunziker

Arianna was wrapped in sheets, left alone in a closed room and slowly starved to death. Foster parents Sherrie and Bryce Dirk will go to prison for murdering Arianna. This solves nothing.

There is something terribly disturbing about a State sanctioned foster family starving a 3 year old State Ward child to death that needs to see the light of day.

Arianna must not have had a County social worker (today’s Star Tribune article …

Schools Closed – What We Need to Know

Poor districts are suffering more domestic violence & substance abuse from from front line worker stress, poverty and job loss making online learning that much harder for children.

Many poor families are crowded into small spaces, lacking necessary internet access and hardware for adequate online learning.

This NY Times article barely acknowledges the social and economic costs of abused and neglected children locked into toxic homes during COVID.  Abused children have no teacher or other mandated reporter to recognize and respond to their traumas.  There is no comparison to having a trusted teacher to privately speak to in school and a video chat with the abuser in the room or nearby.

LGBTQ Foster Care & Ground Truths

Recent surveys by the Casey Foundation and the NY Administration of Children’s Services show that about a third of kids in NY’s foster care identify as LGBTQ and nationally, about 24% do.  40% of homeless kids in NY City identify as LGBTQ and 42% of them had been in foster care.

This NY Times article focuses on how hard life is for them.  Many of these youth and children are in foster care because their parents rejected them.

Many are homeless, depressed and leading dysfunctional lives.

Every year about 12,000 children aged 5-14 years old are admitted to psychiatric hospital units for suicidal behavior. This and all the information following are PRE COVID.

Young children who have attempted suicide are up to 6 times more likely to attempt suicide again in adolescence

Goodbye Joe McCarthy – Founding KARA Board Member & Best Friend

Yesterday, KARA’s best friend and founding board member Joe McCarthy passed away after a long illness.

We will miss him terribly.  Joe had a big heart and remarkable mind.  He was sharp as a tack with an interest in everything and a stunning memory.

20+ years ago, Joe encouraged and then guided me through the writing of the INVISIBLE CHILDREN book and founding of our nonprofit Kids At Risk Action.

Our small board spent many hours sorting through issues and ideas for making life better for abused and neglected children.  We worked together to create our first board meetings and involve more people in the endeavor we are so passionately engaged in today.

Winning the War Against At Risk Children (& saving our city)

and 63 recent car-jackings (over the last 39 days) many include vicious assaults & mostly committed by teens – kids as young as 12, puts the lie to that belief.

For decades, the vast majority of serious and violent crime has been committed by youth and young adults.  In these 63 recent car-jackings, women are beaten, one man was shot dead and another dragged as he tried to stop them from stealing his car with his wife and child inside.

During this time of pandemic and civil unrest, it’s apparent that our city is much more dangerous than it was a year ago.

What is less apparent, are the key drivers that have needed our attention for a very long time that (if addressed) could dramatically reduce the anxiety, violence and unrest in our communities.

Before, when schools, health care and public safety seemed to work, we have had little concern with how or why things work and the luxury of not paying attention to the people, programs and policies involved.

Child Care – Brutal Truths & Best Practices

Michele Norris Star Tribune article on MN child care is just the tip of this iceberg. Did you know that the U.S. used to have the best and most affordable daycare in the world?

Today, the COVID pandemic has forced many daycare centers to close and others to raise prices significantly due to social distancing and sanitation requirements.

in many states, single Parents pay over 50% of their income for infant center care and married parents with 2 children pay over 100% of their household income for center based care (or they would if they could make it work).  Minnesotans pay over 15 thousand dollars for infant care (when public college tuition is 11 thousand dollars.  20 years ago, there were 34 names on the waiting list for MN’s subsidized daycare.  That ended when the new governor took those state funds away and the list grew to over 7000 families.  Some states have never provided meaningful help for families struggling to afford daycare.

For a nation claiming to value children – one could argue it’s for the dollars they bring in and not their future role as citizens.  Drunk uncle/boyfriend daycare is a growing sadness the media…

For a nation claiming to value children – one could argue it’s for the dollars they bring in and not their future role as citizens. Drunk uncle/boyfriend daycare is an awful thing the media…

Foster Care, Adoption & the Catholic Church

It hurts me to see the Catholic Church fighting tooth and nail to forbid gay couples from adopting State Ward children (Washington Post 8.31.18). Life is hard enough for abused children in state systems short of foster care and adoptive homes without enforcing mean spirited church dogma on couples well suited for the task of raising traumatized children with many deep and painful troubles. In fact, maybe better suited than most. Think about it. Growing up gay is a trauma for most to start with. Especially for those old enough to be married and able to adopt who came into this community when it was absolutely uncomfortable to come out and declare a gay lifestyle.

Children, Politics & Voting On Tuesday

Americans have always talked big about supporting equality, keeping children safe, supporting schools & better conditions for young families.

Today, our pro-child, pro-family discourse has become so vicious that many Americans rationalize our government taking immigrant babies and children from their mothers and then losing them so that these mothers may never see their children again.  Children have become political footballs in immigration, education, health care and law enforcement and this should disturb us.

A great deal of money and political will has gone into denigrating immigrants, public schools, teachers and the front-line workers trying to keep children healthy and safe.

Tuesday’s election is about this.

Which candidates support more access and more resources for education, health and mental health and an end to racial injustice?

“What we do to our children, they will do to society” (Greek philosopher Pliny the Elder 79 AD)

Please vote – the next generation needs you to speak for them.

Restorative Justice – Veterans & Children (saves money and lives)

Woo Hoo – MN passed a restorative justice act for veterans – diverting at-risk veterans toward probation and social service programs instead of jail time when they commit certain crimes.

Why wouldn’t we?

The World Health Organization defines torture as extended exposure to violence and deprivation. Living in a war zone, bombs going off nearby or a buddy shot dead in front of you changes the brain.

Most of us want soldiers that have experienced traumas in the service of this nation to be treated for their mental health issues and have a path to rebuild their lives as productive citizens.

New CDC Youth Data – STD’s, Mental Health, Drug Use & Suicide

This 2020 report examines 24 variables and includes three new health behaviors—recent prescription opioid misuse, STD testing, and HIV testing. It also provides data on the health behaviors and experiences of sexual minority youth from the 2015, 2017, and 2019 cycles of the national Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), allowing trends to be reported for this population for the first time.

The Death of Arianna Hunziker & Lawsuits

Arianna Hunziker was “starved, dehydrated, bound, immobilized and abandoned in a home littered in trash and smelling of of urine”.  Foster parents Sherrie and Bryce Dirk went to prison for murdering Arianna.  There is something terribly disturbing about a State sanctioned foster family killing a two year old State Ward child that needs to see the light of day.

The lawsuit in today’s paper points out that another MN community is having a hard time with either the resources, training or protocol for keeping at risk children safe.  Being a foster child should not be one more horrific encounter with child abuse.  It’s plenty hard when your birth parents make your suffering so bad that a judge removes you from their home to place you with a family you have never seen before.

Child Suicide Reporting (3 weeks ending 10.17.20)

These articles reflect current trends in child suicide & self-harm in America today. Only a fraction of child/youth suicides are successful. The vast majority of self-inflicted harm remains invisible. Mental health services are badly needed by young people today as the COVID pandemic is locking children into toxic homes with little or no access to the adults that could help them.

Grace’s Story (Thank you ChildrensRights.org)

Grace, a Black 15-year old who was sent to a juvenile detention center for failure to submit schoolwork.

In an email to Grace’s caseworker, her teacher stated that Grace was “not out of alignment with most of my other students.”

Tens of thousands of children have struggled to adjust to the online learning environment the coronavirus created. ProPublica cites 15,000 high schoolers in Los Angeles alone failing to log in or complete schoolwork. Yet, a judge presiding for Oakland County Family Court Division, ruled in May that not completing schoolwork violated Grace’s probation.

It’s impossible to determine the frequency of cases like Grace’s, but one thing is clear. Children’s health and safety must be prioritized. We will continue urging states to stop admissions and to release kids from juvenile facilities. No child should be in juvenile detention for missing homework.

Fetal Alcohol Babies (FASD) & the Harm in Minimizing Realities

This JAMA article indicates that we continue to underestimate the prevalence of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders by a factor as high as 10. If this is true, 5% of American children are born with a wide range of permanent and lifelong physical & mental health deficits that will result in school & life failure and premature death.

Most people in the fields of education, law enforcement or social work know the explosive growth of mental health issues of children in their in schools, homes and squad cars. We are all becoming mental health workers.

The greater and sadder truth reflected in these studies is the continued minimizing, euphemizing and obfuscation of how America treats its children and troubled young families.

The ground truth is that children can’t speak for themselves, the media sees this as a negative story and the institutions involved benefit through non-transparency and under-reporting.

These sad truths insure generation after generation of child abuse and children born of drug and fetal alcohol abuse. The cost to society and taxpayers is horrendous. We would all benefit by understanding these grim truths.

Policing, COVID & Abused Children (share with your law enforcement contacts & save a child)

Conflicts between officer training and the children they are policing.

Policing youth with mental health problems is a growing problem.  This article sheds light on solutions to this intractable core community problem.

From a law enforcement perspective, police officers are at significant risk for injury and even

1 In 3 Children Investigated For Child Abuse by 18 (Washington University Study)

As a long time volunteer County CASA guardian ad Litem it has been hard to comprehend the explosive growth of child abuse in my lifetime. This study (lead author Hyunil Kim PhD Student at the Brown School at Washington University St Louis) published in the January issue of the American Journal of Public Health is troubling on several levels.

First, to reach numbers this high by only including reports of child abuse that met County standards for a case to be investigated, indicates that this already high number (37% overall & 53% for Black Children) is possibly even higher

October Is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Watching your mother being beat up or raped is the same trauma as being beaten or raped to a five or nine year old.  Untreated trauma lasts forever and it changes a person forever.

The United Nation’s-Secretary General Antonio Guterres has warned that being confined with abusive partners during the pandemic has led to a “horrifying global surge in domestic abuse”.  This well organized domestic violence reporting and resource guide with hotlines and practical advice …

International Child Well-Being 9.16 – 9.30 2020

The United Nations Secretary General Anonio Guterres warned that we are seeing a horrifying global surge in domestic violence

all over the world and is urging leaders to include protective measures in their pandemic plans.

The depth and scope of violence against children was a terrible problem before the pandemic.

Generational child abuse has grown exponentially for decades overwhelming schools, justice systems and communities.

 ALL ADULTS ARE THE PROTECTORS OF ALL CHILDREN

Children & The Supreme Court (from the Children’s Defense Fund)

The impact of the Supreme Court’s decisions in the coming year are huge.  If the Court overturns the ACA, Millions of children will be uninsured or lose affordable coverage that does not meet their pediatric-specific needs.

Children aging out of the foster cares system will lose affordable health coverage, mental health and substance abuse coverage and access to preventative services because of pre-existing conditions and there will lifetime limits on care for the seriously ill.

Foster care children will see the pool of highly qualified foster and adoptive parents shrink if

Abused Children, COVID & Law enforcement

This article addresses the depth and scope of a problem that has been and still is growing at exponential rates, all over America.
The current approach to policing at risk youth is creating exactly what we want to stop. Even partial success in ending the current model will give results to save us from building more jails and prisons and the steady growth in crime and recidivism rates.

America leads the industrialized world in gun deaths, unsafe streets, prison populations, cost of crime and recidivism rates.

The choice we are facing is imminent.  There is a tipping point that we cannot see, and it is too serious to ignore.

Criminalizing Elementary School Children (policing our schools & punishment)

Federal Funding, Zero Tolerance and Inadequate Alternatives mean that more states are policing schools with armed officers. Before the 1970’s police were almost absent from elementary and junior high schools.

Today, armed officers are dealing with an escalation of violence and criminal prosecutions for children as young as 6, 7 and 8. Prosecuting kids in place of using resources to help them adapt destroys the fabric of a child’s life and achieves the exact opposite of what children need and society expects from an elementary or junior high school experience.

There are a significant number of us who believe it more important to punish bad behavior in children than it is to help them develop the skills they need to live among us. When these folks hold sway in education, the institution suffers, the child suffers, and the community gains one more troubled adult a few years later. For too long, America has led the world in crime, incarceration, violence and troubled schools. While not the only reason, treating at risk children with behavioral problems as offenders instead of troubled youth has played a big role.

The articles below are obvious examples of policing and education gone wrong. No child should have to live with this kind of institutional abuse. ALL ADULTS ARE THE PROTECTORS OF ALL CHILDREN

When 14-year-old Ryan Turk cut ahead of the lunch line to grab a milk, he didn’t expect to get in trouble. He certainly didn’t plan to end up in handcuffs. But Turk, a black student at Graham Park Middle School, was arrested for disorderly conduct and petty larceny for procuring the 65-cent carton. The state of Virginia is actually prosecuting the case, which went to trial in November.

Changing the rules of the game requires federal, state, and local reforms. With little evidence that police in schools make students safer and plenty that they facilitate harm to students’ liberty and well-being, the Department of Justice should end the cops program’s SRO grants to districts. Taxpayers should not be on the hook for billions that promote unjust school conditions and put kids at greater risk of future involvement with the criminal justice system. And students should feel like they can talk to school officials when they have problems without forfeiting their constitutional rights and winding up in the back of police cars.

What Child Abuse Looked Like in America Last Week (a snapshot)

Those of us that know about the traumas abused children suffer need to say more if we are ever to reverse the trend of generational child abuse in America. These articles were compiled over the last week. The COVID pandemic has reduced reporting and increased domestic violence & child abuse. Read these short articles and help KARA spread the word about the problems facing at risk children.

Police vs Social Worker and what happened to an autistic child when the wrong one showed up

Police encounters with mentally ill people can have deadly consequences: according to the nonprofit Treatment Advocacy Center, people suffering from untreated mental illness are 16 times more likely to be killed in interactions with law enforcement. Earlier this month in Utah, a 13-year-old boy with autism was shot several times by police after his mother dialed 911 to request help as her son was experiencing a mental breakdown.

Sign KARA’s Petition Demanding Congress Ratify the Children’s Rights Treaty of 1989

America is the only nation on earth that is not a party to the international rights of the child treaty of 1989.

This reqest for action submitted by long time CASA guardian ad Litem Mike Tikkanen

Sign KARA’s Petition for American Lawmakers to Ratify the UN Rights of the Child Treaty

This Saturday (9.19.20) KARA’s Twin Cities NonViolent Event (2pm)

Friends of KARA, This Saturday at 2pm Central Time, KARA presenting at the TWIN CITIES NON VIOLENT event.

Link to participate (free)

https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZ0sdOitpjIoE91gdtyUTY82STHThprRe7xc

Link to Mike and Damon’s time and presentation

https://twincitiesnonviolent.org/virtual-10-days-free-from-violence/virtual-10-days-detailed-schedule/

Signs That You Are a Mental Health Worker

Andy Steiner’s social workers as backbone of the mental health workforce Minnpost article belies a much deeper truth about the depth and scope of mental health in our communities at this time.

Generational child abuse has been growing exponentially for years creating millions of traumatized children treated with Prozac like drugs with minimal or no effective mental health therapies to heal their traumas.

In 2014, America put 20,000 one and two-year old’s on Prozac like drugs and big pharma paid billions of dollars for illegally selling those drugs to pediatricians for use on very young children.

A Beginners Guide to Child Abuse

Historically, my community only allows the most extreme cases of extensive, repeated abuse and trauma into the system.  Bruised, raped and bleeding was how one of my administrators termed it.

My family, friends and business associates hated me talking about child abuse.  They would rather not know about this uncomfortable subject. To this day it’s true.

I began speaking to Rotaries and other business, religious and political groups about statistics and my experiences as a volunteer CASA guardian ad litem.

For the first few years, almost no one understood my talk.

Kids At Risk Action August Update

It’s been a busy summer for Kids At Risk Action.  A Good morning shout-out and Thank You to KARA’S 30 new volunteers plus 2 new university engagements (thank you Sarah and Alyssa).

We are working with over 40 student interns (Melbourne Australia welcome Trevor, Anh Pham & all), MN, and 180 degrees – Canada welcome Vivian) and KARA’s new full-time administrator (welcome Darcy).

Most college students are engaged in the research and…

Adoption & Foster Care In America – (their stories, your state)

Foster Care; Every state is struggling to make life safe for traumatized state ward children. Here are their stories from October & November 2017;

KS: Nowhere Else to Go: Why Kids Are Sleeping in Child Welfare Offices (Commentary)

Governing – October 11, 2017

Every month, there are kids in Kansas forced to sleep on cots or couches in a foster care contractor’s office because they don’t have anywhere else to stay that night.

All Adults Are The Protectors of All Children

COVID Child Abuse Update for July – August 2020

Almost every school building in the country is closed
Fewer than half of students are participating in online learning in some schools,
The reporting of child abuse is dropping by as much as 70% since schools shut their doors.
Between March and April almost 90% of children entering Children’s Hospital in Washington DC had to be hospitalized because of injuries suggesting child abuse (compared to 50% in the same period prior year).
A majority of Americans are not reporting parental child abuse (only 19% say they are “very Likely” to report and only 36% would report if it were a stranger doing the same thing.
It’s time the rest of us gave voice to invisible children.

Taking Care of Foster Care (thank you We Have Kids)

No states have enough qualified foster homes to care for the children that need a loving family.

This website gives the most insightful description of foster care in America that I have come upon.

There’s so much to know about foster care and adoption and we really should be much more aware, kind and generous to the dedicated families that step up to help heal our nation’s abused and neglected children.

What We Should Know About Child Suicide & Self-Harm

Only one out a hundred very young children are successful in their suicide attempts.  Most child suicides are not by guns (the primary means of adult suicides), but by hanging and poison.  Kendrea (6) and Gabriel (7) successfully hung themselves a few years ago.  They came from different states but suffered the same afflictions. 

Many child suicides are by children that have

Foster Care Day Rates vs Dog Care Day Rates (it just doesn’t seem right)

For decades it has been true that people engaged in the keeping of pets are perceived to be more valuable than foster families caring for State Ward children.  Doggy day care is (and has been for a very long time) as or more expensive (on average $40/day) than child care (on average $30/day) should make us think a little harder about the hope we have for the future of at risk children.

MN Foster Care During COVID

Fewer children are entering the foster care system during the pandemic.

This is not because there is less child abuse and trauma.

Families are more stressed than before COVID.

Drug and alcohol use, domestic violence and child abuse are up because of this.

The following information is gathered from local MN news sources over the last 60 days.

Peter Hutchinson’s School Fix Is Easy and Overdue (share this)

Former Minneapolis School Superintendent Peter Hutchinson’s classroom fix for remote learning COVID problems is a terrific and necessary solution that can be implemented economically and quickly.  It’s a simple and will be popular in every community.

We should not wait – this is truly an expanding crisis for school children in many communities.

Here’s why; Pre-COVID, Minnesota schools have for years maintained an over the top student achievement gap with some of the lowest reading, math and history scores in the nation.

Adoption, Kinship and Grandparents (a tribute)

The saddest letters KARA receives come from grandparents that have watched their grandchildren horridly abused and then kept out of the loop while a cold and efficient system moves the child into a home and cutting off all further contact for the grandparents.

Almost 8 million children in America live with grandparents and other relatives. Most of them receive little or not help from governmental agencies.

Not all counties and states appreciate that it is easier for a child to restart a painfully disrupted life with someone they are connected to and have memories of than waking up in a home they have never seen before with people they don’t know.

Grandparents often don’t know about the court proceedings that are about to forever alter their relationship with grandchildren as they may live in another city or have become estranged from their badly behaving children.

Even if grandparents know of court proceedings, it can be very hard for them to have standing in the court or navigate the system once they are in it.

The saddest letters KARA receives come from grandparents that have watched their grandchildren horridly abused and then kept out of the loop while a cold and efficient system moves the child into a home and cutting off all further contact for the grandparents.

Everyone needs a lawyer and lawyers are expensive. I know grandparents that have spent tens of thousands of dollars trying desperately to provide a safe and familiar home for their grandchild.

It doesn’t seem right that money should be a biggest part of an adoption equation for grandma and grandpa (or other relatives) to make their argument for custody.

Facebook Replacing Mandated Reporters for Child Abuse?

40-day old Aiden Braden’s mother Kristina reported Aiden’s death on Facebook 38 days after social workers had responded to a child abuse hotline in Tollhouse California.  Only after Aiden died did the County workers visit the home and remove Aiden’s twin brother.

Kristina Braden had already lost custody of her 3 oldest children because of her drug addiction and a long history of child neglect.

Blaming social workers for not physically intervening when they were in lockdown solves nothing.

When Hope Dies (child suicide & self harm – can reading this help us protect at risk children?)

Kendrea (6) and Gabriel (7) successfully hung themselves a few years ago.  They came from different states but suffered the same afflictions.  Kendrea lived not far from me.

As a CASA guardian ad Litem, the commonality of self hate by the children I worked with in child protection – being so different, so unlovable that even your mother abandoned you, is devastating.

Minnesota Child Protection Stories, Statistics & COVID – June 2020

The nightmare of George Floyd’s murder and the burning, street violence and social upheaval continuing as this already too hot summer gets underway is raining down extra hard on children already suffering the traumas of toxic circumstances.

Closed schools locked abused children with their abusive caregivers.

This additional social violence creates more fear, pain and stress that leads to more drug & alcohol use & more domestic violence, more trauma and less escape from it.

A Powerful Resource for Minnesota’s Vulnerable Children (Safe Passage for Children of MN)

For many years Rich Gehrman and Safe Passage for Children of Minnesota have organized and delivered support for Minnesota’s abused and neglected children.  All Minnesotan’s should be aware of this organization’s efforts to improve services, transparency & policy for the states at risk children.

Below are their most recent blog posts.  Join them.

America vs. the Rest of the World (how we treat children)

KARA Signature Video (4 minute) Public Service Announcement( 30 Second)   25 years ago, KARA board member David Strand went from CASA guardian ad litem volunteer to writing his PHD student thesis “NATION OUT OF STEP” comparing America to the rest of the Industrialized World in how we treat children.  At the time, we ranked…