KARA advocates for the people, policies and programs

that improve the lives of abused and neglected children.

KARA Signature Video (4 minute)

COVID is Hammering Children’s Mental Health


This pre-COVID Star Tribune article, Teachers Turning to Other Careers shines a light on the punishing effects  of ACES on education in our state (thank you Rochelle Olson).

The violence & chaos brought to school by increasing numbers of abused children (ACEs) creates classroom chaos, puts students and teachers in danger and makes teaching. The COVID pandemic is making this a bigger problem.

While reporting of child abuse and domestic violence are down today, there is little question that the stresses of job loss, growing poverty and fear are  increasing caregiver substance abuse, domestic violence and behaviors that hurt children.  As classrooms reopen there will be more students suffering from the traumas of exposure to neglect and violence and the behaviors that make teaching them or managing the classroom that much harder.

Recent statistics on teacher and student post COVID, 2020 vs. 2021 school issue comparisons (from edweek)

It’s why over half of Minnesota’s licensed teachers were not teaching in 2019, recruitment has become a statewide problem, teacher turnover is high and student performance is low.

Children suffering from abuse and trauma lack skills and have serious behavior problems in school that other children do not have.  Expecting traumatized youth to perform

Too many teachers and schools to go without the training and resources needed to make students ready for learning – this has a huge impact on what happens in a classroom and ultimately in the community.

ACEs – adverse childhood experiences make educators into mental health workers (just like social workers, law enforcement and foster/families are today).

The first day of school can be joyful for kids with coping skills and a supportive family at home.  Abused children (my kids) living with dysfunctional parents, have a more stressful school experience.  An experience they share in the classroom.

Violent parents, abusive parents, parents without parenting skills, language or reading skills or a dozen other social and learning skills, make school and social and educational experiences for their children anxiety ridden and painful.

The coping skills to sit calmly in a small chair in a quiet room filled with other children listening to the teacher explain history, math and language are simply baked into most kids.

My kids, living with sex abuse, violence and other terrors and the realities of interrupted brain development, school can be a nightmare from which there is no escape.

Years of medical science have shown how abuse and neglect interrupts brain development and alters how children learn and handle stress.

Extreme anxiety, self-hate and self-harm accompany abuse.  Abused children feel responsible for the bad things that are happening to them in the home.

Sitting in a classroom learning math, history or language requires a calm and focused mind – a thing foreign to traumatized children with high anxiety levels endemic to children suffering from abuse.

Behavioral problems abused children bring into the classroom lead to failures in socializing, learning and overall school failure.

About 1/3 of America’s foster children are forced onto Prozac like drugs.

In Texas, about 80% of boys in juvenile detention are forced to use them.  Florida’s  privatized group homes force 50% of state ward girls to use them. These troubled children fill our classrooms. 2/3 of the youth in juvenile justice have diagnosable mental illnesses.

Half that number have multiple, chronic and serious diagnosis – many of them dangerous to themselves and others.

Minnesota’s former Supreme Court Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz has stated that “90% of the youth in juvenile justice have come through child protection” and that “the difference between that poor child and a felon is about 8 years”.

Teaching tortured* children takes resources, training & the patience of a saint.  Not many of us have those things.  Those who do, should be supported in every way possible.

*the World Health Organization defines “torture” as “extended exposure to violence and deprivation”.  All my child protection case children were tortured.  Their teachers dealt with a level of traumatic and violent behavior that could be very scary and often dangerous.

 Teachers without trauma informed skills are unable to manage traumatized kids – the drama escalates and often becomes frightening and dangerous.  What’s it like for the teacher in a classroom of 35 children with one or two out of control children you don’t know how to handle, how to keep safe or how to keep them from hurting others.

That’s why teacher turnover is so high and schools struggle to achieve higher levels of performance and lower dropout rates.

Communities not providing early learning help, access to trauma informed care in schools and affordable quality daycare are not saving children, money or their communities.  Instead, they are ruining children and insuring the next generation of abused and neglected children will soon be on their way to having their own next generation of abused and neglected children.

For the fiscally minded, ask yourself why  educational costs per student are two to three times higher in America than in other industrialized nations and why our comparative learning scores, graduation rates and drop out rates are so much worse.

Schools, students and taxes suffer because at risk children carry their generational child abuse and trauma to school.  Teachers need to be mental health workers to provide a safe learning environment.  Even the most terrific educators struggle to manage the serious behavioral and learning problems traumatized children bring with them.

The expense of student and school failure to taxpayers is real and the cost to society of adults that can’t read or make sensible life choices makes a large segment of our society dysfunctional.

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

Recidivism in our jails and prisons is about 80%.  The real cost of our social and educational failure must include the terrible personal price paid by the victims of extraordinary crime and violence that the rest of us have to live with.


Generational child abuse is epidemic in America.


 1/3 of American children are now reported to child protective services by their 18th birthday.


Minnesota’s Literacy Gap; 32% of Black fourth-graders read at grade level


There are 1.3 million children In Minnesota & 404,000 of them live below 200% of poverty, 

Thank you Child Welfare League

Children in MN 2017 1,282,898

Poverty Rate, Children  Under 18; 13.1%

Poverty Rate, Children Ages 5–17        12.7%

Poverty Rate, Children Under 5  14.1%


3rd grade reading test scores from 2013 to 2018 have remained under 60% and declined these past two years (Black children scored 32.1% in 2017).


2017 Ontime graduation rates for American Indian students (50.7%), Hispanic students (54.5%), Black students, (64.8%), White students (88.1%).


  • In 2015, Minnesota had 76,785 total referrals for child abuse and neglect. Of those, 24,262 reports were referred for investigation.
  • In 2015, there were 5,120 victims of abuse or neglect in Minnesota, a rate of 4.0 per 1,000 children, a an increase of 23.6% from 2014. Of these children, 68.1% were neglected, 22.7% were physically abused, and 18.2% were sexually abused.
  • The number of child victims has increase17.9% in comparison to the number of victims in 2011.
  • In 2015, there were 17 child deaths, in 2016, there were 28 child deaths resulting from abuse or neglect reported in Minnesota
  • 7,610 children in Minnesota lived apart from their families in out-of-home care in 2015, compared with 5,085 children in 2011. Of the children living apart from their families in 2014, there were 2,257 aged 5 or younger, and 1,070 were 16 or older.
  • The number of children living apart from their families in out-of-home care has increased 49.7% in comparison to the number of children in out-of-home care in 2011.
  • In 2015, of children in out-of-home care in Minnesota, 38% were white, 15% were black, 8% were Hispanic,

24% were American Indian/Alaskan Native, 1% were Asian or Pacific Islander and 13% were of more than one race or ethnicity/undetermined race or ethnicity.

40.1% of MN students did not have a caring adult in the community


To end this cycle of generational child abuse in your community; Call your legislators and tell them that you support your schools, children and young families and you will vote for affordable daycare, quality mental health services and other early childhood programs.

Check out KARA’s resource links for other organizations that need help in your community.

Sign up for KARA’s Friday Morning Updates and share this with your friends (and especially teachers, social workers, law enforcement and health workers)


KARA’s Children’s Manifesto from 2009 (have things changes?)


#childabuse #childtrauma #education #teaching#covidimpact