DEFINING THE PROBLEM –
WHAT TRAUMA DOES TO A CHILD
WHY CHILDREN ARE ABUSED
RACIAL INEQUITY OF ABUSE
CHILD SUICIDE, & SELF- HARM AMONG FOSTER, HOMELESS,
MINORITY, POVERTY & LGBTQ COMMUNITIES
*TEACHING TRUAMATIZED CHILDREN
*POLICING TRAUMATIZED CHILDREN
*HEALTHCARE FOR TRAUMATIZED CHILDREN (PHYSICAL/MENTAL WELLBEING- MEDICATING CHILDREN) CHILD SUICIDE, DEATH & SELF- HARM AMONG FOSTER, HOMELESS, MINORITY, POVERTY & LGBTQ COMMUNITIES
*CHILD PROTECTION/SOCIAL WORK AND TRAUMATIZED CHILDREN
*ADOPTION, FOSTER CARE, KINSHIP CARE, STATE CARE, GROUP HOMES
*JUVENLE CRIME AND COURTS
ACES VS THE PUNISHMENT MODEL
THE COVID IMPACT
PEER NATION HISTORY/TRENDS AND REVIEW
THE COST OF CHILD ABUSE
ARE WE A NATION OF CHILD ABUSERS?
SECONDARY TRAUMA AND THOSE WHO CARE
LACK OF DATA & TRANSPARENCY
MAKING BETTER PUBLIC POLICY
(prioritizing wealth over public resources individualism over equity
big new things over critical human resources)
ENDING AMERICA’S CHILD ABUSE EPIDEMIC
Trigger warning. This book is a raw discussion about historical and current child abuse and child protection in America. It offers an unvarnished look at hard realities and trends. While it is a hopeful book, it provides no single answer or silver bullet for ending America’s child abuse epidemic.
No book is written by just one person. All books have editors, advisors, and publishers. This book is the combined effort of team KARA. Kids At Risk Action summoned a team of volunteers, college students, professionals, adult survivors and youth that have experienced the traumas of child abuse to research the many pieces of information included in this book.
While this was a more complicated way to write a book, it was important to cover the broad scope of the work, garner multiple perspectives and make sure our research was thorough and current. Over the last year we have engaged 7 universities and over 100 people on this project – most of them volunteers and college students – all of them passionate about the topic and working to make things better for at risk children.
This has been a terrific experience to work with so many dedicated and generous people sharing a mindset to identify and address the pain experienced by children living in toxic homes. There is a tribute at the end of the book (go ahead jump to the end and see if we got you). Not absolutely everyone was captured and recognized – for that I apologize.
There are many things that can have significant positive impact and bend the trend towards ending child abuse, healing children, their families and the communities they live in. At the same time, there are reasons to expect current dysfunctional policies to remain in place to make matters worse. That’s where you come in. It will take a village to fix the issues identified in this book and we are counting on readers of this work to talk about it and convince your friends how important it is to do the right thing for the youngest citizens of our nation.
In the words of KARA friend Don Shelby, “All Adults Are the Protectors of All Children”.
KARA staff, board members and volunteers have compiled research and written on this topic over many years. KARA’s first book, INVISIBLE CHILDREN (Expert Press 2005) was a combination of efforts & experience gathered from 1994 to 2005 by Mike Tikkanen and David Strand, both Minnesota volunteer CASA guardian ad Litems (www.casamn.org). SHOUT OUT TO CASA VOLUNTEER GUARDIAN AD LITEMS. For those that don’t know, CASA’s are Court Appointed Special Advocates for children in child protection court cases. It’s hard and sad work that informs a person just how painful life is for people in social work and troubled families.
David Strand’s PHD Thesis, NATION OUT OF STEP, provided a focused analytical perspective weighing the difference between how America treats its children and youth as measured against the 20 advanced nations we compared quality of life indices against since the end of the second world war.
Kids At Risk Action does not speak, write or think child abuse is a topic to discuss in moderation or euphemism. KARA believes the problems facing abused children are largely the result of avoidance, euphemism and the lack of better answers that come from failure to address the issue head on.
This book’s purpose is to give a human and institutional perspective of child abuse while defining and exploring critical issues, providing context and an overview of best and worst practices with practical steps to increase the former and reduce the latter.
Each chapter outlines the topic history, how it is perceived, and the policies, programs and people affecting at risk children. Most chapters include data, a relevant story and or the perspective of one or more people involved in the chapter’s topic.
Decades of mistreated and undertreated child abuse victims are leaving a trail of overwhelmed institutions, broken homes, unstable citizens, crime, violence, school failure, and a growing number of unsafe communities.
People working in education, health care, childcare and public safety have watched this failure of a punishment approach to children that have repeatedly been beaten, starved, raped or otherwise traumatized in their birth home. They know that our current approach to child abuse, domestic violence and child protection isn’t working. Some of suspect that it is in fact making things worse.
- Too little institutional transparency or accountability,
- American media rarely reports on stories or data about child abuse unless the story is horrific and data seldom moves people to action.
- Because child abuse is not reported or under-reported to the public and because it is a difficult topic for discussion, it is often avoided, euphemized or obfuscated leaving us unaware of the seriousness and depth and scope of the issues.
- Because of this, the larger public does not perceive the problem or the need to support the people, programs and policies that could positively change the lives of at risk children.
- Minimizing language. Euphemisms like “child maltreatment” & “child trafficking” do not convey the harsh realities of; “childhood starvation, beatings and rape”. Common language obfuscates keeping people from a sense of the cruelty and severity of traumas suffered by children in the home. This creates an underinformed/misinformed public with little understanding of the lifelong impact trauma has on a child and less still of the profound impact traumatized children are having on our communities.
- Pre COVID, there has been negative trending of domestic violence, child abuse and failure to treat damaged children. This book addresses these trends post COVID.
- America is the only nation in the world not to ratify the United Nations Rights of the Child Treaty of the 1980’s. chapter? articulates what it means for children to have the rights women had in 1900 – and what it means to be treated like household chattel.
- The politics of child rights versus parental rights are on fire in the U.S. today. (Chapter?)
- The COVID pandemic has made and still is making more poverty, job loss, fear and struggle for at risk families leading to more substance abuse, domestic violence and child abuse. This single issue may result in additional millions of children and youth suffering from severe and lifelong traumas.
- At the same time, the media has even fewer resources for reporting on the topics in this book as a growing number of traumatized children are and have been locked into toxic homes with little or no access to teachers or other mandated reporters that could save them from their abuser.
This book outlines the depth and scope of the problems facing at risk children and the people and institutions mandated to help them stay safe, healthy and become educated. It uncovers why there is a growing public dissatisfaction with institutions and programs and demonstrates that our institutions are creating what they were designed to stop.
The COVID lockdown has had an outsized impact on at risk children. Left under-addressed or untreated these traumas will cause millions of disrupted lifetimes and the chaos that follows.
- Even in pre COVID America with school buildings full of mandated reporters and easy access to trusted adults, most child abuse is unreported. Post COVID, reporting of child abuse and domestic violence appears to be down, few people in the field believe that this represents the ground truth of what is happening in our communities (chapter ?).
- Distance learning has reduced meaningful access to teachers and other mandated reporters that could serve at risk children (chapter?) it is rare that abused children feel safe openly describing their pain and problems online especially with the abuser in the room or within hearing distance.
- America’s current toxic political climate is affecting law enforcement, education and public health and the well-being of all citizens. This is working against at risk children in several ways;
- Pre-COVID, meaningful reporting of data and stories about abused children & youth by law enforcement, courts, child protective agencies in many American communities has always been hard to find and too often, there was no transparency and information was non-existent (chapter?).
- The pandemic’s chaos in schools, law enforcement, social services and healthcare are causing disruption in the how services are delivered and making reporting of or access to information about child self-harm, mental health, expulsion/dropout rates, literacy rates and multiple other data points unreliable or unfindable. We may know more in time, but it will be too late for helping the children involved today.
This book presents an unvarnished look at the conditions America’s abused and neglected children have been living in and a glimpse into the best and worst practices and solutions for changing the negative trends we are experiencing today.
About six million children and youth are reported to child protection agencies in the U.S. each year (about 3 million reports). Most child abuse goes unreported. KARA believes this number is significantly understated – especially post COVID.
37% of American youth are reported to child protective services by their 18th birthday.
80% of youth aging out of foster care lead dysfunctional lives in America.
Over 30% of Americans are arrested by their 28th birthday.
Minnesota’s former Supreme Court Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz has said that 90% of the youth in Juvenile Justice come from Child Protective Services & famously stated, “The difference between that poor child and a felon is about 8 years”.
The American punishment culture is fueling an epidemic of more abuse & trauma, less healing and a growing population of broken people that lack the skills to function outside of prisons and other State Ward status.
About 25% of Americans will be special needs people and almost 10% will have been involved in Child Protection, the juvenile or criminal justice system (in court, incarcerated or on parole) by 2025.
In 2021, America’s nine-year prison recidivism is approaching 90%.
Our punishment model expels, evicts, and incarcerates – troubled people, poor people, especially the next generation of children born into dysfunctional families.
Prisons, jails, city streets, failing schools and America’s overwhelmed health care systems are filled with children that have mental health and behavior problems brought on by Adverse Childhood Experiences.
Children expelled from school have almost no path to fitting in or finding the skills they will need to grow into their community. Gangs, crime & dysfunctional lifestyles add one more long-term (costly) social problem to the community.
We are a nation that has used failed 3rd grade reading test scores to project the need for future prison space and at times, over a third of graduating high school seniors could not find Florida or the Pacific Ocean on a map.
Instead of finding solutions, communities are blaming teachers for student and school failures and blaming social workers for child deaths in overwhelmed child protection systems and relying on police departments to handle domestic violence and mental health problems.
International comparisons of quality of life indices have fallen to where America is now underperforming a growing number of emerging and third world nations.
These failures and the chaos of COVID pandemic are making life much more dangerous for children locked in toxic homes.
It will become clear on the following pages how the public health epidemic of generational child abuse in America is impacting every citizen every day. From quality of life, financial and social costs of taxes, insurance rates and very real dangers of crime & violence.
The writers and researchers of this book thank every school principal, teacher, social worker, health worker, adoptive/foster family, policy maker and everyone else dedicated to making life easier for the traumatized/tortured children that fill these pages with their stories and data.
The vastness of the problem is daunting but there are solutions.
KARA and our team of committed volunteers are working to end child abuse in our time with the information gathered on these pages.
There are no easy answers – but a path to better answers emerges if you stick with the stories, studies, and information to the last chapter.
*Some statistics and quotes will appear multiple times in the book. The information is relevant in multiple chapter and is thought to be critical to those chapters.
*FOR CONSISTENCY, Nations referred to as “other advanced nations” Japan, Germany, France, Belgium, England, Canada, Italy, Australia, Netherlands, Sweden, Austria, Switzerland, Israel, Denmark, Finland, Norway, New Zealand, Iceland & Ireland are the nations America compared itself to for decades after WWII.
Follow this developing story online here at Invisiblechildren.org
DEFINING THE PROBLEM –
Generational Child Abuse
Defining abuse as “maltreatment” does not convey the terror and pain of child abuse.
Child abuse is more accurately defined by the World Health Organization’s
“Extended exposure to violence and deprivation”
Which is also the WHO’s definition of torture;
Generational child abuse may be the most common, growing
problem America suffers from.
For the purposes of this book, child abuse is defined by “traumas committed upon children by their caregivers to such an extent that they are recognized by teachers, social workers, law enforcement and others reporting obvious signs of trauma/abuse that result in a report of child abuse by the County”.
Most abused children live a lifetime of toxic stress in silent torment. Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) suffered in the birth home last a lifetime.
Nationally, most reports of child abuse are screened out or families are given services instead of investigating the abused child. Only a fraction of adverse childhood experiences are seen or reported.
Many adults go to their grave never having dealt with or talked with anyone about their childhood abuse and trauma.
America’s 3.5 million annual child abuse reports represent at least 6 million children experiencing abuse each year. Pre COVID, 37% of American children overall & 53% for African American children were being reported to child protective services by their 18th birthday. About 450,000 children were being removed from their homes by Child Protective Services annually.
Rarely do American children become State Wards (foster children) unless they have suffered severe and repeated trauma over extended periods.
Data about how many families in child protection have been involved in the system over multiple generations is unavailable. Because of this, generational child abuse may be the most unknown and misunderstood part of America’s child abuse conundrum. If you are reading this book and can help our team make this information available, please do (send to Hello@invisiblechildren.org attn writing team.
Girls raised in homes by moms without parenting skills bring up their babies just like they were brought up. Parenting skills don’t come from the stork, and the violence, substance abuse and prevalence of child sex are part of this young persons “normal”.
This festering unknown crisis makes America a leader among the industrialized nations in teen and pre-teen births and sexually transmitted diseases.
Most child rape, beating and other Adverse Childhood Experiences stories and data are not reported.
In almost all states, child abuse data and stories that are collected within the institutions are rarely made public. It doesn’t sell newspapers and there is little institutional benefit to transparency. This creates a major hurdle for accurate reporting required for citizens to understand the depth and scope of the problem of child wellbeing or the cost to the community in dealing with it.
Counties operate child protective services independently and manages their own data. There is little demand for or incentive to report child abuse information to the public. Simply reporting intake notes at Child Protective Services, would make available details of a prostituted nine-year-old, a badly beaten seven year old or the baby left in a crib unfed and unattended for long periods. This almost never happens.
KARA will argue that it is because the public is seldom aware of the frequency and severity of child abuse ithese painful issues remain hidden from a public that might otherwise do more for children if they only knew.
Child abuse is misunderstood because of this. When people don’t see a problem they won’t see a need for a solution.
- Are there more crisis nurseries, prenatal and quality daycare, mental health resources and better-quality foster care and group homes when the public is made aware of what child abuse is and does to the children in their communities?
- Are community crime rates, graduation rates and school performance impacted when fewer children fail in school, become teen and preteen moms and juvenile felons (statistically high probabilities)?
- Is generational child abuse an American phenomenon making us different than most other industrialized nations that have managed to control the progression of ACES and generational child abuse?
- For a child, is the trauma experienced when being raped, beaten or neglected the same as the trauma of watching mom or a sister/brother being beaten, raped or neglected?
- Where should parental rights end and child safety and a promise for a healthy life begin?
Healthy children grow up as functioning members of a community. They go to school, find jobs, pay taxes, participate in the community and importantly, go on to have their own healthy, functioning families.
Abused and traumatized children too often become broken adults with mental health issues and behavior problems that doom them to a life of poor choices, dangerous lifestyles, chronic illness and early death.
These children hurt themselves and damage the people and communities in which they live.
In child protection cases of multiple children, the oldest child usually has suffered for four years – State Ward Child abuse cases rarely involve a singular event or problem and most often there are other children in the home suffering trauma.
Singular child abuse events are almost never reported or known outside the family and the system is so under-resourced that only the hardest cases make it into the system.
Unless a child dies or is so damaged that hospital personnel, law enforcement, teachers or other mandated reporters take notice and act, childhood traumas are invisible except to the child and family.
Even the concept of “mandated reporter” sets an expectation not always useful to the child. Many mandated reporters just “don’t” report. Reporting involves the reporter – and many reporters don’t want to “get any of that on them” (words spoken to this writer/guardian ad Litem on more than one occasion).
An abused child knows only the rules of life by lessons they are taught in the home.
They can only manage their own life with the coping skills learned in the home and in school – and because traumatized children so often struggle with mental health and behavior issues in school (in 2020 55% of foster youth graduated compared to 87.3% of other students + 35% receive graduation waivers) – they rarely go to college or succeed in life – 80% of youth aging out of foster care lead dysfunctional lives.
At risk children go on to have at risk families. Their children grow up with the same violence, lack of parenting skills, drug and alcohol problems they themselves lived.
This Star Tribune article by Chris Serres is a painful example of how we treat other people’s children.
Twin girls beaten with bats, starved, raped and chained over 12-15 years on the 4200 block of 17th Av South in Minneapolis. Over 50 police calls to the home, developmentally disabled and pregnant in high school.
“The neighbors knew. The police knew. The county knew. We all knew…But nothing was done.”
“How many times the county received reports of abuse and neglect remains unclear” (from the star tribune article).
These stories are common among people that work with and live with abused and neglected children.
4-year- old Eric Dean was tortured to death after 15 ignored reports of abuse by mandated reporters and how 6-year-old foster child Kendrea Johnson died by suicide and my 7-year-old CASA guardian ad litem case child was prostituted over 2 years and 49 police calls to her home where gun fire and prostitution were the reason for the police calls.
I’m just one of hundreds of volunteer MN CASA guardians and I know too many of these stories.
My first visit to a 4 year old CASA case girl was at the suicide ward of a hospital.
The following chapters will demonstrate the degree to which child abuse and trauma impacts every citizen, every institution, and every community.
Because this topic is uncomfortable, it’s rarely a conversation outside of the institutions involved.
Because this topic is uncomfortable it is unpopular to advertisers making it a reality that only child death and the very worst stories get public attention in major media.
As you read this book, keep in mind that you can have a significant impact on children where you live by simply talk about what’s in these chapters. You will find that most of the people you know are unaware of what you know.
Compared to the child sex abuse scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church for decades and filled newspapers and other media with class action lawsuits and vivid stories, there is little reporting of the sex abuse children are suffering at the hands of their care givers.
Multi-million dollar fines the Church pays in Priest scandal lawsuits make the paper and get our attention. No lawyers, no fines no news for the millions of children suffering the same kind of abuse. Lawyers representing children in child abuse cases are paid by the county and not very much money. They never make the paper.
Consider that the Priest scandal represents the sex abuse of a tiny percentage of American children and that almost 40% of American children are reported to child protective services by their 18th birthday. This is the difference between a few hundred thousand children abused within the church and millions of children abused in the home. For every child suffering abuse at the hands of a Priest there are hundreds or possibly thousands of never to be known children sexually abused at the hands of their caregivers.
We are much are more aware of the depth and scope of the Church’s problem with abuse than we are with the abuse facing millions of children in homes in their own communities.
America’s generational child abuse has grown silently and exponentially for decades.
Without help from the community it is almost impossible for a young mother to parent her child any differently than she was parented. Parenting skills don’t come from the stork.
SHORT STORIES (9 OF 1000’s THAT MONTH)
(example of child protection intake case notes)
- 1. Report of neglect, mental injury of older child by mom. In October mom attempted suicide by taking medication with her three children present. The older child called 911. Oldest child in day treatment and has various diagnosis. Oldest reported as a runaway in December. It was learned that child was beaten by his father the previous summer while he was residing there, a child protection report in … was made. Child admitted to Child Psychiatric Unit due to making threats towards family. Child was told to get out of the home, then told to leave the shelter due to violence. Oldest child currently at … Residential Treatment Center.
- Failure to thrive. Mother had a family arrangement for her children to be placed with paternal grandmother and sister. The 2 younger siblings that were temporarily placed with the Aunt were reported as malnourished. Mother visited the home and found her children starved and malnourished. They were taken to hospital and diagnosed as Failure to Thrive. Mother suffers from multiple mental health issues and unable to cope with daily stresses. It was reported that the mother started having these issues once the father was incarcerated. No food in the house.
- Father and girlfriend engaged in a domestic dispute & rape which was witnessed by the child. Police were called to the residence and the father was arrested and charged. Child reports father’s violent tendencies and is afraid of her environment. Child traumatized by the daily events that surround her, contemplates committing suicide.
- 4. Mother deceased. Children residing with different relative and friends when domestic incident occurred between 15 yrs. old and father. Child was assaulted by father, hit 25 times or more with a hard object. Currently, 15 yr. old is 5 months pregnant. The father is facing criminal charges.
- Maternal Grandmother had sole/legal custody and passed away, may 2018. No legal guardian to report. 7 year old Child suffers from depression. Currently in treatment at Medical Pediatric unit due to suicide ideations.
- Seven Children. Dad is smoking meth in a bedroom of the house while the children are in the living room. Dad is using and selling meth and he is in charge of the 3 youngest children while mom is at work. Home was raided and dad was arrested. Mom suspected he was using but she works and needed him to watch the kids. Two young children with unusual cuts and bruises.
- Eight year old female child has major depression disorder and history of suicidal attempts. Mom is failing to provide care for her, refusing to pick her up from the hospital. Mom and child fight and then mom tells the child to leave the house. Mom stated at the hold hearing that she is done with this child and she wanted to terminate her rights.
- Mom bouncing between Iowa and Montana stating that she was unable to find housing and has been staying with friends and relatives. Children have not been in school at ALL for two years. Mom admits to using THC. Children have educational needs/ IEP and ADHD not being dealt with. Mom left the children with a caretaker she admits was not trustworthy. Her youngest was unsupervised and playing in the street when he was hit by a car and received broken bones and serious concussion. Mom was not cooperating with the hospital and refused to give him medication. The child got an infection and he had to go back to hospital. Hospital refused to release him to mom when she stated she was going to take him to another state. Child is medically fragile.
- Egregious harm petition. Baby’s arm broken in 5 places and aged at different times with no explanation from parents. Investigation is ongoing with charges pending.
California’s State Surgeon General Nadine Burke Harris and Harvard’s T.H. Chan
Are calling ACES a public health crisis.
Abused children have no voice in their homes, courts, media or the legislature.
If it’s not spoken
it’s not heard
If it’s not heard
It’s not an issue.
If it’s not an issue
there’s no problem.
If there’s no problem
There is no need for a solution
Children have the civil rights of pets and property
America is the only nation in the world to not ratify
the United Nations Rights of the Child Treaty of the 1980’s