If It Wasn’t For The Lawyers (and no, I’m not)

The State of Arizona just lost seven million dollars in legal fees fighting a lawsuit demanding better care for foster children. The good news is the State lost.

It’s a tiny victory though.  Arizona, like Texas, Alabama, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Louisiana and a few other states, have long sat at the bottom of child well-being statistics in the U.S. 

Abused children don’t have any power in America today. At a Federal level, they don’t have many rights either as America is the only nation in the world to not have ratified the United Nation’s Rights of the Child Treaty of the 1980’s.

They have no voice in their homes, the media, courts that rule their lives or the State House.

It hurts me to think that some states would rather spend seven million dollars fighting against making life more bearable for their most troubled and vulnerable young citizens than using those wasted dollars to provide resources and healing for them.

It’s worse yet to think that in some states, lawyers or the threat of lawsuits, accomplish more for the well-being of at risk children than the people in charge of making public policy to safeguard our children.

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A Marshall Plan For Children Post COVID

Post-COVID, children having lived with increased and more severe abuse will need help healing and learning the skills they will need to succeed with their peers in school.  Young families need help and our teachers need more resources, help and training to be successful teaching larger numbers of children damaged by trauma and abuse.

Our small efforts can save these children.

Communities need a Marshall Plan for investing in children and young families &

if we support the people doing the work of

social work, education, public health and public safety we can make this happen.

It will just take a few minutes for you to copy this note and send it to your

State Representative or other government official. 

Become a voice for children.

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Leaving the Field (teachers disappearing & we don’t know why?)

Today’s Star Tribune article by Erin Golden should put the shivers into all of us for several reasons.

Only half of our State’s licensed teachers are teaching,
Some rural school districts are receiving as few as six applications for open teaching positions where they used to find 100,
More than a third of districts were unable to fill teaching positions in the 2019-2020 school year,
About a third of teachers quit teaching within the first five years on the job (a long term trend),
This data is pre-COVID (projections for the 2021 year will likely be worse as the politics & realities of the pandemic become known)
It appears there is little available data as to why so many teachers are not in the classroom or sending in applications to fill vacant teaching positions.  We  don’t know why and more troubling, it could be that there may be a question about the State Legislature’s willingness to spend 25-50 thousand dollars to find out why…

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We Are A Nation of Child Abusers

Nicholas Christof’s article in the NYTimes today points a finger at “pro-family” people “preserving” child poverty in America.

Lest you believe this a stretch, America stands out as the country with the highest child poverty rate and one of the lowest levels of social expenditure.  This has been true for many years.

This means food insecurity for five year olds, and the statistical probability that homeless ten year olds are three times more likely to be sexually abused than other children.

There is a heartlessness behind the politics of separating immigrant babies from their mother (over 5000) and not returning those children to their birth parents (over 1000 still are separated today).

We the people now have public policies that have led to the sad reality that;

37% of children are reported to child protection agencies in this nation by their 18th birthday.
almost one third of American children will have a criminal record by their 23rd birthay
80% of youth aging out of foster care lead dysfunctional lives

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Aging Out of Foster Care In the Time of COVID

COVID is coming down hard on foster children.
Pre-COVID, 80% of aged out foster children went on to lead dysfunctional lives.  Foster care shortcomings are a social problem that is systematically forgotten, specifically for the 23,000 youth that age out of foster care… the rate of homelessness for these youth, with one third of aged out youth spending their first night on the streets. Furthermore, 14 to 26 percent of homeless adults in Minneapolis were former foster care participants according to research conducted by the Hennepin County Community Services Department.

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Our Creeping Mental Health Crisis (& statistics)

As a new CASA guardian ad Litem volunteer I was stunned by the Prozac, Ritalin and other psychotropic medications prescribed to my seven, eight and nine year old State Ward children. About 1/3 of all state ward children (nationally) are forced onto psychotropic medications. Suicide is now the 2nd leading cause of death among 10 to 24 year olds.

Over 1 million children under 6 are prescribed psychiatric drugs in America today. In 2014, 20,000 one and two year old’s were on Prozac like drugs & *Johnson & Johnson was fined billions of dollars for illegally selling those drugs to pediatricians for use on very young children…

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Impossible Questions & Painful Statistics

Are children property of their parents even if those parents

re violent, addicted, severely mentally ill or dangerously criminal?

Harder question.

Do teen and preteen mothers own their fetuses & babies

even if they abuse their children,

are addicted and out of control with little understanding of how

or ability to raise a child safely?…

Is this child’s child doomed prior to birth?

Children have no voice at the legislature, the media or in the home they are born into.  They have no choice in who raises them or what is done to them.

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2021 – A More Responsive New Year For At Risk Children

If there is a silver lining in this time of worldwide pain and anxiety, it will be a recognition that rebuilding families is necessary for a healthy community.

Amid the chaos of our pandemic, the trauma and misery of children locked in toxic homes is hard to see. The media, politics and confusion on a worldwide basis are focused on vaccines, reporting and management of this frightening virus.

Struggling families facing poverty, job loss, combative politics, distrust of institutions and the steady increase of COVIDs scary reality need help to survive.

Many moms and dads do not have coping skills for managing the pressure and fear of this moment. Stressed out families drink and drug more, experience more tension, conflict and domestic violence – inflicting severe collateral damage on their children.

If we can grasp the simple reality that “What we do to our children, they will do to our society” (Greek Philosopher Pliny 2000 years ago) America can rebuild communities and a nation that once led the world in quality of life.

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Avoiding the Mental Health Conversation (nothing to be proud of)

Thank you Chris Serres for reporting on the troubling development at St Joseph’s Hospital in Brainerd.

This is one of our community’s (nation’s) most serious health problems.

St Joe’s failure to admit mental health crisis patients reflects the growing nightmare of how medical institutions are dealing with mental health at a management level.

Refusing help to our most troubled citizens (people in crisis) means more sad & awful things happen to the rest of us.

People in crisis…

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COVID Burnout; Health Care, Teachers, Law enforcement, Social workers & what we could do

Our communities are only as safe and healthy as the institutions that create the environment we live in.

A brief search of front line workers in education, health care, law enforcement or social work shows a growing exodus by retirement, medical leave or just walking away as COVID is making the work they do an even more extreme sacrifice than it was pre pandemic.

For those of us that live with, know or love a person engaged in keeping our children educated or the rest of us safe and healthy,we know the stresses facing these people and the fear and danger of bringing a secondary trauma or risk of COVID home at the end of the shift.

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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.

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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 …

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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