“Kids Are Slowly Being Neglected To Death” – Hennepin County Judge Jane Ranum (Thank You from the children in my caseload)

hank You Star Tribune reporter Brandon Stahl

Thank You Pioneer Press reporter Ruben Rosario

Thank You former MN Supreme Court Justice Kathleen Blatz for joining the task force and your years of speaking out about the serious failures within our child protection system.

Thank You Governor Mark Dayton for using the long overdue “colossal failure” language to describe an overburdened, misunderstood, and under-supported child protection system and creating the investigative task force to make it work better for children.

From the fifty children in my CASA guardian ad-Litem caseload, Thank You.

You have given voice to the tragic failure of child protection that allows four year olds to die tortured deaths after 10, 20, 30 reports of child abuse to state agencies.

Without you, these children have no voice;

Not in the homes they are raised in,

Not in the courts that investigate their families,

Not in the media or the state legislature.

These children are silent and invisible without you.

We the public find child abuse uncomfortable and refuse to pay attention until a baby is found in a dumpster and then we wring our collective hands about ‘those awful people’ and work to punish a social worker and send the parental offender to prison.

That the parent was a fourth generation abused preteen mother with serious mental health issues has little significance to us. Justice must be served.

None of the fifty children I lobbied to remove from their toxic homes ever made the newspaper.

Not the baby with the bottom half of her body burned off, the boy who was tied to a bed, beaten, starved, and sexually abused for four years, or the more than ten other very young children who were also sexually abused – 2,3, 4, and 7 and 9.

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“Police & Sheriffs More Concerned About People’s Mental Health Than Advocates Are” (thank you Senator Barb Goodwin)

I’m always pleased to find outspoken observers in the mental health discussion.  Today’s Star Tribune article begins to articulate the gaping hole in our communities (and the nation’s) approach to mental health.  Much like child suicide and child sex abuse, we have avoided the mental health topic leading to the worst case of overbuilt prisons, unsafe…

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1% of U.S. Family Courts Are Safe Baby Courts

This article from the ACEsTooHigh website is a comprehensive article about the difference between traditional family courts and emerging early childhood courts is striking and worth reading in its entirety. In safe baby courts, kids don’t suffer more abuse (and that is very different than the data coming from traditional family courts. The compelling build-up of evidence isn’t just in the data. It’s also stories like this: One mother in Mississippi whose baby was born with crack cocaine in his system went into rehab, was allowed only supervised visitation while the baby remained with his grandparents, complied with the service agreement and achieved unsupervised visitation within four months and custody within six months. She went back to school and eventually received a master’s in social work, married and has a second child.

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10,000 Two and Three Year Olds On Psychotropic Meds (we will pay for this)

ore than 10,000 American toddlers 2 or 3 years old are being medicated for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder outside established pediatric guidelines, according to data presented on Friday by an official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The report, which found that toddlers covered by Medicaid are particularly prone to be put on medication such as Ritalin and Adderall, is among the first efforts to gauge the diagnosis of A.D.H.D. in children below age 4. Doctors at the Georgia Mental Health Forum at the Carter Center in Atlanta, where the data was presented, as well as several outside experts strongly criticized the use of medication in so many children that young.

Continue reading the main story

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477 Child Deaths In FL (preserving families but costing lives)

When 8-week-old Kyla Joy Hall was hospitalized with a bleeding brain and fractures to both legs, both wrists and a foot, police could not determine which of her parents injured her. One thing was certain: Someone had inflicted life-threatening injuries on a newborn.

While Kyla healed in a medical foster home, child-welfare authorities moved to strip both parents of their rights to her. But when her mother bowed out of the picture — to become an actress — her father transformed, without explanation, from abuse suspect into fit parent. Josi Hall, Jacksonville firefighter, was awarded full custody despite the misgivings of his own mother.

Ten months later, Kyla’s father viciously attacked her. Her injuries included a “pulpified” liver, knuckle-sized bruises to her chest and, the decisive blow, a cleaved heart that sustained damage similar to “that of a kick from a horse,” an autopsy said.

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5 Worst States For Child Homelessness (35% of Mississippi Children Are Impoverished)

From the National Center On Family Homelessness; California has over 500,000 children children lacking stable housing. 35% of Mississippi’s children live in poverty. Arkansas, Alabama, & New Mexico have the next highest rates of child poverty and homelessness in the nation. Homelessness leads to mental health issues, crime, school problems (low performance and graduation rates).…

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7$ Child Daycare? (hint – gotta go north)

It’s over now, but for years, universal child daycare has been the rule (at $7.30) in Quebec.

I just can’t help pointing out that some of our neighbors to the North feel very strongly that children’s daycare is worth government subsidy. $75,000 is the low income threshold and $200,000 is the high income threshold.

True, the politics of public service have beat up the program and $20 is becoming the new norm.

Keep in mind that over time, children in quality day care thrive, learn important stuff, and perhaps more importantly, don’t smoke crack cocaine with their out of jail uncle why mom works.

The U.S. expels more children from daycare than any other nation (and has for some time). It’s an issue that bodes badly for the poor educators that later serve these children in public schools and goes a very long way in explaining America’s suffering graduation rates, high crime, and prison populations.
If we valued children half as much as we claim to, there would not be 8000+ children on waiting lists in MN for subsidized daycare.

Do you know who your state legislator is? This will not change until some of us make that call. Share this widely.

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70 Child Abuse Deaths In California’s Child Protection System

When paramedics arrived, eight-year old Gabriel Fernandez was not conscious. His skull was cracked. Three ribs were broken. Bruises and burns covered his body. Two teeth were knocked out of his mouth. X-rays would later show that the third-grader had BB pellets embedded in his lung and groin. Gabriel’s mother, Pearl Fernandez, 29, and her boyfriend Isauro Aguirre, 32, told the paramedics that Gabriel’s injuries were self-induced. Later Aguirre said that he delivered ten or so blows to Gabriel’s stomach for lying and “being dirty.”

Before Gabriel’s death, his mother was the target of six investigations of child abuse. One of Gabriel’s teachers reported the boy coming to school battered. One of Gabriel’s therapists reported that Gabriel said that he was forced to perform oral sex on a family member. Gabriel told a teacher he’d been beat with a belt buckle until he bled and his mother shot him with a BB gun. Gabriel wrote a suicide note, found by his teacher.

According to documents obtained by the LA Times and a recent wrongful death lawsuit filed by Gabriel’s grandparents, Gabriel was never interviewed privately by a social worker about his abuse. Fernandez and Aguirre have been charged with first degree murder of a child. The two have yet to enter their pleas. Two months after Gabriel’s death, four DCFS employees related to his case were fired.

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92% of Foster Care Kids Using Psychotropic Meds Get Them For Unaccepted Reasons

From the Washington Post yesterday, most foster care children on antipsychoctic drugs get them for far too long and without medical justification. 2/3 of the nearly 700 claims studied raised high-risk “quality of care” issues. As a long time CASA volunteer guardian ad-Litem, many of my case kids were on multiple drugs simultaneously and many of them hated being forced to use them. Some kids threw the drugs away.

In Minneapolis, I would like to know (there should be more transparency) if six year old Kendrea Johnson’s suicide by hanging involved psychotropic medications. She was a very troubled foster child, in therapy and had talked about homicide and suicide. When Jeff Weise killed himself, his grandfather and 14 others he had talked about suicide and homicide and was taking Prozac.

7 year old foster child Gabriel Myers hung himself and left a note about how he hated Prozac. KARA’s video interviews include families, a City Councilman, and other professionals talking about antipsychotic medications, very young children and suicide. This subject needs our attention now. It is cruel punishment for a child suffering from the traumas of abuse and removal from a birth home to be dealt with.

There are 3 children’s hospitals in the metro area and NO children’s mental health hospitals and there are 800 to 1000 emergency psychiatric visits at HCMC every month (many of them children).

This conversation is overdue.

What we don’t know cannot be dealt with and will not be improved. Let’s stop the next awful six year old suicide.

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A Glimmer Of Hope (push for preschool)

Preschool is having its moment, as a favored cause for politicians and interest groups who ordinarily have trouble agreeing on the time of day. President Obama devoted part of his State of the Union address to it, while the deeply red states of Oklahoma and Georgia are being hailed as national models of preschool access and quality, with other states and cities also forging ahead on their own.

With a growing body of research pointing to the importance of early child development and its effect on later academic and social progress, enrollment in state-funded preschool has more than doubled since 2002, to about 30 percent of all 4-year-olds nationwide. In just the past year, Alabama, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana and the city of San Antonio have enacted new or expanded programs, while in dozens of other places, mayors, governors and legislators are making a serious push for preschool.

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A New Disease of the Wealthy & Powerful

Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan and new Speaker of the House voted NO to federal childcare subsidies, eliminated 16 billion dollars in Social Services block grants, including all child care funding for low income families, No to parental leave for federal employees (4 weeks for a new mother), No to food stamps, Medicaid and Pell Grants, Yes to de-funding Planned Parenthood and removing contraception from employer based insurance requirements, and yes to deporting undocumented immigrants that grew up in the United States. But he cannot and “will not” give up his family time.

Pro family yes (but just his family).

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A Wish List For At Risk Children

Subsidized day care (tens not thousands of families on state’s waiting list); more mental health services (consistent and better control and use of psychotropic medications)

BA degree, mental health training & higher wages for day care workers; more training, smaller caseloads, & greater resources for social workers and school counsellors

removing law enforcement from the front lines of dealing with mentally unhealthy people & eliminating jails and prisons as housing for mentally unstable people

fail safe programs ending child death by caregiver; more and better training and resources for handling child abuse in rural MN; End child suicide

interrupt generational child abuse; expand programs for children aging out of foster care; stop courts from trying children as adults

create support, training, and alternatives for adoption and foster families; expand kinship searches & support;

encourage media to report on the state of mental health and child protection in your community

make ACEs & trauma informed policies the rule not the exception; stop child trafficking;

reduce psychotropic medication use by young children and children in child protection;

involve the community in the safety and well-being of all children;

through adequate access to mental health services);

End child abuse and mental health stigmatizing

Help KARA find and engage the brightest minds

and improved perspectives in

the search for more effective

Child Protection &

children’s

Mental

Health

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Abused To Death While Child Protective Services Observed – 1000+ American Children in six years (AP report)

Brandon Stahl, the intrepid Minneapolis Star Tribune reporter spoke to KARA on camera about how difficult he found it to gather information on abused and murdered children in MN. Not making public information relevant to how a child died serves no good purpose. Who are we protecting by this secrecy?

When there is transparency, issues can be identified, addressed, and resolved. Until then, America’s child protection issues will remain under-reported, under-discussed, under-addressed, misunderstood, and never resolved.

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ACE Study, Crime & Ramsey County (reprinted from 2006)

ACE research shows a strong historical pattern of criminality in families of child delinquents. Using Cohen’s estimates, we calculate the multi-generational “multiplier effect” to be between $3.4 and $11.5 million. In these families, criminality is likely to grow exponentially.

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ACES Connection (articles from April)

MARC Advisor: Brenda Jones Harden, PhD, ACEsConnection.com
Dr. Brenda Jones Harden is Associate Professor in the Department of Human Development and Quantitative Methodology at the University of Maryland College Park. Her research examines the developmental and mental health needs of children at environmental risk, especially those who have suffered maltreatment or trauma.

Colleges Need to Do More to Support Poor Students, PSMag.com
A new report from the Department of Education calls on schools to improve the graduation gap.

Mental Illness Mostly Caused by Life Events Not Genetics, Argue Psychologists, Telegraph.co.uk
While there has been some success in uncovering genes which make people more susceptible to various disorders, specialists say that the true causes of depression and anxiety are from life events and environment, and research should be directed towards understanding the everyday triggers.

The Growth of Concentrated Poverty Since the Recession, in 3 Infographics, CityLab.com
A new analysis by the Brookings Institution shows increases in two-thirds of the largest U.S. metros.

Don’t Let Defensiveness Stand in the Way of Personal Growth, PsychCentral.com
Defensive walls go up quickly when we feel unappreciated or disrespected. The walls are meant to keep out unfairness and negative evaluations of our choices and behaviors. But what it often shuts out is self improvement.

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Admitting I Have Problem Is The Hardest Part (thank you Brandon Stahl for identifying the problem)

Brandon Stahl’s reporting has been the best thing to happen for Minnesota’s abused and neglected children in my lifetime.

As a longtime volunteer CASA guardian ad-Litem, I have seen an underfunded and not too healthy child protection system become sclerotic, insular, and unresponsive to the needs of our most vulnerable children.

The slow tortured death of Eric Dean was only reported in a newspaper because he died. Had he lived, we would not know about it. I have children in my CASA guardian ad-Litem caseload that suffered just like Eric, and no one knows about their suffering but me (and people that read my words).

Over the past twenty years, I have watched underfunded, under-trained, under-resourced child protection workers (including judges, educators, day care and health providers, foster and adoptive families, try to work with cold and unresponsive systems that are now creating exactly what they were designed to stop.

I have seen lives of very young children destroyed forever because easily available information was ignored. Plenty of children in Minnesota have had Eric Dean type torture that no one knows about (because our systems are overwhelmed and unresponsive).

Governor Dayton’s proposed investigation should uncover the sad truth that no child protection information gets public attention unless a child has died violently.

The fact that most counties don’t keep past reports of screened out cases and are prohibited from considering past reports when evaluating new charges of child abuse should be seen for the awful impact it is having on children living in toxic homes (it leaves children in homes where they are molested, neglected, tortured, and murdered).

That Minnesota Counties don’t report death and near death of children as required by Federal Law is misfeasance, nonfeasance, or malfeasance and should be viewed as a crime worth punishment.

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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.

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Advocating For Minnesota Children Right Now (thank you Safe Passage for Children)

Dear Safe Passage Advocate,

This is the final week of the legislative session and the two bills that will have the most benefit to children are still in play and being negotiated by the Governor and legislative leaders.

Let’s do everything we can to make sure funding for these priorities ends up in the final package.

Please call or email the Governor’s Office, your state Senator, and your state Representative now with the brief message below.

If you prefer to leave a phone message, an easy way to get phone numbers for your legislators is to send a text to #520 – 200 – 2223 with your zip code, you will receive numbers back for your state and federal representatives.

The Governor’s number is #651 – 201 – 3400.

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All Talk & No Action – Do We Value Children or Just Talk About It?

How we value children shows up directly in the way we treat people helping us raise our children.

It hurts me to see political misunderstanding and an accepted practice of misleading people about something as important as this nation’s children. Reading the paper one would think that our problems lie at the feet of service providers (teachers, social workers and foster parents to name the main scapegoats).

At election time, politicians make political hay blaming teachers for failed schools (with public support).

Institutional failures are not the fault of people doing the hard daily work of foster care, teaching or social work.

These folks work within a system designed by policy makers and administrators (most of whom are very well paid – not a bad thing, but a thing to remember when looking for the responsible party).

Blaming worker bees in child protection is just as wrong as blaming law enforcement officers for allowing terrible crimes. Can law enforcement sue policy makers and counties for making their work impossible? – we may soon see).

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Almost Half The Children Dying From Abuse In Colorado Were In Or Known To Child Protection Workers (72 of 175)

Today’s Denver Post Article reports a just completed state child protection workload study that indicates a need for 574 more child protection workers to keep abused and neglected children safe in the state (a 49% increase). Of the 150 CP workers interviewed, 100 felt that their case load was unmanageable.

Only 25% of these workers had face to face contact with their caseload children on a monthly basis. That’s pretty cold. Monthly contact is not enough to start with. The system can be so cold and removed and the family and child are so at risk.

There is currently a call for a Colorado Child Protection Ombudsman, who would investigate complaints within the child welfare system. That would be a start towards recording and responding to the biggest problems faced by children, families, and the people trying to make the system work.

2 years ago the Post published a series about 175 Colorado children who died of abuse and neglect (72 of them known within the child protection system). The video on this site makes a compelling argument for adequate reporting, more resources, better training for workers, and smaller caseloads – monthly visits are not enough.

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Another Avoidable Child Death

Gordon Collins-Faunce, a father with PTSD & related psychotropic medications, and a history of physical and sexual abuse growing up in his own foster family, hurled his two-month old son into a chair. Ethan Henderson died three days later. Child Protective services had been alerted but deemed the boy was safe. While it is easy to blame the workers, it solves nothing without attention to the systems, resources and procedures that will prevent the next Ethan Henderson from an abusive family home.

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Another Failed State (no protection from child rape and no foster parents in Montana)

Kids with chaotic family situations, with behavior and mental health issues, as young as you can imagine, end up needing emergency housing. The need for foster families trained to help these kids is ever present.

Youth Dynamics is a non-profit organization operating across Montana. Katie Gerten works out of the Kalispell office licensing people to be foster parents. She said in the past six months she’s has about 20 children referred to her office to be placed in foster care that she had to turn down. She said it’s hard to find people up for becoming foster parents.

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Another Screened Out Of Child Protection Baby Dies In MN

Freda Perdue, 33, was charged Friday in Ramsey County District Court with child neglect and child endangerment.

According to the criminal complaint:

Police were called last Saturday to the East Metro Place in White Bear Lake on a report of a male infant who was not breathing.

Police found Perdue crying next to the baby, who appeared to have blood around his nostrils. He was taken to St. John’s Hospital in Maplewood, where he was pronounced dead.

Perdue told police that the night before she had laid the baby on his back on a mattress where her three other sons and a neighbor boy were sleeping.

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