Yes, We Do Know

If there is one thing we should know about American children that have been removed from their birth homes, it is that they have suffered extended exposure to violence and deprivation.
This is the definition of the “Imminent Harm Doctrine” which is the legal statute that allows children to be removed from their family.
Extended exposure to violence and deprivation is also the World Health Organizations definition of torture. Children are not removed from their birth parents unless the home environment has endangered the life of the child. That is the law.
Of the 50 children I have advocated for over twelve years, all had experienced severe and chronic violence and neglect. Sexual abuse of children is not uncommon. Their stories would make you cry www.invisiblechildren.org
To express wonder at why abused children develop emotional problems as they age is misleading and unfair to these children.

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Worthy Reader Questions

Mike,

Your anguish at the pain and suffering of children is laudable and this site great. And these hearings only show the safety net is torn and clearly failing children, isn’t time to broach the subject of parenting while asserting the “rights of the Child?”

A.R.,

Thank you for the kind words and very good question – it gets to the heart of what KARA is.

KARA is the voice of abused and neglected children removed from their homes* & this editor tries hard to tell their stories and report on the people, policies and programs that impact their lives.

Time and resources in a small nonprofit require outside volunteer effort to accomplish this goal with any regularity or depth. Thank you Century College for continuing to include Kids At Risk Action in your volunteer program.

To your point A.R., I will work at putting more attention to the subject of parenting. We know that parenting skills don’t come from the stork & our community needs to better appreciate the value of healthy children.

Unfortunately, our communities are more willing to put resources and attention to dealing with unhealthy children than building healthy children.

we are very grateful to and supportive of organizations that concentrate on improving the lives of at risk children through better parenting, more attention to improving the lives of young families and helping adoptive and foster parents.

The sadness and pain children and families experience due to generational child abuse can’t end until the voice of abused and neglected children is heard by a larger public and our message to legislators loud enough to force them to listen and do the right thing through better policies and programs.

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Worst State For Moms (and their children) Louisiana Again

My 2012 report about the last place in the nation to raise a child was reaffirmed today (Huffington Post) with another study ranking the state dead last for women. One in five Louisiana women live in poverty & they earn 67% of what men earn (a little more than half of a man’s wage).

One OB-GYN for every 13,136 women & nearly 20% of non-elderly women are uninsured. Waiting periods and counseling are required for women seeking an abortion. Louisiana has the highest rates of poverty, infant mortality, child death, teen births, and no health insurance in the nation.

Other states that earned an “F” overall in these categories are Utah, Oklahoma, Alabama, Mississippi, Texas, Arkansas, South Dakota, Indiana and Georgia.

Louisiana is also the Prison Capital of The World, where for profit prisons are making a fortune for their investors. They have found that by offering almost no rehabilitation, crowded conditions and easy incarceration statutes (one in eighty six adult Louisiana residents are in the prison system), profits are extraordinary and recidivism is through the roof.

Please share this with your contacts that it might find its way to Louisiana (change only comes from awareness).

Follow KARA on Twitter http://twitter.com/KidsAtRisk

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Without Understanding Core Issues, Better Answers Are Hard To Come By (or why legislators need more information to do their jobs well)

It was the final question and statement from the Legislative Committee after my testimony about generational child abuse and the “real costs” of under-funding Child Protection and Children’s Mental Health at the State House yesterday that caught me off guard and made it difficult for me to fall asleep last night.

This is my best rendition of that last question and statement from the Tax Committee considering funding for the recommendations of the Governors Task Force on Child Protection that hurts me and makes me fear that better answers will remain hard to find from our state lawmakers;

1) the question; Do you think that anything state funding of programs can do will alter the fact of generational child abuse and damage it causes?

2) the statement; I’ve been on this committee for many years and not seen anything work.

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Why Schools Fail (another year of bad results)

Another year of disappointing educators, children and parents (Star Tribune 7.28.16)

Don’t blame the teachers (it’s us).

The once a straightforward concept of public schools has morphed into a complex institution unable to respond to the double whammy of a massively changed student body and the unprecedented un-building of support for public education (especially science).

Our student body has changed;
First, immigration and the challenges of language and culture have always turned out well. American education has successfully educated millions of immigrants.

Yes, it’s a struggle, but it is what teachers do and they have always succeeded. My grandparents did not speak the language when they arrived – all of their children successfully finished a public school education.

Second and most critical, generally unknown and poorly understood even by those in the trenches of teaching, social work and justice. The rest of us (including legislators) are clueless.

Identifying and responding to the mental health issues shaping this generation of American citizens is decades late in coming and it has overwhelmed our schools, courts and other public institutions.

The explosion of homelessness, suicides, violence among veterans with PTSD have shown us the long lasting and severe damage trauma does to a person. Untreated or undertreated trauma almost always ends badly (80% of youth aging out of foster care lead dysfunctional lives).

As a 20 year volunteer CASA guardian ad Litem removing children from traumatizing homes it’s impossible not to see how children beaten, molested, starved and neglected need way more help than they are now getting to succeed in school or in life.

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What’s The Difference? (and why we should care)

Coming from years as a CASA guardian ad-Litem, child friendly perspective, I see similarities and a correlation between what in business would be labelled “Worst Practices” or, what is happening to the citizens of Ferguson at the hands of an aggressive judicial/policing approach to justice for the citizens of Missouri, and the way America treats children and juveniles.
25% of American juveniles are tried as adults (often 10 and 12 years old), recidivism rates are now at 70% in our prisons -Black men born in 2001 have a 33% chance of incarceration. Almost half of America’s incarcerated youth serve their terms in privatized prisons. Many laboring for as little as one dollar a day.

Almost 20,000 children have been killed by gunfire since 2010,

Thousands of children in child protection systems are medicated by psychotropic pharmaceuticals like Prozac, Ritalin, and Zoloft instead of being treated through mental health programs that could help them gain the coping skills necessary for leading productive lives.

Six million children are reported abused in this nation each year. About ten percent of them receive services in an overwhelmed child protection system. In most states, only the very worst child abuse cases receive any attention.

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What’s It Like?

What’s it like to be;

The admitting person in the psychiatric ward of a metro hospital turning away violently troubled children because there is no space? HCMC in Minneapolis averages about 900 emergency psych visits a month, many of them children.

A social worker, grandparent or guardian ad-Litem visiting a traumatized four year old child in the suicide ward of a hospital,

The first grade teacher who called City Counsel member Don Samuels asking what to do about a student trying to kill himself in her classroom,

The parent of a child with tragic mental health problems and turned away from the hospital or a son held in a cinder block cell for six days because of the no “imminent threat” excuse (when really, there’s just a lack of resources)?

Michael Swanson’s mom who lived years of terror for years trying for to find mental health services for her boy prior to his murdering two Iowa store clerks.

Six year old foster child Kendrea Johnson, who hung herself and left a sad note and the terrible reality that yes indeed, children try and occasionally succeed in killing themselves (contrary to the police and medical examiners Star Tribune statements at the time).

The hospital employees at St. John’s Hospital that were brutally attacked by a delirious patient because their facility did not have the safety features designed to protect staff members from the level of violence often seen in mentally troubled people.

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What We Think Of Children In America

In one poor school district in Colorado’s San Luis Valley, students take classes in a bus garage, using plastic sheeting to keep the diesel fumes at bay. In another, there is no more money to tutor young immigrants struggling to read. And just south of Denver, a district where one in four kindergartners is homeless has cut 10 staff positions and is bracing for another cull.

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What We Do To Our Children, They will Do To Us

Our precious America, we are taught, is the exception to the world. No other nation can even come close. Tragically, a great many children suffer from a denial of the reality in our country.

The evidence is confirmed by new studies reported in the mainstream media. In March the Center for Disease Control and Prevention released the results of a study of sexually transmitted diseases (STD) among teenage girls. It was a shock. One in five white teens and half of African-American young women are infected with a STD. Across all groups the incidence was one of every four teens, and climbing!

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What Makes Us So Mean? (just wait til you’re in diapers)

Tennessee Congressman Stephen Fincher (who receives 3.5 million in federal crop subsidies) told the New York Times that his bible states “he who is unwilling to work shall not eat”. Not my kind of religion.

Walmart pays its employees so little that they need food stamps and have been living without health care. So the government gets to support Walmart employees and add to Walmart profits.

New Jersey eliminated mental health workers in its schools a few years ago sending all misbehaving youth to jail. New Jersey school counselor Thomas Kersting told Fox News that denying lunch to low-income children whose parents had not filled out eligibility forms would be a “teaching moment” (ie, a great idea).

No diapers, no mental health services, no food stamps, and no lunch. What makes us so mean?

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What Do You Wish For Today?

For Thanksgiving this year, let’s all wish really hard to make life better for at risk children.

As a long-time Volunteer CASA guardian ad-Litem, I wish for; The implementation of the recommendations by the Governor’s Task Force on Child Protection and the additional attention and resources necessary to make children safe in my community (and yours too).

Fewer ten and twelve year old children charged as adults in our judicial system,

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What David Brooks Didn’t Say

FYI, the World Health Organization defines torture as “extended exposure to violence & deprivation”. Every child in my CASA guardian ad-Litem caseload suffered from being tortured (half of them had been sexually abused). This explains why children in child protection suffer from PTSD at twice the rate soldiers returning from Iraq & Afghanistan do, why 2/3 of the youth in juvenile justice have mental health diagnosis (and why fully half of them have multiple, serious, & chronic diagnosis) & why 80% of youth aging out of foster care lead dysfunctional lives.

Mr. Brooks, please continue your research & writing on this issue because no other big time news people are & this is why our prisons are full, schools are troubled, & so many communities are becoming unlivable (Flint Michigan no longer has a police presence after 5pm – and they really need one).

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We’re Number 1, & that’s not good…

Bishop Gene Robinson draws attention to youth suicide & particularly that seven students in one Minnesota school district have taken their own lives, including three teens.

GLBT issues underly most of the suicide the Bishop writes about. The idea that life can be made so unbearable for children so young is incomprehensible unless you have been near someone living the nightmare.

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We Are All Nuts (the costs and dangers of undertreating and ignoring mental health – thank you Star Tribune)

If you have children, grandchildren or just like other people’s children, you should read this to the end. You could help keep them safe from terrible things by understanding the connection between this mental health discussion and those terrible things.

Today’s Star Tribune article by Chris Serres should wake us up as to the cost and danger we all face by ignoring, undertreating and maltreating mentally at risk people. Last week Chris wrote about the broken bones and violence done to children in the justice system because of their mental health struggles. Thank you Chris Serres and the Star Tribune for bringing this long avoided topic to the front page.

Chris’s article concentrates on the logjam and wait periods patients and providers face in this state and the human suffering that that accompanies it.

Not mentioned are the 900-1000 emergency psych visits to HCMC every month and some psych patients are waiting three months to be admitted (and that’s just one MN hospital). Allina Health DR Paul Goering states that “it’s been so paralyzing for the community to say ‘it looks like things are broken,’ and then to say it again next year”.

I agree with Dr Rahul Koranne (Chief Medical Officer for the MN Hospital Association) quote that

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Violence Against Children & Policing

This morning’s Safe Passage For Children about how police have put battered children back in the home because they like to keep families together reminds me of a man who kicked a 7 year old girl so hard she went into convulsions and went into the hospital Emergency Room with her injury. The police in that case sought safety for her and her siblings and involved Child Protection right away.
That girl had been sexually abused for four years (from 4 to 7), my first visit to her younger year sister was at the suicide ward of the hospital & the 2 other children had problems so severe that they could not be together in foster care because of the things that happened when they were together.

The man who did these things to the children remained in the home for many years, and was never charged or made to answer for any of his crimes. More than ten years later he was still sexually abusing children in the same home and he had never been mentioned in the justice system.

Children have no rights in the homes they live in, no access to safety other than our community efforts to keep children safe and no way to influence policy makers to improve the existing system. The Safe Passage Article above includes a snapshot of how the rest of the industrialized world keeps children safe and is well worth reading.

All Adults Are The Protectors of All Children

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Violence Against Children – A family Tradition (TEDx, Robbyn Peters Bennett)

Violence, a family tradition: Robbyn Peters Bennett at TEDx Bellingham This short (13 min) TEDx video clearly articulates what is wrong with hitting babies & children (and legislators in Kansas lobbying for the right to leave bruises on children). Passed down generation after generation, sticks, paddles, and open hand hitting all leave mental health marks that result in compensating behaviors, poor brain development, and the next generation of parents beating their children. If you know someone that hits their child, or lives in Kansas, send this link to them.

6 million children are reported to child protection services in the U.S. each year Only a fraction of these children receive the help they need to lead productive lives.

(invite me to speak at your conference) / Buy our book or donate Sample 4 minute video of Mike’s awesome talk on child protection in America

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Unmaking At Risk Children

Absent coordinated positive (1*) public policy for the care of children, America is now at the confluence of misaligned and mistaken public policies that are overwhelming its schools, mental health services, child protection services, juvenile justice services, and criminal justice systems. Failing schools, unsafe communities, and absurdly high rates of incarceration are just the tip of the iceberg.

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Unhappy Schools

Investing in early childhood programs and mental health services could actually save us money, and certainly make our streets safer, and our communities more pleasant to live in.

It’s not so much about money– Minnesota’s 2001 GDP (gross domestic product) ranks greater than Austria, Saudi Arabia, Poland, Hong Kong, Denmark, and a hundred other nations.

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Tuesday, June 17 6pm KARA Brooklyn Park Think Again Presentation, Pizza, and Social

Early Childhood Education Boosts Academic Achievement and Career Success Tuesday, June 17               6 p.m. Pizza and Social           6:30 p.m. Program Brooklyn Park Council Chambers, 5200 85th Avenue N Please RSVP and Share on Facebook or to Carol Woehrer, carolwoehrer@usfamily.net A question and answer session will follow the presentations. Sponsored by the Maple Grove, Osseo, Brooklyn…

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Traveling College Child Abuse – Child Protection Exhibit (for your campus activity space, library/museum)

KARA delivers to campus activity centers and departments a low cost, powerful visual display series of stories, graphics and news to build awareness and start discussion about the issues facing at risk children in your community. Six month lead time is projected presently. This display includes a menu of presentations and workshops and can be tailored to events and conditions in your community. Start this conversation on your campus.

Support this program directly (contact KARA for more info – info@invisiblechildren.org Campus Display in subject line)

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Traumatized Children – Nurturing vs. Punishment (Hooray Wisconsin)

Wisconsin is lowering teen pregnancy rates, reducing violence in juvenile detention centers and decreasing emergency room visits by employing ACEs trauma informed practices.

They are also saving lots of taxpayer dollars.

These are the children that become the state wards for decades if their lives don’t improve.

80% of kids aging out of foster care lead dysfunctional lives. No one wins.

Any objective comparison between the science of children’s mental health (ACES) and America’s deeply imbedded punishment model demonstrates how unworkable, painful and counter-productive it is to punish traumatized children one more time.

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Trauma Awareness and Resilience Training in a Single Day

Wednesday, March 27, 2019, 8:30am – 4:30pm
Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center, 2300 S 15th Ave, Minneapolis
Pay what you can.
STAR-Lite is a single-day, evidence-based training integrating neuropsychology, trauma healing and resilience, restorative justice, nonviolent conflict transformation, and …

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