Yesterday’s State Of The Child Summit (Children In Legal Proceedings) at Hamline University

It was the simple truths that struck me hardest as I listened to the Hamline University presenters yesterday. I was reminded of MN’s former Supreme Court Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz statement that “90% of the youth in juvenile justice have come through child protection”, and that, ” The difference between that poor child and a felon, is about eight years”. The pipeline to prison starts here.

Behavior problems in schools are not well served by hiring more police officers. As a long time guardian ad-Litem, it is apparent to me how authority figures are viewed by abused and neglected children (a big segment of the behavioral problems at school). It has hurt me to see well meaning officers treated horridly by abused children through no fault of their own. Traumatized kids lash out at authority and take no prisoners. This gets them in big trouble and their behavior problems get worse, not better. Police interactions are often just one more trauma to be suffered by an abused child. Don’t blame the police – they didn’t set this system up.

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Years Of Ignored Child Abuse In Arizona (why should we care?)

Charles Flanagan, head of the new Division of Child Safety and Family Services, said five were people working for him who were found to have been instrumental in crafting and implementing a policy that resulted in ignoring state laws which require all complaints be investigated.

Flanagan said the firing came after review of an extensive investigation conducted by the state Department of Public Safetyof exactly who was accountable for ignoring the law. He said these are the people most responsible.

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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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Women’s Rights & Children’s Rights (and where are we today?)

100 years ago, women were property (legally) and a husband could do just about anything to his wife. Murder was still murder, but anything else was treated by law enforcement much like animal abuse was in the day (not a big deal for the courts to be concerned with).

20 years ago I became a volunteer *CASA guardian ad Litem (voice for the child) in County child protection and saw first hand what it’s like for an American citizen to have no voice in the home, no voice in the courts and no voice in the media.

Over 25 years ago the rest of the world (194 nations) decided that children have basic human rights and begin signing the International Rights of the Child Treaty. Under this document, children are to have the rights to education, safety and well being including not to be made soldiers and not to be enslaved).

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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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Withholding Medical Care From Children – Is It Legal? (faith based child death – is it murder?)

Over the years KARA has followed the deaths of children dying because their parents withhold medical treatments because of religious beliefs. Beliefs similar to those that prompted the hanging and burning of innocent women as witches in Salem not that long ago.

It is hard to believe current laws deny minimal standards of health and well being for their youngest citizens.

Some states foster very child unfriendly laws concerning access to prenatal care, child health insurance or punishment for withholding available medical care from very ill children based on religious beliefs.

Are children property to be denied readily available medical care?

How often and how hard can you hit your toddler (ten times and leave them bleeding in Kansas and without healthcare )?

Can they be executed for rebellious behavior (Arkansas thought so)

What follows are some of the children that have died because parents refused their children medical care over the past few years. If your state allows the burning of witches or withholding medical care to children make a call to your state representative/Governor, and let your opinion be known.

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Why Are So Many Six Year Olds On Prozac?

Hennepin County Judge Heidi Schellhas shared her records of very young children taking psychotropic medications that had passed through her courtroom with me in 2005 (for my book, Invisible Children.

It was astounding to see how many six and seven year old children in Hennepin County’s Child Protection system take Prozac and other psychotropic medications. Since the book, I have followed reporting about the medicating of the very young from states and counties around the nation.

Most states that have reported on this topic run between 1/4 and 1/3 of their child protection children on psychotropics and teens in foster homes appear to use these drugs at a higher level. It appears that the use of psychotropic medications by non-foster children occur at less than 20% of the rate as the use of these drugs by foster kids.

Most states don’t track the data and those that do don’t make it easy to find.

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Where Bad Laws Come From (& why it’s not fair to blame the worker bees)

Brandon Stahl’s article in the Star Tribune today suggests that Minnesota is probably the only state in the nation to have forbidden social workers from considering past screened out cases of child abuse in evaluating new reports. Pressured to put a consistent policy in place by a state auditor, DHS institutionalized a policy that would lead to untold suffering and death of abused children for four years (it ended today with the Governor’s signing of the reversal of that bill.

That is just the tip of the iceberg that the Governor’s Task Force is working on. Perhaps with the added attention to the Task Force and Brandon Stahl’s continued reporting we can move up a few notches among the states in what we spend on child protection in MN (we rank 47th currently).

It befuddles me that the studies completed by the Federal Reserve Bank by Art Rolnick and Rob Grunewald have not brought the larger business community into appreciating the fundamental issues underlying a productive work force. It may be that the arguments should be made in terms of cost instead of savings. I think it would scare people to know how expensive ignored at risk youth are to our community. A single boy in my caseload cost this county at least 3 million dollars by the time he aged out of child protection (not including the awful things he has done to people).

By any measure, taking care of vulnerable children is duty of all of us and to make you feel better, saves you money and is the right thing to do.

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What’s Wrong With New Jersey’s Half Way Houses Is What’s Wrong With America; The Illusion That Privatizing Social Services Saves Money Or Provides Social Services.

First, it is the same government money being spent, just that it goes to an entrepreneurial lowest bidder.

Second, New Jersey’s half way houses are managed the same way privatized day care, juvenile justice, prison systems, & schools are run (to make money for Chris Christy’s friends).

What else explains the lawsuits for understaffing, undertraining, dead children in daycare, and that U.S. daycare workers make less than food service workers (the lowest paid work in America).

This is what we think of children in our nation. Indiana is trying to pay less than $18/daily for foster care & the state redirected funds promised to parents that adopted abandoned special needs children (five hundred children) – after the adoptions took place). Thank you Mitch Daniels. What cruelty.

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What’s Wrong With Kansas Part II (how the state values its children)

No longer does Kansas promise its children a full school year . Several districts are closing early because Governor Brownback effectively eliminated 51 million dollars from school budgets (cut per pupil $950 from 2008 to 2014). We know what the governor thinks of educating children. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled that school funding levels were unconstitutional and ordered the immediate reversal of certain spending cuts (hooray for fair minded judges).

Even more repugnant than Brownback’s disrespect for children and education is the all out attack on children that took place in the legislature last year, literally making it legal for any care giver to assault a child and hit them up to ten times (at their discretion). Imagine letting just anyone beat up your child (which this law would have accomplished).

This law reads something like Jonathan Swift’s MODEST PROPOSAL which articulated a public policy making it policy to stew and eat the children of poor Irish parents (because they couldn’t care for them sufficiently anyways).

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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 a Well Trained Social Worker Worth?

It hurts me to know that I live in a state that pays the least of almost all states in training social workers and continues to underfund the federally mandated guardian ad litem program so severely that over six hundred children do not have a Court Appointed Special Advocate even today. A Court Appointed GAL is the only voice abused children have in court once they have been removed from their homes.

The list of underfunded programs for the most vulnerable citizens in our community is long and been growing (we have the money*).

Without the Star Tribune’s continued reporting on child abuse issues, trauma and abuse would still be non-issues as they were when 3-year-old Dennis Jergens was tortured to death in White Bear Lake in the 1960’s. His mother Lois Jergens went on to adopt four other children by moving out of the state.

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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 Can Learn From Kentucky (kinship rules)

JEFFERSONTOWN, Ky. – In Kentucky, a lot of children are being raised by extended family members: at 6 percent of all kids, it’s one of the highest kinship-care rates in the nation. A new report from Kentucky Youth Advocates outlines what the group says needs to be done to increase support for grandparents and others raising kids who cannot safely live with their parents.

According to Jeanne Miller-Jacobs, who with her husband is raising their three grandkids, more assistance is badly needed.

“The biggest hurdle that we’ve had is misinformation,” she said. When we first got the kids, the financial part of kinship care never came up.”

She said her grandchildren, ages five, three and one, came to live with them because their parents struggle with drug addiction.

Kinship care has doubled in Kentucky in the last decade, and earlier this year, the state stopped taking new applications for its Kinship Care Program, which provides caregivers $10 a day to help meet a child’s basic needs.

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What Oklahoma Will Show The Nation

The original plaintiffs were nine children who are alleged to have suffered in DHS placements. The case has since become a class-action lawsuit with thousands of children in DHS custody as plaintiff

How many states have caseloads that are just too high to provide a realistic safety net for the children they support? How many states need more training and education for the agency employees, foster parents, and adoptive parents?

I would add that without educating judges, court workers, and criminal justice people, this nation is still on the path to maintaining excessive prison populations and disastrous school performance among the population of abused and neglected children.

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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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We’re Number One (America leads the world in the wrong things)

We are now number one in child homelessness; one in thirty kids – 2.5 million American children, experienced homelessness last year.

Many states don’t offer children insurance, daycare, prenatal care, or healthcare and parental leave for new babies is off the table in half the states.

The U.S is well known for having the highest child poverty rate among advanced nations.

States that don’t offer prenatal care, daycare, insurance, or housing for 2 year olds cost themselves in the long run in crime, prisons, and dysfunctional adults (the opposite of taxpaying, productive citizens). I maintain that those states are filled with legislators that can’t add. If they could, they would see the terrific long term costs unhealthy children without coping skills cost their communities in crime, prisons, health care and extreme costs to schools and social services in their communities (and they make for really unhappy/unsafe communities).

Unhealthy and unprepared children explain our why our schools repeatedly rank at the bottom with reading, math, science, history test scores and our graduation rates remain among the lowest of the industrialized nations.

Today’s Star Tribune article by Daniel Heimpel on creating an Office Of Child Protection is a great idea but long term probabilities for its success are not very good.

Children can’t vote and adults are mostly given to fist shaking and blaming if reminded of institutional failures when a child is found in a dumpster or dead after fifteen reports of child abuse. States will fight for their rights to not provide insurance, prenatal care, or child protection and make it sound like they are “saving families” in the process. A child protection Czar would be busy 24 / 7 fighting state by state with Louisiana, Mexico, South Carolina, Arkansas, Mississippi, North Carolina and a handful of others that are really committed to policies of ignoring poor families, child death, child mortality, child poverty, and uninsured children.

I like the idea of protecting children and creating a child protection Czar, but Hercules died a very long time ago and I don’t know who else could fight that fight.

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We Could Do Better (lowest of the 38 states offering 4 year olds ECE)

While the CASEY Foundation ranks MN 5th in the nation for child well-being, there are serious flaws in our racial disparity and early childhood numbers.

Almost half of MN’s African American children live in poverty. In 2001, half of the adult African American adult men were arrested (no duplicate arrests and 58% of those men went on to be rearrested for a second crime within 2 years).

Our educational performance racial disparity is among the worst in the nation.

From the CURA reporter

MN ranks at the very bottom of states that provide early childhood education to four year old’s (2% vs the national average of 25%). We now have 8000 families on a backlog for subsidized child-care.

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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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Wanting To Know (caring enough to know)

Does Minnesota (your state here) want to know how its thousands of foster children are doing in school? Is there information available for people that care and want to see abused and neglected children at least get a chance to graduate from high school and lead a normal life?

The lack of transparency surrounding child abuse, child protection, foster care, drugging of very young children (Prozac, Ritalin, Zoloft…) indicates that while we talk big about valuing children in our community, we don’t care enough to want to know what their needs are.

If we knew that 80% of youth aging out of foster care were leading dysfunctional lives (last study of ten years ago), that 48% of state ward children are being forced to take psychotropic medications (true in Florida today) or that 4 MN counties screened out 90% of child abuse calls (true at the time of 4 year old Eric Dean’s murder by his step mother), then some concerned citizen, politician or administrator somewhere might be outraged enough to lobby for change.

Until information by our institutions becomes public, the problem simply does not exist and no one appears to care enough to see these awful things change.

Cudos to Minnesota for turning the child endangerment model into a genuine child protection model. It’s a great first step.

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Virginia Abandons Abused Children To Death (200 unanswered calls never reported)

Minnesota is not the only state to fail abused children to death (8 children since Eric dean last year).

Virginia child protective services has just been discovered to have ignored, then hidden (and erased) over 200 telephone reports of child abuse. “The episode, which went undisclosed to the public until the News Leader’s report this month” has prompted the Bureau of Criminal Investigation to “consider investigating” whether laws have been broken. At least in our state, our Governor called out the failure and formed a task force which has discovered critical areas of need and made practical recommendations to make child protection more effective.

Arizona did about the same thing with six thousand ignored child protection cases a few years ago. If you read the Sad Stories page on this site, you will get a better picture of which states value children and those that don’t. It is striking.

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