“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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A #ProtectChildrenToo Movement? (Thank You Safe Passage For Children of MN)

This morning’s ebrief from Safe Passage for Children of MN is spot on. Their legislative efforts to stop the practice of advance notice of child protection visits to perpetrators is crucial in ending child abuse. Putting perpetrators in the room with a child during the interview is traumatizing for the child and has a profound impact on what the child will say. Giving perpetrators prior notice of investigations allows them time to threaten and cohearse a child. As a long time CASA guardian ad Litem, this is all too familiar.

Most children are not aware of how wrong their abuse is – what happens at home is by definition normal. My youngest sexual abuse case was 2 years old.

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A Note to Brandon Stahl & the Tribune (abused children still need you)

It is only because you found the death of 4 year-old Eric Dean suspicious and dedicated yourself to reporting on the awful circumstances that killed him after 15 ignored reports of child abuse, that this volunteer CASA guardian ad Litem has any hope for the thousands of other terrified and tortured children in need of child protection services today.

Working for decades with traumatized children, I’ve experienced the awful truth about the lasting impact of abuse on children and the lasting impact of abused children on our community.

Brandon, your efforts and insights into the inadequacies and failures of a system in need of transparency, accountability and media attention is why Governor Dayton called out the colossal failure of the system & created the task force that has brought significant change to an institution not given to criticism or outside influence.

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A Painful Reality About Guardians ad Litem (and other child protection workers)

Recently, I asked an acquaintance who had finished an intense volunteer experience (overseas) if she would consider CASA volunteer guardian ad Litem work or something supporting the program. Her response was surprising. She explained to me how less than useless the CASA guardian ad litem program was, how poorly trained and counter productive the volunteers were and implied pretty directly that I was quite the meathead for being a part of it or asking her to help.

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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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America’s Amazingly False Answers To Mental Health Issues

Criminalizing mental health,…, denied treatment,…Michael Schuler stabbed himself in both eyes after spending 40 days in jail”) identifies the iceberg tip that is the crisis of this nation’s failure to deal with mental health issues. “Hundreds of inmates with dangerous psychiatric problems languish in county jails” is repeated in hundreds of county jails and hundreds of prison facilities throughout America.

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Another Guardian ad-Litem Speaks (thank you David Strand)

Here is how civilized, non-superstitious nations fight problems afflicting their children. The citizens of these enlightened societies use government resources. Their governments are actually controlled by them. Doctors, nurses, social workers, teachers and counselors are employees of the public, via government. They don’t have for-profit hospitals, for-profit schools or for-profit prisons.

They also emphasize prevention instead of cure. Consequently, they spend far less than we do for health care, education, and corrective justice. That’s why their health care and education systems are far less expensive while producing better outcomes. It’s more bang for the buck, what Americans are supposed to prefer.

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Another Happy CASA Story

A couple of weeks ago at an “Everyday Courage” event sponsored by the California Endowment I met a very caring and compassionate woman named Rosa Arevalo. Rosa works for CASA of Los Angeles a non-profit organization that recruits, trains, and supports CASA volunteers(Court Appointed Special Advocates) to transform the lives of abused and neglected children. It is the only organization in Los Angeles County providing court-assigned volunteer advocates serving foster children in the dependency court.

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August 2016 Sad Stories (Part 3 through August 31)

AZ: Report: Foster Care Rates Sky-Rocket, More Arizona Children Living In Poverty (Includes audio)
KJZZ – August 18, 2016
“Fifty-one percent, so more than half of the kids in Arizona are in low income families,” she said. “And that’s a concern because we know that there are a number of other factors that are affected by that particular benchmark.” Arizona Kids Count Data Book: http://kjzz.org/sites/default/files/8-17-16AZKidsCount-2016_FINAL_for-web-1_0.pdf
http://kjzz.org/content/352635/report-foster-care-rates-sky-rocket-more-arizona-children-living-poverty

CA: First of three bills to protect foster kids passes Assembly
Daily Democrat – August 18, 2016
Legislation that would create a more rigorous process for the prescribing of potentially harmful psychotropic drugs to foster children easily passed off the Assembly floor Thursday afternoon.
http://www.dailydemocrat.com/article/NI/20160818/NEWS/160819882

CA: Lawmakers advance bill to decriminalize prostitution for minors
Los Angeles Times – August 18, 2016
SB 1322, authored by Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), would make the crimes of solicitation and loitering with intent to commit prostitution misdemeanors inapplicable to children younger than 18. It also would allow law enforcement to take sexually exploited children into temporary custody if leaving them unattended would pose an immediate threat to their health or safety.
http://www.latimes.com/politics/essential/la-pol-sac-essential-politics-updates-california-lawmakers-reject-bold-step-1471556676-htmlstory.html

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August 27, 2012 CASA “Speaking From the Heart” Recognition Dinner Press Release:

Being the one constant in the lives of abused and neglected children has its obvious rewards but the words of a recipient conveys the meaning in one child’s life. Says Melissa, “My CASA volunteer was a positive constant in my life…I thank her for showing me that my biological mother may have taken away my childhood, but I am in control of what I will do the rest of my life.” And the meaning it holds for volunteers? Susan, a CASA advocate since 1994, puts it succinctly. “…It has been and remains one of the most rewarding and meaningful experiences in my life.”

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Be A Voice For a Child In Court (July 24th 630 pm refreshments served)

Children don’t have a voice in the homes they live in, the media, or in the courts. Speak for an abused child in court and give that child a chance to be heard as a CASA guardian ad litem volunteer. Come learn about what it takes and how it works to stand up for a frightened abused child in the court system.

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Beer, Music, Fabulous Trips (Africa/DisneyWorld) Join CASA MN March 9th at Surly Brewing 530pm (our annual fundraiser)

It’s gonna be great. Join CASA MN at our fundraiser (silent and live auction) and learn about the good work volunteer guardian ad-Litems do.

5:30 – 8:30 p.m. 520 Malcolm Avenue Southeast Minneapolis

Beer, hors d’ oeuvres, music, opportunities for fabulous trips (African photo safari or DisneyWorld, anyone?), and – best of all – a time to celebrate the good work of CASA Minnesota and its volunteers. Who could want more?

Seating limited – tickets on sale now!

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Being An Abused Child In America (the impact of language)

When when a child is removed from a toxic home, he becomes “a ward of the state”, when she runs away she is “apprehended”, “placed in custody”, often remanded to treatment centers to later appear in juvenile court.

This dis-empowering, stigmatizing, cold and criminalizing language adds insult to already traumatized children (in 12 years of child protection work, I never met a child in Child Protection that had not been severely traumatized).

These kids know they are different. Too many abused and neglected children feel like freaks in school and with their peers. Too many of them don’t do well in school, don’t graduate, and do go onto juvenile justice and later criminal justice systems.

It serves no purpose to criminalize them when they are five and six years old on top of it.

“The difference between that poor child and a felon is about eight years”, (MN Supreme Court Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz).

Children don’t have rights in America (we are the only nation in the world not signing the international “rights of the child” treaty (Somalia does not have a functioning government).

That should not mean that they are treated like criminals just because they are born into toxic homes.

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Big Pharma – Who Do We Blame?

The root of the problem is that each and every (almost) abused and neglected child in the system has severe mental health issues and there are almost no useful alternative medical systems in place to address this – instead we use drugs.

The World Health Organization defines torture as “Extended exposure to violence and deprivation”. Every child I worked with as a CASA guardian ad-Litem (about 50) experienced extended exposure to violence and deprivation.

Only the worst of the worst cases make it into the system. When I started in 1996, 2/3’s of the reports were investigated. Today because of budget cuts, 1/3 are being investigated.

Half the kids in my case load had been sexually abused. That is a trauma that no five or ten year old gets over without professional help. When they come of age, they get into trouble because they can’t cope. They did not learn how to read, play well with others, or learn to sit quietly in a room – they have been traumatized.

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Black Children Matter (and child protection systems)

Yesterday at the State Capital in St Paul, Black Lives matter rallied outside for fair treatment by the police and inside (where I was) at the rotunda for fair treatment in child protection for black families and children.

Child protection is viewed by many in the community as a finance driven machine making life miserable for families and ruining the lives of their children.

Far too many group homes and foster care givers fall far short of providing a safe haven for traumatized children and state ward children are often;

* forced to take psychotropic medications without adequate mental health services

* abused while in child protective services

From reporting to discharge, the over representation of Black children in the child protection system cannot be overstated.

Nationally,

37% of children are reported to child protection by the time they are 18 unless they are black, when the number jumps to 54%.

Black families are 4 times more likely to be subjects of a child protection investigation & 5 time more likely to experience a child protection report than white families.

Black children are 5.3 times more likely to be placed in foster homes than white children.

After 20+ years as a white volunteer CASA guardian ad litem, I know that the system leaves few people involved with it satisfied and I very much see why black families think the system is a money driven machine.

Not having a child protection system would be unethical and deadly for children. Our best hope is to make the changes that are critical to building a fair and effective system that breaks the cycle of generational child abuse.

Communities that fail to support young mothers and their children will not have schools performing at acceptable reading, math or graduation rates and they will continue to suffer high crime and incarceration rates. The U.S. criminal justice system has approached a near 80% recidivism rate within the prison system.

To this end, Kids At Risk Action strongly supports the efforts of Safe Passage for Children of Minnesota

www.safepassagemn.com and the CASA guardian ad litem volunteer program www.casamn.org

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Brandon Stahl Sets A Precedent For Excellence In Reporting (share this with your local newspaper – it could be repeatable & help children)

The issues of child abuse and child protection services are complicated and not well understood by the general public, state legislators, or even the people delivering the services. In the almost twenty years I’ve spent as a volunteer in the system (CASA guardian ad-Litem), I’ve not witnessed a reporter going as deep into the heart of a child protection story until reading Brandon Stahl’s series in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

When a baby is found in a dumpster or some other horrific suffering of a four year old makes the paper, an article of outrage leaves the reader hating and blaming a person or institutional failure. Because it takes a sustained and painful effort to take a deeper look into the depth and scope of the nightmarish conditions that preceded the great sadness of a child’s suffering and death at the hands of a caregiver, the reporting almost always stops right here.

Thirty years ago in White Bear Lake MN (near my home), Lois Jergens went on to adopt five more children after murdering 4 year old Dennis Jergens. None of the approximately fifty children I lobbied to be removed from their homes because of torture, sex abuse, or neglect were ever known to anyone outside the child protection system. The absence of information about abused and neglected children is directly related to our high crime rates, full prisons, troubled schools, and unsafe neighborhoods. We would all benefit by knowing the trauma of ground truth – then we could face it and deal with it. It would be better for us and better for children.

Today, Brandon Stahl is peeling back the layers of this complicated institution of child protection. So few people know anything substantive about it and even the people running it can be so wrong so often (as in passing laws about not using past history of abuse in current investigations or family assessments instead of child protection in high risk cases).

In our interview with Brandon Stahl, he was clear about just how hard it is to pry information out of institutions that either have done a very bad job of gathering and keeping it, or simply don’t want it known. He spoke of the substantial financial investment his newspaper had to make in order to get the basic information about the murder of four year old Eric Dean by his step-mother after fifteen reports of child abuse by mandated reporters.

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Brandon Stahl’s investigating and Safe Passage’s volunteers are changing lives

 

children down hill having funBrandon Stahl’s reporting (September 2014) on the tortured death of 4 year old Eric Dean and his  powerful Star Tribune articles about tortured children & the “catastrophic failure” of child protection in Minnesota (Governor Dayton’s words), shine light into the invisible world of child abuse that is so hard to talk about and so easy to avoid.

Rich Gehrman & Safe Passage For Children of MN worked with and reported on Governor Dayton’s Task Force On Child Protection, organized 100 volunteers to speak out and call on legislators to raise awareness and bring positive change to the 60,000 Minnesota children reported to Child Protection services each year.

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Camp Out For Essex County CASA

Hats off to Essex County high school students bringing a voice to abused and neglected children through a coordinated effort for CASA advocacy & community awareness.

In support of all the children living without a safe and permanent home, Essex County schools pitched tens and slept outdoors Friday night (May 3rd). The County family court Judge Thomas Zampino visited them and gave them an overview of the life of a a child in foster care.

CASA volunteers created the Camp Out For CASA concept to promote child welfare and a more active community.

If your CASA organization has done great and interesting things, send them to me that we can show the rest of the country (we also have readers all over the world).

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CASA & GUARDIAN AD – LITEM NEWS (for August)

Local children in desperate need of CASAs — Court Appointed Special Advocates
Arizona Silver Belt
A CASA is a Court Appointed Special Advocate, who is there to represent a neglected or abused child’s best interests and needs. Neglected children often have trouble trusting adults. For the complete article see the 06-26-2013 issue. Click here to …
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CASA director: ‘Meth use more prevalent’
York News-Times
YORK – “We are seeing substance abuse issues rising in York County,” said Carl Knieriem, director of the local Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA). “Methamphetamine use is more prevalent again. It had been dramatically reduced, but now it’s once …
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Big screen classic meets a good cause: Casablanca screening will benefit …
Cherokee Tribune
Canton Theatre manager Bob Seguin stands outside of the theater where the CASAblanca Downtown Dinner & A Movie event benefiting Cherokee County Court Appointed Special Advocates will be presented on Saturday. Starring Humphrey Bogart and …
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CASA to host Bridges Out of Poverty Sept. 5
Rockford Register Star
ROCKFORD — Winnebago County Court Appointed Special Advocates will present Bridges Out of Poverty from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 5 at the Radisson Hotel and Conference Center, 200 S. Bell School Road, Rockford. Guest speaker Jodi Pfarr will discuss …
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10 Roanoke Valley volunteers complete training to become child advocates
Roanoke Times
Ten Roanoke Valley volunteers completed 30 hours of training this spring to become Court Appointed Special Advocates, representing children’s interests in court proceedings when they become displaced because child abuse and neglect charges have …
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CASA needs volunteers before August classes
Cleburne Times-Review
Nationally, CASA is a network of 946 programs that are recruiting, training and supporting volunteers to be court-appointed special advocates to represent the best interests of children in the courtroom and other settings, according to the CASA website.
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You are here
Fort Smith Times Record
Renee Day, vice president of finance for Baylor Research Institute in Dallas and assistant treasurer, investments, for Baylor Health Care System, was recently elected to the Texas Court Appointed Special Advocates Board of Directors. The board governs …
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Yellowstone CASA hires four
Billings Gazette
Yellowstone Yellowstone CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) has hired four new staffers. Drew MacLeod, Ryan Cremer and Tracie Rabinowitz are volunteer coordinators, and Tricia Hergett is the new executive assistant. MacLeod will supervise …
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CASA creates ‘Chili’ connection
Mineral Wells Index
The current Court Appointed Special Advocate fundraising campaign is getting some local help from Chili’s in Mineral Wells. Though “A Dollar for CASA” challenges locals to support the organization a buck at a time, the area restaurant is not stopping …
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CASA inducts 8 new volunteers
Edmond Sun
CITY — Court Appointed Special Advocates recently swore in eight new advocates. Jessica Gavura, Dearra Godinez, Jane Greene, Susan Griffin, Nancy Hamilton, Rhonda Kerbo, Julie Krywicki and Equilla Samuel were sworn in during the June 11 ceremony …

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CASA CARES Grants For Foster Children (do you know foster children in Hennepin/Ramsey Counties?)

CASA Cares provides grants to benefit the personal growth and development of foster children in the child protection system. We consider grant requests for for children who are living in foster care with active cases, for items or activities not otherwise provided for by public funds. Requests often include bikes, school supplies, dance regalia, senior pictures, prom attire, and camp fees.

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CASA Fundraiser Date Change (Save the Date – Auction Items Needed)

CASA Minnesota www.CASAMN.org is holding our annual fundraising dinner in mid January 10, 2013 (Thursday) in Minneapolis and we are seeking donations for our silent auction. Funds raised support CASA’s Guardian ad Litem program which helps families and children in need right here in Minnesota.

CASA volunteers-also known as Guardians ad Litem in the State of Minnesota-are everyday citizens whom judges appoint to advocate for the safety and well-being of children who are in the court system as a result of abuse and/or neglect.

They stand up for these children and change their lives. CASA Minnesota is a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization that supports Minnesota CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) programs and the volunteers who have helped more than two million children find safe, permanent homes.

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CASA guardian ad Litem News & Stories for August 2016

Jan. 17 trial date set in Sullivan County homicide
Terre Haute Tribune Star
Tribune-Star/Lisa TriggDefendant Joshua Travis Hall is led from the Sullivan Superior courtroom by Sheriff Clark Cottom following a hearing Monday …
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Attorney Janie Lindamood leaves mark on community, children, legal profession
Johnson City Press (subscription)
She represented children in delinquency cases and was often appointed as a child’s guardian ad litem, which in Tennessee is a licensed attorney …
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Family Court: abused children need more advocates
The News Journal
The CASA is appointed as the child’s guardian ad litem, which involves being party to any court agreement or court plan for the child and is …
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Judge notes ‘disturbing evidence’ in wards of court application
Irish Times
The alleged sexual abuse and brutal treatment of two children, both aged under 10, was “the most disturbing evidence I have read in 20 years on the …
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