The Power of Coping Skills & Life Without Them

A sad personal email this morning from a grieving mother has caused me to reflect on friends who ended their own lives and the four, five and six year old children I have known, or known about, who tried or succeeded at suicide.

My cousin Ron Mahla (Actor and brilliant person) and my dear friend Tommy Garretson (Vietnam War Vet with a winning smile and great sense of humor) were both gentle and bright souls that were squeezed to death by sadness and a growing inability to cope with their lives.

In both deaths, I’m almost certain that neither told anyone or thought to get help to cope with the events in their lives (there were no signs of impending suicide).

Coping skills are everything. Have them and we can make it – without them, we are at risk.

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The Sadness Of Child Protection – 2 Year Old’s Murdered by Caregivers

These past weeks have been awful for vulnerable children in MN.

Stomped on, kicked, torn liver kidney & pancreas Sophia O’Neill was violently murdered by 17 year old Cary Faran-Baum died because she wouldn’t stop crying. There’s been way too many violent child deaths in MN this past year – many of these children were known to child protection services.

Sophia was known to child protection (they didn’t investigate the case because caseloads are high and resources did not allow it).

In a family video taken before her death, Sophia explains that Faran-Baum had hit her in the face and left bruises noticible in the video. Sophia died not only of Cary Faran-Baum’s violent mindless attack. She died because there are too few crisis nurseries, inadequate daycare facilities and a general lack of concern in my community for other people’s children.

Too many of these children are known to child protection, a poorly understood and undervalued system fraught with serious problems. It’s wrong to blame the people doing the work – the problems begin with us – the people making the rules and designing the system.

As a long time volunteer Hennepin County guardian ad-Litem, it’s clear to me that my community has never cared much for the problems of young families (or their babies & 2 year olds).

If we did, there would be more crisis nurseries and daycare and children would not be left in the care of drunk uncles, violent boyfriends and child molesters.

As it is today, we only read about the dead kids. Thousands of children traumatized by violence and abuse inflicted on them by their care givers don’t make the paper (unless there is a death).

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The State Of Child Protection In America Today

American institutions are producing exactly that which they were designed to stop. Almost all the youth in juvenile justice have come through child protection programs. Virtually all criminal justice candidates have been juvenile offenders. 2/3’s of these people have mental health problems (fully half of this number have multiple, serious, and chronic conditions (these are the dangerous and dysfunctional folks that so often make the news).

Much of what I write and speak makes people angry. Imagine what it’s like to be child protection worker or volunteer CASA guardian ad-Litem and meet a seven year old boy that’s been tied to a bed, left alone for days at a time, starved, sexually abused, and beaten to a pulp with bruised covering his body or come to know very young girl that was prostituted by her mother.

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The Unspoken Truth (from Kristin Rode)

My name is Robert Hamelin and when I was 4 years old I entered the Foster Care System. My stepmother began to physically and mentally abuse me. I was taken out of the home I lived in, with her and my father and moved into the first foster home. When I was 9 years old my father was killed. He was the only good memory I had left. His loss had such a deep impact on me. I knew now that I was completely alone. By the time I reached the 6th grade I began acting out for attention. My behaviors became worse. The abuse had continued worse than ever, as now, I was being sexually abused. By the time I was 18 years old I joined the Marine Corps. I needed stability but even more important, I needed to find out if I could overcome my past and succeed, despite 14 years of violent child abuse.

The system failed me but it did not beat me!

Today I am a successful Regional Vice President for Transamerica. I have raised 5 beautiful daughters, 4 of which have already graduated from college. What is disheartening is 32 years after I got out of the Child Protection System, it continues to fail children and the abuse, still all too common. We need to come together to fix a broken system.

Each year, about six hundred thousand abused and neglected American children are removed from their homes, placed into group homes, foster homes, and adoptive homes with minimal mental health counseling and often not much history or training provided to the new care giver. These children are expected to adjust well into society, succeed in school and with their peers

Children in child protective services are only removed from their homes if their lives are in imminent harm. These children are often returned to their homes by Child Protective Services if changes are made. Many children are returned to abusive homes, with little to no follow-up.

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Think Again MN Feb 16 (includes KARA presentation)

THE IMPACT OF DOMESTIC ABUSE ON CHILDREN
Tuesday, February 16
6 p.m. Light Supper and Social 6:30 P.M. Program
Cafeteria, Hennepin Technical College, 9000 Brooklyn Blvd, Brooklyn Park, Map
RSVP on Facebook: http://on.fb.me/1kWpPiG or to CarolWoehrer@usfamily.net

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This Week’s At Risk Children’s News

SC: Exclusive – Robert Guinyard’s life and death in SC’s child welfare system
The State – August 17, 2014
Since his death, Robert has become the face of the debate over whether Social Services is doing all it can to protect children like the 4-year-old, one of 67 children who died last year after contact with the state’s child welfare agency.
http://www.thestate.com/2014/08/17/3623563/exclusive-robert-guinyards-life.html

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Tip Of The Iceberg; Abused Children Dying Due To County Backlogs

“The social worker staff simply cannot keep up with everything we are asking them to do,” she said, adding that she planned to make the case to county supervisors that hundreds of additional social workers were needed. “All of the things that equate with quality do take time.”

In the end, Ploehn never submitted a budget request for additional social workers, citing the county’s tight finances.

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Torture vs. Child Abuse

Children in American child protection systems are only removed from their homes if their lives are in imminent harm. The average length of child sex abuse in America is four years.

Abused children and torture victims suffer from the same kinds of trauma. They exhibit many of the same kinds of problems. They need the same kinds of long term mental health therapies to allow them to rebuild their traumatized mental states, learn coping skills, and how to function in our communities.

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Tracking America’s Most At Risk Children (Compiled)

New documents obtained by KCAL9 detail previous allegation of abuse in the case of a now- deceased 8-year-old Palmdale boy who investigators say was tortured and beaten to death. Gabrieal Frenandez suffered a skull fracture, several broken ribs and severe burn marks over various spots of his body before he was hospitalized last month, according to the La County Sheriff’s Department. He died from injuries may 24. The mother confessed that she had been abusing the boy from time to time. His mother Pearl Fernandez and her boyfriend Isauro Aguirre have been charged for murder.
The Republican governor last week defended O’Day’s leadership, even after the agency told a federal judge it couldn’t say with any certainty how many children died while in its custody.

The department previously reported the deaths of 151 children in their custody between January of 2009 and July of 2012 but retracted that number after a third party reported that number to be less than exact.

They now say they are not sure how many have died.

According to the Tennessean in the first six month of 2012 there were 31 deaths among children, ranging from newborns to teenagers.
Abdifatah Mohamud was bludgeoned to death by his stepfather a year after the boy called 911 to report he was being abused. Mother of drowned toddler speaks out

January 28, 2013. Washington DC, Maryland.

The mother of a 15 month old boy has commented that the court, judges, and police failed to help her son when his death could have so easily been prevented. The father of the boy, despite being under investigation for abuse, was granted unsupervised visits by a judge. Shortly thereafter, he killed the child.

http://www.nbcwashington.com/video/#!/news/local/Mother-of-Drowned-Toddler-Speaks-Out/188504431

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Tracking America’s Most At Risk Children (Weekly)

Teen who killed baby sentenced to 90 days

October 18, 2012. Colorado.

Dylan Kuhn had called authorities stating that his 6-month-old daughter was found hanging from her crib by her next and that she wasn’t breathing. Authorities later discovered she had injuries consistent with being “slammed” against a soft and unyielding surface (like a mattress). Kuhn later stated that he did slam his daughter into the bed and she became quiet afterward, that she had never had a blanket around her neck, and that he lied to police initially because he was afraid the mother would hate him for it. Kuhn plead guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to 90 days in jail, 4 years of probation, a parenting class, a mental health evaluation, a drug abuse evaluation, and would not be allowed to be alone with any child under the age of 10.

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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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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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United Nation’s Rights of the Child Treaty (sign here now)

Children have no voice in the media, courts, homes or legislature.

Child rights in America today are the rights of women in 1917 (a personal possession – a slave or pet).

Only a fraction of parental violence and abuse against children is ever reported, a tiny percentage of that number is ever prosecuted and parents can legally withhold life saving medical care from their children in 37 states and some states put only token resources into child protective systems leaving children trapped in a lifetime of violence, trauma and abuse.
Please join KARA in sending your support to president Obama in asking Congress to sign on. Without this treaty, children in this nation have almost no rights outside of the Imminent Harm Doctrine that forbids parents from (almost) killing their children. After many years as a volunteer guardian ad-Litem, countless tragic stories of horrific abuse, backlogged courts and troubled child protection systems, these children need the basic rights outlined in this treaty. It is the right thing to do.

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United Nations Youth Conference (2007 – what’s changed?)

13 years ago, Kids At Risk Action presented a workshop at the fourth annual Youth Assembly at the United Nations in New York.  There was a severe lack of understanding and shortage of better answers to the questions surrounding child abuse and child protection.
Today the medical communities understanding of adverse childhood experiences (ACES) and the value of a trauma informed approach to helping at risk children is much more promising – but we have to make it happen.

California’s Surgeon General, Nadine Burke Harris has declared ACES a public health epidemic and public school crisi

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Universal Rights Of The Child; All Talk No Action

There are two nations (of the 196 nations in the world) that have not ratified the Universal Rights of the Child. Somalia and America.

Somalia, because it has no functioning government, and the U.S. because we will not stop training child soldiers*.

Americans are proud of and outspoken about spirituality, values, and freedom – making proclamations about human rights, women’s rights, and so on.

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Using Bibles In Defense of Child Abuse (not the Jesus I knew)

Indiana Governor and Vice Presidential Candidate Mike Pence’s Religious Freedom signature law RFRA allows beating 7 year old’s with a coat hanger leaving bruises and bleeding severe enough to cause the child’s doctor to have mom arrested.

It will be a very sad thing an Indiana Court uses Pence’s law to rule that bibles can be used to torture and traumatize children.

A few years ago I spoke to adoptive parents in Indiana where the prior Governor, Mitch Daniels redirected the funding promised to families adopting special needs children (after the adoptions were completed) to his appointees in social services who could cut the most from social services programs.

Mitch was also running for Vice President at the time. My conversations with those families were really sad (really, really sad).

For the second time in just 3 election cycles, Indiana Governor’s have shown children just how little they matter to the State.

Tiny stepping stones to higher political office; kids can’t vote and only make the media under the most tragic of circumstances. A clear win for Indiana Governor’s (and a few other states too).

If there is a silver lining in Indiana Governor’s political abuse of children, it is that Indiana’s helpless kids are the only youth voice in America’s most important political battle (there is no other meaningful child friendly discourse in our presidential election).

Know anyone in Indiana? Share this with them and suggest that using children as political stepping stones should be a crime.

All Adults are the Protectors of All Children

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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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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 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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