Help KARA Do Something About Drugging Foster Kids (invitation to action)

Invisible Children readers know that psychotropic medications, especially “antipsychotics,” often are used to sedate and restrain problematic people, children especially—and not just any children, but foster children particularly, and most of all, foster children in so-called “group homes.”

Agreement is widespread that foster kids are over-medicated: too many, too young, too many drugs per child, on dosages that are too high and are maintained too long, often for years on end.

The PsychDrugs Action Campaign of the National Center for Youth Law invites you to help make positive changes now. Our contact information is at the bottom of this message.

Why Foster Children?

Foster children are a lucrative market for psychotropic drug sales. Unlike adults, they can’t say “no, I won’t take any more.” Their parents are in no position to object. Responsibility for prescribing is diffused confusingly among foster parents, caseworkers, child welfare supervisors, group home administrators, and prescribers. All are involved, but their roles in medication decisions are overlapping and ill-defined. It is easy for each to say, “it wasn’t my decision.”

One of the consequences is that in some states about half of children in group homes are medicated with psychotropic drugs. Many foster children are dozing through their childhoods and teenage years in a semi-sedated fog, a fog that is profitable for the drug industry and convenient for those administrators, staff, and foster parents who prefer to minimize demands on their time and attention.

The losers are the kids. A dozen years in a chemical straitjacket is no preparation for adult independence.

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Child Protection – The Big Lie (don’t blame the service providers – its the lawmakers)

Minnesotan’s talk big about how we value children and how exceptional we are as a people, a nation, a culture. Most of us claim to be spiritual people valuing life and religious teachings that protect our community and its children.

If there is anything genuine or exceptional about how we actually treat children it would be how poorly we pay and train service providers to our children, the lack of transparency, accountability, and humanity in an overwhelmed child protection system that the majority of people involved in find harsh and disappointing at many levels (and Governor Mark Dayton called a “colossal failure” in the death of 4 year old Eric Dean).

I became a volunteer guardian ad-Litem because of a horrible experience a business associate had adopting children. Her family was not aware of the mental health issues and dangerous behaviors her newly adopted children (from County Child Protection) were bringing into their new home

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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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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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Sherriff’s For Pre K (save our children)

Wow and thank you Hennepin, Ramsey and Dakota County Sheriffs. Sheriff Rich Stanek’s “we must make investments in early childhood education for Minnesota kids now to avoid paying far more for the cost of crime in the decades to come” took genuine political courage (thank you from Kids At Risk Action Sheriff).

In the Star Tribune article today I found it ironic that full implementation of the Governor’s Universal Pre School would cost almost as much as we spend on prisons in MN each year (the Sheriff is arguing that we will have fewer people to put in those prisons if we support Pre K education for children).

Sheriff’s Matt Bostrom, Tim Leslie, and Rich Stanek – KARA salutes you.

What follows is probably more than you want to know about the long debate from a law enforcement perspective about education, crime, mental health. Please chime in.

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Growing Up In Baltimore (it’s really hard)

From the Washington Post on the Justice Policy Institute study of Freddie Gray’s Baltimore neighborhood;

Unemployment rate of 16-64 year olds; 51.8%

Employed with Travel Time to Work of over 45 Minutes; 31.8%

Families receiving TANF; 25%

Chronically Absent HS students; 49.3%

Percent of Population over 25 Without HS diploma; 60.7%

Narcotics Police Calls per 1000 residents; 464.8

Mortality Rate for 15-24 year olds; 19 per thousand

Children 6 and under with Elevated Blood-Lead levels; 7.4%

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Standing In A Soviet Bread Line (thank you James Eli Shiffer)

Trying to get information out of the government can feel like standing in a Soviet bread line” gives the reader a sense that the bread will be there, maybe stale or moldy but there will be bread to take home if you wait long enough (which is not true regarding getting information out of the government about child protection issues).

You can wait all day, all week, all year and never find out about how many five and six year old children were on drugs, were sexually molested, tried to commit suicide or were grievously injured by their parents or caregivers last year (the information exists).

Nor will you have access to the necessary paperwork made available to Brandon Stahl at the Star Tribune in his investigation into the death of Eric Dean without a major newspaper filing a freedom of information act and spending thousands of dollars to placate a County that wants no part of your investigation (8 children have died under similar circumstances since Eric Dean’s death).

Transparency of the data surrounding abused and neglected children (not names – data) would show just how impactful the problems of child protection, mental health, generational child abuse, are as a giant institutional and financial burden that has evolved out of lawmakers not understanding the most important building blocks in making productive citizens (instead of manufacturing state wards like we are doing today).

The reason transparency of this unhappy data is important is that without information there appears to be no problem. If there is no problem, there is no discussion. No discussion = no attention, no solution and the child is abused again (this time by the community). Governor Dayton’s proposals need our support.

Let your Legislator know that All adults are the protectors of all children.

KARA is looking for a few new committed board members to help us expand our reach and function. Please contact mike@invisiblechildren.org

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Child Protection News Gathered Nationally (find your state here)

ALL ADULTS ARE THE PROTECTORS OF ALL CHILDREN Most of our news for this page (300 + articles) is gathered from; Child Welfare in the News is distributed at no charge by Child Welfare Information Gateway (www.childwelfare.gov), a service of the Children’s Bureau/ACF/HHS (www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb). It features news stories on topics of interest to child welfare…

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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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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 Only Nation in the Developed World (American Exceptionalism)

Young families in the U.S. don’t have any mandated maternity leave when the new baby arrives (we are the only developed nation in the world to not offer paid leave to new parents). Families and babies really do suffer because of it.
There is almost no paid paternity leave for fathers in America either (almost all of the developed world – and about half of the 167 nations tracked by the International Labor Organization, offer paternity leave to dads).

American exceptionalism has become the opposite of what we want it to be – especially when it comes to young families and children. We talk a big game, but we don’t really value other people’s children.

All adults are the protectors of all children – communities will be safer & happier when this becomes a truism.

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Grandparents; Counties & States Can’t Live With Them, Children Can’t Live Without Them.

It is not the social worker, the teacher, or other professionals working with children that are responsible for the problems within American child protection service, it is lack of awareness and understanding by policy makers of the core problems and how best to address them through effective operational policies.

Several of my County kids had over 25 foster home placements & experienced dozens of teachers, social workers, and others like me before they were let out of the system. I was the only adult consistently in their lives in a number of cases as many others came and went.

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Are You An Out of State KARA Follower?

Kids At Risk Action is looking for writers from other state’s to report on child protection/child abuse conditions around the country.

Report each week about how your state treats at risk youth and help KARA bring more attention to what needs to happen for children to be safe and happy where you live.

Contact me directly for more information, mike@invisiblechildren.org

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Growing Up In America (do we value children?)

Dana Liebelson’s recent interview demonstrates what the state of Michigan went through to stop her reporting on the violent treatment of youth in the state’s juvenile prisons is just one more example of a punishment oriented system more prone to further harming of youth and continued institutional failure than supporting or rebuilding them.

The state of Michigan has presented Dana with 2 supoenas for complete and unedited copies of all of her work related to their juvenile prison facilities (most likely because a class action lawsuit for how juveniles are treated in Michigan institutions is a real concern). On a national level, for a graphic review of juvenile’s in juvenile prison Richard Ross photo documentation of kids having their lives ruined is second to none.

MN’s former Supreme Court Chief justice Kathleen Blatz remarkably stated that 90% of the youth in juvenile justice have passed through child protective services. Is it just me or does this not seem like the saddest thing one could say about a community?

39 states track juvenile recidivism but most are unable to track the effectiveness of their system.

In Ramsey County MN, the ACES study demonstrated that the 8% of the youth who commit up to 70% of all serious and violent juvenile crime come from 2 to 4% of families and that most violent adult offenders began their criminal careers before age 12.

Many states without restorative justice initiative draw few distinctions between adult and youthful offenders and experience recidivism between 70 and 80 %. As a nation, we charge 25% of youthful offenders as adults (some as young as 11 years old).

Riker’s Island in New York holds a record for suicides and cruel treatment of youthful offenders.

Many states have a long history of punishment and violence against youth. Pennsylvania recently sent 2 judges to prison (40 years) for sending hundreds of innocent youth to for profit prisons for commissions on each new inmate. California police sold (you raise em, we cage em T shirts)
Texas is proving that smart justice includes mental health services, saves millions of dollars and empties jails (this NPR interview is worth your 7 minutes).
Support programs that help children return to the community. What we are doing to troubled youth today in so many states has filled prisons and kept our communities less safe. There is only sadness and no upside to bad public policy.

Help KARA continue to build support for better public policy for at risk youth
All Adults Are The Protectors of All Children

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Child Abuse by Judge In Michigan (9 year old jailed for failing to speak with violent wife beating father)

It hurts me to experience the depth of sadness and unfairness visited upon at risk children.

Pennsylvania sent 2 state judges to prison (for 40 years) for incarcerating innocent juveniles into privatized prisons for money (many millions of dollars in kick backs). Michigan sending children of hating & fighting parents to jail for not speaking with the most hated parent is just awful – there has to be a better way.

It’s awful enough to be forced into taking parental sides in a viscious divorce and custody battle – it is almost criminal to jail children (since June 24) for not allowing themselves to be forcibly reunited with a parent they hate.

In a Michigan court custody case last week, after harshly treating the mother Maya Tsimhoni and 2 older children, Liam Tsimhoni & Rowi Tsimhoni, Judge Lisa Gorcyca, of Oakland County Michigan, grilled and then berated 9 year old Natalie in the courtroom, sent her and her juvenile siblings to juvenile jail and forbid her from having contact with her mother.

Has our judicial system become so heartless that 6 and 9 year old children are forced to jail and suicide because of a toxic divorce case (in court since 2009)?

All adults are the protectors of all children.

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Dear Social Worker (a note from the Casey Foundation, KARA and Daniel)

You have chosen one of the most challenging jobs on the planet. Saving children from toxic homes & helping them heal and develop the coping skills necessary to live a functioning life. How do you manage to deal effectively with so many families (and children) at one time?

We all live with the troubled institution that is Child Protection and the lack of awareness, concern and resources our community makes available to abused and neglected children.

Burnout in your profession is high, salaries low & as the Casey Foundation pointed out when Dee Wilson delivered his report to the Hennepin County Commissioners, not much trust for your co-workers or management. Dee Wilson painted a pretty negative picture of the working atmosphere for most social workers.

It hurts me that the 90 minute audio session has been removed from the Hennepin County Commissioners website. I listened to it once and it was gone. I did attend the session, but it’s hard to remember all that was said – and some very blunt truths were delivered to our commissioners.

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Indiana Sued For Making Child Protection Almost Impossible

A few years ago, Vice Presidential candidate and Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels eliminated funding across the board for Indiana families adopting special needs children (after 500 adoptions by families promised these dollars for transportation, healthcare & education of their adopted children, were completed).

Indiana then became the only state in the nation to place families adopting special needs children on a wait list rather than paying subsidies.

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CASA guardian ad-Litem News (find your state here) August 2015

A baby is born addicted to opiates, a young child wakes up to find their parent unresponsive with a needle in their arm, siblings sit in the back seat of a car parked on a country road as their parents are shooting up heroin. LaPorte County and Indiana are experiencing an epidemic. It is drug abuse. In the Merriam-Webster dictionary, epidemic is listed as affecting or tending to affect a disproportionately large number of individuals within a population, community or region at the same time. Certainly we can describe the current rapid spread of opiate use an epidemic.
Last year, there were 17 deaths from heroin overdoses in LaPorte County and Indiana is increasing its needle-exchange program beyond Scott County. The Indiana Department of Child Services is reporting a record-breaking year for child abuse cases. It’s only June and in LaPorte County alone, 50 children have been placed out of their homes due to abuse or neglect.

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Imprisoned Judges & Police Officers In Pennsylvania (still sending innocent people to jail – by the thousands)

This Pennsylvania sad story of six police officers beating and robbing suspects, planting evidence and doctoring paperwork to obtain over 560 false convictions (that are now being vacated) follows on the heels of the State’s recent incarceration of two Pennsylvania judges for over 4000 false convictions that sent thousands of innocent juveniles to jail because…

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Child Death and Child Abuse Articles (for August 2015 – find your state/country here)

CA: County responses unacceptable (Opinion)
Ukiah Daily Journal – August 02, 2015
The Mendocino County Health and Human Services Agency’s response to the Grand Jury is one of the most twisted documents I have ever read. So, I took a few minutes to sort things out and get rid of some the wool they are trying to pull over everyone’s eyes.
http://www.ukiahdailyjournal.com/opinion/20150802/county-responses-unacceptable

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Fines and Judgements For Child Protection Failures (millions of $ badly spent)

Over the past few years the states of Washington (144 million dollars) and Indiana have been sued successfully for many millions of dollars for failing to protect abused and neglected children.

In Arizona, the over 6600 child abuse reports ignored by social workers prompted a class action lawsuit, Texas and New York have similar lawsuits in play, MN has been fined almost a million dollars for failing to meet federal standards for abused children re-entering child protection (MN has twice the national average) the child protection system was called a “Colossal Failure” by the Governor in the slow tortured death of 4 year-old Eric Dean and a dozen other states are facing embarrassing examples of cruelty to children and juveniles because of bad public policies.

Children in these states have been tortured, starved, murdered and raped while being cared for in overburdened Child Protection systems. The consequences of child abuse are immense and lasting for children and the fact that a community would fail to help their tortured children is barbaric.

These lawsuits are remarkable in that suing a governmental body is almost impossible because Federal, State and Local agencies are almost immune to being sued.

When lawsuits do succeed, you know that the case was overwhelming and represented just the tip of a very big iceberg of the kinds of violence being done to children in our under-appreciated and poorly understood child protection systems.

I say “Poorly understood” as it is my belief that no community, especially my community, would ignore the cries of raped, tortured and murdered children.

I refuse to believe that any community in America willfully continues to avoid fixing the institutional failures that are so painful for the children affected and the people involved in the system.

Politicians especially should understand and address the lifetimes costs in dollars and quality of life that millions of dysfunctional citizens are having on our schools, public safety and prisons.

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