It’s Inevitable (police shootings)

Dallas Police Chief David Brown and MN Sheriff Rich Stanek speaking out about how armed law enforcement officers are now the front line in managing more and more of societies problems is just the beginning.

Sheriff Stanek and his fellow Washington and Ramsey Sheriffs threatening to sue the State of MN for not providing timely mental health services to the troubled people in their squad cars and jails thereby turning law officers into mental health service providers may be the most effective way of drawing attention to the massive under-treatment of traumatized children soon to impact schools, communities and law enforcement in this nation.

As a Hennepin County volunteer guardian ad-Litem, I have come to know second and third-generation families of under-treated traumatized children with drug problems, violent boyfriends and serious mental health problems that are now having their own next generation of soon to be neglected and abused (traumatized) children. Children who will bring their drug and behavioral problems to school and the community. It’s inevitable that there will be another generation of traumatized children entering our schools every five years and squad cars a few years after that.

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It Happens Over and Over (profound child abuse – child death – inadequate reporting & response)

This is my take from Brandon’s article of Nov 30th (linked above)

Minnesota’s recent brutal murder of 4 year old Eric Dean after 14 ignored reports of child abuse by mandated reporters (and one family assessment) is becoming just one of thousands of cruel stories articulating the low value our nation places on children being exposed by Brandon’s continued research and writing.

As American’s talk big about how we value children and our religious affiliations are many, but there really is very little child protection in the U.S.

Watching this over many years as a volunteer guardian ad-Litem causes me great pain and it is only recently that I have found any hope that conditions might change for the weakest and most vulnerable among us.

MN has tried to reform its child protection system 3 times in the last 25 years, 16 state and county agencies across the nation have resigned or been fired (mostly after the death of children they were hired to protect).

In Maine, it is estimated that up to 70% of abused to death children were known to child protection agencies. In Arizona, 6000 child abuse reports were ignored by the agencies and many children died. Florida reported almost five hundred children killed while known to child protection (since 2008).

What follows is my past reporting on how various states treat their youngest citizens;

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It Could Be Worse (Virginia screens out 83% of all child abuse complaints)

Minnesota screens out 66% of child abuse complaints overall, but 4 MN counties screen out 90%. The only good thing to say about conditions in Virginia is that there seems to be some transparency in the reporting which one would hope will lead to more concern for what happens to abused and neglected children. All this talk about how we value children in America seems to be just talk.

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It Costs Way Less To Hire & Train Social Workers;$68 Million Settlement Proposed for 10 Children Fraudulently Adopted and Abused

It would be far less expensive (see the studies & long term costs) and the right thing to do to see that foster & adoptive parents were well funded, well regulated, and early childhood programs set up to insure that every child had a chance to have a meaningful life in America.

Until then, let’s sue the pants off of states and counties that refuse to care for children.

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It Cant Happen Here

A very smart person that I consider a friend suggested that the sad story of Florida’s foster care system (in the blog article just prior to this one) is not comparable to the state of foster care in my state of MN. Suggesting that things are fine in MN’s foster care system. Nothing to see here, let’s talk about something else.

Dee Wilson delivered the Casey Foundations report on child protection in MN and softly stated that our group home facilities were grossly unable to deal with the level of trauma and behavioral problems that these overwhelmed homes were experiencing.

Just a week ago MN closed the group home in St Cloud MN because of many violations over many years.

That home allowed kids to bang their heads against walls to the point of concussions, facial injuries and head trauma along with forced sex in the presence of staff.

Don’t blame the staff*. It’s the management and the people making the rules. It is always the management that determines the wage, the training and the supervision that will be in place in every business endeavor. It’s always the policy makers that determine the oversight and resources available to the homes providing the service. These things are made extremely clear in the Florida video.

To expect low waged and undertrained people to manage children traumatized by years of abuse now being managed by a cold and distant state is just unworkable.

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It Can’t Happen Here (Sally’s Story)

This had to have been one of the most detailed Childline referrals the county had ever seen, not to mention Sally had a wonderful, dedicated psychiatrist. As the time went by, the treatment team eagerly awaited the results of her abuse referral, as she had won over the hearts of all the hospital staff and we all wanted to see her safe and free from harm.

The referral came back as unfounded.

Due to her intellectual and neurodevelopmental disabilities, she was deemed in-credible.

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It Can’t Happen Here

This article shines light on a serious social failure not uncommon in America. 6 year Sarah Elizondo has been forced by the court to live with a pedophile parent (Nicholas Elizondo served 6 years for the crimes he committed upon very young girls).

One of my first cases as a volunteer CASA guardian ad-Litem was a 7 year old boy that had been forced by the court to live with his pedophile father (who had spent 2/3 of his adult life in prison for the crimes he was about to commit on his son – and there was a court order forbidding him to be near young boys).

This boy had spent 4 years tied to a bed, sexually abused, starved, and left alone for days at a time in a small apartment (what do you think it would be like at 4,5,6, or 7 to be tied to a bed and left alone for days at a time without food?)

The boy was covered from head to foot in severe bruises when he entered the child prote

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Is Minnesota Setting A “Great” Example For Dealing With Child Protection Issues?

With Governor Dayton’s Task Force recommendations reported in today’s Star Tribune article (Dayton’s Task Force Agrees On Overhaul, Brandon Stahl), I am optimistic that this (“great” example) approach to child well being could become a reality.

Ten years ago, the father of one of my family’s Mexican foreign exchange students explained how he (as a State of Sinaloa Legislator) had traveled to MN and CA to review child protection systems. At the time, these were the two states he deemed to have the most advanced and effective systems in the nation.

MN has at one time done child protection as well or better than any other state – when reviewed by someone without bias.
MN had reduced child protection funding by over forty million dollars these past few years. This explains sad stories like Eric Dean’s death after fifteen (ignored) reports of abuse by mandated reporters and why family assessments replaced child protection, why social workers are shorted training, process, and resources needed to effect the change that could heal toxic families or provide safety to their young charges.

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International Rights of the Child Treaty (U.S. & Somalia the only countries not signed on)

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, not to be enslaved).

America is the only nation that has not signed that agreement, largely because we still demand that southern states continue to militarize youth as young as eleven, through military schools.

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Indiana’s At Risk Children & Governor Mitch Daniels;

efforts of a governor currying political favor at the cost of poor young lives.
Mitch Daniels needs to be identified for his personal policies ruining young lives; these policies are at the same time costing the state more money than useful and promising policies would.
By eliminating funds guaranteed to families adopting special needs children, he put the state in the precarious position of defending lawsuits and made the adopting of special needs children a giant problem in the years to come (who will adopt Indiana’s special needs children next year?)
These are recent Indiana child protection headlines for the State Of Indiana;

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Indiana Update (current child protection news – thanks again Mitch Daniels)

IN: The politics of children and family services
Governing – October 09, 2012
Protecting kids and trying to preserve families isn’t only the hardest job in government, it’s by far the most politically dangerous. In resigning, Payne joins an ever-growing list of first-rate leaders in the human services field who were either fired or driven from office thanks to politics and a brutal and often purposefully ignorant press.
http://www.governing.com/topics/health-human-services/col-politics-children-family-services.html

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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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In Defense Of People Doing The Work

It hurts me to hear destructive criticisms about how teachers are the cause of badly performing schools, social workers blamed when a baby dies a horrid death while under County supervision, and most recently an all out diatribe against the uncaring volunteer guardian ad-Litems in America.
These professions are not entered for the great wealth or social prestige that accompany the difficult work that come with the job. Educators are dealing with mental health issues, the impact of poverty, abuse, and homelessness as our society becomes less well off, and recently, less well governed. Social workers are expected to work miracles with terrifically damaged children in toxic homes, drug and violence issues, huge caseloads, and few resources to fix anything.

Volunteer guardian ad-Litems work with badly damaged children trying to guide them through a complex and bureaucratic court system in the hopes of saving them from both the system and the traumas they have suffered from.

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Improving the Process of Child Protection & Saving LIves

This article by Safe Passage for Children explains how 5 of the the 18 MN children killed by their caregivers in the last 18 months were known to local law enforcement but apparently not to child protection services (and what needs to change to fix that).

In my own experience, a seven year old girl was prostituted for years during which the police had been to the house 49 times and only removed the child on the last call because the little girl tried to kill her sister in the presence of the police.

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Improving State Child Protection Systems In 2014 (whatever it takes)

Class action lawsuits get results where legislators don’t (Oklahoma, Tennessee, Georgia, D.C., New Jersey, Mississippi) Proving that it’s not who is your senator, but who is your attorney. Whatever it Takes.

From Oklahoma News on 6 12,27.13,

Oklahoma is one of 14 states sued by child advocacy group Children’s Rights. The federal class action lawsuit was filed back in 2008, claiming children in state custody were in danger, because the system wasn’t doing enough to protect them.

The state has spent millions fighting it. With the trial just two months away and a judge denying the state’s last two efforts to get the case thrown out, DHS is now considering settling the suit.

According to Children’s Right’s website, their lawsuits have led to $2 billion in additional funding for child welfare systems.

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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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Important Points By Brandon Stahl (Star Tribune) Today On Pope County

The following quotes from Brandon Stahl’s reporting today in the Star Tribune indicate the depth and scope of child protection troubles in MN.  That Governor Dayton used “Colossal Failure” language and created a task force to investigate the sad tortured death of 4 year old Eric Dean is to be commended.  Awful things happening to…

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Important News From Safe Passage For Children

What if everyone agreed to get behind some of the same best practices for children? It would improve chances of state funding, be easier to track outcomes, and create economies of scale.

This may be possible. Safe Passage research indicates common interest in some of the same programs across child welfare, early childhood development, and children’s mental health. These approaches have a solid track record and strong research base, including Triple P (Positive Parenting Program), Parent Child Interaction Therapy, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

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If You Don’t Do This, Who Will? (children can’t stop child abuse)

Tuesday was Day At the Hill for advocates supporting policies to improve the lives of Minnesota’s abused and neglected children.

Thank you Safe Passage for Children for organizing an effective effort to bring awareness to the people (lawmakers) that can make positive change for at risk children happen.

Without your efforts and the efforts of your volunteers, It is unlikely that lawmakers will come to understand that;

Many of the Governor’s Task Force recommendations may not be implemented or those recommendations will later be abandoned without continued oversite,

Tracking program outcomes is the only way we can know the difference between ineffective and effective and terrific programs,

The level of trauma foster children live with has created a terrible problem in our foster care system as there are fewer and fewer families able to manage the behavioral problems exhibited by this growing population of abused children,

The recent media coverage and added attention to child protection has increased reporting and is overwhelming already overburdened County systems leading to unmanageable caseloads and higher burnout rates among social workers,

A waiting list of 7000 names for subsidized daycare leaves vulnerable children in the care of drunk and drugged uncles,

It is a rewarding experience to advocate for children, I recommend it (at least once a year – it’s only for a few hours – and it can make a real difference in the policies that govern the lives of the most vulnerable among us.

Join Safe Passage For Children Volunteer army and dedicate a few hours a year telling your State Representatives how important children’s issues are to you.

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How We Treat Women and Children in America

Seriously mentally ill, Jose Guadalupe was beaten unconscious in his solitary confinement cell by correction officers on September 2.   2 months later, Tracy Johnson, IQ of 65, was pepper sprayed in the face and beaten hard enough to break his eye socket bone.  This is Rikers Island, one of America’s largest correctional institutions. Throughout…

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How We Treat Children

From the annals of Rikers Island comes a document titled, “Three Adolescents With Mental Illness in Punitive Segregation in Rikers Island.” Punitive segregation means solitary confinement for 23 hours a day. Schoolwork, if it comes, is passed through a slot in the cell door. Toothpaste is available once a day.

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How To Sell Guns To Five Year Old’s (yes we do)

Mother Earth News this month includes weapons manufacturers marketing materials aimed at very young children. It is disturbing. It was just last week a five year old Kentucky boy killed his two year old sister with his “Crickett” “my first” rifle. You can buy them in hot pink for little girls:

“The Crickett rifle is ideally sized for children four to ten years old and comes in a …Arms manufactures the following youth rifles: Crickett .22WMR Youth Rifles”
Mom was outside & said she did not know the gun was loaded. Gun marketing pictures from the Crickett marketing page (the site was down today when I went to include the link – it will be interesting to see if it has been changed) http://www.crickett.com/

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How Things Get Worse

What makes life worse for sexually abused five and seven year old’s is not talking about it. Not reporting it. Not disclosing it publicly or privately. The fewer people that know about the wretched things that are happening to NJ children, the smaller the problem appears to be and the less will be done to support the agencies chartered to help New Jersey Children.

New Jersey has taken a big step forward in making sure that the abuse is worse and lasts longer for its youngest citizens;

NJ: Child welfare agency proposes less disclosure of fatal child abuse cases.

The Star –Ledger- June 12, 2013.

The Department of Children and Families Plans to limit the information it publicly discloses when a child die or suffers life threatening injuries from abuse and neglect

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How Church & State Bigotry Hurts Abused Children

Not just anyone can manage adoption or fostering of children that have been tortured by their caregivers*.

Years of child protection work have proven to me that gay couples are not only wonderful parent choices for abandoned children, but that they may be the very best choice.

As outcasts themselves, the GLBT community knows what frightened and alone means to a child and can relate to fear and anxiety of being different in a harsh environment.

Abused children carry their traumas with them and have mental health issues and behaviors that are often uncontrollable, violent and dangerous to themselves and others.

It takes special people to raise traumatized children.

So when the Church or the State refuse gay couples the right to adopt it eliminates an already inadequate pool of foster/adoption families and leaves abandoned children even more alone and frightened at a time they most need a loving home and family. This is a special kind of cruelty and deserves to be outed. Share this widely.

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