RECENT DOCUMENTARY INTERVIEWS (David Strand)

The most disturbing realization from my interview with David Strand is the difference between America’s loud and persistent rhetoric about how “valuable” our children are and how our public policies actually treat them.

We have the highest rate of child poverty among the industrialized nations, charge 25% of our youth in adult courts (just recently quit executing juveniles), and have no meaningful public policy for child safety outside of the “Imminent Harm Doctrine” (which allows a judge to remove a child when his/her life is endangered by their caregivers).

If you want to know how other industrialized nations value children, ask David Strand. David helped form public policy for children over the ten years he lived in Europe. When he returned to the U.S. he wrote an in depth evaluation of the vast difference in public policy towards children between the U.S. and the other 23 advanced nations that we had historically compared ourselves to. NATION OUT OF STEP was the title of his book and it clearly articulated the falling quality of life measurements resulting from failed or non existent public policies regarding how AMERICA treats its children.

If America wants its schools to compete, prisons and crime to shrink, and build a healthier and more capable citizenry, David makes clear that none of this can happen without functioning public policies that address the safety and well-being of children.

Strand spent time as a volunteer CASA guardian ad-Litem and became familiar with the depth and scope of the problems facing at risk children in his home state (MN). His observations about just how out of whack our public policies are towards children and young families go a long way towards explaining why we have ten times the crime and ten times the prison populations of most other advanced nations. David knows Art Rolnick and Art’s work at the Federal Reserve bank in 2003 defining the high rate of return on investments in programs that promote healthy children.

Perhaps the most painful recognition I came away from this ninety minute interview that it is common for other industrialized nations to use America as an example of what not to do. They don’t want bigger prison systems, more crime and failing schools and they will vote for whatever it takes to not have those our failures.

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RECENT DOCUMENTARY INTERVIEWS (Brandon Stahl)

KARA’s interview of Star Tribune reporter Brandon Stahl was riveting. The discovery process that Brandon followed to unearth the tragedy that was Eric Dean’s life and death is a compelling drama all by itself. When he got to the part about reviewing the autopsy photos of this traumatized and tortured four year old boy Brandon choked up (as did everyone else on the set).

We the public will never see those photos. These pictures were deemed to be too disturbing to print (we need to be protected from the actual photos of what happened to Eric Dean). The public’s memory of little Eric Dean is the smiling boy in colorful clothes with bite marks on his face and a broken arm.

Brandon’s description of the autopsy photos reminded me of the seven year old guardian ad-Litem case child that had spent four years tied to bed, sexually abused, beaten and starved and covered from head to foot with bruises, welts, and cuts when he entered child protection. My little friend is alive today, but he carries his many mental and physical traumas with him every where he goes. None of the horrid stories I encountered as a guardian ad-Litem ever made the paper.

Brandon explained what it’s like to get information from agencies that would rather not give it. He pointed out that the average person would most likely become frustrated and give up as the process is very tedious, very frustrating, and very expensive.
This story would not have ever made the newspaper if the Star Tribune had not supported Brandon with thousands of dollars to spend on the simple information requests that allowed this reporter to piece together the complex series of events that lead to the murder of a four year old little boy over a two year period. Each report of Eric’s abuse (15) by mandated reporters, what steps were taken by the County to see that the child was safe (one ineffective/useless family assessment where the question of whether the boy had been abused was never raised).

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Recent Child Abuse and Child Protection Stories; Arizona/Arkansas

Recent Child Abuse and Child Protection Stories; Arizona/Arkansas
Kids At Risk Action tracks the stories of abused and neglected children and the people, policies and programs that impact them. This is a snapshot of how Arizona and Arkansas value their children.
This is only a small fraction of the stories about the lives of the state’s most vulnerable citizens over the past twelve months.
The vast majority of child abuse and child protection issues are never reported or talked about.
Kids At Risk Action needs an aspiring writer/research to help gather and report on these stories in your state. Contact mike@invisiblechildren.org with REPORTING in the subject line.

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Really Good Child Advocacy Links

AZ: Child abuse isn’t a priority in Arizona
Arizona Daily Star August 31, 2010
Michael is the sixth Pima County child to die in recent years while under the watch of state Child Protective Services. Each killing spurred outrage and demands that things be done better, that children be saved from the relatives who do them harm. “Reforms” were put in place in 2008. Little, it appears, has changed.

http://azstarnet.com/news/opinion/editorial/article_627221d8-c0b6-55f4-b03b-a663abc9e15c.html

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Reading Test Scores & Prison Populations

Two-thirds of students who cannot read proficiently by the end of the 4th grade will end up in jail or on welfare.BegintoRead.com
Urging young people to read more when there is little available to read makes as much sense as urging starving people to eat, when no food is available. Krashen, 2007
In middle-income neighborhoods the ratio of books per child is 13 to 1, in low-income neighborhoods, the ratio is 1 age-appropriate book for every 300 children. Neuman, Susan B. and David K. Dickinson, ed. Handbook of Early Literacy Research, Volume 2. New York, NY: 2006, p. 31.
80% of preschool and after-school programs serving low-income populations have no age-appropriate books for their children

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Rally To Restore Sanity

MN governor Tim Pawlenty said to Andy Dawkins and David Strand several years ago that “Children that are the victims of failed personal responsibility are not my problem or the problem of the state of MN”.

That a major political party would make this a keystone of its platform indicates a gross misunderstanding of the most basic issues facing abused and neglected children. This shows a lack of compassion as well as a misunderstanding of the economics of failing to help children while they are young enough to make a difference in their behaviors and development.

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Raise Your Voice For At Risk Children (Give to the Max Day November 17th)

Thank you all for helping KARA advocate for an end to our public health epidemic child abuse and child trauma. With your help, we are raising awareness for at risk children’s issues and poised and ready to create lasting change.

Like you, I am an advocate. As a founding member of Kids At Risk Action, I have not stopped using my voice for change. And now you can join me in raising your voice by continuing to receive and share our weekly updates, buying KARA’s INVISIBLE CHILDREN book or making a contribution to show your support.

Please consider making a tribute contribution to show your support of those who stand up to say Yes to improving the lives of abused and neglected children.

Best wishes,

Mike Tikkanen

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Race To The Bottom, Untrained Social Workers, Over Work & More Dead & Suffering Children In Indiana

“We have children dying in our region and we are awarded with recognition of system improvement. Really?” he wrote. “The timing of this award is hard to accept given the recent tragic death of 10-year-old Tramelle Sturgis.

“How many more kids will die before we all take a deep look at what is going on with child welfare services in Indiana and reverse the draconian cuts in funding and see how those cuts are negatively affecting the safety net of child welfare?”

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Quality Of Life

There is little that comes easier for a sixty or seventy year old person when it comes to raising children.

The physical and mental demands made on grandparents by their younger charges are tremendous.

From the bottom of my heart, Thank You.

From the rest of us, let’s see to it that they and the children they care for, get adequate help from our communities to make their tasks a little easier and more successful.

Happy Grandparents Day in advance.

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Punishing Traumatized Children (the beatings will continue until the morale improves)

Thank you Chris Serres & Star Tribune for identifying how severely the St Cloud Children’s home for children fails abused and neglected kids.

Children live here because a judge found their birth homes so dangerous that the child needed to be removed from the home and placed at the St Cloud Children’s Home.

Instead of providing a safe haven, this facility has been tagged repeatedly with multiple violations over many years. Children having sex in the presence of a staff member, head banging to the point of black eyes, swollen faces and abrasions.

To put a human face on what these violations look like;
As a volunteer CASA guardian ad litem, one of my 11 year old child protection boys (call him John) was misbehaving at a Cambridge Children’s Home.

John was forced outside by a low paid, undertrained staff member, on a ten degree MN night and told that he would be allowed back inside in an hour.

Instead, John walked home, in a T shirt, on the highway from Cambridge (35 miles). 11 year-old traumatized youth don’t often make good decisions (especially children on multiple psychtropic medications).

John was in child protective services (and this group home) because his father tied him to a bed and left him alone for days without food or water from the ages of four to seven.

John was regularly sexually abused, beaten & starved over 4 years living with his dad. When I met him, this 7 year-old boy was covered in bruises from head to foot and on both sides of his body.

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Punishing The Mentally Ill (Minnesota is not alone)

Today’s Minneapolis Star Tribune article supports a position I’ve held for years. By ignoring or under-serving people with mental health problems we are manufacturing state wards, preteen moms, and felons and this is making our cities dangerous and unsafe.

Our current policies of dumping the mentally ill in detention, jail, and prison places a huge burden on educators & juvenile, criminal justice workers, and especially the families (often grandparents, and foster and adoptive parents) that live with them.

Not much teaching gets done in a classroom populated with disturbed youth on Prozac. Safety and behavior management becomes the teachers primary concern at the expense of educating all the other youth. Our nations miserable graduation and drop out rates, STD rates (we lead the world), and crime rates (we also lead the world) are all tied to how we ignore and under-serve people with mental health issues.

Forcing foster/adoptive parents and service providers (educators, social workers, juvenile & criminal justice workers) to be the front line in managing mental health issues of the children and youth in their charge is an overwhelming task that rarely ends well for the children and youth. These children need professional guidance to overcome the serious issues that have triggered dangerous behaviors and the explosive increase in psychotropic medicating of five and ten year old children in our society.

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