Let’s Start The Conversation

Because we don’t like to talk about it, there is little understanding of the core problems that are driving the terrible statistics of public safety, crime, school performance, and public health (diabetes, obesity, psychotropic medication).

At risk children & their stories are being overwritten by the loud public noise of war, economic distress, and the extremely high volume of mean spirited political rhetoric of today’s media. Kids are really suffering today.

For years, the data reflecting children’s abuse, poverty, sexually transmitted diseases, public safety, health and mental health, child protection, and juvenile justice indicate a significant trend in the wrong direction.

The correlation between juvenile justice and criminal justice has long been established (almost all felons came through the juvenile justice system).

The correlation between child protection services and juvenile justice is less well known, but equally significant.

In the words of MN Supreme Court Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz, “The difference between that poor child and a felon is about eight years” and, “90% of the youth in Juvenile Justice have come through Child Protection Services”.

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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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Crisis Nurseries & Colleges

From the book, How Children Succeed, Paul Tough, I learned that 68% of wealthy high school graduates with at least one parent that had graduated from college went on to achieve their own BA degree, while students in the lowest economic quartile without college graduate parents achieve a BA degree at less than 10%. Gotta admit that is a big spread.

From the Consortium on Chicago Schools Research, one in thirty African American Boys that graduate from Chicago schools will go on to achieve 4 year college degree before they are 25.

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What We Think Of Children In America

In one poor school district in Colorado’s San Luis Valley, students take classes in a bus garage, using plastic sheeting to keep the diesel fumes at bay. In another, there is no more money to tutor young immigrants struggling to read. And just south of Denver, a district where one in four kindergartners is homeless has cut 10 staff positions and is bracing for another cull.

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Children’s Survival Network (watch this)

Friends, this practical approach of the Children’s Survival Network to dealing with child abuse and the misunderstood and underfunded agencies that treat it impresses me greatly.

Watch this brief video & pass it on to your friends;

Children’s Survival Network, Inc.

Thank you Hayley Foster for showing me the Children’s Survival Network.

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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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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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6000 Child Abuse Cases Not Examined In Arizona (putting AZ in 48th place for child well being)

Clarence Carter the Director of AZ Department of Economic Security told the oversight committee that child protection was suffering from lack of funding and resources and has been only investigating the worst of the worst cases.

Skyrocketing case loads and very late (too late in many cases) review of unexamined reports of child abuse make it extremely hard to keep children safe in Arizona, a state that ranks 48th in child well being.

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Pope Blasts Capitalism

In a new Evangelii Gadium, Pope Francis has condemned doctrinaire capitalism, “deified markets,” trickle-down economics, and the finance industry. He decried the growing gap between the rich and the poor, tax evasion by the wealthy, and characterized ruthless free-market economics as a killer that was inherently sinful.

“I am interested only in helping those who are in thrall to an individualistic, indifferent and self-centered mentality to be freed from those unworthy chains and to attain a way of living and thinking which is more humane, noble and fruitful, and which will bring dignity to their presence on this earth,” the pope wrote.

He also launched a broadside against former President Ronald Reagan’s signature economic theory, which continues to serve as conservative Republican dogma.

“Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world,” Pope Francis wrote. “This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.”

The pope lamented that people had “calmly accepted (the) dominion” of money over themselves and society, which he said was expressed in the recent financial crisis and the continuing promotion of consumer-based economies.

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Hana’s Story

Still, the Williams verdict has renewed calls for adoption reform in Washington—which to date seems to be the only state studying adoptee abuse. There is also talk of a federal bill to enhance post-adoption services for families and require better data collection on failed adoptions, and some adoption agencies, including the country’s largest, Bethany Christian Services, have called for action against rehoming. And a new website, Betaseb, is attempting to provide a place for older Ethiopian adoptees to talk with each other privately and learn about their rights.

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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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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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Recruiting Child Soldiers (yes, we do)

The United States is one of two nations that has not signed the International Rights Of the Child Treaty.  The other is Somalia (and it doesn’t have a functioning government).  It is KARA’s position that the primary reason we refuse to sign the treaty is that it includes a prohibition against recruiting child soldiers (and…

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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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Best & Worst States For America’s Children

Where does your state rank in protecting children & what can you do to make improvements. These stories tell the best and worst of what’s happening around the nation (and in Japan)

Worst states;Mississippi, New Mexico, Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, South Carolina

Best states; Vermont, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Connecticut

States News;

Arizona is one of the most dangerous states in the nation to be an abused or neglected child. For years they have not paid attention to beaten, starved, or sexually abused children.

Let’s hope that this new trend sticks; AZ: CPS Crisis: Latest report shows 3298 cases assigned
KPHO Phoenix – December 26, 2013- The head of a newly-appointed team tasked with investigating more than 6,500 ignored child abuse and neglect cases says they’ve now assigned nearly 3,298 of those cases to investigators.
http://www.kpho.com/story/24228667/cps-crisis-latest-report-shows-3298-cases-assigned

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What We Can Learn From Kentucky (kinship rules)

JEFFERSONTOWN, Ky. – In Kentucky, a lot of children are being raised by extended family members: at 6 percent of all kids, it’s one of the highest kinship-care rates in the nation. A new report from Kentucky Youth Advocates outlines what the group says needs to be done to increase support for grandparents and others raising kids who cannot safely live with their parents.

According to Jeanne Miller-Jacobs, who with her husband is raising their three grandkids, more assistance is badly needed.

“The biggest hurdle that we’ve had is misinformation,” she said. When we first got the kids, the financial part of kinship care never came up.”

She said her grandchildren, ages five, three and one, came to live with them because their parents struggle with drug addiction.

Kinship care has doubled in Kentucky in the last decade, and earlier this year, the state stopped taking new applications for its Kinship Care Program, which provides caregivers $10 a day to help meet a child’s basic needs.

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Safe Passage For Children Of MN

The 2014 state legislative session is almost here! It will start on Tuesday February 25th.

Safe Passage for Children is proposing a bill with two provisions. See a summary here.

The legislature plans to get all the bills through the committees and onto the floor of the House and Senate in 3 ½ weeks, so we need to be ready to communicate our support for the bill.

The key events for volunteers will be:

1. Training sessions to prep you for the session (see options below)

2. Visits with your state Representative and Senator.

3. Day on the Hill on Wednesday, March 5th.

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Land Of The Free?

Even if you know that African Americans are arrested at a greater rate than their white counterparts, it’s still a shock to see the scale of the disparity. To wit, according to a new study published in the Journal of Crime & Delinquency, nearly 50 percent of all black males have been arrested by the age of 23. Overall, 30 percent of black men, 26 percent of Latino men, and 22 percent of white men have been arrested by age 18, and those numbers jump—respectively—to 49 percent, 44 percent, and 38 percent after five years.

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Eliminating Child Protection Services In Arizona (will its replacement save the children?)

Governor Brewer has eliminated the states Child Protective Services Department and replaced it with a new division. Is this the silver bullet that will provide some safety to the thousands of AZ children living in horrid circumstances that have been ignored for years now? (6000 cases ignored) (10,000 cases beyond the 60 day investigation limit)

Currently, 1000 caseworkers already have caseloads that are 77 percent above the standard. It does not appear that the general public is mostly unconcerned, and not many legislators seem to be pulling for more child friendly programs. For years now Arizona has largely ignored child protection. It will surprise me if this effort makes much difference.

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Outcomes – Not Reorganization – Safe Passages For Children

I have been part of government reorganizations. People have to redesign logos, develop new civil service positions, decide about fonts for the stationery…. It takes years. In the meantime, programs often tread water.

A better plan is to focus all that energy on improving outcomes. Counties should regularly measure and report how their children are doing regarding mental health, level of trauma, cognitive skills, and physical development.

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Florida, The Land Of Oranges & Prosecuting 14 Year Olds As Adults (sentenced to 70 years – for robbery)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — In decisions widely hailed as milestones, the United States Supreme Court in 2010 and 2012 acted to curtail the use of mandatory life sentences for juveniles, accepting the argument that children, even those who are convicted of murder, are less culpable than adults and usually deserve a chance at redemption.
But most states have taken half measures, at best, to carry out the rulings, which could affect more than 2,000 current inmates and countless more in years to come, according to many youth advocates and legal experts.

“States are going through the motions of compliance,” said Cara H. Drinan, an associate professor of law at the Catholic University of America, “but in an anemic or hyper-technical way that flouts the spirit of the decisions.”

Lawsuits now before Florida’s highest court are among many across the country that demand more robust changes in juvenile justice. One of the Florida suits accuses the state of skirting the ban on life without parole in nonhomicide cases by meting out sentences so staggering that they amount to the same thing.

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