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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State Ward Children As Medical Guinea Pigs (or parents withholding medical treatment for religious reasons?)

Justina Pelletier’s sad case of medical experimentation on state wards in Massachusetts and the religious freedom to deny children with treatable diseases medical care in so many states, proves the awful truth that children have no significant rights in this nation. Almost five hundred children have died in Florida after DHS contact, more than seventy children died in California from 2008 to 2011, and the Governor of Kentucky (Steve Beshear) hid the evidence of dozens of children murdered by their parents.

Consider that

* thousands of five, six, and seven year old children in child protective services in this nation are prescribed psychotropic medications to mask their terrible behavioral problems (generally without any significant therapy), &

* the explosive growth of privatized detention centers and prisons that provide inadequate and poorly supervised services for at risk youth which has lead to the exponential growth of prison populations and preteen moms,

and the picture of how America values its children becomes pretty gloomy.

That America pays day care workers about the same as it pays food service workers really shows the low value of our youngest citizens. Most other industrialized nations demand more training and credentials of their daycare workers and they pay them more (a genuine indication that children have value in those societies).

State ward children used as guinea pigs in medical experimentation needs way more scrutiny than it receives as does the consumption of Prozac like drugs on very young children.

America’s youngest citizens need more rights to safety, health, and well-being (sign our pet

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CASA Guardian ad-Litem News (updates from around the nation)

Lawyers to become ‘eyes and ears’ of judges in new Family Law Guardian ad Litem pilot program
Bradenton Herald
More than two dozen lawyers from the Icard Merrill law firm have signed up to be guardians ad litem as part of a new Family Law Guardian ad Litem …

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Volunteers make a difference in children’s lives
MiamiHerald.com
The Guardian ad Litem Program, a volunteer-based organization, works to advocate for the best interests of our communities’ most vulnerable …

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Lombard Family Law Firm Relocates and Expands Office
Insurance News Net
O’Connell is a court-approved Guardian ad litem for the Eighteenth Judicial District. Lombard family attorneys Angel M. Traub, Chantelle A. Porter, …

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Jamie B. Schwinghamer Appointed to Board of Directors for Voices for Kids of Southwest Florida, Inc.
Naples Daily News
VFK supports the Guardian ad Litem (GAL) Program of the 20th Judicial Circuit, which recruits and trains volunteer child advocates to represent …

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Tallmadge resident Kim Ray named Juvenile Court Volunteer of the Year
Tallmadge Express
She was told that someone who works in the court-based Court Appointed Special Advocate/Guardian ad Litem (CASA/GAL) Program was receiving …

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New law gives voice to neglected, abused kids
Cherokee Tribune
The guardian ad litem determines the child’s best interests through guidelines in the new juvenile code, training and experience and, to some extent, …

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Attorneys argue Vidinhar hearing closure
Standard-Examiner
Second District Juvenile Court Judge Janice Frost heard oral arguments from Aza Vidinhar’s attorney and guardian ad litem, as well as from an …

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Elise Patkotak: Because of FASD, justice takes time in Barrow courtroom
Anchorage Daily News
There was a long time when I was a guardian ad litem with the Barrow court overseeing cases involving children in state custody. I still occasionally …

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Man sentenced for threatening daughter’s foster parents, others
The Northwest Florida Daily News
He then began calling the girl’s foster parents, their minor child, the girl’s dependency placement counselor, the girl’s guardian ad-litem and relatives of …

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Brutal Truths and Worst Practices (America’s injustice System)

One out of 28 American children has a parent in jail or prison – 60 percent of inmates are people of color (only 30% of America’s population are people of color). There are twelve time more drug offenders in state prisons than there were in 1980.

25% of American youth are charged in adult courts & many ten or twelve years old children are tried as adults. About ten thousand juveniles are housed in adult prisons and jails every day. 2/3 of those youth suffer from mental health issues and half that number have multiple and serious diagnosis.

Seven of ten of these youth have seen someone killed or severely injured and three of ten have attempted suicide. My first visit to a CASA guardian ad-Litem four year old was at the suicide ward of Fairview hospital in Minneapolis. The thoughts of killing yourself start young in at risk youth. Jeff Weise had been talking and writing about it before he killed his grandfather and fourteen others before killing himself.

And we wonder where the violence on our streets and in our schools comes from.

Black men born in 2001 have a 33% chance of incarceration and black youth are five times more likely to be arrested than white youth.

2/3 of America’s prisoners recycle within 3 years of being released Our recidivism rates are soon to exceed 70%.

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Child Welfare In The News (find your state here – some international)

FL: Daniel Kids offering foster care training classes: More than 8,000 children are currently in Florida foster care (Includes video)
News 4 Jax – June 01, 2014
Here in Florida there are over 8,000 children currently in foster care. There are many ways for the community to get involved and help these kids who are in transition from foster or adoptive parents to volunteers and mentors. There’s one group of children who need a special type of foster care.
http://www.news4jax.com/news/daniel-kids-offering-foster-care-training-classes/26275402

FL: How DCF kept 30 child deaths off the books
Miami Herald – June 01, 2014
Documents obtained after Innocents Lost was published show that starting at least as early as last November, as the Herald was grilling DCF on its problems in preventing the deaths of children under its watch, one branch of the agency deliberately kept as many as 30 deaths off the books – ensuring they would not be included in the published tally.
http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/06/01/4151260/how-dcf-kept-30-child-deaths-off.html

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Kilah’s Law

In May of 2012, at the tender age of 3, Kilah Davenport was cruelly beat by her stepfather. She had to have emergency brain surgery that involved removing a portion of her skull to relieve swelling on her brain but was still left with permanent brain damage and in a wheelchair. The injuries she sustained caused complications that led to Kilah’s death in March of 2014, just a few weeks before her 5th birthday.

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Celebrate Safe Passage Child Friendly Legislation Signed Into Law

Congratulations Rich Gehrman and Safe Passage For Children for your effective and important work making life better for Minnesota’s at risk youth. Today, Governor Dayton signed your legislation into law. Omnibus Bill HF 2402 sets higher standards for counties keeping track of child abuse reports. A big and successful effort and it will make a big difference to our state’s most vulnerable children. Best wishes to you in all your future efforts.

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Fumbled Child Protection Warnings Cost Children Their LIves (thank you Brandon Stahl- Star Tribune)

Seven children died last year from abuse or neglect despite prior knowledge by Minnesota child protection agencies that their lives were at risk, records provided to the Star Tribune show.

That total is the highest in the state’s records, which go back to 2005. The Department of Human Services said it will study each case to probe whether county social workers missed chances to save the child, but an initial review has found that some counties could have done more.

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How America Treats Its Children – foster care

The last big study on foster care demonstrated that 80% of youth aging out were leading dysfunctional lives. A 2010 Casey Family study found that one in three former foster children reported being abused by an adult in the foster home. The article most of the following information comes from (and copied below) is a powerful and thorough review of how the American foster care system works.

As a long time CASA guardian ad-Litem, I have found these stories to be compelling and accurate. One of my own guardian ad-Litem boys walked home 35 miles on a ten degree MN winter night in a T shirt, because he was so poorly treated in a privatized group home.

Foster children are 12 time more likely to use psychotropic medications than other low-income children and suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as Iraqi war veterans.

33 percent of adult foster care alumni had not health care, 81% of all male foster care alumni had been arrested once, and 35% incarcerated and suffered exponentially worse in the areas of;

PTSD: 25% / 4.5%
Depression: 24.3% / 10.6%
Anxiety: 43% / 5.1%
Addiction/alcoholism: 11.1% / 2.5%
Males convicted of a crime: 60% / 10%
Homeless for more than one day: 22% / 2%.

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MN Public TV / KARA Partnership (bringing attention to the issues of abused & neglected children)

MN Public TV is partnering with KARA for a once in a lifetime opportunity to improve the lives of abused and neglected children. To do this we need your help.

KIDS AT RISK ACTION (501(c)3 non-profit, is partnering with Minnesota Public Television (TPT) to tell the INVISIBLE CHILDREN’s story through compelling interviews with children and adults within the world of child protection. KARA needs your support and asks for your gift to help make this project happen.

Larger donors will be featured on the program, invited to the pre-screening party at TPT (St. Paul), and receive priority consideration for all new projects as they develop. This project will be a big part of our ongoing efforts at KARA.

Donate Button or Contact me directly to help KARA complete this project mike@invisiblechildren.org

Program purpose; Create awareness of the critical issues impacting at risk children & identifying how to break the cycle of child abuse and neglect.
Program themes; Mental health and coping skills, and the basic rights of children to safety, healthcare, and education.
Program production; Experts and personal stories of children and adults within the child protection system.
Program look and sound; Serious and inspiring
Target audience; General public with attention to legislators, and everyone touched by our child protection system

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How America Treats Its Children

The recent International Labor Organization study proves that the U.S. is one of three nations on the planet that does not provide some kind of monetary payment to new mothers who’ve taken maternity leave from work. America also provides the least amount of maternity leave among the industrialized (and many emerging and third world) nations.

That is what we think of children in America. New Zealand and Norway provide up to 14 weeks of paid leave, and 70 nations provide paid leave for fathers.

In America, we pay our daycare workers what we pay food service workers (the lowest paid people in the nation) and have almost no requirements for education or training for the difficult and important task of raising our youngest citizens.

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Children In The News (update),

MI: Littlest victims: Here’s one easy way you can (and should) fight child abuse (Includes Video)
mLive – May 01, 2014
This video, titled Make the Call, is a community effort to encourage people to make that call.
http://www.mlive.com/news/flint/index.ssf/2014/05/littlest_victims_heres_one_eas.html

MI: DHS Launches new Child Welfare Software
MI News 26 – April 30, 2014
The DHS used a “soft launch” to debut the new (Michigan Statewide Automated Child Welfare Information System) on Wednesday morning.
http://www.minews26.com/content/?p=31172

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Speaking For The Weakest & Most Vulnerable Among Us – Star Tribune Articles

It hurts me to see people in high positions who are responsible for child protection make claims that there’s nothing to see here, things are just fine, child protection is working as it needs to (“Counties are committed to safety of kids,” April 25).

There is very little fine about it, and by accident or by design, information about it is hard to find and rarely published. By almost any measure and from my perspective over many years as a volunteer guardian ad litem within the system, there are not enough resources, record keeping is poor, child protection cases need to be over the top to get into the system, and children stand only a small chance of getting what they need to recover from the years of abuse and neglect they have suffered.

Things have gotten worse since Minnesota went from screening out one-third of the cases to screening out two-thirds. Screening out 90 percent of cases (as four Minnesota counties do) is a very big deal.

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Another Happy CASA Story

A couple of weeks ago at an “Everyday Courage” event sponsored by the California Endowment I met a very caring and compassionate woman named Rosa Arevalo. Rosa works for CASA of Los Angeles a non-profit organization that recruits, trains, and supports CASA volunteers(Court Appointed Special Advocates) to transform the lives of abused and neglected children. It is the only organization in Los Angeles County providing court-assigned volunteer advocates serving foster children in the dependency court.

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Great News For Colorado’s At Risk Children (child abuse data is now public – people will become aware)

DENVER (AP) – Colorado has created a website that provides the public with child-protection and child-abuse information for each county, the latest in a series of reforms that follow a number of child deaths in the state.

According to reports, 202 children died of abuse or neglect between 2007 and 2013 in Colorado. Among those, 75 had parents or caregivers who were known to the child-welfare system before the child’s death.

“At the end of the day, the goal is to be transparent with the public and to keep our families safe and healthy,” said Julie Krow, director of the Office of Youth and Families in the Colorado Department of Human Services. “This is something we can’t do alone. We need our community to help us.”

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More Attention To Children’s Issues (the only way to make their lives better)

Sare the information discovered by Star Tribune writer Brandon Stahl in this article (and his future writings on the topic) with your social media and friends. The more people understand the core issues, the greater the chance that legislators will respond to an educated populace and make the lives of abused and neglected children a little better.

Minnesota now screens out more child abuse cases than 47 other states (this is a terrible fact if you are an abused child).

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Snapshot On Florida’s Child Protection System (or what’s not working)

In the wake of a bloody year for Florida youngsters, lawmakers have pledged to repair the state’s frayed safety net for abused and neglected children.

But as the state’s annual legislative session winds toward the final gavel, many children’s advocates say legislative leaders have failed to match their words with action and fear some proposals may create new problems.

Gov. Rick Scott has proposed spending $39 million to hire 400 “boots on the ground,” or child abuse investigators who will respond to hotline reports and identify at-risk kids. But investigators typically work with a family for 60 days or less, and then families in need of follow-up help are sent to privately run local agencies.

Those agencies, the governor says, don’t need new money. The agencies counter that if the governor’s plan goes through, their already-backlogged caseloads will swell and families will compete for the services they need to keep children safe. They are asking for $25.4 million more.

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Years Of Ignored Child Abuse In Arizona (why should we care?)

Charles Flanagan, head of the new Division of Child Safety and Family Services, said five were people working for him who were found to have been instrumental in crafting and implementing a policy that resulted in ignoring state laws which require all complaints be investigated.

Flanagan said the firing came after review of an extensive investigation conducted by the state Department of Public Safetyof exactly who was accountable for ignoring the law. He said these are the people most responsible.

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This Week’s News For At Risk Children

VA: State finds Richmond DSS not at fault in two child deaths
WTVR – April 18, 2014
A review conducted by Virginia’s Department of Social Services determined Richmond’s Department of Social Services (RDSS) did not contribute to the death of two children known to RDSS last year. VDSS is reviewing what happened to five children who died since April of last year and were known to RDSS at some point.
https://wtvr.com/2014/04/18/state-finds-richmond-dss-not-at-fault-in-two-child-deaths/

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See No Evil – 90% Of Child Abuse Reports Screened Out In Minnesota Counties (Red Lake, Wilkin, LeSeur, Waseca)

Today’s Star Tribune *article draws attention to the thousands of children that are neglected, abused, traumatized enough to be seen and reported by others. The vast majority of child abuse is never seen and never reported.

Minnesota, decided that denying children safety saves money. Statewide our screened out average is 71% compared to the national average of 38%. It is one thing to read about the horrid conditions facing babies and children, another to meet the child and see what sex, starvation, neglect, or other forms of violence actually does to a 5 or 10 year old child

I’ve written about the 7 year old foster child that hung himself and left a note about Prozac and visited a 4 year old in a hospital suicide ward.

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Yesterday’s State Of The Child Summit (Children In Legal Proceedings) at Hamline University

It was the simple truths that struck me hardest as I listened to the Hamline University presenters yesterday. I was reminded of MN’s former Supreme Court Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz statement that “90% of the youth in juvenile justice have come through child protection”, and that, ” The difference between that poor child and a felon, is about eight years”. The pipeline to prison starts here.

Behavior problems in schools are not well served by hiring more police officers. As a long time guardian ad-Litem, it is apparent to me how authority figures are viewed by abused and neglected children (a big segment of the behavioral problems at school). It has hurt me to see well meaning officers treated horridly by abused children through no fault of their own. Traumatized kids lash out at authority and take no prisoners. This gets them in big trouble and their behavior problems get worse, not better. Police interactions are often just one more trauma to be suffered by an abused child. Don’t blame the police – they didn’t set this system up.

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CASA Guardian ad-Litem Distinctions (clarity on different kinds of guardian ad-Litems)

There are three very different kinds of guardian ad-Litem; Volunteer, Staff, and Lawyer.

1) Volunteer CASA GALs generally take just a few cases and get to know the families and children in the court proceedings very well. CASA stands for, Court Appointed Special Advocate. as a CASA GAL, I had fifty children in my case load over twelve years. Some of those children stayed with me over the entire twelve years. I knew them and their families very well.

2) Staff GALs are given case loads similar to case loads that social workers are given. In my experience, staff GALs have more cases and less time per child/case.

3) Attorneys are paid by the County or by the parent depending on the state. In my experience, attorneys rarely visit the family, and generally meet the child for the first time at court.

Feel free to add clarifications to this posting if I’ve missed something or you disagree with me.

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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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Thank You Safe Passage For Children

As a long time CASA guardian ad-Litem who finds it impossible to believe that the depth and scope of child abuse in my community (both local and national) is largely unspoken until some poor child is found in a dumpster or has his brains bashed out against a wall by a caregiver, I am excited by the efforts to quantify these sad facts by Safe Passages For Children.

It is precisely because we don’t keep track, or if we do, don’t publish the mountain of unhappy things happening to our children. If these things were recorded, reported, and discussed, our institutions could function more effectively and children would be much safer and happier.

What follows is a major effort by Rich Gehrman and Safe Passages For Children to identify the tip of this iceberg (thank you Rich and company)

Please sign our petition for safe and healthy MN children (even if you are not from MN)

Petition to make health, education, and well being available to all MN children

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