2021 – A More Responsive New Year For At Risk Children

If there is a silver lining in this time of worldwide pain and anxiety, it will be a recognition that rebuilding families is necessary for a healthy community.

Amid the chaos of our pandemic, the trauma and misery of children locked in toxic homes is hard to see. The media, politics and confusion on a worldwide basis are focused on vaccines, reporting and management of this frightening virus.

Struggling families facing poverty, job loss, combative politics, distrust of institutions and the steady increase of COVIDs scary reality need help to survive.

Many moms and dads do not have coping skills for managing the pressure and fear of this moment. Stressed out families drink and drug more, experience more tension, conflict and domestic violence – inflicting severe collateral damage on their children.

If we can grasp the simple reality that “What we do to our children, they will do to our society” (Greek Philosopher Pliny 2000 years ago) America can rebuild communities and a nation that once led the world in quality of life.

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COVID Burnout; Health Care, Teachers, Law enforcement, Social workers & what we could do

Our communities are only as safe and healthy as the institutions that create the environment we live in.

A brief search of front line workers in education, health care, law enforcement or social work shows a growing exodus by retirement, medical leave or just walking away as COVID is making the work they do an even more extreme sacrifice than it was pre pandemic.

For those of us that live with, know or love a person engaged in keeping our children educated or the rest of us safe and healthy,we know the stresses facing these people and the fear and danger of bringing a secondary trauma or risk of COVID home at the end of the shift.

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Good Bye David Strand – Founding KARA Board Member and Best Friend

KARA’s Founding Board member and best friend David Strand has passed away after a long illness.

He brought a wealth of experience, passion and commitment to the cause of America’s abused and neglected children.

David came to know a great deal about how children are treated in other advanced nations because he helped to craft public policies on children’s issues while living and working in Northern Europe.

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Lawsuits and the Death of Two Year Old Arianna Hunziker

Arianna was wrapped in sheets, left alone in a closed room and slowly starved to death. Foster parents Sherrie and Bryce Dirk will go to prison for murdering Arianna. This solves nothing.

There is something terribly disturbing about a State sanctioned foster family starving a 3 year old State Ward child to death that needs to see the light of day.

Arianna must not have had a County social worker (today’s Star Tribune article …

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Schools Closed – What We Need to Know

Poor districts are suffering more domestic violence & substance abuse from from front line worker stress, poverty and job loss making online learning that much harder for children.

Many poor families are crowded into small spaces, lacking necessary internet access and hardware for adequate online learning.

This NY Times article barely acknowledges the social and economic costs of abused and neglected children locked into toxic homes during COVID.  Abused children have no teacher or other mandated reporter to recognize and respond to their traumas.  There is no comparison to having a trusted teacher to privately speak to in school and a video chat with the abuser in the room or nearby.

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Winning the War Against At Risk Children (& saving our city)

and 63 recent car-jackings (over the last 39 days) many include vicious assaults & mostly committed by teens – kids as young as 12, puts the lie to that belief.

For decades, the vast majority of serious and violent crime has been committed by youth and young adults.  In these 63 recent car-jackings, women are beaten, one man was shot dead and another dragged as he tried to stop them from stealing his car with his wife and child inside.

During this time of pandemic and civil unrest, it’s apparent that our city is much more dangerous than it was a year ago.

What is less apparent, are the key drivers that have needed our attention for a very long time that (if addressed) could dramatically reduce the anxiety, violence and unrest in our communities.

Before, when schools, health care and public safety seemed to work, we have had little concern with how or why things work and the luxury of not paying attention to the people, programs and policies involved.

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Child Care – Brutal Truths & Best Practices

Michele Norris Star Tribune article on MN child care is just the tip of this iceberg. Did you know that the U.S. used to have the best and most affordable daycare in the world?

Today, the COVID pandemic has forced many daycare centers to close and others to raise prices significantly due to social distancing and sanitation requirements.

in many states, single Parents pay over 50% of their income for infant center care and married parents with 2 children pay over 100% of their household income for center based care (or they would if they could make it work).  Minnesotans pay over 15 thousand dollars for infant care (when public college tuition is 11 thousand dollars.  20 years ago, there were 34 names on the waiting list for MN’s subsidized daycare.  That ended when the new governor took those state funds away and the list grew to over 7000 families.  Some states have never provided meaningful help for families struggling to afford daycare.

For a nation claiming to value children – one could argue it’s for the dollars they bring in and not their future role as citizens.  Drunk uncle/boyfriend daycare is a growing sadness the media…

For a nation claiming to value children – one could argue it’s for the dollars they bring in and not their future role as citizens. Drunk uncle/boyfriend daycare is an awful thing the media…

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Children, Politics & Voting On Tuesday

Americans have always talked big about supporting equality, keeping children safe, supporting schools & better conditions for young families.

Today, our pro-child, pro-family discourse has become so vicious that many Americans rationalize our government taking immigrant babies and children from their mothers and then losing them so that these mothers may never see their children again.  Children have become political footballs in immigration, education, health care and law enforcement and this should disturb us.

A great deal of money and political will has gone into denigrating immigrants, public schools, teachers and the front-line workers trying to keep children healthy and safe.

Tuesday’s election is about this.

Which candidates support more access and more resources for education, health and mental health and an end to racial injustice?

“What we do to our children, they will do to society” (Greek philosopher Pliny the Elder 79 AD)

Please vote – the next generation needs you to speak for them.

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Restorative Justice – Veterans & Children (saves money and lives)

Woo Hoo – MN passed a restorative justice act for veterans – diverting at-risk veterans toward probation and social service programs instead of jail time when they commit certain crimes.

Why wouldn’t we?

The World Health Organization defines torture as extended exposure to violence and deprivation. Living in a war zone, bombs going off nearby or a buddy shot dead in front of you changes the brain.

Most of us want soldiers that have experienced traumas in the service of this nation to be treated for their mental health issues and have a path to rebuild their lives as productive citizens.

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The Death of Arianna Hunziker & Lawsuits

Arianna Hunziker was “starved, dehydrated, bound, immobilized and abandoned in a home littered in trash and smelling of of urine”.  Foster parents Sherrie and Bryce Dirk went to prison for murdering Arianna.  There is something terribly disturbing about a State sanctioned foster family killing a two year old State Ward child that needs to see the light of day.

The lawsuit in today’s paper points out that another MN community is having a hard time with either the resources, training or protocol for keeping at risk children safe.  Being a foster child should not be one more horrific encounter with child abuse.  It’s plenty hard when your birth parents make your suffering so bad that a judge removes you from their home to place you with a family you have never seen before.

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Child Suicide Reporting (3 weeks ending 10.17.20)

These articles reflect current trends in child suicide & self-harm in America today. Only a fraction of child/youth suicides are successful. The vast majority of self-inflicted harm remains invisible. Mental health services are badly needed by young people today as the COVID pandemic is locking children into toxic homes with little or no access to the adults that could help them.

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Grace’s Story (Thank you ChildrensRights.org)

Grace, a Black 15-year old who was sent to a juvenile detention center for failure to submit schoolwork.

In an email to Grace’s caseworker, her teacher stated that Grace was “not out of alignment with most of my other students.”

Tens of thousands of children have struggled to adjust to the online learning environment the coronavirus created. ProPublica cites 15,000 high schoolers in Los Angeles alone failing to log in or complete schoolwork. Yet, a judge presiding for Oakland County Family Court Division, ruled in May that not completing schoolwork violated Grace’s probation.

It’s impossible to determine the frequency of cases like Grace’s, but one thing is clear. Children’s health and safety must be prioritized. We will continue urging states to stop admissions and to release kids from juvenile facilities. No child should be in juvenile detention for missing homework.

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Policing, COVID & Abused Children (share with your law enforcement contacts & save a child)

Conflicts between officer training and the children they are policing.

Policing youth with mental health problems is a growing problem.  This article sheds light on solutions to this intractable core community problem.

From a law enforcement perspective, police officers are at significant risk for injury and even

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Children & The Supreme Court (from the Children’s Defense Fund)

The impact of the Supreme Court’s decisions in the coming year are huge.  If the Court overturns the ACA, Millions of children will be uninsured or lose affordable coverage that does not meet their pediatric-specific needs.

Children aging out of the foster cares system will lose affordable health coverage, mental health and substance abuse coverage and access to preventative services because of pre-existing conditions and there will lifetime limits on care for the seriously ill.

Foster care children will see the pool of highly qualified foster and adoptive parents shrink if

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Abused Children, COVID & Law enforcement

This article addresses the depth and scope of a problem that has been and still is growing at exponential rates, all over America.
The current approach to policing at risk youth is creating exactly what we want to stop. Even partial success in ending the current model will give results to save us from building more jails and prisons and the steady growth in crime and recidivism rates.

America leads the industrialized world in gun deaths, unsafe streets, prison populations, cost of crime and recidivism rates.

The choice we are facing is imminent.  There is a tipping point that we cannot see, and it is too serious to ignore.

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Criminalizing Elementary School Children (policing our schools & punishment)

Federal Funding, Zero Tolerance and Inadequate Alternatives mean that more states are policing schools with armed officers. Before the 1970’s police were almost absent from elementary and junior high schools.

Today, armed officers are dealing with an escalation of violence and criminal prosecutions for children as young as 6, 7 and 8. Prosecuting kids in place of using resources to help them adapt destroys the fabric of a child’s life and achieves the exact opposite of what children need and society expects from an elementary or junior high school experience.

There are a significant number of us who believe it more important to punish bad behavior in children than it is to help them develop the skills they need to live among us. When these folks hold sway in education, the institution suffers, the child suffers, and the community gains one more troubled adult a few years later. For too long, America has led the world in crime, incarceration, violence and troubled schools. While not the only reason, treating at risk children with behavioral problems as offenders instead of troubled youth has played a big role.

The articles below are obvious examples of policing and education gone wrong. No child should have to live with this kind of institutional abuse. ALL ADULTS ARE THE PROTECTORS OF ALL CHILDREN

When 14-year-old Ryan Turk cut ahead of the lunch line to grab a milk, he didn’t expect to get in trouble. He certainly didn’t plan to end up in handcuffs. But Turk, a black student at Graham Park Middle School, was arrested for disorderly conduct and petty larceny for procuring the 65-cent carton. The state of Virginia is actually prosecuting the case, which went to trial in November.

Changing the rules of the game requires federal, state, and local reforms. With little evidence that police in schools make students safer and plenty that they facilitate harm to students’ liberty and well-being, the Department of Justice should end the cops program’s SRO grants to districts. Taxpayers should not be on the hook for billions that promote unjust school conditions and put kids at greater risk of future involvement with the criminal justice system. And students should feel like they can talk to school officials when they have problems without forfeiting their constitutional rights and winding up in the back of police cars.

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What Child Abuse Looked Like in America Last Week (a snapshot)

Those of us that know about the traumas abused children suffer need to say more if we are ever to reverse the trend of generational child abuse in America. These articles were compiled over the last week. The COVID pandemic has reduced reporting and increased domestic violence & child abuse. Read these short articles and help KARA spread the word about the problems facing at risk children.

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Police vs Social Worker and what happened to an autistic child when the wrong one showed up

Police encounters with mentally ill people can have deadly consequences: according to the nonprofit Treatment Advocacy Center, people suffering from untreated mental illness are 16 times more likely to be killed in interactions with law enforcement. Earlier this month in Utah, a 13-year-old boy with autism was shot several times by police after his mother dialed 911 to request help as her son was experiencing a mental breakdown.

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