Minnesota’s Child Protection Problem (“the deeper you get into it, the worse it is” Hennepin County Commissioner Mike Opat)

Thank you Hennepin County Board for unanimously approving the Governor’s Task Force recommendations for improving Child Protection Services in MN.

Thank you Governor Dayton for your “Colossal Failure” statement about the death of Eric Dean (it launched the important changes we see today), kudos to the Governor’s Task Force for the hard work you have done in bringing more transparency, accountability, and sanity to a system that has been responsible for its own share of child abuse.

Brandon Stahl and the Star Tribune deserve huge credit for a full year of prying open a closed system to get to the sad facts that lead to the repeated abuse and tragic deaths of so many poor and defenseless children in (or should have been in) County Child Protection.

KARA’s hour long video interview of Brandon Stahl gives a pretty good picture of just how insular and uncooperative the system can be to prying eyes (and how much worse it was for Eric Dean than his newspaper articles indicated).

Blaming juvenile justice employees & social workers, educators, health workers, adoptive & foster parents or other worker bees connected to child protection is counter productive and wrong.

Living with and working with abused children with serious behavior issues that are often unpredictable and violent requires more help and training than this community is providing. Psychotropic medications have become a go to answer for a very high percentage of very young children in Child Protection. A Hennepin County Judge shared a very extensive list of children that passed through her courtroom that were required to take these drugs over a year’s time – some as young as 6.

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Minnesota’s Child Endangerment Model (from the Casey Report briefing for Hennepin County commissioners today)

I was moved today when Steve Olson (from Knowledge Management) delivered the Casey Foundations 8 month report and recommendations for Hennepin County child protection at the County Commissioners briefing at the courthouse (listen to it here)

Steve made multiple references to Hennepin County’s “child endangerment” model and how it differs from a “child protection” model. He presented data demonstrating our negative outcome across a broad range of criteria and strikingly, how the County ignores child neglect (unlike the rest of the nation).

I understand the commissioners frustration over how much money (120 million dollars was stated) is spent on CP and how bad the results are. This is a complex set of issues that need thinking at a higher level.

With little measurability, less collaboration, almost no transparency there is only a vague idea of where to put resources and what’s really not working.

Bad results are about all that can happen the way things are today.

Mr Olson spoke of a perceived fear and lack of trust (distrust of peers and staff) within child protection reminding me of the high turnover in this industry in general and just how bad morale and turnover are on both the east and west coasts are.

Defining success and how we measure child safety and killing the current County child endangerment model was a top recommendation.

More community based solutions, involving community stakeholders and redefining what we want for outcomes all make perfect sense to me.

I also resonated with how social workers are also traumatized by their work and by the system and how this undermines the well trained, experienced and committed workers that we need so badly. It’s hard work and we should be striving to make things work better.
It was good to hear it spoken of that allot of the problem is that people don’t talk about the issues due to fear of litigation (and that much of this is overblown). The heart of the matter is that we don’t talk about it and very few people have a clear perspective of the issues.

Now, if policy makers would just get their brain around how important crisis nurseries, quality daycare and other early childhood programs are, we might just begin to break the cycle of abused children becoming problem youth with no parenting skills, trauma based behavioral problems often made worse with drug and alcohol addictions and three or four of their own very young children that will soon be allot like them in so many ways.

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Minnesota’s Chance To Invest In Children & Families (from Governor Mark Dayton’s office)

Free, Full-Day PreK for Every Four-Year-Old – The Governor’s budget would invest $343 million to provide every four-year-old (47,000 kids) access to free, full-day pre-kindergarten learning opportunities statewide.
More Funding for Every School – The Governor’s budget would invest in K-12 schools statewide, increasing the per-pupil funding formula to $5,948 by 2017, and putting additional funding into the special education formula. These new resources would give local school districts the flexibility to meet the needs of their students and classrooms – from lowering class sizes, hiring new counselors, investing in technology, or providing other need programs and services.
Tackling the Achievement Gap – The Governor’s proposal would invest in a multi-layered approach to narrow the state’s achievement gap. It would eliminate the current Head Start waiting list, provide support to help all students read well, target educational support to parents of at-risk children ages 0-8, and more.
Healthy Students – The Governor’s budget would provide free breakfasts for pre-K-3 students, fund in-school programs to improve student behavior, and support parents of at-risk children.
Investing in Higher Education – The Governor’s budget would invest $288 million to freeze tuition at the University of Minnesota and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU), expand the State Grant Program, return the University of Minnesota Medical School to national prominence, and make other needed improvements to higher education.

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Minnesota’s At Risk Children’s News (first 6 months of 2017)

What’s it like to be an abused child in Minnesota? The stories and articles below shine a light on the sadness and traumas faced by five year-olds, infants and other helpless children in our state. These stories are only a tiny percentage of the pain suffered by at risk children in our state. The vast majority of violence against children is unknown outside the family. Share this widely and consider supporting a child friendly legislator or service providing organization with your time or dollars. Be a voice for abused and neglected children (they can’t call their state representative to ask for help – they need us to do it for them).

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Minnesota Still Screening Out Twice the National Average of Child Abuse Reports (thank you Safe Passage for Children)

Even after Governor Dayton’s “Colossal Failure” remarks about ignored reports of child abuse that lead to 4 year old Eric Dean’s tortured murder, a Casey Foundation report outlining the importance of changing DHS intake protocol for child abuse cases & the agreed upon recommendations of the Governor’s Task Force on child protection – Minnesota is still screening out twice the number of child abuse cases seen in the rest of the county.

It is also unconscionable that today 100 current child protection case children are without guardian ad-Litems in the courts (check out the guardian ad-Litem program) we need volunteers – know anyone?

The CASA program received no consideration in the reports or recommendations. It’s hard enough for a child to go through child protection with a guardian ad-Litem speaking for them. To not have that volunteer voice makes the experience more isolating is doubly painful and just wrong.

Brandon Stahl’s dogged reporting at the Star Tribune brought our attention to the painful and dangerous lives abused children lead and how badly they need our help.

If Minnesota Governor Dayton’s, the Casey Foundation’s (MN Child Endangerment Model) & the Task Force changes do not come now with this attention, in a few years the changes will be largely forgotten.

Will the four MN counties that were screening out 90% of child abuse cases when Eric Dean died be screening out 92% and the over use of the assessment tool (where the child’s well being is most often not referred to) revert to being as common as it was?

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Minnesota Child Protection Stories September 2016

Protesters call for boycott of Varsity Theater, Loring Pasta Bar
Minnesota Daily
The protest was meant to educate the campus community of sexual abuse … The lawsuits were filed under the Child Victims Act, which extended the … any of it,” said first-year University of Minnesota neuroscience student Mary Ellen …
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Mother and boyfriend charged in MN toddler’s death
KFGO
ANOKA, Minn. (AP) – Authorities have filed charges against the mother of a Blaine toddler who died and her boyfriend. Anoka County Attorney Tony …
Couple charged in child death – Valley News Live
Two adults charged in connection with toddler’s death – White Bear Press
Full Coverage
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Charges filed in murder of Blaine, Minnesota toddler
KMSP-TV
A man wanted in the murder of a toddler and kidnapping of a 5-year-old girl in Blaine, Minnesota was arrested Wednesday morning by the Missouri …
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Around the state: Mother, boyfriend charged in toddler’s death
Post-Bulletin
MINNEAPOLIS — A trial in Minnesota district court will test whether suburban … The toddler died at the scene from injuries that authorities say were …
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Minnesota Child Protection News March 2017

MN Child Protection News March 2017
KARA gathers news about abused Minnesota’s abused children every month and provides a snapshot of Child Protection and how our state values its children.
If you are an aspiring writer/reporter, KARA needs you to help gather and report on these stories.
Contact mike@invisiblechildren.org with REPORTING in the subject line.
All Adults Are the Protectors of All Children
Follow;
Safe Passage For Children MN (Join them and make child friendly legislation a reality)

CASAMN (become a guardian ad Litem and speak for abused children)
KARA Star Tribune Articles; Child Protection Who Will Speak For Children?

KARA Star Tribune Articles; Child Protection Who Will Speak For Children?

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Minnesota Child Protection News January & February 2017

Man In Custody Following Death Of Eagan Woman, Unborn Child
CBS Local
“We are devastated at the tragic death of my daughter Senicha and her unborn son. She was a loving, kind, smart and beautiful young woman who …
Woman killed in Eagan home ID’d; her 32-week fetus also died – Minneapolis Star Tribune
Full Coverage
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Pregnant woman found dead in Eagan townhome was ‘excited to be a mother’
TwinCities.com-Pioneer Press
Pregnant woman found dead in Eagan townhome was ‘excited to be a mother’ … Lane, a neighborhood east of Minnesota 13 and south of Lone Oak Road. … “We are devastated at the tragic death of my daughter Senicha and her …
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Minnesota Child Protection News For March 2016

March 20, 2016. Princeton, MN.

Michael S. Gunderson sentenced for two counts of felony child neglect after his two sons (aged 2 and 3) were hospitalized for severe malnutrition.

http://www.startribune.com/jail-for-dad-who-left-alone-his-starving-2-and-3-year-old-boys-in-filthy-home/372830791/

March 12, 2016. Red Wing, MN.

Sammy Antonio White sentenced to 13 years in prison for physical and sexual child abuse spanning two years.

http://www.republican-eagle.com/news/crime-and-courts/3985166-red-wing-man-gets-13-years-abuse-case

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Minnesota Child Protection News August 2016

  KARA gathers news about abused Minnesota’s abused children every month and works to provide a snapshot of Child Protection and how our state values its children. If you are an aspiring writer/reporter, KARA needs you to help gather and report on these stories.  Contact mike@invisiblechildren.org with REPORTING in the subject line. All Adults Are…

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Minnesota Child Protection News April/May 2017

Kids At Risk Acton gathers news about abused Minnesota’s abused children monthy and provides a snapshot of Child Protection to demonstrate how our state values its children.

If you are an aspiring writer/reporter, KARA needs you to help gather and report on these stories.

Contact mike@invisiblechildren.org with REPORTING in the subject line.

All Adults Are the Protectors of All Children

Follow;

Safe Passage For Children MN (Join them and make child friendly legislation a reality)

CASAMN (become a guardian ad Litem and speak for abused children)

All Adults Are the Protectors of All Children

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Minnesota Child Protection News April & May 2016

Minnesota Vikings’ Adrian Peterson teams with Salvation Army in relief efforts for flood-ravaged …

FOXSports.com

… and the town also wrapped its collective arms around him when he missed most of the 2014 season while dealing with child abuse charges.

Claims of child maltreatment, meager staff training and inadequate programs at Mesabi Academy

Minnesota Public Radio News

Only one would take him: Mesabi Academy in Buhl, on Minnesota’s Iron … It also houses vulnerable children in need of protection from parents or …

In Minnesota, 100s Take Opportunity to Sue Over Sex Abuse

ABC News

It’s been nearly three years since Minnesota opened a path for lawsuits by victims of long-ago childhood sexual abuse. In that time, more than 800 …

Another St. John’s Priest Accused Of Abuse

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Minnesota Can Set A National Example Of How Child Protection Works (Bravo Task Force and Governor Dayton)

Roses on WallGovernor Dayton’s Task Force on Child Protection is off to a great start. Thank you Rich Gehrman and all the other Task Force members working hard to make children safe in our state.

You can read the complete recommendations of the Task Force here (22 pages). You can follow it even a little more closely at Safe Passage For Children here

I’m celebrating the recommendation for transparency,

More effective audits,

Eliminating the preference for “assessment” (not finding out if the child is being abused) over “investigation” (finding out if the child is being abused),

Creating a common framework for decision making for the reporting of child abuse,

Eliminating the awful law barring prior screened out reports (they should be permitted and encouraged and maintained for five years),

Including child safety as the PARAMOUNT consideration for decision making,

Sending all reports of maltreatment to law enforcement, and allowing screeners to seek collateral information when making decisions.

These are all in the Task Force Recommendations.

Friends of KARA, Let’s all follow this to the implementation of these recommendations Copy/steal from me any/all of this info and provide it to your friends and networks. These changes must happen if children are to be safe in MN. Let’s make Minnesota an example of how children to keep children safe and well in this nation.

Join KARA & Stand Up For Children

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Minnesota At Risk Children’s News October 2016

Teen Arrested In Mpls. Shooting That Killed Man, Baby
CBS Local
Teen Arrested In Mpls. Shooting That Killed Man, Baby … Minnesota History Center Highlights Football Past, Present And FutureThe Minnesota …
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Lakeville parents charged with child neglect
Minnesota Public Radio News
A couple that was reported missing from Lakeville last week has been charged with neglecting their two young children during the five days they spent …
Charges: Minnesota parents lived in car 5 days, didn’t bathe or feed 2 boys – Duluth News Tribune
Full Coverage
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Minnesota At Risk Children’s News November 2016

Recommendations Announced For Improving Child Services
CBS Local
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Hennepin County leaders are making new recommendations to help protect children in Minnesota. A child protection …
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Hennepin County discussing $26 million child protection plan that would add nearly 250 new staffers
Minneapolis Star Tribune
No longer would children need to endure maltreatment before they get social services in Minnesota’s most populous county. … Hennepin County has had 15,400 child protection reports so far this year, but county leaders expect to …
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Hennepin County shifts child protection mission with new model
Minneapolis Star Tribune
No longer will a child need to endure maltreatment before they get social services in Minnesota’s most populous county, an unprecedented step in the …
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Minnesota At Risk Children’s News June 2016

Child Victims Act expires, but effects remain to be seen

Duluth News Tribune

The U.S. Bankruptcy Court reported that 125 abuse claims were filed … It’s been a little more than a week since the Minnesota Child Victims Act …

Sacred Heart sued in clergy sexual abuse case dating back to 1960s

Grand Forks Herald

Sacred Heart in East Grand Forks is joining a growing list of Minnesota Catholic entities sued for clergy accused of sexual abusing children.

A Minnesota school pulls bait-and-switch while pretending to protect transgender students

Daily Kos

On the surface, Nova Classical Academy in St. Paul, Minnesota, has … the Minnesota Family Council and the Minnesota Child Protection League to …

Man, 82, to pay four female family members $150K sexual abuse settlement

Grand Forks Herald

The lawsuit was possible because of the Minnesota Child Victim Act, a 2013 law that temporarily waived the statute of limitations in child sex abuse …

Charges: ND Woman Leaves 2 Kids In Home Without Plumbing

CBS Local

Forty-nine-year-old Antoinette Liggett recently pleaded guilty to a felony child neglect charge. Her sentence includes about four months at a re-entry …

Spike in abuse reports overwhelms Hennepin County child protection system

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Minnesota At Risk Children’s News December 2016

Brandon Stahl Reporting KARA gathers news about abused Minnesota’s abused children every month and works to provide a snapshot of Child Protection and how our state values its children. If you are an aspiring writer/reporter, KARA needs you to help gather and report on these stories.  Contact mike@invisiblechildren.org with REPORTING in the subject line. All…

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