Big Pharma vs. 5 Year Olds (and the loser is,)

Today’s in-depth article on the billions of dollars in fines and judgments paid out by big drug companies on civil and criminal complaints for promoting drugs (not even established as safe and effective for adults) to pediatricians & school guidance counselors) for use by children needs to be understood and taken a step further.

From this guardian ad-Litems perspective, the most serious drug abuse facing America are the psychotropic medications being prescribed to children (even three and four year olds). The side effects can be awful, the drugs often cause more harm than good and seldom does adequate therapy accompany drug usage.

Johnson & Johnson has settled thousands of cases for their “illicit promotion of Risperdal” (3 billion dollars) and are currently litigating over four thousand cases (and only a fraction of damaged people ever sue).

The safety and efficacy of Risperdal was promoted for use by children when it had not even been established that it was safe or effective in adults and J&J will continue to sell these drugs, lose these lawsuits and make boatloads of money.

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Thank You Prairie Care & Washburn Center For Children’s Mental Health (the uphill battle in addressing children’s mental health in Minnesota)

Prairie Care’s new 50 bed hospital for Children’s mental health is a tiny step in providing badly needed services for the traumatized children passing through Minnesota institutions.

HCMC alone sees 800 to 1000 emergency psychiatric visits each month and many of them are traumatized children. I’m guessing that an equal number of terrifically disturbed youth get no help at all in our state because there are no children’s mental health hospitals where they live.

The disparity between available beds and needy children will remain huge with this addition but it’s a nice thought that it signals a trend towards valuing the well being of the youngest and most vulnerable among us.

Would six year old foster child Kendrea Johnson have hung herself last year by her jump rope if child protection services had identified her level of trauma and provided access to the most current pediatric mental health care? As it was, her social worker did not know she was seeing a therapist and the police and medical examiner proclaimed that six year old children were incapable of suicide (little do they know).

Would Jeff Weise have killed all those people and himself at Red Lake a few years ago if someone had read his blog or heard his cries for help and brought him to Prairie Care, Washburn Center or other advanced treatment facilities? His mother told him she “wished he’d never been born” and his homicidal/suicidal blog writings were ample warning that the boy needed help. After the tragedy, Red Lake built a mental health facility in town.

Michael Swanson’s mom tried desperately for years to find help for her terribly disturbed son prior to his killing of Sheila Myers & Vicky Bowman-Hall – two random and innocent Iowa grocery clerks.

In my experience as a volunteer guardian ad-Litem, I had many personal, painful encounters with suicidal very young children. My first visit to a four year old state ward girl was at the suicide ward of Fairview hospital. A reason for my becoming a guardian ad-Litem was the tragedy a dear friend lived after adopting a homicidal state ward boy.

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Fines and Judgements For Child Protection Failures (millions of $ badly spent)

Over the past few years the states of Washington (144 million dollars) and Indiana have been sued successfully for many millions of dollars for failing to protect abused and neglected children.

In Arizona, the over 6600 child abuse reports ignored by social workers prompted a class action lawsuit, Texas and New York have similar lawsuits in play, MN has been fined almost a million dollars for failing to meet federal standards for abused children re-entering child protection (MN has twice the national average) the child protection system was called a “Colossal Failure” by the Governor in the slow tortured death of 4 year-old Eric Dean and a dozen other states are facing embarrassing examples of cruelty to children and juveniles because of bad public policies.

Children in these states have been tortured, starved, murdered and raped while being cared for in overburdened Child Protection systems. The consequences of child abuse are immense and lasting for children and the fact that a community would fail to help their tortured children is barbaric.

These lawsuits are remarkable in that suing a governmental body is almost impossible because Federal, State and Local agencies are almost immune to being sued.

When lawsuits do succeed, you know that the case was overwhelming and represented just the tip of a very big iceberg of the kinds of violence being done to children in our under-appreciated and poorly understood child protection systems.

I say “Poorly understood” as it is my belief that no community, especially my community, would ignore the cries of raped, tortured and murdered children.

I refuse to believe that any community in America willfully continues to avoid fixing the institutional failures that are so painful for the children affected and the people involved in the system.

Politicians especially should understand and address the lifetimes costs in dollars and quality of life that millions of dysfunctional citizens are having on our schools, public safety and prisons.

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Child Death and Child Abuse Articles (for August 2015 – find your state/country here)

CA: County responses unacceptable (Opinion)
Ukiah Daily Journal – August 02, 2015
The Mendocino County Health and Human Services Agency’s response to the Grand Jury is one of the most twisted documents I have ever read. So, I took a few minutes to sort things out and get rid of some the wool they are trying to pull over everyone’s eyes.
http://www.ukiahdailyjournal.com/opinion/20150802/county-responses-unacceptable

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MN CASA Guardian ad-Litem Program Needs Volunteers (do you know someone?)

In Minnesota, a shortage of volunteer guardians ad-Litems means that today there are 100 children in child protection without a volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocate to represent them in their child protection case.

The terrible deaths of 4 year old Eric Dean and too many other very young children in our state prompted Governor Dayton to form a task force that brought media attention to the serious flaws in the system.

All of this publicity has raised public awareness to child abuse and neglect and significantly increased the number of children reported to Child Protection.

Fortunately, Social Services received additional funding to hire 100 more social workers, but the CASA guardian ad-Litem program did not get a budget increase and must handle this big caseload increase without additional help.

Will you tell your friends about the guardian ad Litem program and help us find the volunteers these abused and neglected children need to have a strong voice in the system.

It’s the most rewarding and necessary volunteer program you will ever be a part of (just ask a child that has had the painful experience of being involved in Child Protection).

Please share this with your friends and networks. CASA guardian ad-Litem Volunteer Link Minnesota

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The Power of Coping Skills & Life Without Them

A sad personal email this morning from a grieving mother has caused me to reflect on friends who ended their own lives and the four, five and six year old children I have known, or known about, who tried or succeeded at suicide.

My cousin Ron Mahla (Actor and brilliant person) and my dear friend Tommy Garretson (Vietnam War Vet with a winning smile and great sense of humor) were both gentle and bright souls that were squeezed to death by sadness and a growing inability to cope with their lives.

In both deaths, I’m almost certain that neither told anyone or thought to get help to cope with the events in their lives (there were no signs of impending suicide).

Coping skills are everything. Have them and we can make it – without them, we are at risk.

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Imprisoned Judges & Police Officers In Pennsylvania (still sending innocent people to jail – by the thousands)

1000 year old Darth VaderThis Pennsylvania sad story of six police officers beating and robbing suspects, planting evidence and doctoring paperwork to obtain over 560 false convictions (that are now being vacated) follows on the heels of the State’s recent incarceration of two Pennsylvania judges for over 4000 false convictions that sent thousands of innocent juveniles to jail because millions of dollars in cash bribes were paid them by privatized prison businesses (more about Pennsylvania judges).

This should cause us all to appreciate the value of transparent and accountable public service institutions.

Just a tiny percentage of creepy court and police officials can ruin the lives of thousands of innocent

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How We Punish – And What It Does To Children & Our Community

For many years, we have fed younger and younger people into our Criminal Justice System and gotten the same results over and over again as children graduate into the Criminal Justice System with a recidivism rate that may soon exceed 70% (Juvenile Justice recidivism is not tracked in 11 states and narrowly tracked elsewhere).

Evidence overwhelmingly indicates that abused and neglected children, mostly from families suffering from generation after generation of child abuse, fuel the furnace of the Juvenile Justice System. It has become common to charge 12 and 13 year old children as adults in the Criminal Justice System, some as young as 8 years old. Pennsylvania recently charged a 10 year old as an adult.

3000 children have been sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, some as young as 13 (sentenced to die in prison).

Yesterday’s article on tasing 3rd graders & expelling preschoolers at many times the rate of other industrialized nations is snapshot into the dysfunctional elements of our institutional approach to dealing with the mental health issues of children, primarily abused and neglected children, that enter our Juvenile Justice System.

Today, I draw your attention to some of the worst practices within Child Protection Services and the Juvenile Justice System and ask you to reflect on how these practices might re related to the frightening violence and dismal news that pervades our media and daily lives. Social death…

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On Handcuffing & Tasing 3rd Graders (and expelling preschoolers)

There is no shortage of disturbing stories about violent children & authorities using violent means to control them. Today, the U.S. expels more children from daycare than any other industrialized nation and the levels of violence in our schools is frightening and harmful to all of us.

There is nothing more disturbing than watching a video of an armed 200 pound police officer twisting the arms of a 50 pound special needs child into a painful behind the back steel handcuffed position as the boy cries uncontrollably in his classroom, unless it is reading about the St. Louis Sheriff’s deputy tasering an 11 year old boy and threatening to sodomize him (Sheriff Mulch “nothing out of the ordinary…, followed protocol)

These stories and recent horrific police shootings of juveniles are a signal of overwhelmed institutions unable to deliver the most basic protection and safety services to the communities that employ them. Don’t blame service providers -it is lawmakers and administrators defending archaic policies that just don’t work anymore. Neither police nor teachers are able to nor should they be required (with the training we give them) to handle the deep and troubling behaviors of very disturbed children). Traumatizing five and six year old children because they have behavioral problems is just awful and it makes things so much worse for the child (and our society).
This story out of Texas, demonstrates how the police might better deal with troubled youth with an approach that recognizes the significance of mental health issues impacting police/child interaction. We need to do a 180 on dealing with mental health issues. Now.

The sooner we the people recognize that this is all about mental health and that schools and police departments are not mental health service providers, the safer our schools and city streets will become.

All adults are the protectors of all children.

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CASA guardian ad-Litem News (find your state here) August 2015

A baby is born addicted to opiates, a young child wakes up to find their parent unresponsive with a needle in their arm, siblings sit in the back seat of a car parked on a country road as their parents are shooting up heroin. LaPorte County and Indiana are experiencing an epidemic. It is drug abuse. In the Merriam-Webster dictionary, epidemic is listed as affecting or tending to affect a disproportionately large number of individuals within a population, community or region at the same time. Certainly we can describe the current rapid spread of opiate use an epidemic.
Last year, there were 17 deaths from heroin overdoses in LaPorte County and Indiana is increasing its needle-exchange program beyond Scott County. The Indiana Department of Child Services is reporting a record-breaking year for child abuse cases. It’s only June and in LaPorte County alone, 50 children have been placed out of their homes due to abuse or neglect.

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Child Death and Child Abuse Articles (for July 2015 – find your state/country here)

magnificent double exposure lacrosse mississippi river lampshadeKARA tracks child abuse and death articles from around the nation (and some international cases).  Most non death child abuse cases never make it into the media.  This page is KARA’s discovery of information through July 26 2015 and is only a fraction of this child welfare news around the nation.  For a look farther back in time for child abuse and child death news click here.  ALL ADULTS ARE THE PROTECTORS OF ALL CHILDREN

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Indiana Sued For Making Child Protection Almost Impossible

A few years ago, Vice Presidential candidate and Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels eliminated funding across the board for Indiana families adopting special needs children (after 500 adoptions by families promised these dollars for transportation, healthcare & education of their adopted children, were completed).

Indiana then became the only state in the nation to place families adopting special needs children on a wait list rather than paying subsidies.

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All Talk & No Action – Do We Value Children or Just Talk About It?

How we value children shows up directly in the way we treat people helping us raise our children.

It hurts me to see political misunderstanding and an accepted practice of misleading people about something as important as this nation’s children. Reading the paper one would think that our problems lie at the feet of service providers (teachers, social workers and foster parents to name the main scapegoats).

At election time, politicians make political hay blaming teachers for failed schools (with public support).

Institutional failures are not the fault of people doing the hard daily work of foster care, teaching or social work.

These folks work within a system designed by policy makers and administrators (most of whom are very well paid – not a bad thing, but a thing to remember when looking for the responsible party).

Blaming worker bees in child protection is just as wrong as blaming law enforcement officers for allowing terrible crimes. Can law enforcement sue policy makers and counties for making their work impossible? – we may soon see).

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Dear Social Worker (a note from the Casey Foundation, KARA and Daniel)

You have chosen one of the most challenging jobs on the planet. Saving children from toxic homes & helping them heal and develop the coping skills necessary to live a functioning life. How do you manage to deal effectively with so many families (and children) at one time?

We all live with the troubled institution that is Child Protection and the lack of awareness, concern and resources our community makes available to abused and neglected children.

Burnout in your profession is high, salaries low & as the Casey Foundation pointed out when Dee Wilson delivered his report to the Hennepin County Commissioners, not much trust for your co-workers or management. Dee Wilson painted a pretty negative picture of the working atmosphere for most social workers.

It hurts me that the 90 minute audio session has been removed from the Hennepin County Commissioners website. I listened to it once and it was gone. I did attend the session, but it’s hard to remember all that was said – and some very blunt truths were delivered to our commissioners.

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Make A Mess, the Pope’s Message to Young People – but help us clean it up (Paraguay speech)

Young people unite, get involved in changing the rights of the poor and our assault on the planet was Pope Francis message to thousands of South America’s young people yesterday. Bring your hope and strength and demand change.

Friends, let’s take the Pope’s message to all of our leaders (religious and political) and push for helping young families and improvements in child protection and juvenile justice in America. The more people involved, the faster change can happen.

All adults are the protectors of all children. All religions are the protectors of all children.

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Child Abuse by Judge In Michigan (9 year old jailed for failing to speak with violent wife beating father)

It hurts me to experience the depth of sadness and unfairness visited upon at risk children.

Pennsylvania sent 2 state judges to prison (for 40 years) for incarcerating innocent juveniles into privatized prisons for money (many millions of dollars in kick backs). Michigan sending children of hating & fighting parents to jail for not speaking with the most hated parent is just awful – there has to be a better way.

It’s awful enough to be forced into taking parental sides in a viscious divorce and custody battle – it is almost criminal to jail children (since June 24) for not allowing themselves to be forcibly reunited with a parent they hate.

In a Michigan court custody case last week, after harshly treating the mother Maya Tsimhoni and 2 older children, Liam Tsimhoni & Rowi Tsimhoni, Judge Lisa Gorcyca, of Oakland County Michigan, grilled and then berated 9 year old Natalie in the courtroom, sent her and her juvenile siblings to juvenile jail and forbid her from having contact with her mother.

Has our judicial system become so heartless that 6 and 9 year old children are forced to jail and suicide because of a toxic divorce case (in court since 2009)?

All adults are the protectors of all children.

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Foster Care Standards Are Important (Minnesota fined for failures)

Thank you Brandon Stahl for drawing attention to the sadness I witnessed again and again as a volunteer CASA guardian ad-Litem; children re-abused and children re-entering the child protection system at double the national rates. Some counties did much worse.

New Federal fines are today’s punishment for Minnesota’s failure to meet federal standards (since 2007) of social workers not visiting children while they are in foster care and for abused children re-entering the Child Protection System within a year.

One of my guardian ad-Litem boys had 29 different foster and shelter placements before he aged out of foster care.

To know the child walking around starving and without shoes during the winter is different than reading about her.

Watching our policy makers support billions of dollars for stadiums, giant new transit systems, and the unnecessary billion dollar cost of the failed 35W bridge (because anti tax people saw to it that the 5 million dollars in bridge maintenance money was a tax too high for them) while traumatized children can’t find governmental support for safe homes or mental health services seems to me like poor governance.

Art Rolnick’s work at the Federal Reserve bank in 2003 proved that early childhood investments were the best money a government could spend. My experience within the child protection system proved repeatedly that Art Rolnick’s early childhood research was conservative. I worked with multiple cases that cost the County in excess of one million dollars apiece and know that the pain and dysfunction continued with that child long after leaving the system (and as a continuing burden to taxpayers).

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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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Childhood Disrupted (the book)

Donna Jackson Nakazawa book CHILDHOOD DISRUPTED explains how a child’s biography becomes her biology and how to heal. It may be the first self help book about ACEs and speaks to why chronic disease, mental illness, violence, suicide, and addiction are so common to abused and neglected children.

Donna is a science journalist that writes about toxic stress and childhood development in a way we can all understand. She presents 13 stories of trauma about people she followed for a year and how childhood stress can lead to a life of illness and sadness.

The happy part of the book is the research that shows how self-care, exercise, adequate sleep, meditation, safe environment/relationships and smart therapies can heal.

You will finish the book understanding how toxic stress changes a person for life, how genes impacted in childhood develop various illnesses and mental health disorders (and what epigenetics is).

This book repeated the experience of my 65 year old attorney friend who bought me lunch when I wrote the book INVISIBLE CHILDREN in 2005. At Lunch he told me in confidence that he had never spoken to anyone about his abuse by a priest as child. When he was 45 years old, smoking, drinking, overweight and on his 3rd marriage and 4th business partnership he finally sought out a therapist who he sees to this this day (about 30 years).

As a long time volunteer CASA child protection guardian ad-Litem, I am convinced that Donna’s truths are profoundly accurate and they explain the sadness and behavioral problems impacting millions of children, our schools, public safety, crime, and community well being.

At some point, we must recognize the crisis our society faces by the terrifically high number of child abuse reports (6 million children annually) and support Donna’s plea for a new medical paradigm with a system in which physicians offer, “not just a drug, but a recovery plan” would make a huge difference in the lives of at risk youth. Send this article to your doctor.

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Growing Up In America (do we value children?)

Dana Liebelson’s recent interview demonstrates what the state of Michigan went through to stop her reporting on the violent treatment of youth in the state’s juvenile prisons is just one more example of a punishment oriented system more prone to further harming of youth and continued institutional failure than supporting or rebuilding them.

The state of Michigan has presented Dana with 2 supoenas for complete and unedited copies of all of her work related to their juvenile prison facilities (most likely because a class action lawsuit for how juveniles are treated in Michigan institutions is a real concern). On a national level, for a graphic review of juvenile’s in juvenile prison Richard Ross photo documentation of kids having their lives ruined is second to none.

MN’s former Supreme Court Chief justice Kathleen Blatz remarkably stated that 90% of the youth in juvenile justice have passed through child protective services. Is it just me or does this not seem like the saddest thing one could say about a community?

39 states track juvenile recidivism but most are unable to track the effectiveness of their system.

In Ramsey County MN, the ACES study demonstrated that the 8% of the youth who commit up to 70% of all serious and violent juvenile crime come from 2 to 4% of families and that most violent adult offenders began their criminal careers before age 12.

Many states without restorative justice initiative draw few distinctions between adult and youthful offenders and experience recidivism between 70 and 80 %. As a nation, we charge 25% of youthful offenders as adults (some as young as 11 years old).

Riker’s Island in New York holds a record for suicides and cruel treatment of youthful offenders.

Many states have a long history of punishment and violence against youth. Pennsylvania recently sent 2 judges to prison (40 years) for sending hundreds of innocent youth to for profit prisons for commissions on each new inmate. California police sold (you raise em, we cage em T shirts)
Texas is proving that smart justice includes mental health services, saves millions of dollars and empties jails (this NPR interview is worth your 7 minutes).
Support programs that help children return to the community. What we are doing to troubled youth today in so many states has filled prisons and kept our communities less safe. There is only sadness and no upside to bad public policy.

Help KARA continue to build support for better public policy for at risk youth
All Adults Are The Protectors of All Children

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Are You An Out of State KARA Follower?

Kids At Risk Action is looking for writers from other state’s to report on child protection/child abuse conditions around the country.

Report each week about how your state treats at risk youth and help KARA bring more attention to what needs to happen for children to be safe and happy where you live.

Contact me directly for more information, mike@invisiblechildren.org

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