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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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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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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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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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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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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Dirty Little Secrets

Will Minnesota Sheriff’s sue Counties over failure (Star Tribune Today) to provide services to mentally unhealthy inmates? Is the Hennepin County Commissioner “failing in her public duty and violating a judge’s order”?

Senator Al Franken & and Sheriff Rich Stanek call the failure of leaving mentally unhealthy inmates to rot in jail cells “our dirty little secret”. I applaud Franken and Stanek for their candor.

State law requires that inmates in need of mental health services get those services within 48 hours, but there are not enough beds to make this happen (Hennepin County Medical Center alone sees 800-1000 emergency psych visits each month).

Do six year old state wards (foster children) not deserve the same legal protections as adults in this state?

If so, can social workers and foster parents sue the County for failure to provide mental health services to state ward children that don’t receive the mental health services they need?
When six year old Kendrea Johnson hung herself with her jump rope and left her suicide note, was she receiving the mental health services she needed? Her social worker was not aware that the child was seeing a therapist (she was).

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Brandon Stahl’s investigating and Safe Passage’s volunteers are changing lives

  Brandon Stahl’s reporting (September 2014) on the tortured death of 4 year old Eric Dean and his  powerful Star Tribune articles about tortured children & the “catastrophic failure” of child protection in Minnesota (Governor Dayton’s words), shine light into the invisible world of child abuse that is so hard to talk about and so…

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What’s It Like?

What’s it like to be;

The admitting person in the psychiatric ward of a metro hospital turning away violently troubled children because there is no space? HCMC in Minneapolis averages about 900 emergency psych visits a month, many of them children.

A social worker, grandparent or guardian ad-Litem visiting a traumatized four year old child in the suicide ward of a hospital,

The first grade teacher who called City Counsel member Don Samuels asking what to do about a student trying to kill himself in her classroom,

The parent of a child with tragic mental health problems and turned away from the hospital or a son held in a cinder block cell for six days because of the no “imminent threat” excuse (when really, there’s just a lack of resources)?

Michael Swanson’s mom who lived years of terror for years trying for to find mental health services for her boy prior to his murdering two Iowa store clerks.

Six year old foster child Kendrea Johnson, who hung herself and left a sad note and the terrible reality that yes indeed, children try and occasionally succeed in killing themselves (contrary to the police and medical examiners Star Tribune statements at the time).

The hospital employees at St. John’s Hospital that were brutally attacked by a delirious patient because their facility did not have the safety features designed to protect staff members from the level of violence often seen in mentally troubled people.

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Institutional Argle Bargle – Paperwork vs Meaningful Relationships

As a volunteer guardian ad-Litem, the program forbade me from driving a child to a burger joint for a hamburger or taking a kid horseback riding (insurance reasons). I call it the ten foot pole rule. It makes abused children feel even more unwanted.

Children in child protection come to know that meaningful relationships with this person or that provider are rare and if they happen, they quickly disappear.

As social workers, educators, health workers & other service providers slide in and out of a child’s life and the continued changing of key relationships becomes accepted and predictable, the child learns that they are just a small mechanical piece within a giant unstoppable system*.

Child protection is a State function and state ward circumstances demand “special” treatment that serves a seemingly larger purpose outside of the child.

Through the eyes of that child, the critical parent – adult relationship has been shattered and replaced with 40 new service providers.

Add to that the now accepted overuse of psychotropic medications and often harsh treatment by law enforcement and other authority figures (behavior problems are endemic to traumatized children). Does anyone care if you have suffered rape as a five year old or other horrible traumas or that you are now in your 13th foster home with behaviors that accurately reflect your childhood.

Add to that law enforcement violence against mentally troubled citizens of all ages is on the rise. Expecting law enforcement to manage our societies mental health problems may be an answer – is this reasonable or even possible?

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Sad Stories October 2015

Find information about child protection, child endangerment & child well-being in your state here. For past months, click here AR: Arkansas’s child welfare system discriminates against relatives of neglectful or abusive parents Arkansas Times – October 29, 2015 When parents fail their children, relatives often want to step up. But Kimberlee Herring and Karisa Hardy…

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Help KARA Spread the Word – 3 Simple Things

Sharing KARA news/videos/articles with your social media and networks – the more people become aware of how serious a problem child abuse is in America & how broken our child protection systems are, the more pressure will be put on legislators to support the people, programs and policies that work.

KARA needs dollars, subscribers (members), volunteers & promotors to make this happen.

Become part of the KARA grassroots army – share our information widely to promote programs, policies & the people striving to improve the lives of abused and neglected children.

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ALERT For MN Child Protection – Rolling Back Child Protection Reforms (from Safe Passage for Children MN)

This week county social services directors and the Department of Human Services (DHS) presented a plan to legislators that would significantly weaken reforms approved by the Governor’s Child Protection Task Force. Items they recommended dropping include:http://safepassagemn.com/counties-propose-rolling-back-child-protection-reforms/

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Safe Passage For Children Forum; Early Childhood Development & the Child Welfare System (11/23 6pm)

Safe Passage Forum: Early Childhood Development & the Child Welfare System
Gather in Person 6pm; Via Phone/Webinar: 6:15pm
Program Beings 6:30pm
Webinar/Phone login Details Below.
Join Safe Passage for Children for a presentation and discussion on the relationships between early childhood development and child protection. Option to participate in person or via webinar.
Bob-e Simpson Epps, Master Trainer / Facilitator for Adverse Childhood Experiences Study and 2012 Bush Fellow will lead this forum designed for Volunteers of Safe Passage and friends.
Together we will explore the connections between child abuse / neglect and early childhood development; including the impact of trauma on brain development and what has been learned more broadly from ACES research.
Please invite friends and colleagues.

Login Details:
By Phone: +1 (571) 317-3112; Access Code: 298-987-637
By Video Webinar: https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/298987637; For Audio: Use your microphone and speakers (VoIP) – a headset is recommended. Or, call in using your telephone: +1 (571) 317-3112, Access Code: 298-987-637

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A New Disease of the Wealthy & Powerful

Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan and new Speaker of the House voted NO to federal childcare subsidies, eliminated 16 billion dollars in Social Services block grants, including all child care funding for low income families, No to parental leave for federal employees (4 weeks for a new mother), No to food stamps, Medicaid and Pell Grants, Yes to de-funding Planned Parenthood and removing contraception from employer based insurance requirements, and yes to deporting undocumented immigrants that grew up in the United States. But he cannot and “will not” give up his family time.

Pro family yes (but just his family).

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Child Protection Oversight Committee Meeting Nov 23rd

It hurt me to hear it suggested that Brandon Stahl’s reporting on Child Protection in Minnesota is somehow a cause of the troubles within the system today. It is precisely the lack of reporting, accountability, and access to information that has grown our child protection failures to where they are.

The thing missing from last night’s Child Protection Oversight Committee meeting was the voice of someone that experienced child protective services (to put a human face on the conversation) and a fearless front line worker or CASA guardian ad-Litem to describe the depth and scope of the issues on the table.

People speaking in a roomful of professionals find it difficult to use the words or employ a passion that puts urgency and humanity into the facts that rule the fabric of our community and the lives of at risk children.

We also avoid topics that can’t be dealt with in our current institutional paradigm.

When Dee Wilson delivered the report on the Casey Foundation’s investigation of Child Protection to the County Commissioners he referenced the fact that St. Joe’s Home for Children was the primary resource for the most troubled children entering Child Protective Services.

The Foundation reported that the home was not able to deal with the level of trauma and behavioral problems it is forced to manage on a daily basis.

The truth underlying Dee’s statement needs to be recognized as the tip of the iceberg it is (we don’t).

The Foundation reported that the home was not able to deal with the level of trauma and behavioral problems it is forced to manage on a daily basis.

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What Do You Wish For Today?

For Thanksgiving this year, let’s all wish really hard to make life better for at risk children.

As a long-time Volunteer CASA guardian ad-Litem, I wish for; The implementation of the recommendations by the Governor’s Task Force on Child Protection and the additional attention and resources necessary to make children safe in my community (and yours too).

Fewer ten and twelve year old children charged as adults in our judicial system,

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Sad Stories November 2015

CA: Six children are dead. Could these needless deaths have been prevented?
Los Angeles Times – November 24, 2015
There are community-based services he could have tapped, but they’re fragmented and hard to navigate without professional help, said USC child welfare professor Jacquelyn McCroskey.
http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-1124-banks-troubled-parents-20151124-column.html

FL: Mistakes detailed in Janiya Thomas death
Southwest Florida Herald Tribune – November 24, 2015
Child protection investigators closed probes prematurely, turned in crucial paperwork late and failed to adequately identify safety concerns when they investigated incidents involving the mother of an 11-year-old found dead in a freezer this past October, a Department of Children and Families report released Tuesday found.
http://www.heraldtribune.com/article/20151124/NEWS/151129803?Title=Mistakes-detailed-in-Janiya-Thomas-death
– See more at: https://www.invisiblechildren.org/2015/11/26/sad-stories-november-2015/#sthash.uuJlOpd4.dpuf

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Worthy Reader Questions

Mike,

Your anguish at the pain and suffering of children is laudable and this site great. And these hearings only show the safety net is torn and clearly failing children, isn’t time to broach the subject of parenting while asserting the “rights of the Child?”

A.R.,

Thank you for the kind words and very good question – it gets to the heart of what KARA is.

KARA is the voice of abused and neglected children removed from their homes* & this editor tries hard to tell their stories and report on the people, policies and programs that impact their lives.

Time and resources in a small nonprofit require outside volunteer effort to accomplish this goal with any regularity or depth. Thank you Century College for continuing to include Kids At Risk Action in your volunteer program.

To your point A.R., I will work at putting more attention to the subject of parenting. We know that parenting skills don’t come from the stork & our community needs to better appreciate the value of healthy children.

Unfortunately, our communities are more willing to put resources and attention to dealing with unhealthy children than building healthy children.

we are very grateful to and supportive of organizations that concentrate on improving the lives of at risk children through better parenting, more attention to improving the lives of young families and helping adoptive and foster parents.

The sadness and pain children and families experience due to generational child abuse can’t end until the voice of abused and neglected children is heard by a larger public and our message to legislators loud enough to force them to listen and do the right thing through better policies and programs.

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Gun Safety – 18,270 Children Killed or Injured By Gunfire in 2010 – at least 200 have died by accidental gunfire since NewTown

Children’s Defense Fund research from 2010 shows that guns kill more infants, toddlers and preschoolers than they do police officers in the line of duty.

American youth are 17 times more likely to be shot dead than the young of the other industrialized nations.

A gun in the home increases the risk of suicide by 3 to 5 times, homicide by 3 times, and accidental death by 400 percent.

Since 1963, three times as many American children and teens have been shot dead than soldiers killed abroad – in 2010, five times more children and teens were shot dead than soldiers killed in Iraq and Afgghanistan.

Gun violence kills more black youth (from one to nineteen years old) every year except for car accidents.

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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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