Want To Know More About the CASA guardian ad-Litem Program?

Nearly 9000 children are reported abused or neglected every day in this country – over 3000 a year in Minnesota alone. You might not be in a position to take one of these children into your home. But you CAN be their voice. As a Volunteer Guardian ad Litem (a court appointed special advocate), you have the power to stand up for an abused or neglected child. You can restore their voice – and their hope. Giving just 5-10 hours a month of your time can make all the difference in the outcome of our children. Attend one of our information sessions, get free training and become a volunteer Guardian ad Litem!
Learn about being a CASA guardian ad-Litem; www.casamn.org

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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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The Worst State for Foster Kids In America (how we value our children)

Florida lost 500 foster care children a few years ago and caseworkers lied about their work in 2001. Richard Wexler (Head of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform) claimed that “There is no place in the country where it is worse to be a foster child than in Florida” in 2002.

Florida is where 7 year-old foster boy Gabriel Meyers hung himself and left a note about how he hated Prozac (foster kids don’t have a say about being legally drugged.

Way too many foster kids are kept drugged into a stupor in a system that finds them troublesome.

Follow KARA’s Sad Stories page and track your state’s news about child protection.

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Grandparents; Counties & States Can’t Live With Them, Children Can’t Live Without Them.

It is not the social worker, the teacher, or other professionals working with children that are responsible for the problems within American child protection service, it is lack of awareness and understanding by policy makers of the core problems and how best to address them through effective operational policies.

Several of my County kids had over 25 foster home placements & experienced dozens of teachers, social workers, and others like me before they were let out of the system. I was the only adult consistently in their lives in a number of cases as many others came and went.

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The Only Nation in the Developed World (American Exceptionalism)

Young families in the U.S. don’t have any mandated maternity leave when the new baby arrives (we are the only developed nation in the world to not offer paid leave to new parents). Families and babies really do suffer because of it.
There is almost no paid paternity leave for fathers in America either (almost all of the developed world – and about half of the 167 nations tracked by the International Labor Organization, offer paternity leave to dads).

American exceptionalism has become the opposite of what we want it to be – especially when it comes to young families and children. We talk a big game, but we don’t really value other people’s children.

All adults are the protectors of all children – communities will be safer & happier when this becomes a truism.

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The Sadness Of Child Protection – 2 Year Old’s Murdered by Caregivers

These past weeks have been awful for vulnerable children in MN.

Stomped on, kicked, torn liver kidney & pancreas Sophia O’Neill was violently murdered by 17 year old Cary Faran-Baum died because she wouldn’t stop crying. There’s been way too many violent child deaths in MN this past year – many of these children were known to child protection services.

Sophia was known to child protection (they didn’t investigate the case because caseloads are high and resources did not allow it).

In a family video taken before her death, Sophia explains that Faran-Baum had hit her in the face and left bruises noticible in the video. Sophia died not only of Cary Faran-Baum’s violent mindless attack. She died because there are too few crisis nurseries, inadequate daycare facilities and a general lack of concern in my community for other people’s children.

Too many of these children are known to child protection, a poorly understood and undervalued system fraught with serious problems. It’s wrong to blame the people doing the work – the problems begin with us – the people making the rules and designing the system.

As a long time volunteer Hennepin County guardian ad-Litem, it’s clear to me that my community has never cared much for the problems of young families (or their babies & 2 year olds).

If we did, there would be more crisis nurseries and daycare and children would not be left in the care of drunk uncles, violent boyfriends and child molesters.

As it is today, we only read about the dead kids. Thousands of children traumatized by violence and abuse inflicted on them by their care givers don’t make the paper (unless there is a death).

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Child Welfare News Through June 9, 2015 – Sad Stories – Glad Stories (15 days)

ND: Child Abuse and Neglect on the Rise
KFYR-TV – May 21, 2015
More than 12,000 incidents of child abuse and neglect were reported to the Department of Human Services in 2014.

MO: & KS: EDITORIAL: Volunteers needed to help endangered kids after record caseload increases in states
The Kansas City Star – June 02, 2015
Caseload numbers rise and fall for a variety of reasons, and not all of them are bad. More people could be reporting suspected child abuse, for instance. But the increases in the two-state region are too dramatic and longstanding to qualify as a blip.

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To KARA Followers – KARA does not offer services

KARA is unable to help our readers with personal counselling.

Regularly, we receive your mail and email requesting assistance in dealing with child protection, police and juvenile justice. We just do not have the resources to say yes.

Use KARA’s links link to start your search for help. The “resources’ heading provides contact information to identify people that can talk to you about your specific issues.

Thank you for understanding,

The KARA team

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Virginia Abandons Abused Children To Death (200 unanswered calls never reported)

Minnesota is not the only state to fail abused children to death (8 children since Eric dean last year).

Virginia child protective services has just been discovered to have ignored, then hidden (and erased) over 200 telephone reports of child abuse. “The episode, which went undisclosed to the public until the News Leader’s report this month” has prompted the Bureau of Criminal Investigation to “consider investigating” whether laws have been broken. At least in our state, our Governor called out the failure and formed a task force which has discovered critical areas of need and made practical recommendations to make child protection more effective.

Arizona did about the same thing with six thousand ignored child protection cases a few years ago. If you read the Sad Stories page on this site, you will get a better picture of which states value children and those that don’t. It is striking.

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Child Protection News Gathered Nationally (find your state here)

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ALL ADULTS ARE THE PROTECTORS OF ALL CHILDREN

Most of our news for this page (300 + articles) is gathered from;

Child Welfare in the News is distributed at no charge by Child Welfare Information Gateway (www.childwelfare.gov), a service of the Children’s Bureau/ACF/HHS (www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb). It features news stories on topics of interest to child welfare and related professionals. Inclusion does not imply endorsement of any view expressed in an article, and opinions or views do not reflect those of Child Welfare Information Gateway, the Children’s Bureau, or staff. Other free subscriptions from Child Welfare Information Gateway are available at: https://www.childwelfare.gov/subscribe

Send KARA child protection news from your state.  Support KARA 

CA: Overmedicating Children in Foster Care
Los Angeles Sentinel – May 28, 2015
On any given day, nearly one in four children in foster care is taking at least one psychotropic medication — more than four times the rate for all children.
http://www.lasentinel.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=15298&catid=85&Itemid=175

CO: Hickenlooper gives strong defense of CDHS chief
Colorado Statesman – May 28, 2015
Gov. John Hickenlooper this week lauded Colorado Department of Human Services Director Reggie Bicha and his staff as being “among the best in the United States” after an overwhelming majority of lawmakers recently blasted Bicha’s job performance.
http://www.coloradostatesman.com/content/995720-hickenlooper-gives-strong-defense-cdhs-chief

CO: Guest Commentary: Retool administration of Colorado’s social programs
Burlington Record – May 25, 2015
A letter signed by more than 80 lawmakers and sent to Gov. John Hickenlooper earlier this month calling for leadership change in the department at first glance appears understandable given the performance issues of programs housed in CDHS.
http://www.burlington-record.com/guest-columns/ci_28200513/retool-administration-colorados-social-programs

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Standing In A Soviet Bread Line (thank you James Eli Shiffer)

Trying to get information out of the government can feel like standing in a Soviet bread line” gives the reader a sense that the bread will be there, maybe stale or moldy but there will be bread to take home if you wait long enough (which is not true regarding getting information out of the government about child protection issues).

You can wait all day, all week, all year and never find out about how many five and six year old children were on drugs, were sexually molested, tried to commit suicide or were grievously injured by their parents or caregivers last year (the information exists).

Nor will you have access to the necessary paperwork made available to Brandon Stahl at the Star Tribune in his investigation into the death of Eric Dean without a major newspaper filing a freedom of information act and spending thousands of dollars to placate a County that wants no part of your investigation (8 children have died under similar circumstances since Eric Dean’s death).

Transparency of the data surrounding abused and neglected children (not names – data) would show just how impactful the problems of child protection, mental health, generational child abuse, are as a giant institutional and financial burden that has evolved out of lawmakers not understanding the most important building blocks in making productive citizens (instead of manufacturing state wards like we are doing today).

The reason transparency of this unhappy data is important is that without information there appears to be no problem. If there is no problem, there is no discussion. No discussion = no attention, no solution and the child is abused again (this time by the community). Governor Dayton’s proposals need our support.

Let your Legislator know that All adults are the protectors of all children.

KARA is looking for a few new committed board members to help us expand our reach and function. Please contact mike@invisiblechildren.org

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The Unspoken Truth (from Kristin Rode)

My name is Robert Hamelin and when I was 4 years old I entered the Foster Care System. My stepmother began to physically and mentally abuse me. I was taken out of the home I lived in, with her and my father and moved into the first foster home. When I was 9 years old my father was killed. He was the only good memory I had left. His loss had such a deep impact on me. I knew now that I was completely alone. By the time I reached the 6th grade I began acting out for attention. My behaviors became worse. The abuse had continued worse than ever, as now, I was being sexually abused. By the time I was 18 years old I joined the Marine Corps. I needed stability but even more important, I needed to find out if I could overcome my past and succeed, despite 14 years of violent child abuse.

The system failed me but it did not beat me!

Today I am a successful Regional Vice President for Transamerica. I have raised 5 beautiful daughters, 4 of which have already graduated from college. What is disheartening is 32 years after I got out of the Child Protection System, it continues to fail children and the abuse, still all too common. We need to come together to fix a broken system.

Each year, about six hundred thousand abused and neglected American children are removed from their homes, placed into group homes, foster homes, and adoptive homes with minimal mental health counseling and often not much history or training provided to the new care giver. These children are expected to adjust well into society, succeed in school and with their peers

Children in child protective services are only removed from their homes if their lives are in imminent harm. These children are often returned to their homes by Child Protective Services if changes are made. Many children are returned to abusive homes, with little to no follow-up.

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Expanding KARA Board (seeking committed & talented people to accomplish our mission)

Help KARA find smart committed people that understand and want to improve the lives of at risk children.

KARA needs people with some combination of the following;

Experience with abused and neglected children and the institutions that work for them,

Grant writing, resources, and familiarity with fund raising for nonprofits,

Legal and CFO backgrounds in the nonprofit area,

A passion for protecting and improving the lives of at risk children

If you are looking to make a difference, send me a cover letter describing your background and level of interest.

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Why CASA Guardian ad-Litem?

After years of watching and working as a volunteer CASA guardian ad-Litem in child protection two things have become clear to me;

1) Abused and neglected children really do need a CASA guardian ad-litem advocate &

2) The system really needs insiders to speak loudly and repeatedly about the real world of America’s child protection system. Workers within the system (besides volunteer CASA guardian ad-Litems) find it politically unwise to say things that reflect badly on the system (at the risk of losing their jobs). Volunteers have

As much as I respect the very hard work done by dedicated case workers (I mean every word of that – there is no harder work), case loads are too high, resources are too slim and few will risk their jobs to speak out about individual or system failures.

If I could change one thing in child protection today it would be the transparency, tracking and accountability that would come from the speaking out by those who witness these travesties every day.

The reason our communities don’t have crisis nurseries, quality daycare and other child friendly programs that would promote learning and coping skills and launch at risk youth into productive lives is that we don’t talk about it. When you don’t talk about it, it does not exist.

“it” being the suicide by seven year old’s on Prozac, sexual abuse and repeated horrific violence against six year old’s that we see when they finally make it into Child Protection.

The only thing the public knows about the at risk children we see every day are the kids that die when the media brings it to public attention (generally showing a glaring system failure but solving nothing).

Until Brandon Stahl and the Star Tribune made a focus on just how bad life was for poor four year old Eric Dean, media coverage about child abuse was almost non existent. It is only because of this reporters consistent and intrepid work that Governor Dayton’s “colossal failure” language formed a task force that brought public attention to absurd policies and gross negligence that desperately needed changing, that change happened.

My point is that until a thing is spoken of it does not exist and nothing is going to change. The public has a short memory and the media won’t be here for long.

If all the public knows is that eight very young children have been murdered by their parents and caregivers since Eric Dean’s death after 15 largely ignored reports of child abuse – it is a much smaller problem than the horrific stories that accompany a very large percentage of the tens of thousands of children reported to child protection in MN each year (and the 6 million children reported nationally each year).

Maybe I’m an unreasonable optimist – but if more people were aware of the cyclical nature of child abuse, the prevalence and dangers* of medicating abused children with powerful anti-psychotic drugs (instead of adequate life changing therapies), how common life threatening behaviors are to damaged children and just how costly, impactful and long lasting abuse is for the thousands of children passing through Child Protection every year – we would support programs that would save those children from the terrors they have lived with and will continue to live with (and pass onto their children and the next generation).

All adults are the protectors of all children (thank you Don Shelby)

*about one third of children in child protection systems are proscribed these drugs

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Growing Up In Baltimore (it’s really hard)

From the Washington Post on the Justice Policy Institute study of Freddie Gray’s Baltimore neighborhood;

Unemployment rate of 16-64 year olds; 51.8%

Employed with Travel Time to Work of over 45 Minutes; 31.8%

Families receiving TANF; 25%

Chronically Absent HS students; 49.3%

Percent of Population over 25 Without HS diploma; 60.7%

Narcotics Police Calls per 1000 residents; 464.8

Mortality Rate for 15-24 year olds; 19 per thousand

Children 6 and under with Elevated Blood-Lead levels; 7.4%

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92% of Foster Care Kids Using Psychotropic Meds Get Them For Unaccepted Reasons (this is drug fraud)

From the Washington Post yesterday, most foster care children on antipsychoctic drugs get them for far too long and without medical justification. 2/3 of the nearly 700 claims studied raised high-risk “quality of care” issues. As a long time CASA volunteer guardian ad-Litem, many of my case kids were on multiple drugs simultaneously and many of them hated being forced to use them. Some kids threw the drugs away.

In Minneapolis, I would like to know (there should be more transparency) if six year old Kendrea Johnson’s suicide by hanging involved psychotropic medications. She was a very troubled foster child, in therapy and had talked about homicide and suicide. When Jeff Weise killed himself, his grandfather and 14 others he had talked about suicide and homicide and was taking Prozac.

7 year old foster child Gabriel Myers hung himself and left a note about how he hated Prozac. KARA’s video interviews include families, a City Councilman, and other professionals talking about antipsychotic medications, very young children and suicide. This subject needs our attention now. It is cruel punishment for a child suffering from the traumas of abuse and removal from a birth home to be dealt with.

There are 3 children’s hospitals in the metro area and NO children’s mental health hospitals and there are 800 to 1000 emergency psychiatric visits at HCMC every month (many of them children).

This conversation is overdue.

What we don’t know cannot be dealt with and will not be improved. Let’s stop the next awful six year old suicide.

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Sherriff’s For Pre K (save our children)

Wow and thank you Hennepin, Ramsey and Dakota County Sheriffs. Sheriff Rich Stanek’s “we must make investments in early childhood education for Minnesota kids now to avoid paying far more for the cost of crime in the decades to come” took genuine political courage (thank you from Kids At Risk Action Sheriff).

In the Star Tribune article today I found it ironic that full implementation of the Governor’s Universal Pre School would cost almost as much as we spend on prisons in MN each year (the Sheriff is arguing that we will have fewer people to put in those prisons if we support Pre K education for children).

Sheriff’s Matt Bostrom, Tim Leslie, and Rich Stanek – KARA salutes you.

What follows is probably more than you want to know about the long debate from a law enforcement perspective about education, crime, mental health. Please chime in.

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18 Months Old, Sexually Abused (allegedly) & Beaten To Death In Maplewood

Genisis is the 8th child murdered in the home by a caregiver since Eric Dean’s death in early 2013 and the 57th child to die of maltreatment since 2005.

The only positive is that the media and public attention absent (for decades) children murdered by their caregivers is now making front page news & driving the Governor to speak out and form a task force to study child protection issues.

Let’s hope those recommendations are enacted by the legislature and the Star Tribune (article on 18 month old Genisis Xiong death today) and other news media stay on top of child safety in our state.

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Without Understanding Core Issues, Better Answers Are Hard To Come By (or why legislators need more information to do their jobs well)

It was the final question and statement from the Legislative Committee after my testimony about generational child abuse and the “real costs” of under-funding Child Protection and Children’s Mental Health at the State House yesterday that caught me off guard and made it difficult for me to fall asleep last night.

This is my best rendition of that last question and statement from the Tax Committee considering funding for the recommendations of the Governors Task Force on Child Protection that hurts me and makes me fear that better answers will remain hard to find from our state lawmakers;

1) the question; Do you think that anything state funding of programs can do will alter the fact of generational child abuse and damage it causes?

2) the statement; I’ve been on this committee for many years and not seen anything work.

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Mental Health – Connect The Dots (the hidden dangers of antidepressents and children)

The point I’m making by connecting these articles is not that suicidal ideation delivered by psychotropic medications kills people. It is the complicity of mental health experts in not speaking to this Fact loudly and clearly that disturbs me. Not only are mental health professionals not speaking to this Fact loudly and clearly, they repeatedly do just the opposite (if you read the aforementioned articles you will see this point demonstrated. In the Schulz case, Dan Markingson’s mother’s pleas were ignored and in the Marino article Professor Marino makes the point repeatedly.

These 2 articles represent one days worth of reporting in our newspaper about the Fact that suicidal ideation from psychotropic medications kills people, at least to some degree, because mental health professionals, the people in charge of distributing and regulating the use of these powerful drugs, don’t know what they are dealing with.

To add fuel to this fire, let me point out that the pharmaceutical industry has gone to great lengths to recommend off label usage of these drugs for other uses (Topamax prescribed for migraines as a personal example) and if my lawyer friends are right, these manufacturers show up in courtrooms in force when significant homicide tragedies occur to make sure that the defendant’s use of these medications is minimized or struck from the records.

The point I make by drawing the manufacturer into this conversation can best be made by comparing the tobacco company settlements and Dalkon Shield manufacturer settlements to big pharma today.

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