Child Suicide, Prozac, Child Protection, and Foster Care (and how are they related?)

More American children (especially low-income and foster care kids) are on antipsychotics than in any other country (Governing magazine March issue).

Brandon Stahl’s March 27th Star Tribune article graphically explains how child protection was unable to deal with mental health, medications, and child safety be in the suicidal hanging

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What’s Wrong With Kansas Part II (how the state values its children)

No longer does Kansas promise its children a full school year . Several districts are closing early because Governor Brownback effectively eliminated 51 million dollars from school budgets (cut per pupil $950 from 2008 to 2014). We know what the governor thinks of educating children. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled that school funding levels were unconstitutional and ordered the immediate reversal of certain spending cuts (hooray for fair minded judges).

Even more repugnant than Brownback’s disrespect for children and education is the all out attack on children that took place in the legislature last year, literally making it legal for any care giver to assault a child and hit them up to ten times (at their discretion). Imagine letting just anyone beat up your child (which this law would have accomplished).

This law reads something like Jonathan Swift’s MODEST PROPOSAL which articulated a public policy making it policy to stew and eat the children of poor Irish parents (because they couldn’t care for them sufficiently anyways).

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Child Protection – The Big Lie (don’t blame the service providers – its the lawmakers)

Minnesotan’s talk big about how we value children and how exceptional we are as a people, a nation, a culture. Most of us claim to be spiritual people valuing life and religious teachings that protect our community and its children.

If there is anything genuine or exceptional about how we actually treat children it would be how poorly we pay and train service providers to our children, the lack of transparency, accountability, and humanity in an overwhelmed child protection system that the majority of people involved in find harsh and disappointing at many levels (and Governor Mark Dayton called a “colossal failure” in the death of 4 year old Eric Dean).

I became a volunteer guardian ad-Litem because of a horrible experience a business associate had adopting children. Her family was not aware of the mental health issues and dangerous behaviors her newly adopted children (from County Child Protection) were bringing into their new home

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Help KARA Do Something About Drugging Foster Kids (invitation to action)

Invisible Children readers know that psychotropic medications, especially “antipsychotics,” often are used to sedate and restrain problematic people, children especially—and not just any children, but foster children particularly, and most of all, foster children in so-called “group homes.”

Agreement is widespread that foster kids are over-medicated: too many, too young, too many drugs per child, on dosages that are too high and are maintained too long, often for years on end.

The PsychDrugs Action Campaign of the National Center for Youth Law invites you to help make positive changes now. Our contact information is at the bottom of this message.

Why Foster Children?

Foster children are a lucrative market for psychotropic drug sales. Unlike adults, they can’t say “no, I won’t take any more.” Their parents are in no position to object. Responsibility for prescribing is diffused confusingly among foster parents, caseworkers, child welfare supervisors, group home administrators, and prescribers. All are involved, but their roles in medication decisions are overlapping and ill-defined. It is easy for each to say, “it wasn’t my decision.”

One of the consequences is that in some states about half of children in group homes are medicated with psychotropic drugs. Many foster children are dozing through their childhoods and teenage years in a semi-sedated fog, a fog that is profitable for the drug industry and convenient for those administrators, staff, and foster parents who prefer to minimize demands on their time and attention.

The losers are the kids. A dozen years in a chemical straitjacket is no preparation for adult independence.

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Drugging Our Kids

This series of videos report on the dramatic increase in the forced use of psychotropic medications by children in California’s foster care system. It very well may be an epidemic in every state.

I have personally watched the explosive use of these drugs over the past twenty years and talked with professionals (including judges, educators, families & service providers) who are very concerned with the dangers of using these powerful anti-psychotic medications in place of mental health treatments for abused and neglected children.

Prior reporting on the topic; A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, and here’s the

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“Police & Sheriffs More Concerned About People’s Mental Health Than Advocates Are” (thank you Senator Barb Goodwin)

sunset costaricaI’m always pleased to find outspoken observers in the mental health discussion.  Today’s Star Tribune article begins to articulate the gaping hole in our communities (and the nation’s) approach to mental health.  Much like child suicide and child sex abuse, we have avoided the mental health topic leading to the worst case of overbuilt prisons, unsafe streets, and terribly overwhelmed schools of any industrialized nation.

Senator Barb Goodwin told Abby Simons of the Star Tribune what a sad state it is when public advocates for mental health don’t speak as urgently for mental health services as the service providers forced to deal with mentally unhealthy people.  Is it because the public doesn’t know how damaged abused and neglected children are that they don’t understand what happens to them and the people living with and among them?  I refuse to believe that it is a lack of compassion.

Can you imagine what it’s like to be a juvenile/law enforcement officer, teacher, or other caregiver/service provider choosing between personal safety and protecting a disturbed child?  I watched a 6th grade teacher, a man about my size whack a young girls head on a banister (hard) as she was trying to gouge his eyes out and biting his face.  What college teaches defense tactics to grade school teachers?

My deepest sympathy lies with the birth / foster / adoptive parents unable to obtain mental health services

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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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Cars With 3 Wheels (From Our Friends At Safe Passage For Children Of Minnesota)

A car with three wheels is not 75% as good as one with four. There is a minimum set of features without which a car won’t move at all.

This principle applies to child welfare because elected officials have frequently given this program much less than managers request, and assumed they somehow will make things work. But if the system has, for example, adequate staffing but poor training, or lacks a quality assurance program, it is like a 3-wheeled car. It simply won’t run.

Minnesota has an historic opportunity to rebuild its child welfare program. To accomplish this the legislature must step up to approve the $50 million that the Governor has put in his budget, so state and county managers have the tools they need to do the job.

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Where Bad Laws Come From (& why it’s not fair to blame the worker bees)

Brandon Stahl’s article in the Star Tribune today suggests that Minnesota is probably the only state in the nation to have forbidden social workers from considering past screened out cases of child abuse in evaluating new reports. Pressured to put a consistent policy in place by a state auditor, DHS institutionalized a policy that would lead to untold suffering and death of abused children for four years (it ended today with the Governor’s signing of the reversal of that bill.

That is just the tip of the iceberg that the Governor’s Task Force is working on. Perhaps with the added attention to the Task Force and Brandon Stahl’s continued reporting we can move up a few notches among the states in what we spend on child protection in MN (we rank 47th currently).

It befuddles me that the studies completed by the Federal Reserve Bank by Art Rolnick and Rob Grunewald have not brought the larger business community into appreciating the fundamental issues underlying a productive work force. It may be that the arguments should be made in terms of cost instead of savings. I think it would scare people to know how expensive ignored at risk youth are to our community. A single boy in my caseload cost this county at least 3 million dollars by the time he aged out of child protection (not including the awful things he has done to people).

By any measure, taking care of vulnerable children is duty of all of us and to make you feel better, saves you money and is the right thing to do.

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Psych Drugs Action Campaign (from the National Center for Youth Law)

On April 14th four bills will be heard before the Health and Human Services Committee of the California State Legislature that improve oversight and monitoring of psychotropic medication treatment for children in foster care. We are writing to request your support. Will you or your organization help? Please send your support letters by end of…

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Four Year Key’Ontay Miller-Peterson Murdered – Two & Three Year Old’s Starved (2 families reported by the Star Tribune today)

I hope that the task force is working fast and that it’s efforts will lead to a reduction in the number of murdered, tortured, and suicidal very young children in Minnesota.

Today’s Star Tribune indicates the “colossal failure” (Governor Dayton’s words) of child protection in the death of Eric Dean after fifteen reports of child abuse by mandated reporters is still causing torture and death to Minnesota children today.

Just a few months ago, six year old Kendrea Johnson’s social worker was unaware of her suicidal and homicidal talk before she died by hanging herself with jump rope. Today’s Star Tribune has two disturbing accounts of worst case abuse suffered by two, three, and four year old Minnesota children.

Four year old Key’Ontay Miller-Peterson’s mother found guilty in the repeated assaults and eventual murder of her son Key’Ontay Miller-Peterson.

The two year old and three year old children of Michael Gunderson of Princeton were starved to the point of eating feces when discovered by the Sheriff’s Department.

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Wow & Thank You For Supporting CASA Minnesota

CASA Minnesota’s Brewing Hope event turned out to be a smash hit and a great time was held by all.

Thank you to everyone that came and shared in the fun and especially those of you Donated or went home with silent and live auction booty.

Have fun on the African vacation, at Stouts Island Lodge, and the University Club next year (and the many other great dining, service, and happy event items donated for the event).

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Join Me Tonight at Surly Brewing for CASA MN Auction & Fundraiser (it’s gonna be great fun)

Beer, Music, Fabulous Trips (Africa/DisneyWorld) Join CASA MN March 9th at Surly Brewing 530pm (our annual fundraiser)

February 26, 2015 in CASA, Events, Wonderful People by Mike Tikkanen

casa_v_redblue_R_alt_rgb_normalIt’s gonna be great. Join Mike and CASA MN at our fundraiser (silent and live auction) and learn about the good work volunteer guardian ad-Litems do.

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Hiding Child Suicide Hurts Everyone (until it exists – nothing will change)

Six weeks ago, Brandon Stahl’s Star Tribune article about the death of six year old Kendrea Johnson by apparent suicide, pointed out just how misinformed (or misdirected) our community is when it comes to the impact of trauma on children.

An unnamed Hennepin County Medical examiner was quoted in the article, “the decision to carry out such an act (suicide) is outside what a normal six year old could think about”.

This statement should have been, that all children in foster homes have been traumatized and normal does not exist for most of the six million children reported to child protection in this nation every year and that suicidal thoughts are not uncommon to traumatized children.

Awful things happened to these children or they would not have been taken from their home and placed in foster care.

Being removed from your birth home is traumatizing in and of itself. What happened before changes the way a child reacts to life – literally, it changes the way the brain responds to “normal” events for a child. Then, we add psychotropic medications that trigger thoughts of suicide (just read the package). Judge Heidi Schellhas shared her list of very young children taking Prozac, Ritalin, and other mind altering medications with me. Six year olds were on the list.

My first visit to a four year old girl in my CASA guardian ad-Litem work was at the suicide ward of Fairview Hospital.

I’ve written about seven year old Gabriel Meyers who hung himself and left a note about how he hated Prozac.

KARA’s interviewing for our child protection television expose includes past volunteer guardian ad-Litem and former mayoral candidate Don Samuels telling his story of a teacher calling him and asking for help with a five year old suicidal boy.

I’ve been on an airplane delivering a twelve year old suicidal boy to an out-state suicide prevention group home because all the metro suicide beds were taken – there are 800 to 1000 emergency psychiatric visits to HCMC every month (and many of them are children). Remember, this is just a single metro hospital. There are 3 children’s hospitals in the metro and zero children’s mental health hospitals.

While it is true that most five and six year old children fail in their suicidal attempts, their lives often remain self destructive and lead to early death. It hurts me that if not for the reporting of Brandon Stahl at the Star Tribune, no one would know that Kendrea killed herself, except her therapist and other service providers that knew she was having daily thoughts of suicide.

It is an awful condemnation of our values and community that abused and neglected children suffer this much with so little meaningful help from the rest of us. This speaks volumes about how we value children.

She is out of the news cycle now and probably not going to get much more attention. We should all feel some sorrow and empathy for the six year old girl that had to think about how she was going to end her life and then doing it. It should be much bigger news.

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SMART JUSTICE – Mental Health Police in Texas

A friend sent me this today and I think it would solve many of our nations troubles and is worth sharing (widely). San Antonio Texas and Bexar County have saved 50 Million dollars and made life safer, more just, and much kinder for their citizens. The jails aren’t full today because the officers are dealing with the mental health issues that are getting people shot and beat up by other police departments.

Instead of facing more awful stories about how police departments are causing their communities to fear them, this department has recognized that jail is ineffective in treating mentally unhealthy people involved in low level crime and they came up with a better way. Read the whole story below (with audio).

Watch & Share these 2 minute trailers from KARA’s TV documentary project (help us BUILD KARA & spread the word)

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DR Felliti Explains The Effects of Child Sexual Abuse (read and listen)

coneflowersThis comprehensive NPR interview with DR Vincent Felitti identifies how child sex abuse lasts for ever and how the medical community has grown to understand the epidemic of abuse in our nation and how their ACE (Adverse Childhood Experience) study brings into focus the problems and the solutions.

Listen to the Story (take the quiz/below)

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Important Points By Brandon Stahl (Star Tribune) Today On Pope County

Pensive ParakeetThe following quotes from Brandon Stahl’s reporting today in the Star Tribune indicate the depth and scope of child protection troubles in MN.  That Governor Dayton used “Colossal Failure” language and created a task force to investigate the sad tortured death of 4 year old Eric Dean is to be commended.  Awful things happening to 4 year old children are not always addressed in helpful ways by politicians in other states (see other states in “read more” below).

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Beer, Music, Fabulous Trips (Africa/DisneyWorld) Join CASA MN March 9th at Surly Brewing 530pm (our annual fundraiser)

It’s gonna be great. Join CASA MN at our fundraiser (silent and live auction) and learn about the good work volunteer guardian ad-Litems do.

5:30 – 8:30 p.m. 520 Malcolm Avenue Southeast Minneapolis

Beer, hors d’ oeuvres, music, opportunities for fabulous trips (African photo safari or DisneyWorld, anyone?), and – best of all – a time to celebrate the good work of CASA Minnesota and its volunteers. Who could want more?

Seating limited – tickets on sale now!

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1% of U.S. Family Courts Are Safe Baby Courts

This article from the ACEsTooHigh website is a comprehensive article about the difference between traditional family courts and emerging early childhood courts is striking and worth reading in its entirety. In safe baby courts, kids don’t suffer more abuse (and that is very different than the data coming from traditional family courts. The compelling build-up of evidence isn’t just in the data. It’s also stories like this: One mother in Mississippi whose baby was born with crack cocaine in his system went into rehab, was allowed only supervised visitation while the baby remained with his grandparents, complied with the service agreement and achieved unsupervised visitation within four months and custody within six months. She went back to school and eventually received a master’s in social work, married and has a second child.

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