Helping Homeless Kids In the Metro

Today, there are about 100 youth shelter beds for the almost 5000 youth that experience homelessness every year in our state.

Sad facts;

15% of homeless youth have traded sex for shelter and food.

Over 20% of homeless youth have been physically or sexually attacked while homeless.

Almost 1/3 of homeless youth have been sexually abused.

Almost 40% of homeless youth have stayed in abusive homes because they had no where else to go.

The Y’s host program matches friendly families willing to share their safe homes with homeless youth as the Y staff helps these kids attain self-sufficiency.

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Here’s Something Easy You Can Do To Improve The Lives Of At Risk Children

Children’s Issues in MN don’t get the coverage they need. You can help KARA change this. Click Here and fill out the form recommending children’s issues as the most important story right now. Think about it. You don’t read about these issues in the media unless a baby has died or some other horrid things has happened to a child.

Help KARA change this. Two minutes of your time will have an impact.
Buy our book or donate Sample 4 minute video of Mike’s awesome talk on child protection in America

Follow us on Twitter http://twitter.com/KidsAtRisk Share This Blog

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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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High Hopes For Hennepin County’s New Child Protection Model (keeping up with reports of abuse)

Today’s heartening Star Tribune article gave me hope that I’ve not had in decades for the saving of abused and neglected children from extended traumas and ruined lives.

“No longer will a child need to endure maltreatment before they get social services in Minnesota’s most populous county, an unprecedented step in the state”.

Thank you Task Force on Child Protection, Safe Passage For Children, Governor Dayton and all the legislators and supporters standing for the weakest and most vulnerable children in our community.

Additional funding for staff, reduced caseloads, responding to child abuse reports at all hours (including weekends) and focusing on the child’s well-being instead of the crisis mode required after traumatic abuse has been endured (usually for years) will make a huge difference in the lives of these kids.

By making services available to struggling families and insuring that very young children reported as abused receive face-to-face assessments and the help they need, we will be interrupting patterns of behavior that can ruin a child’s life forever and making their lives safer and happier.

The ACE’s (Adverse Child Experience) medical studies have proven the negative mental health outcomes of childhood trauma.

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Hitting Children & Leaving Bruises On Kansas Children Could Be The Law Next Session

State Rep Gail Finney says whacking children is about restoring parental rights (along with the rights of teachers and other caregivers) and not child abuse. I guess that depends on how you define abuse. Imagine letting other people whack your child and leaving bruises.

Kansas already allows whacking children without leaving marks, but that just doesn’t pass Gail’s smell test. She wants to see red.

Gail has vowed to continue bringing it up if it doesn’t make it this year. Kansas ranks 36th among the states in child death & 29th in juvenile incarceration according to Geography Matters, Child Well-Being among the states.

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Hospitals Turning Away Mental Health Patients (nothing to be proud of)

Thank you Chris Serres for reporting on the troubling development at St Joseph’s Hospital in Brainerd.

This is one of our community’s (nation’s) most serious health problems.

St Joe’s failure to admit mental health crisis patients reflects the growing nightmare of how medical institutions are dealing with mental health at a management level.

Refusing help to our most troubled citizens (people in crisis) means more sad & awful things happen to the rest of us.

People in crisis…

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House of Horrors (not investigating child abuse = not caring for abused kids)

Twin girls beaten with bats, starved, raped, chained & abused over 12-15 years on the 4200 block of 17th Av South in Minneapolis. Over 50 police calls to the home, developmentally disabled and pregnant in high school.

“The neighbors knew. The police knew. The county knew. We all knew…But nothing was done.”

“How many times the county received reports of abuse and neglect remains unclear” (from the star tribune article).

This is not uncommon. It’s how 4 year old Eric Dean was tortured to death after 15 ignored reports of abuse by mandated reporters and how 6 year old foster child Kendrea Johnson died by suicide and how my 7 year old CASA guardian ad litem case child was prostituted over 2 years and 49 police calls to her home where gun fire and prostitution were the reason for the police calls.

I’m just one of hundreds of volunteer MN CASA guardians and I know dozens of these stories. It’s awful.

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How America Treats Its Children

The recent International Labor Organization study proves that the U.S. is one of three nations on the planet that does not provide some kind of monetary payment to new mothers who’ve taken maternity leave from work. America also provides the least amount of maternity leave among the industrialized (and many emerging and third world) nations.

That is what we think of children in America. New Zealand and Norway provide up to 14 weeks of paid leave, and 70 nations provide paid leave for fathers.

In America, we pay our daycare workers what we pay food service workers (the lowest paid people in the nation) and have almost no requirements for education or training for the difficult and important task of raising our youngest citizens.

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How America Treats Its Children – foster care

The last big study on foster care demonstrated that 80% of youth aging out were leading dysfunctional lives. A 2010 Casey Family study found that one in three former foster children reported being abused by an adult in the foster home. The article most of the following information comes from (and copied below) is a powerful and thorough review of how the American foster care system works.

As a long time CASA guardian ad-Litem, I have found these stories to be compelling and accurate. One of my own guardian ad-Litem boys walked home 35 miles on a ten degree MN winter night in a T shirt, because he was so poorly treated in a privatized group home.

Foster children are 12 time more likely to use psychotropic medications than other low-income children and suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as Iraqi war veterans.

33 percent of adult foster care alumni had not health care, 81% of all male foster care alumni had been arrested once, and 35% incarcerated and suffered exponentially worse in the areas of;

PTSD: 25% / 4.5%
Depression: 24.3% / 10.6%
Anxiety: 43% / 5.1%
Addiction/alcoholism: 11.1% / 2.5%
Males convicted of a crime: 60% / 10%
Homeless for more than one day: 22% / 2%.

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How Bad Can It Get (to be a foster child in MN)?

Brandon Stahl has done it again – showing us how little our community cares about other people’s children.

Poor Kira Friedman, 2 years old, abused and neglected to where her life was endangered so badly that she was removed from her sad and toxic birth home to be sent to another (sad and toxic) home. A home where criminal that had been convicted of assault, and the man that very well may have murdered her.

This article is not about social workers, guardians ad-Litems, foster families or any of the other service providers to abused and neglected children. It is about us, you and me, just not caring enough to make life safe or livable for children.

All Adults Are The Protectors of All Children

Today’s article by Brandon Stahl about the criminal background of foster dad Nathan Jackson and the bloody and bruised body of 2 year old Kira Friedman, strongly suggests that the child did not die accidentally or if she did, it was after a horrific beating.

Not unlike the reporting Brandon did on the suicidal hanging death of 6 year old Kendrea Johnson, when both the Medical Examiner & Deputy Police Chief claimed that a six year old child was not capable of suicide (yes they are – she left a note) and the 15 repeated failures of child protection in the nightmarish murder of four year old Eric Dean. Without Brandon Stahl’s reporting, there would be little known about the terrible lives these vulnerable – neglected children lead or the brutal deaths they suffer.

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How Church & State Bigotry Hurts Abused Children

Not just anyone can manage adoption or fostering of children that have been tortured by their caregivers*.

Years of child protection work have proven to me that gay couples are not only wonderful parent choices for abandoned children, but that they may be the very best choice.

As outcasts themselves, the GLBT community knows what frightened and alone means to a child and can relate to fear and anxiety of being different in a harsh environment.

Abused children carry their traumas with them and have mental health issues and behaviors that are often uncontrollable, violent and dangerous to themselves and others.

It takes special people to raise traumatized children.

So when the Church or the State refuse gay couples the right to adopt it eliminates an already inadequate pool of foster/adoption families and leaves abandoned children even more alone and frightened at a time they most need a loving home and family. This is a special kind of cruelty and deserves to be outed. Share this widely.

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How Politics Impact America’s Children

KARA board member David Strand has written a powerful article in today’s Minneapolis Star Tribune pointing out how America’s politics continue to bring communities generational poverty that has resulted in the problems this CASA volunteer has worked with over many years.

“Their methods for leveling the economic playing field start with providing all young children with healthy conditions for physical and mental development. Surprisingly, much of the research they rely on comes from America’s best universities.

The proof is that it works — these countries have broken the link of intergenerational poverty that afflicts our country.”

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How Things Get Worse

What makes life worse for sexually abused five and seven year old’s is not talking about it. Not reporting it. Not disclosing it publicly or privately. The fewer people that know about the wretched things that are happening to NJ children, the smaller the problem appears to be and the less will be done to support the agencies chartered to help New Jersey Children.

New Jersey has taken a big step forward in making sure that the abuse is worse and lasts longer for its youngest citizens;

NJ: Child welfare agency proposes less disclosure of fatal child abuse cases.

The Star –Ledger- June 12, 2013.

The Department of Children and Families Plans to limit the information it publicly discloses when a child die or suffers life threatening injuries from abuse and neglect

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How To Sell Guns To Five Year Old’s (yes we do)

Mother Earth News this month includes weapons manufacturers marketing materials aimed at very young children. It is disturbing. It was just last week a five year old Kentucky boy killed his two year old sister with his “Crickett” “my first” rifle. You can buy them in hot pink for little girls:

“The Crickett rifle is ideally sized for children four to ten years old and comes in a …Arms manufactures the following youth rifles: Crickett .22WMR Youth Rifles”
Mom was outside & said she did not know the gun was loaded. Gun marketing pictures from the Crickett marketing page (the site was down today when I went to include the link – it will be interesting to see if it has been changed) http://www.crickett.com/

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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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