Common books Symposium Century College (KARA 1 of 5 panel members) 2.25.15 10 am (free)

1) Ernie Boswell, psychology, speaking on Vets Issues

2) Dick Kotasek, addiction counseling instructor, speaking on

how counseling the addicted has changed.

3) Eve Bergmann, Licensed Clinical Social Worker and addiction

counseling, speaking on her 30 years of practice.

4) Justin Martin, psychologist, speaking on GLBT Issues

5) Mike Tikkanen, Kids at Risk Action, speaking on rights and

awareness of abused and neglected children.

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Substance Abuse & the Cycle of Family Abuse (from Steps to Recovery)

Substance abuse is a major contributing factor to domestic violence in the United States. The link between the use of alcohol and narcotics, and the use of aggression, physical and mental violence against partners is part of a desperate cycle in our society. It is a cycle that can, and does, affect our children too – one that can make them future abusers.

Studies are showing that a high proportion of adult abusers and victims have some kind of addiction to alcohol or drugs. Here’s some stats:

25-50% of men who commit domestic violence have an addiction issue
90% of these men used a substance on the day they abused/attacked someone
42% of victims have a substance abuse problem
75% of those victims have an abusive partner who also has a substance abuse problem

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How We Treat Women and Children in America

Seriously mentally ill, Jose Guadalupe was beaten unconscious in his solitary confinement cell by correction officers on September 2.   2 months later, Tracy Johnson, IQ of 65, was pepper sprayed in the face and beaten hard enough to break his eye socket bone.  This is Rikers Island, one of America’s largest correctional institutions. Throughout…

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KARA Talk – March 1, Mike & Tiffini -Pilgrim House 10:15 Arden Hills

Join us at Pilgrim House Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 1212 W Highway 96, Arden Hills MN 55112

Mike Tikkanen & Tiffini Flynn Forslund are board members at KARA, Kids At Risk Action working to bring attention and support for the people, policies, and programs that improve the lives of to at risk youth.

have been a volunteer county guardian ad-Litems since 1996. He is also a CASAMN board member & founder of KARA, Kids At Risk Action with a mission to speak for the rights and awareness of abused and neglected children. KARA’s current project is a television documentary/expose with TPT. By generating conversation and exposing facts that many are afraid or unable to speak about, Mike brings attention to the critical issues facing abused & neglected children. Mike and Tiffini identify the problems children, schools, and neighborhoods face daily because of poor public policy and the dysfunction created by lack of awareness within our community. The KARA website is http://www.invisiblechildren.org.

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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!

Click HERE

$30 per person/ $50 per couple

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KARA Conversation With A Minnesota Police Chief

My conversation with a Minnesota police chief today was eye opening.

He spoke of how city leaders don’t take his repeated warning about the growing body of experience his community is having with troubled children & families. These leaders debate his stated daily reality for his police officers as if it were a small thing.

Like the growing bloc of dysfunctional families with serious mental health and coping problems and how this population is stressing the police force, courts and public welfare systems and how that added stress flows into the daily lives of the city/county workers themselves leading to serious problems of failure in school and failure of child protection systems and the high rate of worker turnover in education and social work. And then there’s the costs to the County and diminished quality of life to the citizens.

We both see that there is far too much training that goes into the difficult work of teaching and social work to see turnover rates growing as fast as they are. No one likes poor graduation rates or high crime rates. Unsafe neighborhoods are no good for anyone.

His view is that the elasticity of our systems is not limitless – it will break at a point and become a major social ill impacting our entire civil society making life painful for all of us.

It is precisely the functionality of our institutions that have made life in this nation as attractive as it has been.

For a growing number of people conditions are getting worse and this includes working people forced to deal with a more problematic and behaviorally challenged population.

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Nothing Just Fine About It

At the end of a recent KARA presentation about child abuse and child protection in our community at a metro Kiwanis, a University Professor argued strongly that child protection was working “just fine” from his perspective.

This after I had just pointed out the lack of support, training, and resources for the courts and social workers and the terrible stories and results MN is currently experiencing. Governor Dayton called child protection in the death of 4 year old Eric Dean (after 15 ignored reports of child abuse) a “colossal failure”, MN ranks 47th in what we spend on child protection, and this professor lived just a few miles where a very young child was raped and murdered (18 month old Maplewood girl).

He did not seem to know that day care workers are paid less than food service workers in America and in the rest of the industrialized world day care workers are are required to have advanced degrees that include mental health training (and are paid better because of their training). He did not agree that more attention needed to be focused on at risk youth.

“Just fine” for him perhaps, not having to meet or deal with the traumatized two year old’s, and the never ending string of abused and neglected children that social workers and court personnel see day after day and year after year with too little resources and too big of a case load.

There is nothing fine about the statistical reality of state wards in child protection becoming state wards in juvenile justice and then state wards in criminal justice. There is nothing just fine about the amount of psychotropic medications being used on children and juveniles in the system, or the problems foster and adoptive parents must face everyday with the behavioral problems these kids bring with them into their homes and school.

The professors thinking goes a long way in explaining the absence of crisis nurseries, therapeutic day care, and other programs that would give kids safety and coping skills necessary for success in school and in life.

It saddens me greatly that an educated segment of our community knows so little about the sadness that exists for so many involved in child-well being and child protection that they are unable to identify and support the programs and policies that could address the problems and make life better for children, our schools, and communities.

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Maplewood Toddler Molested & Murdered (7th MN child death since Eric Dean’s)

Now that attention has been focused on the tragic lives lead by abused and neglected children by the Star Tribune & Brandon Stahl, it appears that there are significantly more homicidal/suicidal child deaths in our community than we have been used to seeing in the newspaper.

Unless there are reporters watching for these sad tales, it seems that we just did not know about them. Children deserve better. Watch our videos and spread the word;

2 Minute TPT/KARA Video Trailer Join KARA at;

KARA Facebook

KARA Linked In (group)

KARA Twitter

KARA weekly news update and help us create more awareness for the issues facing at risk children

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Celebrate & Continue the Good Work of CASA Minnesota (March 9th 530 – Surly’s Brewery)

Save the date friends and join the happy people, hors d’oervres, pop music by Postina, and Beer Tasting at Surly Brewing Company.

Live auction includes African Safari for two, weekend at Copper Mountain, Colorado, DisneyWorld vacation, antique jewelry, and much more.

It’s a great cause and will be great fun. Don’t miss it. Tickets Here; www.casamn.org

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Official Launch of KARA’s TPT/ Television Expose Fundraiser

Friends of KARA, please help us by donating (any amount) and sharing this link to our official fundraising site for the TPT partnership to create a television expose telling the real-life stories that will bring to life the critical issues facing abused and neglected children and the people, policies, and programs impacting them.

Best of all, long time American news anchor and investigative journalist and winner of Emmy and Peabody awards Don Shelby is advising us on the project. The protection of all children, is to his mind, the responsibility of all adults

To complete this project & make a difference in the lives of abused and neglected children. We need your help.

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Being An Abused Child In America (the impact of language)

When when a child is removed from a toxic home, he becomes “a ward of the state”, when she runs away she is “apprehended”, “placed in custody”, often remanded to treatment centers to later appear in juvenile court.

This dis-empowering, stigmatizing, cold and criminalizing language adds insult to already traumatized children (in 12 years of child protection work, I never met a child in Child Protection that had not been severely traumatized).

These kids know they are different. Too many abused and neglected children feel like freaks in school and with their peers. Too many of them don’t do well in school, don’t graduate, and do go onto juvenile justice and later criminal justice systems.

It serves no purpose to criminalize them when they are five and six years old on top of it.

“The difference between that poor child and a felon is about eight years”, (MN Supreme Court Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz).

Children don’t have rights in America (we are the only nation in the world not signing the international “rights of the child” treaty (Somalia does not have a functioning government).

That should not mean that they are treated like criminals just because they are born into toxic homes.

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News From Safe Passage For Children of Minnesota & The Child Protection Task Force

Follow Governor Dayton’s Budget and Child Protection Task Force News at Safe Passage for Children of MN links below;

Performance Mode

Work Group Meetings Update

Governor Dayton’s Child Protection Budget

Report on Governor’s Task Force and Work Group Meetings (Jan 14)

While I’m optimistic that these concerned people are working on improving services and strategies for abused and neglected children of Minnesota, it is painful to read the continuing sad news being reported about overwhelmed social workers, class action lawsuits, inadequate safeguards, and growing caseloads. It frightens me to think about how much (or how little) can be changed by one task force in one year within a system that handles sixty thousand children annually on a limited budget and imperfect systems. What happens next year?

If we valued children or even just understood the economic impact of under-served abused and neglected children passing through our schools, communities, courts, and in the end, juvenile and criminal justice systems, things would be different. Basic math proves the extraordinary costs to communities of failed schools and children unable to graduate on a trajectory to dysfunctional lifestyles and another generation of troubled families with more abuse and neglect.

Early childhood programs are a great investment in our communities and our children. Both the kids and our communities deserve better. Support the CASA guardian ad-Litems in your community & give children a voice.

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Overwhelmed Child Protection Workers (redefining what is manageable)

Quoting Jodi Wentland (Olmsted County’s child and family services director) in Brandon Stahl’s Star Tribune front page article today, turnover is too high, inexperienced social workers are taking cases “before they are fully trained… with excessive case loads…, & they often leave”. To no one’s benefit I might add. It is costly to the state to trained employees that leave the field quickly, disruptive to the children and families that experience multiple and inexperienced child protection workers, and adds to the awful news we are seeing more of in our newspapers and on TV (think Eric Dean and Kendrea Johnson).

Even when Child Protection Agencies reported they could always handle the the workload, that’s not always a sign of stability. One county, for example, reported a 25 percent annual turnover rate was reasonable. This striking comment (again from today’s Brandon Stahl article) from Traci LaLiberte* about child protection providers prompted my title for this article today and is worthy of repetition, “These systems have been so stressed for so long that they’ve redefined what’s manageable”.

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Are Class Action Lawsuits The Future For Child Protection? (Just filed in Arizona)

Note, this article is not about blaming people doing the work – it’s about legislators that are unaware of the dire straits abused and neglected children are facing and their slow and inadequate reaction to the conditions existing in our most important institutions today.

Many states are failing their most vulnerable citizens in the most tortured and traumatizing ways. National Disgrace (Star Tribune) & Colossal Failure are the words being used across America describing child protection in state after state. Four and five year old children are dying by homicide and suicide.

Two days ago, a lawsuit was filed against the AZ Department of Child Safety alleging “severe shortage of mental and physical health services”, “failure to conduct timely investigations of child abuse reports”, and a widespread failure of the State to help troubled children maintain family relationships.

If lawmakers do not make and allocate funding for policies that keep children safe, this nation resorts to lawsuits that pay damages and fines for such failures. Sometimes, the court includes very expensive punitive awards to make it explicit that the state needs to function better for children. It’s an expensive way of creating policy and children have to suffer greatly before that happens.

From my perspective as a longtime volunteer CASA guardian ad-Litem, it is far less costly, and way more ethical and productive for legislators to fund programs and address problems than it is to obfuscate, ignore, and watch the slow torture of abused and neglected children evolve into class action lawsuits and the next generation of abused and neglected children becoming parents of another generation of abused and neglected children. We are costing this nation its quality of life by trading at risk children and young families for failed schools, unsafe streets, a giant prison system, and monstrous pharmaceutical industry (and million of children reported to child protection each year).

Every five years a new generation of abused and neglected children enter our schools and communities.

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Toddler Shoots Both Parents (becoming a commonplace event)

A three year old Albuquerque NM boy shot and wounded both his parents with his pregnant mothers loaded hand gun last Saturday. His two year old sister was uninjured. Below are recent articles concerning guns and American toddlers.

Three People Shot In One Week By Toddlers

More Americans Shot By Toddlers Than Terrorists

Two Year Old Shoots Florida Mother To Death (a state that fines doctors for telling mothers to lock up their guns).

100 Children Killed by Gunfire Since Newtown (June 2014)

America has about ten times the rate of gunfire death than the rest of the industrialized world.

Guns kill more infants & toddlers than police officers in the line of duty.

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. Below are stunning graphs that demonstrate these facts (courtesy of ScienceBlogs.com (the pump handle)

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Dear State Representative Lohmer

Dear Representative Lohmer,

Responding to your note to me below (decrying the cost of early childhood programs being recommended by Governor Mark Dayton), I’ve been a volunteer CASA guardian ad-Litem for almost 20 years and watched what short changing MN children does to our schools, city streets, and state budget.

One of (I have 50 stories)my case load boys cost the county between 2 and 3 million dollars and that does not include the people he has stabbed, teacher he beat up, or hundreds of others he has caused great suffering to in his young life.

He’s in his early 20’s today and recently aged out of foster care (I met him in 1996 when he was 7) today, he has AIDS, is on the most expensive medicines in the nation, has always been a state ward, and I expect will always be a state ward.

To not support programs that could have helped him lead a normal life is fiscally irresponsible and morally reprehensible.

If I were to describe to you the costs some of the other fifty children I have worked with (as a volunteer) in child protection, you would make better decisions concerning early childhood programs.

We launch a new generation of abused and neglected children with or without coping skills every five years (by five a child is able to cope with his or her environment, go on to school and succeed or Not). It hurts me to meet people that don’t understand this. Quit thinking of a generation as 20 years. It is not. It is five years for the children we are talking about.

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Sad Stories; How America Values Its Children (a national disgrace)

“National Disgrace” is the headline in the Wednesday Star Tribune report on the Federal Government’s failure to enforce child protection laws, and the many children dying of abuse and neglect in plain view of child protection workers.

“Colossal Failure” were the words of MN Governor Mark Dayton when speaking about his state’s failure to provide child protection services to 4 year old Eric Dean after 15 ignored reports (by mandated reporters) of the bite marks and broken bones prior to his murder this year. The photos and the stories presented by journalist Brandon Stahl at the Star Tribune were horrific and caused the Governor to create a task force to stop the awful happenings in Child Protective Services.

Mark Dayton’s task force is recommending transparency and changing the awful laws and practices that currently make keeping children safe next to impossible.

Minnesota was a leader in child protection services twenty five years ago (as was California). Today, our state spends less on child protection than 46 other states and the results are in; Racial disparity, very troubled schools, and horrific child protection failures.

Don’t use my words to blame service providers. It’s not them it’s us.

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The State Of Child Protection in Texas (655 under-reported deaths of abused children)

With one of the nation’s largest child abuse agencies, 2.5 billion dollar budget, & 8000 employee, Texas struggles to keep up with the increase in child protection cases, not enough quality foster and adoption families, and cases that stay in the system far too long (federal lawsuit).

For a long time now, Texas has ranked last or near last among the states for prenatal care (50th), low birth weight babies, health care expenditure (48th), spending on mental health (49th) graduation rates (45th), SAT scores, child abuse deaths, uninsured children, births to teen moms, WIC benefits per person (50th), 4th highest in women living in poverty, and 6th highest in child poverty (2013 Texas Legislative Study Group/83rd Regular Session of the Texas Legislature).

Texas is also first in executions, 2nd in larceny, theft, and property crime rate, 4th in rate of incarceration, and personal bankruptcy filings, (March 2013).

Nearly half of the 655 under-reported child deaths occurred to children on CPS radar. That’s what happens with extraordinarily high caseloads, too few resources for existing cases, lack of transparency & reporting.

Each year, over 100,000 Texas children between the ages of 7 & 17 go missing, many of them while in child protective services.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates that 60% of children likely to be victims of sex trafficking have fun away from foster care or group homes.

The high turnover in child protection workers and broken foster care and daycare system are just the tip of the iceberg of at risk children in the state.

Child protection workers and children did not make the mess and they can do little to fix it. Lawmakers, voters, and concerned citizens need to look to other states and nations to find solutions.

26% of Texas population (1.7 million Texas children) live below the federal poverty level & Of the 804 Child fatalities reported in 2013, 156 were related to child abuse or neglect according to Child Protective Services.

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KARA Update & 2015 Children & Youth Issues Briefing Friday January 23rd

Friday was spent at the annual Children and Youth Issues Briefing conference in St Paul. I reconnected with board members from CASAMN, Greg Brolsma, Police Chief from Fairmont MN with great insights about how the issues of abuse and neglect impact the larger community, and Rich Gehrman from Safe Passage For Children MN.

My biggest take away from the many speakers today was this statement by Becky Roloff CEO of the YWCA in Minneapolis (paraphrased) because a child’s future ability to cope in school and in life is almost completely formed by five, I’ve changed my definition of a generation. It’s not 20 years, it’s five. Every five years, another generation of children able to cope or not cope in school, with peers, and in life enters our community.

Becky’s larger point being, either we throw ourselves into crisis nurseries, early childhood programs, and affordable quality daycare, or we will continue to create new generations of troubled five year olds headed for failure and lifetimes of special needs and dysfunctional lifestyles.

Emerging Policy Initiatives, Youth Perspectives, MN Children’s Cabinet, Governor’s address, and Legislative leaders delivered multiple perspectives about children’s issues. When the video of the event is posted I will put it up on KARA’s website.

2 other thoughts that will stick with me from this meeting are;

1) the short sighted and repeated reference to affordability with little reference to the extraordinary cost of not valuing children enough to insure basic health and skills,

&

2) Governor Dayton’s remarks about how infighting among service providers could damage his efforts to provide funding for badly needed programs (which certainly would not serve the children we were there to talk about).

The cost of children not able to achieve the coping skills needed to succeed in school, with peers, and in life, are exponentially higher than providing subsidized daycare, crisis nurseries, and early childhood programs.

Without help, the traumas of abuse and neglect last a lifetime and cost a fortune over that person’s lifetime. Art Rolnick’s work at the Federal Reserve proving a 17 dollar return on each dollar invested in early childhood programs for the average child pales in comparison to the dollar invested in the at risk child. A single child in my caseload cost the county (and County) in excess of two million dollars) that could have been a fraction of that cost if addressed adequately (and he is still a young man with a long, expensive, dysfunctional life in front of him).

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Child Protection – Research – Transparency & Safe Passage For Children (Rich Gehrman)

Anyone interested in the real politics and machinations of child protection policies and services in MN needs to know about Rich Gehrman/Safepassage For Children studies and recommendations. They set a gold standard for information and instruction that I am most happy to see on board at Governor Dayton’s Task Force On Child Protection.

Based on in depth research of child protection cases Safe Passage reported how well/not well MN children and families are being served with current policies. Most notable among their studies observations were;

* Caregiver compliance was often predicated more on attendance than changing bad behaviors

* A third of the children continued to be abused while under court supervision

* Access to child protection records is critical to understanding and changing public policy for abused and neglected children

* 60% of child abuse reports in MN are screened out (4 counties screened out 90% of abuse calls)
* The average abused child is placed in four different homes

Rich’s latest Public Radio interview (listen here)

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