International Visitor Leadership Program & Guardian ad Litems

On Wednesday I was part of a team invited to address judges, lawyers, professors and other officials from developing nations about child abuse, child trauma and specifically, the CASA guardian ad litem program that was of most of interest to them on their visit to Minneapolis. I have great hope that these smart, committed professionals succeeded on their extensive U.S. journey learning about the many moving parts of justice, child rights, courts, domestic violence, child protection systems, child advocacy, foster care/adoption and children’s mental health.

It was an honor to speak with these people and uplifting to know that the CASA guardian ad Litem program is identified all over the world as a powerful voice for children and that any nation can create this program to save vulnerable children.

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Interrupting Child Abuse (1 Year Ago – thank you Commissioner Jan Callison & Star Tribune)

It should be big news* that Hennepin County Commissioner Jan Callison** stood up for abused and neglected children when she found out County Child Protection service providers did not respond to abused & neglected children on weekends, late nights or holidays.

You could tell Commissioner Callison was upset when a service provider at a Task Force Oversight Committee meeting described the County’s procedure of leaving children in violent and abusive homes for days because public policy favored social workers not working holidays, late nights and weekends over the safety of children in dangerous circumstances.
The good news is that Governor Mark Dayton created a task force to investigate Child Protective Services and that many of the worst failures are being addressed instead of ignored.

The bad news is that four, five and six year old children had to die tortured deaths to attract the media and outrage a public before terrible public policy could be exposed and corrected.

None of the 50 children I worked with in Child Protection ever made the newspaper.

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Interviewing Abused Children in Front of Their Alleged Perpetrators Is Wrong (thank you Rich Gehrman & Safe Passage for Children)

Rich Gehrman told the Hennepin County Child Protection Oversight Committee that most of its time has been talking about change but not making changes happen. He also understands the impossible situation an abused child is in when asked questions about acts committed upon them by the person in the chair next to them. For anyone not as strong as the person who committed the act, it is almost impossible to tell the truth or even any part of the truth.

The good news from this Committee today is that finally, after all these years, abused children will receive services on weekends. God knows, abuse never takes a break on weekends.

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Invisible Children Around the World; United Kingdom

Early intervention is vital – not only in ensuring that fewer and fewer children grow up in abusive or neglectful homes, but also to help as many children as possible reach their full potential.

The Audit Commission has estimated that, if effective early intervention had been provided for just one in ten of those young people sentenced to custody each year, public services alone could have saved over £100 million annually.

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INVISIBLE CHILDREN Book Accepted Into Public Library Today

INVISIBLE CHILDREN will now be on the shelves of the public library. You can search for it online or click on this book link to reserve it. It has been some years in coming, and I like to think this is a sign that the conversation around abused and neglected children is finally getting the attention it deserves. Forward this to people that might want to know.

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INVISIBLE CHILDREN Book II – America’s Public Health Crisis (why we should care)

We are all in this together.

Pliny the Elder stated 2000 years ago, “what we do to our children they will do to society”.

Let’s do better.

The Heart of the Matter Chapter One
What You Don’t See;

If it’s not seen, it’s not spoken of.

If it’s not spoken of it’s not an issue.

If it’s not an issue there’s not a problem.

If it’s not a problem it needs no solution.

Generational child abuse is a problem festering in America for decades. It is having a profound impact on taxes, public schools, public health and public safety.

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Invisible Children Campus Program

Nadine Burke Harris, Surgeon General of California has declared childhood trauma
a public health epidemic and public schools crisis.

Kids At Risk Action invites you to start the conversation in your community with our INVISIBLE CHILDREN Campus program (provided free to colleges & museums).

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Ireland Implements guardian ad-Litem Program

A child’s right to be heard is the essence of the guardian ad-Litem program. Think about it. Voiceless, helpless children enduring unspeakable horrors, sometimes for many years with no one to turn to for help.

The World Health Organization defines Torture as extended exposure to violence and deprivation. That is how I see child abuse.

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Is Minnesota Setting A “Great” Example For Dealing With Child Protection Issues?

With Governor Dayton’s Task Force recommendations reported in today’s Star Tribune article (Dayton’s Task Force Agrees On Overhaul, Brandon Stahl), I am optimistic that this (“great” example) approach to child well being could become a reality.

Ten years ago, the father of one of my family’s Mexican foreign exchange students explained how he (as a State of Sinaloa Legislator) had traveled to MN and CA to review child protection systems. At the time, these were the two states he deemed to have the most advanced and effective systems in the nation.

MN has at one time done child protection as well or better than any other state – when reviewed by someone without bias.
MN had reduced child protection funding by over forty million dollars these past few years. This explains sad stories like Eric Dean’s death after fifteen (ignored) reports of abuse by mandated reporters and why family assessments replaced child protection, why social workers are shorted training, process, and resources needed to effect the change that could heal toxic families or provide safety to their young charges.

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Is There a House of Horrors Where You Live?

Jerry Lee Curry is going to prison after proving that he could torture children in a wealthy progressive city right for ten years right under our noses.

A combination of about 100 police calls and child abuse reports were made to his home where his 3 young girls were beaten, raped, impregnated and tortured (not far from where I live).

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Is Undertreatment of Mental Health Counter-Productive?

Children suffer more abandonment & more trauma when their therapist prematurely leaves (quits the patient) than they would have experienced without treatment. I have yet to witness my county provide timely or adequate mental health therapies to any of the truly damaged children I have come to know through the Court System. Most of them take multiple prescriptions of psychotropic medications with very limited access to mental health professionals. The children’s behaviors and development are living proof of ongoing mental trauma.

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It Can’t Happen Here

This article shines light on a serious social failure not uncommon in America. 6 year Sarah Elizondo has been forced by the court to live with a pedophile parent (Nicholas Elizondo served 6 years for the crimes he committed upon very young girls).

One of my first cases as a volunteer CASA guardian ad-Litem was a 7 year old boy that had been forced by the court to live with his pedophile father (who had spent 2/3 of his adult life in prison for the crimes he was about to commit on his son – and there was a court order forbidding him to be near young boys).

This boy had spent 4 years tied to a bed, sexually abused, starved, and left alone for days at a time in a small apartment (what do you think it would be like at 4,5,6, or 7 to be tied to a bed and left alone for days at a time without food?)

The boy was covered from head to foot in severe bruises when he entered the child prote

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It Can’t Happen Here (it Does happen here)

State probation agents made three visits since mid-December to the Madison, Wis., house where prosecutors say a 15-year-old girl was tortured, starved and abused by her parents and stepbrother, according to the Wisconsin Department of Corrections.

The girl was found barefoot in pajamas Feb. 6 by a neighbor outside the Southeast Side house. Her stepmother, Melinda Drabek-Chritton; father, Chad Chritton; and stepbrother, Joshua Drabek, were charged Thursday with various counts related to child abuse.

According to a criminal complaint, the girl was forced to live in an unfinished basement, scavenge food from the garbage and eat her own feces.

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It Can’t Happen Here (Sally’s Story)

This had to have been one of the most detailed Childline referrals the county had ever seen, not to mention Sally had a wonderful, dedicated psychiatrist. As the time went by, the treatment team eagerly awaited the results of her abuse referral, as she had won over the hearts of all the hospital staff and we all wanted to see her safe and free from harm.

The referral came back as unfounded.

Due to her intellectual and neurodevelopmental disabilities, she was deemed in-credible.

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It Cant Happen Here

A very smart person that I consider a friend suggested that the sad story of Florida’s foster care system (in the blog article just prior to this one) is not comparable to the state of foster care in my state of MN. Suggesting that things are fine in MN’s foster care system. Nothing to see here, let’s talk about something else.

Dee Wilson delivered the Casey Foundations report on child protection in MN and softly stated that our group home facilities were grossly unable to deal with the level of trauma and behavioral problems that these overwhelmed homes were experiencing.

Just a week ago MN closed the group home in St Cloud MN because of many violations over many years.

That home allowed kids to bang their heads against walls to the point of concussions, facial injuries and head trauma along with forced sex in the presence of staff.

Don’t blame the staff*. It’s the management and the people making the rules. It is always the management that determines the wage, the training and the supervision that will be in place in every business endeavor. It’s always the policy makers that determine the oversight and resources available to the homes providing the service. These things are made extremely clear in the Florida video.

To expect low waged and undertrained people to manage children traumatized by years of abuse now being managed by a cold and distant state is just unworkable.

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It Costs Way Less To Hire & Train Social Workers;$68 Million Settlement Proposed for 10 Children Fraudulently Adopted and Abused

It would be far less expensive (see the studies & long term costs) and the right thing to do to see that foster & adoptive parents were well funded, well regulated, and early childhood programs set up to insure that every child had a chance to have a meaningful life in America.

Until then, let’s sue the pants off of states and counties that refuse to care for children.

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It Could Be Worse (Virginia screens out 83% of all child abuse complaints)

Minnesota screens out 66% of child abuse complaints overall, but 4 MN counties screen out 90%. The only good thing to say about conditions in Virginia is that there seems to be some transparency in the reporting which one would hope will lead to more concern for what happens to abused and neglected children. All this talk about how we value children in America seems to be just talk.

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It Didn’t Start In a Vacuum (crime – impact & statistics)

DJ Tice Star Tribune article recently made crime very real by describing his wife’s rape, his own assault and home burglary along with the awful Barry Latzer assumption that 80% of Americans could become victims of a violent crime in their lifetime.

No obfuscation here.

Crime hurts when it happens to you or someone you love.

What best should be done about crime and punishment is our national conundrum.

Damn the data, “hanging’s too good for em’ and “lock em up” our national chant for fifty years bringing us such data as;

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It Happens Over and Over (profound child abuse – child death – inadequate reporting & response)

This is my take from Brandon’s article of Nov 30th (linked above)

Minnesota’s recent brutal murder of 4 year old Eric Dean after 14 ignored reports of child abuse by mandated reporters (and one family assessment) is becoming just one of thousands of cruel stories articulating the low value our nation places on children being exposed by Brandon’s continued research and writing.

As American’s talk big about how we value children and our religious affiliations are many, but there really is very little child protection in the U.S.

Watching this over many years as a volunteer guardian ad-Litem causes me great pain and it is only recently that I have found any hope that conditions might change for the weakest and most vulnerable among us.

MN has tried to reform its child protection system 3 times in the last 25 years, 16 state and county agencies across the nation have resigned or been fired (mostly after the death of children they were hired to protect).

In Maine, it is estimated that up to 70% of abused to death children were known to child protection agencies. In Arizona, 6000 child abuse reports were ignored by the agencies and many children died. Florida reported almost five hundred children killed while known to child protection (since 2008).

What follows is my past reporting on how various states treat their youngest citizens;

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It’s Enough To Make You Sick

Being involved in child protection, you see people torture their children and it is traumatizing.

It’s gets worse if you witness the impact trauma and terror have on a child in your caseload and you watch school and peer failure and how a child’s life is destined to play out.

Unhealthy children become unhealthy adults.

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