Changing A Bad Law (thank you Brandon Stahl & Star Tribune)

Minnesota’s abused and neglected children finally catch a break. Brandon Stahl’s superb reporting on the tortured death of 4-year old Eric Dean after fifteen ignored reports finally reached the State’s top child protection people (Erin Sullivan Sutton) and is trickling down to the legislators that voted to eliminate what was at the time already weak tracking, reporting, and responding to of child abuse complains by counties.

While this is great news for the 68,000 children that are reported as abused in MN each year, it will not restore the millions of dollars that have been cut from County budgets for child protection services that would allow counties to:

Provide the public access to a transparent record keeping and tracking that will allow transparency that the rest of us might monitor how reports of abuse are responded to across the state,

Create consistent standards for screening in cases from county to county (today, four MN counties screen out 90% of child abuse reports)

Fix the damage done already to the thousands of MN children that have been screened out and are living in horrific circumstances,

It is left to be seen if the legislative turnaround will impact the 29% of abused children in the system that today are sent back to abusive homes,

Or our state ranking as 47th in the U.S. on the amount it spends on children in child protection,

Or that 80% of Minnesota’s abused children are abused again while under court supervision,

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Brandon Stahl Reports (reporting on the reporter)

ois Jurgens tortured and killed her three year old adopted son Dennis Jergens over time and in a most brutal fashion. She was the adoptive mother of six children and she tortured them all over long periods of time. She was eventually convicted and sentenced for murder – but not before adopting five other children (after Dennis’s was tortured to death).

Prior to the adoption of Dennis, Lois had been hospitalized three times for mental illness and there were Mayo Clinic psychiatrist records strongly recommending against Lois becoming an adoptive parent because she was a potential paranoid schizophrenic.

She had been turned down by a number of Catholic adoption agencies, but Ramsey County (like many counties) was having trouble finding adoptive homes for abandoned and abused children. Within a year of the adoption, Dennis was admitted to the Ramsey County hospital with burns on his penis and bruises all over his two year old body.

Five years after Dennis’ death, Lois and her husband moved to Kentucky and adopted five more children (states still don’t share information in many cases).

Brandon Stahl has written clearly and accurately about four year old Eric Dean’s short tortured life and the institutional failures that lead to his death. How fifteen reports were made to the under–trained/understaffed/under-resourced county workers ignored all of them.

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Another Avoidable Child Death

Gordon Collins-Faunce, a father with PTSD & related psychotropic medications, and a history of physical and sexual abuse growing up in his own foster family, hurled his two-month old son into a chair. Ethan Henderson died three days later. Child Protective services had been alerted but deemed the boy was safe. While it is easy to blame the workers, it solves nothing without attention to the systems, resources and procedures that will prevent the next Ethan Henderson from an abusive family home.

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Why Are So Many Six Year Olds On Prozac?

Hennepin County Judge Heidi Schellhas shared her records of very young children taking psychotropic medications that had passed through her courtroom with me in 2005 (for my book, Invisible Children.

It was astounding to see how many six and seven year old children in Hennepin County’s Child Protection system take Prozac and other psychotropic medications. Since the book, I have followed reporting about the medicating of the very young from states and counties around the nation.

Most states that have reported on this topic run between 1/4 and 1/3 of their child protection children on psychotropics and teens in foster homes appear to use these drugs at a higher level. It appears that the use of psychotropic medications by non-foster children occur at less than 20% of the rate as the use of these drugs by foster kids.

Most states don’t track the data and those that do don’t make it easy to find.

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Remarkable Reporting; Brandon Stahl – Star Tribune & Tragic Abusive Death Of Eric Dean

Thank you Star Tribune and Brandon Stahl for your in depth reporting on the awful state of child protection in Pope County MN.

A few months ago Brandon Stahl presented Star Tribune readers with the sad fact that four Minnesota counties screen out 90% of child abuse calls. Today, you have shown us how a child can be reported to Child Protection Services fifteen times with egg sized lumps, multiple bite marks, broken arm, swollen cheeks, black eye, facial scabs and puncture wounds and have those reports screened out as unimportant fourteen times.

Eric’s death was as violent and tortured as his life was. Eric’s day care providers tried again and again to report the bleeding and bruises that had been visited on a helpless child but even these mandated reporters finally gave up when they realized that Pope County Child Protection had no intention of taking any action to save the child.

This story has been repeated 54 times since 2005 (children murdered by their caregivers after being reported to child protection).

29% of abused children are sent back into the abusive conditions they were rescued from.

MN now ranks 47th among the states on the amount it spends on children in child protection

30% of families reported for abuse receive services

The waiting list for subsidized daycare is over 8000 names long (people just quit signing up)

80% of Minnesota’s abused children are abused again while under court supervision (this data from U of M CURA Reporter Summer Fall 2013).

For all the talk about how precious children are, some Minnesota children are more precious than others. This is how Minnesotans value other people’s children.

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Almost Half The Children Dying From Abuse In Colorado Were In Or Known To Child Protection Workers (72 of 175)

Today’s Denver Post Article reports a just completed state child protection workload study that indicates a need for 574 more child protection workers to keep abused and neglected children safe in the state (a 49% increase). Of the 150 CP workers interviewed, 100 felt that their case load was unmanageable.

Only 25% of these workers had face to face contact with their caseload children on a monthly basis. That’s pretty cold. Monthly contact is not enough to start with. The system can be so cold and removed and the family and child are so at risk.

There is currently a call for a Colorado Child Protection Ombudsman, who would investigate complaints within the child welfare system. That would be a start towards recording and responding to the biggest problems faced by children, families, and the people trying to make the system work.

2 years ago the Post published a series about 175 Colorado children who died of abuse and neglect (72 of them known within the child protection system). The video on this site makes a compelling argument for adequate reporting, more resources, better training for workers, and smaller caseloads – monthly visits are not enough.

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Don Samuels’ Story

As part of KARA’s TPT documentary project I interviewed Minneapolis City Councilman / Mayoral candidate Don Samuels recently. He described his experiences as a volunteer CASA guardian ad-Litem, North Side resident, and city councilman that were relevant to child well-being and child protection.
Don had a powerful observations about how much better it would be for children and the community if our child protection system concentrated on the needs of that at risk child at the moment of need instead of the systematic institutional approach that occurred each time he (Don) saw a child engaged in the child protection system.

He spoke of being in the courtroom representing a child as a CASA guardian ad-Litem, noting that the child had an attorney, the mother and father each had attorneys (they were divorced), there were social workers and a health worker for the child, the County Attorney, and the usual bailiff, Judge, and courtroom staff, and the huge costs related to all these people in this courtroom trying to make justice happen (not necessarily in the best interest of the child).

The Don Samuels story that will stick with me forever is the five year old boy (call him James) trying to commit suicide by jumping out a third story window at school. Because the boy’s teacher could find no mental health resources for this child, she called her City Council member, Don Samuels for help. Don became involved with James over about fifteen years years and came to know the traumatic life the boy lived and the very bad outcomes James kept having from the institutional care he had received.

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This Week’s At Risk Children’s News

SC: Exclusive – Robert Guinyard’s life and death in SC’s child welfare system
The State – August 17, 2014
Since his death, Robert has become the face of the debate over whether Social Services is doing all it can to protect children like the 4-year-old, one of 67 children who died last year after contact with the state’s child welfare agency.
http://www.thestate.com/2014/08/17/3623563/exclusive-robert-guinyards-life.html

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Founder of ACEsTooHigh and ACEsConnection Jane Stevens

The ACEs scoring is hugely important and with attention to and implementation of the programs and disciplines that reverse or mitigate the terrible impact of childhood trauma our communities will see an improvement in graduation rates, a decline in crime and prison populations, much safer and happier neighborhoods.

The opposite side of this approach are DR. Bruce Perry’s words that if these issues are not addressed, “25% of Americans will be special needs people by the end of this generation”. He spoke that sentence 8 years ago. And he & the medical community have more than adequate research to back up that statement.

Jane Stevens s the most informed and articulate person I’ve listened to in this field. She has a unique perspective as a researcher/reporter who has read and studied the huge volume of information not just from a single aspect of child abuse and neglect, but from the various institutional perspectives as well as how different communities within the states are using or not using and the results the states are seeing with the use or non-use of the ACEs research and recommendations.

If you read nothing else today, introduce yourself to www.ACEsTooHigh and http://www.acesconnection.com/

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KARA -TPT Television Documentary Update

Saturday, August 16th KARA concluded the fourth in a series of professionally conducted video interviews being scheduled for our TPT documentary partnership (seven people/about fourteen hours of interview to date).

KARA’s strategy for the program is to blend the perspectives and insights of the children, families, child protection workers, along with other involved professionals by sharing experience within the child protection system to identify what works and what needs to be changed.

We are discovering through this process just how hard people are trying and it is becoming apparent that awareness, discussion, and change are needed.

KARA and TPT’s underlying hope for this project is to identify and discuss the critical issues that need the attention of the public and policy makers to drive changes that will create better outcomes for abused and neglected children.

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What’s The Difference? (and why we should care)

Coming from years as a CASA guardian ad-Litem, child friendly perspective, I see similarities and a correlation between what in business would be labelled “Worst Practices” or, what is happening to the citizens of Ferguson at the hands of an aggressive judicial/policing approach to justice for the citizens of Missouri, and the way America treats children and juveniles.
25% of American juveniles are tried as adults (often 10 and 12 years old), recidivism rates are now at 70% in our prisons -Black men born in 2001 have a 33% chance of incarceration. Almost half of America’s incarcerated youth serve their terms in privatized prisons. Many laboring for as little as one dollar a day.

Almost 20,000 children have been killed by gunfire since 2010,

Thousands of children in child protection systems are medicated by psychotropic pharmaceuticals like Prozac, Ritalin, and Zoloft instead of being treated through mental health programs that could help them gain the coping skills necessary for leading productive lives.

Six million children are reported abused in this nation each year. About ten percent of them receive services in an overwhelmed child protection system. In most states, only the very worst child abuse cases receive any attention.

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The Most Important Child Friendly Sites of This Week

http://acestoohigh.com/ Read a few of these smart and powerful articles and you will know more about at risk children’s issues than anyone on your block.

http://safepassagemn.com/landing-page.html This video will be the best six minutes you can spend this week.

We are all in this together. Let’s all pull in the right direction (pro child) Support KARA’s TPT documentary project

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Guardian ad Litems Exchanging Stories & Ideas

Share this link with your guardian ad-Litem and social worker friends For current and former guardian ad-Litem/social workers, join our interactive Linked In Group,  and share your experiences and ideas about how to make child protection work better for children.  Change happens when concerned people give their ideas and energy.  Help KARA make it happen…

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About Women In Prison (most are primary caregivers, many lose their children forever)

an-onlooker-watches-the-annual-solar-eclipse-in-albuquerque-new-mexicoI had the good fortune of meeting Tom Daly who wrote a history of Shakopee women’s prison and he told me how women benefited from the educational offerings and the ability to visit with their children while in prison (his book featured below).

It was Tom’s opinion that the the recidivism rate stayed well below thirty percent when the prison was in a “reform” mode.  Today it hovers around 70 percent, like the rest of American prisons (now that the reforms are gone).

Most women in America’s prisons today are incarcerated under the Kingpin laws.  Most of these women are primarily guilty of being in love with or afraid of, some man (the kingpin).  The Kingpin has had years sawed off of his drug dealing sentence for each new “assistant/dealer/co conspirator that he gives us to prosecutors.  Most of these women never see the money, not a threat to society, never posing any real threat to society.

The average tenure of women prison wardens is under one year.  I spoke at a women’s prison warden’s conference in Bloomington MN a few years back and heard the stories of how awful it is to face these women and continue the grossly unfair conditions and punishment that the law requires.

Pregnant women are or can be shackled in childbirth in 29 states.

Most imprisoned women are incarcerated for Drug Offenses

The sexual abuse of women in prison is a huge problem

Most women in prison are parents and were primary caregivers prior to incarceration

The number of children with an incarcerated mother has doubled between 1991 and 2007

The trend is getting worse and no one benefits.  Counties spend millions of dollars to find homes for the children of incarcerated moms and it makes childhood much worse for children than a public health approach to the drug laws would.

 

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KARA tpt Progress Report

Tony Fischer and Tiffini Flynn Forslund conducted KARA’s first interview (of many being scheduled) with St Paul School Board, Vice Chair Keith Hardy.
Keith Hardy. Keith Hardy setting his sights even higher

Keith knows how abused and neglected children need help to achieve the outcomes necessary to succeed in school and he has solid ideas for improving outcomes for both children and schools.

This was a great beginning to exploring issues impacting at risk children and what needs to happen to make life better for children, our communities, and our institutions.

The systemic issues that affect our schools are key to changing the same systemic problems in our society.

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Most Interesting Child Abuse Articles Of The Week

altimore Sun Mandated Reporters (sanctions for not reporting)

CA: Former foster youths graduate with help of Journey House
Pasadena Star-News – July 23, 2014
When youth grow too old for the foster care system, they often go into “survival mode” seeking shelter and food, Journey House Executive Director Tim Mayworm said. Many end up on the street. “Most foster youth never even think they can go to college, let alone graduate,” Mayworm said.
http://www.pasadenastarnews.com/lifestyle/20140723/former-foster-youths-graduate-with-help-of-journey-house

CT: Child advocate agency raps child welfare officials
WRAL – July 23, 2014
The Connecticut Office of the Child Advocate criticized state child welfare officials on Wednesday for their handling of a transgender girl held at a detention center for boys on accusations she fought with other girls at a psychiatric center.
http://www.wral.com/child-advocate-agency-raps-child-welfare-officials/13835100/

CT: Giving Adoptees and Their Kids the Rights They Deserve (Opinion)
News Junkie – July 23, 2014
More than 65,000 adoptees in Connecticut have been legally barred from accessing their birth records.
http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/op-ed_giving_adoptees_and_their_kids_the_rights_they_deserve/

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Powerful Stories From The Atlantic Journal (here’s a preview)

Working with abused and neglected children and dysfunctional families is complex and grueling and needs more not less understanding and support.

Blaming social workers when a baby is found in a dumpster is not so different for blaming teachers for failed schools.

Troubled students not only don’t learn, they disrupt and make teaching the rest of the class much more difficult.

This is not so different from blaming law enforcement for the boy in the squad car (admit it, that would be ridiculous – but the analogy works in both prior examples).

Support teachers, support social workers, support justice workers. It is very hard work inside of institutions with very bad governance (and that my friends is our fault).

Support KARA’S TPT documentary project to bring these issues into the limelight and help our children get a fair start in life.

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We Could Do Better (lowest of the 38 states offering 4 year olds ECE)

While the CASEY Foundation ranks MN 5th in the nation for child well-being, there are serious flaws in our racial disparity and early childhood numbers.

Almost half of MN’s African American children live in poverty. In 2001, half of the adult African American adult men were arrested (no duplicate arrests and 58% of those men went on to be rearrested for a second crime within 2 years).

Our educational performance racial disparity is among the worst in the nation.

From the CURA reporter

MN ranks at the very bottom of states that provide early childhood education to four year old’s (2% vs the national average of 25%). We now have 8000 families on a backlog for subsidized child-care.

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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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New Video From Safe Passage For Children (it’s a Wow)

This strong new piece from Rich Gehrman at Safe Passage For Children makes a powerful case for why Minnesota’s abused and neglected children are being shortchanged and what we must do to fix our troubled systems; SafePassage Video

MN Public TV is partnering with KARA for a once in a lifetime opportunity to make a difference in the lives of abused and neglected children. To do this we need your help.

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State Ward Children As Medical Guinea Pigs (or parents withholding medical treatment for religious reasons?)

Justina Pelletier’s sad case of medical experimentation on state wards in Massachusetts and the religious freedom to deny children with treatable diseases medical care in so many states, proves the awful truth that children have no significant rights in this nation. Almost five hundred children have died in Florida after DHS contact, more than seventy children died in California from 2008 to 2011, and the Governor of Kentucky (Steve Beshear) hid the evidence of dozens of children murdered by their parents.

Consider that

* thousands of five, six, and seven year old children in child protective services in this nation are prescribed psychotropic medications to mask their terrible behavioral problems (generally without any significant therapy), &

* the explosive growth of privatized detention centers and prisons that provide inadequate and poorly supervised services for at risk youth which has lead to the exponential growth of prison populations and preteen moms,

and the picture of how America values its children becomes pretty gloomy.

That America pays day care workers about the same as it pays food service workers really shows the low value of our youngest citizens. Most other industrialized nations demand more training and credentials of their daycare workers and they pay them more (a genuine indication that children have value in those societies).

State ward children used as guinea pigs in medical experimentation needs way more scrutiny than it receives as does the consumption of Prozac like drugs on very young children.

America’s youngest citizens need more rights to safety, health, and well-being (sign our pet

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This Is Happening (KARA’s Public TV Documentary Project)

Take a moment to check out KARA at Indiegogo and share it with your friends. All the tools and perks are there. Get perks, make a contribution, or simply follow updates. If enough of us get behind it, we can make “At Risk Children’s Documentary Project with TPT TV” happen.

http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/836689/emal/5177013

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