This Week’s News For At Risk Children

VA: State finds Richmond DSS not at fault in two child deaths
WTVR – April 18, 2014
A review conducted by Virginia’s Department of Social Services determined Richmond’s Department of Social Services (RDSS) did not contribute to the death of two children known to RDSS last year. VDSS is reviewing what happened to five children who died since April of last year and were known to RDSS at some point.
https://wtvr.com/2014/04/18/state-finds-richmond-dss-not-at-fault-in-two-child-deaths/

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Tip Of The Iceberg – Medicating Six Year Olds

We forget that before Prozac, there was Thorazine and the side effects were pronounced and obvious. These new drugs are much more insidious in how side effects manifest themselves.

The underlying issues driving dangerous and emotionally charged behaviors in children must be identified and dealt with if mental health is going to be attained. Anything less fails the child and the community.

Public policy assumes that it’s economically way cheaper to provide drugs than really helping a child.

Work done by the medical community and the Federal Reserve proves that building children is much more economically viable than trying to rebuild badly broken adults. In my volunteer work within the system, I’ve seen it born out again and again.

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See No Evil – 90% Of Child Abuse Reports Screened Out In Minnesota Counties (Red Lake, Wilkin, LeSeur, Waseca)

Today’s Star Tribune *article draws attention to the thousands of children that are neglected, abused, traumatized enough to be seen and reported by others. The vast majority of child abuse is never seen and never reported.

Minnesota, decided that denying children safety saves money. Statewide our screened out average is 71% compared to the national average of 38%. It is one thing to read about the horrid conditions facing babies and children, another to meet the child and see what sex, starvation, neglect, or other forms of violence actually does to a 5 or 10 year old child

I’ve written about the 7 year old foster child that hung himself and left a note about Prozac and visited a 4 year old in a hospital suicide ward.

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Yesterday’s State Of The Child Summit (Children In Legal Proceedings) at Hamline University

It was the simple truths that struck me hardest as I listened to the Hamline University presenters yesterday. I was reminded of MN’s former Supreme Court Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz statement that “90% of the youth in juvenile justice have come through child protection”, and that, ” The difference between that poor child and a felon, is about eight years”. The pipeline to prison starts here.

Behavior problems in schools are not well served by hiring more police officers. As a long time guardian ad-Litem, it is apparent to me how authority figures are viewed by abused and neglected children (a big segment of the behavioral problems at school). It has hurt me to see well meaning officers treated horridly by abused children through no fault of their own. Traumatized kids lash out at authority and take no prisoners. This gets them in big trouble and their behavior problems get worse, not better. Police interactions are often just one more trauma to be suffered by an abused child. Don’t blame the police – they didn’t set this system up.

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From Our Friends At Safe Passage For Children (today’s Safe Passage message)

The Metric that Matters

I have a friend who thinks government can always cut more staff. I told him when child protection investigators get more than 4-5 new cases a week they become ineffective.

He grudgingly conceded “I guess there have to be some metrics”.

Minnesota tried to keep this caseload ‘metric’ manageable last year by only responding to 28% of maltreatment reports, compared to 62% nationally. This means 21,960 children didn’t get a needed visit from a child protection worker.

Sorry, but fixing this will require adding staff, because decisions to investigate families and potentially even remove children can’t really be privatized.

We have to put aside reservations about ‘big’ government and help counties excel at this work so we can achieve the metric that matters: as many safe children as possible.

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CASA Guardian ad-Litem Distinctions (clarity on different kinds of guardian ad-Litems)

There are three very different kinds of guardian ad-Litem; Volunteer, Staff, and Lawyer.

1) Volunteer CASA GALs generally take just a few cases and get to know the families and children in the court proceedings very well. CASA stands for, Court Appointed Special Advocate. as a CASA GAL, I had fifty children in my case load over twelve years. Some of those children stayed with me over the entire twelve years. I knew them and their families very well.

2) Staff GALs are given case loads similar to case loads that social workers are given. In my experience, staff GALs have more cases and less time per child/case.

3) Attorneys are paid by the County or by the parent depending on the state. In my experience, attorneys rarely visit the family, and generally meet the child for the first time at court.

Feel free to add clarifications to this posting if I’ve missed something or you disagree with me.

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In Defense Of People Doing The Work

It hurts me to hear destructive criticisms about how teachers are the cause of badly performing schools, social workers blamed when a baby dies a horrid death while under County supervision, and most recently an all out diatribe against the uncaring volunteer guardian ad-Litems in America.
These professions are not entered for the great wealth or social prestige that accompany the difficult work that come with the job. Educators are dealing with mental health issues, the impact of poverty, abuse, and homelessness as our society becomes less well off, and recently, less well governed. Social workers are expected to work miracles with terrifically damaged children in toxic homes, drug and violence issues, huge caseloads, and few resources to fix anything.

Volunteer guardian ad-Litems work with badly damaged children trying to guide them through a complex and bureaucratic court system in the hopes of saving them from both the system and the traumas they have suffered from.

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CASA Guardian ad-Litem Stories

A twenty something prostitute was brought into the system with a four year old boy (whose guardian ad-Litem I became). The boy knew five languages and had perfect behavior. He was a beautiful child.

Violence and repeated arrests for prostitution, drugs, and child endangerment had brought them into the system. Mom was reasonable, very intelligent, and like all moms, in love with her little boy.

After two months of coffee and visits, she began to understand the life her boy would lead because she could not give up her addiction to drugs and prostitution and asked her father to adopt her boy. Dad was so happy (and a wonderful fellow).

This is the happiest story I have.

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KARA Talk Monday Night In Stillwater (7pm)

Friends of Kids At Risk Action, board member Tiffini Flynn Forslund & I present our INVISIBLE CHILDREN talk at the Critical Thinkers Club in Stillwater Monday night April 14th at 7pm.
The meeting is held at the FamilyMeans Bldg., 1875 Northwestern Ave (opposite the Stillwater Water Tower). Here are driving directions:

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Help Wanted Volunteer Staff Writer (for Sad Stories and CASA pages)

Would you like to do more for at risk kids? Can you commit to four hours weekly for at least the next 3 months, to rewrite the information that I gather for these pages?

Review them; CASA News Sad Stories, and contact me if this fits your style and competency.

Buy our book or donate

Sample 4 minute video of Mike’s awesome talk on child protection in America (invite me to speak at your conference – Mike@invisiblechildren.org )

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Making Children Whole (with the help of the community)

Think what you might about the unborn, it seems only fair that a living breathing baby should have the right to basic health care (if only to continue breathing).

It is terrifically expensive to treat the chronic illness and behavioral problems that blossom out of children born into toxic and unhealthy circumstances where mom’s without parenting skills, or coping skills, eat poorly, drink excessively and often have serious mental health issues. Many of the moms I’ve known from child protection were the fourth or fifth generation of abused girls having their own families of abused children. Without help from the community, their children never break out of toxic birth home environments and never learn the skills they need to live a productive life.

Crisis nurseries and subsidized quality daycare make up for some of the problems these children live with in the home. Coping skills are not delivered by the stork but they can be gleaned from other care providers (if the community reaches out).

In my lengthy Protestant upbringing, I can only remember a Jesus that wanted to provide for the weakest and most vulnerable among us – especially children.

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Why Teachers Quit Teaching

When I first began teaching more than 25 years ago, hands-on exploration, investigation, joy and love of learning characterized the early childhood classroom. I’d describe our current period as a time of testing, data collection, competition and punishment. One would be hard put these days to find joy present in classrooms.

I think it started with No Child Left Behind years ago. Over the years I’ve seen this climate of data fascination seep into our schools and slowly change the ability for educators to teach creatively and respond to children’s social and emotional needs. But this was happening in the upper grades mostly. Then it came to kindergarten and PreK, beginning a number of years ago with a literacy initiative that would have had us spending the better part of each day teaching literacy skills through various prescribed techniques. ”What about math, science, creative expression and play?” we asked. The kindergarten teachers fought back and kept this push for an overload of literacy instruction at bay for a number of years.

Next came additional mandated assessments. Four and five year olds are screened regularly each year for glaring gaps in their development that would warrant a closer look and securing additional supports (such as O.T, P.T, and Speech Therapy) quickly. Teachers were already assessing each child three times a year to understand their individual literacy development and growth. A few years ago, we were instructed to add periodic math assessments after each unit of study in math. Then last year we were told to include an additional math assessment on all Kindergarten students (which takes teachers out of the classroom with individual child testing, and intrudes on classroom teaching time.)

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Thank You Safe Passage For Children

As a long time CASA guardian ad-Litem who finds it impossible to believe that the depth and scope of child abuse in my community (both local and national) is largely unspoken until some poor child is found in a dumpster or has his brains bashed out against a wall by a caregiver, I am excited by the efforts to quantify these sad facts by Safe Passages For Children.

It is precisely because we don’t keep track, or if we do, don’t publish the mountain of unhappy things happening to our children. If these things were recorded, reported, and discussed, our institutions could function more effectively and children would be much safer and happier.

What follows is a major effort by Rich Gehrman and Safe Passages For Children to identify the tip of this iceberg (thank you Rich and company)

Please sign our petition for safe and healthy MN children (even if you are not from MN)

Petition to make health, education, and well being available to all MN children

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Bad Day In The News For At Risk Children

image001Friends of KARA, please appreciate that these children don’t get much press and aside from the blaming of caregivers and social workers, not much investigating is done and few solutions are offered. The issues are uncomfortable and seldom spoken of which is why the problem of child abuse is epidemic in America.

As a longtime CASA guardian ad-Litem, it hurts me that the millions of terribly injured children are so under our radar.

What follows are some of today’s child tragedies (and a first nation’s report of child death over the years).  Please feel free to send me articles from your community.  The only way life can be improved for abused and neglected children is if we record and talk about these things.

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KARA TV Interview Mike & Tiffini

KARA board members Tiffini Flynn Forsland & Mike Tikkanen were Interviewed on Catherine Hoaglund’s Metro Cable Network Channel 6, Catherine’s Crossing to bring attention to key issues facing abused and neglected children. Catherine asked powerful questions about the brutal truths faced by at risk children and what our community could do to help children in toxic homes develop the coping skills necessary for leading a normal life.

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Thank You Ruben Rosario (for today’s powerful Pioneer Press article supporting our Invisible Children Petition)

“In the spirit of a) enlightened self-interest and b) in order to form a more perfect union, we the people of Minnesota declare that all children have an equal right to preventative health care (the right to see a doctor before they are sick) including prenatal care and to quality early learning (pre-K) programs,” the petition states.

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Removed; Short Painful Film About Foster Care

“Sometimes someone hurts you so bad, it stops hurting at all. Until something makes you feel again, and then it all comes back: every word, every hurt, every moment.”

Those are the first words spoken in “ReMoved” — a powerful short film, directed by Nathanael Matanick, which exposes both the bleakness and the potential hope that exists within the foster care system.

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Sign Our Petition For Child Rights, Safety, and Healthcare

Help KARA make a better world for America’s children and sign our petition for basic rights, health care, and safety (even if you’re not from MN)

http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/childrens-civil-human?source=c.em.mt&r_by=6732677

Every signature helps.

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Beyond Capacity; Arizona’s Child Protection System (not the only state)

Child Protective Services oversight committee shows Arizona’s child welfare system experienced a greater caseload increase than all but one state in the 10 years ending in 2012, while most states saw decreases.

University of Chicago researcher and former federal child welfare commissioner Bryan Samuels’ review of state and federal data also found the response time in Arizona for child abuse and neglect complaints soared from 63 hours to nearly 250 hours between 2009 and 2012.

Samuels said the data he reviewed at the request of state officials working to overhaul the broken system showed Arizona’s child welfare system became overwhelmed as caseloads soared. That led to a large increase in the amount of time children were in the system before being reunified with their families or placed in permanent homes.

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477 Child Deaths In FL (preserving families but costing lives)

When 8-week-old Kyla Joy Hall was hospitalized with a bleeding brain and fractures to both legs, both wrists and a foot, police could not determine which of her parents injured her. One thing was certain: Someone had inflicted life-threatening injuries on a newborn.

While Kyla healed in a medical foster home, child-welfare authorities moved to strip both parents of their rights to her. But when her mother bowed out of the picture — to become an actress — her father transformed, without explanation, from abuse suspect into fit parent. Josi Hall, Jacksonville firefighter, was awarded full custody despite the misgivings of his own mother.

Ten months later, Kyla’s father viciously attacked her. Her injuries included a “pulpified” liver, knuckle-sized bruises to her chest and, the decisive blow, a cleaved heart that sustained damage similar to “that of a kick from a horse,” an autopsy said.

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Violence Against Children – A family Tradition (TEDx, Robbyn Peters Bennett)

Violence, a family tradition: Robbyn Peters Bennett at TEDx Bellingham This short (13 min) TEDx video clearly articulates what is wrong with hitting babies & children (and legislators in Kansas lobbying for the right to leave bruises on children). Passed down generation after generation, sticks, paddles, and open hand hitting all leave mental health marks that result in compensating behaviors, poor brain development, and the next generation of parents beating their children. If you know someone that hits their child, or lives in Kansas, send this link to them.

6 million children are reported to child protection services in the U.S. each year Only a fraction of these children receive the help they need to lead productive lives.

(invite me to speak at your conference) / Buy our book or donate Sample 4 minute video of Mike’s awesome talk on child protection in America

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Great Discussion On Privatized Foster Care In Georgia (Linked In)

Fascinating debate occurring in Georgia that has life-altering impacts on children. Have you studied the research on privatization of foster care and/or other child welfare services? If so, please share what you’ve learned? Has your state had experience with partial or full privatization? Any lessons to share with Georgia and the rest of the country from that?

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