Death of 6 Year Old Justis Burland Arnett

Justin’s mother abandoned him years ago to the custody of her own mother. Grandmother could not manage the boy & gave custody to a couple that were grossly unfit to care for children. They killed him.

In grandmother’s defense, there is nothing easy about being 65 years old and trying to care for an out of control child traumatized child. An adopting grandmother once told me tepidly, “when that child is 18, I will be 88 – I sure hope I can make it”.

Bobbie Christine Bishop and Henry Wynhoff beat the six year old repeatedly, duct taped him to a wall & let his infections kill him (from my reading of the article). One visit from a social worker would have discovered the boys awful circumstances and impending death.

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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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Dear Social Worker (a note from the Casey Foundation, KARA and Daniel)

You have chosen one of the most challenging jobs on the planet. Saving children from toxic homes & helping them heal and develop the coping skills necessary to live a functioning life. How do you manage to deal effectively with so many families (and children) at one time?

We all live with the troubled institution that is Child Protection and the lack of awareness, concern and resources our community makes available to abused and neglected children.

Burnout in your profession is high, salaries low & as the Casey Foundation pointed out when Dee Wilson delivered his report to the Hennepin County Commissioners, not much trust for your co-workers or management. Dee Wilson painted a pretty negative picture of the working atmosphere for most social workers.

It hurts me that the 90 minute audio session has been removed from the Hennepin County Commissioners website. I listened to it once and it was gone. I did attend the session, but it’s hard to remember all that was said – and some very blunt truths were delivered to our commissioners.

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Dear Judge John

There have been over one hundred social workers, foster parents, and other adults in my life since I left my dad. None of them have stayed for more than a few years. My feelings of abandonment have been reinforced over one hundred times. I have lived with twenty-seven foster families and group homes. My explosive personality and lack of trust make it hard for me to stay in one place too long.

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Dear Governor Dayton’s Task Force On Child Protection (for the record)

Dear Governor’s Task Force People,

I’ve been a volunteer CASA guardian ad-Litem since 1996 and witnessed many terrible things being done to children both in and out of child protective services (none of them ever made the paper or received any public awareness). I helped found and remain on the board at CASA MN and wrote the book INVISIBLE CHILDREN on this topic in 2005.

Nothing in this letter is meant to reflect badly on adoptive or foster families, GALs/social workers, the courts/police/juvenile justice, educators, task force members, or others directly involved in trying to help children in need of protection. We are doing what we can with the training, resources, and understanding we have.

This letter is intended to bring to your attention the depth and scope of the problems and the high level failures that cause the terrible data and Governor Dayton’s “colossal failure” language for describing child protection in MN. I have inserted a few personal CASA stories (MT) to exhibit specific system faults that need addressing by your task force.

Until Brandon Stahl took it upon himself to convince his employer (the Star Tribune) that this story was worth covering, no one paid any attention to child protection. Eric Utne of the Utne Reader told me ten years ago that there was no public appetite for this topic and it would ruin his magazine if he printed my stories. The Star Tribunes extensive reporting is a rare and positive turn of events that may not be repeated for a very long time.

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Dear Elementary School Teacher (I’m sorry for being such a problem)

I may look like the other 4th graders in your classroom, but I am not. I’m very different. My birth family’s repeated traumatic sex assaults and beatings have had a powerful and lasting impact on my body and mind. I don’t love or trust anyone and don’t feel loved or trusted at all.

The reptilian, fear activated part of my brain, the amygdala, is much larger than other children’s. This interferes with my ability to sit still in a classroom and I’m unable to concentrate on the things you are talking about. My mind is always filled with fearful thoughts and anxiety about the next bad thing that’s about to happen. It couldn’t be otherwise. The Prozac I’m forced to take (about a third of all foster children are medicated by psychotropics) makes me stupid and slow and I hate that. Some seven year olds know what the suicidal ideation on the side of the Prozac box actually means (fully formed thoughts of self harm and suicide delivered in waking moments).

I don’t have the coping skills to handle small personal things in the classroom like other children. Certain words and behaviors by others trigger a violent learned fear response in me that other kids don’t seem to have. I can be violent and did not learn social interaction at home, My reactions to minor things do not come from the executive function of my brain. I can’t control myself, things just happen.

Please understand that foster children are not foster children because a parent tired of caring for them or someone hit a child once or twice. At least I’ve not seen that among the foster kids I know. I’ve come to know many foster children through the County system as I’ve moved from foster home to foster home. It is the “Imminent Harm Doctrine”, that let’s a judge remove a child from a birth home. Literally, a child’s life must be in danger before the court will take a child away from birth parents. It really is almost as traumatic to be removed from the home as it is to stay and suffer the abuse. No matter how bad the abuse is, the fear of waking up in a strange place, with no one you have ever seen before is extremely frightening to a seven year old.

I became a state ward because my mother, who had been horribly abused as a child herself, had very violent boyfriends who thought sex with children was acceptable behavior. One of the boyfriends kicked me so hard I went into convulsions & needed an ambulance ride to the hospital (I was seven). The medical staff saw the awful bruises and placed me in child protection.

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Dear At Risk Kids Army (part of the plan for 2017)

Kids At Risk Action is pleased to report over 185,665 reader minutes spent learning about child protection issues on KARA’s website this past year. This represents 50,907 of you (way more than last year).

Many thousands of you are also sharing KARA information on Twitter, Facebook and other social media. Our goal for next year is to double these numbers and turn learning into action.

For the New Year KARA is requesting your participation in creating a positive vision & plan for system reform that is effective and easy to begin using in your community.

The latest draft will always be here (share your ideas as comments on this page).

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Daycare In America (more sad stories)

A South Carolina woman who allegedly operated an unlicensed daycare out of her home faces multiple charges after a child under her care died. But investigators say that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Pamela Clark Wood, 49, was arrested March 6. Police began investigating Wood last month after Greenville County Sheriff’s deputies received a call about anunresponsive 3-month-old baby girl, who later died.

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Day of Justice in the Death of 3 Year Old Arianna Hunziker

Arianna was wrapped in sheets, left alone in a closed room and slowly starved to death. Foster parents Sherrie and Bryce Dirk will go to prison for murdering Arianna. This solves nothing.

There is something terribly disturbing about a State sanctioned foster family starving a 3 year old State Ward child to death that needs to see the light of day.

Arianna must not have had a County social worker (today’s Star Tribune article …

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Day Care; The Bargain

Because the waiting list for subsidized daycare is one year into the future for the father of the children I represent (as a county guardian ad-Litem) there is a good chance that his two small children will be taken from him by the county and adopted by someone he has never met.
It is also possible that he may not be able to visit his children if they are adopted.

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Cry Me A River (but let’s not change anything)

thought my friend David Strand was kidding when he told us that all Europeans needed to do to raise taxes for sensible legislative reforms was to hold up a copy of the New York Times and point out what could happen otherwise. You tell me;

More Cops in Schools Is the Wrong Answer to Mass Shootings

Across the country, school districts are quietly arming teachers for the …
After Sandy Hook, More Than 400 People Have Been Shot in Over …

Toddlers Killed More Americans than Terrorists in 2015 – Snopes.com
Armed toddlers kill twice as many Americans each year as terrorists …

How America Values Children (guns and drugs)

Kids Killed & Injured in Your State (8369 2015 America)

Will Florida Jail Doctors for Speaking About Gun Safety?

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Cruel & False Savings Are Cheating America’s Abused & Neglected Children (again)

Because the State refused to spend the $500 to do a basic background check on his father before assigning dad custody, even though dad had a court order in an adjacent state forbidding him from being around young boys because of what he did to them and even though dad had spent 2/3’s of his adult life in prison, Andy (the child) was taken from a loving foster home to spend 4 years (from 4 to 7 years of age) sexually abused, beaten and starved by his biological father. From 4 to 7 years old, Andy was left alone in an apartment for days at a time without food or drink, tied to a bed.

Bruised from head to toe when dad finally brought him to school (at 7 years old), placed into child protection services and not treated for mental health issues, Andy became a very disturbed young man.

Prozac, Ritalin, & other psychotropic medications, multiple suicide attempts and intermittent months of sporadic & very expensive “suicide watch” therapy (including airplane trips to emergency facilities) & group homes were the State’s underfunded, misguided attempts to manage a terrifically damaged beautiful young boy were too little and too late.

Andy has been a ward of the state now for 16 years & will most likely remain a ward of the state for the rest of his life.

If he lives to 60, he could be a 10 to 20 million dollar burden to the state, without calculating any amount for his violence, the people he hurts, & the damage he does.

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Critical Perspectives On Child Abuse (updated regularly – send KARA your insights)

Adverse Childhood Experiences ACES NEWS Top notch reporting on research and news about abuse politics, programs and stories locally, nationally and internationally. Current and focused trauma informed news.

Richard Ross has devoted ten years of his life to documenting America’s hidden gulag of 71,000 teenagers in lockdown and solitary confinement. His photographs are eloquent and deeply upsetting.

ACE Study Preview – The most compelling video about child abuse ever. The medical communities elegant effort to reduce 30 years of research into 3 minutes. Powerful.

All Adults Are The Protectors of All Children

FOSTER SHOCK This Frontline quality video documentary uncovers unspeakable failures in Florida’s Privatized Group Homes. THE PASSWORD IS ” foster ” or download the video

Does Your State Have Safe Passage For Children (is there a voice for the safety and well being in your state for at risk children?)

Do Your State Ward Children Have a Voice In the System That Rules Their Lives? (National CASA Here)

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Crisis Nurseries & Colleges

From the book, How Children Succeed, Paul Tough, I learned that 68% of wealthy high school graduates with at least one parent that had graduated from college went on to achieve their own BA degree, while students in the lowest economic quartile without college graduate parents achieve a BA degree at less than 10%. Gotta admit that is a big spread.

From the Consortium on Chicago Schools Research, one in thirty African American Boys that graduate from Chicago schools will go on to achieve 4 year college degree before they are 25.

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Criminalizing Mental Illness (statistics & stories)

It is upsetting that the only significant authoritative voice speaking to the horrific practice of criminalizing mental illness is Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek.

Stanek’s Star Tribune article today paints the ugly picture of mentally ill patients not charged with any crime, locked up in a tiny, isolated, empty cell for 23 hours a day for months at a time because there is no other place for them.

HCMC downtown is seeing 800 to 1000 emergency psych visits/month, MN hospitals are turning away mental health patients and a very large percentage of people in the juvenile and criminal justice system suffer from diagnosable mental health problems.

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Crime and Justice & a Great Sadness

What do you feel when a baby is found dead in a dumpster, a young person deliberately murders innocent people, or some other insane tragedy fills the headlines?

Do you feel a sense of loss and sadness for the suffering of the parties involved?

Or are you filled with judgment and a need to blame someone and a desire for punishment?

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Court Rules American Children Will No Longer Be Incarcerated For Life (& we recently quit executing juveniles)

Some states still charge 11 year old children as adults in this nation (25% of youth are charged as adults in America).

MN Supreme Courts former Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz is remembered for her statements about how abused and neglected children correlate to crime & prison.

“The difference between that poor child and a felon is about 8 years” &

“90% of the youth in juvenile justice have passed through child protection” are 2 powerful Justice Blatz statements that should cause us to reflect on how we treat the youngest and most vulnerable among us.

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