Taxes, Children & a Guardian ad Litem’s Perspective

Today’s Miguel Otarola’s Star Tribune attention on the additional 43 million dollars needed to fund these programs should be put into perspective.

One of my CASA guardian ad litem caseload children cost the State and County about 3 million dollars by the time he aged out of foster care – not including the teacher he beat up, student he stabbed and terrible things he did to the 29 foster families he lived with. He contracted AIDS as a teen and will always be a State Ward and high cost to the County. This child will likely end up being a 5 to 10 million dollar tax burden just because

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TC NonViolent Event – Invisible Children September 25th

September 25th 4 to 5pm – Chapel

Dayton Av Presbyterian Church

217 Mackubin Street Saint Paul, MN 55102

How childhood trauma evolves into chronic illness, dangerous lifestyle & early death and shadows children into adulthood impacting schools, public safety, public health and quality of life in the community.

What we need to know & need to do to interrupt abuse, heal children and fix our community

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Teachers Are People Too

This KARA post from 2005 suggests a significant improvement in graduation rates in Minneapolis schools. No Child Left Behind really did leave behind a great many children.

From our 2005 piece;

Roosevelt High school graduated 28% of its students last year—Minneapolis and other big city schools averaged graduation rates between 50% and 60% nationwide. 25% of graduating U.S. high school seniors are functionally illiterate.

Teachers and school administrators are accused of bad stewardship. That is like blaming the police for who sits in the back seat of a squad car. It’s not their fault.We are all in this together, or as Pliny the elder said 2500 years ago, “what we do to our children, they will do to our society”

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Teachers As First Responders

What’s it like to be a first grade teacher frightened by an out of control little boy who kicks, punches or stabs classmates with pencils? Is the principal trauma informed? Are their teams of trauma informed teachers or sufficient mental health resources that can lessen the chances of expelling a seven or nine year old from the school?

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Teaching In a Strange Land (mental health workers without training)

What struck me hardest in today’s INVISIBLE CHILDREN presentation at a suburban elementary school was the dedication and desire my audience of 60 educators have for the children in their classrooms. Even the most difficult kids.

Martin Luther King Day was a train the trainer day for these teachers. Our discussion on trauma and dealing with traumatized children sparked keen conversation and shined a light on the depth and scope of the mental health issues students bring to school.

Did you know that 37% of children overall and 57% of Black children are reported to child protection services in America by the time they turn 18. (American Journal of Public Health 1.17)

This a particularly American problem and it is growing. Educators, like social workers, law enforcement, adoptive and foster parents, must grasp the new mental health reality if they are to succeed in their work with this population.

Most of my audience today “got it” when I talked about child abuse, foster homes, and what it takes to get into Child Protective Services and why abused and neglected children exhibit irrational and sometimes dangerous behaviors and need to be understood if learning is to occur.

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Tennessee’s High Infant Death Rate

Of the 23 richest countries, the United States has the highest rate of infant mortality, according to the CIA World Fact Book. And in Shelby County, Tenn., which encompasses Memphis, the state health department says a baby dies every 43 hours — a rate higher than that of any other major city. The babies most at risk come from impoverished parts of town with largely black populations.

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Texas Wins Again (Criminalizing 300,000 students / year)

Cursing, farting, or an honors student spraying perfume on her neck, all valid reasons for being arrested in Texas schools (citations to six year old’s even).

Does the nation need more disadvantaged youth in the criminal justice system? Texas thinks so.

Texas, the state eliminating higher order thinking from it’s schools & teaching that premarital sex has fatal consequences, and that getting plenty of rest and avoiding condoms saves one from sexually transmitted diseases (& leads all states and many third world nations in the incidence of STD’s among youth) now rests comfortably ahead of all states and the rest of the world in criminalizing students.

Texas also leads in Executions (including of the mentally ill – ignoring federal mandates), juvenile incarceration, uninsured children, child poverty (including food insecurity/starvation of children), preteen pregnancies (and the highest rates of repeat births to teen moms).

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Thank God For Lawyers, Lawsuits & the Star Tribune

Today’s Star Tribune reporting on the civil rights lawsuit for abused children (by reporter Chris Serres) validates my belief that child rape and other crimes against children are the most ignored and cruelest reality in our community.  We hate the conversation so we avoid it and children suffer continued awful traumas because of us. I…

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Thank You Canada (for your clear speaking about child protection)

This CBS report on child protection in British Columbia is direct and to the point. It’s honesty and tone would be instructive for many U.S. states that suffer from the same issues without the will to face them head on.

It hurts me that we don’t talk more openly about child abuse and how life changing it is for children. Until we do, there’s little chance that the changes required to make our systems work will occur.

I really liked this quote from the report; “In the future, we must accept and act on a simple principle: child protection is one of the most difficult jobs in government and it should be recognized and rewarded with higher compensation.” It is.

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Thank You Century College

This weeks KARA presentation for Century College Luncheon Speaker Series prompted good questions and brought a solid discussion to the critical issues facing at risk children.

We are all seeking better and happier endings.

It will take some participation by all of us to shift the culture to where it respects and cares for America’s children, for that to happen.

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Thank You Colorado Springs Gazette For Your Excellent Child Protection Reporting

A three-part series where The Gazette explores how the child protection system works, how El Paso County ranks in terms of child abuse and how child neglect differs from child abuse in the eyes of prosecutors who handle the cases.

• Chidl protection system isn’t flawless

• Not all child abuse referrals become cases

• Child abuse cases likely to land in family court

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Thank You Governor Dayton (shining a light on Minnesota’s Child Protection system)

It took real courage for Minnesota’s Governor to use the phrase “Colossal Failure” when describing the role child protective services played in the tortured death of four year old Eric Dean.  The politics of child protection are not favorable to politicians. Plenty of Governors would have let the story die down without making too much…

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Thank You Houston Texan Receiver Andre Johnson

Wow, what a swell guy and great example for the rest of us; Andre bought $19,521 worth of Toys R Us gifts for children in Child Protective Services today. Here’s the link (you can see the very long receipt).

I like his message too;

“A lot of these kids get discouraged because of where they grew up and things like that. I grew up in a single-parent home and I was fortunate to achieve my goals. So, whatever goals you have, just keep them out in front of you, don’t let anybody distract you away from them, because there will be distractions that try to detour you away from your goals. That’s the biggest thing.”

Pass it on to your friends (it may give them ideas)

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Thank You Indiana

I was impressed with the tenacity and commitment of Indiana’s foster and adoptive parents in the face of this state’s mean spirited children’s politics.

The evening before my talk I listened to story after story of the “fluid” nature of Department of Child Services policy, families not being allowed to question decisions or policy for fear of being blackballed, and what it’s like to watch long established, workable policies disappear to be replaced by whimsy and bullying.

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Thank You Judge Kevin Burke

Judge Keven Burke shares a letter from an 8 year old outlining his plans to escape with his toddler brother should the parents reunite (the swearing & fighting are violent & unbearable).

I’ve written about the 7 year old that hung himself and left a note & the 4 year old I visited at the suicide ward in Fairview hospital (as a volunteer guardian ad-Litem).

Judge Burke quotes children that are not in the child protection system & draws our attention to the needs (and I would offer “civil rights”) of the large numbers of children that suffer because their communities don’t offer effective child protection services.

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Thank You Prairie Care & Washburn Center For Children’s Mental Health (the uphill battle in addressing children’s mental health in Minnesota)

Prairie Care’s new 50 bed hospital for Children’s mental health is a tiny step in providing badly needed services for the traumatized children passing through Minnesota institutions.

HCMC alone sees 800 to 1000 emergency psychiatric visits each month and many of them are traumatized children. I’m guessing that an equal number of terrifically disturbed youth get no help at all in our state because there are no children’s mental health hospitals where they live.

The disparity between available beds and needy children will remain huge with this addition but it’s a nice thought that it signals a trend towards valuing the well being of the youngest and most vulnerable among us.

Would six year old foster child Kendrea Johnson have hung herself last year by her jump rope if child protection services had identified her level of trauma and provided access to the most current pediatric mental health care? As it was, her social worker did not know she was seeing a therapist and the police and medical examiner proclaimed that six year old children were incapable of suicide (little do they know).

Would Jeff Weise have killed all those people and himself at Red Lake a few years ago if someone had read his blog or heard his cries for help and brought him to Prairie Care, Washburn Center or other advanced treatment facilities? His mother told him she “wished he’d never been born” and his homicidal/suicidal blog writings were ample warning that the boy needed help. After the tragedy, Red Lake built a mental health facility in town.

Michael Swanson’s mom tried desperately for years to find help for her terribly disturbed son prior to his killing of Sheila Myers & Vicky Bowman-Hall – two random and innocent Iowa grocery clerks.

In my experience as a volunteer guardian ad-Litem, I had many personal, painful encounters with suicidal very young children. My first visit to a four year old state ward girl was at the suicide ward of Fairview hospital. A reason for my becoming a guardian ad-Litem was the tragedy a dear friend lived after adopting a homicidal state ward boy.

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Thank You Ruben Rosario

In reviewing Minnesota’s past child abuse tragedies to connect the dots between the sadness of four year old Dennis Jurgens murder by his adopted mother of 1965 (Lois Jurgens went on to adopt five other children after that murder) and the Eric Dean murder recently, I discovered the work done by St Paul Pioneer Press reporter Ruben Rosario on the beating death of three year old Desi Irving by her mother in 1997.

Ruben Rosario’s investigation turned up the exact same issues we are facing today and very candid remarks (1998) by then former head of Hennepin County’s Department of Children, Family and Adult Services.

Ruben and David Sanders draw attention to the lack of public transparency, closing cases without investigation, state laws that prohibit discussion of even the most egregious cases of child abuse, deliberately keeping child death cases “off the books” (30 cases in FL recently), and the impossible fact that government data often does not include deaths involving children whose families never came in contact with child protective services.
Ruben’s drew attention to Brown University research demonstrating that 15% of all murders during a 32 year period of investigation were the killing of one or more children by a parent, step-parent, caretaker or other parental figure.

One third of the victims were under one year old, and two-thirds were six or younger.

The need for a database clearing house, keeping data longer and making it more transparent and accessible are necessary if the public is to have any basis for understanding the depth and scope of child abuse in America today.

From someone who has witnessed child abuse tragedies as a volunteer guardian ad-Litem again and again over many years, it is obvious that our community’s big talk about how we value children is just that – talk and nothing more.

Thank you Ruben for your in depth reporting on child abuse & thank you Governor Dayton for remarking candidly on the “Colossal Failure” of child protective services that cost Eric Dean his tortured and painful four year-old 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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