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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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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Thank You Safe Passage for Children of Minnesota

This year Minnesota children were safer and received more services due in large part to the loyal donors and passionate volunteers of Safe Passage for Children of Minnesota.

Safer Children

13,600 more children annually are getting help from county child protection agencies due to changes our passionate volunteers helped make in state law.  

More Resources

Counties and the state increased their budgets for child protection and foster care by over $200 million since 2015.  In addition, counties added nearly 500 caseworkers – a 60% increase.

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The Accountability Gap in Child Protection (Thank you Safe Passage For Children)

This article copied from the Safe Passage For Children newsletter clearly articulates the importance of record keeping as it pertains to reports of repeated calls of child abuse.  Unfortunately, the system is overwhelmed, and it is all too easy to simply not keep good records. What we don’t know can’t hurt us.  But it certainly…

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The Administration That Poisoned the Children of Flint Michigan

It’s hard to believe that a political administration could go so far in negating the value of a city’s children as just happened in Flint Michigan.

For 2 years Flint children have been poisoned with lead and other toxins in the face of scientific evidence, political backlash and community outrage with nothing but misfeasance, malfeasance and non-feasance from the Governor’s office (all 8000 of Flints children).

Flint needs disaster relief from the EPA, CDC and Army Corps of Engineers to stop the State sponsored child abuse that poisoned the children of Flint Michigan.

Elected officials need to be made aware that what happened in Flint was wrong and the people in charge made public, made to resign and be punished. Sign Michael Moore’s petition on Facebook to let Michigan’s Governor know that what he has done to Flint’s children is a crime (if the Michigan State found you knowingly poisoning your children over an extended period of time you would be guilty of second degree felony child abuse)*

Michigan Penal Code, section 750.136b:

“A person is guilty of child abuse in the second degree if…the person knowingly or intentionally commits an act likely to cause serious physical or mental harm to a child,” Michigan Penal Code, section 750.136b states. “[This] is a felony punishable by imprisonment for a first offense of not more than 10 years…[and] for a second or subsequent offense not more than 20 years.”

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The Beatings Will Continue Until the Morale Improves (it’s all your fault)

Historically, we blame educators for failing schools and social workers for murdered children within the child protection system.

This behavior is wrong and counterproductive. It’s like blaming a police officer for the person in the squad car.

If you know police officers, social workers and teachers you know how hard their work is and how dedicated they are to what they do.

The blame for the poor results we have been getting in our schools, child protection and criminal justice system lies with us as voters and policy makers.

Until we understand the depth and scope of the problem and give the people working with the children and youth in our communities the support they need, our problems will continue to grow.

On the bright side, Minnesota has the Washburn Center for Children which is almost 100% successful in treating abused and neglected children. We know how to break the cycle of generational child abuse.

All that is left to do is scale the trauma informed practices to a level that meets the need. The economic reasons for doing this are compelling and it is the right thing to do.

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The Best Article On Child Protective Services Ever (this is worth the read)

the impossible dilemma faced by child protection workers, judges and parents when a child abuse claim is made. What shouldn’t happen and what should happen for the safety of a child and the integrity of the institution of child protection.

Repercussions of a child abuse report last forever (what’s it like for the child to hear the specific abuse charges brought against you), parents sometimes not allowed to say goodbye, what is imminent danger and how long before you get a hearing (in some communities a year is common).

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The Child Neglect Dilemma (from Safe Passage For Children)

Contrary to a common assumption, neglect is not less damaging than abuse. Research shows neglect victims have lifelong problems because they miss developmental milestones around language, self-control, and bonding with others.

A constant dilemma in neglect cases is whether to traumatize children by removing them from their families, or leave them in situations where their brains aren’t developing normally.

Quality Early Childhood Education (ECE) programs can make it possible to leave children at home while helping their parents improve parenting skills.

This study documents that neglect victims who got ECE moved quickly from having a language deficit to the normal range. Language development is critical to academic success and positive interpersonal relationships.
ECE can help many children avoid foster care and still obtain the baseline skills they need to thrive.

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The Commonality Of Child Sex Abuse

Like many small towns and families, people do not like to deal with child sexual assault and child abuse, in their communities and/or in their homes.

Despite the fact, that 1 in 3 girls, and 1 in 6 boys will be abused before their eighteenth birthday; despite the fact that only 10% tell and the other 90% are still living in a cloak of denial and secracy; despite the fact that 5 children die a day, due to child abuse and child sexual assualt!

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The Cost Of Ignoring Reality

I repeat Pliny’s quote often because I believe it clearly articulates how almost every problem our nation has ties directly to his point; “What we do to our children, they will do to society”, Pliny the Elder, 2500 years ago.

The rest of the industrialized world has recognized the value of healthy citizens. Maybe because the second world war left Europe with such horrific death and ruins, those nations rebuilt their societies with the understanding that poverty stricken crazy people are something to avoid, not produce.

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The Cost of Saving Money

at the time, argued that subsidized daycare was unnecessary (like bus service and bridge maintenance—his words) and he diverted all the money allocated to subsidized daycare for poor families and children into a “general fund.”

The waiting list for low-cost daycare climbed from 34 to over 7,000 families. People quit applying.

My state was saving money at the expense of 1- and 2-year-olds. Drunk uncles and boyfriends became daycare providers overnight, and terrible things happen to children when that occurs…
“What we do to our children, they will do to society” (Pliny the Elder 2000 years ago)

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