On Handcuffing & Tasing 3rd Graders (and expelling preschoolers)

There is no shortage of disturbing stories about violent children & authorities using violent means to control them. Today, the U.S. expels more children from daycare than any other industrialized nation and the levels of violence in our schools is frightening and harmful to all of us.

There is nothing more disturbing than watching a video of an armed 200 pound police officer twisting the arms of a 50 pound special needs child into a painful behind the back steel handcuffed position as the boy cries uncontrollably in his classroom, unless it is reading about the St. Louis Sheriff’s deputy tasering an 11 year old boy and threatening to sodomize him (Sheriff Mulch “nothing out of the ordinary…, followed protocol)

These stories and recent horrific police shootings of juveniles are a signal of overwhelmed institutions unable to deliver the most basic protection and safety services to the communities that employ them. Don’t blame service providers -it is lawmakers and administrators defending archaic policies that just don’t work anymore. Neither police nor teachers are able to nor should they be required (with the training we give them) to handle the deep and troubling behaviors of very disturbed children). Traumatizing five and six year old children because they have behavioral problems is just awful and it makes things so much worse for the child (and our society).
This story out of Texas, demonstrates how the police might better deal with troubled youth with an approach that recognizes the significance of mental health issues impacting police/child interaction. We need to do a 180 on dealing with mental health issues. Now.

The sooner we the people recognize that this is all about mental health and that schools and police departments are not mental health service providers, the safer our schools and city streets will become.

All adults are the protectors of all children.

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Indiana Sued For Making Child Protection Almost Impossible

A few years ago, Vice Presidential candidate and Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels eliminated funding across the board for Indiana families adopting special needs children (after 500 adoptions by families promised these dollars for transportation, healthcare & education of their adopted children, were completed).

Indiana then became the only state in the nation to place families adopting special needs children on a wait list rather than paying subsidies.

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All Talk & No Action – Do We Value Children or Just Talk About It?

How we value children shows up directly in the way we treat people helping us raise our children.

It hurts me to see political misunderstanding and an accepted practice of misleading people about something as important as this nation’s children. Reading the paper one would think that our problems lie at the feet of service providers (teachers, social workers and foster parents to name the main scapegoats).

At election time, politicians make political hay blaming teachers for failed schools (with public support).

Institutional failures are not the fault of people doing the hard daily work of foster care, teaching or social work.

These folks work within a system designed by policy makers and administrators (most of whom are very well paid – not a bad thing, but a thing to remember when looking for the responsible party).

Blaming worker bees in child protection is just as wrong as blaming law enforcement officers for allowing terrible crimes. Can law enforcement sue policy makers and counties for making their work impossible? – we may soon see).

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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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Make A Mess, the Pope’s Message to Young People – but help us clean it up (Paraguay speech)

Young people unite, get involved in changing the rights of the poor and our assault on the planet was Pope Francis message to thousands of South America’s young people yesterday. Bring your hope and strength and demand change.

Friends, let’s take the Pope’s message to all of our leaders (religious and political) and push for helping young families and improvements in child protection and juvenile justice in America. The more people involved, the faster change can happen.

All adults are the protectors of all children. All religions are the protectors of all children.

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Minnesota’s Child Protection Problem (“the deeper you get into it, the worse it is” Hennepin County Commissioner Mike Opat)

Thank you Hennepin County Board for unanimously approving the Governor’s Task Force recommendations for improving Child Protection Services in MN.

Thank you Governor Dayton for your “Colossal Failure” statement about the death of Eric Dean (it launched the important changes we see today), kudos to the Governor’s Task Force for the hard work you have done in bringing more transparency, accountability, and sanity to a system that has been responsible for its own share of child abuse.

Brandon Stahl and the Star Tribune deserve huge credit for a full year of prying open a closed system to get to the sad facts that lead to the repeated abuse and tragic deaths of so many poor and defenseless children in (or should have been in) County Child Protection.

KARA’s hour long video interview of Brandon Stahl gives a pretty good picture of just how insular and uncooperative the system can be to prying eyes (and how much worse it was for Eric Dean than his newspaper articles indicated).

Blaming juvenile justice employees & social workers, educators, health workers, adoptive & foster parents or other worker bees connected to child protection is counter productive and wrong.

Living with and working with abused children with serious behavior issues that are often unpredictable and violent requires more help and training than this community is providing. Psychotropic medications have become a go to answer for a very high percentage of very young children in Child Protection. A Hennepin County Judge shared a very extensive list of children that passed through her courtroom that were required to take these drugs over a year’s time – some as young as 6.

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Childhood Disrupted (the book)

Donna Jackson Nakazawa book CHILDHOOD DISRUPTED explains how a child’s biography becomes her biology and how to heal. It may be the first self help book about ACEs and speaks to why chronic disease, mental illness, violence, suicide, and addiction are so common to abused and neglected children.

Donna is a science journalist that writes about toxic stress and childhood development in a way we can all understand. She presents 13 stories of trauma about people she followed for a year and how childhood stress can lead to a life of illness and sadness.

The happy part of the book is the research that shows how self-care, exercise, adequate sleep, meditation, safe environment/relationships and smart therapies can heal.

You will finish the book understanding how toxic stress changes a person for life, how genes impacted in childhood develop various illnesses and mental health disorders (and what epigenetics is).

This book repeated the experience of my 65 year old attorney friend who bought me lunch when I wrote the book INVISIBLE CHILDREN in 2005. At Lunch he told me in confidence that he had never spoken to anyone about his abuse by a priest as child. When he was 45 years old, smoking, drinking, overweight and on his 3rd marriage and 4th business partnership he finally sought out a therapist who he sees to this this day (about 30 years).

As a long time volunteer CASA child protection guardian ad-Litem, I am convinced that Donna’s truths are profoundly accurate and they explain the sadness and behavioral problems impacting millions of children, our schools, public safety, crime, and community well being.

At some point, we must recognize the crisis our society faces by the terrifically high number of child abuse reports (6 million children annually) and support Donna’s plea for a new medical paradigm with a system in which physicians offer, “not just a drug, but a recovery plan” would make a huge difference in the lives of at risk youth. Send this article to your doctor.

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Want To Know More About the CASA guardian ad-Litem Program?

Nearly 9000 children are reported abused or neglected every day in this country – over 3000 a year in Minnesota alone. You might not be in a position to take one of these children into your home. But you CAN be their voice. As a Volunteer Guardian ad Litem (a court appointed special advocate), you have the power to stand up for an abused or neglected child. You can restore their voice – and their hope. Giving just 5-10 hours a month of your time can make all the difference in the outcome of our children. Attend one of our information sessions, get free training and become a volunteer Guardian ad Litem!
Learn about being a CASA guardian ad-Litem; www.casamn.org

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The Only Nation in the Developed World (American Exceptionalism)

Young families in the U.S. don’t have any mandated maternity leave when the new baby arrives (we are the only developed nation in the world to not offer paid leave to new parents). Families and babies really do suffer because of it.
There is almost no paid paternity leave for fathers in America either (almost all of the developed world – and about half of the 167 nations tracked by the International Labor Organization, offer paternity leave to dads).

American exceptionalism has become the opposite of what we want it to be – especially when it comes to young families and children. We talk a big game, but we don’t really value other people’s children.

All adults are the protectors of all children – communities will be safer & happier when this becomes a truism.

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Child Welfare News Through June 9, 2015 – Sad Stories – Glad Stories (15 days)

ND: Child Abuse and Neglect on the Rise
KFYR-TV – May 21, 2015
More than 12,000 incidents of child abuse and neglect were reported to the Department of Human Services in 2014.

MO: & KS: EDITORIAL: Volunteers needed to help endangered kids after record caseload increases in states
The Kansas City Star – June 02, 2015
Caseload numbers rise and fall for a variety of reasons, and not all of them are bad. More people could be reporting suspected child abuse, for instance. But the increases in the two-state region are too dramatic and longstanding to qualify as a blip.

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To KARA Followers – KARA does not offer services

KARA is unable to help our readers with personal counselling.

Regularly, we receive your mail and email requesting assistance in dealing with child protection, police and juvenile justice. We just do not have the resources to say yes.

Use KARA’s links link to start your search for help. The “resources’ heading provides contact information to identify people that can talk to you about your specific issues.

Thank you for understanding,

The KARA team

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Why CASA Guardian ad-Litem?

After years of watching and working as a volunteer CASA guardian ad-Litem in child protection two things have become clear to me;

1) Abused and neglected children really do need a CASA guardian ad-litem advocate &

2) The system really needs insiders to speak loudly and repeatedly about the real world of America’s child protection system. Workers within the system (besides volunteer CASA guardian ad-Litems) find it politically unwise to say things that reflect badly on the system (at the risk of losing their jobs). Volunteers have

As much as I respect the very hard work done by dedicated case workers (I mean every word of that – there is no harder work), case loads are too high, resources are too slim and few will risk their jobs to speak out about individual or system failures.

If I could change one thing in child protection today it would be the transparency, tracking and accountability that would come from the speaking out by those who witness these travesties every day.

The reason our communities don’t have crisis nurseries, quality daycare and other child friendly programs that would promote learning and coping skills and launch at risk youth into productive lives is that we don’t talk about it. When you don’t talk about it, it does not exist.

“it” being the suicide by seven year old’s on Prozac, sexual abuse and repeated horrific violence against six year old’s that we see when they finally make it into Child Protection.

The only thing the public knows about the at risk children we see every day are the kids that die when the media brings it to public attention (generally showing a glaring system failure but solving nothing).

Until Brandon Stahl and the Star Tribune made a focus on just how bad life was for poor four year old Eric Dean, media coverage about child abuse was almost non existent. It is only because of this reporters consistent and intrepid work that Governor Dayton’s “colossal failure” language formed a task force that brought public attention to absurd policies and gross negligence that desperately needed changing, that change happened.

My point is that until a thing is spoken of it does not exist and nothing is going to change. The public has a short memory and the media won’t be here for long.

If all the public knows is that eight very young children have been murdered by their parents and caregivers since Eric Dean’s death after 15 largely ignored reports of child abuse – it is a much smaller problem than the horrific stories that accompany a very large percentage of the tens of thousands of children reported to child protection in MN each year (and the 6 million children reported nationally each year).

Maybe I’m an unreasonable optimist – but if more people were aware of the cyclical nature of child abuse, the prevalence and dangers* of medicating abused children with powerful anti-psychotic drugs (instead of adequate life changing therapies), how common life threatening behaviors are to damaged children and just how costly, impactful and long lasting abuse is for the thousands of children passing through Child Protection every year – we would support programs that would save those children from the terrors they have lived with and will continue to live with (and pass onto their children and the next generation).

All adults are the protectors of all children (thank you Don Shelby)

*about one third of children in child protection systems are proscribed these drugs

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Sherriff’s For Pre K (save our children)

Wow and thank you Hennepin, Ramsey and Dakota County Sheriffs. Sheriff Rich Stanek’s “we must make investments in early childhood education for Minnesota kids now to avoid paying far more for the cost of crime in the decades to come” took genuine political courage (thank you from Kids At Risk Action Sheriff).

In the Star Tribune article today I found it ironic that full implementation of the Governor’s Universal Pre School would cost almost as much as we spend on prisons in MN each year (the Sheriff is arguing that we will have fewer people to put in those prisons if we support Pre K education for children).

Sheriff’s Matt Bostrom, Tim Leslie, and Rich Stanek – KARA salutes you.

What follows is probably more than you want to know about the long debate from a law enforcement perspective about education, crime, mental health. Please chime in.

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Without Understanding Core Issues, Better Answers Are Hard To Come By (or why legislators need more information to do their jobs well)

It was the final question and statement from the Legislative Committee after my testimony about generational child abuse and the “real costs” of under-funding Child Protection and Children’s Mental Health at the State House yesterday that caught me off guard and made it difficult for me to fall asleep last night.

This is my best rendition of that last question and statement from the Tax Committee considering funding for the recommendations of the Governors Task Force on Child Protection that hurts me and makes me fear that better answers will remain hard to find from our state lawmakers;

1) the question; Do you think that anything state funding of programs can do will alter the fact of generational child abuse and damage it causes?

2) the statement; I’ve been on this committee for many years and not seen anything work.

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What’s Wrong With Kansas Part II (how the state values its children)

No longer does Kansas promise its children a full school year . Several districts are closing early because Governor Brownback effectively eliminated 51 million dollars from school budgets (cut per pupil $950 from 2008 to 2014). We know what the governor thinks of educating children. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled that school funding levels were unconstitutional and ordered the immediate reversal of certain spending cuts (hooray for fair minded judges).

Even more repugnant than Brownback’s disrespect for children and education is the all out attack on children that took place in the legislature last year, literally making it legal for any care giver to assault a child and hit them up to ten times (at their discretion). Imagine letting just anyone beat up your child (which this law would have accomplished).

This law reads something like Jonathan Swift’s MODEST PROPOSAL which articulated a public policy making it policy to stew and eat the children of poor Irish parents (because they couldn’t care for them sufficiently anyways).

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Child Protection – The Big Lie (don’t blame the service providers – its the lawmakers)

Minnesotan’s talk big about how we value children and how exceptional we are as a people, a nation, a culture. Most of us claim to be spiritual people valuing life and religious teachings that protect our community and its children.

If there is anything genuine or exceptional about how we actually treat children it would be how poorly we pay and train service providers to our children, the lack of transparency, accountability, and humanity in an overwhelmed child protection system that the majority of people involved in find harsh and disappointing at many levels (and Governor Mark Dayton called a “colossal failure” in the death of 4 year old Eric Dean).

I became a volunteer guardian ad-Litem because of a horrible experience a business associate had adopting children. Her family was not aware of the mental health issues and dangerous behaviors her newly adopted children (from County Child Protection) were bringing into their new home

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Drugging Our Kids

This series of videos report on the dramatic increase in the forced use of psychotropic medications by children in California’s foster care system. It very well may be an epidemic in every state.

I have personally watched the explosive use of these drugs over the past twenty years and talked with professionals (including judges, educators, families & service providers) who are very concerned with the dangers of using these powerful anti-psychotic medications in place of mental health treatments for abused and neglected children.

Prior reporting on the topic; A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, and here’s the

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“Police & Sheriffs More Concerned About People’s Mental Health Than Advocates Are” (thank you Senator Barb Goodwin)

I’m always pleased to find outspoken observers in the mental health discussion.  Today’s Star Tribune article begins to articulate the gaping hole in our communities (and the nation’s) approach to mental health.  Much like child suicide and child sex abuse, we have avoided the mental health topic leading to the worst case of overbuilt prisons, unsafe…

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Minnesota’s Chance To Invest In Children & Families (from Governor Mark Dayton’s office)

Free, Full-Day PreK for Every Four-Year-Old – The Governor’s budget would invest $343 million to provide every four-year-old (47,000 kids) access to free, full-day pre-kindergarten learning opportunities statewide.
More Funding for Every School – The Governor’s budget would invest in K-12 schools statewide, increasing the per-pupil funding formula to $5,948 by 2017, and putting additional funding into the special education formula. These new resources would give local school districts the flexibility to meet the needs of their students and classrooms – from lowering class sizes, hiring new counselors, investing in technology, or providing other need programs and services.
Tackling the Achievement Gap – The Governor’s proposal would invest in a multi-layered approach to narrow the state’s achievement gap. It would eliminate the current Head Start waiting list, provide support to help all students read well, target educational support to parents of at-risk children ages 0-8, and more.
Healthy Students – The Governor’s budget would provide free breakfasts for pre-K-3 students, fund in-school programs to improve student behavior, and support parents of at-risk children.
Investing in Higher Education – The Governor’s budget would invest $288 million to freeze tuition at the University of Minnesota and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU), expand the State Grant Program, return the University of Minnesota Medical School to national prominence, and make other needed improvements to higher education.

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Cars With 3 Wheels (From Our Friends At Safe Passage For Children Of Minnesota)

A car with three wheels is not 75% as good as one with four. There is a minimum set of features without which a car won’t move at all.

This principle applies to child welfare because elected officials have frequently given this program much less than managers request, and assumed they somehow will make things work. But if the system has, for example, adequate staffing but poor training, or lacks a quality assurance program, it is like a 3-wheeled car. It simply won’t run.

Minnesota has an historic opportunity to rebuild its child welfare program. To accomplish this the legislature must step up to approve the $50 million that the Governor has put in his budget, so state and county managers have the tools they need to do the job.

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Where Bad Laws Come From (& why it’s not fair to blame the worker bees)

Brandon Stahl’s article in the Star Tribune today suggests that Minnesota is probably the only state in the nation to have forbidden social workers from considering past screened out cases of child abuse in evaluating new reports. Pressured to put a consistent policy in place by a state auditor, DHS institutionalized a policy that would lead to untold suffering and death of abused children for four years (it ended today with the Governor’s signing of the reversal of that bill.

That is just the tip of the iceberg that the Governor’s Task Force is working on. Perhaps with the added attention to the Task Force and Brandon Stahl’s continued reporting we can move up a few notches among the states in what we spend on child protection in MN (we rank 47th currently).

It befuddles me that the studies completed by the Federal Reserve Bank by Art Rolnick and Rob Grunewald have not brought the larger business community into appreciating the fundamental issues underlying a productive work force. It may be that the arguments should be made in terms of cost instead of savings. I think it would scare people to know how expensive ignored at risk youth are to our community. A single boy in my caseload cost this county at least 3 million dollars by the time he aged out of child protection (not including the awful things he has done to people).

By any measure, taking care of vulnerable children is duty of all of us and to make you feel better, saves you money and is the right thing to do.

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