If you are or have been a CASA, and like research and writing, contact KARA and let’s talk. Mike@invisiblechildren.org
If you know someone that is or has been a CASA, please share this with them.Details
If you are or have been a CASA, and like research and writing, contact KARA and let’s talk. Mike@invisiblechildren.org
If you know someone that is or has been a CASA, please share this with them.Details
Nancy Zupfer Has It Right (Governor’s task force should represent children – not agencies and parents)
Star Tribune Today, Nancy’s observations that child protection protects state and county agencies, and parents and abused and negelcted children “seem to be collateral” has been my experience as a long-time volunteer guardian ad-Litem.
It has always hurt me to see the physical reality of traumatized children in yet another foster home (29 placements for one boy) or failing to make an adoption work or painfully waiting for life to improve as she sits at St Joe’s Home For Children or other short term care facility.
The problems facing these kids are real and require significant resources and thinking to improve their lives. That our complicated overwrought institutions give these kids very little voice, no rights, and protect agencies and parents over the well-being of children is a real poke in the eye to youth that have already been dragged through often unspeakable experiences (generally over years).
As our televised interviews with adoptive parents move forward, we are hearing more stories and seeing more and more examples of hammer wielding agencies using harsh and abusive tactics to protect their reputations instead of recognizing and providing for the serious issues facing families that adopt traumatized youth.
Do we value children as a community? If we did, we would have more crisis nurseries, subsidized daycare, and a more transparent and robust child protection system that focused on the needs of the child.
Brandon Stahl, the intrepid Minneapolis Star Tribune reporter spoke to KARA on camera about how difficult he found it to gather information on abused and murdered children in MN. Not making public information relevant to how a child died serves no good purpose. Who are we protecting by this secrecy?
When there is transparency, issues can be identified, addressed, and resolved. Until then, America’s child protection issues will remain under-reported, under-discussed, under-addressed, misunderstood, and never resolved.Details
This data is a pretty good indication that a great many metro children are not ready to learn when they enter school.
Early childhood programs and help for young families could go a long way in improving these statistics.
With Governor Dayton’s Task Force recommendations reported in today’s Star Tribune article (Dayton’s Task Force Agrees On Overhaul, Brandon Stahl), I am optimistic that this (“great” example) approach to child well being could become a reality.
Ten years ago, the father of one of my family’s Mexican foreign exchange students explained how he (as a State of Sinaloa Legislator) had traveled to MN and CA to review child protection systems. At the time, these were the two states he deemed to have the most advanced and effective systems in the nation.
MN has at one time done child protection as well or better than any other state – when reviewed by someone without bias.
MN had reduced child protection funding by over forty million dollars these past few years. This explains sad stories like Eric Dean’s death after fifteen (ignored) reports of abuse by mandated reporters and why family assessments replaced child protection, why social workers are shorted training, process, and resources needed to effect the change that could heal toxic families or provide safety to their young charges.
support CASA MN with a year end gift here;
“To give a child a volunteer advocate is to give them a voice. To give them a voice is to give them hope, and to give them hope is to give them the world.
I believe that with all my heart.”
Pamela Butler, Former Foster Child
At CASA Minnesota we believe that every child deserves a voice. CASA volunteers provide the voice for children who are experiencing times of great vulnerability due to abuse and neglect. Support from people like you means that we can assist in recruiting committed advocates to be that voice for children involved in juvenile court proceedings. Your tax-deductible investment in our nonprofit program allows us to provide resources to enhance recruitment, training, retention and support for more than 470 CASA Minnesota volunteers every year – caring, knowledgeable people who make sure the best interests of these children are served.
Thanks to support from our community, our volunteers are the dedicated champions that children need while facing the unknown. Consider Janell. She was just over four years old when she entered the court system. Sexually abused by her mother’s boyfriend, parental rights were eventually terminated when reunification was not an option. Her volunteer advocate saw a solution. He was vocal in supporting adoption by her foster mother with whom Janell had developed a strong attachment. Now 11 years old, Janell plays acoustic guitar, writes songs, does yoga with her adoptive mom, plays basketball and soccer, and likes math and reading. She is able to see her siblings on a regular basis as well. Without a volunteer advocate taking part in this process, this may not have been a successful outcome for this child.
Our mission at CASA Minnesota is to assist in recruiting, training and supporting the important volunteers who advocate for abused and neglected children like Janell. Will you please consider a year-end gift to help us continue our important work? Your donation will make it possible for us to give a voice of hope to children and support for those who serve them. You can change the life of a child in need. You can give by going to https://givemn.org/organization/Casa-Minnesota .Details
Over 25 years ago the rest of the world (194 nations) decided that children have basic human rights and begin signing the International Rights of the Child Treaty. Under this document, children are to have the rights to education, safety and well being including not to be made soldiers, not to be enslaved).
America is the only nation that has not signed that agreement, largely because we still demand that southern states continue to militarize youth as young as eleven, through military schools.Details
I’ve taken from Brandon Stahl’s article on uninvestigated child sex abuse cases that someone has decided that children reported as sexually abused before 2013 will go uninvestigated and stay where they are (even if they are still being sexually abused) as the County doesn’t see it important to put resources to finding out if these children are still endangered.
In my caseload as a CASA volunteer guardian ad-Litem, I know children as young as two who were sexually abused – and the resulting traumas that followed them for life. They deserve to be rescued.
I find this cheap, short sighted policy making appalling and I know that it is much more costly to ignore them than to do the right thing.
Will someone besides Brandon Stahl please speak out for these kids?
What kind of a community writes off the worst kinds of child abuse for relatively modest financial reasons?
Any investigation into the financial aspects of these bad decisions will discover that we do not save money by allowing children to remain in horridly abusive homes.
These are the kids with severe behavioral problems and poor coping skills that fail in our schools, become preteen moms, adolescent felons, and make our communities unhealthy and unsafe.
What costs money are failing schools, unsafe streets, prisons and recidivism (70% nationally).
What a cold hard people we have become (and bad at math).Details
Dr Lionel Dibden resigned his chairmanship of the Council for Quality Assurance Nov 27th due to lack of transparency and limiting the scope of child fatality reviews. These are the problems facing all child protection service providers. Which children should be reviewed, what should accountability look like, and who should have access to information?
Tough questions – unless seen through the eyes of a child.
A community that hides information that is screaming for attention serves neither the child nor the community. Schools suffer as abused children carry their traumas with them into the classroom, communities suffer because traumatized youth commit crimes and suffer pregnancy and disease at very high rates, and prisons are expensive. Recidivism in the U.S. has reached 70%. Worst of all, the extreme suffering I have witnessed during my years as a volunteer guardian ad-Litem. The unspeakable horrors committed on children who were unlucky enough to be born into toxic homes (lasts forever).
Support KARA’s efforts to bring awareness and change to child protection through our documentary projectDetails
This is my take from Brandon’s article of Nov 30th (linked above)
Minnesota’s recent brutal murder of 4 year old Eric Dean after 14 ignored reports of child abuse by mandated reporters (and one family assessment) is becoming just one of thousands of cruel stories articulating the low value our nation places on children being exposed by Brandon’s continued research and writing.
As American’s talk big about how we value children and our religious affiliations are many, but there really is very little child protection in the U.S.
Watching this over many years as a volunteer guardian ad-Litem causes me great pain and it is only recently that I have found any hope that conditions might change for the weakest and most vulnerable among us.
MN has tried to reform its child protection system 3 times in the last 25 years, 16 state and county agencies across the nation have resigned or been fired (mostly after the death of children they were hired to protect).
In Maine, it is estimated that up to 70% of abused to death children were known to child protection agencies. In Arizona, 6000 child abuse reports were ignored by the agencies and many children died. Florida reported almost five hundred children killed while known to child protection (since 2008).
What follows is my past reporting on how various states treat their youngest citizens;Details
MN DHS, MN legislature, treatment guidelines, collaborative psychiatric consultation, high dose ADHD & sga drugs, medical assistance, fee for service, add protocol, pediatricians, family practice physicians, psychiatrists, child protection, state ward children, gabriel myersDetails
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.Details
It’s over now, but for years, universal child daycare has been the rule (at $7.30) in Quebec.
I just can’t help pointing out that some of our neighbors to the North feel very strongly that children’s daycare is worth government subsidy. $75,000 is the low income threshold and $200,000 is the high income threshold.
True, the politics of public service have beat up the program and $20 is becoming the new norm.
Keep in mind that over time, children in quality day care thrive, learn important stuff, and perhaps more importantly, don’t smoke crack cocaine with their out of jail uncle why mom works.
The U.S. expels more children from daycare than any other nation (and has for some time). It’s an issue that bodes badly for the poor educators that later serve these children in public schools and goes a very long way in explaining America’s suffering graduation rates, high crime, and prison populations.
If we valued children half as much as we claim to, there would not be 8000+ children on waiting lists in MN for subsidized daycare.
Do you know who your state legislator is? This will not change until some of us make that call. Share this widely.Details
From the National Center On Family Homelessness; California has over 500,000 children children lacking stable housing. 35% of Mississippi’s children live in poverty. Arkansas, Alabama, & New Mexico have the next highest rates of child poverty and homelessness in the nation. Homelessness leads to mental health issues, crime, school problems (low performance and graduation rates).…Details
For many months now, the Star Tribune’s intrepid reporter Brandon Stahl has been researching and writing about the depth and scope of problems facing MN’s abused and neglected children.
This page is dedicated to Brandon’s work and the thousands of children that pass through child protection services each year in MN (and the thousands of abused/traumatized children that need help but are ignored).
Most of the disturbing information Brandon uncovered in his reporting is hidden and would never have been known without his persistence and hard work. Our child protection systems are practiced in not making information easy to find.
I have spent many years as a volunteer in the field of child protection looking for this kind of information and been unable to discover even a fraction of what Brandon Stahl has made public by his reporting.
This CASA guardian ad-Litem is cautiously optimistic that Governor Dayton (and other public figures) are speaking out* about the lack of public awareness, poor public policy, and resulting institutional failures that are ruining so many lives and so directly contributing to trouble in our schools and on our streets (and the racial disparity this state is so well known for).
For the first time in my memory, the important issues of child abuse and child protection have become serious front page news and there is a possibility that Governor Dayton’s task force will ultimately bring about critical changes needed to improve the lives of children born into toxic homes.Details
As a volunteer CASA guardian ad-Litem lobbying for the removal of children from toxic homes, I saw many examples of children left in the care of drunk/drugged uncles and boyfriends while a poverty or near poverty parental caregiver went to work each day. These children are many times more likely to be abused, traumatized (and killed) than other children.
Life is better for children in “higher income two person households” and that to ”investigate and punish” moms and dads that molest and torture their children doesn’t fix the issue. The fact that many families can’t afford quality daycare, have not access to crisis nurseries or mental health services rarely gets attention – things that would have far greater impact making health families than money spent on a punishment model.
If we value children as a community, let’s become like the majority of the other industrialized nations and make crisis nurseries, adequate mental health services and quality daycare a part of our culture.
It is mean and counterproductive for an advanced nation to build a child care system that leaves 3 and 4 year old’s in the care of unstable or dangerous people because there are no other alternatives (and on top of that, blame them for the very circumstances that are hurting them).Details
KARA is collecting stories about child abuse and child protection in your state. Send us an email with your news, insights, information, questions, and comments.
Send to, Info@invisiblechildren.org & help us bring attention to the issues impacting your community.Details
The most disturbing realization from my interview with David Strand is the difference between America’s loud and persistent rhetoric about how “valuable” our children are and how our public policies actually treat them.
We have the highest rate of child poverty among the industrialized nations, charge 25% of our youth in adult courts (just recently quit executing juveniles), and have no meaningful public policy for child safety outside of the “Imminent Harm Doctrine” (which allows a judge to remove a child when his/her life is endangered by their caregivers).
If you want to know how other industrialized nations value children, ask David Strand. David helped form public policy for children over the ten years he lived in Europe. When he returned to the U.S. he wrote an in depth evaluation of the vast difference in public policy towards children between the U.S. and the other 23 advanced nations that we had historically compared ourselves to. NATION OUT OF STEP was the title of his book and it clearly articulated the falling quality of life measurements resulting from failed or non existent public policies regarding how AMERICA treats its children.
If America wants its schools to compete, prisons and crime to shrink, and build a healthier and more capable citizenry, David makes clear that none of this can happen without functioning public policies that address the safety and well-being of children.
Strand spent time as a volunteer CASA guardian ad-Litem and became familiar with the depth and scope of the problems facing at risk children in his home state (MN). His observations about just how out of whack our public policies are towards children and young families go a long way towards explaining why we have ten times the crime and ten times the prison populations of most other advanced nations. David knows Art Rolnick and Art’s work at the Federal Reserve bank in 2003 defining the high rate of return on investments in programs that promote healthy children.
Perhaps the most painful recognition I came away from this ninety minute interview that it is common for other industrialized nations to use America as an example of what not to do. They don’t want bigger prison systems, more crime and failing schools and they will vote for whatever it takes to not have those our failures.Details
hank You Star Tribune reporter Brandon Stahl
Thank You Pioneer Press reporter Ruben Rosario
Thank You former MN Supreme Court Justice Kathleen Blatz for joining the task force and your years of speaking out about the serious failures within our child protection system.
Thank You Governor Mark Dayton for using the long overdue “colossal failure” language to describe an overburdened, misunderstood, and under-supported child protection system and creating the investigative task force to make it work better for children.
From the fifty children in my CASA guardian ad-Litem caseload, Thank You.
You have given voice to the tragic failure of child protection that allows four year olds to die tortured deaths after 10, 20, 30 reports of child abuse to state agencies.
Without you, these children have no voice;
Not in the homes they are raised in,
Not in the courts that investigate their families,
Not in the media or the state legislature.
These children are silent and invisible without you.
We the public find child abuse uncomfortable and refuse to pay attention until a baby is found in a dumpster and then we wring our collective hands about ‘those awful people’ and work to punish a social worker and send the parental offender to prison.
That the parent was a fourth generation abused preteen mother with serious mental health issues has little significance to us. Justice must be served.
None of the fifty children I lobbied to remove from their toxic homes ever made the newspaper.
Not the baby with the bottom half of her body burned off, the boy who was tied to a bed, beaten, starved, and sexually abused for four years, or the more than ten other very young children who were also sexually abused – 2,3, 4, and 7 and 9.Details
Total U.S. Child Welfare Spending Drops for First Time in Decades
An across-the-board downturn in federal dollars sparked an overall decline in child welfare spending, according to research by the group Child Trends, and it did not fall by a slight percentage. Total local federal, state and…Details
A central theme in the April 20 article “7 of 10 abuse calls not checked” was that Minnesota counties appear to “screen out” more reported cases of child abuse than other states, and that the percentage of cases that are closed without investigation varies between Minnesota counties. But it’s important to look beyond the data points to the data collection to understand these differences.
Increases in the statewide “screen out” rate from 2000-2010 may reflect changes in data recording practices rather than changes in agencies’ screening decisions. In 1999 a new data reporting system was implemented. As counties became more adept at using the new system the amount of data reporting increased. However, the actual number of reports “screened out” did not.
Despite the resulting higher “screen out” rate, Minnesota did the same number of assessments per year from 1996-2010, with a low of 16,384 in 2001 and a high of 19,846 in 2006, even though our child population is decreasing. While serving the same number of families, counties now document information received in a more consistent manner.
We believe it’s misleading to compare Minnesota screening practices to other states because of the variation in state laws, data collection systems and data retention practices.Details
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.Details
Minnesota is reacting to a very rare and thorough investigation of abused children (thank you Brandon Stahl).
This is the first time in 30 years (since three year old Dennis Jergens tortured murder) that well written and multiple child abuse stories from our cities major media are forcing our community to consider how shallow our commitment to at risk children is.
As a volunteer CASA guardian ad-Litem, I worked with dozens of children with toxic and painful home lives very much like Eric Dean’s home. None of my caseload children ever made the paper – not the girl who had the bottom half of her body scalded off, not the boy sexually abused, tied to a bed & left alone for days, starved and beaten for four years, not the suicidal four year old, the prostituted seven year old, or the small boy who walked back home from Cambridge on a ten degree night in a T shirt because he was thrown out of a group home as punishment for his mental health problems. Their stories, and a million others every year, are never in the newspaper, never told on TV or radio, and rarely spoken of by the people that know them.
These are awful and uncomfortable stories that we would rather not speak of and the children themselves rarely know just how wrong what has happened to them is. Nor do they know the life long damage that has been done to them.
But I know.
I also know, that until the rest of the community cares enough about the horrific damage done to thousands of abused children every week (and not just the tortured dead children that make the newspaper) to have in place a child protection system that identifies and deals with children needing services, reporting, and policies to keep them safe, our prisons will remain full, our schools to fail, our communities unsafe, and children will be traumatized in their homes on a daily basis.
Without Brandon Stahl’s Star Tribune reports, Governor Dayton would not have ordered a joint county-state investigation of Minnesota’s child protection services and Adrian Peterson’s son being beaten with a stick and forced to eat leaves would not have been a news item any more than the guardian ad-Litem cases I have written about in this article and Adrian would still be playing football as a star for the Vikings.
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…Details