parasailingUpon receipt of an email from a MN State Legislator directing my attention to the cost of Governor Dayton’s trying to improve conditions for MN’s at risk youth, I penned this response and would ask you to write something like it and send it to your state representative (I have altered it slightly for this post).

We should all send at least a few notes to our state representatives each year – and this is a worthy cause).  If you get the chance, drop by and get to know them.  Most legislators have offices in your community as well as at the State House.

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 and it determines success or failure in life (all of life for that child).

If you are not aware of Art Rolnick’s Federal Reserve Board Director study on early childhood investment returns (2003) you are short changing yourself, thousands of MN children, and your constituents.

Knowledge is power and our legislative bad decisions last these children a lifetime.  

Please consider talking to me about the fifty children I have lobbied to remove from toxic homes.  Not just the financial costs, but the problems visited on educators, foster parents, the justice system and impact on quality of life in our community.

The boy I mentioned above was from four to seven years old, sexually abused, beaten bloody, left alone for days in a one bedroom apartment tied to a bed without food or water, all because the county did not have the resources to protect him.  My first visit to a 4 year old CASA case girl was at the suicide ward of Fairview Hospital.

I’ve written about the seven year old foster boy who hung himself and left a note about how he hated Prozac.  Two weeks ago, I wrote about 6 year old Kendrea Johnson who hung herself with her jump rope (Kendrea’s social worker was unaware that the child’s therapist knew the girl to be suicidal).

Please don’t blame the people doing the work.  It ain’t them, it’s us for not having systems, training, and resources to deal with the inadequate state of child protection in Minnesota today.  Social work, teaching, and foster/adoption parenting could not be any more difficult.  Let’s help them get better results and make our communities happier and safer at the same time.


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