It would be helpful if we better understood the needs of foster children

and why they were removed from toxic homes.

This would make it easier for  foster children and make our communities happier and safer.

The cost of not supporting State Ward children is highly impactful to the community.  It lasts for a lifetime if there is no help.

This Star Tribune article by Eric Roper puts a child’s words feelings about living in multiple foster placements and ten different schools.

Not many of us could do that successfully.

State Ward children in my CASA guardian ad litem caseload did poorly in school and in life because of terrible things done to them in their birth homes.

Their often outrageous behaviors reflect the fear and trauma they carry with them every hour of every day.

When they finally find safety away from the toxic conditions they’ve been living in, life doesn’t automatically get easier.

Abused children don’t just breath in the coping skills and behaviors they need to lead a productive life by leaving a toxic home. We are complex beings.

Untreated childhood trauma follows traumatized children until it is addressed and managed.

Schools, courts and communities have never made it easy for children and youth with behavior problems.

We are a punishment oriented society with little tolerance for bad behavior.  Foster children are much more likely to be expelled from daycare, elementary and high school than others.  They are also more likely to to be incarcerated and serve much of their life in jails and prisons.

Minnesota’s Former Supreme Court Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz has stated that “the difference between that poor child & a felon is about eight years” and “about 90% of the youth in the juvenile justice system have passed through the child protection system”.

The data supports her.

We can provide more to these youth as a community.

Support KARA’s Financial Literacy Peer Groups for at risk youth here.

Let’s make the paths easier for abused and neglected children

with programs and support from the community.

Or, we can go on underserving preteen moms and and treating juvenile felons

with mean spirited & hard hearted public policies toward youth.

The choice is ours.

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Learn about KARA’s Financial Literacy Peer Groups for At Risk Youth

An Eagan student told of being homeless and living in a shelter, and urged senators to help foster children avoid having to move from school to school.

By ERIC ROPER, Star Tribune
Last update: April 29, 2010 – 7:51 PM

‘You feel like a burden’ Foster child advocates education reform in D.C.
WASHINGTON – Kayla VanDyke has had to leave a lot behind over the past 14 years as a foster child.

The 18-year-old living in Eagan has cycled through a multitude of homes, schools and counselors throughout her life, after being sent into foster care because of her mother’s drug use.

“I have been homeless. I have experienced living in a shelter. And I have been separated from my siblings along the way,” she told a U.S. Senate panel examining education reform Thursday. “But I am pleased to tell you that … I will be graduating [from high school] in four weeks with a 3.7 GPA.”

Senators and others in the room broke into applause at an achievement gained despite VanDyke’s having attended 10 different schools and missing out on fourth grade entirely. She has been accepted to Hamline University for this fall.

‘You’re kind of awesome’

“As one of my daughters would say, you’re kind of awesome,” said Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, chairman of the Senate’s chief education committee, which is gearing up for the re-authorization of the No Child Left Behind educational testing law.

Sitting in a row of witnesses nearly 20 years her senior, VanDyke recounted how she was uprooted almost yearly as a child, shuttled from one foster family to the next. This was often accompanied by a change in schools, even when her old one was within driving distance.

“You’re in a new home. You don’t know these people. They already made accommodations for you,” said VanDyke, explaining why she did not feel comfortable asking for transportation to her old school. “You feel like a burden.”

Adding to her other struggles, the frequent transfers resulted in a disjointed education for Van Dyke.

“Schools do not teach the same thing at the same time,” she said. “And when you change schools, you may be relearning what you already learned. You may have completely skipped a section of your education.

VanDyke advocated for changes to give more guidance and resources to foster youths who want to stay in their current schools.

“I personally was very moved” by her testimony, said Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., who invited Van Dyke to speak at the hearing. “She’s just a stellar young lady.”

Franken introduced a bill last November addressing some of VanDyke’s concerns, hoping it can be meshed with the new education bill. His proposal would encourage state education agencies to work closely with child welfare services to keep foster children in their current schools where possible. It would allocate money for transportation or other means for keeping students in their school.

‘The foster care system is broken’

There are an estimated 12,000 foster children in Minnesota, more than 8,000 of whom live in foster homes, said the Minnesota Department of Human Services. The remaining 4,000 are scattered among group homes and shelters. About half of the state’s foster childen live in the Twin Cities metro area.

A Human Services spokeswoman declined to comment on Franken’s bill.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland expressed frustration with the frequent communication gap between the foster care system and education agencies.

“The foster care system is broken in this country, and I think we’ve got to really put that out on the table,” Mikulski said. “We have watch lists to track terrorists, but we don’t have a tracking system to see where our own children are in their schools when they are uprooted.”

Eric Roper • 202-408-2723

KARA has been reporting and speaking on data and

critical issues impacting abused and neglected children for many years.

This article submitted by long time CASA guardian ad Litem Mike Tikkanen

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