Mike Tikkanen speaks about child abuse/trauma/healing and community

at schools, colleges, workplaces, events, etc.; To learn more:

send an email to info@invisiblechildren.org with SPEAKING in the subject line. 

Mike’s INVISIBLE CHILDREN book can be read and listened to (for free)here.

  • Sign up for KARA’s Free Friday morning E-Newsletter
  • subscribe to new chapters of AMERICA’S CHILDREN IN 100 CHARTS here.
  • Mike is A KARA founder/Executive Director and founding board member at CASAMN.



Names are pseudonyms unless noted*


KARA’s Call to Action 12.17.23



This is a book about childhood abuse and trauma, its impact on children and the impact damaged youth are having on our cities, states and communities. It’s a guide to identifying, understanding, and dealing with the most critical social issue in our nation today.

Child abuse and childhood trauma define not just the child’s mental health problem, but the adults they become and the communities they live in. 

Generational child abuse is invisible. It has become a core problem in every American community impacting all of us, our institutions, and every aspect of our quality of life every day.

Trigger warning; This has been a hard book to write. It includes tragic stories of vulnerable children with unhappy events and endings. You will find hard to believe and disagreeable information herein. 

Limited institutional transparency has kept topics we present here out of the public domain making them invisible and rarely discussed.


Creating the flow of the book’s topics was the most difficult task in writing the book.  We believe including these topics necessary to tell the complete story. Understanding the issues as an interrelated whole is a first step to designing proper solutions. 

Our goal has been to dig deep into the muddy water of these complex, related issues, find clarity, and provide solutions to currently worsening problems.

Sources consulted number in the hundreds. Included are books, magazines, newspapers, published government statistics, research reports, foundations, special issue oriented centers at universities and informative internet websites. Many of the topics included are under-reported or not reported by institutions that could/should report.

Over 100 interviews have been conducted from topic experts, administrators, lawmakers, and people impacted by child abuse and those working, living/working with and that care about individuals impacted by child abuse. Only a fraction of the interviews have made it into the book but they have directed its tone and content.

If you can suspend your disbelief until you have read this work in full, you will gain a comprehensive view of the wicked problem of generational child abuse and what comes of it. 

You will see how childhood abuse creates broken people doing bad things and living unproductive, often dangerous lives.

This book offers solutions to wicked problems that reverse ongoing trends that are damaging children, the adults they become and quality of life across the nation.

This book;

  • Explores the depth and scope of the issues and solutions to fix core problems that are breaking schools, public health, public safety and tearing at our social fabric.
  • Identifies actions that will improve community, institutional and political awareness and actions to interrupt and heal child abuse trauma and save at risk children from misery and failure in the future.
  • Provides opportunities for individuals and institutions to reverse the trend of generational child abuse, teach coping skills and support recovery for at-risk children and heal our communities.
  • Provide alternatives that work for foster parents, educators, law enforcement, health care workers and others dealing with traumatized youth.
  • Delivers research and data based perspectives on the conditions facing American citizens and institutions today. NOTE; Because these topics are often underreported and institutions not transparent (or institutions even responding to requests for information) this book includes data and stories acquired from multiple sources).

This book was written by *CASA guardian ad Litem Mike Tikkanen and research/writing help from KARA team and college student volunteers from the U.S., Canada and Australia (noted in the appendix). 

Most volunteers were on the path of working in related fields. Many had decades of experience working in Child Protective Services with at-risk children.  *CASA guardian ad Litems are Court Appointed Special Advocates are volunteers advocating for the best interest of the child in Child Protection Court Cases. 

Thank you each and every volunteer, college intern and CASA for your dedication to the millions of children we are advocating for.

There are 950 CASA’s and about 90,000 CASA community volunteer guardian ad Litems in the U.S.  This is a good place to state that information about child abuse varies by the source and community, is too often closely held, contradictory and very hard to find. State, County and Federal child outcomes based metrics are not transparent, often guarded or simply do not exist.

This failure to track the metrics of success, failure and safety of children they are protecting will be repeated in the following pages. It’s why we know so little about the tens of millions of children reported to CPS over the years.

We find It hard to understand the wide variation in numbers reported by institutions and agencies. For instance, most national sources report 10-14% of child protection cases include sex abuse. In our interviews and my experience over 12 years as an active CASA GAL, half of my 50 case children were sexually abused.  All were under twelve, half of them not yet six and two were three years old.  Most were abused for between two and four two years. The oldest child suffers an average of four years before entering CPS.

None of my child abuse stories were

 known outside of Social Services and the Court.

Many of their stories were horrific.

No caregiver went to jail or paid a fine for the terrible things they did to children as young as two years old. Most of the offenders were left in the home with other children for years. Many children were returned to known sex offenders and violent homes. Violence, neglect and child sex abuse started for most children at very young ages.

Sex abuse, and sustained neglect are as traumatic as physical violence to the child. This is rarely witnessed by outsiders and therefore underreported and unknown by the rest of us. When we do read about it, often the language is softened with words like maltreatment instead of the rape of the five year old. 

By including stories of children and insights of people from related fields, at-risk youth, and adult survivors we give the reader multiple perspectives and experience at a deeper level.  Chapters are organized in groups to highlight critical aspects of this issue. The book is best read by first reading the chapter/topic that hits home for you.

Sharing this book’s data and stories with your State Reps and other administrators and Legislators is a key way to bring change to at risk children in your community.

Find your State Rep here; https://www.commoncause.org/find-your-representative/addr/ . 

*Get free Friday KARA morning e-updates here to continue the conversation. Our weekly updates provide current information for you to use in speaking for the children we are advocating for.

Understanding and sharing

the issues in this book

will go a long way towards 

ending child abuse and 

healing the children

you are reading about!


  • Chapter Group #1 defines child abuse and trauma, its pervasiveness and impact on children and how traumatized children are wreaking havoc on our community. The COVID Pandemic lockdown kept millions of at risk children locked in abusive homes for extended periods exposing them to significantly increased trauma and abuse. These children will be impacting our schools, courts, health systems and public safety for decades.
  • Chapter Group #2 contrasts child wellbeing between the states and comparisons between America’s peer nations.
  • Chapter Group #3 digs into abuse economic and social costs, racial issues, government and institutional perspectives; child and foster care, adoption, education, law enforcement, public & mental health, child protection, courts and jails.
  • Chapter Group #4 explains trauma interruption, recovery and prevention by replacing existing models of punishment, expulsion/incarceration with healing, skill building and relationship practices.



Between 3.5 and 7 million child abuse calls annually to Child Protective Services represent between 12 and 18 million children reported abused (3.9 children per family in each Hennepin County MN CPS case at the time of this writing). 


Of the millions of reports made each year, only a small percentage of America’s eighty million children are removed from their homes (about 500,000) by a judge because a child’s life is in imminent harm.

Most calls are screened out or families are offered services. Some states screen out upGRAPH ⅔ or more of the calls. Of calls screened in for investigation, many families are offered services that can be declined.

The majority of abused children are never seen or reported. Their stories are never told and few of them find help or healing for the traumas they have suffered.

Many adults go to their grave without telling anyone about a cruel and painful childhood. 

Child Protection agencies were spread thin before the COVID lockdown. The severity of abuse caused by COVID locking children in toxic homes for long periods with no teachers or other mandated reporters or rescue has made matters much worse for at-risk children and the institutions serving them.

Child abuse is invisible.

Most child abuse is never reported

never seen or known

outside the family.

This INVESTIGATIVE REPORT  (funded by MN”s former Supreme Court Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz) about 200 Minnesota Children dying at the hands of their caregivers while known to Child Protective Services. At the very least, read page 19-34, it changed my understanding of what Child Protective Services should be.

We see the why and how these children died and what CPS could/should have done to save them from the awful tortured deaths they suffered.

This appears to be the only investigative report of its kind in the nation as this book goes to press. The report demonstrates a continued catastrophic failure of County CPS to keep children in toxic homes alive. Until this report is duplicated in every other state, those states cannot claim to be keeping children safe.

The finer point to be drawn here is that the 200 children murdered by their caregivers in this report are only the tip of the child violence, neglect, trauma iceberg. The lack of meaningful metrics and reporting by agencies keeps the media from reporting and the public from knowing. This may be the real failure of CPS.

Thousands of MN children suffer unreported abuse, screened out abuse, self-harm and suicidal behavior. All of it occurring with little or no public awareness.

49 other states don’t have a report of this depth and scope. 

The book argues that better tracking and reporting along with de-escalation and healing models replacing punishment orientation in homes, policing, and schools can reverse the damage being done to so many children today.


Without child and family centered public policy our current models will continue to produce more bad outcomes. The good news is, America has resources, human capital, and infrastructure capable of providing all children a chance to live healthy and productive lives.

The cost of ignoring this is exploding costs and compounding institutional failure. Our schools, law enforcement, public health and neighborhoods are hard pressed to manage the growing levels of dysfunction they are seeing today.

In the years to come, states and communities that choose better answers will see better results. Those that don’t, will build more prisons and support more dysfunctional and unhealthy people.

Child abuse is invisible, 

trauma is  misunderstood and often ignored.

This reality is affecting our communities profoundly.

 Child abuse tends to be generational.

Child abuse in the home becomes normalized.

Inflicted trauma impacts brain development & triggers

dysfunctional/dangerous seamless

behaviors that become habitual.


Untreated, millions of traumatized babies, toddlers and young children are doomed to living dysfunctional lives. 

The COVID pandemic and lockdown created more trauma for longer periods and more badly damaged children.  Their trauma driven behaviors hurt themselves and others and make communities unhappy and unsafe. 

These behaviors are often punished with expulsion from school and incarceration that will isolate them and define their lives forever. Failure in school creates teen and preteen mothers, violent youth, and adolescent felons that are costly and damaging our social fabric and community wellbeing.

Schools are expelling increasing numbers of children and youth and our criminal justice rules are punishing younger and more damaged children with severe and often adult sentencing. Trauma that youth are suffering in their home is exponentially multiplied by expulsion from school. It’s a circular problem of institutions and policy makers aggravating the problem.

“Trauma in a family,


over time, looks like family traits.

Trauma in a people, decontextualized

over time, looks like culture.”

(Resmaa Menakem)


America’s overwhelmed institutions 

are creating 

what they were designed to stop

Juvenile felons

(12 and 14 year olds charged as adults)

preteen moms, full prisons

and 80% – 90% nine-year prison recidivism rates

are the tip of the iceberg.


We explore the cost in dollars, suffering and community wellbeing.

and bring insights and answers for solving the problem.

Our institutions are under pressure  to find better answers.  Teachers, police officers, foster parents, and health workers are struggling to manage children bringing their mental health issues and dangerous behaviors into the classroom and community. 

Healthy children become healthy adults.

Unaddressed childhood trauma creates unhealthy and troubled adults. Healthy youth are not overwhelming our social services, creating the crime and chaos on our streets and failure in schools. 

The American cycle of generational child abuse is a phenomenon entrenched in millions of families and growing exponentially. Untreated traumatized children become unhealthy adults in and out of child protection, juvenile and criminal justice. They pass this dysfunction on to their children and the history of violence and abuse repeats in the next generation.

 Historically, about 80 percent of youth aging out of foster care go on to lead dysfunctional lives. 

Twenty percent of them become instantly homeless when they age out.

Most violent and serious crime is committed by juveniles. Post COVID, juvenile crimes are more frequent and violent. The number of 12-14 year olds involved in serious crimes is also up.

Law enforcement in many major metros find themselves frustrated by the courts and CPS as most juvenile offenders are not punished and back on the streets repeating their crimes. Some of the officers we have spoken with admit to not enforcing public safety when then expect the crime to be ignored by the court. This is one of a number of law enforcement issues making policing difficult (explored further in the pages ahead).

Growing gun violence, car jackings, homicide and other violence are making life harder for all of us. Daily headlines tell the tale: high crime rates and recidivism, broken schools and neighborhoods, drug abuse, mass shootings, and too many young suicides.

Thirteen states have not imposed a minimum age for prosecuting a child as an adult, leaving eight-, nine-, and ten-­year-­old children vulnerable to extreme punishment, trauma, and abuse within adult jails and prisons.

Alaska, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia have no minimum age for the adult prosecution of children. Very young children are vulnerable to unfair pressure when accused of crimes. The absence of a minimum age also exposes very young children to being held in adult correctional facilities, where they are at increased risk of sexual, physical, and psychological abuse.

WORLD WIDE; America led the world in quality of life indices for 40 years after the Second World War. Great quality of life metrics; the best schools, health care, public safety and much more.

Today, the U.S. is the world leader in many of the worst categories among advanced nations. Many states are reporting data comparable to third world nations.

We the people have been slow to respond to this dramatic change in our society. Like a frog in room temperature water slowly brought to a boil, we are failing to require our institutions to replace management and policies with those that work. Our youngest citizens are at risk and this impacts us all.

It is not that Americans are terrible people or deliberately cruel to children and at risk families.

Poor child outcomes are the results of the nation’s past success and a fast changing world that has left our old systems and policies behind. 

Continued reliance on centuries old punishment models and overemphasis on short term finance over over community and underappreciating the value of healthy children is destroying lives and our social fabric.

This book demonstrates how costly current financial policy towards at risk children is in crime, health care, education and in tax dollars and GDP.

Adding available data from mental heath, drug use legal and illegal, crime, courts, Juvenile/Criminal justice, Prisons/Jails/, Child Protective Services, and all citizens in State Care, it appears that 25-30 % of Americans are special needs people.


A significant percentage of State Ward children entire lifetimes not contributing to the community. Instead, they are leading dysfunctional lives with a lifetime of pain and cost to their community.

Abuse by a parent destroys the parent child bond. The most important person in the child’s life has done terrible things to them. This key factor is now missing for an abused child. There is no replacing it.  The child’s most trusted adult endangered their life to the point a judge removes them from their birth home – the only home the child has ever known.

Replacing the home and trusted relationship of a birth parent is almost impossible. Our current efforts of foster and group homes are falling far short in most communities – adding more failure and trauma to damaged children. Millions of children face this reality every year. Only a percentage of them are reported to CPS and only a percentage of those children receive the help they need to heal and build the skills they need to lead a productive life.

The root of our child abuse troubles was identified by the CDC & Kaiser Permanente survey in 1995 (Adverse Childhood Experiences – ACEs). This ACES survey (take your ACE test here)
demonstrates that children suffering 4 or more traumas have biological and behavioral changes that impact them for their entire lives. 

Ten types of childhood trauma:

    • Physical abuse
    • Verbal abuse
    • Sexual abuse
    • Emotional neglect
    • Physical neglect
    • Having a parent who was an alcoholic or used drugs
    • A mother or stepmother who was a victim of domestic violence
    • Family member in prison
    • Parent or parents with depression
    • Parents’ divorce.

Arguably, Child Protective Services (CPS) is the only government institution not reporting meaningful outcomes of the people they serve. The Information that is reported concentrates on metrics related to employee/staff metrics. We know almost nothing about the successes and failures of the children passing through Child Protective Systems. This book presents information gathered from institutions, media and subject matter experts to paint a “whole cloth” picture of the impact of abuse on children and the impact of abused children on our community. This recent INVESTIGATIVE REPORT


Most people and the government officials that serve them, have a poorly understanding of the correlation between child abuse, mental health, crime, and broken communities. Our policy makers and institutions are misunderstanding and under-serving many millions of badly damaged children and the adult they become.


Traumatized children live dangerous lifestyles,

suffer (costly) chronic illness and

die about 20 years sooner than the rest of us.


Their troubles become our troubles.

Generational child abuse is ‘normal’ in America.


 37% of American Children are reported to Child Protective Services By their 18th birthday

almost half of American youth are arrested by their 23rd birthday


As this book goes to press, about one third of educators, law enforcement social and health workers are quitting, retiring, or changing professions.  Professional burnout is exacerbating our inability to manage increasingly troubled youth and the adults they become.  Cities and States that solve these problems will have lower taxes, less crime, and are happier, healthier and safer places to live than states that don’t.

California’s Surgeon General, Nadine Burke Harris, has written and spoken extensively about the impact of childhood trauma on children, families and communities. Her book THE DEEPEST WELL makes a cogent argument for declaring child abuse and trauma a public health epidemic and school crisis in her state. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mSVG45rVBcw  Burke Harris has made clear the importance of informing institutions the value of using trauma informed practices in solving community problems.  A second book, THE BODY KEEPS THE SCORE further defines the medical interpretation of critical biological changes that childhood trauma produce.

Ten (update) States have declared themselves to be ‘trauma informed care’ states to begin to address this epidemic. https://www.kpihp.org/blog/becoming-a-trauma-informed-state/



Children are a nation’s most valuable resource – of greater worth than any commodity – gold, silver, minerals, grains and greater than any technology or consumer product.

“What we do to our children, they will do to society”

(Pliny the Elder 2000 years ago).

We owe children a safe home and a healthy beginning through quality healthcare, education, family life – and unconditional love. The potential of children is tremendous. Healthy children become adults who can raise a healthy family and contribute to their community.

Unhealthy children spend a lifetime costing taxpayers dollars, public safety and the price of crime, broken schools and neighborhoods. “Doing right by children” means establishing institutions and systems that promote health and wellbeing and heal the toxic stress of abuse and trauma.

Because brains of children are rapidly and dynamically developing, abuse and trauma have a profoundly negative effect on their brains and future behaviors. A healthy development environment creates a strong brain architecture capable of buffering children from  toxic stress.  For older children, a healthy environment helps them develop the social and emotional capacities needed throughout life.

  • Chapter Group #1
  • Child abuse – trauma definitions and statistics
  • The impact of trauma and abuse
  • Why children are abused 


Descriptive words can be soft or hard. Descriptive language about child abuse that reached the stage of being reported should reflect torture more than it does a singular painful incident. The very definition of torture (World Health Organization) “Extended exposure to violence and deprivation” suggests this.

We in America regularly define child abuse as “maltreatment”.   Maltreatment can mean a slap or spanking, or using a screwdriver as a chisel. This euphemism misses the repetitious cruel traumas some poor child has lived with for a long time .

Maltreatment fails to convey the trauma,, terror and pain of a 200 pound man beating or raping a very young child. Few people know what it takes for a child to end up in Child Protective Services. 

Four years of violence and rape of the oldest child before entering CPS is the average in America today. 

Child abuse is more accurately defined by the World Health Organization’s definition of torture; “Extended exposure to violence and deprivation”. Almost all of the children this CASA Guardian ad Litem worked with endured years of abuse before entering CPS.

The Medical Community 

defines Childhood Trauma this way; 



(NYTIMES) Recent studies at Yale and the Icahn SchooL of Medicine at Mount Sinai in NY published in the JOURNAL OF NATURE NEUROSCIENCE, indicate that trauma memories are kept as present tense in the brain and in a different part of the brain than thought before. 

This explains the near constant anxiety abused children live with and why they are uncomfortable, even fearful, in so many non-threatening situations. 

In my experience as a CASA, children with high ACEs scores don’t feel completely safe ever. 

Always waiting for a bad thing to happen makes them tense in most social/school settings. When confronted with authority, they often slide into amygdala driven home mode of avoiding the next beating, rape or other trauma. This Near continual stress has has a profound impact on mental health and behavior. According to a Psychology Today article, child abuse causes physical and emotional distress. The physical damage may heal, but the emotional reaction and high anxiety remains complicating daily life for millions. It’s exhausting to those that worry relentlessly.

Uncertainty, anger, and frustration build over time. A person in constant stress mode sees danger everywhere and security nowhere. A person under stress is a reactive person who may not wait to consider the full situation—a condition of shoot first, ask questions later.
The stress of chronic abuse may change the hardwiring of certain parts of the brain so that even small amounts of stress trigger a “hyperarousal” response, which can result in hyperactivity, sleep disturbances, and anxiety, as well as increased susceptibility to hyperactivity, conduct disorders, and memory and learning problems 1. Children with high ACES scored live in a state of stress and distress, which changes the way their brains react to circumstances and stresses later in life. They become hardwired to hyper-react and have a difficult time standing down.

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network 3 states that the majority of abused or neglected children have difficulty developing a strong healthy attachment to a caregiver. Children who do not have healthy attachments are much more vulnerable to stress. They have trouble controlling and expressing emotions, and may react violently or inappropriately in school and other social environments.


For the purposes of this book, child abuse is defined as “traumas committed upon children by their caregivers to such an extent that they are recognized by teachers, social workers, law enforcement and others reporting obvious signs of trauma/abuse that result in a report of child abuse by the County”.


Children are abused for many reasons but mostly because their caregivers also came from abusive homes. Parenting skills do not come from the stork. Generational child abuse may be America’s worst closely held secret.

Stresses of poverty, social upheaval and catastrophes like COVID have added more fear and instability to America’s young families. 


 Only a fraction of child abuse is ever seen

only a fraction of what is seen is reported.

Depending on the State,

between one third and two thirds of child abuse reports

are screened out and not investigated


Most abused children become

juveniles and then adults tormented with

untreated traumas of sex abuse, violence and

other toxic neglect and years of abuse.

Many adults go to their grave never having talked with anyone about their childhood abuse and trauma. Unspoken/Untreated Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) suffered in the birth home never end – They last a lifetime.


Social Service agencies reported (PRE COVID), 3.9 million reports

Representing about 15 Million abused and neglected children

(3.9 is the average number of children per family in each Child Protection case).

Only 3.1 million children received prevention and post response services.

618,000 children became State Wards as victims of abuse or neglect.


Child Abuse Statistics/Charts

 GRAPH (multiple)

Every state is different, but nationally, about half of child abuse reports are either screened out or families are offered services instead of investigating the abused child. In screened out and services cases,  the child is not seen by the social worker. 

Most child abuse is invisible and never reported. 77% of the perpetrators were parents of the child. https://usafacts.org/articles/how-many-children-are-victims-of-abuse-or-neglect-in-the-us/ 

https://www.acf.hhs.gov/cb/data-research/child-maltreatment About 500,000 children are in foster care each year. Of the 2.5 million children experiencing homelessness in 2015. This number declined to about 1.5 million children in 2020.  50% of homeless children will be abused (between 25 and 33% are sexually abused). Historically, 68% of child fatalities are younger than three years old. 46% of them are under one year old. In a recent MN study of child murders, half of the victims were killed by their biological parent.

It is estimated that over 50% of child abuse fatalities are not reported on death certificates.


Mandated reporters don’t always report.

CPS is often underfunded & overwhelmed

and sometimes misguided.

Courts don’t always do the right thing for an abused child.


Courts and child protection agencies frequently under address child sex abuse as it complicates the child’s removal from a toxic environment and too many communities find it hard to deal openly and honestly with what they view as a family matter.Knowing More About At Risk Children

Where You Live

Will Help Save Them, Your Schools,

and Your Community


Children don’t vote, don’t write op ed articles,

don’t call their senators, or hire lobbyists.

Nor do they have the rights every other human in every other nation have

(a result of  “not ratifying” the United Nation’s Rights of the Child Treaty of the 1980’s).

(That is why we need to speak for them)


Nothing good comes from a single horrid media story about child abuse or child death at the hands of a caregiver. We respond with outrage and blame. This quickly fades away until it happens again. Blame doesn’t help, and the cycle repeats itself when the next child dies another terrible preventable death.

Not knowing the depth and scope of the child/s trauma and abuse, a meaningful (effective) response is impossible. To interrupt this cycle, CPS (Child Protective Services) must track meaningful outcomes based metrics about the children they are protecting.

Metrics tracking child violence and death at the hands of parents while in CPS, State Ward children’s school performance, mental health, births to teen and preteen moms with no parenting skills, addicted to alcohol and drugs and children/teens charged as adults, are just the tip of the iceberg. Many badly performing states and counties don’t report any outcomes based at risk child metrics*

When information is not available to local media, COVID, war, climate change and other attention-grabbing headlines keep child well-being off the front-page all-over America. CPS needs to report outcomes-based metrics to inform citizens and media. This gives the community (and the press) information to understand and address the issues driving the crime, sadness, death and failure of and by youth in the community.

“What we do to our children, they will do to our society

(Pliny the Elder 2000 years ago”).

*Child suicide & self-harm, children dying at the hands of their caregivers while in CPS, emergency mental health hospital admissions, child/youth drug abuse, psychotropic medicating of children, children and teens charged as adults in court (BASIC OUTCOMES METRICS reporting about children known to CPS).





The Child Abuse and Neglect (CAN) study evaluated changes that occurred both during and after the Pandemic from 4 significant research projects.

Study 1: Analysis of administrative child welfare data

The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Child Abuse Dynamics This study analyzed administrative child welfare data from four states – New York City, Florida, New Jersey, and Wisconsin. It used spline regression modeling to examine variations in the number of screened-in CAN investigations Pre- and Post-Pandemic. The study calculated the deficit in CAN investigations and estimated the number of missed prevention and CAN cases during the Pandemic.

The analysis revealed that before the Pandemic, there were minor fluctuations in monthly CAN investigations. However, after the start of the Pandemic’s onset, there were significant monthly decreases in the number of CAN investigations across the four jurisdictions. Approximately 60,791 fewer CAN investigations occurred from March to December 2020. This led to around 18,540 missed prevention of CAN cases, with a potential lifetime economic impact of up to $4.2 billion.

At the national level, an estimated 623,137 children went uninvestigated for CAN during the same 10-month period. This suggests that roughly 85,993 children missed prevention services, and about 104,040 children were not investigated for CAN, with a potential lifetime economic impact of up to $48.1 billion in the U.S. (Calculating the Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on Child Abuse and Neglect in the U.S., 2021.)

Study 2: The Secondary Health Consequences of Social Distancing

The Secondary Health Consequences of Social Distancing conducted at a Level I pediatric trauma center in Maryland, this study retrospectively reviewed data to identify injuries resulting from Physical Child Abuse (PCA) in the month following the statewide closure of childcare facilities. The proportion of PCA patients treated during the COVID-19 era was compared to the corresponding period in the preceding two years. Demographics, injury profiles, and outcomes were assessed.

The Level I pediatric trauma center in Maryland treated eight patients with PCA injuries during the COVID-19 period, compared to four in 2019 and three in 2018. These injuries resulted from blunt trauma, leading to scalp/face contusions, skull fractures, intracranial hemorrhage, and long bone fractures. (Kovler M.L. et al., 2021)

Study 3: The Effects of SARS-Cov-2 on Child Abuse and Neglect

 The Effects of SARS-Cov-2 on Child Abuse and Neglect Rates This study analyzed data on billed ICD-10 codes for child abuse and neglect before and after school closings due to the SARS-Cov-2 pandemic. Demographic data, abuse types, and patient acuity were examined, looking for changes between the pre-and post-pandemic periods.

No significant differences were identified in total rates of child abuse and neglect encounters, physical abuse, or child maltreatment codes pre- versus post-school closings. However, sexual abuse incidence and inpatient encounters increased by 85%. (Salt E. et al., 2021)

Study 4: The rise in child abuse cases during Covid-19 Pandemic

There was an increase in Child Abuse Cases during COVID-19 as investigated in this research study. The Child abuse cases were reported to the National Child Abuse Hotline during the Pandemic, comparing them to Pre-Pandemic statistics. It also explored various forms of abuse, locations, and the impact of isolation on vulnerable children.

The National Child Abuse Hotline reported a substantial increase in child abuse cases during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Various forms of abuse, including physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, showed significant increases. The majority of these cases occurred within the family home, reinforcing the impact of pandemic-related isolation. (Theodorou C.M. et al., 2022)

   The findings from these four studies provide a comprehensive understanding of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has had and is having on child abuse and neglect. The lockdown of schools and social distancing measures created significantly more abuse not seen by mandated reporters and not addressed by Child Protective Services.

The substantial decrease in CAN investigations during the Pandemic indicates that a significant number of children were exposed to longer exposure to and amounts of abuse and neglect without any intervention or support. 

Two years of Pandemic lockdown and lower reporting and missed investigations cases have had and will continue to have severe long-term human, economic consequences, emphasizing the need for a more robust child welfare system with better reporting and capable of adapting to crises.


  •   ·   CAN- Child Abuse and Neglect 
  •   PCA – Physical Child and Abuse
  •   SARS-CoV-2 – Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2
  •   ICD-10 – International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision
  •   UNICEF -United Nation International Children’s Emergency Fund.
  •   Covid-19 – Coronavirus Disease 2019

Media reporting of child abuse pre COVID seldom occurs unless the child died or the story was horrific.  Reporting during COVID almost ended completely because of the politics, war, COVID death and the lack of in person attendance in school.  Teachers have always been an at risk child’s greatest hope for safety and most significant mandated reporter in the system.

Teachers have a trusted adult relationship with the child and have been trained to see and address harm when they see it. The increase and extent of child abuse due to closed schools over the COVID two years will resonate through our communities for decades.

Children locked into toxic homes with no relief have suffered more abuse and trauma than pre COVID children. They will put a tremendous strain on our already communities and institutions for years to come.

Because traditional media is itself under great stress itself and most newsrooms have fewer reporters for local news and find reporting on child abuse unrewarding. Child abuse stories are not in demand and are often avoided because it doesn’t sell newspapers. Add to that the lack of transparency endemic to Child Protection Institutions and not much is know about the plight or performance of children in the system.

The reporting CPS does is the reporting it choose to do. Metrics are stuck on those things that make the organization look efficient. It’s rare for Child Protection Services to track or make child outcome metrics available.

Bad things left unknown fester.

Things known can be addressed.

Things we need to know to create better design, build and support systems to effectively interrupt child abuse and heal children;

How many; State Ward children are there in your community? Have a GED instead of a diploma?

Can read or do math at grade level when they graduate?

Go on to higher education?

Drop out or are held back (how many grades held back)

Have mental health issues or substance abuse problems as they leave the system?

Are taking psychotropic medications?

Are receiving the health care they need?

Are single mothers?

Are they and their own children involved in CPS?

Are involved in the Juvenile or Criminal Justice system (for the first/second/third time, acts of violence etc).

Have been charged as adults in criminal cases?

Are suffering from depression, self-harm, thoughts of suicide

Are pregnant at 13,14, 15?

Have multiple children while in Child Protective Services?


Outcomes based reporting on each child (data not names) would help to identify successes and failures and where programs and policy changes are needed. Today, reporting is mostly limited to child protection worker efficiency with little information about the children in the system. The standard response when asked for this kind of information is it just can’t be done either for HIPPA protection or finger pointing to where that data should come from (but not me).

What is reported is seldom meaningful/newsworthy. This is why we know so little about the millions of children passing through our Child Protection system and what becomes of them. The numbers are staggering (more about numbers a few pages on).

To make matters worse, this is a sad topic.  Child abuse stories and data doesn’t sell newspapers or make good conversation. Until the information in this book is about, policy makers, citizens, and their legislators, at-risk youth have little hope of healing and wellbeing.


Generational child abuse is 

underreported and misunderstood

and at the heart of America’s problems.


Rarely do American children become

State Wards (foster children)

 unless they have suffered severe and

repeated trauma over extended periods.


Most child abuse is never seen or spoken of.  Other than tragic child death, the topic rarely appears in the media.  What isn’t reported can’t be measured and remains unknown and unaddressed. What is not known can’t be a problem. If it is not a problem we don’t need a solution.

This growing crisis of generational child abuse having traumatized children has made America a leader among the industrialized nations in teen and pre-teen births, sexually transmitted diseases, charging children and teens as adults, high crime, and the world’s highest incarceration and recidivism rates.






Most child abuse is rarely observed by anyone outside the family. Law dictates that mandated reporters (teachers/daycare workers/health workers) inform their superiors when knowledge of violence or rape and other forms of abuse are confided or observed. Mandated reporters don’t always report. Child rape is especially hard to report. Reprisals and fallout by the accused and so often the institution sends the child back into the home anyway. 


In cases of child rape, mandated reporters often believe that a successful outcome for the child is rare but the fallout from reporting is common. Schools and daycare struggle with doing the right thing with rape often. 

In the slow tortured death of four-year-old Eric Dean in Minnesota, 15 reports of abuse by mandated reporters over two years (hospital personnel and daycare workers mainly) were ignored. 

Eric Dean was never seen by a child protection worker. 

Eric Dean: The boy they couldn’t save (startribune.com)

Child sex abuse is the hardest to report. Educators have mixed feelings about pros and cons of even wanting to recognize it let alone act on it when they know about it.  

This CASA GAL has heard “I don’t want to get any of that on me” on more than one occasion from a reporters with significant evidence that a very young child was being raped repeatedly by her caregiver/s.

Law enforcement officers have told me repeatedly that their reporting violence or rape have come to nothing as the child just ends up back in the home and the cycle of trauma and damage continues. 

Mandated reporting could be

This is a huge issue that needs attention if we are ever to make children safe in our communities.

Add to this that the media can’t report what it does not know because there is no mandated reporting by Child Protection Agencies to track and provide child centric metrics on how State Ward children are succeeding or failing.

CPS is the only U.S. institution that rarely if ever is required to share key performance indicators concerning core results (and not the performance of employees that are used instead of meaningful child outcomes).

Teen and 

Because child abuse has remained almost invisible to the media, it remains unknown to the public and is not recognized as a serious problem by policy makers. 

, the depth and scope of generational child abuse has grown 

  When we don’t see a problem, we won’t see a need for a solution.

Simply reporting nameless intake notes by Child Protective Services, would give people moving descriptions of prostituted nine-year-olds, savagely beaten seven-year-olds and babies left alone in a crib unfed and unattended for days.  This never happens unless a child has died.

HIPPA laws are wrongly used to justify the non-reporting of critical institutional information that would awaken a concerned community to conditions of child abuse in their neighborhoods. There is no law forbidding or discouraging reporting violence committed against nameless children (in story or statistic).

Police agencies in some communities name perpetrators in the media. 

This adds a level of public embarrassment to awful behavior. While child abuse is a crime in America, parents are very rarely charged. 

This Guardian ad Litem has been advised that getting the child out of the abusive home is more important than bringing charges which would create a separate court case that would complicate the child’s removal. In one instance, an adult perpetrator remained in the home and abused seven children over 11 years. I’ve never seen a parent charged for any crime against their children. 

Some of what my 50 CASA caseload kids lived through with no consequences for the parent;

7 year old boy, severely beaten, raped, left tied to a bed and left alone without food repeatedly from 4-7 years old,

7 year old girl, (different family) was raped regularly from 4 to 7 by a large adult *parent (that had been charged with murder at least once). When I met this child for the first time, her vocabulary consisted of no more than ten words. The only reason this child found her way into CPS is because the perpetrator kicked her so hard she went into convulsions and had to be hospitalized. My first CASA visit to her 4 year old sister was at the suicide ward of a local hospital. Here 3 year old brother was also sexualized.

A 6 month old baby girl was steeped in 165 degree water burning the bottom half of her body causing terrible long lasting pain and lifelong disfigurement.

Molested 12 year old and 3 year old. The (father) perpetrator fled the state and moved to a western state where he sued for custody of the children. Mom had to drive her 15 year old pickup truck 1500 miles and bring the 12 year old with her to testify in court. Semen samples were part of CPS records in MN but not enough to thwart the custody case in Montana. Both mother and child lived in terror for many months as this terrifying trip and court case played out.

(Read more about my caseload children here – also streamed audio)

*Because the perpetrator of the 7 years old girl was not and never had been charged for his abuse of the four children in the home, he remained and continued abusing 3 more children by the time I was removed from the case. I was in court with this family for 11 years. The children could not be fostered or adopted together because they had been sexualized at very young ages and remained sexually aggressive in foster placements. The 7 year old prostituted herself from a very young age.  

When there is no reporting on beaten, raped or neglected seven-year old’s leaves us believing that there are no problems that need solving in our community. 

Stopping the terrors of generational child abuse is a primary reason for writing this book.

Naming perpetrators of violence against children would put fear into people involved in it.

Because institutional reporting is interfering with letting the press, public and lawmakers know the frequency and severity of child abuse. Until useful metrics are used and stories told, these painful realities remain hidden and generational child abuse will flourish.

  • Are there more crisis nurseries, prenatal and quality daycare, mental health resources and better-quality foster care and group homes where the community is made aware of what child abuse is and does to the children in their communities?
  • Are community crime rates, graduation rates and school performance impacted when fewer children fail in school, become teen and preteen moms and juvenile felons (statistically high probabilities)?
  • Is child abuse an American phenomenon making us different than other industrialized nations that have managed to control the progression of ACES and generational child abuse?
  • For a child, is the trauma of being raped, beaten or neglected the same as the trauma of watching mom or a sister/brother being beaten, raped or neglected?
  • Where should parental rights be revisited to allow children a promise for safety from violence, rape and preventable illness?

Awareness of child abuse requires adults reporting it when they see it.  People working with children need to mandate / require workers to report suspected abuse as “mandated reporters”.

 Unless a child dies or is so damaged that hospital personnel, law enforcement, teachers or other mandated reporters take notice and act, childhood traumas are invisible except to the child and family. 

Even the concept of “mandated reporter” sets an expectation not always useful to the child.  Many mandated reporters just “don’t” report. 

Reporting involves the reporter – and many reporters don’t want to “get any of that on them” (words spoken to this writer/CASA guardian ad Litem by mandated reporters on more than one occasion).

Reporters have a well-grounded fear that they will not be believed or that the fallout from reporting will  smear the reporter. Too often, institutions will deflect a terrible decision or behavior to protect themselves or their institution.  


The combination of fearful mandated reporters and an overwhelmed child protection system results in institutions diminished in their ability to keep children safe and communities healthy.

Idaho has 1.6 million citizens. In 2019 there were only 1869 reports of child abuse in the state. 25% of them are children and teens. This means .001 % of Idaho children (about 10% of the national average) were receiving even a chance of being saved from caregiver abuse.

More on States reporting abuse in the following chapter.

The COVID pandemic is certain to impact reporting and make the conditions for abused and neglected children in already unsafe for at risk children states much worse.

At-risk children go on to have at-risk families.  Their children grow up with the same violence, lack of parenting skills, drug and alcohol problems they themselves lived. In child protection cases of multiple children, the oldest child usually has suffered for four years.

State Ward Child abuse cases rarely involve a singular event or problem and most often there are other children in the home suffering trauma.



Here are some general types of services that may be accessible for children facing abuse:

  • Child Helplines: Many countries have dedicated child helplines that provide counseling, support, and information for children in distress. These helplines often operate 24/7 and can be reached by phone or sometimes online.
  • National Child Abuse Hotlines: Some countries have national hotlines specifically for reporting child abuse. These hotlines are typically staffed by professionals who can guide individuals through the reporting process.
  • Online Reporting Platforms: In some regions, online platforms or websites are available for reporting child abuse. These platforms may allow individuals, including children, to submit information about abuse anonymously.
  • Emergency Services: In urgent situations, children can contact emergency services, such as 911 in the United States or the appropriate emergency number in other countries, to report immediate danger or harm.
  • Child Protective Services (CPS): Many countries have agencies or departments responsible for child welfare, often referred to as Child Protective Services. These agencies investigate reports of child abuse and work to ensure the safety of the child.
  • Nonprofit Organizations: Various nonprofit organizations and advocacy groups may offer support services for children facing abuse. These organizations often have hotlines, counseling services, and resources for children and families.
  • School Counselors and Teachers: Children can also reach out to trusted adults in their lives, such as school counselors, teachers, or school staff, who are often mandated reporters and can take appropriate steps to ensure the child’s safety.

It’s crucial to be aware of the specific services available in your country or region, as well as the reporting mechanisms in place. If you suspect child abuse or are concerned for a child’s safety, please contact local authorities or the appropriate helpline immediately. In the United States, for example, you can contact Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453).

This  Star Tribune article by Chris Serres is a painful example of how we treat other people’s children.

Twin girls beaten with bats, starved, raped and chained over 12-15 years on the 4200 block of 17th Av South in Minneapolis.  Over 50 police calls to the home, developmentally disabled and pregnant in high school.

“The neighbors knew. The police knew. The county knew. We all knew…But nothing was done.”

“How many times the county received reports of abuse and neglect remains unclear” (from the star tribune article).

These stories are not uncommon.

4-year- old Eric Dean was tortured to death after 15 ignored reports of abuse by mandated reporters and how 6-year-old foster child Kendrea Johnson died by suicide and my 7-year-old CASA guardian ad litem case child was prostituted over 2 years and 49 police calls to her home where gun fire and prostitution were the reason for the police calls.

I’m just one of thousands of volunteer CASA guardians.

I have fifty of these stories.  My 2005 book INVISIBLE CHILDREN told some of them.


My first visit to a 4-year-old girl was at the suicide ward at a local hospital. Her 7 year old sister had a vocabulary of no more than ten words when she came into my caseload.

The following chapters will demonstrate the degree to which child abuse and trauma impacts the child and every citizen, every institution, and every community and why it should matter to all of us that these children find help.

Because this topic is uncomfortable, it’s rarely a conversation outside of the institutions involved.

As you read this book, keep in mind that you can have a significant impact on children where you live by simply talking about what you know about at-risk children.

Most of the people we know don’t know (and they find hard to believe) the things that you and I now know.  This is mostly due to the lack of conversation and reporting. If we don’t talk about this topic, it will remain unknown.


California’s State Surgeon General Nadine Burke Harris and Harvard’s T.H. Chan

Are calling ACES a public health crisis.


Abused children have no voice in their homes,

courts, media or the legislature.

If we don’t talk about this,

 it’s not spoken

& it’s not heard

If it’s not heard

It’s not an issue.

If it’s not an issue

there’s no problem.

If there’s no problem

There is no need for a solution


Supportable estimates indicate that abused children are nine to ten times more likely to be involved in the criminal justice system. It is common for

There is almost no transparency and little reporting available on the commonality of child sex abuse in the birth home.

There are many reasons for non-reporting – here are a few;

History/experience suggests that nothing good will change for the child, much will change for the teacher/school/reporter. Police officers often remark that the child is back in the home within weeks and the process is a waste of time.

Many counties (especially rural) lack the people and training for properly conducting a proper procedure for evaluating child sex crimes. Children are not reliable witnesses and don’t hold up well under cross examination (it’s a brutal procedure no young child should be force to under go).

The key to child safety and healing is getting the child out of the house and into a safe place. 

A failed attempt to prove sexual abuse can torpedo the larger goal of safety and removal. 

This CASA Guardian Ad Litem experienced almost 50% child sexual abuse occurring in the lives of the fifty children he helped to remove from toxic homes over 12 years.

Children’s ages and abuses and CPS outcomes could provide signals that help us understand and address core issues. Most Child Protection institutional metrics concentrate on employee performance and avoid the outcomes based on performance of children they serve.


The difference between that poor child and a prostitute or preteen mom with no parenting skills, a drug habit and a violent boyfriend is about eight years. 

If we knew how many of the girls and women involved in prostitution had passed through Child Protective Services, we could save more of them from leading dangerous, degrading lives.

If we knew how many molested children in CPS were depressed, self-harming, or suffering from other severe behavioral problems we could help them heal and lead productive lives. 

This CASA Guardian ad Litem worked with multiple children whose lives were destroyed by early brutal child sexual abuse. Nothing was ever reported by CPS for public awareness. No one knows any of the repeated sexual violence done to many thousands of very young children. Abuse began at three and four years of age and continues for years. This abuse can continue with the other younger children in the family if not discovered by CPS or if CPS is ineffective in interrupting the abuse.  

It is because we don’t track or report on the conditions of children in CPS, we rarely learn about their unhappy lives until their tragedies appear in the media (and then we do not understand the correlation between their past and the present violent act). 

For decades, one third of foster children have been required to take psychotropic medicines like Prozac. Every package of psychotropic medication references the danger of this drugs triggering “Suicidal Ideation”.

Few people know what this means. These are fully formed unstoppable waking dreams of killing yourself. This daytime vivid nightmare is terrifying. It can interrupt sleep and add to already extreme anxiety.

85% of the youth in Juvenile Justice are functionally low literate. 70% of incarcerated adults cannot read at a fourth grade level. The most recent study of Minneapolis schools has 10% of Black 3rd graders reading at grade level.

Teachers and healthcare workers are up against big odds and need community support at every level.


The politics of the day are not helpful. Throwing rocks at the people doing the work is far too common and hurting children. Pulling together as a community in support of the people doing the work is a recipe for success.

Suicide is the second leading

cause of death among American teens.


 The most recent provisional data available shows that the number of suicide deaths in the United States increased from 48,183 in 2021 to 49,449 in 2022, which is a 2.6% increasE

Mental health services for at risk youth have been missing in America’s healthcare industry for many years.  COVID has made it worse.

New research continues to 

Mental Health Chart/s

By 2022 more than 15% of 12- to 25-year-old Americans had symptoms consistent with an episode of major depression in the previous year   Post COVID?

Hospitals and other healthcare providers have faced and are still facing overwhelming stress from a sick pandemic driven population. This left them with fewer resources for treating non COVID health matters.  Our institutions were bleeding talent prior to COVID. The added stresses of COVID have and are still reducing administration and staff in healthcare, education, social services, and law enforcement.

Foster children are at least 2.5 times more likely to be involved in the Justice System.

90% of youth with five or more foster placements will enter the Justice System.

 Justice/Crime Chart/s

Of America’s 80 million children in America,

 30% of them will be arrested by their 23rd birthday

(that’s 24 million children)

80% of youth aging out of foster care lead dysfunctional lives

They also die 20 years earlier than their peers

(CDC Stevens 2009)

Minnesota’s former Supreme Court Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz has stated,

“the difference between that poor child and a felon, is about eight years”.


“90% of the youth in juvenile justice have come through child protective services”.


Why childhood trauma is different

from the traumas of war suffered by veterans.

Veterans vs. Children (suffering trauma)

  •  Age and experience; Veterans developed skills and life experience prior to the war damage that changed their brain. Veterans came into trauma with training and ability to cope with most stress of life. Vets have the skills to function independently – children do not.
  • Veterans have family, friends, and resources to help them manage their trauma.
  • Abused and neglected children have an undeveloped brain and their family is the source of their abuse and trauma. 
  • At risk children don’t find support unless their abuse is reported by someone able to recognize the damage and do something about it. This is a high bar in America today. Recognizing the damage and knowing what to do for an abused child takes training and courage. Mandated reporting is addressed elsewhere in the book, but it’s safe to say that many people simply believe “it’s a family matter”. Calling the police in many communities comes to nothing as many (especially rural) departments simply don’t respond well due to lack of training, resources and social norms. 
  • Think about this; children don’t even know that what’s happening to them is wrong. 
  • There is no book that comes with childhood and young children can’t read anyway.
  • Even if a young child did know and could speak,  What would they say and to whom? 
  • Most importantly, what happens in the home becomes normal to the child. 
  • Because children living in toxic homes don’t know their experience is wrong and abnormal (for most usually about the age of 12), they don’t have the skills or awareness to speak with about what is happening to them. The violence, trauma and abuse in their life is simply their life. Until that age, abused children grow up thinking that every child lives like I do. Then, the veil is lifted and they see how different they are.
  • Courts in America generally show deference to veterans with trauma when they commit crimes. This is much less the case with juveniles in the Justice System. Former MN Supreme Court Chief Justice stated it pretty clearly, “The difference between that poor child and a felon, is about eight years”.
  • About 10 million children have been removed from their homes and placed in foster care over the last twenty years (this is about the same time length as for veterans above).  500,000 veterans have suffered severe traumas vs. 10 million children. Most removed children have experienced multiple traumas over long periods of time. Many have diagnosable mental health problems, 1/3 of them are placed on psychotropic medications like Prozac. 
  • Centuries of race discrimination are overtly present in all things Justice. Until the crime/justice/trauma crisis is better managed, American institutions will all suffer the growing lack of trust and performance that sits with us today. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Black youth are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system, making up 16% of the youth population but 34% of youth arrests, 42% of youth referrals to juvenile court, and 58% of youth admitted to state juvenile facilities.


According to the Vera Institute of Justice, an estimated 70 million people in the United States have been through the criminal and juvenile justice system over the past ten years. This includes people who have been incarcerated, on parole, or on probation. The number of people who have been through the system has been increasing steadily over the past few decades, and it is now at an all-time high.

This book supports the theory the Justice System is composed mostly of the 90% of the youth that came through the child protection system referred to by Supreme Court Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz.

Most young people from healthy families don’t commit crimes and don’t go to jail. When they do get into trouble, they have family and support systems, and skills to get back on their feet. Also, they can afford the insurance and legal counsel if necessary. 

The societal costs of incarceration—lost earnings, adverse health effects, and the damage to the families of the incarcerated—are estimated at up to three times the direct costs, bringing the total burden of our criminal justice system to $1.2 trillion.

The Economic Costs of the U.S. Criminal Justice System – AAF

The majority of incarcerated Americans are from poor, broken families that don’t have any of these things. Many of them sit in jails because they are unable to post even modest bonds while they await trial.

Incarceration of children and juveniles increases the violence, neglect and other punishments this child was born into. 

Expulsion from daycare/school, their unskilled and antisocial behaviors, being ostracized, and incarcerated create a wall that has been built brick by brick since birth. 

“I do not belong, I”m not like everyone else, I hate myself and I can’t like or trust anyone ever” are imprinted on young brains and last forever without help from a caring community.

We’ve known the data and reality of America’s pipeline to prison for decades. 

The cost of maintaining 80-90% recidivism in our prisons at nine years is astronomical. 



  ACE study from 2006 criminality* in families; These are the children that will become the 8% of adolescents who commit up to 70% of all serious and violent juvenile crime. ACE research indicates that serious and violent delinquency may be concentrated in just 2-4% of families. This points to the importance of early identification through the ACE Program.  We know who these children are, where they live and what they need.  We have the resources to help them lead normal lives, succeed in school and become contributing members of the community.

It’s exponentially more expensive to ignore these poor damaged children than it is to help them.  ACE research shows a strong historical pattern of criminality in families of child delinquents. Using Cohen’s estimates, we calculate the multi-generational “multiplier effect” to be between $3.4 and $11.5 million. In these families, criminality is likely to grow exponentially.


The science of gene study

proves that child abuse is

genetically (as well as behaviorally)

transferred to the next generation.

Generational child abuse has been growing in America for decades. At risk families pass on their mental health issues and behavior problems to each new generation of children. Whole families living troubled lives in and out of Child Protection, emergency rooms, courts and jails.

his means each new generation lead a dangerous, dysfunctional lifestyle leading to more teen and preteen pregnancy, serious crime and decades of institutionalization. The costs to all of us is extraordinary in humanity, tax/insurance dollars, public health, education, and safety.








America is the only nation in the world to not ratify

the United Nations Rights of the Child Treaty of the 1980’s

(every other nation on earth has ratified this treaty)

Children in America have the civil rights of pets and property


There is a growing movement in the U.S. to further reduce child safety provided by Child Protection agencies based on politics and unsupportable beliefs.

From Dee Wilson / Safe Passages for Children Podcast Transcript; This is more relevant in Minnesota where our study of child fatalities is showing that families were known to child protection in more than 50% of child fatality cases.   GRAPH

They point out that child protection risk assessment instruments do not generally consider detached parenting and a lack of nurturing, even though a parent’s emotional disconnection from infants and toddlers elevates the risk of a maltreatment death. As mentioned in the blog, this perspective on the role of child protection could hardly be further from the current philosophy both in Minnesota and in many states nationally. 

The dominant political narrative today is that children are being removed from their families, particularly in BIPOC communities, with little justification, which accounts for the racial disparities in the system. As many of you know, Black children are approximately four times as likely to be in child protection and Indigenous children 10 to 14 times as likely than white children 

This is attributed first to Page 3 of 4 caseworkers who are portrayed as clumsy and disrespectful of their clients, ignorant about cultural differences that cause them to interpret varying parenting styles as cases of maltreatment, and who are unable to distinguish poverty from neglect. As we have stated elsewhere, there is no empirical evidence to support any of these widespread beliefs.



Trauma’s physical reality

Because war veterans brought home terrible PTSD/trauma problems, we learned what trauma does to a brain and the person that owns it. These same PTSD realities affecting soldiers apply to children and youth raped, beaten and suffering familial violence and deprivation. Courts and law enforcement struggle to respond empathetically to the violent and bizarre behaviors veterans suffering from PTSD exhibit.

In a growing number of courts, restorative justice is replacing prison for crimes committed by veterans as judges acknowledge the long-term mental health damage of war and trauma.

Courts are beginning to recognize that readjusting to a new life with the trauma of a broken brain is more likely to occur if a healing model is used in place of a prison sentence.

This is less true for badly behaving youth. Expulsion, incarceration and punishment rain down hard on America’s at risk youth – with glaring racial disparity.

Trauma remaps the brain. This new trauma defined map redirects input from the thinking part of the brain to the amygdala. The amygdala is the flight or fight part of the brain. It performs a primary role in emergency decision-making and emotional responses to perceived danger. The amygdala has been referred to as the reptilian part of the brain. 

When repeated childhood traumas happen, the critical thinking part of the brain appears to accept it failure to keep the child safe and gives up its child saving function to the amygdala or reptilian part of the brain.

Physically and mentally, traumatized children develop differently than their peers with behavioral and biological changes that left untreated, never go away.

Rates of suicide, self-harm, violence and crime are significantly higher in veteran populations of traumatized soldiers just as they are higher in populations of children suffering from child abuse and trauma (ACES, Adverse Childhood Experiences).

Children are helpless when repeated neglect,

beatings, rape or other violence occur.

The thinking part of their brain can’t stop the trauma or the

triggered behaviors that come from trauma.


With help, these changes can be managed.  Hard-wired trauma is a real thing that doesn’t evaporate when a child is removed from the abusive environment.

It’s cruel to expect damaged children to seamlessly adjust to a foster home. Without help, adapting in school and the community doesn’t happen for most abused and neglected children.

Veteran’s traumas do not disappear when they return home away from their violent surroundings. Children removed violent and dysfunctional families don’t change simply because they have been moved away from toxic surroundings.

Traumatized soldiers have the advantage of remembering a past.

Their memories of “normal” help them recapture a past life.

12-year-old Andy did not mean to do great harm to his teacher when he kicked her so hard she was hospitalized, quit teaching and sued the County.

Andy did many harmful things to many people over the 12 years he was in my CASA guardian ad litem caseload.

Andy was born in prison. His mother lost custody of her child after a brief court hearing shortly after his birth.

Mom was severely addicted to crack cocaine.  She spent her life in prison and lost custody of all her children.

Andy lived in foster homes the first four years of his life. From prison, his father petitioned for and received custody of his son (even though there was a court order forbidding the man to have contact with young boys because of what he did to them).

Overwhelmed child protection systems regularly do what they can to shrink the numbers of children needing State care.

The things done to Andy by his birth father over the next several years were unspeakable.

Andy’s “normal” was rape, beatings, isolation and starving.

Psychotropic medications and suicide attempts were a part of Andy’s life for the 12 years he was my CASA case client in child protection. Abused and neglected young children do not have the mental capacity to understand what is happening to them. And even if they know, who would they tell? What would they say? Parents are the primary authority in a child’s life .  Parents make the rules and define “normal”.  At 50 pounds and limited thinking capacity or understanding of the world, at risk children don’t have a chance to escape or stop the punishment.

Abused children have a toxic past that becomes their “normal”.

To an abused child,

their homelife is all they know until

their lack of skills become painfully apparent in school

regardless of how neglectful, painful or abusive it is,

abuse and trauma are their normal.

T0hat normal must be recognized and healed for a child to lead a healthy life.

Toxic families generally do not provide useful instruction to the child for learning or socialization to their children. Many enter CPS and school with extremely high ACEs scores and very low language, social or coping skills.

Kids in Child Protective Services suffer from high anxiety, depression and self-hate are common as are psychotropic medications to control violence and other trauma induced behavior problems.

There is no book delivered to the child on a given birthday listing the skills you will need to succeed in school or to explain how the terrible things done to you are not your fault or how to life with or heal the resulting traumas.

Healing doesn’t just happen. 

It comes from a caring community providing

a child the help needed to change.

Most child abuse is unreported.

Most reported abuse is not investigated. T

The majority of abused children never find help

or speak about their traumas.

Most traumatized children, juveniles & adults live lives of anxiety, depression and inadequate coping and learning skills compounded by uncontrollable behaviors triggered by traumas that happened when they were children.

Alcoholism, divorce, social and personal failure are common among them. Dangerous lifestyle and early death are common also. Prison data and data of foster children aging out of care is a snapshot of life for abused children – it is striking.

GRAPHFor decades, 80% of youth aging out of foster care have gone on to lead dysfunctional lives. About 70% of America’s inmates cannot read above a 4th grade level. Most serious and violent crime is committed by juveniles & nine-year prison recidivism is reaching 90%.

Awakening.  When discovery happens for an abused child, their world is shaken.

Most abused children become aware of how unlike others they are when they enter school.

Their peers have more skills and behaviors that are different in important ways.

Reading, communication and social skills come easy to children when parents

have these skills and share them with their children.

Kids with violent dads, abusive boyfriends, drug using moms and poverty start far behind in the classroom.  Most of these children were not read to, sung to, bounced and loved like children from healthy families.

For traumatized children, socialization, learning in school and mental development take a back seat to repeated traumatic personal experience and the behaviors that come with it.

The awakening usually comes in their early teens when a child becomes super-aware of how different she/he is from her/his classmates and peers and the social mask falls off and their behaviors change.

Abused children slowly become aware that no one they know grew up in home a like theirs.

School aged youth can be cruel – especially to kids deemed “different”.  Social media lends itself well to those that have access to reading and writing skills and the opposite is true for kids that don’t have those skills.

Sitting still in a classroom with the calmness and quiet attention required for learning is a luxury unknown among traumatized children. COVID era online learning will provide less normal peer social interaction and diminished access for a child in need of a caring adult that might provide a path to safety (mandated reporters).

Anxiety and growing awareness of “how different I am” than the others is a constant stress for a traumatized child coming to grips with her / his lack of classroom skills.

One of this CASA GAL’s caseload seven-year-old girls had a vocabulary of no more than ten words

when I met her.

She repeatedly let me know that she saw herself as a “freak”and felt strongly that her classmates did too.

Reading at grade level is easy for most 3rd and 4th graders – not so for children growing up with parent lacking those skills or living with repeated trauma and abuse.

This NIH study shows them reading with 30% to 40 % of the reading skills of their peers. When KARA’s first book INVISIBLE CHILDREN was written in 2005, 1/3 of American high school graduates could not find Florida on a map. (who were those children?).

Math and social skills are a major problem for anxiety ridden children that are unable to sit quietly in a classroom. Especially children made stupid by the side effects of Prozac like drugs.

It’s hard for children that lack a safe home life to keep up in the classroom or on the street.

Children coming from homes where parents with parenting skills get help, learn and grow.

At-risk children go home to drugs, violence and abuse.

Parents without parenting skills can’t teach them.

Caregivers without coping skills can’t teach them either.

Families of drug habits, violence and abuse create a home landscape of fear and anxiety for a developing child.

Instead of help with homework or support for the educational tasks and opportunities offered in school, there is crazy making behavior to deal with.


In school or online, feeling anxious about their struggle and shortcomings, at-risk youth often quit trying.

Without basic skills children fail in school.  They don’t read at grade level and can’t capture the basics of other topics without those skills.

Traumatized children develop a mindset of failure and anxiety and suffer with low self-esteem, depression, and self-hate.

Their parents came from homes where helpful skills and mindsets didn’t exist for them as children either.

Generational child abuse is a driving problem.

Hard to measure without data and seldom spoken of

generational child abuse is growing rapidly during the COVID lockdowns

Authority figures are a big problem for children that have been abused and traumatized by the most important authority figure in their life.

Teachers, foster parents and law enforcement are seen as just one more authority figure delivering threats of punishment.

America is founded on a punishment model. Discipline and punishment still raise most of America’s children.

More punishment doesn’t work for children that have been beaten, starved and raped by their caregivers.

Empathetic teachers that work hard at connecting with and building trust with an at-risk child have a better chance seeing that child through one more year inside the classroom than a teacher attached to the punishment model.

One more brick in the wall is the vernacular for identifying how children build walls that make them outcasts in school, with peers and the community.

Unpredictable, sometimes explosive trauma behaviors set abused children them apart from their classmates.

Their troubling behavior earn them more discipline and punishment.

These kids feel anxious and inferior and don’t fit in to begin with. Self-hate is common among foster children.

As long as our institutions enforce expulsion, incarceration and other punishments instead of empathy and providing a path to participation and stronger relationships we will continue to have low performing schools and full prisons.

Because most abuse goes unreported, most abused children never see a social worker or ever come to know the source of their troubling behaviors, depression or anxiety.

Many abused children go to their grave without telling anyone what happened to them.

Many abused children die without ever bonding to another human being.

When the trust of a birth parent is broken,

A child may never trust again.


Among the most long-lasting pain a child can suffer

Is a broken bond between mother and child.


Children feel guilt and personal failure for wrecking their family when Child Services tries to interrupt child abuse in a family.

Abused children often believe they are responsible for the things that happened to them and the breakup of their families by the court.

Self-destructive thinking and feelings of inadequacy combine with broken trust issues to make peer interactions and friendships really hard for these kids.

Who to trust and how much is a huge problem for children the most important authority figure in their life is causing them great harm.

It takes immense efforts for teachers, foster parents and others that are trying to grow a relationship with traumatized children – and it doesn’t always work.

It’s difficult to convey what not being able to trust and love, something that come easily to most people becomes a mental roadblock to abused children.

Many traumatized children fail to grow into healthy trusting relationships (ever).

Behind in school, full of self-hate, with few friends and often in trouble with authority and stuck in toxic home environments they make more bad choices. Conditions are ripe for doing dumb things and trusting the wrong people.

An overactive amygdala sees danger everywhere and compels erratic sometimes violent behaviors leading to more trouble and bad behavior.

Underdeveloped critical thinking skills can make children super sensitive to their perceived failures with the low self-esteem that comes with it.

Untreated, both children and veterans live long lives with a remapped brains, mental health and behavior problems that cause them more stress and more problems at home and with their peers and community.

Because America’s mental health resources have been expensive and unavailable to so many for so long, not many traumatized children find a path to effective healing resources.

Add this to most child abuse remaining unknown or if known, properly addressed.

Psychotropic medications have long been the less expensive go to treatment used to treat traumatized at-risk children.

There is plenty of evidence to show that the wholesale use of these drugs are the wrong answer for healing at children suffering from trauma.

Many children are forced onto Prozac like drugs when their behaviors become dangerous or teachers, law enforcement and parents decide it “is just easier to manage the child when medicated”.

GRAPH  (GENERAL POPULATION ARGUABLY ABOUT 10% AND…For many years about 1/3 of foster children are forced onto psychotropic medications in America.

When no other affordable and effective answers are available, these drugs have worked to keep violent children from harming themselves and others.

Teachers and foster/adoptive families have had few alternatives dealing with violent children and youth.

GRAPH As many as 70% of youth in Juvenile Justice live with diagnosable mental illness with half that number experiencing multiple, chronic and dangerous diagnosis.

This has lifelong consequences for all of us in many ways.

Prisons are full of juvenile justice youth turned adult and the juvenile justice system is full of youth delivered by the child protection system.

Leading healthy productive lives becomes almost impossible for abused children cast into rigid punishment model institutions.

Child abuse is often multigenerational.

Most abusive parents came from abusive homes


The science of epigenetics has proven that childhood trauma manifests itself in how our genes express themselves. This unhappy reality means there is a likelihood that a child raised in a violent and abusive home will have a disposition to pass on genetic material to his or her children that include undesirable PTSD traits abused children own.

This unbroken chain of teen and preteen moms without parenting skills, drug problems and violent boyfriends too often begins the next generation of trauma and domestic violence that repeats until the community steps in to interrupt the abuse and save and heal a child.


Adverse Childhood Experiences, ACES, destroy not just the childhood & life chances of one more boy or girl but the lives of people in her/his life (impacting taxpayers, teachers, law enforcement and crime victims) and an increased probability of passing on the negative traits of trauma to their grandchildren.







And generational child abuse


Half of kids born to teen moms in Foster Care

Will be in foster care themselves.


Are children property of their parents even if those parents are children themselves, or

violent, addicted, severely mentally ill or dangerously criminals?

Harder question.

Do teen and preteen mothers own their fetuses & babies

even if they addicted and out of control with little understanding of how

or ability to raise a child safely?

Should this child’s child be doomed prior to birth?


Children have no voice at the legislature, the media or in the home they are born into.  They have no choice in who raises them or what is done to them.


They don’t even know when what is being done to them is against the law.  What would a three year-old say and to whom if she knew?


Over 2.5 million children and adolescents have been born to 17 year-old and younger girls.  There were almost 250,000 births to 15 -19 year-old’s in 2012 and 89% of those births were to single mothers.


When a very young girl without mental health or parenting skills becomes pregnant, is the baby her property to do with as she pleases or does the baby have any rights to health and safety?


Many teen moms become pregnant a second and third time while using drugs and not having acquired safe parenting skills.  Their children suffer immensely.


This JAMA article indicates that we continue to underestimate the prevalence of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) by a factor as high as 10. GRAPH


If this is true, 5% of American children are born with a wide range of permanent and lifelong physical & mental health deficits that will result in school & life failure and premature death.


Most people in the fields of education, law enforcement or social work know the explosive growth of mental health issues of children in their in schools, homes and squad cars.  We are all becoming mental health workers.

The greater and sadder truth reflected in these studies is the continued minimizing, euphemizing and obfuscation of how America treats its children and troubled young families.

The ground truth is that children can’t speak for themselves, the media sees this as a negative story and the institutions involved benefit through non-transparency and under-reporting.  It is not surprising that so few know the depth and scope of this problem.

These sad truths insure generation after generation of child abuse and children born of drug and fetal alcohol abuse.  The cost to society and taxpayers is horrendous.  We would all benefit by understanding these grim truths.


 All Adults Are The Protectors of All Children








(Team, we need more research on suicide attempts and self-harm by children and youth.

There is almost no available reporting of how many very young (5-15 year-old) child self-harming events, child suicides or child suicide attempts are committed.  

This author experienced half a dozen child suicide attempts over 12 years as a CASA guardian ad litem. One of them a four year old girl and another, a six year-old foster girl that was successful.

Post COVID, the mental health issues facing at risk families and children are predicted to make these numbers grow.

The epidemic of suicide by veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress is well documented. For decades, almost twenty veterans a day take their own life. For teens in America, suicide is the second leading cause of death. Almost no one knows how many children and teens try and fail at suicide and less is known about how many children and teens harm themselves by cutting and other damaging behaviors that impact their lives forever.



Each box of Prozac and other psychotropic medication display a black box warning of “suicidal ideation”. Suicidal ideation is described as “thoughts of suicide” and not a more descriptive “fully formed fully conscious in color unstoppable violent daytime dream of killing yourself right now”.

It’s hard to understand suicidal ideation if it’s not been a lived experience. Explaining ice to a summer insect is a sound metaphor. Suicidal ideation is the reality for a significant number of people taking these drugs.


Psychotropic medicating of young children

triggers suicidal ideation,

These drugs are a poor replacement for trauma healing therapy 

and skill building for tortured children.

For decades, Prozac like drugs have been

first line medical treatment

for fostered children in America. 


The federal government has acknowledged the harm caused by the lack of oversight of psychotropic medications for children in foster care 2.


It is fair to say that America manages trauma induced child behaviors with punishment and psychotropic medications. Nationally, about one third of foster children are prescribed Prozac like drugs.

Florida, Texas and California, and counties throughout the nation have placed up to 100% of fostered children and youth on psychotropic medications.GRAPH

Few of us understand the side effects or severe consequences of using these drugs on children.

In 2014, big pharma companies were fined billions of dollars for “illegally selling these drugs to pediatricians for use on young children”.  Billion dollar fines are a rounding error to big pharma).

Several of the children this author worked with in Child Protective Services were proscribed multiple psychotropic medications simultaneously.

None of those children received adequate mental health services for their severe mental health issues. Many of my kids suffered from cutting, other self-harms and suicide attempts.

One of my case children taking multiple medications, tried to kill himself repeatedly over many years. The overuse of psychotropics and lack of consistent mental health services were arguably at fault for his violence and repeated failures in Child Protection. 29 foster placements, multiple assaults on teachers and classmates and too many self-harming and life threatening events to remember.

Broken children become broken adults


US child welfare agencies hold legal custody of about half a million children each year.

GRAPHJuvenile detention centers and jails hold 60,000 youth on any given day.

Add to this, the thousands of youth that are charged criminally as adults each year &

 it becomes clear that former MN Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz was right;

“90% of the youth in Juvenile Justice have come through Child Protective Services”

Children in foster care have way more criminal, medical, behavioral, and

developmental problems than the general population.‍

This is compounded by overuse of medications,

incomplete medical records

and uncoordinated, discontinuous medical care.‍





While the data changes from year to year, there is little question about the commonality of suicide as a leading cause of death for 12 -15 year olds and second leading cause of death for 15-19 year olds.

The political problem for suicide and self-harm abused children is a structural one. It would be hard to think of a group with less lobbying power.

Bigotry and bias are baked into American politics for children that behave badly – detention facilities, jails and prisons are filled with them.

gay kids and children of color.

Almost no data exists for suicide failures and child self-harm. It is estimated that that for every successful child suicide by children 5-11, 200 attempts are made.

GRAPHCHART DEMONSTRATING CHILDREN 5-11 Increased Suicide Rates Among Children Aged 5 to 11 Years in the U.S. – CWLA

Suicide rates among children and youth in foster care are among the highest in the nation. The absolute highest rates of suicide and suicide ideation are among LGBTQ children and youth.

Not only do these children live with the violence and trauma suffered at the hands of their birth family, but now, dealing with the existential reality that their sexuality makes them outcasts in a society hating on them for being who they are. Self-loathing is common in fosters and is extremely common in gay and trans fosters.

Despite this fact, many foster-care agencies do not perform suicide-risk assessments as part of routine care.

With the advent of ACEs trauma scoring, and and reasonable expectation that children passing through Child Protective Services almost all have high ACEs scores, this testing should be required.

The endemic and suicide causing problem of not addressing / understanding the elephant in the room for the one third of foster children prescribed psychotropic medications causes untold misery.

What should draw attention to the stark “may cause suicidal ideation” warning printed on each package is seldom understood and rarely discussed. This failure will be seen at some point as a primary cause of the source of so much tragedy among fosters.

Wise use of psychotropic drugs demands adequate therapy and effective healing models with compassionate relationships and positive learning environments. These drugs continue to be used in place of therapy and skill building because they are a cheaper alternative and quick fix.

Few people are aware of the physical reality of slow thinking, depression and the “may cause suicidal ideation” messaging on every box of Prozac like psychotropic medications. One third of American foster children are required to take them.

A few years ago, six-year-old Kendrea Johnson suicided by hanging while in a foster home not far from me.  Suicide attempts by six-year-old’s are rarely successful – most often injured, sometimes severely.

While data on this topic is hard to find, it is assumed that only 1 in 200 attempts by very young children are successful. Again, my experience as a CASA volunteer GAL proved to me that suicide attempts and thinking are not uncommon by traumatized children


The 1.5 million dollar settlement to Kendrea’s grandmother Mary Broadus would have provided important ACES trauma training to her foster family, hired and trained a number of social workers, and provided many foster children the mental health help they need.  Kendrea Johnson talked about suicide daily and no one listened.


Seven year-old Gabriel Myer Florida suicide drew national media attention (arguably because his suicide note blamed the Prozac he was required to take).

Every psychotropic medication carries the warning, “may cause suicidal ideation” what does this mean to a five year-old that can’t read and adults that don’t know?

Most folks working in child protection or mental health with abused and neglected children will witness violent and dangerous things children do to themselves and others – including suicide attempts.  


Children placed on psychotropic medications in the hopes this would “flatten” their mood/emotional behaviors do experience suicidal ideation and adults caring for them often do not know what that means.  Because our nation has not acknowledged the depth and scope of mental health issues in general, the mental health struggles of State Ward children have been largely dealt with by using medication and limited access to effective therapies.


Few foster parents/teachers or other lay people understand how these drugs work, drug side effects or how the child is progressing as a whole person over time.  In many cases, prescriptions are written in hopes the child will become safer (to self and others) and easier to manage in a classroom or home setting.


For children raised in toxic homes to achieve some sense of normalcy, learning to recognize their emotional triggers and building the skills to deal with them has to happen.


Drug therapy alone does not allow this.  There is a strong argument that psychotropic medicating of children interferes with skill building and healing past traumas.


Short term behavior modification is not a better answer than the building of coping skills with real time coaching and behavior management.  Today’s telemed environment can instantly connect a troubled youth to very effective coaching that can solve many problems for a child living with daily terrors. There are powerful, effective and affordable programs that achieve measurable improvements that will make life better for millions of at-risk youth once they become more widely available.


In 2014 20,000 one and two-year-old’s were prescribed psychotropics and big pharma paid many billions of dollars in fines for illegally selling these drugs to pediatricians for use on very young children.



My first visit to a four-year-old State Ward girl as a CASA volunteer guardian ad Litem was the suicide ward of a local Hospital.  Her seven-year-old sister began cutting and self-harming herself for years.

That visit to a tiny girl who failed to kill herself has caused me to rethink child protection and what my community really thinks about other people’s children. We talk big as a nation about how we value children, but it’s apparent to me we value many other things way more.





This New York Times article on huge increase in Black Children killing themselves should make some impact on anyone with a heart.  From 1993 to 2012, JAMA Pediatrics published a study that found that suicide among black children doubled (hanging by black boys tripled) at the same time, suicide for white children fell by half.  This is what I’ve seen as a CASA guardian ad-Litem, read about in the Star Tribune and witnessed in KARA interviews (Don Samuels video).


The lack of reporting and institutional silence surrounding child abuse, childhood trauma and the condition of children in child protection are a big part of self-harming behaviors like cutting and suicidal behaviors.

The HIPPA laws have long kept service providers unaware of the severe problems and terrible life circumstances of the children they care for. Only after the fact do we learn why a child has done a terrible thing.


If our elected officials knew the long-term costs of tortured children leading dysfunctional lives impacting our schools, public health and public safety, more children could be healed of their trauma & acquire the coping skills required to live a happy productive life.

 The Trevor Project, a national suicide prevention nonprofit that serves LGBTQ+ youth, surveyed more than 28,500 LGBTQ+ people between the ages of 13 and 24 for its study, 7,780 of whom identified as having a disability. Results of the survey, released in a report on Friday, suggest that those who identified a disability faced a much higher risk of experiencing mental health issues and suicidal thoughts, exacerbated by discrimination over their disabilities.


A high percentage of the youth in this CASA guardian ad litem’s caseload have been sexually abused. I have seen traumatized children decades later still fighting the darkness of daily trauma.


Six year-old foster child Kendrea Johnson hung herself and left a note (not far from where I live) as did seven year-old Gabriel Myers in Florida.  Gabriel’s note was a clear indictment of abuse and forced psychotropic medications. Kendrea’s note was all about self-hate.


Child sex abuse may be the most under-reported crime in America. It could also be the most under-treated horror in America.


Imagine what it’s like when your first visit to tiny four year old girl is inside hospital suicide ward to visit a four year-old girl that had been horribly abused. 


The stories of children I worked with in child protection remain secret to all but the judge, the family and a few people involved in the case. The boy tied to a bed, beaten, starved and sexually abused from four to seven years old, the prostituted seven year-old, and the thousands of other children tortured and traumatized by their caregivers


Trauma Informed Care Saves Lives



This is the most powerful suicide note I’ve ever read. It explains the two incomprehensible sorrows (abuse & suicide).




I could not read Bill Zeller’s last letter without feeling the terror,

physical and mental impediments, and daily reminders

of his childhood nightmares,

adult confusion and suicide.


Bill Zeller, Princeton Grad Student And ‘Brilliant’ Programmer, Dies In Apparent Suicide

First Posted: 01- 7-11 08:40 AM | Updated: 01- 7-11 03:16 PM

Bill Zeller, a Princeton Ph.D candidate and renowned internet programmer, died Wednesday from injuries sustained in a suicide attempt. He was 27.

Zeller stunned the programming community with a 4,000-word suicide note detailing a childhood of physical and sexual abuse, which he had never before disclosed to anyone.


“I’ve never been able to stop thinking about what happened to me and this hampered my social interactions,” Zeller wrote. “… I wondered what it would be like to take to other people without what happened constantly on my mind, and I wondered if other people had similar experiences that they were better able to mask.”

According to the Daily Princetonian, Zeller posted the note on his website and e-mailed it to friends before taking his own life. The note in full can be seen below.

Zeller was a programming whiz kid, responsible for creating applications such as Graph Your Inbox, which visualizes Gmail use over time, and myTunes, which enables users to download others’ iTunes music. Zeller made the latter program while an undergraduate at Trinity College.

Zeller’s death has prompted an outpouring of grief on the internet, from those who knew him and those who didn’t.

“I’d first encountered Bill online years ago when he made a blog posting app, and then re-meeting him at a Princeton event last year, he’d begun by saying, ‘You probably don’t remember…,’” One user wrote on MetaFilter. “But we immediately reconnected about the cool project he’d done back then. More amazingly, he was doing super, super brilliant work at Princeton, which I found really inspiring and was so excited to see how far this young guy had come from such promising roots.”

Zeller’s note:

I have the urge to declare my sanity and justify my actions, but I assume I’ll never be able to convince anyone that this was the right decision. Maybe it’s true that anyone who does this is insane by definition, but I can at least explain my reasoning.

I considered not writing any of this because of how personal it is, but I like tying up loose ends and don’t want people to wonder why I did this. Since I’ve never spoken to anyone about what happened to me, people would likely draw the wrong conclusions.

My first memories as a child are of being raped, repeatedly. This has affected every aspect of my life. This darkness, which is the only way I can describe it, has followed me like a fog, but at times intensified and overwhelmed me, usually triggered by a distinct situation. In kindergarten I couldn’t use the bathroom and would stand petrified whenever I needed to, which started a trend of awkward and unexplained social behavior.

The damage that was done to my body still prevents me from using the bathroom normally, but now it’s less of a physical impediment than a daily reminder of what was done to me.

This darkness followed me as I grew up. I remember spending hours playing with legos, having my world consist of me and a box of cold, plastic blocks. Just waiting for everything to end. It’s the same thing I do now, but instead of legos it’s surfing the web or reading or listening to a baseball game. Most of my life has been spent feeling dead inside, waiting for my body to catch up.

At times growing up I would feel inconsolable rage, but I never connected this to what happened until puberty. I was able to keep the darkness at bay for a few hours at a time by doing things that required intense concentration, but it would always come back. Programming appealed to me for this reason. I was never particularly fond of computers or mathematically inclined, but the temporary peace it would provide was like a drug.

But the darkness always returned and built up something like a tolerance, because programming has become less and less of a refuge.
The darkness is with me nearly every time I wake up. I feel like a grime is covering me.

I feel like I’m trapped in a contimated body that no amount of washing will clean. Whenever I think about what happened I feel manic and itchy and can’t concentrate on anything else. It manifests itself in hours of eating or staying up for days at a time or sleeping for sixteen hours straight or week long programming binges or constantly going to the gym. I’m exhausted from feeling like this every hour of every day.

Three to four nights a week I have nightmares about what happened. It makes me avoid sleep and constantly tired, because sleeping with what feels like hours of nightmares is not restful. I wake up sweaty and furious. I’m reminded every morning of what was done to me and the control it has over my life.

I’ve never been able to stop thinking about what happened to me and this hampered my social interactions. I would be angry and lost in thought and then be interrupted by someone saying “Hi” or making small talk, unable to understand why I seemed cold and distant. I walked around, viewing the outside world from a distant portal behind my eyes, unable to perform normal human niceties.

I wondered what it would be like to take to other people without what happened constantly on my mind, and I wondered if other people had similar experiences that they were better able to mask.

Alcohol was also something that let me escape the darkness. It would always find me later, though, and it was always angry that I managed to escape and it made me pay. Many of the irresponsible things I did were the result of the darkness. Obviously I’m responsible for every decision and action, including this one, but there are reasons why things happen the way they do.

Alcohol and other drugs provided a way to ignore the realities of my situation. It was easy to spend the night drinking and forget that I had no future to look forward to. I never liked what alcohol did to me, but it was better than facing my existence honestly. I haven’t touched alcohol or any other drug in over seven months (and no drugs or alcohol will be involved when I do this) and this has forced me to evaluate my life in an honest and clear way. There’s no future here. The darkness will always be with me.

I used to think if I solved some problem or achieved some goal, maybe he would leave. It was comforting to identify tangible issues as the source of my problems instead of something that I’ll never be able to change.

I thought that if I got into to a good college, or a good grad school, or lost weight, or went to the gym nearly every day for a year, or created programs that millions of people used, or spent a summer or California or New York or published papers that I was proud of, then maybe I would feel some peace and not be constantly haunted and unhappy. But nothing I did made a dent in how depressed I was on a daily basis and nothing was in any way fulfilling. I’m not sure why I ever thought that would change anything.

I didn’t realize how deep a hold he had on me and my life until my first relationship. I stupidly assumed that no matter how the darkness affected me personally, my romantic relationships would somehow be separated and protected. Growing up I viewed my future relationships as a possible escape from this thing that haunts me every day, but I began to realize how entangled it was with every aspect of my life and how it is never going to release me.

Instead of being an escape, relationships and romantic contact with other people only intensified everything about him that I couldn’t stand. I will never be able to have a relationship in which he is not the focus, affecting every aspect of my romantic interactions.

Relationships always started out fine and I’d be able to ignore him for a few weeks. But as we got closer emotionally the darkness would return and every night it’d be me, her and the darkness in a black and gruesome threesome. He would surround me and penetrate me and the more we did the more intense it became. It made me hate being touched, because as long as we were separated I could view her like an outsider viewing something good and kind and untainted. Once we touched, the darkness would envelope her too and take her over and the evil inside me would surround her. I always felt like I was infecting anyone I was with.

Relationships didn’t work. No one I dated was the right match, and I thought that maybe if I found the right person it would overwhelm him. Part of me knew that finding the right person wouldn’t help, so I became interested in girls who obviously had no interest in me. For a while I thought I was gay.

I convinced myself that it wasn’t the darkness at all, but rather my orientation, because this would give me control over why things didn’t feel “right”. The fact that the darkness affected sexual matters most intensely made this idea make some sense and I convinced myself of this for a number of years, starting in college after my first relationship ended. I told people I was gay (at Trinity, not at Princeton), even though I wasn’t attracted to men and kept finding myself interested in girls.

Because if being gay wasn’t the answer, then what was? People thought I was avoiding my orientation, but I was actually avoiding the truth, which is that while I’m straight, I will never be content with anyone. I know now that the darkness will never leave.
Last spring I met someone who was unlike anyone else I’d ever met. Someone who showed me just how well two people could get along and how much I could care about another human being. Someone I know I could be with and love for the rest of my life, if I weren’t so fucked up. Amazingly, she liked me. She liked the shell of the man the darkness had left behind. But it didn’t matter because I couldn’t be alone with her.

It was never just the two of us, it was always the three of us: her, me and the darkness. The closer we got, the more intensely I’d feel the darkness, like some evil mirror of my emotions. All the closeness we had and I loved was complemented by agony that I couldn’t stand, from him. I realized that I would never be able to give her, or anyone, all of me or only me. She could never have me without the darkness and evil inside me. I could never have just her, without the darkness being a part of all of our interactions.

I will never be able to be at peace or content or in a healthy relationship. I realized the futility of the romantic part of my life. If I had never met her, I would have realized this as soon as I met someone else who I meshed similarly well with. It’s likely that things wouldn’t have worked out with her and we would have broken up (with our relationship ending, like the majority of relationships do) even if I didn’t have this problem, since we only dated for a short time. But I will face exactly the same problems with the darkness with anyone else. Despite my hopes, love and compatability is not enough. Nothing is enough.

There’s no way I can fix this or even push the darkness down far enough to make a relationship or any type of intimacy feasible.

So I watched as things fell apart between us. I had put an explicit time limit on our relationship, since I knew it couldn’t last because of the darkness and didn’t want to hold her back, and this caused a variety of problems. She was put in an unnatural situation that she never should have been a part of. It must have been very hard for her, not knowing what was actually going on with me, but this is not something I’ve ever been able to talk about with anyone.

Losing her was very hard for me as well. Not because of her (I got over our relationship relatively quickly), but because of the realization that I would never have another relationship and because it signified the last true, exclusive personal connection I could ever have. This wasn’t apparent to other people, because I could never talk about the real reasons for my sadness. I was very sad in the summer and fall, but it was not because of her, it was because I will never escape the darkness with anyone.

She was so loving and kind to me and gave me everything I could have asked for under the circumstances. I’ll never forget how much happiness she brought me in those briefs moments when I could ignore the darkness. I had originally planned to kill myself last winter but never got around to it. (Parts of this letter were written over a year ago, other parts days before doing this.) It was wrong of me to involve myself in her life if this were a possibility and I should have just left her alone, even though we only dated for a few months and things ended a long time ago. She’s just one more person in a long list of people I’ve hurt.

I could spend pages talking about the other relationships I’ve had that were ruined because of my problems and my confusion related to the darkness. I’ve hurt so many great people because of who I am and my inability to experience what needs to be experienced. All I can say is that I tried to be honest with people about what I thought was true.

I’ve spent my life hurting people. Today will be the last time.
I’ve told different people a lot of things, but I’ve never told anyone about what happened to me, ever, for obvious reasons. It took me a while to realize that no matter how close you are to someone or how much they claim to love you, people simply cannot keep secrets. I learned this a few years ago when I thought I was gay and told people.

The more harmful the secret, the juicier the gossip and the more likely you are to be betrayed. People don’t care about their word or what they’ve promised, they just do whatever the fuck they want and justify it later. It feels incredibly lonely to realize you can never share something with someone and have it be between just the two of you.

I don’t blame anyone in particular, I guess it’s just how people are. Even if I felt like this is something I could have shared, I have no interest in being part of a friendship or relationship where the other person views me as the damaged and contaminated person that I am. So even if I were able to trust someone, I probably would not have told them about what happened to me. At this point I simply don’t care who knows.

I feel an evil inside me. An evil that makes me want to end life. I need to stop this. I need to make sure I don’t kill someone, which is not something that can be easily undone. I don’t know if this is related to what happened to me or something different. I recognize the irony of killing myself to prevent myself from killing someone else, but this decision should indicate what I’m capable of.
So I’ve realized I will never escape the darkness or misery associated with it and I have a responsibility to stop myself from physically harming others.


I’m just a broken, miserable shell of a human being. Being molested has defined me as a person and shaped me as a human being and it has made me the monster I am and there’s nothing I can do to escape it. I don’t know any other existence. I don’t know what life feels like where I’m apart from any of this. I actively despise the person I am. I just feel fundamentally broken, almost non-human. I feel like an animal that woke up one day in a human body, trying to make sense of a foreign world, living among creatures it doesn’t understand and can’t connect with.


I have accepted that the darkness will never allow me to be in a relationship. I will never go to sleep with someone in my arms, feeling the comfort of their hands around me. I will never know what uncontimated intimacy is like. I will never have an exclusive bond with someone, someone who can be the recipient of all the love I have to give.

I will never have children, and I wanted to be a father so badly. I think I would have made a good dad. And even if I had fought through the darkness and married and had children all while being unable to feel intimacy, I could have never done that if suicide were a possibility. I did try to minimize pain, although I know that this decision will hurt many of you. If this hurts you, I hope that you can at least forget about me quickly.

There’s no point in identifying who molested me, so I’m just going to leave it at that. I doubt the word of a dead guy with no evidence about something that happened over twenty years ago would have much sway.

You may wonder why I didn’t just talk to a professional about this. I’ve seen a number of doctors since I was a teenager to talk about other issues and I’m positive that another doctor would not have helped. I was never given one piece of actionable advice, ever. More than a few spent a large part of the session reading their notes to remember who I was.

And I have no interest in talking about being raped as a child, both because I know it wouldn’t help and because I have no confidence it would remain secret. I know the legal and practical limits of doctor/patient confidentiality, growing up in a house where we’d hear stories about the various mental illnesses of famous people, stories that were passed down through generations.

All it takes is one doctor who thinks my story is interesting enough to share or a doctor who thinks it’s her right or responsibility to contact the authorities and have me identify the molestor (justifying her decision by telling herself that someone else might be in danger). All it takes is a single doctor who violates my trust, just like the “friends” who I told I was gay did, and everything would be made public and I’d be forced to live in a world where people would know how fucked up I am.

And yes, I realize this indicates that I have severe trust issues, but they’re based on a large number of experiences with people who have shown a profound disrepect for their word and the privacy of others.

People say suicide is selfish. I think it’s selfish to ask people to continue living painful and miserable lives, just so you possibly won’t feel sad for a week or two. Suicide may be a permanent solution to a temporary problem, but it’s also a permanent solution to a ~23 year-old problem that grows more intense and overwhelming every day.

Some people are just dealt bad hands in this life. I know many people have it worse than I do, and maybe I’m just not a strong person, but I really did try to deal with this. I’ve tried to deal with this every day for the last 23 years and I just can’t fucking take it anymore.

I often wonder what life must be like for other people. People who can feel the love from others and give it back unadulterated, people who can experience sex as an intimate and joyous experience, people who can experience the colors and happenings of this world without constant misery. I wonder who I’d be if things had been different or if I were a stronger person. It sounds pretty great.

I’m prepared for death. I’m prepared for the pain and I am ready to no longer exist. Thanks to the strictness of New Jersey gun laws this will probably be much more painful than it needs to be, but what can you do. My only fear at this point is messing something up and surviving.

I’d also like to address my family, if you can call them that. I despise everything they stand for and I truly hate them, in a non-emotional, dispassionate and what I believe is a healthy way. The world will be a better place when they’re dead–one with less hatred and intolerance.

If you’re unfamiliar with the situation, my parents are fundamentalist Christians who kicked me out of their house and cut me off financially when I was 19 because I refused to attend seven hours of church a week.


They live in a black and white reality they’ve constructed for themselves. They partition the world into good and evil and survive by hating everything they fear or misunderstand and calling it love. They don’t understand that good and decent people exist all around us, “saved” or not, and that evil and cruel people occupy a large percentage of their church. They take advantage of people looking for hope by teaching them to practice the same hatred they practice.

A random example:

“I am personally convinced that if a Muslim truly believes and obeys the Koran, he will be a terrorist.” – George Zeller, August 24, 2010.


If you choose to follow a religion where, for example, devout Catholics who are trying to be good people are all going to Hell but child molestors go to Heaven (as long as they were “saved” at some point), that’s your choice, but it’s fucked up. Maybe a God who operates by those rules does exist. If so, fuck Him.

Their church was always more important than the members of their family and they happily sacrificed whatever necessary in order to satisfy their contrived beliefs about who they should be.

I grew up in a house where love was proxied through a God I could never believe in. A house where the love of music with any sort of a beat was literally beaten out of me. A house full of hatred and intolerance, run by two people who were experts at appearing kind and warm when others were around. Parents who tell an eight year-old that his grandmother is going to Hell because she’s Catholic. Parents who claim not to be racist but then talk about the horrors of miscegenation.

I could list hundreds of other examples, but it’s tiring.
Since being kicked out, I’ve interacted with them in relatively normal ways. I talk to them on the phone like nothing happened. I’m not sure why. Maybe because I like pretending I have a family. Maybe I like having people I can talk to about what’s been going on in my life. Whatever the reason, it’s not real and it feels like a sham. I should have never allowed this reconnection to happen.


I wrote the above a while ago, and I do feel like that much of the time. At other times, though, I feel less hateful. I know my parents honestly believe the crap they believe in. I know that my mom, at least, loved me very much and tried her best.

One reason I put this off for so long is because I know how much pain it will cause her. She has been sad since she found out I wasn’t “saved”, since she believes I’m going to Hell, which is not a sadness for which I am responsible. That was never going to change, and presumably she believes the state of my physical body is much less important than the state of my soul. Still, I cannot intellectually justify this decision, knowing how much it will hurt her. Maybe my ability to take my own life, knowing how much pain it will cause, shows that I am a monster who doesn’t deserve to live.

All I know is that I can’t deal with this pain any longer and I’m am truly sorry I couldn’t wait until my family and everyone I knew died so this could be done without hurting anyone. For years I’ve wished that I’d be hit by a bus or die while saving a baby from drowning so my death might be more acceptable, but I was never so lucky.

To those of you who have shown me love, thank you for putting up with all my shittiness and moodiness and arbitrariness. I was never the person I wanted to be. Maybe without the darkness I would have been a better person, maybe not. I did try to be a good person, but I realize I never got very far.

I’m sorry for the pain this causes. I really do wish I had another option. I hope this letter explains why I needed to do this. If you can’t understand this decision, I hope you can at least forgive me.
Bill Zeller

Please save this letter and repost it if gets deleted. I don’t want people to wonder why I did this. I disseminated it more widely than I might have otherwise because I’m worried that my family might try to restrict access to it.


I don’t mind if this letter is made public. In fact, I’d prefer it be made public to people being unable to read it and drawing their own conclusions.


Feel free to republish this letter, but only if it is reproduced in its entirety.


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  • Just a Woman on the Street You See Every Day and Never Look At says:

August 11, 2013 at 3:11 pm (Edit)

I’ll tell you what life is like for an incest survivor, it is xfg HELL. I still hear my father’s name in my head. The bastard got away with it all. Rage? It can’t even begin to touch how I feel. I was also mistreated by teachers in Catholic school and public school (varying degrees of abuse) and a co-worker, not to mention some bullshit “friends” I had. I’m over 40 and never have had a boyfriend due to the abuse. I am on disability. I suffer from the complex post traumatic stress disorder symptoms. God does not take away my pain. I’ve been literally without anywhere to live and have been in the hospital. One of my siblings ended up homeless and wandering the streets. He currently is in a halfway home. My upper middle class alcoholic parents deny ALL OF IT, taking credit for helping my brother who is schizoaffective. I have no peace. I moved for years due to intense stress levels exacerbated by noisy living conditions as disability hardly allows for any kind of decent living arrangement. I worked for years until I returned to the scene of the crime, living with my perpetrator after my brother went missing. After that life fell into hell. It was a complex process leading me back to my parents and my hometown, but the book Secret Survivors described what I went through the best, a book I recommend to all survivors. It’s by E. Sue Blume. I have been stigmatized due to being on the disability. You finally realize what crap life is and what crap people are, cruel and evil and twisted. I hate the whole fucking world and everybody in it.
My father paid no price. I pay the price. I think of suicide as well as nobody including God has helped me. In fact suicide haunts me, the release and the relief death must provide is so beautiful to me now after so much cruelty at the hands of evil humans. Fuck you all. I want to work again and move away from here but am now terrified of what will befall me after years of so much pain and torture – and to what end? To no end. No one understands it unless they’ve known it, therapists and people do more harm than good, most of them are too ego ridden and in their own denial to help us. This world is run by satan.
I had dreams and they are all shattered now. Fuck the people who do this, fuck my “father” and my “mother” who was as evil as he was, not protecting me, encouraging it, the sickest, lowest, most twisted form of scum who have fooled EVERYONE but me. My siblings are in denial, I have courage, they do not, but I am the one who gets kicked in the face every fucking day of my life.
It’s a bad world. I still hear his voice and have the body sensations, the flashbacks. People suck. I hate this world. I’ll say it again: I HATE THIS WORLD. Nobody deserves this. I can barely function at this point, attend my church, can barely take care of an animal it seems like to me. Things I have to do I procrastinate on, meds never helped me, I couldn’t keep friendships even and the ones I have are hardly worth cheering about, I feel I sabotaged stuff and blamed myself like most victims, like we don’t deserve happiness, then get to see the whole world be happy seemingly while we go on with this satanic crap.
If God is a healer, I have yet to see evidence of the healing, and am tired of working for God’s approval. All fear rage terror hell, yes.
That’s all from me, nobody will understand this letter anyway, all people do is judge, most of them, but thanks for letting me get some of this bile and vile OUT.
Peace to the children and the animals and the trees, the adults can go to hell.


  • LOUsays:

September 8, 2013 at 1:10 pm (Edit)

At last a letter that is honest about suicide as an escape from the waking hell of being a survivor. Mostly all I hear is that: it will get better, there is hope, think of your children, you owe them to try, it won’t always be this painful etc.. But a few weeks ago as I sat in hospital after an overdose explaining myself to my loved ones I said- it won’t get better, there is no hope, I’m doomed to live in a waking hell for the rest of my life. I was abused by my father from age 0-12 and suffered atrocities too degrading to bear. This will never go away, never be ok, the pain won’t fade, EMDR therapy nearly killed me and did so much harm. I start back with my psychotherapist tomorrow and I’m dreading it. I live life dulling the pain now with tramadol & diazepam instead of alcohol as I used to. I know that many of you on here will actually understand how I feel and these words I say. I’m not being ‘dramatic’ or pessimistic or closed off to trying to heal- I just feel that there can be no healing, I want to admit the truth to myself that life will always be a waking hell, I should have escaped long ago before I built up friendships, got married & had children, because now these are all ties to the world that I would be cruel to break- so then I become the perp not the victim. Iv trapped myself and theres nothing I can do about it. So I listen to the voices of hope, kind words from friends & close family, follow advice, read advice etc to try & find a way to ease the pain. But the reality is I crawl through every day and I think I always will. He went to prison this June, got 12 yrs so serving 10 with 10% off for pleading guilty on the final day where I had turned up to give evidence. That doesn’t ease my pain though. The worst thing is the pure exhaustion from constantly having to put on a brave face, smile and nod and pretend you agree and believe it when people who genuinely care for you are saying things will get better. It has been refreshing to read this today to hear others acknowledge that it really won’t get better, we are in hell. But we can try to make the best of it- that’s all we can do.


October 25, 2013 at 3:56 am (Edit)

I really like reading through an article that will make
men and women think. Also, thanks for allowing me to


  • samantha wrightsays:

November 12, 2013 at 2:27 pm (Edit)

I’m over here in tears and I wish someone could have figured it out. You know when someone is hurting and you just… want to wrap them up in your soul and help them? That’s what I’m feeling and it’s too late. There’s nothing anyone could do. :/ Ugh.


January 27, 2014 at 1:32 pm (Edit)

Thanks for finally talƙing abbout > Child Sex Abuse &
Tɦe Most Powerfսl Suicide Note Ever | INVISIBʟE CΗILDREN < Liked it!


  • Neale johnsonsays:

January 27, 2014 at 11:24 pm (Edit)

I would have loved him.


  • Essays:

November 12, 2014 at 9:10 pm (Edit)

My, up to then, favorite uncle force me to ***** off, anally raped me, and *****on me when I was 11 and 12, including a ten day camping trip that was pretty bad and terrifying for me. In 1963 I had grown to be about 2/3 his weight and was very mean from football. I said no. He tried to kill me with a blow to the back of the head, but when I got up and was not dead, but figured it might be him or me, he let me go rather than risk that I could beat him to a Japanese dagger. He probably figured he’d take some time to work out how to manipulate me better, but my mother figured it out & he was exiled & none of the male cousins were told where he was when he came back to America with two young adopted sons after ten years. Of course being older and not as hurt as our late fellow sufferer, I have been successful(?) for fifty-two years in not committing suicide or becoming terribly addicted. I used to have a list of people who would die before me, but now I hold out until my next blood donation. In that time I felt whole for about two months, until my fiancee was raped and I got triggered back to brokenness and numbness, and I tried but couldn’t make her well and she killed herself. The only women I could keep for as long as two years were damned abusive to me. I haven’t held hands or kissed this century, and less than half-way believe after twenty years of therapy that now there may me some way to heal enough to have a relationship last long enough to risk the pain of abandonment or her pain of my unconscious numbing & who knows what sexual dysfunction. I have had some things I enjoyed, like raising a daughter by myself. I have done a reasonable amount of good for my country and other people, of course at a much lower level and without being able to deal with supervisors very well. I have also suffered the third party being there for most of the rare sex and physical intimacy. The flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, self sabotage, triggering, remembering how I felt, low self worth, and loneliness have been painful as much as I can stand. I can’t give a recommendation on suicide either way. I certainly wish I’d been given the opportunity to do a suicide mission for my country and been spared years of pain. Sometimes having responsibility for the welfare of the country or someone else has been all that kept me from leaving. I have had some relief the last year meeting and talking with other survivors. My definition of survivor is someone who hasn’t committed suicide–yet. I try to be mean enough to resist giving up. I have fought hard every day except for the two months of wholeness I had forty-two years ago. I do not consider the fighting to be more moral than leaving, nor wiser than leaving. Suicidal thoughts annoy me less than a mosquito bite. I fight to convince myself that there is hope of healing, or that I will ever have another day without pain. I self numb 24/7 in order to not feel skinned alive. I can sometimes unnumb myself on purpose to try to get control, but an hour is about the most I can take before I have to switch off and if I write down how I feel, the therapist can barely handle it. I am glad Bill wrote such a nice suicide note. He wrote for millions of us and I don’t think he hurts now.



The most unseen traumas carried by abused children is that of self-hate and

the inability to form trusting relationships.

The most dangerous medical practice in our nation

may be substituting access to coaching and medical assistance for

trauma with the unsupervised and under-supervised psychotropic medicating of children.


“I wish you’d never been born” said just once to a child is a greater punishment than being hit in the face. This has been a repeated curse in the lives of children in child protection. Feeling hated by your mother never goes away.

Abused children burdened with perpetual thoughts of failure, self-hate and self-torture live anxiety ridden lives and hurt themselves and others in many ways.

The immense pain caused by caregivers in the home make great trouble for children when they enter school or a foster family setting when people that do not understand or tolerate a child’s trauma driven behaviors.





  • Lack of transparency/reporting/language
  • It’s Not a Crime to Abuse Your Child
  • Cultural & Religion = Parental Rights trump Children’s Rights
  • *Children’s Issues are now a Political Football
  • Institutional Sclerosis



Making the public, the Media, Administrators and Policy Makers Better Informed:

If it’s not reported,

it’s not known,

if it’s not known

it’s not a problem

if it’s not a problem,

there is no need for a solution.


Counties and Institutions hold child protection information close. Sharing negative information makes life for workers harder and the appearance of underperformance and failure hurts the institution. 

HIPPA laws give cover to CPS for not reporting information that could help policy makers make better decisions.

Today, when bad things happen in most CPS agencies, employees are warned that they will be fired if they speak about the issues to the media. There is no basis in HIPPA law to deny the reporting of data or institutional problems themselves. Names need not be used to relate the dysfunction and bad outcomes of the institution. 

While there are multiple reasons Child Protective Services uses for enforcing a “no talk outside of work” rule, it results in an even less informed general public and less support for those things that could help at risk children and families. CENTURY COLLEGE STORY?

Refusing information to the press is happening in MN as this book is being written. It happened ten years ago when the Star Tribune reporter Brandon Stahl investigated the tortured death of four year old Eric Dean in Starbuck MN.

Requests for information were denied.  Brandon Stahl  explained publicly the difficulties he faced prying information out of the county to discover how 15 reports of abuse over years did not result in the child being seen by a CPS worker.

This lack of transparency results in a dearth of information, lack of community awareness and concern and child suffering and death. Add this to the reality that children have no standing in court and no voice at the legislature and abused and neglected children are at-risk of more abuse. This time by the community.

Limited reporting by institutions impacts what the media knows and what the public can know. Because the public is not demanding more of legislators for at risk children, children continue to die while in Child Protective Services

Historically, there has been little incentive for paid media to provide coverage. Stories about child abuse and trauma have not sold newspapers. Advertisers have not wanted to be identified with child abuse and readers don’t ask for it.

For many years, print news has struggled to maintain investigative reporting. Budgets are tight and local news is shifting to national giant media mergers that concentrate on world events. Local life stories just don’t get reported in many communities today.

Outrageous politics, war and a raging pandemic are the heroin of public attention. Child abuse stories have fewer assigned reporters in the newsroom. 

Prior to the early 2000’s, there was almost no reporting at all of child abuse in America.  It was not a “thing” and was not talked or written about outside of the people doing the work of child protection. 

To add to the difficulty of reporting on child abuse, child death, child protection have not become “categories” for online reporting.  

To this day, it’s hard to find a category for posting child abuse stories online. Google actually flags and disallows much child abuse language in online ads. Our organization Kids At Risk Action sees this regularly. This might not seem important – it is. 

If a topic is not allowed or requires mention by being mixed in with “domestic violence” or “social issues”, it’s non important enough to have a category. 

Compare it to no category for any other single population of vulnerable people. 

A numerical comparison will help make my point. 

Less than ten thousand priests have been involved in child sexual abuse claims in the last 20 years in the U.S. costing the church billions of dollars. It is estimated that 216,000 children were abused by priests in the last 20 years.

According to the National Children’s Alliance, Child Advocacy Centers (CACs) investigated 247,543 cases involving sexual abuse allegations in 2022, which is around 58% of all cases carried through by their members.

Over 500,000 children / year are removed from their homes because of abuse. 77% of children in these cases are abused by a parent. Only a tiny fraction of parents are ever charged with a crime, incarcerated or pay fines for assaulting their children. This 500,000 number does not include the arguably same number of children returned to their homes by CPS (many to be abused again). 

Multiplying 1 Million children/year assaulted by their caregivers by 20 years = 20 million children suffering life changing trauma and abuse with almost no consequences to the perpetrators. 

This is not an argument that the Catholic church billions were over punishment or overpayment to 216,000 children assaulted by priests. 

Billions of dollars paid out in compensation to a population one percent the size of the population of children abused by their parents

It’s an argument of equal treatment of terrorized and traumatized children. 

For a brief period pre COVID, media created a buzz around the overuse of psychotropic medications and the horror stories of abandoned, tortured and murdered children by their caregivers.

Investigative journalism is becoming an unaffordable luxury reserved for stories that sell.  To be fair, for profit media needs to tell stories that keep their audience and advertisers happy.

Fewer assigned reporters now cover the COVID pandemic and on fire politics.

Reporting on abused children and domestic violence demand committed and tough-minded investigation.

Only extreme violence against children make the papers in most cities.

Consolidation of media by giant national media are shaping how local news is covered.

This does not bode well for the children and families in the community that are suffering from the traumas of domestic violence and child abuse.


Things that don’t get media, public or 

legislative attention go unnoticed

Bad things that don’t get noticed fester.


If the public is not aware of the data and conditions impacting at-risk children, lawmakers won’t be either.

This means that funds won’t be appropriated and crisis nurseries, prenatal care and resources that make children safe and well will remain unsupported.

We the people have never seen child abuse for what it is.

Tens of millions of traumatized children

growing up without being seen or heard.

Tens of millions of unhealthy children

Become unhealthy adults a few years later.

At-risk children have been easy to ignore and generational child abuse in America has grown exponentially because of it.

When we do see child death and horror stories we react with horror, blame and outrage.

This doesn’t last long or change anything.

Because we know so little about the traumas of child abuse, where it stems from and it’s commonality, there is seldom a drive for meaningful change and the event is quickly forgotten.

It is because we don’t understand it that we are unable to stop or fix it.

Child Protective Services knows that media attention is a negative thing making everybody look bad.

When a foster child dies the media blames the social worker and the system. That’s on us as punishment and blame oriented people.

It just isn’t clear to us how badly the system is broken and that social workers are being asked to deal with numbers of children and levels of dysfunction far beyond their capacity.

Keeping badly damaged children safe in dysfunctional homes and from their own bad behaviors is no easy task.

Circling the wagons and not providing critical information works better for CPS than making information available.

The HIPPA laws are often used as an excuse for explaining why we can’t talk or write about the violence done to this child.

When Dee Wilson gave the scathing results of the Casey Foundation report to the Hennepin County Commissioners in MN after the tragic death of four-year-old Eric Dean, he emphasized that the HIPPA laws were commonly a “red herring” being used as an excuse to keep important information secret.

Consequences of institutions keeping information from the public mean that bad decisions, unworkable programs and counterproductive policies are valued the same as those that work.

So often, programs and policies are being designed for the adults and institutions involved and not the children in need of the programs.


Child abuse is an uncomfortable topic.

Obfuscation and euphemism are common.

Many of us just avoid the conversation.

Besides, it’s a “family matter”.



Not many of us are comfortable candidly discussing the realities of child abuse – especially child sex abuse. 

Watching European TV streaming services (as our family did during COVID and the writers strike in America) demonstrated that story lines about child abuse, social services and trauma were common in Europe. The British Arrow Awards often include child abuse PSA’s in their advertising competitions. Only rarely do child abuse story lines or reference happen in American television. When it does, the language and story are softer. We don’t like clear talk about child abuse. 

In KARA’s public presentations we announce a “trigger warning” that this topic is not suitable for some people. 

It’s true that the topic can trigger long buried memories with painful reactions. 

When there is discussion (public or private), euphemism and understatement are more common than clear speech about child rape and other violence visited upon children. 

What image forms in your mind when I say the words “trafficking” or “maltreatment”? Probably not a seven year old being repeatedly raped or beaten by her caregiver. 

It harms the child again when  the reality of her terror and pain is euphemized. We save ourselves the discomfort of this conversation at the expense of the child. Not having a clear and meaningful conversation as a community allows the issue to fester.

Euphemism and obfuscation contribute to misunderstanding of the suffering visited upon a child. Violence like this lasts forever for the victims that suffer. 



(a short story)

Minnesota’s Star Tribune investigative journalist Brandon Stahl worked hard to discover how a four year-old boy could be slowly tortured to death by his mother even as multiple reports were delivered by mandated reporters without any meaningful institutional intervention or public outrage. 

Brandon’s reporting made clear the obstacles institutions and counties create to keep information hidden.

No one would have known anything about the life and death of Eric Dean had this curious reporter not filed a FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT request and made the boy’s death a story.

The newspaper gave him full support for investigating the suspicious death of a four-year-old boy in rural Minnesota. A very rare thing.


Brandon discovered that four-year-old Eric Dean in Starbuck MN died a slow painful death over two years at his mother’s hands even after 15 ignored reports of abuse were made by mandated reporters.

Brandon found pushback at every level of government in his investigation

After he was forced to file a Freedom of Information Act he still found it hard to gain access to the information he needed to follow the story. It seemed to Brandon that no one in the County Eric died in wanted the information made public.



Without Brandon’s reporting,

We would not know that 4 MN counties were screening out

 90% of all child protection calls at the time of Eric’s death.


We would not have known that social workers were forbidden to

review prior cases of child abuse within a family

when reviewing a new charge of abuse in that family.

And of course, we would not know

how the level of dysfunction in

Minnesota’s Child Protection system

caused the death of Eric Dean.

Brandon’s reporting is rare in child-death cases and almost never in other cases of child suicide, child self-harm or child abuse. For all our research efforts for this book, there has been no meaningful data found to shed light on the numbers of failed suicide attempts by at-risk children or the plethora of other terrible things they do to themselves and others (cutting, dangerous personal behaviors and violent acts against others).

When Governor Dayton read Brandon’s reporting, he declared Child Protective Services in the case a colossal failure.


A Task force was formed resulting in public policy changes that improved child safety.

Brandon Stahl’s investigative journalism changed child protection services in MN.

Two short (4 minute) descriptive video interviews with Brandon Stahl can be seen here.

This kind of tragedy occurs regularly in the U.S. – serious reporting on it does not. Read about the last 200  Minnesota children murdered by their caregivers while in CPS here; fatal .

In many states and especially poor rural counties, child safety regularly takes a back seat to the negative reality of overwhelmed child protective services, public concern and lack of public dollars.

Conditions are worse for children in states at the bottom rung of the economic ladder.

Tennessee, Puerto Rico, Mississippi, Louisiana, Kentucky, Arkansas, West Virginia, Alabama, Oklahoma, and South Carolina had the highest percentages of poverty in the nation (2019).

All across America, the COVID pandemic is making at-risk children and families more depressed, homeless, unhealthy, less educated and unsafe. Even more so in poor states.

Google searches rarely turn up any information concerning violence bad things happening to children in these states – and not because it isn’t happening.


Almost all rural counties have underfunded child protection systems, poor health and mental health access and a serious lack of safety for their at-risk children and families.




If America’s institutions

(Child Protection/Law Enforcement/Child Protection/Foster Care/


Operated like any other business,

reporting of important stories, 

program success and failure 

would inform decision makers

Regular reporting of child abuse intake notes (no names) provides graphic descriptions of how severe and common the problems in a community. 

  • How many very young children suffer sex abuse, severe trauma and death in the home,
  • How foster children are succeeding or failing in school, living under bridges, STDs, involved in crime, juvenile justice and go without mental health services,
  • How many foster children were required to take Prozac like drugs,
  • How much child self-harm / suicide is being reported,
  • How many cases each social worker is assigned
  • # of child deaths and their causes

Things reported can be discussed, 

measured, compared and improved.

Things not reported are ignored and allowed to fester.

Psychological evaluation reports often drift into the confusing language of the 947 page DSM (Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders). 

The DSM’s academic language can obfuscating and less than helpful in addressing childhood trauma. It should be clear to everyone by now that the ACEs medical approach to childhood trauma gives far more accurate descriptors of causes and effects than reports filled with DSM labeling.

The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) evaluation is a simple questionnaire that aims to identify traumatic experiences involving abuse, neglect, and household dysfunction experienced during childhood:

  1. Physical abuse
  2. Emotional abuse
  3. Sexual abuse
  4. Physical neglect
  5. Emotional neglect
  6. Mother treated violently
  7. Household substance abuse
  8. Household mental illness
  9. Parental separation or divorce
  10. Incarcerated household member

and how confusing and questionable the practice can be.

What is hard to discern in these reports is the impact of childhood trauma on behavior. Children 

 and the visceral feeling of self-hate and worthlessness in the in the classroom or with peers.

I’m the dunce that can’t answer simple questions because of the dumbing down side effects of the meds at-risk children are required to take.

Transparency and reporting would make it easier to know what percentage of State Ward children were being medicated with Prozac like drugs and how much Big Pharma was fined for selling those drugs to pediatricians for use on very young children (Pfizer paid 2.4 billion dollar fine in 2014).

More people would know that illegal treatment without consent is another failure of our lack of children’s rights in America.


The Catholic Church could have saved itself billions of dollars and terrible press had it operated in an ethical way and addressed the problem of abusive priests.

Instead, it continues to pay billions of dollars for molesting thousands of children because sex abuse of children is a crime and lawyers make big dollars and bigger news by bringing these lawsuits.

For the purposes of this book, it is important to point out that there is no comparable awareness of or punishment for the pain and suffering of millions of sexually abused children by their caregivers.

The priest scandal represents less than 1%

of the sexual abuse of children in our nation today

yet it receives 99% of the media coverage, public awareness 

and punishment dollars.



chart6% of women in prison experienced child abuse as children (childhelp.org)

37% of American children experience a child abuse investigation by their 18th birthday (Washington University St. Louis Study)

Sex abuse in the home is invisible with many courts sending children back into the homes for the abuse to continue.

Would making child rape, self-harm and child psych evaluations

publicly available

(without names or any identifiable references)

create an informed public?

Would this create empathy and momentum for change?

The current practice of near zero reporting isn’t helpful for the children involved. Child rape is a trauma that lasts forever.

If more people understood what the warning on every package “can cause psychological ideation” language means, would more children get therapy instead of Psychotropic meds?

An informed public and legislature would have a better idea of the costs of failure and value of success.

If we knew these important things, we might be inclined to be kind to children that were born into tragic circumstances through no fault of their own.

If schools operated like businesses, more of us would know what “ready for learning ” means to a school and why America’s high cost per child delivers such poor results.

Every year, millions of not ready for school children make education in America harder and less effective for children and every stakeholder (and much more costly).

Education Charts

America’s high schools face a growing crisis: Millions of students who entered ninth grade in the fall of 2020, at the height of the pandemic, are set to graduate this spring, with little hope of recovering from the learning loss incurred while schools were shut. Simply put, they’re running out of time.

In 2022, average scores on the ACT exam were the lowest in 30 years; this year’s results were even worse. Barely 20% of students met college-readiness benchmarks in all four areas tested — English, math, reading and science — and 43% met none, up from 35% in 2018. Other data show broad declines in reading and math proficiency, while the number of students receiving failing grades has soared. In Houston, the country’s eighth-largest public school district, as many as half of high school students have flunked at least one course since the start of the pandemic, compared to one-third in 2019.


If Law Enforcement tracked and made pubic

the critical data of policing at-risk children,

we might understand the cost of

“throwing children into the river of

Prozac, expulsion and juvenile justice”

 Law Enforcement Chart/s

We would know how many foster children and youth in our communities were involved in the juvenile justice system and how many of them are using psychotropic medications, placed in isolation, beaten up at sexually abused in jails and prisons (as children and teens).

“90% of the youth in the juvenile justice system have passed through child protective services” are the words of Minnesota’s former Supreme Court Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz as is the phrase; “The difference between that poor child and a felon is about eight years”.


Few people know that the majority of youth in juvenile justice have diagnosable mental health issues and that more than have of these youth have multiple, severe and often dangerous conditions.

We would also know how many of them are involved in crime, failing in school and other important predictors of future success or failure.

What is known can be measured.

What is measured can be addressed.

Things addressed can be improved.

IF we could calculate the value

of success and failure of child wellbeing policies

and their impact on

taxes, personal and social costs.


For years now, about half of police shootings have involved disabilities – mostly mental health issues. More and more, Law Enforcement is tasked with being the primary childcare & mental health service provider in many communities.

Few citizens have any awareness of how their local police department is trained or who the five percent of officers with the most shootings or citizen complaints are. There is a growing argument that community awareness of police recruiting and training should create more “protect and to serve” and less police violence.

In the police shooting of Philando Castile in Falcon Heights MN, it became public that officer Yanez was trained to empty his service revolver into the victim.

Philando was guilty of having a taillight out.  He died a horrific and uncalled for death. His girlfriend and her three-year-old daughter were in the back seat of the squad when it happened. Officer Derek Chauvin’s murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis could have been predicted based on his history of brutality against Black boys and men. Instead, millions of people are suffering the anguish of fear and bereavement and police departments all across the country are suffering public hatred and distrust that could have been avoided.

It is clear the nation needs more transparency and community involvement in law enforcement if peace and order are to be restored. When we know the stories and data about abused children and youth at the hands of the police, ailing in school, not learning how to read, becoming teen and preteen mothers going to jail and prison, public policies will become more rational, child friendly and effective.


When we understand the financial and social costs of these failures, we will see the wisdom in investing our tax dollars in programs that work and ending those that don’t.


Law enforcement trained in de-escalation, including other service providers (mental health/social workers) on domestic abuse and mental health calls would reduce the number of terrible things police do to at-risk children and youth (CHAPTER X)


If Child Protection reported the depth and scope of the problems facing children,

the need for services would become a public issue.

Funding for stadiums might be favored less than funding for crisis nurseries,

quality daycare and mental health services for five-year-old’s.

Quality Foster Care and support for kinship care is lacking in most counties most of the time. It’s hard to over emphasize the value of kinship to a child removed from a birth home.

Few communities are informed about how their State Ward children are doing in school, if they graduate or what becomes of them after aging out of the system.

chartNationally, 80% of aged out youth go on to lead dysfunctional lives and 20% become instantly homeless upon aging out.

According to a report by the National Foster Youth Institute, youth aging out of foster care face a range of challenges that can lead to dysfunctional behavior. Here are some statistics from the report 1:

  • 25% of youth aging out of foster care won’t graduate from high school.
  • 50% of youth aging out of foster care will develop a substance dependence.
  • 70% of young women aging out of foster care will become pregnant.
  • 60% of young men aging out of foster care will be convicted of a crime.

If the data were more public, more communities would know more about how to improve the lives of disadvantaged children.

These institutional realities have high direct and indirect costs to the community that remain unknown.

County Auditors and local politicians know the growing costs of Social Services and related juvenile justice and policing costs in their community. 

Without more robust accountability and transparency within these institutions,

there is little chance that better answers will be discovered or employed.

The cost to our communities in public health, education, public safety and child wellbeing is immense in both dollars and quality of life.


Standing between a traumatized child and the door in a classroom can be dangerous if you are the teacher.

That’s not always in the training to be a teacher, but it should be.

Like veterans hearing a noise that triggers the shell shock they received in battle,

Certain words trigger explosive, unpredictable violence.

Calmly, Mary the therapist tells me that this is just the child’s triggered escape reaction.

Don’t stand between the child and the child’s escape path.

In another incident I watched a teacher my size (135 pounds 5ft 9) smash a ten year-old girl’s head into a desk in the principal’s office when she wouldn’t quit biting his face.

He was trying to restrain her from hurting herself or others. (MT).

The ACEs healing model is gaining traction in many parts of America, but the centuries old punishment model is still the rule.

If schools reported classroom hours spent managing traumatized children and evaluating the effectiveness of the punishment model, a great awakening could occur.

Few nonteachers know how common it is for teachers to spend more time managing out of control children than teaching.

Few schools have in place adequate strategies for diversion, de-escalation or other means of dealing with the problem. This is one reason we expel kids from daycare, grade school and high school at such high rates.

statistics worth remembering

High school dropouts are three and one-half times more likely than high school graduates to be arrested, and more than eight times as likely to be incarcerated.

Across the country, 68 percent of state prison inmates have not received a high school diploma,


37% of American youth are reported to CPS by their 18th birthday,

80% of youth aging out of foster care lead dysfunctional lives,

30% of American youth are arrested by their 23rd birthday,


According to a report by the Justice Policy Institute, the average state cost for the secure confinement of a young person is $588 per day or $214,620 per year 12. or $214,620 per year, a 44 percent increase from 2014. These cost figures over a six-year period represent the growing economic impact of incarcerating youth.Jul 30, 2020

According to a report by the Prison Policy Initiative, on any given day, over 48,000 youth in the United States are confined in facilities away from home as a result of juvenile justice or criminal justice involvement 1.

48,000 * $214,620 = 10,301,760,000 (ten billion dollars annually)

America’s nine-year prison recidivism rates are reaching 90%

If a community knew the value of keeping a child in school to graduation, would it is easier to spend the tax dollars to heal a traumatized child and not expel him or her from grade school or high school?

It could be to everyone’s advantage to closely track the trajectory of State Ward children and understand why the failure rates have been so terrible and the costs so high.

It’s not that we don’t have programs that work, it is that we don’t use them.

We don’t employ best practices

because we don’t have a grounded understanding the issues or

of the cost benefit analysis that would drive us to better answers

(a function of reporting, accountability and transparency).

School superintendents and principals could better address the impact traumatized children are having on the teachers and children in their classrooms.

If these things were better known, the issues and impact of child abuse might be better understood and addressed.

An informed and wiser community might support the initiatives that could save them future tax dollars and make their neighborhoods safer and happier places to live.

Until then, superintendents and principals will be under informed and teachers remain front line workers managing the mental health and behavior problems at-risk children bring into their classrooms.

Teaching is harder than ever and the politics of teaching to include guns, law enforcement and a conflict over the value of punishment and expulsion in our schools (CHAPTER____).

It is likely that the community would react if it knew the fiscal breakdown of program success and failure in their schools.





This Frontline quality video by Mari Frankel (Foster Shock) uncovers the rampant foster child prostitution and drug abuse that occurred when group homes were privatized in Florida. https://vimeo.com/139417634  .

Many states have similar problems, few states report on them.

In most states, group homes and detention centers are not closed when they fail to meet State standards.

Rikers Island is just one of many notoriously gruesome holding cells for youth on the way into the criminal justice system. A concept anathema in other Industrialized Nations but long accepted in America.

We blame the people working in these homes and detention centers for the horrid stories that make it into the media.

Public outrage follows each story but there is no meaningful change before the next tragic story receives the same response.

Our punishment culture accepts terrible things happening to other people’s children.

Without transparency there can be little understanding the underlying issues and small chance of significant meaningful change to fix things.




Program policies like CPS not picking up children from toxic homes after 5pm or on weekends are anathema to the child.


Sometimes CPS makes policies 

putting the needs of the institution 

over the needs of the children it serves 


4 year-old Eric Dean died after years of torture by his mother in Minnesota. At that time, CPS had lobbied to make it illegal for social workers to review prior histories of child abuse when deciding to investigate new cases of child abuse. This became law at a time that four Minnesota counties were screening out 90% of the child abuse calls.

If you were the supervisor in a county with funding for a small fraction of the child protection workers required to keep at-risk children in your community safe, what would you do?



This reflects on how programs that keep children safe and well

get less priority than the arts and sports.

Children are stuck in horrid homes.

While the rest of us watch sports in newly built stadiums.


 It Can’t Happen Here (Sally’s Story)

This is a story about the most delightful, confused 8 year old girl I’ve ever met. For privacy purposes, I’ll call her Sally. Sally has had numerous hospitalizations and an innumerable amount of sexual abuse referrals made on her behalf.

She has a history of sexual abuse by her biological father. When she first came to the children’s psychiatric hospital, she immediately began to display sexually outrageous behavior such as touching her private area in front of peers, asking staff if they were her lovers, and disrobing. It was no surprise when her history came to light, or when she then began to make allegations of sexual abuse from her mother’s current boyfriend. We’ll call him Joe.


Impossible Questions & Painful Statistics

“Are you thinking of killing yourself or anyone else?” the doctor would ask.

“Yes. Joe freaks me out,” she would say back.

“So you want to kill Joe?”

“Yeah, he freaks me out. Do you care about me?” She would change the subject almost as abruptly as it came up.

For a while all she said was that she hated Joe and that he “freaked [her] out”.  The seeds of sexual abuse suspicion were planted.

Sally was diagnosed with several mental health diagnoses including depression, Autism, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

She said things that were entirely off the wall (such as referring to the lone male nurse as “Cookie” and asking to “kick your cat” or “lick your eyeball”) while maintaining a straight face and wholly flat affect. Her maladaptive behaviors rendered her quite the handful, but what a curious and interesting little handful she was.

Later, when Sally began to open up to the doctor and hospital staff, she made formal allegations of sexual abuse by Joe such that he would “put things in my vagina and bum, he freaks me out”.

In Pennsylvania, the abuse referral is called a “Childline” and it is sent to the child’s county of residence and the appropriate authorities are alerted.

There are more examples of Sally’s sexually maladaptive and acting out behaviors, statements she made that no 8 year old child should ever say, and allegations of specific abusive acts cited to have occurred at the hands of both her biological father and mother’s boyfriend, Joe.

This had to have been one of the most detailed Childline referrals the county had ever seen, not to mention Sally had a wonderful, dedicated psychiatrist. As the time went by, the treatment team eagerly awaited the results of her abuse referral, as she had won over the hearts of all the hospital staff and we all wanted to see her safe and free from harm.

The referral came back as unfounded.

Due to her intellectual and neurodevelopmental disabilities, she was deemed in-credible. Her previous allegations and tendency to say outlandish things encouraged the agency to believe that she was too confused, too disoriented, and too unreliable to investigate the report further. There were rumors that her mother covered up for her boyfriend, and hid evidence from Children and Youth Services when they came knocking at her door.

Once Sally no longer met her insurance company’s criteria for “in need of acute care”, there was no choice but to discharge her back into the care of her mother with deep suspicion that she would be endangered again and continue to suffer at the hands of people who were supposed to love her more than anything in the world. She cried the day and night before she left, asking if she defecated in her pants, could she stay at the hospital?

It was with a heavy heart that staff had to explain to her that this wouldn’t allow her to avoid going home.

“Joe freaks me out,” she said as she gathered her belongings for discharge.

This story submitted by a Pennsylvania Psychiatric Hospital employee

 Eli Hentges. 

This is one of the 88 stories of children dying at the hands of their caregivers while known to Child Protective Services.

Their full reports can be found in the recent Safe Passage For Children investigation of child death in Minnesota. The report suggests why this tragedy is happening in our state and how we can make life safer for at risk children (in the read more at the end of the article). 

Support at risk children by sharing this report with your contacts and State Representative.

Read pages 19-32 of the Investigative Report (in the link above) for more information

Eli Arispe Hentges,

Isanti County

Two-month-old Eli died by blunt force trauma while in the care of his mother in April 2017. The infant’s autopsy revealed two skull fractures, as well as healing rib fractures and multiple bruises on the infant’s head. The mother admitted to throwing the infant against the wall out of frustration, resulting in the fatal injury.


America’s CHILDHOOD TRAUMA and ACES Impact

Medical records obtained during the investigation revealed that during a well-baby check on March 30, 2017, the doctor noticed a rash on Eli’s arms, chest, head, and upper back. In addition, there were two darker bruise marks on Eli’s left arm.

The mother informed the doctor that they were from puppies running around that may have stepped on Eli’s arm, which is not a credible explanation. This well-baby check occurred just six days before Eli was killed.

Using the protocol in Appendix C, the medical SME’s who reviewed this case indicated that the provider who saw Eli should have:

  • Performed a full body medical exam including radiological imaging.
    • Made calls to child protection and local law enforcement while the parent was still at the
    provider’s facility, to determine if transportation to another facility or an emergency hold were appropriate.
  • Observed and documented parent’s behavior including her interaction with the child, her
    reaction to the child’s injury and to having her version of the injury challenged.
    • Not discharge of the victim to the suspected abuser unless directed to do so by child
    protection and law enforcement officials.

The subsequent county fatality review reported that there was no public record of child protection involvement. However, at the time of Eli’s birth, both parents were homeless and the mother had been discharged from the hospital to live with her former foster mother. During the investigation, it was learned that both parents were using alcohol and drugs, and text messages revealed patterns of domestic violence between them.

Additionally, the criminal complaint states that the infant rolled out of bed during his first month of life, apparently at the home of the foster mother. Infants cannot roll over at that age, thus this explanation also is not credible. If the former foster mother suspected abuse or neglect by the mother, she had the necessary knowledge and experience to report it to child protection.

In summary, the lack of prior child protection history did not mean that nothing could have been
done to prevent Eli’s death. The medical provider and former foster mother had information sufficient to make a report to child protection but failed to do so.

SME Comments:

“If the child’s fall was over a meter in height and especially if it was onto a hard surface, it would merit a medical evaluation…. Eli remained in the (foster) home after the head injury and the bruised forearm were identified without any reports to child protection for further evaluation or follow up to initiate safety checks.

Further evaluation and referral to child protection and law enforcement at the 6-week medical visit could possibly have saved the child’s life.” – Medical SME

“Medical staff should be aware that infants who are not independently mobile rarely sustain any bruises… Acceptance of an unlikely explanation for infant bruising without further consultation with a child abuse expert is not acceptable medical care.” Medical SME

“Hospital protocols for assessing newborn risk prior to birth discharge may need updating and review. Access by hospital staff to the juvenile records for high-risk mothers should be considered. Young mothers who have experienced difficult childhoods and/or teen years deserve special care and concern for the stressors that new motherhood will bring.

Offering and encouraging acceptance of programming to support the new family is societally important for raising happy, healthy, and well adjusted children. Eli and his mother would have benefitted from this assistance.” –
Medical SME

Red Flags Missed or Ignored by Medical Providers

Appendix C includes a protocol provided by our medical SMEs for providers to follow when children present with injuries.

There were just four cases in our sample such as that of Kamari Gholston where court records specifically documented that medical providers missed indicators of abuse or failed to follow up properly with child protection.

However there were other cases where abuse occurred over a long period of time, raising a question of whether providers may have missed or ignored abuse during routine exams. Sophia O’Neill and Tayvion Davis are examples of this along with other stories not written up in this report. The story of Eli Arispe Hentges further illustrates this issue


KSTP short video on Safe Passage Report


This article submitted by occasional KARA author Katrina Verdone, M.A.

Physician Scribe/Case Management

Southwood Psychiatric Hospital



Ethan was removed from his parents at a young age. I have only come to know him briefly through the course of my work with him at an inpatient facility. Like the others, Ethan has a story; one which I will never fully know or understand. A life outside of paper clothes, weighted furniture, and being watched round the clock. Luckily, this lifestyle is temporary.  What I do know, is that Ethan’s mother died of a drug overdose and that his father was incarcerated for a drug related charge.

This is how Ethan found himself being passed from placement to placement to placement.

There are approximately 443,000 children in foster care in the United States on average.

The average age that kids enter the system is 8 years old.

Of those children who enter the system at any given time, more than 17,000 age out without permanent families.

This is a sad set of statistics from 2017, but it lends to the idea that a child will likely spend time in multiple placements with numerous families over the years that they spend under state care and lead dysfunctional lives thereafter.

Ethan was 17 years old when I met him. Again, what I know of his story is limited, but the ugliest truths of it seemed to jump off the page and into my brain as I read his file to prepare for our interview. At his first foster care placement, he was sexually and physically abused by his foster father who had an alcohol problem. His foster mother was aware of the abuse going on, but because she was a victim of the domestic violence herself, was unable to stand up for the children in her home. Whether Ethan was removed from this placement (I refuse to refer to it as a “home” given the state of things) before or after this information came to light, is unbeknownst to me.

Some time, a few mental health hospitalizations, and a couple more placements later, Ethan was taken into another foster home with a nurturing and caring family. There were other kids in the home for Ethan to socialize with, food regularly on the table, and the only substances in sight were foster mom’s multivitamin gummy she had every morning. This might have been a chance for a normal life, but Ethan’s time with this family was cut short when he sexually assaulted his younger foster brother. Ethan was 13 years old at the time.

He had since been to a residential facility which specialized in treatment of sexually maladaptive behaviors. He expressed a great deal of internalized guilt related to the situation, oftentimes hating himself for knowing what he had done to a child whom he considered a brother. At present day, he is hospitalized for making numerous threats and gestures to kill himself.

He is a pleasant kid when presenting for the interview; well groomed, with kind eyes.

Those kind eyes teared up when explaining why he gets depressed and suicidal, indicating the deeply internalized guilt that he was harboring.

I don’t know if anyone ever tried to explain the effects that adverse childhood experiences can have, but I hope someone does.


Ethan hasn’t been discharged yet, but last I heard he is awaiting placement in another foster home or shelter.

His last family didn’t want to accept him back after he scared them with his suicide attempt.

At 17 years old however, he’ll likely be difficult to place, and if he is placed, it will only be for a short time until he turns 18 and ages out of the system like those 17,000 others. Then what will he do?

The foster care system is an amazing idea, however clearly flawed in its current design.


Stories like Ethan’s are all too common and all too often underreported. You might wonder how a violent, alcoholic, pedophile could even be approved as a foster parent.


These people and situations frequently fall between the cracks of what ends up reported and permitted when it comes to caring for our nation’s children. A change needs to occur, because Ethan may now spend a large portion of his life in and out of hospitals and therapy, coping with the trauma that was given to him by adults and institutions that should have been protecting him.


In most communities it is the kind-hearted families that have been the most common and available placement for these children. Foster families may be the most underappreciated front line community child protection and mental health workers in our nation.


This is one of the 88 stories of children dying at the hands of their caregivers reported in the recent Safe Passage For Children investigation of child death in Minnesota. The report suggests why this tragedy is happening in our state and how we can make life safer for at risk children (in the read more at the end of the article). Please share this with your contacts and State Representative.

Death of Lylah Koob, Goodhue County

In November 2018, two-year-old Lylah Koob was killed while in the care of her mother’s boyfriend, who became frustrated with the child after she vomited, and subsequently admitted to shaking her. Lylah’s autopsy revealed she had sustained a subdural hematoma (bleeding on the

brain) as well as significant acute injuries behind both eyes.

Lylah’s 4-year-old brother was interviewed during the investigation and reported that the boyfriend hit Lylah on the face after she threw up.

Prior to the child’s death, seven reports were made to child protection, five of which were assigned to Family Assessment, one of which was screened out, and one which was recorded as an investigation, though an investigation was never actually done but rather the case was

closed without services.

Child protection reports contained allegations of physical abuse, sexual abuse, and unhygienic and unsafe conditions, including rotten food, garbage, drugs, alcohol, and sharp objects accessible to children throughout the home.

A Family Assessment was conducted just 20 days before the fatality following a report that the mother and boyfriend were hitting the children with objects and dragging them by their hair. This assessment was closed with no services recommended or provided.


America’s CHILDHOOD TRAUMA and ACES Impact

Combined Impact of Family Assessment

and Family Preservation Practices

As indicated in the Executive Summary, our analysis revealed a number of patterns where Family Assessment combined with ongoing casework practices gave undue weight to family preservation and reunification and resulted in harm to children:
• Repeated inappropriate assignment to Family Assessment.
• Inaction in the face of chronic multitype maltreatment, i.e., chronic neglect that
deteriorates over time into physical abuse and/or sexual abuse or torture.
• Neglect cases with seemingly limitless chances for parents to address chronic problems,
exacerbated by ineffective safety planning.
• Returning children from foster care before parents have made the necessary behavioral
• Red flags that were missed or ignored by medical providers.
• Concerning number of children killed in foster care, especially kinship placements.
• Alarming number of cases (12%-15%) that had signs of or clearly were torture.
• Children returned to parents with serious mental illness

We use each of the case summaries in the following sections to illustrate one of these patterns, although many exemplify a number of them. A summary of the SME comments is also provided for each section.

Repeated Inappropriate Assignment to Family Assessment

Out of the fifty-nine cases with Minnesota child protection history, thirty-one had at least one Family Assessment prior to the fatality. However, this number is likely higher because the court records did not consistently indicate to which track past cases were assigned.

The families in our study had a range of one to six Family Assessments prior to the fatality event. Sixteen of the fifty-nine cases (27.1%) had two or more Family Assessments, and there were three or more Family Assessments in eight cases (13.6%).

There may also have been previous maltreatment reports that were screened out, but neither court documents or county reports consistently recorded this information. We believe it is self-evident that the repeated use of FA in chronically referred families is inconsistent with the policy that FA be used only in low-risk

An alternative practice would be one used in past years by Illinois, which allows a case to be assigned to AR only one time.

Viewed from another perspective, 20 of the 59 fatality cases with Minnesota child protection history were never investigated by child protection services. The following cases of Lylah Koob and Sophia O’Neill represent a number of other child maltreatment deaths that might have been prevented through conscientious investigations, rather than the repeated, risky use of Family Assessment.

More stories can be found here

How many?

Pre COVID, almost all states were facing a shortage of safe homes for at-risk children. (DATA) Post COVID, it is likely to be a much larger problem.

Few people know how many children are reported as traumatized/abused in their community.

Few people know how many children are removed from their families or how many foster families are needed to take care of abused children.

Group homes and emergency shelters are the backup in communities with over-the top numbers of endangered and suffering children.

Truly desperate case children are forced to spend time in hospitals and social services buildings until space become available.

Think how awful this is for a frightened young child taken from the only she has ever known by a police car to a place she has never been and people she does not know or if she will see her family again. All these things happen every day and they are all terrible experiences for the girls and boys that experience them.

Very few people know the existence of any of these sad and impactful things because there is little reporting and not much media coverage of the stories and data that do exist.

KARA believes that post COVID, the need for more and better-informed foster care will become a much bigger problem.

The conditions in many state group homes already overwhelm staff in many communities.  Many homes are violent and poorly managed.

The level of trauma the children they oversee is often greater than the training of the staff involved.

Pre COVIC, many have been forced to close – usually after years of not meeting state standards (standards like not having sex or beating the children they are charged with keeping safe).

None of this has worked well for our youngest citizens.

Post COVID numbers of damaged children are becoming a dangerous piece of this equation.

These stories and the lack of resources and oversight for emergency child placement and foster care are critical issues that need more reporting, awareness and attention in most of America today.

Trauma informed practices, kinship placement, training and resources are the hopeful piece of post the COVID ERA if transparency and reporting can be improved. 








Half of the 50 children in this CASA guardian ad Litems case load were sexually abused. Three were four years old or younger when the abuse began, several seven and younger and all but one was under ten when the abuse began. They bring their sexuality into the homes that foster and adopt them along with their uncontrollable rage, self-harm and other damaging behaviors that will be with some of them for life.

ANNA’S OBSERVATIONS (mental health insights)


The lack of reporting and transparency about the lack of support and services for badly damaged children is an awful reality affecting millions of children every day.

Almost none of this is known in the community or its law makers and others that could make a difference.

For decades now, the medical community has published ACES (Adverse Childhood Experiences) research.

The media is finally drawing attention to what is the most misunderstood and underreported sadness facing abused and neglected children.

Because the PTSD damage soldiers returning from war brought home with them the media told the public and the public told its legislators and policy began to change.

We are only now beginning to understand that the traumas suffered by veterans is the same kind of trauma being experienced by children raised in toxic homes.

The media, legislators and courts are beginning to relax our centuries old harsh punishment model in favor of a kinder gentler healing approach to veterans behaving badly because of trauma related mental health and behavior problems.

Will the media, courts and legislators eventually get the information they need to make better decisions concerning the mental health and related behavior problems of children traumatized in their birth homes?

The lack of reporting, understanding and compassion being shown juveniles at this time has not been promising.

In the words of Minnesota’s former Supreme Court Chief Justice a statistic that bears repeating;

“90% of the youth in the juvenile justice system have passed through child protective services”.

Pre COVID, Prozac like drugs have long been the substitute for mental health healing therapies at the center of caring for traumatized children.

As a CASA guardian ad Litem, I flew a suicidal case 12 year old boy to an emergency facility 200 miles away because no mental health beds were available in Minneapolis area.

At the time, a single hospital in our city was seeing (pre COVID) 1000 emergency psychiatric visits monthly.

The last decade has seen many rural hospitals and some urban hospitals end any mental health services.  This area of concern is woefully underreported.

There is almost no information available about suicide attempts or self-harm by children under 15.

It is estimated that one out of 200 youth under 8 are successful in their suicide attempts.

Post COVID, these realities could be much worse if not made more public and addressed robustly (read about them in chapter x).





2). It’s Not a Crime to Abuse Your Child

If I were to have done to Adrian Peterson’s son what he did, I would still be in prison. If I had committed any of the atrocities committed against the children in this book, this investigation I may very well have been murdered by other inmates shortly after entering prison. We the people react harshly to other people abusing our children. But it stops there.

Accountability, Punishment and Attention

 (it depends on who abuses your child)

Church child sex abuse scandals represent

a tiny fraction of the number of

sexually abused children in America

Yet those tiny numbers 

got all the money and attention

Child rape has rocked the Church for decades and filled the media with multi-million-dollar lawsuits and vivid stories. It’s hard to imagine that there were more than a 1000 abusive priests involved or over 100,000 children in this tragedy over the many years of reports we have read about.

I say this to put in perspective the scale of violence and sex abuse of children reported to CPS in America each year.


Almost 40% of American children are reported to child protective services by their 18th birthday.  There are 80 million children in America. At 3.9 children per child abuse case* and the lower estimates of abuse calls to CPS annually, about 14 million children experience trauma and abuse each year. Whether you are beaten or raped or you watch your mother or sibling being beaten or raped, the trauma is about the same.


Arguably, 1000 abusive priests and the children they abused received 98% of the public attention that might have helped reverse the trends of child abuse in America.

Multi-million-dollar fines were paid in Church scandal lawsuits and reported repeatedly in the media.  No one ever knew anything about the millions of local children suffering the same sex abuse in their homes.


How do you unteach sexual behavior or drug use to a nine-year-old

that has experienced years of drug use and sexual activity?


Think about it through the eyes of a child sexually abused in her birth home and later arrested and punished for prostitution as a juvenile. Mental health issues and well founded hatred of authority now brutalized by law enforcement and the courts. Many of these girls and young women spend years in detention centers and prisons. Rarely is the 40 or 50 year old male perpetrator charged.

Add to this that in most states very young girls (11 and up) are allowed to marry in the U.S. but none of them are allowed to divorce until they are 18. Only 18 year olds can be a party to a court case in America.

The Great Church Bifurcation

Why we know about priest sex abuse &

nothing about child rape in the home


For every child suffering abuse at the hands of a Priest there are thousands of children sexually and otherwise abused at the hands of their caregivers.  It is only because of lawsuits and media attention that we know about child victims molested by priests.

These traumas are the same, but children repeatedly raped in the home have not had the attention or the help provided to children sexually abused by religious leaders.

This book and your response to it, can bring attention to millions of children suffering from these abuses at the hands of their family.

(Federal Law, Courts, Religion &

Parental Rights)

Only a percentage of child abuse is ever reported.  Only a percentage of child abuse cases are ever investigated and only the worst cases of parental perpetrators of child abuse and death are ever prosecuted.

Jack Westman’s book DEALING WITH CHILD ABUSE AND NEGLECT AS PUBLIC HEALTH PROBLEMS (page 70), posits that the leading cause of child death by injury is homicide. Hospitals report that 10% of critical child burn admissions have been caregiver inflicted.

Child sex abuse by family members is almost never prosecuted.

Because the United Nation’s Rights of the Child Treaty of the 1980’s was not ratified, children have no standing in courts. A child cannot sue to have the abuse stop.

The U.S. is the only nation in the world to not ratify the UN’s Rights of the Child Treaty.  Children today have the same rights women had in 1917.

At a Federal level, and in most States, children are property of their parents.


43 states allow withholding lifesaving free or affordable health care for religious reasons. Child marriage is extremely common in the U.S.

Child Marriage

American children are chattel like women were prior to 1918 – property of their parents or the man that wants them.

Teen brides do not have the maturity or critical thinking skills to protect themselves.

A combination of Federal law (no rights) and State’s rights means that child brides are forced to stay in abusive marriages. Just like in Pakistan.

The Imminent Harm Doctrine is the Federal Law governing the rights of a child in America. It allows judges to remove children from their homes if their lives are in danger of “imminent harm”. Many judges have a hard time overseeing these cases. Their law school training didn’t prepare them for the problems of family law and child justice issues.



Several states have no minimum age for marriage. Many states have set the minimum age at 12, 13 and 14.

13 year old girls (under the age of sexual consent in all states) are often forced or conned into marrying 40 or 50 year old husbands. These child brides have no standing in court or rights to sue for divorce.

Thousands of young girls are married each year in America. Almost all of them to adult men.

Rock star Jerry Lee Lewis’ 13 year old bride still believed in Santa Claus. No parent should wish this on their daughter. 2 of Jerry’s wives died in mysterious circumstances.

There are distinct differences in the criminality of nonfamily adults and parents for hurting their children.

Had anyone else beat 4 year-old Adrian Peterson’s child leaving scars and wounds or molested the very young children besides the parent in this CASA guardian ad litem’s caseload, they would be in jail.

Some judges rarely rule for the rights of a child in a birth home.

It doesn’t help that children have no standing in court.

Few other Industrialized nations bring the baggage of 500 to 1000 years year-old law and dogma to the raising of children.

Children are property of their parents until the child’s life is in danger of “Imminent Harm” when a court may remove them from the home – unless that endangerment is due to religion (as it may be in most states).

RELIGION, American children experience needless pain and die because parents are legally allowed to let their children suffer by withholding safe and affordable (often free) medical treatments for religious reasons. It has been a common defense for parents whose children have died because they withheld life-saving medical care from their child https://www.invisiblechildren.org/2017/01/04/minnesota-7-year-old-dies-as-a-martyr-to-a-parents-religion/.

From 2001 to 2018, the number of unvaccinated children grew by a factor of four – we assume the numbers post COVID to be higher yet.

What will this mean for COVID era babies and children parents withhold vaccinations from?

Average number of Americans that died from the flu;

from 2010 to 2017: 36,714

In 2018: 79,400


Does an American child have any right to health and safety?

A One of the most child unfriendly religious acts in our nation is the refusal of the Catholic Church to allow gay couples from adopting State Ward children. The Supreme Court has recently made this into the law of the land.

The U.S. Supreme Court has decided that the church may legally cancel all foster and adoptive services in communities that allow gay adoptions/foster care.

This leaves thousands of children with even fewer options for a safe home and any kind of a decent future. 

Is this what Jesus would do?

Because foster care and adoption are a problem in every state ending any program for placing children in safe, loving and caring homes is a cruel, anti child policy.

From a ground truth perspective, growing up gay is traumatic to start with.

Few LGBTQ people grow up without having experienced the anxiety, fear, depression and behavior abused children bring with them into their home. Their suicide and self-harm rates far exceed any other defined population.

The advantage that that gay couples bring to raising State Ward children is that they know what it’s like to grow up feeling alone, alien, worthless and frightened.

Having these lived experiences gives the LGBTQ community insights and understandings most of us don’t have and abandoned, traumatized children need.

It would serve the church and children well to view these issues through the eyes of a child instead of outdated dogma without concern for the children they are hurting.

If the U.S. were to ratify the UN’s Rights of the Child Treaty of the 1980’s, the religious exemption allowing children to suffer and die by withholding safe medical care would go away along with courts sending children back into homes to be abused and traumatized again and again.

This article from Slate in 2015 is still accurate today;


forty five states—allow religious exemptions from vaccination. A similar deference to religion applies to all medical care for children…43 states give some kind of criminal or civil immunity to parents who injure their children by withholding medical care on religious grounds.,, Several states allow parents to use a religious defense against charges of murder of their child—and in some places they can’t be charged with murder at all. And even when parents are prosecuted, acquiescence to religious belief often leads to their being acquitted or given light sentences, including unsupervised parole. None of this, of course, applies to parents who refuse medical care on nonreligious grounds; those individuals get no immunity from prosecution.

Many American newborns remain untested and untreated for very treatable metabolic disorders, hearing and sight diseases & blood lead levels.

Some states allow religion to keep children from TB testing in school.

Several states let parents keep teachers from teaching their children about disease in school.

Some parents have killed more than one child by withholding medical treatment.

Just a few years ago, Kansas State Rep Gail Finney vowed to pass a bill that allowed caregivers to leave bruises and cause bleeding when disciplining a child (no age limit).

Arkansas State Rep Charles Fuqua promoted the death penalty for rebellious children (based on religious grounds).

Over the years KARA has reported on children dying because their parents withheld medical treatment because the church told them to do so.  Some parents have killed more than one child by withholding medical treatment.

Some religions allow child neglect and abuse & some states allow a religious defense against charges of murdering their child – and “some can’t be charged with murder at all” (Slate).

Hard core State Legislators regularly create policy and introduce bills that allow violence against children in some form or other. Some of them pass.

When Mitch Daniels became Governor of Indiana, he eliminated the fund set up for families that adopted special needs children – after the adoptions were completed.

Governor Brownback of Kansas ran on a policy of eliminating taxes and programs for at-risk families and children. He won and did exactly as he had promised. Kansas quickly became a more dangerous place for thousands of the State’s youngest citizens.

Federal, State and County Law

It was just a few years ago America stopped executing juveniles.  The Supreme Court recognized that children and teens committing horrific acts were capable of reform. Some of the judges realized that children and teens that do terrible things do so out of the trauma and terror they come from.


At the age of 14, Evan Miller beat his neighbor to death with a baseball bat and set his trailer on fire.  Before

Miller delivered the final blow, he threw a sheet over the man’s head and shouted, “I am God, I’ve come to take your life.” The man, Cole Cannon, died of his injuries and smoke inhalation. A jury convicted him of murder and he was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.

What the jury and others may not have known before the life sentence is that by the age of 14 Miller attempted suicide four times. The first time he tried to kill himself was at the age of six.

Due to experiencing abuse by his stepfather and his mother being a drug addict and alcoholic he spent his early childhood in and out of foster homes. The victim was actually his mother’s drug dealer at the time. The day before his murder, he had spent the night over Millers house smoking marijuana and playing games.

Miller’s actions the night of his crime were horrific and lacked an ounce of empathy. But we can’t disregard his childhood, the abuse he endured and how it demonstrates the central tenets of the court’s ruling that states, “children ‘are more vulnerable to negative influences and outside pressures,’ including from their family and peers,” and cannot walk away from even the most “horrific, crime-producing” upbringing.

How do we not know that Miller’s actions that night weren’t a result of him being unable to walk away from his “horrific, crime producing” upbringing? How do we as a society determine that actions committed by a child should have lifetime consequences without weighing and examining the environment that influenced the child to commit these acts?  At what point do we decide that a child is incapable of being corrected or reformed?

The Supreme Court has chosen to allow “Life Without Parole” for children and teens like Evan Miller. Justice Sotomayor wrote that “70% of youth sentenced to prison are children of color (they represent 40% of our population by race).


The U.S. is the only nation in the world to sentence youth to life without parole.


The U.S. is also the only nation in the world to not ratify the United Nation’s Rights of the Child Treaty of the 1980’s.

How long before we are executing children and juveniles in America again?

It is ironic that the man who wrote the life sentencing decision for the Supreme Court

was himself a heavy drinking boy who has been credibly accused of abusing women in his youth.



Thousands of legislators within America’s 3006 counties govern the rights of the children within them.  Many thousands more judges enforce (or do not) enforce those rights.

The myriad of people bringing their own personal politics and beliefs into the arena of parental rights and child safety is difficult to explain in one book. But it is a core problem for beaten, starved and molested children across America.


The Supreme Court, Religion and Children.


American courts are hard on children.

While the Supreme Court ruled to end juvenile executions, it has ruled on both sides of life sentencing for juvenile crime and recently ruled to let children die in prison.


Some states ignore federal rulings – most often without consequences from the federal government.


(ACLU) Since 1973, 226 juvenile death sentences have been imposed. Twenty-two juvenile offenders have been executed and 82 remain on death row. On January 27, 2004, the U.S. Supreme Court decided to review whether executing sixteen and seventeen year-olds violates the Constitution’s ban on ‘cruel and unusual punishment.


No other industrialized nation allows execution for juvenile crimes. America is in the company of Congo, China, Iran, Yemen, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia for this distinction.


The Supremes have been back and forth on the life sentencing of children and juveniles many times. Most recently, the Robert’s Court has determined that it can be the right thing to do.


Examples of 13 & 14 year old’s in prison with no chance of a life outside of prison are painful to read. This is one of many stories reflecting the power of punishment over rehabilitation in our nation.



Evan’s Story (submitted by Cailane Wright Trinity College)

At the age of 14, Evan Miller beat his neighbor to death with a baseball bat and set his trailer on fire.  Before Miller delivered the final blow, he threw a sheet over the man’s head and shouted, “I am God, I’ve come to take your life.” The man, Cole Cannon, died of his injuries and smoke inhalation. A jury convicted him of murder and he was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.

What the jury and others may not have known before the life sentence is that by the age of 14 Miller attempted suicide four times. The first time he tried to kill himself was at the age of six.

Due to experiencing abuse by his stepfather and his mother being a drug addict and alcoholic he spent his early childhood in and out of foster homes. The victim was actually his mother’s drug dealer at the time. The day before his murder, he had spent the night over Millers house smoking marijuana and playing games.

Miller’s actions the night of his crime were horrific and lacked an ounce of empathy. But we can’t disregard his childhood, the abuse he endured and how it demonstrates the central tenets of the court’s ruling that states, “children ‘are more vulnerable to negative influences and outside pressures,’ including from their family and peers,” and cannot walk away from even the most “horrific, crime-producing” upbringing.

How do we not know that Miller’s actions that night weren’t a result of him being unable to walk away from his “horrific, crime producing” upbringing? How do we as a society determine that actions committed by a child should have lifetime consequences without weighing and examining the environment that influenced the child to commit these acts?  At what point do we decide that a child is incapable of being corrected or reformed?

According to the ACLU, 2,570 children in the United States are currently sentenced to juvenile life without parole.  26 States still allow life without parole as a sentencing option for juveniles. Thirteen States Have No Minimum Age for Adult Prosecution of Children, leaving eight-, nine-, and ten-year-old children vulnerable to extreme punishment, trauma, and abuse within adult jails and prisons.

In many states of these states children as young as 13 are sentenced to life in prison without any possibility to be released. However, 24 states and jurisdictions across American including Washington DC, Virginia, and West Virginia have abolished life without parole for adolescents.


  • In Miller, the Supreme Court stopped short of declaring life without parole unconstitutional for teenagers. Instead, the high court said that a life sentence could not be mandatory. The sentencing judge first had to consider the ways in which the defendant’s age made him less culpable than an adult.Apr 30, 2021
  • Supreme Court Conservatives Just Made It Easier to Sentence …


Majority opinion

Justice Elena Kagan wrote for the majority of the court “that mandatory life without parole for those under age of 18 at the time of their crime violates the 8th Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishments“.[2] Justice Kagan said:

Mandatory life without parole for a juvenile precludes consideration of his chronological age and its hallmark features – among them, immaturity, impetuosity, and failure to appreciate risks and consequences. It prevents taking into account the family and home environment that surrounds him – and from which he cannot usually extricate himself – no matter how brutal or dysfunctional.[4]




From the book, Life Sentences for Children“Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson


  • By 2010, Florida had sentenced more than 100 children to life imprisonment without parole for non-homicide offenses, several of whom were thirteen years old at the time of the crime. All of the condemned children – 13 or 14 years of age – were Black or Latino.  Florida had the largest population in the world of children condemned to die in prison for non-homicides.
  • The Supreme Court’s Eighth Amendment precedent requires not only that a particular sentence offend “evolving standards of decency” but also that it is “unusual”. In 2002, there were about a hundred people with mental retardation facing execution when the Court banned the death penalty for people with intellectual disability.  In 2005, there were fewer than seventy-five juvenile offenders on death row when the Court banned the death penalty for kids.  Even smaller numbers accompanied the Court’s decisions banning the death penalty for non-homicide offenses.


  • More than 2,500 children in the United States had been sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. We (Bryan Stevenson) focused on two subsets of kids to help the Court grant relief if it wasn’t ready to ban ALL life sentences without parole for juveniles.  We focused on the youngest kids who were 13 and 14 (fewer than 100 cases nationwide).  We also focused on the children who had been convicted of non-homicide offenses (fewer than 200 cases nationwide).
  • During the case argument, I told the Court that the United States is the only country in the world that imposes a life imprisonment without parole on children. I explained that condemning children violates international law, which bans these sentences for children.  We showed that these sentences are disproportionately imposed on children of color.  We argued that the phenomenon of life sentences imposed children is largely a result of harsh punishments created for career adult criminals and were never intended for children.  This made the imposition of these sentences on juveniles ‘unusual’.  I (Bryan Stevenson) also told the Court that to say to any child of thirteen that he is fit only to die in prison is cruel.





  • On May 17, 2010, the Supreme Court announced its decision: Life imprisonment without parole imposed on children convicted of non-homicide crimes is cruel and unusual punishment and constitutionally impermissible.


Perspectives; Judge, officer, warden.



Post COVID, religious organizations and their arguments are winning 81% of oral arguments in front of the Roberts Supreme Court (to be published in the Supreme Court Review). This compares to 46% in 1969.

A similar shift in federal judiciary cases supporting constitutional protection of religion is happening at the same time.

Law, politics and religion have trended in favor of parental rights, punishment and discrimination against the poor and disenfranchised for several decades.

 It is hard to ignore the continued national preference for parental rights overriding child rights in child abuse cases and more punishment for children from the Federal Courts at this time in our history.

Except in cases of “Imminent Harm” as defined by the judge, parental rights trump child rights and leave discipline and child well-being to the parent.

Not all courts view “Imminent Harm” in a way that favors the child. Rural communities less so.

These are not easy determinations and I do not envy judges required to take children from their mothers.

Ironically, violence against children by nonparents has long been widely condemned and sentencing in child crimes is harsh unless you are the parent.

Child sex crimes can bring a life sentence if you are not the primary caregiver.

Family child abusers are rarely charged in court with civil or criminal charges (acts that would put non-family members in prison if they had committed the same act against that child). 

If your neighbor had beaten your four-year-old son with a thick branch or leather belt, leaving the boy bleeding and bruised or had sex with your child daughter, that person would go to jail.

It’s important to consider the violence and trauma being raped has on a child and that only a small number of in-home child sex crimes are ever known or reported and fewer prosecuted.

In this CASA guardian ad-Litem’s experience zero out of twenty five cases where child rape occurred were charged and that the perpetrating caregiver never became a party to the court proceedings. Most child abuse rape takes place over years and is extremely damaging to the child.

Children are deemed unreliable witnesses because they don’t hold up well under cross examination in court.

This is a primary reason that perpetrators are rarely charged.

A serious unintended consequence of this failure is that perpetrators molest many children in their lifetime without being recognized or punished.

None of this serves at-risk children.

In practice, children raised in toxic homes with sex and drugs do not have the skills, understanding or training to live otherwise.

It is almost impossible to unteach sex and drugs to children that have lived with it for many years in their birth home. Foster families find this out when their biological children tell them.

In practice, young girls are prosecuted in prostitution cases in many states.

In practice, juveniles as young at eleven and twelve are tried and sentenced as adults. Only recently did the Supreme Court end the execution of youth and those who committed violent acts while they were young.

Recently the Supreme Court over turned it’s short lived decision and is advocating for life sentences for youth that commit violent acts.





A Root Problem


One of the most glaring failures in CPS is the refusal to track and report children dying by homicide and near homicide* by caregivers, suicide and suicide attempts, and the most common of all, child cutting and other forms of self-harm.

The only almost adequate study in the U.S. our researchers found was the MN Investigative report on children killed by their caregivers while in CPS.

It was funded by former Supreme Court Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz. It only had funding to investigate 88 of the 200 murdered children and it only reported on the murdered children that had been reported in the media. The study could not investigate children not reported as murdered by caregiver or the many children that almost died at the hands of their caregiver during the same period.

The study, undertaken by Safe Passage for Children of Minnesota. Rich Gehrman, Safe Passage executive director, said the results of the study portray a system that continues to give priority to the rights of parents over the safety of children.

Imperfect as it was, KARA found no other studies of its depth and scope in America. If you know of one, please send it to us for inclusion in our social media and updated book.

what we did find is that the vast majority of children who died in CPS care were not the subject of internal investigations even when the death was unexpected, and autopsy reports were excluded from files.


There may be no other American institution with such a low degree of transparency as CPS. The HIPPA laws are over used as a reason – we don’t need names, we need data. How many fosters are self-harming, suicidal, involved in crime or pregnant at 14? When the community is kept in the dark about the depth and scope of the troubles State Ward children are living with, they are much less likely to vote for those programs and policies that

The lack of reporting critical metrics about the most damaged children in our communities means we don’t know why;

Crime and recidivism rates are so high (we lead the world in these categories) and nothing we is working (at scale),

Schools are underperforming while costs are increasing

There is so much Prozac, Ritalin and other psychotropic medicating of American children, youth and young adults and Marion Wright Edelman’s pipeline to prison metaphor is still with us after all these years.

In some states and many rural communities, there is little or no reporting about the traumas and abuse suffered by at risk children. This is important to the children that live there and because the number of at risk children in the U.S. is large.

Of America’s 80 million children, between 14 AND 20 million of them are living in homes toxic enough to be reported to CPS.

While it is unreasonable to assume that all reports of child abuse merit intervention by social workers, it’s even more unreasonable to believe that all terrible child abuse is reported.

In this CASA GALs experience, many if not most of America’s badly abused children have gone to their grave without telling anyone or seeking help for their behavior and trauma based mental health issues.

This is not a reflection on the people working with at-risk children.  Social workers have the burden of abuse from an uninformed public blaming them when a child dies.

By accident or design, the HIPPA laws have long been used to ensure people working with at-risk children and their families are not to speak of their work or the conditions they see.  This is not what the HIPPA laws were designed for.

When Dee Wilson delivered the Casey Foundation report on Minnesota’s Child Protection system, he spoke to the Hennepin County Commissioners about the HIPPA laws had become a “red herring” and were not meant to keep people from speaking about the conditions existing in abusive homes and savage things done to defenseless children.

Dee’s report and the task force that was created after the death of four-year-old Eric Dean after many ignored reports of child abuse, did bring change to MN child protection – but it has never been enough.

Child protection workers are trained not to speak to friends, family, the media about even the generalities of conditions in the homes they visit. Because of this there is little access to meaningful information that might convince community members of the importance of prenatal care, foster homes and crisis nurseries.

The end result of decades of not reporting outcomes based metrics of institutional success and failure has been growing ignorance about what works and what doesn’t. Add to that the fast paced and dramatic change in society and the perfect storm of an institution creating the very things it was designed to stop.


EDUCATION (chapter x)

Teaching is hard in America today. Turnover is high and teachers are living with politically toxic parents and policies that can make

Preschool and grade school are the first and last hope for damaged children to lead healthy lives. 

For most abused children, school is the first safe space they experience. Ideally, children enter school ready to learn with the help of caring parents with the skills of parenting that prepared their child for the learning experience.

Trauma driven mental health and behavioral problems put abused children at a terrific disadvantage with their peers in the classroom.

Child abuse creates an overactive amygdala and an almost constant level of fear and anxiety.

Sitting quietly in a classroom absorbing math and history lessons is almost impossible for children with untreated trauma.

Managing outrageous often violent behaviors of at-risk children can take most of a teacher’s classroom energy and create a chaotic atmosphere that make learning harder for everyone.

When ACEs testing doesn’t happen, teachers can’t know the severity of behavior problems their new students are bringing with them into the classroom. Nor can the school know the numbers of troubled children that fill their schools.

Punishment model policies in American schools (and daycare) expel more students and young children than any other industrialized nation.  Some schools have funneled disruptive students directly into privatized juvenile detention centers. The long term costs to society of policies like this are enormous.

Post COVID, education is changing in ways we cannot predict even five years out.

The chances of educators having the awareness, tools or training identify and address the needs of traumatized students is growing, but radical change in American institutions is not common.

Screening children for ACES as they enter grade school would provide teachers with awareness of the children coming into their classrooms with adverse childhood experiences. That’s never been possible before in our schools.  How long it will take to permeate the 67,140 public schools in our nation is hard to know. Change like this could take a decade or two leaving million of damaged youth deprived of the education they need to lead a normal life.

information from teachers and schools is sparse but increasingly negative about the impact the COVID pandemic is having on poor, homeless, rural, and other at-risk children.

The lack of direct contact with at-risk children during the COVID lockdown has multiplied the effects of estrangement from mandated reporters and the normal and safe atmosphere of a school classroom.

Distance learning has all but eliminated any chance of a teacher having truthful or meaningful conversations that any mandated reporter needs for understanding hard truths a child might be living with.

Children locked in homes with their abusers don’t speak into a video monitor for risk of being heard. It takes a personal relationship and established level of trust for a child to report his or her abuse to a teacher.  Distance learning does not foster either.

It’s a terrific burden for teachers to have the awareness, empathy and skills to successfully shepherd a deviant sometimes dangerous child through a school year of disruption and bad behavior.

If schools were to report the number of ACEs impacted children in their classrooms, the degree to which the need for services could be known and better addressed.

The Individualized Education Program (IEP) has been a part of our education system for decades.

It’s great in theory, but overwhelmed schools have rarely been able to deliver the services to children that need them at an adequate level.

Pre-COVID, County social services, schools, courts and police departments have been hard pressed to manage the behavior problems and violence as a growing number of troubled children became troubled youth and adults.

Juvenile justice systems are filled with children with high ACEs scores and little chance of completing schools or leading normal lives. Most of these kids don’t have basic math and reading skills making it hard to compete for jobs or lead productive lives.

In the face of data showing otherwise, the numbers of children and youth suffering from the traumas suffered in toxic homes during the COVID lockdown are multiplying.

School districts, courts and social services will be hard pressed to find and fund programs that might provide homeless children, LGBTQ children, foster children and other long-suffering populations of at-risk children relief, safety and healing.

As this book is coming together, this current administration is providing significant funding to make things better for at-risk children and struggling families and the institutions that serve them.

There is no promise that in this political environment that these programs or funding will continue in the next administration or that the healing model of treating at-risk children and youth will replace the established punishment model of expulsion and imprisonment.

These two powerful forces at work in America today are diametrically opposed in their approach to managing troubled children. To this point in our history, the punishment model has chosen to put millions of children on a path to expulsion, early pregnancy and a justice system that has reached a 90% recidivism rate at nine years.

It is clear by the data available that helping children and families by choosing the ACES healing model over the punishment model pays bigger dividends and costs far less over time than maintaining the high crime and recidivism rates we live with now.



Without growing support from a better-informed public, the probability of maintaining adequate support for the people, programs and policies that improve the lives of at-risk children and families is unlikely.



Because print media is struggling as a business and that child abuse stories do not sell newspapers, investigative journalism and long form stories about abuse and child protection are rare.

Advertisers don’t want to be associated with the topic – it’s a losing proposition for the paper and a  financial disincentive news organizations to do serious reporting on this topic.

This does not explain the lack of representation for the absence of “child abuse”, “children’s issues”, childhood trauma” and other nomenclature referring specifically to at-risk children on social media.

It is rare to find these categories on drop down menus on media online.

It’s hard to know if this is because the general public doesn’t know or doesn’t want know.

Stories and data we do see in mainstream media are usually singular horrific cases that electrify people and create outrage.

Information that might give people insight into how many foster children end up involved in crime or leading dysfunctional lives are rare because the topic;

  • a) is not popular with the public,
  • b) the absence of institutional / governmental reporting or accessibility leaves the media without the information required to present a meaningful overview of how the schools/foster care/courts/social services/policing institutions are working or not working and,
  • c) the financial crunch media organizations have been living with means fewer beat reporters and it’s hard for any news organization to provide meaningful coverage in an atmosphere of toxic politics and brutal realities of the COVID pandemic.

The media will remain much like the legislature – reacting to the events of the day that are demanding their attention; COVID, Politics, Crime, Sports and the glitz and glamor of movies and the people that make them.  These things sell newspapers and the money and public support go to those programs and policies.

In KARA’s home state of Minnesota, at the time of the collapse of the 35W freeway bridge;

  • a billion dollars was made available to build a stadium,
  • along with a billion dollars to fund highways
  • and the billion dollars to rebuild a bridge that fell in the river,

At the same time, five million dollars could not be found for children’s mental health. It took MN Sheriff’s threatening to sue the State to provide mental health services as a wake up call.

Lack of concern for and services to children for their mental health care is a common reality in most states.

Will this end with one or two terms of favorable political era programs? Or will it be as is common, be a one-time surge for change with regression to the old norms a few years after this administration is replaced?

There will always be plenty of lobbyists and loud voices for sports, entertainment and transportation speaking with money and power overpowering the needs of voiceless children.


  • (CULTURAL & COMMUNITY) What happens in the family is family business.

Every community has social norms that determine local politics, law and child safety. 3006 American counties have huge latitude in interpreting state and federal laws. 4 states still have no minimum age for marriage.  In these and other states child brides have no standing in the court or rights to sue for divorce. Not much different than the laws of Pakistan.

The lack of information about the depth and scope of child abuse in the community combined with social norms, a discomfort to even talk about the topic of child sex abuse and childhood trauma leaves children vulnerable to more abuse and neglect.

Because of a media desert of investigative reporters and lack of transparency in state and county agencies, child abuse continues behind closed doors and remains unknown and unaddressed.

There is little desire or incentive for neighbors or friends to ask someone about the bruises or behaviors their apparently damaged child is seen to have.  What’s it like to know that the seven year-old in the apartment next door is being repeatedly raped by the gang members that hang there?

This reporter knows a man that cried when he told me his fear of reporting it.

I did not ask him how long he lived with it but he never reported it.

Parental rights are embedded in our culture along with a centuries old punishment model leaving only a small space for anyone but a mandated reported to show interest in how a family raises their child.

About half the 50 children this CASA guardian ad Litem helped to remove from toxic homes were sexually abused. This is a topic even avoided by mandated reporters. The stigma and fear of disruption keeps people silent.

This guardian ad Litem has had several mandated reporters openly state that they look the other way rather than get any of that on them.  To be sure, once the allegations of abuse are made, there will be consequences for all involved.  It takes strong people to do hard things.

It does not help that most people are not aware of the signs of abuse or domestic violence.

Without institutional transparency and hard-nosed media reporting the public will remain uninformed or misinformed and not support the people, programs and policies that would interrupt child abuse in their community.




My CASA guardian ad Litem case child, a small 12-year-old boy, beat his teacher so severely that she quit teaching and sued the State for her injuries. Her injuries were real and the ability of out of control traumatized children doing real damage to people is not uncommon.

Besides the agony of assault, physical violence and healing, what does it cost when an excellent teacher leaves the system because the classroom has become impossible to manage or dangerous?

Almost half of teachers quit within five years. These are costly failures that our institutions and service providers struggle with every day.

There has been a teacher shortage in America for many years. The COVID pandemic is having a heavy impact on the teaching profession today that will exacerbate the problem.

This guardian ad Litem has worked with school principals driven out of their positions by teachers demanding expulsion and law enforcement to manage troubled elementary students (instead of ACEs based training and healing models that actually work).

Add to this that Federal and State dollars cover only some of the costs of child protection.  Leaving child welfare to poor rural counties to fill in the gaps creates a huge disparity in child safety and education between rural and their wealthier urban counties.

Many poor counties struggle to maintain even basic services to their communities and have tiny budgets for child protection or child welfare.

An extreme but not rare example of avoidable child death is from KARA’s home state of MN;

At the time of four-year-old Eric Dean’s death in Pope County MN, 90% of the County’s child abuse reports were screened out.  There were three other counties in the state screening out 90% of reports at the time.

Minnesota’s average screened out rate was 71% more than the national average (about 60%) at the time.

A law on the books forbid social workers from reviewing a family’s prior history of child abuse. This was to lessen the load on child protection workers in the state, not at all conducive to keeping children safe.

Four-year-old Eric Dean died a slow death after fifteen reports of serious abuse by mandated reporters.

The boy was never seen by the county even during the single visit made by child protection at the time (because of his broken arm).

If they had seen the boy they would have seen what 15 mandated reporters saw – a face and head disfigured by teeth marks. https://mn.gov/mnddc/future/2014/2014-06.html

MN Governor Mark Dayton called this a colossal failure of child protection and formed a task force that called for change.

These are some of the solutions MN chose to work towards;

Executive Order 14-15

The Governor’s Task Force on the Protection of Children is created to advise the Governor and Legislature on system and practice improvements in the child protection system at all levels of government within the State of Minnesota. The Task Force will consist of members appointed by the Governor.

The purpose of the Task Force is to:

  • Review the current child welfare system to assess practices, especially at critical decision points, to ensure child safety.
  • Make initial recommendations on three areas:
  • Are pre-court protection protocols, including screening decisions and the family assessment process, adequate, and if so, are they being adhered to?
  • Does the child protection system have the capacity and resources to address child maltreatment reports, and to serve families?
  • Is there adequate supervisory oversight of local agency practices?
  • In addition, the Task Force will address:
  • Screening decisions when children are reported to child protection;
    2. Training of staff, child welfare training system, and workforce development;
    3. Workload of staff and supervisors;
    4. Cross reporting to law enforcement;
    5. State capacity to review county decisions/quality assurance;
    6. Handling of substantial child endangerment cases;
    7. Child protection protocols and adherence;
    8. Resources and funding; and
    9. Assessment of what Minnesota does well and where it needs to improve.
  • The Task Force will not examine court practices or procedures.


  • IS THERE: *Repeated inappropriate assignment to Family Assessment,
    • Inaction in the face of chronic multitype maltreatment, i.e., chronic neglect that
    deteriorates over time into physical abuse and/or sexual abuse or torture.
    • Neglect cases with seemingly limitless chances for parents to address chronic problems,
    exacerbated by ineffective safety planning.
    • Returning children from foster care before parents have made the necessary behavioral
    • Red flags that were missed or ignored by medical providers.
    • Concerning number of children killed in foster care, especially kinship placements.
    • Alarming number of cases (12%-15%) that had signs of or clearly were torture.
    • Children returned to parents with serious mental illness
  • How many vulnerable children are being left home alone or in the care of abusive boyfriends/drunk uncles or other inappropriate caregivers?



It’s important to restate that children do not have a voice at the Statehouse

where funding and laws that impact them are made.

What a lawmaker hears every day are the complaints and demands small business, hired lobbyists from well-funded organizations and institutions along with “on fire” community issues that need immediate attention. Lawmakers read newspapers that are filled with the important things that make it into the paper.

Only a tiny fraction of child abuse is seen and reported.  Only the very worst stories make it into the paper – usually involving death.

Abused children don’t have a voice in their homes,

the courts that rule their lives, the media or the State House.

Because only the worst kinds of child abuse stories are reported on by the media, it’s uncommon for State Lawmakers to have knowledge about what’s working or broken in child protection.  What KARA hears repeatedly from lawmakers is that they see allot of money going into programs with few results.

Child advocacy voices come from kind-hearted people employed or volunteering in the fields directly involved with at-risk children. These are people in underfunded or overwhelmed organizations that rarely have the kind of resources to make a dent in the minds of legislators being lobbied by powerful business interests that appear in the media regularly.

Being a worker bee in an area of child protection and a voice for laws that protect children are two different things.

In most counties, child protection workers are not incentivized to speak of what they see outside of work.

Managements fear of social worker burnout and breaking the HIPPA laws (that are wrongly used as a reason to not speak at all).

KARA argues that if more people knew the conditions these children live in it would drive more people to support the crisis nurseries, quality affordable day care, foster/adoption initiatives and other resources that improve life for at-risk children.

To be fair, counselling child protection workers to leave their work at the office has valid arguments.

Social worker burnout, secondary trauma and the high turnover in many County child protection agencies, make it sound advice if you want people to last longer in the position (about 40% of social workers quit the first year). This statistic is an indicator of just how hard and complex the work is.



Parenting skills don’t come from the stork.

Children of parents that were abused children will raise their children just as they were raised. Child abuse is generational until the community interrupts it and heals the trauma.

The science of epigenetics demonstrates gene expression predicting behavior patterns in the next generation.

This makes generational child abuse more likely to continue even in families that heal and end abusive behaviors.

The combination of inherited traits and absent parenting skills living in a community too poor or unconcerned to help dooms millions of American children to lives of toxic stress every year.

People familiar with CPS know how common it is for families to return to the system repeatedly over many years and multiple generations.

To a girl that grew up with violence and trauma and the absence of love, having a baby is a path to love. It’s also the calculus of a toxic home for her child.

She will love her baby and find joy and love like any other mom.  But she may leave the child in the crib unattended for a day or two when she is cracked out on meth or leave the child at home alone or with her drunk uncle or violent boyfriend.

Teen and preteen pregnant moms

without parenting or life skills

can’t help their child learn

what they do not know.



Are children property of their parents even if those parents are violent, addicted, severely mentally ill or dangerously criminal?

If mom grew up with drugs and sexually active from an early age, will her daughter grow up the same without help from a caring village?

How many American children are doomed prior to birth by a severely mentally troubled teen or preteen mother unable to feed & keep her baby safe?

Children have no voice at the legislature, the media or in the home they are born into.

They have no choice in who raises them or what is done to them.

Children don’t even know when what is being done to them is wrong.  What would a five-year-old say and to whom if she knew?

Over 2.5 million children and adolescents have been born to 17 year-old and younger girls.  That’s nearly 750,000 teen pregnancies every year. Parenthood is the leading reason that teen girls drop out of school. More than 50% of teen mothers never graduate from high school. About 25% of teen moms have a 2nd child within 24 months of their first baby.

When a 13 year-old becomes pregnant, is the baby her property to do with as she pleases or does the baby have any rights to health and safety?

Many teen moms become pregnant a second and third time while using drugs and not having acquired safe parenting skills.  Their children suffer immensely.

would ratifying the INTERNATIONAL RIGHTS OF THE CHILD TREATY change any of this?


Is it right or useful to punish children for behaviors learned and practiced in their birth homes? Expulsion from school and incarceration of at-risk children and juveniles may be responsible for growing America’s giant prison population and over the top crime rates.

About 200,000 youth are tried in adult courts each year and most teen prostitutes are criminalized.

The U.S. only recently ended executing youth and those who committed crimes as youth (Texas has ignored the federal mandate). As this book is being written, the Supreme Court is considering reversing their earlier decision.

Should we expect children to change behaviors because we have removed them from the toxic home they were born to?

Sex and drug use practiced in the home at 5, 6 and 7 years of age can make life in a foster or adoptive home dangerous and a constant crisis for the caring family trying to help and lead to dozens of placements for a troubled State Ward child.

Normalized sex and drugs are child habits not easily discarded.  Habit and addiction are real.  Not knowing effective ways of dealing with these behaviors serves no one and further demonizes the child.

Should law enforcement punish child prostitutes and drug users who are victims of caregiver rape and parent drug addicts?

Most of these information and better questions come from Jack Westman’s Book; https://books.google.com/books/about/Dealing_with_Child_Abuse_and_Neglect_as.html?id=FXuODwAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=kp_read_button&newbks=1&newbks_redir=1



Unhealthy parents raising traumatized children cost our communities 2.8 MILLION for each child in lost earnings and taxes.  45% of county expenditures are related to troubled families and their children

About four million adolescent children have contracted sexually transmitted diseases – 64,000 spread AIDS.

Parents that raise healthy children create productive citizens that produce 1.4 M in adulthood earning and taxes (and often other social good/volunteerism etc).



How would you unteach drug use or sexual behaviors to a twelve-year-old that has been sexually active and smoking pot or crack since he or she was seven or eight?

Are foster parents right worrying about their own children having sex with or otherwise being impacted by State Ward children with scary habits?


CHILDREN HAVING BABIES; Is this child safe with a 16 year-old mother with, no parenting skills, mental health, drug problems and a violent boyfriend in a nation with FETAL ALCOHOL possibly under reported by a factor of 10?


Half of Kids Born to Teen Moms

in Foster Care Will Wind Up

in Foster Care Themselves





It’s normal to think child abuse is a painful rarity instead of the pervasive life damaging thing that it is. How do we change this? When we know how many babies, children,  juveniles and adults are impacted by trauma and abuse and how much trauma damages schools, courts, public health and public safety – we can interrupt and reverse these long established trends.

Better answers will appear in communities that find a path

to accountability, reporting and transparency.

When educators, law enforcement, social workers and foster families

make public their stories and data, change can happen.








 Comparing America’s

At Risk Children With Other Nations


Between U.S. states


Child abuse is a controversial third rail for American politicians. Racial and poverty issues are significant factors in child abuse and domestice violence. Today’s politics are making even children’s issues a political football. 

For decades, our public policies have not been kind to struggling families. Our propensity for expulsion from school and incarceration heaps institutional punishment, cost and pain on huge numbers of families.  

Divorce, domestic violence and child abuse were greatly impacted by the COVID lockdown. 

America fails to protect children because of our deeply held beliefs. 

Punishment and suffering consequences are front and center in America today. 12  and 13 year olds in some states are being forced to birth unwanted children because abortions are illegal. Technically, ten year and eleven year olds may face the same fate even in cases of rape. In some states, rape by parent will not save the child from from going full term.

In many Red States, parental rights are keeping the family sacred at the expense of vulnerable children. 

Newborns in America are regarded as personal property. Just like women 100 years ago. Abuse is a family matter, not a court matter. 

Child Protective Services are being attacked in greater numbers by parental rights and religious groups and lawsuits. 

It’s worth repeating that the U.S. is the only nation in the world to not ratify the United Nation’s Rights of the Child Treaty of the 1980’s. Children have no standing in court or ability to challenge their abuse on their own.

At risk children are not abused in a vacuum. Abuse and violence are common to over stressed at risk families without the skills or resources to manage the next bad thing. 

The cost of raising children in America is arguably higher than in any other industrialized nation. Daycare is a good example;

According to the City of Helsinki, the cost of early childhood education in a daycare center is based on the family’s gross income, size of the family, and extent of the service. Early childhood education for 5-year-olds and pre-primary education for 6-year-olds are free-of-charge for four hours a day. The fees are invoiced once a month. The amount of the fee depends on the family’s size, service need (number of care hours), and gross income. The total amount of the fee depends on your family’s size, service need (number of care hours), and gross income. The minimum gross income limit as of March 2023 is €3,874 for a family of two and €7,028 for a family of five or more. The maximum fee for one child in daycare is €295 per month, and the lowest monthly fee is €28 per child. Families with very low income are exempted from payment.

According to a report by Child Care Aware, the average cost of center-based daycare in the United States is $10,158 per year or $847 per month for toddlers.

According to a report by Move.org, the national average cost of infant child care is $216 per week or $11,232 per year. This number can be much higher in some states. For example, in the District of Columbia, infant care costs an average of $21,678 per year. 

Because affordable daycare has been hard to find for so many families, drunk uncles and boyfriends often provide a dangerous substitute for daycare. This accounts for about 26% of child death known to CPS at the hands of caregivers. 

Because raising healthy children is a public good, our social policies should strengthen families. 

Instead, current policy acts as if there is nothing we can do help families or children until provable claims of child abuse are made. Parenting skills, family resources and mental health services are absent without being directed by CPS after the damage is done.

Compared to other industrialized nations, parenthood is not accorded a high value in America. 

Our culture places money and work over parenting or child wellbeing. There is no comparable 

Other nations provide up to 85 weeks of maternal parental leave (Estonia). In the United States, there is no federal requirement for paid parental leave. It is very difference  in Europe;

  1. Finland: Starting in 2021, both parents are entitled to parental leave of 164 days each. Parents will be able to transfer 69 days from their own quota to the other parent. The parental allowance will be paid until the child is 13 weeks old 1.
  2. Norway: Parents are entitled to a total of 49 weeks of parental leave at 100% pay or 59 weeks at 80% pay. The father is entitled to 15 weeks of leave, while the mother is entitled to 15 weeks. The remaining weeks can be shared between the parents as they see fit 1.
  3. Sweden: Parents are entitled to a total of 480 days of parental leave at 80% pay. The father is entitled to 90 days of leave, while the mother is entitled to 90 days. The remaining days can be shared between the parents as they see fit 1.
  4. France: Both parents are entitled to take paid leave until their child’s third birthday. In addition, parents can extend the length of parental leave by choosing a lower benefit amount 2.

It’s worth noting that paid parental leave is an important benefit that can help families balance work and family responsibilities.

Even Third World Nations are making us look bad;

  • Costa Rica: Costa Rica has made significant progress in child health, education, and poverty reduction. It has a strong focus on universal healthcare and education, which have contributed to better child well-being indicators.
  • Cuba: Despite facing economic challenges, Cuba has achieved noteworthy advancements in child health and education. The country’s healthcare system is renowned, and it has achieved low child mortality rates and high literacy rates.
  • Vietnam: Over the years, Vietnam has made remarkable strides in improving child well-being indicators. Efforts have been concentrated on reducing poverty levels, enhancing access to education, and improving healthcare services.
  • Rwanda: Rwanda has shown impressive progress in various child well-being indicators, such as reducing child mortality rates, addressing malnutrition, and expanding access to education.


A growing number of third world nations outperform by metrics of

child health, health, education and other measures of child wellbeing

with the U.S. States  LISTED below.

Children living in countries America has compared itself to since the end of the second world war live better lives by most metrics. This study from the 1990’s indicates that things have not changed much for at risk children in America.

The most glaring comparisons are of third world nations and those states that sit at the bottom of most child wellbeing charts.

According to the 2023 KIDS COUNT Data Book, the following states rank the lowest in overall child well-being:

  • Mississippi
  • Louisiana
  • New Mexico
  • Arizona
  • Nevada
  • Alaska
  • Arkansas
  • Oklahoma
  • Texas

The top seven metrics of child wellbeing are;

family and social environment, (social fabric, family well being and support)

economic circumstances,(food/shelter safety, absence of poverty)

health care, (access to health care/prenatal and child care, women’s rights)

physical environment and safety, (crime, violence, racial disparity)

behavior, (traumatized children and adults lead dangerous often

dysfunctional lifestyles making them prone to commit acts

that result in expulsion from school and incarceration as juveniles).

education, (are children “ready for school”?

Do they have the basic skills of communication and

Social interaction with teachers and their peers in school?

health. (access to healthcare, insurance, mental health service)


Observable issues;

Why does Vermont has 1% of juvenile robbery arrests that occur in Maryland or

Why do 19 states still have a juvenile death penalty on the books when federal law forbids it?

On a typical day in 2021, two thousand juveniles are confined in local jails in America – 85% of them charged as adults. Youth in the adult criminal justice system face a higher risk of sexual abuse, physical assault, and suicide.

Incarcerating children with adults denies them access to essential programs and services, including basic and special education, as well as treatment and counseling services. Education is closely linked to reducing re-offending. A strong argument can be made that harsh punishment of juveniles is largely responsible for the near 90% recidivism rate at nine years in our criminal justice system today.

The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry says solitary confinement of juveniles can lead to depression, anxiety and even psychosis. In recent years, seven states have passed laws that limit or prohibit the use of solitary confinement for youth in detention facilities.

Alabama, Georgia, Kansas, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Wyoming “had no statutes, administrative or court rules limiting or prohibiting solitary confinement for juveniles,”

Every day, children in the justice system face solitary confinement, strip searches, shackling, pepper spray, restraints, and physical and sexual abuse.

The United States, South Africa, and Israel are the

only countries to sentence juveniles to life in prison.

The United States is by far the most egregious violator of the

prohibition on juvenile life without parole sentences

and containment in solitary confinement.

13 states have no minimum age

for prosecuting children as adults.

Alaska, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia have no minimum age for the adult prosecution of children. Very young children are vulnerable to unfair pressure when accused of crimes. 

The absence of a minimum age also exposes very young children to being held in adult correctional facilities, where they are at increased risk of sexual, physical, and psychological abuse.

The United States, Japan, Singapore and Taiwan were a few developed countries to retain the death penalty. China and Bangladesh also retained the death penalty. In 2022, there were 18 executions carried out in the United States and only one in Japan. Of all the nations in the world, only Iran imposes the death penalty on juveniles.

According to a report by the National Center for Juvenile Justice, the United States has one of the highest rates of youth incarceration in the world1. The report also states that the U.S. has a higher rate of youth confinement than any other Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) country1.

Louisiana, the state with the highest rate of Juvenile crime, has about eight times more arrests (1,173 arrests per 100,000 youth).

Vermont has the lowest juvenile robbery arrest rate (just 2 per 100,000 youth).

Maryland has the highest rate (205 per 100,000).Aug 20, 2019. 

In 2020, there were about 100,000 serious violent crimes committed by youths between the ages of 12 and 17 in the United States.Jun 2, 2023

Carjackings and auto theft have become go to Juvenile crimes in America. Of particular concern has been the unprecedented rise in violence and armed carjackings committed by young car thieves, some as young as 12 or 13. 

In Minneapolis, for example, there were 779 carjackings in 2021 — more than triple the number in 2019. The suspects arrested were often juveniles between the ages of 11 and 17. Other cities saw significant increases too, including New Orleans, LA, Kansas City, MO, Louisville, KY and Washington, D.C. In Chicago, there were 1,400 carjackings in 2020, with juveniles involved in nearly half of them. Chicago police say there have been 370 carjackings in the city of Chicago in the first two and a half months of 2021.

75% of Minneapolis/St. Paul Carjackings have been committed by juveniles.

Men were more often victims than women, blacks more than whites, and Hispanics more than non-Hispanics. 56% of carjackers were identified by victims as black, 21% white, 16% Asian or Native American, and 7% mixed race or unknown.

Here are the 10 states with the highest number of carjackings in 2022, according to the NICB:

  • California: 202,685, up 1%
  • Texas: 105,015, up 10%
  • Washington: 46,939, up 31%
  • Florida: 45,973, up 6%
  • Colorado: 42,237, up 10%
  • Illinois: 38,649, up 35%
  • Ohio: 29,913, up 6%
  • Missouri: 29,345, up 10%

More items…

May 6, 2023

About five states have a strong public education system, affordable healthcare, and a low poverty rate. They also have programs and initiatives in place to support children and families, such as early childhood education programs and after-school programs. Massachusetts, Hawaii, and New Hampshire top the 2023 State Scorecard rankings for health system performance, based on 58 measures of health care access, quality, use of services, costs, health disparities, reproductive care and women’s health, and health outcomes. The lowest-performing states were New Mexico, Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Mississippi.

According to the most recent reports by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the worst states to be a child in America are Mississippi and New Mexico. In the report, “child wellbeing” is broken down into four different categories — economics, education, health and community. All 50 states are ranked on a variety of factors, including child poverty, access to quality education, healthcare, and safety. 41 states allow child marriage in America.

The laws of Pakistan require a girl to be 16 to be married legally. The United States ranks 53rd in the world on the Global Gender Gap Index,

It is also disheartening to know that Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and Columbia all report child poverty rates of under 30%.

Mississippi ranked last in all of these categories

with a child poverty rate of almost 30% and

no minimum age for marriage if the child is pregnant.

No where in the U.S. can a child bride sue for divorce until she is 18.

Young girls taken legally,

have no way out of abusive relationships.

Combining this abusive reality with the fact that abortion is now totally banned in s growing number of States makes women helpless and without recourse to rape and required to birth their rapist child.

It’s also hard to understand how the U.S., the greatest Democracy in the world could actually be the only nation in the world to not ratify the 1980’s Rights of the Child Treaty. This is why boys and girls under 18 legally are chatel without any rights. Just like women were until 1926.

The laws of Pakistan require a girl to be 16 to be married legally. The United States ranks 53rd in the world on the Global Gender Gap Index,

It is also disheartening to know that Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and Columbia all report child poverty rates of under 30%.

 5.6 % of American children is the average number of children unable to access healthcare insurance over the last ten years.


What state has the most juvenile crime?

The Children’s Defense Fund reports that more than half of all children in adult prisons were held in just five states: Florida, Connecticut, Ohio, Mississippi, and Arizona 3. The American Civil Liberties Union provides a map that shows the number of youth incarcerated per 100,000 people in each state 4.

Here are the 10 worst states for children’s healthcare:

  • Mississippi.
  • Texas.
  • Louisiana.
  • Wyoming.
  • Indiana.
  • West Virginia.
  • Kentucky.
  • Oklahoma.

States with the Best Public Schools

  • Massachusetts. Massachusetts has the best public school system in the U.S. 48.8% of Massachusetts’s eligible schools ranked in the top 25% of high school rankings, a total of 167 schools. …
  • Connecticut. …
  • New Jersey. …
  • Virginia. …
  • New Hampshire. …
  • Maryland. …
  • Delaware. …
  • Nebraska.

More items…

More than 1 in 6 teens who gave birth in Texas in 2020 already had a child.

Texas does not require sex education and has the strictest abortion law in the nation.

Teen Birth Rates by State

  • Mississippi. Mississippi has the highest teen birth rate of 27.9 births per 1,000 women. …
  • Arkansas. Arkansas has the second-highest teen birth rate of 27.8 births per 1,000 women. …
  • 3.. Louisiana. …
  • Oklahoma. …
  • Alabama. …
  • Kentucky. …
  • Tennessee. …
  • West Virginia.

The U.S. is the only nation in the world to not have ratified the

United Nation’s Rights of the Child Treaty of the 1980’s

CRC is an international human rights treaty adopted in 1989.

By following CRC, public bodies must consider the best interests of the child when doing anything that affects children. CRC protects the rights of children in all areas of their life, including their rights to:

  • life, survival and development
  • freedom from violence, abuse and neglect
  • express their views in matters affecting them, including in legal proceedings
  • education
  • an adequate standard of living

Because America has refused to ratify this treaty, children have no standing in court. Arguably, they are chattel, as were women before the 19th amendment was certified in 1920.

This study from 25 years ago, examines the statistical comparisons between

the U.S. and our Peer Nations, across multiple child wellbeing criteria.


According to the Wall Street Journal, homicides committed by juveniles acting alone increased 30 percent in 2020 over the past year, while those committed by multiple juveniles jumped 66 percent. Most recent federal data shows that the number of killings committed by children is the highest it has been for two decades.

According to a report by World Population Review, the United States has the highest rate of incarceration in the world, with an incarceration rate of 629 people per 100,000 

In terms of youth incarceration, the United States also has the highest youth incarceration rate in the industrialized world, with 225 youth incarcerated per 100,000 (as of 2015) 

According to a report by The Sentencing Project, on a typical day, 114 out of 100,000 youth nationwide are held in juvenile facilities, pre- and post-adjudication, with rates varying widely among states

The highest incarceration rate is in Alaska, where 330 out of 100,000 youth are in placement, while the lowest rate is in New Hampshire, where 20 out of 100,000 youth are held.

The rest of the industrialized world has adopted a more rehabilitative approach to juvenile justice.

According to a report by The Sentencing Project, the US continues to incarcerate youth at many times the rates of other nations. For instance, the US youth confinement rate is 11 times higher than Asia, 10 times higher than Eastern Europe, and 7 times higher than Oceania. The report also states that incarceration is an ineffective strategy for steering youth away from delinquent behavior and that high rates of youth incarceration do not improve public safety. Incarceration harms young people’s physical and mental health, impedes their educational and career success, and often exposes them to abuse.

In contrast, other advanced nations have adopted a more rehabilitative approach to juvenile justice. For example, in Germany, the focus is on the child’s welfare and rehabilitation, rather than punishment. The German system emphasizes education, counseling, and therapy, and the use of detention is limited to cases where it is deemed necessary for the child’s safety or the safety of others. Similarly, in Japan, the juvenile justice system is based on the principle of “education and guidance” rather than punishment. The focus is on rehabilitating the child and reintegrating them into society.



Chapter Group #3


Economic and social costs, racial issues,

government and institutional perspectives;

(Child and foster care, adoption, education, law enforcement,

public & mental health, child protection, courts and jails).

These issues are intertwined and need to be understood as America’s social fabric. American institutions provided “we the people” with the top quality of life metrics for many decades. The best in the world. 

Slowly, invisibly, our institutions have lost their ability to produce the results they used to. Many American States now have metrics comparable to 3rd world nations. 

The economic and social costs of childhood trauma are everywhere. It is not hyperbole to suggest that a significant percentage of 3.5 million children reported to CPS annually, go on to lead dysfunctional and very costly lives. For decades, 80% of youth aging out of foster care have lead dysfunctional lives. This book is about saving them and the others children and youth we have let slide into despair.

The ACES studies have determined that abused children go on to lead lives of chronic illness, dangerous lifestyles and early death.

The cost of crime and punishment in America is reported to be between half and one trillion dollars annually. These numbers do not include a meaningful valuation for the person and family that suffers the terrifying, violent crimes that fill our media. 

Those costs are extreme and life changing when they happen to you and the people you care about.

With 5% of the world population we hold 25% of the world’s prison population. Our prison 9 year recidivism rates have held at between 80 and 90% for a decade. 

It starts early for an abused child. Trauma behaviors become seamless and often violent outbursts to unseen triggers (sounds/actions/words). 

These behaviors injure the child and the people around them. These behaviors expel, incarcerate, and ostracize the child and the adult they become.

These behaviors are impacting cities and states at every level. Education, healthcare, public safety, courts and the fabric of the community suffer immensely.

The COVID lockdown has and is denigrating the mental health of a large percentage of our population. 

The increased stress on at-risk families during the lockdown created more serious domestic violence and increased levels of violence against children over longer periods of time. More trauma, more broken and violent children. Higher social and financial costs that will roll through our institutions and communities over the coming decades

More preteen moms with no parenting skills, drug habits and violent boyfriends and simultaneous increases in crime, violence and need for more jails and prisons. 

Today, 40% of Americans (the most in 30 years) say they would be afraid to walk alone at night within a mile of their home (Gallup poll).

Dealing with violent people became repeating terrible experiences for people employed in public facing fields. This was exceptionally hard on Law Enforcement and Health Care workers. Educators and Social Service workers felt the human separation of digital/distance working and failures that have only begun to show up in meaningful metrics. 10% of Minneapolis MN 3rd grade Black children achieved grade level proficiency recently (one of many unhappy recent education metrics). 

Add to that, the death and sickness of COVID suffering families of teachers, health care and law enforcement makes understanding the mass resignations and why so many people left and continue leaving important public facing jobs. It also explains why employee turnover in public facing fields is still increasing. 

This at a time the population of troubled people is growing and the things troubled people are doing is becoming more dangerous.

The “Great Resignation” due to stress and burnout caused by COVID will continue shrinking labor pools and making it hard to find (and keep) qualified people for important institutional work. 

This is and will continue to be a crisis of recruiting and retention across most public facing fields.

As it happens, institutions do what they can with what they have.

This diminishes public health, safety and education.

Today our institutions are forced to do more with less and reevaluate employee and policy requirements to reflect a more modern approach to the work being done.

Police Chiefs have long decried harsh punishments for youth and juveniles and turning law enforcement into mental health service providers. It’s possible that MN Sheriff Rich Stanek’s position on more and better early childhood education will become more widely accepted thinking in the land of law enforcement. 


Policing; (from Police1.com)

In June 2021, the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), released its Survey on Police Workforce Trends, which noted a 45% increase in the retirement rate and an 18% increase in the rate of resignations among law enforcement agencies from last year. Some areas are worse than others. 

Minneapolis law enforcement was so severely understaffed it had to pull officers of investigative duties to staff 911 calls.

The Nevada State Police reported a 135% turnover rate during FY2020 and costs to “… recruit, evaluate, and onboard a police officer [in that state] is approximately $100,000.” 

Note, Police training in America has always been punishment oriented. 

This has lead to decades of racially unjust enforcement and violence against Blacks and other BIPOC populations disrupting families and communities that will take a very long time to heal.

100 million Americans have a criminal record today, and our incarceration and recidivism rates are higher than in any other nation in the world. 


*****One-third of teachers experienced at least one incident of verbal harassment or threat of violence from students during the first full pandemic school year, and 14 percent were physically attacked.

Teachers are spending greater amounts of classroom time managing disruptive behavior and keeping children safe from violent students. The profession is much less the happy place it has been. Learning how to de escalate and manage violent children has become a big part of teaching. 

Many educators spend most of their teaching day keeping a child safe from self-harm or other children safe from a violent student. 

Traumatized children repeatedly hurt themselves and others. Daycare providers are the first public faces to experience out of control child self-harm or attack them or other children. Empathy for very young children is more common at this stage but still unbearable to people managing a daycare. Thus;

  • Preschoolers are expelled at three times the rate of children in kindergarten through 12th grade.
  • Preschool-aged boys are four times as likely to be expelled as girls are.
  • African American children are expelled almost twice as often as Latino and white children and more than five times as often as Asian American children are.


Expelled children don’t get the chance to learn social / emotional skills required for health, education and the world around them. They grow up knowing they are “other” amidst their classmates. Their classmates have self control, better language and thinking skills. I just don’t compete and don’t belong. Self-loathing is common among fostered children.

In school, they struggle and are left behind in reading/math/communicating/socializing and “feel” limited & humiliated compared to their classmates. Many of my caseload children spoke of feeling like a “freak” and unable to fit in or compete in school. School aged kids are not kind to children that don’t have social skills or exhibit troubling behaviors. Social media is a powerful tool for humiliating low functioning children and those that don’t fit in.

This is just the beginning of a path of rule breaking, punishment and expulsion from grade to grade and then to dropout. At a certain age, children become aware of just how they don’t fit in.

Young children can mask their “otherness” to a point – mainly because they just don’t know how different their lives are from their classmates.

But when they do become aware of how different they are, the feeling is terrible.

Punishment models are ingrained in our institutions, most of us and are almost impossible to shed.

This CASA GAL has witnessed a grade school principal removed from his school because he used a very successful healing model instead of a punishment model.

I have come to know a number of bullied and abused teachers and a MN grade school principal suicide.

School superintendents are under great pressure to answer to the politics of the community and not the practices that save children.

Parental rights have long trumped children’s rights. Today’s parental rights movements come down hard on at-risk youth. It’s mostly about punishment on this side of the ledger.

Few states have adequate counseling or mental health services for the level of despair, depression and traumas their students bring to school. Violence in schools continues to drive teachers from the profession and add to the negativity of a politicized school system of angry parents.

When I began as a CASA Guardian ad Litem, students outnumbered school counselors 964 to 1. Today, it’s 408 to 1.

The depth and scope of mental health problems facing school children demands more than this.

Teaching at every level becomes more difficult and dangerous every year we remain stuck on the expulsion/incarceration track.

Minnesota’s former Supreme Court Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz has remarked that “The difference between that poor child and a felon is about eight years”. She has also stated that “90% of the youth in Juvenile Justice have passed through Child Protective Services”).

On any given day, nearly 60,000 youth under age 18 are incarcerated in juvenile jails and prisons in the United States.


Youth of color are much more likely than white youth to be held in juvenile facilities. In 2019, the white placement rate in juvenile facilities was 72 per 100,000 youth under age 18. By comparison, Black youth were 4.4 times as likely to be incarcerated (315 per 100,000); Tribal youth were 3.2 times as likely (236 per 100,000); and Latinx youth were 27% more likely (92 per 100,000). Asian youth were the least likely to be held in juvenile facilities (19 per 100,000).

For many people working with or living with children and youth that have passed through CPS we know the truth of these words. Terribly abused children become troubled youth and often abusive and dysfunctional adults that spend most of their lives in and out of prison and other government institutions.

The goal of America’s punishment model is to punish the offender – not heal or reform the offender to prevent them from re-offending. Most U.S. prisons do just that. Many are very harsh. Only recently has Georgia finally ended prison chain gangs.

Incarceration rates in the US are the highest in the world, with over 2 million people incarcerated in prisons and jails. The average sentence length is over 5 years.

  • Black people are 3.7 times more likely than white people to be arrested for drug possession, even though they use drugs at similar rates.
  • Black people are 6.7 times more likely than white people to be incarcerated for drug offenses.
  • Black people are 2.5 times more likely than white people to be sentenced to death.
  • Black people are 7.1 times more likely than white people to be killed by police.
  • Black people have been overcriminalized for many decades.
  • Black people have been racially profiled and unable to afford good legal council to this day in most states.
  • Law enforcement bias is well established in the US. Federal oversite of police departments in Louisiana, Minnesota, Cleveland and New Jersey are just recent examples of the violence done to Black people in the name of the law.


For over a decade, the rearrest rate for felons in the U.S. has exceeded 80% with an average of nearly seven arrests each.

BIPOC people in general have historically suffered more police bias and scrutiny than white people.  This has delivered longer sentencing and harsh treatment to to many millions of disenfranchised American citizens every year for many decades.

Other forms of punishment include fines, probation, parole, and community service. Fines are monetary payments that are imposed on offenders. Probation is a form of supervised release in which the offender is allowed to remain in the community but must follow certain conditions, such as not committing further crimes or meeting with a probation officer regularly. Parole is a form of conditional release from prison in which the offender is released from prison but must continue to meet certain conditions, such as not committing further crimes or reporting to a parole officer regularly. Community service is unpaid work that is performed by offenders as a form of punishment.

The use of capital punishment, or the death penalty, is also a controversial issue in the United States. The death penalty is currently legal in 27 states, but it has been abolished in 22 states and the District of Columbia.

The punishment model in the United States has been criticized for being too harsh and for not being effective in reducing crime rates. There is a growing movement to reform the criminal justice system and to adopt a more rehabilitative approach to punishment.

Here are some of the arguments in favor of the retributive punishment model:

  • It deters crime by making the consequences of crime clear and severe.
  • It provides justice for victims by holding offenders accountable for their actions.
  • It protects society from dangerous offenders.

Here are some of the arguments against the retributive punishment model:

  • It is too harsh and does not take into account the circumstances of the crime or the offender.
  • It does not rehabilitate offenders and can actually make them more likely to re-offend.
  • It is expensive to incarcerate offenders.

The statistical debate over the impact of the punishment model on children and youth in the United States has been lost. 

Educational Adverse Outcomes for Minorities

Policing presence in American schools = increased student dropout, suspension, expulsion, arrest, and incarceration.

Most scholars have shown a doubling of arrest rates in schools with active policing and that  students most impacted by punitive disciplinary policies are poor, youth of color.

About a third of all public schools have School Resource Officers, SROS (between 15,000-20,000). They are career sworn officers who receive the same academy training for street patrol as other police officers.

Imagine you are an untrained or undertrained SRO in a high school filled with a significant number of juveniles from poor BIPOC families. 

Many of these youth have high ACE scores (years of trauma from their birth family). 

SROS with only street patrol training managing students with behavior problems including violence and a hatred of authority that comes with trauma visited upon them by their parents (the most important authority figure in their life) means treating youth as criminals instead of children.

This policy is unfair to police officers and cruel to kids that have the mental health issues suffered by abused and neglected children and youth. 

The decades old 80-90% nine year prison recidivism rate starts here.

KARA holds that enforcement of exclusionary disciplinary policies is a primary driver pushing ethnic and racialized youth out of schools into the school-to prison pipeline. 

Ethnic and racial minor-ity arrests in American schools make up more than 70% of all school arrests. 

For decades, the correlation between educational institutions and police power have been sending ethnic and racial minorities into American prisons and jails. 

Law enforcement in schools has been a controversial issue for decades. 

Rising rates of violence coupled with increased attention paid to school shootings were a catalyst for federal funding for more police.

Militarized policing and punishment oriented policy makers have created Zero-tolerance and harsh disciplinary policies, feeding poor BIPOC children and youth into harsh and outdated Juvenile and Criminal Justice Detention/Jails and Prisons systems. 

America’s appetite for punishment is greater than our desire to help children and youth grow into productive members of society.

By any measure, expulsion and incarceration are failing socially, morally and financially. The financial costs of bad public policy have been growing for decades.

The tax burden of maintaining the largest prison population in the world and it’s tremendous recidivism rates plus the pain and suffering endured by tens of millions of victims each year is destroying communities.

We are past proving that there can never be enough prisons, courts and cops to keep communities safe from the growing trends of crime and violence.

This KARA report on crime in America breaks down the more granular social, insurance and tax costs of crime in America today.

A study conducted by the National Center for Juvenile Justice (NCJJ)examined juvenile incarceration rates by race, while also examining the proportion of ethnic and racial minority incarceration rates to White incarceration rates ethnic and racial minorities are incarcerated at a rate of 

4:1 in17 states across the nation; 

8:1 in four states across the nation;

and at least 2:1 in nearly every other state in the nation (ACLU, 2013). 

In California and Texas of 5,463 youths placed in detention facilities in California in 2017, over 82% were African Americanand Hispanic. 

In 2017, Hispanic youth in California had the highest rate of incarceration in juvenile detention facilities (3,078) and were incarcerated at a rate 302 % higher than their  White peers. 

Of 4,963 youths incarcerated in juvenile detention facilities in Texas, almost 60% are African American and Hispanic. 

In 2017 Hispanics had the highest rate of juvenile incarceration in Texas (1,587) and were incarcerated twice the rate of Whites.

 According to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy, two-thirds of students who cannot read proficiently by the end of the fourth grade will end up in jail or on welfare. Additionally, over 70% of inmates in America’s prisons cannot read above a fourth-grade level1.

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention funded a study of 2,670 juvenile offenders, which found that the average student, while 15 years, 6 months of age at the time of testing and in the ninth grade, was reading at a fourth-grade level2.

Moreover, 85% of all juveniles who interface with the juvenile court system are functionally low literate1.


It is important to note that literacy skills are closely linked to incarceration rates, and that early literacy intervention can help prevent future criminal behavior1.

Learn more:

  1. governorsfoundation.org2. ojp.gov3. edsource.org4. childrensdefense.org5. edjj.org6. begintoread.com7. proedtn.org8. nces.ed.gov+4 more

Until healing models and caring for at-risk children and families are incorporated into Education, Public Health and Public Safety/Law Enforcement, the huge fiscal and social costs of crime, violence, and prisons will continue destroying our social fabric.


What to Do?


fixing the overlooked and misunderstood

institution of child protection in America

By replacing existing models of

Medicating, punishment, expulsion/incarceration

with healing, skill building and

social/relationship practices.

 Commit 5 minutes every day to 


BY starting this conversation in your community.

 Change will come when enough of us 

(an educated public – you and me) 

share (repeatedly) our data, stories

 and our concerns with policy makers and administrators. 

Until the people that direct and fund the institutions 

that rule the lives of abused and neglected children

Understand the problem,

Nothing will change.

We all have State Representatives, County Commissioners 

and other lawmakers 

(find yours here).

Most of us have people in our lives that will advocate for the children unlucky enough to be born into toxic birth homes 

if they understand the need

Some of them may have influence 

(or know people that do) 

in fields that impact the lives of abused children – 

Education, Law Enforcement, Health Care, 

Foster Care/Adoption and Social Services. 

Change will come when enough of us commit to 

starting this conversation.

For those of you who find this conversation hard to have;

Share and like KARA’s website and other social media (www.invisiblechildren.org 

 https://linktr.ee/kidsatrisk ).






How you engage is personal.


Finding the conversation that is most compelling to you.

Taking the first step is the hardest. 

Find it and do something

 (ideas below).

Consider, articles or investigations of children murdered by caregivers (as is currently the issue in MN)  or the specter of preteen moms or violent robbing or carjacking in your city.

decisions are reversible

Your motivation and desire to engage 

will create a habit of bringing attention to your issue.

Meaningful acts:

Understanding your issues (thoroughly) makes you credible in your efforts.







Mental health is an evolving science with much disagreement. Be prepared for pushback. At the very least, watch and rewatch these short videos 

https://www.avahealth.org/what-we-do/videos/14-minute-summary.html on childhood trauma. 

If you are a reader, read one of https://tinyurl.com/2p84uv89 or both of 

https://tinyurl.com/4ruek95bthese books on childhood trauma (they are very readable and definitive).

Share these seminal works with your friends and circle of influence.

AI and the internet.

AI is a powerful tool providing you immediate  background information that will help you to build deep and accurate awareness of the thing you are most concerned about. Yes, you much weigh what you see for validity, but keep in mind that all data is questionable.

Institutional data is the most questionable, especially CPS as it is what they don’t report that we most need to know.

University studies and white papers are a great resource. Sign up for Academia Letters. It is an innovative open access journal publishing original research and review articles many of which touch on our topics.

Google searches on all research topics to find specific data and articles that shed light in seriously unreported data.  Be specific in your search and leave the search running and you will find tweaking the search helpful to find more of what you want.

The more comfortable you become asking AI for help and sorting through multiple answers to craft your own opinion the more accurate, cogent, and powerful your insights will become. This is required to be persuasive.

You have taken the first steps in building your awareness necessary to reversing the policies and practices bringing us the sad stories and data in this book.

Interrupting decades long trends of trauma and generational child abuse requires patience, trust and a committed and involved community.

Parenting classes, schools, daycare / early learning programs are the most cost effective means of making this happen.

Trauma informed workers get results that last. 

Skill building equals mental health.

These are not esoteric concepts. People with skills lead a happier and more productive life.  Skillbuilding and healing from trauma are within our grasp. 


Training the trainer models in our institutions will be the most productive use of tax dollars in the battle to empty prisons and build safe communities.

Trauma trained public health nurses know a great deal. 

Moving more of them into social services and engagement with at risk families with the ability to offer resources to broken families and troubled youth saves children and families.

When law enforcement knows trauma and de escalation procedures we will all be safer and happier. Schools will keep kids in school where they get the help, healing and skill building necessary to lead productive lives.

At this time of climate, crime, broken communities, COVID, war and toxic politics, children have no voice but ours.

Many of our nasty problems will be fixed if broken children are healed to become healthy adults.

Children made ready for school will cause less chaos and do better. Graduation rates will rise, school performance will improve, graduating students will achieve more and go on to lead productive lives with healthy families, gainful employment and far less cost to communities, states and the nation.

This is not beyond our reach.

Movements start small and are amplified

by each person that commits something to it.

Because childhood trauma is a relatively new thing, many people are confused by what the word means. Add that to lack of meaningful metrics and limited public reporting of child abuse, it’s easy to see why we are confused by what it means.

To help with what “trauma” means in this conversation, let’s start with comparing trauma suffered by veterans and how life has changed for so many of them.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, an estimated 500,000 veterans who served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have experienced mental health problems, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and substance abuse. 

Compare this to the millions of children (3.5 reported to CPS every year – well over 35 million children over a ten year period facing entire lifetimes of trauma related mental health issues.

This is a cog in the wheel of successful schools and all other institutional functioning. What is it like to be a law enforcement person, social worker, teacher with that many young, angry and often violent mentally unhealthy children?

The suicide rate among veterans who served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is at least twice as high as the suicide rate among the general population. In 2020, there were an estimated 6,220 veteran suicides, accounting for 17% of all suicides in the United States. 


 According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide was the second leading cause of death among children aged 10-17 years old in 2020 1.

 Over the past decade, and suicide is now the eighth leading cause of death in children aged 5-11

According to a study of more than 700 California 17-year-olds in foster care, 41% reported they had thought about death by suicide and nearly one-quarter had attempted it 1. Children in foster care were almost four times more likely to have considered suicide and almost four times more likely to have attempted suicide than those who had never been in foster care 23.

It’s important to note that juveniles in confinement and foster care have life histories that put them at higher suicide risk 2. Suicide among youth in contact with the juvenile justice system occurs at a rate about four times greater than the rate among youth in the general population 2.


Because there is little to no reporting of child self-harm, suicide and suicide attempts for children in CPS (or any other government agency), we can only refer to emergency psych visits and suicide attempts reported by individual hospitals and clinics in the U.S.

Several medical groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, have cited the rise in child suicide rates as a public health crisis 1.

Data collection of suicide, attempts and other self harm by abused and neglected children does not exist. If it did, KARA’s projections would look like this based on the data that is reported:

Suicide ideation

There are two types of suicidal ideation. 

It is, but should not be controversial.

 It is why the packaging of ALL psychotropic medications include the warning: “Antidepressants increased the risk of suicidal thinking and behavior in children, adolescents, and young adults in short-term studies”.

Suicidal ideation Type 1, Caused by psychotropic medications. These numbers are known but not tracked or reported. KARA’s estimate is that at least 10% of abused and neglected children proscribed psychotropic medications experience full blown waking violent suicide visions of killing themselves.

Suicidal ideation Type 2, Caused by trauma and abuse and psychotropic medication side effects: between 25% and 50% of abused and neglected children think about killing themselves.


Abused and neglected children: 

Dangerous behavior and lifestyle of  abused and neglected children (25-50%)

Self harm as a percentage of  abused and neglected children  (15-25%)

Suicide and suicide attempts by  abused and neglected children (10-15%)

Until the Iraq war, “trauma”

 was unspoken,

invisible and not well understood.

It never made it onto our radar.


To win this social/institutional war of growing generational child abuse, school failure, crime, recidivism and jail building, we must begin shifting the trillions spent on creating more broken people to at risk families and children.

What stands in the way of this shift towards saving the ten million children that needed help and didn’t get it over the last twenty years? It can’t be money, because what we are spending now is manufacturing millions more broken people –  institutions that are creating what they were designed to stop; crime and lifetime State Wardism.

These costs are in the trillions annually (page 232).

Not included in these costs are the continued decline in trust of public institutions,

continued inability to provide safe homes for at risk children,

continued inability to provide mental health services for broken children,

continued exodus of strong motivated teachers  from the profession,

Continued exodus social workers and law enforcement from their professions.

COVID has delivered many troubling changes for American institutions. Front line workers in all the professions faced a negatively changed landscape to do their work. Policing, teaching, health care and social work was not easy pre COVID. COVID brought more dysfunction, greater numbers of suffering unhappy people. It also brought violence and an atmosphere of danger. Hospitals see guns in the ER, violence against teachers has become much more common and there is good reason that so many law enforcement people are absent today.


Changing America’s institutional approach to working with traumatized youth is where we must start. 

Support for foster families and individual relationships will be interspersed within these pages.

Maintaining a need to blame parents and punish students will not help in efforts to save at risk children.

Having said that, punishment will always be with us. 

Some actions are so heinous the perpetrator 

How we administer these punishments and want out of them make them viable/useful or further destroy the children and youth involved. More on that on page (

It’s hard enough to manage relationships with children and youth from healthy homes. People that don’t have the triggers and behaviors that come with abuse have social and intellectual skills that make reasoning with them work. Even they have their moments of unreason and bad behaviors. Add to that, how politics and media of the day are creating a distance and distrust not helpful to civil behavior.

Badly damaged children are often hardwired to

hate authority of all kinds

They have been brutalized by the most

significant authority figure in their life


Kids that need a caring teacher the most are the hardest to reach. They often do not trust authority to be in their best interest. Hateful responses to authority figures are common. It can be terrible to be that person.

Not everyone has the ability to reach 

that very damaged children.

No judgment here. 

We all have strengths and weaknesses. 

Our institutions need to adapt the massive numbers of children living with traumas and the behaviors they bring to school and into the community.

Schools need to manage at-risk youth with effective protocol and policy that meet the needs of staff and students.

Changing this nation’s centuries old punishment centered institutional behaviors will be difficult.

The longer it takes, the more crime, prisons, broken people and broken institutions we will be forced to live with.

Many of us start this conversation steeped in old school training that striking/spanking and expulsion and punishments as go to means of disciplining a child. 

Some of us will find it impossible to do otherwise. 

Their arguments range from “how we’ve always done this” to “done to me and I turned out OK”.

To you I ask; Is your satisfaction with punishment more important to you than the better outcome of that student staying in school? 

Most likely this badly behaving child is being brought up in a violent or otherwise toxic home and suffering from abuse. 

These are the children that treat authority figures with disrespect and often hate. Violence is common. No amount of punishment from school, law enforcement or any other authority figure will ever match what happens to them in the home. Retraining a terribly abused child with more abuse just doesn’t work. Their skill set is to out think the authoritative abuser. 

School is the last place many children can find “normal”, safety and the keys to life in the community. 

Whether expelled or leaving on their own, this child’s destiny is diminished exponentially. 

Reading is a civil right most of them will never obtain. 

Those that cannot do basic math will fail at every aspect of economics in America’s harsh capitalism.

They become the preteen moms without parenting skills, and adolescent felons that spend lifetimes of crime in and out of prison. 

Schools will need to solve the blunt instrument use of punishment and blame if the next generation of Americans is to break the cycle of generational abuse.

For those who blame parents know that they are just exhibiting the skills they don’t have and the behaviors that served them in the abusive homes they came from.

Generational child abuse is at the core of this book. Parenting skills don’t come from the stork. 

Women and girls that lived through CPS have experienced years of pain and trauma. 

They find the love of a baby a path to love. 

To a horribly abused girl, her baby is love – love she has never had and wants badly. 

Mom will adore and love her babies even if she is violent, has a pedophile boyfriend, a drug habit and no parenting skills. The numbers are higher than we think.


Does a baby have a right to protection? Does a mother own her child (does the child have a right to safety?)


There are 13.6 million single parents in the United States raising over 21 million children. Single mothers account for 80% of single parents, while single fathers account for the remaining 20%.

* Anticipating that

* De-escalation; Inner city hospitals with emergency psych wards know de-escalation. It’s not brain surgery – it’s training.

All of us (teachers, law enforcement, social & health workers – anyone working or living with at risk youth) need to know de-escalation. This is key to avoiding a most common behavior problem alive but hidden inside children subjected to major trauma. Violence is just the other end of the circuit that is made when a word or action by an innocent person triggers the seamless response that hurts someone. 

Knowing what to say that will not further provoke a child that has incorporated violent behaviors in certain situations for their own safety can be calming and provide safety to all involved.  Knowing not to stand between the child and their escape route. Not shoving or  shouting because you know you will not win with a child that has been through layer after layer of abuse and violence and is hard wired to continue this battle at all costs to not do what you want done.

more healing resources and repeated attempts to save, heal, fix the children and families ending punishment and first choice

Until courts and judges begin to grasp the mental health issues that make children and teens from toxic homes commit crimes and otherwise behave badly (often violently) in school and towards pretty much any authority, little or no progress can be made. We have been growing more militarized policing and bigger prisons.

Putting broken children and teens into detention and jails with older and more accomplished broken teens and adults has served our nation poorly for many decades.

You now se how these invisible problems have festered and are visible in out data, news and politics.

Until understanding these issues reach a tipping point with our friends and neighbors, State Legislators, other policy makers and  administrators will continue to make and enforce policies/programs grounded in punishment that are making matters worse.

Arguably, ending the punishment models currently used on children in schools, homes and courts could significantly alter the wellbeing of children not expelled, not incarcerated and not humiliated for their trauma based behaviors and lack of skills. If we were to invest in the skill building/coaching, mental health and healing models suggested by the ACEs community, change will come much quicker.

There is nothing easy about this transition and success will come slowly.

Damage has been inflicted repeatedly over decades, teens and young adults having experienced it will be the hardest to recover and will need to be addressed more fully than young children that respond better to healing models, skill and trust building.

Positive results will become apparent as growing numbers of broken, ostracized children and youth gravitate back into becoming functioning community members. This is not a zero sum game.

In fact, each recovering youth is one more person;

Earning a living

Paying taxes and

Not spending a lifetime as a State Ward

Not costing State, County, Federal dollars

Becoming a contributing member of the community and

Not committing crimes against their neighbors

Growing a healthy family and

Not becoming another family of domestic violence, abused and neglected children that will

Continue to perpetuate the next generation of more and more unhappy/unstable children/juveniles/adults

Jumping In

Top line involvement;

Hands on/hands off/time/money – it’s all important.

Funding organizations/people helping/ fix the problems is easier for many people than stepping into the uncomfortable world of child abuse and dealing directly with damaged children.

Hands on working with children and organizations in this space is hard for many.

First steps to being effective at

whatever path/s you choose;

Understand the issues and be grounded in reality.

Below are selected quality resources to further your study of the issues outlined in this book. Investing your time or dollars in poorly chosen efforts based on a misunderstanding of the issue is bad for your and the people involved.

If you are a hands on person, find a mentor in your area of choice to learn from. While decisions are reversible, it’s best to be grounded by people in the field. Working with babies, toddlers and teens require different skill sets. The child’s ACEs scores will be helpful in identifying how troubled a child will be.

Most of us will have a favored age range and limits to the range of bad behavior we can manage.

How many hours/weeks/months are you willing to commit?

A CASA guardian ad litem child advocate in court may require ten hours/week and travel. Showing up for your State Rep or other government official with studies, stories and passionate concern for your community’s most damaged children could be a few emails and face to face visit once a year. Below is a list of agencies and ideas for your review. A better fit for your search may be people you know in your community already involved. Ask them what they think you should look into.

Start slowly – don’t overcommit and don’t start something that you are not likely to succeed at. Go with your gut feelings in choosing any hands on work with abused children. Further study on your part is important.

The secret to effective volunteering is longevity.  Children need you here next year too. It doesn’t help if you put your toe in somewhere only to find it so traumatic you just can’t bear to be involved.

Find something that is not overwhelming to you. Overwhelming in this space can mean emotional attachment and the secondary trauma that comes with seeing and dealing with small tortured beings trying to make their way in the world. Secondary trauma is very real. Without understanding and preparation we can easily become part of our environment. Take the time to understand what it is and how to minimize it before diving in head first.

Things To Do to Prevent Child Abuse

  • Volunteer your time. Get involved with other parents in your community. …
  • Discipline your children thoughtfully. …
  • Examine your behavior. …
  • Educate yourself and others. …
  • Teach children their rights. …
  • Support prevention programs. …
  • Know what child a
  • know the signs.
  • Report abuse
  • Invest in your community’s children…

Read more here; https://www.dcyf.wa.gov/safety/prevent-child-abuse



Four-year-old Eric Dean was slowly tortured to death by his mother in Minnesota after 15 ignored reports of abuse by mandated reporters (the boy was never seen by CPS).

At the time, four Minnesota counties were screening out 90% of child abuse reports. At the same time, social workers were forbidden by law to review prior histories of abuse in the investigation of new reports. Only one report was followed up on by child protection and the boy was not seen or spoken to at any time by CPS. Eric had multiple broken bones and the autopsy photo showed severe facial and head scarring by his mother’s teeth marks.

Had the boy been seen at any time during the investigation of the 15 reports of abuse, he would likely be alive today. This is a single terrible example of a child protection failure and a reminder that only the worst of the worst cases are ever known to the public. The vast majority of rape, torture and other abuse is never reported and remains invisible except for the scars left on the child. Some will argue, including this author, that a significant percentage of child death caused by caregivers is not reported on children’s death certificates. Reporting & transparency of child abuse must be addressed if child abuse is to be interrupted.

Recent Investigative reporting by Safe Passage For Children demonstrates detailed accounts of how and why about 200 MN children came to die at the hands of their caregivers while known to CPS. The report also provided statistics showing that about 200 MN children died at the hands of caregivers from 2024 to 2022.  Even though many of these children were seen by CPS, they were not kept alive by a community that had observed the imminent harm their their family had been to them before they were killed.

Today, life is unsafe for many children in Minnesota’s Child Protection System. MN has been a leader in child safety nationally. Compared to MN, few states have anything like the reporting Safe Passage for Children of Minnesota has done.

 Arguably, a large percentage of U.S. states are far more likely to die at the hands of their caregivers than than they are in MN. More of this kind of investigative reporting needs to be done on a national level. Importantly, (to this authors knowledge) the Minnesota report is the first of its kind in the nation. Contact Safe Passage for Children of MN to learn more about this report. https://safepassageforchildren.org/


Minnesota was a leader in child well being until many child friendly initiatives were undone by a single MN governor of the early 2000’s. This this recent report (the only report of its kind in the U.S. to date) investigating MINNESOTA child murders by caregivers occurring while in CPS suggests;

  • Most other states are experiencing a significantly higher child fatality rate at the hands of their caregivers while in CPS. Many states, like ND, neither track or present meaningful outcomes based measurements or detailed information about child abuse or child death within their state.
  • Nationally, exponentially more children are being traumatized and tortured by parents and other family members than ever reported. Some states, like North Dakota, …. list other states. have little or no CPS data or reporting on child death at the hands of care givers let alone child self harm and suicide attempts while in CPS.

It only takes a single child unfriendly administrative or budget downturn to undo years of child well being initiative to endanger already damaged and at risk children.

Neither child safety or trauma recovery can happen at scale without understanding biologically, socially and behaviorally the depth and scope of the child abuse / child protection problem. Without institutional tracking, reporting and transparency, these conditions simply are not understood by makers and administrators. This lack of understanding is impacting healing and recovery of many millions of abused and neglected children and the adults they have become. It also explains the their impact on the communities they live in.





Recovery – Healing to help people lead productive lives vs

Punishment – Extended chaotic behaviors and dysfunctional lifestyles


Policy makers and Institutions must employ child friendly healing models in place of counterproductive current child and youth punishment models.

The cost of bad practices over time has been exponentially higher the cost of implementing methods that solve the problems. Schools get better results embedding de-escalation, skill building and relationships. Expulsions (from day care, elementary and high school) and uniformed policing further alienate broken children and criminalize them . Children brutalized by the most important authority figure in their world trust no one and fear and hate adult authority figures. Uniformed officers and parental figures rise to the top of a traumatized child’s fear and hate list – followed by teachers and anyone else telling them what to do, how to behave or doling out punishment.

De-escalation, skill based coaching, and trauma programs are far more effective and less costly than a punishment system that has overwhelmed medical providers, broken schools, created unsafe neighborhoods, full prisons, and growing recidivism.

Resources required for healing, skill building relationship services need to be understood, appreciated, and made widely available. Compassionate healing & skill building models will eliminate institutional dysfunction that is adding more trauma to the already abused.



Teaching skills to cope and rebuilding trusting human relationships

gives children the ability deal with their trauma, grow / heal and live a productive life.


Communities that recognize the long-term human, social, and financial costs of childhood trauma behaviors, will adapt institutions to address the outcomes of their institutions. They will shift from medicating and punishment to healing. They will track and evaluate metrics that provide meaningful outcomes (metrics that matter).

With meaningful data, better decision will be made. Resources that matter to process, people and programs build skills and heal children that can succeed in school and the community. Innovative behavioral health solutions exist to facilitate easy access to evidence-based clinical tools and services allowing individuals to take control of their own mental health and wellbeing.

We know how to build mental health and well-being skills strength.  After decades of clinical research and providing care, we now have science-based, precision-driven, and cost-effective digital health solutions for individuals, practitioners, health plans. These solutions can be delivered through schools, colleges and employers to transform mental health and wellbeing.

It is important to recognize the need and develop age-appropriate learning activities and embed these skills in every level of a child’s education: early childhood development, pre-school, childcare, K-12, college (both 2- and 4-year). To help fill the void while schools adapt, non-profit organizations that advocate for children can help train their coaches to work with children and families to strengthen skills in these essential mental health and well-being areas.



Children re appear in County child protection over time and County record keeping can be sporadic and incomplete for the children involved.

This population of vulnerable citizens with lifestyles and behavior problems that are often dangerous to the child are a serious and pervasive problem

When not dealt with adequately, that add millions in tax dollars and incalculable social costs to communities.


Teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases

The United States has continued to maintain one of the highest STD rates in the developed world (do not include 3rd world nations in chart). America has the highest gonorrhea rate of 124 per 100,000 people and the third-highest rate for chlamydia of 479 per 100,000 people. STD rates are increasing in the United States for many reasons, including decreased condom use amongst vulnerable groups such as young people and gay and bisexual men. Additionally, state and local programs have experienced budget cuts, resulting in clinic closures, decreased screenings and care, and reduced patient follow-up.


Adolescents ages 15-24 account for nearly half of the 20 million new cases of STDs in the U.S. each year.

Today, two in five sexually active teen girls have had an STD that can cause infertility and even death.



America’s historical abandonment of meaningfully addressing mental health has left us with a nation of very troubled people that cause the communities they live in to suffer greatly.

DR Bruce Perry “25% of Americans are special needs people”

Stated 10 years ago.

60% of youth in juvenile justice and almost half of criminal justice inmates receive psychotropic medications.













Children’s Mental Health Prozac and Policy





Epigenetics is real.  Gene expression is the same for violent and abusive behavior as it is for other behavioral and biological traits (migraines, alcoholism…)

Mental Health definition & history (include DR Sulik chart)



Epigenetics is real.  Gene expression is the same for violent and abusive behavior as it is for other behavioral and biological traits (migraines, alcoholism…)









Empowerment & Change

Teachers, administrators, health and social workers and others working with at-risk youth rarely feel empowered to advocate for change (especially major change). 

The opposite is true most of the time.

Social workers and others in Child Protection Services have been and continue to be threatened with firing if they say anything to any media about the work they do. The public does not need names. They need to know the metrics of success and failure of the children being served. 

Few workers know the outcomes of the children they work with. High turnover and the CPS procedure of moving children from worker to worker based on age and 

Social workers are threatened with overused and severe punishment of misunderstood and misapplied HIPPA laws. 

Most CPS regulations require workers to “leave work at the office”. While the stress of this work is best left at the office – the only people that could advocate for these children are told not to. It may not be in the best interest of either the employee or the child they care for to not make at least the conditions or results more broadly known.  Children are dying in large numbers in MN while in CPS because there has been so little public understanding of these issue.

Most of the Law Enforcement people we spoke to about this gave a repeated perspective of how useless reporting and enforcement were in their experience. Many simply did not believe it useful or helpful to anyone involved to engage and enforce protocol with youth that (in their minds) would certainly be back on the street doing the same thing in a short period of time.

The medical field has broken the mold of institutional silence. The ACES (Adverse Childhood Experiences) studies and movement are the primary driver of change in America and around the world today. Stunning to this CASA Guardian ad Litem is the slowness of public and legislative acceptance to the terrible metrics and narrative around children’s mental health.

For everything good there is to say about ACES there is almost no correlation between its positivity and the inadequacy of the services and tracking of meaningful metrics in children’s mental health. Other than recent data about 12 year old suicides, we have been able to find very little information about the very young children living in toxic homes and foster homes that 

Workers in these fields need their jobs and live in fear of making mistakes and breaking rules. Calling out institutional failures gets everyone in trouble and solves nothing in their eyes.

Most of them keep their head down even though they know it would be better if the issues were on the table. 

Pushback to institutional improvement will continue to come from institutions and policy makers until this changes. The punishment model is baked into our policies and attitudes and people don’t like change. Legislators in America’s conflict oriented political system are glued to expulsion, incarceration with very little skill building or restorative justice. 

Until awareness builds and enough voices shout the benefits of better policies and healthier children change cannot happen (why this book – share any or all of it widely).

Aware institutions can become empowered. To become empowered, enough loud and committed voices must join the conversation.

This will take committed advocates strong enough to wage the battle against centuries old Puritism based policing, prison building and long term punishment. Decades of our nine-year 80+% recidivism has never been equaled by any other nation in the world. 

The good news is that dramatic changes in terrible statistics should come quickly when costly, failing punishment practices become healing relationship models. Prisons will shrink, high performing schools will again compete internationally, and we will all enjoy a more productive and safe society.

This will not happen without public demand for change. Use this book to grow your community’s understanding and support for the children and policies that need change.

Solution Design and Resources

 Childhood traumas identified and addressed early in childhood are the most effectively addressed.

Extended exposure to rape, starvation, violence and neglect become torture (World Health WHO “Extended exposure to violence and deprivation”) and have more impact on a child’s biological brain change, mental health and behavior.

Students with…
3 or more ACEs
• 2.5 times more likely to
fail a grade *
• more likely to be unable to
perform at grade level **
4 or more ACEs
• 32 times more likely
to have a behavioral
problem in school ***

Social and health care workers and educators are are ground zero as mandated reporters for identifying child abuse. They are also first in line for ACES training  and providers of ACEs testing in their community. Where ACEs testing is not being done in schools or CPS, the courts could and should mandate it for all children and juveniles. This would identify early on those individuals with high ACE scores who will be recurring offenders in the community and who would respond more to ACEs healing methods than the punishment models employed otherwise.

Toxic stress
that is strong,
prolonged and
frequent elicits
a frequent fear

(and near constant anxiety in severe cases)




Because this is America, there will always be loud voices demanding more punishment and less healing and fixing of offenders. They will not easily be swayed by the most powerful arguments of economics, ethics or community. To this point in our history, these voices have won the arguments for minimal education, health and mental health care, more and bigger prisons, longer sentences and chain gang like conditions in our nation.

Clearly, courts and law we have the tools and capacity to achieve this transformation.

Mental health experts know what is to be done.  Front end investment is required but the cost is modest. Long-term, costs for required services will be much less than current mental health and behavioral costs and a tiny fraction of the huges cost of broken schools and communities and public safety.

Healthy families are the foundation for moving ahead.  Expanded community involvement provides support to reduce stress on families.

Nonprofit organizations and advocates fill gaps in institutional services while they go through change.  Education embeds growth in mental health and well-being skills at every age level.


The latest Child Trends study demonstrated the positive effects of programs like the Earned Income Tax Credit reducing child maltreatment.  Screened in reports fell from 47 per thousand to 32. Families struggling to find work and feed families live with greater stress and duress and are more likely to have violence and substance abuse issues than others.

This book will show the human, economic and community positives of relieving poverty for young families.


  • Interruption
  • Healing, Skill Building and Recovery
  • Prevention (epigenetics)


Interrupting child abuse and childhood trauma is difficult as child abuse is invisible outside of the home. Most abuse is only identified by mandated reporters that see obvious signs of abuse. Neglect and psychological abuse are really hard to identify.

What’s it like to be told by your mother that she “wished you had never been born”? This CASA guardian ad Litem has heard this from multiple children. The impact of this statement is life-changing and terrifying to a child. Questions asked by healthcare workers can help children tormented in their homes if we build it into our medical institutions.

Many mandated reporters don’t report child abuse (especially sexual abuse). “Don’t get any of that on you” is a direct quote from a mandated reporter this author knows. It takes courage and commitment to be a mandated reporter. Many people (including those who are mandated to be reporters) are not up to this task. A friend of the author feared for his life for reporting the rape of a six year old living across the hall from him in the apartment building he lived in. Her father was a gang member.

Only a small percentage of child abuse is ever reported. Only a percentage of those reports are screened in and investigated. Nationally, between 30 and 60 percent of child abuse reports are screened out depending on the state and County service agency getting the call.

Recognizing generations child abuse 

As a public Health Crisis is 

the first step towards transforming 

our thinking and institutions

to become the solution 

rather than part of the problem.


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All Adults Are the Protectors of All Children


“What we do to our children, they will do to our society”

(Pliny the Elder, 2000 years ago)