Mike Tikkanen’s Public Comments on the Guardian ad Litem Cost Effectiveness Analysis

for the Minnesota Guardian ad Litem Board Dated September 15, 2023

This report (the actual final report is posted below)

  • This report:
  • Is not the report introduced to CASAMN. This report’s title, study and focus were changed by management from COST BENEFIT TO COST EFFICIENCY disregarding the initial agreement with CASAMN and against our repeated disapproval. This allowed management to concentrate on internal efficiency metrics and ignore critical volunteer benefit differentiators. This adds to the explicit program management bias herein.
  • Makes no reference to the National CASA organization. Its 40-year history, positive performance and statistics are completely ignored. Renee Youngs interview with National CASA director (Sally Erny) was not included. Sally Erny was one of only two people Gerard Bodell knew would give a wholesome overview of this program, Judge Kapplehoff was the other – both were excluded. There are 950 CASAs, almost 100,000 volunteers in 49 states today. CASAs handle the majority of Guardian ad Litem roles in the nation and have for decades. CASA volunteers have a far stronger performance record as it related to visiting children, attending hearings, and turning in meaningful reports on time. But this reality doesn’t come through in this report. Whether by accident or design, the failure to include National CASA in this discussion of volunteer performance detracts from the validity of the report and its conclusions.
  • Misleads us by not including Retired Judge William Thorne’s interview and ignoring public statements by Hennepin County Juvenile Court Presiding Judge Mark Kappelhoff. Judge Kappelhoff very publicly stated that the 4th District GAL program is in a crisis status because there now is a lack of substance both in oral and written communication coming from the current GAL pool. This is a result of the hasty hiring of young and inexperienced people to replace the exodus of volunteers (from well over 300 to 32). This occurred because of the toxic program atmosphere and poor treatment of volunteers. Renee Youngs was asked repeatedly to interview this Presiding Judge and she did not do so. Again, by accident or design this judge’s oppositional opinion has been ignored building program management’s bias toward paid staff.
  • Misleads us about costs in the executive summary – the heart of this audit. The state spends approximately $23 million on the program annually, and of that amount, the cost related to supervising volunteers is approximately $56,000 plus benefits, which is the cost of one supervisor. That’s it. This cost translates to less than $1,200 per case – not the $2680 claimed in this report. Again, because CASAMN was not included to help analyze results before the report was presented publicly.
  • Fails to mention a long decades long appreciation by prior program management that the pool of volunteers was 1). diverse (40 qualified BIPOC volunteers currently on hold some for two years) and 2) always available for hiring over the years. Think about this: a diverse pool of volunteers that are trained and experienced that can be called on to become staff when needed. This pool of capable people will also be eliminated if program management gets its way and kills the program. 10,000 committed community volunteers will not be there over the next 40 years. What will caseloads look like when Minnesota’s tax revenues shrink? Cycles of boom and bust are always with us when economies rise and fall. But the child abuse and neglect figures never go down. Caseloads skyrocket and traumatized children will be further underserved.
  • Fails to mention the long history of retiring community CASA volunteers to continue their work for at risk youth. The list is long, but volunteer CASAs like Denise Graves spending millions of dollars for foster housing after leaving CASA, volunteer Rich Gehrman and his extremely effective Safe Passage for Children of Minnesota and their powerful INVESTIGATIVE REPORT on children murdered by their parents while in CPS, Lola Adebara / Founder of Partnerships for Permanence, Ariana Guerra, and Foster Advocates to name just a few.
  • What’s critically missing from this report is the ongoing lack of transparency in the program and the suspicion that volunteers are being removed because the program does not appreciate that volunteers and retired volunteers speak out about program needs and deficiencies. To be fair, this is also a problem globally throughout CPS. Management finds it easier to circle the wagons and not let out critical information at times of stress. This is understandable but indefensible. We must add more transparency and child centered outcomes-based metrics to this program to facilitate better decision making.

The most egregious underlying piece of this report may be misleading me and CASAMN’s president Gerard Bodell about participation in the process and the untruth that there was to be openness to the end result based on a meaningful analysis. The deceptive initial (fishbone) exercise inviting our participation into the completely fake volunteer benefit analysis exercise wasted our time (many hours) and insulted our intelligence. Not a single piece of information from this tedious exercise made it into this report. I maintain this was deliberately misleading and deceitful by program management to reassure us that this process was inclusive. Other than monthly discussion with program management, CASAMN had one kick off, one interview meeting and one share our meeting with Renee Youngs (the auditor). CASAMN was allowed no discussion or input with Renee Youngs after the interview meeting and don’t know how many meetings and phone calls Renee had with program management as there has been no meaningful transparency in any part of this process.

I think that Tami Baker Olson will agree that Gerard Bodell has been patient and pleasant to work with throughout this process – even as I’ve tried to convince Gerard that this entire effort has been a charade as is now evident in this report. I thought this because 1. most of the volunteers had already been removed or quit prior to my invitation to breakfast with Victor Walker to discuss the ongoing program evaluation and cost benefit analysis (June 2021). 2. Gerard made many offers to program management to help with funding, training, or management of volunteers. Anything to start a positive conversation. There is no evidence any of Gerard’s initiatives received any indication of consideration to slow or stop the elimination of this volunteer program.

This elimination of well meaning, qualified community volunteers at a time of COVID impact on at risk children and families and social upheaval and institutional distrust is misfeasance and possibly malfeasance by program management.

Trending high juvenile crime and poor school and mental health outcomes throughout our communities need more not less hours, energy, and commitment from a concerned community.

To deliberately remove hundreds of qualified, caring community volunteers in this tight labor market and high employee turnover is a very bad decision. Guardian ad Litem work is challenging work and stressful. Finding qualified employees has always been difficult. For most of my 28 years in the system, the program has had a waiting list for Guardians. Caseloads get higher and quality becomes an issue. Because the learning curve is long and stress and turnover are high, the costs of turnover and training will likely always be high.

1. The agreed-upon cost-benefit analysis was not done.
2. The analysis did not include any material facts regarding the 950 volunteer CASA organizations and the work of almost 100,000 volunteers nationally.
3. CASA Minnesota was excluded from actively participating in this review as agreed to.
4. The exemplary qualifications and performance of our volunteers, and their actual cost-benefit, was buried in this report.
5. I argue that the results of this report were predetermined, and information specifically gathered and massaged to achieve the results desired by program management.

Noted in the report is that employees missed 83% of the required child visits. This appears to be a mistake and needs to be investigated. If true, imagine the life saving benefit of having an additional 300-400 volunteers (the size of CASAMN volunteers before program management ran them off) who made at least one monthly visit each to determine the safety of the home and condition of the child! That important information is critical to give judges insight in making the difficult decision as to whether the child should be removed from the home.

CASA Minnesota went to the capital supporting the increased budget for more guardians and higher pay. We were incredibly surprised to find the additional funding to be accompanied program management eliminating volunteers instead of lowering caseloads.

Surrounding severely traumatized children only with employees further institutionalizes them in a cold overwhelmed system. New adult faces quickly passing through their lives at a time they are frightened and alone. Volunteers bring time, a community presence, passion, and concern to a well-meaning but cold and scary institution.

Please work with CASAMN to correct the inaccuracies within this analysis and find a path to better serve Minnesota’s at-risk children.

Our properly screened, trained, and supervised volunteers are simply too valuable to discard and too desperately needed by the children we serve.

According to the National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse:
• 3,000,000+ new reports of child abuse and neglect are made every year,
• Of which Children’s Protective Services, or “CPS,” confirms only 1,000,000 cases,
• Worse yet, 72% of all children who were confirmed as abused or neglected did not receive ANY assistance from CPS.
• All evidence suggests that child abuse and neglect are under-reported, under-investigated, under-confirmed, and under-prosecuted.
• Because the System designed to protect them repeatedly fails to intervene, children who survive the initial report of abuse remain in homes where they are re-victimized and recycle through this System year after year.
• Of the cases reported, over 1,300 children die each year of abuse or neglect – most at their parent’s hands. In Minnesota alone, over 200 Children died at the hands of their parents while in CPS over a recent 8-year period.
• These figures are VERY conservative because we know that child abuse is under-reported, under-investigated, and under-confirmed at every level.
• 90% of these children were age five or younger.
• Nationally, almost half of all child murders in our country had a case with CPS at the time of their death.

How can we possibly let 300-400 trained volunteers go when this is what children are up against?

We need every asset we have to combat this scourge. We know what happens when underserved children survive their abuse: they are scarred for life; if old enough, they run away and live under our bridges; they peddle their bodies to make ends meet; and they take drugs to take the pain away.

Consider that almost 90% of the inmates in our jails and prisons admit that they were abused as children. The costs of child abuse for underserved survivors goes on forever. Taxes, crime, overwhelmed health care and social services.
I do not want another child to die on our watch when there is something we can do about it.

This report is a sham. You refused to allow the comments and testimony of people who know more about the Guardian Ad Litem Program than anyone here. You refused my speaking of the public comments portion of the second and third hearings you allowed for public comment. You have refused to allow us to correct some of the clearly inaccurate statements in the reports. You have denied the citizens of this State any due process in the state-legislated entity. You have run off between 300 and 400 trained, dedicated volunteers who have the time and requirement to visit children in their homes (instead of online or by phone).

The Board of the GAL Program is liable for failing to adequately supervise the program that you are responsible for.

  • You, the board are fiduciaries – not only for the expenditure of state funds but for your organization’s actions. Your staff holds the lives of children in their hands. If Guardian ad Litems do not visit these homes, prepare proper reports, collect evidence (photos, statements, etc.) and a child dies, it is each of you that we, the community, and the courts are going to hold responsible.
    • Gross Negligence will not be covered by your Director & Officer liability.

This recent Investigative report by Safe Passages of MN shows how 200 MN children were killed by their caregivers while known to CPS over a recent 8-year period. It only reports on murdered children already reported in the media and misses murdered children classified otherwise. It also mentions only children that died, not those that were abused or neglected and scarred for life. As a long time CASA volunteer guardian ad litem, I can testify that many children in my caseloads were severely injured by their parents and many were repeatedly and severely injured by their parents.

Please review this document (below) to get a sense of the urgency, depth, and scope of the problem we are addressing in this MAD report.

  • INVESTIGATIVE REPORT on Minnesota children murdered over a recent eight-year period by their caregivers while known to CPS;



READ THE MAD STATE GAL Cost Effectiveness Analysis

READ THE STATE GAL Cost Effectiveness Analysis

There are many forces at play on Child Protective Services today:

Parental rights, Racial disparities,

better tracking and reporting of

critical child outcomes based metrics in CPS

and the continued over-institutionalizing

of children in the system

(dehumanizing trends)

KARA reports on the issues of invisible children

This article submitted by Former CASA Guardian Ad Litem Mike Tikkanen

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(Pliny the Elder, 2000 years ago)


(They make a big difference in the lives of abused children)



Read the full story here

Read the rebuttals to the MAD report here; Rich Gehrman, Gerard Bodell, Mike Tikkanen