“Invisible Children & What We Can Do About It” Book


An uncomfortably close look at the American cycle of abuse and its cost


Mike Tikkanen, guardian ad-litem, explores breaking the cycle of preteen mothers, adolescent felons, and the damage done to society. Replete with tragic stories from his years working to help at-risk children, Mike outlines practical polices and programs to improve the lives of abused and neglected children. His straightforward commentary brings attention to ways that any of us can make a positive impact and break the cycle.

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Invisible Children Book Review

Mike Tikkanen’s book, INVISIBLE CHILDREN is an urgent call to action that describes in plain, heart-wrenching terms how our institutions act as enablers of child abuse.

Mike  outlines how America’s current strategies and institutions are being overwhelmed by the magnitude and severity of the problem of child abuse. I would take it a step further and say that his book is an indictment of the very institutions that we have established to protect the weakest among us: our children.

It is not teachers, school administrators, social workers, police, or therapists causing the problems in our schools, communities, and prisons. These hard-working, well-intentioned professionals are not to blame. As he correctly points out, they are doing the best they can within the framework of laws, regulations, and policies.

The issue he brings to light is much broader and much deeper. This is not an issue of blame – of “right versus wrong” – this is an issue of “right versus right” – the very definition of tragedy.

In 1994, I completed a study extending over five years and concluded that certain human service agencies and law enforcement services designed to solve such problems as crime, illiteracy, child abuse, drug addiction, poverty and homelessness actually operate within a hidden inherent logic to perpetuate and exacerbate the very conditions that they were designed to cure.

Put differently, the purpose of any system is what it does. What the Child Protection System does is produce victims and future inmates for the criminal justice system.

Generation after generation, these abused children fill our prisons, overwhelm our schools, and make our cities unsafe for the people who must live in them.

Our current policies ensure more crime and prisons, failing schools, and a growing number of neighborhoods unfit for human habitation. There are no simple answers to these problems. However, this I know, these problems cannot be solved within the framework of the current system that created them.

More programs, new laws and additional regulations will only produce a temporary remission before there is a rebound and escalation of the original problem.

This is a hard-hitting, often uncomfortable book about an enormous, complicated and painful problem. Mike Tikkanen has taken a courageous stand to open our eyes and expose the truth. It is now up to all of us to confront the truth and begin this essential dialogue.

-Kathleen S. Long, PhD
April, 2005

From Mike Tikkanen, Author of Invisible Children

best picture meAbout six million children are reported to child protection agencies in America each year. About 400,000 of those children are placed in protective custody because of severe neglect or abuse. About 500,000 children are placed into foster care and adoptive placements. Abused and neglected children are all around us.

These children are invisible in our community, yet each one of us is directly responsible for their plight. They live under our laws; they go to our schools; they are convicted by our courts; many of them spend lifetimes in our prisons. They have no say in the laws and policies that rule their lives. Just like they had no say in the neglect and abuse that was their childhood.

Neglected and abused children make up a great majority of the crime, drugs, and violence we experience in our communities. Over fifty percent of the children in the juvenile justice system have diagnosable mental illness, about thirty percent of children in child protection services are proscribed psychotropic medications, & almost eighty percent of youth aging out of foster care lead dysfunctional lives.

Ninety percent of the juveniles in the Juvenile Justice System have come out of the Child Protection System (Minnesota’s Chief Justice, Kathleen Blatz). Over 90 percent of the adults in the Criminal Justice System come out of the Juvenile Justice System. Justice Blatz (and others) call it a prison “feeder” system.

The United States is the only nation in the world to build prisons based on failed third grade reading scores or the number of children in Child Protection.

Children are not aware of the rightness or wrongness of their own abuse. They do not know that abuse is abnormal, or even that it is wrong. To a five-year-old, no matter how painful and frightening her life is, her life is normal. A sad and lasting fact of child abuse is that children blame themselves for the abuse they receive.

How can sex, drugs, and violence be unlearned by a ten year old child whose entire life has been just that? It takes years of therapy to change a child’s perception of an abusive past. It takes a great deal longer for an abused child to develop a healthy view of the world and a positive self-image.

There is no book a child can go to, or code they are born with, that explains the abnormality of what is happening to them. Children can’t call their senators, or complain to the authorities (they can’t even tell their parents).

Behaviors learned by abused children to stay alive in toxic homes are terribly counter-productive once the child is out of the abusive circumstances and trying to live a normal life. The behaviors developed for staying alive and avoiding pain dominate and thus can become significant detriments to getting along in society. As a matter of fact, for many troubled youth, their explosive responses and pain avoidance behaviors define them as uneducated social misfits with criminal histories.

KARA is working to find better ways to deal with abused and abandoned children in our communities.

Read Invisible Children, form your own opinions, tell your friends and neighbors what you know and let policy makers know that;