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Mike Tikkanen

cryingbabyThe November 8 Star Tribune article gave me hope that I’ve not had in decades for the saving of abused and neglected children from extended traumas and ruined lives.

No longer will a child need to endure maltreatment before they get social services in Minnesota’s most populous county, an unprecedented step in the state.

Thank you Task Force on Child Protection, Safe Passage For Children, Governor Dayton and all the legislators and supporters standing for the weakest and most vulnerable children in our community. 
Additional funding for staff, reduced caseloads, responding to child abuse reports at all hours (including weekends) and focusing on the child’s well-being instead of the crisis mode required after traumatic abuse has been endured (usually for years) will make a huge difference in the lives of these kids.
By making services available to struggling families and insuring that very young children reported as abused receive face-to-face assessments and the help they need, we will be interrupting patterns of behavior that can ruin a child’s life forever and making their lives safer and happier.


Black Families Matter

by Mike Tikkanen on September 25, 2016 · 0 comments

Under assault from child protection services is the word on the street.


Racial disparity data supports the charge and people in the system on both sides see it every day. My city, Minneapolis most likely leads the nation in overall racial disparity;

– arresting Black adult men (44% of Minneapolis population of adult black men in 2001),
– median incomes of Black families are about half of the white population,
– about 62% of Black students attend high-poverty schools,
– MN has the nation’s largest income gap between whites and people of color (22%),
– The underperforming of high poverty schools appears now to be written in stone.
These painful truths evolved out of decades of leaving poor families to struggle with basic needs and sometimes less than no help with issues of trauma and violence (jail is not help).


Drug use, violence and years of child abuse repeat the terrible behaviors from traumatic scars generation after generation.


Preteen moms are now raising their own families without parenting skills just like their mother did with them and the violent boyfriend with a dangerous drug habit.


Developing coping skills and achieving an education under these circumstances becomes a challenge for everyone involved.


There’s a delicate balance that must be found that protects children and poor troubled families.


Child Protection must work to strike that delicate balance of protecting vulnerable children with mentoring programs for young moms, trauma based mental health services, crisis nurseries and quality daycare.
As a volunteer CASA guardian ad litem I know that once the cycle of abuse and poor parenting are broken, children go on to develop the coping skills they need to make it in school and in life and the terrible cycle of abuse and lifelong state ward status is broken.


Breaking this cycle of abuse delivers the rest of us successful schools, safe streets and taxpaying citizens leading happy lives.  We should all want this.
What we do to our children they will do to our society (Pliny the Elder, 2000 years ago).


Indiana Governor and Vice Presidential Candidate Mike Pence’s Religious Freedom  signature law RFRA allows beating 7 year olds with a coat hanger leaving bruises and bleeding severe enough to cause the child’s doctor to have mom arrested.


It will be a very sad thing if an Indiana court uses Pence’s law to rule that Bibles can be used to torture and traumatize children.


A few years ago I spoke to adoptive parents in Indiana where the prior Governor, Mitch Daniels redirected the funding promised to families adopting special needs children (after the adoptions were completed) to his appointees in social services who could cut the most from social services programs.


Mitch was also running for President at the time.  My conversations with those families were really sad (really, really sad).


For the second time in just 3 election cycles, Indiana Governors have shown children just how little they matter to the State.


Minnesota’s former Supreme Court Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz has stated that 90% of the youth in the Juvenile Justice system have passed through Child Protective Services and that “The difference between that poor child and a felon is about eight years”.  


Marion Wright Edelman calls this the pipeline to prison & from this volunteer CASA guardian ad Litems perspective it is absolutely true.   No other industrialized nation treats its children and juveniles so harshly.


The simple truths below now define our communities and our nation – share them with your legislators (really – if you don’t share this with them they may never know).


Charging juveniles as adults


Privatized Detention Centers (why judges sometimes go to jail)


Ten Cents An Hour (now that’s a minimum wage)


Never Vote Again (stay away)


King Pin Laws


Women In Prison (shackled while giving birth?)


The Face of 12 Year Olds In Jail


Prozac, Children, Juveniles & the Criminal Justice System
Is This A Racial Issue (Minneapolis arrested 44% of its Adult Black Men in 2001)
Juvenile in prison rates internationally


It’s Inevitable (police shootings)

by Mike Tikkanen on August 23, 2016 · 0 comments

People smarter than me have clearly explained the underlying institutional dysfunctions that ensure the next (inevitable) police shootings.


Dallas Police Chief David Brown accurately stated that law enforcement has become the safety system in schools, a primary community mental health service provider, and of course the armed responder to a growing number of society’s violent problems.


Recently, Minnesota sheriffs from Hennepin, Ramsey and Washington Counties wrote a half page Star Tribune article threatening to sue the State for failing to provide timely mental health services to people locked up in their jail cells. This failure has turned law enforcement into a provider of mental health services to a large and growing population of often dangerous people.


MN Law enforcement officers killed 12 people in 2015 and each year are dealing with more unstable people and potentially dangerous encounters with the wrong training needed to slow this racially unbalanced social dysfunction.


Our public health issue of mental health and the violence and dangers it presents will never be dealt with effectively by Law Enforcement (or teachers, or social workers or other untrained service providers). Sheriffs, police and police chiefs talk about dealing with this growing number of unpredictable, mentally unstable people (and even whole families).   They know that the center cannot hold and that when the weak link breaks bad things happen.



Let Me Show You the Money

by Mike Tikkanen on August 22, 2016 · 0 comments

mararishi guatemala thanksgivingI once owned a junkyard that recycled cars so I’m pretty good with managing maintenance, money, expenses and greasy auto parts.


Later I became a volunteer Hennepin County guardian ad Litem – which I recommend highly for anyone interested in a more complete perspective of one’s own self and community and a better understanding of people and economics.  In my CASA guardian ad Litem tenure, I helped to remove about 50 children from their birth homes.


I now see how taking care of broken children is economically a lot like taking care of trucks and crushing equipment at the junkyard.


When I tended to the damaged parts of my equipment, everything ran better, there were fewer injuries and no major catastrophes.


Your Children – Your Grandchildren & Mental Health

by Mike Tikkanen on August 17, 2016 · 0 comments

If you have children, grandchildren or just like other people’s children, you should read this to the end.  You could help keep them safe from terrible things by understanding the connection between this mental health discussion and those terrible things.
These Star Tribune articles by Chris Serres, Brandon Stahl and Paul Walsh should wake us up as to the cost and danger we all face by ignoring, undertreating and maltreating mentally at risk people. Last week Chris wrote about the broken bones and violence done to children in the justice system because of their mental health struggles.  Thank you Star Tribune for bringing this long avoided topic to the front page.
Chris Serres’ first (above) article concentrates on the logjam and wait periods patients and providers face in this state and the human suffering that that accompanies it. Paul Walsh and Brandon Stahl write about Cory Morris punching his infant daughter 22 times to her death.  Cory had recently been turned away from mental health care because there were no beds available.
Not mentioned are the 900-1000 emergency psych visits to HCMC every month and that some psych patients are waiting three months to be admitted (and that’s just one MN hospital).  Allina Health DR Paul Goering states that “it’s been so paralyzing for the community to say ‘it looks like things are broken,’ and then to say it again next year”.


The Star Tribune’s exposing violence done (broken bones) to Minnesota’s youngest citizens while in state care reminded me of my own experiences growing up and 40 years later as a CASA volunteer guardian ad Litem.


In my middle class 1977 Minneapolis neighborhood, the family next door’s 15 year old grandson became psychotic and behaved dangerously. Mom and dad tried to find him mental health help to no avail. The only option that provided treatment for their son was the Juvenile Justice system.  The boy’s entrance into the system required he be charged with a crime.  Their boy killed himself a few years later.


Since then, I’ve witnessed parents failing to find mental health services for their children many times, experienced dozens of children’s mental health tragedies and hundreds of mental health near tragedies.   Only extreme cases make the news.  Michael Swanson, Kendrea Johnson and Jeff Weis all sought help and were terribly underserved.



Why Schools Fail

by Mike Tikkanen on August 1, 2016 · 0 comments

imagesCAC74BJKAnother year of disappointing educators, children and parents (Star Tribune 7.28.16)
Don’t blame the teachers (it’s us). The once a straightforward concept of public schools has morphed into a complex institution unable to respond to the double whammy of a massively changed student body and the unprecedented un-building of support for public education (especially science).
Our student body has changed:


First, immigration and the challenges of language and culture have always turned out well. American education has successfully educated millions of immigrants. Yes, it’s a struggle, but it is what teachers do and they have always succeeded. My grandparents did not speak the language when they arrived – all of their children successfully finished a public school education.


Second and most critical, generally unknown and poorly understood even by those in the trenches of teaching, social work and justice. The rest of us (including legislators) are clueless. …READ MORE


Child Rights (an American history of child abuse)

by Mike Tikkanen on July 29, 2016 · 0 comments

HC-SOSOn this almost 100th anniversary of women’s rights we are celebrating America’s long hard slog towards equality by inaugurating Hillary Clinton as a presidential candidate.  Our very first woman!
100 years ago, women were property (legally) and a husband could do just about anything to his wife.  Murder was still murder, but anything else was treated by law enforcement much like animal abuse was in the day (not a big deal for the courts to be concerned with).


20 years ago I became a volunteer *CASA guardian ad Litem (voice for the child) in County child protection and saw first hand what it’s like for an American citizen to have no voice in the home, no voice in the courts and no voice in the media.
Over 25 years ago the rest of the world (194 nations) decided that children have basic human rights and begin signing the International Rights of the Child Treaty.  Under this document, children are to have the rights to education, safety and well being including not to be made soldiers and not to be enslaved).
America is the only nation in the world that has not signed this agreement, largely because we still demand that southern states continue to militarize youth as young as eleven through military schools.  Brief Overview of the Treaty;

All children have the rights guaranteed by the Convention, without discrimination of any kind.
“The child shall enjoy all the rights set forth in this Declaration. Every child, without any exception whatsoever, shall be entitled to these rights, without distinction or discrimination on account of race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status, whether of himself or of his family.”
These rights are:

  • Development with dignity
  • A name and nationality
  • Access to food, housing, and medical care
  • Special care if handicapped
  • Love and understanding
  • A free education
  • Care in dangerous situations
  • Peace, love, and friendship

*Court Appointed Special Advocate

What follows are a sampling of key differences in how children are valued in our nation and the rest of the industrialized world and what we need to do to make life better for America’s children.