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ROCHESTER, Minn. — The most recent data from First Star, an organization that raises the awareness of child abuse, says that in 2006 more than 900,000 children were victims of abuse. More than 300,000 of those children were removed from their homes. Our area is not left out of that.
That is why a national initiative based on the west coast picked southeast Minnesota to be one of six areas in the U.S. to take part.
State and local leaders are coming together in Rochester to learn about a growing problem in our country.
“I give a case presentation of a family that started in ’97 and the boy was removed from the mom and she was a methamphetamine addict and he went into foster care and mom went into treatment,” said Pam Toohey, CEO of Birth Parent Association in San Diego.
For Toohey, the presentation hits close to home.
“So the person they’re going to see at the beginning is a 98 pound meth addict and the person they see at the end is me,” Toohey said.
She has been clean for 16 years now and 14 of those years have been spent sharing her story. Pam’s story is one that those in the local court system hear as well.
“The numbers have probably increased over the last two to three years, the community has grown and part of the byproduct of a community growing is that you get good things with community growth and by the same token, you get some bad things,” said Olmsted County District Court Judge, Kevin Lund.
They want to see more of the good and less of the bad.
“The goal is to keep young people out of the system, keep families out of the system and hopefully reduce juvenile delinquency and some of the other things that we see an awful lot of in the court system,” Lund said.
Those efforts are exactly why San Diego based Chadwick Center for Children and Families is including southeast Minnesota as part of their national campaign to form six “supercommunities” across the country.
With that group effort, they hope to find effective treatments for victims of child abuse and domestic violence.
“They’re places committed to really implementing this, not just talking about it, not just changing some training, but weaving it into the very culture of the organizations,” said Charles Wilson, Senior Director of the Chadwick Center.
So Toohey will leave them with questions to consider as they aim to improve the system.
“When we put those families back together, what have we done to help that family be strength based? We’ve taken away the substance abuse, we took away the domestic violence, but what have we done to heal the family?” Toohey said.
Wilson said these six communities will serve as examples for others around the country and world who want to learn how to do this where they are.
The other five communities are, Daytona Beach, Florida, Rhode Island, Tulsa, Oklahoma, Orange County, California and San Diego.