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The topic of criminals under ten is disscussed with Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner and David Sanders, director of Children & Family Services in Hennepin County.

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(00:00:23) Good morning, and welcome to midday on Minnesota Public Radio. I'm Gary eichten glad you could join us crime rate in the state of Minnesota and indeed around the nation is declining that is good news to be sure but each day there are reminders that crime is still a very serious problem especially crimes committed by children and this week a story surfaced that underscores that point more than most other such stories this week. We learned that authorities in st. Paul are investigating the rape of an eight-year-old girl seven young boys were allegedly involved in the attack a 13 year old and 11 year old a ten-year-old 39 year olds and a six-year-old boy, one of the nine year old boys was said to be the girl's brother. In fact, it's alleged that he was the one who lured his sister into a vacant house where the attack occurred raped her and then encouraged his friends to follow suit under state law. None of the children under the age of 10 can be I'll legally responsible for any criminal acts committed and since all of the other boys are under the age of 14, none of them can be tried as adults the story raises lots of questions, of course about young children and crime and punishment and what's happening in our society and joining us this hour to talk about those issues and to take your questions or two folks who've been working in this area Ramsey County attorney Susan gertner is with us. She's here in the studio and joining us by phone as David Sanders who's the director of Children and Family Services for Hennepin County, and we also invite you to join our conversation. If you've got a question or a comment give us a call here at 6512276 thousand 6512276 thousand if you're calling from outside the Twin Cities 1-800 to for to to 8286512276 thousand or one eight hundred two, four two two eight two eight and Susan character. Let me start with you. Thank you for coming in today. Well, good morning (00:02:22) Gary. I know that both of Of us have been sometimes accused of being a bit on the serious side and I'm thinking that our topic this morning is only going to add to that. I mean, this is pretty shocking. (00:02:34) Yeah is it was a shocking to you? I mean, you see crimes all the time. That's what your your your deal (00:02:40) is. Well, I have been in this business 15 years and I've seen a lot but I must say that these particular allegations and of course at this point, they're just delegations, but these allegations did shock even seasoned prosecutor such as myself and it's a sad story. (00:03:01) Where does the case stand right now are police still investigating has this been officially turned over to your office or where do we stand (00:03:10) legally at this point? We haven't received the case for our consideration. It is still under investigation and my hope is that all the talk about the details of what allegedly occurred that all that talk. It's been in the media doesn't get in the way of the investigation because right now we still have people to talk to and interviews to conduct. We meaning the police (00:03:33) children under 10 can't be held criminally liable for anything. Is that (00:03:37) correct? That's right. A child has to be at least 10 years old before we can bring them into juvenile court and file a delinquency petition which for kids is basically a criminal (00:03:49) charge what happens to them then if it's found that they were involved in some (00:03:55) way the over 10 year olds you main or the ones that are under 210? Well, it's not that we have no options if children are under 10 and have committed a criminal act we can bring them and we do bring them through the child protection system if they've committed criminal activity. Obviously the theory is that if six seven eight nine year old child is burglarizing or raping or doing something like that. The child needs help and that's what the child protection system is all about. Hmm (00:04:28) David Sanders. Let me bring you in here. Thanks for joining us this morning. Sure. Thank you. Were you shocked by this as well or is this kind of crime more commonplace than we believe it to me. I think that this was exceptional in the with the age of the children the number of children involved at least as reported and I think that the activities described in again. I'm referring to what I've read in the newspapers. But it was shocking. Mmm sexual assault is that fairly common or is a crime committed by young children? Well in Hennepin County we had anywhere between a hundred and fifty and two hundred children who are under the age of 10 who are under the age of 10 who are referred to the county attorney's office for handling and of that number the number that would be referred for sexual assault would be very small of that of that number and I don't have the numbers have hand but I would guess fewer than 20. Let me ask both of you this children in this young do they know what they're doing? I mean do they see this is serious is it really is or is this viewed as well? Kind of minor vandalism kind of like turning over trash cans something to do, you (00:05:52) know. Well, that's a that's the million dollar question Gary that people are struggling with really across the country you may recall. All that Chicago the authorities in Chicago had to deal with a six and nine year old who committed a fairly who committed a fairly horriffic homicide and the debate began then can a six-year-old Cannon nine-year-old even understand what they're doing can child that young form the kind of Criminal Intent that is important in our system. I mean, we don't hold people accountable unless they can have that kind of nasty intent and the question is can kids that young have that kind of evil thinking if you will and and I don't think there's a clear answer. (00:06:36) What's your sense of Sanders? I would I would agree with that. I think from a slightly different perspective. My guess is that at least in the experience in Hennepin County the the children who are often involved in the most dangerous activities have been strongly influenced by the upbringing that they've had they've either observed. Others engaged in similar behaviors or they have been victims of similar behaviors. And so I think the question I think that Miss Gartner's responses exactly right in terms of the the knowledge, but I also think that they are often times victims of similar activities few years ago. We used to hear about super Predators this the theory was that there were these kids who were I guess just evil seed and there was nothing that was ever going to be done do people still talk about that or is that been a discredited notion (00:07:31) though? Well, I the super Predator commentary I haven't seen much of that lately and we're not talking in those terms much lately, but the word Predator is an interesting one and and what I'm about to say may not make sense to people who aren't in the system because it may be sounds a little goofy. But what we have to determine in a case like this is whether or not a sexual assault is predatory. Viewer or whether or not it's perhaps exploratory sexual behavior. And as I said that may sound pretty weird to people if you look at the allegations that were reported in the paper. It must seem pretty obvious to people these are predators, but that's something we're going to have to sort out as a criminal justice system (00:08:19) Sanders. Yeah, I and again I would I would agree with the with with their son. I haven't heard much referral to the super predator in the last year or so. And I think that for me it has always been an issue that needs to be looked at in a much broader context. I think that that there are often interventions that can work with either children or families and that one really has to look at when those interventions are started in are they potentially going to be effective and and I think that the notion that there are some youngsters who absolutely can't respond. I'm not sure that I We with (00:08:59) that. Well, the I think the other reason we aren't talking much about super Predators is that there really are very few youth in our community in Ramsey County and I would suspect in Hennepin County that are doing the kind of horrific things that led to that whole super Predator, you know, we're going to all be in big trouble soon that whole phenomenon there really are very few and most of the kids that we deal with are just that their kids and they have done something horrible. Their background is very problematic. They need to be held accountable, but they're not monsters necessarily and if we do have some monsters out there, they're not very many of them. So I think that rhetoric has died down and I'm glad about that (00:09:45) if you're just joining us, this is midday on Minnesota Public Radio, and we've been joined today by Ramsey County attorney Susan Gartner and David Sanders is with us. He's the director of Children and Family Services for Hennepin County. We are talking about the Report of this rape of the eight-year-old girl alleged rape at this eight-year-old girl in st. Paul seven young children are said to have been involved in the attack and while we're not going to dwell on the specifics of this case for a variety of reasons. It does raise lots of questions about what's going on with our kids and crime and punishment for children that young and if you'd like to join our conversation, give us a call here, six five one two, two seven six thousand 6512276 thousand outside the Twin Cities 1-800 to for 228286512276 thousand or one eight hundred two, four two two eight two eight Nelson. Go ahead place. Yes, so my concern is the the children nowadays are just they have no fear. There's no fear in anything that they do and my question is, how come parents aren't allowed to exercise their parental rights and disciplining their children as in spankings or whippings without getting a question of child abuse on them I mean is that I believe that every sense that we've gone to these timeouts and talking to your children and not disciplining your children. It's just going on a steady downhill Pace. Well, I can maybe speak a little to the with in Hennepin County and in Hennepin County's child protection system that a and and I think this is true Statewide that a parent spanking their child that there's absolutely nothing that will bring the child protection system into a family if they're if the behavior that's involved in spanking that generally we will look at a child who has been injured by a parent through some kind of of action on their part in generally. It's a severe kind of injury that that brings our system into into a family's life. And so, you know, I think that the question that the caller raises is really a critical one because I I do believe that there is a concern about if I think my child as a government going to get involved and at least speaking for Hennepin County that's not going to happen. But isn't it true though that people are encouraged. Like if you're at Kmart and somebody's spanking their child, aren't you supposed to get involved and step in and save the child, you know, I think that it's a good question because there is there is a line that I think people are constantly having to judge and so if you're in Kmart and you see a two-year-old who has been violently violently hit or had their arm pulled by their parent is that where you get involved versus a parent who who hits the child on their bottom and and I think I think that is a real difficult line for people to make a judgment with I think that there is also a difference between the notion that all of us should be Thinking of the safety of kids and and the government getting involved in voluntarily when somebody has harmed their child and and and I think in speaking to that that it's generally fairly serious behavior that brings the government in in in the form of cow protection (00:13:27) Gary I get this question the caller's question a lot when I'm out talking to people in the community and I think there is a misapprehension that if you spank your child, the authorities are going to jump in we prosecute we deal with child abuse and spanking. I've never dealt with that as child abuse. And and what I think is important to remember in all this is that the kids we see in the juvenile system particularly the kids that are committing very serious offenses aren't there because their parents just used timeouts and not spanking they're there because their parents have mental health problems. They're there because their parents perhaps are victims of Perpetrators of domestic violence they're there because they've been raised without any supervision or very little supervision and they've been seriously neglected in many many instances. So that's what gets kids before us not the lack of the rod not sparing the rod. (00:14:32) Yeah, because that seemed to be the other part of the caller's question. They're not just to the spanking issue and the government intervention, but the theory that were just not disciplining our children properly or enough. (00:14:44) Well again, I would say that there are very very serious issues involved in the families where the kids end up in front of us three quarters of the cases involve chemical dependency of one parent or the other as I mentioned domestic violence is a factor in many of these cases and lack of School attendance. I mean, it's very very serious issues going on in these families and kids are having a hard time. (00:15:11) Let's go back to the phones Jane your question, please. Well, I think I have a comment more than a question. I think all of the children that were involved in this are victims. I think they've had their childhood stolen from them and I think part of it is because they've perhaps because of things they've seen on television and other sources. I haven't any idea what the answer is, but I hope it doesn't get worse before it gets better. That's all is it correct to to characterize the boys in this situation as victims of external sources. (00:15:54) Well that remains to be seen perpetrators of sexual violence perpetrators of violence period don't just come out of nowhere. There is generally speaking something lacking in their upbringing something that hasn't been provided to them in terms of supervision in terms of validating their their what they have going for them. I mean, there's it's a very very very complex issue and certainly a lot of people have talked about the influence of the media violence in the media things like that. But I would say that most of the time they're much more basic issues like is there food on the table is mom drunk. Does Dad have a mental illness. Are they beating up on each other and is the kid ending up as the silent victim of all that's going (00:16:49) on. I would just add very briefly to that that Is a very high correlation between being a victim of child abuse or neglect and criminal activity. That doesn't mean that everybody who commits a crime has been a victim of child abuse or neglect but there is a very high correlation and I think that that it does remain to be seen with with these kids, but that that it's an issue that I think is a real significant one that we don't talk a lot about and and really echoing the comments that that Mr. Turner made that child abuse is not about spanking. It really is very serious activity that the child has been a victim of and often times with with lifelong scars. (00:17:39) One thing I want to say about this whole issue of victims becoming perpetrators is yes, that's that happens. Most of the time most people who commit violent acts have been victims themselves in their lifetimes and when we talk when prosecutors Shooters such as myself talk about that. It's not to say that these people who commit violent acts won't or shouldn't be held accountable because we do hold them accountable. We punish them and we deal with them and we're not excusing them by recognizing that they've put up with a lot in their youth or whatever that they've been victims themselves, but I think as a society if we want to do something to you know, stop this kind of behavior to prevent it in the future. We have to look at child abuse child neglect domestic violence. Those kinds of issues that basically breed the perpetrators of tomorrow. But again, it's not that we're excusing them. We're just trying to understand how this happened so we can prevent it (00:18:40) when when crimes are committed and some kind of treatment or counseling whatever is offered. Is there any evidence that that works David Sanders would have Fun. Well, you know, I think that's a real interesting question the the most effective interventions it appears for preventing later criminal activity our comprehensive Early Childhood types of interventions that happen when the child is preschool age and really involved the family and involve the child's environment and so forth and and that those tend to be if you look at the the data that's out there those tend to be fairly successful and really helping to ensure that children are on the right track and don't and don't get engaged in later criminal Behavior. I think it's much more difficult after there has been some kind of activity that's occurred to to generalize about is intervention effect of there are interventions that are effective as if if there is a very accurate assessment of the situation, which I think Because to mr. Gardner's points that we really do need to understand what's happened because I think that helps to Taylor and effective intervention and also the the timing of that intervention and is it a time when the child or family is able to best receive it, but I think that at that point after something has happened it's less effective than really preventing it from happening in the first place. This is Gartner. What's your what's your reading on our ability to actually help these kids once something has happened. (00:20:22) Well, obviously the earlier we intervene the better the earlier we provide treatment the better, but we're not ready to even give up on the adult sex offenders. I recently spoke to an assistant commissioner from the Department of Corrections and they've recently occurred completed a study about recidivism rates of inmates who have gone out in the community and reoffended and compared the ones who've been treated with sex offender treatment with the ones who Went and they believe that they are showing results from sex offender treatment. So at whatever the age were not going to give up on them, but clearly if we get involved with the younger kids when they're showing problem Behavior, we're going to have more success and that's there's a program in Ramsey County. That's just starting up and it's modeled after a program that's been going in Hennepin County ours is called Ace all children Excel and it's about a comprehensive intervention with kids under 10 who are already committing crimes and it's based on a program in Hennepin County that David probably can talk more about their delinquents under ten project. But the point is as I said is comprehensive intervention taking a look at all the risk factors that these kids have in their lives, whether it's you know, already skipping school a sibling who is in jail parents who have been in jail parents are chemically dependent mental illness all those things that contribute to rough. Hood and comprehensively treating and dealing with whatever issues there are in that kid's life. And that's what we need to do is the young ones Our Guest this our Ramsey County (00:22:03) attorney Susan Garrett Nur and also with us is David Sanders who's the director of Children and Family Services for Hennepin County were talking this our about children young children who appear a commit crimes and and what can and should be done about that how they kind of services should be offered those children response of the system all of this, of course triggered by the story that surfaced this week of an eight-year-old girl in st. Paul who reportedly was raped by well seven boys were involved in to be involved in the sexual assault. None of whom was older than 13. If you'd like to join our conversation. If you've got some questions or comments about this issue. Give us a call here at 651. Two two seven six thousand 6512276 thousand if you're calling from outside the Twin Cities, you can reach us toll-free at 1-800-222-8477. Couple minutes. NPR is broadcast journalist series presents national public radio hosts Neal Conan and Lee Anne Hanson Monday, September 27th at 7:30. Their coverage of the Gulf War took a personal turn when Conan became a prisoner in his wife Lee Anne Hanson covered the story on weekend edition. Join Hanson and Conan for a free lecture at the Macalester College Chapel in st. Paul Monday, September 27th at 7:30 tickets available at Lake winds Natural Foods in Minnetonka and Linden Hills Co-Op in Minneapolis a reminder that programming on Minnesota Public Radio is supported by the resource companies providing investment trusts in banking experience to local individuals and two families time now for some news headlines read a Cunningham gonna (00:23:49) good morning Gary Justice Department officials announced this morning. That they are suing major. Tobacco companies to recover billions of dollars spent on treating smoking-related illnesses attorney general Janet Reno says, the suit was filed this morning, Reno says the suit alleges that for 45 years. The tobacco companies have waged a quote intentional coordinated campaign of Fraud and deceit Rescuers are struggling to find more bodies in the earthquake Rubble in Taiwan, even as more aftershocks Rock the country the massive Quake has killed more than 2,000 people American Searchers have found a man alive in a building wreckage the earlier this morning. It's been nearly a week since Hurricane Floyd came ashore in North Carolina and thousands are still in shelters officials are also busy assessing damage in the state in one County alone damage is estimated at one point six billion dollars a Texas jury is now deciding whether Lawrence Brewer should get life in prison or death for dragging a black man to his death prosecutors. Say Brewer is dangerous and should be condemned but his lawyers argued for a life term saying Brewer is Not a threat to society in Regional use u.s. Forest Service officials say canoeists will pay more to Reserve camping permits in The Boundary Waters canoe area next year. The u.s. Forest service says the reservation fee will go up three dollars from $9 to $12 besides the reservation fee campers visiting the BWC a must also pay a user fee North Dakota State University officials say the school has received a four hundred and four thousand dollar Grant from the National Science Foundation for DNA mapping. The mapping is to help plant breeders develop Hardy crop varieties and ESU is getting sophisticated machines that can prepare up to 50 slides for analysis at the same time. Each slide can carry up to 60,000 jeans the forecast for Minnesota today calls for Sunshine State wide high temperatures near 70 in the East to 84 in the far Northwest tonight partly cloudy in the Northeast with a slight chance of a shower mostly clear skies elsewhere around the state lows from 40 in the Northeast 250 in the southwest at this hour Duluth reports sunshine and 62 Raj. Mr. Sunny skies and 65. It's sunny in Fargo and 63 and in the Twin Cities. Mostly sunny and 63 degrees Gary. That's a check on the latest news. (00:26:02) Thank you Greta. It is 28 minutes now before noon. This is midday coming to you on Minnesota Public Radio. And today we're talking with David Sanders director of Children and Family Services for Hennepin County and Ramsey County attorney Susan Garrett Nur were discussing the story about the eight-year-old girl who was apparently raped by seven young boys are sexually assaulted. I should say by seven young boys in st. Paul a story that surfaced this week the story obviously raises lots of questions about young children and crime and what how they're treated by the system Criminal Justice System. What should be done what can be done and if you'd like to join our conversation again, the number to call is six-five 12276 thousand 6512276 thousand outside the Twin Cities. And two for 22828. Our next caller is from Roseville Marco had place. Yes, I have a comment on what seems to be our tragedy driven child welfare policy and system for your guests. And that is that it seems to take one of these horrific episodes to Galvanize public attention and get some media focus on the absolutely meltdown conditions and a lot of kids are living in and I think folks out there just don't understand how terrible it is for a lot of kids living in crack houses witnessing the domestic abuse just not being supervised at all. And in fact being beaten and abused and at the same time I notice in the paper this morning Ramsey County is facing a child welfare shortfall of millions of dollars. The County Commissioners are reluctant to cough up the Bucks and the public doesn't want their taxes raised. Could your guests comment on the systemic crisis in child welfare and get us off this tragedy Focus. (00:27:48) Well, that's a very good question and I give the caller a lot of credit for looking at the bigger picture because this case this alleged rape did get the headlines and I didn't see the story about the County board but I suspect that was buried quite a bit farther back in the newspaper. And in fact what happened yesterday was the Ramsey County Board spent all morning struggling with the real big picture issue and it wasn't, you know driven by a particular case or a particular crisis. It was driven by the bigger picture issues, which you've identified. We are thousands and thousands hundreds of thousands of dollars short of what is believed to be the needs for child welfare in Ramsey County and the the collar correctly identified the bind that the County Board is in we don't want to pay more taxes. We don't want to pay more taxes, but somehow we have a responsibility. County to protect the children in our community and what are they supposed to do? What are the policy makers supposed to do (00:28:54) David Sanders? I think the color really hit the nail on the head. I think that if you look nationally child welfare systems tend to be in tremendous trouble more than half of the state are actually operating under a Judicial consent decree because they've been unable to fulfill their obligations of their statutory obligations in carrying out the the mandates within the child welfare system. And I think that that the caller also accurately identifies the Dilemma is that it it it it tends to be a system that is ignored unless there is a major crisis and that the end and one of the reasons has been because historically the system was completely closed and it's been very difficult to for the public to see what happens in decisions in In child protection and in child welfare, and so I think that the colors absolutely right and then on top of that because the system has been one that is generally ignored until a crisis occurs. The system is seen as as having questionable credibility. I think a lot of people really wonder does do does our contribution of tax dollars really make any difference because it seems like all we read about or how horrific some of these circumstances are in the decisions that the Child Welfare agencies make and so I think it really is a dilemma and and I think we're we are struggling with this as a state and I think Ramsey County's issues. They happen to be focused in Ramsey County right now, but their issues that every county in the state has faced. Let me ask you this. What did these kinds of crimes where they committed in the past the good old days as it (00:30:40) were well, I don't know what you consider the good old days. I feel like a veteran. I've been at it 15 years and this Happens and it's been happening all along as long as I've been a prosecutor these kinds of crimes with young suspects committing serious offenses. But as I think I alluded to in the beginning it doesn't happen very much. In fact, it doesn't happen enough even to keep statistics about it. And so we rely on anecdotes and our sense is maybe once a year we have this kind of crime. We're very young children are committing very serious offenses. (00:31:17) Let's go back to the phones Dan your question, please. Yeah. I have a comment. I have an experience. I've been a guardian ad litem. I've worked in Child Protection work in juvenile Corrections with sex offenders on them prior to that at 12 years experience working in mental health and I guess my feeling is that I get very I'm also a parent. I have a 17 year old and I have a 23 year old and I get there was something that you said that most of the time A lot of the times you can pull it all back to the parenting and blaming the parents and I and I feel very upset when I hear people say that because most of the time when somebody says that they aren't apparent they don't have a young kid a teenager. They've never gone through the what's going on right now with teenagers and the public schools. I think it's they're being exposed to all kinds of just grow test negative things in the school system. I think that pornography is getting worse and worse and and I think the schools are backing off they're not controlling the situations and and I think that the kids are in real bad places they have to go to school and bad places and where because of money and other factors were just not dealing with the the situation at all. And in the meantime the parents their ability to discipline, which I from my experience working in the system that parents are very worried about this. Letting their kids because you say that a child that slapped will not go into the system the parent won't but the child May exaggerate that and then you may go you may be into the system for maybe a month or month and a half going to to meetings and being evaluated and then they find out that maybe that discipline was appropriate or something like that. So the parents do have a legitimate fear about disciplining and the schools are not disciplining. All right, Dan do we put too much blame on the parents in these (00:33:16) situations? Well, I need to defend my opinion on this. I am a parent and I have a teenager and a 12 year old and a 9 year old and I know it's the toughest job. It's the toughest job in the world, but you can escape the fact that what happens in a child's home is more important than anything else in terms of their success and the most important protective Factor if I can use sort of the buzzword for a child is a good relationship. An adult a healthy relationship with an adult that's what turns kids into successful adults. And so, you know, we can talk about pornography we can talk about television we can talk about these outside influences, but the fact remains that that's going on for all kids. That's a, you know an influence for all kids. But the ones who are succeeding are the ones who are getting parental supervision and the families that are getting the support they (00:34:16) need Yeah our David. Yeah, I don't think I could have stated in any better. And I also am the parent of a teenager and and certainly know the challenges but I think that it it really is ultimately the the the parents responsibility and and the influence on a child that the parent has is dramatic. There is a point where it begins to shift and we're obviously peers or or others have a huge impact on how a child acts but but for much of the child's life it is the parent who carries the primary responsibility and and also is the one that the child looks to as as there as a role model X callers from Eden Prairie Jay. Yes. Hi. I'm a parent of three children as well. I have a teenager middle schooler and a and a four-year-old both boys and girls and I I'm not hearing that. We're addressing the problem that most of these many of these I would dare to say almost all these offences are committed by boys against girls. (00:35:26) Well, I guess I'll jump in here. I'm I'm glad you raised the issue. It is a very serious one and that is how can allegedly boys this young use a girl as the object of predatory behavior like that. I mean that's to me almost the one of the saddest parts of this story. Is that the boys if these things in fact happen would think that was okay and that's a huge issue a huge issue as a society and how we view sexual behavior and how we view girls and how we view women and boy in an hour show and with my limited knowledge of the the researcher whatever I can't take that one on but I share the caller's concern, (00:36:16) you know, I think that that was also my first reaction in reading the story and I think to the caller's bigger question of is this something Tends to happen that its criminal acts of boys on girls. I don't know. I don't know the answer to that. (00:36:33) That well, I would say from a criminal justice perspective. Most of our defendants the overwhelming majority of our defendants and certainly in violent crime categories are men. And as far as the the victims, I don't know with the same confidence what the gender breakdown is that but the fact is that most violent offenders are men and you know it maybe not politically correct to talk about that but that's just the reality the reasons for that are a lot less clear (00:37:04) and again something that we talked a little bit about earlier but Remains the question. Is there any evidence to indicate that kids this young actually know what they're (00:37:15) doing. Well again, that will be a very hard question. That's a question that the system that the judge that the psychologists. Everyone is going to have to sort out is what was really going on here and we'll have to find out I mean it maybe it was Oratory behavior gone amok but it from the allegations. It sounds like predatory behavior and it sounds very scary. (00:37:42) You know, and I think that just maybe from a slightly different perspective the question of do children who are in who are preteens or certainly if the oldest child was was 12 or 13 children of that age do know right from wrong, but I think that the question of are they able to conceptualize this is right or wrong in in this in this incident is is a harder one to say and and the question of did they see this as exploratory or was this something different? I is a real difficult one in can only be answered in this case. But I think to your question of can do children at a certain age know right from wrong this certainly they do (00:38:25) right but the bigger question of what is our society telling kids and really everybody about whether or not Aggressive sexual behavior is wrong is a much harder question. And I mean, I don't have the answers (00:38:40) back to the phone's. I your question please first thing I want to ask. I'm from the Hmong community and it seems like just just the story that I guys the feels like it's a involves among Community is that I don't know can't can you guys tell me whether it does or not? If it is then I think we were dealing with a bigger issue than what what is that hand? (00:39:08) Well, I'd be real interested in how you view the issue. I'm not going to talk about specifics of the case. I'm concerned about the amount of information that is already out there. But I think the caller raises an intriguing question and I'd be interested in hearing from you what you think the issues are if in fact this occurred in the Hmong (00:39:28) Community, okay if it happens in the moment comedian I could see this it's a bigger issue dealing with how how the cultural views of the female and you know, those kids. They're 13 12 13. I was a teacher and I know how the the girls are View at that age and you know that plus the mass media of sex exploitation in it, you know Drive these kids crazy. So, you know, there's a culture issue that I think not not many people willing to discuss or try to work with I'll take you answer on the air. (00:40:14) Well, I think you're the caller's absolutely right that it's hard to talk about that and in the public Arena hard to talk about cultural issues because so often then if you talk about it, you're accused of of all manner of insensitivities racism's or whatever. And so it is a touchy subject but I'll jump in our experience in Ramsey County has been that the cultural issues of the Immigrant communities and the Hmong Community is one of the largest of those right now in Ramsey County do present challenges for the criminal justice system. We've had problems with very youthful marriages among girls of 1213 who have been betrothed who are married become married and then what do we do because in America, that's not okay, but it does present challenges. We also have had some challenges in the area of domestic violence and how that is viewed by the Hmong Community vis-à-vis how its viewed by the criminal justice system. Another issue we've had is in rape cases and what the different effect that has on among female. Victim compared to say a Caucasian Victim Because of the cultural pressures that then are brought to bear on her as the victim. So it's tough stuff to deal with and it's a daily challenge for the criminal justice system (00:41:49) Kathy your question, please I'm or have a comment in that I don't think anyone in our society wants to recognize that the root of this problem is the lack of moral absolutes that are taught that secular humanism is so prevalent in our society and is taught in all levels of our Public Schools unless we teach our children moral absolutes unless we teach them right and wrong crimes and this this kind of Trend will just continue to increase in our society these children don't aren't taught to Value life and value other people and I just I just can't believe that you know, no one seems to want to acknowledge this that it's just we're still taught this moral relativism of well, whatever is right for you. Do is find sweetie don't you know, there's there we can't say that's wrong because we how can we say it's wrong for you. Maybe it's wrong for us, but it's not wrong for you. I'm curious what you have to say about that idea. Okay, David Sanders you want to start? Well, I you know, I can respond in part to that. I do think that within the child protection system. I think that both the federal government and state government have identified absolutes in terms of Parental behavior that it is not okay to physically abuse or to neglect children and that that and that at that point it becomes a government responsibility to ensure that children are cared for physically and emotionally and and that their basic needs are met so I I think that it's not I'm speaking very specifically about the child protection system because I think the caller's comments may have been a bit more General but within the child protection system, I think that there is a line and I think that that line has been drawn by both the federal and state governments. What about what we're telling kids though. Do we are do we take a strong enough line with kids to say? No. This isn't right. You can't do this and I don't care what you think about it. This is bad behavior. Well, I think in part it's it is our our ambivalent to some extent about the about children and I think that we sometimes see children as really possessions of their parents and sometimes see children as separate and separate individuals and that in the context of children being essentially possessions of their parents. We do really distance ourselves from what happens in families that a that that it really is a parent's job to raise their children and that Most of us are very uncomfortable with getting very involved in that and so if a parent wants to be wants to teach your child absolute right and wrong than that's fine. If not, then that's also fine. And and I think that's that is a much larger question about how we view kids in our society and and how we value them. (00:44:48) Well ideal more largely in the criminal law. That's the most public part of what we do and there are plenty of absolutes in the criminal law. There's a whole book full of things that are a crime and we prosecute those crimes. So I don't find moral relativism or secular humanism or any of those things to have much to do with what I do. I prosecute crime but I think the the bigger question of you know, what our values are really gets back to what we talked about a few minutes ago. And that is where do we want to put our money? Why is the child protection system in Prices and I think there is a feeling in the community that we do have an obligation a moral obligation to make sure that kids are getting what they need. So they don't turn into criminals. And so I think that we got to as a community start talking about that. We've got to let our policymakers know our County board members our legislators know that if we do want to pay more taxes for child protection for child services for interventions for child support enforcement the kinds of things that give kids a chance that's my definition of moral obligation and moral Authority and that's what I'm worried (00:46:03) about if we doubled tripled quadrupled the amount of money we're spending on those programs. Could we prevent this kind of a repeat of this kind of (00:46:12) incident? Well, that's a very good question and the at the County board meeting yesterday that we alluded to earlier. There was a lot of discussion about looking down the line ten years because at least the County Board doesn't want to just keep putting in, you know money to put the finger in the dike what they want to do is look at prevention. Look at long-term projects that will produce results but we have to do both and both is going to cost money, (00:46:41) you know, if I can respond just briefly to that. I think there are there are a couple of ways of looking at that one is the system as it is now and that really is a system that reacts once abuse or neglect has occurred and I believe that the system can go a long way to ensuring better outcomes for children by intervening after abuse or neglect has occurred and in Hennepin County as an example the number of adoptions that we finalized his increased by 8 times over the last five years. And so what's happened is that we have the children have been moved from dangerous situations and placed in homes where they will receive the support and When nurturance and care that will help them as they move into adulthood. And so I think at one end it is possible through investment in in various activities in the child protection system. I think to see very different outcomes for children. I think on the larger level it's a it's a more difficult question because I think that the very best system we could have would be one where children aren't abused or neglected that once we get involved. That means that something bad has already happened and that the the possibility of good outcomes are really reduced. And so what we really want is to make sure that we have the kind of preventive in early act intervention activities that are effective in preventing abuse or neglect and there are some whether it takes a tripling or quadrupling of budget. I don't know but I think that we do need to focus in in that area more than we have. Unfortunately we're out of time, but I'm sure like to thank you for coming in (00:48:22) today. Well, thanks for addressing (00:48:23) this. You Ramsey County attorney Susan Gartner and David Sanders who is the director of Children and Family Services for Hennepin County joining us during this first hour of our midday program as we take a look at that story about the eight-year-old girl who allegedly was raped in st. Paul by a group of seven boys five minutes now before noon and this is midday time now for the Riders Almanac


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