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Lawmaker Plans to Push for More Distance Between Officers and Families in Child Protection Removal Process

July 26, 2016 12:40 PM

Minnesota's child protection system is in the middle of a major overhaul to better care for vulnerable kids. 

State leaders have dozens of goals they hope to accomplish, including one lawmaker's idea he believes could improve race relations between kids and police.

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Representative Ron Kresha wants to look into putting child protection workers in charge of removing kids from abusive and neglectful homes instead of law enforcement officers.

In troubling times, nearly everyone is searching for solutions.

"We have to look at trying to build better relations," Kresha said.

Representative Kresha wants to start talks at the beginning of the next legislative session that would put child protection workers in charge of removing kids from abusive and neglectful homes instead of law enforcement.

"When an officer arrives to take a child out of the home, there's so much emotion there. I just can't see where that kid is looking favorably at law enforcement," he said.

Officers are often the first to physically break family bonds, tasked with taking children to emergency shelters like St. Joseph's and, sometimes, even resorting to leaving children at Hennepin County Medical Center to spend the night as child protection investigations get underway.

"I think that has certainly stirred some of the issues we have with race in the metro area," said Kresha.

According to the Hennepin County Human Services and Public Health Department, the majority - 56% - of the 1,500 children currently in foster care in Hennepin County are black or African American.

"These are high-risk situations that we don't want anybody getting hurt," said Rex Holzemer.

Holzemer oversees child protection services in Hennepin County and says law enforcement is necessary in those situations to keep everyone safe.

"We are putting tremendous stress on child protection staff already with the kind of work that they do and to put them in a situation where potentially they would be at risk would not be acceptable to us," he said. "It just would not be acceptable."

Holzemer fears the change could present too large of a risk.

"We have to be prepared when we walk in the door in these kind of situations for just about anything to happen and that's an unreasonable expectation to put on a child protection staff member," said Holzemer.

Still, he welcomes any conversation that could build better relationships for all involved but says it has to prioritize safety over trauma.

Representative Kresha says he still wants law enforcement to be present during these removals just at a distance like out on the sidewalk where they can step in if things turn violent.

Credits

Katherine Johnson

Copyright 2016 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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