Child Protection Staffing Expands to 24/7 in Hennepin County

May 16, 2016 10:29 PM

Hennepin County Child Protection will begin 24/7 staffing of case workers and investigators starting in June.

For years, they haven't had the staffing to be able to get out to the reported homes on the weekends.

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However, while staffing increases are happening now, other recommendations made by the Governor's Task Force have stalled.

"The practice of interviewing children in front of their alleged perpetrators is something that has to stop.  It just has to stop," Rich Gehrman said.

Gehrman is a Governor's Task Force member, a child safety advocate and the executive director of Safe Passage for Children of Minnesota.

He gave a presentation to the Hennepin County Child Protection Oversight Committee on Monday, saying the Task Force spent most of its time discussing changes to the system that still haven't happened. One of the recommendations Gehrman wants changed immediately is stopping the practice of interviewing children in front of their parents.

"The normal practice has to be to clearly interview children prior to talking to adults whenever possible and always separately from the adults so they can't be intimidated, they can't be coached," he said.

Social Service administrators in counties throughout the state are pushing back against the recommended change in practice.

"Nothing is that black and white that you can say in every one of those cases a child ought to be interviewed independent or separate from that family because you really have to look at what were the circumstances around that case and what additional trauma are you going to result in posing for that particular child. They've been through enough," Assistant Hennepin County Administrator for Human Services Rex Holzemer said.

The president of the Minnesota Association of County Social Service Administrators (MACSSA) echoes that concern, saying the recommendation to always interview children separately could create insecurity in the child and impair the relationship with the family that case workers are trying to build.

Counties throughout the state have until the end of the year to be staffed up and available for welfare checks on weekends.


Katherine Johnson

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