Attorney: Hennepin County Child Protection System Needs Overhaul

June 01, 2017 10:56 PM

Attorneys who filed a class action lawsuit against Hennepin County and it's Department of Human Services and Public Health this week say the case has the potential to grow to thousands of children who have been affected by alleged abuse and neglect in the county.

"We have one of the poorest performing child protection systems in the nation," attorney James Volling, of Faegre, Banker, Daniels LLP, said. "And that's not what we are about in Minnesota."


The civil lawsuit states, "Hennepin County is failing to live up to its responsibilities, and Defendants have long been aware that its child protection system has devolved into a confusing, underfunded, and erratic system that inflicts harm on the children it serves on a widespread and measurable basis."

The lawsuit, which totals nearly 100 pages, outlines ten cases where children were allegedly harmed and neglected, in many cases even after the department was made aware of a problem.

"So it's not just once, it's multiple times," Volling said. "That is why we believe the system needs a monitor, remedies, oversight and accountability."

Volling says the lawsuit demands the court order a third party be brought in to oversee changes to the department and that children are being protected in the future.

"It can't just be the next idea that might move the needle a little bit. It's got to be tearing it apart and putting it back together again," he said.

KSTP has reported extensively on the problems within Hennepin County's child protection system including hearing from a former case worker who spoke on condition of anonymity. He spoke about struggling to keep up with an overwhelming case load and other inefficiencies.

RELATED: Children at Risk: Child Protection Workers, Police and Courts Need Faster Access to Crucial Information

In response to the lawsuit, Hennepin County spokesperson Carolyn Marinan said, "We are committed to child well-being and families. In fact, the county board has spent several years investing in system improvements along with authorizing an additional 13 million in property tax dollars annually as a means to invest in services and supports so children and families thrive."

KSTP has also reported how the county is working to institute a more proactive approach to child protection. But Volling says the need is more immediate.

"We don't need more kids harmed while we are trying to prevent something that might happen 5 years from now. We need to deal with the system as it exists and we need to change it," he said.

Those interested interested in joining the lawsuit you can call the law firm of Faegre Banker Daniels at 612-766-8577.


Ben Rodgers

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