March 07, 2018 06:44 PM
Two child protection bills were heard in the State Senate's Human Services Reform Finance and Policy Committee Wednesday morning.
The bills, backed by child protection advocacy group Safe Passage for Children of Minnesota, address two practices common in child protection cases.
The first bill, SF 2989, delineates that it is the preferred practice to interview children prior to and separately from adults in the household.
This would effectively end the practice of interviewing children in the presence of the alleged perpetrator as the first step in the family assessment process.
Rich Gehrman of Safe Passage for Children of Minnesota said interviewing children in front of the person allegedly hurting them doesn't make sense to most people.
But right now, it's a part of the philosophy of family assessment.
"So if you look at this in terms of say, the gymnasts and Larry Nassar, you wouldn't give Larry Nassar three, four or five days to go and talk to the girls and intimidate them, then make them confront him in person," Gehrman said. "But that's the process that is currently being used."
The second bill, SF 2847, states workers will assign cases to family assessment or investigation after fact-finding is completed.
Supporters said this has several benefits, including moving toward a single response system, and improving child safety by reducing the number of high risk cases that are inappropriately assigned to family assessment.
Gehrman uses recent accusations against a Minneapolis couple as an example.
Jerry Curry and Sheila Wilson are currently facing charges.
"Where the father was shackling his daughters to the bed and starving them and sexually assaulting them for years," Gehrman said. "That was opened in 2013 as a family assessment case, which means they didn't interview the children separately.
"They may not have interviewed them at all. If they had done these two steps, we're recommending they probably would have uncovered what was going on and saved those children four-or-five years of being tortured."
Wednesday morning was only an informational hearing, and the bills were not voted on.
Updated: March 07, 2018 06:44 PM
Created: March 07, 2018 04:01 PM
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