Hennepin County's Child Well-Being Advisory Committee Releases Report Card on 1st Year

September 06, 2018 06:36 PM

It has been one year since Hennepin County formed its Child Well-being Advisory Committee. The goal was to take a child welfare system and turn it into a child well-being model.

That committee with Hennepin County Health and Human Services met Thursday, announcing changes made do seem to be working, pointing trends in a different, better direction.


But not everyone agrees.

RELATED: Domestic Violence Survivors Help Law Makers Draft Safe Child Act in Minn.

"Our hope is by changing the paradigm and investing in child welfare and those upstream efforts, we will ultimately start seeing less children in child protection," said Jennifer DeCubellis, deputy Hennepin County administrator.

The first-year report card for the Child Well-being Advisory Committee showed calls reporting child maltreatment remain high.

"More than 20,000 calls, about 60 a day, come into Hennepin County about somebody reporting child abuse or neglect," Commissioner Mike Opat, chair of the Hennepin County Child Well-being Advisory Committee, said at Thursday's meeting.

But now, the committee said, there is quicker response time, with family assessments and investigations getting done 43 percent faster.

RELATED: 2 Bills Proposed to Increase Child Protection in State

"I think it's more of a, 'Let's help you get out of this jam that you're in,' rather than actually having a crisis response and removing kids perhaps too quickly," Anne McKeig, a member of the committee and Minnesota Supreme Court associate justice, said. 

Other updates: $20 million more invested in child protection over the last year. The committee evaluated trends going back several years and also found fewer staff are leaving, and out-of-home placements are happening more often with relatives than strangers.

But Erick Kaardal, chief counsel of the Family Preservation Foundation, said the county still needs to better address child protection issues.

"Hennepin County did a report to justify increasing its staff by 70 percent for child protection issues," he said. Kaardal added that staffing increase isn't doing enough to address the problem of some children, often Native American and African American, being taken from their parents when, he said, they don't need to be.

RELATED: State Leaders Acknowledge Racial Imbalance in Child Protection System

Committee members say they'll continue to coordinate services across the county. Their goal is to intervene early, to reduce how often child maltreatment happens, and improve long-term outcomes for families.


Brandi Powell

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