Case Workers: Foster Care Provider Recruitment Reaches Critical Need Level

October 03, 2017 06:46 PM

The families need help. The case workers need resources.

But lawmakers say that as of now, they may have done all they can to revamp the state's child protection system without more funding.


"We've gotten to a point now where we've made as many substantial changes as we can with the resources available," Rep. Ron Kresha said at Tuesday's meeting for the Legislative Task Force on Child Protection.

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The group of lawmakers is charged with overseeing the implementation of 93 recommendations made by the Governor's Task Force in 2014 with the goal of overhauling a broken system where children continue to fall through the cracks.

However, case workers argue that the system is more dangerous now than before. They say many of the most pressing problems remain.

For example, by implementing stricter guidelines in recent years, more children are now in need of foster care. But not enough foster families are signing up.

"What we're faced with in child protection, believe it or not, is sometimes children are taken into care and we have no place to put them," said Ramsey County child protection screener Cynthia Hassan. "Children have ended up sleeping on cots in our offices overnight."

Studies show Minnesota funds about 24 percent of the state's child protection system, while other states fund as much as 60 percent of similar programs.

Do you think Minnesota's child protection system overhaul should be made a priority for more state funding? Let these lawmakers know your views.

"The seasoned workers are at 40, 50, 60 cases," said another case worker out of St. Louis County.

That's not 60 kids, either. That's 60 cases, meaning 60 families likely with multiple children in need of services.

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The state recommends no more than 10 cases per worker.

"At the end of the day, that's our front line," Kresha said to his fellow lawmakers. "We can keep trying to give them recommendations, but if we don't have a stable force there, it's just going to be a moving target."

With too much ground to cover in a three-hour meeting, many people who planned to testify couldn't and were instead asked to sign up for a spot at the task force's January meeting.  

AFSCME, the union representing child protection workers in the state's biggest counties, testified that since the state started this overhaul in 2015 investigations have increased by 50 percent. The foster care population in Minnesota has risen 33 percent, and the number of maltreatment reports case workers are expected to study has increased by 72 percent.


Katherine Johnson

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