Minnesota’s abused and neglected children finally catch a break. Brandon Stahl’s superb reporting on the tortured death of 4-year old Eric Dean after fifteen ignored reports finally reached the State’s top child protection people (Erin Sullivan Sutton) and is trickling down to the legislators that voted to eliminate what was at the time already weak tracking, reporting, and responding to of child abuse complaints by counties.
While this is great news for the 68,000 children that are reported as abused in MN each year, it will not restore the millions of dollars that have been cut from County budgets for child protection services that would allow counties to:
Provide the public access to a transparent record keeping and tracking that will allow transparency that the rest of us might monitor how reports of abuse are responded to across the state,
Create consistent standards for screening in cases from county to county (today, four MN counties screen out 90% of child abuse reports)
Fix the damage done already to the thousands of MN children that have been screened out and are living in horrific circumstances,
It is left to be seen if the legislative turnaround will impact the 29% of abused children in the system that today are sent back to abusive homes,
Or our state ranking as 47th in the U.S. on the amount it spends on children in child protection,
Or that 80% of Minnesota’s abused children are abused again while under court supervision,
It will also not shrink case loads, create more crisis nurseries, shrink the waiting list for subsidized day care (over 8000), or make the child protection system more child and family friendly.
The biggest issue might be that these terrified and tortured children have no control or voice in their own homes, no voice or lobby at the statehouse to make laws to protect them, no voice (except for Brandon Stahl) in the media, and the only federal law that protects children in America is the “imminent harm doctrine” that forbids people from killing their children, which is interpreted by different courts in very different ways.
These issues are beyond the powers of the children being affected and are up to us the adults who will give voice to the tragic circumstances abused and neglected children live through every day of their young lives.
Support KARA’s MN Public Television Documentary Project on this topic
MN is not alone in child protection failure;
Compilation of state child protection problems
From today’s Brandon Stahl Star Tribune article;
Four legislators told the Star Tribune on Monday they did not know what they were voting for in May.
The language on what to do with screened-out abuse reports was introduced by DHS, Sullivan Sutton said, which was later wrapped into an omnibus bill that included dozens of new laws. “A screened-out report must not be used for any purpose other than making an offer of social services to the subjects of the screened-out report,” the law says. DHS pushed for the change to make the law consistent with its September 2012 guidance that counties should not consider any prior maltreatment history when considering what to do with a new report.
Sen. Sheran said DHS’ guidance makes no sense. Still, as chair of the Senate Health, Human Services and Housing Committee, Sheran sponsored the omnibus bill that restricted use of prior abuse reports, which she said she didn’t realize and now wants changed.
Rep. Tina Liebling, DFL-Rochester, who sponsored the House version of the omnibus bill, said she thought she was strengthening child protection by helping pass another bill that required counties to keep records of screened-out calls for a year.
“The point of what we changed was to do the opposite [of the DHS bill],” Liebling said.
Rep. Jay McNamar, a DFLer who represents the area where Eric lived, voted for the DHS bill, but also said he didn’t realize what he was supporting. “I probably should have,” he said.
Regardless, McNamar said, he now supports any change in law that will prevent any death similar to what happened to Eric.