I was moved today when Dee Wilson (from Knowledge Management & Casey Foundation) delivered the Casey Foundations 8 month investigation and recommendations for Hennepin County child protection at the County Commissioners briefing at the courthouse (read it here) (Casey Report Executive Summary)
Dee made multiple references to Hennepin County’s “child endangerment” model and how it differs from a “child protection” model. He presented data demonstrating the high screen out rate of abuse calls and our negative outcome across a broad range of criteria and strikingly, how the County largely ignores child neglect (unlike the rest of the nation).
Brandon Stahl wrote a hard hitting article about the report in the Star Tribune on Friday on how Hennepin County has ignored child abuse reports. A pretty good second perspective of the Casey Foundation report was written by Amanda Schwarze at the Lakeshore Weekly News.
I understand the commissioners frustration over how much money (120 million dollars was stated) is spent on CP and how bad the results are. Commissioner Jan Callison said the report “was disturbing and we want to do better”.
What appears from this report is a complex set of issues that need thinking at a higher level and quite simply, more and better understanding of what it takes to keep children safe.
With little measurability, less collaboration, almost no transparency there is only a vague idea of where to put resources and what has to happen before things can get better.
Mr Wilson spoke of a perceived fear and lack of trust (distrust of peers and staff) within child protection and comments like ” You can’t do a good job anymore” and “It feels unsafe. Kids are going to get hurt”.
Defining success, how we measure child safety and ending the current County child endangerment model were top recommendations of the report.
More community based solutions, involving community stakeholders and redefining what we want for outcomes all make perfect sense to me.
I also resonated with how social workers are also traumatized by their work and by the system and how this undermines the well trained, experienced and committed workers that we now have and need so badly to stay. It’s hard work and we should be striving to make things work better for all involved.
It was good to hear it spoken of that allot of the problem is that people don’t talk about the issues due to fear of litigation (and that much of this concern is overblown). The heart of the matter is that we don’t talk about it and very few people have a clear perspective of the issues because of this lack of discussion.
Now, if policy makers would just get their brain around how important crisis nurseries, quality daycare and other early childhood programs are, we might break the cycle of abused children becoming problem youth with no parenting skills, trauma based behavioral problems often made worse with drug and alcohol addictions and three or four of their own very young children that soon become allot like their parents to continue the cycle.
**Concerning the terrible policy of not allowing social workers to consider a family’s prior reports of child abuse in evaluating new reports, it is arguable that the abuse reports “rejected for convenience” language in the report is accurate.