A great new nonprofit is reaching out to improve and reform child welfare through citizen-led advocacy. This is a Minnesota effort, but every state needs it.

What is Safe Passage for Children? http://safepassagemn.org/

Our strategy is based on two principles: citizen involvement and data.

On the grass roots level Safe Passage recruits volunteers to lobby local and state elected officials in a grass roots campaign to improve the child welfare system. We train them to use reports that highlight key state and county performance measures.

Going forward Safe Passage will engage civic and business leaders in a broader reform campaign that will complement the grass roots effort.

How Does Safe Passage Work?

• Safe Passage recruits volunteer advocates to lobby elected officials for improvements

• Volunteers are trained in reports that highlight basic county and state performance measures

• Those who have not lobbied previously are paired with more experienced individuals

• Volunteers impress legislators because they are advocating on behalf of children in general, not because they need services themselves or work for a nonprofit that is requesting money

• Advocates attend one training session and one organizing session per year, and make 2-3 visits – one each to their state representative, state senator, and county commissioner

Why is Safe Passage Needed?

The Minnesota child welfare system is in a state of rapid decline. Since 2001:

58% of child abuse investigations are initiated on a timely basis compared with 76% in 2001

Children who get regular monthly visits from their caseworkers dropped from 82% to 51%

• Services identified in case plans are actually provided in only 48% of cases, down from 69%

• Racial disparities in Minnesota are much worse than nationally
Plan for the 2010 State Legislative Session

• Ask Department of Human Services (DHS) for additional

• Get an estimate of impact of budget cuts to staff and contracted services

Study Best Practices for financing and data

• Stakeholder focus groups

• Analyze differences between counties in screening practices
Longer Term Strategy:

• Continue to expand grass roots effort

• Engage civic and business leaders in reform campaign

o Build case for prevention: reduce disparities, improve outcomes, get positive ROI

o Use data statewide to drive performance: “What gets measured is what gets done.”

o Refinance delivery system for more equity statewide and economies of scale

o Redesign delivery system for improved oversight and accountability

Interested persons may contact Rich Gehrman at gehrm001@umn.edu, or (651) 303-3209.

Mike Tikkanen; As an active guardian ad-Litem in 2001, I saw that case loads were high and it was hard for children to be allowed into the system without extreme circumstances.

Today it’s much worse

I applaud this effort to bring people that are aware of the issues forward to speak to policymakers (who are quite removed from the field, and have a hard time knowing the core issues).

Those of us close to the issues know that abused and neglected children need attention and fair treatment. We also know that early attention and fair treatment equals positive early child development and strong capable citizens.

Please contact Rich if you would like to know more;

Interested persons may contact Rich Gehrman at gehrm001@umn.edu, or (651) 303-3209.