Task force recommends 93 reforms to child protection system

Updated: 6 p.m. | Posted: 11:17 a.m.

A state task force approved final recommendations to revamp Minnesota's struggling child protection system on Monday.

The Governor's Task Force on the Protection of Children released a draft version of its report that includes 93 recommendations for revamping the state's child protection system to make it more "child focused."

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Among the recommendations:

• Revise policies to make child safety the paramount consideration in child protection screening.

• Allow caseworkers to consider older cases that have already been dismissed when considering a new report.

• Standardize how counties and tribes document reports of child abuse and neglect.

• Explore a statewide child abuse and neglect reporting system.

• Initiate a long-term reconsideration of the state's two-stream system, which separates investigative and assessment functions.

• Give caseworkers more training for skills like culturally-responsive interview techniques that can help address racial disparities in the child protection system.

• Develop mechanisms to make the child protection more transparent to the public, including quarterly state reports on county performance.

• Boost state funding for child-protection services, which are largely funded by counties and saw an almost $42 million yearly revenue decline statewide in the last decade.

The 26-member task force was convened by Gov. Mark Dayton in September in response to the death of 4-year-old Eric Dean, who was killed by his stepmother despite repeated warnings to child protective services.

The task force's members include Department of Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson, former Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz and Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Chair Carri Jones, among others.

Some changes recommended in the report can be made directly by the Department of Human Services. Others will need legislative approval. The report will be sent to the governor and Legislature following passage.

Earlier this month, Dayton signed a bill to enhance child protection.

"Intervention and prevention efforts shall address immediate concerns for child safety and the ongoing risk of abuse or neglect and should engage the protective capacities of families," according to the new law.

The governor has also pledged $52.5 million to implement recommendations from the task force.