Governor Mark Dayton today took a series of executive actions to protect children in Minnesota from the threat of abuse and neglect. These efforts include both immediate changes to the child protection system, and the establishment of a new Governor's Task Force on the Protection of Children. The Task Force, appointed by the Governor, will make specific recommendations for comprehensive improvements to the child protection system in the upcoming 2015 Legislative Session.
"The abuse of any child in Minnesota is one child too many," said Governor Dayton. "No child should have to suffer from the violence or neglect of a family member or other adult. I look forward to the recommendations of this new Task Force, and I urge the Legislature to act on them in January."
Minnesota ranks among the top five states in child well-being. Still, in recent years some children have fallen through the cracks of the child protection system, suffering maltreatment and even death from violent abuse. The executive actions taken by Governor Dayton today will strengthen protections for children, and enhance the accountability and vigilance of state and local child protection systems.
"Keeping children safe is one of the most important things we do at the Department of Human Services, and each of the state's 87 counties and tribal governments," said Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson. "The tragic death of Eric Dean should serve as a constant reminder to all of us how important this work is. We will be exhaustive in our review of this system, and fully-committed to implementing any needed changes to secure the strongest possible child protections in Minnesota."
Two Immediate Steps to Enhance Child Safety
First, Governor Dayton has directed the Department of Human Services to take two immediate steps to improve child safety and enhance accountability in the child protection system. Those steps include:
Rapid Consultation System - Recognizing that child protection requires difficult judgment calls and expertise, a rapid consultation system staffed by state and county specialists will be set up for county workers who need expert advice as they do their work. This new support system will be operated by counties and the Department of Human Services.
Monthly Random Screenings - The Department of Human Services will begin monthly random reviews of county screening decisions, starting immediately. These screening decisions are the initial choices county child protections workers make about whether or not to investigate allegations of child abuse.
Governor's Task Force on the Protection of Children
Additionally, Governor Dayton today signed /governor/assets/EO_14_15_tcm1055-114231.pdfExecutive Order 14-15, creating a Governor's Task Force on the Protection of Children. The Task Force will be chaired jointly by Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson and Ramsey County Commissioner Toni Carter. Members of the Task Force will include legislators, county representatives, children's advocates, attorneys, and child protection experts from across the state. The full membership of the Task Force will be announced in the coming weeks.
The Governor's Task Force on the Protection of Children will conduct a comprehensive review of how decisions are made to ensure child safety, and recommend specific ways to improve Minnesota's child protection system. Preliminary recommendations will be made to the Governor and Legislature by December 31, 2014. Those recommendations will be based in three areas, including:
Reviewing Policies, Laws, and Protocols - The Task Force will evaluate the appropriateness of screening decisions made by child protection workers. They will also review policies and laws meant to protect children and families, and the protocols for pre-court protection, screening, and mandatory and cross-reporting.
Enhancing Accountability in the Child Protection System - The Task Force will review accountability measures within the system, and issue recommendations for adequate supervisory oversight of current child protection practices.
Capacity and Resources - The Task Force will ensure the child protection system has the capacity and resources necessary to fully-address child maltreatment reports.
The Task Force will also examine the training of staff, child welfare training system, and workforce development. Additionally, it will evaluate the workload of staff and supervisors, cross-reporting to law enforcement, and the handling of substantial child endangerment cases.