UPDATE: The Star Tribune reports in Minnesota DHS wants to scrap just-passed law on child protection:
The state’s top child protection official wants to scrap a law her agency helped pass four months ago that made it more difficult for social workers to investigate maltreatment cases.
In May, the Legislature overwhelmingly approved a bill that forbids county child protection agencies from considering past abuse reports that were rejected when deciding whether to investigate a new report.
In the wake of the Star Tribune story on Aug. 31 about the death of 4-year-old Eric Dean, some of those same legislators say they did not realize what they had voted for, and now are calling for a law that will require agencies to consider all prior abuse reports.
“I don’t see why we would restrict past use of information under any circumstances,” said Sen. Kathy Sheran, DFL-Mankato.
Erin Sullivan Sutton, the assistant commissioner for children and family services for the Department of Human Services, said the law passed in May codified what had already been common practice for years. . . .
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. . . .
Read the entire Star Tribune article. [end update]
Last week, Bluestem posted that Torrey Westrom voted to cut child protection services funding in 2011 and that the career politician. who has served in the state legislature since 1997, had done little lawmaking to protect abused children,
The Star Tribune had reported in Lawmakers: Child-protection system failed Eric Dean that Westrom was planning to make changes to state rules after hearing from constituents outraged about the death of the abused boy, who was a resident of his district.
We were curious what leadership he had taken in the issue before the headline news (his sponsorship of bills while serving in the Minnesota House and Senate are found here).
While researching the issue, Bluestem learned that a minor change had been made in the law, after a more ambitious bill introduced by Senator Jeff Hayden was watered down. On June 3, 2014, the Chronicle of Social Change's Daniel Hempel reported in Not For Your Consideration:
Minnesota responds to three in ten reports of child abuse. Could a policy that precludes consideration of prior allegations be to blame?
Faced with serious concerns about its response to reports of child abuse, Minnesota’s Department of Human Services (DHS) will consider amending a critical line in its guidance on child abuse screening this summer.
Over the spring, reporter Brandon Stahl of The Minnesota Star Tribune wrote a pair of stories chronicling the wide inconsistencies and low rate of investigation of alleged child abuse in the state’s 87 counties, alongside the tragic fate of seven children who died after child protective services contact in 2013.
In addition, a bill to amend the state’s screening practices was signed by the Governor last month. But the original legislation, which was the outgrowth of a 2012 audit that alluded to many of the problems Stahl would later describe in sharp relief, was so pared down in the state’s two-year legislative session that the new law’s effectiveness is left in doubt.
This leaves DHS with the difficult task of creating consistency across the state’s 87 counties, which range from the urban and suburban areas around Minneapolis to small jurisdictions abutting the great North Woods. . . .
Remember, when cutting funds in 2011, Republicans argued that counties should have flexibility.
So how did Torrey Westrom vote on the Omnibus Health and Human Services Policy Act, that contained the changes?
Watch the Senate floor session debate on the conference committee report here.
Photo: Torrey Westrom campaigning Congress at the Ottertail City Parade, via Facebook. Westrom is challenging veteran U.S. Representative Collin Peterson in Minnesota's sprawling Seventh District.
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