A special task force is preparing recommendations on improving Minnesota’s child protection system and Saint Paul Representative Rena Moran says although there are guidelines that counties can follow, why not a mandate? Jim Koppel with the state Human Services Department says, “We would welcome that, but… it would need to be acted on by the legislature.” But Mankato Senator Kathy Sheran cautions that legislative “muscle” is not as necessary as they thought it would be. “We are finding that the counties are really engaged in trying to figure out how to accomplish this,” Sheran says.
Meanwhile, officials in some small rural counties are concerned about a new state requirement taking effect next January that child protection must be able to respond 24-7 to reports of abuse or maltreatment. Kittson County Social Services head Kathy Johnson asked lawmakers to allow them to meet that mandate in the way they’re currently handling it, so they aren’t required to have an official on call. “When you have two staff and one supervisor, that would have meant we would have had to cover every day, every night for 365 days, and I would have lost my workers,” she says. Senator Sheran responds she wants to make sure that, if counties contract with the police or sheriff’s department, that those agencies are properly trained to handle child protection calls.