(Minnesota, 1/26/2017) Katherine Johnson of KSTP News reports that Hennepin County is participating in a pilot program aimed to assist at-risk families to prevent their children from entering into the Child Protection system. The program would include offering support and community resources.
Jennifer DeCubellis, the Deputy County Administrator for Hennepin County Health and Human Services says,”Instead of removing those kids, putting them through the court system and taking apart families, we really want to find where can we invest in families differently and ensure the success of families and the successful development of these kids…” Hennepin County Child Protection Pilot Program Aims to Shift Focus to Front End
A CALL TO ACTION: PLEASE go to the KSTP link (above) to read the article and then leave your comments or share your experiences with Gov. Dayton, Rep. Flanagan and Senator Hayden. Look for the blue “Take Action” box in the middle of the screen. Click the buttons, and follow instructions, to either send a video of the KSTP coverage or to leave your own personal message.
Additionally, the William Mitchell College of Law offered a report with recommendations from its Child Protection Clinic to the CPS Task Force. I found the following information online: Child Protection Program at William Mitchell College of Law Comments to State Task Force on Protection of Children
At this time, it is unclear what the Hennepin County pilot project would offer. However, William Mitchell offers detailed recommendations in its proposal for a pilot project.
The emphasis of the proposed recommendations offered by William Mitchell is keeping families intact and increasing their chances of stability and success.
I am posting the recommendations from William Mitchell to provide an idea of what is possible:
- Offering attorneys/legal representation to parents at risk of entering the system.
- Additionally, attorneys would be provided with, and encouraged to utilize, supportive services (parent mentors, social workers, experts, community supports, material resources) rather than rely solely on the legal system
- Increased training for attorneys working with CPS cases. This would also include case load limits for attorneys so they are not over burdened. As well as increased oversight of attorneys working CPS cases (this would make sense since the attorneys would likely be paid through tax payer dollars, and would be providing a public service).
- Parent mentoring programs. William Mitchell defines a “parent mentor” as,”Parent mentors are individuals who have successfully navigated the child protection system and who seek to help and empower parents with open cases.” Parent mentors provide emotional and material support (providing advocacy for families, transportation, helping fill out forms, attending meetings with parents, etc). There was no mention if mentors would be financially compensated, or how parents would be recruited. The recommendations did suggest that parent mentors work alongside or in conjunction with existing social service programs.
- William Mitchell recommended that the Minnesota Legislature provide $500,000 in funding to initiate a pilot program in two counties for parent mentor programs, and to include an evaluation of the programs.
- Creating an independent board to provide oversight and regulation of contracting practices of parent representation.
- Enacting legislation to provide access to parent mentors for all parents in the child protection system before and during court involvement.
On a personal note, I hope similar reform efforts will be directed towards family court, and its practices as well. Parents are routinely deprived of custody, and estranged from children, as the result of family court proceedings. Most families face similar challenges of lack of legal representation or being unable to afford legal help. The emphasis on keeping families intact, and empowering parents rather than tearing them down, is also greatly needed in the family court system.
Efforts made to initiate needed change, and the work it requires to secure funding are more than worth the investment in our children, who are not born in care of that state, but rather placed in families by divine design. Only in extraordinary circumstances should children be removed from families. The system as it is now is liberally removing children, while denying parents the protection under the law that they are Constitutionally guaranteed… the result is not only destroying the lives of children and families, but destroying society as a whole.
Reform in CPS, family court, will not come easy. And will require an honest look at the system’s failings, and the devastation caused on families. But only through honesty can we hope to address the needs that are there while also making the well-being of children a priority.
Great work to parents, professionals, and lawmakers working to improve the Child Protection system! And thanks to Katherine Johnson (KSTP) and other media sources raising awareness of these important issues!