ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Cass County Board: Response to child abuse cases could change

BACKUS - State proposals for child protection could have a huge impact on the process for responding to child abuse accusations and on the cost to counties.

1671175+0422_crying_baby.jpg
In the last 20 years, social workers have focused efforts on providing enough support to families with the goal to keep families intact. Counseling was provided to parents and/or children. If children were removed from their home, an effort was made thereafter to try to reunify the family. The Governor's Task Force on the Protection of Children report states; If abuse is possible in a case, the child should immediately be removed to safety. Illustration

BACKUS - State proposals for child protection could have a huge impact on the process for responding to child abuse accusations and on the cost to counties.

Michele Piprude, Cass County social services manager, and Director Rene Wells explained the changes coming from the Governor's Task Force on the Protection of Children. It could swing the pendulum 180 degrees if the Legislature adopts all the proposed changes, they said.

In the last 20 years, social workers have focused efforts on providing enough support to families with the goal to keep families intact. Counseling was provided to parents and/or children. If children were removed from their home, an effort was made thereafter to try to reunify the family.

Because there have been instances recently of children suffering severe injury or dying at the hand of their parents in a few counties, the current shift is to place child safety first, they said.

The governor's task force 65-page report calls for each child abuse case reported to be evaluated within 24 hours of receipt.

ADVERTISEMENT

Not just a social worker, but a team representing social services, law enforcement and the courts must do the review within 24 hours. The report proposes 93 reforms.

Each social worker should carry a caseload of no more than 10 cases at a time, the report recommends. It also notes the social worker must obtain specialized training and become state certified to handle child abuse cases.

---

If abuse is possible in a case, the child should immediately be removed to safety, the Governor's Task Force on the Protection of Children report states.

---

If abuse is possible in a case, the child should immediately be removed to safety, the report states.

Cass County's child protection social workers currently oversee about 20 cases each rather than 10. The county has had a multi-department screening team to review cases to recommend whether children should be removed from their homes, but it meets much less frequently than every 24 hours.

After the initial assessment, social workers would review each case monthly, the task force report recommends.

ADVERTISEMENT

The state task force and governor have recommended the Legislature allocate funding toward specialized training and certifying more social workers and creating incentives for people to enter the field.

Yet, Administrator Robert Yochum said he expects the magnitude of the program will shift a lot of cost to county taxpayers, because of the vast number of additional social workers needed to meet the proposed state caseload levels.

"The state is telling us how to staff," Wells said.

Not addressed in the state report is the potential cost and recruitment that could be needed for counties to supply additional foster homes to accept children removed from their homes.

Piprude said social workers try to find a family member outside the immediate home to take children when they can, but that is not always an option.

Wells sees the trending as shifting from one extreme of trying to keep as many families together as possible to that of putting safety first before keeping family units together.

---

"Are the children really better off because our child protection workers stepped into their life?" That should really be the question we are asking, Cass County social services Director Rene Wells.

ADVERTISEMENT

---

"Are the children really better off because our child protection workers stepped into their life?" That should really be the question we are asking, Wells said.

Cass currently has six child protection social workers managing 115 open cases.

The county board voted Tuesday to recognize April as Child Abuse Prevention Month and to adopt an Association of Minnesota Counties resolution to proclaim their gratitude for the work the county's social workers do on behalf of the most vulnerable children.

In other Health, Human and Veterans Services (HHVS) business Tuesday Public Health Nursing Director Jamie Richter said this year's county health rankings of Minnesota counties still has Cass at the low end of the list.

Some things we cannot change, she said, citing the incidence of poverty in the county and the fact that major medical services are available only in neighboring counties rather than inside the county.

In areas where we can make a difference, she said there has been improvement. Cass has cut the percentage of people smoking from 22 percent to 16 percent. A major outreach to inform the public about healthy eating has helped lower obesity rates, Richter said.

The county rose in ranking this year for overall healthy behaviors, she said.

The board Tuesday approved seeking the annual State Health Improvement Plan grant as a separate county program rather than jointly with Morrison, Todd and Wadena Counties this year.

Minnesota Department of Human Services sent a letter congratulating Cass for providing all 32 state-required financial reports on time and in perfect order in 2014.

The board approved a memorandum of understanding with American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees bargaining unit representing HHVS employees. It recognized that workers who work as needed based on the worker and agency's needs are not eligible for fringe benefits except longevity.

The change is in a lump sum payment made Dec. 1 each year to those employees who have completed six months of total service to the county. Instead of the payment being equal to two eight hour days, it now will equal three eight hour days.

Related Topics: CASS COUNTY BOARD
What To Read Next
Inmates in-custody in the Todd County jail in Long Prairie, Minnesota
Inmates in-custody in the Wadena County jail in Wadena, Minnesota
Inmates in-custody in the Aitkin County jail in Aitkin, Minnesota
Inmates in-custody in the Beltrami County jail in Bemidji, Minnesota