Hennepin County placing more mistreated kids with relatives, fewer in shelters

September 6, 2018

Hennepin County Child Protection Services is placing more children with relatives and fewer in shelters, according to a report given Thursday morning to the County Board.

The report, presented by Deputy Administrator Jennifer DeCubellis, is the first comprehensive look at the progress the county has made in the treatment of children facing abuse or neglect since major reforms were enacted statewide in 2015.

It shows that Hennepin Countys child protection system, which spends about $122 million a year, continues to handle a large caseload.

The number of reports made to the county continues to increase, though the rate is slowing. There were 20,385 calls made last year, up from 20,271 in 2016.

The county is placing more children outside the home as well. More than 2,640 children have been placed out-of-home this year through June, nearly matching the total number placed in 2016. About 3,180 children were placed out-of-home last year.

Some of those are staying out of home for longer; currently, 455 children have been out for longer than 2 years.

But shelter placements are decreasing, according to the report. The number of such placements dropped by 26 percent from January 2017 to July 2018.

More children are being placed with relatives, up 31 percent from 2016 to 2017. As of June, about 1,480 children had been placed in a relatives home this year, more than in any other setting.

Kinship placement is not nirvana, said Commissioner Mike Opat, who chairs the child well-being advisory committee. Theres a lot of relatives that have their own struggles.

Drug abuse has surpassed neglect as the main reason children are being removed from their homes, DeCubellis said. She said more attention needs to be focused on the countys strategy to tackle the opioid crisis, as well as improving child welfare.

The systems workforce, meanwhile, has been strengthened. Staffing for child protection services is up to 463 employees this year, an increase of 42 percent since 2016. Staff turnover has declined by 42 percent.

Check back with the startribune.com for more details on Thursdays report.

Miguel Otandaacute;rola 612-673-4753

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