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When a report of a troubled family comes into the Hennepin County office, child protection workers consult with doctors, teachers, relatives and neighbors as they decide whether the system needs to intervene.  The most important criterion: Is a child in immediate danger?


Screeners are on duty 24 hours a day taking reports from the public, police and others.

  • Is there enough evidence of abuse or neglect to keep looking into the case?

    If "Yes"
    --Investigators talk to police, interview people who know the child, visit a hospital, etc., to evaluate the risk of ongoing abuse or neglect if the child stays in the home.

    If "No"--Nothing more happens.

  • Is the risk high?

    If "Yes"
    --72-hour hold:  The child may be put in a shelter, and within 72 hours a Juvenile Court Judge must hold a hearing.

    If "No"--The family may be referred to counseling or other community services.

  • Is it safe for the child to return home?

    If "No"
    --The county gets temporary custody and keeps the child in shelter, in foster care or with a relative.

    If "Yes"--The system might not intervene further.

A Case Plan

Field social workers develop a case plan that lays out what the parents, the child and the system must do to reduce the child's risk.

  • Is it still too dangerous for the child to go home?

    If "Yes"
    --Monitoring.  With or without the child at home, the county works with the family to fulfill the case plan.

  • Is the family doing well enough that the child is considered safe?

    If "No"
    --Taking away rights:  The county may ask the court to pursue terminating parental rights.  Options include putting the child up for adoption, transferring custody to other relatives or putting the child in long-term foster care if he or she is 12 or older.

    If "Yes"--The family is reunited but may have conditions to follow for 30 or 60 days.

More facts

  • In Hennepin County last year, 70,000 calls, police reports, faxes and letters were received from people concerned about the well-being of children.  More than 5,000 were deemed serious enough to pass on to child-protection investigators.  More than 650 cases resulted in the county removing children from homes.  More than 200 cases ended with children being taken from their parents permanently.

  • In a Star Tribune analysis of the 220 petitions for the termination of parental rights filed by Hennepin County since the pilot started June 22, 1998:

    Average age of parents: 29
    Average age of children: 5
    The petitions involved 213 families and 342 children.  Typically, one child per family was removed, but as many as seven have been removed from one family.
    --David Chanen [Minneapolis Star Tribune]

Source: Minneapolis Star Tribune, 6/22/1999
This document was obtained from http://mclauhead.com.

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