On Tuesday, February 21, the Office of the Legislative Auditor (OLA) released their evaluation report on Child Protection Screening. That same day,The Health and Human Services Reform Committee heard testimony from eight individuals representing agencies ranging from the Minnesota Department of Human Services to local nonprofits.
The purpose of the Committee hearing was to present the report's findings and recommendations to see if a committee member would subsequently sponsor a bill. If a Legislator does not take the initiative the OLA will seek out sponsorship. Overall, the hearing offered a discussion on the report's findings and highlighted Child Protection's funding structure and operation throughout Minnesota's 87 counties.
Highlights of the report include:
- In 2010, 84 county and 2 tribal child protection agencies screened more than 56,500 allegations of child maltreatment in Minnesota
- DHS resources have helped child protection agencies screen maltreatment allegations, but there is room for improvement
- Current information about reporting maltreatment may not be reaching all mandated reporters, in spite of agencies' efforts to educate them
- Inconsistencies in data recording practices among child protection agencies compromise the usefulness of referral and screening data for evaluating screening variations
And some of the report's key recommendations include:
- The Legislature should direct DHS, in collaboration with county and tribal child protection agencies and others, to propose statutory language to clarify state policy on "risk of harm" and neglect
- The Legislature should amend state law to (1) distinguish between all maltreatment referrals and those that agencies "screen in" and (2) address data privacy issues about families who are the subject of referrals
- DHS should expand opportunities to practice and discuss intake and screening with child protection agency staff
- DHS and child protection agencies should explore new ways to share information about child protection and reporting maltreatment with mandated reporters