News: Child well-being is focus for Hennepin County Child Protection Oversight Committee

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Correction: The link to the child protection services webpage at the bottom of the news release was incorrect in our last message. Here is the correct link:



Mike Opat, County Board, 612-348-7881

Jennifer DeCubellis, Human Services, 612-596-9416

Carolyn Marinan, Communications, 612-348-5969

Child well-being is the focus for Child Protection Oversight Committee

For 13 months, from October 2015 until October 2016, the Hennepin County Child Protection Oversight Committee worked to make improvements to the county’s system to protect children from abuse and neglect. The work resulted in a three-year, $26.1 million work plan and a set of six core recommendations that will dramatically shape the county’s work to protect and care for children.

"It is time for a bold new approach," said Commissioner Mike Opat. "Reports of abuse and neglect are at an all-time high. Out of home placements are too high. Too many kids are suffering."

At Thursday’s board briefing, Deputy County Administrator Jennifer DeCubellis and committee co-chairs Commissioner Mike Opat and Ann Ahlstrom, presented the committee’s findings and recommendations, drawn from 13 months of system analysis conducted by the committee and staff, community partners and residents. In the briefing county leaders discussed recommended dramatic changes to the approach the county takes to protect and care for children.

Addressing a major problem

The committee was created by the County Board in July 2015 after a series of events, including: 

  • A county-initiated study by Casey Family Programs that found serious systemic problems with child protection practices.
  • Child deaths from maltreatment in Minnesota, including in Hennepin County, that drew media scrutiny.
  • Governor Dayton’s Task Force on the Protection of Children released its recommendations. The county already authorized hiring 100 more social workers and county attorney staff, and has adopted a 24-7 response system.

The committee made a series of recommendations, which will stabilize the workforce and allow for reasonable workloads; improve professional supports by co-locating work teams in the same offices; offer early and practical help to families that are at risk for violence or dysfunction; improve data collection, analysis and sharing; and establish an ongoing successor committee to continue to study and monitor achievement of program goals. 

Advancing child well-being

But the biggest change is the adoption of a new focus: Child well-being. The county will use multiple platforms to prioritize children’s physical health, emotional and social health, relational health and development. That means that rather than waiting to intervene with a family when there is a crisis, workers across the spectrum of county services will work to identify children and families that are at risk, under toxic stress, or challenged by physical, mental or chemical health issues. 

"Engaging community partners to take advantage of earlier opportunities to stabilize families will help prevent – not just respond to  maltreatment," DeCubellis said. "We hope we will spare kids the kind of emotional and physical injury that can last a lifetime."

The oversight group

The committee was made up of 12 experts from health care, family courts, social work, public policy, child development, law enforcement and nonprofit agencies. 


Mike Opat, Hennepin County Board of Commissioners
Ann Ahlstrom


Jan Callison, chair, Hennepin County Board of Commissioners
Craig Enevoldsen, police chief, City of Brooklyn Park
Eric Fenner, Casey Family Programs
Anne Gearity, Ph.D., University of Minnesota Center for Early Education and Development
Jim Koppel, Minnesota Department of Human Services, Children & Family Services
Judge Anne McKeig, Fourth Judicial District
Alice Swenson, M.D., Childrens Hospital & Clinics of Minnesota - MCRC
Darrell Thompson, Bolder Options  
Noya Woodrich, Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches
Tim Zuel, Hennepin County Attorney’s Office 

For more information about child protection services and this initiative, visit

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