Commissioners hear of child welfare program needs

County tries to fill sixth child protection position

NEW ULM — Brown County commissioners learned of the successes, needs and challenges of child protection during a child welfare program overview Tuesday.

Performance measures of the 2023 child protection and permanency report showed Brown County is performing above the state standard despite increasing child protection intakes and children entering out of home placement.

Brown County’s overall timeliness of the percentage of alleged maltreatment victims seen face to face within the time limit specified by state law was 92.2% (142 of 154) in 2023. The state standard was 90%.

The percentage of monthly face to face visits with children in out of home care was 98.3%, (402 of 409). The state standard is 90%, according to the report.

The percentage of days children spent in family foster care settings with relatives was 48.1%. The state standard was 35.7%.

The percentage of children with more than one screened-in maltreatment report within 12 months was 18.7% in Brown County. The state standard was 15.2% or less.

Brown County Social Services Supervisor Denise Kamm said the most (13) children were removed from home due to parental chemical use.

The report showed 53 children left out of home placement on 2023. Thirty-four children were reunified with parents, 10 were adopted, four were involved in a transfer of legal/physical custody, four resided with non-removal parents and one aged out of care.

Twenty children were in out of home placement due to maltreatment as of Feb. 9. Eight children are waiting for adoption or custody transfer to be finalized, seven are placed with relatives or kin, three are the subject of permanency petitions (no reunification with a parent) and one child is a state ward, available for adoption.

Adoptions take close to a year to finalize from the time paperwork is submitted to the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS), according to the report.

Adoption delays are caused by DHS staffing issues, additional documentation continually being added to the process, lack of communication between DHS and counties. The county agency is not notified when an application has been received or regarding ongoing status.

In one situation, DHS had no record of an application until Brown County Human Services questioned the status, according to the report.

“Our child protection unit was again short staffed in 2023,” Kamm said. “At times, there were only two fully trained staff trying to handle all the cases and train new staff. We are still trying to fill our sixth child protection worker position that has been open since January and approved by the county board last summer.”

She said a family-based worker resigned and a new worker was hired.

“Our child protection team of three fully trained workers has been busy with supervised visits, parenting education and offering parenting groups and community training,” Kamm said.

The DHS hosted a Jan. 5 event to discuss the status of the Minnesota child protection system.

Kamm said participants provided thoughtful ideas and suggestions and shared concerns and challenges.

Kamm said there was a lot of focus on the Social Services Information System and the need for a new or redesigned system that can reduce the technical burden on workers and reduce redundant data entry.

“Staffing continues to be a major barrier for many agencies. The need for more robust training and recruitment of child protection workers and more supervisor and staff resources was highlighted,” read the county report.

Kamm cited the lack of service providers and placement options, including mental health and substance abuse providers and the need for more coordination and training with the court system and law enforcement and that current laws make the work complex and overly prescriptive (based on long-standing customs).

“Our social workers went into the field because they want to work with people. With more and more paperwork, one child protection worker cannot do all the duties required of the position,” said Kamm.

Commissioner Scott Windschitl said child protection worker’s area of expertise is very valuable and the work rewards can be great.


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