Others’ Opinion: Strong start on fixing child protection

Published 8:59 am Thursday, October 9, 2014

With just three months before its recommendations are due to the Minnesota Legislature, the new Governor’s Task Force on the Protection of Children needs to get to work.

Fortunately, the high-caliber list of people just appointed suggests the group is up to its critical mission: diving deep into Minnesota’s flawed child protection system and finding fixes.

Mower County Sheriff Terese Amazi to the Governor’s Task Force on the Protection of Children last week.

Mower County Sheriff Terese Amazi to the Governor’s Task Force on the Protection of Children last week.

Gov. Mark Dayton recently announced the task force’s formation after a haunting Star Tribune story detailed the brutal death of 4-year-old Eric Dean. Fifteen reports alleging that Eric was being abused had been filed with child protection officials.

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Yet the little boy from Starbuck died in February 2013 from abdominal blows. Among the injuries noted by the medical examiner: bite marks on his scalp and face. His father’s girlfriend is serving a life sentence for his murder.

On Friday, Dayton released the names of the 24 people who will serve alongside task force co-chairs Lucinda Jesson, Department of Human Services commissioner, and Toni Carter, a Ramsey County commissioner. The list is impressive. Members appear to have deep expertise and bring to the group valuable perspectives. Physicians, law enforcement officers, county-level human services officials, judges and child advocacy experts will serve. The group also brings geographic diversity, with members from the metro and greater Minnesota.

In particular, the Star Tribune Editorial Board was pleased to see Kathleen Blatz named to the group. A former state Supreme Court chief justice, Blatz has long been a champion for transparency in the child protection system. She has also long questioned whether the system responds forcefully enough to abuse reports.

Other task force members also stand out for their willingness to ask tough questions and for their child advocacy expertise Among them: Dr. Mark Hudson of Children’s Hospitals and Clinics, Rich Gehrman of Safe Passage for Children of Minnesota, and state Sens. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, and Kathy Sheran, D-Mankato.

The appointments of Jesson and Carter as co-chairs raised concerns that the panel would protect the status quo. But with the additions of Blatz and the other excellent task force members named last week, Minnesotans should have high expectations for the work that lies ahead.

— Minneapolis Star Tribune

Distributed by MCT Information Service