Program to help abused, neglected children expands

Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS -- A state program that helps find homes for abused and neglected children is expanding by 16 counties, including Mower, as it enters its second year.

The Children's Justice Initiative has already been working with 12 counties, including Olmsted, to help them meet state and federal guidelines for deciding where a child removed from abusive or neglectful parents should live permanently, Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz said.

Blatz said that thus far, the program is working smoothly.

One of its key points is asking judges, attorneys, social workers and others involved in child protection to look at the system from a child's perspective. For instance, while court delays might not seem long for an adult, they seem much longer to a child.


Fewer children are being "ping-ponged in the system month after month, year after year," Blatz said. "This is no small feat."

Government officials have six months to make permanent plans for a child younger than 8 and a year for older children, according to state law. Options include family reunification or permanent placement with another family.

But Blatz said those timelines often weren't followed.

This spring, 16 counties will join the program, which was started by Blatz and state Human Services Commissioner Michael O'Keefe.

Counties involved during the past year are Crow Wing, Carver, Chippewa, Faribault, Hennepin, Kanabec, Olmsted, Otter Tail, Ramsey, Stearns, St. Louis and Washington.

Counties joining this year are Aitkin, Blue Earth, Brown, Clay, Itasca, Kandiyohi, Lac qui Parle, Le Sueur, Mille Lacs, Mower, Nicollet, Sherburne, St. Louis, Todd, Waseca and Yellow Medicine.

By 2006, all of Minnesota's 87 counties will be involved.

Officials are expecting more detailed information on the progress of the 12 counties in May.

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