Olmsted County adds child protection workers
Olmsted County is set to add four new child protection positions to its Child and Family Services Division with the help of $492,800 in state funding.
The funding, received July 1, is the first installment of a total of $616,000 that could be delivered to the county if Olmsted's employees meet performance standards laid out by Governor Mark Dayton's Task Force on the Protection of Children .
Statewide, the Minnesota Legislature has appropriated $23.35 million to counties and tribes in response to recommendations from the child protection task force.
A July 21 release from the Minnesota Department of Human Services indicated $18.68 million of that funding had been released to counties and tribes. The remaining $4.67 million could be issued in February based on agencies' performance standards.
The Olmsted County Board of Commissioners approved adding four positions to the county's Community Services Child and Family Services Division: one child protection assessor and investigator and three ongoing child protection social workers will join the county by late August.
The county currently staffs eight assessors and investigators and 22 ongoing child protection social workers.
The added positions will assist the county in handling increased child protection caseloads and a formidable list of recommendations from the governor's child protection task force, said Jodi Wentland, county child and family services director, at a June 23 county board meeting.
The task force was formed in October 2014 to assess the state's child protection services and responses to child welfare reports. The task force and a report delivered in March found Minnesota agencies screened out too many child protection reports without investigating or conducting face-to-face interactions with children.
The task force's recommendations included bolstering the state's funding to agencies to increase staffing and allow caseworkers to more appropriately address cases.
Child protection cases have increased in Olmsted County from 541 in 2012 to 570 in 2013 and 659 in 2014.
Olmsted County's child protective services have rated well in performance standards — well enough that it is one of a few counties that already meet performance standards set by the state to receive the remainder of funding from task force recommendations.
A three-year average of the agency's performance showed alleged child victims received face-to-face contact in a timely manner in 88.9 percent of cases, according to the state Department of Human Services.
Olmsted County has some concern with the accuracy of that state measure, and others, according to Olmsted County Services Director Paul Fleissner.
"We have significant concerns with the state data integrity related to the information they have published on our performance," Fleissner wrote in an email to the Post-Bulletin.
The county child protective services division will continue working to improve its performance.
"We have lots of areas that we want and need to improve, but our staff is doing an amazing job," Fleissner said.