Child protection agencies across the U.S. are grappling with how to repair systems that failed to protect thousands of vulnerable children from repeated abuse, reports the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Since 2012, directors of at least 16 state and county agencies have resigned or been fired. Nine states have adopted reforms designed to protect more children. Those actions often came after public outrage over the deaths of children previously known to child protection agencies. New York, Florida and Arizona overhauled their child protection systems this year, and Minnesota is poised to follow their lead.
Gov. Mark Dayton formed a child protection task force after the Star Tribune's report on 4-year-old Eric Dean, who was reported for abuse 15 times before he was murdered by his stepmother last year. Last week, Minnesota's Department of Human Services hired a new assistant commissioner for Children and Family Services. This is at least the third time Minnesota has looked to reform its system since the late 1980s. Nationwide, states have passed reforms or seen leaders resign amid scandal, only to have children continue to die from repeated abuse and neglect. Michael Petit, former commissioner for the Maine Department of Human Services, estimates that up to 70 percent of the children who have died from maltreatment were known to child protection agencies. “Child protection is in crisis,” he said.