2014: Death of Boy with Disabilities Sparks New Legislation
Eric Dean: The Boy They Couldn't Save
STAR TRIBUNE, by Brandon Stahl, September 1, 2014
Special report: On 15 occasions, day-care workers and others told Pope County authorities that they suspected Eric Dean was being hurt. But it was not enough. His death exposes the failure of a system charged with protecting the youngest Minnesotans.
By the time Eric died at age four, 15 reports of abuse had been filed on his behalf. Only one report was investigated and that one–of a broken arm–found that no abuse had happened. Minnesota law requires that abuse reports are given to the police; only one of 15 was.
In Wake Of Boy's Abuse Death, Changes Come to Child Protection
By Angela Davis, CBS Minnesota, September 22, 2014
Gov. Mark Dayton took a series of executive actions on Monday aimed at protecting kids from abuse and neglect. Starting immediately, the Department of Human Services will begin monthly random reviews of county screening decisions. Those choices determine whether or not allegations of child abuse are investigated.
The death of a 4-year-old Eric Dean in Pope County prompted the change. The governor said details of how the system failed to protect him, even though there were 15 reports of suspected abuse, are disturbing.
"The picture of 4-year-old Eric Dean smiling at the camera, despite a visible wound on his face, will haunt me for a long time," Dayton said.
The boy's stepmother is now in prison for killing him last year, and DHS has been directed to provide all county child protection case workers more support and advice.
"While we save thousands of children, what we have seen still is far too many children fall through the cracks and suffer maltreatment and even death. So we need to take steps immediately working with the counties to address this," said Lucinda Jesson, the Human Services commissioner.
Records from Human Services show there were nearly 68,000 reported cases of child maltreatment in Minnesota last year. That's up from more than 64,000 the year before. Only 29 percent of the reports of suspected child abuse are investigated in Minnesota. Compared that with the national average of 62 percent.
MARK DAYTON, GOVERNOR
Executive Order 14-15
The Governor's Task Force on the Protection of Children is created to advise the Governor and Legislature on system and practice improvements in the child protection system at all levels of government within the State of Minnesota. The Task Force will consist of members appointed by the Governor.
The purpose of the Task Force is to:
a. Review the current child welfare system to assess practices, especially at critical decision points, to ensure child safety.
b. Make initial recommendations on three areas:
- Are pre-court protection protocols, including screening decisions and the family assessment process, adequate, and if so, are they being adhered to?
- Does the child protection system have the capacity and resources to address child maltreatment reports, and to serve families?
- Is there adequate supervisory oversight of local agency practices?
c. In addition, the Task Force will address:
1. Screening decisions when children are reported to child protection;
2. Training of staff, child welfare training system, and workforce development;
3. Workload of staff and supervisors;
4. Cross reporting to law enforcement;
5. State capacity to review county decisions/quality assurance;
6. Handling of substantial child endangerment cases;
7. Child protection protocols and adherence;
8. Resources and funding; and
9. Assessment of what Minnesota does well and where it needs to improve.
d. The Task Force will not examine court practices or procedures.