Kids in child protection in Hennepin Co. placed more with trusted adults, but staying longer

The Child Well-Being Advisory Committee is reflecting on its first full year in operation and its work to reshape the child welfare system in Hennepin County.

The committee presented its findings at the Hennepin County Board meeting Thursday morning. The group is working to change child welfare from a crisis response focus to a child well-being model.

Among the committee's accomplishments include more child out-of-home placements with adults known to the kids. Last year, children spent 59 percent of days in out-of-home care with trusted adults compared to 44 percent in 2015.

Hennepin County has also increased its child protection workforce by nearly 70 percent over a two-year time span.

"What we know is our staff turnover rate is down, our shelter placements are down, our overall timeliness has improved in our child protection response and our use of relative and kinship care is up," said Hennepin County Human Services Director Jodi Wentland.

However, the amount of cases is still high. Last year, there were 20,388 child protection reports, which is almost double the caseload in 2009.

Children are also staying in out-of-home placement longer largely due to more cases involving parent substance abuse. There were 400 drug addiction-related cases last year, which is a 158 percent increase compared to 2011.

"Time is much slower for kids, so a couple months is an eternity," said Hennepin County Commissioner Mike Opat. "So, I think we have to figure out how to get kids to where they’re going to be for the rest of their childhood sooner than we are now."