Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said if his agency receives “any credible concerns” that the child allegedly abused by Adrian Peterson could be hurt again by the Vikings running back, “we would take active steps to make sure that would not occur.”
Citing Minnesota’s privacy statutes, Freeman would not say whether Hennepin County’s child protection agency is investigating. But social workers say those kinds of allegations would trigger an investigation to determine whether more action should be taken to protect a child.
Peterson has been charged with a felony in Texas on allegations of using a tree branch to whip his 4-year-old son in May and leaving numerous marks on the boy. In a statement Monday, Peterson said he had been disciplining his child.
While the alleged injuries happened in Texas, the child and his mother live in Hennepin County, Freeman said. By law, the county’s child protection agency would have to respond to the report even though the injuries happened in another state.
Allegations of the type surrounding Peterson would require a child protection agency to step in to prevent any future abuse from happening, said Janine Moore, Hennepin County’s head of child protection.
If an agency believes that an abused child or any siblings are in immediate risk of harm, a county can petition for protective services in court, where judges can order children to be removed from a home. Such a filing has not happened in Hennepin County.
Petitions typically don’t need to be filed if parents are cooperating with child protection, said Stacy Hennen, the head of Grant County’s child protection agency and president-elect of the Minnesota Association of County Social Service Administrators.
Attorneys for Peterson and the mother of the alleged abused child could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
A child protection agency also must investigate severe alleged abuse, Moore said. If it is determined that the abuse happened, the county then can find the perpetrator responsible for maltreatment. That finding is not public, but shows up on background checks and can prevent the perpetrator from obtaining certain licenses or working in schools or health care settings for up to 10 years.
That process is separate from any criminal investigation. Based on what he has seen reported in the media, Freeman said that if the alleged abuse had happened in Hennepin County, he would have charged it as an assault and felony malicious punishment of a child.
That’s punishable by up to 10 years in prison.