The Sept. 24 article about a boy rescued from a drug den and subsequently lost (“Safety net fails missing boy”) reports yet another apparent failure of the child protection system. I am a mother, grandmother and, for 17 years, a Hennepin County volunteer court-appointed advocate for neglected and abused children.
Over those 17 years, I have been part of some truly appalling decisions:
• To reunify a child with a recovering addict parent who may or may not be able to sustain that recovery, or
• To remove a child, permanently, from the care of a recovering addict parent who may or may not be able to sustain that recovery.
Children want to be with their parents, no matter what treatment they have received. Parents love their children and want to raise them. But Hennepin County must protect children and ensure that they have safe, secure, nurturing and permanent homes, and accomplish this within federally mandated timelines, within the law and with a limited budget.
Why can’t Hennepin County always do this?
• Because a truly overburdened and not fully staffed child protection system cannot make all decisions after in-depth observation, but only after an every-few-weeks check-in by an overburdened worker.
• Because communication between the police and/or jails, the courts and the child protection system breaks down every time one computer doesn’t talk to another and some relative who shouldn’t is allowed to take a child.
• Because timelines to ensure that children don’t languish in impermanent situations for years may not give parents time to truly become fit.
• Because some parents can’t ever become fit.
• Because, because, because …
If you truly want to try to prevent child abuse, neglect and even death, get involved.
Hundreds of Minnesotans are volunteer child advocates, called guardians ad litem. They speak in a child’s best interests during court proceedings after a thorough investigation of the child’s circumstances, needs and the issues that brought them to the court’s attention. They also advocate for the children with every agency and person providing the services these children need.
Please investigate becoming a child advocate in your county, or in Hennepin County, or in any county that needs volunteers.
By the way, they all do.
Elaine Frankowski lives in Minneapolis.