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4-year-old's beating death invoked as lawmakers push reforms to child protection

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Eric Dean is not around to see it, but he's the impetus behind a push to change Minnesota's child protection law.

In a rare show of bipartisanship at the State Capitol, lawmakers of both parties unveiled a package of proposed changes Wednesday. The Star Tribune reports the 11-point plan is aimed at reforming a law that emphasizes keeping families together rather than ensuring the safety of children.

It was the Star Tribune's special report last year on the death of 4-year-old Eric Dean (above) that put failures in the state's child protection system in the spotlight. The Pope County boy died at the hands of his stepmother, who's now serving a life prison sentence. The newspaper found that 15 times before his death, day care workers and others had reported suspicions of child abuse to the county.

Gov. Mark Dayton cited Dean's case in appointing a task force to pinpoint what went wrong and recommend changes in the child protection system.

Republican Rep. Ron Kresha of Little Falls, who is sponsoring the bill, told House Information Services this week children are Minnesota's most important resource.

The bill would change Minnesota's existing law, by allowing child protection workers to consider past abuse reports as they weigh whether to investigate new ones. It would specify that all reports must be forwarded to law enforcement. And it would require that abuse reports be kept on file for five years, WCCO reports.

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To learn more about what constitutes child abuse or neglect and how to report a case, visit the Minnesota Department of Human Services' child protection page.

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