Child protection: Lawmakers hold first task force meeting, hear from public

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Looking for ways to improve Minnesota's child protection services after a string of critical investigations and reports, a group of lawmakers gathered in St. Paul Tuesday to discuss possible fixes and hear public comments.

The meeting was the first ever for the Legislative Task Force on Child Protection – created during the most recent lawmaking session after a recommendation from a separate governor's task force, according to a news release from Rep. Ron Kresha, a Republican from Little Falls.

The group of eight lawmakers will look at what reforms have been passed up to this point, and how the state's child protection services can be improved. They'll issue a final report early next year.

What happened at first meeting

During this initial meeting, the group heard testimony from three people.

One of those was Dawn Buttera, who told ABC 6 that people like her tend to get "lost in the system."

"I think we tend to make meetings and systems and it gets really big," she said, according to the station. "And then it gets a little bit too much to handle and then we're not doing anything. and that's my concern here."

Kresha, who authored the child protection bill that got passed during this year's legislative session, said in a news release he and his colleagues are "deeply committed to ensuring that our child protection laws are working the way they should be."

"This is something we have to get right," he said.

According to an earlier claim from Kresha, 25,297 children were reportedly abused or neglected in 2013. Seventeen children died.

Rep. Peggy Bennett, in her own news release, said it was "heartbreaking to hear these stories about where the child protection system has broken down," adding she hopes the task force's work will help prevent further incidents.

The task force's creation

This legislative task force is a direct result of a different task force, one set up by Gov. Mark Dayton last year.

That group, after months of study, proposed 93 changes to child protection policies, recommending the state spend more on protection, hire more social workers and improve their training.

That task force was set up in the wake of a Star Tribune investigation into the tragic case Eric Dean, a 4-year-old who died at the hands of his stepmother after concerns over maltreatment had been reported by caregivers on 15 occasions.

The creation of a legislative task force was included in its recommendations.

Lawmakers, in this spring's legislative session, passed a few measures that Kresha called an "important first step."

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