Gov. Dayton takes executive action to protect children from abuse

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Gov. Mark Dayton on Monday ordered new measures to combat child abuse in the wake of a shocking story of a boy killed at the hands of his stepmother after 15 maltreatment reports.

A Star Tribune special report told the heartbreaking tale of Eric Dean, who died in February 2013 at age 4. He had been in the care of his stepmother, Amanda Peltier, at her home in Starbuck in western Minnesota, and she subsequently was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison.

As part of its investigation, the Star Tribune talked to child care providers who had tried in vain to prod Pope County authorities to more thoroughly investigate reports of Dean's abuse. County officials say they followed the law, and could do little to prove the boy’s injuries were from abuse. Critics have sought answers to many questions left by the case. Could police or social workers have done more – how did this boy fall through the cracks?

In response to this, Dayton issued an executive order Monday to make immediate changes to the child protection system. He ordered random checks of county child protection decisions and created a team to advise counties with issues.

He also announced a task force to make recommendations for improving the child protection system in advance of next year's legislative session. The task force will also examine if more reports need to be investigated and the impact of funding cuts to child protection.

Earlier this month, Dayton called Dean's death a "colossal failure" and outraged state lawmakers said new legislation is needed to prevent more failures in the state's child welfare system. Lawmakers said they plan to launch a sweeping analysis of how the state protects children.

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