Skip to main content

Hennepin County to add 100 people to child protection staff

  • Author:
  • Updated:

Hennepin County is poised to add nearly 100 new employees to its child protection services, just days after a critical report said the safety of abused children in the county is compromised because the system is underfunded and overloaded.

The county's Health and Human Services committee gave preliminary approval Tuesday to the resolution. If approved by the full County Board next month, the measure would return the department's staffing to pre-recession levels that were in place in 2008, according to the Associated Press.

Rex Holzemer, assistant county administrator for human services, told MPR News the number of child abuse cases in the county continues to increase but staff levels haven't kept pace.

As a result, social workers have been struggling to keep up with higher caseloads and more complex family problems, he said.

Last year, Hennepin County child protection workers received 15,500 calls of suspected child abuse or neglect. That number is expected to reach nearly 18,000 this year and 21,000 in 2016, according to the Associated Press.

A report by Casey Family Programs, which was released last week, was highly critical of Hennepin County's child protection services, the Star Tribune notes. Ten percent of abused children in Hennepin County were subject to repeat abuse within a year, twice as high as the statewide rate of 5 percent.

The report said budget cuts were largely to blame for the poor performance, but also noted a "lack of trust of agency leadership" among employees surveyed, according to the Star Tribune.

The county's action is also a response to several recent extreme cases of abuse where children ended up dead.

A review by the Star Tribune found at least six children in Hennepin County who were known or had family members who were known to child protection services have died in the past two years, including Barway Collins and most recently, 2-year-old Sophia O'Neill. She died earlier this month after allegedly being kicked and stomped to death by her mother's boyfriend.

In response to another horrific case of child abuse in Pope County, last month Gov. Mark Dayton signed a law requiring changes to the way child-protection cases are handled. It includes $52 million to pay for those reforms, including additional staffing on the county level, according to the Associated Press.

In Hennepin County, the new staff would be paid for with about $5 million from the new state funding and $3.6 million in county money.

The county board will discuss the findings of the Casey report in more detail at its Thursday meeting, and is expected to take final action on the staffing proposal in early July.

Next Up

Brave New Comedy Workshop in downtown Minneapolis.

Brave New Workshop cancels shows due to COVID-19 cases

The shows were scheduled for Friday and Saturday at the Brave New Workshop Comedy Theatre.

Austin Retterath

Body of missing U of M student found in Mississippi River

Austin Retterath was last seen alive in the morning hours of May 8.

"Love" mural seen in St. Paul.

Summer mural events to bring together community, shine light on MN artists

The 2022 Chroma Zone Mural & Art Festival will take place this weekend in St. Paul's Creative Enterprise Zone, with ensuing events happening this summer.


Gallery: Remodeled lakeside home in Prior Lake on market for $2.8M

It offers privacy at the end of a dead-end road fronting onto Lower Prior Lake.

golden valley police department

Carjacking outside ice arena in Golden Valley under investigation

Golden Valley PD confirmed it received a report of a carjacking Monday evening.


Signs that MN Legislature could move to loosen liquor laws

A provision was approved by a legislature committee on Thursday but still awaits a final decision from the House and Senate.

US Bank Stadium

U.S. Bank Stadium looking to hire 400 part-time workers

A hiring fair will be held for the positions.

Screen Shot 2022-05-20 at 8.55.56 AM

Officials looking for man last seen leaving Hudson home

David Mckay, 67, was last seen in Hudson Thursday morning.


'Hyper-contagious' BA.4, BA.5 COVID variants confirmed in MN

Omicron continues to evolve into a more transmissible virus.

covid-19, coronavirus

Minnesota's COVID-19 update for Friday, May 20

The latest data shows there are 442 people with COVID hospitalized in Minnesota.