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procedures of the state and local welfare agencies to evaluate the extent to which the agencies are effectively discharging their child protection responsibilities.”

Federal Operational Requirements for Citizen Review Systems:

  • A minimum of three panels

  • Be composed of volunteer members meeting certain requirements

  • Meet every three months

  • Evaluate the extent to which the State is fulfilling its child protection responsibilities in accordance with its State

CAPTA plan

  • Maintain confidentiality

  • Prepare an annual report

How far along the continuum are the panels in making a difference in the lives of children and families involved in the child protection system? This is the first time in Minnesota history that a group of citizens were given such a broad charge and complete access in evaluation of the child protection system. Action steps the individual panels took included:

All three panels individually became advocates in their community based on what they had learned. Forty –three individuals developed a better understanding about the abilities and limits of child protection services in their community and the complex, difficult work of supporting families, yet protecting children. This included:

  • Attending training provided by each county’s social services child protection system and the MN Department of Human Services (DHS)

  • Shadowing child protection workers to better understand their jobs

  • Attending court hearings involving children in need of protection and services to better understand the roles of the court, child protection and guardians ad litem

  • Provided feedback to County Boards in their communities via the Annual Panel Reports and meetings with County Boards in Chisago and Washington Counties

  • Ramsey County CRP published and distributed a brochure, Seven Tips to Make a Difference in a Child’s Life”

  • Washington County CRP established a campaign, “It’s Not Safe for Kids Under Eight” to educate caregivers about the dangers of children being left unattended in vehicles

  • Provided education at local community events about the role of Citizens in protecting children

Citizen feedback was provided for integration into the local child protection service system and development of services statewide. This took place as follows:

  • Citizens consulted with the County Agencies in Washington and Chisago Counties whenever a request for reconsideration of a maltreatment finding was received from a child’s caregiver

  • Citizen input was sought in the development of Chisago County’s Child Protection Intake criteria

  • Citizen input was requested by Washington and Chisago Counties as they developed their Combined Community Social Services Act plan for delivery of child protection services

  • Citizen input was given to Assistant Commissioner Erin Sullivan Sutton for use in planning for the 2001 Legislative Session

  • Citizens reviewed the local utilization of support provided by Crisis Nurseries in each Community

  • Citizens reviewed the local utilization of specialized training on child protection supported by state grants

Citizens are addressing the needs of the children and families served in their communities. This is illustrated by:

  • Independent living skills services for children in Chisago were evaluated for effectiveness in helping children as they establish independence after aging out of foster care

  • Foster care providers were contacted to get feedback about services for children in the child protection system

  • Ramsey conducted an evaluation of child protection services from the perspective of service providers working with children and families in the community, and from the perspective of families receiving help. Strengths were noted and there are plans to address areas needing improvement

  • Washington is in the initial stages of reviewing the strengths and weaknesses of the mandated reporting system

  • Chisago has recommended changes in the mandated reporting training of required reporters

  • All three panels are gathering input from youth involved in the substitute care system through a focus group with youth attending Tomorrow’s Leaders Today conference in Duluth on August 9, 2001

With the completion of the pilot project, the renewed commitment of panel members to additional terms, the three pilot counties renewal of their commitment to citizen review panels and pending addition of new panel members the momentum has been built to sustain the Citizen Review Panels. This momentum lends itself to the development of a renewed focus for the Minnesota Citizen Review Panels.


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