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The River Rushes On. This is the name of the Seventh Annual National Citizen Review Panel Conference which will be held on May 21, 22, 23, 2008, in St. Paul. As the river rushes on, so do the lives of children in Minnesota. Again this year, vulnerable children have been helped by the volunteers who serve on the Minnesota Citizen Review Panels. Since 1999, these panels have devoted themselves to working with state and county agencies to help achieve safety, permanency and well-being for the children in Minnesota.

In 2005 and 2006, the panels focused on evaluating their county’s Independent Living Skills (ILS) services for youth aging out of the foster care system. This year they continued to monitor how the counties and the Minnesota Department of Human Services are implementing the findings and recommendations of the panels. The enclosed reports from each of the counties explain their current findings and continuing recommendations for the ILS services.

The major focus of the panels in 2007 was the future financing of child welfare programs in Minnesota. The panels reviewed various reports and proposals including the Legislative Auditor’s Report and recommendations. The issue of financing child safety will continue to be a topic for the panels’ discussions in the upcoming year as the state is facing additional financial shortfalls and child welfare could be targeted for budget cuts.

As child welfare budgets are cut and programs are streamlined, the work of the volunteers on the Citizen Review Panels will be needed more than ever to promote legislation and funding, review and monitor current practices, recommend ways to deliver services more effectively, provide education to the general public about child welfare, and advocate for appropriate services for children. The panels are hoping that the presence of the Seventh Annual National Citizen Review Panel Conference here in Minnesota will help to educate the public and child welfare professionals about how citizens can devote their time to children in need and how their work can really make a difference.

The devotion by each, individual volunteer Citizen Review Panel member to children and their communities and their continuing efforts toward child safety, permanency and well-being are remarkable.

It’s a drop in the bucket, and a bucket in a pond, And the pond fills the river, and the river rushes on. Every river swells a river, until the power can’t be stopped. And what becomes a mighty ocean, started as a drop.

Drop in the Bucket, lyrics reprinted with permission, mitchbarrett.com


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