Does Child Protection Protect Children?

Imagine two parents who drank constantly, ignored their children while the wife gambled on line and the husband watched porn–all day long.  The children were forced to eat potato chips off the greasy carpet.

Or the boyfriend who was beating his “woman” and her son intervened to try and stop the violence.  As punishment for interrupting, the man put the boy in the oven and turned it on–the mother didn’t object.

In the past 20+ years, the efforts to protect kids has increased immensely.  Fifty to sixty years ago, suspected abuse of kids or dangerous home situations were pretty much ignored.  Since then, the attitude of legislatures and the community is radically different and the intervention of government into families is accept and even encouraged.

These kinds of cases typically began with a report to police alleging concerns about children in their homes.   After the police investigate, they can remove the kids for their safety and present the case to either criminal prosecutors or child protection investigators.

Child Protection will investigate the situation further and, if appropriate, the child protection social workers will try to work with the family to correct the problems that led to the police call.  If the situation can’t be corrected or the parents won’t cooperate a child protection attorney from the prosecutor’s office will file a petition alleging that the children are in need of protection and/or services.  (Called a CHIPS Petition)  In Minnesota, there are usually five categories alleged in these petitions that threaten the safety and welfare of kids:

1.  The mental illness of the parents threatens the kids

2.  The chemical dependency issues of the parents threatens the kids

3.  The parents have committed physical or sexual abuse of the kids

4.   The house the kids live in is a garbage house

5.  Education neglect  (The parents don’t force the kids to school)

Once the parents appear in court a judge will make a decision to either return the kids from shelter to the parents or not, depending on the safety of the home.  Parents have a right to a trial if they deny their kids need protection or services and a right to a lawyer to represent them in all proceedings.  They will also be offered a Case Plan to complete which contains a series of activities that are designed to correct the problems at home.  Typically, these may include:

–No use of chemicals and/or a chemical health assessment

–Anger Management programs

–Parenting education programs

–Psychological evaluations

–Family and/or individual therapy

–Visiting of the kids by the parents if they’ve been removed from the home.

The purpose of all these activities is to reunite the family but only if the parents can insure their children will return to a safe environment.

If the parents complete the case plan before trial, the judge will probably reunite the family.  If not, after a period of time, the prosecutor will file a permanency petition seeking to terminate their parental rights.  Once again, the parents will be offered the case plan and a trial.

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About Colin Nelson

Colin T. Nelson worked for 40 years as a prosecutor and criminal defense lawyer in Minneapolis. He tried everything from speeding tickets to first degree murder. His writing about the courtroom and the legal system give the reader a "back door" view of what goes on, what's funny, and what's a good story. He has also traveled extensively and includes those locations in his mysteries. Some are set in Southeast Asia, Ecuador,Peru, and South Africa. Readers get a suspenseful tale while learning about new places on the planet. Colin is married, has two adult children, and plays the saxophone in various bands.

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