Those cases were instead shuffled to "family assessments," a remedy meant for less serious abuse cases, the Star Tribune reported. The Department of Human Services revealed the problem Wednesday at a child protection task force meeting.
"This practice must change," Jamie Sorenson, the department's director of child safety and permanency, wrote in an email to the task force. State law requires an investigation of all child sex abuse reports to determine if any maltreatment occurred.
|Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton|
The rising use of family assessments is at top of the task force's list. Designed as an alternative to punishment for less-severe cases, family assessment has become the predominant method of handling reports of abuse. Meanwhile, counties investigated just 7 percent of abuse reports in 2013.
Sorenson said the state will re-examine the 203 cases that weren't properly handled last year. DHS doesn't have enough resources to go back through prior years, he said, but the state will also start receiving monthly reports on all cases directed for family assessment.
The bulk of the mishandled cases were from Sherburne, Stearns and Wright counties, as well as the Southwest Health and Human Services agency, which covers several counties in southwestern Minnesota.
Stearns County Human Services Administrator Mark Sizer was surprised to hear that his organization had referred child sexual abuse reports for family assessment.
"That should never happen," he said. Hmmmp! You think? That means more than 200 children very likely suffered sexual abuse that could have been stopped, but wasn't. That's blood on your hands, Mark Sizer.