2023 Investigative Report on MN Children Killed

by Caregivers While in Child Protective Services

(Funded by former MN Supreme Court Chief Justice

Kathleen Blatz)

In December of 2021, three year old Derric Fulks JR. died because of exposure to Fentanyl. He was one of hundreds of children that fell through the cracks of Minnesota’s Child Protection System.

Born with marijuana in his system, at six months old an apartment fire, Police raid, guns and severe cuts to his face we know of – and we don’t know more than we do know. Derric’s died from fentanyl but CPS isn’t sharing any other information. Derric’s grandmother Cynthia Bergerson said that no one from the county or state has interviewed her and remarked that “A child has died and no one in government seems to care”. There is a real lack of data and transparency in CPS which makes it hard to know outcomes short of child death.

72% of of the 88 child maltreatment deaths studied were known to CPS. We do know that there were many reports by mandated reporters of life changing violence, neglect and abuse but few follow ups.

We gravitate towards blaming mom and dad and their crimes, violence and drug addiction – but it doesn’t help to solve the problem. Our rage often turns to the people doing the work of Child Protection. That doesn’t help either. Social work is a demanding and stressful business. Social workers work long hours and often have caseloads of 100 + children a time. Keeping them all safe with the time and resources they have is not working (read pages 19-32 in the report below to see their stories).

When four-year-old Eric Dean was killed by his mother after 15 ignored reports by mandated reporters a few years ago, it was illegal for social workers to check a family’s history of child abuse when reviewing new reports. At that time, 4 MN counties were screening out 90% of child abuse reports.

Those policies have changed, but the metrics and lack of transparency allow for degrading conditions that are responsible for child deaths and the much larger numbers of terribly abused and tortured children that suffered life changing abuse without sufficient help from Child Protective Services.

In defense of social workers, they did not make this problem. We the people have decided that these are the polices and resources we have for keeping children safe in our community – that’s the problem.

KARA’s proposal for keeping children safe is to engage the CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) community volunteer Guardian ad Litems as part of the the family assessment process. There are 950 CASAs across the nation that advocate for thousands of children every year. MN has had over 10,000 CASA community volunteers advocating for children over the last 40 years. CASAs take only a few cases and would be available (to travel MN) for life saving child visits where paid GAL staff and social workers have not got the time to make in home visits. 

Unfortunately, CPS is in the process of eliminating the CASA Guardian ad Litem program. Unless the public and their State Representatives speak out in defense of this effective volunteer program, it’s likely that our current treatment of at risk children will not improve.




 This report documents system failures in cases

Of Minnesota Children Killed due to Child Abuse

 (read the report and child stories here)

short  (KSTP video)



A study of child fatalities that occurred in Minnesota between 2014 and 2022 due to neglect and abuse indicates multiple failures in the state’s child protection system, including the inappropriate assignment of serious cases to low-risk categories, inaction on cases of chronic maltreatment and the return of children to abusive parents before the parents had made meaningful changes.

The study, undertaken by Safe Passage for Children of Minnesota, examined 88 child fatalities using data from court records, county child fatality reports, and news media reports. Rich Gehrman, Safe Passage executive director, said the results of the study portray a system that continues to give priority to the rights of parents over the safety of children.

“The core mission of child welfare is to protect children, but the system frequently left them in situations where they experienced life-altering neglect, repeated physical and sexual abuse, and even torture, often over long periods of time,” Gehrman said. “In many cases, individuals in multiple institutions knew about ongoing maltreatment but failed to act.”

Other patterns identified in the study including the failure by medical providers to recognize “red flags” when treating injured children, children killed in kinship foster placements, an alarming incidence of torture, and inconsistent mandates and protocols among the state’s courts.

The report spotlights the stories of eleven abused children. Those stories, Gehrman said, portray a system that “appeared to have become inured to dangerous levels of abuse and neglect of children,” most of whom were infants and toddlers.

It is critical, Gehrman added, to focus on protecting the youngest children, because trauma to infants and toddlers often has serious lifelong consequences.

“These stories illustrate the role played by institutions directly responsible for child welfare, which include the state Department of Human Services, county social services agencies, Juvenile Court, county prosecutors, and local law enforcement agencies.”

The study also provides statistics that reveal important new insights into perpetrators and victims. For example nearly half of children were killed by someone other than a biological parents.

The report, Gehrman said, illustrates how leaders in all human services sectors need to make child maltreatment a part of their programs because many of them touch these families before they get to child protection. The Minnesota Legislature, he said, “also needs to fully fund the system.”

Safe Passage for Children of Minnesota is a citizens’ group that advocates for improvements in Minnesota’s child welfare system.

Additional information is available at https://safepassageforchildren.org.


KARA reports on the issues of child abuse and child protection

This article submitted by CASA volunteer Mike Tikkanen

KARA Public Service Announcement (30 seconds)

KARA Signature Video (4 minute)

INVISIBLE CHILDREN campus programs here