Is Child Protection Services (CPS)

creating what it was designed to stop?


KARA reports on the issues of invisible children

This article submitted by Former CASA Guardian Ad Litem Mike Tikkanen

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All Adults Are the Protectors of All Children


This is not about the workers. They are doing incredibly challenging work that takes a toll on their well-being. Secondary trauma is part of the job; turnover is high, and good results are hard to come by.  This is about institutional transparency and the lack thereof.

The public knows almost nothing about the depth and scope of generational child abuse in the community or the underlying child outcome metrics of CPS.  While the public sees dysfunction caused by under-informed policymakers, it can’t tell lawmakers what needs to be fixed. This is not because they (the public) don’t care or want to know.  It is because the institution doesn’t make important metrics or child-based outcomes available.

Program managers most often use the HIPPA laws and Human Resources policy to defend their lack of information sharing.  In the Casey Foundation review of Hennepin County CPS a few years ago, Dee Wilson delivered the report to County Commissioners telling them that the HIPPA law defense for not sharing information is a “red herring” in most cases. We do not want names; we want data and descriptions to make informed decisions about policy.

For instance,

In the recent Safe Passage for Children of Minnesota’s investigative report of children murdered while in CPS at the hands of their caregivers, four counties refused to participate, and no county offered up any information not already made public. 

A few years before, Governor Dayton called out the “catastrophic failure” of CPS in the tortured death of 4-year-old Eric Dean. Even after 14 reports of abuse made by mandated reporters, Eric was never seen by a social worker. At the time, 4 counties were screening out 90% of child abuse calls, social workers were forbidden to review prior histories of a family’s child abuse when reviewing new cases, and the reporter who broke the story told this interviewer how impossibly hard it was getting information from the County about how the boy died.

If it were not for the tenacious reporting of Star Tribune’s Brandon Stahl, and the serious investigative reporting of MN’s Safe Passage For Children, we would know nothing about the hundreds of children murdered by their caregivers in CPS. Hundreds of invisible dead children and no accounting for what happened, how they died, and how they could have been saved.

Similarly, if not for the efforts of CASAMN and KARA tattling to the Star Tribune, we would know nothing about the misguided recent two-year battle by GAL program management to kick the CASA volunteer Guardian ad Litem program out of MN.

Had that happened, MN would have been only one of two states, without a CASA volunteer Guardian ad Litem program. 


All this to say that informed decisions require child outcomes-based data and information. Until we have it, schools, teachers, public health workers, law enforcement, public safety, CPS workers, our communities, and thousands of abused and neglected children will continue to suffer.