During Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Month, the Minnesota Department of Human Services encourages all Minnesotans to support efforts that build community and strengthen children and families.
State and local officials are focusing more than ever on efforts to prevent child abuse and neglect. Government, community organizations and others offer resources to help families reduce stress by providing economic supports, nutritional assistance, parenting classes, and chemical and mental health treatment.
Still, community members— teachers, neighbors, friends—are often the first line of defense against child maltreatment.
“Families who feel connected to their community are much more likely to know what tools are available to them and seek help when they need it,” said Human Services Assistant Commissioner Jim Koppel. “Outreach on the front end can make all the difference in establishing safe, nurturing households.”
Nearly 39,500 Minnesota children were alleged victims in screened child protection reports in 2017—holding relatively steady from 2016 after a 25-percent jump the previous year, according to preliminary data. The opioid epidemic and other substance abuse has contributed significantly to the rise in child protection reports, Koppel said.
Minnesota continues to implement new strategies to ensure children are safe, including those recommended by the Governor’s Task Force on the Protection of Children. Congress also recently passed bipartisan legislation—the Family First Prevention Services Act— that will shift federal funding and give more flexibility to child welfare agencies by providing the tools needed to help children and families in crisis, including families struggling with substance abuse.