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Lawmakers Criticize Minn. Child Protection System

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- A Star Tribune investigation found the death of 4-year-old Eric Dean could have been prevented -- if only child protection workers had investigated numerous reports of abuse.

"It was really amazing that there would be 10 to 15 family assessments on one child before a true red flag would be raised," Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Vernon Center, said.

County workers do not routinely consider all signs of trouble at home, including police calls, living conditions or neighbor complaints.

In Pope County, where Eric Dean died, the local state representative says residents are shocked.

"Anytime you that you have a child that loses their life, and that could have been prevented, people are concerned about that," Rep. Jeff Backer, R-Browns Valley, said.

The new laws require every abuse report to be investigated by law enforcement. Abuse reports must be kept for five years. And the law will specifically say child safety is more important than family preservation.

Two separate legislative committees are now simultaneously considering law changes. One lawmaker says it may cost tens of millions of dollars -- but is worth it.

"What have we lost? What have we lost in that family that is never created? What have we lost in that education that never happened? And what have we lost in those future jobs?" Rep. Ron Kresha, R-Little Falls, said.

It's worth noting that for 10 years beginning in 2002, Minnesota cut $42 million out of county child protection services.

If all or part of those funds are restored, a portion may be used for hiring more child protection workers.

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