BROOKLYN PARK, Minn. (WCCO) – Many questions remain after an 11-year-old runaway was returned to her rodent-infested home in Brooklyn Park.
The girl and at least two other siblings had been living in the home, despite ongoing investigations by police and child protection services.
WCCO-TV has uncovered a paper trail that documents a history of child protection interventions dating back to 1999.
The documents portray a horrific history of abuse, including a conviction for malicious punishment of a child by the child's mother, Tasha Tennin, in 2006 and the death of an 8-year-old sibling just four months ago.
On Monday, there was a frantic search for the 11-year-old girl. Police said she went missing from the home in the early morning hours after an argument with her mother, who was not cooperating in the investigation.
The search ended suddenly as the child was returned just before 5 p.m. by a neighbor, who found the girl at a clinic in Bloomington, which is 20 miles to the south.
Brooklyn Park police said that another child, the girl's 8-year-old brother, was found dead in the home just months ago.
"There have been numerous calls to this address related to the welfare of children," Deputy Chief Mark Bruley said Monday. "There was a child death investigation here in February."
That death resulted in an emergency petition by Hennepin County for all children to be removed from the home, but that petition was dismissed just days later by Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill.
Criminal defense attorney Joe Tamburino, who is not affiliated with the case, reviewed the court documents Tuesday at WCCO's request.
"There is a complete history of problems in this household going back almost 10 years," he said. "Child protection should have been involved and the kids should have been in a protective situation."
On Tuesday afternoon, the Hennepin County Medical Examiner released its report on the 8-year-old brother's death, saying the cause of his death could not be determined.
The Hennepin County Attorney's Office they had no comment on the case.
Hennepin County Child Protection Services issued a statement saying that they have worked diligently in this case and added that they tried to remove the children from the home after the brother's death in February.
Child advocate Rich Gehrman said things are in flux right now. In Minneapolis, authorities removed adult twin daughters with mental disabilities from a home over the winter. Their dad is accused of keeping them chained in the house where he beat them, and raped one of them, leaving her pregnant. In both cases, police and child protection services had been involved.
"That has been not uncommon in the system for many years, so what I'm telling people now is it seems like there are some changes may be taking hold and that's why they're stopping these cases now that might have gone on," Gehrman said.
He founded Safe Passage for Children of Minnesota, a nonprofit advocacy organization dedicated to improvements in child protection and foster care. He saw improvements in 2015 with the formation of a Child Protection Task Force after the death of Eric Dean in Pope County. The 4 year old was killed by his stepmother, despite a number of reports that he was being abused.
"Now they're screening families and reports according to the same standards, so there's a whole lot more families and kids coming into the system and that has generated a larger case load. And now we have a new set of issues, which is, are there the resources a properly-sized child protection system?" Gehrman said.
In Brooklyn Park, a caseworker did sound the alarm with an emergency child protection petition in February.
"We're in such flux that I really can't tell whether it means that Hennepin County is raising its standards and being less willing to let things kind of go on indefinitely or whether we're just being overwhelmed by cases," Gehrman said.
Cahill, the judge who denied the emergency child protection petition, did not immediately return a call for comment.
Brooklyn Park police say the four siblings, including the 11-year-old girl who ran away Monday, are now in protective custody.
Detectives are investigating a possible criminal case of child neglect or abuse against the mother.
The mother is currently being hospitalized for an undisclosed medical condition.
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