MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The death of a 2-year-old girl that police say happened at the hands of a teenager has again put the spotlight on the system that was supposed to protect her.
Sophia O’Neill died from internal injuries last week after court documents say her mother’s boyfriend, Cody Samuel Feran-Baum, badly beat her.
Her death makes five children that have died from abuse in the last year in Hennepin County after social workers were called with concerns.
“When you’re facing too many cases with too few staff these are the kinds of things that happen,” said Rex Holzemer, the assistant county administrator for the Department of Human Services.
He said Hennepin County Children and Family Services asked for an outside review of the system last year.
“We knew that we had issues here,” Holzemer said. “We wanted to take a serious look at it.”
The report just released from The Casey Family Programs found 10 percent of maltreated children suffered more abuse within a year in Hennepin County, compared to five percent statewide and across the country. Budget seems to be the biggest factor. It’s less than what it was seven years ago.
“It’s really had a negative impact in our ability to respond and keep kids safe,” Holzemer said.
Child abuse investigators had been handling 135 cases each every year. The next highest county in Minnesota had 75.
It’s why child protection is asking for more than $3 million to increase its social worker staff by 30 percent.
The report also says the staff is well-educated and cares deeply about their difficult job.
“We’re very concerned about it,” Holzemer said, “and we’re going to deal with it.”
Hennepin County Child Protection is expected to take 16,000 calls of suspected child abuse this year. New leadership has also been put in place in the last few months. County commissioners are expected to approve the plan to hire more social workers next month.