Response from Erin Murphy, Candidate for Governor
Safe Passage for Children of Minnesota is a nonprofit citizens’ group that advocates for improvements in Minnesota’s child welfare system. Our volunteer advocates throughout the state serve as watchdogs for the system governing child protection, foster care and related services. We are conducting a survey of all declared candidates for Minnesota governor to obtain their views on the current state of our child welfare system. The results of this survey are being shared broadly throughout Minnesota.
Read on for Safe Passage for Children's questions and Candidate Erin Murphy's responses:
Safe Passage for Children: Our child protection system is overburdened in many Minnesota counties. For example, child protection worker caseloads have increased. Do you favor increased state funding for our child protection system, overall?
Erin Murphy: I do. We’re the adults and it’s our job to look out for children. When it comes to issues related to health, education, and protection of children we have to ensure that the resources needed are there and that children get the safety and opportunities they deserve.
This isn’t something we can continue to shift to counties. It’s not fair and the burden on counties to do this critical work, with limited staff and resources, comes at the expense of other priorities or work not getting done. The state needs to lead on this.
Safe Passage for Children: The Task Force on the Protection of Children recommended that child protection workers discontinue the practice of interviewing victims in the presence of their alleged abusers (who may be parents or caregivers). Do you favor changing this recommendation to a requirement?
Erin Murphy: I do. In general, I think we need to have informed dialogue on tough issues like this and listen to the experts. On many tough issues we’ve evolved to either give minors more decision-making authority or to protect them. We would never interview an adult with their alleged abuser in the room, and it follows that as a general practice, we would follow that same approach with children.
It’s also important that we have the highest quality child protection workers, and that they are given the training, support, and time they need to do their jobs right.
Safe Passage for Children: Children of color, especially African Americans and Native Americans, are disproportionally over-represented in the child protection system. What steps would you consider to ensure that the system is working in the best interests of all Minnesota children?
Erin Murphy: It’s important that we talk about race, about cultural differences, and yes, about structural racism and bias. The statistics and disparities in our state are only explainable and solvable by looking at the systems we’ve created and how they impact people.
But we know that comparable cases are leading to different outcomes, and too often those different outcomes are based on race. We need to monitor, track, and correct actions that are leading to disparities, while investing in the training, structural changes, and hard work needed to fix this issue. This aspect of the challenges in the system needs significant discussion with communities and with families that have been through the system so that we identify both the right problems and the right solutions.
Safe Passage for Children: Please provide any additional comments on Minnesota’s child protection system and how you would approach that system as Governor (max. 200 words).
Erin Murphy: We need to talk more about and address the shortcomings contributing to outcomes for children that go into protective custody and foster care. Too many fail to get the support they need to address the challenges they face, and ultimately don’t reach their full potential.
We know that children of color are disproportionately over-represented in the foster care/protective services system. It means children of color are disproportionately experiencing those negative outcomes. Without addressing the failure in outcomes, it means children of color are disproportionately being taken away from their families’ and put into a system that is not giving them the resources they need to be successful during a traumatic transition. This is wholly unacceptable.
When the state removes a child from a household it should mean that we are taking responsibility for that child’s well-being, as a parent would. We’ve got to be better stewards of that responsibility and ensure that trauma is dealt with, that kids grow up healthy, and that they are able to thrive. They need our help not just on that first day but throughout, and despite best intentions, they are not getting it. As governor I’ll make sure that we invest in the process, and in the human infrastructure to make that possible.