Response from Tina Liebling, Candidate for Governor [CAMPAIGN SUSPENDED]

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 Tina Liebling'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? 

Yes. Protecting children from trauma and making sure they can grow and develop in the best possible circumstances is one of the most important functions of government.

5aa6e749c4297.image.jpg

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? 

Yes.  Interviews should also be recorded for evidentiary purposes and to make sure the child is interviewed in such a way that the results are reliable.

Safe Passage for Children: Children of color, especially African Americans and Native Americans, are disproportionately overrepresented 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?  

We have huge racial disparities in Minnesota with people of color overrepresented among the poor.  Certainly, poor parents can be good parents, but poverty does increase risks to children and probably increases their representation in the child protection system.  So one thing we need to do is raise the minimum wage to a living wage, which research shows decreases reports of abuse and neglect of children.

Safe Passage for Children: Parenting is a tough job that many people are not prepared to take on, and many do not have the support they need to do it successfully.  That’s why I would like to extend voluntary family home visiting programs to every family with an infant, and expand the opportunity for every family to receive parental education and any support services they may need.  

Finally, to minimize racial and cultural bias once a report is made, we must hire child protection workers from diverse communities and train all child protection workers to be sensitive to racial and cultural bias.

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).

We know that childhood trauma has lifelong impacts, even without physical scars.  But we don’t always know how to best protect children, because we don’t always have a crystal ball.  The best we can do is to have a well-funded, evidence-based child protection system and work to improve the lives of all at-risk children.

The erosion of earning power over many years has left more and more families working harder and harder, struggling to get by, and living under a great deal of stress.  This is unacceptable. We must focus all of our efforts on helping ordinary Minnesotans get ahead, and put more of our resources toward supporting the health of families and children--through opportunities for prenatal care, parent support, mental health services, respite care, high quality childcare and early education, K-12, and higher education.