Response from Rebecca Otto, 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 Rebecca Otto'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?
Rebecca Otto: Absolutely. We must ensure that our child protection system has the necessary funds to accomplish the critical work that they do. Underfunding this system only hurts the vulnerable children that the system was put in place to protect.
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?
Rebecca Otto: Yes, I support changing this recommendation to a requirement.
Safe Passage for Children: Children of color, especially African Americans and Native Americans, are disproportionately 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?
● Involve representatives from over-represented communities in formulating recommendations to address this overrepresentation in the system.
● Ensure that the child protection system is adequately funded so that we can fully address the needs of all children.
● Insist upon using data from physical and cognitive health assessments to measure the progress and outcomes of each individual child.
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).
Rebecca Otto: In Minnesota, we are lucky to have a number of effective advocacy groups like yours that focus on child welfare, child protection, and foster care and adolescent services - but we know that there are still children who fall through cracks in the system, and there is much more work to be done. I am grateful to Governor Dayton for forming the Task Force on the Protection of Children in 2015, and to the Legislature for allocating resources to fund additional child protection workers and address the racial disparities in the system. As Governor, I would continue leading on this issue, and push the Legislature to allocate additional funds to hire more caseworkers and foster care providers. I also believe we need to fund more school counselors and social workers, as they can help identity and address vulnerable children. Finally, we know that poverty is a driver of adverse child outcomes, and I have proposed detailed policies (which can be viewed at rebeccaotto.com/renewmn) that get at the economic and healthcare insecurities that so many families face. Two of my policies (enacting a $15 minimum wage and establishing a statewide single payer healthcare system) will directly affect and improve the economic conditions of families.