Statewide data show that child maltreatment cases have been increasing in Minnesota in recent years, with many cases involving minority children.
The increase in cases is likely driven by increased awareness, changes to child protection laws and the opioid epidemic, child protection officials said.
The figures indicate that minority families are being over-represented and often get treated unfairly by child protection workers and courts, Minnesota Public Radio reported. Children who identify as more than one race or as black were three times more likely than white children to be screened into the system, according to the state's numbers.
Hennepin County officials had more than 1,500 cases of child maltreatment result in Children in Need of Protection and Services petitions last year. The number of CHIPS cases involving black children has increased by more 53 percent over the past five years, according to state data.
"We've noticed a disturbing trend within child protection where African-American children are now illegally removed from their homes," said Kelis Houston, the chair of the Minneapolis NAACP's child protection committee
Sen. Jeff Hayden, DFL-Minneapolis, and Rep. Rena Moran, DFL-St. Paul, have introduced a bill that aims to stop the unnecessary removal of black children from their families. The Minnesota African American Family Preservation Act requires social service agencies to try to avoid pulling black children from homes and encourages agencies to place children with relatives.
Another bill was introduced in March with recommendations from a legislative task force on child protection. One of the recommendations the bill makes is making it the preferred practice to interview children without a parent or caregiver present when they're the subject of a child abuse report.