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Editorial: No slow-down in Becker County child abuse

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Cheers to the Becker County Board for acting quickly on an emergency request for an additional social worker to keep up with rising child placement cases.

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Human Services Director Nancy Nelson told the board that the county is seeing an overwhelming number of children being taken away from their parents as 2013 begins.

Last year there were 39 children who were permanently removed from their families after a court terminated parental rights. Those children are placed with relatives or foster families.

This year there are already 30 cases in which kids are awaiting homes, and the year just started.

Child abuse reports to Human Services are up by about 1,200 from 2011 to 2012 (from about 3,400 reports in 2011 to about 4,600 reports last year).

"We are unfortunately doing a booming business," Nelson said.

And they are serious problems, not just 'my child is misbehaving,'" Nelson said. "The level of care and the level of concern about these families is much more severe than a few years ago -- you have families with multiple needs."

Nelson said once a child is removed from a family, the parents have six months to get their act together and demonstrate they are fit parents.

After that, state law requires permanent placement of the kids, with a relative or foster family. The idea is to prevent a childhood spent bouncing from foster family to foster family, without any permanent home.

The children are being taken away from their parents mostly due to parental drug abuse -- both illegal street drugs and prescription pain pill abuse, Nelsons said.

Commissioner Barry Nelson at first balked at the social worker request because it lacked the documentation required by the board before a vacancy can be filled.

But Becker County Administrator Jack Ingstad said he and Nelson had discussed the situation in depth, and he urged the board to OK the new hire because of the emergency nature of the request.

The board unanimously approved the hiring of a temporary, full-time social worker specifically to handle the child placement case load for up to 67 days.

It was reassuring to see the commissioners act so quickly.

While the hiring review policy is a good one, "a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds," as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, and those in authority need to know when to make an exception.

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