In March, the MSBA Council voted to support a request from the Minnesota County Attorneys Association for legislation providing grants to county attorneys’ offices. (The Council is authorized to take legislative positions when there is insufficient time for the Assembly to act.) The grants would fund juvenile protection legal services provided by county attorneys’ offices to social services agencies.
The bill addresses a critical public safety concern—child protection. Two years ago there were widespread reports in the media following the death of a child from abuse and neglect, prompting calls for enhanced child protection enforcement. The Legislature responded by providing funding for additional investigators/social workers. The legislation also required county attorneys’ offices to act on investigations and reports. In the past two years, the number of investigations in our 87 counties has increased but generally there has not been additional funding for county attorneys offices to handle this increased volume.
For that reason, many counties—most of them in greater Minnesota—have had to address the increasing number of CHIPS cases by making hard decisions about resource allocation. County attorneys have significant public safety obligations for processing felonies and other critical cases. The county boards, particularly in greater Minnesota, do not have the resources to adequately address this issue. Accordingly, the MCAA is at the Legislature this year asking for funds to handle the increased volume. Two years ago the Minnesota Department of Human Services supported additional funds for investigations; at that time MCAA told DHS that they would eventually need funds for county attorneys to process these cases. DHS supports the MCAA’s bill this year. The requested funds would be allocated to county attorneys offices through grants from the DHS.