The Rice County Board of Commissioners Tuesday met as a Committee of the Whole at the County Government Services Building in Faribault.  Representatives of the Child Protection Unit of the Social Services Department joined Commissioners in a roundtable discussion concerning child abuse.

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month in Minnesota and across the country.  Child Protection Supervisors Sue Nerison and Kris Davis joined Rice County Social Services Director Mark Shaw sharing data with Commissioners.  Davis oversees social workers and Nerison is the Supervisor of Investigations and Assessments in child protection.

Shaw and Nerison handed out some data showing Rice County is in a holding pattern of maltreatment reports.  A graph chart showed total maltreatment reports, assessments and investigations have ranged between 1,120 and 1,395 over the past four years.  With 321 reports in the first quarter this year Shaw noted the county is on pace to see 1,284 cases.  A slight decrease from the 1,296 cases last year.

Shaw also handed out a chart showing Rice County children in out of home placement spiked in 2016 with 258 placements and are on pace this year to blow that number away.  If the same number of placements are experienced the rest of this year there will be 592.

Davis and Nerison told Commissioner Rice County is among the state's best at placing children in abusive situations with other relatives.  It is not always possible so Shaw says, "There is still a need for more foster homes."

Shaw also told Commissioners Rice County continues to share more of the cost burden of caring for these children, adding, "It's the right thing to do."  He said the state and federal levels of assistance have not kept pace with the increase in cases.

In 2018 expenditures in the Children Program totaled $3,571,582 dollars with the State paying $1,020,180 dollars and the Federal Government $823,071.

Shaw told Commissioners all jobs in the Social Services Department are not easy jobs but in child protection they are not easy, "Every minute of every day."  He noted they are often in "harms way" and the County should thank them for their service.

During their presentations the Social Service Child Protection Unit Supervisors applauded law enforcement throughout Rice County for working with them in handling some, "very difficult situations."  They also thanked the County Attorney's Office for their assistance.

Rice County Sheriff Troy Dunn concluded the meeting by echoing Commissioners in their thanks of all child protection workers for doing the difficult task.  Distrct 5 Commissioner Jeff Docken said, "I don't know how you cope."

Sheriff Dunn said he appreciated all the social workers also and said his officers also see a lot of "things that are hard to handle."  The Rice County Sheriff added the reason his deputies and the social workers are able to cope is because they work together as a team and support each other.

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