ST. PAUL, MN – Minnesotans continue to look for economic indicators suggesting better times are ahead. Monthly, we are inundated with unemployment numbers, average wage growth, or stock market valuation; however, one number frequently ignored is the number of children who are neglected and abused each year in Minnesota.
In the recent Minnesota’s Child Welfare Report 2014, for children 0–17 years of age, 25,968 children were alleged victims of maltreatment. More surprising is that 77% of these children were maltreated at the hands of a biological parent. Research indicates children suffering abuse and neglect underperform academically, move in and out of the juvenile justice system, and often struggle to obtain a high school diploma. More importantly, these children are stripped of reaching their full potential, often before entering kindergarten.
For the last three years, I have advocated for these children by co-chairing the Child Protection Task Force, offered and passed legislation for early education scholarships targeted at children who deserve equal education, and offered legislation to attract more social workers to Greater Minnesota. But, there is still much work to be done.
In the upcoming legislative session, I will be offering improvements to the foster care system to help children in out-of-home placement as well as attracting and fairly compensating foster care parents—who, by the way, are the most giving and compassionate people I meet. I am also working to improve our rural Minnesota job climate so that families can find jobs, and I want to help more families off government assistance with a future of prosperity and purpose, not despair and hardship.
Focusing on children raised in disadvantaged environments is not just the right thing to do; it is also the best economic growth strategy. Research indicates when a large segment of the population is not allowed to reach their full potential there is a substantial economic loss. Every child deserves the right to become a strong citizen who raises a family, attends church, starts a business, or becomes an effective employee. However, when children are abused and neglected at an early age their opportunity is diminished.
Moreover, this is not an issue divided between political parties, and it is an issue that needs our attention. So the next time economic numbers and prosperity is offered, let’s make sure that prosperity is experienced by all of our children and brightens their future.