Copyright (c) 2000 William Mitchell Law Review
William Mitchell Law Review
CHILDREN IN THE LAW ISSUE: CONTRIBUTORS OPEN CHILD PROTECTION PROCEEDINGS IN MINNESOTA
26 Wm. Mitchell L. Rev. 631
The Honorable Heidi S. Schellhas+
From 1989 to 1996, I provided legal counsel to guardians ad litem in child protection proceedings in Hennepin County. This aspect of my private practice gave me an opportunity denied to the general public and most private attorneys - a glimpse into the Hennepin County child protection system. The child protection system includes the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and its social workers; assistant county attorneys who represent DCFS; assistant public defenders; disposition advisors; private attorneys; court-appointed guardians ad litem who advise the court of the children's best interests; service providers who contract with DCFS to provide preservation and reunification services to families and children; and juvenile court judges who preside over the child protection court proceedings and are responsible for monitoring DCFS. All these individuals constitute "stakeholders" in the system.
Upon initial exposure to Hennepin County's child protection system, I was struck by the startling circumstances affecting the families and children. Before my involvement in child protection work, I considered myself an informed citizen and an active participant in my surrounding community. I soon discovered my ignorance of the child protection system and the issues faced by families and children in the system. For example, children often languished in foster care for years without any action taken to terminate their parents' rights, or to achieve permanent living arrangements for them. The laws in effect prior to the current permanency law 1 effective August 1, 1993, were largely ignored. Continuances were routinely granted, ...
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