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Kathleen Blatz
Former Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz spearheaded the launch of the Children’s Justice Initiative in 2000. In this photo Blatz listens to oral arguments in October 2002. (AP file photo: Jim Mone, pool)

Bar Buzz: Children’s Justice Initiative turns 20

This month marks the 20th year since the launch of Minnesota’s Children’s Justice Initiative.

That collaboration between Judicial Branch and the Minnesota Department of Human Services helps abused and neglected kids to get expeditious placement in safe, stable and permanent homes.

Spearheaded by former Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz in December 2000, the initiative has DHS and the Judicial Branch working together with stakeholders to help kids in all 87 counties.

“For the past 20 years, the Children’s Justice Initiative has brought together all sides of Minnesota’s child protection system to improve the lives of our state’s most vulnerable children,” current Chief Justice Lorie S. Gildea said in a Dec. 8 press release.  “We are proud to celebrate everything we have achieved through the Children’s Justice Initiative, and to mark this important anniversary.”

In 2005, Minnesota hosted the first National Judicial Leadership Summit on the Protection of Children, where the Children’s Justice Initiative was spotlighted. According to the Judicial Branch news release, almost every other state soon implemented similar models.

The initiative offers training and resources that help judges, attorneys, guardians ad litem, social workers and others involved in the child-protection system to better manage cases.

Among its recent accomplishments, in 2018 it launched a pilot project in Minnesota’s 8th Judicial District, in which two judges oversee all child in need of protection or services proceedings across seven counties.

According to the Judicial Branch, that specialized approach appears to accelerate children’s placement into permanent, safe living situations. The pilot ends on Dec. 31.

“We share no greater responsibility than ensuring we have the best possible child protection system in place in our state,” Gildea said. “And there is no greater duty than the one we owe to vulnerable children; children who deserve nothing less than safety, security, permanency and happiness.”

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About Kevin Featherly

Kevin Featherly, who joined BridgeTower Media in mid-2016, is a journalist and former freelance writer who has covered politics, law, business, technology and popular culture for publications and websites in the Twin Cities and nationally since the mid-1990s.

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