Montevideo American-News
  • Modderman discusses Chippewa County Children and Family Services operations, new legislation

  • A lot of people know about Family Services, and what they do, but many aren't aware of the actual processes they go through when working with families and children.
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  • A lot of people know about Family Services, and what they do, but many aren't aware of the actual processes they go through when working with families and children.
    Pam Modderman, unit supervisor for the Chippewa County Children and Family Services Unit, took a few minutes last Friday morning to discuss how her unit operates, and to talk about some new legislation effecting young mothers.
    "The whole focus behind protective services is to keep kids in the home, and to keep them safe," Modder­man said. "I think it's a real myth out there that if you spank a child, protective services are going to be at your door."
    To be clear, she explained spanking is not an issue for family services. Spanking so hard it leaves bruises is.
    She said that in the state of Minnesota, there are two types of child protection processes.
    There is the older process, that Minnesota does historically. This process results in two determinations.
    "We first have to determine if maltreatment occurred or didn't, and if protective services are needed or aren't needed," Modderman said.
    This process must be done in all cases involving any sexual abuse. It is also required in any case where there are broken bones and /or severe head trauma.
    The family's cooperation is also taken into account.
    The other process, a family assessment, is not used to determine maltreatment.
    "All that we go in and look at is the safety of the child and what services we can put in the home to keep the kids safe," Modderman explained.
    This doesn't result in any determination against an offender, which is reserved for serious cases which the law requires be followed up on. Such cases would be neglect, inappropriate supervision or educational neglect, or spanking that left bruises.
    This second process is channeled through family assessment and is more family friendly. Law enforcement does not tend to be involved in these cases.
    Modderman said that for the most part, it is protective service's goal to resolve things with this second process.
    "It is well known in the therapeutic world that it is very traumatic to remove kids from the home," Modderman said. "It is never a decision that is made lightly. We have to weigh the safety risk, and the safety factors involved. It's far better to keep the kids in the home if we can resolve the issues with the family."
    Modderman went on to explain that child services has no power to remove a child from the home. "That can only come through a judge's orders," she said. "Family services doesn't determine if a child stays or goes. We can make certain recommendations, but it is a court decision."
    Page 2 of 2 - On the topic of child protection, Modderman wanted to bring attention to a new law passed on Aug. 1. A previous version of the law actually went into effect in Minnesota in 2000, which allowed for mothers who recently gave birth to a child to drop the child off at a hospital, and leave it there to be adopted without any penalties or criminal charges.
    "It was put into place because back then there had been a large rash of babies being found in dumpsters. So the goal behind it is to prevent child deaths, and allow mothers an option," Modderman said.
    This year, the law was updated and expanded. There are now more options about where a baby can be left and how old the baby can be. The law previously only allowed babies under 72 hours old, but now a child can be dropped off up to seven days after birth. Hospitals and urgent care centers, or even a 911 call about where a baby will be left, are now all allowed under the law.
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