Minnesota Citizen Review Panels

Federal law requires that each state have at least three citizen review panels in order to receive federal funding for child protection efforts. Panels currently operate in Chisago, Hennepin, Ramsey, Winona, and Washington counties. The Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) plans to expand citizen review panels throughout the state.

Citizen Review Panels involve community members in ensuring that the child protection system works well and protects children from abuse and neglect. Panel members review and evaluate various aspects of child protection systems at the state level and in their communities. Panels have 11 to 16 citizens and representatives from:

  • • Community agencies
  • • County child protection systems
  • • Minnesota Department of Human Services.
  • Panel activities

    The following are examples of activities done by Citizen Review Panels:

  • • Evaluate the extent to which county and tribal agencies are effectively handling their child protection responsibilities
  • • Review child protection policies, practices, and procedures and make recommendations for needed changes
  • • Reach out to the public to assess the impact that current procedures and practices have on children and families in the community
  • • Analyze trends and recommend policy or practice changes
  • • Offer insight that those working within the system may miss
  • • Provide feedback on what is or isn’t working
  • • Provide outside validation of the child protection system’s successes and staff efforts
  • • Increase community understanding of and investment in the child protection system
  • • Provide input on the use of community resources
  • • Advocate for needed services and resources to protect children from abuse and neglect
  • • Prepare an annual report highlighting panel activities and recommendations to improve the child protection system.
  • Requirements for panel members

    These community volunteers, appointed by the DHS commissioner and county commissioners, serve an initial two-year term. Panel members must be sensitive to diversity, maintain confidentiality, and. take training on:

  • • Strength-based approaches to working with children and families
  • • Cultural considerations, including the Indian Child Welfare Act and heritage preservation
  • • Permanency laws and social work practice, including reasonable efforts towards family reunification, case plans, structured decision making, out-of-home placement and alternatives to family reunification
  • • Legal and court processes for Children in Need of Protection or Services
  • • Brain development and the effects of child abuse and neglect
  • • Child development and attachment
  • • Trauma-informed practices and services
  • • Disparities in the numbers of children and families of color involved in the child protection system
  • • Dynamics of domestic violence
  • • Chemical and mental health, poverty and physical health issues.
  • New members are encouraged to view the new panel member orientation (PDF). This PowerPoint presentation provides detailed information about the panels and how they function.

    Role of panel members

    Panel members provide their outside perspective on the internal workings of the child protection system. To accomplish this, they:

    Meet monthly

  • • Review records, case files and reports
  • • Gather information through interviews and observation
  • • Provide independent insight
  • • Report findings and recommendations to key leaders
  • • Receive ongoing support and consultation from tribal and county agencies and DHS staff.
  • Guidelines for staff who work with Citizen Review Panels

    The Minnesota Department of Human Services would like to expand citizen review panels, on a voluntary basis, in counties and tribes throughout the state. To support county and tribal child-protection workers and community leaders, DHS has prepared Guidelines (PDF) on ways to invite citizen participation and encourage community investment in the protection of children.

    To learn more, contact the DHS citizen review panels expert by e-mail at Dhs.Child.Safety-Permanency@state.mn.us or call 651-431-4660.


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