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Sad to hear of crime’s impact on children

It was disturbing enough Tuesday morning to listen to County Attorney Mike Junge report that crime in the county had risen “dramatically” in the county in 2017 over 2016. It was absolutely heartbreaking to hear about the impact of crime on our county’s children.
Not that McLeod County is unique in this. You may recall that a couple years ago the Star Tribune published a series of articles about how children were “falling through the cracks” when it comes to protective services. The stories the series told prompted an awakening in the governor and the state Legislature that resulted in a 30 percent increase in funding for child protection case workers.
That was good news for the children in poor home environments, but it also revealed that the problem was even deeper than what was exposed by the Star Tribune.
Junge reported that the number of child protection cases has risen in direct proportion — 30 percent — as the increase in child protection workers. And he predicted that if the state were to provide another 30 percent increase, there would be another comparable increase in the number of cases that come to light.
All too often, according to Junge’s annual report, these children are in homes with drug-addicted parents. As if that were not bad enough, it is being discovered that children’s exposure to their parents’ drug use is making them drug dependent, also.
As Junge pointed out, addiction is a disease. But as he also noted, it is a disease that started with a choice. Sadly, in the cases of children exposed to toxic drugs because of their parents’ use, there is no choice — those children didn’t even have the opportunity to decide if they wanted to experiment with drugs or not.
Junge said that the conditions these children live in is “creating a very dark future” for them.
Their past — before the Legislature appropriated more funding for child protection workers — was even darker. At least now, with more resources, these children have more hope for a brighter life.
But one cannot help but wonder how more children are out in our communities, suffering, because there are not enough resources to find them and help them.
As Junge said, simply adding more law enforcement is not enough. We need to create better families, better communities and provide more resources to help people overcome their addictions, learn better parenting skills and become productive members of society.
Adding more case workers is a start, but there is much more to do. And we cannot start to do more too soon. There are too many innocent, young lives counting on us.