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 Response Page - Thompson  Interview -      

These comments are responses to the questions listed below,
which were generated in regard to the
David Thompson Interview of


David Thompson, Program Manager of the Child Safety and Permanency Division of the Minnesota Department of Human Services, is the architect of the state’s collaborative early intervention in child protection. Thompson outlined a pioneering effort in Minnesota, now being replicated nationally, that uses a non-adversarial, cooperative approach to attack issues of child neglect. The vast majority of child welfare cases involve child neglect, not physical abuse. In the past the same investigative and punitive approach was used for both neglect and abuse. The new approach is more humane, effective and efficient, and has allowed the Department to improve child protection outcomes even while budgets have been cut substantially.

For the complete interview summary see:

Response Summary:  Readers have been asked to rate, on a scale of (0) most disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) most agreement, the following points discussed by Thompson.  Average response ratings shown below are simply the mean of all readers’ zero-to-ten responses to the ideas proposed and should not be considered an accurate reflection of a scientifically structured poll.

1. Most cases involve neglect. (7.1 average response) The vast majority of child protection issues involve child neglect, not physical abuse.

2. Punitive approach less effective. (8.5 average response) Child neglect issues are poorly served by an investigative punitive approach.

3. Non-adversarial intervention better. (8.9 average response) Child neglect issues are better handled by engaging families in a respectful, non-adversarial manner.

4. Neglect correlated with poverty. (81 average response) A strong correlation exists between child neglect and family poverty.

5. New approach improves outcomes. (8.6 average response) A pioneering Minnesota effort of early intervention, connecting at-risk families with services such as housing, food, employment, and chemical dependency, represents a major improvement in child welfare.


Response Distribution:

Strongly disagree

Moderately disagree


Moderately agree

Strongly agree

Total Responses

1. Most cases involve neglect.







2. Punitive approach less effective.







3. Non-adversarial intervention better.







4. Neglect correlated with poverty.







5. New approach improves outcomes.







Individual Responses:

R. C. Angevine  (5)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (7.5)

Betty Schilling  (10)  (10)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (10)

Ray Ayotte  (7.5)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)

Chris Brazelton  (5)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)

1. Most cases involve neglect. The speaker indicated this, but there is no data attached with which the reader can verify the statement.  We will have to take the speaker's word for it, and I have no reason to disbelieve the speaker.

2. Punitive approach less effective. When we approach a family already under a great deal of stress and treat the parents as part of the problem, we increase their stress levels and this is counterproductive to solving many child neglect issues.  When we treat them as partners in the solution, they most often become so.

4. Neglect correlated with poverty. Parents who can't afford childcare and who must work, often at minimum wage or close to it, end up leaving relatively young children to care for themselves.  This leads to many neglect reports.

5. New approach improves outcomes. What happens to these children and families as we continue to cut funding for these services?  If we presume that a drop in abuse and neglect reports means that we don't have a problem, and therefore feel free to reduce the funding, we create tomorrow's problem.

David Broden  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)

1. Most cases involve neglect. This seems correct but need the data to confirm. Having said that spending time and dollars to get more data may not make much sense.

2. Punitive approach less effective. Building a better environment for the child is much more beneficial than is the looking backwards of how neglect happened and then filling a file with information never looked at. Look forward.

3. Non-adversarial intervention better. Adversarial approaches never work. Respect and trust build solutions.

4. Neglect correlated with poverty. This seems well-supported and a valid path forward.

 5. New approach improves outcomes. This is to be commended and a very strong initiative with positive results.

Don Anderson  (10)  (10)  (10)  (7.5)  (10)

1. Most cases involve neglect. Yet it seems the media coverage is only on physical abuse issues.

3. Non-adversarial intervention better. Based on the comments of Mr. Thompson this seems to be the best approach.

4. Neglect correlated with poverty. While child neglect and family poverty have a strong correlation this shouldn't absolve the … neglect of children from more economically secure families.

Bert LeMunyon  (5)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (7.5)

1. Most cases involve neglect. I don't know so would have to take Mr. Thompson's word for it.

4. Neglect correlated with poverty. Does the neglect and poverty mostly result from single parent homes and/or lack of education, which results in the inability of the parents to get a decent job?

Peter Hennessey  (5)  (5)  (5)  (0)  (0)

1. Most cases involve neglect. Maybe so, maybe not. It depends on how the numbers are collected, who collects them, and what definitions they use to determine "neglect" and "abuse."

2. Punitive approach less effective. Maybe so, maybe not. I have never met anybody who really needs help who also welcomes interference in their private lives by any government agency.

3. Non-adversarial intervention better. Maybe so, maybe not. I have never met anybody who really needs help who also welcomes interference in their private lives by friends or family, either.

4. Neglect correlated with poverty. Now this I know to be nothing but self-serving garbage from the welfare industry. All the indicators for child neglect and abuse are cultural, not economic. This is a very difficult concept for Americans to understand and accept, because we define "class" by income level, not by cultural indicators. Same for the definition of "child neglect." A child can be "neglected" by parents at any income level. What is "neglect"? Failure to provide for basic needs in terms of food, clothing and shelter? Those are cheap at any income level in America. Neglect comes from other factors, all of them cultural. Too bad we never study the history of other peoples, such as Europeans who were bombed to smithereens during World War Two and starved nearly to death under the communists after the war, who lived under conditions unimaginable by Americans, yet still managed not to "neglect" their children. I know because I was one of those children. Too bad we also don't study our own history, such as the Americans who lived through the poverty-stricken decades of the great depression and the war, yet never were or felt to have been "neglected." I know because I married into one of those families. In today's America, poverty and child neglect result not from economic but from cultural factors, such as the extreme ignorance, narcissism and self-hatred that allows people to drown themselves in sex-drugs-and-rock&roll, for example. No amount of money or intervention by state or family can fix that. I know because I have also lived through the 1960's and engaged in the useless struggle to save some of its victims despite themselves.

5. New approach improves outcomes. All you have to do is look at the conditions in a typical housing project to know this is more of the same self-serving garbage from the welfare industry. No amount of state interference has cured the ills that drove people into dependency on the state, generation after generation in the same families. This is because we continue to misdiagnose the problem as economic, rather than cultural. You can't solve a problem until you correctly diagnose it and the factors leading up to it. And when you find that your ideas don't work, you can either tinker around the edges (which is what you are trying to do here), or re-start by checking your premises, such as asking if or realizing that these problems are cultural, not economic.    By the way, what misreading of the Constitution authorizes the federal government to fund 35% of the costs of such intervention programs? If the socialist state of Minnesota wants to do it -- with voter approval, however misguided -- fine; it's their money and their fellow citizens. If the socialist enclave of the Twin Cities or whatever community wants to do it -- with voter approval, however misguided -- fine; it's their community. But there is nothing in the Constitution that can be distorted and misinterpreted to allow funding for anything like this by the federal government. Of course all government money comes from the same taxpayers; does it matter from which pocket? I guess not, but the illusion is that federal money is free money, not raised within a particular state. Well, by what distortion and misinterpretation of the Constitution can any one state justify taking money from other states to fund their own pet programs, however well intentioned?

Anonymous   (2.5)  (7.5)  (10)  (10)  (7.5)

Chuck Lutz  (9)  (9)  (10)  (9)  (10)

Clarence Shallbetter  (na)  (na)  (na)  (na)  (8)

While the new approach is certainly more humane and appears more effective it's not clear it is less expensive if it takes more time of the social workers or when numerous other support services that were not previously provided are included.

Robert J. Brown  (10)  (8)  (10)  (8)  (10)

Paul and Ruth Hauge  (7)  (7)  (9)  (9)  (9)

We know that punishment often is not effective in turning around those who have abused children or adults and the system outlined looks very promising.

Alan Miller  (5)  (8)  (9)  (9)  (9)

Al Quie  (na)  (10)  (10)  (9)  (9)

Sheila Kiscaden  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)

Lyall Schwarzkopf  (5)  (6)  (7)  (5)  (8)


The Civic Caucus   is a non-partisan, tax-exempt educational organization.   The Core participants include persons of varying political persuasions, reflecting years of leadership in politics and business. Click here  to see a short personal background of each.

   Verne C. Johnson, chair;  David Broden, Charles Clay, Marianne Curry, Bill Frenzel, Paul Gilje,  Jim Hetland,  Marina Lyon, Joe Mansky, John Mooty,  Jim Olson,  and Wayne Popham 

The Civic Caucus, 01-01-2008
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Verne C. Johnson, chair, 952-835-4549,       Paul A. Gilje, coordinator, 952-890-5220.

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