While reports of child maltreatment have dropped in Hennepin County since the start of the pandemic, a larger share of foster care placements has resulted from families unable to care for children because of mental illness.

In 2019, when the county handled just over 1,000 foster care entries, 8.3% were primarily mental health-related. In 2021, that percentage nearly doubled, meaning mental health was among the top reasons children were placed in foster care — along with caretaker drug abuse and physical abuse.

The county handled 537 foster care entries this year, and more than 80 were mental health-related, according to county-provided data as of Dec. 6.

Those numbers include children entering foster care because of their mental health or their caretakers’ mental health.

Amid the rise in mental illness that has accompanied the COVID-19 pandemic both locally and nationwide, Hennepin County and the state of Minnesota are expanding their services to families.

“The data we’ve gathered clearly illustrate a need for collaboration between child protection and behavioral health,” Leah Kaiser, the county’s behavioral health director, wrote in a statement. “We will continue to identify needs early and respond to them in a coordinated way to improve outcomes and reduce disproportionate impacts in communities of color.”

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