MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — An overhaul of Hennepin County's child protection system is showing positive results, but officials said the county still faces challenges.

Hennepin County Human Services Director Jodi Wentland told Minnesota Public Radio News that there have been fewer staff turnovers and more timely responses to child abuse reports since the county reformed the child protection system.

The county made reforms to focus on the well-being of the child after a 2015 study identified systemic issues, included overloaded case workers.

The county now places more kids removed from their homes with family members instead of emergency shelters, Wentland said. Research has found that children are more likely to be emotionally healthy and less likely to act out when they're placed with someone they know and trust, she said.

But the number of children in foster care or other out-of-home placements has climbed 11 percent from 2016 to 2017. It's on pace to exceed that number this year.

Parental drug use used to be the most common reason children in the county were removed from their homes. Now, the leading reason is neglect.

Children are removed from African American and Native American families at a higher rate than white families.

The county is working to address the disparity through community forums and reducing barriers for family members to become foster or adoptive parents, said Jennifer DeCubellis, deputy Hennepin County administrator.

Minnesota Supreme Court Associate Justice Anne McKeig said she's encouraged by the focus on prevention as well as children's well-being.

"We know that once these families jump on the train track, once they're too far down, they're too far gone, and we're unable to actually help them," McKeig said.

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Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, http://www.mprnews.org