ST. PAUL (AP) — Statewide data show that child maltreatment cases have been increasing in Minnesota in recent years.

The figures indicate that minority families are being over-represented and often get treated unfairly by child protection workers and courts. State numbers show that children who identify as more than one race or as black were three times more likely than white children to be screened into the system.

Minnesota lawmakers have introduced a bill that aims to stop the unnecessary removal of black children from their families. The bill requires social service agencies to try to avoid pulling black children from homes and encourages agencies to place children with relatives.

Child protection officials say the increase in cases is likely driven by increased awareness, changes to child protection laws and the opioid epidemic.