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DHS commissioner, Supreme Court chief justice visit Grand Rapids to highlight progress, work to be done on behalf of foster children

June 04, 2014


Karen Smigielski 
Department of Human Services
Communications Office
Kyle Christopherson
Minnesota Judicial Branch
Court Information Office


PDF version of news release

Minnesota Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson and Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie S. Gildea are travelling to communities throughout the state to highlight improvements for children – including significant increases in foster care placements with relatives in Aitkin, Cass, Cook, Itasca, Lake and St. Louis Counties. They are also discussing strategies to improve the foster care system as part of the Children’s Justice Initiative.

They will be in Grand Rapids on June 6 at the Timberlake Lodge to work with child protection professionals, judges, county attorneys, social services directors and others to develop strategies to reduce the amount of time children spend in foster care and other out-of-home placement settings, and move children to permanent homes as quickly and safely as possible.

Jesson credits the 2012 Children’s Justice Initiative discussions with these experts for creating Northstar Care for Children, which offers incentives for permanent homes; increasing the percentage of foster children who are placed with relatives rather than in other out-of-home settings; and working to help victims of sex trafficking.

“Two years ago, these experts told us what we needed to do to improve foster children’s situations, and we listened,” said Jesson. “Beginning in January 2015, Northstar Care will provide the financial support families need – eliminating the financial disincentives for families that kept children in temporary foster care rather than enabling them to move to adoptive or permanent homes with relatives. With Northstar Care, we will reduce the number of children waiting for permanent families and shorten their length of time in foster care.”

In 2013, 39.4 percent of children in foster care were placed with relatives, reflecting a slight increase statewide over the previous two years. Between 2011 and 2013:

  • Aitkin County increased relative placement rates from 34.1 percent to 45 percent
  • Cass County increased relative placement rates from 19.6 percent to 50.8 percent
  • Cook County increased relative placement rates from 46.2 percent to 66.7 percent
  • Itasca County increased relative placement rates from 30 percent to 45.2 percent
  • Lake County increased relative placement rates from 31.3 percent to 64.7 percent
  • St. Louis County increased relative placement rates from 28.7 percent to 38.9 percent.

“While our goal is always to return children safely home to their birth families, when that cannot happen, a familiar face, a well-known home, a loving relative may be best,” Jesson said.

According to Chief Justice Gildea, the Judicial Branch has stepped up efforts for timely finalizing of adoptions for children in foster care.

“We have seen improvement in the numbers of finalized adoptions within 24 months of placement, which translates to faster permanency for these children,” Gildea said.

In Minnesota in 2011, according to court records, 53 percent of adoptions of children under state guardianship were finalized within 24 months; in 2013, that number improved to 55 percent, almost 20 percentage points above the national average of 36.6 percent.

The Children Justice Initiative’s mission is to ensure that abused and neglected children involved in the juvenile protection court system have safe, stable, permanent families. Currently, more than 11,400 Minnesota children are in out-of-home placement, primarily foster homes in Minnesota.


Note: This is a working meeting for invited participants. Media who would like to arrange an interview should contact Karen Smigielski, DHS, at 651-431-2190 or Kyle Christopherson, Minnesota Judicial Branch, 651-297-4209.

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