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

June 11, 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 Becker, Benton, Kandiyohi, Meeker, Pope, Stevens, Swift and Todd Counties. They are also discussing strategies to improve the foster care system as part of the Children’s Justice Initiative.

They will be in Alexandria on June 13 at the Arrowwood Resort and Conference Center to meet 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. From 2011 to 2013:

  • Becker County increased relative placement rates from 22.6 percent to 44.9 percent
  • Benton County increased relative placement rates from 16.7 percent to 39.6 percent
  • Kandiyohi County increased relative placement rates from 16.2 percent to 34.3 percent
  • Meeker County increased relative placement rates from 27 percent to 51.5 percent
  • Pope County increased relative placement rates from 31 percent to 63.2 percent
  • Stevens County increased relative placement rates from zero to 28.6 percent
  • Swift County increased relative placement rates from 36 percent to 63.2 percent
  • Todd County increased relative placement rates from 23.1 percent to 32.8 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,” she 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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