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Human Services commissioner to be honored

November 04, 2013

Karen Smigielski

PDF version of news release

The North American Council on Adoptable Children will honor Minnesota Department of Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson with its Voices from the Heart Award for the important part the Department of Human Services played in the recent passage of the Northstar Care for Children law at its tenth anniversary celebration on Nov. 9 in West St. Paul, Minn.

The new law will remove barriers and create additional financial incentives to adopt children currently under state guardianship. In summary, the same financial resources for children over age five in foster care will continue to be available for children after adoption or transfer of custody to a relative.

“Northstar Care will provide stability for children,” said Jesson. “It will ensure foster children under state guardianship are adopted or move permanently in with relatives more quickly. In short, more children will benefit from growing up in permanent families.”

Adoption attorney Wright Walling will present the award to Jesson and one to Cathy Bruer-Thompson, adoption training coordinator for Hennepin County, for their outstanding efforts to support and promote adoption.

“I am thrilled to receive this award to honor all who worked so hard to get this law passed,” said Jesson. “The work behind Northstar Care for Children started many years ago, long before I was with the department, and implementation will carry on for many years to come. It was a hard-fought battle on behalf of children but one I am pleased to have been a part of, knowing that more children under state guardianship will be placed in safe, permanent homes because of it.”

In 2012, families adopted 524 children from the foster care system yet hundreds more are still waiting for families. “We have an obligation to do all in our power to reduce the amount of time children spend in foster care and find them families who can best meet their needs as soon as possible. We believe Northstar Care will help us accomplish that,” she said.

As commissioner, Jesson oversees the state’s largest agency, serving well over one million people with an annual budget of $11 billion and more than 6,000 employees throughout the state. The department administers a broad range of services, including child welfare services, health care, economic assistance, mental health and substance abuse prevention and treatment, and services for the elderly and people with disabilities.

“At NACAC, we valued partnering with the department to achieve passage of Northstar Care, and we appreciated the critical role the department played in the final negotiations,” said Joe Kroll, executive director of NACAC. “The commissioner and her colleagues at Human Services have gone the extra mile year after year until this was passed, and we are very thankful for that.”

More than 150 community and child welfare leaders are expected to attend NACAC’s event.

Past award honorees include Walling, retired Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz, Minnesota’s former first lady Susan Carlson, Congressman James Oberstar, adoption activist Paul Singer, Minnesota State Representative Kathy Tingelstad, Wendy’s FourCrown Chief Executive Officer Mike Givens, Minnesota State Senator Tony Lourey, Target Adoption Connection employee team, Hennepin County social worker Betty Woodland, General Mills Adoption Connection founders, U. S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, Children’s Home Society’s Alexis Oberdorfer, University of Minnesota’s Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare, Congressman Keith Ellison, HOPE Adoption & Family Services International, Inc.’s Coleen Gregor, University of Minnesota International Adoption Clinic, and Minnesota Department of Human Services Assistant Commissioner Erin Sullivan Sutton.

NACAC is a nonprofit organization and has been supporting permanent families for children and youth since it was founded in 1974 by two adoptive parents. Serving the United States and Canada, NACAC is dedicated to its belief that every child has the right to a permanent, nurturing, and culturally sensitive family, especially those in foster care and those with special needs. The Minnesota Department of Human Services contracts with NACAC to provide services to adoptive families.

For more information about the event, visit the NACAC website.

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