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News and updates on the DHS efforts to assist Minnesota's families and children.

September is National Preparedness Month

National Preparedness Month is a time to prepare yourself and those in your care for emergencies and disasters. Emergencies can happen unexpectedly. Tornado, flash floods, historic winter storms, and even water main breaks or power outages impact Minnesota communities for days or weeks at a time. During September, prepare and plan for an emergency. A good rule of thumb is to plan for three days without electricity, water service, access to a supermarket, or local services. Simple steps to create an emergency kit, make an emergency plan and to be informed are on the state Homeland Security and Emergency Management website. More information about National Preparedness Month is available on the Ready.gov website.

DHS leaders bring child support expertise to committees

Child Support Division Director Jeff Jorgenson and Deputy Director Shaneen Moore support Minnesota’s children through their work in the department and on committees, both locally and nationally. Jorgenson and Moore were recently appointed to the National Council of Child Support Directors Committee, working to ensure states understand new requirements and easily share information across state lines. Jorgenson serves as the committee’s Region V representative, speaking for Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Illinois and Indiana. Moore was recently appointed to the Minnesota State Council on Disability, engaging members across the state to advise the governor, Legislature and providers on the needs of Minnesotans with disabilities. More information on Jorgenson and Moore’s work can be found on the department’s website.

19th annual celebration honors 2016 adoptive families

Minnesota’s newest adoptive families, as well as those interested in adoption, will celebrate together Sunday, Nov. 6, during the 19th annual Celebrate Adoption: A Circus of the Heart, from 1 to 4 p.m. at Envision (formerly the Prom Center Event Facility) in Oakdale. Recognizing children who have been adopted from the foster care system in the past year, the Minnesota Department of Human Services and its partners celebrate and encourage families to consider making a lifelong impact on children through adoption. Celebrate Adoption is open to the public to gather information from state, county, nonprofit and private agency adoption experts. Families will enjoy face painting, pony rides, music, games, crafts and prize drawings. The Minnesota Department of Human Services, MN ADOPT, counties and adoption agencies are sponsoring this year’s celebration.

Resettlement Programs Office announces new mission, vision and values 

DHS’ Resettlement Programs Office has announced its new mission, vision and values statements, reflecting its updated goals for Minnesota’s refugee population.

  • Mission: The Resettlement Programs Office works with many others to support the effective resettlement of refugees in Minnesota by helping meet their basic needs so that they can live in dignity and achieve their highest potential. 

  • Vision: Refugees and their families are healthy, stable and live in strong, welcome communities. 

  • Values include focusing on people and using a holistic person-centered approach; working to ensure ladders up and safety nets are both available and accessible; working in tandem with community partners, counties and agencies to enhance a welcoming environment for refugees; and ensuring accountability and striving to deliver appropriate, effective and efficient services. 

More information about refugee resettlement is on the DHS website.

Partners to help reduce disparities, strengthen families

DHS recently awarded $1.5 million per year in three-year grants to eight tribes, counties and community agencies to reduce disparities in the child welfare system. Appropriated by the 2016 Minnesota Legislature, funds are planned for the development, implementation and evaluations of activities addressing disparities and the disproportionality of African-American and American Indian children and families involved in child welfare. More information is in a news release on the grants and organizations receiving them.

Parent Support Outreach Program aims to help children, parents 

The program that aims to help prevent child abuse and neglect served more than 5,700 Minnesota children and their families in 2015. The Parent Support Outreach Program, focusing on prevention and early intervention, helps address problems in families before they become crises. Participation in the program is voluntary and services include case management, counseling, parent education and enhancing parent-child interactions. Families may also receive help addressing their basic needs of food, clothing and shelter to reduce risk of future child maltreatment. More information can be found on the Parent Support Outreach Program page.

$250,000 grant will help families with low incomes get nutritious food

Families and individuals with low incomes will have more access to nutritious food through a new $250,000 grant from the Minnesota Department of Human Services awarded to Second Harvest Heartland, one of the nation’s largest food banks. The grant will help fund Second Harvest’s Food Security project for those who need hunger relief, and providing sizable boxes of healthy food each month for people with diabetes and pre-diabetes. Second Harvest Heartland serves more than 500,000 people a year in 59 counties across Minnesota and western Wisconsin. More information is in a news release about the grant.

Counties pilot new foster parent training

Recently, the Minnesota Child Welfare Training System introduced Foster Parent College, a blended classroom and online training for new foster families, currently being piloted in Douglas, Hennepin, Pope, Washington and Wright counties. While counties currently require 12 sessions between foster parents and trainers, Foster Parent College allows parents to complete the majority of their training online, and take part in only four face-to-face sessions. This concentration on online learning allows more families the opportunity to fit foster care parent training into their schedules. Currently, Minnesota families care for almost 12,200 children in foster face. More information about foster care is on the department’s website.

Minnesota foster youth doing more with SELF funds

Support for Emancipation and Living Functionality (SELF) funds now cover foster care expenses for age-appropriate activities, including sports and graduation. Due to 2014 federal legislation, foster parents may apply for SELF funds from their county to pay for fees associated with approved activities. Adolescents between 14- and 20-years-old who have been or are currently in out-of-home placement are eligible for these funds, designed to help youth transition out of the foster care system and into adulthood. In 2015, more than 1,400 youth received these funds from county agencies. More information about SELF funds is available on the department’s website.

More foster children listed on State Adoption Exchange, less time waiting 

The number of children listed on the State Adoption Exchange, Minnesota’s database of foster children in need of permanent homes, has doubled over the past two years. After an internal review, recommendations included giving MN ADOPT staff access to department child welfare data, the Social Services Information System, to work directly with counties to register more children on the exchange within the required 30-day window, and ensuring that less time is spent in limbo for foster children who are legally adoptable. More information on adoption can be found on the department’s website.

LGBTQ Youth Practice Guide available in more languages

The Minnesota Department of Human Services youth practice guide, Working with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning/queer (LGBTQ) youth (PDF), is now available in Spanish, Hmong and Somali. The practice guide has statistical information on LGBTQ youth, a glossary and resource list as well as information on preserving relationships and reunifying with birth families; engaging and building relationships with LGBTQ youth; ensuring LGBTQ youth safety; and considering circumstances for transgender youth.

Provider enrollment starts for new autism benefit

Effective July 1, 2015, the Minnesota Department of Human Services began enrolling providers to deliver a new early intensive intervention Medical Assistance benefit for children and young adults with autism spectrum disorder and related conditions. Families and children will be able to access services later this summer. Under the new benefit, covered services will be designed to improve social interaction, communication and behavioral regulation skills at a critical time in development, promoting fuller participation by children in their family, schools and community life. Families interested in the new benefit should contact their county, tribe or managed care plan. More information is available in a news release and on the DHS website.

Safe sleep practices for infants can save lives

Parents, families, hospitals and child care providers can help reduce the risk of sleep-related infant deaths by following simple, safe sleep practices. In Minnesota, over a five-year period beginning in 2009, there were 247 deaths in which an unsafe sleep environment, such as placing the infant in a tummy position, co-sleeping in adult beds or on sofas, or having infants sleep with pillows or blankets, was a contributing factor. Greater awareness about safe sleep practices can help turn around those numbers.

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