News and updates on the DHS efforts to assist Minnesota’s families and children.
Two new advisory groups recently initiated efforts to improve services for children and families in the state’s foster care and child support systems. The Child Foster Care Work Group is addressing concerns such as the shortage of qualified foster care providers and disproportionate number of African-American and American Indian children removed from their homes and placed in foster care. The work group will make initial recommendations on recruitment, applications, licensing, policies, staffing and resources in by Nov. 1, 2015, and final recommendations by March 1, 2016. The 2015 Legislature formed the Child Support Work Group to review and create an equitable parenting expense adjustment formula, recommend changes to child support computation and recommend composition of a permanent child support task force in a report to legislative leaders by January 2016.
A recent study from the Minnesota Department of Human Services, Participation in Parent Aware Ratings across Minnesota, shows that Parent Aware, Minnesota’s voluntary quality rating and improvement system, is gaining ground across the state, but there is still work to do to recruit more programs. A four-year statewide rollout of Parent Aware was completed in January 2015, and it will require more time to ensure every county has a desired number of participating programs. Parent Aware is a voluntary program that promotes research-based best practices among participating programs through training and coaching, then rates them on a scale of one to four stars. The full report, Participation in Parent Aware Ratings across Minnesota (PDF), is online.
In Minnesota, the share of children living in poverty increased by more than 50 percent over the past decade. The fact that there are more than 70,000 children in deep poverty, with family incomes below half the federal poverty limit, is particularly troubling. In April, the department released the first-ever report on future trends for Minnesota children in poverty. Poor children are less likely to be ready for kindergarten and more likely to experience intergenerational poverty, involvement with the criminal justice system and more health risks, such as smoking and drinking. More information is in a news release on the study.
The Governor’s Task Force on the Protection of Children recently issued its final recommendations — focusing on children’s safety as its top priority — to Gov. Mark Dayton and the Legislature. Recommendations included improving child protection screening guidelines and practices, examining a continuum of responses to allegations of child maltreatment, addressing racial disparities in the system, improving training for child protection workers, providing additional oversight of county performance, ensuring transparency in the system, and seeking additional resources to carry out the recommendations. Gov. Dayton’s supplemental budget proposal sets aside $52 million in new funding for children protection. The final report (PDF) is available online. The department issues a news release about the task force’s work.
Children and Family Services content has moved within the DHS website. The move is part of a redesign of the department's public website to improve its usability. To help website users find content, DHS will temporarily redirect key links. If you have bookmarked this content or added it to favorites, you will need to update these links. The redesign project aims to help individuals find the information they need.
More children will leave foster care and become part of permanent families more quickly with Northstar Care for Children. Launched Jan. 1, 2015, throughout the state, Northstar Care is a unified benefit program designed to reduce the length of time children spend in foster care by finding them families through adoption or legal guardianship. Previously, foster children received significantly lower benefits once they were adopted or living legally with relatives. Now, whether in foster care, adopted families or relative care families, children 6 and older will receive the same benefits. More information is in a news release on the launch of Northstar Care for Children.
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. More information is in a news release on safe sleep practices for infants.
Applicants for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) should be aware there is never a fee for applying for benefits, and to be on the lookout for online ads or suspicious emails falsely offering help filling out applications. The goal of such scams is to collect personal information from potential SNAP recipients, including credit card information. The federal agency that manages SNAP reports that there have recently been scams in which applicants are asked to provide cell phone numbers and are then automatically enrolled into an expensive service without warning. A “scam alert” provides regular updates about these illegal schemes and how to get assistance if an applicant has already fallen victim.