News and updates on the DHS efforts to assist Minnesota’s families and children.
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DHS Commissioner Lucinda Jesson honored eight programs for their outstanding contributions to human services clients at the fourth annual Commissioner’s Circle of Excellence Awards in late 2014 in St. Paul. Among those recognized were ParentAware.org, a website that makes it easier for families statewide to find the quality care and education their children need to succeed in school; the FastTRAC Healthcare Pathways Program, a skills education and career-specific training program for adults with low incomes in Anoka County; and the Ain Dah Yung (Our Home) Center, an American Indian youth and family-focused organization providing emergency shelter for youth 5 to 17 years old, and transitional shelter for youth 16 to 21 years old. More information is in a news release on the awards.
Addressing improvements and discussing strategies to improve the foster care system, DHS Commissioner Lucinda Jesson and Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie S. Gildea hosted a series of 10 Children’s Justice Initiative regional meetings in 2014 throughout the state. Child protection professionals, judges, county attorneys, social services directors, and professionals who work daily to improve the lives of vulnerable children gathered to discuss improvements in the child welfare system. The Children’s Justice Initiative’s mission is to ensure that abused and neglected children involved in the juvenile protection court system have safe, stable, permanent families, in order to live healthy, productive lives. More information is in a news release on the visits.
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 the 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. The final report (PDF) is available online. The department issued a news release about the task force’s work.
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.