News and updates on the DHS efforts to assist Minnesota’s families and children.
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.
A first-year evaluation of the state’s Safe Harbor Program credits it with raising awareness and understanding of the sexual exploitation of young men and women in Minnesota and provides key information about the youth who are victims. The Safe Harbor First Year Evaluation Overview, released by the Minnesota departments of Health and Human Services, is the first report of its kind on Safe Harbor, the new statewide system for helping sexually exploited youth younger than age 18 years, which went into full effect in 2014. More information is in a news story about the report.
Children adopted from the foster care system and their new families, as well as those interested in adopting and supporting Minnesota’s waiting children, came together at the 18th annual Celebrate Adoption: A Circus of the Heart event, highlighting recent and ongoing adoption efforts across the state, including the adoption of 686 children in 2014. More information is in a news release about the adoption event.
The fourth statewide Permanency and Adoption Competency Certificate program at the University of Minnesota saw 31 students graduate Dec. 11 at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus. Adoption experts from the Minnesota Department of Human Services and the Center for Adoption Support and Education worked with the University of Minnesota’s Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare to develop the competency program in 2013 to better prepare adoption and child welfare professionals, and mental health practitioners working with adopted children with special needs. More information is available on the University of Minnesota’s Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare website.
Members of the public are reporting that they continue to receive unsolicited calls from what appears to be the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) toll-free information hotline number: 800-221-5689 . The callers are requesting personal information offering assistance for filling out a SNAP application or other non-SNAP services such as home security systems. Never provide personal information or your credit card number over the phone to unsolicited callers. This outside entity that has spoofed the SNAP toll-free information hotline number is not affiliated with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service or SNAP. If you suspect that you are receiving illegitimate calls, you may file a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission. If you have already fallen victim to this or a similar scam, visit the FTC consumer webpage for more into formation on identity theft.
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 has made initial recommendations on recruitment, applications, licensing, policies, staffing and resources, and final recommendations will be made 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.
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 will require more time to ensure every county has the 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 2015, 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 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 set aside $52 million in new funding for children protection. The final report (PDF) is available online. The department issued a news release about the task force’s work.
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.