News and updates on the DHS efforts to assist Minnesota’s families and children.
The North American Council on Adoptable Children honored Commissioner Lucinda Jesson with its Voices from the Heart Award for the important part the Minnesota Department of Human Services played in the recent passage of the Northstar Care for Children law. Jesson was honored at the council's 10th anniversary celebration Nov. 9 in West St. Paul. More information is in a story about the award.
DHS Commissioner Lucinda Jesson recently visited a family child care home in Sartell to celebrate more than 1,000 quality early education programs participating in the Parent Aware program, and one of the most recent child care providers, Amanda Rupar’s Family Child Care, to earn a four-star Parent Aware rating. Currently available in 22 counties and on seven reservations, Parent Aware will expand to 23 new counties and one reservation next year, and reach statewide in 2015. More information is in a news release on the commissioner’s visit and the Parent Aware program.
DHS Commissioner Lucinda Jesson toured the nonprofit Full Cycle Bike Shop in Minneapolis in November after a recent $125,000 grant award to expand its services, as part of an investment by Gov. Mark Dayton and the Minnesota Legislature in the state’s homeless youth population. Full Cycle Bike Shop is a youth-run, nonprofit bicycle shop that addresses homelessness by connecting youth with training, employment experience and support services to help them achieve independence and stability. This visit is one of regular visits the commissioner makes to community partners who provide services to department clients. More information is in a news release on the commissioner’s tour and the grant.
A small cost-of-living adjustment on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits became effective Oct. 1, 2013, that may affect some SNAP recipients who are not already at the maximum benefit level for their household size. Beginning Nov. 1, some recipients may see a decrease in their benefits. Help is available for SNAP recipients affected by the benefit decrease due to the end of extra benefits provided during the recession. More information is in a news release on the changes and help available for SNAP recipients.
An overview of current efforts to improve professional development opportunities in the state are contained in The Minnesota Office of Early Learning's 2012 Great Workforce Annual Report. The report, recently produced by the Minnesota departments of Health, Education and Human Services, highlights more than 25 different efforts to better support the individuals and organizations that provide early care and education for Minnesota’s young children.
With a $15,000 grant from DHS, using U.S. Department of Agriculture bonus funds, the Emergency Foodshelf Network plans to increase the number of low-income sites it reaches, add fresh produce and milk products in foodshelf packages, print and distribute Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and nutrition education materials, and support staff involved in SNAP community outreach in Ramsey and Hennepin counties. The network’s Mobile Foodshelf distributes 750 pounds of food per month as well as resources and referrals to 17 low-income housing complexes. More information is in a news release about Emergency Foodshelf Network’s Mobile Foodshelf outreach.
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.
Twenty-five Minnesota 2013 graduates will be receiving a degree they didn’t think possible four years ago. With the help of Education and Training Vouchers distributed by DHS, these former foster care and adopted youths were given a chance at higher education. Vouchers are distributed yearly to eligible students to assist with the costs of tuition, books, housing and other school-related expenses. Since the launch of the program in 2003, approximately 200 students per school year have received Education and Training Vouchers and have graduated with degrees ranging from the culinary arts to cosmetology to finance.
Action taken by DHS, providers, and local partners to address a dramatic increase in the deaths of infants in child care has helped to stall the alarming trend, according to the 2012 annual report on licensing activities by the DHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) (PDF). Infant deaths occurring in child care settings was one of four “emergent issues” identified in the report released April 3. More information is in a news release about the report.