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

 

New video details options for mothers, fathers for establishing parentage  

Many parents don’t know their options or understand the benefits of determining parentage when their child is born. The Minnesota Department of Human Services created a new video, “Establishing Parentage — What Every Mother and Father Should Know,” to help new, unmarried parents decide how they want to establish parentage and understand the benefits. The video focuses on two ways to establish parents, signing the Recognition of Parentage form or genetic testing. The video also covers related subjects, such as child support, custody and parenting time. DHS translated the eight-minute video into four languages. More information is available on the recognition of parentage page

Task force working to improve child support guidelines                                               

Established by the 2016 Minnesota Legislature, the Child Support Task Force is working to develop recommendations to improve Minnesota’s child support guidelines. The task force includes parents, legislators, court and child support professionals, and staff from organizations that work with parents who pay or receive child support. Starting in September, the task force will feature expanded time for public comments at its next four meetings for parents to share their experiences, challenges and make suggestions for program improvements. The meetings with time for public comments will end in December. More information about the child support task force is on the department’s website.

DHS, counties reach out to parents to reinstate driver’s licenses

During Child Support Awareness Month, the Minnesota Department of Human Services and county support offices are sending letters to parents who have fallen behind on child support to help them start paying again and get their driver’s licenses back. The goal is to help parents get back on track and help their children get the financial support they need. Last August, Ramsey County implemented a similar project. Since then, parents owing child support have paid $330,000 million in support. DHS and other counties will institute a similar project across the state. More information is on the child support website page.

Background documents analyze child care access, monitoring, oversight 

The licensed child care issue brief, Understanding Licensed Child Care in Minnesota (PDF), provides licensing data along with an analysis of issues facing licensed child care in Minnesota. These issues include monitoring and oversight activities as well as the availability of licensed care in the state in 2016. The fact sheets address commonly asked questions and provide insight on trends in licensed care. These resources are intended to inform families, licensed providers, policy makers and other key stakeholders about licensed child care in Minnesota. 

Public awareness campaign highlights Safe Place for Newborns

A new public awareness campaign highlights Safe Place for Newborns law, providing information to pregnant women on how to safely give up their newborns. Under the law, mothers, or someone acting in their permission, may leave their unharmed newborns, no more than seven days old, with an ambulance dispatched in response to a 9-1-1 call, or at a hospital or health care facility that provides urgent care. The campaign includes a Safe Place for Newborns Facebook page and SafePlaceMN.org website with updated information and printable information cards, brochures, FAQ sheets and other resource material for pregnant women, families and health care professionals. The Minnesota Legislature provided one-time funding to DHS for the campaign to promote the law. More information is in a news release about Safe Place for Newborns.

Child Care Emergency Plan released for care, preparation of children in care

With more than 12,000 child care facilities across the state serving more than 230,000 children every day, the Minnesota Department of Human Services’ Children and Family Services and Office of Inspector General, in partnership with other state, county and public partners, created the Child Care Emergency Plan (PDF) to assist families, child care providers, counties, and state agencies prepare for and respond to emergencies and disasters, and ensure the health and safety of children in these situations. More information can be found on the department’s child care research page.

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 2014, all 53 deaths that occurred while an infant was asleep were in unsafe sleep environments, 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. In the past five years, fewer than five infants per year died in traffic crashes, but more than 50 infants a year died while sleeping, according to Minnesota Department of Health 2016 statistics. Greater awareness about safe sleep practices can help turn around those numbers. More information on safe sleep practices can be found in a news release from the department.

Parents, others on task force working to improve child support system

The Child Support Task Force, established by the 2016 Minnesota Legislature, has chosen four final members to represent parents, and will soon convene its last meeting of 2016. Responsible for making recommendations to the department, the task force looks to maintain and improve child support guidelines, and objectively discusses complex data and policy issues facing the child support system. Parent members include Tammie Campbell, Plymouth; Jimmy Lloyd, Fridley; Jason Smith, North Mankato; and Laura Vang, Brooklyn Center. They will work with representatives from the department, the Minnesota County Attorney’s Association, the Minnesota Family Support Recovery Council, Minnesota Court Administration, the Minnesota Legal Services Coalition, Minnesota Native American Tribal Child Support Programs, the Minnesota State Bar Association, the Minnesota House of Representatives and the Minnesota Senate. The task force will meet quarterly in 2017, and submit a report with recommendations to the Minnesota Legislature in February 2018. More information on the task force, its members and upcoming meetings is on the department’s Child Support Task Force page.

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.

Department 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.

Partners to help reduce disparities, strengthen families

The department 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.

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.

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