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Support, mentorship for parents helps families reunite

Navigating the child protection system can be completely overwhelming for parents, especially those suffering from addiction or other barriers that might make the process required to reunite with their children even more daunting.

Minnesota One-Stop for Communities helps overcome those barriers by connecting them to parent mentors who can provide guidance and support.

Sponsored by Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn (DFL-Roseville), HF390 would appropriate $150,000 in both fiscal years 2022 and 2023 through Department of Human Services’ grants to the organization. It would also establish a base funding level of $150,000 in fiscal year 2024 and after.

The House Human Services Finance and Policy Committee laid the bill over Tuesday for possible inclusion in an omnibus bill. There is no Senate companion.

Human services committee hears HF390 02/02/21

Grant funding could be used for parent mentoring, peer-to-peer support groups, housing support services, training, staffing, and administrative costs.

One-Stop mentors work with parents for the duration of their cases with child welfare and child protection – which can range from six months to more than a year – and help them remain connected with services afterward, said mentor JuTone Lajoie.

Mentors explain courtroom proceedings and legal language, mediate conversations with attorneys and social workers, help parents meet and keep track of deadlines, connect parents to educational resources and community supports, and offer culturally specific parenting classes and housing services, testifiers said.

“We’ve seen a lot of success with reunification of our families in our communities,” Lajoie said. “I’ve watched the parents just go from despair, to hope, to change, and it’s a real delight to see.”

One-Stop received an appropriation from the Legislature in the last biennium and, since then, has worked with Hennepin, Ramsey, St. Louis, and Carlton counties, reuniting 85 children with their families – more than half of whom were Native American or African American, said CEO Larene Randle-Wade.

In that time, the organization has also worked with the University of Minnesota on an evaluation of how parent mentoring relationships can reduce racial disparities, she said.

With the additional funding, the program would be able to help more families, expand its work into Dakota and Anoka counties, and begin looking at ways to serve rural counties with a mobile crisis team, Randle-Wade said.

The program also receives funding from counties, reimbursement for housing services, and private foundations, Randle-Wade said.

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