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Proposed Office of the Foster Youth Ombudsperson gets committee OK

Hoang Murphy had a simple inquiry for the House State Government Finance and Elections Committee Friday.

“When families are not good places or not safe places for children to be, the government intervenes. Who intervenes when it is the government that is causing the harm? It begs just a really basic question, ‘Who is watching the watchers?’ Currently, I would argue no one.”

Murphy, founder and executive director of Foster Advocates, was among those voicing support for a bill to help youth in the state’s foster care system.

“Children in foster care face critically important issues and they deserve to be served and protected like all the other children in our state,” said Rep. Jessica Hanson (DFL-Burnsville).

“Youth in foster care do not always have a resource or avenue for intervention in the case of abuse or neglect at the hands of our very own child protection system. Navigating the foster care system alone is a challenging task, and without the appropriate tools and advocates we will continue to allow the common cycles of hurt and trauma that we are seeing in our communities today.”

Hanson sponsors HF3845 that would appropriate $650,000 in fiscal year 2023 to create the Office of the Foster Youth Ombudsperson and Board of the Foster Youth Ombudsperson.

“This office will make sure that more youth in foster care will have more access to critical resources, that they’ll have an advocate to help them resolve issues, and it will give more visibility to the need for change as called for by this community,” she said.

Approved 11-1 by the committee, the bill’s next stop is the House Human Services Finance and Policy Committee. It has no Senate companion.

Shawna Bullen-Fairbanks, Izavella Wagner and Ada Smith each spoke about their trials and tribulations with the state’s foster system.

“I support this bill because children in foster care have no choice but to rely on the state,” Bullen-Fairbanks said.

Added Wagner: “The creation of an ombudsman for foster youth will be the lifeline that so many Minnesota fosters need. I know they would have helped me.”

“Children are children, and they are our responsibility. It is the state as the parents who need to make sure that we are taking care of them in that capacity as we would take care of our own children in our own home,” said Rep. Ginny Klevorn (DFL-Plymouth).

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