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More dollars sought to provide legal representation for foster children

Lilia Panteleeva, executive director of the Children’s Law Center of Minnesota, answers a question about HF1252, sponsored by Rep. Marion O’Neill, right, that would provide grant funding to provide legal services for foster children. Photo by Paul Battaglia
Lilia Panteleeva, executive director of the Children’s Law Center of Minnesota, answers a question about HF1252, sponsored by Rep. Marion O’Neill, right, that would provide grant funding to provide legal services for foster children. Photo by Paul Battaglia

Children in foster care have a statutory right to legal representation, but how is a minor going to pay for an attorney?

Sponsored by Rep. Marion O'Neill (R-Maple Lake), HF1252 would provide $350,000 in Fiscal Year 2018 “to an organization that provides legal representation to children in need of protection or services and children in out-of-home placement.” An equal amount of non-state funds, which could include volunteer attorney time, would be required.

The bill was held over Thursday by the House Public Safety and Security Policy and Finance Committee for possible omnibus bill inclusion. The companion, SF1385, awaits action by the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee. Sen. Jerry Relph (R-St. Cloud) is the Senate sponsor.

WATCH The House Public Safety and Security Policy and Finance Committee

Lilia Panteleeva is executive director of Children’s Law Center of Minnesota, a nonprofit that provides free legal representation to children age 10 and older who are subject to a child protection petition. Approximately 300 active volunteers provide assistance to about 700 youth annually.

“We essentially provide those services with the leverage of volunteer attorneys,” Panteleeva said. “Oftentimes they tell us that this is the most rewarding work they do with their legal license.”

The center’s annual budget is approximately $700,000 a year, $150,000 of which comes from the state. Panteleeva said an auditor told her if the state were billed to provide such services it would cost around $3 million annually.

“It’s a great collaboration between public and private and it leverages pro bono lawyers that want to come help children that are in need, children that have experienced trauma, children that are being taken out of their home, who don’t have representation from a lawyer,” O’Neill said.

 


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