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Child welfare policy changes (new law)

Published (5/29/2009)
By Patty Ostberg
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Improving outcomes for children and families by making changes to American Indian child welfare, child protection and out-of-home placement is the goal of a new law.

Sponsored by Rep. Larry Hosch (DFL-St. Joseph) and Sen. Patricia Torres Ray (DFL-Mpls), the law makes changes to conform with the federal Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008.

According to the Human Services Department, the law clarifies the roles and responsibilities for tribal agencies that choose to establish a panel to review child fatalities and near fatalities on the reservation. It also clarifies mental health screenings for children receiving child protective services, in out-of-home placement or for whom parental rights have been terminated. Tribal agencies can access state funding for the screenings.

The law defines factors for which children can be removed from their home to ensure their safety, and eliminates certain child behavior, such as running away, as a sole reason for removal. It also states that “family group decision-making” can be used as a form of dispute resolution.

The law makes changes so child welfare officials have access to child support enforcement data to establish a father’s identity and whereabouts. It clarifies when fathers are notified of proceedings, their legal rights and responsibilities and sets requirements for establishing paternity in certain cases.

Changes to meet federal requirements include:

• applying “reasonable effort” to place siblings together in foster care and for the agency to provide frequent visits if the siblings cannot be placed together;

• monthly caseworker visits must include determining whether the child is enrolled and attending school, and addressing the issue if not; and

• requiring due diligence in identifying and notifying adult relatives prior to placement or within 30 days after the child is removed from the parents’ care.

The law takes effect when at least 35 states have enacted it.


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