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Children, families program overview

Published (1/28/2011)
By Patty Ostberg
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Children and Family Services comprise 11 percent of the Department of Human Services’ budget, Assistant Commissioner Erin Sullivan Sutton told the House Health and Human Services Finance Committee Jan. 25.

Many of the programs, such as the Minnesota Family Investment Program, child care assistance grants and children’s services grants are supported by both state and federal money. Of that state share “55 percent of the child welfare expenses are borne by property tax dollars,” Sutton said.

Sullivan Sutton noted that MFIP, which provides cash benefits to low-income families for cash and food supports, has a five-year limit. The program works in combination with a Diversionary Work Program and a work benefit that help families to avoid long-term assistance. In conjunction there are 44,711 families receiving an average monthly payment of $655. The average federal food portion for an MFIP family is $378 a month.

Rep. Steve Gottwalt (R-St. Cloud) asked if there was a formal process for finding out if programs accomplish the goals they are intended to achieve.

The state does measure and report county outcomes, Sullivan Sutton said. Measuring performance is really to encourage continuous improvement in services, but nobody gets it right all the time, she added.

Rep. Joe McDonald (R-Delano) asked what the return on investment is for those participating in programs.

Sullivan Sutton said most families exit programs within two years and also obtain and maintain employment, but families sometimes need to return to the program.

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