Looking out for children and families

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Policies regarding adoption, child support, and the care and safety of children, as well as Minnesota Family Investment Program provisions, are included in a new Department of Human Services policy law.

Rep. Jim Abeler (R-Anoka) and Sen. Michelle Benson (R-Ham Lake) sponsor the law.

Child protection and foster care

The “Give Life A Chance” provision gives mothers wishing to relinquish their newborns without prosecution another legal option besides hospitals.

Effective Aug. 1, 2012, ambulances can pick up a child after a 911 call is placed by the mother or a person with the mother’s permission to give up the child. The timeline of when the mother may relinquish her child will expand from 72 hours after giving birth to seven days.

Children in foster care who turn 18 will be able to stay in foster care until age 21, if they have not been adopted.

If a child is discharged from foster care, the social service agency must develop a personalized transition plan with the youth during the 90 days preceding discharge. Effective Aug. 2, 2012, all children in foster care for at least six months will receive a progress review for permanent placement, whereas previously only children under age 8 were reviewed. At the review, the court may order the child’s placement agency to develop a plan for permanent legal custody under certain circumstances, such as when a parent is not maintaining regular visits with the child.

If the Department of Human Services learns that a parent of a newborn was involved in the child protection system, the department may share information with local social service agencies who may take action to ensure the newborn’s safety.

Technical updates are made to laws regarding state and federal adoption assistance funding policies and the language moved into a new section of law, effective Aug. 1, 2012.

Child protection policies are consolidated into the same chapter of law and amended so that when trying to reunify a child with a parent, an agency does not need to seek reunification if a court determines that the parent has committed an act of sexual abuse or is required to register as a predatory offender.

Child support and assistance

Another section of the law may establish a reciprocal agreement between Minnesota and Bermuda to enforce child support laws. Larger countries have reciprocity with the United States, but the federal government leaves it up to each state to share reciprocity with smaller countries. The provision was also signed into law as HF795*/ SF639/CH204. The provision is effective only if Bermuda provides written agreement to enforce reciprocal child support orders.

Those who provide day care to children on child care assistance will have to follow more detailed procedures as outlined in modified provisions. For example, the daily attendance record required must be completed daily and include the times when each child was dropped off and picked up. If possible, the person dropping off or picking up the child should be the one making the recorded entry.

A program for school-age children that cares for children before or after school hours will receive an exemption from a licensing requirement until July 1, 2014.

MFIP, the state’s welfare reform program for low-income families with children, will be amended to simplify program requirements. In addition to face-to-face interviews, phone interviews will be allowed between county agencies and MFIP participants seeking to recertify their eligibility, effective Oct. 1, 2012.

Adult services

The law also addresses provisions for continuing care services, including delaying a moratorium on new adult foster care licenses from 2011 until June 30, 2014.

The human services commissioner will provide a biennial report beginning Jan. 1, 2013, about goals and priorities for administering home care services and waivers for people with disabilities. In addition, the commissioner is directed to seek federal approval for disability and community-based waivers to allow up to five individuals in a licensed adult foster care home, effective July 1, 2012.

People on elderly waivers will receive case management services from their health plan and a written coordinated service and support plan to identify the level of service needs and how those needs will be met.

The delivery of human services is transferring from Mahnomen County to the White Earth Nation and the new law directs the human services commissioner to identify, evaluate and report on efforts to effectively continue with the transfer of services. Specific recommendations are due to the Legislature by Feb. 1, 2013, on any needed legislation to complete the transfer of services to the tribe.

Another new responsibility of the commissioner is to develop a new list of diagnostic codes to define mental illness for the statewide mental health system. An advisory committee will be established to help with determining the codes.