CLC Helps Pass Legislation Benefiting Foster Children and Youth
We did it! On April 22, 2010, Senate File 2690/House File 3039 was signed into law. CLC has been actively supporting this bill, which contains specific policy changes that will benefit foster care youth and improve the child welfare system. Here are the key provisions of the bill:
- It ensures that review of foster care cases are held in court, so that youth have the opportunity to participate in the proceedings that are determining their future.
- It allows court jurisdiction over foster care to extend to age 21, helping Minnesota prepare to benefit from upcoming federal funds (under the Fostering Connections for Success and Increasing Adoptions Act) that will reimburse costs for youth who want to stay in care to age 21.
- It allows youth in care or homeless youth in housing to get their driver’s license.
- It allows youth who acquire assets while in care to keep those assets to support them in their transition to adulthood.
- It clarifies that state wards are eligible for services up to age 21.
- It improves fathers’ and non-custodial parents’ access and involvement in child protection proceedings.
Thank you for your continued support and for joining CLC in our efforts to improve the child protection system for children and youth in Minnesota!
CLC Taking Active Role in Advocacy Groups
CLC has been deeply involved with two grassroots groups that are working to improve the lives of vulnerable children, families and at-risk youth in Minnesota.
Youth Moving Forward (YMF) is a coalition of many small and large entities that provide services for at-risk youth that have joined forces to end homelessness through prevention, intervention, education and advocacy. CLC’s foster children clients are especially at risk for negative outcomes. Studies of young people who have aged out of foster care in various states demonstrate the challenges these youth faced after leaving care:
- 12-30 % struggled with homelessness;
- 40-63 % did not complete high school;
- 25-55 % were unemployed;
- 32-40 % were forced to rely on some form of public assistance and 50% experienced extreme financial hardship;
- 31-42 % were arrested;
- 40-60 % of the young women were pregnant within 12-18 months of leaving foster care.
- Up to 80% of the prison population has experience in the foster care system.
As a way to move the agenda of YMF forward, and to address the broader problems children and families are experiencing in Minnesota, the Child Wellbeing Network (CWN) was formed. CWN is a group of individuals and organizations with expertise in the child welfare system that have come together to create a movement towards making improvements in the child welfare system and the systems that support at-risk children, youth and families. CWN is working to expand awareness, strengthen policy and practice, develop educational tools, and support legislation around these issues.
CLC and several CWN member organizations have created a vision bill setting out how the child welfare system can and should be changed to reflect our values. CLC also helped to advance a policy bill with specific changes that can be done now to improve the system. The bill (SF 2690/ HF 3039) was signed into law on April 22, 2010. CLC led the charge on two particular pieces of this bill:
1) In-Court Appearance Hearings in Child Protection Matters
This proposal tightened statutory language to reiterate that appearance hearings must be held when courts review foster care matters, eliminating the policy of non-appearance paper reviews utilized in some counties. This will strengthen court and county practice of ensuring that children have the chance to actively participate in each hearing. Giving children meaningful in-person reviews and an opportunity to be heard at each review will also work to achieve our goal of moving cases more quickly toward permanency, and preventing stagnation of cases.
2) Extension of Juvenile Court Jurisdiction Over Foster Care Youth Up to Age 21
Following the passage of the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act in 2008, Minnesota law and child welfare policy extended the provision of foster care services and benefits to young adults up to age 21 who want to stay in the system while pursuing further education or vocational training. Until now, however, courts had no authority to retain jurisdiction past age 19. With the passage of SF 2690/HF 3039, juvenile court jurisdiction will be extended up to age 21 for youth who choose to stay in foster care. Allowing courts to keep a foster care case open until age 21 will help ensure that the services to which young adults are entitled are being delivered adequately and effectively.
“Aging Out of Foster Care: Youth Aging Out of Foster Care Face Poverty, Homelessness and the Criminal Justice System,” On the Issues: Policy Recommendations, The Children’s Aid Society, p. 2.