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Children’s Law Center of Minnesota Achieves Victory for Youth in Foster Care at the Minnesota Court of Appeals


February 28, 2024 

Children’s Law Center of Minnesota Achieves Victory for Youth in Foster Care at the Minnesota Court of Appeals 

Children’s Law Center of Minnesota (CLC), a nonprofit organization that provides free legal services to youth in foster care, secured an important decision for Minnesota youth in foster care in the case, In the Matter of the Welfare of the Child of: K. O. and D. W., Commissioner of Human Services. With the help of dedicated volunteer attorneys, CLC successfully won a precedential case at the Minnesota Court of Appeals prohibiting counties from detaining non-delinquent foster care youth in locked detention facilities.  

In 2023, six of CLC’s clients were detained in a juvenile detention center even though they were non-delinquent youth. For days and months at a time, the county responsible for their custody and care opted to detain them in locked confinements despite their status as non-delinquent youth and against the repeated pleas from CLC attorneys that these holds were unlawful.  

Following a CLC client’s second unlawful incarceration at a juvenile detention center, CLC staff attorney Katie Mathurin and volunteer attorney Chad Snyder filed a motion for the immediate release of the youth. After the district court ruled to continue to detain the youth, a team of volunteer attorneys from the Fredrikson law firm, Rick Snyder, Shantal Pai, Thomas Wheeler and Megan Helstrom, appealed the decision to the Court of Appeals. On behalf of CLC’s client, the team argued that the statutory authority (Minn. Stat. § 260C.181) clearly limited a county’s ability to hold a youth in a secure detention facility for only 24 hours, and after that, must be released to a relative or shelter care facility. The appellate court agreed.  

“This decision sets a precedent that will protect youth from being locked up simply because they are in the child protection system and that system failed to provide them with the home and services they need,” CLC staff attorney Katie Mathurin says.  

“Our clients are removed from their parents for their own safety, and they are to receive protection and services to help them and their families,” CLC managing attorney Anne Tyler  Gueinzius says. “They are not to be placed in foster care to punish them for the harm they have received.” 

CLC extends its gratitude to the zealous volunteer attorneys who contributed to this landmark decision. CLC and its volunteers will continue to fight to protect the rights of youth in foster care.