What’s new for: Children

Programs honored with Commissioner's Circle of Excellence Awards

DHS Commissioner Lucinda Jesson honored eight programs for their outstanding contributions to human services clients at the fourth annual Commissioner’s Circle of Excellence Awards in late 2014 in St. Paul. Among those recognized were ParentAware.org, a website that makes it easier for families statewide to find the quality care and education their children need to succeed in school; the FastTRAC Healthcare Pathways Program, a skills education and career-specific training program for adults with low incomes in Anoka County; and the Ain Dah Yung (Our Home) Center, an American Indian youth and family-focused organization providing emergency shelter for youth 5 to 17 years old, and transitional shelter for youth 16 to 21 years old. More information is in a news release on the awards.

Commissioner, chief justice discuss child welfare issues with experts

Addressing improvements and discussing strategies to improve the foster care system, DHS Commissioner Lucinda Jesson and Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie S. Gildea hosted a series of 10 Children’s Justice Initiative regional meetings in 2014 throughout the state. Child protection professionals, judges, county attorneys, social services directors, and professionals who work daily to improve the lives of vulnerable children gathered to discuss improvements in the child welfare system. The Children’s Justice Initiative’s mission is to ensure that abused and neglected children involved in the juvenile protection court system have safe, stable, permanent families, in order to live healthy, productive lives. More information is in a news release on the visits.

Task force working to improve child protection system

The Governor’s Task Force on the Protection of Children is charged with making recommendations for comprehensive improvements to the child protection system to the 2015 Legislature. Areas of interest include children protection screening, Family Assessment Response, training for county child protection staff and state oversight. Information on task force meeting dates and to sign up for email updates are on the task force website.

Northstar Care for Children designed to find permanent homes more quickly

More children will leave foster care and become part of permanent families more quickly with Northstar Care for Children. Launched Jan. 1, 2015, throughout the state, Northstar Care is a unified benefit program designed to reduce the length of time children spend in foster care by finding them families through adoption or legal guardianship. Previously, foster children received significantly lower benefits once they were adopted or living legally with relatives. Now, whether in foster care, adopted families or relative care families, children 6 and older will receive the same benefits. More information is in a news release on the launch of Northstar Care for Children.

Safe sleep practices for infants can save lives

Parents, families, hospitals and child care providers can help reduce the risk of sleep related infant deaths by following simple, safe sleep practices. In Minnesota, over a five-year period beginning in 2009, there were 247 deaths in which an unsafe sleep environment, such as placing the infant in a tummy position, co-sleeping in adult beds or on sofas, or having infants sleep with pillows or blankets, was a contributing factor. Greater awareness about safe sleep practices can help turn around those numbers. More information is in a news release on safe sleep practices for infants.

Services network for sexually exploited youth funded through DHS

The Minnesota Department of Human Services, with $1 million in funding is contracting with four Minnesota organizations for the safe harbor of trafficked youth in the state. Breaking Free, Heartland for Girls, Life House and The Link will provide emergency shelter, transitional and supportive housing specific to meet and address the needs of these youth, as well as appropriate security, survivor assistance and collaboration with law enforcement and juvenile justice systems over the next two years. More information is in a news release on the supportive services and organizations helping these exploited youth.

Initiative launched to prevent homelessness among Minnesota foster Youth

Minnesota is one of 18 states recently awarded a two-year planning grant to curb the population of homeless Minnesota youth leaving the foster care system. Thirty-five percent of homeless youth in Minnesota were in foster care at one time, according to a recent Homelessness in Minnesota report by Wilder Research. The Minnesota Department of Human Services will develop a plan for intervention strategies targeting three specific groups of youth: adolescents in foster care between the ages of 14 and 17; young adults ages 18 to 21 aging out of foster care; and homeless youth and young adults with foster care histories up to age 21.

Report highlights work to support organizations educating young children

An overview of current efforts to improve professional development opportunities in the state are contained in The Minnesota Office of Early Learning's 2012 Great Workforce Annual Report. The report, recently produced by the Minnesota departments of Health, Education and Human Services, highlights more than 25 different efforts to better support the individuals and organizations that provide early care and education for Minnesota’s young children.

SNAP applicants and recipients warned about scams

Applicants for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) should be aware there is never a fee for applying for benefits, and to be on the lookout for online ads or suspicious emails falsely offering help filling out applications. The goal of such scams is to collect personal information from potential SNAP recipients, including credit card information. The federal agency that manages SNAP reports that there have recently been scams in which applicants are asked to provide cell phone numbers and are then automatically enrolled into an expensive service without warning. A “scam alert” provides regular updates about these illegal schemes and how to get assistance if an applicant has already fallen victim.

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