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Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare

Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare

Northstar Care for Children - DHS's annual Child Welfare policy proposals

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The MN Legislature is on recess this week in observance of religious holidays. During the break in action, we thought you might like to hear more about the Northstar bill. Most years, the MN Department of Human Services puts forth its own bill regarding child welfare policy. This stands separate from the main DHS bill - it shows just how complex the child welfare system is!

A couple weeks ago, we pointed you toward the bill and its full text. The Northstar bill, which includes DHS's proposals around Child Welfare, can be found beginning on line 51.29 of HF1304. I'd bet a grand total of ZERO of you read the full bill language - it's very long!

Fortunately, DHS staff have published a fact sheet regarding Northstar Care for Children. The fact sheet can be found online or you can click Fast Facts Northstar Care 3 22 2011.pdf. Thanks, Melissa Sherlock!

The fact sheet is very helpful and brief, so I recommend that you take a quick look at it the sheet itself. Here are some key points pulled directly from the fact sheet:

Issue:

  • Although initially similar, Child Foster Care, Relative Custody Assistance and Adoption Assistance programs have become increasingly disparate in the level of benefits to support children who are being cared for by other families.
  • This disparity is a barrier to permanency for children age 6 and over, works against the children's best interests, appears to increase racial disparities and results in many children remaining in long-term foster care at considerable cost.
Proposal:
  • Combine three programs -- Child Foster Care, Relative Custody Assistance and Adoption Assistance -- into a single benefit called Northstar Care for Children.
  • Families would receive a basic monthly payment based on children's ages. Every child would go through a uniform assessment process to determine eligibility for support beyond the basic level, if any.
  • For cases opened before Northstar Care for Children would begin, the existing Child Foster Care, Relative Custody Assistance and Adoption Assistance programs would continue. No children in these programs who remain in the same status with the same caregiver would have benefits reduced.
This approach will:
  • Take advantage of recent options under the federal Fostering Connections to Success Act, to bring additional federal funds to Minnesota to support vulnerable children
CASCW is concerned about this particular aspect, though, and will continue to keep a close eye on how that might impact families and children in need:
  • Families now receiving Relative Custody Assistance and nearly all families receiving Adoption Assistance would receive more in support under Northstar Care. In general, basic foster care rates would increase, while most supplemental foster care would be reduced.

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