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DHS commissioner honored for Northstar Care legislation
The North American Council on Adoptable Children honored Commissioner Lucinda Jesson with its Voices from the Heart Award for the important part the Minnesota Department of Human Services played in the recent passage of the Northstar Care for Children law. Jesson was honored at the council's 10th anniversary celebration Nov. 9 in West St. Paul. More information is in a story about the award.
More than 1,000 programs participate in Parent Aware
DHS Commissioner Lucinda Jesson recently visited a family child care home in Sartell to celebrate more than 1,000 quality early education programs participating in the Parent Aware program, and one of the most recent child care providers, Amanda Rupar’s Family Child Care, to earn a four-star Parent Aware rating. Currently available in 22 counties and on seven reservations, Parent Aware will expand to 23 new counties and one reservation next year, and reach statewide in 2015. More information is in a news release on the commissioner’s visit and the Parent Aware program.
Full Cycle Bike Shop serves homeless youth
DHS Commissioner Lucinda Jesson toured the nonprofit Full Cycle Bike Shop in Minneapolis in November after a recent $125,000 grant award to expand its services, as part of an investment by Gov. Mark Dayton and the Minnesota Legislature in the state’s homeless youth population. Full Cycle Bike Shop is a youth-run, nonprofit bicycle shop that addresses homelessness by connecting youth with training, employment experience and support services to help them achieve independence and stability. This visit is one of regular visits the commissioner makes to community partners who provide services to department clients. More information is in a news release on the commissioner’s tour and the grant.
SNAP changes bring adjustments to benefit levels
A small cost-of-living adjustment on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits became effective Oct. 1, 2013, that may affect some SNAP recipients who are not already at the maximum benefit level for their household size. Beginning Nov. 1, some recipients may see a decrease in their benefits. Help is available for SNAP recipients affected by the benefit decrease due to the end of extra benefits provided during the recession. More information is in a news release on the changes and help available for SNAP recipients.
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.
DHS, foodshelf network collaborate to feed low-income communities
With a $15,000 grant from DHS, using U.S. Department of Agriculture bonus funds, the Emergency Foodshelf Network plans to increase the number of low-income sites it reaches, add fresh produce and milk products in foodshelf packages, print and distribute Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and nutrition education materials, and support staff involved in SNAP community outreach in Ramsey and Hennepin counties. The network’s Mobile Foodshelf distributes 750 pounds of food per month as well as resources and referrals to 17 low-income housing complexes. More information is in a news release about Emergency Foodshelf Network’s Mobile Foodshelf outreach.
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.
Vouchers enable youth to pursue education
Twenty-five Minnesota 2013 graduates will be receiving a degree they didn’t think possible four years ago. With the help of Education and Training Vouchers distributed by DHS, these former foster care and adopted youths were given a chance at higher education. Vouchers are distributed yearly to eligible students to assist with the costs of tuition, books, housing and other school-related expenses. Since the launch of the program in 2003, approximately 200 students per school year have received Education and Training Vouchers and have graduated with degrees ranging from the culinary arts to cosmetology to finance.
DHS funds effort to support involvement of both parents
DHS recently awarded the Co-Parent Court of Hennepin County a one-time grant of more than $260,000. Co-Parent Court provides free parenting help for unwed parents participating in the program and offers services including paternity establishment, education classes on wellness and health, and support from outside organizations that work in tandem with the Co-Parent Court community. The Minnesota Family Investment Program Innovations Fund grant is supporting co-parent staff and services work beginning June 1 through Dec. 31, 2013.
Infant deaths in child care down, more work needed
Action taken by DHS, providers, and local partners to address a dramatic increase in the deaths of infants in child care has helped to stall the alarming trend, according to the 2012 annual report on licensing activities by the DHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) (PDF). Infant deaths occurring in child care settings was one of four “emergent issues” identified in the report released April 3. More information is in a news release about the report.
Safe Place for Newborns law expanded
In response to tragedies involving abandoned infants over the last several years, DHS and the state Legislature recognized the need to strengthen Minnesota’s Safe Place for Newborns law. The amended law allows a mother, or someone acting with her permission, to safely surrender her unharmed infant born within the past seven days to a designated safe place. A safe place includes a hospital, an urgent care facility during its hours of operation, or an ambulance that is dispatched in response to a 911 call. Previously, the law allowed for the safe surrender of infants born within 72 hours, and designated safe places were hospitals only.
Guide aids child welfare professionals working with LGBTQ youth
A practice guide issued by DHS aims to help child welfare workers effectively support LGBTQ youth in the child welfare system. Working with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning/queer youth (PDF) covers a variety of topics and offers several approaches to strengthen and affirm the approximately 5 percent to 10 percent of foster care youth nationally who identify as LGBTQ. Included in the publication are statistics for the LGBTQ foster care population as well as guidance on preserving family relationships and preventing out-of-home placements, engaging and building relationships with LGBTQ youth, and ensuring safety in placements and in residential care, along with special considerations for working with transgender youth and an index of LGBTQ terms and resources.
Report highlights signs of progress for children
Parents, educators and community members have a resource at their disposal when looking for information about their school-age children: the School-age Indicators of Progress: Minnesota’s Learning Guidelines for Ages 5 to 12 (PDF). Information in the report guides those working with children in this age range to create positive, enriching environments as children undergo fundamental social and developmental changes in their lives.
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