The Minnesota Senate today approved a bipartisan Human Services bill that improves the way Minnesota delivers critical services like child and foster care, mental health assistance, and support for individuals with disabilities.
“We want to make sure that the people of Minnesota know they will have access to care and protections they need,” said Senator Scott Jensen (R-Chaska). “This bill makes important updates to the criteria and quality of services that many people require. This pandemic has manufactured a new sense of uncertainty and it is our hope that this legislation will bring some peace of mind.”
The bill contains a number of non-controversial provisions that streamline childcare service grants and update childcare licensing rules to bring Minnesota into compliance with federal law. It also solidifies childcare training requirements to make sure children are safe at all times.
In addition, the bill streamlines children’s mental health crisis intervention standards in order to provide better, more patient- and family-oriented care for children in the program.
The bill also requires counties to clearly post criteria for childcare providers seeking variances, so the process of obtaining a variance for certain licensing requirements is less confusing.
Support for people with disabilities
The bill reimagines and strengthens the state’s view of disability services, with the goals of promoting independent living, supporting employment for persons with disabilities, and allowing self-directed care for services.
The bill requires students who switch school districts due to foster care placement to be enrolled in the new district within seven days. If at all possible, the child will remain in his or her current district.
Additionally, when a child is placed into foster care, social services will facilitate a call between the child’s parent and the foster care provider as soon as possible. The purpose of the call is to develop a connection between the foster care provider and the child’s parent and help the foster care provider learn about the child’s unique preferences and tendencies.
The bill also requires prenatal alcohol exposure screenings for children in the child protection system.
The bill extends the National Institute of Health’s “Baby’s First Years” program, which provides support for low-income mothers and their children in the crucial first three years of the baby’s life. It also cleans up the “Birth to Age Eight” Pilot program, which was created in 2017 to study developmental markers in a child’s first years of life.
The bill extends the “Family Assets for Independence” program, which helps people escape poverty. The federal government decided not to renew this program, so the bill will help Minnesota continue to serve these low-income families.
The bill requires sexual violence prevention training for Home and Community Based Services staff.
The bill also gives broad authority and discretion to the commissioner of Human Services to waive or modify licensing, background studies, and program standard requirements during the coronavirus pandemic. This authority was also granted within Gov. Walz’s executive orders, which were based on work that the Human Services Committee did early in session.