All children need safe, loving, permanent families. But right now, too many Minnesota children aren’t getting the basic building blocks of support, stability and love that families can offer.
During a time of devastating natural disasters, racial inequities that persist in our communities and the continuing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the safety that families provide is more important than ever. Foster children face their own upheavals, not only dealing with the turmoil of the world around us, but also with day-to-day challenges including the trauma of being removed from their homes.
We at the Minnesota Department of Human Services have three priorities to ensure that children in struggling families get the care and support they need.
Parents want what’s best for their children and work hard to give them good lives. Yet sometimes parents struggle to manage financial worries, health concerns, work-related challenges, parenting demands and other stresses. When parents have problems and children are placed in the foster care system, our first priority is to reunify families. We support parents to overcome their difficulties and minimize trauma for children who have been removed from home. The more quickly we can safely reunify families, the better off everyone is.
While child protection intervention can lead to foster care, its primary purpose is to promote child safety and strengthen families so that they can stay safely together. In fact, 90% of Minnesota children remain with their families at the close of a child protection assessment or intervention.
Uniting children, relatives
When children cannot safely reunify with their families, our next priority is finding relatives to adopt them. Minnesota law requires child protection agencies to prioritize placing children with relatives, as long as the relative meets state child protection standards, including passing a background study.
More than half of all adoptions from Minnesota’s foster care system in the past three years have been with relatives, including 59% of the 965 children adopted from foster care last year. We know that placement with relatives:
• Minimizes the trauma of removal as they can still be with family who know them
• Increases permanency as relatives are more likely to provide a permanent home
• Improves behavioral health
• Promotes sibling connections, with relatives often willing to enable siblings to remain together
• Preserves children’s cultural identity and community connections.
• Creating new families through adoption
• While family reunification is our highest priority, followed by adoption by relatives, sometimes we also need to create new families to provide children with safe, loving, permanent homes.
If you’re thinking about adoption, consider adopting children from the foster care system instead of pursuing a private or international adoption. We have a great need for families to adopt all waiting children – particularly siblings and older youth who often remain in foster care the longest.
Children right here in Minnesota need families immediately. You could be one of them who:
• Offers patience, guidance, compassion and structure that children need
• Advocates for and helps children who need mental health and medical care
• Spends time chilling, watching movies and barbecuing with family, which one foster youth described as a great day
• Provides the love that makes a happy family, as another foster youth described it
Earlier this month, we hosted our 24th annual “Celebrate Adoption: Circus of the Heart” event virtually to celebrate families created by adoption in the past year and to encourage others to consider adopting a child from the foster care system. Working in partnership with counties, tribes and nonprofits, our goal is to find safe, nurturing, permanent homes for all foster children available for adoption as quickly as possible. Our hope is that you can help us and, more importantly, the 641 Minnesota children who are waiting for families to love and support them for a lifetime.
For more information, contact your county or tribal social services agency or MN ADOPT at www.mnadopt.org, 612-861-7115 or 866-303-6276.
Editor’s note: Jodi Harpstead is the commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Services.