McKenna’s Law

In February 2016, McKenna Ahrenholz, a 12 year old, spoke up about Minnesota’s foster children’s right to a lawyer being ignored.  She didn’t know she had a right to a lawyer.  She didn’t know she had a say when she and her siblings were forced to spend time with their abusive father… malnourished, abused and neglected.  She didn’t get a lawyer after asking for one three times.  But when she did get a lawyer, her life drastically improved and she is now in a loving home of her grandfather and his fiancé, along with all her siblings.

Watch her story here.

McKenna wanted to ensure that other children in her situation do not have the same experience.  So, during the 2017 Minnesota’s legislative session, Children’s Law Center (“CLC”) introduced a law that will fix that.  “McKenna’s Law” unanimously passed Minnesota Senate and House and was signed by the Governor into law in May.  The law now states that when a 10+ year old child is removed from home and placed in foster care, the social workers shall inform the child of the child’s right to be represented by a lawyer and of the child’s right to personally attend court hearings.  The law also provides that only the child can waive his or her right to be represented by a lawyer, and only after an opportunity to talk to a lawyer first.

McKenna’s Law went into effect on August 1, 2017.

Unfortunately, due to limited resources allocated to the State Public Defenders and Children’s Law Center to represent all eligible children, we do not know how this law will be fully implemented.  CLC is a small non-profit with a staff of 8 and a roster of 260 volunteer attorneys and already represents close to 800 children per year.  It does not have the capacity to take on additional cases.

CLC was planning on scheduling a roundtable discussion meeting in mid August to discuss implementation of McKenna’s Law, however, due to many scheduling conflicts this meeting is now cancelled or postponed until further notice.

If you have any questions, please contact CLC at info@clcmn.org.

To make a donation to CLC, please click here.