Pressing Issues

Governor’s Task Force and Family Assessment/Resources Work Group Meetings January 8th 2015

Governor’s Task Force and Family Assessment/Resources Work Group Meetings January 8th 2015

Screening and Transparency Work Group

The Screening and Transparency group met on January 8 from 9-11:30 am with the main agenda items being teens at risk and SSIS, the computer system for recording reports of child maltreatment.

Children’s Law Center Executive Director Lilia Panteleeva, and Staff Attorney Julie Hillel, and Mid-MN Legal aid Supervising Attorney Irene Opsahl shared their years of expertise in dealing with teens who live in challenging situations such as being homeless, runaways, or who are afraid to remain at home.  Both non-profit organizations provide legal advice and representation to children who are, at least initially, “outside” the system of child protection. They receive calls for assistance from mandated reporters and others who are concerned about the teens whose calls to Child Protection have been screened out and they also receive calls from youth who are looking for help.

They had several recommendations:

1. Broaden the definition of imminent harm. They are concerned that cases are screened out if there is not a current injury, even if there is history of recurrent abuse.

2. Treat runaways as child protection cases. Consider why the teens have run away.  Train law enforcement to ask runaways directly if they feel safe returning home. Often the parents say they can return and the child goes back home, without underlying issues understood.

3. Use a range of responses to deal with teen issues. Right now, other than day or two at a teen shelter, it is often return home or go to a foster care. Can there be a place for teens to stay short term while trying to understand the current issues.

4. Interview teens separately from the parents.

5. Speak with others who know them-teachers, other relatives, neighbors, etc.

6. Increase training and supervision of screeners.

7. Teens have to have a stake in their plan. If they disagree with the plan made, they will probably run again.


Initial Recommendations from The Governor’s Task Force on the Protection of Children

Initial recommendations from The Governor’s Task Force on the Protection of Children comprise a bill that aims to put a child’s needs first, over the needs of the family when suspected child maltreatment is reported.  The task force formed …after the death of 4-year-old Eric Dean, who was repeatedly abused by his step-mother, Amanda Peltier. Eric suffered a fatal abdominal injury in February 2013 at the hands of Peltier who was later sentenced to life imprisonment.
Children’s Law Center of Minnesota has been working with the Governor’s Task Force to provide insight on changes that need to be made in Minnesota’s Child Protection System.



Governor Dayton signed new juvenile and criminal records expungement legislation into law on  May 14, 2014. The new law will go into effect Jan. 1, 2015. Designed to help individuals rebuild their lives after contact with the criminal justice system, the legislation will provide expungement relief for Minnesotans pursuing a second chance, often long after they have been held accountable for their actions.

The legislation provides specific remedies, including clarifying juvenile delinquency expungement, extending sealing powers to the executive branch, requiring private screening services to delete expunged records, and protecting employers and landlords from liability based upon an expungement.

The most important aspects for those seeking an expungement are:

1.  The following executive branch (as well as judicial branch) records may be sealed if the petitioner shows by clear and convincing evidence that their need for an expungement outweighs any public safety concerns: 1) diversion and stay of adjudication records 1 year after completion of sentence if crime free; 2) petty misdemeanor and misdemeanor records 2 years after completion of sentence if crime free; 3) gross misdemeanors 4 years after completion of sentence if crime free (domestic abuse related offenses not eligible until July 2015); and 4) most nonviolent felonies that are level 1 or 2 on the sentencing guidelines 5 years after completion of sentence if crime free. Click here for a list of eligible felonies.

2.  All records related to juvenile delinquency can be expunged.

3.  Requires private business screening services to delete expunged records.






Bill seeks to offer 16 year olds parental freedom

By Tim Budig, Session Daily

Whether Minnesota needs a statutory process of juvenile emancipation to replace a system some see centered on adults was tabled by the House Early Childhood and Youth Development Policy Committee Wednesday.

Rep. Peter Fischer (DFL-Maplewood), sponsor of HF2754, believes his bill could lend uniformity to emancipation in Minnesota. It has no Senate companion.

Under the bill, a juvenile who reaches the age of 16 could petition the juvenile court for emancipation. This is a means for juveniles to gain greater control over their lives. Once emancipated from parental or custodial control, they could make many of their own decisions, Fischer said. He believes this bill could lend uniformity to emancipation in Minnesota.

Right now, how emancipation is handled in Minnesota varies among court jurisdictions, he said, but a statutory process could help correct this. Thirty-two states already have statutory processes for emancipation.

Under the bill, the petition must include the reason for petition, whether the parent or legal custodian is in support, and provide other pertinent details.

In response, the court could grant partial or full emancipation to the juvenile, or, if the juvenile agrees, revoke the emancipation.

Lilia Panteleeva, executive director of the Children’s Law Center of Minnesota, testifies before the House Early Childhood & Youth Development Policy Committee March 12 in support of a bill sponsored by Rep. Peter Fischer, right, that would provide emancipation of minors. Photo by Andrew VonBank


Exciting NEW legislation! The Family Reunification Act of 2013

On May 1, 2013, Governor Dayton signed into law the Family Reunification Act of 2013.  This new law permits the reestablishment of the parent and child legal relationship for certain children who are under the guardianship of the Commissioner of Human Services.   The law is exciting for those children who have remained in foster care for significant periods of time without being adopted and wish to return to the care of their biological parents as well as for those parents who have been able to correct the problems that led to their initial termination of parental rights.

The new law has several qualifiers.  Specifically, it provides that only the county attorney may file a petition for reunification.  Minn. Stat. §260C.329, subd. 3 (anticipated 2013).  Thus, terminated parents, children and guardian ad litems are unable to request reunification under the new law.

A petition to reunify and legally restore the parent child relationship may not be filed if the previous termination of parental rights was based on a finding of either sexual abuse or conduct that resulted in the death of a minor.  Id. subd. 4.  Additionally, a petition may not be filed if the previous parent has been convicted of any crime listed under Minn. Stat. § 260C.007, subd. 14 (2012). Id.    Such crimes include, murder, manslaughter, criminal vehicular homicide, substantial bodily harm to a child, felony assault,  felony malicious punishment of a child, felony unreasonable restraint of a child, felony neglect or endangerment of a child, solicitation inducement or promotion of prostitution, criminal sexual conduct toward a child, and federal murder or voluntary manslaughter.

Finally, a petition may not be filed unless the following factors exist:

  1. both the responsible social services agency  and county attorney agree that reestablishment of the legal parent and child relationship is in the child’s best interest;
  2. the parent has corrected the conditions that led to an order terminating parental rights;
  3. the parent is willing and has the capability to provide day-to-day care and maintain the health, safety, and welfare of the child;
  4. the child has been in foster care for at least 36 months after the court issued the order terminating parental rights;
  5. the child is 15 years of age or older at the time the petition for reestablishment of the legal parent and child relationship is filed;
  6. the child has not been adopted; and
  7. the child is not the subject of a written adoption placement agreement[.]

Id.  subd. 3.

Once the petition has been served on the child, the child’s Guardian ad Litem, the proposed parent, and tribe if the child is subject to the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), a hearing must be held before the court that issued the termination order and conducts the child’s adoption reviews.  Id. subds. 7-8.  The standard for the court is whether the evidence is clear and convincing.  Id. subd. 8.

The court may grant the petition if it finds:

  1. reestablishment of the legal parent and child relationship is in the child’s best interests;
  2. the child is 15 years of age or older;
  3. the child has not been adopted;
  4. the child is not subject to a written adoption placement agreement . . . ;
  5. at least 36 months have elapsed following a final order terminating parental rights and the child remains in care;
  6. the child desires to reside with the parent;
  7. the parent has corrected the corrections that led to an order terminating parental rights; and
  8. the parent is willing and has the capability to provide day-to-day care and maintain the health, safety, and welfare of the child.


If a petition is granted by the court, the child is no longer a state ward and all rights and legal responsibilities of the parent child relationship are restored.   Id. subd.11.   The child will be returned to the legal and physical custody of his or her parent.  Id.

In certain circumstances, this new law will allow terminated parents and their children with the opportunity to reunify.     This new law acknowledges that even after lengthy periods of time, there are parents who are able to change and provide for their children.  The Family Reunification Act now provides a legal remedy that did not previously exist for children who have remained in care for significant periods of time to return home.   No one wants children to languish in care.   When parents have changed and are able to parent, the children’s needs should be assessed to be determined if reunification is appropriate.   Thankfully, Minnesota has now created a legal avenue to effect such an option.

CLC will continue to inform its clients and volunteer attorneys of any further legal developments concerning this new law.

Congress Passes Key Foster Care Education Bill


The recently enacted Uninterrupted Scholars Act (USA) successfully amended the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA), that acted as a barrier to child protection agencies receiving foster children’s educational records without parental consent.  To protect the control a parent has over their child’s school records, FERPA prohibited distribution of Department of Education funds to educational agencies that released a student’s education records without parental consent. The law failed to recognize situations when government agencies have temporary custody of foster children and caseworkers need to obtain school records to make decisions about foster children’s educational needs.

Minnesota law currently requires a county to ensure a foster child’s educational stability while in foster care which includes obtaining a foster child’s school records.  Prior to passage of USA, federal law prohibited case workers from getting school records in child protection cases when parents refused to sign a release of school records. Under USA, case workers, state and local child welfare representatives and tribal organizations are authorized to receive a student’s educational records under a court order issued in the context of the child protection proceeding without consent or notification to a parent involved in such proceeding.

This is a victory for foster youth who are oftentimes forced to repeatedly change schools. We are hopeful that this new law will help foster children transition more smoothly to new schools, because efficient transfer of school records will prevent delays in enrollment which in turn result in lost credits, stalled academic progress and grade repetition.

Tips for Helping Children and Teens Before and After Visitation

If the Courts deem it physically and emotionally safe, many children and teens in the foster care system will have Court-ordered, regularly scheduled visits with birth parents, siblings, and other family members. Visits are intended to help children and birth family members maintain and strengthen their relationships during a time of separation.  However, without the proper preparation before a visit, or appropriate support following a visit, this can be a challenging experience for all involved. Click here for tips on how you can support your clients with birth family visits.

The Effects of Traumatic Stress on the Developing Brain

By CLC Staff Social Workers Weida Allen and Rachel Ayoub

9.13.2012- In recent years, many in the helping professions have begun to recognize the significant impact that trauma has on the lives of people, especially young people.  Trauma comes in many forms, but is defined as events occurring outside of the normal human experience.  Trauma occurs when a child experiences an intense event that threatens or causes harm to his or her emotional or physical well-being. When children live through a traumatic experience, they react in both physiological and psychological ways.

A growing body of research has uncovered the pervasive and detrimental effects of traumatic stress on the developing brain. The majority of brain development is completed during the first five years of life, with the most critical development occurring within the first two years. Brain structures responsible for regulating emotion, memory and behavior develop rapidly during the formative years and are very sensitive to damage from the effects of emotional or physical stress, including stress from abuse or neglect. Children who have been exposed to one or more traumatic events over the course of their lives may develop reactions that can affect their daily functioning long after the traumatic events have ended. Be aware of the ways in which traumatic events have impacted the young people in your life, and seek trauma-informed therapy to address issues that persist and continue to impact their daily functioning.

CLC clients have almost certainly experienced trauma in their lives.  CLC volunteer attorneys have a responsibility to attempt to understand the hurdles their clients have faced in the past, are currently facing and will face in the future.  Child clients who have experienced traumatic events and function in a persistent state of fear and may exhibit behavioral challenges such as impulsivity, hyper-vigilance, hyperactivity, withdrawal from reality, depression, sleep difficulties and anxiety.  These behavioral challenges can often be misdiagnosed as various conduct disorders.  Misdiagnosis leads to improper treatment. Because of this, the child client may never get treated for the real problem, which is the trauma.  To become a more effective advocate, volunteer attorneys need to be aware of the trauma their clients have experienced, and how that has shaped who their client is. With that knowledge, CLC volunteer attorneys can help ensure that their clients are receiving the necessary mental health treatments to remedy their true problems.

Additional Resources:

Foster Youth & Identity Theft

Youth in foster care are a vulnerable class when it comes to identity theft.  They may become victims at the hands of their care providers or family members who have access to their personal information.  Often these youth have no knowledge that they are victims of identity theft until after they are adults. Providing foster youth with access to their credit information, guidance in interpreting that information, and ensuring appropriate changes and corrections are made can help guarantee that identity theft does not hinder their success once they begin living independently.

New Legislation

Recently new legislation has been adopted to aide in protecting foster youth from identity theft.  The “Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovation Act” added an entirely new section to 42 U.S.C. 675(5) concerning foster youth ID theft.  The language provides that:

“[E]ach child in foster care under the responsibility of the State who has attained 16 years of age receives without cost a copy of any consumer report (as defined in section 603(d) of the Fair Credit Reporting Act) pertaining to the child each year until the child is discharged from care, and receives assistance (including, when feasible, from any court-appointed advocated for the child) in interpreting and resolving any inaccuracies in the report.”

The Act’s effective date is October 1, 2011.  As a result CLC attorneys will need to pay special attention to their older clients’ credit history. The law provides that attorneys are responsible for going through reports with their client’s and seeing to it that any and all inaccuracies contained in those reports are corrected.  Any relevant court action will be in the hands of attorneys appointed by the court.

As mentioned in our April 2011 practice point, “Identity Theft and Your Client,” CLC feels it is important that you counsel your client on how to prevent, detect and recover from identity theft. Identity theft issues can be complex, expensive and time consuming.  As a result, CLC envisions that its volunteer attorneys will be particularly proactive and persistent when working with the court and social service agencies on this issue. Please note the following link to CLC’s practice point on this issue:  April 2011 Practice Point

Please contact CLC with any questions on addressing the issue of identity theft with your clients.


  • CLC REPRESENTS – 361 FOSTER CARE CLIENTS (as of 10/18/2011).
  • CLC has received: 113 new clients in the first nine months of 2011 – the same number of NEW CLIENTS as in ALL of 2010 – A 35% increase.
  • In 2010, CLC represented 409 CLIENTS and in 2011 is on track for over 500 clients
  • In 2010 and 2011 CLC has had 250 volunteers and volunteer attorneys who provided pro bono representation, research and support to CLC CLIENTS
Bottom LineWe NEED more Volunteer Attorneys to handle our increasing caseload! Please consider attending an UPCOMING TRAINING. You can also help by making a donation to CLC through If you’ve been wavering on becoming a volunteer attorney, or donating to CLC, NOW is the time. DON’T WAIT- there are foster kids that need your help.