Systemic Reform

In addition to its direct representation work, CLC engages in systemic reform benefiting all of Minnesota’s foster children.

  • Advocating for legislation regarding children’s rights.

1. During the 2017 legislative session, CLC introduced and passed McKenna’s Law, which went into effect on August 1, 2017.  McKenna’s Law (in sum) ensures the following:

  • Children who are removed from home and are ten years old or older will now be informed of their right to attend court hearings and have legal representation within 14 days of removal;
  • No one besides the child can waive his or her right to legal representation;
  • If an unrepresented child is present in court, the judge must inform the child of his or her right to legal representation; and
  • A waiver of this right can only be accepted in writing and after a consultation with an appointed attorney.

More details can be found here.

2. During the 2010 legislative session, CLC was among several organizations supporting legislation benefitting youth in foster care and homeless/at-risk youth.  The bill (SF 2690/HF 3039) was signed into law on April 22, 2010.  The law benefits youth in several ways:

  • It allows courts to retain jurisdiction over youth who wish to stay in foster care to age 21.
  • It ensures that foster care reviews are held in court so children have the opportunity to participate in decisions being made about their lives.
  • It removes barriers for homeless youth and youth in out-of-home care to get their driver’s licenses.
  • It allows youth who acquire certain assets while in care to keep those assets to support them in their transition to adulthood.
  • It clarifies that state wards are eligible for services up to age 21.
  • It improves fathers’ and non-custodial parents’ access and involvement in child protection proceedings.

These policy changes are first steps in a long-term effort that participating organizations hope to make together to effect more widespread improvements in the child welfare system.

3. In 2007, CLC helped pass legislation that allows a child transitioning out of foster care to keep any job earnings rather than be required to use that income to repay the county for their care. The implications of this amendment for youth making the transition from foster care are profound and far reaching as youth in care will no longer have to submit pay stubs to the county to determine how much he or she would be assessed by the county for their care. This legislation will help many of Minnesota’s foster children transition into the workforce and into adult life by providing more financial stability.

4. CLC helped write and pass legislation in 2001 requiring the development of an Independent Living Plan for youth, aged 16 and over, aging out of foster care. Thus, for every youth who transitions out of foster care, the county child welfare department must have a plan that addresses health care, education, jobs and job training, and housing, among other independent living issues.

  • Writing amicus briefs to state and federal appellate courts, including the Minnesota Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court on issues that affect foster children.
  • Serving on statewide and nationwide committees and task forces, such as the Minnesota Supreme Court Task Force on Foster Care and Adoption, the Minnesota Supreme Court Juvenile Protection Rules Committee and the National Children’s Law Network. Currently, CLC staff attorneys participate in the Children’s Justice Initiative for Hennepin and Ramsey Counties, the Children’s Mental Health Partnership, the MSBA Children and the Law Section, the Civil Gideon Task Force, the Youth Law Summit, and other groups active in systemic reform efforts.
  • Participating in the Child Wellbeing Network (CWN), a group of individuals and organizations with expertise in the child welfare system that have joined forces to develop a broad vision of child welfare policy and systems improvement that will benefit children and families statewide.  CWN intends to develop solutions to problems in the child welfare system and provide guidance on how to shape the reform necessary to implement those solutions.  In 2010, CLC and other members of CWN were active in passing legislation containing specific policy changes benefiting Minnesota’s youth (see information regarding SF 2690/HF 3039 above).
  • Participating in Youth Moving Forward (YMF), a coalition of people and organizations who advocate for the rights and safety of homeless youth and youth at risk of homelessness. With strong involvement of youth, YMF engages legislators, policy makers, and community members to ensure stability in housing, opportunities for education, and healthy transitions from foster care to adulthood.