Investing in Children and Families

The Children & Families budget continued the work from 2023 when the Legislature made historic investments to support the health and well-being of the youngest Minnesotans and those who care for them. The 2024 Children and Families budget begins the transformation of an antiquated child welfare IT system that slows down innovation and prevents efficiency for the child welfare workforce. Senate DFLers provided critical funding for essential programs and services such as food banks and homeless shelters, reformed an outdated child care licensing system, and established an independent advisory council on child protection.

CHILD CARE WORKFORCE AND ACCESS

Investing in Child Care:

  • $500,000 – Professional Development for Child Care Provider Associate Credential Coursework
  • $1.125 million – Child Care Facility Improvement Grants

Weighted Risk System for Licensed Child Care The Health & Human Services Children & Families budget bill reformed the child care licensing structure by ending policies that overwhelmingly hurt small providers, many of whom are BIPOC owned and offer child care for underserved or rural communities. The bill appropriates nearly $500,000 to implement a new tiered weighted risk system (WRS) to evaluate licensing compliance for child care centers and family child care providers. This proposal will replace Minnesota’s punitive child care fix-it tickets with a tiered enforcement framework that is weighted to reflect the level of risk for each child care licensing regulation. The weighted risk system was developed through extensive stakeholder engagement and survey analysis of nearly 2,400 respondents conducted through the Child Care Regulation Modernization Projects. It is anticipated that a weighted risk system for family child care providers and child care centers will result in greater consistency among child care licensors and their reviews of child care programs. The weighted risk system will also ensure that state and county resources are directed toward providers most in need of technical assistance and guidance.

Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) Reporter Confidentiality A new law will align Child Care Assistance Programs (CCAP) investigatory practices surrounding reporter confidentiality with Medicaid investigatory practices. This will ensure that reporters who provide good-faith tips to CCAP will have the same confidentiality as reporters who provide tips related to Medicaid.

Expanding Immunization Policy Options for Child Care Businesses (SF 610 Boldon)

A child care center or family child care provider is no longer restricted by law regarding how they enact immunization policies for their business. Child care providers will be able to adopt a policy that would require children enrolled in their care to follow the standard immunization protocols. This will help business leaders make the best decision for their community, the children and infants under their care, and any immunocompromised employees.

Child care businesses are concerned about being open to lawsuits for refusing to accept children who are not immunized. The bill provides clarity for businesses to establish immunization guidelines and does NOT mandate that they enact them. The current immunization schedule requires families to follow the standard schedule established in Minnesota law. The current schedule in Minnesota does not require the COVID-19 or flu vaccine.

The Office of Ombudsperson for Family Child Care Providers

Since the creation of the office in 2021, DFLers have permanently committed to supporting the work of the Office for Ombudsperson for Family Child Care Providers by providing $350,000 of ongoing funding. Family child care providers are more likely to be located in rural Minnesota and usually provide child care within their own home. The Office is an independent resource for family child care providers and advocates on behalf of these providers who offer families essential community services.

ECONOMIC SUPPORTS

Combatting Rising Rates of Food Insecurity

A new summer food program will ensure children don’t miss a meal because they aren’t in school. Additionally, $10 million is allocated to food banks, food shelves, and Tribal food sovereignty programs across the state to provide food to Minnesotans who don’t know where or how they will get their next meal.

SNAP Eligibility for Students Enrolled in Higher Education Programs (SF 4402 Putnam)

Over 25% of Minnesota students enrolled in higher education programs are food insecure. The Children and Families bill requires Minnesota State Colleges and Universities and the University of Minnesota to begin the process of qualifying for the supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP) for its students. Currently in Minnesota, only specific technical training institutions qualify.

Family Assets for Independence in Minnesota (SF 5183 Hoffman)

Family Assets for Independence in Minnesota (FAIM) is a matched savings program that helps low-wage Minnesotans build assets to purchase a first home, pursue post-secondary education, start or expand a small business, or purchase a car. The new law clarifies that household income is based only on households with people who share incomes and does not include other roommate-type living situations.

ADDRESSING HOUSING & HOMELESSNESS

Homeless Shelter Needs Analysis for Transgender Adults (SF 5205 Dibble)

In 2023, Senate DFLers made sure that Minnesota became a refuge state for transgender people who could not access gender-affirming care or live safely within their own communities because of their home state’s discriminatory and harmful laws. Now, Minnesota is ensuring people coming here have a safe place to stay and do not experience homelessness. Because of the increase in need for housing and support for transgender people new to Minnesota, DHS will conduct a needs analysis for emergency shelters serving transgender adults.

Pregnant and Parenting Homeless Youth Study (SF 5032 Dibble)

DHS will contract with the Wilder Foundation and study the statewide numbers and unique needs of pregnant and parenting youth experiencing homelessness and identify best practices in supporting them. The Wilder Foundation must submit a final report to DHS by December 1, 2025.

Emergency Services Program (homelessness response)

$3.4 million is appropriated for emerging, critical, and immediate homelessness response needs. Qualifying needs for shelters include maintaining existing overnight emergency shelter bed capacity or daytime service capacity that has a demonstrated and significant risk of closure before April 30, 2025.

CHILD PROTECTION

Transforming an Outdated Child Welfare IT System

In December 2023, the Senate gaveled in the first Legislative Task Force on Child Protection in nearly two years. Testimony from advocates, social workers, and families involved in the child welfare system repeatedly called attention to Minnesota’s inefficient and antiquated child welfare IT system, SSIS. Advocates stated the system does not allow for accurate data collection that allows policymakers to disaggregate data based on race, disability, or ethnicity; social workers stated the IT system contributes to high turnover; families shared concerns they were not adequately informed of critical information because the IT system could not process necessary documents or provide details in plain language.

Senate DFLers establishes clear parameters for the Department of Human Services to build a new child welfare IT system based on the testimony provided at the Task Force on Child Protection hearings. $10 million was appropriated to begin the transformation of SSIS, with another $10 million matched by the federal government. In 2024, Senate DFLers no longer ignored an IT system that was outdated and prevented any innovation that would reform Minnesota’s child welfare system.

New SSIS Requirements: When designing, developing, and implementing a data-driven, federally compliant child welfare information system, DHS must ensure that the system can do the following:

  • allow counties to track benefits on behalf of children in the child welfare system and fees received by counties from parents with children in out-of-home placements;
  • provide the ombudspersons with case-by-case access to non-privileged information necessary for the discharge of their duties;
  • provide comprehensive statewide data reports;
  • track demographic information about children in the child welfare system, including race, cultural and ethnic identity, disability status, and economic status.

Supreme Court Council on Child Protection (SF 4761 Mitchell)

The Minnesota Supreme Court chief justice is invited to establish a Supreme Court Council on Child Protection. The council will develop a comprehensive blueprint that addresses all aspects of the child protection system and recommend policies and laws that will improve child outcomes. The governor, chief justice, and the Legislature are due an initial progress report by January 1, 2025. The final report is due by January 15, 2026.

Notice Requirements for Foster Children Receiving Benefits (SF 3614 Mitchell) Minnesota counties can withhold monthly Social Security or other federal benefits payments from foster children whose parents have died or have become disabled. Counties can use the money to offset the cost of foster care instead of keeping it for the children when they age out of foster care. The new law requires that counties that collect these payments to provide a written notice to the child.

Statewide Child Maltreatment Hotline Analysis (SF 3820 (Hoffman)

In 2015, Governor Dayton’s Task Force on the Protection of Children released a series of recommendations, including suggesting DHS work on a statewide child abuse reporting system with one toll-free number, similar to the Minnesota Adult Abuse Reporting Center (MAARC). MAARC is a 24-hour hotline that serves as a common entry point and uses a standard intake form that captures information about suspected maltreatment. In consultation with Tribes, counties, and organizations with expertise in child protection, DHS must develop recommendations for a common entry point by December 1, 2024.

Informal Kinship Caregiver Support Grant Program Establishment (SF 1639 Kunesh)

The Northstar Kinship Assistance program supports nonprofit organizations that serve families who provide informal kinship care for children who are recommended for out-of-home placement. Funds are to help connect families to services and resources needed for a successful placement. Grants must be used for relative caregivers of children from communities overrepresented in the child welfare system.

Senate DFL Media