The Senate Human Services Reform Finance and Policy Committee heard a bill this week that would establish the Office for the Ombudsperson for American Indian Families and replace the existing Indian Affairs council with the American Indian community-specific board. The Ombudsperson for American Indian Families currently falls within the Office of the Ombudsperson for Families.
The legislation is meant to improve Minnesota’s oversight of the Indian Child Welfare Act, the Minnesota Indian Family Preservation Act. In addition, the new Ombudsperson office established under the bill would also collaborate with tribes, agencies, and others to develop policies, rules, and laws to improve outcomes for American Indian families involved in the child protection system, including collaborating on prevention programs. Proponents of the bill describe an ineffective relationship between the Office of the Ombudsperson for Families that prevents effective oversight and policy development to support Minnesota’s American Indian Families.
Bill authors continue to examine the proper way to fund the proposed Ombudsperson office while hoping to keep the legislation revenue-neutral. The current language in the bill appropriates funding previously reserved for the Indian Affairs Council to the Ombudsperson for American Indian Families. (SF 1038)