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Minnesota Legislature

House passes bill to help reunify families, now to Senate

Rep. Rena Moran explains provisions of HF554 during the April 4 floor session. The bill would grant parents who have lost custody of their children the right to petition the court for reunification. Photo by Paul Battaglia

Parents who have lost custody of their children could be granted the right to petition the court for reunification, except in cases of “egregious harm.”

“Currently, only the county attorney’s able to make this petition,” Rep. Rena Moran (DFL-St. Paul) said on the House Floor Thursday. “I hope we all share the value that families belong together.”

Moran sponsors HF554, which was approved, as amended, by the House 130-0. It now goes to the Senate, where Sen. Bobby Joe Champion (DFL-Mpls) is the sponsor.

The bill is expected to help children stuck in foster care and at risk of instability, as well as parents. Eligible parents could potentially have been separated from their children due to the results of past mental health problems and addictions, Moran said.

Even having the opportunity for reunification could encourage parents to seek help to improve their lives, Rep. Ron Kresha (R-Little Falls) said in support.

“This is not just a bill. This is a way forward for many kids,” he said. “The strongest bond is between the parent and that child, and no matter what happens to that child, they always want to be reunited,”

The reunification process would be thorough and include a court hearing in which guardians ad litem and caseworkers would be able to weigh in on the decision, which would ultimately be made by a judge. The bill would also remove an age minimum currently in state statute.

Parents determined to have been physically, sexually, or psychologically abusive would not be eligible, Moran said.

 


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