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Proposed Office of the Foster Youth Ombudsperson gets strong House support

Rep. Jessica Hanson comments during the May 6 floor debate on HF3845. The bill she sponsors would, in part, create an Office of the Foster Youth Ombudsperson. (Photo by Paul Battaglia)

Resources, advocacy and visibility are some of the plusses to a bipartisan bill aimed at protecting children, some who’ve already experienced hard times.

Children in foster care face critically important issues and they deserve to be served and protected like all other children; however, they don’t always have resources they need or deserve when they are neglected by the state system, said Rep. Jessica Hanson (DFL-Burnsville).

“Every kid deserves to have a caring team of adults and peers in their corner who are looking out for their best interests and that’s not the case for too many kids. Youth in foster care do not always have a resource or an avenue for intervention when they face abuse, neglect, discrimination or exploitation at the hands of our very own child protection system in our foster care system,” she said.

She sponsors HF3845 that, as amended, would appropriate $775,000 in fiscal year 2023 to create the Office of the Foster Youth Ombudsperson and Board of the Foster Youth Ombudsperson. Its base appropriation would be $726,000 in both fiscal years 2024 and 2025.

Passed 121-4 by the House Friday, it now goes to the Senate where Sen. Karin Housley (R-Stillwater) is the sponsor.

Among the proposed ombudsman duties are:

  • establishing a complaint process;
  • determining the scope and manner of investigations;
  • making recommendations to the governor and Legislature;
  • investigating administrative agency actions, including the placement of a youth in foster care; and
  • upon a youth’s request, being present at court proceedings and related meetings.

“This bill is a public affirmation of our responsibility to our children. We see you, we hear you, you are our children and we care about you,” said Rep. Ginny Klevorn (DFL–Plymouth).

“People just need to know that they belong, And with that sense of belonging, not only that, you need to have a space, a place, where you feel protected, where you can be encouraged, where you can grow,” added Rep. Tony Albright (R-Prior Lake). “… They need a hero, and the state needs to be their hero.”

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