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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Esther Agbaje (DFL)

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African American Family Preservation Act advances through first committee hearing

Tuesday, March 09, 2021

St. Paul, MN - Yesterday, the House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Committee heard testimony on the African American Family Preservation Act, HF 1151, authored by Rep. Esther Agbaje (DFL - Minneapolis). The legislation aims to address the racial disparities that exist at every point of contact for Black families involved with Minnesota’s child protection system.

“Too often in Minnesota do African American families find themselves at the mercy of a court system they know little about, and in turn shows minimal effort to help them,” said Rep. Agbaje. “African American children are removed from their homes three times more often than their white counterparts. Instead of jumping to arbitrary child removal, this legislation would change our system to focus on strengthening families while always putting the best interest of the child first. In addressing these disparities, we promote united, healthy families, which are a tremendous benefit for Minnesota.”

The African American Family Preservation Act would reduce the overall cost of child welfare services and out of home placement while improving the mental health and social functioning of African American children. The bill establishes minimum standards to prevent unnecessary removal of children from their families, and creates an African American Child Welfare Advisory Council and an African American Child Wellbeing Department within the Department of Human Services.

In addressing the needs of African American families, cases would be reviewed by child welfare disproportionality specialists, and African American cultural competency training for child protection workers would be a requirement.

The committee advanced the legislation on a 10-6 party-line vote, re-referring the bill to the House Human Services Finance and Policy Committee. More information is available on the committee’s webpage. Video recording of yesterday’s hearing is available on the House Public Information YouTube channel