ST. PAUL – Monday afternoon, Gov. Tim Walz signed into law HF 554, a bill authored by Rep. Rena Moran (DFL – Saint Paul), that allows parents, who had previously had their parental rights terminated for non-egregious harm, to directly seek reestablishment of these rights from the courts. Currently, only a county attorney is able to make this petition.
“Whenever we’re able to, we should keep families together and our children deserve to be protected, loved, and nurtured. When they can stay in their community with their parents, this gives them the best outlook in life,” Rep. Moran said. “We know all too well that our child welfare system doesn’t seem to always have the best interest of the child in mind, and that’s why it’s important for us to keep working to improve it. Every child deserves a strong future and I thank Governor Walz for signing this important bill into law.”
The House approved the measure by a vote of 130-0 on April 4, and the Senate followed on April 29 with a vote of 66-0.
Under the bill, petitions for reinstatement of parental rights would only be allowed in cases in which the rights were terminated for non-egregious harm, such as chemical dependency or mental illness, and not for physical, sexual, or psychological abuse.
Studies have shown when children, especially African American children, remain in the foster system, they face poorer life outcomes than those who remain with their biological families. These include lower lifetime employment rates, a greater chance of experience with the criminal justice system, and higher rates of mental illness and addiction.
The legislation requires the parent to clearly demonstrate the steps they’ve taken to address the underlying issue which led to the termination of rights in the first place, and a judge would make the final decision.