Well, hello, uh, everybody.
And welcome to this training session for the 2021 safe passage for children.
Advocacy week, I'm, rich, germain, the executive director of safe passage.
And I want to thank you.
Uh for joining us and being willing to help us out this legislative session.
So the main thing I'd like to do right now is to walk you through the items that we'd like you to talk about with your elected officials, your state representative and senator and to give you maybe a couple of tips about how to do that easily and let, you know what the supporting materials will be that sort of that sort of thing, uh.
So we're gonna make these uh, talking points, uh, also that we're gonna go through with you in a minute, uh available in advance to legislators in a kind of a briefer version.
So they'll have them when you go to visit them, and we will be setting up or already have set up some appointments for you with legislators, um we're, also sending you.
And the legislators will have them, seven short, uh, stories of children who were killed by their parents or caregivers.
Since 2017., you can just have this for your background, or you can refer the legislator to them and ask her or him to read them.
Or if you like, you can even weave them into your conversation that's up to you.
We also recently discovered a link to a very short a five minute video, which gives you really another good.
Look at how do you go and have a meeting with your legislator? I think it's pretty well done? Uh, you may find it helpful, even if you've done this a number of times before so we'll send that to you as well, um.
And so I want to remind you also that as you go through the talking points, which I'm about to show you, um, that's important to kind of get through those talking points, I'm, not suggesting that you rush yourself.
But if not to get into too much detail or perhaps get sidetracked by questions.
If you do get a question from the legislator, try to answer it, you know, quickly as briefly as well as you can if it's something you don't know that much about just say that we will follow up and we'll, get them the answer to those questions, and then try to transition back to your talking points.
So the reason to do that is so that we you can spend as much time as possible talking about yourself and your reasons for being there, why you care about these issues? Um, you may talk about, um experiences.
You've had personally or experiencing experiences.
You've had as a professional in some field, that's related to child protection, or just why you care about children.
And how they're doing in this state.
It turns out time.
And again, that the thing that makes the most impact in terms of moving our agenda forward and also creating uh concern about children is the personal testimony the personal things that you say about why you are there that's, what really makes an impact with legislators.
So typically you'll get maybe 15 minutes to talk with your legislators.
So as a rule of thumb, you want to leave about half of that amount of time to talk about yourself.
So with that, let me just go through the one page document that we have please bear with me for a minute while I find that document and share it with you, um.
And here it is.
So what I'm going to do in this next few minutes is I'm, not going to walk through this.
Uh, just read it to you I'm going to give you some context and background on each of the items, and then following that we're going to do a role play where you do.
We will kind of just go through them sequentially.
The way we are asking you to do when you actually meet with your legislators.
So first, you want to greet the person as representative smith or senator jones to use their title, uh, thank them.
For your time.
You tell them your name who you are and mention that you're one of their constituents and a volunteer with safe passage for children.
You want to tell them very briefly that safe passage advocates for improvements to minnesota child protection and foster care programs.
And that you're there to talk with them about the legislative priorities for the session.
And those are the three or four items.
You just need to mention up front.
So they know why you're there.
I also may want to mention that, uh that we sent their office a handout in advance about the three initiatives that you're going to talk about that we're advocating for this year and then go into the first one.
The first one is our major initiative, it's, our bill it's, the one that we developed and are going to promote, um and this year we're at the point where it says number one there where we are meeting at this point with progress with potential authors to reintroduce the bill that we had last year, the bill will be unchanged.
The reason we have to reintroduce it is that last year was the second year of the legislative session just like congress, it has two-year sessions.
And in the second year, if you don't get it through all of the committees and get a vote on it and pass it, you have to start all over the following year, uh, so, we're, reintroducing word for word, our bill from last year, we're still, looking for authors, we're hopeful that we will have authors by the time you meet with your legislators or shortly thereafter, but we're, not there yet we're, not overly concerned about that.
Because the the opposite is true.
This is the first year of the biennium.
And as long as we can get the bill introduced and maybe get through a committee or two we'll be starting, we won't be starting from scratch next year and realistically.
We think this is a multi-year process this year is not in any way, um wasted.
If we don't get all the way through the process, because we are building up our education of legislators about these issues and it's going to probably take, uh, you know, at least one more year to get all the way through the process.
So this is an educational year if nothing else we'll get as far as we can, but it's, uh, it's, an important effort just to keep building towards that final goal.
So we're going to reintroduce our bill.
If we assume we get an author in the house and the senate, uh.
And here are the five points in the same as last year, uh, the bill will require counties to interview children separately from it.
Prior to adults during the first visit interview foster children over four years, old separately from foster parents.
And by the way I looked this up in 41 states already require this, who are in good company, stop giving parents advanced.
Notice of the initial child protection visit train child protection workers, in fact, finding and required to just be done before assigning cases to one of the two possible tracks investigation or family assessment.
And finally, put information in case, notes.
So future workers know what happened so I'm going to go into these a little many of you know, this some of you don't, uh and a refresher is never, you know, a bad idea.
So the idea that you interview children together with the adults at the initial child, welfare child protection visit is something that it just doesn't make sense to hardly hardly to anyone legislators the general public or other people in our field, because obviously children are not going to disclose anything that's going on while they're sitting there with the people who if those people actually have been perpetrators.
And the same thing is true for uh, the third one, which is giving advance notice of the child protection visit.
And if you tell parents and the other adults in a household child protection workers coming there's time to intimidate.
Children coach them, tell them what to say and again, you're not going to get the facts that you need.
Um kind of a companion piece to that is to interview, uh foster children, who are four years old separately from the foster parents, that's b, same kind of thing.
If you really want to know what's going on, you have to talk to the children separately.
And I will say that the first two items here a and b were also part of a federal class action lawsuit, which was settled late in 2019 and the the federal courts required hennepin county to comply with these two provisions is to, uh interview children separately and stop the practice of interviewing them in front of the adults and to interview foster children, four years old and older separately.
So two of these we're just really trying to make statewide because the federal courts have already weighed in on them.
So these five practices are part of, uh, many, uh, recommendations that were made in 2015 by a governor's child protection task force.
We chose to take these five as the most important ones.
And then with the feeling that if we get these done, then a lot of other practices that we're concerned about will follow, we think this bill will actually increase racial equity.
And I want to talk about that a little bit because what we find is that there's a lack of consistency in many practices across the counties in the state.
And that means that there is an accountability.
You can't sort of say, well, you need to do more of this or less of that or do this better, because everybody is sort of using community standards from their particular county.
We also want to mention this, because we understand the really two major themes in the house, at least for this legislative session.
One is to get the budget bill done.
And the second is to increase equity in other words to address racial disparities in a number of areas across the state.
So we want to point out how this will impact equity.
You may want to mention that we provided their office with those stories of children who were killed by their parents as a way to demonstrate why it's important to put in legislation to protect children.
So these would take dangerous practices off the table and would improve safety for children.
And we believe would result would result in having fewer child fatalities in the state.
We also want to say that we introduced this bill last year.
But we think the case for this legislation is even stronger than last year for several reasons.
First of all as I mentioned, the federal reports required hennepin county to implement the first two items already.
Secondly, there's been some major research in the last little over a year that came out that supports our position.
For example, that showed that 13 other states have ended the practices that we're talking about here due to some high profile.
Child, fatalities, um, one piece of that is that many cases get diverted from the traditional track of a regular investigation into family assessment where these practices that we're talking about come into play.
And the research shows that a maximum of about a third of the of child protection cases can safely go into family assessment or it's called different things in other states, but that basic program.
And we are over 60 in terms of the percentage of cases.
So we have a lot of cases that don't belong in family assessment that are being assigned to family assessment.
And of course, that increases the risk to children.
And then finally we've been working with some leading national child welfare experts over the last year we've been talking about these issues they're, not working with us.
The research that I mentioned was produced by some of them were authors in this research.
And so they're stepping up their criticism of the practices we're talking about they're willing to work with us testify if that's helpful or get a group of legislators together and talk about this or whatever they can do to help us move these.
So we have some pretty high power people that kind of come in to begin to to help us with the agenda since last year.
So we think our case is stronger.
We think we're building momentum.
It may take another year, but we're feeling good about our chances of finally getting these practice practices changed so that's.
Our major item to talk about, uh and many of these things won't come up in your in your 15 minutes with your legislator, but it's good for you to know them.
And also you can refer them to us for more details.
If they touch on some of these issues.
The second item we want to advocate for this year is foster care.
We've been working on a bill for the past year to make foster care licensing more equitable by removing some of the legal barriers, or lowering some of the legal barriers to licensure.
Now, this bill was developed by the institute to transform child protection at mitchell, hanlon law, school, they're.
Currently seeking authors.
I think we have good reason to think that they will have authors and get this bill introduced as well.
And it essentially removes a number of felonies that have been uh may have occurred long in the past that have been bars to licensure.
So it will increase the number of grandmothers and grandfathers and aunties and people who are now really in a good position to be good foster parents, two children that are in the family, uh in order to, um, you know, provide a larger pool of foster parents.
And the third item is, uh that each year we ask for legislative support for early childhood initiatives.
So this includes support for child care funding generally and for early learning scholarships in particular, because those scholarships actually reduce child maltreatment by up to 50.
So we just want to make a general, but wholehearted plug to support child care funding.
And then when you get through that process, again, you want to talk to them about why you are there personally and, um, why whatever your personal experience is whether it's, uh as a professional, whether it's the things that you experience as a child or just generally that you, uh want to, you know, advocate for kids and are concerned about what's happening to them.
So now what I'd like to do is bring in my all-time favorite volunteer, uh, my wife, lois, who has graciously agreed to do a brief role play of this.
So you can see how this might go in real time.
It's probably not going to be perfect, but that's, that's perfect because that's exactly what happens in in the real questions.
So I'm going to be, uh, representative smith and lois is going to be herself.
So, and she is just arriving in our office.
So well, hello there and I'm.
So glad to see you, please, come in I'm representative.
Bill smith and, um you're here to talk to me today.
Thank you for your time.
My name is lois johnson and I'm one of your constituents.
And I volunteer with safe passage for children.
We advocate for improvements to minnesota's child protection and foster care programs I'm here to talk with you about our legislative priorities for this season.
We sent you an office handout about the three initiatives we're advocating for this year and I'll just speak to each of them briefly.
First of all we're meeting with potential authors to reintroduce our bill from last season.
It ends five dangerous, pract family assessment practices, which by requiring counties to one interview children separately from and prior to adults during their first visit interview foster parents over four foster children over four years old separately from foster parents, stop giving parents advance.
Notice of the initial child protection visit train child protection workers in fact, finding and require this to be done before assigning cases to either the invest investigative or family assessment track.
And finally, put information in case notes.
So future workers know what happened.
The bill will increase racial equity by improving consistency across counties.
This case for legislation is stronger than last year for several reasons.
The first two practices are newly required by federal courts in hennepin county.
Secondly, major new research has come out that supports our position, including 13 states have ended these practices due to high profile.
Child fatalities and their position is that 33 of maximum of cases, maximum should go to family assessment and we're at 62 percent.
Finally leading child welfare experts are stepping up their criticism of these practices.
Our second initiative that we're supporting is foster care, licensing reforms, we're working on a bill to make foster care licensing more equitable by lowering legal barriers.
The bill was developed by the institute to transform child protection at mitchell hammond law school and is currently seeking authors.
And third each year we continue to ask for support for early childhood initiatives.
This includes support for child care funding generally and for early learning scholarships in particular, because they reduce child maltreatment by up to 50 percent so that's what our initiatives are, and I know you're busy.
But maybe I could just tell you a little bit why I personally advocating for improvements in the child, welfare system, I'm, a retired, social worker and have worked primarily in my career as a social worker in child welfare.
And I have always been concerned about the practices, which I feel are really detrimental to really helping children who need protection as well as strengthening their families and see and really concerned about the continuing lack of resource investment to to really work with families and help them to be more successful, but also to protect children.
So thank you very much for your time.
Well, thank you.
Miss johnson it's, a pleasure to meet you and to meet one of my constituents and um, I will certainly consider, uh, very seriously, uh, what you're talking about I'll be watching for those two bills to get uh to get jacketed and into the process.
Thank you so much.
And thank all of you.
If you have questions for us that was just a good kind of a typical session, uh, uh, you know, kind of the volunteers we have don't, necessarily have haven't necessarily completely memorized all of the points and um, yet.
This is more than sufficient to to really drive the agenda forward.
And I appreciate lois helping with that.
So again, please contact me or stephanie mccorkle.
If you have questions or suggestions, uh about how we can improve this.
And we will see you at the legislature.
Thanks a lot.