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Will Legislation to Help Minnesota's Poorest Children Win Approval?

April 12, 2012

ST. PAUL, Minn. - When lawmakers return to the state Capitol next week, the Children's Defense Fund of Minnesota is hoping a number of positive child-focused provisions will make it through conference committee.

Alex Fitzsimmons, the organization's legislative affairs and advocacy director, says many of the measures have to do with children in the Minnesota Family Investment Program.

"One of the provisions requires that when a parent goes through their orientation into the MFIP program, that they actually be given information about early childhood development and different resources that are available. There is a provision that would count a parent attending one of their children's early childhood activities as a work activity."

Fitzsimmons says 70 percent of those in the MFIP program are children, and nearly half are under age 5.

Fitzsimmons says other provisions in proposed legislation would focus on children who are homeless in the state - some 4,500 on any given night.

"One piece creates the Minnesota Visible Child Work Group. That would bring people together in the interim here to really think about how do we end child homelessness, but more specifically, how do we enhance the well-being of children who are homeless."

Another piece Fitzsimmons hopes will end up on the governor's desk is a provision which clarifies the requirement for an early-intervention screening for infants and toddlers who have been abused or neglected.

"Because we know that children who are involved in child protection have a known disability at more than four times the rate of other Minnesota children. So, if we are able to identify and determine that a child is not meeting developmental milestones as early as possible, there are a lot of important interventions that we can do."

Conference committees are expected to begin work on reconciling House and Senate bills as early as Tuesday.

The Health and Human Services omnibus bills are HF 2294 and SF 2093.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN