Putting Family First: The Need for Reform in Minnesota's Foster Care Licensing Statutes and Processes to Support Relative Placement

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Information

45 Mitchell Hamline Law Review 1160 (2019)


Like many states, Minnesota’s child protection system faces serious challenges in its mission to protect children and support families. The balance between child safety and family preservation is elusive. Minnesota has swung the pendulum significantly to the side that prioritizes child removal by using investigative versus collaborative approaches to intervention and under-utilizing family foster care as the preferred removal placement. The last several years in Minnesota have brought an onslaught of policy changes in intake and screening processes relating to child protection, which, along with other factors (including a huge uptick in infant removals born with drugs in their system), has resulted in a dramatic and alarming increase in the number of children being removed from their parents’ care. The number of children placed in Minnesota’s foster care system has increased exponentially as there have been more than 25,000 children are reported for abuse or neglect each year. Most children are removed due to neglect—not serious physical or sexual abuse. Irrespective of the cause, the fact that Minnesota had the sixth-highest removal rate in the United States is alarming and reason for reform.

This article tracks the history of foster care licensing requirements in Minnesota, discusses the real-life story of a grandmother with a grandchild placed in foster care, explains the federal mandates established through the Adam Walsh Act, discusses the existing flaws in the process, and highlights the ways in which Minnesota’s current statutory scheme and processes disproportionally impact communities of color. Finally, the article provides recommendations for both statutory and rule changes that will help relatives seeking to care for children through foster care.