Minnesota and Federal Legislation
Related to Adoption

Recent Legislative Changes

May, 2014 –  The Minnesota Legislature passed a Health and Human Services (HHS) Policy Omnibus Bill that makes Minnesota’s foster homes smoke-free. Smoking is permitted outside as long as children are not present.  The bill allows for smoking in Native American religious and spiritual ceremonies.
http://www.senate.leg.state.mn.us/departments/scr/billsumm/summary_display_from_db.php?ls=88&id=2353
Article 5, Section 7

260C.215 WELFARE OF CHILDREN was passed in 2013 requiring child-placing agencies to make special efforts to recruit a foster family from among the child’s relatives, the creation of a permanent professional staff position for recruitment of foster and adoptive families by the state, strengthening the duties of the commissioner in preparing foster and adoptive families; defining the duties of child-lacing agencies, and other provisions.   https://www.revisor.leg.state.mn.us/statutes/?id=260C.215

RELATIVE ADOPTION – WHO MUST COMPLETE A HOMES STUDY As of August 1, 2012, an approved adoption home study must be completed before placing any child under guardianship of the commissioner in a home for the purpose of adoption. This is required even for children under guardianship of the commissioner being adopted by relatives.
Minnesota Statutes, section 260C.611

For other types of adoption (children not under guardianship of the commissioner), certain relatives may adopt without an adoption home study. Relatives who may be excepted from the home study requirement are those individuals who are related according to Minnesota Statutes, section 245A.02, subdivision 13, and include: spouse, parent, natural or adopted child or stepchild, stepparent, stepbrother, stepsister, niece, nephew, adoptive parent, grandparent, sibling, aunt, uncle, or legal guardian. Even if an adoption home study is not required for a relative adoption (of a child not under guardianship of the commissioner), background studies for all required household members must be completed prior to adoptive placement. Minnesota Statutes, section 259.41, subdivision 1

As part of the adoption home study process, a background study according to Minnesota Statutes, section 245C.33, is required on each person over the age of 13 living in the home.
Minnesota Statutes, section 259.41, subdivision 3
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The Uninterrupted Scholars Act is a new federal law that allows child welfare workers information about a child’s education history needed to make informed placement recommendations. Schools much comply with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) that is now amended to allow agencies to obtain educational records from schools in cases involving children in foster care.

For more information including a guide written by the American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law:

http://www.fostercareandeducation.org/portals/0/dmx/2013/02/file_20130211_145758_xjnFqt_0.pdf

Foster Care Legislation enacted in 2012 in Minnesota impacts relative searches and placement decisions regarding “best interests of the child.”

On August 1, 2012 changes to Minnesota law regarding continuing foster care past age 18 (“extended foster care”) will go into effect. Youth are ineligible if they can safely return home, receive adult services due to developmental disability, be adopted, or have a permanent legal home with a relative prior to age 18. Other requirement apply.

Post Adoption Services for genetic siblings separated by adoption

Significance: Siblings separated through adoption have a means to seek post adoption search services through 259.83 Subd. 1B Post Adoption Services.
Agencies shall provide assistance and counseling services if current information is requested from or about a sibling if the request comes from an adoptive parent, birth parent, or an adopted person aged 19 and over. The agency shall contact the other adult persons or the adoptive parents of a minor child in a personal and confidential manner to determine whether there is a desire to receive or share information or to have contact. If there is such a desire, the agency shall provide the services requested. The agency shall provide services to adult genetic siblings if there is no known violation of the confidentiality of a birth parent or if the birth parent gives written consent.

Subd. 1b.Genetic siblings.
(a) A person who is at least 19 years old who was adopted or, because of a termination of parental rights, was committed to the guardianship of the commissioner of human services, whether adopted or not, must upon request be advised of other siblings who were adopted or who were committed to the guardianship of the commissioner of human services and not adopted.
(b) Assistance must be provided by the county or placing agency of the person requesting information to the extent that information is available in the existing records at the Department of Human Services. If the sibling received services from another agency, the agencies must share necessary information in order to locate the other siblings and to offer services, as requested. Upon the determination that parental rights with respect to another sibling were terminated, identifying information and contact must be provided only upon mutual consent. A reasonable fee may be imposed by the county or placing agency.

Education Bill Benefits
Youth Adopted from Foster System

The College Cost Reduction and Access Act, signed by President George W. Bush on September 27, 2007 (effective Oct. 1, 2007), includes an amendment that makes college more financially accessible for youth who were in foster care. Under this new law, youth adopted from the foster care system after their 13th birthday will not have to include their parents’ income in the calculations for determining their need for financial aid. This critical amendment in the Act benefits youth adopted after age 13 who spent any time in foster care to have their financial aid eligibility be determined solely by the student’s ability to pay, regardless of his or her adoptive family’s income level. This measure assists families who adopt teenagers and who may not have been able to accumulate a college savings account for them. The law will also provide loan forgiveness to child welfare workers.

To read the new law, go to: thomas.loc.gov and click on the link “Public Laws” and view the public law ranging from 110-51 to 110-86.

How A Bill Becomes a Law in Minnesota

Directory of Minnesota House Members
Directory of Minnesota Senators

Not sure who your representatives are?  Find your state representative or senator through the Minnesota State Legislature website.

House Information

651-296-2146 or 800-657-3550

Senate Information

651-296-0504 or 800-234-1112

Existing Legislation

Flexible Medical Coverage for Adoptive Families

A new law was passed in the 2003 legislative session that exempts children who receive adoption assistance from the Prepaid Medical Assistance Program.  Families now have a choice of health coverage for their children, which means that children can continue to see the same professionals they did while in foster care.  House File 151 was introduced in the House by Representatives Marty Seifert (R-Marshall) and in the Senate by Senator Dennis Frederickson (R-New Ulm).  It was signed into law by Governor Tim Pawlenty on May 23 and becomes effective on July 1, 2003.

History:  In January 2002, Minnesota families with children who receive adoption assistance received letters from the state that required them to select a prepaid health maintenance organization (HMO) or be assigned to one by the state.  Families were not allowed to stay on the straight Medical Assistance (MA) fee-for-service program, unless they applied for and received a waiver.  HF 151 offers families a choice of medical coverage.

Finding medical or dental providers or adoption-competent mental health services is often difficult for families who have children with special needs.  It becomes even more difficult in greater Minnesota.  HF 151 allows families the flexibility to choose Medical Assistance providers who are not associated with a pre-selected HMO.  Often, these are the providers the child has come to trust when in foster care or with whom the child has a history.

Jeff Ronning, an adoptive parent from Marshall, MN, was instrumental in getting this bill introduced in the House.  Ronning saw other adoptive families struggle when their new health plan would not cover the therapists their children had come to trust.  His family chose to drive to the Twin Cities for dental care when their local clinic would no longer accept their MA card on behalf of their two boys.  As a result, Ronning met with Representative Seifert in his home district, and sent letters and called both his legislators about the struggles over coverage for Minnesota’s adopted children with special needs.

In addition, parents working through the Minnesota Foster Doll Project contacted their legislators to voice support of HF 151 and the companion Senate Bill, SF 396.  “After the termination, so many things change in a child’s life; it’s wonderful that we can maintain the same health coverage for our children,” states Judy Howell, President of the Minnesota Foster Care Association.  “It’s a win-win bill for everyone involved.”

Budget analysts with the Minnesota Department of Human Services and the House of Representatives analyzed the fiscal implications of the added flexibility for families and determined HF 151 was a no-cost bill.  Overall, this legislation allows for a wider range of medical coverage for the children adopted from the child welfare system.

How Can I Change My Child’s Coverage?
The law becomes effective on July 1, 2003.  In time, families will receive direction from the Minnesota Department of Human Services Medical Assistance Office on how they can make changes to their current coverage, if they desire.  Parents should contact their local agency or worker to change from managed care to Medical Assistance fee-for-service; coverage will not automatically be changed.  It may also take time before county and private agency workers become familiar with the new law, so parents may need to educate their workers about the law change and advocate for a change in their family.

New Custody Law

Impacts Kinship Adoption:  Governor Tim Pawlenty recently signed a bill that modified last year’s Defacto Custodian and Interested Third Party Law.  The defacto law provided that custody could be contained in three ways:

  • by a custody consent decree
  • as a defacto custodian
  • as an interested third party

The law provides that in certain cases third parties such as grandparents and kinship providers can approach the court on a basis equal to parents in seeking custody of a child. A third party may file a petition for custody if it can be proven the parent has abandoned or neglected the child; placement of the child with the third party takes priority over preserving the day-to-day parent-child relationship due to the presence of physical or emotional danger; or any other extraordinary circumstances.  Not designed to impinge on parental rights, the law affects situations in which a third party has parented a child for an extended period of time or in instances of neglect or abandonment.  A defacto custodian is defined as someone who has cared for a child without a parent’s consistent participation for a period of six months or more if the child is younger than three years, and for a period of one year or more if the child is three or over.  One important aspect to the law is that it clarifies that the time period no longer needs to be consecutive, but can be cumulative.

Kinship providers can learn more about this law from the Raising Relative’s Children website where they can download Legal Steps, the 2003 edition of the Kinship Caregiver Resource Manual.

Reimbursement of Nonrecurring Expenses

Significance: Minnesota administers a one-time federal payment program not to exceed $2000 that helps families who are adopting children with special needs. This subsidy is available to parents of children adopted either from America or adopted internationally.

In order to qualify for the one-time Reimbursement of Nonrecurring Expenses:

  • Parental rights of the child’s birthparents must have been terminated.
  • The child must have one or more of the following special needs:
    1. Be a member of a sibling group who have been placed together and one sibling must be older than 15 months.
    2. Have documented physical, emotional, mental or behavior disabilities.
    3. Have a fragile background history indicating high risk for developing physical, emotional, mental or behavioral disabilities.
  • Efforts to place the child without this reimbursement must be demonstrated.
  • No violation of Minnesota or federal law regarding adoptions occurred.
    Costs refundable include:
  • Agency adoption fees, including psychological and health evaluations
  • Agency supervision of the adoption placement
  • Transportation, food and lodging for the child and adoptive parents necessary to complete the adoptive placement or the legal adoption process
  • Court filing fees
  • Attorney fees
  • Replacement birth certificate fees

The Minnesota Department of Human Services must approve the Nonrecurring Adoption Expense Agreement BEFORE the adoption is finalized in court.

TIME LIMIT: Claims for reimbursement must be submitted within 21 months of the adoption decree.

To get agreement forms and certifications, send a self-addressed stamped business size envelope to:

Adoption Reimbursement Forms
Minnesota Department of Human Services
444 Lafayette Road North
St. Paul MN 55155-3831

Need more information? Call: 651-215-9415

For information on Adoption Subsidy:

www.nacac.org/adoptionsubsidy.html

Adoption and Financial Assistance:

Tools for Navigating the Bureaucracy by Rita Laws and Tim O’Hanlon helps parents and professionals understand federal adoption assistance.
Available from Tapestry Books, 800-765-2367.

Children’s Mental Health

Reprinted from Pact 4?s newsletter Focus (Vol. 2, August 2001);
2200 23rd Street NE, Suite 2030; Willmar, MN 56201.
Phone: 800-960-7228 or 320-231-7030.

Significance: Parents of children diagnosed with autism may be able to gain county assistance. The Legislature amended the Comprehensive Mental Health Act to make counties responsible for children’s mental health crisis services and increased annual county grant funds for that purpose by $500,000 statewide. Medical Assistance coverage was expanded to include applied behavioral therapy services for children with autism, effective January 1, 2003. By fiscal year 2005, the state share for these services is expected to rise to $3.7 million annually, with higher amounts possible in subsequent years.

Legislation passed in Minnesota in 2001 promises to improve services for children and families. You can find the full text of the Children’s Mental Health bill at www.leg.state.mn.us/leg/legis.htm and look for Special Session SF4, Art.9, Sec. 18.

The Child Citizenship Act Of 2000

Significance: Until the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, children adopted internationally were required to go through the process of becoming a United States citizen. Some children never completed the process and as adults were denied privileges such as voting. In some cases, adopted persons have been deported as non-citizens to countries in which they were born.

The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 grants automatic citizenship to children born abroad if they:

  • Are under the age of 18.
  • Are admitted to the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident
  • Are in the legal and physical custody of at least one parent who is a U.S. citizen.

Children adopted abroad automatically become a U.S. citizen once they legally enter the United States. Children entering the U.S. on an orphan visa but whose adoption will be finalized in this country will granted automatic citizenship on the day their adoption is finalized. Children under 18 who had naturalization applications pending with INS were granted automatic citizenship on the day the law took effect. (February 27, 2001) Adoptive parents may apply for paperwork from the Immigration and Naturalization Service to verify their child’s U.S. citizenship.

Communication or Contract Agreements Between Adoptive and Birth Families

Significance: Under a new Minnesota law, Legalized Communication or Contact Agreements can be entered into to provide protections for all parties who agree in a written “contract” to continue contact after an adoption occurs.

Open adoption, kinship adoption and fost-adopt have traditionally included informal, non-enforceable verbal agreements regarding ongoing contact between participants. Such agreements have hinged on a level of trust that has developed between parties who view ongoing contact with the family of origin as being beneficial to the child. Or, the adoptive parents may continue to allow for the visitation of a child with birth family relatives with some restrictions imposed. While such arrangements may be based on “a promise” or “good will,” because they are informal they would not hold up in a court of law.

Minnesota Statute §259.58 addresses the issue of enforcing agreements for post adoption contact made between birth and adoptive families. Contact agreements that are entered into a court of law at the time of the adoption decree will be enforced in family court. Agreements may be made between the adoptive parents and a) birth relatives with whom the child resided before being adopted, and b) any birth relative if the child is being adopted by another birth relative in cases of the death of both birth parents.

In order for the agreement to be enforceable:

  • The agreement terms must be in contained in a written court law.
  • An order may be requested at the time before an adoption is granted, but must be issued within 30 days of being requested or 30 days after the adoption, whichever is earlier.
  • Terms must be approved in writing by the adoptive parents, birth parents/relatives and an agency is the child is under the custody or guardianship of an agency. A birthparent must approve contact between a relative and adoptive parents in some cases.
  • The identity of the parties need not be disclosed to make the agreement enforceable.
  • The court must find the agreement is in the child’s best interests.
  • The court shall mail a certified copy of the order to the parties or to their attorneys.

Rights of Birthfathers

Significance: Any adoption that bypasses a child’s birthfather for any reason may be at legal risk. Before an adoption takes place, it is important to take appropriate legal steps to include and inform the birthfather. In response to some high profile cases in which adoptions have been disrupted, some states have established a registry for fathers. Minnesota’s Father’s Adoption Registry provides a way for a birthfather to take steps… should he wish to… have a say in the adoption. Failure to register may bar the birthfather from disrupting an adoption.

Minnesota Statutes 259.52, Subdivision 2, and Minnesota Supreme Court Adoption Rule 32.01,stipulate that a search of the Minnesota Father Adoption Registry must be completed, prior to the finalization of any adoption in Minnesota. The required search may not be conducted sooner than 31 days after the birth of the child. Searches are processed in the order received, and the results are generally returned in 38 – 45
days after the child’s birth.

Minnesota Father Adoption Registry searches are required for all adoptions that are finalized in Minnesota, with the exception of the initial adoption of a foreign born child, and include the following:

  • Step-parent adoptions
  • Adoptions resulting from child protection cases or permanency cases
  • Infant adoptions
  • Relative adoptions
  • Adoptions facilitated by attorneys
  • Adoptions of children born out of state, but finalized in Minnesota
  • Subsequent step-parent adoptions of foreign born children
  • For Safe Haven babies left at hospitals, under supervision of county social services

MFAR searches must be completed, even if a consent-to-adoption form has been previously signed, by a father listed on the birth record of a given child, or for a placement involving an infant, directly from the hospital.

FATHERS REGISTRATION

Putative fathers must register with the MFAR within 30 days of the child’s birth. Failure to register is considered to be prima facie evidence of sufficient grounds to support termination of the putative father’s parental rights under Minnesota Statutes 260C.301, Subdivision 1.

A putative father who registers within 30 days of his child’s birth, or can show good cause to the court as to why he did not, must be served by certified mail, a notice to registered putative father.
The interested party or the party’s attorney must provide information to the father about the jurisdiction, date where the petition will be filed. Once the putative father receives notice of the hearing, he has an additional 30 days to file intent to claim parental rights form, stating that he intends to initiate a paternity action. If the father fails to complete these actions within the required timeframe, he may permanently forfeit his right to notice of the hearing in any judicial proceeding related to the child, and is considered to have abandoned the child. Minnesota Statutes 259.52, Subdivision 10.

Notice of Registration
Minnesota Statutes 259.52, Subdivision 1, paragraph (c) directs that the mother of a child for whom a putative father has registered, shall be notified of his registration no later than 14 days following the filing of his registration with the putative fathers registry, providing the putative father has submitted contact information for the mother.

Minnesota Fathers’ Adoption Registry

Any birthfather who believes that he may be the father of a child and who wishes to receive notice of the child’s adoption must register with the Minnesota Fathers’ Adoption Registry.

If a man wishes to veto an adoption plan or otherwise assert parental rights to a child, he must:

  • File a paternity action within 30 days after his child’s birth or…
  • If he is registered, after getting a father’s adoption registry notice, he must begin a paternity action within 30 days.
  • If a man does not register within 30 days of the child’s birth and still wishes to register, he must prove that it as impossible for him to register and that the impossibility was not his fault.
    Information included in the registry or claim:
  • Name, address, social security number, date of birth of putative father and birth mother
  • If applicable, certified copy of court order adjudicating putative father to be the father
  • Child’s name, gender, place of birth or anticipated date of birth
  • Registration date
  • Other information deemed necessary

All information is sent to the birthmother. The attorney for the adoptive parents can access the information, but the notice of registration does not go to the adoptive parents.

To register, contact:

Fathers’ Adoption Registry
Minnesota Department of Health
717 Delaware Street SE
PO Box 9441
Minneapolis, MN  55440
612-676-4060 or 888-345-1726 toll free
612-676-5667 Fax
far@health.state.mn.us

NOTE: Indigent birthfathers who are registered are entitled to free lawyers through the public defender system.

Relative Reading:  Birthfathers’ Rights in Adoption:  A Minnesota Perspective, Walling & Berg, PA.

Expenses Allowable To Be Paid to Birthparents in an Adoption

Significance: Although some living and health-related expenses for birthparents may be paid by adoptive or adopting parents, Minnesota imposes restrictions to prevent “baby selling” and to protect both the adoptive parents and birthparents.

The following expenses may be paid to birthparents:

  • Counseling (paid directly to the provider of the service.)
  • Medical expenses (paid directly to the provider of the service.)
  • Legal fees (paid directly to the provider of the service.)
  • Transportation, meals and lodging (incurred for placement of
    the child or in order to receive counseling, legal or medical services related to pregnancy, birth or placement.)
  • Adoption services provided by agency (at the request of the birthparent, paid directly to agency.)
  • Reasonable living expenses (if needed to maintain an adequate standard of living which the birthmother is unable to otherwise maintain because of loss of income or other support resulting from the pregnancy.)
  • Payments for living expenses cannot extend beyond 6 weeks after delivery (unless the court determines within the 6-week period that the birthmother is unable to be employed due to physical limitations related to birth of the child.)
  • Does not include lost wages, gifts, educational expenses or other similar expenses.

It is a gross misdemeanor for a person to give money or anything of value to the birth parent if the person is engaged or has engaged in any placement activity.

It is a gross misdemeanor to give or accept payment for the placement of a child for adoption.

A contract purporting to require a birthparent to reimburse expenses paid by the adoptive parents if the birthparent refuses to consent to adoption is void.

A licensed agency may receive payment for:

  • Expenses related to adoption counseling
  • Provision of services
  • Supervision of children before legal adoption is complete
  • Birth parent expenses.

DISCLAIMER

The information contained in this site is not written by legal professionals and is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice.  Always seek the advice of your lawyer or other qualified legal professional.

Nothing contained in this site is intended to be a substitute for legal counsel. Information on this site is provided as a service only. MN Adopt accepts no liability for lack of accuracy of the information on this site nor for its use.

 

~page updated March 2016

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