Minnesota lawmakers unveil bill to keep African American families together

In what has become a heated and emotional issue in recent years, some Minnesota lawmakers are once again trying to stop the state from taking so many children of color away from their families.

Rep. Rena Moran says that when there are parental rights cases or child custody cases, black families are treated unfairly and have a much greater percentage of children taken away from them.

Moran was joined by Sen. Jeff Hayden and other advocates Monday, unveiling their bill called the Minnesota African American Family Preservation Act. The goal is to keep children within their extended families during protective services cases.

“We know that in Minnesota, a black child is three times more likely to be removed from their home than a white child," Moran said. "Once a child is ripped apart from their family, we know the consequences that awaits them." 

Moran’s bill would ensure that local service agencies make active efforts to prevent out of home placement of an African American child. It also directs the courts not to place an African American child out of the home unless the local social service agency made every effort to preserve the child’s family.

One grandmother spoke of her efforts to reunite her family.

“Here I am almost three years later still trying to bring my grandson home," Latonia Roleiecki said. "I only get one Skype a week and an additional day every other week to spend with my grandson. I’ve been involved since he’s been born." 

The bill would also would create an oversight council at the Department of Human Services to monitor protective custody plans. It would require African American cultural competency training for child protection workers. 

The bill is expected to get a hearing in the House.