An idea whose time has come:

Recently, there have been three meetings convened by North side Residents Redevelopment Council, the Northway Foundation and the University of Minnesota. Recently, there have been three meetings convened by North side Residents Redevelopment Council, the Northway Foundation and the University of Minnesota. The purpose of these meetings were to engage North Minneapolis residents in discussions around the University’s proposed initiative for the community and to inform neighborhood residents of the Universities intention to collaborate with Northpoint Wellness Center to create a physical presence for itself in North Minneapolis.

Included in their proposal would be a Family Center, an early childhood development center, and an Economic Development Center. The University would also provide access to college education through extension classes and other academic programs. The University has also proposed to include a branch employment office so that near north residents could access job opportunities at the University’s main and auxiliary campuses The meetings also attempted to gain insight as to other community needs that would tap into the University’s vast resources.

These three meeting have been generally well attended by residents and other community activists. During these meetings, numerous questions and concerns were raised about the University’s proposal to establish a Family Center. As proposed by the University this family center would address Hennepin County’s longstanding problem of the huge disparities in out of home placement for African American Children. This longstanding problem has not been addressed by the county for over 20 years. The result has been that thousands of African American children have been removed from their homes due to either child neglect or abuse as defined by the County. The impact of the county’s practices in this area has been the disproportionate removal of African American children from their families and placed into foster care. Most often this foster care is provided by white families; many of whom live miles away from the metro area and our children lose all contact with their families and communities. Many of these youth are placed out of state in places like Pennsylvania, Colorado and other states. What is worse is the County has never evaluated the results of these practices and cannot tell our community what happened to the children placed in foster care.

Most child experts agree that while children must be protected from abuse and neglect, removal from the home and family is most often disastrous for the child. The perception is that many of these young people are further abused and neglected in foster care. What we do know as fact is that many of the young people after years of foster care somehow end up in the criminal justice system. Perhaps that is why African Americans are also disproportionately represented in the prison population of Minnesota.

Consequently foster care cost Hennepin County in excess of $50M per year and those costs continue to spiral upward every year. That is why the County has finally decided to try and stop these devastating practices of removing children from their homes.

June 7, 2006
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