ST. PAUL -- As part of the ongoing effort at the state capitol to reform Minnesota's foster care system, two state politicians sponsored a "bill of rights" for siblings in foster care.

Representative Ron Kresha of Little Falls and Senator Jerry Relph are the co-sponsors of the bill. The bill establishes a set of rights for foster care children, including the right to be placed with their siblings when possible, and/or to visit them, or to stay in contact.

Senator Relph says as a result of research for the reform effort, they found this glaring lack of rights for siblings in the system.

"[Whenever possible] family units should be respected, and children should have the right -- if they wish to -- maintain contact with siblings especially in the case of permanency. Where the child is going to be removed from the home until they're an adult."

Child welfare agency staff will now be required to give a copy of this bill of rights to children when they enter foster care. Relph says before, children from broken homes had no right to see their siblings once they had been removed.

"A child had no right, either through themselves or through a legal representative, or the agency to be able to maintain contact with their siblings. This is something that shouldn't cost a lot of money, and hopefully maintain a family unit."

Some of the sibling "bill of rights" include the requirement to place siblings in the same home, or close distance if the same home isn't possible, have "frequent" contact and ensure keeping siblings up to date on each other's contact information.

Other parts of the larger bill include training requirements in how to handle fetal alcohol syndrome, and reviewing the Minnesota assessment of parenting for children and youth (MAPCY) to take into effect communities of color and challenges they face.

The new law goes into effect Wednesday.

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