Legislators discuss protecting Minnesota's most vulnerable children by providing smoke-free foster care

Liebling bill would keep children safe from the dangers of secondhand smoke

Jan 28, 2014, 15:45 ET from ClearWay Minnesota

ST. PAUL, Minn., Jan. 28, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- The House Health and Human Services Policy Committee heard testimony in support of HF1966 today, a bill that would make foster care homes smoke-free.  

"Secondhand smoke is particularly dangerous for children, as their bodies are still developing. It is known to cause Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, respiratory infections, asthma attacks and ear infections," said bill author and Committee Chair Representative Tina Liebling (DFL-Rochester). "Many children in foster care have already been subjected to hardships in their lives, and 80 percent of them suffer at least one chronic medical condition. They should be protected from the dangers of secondhand smoke."

HF1966 would add a smoke-free environment to other existing criteria that is reviewed with potential foster parents to ensure a safe, healthy environment for children before a placement is made.  More than half of all U.S. states and seven Minnesota counties have smoke-free foster care laws. These policies are supported by the National Foster Parent Association and a majority of Minnesotans – 83 percent.

During the hearing, legislators heard first-hand testimony from policy advocates and Rose Hauge, a foster care provider. "I lost my husband to lung cancer when he was 48," Hauge told committee members. "Providing foster care in my home meant it was my responsibility to model healthy living and healthy choices. Children deserve no less than a smoke-free environment."   

"It's our duty to protect the health and safety of children in the foster care system," said Molly Moilanen, Director of Public Affairs at ClearWay Minnesota. "Adult nonsmokers are protected from secondhand smoke by the Freedom to Breathe Act, and there is no reason that Minnesota children shouldn't have the same protection."

The bill now moves to the House Early Childhood and Youth Development Policy Committee.

SOURCE ClearWay Minnesota