Last reviewed September 2022
Minnesota Issues Resource Guides
Minnesota Minority Child Heritage Protection Act
This guide is compiled by staff at the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library on a topic of interest to state legislators. It introduces the topic and points to sources for further research. It is not intended to be exhaustive.
Books and Reports • Articles • Internet Resources • Additional Library Resources
History of the Minnesota Minority Child Heritage Protection Act
In 1983, the Minnesota Legislature became the first legislative body in the country to adopt specific statutory language to clarify adoption and foster care policy on the placement of minority children. Commonly referred to as the Minority Child Heritage Protection Act or the Minority Child Heritage Preservation Act, the law established an order of preference for placement of minority children. Relatives were given priority, followed by adults who shared the same racial or ethnic heritage as the child. The original bill as passed can be found in its entirety in Laws of Minnesota 1983, chapter 278 (SF723).
Changes to the original 1983 legislation had been relatively minor until the 1991 decision in the Minnesota "Baby D" case (In the Matter of the Welfare of D.L., 479 N.W.2d 408) which was affirmed by the court in 1992 (In the Matter of the Welfare of D.L., 486 N.W.2d 375). In this case a three year old African American girl who had been raised since birth by white foster parents was ordered to be given to her grandparents. Public outcry over this decision led to re-examination of the law during the 1992 and 1993 legislative sessions. The issue proved quite contentious but the result was a loosening of the law. Among other changes, the word "minority" was deleted from several references (Laws of Minnesota 1992, chapter 557, sections 4-9), racial or ethnic heritage was no longer the "sole" consideration in the placement of children, and time limitations for compliance with placement preferences were established (Laws of Minnesota 1993, chapter 291).
The United States Congress passed the Multiethnic Placement Act in October 1994 (P.L. 103-382, section 551/H.R. 6, section 551). This legislation limited the ability of states to base adoption or foster care placement of children on race or ethnicity. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services published Policy Guidance on the Use of Race, Color or National Origin as Considerations in Adoption and Foster Care Placements in the Federal Register on April 25, 1995.
In 1996, the Minnesota Legislature further amended the Minnesota Minority Child Heritage Protection Act to bring it into compliance with these federal standards (Laws of Minnesota 1996, chapter 416). Later in this same year the U.S. Congress amended the Multiethnic Placement Act with the Interethnic Placement Provisions in the Small Business Job Protection Act of 1996 (P.L. 104-188, section 1808/H.R. 3448). These changes strengthened the prohibitions related to the use of race or ethnicity as a basis for adoption or foster care placement. As a result, the Minnesota legislation was once again out of compliance with federal law and had to be amended (Laws of Minnesota 1997, chapter 86). The 1997 amendments replaced language about the "heritage" or "background" considerations for child placement decisions with language about "the child's best interests." Today these provisions are primarily codified in Minnesota Statutes, chapter 259.
It should be noted that Native American children have a special placement status since they are members of tribal nations with rights established through treaties with the United States. They are covered by the federal Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (P.L. 95-608) and the Minnesota Indian Family Preservation Act (Minnesota Statutes, sections 260.751 - 260.835) which seek to preserve Native American families. The initial Minnesota law was passed in 1985 (Laws of Minnesota 1985, chapter 111) and has undergone various revisions over the years. (In 1985, Minnesota also created the Minnesota Family Preservation Act (Laws of Minnesota 1985 1st Special Session, chapter 9, article 2, sections 69-75); it was repealed in 2003.)
On June 3, 2015, the birth parents of a Native American child filed a lawsuit (Doe v. Jesson) in the federal District Court of Minnesota challenging the constitutionality of the Minnesota Indian Family Preservation Act (MIFPA) under the Fourteenth Amendment. Unlike the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), which allows intervention only during involuntary termination of parental rights, MIFPA requires notice and allows the right of intervention by the tribe in voluntary adoptions.
The parents of Baby Doe had voluntarily chosen to allow a non-Native family to adopt him. For various reasons, Jane and John Doe did not want to notify their tribe of their decision to place the child in an adoptive home. Under MIFPA, had the tribe been notified of the parents' plans, the tribe could have intervened in order to place the child with a Native family instead. In this case, the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe waived its rights under MIFPA and Baby Doe was adopted by the family selected by his birth parents.
Lawsuits were filed in several states concerning ICWA in 2015. Among them, a lawsuit was filed in July 2015 by the Goldwater Institute, a conservative advocacy group, claiming ICWA is discriminatory because its requirements apply only to Native American children, even those who have no connection to their tribes. Another case, Haaland v. Brackeen, was originally filed in Texas in 2017. It now awaits action in the U.S. Supreme Court; arguments are expected in November 2022.
Significant Books and Reports
Advisory Report on Foster Care and Adoption: A Report to the Commissioner of Human Services. Minnesota: Minority Advisory Task Force on Foster Care and Adoption, 1986. (HV883.M6 M57 1986) [Required by Laws of Minnesota 1983 chapter 278, section 16]
African American Children in Out-of-Home Placement. Minnesota: Committee to Examine Out-of-Home Placement of African American Children in Hennepin County, 1991. (HV742.M6 A37 1991) [Required by Minnesota Statutes section 3.9225, subdivision 3 (j)]
Belton, Steven L., and Katherine S. Harp. Adoption and Foster Care Placement of Black Children in Minnesota. St. Paul: State Council on Black Minnesotans, 1982. (HV875 .B44)
Black Children in Substitute Care. St. Paul: Minnesota Department of Human Services, Social Service Research and Statistics, 1984. (HV875.76 .M6 B52 1984)
Annual Report: Minnesota Children in Substitute and Adoptive Care. St. Paul: Minnesota Department of Human Services, Social Services Division, Operations Section, 1985-1986. (HV875.56 .M6 C34) [Required by Minnesota Statutes section 257.071, subdivision 6]
Children in Out-of-Home Care: A 1997 and 1998 Minnesota Report by Race and Heritage. St. Paul: Minnesota Department of Human Services, 2001. (HV742.M6 C553 2001)
Children in Out-of-Home Placement: An [Annual] Minnesota Report. St. Paul: Minnesota Department of Human Services, Quality Services Division, Family and Children's Services Division, 1991-1998. (HV742.M6 C58) [Required by Minnesota Statutes, section 257.0725]
Children in Substitute Care: By Race. St. Paul: Minnesota Department of Human Services, Social Service Research and Statistics, 1984. (HV875.76 .M6 C44 1984)
Consideration of Culture in Placement Decisions. St. Paul: Minnesota Department of Human Services, 2018.
Izaksonas, Elena. An Hispanic Initiative: Recommendations on Out-of-Home Placement of Children of Hispanic People in Minnesota. St. Paul: State of Minnesota, Spanish Speaking Affairs Council, 1991. (HV742 .M6 I9 1991) [Required by Laws of Minnesota 1988, chapter 689, article 2, section 2]
Indian Children in Substitute Care. St. Paul: Minnesota Department of Human Services, Social Service Research and Statistics, 1984. (HV875.76 .M6 I52 1984) [Required by Laws of Minnesota 1985 chapter 111, section 6]
Minnesota Department of Human Services Report to the Legislature on the Study of Outcomes for African American Children in Minnesota's Child Protection System. St. Paul: Minnesota Department of Human Services, Children's Services Administration, 2002. (HV742 .M6 M57 2002) [Required by Laws of Minnesota 2001 1st Special Session, chapter 9, article 11, section 15]
Minnesota Minority Foster and Adoptive Care, 1989. St. Paul: Minnesota Department of Human Services, 1991. (HV883.M6 M572 1991) [Required by Laws of Minnesota 1989, chapter 282, article 1, section 2, subdivision 4, paragraph 9]
Report to the Legislature: Recommendations, Out-of-Home Placement of Asian-Pacific Children. St. Paul: State of Minnesota, Council on Asian-Pacific Minnesotans, 1990. (E184 .O6 R47 1990) [Required by Laws of Minnesota 1988, chapter 689, article 2, section 4]
(articles in reverse chronological order)
Serres, Chris. "State Accused of Racial Bias in Crackdown Against Child Abuse." Star Tribune, April 29, 2018.
LaVecchia, Olivia. "Split the baby: Two sides of an adoption battle: The fight over two baby girls could change how Minnesota considers relatives and race in adoption cases." City Pages, January 16, 2013.
Stewart, Perry R. "Baby D Adoption Case Did Away with a Bad Law." Star Tribune, June 30, 2001.
Brinig, Margaret F. "Moving Towards a First-Best World: Minnesota's Position on Multiethnic Adoptions." William Mitchell Law Review, No. 2, 2001, p. 553-600.
Simon, Rita J. "Transracial Adoptions: Does the Law Matter?" American Experiment Quarterly, Fall 1999, p. 85-94.
Courtney, Mark E. "The Politics and Realities of Transracial Adoption." Youth Law News, January-February 1998, p. 17-22.
Belton, Steven L. "No More Race-Based Adoption?" Star Tribune, December 13, 1996.
Hopfensperger, Jean. "Returning to Colorblind Adoptions." Star Tribune, December 2, 1996.
Glynn, Timothy P. "The Role of Race in Adoption Proceedings: A Constitutional Critique of the Minnesota Preference Statute." Minnesota Law Review, April 1993, p. 925-952.
Significant Internet Resources
United States Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil Rights - Protection from Discrimination in Child Welfare Activities
United States Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families - Child Welfare Information Gateway
Additional Library Resources
For historical information, check the following codes in the Newspaper Clipping File and the Vertical File:
A6 (Adoption), B15 (Blacks), F64 (Foster Care), I12 (Indians of North America), M80 (Minority Groups)
For additional reports at the Legislative Reference Library, use these Library catalog searches: