Let’s make foster care homes smoke-free

Jack Ayim of Andover, Minnesota testifying before the Minnesota House Health and Human Services Policy Committee during a pre-session hearing. Photo: Submitted

Children are typically being placed in foster care because their health and/or well-being is at risk. These children are vulnerable, and it is our responsibility to protect them and ensure they are being placed in safe and welcoming environments that will allow for the best possible outcomes. I believe the best possible outcomes can only be achieved in foster care environments that are smoke-free.

It has been proven that children who are brought up in households where smoking is permitted are more likely to start smoking themselves. There is a very high percentage of minority children living in foster homes, so that makes this issue especially important to me as an African American. I want to do everything I can to break this cycle.

Rep. Tina Liebling of Rochester has introduced a bill that would require Minnesota foster care homes to be smoke-free. I am a passionate supporter of this bill, and I was honored to present my testimony in a pre-session hearing for the Minnesota House Health and Human Services Policy Committee.

Efforts to regulate smoking in Minnesota foster care homes at the county level are gaining traction. St. Louis, Lake, Beltrami, Cottonwood/Jackson, Dakota and Redwood counties have all passed laws to prohibit the act. Others, such as Ramsey County, are moving toward passing a resolution to protect these vulnerable children.

While a step in the right direction, these actions are not enough, and we are falling behind our neighbors.  There are 26 states, including Wisconsin, North Dakota and Iowa, that have already passed statewide smoke-free foster care laws. I hope that our House and Senate representatives will seize this moment and pass our own statewide law. It is their responsibility to our Minnesota children.

I also urge my fellow African/African American community members to join me in supporting this bill. Let’s do everything in our power to break the cycle and protect these children from being exposed to the harmful effects of secondhand smoke and give them a better chance of attaining the bright futures they deserve. Let your elected officials know if you support this.

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