4/14/2018 9:55:00 AM Cass County out-of-home placement for children in decline
MONICA LUNDQUIST Cass County Correspondent
WALKER-Cass County has a screening team to evaluate whether a reasonable effort has been made to keep children in their own homes before they are ordered into out-of-home placements.
That team also selects what it believes is the best placement for each child when that does become necessary. They screen children who will be held outside their own home for 30 days or more.
The team includes Probation Director Jim Schneider, HHVS Director Michelle Piprude, Cass Commissioner Jeff Peterson, Assistant County Attorney Lindsey Lindstrom, Probation Team Leader Brad Mesenbrink, Leech Lake Band appointee Earl Robinson, a mental health professional and a guardian ad litem designee.
Schneider and Piprude presented the team's annual report to the county board Tuesday.
The vast majority were referred to the team by Cass County Health, Human and Veterans Services, with about 25 percent referred by probation.
Placing children outside their own homes cost Cass County $2,052,087, less than the $2,522,767 spent in 2016 and the $2,233,661 spent in 2015.
Of the 2017 expenditure, $823,625 was for foster homes, $513,859 for correctional facilities, $389,598 for group homes, $216,307 for respite care or home monitoring or miscellaneous and $108,689 was for emergency shelter.
About an equal number of children in foster care were in the home of a relative as those living with a non-relative.
Neglect was the biggest reason children were placed outside their own homes each of the last three years.
This is largely driven by the child's parents using methamphetamines or opioid drugs, Piprude said. It is a statewide issue, she added.
In 2017, the next highest reason for out-of-home placement was mental health issues, followed by behavior problems. The fewest were due to abuse.
About twice as many children ages 15 and younger were put in outside placements as those children ages 16 and older. About an equal number of girls and boys were involved.
The highest number in 2017 were white, followed by American Indian.
Of the 151 children the screening team saw in 2017, 49 did not return to placement.
Those who returned to placement either committed a new delinquency offense, were referred by social services due to recurring mental health issues or resurfacing neglect or abuse issues at home, or the child again became unmanageable in their home, community or school.
Cass refers 80 percent of the delinquent juveniles in the county to Northwest Minnesota Juvenile Center at Bemidji.
Second publication rights after Brainerd Dispatch.