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Child placements are costly

The number of children in out-of-home placements is taking a significant bite out of Crow Wing County’s budget. 

Community Services Director Beth Wilms reported year-to-date expenditures for out-of-home placements, when children are placed in foster care or other facilities outside their family home, is $1,032,523 of a $2.8 million budget. The expenses are eating up the budget at a quicker pace than planned for the year. The county had 140 children in out-of-home placements in March. The monthly average this year has been 137. The monthly average in 2010 was 133 and it was 130 in 2009. 

Wilms said there are a number of children in the court docket right now for termination of parental rights. Wilms noted efforts are made to work with older children, 18 to 20 years of age, who have been in the long-term foster care to prepare them for independent living skills, such as balancing a checkbook. 

Wilms noted some of the children have significant barrier to reintegrate into the community. Chairman Paul Thiede said if those children at 18-20 need to be taught independent living skills after being in the foster care system something is wrong. 

County Attorney Don Ryan said that is an effort to be proactive so the county doesn’t see those same young people later on the criminal side. 

In other business, the board:

Approved a zoning map amendment for Clow Stamping Co., near Merrifield, rezoning from rural residential 2.5 to heavy industrial. Lake Edward Township recommended approval. Thirty Lakes Watershed District approved a stormwater permit. 

Heard the county is having success matching families who qualify for sliding fee child-care assistance.  

Learned the Community Services efforts to go paperless and integrate it with an effort to streamline case management hit a snag and has to be retooled. Administrator Tim Houle said to consider it a bump in the road and a temporary setback. 

Wilms said it will need to be pushed back from a planned May 2 start to September. The county has already invested $600,000 and is expected to pay additional dollars. Other counties are using utilizing the program to go paperless and others are managing work flow, but Houle said the county is the first to dovetail them together. 

In terms of electronic records, or eDocs, Ryan said the move to electronic criminal complaints is running smoothly and the county is looking at moving discovery  documents to an electronic format that would be able to be accessed by attorneys for the defense. 

Heard from a resident during the open forum they were opposed to the proposed all-terrain vehicle trail in the southern part of the county. The board is expected to make a decision on the proposed trail plan in two weeks. 

Heard from a couple during open forum that they were interested in serving on the Human Rights Committee. 

Accepted six automated external defibrillators through the Take Heart grant program at Essentia Health. 

Approved installation of a stop sign on Blue Herron Road at the intersection of Pine Beach Road, also known as County Highway 77. 

Recent classification changes related to raises for Land Services staff members. 

Chris Pence, Land Services supervisor in envionmental services, went from an annual wage of $61,273 to $63,855, or a 4.21 percent increase; Gary Griffin, supervisor in property valuation and classification, went from $69,737 to $71,595, or a 2.66 percent increase; Kirk Titus, supervisor in public land management, went from $64,986 to $65,717, for a 1.12 percent increase; and Vicki Sullivan, administrative/technical coordinator, went from $41,589 to $43,754 for a 5.21 percent increase.

RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at or 855-5852.