Crow Wing County Board: Community services sees 3-year low in out-of-home placements of children

Crow Wing County Community Services Division Manager Kara Griffin looks across the table Tuesday, July 16, at Commissioner Rosemary Franzen, with Commissioners Paul Koering to Franzen's left and Steve Barrows to her right, while talking about out-of-home placements of children for their well-being. Frank Lee / Brainerd Dispatch

The outlook looks more promising for Crow Wing County regarding how much tax revenue it spends for out-of-home placement of children, but officials remain cautiously optimistic.

County Community Services Division Manager Kara Griffin updated commissioners Tuesday, July 16, at a committee of the whole meeting about the topic that stresses the county coffers.

“This is a snapshot of how many kids we have in care, their ages and settings,” Griffin said of the point-in-time report she shared at the information-only meeting about the placements.

The number of children in placement was: 167 in January, 170 in February, 165 in March, 163 in April and 150 in May as of the report generated Thursday.

“I’m happy to report that we currently have 147 kids in out-of-home placement. That’s a pretty substantial decrease from 2018 when we had 187 kids in care (in May) at our highest,” Griffin said. “When we’ve been below 150, the last time was April of 2016.”


Out-of-home placements by county social services or corrections remains a troubling concern, according to county officials holding their collective breath that things may be improving.

“You’re doing good work and under a high degree of scrutiny,” County Administrator Tim Houle told Griffin and those she brought to Tuesday’s meeting.

Commissioner Steve Barrows added, “And tell your staff that.”

The average number of children last year in the county in out-of-home placement per month was about 180, and the expenditures for out-of-home placement rose from about $2.5 million in 2014 to almost $5.5 million last year in correlation with parental methamphetamine use, according to county officials.

“In the second quarter, we had 25 kids that entered care -- 23 were placed due to parents busted for using meth, and also domestic violence, neglect and mental health were factors for the parents, themselves,” Griffin said.

Snapshot in time

Of the 147 children in out-of-home placements in June, 62 were 5 years old and younger, 37 were ages 6 to 12, and 48 were 13 years old and older, according to the point-of-time report.

“We had one sibling group of five, and of course that puts a burden on the agency because it’s hard to find a foster home that’s willing to take five kids, and we want to keep those siblings together because that’s in the best interest (of the children),” Griffin said.

The 2019 budget for expenditures for social services for child protection was $3.82 million, and actual expenditures as of June 30 were $2.15 million -- more than half budgeted. As part of approving the county budget, the county is expecting it will dip into its fund balances -- similar to savings accounts -- for ongoing expenses.


“We had 43 kids that left care. Seventeen of those were adoptions that were finalized, 19 were reunified with their removal home -- so, for example, the larger sibling group went back to their removal home,” Griffin said. “We have 12 that are in the adoption queue waiting to be finalized.”

The projected expenditures for social services for this year is $4.31 million and the projected amount over budget is $488,262, according to community services department officials.

“You may recall that the board did approve us hiring an additional staff ... and you’re witnessing the benefit of having somebody focus on adoptions,” Griffin told commissioners. “We have a number of kids that remain in care from 2016 … and kind of had a backlog of finalizing those adoptions.”

The point-in-time snapshot shared at the meeting listed 147 children in out-of-home placements. Of that total, 46 were in non-relative foster care and 55 were in relative foster care, with professional foster care, group home and other types of placements in lesser numbers.

“We know that as we get kids in care that are 15, 16 age range, it’s harder to find placement for them, especially if they’re not able to go back to their reunification home,” Griffin said. “And often they’re at risk for entering the juvenile delinquency system.”

Corrections placements

The 2019 budget for expenditures for corrections -- juvenile delinquency court -- was $1.56 million, and actual expenditures as of June 30 were $725,913 -- less than half budgeted.

“We want to keep kids within their own family system, and we look at the definition of ‘relatives,’ it doesn’t necessarily mean ‘blood,’” Griffin told commissioners Rosemary Franzen and Barrows, who were the only members of the board at Tuesday’s meeting.

The projected expenditure for corrections for this year is $1.45 million and the projected amount under budget is $111,152, according to county officials.


“It’s always a balance between effectiveness and efficiency -- they are not the same thing -- and you guys have to figure out where’s that sweet spot for this community. That’s the policy question you guys have to figure out,” Houle told Franzen and Barrows.

Barrows told Griffin, “Getting out in front is the solution -- definitely the most impactful and effective in the long run -- but it’s a struggle in the short term. Thank you for what you’re doing. It’s awesome. We’ll knock on wood for you -- or us.”

Interested in foster care?

For more information about out-of-home placements or if anyone is interested in providing foster care for children, contact Kara Griffin of Crow Wing County at or at 218-824-1159.

I cover the community of Wadena, Minn., and write mostly features stories for the Wadena Pioneer Journal. The newspaper is owned by Forum Communications Co.
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