Social Services reports decrease in child placements
by Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer
Social Services Supervisor Melanie Erickson told the County Board about improvements that have been made in keeping or returning children to their families rather than placing them in foster care or adoption.
Nearly 20 years ago when Erickson came to the department, mostly teenagers were being placed.
“Now, it’s mostly children and due to drug and alcohol issues,” she said Tuesday. “We estimate that as many as 75 percent of the placements are due to alcohol or drugs.”
“Our focus is on decreasing the number of kids in group homes and residential settings,” Erickson said. “There has to be a safety issue to remove kids from their homes.”
Nationwide, an average of 3.66 children per 1,000 are in out-of-home placement, while in Morrison County there are only 2.2 per 1,000. From 98 in 2008, the number dropped to 66 in 2012.
“The standard is that 40 percent of foster care placements will be with relatives,” Erickson said. “In Morrison County that figure is 38 percent, and we are comfortable with that. We have been offering more education, training and services to get relatives ready for placement.”
Social Services also keeps track of the re-entry rate — the number of children having to be removed from their homes again after being returned. That is 17 percent statewide, but 10 percent in Morrison County.
“We’re aiming for 9.9 percent,” said Erickson. “It’s very hard for kids to linger in foster care, but we look hard before doing a permanency order.”
“We have up to 12 months to work on unifying children with their parents,” said Social Services Director Brad Vold. “If that doesn’t work, there are three options available. Children can be placed in long-term foster care; custody can be transferred to a relative; or parental rights can be terminated, which frees the child to be adopted.”
“I want to highlight the great cooperation within our Social Services Department,” Erickson said. “We have a very good teaming approach to come up with solutions that help families.”
Other business that came before the Morrison County Board Tuesday included:
• Approving a 2013 new establishment license for St. Gabriel’s Hospital for $437 and a 2013 seasonal establishment renewal license for Sue’s Drive-In in Pierz for $254;
• Approving a conditional use permit for Harold and Sandra Villnow to establish a family cemetery on one acre in Hillman Township, with 10 conditions to be followed;
• Approving the abstract of tax abatements as recommended by the County Assessor for nine properties, all destroyed by fire in 2011 or 2012;
• Approving a consumption and display permit renewal for Arlen Swanson of Ramey Store;
• Approving a resolution to distribute recycling and clean-up day grant money to cities and townships;
• Approving the designation of public health events as “committees of the whole” so that commissioners are approved to attend; and
• Closing the meeting to review Gruber’s annual performance review.
The next regularly scheduled meeting will be a planning meeting Tuesday at 8:30 a.m. in the board room of the County Government Center.