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Partners praise leadership, work of Kanidyohi County Family Services Department

WILLMAR -- A survey of community partners shows high praise for Kandiyohi County Family Services staff, leadership and operations.

Jay Kieft, director of the county department, said he was pleased with the responses from key partners, including schools, contractual vendors, public agencies and faith and non-profit organizations that work with the county to "help us accomplish our mission."

Kieft presented the results of the survey Tuesday to the Kandiyohi County Commissioners.

The county sent surveys to 130 different entities and received 87 responses, with 44 percent coming from government agencies and 37 percent from non-profits.

About 73 percent of the respondents had at least weekly contact with family services.

When asked to describe the "quality" of the relationship between their organization and family services, about 40 percent classified it as outstanding, 42 percent said above average and 14 percent as average. Only 3.6 percent rated it as below average and none said the relationship was poor.

In response to a question to rate the county's ability to meet specific needs and concerns of the partner, 72 percent ranked it as either above average of outstanding, 25 percent average and 2.5 percent below average.

About 84 percent said the benefits their organization receives from its partnership with the county is above average or outstanding. Another 12.5 percent classified it as average and another 3.7 as below average.

Regarding the department's fiscal responsibility, nearly 68 percent said it was above average or outstanding, about 24 percent said average, 5.3 said it was below average and 1.3 percent ranked it as poor.

The operational efficiency of the family services department was rated as above average or outstanding by 67 percent of the respondents. Another 29 percent said it was average and 3.9 percent said it was below average.

The professionalism of the county staff was ranked above average or outstanding by 69 percent and average by 29.5 percent.

Communication between the county and partners was ranked above average or outstanding by nearly 74 percent, with 25 percent calling it average and 2.5 percent below average.

Of the more than 100 written comments that were part of the survey, communication was cited as a concern by several respondents.

That's an issue that may stem from the lack of communication in recent years from the state to counties, Kieft said.

When the counties don't receive accurate and timely information about changes in state programs it's difficult for counties to provide accurate and timely information onto its local partners, Kieft said.

Counties have been "isolated" from the Department of Human Services in the past years, said Tamara Goldenstein, a family services supervisor. As a result, counties have had to search for the information themselves "and that makes us less efficient and unable to communicate with others," she told the commissioners.

Kieft said he's optimistic that a "new commitment" on the part of the current administration will increase communication between the state and counties. State budget issues, and reduction of state staff, however, could still make that a challenge.

Other comments from the survey stressed the desire for additional staff and funding for county services and encouraged the county to continue with it's leadership in the social services arena and efforts to promote the work the county does by engaging the public and other partners.

The next part of the assessment process will be to survey people who use the county's family services. That "customer satisfaction" survey will be completed later this year.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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