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Grant will give respite to families and youth

WILLMAR -- A new grant will give respite care to children with mental health issues and their families who may need a break from the stress of carrying for their children.

The two-year, $30,000 grant will target Kandiyohi County youth, ages 10 to 15, who receive mental health services through the county, yet fall through the cracks when it comes to respite care.

The program will also help families, who may not qualify for traditional crisis respite care because their child doesn't need intensive mental health services but still strain under the challenges of coping with a child with mental illness.

Under the management plan, families will receive four hours of respite care one day a week.

The children will be matched up with students from Ridgewater College who are going into fields that require personal interaction -- such as law enforcement, human services, psychology or sociology.

During the four-hour period of time, the child and the respite provider will "go out into the community," said Tim Johnson, from Lutheran Social Service, the agency that's coordinating the program.

The duo may go to a movie or the YMCA or to a restaurant in an effort to help the child learn social skills, appropriate communication and to have fun.

These are children who usually don't get invited to birthday parties or sleepovers, said Johnson.

While the child is gone, the families will have an opportunity to do what they want. Sometimes that means just taking a nap, said Johnson.

A stipend of $7.50 an hour will be paid to the respite provider, along with a gas card and valuable work experience.

Community businesses will be asked to participate in the program by offering vouchers for the child.

County Board Chairman Richard Larson said he likes the program because it gets kids involved with activities and doesn't put them in a foster home.

Kathy Nelson, Kandiyohi County Family Services supervisor, said traditional respite care for crisis situations involves putting children in a foster home for the weekend. Some kids have a negative "stigma" about that, said Nelson on Tuesday during the County Board meeting.

This program will be something the kids "get to do" and not something they "have to do," she said.

Family Services Director Jay Kieft, who wrote the grant that was awarded Oct. 1, said the program follows the "best practices" method by providing structured interaction for the children.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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