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More Kandiyohi County kids placed out-of-home in 2010

WILLMAR -- Kandiyohi County spent $1.6 million last year to put children in a variety of out-of-home placement settings, like foster care and group homes, when they could no longer live with their parents.

The expense was a significant portion of the approximately $2 million budget for protecting children and it was done without a lot of help from the state.

In a report Tuesday to the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners, family services supervisor Kathy Nelson said the level of funding for child protection services provided by the state of Minnesota is among the lowest of the states.

Citing the most recent data from 2004, Nelson said Minnesota counties get 12 percent of their child protection budget from the state. Another 35 percent comes from the federal government and another 47 percent comes from county taxes.

Wisconsin, on the other hand, pays for 55 percent of the child protection budget and federal money makes up the rest. No local tax money is used, said Nelson.

Many states pay at least 20 percent of the budget, she said.

Commissioner Harlan Madsen said the lack of state funding for child protection is "frustrating" and he praised the "tenacity" of the county Family Services Department in providing good programs with the existing budget.

In her report, Nelson said there were 127 kids placed out of their homes in 2010, which is an increase of 16 children from the previous year.

The county spent $669,465 on 61 different kids who spent time in family foster care in 2010. This out-of-home placement was primarily because of abuse, neglect, truancy or other significant child and family issues, according to the report.

Group home care made up the next largest expense at $287,557 to house 12 different children who needed out-of-home placement because of their own behavioral issues. Another $166,694 was spent for residential treatment to provide a mental health component in coordination with group homes.

Other programs, including shelter care, treatment foster care, relative custody assistance and other child protection and child welfare services, made up the rest of the budget.

Last year the county filed 38 "child in need of protection" cases with the court, which is actually a decrease from the previous year.

There were 12 termination of parental rights petitions filed in 2010, which was unchanged from 2009, and 18 petitions for permanent placement were filed.

Of the 44 children for whom permanent placement was sought, about half were transferred to a relative and six were adopted. At the end of 2010, there were 13 children waiting to be adopted.

The goal of reuniting children with parents can be difficult when parents are chemically addicted or have sexually abused a child, which often results in criminal charges that make reunification difficult, said Nelson.

The report said the "multidimensional is-sues in child welfare continue to tax the system as a whole."

Carolyn Lange

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

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