Working collaboratively with schools and other community partners, Crow Wing County Community Services and the Crow Wing County Attorney’s Office are focusing on efforts to keep children in school.
Agencies involved in the initiative include the Crow Wing County Family Services Collaborative, Northern Pines Mental Health Center and Bridges of Hope.
“Together these agencies are working to support and strengthen families and to address the barriers that get in the way of attendance and positive engagement at school,” said Pat Sharbonda, Crow Wing County family preservation coordinator, in a news release. Other agencies may also be involved in the process depending on the needs of the child.
The Crow Wing County Attorney filed 13 truancy petitions in 2012 and seven so far in 2013. In order to assist families before truancy reaches the petition level, meetings are hosted to help understand what the issues are and to help remedy the situation before it rises to the level of a petition being filed. In the last two school years, 127 family meetings took place.
“When a family is not sure where their next meal is coming from, school attendance might not be at the top of their priority list,” Sharbonda said. “We often find that the attendance issue is the tip of the iceberg regarding issues families may be struggling with.”
Pre-truancy meetings are in the school to identify these issues and offer students and their families supportive interventions to reduce or eliminate the barriers to school attendance. Plans are developed that may include services such as mental health counseling, medication reviews and intensive in-home services.
Attending school isn’t just important for the child’s educational success, it’s also the law, the county noted. The compulsory education laws in Minnesota place the responsibility on the parent to ensure their child attends school as required by law and obtains an education.
All children between the ages of 7 and 16 years of age must receive instruction and attend school. This law also applies to children between the ages of 16 and 18 unless the parent lawfully withdraws the child from school after the child’s 16th birthday.
Minnesota statutes state a child is considered truant at such time as they have three unexcused absences during one school year. If the child proceeds to have seven or more unexcused absences from school, they are considered to be habitually truant and a truancy petition may be filed requiring them to appear in court.
For more information about supports and services to address attendance challenges a child may be experiencing, contact Pat Sharbonda at 824-1370 or email@example.com.