WALKER -- Cass County Human Services spent only 37 percent of the county budgeted amount after 50 percent of the year this year for out-of-home child placements.
The improvement is due in part to greater use of foster care and of electronic home monitoring for juvenile offenders.
Costs for the county to place children in emergency shelters, foster and group homes and correctional facilities have nearly tripled in the last 10 years. In 1993, the county paid $754,308 and recovered from other revenue sources $197,467 for a total of $951775.
By 2003, the county paid $2,273,009 and recovered from other sources $292,126 for a total out-of-home placement cost of $2,565,135. The most significant jump came in 2000 when the county assumed correctional facility costs the state previously paid.
The first half of this year, the county has paid a total of $1,012,799 to place children outside their own homes, with the county paying $821,623 of that and the balance paid by reimbursements from other counties, federal programs, child support and parental fees.
The attempt to recover some costs from parents of children in placement has been only marginally successful so far. The county has recovered $18,002.61 from parents and has $61,995.75 still owing from them.
Some deemed able to pay or who do not fill out application forms for a sliding fee scale based on their income are assessed at the full amount of their children's care. Others are assessed based on their ability to pay, because they filled out the application.
Cass County and schools in or overlapping the county have been making a greater effort to track truant children recently, those failing to attend school without approved excuses.
As of Aug. 3, there were three truant from Brainerd schools, 35 from Bug-O-Nay-Gi-Shig, 47 from Cass Lake, nine from Pillager, two from Pequot Lakes, 18 from Pine River-Backus, six from Remer-Longville, one from Schoolcraft, three from Staples-Motley and 54 from Walker-Hackensack-Akeley.
The largest number of truant children are registered in junior and senior high schools, though a significant number of first-graders also were reported on the truancy list. Randy Carlson, social worker who has been working on the truancy prevention program, told the board 60 percent of the truant children are Indian and 40 percent are white.
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