WALKER -- Cass County Human Services expenditures so far this year are running 1 percent under budget projections.
This is despite the fact out-of-home child placement costs ran 63 percent of budget after 58 percent of the year.
There were 126 children in placement during July, costing $298,360 for their care. Of that, $161,354 was for children in correctional facilities.
Joan Helms, children's services supervisor, reported to the county board many of these children come from families with three and four generations of problems.
While Commissioner Virgil Foster had speculated an increase in children moving to the Cass Lake school district area may have accounted for an increase in the number of children in placement, Helms said actually most of the children are from families already living in the county and having a history of problems.
Human services and school staffs are identifying more severely emotionally disturbed children, she said. There are more children with fetal alcohol syndrome than in the past.
"We have removed a lot of babies (from their natural homes) lately," Helms said, noting there is an increase in the number of parents on drugs.
To better identify homes with problems, Helms said human services case workers are receiving training to help them identify gang influences and methamphetamine labs in homes they visit.
Some children are remaining in out-of-home placements longer, because court delays have prolonged their permanent placement. Relatives are waiting months to adopt children from their extended families, she said.
Commissioner Jim Demgen questioned the effectiveness of programs designed to help families to keep children in their own homes.
"It's just shocking," he said, comparing the 81 children in placement July 2000 with the 161 this July.
Health and Human Services Director Dorothy Opheim said Indian children in placement used to average about 50 percent of the Cass County case load, but currently average about 60 percent.
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