Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Staff Report
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Pine Co. out of home placements source of concern


March 29, 2018

Out of home placements remain a big concern in Pine County.

Terry Fawcett, probation director, gave his annual report to the county board last week, which showed an increase in costs of the program.

Overall, the Health and Human Services budget for probation cases was $524,214 last year, or $118,214 over budget. In January this year, costs for these cases were $25,000 over the previous year.

Overall, HHS and Probation Out of Home placement (OHP) costs went from $1.4 million in 2016 to $2.2 million in 2017. While mainly juvenile delinquents with violence charges or sex crimes are sent out of home, the goal for 2019 is to not send out non-violent delinquents or sex offenders.

The contributing factors in these cases are both the number of juveniles in the system and the average length of placement. In 2015, the average stay was 86 days, but that dropped to 31 days in 2016, before rising up to 93 days in 2017, which is the highest number since 2011, when the average stay was 99 days.

As part of his report, Fawcett presented what he called "budget busters." Last year, 10 of these juveniles contributed over $400,000 of these costs. One male in the system spent 261 days in placement, which resulted in a cost of over $64,000.

A female spent 245 days in placement, which cost the county over $60,000. Another female juvenile had 127 days in placement, which resulted in a bill of almost $50,000.

The costs of OHP could be even higher without electronic monitoring. Fawcett said instead of sending a juvenile out of home, some kids have gotten electronic monitoring. If they had been placed out of home, these costs would have been $203,000 higher. The cost of the electronic monitoring was $12,000 last year. Most higher risk juveniles are not considered for this option, but some have been on it in the past.

“Most kids in the system started with a monitor," Fawcett said.

Fawcett, who used to work in Duluth, said Pine County has as many challenges as he had in southern St. Louis County.

A few years ago, Carlton County spent close to $2 million on one juvenile.

The problem remains when a child is placed in OHP and then returned to the same environment and there are further problems.

"We are trying to build in those positive role models," Fawcett said.

At the recent HHS committee meeting, Commissioner Steve Chaffee said they had a good conversation on the OHP issue.

“We will have these kids in out of home placements forever, but we have to work on holding down the costs so they don’t break the bank," Chaffee said.

Commissioner Steve Hallan said the county is looking at ways to spend money on the front side of HHS to avoid spending so much money on the back side for placements, saying if the county spent $250,000 on programs before kids got in trouble, it could save $500,000.

“Imagine on a long term basis what we would save." Hallan said. "Even breaking even, it would prove we are doing the right thing.”


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