On March 23, a Regional Children’s Justice Initiative meeting was held in Redwood Falls. This meeting was hosted by Chief Justice Lorie Gildea, Minnesota Supreme Court, and Lucinda Jesson, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Services. Invitees were district court judges and social services supervisors and directors from southwest Minnesota.
At this meeting, Gildea and Jesson announced that the county in Minnesota with the lowest number of children placed out of the home per capita was present, and that was Chippewa County. In other words, Chippewa County ranks first in the state for our work toward keeping children safely in their own home.
In 2009, Chippewa County spent $480,000 in out-of-home placement costs. Of this amount, 80 percent was spent on detention placements, so we knew that we needed to focus on reducing detention placements to lower our overall costs. In 2011, our out-of-home placement costs were $138,000.
With the support of the Chippewa County Commissioners, we focused our resources and attention on prevention services. We developed three main programs to do this: the Circle Sentencing program, the Out-of-Home Placement Team, and the Champions program.
All three of these programs are successful only with the time and effort of community members and other professionals. The Circle Sentencing program is dependent upon volunteers who give of their time and wisdom to help families gain skills to be positive members of our communities. The Out-of-Home Placement Team has accomplished a list of tasks each year due to the dedication of countywide professionals and students who meet month after month to help Chippewa County be a better place to live. The Champions program provides financial resources to students who cannot otherwise afford to participate in extracurricular activities such as music, fine arts and athletics. In the past 12 years, we have not had one student who was involved in extracurricular activities placed out of the home. Donations to the Champions program from local residents, coaches, service organizations and churches have helped us support students to be able to participate in positive activities. Middle and high school students will be active; it is a matter of providing them with the opportunity to be active in positive ways.
We want to commend all those who have helped us save county tax dollars, but more importantly improve the quality of life for so many families in our county.