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Wadena County Commission: Policy approved concerning 24-hour response to child protection

Wadena County Human Services provides 24-hour response to emergency child protection situations. County policy and procedures now reflects the changes following approval from the Wadena County commissioners at their July 31 meeting.

Human Services was mandated to provide the service in reports alleging imminent danger at all hours and all days of the week; to ensure that a shelter care facility is available 24 hours a day for children needing emergency placement; and they are to have sufficient staff available to provide these services. Imminent danger means that a child is threatened with immediate and present maltreatment that is life threatening or likely to result in abandonment, sexual abuse or serious physical injury, according to the Minnesota Department of Human Services.

These changes led Human Services director Tanya Leskey to request a change in policy to appropriately compensate staff for the change in duties and the increase in afterhours duties.

The change in policy compensates staff appropriately, Leskey said. The increase in compensation was estimated to have a price tag of $29,684 for the year. The supervisor or a team lead has an $800 per month stipend, which is split between the two designees for being available, and if the employee has already reached 40 hours, they will be placed on active duty and would be paid time and a half in excess of 40 hours. When they respond, a minimum of two hours will be earned.

Leskey noted that the compensation change and 24-hour on call designation was mandated and is only for a supervisor or team lead in the child protection unit, not for the entire department of Human Services.

"In our policy, it says that our hours of operation are Monday-Friday 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and that is why I am coming to the board to make this specific policy and procedure because there was that legislative change," Leskey said.

County commissioner Bill Stearns felt this was a good solution to an issue that has been in talks since 2012 and has involved discussion concerning other departments that also provide after hours services. All commissioners were in favor of the change, which had also gone through several other committees for discussion, according to Leskey.

In other Human Services news:

Amie Gendron reported on the contracted detention payments to the West Central Regional Juvenile Center. The contracted cost was $41,749 through June and the actual days of service was 109, which would be $25,070 based on cost per day. Commissioner Dave Hillukka noted that from now on, the county usage would be based on the previous two years of actual usage. He said that would be the fairest way to charge counties.

Gendron noted that out of home placement costs remain high for the year but the budget remains on target. Commissioner Jim Hofer said the child welfare expenses have been higher than budgeted for the past few years and that that budget item may need to be adjusted for the coming year.