Clay Social Services adds new leader, Jaeger

Clay County Commission

Dan Haglund

Quinn Jaeger not only was approved by the Clay County Board of Commissioners as the new county Social Services director on Tuesday morning in Moorhead, but a few minutes later delivered the annual department update.
The former director Rhonda Porter recently retired after many years in the post and Jaeger is her replacement.
Jaeger tasked Social Services supervisor Amy Amundsen with delivering the department overview to start.
The department is split up into nine sections: Child intake and assessment, Ongoing child protection, Children’s mental health, welfare and protection, Behavioral health and adult protection, Licensing and disability services, Home and community-based services, Financial services, Child support, fraud and collections, and Office support.
The Child and Family Services department includes more than 30 employees and provides a vast array of services from reports of abuse and investigations to child protection and mandated reporter training. The department also works in tandem with outsourced care organizations including The Village, Lutheran Social Services, Lakeland, Solution and Rainbow Bridge.
As far as numbers, last year saw a decrease from 2,315 total intakes in 2022 to 2,189. But there was an increase in child protection intakes from 1,534 in 2022 to 1,795 last year. The total cases still open remained fairly static from 2022 to last year, with a decrease of six cases (294 last year.)
“Still pretty horrific stuff we see on a day-to-day basis,” Jaeger said. “Some things that are easily mitigated and some things that are not.”
Last year, the most common type of allegation by far within an abuse report is neglect, which can include parental substance abuse (61 percent), followed by physical abuse (15 percent), sexual abuse (10.5 percent) and threats of injury (10.5 percent).
Jaeger said any sexual abuse allegations warrant 24-hour assessments for the immediate safety of the children.
There were a total of 185 “unduplicated” children last year in placement, which means the total number of children with at least one placement. Some children were placed multiple times within the year.
The net cost to Clay County last year was $2,881,036, up $416,548 from the previous year.
The primary location of children in placement remains in non-relative foster homes, followed by the West Central Regional Juvenile Center (WCRJC) in Moorhead and relative foster homes. Whenever there aren’t any foster homes available, some children are housed in the WCRJC.
There are also state and federal minimum standards and requirements under which Clay County Social Services must adhere, including relative care, monthly face-to-face case worker visits, timelines to initial contact and maltreatment recurrence. The local department met and exceeded all of the required standards.
Jaeger outlined myriad prevention resources offered in the county as well, from safety planning to Parental Support Outreach Program (PSOP) to financial assistance and housing.
Some of the challenges Jaeger says his department finds include a lack of providers for in-home services. Agencies are seeing more turnover and difficulty in staffing specialized positions as well.
There is also a lack of resources for children facing significant mental health needs, a need for more foster care homes for children 13 and up, lack of affordable housing and lack of affordable childcare, especially for infants.
“Seems like we have a lot of apartment buildings going up all over the place in Fargo-Moorhead,” Jaeger said. “But that’s not necessarily affordable housing. Homelessness continues to be a pretty significant barrier. We have a lot of homeless families that we serve every day.”
Lastly, regarding adult mental health, the county performed 181 pre-petition screenings last year, 33 being deemed Rule 20. A Rule 20 is an assessment conducted by a psychiatrist or psychologist in criminal court that determines a defendant’s competency to stand trial.
The overall screenings remain fairly consistent over than past four years.
The adult mental health portion also monitors individuals under the Minnesota Sex Offender Program and Mentally Ill & Dangerous patients at state facilities.

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