Social Services divisions undergo changes in the past year

Clay County Commission

Dan Haglund

The Clay County Social Services director delivered the annual report on two divisions of her department before the Board of Commissioners in Moorhead on Tuesday.
Director Rhonda Porter explained the change out of a need for a more focused report from the various divisions, as they vary in range and goals.
The board heard from the Child Protection and Behavioral Health divisions in a previous meeting. This week, the Licensing and Disability Services are the focus. Next Tuesday, the Financial Services and Child Support divisions will give their reports.
Supervisor Jessica Mickelson began with the licensing updates from last year.
The Adult Foster Care (AFC) program led with the most significant changes. The county has one licensor (Fran Davenport) for 67 adult foster care homes now, which include 124 beds and 16 available beds. There were also seven AFC license revocations last year, and four more which are operating pending an appeal. There were also four new AFC homes opened last year.
Four licenses were closed due to inactivity, retirement or relocation.
Mickelson said there are also 126 Adult and Child Corporate Foster Care Homes, with a total of 332 beds.
There were new rules put in place last year by the Department of Human Services as well, as all AFC licensing inquiries are now put on a wait list to apply unless there is an identified service recipient for a particular home.
This change allows for a more person-centered approach to licensing homes, as service recipients (SRs) can meet with and tour homes of potential providers and are able to be more involved in choosing their homes.
There are currently 104 names on the inquiry wait list, but Mickelson says the county simply doesn’t have a need for additional homes yet.
“If we didn’t have 16 open beds, we’d probably open that wait list up a little more,” Mickelson said.
Commissioner David Ebinger, Dist. 5, inquired about the license revocations, and if they were due to those running the AFC homes not residing in them. Mickelson confirmed Ebinger’s suspicions. She said another reason for a revocation could be that there is not a licensed caregiver present within the home.
Clay County is the 16th largest county in the state yet has the fourth-most family adult foster care homes.
For Child Foster Care (CFC), there are two licensors in the county, Gail Burnside (non-relative) and Alex Ishaug (relative). There are currently 47 CFC licensed homes in the county, with 31 non-relative homes and 12 in the process of licensing. There are also 16 relative home and 12 more in process. This number is down 11 licensed homes from last year for various reasons.
For Family Child Care (FCC), there are two licensors, Karen Hellem and Julie Klier. They oversee 133 FCC homes at present, and 13 in process. The overall number is down six from last year.
Mickelson mentioned that her division was awarded $81,000 in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds two years ago, and they still retain a balance of $30,400.
The Adult and Disability Intake division has full-time staff member Miriam Danielson and half-time staff member Kylie Kolstad. Last year, the department had 1,233 A&D intakes, down from 1,300 in 2022.
The Special Need Basic Care (SMBC) division has two coordinators, Natalie Feland and Amber Carroll. They help those who qualify with navigating the health care system and support services. And due to changes with the UCARE contract last year, the number served last year jumped to 541 from 132 in 2022. Carroll is transitioning this month the full-time to help deal with the expanding workload.
Lastly, MnChoices has 2.5 initial assessors (Shannon Swenson, Heidi Dresser and Kylie Kolstad) and three re-assessors (Sheila Madson, Mary Koskaniemi and Tracy Lundon). MnChoices is a web-based tool for creating personal-centered assessments and support plans. It helps people with long-term or chronic care needs make decisions about their care and assists lead agencies with determining eligibility for services. Last year there were 614 assessments and 619 re-assessments. The DHS launched a new version of MnChoices 12 months ago, with a rolling launch schedule since then. Full utilization of the revision is expected to be complete by June 1.

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