GRANITE?FALLS?- Child maltreatment assessments, which have risen dramatically since 2008, are down in the first two months of 2012 in what Yellow Medicine County Family Services hopes is a trend.
According to data supplied to the YMC Board Tuesday by Mary Potter, social services supervisor for children's services, the number of family assessments and family investigations almost doubled from 2008 to 2009, and dramatically increased from 2009 to 2010. Facility investigations remained relatively constant at about one per year, but did rise to three in 2010.
There were 21 total assessments in 2008, 41 in 2009, and 57 in 2010. In 2011 total assessments declined to 47. In the first two months of 2012 there have been six assessments, one family assessment and one facility investigation.
Potter said if the trend continues there could be only 36 assessments by the end of the year.
In family assessments initiated because of reported child abuse or neglect, Family Services social workers meet with the entire family.
"If the abuse is not egregious, we sit down with the whole family at the table," Potter said. "We are open and honest with them and listen to the family. We let them know it's important (that) it not happen again and ask them what needs to happen for us to get out of their life?"
Potter cited cases of young children wandering off from home, or children under 10 not attending school. An investigation is called for if there is significant risk of a child dying or being sexually abused.
"We determine whether or not we believe the incident happened," Potter said.
Investigations involve individual interviews with each family member and may have law enforcement present.
According to Potter, the state of the economy might be a factor in the sudden rise of assessments.
"We've seen more people struggling financially," Potter said. "There is a whole new level of stressors. We talk about ways to deal with frustration and build support networks through friends or church."
In other business, the board approved two resolutions at the recommendation of Family Services Director Peg Heglund.
The board resolved unanimously to participate as a member of the Southern Prairie Health Purchasing Alliance in a demonstration project for a rural health delivery system, before possibly entering into a joint powers agreement with other members of SPHPA.
The board also voted unanimously to commit $5,000 to SPHPA at this time, and an additional $5,000 if and when the county enters into a joint powers agreement.
The resolution states, "The counties have determined that creation of a rural community care system can potentially provide a viable alternative to contracting with private, non-profit health plans in order to provide cost-effective, high-quality health care services to county residents enrolled in various Minnesota health care programs."
The board voted to split the cost of a culvert on 11th Avenue with Stony Run Township, the city of Granite Falls and John Berends, owner of Bootleggers Supper Club.
Commissioner Ron Antony moved the county spend up to $7,500 of the cost provided Granite Falls and Stony Run Township contribute equally and Berends contribute $2,500.
Antony said during last year's flooding, though Bootleggers was not flooded, it was turned into an island by water across 11th Avenue, had to shut down for a week and cancel events.
"Bootleggers has 11 employees and can't book for April," Antony said. "I'm basing the motion on the economic impact of a business being shut down for a week."
Antony included in the motion a proviso that the township's contribution cannot be less than $6,000 and the county will contribute in-kind with labor and materials from the highway department.
At the recommendation of County Highway Engineer Andy Sander, the board voted to buy a half-acre of land next to the Wood Lake Highway Department Shop for $4,000, or 18 cents per square foot.
The board also voted to abate the county property taxes for the months from September-December 2012 for the Echo Restaurant and Bar, which burned down last August.