MINOT — The North Dakota Legislature recently passed legislation that requires Ward County to rework their emergency, short-term foster care services by August 2022.
The Ward County Sheriff and staff members met with the Minot Police Chief, the Homeless Coalition, and Youthworks to discuss temporary and long-term solutions in moving forward with the change in legislation for youth services.
The current facility in Minot for emergency shelter is available for youth ages 12-17. Delinquents and youth in need of short-term shelter services both stay in this facility. However, the change in law will now require that the two be completely separated.
The facility does not have the space or architecture to accommodate for the change in law, and higher degrees of delinquents will no longer be sentenced to jail, which will increase the need for separating the types of youth being sheltered.
“I don’t know that the county can fix this other than through private business. And it’s not us owning more buildings, because we are jumping through hoops all the time here,” said Commissioner John Fjeldahl.
Fjeldahl continued, “We got to be responsible to the taxpayers, not to put down what is happening to youth, but this thing is evolving… We’ve spent millions of dollars doing this over the years, and we’re still not where they say we have to be? We have a moving target here.”
Ward County Human Services Director Kristi Frederick had also expressed concerns with current staff not being adequately trained for higher level delinquents. However, Youthworks specializes in working with those type of individuals.
“My question of you and Youthworks is, are you ready to be more engaged in our community?” Commissioner Shelly Weppler asked of the Executive Director Melanie Heitkamp of Youthworks in Bismarck.
Heitkamp responded that Youthworks was committed to offering their services in the Ward County/Minot area. She also expressed interest in purchasing their own facility in Minot or setting up a “lease to buy agreement” with Ward County should they decide to purchase a structure capable of fulfilling the program’s needs.
It was decided that Youthworks would prepare a diagram to present before the board of county commissioners with their legal and structural needs, should the board agree to buy a property and potentially sell it to Youthworks in the future.
The diagram as well as a memorandum of understanding will be discussed at the next commission meeting on March 15 at 9:00 a.m.