MINOT — Individuals from counties around the area heard a presentation on the upcoming changes for youth in need of shelter in North Dakota on Tuesday at an Elmer Jesme meeting.
Lisa Jahner, assistant director of the North Dakota Association of Counties, talked about the difference between attendant care and shelter care, both for youth ages 10-17.
According to Jahner, attendant care (set up around 30 years ago) is meant to help youth who are picked up by law enforcement on a charge to be given a non-secure temporary place to stay as opposed to a secure jail or detention facility, pre-adjudication. Children are meant to stay there only a maximum of 48 hours until they receive a parental pick-up or court hearing. Attendant care had been intended to be funded at a federal level.
“Over the years, as the federal dollars kind of dwindled, we had to look to the counties to really cover something,” said Jahner.
Jahner continued to explain that the federal government covers the direct cost, (essentially wages and meals) and the counties cover the indirect costs, such as the administration and overhead costs.
“Shelter care is established pursuant Department of Human Services Administrative rule,” said Jahner. “There’s shelter care, and now there’s certified shelter care, and that is what is going to change.”
Jahner explained further that shelter care is a permanent structured dwelling for deprived and neglected youth, or CHIPS (Children in Need of Protection).
“One of the changes that’s going to happen is it’s also now going to be for unruly youth,” said Jahner. “Pursuant of new administrative rule, there is a certification process, and so agencies have to apply to the Department of Human Services to be certified as a shelter care site. Placement is not to exceed 7 days.”
Jahner said that the new rule, which is set to take effect August 1, is meant to keep agencies aligning with what research says is the best placement for youth.
“In my mind it was a great piece of legislation,” Jahner expressed. “However, there are changes and sometimes changes are tough, especially when they cost money. One of the big changes is it established a new legal category for those unruly youth. When I say ‘unruly,’ I’m primarily talking about runaways with ungovernable behavior. One of the changes was to have them be considered Children in Need of Services [CHINS]. We really want to keep those youth out of the justice system.”
When the new rule takes effect, CHINS will go to the Human Service Zones as opposed to court, according to Jahner.
“It’s a good thing, but the problem becomes, you can no longer have attendant care and shelter care, you can have them in the same location, but the kids cannot be, let’s say, co-mingled,” Jahner explained. “So you cannot have a delinquent, which would be a youth that has a criminal charge, sitting with a unruly youth, or a deprived neglected youth.”
Jahner said though “unruly” youth will now be put in shelter care, state funding will not cover the first 24 hours of their stay.
Jahner explained that the number 2-1-1 can be called for these children, “If 2-1-1 gets called and they decide to send out the mobile crisis unit, and the mobile crisis unit decides to place, then it’s non-cost, then it’s covered. So my message to law enforcement is, let’s use 2-1-1 as much as we can, because if they make the decision to place, that’s not your bill, essentially.”
“There’s also a federal initiative for 9-8-8, which is going to add to 2-1-1 and be one more number for people to remember,” described Chief of Police John Klug. “That’s coming down the line in the next year or so. But all of them will connect to the same thing, so whether you call 9-8-8 or 2-1-1, it’s going to go to the same center, and they determine if it’s safe to send out mental health services, or if they need to send out law enforcement first to make it safe for mental health services.”
Klug continued, “What they’re trying to do is remove us from the picture as much as possible, and let the mental health professionals handle mental health cases.”
The numbers that Jahner presented showed there was an average of 14 youth per year in attendant care in Ward County for the past five years.