Wilkin County Commissioners met with Human Services Director Dave Sayler and Northwest Regional Operations Director of Lutheran Social Services (LSS) Kate Coughlin on Tuesday, Nov. 19 to discuss the 2020 contract for treatment services.
Wilkin County partners with LSS to receive their family services to create a stable and healthy environment for parents and children. LSS family services include adoption, foster care, child protection service, mental health service and educational groups.
The current contract Wilkin County has with LSS is set at $136,426 for 2019, a three percent increase from the previous year. LSS is not requesting an increase in its budget for 2020.
“We have made some really big strides in the county, we’re on par to underspend on the contract from last year,” Coughlin said.
LSS has additional services designed to prevent families from having to enter into intensive in-home treatment services. Additional services are comprehensive skilled programs designed to prevent intensive in-home treatment. These services would be additional costs to the county.
Coughlin plans on returning to the county board meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 17 to provide in-depth information on how additional services would change their budget for 2020.
Coughlin provided an update to the board as to how LSS is currently using their contract funds for family services in Wilkin County.
“This year we have served 30 families in Wilkin County. Those families come to us primarily from child protection cases. We get some child mental health cases and the average time we are spending with a family is six and a half months which is standard and expected when working with child protection because we have to work on the restoration of the family system,” Coughlin said.
Coughlin and her team work within the family system and try to prevent any disruption to the child. Their ultimate goal is to not have the child removed, unless necessary.
LSS has had a regional growth in the past year since Coughlin has come on board. She has added seven staff members which has provided more services fitting the needs of Wilkin County families.
Through adding more staff, LSS can provide a better fit for the families they serve. Coughlin believes that this will, in turn, decrease the time families need with a provider and decrease recidivism.
“What we don’t want to see is families year after year getting referred to child protection or children’s mental health. We want to be able to put the right person into the family and provide the service and hopefully, they can be in a healthy place where they don’t have to be re-referred,” Coughlin said.
One of the solutions that Coughlin came up, she said, is being more cognizant of available providers. They can match up families with providers that who can “actually work within that family system.”
LSS looks at the interests of parents and how the parents operate in order to determine which provider would be the best fit. Having a strong fit between provider and family allows for a deeper connection and that is when an impact can be made in the family, Coughlin said.
“It makes so much difference to that family when they can connect with that person,” Sayler said. “If there’s no connection, you’re going to have disruption.”
Finding the correct provider to create this connection, a more comprehensive referral was created this year. This referral is longer and takes social workers a long time, however, it provides LSS a deeper background in the family.
The referral contains information about interests, previous history with child protection or children’s mental health, diagnoses, the family structure and the current crisis the family is experiencing. With this information, they look at their providers who have a common experience and can navigate the family system better.
When Coughlin returns, she will present the board with the cost of additional services and outcomes that other counties have seen from having these additional services. This meeting will be at 8 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 17 at the Wilkin County Courthouse.