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Need for foster parents in Grand Forks County at its lowest point in years

Grand Forks Herald - 10/17/2023

Oct. 17—GRAND FORKS — Foster children in Grand Forks County are staying with about 170 foster parents, the lowest number of parents in at least two years, County Commissioner Cynthia Pic reported to the commission at its meeting Tuesday night, Oct. 17.

The lower the number the better, she explained — it means more children are staying with their families.

"Foster care isn't always the best answer or the best solution for families," she told the Herald. "We want to give families lots of good resources so that they can be successful in parenting."

The demand for foster parents tends to rise following the start of the school year, when teachers have more direct contact with students and can more easily identify students in need of help.

Normally around October, the county has children placed with about 200 to 215 parents, Pic said. The supply of available parents becomes strained around 200.

Pic attributes this change to the availability of more resources for parents, as well as improved accessibility to existing resources, including from Headstart and preschool programs through schools, child care and faith-based programs.

But more than anything, she attributes the improvement to increased internet access in students' homes stemming from the need for remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Maybe there are parents that couldn't afford to pay for the internet on an ongoing basis out of their home, but the school districts really worked with the service providers so that families could have access to the internet," she said. "... I think there's just access to more resources because of the internet — if you're frustrated in how do you discipline your child, what do I do? You can go on and you can ask questions on the internet and get some resources that you didn't have access to before."

In other commission news:

* For the first time in a long time, the Grand Forks Human Service Zone eligibility department is fully staffed, Pic also reported to commissioners. She sees this as a positive sign of things to come for the county, which recently passed an

across-the-board pay increase

for county employees in an effort to address staffing issues. The state, which controls the pay of Human Service Zone employees, passed similar pay increases earlier this year.

* Commissioners approved Operation Green Light, which will light up county buildings with green light to show support for veterans.

* The county will send out a notice to evict people from 15 properties, nine of which are residential. The owners of those properties will have until the time of sale, 2 p.m.Nov. 21 at the county building, to pay unpaid taxes and keep the properties.

* The commission voted to reallocate $291,000 from the general fund into a special workforce safety account in order to more easily track the funds, which had already been set aside for risk management.

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