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Beltrami County Health & Human Services: Commissioners approve youth activities grant

The Beltrami County Board of Commissioners approved unanimously Tuesday grants of $10,000 per year for the next three years to support youth activities for youngsters served by social services.

"Kids involved in activities tend to have better outcomes at school and at home," said Jeff Lind of Beltrami County Health and Human Services.

The program will start immediately with children served by Health and Human Services and the Truancy Tracker Program.

He said many youth in poverty can't access activities because they can't afford the equipment or lessons or have no transportation to after-school programs. The grants will help youngster become involved by meeting these needs, Lind said.

The case workers for the youngsters will identify health activities that interest the children, include the activity as a goal in their case plans and support the costs of the activities.

As of July, Health and Human Services case workers were serving 283 children and Truancy Tracker Program officials were serving 55 children.

Lind said encouraging positive activities for children would likely improve their outcomes.

"I think we can greatly increase the numbers involved if we can take away the barriers," Lind said.

According to Lind's presentation, Search Institute has identified 40 developmental assets that help children grow up healthy, caring and responsible. These assets include spending three or more hours a week in lessons or practice of music, theater and other arts, and three or more hours a week in sports, clubs or organizations at school or in the community.

Lind said the expectation would be that the number of children re-entering foster care would decrease and regular school attendance would increase, with a parallel increase in high school graduation. Besides, he said, if a youngster comes home in a good mood, the whole family is likely to benefit.

Lind said foster care placement costs about $1,000 per month per child, so if the activities fund can decrease the number of placements it will pay for itself. The program will require no additional staff or equipment.

"We're always looking for new ideas how we can better ourselves and help people," said Commissioner Quentin Fairbanks.

Commissioner Jim Lucachick said he supports the project, but emphasized the need for yearly follow-up from case workers.