Foster care needs improvement

Local families could take in children left in outside care facilities

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In other action

At its meeting Tuesday, the Moffat County Commission:

• Appointed Pam Foster and Mike Brinks to the Moffat County Finance Corporation board.

• Signed two, three-year mineral leases with Samson Resources for a combined 1,280 acres north of Craig. The county received $257,408 for the deals. The leases allow Samson to explore the land for any mineral or resource it finds.

• Agreed to review the county's senior snow plow program at a later date. An audience member asked the Commission why seniors cannot have their driveways plowed if they live on state highways. Bill Mack, Road and Bridge Department director, said it was because of several logistical problems.

• Approved $17,039 to subsidize two Steamboat Springs Transit buses to come to Craig and take Moffat County residents to work. The Commission approved the money on the condition Steamboat Transit provide two buses.

"We have Colorado Works money and public transportation is never self-supporting," said Marie Peer, Moffat County Social Services director.

"This will help our workforce and lower our unemployment rate," Moffat County Commissioner Saed Tayyara said.

— Moffat County could do a better job caring for its troubled youths, said Marie Peer, Moffat County Social Services director.

But the county, like most rural areas, is limited by its resources, she said.

A possible solution: Creating an alternative infrastructure, providing foster homes to some of these youths. But area residents need to volunteer for it to happen, she said.

The county currently sends minors adjudicated or, in some cases, charged with a sexual crime to residential treatment facilities in Mesa and Freemont counties, but that might not be the best thing for many of those children, Peer told the Moffat County Commission at its Tuesday meeting.

"Here, it's easier to follow the rules than step out of the box and do something different," Peer said. "Eighty percent of (minors who committed sex crimes) never molest someone ever again. We're not doing a good job at finding out which 20 percent it is" that needs more direct treatment.

Commission members agreed.

Sometimes a young person does something wrong, but making him or her pay for a crime for the rest of his or her life does not make them into a better citizen, members said.

"Is there a way to get those kids back in school and get them closer to home?" Commissioner Tom Gray asked. "Some of them, not all, appear to be good students, but they're branded."

These children are not sex offenders illustrated by the low number who reoffended, Peer said.

"These are juveniles, and that's much different than adults," the Social Services director said. "So many of these kids have bad boundaries, but these kids need to become part of our society again."

But, she understands how people may be reluctant to invite a child with this kind of past into their home.

"When you talk about sexual harm, it really causes a lot of red flags," Peer said.

Keeping a child in a treatment facility costs about $5,300 a month, Gray said.

"It's not about the money, but if we can help these kids find a better situation, we should do that for them," he said.

Social Services hopes to begin aforementioned program where local households could become foster homes for some of these minors, if the adults are willing to undergo some training, Peer said.

The county sends certain troubled minors away mainly because there are no local care facilities. By creating an alternative infrastructure, Peer hopes Moffat County can overcome professional limitations.

"It would be a really, really good situation," Peer said. "Once these kids have worked on this, they should be able to pick up with their lives."

Foster homes are a first step toward that, she said.

Potential foster-adults would be required to attend an eight-hour class and help the child attend his or her therapy in Glenwood Springs or Rifle.

Accepted households would receive $2,000 each month as compensation on top of travel and care reimbursement.

For Social Services to take that step, Peer said, it needs families willing to take on the "positives and negatives."

Anyone looking for more information can call Peer at 824-8282.

Collin Smith can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 209, or cesmith@craigdailypress.com

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