After over 50 years of serving at-risk youth in North Dakota Charles Hall will be closing. KX News met with one of the Executive Directors to learn more about what led to the shutdown.
Charles Hall Youth Services has been helping families in North Dakota since 1965. But 2020 has been a year unlike any other, and the non-profit has felt the impact of the pandemic.
“We have three homes but with COVID coming we consolidated all of our youth and all of our staffing to one of the facilities so that we could be ready when we knew staff numbers would start dwindling due to the pandemic,” said Executive Director at Charles Hall Gayla Sherman.
Then in September the Charles Hall staff was hit hard with COVID 19.
“We had at one point in time nine staff working 24/7, 60 hours plus a week to cover shifts,” said Sherman.
COVID wasn’t the only issue for Charles Hall. Another huge impact was the Family First Prevention Services Act. The act was passed in February of 2018 and implemented in October of 2019 in North Dakota.
“This changed the child welfare system related to foster care and congregate care with the intent to keep kids and families from using congregate care as minimally as possible because kids do better with families,” said Sherman.
This means the number of youth at Charles Hall began to dwindle and so did the money. To adapt, Charles Hall became a Qualified Residential Treatment Program which meant a higher level of mental and emotional care for the residents.
“We really needed an institutional setting to be able to do better work with these kids and that would have cost 1 to 2 million dollars to do which we didn’t have,” said Sherman.
As the doors close on Saturday, about 30 employees will begin looking toward whatever comes next. Four kids will move to similar care centers elsewhere in the state. Sherman says the closure means more pressure on foster families in North Dakota.
“The challenge for our state is that this puts a lot of weight on our community’s foster families. We need to build local capacity and you don’t do that overnight,” said Sherman.
Moving forward, Charles Hall hopes to partner with other community agencies to help the youth in our state.
But for now, it’s the end of the line and a pretty big loss for the region.