Otter Tail County received 537 reports of child welfare concerns or maltreatment last year

Members of the county human services and the land and resource departments presented their annual reports to the Otter Tail County Board during their regular meeting on March 28.

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Members of the Otter Tail County Board of Commissioners conduct a regular meeting on March 28, 2023.
Michael Achterling / Perham Focus

PERHAM — Members of the Otter Tail County Board heard annual reports from the human services and land and resource departments during their meeting on March 28.

In 2022, Otter Tail County Human Services received 537 reports of child welfare concerns or maltreatment, said Stephanie Olson, a social services supervisor for Otter Tail County.

"We did about 120 investigations, which means we determined if maltreatment occurred, or not," said Olson, during the meeting. "We did a little over 200 family assessments, which is more of a family-focused, and friendly, walk alongside the family to see if we can offer support without having it necessarily be court ordered."

In total, 87 cases were opened into the county's social services case management system, Olson said, which can be voluntary or court ordered.

"And we filed 71 petitions in court," she said. Adding, some of the cases involve truant students.


Typically, a school engagement process begins between the school and parents once a student eclipses seven absences, said Krista Fix, a social services supervisor for Otter Tail County.

"They basically get a warning, and we make a plan," said Fix. "Then we go to the county attorney's office, if that isn't corrected. Then, we do another plan, and, if that plan isn't followed, then we open case management. Likely, it'll lead to a petition to have the court involved and hopefully the judge can impact that truant to motivate themselves to get to school."

Nix said, in the past, the county has been court ordered to seize video games and cell phones from kids. Some have also participated in "consequence weekends" at a facility.

Commissioners approved a proclamation designating this April as Child Abuse Prevention Month.

The proclamation states: "The Otter Tail County Board of Commissioners hereby proclaim April 2023 as National Child Abuse Prevention Month in Otter Tail County, and call upon all people, community agencies, religious organizations, medical facilities, and businesses recognize this month by dedicating ourselves to the task of improving the quality of life for all children and families."

Otter Tail County issued about 15% fewer permits in 2022

The Otter Tail County Land and Resource Management Department issued about 15% fewer permits in 2022 compared to 2020 and 2021, according Otter Tail County's annual permitting report.

Chris LeClair, land and resource management director for Otter Tail County, said the conditional-use permitting ordinance was changed in 2021 in an attempt to reduce the number of applications being processed by the county.

In 2018, the Otter Tail County planning commission received 62 applications for conditional-use permits. Comparatively, he said, only 27 applications were submitted to the commission in 2022, which may show the ordinance change having the desired effect.


"The ordinance didn't take effect until halfway through the season," said LeClair. "So, I think 2022 is really the first full year that we potentially have seen an impact that the ordinance has had for conditional-use permits."

LeClair also said the board of adjustment received 53 applications for zoning variances, which is down from 78 application in 2021.

Otter Tail County issued more than 900 shoreland permits in 2022, which are needed when any construction can take place within the shoreland district of a body of water. Of those, 652 involved various structures within the shore land area, he said.

The county granted 673 septic system permits last year and performed 609 on-site inspections of installed units. Of those, LeClair said, 467 were determined to be compliant, a 77% rate of compliance.

Overall, LeClair concluded, total permits issued in Otter Tail County decreased between 15-20% since 2020, but still remain elevated compared to 2019 and 2020.

"I attribute this to all the stimulus money that people were getting from the federal government and I think that gave them money to do small little projects around their house," he said.

Commissioners also approved a public hearing on April 25 at 1 p.m. to hear possible changes to Otter Tail County's sanitation ordinance. The hearing will be held at the county government center.

Lead Multimedia Reporter for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and the Perham Focus.
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