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Cyber care: Social Services to try new-age approach to child placement

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news Alexandria, 56308
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Placing children in foster care is a strategic process that affects personal lives. Douglas County commissioners accepted a grant from the Minnesota Department of Human Services that may help ease this undertaking.


Social Services Director Mike Woods introduced a web-based technology program called LexisNexis Accurint that allows a comprehensive search function to locate relatives of displaced children. LexisNexis makes it possible to identify and locate relatives to the third degree.

"Without [LexisNexis], finding relatives can be very difficult," Woods added.

Douglas County Social Services will be using the service during a nine-month trial basis, which is covered by a $1,044 Adoption and Foster Care Recruitment Grant. If the social services department sees an improvement in its goal to place children with relatives from using the LexisNexis tool during the trial period, it will look at extended use.

The service costs $116 a month. The grant amount was based on the number of children the agency had placed responsibly in 2010.

The state of Minnesota purchased licensing for LexisNexis and has allocated one to Douglas County through a sub-grant. The grant was initially awarded to the state and the state is empowered to award grants to Minnesota counties.

Because of the sensitive nature of the content, one person from the social services department will be given security access to use the program. Administrators can grant or remove permissions for this person but will not be able to access the program itself.

"It is frightening what we can look up on that software system," Woods said.

The LexisNexis system will not be run through the county computer server but accessed via the Web. Information obtained through the service is updated every quarter-hour. Woods said a number of security checkpoints are conducted and the program can only be used by a person with proper clearance for a specific purpose - finding a home for a child.

DeyCrystal Dey Crystal Dey is a staff reporter for the Echo Press. Originally from Minnesota's Iron Range, Dey worked for newspapers in North Dakota, Florida and Connecticut before returning to her home state to join the Echo Press in October 2011. Dey studied Mass Communications at Minnesota State University Moorhead with an emphasis in Online Journalism. Follow Staff Reporter Crystal Dey on Twitter at @CrystalDey_Echo.