Foster Care Agency Charles Hall Closes Residential Services Operations and Treatment Program Serving At-Risk Youth in North Dakota

UCC-related Charles Hall Youth and Family Services in Bismarck, N.D., was forced to close its Qualified Residential Treatment Program (QTRP) Oct. 24 due to major funding shortages in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although the residential program is closing, Gayla Sherman, executive director of programs & resource development, said Charles Hall will continue to operate with limited staff as the agency researches new programming opportunities. “Charitable support still is needed in the days ahead as the agency works to fulfills financial obligations to its almost 40 staff,” Sherman said. As of Oct 23, the agency had found new placement for all youth in care, including a return home to family for a female youth.

At the beginning of 2020, North Dakota had five QTRP agencies serving foster care children and families across the state. By March, only three remained. With Charles Hall closing its residential program, North Dakota now has only two QTRP facilities to serve foster care children and families struggling with major mental health and behavioral issues, as well as substance abuse issues and poverty.

QRTPs are a new level of treatment services for congregate foster care as part of the federal government’s Family First Prevention Services Act (2018). North Dakota is one of about a dozen states which moved forward with Family First implementation on Oct 1, 2019. Almost 40 states chose to take a two-year grace period to ready their states for the major legislation impacting child welfare. The two remaining QRTPs in North Dakota are Home on the Range (Catholic) and Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch (Lutheran). These agencies’ futures, too, are tenuous due to lack of state support and the current health pandemic.

“COVID-19 has made it impossible to continue at this time without state support. None has been provided, and all appeals have met with ‘no,’” said Sherman. “The state has been unforgiving and deaf to the agencies’ concerns, warnings, and applications for assistance.”

Since 1965, when it was founded as a mission of the United Church of Christ, Charles Hall Youth and Family Services has responded to the needs of more than 5,000 at-risk youth from across North Dakota. Its mission has been to assist at-risk youth in making a successful transition from troubled adolescence to mature adulthood through providing a nurturing and therapeutic environment where at-risk youth could realize hope and learn the life skills needed to build on their innate strengths. In 2019, the agency expanded its programming to include six months of aftercare for youth discharging from care along with their families or foster families.

The agency’s facilities have included three neighborhood-based group homes and administrative offices in south Bismarck. Hall Home was established in 1965, with the Good Bird Home following in the 1970s and Case Home in the 1980s. Namesakes included the Rev. Charles L. Hall (missionary), the Rev. Edward Good Bird (Hidatsa), and the Rev. Harold and Eva Case (missionaries).

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