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In Response: Mesabi Academy staff treated unfairly by media reports

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"2524540","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","height":"120","title":"Paul Jacobson","width":"87"}}]]Recent news reports have called into question the quality and safety of programming at...


Recent news reports have called into question the quality and safety of programming at KidsPeace Mesabi Academy in Buhl. This includes a Minnesota Public Radio report published in Tuesday’s News Tribune, headlined, “Ramsey Co. to pull youths from Mesabi Academy.”As the program’s executive director, I want to address the unfair characterizations of our facility and staff.Allegations of abuse, misconduct and concealment of issues from authorities are serious. They go to the heart of our program’s primary focus, which is providing a safe environment for the youth placed in our care. Recent news stories were based on unfounded allegations from former staff members and officials opposed to our type of residential treatment for juveniles in need. The stories offered a distorted view of our program’s purpose. More importantly, they cast an undeserved negative light on the work our staff does to help kids in our care.Let me be clear: Any allegation that we at Mesabi Academy tolerate the mistreatment of youth and conceal it from the appropriate authorities is not true. Safety is the cornerstone of the 80 hours of intensive training each of our direct care staff undergoes before their first assigned shift. Every new employee is instructed that they have an obligation to report immediately any violation or incident they witness. They are taught that they have no greater responsibility than to keep our kids safe and well.Amid the media reports are facts for readers to keep in mind.In response to MPR’s request, St. Louis County provided a summary of 20 investigations into allegations of abuse and misconduct at Mesabi Academy in 2015; in none of those cases were there findings of maltreatment of youth in our care - not one.In January, St. Louis County renewed our contract while the Minnesota Department of Corrections renewed our license. As a result, we remain fully licensed and continue to admit youth from our valued customers.We have been rated in the top 7 percent in the nation in a Corrections Program Checklist audit, which has been completed by Hennepin County and Ramsey County for several years. As a manager, I’m very proud of how our staff has reacted to these media reports over the past several weeks. It can be discouraging to have your commitment to caring questioned in such an unfair manner, but our staff recognizes the kids come first and we have to continue to provide the quality care and treatment they deserve, no matter how many uninformed statements are aired by MPR and the like. Working with troubled youth is not an easy job, and the field is not for everyone. But those who take on this challenge are helping to ease these kids’ suffering and give them a chance to create successful lives. I’m proud of our team at Mesabi Academy, and I think their contributions should be celebrated, rather than misrepresented, in the media and dismissed by those who should know better. Paul Jacobson grew up on the Iron Range, moved back to the Iron Range after eight years in the Twin Cities, began working at KidsPeace Mesabi Academy in Buhl as a child care counselor, and is now executive director of the program.
Recent news reports have called into question the quality and safety of programming at KidsPeace Mesabi Academy in Buhl. This includes a Minnesota Public Radio report published in Tuesday’s News Tribune, headlined, “Ramsey Co. to pull youths from Mesabi Academy.”As the program’s executive director, I want to address the unfair characterizations of our facility and staff.Allegations of abuse, misconduct and concealment of issues from authorities are serious. They go to the heart of our program’s primary focus, which is providing a safe environment for the youth placed in our care. Recent news stories were based on unfounded allegations from former staff members and officials opposed to our type of residential treatment for juveniles in need. The stories offered a distorted view of our program’s purpose. More importantly, they cast an undeserved negative light on the work our staff does to help kids in our care.Let me be clear: Any allegation that we at Mesabi Academy tolerate the mistreatment of youth and conceal it from the appropriate authorities is not true. Safety is the cornerstone of the 80 hours of intensive training each of our direct care staff undergoes before their first assigned shift. Every new employee is instructed that they have an obligation to report immediately any violation or incident they witness. They are taught that they have no greater responsibility than to keep our kids safe and well.Amid the media reports are facts for readers to keep in mind.In response to MPR’s request, St. Louis County provided a summary of 20 investigations into allegations of abuse and misconduct at Mesabi Academy in 2015; in none of those cases were there findings of maltreatment of youth in our care - not one.In January, St. Louis County renewed our contract while the Minnesota Department of Corrections renewed our license. As a result, we remain fully licensed and continue to admit youth from our valued customers.We have been rated in the top 7 percent in the nation in a Corrections Program Checklist audit, which has been completed by Hennepin County and Ramsey County for several years. As a manager, I’m very proud of how our staff has reacted to these media reports over the past several weeks. It can be discouraging to have your commitment to caring questioned in such an unfair manner, but our staff recognizes the kids come first and we have to continue to provide the quality care and treatment they deserve, no matter how many uninformed statements are aired by MPR and the like. Working with troubled youth is not an easy job, and the field is not for everyone. But those who take on this challenge are helping to ease these kids’ suffering and give them a chance to create successful lives. I’m proud of our team at Mesabi Academy, and I think their contributions should be celebrated, rather than misrepresented, in the media and dismissed by those who should know better.Paul Jacobson grew up on the Iron Range, moved back to the Iron Range after eight years in the Twin Cities, began working at KidsPeace Mesabi Academy in Buhl as a child care counselor, and is now executive director of the program.

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