CNCounty News

Minnesota county teams up with non-profits, others to strengthen families

Family Resource Center staff and volunteers engage children while parents utilize resource navigation services. Photo courtesy of Suzanne Arntson

Scott County, Minn.’s Family Resource Centers offer a wide range of services and support, including housing assistance, mental health help and cultural programming, to foster a sense of community and reduce stress on county residents.

The centers’ programming functions through the Strengthening Families 5 Protective Factors framework of: Parental resilience, social connections, support in times of need, knowledge of parenting and child development and social and emotional competence of children. 

“We really want people to see our family resource centers as a place that welcomes everybody,” said Suzanne Arntson, deputy director of Scott County Health and Human Services. 

“That could be professionals who maybe just lost their job and need some support or individuals who have been struggling for a while or are in crisis,” she said.

“ … For us, it’s really a priority of, ‘How do we serve families in the best way so that when they come into our Family Resource Center, they feel comfortable and have someone who understands them?’” she said.

The Family Resource Centers’ services and support are made possible through more than two dozen public, private, nonprofit and faith-based partnerships in the community, including culturally specific organizations, such as Mi C.A.S.A. and CAP for the county’s Hispanic community and Isuroon and Community Resource Centers for its Somalian population. 

Parenting education and skills are also offered.

The centers offer peer recovery through Minnesota Prevention and Recovery Alliance and NAMI Minnesota for family members struggling with substance use disorder and mental health, respectively, as well as support groups for fathers and restorative circles for the county’s East African and Latinx communities. 

“It’s about, ‘How do we increase access to resources and support for families?’ But it is equally about, ‘How do we build community?’” Arntson said. 

“The circles are one way of trying to build community, so if I’m a single mom with limited resources, I can meet other parents to know that I’m not alone in my parenting, and I’m also being able to see other moms who look like me and potentially forge relationships, so that it becomes part of an informal sort of support network that you can build.”

There are three centers across the county – one is in a county library, another is in the Jordan Area Food Shelf and the third is a freestanding building in Shakopee, Minn., co-located with transit to accommodate more robust programming as the number of people the centers service increases, according to Arntson. 

A parent advisory council, made up of Scott County parents with “lived expertise” in certain services and supports the sites offer, meets monthly and determines the types of programming that would best benefit the community.

The county’s Together WE CAN, a community-driven initiative focused on ending child abuse and neglect, also recently launched an initiative called “100 Cups of Coffee,” to collect feedback from 100 other residents in the community — those utilizing the Family Resource Centers themselves and people receiving other services from the county’s nonprofit partners — to get input on any additional resources that are needed and should be prioritized. 

“Services need to be driven by our community and the only way for us to know and understand what the needs are, what the gaps are, is to hear from those voices,” Arntson said. 

“So, we are working to be more thoughtful and more intentional about the different opportunities and places where we can solicit input … so that as we continue to grow and change we are meeting the needs of the community,” she said.

Since the county launched its Family Resource Center model in 2021, child protection assessments and investigations of out of home placements have seen a reduction, according to Arntson. 

“We’re seeing some positive trends,” Arntson said. 

“…So, we’ve been able to impact that in such a way that we are actually working to redirect some out of home placement dollars to support the sustainability piece of Family Resource Centers.” 


Scott County’s Family Resource Centers earned a 2023 Achievement Award in the Human Services category.

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