County Contract for Emergency Care at Virginia Family Resource Expires June 30

Thursday, May 13, 2021

The Virginia Family Resource Center serving the Iron Range and northern St. Louis County will suspend emergency shelter services by the end of June after 40 years of operation, reflecting a shift in services to better care for children needing overnight, emergency shelter. The 10-bed shelter in Virginia is operated by Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota (LSS) with funding from St. Louis County. Other services based out of the Family Resource Center will continue with LSS staff, supporting families in northern St. Louis County to prevent the need for placements.

Over the past several years, the need for emergency shelter care in northern St. Louis County has decreased significantly. Reasons for the decrease include fewer children entering into out-of-home placements; increased use of relatives to provide emergency foster care; an increase in the high level behavioral health needs of some children that have surpassed what can be provided at the shelter; and the development of county-licensed emergency foster care homes which can provide emergency care for children in smaller family settings. 

Because of the very low utilization of the north shelter, St. Louis County’s current contract with LSS for emergency shelter care at this location will expire on June 30, 2021.

“We regularly review the census at the shelter and have numerous conversations with LSS about changing the way we work with families and, in turn, changing the way we utilize resources,” said Paula Stocke, Deputy Director of St. Louis County Public Health and Human Services. “LSS has provided a tremendous service to children and families in St. Louis County for many years, and we look forward to continuing to partner with them in new ways in the years to come.

“Transitioning to the use of foster care from shelter care is a better solution for kids,” Stocke added. “Being removed from a parent or familiar caregiver can be scary and painful for a child. It is better when we can place children in a family home setting rather than a facility setting. Likewise, we continue to work hard to identify relatives that may be of support because that is what is in the best interest of these children.

The north shelter is part of LSS’ Family Resource Center, which also serves as a safe place for supervised parent-child visits. LSS will continue to provide supervised visits, as well as Children’s Therapeutic Services and Supports (CTSS) at the site. LSS and the County are also in discussion about developing other resources for children and families.  In line with federal legislation included in the Families First Prevention Services Act, the county is looking to shift resources to develop other community resources to prevent out of home placements whenever possible and support more family foster care settings when placement is needed.

“We’ve appreciated the opportunity to support children and the community with emergency shelter services and have loved partnering with the county to provide these services,” said Dawn Shykes, senior director of LSS Children, Youth and Family Services. “While we’re disappointed to end this service, we knew it was coming. This was not a surprise.”

“We are excited for the potential to work more with families in the areas of prevention and early intervention support,” said Shykes. “We plan to expand our work providing supervised family visits. We’re also in the process of adding parent education and coaching. We really want to partner more closely with families to help support family resiliency and stability—and are working directly with the county to make that happen.”

St. Louis County will continue to contract with LSS for emergency shelter care in southern St. Louis County, given the daily census and difference in need and resources.  The south shelter could be used for emergency placements from the Virginia area should there be no relative or emergency foster care homes available. 

Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota began in 1865 when a Lutheran pastor and his congregation opened an orphanage for children near Red Wing in southeastern Minnesota. Today, with 2,500 employees and 10,000 volunteers, Lutheran Social Service helps one in 65 Minnesotans through services that inspire hope, change lives and build community. Statewide, the organization seeks to foster safe and supportive homes for children, restore health and wellness in families, empower people with disabilities to live the lives they imagine, and promote health, independence and quality of life for older adults. For comprehensive information about the work of LSS, visit