Burt takes helm at KidsPeace

WORTHINGTON -- Three weeks into her position as director of KidsPeace Prairie Academy in Worthington, Nancy Earhart Burt is still learning the corrections lingo.

WORTHINGTON -- Three weeks into her position as director of KidsPeace Prairie Academy in Worthington, Nancy Earhart Burt is still learning the corrections lingo.

With a master's degree in counseling and experience as a teacher and counselor in school districts in the Midwest, Burt brings a wealth of experience to the job. Most recently, she led a GED prep program at an alternative high school in Sioux Falls, S.D., and before that, operated a sexual assault center in northern Minnesota.

A native of Pipestone, Burt returned to the region six and a half years ago. She began her duties at KidsPeace in mid-January, taking over for an interim director who had been in place since last November.

"One of my visions is to make sure this is a regional facility," Burt said.

KidsPeace, which serves the 14-county area of southwest Minnesota, is a residential treatment program for youths ages 12 to 18. Individuals are ordered to KidsPeace through county social service departments -- mostly if they are frequent runaways or their parents can't handle them, or as a result of a court order or on recommendation from a parole officer.


KidsPeace offers several different kinds of programming, from long-term residential treatment that lasts anywhere from six to nine months, to short-term residential treatment; detention and a non-secure program, which acts as a shelter for kids who need a safe place to go. The facility also provides diagnostic services, in which a youth is observed in the facility's controlled environment for a period of 30 to 45 days to develop an understanding of why the individual is acting out.

"We take a 360-degree look at the situation and what our options are," Burt said.

With a capacity of 24 residents, Burt said the facility has just 11 youths on site at this time. Her hope is to boost numbers by encouraging neighboring counties to utilize the academy.

"We can't be all things to all people," she explained. "For instance, we can't operate a chemical dependency unit, but hopefully, we can meet the needs (for most youths) and kind of take the program to the next level.

"We've got a good, solid program. We are a regional system, we need to get the kids from the region, and if they're not coming here, we need to find out why."

Among her ideas to boost programming at KidsPeace are to offer a narcotics anonymous program onsite rather than take academy residents to group meetings outside the facility.

"We do a lot of drug (and alcohol) education, because we know a lot of these kids have issues," Burt said.

Her plans for the facility include putting a greater emphasis on education and goal setting for those attending KidsPeace. The facility is staffed with certified instructors who provide residents with basic school courses from math to science, English, health and P.E., history and social studies.


"I think these are good kids that have made some bad decisions," Burt said. "Our goal is to help them get turned around. A lot of these kids are 18. What are they going to do when they leave here? We're setting them up for failure if they have no job or no skills."

In an effort to provide youths with extra guidance once they leave the academy, Burt said KidsPeace is in the process of finding someone to lead an aftercare program that can provide follow-up assistance for participants. Overall, however, programming at the local KidsPeace academy is already considered a success.

Recidivism rates at Worthington's facility stand at 0 percent, compared to a rate of 16 percent at Prairie Academy's Mesabi site over the last six months and a national average of 76 percent.

Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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