EATON — Preble County Job and Family Services has reduced costs for Children Services placements by $171,000, according to director Becky Sorrell.
Sorrell gave her December 2017 report during the Preble County Commissioners’ meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 24.
She included numbers from the entire year, so the commission could see the total numbers from 2017. First, she focused on Children Services numbers and the spending required for placements.
There were 686 total intake reports received for Children Services in 2017, of which 297 screened out, 130 were information only, 84 were due to sexual abuse, and 72 were drug-related. There were a total of 11 adoptions completed in 2017.
There was a total of $1,614,662.57 spent in paid placements. Of that, only $199,609 went to local foster care, with $721,947.52 and $781,036.05 for network foster care and residential/group homes respectively.
“That is one of the things that is hard to explain to people, when they ask about the costs. Not to make light of it, but to try and put it in perspective for them, you look at the percentage that you’re serving versus the cost of those individuals, it is hard to explain to people to make them understand the cost of those individuals,” Commission President Chris Day said.
“One of the things that frustrates me is that we do put in a lot of worker time into working with these families and these children and the highest dollar kids that we have are in residential care. Generally those kids have mental health issues, on probation, or both. Then, we spend all this time, money, and effort with those goal to help them, and then they are on the jail roster when they turn 18,” Sorrell said.
“When talking to the public, the first thing they talk about is the jail cost and drugs, but it starts here. This is an escalating thing and if we could solve that. We probably spend 80 percent of our dollars county wide on five percent of the population,” Day said.
Sorrell pointed out that in December they had 12 kids in residential/group homes, which ended up costing $75,210.48, while in network foster care 25 kids cost $56,158.66.
“If you just compare the cost for those different placements, and we know that, we know that it is a problem,” she said. “We try to set kids down as quickly as we can and we have implemented several things to try and reduce the number of kids going to group homes, but if you look at the full year you can see that we are at an average of 12-14 kids in residential care and almost all of those kids are on probation, so they are committing crimes also.
“These numbers are what we paid total. We did spend about $171,000 less this year than last year. It’s a little more than a months worth of placement. I attribute that to a great working relationship with the court. We had lot of kids that we thought we’re going into residential care, but we were able to sit down with the family and probation officer to talk about other things we can do first,” Sorrell said.
“One of the most frustrating things is if your child has a mental health issue and you have been getting them treatment, but the only thing left is residential care, there is no way for any of us to pay for that,” she continued. “That is $400 a day. None of us can afford that and our insurance doesn’t cover it. I can think of two kids off the top of my head two kids that are in our custody who this is the case for.
“That is not okay. If your kid has cancer it would also be expensive, but the insurance would cover it. It also sets up a feeling of less responsibility for the parents who are run down and also have other kids. Plus, once we have a kid 12 out of 24 months we have to start talking about permanency. Then the parent loses their rights and they didn’t do anything wrong to start with.”
“Well, we’re not supporting the parent,” Day said.
Commissioner Denise Robertson added, “It is not necessarily the right place for the kid. The kid could be home or at least working on that connection.”
“We also have nothing close by, so that puts a barrier for the parent to work with. If I had to take off every week or two weeks to drive to the other side of Columbus to see my child, of course I would do it, but you all would be frustrated with me. Plus, I have a lot of vacation time, many people don’t have that and they are not working with jobs who would allow them that type of freedom,” Sorrell said.
In other JFS news, the Salvation Army Christmas donations were up this year. According to Sorrell, Job and Family Services has been helping with collecting donations during the holiday season for years. Before they started doing the red kettles, there was less than $2,000 being donated. Since JFS started donating their time and seeking volunteers, the donations have raised to $17,000 collected this year. Those funds are used for medical expenses not covered by Medicaid or insurance.
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH