Commissioners discuss child placement costs

By Kelsey Kimbler -

EATON — According to Job and Family Services Director Becky Sorrell, Preble County’s child placement costs are not much higher than other counties.

During a Preble County Commissioners meeting on Monday, Aug. 6, Sorrell addressed recent comments regarding placement costs and ways to reduce them.

The commissioners had asked Sorrell to get in contact with like-sized municipalities to see what they were doing to reduce child placement costs. She presented her findings to the board on Monday.

“In 2016, Darke County had 59 children in custody at some point during the year and they spent $1.2 million. Their local dollars were $813,000. Preble County, at that same time period, shows 178 children in custody and we spent $1.6 million, $873,000 of our local dollars,” Sorrell said.

“A child in custody is not necessarily in a paid placement. You’ll see, as you read through that report, that many judges do not place children in the custody of Children Services if they go to a relative’s home. They are instead placed in the relative’s custody.

“I report to you every month how many children are in kinship placement. There is no cost for those kinship kids. When they transfer custody to the relative, they don’t necessarily not have an open case. It would take up caseworker’s time. That is completely a judge’s decision.”

“Technically we are one of the highest [total placement costs] on the page, but there are a couple up there with us,” Commissioner Rodney Creech said.

“While you’re looking at that, be sure to read, some of them said this report is not accurate in terms of their whole records,” Sorrell said. “We are actually not spending more money [on placements]. In 2016, we had 65 kids in paid placement at $1.7 million, in 2017, we had 58 in paid placement on average at $1.6 million, and currently we have 56 on average at $709,000. We may be $200,000 less than least year, so we are actually on a downward trend.”

She added, since the question of reducing costs had been broached, she asked her workers to send home every child they could or place the child in a lower-cost placement. This has “put extra pressure” on her staff and upset outside agencies. There have been 14 or 15 children who have been sent home or put in a less restrictive placement.

In other business, commissioners discussed a recent kennel improvement request with Dog Warden Lee Richardson. After touring the facility at a previous commission meeting, the board decided to renovate, rather than replace, the existing cages.

“When I walked in, I thought the kennels were in very good shape. Now, do they need some work? Yes. Do they need replaced? No. I think it would be great to have brand new kennels, but I don’t think we need to spend $15,000 to $20,000. We can spend $2,000 to $5,000 or less to have them repaired,” Commissioner Creech said.

“I was expecting a lot worse when I walked in,” he added. “There were some cages that were more damaged then others. Can we manage that? Let’s put the smaller dogs in the cages that are more damaged. It is a management thing.”

Commissioner Chris Day asked what other concerns Richardson had. Richardson said overly aggressive dogs can easily pop the lock on the doors. He would like a better lock for the cages.

The Preble County Board of Commissioners meets every Monday and Wednesday at 9 a.m. at the Preble County Courthouse.

By Kelsey Kimbler

Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH

Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH