JFS director: PC averaging less children in paid placement at lower cost


Editor:

Preble County Children Services primary focus is preventing children from being removed from their home and placed in alternate placements. When safety concerns require the agency to request the court to place a child in the custody of children services, a search is made for appropriate friends or family members to care for the child. When that is not available, we then begin to search for the least restrictive placement that is available for the child. While the child is out of the home, a case plan is written that is designed to identify services and activities that will assist the family in preparing for the reunification of the child into their home.

In 2016, Preble County had an average of 65 youth in paid placement at a cost of $1,786,236.

In 2017, there was an average of 58 youth in paid placement at a cost of 1,614,662.

We currently are averaging 56 youth in paid placement for 2018 and have spent $709,964.

We are averaging less children in paid placement at a lower cost than we have had in the last two years. There are many factors that determine the amount of local money that is needed to help support the placement of children in out of home placement. Most of our children are eligible for federal reimbursement of 62.78 percent of the cost of care, but not all meet the requirements. Federal reimbursement is the biggest source of assistance in offsetting the cost locally. The state of Ohio provides a small amount of funding to assist in covering costs of children services work. Local funds are necessary to cover the remaining costs. In 2018, levy dollars are expected to pay $740,326 toward child placement costs. The levy does not cover any other expenses of the work done at the children services agency.

Children services works closely with other service providers to assist in stabilizing families and children so that removal never has to occur. We support the SAFE program that puts intensive case management in the home and provides family preservation and stabilization. We support the Success team that has a social service worker in every school district in the county to identify at-risk children and begin providing services before children services intervenes. We contract with a private provider to have a social worker work in the home with the family to help identify concerns and work to alleviate them. Some children have behavioral or mental health needs that cannot be met in the home or in a foster home. Those children require more intensive residential treatment or group home placement. In 2018, a total of 22 children have been placed in these more restrictive settings. The costs for these children are much higher, averaging $86,418 per month in 2018. During the same period, foster placement costs have averaged $45,112 per month for an average of 38 children per month.

Barriers to returning children home include drug use; primarily methamphetamine and heroin, and child or parent mental health concerns that are not well controlled. The agency, along with other community partners, continue to seek out programs and methods of assisting families who are suffering from addiction and mental health concerns. Every family is different and requires different techniques and time frames to reach success.

Every family and every situation is unique. Child safety and family stabilization are the core values of the staff. Local foster homes willing to work with teens would be a benefit to the county and the teens who come into custody. We often have homes who are willing to work with youth under 10 years old, while finding family foster placement for teenagers can be a real challenge.

Anyone interested in becoming a foster parent for Preble County, please contact the agency at 937-456-1135.

Rebecca Sorrell

Director, Preble County Job & Family Services