Once again it is time for us to approach the community to support Franklin County Children Services’ state and federally mandated mission to ensure the safety, permanency and well-being of our community’s youth. Ohio is ranked the lowest in the nation for children services funding which places our youth in a vulnerable position. As such, our success as a public agency depends on the support of Franklin County taxpayers and we have worked diligently to be good stewards of the dollars entrusted to our agency.
During the past five years, we have faced significant challenges to the well-being of our children, our families and our community. The opiate epidemic and the increased trauma experienced by our youth have manifested themselves in increasingly complicated cases and situations that require more services than we provided in previous years. In response, Children Services has implemented many innovative initiatives to protect children, better engage families, build community partnerships, ensure permanency and improve outcomes for children while improving the overall efficiency of the organization.
Despite these efforts, more families are coming to our front door with multiple issues that may be impacted not only by substance abuse, but poverty, homelessness, mental illness, domestic violence and other societal stressors. These cases often require more resources to reduce risk and stay open longer in our system, which strains caseworkers with already high workloads. Our agency has been involved in several initiatives and engaged in partnerships that moving forward will enhance our work with families struggling with these challenges.
Another major focus area has been ensuring family-like settings for all children, particularly our teens. We have older youth who come to the attention of our agency primarily because of behavioral issues, in addition to abuse and neglect. As a result, many of these youth have been removed from their homes, often at the caregiver’s request, and placed in group (congregate) care. Research shows that these youth experience less stability and more negative outcomes than those placed in family settings, like kinship or foster care. To address this, we have been working diligently with community providers, the courts and other partners to enhance our prevention efforts and develop better options and resources for our teens.
In addition to our innumerable partners, FCCS is fortunate to have highly qualified professional and support staff that are committed to fulfilling our mandate. It’s a difficult job. That is why we have been working to strengthen our workforce. These efforts have included increasing staff mobility via technology, improving retention and worker support programs and improving our orientation and training offerings. With the challenges facing us today and in the future, empowering FCCS staff to do their best work for Franklin County’s children and families is imperative. More information about these and other initiatives will be presented in this levy book.
Through partnerships with the community FCCS will continue to explore areas of best practice in child protection. To help guide this work, we will be following our newly developed strategic plan that sets goals for the agency for the next five years. These goals help align our mission and guiding principles with our daily practice.
As you know, all of our efforts and success as an agency depend on continued community support. Approximately 67 percent of the dollars that support our efforts each year come from two local property tax levies, one of which expires at the end of 2019. After review by the Franklin County Human Services Levy Review Committee, the Franklin County Commissioners have agreed to place a 3.1 mill renewal levy on the November 2019 ballot. This levy will be critical to our success in providing vital services to children and families because without its passage the agency will lose nearly $84 million – more than 42 percent of our income.
Therefore, on behalf of our dedicated child welfare professionals, our community foster parents, adoptive and kinship families, our volunteers and mentors, our child-serving partner agencies, and most importantly, the children and families we serve, I am pleased to present this 2019 Franklin County Children Services levy book.
Chip M. Spinning