Butler County Children Services receives state award for excellence

Butler County Children Services won a $110,576 award from the state for excellence. GREG LYNCH/STAFF

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Butler County Children Services won a $110,576 award from the state for excellence. GREG LYNCH/STAFF

Butler County Children Services was awarded $110,576 in performance incentives from the state for excellence in the way it handles foster children and families — recognition fewer than half the counties received.

Ohio Department of Job and Family Services Director Matt Damschroder recently announced that 52 counties are receiving a total of $5 million in performance incentives for their children services efforts. It is part of a new program that rewards counties for meeting certain performance metrics.

“One of our top priorities is protecting Ohio’s most vulnerable, and the 52 counties being recognized have made great efforts toward making sure children are being properly taken care of and protected,” said Damschroder. “The work our children services agencies do to ensure Ohio’s youth have a safe, supportive, and welcoming place to call home is vital, and these incentives will help them do their job even better.”

The awards recognize children services agencies in two areas, conducting monthly visits with children and parents and the timeliness of assessments and investigations. In the category of monthly visits, 52 counties received $48,076 for either accomplishing at least 95% of their visits or increasing their performance by 10% over a six-month period. As far as investigations, Butler County was one of 40 counties to receive an additional $62,500 for achieving 95% or increasing their performance by 10% over a six-month period.

Children Services Director Shannon Glendon said the face-to-face monthly visits with families and timely investigation of abuse reports are “aligned with our core mission of child safety.”

“Eyes on kids and engaging families is a primary strategy to assure safety. The management team, caseworkers and really all levels of our organization work very hard to achieve these goals,” Glendon told the Journal-News. “We do have several tools that help us, which is our quality assurance department and our evaluation process, however it really is the commitment and hard work of the entire staff that allows us to perform and achieve at this level.”

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Commissioner Cindy Carpenter recently expressed concern about the high turnover at the agency. Glendon said they currently have 30 vacancies on the 163-member staff. The agency has had an average of 328 children in custody this year. There are always chronic turnover issues in the child welfare system, it is nothing new to the county. These jobs are very tough and Glendon said “people leave this profession for a variety of reasons.”

“We do continue to hire and onboard new staff we just need to continue to look at our processes, make sure our staff are well equipped to do this job,” Glendon said. “The staff that are here just continue to be mission-focused and work very hard to protect children and families.”

There are often batches of people hired at a time for openings and Job and Family Services Executive Director Julie Gilbert told the Journal-News they hire staff in groups for training purposes. She said despite the staffing issues they still make sure the monthly meetings and prompt investigations are done and she wasn’t at all surprised they received the state recognition.

“If you do nothing else you see your kids,” Gilbert said. “We are still able to meet these important mandates and performance measures but it takes a lot of work. We really appreciate our staff for stepping up and continuing in their efforts to ensure kids are seen and that they are safe.”

The BCCS agency has had its share of strife, weathering an extremely divisive social worker strike in 2014 among other issues. Carpenter said she is very proud of everything the agency does and the state award was well deserved.

“I think it’s the culmination of years of hard work the agency has put in to build a system that supports families,” Carpenter said. “There’ve been layers and layers of reform over the past decade. We had a dark time when we had a strike at Children Services and from there we’ve gone to winning a state award, it says a lot about the administration that has worked so hard to make those changes.”

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