He said one way to make things better may be to investigate paying or contributing toward day care costs so more family members might be able to accept relatives, rather than taking the foster route.
Kearns told the Butler County commissioners on Thursday that he has set a 120-day deadline to implement change. The first step has already begun with staff meetings focused on finding ways to reduce the number of children in custody. The next step is to reach out to the community.
Children Services has come under fire on a number of occasions over the past decade: BCCS was found faultless in the events that led to 3-year-old Marcus Fiesel’s death in 2006; a Middletown couple who locked their 12-year-old daughter in the basement for a month; and most recently, the fight between Commissioner Cindy Carpenter and Prosecutor Mike Gmoser.
Gmoser threatened Carpenter with possible legal action for meddling in Children Services business when she told Kearns to fire his top managers. As a member of the commission board, she can’t operate individually, Gmoser contended.
Carpenter inserted herself into the agency while trying to help a pregnant woman who had been living under the High Street Bridge. She said the agency is fractured and failed the young woman.
An ombudsman who investigates complaints about Children’s Services, William Morrison, said during a commissioners meeting late last year that the case in question was handled poorly.
“I think the average case in Butler County is still handled poorly,” he said.
However, when Children Services took the formerly homeless mother’s newborn from her care, retired Judge Tom Lipps, who is handling the case, said Children Services was justified in taking the baby.
Kearns said there are two sides to every story and the goal now is to not just react to complaints but implement systemic change at the agency.