Changes coming to Butler County Job and Family Services

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Bill Morrison talks about new reorganization plan for JFS.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

The Butler County Job and Family Services operation is about to be overhauled to improve service and outcomes for clients.

Interim JFS Executive Director Bill Morrison says the agency is in the process of being reorganized so clients will deal with fewer people and get more personalized service.

“This is a first step not a finish line,” Morrison said. “I think it creates some foundation for us moving forward that will improve our processes, speed things up quite a bit and allow for relationships to develop between the case workers and clients.”

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For the past several years the agency has used a “super case bank” model where all the cases come in to one central point and different caseworkers — as many as 14 different people — can be involved in one case, depending on what type of work is needed. Morrison said the end result has been clients almost never deal with the same staffer twice.

“I don’t know that that was intentional but that was the effect of it,” he said. “Which does not allow for us to develop any kind of relationship with people that’s necessary to move them from welfare to work.”

Butler County has a very aggressive food stamp fraud detection program and the new model will also further that effort. The number of recipients on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — commonly referred to as food stamps — has been shrinking since the county began targeting and arresting offenders.

A special unit, comprised of three sheriff’s deputies and Job and Family Services staff, have disqualified 1,030 former recipients due to fraud, saved nearly $33 million of taxpayer money and made 432 arrests since its inception in July 2012.

“One of the best measures we can take to prevent people from committing fraud is to make it look difficult to do so,” Morrison said adding under the new system. “We know who we’re talking to, we know who lives in your home, we get to know you over time. Having a process that never allows us to know even for sure who we’re talking to on the phone doesn’t work very well.”

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A key component of the plan is cross training. Administrator Shannon Glendon said instead of people just sticking to their specialties, like food stamp or Medicaid eligibility, staff will learn how to handle all aspects.

“In our consumer engagement teams staff will be cross trained in all program areas,” Glendon said. “So rather than being trained in one specific task, we’re going to build core knowledge so they can manage all components of a case.”

Likewise, under the old model call takers — there are nine — only took calls, people responsible for scanning in documents that are required for application approval — there are seven — only scanned. Workers will still have their main responsibilities but will also be able to help out in other areas.

Morrison said they know they usually get inundated with calls from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. so they can pull scanners in to help answer phones. The front desk people can now also accept and scan documents so cases can move along more quickly.

In November 2011 JFS lost 50 workers — 44 were laid off and six resigned in the face of the layoffs — to make up a $3 million shortfall in the agency caused by state and federal cuts. But there was also a burgeoning need for social services. Morrison called it the “perfect storm” and that was when the state recommended the “super case bank” model.

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Morrison said the new model will not require adding to the staff of 114. He said under the old model, since no one has “institutional knowledge” of any one case it takes more time for a case worker to get up to speed when changes are needed in a case, which takes more time.

“You still have the whole constellation of activities and we haven’t added any activities,” he said. “We’ve just reorganized how those activities are done.”

Ami Faig, the quality assurance administrator for JFS, said they have already implemented some aspects of the overhaul such as having a document management specialist at the front desk — something their clients have really appreciated — have already been implemented. She said they plan to launch the work flow changes June 1 and will do a reevaluation three months later.

Commissioner Cindy Carpenter said she is glad JFS is changing things up and going back to the way work flow was handled before the recession.

“I recall that in times past we had those kind of work flows,” she said. “We had a case worker you knew, they managed your case, they knew where you were and other things that were happening and directed you to the right services. So I think making that relationship will help. All of us are committed to moving a person toward independence.”

The Children Services side of the agency was reborn three years ago after then executive director Jerome Kearns declared it broken. Kearns died in December. The agency had a series of meetings with stakeholders in the community and introduced a new way of tackling the ever-growing number of children needing to be removed from their homes.

RELATED: Children Services director orders revamp

Under that plan a team looks at an incoming case and within 24 hours a decision is made as to whether it should go to the intervention unit, the permanency unit or the criminal investigation unit.

Under the old structure, families could be separated for a year-and-a-half — the state average is less than a year — because it was taking six months to investigate a claim and another month to create a case plan.

The wrap around program — which utilizes a team approach of addressing various needs a family has — provides that the social worker in charge of the case would have six months to work with the family. If the family fails to follow the services and directions given, the case moves on to another case worker for more intense attention before a decision is made to permanently remove a child.

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