Scioto County, Ohio Children Services has made changes to they hope improve their ability to protect kids. New director Jason Mantell appeared at Tuesday’s County Commissioners meeting along with Scioto County Job and Family Services Director Tammy Morton. The two discussed how their agencies had teamed up to help take care of county residents and save money.
The two previously announced plans to share employees where possible. At the meeting, they shared an example. Job and Family Services maintains a call line where people can report elder abuse. That phone line must be maintained 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. However, Morton said they don’t get many calls after normal business hours. “We looked at how many calls we received in non-business hours and it’s like two a month. We thought this would be a good place to start.”
Children Services keeps staff on call at all hours of the day. “We do not currently have any on-call employees but Children services does. His on-call staff can take the message and provide to JFS by 9 am the next morning. They aren’t doing any work, they are simply talking the call. That’s an example of things we’re finding that we can partner on. Paying someone for on-call status for a couple calls a month is not cost-effective. We’re excited about that, we’re getting ready to have the training.”
Mantell said, “Each evening we have one caseworker on call from 4:30 pm to 8 am and a supervisor on call. If it’s an emergency we pass it on to law enforcement.”
Mantell said that Morton’s expertise in screening and hiring employees has been invaluable as he seeks to rebuild his staff. “Tammy and I sitting down and having conversations. We communicate weekly.” The director said Morton is helping him screen candidates for a supervisor position at the agency. “Tammy’s extensive experience in HR is very helpful. We’re also filling some caseworker positions. Tammy and I have sat down and talked about candidates and hiring process. I come from 20 years of public education, not a lot of experience with the hiring process. There’s no additional coast to tax payers at all.”
Fully Staffed By Halloween
When asked if he had enough caseworkers, Mantell said that was a difficult question to answer. “Not as simple as yes or no. I just offered two new caseworker positions. I would never use budget as an excuse not to address appropriate care of children. We’re working as effectively as possible. I think we’re on the right track. The state recommends 15 cases per caseworker. We are not there. I don’t know if that’s reasonable for our area. We currently have 2 supervisors overseeing 3 departments. Our goal is to be fully staffed and ready to go by Halloween. As of our next board meeting, we should be as fully staffed as we can afford.”
Mantell said his agency worked hard to screen candidates. “I’m confident we’re going to get some really solid people in here.”
Mantell also answered questions about foster care in the county. There are currently 30 foster homes in Scioto County but there are 292 kids under the care of Children Services.
The Director said also updated commissioners on the status of background checks. Questions were raised about the process after Annabell Greene died in the care of her grandparents, both of whom had previous arrests for child endangerment. “From June 30 until right now, any individual who has come into the care of a child has either completed or scheduled a background check.”
Mantell explained that when a child is placed in kinship care, CPS does a quick background and home check up front. Then they schedule a thorough FBI or BCI background check.
Some questioned why family members who take in children receive less of a stipend that foster families. Tammy Morton explained that it’s because the grant for kinship care is different from the funding for foster families. “Jason and I do not determine who gets what and how much.” The current grant to pay for kinship care is $128,000.
Commissioner Bryan Davis said. “It is something a lot of kinship providers struggle with. Jobs and Family Services are bound to whatever the system sets up. They don’t set the terms. They don’t set the amount. I think they would up the amount for kinship if the money was there. We need legislation in Columbus to increase those funds. Our kinship providers are foster parents. They are doing the same jobs. This is something that needs to change. There needs to be more funding. That fight is in Columbus. Ohio lags behind in caring for children. I don’t know how many kids we have in kinship right now,but $128,000 doesn’t go very far.”
These aren’t the end of changes to Children Services, Scioto County, Ohio. The director acknowledged there’s still more work to be done.