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Family engagement aim of Richland County Children Services pilot program

March 2015

Child welfare is moving more and more toward family engagement.

With that in mind, Richland County Children Services is part of a pilot program seeking to identify families who have successfully completed case plans with the agency and partner them with families who are struggling.

The local program — a spin-off of the national Primary Parent Partner Program — is called HOPE, short for Helping Ohio Parent Effectively. Richland, Cuyahoga and Trumbull counties are the three taking part in the state initiative.

“We’re kind of the guinea pigs in this,” said Tim Harless, program director of external affairs at Children Services.

Harless said the three counties will share their experiences. He would like to see the program expand to all 88 counties.

With families who are struggling, Children Services hosts team meetings

“We ask families to bring support people with them, but we struggle with getting them to do that,” Harless said.

Harless said he is hopeful the families will bring their mentors from the HOPE program.

The program director of external affairs also plans to use the new initiative as a training program for staff, a chance for employees to listen to feedback.

So far, six families have expressed interest in being mentors. They will receive small stipends, such as Wal-Mart gift cards or gas vouchers.

Prospective families and community providers will undergo three days of training early next month.

Harless said families who are struggling with their case plans might be more receptive to working with mentors rather than agency employees.

Children Services has property on Fourth Street that will serve as an additional space for the agency to conduct family team meetings. Some family team meetings will be held at the agency as well.

The local initiative is made possible through a grant. The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services is the lead agency. Casey Family Programs and the Public Children Services Association of Ohio are part of the leadership team to give guidance to the three pilot counties.

(The above story was written by Mansfield News Journal reporter Mark Caudill and published recently in the newspaper and its online site.)

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Click here to visit the Richland County Children Services Facebook page.