New state budget hurts child welfare efforts
By Patty Harrelson, MSSA, LISW-S
The State of Ohio, already last in the United States for funding child protection, is about to take another step back.
County children services agencies, including Richland County Children Services, will lose $17 million over the next two years after the state’s elimination of reimbursements for tangible personal property-tax revenue. This new loss is in addition to the $53.5 million child welfare agencies have lost since 2009.
Locally, RCCS received $684,373 in state TPP reimbursements in 2007. That was reduced by 46 percent by the end of 2014, down to $371,382 and is expected to decline to $143,188 in 2018.
Child-welfare advocates had asked lawmakers to boost state aid by $20 million a year to make up for years of reductions. The House-passed budget included an additional $600,000, but the Senate plan wiped that out.
While no one is accusing state leaders of balancing the budget on the backs of children and families in need, lawmakers are certainly making it tougher on local governments and local taxpayers to fund services necessary to protect our most vulnerable population.
The state decision comes at a time when Ohio’s “rainy day” fund will be about $1.9 billion. While no one disputes the need to maintain a cash balance for times of emergency, we would argue it’s raining hard right now on the state’s children and families in need.
Richland County Children Services is blessed to have two local 1-mill property tax levies on the books. Those two levies combined to generate about $3 million in 2014. The agency also received $5.8 million in federal funds, a good portion of which was drawn down with the local tax dollars. Those federal funds are not guaranteed going forward as Congress continues to debate the future of child welfare reform.
But not all counties have that kind of support from local taxpayers. There is no local child welfare levy in 42 of Ohio’s 88 counties, including Ashland, Morrow and Huron counties. Those counties rely heavily upon already strapped general fund budgets.
RCCS received $528,851 from state government in 2014 – less than 6 percent of the agency’s total revenue. Around Ohio, state government provided 9 percent of total funding for child welfare. The national average is 43 percent. So it is clear child welfare agencies are not making unreasonable requests from lawmakers and Gov. John Kasich.
These new reductions across the state come at a difficult time as the growing need for child/family services, fueled in part by Ohio’s growing opiate crisis, make it more difficult for caseworkers to find ways to keep children safe at home or to find safe, stable and permanent homes for kids.
Unbelievably, a spokesman for the majority Senate Republicans, said he was not familiar with the loss of TPP tax revenue. John Fortney told the Columbus Dispatch the Senate budget plan reduced state aid for child-protective services to the same level proposed by Gov. Kasich, who signed the budget into law on the final day of June.
“We’re just now hearing about the $17 million loss from the tangible personal property tax and want to hear more about that because it would be a concern,” Fortney told the Dispatch.
We suspect Mr. Fortney and his colleagues will hear a great deal about it going forward.
Child welfare agencies are grateful for lawmakers who helped to push for the needed additional funds, including Sen. Larry Obhof, whose district includes Richland, Ashland, Holmes and Medina counties; and Sen. David Burke, whose district includes Crawford, Marion, Morrow, Sandusky, Seneca, Union and Wyandot counties.
We hope those lawmakers and others will continue to work on a new vision for child protection, work with child welfare professionals to improve outcomes, and find ways to adequately fund the state’s child protection system.
(Patty Harrelson is the executive director for Richland County Children Services.)
RCCS launches busy summer public events schedule
The first Mansfield Children's Festival and the annual Miss Ohio Parade on June 13-14 officially launched a busy summer events season for Richland County Children Services.
The agency will participate in many events in the next several weeks, including the Ontario 4th of July Festival and parade, Shelby Bicycle Days Festival and Parade, the Richland County Fair and the Bellville Street Fair.
"Our agency gets such great support from the people and communities in Richland County," said Carl Hunnell, the agency's supervisor of public information and outreach. "Participating in community festivals, parades and events is one way we can show our gratitude for that support."
Here is a quick look at the agency's remaining summer events schedule:
June 20 -- Cruise-In, 1st Assembly of God Church
Message is clear: NEVER shake a child!
By Patty Harrelson, MSSA, LISW-S
The pinwheel, an uplifting and enduring symbol of childhood, is often the centerpiece of the Richland County Children Services public awareness campaign during National Child Abuse Prevention Month in April.
The agency usually plants one pinwheel into the ground for each investigation into alleged child abuse and neglect the agency investigated the year before. For the last few years, this display has been on the front lawn of the Mansfield Area YMCA. In 2014, we investigated or assessed 2,118 cases of alleged maltreatment or families needing services.
You won’t see the pinwheels this year. This year, we are doing something different.
We are using our annual funds from the Ohio Children’s Trust Fund to provide public education crucial to preventing child abuse.
The four, one-syllable words of this educational campaign impart a tremendously important message:
Never shake a child.
You will hear these words in our messages on local radio, TV and newspapers for Child Abuse Prevention Month. Our banners in front of the YMCA this month carry the message. We will use our agency Web site and Facebook page to deliver these messages, as well.
Never shake a child.
Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) a form of abusive head trauma (AHT) and inflicted traumatic brain injury (ITBI) is a completely preventable and severe form of physical child abuse. It results from violently shaking an infant by the shoulders, arms, or legs. In fact, children as old as four can be so severely shaken that it results in death or serious injury.
SBS may result from both shaking alone or from impact (with or without shaking). The resulting whiplash effect can cause bleeding within the brain or the eyes.
Nearly all victims of SBS suffer serious health consequences, including deafness, blindness and/or brain damage. At least one of every four babies who are violently shaken dies from this form of child abuse. Even those children who often do not appear to have initial serious injuries often have poor health and life outcomes. This is not just a criminal issue. It's a public health one.
We have already seen at least three instances of alleged SBS in Richland County this year, one of which resulted in the child’s death. That’s three too many.
So we believe this is a perfect opportunity to focus on this one crucial aspect of child abuse, rather than the usual pinwheel display.
Often, SBS occurs when a parent or caregiver becomes frustrated over a baby’s crying. The fact is all babies cry. Some cry more than others. But when this frustration builds, it’s time to step back, try to relax, take a break, phone a friend or relative, or call us at 419-774-4100 at any time of the day or night.
Most adults who admit to shaking a baby say they became frustrated and upset when the baby would not stop crying In addition to frustration, other contributors include stressful life events such as: becoming a new parent, financial strain and difficulty in work or family relationships.
While devastating, most people who shake a baby or young child do not intend to hurt or kill the child. They do not realize that their actions could cause harm.
It’s ok to punch a pillow. It’s ok to slam a door. Consider taking a break, reading a book, taking a walk or getting someone to relieve you, if only for a few moments.
Never shake a child.
We are not sure what the future holds for the pinwheels in this community. Many of my fellow county directors have also stopped recounting actual cases in this annual event and put these funds directly toward primary prevention. We generally do not receive funding for these types of activities and our work is; by law, largely directed at post incident responses.
So, this year at least; I am opting for primary prevention and a direct and clear message on this serious issue. The pinwheels do provide a powerful message to our community. However, we believe our message this year is more powerful and may help save the life of a child.
Never shake a child.
(Patty Harrelson is the executive director of Richland County Children Services.)
Family engagement aim of Richland County Children Services pilot program
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.)
Richland County Children Services has an opening for a caseworker.
8/4/2015 - 6:00pm
Foster parent training -- Childhood trauma and its effects
8/6/2015 - 6:00pm
Foster parent training -- Child sexual abuse
8/8/2015 - 9:00am