ASHLAND COUNTY SALES TAX INITIATIVE FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

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1 ASHLAND COUNTY SALES TAX INITIATIVE FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS 1. How much revenue is the proposed sales tax initiative expected to generate? If passed, the projected amount of revenue the sales tax initiative is expected to generate is 1.2 million dollars. 2. If passed, how much money does this amount to for the individual? 25 cents for every $100 spent 3. What happens to the money that Children Services gets now? The money Children Services gets now will be used in part to restore the budget cuts that other county offices have experienced. If passed, the sales tax initiative is intended to replace most if not all of the financial support Children Services receives from the county general revenue fund. While it is impossible to predict with certainty the cost of placement of children removed from their homes, one of the goals of the sales tax initiative is to restore the budgets of county offices. 4. What if the tax is not enough? The agency will continue to work toward reducing costs and if the tax does not generate the amount of revenue expected or it is not adequate to cover the expenses, all possible options will be explored before returning to the voters. 5. What is Children Services doing to reduce costs? Children Services Administration has collapsed management of the agency through the elimination of the Assistant Director and Contract Evaluator/ Human Resources positions. Other existing positions have absorbed the work associated with these positions. The agency has worked hard to build relationships and strategies with a variety of county offices and local service providers that touch Children Services in an effort to reduce costs and become more efficient. This includes direct services to children and families working on case plans that require mental health, substance abuse, counseling and parenting classes. Improving communication and services between agencies in Ashland County will allow Children Services to move more quickly towards permanency for the child and family. This in turn may reduce the number of days children remain in custody or under the responsibility of the agency. It may also help the agency to provide services to at risk families before it becomes necessary to place children in custody.

2 The agency also consistently seeks and receives child support orders requiring parents of children who are in custody of the agency, to support their children. These orders help off-set the cost of placing children, but because the families involved often have insufficient income, these orders generally cannot and do not cover the complete costs of child placement. The agency is attempting to build a foster care network within Ashland County. This will allow children to be placed in their own community. When children are placed within their own communities there is less disruption as they are able to maintain community connections through school, doctors, and other familiar services. Families are more active with services such as visitation because children are kept closer and within their communities. Caseworkers do not need to travel far distances which takes up time from other families. A foster care network licensed and supervised by the Ashland County Department of Job and Family Services will also reduce the likelihood of placing children in commercial/private network foster homes that cost far more than foster homes supervised through ACDJFS. Children Services continues to seek relative placements. This reduces trauma to the children and costs to the county. It is important to note that proper support is essential to ensure the success of the placement in our kin and family foster care homes. Children Services, Juvenile Court, Mental Health & Recovery Board and Catholic Charities have applied for and received a $100,000 grant to conduct a Community Placement Alternatives Project feasibility study. This study will give us information needed to build a safe, cost effective placement system within Ashland County. Maintaining children in the county will not only reduce the cost of their placement but will reduce travel time for Social Workers assigned to their cases. The Director is working at the state level as a member of the Board of Trustees at the Public Children Services Association of Ohio (PCSAO) on improving the level of state funding to children services. The state does not provide adequate state funding to Children Services. In fact, Ohio ranks 50 th in the country in terms of state financial support. 6. Are other agencies or county offices helping? If so, who are they? Yes. The Juvenile Court, Sheriff s Office, Ashland Police, Mental Health and Recovery Board, Prosecutor s Office, Family and Children s First Council, Catholic Charities, Appleseed, Ashland Parenting Plus and Ashland County Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse.

3 7. Will the money generated from the sales tax just go to raises for employees and not for kids? The money is intended to cover placement costs of children in foster care in Ashland County. 8. Do families who take children in get help? If you are a foster family, the daily rate for each child ranges from $18 - $25 dependent upon the age of the child placed in the home. Children Services does provide funding for clothing. Children are generally eligible for Medicaid and all educational expenses, including extracurricular activities (sports, band, church camp, 4-H, scouts, etc.). If you are relatives (kin), at this time you are not eligible to receive the daily rate for each child unless you become licensed as a family foster home. Children placed with kin may be eligible for Ohio Works First cash assistance benefits in this circumstance. We are striving to be able to provide additional supports to relatives caring for children. We would anticipate that this will require additional expense to the county and given the shortfall at this time, we have not expanded this program yet. The agency receives wonderful donations from businesses and individuals in the community such as clothing, hygiene products, books, school supplies, small handmade quilts for each child and a number of other items which are available to foster, relative and non relative caregivers. The F.R.A.M.E. Ministry assists and provides peer and emotional support to foster and adoptive families. This Ministry is a partnership with Bethel Baptist Church. See frameministries.blogspot.com for more information. 9. What are you doing to get more foster homes? We have one part-time employee who focuses on recruiting foster families. Following a recommendation received at one of the open public meetings about this issue, the county commissioners have authorized the hiring of another employee who will work full time on licensing and approving family foster/adoptive homes. We go to civic functions, libraries, county fair and churches, just to name a few, to recruit family foster/adoptive homes. We continue to develop ideas for recruiting families to serve in this capacity.

4 10. Are you working with any groups? We are working with several community agencies including but not limited to, Juvenile Court, Mental Health and Recovery Board, Ashland Parenting Plus and Catholic Charities. 11. Why aren t these parents forced to take care of their children? Some of the families that become involved with Children Services have significant problems that prohibit them from keeping their children safe and inhibits their ability to take proper and appropriate care of them and therefore it is not safe for children to return to their care. Some have drug or alcohol problems, mental health problems or simply lack parenting skills. We serve families that are simply trying to learn how to best care for their children. Some people haven t been taught these skills. Unfortunately, other parents, relatives or unrelated partners purposefully hurt children. We are charged with the important task of making sure that children are as safe as they can be. We work closely with law enforcement and the Prosecutor s Office when someone commits a crime against a child. The Ashland County Prosecutor s Office, Sheriff s Office, Ashland Police Department and the court system do not tolerate child abuse.

5 12. I know someone who has been involved with the child welfare system. I think they are good people and they were not allowed to have their children or grandchildren. Why? Each case is different and the facts surrounding the case are often complex. There are a number of detailed laws, regulations and procedures that must be followed when managing child welfare cases. For example, we may find that there are criminal offenses listed on the background checks of individuals that live in the home. There may be untreated mental health problems that may not seem to be a problem to us, or there could be an abusive person living in the home. Other examples may involve financial strain that prevents caring for the child or children (this is a good place to provide financial support, if the county had it to offer). On some occasions, we find that based on the age of the child, the cleanliness, disrepair or simply the physical ability of the individual to care for the child prevents placement. In any case, we prefer to place with relatives because it is generally better for the child and family so long as there are no issues as noted here that outweigh that decision. It is very important to understand that because we are dealing with human life, there are a ton of regulations to navigate. If we do not follow these regulations closely, our county faces a great deal of potential liability. This will make our financial problems worse. We do our very best to keep children safe and in the homes of relatives when at all possible. If we can help the relatives make their home a safe place for the child, we will do so. 13. What does the Children Services department do? The Ashland County Children Services Department handles child abuse, neglect and dependency cases. This includes taking necessary action when a call comes to the agency reporting suspected child abuse and/or neglect. We go to the home, school or hospital and investigate the incident reported. If the case is found to be substantiated, a pile of paperwork is completed including for example a risk assessment. The Case Worker and the Staff Attorney work together to prepare the filing of any court documents as needed and then, the Juvenile Court becomes involved. Then, the case is handed over to an ongoing worker who will develop a case plan with the help of the family and various counselors. The parents must follow this plan in order to have their children returned to their custody. If the children were not removed from their custody, the worker works with the family in order to prevent removal of the children.

6 Children Services works closely with law enforcement and the courts to move cases through the process. The Juvenile Court Judge makes many very difficult decisions based on the information we provide regarding the child and the family. We must do our very best to be clear and accurate in documenting and investigating each case. Due to the serious nature of the work we do, there are many regulations that govern our work. Our goal is to keep children safe and to prevent removal from their home when possible. If it is not possible to keep them safe in their homes then we must remove children from the custody of their parents or legal guardians. It is very hard for the children emotionally and the workers do their best to keep this trauma to a minimum. The ongoing Case Worker then begins the long process of working with the family to attempt to reunify the child with his or her family. This involves making sure that the parents are receiving drug and/or alcohol treatment, counseling, mental health treatment, parenting instruction and a variety of other options depending on the case. Many times the child will need counseling or medical treatment following the removal from their home. The Case Worker must make sure that the case plan is being followed. If it is not, the court must be notified and the parents must be made accountable. The Children Services agency recruits foster families to care for children that must be removed from their homes or to provide respite to other foster parents who need a break. Recommending homes for family foster care licensure and adoption approval is very time consuming and it involves criminal background checks, home studies (going to the home and investigating closely the home), financial background checks and other mandatory activities that must be checked to legally recommend a license to a foster home. Although this can be burdensome on both the potential foster family and the case worker, it makes sense when you consider that we are placing children that the county is responsible for in the homes of people we have declared are healthy and safe for the child. The agency is required to have an Independent Living Program. This program teaches young people how to navigate in the world. This includes everything from cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, how to find a job to how to furnish your first apartment without the support of a healthy family. This work is extremely important since these young people may soon start families of their own. They need a solid foundation to build from. The Children Services agency is responsible for Adult Protective Services. This involves investigating and managing cases in which an older adult has been abused, neglected or otherwise harmed. These cases are very difficult, time consuming and often frustrating for the Case Worker due to the fact that the older adult does not have to cooperate with the agency.

7 In doing all of the things summarized here, there are many individual tasks that must take place to manage cases properly and according to the law. Much of the work involves intense documentation and preparation for court hearings. Effective communication with adults, families and children involved in the cases, as well as those direct service providers is essential. To mention just a handful of tasks, Children Services case workers must manage paperwork, regulations, case plans, phone calls, visits to parents, visits to children, visits to foster parents, visits to schools, doctors, counselors, law enforcement, court hearings, preparing requests for payment of fees for extracurricular activities and medical releases. This doesn t include mandated training or meetings that the worker must attend on behalf of the child. Sometimes, we simply hold a child s hand and try to assure them that everything will be okay. Then we work hard to help the family do what needs to be done to help us make it so.

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