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Review Calls For Reforms At Job And Family Services

Bill Rinehart

After the March death of a two-year-old whose family was in the Job and Family Services system, Hamilton County leaders ordered a review of the child welfare system.  Prosecutor Joe Deters says the review found no fault with the system but reforms are needed.

Glenara Bates and her family were being monitored by JFS caseworkers over allegations of child abuse and neglect. The report says JFS is understaffed and there's too much turnover because caseworkers are overworked.

Commission president Greg Hartmann says JFS needs to improve training for case workers.

"Additionally we’ve got to be aggressive about reducing the waiting lists that occur for people that are involved with JFS: parents, folks that have kids in their homes, that need mental health and substance abuse (treatment)."

JFS director Moira Weir says 70 percent of the families caseworkers visit have substance abuse and mental health issues. She says better training and shorter wait times are needed.

“It’s important to be able to go in there and quickly assess how (a situation is) affecting the parenting and/or lack of parenting for that child," says Weir. "Our hope is that with the community coming together we can really think about what kind of community services we need in the community to help address those needs for families and make sure we’re getting those services accurately and timely so that we can, ourselves, insure that children are safe.”

Hartmann says the Children's Services Levy is up for renewal next year. It accounts for 40 percent of the JFS budget. (The rest of the budget comes from the State of Ohio and the federal government.) Hartmann says nothing will be fixed just by throwing money at the agency.

“We gotta take a look at what appropriate staffing levels are.  There’s no bottom line dollar figure that’s going to fix this problem,” Hartmann says.  “But we certainly need to have a community discussion about what are the appropriate staffing levels.”

Bill Rinehart started his radio career as a disc jockey in 1990. In 1994, he made the jump into journalism and has been reporting and delivering news on the radio in markets including Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska; Sioux City, Iowa; Dayton, Ohio; and most recently as senior correspondent and anchor for Cincinnati’s WLW-AM.