Hamilton County JFS Wins 4 of 13 National Awards Handed Out in Ohio

We just received word that we have won four achievement awards from the National Association of Counties innovative programs that contribute to and enhance county government.

The association recognized 500 innovative programs from around the nation, including 13 in Ohio.

I am extremely happy that our hard work has been recognized. To have four of the 13 programs recognized in this entire state right here in our agency is unbelievable! Our commitment to innovation and serving the people of this county in unique ways is paying off.

This is especially gratifying in a time when we are struggling with layoffs and huge increases in demand. Providing quality customer service is more difficult than ever, so innovative programs like our Library Initiative are out-of-the-box ways we can make life easier for the citizens of Hamilton County.

Here is a synopsis of the programs that won:

• Library Initiative: A new service designed to ease the application process for public assistance. Country residents can now drop off verification any documentation needed to receive agency services at any of the 41 libraries operated by the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. This saves the applicant time, gas money and the aggravation of traveling down town. It also relieves stress on crowded lobbies at a time when JFS is experiencing a large increase in business. In one year, more than 3,500 residents have taken advantage of this new service.

• Everyday Heroes: A public-private venture to increase the number of foster parents, the Everyday Heroes campaign depicted foster parents as “Everyday Heroes” in television, radio and billboard advertisements. The campaign generated more than 500 referrals and brought in nearly 100 new foster homes. Increasing the number of local foster homes decreases the chance children will be sent out of county, enabling them to stay close to their neighborhoods, friends, family members, etc. This is better for their long-term success. The collaborative that resulted from the campaign is ongoing.

• REAL (Responsible, Effective, Accountable and Loving) Dads: A program that provides counseling, job coaching and child support information to fathers who are at risk of failing to financially and emotionally support their children. Many young fathers in the county do not provide financial or emotional support to their children due to a lack of employment experience and deficits in life management skills, such as parenting and responsible decision-making. REAL Dads, operated with Lighthouse Youth Services, helps eliminate barriers to employment and engagement with the child. In three years of the program, 72 fathers have successfully graduated.

• Sheriff Commissary Account Seizures: JFS partnered with the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department to increase collections on current child support and arrears, especially on cases where orders are hard to enforce due to the non-custodial parent being in and out of jail. The two organizations work together to seize money from the commissary accounts of parents who are delinquent on child support payments. So far, more than $33,000 has been collected.

The National Association of Counties will list a summary of the programs in its Model Programs database. The winning counties also will be recognized at the association’s annual conference in Nashville on July 26.

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