Child Support is Crucial for Area Children

August is National Child Support Month. The theme is “Your Support Means the World to a Child.” I recently wrote this for our community newsletter…

I am surprised sometimes, how many people do not know that Job and Family Services handles child support collection. Of all that we do, child protection receives the most public attention, and we are also well known for our public assistance programs. But our child support program serves more than 300,000 people in this county and crosses all social and economic boundaries.

Fortunately, many people pay their child support with little intervention from us. Of our 88,000 cases, I would say about one third pay regularly and timely. Another third are in default, but paying fairly regularly to catch up. The last third is the group that requires our most attention. We use a variety of tools to track them down and collect their support, including Most Wanted posters, freezing and seizing funds from bank accounts, intercepting tax refunds, suspending driver’s licenses, suspending professional licenses and confiscating passports.

At a time like this, child support is crucial. It can be the difference between a custodial parent keeping or losing their home. Child support puts food on the table, pays electric bills and buys school clothes. In this economy, every penny counts.

There are few good reasons to not pay child support. Custody problems and other issues can be argued in court – after the child support is paid. Parents cannot let their personal issues get in the way of seeing that the child’s basic needs are met. Hamilton County Job and Family Services is not on either parent’s side. We are on the child’s side.

This is Child Support Awareness Month. We will employ several methods to get our delinquent parents to pay up, including the carrot – amnesty for those with warrants or suspended licenses — and the stick — a new Most Wanted poster. We will also host other events to draw awareness to the issue. Isn’t it a shame we event have to have an awareness month? Shouldn’t supporting your child be a given?

Each of our 88,000 cases has a mother, father and at least one child. This program touches more children than any other public program outside of schools.

Right now, with the economy the way it is, our public assistance programs are receiving a lot of attention. And, of course, child welfare will always grab headlines. But child support is important. It helps keep children safe and healthy. And that’s what we all want.

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Two wonderful — but challenging — years

My second anniversary as director, July 1, passed quickly. I was so caught up in anticipating the state budget and determining what it would mean for us that I did not get a chance to post something I have been meaning to say.

While the past two years have been challenging, they have been incredibly rewarding. I am fortunate to work with so many people who work hard, adapt very quickly to change and put the needs of the citizens first. We have been through a lot the past two years at JFS and I cannot thank employees enough for rallying to the cause, putting their personal concerns aside and making sure we do our best for this countys most vulnerable residents.

I have also had the pleasure of working with many others in the social service community who have strongly responded to the economic challenges hitting our community. We are fortunate to live in a place where everyone pulls together in a crisis, determined to leave no one behind. Thank you to our many providers for their understanding and support.

And thank you to County Administrator Patrick Thompson and County Commissioners Todd Portune, David Pepper and Greg Hartmann for their leadership and advice. They are determined that our JFS be seen as one of the best in the state and a rock for the citizens of Hamilton County to lean on in times of trouble. They have provided leadership and support to ensure we are doing more with less.

I am extremely grateful for my two years as director and the work we have done. We are an agency that helps, and this is a time when we are very much needed. I look forward to many more years of being here to serve the citizens of Hamilton County.

We need more Mary Tolers!

Toler09

I love this article that appeared in our newsletter: Longtime foster mom makes room for one more adoption — her eighth.

 What an inspirational person. She works full time and manages to take care of eight adoptive children. Ms. Toler is truly an Everyday Hero and she is changing children’s lives — and this community — for the better.

I just wanted to pass this on. Stories like this bring tears to my eyes. We cannot do this job alone.

We need more Mary Tolers!

 

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We will be here for our clients

Busy waiting room at Hamilton County JFS

Busy waiting room at Hamilton County JFS

Today, I sent the following e-mail to our staff…

As many of you know, a state biennial budget for Fiscal Year 2010-2011 (7/01/09 – 6/30/11) has not been approved as of today. Not knowing exactly how the new budget is going to affect the agency concerns me greatly. I continue to hope that the state legislature will pass the budget as soon as possible. 

As the budget discussions continue at the state level, several counties in Ohio may be forced to conduct mass layoffs, and some may even close agency doors. Regardless of what happens in other counties, or even at the state level, I assure you Hamilton County Job and Family Services will continue to operate to the best of our ability. We will make payroll. We will pay our bills. We will meet our obligations and we will continue to serve the citizens of this county. 

Our Operations Team and Fiscal staff saw early on the potential the economic downturn had on our agency. We moved forward with reductions and laid the groundwork to help prepare us for the current budget situation. Unfortunately, because of the additional reductions that will certainly occur upon the eventual approval of the state budget, our Operations Team continues to make difficult decisions to reduce expenditures and staffing levels. But, because we have been proactive, the cuts we make may not be as drastic as other county JFS’ reductions. At this point, we do not have to do what other agencies are considering, such as shut our doors. 

Even though this has been a difficult time for everyone, I am proud at how you have come together to ensure that our clients’ needs are met. The clients are the reason we are here. We will continue to be here for them.

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Proposed cuts affect the most vulnerable

At a time when we are seeing record numbers of clients, the Hamilton County Department of Job and Family Services also faces unprecedented budget cuts. Due to funding reductions, we have been forced to lay off more than a third of our employees and cut $15 million in contracts with social service providers.

Proposed cuts in the 2010-2011 state budget would further hinder efforts to serve Hamilton County’s most vulnerable citizens:

* A cash-strapped family applying for food stamps, cash assistance and/or Medicaid health coverage would wait 30 days for their application to be processed, instead of 10.

* A struggling single mom would wait longer for enforcement of a child support case with a non-paying parent.

* A preschooler benefiting from early-childhood development programs while her mom works would enter kindergarten behind her classmates due to the loss of those services.

* The concerned neighbor reporting elder abuse may experience a longer wait for an investigation.

* The loving grandparent or other “kinship care” provider caring for a grandchild while a parent worked on issues related to abuse or neglect would no longer get the support of a social worker or formal support group.

* A middle class family would decide against adopting because a cut in state subsidies would make it too costly to adopt.

Like many families in Hamilton County, we’re reprioritizing and making tough choices to get us through the economic situation. Unfortunately, the actions we’re taking will have a tremendous toll on many in our community.

Despite these cuts, we will continue to serve the residents of Hamilton County to the best of our ability.

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