Mentoring Program Wins National Award

My most recent post mentioned the need for volunteers in our Higher Education Mentoring Program (HEMI). Well, I have more news on that front: the program was chosen as a 2012 Achievement Award winner by the National Association of Counties!

This is a great acknowledgement of our success. There were 11 programs throughout Ohio recognized as innovative and increasing service to county residents. We are very proud that HEMI was among those chosen.

The National Association of Counties has recognized innovative programs since 1970 and our agency usually has at least one winner.  Awards are given in 21 different categories including children and youth, criminal justice, county administration, environmental protection, information technology, health, and many more.

You can read more about HEMI in the below post. We need mentors if you are interested in joining our award-winning program! 

 

 

Mentors Needed for our Foster Youth

It has been awhile since I have posted about our Higher Education Mentoring Initiative.  We are holding several information sessions in July to recruit new mentors. if you are interested, please put these dates and times on your calendar now: July 10, July 18 and July 24. Each session is from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. 

The sessions will be held at the Hamilton County Administration Building, 138 Court St. Attend one and hear about the benefits of mentoring.

If you are someone interested in helping a youth in our community achieve academic succes, this is a perfect program for you. You will spend time helping a foster child graduate high school and go on to some type of post-high school success. You will also likely make a life-long friend.

We started this program because of a need. We saw our foster children struggling to graduate high school and move on to successful higher learning opportunities. Nationally, only 3 percent of foster children earn college degrees. Our numbers were similar. They were aging out with nowhere to go. They have much higher rates of homelessness, incarceration and other social problems than non-foster children.

The program goal is to reduce the number of foster youth who drop out of high school; increase the number who apply to and pursue higher education; and set foster youth on a path to successful careers and sustainable income.

With the great partnership we have with the University of Cincinnati’s Partnership for Achieving School Success (PASS), Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, Great Oaks Institute of Technology and Career Development and the Hamilton County Board of Commission, this has turned into a wonderful program. Since its start, 100 percent of the students have graduated high school! We served 37 students last year and most are pursuing higher education at schools such as UC, Cincinnati State, Great Oaks, the College of Mt. Saint Joseph and The Ohio State University

There is some commitment to being a mentor. You’ll commit to a six-hour training course and spending two hours a week with your mentee through high school graduation and on through their pursuit of post-secondary education.

To be considered for the mentor program, participants must fill out an application, undergo a background check and complete an interview process. This includes providing a copy of a valid drivers’ license and proof of insurance.

To obtain an application and for more information, contact Annie Schellinger, UC HEMI Program Coordinator, at 513-556-4368, or e-mail annie.schellinger@uc.edu

Changes Coming to Children’s Services

Below is my recent Update newsletter column on changes coming to Children’s Services. You can read more news at JFS by subscribing to Update here.

 

Some of you may have read that the Hamilton County Board of County Commissioners has approved our agency spending an additional $2 million on support for our Children’s Services Division.

 We are excited and grateful for this opportunity. State budget cuts have taken a toll on this agency, with the loss of half our funding and half our personnel since 2008. We now operate the agency with $50 million less than we did in 2007. The additional money – and the resources it will bring — will certainly help.

Our Children’s Services Division has experienced caseloads of a far more complex nature over the past few years. This community is a microcosm of the nation, which is experiencing much the same, with research increasingly validating the link between severe child abuse and the economic downturn. In 2011, we were involved with 1 of every 11 children in this community, up from 1 of every 12 in 2010. The system is stressed.

We have a project team in place to determine the best use of these funds. All of the following are under consideration (not all will require funding):

  • Additional staff:  We are looking at hiring new caseworkers and transportation aides. The new workers will reduce caseloads and allow workers more time for critical decision making, service delivery and safety assessment. The transportation aides reduce the time caseworkers spend transporting children and parents, allowing more time for casework.
  • Additional services: These services will assist with parental assessments, supportive services and identifying risk factors associated with a parent’s capacity to protect their children long term.
  • Quality assessment: This unit could review cases and monitor decision making and case management practices. It could also examine previous casework, staff efficiency, emerging trends and other issues to assure caseworkers’ actions are in line with agency policy and best practices.
  • Operational improvements: This could take the form of additional senior-level management to help with staff oversight and review of casework, policies and practices or some other form that will make us more efficient and better at what we do.
  • Customer service: This will not cost additional money. We are going to monitor our interactions with the community and build customer service benchmarks into our staff evaluations.
  • Policy/Practice changes: We are looking at implementing a group decision-making model for some of our tougher cases.
  • Public education: The agency will increase efforts to discuss child welfare with the public and get an understanding of community expectations.

I am committed to improvements that not only make us better, but make us accountable and transparent to Hamilton County residents. I do caution, however, there is no simple solution to eradicating child abuse.

The number one goal for everyone involved with an abused or neglected child is that child’s safety and well-being. We all – JFS, Juvenile Court, the Prosecutor’s Office, the Public Defender’s Office, ProKids, the parents and their attorneys and other interested parties – work together, within the laws that govern child welfare, for the best outcome for children and families.

We work with an extremely vulnerable and volatile population. Many of the parents are addicted to drugs, suffer mental health problems and are either perpetrators or victims of domestic violence. They can get clean and relapse. They can take medicine that helps them function, but then quit taking their medications. Predicting their behavior and the behavior of those they allow around their children is an extremely difficult task.

The system will never be failsafe. When tragedies occur, we as a system must learn from them to make ourselves better. We as a community must look deeper at the variables that lead to child abuse and do what we can to stop it.

Your support – and assistance –to this agency and the children of this community is critical.