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Ohio Advocates for Vulnerable Children, Adults in "Desperate" Situation

PHOTO: Many children and seniors in Ohio are abused and neglected, and those who work in the agencies charged with keeping them safe say they lack the resources to do so effectively. Credit: Will Petrik, Advocates for Ohio's Future.
PHOTO: Many children and seniors in Ohio are abused and neglected, and those who work in the agencies charged with keeping them safe say they lack the resources to do so effectively. Credit: Will Petrik, Advocates for Ohio's Future.
May 19, 2014

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Those who work to protect Ohio's children and vulnerable seniors say their agencies are in a dire situation. The poor economy and the opiate epidemic in Ohio are among the problems putting strains on families.

Cassandra Holtzmann, director, Ashland County Job and Family Services, says there are not enough resources to keep children and older adults in all counties safe from abuse, neglect and exploitation.

"We are begging our governor, and we're begging the leadership in the state, to hear what it is that we're saying. We are in a desperate position at this point, and need help to take care of our vulnerable population, children and adults," Holtzmann says.

In April, HB 483 passed the Ohio House. The legislation includes a $10 million investment in Adult Protective Services and $10 million to improve outcomes for families in the child welfare system. The Senate began hearings on the bill last week, and Holtzmann is among those who testified. If passed, the Adult Protective Services allocation would be nearly four times more than the state has ever provided for that function - and the child welfare funds would be the first new state child welfare dollars in nine years.

Joel Potts, executive director, Ohio Job and Family Services Directors Assn., says both the child welfare and Adult Protective Services system are overwhelmed. In some counties, he notes, one social worker is responsible for up to 30 cases.

"We always say 'boots on the ground,' and there's no question about it. We need more workers, we need more social workers," Potts says. "We need more people who can be involved with these families to help them through this very difficult and challenging period in their lives."

Matthew Kurtz, director, Knox County Job and Family Services, says Ohio is currently ranked 50th in the nation for its lack of state support of a child welfare system, and he notes there are disparities in services throughout the state. He says only some counties are able to spend the national average on children's services.

"About $314 per child is spent on care," Kurtz says, "but in counties without a levy, it's only $108, and it really results in poorer outcomes for those children."

He and others say an additional $10 million is needed for child welfare, to help counties most in need arrange for housing, job training, counseling and other services for families of children at risk.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH