PORTSMOUTH — The Scioto County Commissioners approved a resolution during their July 30 meeting which created a special victim’s unit to help combat violent and/or sexual crimes against children and other high-risk individuals within the county.
As approved by the Commissioners unanimously, the resolution’s purpose is to create a more timely and effective means of investigating and prosecuting these types of crimes, to protect children and other high-risk or susceptible individuals, and address the issues regarding exploitation and abuse of children and other individuals in our community.
“This is a significant investment by the Commissioners working in tandem with the Prosecutor,” Commissioner Bryan Davis said. “It is the creation of a special victim’s unit. This unit will concentrate on sex crimes against children and other individuals. This is not something we’ve ever had before, to my knowledge.”
Davis said that an assistant prosecutor, an investigator, and an office staff will comprise the new special victim’s unit staff and work directly with the Scioto County Prosecutor’s Office.
“As I mentioned a few weeks ago, yes there are many changes happening within children services, but we haven’t arrived and it’s not perfect,” Davis said. “Unfortunately, that came true when procedure was not followed, in my estimation, and we have another dead child as a result of that.”
Davis additionally spoke about his hopes for current executive director of Scioto County Children’s Services, Jason Mantell, as well as new board members who have joined the Children’s Services governing body.
“There are many, many efforts being made to prevent this from happening again,” Davis said. “We’ve talked to our new director; I am personally convinced he is a change agent. I believe we are going to see more change out of the organization, and I believe the children services board is committed to doing so — we’ll see.”
Commissioner Mike Crabtree stated during this discussion he believes the state Legislature and governor should take a strong look at the standards of living for children given to children’s services offices statewide.
“I think we need to push our state legislators and our governor to tighten the restrictions on what kind of environment is suitable for these children,” Crabtree said. “We know that they’ve been placed in homes that didn’t have running water that were totally unsuitable for the children. The state needs to review the minimum standards for these homes, and look at it as, ‘How would I feel if my grandchild or child were placed in an environment like this?’”
Commissioner Cathy Coleman asked that the Commissioners discuss their inquiries with state and local officials into the possibility of a new children’s home to service displaced youth in Scioto County.
“In looking into that, one thing that we’ve discovered is that the state of Ohio isn’t real crazy about children’s homes,” Davis said. “Without grants, without help, it would be very hard to operate a full-scale, what most people have a vision of in a children’s home being able to house 100-some kids.”
Davis said that a minimum starting operating levy for a new children’s home in Scioto County would be $3 million and would need to be voted on by the taxpayers of the county. That amount does not include any expenses to build a new children’s home or remodel an already existing facility.
While a large-scale children’s home may not be feasible, Davis said that the Commissioners are looking into different options for a temporary children’s home for those displaced by Children’s Services.
Coleman and Davis also called on community members who have previously reached out to offer assistance to Children’s Services or children in need to do so again in the immediate.
“I would just add that there’s a lot of people in this county that have the means and have enough love in their hearts, we desperately need foster parents,” Coleman said. “We’ve had a lot of people reach out and offer to help. If you have the means to be a foster parent, please consider doing so.”
Scioto County residents may view the Scioto County Commissioner’s July 30 meeting in its entirety by visiting the Scioto County Commissioners Facebook page.