SCIOTO — Scioto County Children Services Executive Director Jason Mantell told the CPS Board of Directors of the pressing need for caseworkers and foster homes during a Wednesday meeting.
Caseworkers are being stretched thin, he said, as they take on many more cases than the recommended state average. That state average, anywhere between 12 to 15 cases per worker, is roughly half what Scioto caseworkers are facing.
“It’s a really, really high number,” said Mantell, although the caseload has improved from 45 to 30 for one caseworker. “We’re working to reunite safely, and when we can and when we can’t, we need to take permanent custody.”
To meet that need, Mantell plans on filling six positions between last week and the beginning of February. Those three new hires and three replacements will come from both the adoptions and in-take and investigation departments.
With 23 full-time employees, CPS will have more workers to get at its goals of placing or reuniting children in more safe situations.
“When that happens, that’s wonderful because it shows that the parents are willing to work with us right now,” Mantell said of family reunification, yet situations where substance or physical abuse are ones CPS tries to avoid the reunification process.
“We have talked about the drug epidemic in our community and that’s a big part of what leads to removals,” he said to the board at the Unity Full Gospel Fellowship in New Boston.
As of that afternoon, there are 320 children in CPS custody where Martell reported a reduction in removals and the closing of several cases going from November into December.
Foster families in the area also need an expansion, where more children have had to go to outside care networks. While these are good partners, Mantell said they are more expensive.
“That keeps our costs down and it also keeps local kids in the local community,” he said, describing what an expansion of area foster families could do.
Some families, which Mantell said includes around 30 homes in the county, have been licensed during his tenure, but that amount is not nearly enough. Getting the word out about this need has also proven to be more difficult due to the coronavirus.
One group in particular need of placements are teenagers, who make up almost all of the cases involving the county Juvenile Court. Directly placed with CPS, 14% to 15% of their cases come from the court.
“With infants, it’s very easy to place, but with teenagers, it’s very difficult,” said Mantell, as short amounts of time given to prepare for these instances.
Seeing this through his experience in public education, Mantell said a better home setting can have a huge impact on these teenagers who have been branded as trouble.
“It’s not really so much the children. It’s the parenting and environment they came up in,” he said. “Once you put them in a healthy environment, it really doesn’t take as long as a lot of people would think. They are really just quality kids, who have been given a bad rap.”
During the meeting, CPS said further updates and information could be found on their Children Services website.
Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3501 ext. 1931, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @pkeckreporter.
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