My how things have changed! What used to be sporadic occurrences of responding to drug raids or overdoses has now become common practice. As of September of 2016, 86% of our court involved cases involved drug related concerns. Our caseworkers are now first-responders to opioid-related concerns which are complex and require intensive case management. Marion is not alone in this struggle. Ohio has been ranked #1 in the nation for the number of heroin deaths and #1 for synthetic drug overdoses (Dispatch, Nov. 29, 2016).
While much public discussion surrounds those suffering from addiction we cannot lose sight of the fact that our vulnerable children – the silent victims – are being severely impacted.
Parental substance abuse remains the primary reason for children to be removed from their homes and placed in foster care in Marion, Ohio. Marion County alone experienced a 26% increase in the number of children unable to be safely maintained in their own homes requiring foster care placement since 2010. Over 50% of the children in foster care are 0 – 5 years of age. With the increase in the number of children requiring safety, we simply do not have enough foster homes to fill the need forcing our hands to place the children outside of their community. In January of 2017, Marion County Children Services had 38 foster homes available to care for 67 children.
Our experience and training has taught us that children placed with family or friends are less likely to suffer from stress that results from being removed from their family. We rely greatly on our kinship families as we have increased our placements with family or friends over 100% since 2010. However, appreciation alone does not assist our kinship families. They face significant challenges taking on additional children at a minutes notice and a lack of available assistance to help with these situations.
With a drastic rise in need for child protection services, Ohio’s children services system has received no new state dollars to address this epidemic. In fact, the system experienced a 21% reduction in state funding specific to local children services agencies in 2008 and have remained flat funded since 2010. In fact, Ohio continues to be 50th in the nation for the State’s share of children services total expenditures. If Ohio’s financial investment would double, Ohio would still rank 50th.
We are incredibly fortunate to provide child protection services in Marion, Ohio; a community with a long standing history of supporting our efforts through a local levy tax. Over 40% of our operating funds are generated by a 2.12 mill levy based off of 1989 property values. It truly takes a supportive community working together to keep children safe and I’m proud to take part in Marion’s efforts. Together, we make a difference in the lives of children!
Jacqueline Ringer, MPA/LSW