LIMA — Allen County Children Services is the only agency in the state to be in compliance with federal measures after a review this year by the state agency.
The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services randomly selected several local cases during a 12-month period to review and to determine if they are in compliance with federal outcome measures. Allen County proved to be the only agency of the state's 88 counties to meet all nine indicators evaluated during the Child Protection and Oversight Evaluation Stage 9 review.
“It is a reflection of the quality programming that we have been implementing here in regards to providing services to the families and children in our community,” Allen County Children Services Executive Director Scott Ferris said.
Several agency practices received favorable notice in the report, Ferris said, including two safety outcomes and permanency outcomes and three child and family well-being outcomes.
The safety outcomes included putting the children first and protecting them from abuse and neglect as well as making sure children are safely maintained in their own homes whenever possible, the report said.
According to the report, the two permanency outcomes included ensuring children have permanency and stability in their living situation as well as a continuity of family relationships by making sure children stay connected with family members.
The child and family well-being outcomes list families have enhanced capacity to provide for their children's needs after meeting with Children Services case workers, and children receive appropriate services to meet their educational needs as well as their physical and mental needs.
The review period began April 1, 2013, and ended March 31.
Ferris credited the services provided by his case workers throughout the year and not just the last quarter when they started a new program. Their objective is to provide some form of permanency for children by either having successful reunification with a parent, custody to a relative, or an adoption and the county's program is meant to achieve that goal, he said.
The new program is to engage relatives more when a child must be removed from a home instead of using foster parents. He said this helps achieve better outcomes and more greatly ensures the safety of the child.
“This program is definitely where we want to head,” Ferris said. “We were looking at data last fall when we started noticing a trend over the last 18 months or so of more relative care and fewer placements into foster care or other purchased placements.
“Even though we know these placements with relatives are better for kids, we know they have to be supported and they need to be supported in a different way than a foster home or a group home would be supported,” he said. “There are national studies which show parents are more motivated to visit and so they visit more frequently and they are more willing to work on case plan goals if the child is placed with a family member so the children return home sooner and safer.”