There are currently 103 children in the Highland County foster care system, and 27 children in permanent custody of Highland County Children’s Services awaiting adoption — record-high numbers, according to Job and Family Services Director Katie Adams, who attributes the problem almost entirely to Highland County’s drug problem.
“It’s truly due to the opiate epidemic,” Adams said in a Wednesday report to the Highland County Board of Commissioners. “Caseworkers are first responders. We’re doing work we never thought we’d be doing.”
Adams told commissioners the current annual placement cost for children in permanent custody fluctuates, but currently sits at about $1.8 million for the 27 in custody. The cost changes as the department experiences fluctuation in the number of children awaiting placement. For example, she said, in January of this year the department was able to place four children, but received six.
Adams said the current amount of children in permanent custody is costing the county a combined $1,866 every day, although 10 of the 27 are pending adoption.
According to Adams, the highest costs come from children in custody or foster care who have behavioral problems, as facilities capable of providing the necessary care cost more. This drains revenue from JFS’ currently levy, which Adams said generates somewhere between $530,000 to $560,000 annually.
As an example, Adams said, the department is currently holding a child who requires care from a facility able to accomodate those with developmental disabilities.
“Her needs are such that the only place we can find to service her is $400 a day,” she told The Times-Gazette. “If you add that up, it’s $146,000 annually, so 26 percent of our levy goes straight to that child because of her needs. Until three months ago, we had two children that were costing $400 per day.”
And, she said, while that child will soon transfer to an adult developmental disability group home, it may be only a matter of time before the department receives another child with similar problems.
The current JFS levy will need renewed in 2019, but Adams said it may be best to forego the renewal and try a new one in 2018. According to Adams, a 1.9-mill levy that failed last November would have generated $1.47 million for the department.
“That figure was based on placement costs when we decided to run it. I think it was a bit high, and the taxpayers obviously voted it down,” she said. “I want to predict with certainty what I will need on an annual basis to pay for placement costs.”
Adams said she will probably have a figure by June, and it will likely be less than the one in November.
Adams also requested the commissioners approve a change in business hours for the JFS office. She said office hours are currently Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and that she would like them changed to Monday through Thursday from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Adams said the change would be best for customers and staff in that customers could come in before work, and employee hour flexibility would improve staff morale.
Adams told The Times-Gazette the JFS department will host its first preservice training for those interested in becoming foster parents on Tuesday, May 23. For more information, contact foster care coordinator Jodi Kidder at 937-402-5055.
The Highland County Department of Job and Family Services can be reached at 937-393-4278.
Adams told The Times-Gazette the business hours will not affect caseworkers’ availability for court dates or other duties.
The board of commissioners also hosted the Ohio Valley Regional Development Commission for an organizational meeting Wednesday. According to ovrdc.org, the OVRDC is a public regional planning commission that coordinates federal, state and local resources to encourage development in Adams, Brown, Clermont, Fayette, Gallia, Highland, Jackson, Lawrence, Pike, Ross, Scioto and Vinton counties.
The Highland County Board of Commissioners meets every Wednesday 8:30 a.m. on the second floor of the Highland County Administration Building on Governor Foraker Place.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or by email at [email protected]