(New Philadelphia, Ohio) – The Tuscarawas County Job & Family Services agency is celebrating a fifteen-year-low in the number of children in their custody.
As of Monday, October 21, 2019, the agency had only 69 children in placement. This number represents the lowest number of children in care since 2002. Back in 2006, the agency had reached a high of over 180 children in care. Of course, these numbers can change on a daily basis.
Agency Director David Haverfield attributed this reduction to a number of factors–including the hard work of agency staff. “Staff at the agency fully recognize that children do best when they are home with their parents or guardians. And when they cannot be, they do best with extended family members. We have worked diligently to make certain that resources and work are put in at the very beginning to avoid the need for removal. When children cannot be safely maintained in their home, agency staff work diligently to locate appropriate relatives or other kinship caregivers.”
The keys to the success of the agency’s safe reduction in foster care numbers are the other key stakeholders in our community. Our Tuscarawas County Commissioners have continued to support our children in care and have assisted the agency by providing additional funds for up-front services. Tuscarawas County Juvenile Court Judge Linda Kate and her staff have consistently made cases with children who are abused, neglected, or dependent a priority. According to Haverfield, “TCJFS is fortunate to work with elected officials who make our kids a priority. The Tuscarawas County Commissioners continue to work on ways to put services in at the onset of the investigations and provide us with the financial support needed which allows us to assist in the prevention of removals. Additionally, Judge Kate and her staff continue to recognize that timely decisions for our children are critical–be it returning a child home or terminating parental rights to move children towards adoption.”
Lower foster care numbers in Tuscarawas County bucks a statewide trend of increased placements from the opiate epidemic. Haverfield also stressed that child safety remains the agency’s primary focus. “We absolutely will not leave children in an unsafe environment-foster care remains a necessity in some cases. But, if we can make the child safe in their family of origin or place them with an appropriate caregiver who insures their safety, that is the best-case scenario.