Butler County may expand program that keeps kids out of foster care

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Butler County may expand program that keeps kids out of foster care

With a bump in funding from the state, Butler County Children Services may expand a program that reduces the number of children placed in foster care.

Children Services is slated to get an additional $297,289 from the state, a 28 percent increase.

While the department has not formally discussed what to do with the funds, Job and Family Services Executive Director Bill Morrison said the most logical approach is to invest it in a proven program, such as the Family Preservation Program.

“The money we invested in the Family Preservation Program has paid off well in enhancing our ability to reduce the number of foster care placements that we have,” Morrison said. “So one of the first things that comes to mind is to look at expansion of that program. The more we spend on it, the less we spend on other things. Each dollar invested in that saves us about two.”

The agency resurrected the program in 2016 by contracting a local agency to run it in a four-year, $1.6 million contract.

The program was previously handled in-house until it was dismantled in 2011 for budgetary reasons.

Social workers meet with families three times a week for intensive counseling and advise so children can safely stay in their homes instead of in the county’s custody.

Since April of last year, 134 families have been helped.

Butler County’s allocation numbers from the state indicate a $94,327 drop in funding for public assistance — a far cry from the $720,000 in cuts Job and Family Services predicted a few months ago.

The state funds about 13 percent of the department’s $20 million public assistance budget, so Morrison said the cuts aren’t debilitating.

“JFS will be basically flat with what we received this year, which should be fine,” Morrison said. “Some of the changes we’ve made are beginning to bear fruit and be more effective. So it allows us to do more with the same amount of money just because we’re creating efficiency.”

The majority of the funding for public assistance comes from the federal government — about 83 percent.

Federal funding is expected to be flat for next year, said Barb Fabelo, chief financial officer for Butler County’s Department of Job and Family Services.

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