Montgomery County names new Children Services leader

Credit: HUE12, LLC

Credit: HUE12, LLC

Montgomery County Department of Job and Family Services has promoted Craig Rickett to lead Children Services.

Rickett began his career more than 29 years ago as a Protective Services caseworker “on the street.” And the kind of child welfare positions he first worked remain a challenge for the county to fill today, he said.

“Staffing continues to be an issue,” he said. “That really is one of my top goals ... But I feel very confident in some of the things that we’ve put in place and that we will continue to put in place.”

Rickett, who begins the job today , will oversee 302 county employees who work on various services from taking initial phone calls of child abuse and neglect to the closing of cases whether through finalized adoptions or family reunification.

The agency, however, is budgeted for 331 employees. Of those, caseworkers currently number 212, short 24 of a budgeted 236 positions, according to Children Services.

Jewell Good, who led Children Services for five years, resigned in September 2020 to take a job outside the county. The agency has been led since on an interim basis by Debbie Shaw.

Rickett was a stabilizing force during the pandemic who helped Children Services navigate barriers so staff could manage cases virtually, said Director of Montgomery County Job and Family Services Michelle Niedermier.

“Craig has a passion for serving and knows first-hand what it takes to protect our children. He is truly the best candidate for the role,” she said.

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Montgomery County commissioners approved Rickett’s promotion to associate director Tuesday. He will be paid $116,000 annually, according to the county auditor’s office.

A resident of Urbana, Rickett is a licensed social worker and most recently served as a Children Services’ manager for family preservation. .

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In addition to numerous caseworker roles, Rickett has held supervisory and management positions in intake/assessments, ongoing services, adoption, CARE House and permanency planning. In his most recent role, he managed five family preservation units and the juvenile delinquency unit. He also served on the Ohio Statewide Permanency Roundtable Advisory Board from 2014 to 2018, according to the county.

“Craig is a seasoned Montgomery County team member who has an incredible knowledge base that will help address challenges Children Services workers face day to day,” said Montgomery County Commission President Judy Dodge. “This position will allow him to merge that wealth of experience with a fresh leadership perspective that will better align the department’s daily mission with its strategic vision.”

Montgomery County Administrator Michael Colbert said Rickett has been integral to creating partnerships with Dayton Children’s Hospital, the Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office and local law enforcement agencies to review cases of abuse, share resources and forge plans to protect children.

“The relationships already exist and will only continue to grow stronger,” he said.

Mason Montgomery, president of Professionals Guild of Ohio Council 12, the union representing caseworkers and other Children Services workers, anticipates Rickett will continue to partner with the union to resolve issues or concerns.

“He has a long history of working with our members,” Montgomery said. “They respect him, and I know we will have a smooth transition as he assumes this key leadership role.”

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As of June 2, Montgomery County Children Services had 663 children in care. During 2020, the county screened in 3,955 abuse and neglect investigations. This year through April, 1,563 referrals have been made on reports that required additional investigation, according to the county.

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