The review process also prompted a reorganization of agency staff that provides for greater specialization among caseworkers, enhanced compliance review and training, and a more deliberate approach to diversity and inclusion, according to the county.
“We’ve made changes that will bring greater community engagement, and we are improving training and processes to better support families and protect children,” said Judy Dodge, Montgomery County Commission president.
Debby Shaw, interim assistant director for Children Services, will present the reorganization and new strategic plan at Tuesday’s Montgomery County Commission meeting. The meeting at 1:30 p.m. is not open to in-person visitors due to the pandemic but will be livestreamed on the county’s Facebook page.
Children Services will also participate in regular meetings with the Child Protection Unit of the Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office to assist caseworkers in elevating cases through legal means when appropriate, according to the county. Elevating cases could provide grounds for child interviews without parental consent, along with other legal avenues to protect children potentially in danger.
The county and the Professionals Guild of Ohio (PGO), the union which represents Children Services workers, reached a three-year contract deal this month in the wake of an impasse, a strike and court case last year and more recent concerns over caseloads and unfilled positions.
Jane Hay, local PGO Council 12 president, said the county partnered with the union to make the organizational changes.
“The county welcomed the input of our members as we developed this new structure,” Hay said. “These are complex jobs in the best of circumstances, and greater specialization in casework will provide better results for our families. Our members live and breathe this work every day, so we are so pleased that the county leadership team reached out and asked for their valuable input before the reorganization.”
The Professionals Guild of Ohio represents about 270 bargaining unit positions, but as many as 50 are open, Hay said this month.
At the end of July, Children Services was handling 2,614 child abuse and neglect cases and 663 kids were in foster care. The agency made 3,793 abuse and neglect investigations during 2019.