Editorial: Hamilton County wisely uses savings to hire more children's services caseworkers
David Holthaus for the WCPO Editorial Board
11:00 AM, Apr 21, 2017
Hamilton County is getting ready to hire 60 new people to help handle its surging number of child welfare cases.
The county commissioners who voted to spend the money to try and protect these at-risk children should be commended.
The number of children who fall into the county’s child protection system is multiplying, largely because of the heroin epidemic that has resulted in so many addicted moms and dads.
In the first half of 2016, county workers handled 2,693 new child protection cases, according to county Jobs and Family Services figures. The number of new cases exploded in the second half of the year -- to 3,794, a 41 percent increase.
While not the sole cause of this disaster, the heroin and opioid crisis is a major factor.
Parents addicted to drugs get arrested, overdose and sometimes die. Their kids can be taken from them, at least temporarily, or left as orphans. It’s the county’s child welfare workers who often are the ones to pick up the pieces of these broken families.
Just in March, 815 new cases were presented to the welfare department, the highest monthly number in at least a decade, said spokesman Brian Gregg. That number is a 68 percent increase from March of 2016.
The drug epidemic is creating a ripple effect in the next generation of children who are growing up in chaotic, disruptive situations.
Hiring 60 new caseworkers is not going to solve it, but it is a good start and an example of local government taking action and spending smartly.
The new workers will cost $3.8 million a year, JFS says. The money will come from a $100 million reserve that JFS had been saving up to settle a lawsuit. When the final settlement came in far less than anticipated, the county had about $78 million in JFS savings in the bank.
In a June 2016 editorial, WCPO urged the county commissioners to spend that reserve on child protection.