County Executive Armond Budish announced a series of actions being taken following the recommendations of a panel of local and national child welfare experts. The panel was assembled following the death of Aniya Day Garrett. Because of the pending criminal case regarding Aniya Day Garrett’s mother, Sierra Day and boyfriend Deonte Lewis.
The panel made the following recommendations: 1.) Strengthen investigative skills with added law enforcement expertise. 2.) Include entire family in case evaluation and investigation with interviews with mothers, fathers and children. 3) Balance parental rights and child safety need, with latter being the first priority. 4) Strengthen relationships with neighborhood collaboratives with case assignments related to neighborhood connections. 5).Strengthen quality assurance function within DCFS.
Prior to the panel’s report, County Executive Armond Budish announced the following changes: Assign a Deputy Sheriff to assist with investigations; Engage in a community Listening Tour at six locations across the county; Create a Complaint Manager program for both DCFS and JFS; Hire more licensed social workers; and Create a new community advisory committee and provide regular input to DCFS.
Based on the expert panel’s recommendations, the county is initiating these additional improvements:1). Will house a Deputy Sheriff at the DCFS and will hire 10 additional retired law enforcement officers to assist with investigations. 2)Will hire additional staff to reduce the caseloads carried by staff. The goal is to hire 12 additional case workers within 90 days to bring the overall child-protection specialist staff to 500. Staffing levels will be continuously monitored. 3) Newly hired case workers will be assigned to work with experienced case workers for 6 months before they are permitted to handle cases on their own. 4) Make every effort to include the entire family in case investigations to include interviews with mothers, fathers and children. 5). Work closely with local collaboratives, police, and the community. Restore funding to a collaborative that was cut earlier this year and use geographically – related case assignments where possible. 6). Engage in a series of programs to educate mandated reporters of abuse and neglect (such as day care centers) about their obligations, in accordance with Ohio Revised Code Section 2151.421, to report suspected abuse and neglect immediately, without delay, by phone or in person and then follow with a written report.
Jan Flory, Chair of the panel said, “We are pleased to hear that the recommendations will be implemented. The report is focused on how the system works with improvements that will strengthen the ability of DCFS to keep children in this county safe.