If ever there was a time
to protect children and promote families, it is now.
The COVID-19 pandemic, an
unprecedented economic downturn, persistent opioid crisis
and related overdose deaths, and contentious political
divide have come together to produce a perfect storm of
extreme distress. The tragic aftermath has generated a
surging crisis of abuse and neglect among children.
rates of abuse and neglect have dramatically increased, even
though reporting is down. The pandemic’s social distancing
requirements have reduced children’s attendance and
interactions at school, church, healthcare, and other
locations that require mandated reporting. The resulting
isolation has placed a tremendous mental and emotional
strain on children and families. Even the most fortunate
families, the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute
says, “are struggling to balance work, parenting, and new
homeschooling responsibilities,” resulting from the COVID
Lucas County Children
Services (LCCS) leads the community in protecting children.
A big part of that involves stabilizing families by
connecting them to services and supports, such as
counseling, substance abuse treatment, and housing. LCCS is
also recognized statewide and nationally as a leader in
child protection. Agency staff participates in several
government and independent committees, sharing their
expertise and providing legislators with input that is
shaping child welfare’s new policies and priorities.
LCCS has the only
county-level African-American executive director in Ohio.
Director Robin Reese and her leadership team lead Lucas
County—and the entire state—in challenging conversations
about structural and institutional racism, race inequity,
and what needs to be done to eradicate them.
For example, a large part
of the organization’s Strategic Plan will address and track
progress in the issue of disproportionality within LCCS of
African-American children at various stages of care. The
agency works toward making the percentage of children in
care reflect actual population figures. The number of
African-American children in LCCS care is 41 percent. In
comparison, African-American children make up just 23
percent of Lucas County’s youth population. There is still
work to do, but this is a significant step in the right
As an organization, LCCS
has a diverse workforce, especially among its leadership.
Half of the agency’s top administrators are
African-American. Among those who provide direct services to
families, 48 percent are people of color.
The Committee for Children
and Lucas County Children Services is requesting approval
for Issue 18. This measure is not a new tax, but a straight
renewal of an existing 1.8 mill, five-year operating levy.
If approved, Issue 18 will provide LCCS with $13.4 million
per year—one-quarter of the agency's annual funding—at a
very crucial time. Child protection in Ohio—and
nationwide—is on the cusp of unprecedented challenges. Under
the measure, the owner of a $100,000 home would continue to
pay $55.13 per year, or about $1 per week, to provide
services that ensure Lucas County children’s safety. LCCS
serves one of every eight children and one of every eight
families in Lucas County. In 2019, the agency touched the
lives of more than 13,600 children.
LCCS walks an intricate
and fine line attempting to balance child protection vs.
family preservation, two conflicting priorities. This
unenviable and often controversial task requires the agency
to protect children from physical and emotional risk at the
hands of their parents but also understand that children
usually thrive with their parents and experience adverse
outcomes when they are removed from the home.
Yet, LCCS has worked to be
good stewards of tax dollars through innovation and
collaboration, finding efficiencies while battling the
pandemic’s increasing expenses over the past six months.
The agency works to keep children who cannot live with
parents or relatives in its family foster and treatment
foster care homes, rather than in more costly group homes or
LCCS moved its computer systems to the State of Ohio
network, providing caseworkers with technology supporting
teleworking and virtual meetings. This has not only
generated significant cost savings; it has positioned LCCS
to adapt to the demands of COVID-19 rapidly.
Specialized units such as 30 Days to Family and Family
Search and Engagement, are reconnecting children with
extended family members when family placement is not an
Ohio START helps parents kick their substance dependence and
remain with their children while they work their treatment
The new Parent Empowerment Institute provides caregivers
with skills that can strengthen their relationships with
By working collaboratively with Lucas County Job and Family
Services, LCCS ensures that families needing day care apply
for, and receive, any benefits to which they’re entitled,
such as day care.
These are shining examples
of leading the community in the protection of
children—whether that community is local, regional, or
statewide. Issue 18 would bring the necessary dollars to
continue that groundbreaking work.
That is why I urge you to
support Issue 18, a renewal levy for Lucas County Children
Contact Rev. Donald Perryman, D.Min, at
Note: In the spirit of transparency, I serve on the board of
trustees at LCCS.