Children Services Gets Funding for New Programs

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Programs aimed at helping address the significant impact substance abuse and addiction are having on children and families are being developed by Athens County Children Services and partner agencies.

Athens County Children Services applied for an efficiency and innovation grant from the Ohio Department of Job & Family Services in 2014 and has been awarded $87,207. It will generate federal matching funds of $46,893, resulting is a total of $134,100 in new funding coming into Athens County in 2015.

Children Services is contracting with Health Recovery Services to provide recovery coaches for parents working to overcome addiction. HRS will collaborate with Children Services to develop, recruit, train and support recovery coaches, or peer mentors, for parents served by Children Services.

According to a news release from Children Services, the program will be based on an evidenced-based Sobriety Treatment and Recovery Teams (START) model.

Children Services is also partnering with Integrated Services of Appalachian Ohio to provide kinship outreach and support services. The two agencies will develop a Kinship Navigator Program.

Robin Webb, spokeswoman for Children Services, said the program will explore options for placing children who come into custody of the agency with family members, including extended family, rather than foster homes.

Webb said placement with family members gives the child more of a sense of permanence and makes removal from the home less of a dramatic change. It also increases the likelihood children can stay in their current school district, she said.

The local impact of parental substance abuse is reflected in Children Services data, according to the agency. Referrals to the agency increased from 1,640 the previous year to 1,849 in 2014.

“In 2014, the average number of children in agency custody increased by more than 10 percent,” said agency Executive Director Cathy Hill. “More children are coming into care, and they are staying in care longer. We are seeing an increase in infants and young children coming into care.”

This is directly related to the increasing problem with addiction that Athens and other counties in Ohio are facing, Hill said.

The struggle with addiction is also reflected in the numbers of children who are reunited with their biological parents.

“We are currently only able to reunify about one-third of the children coming into care with their birth family, and that rate is unacceptable,” Hill said. “Our reunification rate should be more than 60 percent.”

Hill said that with current service models the agency is not seeing the treatment and recovery outcomes expected for the children and families it serves.

“The needs are urgent and we are eager to start work on these innovative services,” Hill said. “We are confident they will help create better outcomes for Athens County children and families.”