PORTSMOUTH, OH (WOWK) — An eight-page report claims an agency isn’t doing enough to protect vulnerable children. However, the executive director of Scioto County Children’s Services says they have made more progress than the report shows.
Dylan Groves is one of three children who died in the care of Scioto County Children’s services between 2019 and 2020.
Each one of those cases is under the microscope by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) in the summary released late February.
The report says of 36 corrective actions the agency needs to take to better protect children, it has only fully or partially completed 16.
“There were things we were tasked with. What we run into is the more children you have in care, the more overwhelmed the system becomes, and it’s not just us. It’s a lot of systems. It does effect law enforcement, it does effect court. It does effect mental and physical health providers,” says Jason Mantell, executive director of the agency in Scioto County since June of 2020.
He believes they’ve made more progress than the report shows.
“There are some pieces to it that I think are accurate and I think there are more that are inaccurate, and at the state level, at ODJFS, has given the opportunity to have a discussion and I want to have the discussion because there’s some context that I’m not quite clear on,” Mantell says.
A spokesperson for the ODJFS declined to interview with 13 News, saying they prefer to let the report speak for itself.
However, Mantell says they need a bit of clarification.
“I can assure people based on what I read there are several items which we have addressed… I don’t think it’s fair to our staff, but I also don’t think it’s fair to ODJFS for me to just blatantly come out and say, ‘no, everything is wrong.’ …Well no clearly we do have high caseloads and that’s a huge part of some of the I think perceived deficiencies,” Mantell says.
Deficiencies everyone wants to see fixed, to protect the community’s most vulnerable.
The Scioto County Prosecuting Attorney Shane Tieman commented on the situation, saying:
“From where we were in 2019, I have observed much improvement. It appears that the investigators and caseworkers have improved their efforts in cases. Additionally, Director Mantell has maintained excellent communication with this office and law enforcement in general on the day to day issues that arise. Although there are certainly differences in opinion from time to time, he continues to be responsive. So, on the local front, things have definitely improved.
“There is much work to be done however. Turnover of employees continues to be a problem. This appears to be due to a lack of prioritization at the state level for additional funding and antiquated laws that don’t recognize the effect that the opioid epidemic has had on the operations of Child Protectives Services. Caseworkers have too many cases and are exposed to secondary trauma on a daily basis, much like our law enforcement. It takes a special kind of person to continue to deal with such issues when they could find another job making the same pay without such stressors. The state needs to recognize that CPS cases aren’t about dirty houses anymore and the timelines to resolve such cases don’t recognize the serious problems caused by addiction. This has overloaded the courts, the CPS agencies, the attorneys for said agencies and the counties who continue to have to put more financial resources to these entities.”
Mantell says he will be speaking with ODJFS in a few days, and will release a statement concerning the contents of this summary after that.