The statistics and numbers concerning child support and child placement in Morrow County were astounding for both the commissioners and those attending the commissioners meeting last Wednesday. The information was part of the quarterly report from the Job and Family Services (JFS) Director, Sundie Brown with Child Support Attorney/Administrator Shayne Oehlhof.
“Many children’s lives are brighter because of $4,292, 570.28 collected in Morrow County for child support in the past year,” reported Oehlhof.
This dollar amount represents 70 percent of collections due for children and this total is up significantly in the past three years. Oehlhof’s child support office in Morrow County sees 1,800 to 2,000 cases. That represents an even larger number of children since most cases have families with two to four children, or more.
Other statistics given for the past year were: 400 court hearings held in Morrow County to establish and enforce child support, paternity was established for 26 children and 704 suspensions of driver’s licenses are done on average every month.
Oehlhof said the suspension of driver’s license is the next to the last measure in collections since it affects the parent’s ability to go to work. Jail is the very last measure used, after many attempts of having a parent comply with the child support order have failed.
Child placement costs for children were also discussed with commissioners as an on-going concern. There has been a large increase in the number of child placement cases in the county in just the last two to three years. The number of children placed outside their home in foster care, with grandparents (kinship) or residential care has grown from 25 to 30 cases to 46-47 cases per month in just two years.
The commissioners deal with the added cost of this need for child placement frequently and must supplement the budgeted amount to care for these children. Oehlhof said that 70 percent of these placement cases are due to parent’s drug or alcohol abuse when children must be placed outside the home.
JFS Fiscal Officer, Denise Sayre-Rogers said that the governor has cut 1.5 percent from child support in the state’s budget for the following year. However, smaller counties like Morrow will possibly lose four percent up to 10 percent for child support collection efforts.
Commissioner Burgess Castle brought up the subject of JFS clients taking advantage of gas vouchers. Brown said the office workers “are dedicated to getting verification for gas vouchers.” She said 1,200 gas vouchers are issued to clients every month, so it’s hard to monitor everyone. The JFS office does talk to gas station owners. They check on reports of fraud and use of vouchers and require fraud to be repaid.
Amounts being paid by the state for Medicaid in the county also came up in discussion. In Morrow County $53 million was paid in Medicaid to health care providers in 2016. Health care providers include: managed care facilities, rest homes, doctors, hospitals clinics and pharmacies.
Castle thanked the JFS staff for their work. He said he’s heard good reports from clients and the public about their work this year.