Morrow County Commissioners took some time last week to recognize April as ‘Child Abuse Prevention Month’ and to show appreciation to Morrow County Family and Children Services for their work in investigating child abuse in the county.
Morrow County Family and Children Services Administrator, Sharla O’Keeffe said the intake and assessment team assessed 146 cases of child abuse or neglect in 2015 involving 348 children in Morrow County. These cases included allegations of physical abuse, emotional abuse, neglect, sexual abuse and substance dependency.
The intake and assessment team transferred 26 of those cases to the family intervention team for longer term services. These services included foster care placement, court ordered protective supervision and voluntary services cases. Families are referred to community services such as counseling, alcohol and drug treatment, parenting and support cases.
O’Keeffe reported that there were 38 children in foster care during 2015. Of those, 13 were in the agency’s permanent custody. Eight of those children had adoptions finalized in 2015.
More adoptions were finalized in 2015 in Morrow County than the previous eight years combined. The higher number of children available for adoption is directly related to the number of parents battling drug addiction, O’Keefe believes.
“Drug abuse and drug use by parents is a rising problem in Morrow County and is having a profound impact on our families,” said O’Keeffe.
Drug use by parents resulted in 25 children being in the children services agency custody during the year. Four of those children were born with drugs in their systems.
It is anticipated that the number of children in custody will grow in 2016. Addiction to heroin and prescription opiates is currently the greatest struggle for parents of children who are involved with child protection services.
O’Keeffe said that other counties across the state are struggling with the same problems. She said that Morrow County is fortunate to have the Morrow County Substance Abuse Court to help with the treatment and monitoring of parents struggling with addiction.
When parents actively engage in treatment programs, such as Substance Abuse Court, they are more likely to succeed in recovery and be reunified with their children.
Morrow County JFS Director, Don Wake pointed out that Morrow County Family and Children’s Services is accredited by the Counsel on Accreditation, a national organization with high standards for services provided to families. He is proud that Morrow County is one of only 20 counties in the state to achieve this accreditation. This was an independent “third party review that put the stamp of approval on our agency and recognizes that we operate under processes and best practices that meet stringent national standards.”
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