Sparks: Issue 7, a vote for kidsWritten by Dean Sparks | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Elections are a time when you, as voters, get to say what is important to you.
Hopefully, the safety of Lucas County’s children is important to you and you will make that commitment clear by voting for Issue 7 on Nov. 4.
Issue 7 is a 1.75-mill levy to support Lucas County Children Services (LCCS), the county agency responsible for protecting children from abuse or neglect. Of this levy, 1.4 mills is a renewal; the additional 0.35 mills will cost the owner of a $100,000 home only $12.25 a year — about the cost of a pizza.
Issue 7 really is a vote about kids — it’s about the growing number of children we serve who are on the autism spectrum, or who have developmental disabilities or serious mental health or behavioral issues and need services from our agency to keep them safe.
It’s also about finding safe homes for children who are victims of the well-documented heroin epidemic in our community, including newborns who were born drug exposed.
Issue 7 is also about providing services to the 100 or so teen victims of human trafficking in Lucas County, deemed the fourth-largest center for human trafficking in the nation. New state legislation — which we support — placed the responsibility for minor victims of human trafficking into the hands of agencies like LCCS.
Finally, Issue 7 is about providing services to parents to help them recover from the problems in their lives so they can safely raise their own children. The families we work with overcome substance abuse, domestic violence, mental and physical health problems, unstable housing and other issues.
LCCS has responded to the tight economy by slashing more than $6 million from its budget and leaving 50 positions unfilled. The agency has reduced and, in some cases, eliminated contracts and services. Without the additional funds that Issue 7 provides, the agency will need to cut an additional $1.8 million from its 2015 budget, potentially putting children and families at risk.
At the same time, funding at the federal, state and local levels has declined. The federal government has slashed critical funding for child welfare. The State of Ohio has been ranked last in the nation in its support of child welfare. Even the income from the agency’s tax levies is down as a result of the 20 percent decline in local property values. Due to the way child welfare is funded, the less our agency spends in local dollars the less it receives in federal reimbursements, cutting our budget even further.
Despite these cutbacks, LCCS has continued to excel, maintaining accreditation by the Council on Accreditation, adding programs to help parents more successfully reunify with their children, and finding adoptive families for more children than any other county in Ohio. More youth emancipating from foster care complete their education and move on to productive lives.
We recognize that Lucas County has only recently begun to turn the corner economically, and social issues continue to plague many residents and neighborhoods. However, our agency’s mandate is to protect children from abuse or neglect. We are not in a position in which we can simply not respond. We are deeply concerned that our resources will soon be stretched so thin that children will be at risk. You have come to expect more, and our county’s children deserve more.
Lucas County Children Services is, and will continue to be, transparent in its service to the community and our 350 employees are committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of the county’s most vulnerable citizens. We ask for your vote for Issue 7 on Nov. 4.
Dean Sparks is executive director of Lucas County Children Services.