Related topics

Summit County Children Services works to reunite families as opioid crisis continues

February 28, 2018

Summit County Children Services works to reunite families as opioid crisis continues

AKRON, Ohio - With the opioid epidemic fueling record numbers of children in its custody, Summit County Children Services is hoping a small grant to help reunify families will make a big difference.

The average monthly number of children in custody, which means they are taken from their homes, has shot from 601 in 2015 to 737 today.

“That’s higher than when we were really tipping the scales,” said Ann Ream, community relations director.

And those numbers don’t include the more than 200 children living with relatives or close family friends who are under children services’ protective supervision and are working through a case plan, Ream said.

Meanwhile, the opioid epidemic in Summit County is not abating.

Summit County emergency rooms have treated 240 drug overdose cases in the first two months of 2018, according to Summit County Public Health. In 2017, overdose cases totaled 2,322.

Ohio stands at 4th in the nation for drug overdose deaths from 2010-2015, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Making the situation more complex, state aid to Summit County Children Services decreased from $2.9 million in 2008 to $2 million in 2016.

To provide some relief, the agency was recently selected to join the Succeed Primary Parent Support Group Project, an initiative of the Ohio Family Care Association and the Casey Family Fund. The Ohio Family Care is a nonprofit advocating for Ohio families working through the child welfare system. The Casey Fund is a nonprofit working to provide and improve foster care.

A $1,000 grant will enable Summit County Children Services to launch a new support group for parents working on a case plan to reunify with their children, that will offer resources, encouragement and assistance.

In Summit County in 2016, 76.2 percent of kids in temporary custody were reunified with parents or family.

Attendees will attend twice-monthly, topic-driven meetings beginning in April. They will talk with their peers about such issues as visitation, foster care, working with caseworkers, access to community resources and emotional stability for families and parents.

Parents who have been successfully reunified with their children for at least two years and have remained clean and sober, with no setbacks, will be selected to lead the group meetings. They will receive training and a small stipend from the grant money, said Tracy Mayfield, social service programs director.

The hope is that parents working to get regain custody of their children will benefit from talking to others who are experiencing the same challenges and sharing thoughts with those who have been successful, Mayfield said. Ultimately, the goal is to reunite the families permanently.

“We hope it empowers the parents to be successful with their case plans and helps them have better quality visitation with their children,” she said.

Participants and organizers will fill out evaluations for Ohio Family Cares to help measure the benefits of the program.

For more information about the Succeed Primary Parent Support Group Project and future meetings, call 330-996-7255.

Want more Akron news? Sign up for cleveland.com’s Rubber City Daily, an email newsletter delivered at 5:30 a.m. Monday through Friday.