MIAMI COUNTY — The Miami County Commissioners said Tuesday that they’re in favor of bringing Miami County Children’s Services under the county’s oversight following the firing of the organization’s director amid allegations of fraud and theft.
The commissioners are considering bringing the organization under the administration of the Miami County Department of Job and Family Services.
“At the present time, I’m wanting to bring it under Job and Family Services. Unless someone can come to us and tell us how it can work better a different way,” Commissioner Ted Mercer said. He added that the Children’s Services Board will have the opportunity to present an alternative plan to combining the organization with the county’s Department of Job and Family Services. “Looking forward, I’m hoping that we can move in a direction where there’s more checks and balances in that department. What’s being done in that department has been outstanding, however, there has to be a different structure.”
The commissioners did not take any action regarding Children’s Services Tuesday. The Children’s Services Board will meet at 9 a.m. on April 5, to discuss the pros and cons of county oversight.
The Miami County Children’s Services Board fired Director June Cannon earlier this month. The Miami County Sheriff’s Office began an investigation into allegations against Cannon of mileage reimbursement irregularities and credit card misuse at the request of the Children’s Services Board.
“Whatever we do, we want to come out stronger and unified,” said John Bosse, president of the Children’s Service Board.
Bosse said the board will discuss their options at their April 5 meeting and will decide what, if any, action to take.
Commissioner Greg Simmons, who previously worked for the Miami County Children’s Services Board, and Commissioner Jack Evans agreed with Mercer. Evans noted that combining the organizations would give the county more oversight, but also more responsibility.
“I think there needs to be oversight. I think they’ve had a great board, but a director can actually manipulate a board and tell them what they want to hear,” Simmons said.
Mercer said he is confident that the county’s director of Job and Family Services, Teresa Brubaker, will be able to provide the needed oversight.
Brubaker said bringing Children’s Services under the Job and Family Services’ oversight could improve improve services and enable both agencies to work together more closely. She said that both agencies being located in separate buildings does pose a challenge.
“It will be a big change for all people involved, if that’s the route it goes. I think it’s doable either way and I’m happy to do whatever is in the best interest of the community,” she said.
On Tuesday, the commissioners met with representatives from statewide Job and Family Services and Children’s Services organizations. Members of the county’s Children’s Services Board and some of the organization’s employees were in attendance.
Joel Potts, the executive director of the Ohio Job and Family Services Director’s Association, said that by bringing Children’s Services under the oversight of the Department of Job and Family Services, Miami County can take a more holistic approach to serving families. About 75 percent of Ohio’s counties have combined children’s and job and family services.
“When you have an entity that’s responsible for all of those types of things, you’re bringing the entire structure, the entire system to bear on the case… While you’re looking at the safety and the health and what’s in the best interest of the child, you can also provide family services,” he said. “When you’re under one umbrella, it makes those things a little bit easier.”
Potts said that the laws and criteria governing children’s services would not change. He added that the commissioners can also decide to separate the organizations again in the future.
Scott Britton, the assistant director of the Public Children Services Association of Ohio, said that there are three elements for a successful children’s services agency no matter what the government structure: strong leadership, a well-trained casework staff, and community support.
Britton noted that the county’s Children’s Services Board recently received a clean audit from the state, which he said is very rare.
“We’ve got a very good team and they work well together and their priorities are in place for the children. That showed up in the audit,” Bosse said.
Reach Cecilia Fox at firstname.lastname@example.org.