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Wednesday, September 17, 2014
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Published: Sunday, 10/23/2011

COMMENTARY

Vote to help kids at risk

BY DEAN SPARKS
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF LUCAS COUNTY CHILDREN SERVICES

A child whose stressed-out parents have turned to drugs. A baby who is severely hurt when her young father doesn't know how to stop her from crying. A first-grader who is left home alone because his parents can't afford child care.

These are real situations in our community. They are why Lucas County Children Services needs your YES vote on Issue 16 on Nov. 8, to renew the agency's 1.4 mill operating levy.

This property tax provides one-fourth of our agency's annual budget. It costs the owner of a $100,000 home only $39 a year -- just 11 cents a day.

We spend the biggest part of our budget keeping kids safe and making sure there are enough experienced case workers to help children. Our agency also covers the costs that foster parents incur caring for children they take into their homes.

In some cases, we also provide financial support to kinship caregivers, who care for children related to them rather than see them enter foster care.

We know times are tight for many Lucas County families. But when families face stresses such as unemployment and home foreclosures, children need the protection that our agency provides more than ever.

Studies document the connection between our struggling economy and an increase in the number and severity of child abuse incidents. Lucas County is not immune to this trend.

State and federal support is shrinking fast. Without local tax dollars, Lucas County Children Services won't have the resources to bring in the limited, but essential, matching government funds that pay for foster care, adoption, and other necessary programs.

We work efficiently. Our budget is smaller than those of similarly sized child protection agencies in Ohio. But we still keep kids safe, thanks to our dedicated and hard-working staff.

Here are a few things that we have achieved recently, with your support:

We have embraced a kinder, gentler way of working with families. In most cases, we work cooperatively with families to help them keep kids safe and at home.

For children who are separated from their parents for safety reasons, we have placed more of them with relatives, maintaining family connections.

We have engaged fathers and helped them become more involved with their children.

We have helped more teens complete high school and attend college.

We have placed nearly 100 children in adoptive homes this year.

There is no other source for the money we need to do these things. Without your vote, Lucas County Children Services will have no choice but to cut our staff and services to children and families.

Please vote YES on Issue 16.

Dean Sparks is executive director of Lucas County Children Services.



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