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Published: Friday, 6/3/2005

Children Services chief says agency inquiries on uptick

A statewide report released this year showed an increased number of child protection cases in Lucas County, in contrast to a decrease in abuse and neglect investigations elsewhere in Ohio.

But that increase is not necessarily because of an increase in child abuse and neglect, Dean Sparks, executive director of Lucas County Children Services, said yesterday during a taping of The Editors television program. Instead, the agency made structural changes that result in more investigations.

He said that several years ago, Children Services was under public scrutiny, and some alleged the agency would not investigate unless there was obvious abuse and neglect.

"We wanted to try to fix that problem and be more responsive to the community, but more importantly, to make sure we were looking at all the cases that we need to look at," Mr. Sparks said.

For instance, the agency formerly did not investigate the welfare of children who lived in homes where domestic violence took place if the children were uninjured. Now the agency investigates when children are in such homes.

"We know these children are oftentimes growing up to be abusers themselves, or abused if they are girls," Mr. Sparks said. Eventually, children in those homes may be severely hurt because they try to intervene. It made sense to the agency to take action before children are injured, he said.

Children Services conducted about 4,700 investigations last year, of which 35 percent yielded enough information to suggest abuse or neglect.

The ultimate safety plan - and the last resort - is to remove children from a home, and that occurs to fewer than 5 percent of children seen in any year, Mr. Sparks said.

Mr. Sparks was questioned by Marilou Johanek of The Blade editorial board.

The Editors will be broadcast at 8:30 tonight on WGTE-TV, Channel 30, and at 12:30 p.m. Sunday on WBGU-TV, Channel 27.

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