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Nov. 13, 2009
State, County Progress Cited at Children's Summit

Two-Day Event Includes Teams Involved in Helping Children

Ohio Summit on ChildrenWith a pledge to continue efforts to collaborate and share innovative ways to meet the needs of the state’s children, the second Ohio Summit on Children concluded today.

“Families come to the courts and to various community agencies for assistance each and every day – in strong economic times and in downturns,” Supreme Court of Ohio Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer said in his closing remarks. “It is especially critical during very difficult times, when there are fewer resources, that we have a clear vision for how our communities will meet the complex needs of children and families. That can only be accomplished by working with one another to ensure that children are safe, have opportunities to develop and find themselves in permanent, loving homes.”

The initial planning and organizing work performed by many county teams over the last 18 months will migrate to each county’s Family and Children First Council for further implementation.

Co-chaired by Gov. Ted Strickland and Chief Justice Moyer, the first Summit in May 2008 brought together teams from 79 counties to assess local and state strengths and challenges, identify service gaps and develop local plans for improvement in delivering services to Ohio’s children. Local juvenile court judges and directors of county children services or jobs and family services agencies served as team leaders.

At the conclusion of the first Summit, each county was required to submit an action plan within 90 days to address the goals of enhancing the safety, well-being and permanent home environments of Ohio children. Success was defined as positive outcomes for children and families. This year’s follow-up Summit gave each county the opportunity to share their success stories and learn what actions the state has taken to reduce bureaucratic barriers.

Ohio First Lady Frances Strickland, who serves as chair of the Ohio Family and Children First Cabinet Council, addressed the group about the council’s efforts to streamline services for families. Strickland visited all 88 counties last year and asked what they needed from the state. That input and the feedback from the county teams after the first Summit was similar in many respects, especially requests that more coordination occur between branches of government and that the state increase the flexibility counties’ have in spending state funds. Some of the top challenges identified by local family and children first councils and Summit planning teams have been selected by the state council as priorities for its Fiscal Year 2010-2011 action plan.

Douglas Lumpkin, director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services and a member of the Ohio Family and Children First Cabinet Council, also spoke of the need for more coordination. “The Summit is a tremendous opportunity for the county teams to come together and learn not only from the presenters, but from each other,” he said. “In this economy especially, it is more important than ever that we work together to brainstorm new solutions to our common challenges, so we can better serve Ohio’s children.”

One of those new solutions was shared by Marion County Family Court Judge Deborah A. Alspach, who also serves as co-chair of the Supreme Court’s Advisory Committee on Children, Families and the Courts. She said that her county’s team discovered at last year’s Summit that Marion County had a high school graduation rate near the bottom of all Ohio counties.

To increase the graduation rate, Judge Alspach said Marion County placed a court probation officer in the schools as a court liaison to have daily contact with students, which has resulted in improved attendance and a reduction in truancy.

Modeled after the National Summit on Children, the idea for an Ohio summit came about after the success of the Supreme Court and ODJFS joint Beyond the Numbers project, which primarily focused on improving court processes for the benefit of children and families.

Contacts:
Supreme Court of Ohio Contact: Chris Davey, 614.387.9250
Ohio Department of Job & Family Services Contact: Angela Terez, 614.466.8390