FCCS alters operations amid pandemic

86 children currently in Children Services custody

By Jennifer Woods - jwoods@aimmediamidwest.com

With May being National Foster Care Awareness Month, the Record-Herald recently checked in with Fayette County Children Services (FCCS).

Like many local offices, FCCS is operating with limited staff at this time due to the COVID-19 pandemic while still providing needed services to the community, including the 86 children in agency custody.

As previously reported, Ohio’s public children services agencies (PCSAs) are required to accept reports of neglect, abuse or dependency, and then assess and investigate those reports. They provide services to families to help prevent removal of children. When removal of children is deemed necessary, PCSAs work with the court to remove the children from the homes and find them alternative places to stay while parents work toward bettering the situation to be reunified with their children.

According to Social Services Director Beth Potts, most of the local staff are working from home and have been attending scheduled court hearings.

“We are continuing to see our families on a case-by-case basis,” wrote Potts in an email. “Children that remain in the homes that are most vulnerable, are the ones that we consistently check in on. We are taking the recommended precautions and wearing face masks and have the option to wear gloves.”

Although the visitation center has been and will continue to be closed, “Skype” and “Zoom” are being utilized for virtual family visits.

While 86 children are currently in agency custody, there has been a decline in calls to the agency since schools were closed. According to Potts, the day-to-day calls have decreased by approximately 50 percent.

As previously reported, there are different placement options for children in custody including residential, group homes, kinship, family foster homes and contract foster homes:

-Kinship care is the type of placement the agency strives to make first. This is when minors are placed with someone within the community that they know such as a family member, neighbor, church member, etc.

-Family foster homes are those fostering in and licensed through Fayette County. These placements could last anywhere from a few hours to up to two years.

-Contract foster homes are when placements are made through an agency when there is not a family foster home available. Foster homes licensed with private agencies or with public agencies in a different county fall into this category. These contracts are more expensive as the agencies take a percentage of the placement rate FCCS must pay.

-Residential homes are the lock-down facilities where minors are sent for various reasons including safety concerns and tend to be expensive.

-Group homes are not used as often and there is not a group home in Fayette County. Occasionally, a placement may be sent to a group home in another county if their needs are best met in a more structured environment.

-Foster-to-adopt are those foster homes that are fostering with an intent to eventually adopt a child out of foster care. While this is an affordable way to adopt a child in need of a home, it can take awhile and there will be emotional trials for all involved.

In June of last year, it was reported that Fayette County had 14 licensed foster homes, all of which were foster-to-adopt homes. Currently, there are 16 licensed foster homes. Meaning that, similar to last year, several children are being placed outside the county in more costly alternatives and away from their familiar community.

Currently, although kinship placements can be approved following the passing of a homestudy and an FBI and BCI check, in order for other families to be able to foster, adopt, or foster-to-adopt, they still must complete pre-service training and follow proper procedures and requirements.

“We will offer foster care and adoption classes once the pandemic is over,” wrote Potts. “Foster care and adoption classes for pre-service are not offered on-line at this time, per (the Ohio Revised Code). Individuals still need to attend pre-Service classes in person, presently.”

The next set of pre-service classes in Fayette County are planned to occur beginning in late October and are free to attend. The planned classes are currently scheduled as follows:

-Session 1 — Monday, Oct. 26 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

-Session 2 — Wednesday, Oct. 28 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

-Session 3 — Monday, Nov. 2 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

-Session 4 — Wednesday, Nov. 4 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

-Session 5 — Monday, Nov. 9 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

-Session 6 — Wednesday, Nov. 11 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

-Session 7 — Monday, Nov. 16 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

-Session 8 — Wednesday, Nov. 18 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

-Session 9 — Saturday, Nov. 21 from 9 a.m. to noon

-Session 10 — Saturday, Nov. 21 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

-Session 11 — Monday, Nov. 30 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

-Session 12 — Wednesday, Dec. 2 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Those who are interested in either fostering or adopting can plan their schedules accordingly and contact Marcie Hamilton, the foster and adoption coordinator for FCCS, at marcie.hamilton@jfs.ohio.gov.

As previously reported, Fayette County pays a stipend of $20 per day for children 12 years of age and younger or $30 per day for those 13 years of age and older. Although Fayette does not help with transportation to appointments and home visits, they do reimburse for mileage. They help pay for extracurricular activities and with clothing on initial placement. Unlike other agencies and counties, FCCS will pay for licensed childcare services so long as it is being used because foster parents are working.

Reach Jennifer Woods at 740-313-0355 or on Twitter @JennMWoods.

86 children currently in Children Services custody

By Jennifer Woods