child abuse and neglect

873 pinwheels show extent of child abuse and neglect

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The spinning pinwheels planted in the ground by giggling children tell a very different story than it appears at first glance. “Without alarming the kids, we let them know this is something to help other children who need help,” said Susie Dunn, who brought out children from Dunn’s Kiddie Kare to plant the pinwheels in the ground. The 873 pinwheels represent the number of child abuse and neglect investigations conducted last year by Wood County Children’s Services. This year the blue and silver pinwheels bear testament along Ohio 25 where motorists will easily see them, in the front yard of Thayer Ford/Nissan, 18039 Dixie Highway, Bowling Green. The annual display of pinwheels is part of Child Abuse Awareness Month in April. The display serves as a reminder that not all children have carefree and loving lives. “We continue to run record levels of investigations,” said Dave Wigent, director of the Wood County Department of Job and Family Services. Last year’s numbers dropped slightly from the 894 cases in 2016, but the severity of the cases continue to worsen. The pinwheels are a visual reminder that the public needs to notify authorities about child abuse and neglect. “We depend on the community to report child abuse,” Wigent said. In addition to the countywide pinwheel field, individual displays are once again being planted in communities to show the number of cases in each school district. “It’s everywhere in Wood County,” said Sandi Carsey, administrator of Wood County Protective Services. Area schools will have displays on their campuses, with the number of pinwheels indicating the number of families in the district assisted by Wood County Children’s Services. The breakdown per district is: Bowling Green – 198; Eastwood – 45; Elmwood – 46; Lake – 55; North Baltimore – 75; Northwood – 72; Otsego – 54; Perrysburg – 146; and Rossford – 90. The pinwheels will be on display throughout the month of April. Some of the continuing high numbers seen in abuse and neglect cases may be due to public education efforts, Carsey said. “I think people are more aware now to call us,” she said. Another reason may be increases in drug abuse. “The reports are very serious that we’re getting,” Carsey said. “We have parents overdosing in front of their children. It’s everywhere.” Carsey noted the recent creation of the Addiction Response Collaborative through the Wood County Prosecutor’s Office. The program responds to opiate overdose cases. “We’re hoping that will help stem the tide,” Carsey said. Last year’s…


County voters support child, elder protective services

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Voters responded to the increasing numbers of child abuse and neglect in Wood County by passing the 1.3-mill renewal levy for Human Services on Tuesday. The Wood County Human Services levy passed with nearly 68 percent of the votes (19,126 to 9,151.) That wide margin of approval was welcome news to Sandi Carsey, administrator of Wood County Children’s Services. “I think that people understand that child protection and protection of the elderly is very important,” Carsey said. “Wood County has always been very supportive,” she added. Since the levy was last passed 10 years ago, Wood County has seen six deaths of children under 3 years old due to abuse. Five suffered from head trauma, and one was smothered. There are no plans to use the levy funding to add staff. A pressing need is to provide safe placements for children removed from their homes. “The number of kids in care has gone up drastically,” Carsey said. Wood County is on its way to setting a record for 2017, as the numbers of child abuse and neglect cases continue to grow. Since 1987, the Children’s Services and Adult Protective Services portions of the agency have relied on the 1.3 mills to support their work. The 10-year levy generates $3.7 million a year, and costs the owner of a $100,000 home about $36 a year. The funding provides for child abuse and neglect investigations and, if needed, placement of children in foster homes or other settings. The levy also supports elder services, such as home health aides, homemaker services and investigations of elder abuse and neglect. The needs of the protective services at both ends of the age spectrum continue to increase. Following are the statistics for 2016: 894 child abuse investigations. 260 elder abuse investigations. 212 of the child abuse investigations involved drugs. 142 of the investigations were child sexual abuse investigations. 59 children were placed in substitute care such as foster care or group homes. And the numbers look even worse for 2017. The reasons may be two-fold, Carsey said. In recent years, the opiate crisis has led to more cases, and there has been a real push for the public to report abuse and neglect concerns. “Last year in September, we had 35 children in foster care. This year we have 50,” Carsey said, adding that her office is currently trying to recruit more foster families. Meanwhile, the number of elder abuse and neglect cases is expected to pass 300 this year, she added. “We…


Renewal levy targets child and elder abuse, neglect

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County is on its way to setting a grim record for 2017, as the numbers of child abuse and neglect cases continue to grow. That makes passage of the 1.3-mill renewal levy for Human Services even more critical, according to those trying to meet the needs. “Without it we would have to reduce staff which would be catastrophic because we are seeing record numbers,” said Dave Wigent, director of the Wood County Department of Job and Family Services. Since 1987, the Children’s Services and Adult Protective Services portions of the agency have relied on the 1.3 mills to support their work. The 10-year levy generates $3.7 million a year, and costs the owner of a $100,000 home about $36 a year. The funding provides for child abuse and neglect investigations and, if needed, placement of children in foster homes or other settings. The levy also supports elder services, such as home health aides, homemaker services and investigations of elder abuse and neglect. Since the levy was last passed 10 years ago, Wood County has seen six deaths of children under 3 years old due to abuse. Five suffered from head trauma, and one was smothered. The needs of the protective services at both ends of the age spectrum continue to increase. Following are the statistics for 2016: 894 child abuse investigations. 260 elder abuse investigations. 212 of the child abuse investigations involved drugs. 142 of the investigations were child sexual abuse investigations. 59 children were placed in substitute care such as foster care or group homes. And the numbers look even worse for 2017. The reasons may be two-fold, according to Sandi Carsey, administrator of Children’s Services. In recent years, the opiate crisis has led to more cases, and there has been a real push for the public to report abuse and neglect concerns. “Last year in September, we had 35 children in foster care. This year we have 50,” Carsey said, adding that her office is currently trying to recruit more foster families. Meanwhile, the number of elder abuse and neglect cases is expected to pass 300 this year, she added. “You don’t control your workflow,” Wigent said. “Whatever comes at you, you have to deal with.” While Wood County is seeing record child and elder abuse and neglect, it continues to get little funding from the state, Carsey and Wigent explained. Ohio is 50th in the country for state funding to child abuse programs. “Even if they doubled it, we would be 50th,” Carsey…


Levy renewal to protect against child, elder abuse

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   As the numbers of child and elder abuse grow in Wood County, so does the need for county residents to support the levy renewal that provides funding to protect those vulnerable populations. On Tuesday, the Wood County Commissioners signed a resolution putting the 1.3-mill child and adult protective services levy renewal on the November ballot. The millage, to be collected for 10 years, will raise an estimated $3.7 million annually. The levy renewal effort comes at a time when the Wood County Department of Job and Family Services is seeing record numbers of child abuse investigations. It’s expected the county will investigate at least as many cases as last year – when the numbers jumped 25 percent to 894. “We anticipate having about as many as 2016, which set the all time record. Maybe a little higher,” said Dave Wigent, director of the county Job and Family Services. In addition to the increasing number, the county is also seeing an increase in the severity of the abuse cases – requiring that more children be placed in foster care. The overall increased cost of Children’s Services last year was about $500,000, Wigent said. So losing the levy funds that the county has relied on since 1987 would cripple the ability to provide child and adult protective services, he added. “It would be catastrophic for our child welfare and adult protective services,” Wigent said. The levy revenue makes up 90 percent of the adult protective services budget, he said. And loss of the levy would mean reductions in Children’s Services staff. “That would be at a time we are seeing record cases,” he said. Wigent stressed that the levy is not new money being requested of taxpayers. “It’s not a new tax,” he said. He also reminded that over the 30 years of the levy, there have been six times when the county has decided to not collect the full amount since it has not been needed. “We only take the money we need,” Wigent said. Wood County Job and Family Services may be the only department in the state to do that, he added. During the last 10-year period, there have been two years when the levy millage was not collected at all, and two other years when just half of the millage was collected. Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar said earlier this year that the commissioners talked briefly about reducing the millage going on the ballot. But there were several concerns. “We try not to confuse voters,”…


Levy renewal sought for child and adult protective services

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   For 30 years, the Wood County Department of Job and Family Services has relied on voters to provide funds to protect local children and seniors. This year will be no different. There have been times when expenses and needs are lower, that the voters have been given a break and the levy has gone uncollected for a year. But that is unlikely to occur again anytime soon considering the most recent increase in abuse and neglect reports. “They are on a record pace for child abuse and neglect complaints,” said Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar. It doesn’t help that Ohio is “dead last” among the states for funding of child protective services, according to Dave Wigent, director of Wood County Department of Job and Family Services. Even if Ohio were to double its spending for child services, the state will still be last, he said. “We’re forced to support with levy funding from the local level,” Wigent said. “We’re in an embarrassing situation for child welfare support,” he said. Also not helping is the uncertainty of the federal budget. If the cuts were to proceed as proposed by President Donald Trump, child abuse and neglect funding would be slashed further. “It would have a devastating effect on us here,” Wigent said. Wigent presented his request to put the renewal 1.3-mill levy on the November ballot this year to the Wood County Commissioners. The commissioners gave the levy request their verbal blessing, and will have staff prepare a resolution to get it on the ballot, Kalmar said. The millage, to be collected for 10 years, will raise an estimated $3.7 million annually. During the last 10-year period, there have been two years when the levy was not collected at all, and two other years when just half of the millage was collected. “We only take the money that we need,” Wigent said. Kalmar said the commissioners talked briefly about reducing the millage going on the ballot. But there were several concerns. “We try not to confuse voters,” he said, noting that even if the levy were to be reduced it could not be labeled a “renewal” levy. Plus, the commissioners realize the needs are frequently changing. “We don’t believe the millage is excessive,” Kalmar said. “It’s better to not collect the existing levy than try to guess ahead.” And the likelihood of needing the full amount this year is quite high, Wigent said. Both child and adult protective services have seen an increase in cases. Last year saw…


More staff needed to handle spike in child abuse

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   There is no “normal” when it comes to child abuse and neglect cases. On Monday night, five children were taken into custody when their parent was arrested on the highway in Wood County. Last week, Children’s Services was called in when a parent died of an opiate overdose. So Wood County Job and Family Services Director Dave Wigent got on the county commissioners’ agenda to request an additional Children’s Services staff member. But by time the meeting rolled around on Tuesday, Wigent’s request had grown to two additional employees. “The situation has gotten worse,” he told the county commissioners. “We’re setting all-time records” for the number of child abuse and neglect cases being investigated. Child abuse investigations increased in Wood County by nearly 25 percent in 2016 – a jump never seen before by the staff at Children’s Services. The number of cases went from 718 in 2015 up to 894 in 2016 – meaning 176 more child abuse investigations. Cases of abuse were reported in every community in the county. And so far, 2017 looks no better. “This year we are trending above that,” Wigent said, noting that March set an all-time high of 90 new cases. And most are not simple. “These cases are very time consuming.” The lack of local residential facilities for children with special needs is also creating more work for staff, who have to make monthly visits with the children. Most children with special needs in custody are not living in Wood County. “We have children across the state,” Children’s Services Administrator Sandi Carsey said. “There’s a lack of adequate placement beds,” Wigent said. “In a perfect world, all the kids would be here in Wood County.” The closest facility found for a girl with some psychiatric problems is in Missouri. More than 50 facilities turned down the child before the Missouri facilities accepted her. Again, she must be visited by a staff member at least once a month. “Physically laying eyes on the child is so important,” Wigent said. Children’s Services workers try to visit youth in custody at least twice a month, if they live in Ohio. Tragedies can occur when licensed facilities aren’t checked on regularly, he said. Wood County has two group homes that are almost always full. There are no residential facilities that can take care of children with greater needs. Wigent said he has been talking with the Wood County Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health Services Board about such a facility. But any project…


210 pinwheels-for each child abuse & neglect case in BG

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Each of the 210 spinning pinwheels decorating Wooster Green represents one case of child abuse or neglect investigated in Bowling Green last year. “The number jars our senses,” Mayor Dick Edwards said Tuesday morning as the pinwheels whirled in the wind at the corner of West Wooster and South Church streets. “I know all of us feel sad to see that number up there,” he said, referring to the sign noting the 210 cases last year. The pinwheels stand as a visual reminder, the mayor said. “Children are Bowling Green’s most valuable and precious resource. This must be remedied.” The pinwheels at Wooster Green represent only those cases in Bowling Green. For the first time, Wood County Children’s Services will be posting pinwheels throughout the county, to let people know that child abuse and neglect happen everywhere. “This year we decided to take pinwheels on the road,” said Maricarol Torsok-Hrabovsky, of Wood County Job and Family Services. They have already been posted in Lake Township, Northwood, Rossford and the Eastwood area. In all, there will be 894 pinwheels planted in the ground. “Child abuse, unfortunately, in Wood County is on the rise,” said Dave Wigent, director of Job and Family Services. Child abuse investigations increased in Wood County by nearly 25 percent in 2016 – a jump never seen before by the staff at Children’s Services. The number of cases went from 718 in 2015 up to 894 in 2016 – meaning 176 more child abuse investigations. Cases of abuse were reported in every community in the county. The increase is being attributed to more people reporting child abuse or neglect cases when they see them, and to the rising opiate epidemic. The number of physical abuse cases investigated in 2016 was 224, the number of sexual abuse cases was 142, the number of neglect cases was 439, and the number of emotional abuse cases was 19. Drugs were involved in 212 of the cases. Wigent said the numbers so far this year are looking even worse. “Now is not the time for us to slow down,” he said. Wigent thanked the Bowling Green police, city prosecutor and city administration for their help in handling  the cases. “I appreciate all the good works of Jobs and Family Services,” Edwards said. “They try to make a difference in our community.” Following is a list of the number of cases investigated in each community in the county in 2016: Bowling Green – 210 Perrysburg – 186 Northwood – 80…


More children becoming victims of parent opiate abuse

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Not long ago, an 8-year-old girl was taken into custody by Wood County Children’s Services knowing how to shoot up heroin. The girl hadn’t done it herself, but she had watched her mom do it in the car, using the seatbelt to tie off her arm. The young girl was one of many taken in by Children’s Services last year due to the opioid epidemic. “There are kids who have witnessed overdoses. We’ve had some who have witnessed their parents die,” said Brandy Laux, assessment supervisor at Wood County Children’s Services. The number of child abuse and neglect investigations conducted in Wood County by Children’s Services jumped from 718 in 2015 to 894 in 2016. Many of those cases were due to parents abusing opioids, said Sandi Carsey, protective services administrator for the county. At least a third of the cases have been related to heroin and opiate abuse – though it’s probably higher than that, according to both Carsey and Laux. Wood County’s numbers are actually lower than some counties in southern Ohio, where pill mills were located. Opioids are involved in an estimated 80 percent of the cases in some of those counties. The addicts come in all socio-economic groups. “It’s not just the lower income families,” Carsey said. “It’s soccer moms, too.” And because heroin and opiates are so hard to kick, the children are likely to be removed from their homes. “In the last year, year and a half, we’ve had a lot more kids go to relatives,” Carsey said. Normally, Children’s Services works with the parents to make the home safe for the children and keep families together. However, that often isn’t possible in cases where opioids are involved. “They have so much bigger issues,” and in most cases the opioid-addicted parents aren’t going to make the changes needed to get their children returned. “We consider heroin cases more severe,” Laux said. “It’s easier for people to overdose and harder for people to kick.” In most of the cases involving opioids, it’s not that the parents overtly abuse their children – they neglect them, which can also have dangerous outcomes especially for very young children. “When using opiates, they can’t parent,” Carsey said. “They’re not capable of making safe decisions for their children. The younger the children are, the more vulnerable they are.” “They can’t fend for themselves,” Laux said of the younger children. When their parents are high, they can’t make dinner. They can’t change a dirty diaper. The parents may…