Preble County children’s services recently obtained another round of local funding to avoid a budget shortfall, but officials say they have made progress cutting costs to lessen the amount of county funds needed each year.
Preble County commissioners recently approved an additional $100,000 for children’s services to cover June expenses. According to county officials, Preble County Job and Family Services is set to receive more funding this month from a levy, which will help cover expenses during the second half of the year.
On average, 56 kids are in Preble County’s custody each month, with some of them entered into the foster care system, according to Becky Sorrell, director of Preble County Job and Family Services. But the costs quickly add up, she said.
“In my history, we’ve always received some funding from the general fund to help support children’s services placement costs,” Sorrell said.
So far this year, children’s services has asked for $100,000 from the county commissioners to avoid a shortfall, Sorrell said. But that’s down from $600,000 that her office requested from the county in 2015, she added.
The children’s services office has steadily decreased costs in recent years by trying to place more children with relatives and getting children back into their homes more quickly, Sorrell explained.
“The best thing for a child is for them to be able to remain safely at home in a stable home environment,” she said.
Most of Preble County’s children’s services funding comes from the federal government, followed by local resources and then the state, which covers about 10 percent of their costs, Sorrell explained.
But according to the Public Children Services Association of Ohio, other states contribute greater shares of funding for children’s services.
Preble County Commissioner Chris Day said he wants to see the state contribute more funding.
“We continually at the state level are asking them to up the ante and give us some additional dollars to help fund these placements,” Day said.
According to a spokesperson for Ohio Job and Family Services, the state recently raised its annual funding for children’s services statewide by $15 million per year, saying in a statement in part: “Looking solely at just one aspect of funding streams to determine the dollars provided to Ohio’s child protection system drastically underestimates the contributions taxpayers are making to ensure Ohio has a quality system. No matter how you look at it, Ohio is one of the top spenders on child services.”
Preble County already has a levy for children’s services, which brings in about $740,000 per year, Sorrell said, adding that she has no plans to raise that levy or ask for another one.