Division of Children and Family Services Announces Changes

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Mary Louise Madigan: (216) 698-2521; mlmadigan@cuyahogacounty.us 

Following Release of Expert Panel Report, Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish Orders Changes to Child Welfare System

Cuyahoga County, OH
– Today, County Executive Armond Budish announced a series of actions being taken following the recommendations of a panel of local and national child welfare experts. The panel was assembled following the death of Aniya Day Garrett. Because of the pending criminal case regarding Aniya Day Garrett’s mother, Sierra Day and boyfriend Deonte Lewis, the Prosecutor has advised the County to not discuss any details of the case, pursuant to Ohio Revised Code Sections 5153.171, 172.

The panel was led by Jan Flory, MSW, Child Welfare Consultant and former Deputy Commissioner for Children’s Services, New York City. Its members included:
  • David Crampton Ph.D., Associate Professor of Social Work at the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at CWRU
  • LaJean Ray, Director of the Fatima Family Center since 1997 and longtime community advocate
  • Marsha Rose Wickliffe, with more than thirty years of child welfare experience, at the county, state, and national level with a focus on systems
  • Lolita McDavid, MD, MPA, Medical Director, Child Advocacy and Protection UH Cleveland Medical Center; Professor, Pediatrics, CWRU School of Medicine

The panel made the following recommendations:
  1. Strengthen investigative skills with added law enforcement expertise.
  2. Include entire family in case evaluation and investigation with interviews with mothers, fathers and children.
  3. Balance parental rights and child safety need, with latter being the first priority.
  4. Strengthen relationships with neighborhood collaboratives with case assignments related to neighborhood connections.
  5. Strengthen quality assurance function within DCFS.

Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish said, “I remain deeply disturbed by the death of Aniya Day Garrett and want to protect any child in our County from coming to harm. Child safety must always be our first priority. We are following all of the recommendations of the panel.”

Prior to the panel’s report, County Executive Armond Budish announced the following changes:
  • Assign a Deputy Sheriff to assist with investigations.
  • Engage in a community Listening Tour at six locations across the county.
  • Create a Complaint Manager program for both DCFS and JFS.
  • Hire more licensed social workers.
  • Create a new community advisory committee and provide regular input to DCFS.

Based on the expert panel’s recommendations, the county is initiating these additional improvements:
  1. Will house a Deputy Sheriff at the DCFS and will hire 10 additional retired law enforcement officers to assist with investigations.
  2. Will hire additional staff to reduce the caseloads carried by staff. The goal is to hire 12 additional case workers within 90 days to bring the overall child-protection specialist staff to 500. Staffing levels will be continuously monitored.
  3. Newly hired case workers will be assigned to work with experienced case workers for 6 months before they are permitted to handle cases on their own.
  4. Make every effort to include the entire family in case investigations to include interviews with mothers, fathers and children.
  5. Work closely with local collaboratives, police, and the community. Restore funding to a collaborative that was cut earlier this year and use geographically – related case assignments where possible.
  6. Engage in a series of programs to educate mandated reporters of abuse and neglect (such as day care centers) about their obligations, in accordance with Ohio Revised Code Section 2151.421, to report suspected abuse and neglect immediately, without delay, by phone or in person and then follow with a written report.

Jan Flory, Chair of the panel said: "The Independent Panel has completed its work and presented findings and recommendations to the County Executive, Armond Budish. We are pleased to hear that the recommendations will be implemented. The report is focused on how the system works with improvements that will strengthen the ability of DCFS to keep children in this county safe.

We submitted this report with the deepest respect for DCFS staff at every level who are charged with the public responsibility of protecting children 24/7. A theme that emerged during the work of the Panel was the critical need for everyone to be ‘fierce advocates’ for every child in our communities. That is the job for each one of us.”

County Executive Budish said, “I’d like to thank Jan Flory and all the members of the panel who spent hours of their own time reviewing our processes and practices. We are all in this for the sake of our children.”