XENIA — The Greene County Commissioners invited representatives of state agencies to a meeting Tuesday to help them decide whether or not to merge the Children Services agency and the Department of Job and Family Services. Three-fourths of all counties in the state have combined offices, according to Joel Potts, executive director of the Ohio Job and Family Services Association. “That’s certainly been the trend.” While Potts has seen many states combine the departments, he said he has never seen any separate them. Greene County has an advantage over some counties because the two organizations are in the same building, according to Potts. “You can find efficiencies,” by merging the organizations. “There’s a lot of duplication that occurs in separate agencies that doesn’t have to occur.” While state money designated for child welfare can not be used for something else, money from Job and Family Services can often be used for child welfare under a combined office, Potts said. Regardless of what decision the commissioners make, the legal and financial responsibility go to them, Potts said. A combined office is “a great advantage,” said Lori Hellenthal, county operations manager for the Ohio Job and Family Services Association. “When you’re combined, you can share resources.” This leads to “streamlining services.” Both combined and divided departments can be successful, according to Scott Britton, assistant director of Public Children Services of Ohio. “We have pockets of excellence in each area.” There are also departments in both situations that are not working well, he said. For an organization to work well it must have leadership, a well-trained staff, resources and community support, Britton said. “For us, it’s not so much about structure. It’s about those qualities.” While a combined structure gives the county commissioners a little more authority of child welfare, it also gives them more responsibility, Britton said. There is no clear data that indicates which system works better, Potts said. “You are accountable whether it’s combined or separate,” he told the commissioners. Laura Abu-Absi, policy analyst for the County Commissioners Association of Ohio, said she would oppose the state leading any type of approach to this situation. Potts called Ohio’s support of child welfare “abysmal.” Ohio is last in state support of child welfare, he said. The commissioners sent a letter stating their intent to merge the two organizations in August. The Children Services Board has said it will not oppose the merger. Because of this, the county commissioners must have a majority vote to approve the merger, according to county administrator Howard Poston.
Posted: Wednesday, October 10, 2012
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I believe the Commissioners can solve this issue easily without merging the departments. The current board must be dissolved since certain members have caused it to be dysfunctional. A new board should be appointed or have the director report to the County Manager. Merging may cause problems in separating levies for each department. Too bad the Commissioners didn't research appointments to this board which would have avoided the current chaos.