September 4, 2019

Rigorous Family Recovery Court helps parents overcome major challenges

BATAVIA, OH (Sept. 4, 2019) — Childhood trauma. Criminal history. Homelessness. Unemployment. License issues. Family history of addiction.

It’s common for parents of kids 18 and younger to come to Clermont Family Recovery Court with all of these daunting challenges.

“The parents face much more than treatment alone,” Judge James A. Shriver said.  ”There are many layers in recovery. They must re-establish themselves in many ways, including finding employment, establishing housing, taking care of legal matters, and creating a sober support system to maintain them, while at the same time attending Substance Use Disorder treatment.”

The specialized docket under Judge Shriver was one of the first of its kind in southwestern Ohio when it started on Nov. 13, 2014. Clermont County Family Recovery Court was based on the drug court model, which emphasizes treatment over punishment.

People come to the court at the breaking point. They’ve burned all bridges. They need accountability.

“This program is hard, but if people really follow through they will be successful,” said Angie Livesay, the court’s coordinator. “We tell them to expect devoting at least the next year of their life to this.”

On average, the program takes more than a year to complete. Families (couples or individuals) voluntarily enter Family Recovery Court. Sixty-two percent of those who participated six months or longer have reunified.

“Addiction is losing your children; it’s fighting for your life,” Lorraine Brock, who graduated last year, said in the Clermont Sun. “When you have people who are willing to be there and help you and say, ‘Hey, do something. We’ve got your back, but you gotta do it…’ If I don’t take care of myself, there is no mom…”

Requirements include attending frequent court hearings, Substance Use Disorder treatment, random and frequent drug screens, meetings with a case manager, calling and checking in regularly, attending AA or similar sober support meetings and getting a sponsor or mentor, having income, establishing housing, taking care of criminal matters and getting a driver’s license.

Seventy percent of participants lacked safe, sustainable housing where their child(ren) could be returned to when the parent entered the program. Eighty-four percent of participants who lacked housing established it during their time with the court.

“People who do better take responsibility,” Judge Shriver said. “They make a plan. They find a good support system. They change their belief system.”

Participants work closely with a recovery coach, who helps them get started attending 12-step or similar meetings and makes herself available to talk.

At her graduation in June, Barbara, a 38-year-old mother of three, credited Family Recovery Court for giving her much-needed accountability.

“One day at a time and by the grace of God, I’m sober today,” Barbara said. “I owe a lot to the Eastside Center (an AA clubhouse), my sponsor and a lot of meetings. My passion today is service, giving back.”

Livesay said: “She was committed to recovery, to attending meetings, to building a community of support. Participants are more likely to succeed when they totally focus on and put great effort into their recovery.”

“This hasn’t been the easiest thing,” Barbara said. “I’ve gone through so many changes, but I’m not alone. It’s teamwork.”

 

 

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June 7, 2019

New child support payment card coming July 1

BATAVIA, Ohio (June 7, 2019) –  Ohio’s Child Support Program  will replace the e-QuickPay Debit Master Card with the smiONE payment card starting July 1. For a smooth transition, Clermont County Child Support Services urges parents to:

  • Make sure Child Support Services has their correct address on file.
  • Keep their e-QuickPay card until they spend down the balance. The balance will NOT transfer. The card can be used after July 1.

The smiONE payment card offers EMV chip security, mobile wallet, secondary cards, no fees or teller withdrawals, and more in-network ATMs.

“The new card brings many benefits to parents,” said Brenda Gilreath, deputy director of Clermont County Child Support Services. “However, it’s very important that we have their latest address information to ensure they receive the card timely.”

Clermont County Child Support serves 45,391 individuals, of which 18,629 are children.

Visit jfs.ohio.gov/OCS or www.clermontsupportskids.org., or contact Clermont County Child Support at 513-732-7248 or 800-571-0943.

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May 28, 2019

Judy Eschmann, Director of Job & Family Services, is retiring

Judy Eschmann

BATAVIA, Ohio (May 28, 2019) – Judy Eschmann, the Director of the Clermont County Department of Job & Family Services, is retiring on May 31 after five-and-a-half years at the helm of the agency here, and a career of 33 years in social work.

That can be a tough and challenging profession, but for Eschmann, it’s been a rewarding one. The Batavia native went to the University of Cincinnati intending to become a school teacher or social worker. After college, she took the civil service test required to work for what was then known as the county welfare department.

“Hamilton County hired me (a very young and green version of me) and I set out to ‘save the world’ and the next 33 ½ years just flew by,” she says.

As a lobby receptionist for Hamilton County, she was the first face that hundreds of people saw each day as they came in for assistance. “I worked my way up a career ladder and had an opportunity to work in many positions including case worker, supervisor, trainer, and policy coordinator,” Judy said. “In 2010, I became the director of Clinton County DJFS which is structured very similar to Clermont DJFS, but on a much smaller scale. It was a great place to learn about all the connections among agency programs including funding, shared services, program mandates and overlaps and most importantly our shared customers.

“In 2013, I became director of Clermont County DJFS and have loved every minute of it,” she says.

As director in Clermont County, Judy said she is most proud of the summer youth employment program that DJFS manages and that enlists local employers to hire youth from low-income families for summer jobs. Those jobs, which pay $10 an hour, can make a big difference to the kids – and their families.

“I remember only having a few months to pull that program together,” she says.” Our entire agency assisted with identifying eligible youth as well as reaching out and recruiting employers to serve as worksites. That team effort was the foundation for a program that has grown each year and served hundreds of youth.”

Eschmann says that it’s easy to misunderstand exactly what DJFS does – because it encompasses so many divisions.

“The name of Job and Family Services is vague and does not describe who we are, and most people don’t realize what we do,” she says. “We are a social service agency with a team of dedicated, talented, compassionate staff. In our Public Assistance Division, we assist families with temporary and long-term benefits (food, cash and Medicaid). In our OhioMeansJobs Center, we provide services to job seekers and employment training. In our Child Support Division, we establish paternity and enforce child support orders. In our Children’s Protective Services Division, we work with families to overcome barriers to keep children safe.”

As she starts a new chapter, Eschmann says, “I’m so glad I had the opportunity to end my JFS career in the county I call home. I believe the programs we administer help assist individuals and families with self-sufficiency, assist with supporting a healthy community and assist with keeping children safe. I am fortunate to work with a talented team and all our accomplishments were possible because of my team.”

After relaxing with her family a bit at home, Eschmann says she’s ready for a new career. “While I’m not as young or as green as I once was, I still have a fair amount of ‘save the world’ left in me.”

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February 6, 2019

Clermont County courts, other offices to close Friday for detective’s services

Detective Bill Brewer

BATAVIA, Ohio (Feb. 6, 2019) – All Clermont County courts and many county offices will be closed Friday, Feb. 8, to allow employees to attend, view or participate in services for Sheriff’s Detective Bill Brewer, who lost his life in the line of duty on Feb. 2.

CLOSED

Sheriff’s Office: Administrative offices close at noon Thursday and all day Friday.

Common Pleas Court: Closes at 2 p.m. Thursday and all day Friday. This also includes Probation, Law Library, and Court Services.

Juvenile Court/Probate Court: Closes at 2 p.m. Thursday and all day Friday.

Prosecutor’s Office: Closes at 2 p.m. Thursday and all day Friday.

Domestic Relations Court: Closes at 2 p.m. Thursday and all day Friday. All hearings will be scheduled to the next available time.

Board of County Commissioners’ office, and departments including Water Resources Administration Building, Building Inspection, Permit Central, Job & Family Services, OhioMeansJobs/Clermont County, and Department of Community & Economic Development: Closed Friday.

Municipal Court: Closed Friday. Those who have an arraignment scheduled for Friday will be sent a new court date. They can also check the Clermontclerk.org website for updated information.

Common Pleas Clerk’s Office, Domestic Relations Clerk and all auto title offices: Closed Friday.

Public Defender’s Office: Closed Friday.

Auditor’s Office: Closed Friday.

Recorder’s Office: Closed Friday.

Engineer’s Office: Closed Friday.

Public Health: Closed Friday.

Coroner’s Office: Closed Friday; on call at 513.543.0129.

OPEN

Some county offices will be open, including the Treasurer’s Office, which is accepting payments for first-half property taxes, which are due Feb. 13. The Municipal Clerk of Court Office will be open Friday. The Board of Elections office will be open Friday.

Bus service in Clermont County, including Dial-A-Ride, will operate normally.

The county website, www.clermontcountyohio.gov, has separate pages for each county office, including how to contact them. Check there if you have questions on whether an office is open or closed.

Services for Detective Brewer are as follows:

Family and friends are invited to a public visitation from 4-8 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 7, at Mount Carmel Christian Church, 4110 Bach Buxton Rd, Batavia, OH 45103, under the direction of E.C. Nurre Funeral Home in Amelia. Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at the church. Interment will follow at Pierce Township Cemetery.

March 2, 2018

Flood assistance for low-income, elderly, disabled

A limited amount of financial assistance is available to low-income, elderly and disabled flood victims through Clermont County Job and Family Services.

Gov. John Kasich has declared a state of emergency in Clermont County.

The State of Ohio has made a limited amount of money available for qualifying disaster-related expenses to individuals in the following categories:

  • Clermont County families who meet the eligibility requirements for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
  • Childless individuals age 55 or older with household income less than 200% of the Federal Poverty Level
  • Disabled individuals who have been adversely affected by the emergency with household income less than 200% of the Federal Poverty Level  (Note: A disabled individual must be childless and in receipt of some type of disability benefit payment.)

The money is available until March 14, 2018.

For more information about this time limited assistance for flood victims, please contact Shonya Agin at (513) 732-7603 or ClermontCasebank3@jfs.ohio.gov.

December 21, 2017

Ohio’s children’s services agencies overwhelmed by opioid crisis

BATAVIA, Ohio (Dec. 21, 2017)  — Ohio’s children services agencies are being overwhelmed by the number of opioid-affected children coming into foster care, exploding county budgets and overwhelming available foster care resources.

According to a report released today by Public Children Services Association of Ohio (http://www.pcsao.org/pdf/advocacy/OpioidBriefingSlidesUpdated12-17.pdf), a thousand more Ohio kids will be spending the holidays in foster care this year, compared to 2016, instead of at home with their family. The statewide membership organization for county children services agencies added that by next Christmas, it could be 2,000 more if the rate at which children are entering custody due to the opioid epidemic continues along its current trajectory.

The numbers suggest an alarming trend, said Angela Sausser, PCSAO’s executive director. On July 1, 2013, 12,654 children were in agency custody. Four years later, that number had climbed to 15,145 kids. In October the number surpassed 15,500. “Many of these kids watched their parents overdose or die,” she said. “They are missing milestones with their families such as birthday parties and ringing in the New Year, and many are staying in care longer due to their parents relapsing.”

The cost of placements has skyrocketed too, from $275 million in 2013 to $375 million in 2017.

In Clermont County, 155 children were in the care of Children’s Protective Services (CPS) as of Nov. 30, many of them as a result of the opioid crisis. And the agency is also working with the families of 552 other children, some of whom are impacted by the opioid crisis, said Tim Dick, Deputy Director of CPS.

One of the biggest issues facing the county now, Dick said, is that there are not enough local foster care families to care for the children in CPS’ custody. Fifty-seven children are now placed outside of Clermont or an adjacent county, he said. Eighteen children are placed out-of-state.

“The foster care system largely operates on a first come, first serve system,” Dick said. “If on Tuesday, the only foster home available is in Mahoning County, we have no choice but to place the child there. When Greene County is looking for a home on Friday and the only one available is in Clermont County, that is where they will place their child. The end result is each county has children placed throughout the state.”

This adds to the trauma children face when they are removed from their home. Not only are they leaving their parents, they may also be leaving their community, their school, their friends and relatives – all the things that can provide some anchoring and comfort for a child.

“When kids are placed closer to their own communities, outcomes are generally better,” Dick said.  Parents are familiar with the community their child is staying in, visits are more frequent and kids do not have to miss school to visit their parent.” Services are easier to coordinate, he added.

Voters in over half the counties, including Clermont, generously support property tax levies for children services, but as a whole, counties already shoulder more than half the cost of paying for child protection in Ohio, which relies more heavily on local dollars than any other state in the nation. Federal finance reform that would have helped address some of these issues was on the horizon last year, but stalled.

“Ohio needs a long-term solution to this crisis – and leadership to get us there before agency budgets collapse and our workforce jumps ship,” Sausser said. “We already have a lack of available foster homes in Ohio. With the projected increases, we will have children sleeping in county agency lobbies with no available foster family to take them in.”

(PCSAO provided material in this press release.)

To find out more about becoming a foster care parent in Clermont County, call 513.732.7765, or go to the www.ClermontforKids.org website.

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August 16, 2017

Colombian visitors meet with Commissioner Humphrey, JFS managers

July 14, 2017. Specialists from Colombia on exchange program.

BATAVIA, Ohio – The Clermont County Department of Job and Family Services and Commissioner Ed Humphrey recently hosted a group of four specialists from Colombia who were participating in the U.S. State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP).  The topic of the July 14 meeting was “Enhancing Justice in Rural Communities.”

The meeting, which was coordinated by the Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council, included Commissioner Humphrey; Shonya Agin, assistant director of Public Assistance; Brenda Gilreath, assistant director of Child Support Enforcement; Ted Groman, assistant director, OhioMeansJobs/Clermont, and Karen Smedley Karen Smedley, supervisor, Children’s Protective Services. They spoke about the family services provided to rural and poorer communities in Clermont County.

The Colombian visitors included Axcan Duque Gamez, legal adviser to the National Association of Displaced Afro-Colombians; Camila Alejandra Hoyos Pulido, a lawyer with the Humanas Colombia Corporation; Angelica Maria Palacios Martinez, mobile director of the Center of Labor Attention; and Nigeria Renteria Lozano, delegate ombudsman for Indigenous and Minority Ethnic People. Simultaneous translators also attended the meeting.

The International Visitor Leadership Program is an example of “citizen diplomacy,” said Michelle Harpenau, Executive Director of the Greater Cincinnati Work Affairs Council. “In a vibrant democracy,” she said, “the individual citizen has the right to help shape U.S. foreign relations, as our members phrase  it, ‘one handshake at a time.’”

U.S. ambassadors rank the IVLP as first among 63 public diplomacy programs in the United States, the council reports. Current alumni include 395 heads of foreign governments, and 77 Nobel Prize winners.

“We enjoyed having the opportunity to meet and exchange views with our visitors from Columbia,” Commissioner Humphrey said. “Our discussion focused on the difference in systems between their country and ours. This kind of diplomatic program – which encourages visits throughout the United States, and not just to Washington, D.C. — has great value as a professional exchange program.”

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April 10, 2017

#MarchAmnesty for civil child support warrants a success

BATAVIA, Ohio  (April 12, 2017) —  One hundred two civil warrants were withdrawn against noncustodial parents during the #MarchAmnesty campaign held by the Clermont County Division of Child Support Enforcement – making it a big success, according to Deputy Director Brenda Gilreath. In addition, 18 cases have been approved and just need to be completed.

“We set a goal of 50 parents coming in to address their situation,” Gilreath said. “So we are pleased that many more parents than that decided to get back on track.”

Child Support Enforcement, a division of Clermont County Job & Family Services, had not offered an amnesty in more than 10 years, and was unsure what kind of response it would get, Gilreath said. At the beginning of the campaign, 692 parents had civil bench warrants against them. Warrants are issued to noncustodial parents who have failed to appear for a court hearing, or to report to jail to serve a sentence relating to child support.

“The warrant hangs over the parent. Even a traffic stop can lead to jail,” Gilreath said. “The amnesty was an effort to get these parents back on track, so that they could then begin contributing again to their children’s support.”

Thus far, 120 warrants have either been recalled or are pending completion, said Gilreath. These parents owe approximately $1.9 million in back child support payments, and have paid more than $10,000 toward what is owed.

It’s unlikely that the total owed amount will ever be repaid, acknowledged Theresa Ellison, a staff attorney for Child Support Enforcement.  “But what we were really trying to do was to have these parents make a good faith effort to begin paying again. It’s important that they continue to pay going forward on a consistent basis.

“Otherwise, cases languish and sit there and nothing happens,” Ellison said. “It’s more important that these families start getting consistent support.”

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March 9, 2017

Clermont County holding open house in April – public is invited

BATAVIA, Ohio (March 9, 2017) – Interested in learning more about county government and how your tax dollars are spent? Clermont County is celebrating National County Government Month – April – by holding open houses on consecutive Tuesdays in April. The public is invited and is asked to register at www.clermontcountyohio.gov/national-county-government-month or call Kathleen Williams at 513.732.7597.

Tuesday, April 4: Meet Your Commissioners

 10-11 a.m.:  101 E. Main St., Batavia, Third Floor

Meet the Commissioners in Session Room. Learn about the basics of county government, the BCC’s responsibilities, what’s on tap for 2017. Q&A.

Tuesday, April 11: #GreenClermont – Protecting our water & environment

10 a.m.-noon Bob McEwen Water Treatment Plant, 3960 Greenbriar Road, Batavia

Take a tour of the plant and learn from our Water Resources team how water is treated in Clermont County. Q&A. Also participating: Office of Environmental Quality and Soil & Water Conservation District.

Tuesday, April 18: Law, Order and Justice

11 a.m.-noon: Sheriff’s Office , 4470 SR 222, Batavia

Meet Sheriff Leahy and his chiefs. What is the Sheriff’s Office responsible for? What are its biggest challenges? Q&A.

Concurrent:

1-2 p.m.: Municipal Court, 4430 SR 222, Batavia: Representatives from Municipal Court, the Prosecutor’s Office and Public Defender’s Office talk about their roles and how the court functions. Q&A.

1-2 p.m.: Common Pleas Court, 270 E. Main St., Batavia: Representatives from Common Pleas Court, the Prosecutor’s Office and Public Defender’s Office talk about their roles and how the court functions. Q&A.

Tuesday, April 25: Supporting Families & Healthy Living

10 a.m.-11 a.m.: Representatives from Children’s Protective Services, Child Support Enforcement, and Developmental Disabilities on how their agencies make a difference. Q&A.

11 a.m.-noon: Representatives from Clermont Public Health and Mental Health & Recovery Board talk about their initiatives and challenges. Q&A.

Both sessions at Engineer’s Training Room, 2381 Clermont Center Drive, Batavia.

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November 22, 2016

Meet the Rices — adoptive and foster care parents

The siblings play Legos together.

The siblings play Legos together.

BATAVIA, Ohio (Nov. 22, 2016) – Dan and Viola Rice’s home in Mount Orab is spotless; nothing looks out of place. A few instruments in cases are tucked next to the piano in the large family room. The kitchen is immaculate, with no crumbs in sight, and no dirty dishes in the sink.

Photos are everywhere – on walls, on shelves, in cabinets, in books. Photos of kids. So many kids.

This home seems too neat to be the home of 9 children. But it is. It is a home full of indoor and outdoor play, chores and assignments, homework and sports, shouts and laughter. And love. Plenty of love.

Dan and Viola, who have been married for 17 years, began their life together committed to becoming foster care and adoptive parents. They never looked back. Through Clermont County Children’s Protective Services, they became licensed as foster-to-adopt parents. “We did not have our license more than a week or two before we started getting phone calls,” Dan said.

One of the first phone calls was for Joshua, who was 8 months old. “We went to pick him up at CPS,” Dan said. “My wife picked him up. He laid his head down and fell asleep on Viola’s shoulder. We fell in love with him.”

Making cookies together.

Making cookies together.

They later adopted Joshua. A couple of years later, they adopted his brother, Nathan, then a newborn. Today Joshua is 14 and Nathan is 12.

After that came Natalie, their birth daughter, who is now 10. In 2013, siblings Samantha, now 13, Katelynn, 11, and David, 9, were adopted.  Their adoption was finalized on Dec. 24, 2013 – the best Christmas present any child could have.

In between, Dan and Viola have been foster parents to 42 children. Currently three foster care children who are 14, 12 and 11, live with the Rices. Two of them are siblings.

Every child in the family, including the foster care children, call Viola and Dan Mom and Dad.

In Clermont County, as elsewhere, it is sometimes difficult to get people interested in adopting older children, as well as fostering and adopting siblings. This has never been an issue for Dan and Viola. For the children, being with their biological siblings, as they become accustomed to their new siblings, allows them to support each other, Dan and Viola say.

But once they are in the family, they all feel like brothers and sisters, Samantha says. The kids nod and smile in agreement. And since all the adopted children were once foster care children, they can make the foster care kids who come into their home feel comfortable right away, Samantha said.

Several of the Rices’ kids and foster care kids are in the same school and often grade at Western Brown – most of them at Western Brown Middle School. “When Samantha sees me in the hallway at school, she’ll say, ‘Hello, little brother,’” Nathan says.

All of the children, including the foster care kids, are involved in after-school sports and activities. As they tick off their interests and clubs – basketball, wrestling, baseball, soccer, 4H, Teen Advisory Board, book club, art club, softball, running club, yearbook, band, band, band, band – they each mention jujitsu. Dan enrolled all of them in jujitsu classes. “This was something they could all learn and it helps to build up their self-esteem,” Dan says.

“We make sure they tap into their full abilities,” Dan says, which is one reason he and Viola want to make sure the kids stay busy. Faith is a big part of their lives, and the whole family attends church together.

Dan, who is retired from Clermont County, is a stay-at-home dad. He makes sure the kids get to sports practices and doctors’ appointments. Viola, who works for Clermont County’s Job & Family Services, puts out a weekly spreadsheet with the kids assigned to specific chores and tasks. With two loads of laundry a day, dishes to load and unload, beds to make and bathrooms to keep clean, everyone needs to pitch in, she says. “We try to teach them life skills,” Viola says. Responsibilities for chores help with that.

“The big thing is, they need to have structure and routine,” Dan says. “They are not used to having rules. They have had to raise themselves. It’s amazing how these kids thrive in a structured environment.

“These kids are good kids,” he says, the pride obvious. “Every one of them is smart.”

Dan and Viola are ambassadors – they want other people to become foster parents and adoptive parents. It’s something top of mind especially in November, which is National Adoption Month.  “We love being foster care parents,” Dan says. “We ask our friends, or those we are just meeting – have you ever thought about foster-to-adopt?”

They won’t have to persuade one group – their children. In fact, each child raised their hand or offered a comment saying they wanted to become a foster parent and adopt children as well. They know the difference it can make. In fact, they are living it.

Making cookies together.

Making cookies together.

To find out more about foster care or adoption through Clermont County Children’s Protective Services, please call 513.732.7765. The website www.clermontforkids.org has information on how to become a foster care or adoptive parent; it also has information on each of the children who are now eligible for adoption in Clermont County.