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Governor lauds children services caseworkers at annual conference

Governor lauds children services caseworkers at annual conference

As PCSAO’s three-day annual conference drew to a close today, Gov. Mike DeWine praised the work of child protective caseworkers.

“Every day, our children services caseworkers on the front lines are having difficult conversations and making incredibly tough decisions,” DeWine said in a pre-recorded video shared by Ohio Department of Job and Family Services Director Matt Damschroder. “Their efforts are why some of our most vulnerable children have a real opportunity for a successful future.”

The Governor’s recognition followed a 20th anniversary commemoration of a children services caseworker murdered by a client in 2001. Nancy Fitzgivens was killed by an abusive father whose children had been removed into foster care, launching a renewed focus on caseworker safety that continues today in the midst of the addiction epidemic and global pandemic.

The hybrid conference was available to more than 300 in-person attendees as well as many joining online. It featured over 40 workshops designed to prepare caseworkers and other agency staff for landmark changes coming with the implementation today of the federal Family First Prevention Services Act. Three years after the federal law passed, Ohio will begin to access federal funding to prevent children from coming into foster care as new restrictions on placing children in congregate care go into effect. Also over the next year, 37 recommendations made by an advisory council formed by Gov. DeWine will roll out, with new policy and practice guidelines for foster and kinship care, legal provisions and workforce development.

According to PCSAO Executive Director Angela Sausser, Family First and the Governor’s recommendations present an opportunity to transform the system. “If we are given the right tools, we can prevent children from entering foster care, reduce lengthy placements in group care and strengthen families,” she said. “Our 36th annual conference was designed to train and inspire our children services workforce, which has struggled with significant turnover and secondary traumatic stress.”

PCSAO presented awards to Sen. Matt Dolan and Rep. Rick Carfagna (pictured) for championing funding and policy for children services. Awards also went to families and foster youth, advocates and leaders, and outstanding agency professionals. View all of the awardees. The conference was made possible with the support of UnitedHealthcare and Aetna, among many other sponsors.