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Candidate Sutton calls for reform of children services system

Candidate Sutton calls for reform of children services system

Former congresswoman and lieutenant governor candidate Betty Sutton spoke to 500 child protection caseworkers, agency leaders and other child advocates today, telling them just hours before the gubernatorial candidates’ first debate that she and Richard Cordray will rebuild a system in crisis.

Sutton addressed the crowd at the 33rd annual conference of the Public Children Services Association of Ohio, a membership organization of county child protection agencies, telling the direct service caseworkers that she appreciates their efforts to serve vulnerable children and families. “You are facing challenges that are unprecedented and growing,” she said. “Ohio ranks dead last in the nation for state support of these services. We need significant reform … a continuum of care to support every aspect of children’s wellbeing.”

Affirming the need for PCSAO’s continuum of care reform plan for children, Sutton called for more funding for local government services like child protection. “We need to strengthen Ohio’s foster care system,” she said, pointing to the need for more respite care, more mentoring, stepped-up recruitment of foster parents and investment in the child welfare workforce. “Ohio’s foster care system has saved so many young lives over the years. … We need to do more to ensure that every child has a loving and supportive home.”

PCSAO’s executive director, Angela Sausser, responded to Sutton’s remarks. “We appreciate Congresswoman Sutton’s recognition that our system needs thoughtful, bold leadership from the next administration,” she said. “PCSAO looks forward to working with the next governor to redesign our child protection system to get better results for children and families.”

Referencing the opioid epidemic, Sausser added that if Ohio trends continue, the state could see 20,000 children in custody by 2020 and a gap of $175 million just to pay for placements for the additional children. “We have a better way forward,” she said.

Sutton closed her remarks by thanking the hundreds of caseworkers in the audience. “Your work is the very essence of public service,” she said.

Cordray and Sutton’s opponent, Attorney General Mike DeWine, is scheduled to address the group tomorrow.