WILMINGTON — Child protection custody in Clinton County has shot up because of the opioid scourge and its traumatic effects upon the young.
In May of last year, there were 60 children in the custody of Clinton County Job and Family Services (JFS). As of Tuesday, there were 75 local children in foster care, Clinton County JFS Director Kathi Spirk told county commissioners Wednesday morning.
During one week at the end of May, six Clinton County children came into the care of the Child Protection Unit of JFS.
“That’s unprecedented,” Spirk said.
The jump in foster care placements, including expensive specialized care for children with significant trauma, led to Wednesday’s appointment before commissioners. Additional dollars will be needed to provide these children — whose parents can’t care for them — a foster home or the specialized residential treatment that are mandated by law, said Spirk and her colleague Cheryl Babb.
After saying the agency in the past had not had to ask for added dollars from the General Fund, Spirk said, “But our kids need help. This is heartbreaking.” For a few moments, she was unable to keep speaking as she started to cry.
Babb told commissioners that based on projections, she anticipates the Child Protection Unit may need to come back and ask for an additional appropriation of close to $600,000.
To put the matter into perspective, Spirk said the agency is spending $5,217 per day in foster care boarding costs alone.
Clinton County Commissioners President Kerry R. Steed said, “I hate to hear that any agency is in financial distress. Especially with regard to the fact it could affect the lives of children and families that we’re trying to assist in this community.”
Of the 75 Clinton County children in child protection custody, 29 are in what’s termed “specialized treatment” as distinguished from regular licensed foster homes.
Spirk said those 29 children have significant needs that can’t be met through regular foster care.
“We have some children that might be suicidal. We have some that have been homicidal. We have some children that are schizophrenic, children who are self-mutilators, children who are violent toward others, children who are sexual offenders. So, that’s the cruel, harsh reality,” she said.
Some have tried to hang themselves, she added.
“That’s what they’re facing in life. They look like our kids, but they are significantly traumatized. They are receiving specialized treatment and that is why it is so expensive to receive the care they need,” said the JFS director.
She suggested the county’s legacy fund could be the source to address the anticipated shortfall in dollars due to the spike in foster care placements. The legacy fund, for starters, will have about $3 million that was left over from the former county-owned Clinton Memorial Hospital’s business operations.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.