Issue 17 looks to bolster funds for foster care services to investigate child neglect

Terrell Johnson

With about 80 percent of children removed from their homes due to substance abuse problems, Portage County Children Services is asking for more money to fund its childcare programs with Issue 17 on the Nov. 4 ballot.

Portage County Children Services administrator Tammy Devine said more children are being neglected and put into foster care with the recent heroin and meth epidemic happening in Portage County.

“Over the last two years, we have seen an enormous increase in children coming into care because of family members who are heroin addicts,” Devine said.

Average number of children in care per month in Portage County

  • 2010 – 121
  • 2011-125
  • 2012-120
  • 2013-167
  • 2014-187

Source: Tammy Devine, Portage County Children Services administrator

She said children come into and stay in foster care because parents have trouble maintaining their sobriety long enough to provide their children with a safe and stable home.

Devine said some children are in residential treatment because they have mental health needs that can only be met in a residential setting.

Kim Bushek, public information officer at the Portage County Department of Job and Family Services, said the 0.75-mill levy would generate more than $1.5 million per year.

Bushek said Issue 17 funds a 24-hour child abuse and neglect reporting hotline called CARES, parent counseling classes and investigations of suspected neglect and child abuse. She said Portage County’s drug abuse problem will become a bigger problem if Issue 17 is not renewed.

“Last year we got 4,025 calls to the CARES line,” Bushek said. “Because of the heroin epidemic, we get a lot of children with a multitude of needs. Without the support of the voters, the budget would be significantly reduced.”

The levy, first passed in 1985, is not a tax increase. The owners of a $100,000 home will pay 4 cents per day in taxes to help fund the levy.

“How can anyone not vote to protect our community’s most vulnerable?” said Carole Beaty, chief program officer at Family and Community Services, Inc. in Ravenna. “The cost per month is less than a cup of coffee, and I strongly hope Portage County voters will join me in protecting the community’s children.”

Contact Terrell Johnson at [email protected].