By Randall Galbraith
That is the number of children found to be abused, neglected or dependent by the Hancock County Juvenile Court in calendar year 2022. 100 children who had their lives upended in the most traumatic ways by the people whom those children should have been able to rely upon for their care and comfort.
So often, the struggles of these children, and children like them around the state, are never seen or heard. Due to necessary rules and laws obscuring the identities of abused children and the facts of their situation, it is entirely possible, and highly likely, that citizens simply do not know the breadth and extent of family strife within their communities. Given that the first step to solving any problem is defining exactly what the problem is, such obfuscation leads to an understandable notion by the populace that there really is not much of a problem in most communities.
Many people will readily acknowledge that there are problems with child abuse in the mean streets of our biggest cities, and there may be problems located in the poor areas of Appalachia and the South. Obviously, problems with abuse exist where poverty, despair, joblessness, and substance abuse run rampant. Surely such instances are exceedingly rare in prosperous middle American communities such as those found in Hancock County. I wish I could report that notion as true.
Hancock County Job and Family Services is the primary agency in Hancock County tasked with the duty to ensure that Hancock County children, our kids, are safe. Our Child Protective Services Unit took 1,546 reports of child abuse or neglect in 2022. Of those reports, we opened 448 cases for investigation, more than one every day of the year in 2022. From those investigations, the Child Protective Services Unit, with the assistance of the Hancock County Prosecutor, adjudicated before the court 100 children to be abused, neglected, or dependent upon the state for their welfare. By the last day of 2022, Hancock County Job and Family Services had 101 children placed in our custody, with the agency responsible for ensuring the daily needs of these 101 children were being met. The costs for placement alone for these children exceeded $2.1 million in calendar year 2022.
The problem has been defined. Perhaps some of the preconceived notions and secrecy have been dispelled. Now comes the exceedingly difficult part: ensuring that our kids are safe and loved without inflicting any more trauma upon them than necessary. The solutions are as many and varied as the families from which these children issue.
That does not mean that good outcomes are impossible. Hancock County is blessed with a sense of community and collaboration that is nearly unmatched anywhere in this state. We can do it, but we need your help. As the month of April moves apace, it is the intent of our collaboration that ways in which the citizens of Hancock County can become involved are explored in this column and in other media formats. There is a role for you and an organization that is looking for your skills and time.
Won’t you please reach out?
(Galbraith is director of Hancock County Job & Family Services.)
(This guest column appeared in the Findlay Courier in April 2023.)