Last week Cristina Sarsama and Marilyn Henderson, two longtime workers at Cuyahoga County’s Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), spoke to County Council about unsafe conditions at the DCFS headquarters. Among the allegations were violence between children and staff, sexual assault, and abuse.
“We have a broken system right now, a situation that is completely unacceptable. There is nothing more important than protecting children in the county’s care and supporting county workers.” said Chris Ronayne, Candidate for Cuyahoga County Executive. “I’m asking for all County officials to cooperate with the ODJFS Rapid Response team for a transparent evaluation process. We need solutions and everything must be on the table to add and retain staff at DCFS, protect children and workers, and solve this crisis.”
Ronayne is calling for several changes to protect workers and children:
- A streamlined hiring process for new DCFS case workers and social workers that doesn’t cut corners but does expedite the hiring of new, highly trained staff
- Emergency contract renegotiations with juvenile placement agencies to increase wage maximums that prevent nonprofit partners from competitively hiring workers
- A retention bonus for frontline DCFS workers in an effort to stem further resignations and a hiring bonus to increase applicants for open positions
- Onsite law enforcement presence at the DCFS headquarters for the protection of workers and children
- A Child Placement Crisis Committee including the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, local and national juvenile behavioral care agencies, AFSCME union representatives, and university partners to develop long term solutions.
Ronayne’s Republican opponent, Lee Weingart, has called for further staff reductions in County government to cut payroll costs including getting rid of the county’s most experienced workers.
“Leaving positions unfilled and cutting experienced staff put lives at risk. I’ll take every step possible to ensure that this doesn’t happen when I am County Executive.” said Ronayne. “We must bring in qualified workers, retain overworked staff and invest in systems level changes that improve outcomes for children in need.”