Cuyahoga County To Take Questions About Children And Family Services

Cuyahoga County staff run an information table at a meeting in Cleveland on children and family services
County staff at an information table at Tuesday night's meeting. [Nick Castele / ideastream]

Cuyahoga County’s Division of Children and Family Services held the first in a monthly series of community meetings Tuesday night.

This comes on the heels of a listening tour held last year after the deaths of several children who had cases open with the agency.

About 30 people attended the meeting at the Harvard Community Center on Cleveland’s southeast side, in addition to county staff. The next meeting is scheduled for Feb. 12 at the East End Neighborhood House in Cleveland. 

The agency now has 2,530 children in its custody, the highest number since 2011, director Cynthia Weiskittel told the audience.

“We need the support of our community to support those children and families,” she said.

DCFS staff said they wanted to answer questions about foster care and other services for kids. Staff also plan to talk with people about individual issues they might have with the county.

“If they have a case with the agency and they want more information or they’re unsatisfied, we’ll sit with them and we’ll talk with them and see if we can resolve their issues,” manager Kathleen Sullivan said.

Sullivan encouraged attendees to consider becoming kinship caregivers, if they weren’t already, helping to raise the children of family members.

Last year, Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish announced a series of changes at DCFS after the death of four-year-old Aniya Day-Garrett. Her mother and mother’s boyfriend have pleaded not guilty to murder charges in her death. A state report last year highlighted problems in the way the county handled Aniya’s case.

Angela Owens, an adoptive mother who attended the meeting, said she’s been a foster parent for 11 years. Asked in an interview how DCFS could improve, she suggested staff could have more contact with families.

“I just feel like they have to stay on top of it more,” she said. “You can’t always call the parent and say, ‘We’re coming today.’ You have to make surprise visits.”

Owens said that she would welcome more county check-ins at her house.

“I want them to come to mine,” she said. “Because I want them to see that I’m doing my job.”

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