In the Beginning …
Republican Congressman William Upson was the first official champion of Summit County Children Services. In 1881, he convinced more than 200 concerned citizens to join his cause by signing a petition to establish a home for wayward children. By 1885, the agency opened its doors in temporary quarters at the County Home for the Aged on S. Broadway Street. Two years later, County Commissioners purchased the Cordelia H. Jewett homestead at 264 S. Arlington Street for $8,000 to become the agency’s permanent site.
The Jewett farmhouse provided ideal housing for the next 25 years. Because of overcrowding and unsanitary conditions, a new, spacious brick home was built in 1910. Additional dormitory wings, an auditorium and dining room were added in the 1920s. By now the agency known as the Summit County Children’s Home had emerged as one of the area’s most attractive and responsible public institutions.
The child population exploded during the Depression years and continued to grow in the 1940s reaching nearly 500 children. During this time, the Children’s Home was renamed the Summit County Child Welfare Board, and agency leaders created a formalized Social Services Department by hiring social workers to provide services to children and families and, more importantly, keep more accurate records regarding the care of children.
During the 1950s and 1960s, the child populations increased to more than 1,000 children. To accommodate the rising number, older children were relocated to cottage-style resident halls near Edwin Shaw Sanitarium (now Rehabilitation Center). This area became known as Sunshine Village and was later renamed Andersen Village in honor of Victor Andersen who served as the Executive Director for 23 years. The Child Welfare Board underwent one last name change in the 1970s to what it is called today … Summit County Children Services.
Due to new federal and state laws regarding the placement and care of children, Andersen Village was closed in 1985 and children returned to their own families or were placed in alternative kinds of care. To respond to the challenging needs presented by children and families, the agency developed several preventive programs, such as the Mentoring Mothers Program and Independent Living.
Today, Summit County Children Services is focused on serving the needs of abused and neglected children through its clearly defined mission and vision.
The Five Mandates of Child Protection
Throughout the history of the United States, the child welfare system has evolved according to changing beliefs and attitudes about what role government should play in the protection and care of abused and neglected children. The great debate and dilemma for child protection is the rights of parents versus the best interests of the child. During the last half of the twentieth century, federal and state laws have evolved dramatically within the context of a changing society highlighted by the establishment of five major child protection mandates among many other less significant but equally compelling expectations on the system.
Ohio law ((R.C. 5153.16(1)) mandates the public children services agency in each county to “(m)ake an investigation concerning any child alleged to be an abused, neglected, or dependent child.” Federal and state laws also detail how such investigations are to be done.
A child protection investigation is the investigation of allegations into the neglect, abuse or dependency of a child or children. It is an administrative investigation and not a criminal investigation, and is done for the purpose of determining whether intervention is necessary to protect a child and to determine what services should be provided to a family. The investigation process begins with a report of child abuse and/or neglect of a child living with their birth family or other placement. Reports are screened to determine if the reported information constitutes a report of child abuse and/or neglect in accordance with federal law. In Ohio, an investigation can result in one of three findings: substantiated, indicated or unsubstantiated. The investigator is also responsible for assessing the risk of further harm or injury to a child.
The report must concern an alleged child victim under the age of eighteen, a parent or caregiver as the alleged perpetrator, or an unknown perpetrator, and an allegation that the condition of the child presents a substantial risk of harm to his health or welfare.
Child protection investigations are separate and serve an altogether different purpose than police investigations into allegations of child abuse.
During the 1970s, as the number of children entering care significantly increased, so, too,did their length of stay in care. Lawmakers became increasingly concerned that many children were being removed from their homes unnecessarily, and that, once they entered foster care, inadequate efforts were made to either reunify them with their biological families or place them with adoptive families. By 1980, more than 550,000 children were placed in temporary foster care homes across the nation. In that same year, the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980 (P.L. 96-272) was passed establishing a “reunification” mandate.
The Act was passed to correct or alleviate problems in the foster care system A major goal of the act was to encourage social workers to work toward reunification of the family by making “reasonable efforts” to avoid long-term foster care for the children if possible. If the child could not be returned to the family, another plan was to be sought: adoption, long-term foster care or another permanency plan.
The Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 (P.L. 105-89) made the most significant changes to the child welfare law since they had been established in their current form in 1980. ASFA principally addressed three general perceptions about the current child welfare system:
• Children continued to remain too long in foster care;
• The child welfare system was biased toward family reunification and preservation at the expense of the safety and well-being of children; and
• Inadequate attention and resources were devoted to adoption as a permanent
placement option for abused and neglected children.
As a result, three new major mandates were added to the child protection system, i.e., child safety, permanency and child well-being.
III. Child Safety
Child safety is of the utmost importance as it reflects the root purpose of the child protection system. As a result much closer monitoring of child maltreatment in a child’s own home, foster home, pre-adoptive home or other placement is occurring. One of the major tools available to improve the safety of children in the system is face-to-face contact with each child and their family on a regular and frequent basis.
Permanency means a permanent, legally secure, safe and nurturing home for every child leaving the child protection system. It includes reunification with the birth family, placement with a relative or foster family who have legal custody of the child, court approved long-term planned foster care for a child, adoption and independent living programs. Permanency is a critically important goal of the system which establishes the expectation that no child should leave the system without a permanent family and home.
V. Child Well-Being
The child protection system today goes well beyond the traditional role of safety and permanency, and recognizes the need to address the whole child and all of his or her needs. Thus, we are increasingly addressing child well-being indicators such as the child’s mental and physical health, including access to health care, cognitive functioning, social and emotional health and a wide range of variables including education, economic security, food and housing as well as family/neighborhood environments.
Interesting Historical Facts:
- Summit County Children Services opened its doors in temporary quarters at the County Home for the Aged located on S. Broadway Street in 1881 with nine children and a staff of six. William A. Hanford was the agency’s first superintendent.
- When the agency opened its doors, it was known as the Summit County Orphanage. Since, the agency has undergone three name changes: Summit County Children’s Home (early 1900s); Summit County Child Welfare Board (1945); Summit County Children Services Board (1975).
- In November 1887, the agency moved to the Cordelia Jewett Farm located at 264 S. Arlington Street - what would become its permanent address. The property was purchased for $8,000 and provided ideal housing for children for 25 years.
- A spacious new brick home was erected in 1910 at a cost of $50,000. It was divided into three separate parts connected by covered passage ways. The central structure housed the administrative offices, kitchen, dining room, and living quarters of the superintendent and matron. The buildings on either side housed boys and girls, their play rooms and sleeping quarters.
- In 1913, then superintendent Frank Saunders hired his daughter, Nellie, as the visiting agent, the agency’s first social worker. Her position was created in accordance with the Ohio State Code Section #3099. She evaluated the placement of children with families.
- In 1916, the Children’s Home inherited a farm of 140 acres near Massillon from the estate of a widow named Charity Rotch who bequeathed the farm for the education of destitute orphans and indigent children. Twenty-four of the older children were selected to move to Massillon to learn “laudable skills of farming and housekeeping.” A separate Board of Trustees directed the farm. The Board named Mr. And Mrs. E.E. Webb as superintendent and matron. The farm burned to the ground in 1924.
- In 1919, the Board of Trustees hired Hilda Ebbert as the agency superintendent where she served in this position for five years. Ms. Ebbert retired in 1924 to marry local banker Charles S. Marvel. Mrs. Marvel returned to the helm of the agency serving as superintendent a second time from 1946 to 1951, the only person to do so in the agency’s history. Mrs. Marvel, along with Eleanor Voke and Betty Jaycox, was also instrumental in forming the Women’s Auxiliary Board in 1949, the first auxiliary of a child welfare agency in the country.
- By the 1920s, The Summit County Children’s Home had emerged as one of the area’s most attractive and responsible public institutions.
- In 1923, a two-story addition was constructed that housed the dining room and auditorium.
- With the start of World War II, women went to work, and they suddenly had a need for acceptable child care. The agency became more appealing as a child care agency. By the end of the war, the child population at the Children’s Home was nearly 800.
- In 1952, the Board hired Victor Andersen to serve as the agency’s Executive Director. He served in this position for 23 years until his retirement in 1975. Under his leadership, Mr. Andersen stressed that children ought to live in a family-style setting, not in an institution. So, residential institutions were sub-divided into more informal, comfortable units. Deinstitutionalization would not be seriously attempted until the 1980s.
- In the early 1960s, the Board transferred 36 girls from the S. Arlington Street facility to Merrywood, the renovated juvenile detention home, located at 222 Power Street.
- By 1967, the child population at the agency exceeded 1,000. Voters passed a capital improvement bond issue to modernize the Children’s Home and create additional facilities on land adjacent to the Summit County Sanitarium (now known as Edwin Shaw Rehabilitation Center). This residential campus was named Sunshine Village. In 1977, it was renamed Andersen Village in honor of Executive Director Victor Andersen.
- By the late 1970s, under the leadership on Executive Director David Miller, the agency officially began the policy of deinstitutionalization. Slowly, Juvenile Court released the children to alternative kinds of care, outside the residential institution. Some children were placed in subsidized adoptions while others returned to their own families. By 1985, Andersen Village was closed.
- In 1983, David Miller resigned and the Board mounted a national search for a new executive director. The Board hired Joseph W. White, Jr., the first African-American executive director for the agency.
- In the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s, several preventive programs were initiated: the Mentoring Mothers Program, the Teenage Sexuality and Pregnancy Prevention Program and Independent Living.