What is Summit County Children Services (SCCS)?
SCCS is the local child welfare agency for Summit County mandated to assess and investigate reports involving the safety and well-being of children. SCCS is committed to the safety, permanency and well-being of all children serviced, in partnership with families and the community.
How is SCCS related to or interact with the State of Ohio?
Each county in the State of Ohio has an agency whose mandate is to assess and investigate reports of child abuse and neglect. SCCS is the agency for Summit County. The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) is the administrative department for the State of Ohio that is responsible for supervising the state's public assistance, workforce development, unemployment compensation, child and adult protective services, adoption, child care, and child support programs.
How is SCCS funded?
The primary funding source for SCCS is a 3.25 mill six-year property tax levy most recently approved by voters in 2018 for the period 2020-2026. The combined levy collections will account for 63.8% of the projected total revenues. Besides the levy, federal Title IV-E is the agency's main source of revenue. The State of Ohio accounts for less than 9%.
What is the primary purpose of SCCS?
The primary purpose of SCCS is to assess and investigate reports involving the safety and well-being of children. Because SCCS believes in family preservation and that all children deserve a safe, stable and permanent home, SCCS will:
- Intervene only where necessary and only to the proper degree.
- Assess the community's concerns of abuse and neglect focusing safety, risk and family strengths.
- Serve as partners with families and in teamwork with partner agencies in the community.
- Actively engage families, and their extended families and supports, in the decision-making process.
- Diligently work towards reunification when a child must be removed from home.
- Seek permanent homes for all children who cannot safely return to their parent or guardian.
- Remain mission-focused in its everyday work.
- Recruit and maintain diverse staff committed to serving all children and families.
- Approach its work with integrity, ethics and compassion
- Be fiscally responsible.
When must I report child abuse or neglect?
You must report immediately, without delay. The law states that you must report whenever you know or have reasonable cause to suspect that a child under age 18, or a mentally or developmentally disabled or physically impaired child under age 21 has suffered or faces a threat of suffering any physical or mental wound, injury, disability or condition of a nature that reasonably indicates abuse or neglect of the child.
How do I make a report of child abuse or neglect?
The first step in helping abused or neglected children is learning to recognize the signs of child abuse and neglect. The presence of a single sign does not necessarily prove child abuse or neglect has occurred, but a closer look at the family situation may be warranted.
You may make a report by calling SCCS' 24-hour child abuse and neglect hotline at (330) 434-KIDS (5437) or contacting your local law enforcement agency. For child abuse or neglect emergencies, call any time during the day, night, weekends or holidays. Individuals calling SCCS from within Summit County may call collect.
IMPORTANT! If you suspect a child's safety or well-being is at risk or in danger, please call 911. You should never make a report of child abuse and neglect to SCCS online or through email or any social media platform … always call the 24-hour Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline at (330) 434-KIDS (5437).
Should I investigate on my own before making a report?
No! Once you know of or suspect child abuse or neglect, it must be reported immediately. The proper authorities will assess the matter.
What should I do if a child tells me they are being abused or neglected?
When a child reports abuse or neglect to you, it is very important that you listen without expressing anger or disbelief. Children first need to know that they are believed and that the abuse or neglect is not their fault. Listen attentively and ask only open-ended questions, like "then what happened?" If possible, determine what happened, where and when it happened, and by whom. This is sometimes called a “minimal fact” interview. However, do not ask leading questions or try to draw out information, even if you are certain you know the answers. This can re-traumatize the child and contaminate the investigation. Do not attempt further investigation on your own – and especially do not investigate physical signs. Make a report immediately to law enforcement, SCCS, or both. Do not make false promises to the child like keeping the disclosure confidential. Trained case workers need to gather facts and details, and this may involve talking to the child. You do not need to have proof of sexual abuse to make a good faith report, only reasonable suspicion that it has occurred.
What information will I need to provide when making a report?
At a minimum, you will need to provide the name, address, and age of the child, the name(s) and address(es) of the parents or guardians, and the nature of the abuse. The name of the perpetrator and the relationship to the child as well as any other details of the abuse are helpful, but if the child does not readily supply this information, do not continue to question or investigate further. Law enforcement or SCCS casework staff will perform the assessment/investigation, and you can add details to a report if they later become available. You are entitled to follow up at any point on a report to child protective services, which must provide you with current investigation status.
Will my report be kept confidential?
Yes! The reports and the identities of those who make the reports are confidential by law. However, if a case proceeds to court, you could be called as a witness.
What happens when I make a report?
Your report of suspected child abuse or neglect will be reviewed by trained social workers to determine if the allegations meet the legal definition of abuse, neglect or dependency. SCCS' objective is to protect the child and provide services to the family aimed at reducing stress factors which resulted in child abuse or neglect. If necessary, SCCS will initiate Juvenile Court action to protect the child. Law enforcement will determine whether there is criminal culpability requiring prosecution and, when indicated, shall initiate criminal prosecution.
What could happen if I fail to report as a mandated reporter?
If a mandated reporter fails to report abuse or neglect to SCCS or to a law enforcement agency, that person could be charged with a misdemeanor of the fourth degree punishable by up to thirty (30) days in jail and/or a fine up to $250. If the child is under the direct care or supervision of a mandated reporter, that person fails to report abuse or neglect, and the child suffers an injury, then the offense could be a misdemeanor of the first degree. In addition, civil liability may also exist.
What happens if I make a report to SCCS and the agency does not find abuse or neglect? Could I be found liable?
If a person makes a report in good faith, that person is immune from civil or criminal liability.
What can happen to someone who makes a false report to SCCS?
A person who knowingly makes a false report to SCCS could be charged with a misdemeanor of the first degree.
Should I tell the parents of my report?
It is best not to contact parents about your suspicions before making a report. Doing so could result in retribution against the child, destruction of evidence, or temporary removal of a perpetrator from the home. Under some conditions you may need to maintain open communication with the parent. When this happens, never accuse a parent of wrongdoing and explain that you are legally responsible to report.
If a report is made about a child currently at school, will SCCS send someone to the school to start the investigation?
Not necessarily. SCCS cannot interview a child without the parent(s) consent, unless:
- There is credible information indicating the child is in immediate danger of serious harm.
- The child will be in immediate danger of serious harm upon returning home from school.
- There is credible information indicating the child may be intimidated by discussing the allegations at home.
- The child requests to be interviewed at school due to one of the circumstances listed above.
How long does it take SCCS to respond to a hotline call?
If a report is assigned for an assessment/investigation, SCCS is legally obligated to respond to it. Case response time is 24 to 72 hours depending on the case.
What happens if my child must leave home?
SCCS works hard to keep children safe and in their own homes. However, due to safety concerns, there are times when children may need to be temporarily removed. In those instances, SCCS will place children with relatives or close family friends first. If that is not possible, they will be placed in the least restrictive placement available.
Who do I call if I'm unhappy about how my case is being handled?
Ohio and federal law provides specific safeguards for your rights while you are receiving services from SCCS. Additional questions or concerns you have regarding your rights can be discussed with the Liz Mangon, the Client Rights Officer. She can be reached at (330) 379-2087 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Can you tell me who made a report to SCCS?
No. By law, this information is confidential and cannot be shared.
Who is my caseworker?
To learn your caseworker's contact information, call SCCS at (330) 379-9094.