The cost of housing foster kids outside of the county due to a shortage of local foster homes “is a very serious issue for the county,” according to commissioner Shane Wilkin.
“We are still facing some pretty serious funding issues with Job and Family Services, and a lot of that relates to the cost of kids in care,” said Wilkin at Wednesday’s meeting of the Highland County Board of Commissioners.
While the issue has been often brought up in previous meetings, Wilkin said Wednesday that general fund money will likely have to go toward meeting those costs, and that it may need to happen sooner rather than later.
He said that the cost of kids in care will have to be accounted for in next year’s budget and that will make things “tighter” everywhere else.
According to Deborah Robbins, director of Highland County Job and Family Services, her most recent listing of kids in care was more than 140. And, there are only a dozen foster homes in Highland County.
The lack of foster homes locally is what drives the cost of caring for these children up so much for the county, she said.
Being able to keep kids closer to home would not only save money, but would allow the children in care to remain connected to their family and to their community, Robbins said.
If anyone is interested in becoming a foster parent or wanting to explore adoption, call the agency at 937-393-4278. You can also call 937-393-3111 and ask for Jodi Kidder.
Wilkin said that he, Robbins and other JFS personnel have a meeting set with JFS in Columbus for October to see if the county is missing some other “funding streams” or if there are others the county can access.
On another matter, Wilkin reported that he and commissioners Jeff Duncan and Tom Horst attended the Rocky Fork Lake Area Safety and Advancement Plan (RFL-ASAP) meeting on Tuesday.
He said they “got some good information,” which included information on land banks.
The group, he said, is “getting a lot of good information, good data” to help construct an implementation plan for the Rocky Fork Lake area.
As previously reported, a $100,000 grant was awarded to the Highland County Board of Commissioners last year from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Byrnes Criminal Justice Innovation Program. The grant was designed to facilitate the development of a strategic plan to reduce crime at Rocky Fork Lake. When the planning is complete and solutions are identified, the county will apply for an implementation grant to fund the fixes.
On a related matter, Horst reported that getting the Highland County Sheriff’s substation up and running at RFL is progressing.
According to commissioners, it will be housed at the Paint Creek Joint EMS/Fire District station on U.S. Route 50.
Also addressed by Wilkin was that $43,538 will be reimbursed to the county for electronic poll books. He said the county has already paid $48,270.
In other business, Highland County Health Department Director Jared Warner told commissioners that the department has partnered with Highland District Hospital to offer free breast screenings.
According to information provided by Warner, those eligible for a free mammogram are women who live in Highland County, and who have no insurance, limited insurance, or a high deductible.
A flier states that the dates for the no-cost screenings are Nov. 6-7 and March 11-12, from 7:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. on both dates. Preregistration is required. Also available on those dates are financial counseling, primary care provider coordination, and the Freestore Food Bank.
Contact the health department at 937-393-1941 for more information. You can also email the health department at [email protected] Warner said the department will release more detailed information about the free screenings soon.
Wilkin reported at the meeting that he and deputy clerk Nicole Oberrecht, along with Katy Farber of the Appalachian Partnership for Economic Growth, were visiting businesses in Greenfield on Wednesday in regard to business retention and expansion. They are to attend similar meetings elsewhere in the county on Thursday, Wilkin said.
Duncan congratulated all the winners from last week’s Highland County Fair. He also thanked all the businesses that support the kids at the junior fair year after year.
“That’s quite an effort,” he said.
Wilkin added that if someone were to tally up the year-after-year support for the kids at the fair, it would likely be “a staggering amount.”
Reach Angela Shepherd at 937-393-3456, ext. 1681, or on Twitter @wordyshepherd.