Friday, October 18, 2002

Quick ID checks help in child care

By Karen Vance
Enquirer contributor

BATAVIA - Clermont County is trying a new state program that officials hope will help put children in safe homes faster and save the county a little money.

In one year, Clermont County Children's Services conducted 236 background checks on individuals through the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation or the FBI. The checks sometimes took as long as 60 days.

Now, with the help of an online connection, taking fingerprints and getting information back can take as little as 24 hours at BCII and 48 hours for the FBI, said Kevin O'Brien, a senior investigator for the agency.

The one-year pilot program in Ohio includes two area agencies hoping to take days off a long process. St. Aloysius Orphanage in Bond Hill is the other.

Clermont County Children's Services conducts background checks on foster parents and relatives who wish to care for protected children, as well as employees who will work with children, and day care providers applying for licenses.

"Having that (check) in two days as opposed to 60 days helps tremendously. Before we could lose out on certifying a foster family or placing a child somewhere in a home," said Tim McCartney, deputy director of administrative services.

For Fran Bernard, human resources assistant at St. Aloysius, the program has been a success.

"It's a tremendous asset for the agency. We fingerprint everyone," she said. "If there is a problem with someone we can address that immediately. You just can't be too careful with children. We can't have people around children if they have a faulty background."

The Bond Hill agency has an educational facility, trains foster parents and coordinates a mentoring program.

In the past, the wait for background information at Clermont County Children's Services has meant a delay in placing children in the best possible situation, said Erica Boller, supervisor of permanent planning for the agency.

"In the meantime, we have children who are being placed outside the county or are not being placed in a permanent home, which is the ultimate goal."

It could save the county money in the long run.

"Placing a child in a foster home costs the county $13 a day. But right now, there are not enough foster homes, and some children have to go to a more expensive placement option that offers services they don't really need. That can cost $73 a day," said Mike Pride, the fiscal director. "Each day there's a delay in getting that foster license it's costing the county $60."

Before the new system came online, there were 27 potential foster homes waiting to be certified, Mr. Pride said.

The pilot program is designed for one year, but if it's successful, the county hopes to continue it.

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