When I was appointed director in 2007, I made a point of telling this community our agency would be more accessible, accountable and transparent. My goal was to gain your trust.
I realized early on we alone could not solve this community’s problems. We needed the support of everyone in the social services community, business community, government community and others to tackle tough problems such as poverty and child abuse. I knew we could not become the center of that community-wide effort if we did not have your trust.
I think we have made progress. Our partners in the social service community have worked hand-in-hand with us through trying times, when the economy has greatly increased the number of people walking through our doors while, at the same time, stark budget realities have led us to reduce staff and contracts. Our business community has aided us in foster care recruitment, workforce development and other critical areas. Local government leaders have supported us through tough times and helped us launch creative programs, such as the Higher Education Mentoring Initiative and the Crossover Youth Project.
But I realize trust is a fragile thing. I never take it for granted.
Last week, our agency made the news for the wrong reasons with criminal indictments against former employees. The justice system will work that out.
But I want to again confirm this agency remains committed to being accessible, accountable and transparent. Even in this situation, we discovered the alleged misconduct and brought it to the attention of authorities for a full investigation.
We are unhappy and disappointed that any employee of JFS would be suspected of improperly using or dispersing government assistance intended for the neediest in our community. Especially at a time when so many are seeking help from the agency.
These actions did not result in anyone from the community being denied benefits. Cases are approved based on the applicant meeting eligibility requirements and these actions did not limit the amount of assistance available to the public.
JFS undergoes regular audits and has received recognition for its efforts in the administration of public assistance programs. The agency was recently awarded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for its work on food stamp accuracy.
The overwhelming majority of JFS employees are hard working, honest members of society. The agency has nearly 800 employees who help protect children and the elderly, collect child support and provide financial, food and medical assistance to this community.
As I said, trust is a fragile thing. As the leader and public face of the Department of Job and Family Services, I take our relationships with this community extremely seriously and I pledge that our agency, as a whole, will continue to operate honestly and ethically. We plan to remain at the center of the efforts to improve the lives of Hamilton County’s citizens and we will continue to build strong partnerships throughout our community that will help us achieve that goal.
I hope you will not lose faith in us.