Below is my latest column in Update, our community newsletter. You can check out the column and much more news about our agency at the link below. I encourage you to become a regular subscriber.
Our recent mass adoption ceremony – always an emotional, uplifting experience – gave me a chance to reflect on the past year here at JFS. While the ceremony always draws a lot of attention, we have many other positive events throughout the year that often get lost in the day-to-day work of serving Hamilton County residents. It is nice to sometimes take stock of these victories.
We have had a year of transition in many areas. We transitioned the county’s Family and Children First Council under our stewardship, saving the county about $150,000 in annual administrative costs. We also transitioned the SuperJobs Center from a private operator to JFS, allowing us to save $500,000 in administrative costs, which were funneled back into services to the community.
I am happy to report both have gone well, particularly the SuperJobs transition. We are serving more than double the people served the year before in our Workforce Investment Act programs and we expect to lead the state in on-the-job training accounts with private businesses. SuperJobs is a great economic engine for this community, helping the unemployed find work and training, while aiding local businesses in locating the skilled employees they need to complete their workforce.
We transitioned from worst to first in processing food assistance requests. Faced with a caseload that jumped nearly 70,000 cases in a four-year period, we had fallen to a state low in meeting the 30-day limit to process applications and reapplications. But our staff tackled the problem head on, working long hours to get caught up and implementing technology solutions, such as document imaging, for long-term improvement.
The result has been nothing short of unbelievable. Hamilton County became the first metropolitan county in history to process more than 90 percent of food assistance cases in a timely manner and then proceeded to do so for nine months running (and still counting). That is likely to be a record never broken.
While we are on the subject of success with public assistance cases, I would be remiss if I did not point out we again led all metropolitan counties in workforce participation rates for Ohio Works First clients. This is extremely important because the federal government has targeted the state for heavy financial sanctions if those rates do not improve. We have actually been asked by the state to help other counties understand our processes so they can increase their rates.
I am extremely proud when we lead the state in any category, but I am also happy to see us simply improve upon our own benchmarks. That is exactly what is happening in child support, where we are setting records for case establishment and paternity establishment. When you combine that work with the Division’s new programs – one to help provide safe visitation between parents and their children and another to help fathers work through issues that keep them from consistent child support payments – it is easy to see our folks are working harder than ever on behalf of Hamilton County’s children.
This year, we also transitioned from our traditional Pinwheels for Prevention child abuse awareness campaign to a more noticeable Wear Blue to Work campaign. The campaign drew a lot of support from around the county and was much easier for people to participate in. We look forward to another great campaign in April!
So, as you can see, there has been a lot of transition – all with successful endings – in 2012. While they are certainly the most notable events of our past year, they are just a small fraction of the work we have performed. In fact, they stand as symbols of a much broader success we have experienced on a daily basis.
I am extremely proud of the service we provide Hamilton County residents. Our staff is full of dedicated people who care about our consumers and are committed to doing great work. That sometimes gets lost in the grind of our day-to-day work. There is no better time than the end of the year to recognize their success and say thanks.