What’s wrong with CPS in Scioto County?
The new director of Scioto County Children Services said he is committed to finding and fixing all of the shortcomings within the agency. Scioto County Daily news asked Jason Mantell a couple of simple questions:
- What are the three biggest problems with your agency?
- How do you plan to fix them?
He replied with some candid answers. But is he on the right track? Let’s check out the tragedies that brought the agency under fire and then look at how Mantell plans to put things right.
The agency was hit by a storm of criticism after the murder of baby Dylan Groves. The trial of his parents made national headlines. Both the prosecution and defense pointed fingers at Children Services. The State of Ohio moved in to take over and reorganize the entire agency. The Scioto County Children Services Board placed Director Lora Fuller on administrative leave in June of 2019.
From October of 2019 to February of 2020, Lowell Howard served as the interim director. Vicki Evans served as interim director from March through June. With nearly two dozen applicants on file, the Children Services Board officially appointed Mantell to head the agency at the beginning of June, but the public announcement of his appointment was delayed until July.
Just days later, a New Boston couple were charged with the murder of their 5-year-old granddaughter. Scioto County Children Services placed the victim, Annabell Greene, in the custody of her grandparents Richard and Sonya Greene in mid-May. Additionally, CPS placed the girl’s two brothers in the suspect’s custody.
Fix The Shortcomings
Mantell said he realized the agency had problems and that it is high time to fix them. The deaths of children under the protection of the agency are especially troubling to the new director.
“One major priority that we are currently addressing (and will continue to address) is our assessment of past and current practices, policies, and staff training. This would be necessary in any situation, however, with two child fatalities (of children in our care), within the past two years, it is of the utmost importance to examine and rectify any and all shortcomings within our agency.”
Mantell admits the agency hasn’t done the best job of communicating with citizens. He said he is focused on “improved and increased communication within the community.”
Increased and better communication within the agency is also a top priority. Mantell said he wants to improve communication with local law enforcement agencies as well.
Broken And Unfixable
Mantell said he is fully aware of the agency’s tarnished reputation in the community. He wants the public to understand what the purpose of Children Services is under the law and what they can and cannot do. The Director said, “We recognize the anger and frustration. I have personally listened to and spoken with concerned members of Scioto County. We greatly value input from local and concerned citizens. I am open to continuing this line of communication as I believe it is vital in gaining insight, understanding, and trust within our community.”
Mantell said he realized that some people view CPS as “a broken and unfixable agency.”
One Thing To Know
We also asked Mantell to tell us the one thing he wanted the public to know about Scioto County Children Services. He said, “We want people to be aware that our agency and its employees are working daily to ensure the safety of children and to improve our abilities as child welfare agents.”
He said CPS workers appreciated the support they received from many citizens and local agencies. Mantell said they are all working toward the common goal of keeping kids safe in Scioto County. He also admitted he understands why some people doubt the agency. However, he made this plea, “Regardless of opinion or stance, we ask that if you feel there is a report to be made and/or you feel we have failed in some way, please feel encouraged to contact our agency and share what you know and/or believe to be true.”