OTTAWA — The Putnam County Commissioners questioned funding medium and high-level security foster care facilities from Putnam County Job and Family Services (JFS) during an agenda meeting Tuesday before approving purchase orders for them.
The commissioners approved purchase orders totaling $141,206 for three private foster care facilities ranging from group homes to therapeutic homes and residential placement, which is one step down from juvenile detention. The cost covers the children living at the facilities and all services afforded to them, including therapy and even education for four months, said Mary Ricker, a 29-year veteran social service worker with Putnam County JFS.
The commissioners usually provide a total of $75,000 per year in funding to JFS for foster child care in quarterly installments, said Brenda Schimmoeller, fiscal supervisor for Putnam County JFS. Most funding comes from federal and state government sources, whatever families of the children can pay in child support, Social Security and any other sources JFS can find, she said.
“When you talk about foster care there are many levels,” said Ricker. “So you start with your family foster homes; those are the least restrictive. Then you move up to therapeutic foster homes and then there are group homes. The highest level of security are residential facilities. Some are lockdown facilities, some are semi-lockdown but they are the ones that deal with the most severe behaviors.”
It’s the high-security foster home placements concerning Putnam County Commissioners Mike Lammers and John Love. They were concerned as to whether children with behavioral issues so severe they need to be placed in residential facilities could ever be rehabilitated and become productive members of society.
“It’s our job to make sure there’s a return on our investments,” Lammers said.
“First of all, they’re kids,” Ricker said. “You have to look at the big picture of who these kids are and what they’ve come through. And it kind of explains how they’ve gotten to where they’re at.”
Ricker said currently they have a young man living in residential foster care who has been involved with Children Services in the past. He was adopted and was neglected growing up. There are mental health issues, criminal justice issues and behavioral issues.
“He’s kind of like a puzzle that all of these pieces were trying to get to fit to make into a whole, productive adult who doesn’t end up back in the system, somehow,” she said. “You have got to look at the whole picture of what created that child. Because none of us got to where we are in a bubble. We’ve all been influenced by one thing or another.”
Reach Bryan Reynolds at 567-242-0362.