COLUMBIANA COUNTY Children services speaks against abuse, neglect

Children services investigated about 1,600 abuse and neglect calls in each of the last three years, the director said.
LISBON -- Eileen Dray-Bardon, county job and family services director, arrived at the Columbiana County commissioners' meeting at her appointed time, pausing in the doorway.
"Are you ready for us?" she asked commissioners. Then Dozens of children and adults, all clad in brightly colored T-shirts, poured into the room. Older children carried posters and politely took seats, while younger ones bounced around more than the helium-filled balloons they held.
Prevention: Dray-Bardon, children services staff and their children, foster parents and foster children were on hand Wednesday morning to kick off the agency's April emphasis on child abuse and neglect prevention.
Commissioners proclaimed April child abuse and neglect prevention month in Columbiana County. Dray-Bardon presented commissioners with cupcakes and a schedule of events for the April emphasis.
Dray-Bardon said the county children services agency has averaged about 1,600 calls about child abuse and neglect each of the past three years.
Later, Dray-Bardon said children services has 83 children in its care, with 23 of those available for adoption.
Children taken into the agency's care are evaluated and placed in a foster home, a group home, or a residential treatment facility, depending on the care they need, Dray-Bardon said.
The agency has periodic training sessions for potential foster and adoptive parents, and there are several of the sessions in April, she said.
Almost anyone can be a foster or adoptive parent, Dray-Bardon said. Being able to pass extensive criminal background and security checks is more important than age and marital status, she noted.
Training programs: Dray-Bardon said the agency has combined its foster and adoptive parent training programs, with the emphasis on foster parents as potential adoptive parents.
"We don't prevent someone from participating in the foster parent program if they aren't interested in adopting," she said. "They are welcome in our program, and they come in knowing that's what we're about."
She said encouraging foster parents to adopt the children they foster is a good idea because it means less disruption in the children's already chaotic lives. Older children are more difficult to place, and teen-age boys the most difficult of all, she said.
Kids remain: Children permanently removed from their homes remain in the agency's care until they are placed in foster homes or adopted, or until they are 18, she said.
The agency has finalized one adoption so far this year and last year five children were adopted, she said.
"We're looking for 'forever families'," Dray-Bardon said. "We don't give up. Even when they're 17, we're still looking for homes for our kids."

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