By Ed Runyan
Cynthia Bingham of the Cincinnati area had a hard time believing the information a worker at Trumbull County Children Services gave her over the phone in April 2015.
Cynthia had a 2-year-old grandson living back in Warren, and CSB had verified it by analyzing DNA from the coroner’s office the agency had obtained from her son, Blake, who had died a few years earlier.
“I was in denial for about two months,” Cynthia said Tuesday of CSB’s determination the boy was her grandson.
After thinking it over and meeting the boy, named Michael, everything changed.
“I saw Michael, and I committed myself,” she said during the annual CSB Rising Up, Moving On luncheon at Ciminero’s banquet hall. Tuesday’s banquet honored people who have helped children through difficult times in their lives.
Cynthia’s family lived in Lordstown for many years. But her husband, Ronald, died in 2012. Her son, Blake, 29, died in 2013. She has since moved to the Cincinnati area.
Cynthia participated in a home study near Cincinnati to be eligible to receive custody of Michael, and he moved in with her in February 2016.
“He’s been a godsend for all of us,” Cynthia said of Michael. Her daughter, Courtney, has also played a big role in raising Michael during the last 15 months. “He’s kept me young. He’s kept her skinny,” Cynthia said of Courtney.
Michael might not have ever known his grandmother and aunt if not for the abuse he suffered while living with his mother.
When Michael was 2, he was admitted to Akron Children’s Hospital for serious injuries diagnosed as abuse. His mother was a heroin user. The identity of Michael’s father, however, had never been established.
Since moving in with Cynthia, Michael “has flourished in a loving home,” a CSB caseworker said during the luncheon.
“Not only has Michael overcome traumatic abuse and medical complications, but biological family members, who had no idea that Michael existed, have come forward to care for and love him with all their hearts,” CSB officials said.
CSB also honored Brittney Duley, now 22, who came into CSB custody in 2003 because of her mother’s challenges in caring for her and her many siblings.
In 2005, CSB obtained permanent custody of Brittany, and she was placed with a foster family from Lordstown, Tony and Pam Schofer, in 2007. She lived in the Schofer home until after she turned 18 in 2013.
She now lives on her own, has several jobs and “has overcome early obstacles to become a remarkable young woman,” her caseworker said during the luncheon.
“They are the first family that showed me love and what a real family is like,” Duley said. “I’ve been through the worst of the worst. I never would have thought I would be where I am today.”
CSB also honored Warren police detective Brian Crites with the Service to Children Award for the care he showed for a boy and girl whose mother was murdered in Warren in October 2015.
Crites had become friends with the children through his duties as school resource officer and security officer at their apartment complex. He had become especially close with the victim’s young son, allowing him to sit in the cruiser, and they talked.
Crites contacted CSB to offer his assistance with the children, which was needed a short time later when they returned to Warren from an out-of-town placement.
“He knew how important it was for the children to see a familiar face during this most difficult time,” a caseworker said of Crites.
“His genuine compassion for these youngsters helped their transition to a new school and new living arrangement during the very worst time of their young lives,” the caseworker added.