Thursday, March 5, 2009

Layoffs Hurt Family Services

Megan Gorey

Athens County Jobs & Family Services (ACJFS) announced Tuesday that it will lay-off 19 more employees. These cuts are in addition to the six jobs that were cut back in February and another nine jobs that weren’t filled in the beginning of the fiscal year. So in the past year, the agency has lost nearly a quarter of its job force due to state budget cuts. The lay-offs will go into effect on April 3rd.

Job Cuts = Program Cuts
ACJFS Community Coordinator, Nick Claussen, explained that all of these budget cuts have affected the time it takes for applicants to receive eligibility for assistance. “Basic Services are still here-nothing's changing with that. It may take a little longer to process claims because there are fewer people working on the cases and the case numbers are raising at the same time,” Claussen explained.

Programs that are in trouble or have been cut because of the budget losses include:

·Plant Teen – a program to help prevent teen pregnancy
·Dental Care Programs
·Job Placement Assistance
·Computer Training Programs

Advocating for Benefits
Lyda Gunter, a Glouster resident, says she “caught” her grandson, Bryant, when he was born. Since that day, the two have been together. Gunter is one of 80,000 grandparents in Ohio raising a grandchild. According to Gunter, it is becoming more common for family members to raise the children of their children. But, at the same time, qualifying for services and assistance is becoming more difficult.

According to ACJFS the people who use the most services offered at the agency are single mothers and grandparents in Southeast Ohio, like Gunter.

Nick Claussen explains the cash assistance difficulties

Kinship Caregivers Program
Gunter receives about $9 a day from the state to help her raise her grandson, who struggles with Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease. According to Gunter, the Kinship Caregivers Program and the Ohio Empowerment Coalition provide the best results for children who can’t live with their parents. She explained that children form better emotional ties, do better in school, and run less of a risk of getting into legal trouble. According to the Ohio Department of Jobs & Family Services,

"Kinship care represents the most desirable out-of-home placement option for children who cannot live with their parents. It offers family preservation and the greatest level of stability by allowing children to maintain their sense of belonging. It enhances their ability to identify with their family’s culture and traditions."

However, Gunter says that differences between the Kinship Program and the benefits offered for Foster Care Parents are astounding, especially if you are a grandparent. She said that she has pretty much had to "strip" her sizeable IRA in order to provide a living for her grandson because she doesn't qualify for any assistance.

Falling Between the Cracks
Gunter doesn’t qualify for a medical card, which as she explains, is even more frustrating because she will be sixty next month. Meanwhile, she is trying to care for an 18-year-old and also for her own mother.

Lyda Gunter explains how the job cuts will lead to more poverty

Luckily, Gunter says she thinks that the state and federal governments have the power to change the situations for people like her. "Whenever I meet whether a state representative or county representative, I ask them to come out of their office and walk a couple of miles in the shoes of the people. Get back in the trenches and see how they live," Gunter said.

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