Cuyahoga County’s Department of Child and Family Services is planning listening sessions and other changes at the agency in the wake of a four-year-old Euclid girl’s death earlier this year.
The announcement comes after the March death of Aniya Day-Garrett. The girl’s mother and mother’s boyfriend have been charged with aggravated murder in the case.
A county spokeswoman says DCFS had been called to the home in the past. Protesters gathered outside the department’s headquarters after the death.
The county announced the listening tour after holding a meeting with Day-Garrett’s father, according to a news release from the county executive’s office.
DCFS director Cynthia Weiskittel and other staff gave county council a two-hour overview of their work Wednesday afternoon.
“When the protesters came outside our building and voiced their concerns, it reminded us of the importance of going out to the community on the regular and really hearing what people were worried about,” Weiskittel said. “Hearing what they thought the agency did, hearing what they thought the agency didn’t do.”
The first listening session will be May 29, beginning at 1 p.m. at the Friendly Inn Settlement House in Cleveland. The county plans other events in June.
The department also launched a new system for filing complaints and plans to increase the number of licensed social workers, according to the news release. Other plans include creating a citizen advisory board and assigning a sheriff’s deputy to help with investigations.
Department staff told council that they’ve been getting more calls this year, and as a result, average caseloads have increased.
Workers referred about 200 more cases for investigation than usual in March, according to the county—about 17 percent above the monthly average. In April, the number of referrals was about 240 cases above average, or 20 percent.
The average number of short-term cases per worker grew from 12.5 at the beginning of 2018 to 16.26 more recently, according to a presentation given to council.
“If that trend would continue, and caseloads would continue to go up, we would really need to consider, are there enough staff doing the frontline work?” Weiskittel said.
She said there may be other ways to reduce demands on staff so they can focus on casework.
Devinah Giles spoke to council at the end of the meeting. She described herself as a family member of Ta’Naejah McCloud, a 5-year-old whose mother and mother’s partner have been charged with aggravated murder in her death.
“Right now we have an opportunity, while we have our children safe, and while we have this forum, to actually make these changes,” Giles told council.
Asked what she thought of the hearing, Giles said, “It’s the first step.”