© 2024 Ideastream Public Media

1375 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44115
(216) 916-6100 | (877) 399-3307

WKSU is a public media service licensed to Kent State University and operated by Ideastream Public Media.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Cuyahoga County official addresses allegations of unsafe conditions at social services center

On the "Sound of Ideas," we ask a Cuyahoga County official about disturbing allegations at the social services center. [Brian A Jackson/shutterstock]
On the "Sound of Ideas," we ask a Cuyahoga County official about disturbing allegations at the social services center. [Brian A Jackson/shutterstock]

There was an extraordinary moment during the public comments portion of the Cuyahoga County Council meeting last week. Two staff members of the county's Division of Children and Family Services went public with allegations of serious problems at the Jane Edna Hunter Social Services Center, where children with no other place to go are essentially living in an office building, even as county workers are trying to their jobs, and helping care for the young people.

The women detailed serious safety conditions they say workers 'and' the children in their custody are facing.  

Cristina Sarsama and Marilyn Henderson said staff were being pulled from their jobs to provide childcare for youth who were being housed at the building, some for a period of weeks, some until they actually age out of the system. 

The women also allege that they are understaffed, and that some of the staff have been subjected to extreme violence. 

They said youth exit and enter the building as they want, and commit crimes, from shoplifting, up to and including sexual assault and prostitution, sometimes involving the other children, before returning to the building. 

Some of the children in the county's custody have severe mental health, behavioral, medical or criminal issues, and the staffers said that the lack of appropriate placement options is putting everyone there into dangerous situations. 

Sarsama emphasized at the meeting, "We have children living in an office building. We cannot protect them." 

This testimony, as well as in depth reporting from Kaitlin Durbin of Cleveland.com, led the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services to deploy a Rapid Response team to Cuyahoga County to offer resources and assistance, with ODJFS director Matt Damschroder saying last week that he was, "very disturbed and concerned to read the allegations about the conditions."  

We'll start the hour on the "Sound of Ideas," by hearing about these issues from a Cuyahoga County official, Jacqueline Fletcher, the interim Director of the Division of Children and Family Services.

Later in the hour, we'll talk more broadly about this issue with other children service providers in the community, including University Hospitals, and PEP Connections. 

-Jacqueline Fletcher, Interim Director, Division of Children and Family Services
-Lolita McDavid, M.D., Medical Director of Child Advocacy and Protection, UH Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital
-Jill Koenig, Director, PEP Connections

Rachel is the supervising producer for Ideastream Public Media’s morning public affairs show, the “Sound of Ideas.”