Voters approved children services levies in 12 of 13 Ohio counties Tuesday.
Local levies are crucial for county agencies that work to ensure the safety of children in Ohio because those agencies get only about 10 percent of their funding from the state — the lowest percentage of any state in nation.
A recent Dayton Daily News investigation found that hundreds of children who died from suspected abuse or neglect in the last decade had had previous contact with their local children services agency. A lack of funding was cited as part of the reason case workers are overburdened and tragedies have occurred.
The opioid epidemic has exacerbated the issue, child welfare officials said, pushing more children into foster care and stretching the resources of county agencies.
This election brought the number of counties with local levies to support children services up to 48.
Vinton County passed its very first such measure, while voters in Crawford and Licking counties approved new levies of 1.5 mills and 1 mill respectively. One proposed new levy for children services failed in Jackson County, 54 percent to 46 percent.
Voters in Adams, Butler, Fairfield, Jefferson, Lake, Mahoning, Montgomery, Ross and Wood counties passed renewal or replacement levies.
READ THEIR STORIES: 19 children who died after being returned to their birth parents
“We are so very grateful to Ohio voters who stood up yesterday for the safety, permanency and well-being of abused and neglected children,” said Angela Sausser, executive director of Public Children Services Association of Ohio.
Several lawmakers and state officials called for reform following the newspaper’s investigation, with increased funding being a top priority for some.
“At-risk youth should be our highest priority,” said Attorney General and Republican gubernatorial candidate Mike DeWine. “I think in this case, clearly part of the solution has to be a significant increase in what the state is (funding).”