Summit County Executive Director of Children’s Services Julie Barnes retires
Summit County Executive Director of Children’s Services Julie Barnes is retiring after nearly a decade in this role and more than three decades in the field of child protection.
“On May 1, when I officially retire, I’ve been in child welfare for 32 years, so I feel like it’s about time,” said Barnes, whose last day opening day is April 29. ” I’m ready. I want to spend time with my family.
Barnes has led Children’s Services, which has over 360 employees and an annual budget of over $ 60 million, since December 2013. His tenure as Executive Director has included the opioid epidemic in ongoing and devastating and its effects on children and their families, as well as the adoption of an increased agency levy.
Children’s Services served 1 in 12 children in the county in 2020 and has more than 800 children in agency care. Its services include reception and protection services, placement, foster care, parental care, independent living and adoption.
Initially, Barnes had no intention of going into the field of child protection. She received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Hiram College. She also holds an MA in Higher Education from Kent State University.
Her first job was as a social worker in the Geauga County Department of Employment and Family Services.
“Honestly, I kind of landed on the pitch,” she said. “It was the first job offer I received from university. I took it, and have been there ever since. And it’s one of those things that once you’re there you get a passion for it, and I absolutely loved the job.
Barnes’ career included several social, managerial and administrative positions in Geauga County before moving to the Ohio Department of Employment and Family Services.
She then came to work at Summit County Children Services as Director of Foster Care and Adoption for nearly five years before moving to Stark County Job and Family Services, a three-pronged agency comprising Human Services. , Child Support and Children Services. She served one year as Deputy Director of Children’s Services and over five years as Executive Director.
Barnes then returned to Summit County Children Services as Executive Director in 2013.
“[I’m] happy to be able to be here, to retire and to end my career in child welfare here in Summit County, ”she said. “I’ve had so many different jobs in child protection, but I really liked all the jobs… I think it’s really the job, working with families and children and knowing. that we can make a difference in people’s lives and keep children safe.
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Work for diversity, equity, inclusion
During her tenure, Barnes said she was proud of the agency’s work on diversity, equity and inclusion, which includes a steering committee and action plan to take a close look the way we do things, how we recruit and hire and train our staff and our case work and how this might contribute to the disparities we know to occur in child welfare.
She said she was also proud to lead the agency when the increase in its levies was passed in 2018. The € 3.25 million levy supports 61% of the agency’s budget. When it was adopted, the agency had not received a levy increase for 30 years.
Barnes said the reason for the increase was the opioid epidemic. She is concerned about the continuing effect of the epidemic.
“So many families have been really affected by the opioid epidemic and substance use disorders, and it has really increased the need for our services: more cases called into our hotline, more cases requiring referrals. services, more children in our care, ”she said.
Barnes said the COVID-19 pandemic has also been a challenge, as it causes additional stressors in the home and exacerbates already existing staff issues in the field.
“I don’t think people are entering social work at the same rate they were 20 and 30 years ago, so it’s harder to find people to fill jobs,” she said.
Barnes said that over the decades she worked in the field, she also saw more demands on social workers when it came to data entry, with greater use of technology, which she has seen. says “take[s] a lot of their time and take[s] take them away from the social work that I think most of us are here for.
Barnes has also seen cases become more difficult and complex over the years.
“Gone are the days of 30 years ago when we went to assess houses that were dirty,” she said. “Right now the cases that we are seeing are children with very serious injuries or families with very important and complicated family dynamics, substance abuse issues, mental health issues. We also see a lot of children who are really struggling with very serious mental and behavioral health issues. “
Meeting the challenges of public perception
Barnes said she knew the agency could sometimes have a negative perception from the families she works with and the public, both from people who think she is too involved and not involved enough. .
She said the agency getting involved in a family’s life can be a very difficult time.
“Sometimes we can be very intrusive in the lives of families, and sometimes the children cannot stay in their family’s house,” she said. “I know if I put myself in these people’s shoes, what is happening to them and the trauma it causes in a family, I would be angry too.
“It’s very difficult for families to have a third party come to your house and tell you how to be a parent. And I don’t think anyone wants to be a bad parent, ”she said. “I think things happen, and life happens, and stress happens, and all of these family dynamics are the things that usually cause parents to do things that get them to our attention.”
Barnes also said the strict rules and mandates the agency must follow can also be frustrating for families.
“I think we need to make sure we’re involved when we need to be on the right cases for the right reasons,” she said. “We can see that there is no child abuse and neglect, but at least we know that we have assessed it and the child is safe … First and foremost, we really need to make sure we’re doing the right thing for the kids and protecting the kids.
Barnes leaves the agency in the hands of his leadership and management teams. The Summit County Children’s Services Board is working with independent executive search consultants Ratliff & Taylor to recruit Barnes’ successor.
To view the job description, visit Summitkids.org/Careers. Applicants should submit their resumes by January 21 to Beth Sweeney, President of Ratliff & Taylor, at [email protected]
“I feel like I’m really able to leave the agency in a good place. We have a solid structure in place. We are financially strong. We have a great board at this point, and we have a great staff, ”said Barnes. “So I think it’s really an opportunity for my successor to be able to continue to move the agency forward and in a positive direction. “