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Summit County Juvenile Court pilot program is having a big impact on child welfare cases

A photo of the entrance to the Summit County Courthouse.
Tim Rudell
/
WKSU
Summit County Juvenile Court is piloting a program that takes a more wholistic approach to child welfare cases.

A court in Summit County is more than a year into a pilot program that takes a wholistic approach to families dealing with the child welfare system.
The Multidisciplinary Representation program started in Summit County Juvenile Court in February of last year. It pairs people dealing with the child welfare system with not only an experienced attorney but also a resource specialist and a parent advocate to help them get their life back on track. Judge Linda Tucci Teodosio said the program has one goal.

“Return a child to the custody of their parent when that can be done safely and in the best interest of the child," Teodosio said.

So far, Teodosio said the program has been incredibly impactful. It’s closed 57% of its cases successfully, reuniting 17 children with their parents.

“We have had families that I am certain would not have been reunified without the encouragement and support of our resource person and the support of the parent advocate," Teodosio said.

Geoff Auerbach, Linda Tucci Teodosio, and Tator Tot
Summit County Juvenile Court
Judge Linda Tucci Teodosio (right) with Guardian ad Litem Geoff Auerbach (left).

She said it has helped families reunify in a shorter period of time and hopes it will eventually decrease rates of recidivism. Although this program is new in Ohio, other states have used similar programs for several years. Teodosio said those states have seen very positive results.

"Because they have these great resources and this encouragement and work so hard on their case plan that there are fewer reentries into care by these children," Teodosio said.

She said the program will most likely save the court money in the long run.

"Perhaps as we see it saves some money on the backside, because families are reunifying more quickly, that perhaps we can figure out a way to expand that and obtain more case managers, more parent advocates, so that having this team behind a parent becomes the rule rather than the exception," Teodosio said.

Through the program, four parents have agreed to kinship custody placements so far, where children are cared for by family. Teodosio sees this outcome as a success, as does the American Bar Association's national model for multidisciplinary legal representation, as the child is not placed in long term foster care.

"And to me, that's a positive result as well, because it's the family working together trying to figure out what they need to do to provide for a child," Teodosio said. "So that's been a positive thing as well."

Teodosio said the court plans to look for long term funding when the pilot program ends.

“Hopefully it just becomes part of the way we do business here at the Summit County Juvenile Court," Teodosio said.

Abigail Bottar covers Akron, Canton, Kent and the surrounding areas for Ideastream Public Media. A Northeast Ohio native and lifelong listener of public radio, Abigail started in public radio as a news intern at WKSU. She graduated in 2022 with a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Kent State University.