Hamilton County voters will once again go to the polls Nov. 8 and one issue before them will be Issue 38, the Children's Services Levy that pays for the care and protection of abused and neglected children.
The death of 2 year-old Damarcus Jackson, who authorities say was beaten to death by his father, Antrone Smith, has brought renewed attention to the situation facing Hamilton County's Department of Job & Family Services. Severe budget cuts and staff reductions have taken their toll. Damarcus Jackson was removed from his parents care and had been raised by foster parents since he was 8 days old. He died just a few months after being reunited with his biological parents.
FOX19 spoke to Dr. Robert Shapiro, director at Cincinnati Children's Hospital's Mayerson Center for Safe and Healthy Children. Dr. Shapiro has specialized in the treatment of young abuse victims for 30 years.
"Since I started doing child abuse pediatric work, we've become more knowledgeable in recognizing and differentiating child abuse from abuse look-alikes," he said. "But the fact remains that when children are injured, it's done in secrecy. It's something that's hidden. And rarely do we hear anyone tell us about what happened to a child, or how a child's injuries came to be, so we've all gotten better at identifying fact from fiction. One of the major changes that has happened here over the last 10 years is a tremendous increase in the collaboration that occurs between physicians and social workers and police officers within our community."
Despite those advancements, the job of protecting children is still incredibly hard. Dr. Shapiro said he hopes that if voters take away anything from the story of Damarcus Jackson, it is that there is still much work to be done.
"The recent tragedy of Damarcus Jackson's death highlights the need for competent and funded child services within our county…what we don't see so clearly is all of the tragedies that are prevented by good social work and investigation," he said.
Issue 38 first went before voters in 1981 and has been renewed every five years since then. On this current ballot, the millage rate is the same as in years past, however, due to a drop in property values, the Department of Job and Family Services will get $1.7 million less in 2012.