A Legend of Caring
The History of Wayne County Children Services
The Wayne County Children Services Board is located in the Kinney Building at 2534 Burbank Road in Wooster. Before there was the Children Services Board, it was known as "The Children’s Home." In 1876, the Ohio legislature passed legislation for "the establishment, support and regulation of children’s homes in the counties of Ohio." By the end of that century most Ohio counties had established a children’s home to care for orphaned, abandoned, abused, neglected or dependent children.
On July 5, 1880, the Wayne County Commissioners purchased 82.25 acres of land for $12,500 to use for the purpose of creating a children’s home. This still undeveloped "green space" at the north end of Wooster was the farm for Wayne County’s Children’s Home. The purpose of a Children’s Home was to "furnish an asylum for indigent children under age 16 where they are to be provided with physical, moral, and mental training." The land and a house the county purchased was originally owned by Dr. Stephen F. Day. New construction was added to the original house to make the home ready for children. The first children went to the Children’s Home on March 20, 1882. The first Children’s Home Superintendent was J.B. Pinkerton.
Although records are incomplete, it can be said that the Children’s Home for nearly eight decades became the home of hundreds of children. Near its peak of use, it was common to have upwards of 100 children in residence. Originally children and youth of all ages stayed at the Children’s Home. By the early 1940's family foster homes were found to care for the many infants in the nursery area of the home. From then on, only school aged children stayed at the home. For nearly fifty years, until around 1950, the Children’s Home operated its own school. It was a typical school for the time, with one teacher in one classroom for children of all ages. When the school closed, the children were then sent to the Wooster public schools. The employees of the Children’s Home in the early decades consisted of the Superintendent and his wife, a head cook and an assistant cook, a boys matron, a girls matron, one back up matron and the farmer. All of the children old enough to go to school had chores and most worked on the farm. Besides growing farm crops, there was a large garden from which the matrons and the girls canned each fall and the boys helped to sell the surplus produce to neighbors.
Children in the Children’s Home might be there for a short time before returning to a parent or relative. Some stayed until they reached adulthood and many were eventually adopted to area families. It was not uncommon for some of the older boys to go for the weekend to visit an area family and to help them on their farm. Sometimes this provided the contact for a later adoption.
By the mid 1940's, across the country and in Ohio the trend to place children into family foster homes was becoming firmly established. In 1946, Ohio law changed again in recognition of this shift and the many new state requirements of the Children’s Home to provide other services more appropriate to the changing times. It was around this time that a secretary and the first caseworker were hired. The County Commissioners changed the name from the Children’s Home to the Wayne County Children Services Board and appointed David D. Miller, Calvin Armstrong and Cornelius Smith as the first Children Services Board members. The Superintendent and Executive Director of the agency was Paul Kinney for whom the building was later named.
From the 1960's through the early 1970's, the number of children in the Children’s Home gradually declined. The building, added on to in 1882 as the Children’s Home, was now in need of either significant renovation or face destruction. Across Ohio other Children’s Homes were closing as the purpose of the agency shifted from custodial care and infant adoptions to temporary foster care and child protection. In 1978, the County Commissioners chose to close it, renovate it and reopen it, but not as a children’s home. The era of The Children’s Home in Wayne County had come to an end. Foster families were now providing care for children and some specialized agencies were opening group homes for youth needing more structure.
While the closed Children’s Home was being renovated, the Wayne County Children Services Board moved to several other temporary locations in Wooster. Finally, with the reopening of "The Kinney Building" in 1981, the Wayne County Children Services Board returned to its "home."
Today the Wayne County Children Services Board has as its’ mission protecting abused, neglected and dependent children and strengthening families. That mission reflects the change in centuries and the conditions of our times. No children reside in Kinney Building. The agency serves a different population than that envisioned for the earlier Children’s Home. The agency used to primarily serve orphans or dependent children. The trend for the last several decades has seen a significant increase in children who have been physically or sexually abused, or neglected. There remains a constant though; that of outstanding citizens who have volunteered and continue to serve on the Children Services Board. All are appointed by the Wayne County Commissioners.
As of 02/01/12, the Children Services Board employs a staff of 66, and investigated over 1,211 reports of alleged child abuse and neglect in 2011. The 2012 budget is $6,781,519,. As of 12/31/11, the agency had 121 children in its legal custody and placement. The children in the agency’s custody are most often cared for in one of the 47 family foster homes who are supervised by Children Services and licensed by the State of Ohio. Currently, Children Services has tremendous support from 87 volunteers who serve as tutors, mentors, special friends or volunteer for special projects like the Tot Stop/Tag Station at the Wayne County Fair or sponsor children for our Christmas “Make A Wish” gift matching program. Children Services obtains its financial support from a citizen supported levy as well as other state and federal funds. Wayne County voters overwhelmingly renewed a .7 mill levy in 1996 and approved the renewal of a .6 mill levy in 2000. The Children Services Board decided to combine the .7 mill levy with an increase and brought a 1.6 mill levy to the voters in May, 2006. It, too, was approved by the taxpayers of Wayne County. Children Services asked voters to approve a .2 mill Replacement/Reduction Levy, which was on the November, 2009 ballot and took the place of our .6 mill levy. Children Services has consistently had clean State audits. As appropriate, the agency also seeks orders for child support for youth in its care.
Besides the range of services listed in the agency’s annual report, Children Services also partners with other community agencies to strengthen families and reduce the risk of abuse or neglect to children.
Annually the agency seeks to increase the public’s awareness of its’ services and the problems associated with child abuse and neglect through Child Abuse Prevention Month activities which culminate in a community breakfast.
It does take a community to protect its children and the citizens of Wayne County and the Children Services Board have been doing this since 1882.