April 19, 2014

Elyria
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Lorain County Children Services director resigning

ELYRIA — Gary Crow, the director of Lorain County Children Services, is resigning effective June 30.

Crow

The announcement was made in a single-sentence email from Crow to Children Services board members April 10. Crow did not offer a reason for his resignation, and he did not return a call for comment Monday.

Crow has been the director of LCCS for 18 years, according to LCCS spokeswoman Patti-Jo Burtnett.

Last year, he was one of the highest-paid Lorain County government employees, earning $128,356.80 in 2012.

Crow joined the agency nearly two decades ago to much fanfare — he came from an agency in Concord, N.C., that helped adults and children with mental illnesses, drug problems and disabilities. He followed Tom Porter, LCCS’s former director.

During Crow’s tenure, LCCS performed well on federal reviews with increased expectations, including finding children permanent placement with families sooner than most other Ohio agencies. They were referred to as one of the “star performers” in the state by the Public Children Services Agency of Ohio.

But Crow’s departure will end a tumultuous time for the agency, which has been hit with budget cutbacks that resulted in the layoffs of 14 employees, and complaints by employees that the workload was too heavy.

Last year, the agency came under fire after seven of the nine children of a Lorain woman with whom the agency had been working were found by police to be living in filth in a home containing only a single bed and almost no food.

The agency earlier had custody of the children of Erica Perez but had returned them to her in 2008. Agency records show a caseworker had visited the home only a month before the police were called because of a neighborhood disturbance and gave the home a passing grade.

The fallout from the agency’s handling of that case led to the case worker resigning, the case worker’s supervisor receiving two weeks unpaid leave and the agency pledging to revise its policies in environmental neglect cases.

In addition, it was found that the Children Services Board, which is supposed to oversee the agency that operates largely outside of public scrutiny because of privacy laws, was rarely meeting and often had too few members at the monthly meetings to have enough to vote on any issues.

That disclosure prompted board member David Hintz to tender his resignation and a change in the board’s meeting time. As a result, the county commissioners are discussing changes to the board’s makeup.

Children Services board member Toni Shanahan said board members are still ironing out the details of how the hiring process will proceed to replace Crow.

Lorain County Commissioner Ted Kalo said commissioners are looking to find one or two new board members before a new LCCS executive director is hired. Commissioner Tom Williams said they are looking at options, including having the commissioners make the hire.

Contact Chelsea Miller at 329-7123 or cmiller@chroniclet.com.