For more than 150 years, Lucas County Children Services and its predecessor organizations have cared for youth whose families could not safely care for them.
The History of LCCS
Today’s modern child welfare system evolved from local networks of independent, religiously affiliated, nonprofit children’s institutions that were created to meet the custodial needs of dependent children in the nineteenth century. Today, public children services agencies work with parents, whenever possible, by connecting them to resources that help them safely care for their children within the family unit. Foster care remains a valuable and appropriate support to some children when family challenges result in too significant of a risk of child maltreatment.
On January 17, 1867, a group of philanthropic Toledo women met at the home of Dr. S.H. Bergen to discuss the establishment of a home of destitute orphan children. Eight men were selected as advisors and 14 women as managers.
While the institution had been designated the Protestant Orphan’s Home, it was conducted on a nonsectarian basis, all creeds and nationalities being welcome.
The Home was opened in January 1867 when three children were placed in a private residence provided by Mr. William Baker. The Home remained there until the following November when it was moved to a location on LaGrange St. near Bancroft St.
Within months, it was home to as many as 80 children at a time.
Funds were raised by the sale of annual and life memberships and through other financial donations.
Later, those seeking care for their children without permanently surrendering them were charged a monthly fee, typically $10 per month. If accounts fell into arrears by more than 30 days, permanent surrender of the child(ren) went into effect.
The Home served large numbers of orphans, half-orphans, and destitute children needing care and education for life’s work. Most of the children were placed at the Home due to poverty or a serious illness in the family.
Emphasis was placed on providing for their physical needs and molding them into solid, productive citizens.
On March 12, 1890, the Home came under the auspices of the County government and the name was changed to the Lucas County Children’s Home.
During the late 1800s, a statewide movement resulted in the construction of many orphanages, and county authorities began to take an interest in caring for the unfortunate children of the county. During this period of time, the Home’s population averaged 100-110 children. The Board of Trustees met frequently and made all decisions regarding placements and indentures.
The Board also conducted all home visits and investigations until 1897, when Miss A. J. Brown of East Toledo was hired as the agency’s first social worker. She was also charged with placing children. As “Visiting Agent”, she was paid $25 per month. The belief that children fare better in family settings than in institutionalized care was recognized even before the turn of the century.
Superintendent John Niesz, commenting on the Home’s 19 children placed in private homes in 1896, wrote, “A child in an institution is homeless…There is no longer any question that the best interests of the child demand that a home shall be found for it in a family as speedily as possible, and on the contrary, it is often demonstrated that it is a positive injury to a child to keep in an institution during the years of its education and character building.”
Once the Home became the responsibility of the County, operating funds came from the County General Fund. Occasional levies provided funds for construction of new buildings.
By 1899, the budget had grown to $11,915. However, the Home strove to be as self-sufficient as possible. The land included a 35-acre farm, which yielded produce such as grapes, apples, corn, potatoes, and a variety of grains. What was not consumed by the children and staff was sold at market. The staff also made many of the children’s garments. In 1896, they produced 183 pair of pants, 109 waists, 81 dresses, 70 nightgowns, 38 drawers, and 26 coats.
A tract of 50 acres located on the river, near Maumee, was purchased by the advisors, and the Protestant Orphan’s Home moved to the country. The first building, a Commissary, was constructed in 1887.
The Trustees were discriminating in their admissions, refusing to take children who were physically handicapped, and hesitating to take in the feeble-minded. Referrals were often made to other institutions such as the county infirmary, the Blind Asylum, the Home for Feeble Minded in Columbus, and to church affiliated institutions like the Lutheran Orphans Home, St. Anthony’s Home, and the Home of the Good Shepherd. During the early 1900s there was an increasing awareness of the problems of the underprivileged and many child welfare organizations were founded.
A change in Ohio law in 1913 required county homes to take children one year and older. Prior to this time, the Home had accepted only children at least two years of age.
The focus of services remained on the physical care of children and the job of preparing them for the workplace. In addition to regular schooling, the Home instituted domestic science classes for girls and carpentry instruction for boys. Older boys were also taught the care of cattle and horses on the Home’s farm, and each child, beginning at age nine, was taught to raise a garden. According to the Home’s 1915 annual report, “A child with a sound, well kept body, and a mind filled with wholesome employment is a pretty good child to commence with. Add to the variety of employment already mentioned a generous amount of recreation and amusements and the child is growing into a good citizen before you realize it.”
The trustees and superintendent of the Children’s Home continued the emphasis on placing children in family-based care, and by 1912 there were more children in foster homes than in the Home (237 in foster homes, 180 in the Home). The same was true in 1915, with 237 and 160, respectively.
Through the first two decades of the 1900s, the Home would complete 30-40 adoptions annually. Children were placed into private homes on trial for 60 days, after which the adoptive parents had the choice of keeping or returning the child. For the year ending February of 1900, 12 of 42 children (30%) placed in private homes were returned by the adoptive parents; however, disruption rates for this era were typically lower (15-20%).
The Home was blessed with fertile ground, and during the early 1900s the farm brought $45 to $50 in annual income from excess produce. Still, the Home struggled against the high cost of living – the trustees were forced to pay $0.075 per pound for beef – and the uncertainty of support from the county general fund. Attempts were constantly made to collect support for the children.
According to minutes from July of 1914, the Superintendent was instructed “to call to the attention of some parents of the children in the Home the fact that they are keeping their children here longer than appears necessary to straighten out their tangled domestic affairs. It is the hope of the Board that a little judicious pushing of some fathers will move them to re-establish their own homes with their children about them.” The Home’s budget for 1915 was $44,720.63, with an average daily population of 185 children. About 30 employees worked at the Home at this time.
In spite of financial difficulties the Home continued to expand. The new Riverside School building was completed in 1908, and a tax levy approved in November of 1915, resulted in the construction of a new administration building.
By 1934, with the country in the throes of the Great Depression, 356 children, ranging in age from 2 to 21 years, were living at the Home and another 155 were in foster care. Ten adoptions were completed.
Not surprisingly, the population of the Home was greater during the Depression than during any other time in its history. Despite the economic ills gripping the country, the children at the Home were well looked after. A story from the February 17, 1935 edition of the Toledo Times notes that in the previous nine years, only one child had died while residing at the Home, “and that of an incurable disease contracted elsewhere.” The Times cited a survey listing children in the Lucas County home as having the best teeth among children in similar institutions across the country. The story also referred to the daily regimen of 27 square feet of coffee cake and 200 loaves of bread made in the kitchen.
Among the approximately 70 employees were a physician, six nurses who ran the Home’s hospital, and a visiting dentist. At this time, children of grade-school age were educated at the Home. Those of junior-high age attended school at Ft. Miami, and high school students went to Maumee High.
By 1934, the Home’s operating budget had grown to nearly $125,000. The federal Social Security Act of 1935 established, among many other programs, significant federal aid for child welfare. Federal grants were contingent upon states developing organized, comprehensive methods for caring for their dependent children.
In August 1920, a new recreation building was completed at a cost of $100,000. Twelve years later, three additional cottages were constructed as replacements for dormitories that had existed since the 1880s. The new cottages had living space for 24 children each. Several special tax levies were passed to finance these improvements.
Through the late 1940s and into the 1950s, the agency grew steadily and gradually increased services to include the innovative pre-school program, a migrant day care center, expansion of foster care and adoption programs, homemaker services, crippled children’s services, and the concentrated effort to expand the facilities to care for retarded children.
By 1945, the Ohio legislature had passed a law (H.B. 418) requiring counties to establish child welfare boards or provide for children’s services in the county department of welfare. The Home became part of the new county Child Welfare Board (CWB), which was authorized and obligated to provide a much wider range of services to children.
One of those services was the protection of children who had been abused and neglected. The agency had a long-established practice of assisting children who had been mistreated, but the new law (which took effect in January, 1946) codified the CWB’s authority (and responsibility) to intervene and provide protective services to these children. The CWB staff grew from two members to seven, and on June 1, 1947, Miss Jane Cartwright was appointed Executive Secretary. Part of her job was to present to the public the agency’s policy not to duplicate any services already being rendered. Nonetheless, many existing agencies serving children felt threatened by the new Child Welfare Board.
Through the 1940s and into the early 1950s, the Children’s Home population remained fairly steady with a daily average of 225-250 resident children. Eventually, the responsibility of the CWB was broadened to include the care of crippled children. These services, which had been available in Ohio since the early 1920s, were put under the supervision of the CWB in 1953. By 1959, the board was providing services to nearly 500 crippled children annually.
In 1958, Lucas County voters passed a special levy for the care of mentally retarded children. This program was administered by the CWB until 1968, when the state of Ohio created county mental retardation boards.
Many other changes were taking place at the Children’s Home during the late 1950s. The need for a multiple service program was recognized instead of a “home” tending only to children’s physical needs. During 1960, the CWB changed the name of the Home to Miami Children’s Center, implying a new approach to residential care, that of providing training, treatment, and education in addition to physical care. Children were allowed to have their own clothing rather than “institutional clothes” distributed by house parents from a common wardrobe. The recreation program was accelerated and reorganized, the school program revised and strengthened, and all aspects of the program were focused on the individualization of the child.
The Lucas County Children’s Home became the Lucas County Child Welfare Board on January 1, 1946, following the enactment of the new state child welfare law.
In early 1946, the new CWB moved into an office in the Humane Society Building in downtown Toledo. In June, the agency moved to offices in the Huron Building. During this time the CWB continued to operate the Home in Maumee. In April, 1948, the offices were moved to 338 Erie Street, and in September, 1954 the agency moved again to more spacious quarters at 416 N. Erie Street. In 1954, voters approved a tax levy to provide funds for the construction of seven new cottages and a receiving unit at the Children’s Home. These new buildings were completed and occupied by early 1957.
In November, 1965, a 1.4 mill county operating levy was defeated resulting in a drastic 42% reduction of budget. For reasons of economy, the agency moved its administrative offices to the Miami Children’s Center. The Lucas County Welfare Board had been receiving its funds from the county general fund, but in 1967 the Board asked for a direct 1.3 mill tax levy to be used exclusively for child welfare purposes. Despite a vigorous campaign, the levy was defeated.
The following November, the board again asked for a 1.5 mill levy. The CWB’s 1968 budget of $1.1 million was deemed “grossly inadequate” in a Toledo Blade editorial supporting the levy. Championed by the United Toledo Committee, a group of philanthropic citizens, the campaign resulted in success on November 5, 1968. The five-year operating levy, the first in agency history, produced an estimated $2.4 million a year and more than doubled the board’s annual budget.
In January, 1966, the agency’s board of trustees voted to eliminate the position of Superintendent of the Miami Children’s Center and consolidate those responsibilities with that of the Executive Secretary. This move was intended to not only save money but also to bring all of the agency’s services under the direction of one administrator. This decision proved quite controversial, as the superintendent was well-liked by staff and considered a parental figure to the children living at the home. Following the defeat of the 1967 levy, the agency could provide only minimal services, and the social work staff was reduced from 44 to 19. Passage of the 1968 levy, however, provided funds to bring the casework staff up to 80 persons.
With the expansion of services also came a name change, in 1968, from the Lucas County Child Welfare Board to Lucas County Children Services Board (LCCSB).
The success of the 1968 levy and the availability of federal funds in the 1970s hastened a period of growth for the agency. The agency was decentralized in the early 1970s, in an effort to move social workers closer to clients and also to relieve the overcrowding of employees at the main administration building. Satellite units were deployed in the central city and the north, west and south ends of town. Two day care centers were established, a unit of school social workers and a status offender unit were added to the agency, and three group homes, two for toddlers and one for teenagers, were opened. The agency also had caseworkers assigned to the Toledo Mental Health Center, the Medical College of Ohio and the Boys Club.
In 1970, the former hospital building at MCC was converted into an Extended Care Unit (ECU) to provide long-term care for severely retarded children. At the time, LCCSB was the only child protection agency in the state to operate such a facility. In 1971, the county commissioners voted to consolidate social services for children into a single agency, the Children Services Board. Until that time, family counseling, day care, homemaker and home management services, and child development had been provided by both LCCSB and the welfare department. The commissioners made the change because LCCSB stood a better chance of attracting federal matching funds.
In 1973, the agency began to offer income-based subsidies for families adopting children. The subsidy plan, authorized by state law, was intended to encourage more adoptions by low-income families. After nearly 100 years of providing formal education at its Maumee campus, the agency closed its Riverside School following the 1977-78 school year. The 25 students were transferred to other schools within the county system.
Through most of the decade, an average of 250 children lived at the Miami Children’s Center. By 1978, however, the population had declined to about 170 children. The LCCSB’s deliberate attempts to move as many children as possible out of institutionalized care led to the eventual closing of the MCC in 1986. That left the ECU, which served 32 children, as the lone remaining residential facility on campus.
In 1981 the Board of Trustees was enlarged from nine to 14 members and assumed its current role as an oversight body and policy developer. Eight board committees were formed to help the board fulfill its new role. These changes followed a comprehensive study of the agency by the Toledo Area Government Research Association (TAGRA), which made several recommendations for improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the agency. With the closing of the MCC, the agency’s board opted to redirect those resources toward new programs, and in 1986 the agency began to provide additional services for children with special needs. Foster families were trained to provide day care for blind and hyperactive children and those requiring medical monitors, an effort intended to move these children out of institutions and into family settings.
Also in 1986, the agency established its independent living program, designed to help young adult clients who are soon to be emancipated from agency care. Recognizing the critical need for staff training, the state government and child advocacy groups formed the Ohio Child Welfare Training Program in 1985. LCCSB became one of eight agencies in the state to continuously host a regional training center for child welfare workers.
In the fall of 1977, the majority of the casework staff moved to the Collingwood Center, the former Flower Hospital building in Toledo. About 83 employees worked in this building until November of 1982, when they were relocated to Miami Children’s Center. The agency’s emphasis on foster care instead of group home care had resulted in a decrease in the Center’s resident population. In turn, MCC’s receiving center was converted to an office building to accommodate the return of the agency staff.
The 1.5 mill levy was renewed by large margins in 1972 and 1977. By the beginning of 1981, however, the agency faced a serious financial crisis. The agency’s carryover funds had become depleted, caused in part by a reduction in federal funds. As a result, 15 percent of the agency’s staff was laid off, and the agency announced that it might have to close the ECU for lack of funds. Also, one month after the layoffs, LCCSB employees went on a 16-day strike, the first in the agency’s history. All if this occurred during the TAGRA study.
The ECU was kept open after the Ohio Department of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities agreed to provide funding until the ECU could become certified under the federal Medicaid program. After making many improvements in the building’s structure and in the program offered its residents, the ECU became certified in 1983 as an intermediate care facility. In order to be able to meet the needs of the children of Lucas County, LCCSB went to the voters in November of 1981 to seek passage of a new 1.0 mill levy. Passage of that levy made it possible for LCCSB to restore some of the services that had been cut or reduced during 1981. In 1982, the agency’s 1.5 mill levy was renewed for the third time. Voters also approved agency levy requests in 1986 (1.5 mill) and 1988 (1.25 mill).
In 1988, “Board” was dropped from the agency’s name, making “Lucas County Children Services” the official name of the agency.
The ECU closed its doors in 1993, and the following year, Children Services moved to its present downtown Toledo location at 705 Adams Street. The 15-building, 71-acre Maumee campus, which for 108 years had housed orphans, abused and neglected children and child welfare staff, closed for good.
Through the 1990’s, County Children Services continued to emphasize the need for children to live in a family environment – with their birth families if possible – as opposed to institutional or group home placement. In 1997, the White House presented LCCS with the federal “Adoption Excellence Award” for reducing the amount of time children wait for permanent homes.
Throughout the decade, LCCS served an average of 11,250 children and 4,500 families annually, and conducted an average of 3,663 investigations per year.
In 1999, LCCS developed a strategic plan that included a new mission statement and a commitment to family-centered, neighborhood-based (FCNB) services. The FCNB approach to services recognizes that clients are best served in their own neighborhoods, as opposed to having to travel to LCCS offices or to service providers not located close to their homes.
In the late 1990’s, LCCS developed a parenting program that has since gained national recognition. The agency also created a quality improvement division, post-adoption services and post-emancipation services.
Taxpayers continued their commitment to child welfare in Lucas County, as the agency’s two tax levies enjoyed wide support. LCCS was also very aggressive in its pursuit of federal and state funds, and as a result was in a very strong financial position by the late 1990’s.
The decade ended with the agency employing 334 staff and annual revenues exceeding $37 million.
At the start of the new millennium, Lucas County Children Services was conducting more investigations and serving more children than at any time in its history. In 2002, the agency received 4,471 referrals, the most on record. The number of reports that year was a 33 percent increase from the 3,371 referrals received just four years prior, in 1998. Today, LCCS serves more than 12,000 children and 5,000 families and conducts more than 4,800 investigations annually.
As part of its commitment to leading the community in the protection of children, LCCS in 2005 achieved accreditation from the Council on Accreditation, an independent not-for-profit international accreditor of community-based behavioral health care and human service organizations. This involved a four-year examination of agency policies and practices. The standards driving accreditation ensure that services are well coordinated, culturally competent, evidence-based, outcomes-oriented, and provided by a skilled and supported workforce. The agency later achieved reaccreditation in 2009 and 2017.
In 2014, LCCS applied for, and was awarded a grant through the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services to transform the agency into a trauma-informed child welfare system. This involved trauma training for agency staff, Juvenile Court personnel, CASA/GALs, Toledo Public Schools personnel, and others. Trauma-informed practice is now the standard for all employees at LCCS.
In 2017, LCCS began implementing the Bridges program for Independent Living and Post-Emancipation youth. This voluntary benefits program supports young adults leaving foster care between the ages of 18 and 20, and who are in school, working, participating in an employment program, or have a medical condition that prevents them from doing so.
The economic slump that followed the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks put many government agencies in a financial pinch. Thankfully, LCCS was not among them. Because of its solid financial status and the continuous passage of its levies, Children Services did not lay off staff or reduce services. However, in the second decade, reductions in property tax collections, combined with significant reductions in state and federal funding, resulted in significant belt-tightening at the agency. Voters turned down a levy request in 2014, leaving agency finances in a precarious position in 2015, as the fund balance tumbled to $3.2 million. Again, layoffs were avoided, but through attrition, the staff size declined to approximately 340 employees.
LCCS annual budget continued to decline to $40.1 million in 2016 but following the successful renewal and increase of a property tax levy, as well as careful fiscal management, agency finances improved. Voters renewed a second levy in 2018, and by the end of that year, LCCS was on more solid financial footing, with a $48 million budget and an $8.3 million reserve. It should be noted that an $8.3 million fund balance represents approximately two months of agency operations.