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Youth will no longer live at Children’s Home of Jefferson County, 50 workers to be laid off

Updated: May. 26, 2021 at 5:23 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - Officials say 50 employees are being laid off because the Children’s Home of Jefferson County will no longer house children in its buildings as of June 30.

The home announced the change Wednesday, saying it’s restructuring its child welfare related residential programming.

The layoffs officially take effect on July 15.

Officials say, when possible, affected staff will be transferred to other program positions or encouraged to reapply as new programs are launched.

Executive Director Karen Richmond said she expects more than half of the laid-off employees to be placed within the agency.

In a news release, the agency says its focus will shift to more trauma-based treatments and therapies, allowing for improved youth and family outcomes and their long-term success.

Officials said the changes were planned in accordance with the New York State Office of Children and Family Services, Office of Mental Health, and Department of Juvenile Justice best practices and recommendations, focused on keeping youth at home or in a family setting, and out of institutional placements.

The changes were planned with the full support of home’s board of directors.

The buildings that house children will be repurposed to serve youth and families with new programs including short-term respite and crisis services.

Officials said the COVID-19 pandemic allowed the agency to help youth remain successfully in their homes.

“COVID taught us that kids and families can do much better if we work with them inside of their environment, rather than putting them in our environment,” said Richmond.

At the same time, the pandemic also resulted in new operational practices at all levels. With court closures, youth learning remotely, and services being provided virtually, there was a significantly reduced need for residential care.

As a result, overall state trends of youth placed at the residential level of care also significantly decreased, allowing the home to identify alternative treatment options.

Dozens of kids could be living on the agency’s campus at one time. However, there are currently only 4 children.

“Two of the children, I believe, are going to foster care. So, that’s success, that’s what we do is try and get them in. If they can’t return to their family, we look for a foster home that they can return to. So, I think two of them are going there. And, I think two of them are going to a different level of care within another agency in the state,” said Richmond.

The COVID-19 pandemic changed previously long-term espoused child welfare beliefs and practices. Officials say one of its benefits was allowing youth and families, with support from children’s home service providers, to be successful in home-based settings.

The agency’s transition with new programming is set to launch sometime this fall.

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