Some social workers concerned about teens sleeping in Cuyahoga County office building


CUYAHOGA COUNTY, Ohio (WJW) – The FOX 8 I-Team has obtained pictures and video, taking you inside a place never seen by the public before where teens are sleeping in a local county office building.

We’ve found kids and beds inside the Cuyahoga County headquarters for the Department of Children and Family Services, and some workers call it dangerous.

In one video clip, a door opens and you see part of a county office building turned into a big bedroom for kids.

Another clip includes a walk down a hall past a long line of belongings, including bags and suitcases. It all adds up to a hidden world inside the headquarters for child welfare workers.

Some of the county’s most troubled kids pass through that building. It’s usually just for hours, but sometimes it’s for days.

Also, sometimes those kids turn violent.

We caught up with a social worker attacked in 2019 in an incident caught on camera right outside the building.

“It’s an office building. It is not suited to house these kids day after day, night after night. It’s not suited for that,” Carrie Ward said.

So, the I-Team went to the agency director and we asked, ‘Why isn’t there some other way to handle this?’

We’ve actually revealed violence involving teens at that building more than once before.

Sources tell us that some days you might find ten or more kids there. The county says the kids passing through often are, in fact, violent. However, they may have no family to take them in, no foster home and even the Detention Center may not hold them.

As a result, they go to that office building to stay as social workers find a place for them.

“My job is not to just place them. My job is to place them in a facility or a home that will meet their needs. So, sometimes we’re going to take some time to see what kind of options are out there for us,” said Cynthia Weiskittel, the director of the Department of Children and Family Services.

The I-Team has reviewed internal memos dating back years of county employees raising concerns. Workers answering a child abuse hotline say they also often have to monitor rowdy teens. Now, workers have concerns about COVID-19 too.

“They need to come up with more staff to keep these workers safe, and they need to come up with a program to keep these kids off the streets instead of being a revolving door,” Ward said.

With the video, you see why workers want something done right now, but the county says don’t expect big changes anytime soon.

“The urgency to get those kids in a placement that meets their needs is greater when they’re right here in front of us,” Weiskittel said.

The county says, already this year, more than 800 kids have passed through that building. Most spent less than 24 hours there, but many spend a night or more.

Weiskittel points out that the building also has security.

Yet, workers argue it’s not unusual for the teens to roam around the entire headquarters building. Many also come and go from the building as they please, even disappearing for long stretches of time without permission or contact with child welfare workers.

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