Leaders Meet To Discuss Group Homes After Deadly Stabbing In Blendon Township Park

UPDATED: Thursday December 19, 2013 7:02 PM

A case that left a woman dead, and put a Franklin County agency under the microscope, could bring change to the way at-risk children are served in Central Ohio.

Child welfare workers, juvenile court officials, foster care providers and mental health experts are working together to address problems plaguing the system.

Franklin County Children’s Services launched a wide-ranging review after police say a 16-year-old stabbed a Blendon Township woman to death in a park near his group home.

One child welfare expert declared it a state of emergency, telling 10TV this is not just a Children’s Services issue, but a community concern.

And, he said, if we don't address the problems -- and quickly -- those issues could become another tragedy.

Jane Juergens was found stabbed to death while jogging here in Ridgewood Park on October 20.

Sixteen-year-old Jordan Stewart was charged with murder. He lived with three other boys at a group home near the park.

"We had very few indications that there were any issues, any more than any other child that we've taken care of."

Daniel Swickard is the president of Consumer Support Services, which owns the group home where Jordan Stewart lived.

"And I don't know where this broke down here, if there was a break down, but things like this today are ways to get ideas how to improve them," Swickard said.

Officials are looking at how to prevent tragedies and create more success stories like Rayshawn Parnell.

For eight years, Parnell was transferred from place to place, living with up to nine others at a time, in group homes just like Jordan Stewart.

"I was in foster homes and group homes with people who failed, you know, people who died, people who were strung out on drugs," Parnell said.

Today, he is a third year college student, with plans to attend graduate school.

"I mean, I slipped, it wasn't easy... I'm not going to sit here and say that it was easy," said Parnell. "It was very hard, and still today staying on track is still hard with all the distractions and stuff."
With Thursday's summit, and a review of all group home placements in Franklin County already underway, those on the front lines say the time to fix the system is now.

"There is a sense of urgency out here so we don't continue to lose lives and have people fall victim to senseless violence in the community," said Franklin County Children Services Adoption Supervisor Greg Arnold.

The conference got the conversation started… now, come the solutions.

Following a series of panels, experts in eight categories had break out discussions. Those discussions could lead to vast changes within Franklin County Children’s Services.

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