WEST LIBERTY – “It’s the intersection of profession and passion,” new Adriel President and Chief Executive Officer Todd Hanes said. “I’m pretty passionate about this work.”
Hanes, a former superintendent at Elida Local Schools in Elida and a former teacher and principal, was officially appointed to his new position earlier this month. His goal has been to improve the lives of children using Adriel’s services while being a good neighbor in the community.
Those improvements include adding training, rearranging some administrative duties on staff and instituting a community advisory group.
Adriel School Inc. started in the 1890s in Orrville. It moved to its current location in West Liberty in 1900, when the Mennonite family affiliated with the program purchased the former Glover farm. The 55-acre property is affiliated with the Mennonite church. It has expanded to include a variety of services, such as Adriel School, a group home, residential treatment and family preservation, adoption and foster care. The nonprofit Adriel School Inc. has offices in four locations in the region and currently serves 44 counties.
The school provides class credits under the West Liberty-Salem Local Schools umbrella, so students returning home or adopted have a transcript valid throughout Ohio, Hanes said. It serves children up to age 18 (age 21 for those with disabilities). Adriel works with various county Department of Job and Family Services offices, which refer children to the organization. The group home has the capacity to hold 63 youths, though the goal is to have 52, Hanes said. This week, Adriel housed 45 youths.
Adriel serves children from broken homes, and many have endured abuse – physical, mental, emotional or sexual. Some have witnessed crimes. Adriel’s goal is to create a stable environment for those children, reunite them with their families when possible, find them foster or adoptive homes when that is the better solution.
Hanes has been filling the interim role since March. He was principal of Adriel School a couple years after instituting changes in the school program at the prior CEO’s request.
A Plain City resident, Hanes learned about Adriel when he decided that he wanted to be a foster parent. He worked with staff at the Dublin office, who helped get him certified to be a foster parent. Right after he got his license eight years ago, he became a foster parent to William, now his adopted son.
“I had this passion and this heart for troubled youth from the very beginning,” he said. “When I approached retirement … I really wanted to try something a little bit different. Foster care was really kind of a passion from the very beginning, dealing with kids that found themselves in situations that were not of their own choosing.”
More training for staff, expectations for youths
Hanes brought about changes that include additional training for new staff members, separating job duties for the residential side and for the clinical side of care, instituting a community advisory group, and changing its teaching model, focusing on de-escalation of situations and having youths recognize wrong decisions to prevent recurrence.
“We are setting rules and boundaries and ways our staff can be empathetic, but also hold expectations for these kids,” he said. “However the kids are when they come here, they are much different when they leave here.”
The agency’s group home residents at times have caused friction in the community. Since the facility is not a “lock down” one like a juvenile detention center, students can leave the buildings when they wish. Some have gone out and committed crimes. Hanes said those issues tend to occur within the first week or so of a new child being placed at the Adriel group home, before becoming acclimated to new rules and boundaries.
“Ninety-nine percent of the time, the things that are heard about (in the press) are those done by children that have just arrived or haven’t been here that long,” he said.
The average stay for a youth is a year, Hanes said.
The new 25-member Community Advisory Committee has representatives from all the communities Adriel serves and includes local law enforcement. The goal is to ensure communication between the organization and the community, to spot problems and address issues. Hanes said feedback he’s received from the advisory group, and from counties Adriel works with, has been positive.
Adriel has started independent living instruction for youths getting close to “aging out of the system.” It teaches them skills they will need to live on their own, from how to manage a budget to cooking dinner. The agency also takes older students on college visits, to give them an idea of what it would be like to be in college.
“What we’re trying to do is move from hopelessness to hope,” he said.
For the future, Hanes said he hopes to grow the visitation center at Adriel – a place where biological families and their children can reunite – and to build a couple new buildings for housing children. The new facilities, estimated to cost $4.6 million, would not add space for youths, but would replace older buildings not ideal for child housing.
“This is about getting 30,000 kids in Ohio into loving homes that will keep them safe,” he said.
Casey S. Elliott may be reached at 937-652-1331 ext. 1772 or on Twitter @UDCElliott.