By Lila Waterfield
Lucas County Children Services has recently established a new department in their agency focused on diversity and inclusion to better serve Lucas County. With this step towards a more progressive agency focused on forging a better future for locals, the community can rest easy knowing there will be someone striving to make their voice heard.
That someone is Hope Bland, who LCCS has named Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Strategy. Under her leadership, the new department will focus on the laws and legislative aspects of the community, focused on equity and fair treatment to all families. Equity is the keyword here, and it will be Director Bland’s job to ensure that LCCS upholds higher standards regardless of race, ethnicity, or background. A Toledo native who has moved back and forth between Franklin and Lucas Counties for her entire career, Bland has always been an advocate of equity and inclusion, as well as a devoted social worker.
“From the very beginning— from going to college and really understanding what career I wanted to go into— I felt that there was a true need to help build communities,” says Bland. “I started out with that passion to work with people and to change lives. Growing up, I just saw so much oppression… there is a true need to help people.”
Director Bland has kept true to her passion, working within child and family services throughout her entire career. Though her positions have shifted from hospice to homeless shelters and schools, they all had one thing in common: social work. In Franklin County, she was employed as a caseworker, primarily dealing with investigations in the intake and assessment department.
Most recently within Lucas County, Bland spent three years in Toledo Public Schools under the title of Director of Equity and Social Justice. There she honed her skills and challenged herself by assisting in building that department from the ground up. “There is a high need to have that division in the school systems,” she added.
“I’ve moved back to what I call full circle,” says Bland. “I’ve come back to the child protective service arena where I can really embed equity, diversity, and inclusion work in the agency, as well as within the community of child welfare.”
Once again, with the help of LCCS’s entire leadership team and a consulting firm, Director Bland is building the new department from scratch, and looking to embed it in every aspect of the agency. It is no easy task, especially when every other department is also needed to be held accountable for ensuring individual family needs are met.
“That is what we’re doing right now— defining what [equity] means, how that looks for our agency, and where it needs to fit,” Bland explains. “Truthfully, it needs to fit everywhere. It doesn’t stand alone; it actually works inside all of the other units of the agency.”
As the department grows and continues to address various parts of the children services system that no longer work, LCCS is looking to add more members to the diversity department. Though they plan on assigning other units already in existence to work underneath Director Bland, they are also exploring two more possible positions that will be available in the near future.
Two busy months have passed since taking on this position, but Director Bland is still excited and ready to keep assisting our community. “I feel really fortunate and pretty lucky to be in this position,” she says.