Attorney General DeWine Proposes Beneficial Changes to Ohio Foster Care
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine released the recommendations of his Foster Care Advisory Group. Convened in December, the group’s mission was to recommend solutions to the issues raised at the Attorney General’s Child Safety Summits held in eight Ohio cities. Findings released today encourage positive changes to improve the child welfare system with a focus on the safety and well-being of the children in foster care in Ohio.
“We want to do everything possible to get foster kids adopted, to match them with a loving family, and to make sure they have a stable, permanent home,” said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.
In 2012, Attorney General DeWine held eight regional Child Safety Summits and a day-long Foster Youth Symposium to discuss issues related to foster care and child safety. DeWine subsequently released in December 2012 the Child Safety Summit Report of Findings. At the time the report was released, Attorney General Mike DeWine assembled a Foster Care Advisory Group of experts in child welfare to report back their findings in 90 days.
The Foster Care Advisory Group recommended the following:
Permanency and Safety: Ohio should work to lower the number of times a child comes in and out of foster care to give the child the greatest chance of finding a safe, permanent, and loving home.
Foster Parent Participation: Ohio should focus on training for foster parents, child welfare professionals, and judges to highlight the foster parent’s right to attend court hearings and present evidence, and emphasize the importance of foster parent input.
Guardians ad Litem: Ohio should address guardians ad litem who fail to meet mandatory minimum expectations and further support the Court Appointed Special Advocate program to ensure that children have effective representation.
Mentoring for Foster Youth: Ohio should support existing foster youth-specific mentoring efforts across the state, and look to see if existing mentoring programs can be used to provide mentors for youth in foster care.
Normalizing the Experience for Youth in Foster Care: Youth who find themselves in foster care are often not permitted to engage in normal activities, like spending the night at a friend’s house. Ohio should clarify in statute that agencies are not liable for a child’s participation in normal activities.
Funding the Child Welfare System: Ohio should consider creating a state-level fund to ensure that children in the custody of county public children services agencies are provided with minimum services.
Accountability in Child Welfare: Ohio should look at ways of increasing accountability and transparency within the child welfare system.
Planned Permanent Living Arrangements: Ohio should pass a statute to narrow the use of Planned Permanent Living Arrangements, where agencies are not required to make efforts to reunify the child, but the child is also not eligible for adoption.
Foster Youth Voice in Court: Ohio should ensure that youth in foster care are given an age-appropriate guide to explain the foster care process, and public children services agencies should also ensure that youth are invited to their court hearings and facilitate their presence at these hearings when age-appropriate.
Medical Care for Foster Youth: Ohio should create a central registry where pediatricians treating youth in foster care can input and retrieve a foster youth’s medical file to provide greater continuity of care.
DeWine was joined at the announcement by State Senator Peggy Lehner (R-Kettering) and State Representative Dorothy Pelanda (R-Marysville), who will be introducing bills to enact the legislative changes recommended by the advisory group.
DeWine also announced he is awarding $3 million from Ohio’s portion of the National Mortgage Settlement to the following groups:
$2 million to the Ohio Court-Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program to fund the expansion of services across the state.
$1 million to Ohio Reach, which connects persons who have aged out of foster care to higher education opportunities.
“Children without permanent homes are especially vulnerable and need targeted services to protect their interests and opportunities,” said DeWine. “I am pleased that we can provide program grant funding from the National Mortgage Settlement to help foster youth have the same opportunities as children in permanent homes.”