All children regardless of their circumstance deserve to be safe, cared for, and have their needs met. However, this is not a reality for many children in Ohio. Too many children and their families are plagued by the poverty, economic instability, addiction, and many other challenges that leave emotional and physical scars and add to the adverse childhood experiences that children carry with them into adulthood. As adults, it’s our job to protect children and the child welfare system’s purpose is to ensure the well-being of children within their care.
A child is abused or neglected every 47 seconds in America. Ohio’s most vulnerable children are those who have been abused and neglected, removed from their families and placed in foster care—and children of color are disproportionately represented in the child welfare system. While intended to be temporary, children too often linger in foster care for months and years, and while the majority of children leave foster care to a permanent family, too many “age out” of foster care without a permanent family. Children left with no permanent family or connection with a caring adult have no one to turn to for social, emotional or financial support and face numerous barriers as they struggle to become self-sufficient adults.
Every year, approximately 1,000 Ohio youth age out of foster care and too often they lack to the tools and support to transition into adulthood on their own. According to national and state data, Ohio trails national averages in terms of positive outcomes for former foster youth three after leaving care in regards to attainment of a high school diploma or GED, attaining stable housing, and securing full or part time employment. However, Ohio’s youth are significantly less likely to become young parents compared to national averages. As a result, many of Ohio’s foster youth experience poor outcomes in the years following their departure from the child welfare system and foster care.
In response to this, Ohio has taken significant steps to reverse this course through the BRIDGES program. This program provides transitional housing, jobs training, higher education support, and other services to help youth as they navigate the complexities of adulthood and being on their own. However, we know that much more is needed. In Gov. DeWine’s first biennial budget (FY 2020-2021) , the enacted budget included doubled funding for child welfare services in Ohio, which represents a significant investment given the growing demand in services.
The Child Welfare System through the Lens of a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA)
November 16, 2020
By Kendal Glandorff, Intern
Becoming a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for Franklin County has been the single, most life-changing, best decision I have ever made. As a current social work student who is passionate about reforming the child welfare system to ensure it adequately serves every child, I have made it my mission to learn all the ins and outs that make up this system. Over the past six months as a volunteer, I have seen first-hand the need for reforms in key areas.
As a community, we must envision a system that offers support to families and children to help them thrive. As children come into contact with the child welfare system, we have an opportunity to provide meaningful interventions that prevent painful separations. However, in 2018, Ohio had a 7.8 percent recurrence rate causing the state to be among the ten states with the highest recurrence rates (Children’s Bureau, 2018). Download full article here.
ZERO TO THREE Announces State and Local Program Development Grants to Expand Infant-Toddler Court Teams Across the U.S.
October 1, 2020
Grantees across country to receive support in improving outcomes for young children in foster care.
Washington, D.C. (Oct. 1, 2020) — Today, ZERO TO THREE’s National Resource Center for the Infant-Toddler Court Program (NRC) announced that 16 organizations from across the country will receive grants between $75,000 and $425,000 to implement new infant-toddler court teams or increase their alignment with the Safe Babies Court Team™ approach. Read more about the Infant-Toddler Court Team program.
Transforming the child welfare system through Family First Prevention Services and Safe Babies Court TeamsTM
September 29, 2020
By Kim Eckhart, KIDS COUNT Project Manager
When babies and toddlers come into contact with the child welfare system, they deserve the best possible outcome: a safe, nurturing and permanent family. The science of early childhood development has shown that children who live in safe and supportive homes have the best chance for healthy development throughout their lives. As we work to transform the child welfare system to improve outcomes for children, two complementary initiatives offer a path forward: Family First Prevention Services (Family First) and Safe Babies Court Teams (Safe Babies). Read more here.
New legislation is a first step in meeting the growing demand for more safe and supportive homes for children in foster care.
September 4, 2020
By Kim Eckhart, KIDS COUNT Project Manager
All children deserve a safe and supportive home. That’s why the Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio is encouraged by new legislation aimed to address the shortage of foster homes available to children throughout Ohio. On September 2nd, Ohio passed House Bill (HB) 8 to provide more flexibility in training requirements, including allowing some training to be conducted online, to become a licensed foster caregiver.
Meeting the Growing Demand. Recruiting and efficiently licensing new caregivers will help meet the critical need in Ohio for safe and supportive homes for children and teenagers who are not able to live with their biological families. In 2018, over 26,000 children were placed out of home and 12% of those were in group or residential care. The need for caregivers trained to meet the emotional and behavioral needs of children who have experienced trauma has only increased. This critical need for more trained caregivers was clearly demonstrated prior to 2020, but markedly so this year during the pandemic, with alarming reports of children living in children’s services offices. Read more here.
It’s time to reimagine how we create safe and supportive environments for children removed from their families
July 16, 2020
By Kim Eckhart, KIDS COUNT Project Manager
A lack of placement options has been an ongoing concern across the state. Now, with COVID-19 causing many foster parents to close their doors, creating new solutions is more important than ever.
Last week, Sonia Emerson led a demonstration outside of the Cuyahoga County children’s service building with other youth advocates with lived experience in the foster care system. In response to a report that a child spent weeks living there, Sonia said. Read more here.
Immediate Improvements Are Needed in Ohio’s Child Welfare System
July 1, 2020
By Tracy Nájera, Executive Director
In this past week, CDF-Ohio learned of a situation in Cuyahoga County where a child being “housed” at the Cuyahoga County Children’s Services Office for an extended period of time as the county searched for appropriate placement. Let’s be clear – if the child’s birth family was housing them in an office, it would not be seen as acceptable and would likely be seen as grounds for removal. Children need consistency and stability. They need to be able to build connections. They need to know that they are being cared for and taken care of. The extent of this practice and how often its used is unknown. Further, COVID-19 and the economic toll that its taking on families may result in surges in child welfare calls and put additional strains on the system. More is needed to protect vulnerable children with complex needs. CDF-Ohio issued a statement about this situation and we are calling for immediate changes and put forward policy recommendations to protect children from this in the future. We look forward to working with state and local partners in the coming weeks and months. Read the full statement here.
Resources & Publications
The COVID-19 pandemic has put additional strains and challenges on an already struggling child welfare system. The state of Ohio and the federal government has an obligation to support our most vulnerable children and continue funding for child welfare services, support of foster parents and kinship care providers, and the children in their care. Further, during this time, we must also ensure that youth who are aging out of foster care during this time have the option of extending their time in foster care and continuing support as they transition into adulthood.
2019 PCSAO Factbook, Public Children’s Services Association of Ohio
Letters to the Ohio Congressional Delegation – May 7, 2020
- Senate Letter: Emergency Funding for Child Welfare in the next COVID-19 Relief package
- House Letter: Emergency Funding for Child Welfare in the next COVID-19 Relief package