CDF-Ohio Urges Action on the Placement Crisis in Foster Care
By Kim Eckhart, Interim Director
A local news report on February 2, 2023, shined a spotlight on an ongoing issue in Ohio: the practice of youth sleeping overnight at children’s services offices while waiting for placement in foster care, in some cases for more than six days. According to a recent study by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, approximately 503 youth have slept in local JFS offices last year, for a total of 1,225 nights. About 1 in 3 counties housed youth in offices.
CDF-Ohio provided remarks in the story, saying, “It is untenable that the default sanctioned solution that we have all sort of agreed upon is that just staying in offices is okay. It’s not okay. It’s not okay. And we can do something about this.” In response to the story, we sent a letter to county and state leaders to outline specific recommendations and invite their participation in conversations to address this situation together as a community. Below is an excerpt of that letter and it can also be downloaded here.
In Ohio and across the nation, there is a foster placement crisis that results in a need for emergency housing while young people wait for a placement. Agencies have addressed this emergency situation by allowing youth to stay overnight in offices. This has become an acceptable practice but we cannot allow this to continue. Recent news reports have uncovered that this is occurring in Franklin County as well. In some cases, young people end up sleeping in offices for extended periods of time. Over the past several years, reports have revealed the terrible consequences of letting this practice continue, including reports of sexual assault and trafficking in Cuyahoga County.
Like it or not, emergency housing is needed on a fairly regular basis, despite the best efforts of the children services agency to identify a placement. Temporary housing is certainly not an ideal option, but it is a failure of leadership to ignore the need. Leaders must develop an alternative plan for dealing with emergency housing needs. Creating positive options while youth are waiting does not mean we want it to happen, it means we recognize that it is happening and we care about youth who have that experience.