COLUMBUS, Ohio - More progress is needed in Ohio to increase family placements for children in the foster-care system, a new report reveals.
According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, 85% of Ohio kids who need to be separated from their parents are staying with a foster family or relative, a slight increase from 10 years ago. However, the report shows 40% of Ohio teens in the foster-care system are placed in a group setting, compared with 31% in 2007.
Tracy Najera, executive director of the Children's Defense Fund-Ohio, said state leaders have an opportunity to increase supports for family placements.
"Gov. Mike DeWine has committed to doubling the state's investments in children's services in the upcoming state budget," she said. "Part of this commitment includes about $8.5 million to recruit foster families and support kin providers. We have to make sure that the Legislature is supportive of this level of funding as well."
Nearly 15,000 children are in Ohio's foster-care system. Nationally, there's been a 5-percentage-point increase in the number of children placed in foster families in the past decade.
In some cases, said Rob Geen, director of policy and advocacy reform for the Casey Foundation, group placements are necessary because of a medical or behavioral health need. However, he said, it can compound the trauma experienced when kids are separated from their biological parents.
"If a child needs a therapeutic intervention that is not appropriate in a family setting, of course we want them to have very high-quality residential care," he said. "But the point of that is for them to then succeed in a family, later on."
Without a stable family environment, Najera said, foster youths are more likely to experience homelessness, unemployment and early parenthood.
"Ohio has some of the worst outcomes when it comes to foster youths who age out of the system," she said, "and we need to use every tool in our toolbox to reverse that trend and to make sure that all our children and our foster youths have bright futures and can successfully transition into adulthood."
She said a new federal law, the Family First Prevention Services Act, provides opportunities for states to ensure that children are in homes that best address their needs, and that their caregivers are supported.