Home Law Ohio foster care enters the spotlight with new website and awareness campaign

Ohio foster care enters the spotlight with new website and awareness campaign

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As the rate of Ohio children in foster care increases, Gov. Mike DeWine has launched a new initiative to appeal to potential foster families.

Gov. Mike DeWine announced the launch of a public awareness initiative Sunday to increase interest in foster care and adoption, as part of an ongoing campaign promise to help Ohio children.

The campaign’s centerpiece is a new website created by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS), which provides information for current and prospective foster families.

As of now, around 16,000 children are in the custody of Ohio county children services agencies. There’s been a 24 percent increase in children entering the foster care system since 2013, according to the Foster Care Advisory Group report published last year.

According to Bret Crow, media spokesperson for the ODJFS, a significant reason for this influx comes from Ohio’s ongoing opioid addiction epidemic, which forces children to be separated from their parents. However, Crow points out that addiction is not the only factor that contributes to children entering care. Neglect, physical abuse, and other factors impacting the safety and risk of a child are also common reasons children may end up in state care.

Before the launch of the website, Crow said most adoption recruitment efforts have been handled “piecemeal” at the local level. But the website hopes to offer and organize a statewide call to adoption, as well as offer retention efforts to foster families.

Prior to this new launch, not all foster care efforts were operated locally. The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services remains responsible for a majority of state foster care, child protective services programs, and licensing suitable guardians, Crow said.

The Public Children’s Service Agency of Ohio (PCSAO) also helps to approve guardians but is subject to additional state approval and inspections. State licensing staff inspect all foster agencies, facilities, and PCSAO-owned foster homes. They also provide licenses to private child-placing agencies, private noncustodial agencies, and residential programs operated through county PCSAO branches.

While the state has been involved with the organization of foster care, Crow hopes that this widespread awareness campaign will help Ohio families understand the adoption system better and increase involvement.  

“By raising awareness through the website and conducting this public awareness campaign, we hope that enough Ohioans who have thought about adoption or serving as a foster parent step forward to help children in need,” Crow said.

This effort is part of one of DeWine’s major campaign promises, which is to focus on the well-being of children in Ohio. During his gubernatorial campaign, he outlined his plans to increase the quality of early education services, provide more resources to first-time mothers, implement more drug prevention in schools, and to reform the foster care system.

Since becoming governor, DeWine has put through two executive orders that are meant to help children in the state — Executive Order 2019-04D, which elevated priorities for foster care programs in Ohio, and Executive Order 2019-02D, which created the Governor’s Children’s Initiative.

“Governor DeWine has made the well-being and safety of Ohio’s children a priority in his administration,” Crow said. “One of his objectives is strengthening Ohio’s foster care system because all children deserve to grow up in a safe and loving environment.”

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