MOUNT GILEAD — State Rep. Riordan McClain met with Morrow County residents at Sames and Cook coffee shop recently for his quarterly meeting in the county.
A main topic was Gov. Mike DeWine’s recently announced plan to review Ohio’s foster care system through the Children’s Services Transformation Advisory Council. The new group is made up of foster alumni and foster parents, adoptive parents, case workers from Children’s Services, juvenile court judges, and others.
The council is tasked with hearing concerns about the the state’s foster care system over the next two months and making recommendations for improvements and changes to the system.
Regional listening forums will be held by the council at seven locations in the state. The dates and location of the public meetings are at the governor’s website at: https://governor.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/governor/media/news-and-media/children-services-transformation-advisory-council
Foster parents needed
McClain said he has heard many concerns of the foster care system from foster care parents in Morrow County and other counties in his district. He has also heard about the challenges that are facing county Children Services.
A primary problem is the need for more foster parents as the number of children in custody has increased dramatically in the past five years. Much of the reason for that growth in numbers is the opioid crisis with parents who are addicted. The increase in numbers has caused a stressful situation for both families and Children’s Services staff.
McClain said Gov. DeWine has been called “the children’s governor” because of his concern for their well-being. This year he doubled the funding for Job and Family and Children Services in the state budget.
Former foster parent Sarah Cleveland was at McClain’s meeting. She is hopeful that DeWine’s efforts to look into the problems of foster children will result in systemic improvements.
“The foster parents’ coalition has been fighting for accountability for the foster care system and how foster care children are treated. Hopefully, this plan from the governor will make a difference for children,” Cleveland said.
Cleveland and members of Morrow County foster families have met with McClain several times to express their concerns. Due to the efforts of McClain and foster families an audit of the county’s treatment of foster children has been completed this year. The audit was requested by Job and Family Services Director Sundie Brown.
McClain reported that he met with DeWine about four months ago and invited the governor to Morrow County to hear foster parents’ concerns. McClain is glad to see the governor’s plans to have regional meetings at seven locations around the state.
What lies ahead
DeWine’s website states that the Children Services Transformation Advisory Council will be tasked with:
• Traveling the state to better understand local barriers and best practices.
• Promoting a shared state and county vision for agency purpose and practice.
• Reviewing data, trends and policies regarding the current foster care system.
• Providing recommendations and strategies to strengthen all areas of the system including foster care, adoption, kinship care, workforce and prevention.
“I hope the meetings lead to meaningful and honest discussion so that things that need to be done can improve the system for families and foster children,” McClain said.