GREENE COUNTY — Greene County is not immune to the need for additional foster families.
Greene County Children’s Services has seen a 22 percent increase in new children services cases from 2015 through 2016 in addition to a 65 percent increase in children being placed — but only 51 licensed foster homes.
Meanwhile, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine reported during a press conference Aug. 24 that 15,000 children across the state are involved in the foster care system with an estimated half of them there due to addiction.
At the same time, Ohio includes just 7,200 licensed foster care homes.
“Children are the invisible victims of the opiate epidemic,” said Greene County Jobs and Family Services Director Beth Rubin. “They spend longer [time] in foster care or go in and out of care as their parents recover and relapse. They are traumatized by neglect, multiple placements and educational instability. They risk negative, long-term outcomes.”
Cases concerning opiate use have increased throughout time, impacting 36 percent of Greene County cases that were transferred for continued services in 2016. Specifically, 67 percent of children in permanent custody resulted from cases that involve heroin. Of those, Rubin said, one parent — out of every 16 cases — died of an overdose.
Greene County Children’s Services will lean on kinship families to help to keep children with their own blood relatives, but they are being challenged to do so by multiple members of the family dealing with addiction. The local child welfare system will therefore rely on network providers, resulting in some children being placed a number of hours away from their own community.
“The increase in severe cases attributed to the opiate epidemic is having a devastating impact on Ohio’s child protection system,” she said. “We are struggling to find homes for these children, who need a loving family either temporarily while the parent recovers from addition or permanently when the parents’ rights have been severed.”
Network providers are not exclusive to Greene County, resulting in children from around the state being taken and placed hours away from their home communities.
“They sleep in conference rooms and offices in child welfare agencies when there is no place for them to go,” DeWine said. “They’re being separated from their siblings and they are placed in group homes or other less-than-ideal settings.”
As a result of the need for additional foster parents in Ohio, the Ohio Attorney General created the www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov/FosterFamilies webpage to provide information.
Applicants will also experience expedited background checks through a specific email address, [email protected], and counties with the most needs for foster families will have the ability to fund more staff and call up new foster families through a $1 million grant.
“We know these children suffer lasting trauma from witnessing their parents abuse drugs or overdose and die. We also know these children experience further trauma from being placed in unfamiliar settings,” DeWine said. “But we also know that when children are placed in warm, loving environments with families who have opened their hearts and their doors, children can build a foundation for future success.”
Local individuals interested in becoming a foster parent can start the process by reaching out to the Greene County Children’s Services agency at 937-526-6600. Officials will gather their information, answer questions and mail an inquiry packet and application.
The local agency will then provide a home study and 36 hours of pre-service training, which also involved 12 pre-service classes that occur one-to-two times per week and are three hours in duration each. The next round starts Monday, Sept. 11.
“Typically as we license new homes, we have others that we are losing due to retirement, relocation, adoption and no longer having bed space,” Rubin said. “Therefore, it takes a lot of work to increase the number of homes we have available to us.”
The first class serves as an introduction and following topics address trauma, strategies for working with young individuals in the foster care system and with the primary family, sexual abuse, the role of the foster parent on a treatment team and more. Greene County is particularly in need of foster families who are open to taking in teenagers and sibling sets as well as those who are open to caring for youth who experience behavioral challenges and young individuals who have been exposed to substances.
“There are children in every community in Ohio who are growing up thinking that drug use is a part of everyday life because for them, what they see, it is. That’s tragic and very wrong,” DeWine said. “[We] urge all Ohioans who have ever thought about becoming a foster parent that this is an appropriate time to think about it again.”