Crime victims grant tackles Ohio’s foster care ‘emergency’

Children affected by the opioid crisis have a better chance at living with trusted kinship caregivers thanks to a $1 million grant awarded to Cleveland’s Waiting Child Fund.

“This is a tragedy and certainly is an emergency,” says Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine of the state’s need for foster care services. The Victims of Crime Act funding will be allocated over one year, with the possibility of an additional $1 million for the following year.

The funds will implement a pilot program called 30 Days to Family, which is facilitated by the Waiting Child Fund. The program creates new staff members at child protection agencies in 10 Ohio counties that are significantly impacted by opioid use. These additional employees will work to match children with kinship caregivers, which include relatives, neighbors, teachers and others, when their parents are unable to care for them. The goal is to find a primary kinship caregiver, with one or two potential back-up options, within the first 30 days children enter the foster care system. Studies show when children stay with adults they know and trust, they often have better outcomes.

Launched in 2011 by the Foster & Adoptive Care Coalition in St. Louis, 30 Days to Family has created proven results. In 2016, research from the St. Louis program showed children placed with relatives were more involved in extracurricular activities, had more positive contact with mothers, fathers and extended relatives, and experienced increased stability.

While DeWine emphasizes the great need for more foster care families, he says it’s also the case that “these children have further trauma when placed in unfamiliar environments.”

Ohio currently has 15,000 children in state custody. But there are only 7,200 licensed foster families. With limited resources, agencies resort to placing children hundreds of miles from their counties of origin – even other states.

Two years ago, Fairfield County typically had three to four children in treatment facilities at any time. Today, it’s jumped to 20 children, which costs $8,500 per month for each child, says Kristi Burre, Fairfield’s deputy director of protective services.

“It’s a call to arms – loving arms – and we must do everything we can to help these suffering children,” DeWine says.

Launched in 2005, the Waiting Child Fund believes childhood is a fundamental human right, and every day for a child in foster care is a day in crisis. The organization envisions a world where families, agencies, resources – and children – work together so that every child is loved and nurtured in a permanent, chosen family. Waiting Child Fund develops partnerships to transform beliefs, values and actions to achieve permanency for all children in the shortest time possible.

Novice and expert Scrabble players (and spectators) can participate in Waiting Child Fund’s 8th annual Scrabble Tournament from 1 to 5 p.m. Nov. 11 at BottleHouse Brewery in Cleveland Heights. Your ticket will include appetizers, drinks and testing your Scrabble skills for a chance to win prizes. Sponsorships are available. The fundraiser will assist Waiting Child Fund’s programs.

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