Our agency recently made a decision to transition most of our foster homes to network agencies. We think this is a good decision for all involved and I would like to explain a little of the reasoning that went into it.
First, this is a necessary move because the state has reduced the county’s Job and Family Services budget by more than 50 percent over the past year. The county has lost about 800 employees since its highest number a couple of years ago, with most leaving in layoffs over the past year as the agency struggled to deal with a drastically reduced budget. The state of Ohio already provides counties with very little money when it comes to child welfare, and it recently balanced its troubled budget with drastic cuts to the state’s social service network.
These budget cuts forced the agency to look at new ways of doing business, and this foster care change is a win-win because it helps the families get additional support and, in most cases, higher pay. Meanwhile, the agency can shift its limited resources to other urgent areas, such as investigating abuse claims and providing ongoing services to families in crisis.
Second, the agency cannot manage to recruit, support and keep foster homes at the level it did years ago. It once had more than 450 foster homes and now has less than half of that. And even with that number, only half are taking foster placements. So, this change will only really impact about 100 homes that have foster placements right now.
Third, this is not a radical change for the county. Already, about 80 percent of our foster children are in network homes. This just transitions the other 20 percent, and the children will not be disrupted — it is only the home that transitions. And many of the children will benefit of advanced-level care available in therapeutic network homes, vs. the traditional care they received in county homes.
The county has asked all homes to transition to private networks or other nearby public agencies by April 1. We will work with each, as well as those in training, to make sure the transition is as smooth as possible.
I hope this was helpful. If you have more questions, please contact the agency at 946-1666.