Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has added his voice to the many calling for additional foster parents as our state struggles with an opioid epidemic. We appreciate his interest in helping us continue to increase the network of foster homes for abused and neglected children.
On the day he announced his office would create a new $1 million fund for recruitment of foster families, Hamilton County had 2,295 children in care, with 1,191 children in foster homes.
We contract for foster placement services through a number of local and national providers, including Lighthouse Youth Services, Pressley Ridge, Child Focus, Necco, Focus on Youth, St. Joseph Orphanage, Beech Acres, Bair Foundation, National Youth Advocate Program, SAFY, Choices, Ohio Mentor, Buckeye Ranch and many others who have been great partners in the effort to provide temporary placement for children who cannot safely return to their home. Hamilton County has more than 500 foster families living within its borders. All of them were recruited and nurtured by one of these agencies.
Being a foster family is a tough job. Caring for a child who is not your own is difficult, but there is so much more to it than that. Foster families have to constantly complete new trainings, open their home to inspection, juggle medical appointments and family visits and meet the demands of caseworkers assigned to help foster children. On top of that, foster parents know it is very likely these children will eventually return to their biological families; while reunification is a wonderful reward for work well done, it can be heartbreaking to lose a child who has become an important part of your life and family.
I have the utmost respect for the foster families who help us achieve our mission of keeping children safe, and I am extremely grateful for the private agencies that work with these families. We simply could not do this job without them.
But the opiate crisis has emphasized the need for more support. While 500 families may seem like a lot, not all of those families are available to all of our children. Families self-select the children they are willing or able to take. The list of families we can call at 10 p.m. to take in a sibling set of three is limited. We might even have to care for those children in our office over night until we can find a suitable family.
As our numbers increase, even the homes who will take any child of any age are full. We especially need families willing to take teens, sibling sets and children with special needs.
Our partners have tried to answer the call. They have created a collaborative to help recruit and support foster families. You can learn more about the Cincinnati Foster Care Collaborative here. If you can help – if you have ever had an inkling of a desire to foster children – this is the time to come forward.
Attorney General DeWine described his call for more foster parents as a call to arms – “loving arms.” That is exactly what we need.