COLUMBUS – State Representative Susan Manchester today is renewing calls for passage of foster care reform legislation following reports kids were living in a foster care agency office due to lack of available foster parents to care for them.
An investigation by Cleveland’s WEWS-TV found that children were living in Cuyahoga County’s Department of Children and Family Services office as a “last resort.”
A 17-year-old had been living there for more than a month awaiting placement with a foster caregiver. Other teens also temporarily lived in the agency headquarters, according to the report.
“This was a heartbreaking story,” said Manchester (R-Waynesfield), who is a lead sponsor of legislation to improve foster care in Ohio. “This just underscores the need for reforms in Ohio so we have more foster caregivers. Every child deserves a stable, caring home. Let’s make sure this never happens again.”
At any given time in Ohio, there are more than 15,000 boys and girls in foster care here in Ohio, a figure that has grown by 25 percent in recent years, driven by the addiction crisis. In 2018, a total of 26,737 were in foster care at one point or another.
Last year’s state budget increased state support for local agencies who are working to help children. But more needs to be done, Manchester said.
Manchester is the joint sponsor of House Bill 8, bipartisan legislation to reform foster care training so potential foster parents can be trained, licensed and approved more efficiently and effectively. The goal is, she said, is to increase the number of foster caregivers.
“There are boys and girls all across Ohio who need our help and our support,” Manchester said.
In the past decade, there has been a 5 percent increase in foster care nationwide, and an upwards of 40 percent of teenagers in foster care are in a group home setting. H.B. 8 will help recruit foster parents and in turn, help prevent children ending up in a group home setting.
The Ohio House unanimously approved the measure on June 6, 2019. It is pending in the Ohio Senate. Manchester said she is optimistic the legislation will be passed and signed into law this year.