Reform plan would benefit kids in Ohio

Washington County is not the only part of Ohio in which those who administer Children’s Services are struggling. The wave of the last decade became a tsunami in recent years, though it appears it may have peaked for now, according to the Public Children Services Association of Ohio.

Since 2013, there has been a 28 percent increase in the number of children in custody, which means a similar increase in the amount of resources and money needed. So the association has come up with a reform plan to deal with not only the increase in the number of kids but the changing needs of those kids.

“These young people may have severe mental illness, developmental and intellectual disabilities, and juvenile justice involvement, and whether there is abuse or neglect in their background or not, the family or a court places these children in agency custody so that they can get the services they need,” Angela Sausser, executive director of the group, told another media outlet.

The new Federal Family First Prevention Services Act will help implement some of the reforms, which the association expects to take years to put in place. But Ohio lawmakers can also keep an eye on whether there are means to support the changes, which include intensive in-home services to prevent removal in the first place, developing options for a strong professional foster care system, providing after-care services and support to prevent re-entry, and working to keep residential stays short and near family.

According to their report, the current trend means there could be 19,000 children in foster care in Ohio by 2020. There is no denying it is a resource-draining challenge that affects us all. Lawmakers at all levels must remember getting this right could make the difference in short-circuiting the cycle.