Ohio county hit hard by opioid crisis asks residents to consider becoming foster parents.
At the latest Scioto County Commissioners meeting in Ohio, those present pushed for parents to foster children, a move made following the deaths of two children in the care of Scioto County Children Services (SCCS) in the past years and a half. The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services reports there are currently “56 homes that house the 266 children in the SCCS system.”
“There’s a lot of people in this county that have the means and have enough love in their hearts. We desperately need foster parents,” Commissioner Cathy Coleman said. “We’ve had a lot of people reach out and offer to help. If you have the means to be a foster parent, please consider doing so.”
The county has been hit particularly hard by the nation’s opioid epidemic and the crisis has impacted the children significantly.
“We have kids who are born addicted; we see that here in Portsmouth,” said Governor Mike DeWine. “We have seen the ramifications, some have developmental problems, some don’t. We’ve seen the foster care in Scioto County more than double, which is staggering.”
Foster parents in the county receive $27.50 a day per child with the ability to receive an increase if the child has special needs or is a teenager. Those in the Ohio Department of Job and Family Service (ODJFS)’s kinship program earn as much as $505 a month per child. The program’s reunification process requires the biological parents to take parenting classes, submit to drug tests, obtain or at least seek employment, and to have a safe living space for children.
According to the ODJFS reunification assessment, a child could “return to a home where threats of serious harm exist if these threats can be controlled within the family.” This means a child may be reunited with parents who were harmful in the past if the department deems the issue is able to be addressed and remedied moving forward. This includes situations of sexual and physical abuse.
“They have seen things that adults shouldn’t see,” said one caregiver who wished to remain anonymous, speaking of drug use and sex trafficking. “Their living conditions were deplorable, and the kids were not safe.”
The caregiver, who now has permanent custody of three children until they turn 18, said sometimes they still have to stay the night at their biological parents’ home. What’s more, she said she feels the only reason the outcome was relatively positive was that the parents left the county and jurisdiction was transferred to their current county of residence.
“It’s putting the kids back into the situation where they were removed from,” she said. “It’s not in the best interest of the children to be reminded weekly of what they had to go through. Had they continued to live in Scioto County, I do not think that SCCS would have removed the children. I just thank God that they left the county.”
During the Commissioners meeting, it was made clear the task of addressing issues within the program and instituting reforms would be the responsibility of the new SCCS director, Jason Mantell, who was identified as a “change agent.” With more safe and loving homes for the children to go to, the task will become much lighter.