Ohio Attorney General DeWine introduces advisort panel aimed at improving state foster care system

by Marc kovac | Capital Bureau Chief Published:

Columbus -- A new panel began its work Dec. 10 on recommendations to improve the state's foster care system, with an eye toward improving the lives of children stuck in legal limbo.

Attorney General Mike DeWine introduced his Foster Care Advisory Group during a press conference at the Statehouse, building on a series of meetings across the state that included comments from individuals involved in the foster care system.

Information gathered during those meetings was compiled into a report with some initial findings about the state's foster care system, which will be used as a foundation for the new advisory group's work.

The ultimate goal is to determine "what could be done to make a real commitment to the more than 12,000 children languishing in foster care in Ohio," according to the report.

"What we have too often is kids who languish in foster care, who go back and forth between different foster homes or go between a foster home and their natural home time and time again...," DeWine said. "I just think at some point we need to say to the crack-addicted mom or to the father who can't control his anger, hey, we'll pray for you, we hope you get your act together, we'll try to help you, but this little kid's got to grow up. And this kid can't wait for you to get your act together."

DeWine said a number of common concerns arose from the meetings across the state.

Foster parents said they were not consulted or allowed to participate when legal decisions were made about child placements.

Some said court-appointed guardians were not meeting requirements for the children placed in their care.

And foster children voiced frustration about approvals to spend the night at a friend's house, go to the movies or participate in other activities.

The latter made it difficult for foster children like Dauntea Sledge, now a college student in Columbus, to live normal family lives once placed in homes.

"If you're that foster child, it's kind of embarrassing," he said. "Now people [have] to know your business."

The new advisory group will issue recommendations for improvements in the next three months.

Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at mkovac@dixcom.com.

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