As director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, I know the critical needs of the 3,000 children currently in Ohio’s foster system. As the father of two children adopted through the foster system, I’ve personally experienced the highs and some of the lows of “the system” but know firsthand the joy of being a foster and adoptive parent.
November Is Adoption Recognition and Recruitment Month. While the need is year-around, this month gives us the opportunity to shine a spotlight on Ohio’s foster system and the children awaiting permanency through adoption. The goal of Ohio’s foster system is to safely reunify a child with their first family, but foster and adoptive parents become a critical option when that is not possible.
This year’s theme is “Every Conversation Matters.” It emphasizes the importance of taking the time to listen and learn from youth in foster care. This is particularly important for the 1,400 teenagers in the foster system. More than 200 foster youth will become adults in the next year and are at risk of transitioning out of the children services system without a forever family. As anyone with older children knows, the need for a family doesn’t end at 18.
If you’ve been a foster parent, or were ever in foster care, you know the system can at times seem overwhelming. To help, the State of Ohio just adopted a Foster Youth Bill of Rights, and a companion Bill of Rights for caregivers, the Resource Family Bill of Rights.
The Foster Youth Bill of Rights not only ensures that youth have a safe place to live, but also that they have a voice regarding their care and an opportunity for a normal childhood. The Resource Family Bill of Rights elevates the important role foster and kinship caregivers play in the lives of the children they care for by assuring these families are heard, supported, and valued as a part of the team.
Finally, this month is also an opportunity to recognize those who’ve accepted a foster a child into their home, and to those who made that decision permanent and offered a child a forever home. Thank you to the more than 9,000 adoptive families in Ohio currently providing love, support, and guidance into adulthood to your children.
If the thought of helping a child while enriching your life sounds worth exploring, please visit FosterAndAdopt.jfs.ohio.gov.
Every child deserves the support of a loving family.
Matt Damschroder is director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. He and his wife, Carrie, are the proud parents of two adopted children.
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