Concerns with local foster group homes lead area lawmakers to seek increased rules

Two Montgomery County lawmakers introduced a bill that aims to create new standards for group homes that house foster children statewide.

State Reps. Andrea White, R-Kettering, and Phil Plummer, R-Butler Twp., introduced House Bill 583 last week. Both legislators say the bill was crafted to address issues revolving around juvenile group homes and foster care placements in Montgomery County.

Eighty of the state’s roughly 200 group homes are located in Montgomery County, according to White and Plummer.

Plummer said Montgomery County saw an increase in group homes, many of which are taking root in Dayton. The fifth largest county in the state also has a shortage of foster parents.

The state representative said many group home providers may have good intentions for providing spaces for children in the foster care system, but “guardrails” should exist for how those homes operate.

“Juvenile group homes have become a new option to provide substitute living arrangements for the growing number of youth who need out-of-home care,” said Plummer. “We are going to properly regulate these homes to ensure the owners are properly trained and equipped to handle the various challenges children face.”

Plummer said he and White have heard numerous complaints from school districts, healthcare providers and other community leaders regarding youth staying at the numerous group homes in the county.

Many children across Ohio are being placed inside Montgomery County group homes due to the lack of available space in their home counties, White said.

“Ohio is taking steps to secure more family homes where foster children can be placed, but in the meantime, we have children who are being placed many miles and many counties away from where their parents or caregivers live because there is a shortage of places in their home communities,” she said.

A substitute bill for H.B. 583 will be introduced at the bill’s first hearing before the Ohio House’s Families and Aging Committee, Plummer said.

The Public Children Services Association of Ohio will review the bill and looks forward to working with legislators on ways to help improve the lives of youth in the state, said associate director Scott Britton. The nonprofit advocates for public policy surrounding children services agencies in Ohio.

Exploring ways to incentivize the establishment of more group homes in communities where there is urgent need, and setting standards to ensure children are not placed so far from their home communities and families is a step Ohio families need, White said, and H.B. 583 would help that happen.

The bill would also raise the minimum training requirements for group home providers and their workers.

If passed, it would also require group home providers to respond to hospitals upon contact if they’re called in regards to one of their foster children, and the Ohio Department of Children and Youth and the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services would also be notified of hospital visits made by foster children in these group homes.

Also included in communication from group home providers would be school districts that their foster children attend. Group home operators would be required to provide schools with sufficient background information on students in foster group homes at the time of enrollment, according to the lawmakers.

The bill would create guidelines to ensure children charged with violent offenses who are placed by courts into the custody of children services, rather than being detained, are housed in group homes specifically designated to serve these children.

“We want to ensure that providers running these homes and the on-site caregivers who support the foster children in their care are properly trained, responsive and accountable for delivering the level of wraparound services and supervision they are being entrusted to provide for some of our most vulnerable young lives,” White said.

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