Ohio is making it easier to find information on fostering and adopting children as the opioid epidemic has increased the need for caregivers.
The state launched a new website that serves as a one-stop shop for adults in any county to learn more about the foster system, find training courses in their area and apply to be a foster parent.
The number of children in custody in Ohio peaked at 16,154 in 2018 — 3,500 more than five years ago, according to the Public Children Services Association of Ohio. The agency predicts that number could rise to 19,000 by 2020.
The state currently has about 7,400 foster homes. Most children are placed in kinship care, with a relative or family friend. But when there is no kinship option, foster parents are needed to fill the gap.
The new website was created to better recruit and retain foster parents. It was one of the recommendations of the state’s Foster Care Advisory Group, created in 2017. Previously, potential foster parents had to seek information from the county they live in or find a private adoption agency that contracts in their area.
Other recommendations include streamlining the application and training process for foster parents. Those still need to be examined by Gov. Mike DeWine’s administration, said Bret Crow, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.
DeWine has made helping children a top priority already with the creation of a cabinet-level Director of Children’s Initiatives position, Crow said.
“This new website and public-awareness campaign will help Ohioans interested in foster care and adoption better access information about the process, with the goal of encouraging more families to open up their homes and hearts to children in need,” DeWine said in a written statement. “Because of the opioid crisis ravaging our state, the need for families is greater than ever.”
Qualifications to be a foster parent include being 21 years of age; passing background, financial and health checks; attending 36 hours of classes and a home-study process.
The classes are free and once licensed, individuals receive per-diem payment based on the level of care needed for each child.
The state’s foster care website can be accessed at fosterandadopt.jfs.ohio.gov.