Sunday, August 19, 2018

Appreciation for Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is a long-time champion of Ohio foster care youth and alumni.

We greatly appreciate him including us in his 2012 Child Safety Summits, and 2013 Two Days in May. He included youth voice in every Child Safety Summit, and empowered youth as Subject Matter Experts during the 2013 Two Days in May conference.

Many thanks also to the Ohio Attorney General's Office for providing grant funding to support Ohio Reach - this initiative has improved higher educational outcomes for foster care youth throughout the state.

We read with interest that the Ohio Attorney General's policy priorities in 2018 include:

1.) Reviewing Ohio's foster care system and increasing funding to create a "standard minimum care"
2.) Appointing a foster care ombudsman to investigate and publish findings on the foster system
3.) Creating a Director of Child Initiatives to coordinate child programs statewide.

During our recent OHIO YAB Officers Retreat, on June 23, 2018, participating youth also proposed the establishment of a Foster Care Ombudsman's Office in the state of Ohio in order to provide independent investigation of concerns expressed by Ohio foster care youth and young adults.

This person’s role would be:

  • To serve as a protective measure to safeguard the physical safety and emotional well-being of youth whose lives are entrusted to the foster care system
  • To be available for foster care children and teens throughout the state to share concerns related to their rights, care and well-being and/or issues with their placement or services received while in foster care
  • To listen to, document, and follow up on their concerns 
  • To ensure that foster youth are being protected from further harm and receiving the services they need
  • To provide a venue so that the voices of foster care youth and teens are heard, without fear of retribution. 

Quote from youth: “Don’t let referral lead to retaliation”

Youth felt that this future Ombudsman definitely needs to be available to young people in group homes and residential placements, as well as foster homes. Oftentimes, youth in group homes or residential aren’t believed, and their concerns are disregarded.

Quote from youth: “The danger of some group homes and residential placements is that things happen behind walls, and other people don’t know what’s really going on.”

In terms of defining ‘What is abuse?’
Youth felt that a good rule of thumb is that: “If a caseworker would open a case against my biological parents for this allegation, then if it happens in a kinship care placement, guardianship, foster home, group home or residential placement, it should also be thoroughly investigated.”