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Ohio Budget Examined Through the Eyes of a Child

July 21, 2011

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Ohio's new budget is receiving a new analysis - from the perspective of the state's nearly 3 million children.

"Children's Regional Briefings" have been scheduled around the state in the coming weeks to go over budget line items including education, health care and nutrition, says Amy Swanson, chief executive officer of Ohio Voices for Children.

"We want to share some of the targeted investments the state made to help Ohio's children, and then also look forward to what kinds of things do we need to be looking at? What solutions to improve the lives for kids and their families?"

Despite the extreme economic challenges the governor and General Assembly faced, Swanson says, the budget includes investments in streamlined access to health care for children and pregnant women, funds for "Help Me Grow" home visiting, and mental-health treatment and services for youths involved in the child-welfare and juvenile-justice systems.

State Sen. Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering, says she's pleased the budget met those benchmarks but still is worried about others.

"There's a whole group of folks who aren't the neediest of needy, and yet really cannot function well without some sort of support. Those are the people that concern me, and the people who will continue to concern me, I'm sure, as we deal with this budget crisis."

Finding creative solutions to make sure children and families in Ohio have the support they need isn't easy, she says, but it's tough work she says needs to be done.

"It's critically important that we, as much as possible, divorce this from the political debate, because I think that when politics come into some of these solutions, it really stifles innovation."

Lehner says she wants to hear from constituents about budget decisions that affect children and families - but notes that she hasn't heard much yet.

The meetings begin Aug. 3 in Akron and are scheduled for 11 other cities including Youngstown, Toledo, Dayton, Cleveland and Cincinnati. A full listing of the briefings is online at vfc.oh.org.

Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - OH