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Bringing Ohio Foster Kids to Table to Build Lifelong Connections

PHOTO: Child-welfare agencies in Ohio are using new strategies that engage foster youth in the process of building lifelong connections, and finding permanent homes. Photo credit: holyho20/morguefile.
PHOTO: Child-welfare agencies in Ohio are using new strategies that engage foster youth in the process of building lifelong connections, and finding permanent homes. Photo credit: holyho20/morguefile.
January 26, 2015

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Child-welfare agencies around Ohio are finding success with new strategies that include foster children in the planning of their future. The Wendy's Wonderful Kids Program uses a child-centered approach that engages foster youth in the process of finding a permanent home.

Deb Downing, assistant director with Montgomery County Department of Job and Family Services, says it's helped them to better identify the child's needs, and sometimes find a person in the child's life willing to provide care.

"First is to work with the children so they are ready for moving into an adoptive home," Downing says. "Then to look at what are some unique strategies to try to identify a family. Looking at where are that child's connections."

Since it began in Ohio in 2004, there have been more than 1,300 children served by the program and nearly 350 adoptions. Agencies are also using Permanency Round Tables as another strategy to eliminate barriers to placement and increase lifelong connections for foster youth.

Focusing on an open dialogue, Downing says the child is included in developing an action plan that can lead to a permanent home.

In Fairfield County, Kristi Burre, deputy director with the Protective Services Department, says the Permanency Round Tables have helped some kids connect with people from their past, and others find new homes.

She talks about one foster child who was temporarily staying with his grandparents after years in foster care. She says during the roundtable everyone gave input and asked questions and the boy's future changed.

"By the end of the meeting, we had two grandparents and a 15-year-old child who were gung-ho about beginning the process of adoption," says Burre. "When we went into the meeting, we definitely were not going down that route."

Downing adds, the entire community needs to understand the urgency to find permanent connections for foster children. So, they are engaging the court system and other child-serving agencies in these new strategies.

"They have to understand what we're doing and to be on board with us as we really look at new ways of developing relationships and permanency for children in our custody," says Downing.

About 1,000 children age out of foster care each year in Ohio.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH