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A "Broader View" to Help Ohio's At-Risk Kids

PHOTO: Child welfare organizations in Ohio are working to better coordinate services for at-risk children and their families. Photo credit: taschik/Flickr.
PHOTO: Child welfare organizations in Ohio are working to better coordinate services for at-risk children and their families. Photo credit: taschik/Flickr.
May 5, 2015

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Some Ohio children fall into the child welfare system when the developmental disabilities, juvenile court or mental health systems are unable to meet their needs.

Maureen Corcoran is a consultant specializing in children's health issues at Vorys Health Care Advisors. She says while these kids may face similar challenges, they come from different pathways. In order to better help at-risk children, she says it's crucial to consider their history.

"That's what often takes policy makers a hard time to understand," says Corcoran. "We have to look across the kinds of needs and design our approaches with that slightly broader view in mind."

Betsy Johnson, associate director of the mental health organization National Association of Mental Illness in Ohio, says that broader view includes a system that considers a family's needs and keeps the parents involved when possible.

"Finally, after many years I think the system realized giving a kid counseling and a couple of prescriptions wasn't going to fit the bill. We've got to really listen to what the families say these children need rather than what Medicaid pays for. "

In Ohio, the Strong Families, Safe Communities project helps agencies collaborate to develop a strategy to assist families who need help from multiple social service systems. Some counties are also using High-Fidelity Wraparound, which centers services around a family's home. Pam Meermans, deputy director with Clark County Children Services, says it's been shown to reduce high-risk behaviors and improve family functioning.

"You have a pretty good track record of keeping kids in their communities where a system of care can be kind of around them and their not just sent off outside of your community to a residential treatment center or something that's not a holistic approach," says Meermans.

Tim Schaffner, director with Trumbull County Children's Services, says improved coordination between agencies and with families can avoid service duplication and reduce the overburdening of existing resources.

"When we effectively work together we can make the pain and misery so much shorter for a child and their family," says Schaffner. "It's really, really hard to live with a troubled child. It affects every family member."

Child welfare organizations are asking state leaders to develop a legislative study committee to examine the problem of multi-system youth and develop solutions.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH