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Report: Foster Parents Need Support to Help Kids Heal

There are about 22,000 children in Ohio in foster care. (Stephan Hochhaus/Flickr)
There are about 22,000 children in Ohio in foster care. (Stephan Hochhaus/Flickr)
November 29, 2016

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Child-welfare agencies need to focus on helping foster parents meet the needs of the children in their care, according to new research from The Annie E. Casey Foundation. For a child, placement in foster care often is one more trauma in an already troubled life. The report said agencies need to develop strong relationships with foster parents to help them meet that child's needs.

Child-welfare consultant Denise Goodman, Ph.D., of Columbus noted that foster parents need to be seen as critical partners helping children heal.

"The first line of therapy and healing is in the foster home, where, on a 24-hour-a-day basis, foster parents are nurturing, loving, caring and healing," she explained. "And they are critical members of the team, since they know the child best."

The report said foster families should be given legal protections and be allowed to make day-to-day decisions for children in their care. It also suggests foster parents be encouraged to develop a strong personal relationship with the child, whereas in years past they were told to keep their distance emotionally to facilitate reintegration with the family.

Patti Jo Burtnett, the public relations manager for Lorain County Children's Services, said forming a partnership between foster parents and child-welfare agencies is essential to meeting a child's needs. And she sees the child welfare system becoming more inclusive of foster parents.

"As the courts and other parties also become much more comfortable and familiar with the skill and quality provided by our foster parents, I think we're seeing a lot of movement forward in foster parents having a strong seat at the table," she said.

The Casey Foundation report also highlights the need for targeted recruiting of foster parents in the community, providing information not only about the responsibilities of parenting but also the rewards of working with a child in need.

"Helping them grow and heal and then seeing their families grow and heal at the same time and assisting that child to return to that family safely, and in a secure and stable manner," Dr. Goodman added.

In 2015, there were approximately 22,000 Ohio children in foster care.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH