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New Approach Aims to Empower Ohio Foster Children, Create Stability

Coaches and teachers can become part of a support system for children in the foster care system. (U.S. Army/Flickr)
Coaches and teachers can become part of a support system for children in the foster care system. (U.S. Army/Flickr)
August 20, 2018

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The lives of some foster children in Ohio are becoming more stable, with a new approach to establishing permanency.

Thirteen counties are using Youth Centered Permanency Roundtables to focus on improving outcomes for teens in foster care who are in long term custody and in danger of aging out of the system.

Shawna Barger, deputy director of Warren County Children's Services, explains the roundtables bring together caseworkers, family members, friends and, most importantly, the foster child.

"Just with any plan, if they help create it and they buy into the plan, it has a higher likelihood of success,” she states. “So, it's really important to know where the kids stand and what they're looking for, as well as the families that we're working with. It has to be a good fit both ways."

Barger says her agency has been working with 38 teens since Warren County began using the roundtables in the spring.

She adds Warren County Children's Services is already seeing good results, as the young people play greater roles in the decisions made about their care.

Barger contends that children deserve to be in families, but sometimes congregate care or a group home setting is appropriate.

In these cases, she says short term, close-to-home options should be available to help address a child's crisis needs, so he or she can get on a path toward living with a family.

"If we can get them to a point to get in a traditional foster home it's so helpful, because they do have better outcomes, just having that sense of connection," she states.

The roundtables are helping identify relationships in the child's life that can become part of a support system, whether that child is still in congregate care or living with a foster family.

Barger says this can include teachers, coaches and faith leaders.

"They would agree to be somebody that the child could call if they break down on the side of the road, or if they need gas money to get to work, or someplace to go on the holidays,” she explains. “Just to have that sense of family and connection."

The permanency roundtables started in six counties in 2014 for young people age 12 and older who had been in the child welfare system for at least 17 months.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH