Ohio agencies work with churches to strengthen supports for foster children
Wednesday, December 6, 2023
More than 3,500 foster children are available for adoption in Ohio, and state agencies are connecting with local faith congregations to help recruit families and place kids in caring homes.
The "One Church One Child" program is based on the idea that, if every congregation identifies one family who fosters or adopts one child, there would be fewer children without permanent homes.
Jennifer Kollar, public information officer for Mahoning County Children Services, said local churches often offer resources for adoption.
"It's our job to find safe, stable supports and placements for these children," Kollar explained. "The faith-based community has been long-standing in support of those endeavors."
Kollar added the agency has contracted with a community advocate to implement a local version of the One Church One Child program, by nurturing relationships with church congregations.
According to the Public Children Services Association of Ohio, the state continues to struggle with a placement crisis for children in its custody. Between the summers of 2021 and 2022, more than 500 children spent at least one night in county government offices because they had nowhere to go.
Kollar stressed the need for foster care and permanent homes is great, and the holidays can be an especially stressful and lonely time for children.
"Our agency has over 300 children in foster care," Kollar pointed out. "And there's over 51 children in our permanent custody, which means that those children's biological parents have had their parental rights terminated."
Kevin Milliken, public information specialist for Lucas County Children Services, said multiple factors continue to drive up the number of children who are unable to safely live with their biological parents.
"Mental health issues, opioid epidemic, job losses, a sustained poor economy, in all of those things have combined," Milliken outlined. "I don't think there's one root cause. It's a conglomeration of all those things that continue to be a problem, particularly in Lucas County."
People interested in adoption or fostering can find information online on the state's adoption website.
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