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OH Advocate: Child Welfare Dollars are Worth the Investment


Monday, March 14, 2011   

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Investing in child welfare is good for Ohio families and the state, according to an Ohio children's advocate who testified to that effect before the U.S. Senate Finance Committee. Crystal Ward Allen, executive director of the Public Children Services Association of Ohio, told the senators that federal foster care funding, known as "Title Four-E," has improved foster care outcomes in Ohio.

While traditional funding is used for placement costs, she says, the Four-E funding waiver is more flexible, and can be used for services that support families,including prevention, diversion, and post-placement services.

"What they need to do is give the flexibility to invest in services with strengthening families instead of just placement costs. The money would be the same: outcomes are so much better."

Governor John Kasich is expected to announce his budget Tuesday. Ward Allen says the state's current investment in child welfare is minimal, and she's worried it will be cut even further.

"Ohio does not make a big investment as a state in child welfare, and honestly, Ohio has the lowest investment of any state in the nation."

However, Ward Allen says the Buckeye State has done well with what little money it allocates, so she believes it is essential to maintain the current investment. From 2002 to 2009, Ohio managed to reduce its overall rate of children placed in group homes and foster care by more than any other state in the nation.

Ward Allen says more support for families leads to better outcomes for children and less stress on the system. And she describes Ohio's child welfare system as having a proven record of success.

"We have much fewer children waiting for adoption than we used to have. We have fewer children experiencing long stays in foster care. And we're doing it with the same amount of money, and it's better for the kids."

She adds that, while the numbers of children in foster care declined, Ohio also experienced a 15 percent increase in reports of child abuse or neglect in the past decade.

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