New report projects continued statewide increase, straining available resources
— Ohio is facing a crisis in its foster care system. A thousand more Ohio kids will be spending the holidays in foster care this year, compared to 2016, according to a report released today by Public Children Services Association of Ohio that directly ties this increase to the opioid epidemic.
This steep increase is straining the state’s children services agencies, county budgets and foster care resources, according to the report. The organization adds that by next year at this time, this number could climb to 2,000 more, if the opioid epidemic continues its trajectory.
Local officials also correlate an increase in children in the system due mainly to the drug epidemic. Summit County Children Services reports over 650 children in its custody every month.
While Ohio led the nation from 2002 to 2010 in safely reducing the number of children in out-of-home care – by 42 percent, “The Great Recession followed by the opioid crisis led to more children being drawn into the system, and these kids are more complex, their trauma more challenging, and their placement costs dramatically higher than Ohio’s child protection agencies have ever witnessed,” said Angela Sausser, Public Children Services Association of Ohio’s executive director.
On July 1, 2013, 12,654 children were in agency custody. Four years later, that number had climbed to 15,145 kids, according to the organization, which adds that in October, the number surpassed 15,500.
“Many of these kids watched their parents overdose or die,” said Sausser. “They are missing milestones with their families such as birthday parties and ringing in the New Year, and many are staying in care longer due to their parents’ relapsing.”
If entry rates continue at this pace, more than 20,000 Ohio children will be in the system on any given day by 2020, and the cost of placing them in foster homes and residential facilities – where more traumatized children can get the behavioral health services they need – will surge by 67 percent to over half a billion dollars a year, according to a news release. “We are sounding the alarm now – we need help,” Sausser added. “We need substantially more state resources before we lose the ability to provide essential services to vulnerable children.”
While the state legislature has added $15 million to the $45 million that Ohio kicks in to match federal and local funds each year, foster care placement costs alone have risen by an estimated $45 million since last year, and that doesn’t count staffing or other agency services, according to Public Children Services Association of Ohio.
“Ohio needs a long-term solution to this crisis – and leadership to get us there before agency budgets collapse and our workforce jumps ship,” Sausser said. “We already have a lack of available foster homes in Ohio. With the projected increases, we will have children sleeping in county agency lobbies with no available foster family to take them in.”
The report can be downloaded at http://www.pcsao.org/news/79.