WAPAKONETA — Ohio’s new Children’s Services Transformation Advisory Council met with foster families in Wapakoneta on Monday as the council reviews the state’s foster care system, which has been overwhelmed with new cases largely driven by the opioid epidemic.
“We don’t have the capacity we need,” said Kristi Burre, director of Ohio’s Office of Child Welfare Transformation.
While Burre said there aren’t enough foster families in Ohio to house children entering the child welfare system – many of whom are being transferred outside of the state as the system grows – there are also more children requiring higher levels of care, like residential treatment.
“That was unheard of, to have to send a child out of state just to get temporary placement or temporary treatment,” said Burre, who previously worked as a county-level children’s services director. “That’s become the norm over the last few years. We just haven’t been able to keep up with the pace.”
A common concern raised by foster parents and children’s advocates who spoke with Burre on Monday was the need for more support, particularly for medical costs not covered by Medicaid, and communication between agency representatives and foster families. Others spoke of the need for more attorneys to represent children and parents who may lose custody.
The forum was the second of 10 listening sessions planned by the advisory council, which was formed earlier this month by an executive order from Gov. Mike DeWine.
“I’ve spent my career advocating for children and families that are touched by the children services system,” DeWine said in a statement announcing the new advisory council. “By learning from those who have personally experienced the system, we can work together to make Ohio a state that works for all families.”
The council is expected to submit recommendations for reforming the state’s child welfare system by May 2020.
Reach Mackenzi Klemann at 567-242-0456.