Foster care balloon needs air removed
• The Canton Repository, Dec. 22
This week, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office launched a pilot program aimed at helping counties find relatives of children in the care of their local Department of Job and Family Services.
Stark is among the eight counties in the trial group. No surprise, considering the effects of opioid and other drug abuse in the county, where more than 100 people died by overdose in 2016. Children from homes where parents or guardians are abusing drugs have driven up the number in foster care here by nearly 10 percent in the past year.
That’s where officials hope the “family finder” pilot initiative can step in. The money Stark receives will train staff in the “30 Days to Family” program, whose primary goal is keeping foster children connected with their relatives — and potentially placed with a relative.
Such outcomes have shown to lessen trauma on the child who typically has been living in a stress-filled environment.
Certainly the foster care system always can use more devoted adults willing to open their homes to children in need. The process requires some time, but nearly every foster parent will tell you the rewards far outweigh the challenges.
Another way to help: Continue the fight against opioids. …
Redistricting reform can work — if rules are tight
• The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, Dec. 22
The General Assembly appears poised to propose bipartisan changes in how Ohio draws congressional districts. Good. Ohioans are fed up with the toxic congressional gridlock that results in part from U.S. House districts drawn to protect incumbents, a process that also can yield extreme partisan representation.
The determination by Ohio legislators to reshape redistricting is a sign of progress, but, to be adequate, a legislative plan must have genuine safeguards. These include ironclad requirements for districts that are compact and fair, keeping communities as intact as possible. And to win support, a legislative plan must have full bipartisan buy-in, including over federally required protections for Ohio’s African-American voters.
Already, the Fair Districts = Fair Elections Coalition, which includes the League of Women Voters, has been circulating petitions for redistricting reform on next November’s statewide ballot. The coalition plan would transfer responsibility for congressional redistricting to the bipartisan Redistricting Commission voters approved in 2015 to draw General Assembly districts, with some tweaks to enhance the voice of the minority party.
Despite Ohio lawmakers’ partisan redistricting track record, the legislative working group could help dispel concerns with a strong, rules-driven bipartisan plan. The Ohio General Assembly’s leaders now seemed inclined to address congressional redistricting reforms. They must.
Downsizing Ohio’s prison population
• The (Findlay) Courier, Dec. 22
Ohio will always need large prisons to house its worst criminal offenders, but a goal should always be to make prisons less crowded.
After years of trying to reverse prison population trends, primarily by forcing judges to keep low-level felons at “home,” the numbers are declining, and recently have dropped below 50,000 for the first time in four years.
But even with 49,596 inmates, the statewide tally from Tuesday, the prison system is bloated and at about 130 percent of capacity. An overcrowded prison system is an accident waiting to happen.
The state must continue to allow local governments to develop best practices for rehabilitation without attaching too many strings to grants and funding. A one-size-fits-all solution isn’t possible with rehabilitation. What works in Cuyahoga County may not work in Hancock County.
The majority of the rehabilitation that takes place in Ohio doesn’t occur within prison walls, but within communities where the crime occurs. The money saved by housing fewer inmates at the state level must be passed on to county governments to develop effective community control programs, including reintegration.
Ohio will always be better off beefing up rehabilitation than overfilling its prisons or, worse yet, building new ones.