Saturday, February 9th, 2019
State highlighting foster care, adoption with new website
By Leslie Gartrell
Foster parents Aaron and Lindsay Bath pose in their toy room on Thursday night.. . .
The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services launched a new foster care and adoption website and public awareness campaign in mid-January, and Mercer County division officials hope people take notice.
Ohio has nearly 16,000 children in the custody of county children services agencies and a continuing need for more families to support them, according to an Ohio JFS news release. Mercer County JFS has 51 children in custody, social services assistant supervisor Tonya Siefring said.
Over the past 18 years, Siefring has noticed an increase in the number of children in custody and a decrease in their ages.
Siefring said when she began working at Mercer County JFS 18 years ago, an average of 20 children were in foster care, the majority of them being teenagers. Now the agency averages about 50 kids with almost half under the age of 5.
Siefring said she believes the increase in number and decrease in age is linked with parental substance abuse. Of the 21 children under the age of 5, only two had not been affected by drugs, she noted.
In a 2015 survey by the Public Children Services Association of Ohio, 50 percent of children taken into custody had parental drug use, and 28 percent of children taken into custody had parents who were using opiates, including heroin, at time of removal. These children spend a median of 240 days in custody.
"Every child deserves to grow up in a safe and loving home," Gov. Mike DeWine said in the release. "Because of the opioid crisis ravaging our state, the need for families is greater than ever."
While reunification with birth parents or other family members is always the goal for foster children, adoption is possible if their birth parents' rights are terminated. Once a judge finalizes an adoption, the child is legally part of the adoptive family. Out of the 51 children in Mercer County custody, six will be adopted in the near future, Siefring said.
A person doesn't have to be wealthy or have an advanced degree to be a foster or adoptive parent. Instead they just need "100 percent heart," the release stated. Siefring agreed.
When asked about the cost of fostering, Siefring said the biggest cost is time. The goal is to have a home study completed within six months of the date the person or family completes the application. During that time the family must complete several training sessions and documents. Prospective foster parents go through 36 hours of training before certification. The average time from start to finish is about three to four months.
Fostering can be affordable, Siefring added. Training is free, and no fees are involved with working with the agency. The only thing prospective foster parents pay for out-of-pocket are medical exams and forms. Foster parents receive a per diem for each child, which is paid monthly, to cover cost-of-living expenses such as food, diapers and new clothes.
Adopting a child from the welfare system is usually free, according to the Ohio JFS website. Costs involved are usually covered by the agency that completes the adoption home study or custody of the child. Any costs that are not covered by agencies can usually be reimbursed through adoption subsidies.
Siefring said children in the foster-care system aren't always the stereotypical "bad seed" some may believe. Children come from all walks of life, but they all have one thing in common.
"They need someone in their life who can take care of them until their parents can."
Local foster parents Aaron and Lindsay Bath can speak to this. They're fostering two children and have fostered four children total, with plans to take in more. Lindsay Bath said seeing the children grow is the most rewarding part.
"Seeing them go through their different milestones and becoming their own little person … they've just kind of blossomed," she said.
For more information on how to become a foster or adoptive parent, visit FosterAndAdopt.jfs.ohio.gov.