Saturday, December 10, 2011

Ohio AG calls for foster care review

Mike DeWine wants to know why kids are not being adopted or reunited with their families.

(Cincinnati) — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine today called for a complete review of the foster care system in Ohio. DeWine's call for action was made at a Child Safety Summit he hosted in Cincinnati.

"I convened this child safety summit today, the first of many I intend to hold across Ohio, because we need to conduct a comprehensive, holistic review of the entire foster care system in this state," said Attorney General DeWine. "Too many of these children are languishing in foster care with no real hope of ever having a permanent loving home."

About 40 representatives from foster care agencies, law enforcement, advocacy groups, prosecutors' offices, and adoption agencies attended the summit, including Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters, Rita Soronen of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, and Moira Weir, director of the Hamilton County Department of Job and Family Services.

The Summit discussed several issues facing the foster care system, including recent deaths of foster children after being reunified with relatives.

According to data from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, 33 children died (not necessarily from abuse or neglect) after being in foster care and being reunified with their biological parents from 2005-2010.

Hamilton County has had three deaths of foster children reunified with their biological parents in 2010. In the U.S. Senate, DeWine authored language in the 1997 Adoption and Safe Families Act clarifying laws that in issues of family reunification, the best interests of the child always have to come first.

However, DeWine noted today that his call for review is not limited to family reunification.

"There are children in the Ohio child welfare system who are dying, but there are also children dying who have been abused and neglected who have never been in foster care," said Attorney General DeWine. "There are also children in foster care who spend their entire lives in the system, never being adopted into a safe and loving home."

Many of Ohio's foster care children end up "aging out of foster care," DeWine noted. The percentage of children aging out in Ohio is greater than the national average of 11 percent in 2010. In 2009, Ohio emancipated 1,453 foster children, which represented 15 percent of the foster care population.

DeWine also noted the alarming amount of psychiatric medications apparently being prescribed to foster children. A recently released federal Government Accountability Office report said foster children can be prescribed these drugs at doses higher than the maximum levels approved by the FDA, and many foster children received five or more psychiatric drugs at the same time.


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