|Ohio AG panel: Reduce foster care revolving door|
|Written by ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS, AP Legal Affairs Writer|
|Monday, 08 April 2013 13:19|
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio should reduce the number of times a child enters and exits the foster care system and give foster parents more input into court proceedings involving children in their care, according to a set of recommendations released Monday by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.
The system governing court-appointed lawyers who look out for foster children's interests should be improved, mentoring for foster children should be boosted and the system should allow foster children to participate in basic childhood activities — such as sleepovers at friends' houses — that are currently prohibited, according to recommendations by the Ohio Foster Care Advisory Group.
The recommendations are based on testimony taken during a series of statewide meetings following a rash of deaths among children whom the system failed. Those included the October 2011 death of a 2-year-old Cincinnati boy who had been beaten and burned two months after he was returned to his parents' home from foster care.
"We want to ensure that all children, including those in the foster care system, have the chance to grow up in the best possible environment to achieve their dreams," DeWine said.
He said some of the changes will involve action by the Ohio Supreme Court and others need legislation.
The recommendations have support in the foster care community, including the Public Children Services Association of Ohio and several county children's services agencies and judges.
Among other recommendations:
—Ohio should consider state-level funding of its child welfare system to ensure children in state custody are provided with minimum-level services regardless of where they live.
—Children in foster care should be given as much information as possible about their court cases, including upcoming hearings.
—The state should create a central medical registry to allow doctors access to a child's medical records regardless where they are in the system. Currently, medical records don't follow foster children from placement to placement.
The more than 30 members of DeWine's advisory board include foster parents, adults who were in the foster care system as children, judges who've dealt with foster cases, prosecutors, state representatives and child welfare experts.
State Sen. Peggy Lehner, of Kettering in suburban Dayton, and state Rep. Dorothy Pelanda, of Marysville in central Ohio, both Republicans, plan to introduce legislation this session to enact changes requiring new laws.
DeWine also said he is providing $2 million to the Ohio Court-Appointed Special Advocate program to fund the expansion of their services across the state, and $1 million to Ohio Reach, to connect youth who have aged out of foster care with chances to go to college.
Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/awhcolumbus.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.
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