Foster children seek ‘semi-normal life’
Kids’ complaints among issues for advisory panel
By Catherine Candisky THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
Ohio Attorney General MIKE DE WINE
It can be really hard to be a kid in foster care.
Not having a permanent home is an obvious problem, but other hardships identified during recent child-safety summits held around Ohio included hurdles that youngsters face in everyday activities such as spending the night at a friend’s or going to the movies with classmates.
Before a foster child could partake, the friend’s parents would have to agree to undergo a background check and be fingerprinted — a process that could take weeks to complete.
“Those are moments when you know you are a foster child,” said Dauntea Sledge, a former foster child who attends Columbus State Community College. “The parent may say, ‘What did this kid do? Why do I have to do this?’”
For Sledge, it was embarrassing and he didn’t always want to explain why he wasn’t able to live with his mother.
“Some people think foster youth are the reason they are in foster care. That may be true about some kids,” but most are in foster care because of the behavior of their parents, Sledge said.
- Attorney General Mike DeWine says being in foster care is tougher than it needs to be, and he has assembled an advisory committee of foster-care advocates, juvenile-justice officials and others to recommend how to improve the lives of children who have no permanent home. Yesterday, DeWine convened the first meeting of the Foster Care Advisory Group at the Statehouse.
It’s an issue that DeWine has been involved in for years. As a U.S. senator in 1997, DeWine won passage of a bill that made clear that the best interest of the child would trump all other factors in decisions about whether a child should be placed in foster care or reunited with family.
- “These kids deserve to grow up with what every child should have — some permanency and some love in their life,” DeWine said. “What we have too often is kids who languish in foster care or go back and forth…. At some point, we have to say to the crack-addicted mom or the father who can’t control his anger, ‘Hey, we’ll pray for you. We hope you get your act together, but this little kid has to grow up, and this kid can’t wait for you to get your act together.’ … At some point, we have to say enough is enough, but often … we don’t have the guts to say that.”
DeWine’s most-recent effort came in the wake of the beating death of a 2-year-old Cincinnati boy by his father after the toddler was returned to his birth parents from foster care.
- In addition to safety issues, the advisory group will examine concerns raised by foster children, foster parents and others at eight child-safety summits that DeWine held across the state in the past year.
“They told us about their achievements and their struggles, and now we have a good foundation to build on to suggest changes needed to help protect Ohio’s foster children,” DeWine said. “Now is the time for innovative changes to ensure that every child has a safe, loving and permanent home.”
The group is to issue recommendations next year.
On average, about 12,000 Ohio children are living in foster care each month. Last year, more than 1,500 foster children “aged out” of care when they turned 18; they essentially were left on their own.
- Concerns raised during the summits included: roadblocks to adoption, a lack of input from foster parents during court proceedings, the failure of many court-appointed guardians ad litem to represent the best interest of youths, a lack of mentors for foster children, and difficulties engaging in “normal” activities.
“Foster children uniformly expressed the concern, as did foster parents… that the rules make it almost impossible for that child to live a semi-normal life,” DeWine said. “They can’t, in many cases, sleep over at a friend’s house, they can’t go to a movie, they can’t do all the things that your children and my children expect to do … because they are a foster child, and they are different, and that’s a problem.” firstname.lastname@example.org
Over the past year or two I have posted on our prior Attorney General Marc Dann and have blatantly expressed my appreciation for the excellent work he did as our AG. He is and was, one of a kind. But it has crossed my mind that I have never commented on the fine work that our present Attorney General is doing and has done.
Guess I don’t want everyone to be thinking that I have painted this man with the same brush as I have John Kasich and the Ohio General Assembly Republicans who seem to have gone out of their way to carry out their own wishes no matter how much grief or pain it caused to the “people” of Ohio. The only time they listen is when we do it at the poles. So no, Mike De Wine is not that – he is truly a decent man, a family man with high ideals,a good work ethic and seemingly excellent ethics. And he is productive and I like his choices.
We in Ohio are being well served with this man. . . . . just sayin’. . . . Jan)