You may have noticed mylar blue and silver pinwheels on the lawn of children service agencies, provider agencies, and on the lawns of churches. It’s a sign that April is Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention month. The public children service agencies in Ohio do an incredible job of ensuring safety and permanency for Ohio’s children and families. “In Ohio there were 100,139 new reports of child abuse and neglect (including dependency and other) with 21% sent to ‘alternative response’.” Data-PCSAO Factbook. ‘There are 2,519 children awaiting adoption.’ pp14-15.
In recent years Ohio has moved to reduce the number of children in out- of-home placements and that includes group and residential facilities, except when absolutely necessary for therapy and safety. Reliance on this type of placement declined nearly 7 percent since 2007. Long-term foster care placements known as PPLA (planned permanent living arrangement) declined by nearly 42%. The number of days spent in placement saw a 25% decline with re-unifications up 56%. Kinship care –placement in a relative’s home increased 12%. There has been a significant move to intensive home-based therapy and FFT- functional family therapy to help keep a family unit together and be an ally and advocate in the process. Much of this change is due to the recognition that removal from a familiar environment does in terms of traumatizing a child.
The reason children are removed from a home to placement include neglect 25%, dependency 31%, physical abuse 10%, sexual abuse 5%, delinquency/unruly 5%, and ‘other’ 26%. In addition to higher rates of children of color being over- represented, the opiate epidemic, at-risk children with behavioral health needs, there are resource considerations. PCSAO says, ‘As a state, Ohio provides the lowest investment in child welfare in the nation: 9 cents on the dollar in 2013. Nationally, states provide an average of 43 cents of every child welfare dollar, with local resources making up only 11 cents.” This legislature saw fit to award $10 million more in state funding towards child welfare. This is after a six year loss of state revenue.
The new paradigms include attention to early screening, diagnosis and treatment, trauma-informed care, better med management, and an eye toward managed care in the near future. Clearly the opiate epidemic has reached the Governor’s Cabinet, which last year tackled the problem alongside child protective agencies. There is a focus on permanency, which means, ‘forever homes’ and a recognition that just because you’re 18, you’re not instantly and magically an adult, but a ‘transition age’ youth requiring attention too, for a successful launch to adult-hood.
Every year the team at Pomegranate wears blue and pauses long enough to join together for a group photo. Some years it’s in the courtyard -with sunshine and a brisk Spring day. April 8th, 2015 was in the gym with thunderstorms in the forecast. We’ve included a photo of another cool gym mural. Our teens have painted the slogan, ‘Be your own hero’ . . . and to the right of that-not in the picture, ‘Aspire to be more’. It sums up what therapists, teachers, nurses, psychiatrists, and support personnel are doing right by some hurting, but hopeful, and promising kids.
Casey Family Programs, Child Welfare Policy Database, www.childwelfarepolicy.org
Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, SACWIS and PCSAO.org
OACCA, Ohio Association of Child Caring Agencies