COLUMBUS, Ohio-- With more than 16,000 children in foster care in Ohio, the number of children entering the system has been increasing since 2016. This bucks a national trend. Gov. Mike DeWine is blaming the opioid epidemic in large part for the increase.
Right now, of those kids in the system more than 3,000 of them need to be adopted; no longer able to be reunited with their families.
Nearly the same amount of infants were removed from Ohio homes from 2017 to 2018 because of substance abuse problems. DeWine calls it a crisis.
"Kids have one time to grow up, one opportunity... One opportunity, and we've got to do everything we can to make sure that they have that childhood," DeWine said.
Solving that crisis starts with making the system better for children and families.
According to Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, a foster kid himself, they can't fix the system if they don't know what the every day challenges are.
As a result, DeWine has created an advisory council to review the system from top to bottom and provide recommendations on how to make it better.
To do that, the council will be holding seven public meetings over the next month and a half in the following locations:
- Southeast Region – Nov. 13 − Athens Community Center, Athens
- Western Region − Nov. 18 − Auglaize County Educational Service Center, Wapakoneta
- Central Region – Nov. 21 − Central Ohio Technical College, Pataskala Campus
- Northwest Region − Dec. 9 − Wood County Department of Job and Family Services, Children Services/Visitor Entrance, Bowling Green
- Northern Region − Dec. 11 − Medina County University Center (University of Akron), Medina
- Southwest Region − Dec. 17 − Lebanon Conference and Banquet Center, Lebanon
- Northeast Region − Dec. 19 − United Way of Greater Stark County, Canton
The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption not only supports the efforts, they plan to participate.
"It's an excellent idea to get public input both from families, from professionals, from the interested public; get that input and increase their awareness of what this conversation is and advise the governor and advise ODJFS on what they're seeing in their counties as well," said Rita Soronen, president and CEO for the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.
The foundation's work is primarily focused on connecting kids in foster care with adoptive families, once the court deems they cannot return to their families of origin.
Since 2012, the foundation has worked with the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services providing them with grant money to hire employees with the focus of finding adoptive families to place kids in need.
In 2017, while DeWine was Ohio Attorney General, his office arraigned for $1 million to be used by eight Ohio counties to do the same thing: bring in staff to find families to place children. Back then, it was estimated that by the year 2020 there would be 20,000 children in the foster care system.
While it does not appear that number will be reached, what was unforeseen was the increase in the number of children that would need adoptions because of unresolved or unresolvable situations with their families of origin.