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Witnesses seek end to need for custody relinquishment

Witnesses seek end to need for custody relinquishment

PCSAO Intern Kelsey Hopkins assisted in producing this article

Yesterday’s meeting of the Joint Legislative Committee on Multi-System Youth included public testimony from young people, parents, and child protection professionals, much of it focused on the inadequacy of residential treatment services and the need for improved coordination of services so that families do not have to relinquish custody of their children to county agencies in order to access services and supports.

It was the first public hearing of the legislative body, chaired by Senator Randy Gardner (R-Bowling Green) and established by the biennial budget to resolve longstanding barriers to serving children who require services from multiple systems.

Parents provided testimony on the difficulty they experience with locating and receiving services for children with significant developmental disabilities and/or mental health needs. Members of the OHIO Youth Advisory Board discussed the strenuous requirements involved in meeting with multiple service providers from various systems and the challenges of having many caseworkers. The youth advocated for the committee to consider a one case plan, one caseworker model, such as High Fidelity Wraparound, for multi-system youth.

Chip Spinning (pictured), executive director of Franklin County Children Services, called for resources to help parents pay for needed services, including residential treatment, so that parents are not forced to relinquish custody of their children just so they can receive the necessary treatment.

Magistrate Doug Shoemaker of the Franklin County Juvenile Court explained that when parents come to him desperate to obtain services for their children, he is forced to declare them unfit parents in order to file a dependency order that removes them from their parents’ custody.

Several witnesses testified to the need for better communication across systems so that youth involved in foster care and juvenile justice, for example, are able to experience the life of a normal teen without the need to constantly repeat their story to different caseworkers, probation officers, counselors, and other service providers. There was also strong support for increased funding of Family and Children First Councils as well as High-Fidelity Wraparound.

The committee plans to invite state agencies to testify in April and hold a hearing focused on what other states have done to address service access and availability issues for multi-system youth, before submitting a final report by the end of June.