Kyle Koehler speaks on the Ohio house floor recently.

Springfield lawmaker wants to make becoming a foster parent easier

A Springfield lawmaker wants to make becoming a foster parent easier as Clark County and the rest of the state continues to battle repercussions of the drug epidemic.

Rep. Kyler Koehler, R-Springfield, co-sponsored a bill that aims to make training easier on potential foster parents and the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services work feverishly to find homes for kids whose families have been affected by drugs.

Springfield mom: ‘I was a horrible mother’ on drugs

“The reason we’re doing this is foster care in the state of Ohio has exploded because of the opioid epidemic,” Koehler said. “What the law does is give job and family services more leeway. We are moving mandates from the Ohio Revised Code and turning them into rules.”

In Clark County, there are about 200 children in foster care or a kinship program. Clark County Department of Jobs and Family Services Deputy Director Denise Estep said previously that more than half of those kids have been impacted by parents on drugs.

Koehler said the new legislation will open up the possibility of putting some of the training online, making it easier for families to complete them quicker. Koehler said he’s heard stories of potential foster parents who were forced to travel about an hour for training that he feels can be done online.

“It’s going to be easier for foster parents to get the training they need,” he said. “We have a system right now that is overwhelmed with the number of children we need to be helping.”

Kohler said the reunification children and parents will still be the primary goal of the state agency. Applicants would still have to go through a thorough background check before becoming a foster parent.

The bill was passed by the Ohio House by an 89 to nothing vote and is now being debated in the Senate. The primary sponsors are Susan Manchester, a Republican from Lakeview and Tavia Galonski, a Democrat from Akron.

In Clark County last year, 3,981 adults called to report suspicion or allegations of child abuse, Estep said, highlighting that violence against children is a big issue in Clark County.

Clark County to recruit relatives, foster families due to drugs

In 2018, 1,727 were served by the Clark County DJFS, on average 144 children were with kinship caregivers and on average, 92 children were in foster care.

In 2018, 57 children left foster care — 11 of whom turned 18 years old and were emancipated from the system.

In the same year, 13 children were adopted, according to the department’s statistics.

Clark County officials have said they work hard on every case and try to avoid placing kids in foster care homes. Instead, they would rather place a youth in a kinship program that allows the child to live with a relative or a close friend.

However, there were about 85 kids in foster care in Clark County in April and foster parents play a big role in helping take care of kids who otherwise may have been stuck with a negligent parent.

“We’ve had a large problem with the drug epidemic here, luckily, some of the drugs have declined in Clark County but we still have quite a bit of substance abuse,” Estep previously said.

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