The advisory group will examine key issues identified during the summits, including the length of time that kids are allowed to remain in foster care; the exclusion of foster parents’ voices from court hearings when decisions are made about the child’s future; the quality of foster care and how to improve it; and whether children are being reunified too soon with their birth families.
The group also will examine the effectiveness of guardian ad litems and whether they are truly acting as independent advocates for the child. “Some are great but some aren’t taking the time to know the child or the situation or to do their jobs,” DeWine said.
Many speakers at the child safety summits voiced concern about the state’s planned permanent living arrangement category, a custody status in which parental rights of a child are maintained, reunification efforts are not required, and adoption is not possible. DeWine sees it as an end run around the state’s time limits on the amount of time a child can spend in foster care.
“These children are in a legal no-man’s-land,” DeWine said. “They can’t be adopted and we as a society apparently think it’s OK to let them sit there. That’s a different form of abusing, ignoring or taking advantage of these children. So I feel a great sense of urgency. We have a moral imperative to do something about this.”
The advisory group may propose some legislative solutions, “but we’re not going to restrict it,” he said. “We want this group to think outside the box.”