Julie Malkin is the Director of Communications and Government Relations, Lucas County Children Services.
Currently, a number of legislative changes are underway that are dramatically impacting child protection on both the state and federal levels.
The Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) was signed on February 9, 2018 by President Trump. It reforms federal child welfare financing to provide preventive services to families whose children are at risk of entering the child welfare system. The bill aims to keep children from entering foster care by allowing federal reimbursement for mental health services, substance abuse treatment and in-home parenting skills training to families and children.
U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D – Ohio), along with two other senators, crafted the Family First Transition and Support Act to support implementation of the FFPSA. Senator Brown’s bill would create a new kinship support fund that would provide financial support to family members raising children by paying for essential needs and services, such as childcare and transportation. A key factor is that vulnerable families can begin to benefit from these policies without delay.
At the state level, Governor Mike DeWine has proposed significant investments in child protection in the new biennial budget (2020 – 2021). These government investments include a $30 million increase in the State Child Protection Allocation, some of which supports kinship care. It also proposes $8.5 million to support grandparents and other kinship caregivers.
Two Ohio representatives, Janine Boyd, (D – Cleveland Heights), and Brian Baldridge (R – Winchester) are moving HB 14 through the General Assembly. The bill would mandate, rather than permit, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) to establish a statewide kinship navigator program, and expand the definition of “kinship caregiver” to include non-relatives of a child. The bill would also specify that the new statewide kinship program would be funded by the state’s General Revenue Fund and ODJFS.
Grandparents and other kin save Ohio taxpayers $4 billion each year by raising children, thereby keeping them out of foster care. In fact, 42 percent of grandparents or other relatives caring for their kin have provided care for 5 years or more.