This story was originally published by The Columbus Dispatch.
Despite the ongoing threat of the pandemic, families gathered to celebrate the joys of the season.
But many kinship caregivers in Ohio struggled to provide children in their care with basic stability and security – let alone holiday toys and treats.
Lawyers for the plaintiff foster children and their relative foster parents (also known as kinship caregivers) urged an appeals court to reverse the district court’s erroneous dismissal of the case.
Our brief outlines why we wholeheartedly support the plaintiffs, as does a similar brief filed by 11 prominent national advocacy organizations.
As advocates, we know that placing foster children – one of our most vulnerable populations – with caring family members gives children a better chance in life and keeps families together.
It keeps family bonds intact, maintains stability, helps children heal from trauma, and has been shown to have the best long-term outcomes for the well-being of children.
But in Ohio, state-approved grandparents and other relatives who have taken in at least 3,900 foster youth are not getting the federally mandated payments they need to provide children with food, clothing, healthcare, and other essentials.
With minimal resources, too often kinship caregivers cannot continue to provide care, and children are eventually pushed into the state foster care system, where they generally experience poorer outcomes.
The consequences of failing to adequately support kinship caregivers can be deadly – earlier this year, 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant was killed by a Columbus police officer during an altercation at the foster home where she was living.
When Ma’Khia first entered foster care, she and her siblings were placed with her grandmother. But after her grandmother lost her housing due to limited financial support from the state, they shuttled through at least five foster homes over two years.
Addressing this issue will expand opportunity for Black children and families in Ohio. Black children make up over 30% of children in foster care and 37% of kinship foster care placements despite making up only 15% of the general population under 18.
This means that Black children are more likely than their white peers to get involved in the child welfare system and more likely to be placed with kin, who receive fewer resources, support and training, compared to foster care providers.
All children, regardless of what they look like or where they live, deserve stability, security, and the opportunity to live to their fullest potential. There can be no double standard when it comes to the welfare of our children.
Ohio must ensure that the foster children that the state places with relatives receive the same financial resources available to all other foster children in Ohio.
Ronald R. Browder is president of the Ohio Federation for Health Equity and Social Justice. Dot Erickson is the administrator for the Ohio Family Care Association. Clarissa Epps is associated organizer for B.R.E.A.D. Columbus. Yvonka Hall is executive director of Northeast Ohio Black Health Coalition. Tracy Najera is executive director of Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio. Will Petrik is the budget researcher for Policy Matters Ohio. Barbara Turpin is secretary of Ohio Grandparent Kinship Coalition’s board.