Children’s Rights, DLA Piper LLP, and attorneys Richard F. Dawahare and Jay Langenbahn filed H.C. v. DeWine against the Governor of Ohio and the Director of the State of Ohio Department of Human Services (DHS) on behalf of the 4,500 foster children living with approved relative foster parents. The case targets the state’s failure to provide federally mandated financial support to relatives who provide loving homes for kids in foster care. The complaint, alleges that the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services (ODJFS), the agency responsible for the administration and oversight of the state’s child welfare system, is violating federal law, irreparably harming children and putting an unfair financial strain on vulnerable families.
When a state determines that parents can’t take care of their children, child welfare law and policy prioritize placing children with approved grandparents, relatives, or close family friends. Placing children with relatives maintains critical family and cultural connections, helps children heal from trauma, and has been shown to have the best long-term outcomes for the wellbeing of children. The state’s failure to provide critical financial supports to these children and families is made even more urgent by the crushing economic hardships they are facing due to the pandemic.
This is also a racial justice issue. In Ohio and across the US, Black children are disproportionately removed from their homes and placed into foster care. Black children in Ohio comprise 12% of the general population under age 18 and 30% of children in foster care. Black children make up 24% of the state’s kinship foster families, and those families carry an unequal and unfair burden when the state fails to pay required foster care maintenance payments.
H.C. and Y.C. are one and three years old. They are siblings named in the case who were removed from their home and placed with their paternal grandmother, T.M. Like all approved relative foster parents, T.M. has the right to Foster Care Maintenance Payments. T.M. has not been informed by ODJFS or any state official of the availability of Foster Care Maintenance Payments.
C.P. is a 49-year-old grandmother who is a relative foster parent for her granddaughter B.F., who is 2-years-old. B.F. has been in the care of her grandmother since February 20, 2019. The children’s caseworker told C.P. that a new placement may be necessary if C.P. was not able to afford to support her grandchildren. At no point has C.P. been informed that as an approved relative foster parent, they could receive IV-E Foster Care Maintenance Payments.