There are currently more than 15,000 children in Ohio’s foster care system, with 30 percent of the youth over the age of 14 — on the cusp of adulthood.
Now, new research from the Annie E. Casey Foundation reveals that Ohio isn’t doing as much as other states when it comes to helping foster care youth transition into the real world — and into real jobs.
“Think of your own child,” said Brandi Slaughter, CEO of Voices for Ohio’s Children. “I have one, he’s 18. and in a lot of ways, I feel like he needs me more today than he ever has before.”
Slaughter said the research is invaluable because it will help lawmakers and policymakers pinpoint where the changes need to be made — more work and vocational training programs for transitioning youth, as well as more dollars toward the state child welfare system.
“In Ohio we’re ranked dead last in the country for a state-share investment. so that would go a long way just to strengthen the system so that they can provide the services young people need,” Slaughter explained. She said data shows that young people who age out of foster care typically deal with homelessness, drug addiction, and trouble finding employment.
In 2016, Ohio raised the foster care age from 18 to 21 so that young adults can opt to stay longer in the system and receive housing and educational support.
According to the Fostering Youth Transitions data, 23 percent of youth nationally receive employment training, compared to just 6 percent in Ohio. The research also reveals only about 36 percent of youth who have transitioned out of foster care are employed.
“It’s been the experience of foster youth that at 18, here’s your luggage, ‘here’s your trash bag, good luck,’ and in a lot of ways, government is not a good parent and we’ve not set them up for success,” Slaughter said.
Governor-elect Mike DeWine has promised to reform the state child welfare system, including the expansion of programs to keep children out of foster care — and in the custody of family members.
If the opioid epidemic trend continues, the state is predicted to have custody of about 20,000 children by 2020.