Before an audience of Ohio’s county children services agency leaders, including Director Stephanie Kowal of the Ottawa County Department of Job and Family Services, Gov. Mike DeWine announced an unprecedented 95% increase in the state’s investment in protecting abused and neglected children.
That $74 million announcement, along with related spending proposals, makes good on a campaign promise that Ohio should not be last in the nation when it comes to the state’s responsibility for funding such a critical program, said Kowal.
“This proposed investment is very needed in Ottawa County. We have experienced an increase in the number and percentage of cases involving substance abuse disorders, and in finding appropriate placement and treatment for foster children with more complex ne,” Kowal said.
“Gov. DeWine is standing up for the vulnerable children and families of Ottawa County,” she said. “This investment will help us address the crisis in our children services system by providing funding for the rising placement costs, serving families struggling with addiction and mental illness, preventing children from coming into foster care, and providing more suitable placements for children who do have to come into custody.”
In addition to increasing the State Child Protection Allocation by $30 million per year, up from $60 million, to give struggling county agencies the ability to pay the rising costs of serving children, Gov. DeWine announced:
$25 million for multi-system youth will prevent parents from having to relinquish custody of children with developmental disabilities or severe mental illness so that they can get the treatment they need;
$8.5 million to support struggling grandparents and other kin care providers who unexpectedly find themselves caring for children, and to invest in recruiting much-needed foster parents;
$5.5 million to expand the Bridges program for youth who emancipate from our system without achieving permanency;
$4.5 million to expand evidence-based programs like Ohio START, which Ottawa County is in the initial stages of implementing, and 30 Days to Family to prevent children from coming into foster care; and
$2.6 million to help our caseworkers be more efficient and productive in the field.
“The Governor is saving a system in crisis and making wise investments,” Kowal said. “These programs will alleviate the pressure on our county agency budget, which has struggled to pay rising costs. But more importantly, he is saving children and families by improving their chance for a better future.”
Ottawa County is a longstanding member of Public Children Services Association of Ohio, which is working with county agencies across the state and other stakeholders to support the Governor’s proposals.
“The Governor’s leadership, with the support of his administration, will afford Ohio’s vulnerable children and families the quality services that will strengthen our state across the board,” Kowal said. “As an association, we stand ready to work with our local legislators on the Governor’s proposals.”