(WKBN) – Even with life bombarded by the pandemic, the election and everything 2020 has challenged us with, Ohio’s government is still taking the time to focus on foster children.
In November 2019, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine formed a state-wide group whose priority was improving Ohio’s foster care system.
“We look at something that focuses on the child in the system more than anything else, and I think we have that here,” said Chip Bonsutto, executive director of Ohio MENTOR.
It’s called the Children Services Transformation Advisory Council, and it’s made up of a wide range of families, kids and foster care experts from across the state. Bonsutto is one of them.
“Listening to foster parents, foster kids, bio parents, agency workers, and not asking questions but having the opportunity just to listen,” Bonsutto said.
The council meets at least once a month with the goal of creating a detailed list of recommendations to help the state better serve foster kids and families.
“Our kids come with a lot of baggage when we get them into foster care. They have seen things that most adults have not, and every time you move a kid, every time you disrupt that child from a home, you’re causing more damage,” Bonsutto said.
The council has created a six-page document for the state. It’s split into seven categories with 37 recommendations.
“I truly believe that if we implement these 37 recommendations, more…many more children will have a shot at living their American dream,” DeWine said on the document.
The foster parents got some extra focus as well.
“I think a lot of times, in the system, we talk about the biological family, we might talk about the foster child, but that foster parent has emotions. That foster parent has needs and wants, and that foster parent has formed attachments to these children,” Bonsutto said.
The Advisory Council’s most recent meeting was Friday morning, where Bonsutto says their focus now is on adapting the foster care system to best fit children’s needs during the pandemic.
“These kids right now are experiencing things none of us have ever gone through, and they’re experiencing it though during developmental milestones,” Bonsutto said.
He also says Governor DeWine said something Friday morning that has really resonated with him.
“The system that we have to create has to be in the best interest of children, and children have to come first in the system,” Bonsutto said.
Through this council, Bonsutto believes real, positive change is coming.
“Three months in the life of a child is an enormous period of time. Three months in the life of an adult is not,” Bonsutto said.
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