Local Officials Applaud Ohio Bill that Would Establish Greater Rights for Foster Youth

Dorothy Pelanda

State Rep. Dorothy Pelanda

The Ohio House of Representatives recently passed legislation to revise Ohio law pertaining to child custody, guardians ad litem, and foster caregivers, to ensure that minors who are involved with Ohio’s children services agencies are treated just like every child in the state of Ohio. The proposed changes are being welcomed by local child welfare officials.

State Representative Dorothy Pelanda (R-Marysville), a sponsor of House Bill 213, lauded the passage, saying the bill:

  • Mandates training requirements and content of reports for court-appointed guardians who are in powerful positions to steer the foster child’s future;
  • Allows foster parents and foster children to participate in court hearings and to express their opinions about a return to the biological family;
  • Permits foster children to participate in normal childhood activities, such as spending the night with a friend, by clarifying that state agencies are not liable for those events;
  • Creates a medical registry enabling pediatricians who treat foster children to have access to the child’s medical records;

“This bill is the first step in our state’s goal of improving the quality of life for some of Ohio’s neediest children,” said Rep. Pelanda.

Jacqueline Ringer, Executive Director of Marion County Children Services, said that in any large system, there are always ways to improve and that HB 213 is a logical step in the right direction.

“I appreciate Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s interest in the child welfare system and the hard work of all those involved with the Child Safety Summits and the Foster Care Advisory Board,” stated Ringer. “HB 213 is an example of the right individuals coming together for a united goal – improving services for one of our most vulnerable populations.”

Jacqueline Ringer

Jacqueline Ringer

Ringer said that no one understands the child welfare system better than the children and families it serves. She said that a child’s voice should be heard by the ones who are making decisions on their behalf, something that would be allowed under HB 213. Also important, according to Ringer, is the input of the foster parents who care for the children in the state’s custody every day because they have first-hand knowledge of the child’s needs.

One fact of being a child in foster care is there are many regulations about what they cannot do. Ringer said she is pleased to see HB 213 not only addresses the systemic issue but provides agencies with ability to allow children to be children.

“When child welfare systems assume responsibility of a child, their intention is to protect and ensure safety. While a good intention, this has led to foster youth not being permitted to participate in typical child related activities such as spending the night with friends, driving, having a cell phone, etc,” explained Ringer. “We want more than anything for the children in our care to be treated as equals.”

Rep. Pelanda explained that the legislation arose from a study that was conducted by the Foster Care Advisory Board.

House Bill 213 passed with unanimous support and will now move to the Ohio Senate for further consideration.

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