OHIO — Small changes in Ohio's child welfare system are happening slowly, but surely. It comes after Gov. Mike DeWine challenged advocates and others to re-imagine the foster care system.
The bill signed by DeWine takes the pressure and the burden off of counties strapped for cash who provide money to kinship caregivers. For a limited time, the state will pick up the tab and provide equal payments of $10.20 per child, per day to caregivers.
The payments can be received for six to nine months. The Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services would increase the payment each year based on the cost of living, but the ability to get additional support only applies to about 4,500 of the state's 228,000 kids living in kinship care settings.
The legislation also eliminates the county by county imbalance and levels the field for kinship caregivers who need support. Data from Policy Matters Ohio indicates the average payments for one child in 2020 came out to about $211 per month. In some counties, a caregiver taking care of children in state custody or children’s services received as much as $412 per child.
When comparing data to payments for foster care parents, some say it doesn't make sense.
The minimum a foster care parent can receive is around $776 per month for one child. The maximum parents received for one child was $4,563. Those in Butler and Scioto counties received payments like this, but those in Cuyahoga County saw payments as little as $2,619 each month for one child.
For kinship caregivers who chose to take in a second child, the payments decreased nearly $100 and continued to drop if there were more children.
Tiffany White started as a kinship caregiver.
She took in four grandkids and said the extra money would have helped.
“I think sometimes organizations assume that if you have a job, you just have an excess of cash and I'll be the first to tell you, your savings go very, very fast,” she said.
It’s been years since she got custody of her grandkids, but she understands the challenges all too well.
Tina Boesch, director of Permanent Family Solutions at the Buckeye Ranch, said more work needs to be done as the new payments are limited.
Kinship caregivers can only re-apply for aid seven times.
DeWine has given the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services until June 1 to develop a system to pay kinship caregivers.