Ohio Ranks In Bottom 10% of Country for Outcomes for Older Youths in Foster Care

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click to enlarge In a survey of former foster youths, 37% of 21-year-olds reported having experienced homelessness. - (AdobeStock)
(AdobeStock)
In a survey of former foster youths, 37% of 21-year-olds reported having experienced homelessness.

While Ohio trails the nation in outcomes for older youths in foster care, a new report also suggests there are reasons for hope.

According to the Children's Defense Fund-Ohio, the state is in the bottom 10% of the country on four measures of well-being for 21-year-olds who were in foster care in their teens.

Ohio's youths are less likely to finish high school, obtain a GED, get a job, or enroll in school, and more likely to be involved in the justice system.

Deanna Jones, a licensed social worker and former foster youth, said she understands the experiences of kids in care.

"As a teenager, I definitely felt unheard, undervalued, even silenced about my own situation when I was in care," Jones recounted. "And there are still those youths who do not feel heard. Youths need to be heard, and we need to show them that their voice matters."

The report pointed out Ohio has implemented major initiatives to improve outcomes, including the establishment of a Youth Ombudsman office to investigate complaints. Jones acknowledged it will provide hope for those with bad experiences in foster care.

The report also called for better data collection from youths during their time in care.

Laila-Rose Hudson, a law student at The Ohio State University and former foster youth, believes the data is sorely needed. She explained Ohio's rate of abuse in foster care is less than 1%, which she contended cannot possibly be accurate.

"Just my story alone, multiple forms of abuse across multiple different homes in 10 years," Hudson recalled. "If those numbers were accurate, I would be a statistical impossibility, so we know these numbers are flawed."

Instead of using exit interviews to learn about placement experiences, the research suggested using quarterly youth experience surveys and using the data to identify areas where further investigation is necessary. Areas of strength for Ohio in the report include measures of permanency, placement stability and a recent decline in youths aging out of care.
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