Russians study Ohio's child
welfare, foster care programs
A delegation from Russia is in Ohio this week studying the state's child welfare and foster care programs.
The Moscow-based National Foundation for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children stopped in Ohio Wednesday on its way to an international forum in Chicago slated for next week.
Ohio has been hailed by other states and nations for some of its efforts at training child welfare professionals and finding homes for hard to place foster children.
"We are creating a center of excellence for best practices of child welfare and what we've seen in Ohio is the model of training specialists," Alexander Spivak, vice president of the Moscow foundation, said following a breakfast at the Statehouse Wednesday welcoming the nine-member delegation.
"Officials from different regions of Russia want to see how it works here as far as caseloads, disability issues, finances and regulations," Spivak said. "We can't just be kind to the children and give them our heart, we have to be professional and have best practices that will help them in life.
The meeting of Russian and Ohio child welfare professionals is a result of an agreement between U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev known as the Obama-Medvedev Bilateral Presidential Commission. The second Russian-American Child Welfare Forum will be held in Chicago June 27-30.
Ron Hughes, director of the Institute for Human Services in Ohio and president emeritus of the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children, which is hosting the Chicago forum, said Ohio child welfare professionals can also learn from their Russian counterparts.
"We have the seminal child welfare training program in the country," said Hughes. "But they have a lot longer history of dealing with issues like immigration and alcohol and drug abuse within the system that we can learn from. We can also learn from their mistakes."
The state's child welfare and foster care programs are run through the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. State JFS director Michael Colbert welcomed the Russian delegation at the breakfast. Colbert talked about Ohio's programs that connect older foster children with families and mentors, get them job training skills and do more to keep troubled families together.
But Colbert said there is more Ohio can do. Colbert said each year between 1,000 and 1,300 foster children reach 18 and leave the state's care often without enough skills or wherewithal to lead an independent life.
"The key is ideally for that 1,300 that emancipate each year to go somewhere other than despair, poverty, or incarceration which too often is the case now," Colbert said. "We rather they go to college, get a job or join the armed services."
Another major leap would be for a law change that would allow children in foster care to get a driver's license, Colbert said, to help them find and get to jobs.
"If these kids can't have a family then we want their experience in foster care to be as productive as possible," he said. "So we're on the cutting edge of child welfare programming, but there is so much more we can do."
20 June 2012