Ohio AG Wants To Make It Easier For Foster Children To Make It On Their Own


UPDATED: Monday November 19, 2012 6:38 PM

A recent state report said many foster children "lack skills for independent living and often end up homeless." 

A Wisconsin study found that half had no jobs, and a third ended up homeless and victims of crime. 

Next month, the Attorney General's task force will recommend some ways to help them.

"They don't get what every child should get, which is a permanent and loving home," said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.

Dewine, who oversees crime investigations, said it's a crime that so many foster kids face the world alone as they reach adulthood.

"They don't have anybody. And we just kind of turn them loose. And it's tough," he said.

The state has laws on how to help them make that transition, which is called emancipation. But the help varies widely.

Franklin County Children's Services showed WBNS-10TV how it's supposed to work.

At 17, foster kids can attend a class that covers everything from handling money to finding a job. Not all show up, but  Emancipation Director Edward Mills said it's the smart choice.

"We have a life skills curriculum that we try to make sure that they get the fundamentals that they need to be prepared to live on their own," Mills said.  "We try to help them find a job. We try to link them with community services, so that they can go there and get some assistance with jobs."

The staff finds and furnishes apartments for them, or helps kids plan for college.

"We cover their ACT, SAT testing scores," Mills said.

ShaQuille Mosley knows that first-hand.

"My caseworker took me to college," he said.

The Bowling Green University freshman is a world away from his childhood.  He said that his mother was a crack addict, although she could function until he was fifteen.

"When I first went into foster care, it was supposed to be very temporary, but when she couldn't get her stuff together. It became permanent," he said.

When he chose college, volunteers provided everything from sheets to shower shoes. But ShaQuille doesn't have what other kids do, parents to count on.

"So when that kind of stuff comes up, and I don't have anyone to call, I have no choice but to keep working forward and to keep pushing through it," ShaQuille said.

Without parents, if kids sink or swim depends more on their own character.

Ericka Busch leaves for a full time job in a warehouse that begins at 6 a.m. Eleven hours later, she starts class at Columbus State.  In between, she's home briefly, but it's not her home.  She doesn't have one. She entered foster care at 15.

"I was not happy at all. All I did was cry.  I didn't like living under another person's roof and feeling like a burden," Ericka said.

She was moved to five different homes and school districts in three years. Now 18, she has "aged out" of foster care and can live on her own. But the apartment she was given was more than she could handle.

"I wasn't quite ready with the area I was in.  The area was not nice," she said.

So she moved into her aunt's crowded household where she sleeps on the sofa, helps with chores, and saves for an apartment in a safer neighborhood. She plans to move into her own place and get custody of her seven-year-old brother, who's still in foster care. She worries about money, but is upbeat.

"Since I was in foster homes, I've heard many stories. Mine's definitely not the worst,"  she said.

Selina McBride's experience was bad.

"I've just been struggling, You know, kind of lost," she said.

Now age 22, she's trying to find herself with the help of advocates at the OSU Star House, a drop-in center for young adults.

"Probably at least half my clients have been through the foster care system, most of them far more than five placements,” said her counselor, Sam Masters.

Selina became a foster child at age six in Cincinnati, when her mom left town, and left her.  She lived in ten foster homes, some abusive, until the age 13. She began to act out.

"I started fighting to get out of bad places. They looked at it that I was just being an unruly child," she explained.

At sixteen a court sent her to boot camp after a fight with a case worker. At 18, she got a phone call, saying she was emancipated.

"When it happened, I was terrified.  I didn't know the first thing about being on my own," Selina said. "I've slept under bridges and abandoned buildings, outside on park benches.  And so there were some nights when I just didn't sleep."

Desperate, she called her county's Children's Services for help. They found her an apartment. Then she followed a boyfriend to Columbus. When they broke up, she was homeless until a relative took her in. Selina is getting counseling, and hopes to finish school.

DeWine said too many foster kids struggle with emancipation because they're bounced from home to home when young. He said courts should free more children of abusive or addicted parents for adoption years earlier, so they have a chance to grow up in loving families and become productive adults.

"You're done with this child. This child needs a home. This child needs a parent,"  he said.

Over 11,000 Ohio kids are in foster care, and each year, more than a thousand age out of the system.

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