CLEVELAND — Augustine Turner says her and her sister Regine’s experience in the foster care system was filled with hardships.
“When I aged out of the system I was 18 , I had a baby, I had no mom, no dad, no one to mentor me… I had nothing,” Augustine Turner said.
Now in their twenties, the two have a long and complex story about growing up in the foster care system in Cleveland.
The sisters told 10 Investigates they were too young to know the full story behind why they and their other siblings were removed from their parents’ home and have heard different stories about what exactly transpired.
At one point, the sisters said they and their other siblings were separated and split between various foster placements.
During an hour-long interview with 10 Investigates, the sisters shared haunting stories about alleged abuse and neglect through various experiences – the details of which were hard to hear and difficult to independently confirm given that foster care records are kept confidential.
“I watched the foster lady’s daughter stomp on (Regine) in the head with her boot… I couldn’t do nothing,” Augustine said.
“The impact of being in foster care has impacted me to the point where I struggle every day,” Regine Turner said.
Between foster care homes and residential treatment facilities, Regine said she thought she had stayed in at least 20 places.
She now works as an advocate as a member of the Ohio Youth Advisory Board, a statewide organization made of young people who have experienced foster care.
10 Investigates has spent months investigating the state’s foster care system.
Part of our reporting has exposed a crisis with foster placements.
Both the state and Franklin County Children Services acknowledge that when children have unique needs – including mental or behavioral health needs – finding an appropriate placements can be challenging. And incidents that pop up quickly – which can result in children being removed from homes at any hour of the day – further complicate the need to find a placement quickly.
The net result is that children can end up sleeping in offices.
According to an estimate from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, more than 400 children ended up spending at least one night in a county office during the last fiscal year.
The problem seems to be more recurring in Ohio’s major metropolitan cities of Columbus, Cleveland and Cincinnati.
In Franklin County, more than 160 children have spent at least one night in the FCCS office since 2020.
The data provided by the county shows that the majority of the children stay just one night. But last year, at least 13 children spent four nights or more.
The demographical data shows there are a disproportionate number of foster children that end sleeping in the FCCS offices are Black.
Augustine and Regine Turner told 10 Investigates that they too stayed the night in the Jane Edna Hunter building in Cleveland while in between placements.
The two said they would like to start making hygiene care packages for the children who are forced to stay the night when placements can’t be made.
The building was still a focal point of controversy last summer when children services workers spoke up during a county council meeting alleging that the children were acting out while staying there.
Ohio’s problem with children sleeping in offices continues to linger as states like Georgia, Tennessee have forged partnerships and allocated additional monies – including raising the starting salaries for caseworkers and offering providers additional cash to providers to keep children longer. Tennessee developed a program that will remove children from offices and into transitional housing.
Asked about what could be done, Governor Mike DeWine told 10 Investigates earlier this week that he thinks additional training is needed for foster parents to handle children with unique needs. The additional training was included in his executive budget as well as a version of the budget that passed the House this week.
The executive director of the Public Children Services Association of Ohio – which represents the county children services agencies across the street – told lawmakers last week she was concerned by some funding reductions over the next two years that could have a negative impact on the foster care system.
Part of the budget bill that passed this week also includes language that would allow former foster children to inspect their records.