COLUMBUS, Ohio — Right now, there are roughly 15,000 children in Ohio's foster care system. That's according to Gov. Mike DeWine -- who was part of an announcement Wednesday of a new effort to recruit and retain foster families and adoptive parents.
DeWine was joined by Lt. Gov. Jon Husted to reveal the details of a statewide, online portal that’s said to streamline the process for prospective foster and adoptive parents. It's called the Ohio Certification for Agencies and Family (OCAF) portal -- and it's not entirely brand new.
The portal was launched for 10 agencies across the state in November.
“So, we've tested this, we know it works,” said Husted.
According to DeWine, it will be used as a tool to recruit more foster families which he said is “absolutely essential.”
One of the notable changes to the certification process is that it’s now digital. It is also said to allow administrators to have direct access to dashboards and reports that highlight real-time inquiry and application data statewide while allowing easier communication with applicants.
“We tried very hard to make it easier for prospective foster parents and adoptive parents to find their pathway forward. But while also remembering a responsibility to make sure we have good foster and adoptive parents that go through the process of meeting the standards that we have,” said Husted.
Eventually, the portal will also allow applicants to track their status.
Leaders said it has the potential to become a “one-stop-shop.”
Kate Yonkura, in Delaware County, is currently fostering two children. She said there is a significant need for more foster parents in Ohio and she is hopeful this new action announced Wednesday, will help.
10TV's Lindsey Mills asked her about her experience applying to become a foster parent.
"It definitely was challenging,” said Yonkura. “We were licensed for the first time just over seven years ago, and it was a paper process. It took a really long time.”
Yonkura applauded DeWine and Husted for their attention to the need to increase foster families in Ohio and make the application process easier.
“As a foster family, we see the needs even more, we get the phone calls for kids who need a safe place to join a family,” she said. “And I can just say that we need more people to help. I've talked to a lot of people just around who might have thought about becoming a foster parent. And I always encourage people to really investigate the process. So, if there's a website that this state is making to ease, you know, some of those barriers, then I think it's great.”