By Sarah Palazzo
HRO Public Health Fellow
In November 2019, Will Petrik of Policy Matters Ohio published a report pressuring lawmakers to increase support for kinship caregivers. Almost two years later, little has changed. With a lawsuit now threatening to force the state to implement equality between kinship and foster caregivers, this is a crucial time for kinship care policy. This report expands on the Policy Matters Ohio report and introduces a harm reductionist perspective, connecting kinship care issues to the experiences of parents who use drugs. Our goal is to disperse information to kinship caregivers and Ohioans at large regarding available resources and make recommendations for policymakers to better support those involved in kinship care.
Although children living with kin fare better than children living without kin, kinship caregivers receive far less financial support than licensed foster parents. When a child lives with kin, they are more likely to feel loved and remain close with their community and culture. The federal government has acknowledged the need for equality and has mandated that Ohio provide kinship caregivers the same amount of compensation as foster caregivers, but Ohio refuses to comply. Support for kinship care is also an issue of racial and economic justice. All kinship caregivers need support to raise children, yet the prevalence of kinship care without government involvement complicates this.
Ohio must support kinship care families financially by complying with the Glisson decision, increasing and expanding TANF Ohio Works First child-only payments, funding legal representation services for people facing eviction, and extending the 2021 Child Tax Credit.
Ohio must support kinship care families emotionally and logistically by increasing access to mental health resources, removing barriers to the Caretaker Authorization Affidavit, conducting culturally aware foster care training sessions, and removing minor drug offenses as a limitation to becoming a kinship caregiver.
Ohio and other states are currently considering a $26 billion settlement with Johnson & Johnson and three major opioid distributors. Of this $26 billion, Ohio would tentatively receive $1.2 billion to be spent on community recovery, including “mother-centered treatment and support.” If the settlement is accepted, the money could fund child welfare, support for parents who use drugs, mental health resources for people affected by drug use, harm reduction and harm reduction education, services for foster children, and stigma reduction. If it becomes available, opioid settlement money could be used to significantly benefit kinship care families.
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