A Plea for the Establishment of a Youth Ombudsman Office in Ohio

A Plea for the Establishment of a Youth Ombudsman Office in Ohio

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Lisa Dickson started this petition to Ohio Legislature and

As foster care youth and alumni, we urge the state of Ohio to create a Youth Ombuds Office to safeguard youth who are experiencing abuse in bio, foster, adoptive, kinship, respite, residential and group home placements.

Current safeguards are failing Ohio children and youth:

·      They have experienced difficulties in contacting their caseworker or GAL, lengthy wait times when reaching out local child abuse crisis lines, and lack of follow through on reports made directly by youth.

·      They have witnessed a repeated lack of compliance with the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act, a federal law that requires agencies to provide a counseling session after youth ran away to find out why they went AWOL.

·      Ohio youth have been subject to trauma due to being entrusted to unsafe placements and worrying their current situation might lead to loss of life. They have felt alone and powerless, and without a resource to reach out to for help without fear of retaliation.

The solution is a Youth Ombudsman Office for youth throughout the state to be able to reach out to 24/7 to share concerns related to their safety and well-being.

Key Provisions: 

a.) This office must be youth-specific: 
It is vitally important that the Youth Ombudsman Office be dedicated to youth and not combined with an office for caregivers. Trying to serve both youth and foster parents creates an insurmountable conflict of interest in cases when a child or teen reports being abused by their foster parent.

Lessons learned from other states are that when an Ombudsman office attempts to serve adults and youth, it ends up primarily serving adults. This includes websites geared toward adult professionals and complicated complaint forms - some of which need to be printed, filled out, and then scanned or faxed.

b.) This office needs to be able to have independent authority: In order for this office to operate effectively, it is vitally important that it have regulatory powers, the ability to act independently, and access to internal data collected by state and local child welfare agencies.

c.) Current and former foster youth must be involved in the office design: In a “youth-serving” model, youth are viewed as only the passive recipients of programs, services, tools and resources. However, a "youth-empowering" model recognizes that consumers of a service should be involved in its design, delivery and evaluation.

In the words of one youth advocate:

Youth are the ones whose lives are at the mercy of the system. Far too often, our voices are reduced to a file – and then promptly ignored. These are not just words or a project to us – this is our lives, our rights, and our futures at stake.

The need for this office pre-dated the international pandemic. In the midst of COVID-19, this need is more important than ever before, due to less frequent contact between youth and mandated reporters. This increases the risk of prolonged abuse and loss of life.

 

0 have signed. Let’s get to 500!
At 500 signatures, this petition is more likely to be featured in recommendations!