Can you imagine being left with no choice but to surrender custody of your own child in order to get him help? Consider a hypothetical family of four: mom, dad, one typical child, and one child with extreme and violent behaviors, all living together under one roof. They’ve tried everything: school-based interventions, private therapy, brief periods of hospitalization, medication. Still, the behaviors persist. They can’t get a waiver and they can’t afford a private boarding facility. So they lock their bedroom doors at night, or even send the typical child to live with other family members to ensure her safety. They are scared. They’ve been physically injured. The police know them and have had to intervene many times. While this is a pure hypothetical, situations like this do happen.
Our clients who are in this situation are desperate, and sometimes we have to tell them that the only way to get immediate help is to relinquish custody of their child in court so that the state will take over and pay for all needed services and interventions. It is a gut wrenching decision for any parent to make.
The good news is this: Ohio is, for the first time, creating a “crisis stabilization fund” of $10 million (spread out over the next two years) to help children with disabilities in danger of falling prey to the child-protective or juvenile justice systems due to their disability-related, threatening behavioral problems. The county Child and Family First councils will be left to design plans to administer the funds, with the goal being to give families a chance at staying together while meeting their child’s needs. Child advocates say that in Ohio, more than 51% of the kids in child-protection agencies are not there because their parents abused or neglected them. Rather, they’re there because their parents couldn’t afford to meet their needs and had to relinquish custody to keep them safe. Advocates were hoping for a higher dollar amount to be set aside, but they’re happy to see movement in this positive direction.
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