COLUMBUS (WCMH) — New technology is bringing innovation to child welfare in Ohio, as the state’s foster care and adoption system announced a pair of tools to connect children with permanent homes.
Ohio is the first state in the country to roll out what it’s calling “family mapping” technology, designed to help children in foster care quickly find connections and prospective permanent families.
The Green family nearly doubled in size when they officially adopted foster brothers Tay, Kemarquiez, and Kiondre.
“They had trust issues when they first came to us, so that kind of took a while for them to let their guards down,” said their new mom, Carla Green.
More than 3,100 children are in similar positions in Ohio’s foster care system: looking for loving, supportive homes like this, and former foster children like Jelani Freeman know the challenges of navigating that lifestyle.
“Going into the foster care system is a traumatic experience and you lose a lot,” said Freeman, now an advisor for Connect Our Kids. “You lose things that are familiar to you, and you lose connections.”
On Tuesday, the state announced several tools to discover those connections. Caseworkers will now have access to a digital “family connections” tool that helps build a child’s family tree, and a “people search” tool which pulls in information from hundreds of public sources to find kin.
“It allows them to focus on what’s best for the children and the families: not spending a lot of time doing paperwork and searching and printing,” said Connect Our Kids co-founder Jennifer Jacobs. “Technology can do that.”
The technology’s developers estimate it could cut weeks of searching down to seconds, identifying and vetting possible caregivers and forever homes.
“It’s much harder to navigate when you don’t have parents, adults in your life to help you, and we’re trying to fix that one child at a time,” said Ohio Lt. Gov. Jon Husted.
“It’ll give them a chance to grow up in loving families and to have a real chance to be successful adults in society,” Freeman said.
The former foster children and parents attending the unveiling at the Ohio Statehouse Tuesday are also encouraging more people to consider fostering and adoption.