CHOICES, Inc. has been certified by ODJFS to approve Foster Homes since 1986 and currently certifies Family and Treatment Foster Homes. Our foster homes are located in many counties throughout South West Ohio. We are committed to keeping youth near resources they are currently linked with or those that may be beneficial to them. Our foster families are educated about the importance of maintaining positive relationships with biological family members whenever possible and we are committed to assisting with the achievement of permanency plans, which are in the best interest of the youth.
Independent Living services have been offered since 1988, and include case supportive services to youth placed in scattered-site apartments in communities near resources they are linked with or resources that would be beneficial for them. Each youth and their living environment is monitored while they are in the program to ensure safety and skill development.
The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services develops rules and guidelines to aid counties in implementing programs for children who cannot safely remain in their own homes. When it is determined that a child cannot safely remain with their current caregiver and a court grants temporary custody of the child to the public children services agency, the caseworker attempts to find a placement with a suitable relative to help maintain family bonds. When a suitable relative is not available, the worker attempts to find a placement with a suitable non-relative with whom the child or family has a relationship. Suitable relatives and non-relatives are either licensed by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services or approved by the local public children services agency. If the agency is unable to place the child with a relative or a non-relative who has a relationship with the family, the child is placed into a substitute care setting.
Substitute care for children is one of the major program components of Ohio’s child welfare system and is provided through public and private agencies. Foster or substitute care includes kinship care, foster care, residential substitute care in group homes and treatment facilities, and the independent living program for youths aged 16 to 21 who will be emancipated. Substitute care is seen as temporary, with the main purpose being to reunify children with their families and/or, find other permanent living arrangements when children cannot safely return home.
When a youth is placed in the care and custody of the local public child welfare agency, a Case Plan is developed which is designed to identify the youth’s emotional and physical needs as well as a permanency plan for the youth. CHOICES, Inc. supports the efforts of the public child welfare agencies to achieve the Case Plan goals through the monitoring and support of our Family and Treatment Foster families as they provide care to foster youth.
CHOICES, Inc. Foster Care Social Workers have weekly contact and several face-to-face visits with foster youth and foster parents each month. During these visits permanency planning is supported through encouragement of visitation and positive communication with and about youth’s biological family members. While supporting these efforts, a primary focus at CHOICES is placed on identifying the specific needs each youth has that can be addressed while they are in substitute care with the idea that when they are discharged from CHOICES they will have made progress and gained skills that will ultimately help them live a happier, healthier life. This is most effectively accomplished through a team approach.
Over the years, we have found that Treatment Team meetings regularly attended by all Treatment Team members increases the quality of services provided to a youth and decreases the number of crises experienced by that youth. CHOICES staff hold regular Treatment Team Meetings as often as the treatment team members decide is beneficial, but at least quarterly. During these meetings services are coordinated, and the team members report on progress towards the accomplishment of treatment goals and the permanency plan. A pattern of regular communication between treatment team members that can be accomplished through treatment team meetings is essential for the effective performance of each treatment team member and the success of the youth.
Independent Living Program
For youth ages 16 – 21, who are in substitute care, the public children services agency is required to provide independent living services to help them successfully transition into adulthood and become self-sufficient. Services include life-skills development training, education and vocational training, preventive health activities, financial assistance, housing, employment and education, self-esteem counseling and assistance with developing positive relationships and support systems.
CHOICES views our scattered-site apartment living program as a continuation of services available to youth in the child welfare system and builds on the classes offered by the public child welfare agencies held for older teens that address various self-sufficiency skill topics. Youth aging out of the foster care system deserve the opportunity to learn and practice daily life skills in a supportive setting which realistically mirrors the independent environment they will find themselves in when they are emancipated.
Children ages 18 – 21, who have already been emancipated from substitute care are also eligible to receive independent living services upon request. Public children services agencies may also use a portion of their allocation of local, state and/or federal funds to assist young, emancipated adults ages 18 – 21 with rent and other costs.
Education & Training Voucher Program
The Education and Training Voucher Program was made available to states in order to provide assistance to youths who have emancipated from foster care or who were adopted from foster care at age 16 or older. Up to $5,000 per year, per youth is available to help cover the cost of participation in post-secondary education. Aside from the traditional colleges and universities, these funds may also be used for post-secondary vocational and proprietary schools. The Orphan Foundation of America serves as the conduit for the application process and the disbursement of assistance. The Foundation also provides mentors and monitors the youths’ progress in the program. On their 21st birthday, youth enrolled in the Education and Training Voucher Program may remain eligible until they are 23 years old, provided they continue to be enrolled in a full-time post-secondary education or training program and make satisfactory progress. The award may not exceed the cost of attendance. The cost of attendance includes tuition and fees, room and board, rental or purchase of required equipment, materials or supplies, books and transportation, residential training and special student projects. Young people may apply directly to the Orphans Foundation through Ohio’s link for the state voucher program at: https://www.statevoucher.org/
CHOICES, Inc. staff are experienced advocates, dedicated to helping the youth they service access any and all resources they can which will help them succeed in life. Numerous youth in the Independent Living Program have accessed the ETV benefits with the assistance of their IL worker. CHOICES IL staff and youth continue to advocate at local and state levels to increase resources available to youth in substitute care that will help them achieve goals in the area of higher education.