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Frequently Asked Questions

What do we know about kids in foster care?

  • In a single year, there are more than 3,500 kids involved in the child protection system in Hamilton County. That means that right now, ProKids can only directly serve about a third of these children.
  • Out of every one thousand kids in Ohio, about seven are abused and neglected so severely that they are removed from their home.
  • In Ohio, children of color are overrepresented in foster care, making up 44% of kids in custody when they are only 18% of Ohio’s child population.
  • While there are limited studies about harm to children in foster care, we know that nearly one-third of foster children later report abuse and neglect.
  • Nationally, 19% of new children entering foster care are under the age of 1.
  • LGBTQ youth are also overrepresented in the national child protection system and, once in foster care, are more likely to run away or live on the streets.
  • About one-third of foster children will spend more than two years in care.
  • Across Ohio in the past decade, there’s been a 30%+ increase in the number of children in foster care, mostly due to the opioid crisis.
  • More than 1,800 children in our country will die from abuse and neglect each year. That’s one child every 4 1/2 hours.
  • Research and data show that children in foster care don’t do well in school and don’t have healthy relationships.
  • They also lose between three and six months of academic progress with every move.
  • Nationally, children in foster care move one time for every year they are in care.
  • Only 63% graduate from high school by age 18 and less than 10% ever go on to earn a college degree.

How and why children are removed from their homes?

Sophie was 5 years old when someone in the apartment below her called 241-KIDS (the child abuse hotline in Hamilton County) to report suspected physical abuse.

From Sophie’s perspective, this is what happened next: There was a knock at the door, and a police officer and social worker entered, looking grim and determined. There was confusion, then an angry conversation between her mother and the adults. Sophie watched from a corner as one stranger talked to her mother and then sorted through the clothes, toys, and debris scattered throughout the apartment.

A few clothes and belongings were thrown together and Sophie’s mother said good-bye. There wasn’t much time to think about what to pack or to go searching for a favorite blanket or stuffed animal. There was definitely not enough time for Sophie to truly understand what was going on.

Before she knew what had happened, Sophie was in an unfamiliar car, looking through the rear window as her home disappeared from view. Where was her Pooh Bear? She wanted to ask for it, but she kept quiet because she was scared.

Sophie saw many new people that night. As she sat in the caseworker’s office, someone brought her a sandwich in a triangular packet sealed with film. Sophie poked the film with her fingertip and saw her own reflection too easily drain away and reappear. The caseworker made four phone calls, finally contacting an aunt who was willing to take Sophie.

How a CASA Volunteer can make a difference: Several days later, the court assigned Kathy, a ProKids, CASA Volunteer, to advocate on Sophie’s behalf. Kathy immediately went to meet Sophie and find out how she was coping.

“From the moment I walked in the door, I noticed that Sophie looked afraid,” remembers Kathy. “Something wasn’t right.” In the two hours Kathy was there, several young men were in and out of the apartment. Even though it was Kathy’s first case, she felt something was going on.

On a hunch – and with the advice of her CASA Manager – Kathy called the police. It turned out the police had been watching the aunt’s home as a suspected crack house. Just days earlier they’d responded to a call and arrived at the house to find a domestic violence incident involving two intoxicated adults going on full swing in front of Sophie. It turned out Kathy’s hunch was right. She immediately called the caseworker and insisted Sophie be moved to a different home. And she was. Today, Sophie is a safe, happy 6-year-old, far away from drugs and violence.

How does ProKids help?

ProKids works to create a new cycle of growing up safe and secure, fundamentally changing the future for children and for Greater Cincinnati:

  • Recruiting, Training, and Supporting Community Volunteers
    CASA volunteers, Court Appointed Special Advocates, are each assigned to a child who has been placed in the child protection system. Through no fault of their own, these children are taken from their homes and moved into foster care. CASA Volunteers speak up for these children and are the heart of our advocacy at ProKids.
  • Mobilizing Advocacy Teams
    Passionate staff, CASA Managers and attorneys work with each CASA Volunteer to advocate in Hamilton County Juvenile Court for every child’s right to be safe, treated with dignity, and to thrive in a secure, loving home.
  • Involving Others in the Community
    Additional volunteers assist by providing support in the ProKids office, donating needed items, and serving in other ways.
  • Attracting Donors
    By increasing awareness of child abuse and neglect, we draw financial support from our community.
  • Proving Our Effectiveness
    ProKids tracks outcome measures for all of our children. These are updated each winter for the previous year.
  • Creating Alliances
    Within the community, ProKids works with other child advocates, as well as schools, health care providers, mental health clinics, and any and all entities that can help our children.

What is a CASA Volunteer?

A CASA Volunteer is a Court Appointed Special Advocate, a trained volunteer who advocates on behalf of the best interest of a child in the foster care system. A child in foster care has occasional court hearings where important decisions are made regarding the child’s future, including educational and medical needs, visits with family, and, most importantly, where the child will ultimately live. Every adult in the courtroom has someone representing him or her. Who speaks up for the child? This is where a CASA Volunteer comes in.

Before being assigned to a child, each CASA Volunteer has an extensive background check and completes a training program. After being assigned to a child, the CASA Volunteer establishes a relationship with the child, investigates and watches over the child, and challenges the system to provide what is in the child’s best interest. The CASA Volunteer makes recommendations about services, living arrangements, and who should raise the child. The CASA Volunteer makes these recommendations most specifically to the Hamilton County Juvenile Court, which makes the final decisions about these children.

While working on a case, ongoing continuing education training is also required.

Our hope is to reunite children with parents who have learned to live differently, or, when possible, place them with relatives. The third option is to free these children for adoption.

A CASA Volunteer’s primary focus is getting children the help they need to heal. They work to move children out of the system and into a safe, permanent, and nurturing home. When a child’s case comes before the court, a CASA Volunteer ensures the child’s needs are heard and that the child’s interests are not lost in an overburdened system.

What is an Advocacy Team?

ProKids CASA Volunteers often work independently, but they never work alone.

Along with the CASA Volunteer, a ProKids staff member called a CASA Manager is part of the team.  The CASA Manager acts as the Guardian ad Litem on the case and has wide experience in the child protection system. The CASA Manager is also a resource to the CASA Volunteer, with insight into the child protection system, resources that can help a CASA Volunteer’s child or family, and guidance to manage tricky situations such as an uncooperative family member or a complex school situation. The CASA Manager also helps the CASA Volunteer keep track of landmark dates in a case, such as when a court report is due.

The third member of the team is the ProKids attorney. The attorneys serving ProKids children include ProKids staff members as well as volunteers from the legal community. The ProKids attorney is the expert on the court system and how it can work in the best interest of the child the CASA Volunteer serves.

When a CASA Volunteer goes to court to advocate for a child, a CASA Manager and a ProKids attorney are also present.

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