As an elected official, one of the issues I am most passionate about is the importance of family. Some families are strong— others may be torn apart by financial crisis, addiction or other challenges. Regardless of the circumstances, everyone deserves to have a sense of family and a place to be cared for by compassionate individuals.
This General Assembly, I am the joint sponsor of one of the Ohio Senate’s priority pieces of legislation which focuses on helping families in need during a time of crisis. Senate Bill 6, if signed into law, would allow charitable organizations in Ohio, such as Safe Families for Children, to continue to provide services to families in Ohio.
Organizations like Safe Families provide host family programs that help parents in a crisis situation due to incarceration, incapacitation, military service, or medical or mental health treatment. The parents can request that their children be hosted by a fully screened and vetted host family for a specific, limited period of time. The host family provides a safe, temporary place for the children to stay and gives parents peace of mind so they can focus on getting back on their feet. The goal of these charitable host programs is to strengthen and preserve the biological families in a natural, community focused way.
Senate Bill 6 will clarify Ohio law to ensure families can use these organizations and not be found guilty of abandoning their child solely for using the program. The bill also helps to define these organizations as different from foster care and it establishes guidelines to ensure the care and safety of all participants.
While I am grateful for the many government programs we have to care for children and families, there are times when private, non-profit organizations are best suited to mobilize a community of volunteers to address the physical and mental needs of others. Through programs like Safe Families for Children, we have seen children cared for while parents get their lives back on track or heal from a medical procedure or an addiction problem.
I have had the privilege of witnessing the positive impact of a host program in my own family. This past year, my sister and her husband volunteered to be a host family and care for an infant born to a drug-addicted mother. The mother agreed to let my sister care for her baby while she went through a drug treatment program. The baby was in the safe, loving home for the first year of her life, all while my sister developed a relationship and maintained visits with the child's mother.
I have often thought how the outcome of this child’s life and her mother could have taken a negative turn if it were not for a safe, host family like my sister and brother-in-law. Because of people like them, this baby and her mom have been given a second chance in life. They have hope and a new start.
When we build communities where caring individuals, churches and parents come together to provide hope and support, we keep children safe and keep families intact. Families are being healed, strengthened, and reunited because of the programs we hope to encourage through Senate Bill 6. Families are the backbone of our society. When they are strong, we are all strong.