Attorney General Mike DeWine
Pilot Program for Families Harmed by Parental Opioid Abuse
(COLUMBUS, Ohio)—Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced today the
creation of a new pilot program that will serve families harmed by
parental opioid abuse in more than a dozen southern Ohio counties.
Ohio START (Sobriety, Treatment, and Reducing Trauma) is an
intervention program that will provide specialized victim services,
such as intensive trauma counseling, to children who have suffered
victimization due to parental drug use. The program will also provide
drug treatment for parents of children referred to the program.
"Children with a parent or parents addicted to drugs tend to stay in
foster care longer, and they enter foster care having experienced
significant trauma. While mom and dad are high, these kids may go days
without food or supervision. They may have witnessed a parent
inject drugs, overdose, or even die," said Attorney General
DeWine. "By creating this program, we hope to help these 14
counties give the silent victims of the opioid epidemic - the children
- the best care possible, while also helping their parents recover from
According to the Public Children Services Association of Ohio, 50
percent of children placed in foster care in 2015 were placed due to
abuse and neglect associated with parental drug use.
Ohio START will bring together child protective services, peer mentors,
the courts, and behavioral health and treatment providers to work
closely with families whose children have been abused or neglected due
to parental addiction in Athens, Clermont, Clinton, Fairfield, Fayette,
Gallia, Highland, Jackson, Perry, Pickaway, Pike, Hocking, Ross, and
The program will primarily be funded through a $3.5 million Victims of
Crime Act (VOCA) grant from the Ohio Attorney General's Office which
will be shared among the counties over two and a half years.
These grant funds will be specifically spent to help county child
welfare agencies identify children who have been victimized due to
parental drug use and provide them with specialized treatment for any
resulting behavioral or emotional trauma. The grant will also fund
victim services for parents with underlying victimization that may be
contributing to their addiction.
Casey Family Programs, which partnered with the Ohio Attorney General's
Office to develop the Ohio START program, is providing an additional
$75,000 for the pilot program. Both grants will be administered
by the Public Children Services Association of Ohio.
Child welfare workers will work with a certified peer mentor to meet
with each family once a week to ensure the safety of the child and
provide support to parents. If a child can safely stay in the home
during this process, the child can do so with the oversight of
caseworkers. Otherwise, kids will have regular visitation with their
parents as they undergo drug treatment, which will be paid for by
either Medicaid or private insurance.
Family reunification will occur after parents have a minimum of six
months of documented sobriety.
"Children are the innocent, invisible victims of the opioid epidemic in
Ohio. Ohio’s children services system has experienced an 11 percent
increase in the number of children removed from their homes and a 19
percent increase in children staying in care longer due to how
challenging it is for parents addicted to opioids to successfully
recover," said Angela Sausser, Executive Director of the Public
Children Services Association of Ohio. "This grant opportunity allows
us to pilot a model that could positively improve children’s safety,
well-being, and permanency with their birth families."
"This new investment with Appalachian child welfare agencies recognizes
two important issues for Ohio: That the opioid crisis is breaking apart
families as parents struggle with drug addiction, leading to the
removal of children from the homes and placement with family or in
foster care; and that the Appalachian communities and service providers
lack critical resources needed to solve this crisis," said Judge
Patricia FitzGerald, Senior Director of Casey Family Programs. "This
partnership will strengthen Ohio communities and help heal families
struggling with opioids and other drugs."
"This important investment into children and families by Attorney
General DeWine could not have come at a more critical time for my
agency and the 13 other agencies in southern Ohio," said Gallia County
Children Services Director Russ Moore. "We are facing an epidemic
and we are in desperate need of any lifelines we can acquire. The
Attorney General has provided us with a much-needed lifeline."
Ohio START is modeled on a similar program in Kentucky that resulted in
about half as many children returning to foster care due to parental
addiction. Parents involved in the Kentucky program were also found to
have twice the sobriety rate.
The effectiveness of Ohio START will be studied by partners with Ohio
State University's College of Social Work and the Voinovich School of
Leadership and Public Affairs at Ohio University. If the program is
found to be a success, it may expand to other counties.
The $3,535,250 in VOCA grants allotted to this program are being
awarded as part of the "Ohio Attorney General's Expanding Services and
Empowering Victims Initiative," which was created in 2015 to determine
how VOCA funds, which come from federal settlements, fines, and fees,
could best be spent to serve victims of crime in Ohio.