Part One: From care to where? Aging out of the foster system

Imagine telling your children on their 19th birthdays that they must leave the family home, will receive no more financial or emotional support, and are on their own to figure out how to make money or go to school.

That is the reality for 700 youths every year in B.C. — foster children raised by the Ministry for Children and Families who, on their 19th birthdays, lose all the supports on which they had come to rely.

For some youths that means being forced out of a foster home or group home, where a family or non-profit agency provided them with shelter, food, clothing and guidance.

For many, it means losing the $1,000 a month provided by the ministry to pay their own rent and support themselves. In both scenarios, the youths also abruptly lose contact with any government social workers or transition workers who give advice and free food vouchers and bus tickets until age 19.

Foster children are often among the most vulnerable kids in our society. They either have no parents or have been taken from their parents by the child welfare system or the courts. They have not been adopted, so are being raised by the state.

Advocates say the majority of kids in care are resilient and determined to survive on their own. But while some find varying degrees of success, others fall down.

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Service agencies seek levies

Officials at Lucas County Children Services (LCCS) said the agency will be forced to cut a service that helps kids stay out of foster care and trim valuable staff if a levy it’s seeking on the Nov. 4 ballot fails.

Dean Sparks, executive director of LCCS, said the agency has already frozen enrollment and would be forced to eliminate the $180,000-a-year program that provides financial support to relatives who care for kids. That will force more children into the foster care system, Sparks said.

The agency is asking voters to renew and extend its current 1.4-mill levy set to expire in 2016, and support an additional 0.35 mills through 2018. The levy is a property tax that will cost the owner of a $100,000 house $54.25 each year. Residents pay $42 at the current millage.

Sparks said the agency has cut its spending this year from $46.5 million to $40 million and has had little help from the state and federal government. He said LCCS has seen a “significant reduction” in state and federal dollars, placing the burden for financial support on local institutions.

“The State of Ohio is the 50th in the nation in support of child protection; and that’s something that we in Ohio are going to have to struggle with,” Sparks said. “We used to have 405, now we have 349 staff people. We can’t cut anymore. The next cut is staff and services.”

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Metzker-Madsen teacher: ‘His reality is not our reality’

Former teachers of an Iowa teenager on trial for killing a 5-year-old boy on Thursday said the teen was immersed in fantasy games as a younger child and appeared to not understand when he hurt people.

The teachers all taught Cody Metzker-Madsen, now 18, while he lived and went to school at the Rabiner Residential Treatment Center in Fort Dodge.

The teen faces a first-degree murder charge in the death of Dominic Elkins, who died in August 2013 while the two were in foster care with a Logan-area family. Metzker-Madsen’s trial is underway at the Harrison County Courthouse in Logan.

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