Ron Spohn and Patty Harrelson

Judge Ron Spon and Richland County Children Services Executive Director Patty Harrelson were pictured at Tuesday's community luncheon.

MANSFIELD -- Richland County Children Services recognized several community partners Tuesday for their commitment to creating positive change in the lives of youths in foster care and kinship care.

May is National Foster Care Month and in honor of this occasion, Richland County Children Services (RCCS) hosted a luncheon to celebrate all of the wonderful ways that community entities assist our children in foster/kinship care and their families. The luncheon was held May 21 at Dan Lew Exchange, 28 N. Main St.

Foster parents, family members, volunteers, mentors, policymakers, child welfare professionals, and other members of the community gathered to honor entities who have given a voice to children in foster care and kinship care.

The honorees were:

Retired Judge Ron Spon

The New Store

Crossroads Church

Berean Baptist Church

RCCS Executive Director Patty Harrelson announced that the new award would be named after retired Juvenile Court Judge Ron Spon in order to honor his legacy. Honorees were presented with statues engraved with the saying: “Never Give Up! The Ronald D. Spon Award for Service to Children.”

“This award shall be given when the Board of Children Services and its staff determines there is an entity or a person in the community that has gone above and beyond in providing services to children in Richland County,” Harrelson said. “Like the Court’s ‘Love Never Fails Award,’ it shall not be given annually, and this plaque shall be displayed in the lobby of Children Services with the names of the honorees."

The New Store, Crossroads Church and Berean Baptist Church are all listed on the plaque as the three initial recipients.

Judge Spon presented the awards and spoke about ‘Our Community, Our Children.’ Spon talked about the need for finding foster homes for teenagers.

“Challenge your community to contribute and take in a teenager. Children need a place that can give them hope, help, care and love,” Spon said. 

According to the Ohio Foster Care and Adoption website, on any given day in Ohio, nearly 16,000 children are being cared for away from their parents. More than 9,200 of them are living with foster parents. The rest of them are in residential care or living with friends or relatives, who are sometimes referred to as kinship caregivers.

Foster care is meant to be temporary, but its impact can last a lifetime. Ohio has more than 6,000 foster parents who open their hearts and homes to children during a very difficult time. When families can’t address the concerns that made the placement necessary, then the agency and court look for permanent options, such as adoption or giving custody to a kinship caregiver.

Many times, the foster parents who have been caring for children in those situations will decide to adopt them. When this doesn’t happen, other adoptive families are needed. Because of this and the impact of the ongoing opioid epidemic, we are in constant need of new foster and adoptive parents.

More than 2,600 children in Ohio are waiting to be adopted. More than 1,000 of them are teenagers. Many of them are part of a sibling group. Every effort is made to keep siblings together because every sibling group deserves the chance to grow up together.

In a quest to meet the demand for foster parents, Richland County Children Services (RCCS), has a new recruitment postcard. The card provides information about foster care requirements and foster care rates. The postcard will be distributed at various community events.

Child welfare agencies are also looking at new ways to recruit through social media. RCCS continues to lead the state in Foster Care recruitment with the software program, Binti. Through Binti, the agency has a public recruiting website to let potential families learn about foster care and adoption. Binti offers a mobile-optimized application portal to complete and sign required paperwork. This process can be completed anywhere from any device.

Once the application is submitted, caseworkers use a private dashboard to track the application and complete background checks. The goal of Binti is to increase the number of licensed foster homes within the Richland County area, in addition to making the application process easier for potential parents.

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