Mansfielders attend Kinship Day at the Capitol Rally

September 27, 2018

Tim Harless, Director of Community Outreach and Programming and Melodye James, Ohio Grandfamilies representative.

COLUMBUS -- Kinship families from throughout the state of Ohio rallied on the lawn at the State House in Columbus on Wednesday, September 26, to bring awareness to the issues faced by grandparents who are raising grandchildren.

The Ohio Federation for Health Equity and Social Justice (OFHESJ) and the Ohio Grand Parent and Kinship Care Coalition (OGKC) joined together to bring grandparents and other relatives to the Ohio Statehouse to talk about the issues they experience as a result of the opioid epidemic.

Over 200,000 Ohio children live in homes headed by grandparents and other relatives, many of whom took on the responsibility in order to keep kids from entering the child welfare system.

Several speakers, including Mansfield resident Melodye James (an Ohio Grandfamilies representative) and Tim Harless, Director of Community Outreach and Programming for Richland County Children Services, urged the passage of Ohio House Bill 126. Passage of this bill would establish a statewide program of Kinship Navigators to help assist caregivers in obtaining benefits and services such as food stamps and health insurance.

The number of children living with grandparents and other relatives continues to increase rapidly. National statistics show that 2.24 million children are living with relative caregivers without either parent present, including 1.51 million living with grandparents and 729,000 living with other relatives.

According to the Public Children Association of Ohio, since 2010, the number of kids who come into state custody and placed with relatives instead of foster care placement has increased by nearly 120 percent.

"Richland County Children Services offers Kinship services by assisting families in obtaining benefits and services. The services may include counseling, daycare, evaluation, treatment and referrals to other social service agencies," said Tim Harless, Director of Community Outreach and Programming.

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