The January 2003 federal Ohio Child and Family Services Review, an assessment of States for substantial conformity with certain Federal requirements for child protective services, found that Ohio is not consistent in its efforts to protect children from abuse or neglect and that Ohio lacks “clear and consistent statewide criteria” for initial child abuse screening decisions. In response, the Supreme Court of Ohio Advisory Committee on Children, Families, and the Courts established the Subcommittee on Responding to Child Abuse, Neglect, and Dependency  to determine if Ohio law relating to the investigation and prosecution of child abuse and neglect properly serves children and families in need of government intervention. 

Need for Reform

A subsequent Subcommittee-commissioned study by the American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law (ABA Center) highlighted the need for reform to Ohio law to address the issues identified in the CFSR.  This report, and supplemental research directed by the Subcommittee, found that Ohio child welfare statutes and rules are, in many respects, circular, ambiguous and confusing, which leads to inconsistent responses from one county to another and to compromised outcomes for children and families.  Also noted were a child protection practice culture and a peculiarly prosecutorial orientation in child protection cases that have led to deep mistrust between parents and the PCSAs. 

Subcommittee Response 

In response to these issues, over a two-year period the Subcommittee focused research and data collection efforts on identifying statutory and practice-based barriers to consistent and effective child protection practice.   The ultimate product of the Subcommittee’s work was a set of final recommendations for Ohio to revise its overall child protection statutory structure and adopt a “Child in Need of Protective Services” structure.  Such an approach promises to refocus Ohio child welfare law onto the needs of Ohio’s children, leaving to the criminal justice system the punishment of those who cause substantial harm or risk of substantial harm to our children.  The full Advisory Committee accepted the Subcommittee’s recommendations in 2006. 

The structure recommended by the Subcommittee provides for a single allegation for complaint of child maltreatment and a single adjudication, that of a Child in Need of Protective Services,” based on seven detailed categories of harm:

  • Physically Harmed 
  • Sexually Harmed 
  • Emotionally Harmed 
  • Harmed by Exposure to Substance Misuse 
  • Lacking Necessary Health Care 
  • Lacking Legally Required Education 
  • Lacking Necessary Care or Supervision

The proposed changes to Ohio law represent an effort to start positive change to child welfare case management at the beginning – at the point of screening and intake – aimed at the systemic improvement of the law and practice under which our public children services agencies serve Ohio’s at-risk children and families.

Final Report of Subcommittee on Responding to Child Abuse, Neglect and Dependency

Webinar Materials - February 6, 2018

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