The Ohio House of Representatives today unanimously passed House Bill (HB) 126, sponsored by state Reps. Janine Boyd (D-Cleveland Heights) and Jeff Rezabek (R-Dayton). HB 126 would create a statewide system of kinship navigators that will help keep families together and provide needed assistance for Ohio’s most vulnerable populations.
“In this climate of addiction crisis, it is necessary to create a system where all kinship caregivers in Ohio have equitable access to vital services, as they step up to care for these children who are facing some of the most traumatic, unpredictable and stressful moments of their lives,” said Rep. Janine Boyd. “We can do and must do better for our most vulnerable populations.”
Kinship caregivers are family members other than a parent who are taking care of a child. More often than not, the parents of these children are facing incarceration, addiction and substance abuse, and even death.
Navigators will assist kinship caregivers who are seeking information regarding, or assistance obtaining, services and benefits available at the state and local levels that address the needs of those caregivers residing in each county. Kinship navigators will connect families to resources like publicly funded childcare, respite care, training for special needs children, legal services, as well as access to a toll-free number for additional assistance needed to keep kids with their families and out of foster care.
Under HB 126, the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services will have one year to create a system of navigator regions. There may be as few as five and up to 12 navigator regions. In order to have balanced regions, the Department of Jobs and Family Services will adhere to a few criteria: population, estimated number of kinship caregiver, available expertise and anything else that creates an equitable and effective regional system of kinship navigators.
The House appropriated $5 million to start this program, and it is anticipated that the state will be able to apply for recently available federal Title IV E funds, which would match Ohio’s investment.
HB 126 will now go to the Ohio Senate for further consideration.