FREMONT — Sandusky County Department of Job and Family Services announced Sandusky, Seneca and Wyandot counties are welcoming the arrival of the Tiered Treatment Foster Home program.
The tri-county program builds on collaborative efforts with the Mental Health & Recovery Services Board of Seneca, Ottawa, Sandusky & Wyandot counties, according to a news release.
The goal of the program is for youth requiring out-of-home care to remain in or near their community in a more specialized setting.
The program will be led by Jenni Zaika, the program lead for all three counties.
Zaika will work with licensed family foster homes to begin the process of upgrading to therapeutic homes and recruit new treatment homes.
She will work closely with local families and the children to bring about therapeutic care for children who are often placed out of county, and sometimes out of state.
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Help for youth with history of bad behavior, substance abuse, mental health issues
Melanie Allen, director of Sandusky County Job and Family Services, said in an email that many of the children who could benefit from a treatment home will have a history of issues such as substance use and destructive behaviors.
They may also struggle in school with attendance, behaviors and grades, Allen said.
She said those children also could have various mental health diagnoses, including depression, PTSD, conduct disorder and mood disorders.
Allen said the mental health board will assist with Crisis Intervention Training (40 hours) which will help caregivers learn specifics of mental health crisis de-escalation and about mental health medications.
Caregivers will need to attend training in trauma-informed care, in addition to training on behavior management.
The three counties have been working on this project, the approval of the treatment policy, and recruiting for the new position for nearly a year.
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Allen said the treatment program and the related policies are shared among all three counties and the program was approved by the state in October.
She said the position's salary and any needs to operate the treatment program are split among the counties along with assistance from the mental health board to start the program.
There are 15 family foster homes in Sandusky County and 31 children in foster care.
Allen said, typically, half of the children in care will be maintained in traditional family care.
However, the rest of the children have higher needs and are placed in congregate care settings, like group homes and residential facilities with hired staff.
"Typically these teens are demonstrating behavioral and mental health issues beyond the scope and ability of a traditional family. However, a well-trained caregiver with the time and patience could positively impact the futures of our older foster teens in care," Allen said.
Allen said the number of children in foster care has remained steady and stable over the past few years without any noticeable jump one way or another.
"We remain diligent at locating family members as placement options so foster care is a last resort," she said.
Anyone interested in more information about what treatment foster care is or how to become licensed may reach out to Zalka at Jenni.Zaika2@jfs.ohio.gov.
This article originally appeared on Fremont News-Messenger: Sandusky, Seneca, Wyandot counties combine for new foster home program