LIMA — In an effort to combat a rising number of children entering foster care, the Allen County Children Services and Coleman Professional Services have entered into a partnership to administer a program designed to improve real life situations for individuals affected by child maltreatment and parental substance use disorder.
The Ohio START program, an acronym for Sobriety, Treatment and Reducing Trauma was brought to the state in 2017 by former attorney general and current Gov. Mike DeWine. The chief objective of the program is to provide a support system that helps parents with addiction who have open cases with children services agencies.
Ohio START partners with families by assigning a child welfare caseworker and family peer mentor to administer family-centered services that help families heal through recovery.
Sarah Newland, interim executive director of the Allen County Children Services agency, said START is a “proven model that addresses issues of parental substance abuse while also reducing the number of children in foster care.”
Lisa Ashafa, director of Peer and Specialty Services at Coleman, praised the partnership between the agencies.
“Coleman is truly excited to partner with ACCS in order to help children and families struggling with substance use. Recovery is possible and with START, we will walk alongside families as they get the treatment they need while doing everything possible to keep the family together,” Ashafa said.
Families willing to participate complete an assessment then a determination is made by management whether the family is assigned to the START program. Once accepted, the caseworker and family peer mentor immediately infuse services to reduce risk and strengthen the family.
Case plans are tailored to individual needs of each family. START has proven to increase the sobriety rate with parents and reduce the number of children placed in foster care, according to a joint press release issued by the participating agencies.