CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - A 17-year-old boy has been living in a Cuyahoga County office building for more than a month, county officials confirmed to 19 News.
The teen has been staying at the Jane Edna Hunter Social Services Center on Euclid Avenue since the end of May.
“While we work very hard to find immediate, appropriate placements for any child who cannot be cared for by his or her own parents or family, there may be a period of time when a child stays in the child care room at the Jane Edna Hunter building while we work on finding the right placement for that child’s needs,” said Director of Communications Mary Louise Madigan.
Madigan confirmed that two younger teens also spent several days at the facility recently.
“We work to make sure this is for a short amount of time – hours – but there have been times lately when placements, particularly for children with intense needs, are not immediate,” she said in a statement.
A representative from the Ohio Family Care Association (OFCA), which is not directly involved in this situation, suggests it is a symptom of an overall problem facing the entire state.
The Columbus-based organization advocates for thousands of adoptive, foster, kinship, primary and respite families caring for children as part of Ohio’s child protection system.
Dot Erickson-Anderson, the OFCA office administrator, told 19 News she has experience fostering teens, but that many families are choosing to take different routes.
She said more families prefer adopting, rather than fostering on a temporary basis, creating a trickle down effect for the entire system.
“Not many people who want to adopt are looking at teens, they’re looking at smaller children,” said Erickson-Anderson.
As a result, she suggests, foster parents are often primarily interested in taking on that role as a gateway to adoption.
“It puts the system at a great disadvantage to recruiting people who would like to work with teenagers, because they’ve created this situation where they’re now recruiting people who see themselves as taking over the parenting role, as opposed to seeing themselves as supporting the parents,” she said.
Madigan said finding appropriate homes for teenagers is nothing new.
The teens are under staff supervision during their stay.