Selecting an Agency

As you begin, first look at the different “Ways to Foster” and decide where you fit. Making a decision can be taxing. Search out friends and foster parent support groups for their recommendations.

Different types of agencies provide foster care and adoption services in Ohio. You will want to research several agencies before deciding which one works for your family. A searchable directory of agencies providing services to prospective foster or adoptive parents in Ohio can be found through the ODJFS fostering and adoption website. 

Finding an Agency

You might call the agency to request information or visit their website. Below is some general information to help you get started.

Public Children Services Agencies (PCSAs)

Each of Ohio’s 88 counties is responsible for child protection and placement services for the children and families within its county boundaries. The children services program may be part of the county department of job and family services, which also provides food, cash, and employment assistance or serve as a free-standing Children Services agency. 

Most counties operate their own foster care and adoption programs and also contract with private agencies for foster care or adoption services for children or teens with specialized needs. A county might be joined with another county or contract with private agencies for all of their foster care services.

Private Agencies (PCPAs, PNAs)

Private agencies are certified by the state to provide foster care, adoption services or both. Private agencies are funded by a combination of government contracts, fees for services and their own fundraising. 

They set their own geographic service boundaries; some serve only one or two counties while others serve the entire state. Private agencies develop contracts with the counties that send them children. When a private agency says they are statewide, they generally mean they will accept from any part of the state. That may not mean they are equipped to adequately service the foster families from all parts of the state or search out placements and establish contracts in your locality.

Taking children into care from areas far from your home, means you may be taking long trips in your car meeting all the requirements for family visitations, educational services, medical appointments and quick responses to crises in the home. If the agency provides transportation services, it may mean a child traveling to events without your support.

Each private foster care agency recruits, trains, licenses and supports its own pool of foster families. Private agency foster parents must meet all the state licensing requirements, and some agencies establish additional criteria for their foster parents. Often, children placed with a family through a private foster care agency will have a county custodial caseworker as well as an agency caseworker. Sometimes, the private agency is responsible for all services to the child and his or her family under a contract with the county, and the private agency assigns the custody caseworker.

Adoption Agencies

In Ohio, public child service agencies and private agencies both provide foster care and adoption services.

FYI: The Ohio Adoption Guide provides a good overview of the adoption process and a list of agencies that can offer adoption services in the state. You can find it at Ohio Adoption Guide

FYI: AdoptUSKids is a project of the U.S. Children’s Bureau. It has great information and resources on adopting a child or teen from foster care.

FAQ: What criteria should I use in choosing an agency to work with.

Public vs Private Agency Selection

As always in Ohio, this decision depends on the county and the agency. Currently, in 3 of our counties, you have no option but to select a private agency (and that number may increase).

1. Once you have decided why you are fostering:

  • If you want to help a family until they are able to take care of their children again – a county agency will often offer you more access to the primary family as their worker is available to you directly. A private agency reputation of working with the primary parent would be important to investigate. Many private agencies have support structures besides your home for primary parents – but it is not universal. 
  • If your purpose is to go to adoption through foster care you might choose a public agency as they hold custody. If you do go for a private you may want to look at one who is also licensed to do adoptions rather than one who returns your home study to the county to complete the adoption.

2. What kind of services will your family need while you foster? Check out the details as you decide.

  • What kind of children are you most equipped to serve? Number, Age, Behavior (family, special, or medical fragile – not all agencies are licensed to serve all categories of children). Many public agencies do not have casework support for special (treatment) services and contract out that service to private agencies.
  • Transportation is a service most offered. Both private and public offer this – and both do not.
  • Child care financial support is most offered to you through the public agency. They have access to other funding that can support this. Sometimes privates may offer child care during training and a few support child care finances.
  • Support groups (in-house or online) vary greatly and aren’t more offered in a public or a private setting.
  • Per Diem: Often the private per diem is higher because the needs of the child are assessed as needing more services and your expectations of what you will take on may be bigger.
  • Case Worker Services. In the public agency, you may have a foster care caseworker that works directly in your home. In the private system, you will probably have both a foster care worker who may see you at least once or twice a month and the custody agency worker who must visit your home once a month.
  • Training. In the public agency, your training is provided through the Regional Training Centers or through the agency Support Services, in the private agency you may have many different options for training, including support to attend statewide conferences.
  • Membership in an organization like OFCA that can help in answering your questions or advocating for statewide change is more likely to be offered by private agencies.

3. The ODJFS website offers a list of questions you may want to ask the agencies.