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Ohio becomes first state to use new family mapping tool for kids in foster care

Ohio is the first state to use a new technology, which assists organizations in creating a foster child's family tree in hopes of finding a forever home.

CLEVELAND — It’s a first, not just for Ohio, but for any state in the country.

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted has announced the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services is implementing new technology tools to help find forever homes for foster kids.

“Anything you can do to increase the percentages of those happy endings, that’s good for both the volunteers and the children,” said Doug Stephens, the executive director of Ohio CASA, a group of volunteers who advocate for children in the juvenile court system.

ODJFS says about 16,000 kids are looking for forever homes in the state at any given time. However, that number can spike over 20,000 at different points throughout the year. This new technology from Connect Our Kids uses public information from over 300 sources to not just make it easier to generate family trees for each child, but to make each tree, larger.

“This allows social workers to do the things that they already would be trying to do and working at doing, but take a lot of time,” Jennifer Jacobs, CEO of Connect Our Kids, told 3News. “What we’re trying to do is give them back that time so that they can do what they do best, which is help children and families.”

The system works like an information curating program, putting everything into one place and scaling up what each social worker is able to see and access at any given time. Its purpose is to take a lot of the detective work out of the equation to make finding a child’s blood-related, forever home much simpler, and easier.

“Social workers who used our software during our pilot, including a number of them in Ohio, found that it allowed them to find 6 times as many connections as they otherwise would have,” Jacobs explained. “ They did that work in less than half the time.”

It’s data sharing at its best, to help children in Ohio when they need it most.

“Our heart and our passion is in the kids,” Stephens said. “Anything that we can do to do our job is always going to be helpful and better for the kids.”

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