Sowald Sowald Anderson Hawley & Johnson
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Helping grandparents and other relatives seek child custody

The news out of Cuyahoga County in recent days drives home yet again the depth of the issue that Ohio faces regarding children in foster care. According to an article on Cleveland.com, authorities report that there are nearly 2,300 children in some form of state-managed care. But county officials say demand continues to rise and they are seeking to recruit more foster families.

A driving force behind the need is the state's opioid abuse epidemic. The attorney general's office estimates that about half of all children in the system now, whether they are in foster care, kinship care or another form of custodial oversight, are receiving support because of parental substance abuse by one or both parents.

While the story on the call for help is coming from Cuyahoga County, it's worth noting that the opioid epidemic is not restricted to that region. Franklin County Children Services says it has hundreds of children waiting to find foster homes and, while the need worsens, the volume of available foster families is not keeping pace.

May is National Foster Care Month, which is surely one reason why this subject is in the spotlight. Obviously, it is a problem that deserves the attention of us all. From a family law practitioner's perspective, it seems natural to see this as an environment in which the relatives of children might see an opportunity to serve.

Children Services officials emphasize that they welcome this kind of kinship support. But it may also be useful to be aware that grandparents and other relatives enjoy greater visitation, custodial and companionship rights by law than exist in some other states.

Considering the increased need, foster care status might be easy to achieve. However, if broader child custody is desired, a court's permission is needed. And an experienced attorney is equipped to make the best case for such a decision. 

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