May 28, 2019

Judy Eschmann, Director of Job & Family Services, is retiring

Judy Eschmann

BATAVIA, Ohio (May 28, 2019) – Judy Eschmann, the Director of the Clermont County Department of Job & Family Services, is retiring on May 31 after five-and-a-half years at the helm of the agency here, and a career of 33 years in social work.

That can be a tough and challenging profession, but for Eschmann, it’s been a rewarding one. The Batavia native went to the University of Cincinnati intending to become a school teacher or social worker. After college, she took the civil service test required to work for what was then known as the county welfare department.

“Hamilton County hired me (a very young and green version of me) and I set out to ‘save the world’ and the next 33 ½ years just flew by,” she says.

As a lobby receptionist for Hamilton County, she was the first face that hundreds of people saw each day as they came in for assistance. “I worked my way up a career ladder and had an opportunity to work in many positions including case worker, supervisor, trainer, and policy coordinator,” Judy said. “In 2010, I became the director of Clinton County DJFS which is structured very similar to Clermont DJFS, but on a much smaller scale. It was a great place to learn about all the connections among agency programs including funding, shared services, program mandates and overlaps and most importantly our shared customers.

“In 2013, I became director of Clermont County DJFS and have loved every minute of it,” she says.

As director in Clermont County, Judy said she is most proud of the summer youth employment program that DJFS manages and that enlists local employers to hire youth from low-income families for summer jobs. Those jobs, which pay $10 an hour, can make a big difference to the kids – and their families.

“I remember only having a few months to pull that program together,” she says.” Our entire agency assisted with identifying eligible youth as well as reaching out and recruiting employers to serve as worksites. That team effort was the foundation for a program that has grown each year and served hundreds of youth.”

Eschmann says that it’s easy to misunderstand exactly what DJFS does – because it encompasses so many divisions.

“The name of Job and Family Services is vague and does not describe who we are, and most people don’t realize what we do,” she says. “We are a social service agency with a team of dedicated, talented, compassionate staff. In our Public Assistance Division, we assist families with temporary and long-term benefits (food, cash and Medicaid). In our OhioMeansJobs Center, we provide services to job seekers and employment training. In our Child Support Division, we establish paternity and enforce child support orders. In our Children’s Protective Services Division, we work with families to overcome barriers to keep children safe.”

As she starts a new chapter, Eschmann says, “I’m so glad I had the opportunity to end my JFS career in the county I call home. I believe the programs we administer help assist individuals and families with self-sufficiency, assist with supporting a healthy community and assist with keeping children safe. I am fortunate to work with a talented team and all our accomplishments were possible because of my team.”

After relaxing with her family a bit at home, Eschmann says she’s ready for a new career. “While I’m not as young or as green as I once was, I still have a fair amount of ‘save the world’ left in me.”


February 6, 2019

Clermont County courts, other offices to close Friday for detective’s services

Detective Bill Brewer

BATAVIA, Ohio (Feb. 6, 2019) – All Clermont County courts and many county offices will be closed Friday, Feb. 8, to allow employees to attend, view or participate in services for Sheriff’s Detective Bill Brewer, who lost his life in the line of duty on Feb. 2.


Sheriff’s Office: Administrative offices close at noon Thursday and all day Friday.

Common Pleas Court: Closes at 2 p.m. Thursday and all day Friday. This also includes Probation, Law Library, and Court Services.

Juvenile Court/Probate Court: Closes at 2 p.m. Thursday and all day Friday.

Prosecutor’s Office: Closes at 2 p.m. Thursday and all day Friday.

Domestic Relations Court: Closes at 2 p.m. Thursday and all day Friday. All hearings will be scheduled to the next available time.

Board of County Commissioners’ office, and departments including Water Resources Administration Building, Building Inspection, Permit Central, Job & Family Services, OhioMeansJobs/Clermont County, and Department of Community & Economic Development: Closed Friday.

Municipal Court: Closed Friday. Those who have an arraignment scheduled for Friday will be sent a new court date. They can also check the website for updated information.

Common Pleas Clerk’s Office, Domestic Relations Clerk and all auto title offices: Closed Friday.

Public Defender’s Office: Closed Friday.

Auditor’s Office: Closed Friday.

Recorder’s Office: Closed Friday.

Engineer’s Office: Closed Friday.

Public Health: Closed Friday.

Coroner’s Office: Closed Friday; on call at 513.543.0129.


Some county offices will be open, including the Treasurer’s Office, which is accepting payments for first-half property taxes, which are due Feb. 13. The Municipal Clerk of Court Office will be open Friday. The Board of Elections office will be open Friday.

Bus service in Clermont County, including Dial-A-Ride, will operate normally.

The county website,, has separate pages for each county office, including how to contact them. Check there if you have questions on whether an office is open or closed.

Services for Detective Brewer are as follows:

Family and friends are invited to a public visitation from 4-8 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 7, at Mount Carmel Christian Church, 4110 Bach Buxton Rd, Batavia, OH 45103, under the direction of E.C. Nurre Funeral Home in Amelia. Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at the church. Interment will follow at Pierce Township Cemetery.

December 21, 2017

Ohio’s children’s services agencies overwhelmed by opioid crisis

BATAVIA, Ohio (Dec. 21, 2017)  — Ohio’s children services agencies are being overwhelmed by the number of opioid-affected children coming into foster care, exploding county budgets and overwhelming available foster care resources.

According to a report released today by Public Children Services Association of Ohio (, a thousand more Ohio kids will be spending the holidays in foster care this year, compared to 2016, instead of at home with their family. The statewide membership organization for county children services agencies added that by next Christmas, it could be 2,000 more if the rate at which children are entering custody due to the opioid epidemic continues along its current trajectory.

The numbers suggest an alarming trend, said Angela Sausser, PCSAO’s executive director. On July 1, 2013, 12,654 children were in agency custody. Four years later, that number had climbed to 15,145 kids. In October the number surpassed 15,500. “Many of these kids watched their parents overdose or die,” she said. “They are missing milestones with their families such as birthday parties and ringing in the New Year, and many are staying in care longer due to their parents relapsing.”

The cost of placements has skyrocketed too, from $275 million in 2013 to $375 million in 2017.

In Clermont County, 155 children were in the care of Children’s Protective Services (CPS) as of Nov. 30, many of them as a result of the opioid crisis. And the agency is also working with the families of 552 other children, some of whom are impacted by the opioid crisis, said Tim Dick, Deputy Director of CPS.

One of the biggest issues facing the county now, Dick said, is that there are not enough local foster care families to care for the children in CPS’ custody. Fifty-seven children are now placed outside of Clermont or an adjacent county, he said. Eighteen children are placed out-of-state.

“The foster care system largely operates on a first come, first serve system,” Dick said. “If on Tuesday, the only foster home available is in Mahoning County, we have no choice but to place the child there. When Greene County is looking for a home on Friday and the only one available is in Clermont County, that is where they will place their child. The end result is each county has children placed throughout the state.”

This adds to the trauma children face when they are removed from their home. Not only are they leaving their parents, they may also be leaving their community, their school, their friends and relatives – all the things that can provide some anchoring and comfort for a child.

“When kids are placed closer to their own communities, outcomes are generally better,” Dick said.  Parents are familiar with the community their child is staying in, visits are more frequent and kids do not have to miss school to visit their parent.” Services are easier to coordinate, he added.

Voters in over half the counties, including Clermont, generously support property tax levies for children services, but as a whole, counties already shoulder more than half the cost of paying for child protection in Ohio, which relies more heavily on local dollars than any other state in the nation. Federal finance reform that would have helped address some of these issues was on the horizon last year, but stalled.

“Ohio needs a long-term solution to this crisis – and leadership to get us there before agency budgets collapse and our workforce jumps ship,” Sausser said. “We already have a lack of available foster homes in Ohio. With the projected increases, we will have children sleeping in county agency lobbies with no available foster family to take them in.”

(PCSAO provided material in this press release.)

To find out more about becoming a foster care parent in Clermont County, call 513.732.7765, or go to the website.


November 14, 2017

For this mom, adopting teenage girls was meant to be

Savannah, Samantha and Sam at their home in College Hill.

BATAVIA, Ohio (Nov. 14, 2017) – June 12, 2017, was a big day for Erica Steele and her daughters. On that day, her adoption of sisters Samantha, 18, and Savannah, 16, was finalized. Both girls, who were taken from their mother’s home in Clermont County when they were very young, had lived with Erica in her College Hill home for two years as foster care children. Now, it was official. Erica, Samantha and Savannah were a legal family.

Erica, 37, loves her two daughters, and it’s apparent that they love their mom. For Erica, the age of the girls did not matter when she considered adoption. “Show them that you love them, and treat them the way you treat your own kids. Everyone will settle in as a family.”

November is National Adoption Awareness Month, and this year the theme “Every Teen Needs a Family No Matter What” is being emphasized. According to the most recent report from the Children’s Bureau, which advocates for the welfare of children and families, more than 110,000 children and youth in foster care are waiting to be adopted across the United States, and close to 12,500 of them are between the ages of 15 and 17 years old.

In Clermont County, of the 19 children who are currently available to be adopted, most are 12 or older. The heroin epidemic in particular has led to older children being in foster care, says Adoption Supervisor Julie Jordan.

Samantha and Savannah, who come from a family of five siblings, were removed from their home because of their mother’s drug use. They lived with their grandfather for many years and then with a family friend, but neither situation was good, the girls say. Samantha arrived at Erica’s home first.

“When I first got Samantha into my home, it was easy. She fit right in with the family. She had been having some problems in her other home, and when she came here, she didn’t have any problems. A couple of months later, I was asked would I be willing to take her sister, and that’s how I got Savannah.”

‘Meant to be’

Samantha echoes her mom’s description of her early days with Erica. “I loved it. I fit in perfectly. It was meant to be.”

For Savannah, it was more of an adjustment. “When I first got here, I was very distant. It was hard to start over. When I first got to school, I was bad. I needed a stable home to show me what to do. I never had the right guidance to put me on the right path. I wouldn’t be where I am now if not for Mom.”

“I just let them know my rules, and what I expect from them,” Erica says. “They are my family. I don’t use the word ‘foster kid.’ Any child who comes into my home is my kid.”

Erica says that when there is conflict – perhaps at school, or with a new foster care child, or with each other – she calls an “open table,” where the girls discuss what’s on their mind and Erica offers her perspective. “Open table keeps down the drama,” she says. “We have to live in the same home and deal with each other.”

Their family will soon be growing by another sister. Sam, 17, also from Clermont County, began living with Erica in April of this year. Erica has started adoption proceedings for Sam, and expects that it will be finalized in early 2018.

Keeping busy

All three girls attend Aiken High School, and are doing well academically. Samantha has been accepted to the University of Cincinnati and Wright State University, and has scholarships and grants to UC. Sam is No. 1 in her class. “No one can touch her!” Samantha said. Savannah is in the Top 10 at Aiken in her class, and has been named a GE Scholar, which entitles her to a full-ride scholarship to college.

“I told the girls when they came into my home that they had to be active in something,” Erica said. All the girls got involved in school sports – softball, basketball and cheerleading — assisting in fund-raisers, and managing concession stands. All three now work at Chipotle in Finneytown, in addition to helping out their mom, who runs an in-home day care.

Samantha marvels at the changes that have happened to her. “Three years ago, I was this angry teenager fighting every day, not in school, doing all kinds of drugs, not caring about myself. I didn’t think I was going to make it to my senior year. Now I don’t do drugs. Now I go to school, I do sports, I work.”

Samantha and Savannah believe that the age of a child should not be an impediment to adoption. If anything, they argue, teens need family guidance and love even more. “It don’t matter the age,” Savannah said. “At the end of the day people need to have confidence building, they need the love, the connection, the bond. For teenagers it’s never too late.”

As for her new family? “We are on the path to success,” Erica says.

To find out more about how to become a foster-to-adopt parent for Clermont County, call 513.732.7765. has more information on the process, as well as bios of the current children awaiting adoption under the dropdown “Waiting for a Family.”

October 25, 2017

Clermont County has 19 children looking for a home

Children’s Protective Services staff and Commissioners, who proclaimed November 2017 National Adoption Month.

BATAVIA, Ohio – Teens Need Families, No Matter What.

That’s the theme of 2017’s National Adoption Awareness Month, which is recognized nationally and in Clermont County in November every year. And finding homes for older children, particularly teens, can be difficult, said Julie Jordan, Adoption Supervisor at Children’s Protective Services.

“Most of the children we have waiting for adoption are 12 and older,” Jordan said. “Parents often think that older children are more challenging, but that is not necessarily the case. Their need for a home is just as great as it is for a younger child.”

“This is a critical time for these kids,” Jordan said. “They need support and guidance, just like any other teen.”

According to the most recent report from the Children’s Bureau, which advocates for the welfare of children and families, more than 110,000 children and youth in foster care are waiting to be adopted across the United States, and close to 12,500 of them are between the ages of 15 and 17 years old.

Currently, Clermont County has 19 children awaiting adoption. These are children who were removed from their parents’ home due to abuse and/or neglect. Most of these children then entered foster care. After parental rights were terminated – typically after two years, when parents fail to take the steps necessary for reunification – the children can be adopted.

In Clermont County, these teens include Clarissa, who is 16, and Kennedy, 17; Caleb who is 14, and  Jayden, who is 13. Brief biographies can be found on each child at

The opioid crisis in Clermont County has contributed to the cases of abuse and neglect that compel CPS to remove children from their parents’ home, Jordan said. And that’s also a reason why there are more tweens and teens waiting for a family.

One pathway to adopting older children is to become a foster parent first. The adoption team at Children’s Protective Services promotes foster-to-adopt certification as the best way to offer children a stable and nurturing home. Dan and Viola Rice of Mount Orab, who have adopted five children through CPS’s foster-to-adopt, and have fostered more than 40 children, are strong advocates of this method.

“We love being foster care parents,” Dan says. “We ask our friends, or those we are just meeting – have you ever thought about foster-to-adopt?”

In 2017, 38 children have been adopted by 23 families to date.

To find out more about foster care or adoption through Clermont County Children’s Protective Services, please call 513.732.7765. The website has information on the foster-to- adopt process, and also has a list of children currently waiting for a forever family.

(Top photo: Dan and Viola Rice and their six children, five of whom have been adopted. Photo taken in November 2016.)

October 19, 2017

CASA Fall Fundraiser is Nov. 3

Some of the goodies being auctioned off at CASA’s Fall Fundraiser — Disney luggage for kids, above, and Pottery Barn baskets at left.

BATAVIA, Ohio (Oct. 19, 2018) – Raffle basket after raffle basket dot the floors and tables at CASA for Clermont Kids.

It’s only a few more days until the nonprofit’s annual Fall Fundraiser Dinner and Auction, and these raffle baskets – from Pottery Barn and Disney World, Cincinnati Zoo and Ballet, Loveland-Symmes Fire Department, and Chick-fil-a and Eastgate Brew and View, to name a few – are wrapped up and ready to go.

CASA gets no funding through local taxes, and depends on grants and fundraisers. It runs a lean operation with a break-even budget of $200,000 a year that includes salaries and office expenses for three full-time and two part-time workers.

The Fall Fundraiser is one of CASA’s big events. This year, it will be held at 6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 3, at Holiday Inn Eastgate. The gala includes raffle baskets, silent auctions and live auctions. Tickets start at $40 per adult. For more information, call 513,732.7160 or go to CASA’s website: CASA hopes to raise $40,000 at the Fall Fundraiser, Executive Director Nathan Bell said.

Lykins Energy Solutions, headquartered in Miami Township, is one of CASA’S biggest benefactors. Every September, CEO Jeff Lykins hosts a golf fundraiser for CASA.  On Oct. 18, Lykins presented CASA with a $73,000 check – a huge help to the organization.

A Christmas basket of goodies.

“Over the past 18 years Lykins has raised over $660,000 for CASA,” Bell said. “We are so grateful to Lykins and all their hard-working staff for supporting our program and working so hard each year. We could not have served as many children without their ongoing support.”


October 19, 2017

Advocating for kids when they can’t advocate for themselves

image of Laura Calhoun and Nathan Bell

CASA volunteer Cyndy Wright

BATAVIA, Ohio (Oct. 19, 2017) – Cyndy Wright is a voice for children who have no voice.

Wright, an Assistant Vice President at Park National Bank, is a volunteer guardian ad litem (GAL) for children who enter the Juvenile Court system in Clermont County through no fault of their own. These are children who were removed from their parents’ care because of abuse or neglect. It’s a heartbreaking situation – and Wright, as that child’s guardian, represents that child’s best interests before Judge James Shriver or one of the magistrates in Juvenile Court.

“I am really passionate about it,” Wright said. “It is so rewarding to be able to see that these children have a voice, that they matter.”

Wright is one of 35 guardians ad litem for CASA for Clermont Kids but 35 is hardly enough to handle the almost 120 children under CASA’s care. CASAs – or Court Appointed Special Advocates – can be found throughout the United States and in most counties in Ohio. The ones in Ohio are governed by Ohio Supreme Court rules, said Nathan Bell, Executive Director for the Clermont CASA, which ensures that certain standards are met by the GALs.

Bell is passionate, too. His undergrad degree focused on sociology and psychology, and he always knew he wanted to work with children. Instead of becoming a therapist, he got a law degree from Duke University, and focused his efforts on courts and children. Before coming to Clermont County in 2014 to take over the reins at CASA, he was a full-time GAL for the Hamilton County Public Defender’s Office for 12 years.

‘The only consistent person’

“The difference that guardians ad litem make – other than being the community’s eyes on how the system is working for this child – is that we are sometimes the only consistent person in their life while they are involved in the court system,” Bell said. “As they move, changing homes, changing schools, changing CPS caseworkers, we are there. They know, this is my person, they are only for me, they are MY voice.”

To become a guardian ad litem, volunteers go through an initial screening and interview, before undergoing 30 hours of training. They go to court during this time to get a feel for the kinds of cases they will be assigned. Once they are certified, they are always accompanied to court by one of the volunteer coordinators who work for CASA.

Wright became interested in becoming a guardian ad litem after seeing the impact a GAL made in a case involving a member of her extended family. “I was happy that she was represented,” Wright said. “This was something I wanted to pursue … to be the voice of a child in the court system.”

Photos of some of the guardians ad litem at CASA.

She has been a guardian for six children since 2010, including two siblings. The children she has advocated for have been young – no one has been older than 8, with several between 18 months and 3 years. She visits each child at least once a month, and before every court hearing, which is typically every three months. Since most cases stretch from 18 months to two years, guardians must commit to being with the child during that period. (It takes up to two years to sever parental rights if the court decides that needs to happen.)

“When I meet with the child, I tell them what my job is,” Wright said. “I tell them that the judge wants to do what is best for them. I ask them what they would like me to tell the judge. Sometimes it’s as simple as ‘I scored a goal in soccer.’ Sometimes  it’s ‘I just want Mommy and Daddy to be back together again.’”

To determine what is best for the child, the guardian will meet with and interview the family, will meet with relatives, and with teachers if the child is in school. “We follow the parents’ progress … are they working hard to get better? Are they visiting their child? It’s complex to say the least,” says Wright.

A solution for the child

Wright says she does get attached to the children, but training helps her to manage that. “It’s inevitable to care about the children,” she said, “but you know there is going to be a solution for the child. When you see the parents do the work and be reunited with their child, or when you see the child adopted into a forever family.”

CASA is always looking for volunteers, Bell says. “We are looking for people who are committed and consistent, who are able to do volunteer work for a minimum of two years. We need people who are kind, considerate, caring, and can also be the balanced voice for the child.”

Volunteers must have a clean criminal record, be able to drive, and have some flexibility so that they can appear at court during the hearings, held every three months. Visiting with children and others can be done at night or on the weekend. Wright says she is grateful that Park National, which is a big supporter of community causes in Clermont County, allows her the flexibility to be a GAL.

The commitment more than pays off, Wright says. “You have blessed a family, you have blessed a child – you are richer for it.”

To find out more about becoming a guardian ad litem for CASA for Clermont Kids, please contact Nathan Bell at 513.732.7160 or email him at #######


September 20, 2017

Want to sponsor a child for the holidays? Read this!

BATAVIA, Ohio (Sept. 20, 2017) – Clermont County Children’s Protective Services (CPS) is hoping to brighten the holidays for the 280 children in its custody – and residents, churches, businesses, and organizations in Clermont County can help.

“For years, our generous sponsors of the Community Toy Chest have helped to make Christmas a happier time for our children, most of whom are in foster care,” said Sanna Gast, coordinator of the Toy Chest. “When you sign up to sponsor an individual child, or a family, you make sure that our kids have presents to unwrap on Christmas Day.”

Those who are interested in sponsoring a child will get a first name, age, and a wish list from Gast. They are asked to shop for the child and turn in the gifts by a date that will be indicated.

Monetary donations are also welcomed, Gast said. The staff can pool together the donations to buy gift cards or electronic gifts for older youth. The age range of the children, who have been removed from their homes due to abuse and/or neglect, is from infancy to 18.

Some children come as late as Christmas Eve into the care of CPS, Gast said. Even in the midst of that trauma, those children will receive wrapped gifts.

If you are interested in sponsoring a child or a family, please contact Gast at, or call her at 513.732.7264.


November 22, 2016

Meet the Rices — adoptive and foster care parents

The siblings play Legos together.

The siblings play Legos together.

BATAVIA, Ohio (Nov. 22, 2016) – Dan and Viola Rice’s home in Mount Orab is spotless; nothing looks out of place. A few instruments in cases are tucked next to the piano in the large family room. The kitchen is immaculate, with no crumbs in sight, and no dirty dishes in the sink.

Photos are everywhere – on walls, on shelves, in cabinets, in books. Photos of kids. So many kids.

This home seems too neat to be the home of 9 children. But it is. It is a home full of indoor and outdoor play, chores and assignments, homework and sports, shouts and laughter. And love. Plenty of love.

Dan and Viola, who have been married for 17 years, began their life together committed to becoming foster care and adoptive parents. They never looked back. Through Clermont County Children’s Protective Services, they became licensed as foster-to-adopt parents. “We did not have our license more than a week or two before we started getting phone calls,” Dan said.

One of the first phone calls was for Joshua, who was 8 months old. “We went to pick him up at CPS,” Dan said. “My wife picked him up. He laid his head down and fell asleep on Viola’s shoulder. We fell in love with him.”

Making cookies together.

Making cookies together.

They later adopted Joshua. A couple of years later, they adopted his brother, Nathan, then a newborn. Today Joshua is 14 and Nathan is 12.

After that came Natalie, their birth daughter, who is now 10. In 2013, siblings Samantha, now 13, Katelynn, 11, and David, 9, were adopted.  Their adoption was finalized on Dec. 24, 2013 – the best Christmas present any child could have.

In between, Dan and Viola have been foster parents to 42 children. Currently three foster care children who are 14, 12 and 11, live with the Rices. Two of them are siblings.

Every child in the family, including the foster care children, call Viola and Dan Mom and Dad.

In Clermont County, as elsewhere, it is sometimes difficult to get people interested in adopting older children, as well as fostering and adopting siblings. This has never been an issue for Dan and Viola. For the children, being with their biological siblings, as they become accustomed to their new siblings, allows them to support each other, Dan and Viola say.

But once they are in the family, they all feel like brothers and sisters, Samantha says. The kids nod and smile in agreement. And since all the adopted children were once foster care children, they can make the foster care kids who come into their home feel comfortable right away, Samantha said.

Several of the Rices’ kids and foster care kids are in the same school and often grade at Western Brown – most of them at Western Brown Middle School. “When Samantha sees me in the hallway at school, she’ll say, ‘Hello, little brother,’” Nathan says.

All of the children, including the foster care kids, are involved in after-school sports and activities. As they tick off their interests and clubs – basketball, wrestling, baseball, soccer, 4H, Teen Advisory Board, book club, art club, softball, running club, yearbook, band, band, band, band – they each mention jujitsu. Dan enrolled all of them in jujitsu classes. “This was something they could all learn and it helps to build up their self-esteem,” Dan says.

“We make sure they tap into their full abilities,” Dan says, which is one reason he and Viola want to make sure the kids stay busy. Faith is a big part of their lives, and the whole family attends church together.

Dan, who is retired from Clermont County, is a stay-at-home dad. He makes sure the kids get to sports practices and doctors’ appointments. Viola, who works for Clermont County’s Job & Family Services, puts out a weekly spreadsheet with the kids assigned to specific chores and tasks. With two loads of laundry a day, dishes to load and unload, beds to make and bathrooms to keep clean, everyone needs to pitch in, she says. “We try to teach them life skills,” Viola says. Responsibilities for chores help with that.

“The big thing is, they need to have structure and routine,” Dan says. “They are not used to having rules. They have had to raise themselves. It’s amazing how these kids thrive in a structured environment.

“These kids are good kids,” he says, the pride obvious. “Every one of them is smart.”

Dan and Viola are ambassadors – they want other people to become foster parents and adoptive parents. It’s something top of mind especially in November, which is National Adoption Month.  “We love being foster care parents,” Dan says. “We ask our friends, or those we are just meeting – have you ever thought about foster-to-adopt?”

They won’t have to persuade one group – their children. In fact, each child raised their hand or offered a comment saying they wanted to become a foster parent and adopt children as well. They know the difference it can make. In fact, they are living it.

Making cookies together.

Making cookies together.

To find out more about foster care or adoption through Clermont County Children’s Protective Services, please call 513.732.7765. The website has information on how to become a foster care or adoptive parent; it also has information on each of the children who are now eligible for adoption in Clermont County.

November 10, 2016

#AdoptionMonth: ‘We all need a family’

BATAVIA, Ohio (Nov. 10, 2016) – The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption has an expression: Unadoptable is unacceptable. Sharon Wiesenhahn, who works to find families for older adoptable children in the custody of Clermont County’s Children’s Protective Services (CPS), fervently believes that is true.

Since she became a Wendy’s Wonderful Kids recruiter four years ago, she has made 30 matches between older children and families, and 19 of those have been finalized. “No matter how old we are, we always need a family,” Wiesenhahn says.

November is National Adoption Month, and for those who work on the adoption team at CPS, it’s a time to celebrate the children who have been adopted, while working tirelessly on behalf of those who are still waiting for their “forever families.” Clermont County currently has 19 children awaiting adoption; their stories can be found on the website. Later this month, the county will celebrate the adoptions of 43 children in 2016, who have found permanent homes with 26 families.

Wiesenhahn, whose position is funded through a grant from the Dave Thomas Foundation, finds families for older children – some of whom are siblings – through a variety of ways. Some are families currently in Clermont County who are licensed for both foster care and adoption. She’s found others, who live as far away as New Jersey and Florida, through sites like, a national database that connects children in foster care with families.

She’s a matchmaker

Before she can find the right family, she has to start with the kids.

“I get to know the kids,” Wiesenhahn says. “I get to know their likes and dislikes. I go through their files to see if there is someone in their past – maybe a distant relative – who might be able to adopt them. Sometimes I connect with a coach or teacher or someone else the child had a positive relationship with, to see if they might be willing to adopt the child.”

As best she can, she matches the child to a potential family. The child may have special needs. The child may want to be in a family with several siblings. The child may want to live in the country and have dogs romping around. But even if all those boxes are ticked off, it doesn’t mean there is a perfect match in the offing. “It’s kind of like dating,” she says. “You can really match well on paper but sometimes there is just not a connection.”

It’s more challenging to find families for older children, especially those who are older than 10, Wiesenhahn says.  And sometimes older children, especially teens, say they don’t want to be adopted. They often say this because they don’t believe that a family would want them, and they are afraid of being disappointed.

Protecting themselves from disappointment

One boy, who is 16, just had his adoption finalized on Nov. 8. He had been in the care of CPS since February 2013, and became eligible for adoption in May 2014. “He was very against adoption,” Wiesenhahn said. “But then he became a little more open to the idea, and he asked his foster care parents. But they said no.”

The young man was then placed with a foster-to-adopt family who lived in the country. “He wanted to live in the city, but they were a good match in other ways,” Wiesenhahn said. “He was acting out a bit during the summer, and his foster care parents said they were interested in possibly adopting him, and was he open to that?

“He said OK, and his whole attitude changed. What happens with these kids is that they’ve been rejected so many times before, they start to pull away to protect themselves.

“He’s nervous but he’s happy to be part of a family,” she added. His new family includes older adult siblings, two younger brothers who have also been adopted, and infant foster care children.

Wiesenhahn and the adoption team at Clermont County also try to ensure that siblings are adopted together. “Siblings have a shared history,” she said. “Sometimes that brother or sister is the only connection that they have had.” Since 2014, 36 siblings groups have been adopted in Clermont County.

There are rewards to adopting older children and siblings, Wiesenhahn said. “Teen-age years are difficult for any child, so to help a child through those years is very rewarding,” she said. “And teens are fun. They are full of life and funny. Most are self-sufficient. But teenagers can be challenging, too. Raising a teenager is raising a teenager!”

Financial help

Children who are adopted frequently qualify for financial subsidies, especially if they have special physical or mental health needs, Sharon said. And children who are 13 and older when they are adopted are considered independent when it comes time to fill out the FAFSA aid forms for college – meaning they are more likely to qualify for financial aid no matter their adoptive parents’ income.

“If someone is interested in finding out more about adopting, they should just pick up the phone and call me,” Sharon said. “I will meet with families and answer any questions. It’s about getting the word out – these kids are not in foster care through any fault of their own. It’s because of circumstances outside their control that they are in foster care.

“No matter what their age is, every child deserves a family.”

To find out more about becoming a foster care parent or an adoptive parent in Clermont County, please call 513.732.7765 or check out our website,

The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption was founded by Wendy’s founder, Dave Thomas. Its goal is to find permanent homes for the more than 100,000 children in foster care. Its grants support Wendy’s Wonderful Kids recruiters throughout the country who focus on finding families for those children who have been waiting longest in foster care for a permanent home. ######