Foster Parent Molly McHenry Shares Her Thoughts On Improving Foster Care

Molly McHenry is a passionate foster care parent and child advocate. She hopes to one day see better systems for supporting kids across state lines for fostering, adopting, and kinship placement, more options for birth parents to retain rights, and a dedicated push to get more LGBT parents involved in foster care. Molly is not shy about sharing her thoughts and passion for foster care. She recently jumped at the opportunity to speak at the Foster Care Forum hosted by Cincinnati Public Schools as part of Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s Children’s Initiative Children Services Transformation.

Molly was motivated to speak at the forum based on her belief that many people who would be great foster parents may just have not ever considered doing it. “I think there are a lot of people who would really love being foster parents who would never consider it, she said. “There is a way that it enriches your life that I think more people would want if they had more information or could ask questions. It’s scary and overwhelming, but so many people have said they want to do it after they see what it’s like.”

Molly and her wife Olivia began their foster care journey soon after moving home to Cincinnati after having lived in Massachusetts. Very soon after. “I think we rolled into town in our U Haul on July 31st and took our first class the very next day,” Molly laughed. They had been thinking about fostering for a while but finally found themselves in a place personally, professionally, and emotionally to begin. They chose Beech Acres Parenting Center because of its reputation in the community and the support they knew they’d receive from our team and the close community of foster parents Beech Acres has built over the last 40 years. “I grew up on the east side and knew about Beech Acres since I was a kid,” Molly said. “We knew some Beech Acres foster parents, and they spoke very highly about their experience.”

More Rights For Birth Parents

Since they began their journey, Molly and Olivia have officially fostered three children. They have also been involved in respite care, supporting other families, and in reunification with birth parents. Their experience with reunification and close relationships they have fostered with some of the birth parents of children they’ve cared for is why Molly advocates for better rights for birth parents. “There should be more options for birth parents to retain some rights if deemed safe by the court, of course when parental custody is granted and, kids are adopted out,” Molly commented. “We intentionally try to create connections with the birth parents of the kids in our lives. It’s not appropriate in all cases, but it can be helpful for everyone when it’s safe for the child.”

Reduce Bureaucracy

Molly also believes there needs to be better, faster, and easier ways to accommodate placements across state lines. She believes a lack of consistency and too much bureaucracy compound the problem, especially in a place like Cincinnati, so close to a neighboring state. “We should minimize moving kids. Each move is traumatizing. Let’s create more successful connections and minimize moves,” Molly said. She says this is true, especially in kinship cases. “I’ve seen cases where grandma right across the river had problems securing custody of their own grandchild,” she said. “This needs to be fixed.”

Involve More LGBT Folks In Foster Care

Finally, Molly believes there needs to be a better push for LGBT parents to become involved in fostering; and increased awareness that they not only can, but that they should. “LGBT parents in Ohio don’t even know if they can foster,” Molly observed. “We asked, ‘Are we even allowed to do this?’ when we began.”

In Ohio, not only can LGBT parents foster, but there is a growing need for them to step up and foster LGBT kids who find themselves in the system looking for someone like themselves to look up to. “It needs to be clear that LGBT parents are treated equally, and in some cases, it may be better for the child to be with persons that share their experience. It’s a huge untapped resource.” She said.

Increase Resources

Molly even has ideas on how to achieve these fixes she sees as necessary in the system and speaking at Gov. DeWine’s forum was a way to share these ideas. “People often say ‘this isn’t something we are going to fix by throwing money at it’.” She commented. “Why not?? Let’s throw some money at it! Resources are huge! Change takes time, people, and resources, and that takes money,” she said. “We like to say we are prioritizing children, but we’re not. This needs to, and can change.”

Jessica Thompson, Director of Foster Care and Adoption at Beech Acres Parenting Center, was excited to see a mom like Molly stand up and provide compelling testimony at the forum. “I am so glad to see parents like Molly advocate for children and themselves,” Jessica said. “It’s great to see someone illuminate the needs of our LGBT youth and the extra barriers they face in the system, stand up for the rights of birth parents, and express the need to improve interstate and cross-country placement needs. Beech Acres Parenting Center embraces families of all types who can offer a safe and loving home for children in need.”

You can learn more about Gov. Mike DeWine’s initiative online. And, if you’re ready to support vulnerable children in need of a loving home call Ryshel at Beech Acres Parenting Center to get started today. 513-233-4707.