On an unseasonably cool June day, the Ohio Justice Bus pulled into the parking lot of the Jackson, Ohio, public library, staffed with attorneys and team members from Ohio Kinship and Adoption Navigator (OhioKAN) ready to help families struggling with legal issues related to kinship care and adoption.
The Ohio Justice Bus clinic was one of many scheduled across Ohio in May and June in partnership with OhioKAN, an Ohio Department of Job & Family Services program that helps kinship and adoptive families connect to various resources. For grandparents, siblings, or other caregivers who take in kids when their parents can no longer care for them, OhioKAN is often a lifeline.
“We know taking in a child, at any point in time, is an additional mouth to feed and an additional person in the home,” said Lisa Remy, regional coach for OhioKAN Region 10. “Regardless of your financial situation, it is a big impact.”
When OhioKAN determined that many people calling for help also had legal challenges, partnering with the Ohio Justice Bus became an ideal solution. With its built-in technology, nimble ability to pick up and go, and a network of legal aid and pro bono attorneys, the Ohio Justice Bus was the perfect fit to help address the legal needs of kinship and adoptive families.
“Many of these families have historically not had access to a lot of support,” Remy said.
Baylee Butler, a senior staff attorney with Southeastern Ohio Legal Services (SEOLS) and member of the OhioKAN Region 10 Advisory Council, sees clients at the Ohio Justice Bus clinics held in SEOLS counties. Butler is well-versed in the legal issues kinship caregivers may experience, from accessing public benefits and cash assistance to arranging custody.
“When caregivers have legal resources available to them, they can get the benefits they’re entitled to that they might otherwise not have been able to access,” Butler said.
The result is kinship and adoptive families that have the support they need to take on caring for a child.
“Now, when caregivers call with legal needs, we let them know where the Ohio Justice Bus is going to be,” Remy said. “It’s a natural partnership.”
The Ohio Justice Bus is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Ohio Access to Justice Foundation. Visit www.ohiojusticebus.org for a full list of clinics and to volunteer.