COLUMBUS, Ohio (WSYX) — A former Ohio foster youth shared harrowing stories Friday while talking with state lawmakers.
"I also had severe food restrictions, by the time I was adopted out of that home I was visibly malnourished," Melinda said
It's one reason some are advocating for change at the state level.
"So this bill of rights is a great foundation, bottom line for change," Melinda said.
Sen. Tina Maharath, D-Canal Winchester, a former foster child herself, and Sen. Teresa Fedor, D-Toledo, took questions about Senate Bill 254, which introduces a "Foster Youth Bill of Rights."
It lists 31 rights, like freedom from abuse and the right to live in a clean, safe place, which would be distributed to kids in the foster care system - a growing number.
"From 2011 to 2019 the number of children in Ohio's foster youth system increased by 30 percent," Maharath said.
"The state is doing a poor job and it is time to get the resources and the foundation and guardrails to protect our most vulnerable," Fedor said.
One name brought up Friday was Ma'Khia Bryant.
ABC6/FOX28 Investigators have been looking into the care she received, asking questions about her caseworker.
"If our voice is not being captured then I am worried about the next Ma'Khia Bryant. I am worried about the next Deanna Jones at some point we have to be proactive. We can't continue to be reactive," said Jones, a former foster care youth and caseworker as well.
But could this make a difference? Some asked how or if rights would get to kids.
Some former foster youth believe this is a foundation, creating change only if an independent ombusdmans office is also created.
"What is striking to me is the issues that I saw as a foster child, I saw as a caseworker and I would love to see something really put in place to really not be window dressing," Jones said.
Fedor is planning to advance that independent office in an amendment to House Bill 4.
"Since the State of Ohio is the parent, we are going to have to get busy getting all this done because this is part of the state's responsibility to protect our most vulnerable citizens," Fedor said.
There are no GOP co-sponsors on the bill right now.