Attorney General Mike DeWine took notes Monday while experts on the local child-welfare system talked about what does and doesn't happen in Lucas County.
The Child Safety Summit, an eight-city tour, was started by Mr. DeWine after he read "horror stories" about children being taken out of safe foster homes and given back to abusive parents.
With information gathered at each of the eight stops, Mr. DeWine's office plans to put together a report on the child welfare system by the fall.
Dean Sparks, executive director of Lucas County Children Services and one of five panelists for the Toledo session, said 75 percent of children in custody of the county are younger than 12, and 57 percent are younger than 5.
He said the number of older children in the county's custody has increased about 15 percent and that older children usually have "behavioral and mental problems."
The county does face challenges, Mr. Sparks said, pointing to limited access to law enforcement databases that could be used to run background checks.
If the agency wants or needs to run a background check it can either do a limited search through the Northwest Ohio Regional Information System or get a more complete check by going through the Bureau of Criminal Investigation, which, Mr. Sparks said, is expensive.
He added that there is "limited information and cooperation" from law enforcement agencies as well as low prosecution rates for child abuse and domestic violence.
Pam Manning, Lucas County juvenile justice court magistrate, said one of the biggest challenges is trying to involve children in court proceedings.
"People make suggestions for what programs … these kids need, but we never hear from the kids," she said. " ... They have good information and why wouldn't we want to know what they think will make them successful?"
Judy Leb of the Lucas County Court Appointed Special Advocates said that when children are involved, they become more aware of what's required of their parents and whether their biological parents are following through on court orders.
Mandy Lehman, a foster-care advocate, spent her teenage years in the system after suffering abuse inside her home.
Now in her 30s, she said that, as a teen, she viewed herself as the problem because her mother was given "chance after chance."
"I didn't trust that people were going to help me," she said.
Eventually, in her last two foster homes, her outlook changed when one woman taught her "self love," she said, and she was eventually adopted, learning that not everything was temporary.
"I had the mind-set that the world isn't safe and relationships aren't permanent, and I was the only one who could keep myself safe."
She stressed the need for good-quality foster families and for children to learn independent living skills.
Contact Taylor Dungjen at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6054 or on Twitter @tdungjen_Blade.