Northland News

NCC asked to back group-home legislation


Northland Community Council representatives were urged at a meeting earlier this month to back legislation that would more strictly regulate group homes.

Blendon Township resident Doug Murphy said he and others formed a citizens group after the Oct. 20 murder of a 28-year-old jogger in Ridgewood Park.

A 16-year-old boy who had wandered away from a group home in the neighborhood faces a delinquency count of murder for allegedly stabbing Jane Juergens 26 times.

Murphy said he and others in the group are willing and eager to give presentations to NCC member organizations in seeking to get support for legislation proposed by state Rep. Anne Gonzales (R-Westerville) that calls for a "community engagement process" before group homes would be permitted in a neighborhood.

Under the legislation, group homes and residential centers would have to provide addresses, facility-type information and procedures for emergencies and disasters to local law-enforcement, fire and emergency agencies.

The community engagement plans would be regulated by the state and would spell out the process for neighbors to directly communicate concerns.

The legislation also calls for a 10-county pilot program to standardize the assessments used to determine the needs of children entering the foster system so they aren't placed in group homes or residential centers that aren't equipped to handle their problems.

Gonzales said the assessment pilot program would be judged according to placement stability, length of stay and outcomes for children as well as costs, worker satisfaction and other criteria.

The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services would be asked to tap into all possible federal funding sources to support the test program and its evaluation.

Dave Paul, chairman of the NCC's development committee, said his Forest Park neighborhood had 24 group homes at one time, but not all were for troubled youths and the majority posed no problems for residents.

In contrast, Murphy said, some group homes are practically nothing but trouble. One in Blendon Township was the scene of 75 police calls in 2013, he said.

Another in Whitehall averaged more than one call a day in the same period, according to Murphy

"It's a petri dish for kids who are in this situation," he added. "I refer to it as a human puppy mill. It's just horrible.

"Right now in your communities, you have zero input if a group home is a go or no-go," Murphy said.

Boarding houses are more strictly regulated than group homes, NCC President Emmanuel V. Remy said, adding that such places are considered single-family residences but are actually businesses.

"It's been very depressing going through this process," Murphy said.

Columbus Dispatch reporter Rita Price contributed to this story.