Department of Children and Youth: supports, goals, and leadership 

By: Kyle Thompson and Tara Britton 

Governor Mike DeWine signed the budget for FY (Fiscal Year) 2024-2025 into law on July 5, 2023. The enacted version of this budget funds many different programs and initiatives in Ohio for the next biennium. Community Solutions published several pieces earlier this year covering the final budget for several agencies across health and human services in the state of Ohio, including the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS), Department of Mental Health and Addiction(OMHAS), and Department of Aging (DOA).  

With the passage of the budget, the DeWine administration also created the new Department of Children and Youth (DCY), which is an agency that combines programs from six agencies across the state to reduce repetitive programming and streamline services for youth in Ohio. In August, Governor DeWine appointed Kara Wente to act as director of the new agency, and through her leadership, DCY can begin to form itself into a leading agency that works to “Make Ohio the best place in the nation for families.” With all this information in mind, one question remains: How will the agency accomplish this over the biennium? 

Pillars of the Department of Children and Youth

There are three pillars that support the work of DCY.

  1. Continuum of Care: Providing support for children and youth in need, where and when needed.
  2. Workforce: Attracting and maintaining quality, competent professionals working on behalf of children to match needs across the state.
  3. Service Coordination: Working together to support the wellbeing and future success of all children.

Department of Children and Youth agency goals

The Department of Children and Youth have three goals that structure the operational component of the agency’s operations.

  1. Reduce Infant Mortality: This goal focuses on helping children thrive and reach their first birthday. Ohio has some of the highest infant mortality rates in the country, with 13 counties that qualify as maternity deserts.
  2. Reduce Learning Gaps: Ensuring continuum of care across ages and adequate provision of services to help children and youth achieve.
  3. Reduce Involvement with Child Welfare: This goal focuses on helping provide families with resources and needed support to act proactively before a crisis within a family happens.

Department of Youth and Children leadership

In addition to Director Wente, key positions in the agency were recently named. The leadership team has decades of experience to bring to the agency.

Timeline and Transition Process

After the agency was established in the 2024-2025 budget bill, the process to bring the team together began in earnest. The leadership team is developing a detailed plan to merge existing programs into DCY. Staff across several agencies have already transitioned to DCY, noticeable from their new email addresses. The plan is for the agency to be fully integrated and operational no later than January 25, 2025. 

Next Steps

In follow-up pieces, Community Solutions will explore how the money shifted from other agencies to DCY, or at least begin to parse this. We will also share how our policy priorities align with DCY’s and the opportunities we see for the new agency to address some of the most vexing health and human services issues in Ohio. 



Department of Children and Youth webpage