Two months after Governor DeWine and the Ohio General Assembly invested a historic $220 million of Ohio’s biennial budget into the children services system, advocates celebrated new resources, best practices and state-county partnerships at the 34th annual conference of the Public Children Services Association of Ohio (PCSAO).
The annual conference included honoring a local woman who experienced firsthand the ups and downs of the foster care system. Jerica Estle-Grooms, a former foster youth, received the Youth Leadership of the Year award from the Public Children Services Association of Ohio for her advocacy work on behalf of foster youth.
In April, Estle-Grooms delivered testimony in front of an Ohio Senate subcommittee on behalf of funding for the public child protection system. Estle-Grooms spoke about life in a family with two parents who ended up dying from drug overdoses and her many placements in foster care and a residential center in Adams County. She went on to share how she met her adoptive parents, Bobbi and her husband Chris Grooms, through their oldest daughter, Lizzy, when they both worked at a local restaurant. They had adopted Lizzy at a young age.
“As difficult as things were and as closed off as I had become during my teen years, the Grooms family never gave up on me,” Estle-Grooms said. “They accepted me as part of their family and helped me, emotionally and financially, throughout my emancipation, through college and continue to help support me emotionally, into adulthood.”
In July 2015, Estle-Grooms legally accepted their name as her own: Jerica Estle-Grooms. “Because of their support, I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in Business from Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia, in December 2018,” she said. In July, she began work at TQL.
Bobbi, a Clermont County adoption worker, and her husband Chris adopted Jerica at 18 years old and Elizabeth “Lizzy,” also 23, at three months old. They also adopted Haven, 4, and have a birth daughter, Caley, 20. Haven has lived with the family since age 2.
“What a ride it has been,” Bobbi Grooms said. “Our goal had been to be foster parents. You never know who will walk through your door and what their needs are. We were foster parents first to those we adopted. It was never my goal to adopt. Never say never.”
The Grooms family has had 16 foster children over the years. Outside of the three they have adopted, the others have reunified with family members. Reunification efforts can last up to two years.