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Onondaga County executive proposes creation of new foster care group home

Ellen Abbott
Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon presented the Sycamore House proposal in September as part of his 2020 budget.

Onondaga County lawmakers are considering a budget that includes spending on a new group home for foster care kids. County Executive Ryan McMahon is proposing the creation of Sycamore House, run in partnership with the Salvation Army.

Sycamore House is named after the huge sycamore tree that sits in front of the home on South Salina Street. Formerly the Salvation Army’s Women’s Shelter, the county wants to renovate it for a very specific population: hard-to-place foster children. Onondaga County Deputy Executive for Human Services Ann Rooney said they’re now being shipped to other states, because there are not enough local residential programs for them.

[Pictured above: The house on South Salina St. will be converted into a group home for kids in foster care awaiting placement.]

"To be that far detached from your community and then come back, there’s very little supports for a child in that atmosphere.” Rooney said. “So it is never preferable to send them out of state.”

The Sycamore House wouldn’t be an option for long-term stays, Rooney says, but for young people who are waiting for their foster arrangements or other suitable placements.

The program would cost $2 million, but taking into account the cost of sending a child out of state, Rooney said it could ultimately save the county money. There are more than 400 foster care cases in Onondaga County, according to Rooney. Sycamore House could accommodate about 10, but also have other uses.

"And I could also see us use this a form of respite for a foster family that has accepted into their home and into their family a youth with specific challenges,” Rooney said. “A respite for the family may be what makes that a successful arrangement. So it gives us options that we just haven’t had before.”

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.