The Cincinnati Enquirer wants the names of all licensed foster parents in Ohio so that it can check them against criminal and other databases to see whether any offenders slipped through the cracks.
The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services refuses to release the names, saying that revealing foster parents' identities would make it easier for people to commit crimes against them and foster children.
Both sides presented their cases to the Ohio Supreme Court yesterday. While arguing points of law -- including a 2000 Supreme Court decision that declared a database of municipal-park-facility users not to be a public record -- the newspaper and state agency both tried to claim moral high ground.
"This case is about protecting vulnerable children from people and also about protecting the people who have agreed to take those children into their homes," said Henry Appel, the assistant attorney general who represented Job and Family Services. "It is good sense to protect vulnerable children from dangerous people."
The Enquirer's attorney, John Greiner, said that's exactly what the newspaper is trying to do. He said the newspaper wants information about licensed foster homes to review their safety records and the general suitability of foster parents. The newspaper is not seeking the names of the children, he said.