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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

HB 137: Ohio Police as Mandated Reporters

What does it mean to be a mandated reporter?

Mandated reporters are required to make a report of suspected abuse when they have reasonable cause to suspect that a child or teenager is a victim of abuse.

Every state has in our nation has statutes identifying which professionals who have frequent contact with children and teens are required to report suspected maltreatment - but Ohio is the only state that doesn’t include police officers on its list of mandated reporters.

HB 137, as proposed by Representative Bernadette Kennedy would amend Section 2151.42 of the Ohio Revised Code to make municipal and county police officers mandatory reporters of abuse and neglect.

How does it feel to be a child or teen experiencing abuse or neglect?

The Overcoming Hurdles in Ohio Youth Advisory Board (OHIO YAB) is a statewide organization of young people (aged 14-24) who have experienced foster care. Our mission is to be the knowledgeable statewide voice that influences policies and practices that effect all youth who have or will experience out of home care.

Alumni of Care Together Improving Outcomes Now (ACTION Ohio) is dedicated to improving outcomes for current and former foster youth. Our mission is to bring together the voices of foster care youth, alumni and allies, in order to create lasting change and generate hope for current and former foster youth, based on access to resources, ally support and alumni expertise.

Speaking as current and former foster youth, who serve as statewide leaders and community volunteers, we strongly support this bill.  

We can testify from personal experience that physical abuse comes with a feeling of powerless. To experience abuse without intervention gives children and teens a scary message about their personal worth and what to expect from other people.

How would empowering police as mandated reporters help?

From a child welfare and emotional health standpoint, it is essential that police officers in our state become mandated reporters. This will make a life-changing - and even life-saving - difference for children and teens. 

Sadly, throughout the state of Ohio, in every legislative district, there are children and teenagers who - right now at this very moment - are being physically abused.

As the PCSAO Factbook illustrates, the #1 reason for children and teens coming into foster care in Ohio is physical abuse.

Now, let's think about the kids and teens who aren't being counted or included in that number. What about them?  How long will they continue to experience abuse without intervention?

How can we work together to solve this problem?

We care about and deeply appreciate Ohio police officers - and that's why we need them on our team to help push this forward. Our goal is to work together with them to develop a better safety net for vulnerable youth in Ohio.

We value our police, and recognize that some officers are taking the time to report abuse already. This next step forward is about “level setting” – getting everyone on the same page, in order to provide consistency in response to abused teens and children throughout our state.

The National Fraternal Order of Police and law enforcement officials support this bill.  Their support demonstrates that they view the responsibility of reporting abuse and neglect as central to their jobs, and the statistics bear out that this is true.  HB 137 will enhance the relationship between law enforcement and children’s services and further develop the safety net for vulnerable children.

How can we move forward together?

The first step is passing this bill.

The next steps will include trauma-informed training, mentorship and support. This can include a focus on Best Practices; officers who do a good job at reporting abuse can serve as mentors and role models. Training can include reminding police officers to view teenagers not as perpetrators, but as victims of abuse.

Let’s stay in touch, and continue working together

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Need-to-know resources for current/former foster care youth in Ohio

Here in Ohio, we are exploring way to create a future phone app for foster care teens and young adults, to connect them with available resources.

During our July 2017 statewide OHIO YAB meeting, participants, including our statewide Board President, talked about how having a phone app to access information, by category, in the moment of need/crisis, would be beneficial.

In the meantime, these are the resource lists/tools that we have compiled so far:

1.) Statewide Resources for Foster Youth

2.) Statewide Resources Grid   (listed in the order that the specific requirements for the provision of independent living services to youth in custody was listed in Ohio Administrative Code: 5101:2-42-19)

3.) OHIO YAB Foster Youth Rights Handbook (edited by Alexander McFarland)

4.) Independent Living Roadmap and Toolkit (draft created by Michael Outrich)

5.) Franklin County Resources for Foster Youth

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Ohio House Bill 448: Advocating for Sibling Visitation

The current wording of Ohio House Bill 448 defines a sibling as:

  • Someone who "shares at least one biological or adoptive parents, or has been raised in the household as a sibling."

It is important that this definition remains broad, because:

  • When families break down, relationships become complex and complicated.
  • Sibling relationships might include biological siblings who were relinquished or removed at birth, half-siblings, step-siblings or current/former foster siblings.
  • Not all couples are married, so a sibling could include: "Mom's ex-boyfriend's daughter."
It will also be important for the wording to remain firm in order to truly make those sibling connections HAPPEN:

Research demonstrates that the sibling bond is stronger between brothers and sisters from dysfunctional families. In abusive and/or neglectful families, it is common for siblings to nurture and protect one another. When parents are neglectful or abusive, older siblings often voluntarily take on a quasi-parental role.

Quote from a Time Magazine article about "The New Science of Siblings:"
  • “From the time they are born, our brothers and sisters are our collaborators and co-conspirators, our role models and cautionary tales, our protective barrier against family upheaval.
  • "They are our scolds, protectors, goads, tormentors, playmates, counselors, sources of envy, objects of pride. They teach us how to resolve conflicts and how not to; how to conduct friendships and when to walk away from them. Sisters teach brothers about the mysteries of girls; brothers teach sisters about the puzzle of boys.
  • "Our spouses arrive comparatively late in our lives; our parents eventually leave us. Our siblings may be the only people we'll ever know who truly qualify as partners for life.”

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Remembering Charlotte Osterman

Charlotte Ostermann is gone, but she will never be forgotten.

It is because of Charlotte, that an ad hoc committee began meeting in April 2008, in order to empower the voices of foster care alumni as trainers for the Ohio Child Welfare Training Program. Charlotte's sweet and gracious spirit is matched by a stubborn determination.

She never gave up, and it is because of her that several foster care alumni involved in ACTION Ohio are OCWTP trainers today.

The seeds that Charlotte planted are why foster care alumni have been empowered to help write the training curriculum for the Bridges program. She always saw the value of foster care youth and alumni voice.


Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thinking of you on Thanksgiving

ACTION Ohio ~ Alumni of Care Together Improving Outcomes Now

It’s Thanksgiving Day, and what I am most thankful for is having the chance to celebrate
regional early Thanksgiving dinners with my brothers and sisters of the foster care system. We hope you were able to make it, and be a part of our celebrations. We want you to know that you are welcome to stay in touch with us all year.

Leadership Opportunities

We encourage young people ages 14-24 to get involved in their local youth advisory board. There are also statewide opportunities for leadership coming up in 2018. Please consider filling out the
OHIO YAB Officer in Training Application.

Video Opportunities

Three separate times, during three different early Thanksgiving dinners, a young person began crying because they said they had finally found a foster parent who believed in them. Ohio needs foster parents for teens, and host homes for young adults. Please look over, and promote the
OHIO YAB Video Project Application.

DC Advocacy in 2018

We are currently working behind the scenes to finalize the date for our sixth annual Three Days on the Hill. Ohio youth voices over the past five years have led to Representative Michael Turner proposing the Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities Act. It’s time to end the Foster Care to Homelessness Pipeline.

Statewide Resources

We want our statewide family of those in and from foster care, and our allies, to know that you matter. We want you to know about every resource available to support your success.

Higher Ed?    We hope you know about filling out the FAFSA as an independent student, applying for
ETV funds, and reaching out to Ohio Reach regarding campus supports.

Legal Help?  
FYAC is a fantastic (and free) resource. They can help track down your foster care records, assist in landlord-tenant disputes, and so much more.

Healthcare?  We hope you know that former foster youth are eligible for
free Medicaid until age 26. You can call their hotline at 1-800-324-8683.

Lisa Dickson
Communications Chair
Alumni of Care Together Improving Outcomes Now

2017 Central Thanksgiving dinner

Link to additional photos.

The 2017 Central Ohio Thanksgiving Dinner took place in Columbus: 
  • Date: Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017 
  • Time: 1:00 - 4:00 pm 
  • Location: eStem Academy, 8579 Summit Road, Reynoldsburg OH 43068
    *Part of Reynoldsburg High School's Summit Campus 
Event Sponsors:
  • Stonybrook United Methodist Church 
  • E-merge Real Estate 
  • Reynoldsburg City Schools, including the Leo Club 
  • National Council of Jewish Women, Columbus Section 
  • Junior League of Central Ohio 
  • Kay's Catering
  • Starfish Alliance 
  • United Methodist Children's Home 
  • Half Price Books 
  • Dave Thomas Foundation 
  • My Very Own Blanket 
  • Alina Walker, CASA
Planning Committee: 
  • Lisa Dickson, Jamole Callahan, and Doris Edelmann, Deanna Jones, Ruth-Ann Jones Thompson, ACTION Ohio
  • Ann Bischoff, Star House