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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Ohio chapter at FCAA Alumni Leadership Institute

Dayton Foster Youth Fight For More Reforms Han, Carol. News Center 7, Nov. 18, 2008.

WASHINGTON -- When President George W. Bush signed a foster care bill into law last month, foster youth from the Dayton saw it as a personal victory.

Foster Care Alumni of America estimates that there are currently 700 foster children living in our area. Last year, a group of them traveled to Capitol Hill to ask Ohio lawmakers to support the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act.

The sweeping reform bill helps keep siblings together in foster care and provides federal assistance to family members who become legal guardians of relatives' children. It also extends foster care benefits until age 21.

The bill passed with bipartisan support, and on Tuesday, the foster youth were back in Washington to thank lawmakers and to drum up support for more reforms.

Devaughn Staley, 18, wants to see Ohio foster youth be given the green light to get driver's licenses. Ohio is one of many states that do not allow kids in foster care to get a license due to insurance liability reasons. Staley wants to see the state help take up the liability. He told News Center 7 that it has been hard not being able to drive to the mall or to a job.

"We're pushing for Ohio to close that gap between foster kids and normal kids," Staley said. "Close that gap so we can be normal and feel like we belong."

Other students want to see more help extended to foster kids who want to go to college.

Alex McFarland described how credits from his high school in Tennessee weren't accepted by his school in Ohio. As a result, the 18-year-old could not graduate with his class and had to get a G.E.D.

"It was a big letdown for me because I really had that American dream about going to college with a high school diploma, walking across the aisle, going to my senior prom and I didn't have that," McFarland said.

McFarland now attends Sinclair Community College and has plans to transfer to Ohio State University.

Adrian McLemore, an 11-year veteran of Ohio's foster care system, is now a junior at Wright State University studying business and political science.

News Center 7 first met McLemore in May 2007, when he and the first group of Dayton foster youth lobbied Congress for foster care reform.

McLemore says he's happy to be back in D.C., especially so soon after President-elect Barack Obama's election win.

McLemore -- who plans to run for political office someday -- said, "Barack Obama beat me to it, he beat me to the election. But it's a testament to the resolve [about] working hard and working for the American dream. He just made it that much closer of a reality for me."

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