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Friday, March 20, 2009

Testimony from Adrian McLemore

Adrian and Chairwoman Edna Brown during the lunch break after his testimony.

I am a product if you will of the independent living services. I am a former foster youth who has spent a total of 11 years in the foster care system.

I have utilized every available resource in the program in Montgomery County. From text books for school to the budgeting tips I use at Kroger. And I can tell you today, my future fellow colleagues, that independent living services are a vital part and play a determining factor in the success of my fellow brothers and sisters aging out of foster care.

As you know, all TANF earmarks are excluded in the current version of House Bill 1. Independent Living Services are part of the ODJFS Budget. If you move forward with excluding these funds, more and more of my brothers and sisters will continue to fall behind in; an already uphill battle to become productive responsible citizens in our great state. You will see an increase in homeless youth on our streets; you will see a decrease of enrollment in colleges and universities. My future fellow colleagues; is this what we want for our young people?

While I understand the Governor and Legislature’s intent behind the elimination of all TANF earmarks, I urge you to re-examine this initiative. Restoring its funding would show your continued commitment from to the foster youth in Ohio, who looks to you as our legal guardians, in essence our parents.

Momma Brown, Daddy Burke, Auntie Sears, Sister Boyd and Cousin Driehaus, I hope you are proud of your son who stands before you today (thanks to TANF funds) in his senior year at Wright State, hoping one day to be Mayor of Dayton, Governor of Ohio, and President of the United States.

This is one dream from one foster youth and I hope you will not let down the dreams of my 1,300 fellow brothers and sisters aging out every year.

Please don't cut Ohio's TANF Independent Living Allocation

Witnesses Tell Personal Stories of What State Assistance Means to Them
Hannah Report, March 19, 2009

Thursday’s Human Services Subcommittee hearing had a whole different tone as legislators got to hear from a number of beneficiaries of state human services programs – many of whom thanked them for supporting a variety of state programs.

An upbeat group of witnesses were members of the Ohio Chapter of Foster Care Alumni of America.

While they were lobbying for the restoration of $2.5 million/year in Independent Living funds to help foster youth who age out of the system, they themselves were perhaps the best selling point, with Rep. Denise Driehaus (D-Cincinnati) commenting that they were a “thoroughly impressive group.”

Making a notable impression was Adrian McLemore, who addressed the subcommittee as “future colleagues” and who said he hopes one day to be mayor of Dayton, governor of Ohio and president of the U.S.

He also addressed the panel as “Momma Brown, Daddy Burke, Auntie Sears, Sister Boyd and Cousin Driehaus, making the point that it is the state that is family for foster youth.

Gabriel Koshinsky expanded on that idea: “Many of you growing up had the privilege of living in a loving home with caring parents and a strong community that supported you. These relationships provided a basis of empowerment and investment that gave you the reinforcement to believe in yourselves.

“Unfortunately, this is not the case for all children and young adults in this state. Over 17,000 children in the state of Ohio do not have a home and many are separated from their own siblings. They are alone in a world that is difficult to navigate.”

Monday, March 16, 2009

Lisa's testimony


My name is Lisa Dickson and I am the co-founder and Communications Chair of the Ohio chapter of Foster Care Alumni of America.

Speaking on behalf of former foster children throughout the state, many of whom, like myself, are tax-paying professionals, Ohio’s proposed biennual budget causes us great concern.

At a time when the needs of foster care youth transitioning to adulthood are being recognized on federal level through the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act, Ohio has chosen to cut the TANF-Independent Living Allocation by 100%. This important allocation provides $2.5 M/year to connect youth aging out of foster care with life skills training and work supports.

Approximately 1,000 Ohio teenagers emancipate from the foster care each year. Because they have no families to rely upon, these young people are at greater risk of poverty, homelessness, unwed pregnancy and incarceration.

Foster care youth transitioning to adulthood are not a 'line item.' They are children who rely on the state to be their “parent.” They are teenagers entering into adulthood during a recession. Ohio taxpayers will pay for their needs, whether now or later.

Research by the Children’s Advocacy Institute has shown that early investment leads to foster care youth being three times more likely to enroll in college, 65% less likely to be arrested, and a 33% reduction in unwed pregnancy.

According to Dr. Mark Courtney of the Chapin Hall Center for Children, “Every $1 invested in continued foster care supports and services results in a return of $2.40."

It makes better economic sense to intervene during their late-teens and early-20s, a time when young people have an open mind, high level of energy and are actively engaged in the process of directing their future lives.

Zeroing out the TANF-IL funding will led more foster care youth into situations of chronic homelessness, unwed pregnancy, unemployment and incarceration. Left unchecked, the cycle will continue: 1 in 4 homeless adults is a former foster child.

Sarah's testimony


Chairwoman Brown, Ranking Member Burke, and members of the committee, my name is Sarah Callihan; I am a member with Foster Care Alumni of America Ohio chapter. Thank you for the opportunity to offer interested party testimony on HB 1.

The reason that I am here today is to testify to the importance of restoring the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) earmark for independent living services for foster youth transitioning into adulthood. I am part of the Ready to Launch budget coalition that prioritizes funding for transition-age foster youth.
I am a former foster youth who received these extremely important services. I am graduating in June with my B.A. in criminal justice and minor in political science with a CHANCE at graduate school. If I had not been given the living skills and training to transition who knows where I would end up? I know firsthand just how important these training and living skills are to foster youth.

As you know, all TANF earmarks are excluded in the current version of HB 1. This includes the Independent Living Initiative earmark, which is part of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) budget. As a foster youth, I received services from Montgomery County children’s services.

I was able to take advantage of the independent living courses when I was 16 or 17 years of age. These courses enabled me to know how to balance my budget and be successful as an adult. The life skills that I learned helped me to transition into college life easily and not have to depend on anyone for help with setting up a bank account or applying for loans.

There are so many children and teenagers out there in the foster care system that have lost hope in EVER accomplishing anything in their lives and the chance they may have had to gain the training needed to transition was taken from them. If these services were to stop, so many foster youth that are transitioning would fall through the cracks and not be able to be successful in their adult lives.

While I understand the Governor and Legislature’s intent behind the elimination of all TANF earmarks, I urge you to re-examine the TANF Independent Living Initiative. Restoring its funding would show commitment from you to care for Ohio’s foster youth who are your legal responsibility.
This issue not only effects me in the future when I become a foster parent and child advocate but it effects every single person that my foster parents will touch in their household and who would be included in my giant extended family that is my foster family.

Thank you for your time. I would be happy to answer any questions.