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.