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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Letter to Representative Sykes and HB I Conference Committee Members

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Representative Vernon Sykes
77 South High Street
Columbus, Ohio

Dear Representative Sykes and HB 1 Conference Committee Members,

We are writing on behalf of current and former foster youth in the state of Ohio to ask you to make it a budget priority to make sure that Ohio’s 1,300 young people who “age out” of foster care each year receive adequate preparation to face the adult world alone.

Historically, the Independent Living Initiative has provided life skills training and work support services to prepare for foster youth for adulthood. However, the future of this funding has been threatened at several points during the biennual budget process.

Seven former foster youth, Adrian McLemore, Lamar Hammons, Sarah Callihan, Tim Hill, Lisa Dickson, Grace Hilliard and Gabriel Koshinsky, testified before the Human Services Subcommittee on March 19, 2009.

The March 19th Hannah Report referred to our testimony: “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.”
Our May 30th testimony before the Ohio Senate was also published in the Hannah Report:

Dickson, a former foster child and youth advocate, said that foster children are not a line item and rely on the state to act as a parent. Without proper intervention, Dickson said, those children are at higher risk for poverty, unemployment and incarceration. "Ohio taxpayers will pay for their needs one way or another," she said.

McFarland shared his experience as a child who spent five years in foster care. "Without these services, I would not have been the person that I am today."

We are deeply grateful to the House and Senate for maintaining an earmark that would continue funding for these services a reduced level of $3 million over the FY 2010-2011 biennium.

However, unlike the House version of HB 1, the Senate version does not provide the extra $3 million in the General Revenue Fund to fund the program. Please consider setting aside $3 million over the biennium to GRF 600523 for the Independent Living Initiative.

The Hopes and Dreams of Ohio’s foster care alumni are displayed in a visual display of hands which we have delivered to Representative Sykes’ office, and asked him to share with the conference committee.

We are sharing our dreams:
I am reaching… “To be the best mother that I can be, while pursuing my college degree.”

But I might need a hand to get me started! Independent Living funds helped Vanessa Jackson learn how to cook and budget.

We offer up our hopes:

Hoping you, like me, invest in their future: As a former foster child, Denee Foster knows the importance of Independent Living preparation.

Not a handout, but a hand-up… Denee volunteers her time at Children’s Hospital and teaches life skills to foster care youth at Village Network.

And we offer you our passion, dedication and energy. Regardless of the outcome of this budget, we believe that the way that independent living services are funded for Ohio foster care youth needs to be examined.

If a Foster Care-Independent Living Study Committee is established to develop legislative and funding recommendations regarding Independent Living services for foster youth, our members will actively participate.


Lisa Dickson
Communications Chair

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