OACCA Board members,
The Ohio chapter of Foster Care Alumni of America is a membership organization of Ohio former foster youth and our allies in the child welfare system. We are writing to praise Mark Mecum, OACCA’s Associate Director for Government Relations, and to recognize his dedication.
The best way to rate an organization is by the model of the people who create and sustain it. By this reckoning, Mark Mecum’s example is a testimony to OACCA's importance as a leader for child advocacy.
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 continually threatened in 2009. For this reason, foster care youth, alumni and child welfare professionals partnered together to advocate for the needs of Ohio’s 1,300 young people who “age out” of foster care each year.
Mark Mecum's leadership in organizing and planning with legislative meetings were instrumental to getting this funding reinstated in the House, Senate and conference committee budget versions of HB 1. At each stage of the biennual budget process, Mark Mecum stepped forward to remind Ohio legislators to make it a budget priority to make sure that Ohio’s foster care youth receive adequate preparation to face the adult world alone.
Mark’s dedicated efforts include, but are not limited to, drafting templates for testimony, keeping advocates informed about opportunities to testify and establishing a Ready to Launch Coalition to advocate for the needs of Ohio’s transitional youth. We admire Mark’s skill in providing timely communication, and appreciate his structure and leadership, in terms of organizing OACCA’s Independent Living Committees.
Mark’s insight and knowledge were helpful during every step of our advocacy; moreover, he taught us how to better advocate for ourselves. Mark has done an excellent job of giving us insight into the intergovernmental workings of the legislature, as well as the peer politics of advocacy. Thanks to Mark, foster care youth and alumni entered budget hearings prepared to present with the highest degree of professionalism. Mark himself demonstrated extreme poise and confidence during testimony hearings.
Although ultimately Governor Strickland chose to veto the earmark, Mark's efforts generated numerous allies within legislature regarding this bipartisan issue. After meeting with Mark Mecum, for example, Representative Sykes announced that he will form a Foster Care-Independent Living Study Committee to develop legislative and funding recommendations.
Mark's hard work is greatly appreciated by the leadership and members of our chapter. OACCA's commitment, values, and vision are clearly represented through Mark's high caliber of leadership. We are deeply grateful for our continued partnership with your organization.
Foster Care Alumni of America Ohio chapter