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Friday, June 22, 2012

Crystal Oliver, Foster Care Alumna and Child Welfare Trainer

Crystal Oliver and her daughter pictured above.
This article was originally published in OCWTP's publication, Common Ground.

Crystal Oliver has become a household name within the Ohio Child Welfare Training Program, ever since Rebecca Battles of the NWORTC introduced her to the training system in 2011 as someone we should know. 

Since that time, Crystal has proved to be a dynamic, dependable, and an engaging individual with a promising future. She is a foster care alum who has "hurdled many obstacles" in life, and has worked hard to overcome each one. 

Crystal's perceptions and personal experiences about her life in the child welfare system and preparation for Independent Living are noteworthy. We asked Crystal to tell us about one area of foster care in which she would like to make a difference.

What is one of your specific advocacy areas related to foster care?
"I really want to focus on the aging-out population."

Can you give some examples of why this area needs reform?

"I aged out of the Independent Living Program at Lorain County and found myself in extremely vulnerable situations and unprepared to manage the challenges of life. Many foster care youth as young as 17 and 18 are faced with this same dilemma. Not all counties have adequate resources to provide housing, education, healthcare or material assistance to youth in transition from foster care to Independent Living. Yet, no youth should ever leave the child welfare system without access to basic survival needs. When this happens, homelessness, incarceration and other adversities are often the outcome.

"To avoid these consequences, I strongly believe youth and young adults in transition need knowledge of and access to available resources; financial assistance; and viable permanent connections with human support systems. Legislative reform at all levels of government is also critical. I want to serve as a resource to other youth aging out of foster care."  

How can caseworkers/foster caregivers/adoptive parents better equip foster youth in this area?

"There are four ways I think they can have a postive impact on youth:

1)Thorough training, including workshops that involve the trainers/co-trainers who have experienced foster care firsthand 
2) Advocacy
3) Community forums
4) Direct collaboration with foster youth and alumni for their perceptions about needed changes"

What are some creative ideas regarding how this information might be shared in a workshop setting?

"Invite foster care youth and alumni to participate as guest speakers and panelists, or even convene a panel that includes the youth, foster caregiver, and Independent Living caseworker to share stories from their own perspectives."

~ Crystal Oliver is a recent MSW graduate of the University of Toledo with a 4.0 GPA.  She currently enjoys spending time at home with her soon-to-be  two-year old daughter,  Jaycee Lynn as she prepares to transition from years of academic life into professional employment.

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