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Saturday, October 13, 2012

Spotlight on FCAA Members: Amanda Dunlap

Below is Amanda Dunlap's recent interview for OCWTP's Common Ground Publication:

Meet Foster Care Alumni Trainer Amanda Dunlap 
   
Amanda is a licensed social worker with a bachelor's degree in Social  Work from The Ohio State University. She was adopted from the foster care system, and has actively advocated locally and nationally for systemic changes for over  five years. She enjoys sharing her experiences from foster care and adoption in training with staff and caregivers to influence change in child welfare practices.

OCWTP asked Amanda to share her ideas for foster care reform: 

What is one of your specific advocacy areas related to foster care?

"Something that I think is important to focus on is lifelong connections.  Youth need positive role models who can be in their life while in care and continue the relationship when they age out."

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

"Many youth today age out of the system without the resources they need to help them succeed. Vital to their success is a connection to someone after care they can trust and can go to for help. This is why it is critical for workers and caregivers to realize the importance of allowing youth the opportunity to make these connections while in care."

What about this issue do you want caseworkers/foster parents/adoptive parents to know?

"I want people to know that it can be hard for youth to age out and feel like they have no one or no support. While they are in your care they can start to build these relationships with the people around them. Naturally occuring opportunities to develop relationships present themselves at places like church or work, so it is important to give youth these experiences.   You never know who can turnout to be a lifelong connection - maybe a coach, employer, member of the church, or older sibling.

I had a supportive adult in my life who helped me out with applying to college. The process was long and scary and I was unsure of what to do. With the help of this person, I was able to get enrolled in college and find local scholarships to help me out financially. I owe so much to this person because without them I am not sure I would be where I am today."

Do you have any creative ideas regarding how this information might be shared in a workshop setting?

"Yes, through an activity.  The trainer could have trainees draw a picture/outline of three people they had a good relationship with during the ages of 14-19. Inside the picture of the bodies, have them list one important memory or lesson they shared with that person. Organize the participants in pairs, then, have them share their responses with one another. Each person then takes scissors and cuts one person out of their partner's picture and says 'unfortunately you were not given the opportunity to make a lifelong connection with that person and therefore did not get to learn that lesson or have that memory.' This is a very dramatic visual and reminder to trainees that these individuals can have a very big impact on a youth's life."

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