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Sunday, August 20, 2017

2017 Bare Necessities Cooking Classes



Great job, Jermaine Ferguson and The Ferguson Foundation:

  • Yesterday's Bare Necessities workshop effectively engaged foster youth 
  • They left with a better skillset regarding cooking, and additional insights into themselves

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Remembering Brittany Sergent


Brittany Lynn Sergent, 19 entered into eternal rest on Monday, July 24, 2017 in Ashtabula, OH. Her life ended much too soon and her death is grieved by all who knew her. Brittany was the biological daughter of Debra Zalimeni of Ashtabula and David (William) Sergent of St. Clairsville, and the beloved foster daughter of Rob and Angela Hytree of Painesville.

While the extent of her biological family is unknown in full, she is survived by several siblings, half-siblings, and aunts. Her foster siblings, grand-parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins were also her "family". Her dear friends were her "family".

To Brittany, blood didn't make you family, love did. And there is no shortage of people who loved her.

Brittany attended Painesville Twp. And Painesville City schools, as well as earning her HS diploma through homeschool and online efforts. She was a true Red Raider at heart.

Britt love to sing. She was in choir at school and sang on the youth group worship teams at both Freedom Assembly of God and Painesville Assembly of God. She was an avid lover of contemporary Christian music. Some of her favorite artists include: Skillet, Lecrae, and Crowder and concerts were her favorite events. Britt was unashamed of her faith in Jesus Christ as her savior.

In addition to her love of Jesus and music, Brittany wrote poetry. She submitted a poem to a regional fine arts competition and scored so highly with the judges that she was invited back to compete at the national level.

Brittany's pain and struggles in this life were deep and they were real. If anyone reading this is dealing with similar struggles, please don't be ashamed. Seek help. Britt wanted to help everyone and she loved everyone. She would urge you to find someone you can trust and reach out to them in your time of need. Don't say you're "fine" when you aren't. Know that you're loved and you're worth it. Don't give up hope. You don't have to be alone.

Celebration of Life Service - Sunday, August 6th at Calvary Fellowship Baptist Church, 727 Mentor Avenue, Painesville, OH 44077. Family will receive friends at 2pm and the service will begin at 3pm.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Senators introduce their version of the Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities Act


WASHINGTON (KCRG-TV9) -- Sen. Chuck Grassley and Sen. Debbie Stabenow, co-chairs of the Senate Caucus on Foster Youth, and Sen. Al Franken, Sen. Tim Kaine, Sen. Angus King and Sen. Tim Scott, have introduced bipartisan legislation to help youth aging out of foster care with housing needs.

“One of the biggest challenges facing older foster youth is aging out of care and being without a place to live,” Grassley said. “This bill would make it easier for such youth to get federal housing assistance so they can continue their education, get a job and have a good start into adulthood.”


“Homelessness and poverty are a real danger for teenagers when they age out of foster care,” Stabenow said. “We need to do everything we can to help them transition to stable and successful adult lives, and this bill helps with that process.”

“Every year, I am given the opportunity to welcome young leaders from the Foster Youth Internship Program into my office. It is amazing to see them push forward towards their goals, in spite of many challenges," Scott said. "That is why it is important for us to lift them up when necessary, and this bipartisan bill will help our foster youth who are aging out of care prosper and continue working to achieve the American Dream.”

The Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities Act would grant priority preference for federal housing assistance to foster youth who are aging out of care and allow youth in foster care to apply for housing assistance at the age of 16, prior to aging out, which in many states occurs the day foster youth turn 18. 

Foster youth face an especially difficult transition period from childhood to adulthood, and as many as 37 percent become homeless soon after aging out of care. Even more face housing instability such as frequent housing changes and “couch surfing.” They are particularly susceptible to human trafficking and other dangerous outcomes as a result.

Helping these young people access federal housing assistance will provide a safety net and allow them the opportunity to get on their feet and become self-sufficient adults. 

The bill is the Senate version of a measure in the House of Representatives by Rep. Mike Turner.

Grassley co-founded the Senate Caucus on Foster with the goal of hearing directly from foster youth about the challenges they face. A focus has been on helping youth transition from care to adulthood. The transition is difficult, with some youth facing lack of employment or educational opportunities, substance abuse and homelessness.

Friday, July 21, 2017

DC Opportunities for Foster Care Youth and Alumni



1.) CCAI Foster Youth Internship Program

Throughout the summer, the FYI Program interns spend time researching about policy issues affecting foster children across the country. These experiences allow the interns to create a policy report that is presented at a congressional briefing and released to child welfare advocates across the country.



2.) Congressional Foster Shadow Day

Every year, the Congressional Caucus On Foster Youth hosts over 100 current and former foster youth from across the nation as part of their Annual Foster Youth Shadow Day. The young people are paired with a federal representative. They participate in legislative meetings, and have the opportunity to share their personal experiences to make a difference for others.



3.) National Foster Care Youth and Alumni Policy Council

This is a two year commitment that includes regular phone calls, meetings and trips Washington, DC. Flights, hotel and food costs are covered.

Three Upcoming Video Projects

Three Upcoming Video Projects:

1.) The OHIO Youth Advisory Board invites foster parents of teens and foster youth who have had a very positive experience in foster care to fill out our Video Application to create a future video to recruit foster parents for teens and host homes for young adults.

2.) The OHIO Youth Advisory Board invites foster care youth and alumni who want to share their insights about things they wish someone had told them to prepare for life after foster care as part of our upcoming Foster the Future video series.

3.) The Bridges team is partnering with the Ohio Supreme Court to work on a video series as well. Below is a hint of what they have in mind. Learn more by contacting them at Bridges@jfs.ohio.gov



2017 July OHIO YAB Meeting



During the 2017 July OHIO Youth Advisory Board meeting, Officers shared:

  1. The latest draft of independent living resources, authored by Michael Outrich - youth feedback and input is welcome
  2. The VISION shirts that will be given to youth who attend our "Take Your Future From Vision to Reality" workshop during the 2017 Fostering Pathways Conference
  3. The Passion Planners that will be given to youth who participate in our "Time Management: Turn Your Passion Into Plans," also during the Pathways conference on Oct. 12, 2017

    Link to more photos

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

ACTION Ohio is still seeking Suits storage space


Suits for Success provides professional attire to current and former foster youth who are preparing to enter the workforce. This program was created in 2011 by Ohio foster care alumni and the Ohio State Bar Foundation.

ACTION Ohio (Alumni of Care Together Improving Outcomes Now) takes the lead on facilitation, with regional suits drives and behind-the-scenes assistance organized by the Ohio State Bar Foundation.

The success of this ongoing initiative reflects the support of many organizational partners, including OACCA, the United Methodist Children’s Home, and the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

Link to photos.

We are currently seeking a future storage location for donated suits. Our current storage facility will only be available for the next 2-3 months.

Any donated space would be tax-deductible, as per our fiscal agent, OACCA:

Ohio Association of Child Caring Agencies
ATTN: Suits for Success
 2600 Corporate Exchange Drive, Suite 180
 Columbus OH 43231 (614) 461-0014

OACCA's Federal Tax ID #: 34-1168205

Questions can be directed to:
Lisa Dickson Communications Chair
ACTION Ohio
Alumni of Care Together Improving Outcomes Now
lisa@fosteractionohio.org
www.fosteractionohio.org

This Week News: Lights, Camera... ACTION!

Day by Day: ‘Aging out’ of foster care can bring difficulty
By Liz Thompson, This Week News, July 3, 2017.

Her mother died of cancer when she was 10. Her father was physically abusive and she was removed from the home. In foster care, she lived in an emergency shelter, an all-girls group home and a co-ed group home.

Lisa Dickson was inspired by these experiences to become an advocate for change. At 16, she was accepted into college -- her lifeline into the future.

“I remain forever grateful to Randy Mills, former admissions counselor at the University of Kentucky, for literally walking me down the hall to financial aid and telling them, ‘This girl has no family to help her -- this girl needs grants,’ ” said Dickson, now a Westerville resident.

“It sounds great to say that I started college at age 16 -- but by age 17, I was homeless due to trying to rescue my former roommate from a group home. This urge to rescue others is so strong that we Ohio foster-care (alumni) currently lead a workshop called ‘When Helping You Is Hurting Me,’ ” Dickson said.

During her time in foster care, Dickson said she often had no voice. Today, she listens to the voices of current and former foster youth. They stand side by side to improve outcomes for people in and from foster care.

Dickson considers it an honor to volunteer as communications chairwoman of Alumni of Care Together Improving Outcomes Now Ohio, and as co-facilitator of the Overcoming Hurdles in Ohio Youth Advisory Board. She helped create both groups in 2006. Their initiatives include annual trips to Washington, D.C., to share their hard-won experiences and advocate for policy change, such as ending the “pipeline” from foster care to homelessness.

“What I don’t get is this: I aged out of foster care in 1989 and ended up homeless,” Dickson said. “Why are today’s youths still aging out into homelessness? We could and should and must do better.”

U.S. Rep. Michael Turner (R-Dayton) created the Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities Act as a direct result of one of those visits to Washington.

This act, with no additional spending required, allows foster-care youth who are close to “aging out” of foster care to jump to the front of the waitlist for housing assistance when they reach 16 years old.

ACTION Ohio’s Suits for Success program provides professional attire to current and former foster youths who are preparing to enter the workforce. Suits for Success needs a future storage location for donated suits. The organization welcomes suit donations on an ongoing basis. It often pairs distribution of the suits with job-interview simulations and resume practice.

“Time and time again, our young people tell us that it’s not enough to know what the resources are -- they need coaching and guidance regarding how to access them effectively.”

Two such places are Capital Law School’s free Family and Youth Advocacy Center for current or former foster youths and Columbus State Community College’s Scholar Network.

“Even after graduating college, as a foster-care survivor, it can feel lonely to be ‘one of the ones who made it,’ ” Dickson said. “Our young people today deserve to have campus liaisons like Randy to support them.”

Holidays and birthdays can be lonely for current and former foster youths, when many families gather to celebrate.

“I’ve been married for 17 years and have two beloved stepdaughters, but I don’t expect them to understand what the foster-care experience was like for me,” Dickson said.

On Thanksgiving 2007, Dickson and other former foster youths from across the nation traveled to Washington to encourage the federal government to extend foster-care support to age 21. They shared Thanksgiving dinner on the steps of the U.S. Capitol.

From 2008 onward, Ohio has held statewide and regional early Thanksgiving dinners for foster-care teens and alumni. Dickson serves as lead planner.

“When we come together as brothers and sisters of the foster-care system, we can encourage and support one another. We celebrate each other’s success and continue to improve outcomes for the next generation.”

Much needs to be done, as an average of 150 children in Franklin County alone age out of foster care every year.

For more information, email info@fosteractionohio.org

Thursday, June 22, 2017

2017 CFSR


Kudos to our Ohio youth representatives for doing an amazing job on Tuesday, as part of the Federal Review of ODJFS.

Link to more photos.

Insights they shared included the following: 

  1. Appreciation for the Bridges program and YAB funding
  2. Ongoing challenges related to the fact that Ohio child welfare does the same thing 88 different ways, depending on county
  3. Expressing the need for Normalcy: Ohio's training went out to foster parents first, but many public and private child welfare agencies still haven't changed their policies
  4. Sharing the challenge of being in the custody of one county but placed in another: Ohio needs a bigger pool of foster parents for teens and host homes for young adults
  5. Reminding us of the need to make sure youth are still receiving copies of the OHIO YAB Youth Rights Handbook on an ongoing basis
  6. Sharing the need for more consistent Life Skills preparation: not just sharing a class one time; letting youth practice new skills more than once
  7. Reminding the Feds that Permanency needs to be permanent, rather than  adoptions that break down or are unsafe -- if only everyone did adoptions the Dave Thomas way
  8. Reminder again of the need for safe placements: our young people deserve to be safe in bio, adoptive, foster, kin, group homes, residential -- and it needs to be suited to their needs and development
  9. Asking youth why they ran away - and not just returning them to that same placement
  10. Youth also talked about higher education supports, like the CSCC Scholar Program

2017 OFCA Conference


Ashley Marie Williams and Katana Waters did a wonderful job representing the voices of current and former foster youth during the 2017 Ohio Family Care Association (OFCA) Conference.

Link to additional photos.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

2017 Bare Necessities



Jermaine and Anita Ferguson of the Ferguson Foundation facilitate the Bare Necessities: 'An In-Kitchen Experience' program.

Through this program, once a month, foster care youth ages 14+ will receive hands-on cooking instructions, combined with additional life skills information, to prepare them for their future.

Many thanks to Clint Scott and PrimaryOne Health on Parsons Avenue for supporting the Columbus pilot, by sharing their insights, resources and access to their on-site kitchen.

Link to additional photos.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

2017 CSCC Scholars in DC



Proud of CSCC Scholars for representing Ohio foster youth in DC. 

The Columbus State Scholar Network (CSSN)
is available to current or former foster youth who are admitted and enrolled at Columbus State Community College. This program provides current and former foster youth with a network of support during their college journey, including a five-day conference, ongoing mentoring, monthly Lunch & Learn Workshops, peer-to-peer support and other campus resources.   

2017 Congressional Foster Youth Shadow Program



Proud of Jermaine Ferguson and Heather Hill for representing Ohio!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Helping CSCC Scholars Prepare for Their Upcoming Trip to DC


Michael Outrich and Lisa Dickson of ACTION Ohio were honored to help prepare Columbus State Scholars for their upcoming trip to DC.

The Columbus State Scholar Network provides current and former foster youth with a network of support during their college journey, including:
  • A five-day conference
  • Ongoing mentoring
  • Monthly Lunch and Learn Workshops
  • Peer-to-peer support
  • Other campus resources
Students who actively participate as Scholars are eligible to receive scholarships (stipends) and other valuable incentives to help build student success.


Visit this link for more photos.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

2017 OSU College for the Day



ACTION Ohio was honored to partner with our allies to host our fourth OSU College for the Day for Ohio foster care youth.  Youth participants represented Franklin, Athens and Montgomery counties.

Many thanks to:
  • OSU CHEE (Center for Higher Education Enterprise)
  • OSU DICE (Diversity, Intercultural and Community Engagement)
  • Buckeyes for Adoption and Foster Care
  • Franklin County Children Services 
The day included:
  • A Higher Education Scavenger Hunt
  • Youth reporting out and sharing their goals for the future
  • A Residence Hall Tour
  • Youth sharing their talents (art, music and comedy)
  • An engaging and wonderful speaker, Dr. Micky Sharma
  • Hands-on networking 
  • Opportunity to play sports outside

Please visit this link for additional photos.


Thursday, May 4, 2017

2017 Foster Care Awareness Panel at Tri-C



Visit this link for more photos.

Five updates from yesterday's 2017 Foster Care Awareness Panel at Tri-C:
  1.  Excellent local partnerships to support higher education success for foster youth, including bridge between Cuyahoga Community College and Cleveland State University
  2. TAGyc meetings are taking place on a college campus (this is Cuyahoga County's local youth advisory board)
  3. Sullivan-Deckard Scholars Opportunity Program has retained 11 Scholars, who continue to move forward to attain post-secondary success
  4. Current goal to recruit at least 10 new Pratt Center Scholars, with campus supports and scholarships of up to $1K
  5. Two scholarships available to high school seniors (full-four year scholarships, including housing, meal plans and textbooks)

Sunday, April 30, 2017

National Safe Place program - do you know your local Safe Place?



What is a Safe Place?    It's a local place that is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, that youth can go if they are being abused or if they have (or are tempted to) run away. Safe Place is a national program - visit their website at nationalsafeplace.org to identify local help in your area.

Due to Ronnie Dotson and his leadership, he and I and a group of foster youth visited Huckleberry House yesterday. This is where homeless and runaway youth in our area are transported to if they go to a Safe Place in need of help.



It matters that today's young people throughout Ohio know about available resources when they don't feel safe in their own homes - including unsafe foster homes. It made me incredibly happy that two of our youth participants have stayed at Huckleberry House before, and they both had very positive things to say about their experience. I still wish I had got a photo of their kitchen - it was awesome, but it was also being cleaned at the time.

Here are the notes on how they said they would describe Huck House to other youth...

What to expect:

  • "Comfort" 
  • "Safe" 
  • "Fun" 
  • "Caring" 
  •  "Respectful" 
  • "Always have a nice meal" 
  • Xbox 1, PS4 and PS2 
  • School accommodations: COTA bus pass to district 
  • "Nice staff - friendly people" 
  • "Outings - fun weekend activities" 
  • "Somewhere to sleep" 
Additional things that I learned from the tour:

  • The TV room was very cozy, and youth looked very comfortable watching the movie together 
  • I really liked the chalkboard walls that teens could write on 
  • It was very touching that many of them signed their name: "_________ was here." 
  • The music room, with a guitar and piano, was a great creative touch 
It's an impressive legacy that Huckleberry House has been around since 1970. It was interesting to hear the story behind it -- that teens would run away and hide at college campuses, because they could blend in with other youth. Kudos to Huck House for their dedication to surveying teens in order to include their voice on things like allowing cell phones.  (Yes, cell phones are definitely allowed).

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Dedicating the Misty Stenslie Dedication Award to ACTION Ohio


ACTION Ohio  (Alumni of Care Together Improving Outcomes Now)
https://fosteractionohio.org/

Link to brochure about our work: https://fosteractionohio.files.wordpress.com/2015/07/2016-action-brochure.pdf


Foster care youth and alumni deserve a voice. In 2006, Ohio foster care youth and alumni begin working together to improve outcomes for current and former foster youth. Lisa Dickson and Doris Edelmann helped found both groups, and continue to serve as co-chairs of the alumni group and alumni supporters of the youth group, ever since both groups were established. The statewide alumni group has been serving as parent organization for the Overcoming Hurdles in Ohio Youth Advisory Board (OHIO YAB) since 2009. This came about after youth and alumni stood together to advocate to restore TANF independent living allocation. 

"As someone who often felt like I didn't have a voice during my time in foster care, it means a great deal to me that today's young people are seen and heard. They have excellent insights to share  -- and their voices matter."  (quote from Lisa)

Foster care youth and alumni deserve a seat at the tableIn 2007, former foster youth came Home for the Holidays to Washington D.C., to remind the federal government, about the need to foster connections to success by extending foster care supports to age 21. On Thanksgiving Day 2007, foster care alumni celebrated Thanksgiving Dinner on the steps of the United States Capitol. Lisa was one of two Ohio alumni representatives who participated. From 2008 onward, Ohio has held statewide and regional early Thanksgiving dinners for foster care teens and alumni Lisa and Doris head up planning for the dinners.

"As a foster care survivor, it can feel lonely to be 'one of the ones who made it.'  When we come together as brothers and sisters of the foster care system, we can encourage and support one another. We can celebrate each other's success, and continue to work together to improve outcomes for the next generation."  (quote from Lisa)

Foster care youth and alumni deserve educational supports. Ohio foster care youth and alumni reported barriers and obstacles to OACCA for foster care youth in attaining higher education. This led to the establishment of Ohio Reach in 2009, as a statewide effort to increase the number of foster youth who enroll in and graduate from higher education. Lisa served on the Ohio Reach Board for five years, heading up communications and event planning (annual conferences). Her current efforts focus on helping plan and facilitate College for the Day visits for foster care teens on OSU campus, twice a year.

"At age 16, I was accepted into college, and this proved to be my lifeline into the future. I remain forever grateful to Randy Mills, former Admissions Counselor at the University of Kentucky, for literally walking me down the hall to Financial Aid and telling them: 'This girl has no family to help her - this girl needs grants.'  Our young people today deserve to have campus liaisons like Randy to support them." (quote from Lisa)

Foster care youth and alumni deserve employment supports. Suits for Success provides professional attire to current and former foster youth who are preparing to enter the workforce. This program was created in 2011 by the Ohio State Bar Foundation and Ohio foster care alumni. Lisa served as lead facilitator of the 2011 Career and Entrepreneurship Conference,  2012 and 2013 Connecting the Dots Conferences and the 2014 Fostering Pathways to Success Conference. Each of these events included Suits for Success, a Resume Clinic engaging speakers and hands-on workshops. The Ohio foster care alumni group (ACTION Ohio) continues to assist with annual statewide conferences for youth. In 2015, Lisa and Doris Edelmann were each awarded the Founder's Award for their work on annual foster youth conferences. 

“Time and time again, our young people tell us that it's not enough to know *what* the resources are -- they need coaching and guidance regarding *how* to access them effectively.”  (quote from Lisa)

Foster care youth and alumni deserve better than to "age out" into homelessness. Three Days on the Hill is an annual trip designed to provide foster care youth and alumni with opportunities to further their leadership development. This trip was established in 2013, and is facilitated by Lisa and Doris of Ohio's statewide foster care alumni group (ACTION Ohio). After participating in DC-based training and preparation, participants share their expertise and insights with federal legislators to educate for positive change. 
Representative Michael Turner created the “Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities Act” as a direct result of meeting with Ohio foster care youth during their annual Three Days on the Hill trips to Washington, D.C. The Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities Act offers a creative solution to help, with no additional spending required, by a) allowing foster care youth who are at risk of “aging out” of foster care to apply for housing assistance when they reach 16 years old, and b) allowing them to jump to the front of the waitlist when they are about to “age out” of foster care.

"It sounds great to say that I started college at age 16.  But, by age 17, I was homeless due to trying to rescue my former roommate from a group home. This urge to try to rescue others is so strong that we Ohio foster care alums currently lead a workshop called: When Helping You Is Hurting Me...

"But what I don't get is this -- I aged out of foster care in 1989 and ended up homeless. Why are today's youth still aging out into homelessness?  We could and should and must do better. It's time to end the #FosterCaretoHomelessnessPipeline  We need to improve these outcomes NOW."  (quote from Lisa)

Misty Stenslie Dedication Award- Lisa Dickson

There is only one Misty Stenslie, now and always.
She is forevermore written in permanent ink on our hearts.
From Foster Focus Magazine's First Annual Foster Focus Awards:

The inspiration..... 
What can I write about the great Misty Stenslie that I haven’t already written? If you aren’t familiar with Misty, allow me to give you a brief overview. Misty is a pioneer in the world of former foster kids. Through her efforts, tireless advocacy and partnerships with organizations and other former foster youth, Foster Care Alumni of America was born. She passed on in 2016 but her legacy will live on through her work and this award. The winner has shown unrelenting dedication to their advocacy, the same way Misty did during her time. 
And the winner is.... The smile that Lisa Dickson possesses has many purposes. First, it’s involuntary, she can’t help but project enthusiasm and genuine affection. Secondly, that smile can ease a young person’s fears as they journey through foster care and adulthood. The Ohio native is a staple at any event that furthers the success of the Buckeye state’s foster youth. Among the many programs she has spearheaded or been a part of; a yearly trip for Ohio foster youth to Washington D.C. to advocate on their own behalf, an annual Thanksgiving dinner in different parts of the state and a summit for foster youth where they receive dress clothes they can wear to job interviews.
And here’s why…. Besides her tireless advocacy, Lisa prefers the background, the nuts and bolts of it all. How shy is Lisa to the glare of the spotlight? When I asked her if there was anything she’d like me to mention about her, she responded with three emails, typical of Lisa, with information about the programs she’s involved with and their importance to Ohio...

Sunday, February 12, 2017

2017 Junior League SPAC meeting and Representative Pelanda


Many thanks to the Junior League of Ohio's State Public Affairs Committee (SPAC) for inviting ACTION Ohio (Alumni of Care Together Improving Outcomes Now) to their recent meeting.

It was an honor to spend time with SPAC and with Representative Dorothy Pelanda, who tirelessly champions normalcy and continued supports until age 21 for Ohio foster youth.

When it comes to making sure that effort to extend foster care supports to age 21 moves forward and is funded as needed, Representative Pelanda said that the most helpful thing we each can do is to submit handwritten notes to Governor Kasich, thanking him for his support of HB 50.

Governor John Kasich
Riffe Center, 30th Floor
77 South High Street
Columbus, OH 43215-6117

If you want to go the extra mile, the next step is to write a similar note to your district's legislators. Who's my legislator?  Here's how to find out.

Link to additional photos.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Proud of Alex McFarland




I have known Alex McFarland since he was 17 years old through our mutual volunteer work on behalf of current and former foster youth. Alex entered foster care at 13 years old, and emerged as President of the statewide foster care youth advocacy board, and is currently pursuing his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at Colorado State University. He has always and will always be a role model.

Alex is known throughout the state of Ohio for his vision and determination. He arranged for Ohio foster care youth, alumni and allies to visit 24 legislator’s offices on April 28, 2009, in order to promote Ready to Launch, a reminder to Ohio legislators of a front-end investment in foster care youth in order to support them in their efforts to build successful lives in young adulthood. His testimony before Ohio legislators led to the ultimate restoration of the statewide Independent Living funding allocation.

Alex was chosen by Ohio's First Lady to represent the needs of Ohio's foster care youth on Governor Strickland's 2010 Steering Committee on Transitioning Youth/Young Adults. The committee was convened by Governor Strickland to recommend alignment and consolidation of policies, efforts, and resources and to identify major gaps for this particularly vulnerable and often overlooked population: vulnerable youth and young adults, ages 14-25. Fellow members of this group were inspired by his insights. When Superintendent Deborah Delisle provided a keynote address for the Special Education Leadership Conference, hosted by the Office for Exceptional Children, she specifically referred to Alex in her closing; "Alex’s story was truly an inspiration to our crowd of more than 1,700. We are grateful for the work that he continues to do on behalf of Ohio’s youth. Without Alex McFarland, we might forget the meaning behind our efforts."

Alex was an integral part of establishing and building Ohio Reach, a statewide initiative to increase the enrollment and retention of foster youth in higher education. Alex was one of the founding members of Ohio Reach, presented at several statewide conferences, and served on the board. In 2011, he met with Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and was able to successfully advocate for funding for a full-time position to support the Ohio Reach effort, in order to build up a network of campus liaisons throughout the state to help foster youth succeed.

Alexander McFarland served as an officer on the Overcoming Hurdles in Ohio Youth Advisory Board (OHIO YAB) for three years. When the OHIO YAB lost its funding and supportive staff, Alex immediately began advocating for alternative funds, and succeeded in attaining a grant that continues to support the continued existence of not only the statewide board, but county and regional foster youth advisory boards as well. He has traveled throughout the state of Ohio to help create and develop county and regional Youth Advisory Boards. These youth boards serve as a way to build youth leadership skills and inform them about their rights and resources.

Alex was chosen as one of two former foster youth throughout the entire state to work on a grant project for the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. He was an integral part to implementing and measuring the success of this pilot project: Connecting the Dots: From Foster Care to Employment and Independent Living. From the very beginning of this project, Alex was focused on expediency and evaluation. He understood that communication and accountability related to each pilot location was of primary importance.

Alex has been a national voice for foster care teens and young adults as well. He was selected to serve on the inaugural National Foster Youth and Alumni Policy Council, headed up by FosterClub and Foster Care Alumni of America. He was first named one of FosterClub’s Outstanding Young Leaders, and ultimately hired to work as a Policy Coordinator for that organization. In 2012, Alex was chosen to participate in the first ever Congressional Foster Youth Shadow Experience. In 2015, Alex was asked to help coordinate the event. He helped train 65 foster care youth to shadow their representative, visit the White House and interact with high-ranking officials.


Since relocating to Colorado, Alex currently serves on the Advisory Board for Forward Steps:From Foster Care to Independence. The mission of this organization is to empower foster youth to reach their full potential and become independent, active, self-sufficient members of their communities.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Columbus State Scholar Network for Former Foster Youth



ACTION Ohio is grateful to the Columbus State Scholar Network for allowing us to bring a group of Franklin County foster youth for a day on campus on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2017.

The Scholars, as former foster youth themselves, designed and facilitated creative and relevant activities to engage and empower participating youth.

Link to additional photos.

Monday, January 23, 2017

2017 Bare Necessities: In-Kitchen Class Experience


Many thanks to you and to Jermaine Ferguson and the The Ferguson Foundation, and Paul Rockwell of Healthy Meals +, for facilitating Bare Necessities: In-Kitchen Experience for Franklin and Union County foster care youth.

Here's a link to additional photos:
https://photos.google.com/album/AF1QipOs1_7YVAMBBuwOCL4Yvh1fWJnzo4077ZpRsUyQ  

Thursday, January 19, 2017

2017 OHIO YAB Officer's Retreat



ACTION Ohio was honored to facilitate the OHIO YAB Officers Retreat. This event took place on Saturday, January 14, 2017, at the Dave Thomas Foundation.




Saturday, January 7, 2017

Appreciation for the Ferguson Foundation

Many thanks to Jermaine Ferguson and The Ferguson Foundation for this future event possible!