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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Dedicating the Misty Stenslie Dedication Award to ACTION Ohio

ACTION Ohio  (Alumni of Care Together Improving Outcomes Now)

Link to brochure about our work:

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)

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