Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

2018 Central Ohio Thanksgiving Dinner



Central Ohio Thanksgiving in Columbus:
Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018, from 1:00 – 4:00 pm
eStem Academy, 8579 Summit Road, Reynoldsburg OH 43068
*Lots of free parking on-site. Look for the balloons to find the right entrance.
Event Flyer

Sponsors included: Reynoldsburg City Schools, including the Leo Club, National Council of Jewish Women: Columbus Section, Congregation Beth Tikvah Sisterhood, Junior League of Columbus, Kay’s Catering, Half Price Books, Dave Thomas Foundation, My Very Own Blanket, Cece Norwood, Kristin Gilbert and Dora Sterling.

Link to more photos.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

2018 SW Thanksgiving Dinner



SW Ohio Thanksgiving in Cincinnati:Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018, from 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm
Junior League of Cincinnati’s Columbia Center
3500 Columbia Pkwy, Cincinnati, OH 45226
*There is a parking lot and street parking
Event Flyer

Sponsors included: Junior League of Cincinnati, The Peoples Church, Opportunities Knocking TLP, Easley Blessed Photography, My Very Own Blanket, University of Cincinnati's HEMI initiative, Montgomery County JFS, Kroger, and Safe Pastures Transitional Living.

Link to more photos.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

2018 SE Thanksgiving Dinner



SE Ohio Thanksgiving in Athens:
Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018, from 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Ohio University, Grover Center
*There are parking meters and a large parking lot nearby
Event Flyer 

Sponsors included: Kiser’s BBQ, Ohio University, Athens County CASA, Athens County Foster Parent Association, Athens County Children Services, Fairfield County Children Services, and My Very Own Blanket.

Link to more photos.

2018 NE Thanksgiving Dinner



NE Ohio Thanksgiving in Cleveland:
Saturday Nov. 3, 2018, from 11:00 am – 2:00 pm
Saint Ignatius High School, 1911 West 30th St., Cleveland OH 44113
*Parking was available next to the Breen Center on Lorain Ave.
Event Flyer

Sponsors included: St. Ignatius High School, Cuyahoga County Children and Family Services, Junior League of Greater Cleveland, National Council of Jewish Women, Cleveland Section, Adoption Network Cleveland, Fill This House, Open Table, The Purple Project and My Very Own Blanket.

Link to more photos.

Friday, September 28, 2018

OHIO Youth Advisory Board receives CCAI Angels in Adoption Award



The Overcoming Hurdles in Ohio Youth Advisory Board (OHIO YAB) was honored to be nominated by Senator Rob Portman as his 2018 Angels in Adoption® Honoree.

The Angels in Adoption® Program is the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute’s signature public awareness program to honor the work of adoption and foster care advocates. This program has existed for 20 years. Over 100 Members of Congress participate, making it the year’s single most significant Congressional event pertaining to child welfare in the United States.

During their time in DC, Ohio foster care youth and alumni partnered with Eshawn Ali Peterson from Onward Hope in Arizona, to advocate for the Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities Act.

Link to more photos.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Alumni input on local grant to End Youth Homelessness




ACTION Ohio was honored to participate in two recent planning meetings related to the $6M grant that the Community Shelter Board has received from HUD to help End Youth Homelessness in Columbus OH.

Here is a link to photos related to our participation.

Chapin Hall has conducted a Midwest Study that followed more than 700 young people from Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois as they aged out of foster care and transitioned to adulthood. This longitudinal studies checked in with participants at ages 17 or 18, 19, 21, 24, and 26 about their current status in terms of education, employment, housing, justice system involvement and physical and mental health. 

The Midwest Study has generated valuable information regarding:

Chapin Hall’s Midwest study affirmed that the foster care population has characteristics which demonstrate a very high probability of homelessness. The costs of preventing post‐foster care homelessness through life skills preparation and post exit support, is far less than the cost of subsequent homelessness. 

This is a great read: Ending Homelessness After Foster Care 

That homelessness is a common experience awaiting these youth is particularly troubling because it is avoidable. It is a challenge of solvable proportions. Both child welfare and homeless services systems can do more to prevent foster youth from becoming homeless, and we are glad Franklin County is exploring and pursuing that.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Update on Scholar House 3



Link to more photos.

Ohio foster care youth and alumni have been working with the Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority and Columbus State Community College to propose and design a Scholar House III for former foster youth pursuing higher education.

Former foster youth, including representatives from ACTION Ohio and participants in the Columbus State Scholar Network, worked with the Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority to decide what services would be needed, and to vote on specific elements related to building design.

Our project was chosen as a secondary priority for the 2018 Qualified Allocation Plan’s set aside for Transitioning Aged Youth – and is being funded by CMHA as a strategic opportunity.

To learn more, please view this recent design presentation by Moody Nolan - with only one caveat: There will be 30 total apartments, not just 20.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Scheduling a Visit With Your District Office

Many thanks to foster care youth, alumni and allies for signing the online petition in support of the Fostering Stable Housing Act.

Let’s keep working together to remind federal legislators about the need for housing opportunities for former foster youth between ages 18-25.


The Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities Act has passed United States House of Representatives’ Financial Services Committee. The next step is consideration on the Floor of the House. In the meantime, a partner bill (that mirrors this one) is also going through the United States Senate.

During the month of September, we are reaching out to foster care youth, alumni and allies throughout the nation, and asking them to reach out to their local district office about this issue.


1.) Who is my legislator?
Here’s a link to find out. You can put in your zip code.
We are also trying to reach specific legislators from specific states. If you live in that state, please reach out to them.

2.) How do I schedule a meeting?
You can call and make an appointment, and say something like this:
“Hi, my name is __________ and I am a constituent of your district. I am calling to schedule a meeting with your office regarding important issues related to housing and child welfare. Is Congressman/Senator [NAME] available to meet with me on [DATE]? If not, could you let me know some dates that he/she or a staff person might be available to meet? Thank you so much for your time.”
3.) How can I prepare for the meeting?
You will want to read over, and be familiar with these Talking Points.
(And please keep us posted in advance of your scheduled visits, in case we can be of support).
If you want to know more, it might help to look at:
– a statewide youth board’s Letter of Support
Federal Testimony on behalf of a foster care alumna
– a Detailed Support Letter from the National Center for Housing and Child Welfare
4.) What information should I bring to the meeting?
You can print a copy of the Talking Points and the Turner bill summary, and give them to the legislator and/or their staffer.

5.) How can I follow up after the meeting?
You will want to keep a copy of their business card, and write a thank you letter afterwards.


Please keep us posted, and know that we are here to support.  I’m a former foster youth myself, who experienced homelessness within a year of “aging out” of foster care. But I aged out in 1989 – so why are our brothers and sisters of the system still struggling with this (predictable and fixable) issue?

We can and we must end the Foster Care to Homeless Pipeline – together.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Appreciation for Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine


Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is a long-time champion of Ohio foster care youth and alumni.

We greatly appreciate him including us in his 2012 Child Safety Summits, and 2013 Two Days in May. He included youth voice in every Child Safety Summit, and empowered youth as Subject Matter Experts during the 2013 Two Days in May conference.

Many thanks also to the Ohio Attorney General's Office for providing grant funding to support Ohio Reach - this initiative has improved higher educational outcomes for foster care youth throughout the state.

We read with interest that the Ohio Attorney General's policy priorities in 2018 include:

1.) Reviewing Ohio's foster care system and increasing funding to create a "standard minimum care"
2.) Appointing a foster care ombudsman to investigate and publish findings on the foster system
3.) Creating a Director of Child Initiatives to coordinate child programs statewide.

During the recent OHIO YAB Officers Retreat, on June 23, 2018, participating youth also proposed the establishment of a Foster Care Ombudsman's Office in the state of Ohio in order to provide independent investigation of concerns expressed by Ohio foster care youth and young adults.

This person’s role would be:

  • To serve as a protective measure to safeguard the physical safety and emotional well-being of youth whose lives are entrusted to the foster care system
  • To be available for foster care children and teens throughout the state to share concerns related to their rights, care and well-being and/or issues with their placement or services received while in foster care
  • To listen to, document, and follow up on their concerns 
  • To ensure that foster youth are being protected from further harm and receiving the services they need
  • To provide a venue so that the voices of foster care youth and teens are heard, without fear of retribution. 

Quote from youth: “Don’t let referral lead to retaliation”

Youth felt that this future Ombudsman definitely needs to be available to young people in group homes and residential placements, as well as foster homes. Oftentimes, youth in group homes or residential aren’t believed, and their concerns are disregarded.

Quote from youth: “The danger of some group homes and residential placements is that things happen behind walls, and other people don’t know what’s really going on.”

In terms of defining ‘What is abuse?’
Youth felt that a good rule of thumb is that: “If a caseworker would open a case against my biological parents for this allegation, then if it happens in a kinship care placement, guardianship, foster home, group home or residential placement, it should also be thoroughly investigated.”

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Michael Outrich and Columbus's 100-Day Challenge to End Youth Homelessness


Michael Outrich brings a wealth of insights to ACTION Ohio. We deeply appreciate his ever-growing expertise when it comes to local, state and national homelessness policies.

In 2017, Michael participated in Columbus's 100-Day Challenge to End Youth Homelessness in the community. He served on a youth advisory board panel to help local organizations that serve homeless youth generate a comprehensive framework aimed at solving the youth homelessness problem in Columbus.

Participating organizations included:

  • Huckleberry House 
  • YMCA of Central Ohio 
  • Van Buren Shelter 
  •  The Center for Healthy Families 
  •  Franklin County Children Services 
  •  Star House 
  •  Community Shelter Board 
  •  The City of Columbus Department of Development 


2018 ACTION Ohio ~ July Meeting and Conference Call


Link to more photos.

2018 NE Ohio Focus Group


Link to more photos.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Monday, April 16, 2018

Lisa Dickson's federal testimony on the Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities Act

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

United States House of Representatives
House Committee on Financial Services
Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance

Proponent testimony on:
The Amended Version of H.R. 2069, the Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities Act

Chairman Duffy, Vice Chairman Ross, Ranking Member Cleaver, and members of the committee,

Thank you for this opportunity to offer testimony on the amended version of H.R. 2069, the Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities Act.

My name is Lisa Dickson. As a former foster youth, I wish that I could be there in person to share how much this matters, and the potential this bill has to improve outcomes after foster care. More importantly, I wish you could hear directly from the young people themselves, in and from foster care, who have worked for six years to make this bill a reality.

I am contacting you on behalf of two volunteer organizations. The OHIO Youth Advisory Board serves as the statewide voice of foster care youth, ages 14 and older. ACTION Ohio is an alumni group of adults who experienced foster care personally, and who dedicate our time to improve outcomes for the next generation. Our two groups have been working together since 2006 to make a difference, side-by-side.

Young people enter foster care due to factors outside of their control, such as experiencing neglect, abuse or disconnection from a parent to due to death, incarceration or substance abuse challenges. As foster youth, we do not choose the family that we are born into - we can only make our own choices. In the midst of family upheaval, all we can do is seek to survive the moment at hand, and figure out how to build our future. We often feel alone in this struggle - especially when throughout the nation, over 20,000 youth “age out” of the system every year, and strive to build successful lives.

Leaving home and moving out on your own as a young adult is a milestone that many young people look forward to. But for young people in foster care, this experience often catapults them into an immediate struggle for survival. We want to attain self-sufficiency, and the most important and pressing question is: “Where am I going to live?”  Having a stable residence is critical when it comes to pursuing employment and higher education. 
Imagine being a teen in foster care who is getting ready to enter into young adulthood. You have no savings account, and no parental co-signer to move into an apartment. You worked really hard to get into college, but the dorms are closed on holiday breaks - so, the irony is that while everyone else is celebrating with their family, you don’t know where you are going to sleep that night.

I don’t have to imagine that, because I was one of those young people. When I aged out of foster care in 1989, there was no plan for my future. I had to figure out that path on my own. Thanks to support from an Admissions Counselor at the University of Kentucky named Randy Mills, I entered college at 16 years old. But I ended up homeless within a year. I continued to pursue college, even as I struggled to find an affordable place to live. I found a home in a Methodist dorm called the Wesley Foundation. With stable housing, I was able to complete college and graduate school, working up to five part-time jobs at a time.  Since then, I’ve been working as a full-time librarian for 19 years. It’s my honor to work hard, pay taxes, and seek to “pay it forward” for the next generation.

But that was back in 1989 – so why is the Foster Care to Homeless Pipeline still so prevalent today?  Our nation has moved forward in so many other areas since the time when I was in foster care. The 1997 Adoption and Safe Families Act set a time limit for how long children should languish in foster care limbo before seeking to terminate parental rights. The 1999 Foster Care Independence Act established Chafee funding and independent living classes. The 2008 Fostering Connections Act provided states with the option to extend foster care supports until age 21.

And yet, housing remains the biggest missing piece after foster care. Research demonstrates the pervasiveness of this struggle. Chapin Hall’s longitudinal Midwest research study reveals that 36% of former foster youth experience homelessness before turning 26 years old. In a recent national survey conducted by Child Trends, states were asked to report the primary area in which they could do better to support young people transitioning from foster care. Not surprisingly, housing was the area most commonly marked as in need of improvement.

We have the numbers, and we have the data - what our nation needs is a sense of urgency about this problem. While children are in foster care, the Children’s Bureau measures each states’ success in caring for them by three categories: Safety, Permanence and Well-Being. But if we care about the safety of our children, it should matter to us that when they “age out” into homelessness, they are at risk of trafficking and many other negative outcomes. If we care about permanence, we need to recognize that there is nothing more impermanent than not having a stable address. If we care about well being, then we need to acknowledge the dreams, talents and aspirations of our youth – and that helping them successfully launch into adulthood benefits not only them personally, but also our nation. Given the chance to contribute to society, please know that we can and will give back.

The Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities Act is thoughtful and intentional. It is based on the premise that we already know where teens in foster care are placed, and that we can connect them with existing housing supports by putting them on the list early. This bill is youth-driven in every sense — because the very reason it exists is that a volunteer group of Ohio foster youth and alumni have been fundraising locally and then traveling to D.C. to advocate for the past six years about the national gap that exists between foster care and housing.

We are not lobbyists or paid staff members. We are current and former foster youth ourselves - and this is an issue that deeply matters to us. We demonstrate how much we care by volunteering our time to help others. Even as we travel to D.C. annually to advocate for this need, on a volunteer basis, we each continue to pursue work, college and opportunities to give back to the community - because that’s what matters most to each of us. Our goal is to work hard, move forward and care for the next generation.

I urge you to pass this bill. The price tag is literally nothing. This is no-cost opportunity to improve outcomes for my brothers and sisters in and from foster care.

Thank you for your time. Please know that I am and will remain available for any questions.

Lisa Dickson
Alumni of Care Together Improving Outcomes Now
www.fosteractionohio.org

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Jessica Camargo's Testimony for Amended HB 137


Chairman Coley, Vice Chair Uecker, Ranking Member, and members of the committee, thank you so much for the opportunity to offer testimony on Amended House Bill 137.

My name is Jessica Camargo and I am here on behalf of ACTION Ohio. ACTION Ohio is an alumni group of adults who experienced foster care personally, and who are dedicated to improving outcomes for the next generation. Before I get into the meat and potatoes of my testimony, I would like to remind everyone that April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. The state-wide awareness campaign in Ohio is today, which is why I am wearing blue. Coincidentally, this same color happens to represent the very important lives of police officers.

Every child wants to feel secure. Every child wants to feel safe. In our society, we generally teach children from a young age that the police are our friends. They are here to help us and keep us safe. If we are ever in need of help or fear for our safety, we can go to a police officer, because they will protect us. Our children believe us and often see police as someone they can trust, look up to and count on. I am so grateful to the police out there that are reporting child abuse or suspected abuse despite not being mandated. They have my upmost respect. Unfortunately, not all police officers are, because they are not mandated reporters.

Every state in our nation has statutes identifying professionals that have frequent contact with children and teenagers and requiring them to be mandated reporters - but Ohio is the only state that doesn’t include police officers on the list. This is shocking considering the unique position police officers are in.  Police officers are usually the first responders to a scene. Many of the calls they respond to are domestic situations. Upon arrival, a police officer is trained to immediately scan the surroundings and pay attention to detail. In doing so, they are in the best position to spot warning signs of abuse. Taking a few minutes to report any suspicions to Children’s Services, could preserve the life and outcome of a child or teen.

Further, over the years police have become more present in the halls of Ohio schools. It is crazy to think that the teachers in the schools are mandatory reporters, but the police there are not. It just doesn’t make sense. Police in our schools, have more flexibility to move about the school compared to teachers. They are often more present in the halls, can hear more, and see more compared to teachers who may be limited to the classroom. By not making officers mandatory reporters, we are missing out on valuable opportunities to prevent further physical abuse. Considering, the PCSAO Factbook states that the #1 reason that children and teens enter foster care in the state of Ohio is physical abuse, we cannot let this oversight continue to go on. The time to act is now.

On a more personal level, I would like to say that I am very blessed to have a relationship as an adult with both of my parents. My parents are very supportive of everything I do, they love me, and I know they want the best for me. It took an incredible amount of counseling, understanding, and God’s grace to have what we have now. Despite the story I am about to tell you, my parents fought vigorously for me, and did everything they could to improve upon the few shortcomings they had based on the limited tools their parents gave them. I am grateful for the parents I have despite the unfortunate circumstances we endured as a family years ago.

My story for you today, therefore, begins long before today and long before I was ever even born.  My parents were from a much older generation and the country where a good old fashioned “whipping” was often well beyond what we would consider appropriate today. My mother grew up in a home where her father would come home drunk, line them all up with a gun, and threaten to shoot them all. My father was brought up with a switch and a belt. He experienced watching his mother on several occasions put a gun to his step-father’s head.

My parents set out with the best of intentions when they became parents. They wanted what most parents want. They wanted better for their children. They wanted to be better parents than their parents … and they were. My mom joined the PTA, she helped to teach dare which is why I never turned to drugs, and my dad was there for all my games and a presence in my life. They taught me integrity, a good work ethic, and the importance of education. I would not be where I am today, if it wasn’t for the values they instilled in me.

However, I was the youngest of six children. My 14-year-old sister got pregnant, she joined a gang, and an abundance of crazy things began to spiral.  Stress began to flood the home. My parents began to struggle with the surmounting stress and total utter chaos it created. The more stressed they became, the more it impacted their discipline. The more physical discipline I got, the more I acted out against it. It became a power struggle, and an ever-escalating cycle. Without going into any further details, I eventually ended up in the foster-care system at age 11. 

Nevertheless, when I was still at home, the police practically lived there.  They came when my sister tried to kill herself on multiple occasions in front of me, the police were at our house when my sister threw a baby walker through our front window which I witnessed, the police were there when I refused to go to school because I couldn’t find a pair of socks that felt comfortable enough to wear. The police were always at our house. They were there so much, they knew the house, they knew the number, they knew who we were. However, I am pretty sure there was a lack of reporting by the police, because children services were not exactly knocking at our door and asking questions.

Today, I stand in a unique position because in addition to be a former foster youth, I have a master’s degree in Criminal Justice. I will be graduating from the University of Akron School of Law in May and taking the July Bar. Throughout law school, I have been a CASA through Voices for Children in Lorain County, Volunteered for Child and Family Advocates of Cuyahoga County, Clerked for Juvenile Judge Linda Teodosio in Summit County, worked as a teacher to children facing adversity through the Law and Leadership Program, worked in the Juvenile Division of the Public Defender’s office in Cuyahoga County, currently sit on the Public Policy Committee of the Adoption Network, and I am the former activism chair of the University of Akron’s Social Justice Club. In the capacity of the positions I have held, I have unfortunately seen and learned of occasions where a police officer should have reported and did not. As a result, of police not being mandated to report, it is foreseeable that some children have been and will continued to be abused longer.

As a former foster youth, and advocate for children, I find it completely unacceptable that police officers are still not mandatory reporters almost 26 years later from the time I entered the foster care system till now. We must do better. This can’t continue. As we speak now, children are being physically abused, and somewhere there may be a police officer who knows something, who could pick up the phone, and just make that call, or choose to do nothing and let it continue. Passing this bill is a no brainer. There shouldn’t be an option, because the risk of not reporting could result in serious consequences including death.

I strongly urge you to pass this bill.  Thank you for your time. I would be happy to answer any questions.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Lisa’s written testimony for HB 137

Ohio Senate
Government Oversight and Reform Committee
Testimony on Amended HB 137
Chairman Coley, Vice Chair Uecker, Ranking Member Schiavoni and members of the committee, thank you so much for the opportunity to offer testimony on Amended House Bill 137.
My name is Lisa Dickson. I am here on behalf of two organizations. The OHIO Youth Advisory Board represents foster care youth, ages 14 and older. The board exists to ensure that youth voice is included in policies and practices that impact foster care youth, including group homes and residential facilities. ACTION Ohio is an alumni group of adults who experienced foster care personally, and who are dedicated to improving outcomes for the next generation. Our two groups have been working together since 2006 to make a difference, side-by-side.

Every state has in our nation has statutes identifying professionals that have frequent contact with children and teenagers and requiring them to be mandated reporters - but Ohio is the only state that doesn’t include police officers on the list. This is an unfortunate oversight, because police officers are in a unique position to intervene and help in the life of a teen or child. For example, if a police officer is called to intervene in a domestic situation, they might see something that leads them to suspect that abuse is taking place – if they take the time to report their suspicions to Children’s Services, this might ultimately end up saving that child or teen’s life.

Speaking as a former foster youth myself, who experienced physical abuse as a child, for many years without intervention, I strongly support this bill. I, and many of our members, can testify from personal experience that physical abuse comes with a feeling of powerless. It doesn’t just make you feel incredibly unsafe – it makes you feel invisible. To experience abuse without intervention from the adults in their lives gives children and teens a scary message about their worth and what to expect from other people.

The PCSAO Factbook states that the #1 reason that children and teens enter foster care in the state of Ohio is physical abuse. Now, let's think about the children and teens who aren't being counted or included in that number, because their abuse has not been reported by caring adults. What about them? How long will they continue to experience abuse without intervention?

Sadly, throughout the state of Ohio, in every legislative district, there are children and teenagers who - right now at this very moment - are being physically abused. We care about and deeply appreciate Ohio police officers - that's why we need them on our team to develop a stronger safety net for vulnerable youth in Ohio.

Again, we value our police, and recognize that some officers are taking the time to report abuse already. This next step forward is about “level setting” – getting everyone on the same page, in order to provide consistency. Every child or teen who is being abused matters.

I urge you to pass this bill. Thank you for your time. I would be happy to answer any questions.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Sibling Rights #NothingAboutUsWithoutUs



Ohio foster care youth and alumni recently shared their insights during an Interested Parties Meeting facilitated by Representatives LaTourette and Boyd regarding HB 448: Sibling Rights to Connection.

Participating experts, via lived experience, were:
1.) Jewel Harris
2.) Julius Kissinger
3.) Jerri Braswell
4.) Amanda Davis

Panel Moderator: Rep. LaTourette asked the following questions:
1.) Name, age, and whether or not you were placed with your siblings during your time in foster care/adoption
2.) One of the things this bill would do is to expand the definition of siblings. For those who experience foster care, the definition of sibling is often more broad. Do you have any personal examples of this?
3.) This bill strengthens the wording requiring child welfare agencies to place siblings together when possible and maintain frequent contact when siblings are not placed together. When you were in foster care did you ever go long stretches of time without seeing your siblings? How long? Were you told why?
4.) How would things have been different for you if you were not separated from your sibling(s)? What do you feel could have been done differently? Did your agency/county support or help you when asked about sibling visitation/contact?
5.) Explain in your own words how it feels to be separated from, and out of contact with, a sibling. How does this impact your/their Safety, Permanence and Well Being? (the three areas that the federal government measures child welfare on)


Insights shared included the following:

  • Siblings are a core part of who we are. It's not "normal" (aka: Normalcy) to be separated from siblings. This loss can make a young person feel isolated - lost and alone in a great big and uncaring world where all they can do is sink or swim.
  • Being disconnected from siblings is a traumatic loss that should be taken seriously, and it should be included when it comes to the mandates of a young person's individual service plan.
  • Outcomes matter - and being disconnected from siblings can and does impact interpersonal relationships as an adult.
  • If a young person experiences abuse in an out-of-home (or bio) placement, and has siblings to support them in that moment, this can be a major protective factor in empowering that young person to share what happened, and for them to stand together in demanding to be removed from that placement. But without sibling support, a child or teen can feel incredibly alone.
  • For those who wish they could have been there to protect their siblings, but were separated from them, trying to build a relationship later in life is painfully difficult. It is tough to prove that you are a safe person to a younger sibling who hasn't seen you in years, and who has had painful experiences during which you weren't there to help. Especially when you wish you were there, but had no choice when it came to not being able to be there to protect them.
  • Truly caring about the immediate needs and long-term success of Ohio foster care youth and young adults means moving beyond clinical descriptions of carefully chosen case files gone well. It means listening to the youth themselves about what they long for, and what they need. In most cases, they don't ask much - literally, the greatest ask I've heard lately was a young person whose Children Services agency is within a couple blocks of her high school -- and all she wanted was for her caseworker to consider meeting her at her high school, giving her a ride home, and just listening to her during the drive.

2018 ODJFS All Staff Meeting ~ Youth Panel


ACTION Ohio had the honor of moderating the Youth Panel during the ODJFS All Staff Meeting on Thursday, March 29, 2018.

Officers-in-Training Jewel Harris (Allen County) and Samantha Dillon (Athens County) talked about:

1.) Youth voice in Ohio’s implementation of the Family First Prevention Services Act (which was passed and signed into law as part of the Bipartisan Budget Act on February 9, 2018), such as:
  • Extending Chafee eligibility until age 23
  • Extending ETV eligibility until age 26
  • Recruiting more high quality foster homes, especially foster parents for teens and host homes for young adults
  • Requiring groups homes and residential placements to be Qualified Residential Treatment Programs in order to be eligible for Title IV-E foster care maintenance payments (trauma-informed, nursing standards, inspections and monitoring) 
2.) Top youth concerns from the last statewide OHIO Youth YAB meeting were shared, including:
  • Desire for one-on-one time with caseworker, and knowing the chain of command/next person to contact if unable to reach their caseworker directly
  • Youth voice in the development of plans for their future (including roundtables and SARs)
  • Youth voice in court - including sibling contact, decisions about visitation, and plans for reunification
  • Normalcy (especially in group home settings)
3.) Appreciation for ODJFS support:
  • Thanking ODJFS for updating Youth Rights Handbook
  • Thanking ODJFS for being willing to update communication regarding NYTD to make the message more youth-friendly and explain why the questions are being asked, and to follow up with a list of resources 
  • Appreciation for Bridges (with a special message from former OHIO YAB President Gabriel Young)

Monday, March 19, 2018

Sightseeing and Journey Home


Link to photos

Legislative Visits, Day 2

Link to more photo

Wednesday, March 14, 2018:

  • 8:30 am - Coffee with Senator Rob Portman in Russell 447
  • 10:30 am - David Scala of Congressman Jim Jordan's office (SW group)
  • Noon - Catherine Wilson of Congressman David Joyce's office (NE group)
  • 1:00 pm - Kevin Carson of Congresswoman Joyce Beatty's office (SW group + Jamole)
  • 1:00 pm - Sarah Nasta of Congresswoman Marcia Fudge's office (NE group)
  • 2:00 pm - Congressman Bill Johnson and Kelli Ripp (SW group + Jamole)
  • 2:00 pm - Angelique Salizan and Shilesha Bamberg of Senator Sherrod Brown's office (NE group + Doris)
  • 2:30 pm - Representative Steve Stivers (entire group)
  • 3:30 pm - Representative Michael Turner
  • 6:00 pm - Dinner with Casey Family Programs and discussion of the Family First Act

Link to more photos

Legislative Visits, Day 1

Link to more photos

Tuesday, March 13, 2018:

  • 10:00 am - Rachel Schwegman of Congressman Robert Latta's office (SW group)
  • 10:00 am - Shane Hand of Congressman Jim Renacci's office (NE group)
  • 11:00 am - Drop by two offices: Rep. Brad Wenstrup and Rep. Steve Chabot (SW group)
  • 11:00 am - Drop by two offices: Rep. Marcy Kaptur and Rep. Tim Ryan (NE group)
  • 2:00 pm - Meeting with HUD (entire group)
  • 4:30 pm - Meeting with Barbara Sard and Douglas Rice of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (entire group)
  • Celebratory Dinner, sponsored by the National Center for Housing and Child Welfare

Link to more photos

DC Training Day 2018

Link to more photos

Training at hotel

9:00 am 
  • Federal vs. State vs. Local Legislation
  • How a Bill Becomes a Law
  • Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities Act
  • Foster Care to Homeless Pipeline

10:30 am 
  • Circle Diagram
  • Roles During Legislative Visits
  • Legislative Visit Role Plays

Noon – Lunch

1:00 pm 
  • Youth work in groups (listed below) with Flip Charts, and then report out
  • Adults assist youth in preparing their talking points and framing the "ask"
    (Break)

2:00 pm 
  • Preparation for HUD visit

3:00 pm 
  • Preparation for meeting with Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
  • Questions and Answers

Blue Group (Southwest and Central Ohio):
  • Youth: Sidney, Torrie, Kimberly, Kyajah and Perrish
  • Adult Supporters: Doris, Stacia, Jessica and Donta (Stacia and Jessica will be asked to take photos)

Red Group (Northeast Ohio): 
  • Youth: Shajuana, Fayvian, and Christopher
  • Alumni Supporters: Lisa and Jamole

Sunday, February 4, 2018

How will Bridges referrals work?

Below is the referral process for Bridges...

Emancipated foster youth can also refer themselves to Bridges for extended foster care supports until age 21:










Another note of clarification provided by the Bridges team in response to questions received from counties:

 Q: Our PCSA has an established independent living/emancipation program. Is our agency still responsible for providing post-emancipation services through our independent living coordinator, or should we refer youth to Bridges when they contact us for assistance?

A: You must offer Bridges as an option to all young adults who will be emancipating at age 18 or older, or who already emancipated but are not yet 21, and who request post-emancipation services. If a young adult contacts you for post- emancipation services, seems to meet Bridges eligibility criteria and would like to learn more, you should make a referral to the appropriate regional Bridges agency.

However, not all young adults will meet the Bridges eligibility criteria. In addition, some will not want to enroll in Bridges, and some may need post-emancipation services during the Bridges application and approval process.

In all of those cases, OAC Rule 5101: 2-42-19.2 is still in effect, requiring you to provide independent living services to emancipated youth who request help. Ideally, these services will help them become eligible for Bridges so they can get additional supports toward independence.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Junior League SPAC (State Public Affairs Committee)





Doris Edelmann​ and Lisa Dickson met with Junior League SPAC (State Public Affairs Committee) today.
We gave them each folders, and shared the following information:
1.) Alumni of Care Together Improving Outcomes Now (ACTION Ohio)
· Our volunteer organization is dedicated to improving outcomes for current and former foster youth.
· Our initiatives include Three Days On the Hill, Suits for Success, and annual early Thanksgiving dinners for Foster Care Youth and Alumni.
· We also facilitate and support the statewide OHIO Youth Advisory Board.
2.) Foster Care to Homelessness Pipeline:
· Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities Act, created by Representative Michael Turner (R-Dayton), in response to our annual trips to DC for foster youth.
· Local advocacy to create a Scholar House III for foster care alumni pursuing higher education.
3.) Current and future Ohio legislation impacting foster care youth/alumni:
· HB: 448 Sibling Rights Legislation
· HB 137: Police as Mandated Reporters
· Future legislation to create a statewide Foster Care Ombudsman
4.) Bridges Implementation
· Bridges is a voluntary program available to young adults who leave foster care in Ohio at ages 18, 19 or 20 and who are in school, working, participating in an employment program, or have a medical condition that prevents them from going to school or working.
· The program supplements existing county post-emancipation services.
· Most Bridges services fall into one of the following categories: housing, education, employment and/or well-being.
5.) Questions and Answers

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Update on our work to create a Scholar House III for Foster Scholars


Ohio foster care youth and alumni have been working with the Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority and Columbus State Community College to propose a Scholar House III for former foster youth pursuing higher education.
Former foster youth worked directly with the Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority to decide what services would be needed, and to vote on specific elements related to building design.
Our project was chosen as a secondary priority for the 2018 Qualified Allocation Plan’s set aside for Transitioning Aged Youth – and our understanding is that only the first recommendation will actually be funded.
During the OHIO Youth Advisory Board's recent Youth Policy Retreat, youth leaders recommended that the next step might be:
  • To host a Round Table in May, with foster care youth/alumni “Captains” at each table, along with Flip Charts, to brainstorm how to move this project forward.
  • The youth came up with a list of people to invite to the Roundtable, including the Mayor, the Ohio Attorney General, County Commissioners, Shelter and Policy Board, CMHA, CPO Management, President of CSCC, President of OSU, OSU Foundation Staff, OACCA, CEO of White Castle, CEO of Mitchell’s, JCPCares, Chase Bank, the Wexners, the Schottensteins, Cardinal Health, Nationwide, Fortune 500 companies, and lobbyists

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

HB 137: Ohio Police as Mandated Reporters



What does it mean to be a mandated reporter?

Mandated reporters are required to make a report of suspected abuse when they have reasonable cause to suspect that a child or teenager is a victim of abuse.

Every state has in our nation has statutes identifying which professionals who have frequent contact with children and teens are required to report suspected maltreatment - but Ohio is the only state that doesn’t include police officers on its list of mandated reporters.

HB 137, as proposed by Representative Bernadette Kennedy would amend Section 2151.42 of the Ohio Revised Code to make municipal and county police officers mandatory reporters of abuse and neglect.

How does it feel to be a child or teen experiencing abuse or neglect?

The Overcoming Hurdles in Ohio Youth Advisory Board (OHIO YAB) is a statewide organization of young people (aged 14-24) who have experienced foster care. Our mission is to be the knowledgeable statewide voice that influences policies and practices that effect all youth who have or will experience out of home care.

Alumni of Care Together Improving Outcomes Now (ACTION Ohio) is dedicated to improving outcomes for current and former foster youth. Our mission is to bring together the voices of foster care youth, alumni and allies, in order to create lasting change and generate hope for current and former foster youth, based on access to resources, ally support and alumni expertise.

Speaking as current and former foster youth, who serve as statewide leaders and community volunteers, we strongly support this bill.  

We can testify from personal experience that physical abuse comes with a feeling of powerless. To experience abuse without intervention gives children and teens a scary message about their personal worth and what to expect from other people.

How would empowering police as mandated reporters help?

From a child welfare and emotional health standpoint, it is essential that police officers in our state become mandated reporters. This will make a life-changing - and even life-saving - difference for children and teens. 

Sadly, throughout the state of Ohio, in every legislative district, there are children and teenagers who - right now at this very moment - are being physically abused.

As the PCSAO Factbook illustrates, the #1 reason for children and teens coming into foster care in Ohio is physical abuse.

Now, let's think about the kids and teens who aren't being counted or included in that number. What about them?  How long will they continue to experience abuse without intervention?

How can we work together to solve this problem?

We care about and deeply appreciate Ohio police officers - and that's why we need them on our team to help push this forward. Our goal is to work together with them to develop a better safety net for vulnerable youth in Ohio.

We value our police, and recognize that some officers are taking the time to report abuse already. This next step forward is about “level setting” – getting everyone on the same page, in order to provide consistency in response to abused teens and children throughout our state.

The National Fraternal Order of Police and law enforcement officials support this bill.  Their support demonstrates that they view the responsibility of reporting abuse and neglect as central to their jobs, and the statistics bear out that this is true.  HB 137 will enhance the relationship between law enforcement and children’s services and further develop the safety net for vulnerable children.

How can we move forward together?

The first step is passing this bill.

The next steps will include trauma-informed training, mentorship and support. This can include a focus on Best Practices; officers who do a good job at reporting abuse can serve as mentors and role models. Training can include reminding police officers to view teenagers not as perpetrators, but as victims of abuse.



Let’s stay in touch, and continue working together

www.fosteractionohio.org

info@fosteractionohio.org