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Friday, June 28, 2019

Second Ohio Medicaid Meeting

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Link to more photos.

We were honored to participate in our second meeting with the Ohio Medicaid Director's Office.

Participants included:
  • Vice President Samantha Dillon of the OHIO Youth Advisory Board
  • Lisa Dickson of ACTION Ohio and the OHIO Youth Advisory Board
  • Nicole Chinn of ACTION Ohio and the CSCC Scholar Network
  • Cloe Cooper, Katrina de los Santos and Brett Welsch of the CSCC Scholar Network
  • Sonja Nelson, Alex Romstedt, Drew May and Bethany Hahn of CMHA
Our meeting focused on:
  1. Ohio Medicaid's continued efforts and dedication to overcome access barriers for foster care youth and alumni
  2. Concerns about a specific residential facility
  3. Updates regarding our work to map out a service coordination model and the division of tasks between Service Coordinator and the two RA/Peer Advisors for Scholar House 3

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Presentation at Congregation Beth Tikvah

Lisa Dickson of ACTION Ohio was honored to present on Sunday, June 23, 2019 for the Central Ohio Women of Reform Judaism’s Tzedakah Collective.

This local group of philanthropists has been in existence for six years. Their mission is to work together to explore unmet needs in their local community and the world, and to pool together resources to help. The focus of their 2019 priorities is on programs that restore human dignity.

ACTION Ohio has been partnering for years with the National Council of Jewish Women: Columbus Section, when it comes to our annual Central Ohio Thanksgiving dinners for foster care teens and alumni. We deeply appreciated this opportunity to share about the foster care experience, and ways that community members can help support improved outcomes for young people in and from foster care.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

ACTION Ohio Letters of Support

These two Acts complement one another, and if both of them are passed into federal law, this will lead to better post-secondary outcomes for foster and homeless youth:

1.) Letter of Support for Higher Education Access and Success for Homeless and Foster Youth Act of 2019 (S.789)

2.) Letter of Support for Fostering Success in Higher Education Act (S. 1650)

Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown supports the Higher Education Access and Success for Homeless and Foster Youth Act of 2019 (S.789/H.R.1724).

Ohio Senator Rob Portman supports the Fostering Success in Higher Education Act (S. 1650).

We are encouraging them to each support one another's bill, because these two bills are very complementary of one another:

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Saturday, June 15, 2019

Scholar House III... the work continues!

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Deeply grateful for the ongoing commitment of CMHA to bring Scholar House 3 from vision to reality.

Link to more photos.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Federal Legislative Update

Ohio foster care youth and alumni advocates made AMAZING federal legislative progress this week...

1.) Senator Rob Portman is endorsing the “Improving Employment Outcomes for Foster Youth Act” as per our request.

2.) Senator Sherrod Brown is endorsing the “Fostering Success in Higher Education Act” as per our request (which will improve higher ed outcomes for foster AND homeless populations)

And last of all.... drumroll please...

3.) When it comes to the Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities Act, which was literally written by Ohio foster care youth, the federal government is currently considering a $20 million allocation of “on-demand” housing vouchers for young people throughout the nation who are aging out of foster care.

All of this has happened in the span of two days, and we are currently working on follow up


Friday, May 17, 2019

2019 Meeting with Director of Child Welfare Transformation

Link to more photos.

On Friday, May 17, we had an 10:30 a.m. meeting at CSCC with Director of Child Welfare Transformation Kristi Burre.

Our meeting focused on three topics:  
1. ) Establishing a statewide foster care Ombudsman Office, and the importance of including foster youth voice and input on the process of designing this resource.

2.) Normalcy training and safety requirements for group homes and residential placements.

3.) Appreciation for the statewide Fostering Pathways to Success Conference, and desire to include foster care youth and alumni voice in future conference planning.

Participants included: Doris Edelmann, Jamole Callahan, Lisa Dickson, Nikki Chinn, Stevie Hayslip, Kyajah Rodriguez, Katana Waters, Juliana Barton, Ashley Marie Williams, Katrina De Los Santos, and Brett Welsch.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Next Steps from Meeting with Star House

Jill Gorz and Naima Illmi

The following brainstorming ideas came up during the recent meeting:

  1. How can Ohio Colleges/Universities/Tech Schools better screen for former foster and/or homeless youth?
  2.  How can available supports on Ohio campuses be woven together and also publicized to these at-need students?
  3.  How can we map out the narrative to those in power about the importance of not just enrolling students of promise who lack family support, but also supporting their continued success in college (aka: retention?) 
We could start by inviting representatives from the Offices of Diversity and Inclusion (and perhaps other departments as well) to come together for a brainstorming roundtable to discuss.

Possible Dates: (it would be great to finalize a date and location ASAP - maybe CSCC?)
- Friday July 26
- Friday Aug. 9
- Friday Aug. 23
- Friday, Sept. 6
- Friday, Sept 20

Draft Attendee List: (we can keep adding to it) 

  1. Ohio Department of Higher Education (formerly known as the Ohio Board of Regents) 
  2.  Randy Gardner, Chancellor of the Department of Higher Education
  3. Capital University Office of Diversity and Inclusion
  4. Columbus State Scholar Network
  5. OSU Office of Diversity and Inclusion
  6. OSU Bell National Resource Center
  7. Franklin University  
  8. CCAD 
  9. Otterbein  
  10. Wright State ISSN 
  11. Reach Scholars at Tri-C 
  12. Reach program at Ohio University 
  13. Reach program at Central State 
  14. Star House 
  15. ACTION Ohio 
  16. Starfish Alliance 
  17. Ashon McKenzie from the Children's Defense Fund of Ohio 
  18. My Place 
  19. Huckleberry House YOP Shop 
  20. (we can keep adding to this list as needed) 
 Draft Agenda: 
*If this is a full-day event, we can include a break for "Lunch, on Your Own"

  1. Welcome and Purpose 
  2. Overview 
  3. Speakers/Panel (representing both professional and "lived experience" expertise) 
  4. Group Work by Tables 
  5. Reporting out 
  6. Next Steps for Implementation - Workgroups, Timelines 
Supplies Will Include: 

  1. Packets for participants 
  2. Flip Charts for each table
  3. List of questions for each table

Presentation for Covenant Presbyterian Women

On Wednesday, May 8, 11:30am, Lisa Dickson, a foster care alumni and representative of ACTION Ohio (Alumni of Care Together Improving Outcomes Now), talked about what happens when youth age out of the foster care system.

Lisa was deeply impressed by the commitment of Covenant Presbyterian Women to work on social justice issues. Their efforts to date have positively impacted multiple populations, including homeless youth and adults, human trafficking victims, youth victims of abuse, and those suffering from emotional trauma.

Looking forward to building an ongoing relationship with these passionate leaders, to seek to improve outcomes for Central Ohio young people in and from foster care...

Friday, April 19, 2019

2019 Ohio Medicaid Director Meeting

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We were honored to meet with Ohio Medicaid Director Maureen Corcoran on Friday, April 19, 2019.

Participants included:
  • Sonja Nelson and Alex Romstedt of the Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority
  • Katana Waters and Cloe Cooper of the CSCC Scholar Network
  • Samantha Dillon, Vice President of the OHIO Youth Advisory Board
  • ACTION Ohio members: Jessica Camargo and Lisa Dickson
  • Alumni advocate Laquita Howell and her son Ralph 

Our discussion focused on:
  1. Barriers to Medicaid access for former foster youth, and proposed solutions to address this perennial problem
  2. The need for a support staff person for Scholar House III
We also suggested that the state of Ohio could create a review panel of medical professionals, including trauma-informed child psychiatrists, to address questions and concerns regarding foster care children and teens and whether the treatment and medications they are prescribed are clinically appropriate.

Friday, April 5, 2019

2019 Pathways conference

Link to more photos.

Quotes from youth evaluations of the OHIO YAB workshop:

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

FSHO Coalition Plan is national news!!!

Trump Administration Reviewing Plan for Housing Support to Any Youth Aging Out of Foster Care

HUD Secretary Ben Carson (center) met with a coalition of advocates and former foster youths about a new plan for public housing support after foster care. Photo courtesy of iFoster.
Jamole Callahan is turning 40 this year. He’s carved out a successful career in advocacy and motivational speaking (his Twitter handle is @MrMotivator). But in college, as a youth who had aged out of foster care, his path was far from stable.
My issue after aging out was there was just nowhere for me to go when school went on break,” Callahan said in an interview with The Chronicle of Social Change.
During those college breaks in Ohio, he stayed with classmates, or sometimes with a friend of his high school science teacher. But many teens lack such options.
“We see kids attempt postsecondary and fail just because they don’t have housing,” Callahan said. “They have to work to maintain an apartment, then school becomes the background. And it becomes all about survival.”
There are some competing ideas about how best to legislate new federal support for housing to help youth after they exit foster care. But a group of housing advocates and former foster youths recently met with top federal housing officials to make the case that there’s no need to wait for Congress.
A group called the Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities (FSHO) Coalition — which includes Callahan’s youth-led ACTION Ohio and the National Center for Housing and Child Welfare — met in early March with Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson to lay out a plan for a $20 million voucher program aimed at preventing homelessness for transition age foster youth. Under that plan, HUD would use an existing pot of money to provide on-demand vouchers and assistance for foster youth who needed stable housing.”
HUD is currently reviewing the proposal to determine the agency’s authority to act on it. If the plan moves forward, it could be a game changer for thousands of teens and young adults who age out of foster care each year.
The stakes couldn’t be higher. After decades of reforms aimed at preventing youth from becoming adults in foster care, or ending up on the street when it happens, the number of youth who age out of the system has stubbornly ranged from 20,000 to 25,000 per year.
And research shows that the percentage of foster youth who end up experiencing homelessness is still outrageously high — 28 percent experience homelessness by age 21, according to the National Youth in Transition Database. In some states, it’s above 40 percent.
“They are doing something that could mean a seismic shift in housing and child welfare policy,” said Ruth Anne White, executive director of the National Center for Housing and Child Welfare.
Following is a breakdown of how the plan would work.

The Programs

Through its Tenant Protection Fund, HUD is given money to provide Tenant Protection Vouchers. In general, these vouchers are designed to provide rent support to people when changing circumstances threaten to leave them homeless. Surely, one such circumstance would be a person aging out of foster care at age 18 or older, with no affordable housing option on the horizon.
There are several different types of Tenant Protection Vouchers that target different populations. One is called the Family Unification Program (FUP) voucher, which can be used for two child welfare-related groups:
  • Families for whom a lack of housing portends a foster care removal or problems reunifying with a child in foster care.
  • Youth between the ages of 18 and 21 who lack adequate housing as they age out of foster care.
Alongside the FUP voucher is the Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program, which provides assistance aimed at helping public housing residents increase their earned income and decrease reliance on the social safety net. This support includes job training, child care, transportation subsidies and financial literacy classes.
The FUP voucher lasts for three years. But continued FSS participation allows a FUP voucher recipient to receive an additional two years of support, so pairing the two could mean post-foster care housing support can last for up to five years.
Under the plan pitched to HUD by the advocates, a child welfare agency would file FUP paperwork in the year leading up a youth’s emancipation from foster care – whether that occurred at age 18, 21 or some point in between. HUD would issue the FUP voucher, and the local public housing authority would administer both the voucher and the FSS services.
It is worth noting here that currently, most public housing authorities do not offer FUP vouchers. More on that later, because the coalition’s plan would negate that barrier.

The Money

So that’s the structure that can be used to support youths aging out of foster care. But is there money available to fund the vouchers and the employment-related services? Apparently yes — the advocates who met with Carson argue that there’s a fund at HUD that can be tapped to jumpstart this.
FUP has had an up-and-down ride when it comes to funding, White said. It has been an allowable version of the Tenant Protection Vouchers since 1990, and there was a regular carve-out for it until about 2002, after which it faded out of the annual appropriations process.
A line item for FUP resurfaced in fiscal 2008, written into appropriations that year by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and former Sen. Kit Bond (R-Kansas). The two wrote in instructions for HUD to spend $20 million on FUP. More recent allocations for FUP have ranged from $10 million in 2017 to $20 million in 2018.
But the coalition told HUD officials that there is a bigger bank of unspent HUD funds that could be used to create a dedicated FUP youth program. The congressional justifications for President Trump’s 2019 budget noted $133.2 million in carryover funds in the area of “rental assistance.”
Nearly all of that money is from the Tenant Protection Fund, where FUP lives. It is held in reserve at the moment for housing complexes affected by demolition or expiring affordable housing contracts, and to help situate some people in the federal witness protection program. The FSHO Coalition asked for $20 million out of this contingency fund to be dedicated for FUP youth.

The Renewal

The most critical piece of the advocates’ plan is a change in the way that FUP vouchers are made available to youth.
Currently, FUP’s youth vouchers are awarded in blocks through a competitive process where public housing agencies are the applicants. This, White said, is an inefficient way to get at a finite group of youth who are flung throughout the country. There are thousands of housing authorities, and only the winners would receive vouchers.
In a place where the demand by foster youths is low, or a housing agency is bad at connecting with child welfare agencies, those vouchers might sit idle. And elsewhere, foster youths who might badly need the help wouldn’t get vouchers because they were awarded to the nearby agency.
Other HUD voucher programs are processed on-demand, meaning that a single family or person applies and is considered for an available slot. This centralizes the approval process to HUD, removing the local housing authorities and their individual store of vouchers from the equation.
“Converting to an on-demand process is key,” White said, “because youth continue to be in purgatory for pilot projects. We appreciate all the efforts to build housing around the country for youth – but 40 new units in Cincinnati won’t help the youth in Athens. This complements those efforts.”
The result is that most areas of the country end up with no FUP vouchers, and among the public housing authorities that do offer them, most of the action goes to families, and not foster youth. A 2014 study found that just 91 of the 195 FUP programs served foster youth, and among those 91 programs, only a third of the FUP vouchers went to foster youths.
“The most common reason [public housing authorities] cited for not serving any youth was a lack of referrals,” said the study. “The lack of youth referrals likely did not arise from lack of demand.”
Converting FUP’s foster youth vouchers to an on-demand process would solve that, and allow child welfare agencies to deal directly with HUD in preparing for these teens to age out of foster care and into stable housing for up to five years. And when a particular youth had completed the FUP-FSS program, that voucher would recycle back to HUD to be used for the next youth.

What Comes Next

The FSHO Coalition sat down with HUD Secretary Carson on March 4 to lay out what they believed to be an actionable plan that the agency could start setting up without any help from Congress.
Carson was engaged in his meeting on the plan, said Callahan of ACTION Ohio. “He gets it, he does. He was very intrigued about the info we had, and had questions about where the data came from.”
That was hardly the first or last meeting with HUD the coalition has had. Callahan said they have been lobbying HUD and Congress for seven years, and have developed allies there. Danielle Bastarache, HUD’s deputy assistant secretary for policy programs, has “become a champion for this,” Callahan said.
White, of the National Center for Housing and Child Welfare, said that HUD officials have been supportive of the plan. The agency sent officials with her to a meeting this month at the Department of Health and Human Services, the agency that oversees child welfare policy and funding.
“So they hoofed it over when we had the strategy meeting about it,” White said. “I feel like they wouldn’t have done that if they didn’t want to move forward.”
HUD officials declined to comment for this story, but a spokesman for the agency said the proposal is being reviewed by its Office of General Counsel and Chief Financial Officer.
There is also the matter of legislation to permanently embed this plan into law. The coalition that met with HUD had originally conceived of this plan in a 2018 bill – called the Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities (FSHO) Act, which would guarantee a housing voucher starting from emancipation through age 25 for any youth aging out of foster care who could demonstrate the need for a subsidy.
The bill — sponsored in the House by Reps. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) and Karen Bass (D-Calif.), and in the Senate by several members of the Senate Caucus on Foster Youth — ran up against some opposition in the previous Congress because it included a work requirement. That requirement has since been removed, and White said that the group has also garnered the support of House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif.).
If HUD moves forward on its own authority, passing the FSHO Act mostly becomes an exercise in codifying this plan. It would establish the foster youth voucher as a distinct program within FUP that is to be carried out using an on-demand process.
“If Carson signed a memorandum today, that could go out today,” said Callahan. “But at the turn of a new administration, that could go away.”
An online petition circulated to support the FSHO bill has more than 54,000 signatures.
If it all comes together, the plan could ensure a key stabilizing factor for one of the most likely groups in the nation to end up on the streets.
“The child welfare system knows when a kid will be terminated,” Callahan said. “Now we can make sure there’s a voucher anywhere in the country for them to provide assistance.”

Monday, April 1, 2019

2019 Mapping Out Michael

We of ACTION Ohio are deeply proud of Michael Outrich, and excited about this next new chapter in his life.

Link to photos of our celebration of Michael's accomplishments.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Planning Meeting for Scholar House III

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.

Scholar House III in Columbus OH will serve young people ages 18-24 with a foster care history.  Consistent with the Scholar House model, residents of the project are expected to maintain full-time status at an accredited two or four-year College or University.

Target move in date for 30 Scholar House III residents is August 2020.

Link to more photos.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

2019 Meeting With the Governor's Office

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Link to more photos.

On Tuesday, January 29, 2019, Ohio foster care youth, alumni and allies held an introductory meeting with LeeAnne Cornyn, Director of Children’s Initiatives for the Office of Governor Mike DeWine and Chelsea Cordonnier of ODJFS.

Participants included representatives from the OHIO Youth Advisory Board, ACTION Ohio, Adoption Network Cleveland, and the Columbus State Scholar Network.

The agenda focused on:
  1. Introductions and well-deserved congratulations to LeeAnne Cornyn
  2. Appreciation for Governor Mike DeWine and the many ways that he has served as a champion for Ohio foster youth in his former role as Ohio Attorney General
  3. Creating a statewide Foster Care Ombudsman’s Office
  4. Reforming Ohio child welfare funding
  5. Establishing an ongoing communications mechanism to stay in touch and keep working together

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Training for Huckleberry House

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ACTION Ohio was honored to present a workshop for Huckleberry House on Friday, Jan. 11, 2019, from 10:30 am - noon. 
This invitation came from Kyra Crockett Hodge, who chairs the Cultural Competency Committee. Huckleberry House workers do have some working knowledge of the foster care population – but they want to be as helpful as possible in advocating for this population.

After a discussion of Culture of Foster Care, each participant received copies of the following:

OAC rule
Life Skills Assessment  
Youth developed discharge plan
Permanency Pact  
5. Central Ohio resource list, based on 
resource knowledge that Ohio teens and young adults in and from foster care have mentioned as being vital to their success

We were incredibly grateful that Chynna Kelley could be there to help talk participants through the complexities of the Bridges program. Her insights were invaluable.