Dauntea Sledge was featured in the August 10, 2023 issue of the Ohio Supreme Court bulletin:
Saturday, September 9, 2023
September is Self-Care Awareness Month, and the OHIO YAB and ACTION Ohio partnered with Hope Valley and the Ohio Supreme Court to facilitate a self care retreat for current and former foster youth (ages 14-24).
The 2023 Self Care Summit for Ohio Foster Care Youth and Alumni took place on Friday, Sept. 8, 2023 at the Hope Valley Retreat Center, 4560 Gratiot Rd SE, Newark, OH 43056. We are grateful to the Ohio Supreme Court for sponsorship, Hope Valley for hosting, adult supporters for transporting youth, and to two CSCC professors for facilitating self-care activities.
We received RSVPs from Allen, Athens, Belmont, Cuyahoga, Franklin, Hamilton, Lawrence, Licking, Lorain, Perry, and Van Wert counties.
Friday, June 30, 2023
The following message was sent to members of the Conference Committee, and a series of calls were made to their offices by Ohio foster care youth, alumni and allies:
Thanks so much for serving on the conference committee. We care and understand that it’s been a complicated budget year -- the bill is literally over 9,000 pages long.
As current and former foster youth, we are deeply concerned that Bridges (Ohio’s extended foster care to age 21) has been completely overlooked in the latest version of Ohio’s budget (HB 33). Previously, 12M per year was dedicated to support the Bridges program. Without this funding, this statewide resource will be in jeopardy.
KID Line 830506 is the funding line item for children service programs, and the most recent version of the budget does not have a specific earmark for the Bridges program (Ohio’s extended foster care to age 21), as it does for other programs.
Please understand that the Bridges program literally provides a bridge for former foster youth when they turn 18 years old. It avoids them being immediately homeless after foster care. It provides support as well as accountability because to remain eligible, Bridges participants must be enrolled in college or other post-secondary school, be employed at least 80 hours a month or participate in a program designed to remove barriers to employment.
Ohio’s investment in the Bridges program isn’t just the right thing to do – it is the cost-effective thing to do. When Ohio’s former foster youth finish high school, go to college, and attain employment, we are able to financially contribute to our state via our taxes and our dedication to support our community.
The Overcoming Hurdles in Ohio Youth Advisory Board is a statewide organization of young people (ages 14-24) who have experienced foster care. The OHIO YAB exists to be the knowledgeable statewide voice that influences policies and practices that impact youth who have or will experience out of home care.
ACTION Ohio stands for Alumni of Care Together Improving Outcomes Now Ohio. We are an alumni group of adults who have experienced foster care personally, and who volunteer our time to improve outcomes for the next generation. Our initiatives include Thanksgiving Together and Three Days on the Hill.
Monday, March 20, 2023
As a former foster youth and a person of color, I am concerned that efforts to renew a federal law that exists to protect youth from abuse have repeatedly been delayed. Concerns have been expressed by biological parents and their allies that foster care systems demonize poverty and promote white supremacy and classism. The voices that are missing in national discussions regarding the renewal of this bill are those of young people who have experienced familial abuse personally.
The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) provides federal funding to states to prevent and respond to child abuse and neglect. It requires states to facilitate mandated reporting and procedures to respond to ensure children’s safety. This federal bill expired in 2015 and is still awaiting renewal.
Foster care is imperfect and many aspects of it can be improved. However, without foster care, my siblings and I would have continued to experience abuse without intervention. As a child, I often wished that someone would stop by my house and witness the abuse that my siblings and I were experiencing. I hear stories about other kids whose summers were filled with sunny day adventures. My summers were filled with abuse and fear.
Being placed in foster care created a seismic shift from the environment of my childhood. It gave me a new understanding that a home could be physically and emotionally safe. It provided me with a different mindset about relationships and what it means to be a man.
Claims have been made by family rights advocates that Children’s Services has a hidden agenda to surveil and regulate families of color, for the purpose of taking more youth into care. What I’ve witnessed is the opposite: Within the overworked foster care system, young people of color must often report their abuse many times before their voices are heard.
The abuse that took place within my family was deeply ingrained and life-threatening. We were deliberately insulated from authorities by my father, and told, “What happens in the home stays in the home.” It was my sister who found the courage to tell a teacher what was happening. Even after doing so, she had to take the next step and run away, to further demonstrate the danger of our living situation.
It’s important to note that disproportionality among races within the foster care system exists -- but it does not exist within a vacuum. Our nation’s housing, education, health care and policing systems are overshadowed by a history of racial inequities and racist practices. Addressing those structural issues will help improve outcomes for families of color. Linking families with services and resources can assist in many circumstances. But, in situations of abuse, the safety of youth can never be sacrificed.
As a survivor of abuse, I want to emphasize that children and teens of all races and ethnicities deserve to be protected. It is vitally important that youth safety remains first and foremost. Experiencing abuse as a child doesn’t just impact your present – without intervention, it can undermine your future. At the very time as a child when you are developing autonomy, the abusive surroundings are robbing it from you.
When it comes to national conversations regarding the renewal of the CAPTA legislation, there is one more voice that hasn’t and cannot be heard: The voices of children and teens who have lost their lives due to abuse.
A 2021 study by Case Western Reserve University’s Schubert Center for Child Studies revealed that Cuyahoga County’s “rate of confirmed abuse or neglect-related child deaths is significantly higher than the national average.”
In my role as a Youth Ambassador for the OHIO YAB (Overcoming Hurdles in Ohio Youth Advisory Board), I will continue to advocate for safeguards to protect today’s young people. My goal is to leave a legacy of better and ongoing protections for those who experience abuse as a child.
~ Jonathan Thomas credits the foster-care system with turning around his life and that of his siblings after they suffered abuse as children and were removed into foster care. He currently serves as a youth ambassador for the Overcoming Hurdles in Ohio Youth Advisory Board, a statewide organization of youth ages 14 to 21 who’ve experienced foster care.
Friday, January 13, 2023
|Councilwoman Yvonne Conwell|
On Wednesday, January 11, 2023, Cieria Roman, Raven Grice and Lisa Dickson participated in a virtual meeting with Councilwoman Yvonne Conwell and Policy Advisor LeVine Ross to discuss safety concerns related to Cuyahoga County youth, especially those that have been spending the nights in the Jane Edna Hunter building on a regular basis since 2018.
This was preceded by a prior meeting with Councilman Dale Miller, during which he recommended that we speak with Councilwoman Conwell.
Ohio youth leaders shared their concerns and recommendations, and how important that it is to have foster care youth and alumni at the table. Because it is our lived experience that brings a sense of urgency. Today's youth and young adults often come up with creative solutions that others might not think of...
As Cieria said, “We come ready, we come with our hearts, we come with solutions. These are our brothers and sisters and this is our legacy.”
We also shared:
- Raven's written testimonial about the need for Independent Living Departments
- The work that the OHIO YAB has done on Life Skills Training
- The videos created by Jewel Harris and Marissa Alcorn and her chosen family to recruit foster parents for teens, and Kelsie’s three part video about What It’s Like to Be a Teen Mom in Foster Care and What Teen Moms in Foster Care Need From Their Foster Parents and that Teen Moms in Foster Care Have Rights and Resources
Councilwoman Yvonne Conwell followed up by sending a message of thanks, and some ideas for next steps forward.
Thursday, November 24, 2022
Here's a link to more photos.
Front of card:
Back of card:
Tuesday, November 22, 2022
Ohio’s very first Youth Ombudsman, Jenny Stotts, was honored as one of Adoption Network Cleveland’s two 2022 Triad Advocates of the Year. She entered foster care as a baby, was adopted and her adoptive parents still serve as foster parents today.
She and Assistant Youth Ombudsman Jeff Phillips would love our help in letting youth know about the Youth Ombudsman Office. Ohio foster care youth, alumni and allies first began advocating for a Youth Ombudsman Office in 2018. We met with legislators, gave testimony, and worked with CDF Ohio to build up a coalition. Let’s continue to spread the word, and let youth know how to contact the office.