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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Ohio chapter at FCAA Alumni Leadership Institute

Dayton Foster Youth Fight For More Reforms Han, Carol. News Center 7, Nov. 18, 2008.

WASHINGTON -- When President George W. Bush signed a foster care bill into law last month, foster youth from the Dayton saw it as a personal victory.

Foster Care Alumni of America estimates that there are currently 700 foster children living in our area. Last year, a group of them traveled to Capitol Hill to ask Ohio lawmakers to support the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act.

The sweeping reform bill helps keep siblings together in foster care and provides federal assistance to family members who become legal guardians of relatives' children. It also extends foster care benefits until age 21.

The bill passed with bipartisan support, and on Tuesday, the foster youth were back in Washington to thank lawmakers and to drum up support for more reforms.

Devaughn Staley, 18, wants to see Ohio foster youth be given the green light to get driver's licenses. Ohio is one of many states that do not allow kids in foster care to get a license due to insurance liability reasons. Staley wants to see the state help take up the liability. He told News Center 7 that it has been hard not being able to drive to the mall or to a job.

"We're pushing for Ohio to close that gap between foster kids and normal kids," Staley said. "Close that gap so we can be normal and feel like we belong."

Other students want to see more help extended to foster kids who want to go to college.

Alex McFarland described how credits from his high school in Tennessee weren't accepted by his school in Ohio. As a result, the 18-year-old could not graduate with his class and had to get a G.E.D.

"It was a big letdown for me because I really had that American dream about going to college with a high school diploma, walking across the aisle, going to my senior prom and I didn't have that," McFarland said.

McFarland now attends Sinclair Community College and has plans to transfer to Ohio State University.

Adrian McLemore, an 11-year veteran of Ohio's foster care system, is now a junior at Wright State University studying business and political science.

News Center 7 first met McLemore in May 2007, when he and the first group of Dayton foster youth lobbied Congress for foster care reform.

McLemore says he's happy to be back in D.C., especially so soon after President-elect Barack Obama's election win.

McLemore -- who plans to run for political office someday -- said, "Barack Obama beat me to it, he beat me to the election. But it's a testament to the resolve [about] working hard and working for the American dream. He just made it that much closer of a reality for me."

For video coverage, please visit:

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Overview of Goals, Projects and Accomplishments

Approximately 1,000 young people age out of the Ohio foster care system each year. As alumni of foster care, we share the same parent: the State.

Therefore, it is our privilege as members of the Ohio chapter of Foster Care Alumni of America to support young people aging out of foster care in our state during their journey to adulthood.

2008 Focus Areas:
1. Support Ohio statewide and local youth advisory boards.
2. Equip youth with the skills to share their personal stories in an effective and non-exploitive manner.
3. Educate others about available resources to assist youth on their journey to adulthood.
4. Educate others and ourselves about Best Practices in Child Welfare throughout the nation.
5. Provide trainings for child welfare professionals, foster parents and young people in and from foster care, focusing on preparation for adulthood and long-term emotional resiliency.

2008 Partnerships:
1. Assist VISION Board of Montgomery County with leading a series of trainings to develop county and regional youth/alumni advisory boards.
2. Support of the OHIO YAB; including creating a blog for their use.
3. Testimony regarding House Bill 7, in collaboration with Adoption Network Cleveland.
4. Involvement in OACCA’s Independent Living Legislation forums and subsequent workgroups.
5. Support IHS with their annual Trainer event and development of a Youth Ad Hoc Committee.

1. In March, we presented two workshops at the CO-OHIO Youth Advocate Services conference, presented one workshop at the IHS Trainer Event, and participated in a panel during the OACCA Advocacy Conference.

2. In May, we participated on a panel during the ODJFS Foster Care Month Event, presented a workshop and keynote address at the Daniel Memorial Foster Care Conference and presented two concurrent workshops for the Colorado Summit on Children, Youth and Families.

3. During June, we attended Montgomery County's Rising Up and Moving On event and spoke with Ohio First Lady Frances Strickland during the Ohio Family and Children First Forum.

4. In July, we participated in four regional youth advisory board trainings and two of OACCA's four legislative forums.

5. During the fall, we led two workshops, one general session and a keynote address during the NILA Growing Pains conference, two workshops during the Casey It's My Life conference, facilitated a one-room resource fair during the IL Summit, and led a breakout session focusing on foster care during the YEP statewide retreat for homeless youth.

Ongoing Projects:
1. Continue to provide workshops for Village Network.
2. Continue to work with IHS to certify foster care youth and alumni as state child welfare trainers for the Ohio Child Welfare Training Program.
3. Continue to offer support, training and encouragement to local, regional and statewide youth advisory boards.
4. Maintain our active support OACCA’s advocacy efforts regarding Independent Living legislation.
5. Continue serve on the planning committee for Ohio’s annual Independent Living Summit and the Youth Housing Board of YEP.

2009 Initiatives:
1. We will support Cincinnati Works with their Next Step Network, designed to assist young people in and from foster care in achieving employment and stability.
2. We will present at two national adoption conferences about the importance of maintaining sibling connections and providing for adoptees during the transition to adulthood.
3. We will work with Professor Alvin Mares on housing, peer mentoring and education initiatives.
4. We will work with Village Network to develop a supportive structure for young people from their program to return to after emancipating from foster care.
5. We will strive to build a stronger partnership with Franklin County Children Services and the Ohio Family Care Association (statewide foster parent organization).