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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

2011 Central Ohio FCAA Thanksgiving Dinner

The 2011 Central Thanksgiving took place in Columbus on November 20th: (link to more photos) The event was held at Capital University. Bethany Koshinsky served as Lead Facilitator.

Sponsors included: Capital University President Bowman's Office, Capital University ROTC Crusader Battalion, Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, Kappa Sigma Upsilon, Village Network, Capital University student organizations and Campus Ministries and the Koshinsky family. 

Many thanks to Angela Sattler for her article about this event, as published by Capital University's campus newspaper, Chimes.

    2011 Southwest Ohio Thanksgiving Together

    The 2011 Southwest Thanksgiving took place in Dayton on November 19th: (link to more photos)

    This event was held at New Family Tree. Sponsors included: Jerri’s Catering and Family Restaurant, Majestic Nursery, Salem Student Ministry, Wendy’s Wonderful Kids, Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, Meet Me Halfway Fund of the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee and Val Bairnsfather.

    Many thanks to New Family Tree for their efforts to assist former foster youth in their efforts to develop and achieve the skills and abilities necessary to live independently through their Journey to Independence program.

    2011 Northeast Ohio Thanksgiving Together

    The 2011 Northeast Thanksgiving took place in Cleveland on November 19th: (link to more photos)

    The event was held at Antioch Baptist Church. Sponsors included: Cuyahoga County Children and Family Services, National Council of Jewish Woman: Cleveland Section, Antioch Baptist Church, Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, Adoption Network Cleveland and Village Network.
    Representative Bill Patmon, Sandra Holt, and Chief Administrator for Cuyahoga County Children and Family Services Pat Rideout were in attendance.

    The event was featured in the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

      Tuesday, November 22, 2011

      Northeast Ohio foster-care alumni reunite for holiday meal at Cleveland church

      Northeast Ohio foster-care alumni reunite for holiday meal at Cleveland church
      Ewinger, James. Cleveland Plain Dealer, Nov. 20, 2011.

      LaTasha C. Watts, right, shares a hug Saturday with Zelma Brown during the annual Foster Care Alumni of America Thanksgiving meal reunion at the Antioch Baptist Church in Cleveland.

      CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Dozens who grew up without family ties forged new ones Saturday at the annual Thanksgiving event for foster-care alumni from around the region.

      The Northeast Ohio celebration was at Antioch Baptist Church, while two others were planned for Southwest and Central Ohio -- all under the umbrella of the Ohio Chapter of Foster Care Alumni of America.

      It was a family-style Thanksgiving dinner for a really big family: roughly 90, most of whom had been in foster care before reaching adulthood and the rest, aged 16 and 17, still in foster homes.

      For some, they renewed old acquaintances or made new ones. For others, they shared experiences. After the meal, there was an open mike session where they could sing, recite poetry or just talk about their experiences and the people who meant the most to them.

      Lisa Dickson, founder of the Foster Care Alumni of America Ohio chapter and a founding member of the national organization, said the get-togethers have been going on since 2007.

      The first one took place with Thanksgiving dinner on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, she said, to support the Fostering Connections to Success Act which passed the following year.

      Betsie Norris, founder and executive director of Adoption Network Cleveland, explained the transition to adulthood for young men and women in permanent foster care can be difficult.

      The youths in permanent custody have been taken from their parents by the courts. They are eligible for adoption into new families, Norris said, but the older they get, the less likely they are to get adopted, which leads to aging out of foster care.

      Many will have been in numerous foster homes by then, often separated from birth siblings and permanently severed from parents. The process deprives many of them of the stabilizing influences of a permanent family.

      Adoption Network Cleveland does not place children in adoptive homes, but brings together the resources to help them as well as helping them find their birth families when they reach adulthood.

      ANC joined with the Village Network, a private foster-care planning agency, Foster Care Alumni, Cuyahoga County Children and Family Services and the National Council of Jewish Women for Saturday's event.

      Norris said that in 2004 there were 1,700 in permanent foster care in this county. The state-funded Adopt Ohio program helped cut that to 570, she said, but the number is at 680 this year and continues to creep up since the state cut off funds for the program in 2009.

      Jurlee Thomas, 63, of Lorain had one of the most dramatic stories to relate Saturday.

      "My mother was a foster child," she said, and so was she, as were her own six children. Today Thomas has eight grandchildren and six great-grand kids, all with their birth families.

      Thomas said she remains in touch with four of her children and Adoption Network is helping her to find the other two. Meanwhile, she volunteers with ANC and the county "whenever I can."

      "Being a foster child does not define who you are," Thomas said. "Your goals and aspirations define you. Foster care is just your house."

      But the people who can best help foster youths transition into adulthood are others who have come out of the system.

      "One foster child helping another," she said.

      Terrell Howard, 18, was in foster care for 11 years -- with 13 different families. Today, he is studying criminal justice at a career college in Independence.

      Joe Jackson of Children and Family Services said Howard testified before the Ohio legislature earlier this year, one of many who successfully argued against further child-welfare fund cuts.

      "When he said he was going to college, he got a standing ovation," Jackson said.

      The Thanksgiving feast, everything from cranberry sauce to turkey and ham, was dished up by a body of volunteer servers, who included Cuyahoga County Juvenile Judge Kristin Sweeney and County Councilwoman Yvonne Conwell.

      Second Annual FCAA NE Ohio Thanksgiving Dinner

      Once again, the NE FCAA OH Thanksgiving Dinner for Foster Care Teens and Emancipated Youth has truly captured the heart of what this event is all about… 

      Reminding those who have experienced foster care personally that they always have a seat at our table. 

      That it is an honor for us to stay in touch with them, as they enter into young adulthood, find their places in this world, and move beyond the shadows of their past to build bright futures and families of their own.

      We want our young people to know that their voices, talents, insights and mutual encouragement are what lies at the heart of this celebration…

      Many thanks to each of you for your role in hosting a Thanksgiving celebration that fulfills its purpose, and has our young people eager to return each year.

      Words are simply not enough to express my gratitude.


      Lisa Dickson,

      Friday, November 4, 2011

      2011 FCAA Ohio Thanksgiving Reunion

      A place where foster care teens, emancipated youth and adult alumni are always welcome.
      Having experienced foster care ourselves, we know that holidays can be difficult.
      Let's come together - share our strength and insights, rejoice in how far we have come.
      Let's encourage one another for the next step in the journey....

      Every year since 2007, Thanksgiving has been a time for Ohio foster care youth (ages 16+), alumni and allies/adult supporters to gather together.

      This year, the Ohio chapter of Foster Care Alumni is holding three Thanksgiving events, with help from our valued supporters:


      The Southwest Ohio Thanksgiving will take place in Dayton:
      • Saturday, November 19, 2011, from 1:00 - 3:30 pm
      • Salem Church of God, 6500 Southway Road, Clayton, OH 45318
      Lead Facilitator: Michelle Conklin
      Primary Sponsor: New Family Tree
      Catering Sponsor: Jerri's Catering and Family Restaurant 
      Additional Sponsors: Majestic Nursery, Salem Student Ministry, Wendy's Wonderful Kids, and the Meet Me Halfway Fund of the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee
      Pumpkin Decorations: Val Bairnsfather


      The Northeast Ohio Thanksgiving will take place in Cleveland:
      Lead Facilitator: Zelma Brown
      Sponsors include: Cuyahoga County Children Services, National Council of Jewish Woman: Cleveland SectionAntioch Baptist Church, Adoption Network Cleveland, and Village Network


      The Central/Southeast Ohio Thanksgiving will take place in Columbus:
      • Sunday, Nov. 20, 2011, from 1-3:00 pm
      • Capital University - Harry C. Moores Campus Center, 745 Pleasant Ridge Ave., Bexley OH 43209
      Lead Facilitator: Bethany Koshinsky
      Sponsors include: Capital University President Bowman's Office, Village Network and Capital University student organizations and Campus Ministries, and the Koshinsky family


      The Ohio chapter of Foster Care Alumni of America wants to express our appreciation, once more to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, for their generous donation towards the cost of all three FCAA Ohio Thanksgiving Events.

      Sunday, October 30, 2011

      2011 Career and Entrepreneurship Event for Foster Care Youth and Alumni

      The Ohio chapter of Foster Care Alumni of America was one of the primary sponsors of the 2011 Career and Entrepreneurship Event for Foster Care Youth and Alumni.

      Lisa Dickson, FCAA Ohio Communications Chair, was the Lead Facilitator of the Planning Committee for this worthwhile event. It was her honor and privilege to work with fellow committee members, including:

      The event included:

      • Suits for Success, freely available to participating youth...

      At the end of the day, our most valuable feedback came -- of course -- from the youth themselves...

      Rhonda Sciortino's Keynote ~ Quotes from Youth Evaluations:
      • “It was wonderful. I am SO glad she was able to come. It gave me a lot of insight, not only into my situation, but how to live my life.”
      • “I liked that Rhonda encouraged us – we need more of that”
      • “It was nice to be able to meet someone that was a foster child in the past, and that has a wonderful life.”
      • “This session was really helpful and inspirational to me cause it gave a lot more hope for my future and it showed me that you can do whatever you want, if you have the passion for it and put your mind into it.”
      • “Mrs. Sciortino taught me that no matter what anyone says to try and put me down and say that I can’t do it, that I’m the ONLY ONE who can change my life and succeed in my life.”
      • "Was really interested in what Rhonda was saying – it gave me hope that I could become something in life. LOVED IT”
      One young person just wrote, on the evaluation form regarding Rhonda's presentation: "Thank you."

      Overall Event ~ Quotes from Youth Evaluations:
      • “Worth the trip, thoroughly enjoyed it”
      • “It was wonderful. I really enjoyed it. I hope we can do it again, soon.”
      • “I loved it. This conference ROCKS! I hope we have another”
      • “I thought that it was all very helpful! And I think that all the information I got today will help me down the line.”
      • “Anything they said was helpful, if you just apply it to your life. A quote that always went through my head: ‘How to you live when you’re ruled by your past? But how do you forget a past that made you?”
      • “I enjoyed it, and it will help me in the future.”
      • “The event was a success in terms of the people I connected with.”
      • “The whole event was very professional, and organized by the way that everything was set up and put together, and I believe everyone who decided to have this event for us are really caring people who really cares about the youth and where they end up, and who they become. Thank you very much for inviting me.”
      • “I have really enjoyed the whole entire time I’ve been here. I appreciate every single person who taught me things that I didn’t know were possible”
      • “I’m glad I came today, because I learned a lot of stuff that will help me with a successful future.”
      • “I am really glad that I got to come up to Columbus; I am leaving with lots of new facts than when I came. I really think that all students need to do what I did today.”
      • “I really enjoyed it, even though I had to get up really early. I liked it.”
      • “I really enjoyed myself and really changed my perspective on jobs, life and success. Loved it!!!”

      Sunday, June 19, 2011

      Adrian McLemore in Associated Press article

      This Father's Day, an article about our very own Adrian McLemore, first President and founding member of the "Overcoming Hurdles in Ohio" statewide youth advisory board, and current Media Spokesperson of Foster Care Alumni of America's Ohio chapter, is being shared throughout the country.

      Authored by Associated Press journalist Helen O'Neill, this article focuses on Adrian's role as uncle/kinship caregiver for his niece and nephew.

      Friday, June 10, 2011

      Resources for Ohio youth "aging out" of foster care


      • Go with the young person to apply for food stamps, or accompany him or her to the nearest Food Bank.
      • Here's a list of Food Banks in Ohio.


      • Foster care youth who "age out" of the system can receive Medicaid until age 21.
      • Navigating the adult Medicaid system can be challenging.
      • Don't assume that the staff at the Medicaid office will be aware of this program -- bring a copy of the flyer.

      Higher Ed
      • Ohio Reach is a statewide initiative to increase the number of foster care youth who enroll in and graduate from college.
      • A good place to start in choosing a college is to look over the list of Ohio Reach Campus Liaisons.


      Legal Assistance

      Are you a current or former foster youth between ages 16-25?

      Do you need help with:
      • Understanding legal papers? 
      • Getting healthcare, public benefits, housing or insurance? 
      • Applying to college? Deleting criminal records? 
      • Finding your social security card, birth certificate, or other personal documents? 
      • Speaking up for yourself in court, at school or in the community? 
      Contact the Foster Youth Advocacy Center: (614) 236-6768,


      Mental Health
      • Each Ohio county has a Mental Health Board, and it's up to us to advocate for specific services for transitioning foster care youth.
      • It's important to be aware that former foster youth suffer from PTSD at a rate twice that of Vietnam war veterans.


      Phone Bills
      Self Advocacy
      Social Security

      Tuesday, June 7, 2011

      Radio interview with ODJFS Director Michael Colbert and Adrian McLemore

      Key quotes:
      • ODJFS Director Colbert points out that today's foster teens are Ohio's future citizens and leaders, and that by supporting them now, they won't need other types of support in the future.
      "What you don't want is young people to leave our system and come back, right back in another system. You want them to leave our system and go on to become productive citizens in life."

      • The director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, Michael Colbert, has met with many of Ohio's foster youth, and says he is impressed with their resilience. He adds that it's crucial to prioritize support for their future success.
      "These are very good young people. They've had some tough times and, by giving them a small bridge to help them better themselves in life, we are making Ohio as a whole better, and this goes a long way for such a little investment."

      Friday, June 3, 2011

      Appreciation for ODJFS Director Michael Colbert

      ODJFS Director Michael Colbert,

      Ohio foster care youth and alumni would like to thank ODJFS for advocating for the $2 million/year designation of TANF funds in HB 153 to support the restoration of the foster care Independent Living Initiative. We offer our thanks on behalf of the Ohio Youth Advisory Board as well.

      Please let us know if there is any work that we can do to support your efforts. We are more than willing to advocate for funding.

      Ohio foster care youth and alumni were deeply involved in advocating for this allocation in 2009:
      • Adrian McLemore reminded the Ohio Senate that we foster care youth look to the government to be our parent. 
      • Sarah Callihan explained in detail how independent living funds had helped her to successfully transition from foster care to adulthood. 
      • Lisa Dickson quoted national research indicating that “Every $1 invested in continued foster care supports and services results in a return of $2.40."
      • Foster care youth visited 24 legislators offices to remind them of the wisdom of investing in transitional youth who are “Ready to Launch” into adulthood.
      Testimony by Ohio foster care youth was quoted in the 2009 Hannah Reports:
      • Public testimony before Human Services Subcommittee
      • Public testimony before the Senate Finance and Financial Institutions Committee
      Please keep us posted and let us know if there is anything we can do to support your work,

      Once again, thank you – the words themselves seem insufficient in comparison with our gratitude.


      Lisa Dickson
      Communications Chair
      Foster Care Alumni of America Ohio chapter

      YWCA Greater Cleveland Offers Supportive Housing for Former Foster Youth

      Independence Place Serves as a Model for Helping Society's Most Vulnerable Young People

      CLEVELAND, June 2, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- For most teenagers, turning 18 represents the milestone of "coming of age." For teens in foster care, that birthday also brings a less hopeful term: "aging out." At 18, most of these young adults are no longer eligible for the support they were able to rely on as children. Often, they are left homeless and unable to support themselves and, in some cases, their own small children.

      Now, for former foster youth in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, there is an alternative. The YWCA Greater Cleveland has opened Independence Place, a permanent supportive residential facility for young adults 18-24 years old who have aged out of foster care and have nowhere to turn.

      "Many of the young adults who transition out of foster care are all alone and, through no fault of their own, find themselves in desperate circumstances," said Margaret Mitchell, YWCA Greater Cleveland president and CEO. Studies show that within four years of emancipation from foster care nearly a quarter of these young adults have been homeless, nearly a quarter have not earned a high school diploma or GED, fewer than half are employed and almost half have experienced significant financial hardships.

      Such statistics have driven the YWCA Greater Cleveland to its position at the forefront of providing comprehensive services for this often-overlooked population. In 2008, the organization established a program called NIA (Nurturing Independence & Aspirations) for young women, ages 14-24, who are involved in or have transitioned from the foster care system. NIA provides encouragement and support to approximately 100 participants each year.

      The recently opened Independence Place is among only a handful of programs in the country offering permanent supportive housing to these young adults as they work toward self-sufficiency. Each of the 23 fully furnished apartments includes a kitchenette, private full bath, air conditioning and a large closet. The facility also offers a community room, laundry room and a playroom for children. Through the NIA program, residents have access to supportive services including classes that teach GED preparation, parenting skills, job readiness and independent living skills.

      "Independence Place is a place of promise and hope," Mitchell said. "We believe this innovative model of residential support will be one that is replicated across the country."

      CONTACT: Dawn Hanson, 216.229.5220,

      Thursday, May 19, 2011

      2011 Wendy's Wonderful Kids Summit ~ Youth Panel

      The 2011 Wendy's Wonderful Kids Summit took place at the Hilton at Easton.

      Attendees included adoption recruiters and their supervisors from all 50 states and Canada - 250 adoption professionals who work to find families for children in United States foster care. Many work with older youth.

      Lisa Dickson, of the Ohio chapter of Foster Care Alumni of America, moderated a 3-panel youth panel presentation, made up of members of the Montgomery County VISION Board and the Ohio Youth Advisory board.

      Panel members Tyniesha ("Tiny") Lanos, Brianna Christian and Adrian McLemore did a wonderful job!

      Saturday, April 30, 2011

      FCAA Ohio Family Cookout: May 7th

      FCAA Family Cookout ~ Because We ARE Family

      Date/Time: Saturday, May 7 · 11:00am - 3:00pm
      Location: Sharon Woods Metro Park, 6911 South Cleveland Avenue, Columbus, OH

      PURPOSE OF EVENT: We work so hard to make a difference. We make sacrifices that other people might not even know about.

      That's why this event is designed for us to get together and relax. Get real. Talk about what we've learned in our relationships (dating, marriage, parenthood). Encourage one another - and be flat-out silly together.

      DETAILS: All you have to bring is yourselves -- but hey, if you wanna make this a potluck, feel free to bring some extra food :)

      And definitely, you are welcome to bring your children and spouse/girlfriend/boyfriend. Please, please do so!! These are the families that we have created for ourselves.

      There will be fun activities for children... it's probably too soon for water balloons, but you never know with Ohio weather!!

      Cieria Rodriguez-Toney, 2011 FosterClub Outstanding Young Leader

      Congratulations to Cieria Rodriguez-Toney for being chosen by FosterClub 
      to be recognized as a 2011 Outstanding Young Leader.

      Prior to being elected as the Ohio YAB's first female President, Cieria served as Vice President for two years.
      Cieria has participated in youth panels for several organizations, including Capital Law School's National Center for Adoption Law and Policy and the 2011 Northeast Ohio Independent Living Summit. She was invited by the Ohio Supreme Court to present during a 2010 Judicial Teleconference on Youth Voice in Court.
       Throughout the state, Cieria continues to support the efforts of county youth advisory boards, including:
      • Co-presenting a workshop for Lorain County foster youth on how to build and maintain foster care youth/alumni communities
      • Co-presenting a workshop for Stark County youth on navigating relationships with biological parents

      During her time in foster care, Cieria felt disconnected from her Hispanic heritage. As a young adult, Cieria is currently advocating for opportunities for Ohio foster care youth to reconnect with their culture during their time in foster care. Particularly, she would like to see the Columbus International Festival offer a youth track, at cost to the public but free of charge to foster youth.

      Because of her passion to make a difference, Cieria recently helped facilitate the 2011 Hispanic Leadership Conference.

      Cieria is an articulate advocate, skilled at diplomacy and very reliable. She exemplifies the type of vision  and determination that young people need to succeed. And... she is also a wonderful mother:

      Monday, April 25, 2011

      2011 FosterClub All-Star, Dauntea Sledge

      Dauntea Sledge is a former Franklin County foster youth who currently serves as President of the Franklin County Youth Advisory Board, and Media Spokesperson of the Ohio Youth Advisory Board. He is an active member of the Ohio chapter of Foster Care Alumni of America.

      Dauntea's volunteer experience includes the following:
      • Bridges Out of Poverty Steering Committee
      • Youth Violence Prevention Board
      • Franklin County Citizen Corps Counsel
      • Salesian Boys and Girls Club
      • Americorps VISTA 
      After attending the Bridges Out of Poverty and Getting Ahead programs as a participant, Dauntea now assists facilitators in leading workshops that support the Bridges Out of Poverty Initiative.

      During his time with the Salesians Boys and Girls Club, Dauntea was the runner-up for "Youth of the Year" and received the "Turned Around Teen of the Year" award.

      Dauntea spent a year volunteering for Americorps Vista, working for Community Properties of Ohio, working with people in poverty and broken homes.
      Recent activities that Dauntea has been involved in include:
      • Participating in an FCAA/FosterClub Focus Group to investigate launching an Americorps pilot targeted specifically for foster care youth
      • Presenting as part of a Youth Panel during the 2010 Ohio CASA Conference
      • Co-presenting workshops for youth during the 2010 Northeast Ohio Independent Living Summit
      • Sharing the importance of "Youth Voice In Court" during a 2010 Judicial Teleconference hosted by the Ohio Supreme Court
      After presenting during the 2010 Judicial Teleconference on Youth Voice in Court, Dauntea was asked to write an article for Common Ground, a publication of the Ohio Supreme Court that goes out to each of Ohio's 88 judicial districts. The decision was made that, from now on, there will be a Youth Corner in the Common Ground Publication.

      During his time in foster care, Dauntea was able to stay in touch with his younger brother Antonio, in order to support and encourage him, and make sure he is aware of resources to assist in navigating both foster care and young adulthood.

      Dauntea and Antonio currently volunteer to co-facilitate monthly activities for Village Network Columbus in order to help to prepare foster youth for adulthood, and encourage them to support one another as peers.

      Additional investments that Dauntea makes with his time include:
      • Supporting the goals of National Center for Adoption Law and Policy to starting a free legal clinic for current and former foster youth
      • Supporting ODJFS in improving the quality of caseworker visits
      • Supporting Ohio CASA in their desire to include the voices of current and former foster youth on Citizen Review Panels.
      • Being a wonderful father to his two children: 

      Thursday, March 10, 2011

      Village Network Columbus

       Please note that all the yummy treats you see are made by Kayla Linderwell!

      The Ohio chapter of Foster Care Alumni of America is meeting with approximately 30-40 Village Network Columbus foster care youth once a month in order to help them prepare for the transition to adulthood.

      Check out the photographs of foster care alumni who are serving as activity facilitators below (youth not pictured for confidentiality reasons).
      • In January, we led Advocacy Training to let them know: “Together We Can Make a Difference." 
      Co-facilitators: Lamar, Kayla, Antonio and Dauntea
      • Our February meeting took place on Valentines Day:
      Co-facilitators: Antonio, Dan, Lisa, Mark and Dauntea
      •  In February, we hosted a Higher Education Scavenger Hunt for approximately 35 youth, mostly male.
      Co-facilitators: Mark Anthony Garrett and Dan
      •  In March and April, youth worked in teams on Four Financial Challenges.
      Co-facilitators: Dauntea, Dan, Lisa, Kyle and Lamar
      • While the youth were trying to Juggle Expenses (literally), Bethany Workman and Dauntea Sledge met separately with Village Network foster parents to encourage them to have conversations about finances with the foster youth in their home.
      Co-facilitators: Bethany Workman and Dauntea Sledge
        • Our April theme was: Don't Put All Your Eggs in One Basket!
        Co-facilitators: Dan, Antonio, Lisa, Bethany, Kayla, Dauntea and Sean Patterson
        • In May, we facilitated hands-on cooking exercises:
          Co-facilitator: Valencia Dove

          Sunday, February 27, 2011

          VISION in Dayton leads to campus housing

          Kudos to the VISION Youth Advisory Board for their advocacy efforts to provide campus housing during breaks for former foster youth attending Wright State University!!

          Quote from Adrian McLemore, posted on Wright State's website 
          and featured in Sunday Dayton Daily News today:

          "When I aged out of the foster system, I moved straight to Wright State. Being a former foster child, I had nowhere to go during breaks. See, we're not allowed to go back to where we were. Dan Bertsos and others at Wright State helped me to be sure I always had someplace to stay. They saw things in me that I couldn't see. I've learned a lot about myself and have become a leader, helping other foster kids find their way to college and to break the cycle of foster care."

          —Adrian McLemore, Political Science major

          Saturday, January 8, 2011

          Spotlight on FCAA Ohio Member: Danny Taylor

          Danny Taylor has a long history of involvement in foster care advocacy, including his involvement in Cuyahoga County’s Teen Advisory Group (TAGyc) and Ohio’s statewide foster care youth advisory board (Ohio YAB).

          Danny's strongest skills are creativity and communication. Danny could walk into a room of strangers, and make every person in that room feel at ease. He has the ability to connect with and communicate with people of all ages and backgrounds.

          During the time that Danny served as Media Spokesperson for Ohio’s statewide youth advisory board, he was asked to figure out a way to share his communications skills with other youth. Danny responded by creating this diagram:

          Danny’s diagram, the Taylor Model, has been shared on a statewide level, and proved to be helpful in facilitating positive communication between youth and social workers, youth and foster parents, and during roundtable meetings discussing permanency/independent living.

          As Danny explains it, “When I come to the table, I don’t expect to do all the talking. I’m willing to listen, too. And I will respect the role and responsibilities that you have. But I’d like to have at least one-third of the say at the table – because your decisions directly impact my life and my future.”

          Similarly, during Ohio’s NE Thanksgiving dinner for teens in foster care and emancipated youth, Danny shared a poem he had written about what holidays are like for youth after emancipating from foster care. His words resonated with attendees:

          Chew on this... you look left and right and see empty chairs
          You talk about fun times over the year but silence only fills the air
          You slouch down in your chair and no one scolds you and makes you sit up
          A plate hits the floor and no one tell you to get up

          I know. Hard to imagine, yet crazy as it seems
          This is reality for some, at times even myself
          To lie to myself and say all I need is me
          No dinner on the table... just another day I'm thankful for being able to see more misery

          Grateful for feeling unwanted and not feeling a part of the family
          Knowing and having it shoved in my face like the dressing
          Stuffed like a turkey of thoughts so depressing
          It shouldn't be like this!

          Why is it like this?
          Why can't I connect with you? Why can't you connect with me? Why is it like this?
          How come my yams aren't so sweet?

          In addition to capturing the struggle of holidays spent without a forever family, Danny’s poem also spoke of humor, hope, and resilience:

          Who said anything about misery?
          I'm all smiles and giggles, come look at me
          Looky! Looky! I got collard greens
          And never had zucchini bread until I had some from the wonderful lady
          Every time I take a bite, I savor the flavor and think how much better it tastes around everyone….

          These stanzas capture the heart of Danny’s upbeat personality. Throughout every challenge I have seen him face as an emancipated foster youth, including having his wisdom teeth come in when he lacked medical insurance, Danny has displayed perseverance and a positive attitude. I am proud to know him, and to be able to stand side-by-side in our efforts towards foster care advocacy and building up the community of current and former foster youth here in Ohio.