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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.