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Friday, February 3, 2012

Spotlight on FCAA Ohio Members: Vanessa Jackson

Vanessa Jackson is a former foster youth with firsthand expertise of being a teen mother.

Vanessa had her first child at age 12, at which time she entered foster care. Thanks to the support of Montgomery County Children Services, Vanessa and her son were able to share the same foster care placements, and maintain their parent-child relationship.

Vanessa never allowed the challenge of her situation to keep her from pressing forward to build a bright future for herself and her son. After "aging out" of foster care, Vanessa completed her LPN, and continues to pursue her Bachelor's degree in nursing.

Vanessa's leadership experience in the state of Ohio includes serving on the Montgomery County VISION Board, being a founding member of the Ohio Youth Advisory Board, and the first Ohio YAB Secretary. In the past, she has served as President of the Southwest Regional Youth Advisory Board, and the seeds of her efforts are now coming to fruition as Greene County works to create a county Youth Advisory Board.

Vanessa is very organized -- a skill that as a teen parent, she found to be critical. She is a good listener and a great note-taker. Vanessa has demonstrated through her advisory board leadership experience her ability to keep a group on task.

If you are looking for a workshop or keynote address regarding how to address the unique needs of teen mothers in the foster care system, Vanessa would be an excellent presenter.

Vanessa is comfortable speaking in front of others, and has done so on numerous occasions. The diversity of experiences and activities she has been involved with continue to improve her skills as a presenter and speaker.

Vanessa's prior training experiences include co-facilitating pre-conference youth activities at the National Independent Living Association (NILA) Conference, as well as presenting trainings for foster parents. She has been a guest lecturer on topics related to foster care, such as sharing her insights in a judicial teleconference, hosted by the Ohio Supreme Court, and presenting as part of a Youth Panel during Ohio's first Ohio Reach Summit and a prior OCWTP Trainer Event.

In Montgomery County, Vanessa has assisted in presenting Independent Living trainings for foster care youth. She currently serves a Peer Mentor to three teen moms who are currently still in the foster care system.

Vanessa's experiences have made her an excellent role model -- her firsthand experience has challenged her to seek out resources -- her expertise regarding the details of these resources (i.e. supports for single parents on college campuses) are incredibly valuable.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Spotlight on FCAA Ohio Members: Alex McFarland

Congratulations to Alex McFarland for being selected to serve on the inaugural National Foster Youth and Alumni Policy Council, headed up by FosterClub and Foster Care Alumni of America.

Alex currently serves as Legislative Liaison of Foster Care Alumni of America Ohio chapter and Vice President of the Ohio Youth Advisory Board.

The majority of council members are between the ages of 16 and 24 at the start of their service. Two seats are reserved specifically for older alumni.

Requirements for Eligibility:
  • Must have spent time in out-of-home care (may include foster care, residential treatment, kinship care, legal guardianship)
  • Demonstrate capacity to participate in a leadership position involving child welfare policy (for example, through participation on a Youth Advisory Board or Youth Council)
  • Be able to articulate ideas and solutions regarding youth issues and concerns 
  • Have the ability to interact constructively with peers in a group setting

Alex's Qualifications:

Alexander McFarland has served as President of Ohio's statewide foster care youth advocacy board (Ohio YAB) for two years. He currently serves as Vice President.

When the Ohio YAB lost its funding and supportive staff, Alex immediately began advocating for alternative funds, and succeeded in attaining a grant for 25K that currently supports the continued existence of not only the statewide board, but county and regional foster youth advisory boards as well. Alex has traveled throughout the state of Ohio to help create and develop youth advisory boards..

Alex has served as the Legislative Liaison for the Ohio chapter of Foster Care Alumni of America for three years. He participated in the 2008 FCAA Alumni Leadership Institute and the 2009 anniversary of Chafee funding. Alex was chosen by Ohio's First Lady to represent the needs of Ohio's foster care youth on Governor Strickland's 2010 Steering Committee to support Youth and Young Adults in Transition. In 2010, Alex was chosen as a FosterClub Outstanding Young Leader.

Alex is known throughout the state for his vision and determination. He testified before Ohio legislators to advocate for the restoration of the state Independent Living Allocation. He arranged for Ohio foster care youth, alumni and allies to visit 24 legislator’s offices on April 28, 2009, in order to promote Ready to Launch, a reminder to Ohio legislators of a front-end investment in transitional youth.

Alex recently met with the Ohio Attorney General on December 15, 2011 to encourage his office to partner with the Ohio Board of Regents in order to fund a full-time position to support Ohio Reach, a statewide initiative to increase the number of foster care youth who enroll in and graduate from college.