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Monday, December 23, 2013

FCAA Ohio Pay It Forward Program

The Ohio chapter of Foster Care Alumni of America has an annual Holiday Wish Program, during which we invite alumni, allies and ally organizations sponsor one/more foster care alumni for the holidays.

In 2013,
  • One of our allies, Traci Harbal Berry and her employees sponsored one foster care alumna and her children in Canton, Cincinnati and Columbus 
  • The Office of Families and Children sponsored one foster care alumna and her children in Columbus
  • Ann Bishoff of LINK 22 and Starfish Alliance assisted with the Columbus sponsorships, and reached out to an additional single male foster care alumni in order to brighten his holidays as well 

The Ohio chapter of Foster Care Alumni of America and the OHIO Youth Advisory Board, in partnership with the Montgomery County ADAMHS Board and PCSAO, were proud to celebrate Michael Colbert as Ohio’s 2013 Champion of Change.

Date: Saturday, December 14, 2013
Time: 2:00 pm – 4:30 pm
Location: ADAMHS Board for Montgomery County, Ohio 409 E Monument Ave, Dayton, OH 45402

 I. Welcome
 II. Introductory Remarks
 III. Words of Appreciation for Our Champion
 IV. Open Mike: Opportunity for Participants to Share
 V. Awards Ceremony
 VI. Photographs and Informal Networking

Monday, December 9, 2013

Jamole Callahan in OCWTP Common Ground

Jamole Callahan, Foster Care Alumni Trainer through the Ohio Child Welfare Training Program

He is friendly, engaging and musically talented. He is also very knowledgeable about the issues and needs affecting transitioning youth in care. After all, he lived in and out of nine foster homes before emancipating at age 17.

Jamole trains OCWTP’s Independent Living Training series: Preparing Older Youth for Independent Living. When he stands before an audience of caseworkers and foster caregivers, he is able to provide first-hand experience regarding the challenges facing youth who transition into independent living. Jamole shares the following insights:

What is one of your specific advocacy areas related to foster care?
One of my specific advocacy areas related to foster care is emancipation. I strongly favor beginning the process of preparing youth for independent living as soon as the youth enters care.

Can you give some examples of why this area needs reform?
Youth who are not properly prepared for independent living will likely face major challenges in the areas of employment, housing, financial management, life-long connections, medical needs and decision-making. It’s a terrible and frightening existence for an emancipating youth who has no plan, no direction, no support, and no place to go.

What about this issue do you want caseworkers/foster parents/adoptive parents to know?
Everything! I want people charged with the responsibility of preparing older youth for independent living to be knowledgeable, skilled and sensitive to the feelings and needs of transitioning youth.

We need a workforce of child welfare professionals, caregivers and mentors who can work with each youth individually to make sure they are ready for independent living. Fortunately, I received a lot of nurturing and support in my last foster home just before my emancipation, which has made a huge difference in my life.

Do you have any creative ideas regarding how this information might be shared in a workshop setting?
I believe to help combat some of the outcomes mentioned above, every caseworker and foster parent should take all three workshops in the OCWTP’s Independent Living training series including Youth Development: The Vital Link, Life Long Connections and Engaging Older Youth in Transition Planning.

Not only are they innovative trainings, they are designed to change the mindset of helpers from "doing for" to "doing with" youth. These trainings help create a partnership between the youth and the adult, something needed in today's practice.

Jamole has a Bachelor’s degree in music education from Central State University. He is a popular guest speaker and uses his musical talents to perform at many community events. In addition to having an independent training contract with the OCWTP, Jamole is an alumni consultant for the National Resource Center for Youth Development. He is also a member of Foster Care Alumni of America. Jamole has started his own business: “90 Degree Entertainment.” He is married and a father of four children.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

January - March meetings of Foster Care Alumni of America's Ohio chapter

FCAA Ohio "Pay It Forward" program

Another initiative of the Foster Care Alumni of America's Ohio chapter is:
  • The Pay It Forward Program: Foster care alumni, allies and ally organizations donate baby clothing and other baby supplies for foster care alumni who are parenting.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Junior League of Ohio

The Ohio chapter of Foster Care Alumni of America was honored to present during the 2013 Junior League of Ohio's fall meeting, on the topic of Challenges Facing Youth Aging Out of Care.

2013 Central Ohio Thanksgiving Together

Link to more photos.

The 2013 Central Ohio Thanksgiving Together took place in Columbus at Reynoldsburg City Schools' eStem Academy.

Event Sponsors included:
  • Reynoldsburg City Schools
  • National Council of Jewish Women, Columbus Section
  • Ohio Attorney General's Office
  • Ohio chapter of Foster Care Alumni of America
  • Made from Scratch
  • Dave Thomas Foundation
  • Franklin County Children Services
  • Village Network ~ Columbus
Additional Sponsors:
  • EMK Press donated raffle prizes
  • Foster Youth Advocacy Center assisted with logistics
Planning Committee Members:
  • Lisa Dickson, Dauntea Sledge, Kelly St. John, and Doris Edelmann, ACTION Ohio
  • Ann Bischoff, LINK 22
  • Melinda Sykes, Ohio Attorney General's Office
  • Regina Douglas, Franklin County Children Services
  • Randi Lewis ,National Council of Jewish Women, Columbus Section
  • Jen Foster, Village Network ~ Columbus
  • Reynoldsburg City Schools High School Leo Club

2013 NE Ohio Thanksgiving Together

The 2013 Northeast Thanksgiving Dinner took place in Cleveland on November 16th: (link to more photos) 

This event was held at St. Colman Church. Sponsors included: Cuyahoga County Children and Family Services, the National Council of Jewish Women: Cleveland Section, St. Colman Catholic Church, Antioch Baptist Church, Adoption Network Cleveland, the Purple Project, Fostering the Soul, and the Dave Thomas Foundation.
Planning Committee:
  • Joe Jackson, Cuyahoga County Children and Family Services
  • Lisa Dickson, ACTION Ohio
  • Beth Dawson, The Development Project
  • Betsie Norris, Adoption Network Cleveland
  • Ilah Adkins
  • LaTasha Watts, The Purple Project

2013 SW Ohio Thanksgiving Together

Link to more photos.

The 2013 SW Ohio Thanksgiving Together took place in Cincinnati at The People's Church.

Event Sponsors included:
  • The People's Church
  • The Dave Thomas Foundation
  • Foster Care Alumni of America Ohio chapter
Additional Support and Sponsorship:
  • EMK Press donated additional raffle prizes
  • HEMI mentors provided transportation as needed for their mentees
  • Kroger assisted with flowers for centerpieces
  • Saint Paul Community United Methodist Church provided pumpkins for centerpieces
Planning Committee Members:
  • Katie Deyo, The People's Church and Coalition of Care.
  • Lisa Dickson and Doris Edelmann, ACTION Ohio
  • Val Bairnsfather, Safe Pastures Transitional Living
  • Annie Schellenger, HEMI
  • Pat McCollum, SWOFCA

Saturday, October 12, 2013

2013 FCAA Ohio Thanksgiving Reunions

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 Cincinnati.
The Northeast Ohio Thanksgiving will take place in Cleveland:
  • Date: Saturday, November 16, 2013 
  • Time: 11:30 am - 2:30 pm 
  • Location: St. Colman Church, 2027 W. 65th St., Cleveland OH 44102 
  • Registration is free, but required: Please click here to register.
The Central/Southeast Ohio Thanksgiving will take place in Columbus:

  • Date: Sunday, November 24, 2013 
  • Time: 1:00 - 4:00 pm 
  • Location: eStem Academy, 8579 Summit Road, Reynoldsburg OH 43068  *(Part of Reynoldsburg High School's Summit Campus) 
  • Registration is free, but required: Please click here to register.

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.

2013 Ohio CASA Conference

During 19th annual Ohio CASA conference, the Ohio chapter of Foster Care Alumni of America facilitated a youth panel/workshop, made up of representatives from the OHIO Youth Advisory Board, on the topic of "Resources for Youth Transitioning from Foster Care to Living On Their Own."

Partners for Forever Families Symposium, Sept. 19-20, 2013

During the third annual Partners for Forever Families Symposium, the Ohio chapter of Foster Care Alumni of America facilitated a youth panel and subsequent workshop on the topic of "Resources for Youth Transitioning from Foster Care to Living On Their Own."

Saturday, August 10, 2013

2013 Ohio Reach Planning Retreat

The Ohio chapter of Foster Care Alumni of America enjoyed participating in the Ohio Reach Planning Retreat, and loved the fact that five of the 25 participants were foster care alumni. "Nothing about us, without us!"

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Central Ohio FCAA Meetings ~ Fall 2013


2013 Connecting the Dots Conference

The Ohio chapter of Foster Care Alumni of America was honored to serve as Lead Facilitator for the 2013 Connecting the Dots Conference.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

2013 Purple Project Conference

The Ohio chapter of Foster Care Alumni of America was honored to facilitate youth workshops during the 2013 Purple Project Conference. We have the utmost respect and appreciation for Latasha Watts, founder of The Purple Project.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Jenny Konrath and Sarah Callihan participate in Congressional Foster Youth Shadow Day

On May 21, participating Members of Congress were paired with 40 foster care alumni (ages 18-22) from the Member’s Congressional district. Participating youth accompanied their Members of Congress to hearings, meetings, floor votes, and other activities throughout the morning. These young people had the opportunity to share their stories with Members of Congress and discuss reforms to the foster care system.

Kudos to Jenny Konrath and Sarah Callihan for being chosen to participate in this exciting opportunity. Jenny Konrath was paired with Congresswoman Marcia L. Fudge, representing Ohio's 11th District.  Sarah Callihan was paired with Congressman Steve Stivers, representing Ohio's 15th District.

Foster Youth Shadow Day Description: Members of Congress are paired with foster youth from their districts. They spend the morning together, from 9:30 am to 1:00 pm.

Representative Marcia L. Fudge posted on her FaceBook page that: May is National Foster Care Month and I had the pleasure of having Jenny Konrath, a young lady from the Dayton area shadow me as part of Foster Youth Shadow Day in Washington. Let me tell you some amazing things about Jenny. She spent 12 years in foster care and is currently a junior at Alter High School. She’s involved in several sports and is an active member of the Ohio Youth Advisory Board and the VISION Board. I enjoyed taking her to an Education and the Workforce Committee hearing with me and motivating her to pursue her dream of becoming an attorney focusing on legislation and advocacy. Yes you can, Jenny. You are that remarkable!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Personal Milestones and Chosen Families After Foster Care

The concept of family privilege is an integral component when it comes to the national and international foster care movement.

What is Family Privilege?
  • Family privilege is defined as the benefits that come from membership in a stable family. 
  • This term refers to an intangible concept; an invisible package made up of assets and pathways that provide children, teens and young adults with a sense of belonging, safety, unconditional love and personal/spiritual values.
  • Family privilege provides youth with the opportunity to observe parents and siblings in action when it comes to addressing the everyday details of life -- this context facilitates what the general public refers to as "common sense."
  • This topic has been explored in detail by John Seita of the Seita Scholars program
So..... where do we go from here?   What do we do if we don't have this resource in our lives?  Or, maybe we have a bit of it - but what we have is damaged, fragmented, complicated... What then?

One opportunity that we always have is to connect with and support one another.

The Ohio chapter of Foster Care Alumni is grateful for the opportunity to celebrate personal milestones with some of our members, such as graduation from high school, officer commissioning, college graduation, and a baby shower!  We also held a birthday party for the daughter of one of our alumni members...

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Upcoming FCAA Ohio Regional Meetings

Fostering Success in Higher Education

The Ohio chapter of Foster Care Alumni of America was honored to have one of our members chosen by Foster Care to Success as their March 2013 hero.

We consider Foster Care to Success to be one of our valued allies, and one that we deeply appreciate. We value the wonderful opportunities, including ETV funds, that they bring to foster care alumni. Our experience with this organization has been that they strive to assist former foster youth whenever possible, and consistently go the extra mile.

Here in Ohio, we are currently looking forward to our state's fifth annual Ohio Reach Summit. Our keynote speaker, Dr. Glenn DuBois, Chancellor of Virginia's Community Colleges, spent his summer vacation bicycling over 700 miles, in order to promote Great Expectations for foster youth pursuing higher ed.

There are a growing number of of resources to prepare foster youth for higher education, including financial assistance. These resources are not limited to colleges and universities -- they exist for vocational and technical schools as well.  Let's keep working to make sure today's foster care youth, alumni and allies are aware of existing resources...

Also, let's continue to promote Ohio Best Practices, and strive to add to the growing number of Ohio Reach Campus Liaisons. Having allies on campus to support their success increases the chance that foster care alumni will enroll in and graduate from higher education.

Voices of Firsthand Experience

Kudos to Chris Chmielewski of Foster Focus Magazine for inviting foster care youth and alumni throughout the nation to share what foster care was like for them... 

Insights from two members of the Ohio chapter of Foster Care Alumni of America:

Three Days On the Hill

The Ohio chapter of Foster Care Alumni of America was honored to serve as lead facilitator, and one of the sponsors of Three Days on the Hill for Foster Care Youth and Alumni.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Three Days On the Hill - Celebration and Departure

Three Days On the Hill - Day Three: Legislative Visits and Fostering Change

During their visit with Becky Shipp, Health Policy Advisory to the Senate Finance Commitee, youth wondered whether there might be another way to encourage states to comply with NYTD other than cutting Chafee funds.

They worried that youth themselves will be punished by this, and their outcomes negatively impacted.

The young people greatly enjoyed this visit, and felt very "heard" and understood by Becky Shipp. Dauntea Sledge coordinated the ending of the meeting, during which each young person shared what they appreciated most about the visit. It was a powerful and beautiful experience.

The final visit of our trip was with Senator Rob Portman's new aide -- she was wowed by the young people. So much so that she spent additional time with them, beyond that which was already scheduled. She also arranged for them to be able to watch live Senate hearings.

Shalita O'Neale and the Fostering Change Network hosted an evening banquet to celebrate the success of the OHIO Youth Advisory Board's first trip to DC. Supporting organizations/alumni in attendance included Danielle Jennings of Blessed Haven and Chris Chmielewski of Foster Focus Magazine.

Three Days On the Hill - Day Two: Legislative Visits

After their training, youth representatives of the OHIO Youth Advisory Board identified four areas to learn more about during their time in DC:

  • What is the role of the federal government when it comes to transitional housing for youth "aging out" of foster care? 
  • Does the Uninterrupted Scholars Act address the differing number of credits required to graduate from high schools, and how this can negatively impact foster youth when they transfer from one high school to another? 
  • Could Title IV-E funds ever be expanded to allow them to be used for the training of youth -- not just adults? 
  • Is there another way to promote compliance with NTYD besides having states lose part of their Chafee dollars for noncompliance? Could there be another penalty? Rather than one that risks negatively impacting the success of foster youth? 
It was very educational for youth to be able to dialogue with federal officials. And the representatives, in turn, valued discussions with our young people.

1.) U.S. Congressman Pat Tiberi's office was already supportive and aware of the issues that youth discussed -- with one exception:

  • They were not aware that the flexibility of IV-E funds still would not allow them to be used to train youth -- only to train adults. 
  •  One OHIO YAB Officers, Tabitha Copas, compared this to the game of "Telephone" -- her question was: "Why train a foster parent or caseworker to train youth about independent living? Why not train youth directly themselves, by excellent, talented trainers?" 
  • Tabitha added that, as it is, busy caseworkers do this in addition to all their other responsibilities, and the quality and consistency of training for youth differs throughout Ohio. 
2.) U.S. Congressman Michael Turner from Dayton took a special interest in discussing housing for transitional youth. He asked many questions of young people about their personal experiences, and mentioned that he was meeting with a representative from his local Metropolitan Housing Authority later in the afternoon, and wanted to talk about setting aside housing specifically for foster youth / alumni and making them a priority.

3.) Representative John Boehner's office was the third and final visit of the day. We appreciated the Speaker of the House's willingness to set aside time during this period of busy House negotiation in order to arrange for the youth to meet with a representative from his office. The youth were articulate and presented well and we were very proud of them.

Three Days On the Hill - Day One: Training

The Ohio chapter of Foster Care Alumni of America considered it an honor to support the OHIO Youth Advisory Board in their very first visit to DC. We also deeply appreciate other organizations, including the Dave Thomas Foundation, whose support made this trip possible. Youth training was facilitated by:

  • The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI) 
  • Casey Family Programs 
  • The Office of Representative Karen Bass 
  • The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development 
  • The National Center for Housing and Child Welfare 
  • The Maryland Foster Youth Resource Center 
Youth participants learned about the Congressional Caucus on Foster Care, and federal funding sources for both child welfare and housing support.