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Saturday, December 30, 2017

Need-to-know resources for current/former foster care youth in Ohio

Here in Ohio, we are exploring way to create a future phone app for foster care teens and young adults, to connect them with available resources.

During our July 2017 statewide OHIO YAB meeting, participants, including our statewide Board President, talked about how having a phone app to access information, by category, in the moment of need/crisis, would be beneficial.

In the meantime, these are the resource lists/tools that we have compiled so far:

1.) Statewide Resources for Foster Youth

2.) Statewide Resources Grid   (listed in the order that the specific requirements for the provision of independent living services to youth in custody was listed in Ohio Administrative Code: 5101:2-42-19)

3.) OHIO YAB Foster Youth Rights Handbook (edited by Alexander McFarland)

4.) Independent Living Roadmap and Toolkit (draft created by Michael Outrich)

5.) Franklin County Resources for Foster Youth

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Ohio House Bill 448: Advocating for Sibling Visitation

Update: Ida Yarngo of Franklin County was excited to to participate in the recent interested parties meeting that Representatives LaTourette and Boyd hosted on Tuesday, January, 16, to introduce HB 448: Sibling Rights Legislation.
Ida shared that when she came to the United States from Liberia, everyone and everything that she had ever known was now literally a continent away. And the one familiar comfort to her was her brother. And then she was separated from that connection as well. When that happened, Ida felt incredibly alone.
She was honored to have the opportunity to meet with the legislators who are championing this legislation, and to thank them for standing beside her to improve policy regarding this important issue.    

The current wording of Ohio House Bill 448 defines a sibling as:

  • Someone who "shares at least one biological or adoptive parents, or has been raised in the household as a sibling."

It is important that this definition remains broad, because:

  • When families break down, relationships become complex and complicated.
  • Sibling relationships might include biological siblings who were relinquished or removed at birth, half-siblings, step-siblings or current/former foster siblings.
  • Not all couples are married, so a sibling could include: "Mom's ex-boyfriend's daughter."

It will also be important for the wording to remain firm in order to truly make those sibling connections HAPPEN:

Research demonstrates that the sibling bond is stronger between brothers and sisters from dysfunctional families. In abusive and/or neglectful families, it is common for siblings to nurture and protect one another. When parents are neglectful or abusive, older siblings often voluntarily take on a quasi-parental role.

Quote from a Time Magazine article about "The New Science of Siblings:"
  • “From the time they are born, our brothers and sisters are our collaborators and co-conspirators, our role models and cautionary tales, our protective barrier against family upheaval.
  • "They are our scolds, protectors, goads, tormentors, playmates, counselors, sources of envy, objects of pride. They teach us how to resolve conflicts and how not to; how to conduct friendships and when to walk away from them. Sisters teach brothers about the mysteries of girls; brothers teach sisters about the puzzle of boys.
  • "Our spouses arrive comparatively late in our lives; our parents eventually leave us. Our siblings may be the only people we'll ever know who truly qualify as partners for life.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Remembering Charlotte Osterman

Charlotte Ostermann is gone, but she will never be forgotten.

It is because of Charlotte, that an ad hoc committee began meeting in April 2008, in order to empower the voices of foster care alumni as trainers for the Ohio Child Welfare Training Program. Charlotte's sweet and gracious spirit is matched by a stubborn determination.

She never gave up, and it is because of her that several foster care alumni involved in ACTION Ohio are OCWTP trainers today.

The seeds that Charlotte planted are why foster care alumni have been empowered to help write the training curriculum for the Bridges program. She always saw the value of foster care youth and alumni voice.


Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thinking of you on Thanksgiving

ACTION Ohio ~ Alumni of Care Together Improving Outcomes Now

It’s Thanksgiving Day, and what I am most thankful for is having the chance to celebrate
regional early Thanksgiving dinners with my brothers and sisters of the foster care system. We hope you were able to make it, and be a part of our celebrations. We want you to know that you are welcome to stay in touch with us all year.

Leadership Opportunities

We encourage young people ages 14-24 to get involved in their local youth advisory board. There are also statewide opportunities for leadership coming up in 2018. Please consider filling out the
OHIO YAB Officer in Training Application.

Video Opportunities

Three separate times, during three different early Thanksgiving dinners, a young person began crying because they said they had finally found a foster parent who believed in them. Ohio needs foster parents for teens, and host homes for young adults. Please look over, and promote the
OHIO YAB Video Project Application.

DC Advocacy in 2018

We are currently working behind the scenes to finalize the date for our sixth annual Three Days on the Hill. Ohio youth voices over the past five years have led to Representative Michael Turner proposing the Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities Act. It’s time to end the Foster Care to Homelessness Pipeline.

Statewide Resources

We want our statewide family of those in and from foster care, and our allies, to know that you matter. We want you to know about every resource available to support your success.

Higher Ed?    We hope you know about filling out the FAFSA as an independent student, applying for
ETV funds, and reaching out to Ohio Reach regarding campus supports.

Legal Help?  
FYAC is a fantastic (and free) resource. They can help track down your foster care records, assist in landlord-tenant disputes, and so much more.

Healthcare?  We hope you know that former foster youth are eligible for
free Medicaid until age 26. You can call their hotline at 1-800-324-8683.

Lisa Dickson
Communications Chair
Alumni of Care Together Improving Outcomes Now

2017 Central Thanksgiving dinner

Link to additional photos.

The 2017 Central Ohio Thanksgiving Dinner took place in Columbus: 
  • Date: Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017 
  • Time: 1:00 - 4:00 pm 
  • Location: eStem Academy, 8579 Summit Road, Reynoldsburg OH 43068
    *Part of Reynoldsburg High School's Summit Campus 
Event Sponsors:
  • Stonybrook United Methodist Church 
  • E-merge Real Estate 
  • Reynoldsburg City Schools, including the Leo Club 
  • National Council of Jewish Women, Columbus Section 
  • Junior League of Central Ohio 
  • Kay's Catering
  • Starfish Alliance 
  • United Methodist Children's Home 
  • Half Price Books 
  • Dave Thomas Foundation 
  • My Very Own Blanket 
  • Alina Walker, CASA
Planning Committee: 
  • Lisa Dickson, Jamole Callahan, and Doris Edelmann, Deanna Jones, Ruth-Ann Jones Thompson, ACTION Ohio
  • Ann Bischoff, Star House

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

2017 SE Ohio Thanksgiving Dinner

Link to additional photos.

The 2017 SE Ohio Thanksgiving Dinner took place in Athens: 
  •  Date: Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017 
  • Time: 1:00 - 4:00 pm 
  • Location: Ohio University, Grover Center 
Event Sponsors:
  • Kiser's BBQ 
  • Ohio University 
  • Athens County CASA 
  • Athens County Foster Parent Association 
  • Athens County Children Services 
  • ACTION Ohio 
  • Fairfield County Children Services 
  • My Very Own Blanket 
Planning Committee: 
  • Jenny Stotts, Athens County CASA 
  • Michael Outrich, Lisa Dickson, Jamole Callahan and Doris Edelmann, ACTION Ohio 
  • Lisa Seitz, Athens County Children Services 
  • Stephanie Jackson, Fairfield County Children Services

2017 SW Ohio Thanksgiving Dinner

Link to additional photos.

The 2017 SW Ohio Thanksgiving Dinner took place in Cincinnati:
  • Date: Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017 
  • Time: From Noon - 2:30 pm 
  • Location: Peoples Church, 220 William Howard Taft Road, Cincinnati OH 45219 
  • The Peoples Church 
  • Opportunities Knocking TLP 
  • Easley Blessed Photography 
  • ACTION Ohio 
  • The Forgotten Initiative 
  • Montgomery County JFS 
  • Kroger 
Planning Committee: 
  • Elizabeth Garmon and Allanna, The Peoples Church 
  • Val Bairnsfather, Safe Pastures Transitional Living 
  • Doris Edelmann, Lisa Dickson and Jamole Callahan, ACTION Ohio 
  • Laquita Howell, Opportunities Knocking TLP 
  • HEMI 
  • Pat McCollum, SWOFCA

Sunday, November 5, 2017

2017 NE Ohio Thanksgiving Dinner

Link to additional photos.

The 2017 NE Ohio Thanksgiving Dinner took place in Cleveland: 
  • Date: Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017 
  • Time: 11:00 am - 2:00 pm 
  • Location: Saint Ignatius High School, 1911 West 30th St., Cleveland OH 44113 
Event Sponsors: 
  • St. Ignatius High School 
  • Cuyahoga County Children and Family Services 
  • Junior League of Greater Cleveland 
  • National Council of Jewish Women, Cleveland Section 
  • ACTION Ohio 
  • Fill This House 
  • Adoption Network Cleveland 
  • Open Table
  • Bessie's Angels
Planning Committee: 
  • Danielle Green-Welch, Cuyahoga County Children and Family Services 
  • Lisa Dickson and Doris Edelmann, ACTION Ohio
  • Special thanks to Delilah Hoffman for making many calls to public and private child welfare agencies behind the scenes, to identify the agency contact person, and encourage their agency to transport youth so they could attend

Photos and details about the Pathways conference

Coming soon....

Sunday, October 1, 2017


ACTION Ohio continues to partner with the Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority, and Columbus State Community College, to seek to establish 20+ housing units for former foster youth pursuing higher education in Columbus OH.

Link to more photos.

#FosterLeadership at the 2017 PCSAO Conference

During the 2017 PCSAO Conference, Deanna Jones and Lisa Dickson presented a workshop on how foster care agencies can "Foster Leadership" by listening to and empowering the voices of foster care youth and alumni.

Link to more photos.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Exploring possibilities for future transitional housing

Exploring possibilities for future transitional housing for foster care youth...

UnitedHealthcare On My Way

UnitedHealthcare On My Way website:

Helping Ohio teens in foster care prepare for independent living

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Sunday, August 20, 2017

2017 Bare Necessities Cooking Classes

Great job, Jermaine Ferguson and The Ferguson Foundation:

  • Yesterday's Bare Necessities workshop effectively engaged foster youth 
  • They left with a better skillset regarding cooking, and additional insights into themselves

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Remembering Brittany Sergent

Brittany Lynn Sergent, 19 entered into eternal rest on Monday, July 24, 2017 in Ashtabula, OH. Her life ended much too soon and her death is grieved by all who knew her. Brittany was the biological daughter of Debra Zalimeni of Ashtabula and David (William) Sergent of St. Clairsville, and the beloved foster daughter of Rob and Angela Hytree of Painesville.

While the extent of her biological family is unknown in full, she is survived by several siblings, half-siblings, and aunts. Her foster siblings, grand-parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins were also her "family". Her dear friends were her "family".

To Brittany, blood didn't make you family, love did. And there is no shortage of people who loved her.

Brittany attended Painesville Twp. And Painesville City schools, as well as earning her HS diploma through homeschool and online efforts. She was a true Red Raider at heart.

Britt love to sing. She was in choir at school and sang on the youth group worship teams at both Freedom Assembly of God and Painesville Assembly of God. She was an avid lover of contemporary Christian music. Some of her favorite artists include: Skillet, Lecrae, and Crowder and concerts were her favorite events. Britt was unashamed of her faith in Jesus Christ as her savior.

In addition to her love of Jesus and music, Brittany wrote poetry. She submitted a poem to a regional fine arts competition and scored so highly with the judges that she was invited back to compete at the national level.

Brittany's pain and struggles in this life were deep and they were real. If anyone reading this is dealing with similar struggles, please don't be ashamed. Seek help. Britt wanted to help everyone and she loved everyone. She would urge you to find someone you can trust and reach out to them in your time of need. Don't say you're "fine" when you aren't. Know that you're loved and you're worth it. Don't give up hope. You don't have to be alone.

Celebration of Life Service - Sunday, August 6th at Calvary Fellowship Baptist Church, 727 Mentor Avenue, Painesville, OH 44077. Family will receive friends at 2pm and the service will begin at 3pm.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Senators introduce their version of the Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities Act

WASHINGTON (KCRG-TV9) -- Sen. Chuck Grassley and Sen. Debbie Stabenow, co-chairs of the Senate Caucus on Foster Youth, and Sen. Al Franken, Sen. Tim Kaine, Sen. Angus King and Sen. Tim Scott, have introduced bipartisan legislation to help youth aging out of foster care with housing needs.

“One of the biggest challenges facing older foster youth is aging out of care and being without a place to live,” Grassley said. “This bill would make it easier for such youth to get federal housing assistance so they can continue their education, get a job and have a good start into adulthood.”

“Homelessness and poverty are a real danger for teenagers when they age out of foster care,” Stabenow said. “We need to do everything we can to help them transition to stable and successful adult lives, and this bill helps with that process.”

“Every year, I am given the opportunity to welcome young leaders from the Foster Youth Internship Program into my office. It is amazing to see them push forward towards their goals, in spite of many challenges," Scott said. "That is why it is important for us to lift them up when necessary, and this bipartisan bill will help our foster youth who are aging out of care prosper and continue working to achieve the American Dream.”

The Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities Act would grant priority preference for federal housing assistance to foster youth who are aging out of care and allow youth in foster care to apply for housing assistance at the age of 16, prior to aging out, which in many states occurs the day foster youth turn 18. 

Foster youth face an especially difficult transition period from childhood to adulthood, and as many as 37 percent become homeless soon after aging out of care. Even more face housing instability such as frequent housing changes and “couch surfing.” They are particularly susceptible to human trafficking and other dangerous outcomes as a result.

Helping these young people access federal housing assistance will provide a safety net and allow them the opportunity to get on their feet and become self-sufficient adults. 

The bill is the Senate version of a measure in the House of Representatives by Rep. Mike Turner.

Grassley co-founded the Senate Caucus on Foster with the goal of hearing directly from foster youth about the challenges they face. A focus has been on helping youth transition from care to adulthood. The transition is difficult, with some youth facing lack of employment or educational opportunities, substance abuse and homelessness.

Friday, July 21, 2017

DC Opportunities for Foster Care Youth and Alumni

1.) CCAI Foster Youth Internship Program

Throughout the summer, the FYI Program interns spend time researching about policy issues affecting foster children across the country. These experiences allow the interns to create a policy report that is presented at a congressional briefing and released to child welfare advocates across the country.

2.) Congressional Foster Shadow Day

Every year, the Congressional Caucus On Foster Youth hosts over 100 current and former foster youth from across the nation as part of their Annual Foster Youth Shadow Day. The young people are paired with a federal representative. They participate in legislative meetings, and have the opportunity to share their personal experiences to make a difference for others.

3.) National Foster Care Youth and Alumni Policy Council

This is a two year commitment that includes regular phone calls, meetings and trips Washington, DC. Flights, hotel and food costs are covered.

Three Upcoming Video Projects

Three Upcoming Video Projects:

1.) The OHIO Youth Advisory Board invites foster parents of teens and foster youth who have had a very positive experience in foster care to fill out our Video Application to create a future video to recruit foster parents for teens and host homes for young adults.

2.) The OHIO Youth Advisory Board invites foster care youth and alumni who want to share their insights about things they wish someone had told them to prepare for life after foster care as part of our upcoming Foster the Future video series.

3.) The Bridges team is partnering with the Ohio Supreme Court to work on a video series as well. Below is a hint of what they have in mind. Learn more by contacting them at

2017 July OHIO YAB Meeting

During the 2017 July OHIO Youth Advisory Board meeting, Officers shared:

  1. The latest draft of independent living resources, authored by Michael Outrich - youth feedback and input is welcome
  2. The VISION shirts that will be given to youth who attend our "Take Your Future From Vision to Reality" workshop during the 2017 Fostering Pathways Conference
  3. The Passion Planners that will be given to youth who participate in our "Time Management: Turn Your Passion Into Plans," also during the Pathways conference on Oct. 12, 2017

    Link to more photos

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

ACTION Ohio is still seeking Suits storage space

Suits for Success provides professional attire to current and former foster youth who are preparing to enter the workforce. This program was created in 2011 by Ohio foster care alumni and the Ohio State Bar Foundation.

ACTION Ohio (Alumni of Care Together Improving Outcomes Now) takes the lead on facilitation, with regional suits drives and behind-the-scenes assistance organized by the Ohio State Bar Foundation.

The success of this ongoing initiative reflects the support of many organizational partners, including OACCA, the United Methodist Children’s Home, and the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

Link to photos.

We are currently seeking a future storage location for donated suits. Our current storage facility will only be available for the next 2-3 months.

Any donated space would be tax-deductible, as per our fiscal agent, OACCA:

Ohio Association of Child Caring Agencies
ATTN: Suits for Success
 2600 Corporate Exchange Drive, Suite 180
 Columbus OH 43231 (614) 461-0014

OACCA's Federal Tax ID #: 34-1168205

Questions can be directed to:
Lisa Dickson Communications Chair
Alumni of Care Together Improving Outcomes Now

This Week News: Lights, Camera... ACTION!

Day by Day: ‘Aging out’ of foster care can bring difficulty
By Liz Thompson, This Week News, July 3, 2017.

Her mother died of cancer when she was 10. Her father was physically abusive and she was removed from the home. In foster care, she lived in an emergency shelter, an all-girls group home and a co-ed group home.

Lisa Dickson was inspired by these experiences to become an advocate for change. At 16, she was accepted into college -- her lifeline into the future.

“I remain forever grateful to Randy Mills, former admissions counselor at the University of Kentucky, for literally walking me down the hall to financial aid and telling them, ‘This girl has no family to help her -- this girl needs grants,’ ” said Dickson, now a Westerville resident.

“It sounds great to say that I started college at age 16 -- but by age 17, I was homeless due to trying to rescue my former roommate from a group home. This urge to rescue others is so strong that we Ohio foster-care (alumni) currently lead a workshop called ‘When Helping You Is Hurting Me,’ ” Dickson said.

During her time in foster care, Dickson said she often had no voice. Today, she listens to the voices of current and former foster youth. They stand side by side to improve outcomes for people in and from foster care.

Dickson considers it an honor to volunteer as communications chairwoman of Alumni of Care Together Improving Outcomes Now Ohio, and as co-facilitator of the Overcoming Hurdles in Ohio Youth Advisory Board. She helped create both groups in 2006. Their initiatives include annual trips to Washington, D.C., to share their hard-won experiences and advocate for policy change, such as ending the “pipeline” from foster care to homelessness.

“What I don’t get is this: I aged out of foster care in 1989 and ended up homeless,” Dickson said. “Why are today’s youths still aging out into homelessness? We could and should and must do better.”

U.S. Rep. Michael Turner (R-Dayton) created the Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities Act as a direct result of one of those visits to Washington.

This act, with no additional spending required, allows foster-care youth who are close to “aging out” of foster care to jump to the front of the waitlist for housing assistance when they reach 16 years old.

ACTION Ohio’s Suits for Success program provides professional attire to current and former foster youths who are preparing to enter the workforce. Suits for Success needs a future storage location for donated suits. The organization welcomes suit donations on an ongoing basis. It often pairs distribution of the suits with job-interview simulations and resume practice.

“Time and time again, our young people tell us that it’s not enough to know what the resources are -- they need coaching and guidance regarding how to access them effectively.”

Two such places are Capital Law School’s free Family and Youth Advocacy Center for current or former foster youths and Columbus State Community College’s Scholar Network.

“Even after graduating college, as a foster-care survivor, it can feel lonely to be ‘one of the ones who made it,’ ” Dickson said. “Our young people today deserve to have campus liaisons like Randy to support them.”

Holidays and birthdays can be lonely for current and former foster youths, when many families gather to celebrate.

“I’ve been married for 17 years and have two beloved stepdaughters, but I don’t expect them to understand what the foster-care experience was like for me,” Dickson said.

On Thanksgiving 2007, Dickson and other former foster youths from across the nation traveled to Washington to encourage the federal government to extend foster-care support to age 21. They shared Thanksgiving dinner on the steps of the U.S. Capitol.

From 2008 onward, Ohio has held statewide and regional early Thanksgiving dinners for foster-care teens and alumni. Dickson serves as lead planner.

“When we come together as brothers and sisters of the foster-care system, we can encourage and support one another. We celebrate each other’s success and continue to improve outcomes for the next generation.”

Much needs to be done, as an average of 150 children in Franklin County alone age out of foster care every year.

For more information, email

Thursday, June 22, 2017

2017 CFSR

Kudos to our Ohio youth representatives for doing an amazing job on Tuesday, as part of the Federal Review of ODJFS.

Link to more photos.

Insights they shared included the following: 

  1. Appreciation for the Bridges program and YAB funding
  2. Ongoing challenges related to the fact that Ohio child welfare does the same thing 88 different ways, depending on county
  3. Expressing the need for Normalcy: Ohio's training went out to foster parents first, but many public and private child welfare agencies still haven't changed their policies
  4. Sharing the challenge of being in the custody of one county but placed in another: Ohio needs a bigger pool of foster parents for teens and host homes for young adults
  5. Reminding us of the need to make sure youth are still receiving copies of the OHIO YAB Youth Rights Handbook on an ongoing basis
  6. Sharing the need for more consistent Life Skills preparation: not just sharing a class one time; letting youth practice new skills more than once
  7. Reminding the Feds that Permanency needs to be permanent, rather than  adoptions that break down or are unsafe -- if only everyone did adoptions the Dave Thomas way
  8. Reminder again of the need for safe placements: our young people deserve to be safe in bio, adoptive, foster, kin, group homes, residential -- and it needs to be suited to their needs and development
  9. Asking youth why they ran away - and not just returning them to that same placement
  10. Youth also talked about higher education supports, like the CSCC Scholar Program

2017 OFCA Conference

Ashley Marie Williams and Katana Waters did a wonderful job representing the voices of current and former foster youth during the 2017 Ohio Family Care Association (OFCA) Conference.

Link to additional photos.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

2017 Bare Necessities

Jermaine and Anita Ferguson of the Ferguson Foundation facilitate the Bare Necessities: 'An In-Kitchen Experience' program.

Through this program, once a month, foster care youth ages 14+ will receive hands-on cooking instructions, combined with additional life skills information, to prepare them for their future.

Many thanks to Clint Scott and PrimaryOne Health on Parsons Avenue for supporting the Columbus pilot, by sharing their insights, resources and access to their on-site kitchen.

Link to additional photos.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

2017 CSCC Scholars in DC

Proud of CSCC Scholars for representing Ohio foster youth in DC. 

The Columbus State Scholar Network (CSSN)
is available to current or former foster youth who are admitted and enrolled at Columbus State Community College. This program provides current and former foster youth with a network of support during their college journey, including a five-day conference, ongoing mentoring, monthly Lunch & Learn Workshops, peer-to-peer support and other campus resources.   

2017 Congressional Foster Youth Shadow Program

Proud of Jermaine Ferguson and Heather Hill for representing Ohio!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Helping CSCC Scholars Prepare for Their Upcoming Trip to DC

Michael Outrich and Lisa Dickson of ACTION Ohio were honored to help prepare Columbus State Scholars for their upcoming trip to DC.

The Columbus State Scholar Network provides current and former foster youth with a network of support during their college journey, including:
  • A five-day conference
  • Ongoing mentoring
  • Monthly Lunch and Learn Workshops
  • Peer-to-peer support
  • Other campus resources
Students who actively participate as Scholars are eligible to receive scholarships (stipends) and other valuable incentives to help build student success.

Visit this link for more photos.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

2017 OSU College for the Day

ACTION Ohio was honored to partner with our allies to host our fourth OSU College for the Day for Ohio foster care youth.  Youth participants represented Franklin, Athens and Montgomery counties.

Many thanks to:
  • OSU CHEE (Center for Higher Education Enterprise)
  • OSU DICE (Diversity, Intercultural and Community Engagement)
  • Buckeyes for Adoption and Foster Care
  • Franklin County Children Services 
The day included:
  • A Higher Education Scavenger Hunt
  • Youth reporting out and sharing their goals for the future
  • A Residence Hall Tour
  • Youth sharing their talents (art, music and comedy)
  • An engaging and wonderful speaker, Dr. Micky Sharma
  • Hands-on networking 
  • Opportunity to play sports outside

Please visit this link for additional photos.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

2017 Foster Care Awareness Panel at Tri-C

Visit this link for more photos.

Five updates from yesterday's 2017 Foster Care Awareness Panel at Tri-C:
  1.  Excellent local partnerships to support higher education success for foster youth, including bridge between Cuyahoga Community College and Cleveland State University
  2. TAGyc meetings are taking place on a college campus (this is Cuyahoga County's local youth advisory board)
  3. Sullivan-Deckard Scholars Opportunity Program has retained 11 Scholars, who continue to move forward to attain post-secondary success
  4. Current goal to recruit at least 10 new Pratt Center Scholars, with campus supports and scholarships of up to $1K
  5. Two scholarships available to high school seniors (full-four year scholarships, including housing, meal plans and textbooks)

Sunday, April 30, 2017

National Safe Place program - do you know your local Safe Place?

What is a Safe Place?    It's a local place that is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, that youth can go if they are being abused or if they have (or are tempted to) run away. Safe Place is a national program - visit their website at to identify local help in your area.

Due to Ronnie Dotson and his leadership, he and I and a group of foster youth visited Huckleberry House yesterday. This is where homeless and runaway youth in our area are transported to if they go to a Safe Place in need of help.

It matters that today's young people throughout Ohio know about available resources when they don't feel safe in their own homes - including unsafe foster homes. It made me incredibly happy that two of our youth participants have stayed at Huckleberry House before, and they both had very positive things to say about their experience. I still wish I had got a photo of their kitchen - it was awesome, but it was also being cleaned at the time.

Here are the notes on how they said they would describe Huck House to other youth...

What to expect:

  • "Comfort" 
  • "Safe" 
  • "Fun" 
  • "Caring" 
  •  "Respectful" 
  • "Always have a nice meal" 
  • Xbox 1, PS4 and PS2 
  • School accommodations: COTA bus pass to district 
  • "Nice staff - friendly people" 
  • "Outings - fun weekend activities" 
  • "Somewhere to sleep" 
Additional things that I learned from the tour:

  • The TV room was very cozy, and youth looked very comfortable watching the movie together 
  • I really liked the chalkboard walls that teens could write on 
  • It was very touching that many of them signed their name: "_________ was here." 
  • The music room, with a guitar and piano, was a great creative touch 
It's an impressive legacy that Huckleberry House has been around since 1970. It was interesting to hear the story behind it -- that teens would run away and hide at college campuses, because they could blend in with other youth. Kudos to Huck House for their dedication to surveying teens in order to include their voice on things like allowing cell phones.  (Yes, cell phones are definitely allowed).