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Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Update on our work to create a Scholar House III for Foster Scholars

Ohio foster care youth and alumni have been working with the Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority and Columbus State Community College to propose a Scholar House III for former foster youth pursuing higher education.
Former foster youth worked directly with the Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority to decide what services would be needed, and to vote on specific elements related to building design.
Our project was chosen as a secondary priority for the 2018 Qualified Allocation Plan’s set aside for Transitioning Aged Youth – and our understanding is that only the first recommendation will actually be funded.
During the OHIO Youth Advisory Board's recent Youth Policy Retreat, youth leaders recommended that the next step might be:
  • To host a Round Table in May, with foster care youth/alumni “Captains” at each table, along with Flip Charts, to brainstorm how to move this project forward.
  • The youth came up with a list of people to invite to the Roundtable, including the Mayor, the Ohio Attorney General, County Commissioners, Shelter and Policy Board, CMHA, CPO Management, President of CSCC, President of OSU, OSU Foundation Staff, OACCA, CEO of White Castle, CEO of Mitchell’s, JCPCares, Chase Bank, the Wexners, the Schottensteins, Cardinal Health, Nationwide, Fortune 500 companies, and lobbyists

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

HB 137: Ohio Police as Mandated Reporters

What does it mean to be a mandated reporter?

Mandated reporters are required to make a report of suspected abuse when they have reasonable cause to suspect that a child or teenager is a victim of abuse.

Every state has in our nation has statutes identifying which professionals who have frequent contact with children and teens are required to report suspected maltreatment - but Ohio is the only state that doesn’t include police officers on its list of mandated reporters.

HB 137, as proposed by Representative Bernadette Kennedy would amend Section 2151.42 of the Ohio Revised Code to make municipal and county police officers mandatory reporters of abuse and neglect.

How does it feel to be a child or teen experiencing abuse or neglect?

The Overcoming Hurdles in Ohio Youth Advisory Board (OHIO YAB) is a statewide organization of young people (aged 14-24) who have experienced foster care. Our mission is to be the knowledgeable statewide voice that influences policies and practices that effect all youth who have or will experience out of home care.

Alumni of Care Together Improving Outcomes Now (ACTION Ohio) is dedicated to improving outcomes for current and former foster youth. Our mission is to bring together the voices of foster care youth, alumni and allies, in order to create lasting change and generate hope for current and former foster youth, based on access to resources, ally support and alumni expertise.

Speaking as current and former foster youth, who serve as statewide leaders and community volunteers, we strongly support this bill.  

We can testify from personal experience that physical abuse comes with a feeling of powerless. To experience abuse without intervention gives children and teens a scary message about their personal worth and what to expect from other people.

How would empowering police as mandated reporters help?

From a child welfare and emotional health standpoint, it is essential that police officers in our state become mandated reporters. This will make a life-changing - and even life-saving - difference for children and teens. 

Sadly, throughout the state of Ohio, in every legislative district, there are children and teenagers who - right now at this very moment - are being physically abused.

As the PCSAO Factbook illustrates, the #1 reason for children and teens coming into foster care in Ohio is physical abuse.

Now, let's think about the kids and teens who aren't being counted or included in that number. What about them?  How long will they continue to experience abuse without intervention?

How can we work together to solve this problem?

We care about and deeply appreciate Ohio police officers - and that's why we need them on our team to help push this forward. Our goal is to work together with them to develop a better safety net for vulnerable youth in Ohio.

We value our police, and recognize that some officers are taking the time to report abuse already. This next step forward is about “level setting” – getting everyone on the same page, in order to provide consistency in response to abused teens and children throughout our state.

The National Fraternal Order of Police and law enforcement officials support this bill.  Their support demonstrates that they view the responsibility of reporting abuse and neglect as central to their jobs, and the statistics bear out that this is true.  HB 137 will enhance the relationship between law enforcement and children’s services and further develop the safety net for vulnerable children.

How can we move forward together?

The first step is passing this bill.

The next steps will include trauma-informed training, mentorship and support. This can include a focus on Best Practices; officers who do a good job at reporting abuse can serve as mentors and role models. Training can include reminding police officers to view teenagers not as perpetrators, but as victims of abuse.

Let’s stay in touch, and continue working together