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Friday, March 30, 2018

Sibling Rights #NothingAboutUsWithoutUs

Ohio foster care youth and alumni recently shared their insights during an Interested Parties Meeting facilitated by Representatives LaTourette and Boyd regarding HB 448: Sibling Rights to Connection.

Participating experts, via lived experience, were:
1.) Jewel Harris
2.) Julius Kissinger
3.) Jerri Braswell
4.) Amanda Davis

Panel Moderator: Rep. LaTourette asked the following questions:
1.) Name, age, and whether or not you were placed with your siblings during your time in foster care/adoption
2.) One of the things this bill would do is to expand the definition of siblings. For those who experience foster care, the definition of sibling is often more broad. Do you have any personal examples of this?
3.) This bill strengthens the wording requiring child welfare agencies to place siblings together when possible and maintain frequent contact when siblings are not placed together. When you were in foster care did you ever go long stretches of time without seeing your siblings? How long? Were you told why?
4.) How would things have been different for you if you were not separated from your sibling(s)? What do you feel could have been done differently? Did your agency/county support or help you when asked about sibling visitation/contact?
5.) Explain in your own words how it feels to be separated from, and out of contact with, a sibling. How does this impact your/their Safety, Permanence and Well Being? (the three areas that the federal government measures child welfare on)

Insights shared included the following:

  • Siblings are a core part of who we are. It's not "normal" (aka: Normalcy) to be separated from siblings. This loss can make a young person feel isolated - lost and alone in a great big and uncaring world where all they can do is sink or swim.
  • Being disconnected from siblings is a traumatic loss that should be taken seriously, and it should be included when it comes to the mandates of a young person's individual service plan.
  • Outcomes matter - and being disconnected from siblings can and does impact interpersonal relationships as an adult.
  • If a young person experiences abuse in an out-of-home (or bio) placement, and has siblings to support them in that moment, this can be a major protective factor in empowering that young person to share what happened, and for them to stand together in demanding to be removed from that placement. But without sibling support, a child or teen can feel incredibly alone.
  • For those who wish they could have been there to protect their siblings, but were separated from them, trying to build a relationship later in life is painfully difficult. It is tough to prove that you are a safe person to a younger sibling who hasn't seen you in years, and who has had painful experiences during which you weren't there to help. Especially when you wish you were there, but had no choice when it came to not being able to be there to protect them.
  • Truly caring about the immediate needs and long-term success of Ohio foster care youth and young adults means moving beyond clinical descriptions of carefully chosen case files gone well. It means listening to the youth themselves about what they long for, and what they need. In most cases, they don't ask much - literally, the greatest ask I've heard lately was a young person whose Children Services agency is within a couple blocks of her high school -- and all she wanted was for her caseworker to consider meeting her at her high school, giving her a ride home, and just listening to her during the drive.

2018 ODJFS All Staff Meeting ~ Youth Panel

ACTION Ohio had the honor of moderating the Youth Panel during the ODJFS All Staff Meeting on Thursday, March 29, 2018.

Officers-in-Training Jewel Harris (Allen County) and Samantha Dillon (Athens County) talked about:

1.) Youth voice in Ohio’s implementation of the Family First Prevention Services Act (which was passed and signed into law as part of the Bipartisan Budget Act on February 9, 2018), such as:
  • Extending Chafee eligibility until age 23
  • Extending ETV eligibility until age 26
  • Recruiting more high quality foster homes, especially foster parents for teens and host homes for young adults
  • Requiring groups homes and residential placements to be Qualified Residential Treatment Programs in order to be eligible for Title IV-E foster care maintenance payments (trauma-informed, nursing standards, inspections and monitoring) 
2.) Top youth concerns from the last statewide OHIO Youth YAB meeting were shared, including:
  • Desire for one-on-one time with caseworker, and knowing the chain of command/next person to contact if unable to reach their caseworker directly
  • Youth voice in the development of plans for their future (including roundtables and SARs)
  • Youth voice in court - including sibling contact, decisions about visitation, and plans for reunification
  • Normalcy (especially in group home settings)
3.) Appreciation for ODJFS support:
  • Thanking ODJFS for updating Youth Rights Handbook
  • Thanking ODJFS for being willing to update communication regarding NYTD to make the message more youth-friendly and explain why the questions are being asked, and to follow up with a list of resources 
  • Appreciation for Bridges (with a special message from former OHIO YAB President Gabriel Young)

Monday, March 19, 2018

Sightseeing and Journey Home

Link to photos

Legislative Visits, Day 2

Link to more photo

Wednesday, March 14, 2018:

  • 8:30 am - Coffee with Senator Rob Portman in Russell 447
  • 10:30 am - David Scala of Congressman Jim Jordan's office (SW group)
  • Noon - Catherine Wilson of Congressman David Joyce's office (NE group)
  • 1:00 pm - Kevin Carson of Congresswoman Joyce Beatty's office (SW group + Jamole)
  • 1:00 pm - Sarah Nasta of Congresswoman Marcia Fudge's office (NE group)
  • 2:00 pm - Congressman Bill Johnson and Kelli Ripp (SW group + Jamole)
  • 2:00 pm - Angelique Salizan and Shilesha Bamberg of Senator Sherrod Brown's office (NE group + Doris)
  • 2:30 pm - Representative Steve Stivers (entire group)
  • 3:30 pm - Representative Michael Turner
  • 6:00 pm - Dinner with Casey Family Programs and discussion of the Family First Act

Link to more photos

Legislative Visits, Day 1

Link to more photos

Tuesday, March 13, 2018:

  • 10:00 am - Rachel Schwegman of Congressman Robert Latta's office (SW group)
  • 10:00 am - Shane Hand of Congressman Jim Renacci's office (NE group)
  • 11:00 am - Drop by two offices: Rep. Brad Wenstrup and Rep. Steve Chabot (SW group)
  • 11:00 am - Drop by two offices: Rep. Marcy Kaptur and Rep. Tim Ryan (NE group)
  • 2:00 pm - Meeting with HUD (entire group)
  • 4:30 pm - Meeting with Barbara Sard and Douglas Rice of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (entire group)
  • Celebratory Dinner, sponsored by the National Center for Housing and Child Welfare

Link to more photos

DC Training Day 2018

Link to more photos

Training at hotel

9:00 am 
  • Federal vs. State vs. Local Legislation
  • How a Bill Becomes a Law
  • Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities Act
  • Foster Care to Homeless Pipeline

10:30 am 
  • Circle Diagram
  • Roles During Legislative Visits
  • Legislative Visit Role Plays

Noon – Lunch

1:00 pm 
  • Youth work in groups (listed below) with Flip Charts, and then report out
  • Adults assist youth in preparing their talking points and framing the "ask"

2:00 pm 
  • Preparation for HUD visit

3:00 pm 
  • Preparation for meeting with Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
  • Questions and Answers

Blue Group (Southwest and Central Ohio):
  • Youth: Sidney, Torrie, Kimberly, Kyajah and Perrish
  • Adult Supporters: Doris, Stacia, Jessica and Donta (Stacia and Jessica will be asked to take photos)

Red Group (Northeast Ohio): 
  • Youth: Shajuana, Fayvian, and Christopher
  • Alumni Supporters: Lisa and Jamole