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Thursday, March 26, 2020

Wishing that every state would extend foster care supports to age 21

In the words of Jamole Callahan of ACTION Ohio: 
  • "This was a hard fought journey for advocates here in Ohio. Nationwide, at this moment, this offers a mechanism to serve and support young adults in their most crucial times. It’s time for EVERY state in the nation to extend supports to young adults transitioning out of care until 21."

Friday, March 20, 2020

Appreciation for Heather Zenone

We Ohio folks had the honor and privilege of meeting with foster care alumna Heather Zenone in February. Heather is a powerful DC advocate with an eye toward improving outcomes for our population, especially in light of the current pandemic. She has been sharing our policy recommendations with the federal Ways and Means committee.

Excellent recommendation from CDF

ACTION Ohio loves this recent recommendation from Children's Defense Fund national and the Child Welfare and Mental Health Coalition:

  • "Boost Title IV-E Chafee funds to $500 million. These additional funds could be used above and beyond what states have already locked into place for their ongoing independent living funds and services. Allow states flexibility in expanding Chafee funds for services and supports for youth including financial assistance, and employment assistance."

National strategy proposals to strengthen the child welfare safety net in response to COVID-19

Policy recommendations are being discussed behind the scenes to support young people in and from foster care, by advocates throughout the nation (including Youth Villages and Children’s Defense Fund). Some of my current favorites are listed below.

 They include recommendations that we have made. We are continuing to work on strategy proposals, in partnership with the ever-amazing Ruth Anne White of the National Center for Housing and Child Welfare. 

- Waiving the 30% Chafee housing cap
- Waiving the work and education requirements for Chafee
- Doubling Chafee funds
 - Having every state extend Chafee services until age 23

Title IV-E -Waiving the Title IV-E work and education requirement for older youth in extended care beyond age 18, and the work and education requirements for Chafee
- Having every state extend foster care to age 21

Congregate Care: 
 - “Addressing concerns around congregate care by promoting reductions of unnecessary group care placements to reduce viral transmission, providing access to sanitation services, supporting access to educational resources on appropriate social distancing measures, and providing access to technology and supports for virtual learning” (from the Child Welfare and Mental Health Coalition) 

ACTION Ohio remains concerned about lack of cell phone access for foster care youth, especially those who are in group home/residential placements, and how this might be further isolating them at this time.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Appreciation for Chancellor Randy Gardner

ACTION Ohio is deeply grateful for Chancellor Randy Gardner of the Ohio Department of Higher Education.

He and his staff have reached out to Ohio colleges and universities to remind them about vulnerable populations on their campuses for whom the dorm might be their only home (including former foster youth).

He personally took the time yesterday to circle back with key decision makers on campus to encourage them that their messaging about dorms shutting down should also include supportive messaging for young people for whom their dorm on campus is their only home.

So far, the list of Ohio colleges are closing their dorms includes:

- Antioch College
- Cedarville University
- Central State University
- Denison University
- Hiram College
- Hocking College
- Kenyon College
- Lake Erie College
- Marietta College
- Muskingum University
- Oberlin College
- The Ohio State University
- Ohio University
- Ohio Wesleyan University
- Ursuline College
- Xavier University
- Wilmington College
- Youngstown State University

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Appreciation for Dr. Milner’s message

Many thanks to Dr. Jerry Milner, Associate Commissioner, Children’s Bureau, for sending out this message to child welfare staff throughout the nation:

Dear Child Welfare Leaders,

In the last 24 hours the Children’s Bureau has been made aware of the closing of colleges and universities to protect the health and well-being of students.  Unfortunately, for many youth in foster care or formerly in foster care, on-campus housing is their only housing option.  For many of these youth and young adults, there is no place to go once the school has closed their dormitory or on-campus housing, resulting in the real-time potential for homelessness for many of these youth. 

The time to act is now.  We urge all child welfare agencies to immediately contact all youth and young adults in colleges or in other settings who may need assistance finding and securing housing while their college or university is closed.  Some schools and universities are offering the ability to remain in campus housing due to unique circumstances.  We urge child welfare agencies to work with college and universities, urging them to continue to provide housing as appropriate to meet the special needs of youth in foster care/ formerly in foster care.

For those youth and young adults who are not able to stay at their colleges or universities, the child welfare agency should be prepared to offer assistance to young people in identifying housing.  This could be through foster homes, assisting young people to contact relatives and other caregivers, or identifying other settings so that no young adult is without housing.

In all circumstances, we encourage child welfare agencies to be attentive to youth and young adults affected by these circumstances.  Youth may require assistance not only with housing, but also accessing food, health care, and emotional support.  We ask child welfare agencies to act with a sense of urgency to reach out to and support youth/ young adults at this moment.

As a reminder, up to 30 percent of a state’s or tribe’s annual allotment under the Chafee Foster Care Program for Successful Transition to Adulthood may be used to provide room and board assistance to eligible youth ages 18 – 21 (or up to 23 if that option has been exercised in the Chafee plan).    Please direct any questions on allowable use of Chafee funds to your Children’s Bureau Regional Office. 

Thank you for your efforts on behalf of young people in or formerly in foster care.

Jerry Milner
Associate Commissioner
Children’s Bureau

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Don't forget to #FosterMyFUTURE

One of the 2020 priorities of Ohio foster care youth and alumni is to make sure that we and our brothers and sisters of the system are:
  • Adequately prepared to build successful futures
  • Involved in decision-making that effects our lives 
  • Informed about existing resources to us succeed
  • Empowered to help make sure that federal funding streams, such as Chafee, are fully -- and effectively -- utilized to improve youth outcomes.
The dictionary definition of foster is: "To encourage or promote the development of something regarded as good; i.e. 'the teacher's task is to foster learning.'"

Foster care is more than just a placement -- it's an opportunity to 'foster' youth futures and 'foster' youth success.