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Tuesday, April 28, 2020

'A sigh of relief:' Advocates applaud Ohio's governor for providing safety net for those aging out of foster care

Youth advocates are breathing a sigh of relief after Ohio's governor announced the state will cover the costs of those aging out of the foster care system.

Governor DeWine thanked OHIO Youth Advisory Board for coming up with this plan.

On April 25, 2020, 10TV news interviewed Talia Holmes, president of the FCCS Youth Advisory Board. She knows firsthand what it's like to be in foster care.

"You're always having to worry about making sure you're presenting yourself in the best way, so the person you're with wants to keep you," Holmes said. "[You want to make sure] you're not put into another situation that may not be as good as the one you may be leaving from."

Holmes said this is a step to ensure Ohio's most vulnerable are set up for success. "It's providing them that extra leverage to be able to make steps securely so that they are able to be successful in society," she said.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Thank you, Governor DeWine

Quotes from Governor DeWine's Press Conference on April 24, 2020:
 Gov. Mike DeWine announced the state will continue to cover the costs for youth in foster care who are turning 18 during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to DeWine, more than 200 people will “age out” of Ohio’s foster care system in the next three months.

“For many of these young people, their future looks uncertain because of COVID-19, whether their plan was to start a career or pursue higher education. This program will provide them with a safety net during these difficult times,” DeWine said.

This option is also available for those in the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services’ Bridges program, which is foster care to age 21. DeWine said those in Bridges can stay in the program to help them maintain their housing, jobs, and education.

“These changes will ensure that no child leaves care during this pandemic without a safe place to call home. I encourage county children services agencies, juvenile courts, and the foster youth themselves to take advantage of this new opportunity,” he said.

During his daily briefing, DeWine thanked Ohio’s Youth Advisory Board for coming up with this plan.

Message to Ohio Public Children Services Directors on April 24, 2020:

Dear Directors,

Here is some additional information regarding the announcement you heard from Governor DeWine today at the press conference regarding children aging out of foster care and Bridges.

Foster Care: To ensure adequate transition planning and delivery of needed services to foster children, increased flexibility has been instituted within the Multi-System Youth allocation. These funds can now be used to support the cost of extended placement and supports for any youth aging out from any placement setting through June 30, 2020. These funds can be used to pay for supports that were expended as of the March 22, 2020 Stay at Home order.

Please refer to Procedure Letter 349: Foster Youth Not Aging Out for additional information about utilizing these funds to support these youth.

Bridges: In addition, please note that Bridges funding has also been extended to support young adults who turned or will turn 21 through June 30, 2020. Again, these funds can be used to pay for supports that were expended as of the March 22, 2020 Stay at Home order.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Open Letter to Governor Mike DeWine

Open Letter to Governor DeWine from the OHIO Youth Advisory Board and ACTION Ohio, with three requests:

1.) Expedite the timeline for establishing a statewide Foster Youth Ombudsman’s Office.

2.) Extend Chafee supports to age 23, as authorized by the federal Family First Act.

3.) Suspend emancipation proceedings for all youth facing release from foster care for six months, allow re entry for foster youth younger than 21, and allow youth who reach the age of 21 in extended foster care (Bridges) to remain in care through October 30, 2020.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Outreach to federal legislators about COVD-19 and its impact on foster youth

ACTION Ohio and the National Center for Housing and Child Welfare reached to federal legislators in March and in April to propose solutions to safeguard foster care youth and alumni during this current pandemic.

Open letter to the Children's Bureau on March 31, 2020

This open letter to the Children's Bureau from ACTION Ohio, the National Center for Housing and Child Welfare and Onward Hope, included eight proactive recommendations.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Touching base with ODJFS Director Hall

Yesterday's meeting via phone with ODJFS Director Hall and Office of Children Services Transformation Director Kristi Burre was a great opportunity to discuss how we can all continue to support Jada Williams and AgedOutt's work with Suits for Success and Jaye Turner's faith-based El'lesun efforts

We shared/reiterated five Strategic Focus Areas for 2020:*As identified by Ohio foster care youth and alumni

1. The creation of a Statewide Foster Youth Ombudsman’s Office; which is especially important during the current “Stay at Home” order because the risk for abuse is greater

2. Normalcy and Safety Issues to be addressed, especially in group homes and residential placements

3. Mandatory Training Tracks for foster parents and caseworkers who serve teens, with curriculum designed by ACTION Ohio incorporating foster care youth, alumni and ally insights

4. Federal Advocacy to increase the pool of resources available to support Older Foster Youth in their transition to adulthood, especially in the midst of this international pandemic

5. Seeking to identify existing resourcescreate new onesdevelop partnerships and maximize use of and access to state and national resources, such as extending Chafee until age 23 in the state of Ohio.  

The most important topics that we touched on during yesterday's call were:

1. That April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and that we would love to circle back with Kristi Burre next week regarding progress on the Ombudsman's Office. We know that children are at greater risk of abuse during this stay-at-home order, whether it's from their biological families or in an unsafe foster, group home or residential placement.

2. That Ohio has the option through the Family First Act to extend Chafee to age 23, and to expedite making this happen. The deadline might not be until October, but several 
other states have moved forward to extend Chafee to 23 already.

3. Likewise Ohio would also be well-advised to follow the example of Illinois and Ontario by not "aging youth" during this time. The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services have agreed to continue protecting soon-to-be 18- and 21-year-olds who are set to age out of the state’s foster care system during the coronavirus pandemic. Ontario has made similar provisions.

There is a way we do business when an international pandemic isn't going on, but when one is happening, we need to expedite that process. If there were ever a time to bypass additional meetings and focus groups, that time is now.

In the midst of COVID-19, foster care youth and alumni are being disconnected from work, school, and external support systems. They are at risk of losing housing, human trafficking, and even their lives. They can't wait until October. The time to act is now.

The Office of Child Welfare Transformation Director and her team made the commitment to connect with us within the next week regarding expediting the process.

Zooming in with HUD and federal legislators

Many thanks to HUD Regional Administrator Chris Patterson, who serves as National Lead for the FYI Foster Youth to Independence Initiative. Christopher initiated a Zoom call last week to bring together foster care youth, alumni and allies to discuss this initiative created by/for former foster youth, under Secretary Ben Carson’s leadership.

Participants included current/former foster youth from Arizona, California, Florida, Missouri, New York and Ohio. Staffers from federal legislative offices were on the call as well.

ACTION Ohio remains dedicated to support this work moving forward - we would like to see FYI vouchers available in every eligible state and county in our nation. We deeply appreciate the HUD team, including the ever-amazing Danielle Bastarache. We also can't say enough about how much we appreciate Ruth Ann White of the National Center for Housing and Child Welfare.