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Thursday, May 13, 2021

Testimony before the Ohio Senate Finance Committee


Here is a link to testimony shared by Lisa Dickson today before the Senate Finance Committee regarding: 

1. What we are asking for in terms of a Youth Ombudsman Office

2. Why existing resources are not working to address this need

3. Why it must be autonomous and able to operate independently of ODJFS

4. Why it must be dedicated to youth and not combined with an office for caregivers

5. Why the voices of those with “lived experience” in foster care need to be included in its design

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

ABC6 On Your Side: Advocates fight for independent Ombudsman officer to help children in Ohio

"We want this office to be implemented correctly. Not just to say we did something. We want it to be structurally sound where it can actually serve children."

~ Quote from Jermaine Ferguson, which represents the stance of   Children's Defense Fund-Ohio, the OHIO YAB and ACTION Ohio.

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Ongoing testimony for a Youth Ombuds Office

It was vitally important that Nikki, Deanna and Juliana testified earlier this week and that Jermaine and Kim testified today, and it will be vitally important for all of us to stay engaged in this effort in order to safeguard what youth have asked for, which is:

- A Youth Ombuds Office, separate from any mechanism to serve foster caregivers 

- Able to operate independently and autonomously of ODJFS 

Once again, our advocacy efforts made the news: 

Children Services Ombudsman Office Added To Abuse Reporting Measure

The House on Thursday took a step toward the creation of an ombudsman office for the state's foster care system, although a leading child welfare advocacy group asked lawmakers to go further with the language.

The proposal to create an arbiter of conflicts within the children services system, which has been the subject of biennial budget (HB 110) testimony, was amended into separate legislation on child abuse reporting (HB 4) during its fourth hearing before the House Families Aging & Human Services Committee. The bill remains in committee.

Chair Rep. Susan Manchester (R-Lakeview) said the amendment, adopted without opposition, also expands the pool of qualified home study assessors for the foster care system. It is supported by the DeWine Administration, she said.

However, Jermaine Ferguson, speaking on behalf of the Children's Defense Fund-Ohio, ACTION Ohio, and the Ohio Youth Advisory Board, asked the committee "to add more robust language to the amendment…."

He requested that the committee:

  • Establish an independent and autonomous Youth Ombudsman Office outside of the Department of Jobs and Family Services.
  • Define the powers and duties of the office.
  • Explicitly state that the office be dedicated to youth and not serve both youth and caregivers.
  • Mandate that current and former foster youth be involved in the design and operation of the office.

"The Youth Ombudsman office should not be housed in the DJFS because the agency is solely responsible for the state's supervision of the child welfare system. There is at a minimum an appearance of a conflict of interest because the ombudsman, staffing, operations, and the budget are directly influenced by DJFS," he said. "The Youth Ombudsman office should not serve both youth and the caregiver – there must be independent mechanisms that serve youth and the family caregiver to prevent any appearance of a conflict of interest."

Chair Manchester said the decision was made to house the office withing ODJFS based on precedent and the focus of state resources. Regarding some of the specifics requested by the witness, she said policymakers did not want to be too descriptive with the language.

The chair also noted that a $1 million appropriation for the office mention by Mr. Ferguson and a subsequent witness had been removed by the House under the assumption that ODJFS could establish the program with existing resources. She added that HB4 does not include an appropriation for that purpose.

Rep. Thomas West (D-Canton) and other members questioned why the office should not focus on both youth and caregivers.

Mr. Ferguson said he's not saying caregivers should not be served, just that a separate independent office should be focused on youth.

Responding to a question from Rep. Tim Ginter (R-Salem), the witness said an ombudsman could initiate an investigation based on trends or when a youth or caseworker flags a problem.

Kim Eckhart, also with the Children's Defense Fund-Ohio, raised the same concerns with the amendment's approach by requesting the ombudsman office be independent and focused on youth.

She told Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Loveland) her group had not done cost estimates for the program but was asking that its funding be used in specific ways.

Responding to Rep. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland), Ms. Eckhart said of the original funding proposal, "I would say it's an under-estimate," especially of there were two separate offices for youth and caregivers.

The witness opined that it would be feasible to use that funding for an independent office with a separate line item.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Legislative testimony to establish a Youth Ombuds Office

Foster Youth Seek Independent Ombuds Program  
Tuesday, May 4, 2021.

Witnesses told a Senate panel Tuesday that they want a proposed foster youth ombuds office to be separate from the Department of Job and Family Services. 

Kim Eckhart, with the Children's Defense Fund of Ohio, told the Senate Health Committee that the language in the budget (HB 110) doesn't clarify that it will be independent or that it will particularly serve foster youth. The $1 million allocated in the spending bill could be used to begin a procurement process, with input from foster youth, to develop an outside ombudsman program. 

Deanna Jones, who is a former foster care youth and a caseworker in the foster care system, said an independent youth ombudsman office is needed. "I have heard stories in the community that youth have endured more trauma, more abuse, and more neglect as a result of feeling like they were not heard by their service team or the agency surrounding them," she said.

"Ohio children and teens who are experiencing abuse in biological, kinship, adoptive, foster, congregate care and residential placements deserve to be heard – but continue to report expressing their concerns, and not being listened to." 

She pointed to the story of Ma'Khia Bryant, who was killed by a Columbus police officer last month. In that case, there were previously reported issues with her foster placement that were not addressed. 

"Prior to her death, Ma'Khia and her sister reported that there were adult children in the foster home that were making them feel unwanted and unsafe," Ms. Jones said. "Lacking the current existence of a Youth Ombudsman Office, who also could they have called when they feel their service team was not able or willing responding to those concerns?" 

Nikki Chinn, a former foster youth, said current and former foster youth have advocated in recent years to address problems at residential facilities where abuse was reported, and officials did not at first take concerns seriously. 

Having an ombuds office serving youth could have led to complaints being investigated more quickly. "Having a Youth Ombudsman they could have called to investigate the issues and take appropriate action would have prevented these vulnerable young people from having to endure the abuse and trauma so many faced at the facilities," she said.

An office that tries to serve both foster youth and caregivers would have an inherent conflict of interest, she said. "Lessons learned from other states are that when an Ombudsman Office tries to serve both youth and adults, it ends up serving primarily adults." 

Juliana Barton, governmental liaison for ACTION Ohio, which represents foster care alumni, described her experience with abuse and said when she entered children services custody, she was asked why she hadn't reached out for help sooner. "An office designed by and serving youth and young adults could have prevented the years of abuse I suffered by providing an alternative mechanism to investigate the complaints against my father after children's services failed to intervene," she said. 

The advocates also urged members of the Senate General Government Budget TrackCommittee to establish the office, stressing the need for the ombudsman to be an independent entity built with the input of former foster youth. 

When asked, witnesses acknowledged that they are somewhat late given the looming deadline later this month for amendments to the budget. A version of the amendment is currently being drafting, Ms. Eckhart said, and "we are definitely working as speedily as possible." 

Even if that deadline is missed, Sen. Steve Wilson (R-Maineville) and Sen. Bob Hackett (R-London) urged the witnesses to continue their efforts. "Sometimes you don't get things done in time for the budget," Sen. Hackett said. "Don't give up." Sen. Hackett added that although he agrees with the need for independence, "the ombudsman should work extremely closely with (ODJFS)." 

Sen. Hearcel Craig (D-Columbus) described his own family's experience adopting youth and navigating the system, telling witnesses: "When we say to you we appreciate you coming down it's not hyperbole." Regarding the office, he asked: "What do you see that framework looking like?" 

Ms. Jones said the office should not be "just paperwork" and that the statute should "contain some teeth" so the proposal is not brushed aside as just another recommendation. "I just want to really stress it needs to be independent," she asked. "I cannot stress that enough." 

Sen. George Lang (R-West Chester), noting his own experience as a foster child, asked the witnesses what they envision success looking like at the conclusion of the biennium. Ms. Eckhart said the state can look at several other states that have created such offices as a guide. But she acknowledged that the health and wellness of children is difficult to measure. "I would encourage you to spend a little bit more time putting some specificity on that," Sen. Lang replied.

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Press Release re: Youth Ombudsman Office

Ohio’s FY22-23 budget bill could pave the way to creating an Ombuds Office that would protect and give voice to youth in the foster care system.

Current and former foster youth are launching an advocacy campaign to develop an independent Ombuds Office to protect the rights of children and youth in care by investigating and resolving reports brought by youth themselves. The office would act as a safeguard to ensure that youth have someone to call who will listen and advocate for them.

“When I was a child, I used to wish that someone would stop by our house and that they would find us. It never happened. My summers were filled with abuse and fear… By providing a venue where the voices of youth can be heard without fear of retribution, this office will ensure the safety of Ohio’s youth,” said Jonathan Thomas, the NW Ambassador of the Overcoming Hurdles in Ohio Youth Advisory Board (OHIO YAB).

Thomas is one of the members of the YAB taking part in an advocacy campaign launched by CDF-Ohio, ACTION Ohio and the OHIO YAB to add provisions to the budget bill (HB110) that clearly state that the office should be dedicated to youth, independent from children’s services and designed by current and former foster youth. The Ohio YAB is a statewide organization of young people (aged 14-24) who have experienced foster care. ACTION Ohio (Alumni of Care Together Improving Outcomes Now Ohio (ACTION Ohio) is dedicated to improving outcomes for current and former foster care youth.

The campaign kicks off with the release of the Ombuds Office Legislative Issue Brief and advocacy toolkit followed by more than a dozen visits with legislators and youth with lived experience in foster care to explain the importance of this office. The campaign will ramp up in May during Foster Care Awareness Month and as the Ohio Senate holds hearings on the FY22-23 budget bill.

On May 17th, youth will present at the Ohio Legislative Children’s Caucus, a bipartisan, bicameral caucus devoted to championing children’s issues.

“The voices and involvement of those with lived experience is key to making this office a success. My recommendation for an ombudsman goes beyond just having an independent agency/office doing the necessary investigations and advocating for youth. I believe that having someone working in this office, with the experience of going through foster care, is essential. While anyone can work to understand what it is like to go through the system, there is no better expert than those that have directly experienced it,” said Jeremy Collier, former foster youth and current advocate.

Governor DeWine included $1 million, or $500,000 in each year of the FY22-23 biennial budget bill, HB110, to establish an Ombuds Office after the Children’s Services Transformation Advisory Council recommended creating an Ombuds Office for caregivers and youth in its 2020 report. However, the bill does not include a specific appropriation or clearly state that there will be an office dedicated to foster youth. It also does not clearly state that the office will be independent from the Department of Job and Family Services or that current and former foster youth will have a role in its design and implementation.

Advocates are excited to see the progress made but seek to highlight that key provisions must be added, specifically:

1. To clearly state that the future Youth Ombudsman Office will be dedicated to youth and not combined with an office for caregivers;

2. To establish the office as independent from children’s services; and

3. To mandate that this office be designed by current and former foster youth

Friday, April 9, 2021

Friday filled with fabulous opportunities

Ohio foster care youth and alumni had a beautiful whirlwind of a Friday, with several amazing opportunities in one day.

1.) We began with a morning meeting with Representative Russo regarding the establishment of a Youth Ombudsman’s Office. Participants included OHIO YAB President Roman Sandhu, Jermaine Ferguson, Juliana Barton, Jeremy Collier, Antonio Sledge, Lisa Dickson, Doris Edelman, and Kim Eckhart. Jermaine Ferguson’s legislative connections and prior networking with the Children’s Caucus brought great value to today’s legislative meeting.

2.) Next, we facilitated a training for the Ohio Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators. Participants included financial aid administrators from all over the state. The training was facilitated by Tina Jacob of Ohio Reach, Lisa Dickson of ACTION Ohio, and Ohio Reach Peer Mentors Kyajah Rodriguez, Cloe Cooper, Amadea Jennings and Lamar Graham. 

It felt like coming full circle that Director of Financial Aid John Brown at Capital University is dedicated helping to champion the needs of foster youth on campus, since Capital University was also the site of our 2009-2012 Thanksgiving Together celebrations. As today’s training came to an end, Director Brown stressed that, “We don’t want this to be a one and done thing - this is an ongoing partnership.”  

3.) Afterwards, we had a call with Kerstin Sjoberg, the Executive Director of Disability Rights Ohio, and Ohio Long-Term Care Ombudsman Beverly Laubert, which was made possible thanks to Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio. Excellent insights were shared. 

Sunday, March 14, 2021

ACTION Ohio included in Imprint article about pandemic relief funds for former foster youth

Roman Sandhu, Jonathan Thomas, Doris Edelmann and Lisa Dickson participated in an Imprint interview on February 23, 2021. Our goal was to share that it is of utmost importance that these Chafee pandemic relief funds get to “aged out” foster youth between 22-26 years old between now and September 30th

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Antonio Sledge teaches a cooking class at Scholar House 3


Antonio Sledge, former foster youth and founder of LeSledge Catering, volunteered his time to teach current and future residents of Columbus Scholar House for Former Foster Youth. 

Designed by foster youth themselves, this dorm serves full-time and part-time students ages 18-24 with a foster care history.

Cloe Cooper and Juliana Barton recognized for International Women's Day 2021

Cloe Cooper and Juliana Barton were recognized by Ohio CASA for International Women's Day.

Read more here...

Monday, March 8, 2021

Virtual meeting with Deputy Director Jeff Van Deusen today


Today's virtual meeting with Deputy Director Jeff Van Deusen of the ODJFS Office for Families and Children went great... 

Participants included: Roman Sandhu, Jonathon Thomas, Raven Grice, Makayla Lang, and Alexys Madero of the OHIO YAB, and foster care alumni Amanda Davis, Nikki Chinn, Jaye Turner, Jasmine Hardy and Lisa Dickson.

Two quotes from today's meeting:

  • About the need for an Ombudsman's Office: "In my experience, abusive adults charm themselves out of situations, and if the report is not substantiated, the abuse will increase. This is why establishing this office is imperative." ~ Jonathan Thomas

  • About the need to Make Every Training Hour Count: "The foster parent thinks the caseworker is preparing the young person for adulthood, and the caseworker thinks the foster parent is doing it. The private agency thinks the public children welfare agency is doing this, and vice versa."

Two quotes from the Deputy Director:
  • "If I could, I would be on a call like this every hour of my day. I wish I had cleared my calendar for three hours for today's phone call. Let's schedule more regular calls in the future."
  • "It is crucial not to make decisions about people without people. We need to make sure not only to establish a Foster Youth Ombudsman's Office, but to have it operate to effectively meet the need - and your input is what is needed."


Friday, March 5, 2021

The OHIO YAB and ACTION Ohio participated on a national webinar

  Here are some of the slides we shared on March, 3, 2021:

Friday, February 26, 2021

Raven Grice interview with Ohio News Network


OHIO YAB Ambassador Raven Grice participated in an interview with Mary Kuhlman, which was published on February 24, 2021:

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Foster-care advocacy groups are hoping federal and state leaders move quickly on COVID relief for older foster kids.

The "Supporting Foster Youth and Families through the Pandemic Act" is part of the second federal stimulus package signed into law in December. It allows states to extend the age limit for programs to help young people as they transition out of foster care, and increases federal "Chafee" funding, which supports housing, food and other immediate needs.

Lisa Dickson, co-facilitator of the Ohio Youth Advisory Board, said these are huge wins for foster youths, who often enter adulthood without much financial or emotional support.

"And also if, due to COVID, they're struggling and meeting the work and school requirement," she said, "it gives them a little leeway and understands that it's not that easy to stay connected to resources in the middle of an international pandemic."

On Monday, The U.S. Children's Bureau released more than $13 million in Chafee funding to Ohio, and said other awards and supplemental amounts will be announced soon. Dickson said Ohio's local and state leaders need to distribute the funding quickly, since some of the provisions expire in September.

Former foster youth Raven Grice said that while her dorm housing at Cleveland State University is covered by a scholarship, housing stability still is a concern.

"That portion of time - of 'I don't know where I'm going to go' - it's frightening," she said, "and I know that I'm not the only person who has to deal with this. There's thousands of youths across the entire state who have to deal with this because of the pandemic."

The act contains a permanent provision to allow foster youths to start the process of requesting housing assistance before they turn 18. It actually was written with the help of young Ohioans, who traveled to the nation's capital for eight years in a row to work with lawmakers.

Grice also is a member of the Ohio Youth Advisory Board, which is calling for a new national hotline to help foster youths in need of assistance as a result of the pandemic. She said better coordination of information also is needed at the state and local levels.

"If we have resources already listed out, for the youth to be given when they're aging out," she said, "it'd be so much more useful than, 'Oh, you're aged out now. Bye.' That's basically what it seems like."

Roughly one in four young adults leaving foster care experiences homelessness by age 21.

The Role of Independent Living Workers Amidst the Current Pandemic

 The OHIO YAB and ACTION Ohio are incredibly happy that Chafee funds have been released by the federal government to the states. We care and recognize that it will take time for those funds to get to counties. We also deeply appreciate Deputy Director Van Deusen's leadership in saying that it's okay for counties to use the Chafee funds they currently have on hand to assist former foster youth ages 26 and under, and Laurie Valentine's willingness to help counties navigate the process.

Our brother of the foster care system, Christopher Patterson has written a wonderful article about how Independent Living Workers are lifelines for foster youth and the unsung heroes amidst the current pandemic. It was published in Youth Today. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Roman Sandhu and Jonathan Thomas in the Columbus Dispatch


Help available to youths aging out of foster care amid pandemic
Megan Henry, Columbus Dispatch, February 9, 2020.

Roman Sandhu entered foster care  when he was 15 and was emancipated after he graduated from Findlay High School in northwest Ohio in 2019. He said the foster care provisions in the relief package passed by Congress in December will help emancipated young people like himself.

After aging out of foster care when he was 18, Jonathon Thomas was homeless for about a half-year, couch-surfing at his friends' homes.

“I had no biological family,” he said. “I just had nothing.”

Thomas eventually reconnected with the foster family that he had lived with in Bowling Green in northwest Ohio for about two years, but he wishes he had more support in making the transition to living on his own.

More:Dave Thomas Foundation aims to match every foster child with a forever family

“When you find yourself making mistakes, as all young people do, and then there’s nothing for you … you’ll give up on yourself,” said the now-25-year-old. “You give up on life. You think nobody cares.”

Helping foster youth transition into independent living

Two measures intended to help foster care youth — the Supporting Foster Youth and Families through the Pandemic Act and Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities Act — were included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act 2021 signed by then-President Donald Trump in late December.

The $2.3 trillion spending bill combines $900 billion in stimulus relief for the COVID-19 pandemic with a $1.4 trillion omnibus spending bill for the 2021 federal fiscal year.

The measures were passed at a time when more than half of Americans under 30 have moved back home with their parents, something many of these young adults who aged out of the foster care system can't do.

The Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities Act allows foster care youth to sign up for public housing assistance before they turn 18. 

Jonathon Thomas entered foster care in northwest Ohio in 2010 when he was 14. He said he wishes there was more guidance and assistance  to help him with the transition to adulthood when he was aging out of foster care.

The hope is it will allow for more places to open like the Marsh Brook Place, a 40-unit apartment complex on the Southeast Side for young people ages 18 to 24 who have faced homelessness or other serious barriers to stability, said Rep. Steve Stivers, a Columbus Republican and co-sponsor of the bipartisan act. Sen. Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat, also sponsored the bill.

All or most of the rent for each tenant at Marsh Brook Place, depending on whether they have any income, is covered through federal subsidies.

About 25% of former foster youths experience homelessness within four years of being emancipated from the foster care system, according to the National Foster Youth Initiative, headquartered in Los Angeles.

Almost 1,000 young people age out of foster care each year in Ohio, according to the Children's Defense Fund-Ohio. In Franklin County, 178 youths emancipated out of foster care in 2020, according to Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

The act would allow foster kids who age out of the system to receive a public housing voucher for up to five years, allowing them to get on their feet and find a job or go to college as they make a transition to an independent adult life.

“I believe with these resources that each and every foster youth will be able to navigate themselves successfully throughout adulthood,” Thomas said.

What would Supporting Foster Youth and Families do?

Supporting Foster Youth and Families would also help older foster youth struggling during the pandemic. Under the provision:

  • States cannot require someone to leave foster care due to turning 18 or 21.

  • States must notify young people about the moratorium on aging out of foster care and how to reconnect with support services. 

  • States can provide extended foster care — such as Bridges, Ohio’s extended foster care program, using IV-E funds until they turn 22. Bridges provides some guidance and support for 18- to 20-year-olds who are emancipated from foster care and are in school, working or participating in an employment program.

  • A temporary increase in federal Chafee funding to support current and former foster youth in their transition to adulthood. Former foster youth are eligible for Chafee until they turn 27 and funds can be used for immediate needs, including housing, food support, and cash assistance.

“The aging out process is really a tough period for foster children,” said Rep. Danny Davis, an Illinois Democrat and sponsor of the bill. “You’re too young in some instances to be considered a certain way and yet if you age out, you no longer have the protection of government entities.”

The provisions, however, are set to expire at the end of the federal fiscal year on Sept. 30.

"As long as COVID-19 exists and it’s having the impact of everything that it is impacted, we want to keep these children in the safety zone in the safety net," Davis said.

Roman Sandhu is now able to stay with Ohio's Bridges Programs until he is 22.

“Having a relief package like that was a big boost to my morale," said the 20-year-old. “It’s very comforting and it’s a lot of relief and stress off my shoulders."

Sandhu entered the foster care system when he was 15and emancipated after he graduated from Findlay High School in northwest Ohio in 2019. 

“It was a pretty major adjustment,” he said.

Sandhu went from living in a group home with other foster youths to living on his own and having to fend for himself. When COVID-19 hit, he temporarily lost his factory job so he started dipping into his savings to make ends meet, he said.

The Bridges program has helped him save money since then and he is now attending the University of Findlay. He wants to go into law enforcement and dreams of one day becoming a deputy sheriff.

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Scholar House 3

Ohio foster care youth and alumni have been working with the Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority and Columbus State Community College since 2017 to propose and design Scholar House 3 for former foster youth pursuing higher education.

We were honored and privileged to have a voice in deciding what services would be needed, and to vote on specific elements related to building design. Here is a link to additional photos of Scholar House 3.

Columbus Scholar House 3
serves young people ages 18-24 with a foster care history. Consistent with the Scholar House model, residents of the project are expected to maintain full-time status at an accredited two or four-year College or University.

There are currently open units for residents to apply. Former foster youth ages 18-24 can fill out an interest card here and learn more about the application process here.

Friday, February 5, 2021

Transitional Housing in Toledo for Aged Out Foster Youth

OHIO YAB Ambassador Jonathan Thomas and Cloe Cooper of ACTION Ohio in the news...

Old hotel could become apartments for those aging out of foster care
Emma Henderson,, Feb. 2, 2021

TOLEDO, Ohio — The historic Park Hotel in south Toledo currently sits vacant, but LMH has a plan to develop it into transitional housing for people aged out of foster care.

Boarded up with broken windows and peeling paint, the historic Park Hotel needs a lot of work, but the goal is to transform it into apartments catering to people aging out of foster care.

"Apartment complexes want a co-signer and most youth don't have a co-signer, and then many complexes want a youth to earn at least three times income," Kris Kapela-McGuckin with Lucas County Children Services said.

Getting housing is hard. According to, half of people that age out of foster care will be unemployed, leading to half being homeless within four years.

It's something Jonathan Thomas from Bowling Green experienced firsthand and wants to prevent happening for others. "

That developmental process of when you're an adult by age, versus when you're actually an adult, is a little hard to pinpoint. Therefore housing like this becomes that much more important," Thomas said.

He and fellow foster care advocate Cloe Cooper both believe services including help obtaining GEDs, driver's licenses and applying for jobs need to be included to help set youth up on the road to permanent stability.

"What's important to that person and then connecting them to the community resources that can point them in the direction of where they can start and where they can begin their path," Cooper said.

The ordinance passed Toledo City Council Tuesday, allowing the project to move forward.

Friday, January 29, 2021

Press conference to celebrate the Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities Act


Representative Michael Turner invited foster care youth and alumni advocates from the OHIO YAB and ACTION Ohio to join him in celebrating FSHO becoming a law during a press conference on Wednesday, January 27, 2021.

The Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities Act mandates that federal agencies set aside housing vouchers for foster youth who age out of the system so that they no longer face homelessness. The bill, which was passed as part of the CARES Act, has requirements that the young adults must participate in training, work, or school in order to maintain the voucher.

In the words of Cloé Cooper:

Hello, my name is Cloé Cooper and I am a former foster youth who serves as an advocate to improve outcomes for my brothers and sisters in and from foster care.

It is my privilege to be a part of the collective voice of Ohio foster care youth and alumni and it is my honor today to speak on behalf on every foster youth who volunteered their time to travel to Washington D.C. To all of you who came before me, I am humbled by your tenacity and commitment to those who will come after us. 

Today, I have the honor of speaking both from my own experience and that of my siblings of the foster care system. When it comes to the historical context of this bill, Ohio foster care youth first traveled to Washington DC in March of 2013. From that very first moment, and on the very first day of legislative visits, Representative Michael Turner has been literally our very first and most authentic champion. He heard our voices and our stories, understanding that homelessness is one of the main challenges we face as we emancipate from the agencies we are assigned to. 

With the support of Mr. Turner, this life changing legislation provides on demand housing vouchers for young adults exiting foster care who are at risk of homelessness. It supersedes any barrier that once prevented our population from accessing this resource and gives former foster youth a chance to finally have a home of their own. A fair chance to build the life they deserve. 

I want to thank everyone who has supported the efforts of Ohio’s foster youth, and our nations foster youth. Those who have lived experience being involved with out of home placements can always bring understanding and solutions to the problems we face. I am filled with gratitude for those who invited us to the table to present them. I am eager to see how our countries community partners work together to make this new resource available for my brothers and sisters of care. I am confident that those who are given the ability to receive vouchers per the Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities Act will become the next trailblazers we need to represent and fight for the equity, equality and security of every soul touched by the child welfare system and beyond. Thank you.

In the words of Jonathan Thomas: 

Good morning. I am honored, and privileged to be here amongst you all. 

I would like to thank Congressmen Mike Turner for his continued support of emancipated foster youth all over Ohio. It can be difficult to emancipate into adulthood with no idea of what such a life should look like. But the work from this office has gone forward to pave the way for some amazing programs, that have the potential to guide our youths into successful lives.

Many people give up on you in foster care. Even more people give up on you when you emancipate foster care. Therefore, it is extremely encouraging for the moral of human decency that people continue to strive to do better for each other. A mantle that everyone here has taken up in some way, shape, or form.

May those to come observe, and take note of this day, and may they know that this was done for them. For the hope of their future. May this day encourage them, and inspire their dreams of a more positive way of life. And may they know that they are loved, hoped for, and believed in more than they can possibly imagine. Thank you.

Sunday, January 3, 2021

2020 Statewide Advocacy by Ohio foster care youth and alumni


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. The OHIO YAB exists to be the knowledgeable statewide voice that influences policies and practices that impact youth who have or will experience out of home care.

Alumni of Care Together Improving Outcomes Now Ohio is dedicated to improving outcomes for current and former foster care youth. We seek first to listen to, support, and follow up on the insights expressed by today’s foster care youth and young adults, related to barriers that negatively impact their immediate/long-term outcomes.

In 2020, we communicated regularly with Governor DeWine’s Office and his staff, and presented in-person and virtual testimony to the Children’s Services Transformation Advisory Council. Our recommendations were also captured in our Letter to the Editor of the Columbus Dispatch. We participated in Governor DeWine’s press conference to announce the Council’s final report and recommendations.

We have the utmost respect for Governor DeWine. He responded to our first and second letters proposing protections for foster youth by issuing and extending a temporary moratorium on aging out of foster care and Bridges. Foster youth throughout Ohio participated in creating a photo message of thanks.

On the date of the House Bill 8 signing, we sent a third letter to Governor DeWine to recommend that the next step forward after reducing foster parent training hours is to Make Every Training Count through specialized training tracks — especially for foster parents caring for teens. This request is directly related to our Don’t Forget to Foster Our Future Campaign.

As we continue to focus on improving outcomes after foster care, we deeply value our ongoing communication with Chancellor Randy Gardner and his staff members at the Ohio Department of Higher Education. We also continue to monitor access to Medicaid for former foster youth, and how things are moving forward now that the Mandated Reporter Bill has become state law.